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Metal Tears for the Tin Man (8/27)

At 5:59 am Jack wandered into the office, cup of coffee in one hand and the local newspaper in the other. "Two bodies were found overnight," he commented, tossing the paper in front of Jones, who'd taken up residence behind the desk. "Same weird rash. A hooker and her trick. It made news because they were found in mid-act. Death must have been almost instantaneous," Jack mused as he slid into the chair farthest away from everyone else and became absorbed in his own thoughts as he tried to see a pattern where so far there were only body counts and glittery glowing cocoons.

"At least they went out with a bang," Jake snickered around his mug of tea, his laughter growing at the other's groans.

"Too early for this," Tom groaned, smothering a yawn with the back of his hand.

"Yeah, well some of us weren't up all night cybering with their girlfriend," Ross pointed out, to which Tom gave him the finger.

"It wasn't all night; besides, hearing Ianto and Harkness yammering at each other destroyed the mood."

"My heart bleeds for you," Ianto said, his tone dry. "All right, we've got two new bodies then. Tom, that means a trip to the morgue for you; check out the similarities. According to Ross, who spoke to our favorite PC's at the station, our derelict's name was Roger Parker. He frequented the park where we found him, generally the harmless sort, just panhandling."

"Certainly harmless now," Jake pointed out.

Ignoring him, Ianto pulled up a series of reports on the screen, then looked at Tom. "All yours, Dr. Milligan."

Tom stood at that and settled himself before pointing at the monitor. "Roger was killed by a paralytic neurotoxin that was injected into him through the neck by hundreds of tiny pin pricks – which is what the rash on his neck is comprised of." He hit a button on the control panel, and the view zoomed in to illustrate the area of the man's body that he was speaking about.

"Based on the scans, I'd say that the toxin that was introduced to him killed him in a matter of seconds by shutting down his circulatory system – nasty bit of business. So far I've come up negative in the database for a match to it, but I'll keep working on it and looking for a possible antidote."

"So we've got someone going after miscreants with poisoned sewing needles?" Ross queried.

"What we have is a possible hostile whose presence is related to the Rift. There were no spikes in Rift activity last night, so things are at status quo in that regard. Today we need to get one of cocoons open, see what's in it and if it's related to the situation." Ianto drained his coffee and looked around the group, noting that Harkness seemed deep in thought. "Anything else?"

"Not from me. You want a ride to the morgue, Tommy boy? I'll pull rank with the PC's who're dealing with our love birds and get the name of the person who found the bodies. After you're done, we can interview whoever it was and get some firsthand information - if there is any," Jake volunteered.

Getting to his feet, Jake made a circuitous trip around the room to touch Jack lightly on the shoulder. "All right there, Jack?" he asked softly.

The hand on his shoulder and Jake's question pulled Jack from his introspection. "Yeah, fine, just trying to find the pattern and coming up with squat for the moment. "Thanks for asking though." Getting to his feet, Jack finally realized that the briefing was over. "So what's my assignment, boss?" he asked Ianto with a perfectly straight face. "I can do a coffee run."

"Planning to be our admin, are you?" Ianto's amusement at the question was clear in his voice. "In case you hadn't noticed, we do have coffee." He nodded toward the carafe on the desktop then reached over and refilled his mug.

"As for assignments, you can take your pick; I'm going back to the parks to look around, and Ross is going to be digging back through the Rift records to see how long this phenomenon has been going on. When Tom gets back, he's going to be looking at those cocoons."

'Talk about a rock and a hard place,' Jack thought to himself as he mulled over the two options. The pale, almost pained expression on Ross's face scratched that one, but the idea of working side by side with Jones, being confined in close quarters in the car after his reaction to the younger man the night before, was without a doubt a very bad idea.

"How about we split the parks between us," Jack offered, hoping that he'd be able to take door number three. "That way we can get through them all faster."

"No transpo," Ianto said, shaking his head.

"Looks like you're stuck with me then, Jones," Jack replied lazily, all the while cursing under his breath and gritting his proverbial teeth. "Must be your lucky day."

"Your choice, Harkness," Ianto replied, his tone a perfect match to Jack's. "Heaven forbid I tell you where to go and what to do – as long as you check in."

"Just playing by the rules, boss," Jack replied. "This way you know where I go and what I do. Let me grab my coat and then I'm all yours."
"Ahh, my day is complete," Ianto muttered under his breath after Jack was gone from the room, causing Ross to burst into a fit of laughter.

"You know, when he's not talking about sex, he's an all right bloke," Ross admitted after finally calming down. "Not that I'd say it to his face or anything. And I guess as far as that other goes, well, Jake's done a lot worse over the years, but other than you I doubt he could do much better – and if you tell the little shit I said that, I'll have your bollocks for my car hitch!"

Ianto smirked at that and leaned over to pat Ross on the top of the head. "Just remember, Ianto never forgets, and I'll be holding that over your head for years. As for Harkness, he knows his stuff, can't deny that; he just needs to get it through his head that he's not in charge."

"So, you ready to go, boss?" Jack said mildly from his position just outside the door, having returned just in time to hear Jones' last comment and finding it almost too much to contain his amusement at the insane situation he found himself in.

Ianto winced, but his expression was placid as he turned toward Jack. "Am I ready, Ross?" he asked.

"Ianto's always ready," the younger man laughed.

"Funny, I thought that was supposed to be my line," Jack replied sotto voce, knowing full well that both men thought he was an indiscriminate sex hound who pretty much fucked anything that moved. While once that might have been true, it was so far from the case now it was laughable. Jack had one partner right now - Jake. Not that he was about to dissuade them of this either. His personal life was personal, and Jack intended on keeping it that way.

"All right, so we'll check Cefn-Onn Country Park first, where we found dear old Roger yesterday before we got to check it," Ianto announced as he walked out of the office and he and Harkness headed for the garage. "And don't go grabbing any cocoons without gloves, all right? Don't want you losing more skin and being inconvenienced again."

Jack's chuckle was low and dirty. "I'm ambidextrous and incredibly flexible. There was no inconvenience. But I'll wear gloves just to make you happy."

"So glad to hear it," Ianto said dryly, climbing behind the wheel of the SUV and starting the engine. "Safe specimen collecting is important."

"I'm an old pro at it," Jack rejoined as he slid into the passenger seat and then put on a pair of aviator sunglasses, folding his hands behind his head.

"So do you have a sister and a nephew and niece?" Jack asked after a few moments of silence.

Ianto cut a sideways glance in the other man's direction, wondering if this was going to turn into a game of 'find out the ways that the same man in two universes was different'. "Two actually. The older one lives in Penarth with her husband and kids, and yes, they're a boy and a girl; the younger is in university."

"Glad to hear it," Jack said, feeling a sense of relief that some things remained the same even as they changed. "Don't lose touch with them, okay? Family's important." Jack paused and then laughed. "Cryptic and a little bit creepy, I'm sure, given the situation but… take the advice – it comes from hard-earned experience."

"Not a problem." Ianto eyed the other man again as he answered before a car swerving in front of him drew his attention back to the busy Cardiff streets. "If Uncle Ianto vanished, who'd take the kiddies to fairs and get them puking sick on sweets and roller coasters?" he chuckled at the last. "The fact that it gives Rhia a night out with Johnny almost makes up for the mess I return the kids in."

"I'm impressed. I had a daughter once. Didn't see her much after her mother left, and then there was the fact that while she aged, her daddy never did," Jack said softly. "But I wouldn't trade the good times for anything. Of course, I never got her puking sick on sweets and roller coasters. Her mother would have had my balls if I did," Jack laughed, remembering Lucia Moretti, the feisty Italian woman whom he'd been involved with and who'd borne him Alice.

"That's the fun of being an uncle," Ianto admitted with a low laugh. "Wind them up and then send them back to Mum and Dad. Claire swears that if she ever has kids, she's not letting me near them."

"Never had any desire to have any mini-Jones of your own running around underfoot?" Jack asked. "You know, carry on the family name and all that stuff."

Ianto shrugged negligently at that. "Maybe someday; not while I'm doing this and I can't see myself stopping anytime soon." He almost asked about any other family Jack might have had but didn't want the conversation to come back around to his counterpart.

"As trite and clichéd as it may sound, there's never a good time to have kids. Not that I plan on having any again. The negatives kind of outweigh the positives for me at this point," Jack said realistically. "However, given the current path my life is taking, it's not exactly biologically possible either – at least currently, and while being pregnant was memorable, it wasn't necessarily a good experience, so I think I'll forgo going through that a second time."

"Shite, I never know if I should believe half of what comes out of your mouth," Ianto muttered to himself. Even though the story had been confirmed by Rose and Doc, the whole 'man who cannot die' parcel was a bit much to swallow, and Ianto wasn't going to trust it with Harkness' life, of that he was certain.

"That's probably one of the smartest things I've heard come out of your mouth to date," Jack laughed. "But I never lie unless I've got a damned good reason. So that leaves you between a rock and a hard place, doesn't it? To believe or not to believe and all that."

"And all what?" Ianto asked, sounding confused.

"Don't tell me you haven't read Hamlet?" Jack replied, gaping at Jones. "You know, 'To be, or not to be: that is the question. Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles, and by opposing end them? To die: to sleep; no more.' Shakespeare, as in William Shakespeare, the Bard, the guy who made Stratford-on-Avon famous? No?"

"Never heard of him. Must be one of those differences between the universes; from what I understand, a lot is the same, but there are some pretty glaring differences."

"That's kind of a huge one," Jack laughed. "Shakespeare was considered the greatest playwright ever. His plays were mandatory study matter in schools around the world for centuries. Hunh. Oh God, please don't tell me that this is the Bubblegum pop universe!" he suddenly gasped in mock horror. "I don't know if I could live in a world where boy bands and pop princesses are considered high entertainment!"

"You've been here four months," Ianto snorted, "you tell me."

"Well, you do have a president instead of a prime minister and monarch." Jack began with a chuckle. "And I haven't been to any 'in' bars or clubs, so I can't say I know what's popular, quite honestly. Jazz, blues, anything from the turn of the century up to the 1960's I tend to listen to, but most modern stuff – not a chance."

"You mean Jake hasn't played his crap music for you?" Ianto asked, sounding amused.

"I've kept him busy," Jack replied dryly, drawing a laugh from the other man's throat.

"Never stopped him before; almost blew my eardrums out a few times, had the neighbors calling to see if there was a riot."

"Yeah, well, I have a few advantages that you obviously didn't," Jack drawled, waiting a heartbeat before continuing. "Namely no sound system and a much bigger bed. Isn't that the turn off to the park coming up?"

Ianto was about to ask Jack how he could say that when he'd never seen his bed but thought better of it and nodded. "Best to start at the back and work our way forward. All the other samples were found in the wilder parts."

He eased the SUV onto the side of the road as deep in the park as motor travel was permitted, turning it around to make escape quicker if it came down to that. Climbing out, he headed to the back and opened the door, removing gloves, a reinforced container and a couple of unmarked cans. "Insecticide," he offered, handing one to Jack. "You never know what came out of those cocoons."

"And you think Raid is going to kill them?" Jack chuckled but took a can anyways. If nothing else, the chemicals made a great impromptu flame thrower. "Or is this one of Doc's concoctions?"

Jack asked as he followed behind Jones, letting the other man lead the way to the location of the body he'd found the night before. "What I wouldn't give for a Bekkarin scanner right now," he commented idly as they walked further into the park where things were less kept up and a little more 'wild' - the perfect place to hide if you didn't want to draw attention to yourself. "Because it would make looking for those damned cocoons easier! Parks tend to have a shit load of trees to climb!"

Ianto just smirked at the question about the origin of the repellant, though his gaze was on the ground instead of the trees, searching for any dead wildlife. "Hrmmm…" he mused, stepping into the underbrush, moving deeper into the summer stillness before squatting down . "Dead squirrel – and something else," he called back to Jack, who was still studying the trees. "Unless the butterflies around here have suddenly taken steroids, I think we've found our alien."

Jack stared at the vividly hued and far too large to be Earth-based insect in patent disbelief. "You gotta be kidding me. We're hunting butterflies?" But there was no doubt that the creature bore a strong resemblance to the harmless and attractive bug. "Yeah, but our butterflies don't kill. At least mine didn't; I don't know about the ones here."

"Not here either – I'll send a picture to Doc to see if he's ever encountered them before – unless you have?" The last was asked as Ianto looked up at Jack from his crouched position.

"This one's new to me too. I've dealt with emotion-sucking shrimp but not venom-spewing butterflies, so I'm as in the dark as you are." Jack knelt down beside the corpse and, taking a pen out of his pocket, pried open the mandibles of the creature to reveal hundreds of tiny little, razor-sharp teeth. "Oh yeah, definitely our creature. Talk about your pretty poison."

"All right then," Ianto nodded even as he bagged up the butterfly and the dead squirrel, "if we're lucky, they have a very short lifespan, and that's the end of them, but if this one just hatched early..."

"Christ, I don't even want to think about bigger ones than this," Jack swore. "But unless we get a few chrysalides in their cocoons, we're going to have no idea. Guess I need to climb a tree or two. Try not to check out my ass too obviously when I'm up there, okay?" Jack snickered as he shucked his coat and, tucking a pair of gloves in his back pocket, started to shimmy up the tree closest to where the alien butterfly was.

"You do realize we have some cocoons back at the Hub in the stasis field," Ianto called up after him, ignoring the fact that Harkness commenting on his own ass made it impossible not to look at it.

"We have three," Jack called back down. "Three isn't enough to get a good sampling from, and you know it. We need at least two to three more so we've got a good basis for comparison. AHA! Cracked cocoon up here. We have our leetle bug friend and - son of a bitch!" Jack gasped as he caught movement in the corner of his eye and turned, only to be forced to duck. The cocoon fell to the ground with a dull thud as he drew his gun and tried to get off a couple of shots at the rather large, living, breathing and pissed mutant butterfly heading straight for him. The recoil caused his footing to slip, which had him falling halfway down the tree until the larger, sturdier branches broke his fall. Not bothering to wait and see if it was pursuing, Jack dove to the ground awkwardly, rolling and coming up with the gun pointed in the general direction of the tree, but nothing emerged. "Bad news," he gasped for breath, his face and hands scratched and bleeding slightly. "They get bigger."

"Just how big is bigger?" Ianto asked, scanning the area as well, his pistol in one hand and the can of Doc's insect spray in the other.

"Eat your face kind of bigger," Jack muttered, eyes darting from tree to tree. "Although it didn't attack me until I tried to take the cocoon. I think I just met Mom."

"And here she comes," Ianto said, shoving Jack down and raising his gun and the can, triggering both at the same time.

Jack cursed and struggled to his feet just in time to see Jones wing the alien face-eating butterfly, sending it shrieking away in pain and rage. "What the fuck? Do I look like a damsel in distress here? Did I suddenly grow breasts - again - What?" Jack asked, trying to figure out just why Jones was acting like a caveman with a protective streak all of a sudden.

"Grow breasts - what the hell are you on about, Harkness?" Ianto asked, following the alien's line of flight until it was lost in the trees.

"The sudden he-man throw me to the ground move you just did, I'm not a rank amateur, Jones. In fact I'm willing to lay odds I'm not only a better shot than you, but I know a shit load more about tactics and weaponry than you. You may be in charge of this little adventure, but don't treat me as a liability when I'm probably the strongest asset you have right now," Jack retorted, picking up the fallen cocoon and putting into the containment vessel.

Ianto's expression turned bland even as his eyes hardened. "I'm doing my job, Harkness; you ending up dead isn't in my assignment, so deal with it. Now come on, we need to see if we can track that bugger down."

Jack clenched his fists and bit down until he tasted copper. He'd done this to himself by asking Rose to keep silent for a little while longer, and even now he could take control, but he really did want to see how this team handled the situation and interacted with each other.


( 14 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 27th, 2009 03:48 am (UTC)
I am enjoying this SO much and look forward anxiously to each chapter! It is so well written and the story line is really interesting. Thanks. :D
Nov. 28th, 2009 07:30 pm (UTC)
Thank you! So glad you're enjoying this and hanging with us, there's more to come soon; Angyl is visiting and I'm cracking the whip - in between our plotting of the next stories ;)
Nov. 27th, 2009 10:33 am (UTC)
Mutant killer butterflies? Love it!

I'm also loving the building tension between them- the pacing is really right. But I can't help but think Jones is going to take Jack suddenly being in charge well.

Keep up the great work!
Nov. 28th, 2009 07:31 pm (UTC)
Thanks so much! Yes, Jones isn't going to take this well - that minor issue of being a control freak

Thanks again!
Nov. 27th, 2009 12:21 pm (UTC)
LOL The foreplay begins. I love reading about this dance Jack and AU Ianto are starting.

This is such a good read. I can hardly wait for the next part.
Nov. 28th, 2009 08:00 pm (UTC)
Awww thanks so much :) The boys are going to be doing that for a bit - but at least there's no cyberized girlfriend in the basement to deal with
Nov. 28th, 2009 09:20 pm (UTC)
I love when the boogie man turns out to be something "harmless" looking, very cool!
Nov. 29th, 2009 01:12 pm (UTC)
It can't be all slobbering fangs and claws, now can it? Besides - eat your face butterflies are funny! Glad you're enjoying it!
Nov. 28th, 2009 11:55 pm (UTC)
Giant face-eating alien butterflies! Neat!!
Nov. 29th, 2009 01:14 pm (UTC)
Aren't they cuuuute? Hehehe - we had to, we really really did.
Nov. 29th, 2009 11:20 am (UTC)
Loved the banter between Jack and AU Ianto in the car.

Lovely fic.
Nov. 29th, 2009 01:15 pm (UTC)
Glad you're enjoying it! only 19 chapters to go! (for this part anyways ;-) )
Nov. 29th, 2009 02:27 pm (UTC)
Yay next please.
Nov. 29th, 2009 02:46 pm (UTC)
Ask and ye shall receive ;)
( 14 comments — Leave a comment )