Spoilers: Dr Who: Army of Ghosts, Doomsday, All of Torchwood
The e-mail had shown up along with several others from student services, notifications that companies were interviewing on campus and would like to speak to him. As a matter of course, he’d accepted, wanting as many options open as possible, sure that he’d find the perfect place after receiving his degree.
The interview had been decidedly odd, less about his knowledge and more about practical thinking skills, but he thought he’d done well. He put it from his mind, only finding it passing strange that his mate David, who’d gone into the room ahead of him, didn’t seem to remember much about the experience at all.
The offer of a position came several weeks before exams, and he thought about it all through the evening of studying and the drinks that followed, finally sending off an e-mail accepting the offer in the quiet hours between night and dawn, sure that he was doing the right thing.
He realized in his first week at Canary Warf that he’d have to throw out most of his assumptions about science and engineering and work on instinct if he ever wanted to succeed at his position. The long hours didn’t matter; the work was fascinating and the majority of his co-workers personable, and if there were jokes about his tendency to keep their work areas fastidiously neat, at least they were with him, not against him.
Alien technology, actual alien technology and it was his job to help decipher it, to use it to help the human race, and he loved it. Everything was a puzzle, and the chance to put it to rights was his nirvana, and it remained that way for the first year.
He met Lisa three weeks before the Sycorax invaded, and they spent the night after the invasion at her flat, celebrating the defeat of the alien invasion in that most human of ways, acting on the attraction they’d both felt the moment they met. The relationship deepened from there, and he found it easy to devote all his off-work hours to her; she was someone with whom he could share everything.
Falling in love was inevitable.
The first knowledge that something was wrong was the proximity alarm, the second Yvonne’s announcement that the Doctor had arrived. He was on the team assigned to examine the TARDIS although they couldn’t get inside it. Queen, country, and, my God, the chance to study an artifact that could travel through time and space...
And then it all had gone to hell.
He was going to meet Lisa for lunch, but there was no lunch that day, not that he’d known until it was almost too late. Jessica had gone out for coffee for all of them, and her choked off cry over their headsets alerted them that there was something wrong. He’d been frantic while trying to reach Lisa, had felt weak with relief when she answered. They’d made plans to meet, insane plans because neither knew who had invaded the base, but they had faith and love and several big guns, so they knew they would prevail.
That was before they’d found Lisa and dragged her to the conversion chambers.
He found her before it was too late and forced himself to smile, telling her they’d find a way to set things to rights. The whole base had been eerily quiet by then except for the metallic ringing of boots in corridors, and he vowed he’d kill them both before allowing them to be taken, but the moment never came; there was a wild howling and screaming, and when it ended, Canary Warf was truly silent, the majority of Torchwood’s employees converted or dead.
If transferring to Cardiff had been amazingly simple, getting Lisa there had been anything but, the trip through the underground railway that connected the Torchwood branches fraught with dips in power that threatened Lisa’s life and near misses that had frazzled his nerves, but finally he had the equipment installed beneath Torchwood Three’s base of operations. After kissing her goodbye, he’d made his way aboveground and reported for duty, meeting Captain Jack Harkness and realizing just how careful he’d have to be if he wanted to keep Lisa safe and alive. It would be easy to stay ahead of the others; Tosh had worked in London but had left for Cardiff after her first exposure to aliens; Owen was too busy looking for his next shag to worry about him, and Suzie seemed fixated on a piece of alien tech they’d found, but Jack... Jack looked at him and seemed to peel away the layers of his disguise, searching behind the meticulous exterior of the receptionist to poke at what lay beneath, things that didn’t need to see the light of day.
He tried to distance himself from them, not wanting or needing attachments to those he’d have to lie to day after day, but no matter what he did, they were there, causing him to notice them, especially Jack, who forced his vibrancy on all of them, using his easy manner and charming grin to woo them all into some semblance of a team, even if it was a dysfunctional one.
From the heights of heaven to the depths of hell, now he knew how Lucifer felt when he fell. Finding Dr. Tanizaki had been a miracle, one that had proven its worth when he’d been able to wean Lisa from the respirator. At that moment he’d been sure that it wouldn’t be long before he held her again... but oh, how wrong he’d been.
The expression on Jack’s face... fury, fear and determination... for a split-second he’d been sure the other man was going to kill him, but he hadn’t, and he wasn’t sure if he was relieved or heart-sick over that fact.
In the end it hadn’t been Lisa the team killed, and in realizing this, he’d also had to accept that the shell he brought with him to Cardiff hadn’t been Lisa either; she had died the moment they put her into the conversion unit, replacing bits of the smooth flesh he’d loved to touch with cold metal. They’d left enough for him to convince himself that she was still with him, but in the end it had all been a lie... just as his life had been a lie for the past year.
The opportunity had been offered many times, but he’d always shied away, at first out of devotion, then guilt, then habit. It was easier to offer a coolly amused smile and dry comment than to examine his emotions, but finally he had been forced to look inside himself, to stare at the desperate need and to realize that if he didn’t face it, he might as well have been killed by the cannibals.
The chance to offer comfort came over Suzie’s body, the frigid air of the open morgue door spilling out over him, drawing gooseflesh upon his skin as it brushed against his cool clothes. Jack put on a good front, acting as if shooting Suzie meant nothing to him, but now that he looked, he could see the bone-deep weariness lurking at the back of the other man’s eyes and in the tightness of his jaw.
The comment about the stopwatch was carefully timed and was rewarded with a smile so broad it sent a thrill through him and a warmth that remained through the rest of the somber business of readying Suzie’s corpse for re-interment in the Torchwood morgue. Exactly ten minutes later he was in Jack’s office, and it was there he discovered just how much he’d needed this and a new purpose as he realized just how much Jack needed him.
Pulling the trigger shouldn’t have felt as good as it had, but he’d derived grim pleasure from it, hours’ worth of frustration packed down into a metal cylinder and propelled forward by fury over Owen’s comments and worry over Jack, Tosh, and what would happen to the world if Owen succeeded in opening the rift.
He heard bits of the story from Tosh and more that night in Jack’s half-spoken words and the heat of tears on his shoulder, feeling frustration rise up in him again. How could he give Jack what he wanted when that person was half a century dead? A coil of desolation crept into him then, settling deep in his gut, a heavy, cool weight that promised to grow if given the chance.
He straightened up from the console and began to move about the Hub, picking up the scattered papers and setting them to rights while the others’ voices battered against his ears like birds at a pane of glass, soft thumps that brushed the edges of his consciousness but didn’t penetrate. Jack was gone, and after the fiasco they’d been part of, he couldn’t blame him.
How had it felt to have the entire team turn against him as one? Blinded by grief and anger, they’d all missed the fact that they were being manipulated, forced to be witness to murder in their attempt to save... what? Those they loved? The world?
In the end it had come down to Jack lying dead on the floor, small dots of blood marring his forehead and chest. The sight had momentarily pulled him from his fervor, and he crouched at Jack’s head, reaching out to touch him but afraid to feel the still finality of his body.
It had seemed a miracle when Jack gasped in a breath and tried to sit up, his wounds gone, but any delight in the moment vanished as the Hub tore itself apart with the force of the full might of the Rift opening beneath, above, and around it. A beast from beyond Hell, raised by the plotting of one man and the misguided intentions of four others, but Jack again paid the price. Gwen wouldn’t speak of what had happened, something he understood, though several times, late at night, he wanted to scream at her and drag her away from the morgue, if only to have some privacy, to try to explain to ears that could no longer hear what he had meant.
He’d seen many things in his time at Torchwood, both wonderful and terrifying, but nothing compared to the sight of Jack coming up the stairs from the basement and wrapping Tosh in a hug. There was forgiveness for all of them. Jack was generous that way; he could afford to be, but then, when they all were away, he was gone.
The blue police box obscured half the camera angle, but still he couldn’t have missed the blinding smile that greeted it and the way Jack raced toward the opening door. He was gone, and who could blame him? He’d heard of the Doctor and obviously Jack had encountered him somewhere in his past; when faced with the choice of his duplicitous team or traveling the stars, he’d chosen wisely.
After setting the re-collated report back on Tosh’s console, he turned, studying the Hub with eyes that held more sorrow than seemed possible. He had fallen in love; it was inevitable. What also seemed inevitable was the fact that he had lost the one he loved once again.
He had survived the loss of Lisa; he would survive this. He had to and he would, day by day, week by week... even if it killed him.
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