Gonna Be Okay
John hoped to convince Sherlock to spend at least one day relaxing in Cardiff before returning to London. It wasn't a strong hope, but he gave it a shot. "There's no reason to go rushing home. We'll get a proper hotel room for the night and go back tomorrow," he said. "We'll do something absurdly touristy and you can deduce things and mock people. It'll be fun."
Sherlock only offered a sardonic look in response. Greg, on the other hand, laughed out loud. "Well if you want to ride back with me, say so now because I'm leaving. Some of us have jobs to get back to, and seeing as my 'family emergency' has passed..."
They all presumed he had Mycroft to thank for that pretext. It would be like the elder Holmes brother to intervene in the current situation--without asking, of course. And if anyone on the outside could get their fingers into Torchwood's doings deeply enough to know what was going on, it would be him. Greg didn't really care one way or the other where the excuse came from or who planted it in the system. He was just glad for the awkward questions that would not come from his superiors thanks to the lie. He would still have to face the curious looks and speculation he was bound to get from Donovan, and by association Anderson, of course. Donovan had been on-scene when the Chula device had done its mischief. While she couldn't have known from that distance exactly what had happened, she was smart enough to figure out that it was connected to her boss's sudden disappearance, so-called family emergencies be damned. Fortunately, he didn't have to answer to her.
"We'll make our own way," Sherlock said.
"Suit yourselves. I'll see you later." He turned to Gwen, Ace, and Lois, and shook hands all around. "Thanks for everything. It's been…enlightening."
"You're lucky it's staying that way," Gwen replied. "In other circumstances we'd have retconned the lot of you."
John got the feeling she was only half-joking and suppressed a shudder. Martha had explained about the drug retcon and it was not something he ever wanted to experience for himself. He was sorry he'd not gotten to say a proper good-bye to her or Mickey. They were already off on another job before John and Sherlock had woken that morning. John guessed it had something to do with whatever had taken Gwen and Lois away yesterday. What had they said? Rift energy fluctuations at the weir? Whatever that meant.
"I'll take you to your car," Ace offered. "You can't get into the garage without a security key anyway."
"I'd better tidy up Jack's quarters," Lois said as Greg followed Ace out of the room. John was glad he'd taken the time that morning to strip the sheets off the big bed, even if he didn't know where the laundry needed to go from there. Some evidence was unavoidable, but he didn't care to make it obvious.
"Please," Gwen said meaningfully. "The last thing I want is him staying with us for another night. It's okay," she quickly reassured John, who was about to apologise. "You needed the bed more than he did, and there are worse things in the world than Jack Harkness as a house guest. Not many, but a few."
A new voice with a distinctly American accent rang through the Hub. "Aw, come on. I didn't even come in until three in the morning! How bad could it have been?"
"You're just lucky I'm the only one you woke when you finally rolled in," Gwen countered without missing a beat.
Everyone turned to face the newcomer bounding down the stairs. He was classic-Hollywood handsome, with a broad toothy smile, bright blue eyes, thick dark hair, and an outfit straight out of a 1940s military catalogue, all the way out to the double-breasted overcoat. He exuded confidence and sex appeal. It seemed to flow before him like a wave. Pheromones reached out, hooking little claws into John's libido and tugging.
"Lois, it's good to see you again," he said cheerfully as they passed one another.
"And you. Welcome back." She continued on up and out of sight.
"Jack," said Gwen as he landed beside her. John recognised a tone in her voice that he'd often heard in his own when addressing Sherlock. It was a carefully balanced blend of scolding, irritation, and amusement.
"So these are our guests," he said, flashing a welcoming grin. He reached out and shook first John's hand and then Sherlock's. "Captain Jack Harkness. Pleasure to meet you both. Love your coat," he added with a waggle of his shapely eyebrows.
"Jack--" This time it was a warning.
"I was saying hello!"
"For you that's flirting."
"Where have I heard that before?" It was rhetorical. He obviously knew the answer and just as obviously wasn't going to share it. He looked around. "Where's your number three? Detective Inspector Greg Lestrade, right?"
"He's gone home. You just missed him." Gwen didn't sound sorry about it.
"Too bad. I understand he's quite a silver fox. Am I right? Rarr!" He made a purring sound that set John's heart fluttering like a school girl's. "So I hear from Gwen that you boys have had an adventure. Chula technology, huh? I once stole a Chula warship. Okay, it was actually an ambulance that caused some minor havoc in Blitzed-out London, but don't worry. It all ended well or none of us would be here. It got blown up and I went dancing with friends. Good times."
"Captain Jack Harkness?" John asked, recognising the name and finally getting a word in edgeways. "You have a signed first edition Kipling. Was that a gift to your great-grandfather?" It was a guess. He wasn't sure he'd done the generational maths correctly.
"Nope. That's mine. Good old Kippers! You'd never know it from the official history, but that man was a riot at parties. I take it you made yourselves at home." His implication was clear and accompanied by another thousand-watt grin, this one sly and knowing.
Again Gwen scolded him. Volumes in a single name: "Jack!"
"Geez! When did you get so uptight?"
"Oh, please. And if you were any looser your brass buttons would fall off."
Jack let out a belly laugh, and John had to chuckle. There was something magnetic about him. Even more than the obvious echo of time-travel in his eyes, just like John had recognised first in Ace and then in other members of Torchwood. He wondered if it came from the same source.
"So you're Sherlock Holmes and Doctor John Watson," Jack went on. "The real deal. It's an honour. Seriously. You two... You're legendary. I love your work. Almost as much as I love your dress sense," he added with a wink at Sherlock. Before Gwen could admonish him again, he went on faux-conspiratorially. "I have to mess with her like this. She's gotten stodgy in my absence."
"Stodgy?" declared Gwen. "I should make you catalogue rift databases for that comment." But there was a twinkle in her eyes that belied her sharp tone.
Ace returned then, interrupting their banter. "Greg's on his way home. Morning, Jack." She seemed singularly unimpressed by the man, while John remained half awed and aroused by his magnetism. Even Sherlock appeared riveted--but that could just be Sherlock in observer mode. There was definitely a great deal to observe about Captain Jack Harkness. John was dying to know what Sherlock made of him; so far he'd not said a word since introducing himself. Jack's square jaw alone was worthy of extensive examination, and what was under that overcoat certainly deserved consideration...
John caught his mind wandering where it oughtn't to go and he yanked it back. "Thanks very much for the hospitality," he said mostly to Gwen, but a bit to Jack, too. It was his bed they'd usurped, after all.
"Any time," Gwen said, "but hopefully not again soon, and under better circumstances."
Sherlock spoke up at last. "Yes. We should go. John wanted to go sight-seeing before we leave town." John didn't believe for a minute that Sherlock was actually advocating sight-seeing. He looked at him closely, seeking the ulterior motive under the façade. Then Jack spoke again and John guessed the answer immediately.
"I wish I could show you boys around town. I know all the hot spots, the best dance clubs. Lady Gaga's playing an underground show tomorrow night and I know where. Don't tell anyone I told you, okay? Mum's the word." Jack tapped a finger to the side of his nose. Then he sang a few lines from one of her songs--very well, John thought--and did a spin, his wool coat catching just enough air to lift the hem an inch or two. He stopped and abruptly turned serious--if only for a moment. "But there's work to do, otherwise I wouldn't be here at all. I was at this fantastic spa on the planet Midnight and the concierge there-- Mm!" He flashed yet another grin. He seemed to have a dictionary full of them. John put this one down as lascivious with a touch of coy.
"He'll talk your ears off if you let him," Ace interrupted. "I'd show you around town myself, but there really is work to do."
"Yes, of course," said John, a little disappointed. He'd enjoyed the few opportunities he'd had to chat with Ace, and wished there were time for more. Jack wasn't the only magnetic member of Torchwood - Cardiff. "We'll have to come for a proper visit another time."
"What kind of work?" Sherlock asked.
Gwen answered him. "The classified kind, I'm afraid."
"Shame because I'd love to get your take on the sitch," Jack said to Sherlock.
"Yeah, that's not going to happen. Ace, would you please show our guests out?"
"Sure. I'll take you up the lift," Ace said. "Come on."
"See you around, Mr Holmes, Doctor," Jack shot after them, and John's breath caught. This wasn't the time to ask, though, much as he wanted to. He could only follow Ace and Sherlock onto an open platform that looked nothing like a lift.
"Brace yourselves," said Ace although there was a clear lack of anything against which to brace oneself. John widened his stance. "Going up!" With almost no sensation of movement, they began to rise.
The lift stopped in the open air before a tall shining pillar right next to the Cardiff Millennium Centre. A chilly morning breeze caught at the collar of John's jacket and he zipped it up tighter. He'd seen the pillar before when he'd gone for lunch with Martha and Mickey. How had he not seen that there was a lift in front of it? And how did no one ever fall into it when it was open?
With a single long glance, Sherlock took in the paved plaza and the people walking across it. "No one sees us."
"Perception filter," Ace explained. "It distracts the eyes and ears from anything standing on this exact spot. Handy, isn't it? It has to do with the rift energy that's focussed on this site. That's why the Hub was built here in the first place, and why it was rebuilt after it was destroyed by-- Actually, that's really, really classified. Forget I mentioned it."
"Fascinating," Sherlock said dryly. "Absurd, of course, but your absolute conviction to what you say is fascinating."
"Give me a logical reason, then, from your point of view, for why no one's noticed us when we're standing right out in the open like this."
"There are a number of possible explanations." Sherlock stepped off the platform and looked back at them. "I can see you."
"Because you know we're here. The people behind you only see you talking to no one. Or maybe they think they see something, but it's not enough to make them really look. People are so caught up in their own worlds that it's easy to distract them, shift their attention away from what you don't want them noticing. You of all people should know that." She grinned and turned to John, who didn't bother to hide his own small smirk.
"So this is good-bye, huh, Baldwin? -- Hang on. I can't call you that any more. Not now you're back to normal." She gave him a considering look. "No longer a Baldwin. Much too young for a Harrison. I suppose I'll just have to call you Watson." She turned up the wattage on her smile to a level that more than rivalled what Jack had shone on them down below. It was a good thing he and Sherlock were leaving. John didn't know if he could control himself if Ace and Jack should happen to smile like that at the same time. All the concentrated pretty would have been overwhelming.
"I like it. It suits me," he joked. Then his own smile dimmed a little. There was something he wanted to ask her, but he was unsure how she would react. She'd been open with him before, that night they'd taken a walk along the sea wall. It was worth a try. "Before we go, I have a question for you. If you don't mind."
"Sure. What is it?"
"My Aunt Jo worked with him. Travelled with him. In the '70s. She said he changes." He didn't have to explain who "he" was. He saw her immediate understanding in her fathomless eyes.
"Yeah. He does. I never saw it happen myself, but yeah."
"Which one was he?"
"He told me once that he was the seventh version of himself," she said. "He was over 900 years old then. I can't even guess what he is now." Her expression grew wistful and fond. "He carried a brolly with a question mark handle. Played the spoons. Sounded like he came from Scotland. He'd talk as readily about existentialism as he would about pudding. He was a bit of a clown, really, my Doctor. But he was wicked brilliant." Again that luminous grin.
John smiled back. Other than "wicked brilliant," her Doctor seemed to have little in common with his aunt's. But he gathered that was the way it worked. "Right. And, uh--" He took a gamble. "Jack's?"
"He's travelled with two of him, and not very long ago, either. Well, by linear time standards and from our point of view. For him, it's been a long, long time. Jack's...different."
"John, are you coming?" Sherlock called impatiently. John saw one or two people glance his way and then hurry their steps past him. Undoubtedly Sherlock observed them, too, but he showed no sign of it. Of course.
John turned back to Ace. "Time to go. Thanks again. For everything."
"Any time. I mean it. If you ever need Torchwood's help, or if you just get bored with London and fancy a weekend away, give me ring. My number's in your mobile."
He chuckled wondering when she'd managed that, or if she'd done it remotely through some computer wizardry. "Right. Thanks. Good-bye, Ace."
"Bye, Watson." She leaned in and kissed his cheek. "It's been fun."
John stepped off the platform and turned back to give her a final farewell wave. She seemed almost distorted to his eyes, like he was looking at her through a heat haze. He watched as she sank into the ground and disappeared completely.
"All right?" Sherlock asked him, somewhat stiffly.
John looked at him. He was studying the pillar, a frown creasing the space between his eyebrows. "Let it go, Sherlock. You're not going to solve this one just by staring at it, particularly not when she already told you what it was."
Sherlock harrumphed and begrudgingly looked away from the pillar. His eyes landed naturally on John.
"You really don't want to stay here, even for just a day, do you?" John asked, reading it in his face.
"No, but if you're that desperate for a holiday, I suppose I could humour you."
"Always so gracious," teased John. "It's all right. I'm sort of anxious to get home, as well. If nothing else, I want a change of clothes. I wonder how far it is to the train station from here."
"Not very. It's this way."
Sherlock began walking and John matched his steps. The wind was brisk off the bay, carrying the aroma peculiar to large salty bodies of water. John took a deep breath, enjoying the scent and the fresh air after so much time underground. As they walked, Sherlock's manner altered so slightly that John could tell the difference only because he knew him so well. He waited, not sure what to expect.
Sherlock's gaze was everywhere but on John. "I'm sorry."
"For what?" John had his own mental list of Sherlock's offences, but he didn't expect a spoken apology for any item on it. That simply wasn't Sherlock's way of handling things.
"You stood by me despite my appalling behaviour. I owe you a lot for that. The past two days were...challenging for all of us, and I didn't make it any easier on you."
"It wasn't your responsibility to make it easier."
"But I didn't have to make it harder, which I did. On you particularly. That's partly why I sedated you."
John was surprised to hear him say it. For his own part, he had seriously mixed feelings about that particular incident. In the end, he was glad to have been spared the agony he'd expected, but it was yet another occasion where Sherlock had taken the decision out of his hands, and that was something he did not appreciate. It was all too heavy a subject to delve into just then, so he chose another method of dealing with it. At least for the time being.
"I understand why you did it. What was it I called you before?" He pretended to think hard for the answer.
"Yes, I know what you said."
"I remember now," John went on as if he hadn't spoken. "A colossal ass who makes all the wrong grandiose gestures for all the right reasons. I pretty much have you pegged, don't I?"
Sherlock pursed his lips and shot him a sideways glance. "You're a sore winner, John." He picked up his pace and John had to jog a step to catch up.
John smiled a little smugly. "This time, yes. I am. And to prove it, you can take me out to dinner tonight to add to your apology. Somewhere nice, please. And I expect not to be the only one at the table actually eating."