Characters: Jack, Kathy Swanson, John Hart, Ianto, Tosh, Owen, Gwen.
Word Count: 3532
Spoilers: Post-Exit Wounds, but an AU where Tosh and Owen survived.
Summary: When D.I. Swanson calls Jack out of the blue, it’s bound to be bad news, but even so, Jack isn’t prepared for what she has to say.
Content Notes: None needed.
Written For: Challenge 234: Did What Where? at fan_flashworks.
Disclaimer: I don’t own Torchwood, or the characters.
A/N: Also for TamaraJagellovsk. It’s not exactly what you asked for, but there’s room for me to write a sequel if I can come up with a suitable idea.
The phone call from D.I. Swanson was completely unexpected. As far as Jack knew, there was no reason for her to call; the Rift was experiencing one of its periodic slow phases, the current heatwave meant the Weevils were staying in the sewers where it was cooler, and there wasn’t so much as a blip from the satellites keeping a watch for spaceships in the vicinity of earth, so no likelihood of an invasion attempt or lost travellers. Still, she was calling him, and that was never a good sign.
“Detective Swanson; always a pleasure to hear from you! To what do I owe the honour of this call?” he asked, keeping his tone more or less businesslike, although this being Jack, there was inevitably a flirtatious edge to his words.
Kathy came right to the point, far better at being businesslike than Jack would ever be. “We’ve got some guy in custody, no identification, and from his accent he’s not from around here, but he claims you’ll vouch for him.”
“Does this mystery man have a name? Or at the very least a description?”
“Average height, Caucasian, blue eyes, dirty blond hair, scruffy clothes… I’m not convinced the name he gave the arresting officer is real, but he calls himself John Hart. That’s H-A-R-T.”
Jack groaned; of all the answers Kathy might have given to his question, that was the most unwelcome. “Please tell me you’re joking.”
“I wish I could. You do know him then?”
“Unfortunately. I thought I’d seen the last of him, but he just doesn’t seem able to grasp the fact that I don’t want him around!”
“Can’t say I’m too happy about having him here either. He was bought in half an hour ago and he’s already broken out of holding three times.”
“Only three? He’s slipping. Take my advice, Kathy; the best thing you can do with him is shoot him. That way he won’t cause either of us any more trouble.”
“Sad to say, that’s against the law around here. Not to mention I don’t have a gun; this isn’t America where all the police are armed to the teeth. You people wouldn’t like to take him off my hands, would you?” Kathy’s professional edge slipped slightly; it sounded like she was almost pleading.
“That wouldn’t be my first choice, no. So what did he do to get himself arrested this time?”
Kathy told him, and Jack almost dropped the phone as he leapt to his feet. “He did what where?” He was open-minded, even by the standards of his own time, but even he had his limits. John, however, was wired in a very different way; he had no limits whatsoever as far as Jack could tell, not in anything.
“We don’t even know quite what to charge him with,” Kathy admitted. “Public nuisance for a start, I’d imagine, disturbing the peace, lewd behaviour, public indecency… probably a few other things. Take your pick. I mean it was a hardware store, but the way he was acting, anyone would have thought it was some sort of bondage emporium! He wanted the salesman to spank him with a garden hose! As for what he was doing with the paint rollers… Well, you don’t want to know. Let’s just say I pity the poor sod who had to book those in as evidence. From what I’ve heard, the arresting officers had a devil of a job trying to get his clothes back on. He propositioned all of them, not to mention store staff and customers.”
Slumping back into his desk chair, Jack dropped his head onto his blotter and groaned piteously. “This is a nightmare.”
“Tell me about it. So, are you coming to get him?”
“Do I have to?”
“I wish you would. We don’t have a cell that’ll hold him.”
“Nobody does, gorgeous. I can get out of anywhere.” Hart’s voice came floating over the line, followed by a shocked exclamation from Kathy.
“How did you get in here? The door’s locked!”
“If the locks on your cells can’t keep me in, why would you think a simple door lock can keep me out? Give me that.” He must have meant the phone receiver, because his next words came over much more clearly. “What’s keeping you? I thought you’d be on your way by now. Don’t worry, I’ll be good, I’ll wait right here for you. Bring your little team too; we can have a play date!”
“John, if you harm a hair on anyone’s head…”
“Oh relax, would you? I’m not here to harm anyone. I just wanted to find out what you see in this backwater little planet. Have to admit, it’s not without its enticements. Oops, somebody’s trying to get in; can’t have that. See you in a bit!” Hart hung up and Jack resisted the temptation to tear his hair out in handfuls. Bald was not a good look on him. Steeling himself to face a fate worse than death, he grabbed his gun from his desk drawer and left his office, bellowing for his team.
“What’s up?” Ianto asked, practically materialising at his elbow.
“John Hart’s back, that’s what’s up!”
“Who’d he kill this time?” Ianto asked grimly, remembering how close they’d come to losing Owen and Tosh the last time John Hart came to town. Admittedly it had been Jack’s brother Gray who’d shot Tosh, but he wouldn’t have been in Cardiff if Hart hadn’t found him and told him where Jack was.
“Nobody so far, but he got himself arrested, for all the good that’s done the police. John always was good with locks.”
“So if he didn’t kill anyone, what did he do?” Gwen wanted to know. “He must have done something or he wouldn’t have been arrested.”
“According to Kathy, he stripped naked in the middle of Wilko’s and started testing out the wares.”
“You what?” Owen frowned.
“As sex toys,” Jack elucidated.
Owen went pale. “That is just… wrong on so many levels.”
Ianto at least took the news in stride. “Sounds a lot like someone else I know.”
“Hey!” Jack glared indignantly at his lover. “I don’t experiment in the shop! I buy things and bring them home first! Besides, if you think I’m kinky, consider this; John is in a league of his own.”
“Someone exists who’s kinkier than you?” Ianto raised an eyebrow. “Doesn’t bear thinking about.”
“I know!” Jack wailed. “His kinks have kinks!”
“Alright, so we’ve established he’s a problem; but if the police have him in custody, is he really our problem?” Ianto wasn’t any more enthusiastic than Jack about having to deal with the wayward ex-Time Agent again.
“They don’t exactly have him in custody, so Kathy wants us to take him off her hands. He escaped from the holding cell again and he’s holed up in her office.”
“Is Kathy alright?” Tosh asked, worried. She liked the detective inspector a lot.
“Fine at present. As far as I can tell, Hart isn’t interested in hurting anyone; it’s me he wants.”
“He can’t have you.” Ianto spoke the words before he could stop himself.
“No he can’t,” Jack agreed, “and he’s not having you either.”
“Now that’s settled,” Owen broke in, “how about we figure out what we’re going to do about him? We can’t leave him where he is. If the police are having trouble keeping him locked up there’s no telling what he’ll get up to next.”
Jack gave a resigned sigh. “I suppose we’d better go and get him, lock him in one of the secure cells in the lower levels.”
“Are they secure enough to hold him?” Ianto asked.
“Won’t know until we try locking him up in one.”
“And if that fails?”
“Cryo freeze,” Owen said firmly. “In fact, why don’t we just go right ahead and freeze him to start with? He’d be a whole lot less trouble that way.”
“I’ll consider it. I want to hear what he has to say for himself first. Personally, I’d be happier if he voluntarily left earth and never came back. I don’t want him here, not even frozen. He’s too dangerous. Out in the wide universe there’s at least a chance he might solve everyone’s problem by getting himself killed.”
“That’s another option to explore; we could just kill him right now and be done with it.”
Jack turned to his tech expert, a shocked expression on his face. “Tosh!”
“Don’t pretend you haven’t thought about it yourself, Jack. He bombed Cardiff! A lot of people died or were seriously injured. Myself included.”
“I know, but…” Jack met Tosh’s eyes squarely. “Killing him should be a last resort, otherwise we’re no better than he is.”
Tosh looked away first. “I know you’re right, I just can’t help remembering…”
“I know; none of us are going to forget his last visit in a hurry, but it was Gray who was calling the shots. Hart didn’t have a lot of choice; if he’d disobeyed, Gray would have detonated the explosives fused to him. John Hart is a lot of things, most of them bad, but most of the time he doesn’t have a death wish. He was trying to stay alive.”
“That doesn’t make what he did any better.”
“No, it doesn’t. Anyone with a conscience would have sacrificed their own life for the greater good, but John Hart isn’t wired that way. Self-preservation is his top priority. With that in mind, we’d best collect him before he does something serious. Right now, they could let him off with a caution and a fine, what with this being his first known offence. I don’t like their chances of keeping hold of him through a trial, and sticking him in jail would be like setting a match to a building filled with dynamite.”
Ianto shuddered. “That needs to be avoided at all costs.”
The rest of the team nodded agreement. “Better arm ourselves and get going,” Owen said.
“No.” Jack’s face was set. “Nobody but me carries a gun, or any other weapon for that matter.”
“You can’t be serious?” Gwen gave him an incredulous look.
“Right now, John Hart is unarmed. According to Kathy, the police didn’t find any weapons on him when he was arrested…”
“And no clothes either,” Ianto muttered.
Jack ignored him. “Chances are he hasn’t had time to find any yet. The police don’t exactly leave anything dangerous lying around. If we take weapons with us and he manages to disarm one or more of us, then we’ll have made a bad situation worse.”
“Yeah, hadn’t thought of that,” Owen admitted.
“We take cuffs only. Lock him in enough pairs of them and it should take even him a while to get free of them all.”
“What’re we waiting for then?” Ianto produced the keys to the SUV. “Grab a few pairs of handcuffs and let’s go.”
Everyone hustled to do so, fetching their reinforced Weevil cuffs, and then the entire team trooped behind Ianto into the underground garage, faces set in determined lines. Whatever they did to him, John Hart had it coming.
At the police station, they made their way to Kathy’s office, which unsurprisingly was locked. There was nobody in the hallway, Kathy having ordered at John’s insistence that everyone back off. Leaving his team at the end of the corridor, Jack went the rest of the way on his own and knocked on the door.
“John? It’s me. Open the door.”
“Jacky boy! What kept you!” The door swung open and Hart stood in the doorway, smirking. “What? No kiss hello?” Unlike the last time Jack had seen him, Hart was dressed somewhat incongruously in jeans, an open-necked shirt, and a denim jacket, all of which looked worn but surprisingly clean.
Jack took all of that in at a glance. Then he punched Hart in the nose, as hard as he could.
Whatever John Hart had been expecting, it wasn’t that. Taken by surprise, he staggered backwards, tripping over his own feet and landing in a heap against Kath’s desk, hands over his abused nose and blood dripping onto his shirt. “OW! What was that for?”
Without saying a word, Jack flipped Hart onto his stomach and cuffed his arms behind his back. By then, Ianto was beside him, handing him several sets of handcuffs, one after another, until there were six sets jangling around Hart’s wrists, all of them fastened punishingly tight.
“You really don’t like this guy, do you?” Kathy had come around her desk to look down at the captive.
Jack glanced up at her. “What gave it away? Are you alright?”
“Fine, but I’ll be glad to get your friend here out of my hair.”
“We’re not friends.”
“How can you say that after all we’ve been through together?” Still sprawled on the floor, Hart twisted his head to one side, peering at the shiny shoes just within his field of vision. “Eye Candy? Is that you?”
“I have a name, Hart.”
“Right. Ianto, isn’t it? Where are Jack’s other playmates?”
“Here. You don’t think we’d miss this, do you?” a cool voice asked.
“Ah, the smart, pretty one. Toshiko, right?”
Tosh turned to Jack. “Can I kick him? Please?”
“Maybe later. I want to get some answers out of him first.” Jack moved around to John’s head and crouched down, grabbing him by the hair and hauling his head up.
“Oooh, you wanna play rough?” From the tone of Hart’s voice, and the leer on his face, he relished the prospect.
“Just making sure I have your attention; I’ve got some questions for you.”
“Hey, ask me anything; I’m an open book!”
“Not how I’d describe you. You’re a menace to society. What’re you doing in Cardiff?”
“Don’t give me that, John.”
“No, seriously! I wanted to know why you’d stay here when there’s a whole universe out there, full of fun things to do and fun people to do it all with, so…”
“So you came back to find out?”
“Not exactly; I never left. I’ve been travelling around from country to country, meeting people, checking out the sights, until I ended up back here again. It’s been quite an eye-opener. There’re so many laws, and this whole planet is seriously repressed, and yet… it has its good points too. The drugs are too tame for my tastes, but the booze is fair, the scenery is pretty, there’s plenty of gambling, and the sports… Football, rugby, basketball, tennis, hockey, snooker, synchronised diving… Who knew there were so many things you can do with balls?”
“There aren’t any balls in synchronised diving,” Owen pointed out.
“That’s what you think! You should see the divers in their tight little Speedos!”
Owen’s face turned a peculiar colour and he made a strangled sound that could’ve been, “You’re disgusting.”
“So you’ve been travelling the world watching sports?” Jack sounded unconvinced.
“Not just sports. I spent a whole month in Las Vegas; gambling, showgirls, more gambling…” A dreamy smile crossed Hart’s face. “Now I know where the Vegas galaxy got some of its better ideas.”
“And you came back here because?”
“I can’t stop by to say hello?” The injured innocence on John’s face didn’t fool anyone.
“No. And you weren’t saying hello; you were naked and propositioning customers in a shop!”
“In some places that amounts to the same thing.”
“Not on earth it doesn’t!”
“Yeah, sorry about that. I got a bit overexcited. Have you seen what they sell in those places? They had these amazing furry tube things… I thought I’d died and gone to heaven!”
“They’re paint rollers, for applying paint to walls,” Ianto explained.
“Paint? Boring; I can think of much better uses for them!”
“So we heard.”
“You should try one Eye… Ianto. I thought I’d tried everything, but the things you people have available to play with! I never imagined this world could be so innovative; now I get why you want to stay here.” That comment was directed at Jack. “The rest of you don’t know how lucky you are; this whole planet is a connoisseur’s dream! Such ingenuity and inventiveness, and it’s wasted on most people. I think I’ll start an online blog and educate people on the alternative uses for ordinary household objects.”
“That’s not going to happen, John,” Jack said firmly. “We’re taking you back to the Hub where you’ll stay in maximum security. Either that or you leave earth and never come back.”
“Don’t be like that! I’m a reformed character! I’ve been here almost a year and I haven’t killed a single person!”
“I find that hard to believe.” Jack stared stonily at his ex-partner. “I know you, I know what you’re like, and you’ll never change. How many times have you been through rehab?”
“I never bothered to keep count.”
“That figures, and it never sticks. As soon as you get out, you go right back to your old ways. I don’t want to wind up cleaning up your messes again the way I used to when we were partners. I’m done with that life.”
“Maybe I am too.” The leer and the bravado vanished as if a switch had been thrown. “Maybe you haven’t noticed, but I’m not getting any younger. It’s alright for you, you’ll always look as good as you do right now, but I won’t. I’m getting grey hairs and wrinkles, and I don’t bounce back from the drugs and booze as fast as I used to. Still got a few good years in me, but after what happened with Gray…” John shook his head slightly. “I thought I was doing you a good turn, I had no idea what he had in mind for you, I just… You looked for him for years, but I found him, and… I’m sorry. What he did to you and your team, what he made me do, that wasn’t what I wanted.”
“You thought if you reunited me with my brother I’d take you back.” It was a statement rather than a question.
“Something like that.”
“I’ve moved on, John. I grew up; you didn’t.”
“Maybe it’s time I did.”
“Past time, but I’m not sure you’re capable of it.”
“Neither am I, but I can try, if you’d just give me a chance.”
“We’re not getting back together; I’m with Ianto now.”
John nodded, which wasn’t easy with Jack still gripping his hair. “I know; you always did have good taste. You’re a lucky man.”
“You’re not really thinking of letting him stay, are you?” Tosh asked, horrified at the thought.
“You wouldn’t be alive if I hadn’t rescued Owen in time to save you,” John pointed out, trying to turn his head to look at her.
“I wouldn’t have been shot in the first place if you hadn’t…”
Hart cut her off. “I know. I’m sorry. I can’t undo that, but I did what I could to help.”
Tosh sighed, angry with herself for wanting to believe the man who’d caused so much harm.
“I could work for you.” John addressed Jack this time. “You can put a tracker on me. Just give me a month’s trial. A week’s trial! Forty-eight hours!”
Ianto twitched, remembering saying something similar to Jack years ago when he was trying to get a job with Torchwood Three. “And if we let you loose in the Hub you’d probably rob us blind or something.”
“So don’t let me in. I’ll work freelance, call me when you need me.”
“And the rest of the time, what would you be doing? Stripping naked in stores and disturbing the peace?”
“I make one little mistake and you won’t let me hear the end of it!”
“Little mistake?” Ianto raised an eyebrow.
“It won’t happen again. I’ll even pay for those furry… what did you call them again?”
“Yeah, those; I’ll pay for them, if I can keep them.”
“Kathy?” Jack asked. “If he pays for everything he damaged, any chance charges can be dropped.”
“You’re seriously considering letting him work for you?”
“I can make him leave the planet, but I can’t prevent him coming back,” Jack admitted. “At least this way I’d know where he was at all times and could maybe keep him out of trouble. And if that fails, there’s always cryo-storage.”
“You’d freeze me?” For the first time, John actually sounded rattled.
“If you don’t behave yourself, yes. You get one chance; first time you step out of line, that’s it. Consider yourself lucky; Tosh would rather shoot you right away so you’d never cause trouble again, and I doubt the rest of the team would object.”
“That would be murder,” said Kathy.
“Which is why he’ll be frozen rather than killed if he misbehaves. He’d still be alive that way.”
“Fair enough. If he pays a fine and damages, I think that will be acceptable, as long as he stays out of trouble.”
“I will. I promise.”
“We’ll see.” Jack let go of John’s hair and pulled his former partner to his feet, propelling him towards the door. “I just hope none of us lives to regret this.”