A Journal Of The Plague Year by robling_t

Summary: Thrown through the Rift in the line of duty, two of Torchwood's own have only their ingenuity and each other to rely upon to get home safely from one of the deadliest years the world has ever known.
Rating: Teen
Categories: Torchwood
Characters: Owen Harper, PC Andy Davidson
Genres: Action/Adventure, Alternate Universe, Drama, Hurt/Comfort, Series, Slash, Standalone
Warnings: Swearing
Challenges: None
Series: Yours, Mine, and Ours
Published: 2008.09.22
Updated: 2008.11.05


Chapter 1: Adrift
Chapter 2: The Only Thing That Will Redeem Mankind Is Cooperation
Chapter 3: Doomsday Book
Chapter 4: An Oldie Where I Come From
Chapter 5: And I'd Give Up Forever To Touch You
Chapter 6: I'm Gonna Be The Man Who Comes Back Home To You
Chapter 7: Accustomed To Your Face
Chapter 8: No, Ma'am. We're Musicians.
Chapter 9: Smells Like Teen Spirit
Chapter 10: Why Don't You Tell Me My Future, Why Don't I Sell You My Soul?
Chapter 11: Love In The Time Of Cholera
Chapter 12: Angels, Unaware
Chapter 13: City On The Edge Of Forever
Chapter 14: Pale Horse, Pale Rider
Chapter 15: Look Homeward, Angel
Chapter 16: I'm Not Crazy, I'm Just A Little Unwell
Chapter 17: End Of Days
Chapter 18: Captain Jack Harkness
Chapter 19: Tis Grace Has Brought Me Safe Thus Far
Chapter 20: And Grace Will Lead Me Home

Chapter 1: Adrift

Author's Notes: What fresh hell is this?

On a windswept hillside two figures dropped from a clear sky and went rolling in the long grass, coming to rest in a tangled heap against a outcropping of granite. "Fuck, what just happened?" said Owen Harper, wondering if he should just hope this dream would change into something involving more nakedness if he kept working at it.

Beneath him his partner Andy grunted. "I think there was another explosion. Are we dead?"

"Don't think so. And I think I can say that's an expert opinion." Owen sat upright, relieved that apart from a few bruises he'd surely have by morning he appeared to be in one piece, which was something he never took for granted anymore. "I think... I think we've got caught up in the rift. Swept in and spat out somewhere."

"Takes as well as gives, that only makes sense." The constable was sitting up now as well, holding his head cautiously but seeming unhurt. "So where are we, do you think?"

"Dunno. 'S got blue sky and oxygen? And that looks like the right moon," Owen added, squinting up at the hazy crescent. "So I'm guessing we're probably still on Earth. Question is... when."

Andy looked at him as if he hoped Owen were joking. And nodded, slowly. "No airplanes," he said, studying the empty sky thoughtfully. "Which do you think would be worse, the middle ages or some post-apocalyptic world where apes evolved from men?"

"Only one day in our lifetimes the sky would have been this clear anywhere. And you know you've been working for Torchwood too long when the idea of hanging about for a dozen years to pick up your life again starts to sound like a best-case scenario."

"Right, so leaving aside 'when' for a moment, obviously not enough data-points yet," Andy shifted his gaze to the surrounding hills, "I'd say the 'where' looks a lot like Scotland?"

"Bloody hell," Owen said, picking himself up out of the grass. "We may spend the rest of our lives painting ourselves blue and fighting off Romans. I think I'd almost rather take the apes."

"Then again, if we're the ones with the guns," Andy said with the first traces of a smile. "We'd be gods, in a situation like that. Until we ran out of bullets, anyway."

"I think setting yourself up as a false divinity is probably against Torchwood's regulations," Owen said, regretfully. "Or anyway it sounds like something Jack would have kicked our arses for."

"Are you kidding, Jack would be the first in line to try it."

"Yeah, but he's Jack and we're not." Owen pulled out his mobile and poked a few buttons experimentally. "No signal, I'm thinking that's a vote for backwards unless the apocalypse took down the satellites as well. Doesn't really look that apocalyptic around here, I don't think," he added, considering the vista. "Although the air smells funny."

"It's clean," Andy said, getting to his feet and brushing off his trousers. "Do you never get out of the city?"

"As little as possible," Owen answered, casting about through the grass around them for anything that might have come with them in their tumble, beginning with his rucksack full of medical supplies. Might need that, yeah. "The time Jack made us go camping, somebody tried to eat Ianto. And I don't mean that in the sense of some Harknessian innuendo."

Andy sighed, long and deep. "So what's the procedure, then? You're acting as if this happens often enough that you've given some thought to what to do when it was your turn."

"Well, it's that or curl up and start gibbering in terror, and I didn't want to alarm you," Owen replied breezily, although as the extent of their predicament sank in the amount of trouble that they could well be in was beginning to gnaw at him in earnest. "But yeah, since that time I had to open the rift to get Jack and Tosh back from 1941, I've been thinking about emergency plans. Step number one is to figure out where and when you've landed and take measures to blend in as necessary, step two is getting word to the rest of Torchwood somehow and trying to arrange for a rescue."

"Assuming there would be anyone left to rescue us, they did seem a bit busy."

"Thinking about settling down somehow in case of rescue failure would be step three." Far worse people to be stuck with than his steady mate, though (and hardly much worry about becoming their own ancestors, together against the world); Tosh would miss them, but she'd always have Jack to look after her --

Owen stopped dead and Andy reached out to brace him. "Yes! If we're not too far back, Jack's been around for a long time. We just get ourselves to Cardiff and convince him that we're needed later on, and he can send us through the rift or freeze us or something, leave himself a note to pick us up later in a time machine, hell, yes. This might be easy, even."

"And if he won't believe us? He wouldn't know who we are yet."

Owen felt a manic grin worming its way onto his face. "Trust me, I can be very persuasive. And we're the ones with the guns, remember?"

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Chapter 2: The Only Thing That Will Redeem Mankind Is Cooperation

Author's Notes: The boys try to get their bearings.

"I'm a Police Constable of the United Kingdom, and I'm stealing someone's washing off their line."

"Queen and country, Andy, queen and country. Get the holdall, too, I don't think rip-stop nylon's quite been invented yet."

The hike downhill had brought them to what might charitably be called a village, really more a couple of houses huddled round the pub at a crossroads. It was very idyllic and rural and it was making Owen's teeth hurt. But they had their first clues as to when they were, anyway, all the clothing they were helping themselves to from these poor sods' back gardens baggy and wool and not a zipper anywhere but at least it didn't seem to be breeches and petticoats, which probably put them about a hundred years back according to Owen's sketchy notions of historical fashion.

Andy looked a right prat once they'd changed, a good six inches taller than the original owners of the washing, but it was still a vast improvement over twenty-first-century casualwear, even if they couldn't do anything about their shoes. Owen stuffed all their anachronistic belongings into the canvas bag and slung it over his shoulder with a vague sense that this made him look like some sort of Dickensian day-labourer, or possibly an escaped lunatic who had planned ahead. "Right. Now we go down the pub and see if we can't find out more about when we are."

Andy's lips twitched, as if he were just this side of having to either laugh or scream. "Sorry, heading to the pub's a bit Shaun Of The Dead, isn't it? And we haven't got any money. Anything they'd take, I mean. It's probably got the wrong bloody queen on it."

It was a valid point. A very valid point. "Or at least the wrong bloody dates. Damn it." Owen ran a frustrated hand through his hair. "Well, there's that plan gone tits-up, at least we didn't get in there first --"

The constable had gone thoughtful. "I don't suppose you can sing?"


"Well, think about it, we'll need money to get ourselves to Cardiff and even if we had anything we could sell, which we don't, we don't dare leave anything from the future behind anyway. But busking ought to work, I mean, we must know hundreds of pop songs that no one here would know if we were butchering. And it's not as if singing in a pub somewhere is going to leave any sort of lasting impression to worry about, is it? All we have to do is avoid nosy anthropologists who want to collect the indigenous songs of our people and we should at least be able to keep from starving, anyway."

Owen realised that his mouth had fallen open. "Andy Davidson, you are a bloody genius."

Andy shrugged. "Think I saw the idea on telly once or something."

Owen had already been entertaining a half-formed assessment of the value of his wedding ring, and found his knees unexpectedly wobbly at the prospect of not having to give up that tangible link to an impossibly distant future where someone would be wanting him to find his way back. "Considering that neither of us is pretty enough to handle this situation the way Jack probably would, I think it's worth having a go. We can always resort to the out-and-out prostitution later."

"I'm not even going to ask which of us you were thinking of prostituting."

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Chapter 3: Doomsday Book

Author's Notes: The boys are about to find out how much trouble they're really in.

"Well, point to me for guessing Scotland anyway," Andy said as they crashed against a solid wall of rolling Rs. "Hope we're not somewhere they're going to care we're not locals."

"I hope nobody notices that we're wearing their washing."

"I'll go see if they'd mind me being tonight's entertainment," Andy said, looking around for the barman. "Maybe we can even lay hands on a guitar, I do know a couple of chords..."

Well, it had been Andy's plan, anyway, and according to Owen's internal sense of time it was the end of a very long day that had involved a typical menu of Torchwood insanity such as time-travelling kidnappers, rift explosions, and triaging mass casualties. The doctor started looking around for a quiet table, aware that their entrance had attracted wary attention. "Sorry, love, waiting on my friend there," he said when a barmaid came over to check on him once he'd settled in the darkest corner.

The barmaid emitted a series of noises from which a startled Owen managed after a moment to pick out words that might have been Yanks and tall, and some further flat-out cogitation resolved this into the points that, one, she thought he was tall, much less Andy, and two, this had somehow led her to the conclusion that they were American. Owen shuddered involuntarily, thinking of Jack. "Nowhere near, believe me. Just... passing through --" He broke off as she looked puzzled. Of course, mutually incomprehensible dialects, what the hell have we got ourselves into? Then again, that was bloody Scotland for you, he supposed. "Never mind."

Andy dropped heavily into the chair opposite as the barmaid shrugged her resignation at the apparent language barrier and flounced off. "I told them we've got a bit lost hitching and we've run out of money," he said. "They'll stand us to supper but if I'm not any good we may still end up washing glasses."

It still beat any of their other nonexistent options by leagues. "Got a fix on when we are?"

"You're going to love this part." From the look on the constable's boyish face, this was rankest sarcasm. "Everyone at the bar was going on about the western bloody front. Owen, we've landed in the middle of the first world war."

...Fuck, no. Please, God, just... no. "Date, Andy, need the date? Specifically?"

"Calendar behind the bar says 1918."

Thanks, God. Good one, very funny. "Fuck," Owen said aloud, almost not caring now who heard him. "The summer of 1918 -- we are so fucked."

"And that's somehow worse than just abstractly being stuck in world war one, is it? Because I'm not seeing a big distinction here."

"1918, Andy -- at the end of the war comes the Spanish influenza pandemic. A quarter of a million people died in Britain alone." Owen buried his head in his hands, feeling faint. "We've landed in the middle of the fucking Black Death."

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Chapter 4: An Oldie Where I Come From

Author's Notes: And now the boys are about to find out how much trouble they're really really in...

This seemed like an appropriate moment to regroup, ignoring the food the barmaid had brought them for the moment in favour of huddling over their sack of futuristic gear to do a hasty inventory. Owen had taken to packing his field kit with an eye towards the possibility of finding himself marooned in a situation ten times weirder than he could imagine (which was pretty damn weird indeed by now), from an absurdly large supply of paracetamol which he knew he was going to be wishing was even larger by the time this was through to enough morphine to do them both, if it ever came to that, but he was already wondering if he'd been paranoid enough, even so. "-- Fuck, they haven't even discovered penicillin yet." Owen considered for another moment. "Which might actually be just as well, because one of the deadlier complications was bacterial pneumonia and I've got some broad-spectrums that nothing back here will see coming. And, yes, antivirals, might be enough here to give both of us some margin until the worst of the local epidemic burns itself out in the spring if we're careful. And, erm, pretty damn lucky," he added, calculating.

"You're the priority with that, if it comes to it," Andy said quietly. Not meeting Owen's eyes when he looked up.

"Yeah, well, if we can get through to Torchwood without getting ourselves sent off to Bedlam first we might not need all of them," Owen said. "We might even have some natural resistance, considering the odds that we're the descendants of survivors. We'll get through this, Andy."

"We're young and healthy, anyway, that should help."

Owen felt his face fall. "About that... The greatest mortality was in the young and healthy. Theory is a good immune system actually worked against the victims in some sort of an overcorrection."

A stricken look from Andy. "Probably better not to have told me that, thanks. So what does this do to our overall plan?"

"We still need to leg it to Cardiff," Owen said, thinking furiously as he began to pick at his meal without really tasting it. "But it means Jack might not be there -- he's Jack, he has to have fought in the war, so we could be waiting around until after the Armistice. Which is the height of the epidemic, naturally."

"And it has to be Jack, does it?"

"Even for Torchwood, telling them we're from the future is going to be a stretch. At least with Jack there's a chance he'll hear us out first instead of just killing us out of hand."

"You're not exactly inspiring me with noble thoughts about this organisation, you realise. And I suppose we're about to see if I've got the money question sorted," he added as the barman waved him over, holding out a battered guitar.

Andy had a sturdy voice, maybe not up to the professional standards of an age jaded by constant exposure to competitively honed talents, but quite good enough to sing for their supper in an obscure corner of time before the birth of radio: "So make the best of this test and don't ask why --" Owen closed his eyes and tried not to think of never hearing recorded music again. It was some time after the performance had finally died away into stillness before he realised he was weeping.

"It's usually Jack's the one breaks down when he hears 'It's A Long Way To Tipperary'," Andy said softly, light hand on Owen's shoulder startling him into looking up. "I said you'd been put on leave from the field hospital corps because your nerves had gone too badly to be let near a surgery and I'm taking you home to your widowed mother. They'll let us stay in the room upstairs for tonight, even got a few donations from the other veterans."

"For a policeman you're a surprisingly good liar," Owen said.

"Didn't want them thinking we were deserters, and it was the only story I could think of to account for that you're quite clearly insane," Andy said with the first real smile Owen had seen from him since they'd fallen out of the rift. "Ready to head up? I know I could have been in bed about six hours ago."

"Best offer I've had in a hundred years," Owen said, levering himself out of the chair that felt as if it had begun to grow into his backside. "Ninety-five, whatever."

"Always bearing in mind what they just did to Oscar Wilde, of course," Andy said warningly, with a resigned look.

Owen hadn't got round to considering that yet. "Well... bugger."

"Don't think we ought to, no."

"We're in much more trouble than I thought."

The constable had taken on that trying to put a brave face on it look again. "On the other hand, they do seem rather innocent, for all that. So long as we're careful not to give cause for suspicion they might not think of it on their own."

"I'd rather have had the apes."

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Chapter 5: And I'd Give Up Forever To Touch You

Author's Notes: Owen is not having a good time.

It was, quite possibly, the earliest Owen had ever awoken in his life, nervous to be up and away and moving before the questions started coming: Where are you from, then? What were the two of you doing curled up in the bed together like that? Is that my shirt...? Andy's natural charm and that air of wide-eyed gormlessness that women seemed to want to take home and feed up right had got them breakfast from the sleepy-eyed barmaid, whom Andy admitted he couldn't understand much better than Owen could but at least he'd had some better training in how to deal with linguistic challenges than Jack's rather cavalier blanket instruction to try not to shoot anything before he or Tosh could try to identify the species at hand first. "To the extent that any of what she said made sense, I think we're supposed to take the left fork out of town and we'll eventually hit somewhere with a railway station."

"And then all we have to worry about is what tickets cost," Owen said.

He'd woken in the night in an absolute panic, convinced for a moment that they'd slipped back again even farther, and it hadn't helped to look out the window into a sky filled with more stars than he'd ever thought could be up there behind all the pollution and light. But the mention of railways grounded his restless nerves to this industrialised present, however primitive that still was, and the hope even faint as it might be of outrunning the coming plague by getting their arses to the imagined safety of Torchwood went some small way towards brightening his outlook on life, for the next hour or so at any rate.

It was the rain starting in earnest that threatened to break him, caught out on a road in the middle of absolute fucking nowhere a hundred years from anything resembling proper wet-weather gear or even a damn umbrella. "Right, shall I shoot you first, or do you want to do me?"

"The first time I ever saw you people I'd already been standing out in a rainstorm for half an hour, so I don't want to hear it," Andy replied with a distinct lack of sympathy that only a former beat officer could legitimately project. But he began helping to canvas the lines of brush alongside the road for any gap big enough to squeeze into, finally finding a relatively dry pocket under some scrubby willows that was big enough for the both of them to shelter in.

"'S cosy, anyway," Owen observed, making sure their precious sack of medicines was as sheltered as he could make it before settling himself alongside Andy in the hollow. "If you don't mind that it's a bit... drippy."

"Just a bit."

A thread of water was trickling down Andy's temple. Owen reached out to brush it away and let his hand linger on the chilled skin. "No one but us out here in this," he observed.

"That's your answer to everything, isn't it." But Andy wasn't objecting, oh, no, fingers joining Owen's in fumbling across unfamiliar buttons with every bit as much urgency to seize this moment of privacy (how long would it be before he stopped smelling of that grapefruit shampoo, already two days gone from the last time either of them had showered), obnoxious conditions only the more incentive to seek comfort in each other's arms...

"This could have been so much worse," Owen said presently.

"Mm." Long fingers curled restlessly through the damp hair at the base of Owen's skull. "Wouldn't want to be here without you either."

"We had better get put back together, road could get busy once the rain lets up." He didn't want to, he didn't want to move, but it just wouldn't do to risk everything over a misplaced sense that this wasn't anyone's business but theirs. When in Rome, or something? Whatever...

A head pushed into the hedge, all wicked horns and shaggy red fur and slavering fangs. Owen found himself scrambling for his gun even as he tried to get the creature into proper focus, instincts screaming the folly of having let down his guard when there would obviously be untold dangers like marauding orangutans on the loose in a wild stretch of countryside like this. Too much, too much to ask, at least this threat was physical --

The gun was only clicking now, clip long since emptied, and Andy was prying it gently from his fingers. "Owen. Owen. Ssh. Ssh. Stand down. Ssh."

Yes, I am far too jumpy to be out here with a gun, damn it. "Wasn't an alien, was it," Owen mumbled into the constable's steady embrace.

"It's just a cow -- sorry, bull, I think. It probably, erm, heard us and thought we might be going to feed it."

"Well, what was I supposed to think, when the last time I was this far out of the city I nearly got eaten by cannibals? Is cow going to be my first --" The dead cow, or bull, was still refusing to come neatly into focus as he tried to inspect it, and Owen blinked, realising: "Shit, now I've lost a contact."

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Chapter 6: I'm Gonna Be The Man Who Comes Back Home To You

Author's Notes: The magnitude of the challenge begins to unfold.

Owen had never thought to find a good word to say about National Rail, but from what he could piece together of the few words bubbling to the surface of the ticket agent's brogue at all intact, getting to Cardiff by train would involve sixteen changes of line and a three-week layover in Norway. Not to mention having to figure the cost of everything in shillings -- "I'm beginning to think it would be faster to walk," he said to Andy as they left the window not much more enlightened than they had been when they'd started.

"It's four hundred miles," Andy said wearily. It had already taken them an absurd amount of time to get to what apparently passed for civilisation by the loose local standards, footsore in shoes meant more for urban excursioning than long-distance trailwalks. "And I think history would object to your trail of destruction."

"I still say that cow had it coming," Owen said, plunking down on the bench to wait for their train.

They had a good long wait ahead of them, this far up the arse-end of nowhere in the middle of a primitive war. "I wonder what driving it would be like," Andy said presently, eyes on the cobbled street outside the station. "They do have something resembling automobiles, I have noticed that."

Owen sighed. "Even if we could... obtain a car," (he had been about to say steal, and knew that the constable wasn't fooled), "would either of us know how to keep it working? They've got cranks, and levers, and..."

"Tosh would have been able to," Andy said wistfully.

"And Jack would have been able to charm the railway into paying him, but Jack's not here either," Owen said, a little surprised to hear that Andy had that much blind faith in Tosh's capabilities. They got on well enough, despite some lingering awkwardness, but Owen never lost any sleep worrying they'd decide to throw him over for each other.

Andy had turned nearly around on the bench to watch as a wagon with Davidson's Dairy painted on the side went by the windows. "-- You know, I think some of my family does come from up here somewhere, I suppose that's even more reason to keep our heads down."

"Way down, in your case," Owen replied absently, thinking he could wish that the nutritional advances of the last century hadn't combined with some obvious Viking genes in quite so conspicuous a fashion as Andy had managed. "And right about now one of my great-greats is getting friendly with some mademoiselle from Armentieres with the prettiest brown eyes," he added, struck by how immediate the image suddenly seemed to him. A nose here, a chin there, and in sixty years' time you had an Owen to be sitting here wondering just who in the hell had thought it was a good idea to stick it all together this way round.

Andy arched an eyebrow. "Always knew there was something off about you."

"So my great-great grandmother was a French prostitute. Can you be so sure none of yours were?"

"Not French," Andy said with solemn conviction, and then had to laugh. "God, this is so fucking insane. Are we sure we're not just in a coma imagining all of this? Mine doesn't seem to include people carrying on about your influenza like people are dying in the streets, for example."

Owen snorted. "And where would anyone up here have heard about it if the papers have been told not to start a panic?" Easy to cover things up without radio, much less telly and the net. "It's early days yet, anyway, once the war starts running down people will start to notice that they're losing more troops behind the lines."

"You certainly seem to be unusually fascinated with it, considering I'd barely heard of half what you're telling me happened. -- Happens? Erm."

"Worrying about the H5N1 bird-flu was the big thing when I was in med school, did a lot of background reading in immunology for my MD thesis." Owen frowned, remembering the long hours spent researching that paper. "And I still can't believe that bastard Copley shot me. I used to respect his work."

"There's something so quintessentially Torchwood about that statement."

"Turned out to be more useful than I would have thought, anyway," Owen said with a grin, sweeping an arm to indicate their surroundings. "Never can tell where working for Torchwood will take you next. And everyone still thinks my immunisation schedules are just a random example of overenthusiasm bordering on sadism?"

"This isn't exactly what I'd pictured when Jack mentioned the job could involve travel, no. So what's the weirdest thing you've had to do medically in the line of duty, then?"

Owen considered for a few moments. "Weird gets sort of relative after a while, is the problem. But it's probably between euthanising a giant space manatee, and diagnosing and then recovering from my own death."

"I'd say that the death thing has the slight edge. Which, logically, means I've just accepted the existence of giant space manatees as a matter of routine. Considering I'm sitting in a railway station in Inverurie in the year of our lord nineteen hundred and eighteen, I suppose I really oughtn't to be so surprised that I'll believe in just about anything since I started working with you."

"Some days a healthy appreciation for the fundamental absurdity of existence is all that keeps me going, I can tell you." Owen tucked himself up against Andy's shoulder with a sigh and closed his eyes, more because it was the only contact they dared in public than out of any real need for sleep.

But he did drop off, falling into a fitful dream of betrayal and loss and marauding orangutans until deafening blasts of steam bellowed the arrival of the train to Aberdeen. Andy hauled himself to his feet and offered Owen a hand up from the bench. "Come on, Mister Frodo, let's get you to Mordor."

"Piss off."

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Chapter 7: Accustomed To Your Face

Author's Notes: Owen realises they have other problems.

"Even without mass communications I simply cannot believe that an island this small needs so many bloody dialects," Owen fumed, collapsing onto their hard-won bed for this night with some positively murderous thoughts about railway hotel proprietors still swirling between his ears. He'd been trying to let Andy do most of their talking as they scraped their way south, since the language as Owen spoke it appeared to be all but incomprehensible from one end of the train line to the other, but every so often he still had to open his mouth, and then they were usually in for it. Not that the constable's own accent hadn't been leaving them open to an eye-opening amount of verbal abuse directed towards the Welsh that left Owen feeling unaccustomedly sorry for Ianto (and glad not to have been stuck here with him instead, he could just see mister slow-burn standing for being called Taffy to his face this often), but it was still preferable to being looked at as if his listeners could have done with some subtitles.

"Estuary English isn't even contemporary to their London, it's not as if they'd ever have heard anything to compare you to," Andy pointed out, although he couldn't hold back the hint of a grin. "It was funny when he thought you were an Anzac."

"Slightly less funny that I know fuck-all about Gallipoli if anybody starts asking real questions," Owen said dryly. "If this is what it's going to be like I'd almost rather start trying to Eliza Doolittle myself into something these thick bastards can understand."

"For a start, stop swallowing half your vowels," Andy said, coming to sit beside him on the bed. "Sometimes I can barely understand you when you get going."

Owen snorted and rested his head on Andy's shoulder. "At least you can sing."

"'Where the devil are my slippers?'" Andy returned, pressing his lips to Owen's hair. "God, I would cheerfully kill someone to be able to see a film right about now. It wouldn't even have to be a good film. I mean, Showgirls! Well, maybe not Showgirls. ...Maybe not kill. But maim, quite possibly."

By now Owen was laughing helplessly into Andy's sleeve, the sort of laughter that felt suspiciously like it could well have come out as tears instead. "If you're that desperate we could look for some sort of prehistoric cinema. It'd give Ianto something to laugh at us about when we get back." Owen sat up straight, wiping his streaming eyes on his cuff. "Weird bastard. I pity his kids."

"He would be having the time of his life back here."

"Only if he could be with Jack. And Jack would get them arrested in fairly short order. Shit, if the man wasn't Torchwood you'd have him at the station most of the time even without the gross indecency laws."

"Still could swear I saw him running naked through a park about a year ago," Andy said meditatively. "Nice arse, though, if anyone was going to." The constable heaved a sigh. "Still, it's not the worst time we might have ended up in," he said after another few moments. "If we can't get back..." He turned a sombre face to Owen. "We do need to think about that, you know. What to do if we're here for good. I mean, I'm sure everyone always needs doctors..."

Owen wondered how long it would be before he went mad, watching children die of diseases he and Andy had had simple jabs for. "We'll get back."

"But if we don't."

"We have to. Because..." and Owen finally gave voice to the thought that had been haunting him, watching as the colour drained from Andy's face at his words; "What if the rift opened both ways?"

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Chapter 8: No, Ma'am. We're Musicians.

Author's Notes: Settling in for the long game.

Even once they'd reached Cardiff, it seemed prudent to secure a base of operations and do some reconnaissance before they went marching straight up to ring Torchwood's bell. "Since I lost my George and my Willie it's been needs must, aye?" said the drawn-looking woman who answered to the sign offering a room to let. "But we all do our part." She squinted at them suspiciously, no doubt wondering why two apparently hale young men such as themselves weren't at the front.

Most men were, of course; yet another constant worry, to notice how often they were the only two males under the age of doddering abroad in the land who weren't either in uniform or obviously missing bits off themselves. Owen had found himself having a recurring nightmare about being press-ganged onto some Napoleonic-era ship, and suspected Andy's nocturnal landscape differed only in its degree of period accuracy. And it wasn't as if there were any vast crowds to fade into for anonymity, either, although he'd slowly realised that part of why everything seemed spookily depopulated to their eyes was simply that there were so many fewer people to begin with, Cardiff itself not half the size they were accustomed to in a world that hadn't even reached two billion yet, let alone seven. (Owen wasn't relaxing, though. Not knowing what had already begun.)

They had been refining their cover story as they travelled, based upon people's reactions, and by now Owen was reasonably confident it sounded plausible even coming from him; "Would that I could right now, Ma'am. But when I had a bit of a turn after Amiens it was decided that it would be better to put me on an extended leave to recover my nerves."

"And your... manservant?"

Owen shrugged, trying to make it casual. "Our commanders assigned Davidson to look after me, what's one warm body more or less to go over the top when he could be the difference in having another good doctor back on the lines?"

A spark of ironic recognition in her eyes then. "So he's your warder, aye? To make certain you come back the moment you be able?"

"Doctor Harper saved my regiment after a gas attack, Ma'am," Andy interjected with a butter-wouldn't-melt-in-his-mouth look. "None better than me knows how bad we need him whole and fighting for us."

Andy had been letting his own accent broaden into the pure singsong inflection of the south Welsh coast, untempered by the flattening influences of exposure to modern communications. Owen wondered if it was a well-observed artificial camouflage or simply reaching back to some childhood pattern of speech he'd left behind in his police training. Whatever, it seemed to be mollifying the woman more than any content of their words could. "I have been a horrible influence on you," Owen whispered once she'd turned aside to rummage for the keys.

"I've only the one room just now," she announced as she showed them along a hallway. "Might be that you were looking for something more private --"

"After the trenches, Ma'am, far from a hardship to share this luxury."

"Horrible, horrible influence."

Their new landlady (there wasn't really any way he was going to be able to stop himself wanting to call her Mrs Cake, and decided to concentrate his efforts on at least not doing it to her face) hemmed and hawed a bit longer, but in the end Owen's reluctant and soulful-eyed admission that he'd come back from the front to find his wife and child carried off by the spring's wave of influenza in London and thought to make a fresher start of things here convenient to Davidson's family where there were no distracting memories to interfere with his recovery finally swayed her into accepting them as lodgers, "so long as you be quiet and aren't for bringing the scandal on my good household." Quiet, yes, I think we can manage that. We'll be as quiet as if we're not supposed to be here at all.

As to scandal, well, that was going to be interesting. They did get some curious looks in the streets from women who'd got out of the habit of seeing fit men about, and probably thought they were Bolsheviks for all he'd been able to determine (or had any clear picture what a Bolshevik was), but so long as the facade of a shellshocked young doctor and his loyal batman seemed to be satisfying most casual viewers of their innocuous and wholesome nature, Owen would be quite willing to fall down and start frothing at the mouth if that was what it took to get by without arousing enough suspicion to get people asking the real question. Whatever that even was anymore.

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Chapter 9: Smells Like Teen Spirit

Author's Notes: And now their troubles truly begin.

"Captain Harkness is at the front." Where able-bodied lads like you ought to be, added the supercilious look.

"Well, that's an improvement on yesterday when you didn't know who he was," Owen said. "Maybe if I come round tomorrow you'll have remembered how to get in touch with someone who can actually admit that this warehouse doesn't really belong to a coal-haulage firm and we'll really be getting somewhere."

"As to that, sir, I'm afraid you're still mistaken," the woman behind the small desk said calmly. "Jones and Price Colliery have been leasing these premises for the past forty years, and you can plainly see that this is, in fact, a warehouse full of coal."

"God, you have to be some relation of Ianto's," Owen muttered under his breath. "I don't suppose you'd know a Harriet Derbyshire, would you?" he asked as another approach struck him.

A flicker, just the barest flicker, of uncertainty in the otherwise well-schooled eyes. Aha. "I can check our employment records again for you, Doctor Harper, but I'm not personally acquainted with anyone by that name either, I'm afraid. Although in wartime I confess our turnover has been rather more than what one might ordinarily be expected to keep abreast of --"

"Never mind then, Miss Childs, same time tomorrow."

On the quay outside Andy was staring glumly out over exposed mudflats, the low-tide shoreline somewhere well beyond the range of Owen's uncorrected vision. "No joy today either?"

"I know it's the right warehouse, even a pile of coal that big can't hide that the place smells like Jack's been based there a while. And I mean literally smells, which is kind of disturbing when you think about it and I don't know which of us I think it's a comment on that I noticed."

"I don't generally find myself in the habit of sniffing Jack all that often, but something around here does remind me of his office, now you mention it," Andy said, much to Owen's relief. The constable sighed, deep and resigned to the long hard road still ahead. "I suppose we'll just have to keep on making a nuisance of ourselves until they call him in to find out why we won't stop asking after him. Or they shoot us, whichever. At least it would be closure."

Owen shoved his hands into his pockets, reminded of how close to metaphorically empty they were again when his fingers encountered one lonely sixpence. "I just hope that hellhound on the door cracks before our finances do -- I think I'm stretching Mrs Cake's conception of a shellshocked invalid as it is without trying to look for work." He'd already managed to scandalise her by offering to help with the washing-up, and only just recovered the situation with a mumbled explanation of how of course they hadn't had anyone to do for them down in the trenches. "And anyway I find I'm rather enjoying being a kept man."

Good thing Andy still had enough of his sense of humour left intact to grin at that provocation. "They seem to like me at the Hart, I was thinking of trying for a more formal position behind the bar -- I have to do something anyway, I'm beginning to forget things. I got lost in the middle of 'Hey Jude' last night, not that anyone here would notice."

"Just so long as you don't end up down to nothing but Madonna or something, that would really sink us."

Andy gave him an innocent look. "I've got the moves, baby, you've got the motion."

Owen couldn't help but crack a smile despite his foul mood. "Is there a single song of hers that isn't at least vaguely inappropriate by our standards, let alone theirs?"

"...I'm giving that entirely more thought than it really deserves," Andy admitted after a moment.

"I wouldn't have thought it deserved any, really."

The grin turned even more impish. "I made it through the wilderness --"

"Oh, don't you dare."

"Somehow I made it through --"


"Didn't know how lost I was, until I found you..."

"You're going to get us arrested."

Andy had broken off anyway, eyes gone too bright. "Probably not the best choice, I don't think."

"Unless we find ourselves in Venice with a lion and a wedding dress, no."

"We could go to Venice," Andy mused, looking back out over where the water ought to be. "See what all the fuss was about."

"Yeah, well, we'd have to make it through the next few months first." Owen sighed. "The knowing is the worst part of this. Wanting to tell them about bread mould, and tide barrages, and..." That five per cent of the population of the earth is about to die -- "I don't know how Jack's even as sane as he is. Which isn't very, if you'll notice."

"We must look like them to him, you know," Andy said, surprising him. "Petty, backwards, narrow-minded children."

"I do my part to provide him with a social model he'd be more used to," Owen said, with a wistful stroke of his wedding band. Strange, after being held to an impossible ideal all your life, to realise that it was just a load of bollocks, but he supposed his domestic arrangements wouldn't have had the chance to take root and flourish anywhere but in the twisted soil of Torchwood. Jack's Torchwood, at least, although he'd certainly heard the stories... some of which even managed to predate the good Captain. Owen tried not to jump as one of the porters slamming boxes around near the next warehouse along suddenly coughed. "Well, home, then, Jeeves?"

"You're a bloody menace, you know that?"

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Chapter 10: Why Don't You Tell Me My Future, Why Don't I Sell You My Soul?

Author's Notes: Owen tries to pull the wrong bird, as Andy gets the proverbial job-in-a-shop to support them.

Andy insisted on stopping at the Hart on the way back to see about a proper job perhaps beginning that night. Owen had his doubts about coming in, still wary of trying to engage in much casual conversation when he'd barely worked out whether this was the war with Nelson and Wellington in it, now that they were committed to living with the consequences of any conspicuous blunders they might make for whatever length of time it took them to gain Torchwood's confidence. My luck to come out playing the officer, at least an ordinary tommy like Andy can get away with saying the odd ignorant thing about the war... But then again sooner or later he was going to have to (face facts, this could be our life now) get himself more at ease out in the world wider than the small circle of Mrs Cake's house. Before he went stark staring mad and did come down with a case of PTSD.

Just gone noon the pub was fairly empty yet at least, only a few die-hards and blank-eyed veterans drifted in already to pursue the elusive goal of chemical oblivion. Owen settled against the end of the bar to wait for Andy and wondered which of these lost souls had brought in his surprisingly well-scrubbed little daughter. "Bit young to be in here alone, aren't you, love?"

"Older than the dead man."

"Oi, I got better," Owen said automatically, noticing now how the girl was toying with bright scraps of coloured paper, the magician and the fool, the reaper, a knight in armour with a familiar face -- As Owen watched the girl laid down two more cards, a woman lamenting beneath a sky of swords and the dead rising from their graves. "...Sorry, did you just --"

"You'll find the one you're looking for," the girl cut him off. "But not before we've all danced with the Spanish Lady." She turned one last card of an effigy on a tomb and gave it a frown before scooping all the pictures away as if they displeased her. "I would tell you not to cut in, but I know you won't listen."

"Look, I don't want you to take this the wrong way or anything, but you're quite possibly the creepiest little girl I've ever met in my life."

"Either of them?" The girl hopped down from her chair as Owen gaped at her and skipped out of the pub, looking for all the world like an ordinary non-fucking-scary child in a frilly white pinafore. Jesus, sometimes I really fucking hate this freakshow city -- Owen jumped as a hand came down on his shoulder.

"Owen? You're, you look..."

Owen shook his head to clear it. "Just... never mind. Seeing bloody test-card girls now -- Did you get the job?"

Andy nodded. "Tending bar and general dogsbody in between providing some light entertainment. Should go some way toward making up for that 'military pay' that we're not really waiting to come in."

"At least until they figure out to shut down public gathering places. Or maybe that was America, s'pose we'd have riots if you tried to close the pubs. However sensible it is. But it's as good a plan as any, for now. And if Jack comes back early maybe he'll turn up here, he's dragged us in this place more than a few times then." Owen had always thought that a matter of simple convenience, but perhaps Jack was a creature of habit... "I cannot fucking believe that in a hundred years I'll be drinking here with my boss. Queen and country doesn't begin to cover this."

"King and country, remember, the one on the money now has bollocks, not tits." And here Andy broke out his wickedest grin; "Unless you're thinking of Victoria, I mean, counting back you would have been born in 1885."

"...Great Scott."

Andy chortled. "Now I've got you doing it --"

It seemed a bit early in the day for the first drunk to be taking a spill onto the floor. Quite a bit too early. Owen was already crouching to help when he realised why the man must have collapsed. "Everyone, stand back, I'm a doctor --"

It was a case of influenza, all right, futile attempt to self-medicate by getting pissed only exacerbating the sudden onset of lethargy and fever. Owen dragooned one of the onlookers into running to fetch an ambulance (for all the good taking the man to hospital would be, but it wasn't as if there was anything else he could do either) and pulled Andy aside in the subsequent tumult to make their quiet exit. "I believe you now," the constable said, gone pale. "Not that I didn't before, but... I believe you now."

"This is just the start," Owen said grimly.

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Chapter 11: Love In The Time Of Cholera

Author's Notes: Slowly adjusting to a new routine.

"Decent razors." Owen scratched his chin.

"E-numbers," Andy countered, propping himself up on an elbow. "Have you noticed how nothing tastes right? Except fresh fruit, and just try to find that."

E-numbers probably weren't the greatest loss, they'd both dropped a stone or so and it wasn't really a hardship, but Owen had noticed modern food looming large in his non-pornographic fantasies. And some of the pornographic ones, come to think of it. "Sushi," he said, stretching out on the blankets. "Tosh is going to be in such trouble when we get back. Or else she's going to think she's died and gone to heaven."

Andy got a dreamy look and played the trump card. "Pizza."

That usually ended this argument as effectively as invoking Godwin's Law. (Don't let yourself think of the next war that's coming, don't let yourself wonder what if you could --) "You know, if either of us could cook we'd be set for life."

"I don't think they've invented tomatoes yet. Contact lenses."

Owen scowled at him. These new spectacles were useful for reinforcing the image of gravitas due a physician, anyway (people seemed to find it hard to credit that either of them had already seen thirty, maybe some side effect of proper diet and moisturising or just that they still had all their own teeth), and it was a good thing for him that half of Cardiff already seemed to owe the absurdly gregarious constable favours, but that didn't mean they weren't still an affront to his vanity. "Condoms."

Andy gave him a skewed grin and reached out to remove the hated spectacles. "Sane legislation. 'Cos if I go with my first answer I'm going to start crying, instead."

"Can't have that." So this was what Owen Harper's life had come to, horizons narrowed to clean sheets after a bath and someone to share them with. And neither of you currently having the plague, of course. "Your handcuffs."

"Then we would have the house in here on us." Owen could see his eyes straying to be sure once again that the door was latched.

"Are you saying I don't know how to keep my mouth shut?"

"Not when we're doing it right."

God, the man could kiss. And a few other things as well. Not the first time Owen had found himself struggling to keep from crying out and rousing the household; If they only knew... Knew where that clever smiling mouth was right now and what it was doing, knew how those generous hands moved across his skin, knew that even their desperate need for secrecy couldn't hold back near-incoherent murmurs of god, love this, love your arse, love you --

Owen's teeth had left a mark against Andy's pale shoulder. "That's going to get you a reputation if anyone sees it."

"Won't let anyone see it, then." Andy brushed his fingers along Owen's clavicle. "You're in as much trouble."

"There goes my cunning plan for getting past Childs tomorrow by seducing her, I guess."

"This must be what they mean when they say opposites attract, your thought processes can border on outright criminality sometimes."

"Oi, it takes two to break most of the laws we've been working our way through, mate."

Andy sighed. "The worst thing of it is, I'm almost tempted to say it might be the best way to speed this along, if you're sure you wouldn't end up as your own grandfather. I mean, what worse could there be to worry about?"


Andy flopped back in the pillows, laughing. "Your mind must be such a fascinating place to live."

"Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not after you --"

And here came the knock on the door, enough to send them instinctively startling away from one another as if they had anywhere to run. Owen found his dressing-gown and made damn sure it was covering the base of his throat before unlatching the door to peer out the crack.

Only Mrs Cake's daughter Elinor, poor traumatised mouse of a girl ten years younger than Owen and already a widow (then again it had been almost as long since he'd lost --), peering up at him over a stub of candle; "I'm sorry to wake you at this hour, Doctor Harper, but Mam's asking for you again..."

Elinor barely came up to his shoulder. This must be what it's like to be Andy, Owen thought absently as she ghosted along the hallway before him, leading the way to her mother's sickroom. Mrs Cake was probably old enough to pull through her case of influenza without anybody's help, that was the hell of it. (If only just -- he'd been appalled, upon taking his patient's medical history, to learn that his silver-haired landlady was only forty-four, and still wondered how seriously she'd taken his hasty witticism about making a play for a distinguished older woman who owned her own home.) But he'd had all he could do to convince prime-risk Elinor that she needed to leave as much of the nursing of her mother to him as she could stand to, and to sleep in the relatively less contaminated air of the sitting-room where formerly she'd been sharing with her mother since they'd begun taking in lodgers.

Mrs Cake was more in need of reassurance at this stage of her illness, reassurance and paracetamol, both of which he still had to spare as he waited for the city to teeter off its knife-edge into the abyss. He listened to her lungs (mild congestion, no indication of pneumonia onset), and to her raspy jokes about having the luck to take in a doctor as a lodger just before a thing like this, and left her chatting quietly with her daughter from what he hoped was a minimum safe distance, both their spirits seeming more restored simply by the visit itself rather than the particular efficacy of anything he'd managed to do. Careful, Harper, you just might be in danger of developing a bedside manner, he thought in amusement as he made his way back to his own bed.

And to the warm illicit presence that waited for him there, sound asleep by now after a hard day's night, rumpled blankets hitched aside to give Owen a fine view of the scar on his thigh that he had taken to talking up as a bayonet wound that only the skilful intervention of Doctor Harper had prevented from taking his leg, or indeed his life. (Considering that the real story involved wearing a skirt to flush out an alien sex-offender on what had become his very first day with Torchwood, Owen thought the improvisation nothing short of inspired.) He crept into the bed carefully, fearful of disturbing him, but instead Andy merely wrapped his arms around Owen's neck, not even waking a little bit, and settled down against his heart as if he'd never left.

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Chapter 12: Angels, Unaware

Author's Notes: Owen snaps.

Owen sprawled listlessly in the allegedly comfortable chair trying to make himself concentrate on The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz, since he never actually had read it and there was something bizarrely fascinating in the thought that the story had been new when their landlady's children were having this very volume read to them. Also it was the only book in the house that remotely interested him.

They had gone to ground three days ago, after the disappearance of the other lodger. There was always that slight chance that she'd done a runner on her rent, of course, or just gone home to whatever family she'd left to find work here, but in his gut Owen knew that the girl had succumbed in the street, like so many would, like so many already had. City mortuary overflowing in Philadelphia. Millions dead in India. Corpses in Eskimo villages eaten by their own starving dogs... And now it was his city's turn to convulse in the grip of a sickness that contemporary treatments were all but helpless against. (Did he just think of this Welsh shithole as his city again?) Mrs Cake's daughter had been down for two of those days, fever spiking despite his cautious efforts -- Owen abruptly slammed the book closed. "Fuck it. I can't sit back and watch this. I'm a doctor, for fuck's sake."

Andy had turned his head at the sudden noise, but now he laid his chin back down on his folded arms to return to staring bleakly out at the rain streaking down the windowpane. "It's already happened, Owen. You can't save anyone who didn't already live."

"How do we know that? How do we fucking know that? How do we even know we weren't here all along?"

Andy didn't have an answer to that, because Owen didn't have one himself. Not like I fucking know how this really works, anyway. Jack would have been able to tell him, but Jack wasn't here, was he. Fat lot of good Jack ever was when it really mattered... "And if we had landed in the middle ages you'd be charging out to treat the bubonic plague, wouldn't you," Andy said in forlorn resignation as Owen began to pack a bag.

"We've been inoculated against the plague." And if only last winter's common flu-jab would be any good to us against the H1N1 great-grandfather of them all... "Look in on Elinor with some more paracetamol in about an hour, would you?" Andy gave him a black look, recognising that he'd just been left home to worry, but what else was he supposed to do, dammit, that would be dangerous enough --

"You'll need a coat," Mrs Cake said from her doorway as Owen made to head out.


His landlady coughed, harsh but not as deep as when she'd been the most seriously ill. "It's pouring down rain, even an angel needs a coat in this."

Owen slowly reached out to take the drab brown wool she was holding out to him, realising that the light in her eyes wasn't fever. "I'm no angel, Mrs Davies."

"Every mortal man too afraid for their own lives to help, what else would you and he be?"

Torchwood, Owen thought, and abruptly wondered if there was really a difference. He shrugged into the military greatcoat's woolly embrace and found that it fit well enough, not as uselessly dramatic as Jack's but serviceable for the damp misery of October in Cardiff. Her George's or her Willie's, he supposed. He'd stolen one very much like it from his Torchwood's own archives not a year past, and a brief irrational hope flared in him that this was the same coat, the proof that he and Andy would finally get their hearing. Then again, it was just as likely to think that the Torchwood of 1918 had taken it off his dead body once they'd neutralised him as a threat...

And he intended to be a threat, all right. Owen found himself grinning wolfishly as he stepped out onto the rainy street. Fuck causality and fuck palliative care. If God objects to me fucking with the fabric of the universe he can just bloody well run this angel down with a beer wagon if he has to, but until then the doctor is in.

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Chapter 13: City On The Edge Of Forever

Author's Notes: Ashes, ashes, we all fall down.

Patient administered 500mg ciprofloxacin and left with instructions for husband to give second dose @ 8pm. Returned for followup visit 9pm, appears slight improvement. However, husband now ill. The fountain pen scraped a hole in the flimsy paper. Owen rubbed at his eyes with his other hand, longing for a biro and his contacts and a pint and not to be here. He'd performed his first human act of mercy yesterday, some poor sod with the legendary heliotrope cyanosis of this virus's suffocating pneumonia settling upon his face and yet perfectly lucid enough to beg rationally for death once he understood that there was no hope to be had in 1918 for lungs that were turning to so much soggy meat. Twenty years old. He still hadn't told Andy. Owen turned over to the next page in the notebook and began again with his futile record, research data that no researcher in a position to do anything with it could ever be allowed to see. But then, knowing Torchwood's customary thoroughness, maybe the book would find its way into the archives as a warning to his future even if they never made it; Patient administered two tablets paracetamol and advised to stay in bed, intend to follow up in AM...

"Have you even eaten anything today?"

"Dunno. Is it still Thursday?"

"It's Saturday."

"Think that makes it a no, then." The pen blotted the new page when Owen shivered. This damn coat really wasn't very warm at all. Patient administered 320mg gemifloxacin...

"I lost Elinor while you were out. Her fever never came down."

Patient delivered a male infant c. 3 kilos, household advised to stay the hell away from neonate; "Guess we're not Mrs Cake's angels after all."

Patient administered two tablets paracetamol and advised to stay in bed...

"Why are you doing this, Owen?"

Owen set the pen down, laying it carefully across the notebook so it wouldn't start leaking again. "Think I might have saved one. Little boy. A Jones, if you can believe it. Half the city are, anyway. But his father was a tailor --"

"Owen, you're burning up," Andy said, catching him as he fell.

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Chapter 14: Pale Horse, Pale Rider

Author's Notes: Hurt, comfort.

"Ordinarily this would be some kinky foreplay," Owen roused himself enough to croak as the cool cloth glided across the inside of his thigh.

Andy laughed, once, high and thin as if anything more would risk hysterics. "I'm never taking ice for granted again, I can tell you that."

He guessed that his temperature must have been over forty. Owen caught at Andy's fingers, unsure of his blind aim until he felt a reassuring grip in return; "Need to tell you, 'mergency plan step four, 'f all hope is lost? Retcon, little bottle in the bag, enough to start over --"

"You're a right morbid bastard sometimes, you know that? You can't die again. You promised Tosh." Andy squeezed his hand until the ring pressed hard edges into his flesh.

He didn't remember Andy stripping him. He didn't remember anything for what had to have been quite some while by the light, although he must have been coherent enough at one point to give instructions, because his mouth was sour with the aftertaste of paracetamol and the sticky shells of capsules and hopefully just enough of the morphine to keep from coughing his way to a separated rib, didn't need to add antisocial recreational habits to his problems later on. If there was a later on. "My kingdom for an ice pack," Owen fretted as Andy began again with the damp flannel.

"I think this is helping," Andy said. "This is the most aware you've been in four days. For a while you were raving in what sounded like Latin."

"Calling my Patronus?" And when did it stop looking like Jack --

Andy shook his head with a tired grin. "I think you were naming everything that hurt. Which was a long list. Would have been rather entertaining if it weren't a bit, well, frightening." He glanced towards the door as the clock out in the front hallway chimed dully. "You said to give you more of the green ones at five, does that sound right?"

Owen squinted at the notebook as Andy held it up for him, his own scrawl transitioning abruptly halfway down a page into a neat list of dosages administered in the constable's methodical hand. "Yeah. Looks... yeah. You make a pretty good nurse."

Andy's face clouded over. "Don't say that, I lost my only other patient."

"This mortality rate, can't blame yourself too much." Owen swallowed the tablets Andy guided to his mouth and even managed to finish the water as well, parched tissues crying out for hydration. "Shouldn't have asked it of you, though. 'M sorry."

"Not as if it's even the first time I've seen anybody die, had a call my second week on the force where I ended up holding some poor sod's hand as he bled out from getting a pint mug the wrong way round the ear. But... that's different, there's always violence." Andy sighed and set the glass aside to draw the blanket back up over him. "You should sleep, if you can. Don't think you've been down properly the while."

Owen would be happy to sleep, if it meant that the bees buzzing behind his eyes would let up for a while. The bees carried too many memories with them, vague impressions of being small and enduring accusations he didn't quite understand that he was doing this on purpose to ruin her life, just like he always had... (but she'd stayed, even so, even when he'd been sick all over her new party frock)

The light had changed again, steady grey of midmorning through the parted curtains. Owen gradually took in the sleeping face on the pillow beside his, deep shadows beneath the closed lids. "Andy. Shouldn't."

The constable stirred and dragged open bleary-looking eyes. "Couldn't watch you from over there." Andy leaned up on an elbow and put a cool hand to Owen's forehead. "Your fever's broken."

"Think I'll live."

"I have to go check on Mrs Cake. And then I'll need to go out, the milkman hasn't been in days."

"Be careful," Owen said, and didn't know if he meant walking in this rain or around these filthy monkeys who call ourselves wise. Andy gave him a little smile as if he'd understood anyway, and slipped out. Owen resettled himself in the blankets, chilly now that the fever had receded, and let his heavy lids fall closed again, feeling for the first time in a long while a sense that it might not be so insane as all that to nurture a small spark of hope.

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Chapter 15: Look Homeward, Angel

Author's Notes: Visiting hours.

Owen woke to the (blessedly cool) stroke of metal against his cheek. Not so easy to place the woman in a prim tailored suit holding a familiar gun to his head, with her face half obscured by a surgical mask and not lying frozen in an alien mortuary, but he had a go at it: "Harriet Derbyshire, I presume."

"What are the two of you?"

She'd obviously had quite some time to go through their bag of wonders while he'd been sleeping the insensible sleep of the convalescent, gear from a century beyond her ken laid out in several neat piles as if she'd had a good start on cataloguing it before he began to stir. May as well come clean, then. "Torchwood. Chief medical officer and law enforcement liaison, from the year of our lord two thousand and thirteen. Serving under Captain Jack Harkness, and yes, he'd still make the rude joke about that."

Well, nice to see that the training programme had started this far back, because she barely batted an eye at this outrageous declaration. "And why are you here?"

"Rift in space and time, runs through the middle of Cardiff? Rather be anywhere but, you can believe me. Didn't come back to help, if that's what you're thinking, 'm afraid it doesn't work like that. Wish it did."

"Yet you have been helping." Derbyshire held up a blister-pack of green-and-white antibiotic capsules as if she'd been tracing reports of the odd miraculous recovery and they'd all included the same general details.

"'M a doctor. 'S what I do."

"At the risk of changing your own future?"

Owen snorted. "You gonna stop me? Dunno if Jack's worked out the chemistry for retcon for you yet, you'd prob'ly have to shoot me. 'Nd I don't think you look like that kind of a girl, Torchwood or not. Anyway there aren't any bullets left in my gun."

Wide blue eyes gave him a wry look of acknowledgment as she withdrew the pistol. "What else do you know about Torchwood, Doctor Harper?"

"I know that you haven't got long to put your affairs in order," Owen answered her honestly, a sudden stab of pity loosening his tongue. "Fourteenth February 1919, your drawer says. That's m' birthday, you know," he added inanely. "I'll be minus-sixty-one. I'm so sorry," he said when she continued to stare at him.

"Harkness is in Belgium," Derbyshire finally said. "I shall see what's to be done about recalling him to Cardiff to examine your... artefacts."

Hurrah, I'm finally enough of a menace that they'd rather just send us home. The irony of getting into trouble for trying to stop a disaster wasn't lost on Owen. "Overjoyed, thanks," he said. "But for right now, I have to go to the toilet, so unless you want to help with that, which I have to admit I wouldn't necessarily mind so much as I ordinarily would, you had better get back to the Hub."

She did help him to stand, carefully looking everywhere but at his nakedness, and let him lean heavily on her arm all the way down the hallway to the house's water-closet. He knew she couldn't help but have clocked the marks that nine years with Torchwood had left on him, from the arcing traces of weevils' teeth to the angry cicatrice over his heart. But she said nothing of this, merely a murmured politeness of leave-taking as she left him bracing himself in the doorway. Despite everything Owen found himself rather liking her.

He had just about fallen back into a fitful sleep when he couldn't but be roused by Andy's return, too large a man to really sneak no matter how quiet he was trying to be for Owen's sake. And anyway the constable had stopped abruptly in the doorway as he took in the state of the room with growing alarm. "You shouldn't have been out of bed, much less unpacking everything --"

"We've had a caller," Owen said, grinning in weary triumph. "Apparently Torchwood's finally got their voluminous Edwardian knickers in enough of a twist over me to take us seriously. They're going to try to get hold of Jack to see what he thinks."

Andy's eyes went wide, trying not to dare believe that they might finally be rescued. "And how long is that going to take, do you think?"

"Dunno. Dunno if they've got anything better than carrier pigeons to reach him. Not going to be back on my feet for a while anyway, am I?" Getting back to the bed had honestly been the outer limit of what he could have managed in his current state, and Owen knew from what had become his own eyewitness account of this thing that if he didn't make himself rest quietly well past the point of apparent recovery he risked a relapse into full-on pneumonia. But none of that mattered so much now, now that Jack would be coming back.

If Torchwood could contact him. If he could get away from his duties. If he cared enough to try.

If there was anything he could do.

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Chapter 16: I'm Not Crazy, I'm Just A Little Unwell

Author's Notes: When television was called books.

"'I scarcely knew him again, he was so uncommonly smart. He had an entirely new suit of glossy clothes on, a shining hat, lilac-kid gloves, a neckerchief of a variety of colours, a large hot-house flower in his button-hole, and a thick gold ring' -- Sorry, should I skip to the fire-swamp?"

"I think I'd be happier with it if we weren't already living in a costume drama," Owen said, trying to drag himself more awake. The drab fare available to them was no competition in itself for the simple contentment of being able to lie against Andy as the constable read to him, still far from what he'd consider well but at least no longer catching. "When does it get to the bit where somebody explodes?"

"No bloody idea, do you want me to google it for you?" Andy started flipping halfheartedly through the book as if he were trying to find a more interesting part, then let it fall into his lap again as he cocked his head. "Have I finally gone mad, or do you hear churchbells?"

Owen had been attributing that to lingering auditory disturbances, given that bells were a phenomenon he couldn't recall hearing in all these days he'd had so little to do but lie here drowsily cataloguing every sound of engine or hooves outside in the street to wonder whether it was another funeral or just the milkman. "World's always coming to an end when I haven't got any pants on --"

Andy appeared to be doing some mental calculations, a puzzled frown breaking into bright sunny realisation. "Owen, it's the eleventh. The war's over."

Not my war, not the one with the microbes and miasmas -- "Think we still won?"

Andy made an amused chuffing sound. "I don't think even you could have done that much damage to history," he murmured, stroking a thumb through Owen's scruff of beard, and sat up with a sudden start. "I should go down to the Hart, everyone will be in a celebratory mood and... well, we're not home yet, are we."

Practical Andy, to remember their everpresent money woes even at a moment like this. "You're right, we could still be here a while. Have fun, just don't go round kissing everyone."

"I think you're jealous."

"I think they're contagious."

"Why do people's Mums always tell them to marry doctors? If they're all like you at home, I don't know..."

Once Andy had gone, still chuckling, Owen decided that he felt strong enough for the first time in a long while to dress himself with still-shaky fingers, and to go to curl up on the settee in the sitting-room for the change of scenery. From the front window he could see deliriously happy people out on the street, embracing and crying as if they'd never expected to live to see this day dawn, and he wanted to shout at them to go back inside and stop passing germs around, to warn of how many of them would be delirious from fever and not seeing the next day dawn after this orgy of incautious contact.

After some time Mrs Cake came to join him, bringing with her a blanket for the grateful invalid to wrap round his shoulders. "You're not as young as you look," she remarked shyly, daring to touch the streak of grey coming in at the corners of his beard. "But I suppose a fever like that doesn't leave a man unmarked."

A hundred and six, she'd let slip one time she'd taken a turn bringing in his tea (and strange not to have to worry about Bovril being made of mad cows and manatees); Owen thought this reading had to be at least in part a failure of the primitive measuring equipment available, but if a few white hairs were the price of coming out the other side of a thing like that with his faculties intact, he'd pay it and gladly. "At least I made it to today," he said, glancing out at the revelers on the street.

"What will you do, now the war is over?"

Owen shrugged. "Always a need for doctors." (Wasn't a lie, really, knowing what he knew --) "I'm thinking of keeping Davidson on as my assistant, he seems to have some talent for it." He did, actually, if Owen's fragmented recollection of a calm voice saying hardly the first time anybody's sicked up on me, I am a policeman after all was anything to go by. And wouldn't that be an interesting pass for either of them to come to in the event of rescue failure, a slightly mad country doctor and his devoted orderly sharing a cottage somewhere and quietly trying not to bet on sporting events as they endured this sanguinary century alone together. Depression, war, rationing... but petrol and cod and glaciers, and maybe we could make that trip to Venice, if we make it through the next few months...

"He never left your side, all that time you were raving. Terrified, I could see he was, but he never left you."

"I'm sorry we weren't able to help Elinor."

"You eased her passing, that's more than some have had in this." (And what a perfectly horrid way to look at the world, Owen thought, all the fatalism of an age half a step removed from witch-doctors right there in a nutshell --) "I'm hoping," she added, strangely tentative, "That... your wife had someone to do the same?"

Oh. He had been sitting here toying with his wedding ring, loose now after the long privation. "I have to believe she --" He pulled the ring off to check how loose and fumbled it, watching in slow-motion alarm as the flash of gold skittered across the floor until Mrs Cake reached out to catch it just shy of rolling into the fire. "Thanks. It's... all I have of her."

Keen eyes had spotted the sentiment inside. "'Where you go, I shall go'," she read out, before handing it back to him. "The Book of Ruth?"

Owen slipped the ring back onto his finger. "She was a foreigner," he extemporised, thinking of how complicated the real situation was to explain even when the world had grown weary of getting exercised about much. "And... someday I'll be with her again." (Even if the seeming likelihood of that perfectly rational possibility was every bit as mad as what she would take him to mean --)

"It's a strong man can keep his faith after the trenches," she said, a slight edge to her voice that suggested it was more than mere platitude.

That Owen had ever had any faith to keep would have come as something of a surprise to him. Although, I've spent the last nine years working for a man who has to have got his job by dazzling the primitives with a boomstick...

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Chapter 17: End Of Days

Author's Notes: Owen's long dark night.

Andy came home well after midnight, coat glittering with rain and eyes with fierce intensity. "Owen, I've seen Jack."

"What? Where?"

"He came into the Hart, right before closing -- it was too busy, I wasn't able to catch him aside, but --"

He coughed.

Owen froze, a chill tracking down his spine as Andy's eyes met his. "All right, bed. Kit off."

The doctor bullied the constable down onto the bed, catching at his shirt and all but bodily undressing him himself by the time it came to his trousers. "I'd help, but all of a sudden I feel like I've been run over by a lorry."

Unsurprising enough, with his skin as warm as it was. "If Jack's back I can go to the Hub and make them --"

"'S gone one," Andy pointed out, eyes barely open. "Won't be there 'til morning. Jack w's so drunk might not be there til noon."

He was right, damn it all, there was little to be done for hours upon hours but watch as the constable edged into a restless delirium, doggedly trying to arrest a phantom who was insisting on the right to be dealt with in Welsh, which was going badly since the only word Andy knew or at any rate could remember right now was heddlu. Entertaining, if it weren't a bit, well, frightening. Andy must have been terrified, if Owen had looked this ill, even a layperson would instinctively sense how wrong that breathing sounded and to the trained ear it was enough to trigger a near-whiteout of panic. Rales audible upon auscultation consistent with onset of primary viral pneumonia...

Oh, yeah, this was one of the classic galloping cases of the Spanish influenza, all right. The sudden collapse, the gasping for breath, and, yes, here it came, the absolutely charming haemorrhagic nosebleed that was startling enough when you were expecting it, and must have been a horror to endure while Andy was tending him, especially given their time's hard-learnt wariness of blood. What this patient needed was to be in a real facility, with electronic monitors and intravenous meds and supplementary oxygen. Not to have his life resting in the hands of one man who was barely well enough to stand himself, however much that one man --

Well, fuck it, he could still do better than laudanum and quackery. "Don't you dare bring this dose back up, we hardly have any of the antivirals left."

Andy was shivering fiercely again by the time Owen was convinced everything was going to stay down this time. If ever there was a time to throw dignity to the wind, Doctor Harper... Crawling beneath the blankets, Owen tucked himself up against the long body, for the warmth, and for the comfort, and simply, at last, to be near him. (He wondered how long it would be, after, before he gave in to the temptation to burn away his impossible future with that fistful of retcon and set up housekeeping as the second Mr Cake, Jack or no Jack --)

Despite himself, Owen dozed, and jerked awake with his own heart pounding as hard as it had ever raced during his own illness. But Andy was still with him, sounding no better but at least no worse, which was a small victory in itself. Too dim in here to properly tell whether cyanosis was developing when he drew one of the constable's hands up to peer closely at the nailbeds, but he thought not, even if checking and rechecking again might just be an excuse to keep holding onto that hand, the feeling of long fingers curled through his stirring up long-stifled memories of someone holding Owen's hand once when he was ill, and singing; "If you're lost you can look and you will find me, time after time; if you fall I will catch you, I'll be waiting..."

Owen fell silent, words catching in a scratchy throat, and became aware that eyes regarded him through the barest lash-fringed slit. "You can't sing," Andy rasped.

"Piss off." Owen dragged himself upright and decided by the light coming under the curtains that this probably now qualified as morning for the purpose required. "I think someone might be at the Hub if I go now."

"Everything hurts." Owen wasn't sure if this had been meant as an answer or simply a general objection to the world itself. It had apparently exhausted Andy's tiny burst of strength, already curling back in upon himself as if it were consuming all of his resources merely to concentrate upon the hard labour of breathing.

Owen eased out of bed, trying not to jostle him around too much, and coaxed the constable into swallowing another dose of paracetamol before padding out into the hallway to find the only other living soul in the house. "Mrs Davies, Andy's ill -- I have to fetch someone to see him, could I ask you to, to sit with him?" So at least he won't be alone, if it comes to it -- Owen shuddered, grappling the thought away.

"I know you wouldn't leave him if it were a choice," she answered, coming into her lodgers' bedroom to sit in the chair Andy had long ago pulled up by the head of the bed. "Ssh, sweetheart, I'm here to look after you, aye? Your friend's just gone a moment for more help, you lie still now and he'll be back before you know."

Andy sighed, as if he'd protest this change of guard, however necessary, had he just a little more energy. Sod it, could be the last -- Owen bent and pressed his lips to the smouldering forehead. "You'll be all right, love, I'll find Jack."

When he looked up Mrs Cake was regarding them with a small, sad smile. "My Willie would always write about how there was no finer thing than to have a good mate, down the trenches."

Owen had the sudden curious feeling that they'd never been fooling her for a moment. He grabbed his coat from the hook and turned and ran for the docks with a fractionally lighter heart.

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Chapter 18: Captain Jack Harkness

Author's Notes: How to win friends and influence Torchwood.

"I've told you before, Doctor Harper, this establishment is not --"

"Bollocks to that, Childs!" Owen slammed his hands down on her desk. "You get Derbyshire up here to confirm our story and then you find me Jack Harkness or I'm going to forget I ever heard about first doing no harm, do you hear me?"

She might have looked intimidated, for an instant or two. Owen missed it, doubled over coughing. When he looked up again two men were now regarding him from the doorway behind the gatekeeper's desk. "He certainly is persistent in his delusions," one remarked.

The other man shrugged dismissively. "You know Jack's usual entourage of eccentrics and poofs --"

Owen lunged past the desk and swung for the man's nose, laying him out on the floor with blood streaming. "Nobody calls my boyfriend a poof," Owen roared. "Now get me Harkness or there's another one where that came from --"

"I'm Captain Jack Harkness," a familiar voice said behind him. Owen spun around and could have wept at the sight of the bright blue eyes, not nearly so ineffably old yet but still far too many more years behind them than the face betrayed. "And who might you be, handsome?"

"Doctor Owen Harper." Owen drew in a desperate lungful of that wonderful scent. "I'm Torchwood, a hundred years from now. My partner and I fell through the rift and we need to get back home."

Polite disbelief, well, Owen had been expecting that. Outright incredulity, that was a bit much to have to endure. (And why should he believe some unshaven madman in crooked spectacles --) "I don't suppose you could have a go at proving that?"

"I'd tell you where you've got a mole on your arse, but most of Cardiff's seen it anyway," Owen snapped, hearing his natural accent coming back thick in his utter exasperation and glad of it when Jack looked startled. "Should I say that there's another war coming that will make this one look like a game? Or is that as bloody obvious?"

Unfamiliar hesitation in those blue eyes. "Fairly, if you're travelling in the right circles. Which you might have been, if you know about Torchwood at all."

Bloody hell, he's about to get out the retcon. Or his gun -- Owen stabbed a finger in the direction of what would one day be the Plas. "How about this: 'In these stones horizons sing'. Does that mean anything to you?"

Jack went white. Well, fuck me, it is possible to surprise him -- "All right, you've seen something you wouldn't -- But, I don't know what you expect me to do for you, I don't really have the authority --"

"Bollocks, Captain, you're Jack." Owen felt the prickle of tears and blinked them back furiously. "Please. My partner went down with the influenza late last night. I've been doing what I could with what we had with us but he needs treatment I just can't manage in this time. And we have family, damn it. My wife --" He heard the quaver creeping into his voice as his eyes overflowed despite his efforts. "Don't make me lose them both."

Jack took a deep, deep breath, glancing to his downed colleague as Childs and the other man finally got him up onto his feet. A faint nod before all three disappeared into the inner office, and the Captain turned back to Owen with a distinct look of having just been granted permission to -- something. "You were carrying medicine that could help in this epidemic? I mean, don't tell me if I shouldn't know, but --"

"I've got used to being prepared for anything to happen to us," Owen said, sagging as Jack took his arm to lead him outside, towards a car that was still waiting. "I even used the snakebite kit once. And that was in a kebab shop in Penarth."

"Sounds like your director found himself a damn good medic," Jack said.

Owen drew himself up erect and looked Jack straight in the eye. "Yeah. You did."

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Chapter 19: Tis Grace Has Brought Me Safe Thus Far

Author's Notes: Taking responsibility.

Carefully Jack sat on the edge of the bed and brushed a lock of damp hair from the constable's forehead, letting the hand come to rest at his temple. Andy dragged his eyes open with what seemed a supreme act of will. "Jack," he croaked.

"So you know me, hm? Can you tell me who you are, sweetie?"

"Police Constable Andrew Davidson, on temporary assignment to Torchwood to improve coordination and relations. Work for you. Recruited seventh April, 2012."

"And Doctor Harper is your partner?"

The eyelids slid shut. "Lover," Andy corrected with a ghostly attempt at a smile.

Owen glanced nervously at Mrs Cake where she had retreated to the doorway to afford them some illusion of privacy. "He's delirious."

"And you're blushing." A look of sly amusement, then Jack sobered. "All right, I think you do have a case we need to put to Gerald. -- Andy? We're going to have to move you now, do you think you're okay with taking a little ride?"

"I don't want to go on the cart," Andy mumbled, and started to giggle.

Owen barked a startled laugh. "Oh, don't be such a baby." Jack looked sideways at him with a raised eyebrow. "Never mind, Jack, you'll catch up eventually. Just, let me --" Owen hastily surveyed the room, making sure that every trace of the future from guns to rubbish had made its way back into that old stolen holdall, and remembered as he went to pocket his book of medical notes that properly speaking this wasn't his coat. "Mrs Davies..."

Their landlady gave him a small sad smile. "You won't be coming back, will you."

"I bloody well hope not," Owen said, trying not to think of what might still happen if Jack's superiors should decide that Torchwood's resources would be better spent on reconciling them to a life here and now. Shoeing horses and fixing bloody wagons... "I'm sorry, but... it's past time we went home."

"Farther than London, I think." She stretched up to kiss his bearded cheek. "But even an angel needs a coat."

Owen rummaged through his pockets and pressed the pitiful rabble of small change he found into Mrs Cake's hands, their rent all the apology he could make for leaving her in the middle of the story like this. Jack leaned close to say in a low voice, "We'll send Harriet and Lydia to do an exit interview --"

"She's lost enough. Let her be."

And, damn, but that was the second time in half an hour that he'd stared down this young unsure Jack. Owen wondered if it had actually always been this easy, if only one had the bollocks to try it.

The Captain lifted Andy into his arms with a grunt and carried him outside to the yellow roadster. Owen clambered into the back seat beside his patient and braced himself for the rattling ride, clutching Andy to him as much for his own sake as for safety. If anything Jack's driving would improve over the next century --

Their reception back at the warehouse was a trifle frosty, Childs not even bothering now to conceal her indignation at the notion of bringing the Spanish influenza across Torchwood's very threshold. "Quinn's already in a temper because the other one broke Carter's nose --"

"And if I had a nickel for every time Charles has wanted to hit Gerald himself, I'd be a rich man, Lydia," Jack replied cheerfully, fumbling around the burden in his arms to trigger some concealed switch on the wall.

And the largest panel slid aside to reveal a familiar old service-lift.

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Chapter 20: And Grace Will Lead Me Home

Author's Notes: The slow path.

It stood to reason, as decrepitly Victorian as the Hub was, that so little would really have changed from this preciously steampunk dungeon, and yet everything seemed strange to Owen's eyes, too dim and too dull and too new to a mind that had subconsciously been expecting to see all the blinking lights and glare and encrusted dirt that told him he was home. But the autopsy room, at least, was much as he'd left (would leave) it, a different array of medical tat cluttering up the edges of the well but the same echoing tile however it might sparkle now with youth. He spared the comparison little attention now, eyes only for Quinn's dark hands moving over the long pale form on his (their?) examination table. Owen could just hear Jack's conversation with his director up above, old-fashioned Torchwood scepticism clashing with bright confidence. The doctor believes it, absolutely. And the partner's too sick to have been faking --

They seem loyal to you. Not Torchwood.

Maybe after I've been around that long I am Torchwood to them. Think we could do worse than that, Gerald.

You're arrogant, Harkness. But you're also quite likely right, in the circumstance. A long, deep sigh. All right, then. Whatever they may really be, it's our duty to try to set them right. After all -- and when Owen glanced up Carter had cracked a smile despite the bruise already darkening his face -- I suppose it will be on your head, when they wake.

Andy had come more alert in the chill subterranean air, eyes keen with understanding as Owen briefed him on the decision to put them both into the cold-storage that had been reached. "Even this much cold feels good. Are we gonna sleep all the way home?"

"You really miss films, don't you." Owen bent closer and kissed him, aware that every eye in the room was on them and not particularly giving a damn about that. "'S all right, I've already had it," he announced when he pulled back to find some dropped jaws regarding them.

"They're definitely Torchwood," Derbyshire muttered, watching them from about where the workstation that would one day be Owen's would stand.

"They're definitely Jack's," Carter countered, but not sounding now as if this were necessarily a mark against them. If Owen had been inclined towards a charitable mood right at the moment, he might even have entertained the notion that Torchwood's current head had been deliberately trying to draw a reaction with his provocative words before. But sod charitable moods, anyway, his knuckles were still throbbing. Yes, mister Parker, I suppose I am a very violent doctor.

"We've never tried to suspend someone who was this ill," Torchwood's contemporaneous medic said, looking on in worried bemusement as Owen instinctively began to take charge of this operation he knew too well. "I suppose by... your time, you have?"

"Had a while to work on the system, yeah?" And a proper level of sedation would carry too much risk of depressing Andy's already compromised respiration before the cryogenic threshold was reached, so the poor sod was going to have to begin the process as aware as he happened to be at the moment -- "See you in a hundred years," Owen said, kneeling over the open unit to calm him with one last caress of the tousled hair. Not the most flattering angle to a hairline that was beginning to wander; "How did I ever fall for a man with more hair on his chest than his forehead?"

A raspy whisper to tell him he still had an audience, closed eyes or no: "I tied you up."

Quinn might have been blushing. "You are definitely Torchwood," the medic said, with a glance up to where Jack stood at the railing above not even pretending he wasn't trying to eavesdrop.

"Just a good thing my wife thinks he's a bit of all right too," Owen said, wanting to make them all blush, anything to distract himself from this tide of giddy hysteria that threatened to sweep him under as he fussed at the cryounit's controls. Come on, engage, damn it...

The last of the life-support indicators blinked over to steady green. Owen finally allowed himself the luxury of sitting down hard on the floor, trembling in every muscle as the strength of desperation deserted him in a rush. Loud music, hospitals, lying abed between them laughing at inane old films on telly -- It was long, long moments before he registered the hand stroking reassuringly through his hair. "Take as long as you need," Jack said softly.

What I need, Jack Harkness, is a hot shower and a criminally noisy shag, neither of which plans do you figure into even in a hundred years. "There's a notebook in my pocket," Owen said, wanting to sag all the way down flat onto the concrete and knowing that if he did he'd never find the will to rise. "Should help explain all the medicines. Use them." He steeled himself and looked up into those blue eyes. "The bottle marked B67 is amnesia pills."

Sober recognition from the other man out of his proper time. "Yes, sir."

Owen lurched to his feet, leaning heavily against the edge of the vacated table. One-handed, he started fumbling heavy brown wool off his shoulders, dimly aware that Quinn was going to need to be able to reach skin somewhere to put him under for the cryosuspension. (Assuming he didn't just fall down on his face first --)

And there behind him was Jack, helping him off with the greatcoat, that same courtly gesture Owen had watched his Captain receive a thousand times before yet to come. With the coat carefully folded and laid aside, Jack stepped in closer as Owen rolled up his shirtsleeve for the first of the sedating injections. "If it's not going to matter, you might as well tell me one thing: you're my medic... but have I found my Doctor?"

Some perverse impulse or whim of Quinn's chemicals loosened Owen's tongue; "Think you could do better, honestly."

That familiar chuckle, when Jack worked through the implications of his words, and one last vertiginous sensation of being caught and lifted across space as his endurance gave out. And Owen thought he heard a receding murmur, maybe his imagination: "Sleep well, Doctor Harper. I can't wait to meet you."

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