Mirror, Mirror by robling_t

Summary: A slip of the rift strands the Torchwood team in Cardiff with the Torchwood team. There's nothing worse than getting on your own nerves.
Rating: Teen
Categories: Torchwood
Characters: Gwen Cooper, Ianto Jones, Jack Harkness, Martha Jones, Owen Harper, PC Andy Davidson, Toshiko Sato
Genres: Action/Adventure, Alternate Universe, Drama, Het, Horror, Humor, Mixed, Mystery, Series, Slash
Warnings: BDSM, Swearing
Challenges: None
Series: Yours, Mine, and Ours
Published: 2009.04.20
Updated: 2010.12.03


Chapter 1: A Glass, Darkly
Chapter 2: What Am I Doing There?
Chapter 3: Rule 34
Chapter 4: Fill My Eyes With That Double Vision
Chapter 5: All Fun And Games (Until)
Chapter 6: Greetings From A Dead Man
Chapter 7: I'll Tell You That I'm Happy If You Want Me To
Chapter 8: Rex, Regina, Regicide
Chapter 9: Sometimes You Feel Like A Nut
Chapter 10: Your Agoniser, Please
Chapter 11: I'm Not Sure But I Think We've Been Insulted
Chapter 12: Pilgrims In An Unholy Land
Chapter 13: I Can't Get Used To This Lifestyle
Chapter 14: Could I Have Been Anyone Other Than Me?
Chapter 15: You May Ask Yourself, Well, How Did I Get Here?
Chapter 16: Corporal Mercies
Chapter 17: And Then They Done Sex
Chapter 18: While The Armies All Are Sleeping
Chapter 19: Daddies' Little Girl
Chapter 20: Could Be Raining
Chapter 21: Sometimes It's Handcuffs And Cheese
Chapter 22: Just Memories To Hold
Chapter 23: Let All The Children Boogie
Chapter 24: Kingdom Of The Blind
Chapter 25: And She Wonders How She Ever Got Here As She Goes Under Again
Chapter 26: I Torture People In Happy Relationships
Chapter 27: It's Not You, It's Me
Chapter 28: It's A Free Ride When You've Already Paid
Chapter 29: But I Won't Cry For Yesterday
Chapter 30: Comedy Of Error
Chapter 31: But I'm Known In This City As The King Of Suede
Chapter 32: Say You Forgive Me
Chapter 33: Hiraeth
Chapter 34: Am I Not Merciful?
Chapter 35: Then Why Are You Smiling?
Chapter 36: I Am My Beloved's
Chapter 37: Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, B, A
Chapter 38: Trevor Kendall's Cat
Chapter 39: That Dream Within A Dream
Chapter 40: What A Drag It Is Getting Old
Chapter 41: Yoiks And Away!
Chapter 42: And Baby When It's Love If It's Not Rough It Isn't Fun
Chapter 43: And Smile, Smile, Smile

Chapter 1: A Glass, Darkly

Author's Notes: Inspector Andy Davidson was not having the best day of his life... And so begins the fourth main arc of the Yours, Mine and... Ours? saga, following on from some time after chapter 109 of Voodoo Child... although this would be a good place for a new reader to jump in midstream if you'd like, since there's a certain amount of catching everyone up to be done! >;)

Inspector Andy Davidson was not having the best day of his life. "What part of not expendable and not going has got lost in translation this time?" he asked wearily, trying not to glare at the young PC. Yes, technically he was supposed to be just another officer of the Cardiff force, subject to being dragged out from behind his desk at need, but certain of the skills he'd acquired of late were simply too irreplacable even yet for any callout to be worth the risk --

"Asked for you specifically, sir, said it's definitely a Torchwood call."

Andy swore under his breath and grabbed his jacket, fumbling at his mobile as he went. "Owen? Got a suspicious light at a shopping centre, you lot on it yet?"

His partner mumbled distracted affirmation, sounding as if he were at the wheel of the big black SUV. Owen was supposed to be on desk duty himself these days, still in fragile health after a series of misadventures that qualified as unusual even by standards that would stretch to accommodate the resurrection of the dead, but as he frankly confessed it bored him absolutely rigid to be left behind at the Hub when the field team was out and he invited himself along any time he could manage to convince Jack that the mission sounded routine enough. As, apparently, today's had. Well and good, then, it shouldn't be too much of a problem to throw Torchwood's senior liaison to the police into the mix.

Today might be looking up, actually, Andy considered as he took charge from the officer-on-scene and made his cautious way into a cluttered stock-room. Even a routine-enough call made a change from a morning of herding cats, erm, coppers, and with the distinct perk of getting to spend part of his work hours essentially skiving off with Owen, maybe even time for a quick one while they were about it...

And here he was, Andy's best -- Andy's oddly clean-shaven best mate, crouching there in the shadows with his attention riveted upon some bit of blinky-light tech tat in his hands. Well, not outside the realm of possibility that he'd abruptly got bored of looking at the beard and taken a slow moment at work to do away with it, although it might have been nice if he'd at least said something first. Andy would miss it, really, rude jokes about something to hold onto aside he'd got rather fond of --

"'Fuck are you staring at me like that for?" Owen said when he looked up, face settling into a scowl. "Look, you're the police, yeah, but you should really bugger off, this isn't your jurisdiction anymore."

"Owen, what are you on about? Or on, maybe I should ask, everyone's been acting so mad today I wouldn't be surprised if we've had psychotropics in the water supply again."

The pale features went pinched with suspicion. "All right, mate, who are you and how do you know me?"

Andy exhaled a long annoyed breath. "Must be bloody drugs in the water, there's the rest of the week gone getting that sorted. What's the last thing you do remember, then, do you know where the rest of the team's got to?"

"Good sodding question." But he wasn't taking his eyes off Andy's face, fierce distrust writ in every line of his stance. "Why don't you answer mine first, though?"

"Right, you're starting to worry me now. You haven't got into the bloody retcon, have you? Well, I suppose that's a useless question to ask really --"

"How do you know about retcon?"

Andy hadn't seen this cornered-animal look in Owen's eyes in a long time, not since settling down to build a family had slowly begun to pad out some of his sharper edges, and to catch a glimpse of it now sent a strange chill tracking along his spine. "I think we need to try to sort this, Owen, maybe you should sit down. What's today's date?"

Oh, Owen was right steamed at him now, but he was first and foremost Torchwood, trained in tackling challenges that most would consider too bizarre to contemplate. The doctor lowered himself heavily onto the nearest box. "Twenty-first October, 2015. Pretty sure it's Wednesday, if it helps. Are you going to tell me now that I've lost enough time that we've been working together for years?"

Andy would, if pressed, have said it was Thursday, but then it had been that sort of a morning. "Well, we have, but --"

The squeak of a shoe on concrete. Andy turned to protest that they were all right, they only needed a moment --

And met Owen's brown eyes, wide with astonishment above his beard.

Back to index

Chapter 2: What Am I Doing There?

Author's Notes: The advantage of familiarity with Torchwood, Andy thought...

The advantage of familiarity with Torchwood, Andy thought, was that it let you skip over a good deal of the flailing denial usually associated with impossible phenomena and get straight to what was really important. "It's at times like this that I take a deep breath and ask myself, what would Jack do, and the answer usually involves selling the videos on eBay," the bearded version of Owen said.

"Piss off," the other Owen said. "In fact if you're with the copper, could you both just fuck off? In the middle of something here, doubt anything you could do would count as help."

A look to Andy that stamped out any uncertainty that this second one was the Owen he'd seen off to work not four hours before; "And he was like this when you found him, I suppose."

"I'll admit to having a moment where I was wondering which of us had finally gone mad," Andy said. "Still not entirely sure about it."

"Haven't got enough data to presume about your sanity, mate," the strange Owen said, "but that look you gave me about the date suggests we've eliminated time travel, which I should think leaves us at some sort of theory of alternate realities?" A thoughtful nod from his counterpart. "So if you would stop arsing about and let me work, I might be able to -- bugger." The device in his hands had gone completely dead. He shook it, as if that would help anything, and settled back on the box with a deeper scowl. "Well, that's done it, now the rift's closed altogether. Tell me you are Torchwood and I might at least have a slim hope of getting myself home?"

Andy had seen his own Owen like this, raging to cover up his terror, and had to check an impulse to reach out towards this spiky stranger in far too familiar a way. "We are," he said, putting a hand on his proper Owen's shoulder. "The both of us. And we'll do everything we can. Believe me."

The alternate Owen squinted at him. "I do know you, you're that copper of Gwen's who was killed by a weevil. Did this lot get you as well, then? Or instead?"

"Get me what?"

"I think he means is that where they went wrong, as if we'd be so bloody lucky as never to have met her --"

"Oi, where would we be without Director Harper?" the other Owen cut in with an exaggerated roll of his eyes heavenward.

They all let that statement hang in the air for a while, turning around slowly with blinking lights on and gradually beginning to smell, and finally the Owen who belonged here said, "I think I may have found your problem."

"Right, so, that ring I see on your finger --?"

"Toshiko and I have arrived at an arrangement, thanks," Andy's replied tetchily. "Anyway what's with Director?"

"Your Jack didn't bugger off eight years ago?" For an instant this other Owen looked forlorn and lost. "Although I suppose I ought to have guessed, you two look like you've apparently had far too much time to imprint on him," he added with a vague gesture that seemed to be indicating the way that his other self was leaning into Andy's casually protective embrace. "I mean, yeah, I've had my moments, but --"

"Andy's my partner," his Owen said, in a low steady voice that dared -- himself -- to take exception to the nuances.

"Yeah, was beginning to get something like that here." A considering gaze, as if he'd have to admit to himself that he might be surprised but not, honestly, shocked. "I guess I have a thing for coppers."

"It's the handcuffs." They exchanged a look that made both flush. "Right, so, that's, erm... yeah. You married her?"

"Yeah, well, sort of had to --" A guarded expression here, as if they'd bumped up against something he was reluctant to explore. "And you have an 'arrangement' with Sato. Insert remark about beards here, I suppose, not like she's exactly on the narrow herself."

"Tell that to our bloody kids."

A strange look from the guest Owen. "Plural?"

His Owen couldn't hold back a grin at the thought of their motley rabble of small hangers-on; "Marley, Emiko, Jake, and she's expecting Nerys in a few months."

"Christ, that sounds more like a model UN club."

But Andy thought he saw a trace of wistfulness in the other Owen's eyes, confronted with this version of himself who shared his life with the plentiful offspring of some 'arrangement' with a wife and a lover. Or simply had a life that came that close to resembling normal, full stop, Torchwood as Andy knew it might be glorious and daft and dangerous now but he gathered from the stories there had been periods when an agent would be lucky to see thirty, much less any concessions to the world that the rest of humanity thought it lived in. Andy was about to ask if the closure of the rift meant that this one had lost any idea about the status of the rest of his team and presumably his own wife when his Owen suddenly dropped into that attitude of listening that said his attention was on his comm; "Yeah, Jack, erm, we've, sort of, I don't even know what to call it, you had probably better just come and see for yourself..."

Back to index

Chapter 3: Rule 34

Author's Notes: Jack was made of amazingly stern stuff...

Jack was made of amazingly stern stuff, or at any rate he appeared to have seen just about everything at least the once. "The second thing that I'm thinking is how I can wind everybody up by paying you to kiss," he said immediately as he regarded the pair of Owens with cheerful curiosity.

"Oi!" (And to hear that in stereo did some fascinating things to Andy's heart. Or maybe those were other systems.) Theirs drew a breath and continued, "Possibly that depraved but does it have to be the first word out of -- What am I saying, you're Jack."

"I'm trying to think why we ever thought we missed him," the other agreed morosely. They sounded different, when Andy truly got listening, traces of gravel scarring his mate's voice and a more thoughtful blur to his accent. But then, he very much doubted the newcomer had ever had to endure a grave illness without recourse to modern hospitals. Or for that matter the half of what he and his had been through together, Torchwood or not --

Jack had folded his arms across his chest, studying the Owens carefully. "I'll assume you've already gone down the 'what to do when you run into yourself' checklist from the handbook."

A glance between the duplicates that said they were trying to decide which would take there's a checklist? and there's a handbook?, respectively. "Indications are that the rift activity we picked up was a breach between divergent universes," their Owen said. "There's no evidence of time displacement, and we'd started exchanging data that suggests a point or points of separation within the fairly recent past?"

Grumpy face from the other. "And established that he has a personal life that I don't think I envy him having to keep sorted."

Andy's Owen cocked a smug eyebrow. "Yeah, well, nothing like coming back from the dead to get you seizing each day as it comes, mate."

"...All right, that was deranged even for Torchwood."

"Yeah, um, it got weird around here for a while," Jack interjected. "I mean, okay, when is it ever not weird, but just try spending a year working with a zombie."

Andy could see the other Owen processing this and then tucking it away into some mental box labelled I hate this sodding job. "I'd imagine it's not unlike being married to Gwen, actually." (Two absolutely identical sardonic grimaces, one a split second behind the other.)

Jack's expression suggested he'd begun thinking through the less pleasant implications of the new Owen's plight. "So, would I be right in guessing that the rest of your Torchwood was on this job with you?"

"Well, an anomaly like that, who else is there to sort it." A scowl at Andy. "I was passing readings back to Sato when this twat interrupts me. Bloody nosy coppers."

"Bloody Torchwood," Andy returned, not without a certain twist of irony.

"All my equipment's off its network," the alternate Owen continued, waving his useless gadget in an arc that suggested he'd have hurled it at the nearest wall if it were really up to him. "Dunno if any of them even tried to come through after me."

Jack touched his earpiece: "Gwen, Tosh? We need to head back with Andy to handle a situation, could you do a sweep of the area for, well, you'll definitely know it if you see it. No, it's not dangerous, just... You'll know it if you see it. Bring the SUV back in if you don't find anything. Yeah, I live for the mystery, how long have you been working here...?" Jack chuckled and returned his attention to his team-mates and their accidental guest. "I think your priority right now is to come get an expert opinion on this," he explained, offering the newcomer a hand up. "Fortunately for you I know a guy --"

"Tell me you're not talking about your bloody Doctor," the extra Owen said with what looked like genuine alarm.

"Hey, he's probably your best chance of getting yourself out of this jam, so I think you'd better learn to play by our house rules, buddy." Jack was beginning to look annoyed. "I don't care if yours owes you money --"

"What he owes us is you," the strange Owen snapped. "We've been arguing all this time whether you really left us voluntarily, but it hardly matters anymore, does it? Still makes you gone."

Jack seemed sobered by this outburst, as if there had been a moment in his own version of events where that very question had come up and he'd answered it differently. "Would it be redundant of me to say that I agree with me that you're an utter bastard?" their own Owen mused.

Back to index

Chapter 4: Fill My Eyes With That Double Vision

Author's Notes: "I can't see anything in here," Ianto muttered...

"I can't see anything in here," Ianto muttered, playing the torch round at the warehouse shelves.

"Maybe we ought to have stayed with the SUV," Toshiko said, casting a weary glance back over her shoulder. "At least we wouldn't all be --"

A frantic shushing from Gwen, her head suddenly cocked. She pointed towards the source of whatever sound she'd caught, motioning them to follow. And if that's a weevil or some bloody cleaner --

Ianto rounded the tower of shelving and nearly plowed into his teammates' backs, both stopped dead at the sight of a stick of an eight-year-old boy trembling in the arms of a kneeling woman who looked just like Gwen, with a woman who looked just like Toshiko tilting his chin gently this way and that. "He almost looks a bit like Jake, except for that gap in his..." The other Tosh looked up into an astonished mirror of her own face. "Oh. This can't be... Ianto?"

"Nobody should say anything," Ianto cut her off with a raised hand. "If you're our future, or we're yours --"

"I think you'd be ours, Ianto," the doppelganger of Gwen said in a shaking voice, even as the real Gwen broke from her initial shock to scoop the gaping child away from her double. "-- But you couldn't be, Tosh looks just the same, it can't be time travel. Can it?"

She did have a point, Ianto realised as he got to looking, a scar here or a few extra kilos there not after all obscuring the underlying conclusion that neither pair of the women looked to be a materially different age than the other. "It could be some sort of... parallel world situation?" Tosh (his Tosh) ventured after a thoughtful moment. "There's certainly enough theory..."

"He can't be our Ianto," the other Tosh said decisively, with a little shudder. "Even if he's been colouring his hair --"

"Jack will know how to sort this," the other Gwen announced with the same firm set to her shoulders that Ianto had long since learnt not to argue with in his own. "What do you want to bet he even --" And she put a hand to her mouth to cover a sudden grin, looking sideways to her Tosh with a spark of mischief in her eyes that Ianto wasn't sure he wanted explained; "Oh, god, what do you want to bet?"

One Tosh frowned thoughtfully, followed eerily by the other. And they appeared to arrive at the same conclusion together, identical sparks of recognition in identical dark eyes as the one broke out into a shy smile, but it was Ianto's who groaned, "Two of Owen? Oh, lord..."

Back to index

Chapter 5: All Fun And Games (Until)

Author's Notes: Down in the autopsy room the Owens had both stripped down to their pants...

Down in the autopsy room the Owens had both stripped down to their pants, the better to compare their collections of scars. At least, Jack rather hoped that had been the original motivation. Andy was watching from the railing with a look on his face that said some CCTV footage might be leaving the building.

With their clothes off it was easy to tell the two apart even without other cues, Jack's Owen drawn in sharper angles than his soft-focus counterpart; both fit, to be sure, but Jack would never mistake them in the dark if they gave him the hypothetical chance at it. "Bloody fascinating really," the bearded one concluded cheerfully, beaming up at their three onlookers as the other started trying to figure out which was his pair of jeans. "There are some correlations, mostly from my first year or so here, but the scar on his shoulder's in a slightly different place, and hardly anything that's happened to me since much after that point matches up at all. And of course he'd never top this even so," he added, a bit smugly Jack thought, patting the angry mark over his heart that remained mute testimony to the bullet that had cost him that long strange year out of his life.

The Doctor looked absolutely enthralled, peering down at the duplicated medic through his spectacles. "I would say that means his reality has been running in fairly close parallel to ours even after it initially diverged, and it didn't really begin accumulating what we'd consider errors until their Jack left them. Which makes a certain amount of sense, fixed point and all. You're the one who I'd expect to be generating actual splitting-points, as often as you find your new and varied ways to have near-death experiences."

The other universe's Owen had managed to get the trousers he'd picked up nearly all the way on before discovering they wouldn't button. "Yeah, and 's not like Jones could hit the same spot twice, right? Need some bloody depth-perception for that."

Which wasn't necessarily how Jack remembered the last argument he'd heard mooted about that particular display of marksmanship, but then it wasn't as if any amount of target-shooting was ever going to convince Owen (either Owen, apparently) that Ianto knew perfectly well what he was about with a firearm. Had known -- Jack drew himself up short as he noticed himself sliding down that well-worn track, and turned to watch the main door rolling open in its carnival of light and sound to let in the returning field team.

Or, properly, the returning field teams. Two Gwens. Two Toshes. A little boy who looked to be about eight years old, dark of hair and eye and clutched to one of the Gwens in a way that screamed my baby.

And one Ianto Jones, dashing in a dark suit, and a pink shirt, and the most improbably piratical patch over a long puckered scar that crossed his left eye.

Back to index

Chapter 6: Greetings From A Dead Man

Author's Notes: The boy's brown eyes went wide...

The boy's brown eyes went wide as he looked from Owen to Owen, but it took him only a moment to pull himself free of the second Gwen's arms and limpet himself onto the medic without a beard, shivering fiercely. 'Sort of had to', right, Andy thought. "You were supposed to stay in the car, damn it," the extra Owen said, looking torn between fury and a desperate relief.

"Well, ran after you, didn't he," that spare Gwen snapped. "I've told you we're going to have to find another minder."

Even Jack looked appalled. "You brought a kid along on a field mission?"

"Would you leave an eight-year-old boy alone in the Hub?"

"...Point taken. This is all of you there are, then? Because I'm thinking that might be one screwed-over version of Cardiff you've left behind yourselves."

Director Harper drew herself up to give Jack a haughty stare between imagined equals. "We do have a trainee," she started, and then sagged a bit as she caught up to her own words; "Oh, poor Eugene, what's he going to think when he comes in to feed the weevils --"

"Speaking of leaving eight-year-olds boys alone in the Hub," her Owen muttered.

"The natural assumption might be that a child this age would be in school of a Wednesday," Andy pointed out, since no one else seemed to have got there yet.

"And you would know exactly what about our --" All the colour drained from that face that looked so much like his Gwen's as she took her first real look over at him. "Andy?"

Well, if he'd ever been dreaming that Gwen would look at him like she'd only now realised what she'd been missing, this was probably as close as it came. "Erm, yeah, he did say something about your me being dead?"

Gwen Harper took a deep breath, and Andy wondered for a moment if she were about to faint. "The day before I, you, at that hospital, I... Oh, Andy!" But at least she was smiling now, completely lopsided as if she were having a bit of trouble getting all the levers to work the right way at once but some sign of a recovery. "You look just -- well, ten years older," she amended, reaching up to tousle the untidy hair that had given up some territory in that length of time.

"Yeah, thanks for that. And you're..." he faltered, and finished lamely, "Gwen. Except --"

Was that a long scar on her forehead? He made to brush her fringe away for a better look and she jerked back. "Well, I was the lucky one, wasn't I," she said, gaze darting to Ianto. "But you, what about you, how have you been making out? I mean, you're alive, that's great, but... Are you with their Torchwood, then?"

"Sort of, erm... Sort of married into the family, you could say."

Her eyes lit up with a look that he wasn't sure he knew quite what to make of. "Oh, Andy! Who's the lucky girl, then?"

Amusement in two pairs of dark eyes as Andy looked for reinforcements. "I answered this the last time, it's your turn to have the go," his Owen said.

Yes, their own Gwen's jaw had made just about that sound dropping as well, come to think of it. "What, you, you don't mean..."

A little hard to back out of if he'd wanted, as the bearded Owen quietly insinuated himself under Andy's arm to reinforce the point; "Pretty much we do, yeah."

"'Let me not to the marriage of true minds admit impediments'," Jack tossed in with a broad shrug.

Gwen's eyes were still going wider and wider. "But, I thought Tosh -- your Tosh -- I thought she said, she's pregnant, you're..."

"It's complicated," their Tosh admitted demurely, and then with a flash of fire added, "And also not really anybody's business."

Jack looked to be about to launch into another dissertation on how it was taking him longer than he'd thought to enlighten this century one victim at a time. "It's such a shame this culture doesn't have a word for best-mates-who-shag, when you think about it. I mean, it might come up more often if you did --"

Gwen shook her head, giving Andy a clearer glimpse of that ghastly scar. "Sorry, no, not quite picturing this, though, I mean... I know he's straight."

"How long have you been working here?" (And this from her own Owen.)

"And there was this meet-cute part where Andy was in drag and everything --"

"Which is all very sweet," Ianto broke into Jack's incipient ramble, "but we do have more to worry over here than everyone's respective domestic arrangements?"

"We've already been running the readings we have through the mainframe," Andy's Owen said, pulling away to go tap keys on a keyboard. "So anything you'd care to contribute to that effort, go right ahead. I'm sure with two of Tosh on it we can have this sorted before we've all gone entirely mental from looking at each other."

"And meanwhile I wouldn't mind seeing Director Harper in my office," Jack added, the blue eyes suddenly back to business. Thank god.

The other Gwen still looked as if she'd like to try to argue about Andy's personal life a while longer, but she followed Jack into his (their?) office with only a single look back. "Does get easier with practise," his Owen remarked impishly once the door had closed behind them.

Back to index

Chapter 7: I'll Tell You That I'm Happy If You Want Me To

Author's Notes: "You know the first thing I'm going to ask the former PC Cooper"...

"You know the first thing I'm going to ask the former PC Cooper is what the hell you thought you were doing with the kid," Jack said, settling himself peremptorily behind his desk.

"Well, he's a little boy, you ask him what his parents do and he'll tell you." Gwen Harper was doing her best to stifle an expression of puzzled indignation at being left standing on the wrong side of that wooden curve for the first time in nearly a decade. "And then we get the letter that he needs counselling for his 'issues'. We've already retconned half of the teachers in Cardiff." She drew over a chair and plopped into it to stare glumly at him across the perpetual scatter of paperwork. "I suppose Junior does have issues. Just not the ones people think."

"So, he's Owen Junior?"

A wan flash of gap-toothed grin. "Actually, his name's Jack," Gwen admitted. "We were feeling a bit vulnerable, you'd just gone, and... we hadn't thought how it would get confusing. It was Ianto who started with 'Junior', we haven't really called him anything else in years." A sharp glance back towards the door, as if she were just now realizing she'd missed something; "I haven't seen your Ianto yet, is he even...?"

"Um, we're not sure where he's got to, actually," Jack said. "Had kind of a... thing, happen. It's not like we haven't looked," he added under the incredulous stare that turned on him. "I could ask you what you've done to yours."

Gwen's gaze dropped to the floor. "Owen can't work miracles," she said. "Whatever he may think of himself." And now the eyes came back up to meet Jack's with a glittering hint of fury in their depths: "Anyway it happened on your watch, his first field mission --" She checked herself visibly from the beginning of a full-on rant, one hand going to her forehead. "But I suppose that would have gone better for you here, she doesn't have this. Or the bad luck to have got herself into it with -- Well."

She'd be surprised on that score, Jack thought, and tried to steer the conversation towards something closer to the business at hand, the nuts and bolts of tackling the impossible situation otherwise known as a Wednesday at Torchwood. It was an adjustment, to find himself across the desk from another Director; Gwen Cooper had led the team competently enough in his absence, once, but Gwen Harper was another creature altogether by now, a hard-eyed pragmatist whom he inwardly shuddered to recognize as a distorted reflection of him. Or a him that he'd once been, long before.

Finally they had exhausted any interpretation of the available data that didn't rely upon pending results from the mainframe's cogitation, and Jack let Gwen Harper dismiss herself to join the scrum over her team's dead instruments, both of Tosh sunk deep in consultation at the other workstation with the Doctor leaning in to murmur the odd scrap of incomprehensible math. Gwen's husband had settled onto the old sofa with their son crammed up against him, clear that had the boy been just the slightest bit younger neither's dignity could have kept him out of Owen's actual lap. Jack essayed a tentative smile at them. "This is gonna take some getting used to, you and Gwen married with a kid --"

Owen scowled up at Jack. "It broke, all right? And then what was I supposed to do?"

In his own curious way, Jack reflected, Owen was fundamentally an honorable man, even if it did take the extraordinary circumstance to get him to own up to that. "The responsible thing, it looks like."

"Well, when Rhys threw her out she got into a right state, wouldn't have been humane to just walk away from that. Not completely heartless, whatever she might try to tell you about it." Jack wondered if the medic was even really aware that he'd begun running restless fingers through his son's dark hair. "And the kid's all right, I mean... he seems to like me well enough."

Yes, Jack had noticed that. He sat down on the table to put his face closer to a level with Junior's; "Your dad been explaining what's happened?"

Brown eyes gazed back at Jack with a sort of sober appraisal that had to have come from growing up immersed in the daily absurdity of Torchwood. "'S a parallel universe, yeah? Seen it on telly." And here Junior looked over Jack's shoulder, lips curving to show the space between his front teeth; "Does the beard mean that one's evil?"

The boy had been saving that up all along, Jack thought, as behind him he could hear noises that sounded suspiciously like a police inspector laughing his way onto the floor. And one of Tosh muttering something about how they would be able to tell. The Owen on the sofa was grinning broadly at the other's discomfiture. "Anybody starts calling me Flexo they're not going to like where they get the lolly after their next physical," the bearded Owen warned.

Back to index

Chapter 8: Rex, Regina, Regicide

Author's Notes: Evil or not...

Evil or not, Owen's bearded counterpart had managed to coax his one genuinely unique visitor down into the disarray of the autopsy room to see what readings the boy might yield up as clues to their point of origin. They seemed to be getting on, anyway, Junior gradually thawing from wary monosyllables to actual answers and the odd shy smile or two, and Owen decided to leave them to it, going to settle himself at a workstation mired in eerily familiar squalor, even littered with some of the same rubbish, like the ruptured stress-ball and the ice-lolly stick with Katie's mobile number written on it. But photographs that should have featured two people held three --

Owen turned in his chair at the gentle clearing of a throat to find the copper, Davidson, holding out a cup of coffee to him. Those had to be the hands cupping the tiny red baby in the print tacked directly above one screen; Not all that premature, then. Owen took the mug with a suspicious frown. "Won't someone be missing you at the station by now?"

A broad shrug from long arms. "You're my case till we get you sorted, I think."

Owen took a sip of the coffee and wondered why he was surprised to find it was exactly as he took it. "Yeah, king and bloody country, isn't it always."

The copper was giving him a particularly gormless look now. Almost... as if Owen had said something exceptionally mental, for the second time. "So you don't have proper money, do you," Davidson said, as if this followed.

Owen hadn't thought of that complication, actually. He rummaged into his pockets and came out with a handful of small change, the face of William V smiling up from the brighter new coins. "Well, she was eighty-seven, wasn't she, I didn't put the fucking alien snake down her toilet --"

"You'll have to turn out your pockets, all of you," Davidson turned to address the refugees. "This is going to be enough trouble without getting into it for passing funny money. We'll put what's unspendable here in Jack's safe, you can have it back when we get this sorted."

And to have the faith to have said when -- "I suppose he could have put us in the bloody Euro," Ianto remarked once the winnowing had revealed how much worse their actual situation was. Hardest hit was Sato, who'd had only a grand total of forty-seven pence in cash on her person to supplement now-useless plastic and chips. "And assuming we're not homeward bound any time soon, by the look of things..."

"You're still Torchwood," Jack cut in firmly. "We'll work out some way to cover your expenses, meanwhile..."

He trailed off as if in thought, and it was Gwen -- Gwen Cooper, or was it Gwen Somebody Else's Married Name Here by now, laugh a fucking minute this was -- who said, "What are we going to do with them, Jack? People will ask questions if we just book them into a hotel, and there's not room at Mrs Jenkins' with Mary there --"


"Mary Evans," Owen's counterpart contributed from the steps of the autopsy room, as Junior slipped away to come reattach himself to his father. "Original date of birth 17th September nineteen hundred and seven, currently working her way through her year nine at Jack's local comprehensive. She likes telly, she likes wearing trousers and the idea that women take the vote for granted, and since we've found out that both her parents died in the Spanish influenza anyway there hasn't really been any great rush to send her home. We're looking after enough strays right now there's a support group, meets on Thursdays -- you might want to have a look-in yourselves, if you don't mind that it's not quite the same issue."

"But it is, isn't it," Gwen (Harper) said hollowly. "We're every bit as lost as Emma and Diane and John, and your Mary and her friends -- Sorry, Emma, they, they were these people, who'd got on a plane in 1953 --"

"I know," the bearded Owen said. With perhaps the slightest, slightest twitch of his lips to say that yes, he knew perfectly well who Diane Holmes had been. Strange, how the river of time flowed and rejoined around some of the same rocks.

Davidson looked to his partner, well, his partners (how did that work?) and tentatively ventured, "We could put you up for tonight. And however. Not as if the Morgans don't already think we're insane."

Owen felt his face settling into a deep scowl. "Right, 'cos I've been dying to see how my home life would have turned out if I was living in some sort of bizarre adulterous menage --"

"I prefer to think of myself as a bigamist," the other Owen said coolly.

"-- With a tribe of kids and their mess, there's probably an orphaned hedgehog in a cardboard box next to the Aga --"

"I think it would be for the best though, at least for tonight," his Gwen overrode Owen firmly with a stern glance. Although Davidson and his other self were fidgeting self-consciously at the allegations about the state of their residence; Probably wondering now who's shoved what under the settee for having company round...

Back to index

Chapter 9: Sometimes You Feel Like A Nut

Author's Notes: Gwen had found a notebook somewhere, all take-charge can-do bloody copper efficiency...

Gwen had found a notebook somewhere, all take-charge can-do bloody copper efficiency as if being caught in someone else's universe could be solved by properly organising one's concerns into an orderly list to tick off one by one. By now Owen was just hoping that something resembling take-away would make its way to the top of that list before he had to use Junior as an excuse to jar her out of her vain exercise. "The less of a footprint we can -- God, we'll need clothes, and..."

"I can bring you some of mine?" the other Gwen offered, with that bright professional let's all be friends, yeah? smile which Owen had never determined whether it was trained in by the police or came naturally to her; after a moment or two his Gwen mirrored it, and wasn't that a sight he could have gone to his grave without having to see. Fuck, they were already best mates, weren't they. "And the others can all, well, except maybe something for Ianto, but..."

"And Junior," Owen observed sullenly, patting the dark head drooping against his shoulder. "And even if he's got any trousers I can borrow, I am not sharing his pants."

From the face this drew in return, on this point at least they were of exactly the same mind. "We'll have to risk a bit of shopping on the way home," his bearded self agreed, looking as if he were just about as sick of all of this obsessive detail.

Davidson had disappeared somewhere, gone back to the station after all for all Owen really knew about how this lot conducted their affairs; it seemed on the whole a far more relaxed operation than he recalled Jack's directorial hand as lying upon them, what with their maintaining some sort of official police connections and showing no real signs that they spent half their time in just sorting the constant nuisance of weevils on top of the rest of Torchwood's responsibilities. That they'd even managed to go this long without some sort of interruption right now was beginning to nag at him, more of a break in routine than anything else in all this mad day, and Owen was still waiting for Director Harper to twig to it in all of her sorting them...

But no, she had let the conversation move along to a discussion of the logistics of providing transport for five extras. The other Owen seemed to be counting something out on his fingers with his own wife; "-- Bloody hell, and I came in with you, I suppose my car's still at the station where he left it this morning."

It apparently hadn't escaped Sato's notice either, that this Owen's copper was a good half a head taller again; "Sorry, who is it doesn't like me driving the SUV because I adjust your seat?"

His counterpart was -- his counterpart was blushing. "We wouldn't have anywhere to put another car," he began, and was short-circuited by the reappearance of Davidson up on the catwalk, calling for a hand with the two toddlers he had in tow. The lead of Gwen's scratching pencil snapped off. Breaking into a broad smile, Owen's double hurried up the stairway to collect one of the children. "Oi, who's my Hairball, eh?"

"Good to see your sweet nature and caring parenting skills are still a constant here on Bizarro World, anyway," Ianto said dryly.

A sharp look over the top of a head of dark hair. "He was six weeks early and covered in lanugo, I'd like to see you resist it."

Sato had gone deathly pale, staring at the oh-so-obviously half-Japanese girl in the copper's arms. "She's, she's... prettier than I would have thought, considering," she managed in a wavering voice. Yeah, good fucking save, there -- "I suppose it will help to have more unique data-points to cross-reference..."

The boy was giving his father's double a wot's all this then look worthy of a copper out of Owen's own brown eyes. (Didn't actually look much like Sato, well, Toshiko Harper that would be, but then genes could be such determined little bastards.) Gwen Harper stroked a cautious hand through the child's rumpled hair. "It's so uncanny, he looks just like Junior at that age."

A frown from the bearded Owen. "Well, I suppose they're brothers, sort of. S'pose the two of us are, maybe." He looked as nonplussed at this thought as Owen himself. Damn it, this was going to be irritating as hell, living with a mirror that could follow him around and show what every grimace and twitch really came across as in realtime --

Jack swivelled round in the chair at Sato's (Toshiko's, dammit) workstation, tearing himself away from where he'd been watching his alien Doctor tapping restlessly between windows of scrolling figures. "We may as well just grab the rest of the kids and knock off for the day once he's got all the readings, there's not much more to really be done on this end of things until we start getting back some real numbers. You guys can come on up and meet Martha, she's been giving me an earful about missing the good bits again."

Back to index

Chapter 10: Your Agoniser, Please

Author's Notes: No Moses-baskets kicked discreetly under the autopsy table...

No Moses-baskets kicked discreetly under the autopsy table or playpens behind Jack's desk here, no, this mad reflection of Torchwood had set up a full-on creche in one of the upstairs storage areas. And so now Gwen found herself suffering politely through introductions to a woman who claimed to be not only the legal Mrs Harkness but technically serving under Owen in the medical staff's chain of command, as if he'd ever had the management skills to organise his way out of a sack, but never mind that when several of the children in the room were attaching themselves to Jack --

But all of that whirled straight out of Gwen's head as her counterpart went to her knees, laughing, to catch up one particular squirming bundle of pink and purple into a ferocious embrace. "You have a little girl." Yes, she might have mentioned something like that in passing on the drive back to the Hub, there'd been so much to take in, but...

You have a little girl who looks like Rhys.

He hadn't even missed her, he'd gone and got married to that fat cow who looked just like his mother practically before Gwen's side of his bed was cold, but to see her own green eyes looking out of his face still wrenched something inside she'd thought long since snapped clean off. You were the one having the affairs, Gwen Harper. And watch you break up his happy home all over again, if this is your second chance at fucking it up right proper. Bloody irony for you, how their lives had worked out here.

As was the next twist of the knife: "And we had the hardest time coming up with a name for her," the other Gwen was prattling on, "Rhys had his family on him and I had mine, but in the end she came before we'd quite decided, and then when Andy got me to hospital just in time we just had to name her for him. So she's Andrea Mary Minerva, to keep everyone else happy --"

"You're not sleeping with Andy as well, are you?"

A look of slightly aghast surprise; "God, no. I mean, there might have been a moment back in the day, well, you'd know that, but however weird that thing he and Owen and Tosh have is I don't think I'd exactly be in line for a membership even if they were taking new applications, you know? They drag enough of it to the office to keep us from feeling left out as it is," she added with a grimace.

Considering that Gwen was fairly certain Junior had been conceived in the autopsy room, she was quite sure that look of distaste spoke from bitter experience. "Sorry, I, that was... How is he, Rhys, I mean? You're... together?"

"Married three years now," her other self answered, patting her daughter's head with a hand flashing an unmistakable (if rather small) diamond. "I don't know what I'm going to tell him about today, he's going to ask why I'm clearing out the wardrobe..."

"At least he's not Owen, I'm sure both of them are going to be having some interesting dreams tonight." And anyone's guess who'd even be in them, he'd probably rather go shag himself --

Gwen's double looked to be containing laughter. "I wish you hadn't said that, now I'm going to be thinking of two of Rhys! And I think I'd rather have them both watch Andrea so I could take a proper nap, aren't I a sad one? But I suppose you'd have gone through that part when your Junior was a bit younger, where you always feel as if the moment you take your eyes off them they'll drink Persil or fall into a bucket."

"Junior ate ants," Gwen admitted reluctantly. (And oh, bollocks, that gap was the thing you saw when she grinned --) "Now I worry that one of these days he'll work out how to let himself in with the weevils."

"We don't have weevils here any longer," the other Gwen said, almost offhandedly. "Can't say that I miss them either."

And out of all the trials and revelations of this mental day, somehow that seemed the cruellest blow. "No... weevils."

"The Doctor found them a lift home a few years ago." Her counterpart shrugged, as if an alliance with Torchwood's charter enemy was fine by her if it meant she could get to sleep in of a Sunday now and again, and how could Director Harper really blame her for that? "He's brilliant to have around, if you don't mind him always tasting everything. This one time I caught him into my yoghurt..."

Back to index

Chapter 11: I'm Not Sure But I Think We've Been Insulted

Author's Notes: Thank fuck the dowdy MPV in Torchwood's garage had belonged to...

Thank fuck the dowdy MPV in Torchwood's garage had belonged to Jack. (Or more properly Mrs Jack, and if that wasn't nearly as frightening as the swarm of small people with chin-divots that they had proceeded to load into it --) However bourgeois and settled Owen's there-but-for-the-grace self might yet go on revealing himself to be, it seemed one small hopeful sign that these Harpers' vehicle of choice to haul about their baroquely complicated family was actually a less tarted-up cousin to the company SUV, in a conspicuous-as-fuck shade of red that must have represented his own input into the matter.

They'd set him and Junior loose on the shops with his counterpart's expense-account card (not like it was forgery, exactly) and gone to see about putting something together for an impromptu dinner-party for eight. Owen considered the question of how far he'd be able to get with that card before either Director could track him down, decided that the answer was probably Splott, and reluctantly focused himself upon the immediate issue of provisioning an eight-year-old boy for this unexpected holiday. It wasn't as if that was so very different, wherever you happened to be, maybe some genetic drift in what Batman was got up to this season but pants were after all pants regardless of the specifics of fashion; nevertheless, Junior could be as stubborn as he was over the most random details, and it still felt like far too long of wandering about leaving a contradictory face timestamped all over various security cameras before he could declare this mission successful enough to go scanning across the car-park for that conveniently red behemoth.

His double was already waiting for him, alone; "Tosh had to run in again, you know how it is when you're pregnant," he said by way of acknowledgment of Owen's return, and went back to poking morsels of rice from a plastic tray of sushi into the captive audience in the bank of carseats. "Help yourselves, 's at least another hour before we're eating."

It was an improvement over children who whinged for chips, Owen supposed, noticing that Junior was already sniffing cautiously at something that looked like egg. Eight years of Torchwood secrecy and stranger-safety lectures and you're right there taking sweets from clones despite everything. Not that this sort of situation came along every day even for a child of Torchwood --

The distinctive colour of the vehicle could also be a drawback, Owen realised as an elderly passerby did a surprised take and started onto an intercept course for them. He caught the faint murmur of his double whispering neighbour in warning as the woman came straight up to Owen's side of the car. "Ooh, I didn't know Doctor Harper had a twin brother."

"Erm, yeah, in town, work thing, dunno how long..."

She seemed to be one of those rare people who was immune to his best fuck off and die already glare. Even presented in stereo. "Well, pleased to meet you, Mister Harper...?"

Shit, now we're going to have to come up with names. "It's also Doctor Harper, actually."

"My. Your mum must be proud, then!"

"Delirious," his counterpart said, with a show of teeth that Owen considered quite warranted. "-- Look, Jake, there she is, here comes Mummy..."

Fortunately the cacophony of three toddlers squealing for their 'okasan' was enough to drive off even the oldest of biddies. "There's Mrs Meredith onto us already and we're not even in our door," Toshiko said, tossing her purse into the passenger footwell with unnecessary force.

"S'pose it was inevitable, can't pass him off by matching the shirts. And don't even look at me like that, I don't think Andy would like it --"

"I was going to suggest he try growing one," she replied with a hint of subdued mischief. "Although that would take a bit longer."

"And wouldn't come in that grey," Owen challenged from the rearmost seat, meeting his own brown eyes in the mirror. "Was that... I dunno, something to do with being dead, or...?"

Those familiar eyes had gone haunted. "Or," his bearded double muttered, and removed his attention to the complexities of vehicle operations in a manner that suggested he dearly hoped the subject was dropped.

The house wasn't at all what he'd been building himself up to expect, an old pile on quite a nice street with a graveyard of broken garden gnomes swept under the shrubbery in the front. Owen followed along into the kitchen to find it surprisingly tidy even if the refrigerator was all but papered over with photographs of the children, and clumsy artworks by the children, and a rogue snap of a golden retriever curled protectively around -- was that a manky black cat? Maybe some pets from Davidson's childhood, not as if Torchwood left you with time enough to care for yourself much less dumb animals. Although he'd been spot on about the cardboard box: "So, is that a mrs tiggy-winkle or a spiny norman?"

His double gave him a fuck if I know look, as if sexing hedgehogs was above and beyond the lookout of even Torchwood's medic and he should damn well know it. "According to the kids it's a Bob. Couldn't get anyone to come pick it up sooner than the weekend." He started rummaging through the shopping. "Just going to throw some spag bol at the lot of you, is he allergic to anything?"

"Don't like peppers," Junior volunteered.

"Well, you're eight," Owen said absently, and then wondered why he'd heard an echo --

Junior was giving both of them a startled-rabbit look. Then the gap flashed in a bright grin. "Savage! Do that again?"

Owen's counterpart looked rattled. "Oi, not the entertainment."

The boy's face went sulky, but it looked as if they might be spared further pleading by the thunking of car doors in the drive. And if that copper says 'Honey, I'm home' I will see how far I can get with that card...

Back to index

Chapter 12: Pilgrims In An Unholy Land

Author's Notes: Gwen had always rather thought that even more than the simple stupid tragedy ...

Gwen had always rather thought that even more than the simple stupid tragedy of a copper cut down too young, the part that hurt had been never getting to see Andy laughing under the pile of kids he'd so clearly been born to raise, and she wasn't sure now if it helped, exactly, to know that she'd been right. Even if the little girl he was bouncing on his hip to keep her out from underfoot as his Owen threw something resembling a meal together looked like someone else again (Owen and Toshiko's daughter, oh, this was mad) you couldn't deny that Emiko liked this Tad too --

That Owen had paused in his labours, frowning at something he'd extracted from the bowels of the fridge. "Right, what do you suppose that was before we all forgot it was in there?"

"Human brain wouldn't have been in with the veg?" Andy hazarded with a glance over his shoulder.

"Someone's certainly gone Torchwood," Tosh Sato remarked as Owen padded over to drop the mystery possible-organ into the bin.

"Humour as defence mechanism, I suppose he'd have gone mad long since otherwise," Ianto observed. "Assuming he hasn't, of course."

"He seems like the same old Andy," Gwen said, although in truth ten years had blurred enough memories without resort to retcon that sometimes she found herself wondering if she'd been imagining the whole of her life before Torchwood. "It's Owen cooking that worries me, how did you get him so... domesticated?"

"Shock collar," his Tosh replied matter-of-factly.

Owen looked up from the cutting-board with a look of amused surprise. "That wasn't about the cooking," he remarked, lips curving in a secretive smile.

Gwen's husband eyed Tosh's with undisguised revulsion. "...Right, are we sure we don't still want to go for take-away?"

"Don't be an arse, Owen," Gwen snapped.

"Just, cooking, seems a bit, I dunno, of all the things to be spending your time in --"

"And what if you'd come out somewhere less convenient than this?" the other Owen demanded suddenly, a ferocious light in the brown eyes that seemed out of all proportion to the situation. "Take my odds against any of you that I could find some way to keep myself --"

"Owen, love." Andy had put an arm round his shoulders, obviously aware of some well-worn trigger. "You know eventually they'd resort to the out-and-out prostitution."

A bark of laughter as Owen softened into the embrace. "That one bit Ianto said he'd learnt from Jack would be worth at least sixpence a go."

"I'd give him a shilling for it," Andy agreed playfully, then sobered as he saw how a single blue eye had narrowed at him. "Sorry, right, erm, there was this jar of alien sex pollen --"

"One would hope," Ianto replied, deadly mild as always.

Gwen's Torchwood had seen its share, possibly more than really, of mood-altering and mind-altering devices and substances, but from the way both men had gone rosy her brain was insisting on offering up imagery that bordered upon being legally obscene even for a hardened veteran of some involuntary workplace orgies of her own. "Is that... Is that how the two of you got... together?"

"They'd already been shagging for weeks," Tosh said. Wearily.

"...Oh. And, erm, how has this gone over at the station?"

Andy shrugged. "No one's said a word to me about it since the night we saved all their lives. Somebody new starts taking exception Malcolm's usually right there to show them where Owen sewed his ear back on."

Andy had gone Torchwood, if he could stand there with a toddler on his arm and so casually toss off a suggestion of having won the respect of the entire force through extraordinary heroics of some fashion. "Wow. I hope they gave you a commendation for that."

Now Andy was blushing in earnest. "Actually they did, yeah."

"Although he was more excited about the Blue Peter badge --"

"Don't make us enter your lab coat into evidence here," Tosh interjected fondly, and it was Owen's turn to blush and look down at his mangled vegetables, mumbling something to the effect that the bloody food was bloody ready anyway.

Back to index

Chapter 13: I Can't Get Used To This Lifestyle

Author's Notes: He could cook...

He could cook. Even Junior was tucking in enthusiastically, although he was carefully manoeuvring anything of a disagreeable character onto the rim of his plate. So far he'd built up a collection of tomato chunks and what looked to be most of an onion. Gwen had made a halfhearted show of scolding him about his manners before she'd diverted herself completely into extracting the story of what her old colleague had been about in the years he hadn't been dead. "This was your aunt's house, though, is... Is she --"

Davidson stiffened, as if the obvious question had just occurred to him; "Oh, yeah, she's fine, moved to New Zealand to build a better sheep. Let me have the house outright when Owen moved in, I think it amused her to think of how much Gran Price always wanted my sisters to marry doctors."

"Owen's bad enough with the hothouse, I'd hate to see him with a bit of a garden," Gwen said with a hesitant frown that said she was picturing some of Torchwood's choicer specimens set free to terrorise unwary neighbourhood pets. Or children.

"It's as frightening as you'd think," Toshiko confessed.

Owen's double set his fork down on his plate and gave his wife a wounded look. "In all fairness that plant was acting in self-defence."

Gwen put a hand to her mouth, whether to cover a grin or a grimace Owen wasn't quite sure. "I can't imagine how you're not retconning the neighbours every few days."

"There was this paramedic once," Davidson admitted with the hint of a blush. "But that was an emergency, don't think I could, you know, anyone I knew."

Gwen gave her copper a half-smile that Owen thought seemed a bit forced. "Sometimes it's a kindness, though, really. Having to live with the things we see --"

"Yeah, sorry, could we leave work at work for a little while?" Owen interrupted, feeling a familiar ache beginning to throb above his left eye.

"It's just that, the last time I saw this house..." Gwen took a deep breath. "Well. Telling the families is always the part you wish you didn't have to remember. Especially when the truth is worse."

Davidson had gone ashen. "When I, when he -- They made you come round to tell Nerys?"

"I wanted to, you were my partner, couldn't have her hear it from Square Dave could I? He'd have banged on about the football first for half an --" Gwen stopped herself, and swallowed, hard. "I'm sorry, Andy, this is, I held your hand as you died --" She pushed her chair away from the table and fled the room.

"I've never even seen a weevil," Davidson said plaintively after a long moment. "Except in old video."

Sato and Jones were staring fixedly at their plates, as if looking at the copper would bring back too many memories of staging an elaborate cover for his untimely mutilation. Owen scraped his chair back and stood up. "I had better, erm..." He waved a hand vaguely in the direction that Gwen had run off to. With luck she'd shut herself in the toilet and wouldn't come out till she'd got a grip, or stopped sicking up, but appearances were still appearances, after all, and right about now he would rather sit on the wrong side of a locked door than have to look himself in the eye and explain how actually I might sort have helped to dump your boyfriend's body was never the equivalent of a formal introduction. Bloody Torchwood, anyway. Bloody fucking Torchwood.

Back to index

Chapter 14: Could I Have Been Anyone Other Than Me?

Author's Notes: Gwen hadn't actually been in there being sick...

Gwen hadn't actually been in there being sick, so far as Owen had been able to hear, nothing much escaping the door but the odd snuffle. He had the distinct sense that if he tried the knob again he'd be invited in graphic terms to see how far he would get fucking himself. Junior had had his fill of spag bol by now and returned to safe harbour, falling asleep against his father's shoulder with a child's ease that Owen rather envied him.

At last the door creaked open, bloodshot eyes peering through the crack for obstacles before deciding that her husband didn't count as enough of one not to step over him. Junior roused for a murmur of protest as Gwen reached down to give his head an absent pat. "He should be in bed," she said.

Owen helped the yawning boy to his feet. "Dunno where, you've made us miss that bit. Think I heard everyone go upstairs?"

It was bathtime for their hosts' rabble. Owen's double answered his knock with a towel-swathed urchin in his arms and a frazzled expression. "Yeah, erm, you can put him down in the nursery once we've got these to --"

One naked toddler slipped between all the legs and made a dash for it, streaking for the nearest doorway. Owen decided he was the closest and headed after her into a bedroom that suggested primary occupancy by the female party to this odd household, the dressing-table cluttered with accessories and scattered clothing that looked as if it had just been gone through for anything that possibly fitted her doppelganger. Jones and Sato had paused in the act of making up the bed, gawping at the unexpected intrusion.

The baby had stopped, wobbling uncertainly on chubby legs as she stared up and up at a phantom image of her mother: "Okasan?"

"Watashi wa anata no okaasan de wa arimasen!" Sato all but snarled at the surprised child, going as red in the face as Owen had ever seen her.

"Let's not get into this," Owen's counterpart said from the doorway, as if he'd bloody understood her, and came to scoop up his daughter as Emiko bumped down onto her little nappyless bum and began to wail disconsolately. "I'm confused enough and I work here. Ssh, Em, let's find your Mummy."

Back out on the landing Gwen was giving a wide-eyed stare to the appearance of a second squealing girlchild, also naked save for the pink wellies sloshing water out the tops onto the floorboards. "Oi, we've had another jailbreak," the copper called from the bath.

Gwen looked to have let go of the end of her rope some while back. "Why is she --"

Owen's double gave a weary shake of the head, as if to say that if letting his three-year-old wear her wellies was what it took to get her into her bath then there were certainly worse problems out there in the wide world, and led both children back into the bathroom, the older girl flashing Owen entirely too good a view of a fading rival to the blue mongolian-spot birthmark that blemished her little sister's own half-Asian coccyx. "I suppose we should consider ourselves lucky he was never this much of an exhibitionist," Owen remarked to Gwen's disbelieving look.

The nursery showed signs of being a later addition to the house, stuck in an awkwardly-shaped corner above Owen's vague recollection of an annexe off the kitchen. The furnishings were all sensible, sturdy and doubtless well-researched by Sato's counterpart, meant to survive the best efforts of a number of siblings in succession. It appeared that Junior would be spending this night and who knew how many more on the truckle under the older girl's bed. "Not exactly the St David's," Owen said.

Gwen looked at him, and Owen wondered if maybe for once there might be something that one of them could say that would actually help the situation. But then Davidson brought in the two smaller children, and she went pale again; "I'll go make up our bed," was all she said.

Back to index

Chapter 15: You May Ask Yourself, Well, How Did I Get Here?

Author's Notes: It was hard not to just stare at him...

It was hard not to just stare at him, to watch as he helped his son into newly bought pyjamas and wonder which tiny moments that the one had seen instead of the other had left their faint traces on two once-identical facades. And compared to her husband this Owen seemed careworn, not as much grey yet perhaps but deeper lines around the mouth. "You're good with him," Tosh said timidly.

Brown eyes flicked up warily, assessing her intent. "Gwen's focus is her work," he replied with a heartwrenchingly familiar twist of his lips, and held aside the blankets on the lower bed for Junior to crawl in. "Leaves Doctor Mum for the day-to-day."

Marley had already gone right to sleep, convinced in some child's logic that if her Mum thought the situation was under control then the question of who was whom around here wasn't her lookout. Tosh twined a springy little lock through her fingers. "This must be particularly weird for you. Seeing these roads not taken."

Owen glanced over at the double cot in the corner. "Neither one would have been my original guess," he said, and gestured to her broadening middle; "Yours must be doing something right for you, though -- everything going, erm, smoothly?"

Tosh patted her bump, feeling an answering flutter. "Past the morning sickness and into wanting to shag every ten minutes," she said, and then clapped a hand to her mouth. "Sorry, that's probably way too much information."

It was Owen's smile, the real one, rarer perhaps on this incongruously clean-shaven face. "Any discussion of symptoms is always held in the strictest professional confidence. Unless that was a proposition, in which case it's in even stricter confidence, 'cos I certainly wouldn't want to test your husband's easygoing nature." He mimed putting his hands to his own throat, to a sleepy giggle from the truckle.

Right on cue her Owen stuck his head into the nursery; "Right, you're on for mine then," he said to his mirror image, and added to Tosh directly, "Just going to lock up and check Bob hasn't got out and crawled under the cooker again, try not to wear him out before I come back up?"

Him being Andy of course, an undisciplined sprawl of long limbs already lying across the big bed when Tosh let herself in quietly. He shifted to make space for her and clicked off the telly. "Today's been a day," Tosh said.

"Been lying here thinking interesting thoughts," Andy agreed, welcoming her to nestle into his furry chest. "Not all of them even involved you and the Gwens having it out in a pit of jelly either."

"Meaning some of them did?"

"Oi, still a bloke here."

Tosh suddenly pictured that smile again, the things one might do with two pairs of a surgeon's clever hands -- "I can only imagine what's been going through Owen's mind in all of this," she said.

"Well, if he starts calling out his own name," Andy suggested with a wicked glint.

"We'll have to start a pool." Tosh propped herself up on one elbow: "So, do you want to have sex?"

"...Yeah, alright."

Back to index

Chapter 16: Corporal Mercies

Author's Notes: General support had meant various things, down the years...

General support had meant various things, down the years. Maintaining a steady level of caffeination in his charges. Keeping the archives orderly and the working areas mucked-out to some standard where at least no one was at immediate hazard of flaming death. Watering Owen's specimens (or now and again Owen after a bad night), disposing of what needed... disposing of... and, occasionally, gentling the breakdown behind closed doors, in some unfamiliar dark. "It's my bed, there's the mark on the headboard where the movers knocked it into a doorframe --"

Ianto let her shiver against his shoulder, soft breaths that were never quite weeping muffled into a borrowed shirt. "I don't know if I have it better or worse, really. No idea what I'd have to say to myself."

"At least it wouldn't be how could you have married him?" Tosh sat up and punched her pillow. "Or, I don't know, maybe it would be, knowing us, but..."

But not the same entangling complications, certainly. (Although, knowing us...) "Shows we weren't inherently incapable of having normal lives, anyway," he offered. "Even if we still work here."

"If you'd call anything about this house normal." She heaved a deep, hopeless sigh and settled herself back in the curve of his arm. "I suppose that's unfair, I keep thinking, would we have taken them in like this..."

"Well, it's what you do," Ianto said, trying to make himself believe it. "Obligations of a civilised society. Arranging bail, hiding the bodies... Think I'd draw a line at 'comforting the sex-pollened' though," he added after another moment's thought.

Tosh smiled at him wanly. "Now I'm going to be picturing some amplified version of the alien cannabis incident, thanks."

Ianto thought sometimes it might have been better to quietly medicate away recollections of that afternoon, of how a hapless xenobotanist had been just that bit too lifted to do much besides grind against their office-boy until he'd taken pity and -- Attending other needs left unspecified may have been amongst his unofficial job responsibilities under the original management agreement, but he'd always done his best to resist the suggestion that said duties were in any way a transferable perq. Even if Owen had looked disturbingly vulnerable, drooling onto Ianto's chest after. "And with our luck we'd be the sober ones again," he said.

"Or we'd be trapped somewhere with Jack."

More dire fates, possibly. He couldn't quite think of any just now, but eight years might have been enough to -- "You want to give me nightmares?" Ianto said, nudging her shoulder playfully.

"It could be worse," she suggested with a mischievous lilt in her voice, and paused for him to fall into the trap.

He obliged: "Could it?"

"We could be trapped somewhere with two of Jack."

"...You're right, I think we've got off lightly."

Back to index

Chapter 17: And Then They Done Sex

Author's Notes: In the end it took the broom, a tea-towel, and a small bribe of cheddar...

In the end it took the broom, a tea-towel, and a small bribe of cheddar to get the hedgehog out from behind the fridge and back into its box, and Owen was only glad not to have had any witnesses. "Don't think this means I like you, just you smell bad enough alive," he told the ungrateful snout snuffling at the cake-rack confining it to its small quarters. And you're lucky that the kids think this is what dads are for. Who knew, anyway, maybe it was. Owen dropped another bit of cheese into Bob's dish, then pointedly turned his back on it and all the rest of this long mad day to head at last up the weary stair to those who waited there for him, laughing together and -- "Oi, you could have waited."

"Didn't know how much longer you were going to be," Tosh replied, never losing her expression of serene determination as she continued to rock above her partner.

"She overpowered me, I swear." Andy grinned up at him, completely unrepentant.

Owen found this scenario surprisingly plausible, really. With Emiko she'd been randy enough most of the way up to her delivery that it had taken the both of them to keep her entirely contented at times, not that he was going to complain to the management about that. Not when he'd been the one letting the side down on the conjugal responsibilities in the main, unusual circumstances notwithstanding. They'd all been having quite a bit more fun this time round. "If I wouldn't be interrupting," Owen asked, reaching to cup his hands across Tosh's rounded belly as he dipped in to nuzzle her neck.

Dark eyes pretended to consider. "Dunno, think he'd be interrupting?"

"I think mostly that he's still wearing too many clothes, is what I think."

He'd begun reaching to pull off his shirt, but Owen instead now sat down on the edge of the bed and tangled his fingers into Andy's untidy hair, just long enough to curl round his fingers of its own accord; "Reckon I could still drive you mad first," he growled, leaning in to breathe deep of her scent heavy on him.

Andy's grin went a hair closer to crazed. "Try it then."

Not much of a challenge considering, but Owen made a lingering show of contemplation, finally ghosting slow fingertips along from ribs to the abstract dolphin on Andy's hipbone, then skating the hand just that bit lower: "Or I could...?"

His answer was a shivering groan and an unfocused look as above them Tosh made a small noise of discontent. "Sorry, love, your husband is a cheating bastard," Andy managed after a long moment.

Tosh spared him an indulgent smile and then turned a and here's one I prepared earlier look to her legal spouse. "He's just going to have to make it up to me, then."

Owen felt himself grinning stupidly as his wife shifted into his arms and started to pluck at his shirt. "Bloody hormones." But no, not complaining to the management, atall...

"I'm definitely for trying for a very large family," Andy said blissfully.

Back to index

Chapter 18: While The Armies All Are Sleeping

Author's Notes: This hastily made-up guestroom was obviously what passed for his counterpart's own refuge...

This hastily made-up guestroom was obviously what passed for his counterpart's own refuge from the stresses of multiplied domesticity, his good purple sheets a rorschach of bleachmarks from where those children must have defiled them in various creative ways over the last couple of years. Gwen had made the mistake of looking under the bed, and now seemed to be doing her best to position herself as far away from any of the edges of the mattress as possible, regardless of how much room this left her husband. Owen rubbed her shoulder. "Well, I mean, he's right, there are worse places we could have ended up. At least they speak English."

"You're really not helping." Gwen curled into an even angrier ball.

"Look, we'll... we'll get through this."

A sigh as he went to kiss her ear; "She still has Rhys."

"Right, now we're getting to it, aren't we." He threw back the blankets. "Fuck it, if you're going to be like this I'll go sleep with Junior."

"Owen, I --"

"No, just never mind, yeah? We'll deal with this or we won't, it hardly matters, does it? Not like we have a fucking choice."

He managed, just, not to let the door slam behind himself in a declaration that would rouse the rest of this too-crowded nest of troubles, and leant back against the cool wood for a long moment with his hand still on the knob, surprised to find that he was trembling. It didn't help that he could hear the low murmur of contented marital relations from the bedroom across the way. Owen winced at a sharp feminine giggle. (rosy flush across her breasts, tiny intake of breath as that reserve finally shattered --)

One of the pairs of dark eyes that greeted him in the nursery had already been open, staring awake into the unfamiliar dimness. "Thought you might, you know, it's a strange place, and --"

"You had a row with Mum."

Owen scowled halfheartedly at his son. "Shove over."

It wasn't a big bed, but he wasn't a big boy, just room enough to tuck round each other without anything sticking out too awkwardly. The little girl in the bed above had already lost interest and turned over to resume her slumbers. Owen imagined that sharing her room with the babies she'd probably got used to one or other of her parents sneaking in for a kip now and again, when someone wasn't well or simply needed a Daddy or Mummy in sight for a night. Or when Daddy needed them in sight, for a night. His son was solid and warm, even if his hair smelt subtly wrong tonight from his bath in this slightly altered universe with its divergent Boots, and Owen couldn't help but feel himself finally beginning to let down the smallest part of his guard as a little face buried itself against his chest and murmured, "'M not sorry I followed you."

Back to index

Chapter 19: Daddies' Little Girl

Author's Notes: Given the choice this was how Owen preferred to wake up...

Given the choice this was how Owen preferred to wake up, with his nose buried between his wife's breasts and a large hand cupping his bum familiarly. Note to self, having houseguests not completely rubbish. "Don't look now, but I think Marley's learnt how to get the cover off the doorknob," Andy mumbled into the pillow as a smallish weight shook the bed.

"That's it, we're doomed," Tosh intoned in a way that suggested firsthand memories of a short leap from mastery of childproofing devices to field-stripping and reassembling any and all technologies that didn't run away fast enough. Yeah, they'd probably be lucky if she didn't work out how to unscrew a safety-gate from the wall soon...

Owen found himself with a sudden armful of warm wriggling giggles. "Oi, you're up early."

Marley butted her forehead into Owen's chin. "Wanned fuzzy Daddy."

"That's either of us right now," Andy remarked, scraping a hand through ginger-gilt stubble. "-- Suppose she means the other one's up and about?"

Shuddering at the thought of another of himself blundering around in an unfamiliar environment before coffee, Owen pulled on something resembling clothes and went to investigate, Marley already settled happily into the warm vacancy between her other two parents like this had all been an elaborate ruse. She'd left the nursery door open, it was a wonder she hadn't managed to set the other two to clamouring, not to mention disturbing her guest --

And one more guest bunked down on the truckle as well, by now a nearly familiar jolt to see his own face next to Junior's on the pillow. Owen wondered if the boy had been having night terrors in this strange place or if he hadn't dreamt a blazing row with Gwen. Shadows under the closed lids spoke to how Marley had got out of the bed without waking the man who wasn't quite her father.

Owen jostled the corner of the truckle squeezing past to check on the tenants of the cot, and that was enough to disturb his counterpart, unfocused eyes flickering open; "That happened," he said, squinting up as if his other self might still be a sleepy mind's phantasm to be dismissed with a few more blinks.

"Looks like." Junior had come out of his tuck to peer about just as blearily. It wasn't something you really thought of, well, luck and caution providing, to suddenly be confronted with the reality of an eight-year-old boy who resembled you more than not. And except for that gap in the teeth, god willing, this was probably what Jake was going to look like in a few more years, Harper genes fighting off all comers to put their indelible stamp on both boys' faces. "Rough night?"

A vague gesture that could have been meant to indicate that the party in distress had been either father or son. "Yours was whinging a while ago, I changed his nappy," he said, with a distinct air that this had been less a gesture of altruism or camaraderie than simple self-interest. "Least one of Tosh's kids escaped the bloody birthmarks."

Owen made a noncommittal noise and scooped Emiko out of her wing of the double-cot as she began to stir restlessly. "Would it be stupid to even ask if you'd rather have another hour?"

"Think I'm up, actually," his double said, looking a bit surprised at that himself. "Not that I'm any more eager to be off to work even under the circumstances, but the sooner I can get shut of having to look at you, no offence."

"You're just as ugly, mate," Owen said, but he felt his lips twitching into a reluctant grin, the same one he saw creeping onto his other face. Not completely rubbish. Maybe.

Back to index

Chapter 20: Could Be Raining

Author's Notes: Apparently, having managed to change a nappy without maiming the victim...

Apparently, having managed to change a nappy without maiming the victim qualified him to be handed one toddler as her twin woke up and immediately started fussing to be out of the cot as well. "S'pose now you're wanting your breakfasts," his counterpart said to the dark head grizzling into his neck, and nodded for Owen to back off so they could both exit the narrow space.

Someone had kicked over the anthill whilst they'd been in the nursery. "We turned off the alarm that we saw," Sato was explaining peevishly to a sleepy-eyed Davidson.

"And forgot to look for one Owen would have to wake up and find?" Gwen said from her own doorway. "You do know he's not a morning person."

Sato gave her a dire look, but whatever retort she'd been about to make died on her lips as she caught sight of the little girl in his arms, the little girl who wasn't their daughter. Bad enough that the older one had been peering shyly around Davidson's legs at them all, stubborn reminder that they were such guests here, but she, at least, looked enough like her mother to pretend.... something. Whatever Sato was telling herself about her life this week.

Owen set Emiko onto her unsteady feet and she wobbled over to join her sister. Gwen was regarding him as if she didn't even know where to start. Finally she settled on, "I hope you were going to shave."

He scratched his chin thoughtfully and gave his bearded counterpart a sly look. "Thinking about how we could try for a better cover story, actually."

The disapproving gaze shifted from stubble to scruffy goatee and back. "So you can both look like Robert Downey Junior's mugshot?"

"Well, I could shave --"

"Oh, hell no," Davidson growled in a voice quite unlike previously, an octave lower and accompanied by a look that managed to go straight to Owen's crotch even just catching the overspill. Right, that would explain a bit.

The other Owen shrugged: "There, you see, I'm outvoted." He didn't look all that distressed about it.

"Might have known growing that thing wasn't really my idea."

Owen's counterpart exchanged a look with his copper. "It wasn't actually premeditated," he said, then faltered, visibly at some sort of a loss.

Davidson stepped in to rescue him: "He was ill," the copper said in a much subdued tone. "By the time he was back up and about... we'd got used to looking at it."

Fair enough, he supposed. Toshiko, the one who lived here, emerged from the bath and gave the pileup in the hallway a perplexed look before scuttling past for her own bedroom and the wardrobe within. Three, two... Yes, there was the alarmed yelp from an unseen and presumably dishabille Jones. Owen grinned at the mental image and went to follow his yawning colleagues down to the kitchen.

"Hope you weren't expecting a bloody full English or anything, I'd set fire to cold cereal at this hour of the morning," the other Owen said as Ianto crossed straight to the coffeemaker and tipped it out without a word to set about making a proper pot. Well, the prospect of decent coffee before he'd even got out the door for the Hub was a silver lining to this rabbit-hutch crowding, anyway. Odd to see Jones dressed so far down in a shirt he must've borrowed from Davidson, a touch too long in the sleeves as well as far from his style but close enough for getting him to work and whatever Jack might still have had of the other Ianto's in storage. (And the part where Owen was already thinking phrases like the other Ianto without his brain seizing up and trying to chew its way out, was that more bloody Torchwood or simply a garden-variety mental break?) It was still an improvement over his double's own ensemble of nothing but his spectacles and a faded London 2012 shirt that also had to be the copper's by the way it hung on him -- wait, no, a glimpse of purple pants as he reached up into a cabinet, thank god. Not really ready to see my own arse before breakfast, yeah.

Junior looked as if he was just as badly in need of a coffee himself, nodding into his choco-snaps in a way that suggested even the sugar wasn't doing much to get him started. No real change there, then. Truthfully it had almost been worth the extra bother lately to have him out of school again, if it meant not having to try to put him together on mornings like this when Owen was usually little better than a zombie himself. (Or, he didn't know, perhaps it was bad form to take the zed word so lightly in this household --)

Jones had turned from his guarding of the coffeemaker to gaze out the window with a preoccupied stare that said he wasn't sure if the input from another eye would have helped make any more sense out of the scene outside. "Erm, don't want to alarm you but there's something in the next garden that looks like a weevil in a balaclava."

"That'd be Mr Lloyd," Owen's counterpart said without looking up from his own bowl. "Perfectly human so far as we've been able to tell, but I'd stay out of his way, he hasn't been too keen on us since Tosh told them we were voting Reform Raving Loony Party."

"You gave me those painkillers!" Toshiko protested. "Anyway it was the fight with the hose last August that made him stop speaking to us. Or at least the way you resolved the fight with the hose," she amended herself, going flushed at some incriminating memory.

Now it was Davidson's turn to colour. "What can I say, I'm a lover, not a fighter," he said.

Back to index

Chapter 21: Sometimes It's Handcuffs And Cheese

Author's Notes: With this many guests to fight over the bath...

With this many guests to fight over the bath it was going to be some time before all of them were in a fit state to pack themselves off to work, and Andy decided he might as well take this moment to have a start on the mountain of washing-up before it got to be any more daunting a chore. And it was probably the quietest moment he was about to see all day, even with all three of the children tumbling round under his feet as he stood at the sink -- "The family man," Gwen said from the doorway.

It was quite the picture, he supposed. "Sort of backed into it, yeah."

Gwen slid the gate aside and came to lean against the surface next to the sink, watching his hands as he rinsed out a bowl. "You and Owen."

Andy shrugged. "It works. Dunno just why, but... it works."

"How did you get together, then? If it wasn't the alien sex-pollen?"

The honest answer to that question could still make his ears go hot, thinking of Owen lying flushed and trembling in his arms after a thorough survey of the sensations to be had from proper living skin, so far beyond speech that it had been morning before Andy's timid erm, so, that worked for you as well then could be met with the demand for more... He set the bowl carefully into the rack to dry. "We were the field team for a while there, when Jack was trying to sort everyone being pregnant at once, and... we got to be mates. And then a bit more. Surprised ourselves more than anyone with it, I think."

"I can see how it would. And Tosh, just...?"

And that was another complicated explanation, how so many of her bright lines not to be crossed were exactly the things he needed most -- "It works," Andy said again.

"I remember you being chattier," Gwen teased, looking a bit puzzled. "Never shut you up about who you were with, everyone round the station always knew all of your -- The station, Andy, it's half seven already, are you going to be late for your shift?"

"Was going to come in with you for today and let Geoff and Sue mind the shop, I think they know what to ring me about by now."

Her eyes went huge. "You've got a staff?"

Andy felt his cheeks heating up. "Right now the Torchwood liaison department is a constable, a sergeant, and me reporting directly to Malcolm about how I'm trying to keep it all together without extra funding from the police side. I think they really only promoted me because I couldn't be let to run it all otherwise."

"Stop talking yourself down, you, you've a good head on your shoulders when you want to use it."

"Are you sure you're really Gwen?"

She pulled a wry face. "As sure as I am that you're Andy, I suppose. Although --" a cock of her head, examining him; "You don't have the scar."

"The --?"

Gwen reached up to smooth his eyebrow with her finger. "Always had a little scar there after that bottle at the demo, you needed three stitches from it."

She was regarding him with an intense gaze that almost made him want to ask her what side of this demo he'd been on. But naturally that was the moment for a sudden urgent knee-high tug on his trouserleg: "Daddy, daddy, poopy --"

"Do you have to, or did you already?" But from the forlorn look in Marley's brown eyes it was perfectly obvious which it was, and Andy sighed as he glanced round in vain for a tea-towel to dry his soapy hands on --

"Here, would she let me?"

"If you wouldn't mind it," Andy said, wondering if Gwen was always this polite of a houseguest. (Cooper, either.) "Probably a couple of quid in it for you, she's picked up a taste for loose change lately."


"It's some sort of a phase," he said helplessly to her disapproving glare. "Owen thinks she might have nicked his iPod, he's going to scan her if it doesn't turn up soon."

"That's horrible. Come on, Marley, let's let Auntie Gwen help you out, all right, love?"

Back to index

Chapter 22: Just Memories To Hold

Author's Notes: Once Gwen had helped Marley into a change of clothes...

Once Gwen had helped Marley into a change of clothes and run a comb through her wild curls, or tried to, and thank god that blue shadow on the girl's bottom seemed to be a birthmark because she didn't know what she'd have had to think of any of these other selves of theirs if it hadn't been, she held a tiny hand as stubborn toddler pride insisted on making it down the stairs like a grownup, and tried not to picture what another mother was doing at right this moment to get another little girl ready for the day. Andy had finished with the washing-up, welcoming his -- stepdaughter? what were they considering this arrangement? -- to fling her arms around his knees; "Thanks, she's mostly got it sorted usually but all this upset can't be any easier for them, can it."

"Accidents happen to the best of us. She's a wonderful little girl for all that, looks like she'll take after her mother? She was clever enough to show me where everything was."

He couldn't help but beam, one big hand curling round the small dark head. "She's three on Sunday. Suppose now we're going to need a bigger cake for the party. Erm. Not that... Well, of course you're all invited, if you're still... Erm."

But they would just have to set that bridge on fire when they got to it, she supposed. Gwen held out her opened palm now, offering the gold band she'd spotted glinting mockingly at her during the cleanup. "Found this, by the way. I, erm, bleached it," she added as he hesitated.

"Yeah, erm... yeah." Andy took the ring from her and slipped it onto his finger. Left hand. "Thought it must have got knocked down the drain last time I cleaned the bath. And you sat there and watched us take the plumbing apart halfway to the mains!" Marley flashed a toothy grin up at him. "Living with a bloody magpie."

"'I'm glad to be with you, Samwise'...?"

Andy flushed scarlet. "You had to be there."

Gwen punched him on the arm genially. "Really, though, I never thought I'd see you tie yourself down again."

Andy twisted the ring round his finger. "It's not official, I mean, obviously, we've done a tonne of paperwork to say that I'd be the children's guardian if anything happened to both of them, and they would get the house if -- but it's not really... legal. As such." His face said this was a source of ongoing distress to him. As well it might be, considering the circumstances under which his first marriage had collapsed --

Well. That was her remembering hers again, wasn't it. Even if he didn't seem any more inclined to subscribe to the notion of absolute monogamous fidelity in this world than that. Gwen looked from one tangled mop of hair to another as Andy hoisted the little girl up into his arms, hesitated, and decided to plunge in with it: "I've been wondering, the other two look so much like Owen... Is Marley yours then?"

Andy shook his head. "It's, erm, Torchwood business, actually. Not even supposed to know about the father ourselves," he added as Gwen felt her brows drawing together in perplexity. "But with Tosh working here it seemed good to have someone about to help look after her and all that. And I think Owen might have needed to be a daddy, if you want to know."

Well, Gwen supposed that it only made sense that both of Owen would have reached the same conclusion about providing legal protections to the children in their lives, against the spectre of well-meaning relatives trying to cope with orphans who spouted the most disturbed-sounding fantasies -- "I thought I was going to have to drag mine to the altar at gunpoint," Gwen said, wondering now if his reluctance had been more for show than she'd have thought. They were, had been the same man, hadn't they? Or maybe it was Andy who'd put his Owen in a frame of mind more amenable to playing house, god knew he'd forever had half the station going all broody around him and it wasn't always the women. (It had to be the cuffs --) "I wish I had a wedding picture where he wasn't half drunk." And a step back, as it struck her; "Well, I wish I still had a wedding picture at all, that's..."

Her turn of thought must have been plain on her face, because now Andy was patting her shoulder reassuringly. "We'll get you home, Gwen."

Her husband slouched into the kitchen with a sullen look for the pair of them, not looking much more put together than before. "We're sorted to go, if Lurch can just pack up Wednesday and Pugsley --"

"It is my house, you know," Andy said, glowering at him.

"Let's not start anything, both of you," Gwen said wearily. Leave it to him not to get on with his own friends. "I'm sure Jack will have more information about all this by now, we'll just go into the Hub like normal people gone to work and put one foot in front of the other until we're at the other side of this, yeah? Might have to live with each other for a bit but it's no reason we can't be civilised about it while we do."

Neither man looked to be having much of this. Andy bent to help Pugsley, erm, Jake up onto his pudgy feet and led the three children from the kitchen with a distinctly soured expression for her husband. Once they were out of earshot she rounded on Owen: "You just can't let anything be, can you?"

"Excuse me if my attempts at injecting a bit of levity into this dire situation fall flat sometimes." Owen went to pour himself the last cup of coffee. "Not really on my best footing in this house, am I."

Whether Owen had a best footing, she sometimes began to wonder. Gwen thought she'd glimpsed it once or twice, back in the day, back before everything had gone so definitively to shit, but she might have been imagining it in the heady rush of the mad new life she'd found herself in. "Just... try not to pick at Andy, this can't be very much fun for him either. After all he's just been told that somewhere he died. Can't imagine what that must be like for him."

"I'd say he's the lucky one." Owen took a last sip of his coffee and set the mug into the newly-emptied sink.

Back to index

Chapter 23: Let All The Children Boogie

Author's Notes: Slack for struggling alongside Torchwood at Canary Wharf, maybe...

Slack for struggling alongside Torchwood at Canary Wharf, maybe. Slack for helping Torchwood with these calculations that admittedly even Tosh out of of all both universes was barely equipped to comprehend, possibly. But Jack could see in seven boggled eyes that the part that was really threatening his guests' preconceptions about this alien menace was the sight of the Doctor down on the floor in the creche, calmly presiding over a tea-party.

Or, scratch that, maybe the ease with which two of their counterparts casually settled their own children into the pack without so much as a blink of hesitation, looking relieved to have the minder however questionable his motives or sanity might be. Marley immediately clambered into the Doctor's lap and started trying to untie his shoelaces. "Oi, I need those for running, you."

The clean-shaven Owen was taking in the cumulative effect of generation Torchwood 2.0 with a look of flat-out bewilderment. "It is a model UN club," he muttered, clearly trying to match up how all the shades of pink and brown might have resulted from the available sources. (And Jack wished him luck with the math on that.) Martha was trying her best not to chuckle at the perplexed looks that kept darting to her.

Jack's daughter Rosie gave the duplicates a six-year-old's best stink-eye and announced, "Our yous are shinier," as if this would make sense to anyone. The little girl turned back to her imaginary tea without adding and I'm not supposed to talk to strangers, but the thought came across plain in the set of her shoulders.

"They've all been taking this remarkably well, even for here," Gwen Harper remarked.

The Doctor shrugged. "They're little, it wouldn't have occurred to them yet that this sort of thing might not happen all the time." Gently he dislodged Marley from his lap and rose to his brown-trainered feet. "So, erm, your maths..."

"That was a this is going to take longer than I thought sort of a voice," the extra Owen observed gloomily.

"Oh, come on, have some confidence in yourselves. Just because it could be a bit more complicated than I said it might --"

Cynicism was clearly one of Owen's core traits. "Which would translate to how long in human terms?"

The Doctor scratched his ear. "Well, when I say a while I mean not too long, say, less than ten years? Probably a lot less, not even years even, could be, erm, months? Few weeks? Christmas, for sure. Everything always goes mental at Christmas."

By now even Jack's own half of the crew were glaring at him. "We could just tear open the rift with the manipulator and throw them back in," Jack's Owen suggested.

"Yeah, because that always works the way we expect it to." Ianto slumped onto the garish postmodern sofa from IKEA that Jack had never quite decided on the relative hideousness of compared to the castoff from some backwater vicarage downstairs. Geraint and Gareth were pulling their best Tragedy and Comedy at his one-eyed face, less outspoken about the craziness than their big sister but obviously just as confused. How much do they remember...

The beardless Owen had fixed Ianto with the same sour look Jack's usually came up with whenever their version of that incident was mentioned. "You were in that with the rest of us, mate."

"I'm not the one who disturbed the rift in the first place --"

"No, you're just the one who shot Jack in the crotch when he tried to stop us."

"I was shooting to disable."

"Which you did. Although as Freudian slips go --"

"Sorry, this is as opposed to you shooting him in the head?" Gwen Cooper interjected.

The Owens exchanged a look, guilt to astonishment. (Maybe they did have the evil one after all. But then Jack could probably already have guessed that.) "Fucking hardcore," the spare mumbled.

Gwen Harper put a hand to her forehead as if her temple had begun to throb, looking like she was seriously considering the rift option as a plan if only on the grounds that if it killed them all at least they wouldn't still be stuck here. "We'll have to start thinking what we're to do with ourselves whilst we try to sort this. Duty rotas, paycheques, somewhere to stay that's not in Andy's hair --"

"You're family, that's an end of it," Andy cut her off.

"But if it is years?"

"You're family," Andy repeated. Jack noticed that a hand had drifted over to touch his Owen as he said it. Yeah, having one's back would kind of have to mean not arbitrarily turfing out the other, wouldn't it. When it's Owen. "You can stay as long as you need. Or until the neighbours start complaining of the noise as we try to kill each other," he added with a wry grin.

Back to index

Chapter 24: Kingdom Of The Blind

Author's Notes: His own record had been classified...

His own record had been classified. Sealed up, packed away, put into storage with the rest of his other life. Ianto channelled his frustration into perusing the personnel files still open to his efforts. Gwen had managed to build a remarkably normal life with her old boyfriend Rhys, here, the poor man's reserves of patience tested but never yet broken by Torchwood's insanity. And Owen's record was as disorganised as anything else to do with either of him:

SPOUSE 1: HARPER, Toshiko [SATO], (2012 - ) which see
SPOUSE 2: DAVIDSON, Andrew Peter, (2012 - ) [note 3] which see
Marley Roberta HARPER [note 6] [note 7]
Emiko Louise HARPER
Jacob Ifan DAVIDSON HARPER [note 10] [note 11] [note 12]
Nerys Bethan DAVIDSON HARPER [note 14] [pending]

The tangle of contradictory dates and eyes-only addenda made Ianto wonder if it were all a deliberate attempt at confusing the issue. Flipping into Davidson's file showed a short-lived early marriage with a bleak notation of daughter, Marged (Maggie) STEVENS, res. Perth WA AU, has limited contact --

Jack had come up to read over his shoulder. "Nosy."

"Still correlating," Ianto replied, closing the window. "The more we know about the points of difference, maybe..."

"Yeah, I suppose I can see that," Jack conceded, pulling over a chair from the other workstation. "Found anything good?"

"I don't think the original intent of our database system was to record marriages as existing concurrently," Ianto said. "Although if anyone would realise it was possible it would be Owen."

"Took him all of five minutes to notice, as I recall."

He had pulled up the chair on Ianto's good side, small courtesy from one old soldier to another that the other Jack had rarely bothered to afford him. Ianto wondered whether to take this as an expression of politeness to an impaired guest or wariness of which way a startled stranger might jump. Or if the other one had simply preferred to keep him perpetually straining to detect incoming with his remaining senses. "And... you. Married, I mean. Bit of a surprise."

Jack shrugged broadly. "Yeah, that sort of... happened. Started out mostly as a paperwork thing for Martha's kid, but... it kinda works." And yes, here came that grin he remembered too well: "Still room for negotiation, if that's what you were asking?"

Considering that Toshiko Harper's firstborn was darker-skinned than half of those children upstairs who had been clinging to Jack, Ianto didn't doubt that Doctor Jones probably had a clipboard of forms somewhere to keep up with her husband's negotiations. "I wasn't, really," he said.

Jack leaned back in his chair, looking more disappointed than Ianto would have credited. "Yeah, I guess then you go back to... Assuming we can get you back, I mean. Not that I'm doubting Tosh -- or your Tosh, for that matter -- but... Can't pretend the odds that there is a fix for this are necessarily looking that good."

Ianto had already been trying to picture what a life as asylum-seekers would look like for them: Gwen sharing her clothes like sisters, Junior growing up apologising for his accidental uncles, the Toshes speaking maths to each other whilst one nursed her baby. And him being, well, him. The scenarios always seemed to end with Owen getting into a fistfight with himself. "We'll manage," he said. "Not as if we've an alternative, after all."

Jack planted his hands on his knees and launched himself up from the chair as a demand for his presence came floating down from the catwalk, lingering a moment longer to add, "You should all drop in on the displaced-persons support group when they come by this afternoon, they're gonna notice we've grown some twins anyway. Doesn't need to be a regular thing, but I think it might help settle your minds that life still goes on, you know?"

Which Jack would know all about, wouldn't he. Not that he'd customarily troubled himself so much about the mental welfare of the traumatised survivor his scavenging interlopers from the Cardiff branch had caught out in the wreckage in London, even before discovering the bargain that had been struck with a fascinated medic -- "I suppose it might, at that," Ianto said.

Back to index

Chapter 25: And She Wonders How She Ever Got Here As She Goes Under Again

Author's Notes: Support groups...

Support groups. Take away the endless struggle with weevils, and apparently what Torchwood was left with to fill the sudden free time was social work. Gwen sat on the edge of a chair near the wall, trying not to think about having a nametag on like all the rest of these victims of the rift. "If he makes us stand up with the my name is and I'm an alcoholic rubbish I'm leaving," Owen leant closer to whisper.

"We should at least give this a chance." She couldn't blame him for fidgeting, really, Gwen felt as if every eye in the room was studiously avoiding the three anomalies in their midst with a sort of misplaced politeness that made her want to stand up and scream that she was hardly any odder than the rest of them. At least she hadn't been chatting Ianto up with a string of casual references to Ypres and Verdun earlier like the bloke with his own missing eye.

She had been surprised even above and beyond the general level of insanity here to find that facilitating these meetings fell under the jurisdiction of the medical staff, specifically the chief officer serving in that capacity. And moreso to discover that he was actually rather good at it, as patient as her Owen was with Junior and speaking to the motley lot in a carefully neutral register light-years away from his deliberately, aggressively common London slur. Gwen had a sudden image of her husband as a telly presenter and thought for a moment that she might need to lie down.

Her husband's counterpart wasn't above using his children as props, though. By now so many of the refugees had absently patted Jake's head that his hair was sticking up in a perfect mirror of Owen's own cowlick, just like in every photo she'd ever managed to snap of Junior at that age. (Although this one's looked as if it would grow out curlier --) "He's going to be bald before they let us out of here," her Owen muttered as yet another hand went out to ruffle the dark tangle.

"Jake's always a favourite," Andy said, taking the chair beside Gwen that no one had so far dared sit in. His accent had changed too, subtly, broadening into the pure lyrical pitches of the rural coast. "Em can only go so long before she'll start in complaining, but he's our little diplomat."

"Putting in his hours for Torchwood," her Owen observed cynically.

Andy shrugged. "It was the only way we could reach some of these, right at first," he said. "Show that however mad the world looks to them people still get on with it like they always have."

Raising kids, blending in, getting on, being normal -- Gwen rose shakily to her feet and mumbled an excuse about needing some air to the startled faces on either side. Soon she found herself pacing back and forth on the wooden walkway just outside the tourist office, trying to rein in thoughts that slithered through her fingers as fast as she tried to catch them up for a good look.

Coming towards her along the quay was --

Was --

Rhys broke out into a mad grin as he caught sight of her. "That ready for pub-quiz night then? Were you watching for me on the telly? Or just waiting by the window for your handsome prince to --" Gwen stiffened as he swept her into a bearhug. She felt a lump that long years at Torchwood automatically classified as a shoulder-holster as he pulled back to regard her in confusion. "What's wrong, love? You look 's if you've seen a --"

Behind her, the door to the tourist office opened again. "Oh, bloody hell," her own voice said. "Erm, Rhys, this is..."

Rhys looked from Gwen to Gwen, his eyebrows slowly creeping up towards his hairline, and heaved a sigh. "Bloody Torchwood. What's it this time, cloning machine or something?"

"Parallel universe," she offered wanly as her other self stepped forward to take his arm possessively, wondering where in the past eight years the turn had been taken to bring sweet, practical and ultimately very sane Rhys so far into Torchwood's fold as to consider this absurdity at its face value. "Why is he carrying a gun, for heaven's sake?"

Her counterpart's face went all troubled. "We've had some bother with time-travellers, we won't know if it's ever really sorted --"

The eyebrows went up again as both Owens appeared in the doorway of the tourist office, one watching her warily and the other too obviously followed along to gawk at the carnage. "Right, that would be, I reckon..." Rhys said, and seemed to give himself a mental shake: "Should have known we had the evil one."

"Fuck off, Williams."

Back to index

Chapter 26: I Torture People In Happy Relationships

Author's Notes: "Four pounds three shillings fourpence," Andy said...

"Four pounds three shillings fourpence," Andy said, not looking as if he'd even had to think about it. "Sorry, what?"

Gwen wouldn't have known where to begin with the maths even if her head hadn't already been aching. "I don't think Sneezy and Grumpy were members of the Spice Girls," Ianto remarked, looking at her paper.

No one seemed to have noticed yet that one of the quiz teams had an unusually high ratio of identical twins. Apparently it was an arrangement of some standing for this universe's Torchwood to skive off to this nearby pub whilst Jack stayed an extra hour or two on creche duty; Gwen had weighed the perils in either being asked to help mind the pack of squealing toddlers or trying to talk any of their parents out of what couldn't have been that frequent a night out and decided that the risk of a roomful of drunks thinking their party anything particularly out of the ordinary was about as acceptable as any of this entire experience could manage to get.

Her husband wasn't about to let Junior out of his sight, of course. The boy was squashed in between them, raptly absorbing some load of bollocks Rhys was spouting to Tosh Sato's sceptical look: "Andy now, he could miss the Millennium Centre with a proper firearm, but give him a bloody longbow, there was this thing last summer where we -- Gwen? Erm, Mrs Harper?"

Gwen blinked, realising that she must have been staring. "You and Andy are mates," she said. "I mean, here, you're still... you're mates."

Andy and Rhys exchanged a look, then sketched matching shrugs. "Aye, well, s' the Torchwood Spouses' Auxiliary, isn't it," Rhys said. "Who else do we have to moan about them to? Even if he's still in it with his half the time."

"And even if you're a better shot."

"So basically since he decided he was gay."

"I am not gay. I'm just... not straight either."

Rhys shook his head, the hint of a smile lighting his eyes. "Whatever, mate, you're living with a man instead of fancying my Gwen, that's gay enough to keep me happy about it." Andy grinned back and turned to plant a kiss on his version of Owen. "Oi, I didn't say you needed to prove it again!"

They didn't appear to have heard, or perhaps cared, settling in for a fairly shameless snog as the rest of their half of the table looked determined to ignore them. Rhys cast about for somewhere else to look and settled back upon his wife's counterpart and her phantom husband, staring at the clean-shaven Owen and his little shadow with naked curiosity. "So... you've been married a while then?"

"Six years," her Owen replied, the weight of the words like a death sentence.

Rhys lifted a sly eyebrow at the child who was obviously older than six. "Tried it out for a bit first, aye?"

"No, Rhys got suspicious when Junior's eyes started to turn brown and he demanded a DNA test," Owen returned with a level stare. Rhys's blank grey gaze suddenly went cold as his forehead wrinkled in calculation. "For the record... for the record, I don't think he'd have gone looking for the trouble, otherwise. But once the genetic cat was amongst the pigeons... Well, you know, shouting, testosterone, thrown crockery. All but chucked them out into the street. Couldn't just stand by and watch that."

Rhys's arm had crept round her counterpart's shoulders. "I would never," he began, and then stopped, blinking in confusion. "Well, s'pose I did. Or... Did I?"

"You're not the only one who's got a headache," Gwen's counterpart said, with a grimace that suggested she wasn't speaking so metaphorically.

The exchange had cast a pall of gloom over the table, no one seeming to know quite where to look anymore. Finally when her Owen had gone off to escort Junior to the gents Rhys offered, "Still and all, he seems like he's a good dad."

Gwen hiccuped into her pint. "I can still see him the first time he held the baby, scared to death and he'd have killed anyone who tried to take him away."

"Aye, I suppose, our, erm, ours is a bit like that as well. Wouldn't have thought it the first time I, but, people, yeah?"

"People," Gwen agreed, and tossed down the rest of her drink. Wishing that it had been something stronger than beer.

Back to index

Chapter 27: It's Not You, It's Me

Author's Notes: The latter part of the previous evening appeared...

The latter part of the previous evening appeared to be past Owen's powers of recall now, beyond the creeping suspicion that it had included wandering into a restaurant and declaring I wish to order an evil pizza. Upon reflection, it had probably been the other him who'd said it. Whatever had gone down after the last of the pints that he could remember, it semeed to have earned him another night relegated to the nursery on the merits.

From somewhere below he could just hear the buzzing of someone hoovering, but other than that the house was oddly subdued, not even a line for the bath. Owen ventured downstairs to investigate further and found a slightly-less-hungover-looking version of himself in the kitchen, keeping a watchful eye on a brood of motley chicks that happened to include one extra eight-year-old cuckoo this morning.

Not hoovering, though. Rummaging through a miscellany of containers spread out across one of the surfaces and...

Baking? "Archimedes," his other self was explaining to Junior as he dropped a spoonful of something into a cup of water.

Owen stared. "Right, mate, the spag bol was one thing but this is beginning to scare me."

His counterpart tipped the contents of a small cup into the mixing bowl. "Well, 's Marley's bloody party tomorrow, wanted to do it proper for her, yeah?" An arch glance over his shoulder: "Thought you'd be all over that."

"Oi, I may have turned into the neurotic clownfish from Finding Nemo, but at least I don't have a fucking stand mixer."

The other Owen set a canister of cocoa back down with a barely restrained thump and turned to fix him with a peculiar glare. "Don't think either of us is going to win at who's got the worst issues here --"

One more person left in the house after all, clumping down the stairs to blunder into the kitchen between the reflected basilisk glowers; "Have you seen my -- Oh, erm, he's -- erm, you're... up."

The stripes on the copper's socks didn't match. Owen stared at them for another moment or two before the horrible thought occurred to him that someone in this deranged household knew damn well how to knit. "No thanks to whoever didn't bother waking me when everyone left," he said.

"I tried," Junior said apologetically. "But Mum said she didn't really need you today anyway. They're doing more maths."

Which rated Jones's coffee-making skills a higher priority than the company of either of Owen, it would seem. "If you do want to go in I can drop you on my way to the station," Davidson offered.

He tried to remember the last time he'd had an unscheduled day off, or a scheduled one for that matter, and came up empty. "If the esteemed Director Harper reckons that I have nothing to contribute to the discussion, then far be it from me. Need to sort what Junior's going to do for lessons -- Oi, don't give me that face, I told you when Coal Road sent you home this wasn't going to be a bloody holiday."

"Speaking of school, let me take this one off your hands," the copper said, and lifted Marley up into his arms; "Ready for cylch meithrin?" An enthusiastic nod for whatever the hell that string of syllables was -- Welsh-language playgroup, he rather suspected, and just watch the girl end up forgetting how to speak English between that and her mother's efforts. After a lingering look that suggested Owen's presence was forestalling the possibility of a wretchedly sentimental leave-taking display Davidson carried the girl out, murmuring help Tad find his shoes?

Owen's counterpart had turned his attention back to the mixer, furious whine of blending drowning any thought he might have had of finding some other point to take issue with. Owen went about sorting himself something to eat instead, and was startled when into the sudden silence that followed the last turns of the motor the distorted echo of his own voice said, "So we're both overcompensating, I think we're entitled."

Well, no one did know better. Owen felt a reluctant grin trying to creep onto his face as his counterpart introduced a wary Junior to the concept of licking the bowl. "Going to be no living with you now, isn't it."

Junior's eyes had gone very wide, lapping at the chocolate ring round his mouth. "Savage."

His double looked entirely too smug. "Gwen doesn't cook much either, I take it."

Owen raised an eyebrow at the offer of a goo-covered mixer paddle as a chaser to his bowl of cornflakes, then decided it wasn't as if he'd seen the like lately either. "Well, when do we have time? His last birthday we took him out and a weevil went out for chips down Caroline Street while we were in the restaurant, had to let fucking Eugene Jones loose with the retcon." Which would have been asking for a lawsuit, if he hadn't had the retcon. This cake was... good. Very good. "You've been taking bloody lessons," he mumbled around a plastic loop.

A shrug that didn't go anywhere near modesty. "Secondary skills of a well-rounded Torchwood employee. 'S a list in the temporal/spatial-displacement emergencies section of the handbook, might want to have a look-in."

He wasn't quite sure whether he was more appalled at the thought of there conceivably being a situation that he might need to bake his way out of or that at some point anyone living in his brain had seen fit to sit down and read the handbook. "Yeah, well, I think I'm going back up to try to shake the rest of this head first, if your secondary skills include some mad desire to hoover could it wait?"

Back to index

Chapter 28: It's A Free Ride When You've Already Paid

Author's Notes: She wasn't sure whether the logic about two heads...

She wasn't sure whether the logic about two heads being better than one could really be applied here. Not when one tiny quartering of the internal CCTV feeds showed those heads slumping over keyboards at an exactly identical angle, only the occasional passing of some item between them to say that the image wasn't merely a double exposure. Tosh had had to stop herself from picking up Sato's coffee half a dozen times already.

The maths... well, the maths might make sense, eventually, if she sat here staring at them for another few years. The shape they were describing made her brain want to turn itself inside-out. Although she supposed that that meant she was on the correct track, given that turning space inside-out was rather what they were attempting to do, in a way? "I'm not sure we don't have this part of it completely back-to-front," she confessed, taking off her reading-glasses to rub her crossing eyes.

Sato looked to be just as much in need of a break and about as likely to take one. "Fitting metaphor for the situation, anyway. Completely back-to-front."

Out of the corner of her eye she could see Jack creeping down the spiral stair to the kitchenette with a sulky-faced toddler who'd apparently put in an order for something that had turned out not to be on the wine list up in the creche. "We're certainly not your Torchwood, are we." Tosh put a hand to her bump as the baby hiccuped. "Oh, ssh, settle down, it's only..."

When Tosh looked up again Sato was regarding her with the queerest expression, somewhere between bloody right you're not and don't ask me if I'd want to be. "Erm, I'm sorry, we haven't really... would you... would you like to... meet her?"

Hedgehog in the headlamps look now as Toshiko took up her counterpart's hand and laid it gently over her gravid belly, just in time for Nerys to hiccup again. Sato pulled away as if she'd been scalded. "Just what any world needs, another little Owen."

Tosh felt her chin setting into a stubborn jut at the look in her own dark eyes. "She's Andy's, actually."

Sato's expression went completely nonlinear. "Well, I, that might happen, when... you -- "

"It wasn't an accident. God, Owen will happily tell you at length what an accident it wasn't, if you get him started -- although it was really only half as long as he'll say. We, just... We were talking about how many more we wanted, and..." From Sato's look, Tosh guessed that she was rambling. "It does sound a bit mental, doesn't it."

"A bit." But Sato's sour face had lost some of its determination now, a creeping edge of doubt blurring the stony disapproval. "I... I suppose I've been thinking that... Never mind. It isn't any of my business."

Tosh reached out and nudged the screens of maths away into the cyan swirl of the mainframe's hindbrain processors. "They can be complete blokes, I mean, it's horrible if they both get the sniffles at the same time and you wouldn't want to hear some of the places I've found their socks. But it's like any other family, really, just... a bit more of it."

"I wouldn't know," Sato said, and rolled her chair back from the workstation so abruptly that it tipped over as she stood. "I'm going to go ask the Doctor about the sticky-outy bit along the third rotational axis, maybe an alien brain can make more sense of those dimensions," she announced, righting the chair, and scurried off up towards the creche at a speed that mere computational zeal wouldn't seem to warrant.

Back to index

Chapter 29: But I Won't Cry For Yesterday

Author's Notes: Sato had a more than respectable pair...

Sato had a more than respectable pair; Toshiko Harper had something quite else again, milky force of nature that Ianto was actually a bit glad to have leaning over his blind shoulder, for fear of losing his good eye to it. It wasn't, altogether, the worst place to have ended up in this particular moment. "Right, if we add that to the left side of the fold does that bring us any closer to smoothing out that spike?"

The Doctor twisted at the bit of A4 he'd been using to help them all visualise a physical manifestation of their maths and scowled. "I believe," the alien said after a moment of considering the model in his hands, "that I might have just proved that the universe is shaped like a duck. Sorry."

"Break time, guys," Jack declared, setting the child in his lap aside to stand up from the garish sofa. Ianto found himself suddenly no longer bracketed in by breasts as both of the Toshes reluctantly withdrew from their peering in at his monitor. "Let's take five to do the normal-people work-gossip thing, I hear some little girl has a party coming up tomorrow."

"Which is why I need to have some more of these maths ready to work on while you're busy with that," Sato said, attention on the scribbled figures on her pad of paper.

A failure of persistence wasn't one of the subtle differences from the Jack Ianto recalled. "Aw, Miss Sato, there's gonna be cake and ice cream."

"I have no interest whatsoever in being trapped in a room with a dozen sugar-crazed toddlers," Sato snapped, and added with a glance toward where the Doctor was now flapping his duck-universe at several of said toddlers, "And I suspect he's the worst of them."

Martha waggled a finger as the alien started to open his mouth. "Don't even try to deny that."

"He's cute when he pouts like that, though." Jack had come to perch on the edge of the workstation with one of his little boys, a pair of small green socks suddenly kicking into Ianto's limited field of vision. "'Break' meant you, too, you know."

He leant just far enough back in the chair to give Jack half of an arch look. "And now I'm pursuing my own interests in my free time. It's only that it involves fewer pictures of naked people than when Owen does it." The screen displayed the last available photographic record of his other self, tentative smile as he held one of Jack's infant twins upright for the camera; Ianto tapped the image thoughtfully at the white blaze in his, the other's dark hair. "Your Tosh did mention my hair right at the first."

"Head wound," Jack said. "Grew back that way around the stitches. I kind of liked it, actually, made him look so serious. Although the pirate look works for me too. Would I be doing that thing you people always yell at me about if I asked about your fashion sense?"

He's not him, Ianto reminded himself, and took a deep breath. "It seemed better not to pretend," he said. "With a prosthesis it would only have been a matter of time before one of us forgot about my blind side when it mattered. And it would have been too much more time off, bringing what's left of the socket up to any cosmetic standards."

Jack appeared to be giving this his solemn consideration and finding it far too reasonable. "Gwen seemed to blame, um, him."

Ianto shrugged. "We sign up for the job," he said. "I suppose she could argue whether I was in any state of mind to have been in the field, but none of us were to know. And it wasn't his hand on the cleaver."

He had the satisfaction of seeing Jack visibly wince at that. "It was if I sent you into something you couldn't handle. I mean, not me, but... I think I'm asking you to help me gang up on myself." He frowned at the child in his arms. "Is it this confusing when you and Gareth start taking swings at each other?"

Ianto scooted his chair sideways as he glimpsed the reflection of an approaching Tosh. "We've got into trouble without you as well, Captain," he said. "I think that may be all the absolution you're likely to find. Either of you." And he vacated his seat to Sato to make an exit for the safer haven of the coffee machine in the kitchenette downstairs, willing shaking hands back to stillness on the uncannily familiar levers.

Back to index

Chapter 30: Comedy Of Error

Author's Notes: Detective Superintendent Bethan Price Davidson...

Detective Superintendent Bethan Price Davidson looked exactly like her son. Gwen had never been able to decide which of them had the worst of it there. She and Andy's father had turned up practically at the break of dawn for a birthday visit that was looking increasingly less likely to see them clearing off before the hard risers and the quicker-on-the-uptake lurking upstairs in fretful silence either betrayed their anomalous existences or perished of hunger waiting the opportunity to come down to breakfast. Nothing to be done for it now though, with one Owen already in the kitchen looking on in bemusement as the Davidsons measured Marley against the wall beside the garden door to distract her from the loss of Bob the hedgehog to the animal-welfare representative. (Gwen found herself wishing for a stout lady in wellies to turn up to collect her back to her natural habitat --) "You should get the children a dog," Andy's father was saying now.

"When they're old enough not to pull tails," Andy returned, with the oddest grimace on his face, and drew the felt-tip across the flat edge of the book his mother was holding to Marley's head with a squeak. "Oi, look at that, you're almost as big as I was when I was your age."

Almost meaning less than three inches off, apparently, but it wasn't as if this was a direct comparison of genetic potential, was it. She jumped as the kettle clicked off. "It's good that you and Andy have stayed mates," Bethan said as Gwen handed her one of the mugs of tea. "You're working together again, aren't you? Special ops?"

Gwen nodded, wary of wading blindly into the murky thicket of whatever cover Andy had crafted regarding his involvement with Torchwood for his parents. "Yeah, all of us, I, erm, came over first thing to help them set up for the party --"

"Bollocks!" little Jake chirped from Tosh's hip.

There was a moment of astonished silence. "Yeah, must have picked that up from the telly," Owen said with a stiff smile.

"Was his first word," Andy's father said, clapping his son on the back. "B wasn't the best influence after a long shift."

"You're embarrassing him, P," Bethan said fondly as Andy turned bright red. And then, finally, "Oh, the time, we should be off -- you'll give us a bell if you need anything before the baby comes, Tosh, love?"

A mute little nod as Toshiko's hand dropped to her belly. Owen was visibly trying not to squirm away from a bearlike embrace from Andy's father. "Your parents are very... understanding?" Gwen ventured once the door had closed behind the elder Davidsons.

Andy shrugged and picked Marley up, curly head settling against his chest with a pout that didn't bode well for the child having the stamina to make it through her party without an incident. "More grandchildren to fuss over, they'll even put up with Owen for that," he said. "And they've met his Mum."

Gwen hadn't been introduced to her mother-in-law until it had become completely unavoidable to admit to the existence of her grandson, and the rationale behind Owen's long resistance to the idea had quickly become very apparent. "Reckon that would make just about anyone step in to be the Gran," she said. "And... I wouldn't imagine they see your Maggie much."

The latest photo on the mantel showed a girl barrelling into an awkward adolescence, all huge sullen eyes peering out from a tangled fringe of hair that same drab colour as his that went bright unexpected gold at the first kiss of sun. Andy's face had gone shadowed. "About as often as I do," he said, staring down at Marley's little shoulders with a look that suggested he sometimes felt every one of the miles.

The rest of the houseguests were emerging from hiding now, looking round as if no one was quite sure whether that siren had really been the all-clear. Gwen's husband slouched into the kitchen with Junior and went straight to stare pointedly at the empty coffeemaker. "S'pose you spend Christmas at the Burrow with those people," came the sleepy snarl once Ianto had bowed to the logic of a recaffeinated Owen being the lesser of several evils and set about addressing the situation. "All singalongs and handknit fucking jumpers."

"Oh, yeah, 's brilliant, if we'd ever got shut of the Greek chorus with all the Uncle Andy's got a boyfriend," the bearded Owen said with a look that Gwen suspected was a little too put-upon. "-- No, no, you saw them, I'd turn around and they'd all be staring at me like some ginger version of village of the damned. I still have nightmares --"

A rap at the front door that had to be Jack and his bloody entourage. Tosh Sato froze over her cereal with the look of a hunted animal. "They're early."

"Come on, we can get something on the way to the Hub," Gwen said, noting how readily Ianto had also gone for his coat. Her Owen was still eyeing the half-brewed pot of coffee with stubborn longing even as she took up her jacket from the rack and wrestled into it; "-- Oh, stay, then, it's only more bloody maths to get us home, but there's cake, isn't there." She turned her back on her husband before he could wake himself up enough to formulate a reply and pushed past the rest of her team to yank open the front door --

Not Jack after all, nor even Gwen's other self, but a short plump woman with a tall plump man and two plump children who had to belong to the pair of them. "Hi, sorry we're too soon, we're -- Ianto? Oh, you daft sod, why didn't you tell us you'd be back in -- bloody, Ianto, your eye --"

Back to index

Chapter 31: But I'm Known In This City As The King Of Suede

Author's Notes: It was difficult even to know just what awkward scene...

It was difficult even to know just what awkward scene in someone else's front entry to begin playing out. Ianto decided to work his way up from the obvious: "Rhi? What are you doing here?"

Ianto's sister wiped away the tears that had sprung to her eyes with a trembling hand. "Well, Jack's always on that your kids should know their cousins. Invites us to all the parties."

Ianto felt the blood from his face pooling somewhere in his shoes. "My... kids."

"Yeah, mate, your kids," Johnny butted in with a live-in dad's righteous indignation. "Dunno I'm surprised if you don't remember you've got them by now, it's not like they remember you. MI5 my arse, you could at least write to them."

"Gareth's never seemed to mind it, he's a sweet little thing, but your Geraint is dead weird already, no mistake," Rhiannon added. Ianto barely heard her last words over the fizzing in his skull. No, Captain Jack Harkness wouldn't have given his sons those names...

Johnny frowned suspiciously at the eyepatch. "This where you went, then, didn't want to show your face round here now it's not pretty?"

"He wouldn't have dropped off the face of the earth for that, Johnny," Rhiannon insisted staunchly. "Not to us or the twins, they must have had you under cover? All that secret-agent rubbish?"

"Uncle Ianto's a spy?" Mica asked, her eyes lighting up.

"Hush, love, we're not supposed to know that. He's a civil servant." Rhiannon gave her nose an exaggerated tap. "Are you here with the boys, then, or does Jack still have them?"

"Erm," Ianto said.

David was squirming in more than a gawky adolescent my how the adults do go on excuse me where's the PlayStation sort of a way now. And he slunk off, apparently heading for the downstairs lavatory... "Mam?" he called, stopping before a doorway.

"Come on, David, it can't have gone anywhere since the last time --"

"No, Mam, there's another Mrs Harper in the kitchen."

Rhiannon glanced at Sato, still standing transfixed beside the front door. "Don't be daft."

"And there's two of Mr Harper, too."

"Doctor Harper," came the correction.

In stereo.

Ianto could see Gwen's face crumpling into the realisation that they'd not been carrying any retcon on their persons when they'd stepped out of the car to investigate the anomaly. She mouthed something uncomplimentary about her husband's extraordinary knack for driving things absolutely tits-up and plastered on her brightest grin; "Erm, there is a good explanation for all this, Mrs...?"

"Davies," Rhiannon replied absently, starting down the hall to investigate her son's absurd claim, then turned sharply; "Hang about, you've worked with my brother for years, you can't have forgot my name?"


"Bloody Torchwood, 's driven you all mental." Johnny was shaking his head, as if this state of affairs were no more than he'd come to expect of his brother-in-law's associates. "Suppose you're not Ianto now or summat?"

"Actually --"

"Bloody top-secret clone maybe? Or something off of the Star Trek?"

In the kitchen doorway the bearded Owen pulled a face. "Everybody has to make that bloody joke."

"'S pants, innit," his clean-shaven counterpart agreed.

Rhiannon and Johnny looked from one Owen to the other. "Could be twins," Ianto's brother-in-law pointed out stubbornly.

"Two sets?" Sato stabbed a hand towards the mirror of her face peeping warily round from behind an Owen now, and then turned to Gwen: "Are we going to stand about until the other one of you turns up, or can we just get out of here?"

"I think..." Director Harper looked about as uncertain as Ianto had ever seen her in the years since assuming her post, looking from the detonating cock-up in the hall out to the waiting car longingly. "I think we had better leave this to Jack, yeah. Are you with us, Ianto?"

Mica was very conspicuously trying not to stare at his eyepatch. "Erm. I ought to go, Rhi, it's about trying to sort this."

"But..." He could see Rhiannon struggling valiantly against the absurdities of Torchwood with whatever feeble tools her brother had seen fit to arm her with. "Who are you, then?"

"Ianto Jones," he said. "Only... not your Ianto Jones. Not the one who belongs here. Captain Harkness will be able to explain... well, as much as any of it makes any sense."

Rhiannon hesitated, and then laid a soft hand over his scarred temple. "Just... tell me your Rhi gave a right thumping to whoever did this to her brawd bach," she said, and drew him into a fierce embrace. "Oh, god, you could be him, though. Dunno would it matter --"

"It would matter to mine," he said gently, as out in the drive there was an annoyed beep. "We have, erm, maths to work out. Don't let Johnny finish the cake," he added as he pulled open the door, and his sister smiled as the tears began to roll down her cheeks.

Back to index

Chapter 32: Say You Forgive Me

Author's Notes: Say what you like about the domestic arrangements...

Say what you like about the domestic arrangements, Owen couldn't fault the parts of it that involved keeping two blokes well-sorted for noisy entertainments. The fittings of the telly room off the kitchen were serving handily to keep the older children occupied whilst the adults carried on with the pretence that any of the younger were getting much out of their enforced social interactions beside a raging high on sweets. "Bit rubbish, your Mum and Dad expecting you to sit about playing with babies all day, yeah?"

Ianto's nephew shrugged, eyes not leaving the screen where Junior was pounding his avatar into sparkling gibs. "They're family. Weren't it like that in yours?"

Owen had just about managed to convince himself by now that he had to be conflating his childhood recollections of his own cousins with the character of Dudley Dursley. He hadn't seen either of them since Katie's funeral. "Was already out on my own by your age."

"Uncle Ianto left us some money but we have to do A-levels to have it," Mica said. "Mam wants us home till then."

It sounded like exactly the warped sort of dead-man-switch that Jones would have arranged against the event of some exotic misfortune by Torchwood. Although what it said that he'd been clever enough to make that stick, and yet left this the disposition of his own children --

Through the glass door he spotted Cooper coming into the kitchen beyond and going to rummage through a cupboard for mugs. Sorted, then. With a murmur to indicate Junior could stay put Owen ventured out to observe. His wife's counterpart glanced over as he pulled the door to; "Think they'd like some chocolate in there?"

"Yeah, erm..." Owen gestured towards the mugs: "Reckon the girl's about eight-stone-six, boy has to be twelve stone. Bloody chips and take-away --" Cooper had taken a step back from her work to look at him in blossoming horror. "Or is that which of us is the evil one settled."

This one still retained some tattered shreds of a capacity to assume blame onto herself. "No! No, erm, you thought I meant... Would she have done? Your Gwen? Your... wife?"

Owen stared down at the mocking flash of gold on his left hand. "She'd retcon Junior if she thought it would help anything. -- S'pose that's not entirely fair, we all would if it came to it." A delicate balance, raising a child to trust his caregivers in the full knowledge of what might one day be asked of him...

Cooper's expression had softened into something that Owen suspected might have been pity. For the children, or for him? "Jack says they've been through enough losing our Ianto," she said. "He's not going to add to it with more lies. We'll just... have to help them deal with it, like I do with Rhys. -- Sorry, should I not bring up Rhys to you?"

Owen shrugged inarticulately, at a loss where to start with that end of this tangle they were all in. Cooper smiled that too-reassuring little smile of Gwen's and held out a mug to him. "Chocolate. Just chocolate. Let theirs cool a bit before you bring it in to them, yeah?"

Back to index

Chapter 33: Hiraeth

Author's Notes: Ianto was interrupted in the fiddly task...

Ianto was interrupted in the fiddly task of shaving round the left side of his chin by a rap at the doorframe that was Inspector Davidson looking in apologetically over the dark head of little Jake. "Sorry, we've had a... erm." Obvious from the smell that a nappy had failed under extreme provocation; "Bit beyond wipes here, mind if we ---?"

He stepped back to allow them to enter, watching as the copper set the child straight into the bathtub and began peeling away fouled layers of cloth. "Is he all right?"

A resigned shrug. "Happens. You know how they --" Davidson stopped himself abruptly with that look that Ianto had rapidly grown tired of, that instant of re-tracking to which side of the rift's mess one was trying to sort. "Erm. Dunno that any of us have asked..."

Ianto looked back to his scarred reflection. "No little Iantos waiting for their Tad to come back, if that's what you're getting at," he said. He'd lain awake long into the night, trying not to imagine -- They patently weren't Lisa's children, which let out one guess as to where this world's Ianto had fucked off to. Not that much short of running away to live with circus freaks wouldn't still have been an improvement. "Not sure Gwen would have had much use for another distraction to her team."

How this man had lasted ten minutes around Jack Harkness with so transparent a face was a bit of a mystery to Ianto. Or on the police force, for that matter. "We're hardly a pack of wolves."

He'd barely even seen Rhi these last ten years, Mica and David shooting up like a jittery time-lapse photograph in his scattered memories. Ianto returned to drawing the razor across his soapy jaw. "For the best really, I don't exactly have relationships, I have episodes of Stockholm syndrome. Yours was obviously better at keeping himself sorted."

Davidson had turned his attention to getting the tap going at a mild enough temperature to attend to the mucky child in the tub. "Only worked with him the year. I know those kids were everything to him."

And now they'd been left to the care of Captain Jack Harkness. Ianto scraped away the remaining stubble with as steady a hand as he could manage, trying to focus on nothing more than the low murmur of the copper's voice naming parts in a mixture of languages as he ran a soapy cloth over Jake's body. "Bogail," Ianto supplied when he faltered at the boy's navel.

Davidson repeated the word, rather badly, with a poke to the small indentation. "He speaks about as much as I do," he admitted ruefully. "Never had it at home, my Dad's from Carlisle."

Ianto wondered suddenly if his own counterpart had whispered endearments to his two boys in a cobbled-together mixture of languages, hoping to reforge links to a stolen heritage. It surprised him, how much the thought twisted a catch into his breath. "Only language has a word for knowing that where you are isn't home."

He suspected that Davidson's magnetic north was a certain foul-mouthed Sais, but the policeman was nodding in recognition. "Suppose you'd, erm," Andy said, and wrapped his son in a fluffy purple towel: "Come on, then, let's go watch Bubo going round in the wash, yeah?"

"I'm guessing that in Owen Harper's household we wouldn't be lucky enough that Bubo is a stuffed owl," Ianto said.

Back to index

Chapter 34: Am I Not Merciful?

Author's Notes: Torchwood being, well, Torchwood...

Torchwood being, well, Torchwood, Jack's employees appeared to have started a pool for the various disasters that might befall the doubled crew before some means was found to repatriate the extras. Jack scanned down the kitchen whiteboard, feeling his lips beginning to twitch in fond recognition of some truly devious intellects:

Owen snogging Owen in the autopsy room -- TH

Verified evidence of one or more parties successfully shagging their double(s) whilst of sound mind by Terrestrial standards -- IJ

Owen snogging Owen in the changing-room -- GH

Gwen (Harper) snogging the late Andy Davidson -- TS

Tosh, Tosh, Gwen and/or Gwen fighting seriously or otherwise in the rift-manipulator pool (jelly optional) -- AD

Owen snogging Owen in the hothouse with a lead pipe (sorry somebody had to) -- MJ-H

Andy snogging both Owens in the autopsy room or the wrong one by mistake -- GC

I do not find this at all amusing especially not the bets about me -- OH (the real one)

[and below this in the same handwriting, Oi, I'm just as real as you are, mate]

Also at the risk of biasing the results I would like to add a tenner to AD's wager -- OH (still the real one)

Rhys says he wants 'someone makes their other one go outside w/o trousers' -- GC

Dad snogging Owen in the car-park -- JOH

Jack wondered for a moment or so if an eight-year-old really had standing to enter a betting pool, then decided to add Unspecified complications that lead to Sexy Results -- CJH to the end of the list. "Would we get a bonus payout if Hilarity also Ensued?" Ianto asked, peering over his shoulder at the whiteboard.

"Doesn't count if you make it happen on purpose."

Ianto was looking too intently at the child in Jack's arms. Now he reached out to tilt up Geraint's chin with an oh-so-gentle gesture, meeting the puzzled blue gaze with half of its mate -- "Why do they live with you?"

Here we go. "We thought it would be best to give them a stable environment," Jack answered, keeping his voice carefully neutral.

"And not to my sister the chav?"

"We thought he'd rather not have had her and her family drawn into his troubles. -- Not the kids, I mean," he hastened to add as Ianto drew in a breath to object, "the Torchwood business. He wouldn't have wanted anything following them home to her."

Ianto actually seemed to be considering this on its merits. Finally a reluctant-looking nod. "What about their mother?"

"Died in childbirth." And put a lie-detector on me if you'd like... "No local family."

The tiniest, tiniest twitch past the mask, as if to acknowledge the dryness of this well of inquiry. "And so Torchwood looks after its own," Ianto said.

Jack shrugged, fending off Geraint's grab for his hair. "Wasn't any more trouble to have them in with ours, Rosie and Harriet like having more brothers to boss around," he said. "They're great kids."

Ianto raised his hand to touch Geraint's face again, looking to be searching out more traces of that resemblance that seemed so obvious to Jack. "Owen says you didn't retcon my family," he said, sounding as if he'd been considering this phenomenon for some while and it still wasn't entirely adding up to him. "You should have done, but... Thank you."

Jack shrugged again. "They deserve better than us," he said.

This actually won him a small smile before Ianto abruptly seemed to remember that he had some metaphorical bus to catch far, far away from Jack and withdrew himself hastily up the spiral stairs. And I thought ours was a tough nut to crack. Jack shook his head and steeled himself to go up to his office, where as he'd suspected he was greeted by a stack of reports from this latest only-at-Torchwood workplace safety incident, as well as one fuming Owen in full scrubs waiting at his desk. It looked like they were about to have another one of those conversations that began with something like your daughter, well, has to be 'cos she's the only one tall enough to reach the controls, yeah?, which in its most recent incarnation had led into signing a purchase order for a new autoclave. "She's been naming my rats again, Harkness."

"Martha's been encouraging her to explore her creative side," Jack said, trying to not grin at the medic's obvious distress.

"Yeah, well, now I have to explain to a six-year-old why Nibbles and Cheeser are being asked to make the ultimate sacrifice for science. Do you know how long it took me to infect them with that sample in the first place?"

Jack let him rant, feeling almost as if things had settled back to something like what passed for equilibrium around here. Which normality, not surprisingly, would stretch to include the field team staggering in battered to the sound of a Gwen demanding, plaintively, "Are we really this incompetent? Honestly?"

Back to index

Chapter 35: Then Why Are You Smiling?

Author's Notes: What Jack had been thinking...

What Jack had been thinking sending out a random selection of anyone who hadn't had something vital in their hands at just the moment the rift alert had gone up had escaped Owen at the time, and the moreso seeing that the result of fielding a patched-together team was Andy cradling one arm to his chest. "What's this now?"

"He dodges to the wrong side," Andy said with a black look to his temporary partner. "Opening let it knock me into a wall. Missed the next bit after that."

Owen's counterpart pulled a face as he helped to hold Andy's arm out straight enough that Owen could slip the coat off. "As the patient reports, he suffered an impact onto a hyperextended left forearm because he was being a cack-handed arse. Iced it a bit in the car, but patient was uncooperative regarding further treatment."

Andy sat on the edge of the examination table. "You were the one being an arse."

"Make that extremely uncooperative. I don't think anything's actually broken, needs to learn how to take a fall better though."

"It's all that distance to the ground," Owen said, noting where the catches and gasps were as he flexed Andy's wrist gently. "That'll be the scapholunate again, you're going to need to switch off once in a while if you don't want to bugger it for good. 'S get some proper meds in you and have a look to be sure, yeah?"

Andy gave the syringe a doubtful eyebrow. "That's not the stuff had me singing 'I'm a little teapot' last time, is it?"

"Best I've got, you don't want it to start swelling." A few moments to take effect and Andy was able to flatten his hand for the imager. "Mm, not so bad as all that, wrap it up for a bit and I shouldn't even have to give you the good drugs."

Andy's head was already nodding towards his chest, eyes drooped shut. "Enough bloody drugs already."

Owen's counterpart had rummaged through the drawers and come out with a roll of elastic. "Yeah, well, just get this strapped up --"

Andy jerked his hand out of the other Owen's grasp, eyes still closed. "Don't even think about it, Harper."

Owen's double regarded the patient in utter consternation. "Now he's fucking psychic?" he demanded as Owen relieved him of the elastic.

"You smell different," Andy explained, readily allowing his Owen to take up the injured hand. "O hasn't been sneaking fags when he thinks we're not looking, for one."

God, did he really sneer like that? "Right, I'm leaving before SuperCop decides to see if we taste different as well. Don't do anything I'm going to have to clean up later."

"Not got the scar, either," Andy continued dreamily as the other Owen stamped up out of the autopsy well in his noisy huff. "Feel it when he touched me." He dipped his head to kiss the puckered line across Owen's left palm where a moment's inattention had once gouged out a channel in unhealing flesh. "Know your hands anywhere..."

Owen ruffled the untidy hair. "You're cute when you're high, but 'M gonna need both of those to do this."

Andy left off his exploration of the fascinating map and curled to bury his face in Owen's shirt, at work always the one minding the orders. "Strong meds," came the hazy mumble as Owen finished the last wrap and secured the elastic.

"Yeah, I think we should get you upstairs to sleep it off for a bit." Owen glanced up and found brown eyes regarding them from the railing with a peculiarly intense scowl. It was sort of off-putting.

Back to index

Chapter 36: I Am My Beloved's

Author's Notes: He'd apparently been writing up an incident report...

He'd apparently been writing up an incident report on the laptop set aside on the arm of the folded-down sofa, but now Owen's counterpart was merely watching his sleeping partner, a look of tender indulgence playing around the corners of his mouth. "Yeah, erm, so, he's... yeah," Owen began, trying to evaluate the condition of his casualty from what felt like a minimum safe distance.

His double's eyes flicked up to assess the relative threat level of this disturbance, then returned to Davidson. "Had worse."

He had the copper's wrapped hand elevated on a pillow in his lap, glint of a gold band plain on the ring finger. Owen pushed away memories of watching over another fair head in sleep and tried again: "Should have been thinking, he'd be used to working with you."

A mirthless snort. "Jack's a twat."

On that much they could agree, yeah. Owen glanced to where Junior was sullenly working his way through some simple maths Sato had set him at the creche's childproofed terminal and cautiously sat on the opposite arm of the sofa. "Where he was expecting me to be... Gwen wouldn't have trusted me to cover that."

His counterpart seemed to grasp what he was fumbling towards. "Tell him I'm not worth his trouble, but he's too bloody-minded to listen," he said with a crooked smile, one hand going out to stroke scruffy curls as Davidson began to stir. "-- Oi. How are you feeling?"

The copper's face squinched up in consideration. "Want a wank."

Owen's double gave a shrewd look to the way that Davidson was failing miserably to get his good arm unwound from the sheet. "Reckon I'd have to help you find it."

"Right, well, I'll leave you to that," Owen said, hastily sliding off the arm of the sofa. The copper slurred something into the pillow that sounded like it had included the words fuck off. "He in any bloody state?"

Now the pillow was singing quietly about its handle and its spout. "Think 'm gonna just take him home as soon as he can make it down to the car. Up to you to mind the shop here for the rest of the day, your lot can get a lift back with Tosh if there's anything left of you by the time Jack's finished getting creative."

Having to sort what amounted to his own notes on his own experiments for an afternoon seemed like getting away with something, almost. "Fair cop."

"And mind the rats are a dog's breakfast in the cages, you'll have to ID them by the chips 'cos I just swopped in a new Nibbles and Cheeser."


Back to index

Chapter 37: Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, B, A

Author's Notes: The maths still weren't beginning to make sense...

The maths still weren't beginning to make sense. Tosh took off her reading glasses and pushed back from the workstation to stretch, wondering if she'd simply forgotten how to add and subtract. Stupid pregnant brain --

Behind her on the stairs sat a small shape in a red hoodie, looking up hopefully at this sign that she might have finished. "Oh. Hello? Did you... need something?"

Junior was holding something in his hands which she thought at first might be a small wounded animal, from the way he was cradling it so tenderly, but turned out to be some sort of consumer electronic; "Dad said you might be able to make it work again," he explained, offering it up to her with obvious reluctance.

"I can try," Tosh said, turning the silent device over for a preliminary examination; undamaged, probably just run out its charge? She knew of the brand, if not this model, and the interface jack looked reasonably familiar. "Let's find a plug that might fit and we'll see if the mainframe can talk to it, all right?"

There were certainly enough cables littered about the immediate vicinity, mostly within an arm's radius of where she sat. Lit up with the external power, the device turned out to be an ordinary enough all-in-one, even if half the music and telly files stored away in its brain would be as alien here as his phone directory. (His very small phone directory, only a few sparse entries that looked to be mostly emergency contacts and, surprisingly, one that Tosh recognised as Owen's most recent number for his own Mum. Helpfully glossed in case of armageddon, just in case she'd been thinking --) "It's not got the good battery in," Junior said, eyeing the mobile with a sort of forlorn hope that Tosh would be able to violate other laws of physics for him as well.

"Well, we can see how well this does to charge it up, and I might be able to fix it properly for you later, okay?" Since we may have quite a bit of later...

Junior smiled at her now, just wide enough to hint at his gap. "You're nicer than our Miss Sato. She's always too busy to help me."

Tosh found this all too easy to believe of herself. "I'm a Mum, I've learnt a few things about having time for kids."

"Dad says you're having another baby." Tosh nodded. "That's four," he said, as if this were a completely foreign idea.

That's right, between Owen and Gwen he wouldn't even have any cousins -- "There's not a quota."

"Mum and Dad say I keep them busy enough all by myself."

Tosh stopped herself, just, from suggesting to someone else's eight-year-old that maybe his parents needed an extra spouse to help them out. "Maybe someday they'll come round and give you a little brother or sister," she said instead.

"Don't see that's bloody likely," Tosh's husband said from the stairs. Junior looked up, face falling as he saw that the voice wasn't his father's, and decided to abstract himself from whatever adult conversation was about to exclude him, scuttling back upstairs towards the creche. Owen retrieved Andy's coat from where it had been tossed carelessly over the railing of the autopsy room; "We're probably just about off, you, erm, sure you can manage here?"

"I can go more than a few minutes between wanting to shag one of you, even now," Tosh replied, and then decided to give him a sly eyebrow: "Or were you worrying I might get confused about which Owen is which?"

"I was thinking how you'd fit everyone in the car," Owen answered with a look that suggested he hadn't been really and so long as she'd brought it up. "Although, is this confusion something might stand seeing you right about before I...?"

Back to index

Chapter 38: Trevor Kendall's Cat

Author's Notes: Ianto wasn't sure if functional depth-perception...

Ianto wasn't sure if functional depth-perception would have resolved this scene into any improvement upon the appearance that Owen and Toshiko Harper were not discussing work at her workstation. "Eventually you learn to ignore them," Gwen Cooper advised, coming up beside him at the coffeemaker.

"I would never have thought to characterise our Owen as 'discreet', but..." Well, now Ianto thought about it it had been a long while since their Owen had turned up in any compromising CCTV footage, or at least not that involved anyone else, but it had still rarely been so blatant as this even so. "They're... actually... having sex. At her desk."

"You wouldn't want them to have any more privacy than that," Cooper countered with a little shudder. "The things I have walked in on..." (Ianto found himself once again trying not to picture the possible off-label uses for the length of soft rope he'd spotted whilst making up their hostess's bed for himself and Sato. He suspected he probably had at least half of them the wrong way round. Or up.) "But that's Torchwood, isn't it, I think it's even in the handbook somewhere that eventually everyone ends up having an affair with Owen."

"I've only slept with him twice," Ianto protested, and caught himself as she stared. "Erm, that is, voluntarily..."

One of Cooper's eyebrows went higher. "And I suppose the second time would be to see whether the first had really been that big of a mistake?"

Ianto made a noise that Cooper would be free to interpret as she saw fit. The second time had been the time that had made sense, in the wonky light of monocular hindsight. Returning a favour in a moment of need. The most efficient way to keep Owen occupied without either of them having to admit to the crude reality of a suicide watch. The medic had needled him the next morning about his bedside manner as compared to Janet's, and they'd been back to the usual, never quite mates but as square as they ever got until the next disaster to blow in. (And what could have happened between their counterparts to make this world's Owen contest him for that shot --)

"Tosh, have you worked through those figures for -- oh, my god --"

It was hard not to laugh at the look on Gwen Harper's face as she backed right back into Jack's office. The other set of Harpers exchanged low chuckles, smoothing out skirt and trousers with nary a hint that this was anything out of the ordinary in the course of a workday. "And it really... gets worse than this?" Ianto said.

Gwen Cooper shuddered again. "This one time, when Andy brought in his -- Let's just say I've never been able to look at the heating-pipes in the changing-room quite the same way again."


"Or watch the end of Titanic with a straight face."


Cooper's blush had spread down into her collar. "I wouldn't have thought it was physically possible, but they get kinkier than you and Jack."

Still an ice-cube down his spine, after all these years. You and Jack. Still enough to conjure the memory of the first time --

"Have you ever even touched another bloke's cock? Bit difficult to seduce him if you sick up in the middle of it. Or can't stop laughing. -- Come on, bedroom, call it part of your bloody medical --"

"If this is about you getting off --"

glare that was anything but lustful, "If you stuff this up he'll execute all three of us --"

Back to index

Chapter 39: That Dream Within A Dream

Author's Notes: There were days, Andy thought, when for all its insanity and danger...

There were days, Andy thought, when for all its insanity and danger he was just as glad to be with Torchwood, to have the flexibility to skive off from the regimentation of desks and proper uniforms on no more than his own word that an investigation required his personal attention. But the price of that flexibility was the occasional accounting. Which... well, could take up the day just as thoroughly as any other police work.

He'd worked out a way to tell his little staff as much as was immediately relevant to them about the ongoing situation he was monitoring, and let Sue cluck over his strapped wrist while Geoff eyed it with a barely disguised wonder that reminded Andy of another young PC, ten years ago when all of this had been a mystery to him. CI Malcolm had come round for a look-in and had a bit of a go about the extended absence, but signed off on its continuing necessity readily enough, just as happy to think that whatever might be doing someone was on top of it who more importantly wasn't him. Like anyone would have, really. And let Andy escape after the usual best to the... them and the chuckle of acknowledgement that as long as they weren't scaring the horses. Maybe not quite Jack, as bosses went, but Andy could see he was trying.

Was good to be home, though. Even when the house was a sight and no one else was about but those who hadn't gone off to work at all, the wrong Owen encamped on the settee in the telly room with a watchful eye on an eight-year-old's choice of viewing materials. "What's this, then?"

Owen's counterpart looked up at this intrusion with a wary scowl on his face, as if he were expecting to be run out and truthfully wouldn't entirely mind an excuse to get away from Junior's taste in viewing options. "Some bloody science programme. Parallel-universe theory, actually. Bit popularised, you'd probably be all right with it."

"I did go to Uni," Andy returned crossly.

"Then why are you a bloody copper?"

Andy shot a look to Junior, obliviously absorbed in the telly. "Careless moment. Suddenly needed a job didn't care if I'd finished a proper qualification."

A shrewd, thoughtful look, for one instant just one bloke to another knowing how much of life was down to luck and bad timing. "So what's the you somewhere's got better sense made of his life, then?"

Andy had never really got to that bit, had he, floundering about trying to think what he might be besides one more Davidson copper fading into the colourful backdrop of Anne's up to Group Captain with the Provosts now or have you heard, our Alex trains Mounties in Saskatchewan. As well to have a family business to retreat to when you'd mostly read English between the swim-meet schedules. (All right, most of his family would have cats if they knew about the Torchwood bits, even Vick and she'd been shot three times on her drug raids in Manchester, but he could hardly have planned the turn his career-path had taken.) "Gone into politics, maybe," Andy finally said. "Sort of thing you do when you're not actually good at anything."

This got Andy a sardonic smile. Of course Owen had always known what he was for, driven to rage against the unmendability of a fallen world in the vague, vain hope of sorting the broken bits it had left him. Andy found himself suddenly hoping that there were at least a few goes out there where he'd got it right. With an awkward nod Andy backed out of the telly room and set about as much tidying-up as he could do without the proper use of one hand before the rest of everyone should bang in to get in the way of it.

He'd got the kitchen looking a bit less like a skip by the time someone's patience wore thin on the other side of the glass doors. "Oi, I said another half hour." Andy stuck his head in for a look. One more harried father looked to have just lost the eternal battle against a child's boundless energy, slumping sideways against the arm of the settee with a sigh. "No shifting him when he's interested in something. S'pose it could be stamps or some bloody thing."

It wasn't Junior's bedtime they were past, by the way Owen's double was stifling a yawn. "I could keep an eye on him a while ," Andy offered to a suspicious frown. "Wash has to finish yet anyway. Bring him up when he's ready to go down?"

Owen's counterpart considered this, then nodded blearily and skulked off. Hesitantly, Andy took over his place on the settee. "So, erm, got us sorted with this yet, then?" he asked, gesturing at the telly.

"Not got the maths," Junior said with an apologetic little grin. "'M only up to hyperquadratics with Miss Sato."

Andy was pretty sure that they hadn't covered that in his year-four. The programme credits came up and Junior started eyeing the remote like he had in mind to switch over to something decidedly less pre-watershed if he could find it. Andy rescued the device from the top of the battered chest before the boy could get to it. "Erm..." He paused, considering; swarm of his sisters' children aside, Andy wasn't quite sure what one did do to entertain an eight-year-old in the off-hours for rugby when there wasn't anyone else about to wrestle with. "Got lots of vids. Your Dad let you watch Harry Potter?"

Junior shrugged without much interest. "Yeah, was okay. Not the last one, don't like Harry's funeral."

"...Right. Erm... How about something with giants and swordfights?"

This was met with marginally more enthusiasm. Andy popped it on and settled back to watch whether this choice was going over. And it looked as if murdered by pirates was going to be good, yeah...

Junior was still only eight, though, and before the film had quite got to the really good bits he was slowly nodding towards the horizontal. Andy had begun to consider how he might manage to carry some four-stone of sleeping deadweight up the stairs with his strapped-up wrist when the boy roused again to peer at the telly, and then over at him. "You and your one of my Dad are married, yeah?"

Hard to know what another version of Owen might have come up with as a way of explaining some aspects of their situation to a child, even a bright one like Junior. "According to the council-tax bills."

"But he's married to your one of Miss Sato."

Oh, lord. The brown eyes that were so much like Owen's gazed up at him with that guileless inquisitiveness that only somebody else's eight-year-old could manage to drop into your lap like the other grenade about what Mummies and Daddies were about when they giggled behind latched doors. "Erm, our family's a bit different than other families, yeah," Andy said.

"Scott Jenkins from my last school had two dads," Junior said. "But his real dad didn't live with him and his Mum. He lived in Swansea."

It was a start, anyway. "Rather live with Tosh and Owen than in Swansea," he said, and got the sleepy chortle. The vid was getting to the best bit. Out in the drive Andy could hear the approaching row of a blended household returning from the long shift defending Queen -- or King -- and country. When he looked to the other end of the settee again Junior had fallen asleep altogether, head pillowed against the armrest. Andy pulled a blanket over the boy and crept out to check on the wash before the imminent invasion should occupy the kitchen.

Back to index

Chapter 40: What A Drag It Is Getting Old

Author's Notes: The last unexpected obstacle to getting the rag-tag gaggle...

The last unexpected obstacle to getting the rag-tag gaggle of Torchwood personnel safely under cover for another evening was an inconvenient neighbour inconveniently standing in his front garden, walking a hideously ugly cat on a lead. At least, Gwen thought it was a cat. "Hello, Mr Lloyd," Tosh Harper greeted him with a resigned sigh.

Mr Lloyd squinted at Jake's pink bibshort. "I told Nerys no good would come of letting Andrew's sisters dress him up in their party frocks."

"It was the last clean thing in the drawer this morning," Tosh's Owen replied with what Gwen thought was remarkable patience. "We've decided we're not going to worry about it until they're old enough to complain for themselves. No, Marley, leave Mrs Snuffles alone --"

Tosh Sato had ducked into the Harpers' house. Gwen decided that the wiser course was to follow whilst the toddlers were still providing a diversion. She slipped out of the side of the car opposite Mr Lloyd and his cat and made a run for it as the bickering began in earnest, leaving Ianto to shift for himself as he saw fit. (With any luck he'd find some way to discreetly get DNA samples, despite what Owen had said that man just couldn't be from Cardiff originally --)

Andy came out of the kitchen as Gwen shut the door, blinking at her from behind the shield of spectacles that managed to be a bit less antique than his Owen's but still far too breathlessly retro to be meant any way but ironically. She hoped. "Erm, your Junior's fallen asleep watching telly and I didn't want to try to lift him. His dad's gone to bed already."

Or to have a wank in peace, Gwen reckoned. "Not used to seeing you in the Clark Kent kit."

"Well, you know," and he made a gesture towards his face with his bandaged hand that might have been meant to illustrate the awkwardness of putting in contacts in his present state. "And going without is increasingly not an option."

Gwen didn't realise that the tears had begun to fall until his face crumpled into a look of puzzled worry. "No, I'm all right, it's just..." Ten years. Time for hair to thin and eyes to dim, if one had the chance to live them. "In my head you'll always look the way you did the day that I met you, I suppose."

Andy gave her a wry grin. "Well, in my head I'll always look like a film star, yeah? Film star with more bloody hair."

He'd been complaining about that since the day she'd met him as well, halfhearted moan about genetic destiny as familiar and banal as it was cruel irony after the fact. But to hear it again, now... How many times she'd rung into voicemail for that last Yeah, 's me, we should be on for Thursday, talk to you about it when you come on before she'd lost it to a careless keypress. She'd thought that had been that. That should have been that. But Torchwood couldn't even let you leave the dead lie, could it. Gwen turned and pulled open the door into the telly room, where as advertised Junior was rolled up in the colourful knitted blanket from the back of the settee. She touched his shoulder to see how far down he was, and got a muzzy blink in response; "Oi, Junior, do you need me to carry you up?"

Junior scrubbed the back of a hand across his nose; "'M'okay," he protested, and unwound himself from the blanket. "Had my bath already."

Which was probably a lie, but it wasn't worth fighting him over at this hour. "Didn't mind watching him, we put on a vid he liked," Andy said from the doorway as Junior pushed past. "He's a good kid."

Gwen picked up the discarded blanket and started to fold it. "This is lovely, has your Tosh learnt to knit then? I tried when I was carrying Junior, the little baby things are so cute, but I could never quite manage it --"

Andy shook his head. "No, it's, Owen made it, he... had some time on his hands, for a while there."

Must have done, it wasn't a small blanket. Gwen tried to picture what it must have taken to keep Owen still for that long and decided it would have to have been some combination of breaking all the bones in both legs and possibly on bedrest for a pregnancy of his own as well. "Looks like it'd take him a year?"

Andy shrugged, as if he'd not really given it much thought at the time. "Dunno, I know he was working on it when I was in hospital but I didn't notice when he'd finished. Photo somewhere of Em lying on it when she was just starting to be able to hold her head up, best I could really tell you."

Completely useless information without more data-points to connect, like so much else in their ongoing trials. "What were you in hospital for?"

A shadow crossed Andy's eyes. "Flu," he said.

They'd had a worrying swine strain winter before last on their own side of the rift, sort of thing always had the news clucking anxiously about slaughtered livestock and the risks of air travel, but it hadn't amounted to much, like it never did. Maybe this one thing had gone the tiniest bit better for her world. Out in the kitchen an Owen was now moving about, rummaging through the cupboards as if in search of something for his tea. Andy brightened at the sight of a beard and went out to meet him; "That's a face."

Owen came out of the cupboard with a box of pasta. "She worked it out about the rats," he said, looking as if this were outside a reasonable person's expectation. "Already bloody dissected Nibbles, I spent half my day at a fucking rat funeral."

"The service was very moving," Gwen added at Andy's growing look of amused horror.

"Now I have a grieving rat widow in critical-care and I'm expected to work out how to 'make her all better' or the boss's daughter will be very cross with me," Owen went on, running a hand through his hair as he slumped back against the fridge. "Spare me from telepathic six-year olds. Have you eaten?"

Andy shook his head, and the two fell to a discussion of available options in a way that somehow had managed to entirely leave Gwen out of the forming equation. Ah, well, she'd not been the one to work straight through Torchwood's take-away order, either; Gwen left them to it and went up the stairs to see what had become of Junior, or for that matter her so-called husband. Maybe she'd be lucky enough he'd finally taken his chance to bugger off altogether.

No such fortune tonight, though. In the middle of the big bed in another Owen's room lay the one she was married to, dead to the world, and curled up beside a smaller lump cast from the same mould, already quite out for the night. Gwen squared her shoulders against the sight and went to sort herself on the truckle in the nursery.

Back to index

Chapter 41: Yoiks And Away!

Author's Notes: Three weeks they'd been here now...

Three weeks they'd been here now, and no sign that either of Tosh was closing in on the maths to rectify their situation. Ianto had almost got used to the makeshift arrangements, his days left in peace to archive or rummage through the mainframe's troves of data whilst the rest of an improvised field team managed quite happily without his efforts to shoot them in the back or drive the SUV into bollards. The only flaw in the scenario was that this meant quite a bit of avoiding Jack, who seemed to have assigned himself to a suspicious number of stay-at-home duties as well. (But maybe Harkness had just mellowed since they'd known him, children could do that to a person?)

Harkness. Mellow. Bollocks.

The strange clacking echoing through the atrium was Jack's medic and the Inspector working out with quarterstaffs. Ianto's mind supplied an image of Daffy Duck with his bill folded over his face before he could tell it to behave itself. "You've added pretechnological weaponry to your training programme?" he asked Toshiko Harper when she paused in her typing.

She glanced down at the display as if she hadn't really been paying them much notice this morning, just another routinely mad workday at Torchwood. "That was Owen's idea. I think he goes a bit overboard with it all, really, I mean, what are the odds that that's going to happen to them again? -- Well, around here, I suppose, but..."

He'd long since given up trying to make sense of half the casual references to events that they'd not actually shared, and merely nodded along as if she weren't talking absolute rubbish, filing away her curious segue onto the chemical composition of black-powder as something to worry over if he ever did manage to tick some of the myriad other concerns off his list. Her mates came up the stairs to the landing, Davidson flexing his wrist as if he were delighted to have it back in service. "Most people jog," Ianto said.

"Can't keep up with him," Owen explained with a fond nod at his partner as the copper continued up the catwalk flight. "Oi, we're going to wash up before we get dressed, yeah?"

Tosh murmured distracted acknowledgement as her husband bent in for a quick peck and then went to scamper off after his partner-in-crime. Well, whatever worked for them, Ianto supposed. The directors of the two Torchwoods had emerged from the office that they uneasily shared to receive the returning away-team, Sato and Cooper and another Owen coming in empty-handed from the garage entrance: "False positive, turns out he was just a nutter whose rice krispies told him to carve a scale model of Swansea city centre out of cheese."

"As you do," Jack remarked.

Owen gave him a look, but apparently the sheer joy of drawing a bog-standard eccentric rather than anything more specialised for once had him feeling too good about the world to do more. "Perfectly ordinary nutter, perfectly ordinary Tesco's own-brand mild cheddar," he continued. "I suggested we ought to bring him in for not using Caerphilly, but Cooper said that was racist."

"And yes, we did take brain scans, which were within the normal range," Sato added with a scowl for Owen's exuberance. "No alien influences, no unusual medications, he just... really liked cheese." And here even she couldn't hold the stern look, putting her hand to her mouth to rein in a giggle.

Gwen Harper was giving her husband the look that Ianto had last seen settling upon her face at the discovery that Owen had skived off to enter Torchwood's SUV into a rally with their five-year-old sitting shotgun and then compounded his offence by coming home after. "You smell of cheese," she said.

"Well, had to dismantle the model to be sure it was harmless," Owen defended himself, with a certain shiftiness that suggested this may or may not have involved neutralising any further threat by taking an early lunch, so to speak. Ianto could guess well enough where this conversation was going, again...

But it wasn't really Ianto's look-out today, was it? Let Harkness do what he could to make the situation worse; Ianto had filing to do, somewhere else, and for once he could walk away with a clear conscience, scarce as he cared to make himself so long as it didn't have to be his body between his commanding officer and her second's throat. Maybe there was something to this madness after all.

Back to index

Chapter 42: And Baby When It's Love If It's Not Rough It Isn't Fun

Author's Notes: Somewhere, a long line of coal miners...

Somewhere, a long line of coal miners were spinning in their graves. "'Cos there's nothing, there's nothing you can teach me --"

Davidson had a decent voice, actually. Owen hesitated at the threshold of the changing-room, measuring curiosity against the risk of walking in on someone wanking (and he was not wondering if some of the attraction might be, well, maybe a bit, although), then decided that he could say with all confidence that he'd seen worse in this shower. Bloody Torchwood, I've done worse in this shower.

The copper was alone, at least, which wasn't always a given round here. And probably explained his impromptu concert, blissfully belting out the chorus as he leant his head back to rinse lather from his hair. Nothing especially remarkable, really, just another bloke about his age and staying fit enough for it. What does he see in you, mate? Davidson had enough hair on his chest for the both of them, dark with damp against skin that was pasty and liberally dotted with moles, which Owen suspected his counterpart had no doubt charted out with disturbing precision for reasons entirely other than the medical. Rubbish little tattoo of a leaping fish on one hip that dredged up vague thoughts of interviews with swimmers after a race, and a long scar down his thigh that looked to an expert eye to be more in the way of a slash from a blade than the sort of mark left behind by an ordinary accident; interesting past, this copper had. "She's too bloody low for your range, mate," Owen said as Davidson paused for breath.

A rumbling chuckle that probably would have had the other Owen thinking about stripping down to join him. "Try again, you want a spanking tonight you're going to have to earn it."

"Well, there's me scarred for life before lunchtime again, thanks for that."

Davidson opened his eyes and jumped a mile, suddenly just a large hairy man turning bright red down his chest as he scrambled to cover his knob. "Oi, get out," he snarled over his shoulder.

Point to... someone, there. "Your powers of deduction aren't infallible, then."

"Bloody echo in here. What the hell do you want then?"

"Well, it wasn't to know whether the carpet matched the curtains."

"Look, will just you piss off?"

Owen considered pointing out that he hadn't even added moth-eaten, which he reckoned was extremely restrained of him considering the copper's receding hairline, then thought better of provoking the deepening scowl. "Going to be long, then? 'Cos I've been informed that I smell of cheese."

"Yeah. We were." Owen's double was glaring at him from the other changing-room doorway, towel round his waist and carrying a bottle the contents of which Owen tried his best not to conjecture. Despite himself Owen found his trained eye lingering over that fabulous collection of scars: the ghastly cicatrice over the heart, a fresher slice down the abdomen shepherded along its course by the faint ghosts of staples, the white pucker of a bullet's slightly altered trajectory... Wonder there was anything left of either of them by now, really. "So if you don't fuck off you can't say you weren't warned, yeah?"

As his counterpart hung up the towel (and it was true, what they said about foreshortening) Owen could see the marks of yet another hard knock he'd managed to avoid: traumatic injury circa three years prior, pattern of tissue damage indicative of GSW; shot location strongly suggests friendly-fire incident because, mate, the bad guys don't usually shoot you in the arse. He wondered if that incident had Ianto's signature on it as well. (make this look good, Jones, he won't believe some fucking shot to the leg --) "Right, that's me told, suppose I'd best be off before somebody starts thinking they've won that fucking pool," Owen said.

A glare that said plainly too bloody right. "Have to be at the cemetery by eleven though," Davidson pointed out as his partner emphatically turned his back to Owen.

Somehow, Owen suspected that they'd manage to sort themselves despite his interruption. He nicked the unguarded towel to spite his double and dropped it into the wash-basket, doppelganger of his own rough voice following him out: "Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly..."

Back to index

Chapter 43: And Smile, Smile, Smile

Author's Notes: The support group didn't only meet on Thursdays...

The support group didn't only meet on Thursdays. Gwen let her instincts invite her along with a mysteriously well-dressed expeditionary force and found herself tramping deep into an overgrown corner of a cemetery, following mystified as several members of this world's Torchwood made their assured-seeming way to where a number of those rift refugees had gathered together in a section that seemed to date back to the Great War --

Ah. Of course. It's the eleventh. The greater surprise, then, that Jack hadn't horned in -- hadn't even come along, and Gwen would have thought that Armistice Day would have been his favourite excuse to act out his obsessions with period military tropes in public. Apparently, though, this project was all Owen's baby. And how that had come about, when she could barely interest hers in the duties that did fall within his professional purview...

Maybe it was some odd synergy risen from having another bloke about to go all blokey with twenty-four-seven, Andy certainly seemed to be as intent on this weird school-outing as his mate. Not in dress-uniform, which surprised Gwen a bit given the seeming formality of the proceedings, but then this would be purely a Torchwood function, no call to drag the authority of the police into the picture. (Ianto had given the pair in their suits a long, considering look and then muttered something about a ten-year-old and his pimp. Fair enough, she couldn't accuse either of having any taste.) Uniform or not Andy still stood at a copper's parade-rest, hands clasped smartly behind his back in sharp contrast to Owen's casual slouch, listening with sombre solemnity as first one and then another of Torchwood's lost souls stepped forward to mumble a few words. Words over graves of the long, long departed, words that sometimes made casual reference to our Nan, or our William, or my little boys...

These are their families, Gwen realised with a shudder.

Andy had slipped from attention, now, hand seeking Owen's to twine fingers into a clasp that Gwen would think this particular group must find scandalous even after some months' or years' exposure to current mores. Strange, that this exercise seemed to be so... personal, for them? They'd even left flowers on a grave marked Elinor Davies Price, 1895-1918 -- Andy's great-Nan, Gwen supposed. But something more than merely going along to put their refugees at their ease, this was...

And then Gwen's train of thought slipped right through her fingers, as Andy stepped a little forward and opened his mouth, not to speak, but to sing --

Oh, that voice.

It didn't sound as if he were in practice, edge of roughness damping some of the vibrant tone she remembered, but then Gwen reckoned he'd be too busy for the police choir these days, Torchwood and toddlers more than enough to consume a life. "Some forever, not for better --"

Too much, all of this, the world blurring as Gwen's feet carried her away, away from the surprised looks and the memories and the leaden hopelessness of separations. (Had they been declared lost, by now? How long could Eugene go on putting off her Mum, or Sato's, or anyone who was beginning to wonder how deep their cover on this 'mission' really had to be?) She found a place to sit down and struggled to compose herself. Wouldn't want him to find her shivering on a bench with tears rolling down her face. Gwen turned up a tissue in her bag that only looked a bit used and blew her nose in it, trying not to think about where that tissue had been. (Owen's pockets were always full of them, forlorn wadded-up wisps that Junior had handed off and forgotten instead of disposing of them himself. He'd never remember to empty them out, and then the wash would be all over lint -- )

"Same bloody rude Gwen, for all of it." Owen's voice, and not, that hint of gravel underneath that made him sound as if he were the one trying to hide a bad habit from the child. "All right, then?"

Gwen snuffled and wiped at her cheek with the tissue, glad she hadn't bothered with much make-up that morning. "Bit much, was all."

He sat beside her on the bench, hands lacing together in his lap as if he weren't quite sure what to do with them. With her. "Can't say I blame you, 's not something you go about thinking would happen to you. Until it does."

"Bloody Torchwood for you." Across the maze of graves Gwen could see Andy zeroing in on them, hair a blazing halo in the rare winter sun. "For us."

"We'll be a while yet," Andy said, coming up behind the bench to put a hand on Owen's shoulder. "If you need a few." Gwen nodded, and watched as they walked away, hand in hand again, through the field of weathered markers. Staring at nothing once they were out of sight, as if she could see through the void between worlds to guide everyone home.

Back to index

Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters and settings are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. No money is being made from this work. No copyright infringement is intended.

This story archived at http://www.whofic.com/viewstory.php?sid=30468