Of all the things that could’ve happened to him after he got the hell out of New York, the man who called himself Claude Raines would least have expected to find himself in London, visible most of the time, holding down an actual job, and shagging his boss’s gorgeous twenty-something daughter.
Actually, he’s just finished shagging her, and they are both in the process of collecting the clothes they earlier scattered around the empty office they met in.
“Don’t suppose you saw the news today,” she says in a conversational tone, as if she very well knows what the answer will be, and frankly, she should.
“I never pay attention to the news, and you know that,” he says. “It’s always the same rubbish anyway. Lot of nattering on about people I don’t give a damn about.”
She gives a short laugh. “That’s what I thought. I think this bit might be of more interest to you than usual: there was a nuclear explosion about a mile over New York City last night.”
Claude looks up at her, startled. But then, Rose Tyler’s surprised him from the first.
He came to London on a whim after summarily quitting New York thanks to Peter Sodding Petrelli and his issues and his emo bangs and his sheer stupidity. Petrelli had led them straight to him, idiot that he was. Claude wished he’d found some way to kill the boy and make it stick.
Ultimately, his birthplace had called to him. Rather than head north, though, he stuck with London. Big city, easy to get lost in, and if there was one thing Claude knew, it was that there was more than one way to disappear. As a member of the Company, he had known that London was home to an organization that even the Company was leery about, an organization that investigated strange doings and beings. Being invisible, he knew, might keep him sheltered from the eyes of the sheep-like masses, but it could draw more dangerous eyes right to him. Thus, becoming one of the sheep-like masses seemed to him to be the better option.
Besides, he was a little sick of smelling bad.
Call him a misanthrope, call him a jerk, call him an outright bastard, but the one thing Claude was not was stupid. He was able to set himself up with an identity and even a cash reserve while he pondered his next move. Then he got a shave and a haircut. He became one more tall, middle-aged Northerner in London, disappearing in plain view. And it suited him just fine.
And then he had to run into Rose Tyler.
“Got your attention, have I?” Rose quirks an eyebrow and runs her tongue over her teeth.
He pulls his jumper on over his head. “If you’re expecting me to sit up and beg for scraps from you, you’d be better off with your pretty-boy ex.”
“Yeah, probably,” she says, taking his caustic nature in stride. “All right, then: last night, just short of midnight, something exploded in the sky above New York City. The EMP took out most of Manhattan’s power. If the explosion had taken place at ground level, though--let’s just say no one would be in a hurry to get to work on Wall Street this mornin’.”
“Huh,” Claude grunts. “Petrelli was right, then. Wonder who he got the precognition off of.”
“What do you think happened?” Rose asks, buttoning up her shirt.
“What do you know happened?” he shoots back.
She ruffles her short blonde hair back into some semblance of style. “Not as much as you’d think, actually--except that both brothers Petrelli, Peter and newly-elected congressman Nathan, have gone missing.”
Run into her he did, quite literally. In the street, your typical meet-cute. He gave her an annoyed look; her jaw dropped, eyes growing wide. It was like she recognized him, and it was enough to spook him into making a mistake. As soon as he’d gotten around her, he went invisible. She’d shaken off her immobility more quickly than he’d been prepared for, though, and when she whirled around, her hand just grazed him.
That mightn’t have been such a problem except for the fact that Rose worked for Torchwood. A day later, he entered his flat to find her already there.
Interesting bit of information, in his estimation. “Both Petrellis, eh? Perhaps Peter wasn’t so wrong with his brother-crush.”
“How do you mean?” asks Rose. She seems to suddenly realize she’s missing an earring and turns in a circle, looking for it.
“I mean that the last time I saw young Peter, he didn’t have enough control over his abilities to use more than one at a time,” says Claude. “If he was going into meltdown, I wouldn’t imagine he’d be able to split his concentration enough to fly at the same time. That seems to me to mean that someone did the flying for him, and the only flying man I know of aside from Peter Petrelli is Nathan Petrelli.
Rose locates her earring. “Then you think Nathan might have sacrificed his own life to stop Peter destroying the city? Noble, that.”
Claude doesn’t answer. That Nathan Petrelli, politician, would do such a thing comes dangerously close to shaking Claude’s worldview, i.e., that people suck.
“You familiar with a man called Linderman?” Rose asks after a moment.
“Only by reputation,” says Claude. “Richer than God, linked to all sorts of enterprise, legal and not, ties to organized crime, and a fine chef.”
Rose smiles mysteriously. “Did you know that if you dig deep enough, you’ll find out that he used to be your boss?”
“Who the hell are you, and what are you doing here?” Claude demanded.
Rose leaned back in the chair she’d ensconced herself in. Not a terribly comfortable chair--the flat was more economy than luxury--but she didn’t seem to notice. “I have a proposition for you, Mr.” she checked a piece of paper, “Johnson.”
The last time he’d heard those words, they’d ruined his life. Thus, he wasn’t in any mood to hear her out.
“The only thing I want to hear is that you’re leaving,” he said in a clipped tone as he opened his door. “Get out.”
“You’re not curious about how I found you?” she asked. “After all, if I can do it . . .” She let her statement hang.
He shut the door again. “I’d better like what I hear.”
That didn’t seem to disturb her at all. “My name’s Rose Tyler. Dunno if you’ve heard of me.”
“Should I have?”
“Not unless you read the tabloids, no, and then you’d still know nothing about me. My father is Pete Tyler, head of VitEx Industries.”
That did ring a bell. The energy-drink tycoon’s daughter, then. “I’m not interested in helping with industrial espionage,” he said, making a guess.
“Think that’s what this is about?” She grinned. “VitEx Industries doesn’t need help any more than, say, Primatech Paper does.”
He froze at that. “Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t leave right now and disappear for good.”
“Survival,” she said simply. “You’ll do what you have to do to survive. And I can help you.”
“Linderman’s involved with the Company?”
Rose nods. “More than involved. He was at the very top.”
Claude considers that. “Was. Past tense.”
“Was, as in, when he was alive,” Rose clarifies. “From the reports we have coming in from America, the Company’s not doing all that well at the moment. Your old friend Bennet has gone rogue, and Linderman and Thompson are both dead.”
“Pity,” Claude says, smirking. “I was hoping Bennet had packed it in as well.”
“Here’s something else interesting: Linderman had ties to the Petrellis, Kaito Nakamura and Charles Deveaux,” says Rose.
“Nakamura used to be with the Company,” says Claude.
“He broke ties with them years ago,” says Rose, shrugging into her usual dark brown leather jacket. “Now Deveaux is dead, and with all the Petrellis save for their mother out of the picture, it might be safe for you to return to America.” For the first time, she looks away. “If you want, of course.”
“Five minutes,” he told her. “And this better be good.”
“VitEx Industries is a cover for the Torchwood Institute,” said Rose. “It’s a secret government agency created to investigate and research paranormal phenomena, especially aliens and UFOs.” Claude laughed. Rose smirked. “The invisible man scoffs at the idea of aliens?”
Put it that way . . . “Fine. Let’s say I believe you. Go on.”
Rose took him at his word. “Of course, we also run across you lot now and again.”
“And what? Experiment on us?”
“That’s not our style,” she said. “I won’t deny we get called in when one of you is too much for ordinary law enforcement to handle, but that’s rare enough. Actually, we prefer to recruit you when we can. We’ve got a precognitive woman, a teenage girl who can see through other people’s eyes, a man who manipulates energy fields, and then there’s my good friend Simon the sharpshooter.”
“You don’t need paranormal abilities to be a sharpshooter,” Claude felt bound to point out.
Rose raised her eyebrows. “Did I mention he’s stone blind?”
“So you want to recruit me,” said Claude.
“Like to, yeah.”
“And I should trust you why?”
Rose shrugged. “Oh, that’s up to you. If you don’t want to join us, say so and we’ll leave you alone. If you do, on the other hand, I can offer you something you’ll not get elsewhere.”
He bit. “Like what?”
“Well, you’d get a nice stipend, plus a bonus for every job you do for us,” she said, looking around the flat. “Enough to afford a flat with working plumbing, anyway. More importantly to you, if you were to join Torchwood, we could shield you from your former co-workers, and I could keep an eye on them for you using Torchwood resources.” She stood abruptly, holding out a business card. “Like I said, it’s your choice. Don’t join us, you’ll never hear from me again. Join us, and you get our protection along with everything else. If you think it’s worth your while, ring me. I’ll be waiting.”
He took the card, and she brushed past him toward the door. As he heard her open it, he called after her, “You looked at me like you recognized me when we ran into each other.”
There was a long moment of silence before she said, “You weren’t who I thought you were. If you’re interested in my offer, contact me within twenty-four hours.”
And she was gone.
He’s not really entertaining the idea of going back to America. After all, there’s really nothing left for him there. Nonetheless, he hesitates, watching Rose’s face.
She’s a mystery to him. For that matter, the general consensus is that Pete Tyler’s daughter is a bit of an enigma. He knows she and Mickey Smith used to be together, but that was years ago, and from what office gossip he’s overheard (not that he cares, of course; he’s just curious is all), she hasn’t been attached to anyone else since. Furthermore, although she’s without a university education, her knowledge of aliens and their technology outstrips practically everyone else there. There’s also the matter of no one even having known she existed until two years ago.
As for why she’s shagging him, anyone’s guess is as good as his, but within a month of accepting her offer, the signals she was sending would have been obvious to the thickest of men. They eventually ended up frantically coupling in an empty laboratory after hours. Since then, it’s been once or twice a week, usually somewhere in Torchwood but sometimes at his flat--never at hers. She never wants tender touches or sweet talk; she wants it hard and fast and now. And generally, he doesn’t question it, just like he doesn’t question her tendency to yell “Doctor!” when she comes. If a beautiful young woman wants him for sex, who is he to object, after all?
But he can’t help but wonder why a woman like Rose, who could have any man she wants, would choose him for a casual sex partner.
As usual, he starts to goad her a bit now that the sex is over. “What would your dad think of your shagging a special operative, I wonder?” he says.
She laughs shortly. “If you want to be worried about one of my parents’ reactions, worry about my mum. Dad, at least, knows I’m an adult.”
“So this isn’t about your daddy issues?”
“Please, Claude,” she says with a warning look. “You’re welcome to shag me, but you don’t want to psychoanalyze me.”
“But you intrigue me, Rose Tyler, and so few people do,” he says, stepping between her and the door. “Tell me the truth: what is this about?”
For a long moment, she’s silent. Then she says, “We do what we have to do to survive. That’s what it’s about.”
And then she’s gone.