As occasionally happened, the Torchwood team was painfully short-staffed at present. Gwen was off with Rhys on a week’s holiday in Greece, Owen was in London for a UNIT symposium on alien medicine at which he was to deliver two lectures, while Tosh had a sprained ankle and so was strictly on Hub duty. With only two team members present and healthy enough to handle whatever the Rift threw at them, Jack and Ianto had been taking turns doing solo retrievals, unless absolutely necessary.
When the Rift alarms went off yet again, Jack emerged from his office already pulling his coat on. “My turn I think. What’ve we got, Tosh?”
Fingers fairly flying over her keyboards, Tosh brought the relevant data up on her screens.
“According to this it’s inanimate and small, probably no bigger than an apple… Coordinates put in somewhere in the new Cardiff Community Theatre building.”
“Excellent; should be easy enough for me to handle by myself! See you kids in a bit. If this doesn’t take too long I might pick up lunch on my way back.” With that, Jack headed for Torchwood’s underground garage and the SUV.
“Call if you need me!” Ianto shouted to Jack’s retreating back.
“I’m sure that won’t be necessary,” Jack shouted over his shoulder, not bothering to turn around. “Relax while you can.”
“I plan to,” Ianto murmured, flopping into the chair at what was usually Owen’s desk to get on with some work.
Fifteen minutes later, Jack stepped into the building housing the Community Theatre, casting around with his scanner, trying to pick up any Rift energy readings. Anything coming through the Rift was always saturated with a very distinctive but otherwise harmless form of radiation and the simplest way of locating a Rift gift was by tracking that energy signature to its source. He was in a world of his on when a voice spoke behind him.
“Hello! Are you here for the open auditions? You’re a little late.”
Jack spun around, quickly shoving his scanner in his coat pocket. Ianto had been encouraging him recently to be more discreet about Torchwood activities where possible.
“Auditions? Oh, yes, of course. Sorry, I got a bit lost.”
“A lot of people do. The one-way system gets a bit confusing, doesn’t it? I keep saying the entrance to the theatre car park needs better signposting so people don’t keep going straight past, but nobody listens to me. Well, you’re here now.” The plump, middle-aged woman looked him up and down. “You must be very keen; you certainly look the part. We’ve had a couple of other hopefuls show up in costume but yours is by far the best. That coat of yours could be the real thing.”
“It is. It was my, er, my grandfather’s. He was a pilot during the war. I grew up listening to his stories.”
“Perfect! As you know, the play is a wartime romance between an RAF pilot and his girl. On a bombing raid he gets shot down over France. He’s found and nursed back to health by a young French girl and falls in love with her, but then the small village they’re in is overrun by German soldiers and he gets taken prisoner. He escapes and joins the Resistance, eventually makes his way back to England, but he can’t forget the girl and when the war is over he goes back to France to look for her. It’s based on a true story.” The woman looked at him a touch dubiously. “Of course, the pilot was Scottish rather than American.”
“Not a problem.” Silently thanking all the conversations he’d had over the years with Archie at Torchwood Two, Jack slipped effortlessly into a Scottish accent. “My parents emigrated to America when I was a boy. Always been able to switch between accents, lassie.”
The woman actually clapped her hands. “Oh my! How splendid! Come with me and I’ll get you a copy of the audition pages. You’ll have time to learn the lines while the director is auditioning for the role of Louisa.”
“Thank you, um…”
“Goodness, how rude of me! Let me introduce myself; I‘m Hillary Short, Mr Campbell’s assistant. He’s the director.”
“Pleasure to meet you, Hillary.” Jack offered his hand for her to shake. “Jack Harkness.”
“Delighted. If you’ll follow me?” Hillary turned and bustled away down a corridor.
Jack trailed after the director’s assistant eagerly, his reason for being at the theatre in the first place completely forgotten as he was shown to a seat in the room where the auditions were taking place and given the script pages with the lines he was to memorise.
“You’ll be reading for the part of Captain Andrew McDonald.”
“Och, I c’n do that, lassie, with both ma hands tied behind ma back!”
Hillary giggled. “The casting director is going to absolutely love you!”
Jack beamed back at her and winked. “Everybody does.”
Hilary bustled away, still giggling and Jack turned his attention to memorising the scene.
It hardly seemed like any time had passed before Jack was called up to read with the three hopefuls for the role of Louisa. He was introduced to the director, the casting director, and the playwright, shaking hands with each of them in turn.
“Now, Jack… May we call you Jack?”
“Good. Now, this is the scene where the Germans are invading the village. Andrew is trying to persuade Louisa to go with him and try to escape. Begin with the line: ‘I can’t stay here, lassie, but it breaks my heart to think of leaving you.”
“Right, places everybody!”
Jack moved to his position, crouching down beside the first of the short-listed Louisas.
It was well over three hours later before Jack finally breezed back into the Hub, looking like he was on top of the world. Ianto raised an eyebrow.
“What kept you? I thought you’d be back hours ago.” He was miffed as he’d ended up having to fetch lunch himself; that task usually fell to him anyway but it would have been nice to have someone else do the lunch run for once. “Did you get it?”
“Yep!” Jack’s smile was positively dazzling. “The decision was unanimous! You’re looking at the leading man in the community theatre’s production of ‘We’ll Meet Again’. I can see the posters now: Starring Jack Harkness as Captain Andrew MacDonald and Bridget Hughes as Louisa Caron.”
Ianto facepalmed so hard it was a wonder he didn’t leave a handprint on his face. “The thing that came through the Rift, Jack! The thing you left here over three hours ago to find and retrieve! Where is it? Or do I even need to ask?”
Jack’s eyes went wide as saucers. “Oh… oops? I might have sort of forgotten about that. You know, with all the auditioning.”
“Of course you did.” Ianto gave a resigned sigh. “I suppose that means I’ll have to go to the theatre myself.”
Jack perked up. “I think they’re still auditioning for the smaller roles. You’d be great as Gaston! Here, you can borrow my script if you want,” he said helpfully, holding it out. “But I’ll need it back; rehearsals start next week and I want to be ready.”
“Tosh, is there any chance whatever came through the Rift has done… THIS to Jack?” Ianto threw a beseeching look his friend’s way.
“There’s no way of knowing until I take a look at it,” Tosh said apologetically.
“Figures. Guess I’d better head for the theatre.” Ianto trudged resignedly away in the direction of the garage.
“Break a leg!” Jack shouted after him with an encouraging smile. “And tell Hillary you’re a friend of mine!”
“I might break your bloody neck,” Ianto muttered. “Auditioning for a play when we’re already shorthanded! I just hope it won’t have a long run!”