Challenge/Prompt: 7rainbowprompts #2 Blowing Bubbles
Word Count: 6905
Summary: Five things Yvonne Hartman tried to fire Jack and Suzie for (or: five times Jack utterly failed to impress Suzie).
Author’s Notes: Because not everything Suzie-related has to be doom and gloom, and once the ‘five things’ idea popped into my head I couldn’t resist writing it. Plus, Jack/Suzie is so my OTP. Naturally I’ve fucked a bit with the timeline, but then Fragments never actually said when Suzie was hired, so: *shrugs* Also, it worked out kind of longer than I meant it to be, because I have so much fun writing unintentionallysociopathic!Jack&Suzie.
Just because I’m sorry doesn’t mean
I didn’t enjoy it at the time.
- Snow Patrol
Five Things Yvonne Hartman Tried To Fire Jack And Suzie For (Or: Five Times Jack Utterly Failed To Impress Suzie)
One. Going Public
Torchwood One is technically meant to vet all potential candidates, but they get through them sort of embarrassingly swiftly in Cardiff – people come and go so quickly here, Jack remarks in his best Judy Garland a few days after their latest doctor has been horribly eviscerated, which earns him an incredulous look from Tosh – and so Yvonne has reluctantly agreed to trust Jack’s judgement. Jack would tell her what a ridiculous mistake she’s making, but he thinks she kind of already knows. He suspects he’s only still in charge of Torchwood Three because no one else wants the job; after Alex went mad and killed everyone, Jack’s the only one crazy enough to still want to run the place.
Yvonne cuts him a lot of slack purely because she’s got no choice; Jack does so love backing people into corners.
They pick up Suzie Costello in a tacky Italian restaurant that’s been blown to hell by alien robots; she’s covered in fettuccine and bits of her dead boyfriend, and cries all over Jack’s coat for a while in a detached sort of fashion before tidying herself up and asking a few too many pertinent questions. Jack asks Tosh what she thinks in a perfunctory sort of way – after all, she doesn’t need to know just yet that the only opinions that matter here are his – and she tells him she thinks Suzie seems sort of insane and does she even have the right skills to join Torchwood? Jack shrugs and phones in Suzie’s resignation for her, while Tosh makes disapproving noises in the background.
Jack spends the following morning showing Suzie around the Hub and dodging Yvonne’s phonecalls. Suzie takes it all in remarkably placidly, which annoys Jack a little because he really loves the wide-eyed look of terror most people get when first introduced to Torchwood. Still, there’s the soft curl of excitement in her smile, and Jack knows that she’s not nearly as collected as she’s pretending to be.
“You know,” she remarks as they trail their way upstairs, “I don’t think you ever really asked if I actually wanted to join your Psychotic Alien Catching Organisation.”
Jack shrugs. “You don’t choose Torchwood, it chooses you.”
Suzie arches an incredulous eyebrow. Jack laughs, acknowledging that it sounds really quite cheesy (and it’s also a lie; Torchwood doesn’t choose anyone, Jack does. God complex? Very possibly).
“What exactly have you roped me into?” she asks as they make their way back upstairs again.
“The universe,” Jack tells her, with his favourite expansive arm gesture. Suzie persists in being unimpressed by the whole thing, a thoughtful quirk to her mouth.
“Right, because this is what I always wanted to do; wander about in a gigantic concrete bunker full of crazy aliens and dangerous technology with a man who technically doesn’t exist.”
“I exist,” Jack protests.
Suzie rolls her eyes. “I checked up on you last night,” she says. “You don’t exist.”
Jack sort of wants to know exactly what Suzie did to check up on him, but he’s already established that her hacking skills rival Tosh’s, so he can guess.
“You’ll thank me for this one day,” he tells her, neatly cutting off any questions she might suddenly decide to have.
Suzie continues to look disbelieving but Jack has experience in breaking everyone so he’s not worried.
A week later, they get reports of a group of teenage boys who’ve acquired some kind of alien tech – not that dangerous; Tosh says the most it’ll really do without the DNA of its creators is light up and spark a bit, but they probably shouldn’t turn a blind eye anyway – and Jack takes Suzie with him to reclaim it. She’s getting used to Torchwood and its idiosyncrasies with perfect grace and a sense of calm bordering on eerie. Nothing seems to rattle her. It’s kind of nice; Jack has worked with so many people who screamed like girls when faced with aliens (and most of them weren’t women), but he finds himself a little irritated by his inability to impress her with this new world.
It turns out that they can’t get the tech using plain charm – which is a pity; Jack has been trying so hard to convince himself and everyone around him that nothing is immune to his charisma – and before long Jack has knocked out three people’s teeth, and possibly broken a collar bone. It’s a struggle, sometimes, holding himself back; he’s so used to fighting without abandon, to breaking ribs with a well-placed punch, that it can be difficult remembering that he’s not trying to kill.
Suzie is the surprise; she has one guy facedown on the floor, his arm twisted sharply behind his back. Jack doesn’t even see her move, but there she is, pulling the device out of the boy’s now-limp fingers like she’s been doing this for far longer than she actually has.
“Who the fuck are you?” the guy gasps, spitting blood.
“We’re Torchwood,” Jack responds cheerfully.
One of the boys is clutching his arm, and mutters something derogatory about the name. Yes, Jack established a long time ago that Torchwood’s name is somewhat stupid, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t get defensive about it. Suzie coughs meaningfully as Jack starts towards him; he obediently stops himself, and watches Suzie release the boy she’s been kneeling on.
“What are you, some kind of government fascists?” another guy demands.
“Oh, we’re way beyond the government,” Jack responds.
“I wish we weren’t,” Suzie sighs. “We just fuck about underneath a fountain and deal with little shits like you. And the pay isn’t even that good.”
“It’s a nice fountain,” Jack says, offering Suzie a hand to her feet.
“All right,” she concedes, “It’s very shiny.”
“And you get to fight aliens,” Jack adds, “Which is infinitely more interesting than being an accountant.”
“True,” Suzie sighs.
She takes Jack’s arm and together they walk away.
“Hey-” one of the boys begins behind them.
“I wouldn’t,” Jack advises, calling over his shoulder.
“It’s just as well you look like a matinee idol,” Suzie tells him, “Because you really are kind of a psychopath, aren’t you?”
Jack just gives her the broadest smile he has in his repertoire, and watches her scowl melt a little.
Three days later, Tosh shows them the latest Torchwood conspiracy theory website; there are dozens online, but this one has a fairly good sketch of Jack and Suzie on its main page.
“I knew I should’ve broken their fingers,” Jack murmurs; he means it as a joke, but Tosh and Suzie don’t take it that way.
Freaky conspiracy theory people seem to be spending lots of time lingering around fountains, which Jack finds endlessly fun, and even Tosh starts leaving badly-spelt tip-offs on the message boards.
Yvonne Hartman is less than amused, and comes storming down to Cardiff.
Canary Wharf is all sharp white corridors and large windows and impeccably dressed staff; Yvonne likes things just so. Her lips curl back over her teeth as she walks through the Hub, as they always do; Jack can tell she’s itching to send some interior designers in to fix this whole place, but he’ll never let her. He likes the gloom.
“We’re always getting stalked,” Jack points out patiently.
Suzie and Tosh are sat on either side of him; Tosh looks penitent, while Suzie merely looks bored.
“In front of witnesses,” Yvonne spits. “You talked about Torchwood’s motivation and even discussed your location.”
“No one has ever found us,” Jack says. “Not even when the ceiling is open and tourists are getting their pictures taken with the water tower.”
“And what will you do when someone does manage to find you?” Yvonne snaps.
Jack decides that now would probably not be the time to mention the Feeding Intruders To The Weevils plan; if only because Yvonne really doesn’t like the Weevils and her line of thought has always been we should exterminate all of them, not dress them up and leave them to it.
“We have procedures,” he says smoothly.
Yvonne shouts for another hour; but it’s all empty threats because they all know Yvonne can’t manage without Jack. She keeps giving Suzie calculating looks, but Suzie refuses to look intimidated – Jack is tempted to say yeah, she doesn’t get scared by me either – and in the end Yvonne huffs off, brushing at her neat pinstriped suit as though scared Torchwood Three has got her covered in dirt that will not ever come off. Jack decides not to tell her that it’s actually metaphorical dirt that even Torchwood One has, and gives her a jaunty wave-off from the tourist office. Even several feet away, he can see Yvonne’s jaw clench.
Two. Experimenting On Their Co-Workers
Four months later, and Jack is still sending memos and reports to Torchwood One on notepaper headed Torchwood Three: Under The Big Shiny Fountain Next To The Millennium Centre (Open All Hours, Guided Tours Thursdays, Children Under Ten And Blue Peter Badge Winners Get In Free). Yvonne has sent him no less than twelve emails telling him to fire Suzie; words like liability are getting tossed around rather a bit. This is mainly because Suzie has somehow managed to get into her personal files – they’re supposedly hack-proof; not even Tosh has got into hers – and has erased pretty much everything, including her date of birth.
“How am I meant to get you a stripper for your birthday now?” Jack demands.
Suzie just rolls her eyes and keeps on writing her report on the latest present from the Rift; a small circular box thing that turns things inside out. Jack is just eternally grateful they decided to test it on a plant first; he’s reasonably sure he could recover from his internal organs becoming external and so on, but he kind of doesn’t want to.
Yvonne doesn’t like Suzie being quite so enigmatic; she seems to be constructing this big paranoid theory that Suzie is plotting to bring the entire Torchwood organisation crashing down around their ears. Jack has no doubt that Suzie could do it, if she put her mind to it; but he’s also perfectly aware that Tosh could probably tug the universe into little pieces if she really thought about it, and God knows he’s got enough tricks up his sleeve to cause some spectacularly lasting damage. Torchwood doesn’t hire people who aren’t dangerous; people who aren’t dangerous don’t look at the world in the right way and they certainly don’t throw away their lives to hide in the shadows, cutting their hands on the dregs of the universe.
Jack asks Yvonne in his next email if she’s sure she’s not just jealous, and receives a paycut for his pains. Not that it matters; he’s probably one of the richest people in the world, if you want to get technical about it. He’s been alive for far too long, after all.
Suzie, even though he’s gone through all this trouble, remains determinedly unimpressed by Torchwood and frustratingly unimpressed by him. Jack goes to a lot of effort to remain enigmatic and complicated and it has most people he’s employed convinced that he’s sort of a cross between a superhero and a movie star. He doesn’t need people to think that about him, but it is irritating that Suzie isn’t under his spell. He’d like her to be under his spell; it would make things that bit easier.
A particularly nasty thing comes through the Rift, all teeth and claws – literally – and Jack has to re-grow his internal organs on three separate occasions (though mercifully not in front of his team; that would open up a whole box of stuff he’s trying to keep firmly shut). Six members of the public get killed and it’s one of those times where they lose so spectacularly that it physically stings.
Three unsettling Torchwood One people come to talk to them; they wear sharp suits and all have slicked-back hair and the same monotone voice. Jack hates Torchwood One enquiries; for one thing, they’re kind of invasive, and for another they ask all sorts of questions Jack really doesn’t want to answer. He tends to deal with things by being charming and evasive, but Torchwood One’s Investigators don’t seem notice his charm and they certainly don’t let him get away with being evasive. Jack thinks that maybe Suzie should go and work with them.
Finally, after seventeen hours of gruelling investigation, the men go back to Torchwood One. Suzie sighs and goes to break out the Nescafe, apparently unaffected by the constant questioning. Jack supposes they should all just be grateful the bastards didn’t resort to torture this time – there are no lines Torchwood won’t cross, after all; they’re outside the government and therefore beyond Amnesty International and all its basic human rights – and tries to ignore the way Tosh is shaking.
He’s halfway through an angry email to Yvonne when Suzie comes into his office, holding a circular black box covered in small white writing and looking thoughtful.
“I’ve been examining this box for a week,” she tells Jack.
“I know,” Jack replies, “I told you to and I’ve been reading your daily reports.”
“You have not been reading my daily reports,” Suzie corrects without venom. “They are all in your intray and at least one of them has a melted Hobnob stuck to it.”
“Ah,” Jack says, caught shamelessly in the lie. “Well, anyway. I know you’ve been examining it.”
“It emits harmless particles that make people fall asleep,” Suzie explains calmly. “There’s a frequency that affects the neural pathways or something; I’m still working out exactly how it does it. Anyway. I made lots of rats fall asleep and none of them seem to have brain damage.”
Jack thinks he can see where she’s going with this but also thinks he should check before they go any further.
“Are you really suggesting what I think you’re suggesting?” he asks. “Because, you know, you don’t seem to have tested it on any people yet.”
Suzie shrugs. “I’m pretty sure that it won’t kill anyone and Tosh hasn’t slept in nearly sixty hours so even if it does kill her she’s heading that way anyway.”
Which is how they come to slip the device into a wastepaper basket between Tosh’s workstation and Jacob’s – he’s their doctor; he’s not really that competent but he’s up for anything and proved surprisingly and pleasurably flexible when Jack, ahem, interviewed him – and hide up in the conference room to watch what happens.
“You really are endearingly unethical,” Suzie remarks, sipping a cup of tea and keeping intent eyes on their co-workers.
“What does that make you?” Jack asks.
Suzie shrugs. “Ruthless?” she suggests.
It doesn’t take long for the device to start working; within minutes, Tosh’s eyelids are drooping and she falls asleep on top of a pile of paperwork, while Jacob slides from his chair to lie sprawled on the concrete. Suzie is making hasty notes on her laptop, fingers leaping excitedly over the keys, and it occurs to Jack that she hasn’t really slept in an inadvisable amount of time. He tends not to notice because of course he doesn’t technically need sleep any more, and he’s started forgetting that of course other people still do.
“I’ve set it on a timer,” Suzie explains, still noting down the readings from the various computers she’s dotted around the Hub; how Tosh and Jacob utterly failed to notice Suzie setting this up, Jack isn’t sure, but he supposes they’ve all kind of had a lot on their minds. “I’ll be able to go down in a minute and, I don’t know, deposit cushions or something.”
There’s something about Suzie, Jack thinks; she adds little humanitarian touches more as an afterthought than because she actually cares. He’s beginning to suspect that she really only puts on a façade of real human emotion because she feels it’s expected of her, and he’s really not sure what to do with that yet.
As it turns out, Suzie’s little alien device doesn’t actually cause brain damage and really does just give people a decent night’s sleep; Tosh and Jacob wake up a few hours later a little groggy and stiff but considerably more cheerful. Jack finally manages to coerce Suzie into taking a nap on their ancient sofa, and is beginning to think it’s all going to work out fine when of course Torchwood One gets itself involved again.
Torchwood One has absolutely no problem with accessing Torchwood Three’s CCTV network whenever it feels like it; Jack has always been somewhat of an exhibitionist but even he draws the line at this constant surveillance, never knowing whether official little bastards in London are watching him or not. Anyway, they’ve been caught on camera using an alien device to send Tosh and Jacob to sleep, and Yvonne is less than pleased.
Jack does spend about an hour on the phone to her explaining that maybe he wouldn’t have had to take drastic measures to help his team get some rest if she hadn’t sent her Freaky Investigative Bastards down to Cardiff to harass them over something that wasn’t anybody’s fault in the first place, but Yvonne seems considerably more interested in listing all the ways Suzie is a psychopath who is endangering everyone around her.
“Jeez,” Jack says, “You really are jealous, aren’t you?”
She slams down the phone on him, and half an hour later he gets an officious little email from an L. Hallett who works in Torchwood One’s creepily extensive archive network, demanding that the sleep-inducing device and all of Suzie’s notes are delivered straight away.
Passive-aggressive doesn’t really even begin to cover it.
Three. Retcon Russian Roulette
Torchwood One doesn’t use Retcon; Yvonne has chosen the far more efficient method of sending in her Special Torchwood Ninjas (as Jack calls them; he thinks their real name is far more mundane) to kill whichever poor bastard knows too much. Jack once pointed out that this was messy and kind of, you know, mean, but Yvonne calmly reminded him that at least there was no chance of the information resurfacing. She refuses to actually say aloud what they both know; that Jack invented Retcon and therefore Yvonne will not ever use it. She will never give him an inch because of the mile he would quite happily take in return; what she doesn’t seem to have noticed, though, is that Jack is already taking far too many liberties, and she is powerless to stop him.
Most of Cardiff have taken Retcon at least once in their lives, if not more often; Tosh and Suzie dissolve it into the water supply after a gigantic purple entity from the planet Slynan escapes protective custody and goes rampaging through the streets, overturning cars and eating trees. They all have to survive on Evian for weeks until they’re sure that drinking the water won’t make them lose all recollection of the previous week; though Jack is sorely tempted. He got killed twice getting the Slynanian back to the Hub and it might be kind of nice to forget the experience.
Jack has never used Retcon for anything other than making other people forget Torchwood’s fuck-ups (he doesn’t care what Yvonne says about him putting it in her tea last time she came down to yell at them; she has no evidence). That is, until he tweaks the formula a little to enable them to control exactly how much time a person will forget once drugged. The levels go from a couple of hours to someone’s entire life. He’s pretty sure he won’t need the last one, but it’s sort of comforting to know that he can take a person’s personality and remove it, should the need arise. He doesn’t mention this in his reports to Torchwood One; he’s sure nothing good could come of it.
One wet Friday night, Tosh has trailed home to do whatever it that she does when she’s not hanging around the Hub writing lines and lines of code or prodding bits of alien technology, and the latest in their long line of doctors has gone somewhere Not Here. Suzie hardly ever seems to leave the Hub these days, though Jack really doesn’t leave the Hub so he certainly can’t judge her. He comes upstairs to find Suzie in the conference room with the blinds drawn, vodka on the table and a tired expression on her face.
“This is… professional,” he says slowly.
Suzie rolls her eyes, downing the last of her glass, but doesn’t give him a response. Jack goes to their kitchen area and brings back another glass; Suzie sighs but pushes the bottle towards him anyway.
“Your inability to be alone is really rather annoying,” she remarks.
“You find everything about me annoying,” Jack reminds her.
Suzie shrugs. “I’m coming to realise that that actually doesn’t matter,” she says. She sighs, long and drawn out, and pulls the bottle back towards her. “Which is also rather annoying in itself.”
Jack shrugs, and attempts a charming smile.
“You really do have too many teeth,” Suzie murmurs.
Jack is reasonably sure that no one has ever told him that before; at least, not in so many words. Suzie looks away from his smile, tracing a circle in spilt drink on the table. Jack finds himself wondering just what it would take to actually impress her, or at least to make her appropriately scared of him.
“I drive you mad, don’t I?” Suzie’s lips are curling into a lopsided smile; a lock of dark hair falling over her forehead.
“You drive Yvonne mad,” Jack corrects, reaching over without thinking to stroke her hair back behind her ear. Suzie pulls away as though his touch burns.
“Oh no you don’t,” she warns.
Jack raises an inquisitive eyebrow, but she shakes her head and looks away. He’s got used to people playing coy, to people being anxious, but he doesn’t think that’s what this is. Suzie wants him, of course she does (and he’s not being vain, really he’s not; he’s just stating a matter of fact) but she won’t. It’s intriguing, and confusing, and more than a little frustrating.
“Fine,” he sighs, and reaches for the vodka.
Suzie watches him through slitted eyes that aren’t quite focused, head tipped to one side.
“You know,” Jack remarks, “This isn’t really a good thing to do an hour after being appointed Second In Command.”
Suzie shrugs. “According to the somewhat damaged records, you celebrated becoming Head of Torchwood Three by fucking your entire team in some kind of alien alcohol induced orgy and then getting them all killed four weeks later.” She reaches over to pull the vodka back towards her. “I could be wrong, of course.”
Later finds them both kind of drunk and playing with Retcon; they have three glasses and a pill dissolved in one of them, though neither of them can remember which one it’s in.
“How powerful is it?” Suzie asks, sniffing suspiciously at one of the drinks.
“You’d lose at least a month,” Jack shrugs.
Suzie twists her mouth, clearly trying to work out what’s happened in the last month that she may or may not want to remember.
“Don’t think I need it,” she decides at last, sighing. “I have no fucking idea what we did or didn’t do.”
“Maybe you’ve already drunk it,” Jack suggests.
“Maybe,” Suzie agrees.
Somehow, this becomes their highly unhealthy Friday night ritual; Jack creates a kind of retcon with a faster-acting sedative and they use proper shot glasses and lots of kinds of alcohol and the whole thing is stupid and dangerous and could end really badly but somehow Jack comes to enjoy the time spent with Suzie; she doesn’t seem to like him any more now that they’re bonding, but there’s something about her that he’s beginning to suspect he can’t do without.
Far too many shots later, and Jack points at the row of six glasses.
“What would I lose?” Suzie asks.
“Childhood,” Jack shrugs, going for nonchalance.
“Which bit?” Suzie frowns.
“All of it.”
“Oh.” Suzie looks thoughtful, and then reaches for a glass, downing it in one. She waits for a moment, clearly trying to see if the sedative has kicked in, and then reaches for the next. And the next.
“You’ve got balls,” Jack tells her. “But you really think you can lose your entire childhood like that?” He snaps his fingers.
Suzie scowls at him, but hesitates over the last three shots. Finally, she pushes them away from her.
They keep this up for eight weeks, during which Jack loses a week and a half of the Time Loop he and his Time Agent partner got trapped in years ago and something incredibly kinky he did with the doctor of Torchwood Three in 1956, and Suzie apparently loses a particularly bad weekend in Aberystwyth with a now ex-boyfriend, a meeting with the ambassadors from Trogon, and the summer she took her A-levels.
Jack isn’t entirely sure how Yvonne finds out, but she does. She’s interestingly angry, given that they’re really not hurting anyone but themselves, and he’s reasonably certain there’s nothing in Torchwood’s six-volume Rules that bans masochism. Or even sheer stupidity.
He points this out when she calls him up to shout, and Yvonne threatens to post him down a load of the seventies pamphlets that Torchwood One still hasn’t bothered updating in the last thirty-odd years.
“You are unprofessional and stupid,” Yvonne hisses. “I should dismiss you immediately.”
“Go ahead.” Jack shrugs, then remembers she can’t see him. “Just find a replacement and I’ll quite happily step aside and let them take charge. I’d quite like the rest; you know, chance to find out what the point of golf is and everything.”
Yvonne sighs, loud and frustrated, and Jack adds another tally mark in his favour on the Me | Yvonne score sheet he pretends really hard he doesn’t keep in the third drawer down on the right hand side of his desk.
Four. Not Doing Anything
“Owen Harper is extremely whiny,” Suzie observes. “Interesting cheekbones, but, you know, whiny.”
“His fiancé has only just died,” Jack reminds her.
Suzie rolls her eyes. “Don’t pretend to be compassionate, you’ve only hired him because you fully intend to fuck him at some point in the near future.”
“That’s not true!” Jack protests. It’s a token protest, because Suzie kind of knows him way too well, but he feels he should say it anyway.
“It’s what you do,” Suzie explains patiently, tone just the wrong side of patronising, “You employ emotionally damaged people, then you fuck with them, then you fuck them. It’s your incredibly professional way of running this place.”
“You’re starting to sound like Yvonne,” Jack tells her.
“The woman has a point,” Suzie shrugs. Jack opens his mouth to reply, but she cuts him off. “Obviously I get she spends most of her time on the phone to you explaining that I am deeply unstable and should be fired before I do something like kill everyone or blow up the Hub, but she is right about you. You sort of are deeply unprofessional.”
Jack waits a moment. “Are you done?”
Suzie smiles. “I wouldn’t try seducing Doctor Harper too soon,” she shrugs, “He’ll only cry mid-shag and I’m pretty sure that’s a mood-breaker.”
Jack smirks back. “I’m going to tell him you said that.”
“You are such a child.” But Suzie is laughing anyway.
Once the Epic Misery starts abating a little, Owen Harper turns out to be apathetic in a vicious sort of way; Jack wonders if he should try and fix it, but he’s honestly not sure how to. Suzie seems to enjoy having incredibly ridiculous and extended arguments and Tosh seems to get just a little flustered every time Owen opens his mouth, so Jack presumes it’ll all work out ok.
(Well, fine, at one point Owen is so damn indisposed they have to send Tosh up to London to fake being a medical doctor in order to do an autopsy on a pig alien sort of thing that’s really done a number on Big Ben, but Yvonne doesn’t ring him up to start screaming so Jack assumes they’ve got away with it.)
It’s August, and it’s so damn hot. The Weevils are lethargic, hiding in the sewers and not bothering to go out and gore anyone, and the Hub’s temperature starts actually rising above its usual completely freezing level. Even the Rift seems to be put off by the heat; they don’t have any weird alien visitors and no weird alien artefacts come through it. After the third consecutive day of having to wade through a backlog of paperwork because there’s nothing more active to do, Jack shuts up the Hub and takes the team out for ice cream and a nice walk along the Bay.
It ends up not being that much of a nice walk, because Owen is actually drunk (in a surprisingly quiet, professional way, which makes a nice change from his usual form of abusive slurring), and Tosh and Suzie start bickering on the purpose of some little alien device that Tosh got out of the archives and started prodding to alleviate the boredom (they’re actually both wrong, but Jack doesn’t bother to point this out; he doesn’t think they’d be pleased to know they’re fighting over the Cryan version of an action figure). Keeping a subtle eye on Owen to make sure he doesn’t walk into anyone and listening to Tosh and Suzie argue, Jack reflects that maybe a nice walk was a little too much to hope for.
On the fourth day, Jack gets an extremely snappy email from Yvonne asking why he hasn’t sent her any of his recent findings. He sends one back explaining that there are actually no findings to tell her about, because the Rift is behaving itself and the weather is utterly amazing by Cardiff standards. The one he gets in reply says some really quite insulting things, but Jack gathers Yvonne thinks they’re all lazy sods and she’s losing patience (you had patience in the first place? he wonders, but decides not to ask her).
They manage another two team outings, with a modicum of success, in the following days of emptiness. They go to an air-conditioned cinema and eat popcorn and laugh a lot at the CGI attempts at aliens, and they all go out for lunch in the glass-walled restaurant over the Bay (where Jack once ate with Rose and Mickey and the Doctor a lifetime ago, but he tries not to think about it while watching Owen drink a few too many glasses of wine). Meanwhile, Yvonne keeps sending annoyed emails about their lack of achievement; Jack stops reading them after a while because they’re all pretty much the same, even if Yvonne’s use of invectives is getting more creative.
When, after a week and a half of No Rift Activity, Jack asks Tosh if she can somehow block Yvonne’s emails from getting through, because Yvonne is getting really kind of personal now and it’s getting fucking dull. She point-blank refuses in a technically, Torchwood One signs my pay checks kind of way, so Jack is forced to ask Suzie.
“Yvonne will come down here and pull my head off,” Suzie responds flatly. She’s in the archives, sifting through boxes of random and as-yet-unclassified artefacts in the hope of finding something to play with.
“She won’t,” Jack protests.
“She already thinks I’m a bad influence and I’m destined to bring us all to ruin, she will actually have me killed if I block her precious messages from us,” Suzie explains on a sigh, slamming the lid on the cardboard box and pulling another one towards her.
“I promise I said only good things about you in your annual report,” Jack assures her.
“Which probably made Yvonne even more suspicious,” Suzie rolls her eyes, ripping off the duct tape currently sealing the box. “She undoubtedly thinks I hacked into the file when you emailed it off and changed some of the sentences around.”
“Well, you kind of did,” Jack reminds her.
“That’s not the point!” Suzie protests, ripping off another length of silver tape and then, as she goes to take off the lid, getting a centimetre long papercut on her index finger. “Fuck! Ow!”
Jack in no way gives her a slightly smug hey, that’s karma sort of smile.
(Luckily, two days later, the Rift cracks open and some evil aliens made mostly of claws come through; seven members of the public are eviscerated before they can neutralise the threat, and Jack gets to ring up Yvonne and say: happy now?)
Five. Employee Fraternisation
“It’s our two-year anniversary today,” Jack tells Suzie when everyone else has gone home (he’s given up on trying to tell Suzie that maybe she might want to leave the Hub from time to time; she’s made it abundantly clear that she’s perfectly happy only seeing sunlight once a week).
“Do I get a present?” she asks. “What’s the thing for two year anniversaries?” She frowns. “I know paper is one year, so I bet for two years it’s something equally unappealing… maybe paperclips or wet wipes or something.”
Suzie pushes her glasses up her nose and turns her attention back to the small bleeping thing on her workstation in front of her, cheerfully shutting Jack out.
Not that he particularly cares or anything, but Suzie really is the only person Jack has ever met who’s managed to withstand him this long. It’s both astounding and frustrating.
“How long are you intending to hold out on me?” he asks, before he really registers he’s saying it.
Suzie doesn’t even bother to turn around; she just sighs. “Well, I imagine we won’t make it to a five-year anniversary; I’ll die in the next couple of years. So really, I don’t have to hold out that much longer.”
“You’re the second most morbid person I’ve ever met,” Jack tells her, perching on the edge of her workstation.
“Who’s the first?” Suzie asks, feigning disinterest.
Jack smiles, though she can’t see it. “Me.”
Suzie looks up at him and rolls her eyes. “You’re trying to seem more human, more accessible, in the hope I’ll suddenly go hey, he’s actually not weird and scary after all, maybe I should drop my knickers and let him get his way.” She looks back down.
“So you’re really not interested?” Jack asks curiously. He’s always assumed Suzie’s just been playing some sort of hard-to-get game that’s got entirely out of hand, but maybe… maybe she’s not.
Suzie sighs. “You just don’t get it, do you?”
Jack is about to ask for clarification when an alarm goes off, and they’re completely distracted by trying to calm down an ambassador for the plant people from the planet Vrolin. Later, trooping down to the showers covered in green sap, Jack says:
Suzie just smiles, and shuts the bathroom door in his face.
Three weeks later, he learns that Suzie has slept with Owen, and that kind of hurts in a way he wasn’t expecting it to. He’s slept with Owen too – one drunken night that Owen doesn’t remember large parts of, though Jack swears blind that he didn’t put retcon in his drink, Owen really was just that drunk; Owen still looks suspicious around him all the time anyway – but he still finds it hard to believe that Suzie really finds Owen a more attractive option than him.
Yes, his ego is ridiculous and a psychiatrist could write an utterly amazing book all about his state of mind if they didn’t go mad in trying to analyse him in the first place.
“You still aren’t getting it,” Suzie tells him patiently, shrugging into her coat and slipping her bag over her shoulder; she’s going home to water her plants, or at least that’s what her excuse is. “Possibly because you’re barely human, or possibly because I’m losing touch with normality. Anyway: you’re not getting it and I’m going home.”
Four a.m finds him going over to Suzie’s; she’s still fully dressed and clearly hasn’t bothered sleeping tonight.
“You won’t sleep with me because it needs to mean something,” he tells her. She folds her arms across her chest and won’t let him in, but that’s fine. “Not because you’re one of those I only fuck people I intend to marry people, but because you don’t want to be the next on a very long list.”
Suzie rolls her eyes. “Took you long enough,” she sighs, and makes to shut the door.
Jack jams his foot in the gap to stop it from closing.
“It would mean something,” he points out. “It’s us, Suzie, of course it would matter.”
He doesn’t say we’re far too alike, when you get down to it, because that isn’t a compliment; it’s damnation.
“Let it go,” she mutters; he can only see her through the thin sliver where the door isn’t quite shut; she looks tired, messy dark hair tumbling over her shoulders.
“Suzie,” he says; and it’s all he says. She sighs, lets go of the door, and takes a step back.
“All right,” she sighs. “All right, I’m too fucking tired to fight this any more.”
It isn’t really the most gracious of surrenders, but Jack will take what he can get.
Over the next couple of weeks, it’s weirdly good and weirdly satisfying; Jack gets the feeling Suzie doesn’t like him any more than she used to and she certainly doesn’t respect him any more, but it does feel unsettlingly natural. Jack gets the feeling that the fact Suzie is scarily similar to him is not one that should count in her favour and it will probably all turn out badly in the future, but for the moment Suzie is his.
Yvonne finds out and, over the course of a two-hour phone call, informs Jack that he has three days to retcon Suzie and get her out of Cardiff and away from Torchwood Three, or she will actually send her Special Torchwood Ninjas to dispatch Suzie from the organisation. Jack does some yelling of his own but Yvonne has found that employee fraternisation is still technically illegal within Torchwood; Jack quickly realises she isn’t going to back down over this, and Yvonne really will do everything within her power to have Suzie killed if he doesn’t do something.
They pack up the things in her flat together.
“Will you miss me?” Jack asks.
Suzie smiles. “No,” she replies.
“I won’t remember you, Jack,” Suzie points out patiently.
“I’m a difficult man to forget,” Jack tells her, with his very best insinuating smirk.
Suzie catches his hand, a weak smile spreading across her lips. “I know you tried,” she tells him.
Jack is currently coming up with all sorts of ways he can make Yvonne’s life hell until she agrees to let him re-hire Suzie, but the fact remains that there doesn’t seem to be any way out of this.
When Suzie kisses him, it already feels like she’s saying goodbye.
The day before Jack is due to retcon Suzie and send her off for a new life in Birmingham (they dropped a pin on a map of the UK to work out where to relocate her), news reports start streaming in about homicidal metal robots in London. Unable to do anything, they stay in the Hub and watch the news, trying to contact Torchwood One to no avail.
Jack is certain that the Doctor is somewhere there, but he knows he’ll never make it in time.
Later on, when the metaphorical dust has settled, Jack spends a while on the phone to the Prime Minister and establishes that Torchwood One is gone; almost everyone is dead, the few survivors mentally damaged almost beyond repair.
“I suppose I’m not fired after all,” Suzie sighs later, when Jack and Owen are preparing to drive to London and see if there’s anything salvageable.
“It seems kind of coincidental,” Jack muses, though he suspects it’s too soon for jokes, “The day before you get kicked out Torchwood, the people kicking you out are slaughtered.”
Suzie grimaces, but gamely replies: “Jack, even I wouldn’t be able to organise an alien invasion to wipe out not only Yvonne Hartman but also pretty much all of Torchwood One’s employees.”
Owen walks past, grabbing the SUV keys out of Jack’s hand. “I’m driving,” he announces.
“Like hell you are,” Jack calls after him. He turns to Suzie. “Can you and Tosh keep this place ticking over?”
“I’m sure we’ll work out how not to send Cardiff tumbling into the Rift,” Suzie replies. “Besides, I’m going to do a preliminary report on that glove-thing we found in the crashed spaceship last week; it looks interesting.”
“Have fun,” Jack tells her, and because Yvonne can’t watch the security cameras any more, he drops a kiss on Suzie’s lips.
Suzie smiles at him, sweet and fond, before Jack turns to go after Owen and get the car keys back; he’s really not sitting shotgun all the way to London.
(Jack doesn’t know it now, but it’s the last time he’ll ever see that smile.)