Characters/pairings: Jack, Suzie, Tosh, Owen, a cat
Warnings (including spoilers): Spoilers for S2E12 Fragments.
Wordcount: 3,041 words
Author’s note: I have more ideas for this, but it’s been sitting around for ages as I got distracted by RL, so maybe some comments will spur me to continue. Vaguely-planned future chapters include Cyberwoman, Countryside and Ianto’s first words, so keep hitting that button, folks.
Author’s note 2: Happy birthday to mahmfic
Summary: Jack’s team is complete, he’s not hiring. So why is he being stalked all over Cardiff? And why is he slowly changing his mind?
If there was one thing that Jack learned in the early twenty-first century, it was to go with the flow. The skill would become very important later on when everything changed, but Jack wasn't to know that. He mostly just thought it was a damn nuisance.
It was on a perfectly normal night in Cardiff when the course of his life changed. In Bute Park, fighting against an unusually strong Weevil, Jack was on his back on the leafy ground with his throat getting torn to shreds when he heard an angry cry that even drowned out the Weevil's growling. He felt the creature jerk above him and moan with pain. Then it pushed away from him.
In the moonlight Jack could see the Weevil flailing, trying to rid itself of its attacker, who was somehow perching on the Weevil's shoulders. The alien stumbled into a patch of moonlight and Jack laughed in surprise, then clutched his torn neck with a gasp.
His rescuer was a cat!
Just as Jack made this realization, the Weevil got a grip on the cat and threw it to the ground. Jack felt a moment of concern before he saw that the cat had landed on its feet and was hissing a challenge at the Weevil. Jack took advantage of the alien's distraction to spray it and get a bag over its head, and when it fell to the ground he plunged a syringe of sedative into its neck.
He remained on the ground next to it for a moment, panting from exertion, until he felt a warm weight on his side. When he opened his eyes he found the cat nosing at his throat and gently shoved it away.
“I've had worse from shaving,” he told it.
The cat's face seemed to mock him. Jack frowned and looked at it more closely.
The cat stayed mostly still, allowing Jack's inspection, although it lifted a paw and ran it over its head. Jack noticed that most of its fur was coal-black, but that its forepaws and its face were an unblemished, creamy white. Its chest was white as well, but adorned with a crisp black stripe from the base of its throat to its belly. When it looked up at Jack again he saw that its eyes were a sharp and intelligent gray-blue.
“Thanks for the assist, but I should get this guy put away,” Jack said as he pushed himself off the ground. He swiped a hand through the blood left on his now-perfect neck and then heaved the Weevil over his shoulder.
Jack felt a tugging on his coat; he looked back and grinned when he saw that the cat had hooked the claws of one paw into the fabric. He tugged lightly, fighting with the cat until its claws came lose, and walked away, smiling at the bad-tempered meow from behind him.
The next morning Jack was yawning when he walked out of the Tourist Office. He shouted when he almost tripped over something fleshy and soft, but managed to keep himself from falling. He spun around to the sound of an angry yelp.
“You again,” he said to the cat, caught between frustration and amusement. The cat flicked its black tail at him and padded closer.
“Look, I said thanks for your help, but I don't have much use for a cat.” He started to walk away, but the cat ran around in front of him, footsteps making soft thuds on the pier. It gazed up at him earnestly, and he tried to resist the cute up-turned nose and slightly tilted head.
“There's nothing I can do for you,” he told it. “Go find someone else.”
The cat turned around, and Jack thought it was finally leaving, but then it looked over its shoulder at him and flicked its tail in a 'come here' gesture.
Jack frowned and stepped forward. The cat began walking, checking every few steps that he was following.
Jack let the cat lead him up the steps and across the Plass, across the street and a block over. He used the walk to scan the cat with his wrist strap, looking for any sign that this was anything other than a normal Earth cat. When he found nothing, he gave the cat a curious look and decided to let this play out.
The cat turned abruptly in the middle of the sidewalk and walked into a cafe like he owned the place. Jack quickened his pace, ready for someone to freak out over a collar-less cat in their shop.
To his surprise, no one seemed to notice the cat's entrance. It led Jack to the counter and stood on its hind legs, a forepaw batting just a few inches below a menu stand.
Jack looked around at the half-dozen customers in the cafe, but no one was giving them a second glance. Against his better judgment, he picked up one of the menus and casually dropped it on the floor.
Within seconds, the cat had unfolded the thin paper and laid it flat. One paw was planted firmly in the coffee section and his blue-gray eyes stared at Jack demandingly.
Jack crouched down. “Are you telling me to buy a coffee?”
The cat's tail flicked once.
“Am I going crazy?” he asked himself, rubbing his forehead.
The cat's tail flicked twice.
Jack stared. Then he glanced down at the menu and found that the cat's paw was resting on the caramel macchiato. Jack shook his head, calling himself ten types of crazy, and stood up.
“Hello?” He smiled charmingly at the thirty-or-so brown-haired barista who approached from the pastry rack. “I'll have a caramel macchiato.”
“Small, medium or large?” she asked, turning to one of the shiny machines.
Jack looked down, but the cat was licking its paw and didn't seem to notice the question.
The barista noticed his glance, though, and peered over the counter. She grinned. “Oh, you're one of them. You'll be wantin' a large, in that case.” She made the adjustment on the machine and set it to brewing.
“You know what's going on here?” Jack asked, feeling unusually confused.
The woman nodded. “Every few months or so, that 'un brings someone by to order a coffee. Very mysterious-like. Once it was a wanted murderer- an' the police arrested him right in here! Another time it was this woman what told me she'd been standin' on the edge of a roof when he appeared. Once it was just a pizza girl who'd been havin' a bad day.”
Jack looked down at the cat, who was now giving Jack a self-satisfied look. “But why?” he asked.
The barista shrugged. “I've got no idea. But they always love whatever he tells 'em to order. Speakin' of which-” she plopped a cover on a tall paper cup and handed it to him gently. “Large caramel machiatto, to go.”
Jack frowned. “Why to go?”
“Oh, I've just got a feeling.” The woman winked.
Jack took a careful sip of his drink. His eyes opened wide and he stared at the cat, who seemed to be watching him closely. “This is...” For a second, he was tempted to scan the cat again for alien interference, but at that moment his phone beeped. He retrieved it from a large greatcoat pocket. The text read 'Torchwood'.
He turned to leave, but caught himself. “What's its name?”
The barista shrugged. “He don't have one, I suppose.”
Jack gave the cat one last glance and stepped away from the counter. For the second time in two days he had to turn back when there was a tugging on his coat. He quickly disentangled himself from the cat's claws and swept out the door.
The cat turned back to the counter and turned its wide eyes on the barista. It let out a plaintive mew.
“It's alright, darling,” the barista said kindly. “That one's on the house.”
It had been a few days since the cat had last appeared, and it had completely slipped Jack’s mind. He was driving along a dark road, listening to his team over the coms, when a dark and white shape and two glinting eyes on the road ahead made him stomp on his brakes, not wanting to roadkill some poor creature.
He stared out the windshield in disbelief, then got out of the Range Rover and slammed the door. “Look, I don't have time for this. I don't know what kind of cat and mouse game you're playing, but I've got more important things to do. I'm getting back behind the wheel of that car and driving away, and if you're as smart as you seem, you won't be standing there when I do it.”
He spun around and stumbled when his coat was caught once again. “Seriously, what is it with you and my coat?” he cried, feeling immensely frustrated.
The cat was abjectly glaring at him, and what he'd taken for irritated tail twitches were, he could now see, the completely choreographed 'follow me' tail twitches from the other morning.
He was tempted to drive over the damn thing, but then he remembered the Weevil and the delicious macchiato and sighed heavily. “There's definitely something wrong with me.”
Ten minutes later, he was shouting in fright and following a yowling cat out of a warehouse while a pterodactyl nearly ripped off his trousers- and not in a friendly way.
He slammed the warehouse door behind them and fell against it, panting. “You know what, this is all right. Dinosaurs, ate 'em for breakfast. Had to, only source of... you can't understand me, can you?”
The cat glared at him, fur still on end from the near death-by-dino.
He got out a syringe of sedative from the Range Rover and tried to ignore the way the cat managed to convey disdain with only a faint uptwitch of one delicate black ear. “Hey, it's not like I keep dinosaur nets in the back of the SUV.”
He tried to shoo the cat away from the door before he went in, but the thing twined around his feet and watched him with amused blue eyes and he eventually gave up. “Okay, but stay back, alright? We don't know what this thing eats; small furry mammals might be its main food source.”
He was pretty sure that the cat had agreed to stay back, but clearly that wasn't the case because, not a minute later, the thing was whimpering in pain and fear as the pterodactyl hopped ever closer to its balled-up, shivering body.
Jack felt an entirely unexpected jolt when the cat began making those noises, even though he knew they were fake- the cat hadn't acted even the slightest bit injured or afraid until the dinosaur had landed between them.
Ready to leap to the cat's defense, Jack watched in surprise as the pterodactyl began to make sympathetic cooing noises and even nudged the cat gently with its beak. Its attention was so thoroughly distracted, in fact, that Jack was able to sneak up behind it and sedate it with barely an angry squawk for the affront.
The dinosaur slumped awkwardly to the concrete floor and the cat dashed around it in an instant. Without thinking, Jack found himself on his knees while the cat snuggled up to his chest. He stroked its silky fur and shushed it, feeling very real shaking.
After a minute, the cat began purring slightly, and licked the skin beneath his chin with a rough and scratchy tongue.
Jack laughed. “Alright, fine. You're hired.”
When Jack walked the cat down to the Hub the next morning, he tried very hard not to blush. It was pretty stupid, seeing as he'd lost the last of his shame a few decades ago, if he’d ever had any. But his cheeks felt the slightest bit warm when the cog wheel door opened and he walked into the Hub with a black and white cat padding calmly next to him.
“Jack? You know there's a cat next to you,” Suzie informed him from her desk beside the entrance. Tosh glanced down from the platform and stared, and Owen, grinning, emerged from the medical bay and did a double-take.
“Yeah,” Jack said, feeling awkward. “Everyone...”
After a moment, during which Jack's face definitely warmed up by several degrees, Suzie prompted, “Yes?”
“I kind of... hired it.”
He let his team laugh for a few minutes, but pulled the plug when Owen tripped over his own feet, knocked a pile of artifacts and papers off Toshiko's desk and rolled over them on the floor, gasping for air.
“That's enough!” he shouted, struggling to be heard over Suzie's high-pitched cries and Owen's unattractive roaring. Tosh was the only one who listened, wiping teary eyes and paying attention to her captain.
“I'm completely serious,” he insisted. “It helped me catch a Weevil and a pterodactyl.” When his team only fell deeper into hysterics, Jack looked helplessly at the cat, who was still standing upright and formally beside him, showing no sign of being affected by the mockery. It stepped forward and jumped lightly up the steps to the platform where Owen had dragged himself to the couch, and began nudging the spilled papers along the floor.
Jack watched patiently. It was nearly a full minute later when Toshiko noticed what the cat was doing. She quickly crouched down and gently pushed the cat away from the papers. Then she stared, face gone slack.
Jack grinned, trying to pretend like his face hadn't looked exactly like hers in the coffee shop a few days before.
“These are organized,” Tosh said, her tone of absolute shock catching Owen and Suzie's attention. “He can read?” she asked Jack incredulously.
The team stared at the cat, who delicately licked a paw. “Oh ye of little faith,” Jack said smugly, coming up to sit beside the cat and scratch behind its ears. It pushed its head into his hand.
“You can't be serious,” Suzie told him, following him up the steps. “It's a cat.”
“With a very distinctive skill set,” Jack created wildly. “Who's going to notice a cat poking its nose around places?”
“This is ridiculous,” his second-in-command replied, face flushed from laughter and indignation. “There are reasons we don't hire lower life forms, Jack, the foremost being that they can't communicate.”
“He's managed to communicate pretty well so far,” Jack defended.
“If you're actually serious about this...” She considered for about three seconds and then began firing questions at him. “Can he feed himself? Will he track in fleas? Where will he live? How can he defend himself in the field? And lastly, if you're so convinced he could help us at all, who's to say he couldn't act against us?”
Suzie's face clearly said what an utter cretin she considered him to be. Tosh nodded along, looking apologetic when Jack glanced at her. Owen was watching like he was being treated to a free show and all he was missing was the popcorn.
Jack looked down at the cat, who looked back with a direct, intelligent gaze.
“We'll figure it out,” he said firmly, and the cat nodded back.
Jack instructed Tosh to create an employee profile for the cat, directing her to a few past alien employees for a rubric.
“What's his name?” she asked.
Jack hesitated. “I don't know that he has one.” The cat, sitting beside Tosh's desk, shook its head.
“I guess we get to choose,” Jack said to Tosh, who was still staring at the cat.
“Are we sure he's a he?” Owen asked, interested in the process now that it was decided.
Jack frowned. “I haven't checked-” He cut off at a hiss from the cat, who seemed to have taken offense to Jack's hands approaching its hindquarters.
“Fine then,” Jack grumped. “Are you a male?”
The cat held its head high in the air and flicked its tail once.
All three of them laughed at the clear haughtiness of the action. “Is that a yes?” Tosh asked, smiling.
The cat looked at them for a long moment, then deigned to nod.
“Glad we've got that cleared up,” Jack snorted. “Now, names.”
“I vote 'Poncey'.” Jack and Tosh glared, and Owen raised his eyebrows. “Well, 'Pussy' is too obvious, and look! He's wearing a suit!”
The other two looked at the cat's black and white patterned fur. “He's got a point,” Tosh admitted. “It does look like he's wearing a suit.”
The cat hissed slightly at Owen, then laid down with his head on his forepaws.
“Guess he doesn't like that name much,” said Jack. “How about Algy? He looks like an Algy to me.”
The cat narrowed his eyes at Jack.
“Mr. Jones,” Tosh suggested. “Because he's very professional,” she said kindly. The cat replied with a purr and a wave of the tail.
“Looks like we have a winner!” Jack grinned.
“Wait, the system wants a first name,” Tosh said over her shoulder.
“I still like Algy,” Jack said hopefully.
“How about Sylvester?” Owen said slyly.
When the cat leaped at the pair of them with his claws, Tosh intervened. “What about Ianto? It's Welsh.”
“He's a cat, Tosh, you think he cares about...” Owen trailed off as the cat began rubbing against Tosh's shins, purring loudly.
The tech giggled and reached down to pet the animal. “Ianto Jones it is, then,” she declared, and put the information into the computer.
“If you're all done messing around, we've got work to do,” Suzie called from her workstation.
Jack stifled his minor annoyance and stood up, groaning softly. “Suzie's right. Tosh, I want you to finish those hieroglyphs, and Owen, cross-reference the chemical agents with the other mysterious deaths the hospital sent us, I want to find the connection.” His agents nodded and hopped to their work, and Jack scooped up his newest employee from the ground. Mr. Ianto Jones made a slight coughing sound and wriggled in his arms, but settled. Jack held the cat against his chest.
“And you, I'll give you the tour.” He walked into his own office. “First up, we have your soon-to-be favorite room in the Hub...”