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Before the Dawn

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The glove weighs heavily down on her wrist. Metal links cut into her knuckles, till she could almost believe it's her own blood fueling the device and not an extraterrestrial power converter. Technology versus mysticism. Once, she knew exactly which she would pick. Now, it's a toss-up. Certainties have had a peculiar tendency to turn out utterly wrong, as of late.

Tonight's final project is a mouse, found dead in the back of her closet, having gorged itself on mothballs and bits of old jumper. She concentrates, breath even and steady, mind focusing on making the cerebral link to the glove. Breathe in. Feel the air enter her lungs. Feel it aerate her blood. Feel the blood pump through her veins; through her body; through the glove-encased arm. Focus on the thump and flow of life, and push it outward. (She could make analogies to childbirth here, but she won't.)

The room stills around her, air warming even though she forgot to pay this month's heating bill. The mouse lifts its head, twitches its nose and scampers out of her way. A regular rodent Lazarus, that one. She's not too tired to give it a weak grin. "Go on, then. See if you can eat that skirt Aunt Phyllis gave me, two years back. Not like I'm ever going to wear it." The mouse takes the hint and runs.

Alone, Suzie Costello sinks onto the floor next to her desk and tries to remember how to breathe for herself. At some point, she'll find a chair, but for now she can barely find her own legs.

Her head is ringing unpleasantly to the tune of "Bohemian Rhapsody". Something about it all makes very little sense, until it dawns on her that she hasn't taken her phone off the hook after all.

Her first thought as she reaches over to press the speaker button, simultaneously hauling herself back up, is that she needs to hide the glove. Now. Immediately. Before the person calling realizes she has it, ridiculous and paranoid as that sounds. (She doesn't find those thoughts ridiculous and paranoid right then. Only later.)

"Hullo. Suzie Costello speaking. Who is this?"

The voice on the other end of the line is masculine and familiar. "Suzie, hey. Just calling to let you know that things have been taken care of. Our job security is safe for another day."

"You do realize you've just called my home line, right?" she asks, without missing a beat.

There's a very short silence. "If I say no, will you still respect me in the morning?"

She'd meant for her sigh to be inaudible, but it crackles over the line, right into her own ear. "Jack, where are you?"

"The Half-Pint." He rattles off directions she doesn't need. The pub isn't her sort of place, but she'd been by, once or twice.

"Hang on to your bar stool, Harkness. I'm coming to pick you up." She hangs up on him before he gets the chance to tell her no.

***

"You look trashed." That's the first thing she says when she sees him, and it's God's own truth. Nothing particularly obvious about it; just the way his shoulders are set back; the lines etching into his forehead. The hollow look in his eyes. Suzie had looked into the eyes of a dying woman only days ago, and those eyes had held more life and certainty than Jack's do now.

"What'd you do?" she asks, and wonders if it'll be Gwen Cooper's head in her lap tomorrow, life flooding back for still too short a time, before ebbing away again. What kind of questions would they ask someone like Gwen, in those precious extra minutes?

"Nothing that'd get me arrested." Which is no answer at all, and Jack knows it. Torchwood provides them with a handy immunity, if a somewhat precarious one.

"I'll tell you on the way," he promises, when she shows no sign of letting it go. She doesn't bother to ask 'on the way where?' He probably means the Hub, but somewhere on the way down to the car park, Suzie winds up making other plans.

***

"I made her forget," Jack tells her. "Bought her a Guinness, talked her ear off, and slipped the tablet into her drink when she wasn't looking."

The results Suzie's fine with. More then. It's the methods that leave her feeling sick. Mnemonic inhibitors; rohypnol – either way, there'll be a woman who wakes up tomorrow with no memory of the night's events and a feeling of no longer being quite in control of her body and life, after accepting a drink from a charming stranger.

"Did you make sure she got home all right?" is all Suzie asks.

Jack nods. "Ianto's got her on the monitors. If anything went wrong, we –" he corrects himself – "I would have been right there."

"And you'd have done this while slopping drunk? Some knight in shining armour."

Jack's hands cover hers over the steering wheel, steadying the car, and then he's kissing her. She expects to taste the burn of alcohol on his tongue, but all she gets is a hint of wintergreen – toothpaste, perhaps. In all this time, he's had nothing to drink but water.

It feels like her heart is trying to exit her chest cavity in the most expedient manner possible. "You fuck. You could have gotten us both killed!"

"No I couldn't," Jack says, and the way he says it, she can almost believe it.

"You think you know what you're doing, do you?"

"I don't think. I know."

"Of course you don't think. You never think." The recrimination is both untrue and unfair, but the words feel right coming out of her mouth.

He just looks at her. "You done yelling at me yet, Costello?"

"I'm not yelling."

"Okay," and he's quiet again, staring out the window at passing streetlamps. She wants to reach out and wrap an arm around his shoulders. She never wants to touch him again.

"Hey, look on the bright side," she finally says. "At least you didn't have to kill her.

***

Jack smirks when he sees that they've stopped in front of her flat. "Forward, Suze. Very forward."

She rolls her eyes. "Don't make me kick you out onto the curb, Harkness."

"Last names. So formal."

He's trying to make her laugh, and it's working, damn his hide. "I'll call you the Good Queen Bess, if you don't shut up and come on."

"And how do you know I don't like people calling me that?"

"Wouldn't put it past you," she grumbles, getting out of the car and heading for the door.

Inside, it's her that kisses him, quick and sharp, to forget that a part of her still doesn't like him very much at the moment. It's a glass house they've built around them, and they're both fresh out of stones.

***

This isn't like either of the other times they've had sex. The first in Jack's quarters, slow, almost Tantric, with the walls eating up every drop of sound, till the outside world ceased to exist. The second in the office, after the others had gone, furtive and desperate, with the whir of computers around them, and the rustle of pterodactyl wings above their heads.

His mouth hovers over her navel, so close that his breath becomes touch in its own right: a hot, teasing, single-minded touch. She remembers all too well what that clever, clever mouth is capable of, and the memory makes her twist, up and toward him. Then, he bends his head just that little more, and who needs memories, really?

The bed under her back is her own, familiar and too soft, just the way she likes it. The comforter she's clutching hasn't had the chance to fall over the edge just yet, joining their clothes in an untidy pile on the floor. This place is hers, right down to the cracks in the ceiling. Her fortress and domain, just like Torchwood is Jack's.

***

She doesn't ask about the scars on his chest. Sterile and barely noticeable, they look like nothing a blade or bullet could create – and she's in a position to know. In daylight, Jack wears his military title like a coat, so it fits, somehow, for him to bear this other, less pleasant insignia of his rank.

Her touch draws his attention. "Your hands are cold." She's about to apologize, but the fire in his eyes threatens to blind her. "It's okay. I like it." And then his hands are on her hips, large and warm, and he's thrusting into her, hard and deep and deliberate, till context is meaningless and all that remains is the salty taste of his skin and the slow burn of building orgasm.

***

"Jack?"

"Yeah?"

"You think there's something else out there?"

"Huh?" Most eloquent reply she's ever gotten from a bloke.

She shrugs, shoulder bumping against his. "All I'm saying is, it's a big universe out there, and a big Rift. So how come all we get is bloody Weevils?"

"Hey now. We get lots of great technology out of that Rift. You of all people…"

Suzie waves him off. "Yeah, yeah. I know."

"You're right, though," he says. "There is more. Worlds where the sky is the color of pomegranates and ocean water burns in the sunlight. People and ideas who can change everything you are, without even trying.

"And yeah, Weevils. Plenty of those, too."

"You really think?"

"I know." He's sure, and she doesn't need to see his eyes to know that he's light years away. Somewhere she can't follow, no matter how fast she runs or how hard she tries to catch up.

"So why don't we get any of it, then?"

"Maybe we do."

…'And you just don't know it,' Suzie finishes for him. He could be full of it, for all she knows. Or maybe – and it's a very slight maybe – he could be telling her the truth. Maybe he's seen those alien worlds through his own eyes.

Maybe those eyes were alien too. They've all considered it, at least as a joke.

"Or maybe we just don't have the good drinks in these parts. If I were an alien, I'd want a real reason for trekking halfway across the universe, and with the local alcohol, well…"

Full of it. Definitely full of it, she decides.

"Tell you what. We'll get you something decent tomorrow, so long as you promise to shove over and stop stealing the blankets. My treat."

"Ma'am, yes ma'am!"

Suzie gives him a yawn (intended to be a smile, but what're you gonna do?) and rolls over. There's only a few hours of night left, and he holds onto her a little too tightly as he pretends to sleep. She doesn't have the heart to tell him that she can tell otherwise, from the rate of his heartbeats and the rhythm of his breath on her back.

She drifts off while planning the coming day. There are weapons to fix, and the pterodactyl's been owed another training session for a while now (lesson 51: Owen's hair product is not a tasty snack). The glove – of course, the glove – will that work ever be done? And if she has time, she might even give Gwen Cooper's idea another thought. About time one of them took a look at what the local police are up to. Couldn't hurt, right?