Pairings/Characters: Jack Harkness, Torchwood team, K-9
Summary: The team go to Ealing to collect a dear friend's pet.
Author's Note: This story completely ignores and denies the deaths of Owen, Ianto, and Tosh, and also ignores the canon fact that K-9 left Sarah Jane. The title comes from a song by Chameleon Circuit (even though the song is about something totally different).
The call came on a slow day. Jack jumped to answer it, eager to allay his boredom. The team tensed up, ready to jump to their feet and gather their equipment. But Jack didn’t appear at the doorway to his office. They relaxed again.
After several long minutes, Jack dragged himself to the doorway and slumped against the jamb. His face was haggard, his eyes melancholy.
“We’re going to Ealing.” He announced dully, and turned back into his office.
“Jack?” Tosh piped up when he appeared again, wearing his coat, his shoulders slumped as if it weighed a thousand pounds more. He looked stricken; his attempt at hiding it failing miserably. “Are we going to need any special equipment?”
“No, just a few boxes. Ianto, go pack some boxes in the SUV.”
“Jack? What’s this about?” But Jack shook his head and waved Gwen’s imploring gaze away.
Jack was silent nearly all of the three hour drive to Ealing. Attempts to get information from him were met with a tired, stony silence, a tighter grip on the wheel.
Everyone but Ianto and Jack were asleep when they got to Bannerman Road. As they pulled up to the pretty red brick house with gabled dormers and tall windows, Ianto let out a small “Oh,” of recognition. Jack made no indication that he had heard the sound.
“Here.” Jack’s voice was sharp and dark, loud enough to make the slumbering team jerk awake and stretch. Jack slid smoothly from the driver’s seat and marched up the walk, his footsteps determined but leaden. Ianto was close behind, the others just a little further back. The captain lifted a flowerpot and retrieved a small key. Ianto was only mildly surprised that he knew it was there; he had no idea what business they were here on, this house could be Jack’s own.
The team was a bit perplexed when Jack knocked gently before using the key, but they followed him inside. The strap on Jack’s wrist beeped, and he looked up. His face grew darker, his shoulders heavier.
There was still silence as they followed him upstairs to the attic. The house felt still, like it had been paused, like there was rest where there should have been light and commotion.
Entering the attic, Jack pressed a button on his wrist strap, and the beeping increased. The others crowded in the doorway behind him and gaped. The room was huge, decked out in technology they were familiar with from their own work.
“K9?” Jack asked quietly to the room. A whirring sound, and a small, boxy metal dog rolled out from a corner. Its folded metal ears were drooped, the red lights of its eyes dimmed.
“Captain.” The voice was mechanical, but not emotionless like a Cyberman. It felt to the team that the dog’s speech was dulled, sad and slow. Jack’s expression wilted. He grimaced before speaking.
“K9, we’re Torchwood.”
“Affirmative. My mistress told me about Torchwood.”
“K9, we’re here to take you to our headquarters. You can stay with us. You’ll be safe and comfortable, and you can help us like you helped Sarah Jane.”
“My mistress is gone.”
Jack’s face became infinitely more gloomy, his eye glassing over. “Yes, I know.”
“My mistress is gone. My mistress is gone.” The poor robot seemed to be stuck in a glitch, a data loop. “My mistress is gone.”
Jack turned away from the metal dog, his head bowed. “Tosh,” he ground out in a harsh whisper. “Try to get him back to normal.” He strode out of the room and down the stairs. Ianto followed slowly. He watched as Jack folded out a box and began putting things inside it.
“Sarah Jane Smith. She lived here, didn’t she?” he asked softly.
Jack nodded. “Yes. She did.”
“What was she like? We had loads of files on her at Torchwood London. But I never got to meet her.”
Jack’s grin was melancholic, the soft, tired, nostalgic one he got when he thought of his old friends. “She was wonderful. I only worked with her a few times, but she was so full of spunk and life. She was brave, so brave. She faced down Daleks more times than I know. She just kept coming back to him. She stayed with him longest than any of the others. And she was so kind, so sweet. She never lost her humanity.”
“Everyone in London respected her.”
Jack nodded. “We barely knew each other, but I loved her. We were family.”
Four big cardboard boxes were filled with things. Mostly alien tech, but Ianto could see books and trinkets inside as well.
“Jack!” Tosh’s call came from the attic. “I think he’s better.”
They climbed the stairs. K9s eye-lights were still dim, but his ears swivelled when Jack walked in. Ianto could see when Jack put on the mask of optimism and grinned at the little metal dog.
“How about it, K9? You want to come work with Torchwood? Help us save the Earth a little?”
The little metal ears swivelled rapidly. “Affirmative!”
“Tosh, Gwen, Owen, go bring those boxes out to the SUV while I make sure everything is okay here.”
“Master Doctor could assist you, Captain.”
“This has been delegated to me,” Jack lied. “The Doctor has other important matters to see to.”
“I see, sir.”
Jack pressed a few buttons on the computer. A pneumatic hiss, and many of the strange alien equipment disappeared into the walls. Jack pocketed a few more, and smiled tiredly at Ianto. “UNIT will take care of the bigger stuff. I’ll contact them when we get back to the Hub, if they haven’t already been notified.” He jerked his head toward the door. “Come on, K9.”
Ianto took the artefacts from Jack’s hands and walked a few steps ahead as they made their way through the house. At the doorsill, K9 swivelled a bit, staring behind him into the house.
“Come on, K9,” Jack encouraged. The dog turned back toward the outside, its ears again drooping. Jack looked at the robot sadly.
“My mistress is gone.”
“Yes, K9. I know.”