working title: Recruitment, version Two.
Dedicated to: prochytes, whose timeline was a helpful cattle prod in writing this.
set: after Jack vanishes in pursuit of the Doctor in 'End of Days', before the election of Harold Saxon.
Summary: it could have been much worse for Jack, and the reason is Torchwood, that vital place staffed by humans.
One day, Harold Saxon of the Ministry of Defense arrived in Torchwood Three. He had no bodyguards or anyone with him. But it was nigh impossible to not know who he was.
"We're kind of busy, sir," Gwen said, expressing the awkwardness everyone felt at having to turn away a man as connected as Minister Saxon. Awkwardness and fear.
"I see," Saxon acknowledged. "But - too busy for donuts?" holding up a Dunkin Donuts bag. Seeing a few heads turn his way again, "Variety pack. There are, I believe, some honey-glazed ones."
Oh sod it, Ianto thought. "Just one," Ianto said, coming over to snack with the Defense Minister.
"Yeah, why not," Owen said, joining them.
"I really shouldn't," Toshiko said.
"Pft, you're a stick, Tosh," Owen said.
Only the presence of Government kept her from throwing something at Owen.
"You know what I mean," Owen appended.
"From what I see, Miss Sato," Harold Saxon said, "you are completely successful at watching your weight - so have a donut to reward yourself. Just one?" he added when he saw she was wavering, considering.
"Okay," Tosh said.
Saxon turned his gaze on Gwen, who said, "Fine," and reached into the bag.
Minister Harold Saxon had name plates made up for the nice folks at Torchwood Three, one plate for each office desk, and one plate for each of their seats in the conference room.
Gwen had tried to say that such a thing wasn't needed, but Minister Saxon had just said "nonsense, its the least I can do," and Gwen had to admit that they lent an air of formality and permanence to the Torchwood conference room. In this line of work, it was all to easy to die, so these reinforced the mood she wanted to convey, that we'll make it through this, and, on a good day, we'll win.
Of course, it was hard not to notice, at every meeting from then on, that Jack's spot was always an empty chair. "He's busy," Tosh said, in sync with Ianto's "He'll be back."
But the chair stayed vacant and cold.
The others were out corraling an alien and convincing it to stop playing tourist, and Gwen was in the Hub of Torchwood Three keeping an eye on things, just in case something else came up.
"Hard to believe, isn't it?" she was asked while she was fetching some documentation from a storage box Jack had left on the floor.
Gwen stood up immediately, saw Minister Saxon standing in the doorway of this room. "Sir?" Gwen asked.
"It's just you and me," he told her. "No need to stand on musty formalities." But he didn't move.
"Oh. Yeah, this place is still amazing, after everything I've seen."
Saxon smiled. "There is that. But there's something I was wondering; you don't mind, do you?"
"Wondering what, sir?"
Ignoring that, "Jack Harkness recruited you, did he not? How did he do it? Did he tell you about the wonders you'd see, about the adventures you'd have?"
Gwen smiled. "Something like that, yeah."
"I wonder if he's off enjoying a bigger adventure, while you're left with his paperwork," and considered stopping by to say hello to Sarah Jane.
Gwen frowned, considering that. That was when she noticed that Minister Saxon had vanished as abruptly as he'd appeared.
Leaving Jack's office, Gwen headed for the computer station, hoping it was as easy as Tosh had assured her it was; every step she took punctuated and reinforced the drumming in her thoughts.
Nor was Gwen the only one. Harold Saxon spoke with each of them in turn, turning them ever-so-slightly - he only needed a little bit.
Ianto. ("Mortal and immortal. Hardly seems fair, does it? Harkess can play the field for centuries; but you can't. Oh he'll shed a tear or two - he can afford to, and he'll just keep on snogging, leaving you old and alone. Does that seem fair to you?")
Owen. ("He was a Time Agent, the head of Torchwood, a man to whom alien empires owed favors, and he couldn't even save the woman you loved. He knew that that alien was in her, yet what did he do?")
Toshiko. ("Seems strange to me, just to me, mind you, that a man from the 51st Century wears 62nd Century technology on his wrist, and yet he makes you stick with 21st Century computers. But that's just me, you don't agree, do you?")
He said more than just that, but the gist is just that, that there were cracks in their relationship with Jack Harkness which Harold Saxon exploited.
And then one day, aboard the flying ship where the President was vaporized by a Toclafane, Jack tried to escape (at the Doctor's urging), only to run into "Ianto, hey," Jack said. "Why don't we -"
"What, Jack?" Ianto asked. "Why don't we what?"
Not entirely sure he liked that tone in Ianto's voice, Jack asked, "Ianto, you okay?"
"We're fine, Jack," Gwen said, coming up to stand alongside Ianto. "We're just fine."