Prompt: The Thin Man – Released in 1934, starring William Powell and Myrna Loy as Nick and Nora Charles, Dashiell Hammett’s wise-cracking, crime-solving couple
Word Count: 31,921
Character/Pairings: Jack/Ianto and just about anyone from the Whoniverse at large
Spoilers: Way off the map, so nothing I can think of
Disclaimer: The only thing I own is the computer I typed this on and the way these words are spun together. This is a work of fan fiction and no one, least of all me, wants to be stepping on copyrights.
Summary: Captain Jack Harkness, former Torchwood agent, brings his husband to his old stomping grounds of New York City to meet his friends. He didn’t anticipate walking into multiple crimes, missing people, and a general mess. What’s happened in Torchwood?
Special Thanks: To my wonderful betas cjharknessgirl and faithharkness for sticking with me and helping me push this out of my fingertips. Without their encouragement, this would have stayed in limbo for all time.
By 8:30 the party was going well and Ianto was pleased. So far forty people had shown up, all Torchwood. He signaled the band to begin playing and turned his attention back to the guests. He had ordered the band as a present to Jack – they specialized in Glenn Miller – and Jack had demanded a dance floor. The open bar had a few customers, but some were also drinking his coffee and making delighted noises, which made Ianto feel even better.
Most of the guests were clustered around Jack, so Ianto moved in that direction in time to hear, “Come on, Jack. Tell us how you met!”
Jack looked up and Ianto met his glance. He gave a slight nod. Jack made a dive at his hand and pulled him into the ring of people. “Okay, okay. I was sent to investigate one of the Swan Enterprises ships. We’d had a tip that the Phimenta were using their transatlantic ships to smuggle arms and drugs. I teamed up with that cute redhead on loan from Aberdeen – remember her? Amy something?”
“Amelia Pond,” Rose supplied.
“That’s it. She was working in the purser’s office while I was a grunt below decks. What we didn’t know was that someone from the Jones family also had his suspicions about smuggling.”
“Times and weight reports weren’t adding up,” Ianto said. “I was told by an acquaintance that he thought something was going on. Next thing I know, he’s in the hospital after having been ‘mugged’ in an alley. I flew here, but saw nothing of the city. I arranged to be an assistant purser on the trip across. And before you ask, the cute redhead was always busy at her computer.”
Jack took up the tale. “So there we were, both on the ship looking for the same thing. On the third day out, I was checking one of the holds with my scanner. Ianto was in the same hold taking inventory. Our heads popped up on opposite sides of the same crate at the same time and we scared each other. He demanded to know what I was doing there and I was trying to figure out something to say that wouldn’t blow my cover when I spotted one of the Phimenta on a walkway above us. He was aiming a pulse gun right at Ianto. I dragged him over the crate and rolled him under some shelving. The pulse hit the crate and burned a hole clear through it.”
Ianto continued. “You may imagine my surprise. I find this gorgeous specimen wandering around where he shouldn’t have been and the next thing I know, he’s grabbing me and rolling me about. He ended up on top, by the way. Of course. Then I hear a buzzing noise and look up to see the crate smoking. He told me to stay put and dashed away. Not having a death wish, I stayed put.”
“Followed orders like a good little soldier,” Jack agreed. “When I got back, I got him out from under there and proceeded to do my best to sweep him off his feet again. Lucky for me he was amenable to the sweeping.”
“Amenable? Is that what you call it? Actually, I was so bowled over I started my seduction right there.”
“Okay, we both did. And now we’re an old married couple with a house and a dog.” Jack gestured at the chair where Myfanwy sat, surveying the guests regally. “No picket fence though. Just a big rock wall. Very Welsh. Like Ianto.” He raised the hand, which he’d kept hold of, and kissed it. Ianto once again felt the blush coming up.
There was a collective sigh and some “Awws” from the women present. “That’s very romantic,” Rose said. “Like something out of a fairy tale.”
Jack laughed. “I’d rather face several giants or dragons or bothtogether than tangle with the Phimenta and their human cohorts again.”
“And I’m not equipped to be a damsel in distress.” Ianto caught a wave from Stone, stationed at the door. “I’m sorry. Would you excuse us?”
Ianto noticed that Jack had automatically shifted from genial host to security chief. It made the hairs at the back of his neck stand up. Jack had a sixth sense about these things. Sure enough, there at the door stood Detective Swanson and Sergeant Davidson and they didn’t appear to be in a partying mood. “We need to speak to you in private,” Kathy Swanson said, without preliminaries. “Now.”
Jack gave her an assessing look. “Both of us, or just one?”
“Both.” Ianto raised an eyebrow at her. She looked as though she might explode, but did manage a somewhat civil, “Please.”
“They’re armed,” Stone said.
“I figured.” Jack looked at the officers. “I know you’re not going to like it, but you’ll need to leave your guns with Stone here. He’ll take care of them and we’ll give them back when you leave.” He held up a hand to stop the protests. “Look, this is a party. There are a lot of people here who are trained in every kind of hand weapon you can imagine. There are too many people to watch at once. If one of them grabbed your gun, they could do a lot of damage. No one gets in here with a weapon. They’ve all been scanned and they’re clean. I take no chances.”
She gave him her iciest glare, but he didn’t back down. Ianto breathed a quiet sigh of relief when she nodded and put her gun in the basket Stone held out for her. He’d been shot at too many times to be comfortable and did not want any firearms near him, except in the care of those that he and Jack trusted. He led them to a short corridor in the back through which the hotel employees would replenish the food and drink. “This isn’t perfect,” he said, “but it’s the closest thing we have to privacy. I take it you’re not here for the coffee?”
“There’s been another murder,” Kathy said. “Another Torchwood employee. Alex Hopkins. Did you know him?”
“Yeah, I knew him.” Jack’s voice was grim. “And it may or may not be a coincidence that he and Suzie were buddies. At least they were when I worked there.”
“And I suppose you’ve come to my Christmas Eve party to question everyone?” Ianto said bitterly. “How convenient that they’re all assembled here in this nice, neat package.” He couldn’t help but feel resentful. He had planned this so that Jack could have a nice Christmas with his old friends and someone was ruining it for him. Of course, it was terrible for the victims, but really…
“Easy there, Gorgeous.” Jack’s arm slid around his waist and he was pulled into Jack’s side. “You’ve put in a lot of work and God knows I love you for that.” He frowned at the detective. “I suppose you can’t wait?”
At least she had the decency to look slightly embarrassed. “The time of death is estimated between four and seven today. The body was found just after eight o’clock, in a service closet at Grand Central. I’m sorry about your party, Dr. Harkness, but I need to talk to these people now.”
Ianto had a momentary desire to kick and scream at her, but fortunately before he could act on it, they were interrupted. Edwards opened the door and peered in. “I’m sorry, Mr. Harkness. Miss Donna Noble is here and wants to see you.”
With a sigh, Ianto got his temper under control. “Bring her here, Edwards. Ask the concierge if it would be possible to use one of the meeting rooms across the hall for the detectives. We have a situation and it will require privacy.” He turned back to the detectives. “Perhaps one of you would go with Edwards and explain your requirements, while the other announces that although the party is over, the participants are not going to be allowed to leave? I’ll arrange for the band to give you a fanfare, if you so desire.”
“I’ll go,” the sergeant said, and practically ran for the door.
Jack’s tone was glacial. “If you need to check on our alibis, Detective Swanson, I believe you will find that we were here from 3:00 PM onward, trying to get this party set up and always within sight of at least four other people. The only times we were not was when we were changing in our rooms with the security staff in the front room. That is the last assistance you will get from us. We are not suspects. We invited you to this party as a courtesy and in the spirit of friendship, not to have you barge in and spoil it. If the police need to question us about anything else, they’ll need to call our PA and make an appointment. Neither you nor Davidson will be allowed one. Have I made myself clear?”
“Yes.” The word was forced out of her. She did not look very happy being put in her place, but she accepted that she had reached their personal limit of tolerance. Ianto didn’t care. “I have to do my job and that’s solving two murders. For what it’s worth, I apologize for the inconvenience.”
“It’s not worth very much,” Ianto told her wearily. His head ached and he wanted to go to bed and forget this. It had seemed like a game, but it wasn’t. Two people were dead and one was missing. “Please, just go.” Ianto looked at Jack. “I’d suggest you tell John before announcing anything, so he can be prepared. Otherwise we may have a Torchwood battle on our hands.”
“You know everything,” Jack said, gently teasing. His lips on Ianto’s were a healing balm. “I’ve loved every second of my party, cariad. Thank you. Wait here for Donna and I’ll be right back.”
Ianto watched as he took the detective’s elbow, none too gently, to lead her back into the main room, but she resisted. “If that’s Geoff Noble’s daughter, I’ll need to question her, too.”
“You either have a death wish or you really want to be held responsible for an international incident,” Jack said before Ianto could speak. “Out!” He pushed her through the door and followed.
Ianto straightened his tie and smoothed his hair. Edwards appeared with Donna in tow a few moments later. She looked as though she had been crying. Ianto rather felt like crying, so they had that in common anyway. “Hello, Donna” he said quietly. “I’m about to fall down and you look like you could use the rest as well. There are no chairs, so how about this nicely carpeted floor?”
She gave him a feeble smile. “Sounds good to me.”
To say Jack Harkness was not in the best mood would be an understatement. In the first place, anything that upset Ianto upset him more. In the second, he had extended an olive branch to Kathy to help soothe troubled waters and it had been abused. In the third, he was sick and tired of John’s continuous hints that he should come back to Torchwood. Fourth, it was Christmas Eve and he had been looking forward to dancing with Ianto for most of it. Fifth, he needed some coffee. Sixth… it would take him time to think of a sixth and he was face to face with John. After parking Kathy behind the band with a stern order to stay, he had gone in search of his former boss.
“Come with me,” he said abruptly.
He expected Rose to object and turned his glare on her. She subsided without a word. John looked puzzled and followed him. As they passed the table where the coffee was, one of the waiters extended a blue-and-white striped mug. God, Ianto had even made sure his cups were there. He wondered if he could get a helicopter to take Ianto up to a mountain hideaway until New Year’s. His adorable husband would like to play in the snow.
When they reached Kathy Swanson, Jack said only, “Tell him and keep your voices down.”
His mind went back to the mountaintop. Maybe there would be a sauna. Saunas were nice. Very warm. Not as hot as Ianto, but pretty cozy, nonetheless. You didn’t need clothes in a sauna. There’d be a fireplace. Ianto’s beautifully pale Welsh skin gleamed in the firelight. The angry whispers in front of him tried to force their way into his daydream, but he ignored them. Candles! That was it. He’d call the hotel desk and get Christmas candles in their bedroom. His husband could gleam in that, too. With the right scents they could pretend they were at that mountaintop instead of in grubby, smelly, murderous New York City…
He was forcibly removed from this happy vision by both people snapping, “Well?” at him.
“Who’s going to make the announcement?”
“And then what?”
“And then I’m done here. I’m going back to Ianto and find out if we can move the band up to our suite so we can dance. You two can fight over who has jurisdiction and who will do the questioning and the rest. I’m going to salvage our Christmas Eve. What you do is up to you.”
“Jack, we need…”
“You can’t just…”
“I think I can. Watch.” He turned and strode to the bandleader. The band stopped playing. Jack faced the others. “I’m afraid the party has been suspended due to circumstances outside our control. There has been another murder and the police are here to question people. I hope you will cooperate. Any questions should be directed to Detective Swanson or the Doctor.”
He walked off the dance floor, ignoring the gasps and murmurs, and went through the serving area to the hallway beyond. Ianto and Donna were sitting with their backs to the wall and their legs stretched out in front of them. They were singing the second verse of “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen” in two-part harmony. Jack felt his ill-humor disappear. If Ianto was singing, it couldn’t be too bad. He moved over to them and sat on the floor.
With a final “…co-omfort and joy!” they subsided.
Jack gave them applause. “How do you know the second verse?” he inquired.
“Caroling as a child,” Ianto replied. “You haven’t lived until you’ve trudged through the slush in Dickensian gear in the wilds of South Wales.”
“I always thought the song had the comma in the wrong place in the first line, so I studied it,” Donna added. “I had to be convinced.”
“We were trying to recapture our Christmas spirit,” Ianto explained solemnly.
“Did it work?”
The two of them exchanged glances and sighed. “Not so’s you’d notice, no,” Donna said.
“What’s wrong, Donna?” Jack asked gently. He had noticed the red-rimmed eyes.
“It’s Pops,” she said. “Granddad got a call from one of his friends who said he’d seen Pops at Grand Central Station. He called me and I went down there to ask around. A guy working at one of the food places said he thought he remembered him, but that was it. The next thing I know, someone’s yelling about a murder and the cops are all over the place. I waited to see what I could find out – God, it might have been Pops – and then I saw those two detectives from the Suzie Costello murder show up. I heard the guy had brown hair and then I heard someone say Torchwood and I didn’t know what to do and I came here.” With that last sentence, the tears had started again, but she scrubbed them impatiently. “And now they’re here. Those cops. My mother thinks Pops killed that Costello woman. She said she saw something of his in the bedroom. I told her she was imagining things.”
“What did she see?” Ianto said, as gently as Jack had.
“It’s so stupid. A tie tack. She said it was his. I asked her how she knew. She didn’t answer, just started wailing. I mean, a tie tack! How could she know it was his? There must be a gazillion of them like it.”
Jack raised an inquiring eyebrow at his husband. Ianto had a few very distinctive tie tacks, custom-made. Jack had given him one just last year. Ianto shook his head. “If it was a mass-produced one, there could be thousands of them. Impossible to tell without seeing it.”
“Maybe,” Donna said despairingly, “I should just confess and have them lock me up.”
Jack tried very hard to suppress his laugh. “Might be a bit difficult to pull that one off. Do you have a gun?”
“Have you ever fired one?”
“Do you know where Suzie lived?”
“No.” Donna peered at him. “I wouldn’t be very convincing, would I?” The corners of her lips turned up.
“No, not really.” Jack finally let his laughter go. Ianto joined in and after a second Donna did, too. When they sobered up, Jack said, “Seriously, Donna, do you believe your father committed these murders?”
“No! Pops wouldn’t hurt a flea.” She certainly sounded definite. “I mean, I know a lot of people say that, but this time it’s true. He’s kind of… well, timid, I guess you would say. Even when he gets mad, he doesn’t do anything crazy. He rips pages out of books he doesn’t like and throws them in the recycling bin.”
“What if he doesn’t have any to hand?” Ianto asked.
“He always buys plenty. He doesn’t like romances and you can get them at the thrift store three for a dollar.”
Jack thought they should pick some up. Lots of good role-play in a bodice-ripper. He could send Lois. Before he followed that line of thought too far, he said, “Doesn’t sound like the type to go off and murder someone. However, someone did. And Alex, too. It doesn’t make any sense. Both of them ticked other agents off, but not to the extent of killing them. There has to be something we’re not seeing.”
“What do I tell the police about Pops?” Donna said.
“The truth, Donna.” Jack had no doubt about that. “That he’s been missing and you have no idea where he is. That’s all you can do. If you lie, they’ll find out.”
“I guess I’d better get it over with then.”
Jack and Ianto stood and offered her a hand up. “Is there anyone we can call for you, Donna?” Ianto asked. “What about your fiancé?”
“He’s not in town,” Donna said. “Family stuff. He’ll be back tomorrow. I’ll be okay, Ianto. Thanks for asking.”
Jack gave her a brief hug. “We’ll make sure you get home safely.”
They trooped back through the service area into the room with the band. There wasn’t any Christmas spirit to be found here either. People were sitting at tables while several uniformed policemen stood around watching them. The waiters were going from table to table, but there were not many takers. Jack surveyed the gloomy faces and made up his mind. “Hey!” he called.
Everyone turned to look at him, even the officers. “This band was hired for me as a present from my prince of a husband. He took a lot of trouble to make sure they knew my favorites. One of the things I like to do is dance with Ianto. So we’re going to dance. If it offends your sensibilities, then wait across the hall.” He turned to the conductor. “Moonlight Serenade, please.”
The man raised his baton. Ianto came into his arms with a smile. “I love you, crazy man,” he whispered.
Rose went back into the ballroom. The band was taking a break and Jack and Ianto were seated at one of the tables, drinking coffee and talking quietly. They were smiling at each other. Myfanwy was nowhere to be seen; they must have sent her upstairs. As Rose watched, Jack leaned forward and kissed the tip of Ianto’s nose. In the next moment, Ianto kissed Jack’s nose and they both laughed.
Rose looked around and found John by himself, looking very gloomy. The room had emptied out some; the detectives had told Rose she could go home, but she wanted to wait until John could go with her. She slid into a chair across from him and reached for his hand. “Hey,” she said softly.
He raised his head. “What happened?’
“Nothing. They asked me all those questions you’d expect and took a bunch of notes. Then they told me I could go home.”
“I was told to wait. If you want to go home, I’ll get you a cab.”
She shook her head. “I’ll wait with you. How much longer do you think it will be?”
“I don’t know.” He shrugged and glanced at the oversized pocket watch he carried. “It’s ten thirty. I know they hired the band until eleven. I had to find that out from the conductor. Jack,” he added in a mournful tone, “isn’t speaking to me.”
“Priorities, John,” Rose said patiently. “We have two dead agents and you’re sulking because Jack got a little short with you? He’s probably just annoyed because Ianto’s party got derailed. And, I’m sorry to tell you, John, but you’ve been a little heavy-handed with your hints about him returning to Torchwood. Let that go. It isn’t going to happen.”
“We could certainly use him now. With Alex dead, we have to staff up again. And someone’s got to take over Suzie’s list.”
She leaned in and spoke, enunciating each word clearly. “Not. Going. To. Happen.” She smiled to take some of the sting out. “Did you tell Jack what we found out?”
“You mean about Geoff Noble? No, I haven’t. Can’t say anything in front of Ianto about it and Jack isn’t going to leave him alone.”
“Leave it to me,” Rose said confidently. She stood up and took one of the cocktail napkins from the table. When she got near the table where Jack and Ianto sat, she waved it in front of her. “I come under the napkin of truce.”
They both looked up and broke into smiles. Jack nodded and gave a regal wave. “You may approach and bow.”
Ianto said, “You don’t need to bow, really. At least if you sit by me.”
With a grin, she slid into the chair on Ianto’s other side. “Jack, John has some information for you.” She looked at Ianto. “Torchwood eyes only. I’m sorry.”
Jack scowled. “I’m not exactly happy with him right now.”
“He’s promised to behave himself. Please, Jack.”
He shrugged. “I’ll give him until the band comes back.” He stood and leaned over to kiss Ianto. “Wait right here.”
“Not going anywhere,” Ianto assured him.
“I’ll keep watch over him,” Rose promised. Jack raised his eyebrow at her. “And I promise not to seduce him,” she added.
“Spoilsport.” Ianto sighed dramatically. “And here I’ve been hoping…”
“Behave, Gorgeous,” Jack ordered sternly. “And you, too, Ianto.” He moved off toward the table where John was sitting.
Rose giggled. She watched Ianto watch Jack and patted his hand. “Don’t worry. John has accepted that Jack’s not going to come back and work for Torchwood again. It’s just that certain things can’t be shared with…”
Ianto turned to look at her. “We both have secrets we can’t talk about. That’s not it. I just wonder if he misses this life.”
“No, he doesn’t.” She was sure of that. “I’ve known him a long time and I’ve never seen him this happy. You’ve given him that.”
He blushed. God, no wonder Jack had fallen under this quiet man’s spell. Rose just managed to stop herself from blurting out how adorable Ianto looked at that moment. Instead she looked away. Her eyes fell on a woebegone figure coming through the door. “Is that Geoff Noble’s daughter?” she asked.
“Yes, poor thing.” Ianto stood and waved, beckoning her to the table. As she sank into a chair on the other side, he said, “Was it bad, Donna?”
“Pretty bad, yeah.”
Rose thought Donna would have been attractive if she’d not looked so hopeless. “Hi,” she said quietly. “I’m Rose Tyler.”
Rose was relieved to see there was enough spirit in there to keep the other woman going, even though she seemed to be a wreck. Who could blame her? “I’m so sorry that you’ve been caught up in all this.”
“They think Pops did it,” Donna told Ianto with tears in her eyes. “They told me so. They found something of his by the body. They wouldn’t tell me what. Pops didn’t kill anyone, Ianto! He wouldn’t!”
Ianto pulled her into an embrace. “We’ll figure this out, Donna.” He looked up at Rose. “Would you ask Stone to come over here? He’s in the black suit with the red tie.”
Rose had to dodge the members of the band on their way back for their final set, but she succeeded in getting the security man’s attention. When they arrived back at the table, Jack was there with his hand on Donna’s shoulder. Ianto let her sit back up, but kept her hands between his. “Listen, Donna, you can’t go home like this. We’ll get you a room here and you can wait for your fiancé to come fetch you in the morning. I don’t think you should be wandering around alone. Go with Mr. Stone, here, and he’ll see to it. Make sure she gets a change of clothes on our bill.”
Jack added, “Indulge yourself. Ianto loves giving people things. We’d invite you to stay up with us, but we’ve managed to fill every nook and cranny up there. We’ll get you a room just below, okay?”
Rose came around the table. “I’ll stay with you if you need someone,” she said impulsively. “Come on, let’s go and find something for you to wear. I’ll bet Ianto can get them to open up that little boutique.”
“I’ll bet he can, too,” Jack said. “Go on now, Donna. They’ll take care of you. And we’ll be right upstairs.”
Donna sighed. “All right. Thanks.”
Rose exchanged a look with Jack. His eyes were troubled and he gave a little shake of his head. Rose knew that John had told him what they’d found out about her father, and what that implied was a lot more hurt in store for this woman than she looked like she could handle.
Four Torchwood agents looked at each other glumly. “The cops are sure that someone from Torchwood did this,” one said.
They all nodded. “They do.”
“If you look at it from their point of view, we’re the most likely suspects,” one offered timidly. “Both of them were Torchwood agents.”
“I don’t have an alibi for either killing.”
“Most of us don’t. No motive either.”
“You don’t have to prove motive for a murder conviction.”
“Man, you’re just a ray of sunshine, aren’t you?”
“They aren’t going to stop until one of us goes down for them.”
“We need help.”
“We need Jack’s help. He’d sort this out.”
“How are we going to ask him? He and John aren’t getting along too well.”
“We’ll figure something out. We’re Torchwood, dammit!”
“Let’s think about this…”
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