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Myfanwy 2

November 2017

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Cry of the Space Whale - Chapter Four

Cry of the Space Whale - Chapter Four
Author: Milady Dragon
Series: Dragon-Verse
Rating: PG-13
Pairing(s): Jack/Ianto, Toshiko/Kathy, Rhys/Gwen (past)
Warnings: Language, Violence
Spoilers: Both series up to S2, E4, "Meat"
Disclaimer: I don't own Torchwood, I would have treated it better.
Author's note:  This is the Dragon-Verse version of "Meat".  As usual, dating and research thanks to the TARDIS wiki and Ianto's Desktop.


SummaryWhen one of Rhys Williams' employees is killed in a road accident and Torchwood investigates, he is determined to get to the bottom of what happened...and to find out what just was wrong with the meat that had been in the back of his friend's lorry.




1 September 2008

Rhys strode down the length of Mermaid Quay, the taste of stale vomit still in his mouth despite the bottle of water he’d guzzled once he’d gotten back to his car, and not even the sea air could dismiss the terrible stink of that poor, tortured creature from his nostrils either.

He hadn’t been able to get out of that warehouse fast enough, but he hadn’t wanted to give too much of his disgust and horror away, because he didn’t want to get shot or something. He’d managed to convince the Harris brothers – who’d introduced themselves as Dale and Greg – that he was still up to helping them move the meat it was butchering off that poor creature, and it seemed like they’d almost been expecting him to puke his guts out. They’d discussed terms of payment, and had arranged to pick-up a load for tomorrow, to replace the one that had been in the lorry accident.

Which was why he was currently heading toward Torchwood’s base.

No one had shown up to shut the whole damned operation down, which pissed Rhys off. He knew they’d been there; he’d followed them part of the way in. Why hadn’t they come in, guns blazing or whatever the hell alien hunters did? Surely they would have, once they’d figured out that they’d been in the right place. Something else had happened to keep them out, and Rhys wanted to know what that was, because that thing in the warehouse needed to be saved from those bastards if even to be put out of its terrible misery.

Walking up to the door to the Tourist Centre, Rhys flung it open and entered, ready to let whoever it was on the other side of the counter have it…until he realised it was a blonde-haired kid beaming at him happily, looking quite eager to please, at which point the rant he’d been building up to fizzled out.

“Welcome to Mermaid Quay,” she said cheerfully. She was wearing a blue blazer over a white blouse, a nametag reading ‘Deborah’ on the lapel. She looked to be a student of some sort, if Rhys was any judge, and not someone Torchwood would have recruited.   “How can I help you today?”

Rhys suddenly doubted that he had the correct place, but he recalled that this was the way they’d brought him out after Gwen’s Retconning. He straightened his shoulders, giving the girl his best smile. “I’m here to see either Captain Harkness or Mr Jones,” he replied.

Deborah frowned slightly. “I’m sorry, but I don’t know who you mean. Are you sure you have the right place?”

He sighed, losing the smile and letting his tiredness show. “Yes, love; I am. I know that Torchwood is right under our feet, so why don’t you get on the phone with your bosses and have one of them come up? Tell them it’s Rhys Williams.”

Her face cleared and she seemed to change right before his eyes, going from the friendly student to someone who looked much more mature than what Rhys had originally assumed. “Of course, Mr Williams,” she answered briskly. “I’ll call the Captain immediately.” She touched her ear, murmuring, “Jack, Ianto…Rhys Williams is up here to see you.”

There was silence for a few seconds, and then Deborah glanced back toward Rhys. “Ianto is on his way up.”

“Thank you,” he said gratefully.  

Rhys didn’t have to wait long. A section of the wall opened, and Ianto stepped into the small office. He nodded toward Deborah, and then waved Rhys through. “Come this way,” he invited, standing back so Rhys could get past.

The dragon ushered him down the corridor beyond the Tourist Centre, toward the lift at the end of the hall. The last and only time Rhys had been through there, they’d been taking Gwen down to the Hub in order to administer the Retcon that would take nearly a year of her memories. It made him feel twitchy, and he couldn’t help but sound frustrated when he commented, “So you’re hiring ‘em directly out of school now?”

Ianto shook his head. “Deborah might be young, but she’s been through more than you could ever know.” He let Rhys enter the lift first, then touching the down button he sent the car toward the Hub. “She’s not a field operative; she only helps out with the admin around here.” His old eyes pinned Rhys like he was something that he found particularly intriguing and hadn’t been able to quite figure out. “You should know we saw you at the warehouse.”

That got Rhys’ back up, even though he’d expected it. “You could’ve come in and saved the day! Isn’t that what you lot do?”

Ianto didn’t answer, kept from saying anything by the lift doors sliding open. He stepped out first, and Rhys followed down the short hallway and to the round door at the end.

With a blare of alarms Rhys entered the Torchwood Hub for the second time.

It was under the scrutiny of everyone in the large chamber that Rhys set foot onto the grated metal floor of the Hub. He felt self-conscious, and that made him want to hide behind Ianto…just because. It was either that or start a major rant on how he’d had to bluff his way out of a warehouse of sickos who were cutting up some innocent creature…when, actually, that last bit had been his fault. He’d been the one who’d wanted to find out what was going on, and Rhys had honestly stepped into it with both feet.

‘Welcome back,” Harkness greeted him, holding out a hand to shake.

“Yeah, thanks,” Rhys said with ill grace, accepting the hand.

“You know everyone,” Ianto replied, “except for our newest hire, Patrick.”

Rhys got a better look at the man who’d obviously replaced Gwen on the team. The man seemed to be somewhere in his late twenties or early thirties, and Rhys could have passed him on the street without even noticing him, except for that weird, undefinable sense of the bloke being something far more than just an ordinary guy despite the jeans and button-down he was wearing. Of course, that could have been because of the gun that was holstered at his waist.

“Hey,” Patrick said, and Rhys was struck by the fact that he was apparently American. He wondered vaguely if this guy was some sort of relation to Harkness. “They haven’t told me a thing about you, just so you know.”

Rhys had to chuckle at that. “Yeah, big on secrets this lot is.”

“Compared to my family, they’re downright chatty,” he laughed.

Before he could get any sort of clarification on that – because Rhys knew secrets, knew what Gwen had kept from him, not even really counting the Torchwood elephant in the room – the pretty Japanese woman named Toshiko was smiling and greeting him as well. He couldn’t be rude to her; she seemed sweet and he honestly didn’t feel like he could hold anything against her.

The other guy, the doctor, though…Rhys remembered. He’d broken the Retcon that Gwen had given him when she’d admitted sleeping with that bastard, and he really didn’t feel very charitable even if he wasn’t about to admit the reason for it.

“Let’s take this into the boardroom,” Harkness suggested…well, it sounded a bit like an order and Rhys bristled at it but bit his tongue to keep from saying anything he might regret. There was too much going on, and he couldn’t afford to piss these people off…not yet, anyway. That poor beast in the warehouse needed their help and Rhys was bound and determined that it got it, even though he wasn’t exactly sure what anyone could do after what those bastards had put it through.

He followed the Torchwood team into a fancy room, with a large table surrounded by what looked like comfortable chairs. A large screen dominated one wall, with a swirling blue pattern on it that made Rhys faintly dizzy. There was also a small coffee machine set on a table in the corner, and Ianto headed over there immediately, working at the machine until the scent of rich coffee wafted throughout the room.

Harkness waved him to a seat next to Toshiko; she was seated at the far end, a computer opened in front of her and her fingers tapping nearly silent on the keys. Harper was next to her, and the new guy sat beside him. That left an open seat next to Rhys, and he guessed that Ianto would be sitting there once the coffee was done.

Harkness himself stood at the head of the table, his hands resting on the back of the chair that was there. His eyes were on Rhys, and he barely fought the urge to squirm under that thousand-year stare.

Thousand-year stare…yeah, he knew that was probably accurate in the Captain’s case.

“How did you know where to look for that particular warehouse?” Harkness asked.

Rhys shrugged. “I had access to the total miles Leighton took every time he made a pick-up and delivery. It didn’t take much to subtract the mileage from the abattoir to the yard, and then use what was left over to work out the radius from the service station that those bastards used when they set up their operation.”

Harkness looked impressed. “Well done.”

“Why aren’t you just assuming that I was in on it too?” Rhys wanted to know, stunned by the man’s praise.

“That was a possibility,” Ianto answered from the coffee set-up. “But we’d done a comprehensive background check on you when Gwen was hired, and except for a couple of tickets and one drunk and disorderly when you were at university, there wasn’t anything in it that would have lent itself to any sort of criminal enterprise.”

Well, that made sense, and Rhys had already known about the background check. “If you saw me go in,” he snapped, “then why didn’t you come in after me? I know you were there, I saw your car.”

“We could have,” Harkness allowed, “but there was too much of a risk of you getting caught in the crossfire.”

Now that wasn’t what Rhys had been expecting, that they’d actually have taken into consideration his own safety.

“Going in there took balls,” Harper said, almost sounding admiring under what was a healthy dose of sarcasm.

“I had to know,” Rhys answered. It really wasn’t the real reason…or at least not all of it, but he wasn’t about to admit that. There was nothing like suddenly figuring out your own hidden motives when faced with the fantastic.

“And now you do,” Ianto finished, bringing over the now-finished coffee.

Rhys took a sip without even considering that the dragon might have doctored it, but in a way he wished he could forget that terrible moaning, so filled with pain and sadness and despair…he set the mug down, the coffee now tasting like ashes.

“What did you see?” Harkness asked quietly, as if he could somehow read Rhys’ mood.

Those words opened the floodgates, and Rhys found himself describing what had happened when he’d gotten to that warehouse. He told them about the Harris brothers, and what Rhys had done to convince them that he was after the money just as Leighton had been, ignoring the disappointment in his friend for what he’d gotten involved with.

And then, there was the poor creature.

“It was this huge, shapeless beast filling the space,” he described, not bothering to hide his shudder.   “It was like this mound of flesh, except for its eyes…when it looked at me…”

“You mean it was still alive?” Toshiko gasped, horror choking her words.

Rhys nodded. “The sounds it was making…it broke my heart. I made me sick to know these fuckers were doing this to something that didn’t deserve it.” He shook his head. “It was a damned good thing they seemed to expect me to puke, cause there was no stopping it.” He’d gotten some satisfaction out of it by throwing up on Dale Harris’ shoe.

Harkness looked as ill as Rhys felt. He was trading looks with Ianto, and the dragon slumped down in his own chair. “Humanity has the greatest ability for compassion…and for evil,” Ianto said, his eyes tired.

“But how did it get there?” Patrick asked. He also looked revolted by what Rhys had reported. “If it’s that large…”

“Probably grew,” Rhys answered. “One of the Harris brothers claimed that it just kept growing, no matter how much they…” he swallowed convulsively, recalling the man’s words and not wanting to repeat them. “They called it the cash cow. Had no idea where it came from, and didn’t care. They just saw what money they could make from it.”

“From the latest tests on the meat,” Harper said, his voice soft, “there are high levels of chloride in it, which I’m pretty sure means it usually lives in the ocean. It probably came through the Rift and into the bay, and beached itself. Poor creature didn’t stand a chance.”

“So it’s like some sort of alien manatee?” Harkness asked.

“Or a whale,” Rhys corrected. “It…sounded like whale song, only sadder and in agony.”

“The protein chains must be regenerating,” Harper said, disgust in his tone, “despite the mutilation. So it’s not only replenishing its own flesh, but it’s increasing it, giving them a brand-new meat supply. “

“It could last for years,” Patrick said, horrified.

“That poor thing,” Ianto sighed, his shoulders slumping even further.

“Can you give us a rundown on the layout inside the warehouse?” Harkness demanded.

Rhys nodded. “Yeah, no problem.”

The captain turned to Toshiko. “Pull up those blueprints you found. Let’s see if they match up to Rhys’ memory.” He crossed his arms over his chest, and Rhys could have sworn it looked almost defensive. “We’ll need to find another way to get in. They’re sure to have tightened security after today.” He gave Rhys a glare. “If you hadn’t decided to butt in, we could have cleared this up and done something to help that creature.”

That accusation flared Rhys’ anger; he’d thought it had pretty much died out. “Well, I had to, didn’t I? This involved a friend of mine, and I knew I’d never get the truth out of Torchwood!” He got to his feet, the better to face Harkness. “You lot would’ve swept everything under the rug and I’d never have known what Leighton was into!”

“Now you know,” Harkness growled, stepping almost into Rhys’ personal space. “Are you happy that your friend was up to his eyebrows in this? That he knew those bastards were butchering an innocent being for profit? Does that make you feel any better?”

It really didn’t. Rhys was very much wishing his curiosity and his need to know had just shut the fuck up and let him live in ignorance. But he couldn’t back down now, not after what he’d seen. “Of course not! And If you’d bothered to let me finish, I would’ve told you that I made a deal with them to carry the next shipment, which is tomorrow! So, instead of cocking things up, I actually have another way for you to get in, where you don’t have to go in acting like testosterone-fuelled action heroes and getting yourselves killed! Now, if you can’t accept my help, big boy, you can stuff it!”

Rhys was breathing hard, glaring at Harkness and daring him to say anything else. Under his anger his logical voice was telling him that he was just pissed off that Torchwood hadn’t come in and rescued him, and was accusing him of being a damsel in distress who apparently needed a knight in shining armour to get him out of trouble. He completely ignored it, too focussed on his antagonist to give a rat’s arse what his damned inner monologue was telling him.

Harkness returned the glare, his blue eyes hard as ice.

But then he blinked, his eyes thawing, and glanced aside toward where Ianto had been sitting. “This is quite homoerotic.”

Rhys stood there, too stunned to move. He could hear a chuckle behind him, as well as a rather loud snort, and the tension was broken like a shattered mug. “Bloody hell,” he gasped, which then turned into a laugh that sounded vaguely hysterical.

“Jesus, Harkness,” Owen spat, “you think everything is homoerotic!”

Harkness managed to look innocent as he backed away from Rhys. “Do I really?”

“Just a bit,” Ianto answered primly.

That seemed to completely break the tension in the room, and Rhys sat back down, taking a sip of his previously abandoned coffee. It was still warm, and tasted quite good.

“Okay,” Harkness said, “back to business. Rhys, can you show us what we’re up against in that warehouse?”

The swirling blue pattern that had dominated the screen on the wall had changed to a set of blueprints. “Sure,” he answered, getting back up. Rhys scrutinised the plans, pointing out various areas of interest that he’d seen. “This is where the creature is,” he said, pointing out the largest room in the warehouse. “This is where I saw them hanging and packing the meat,” he gestured to the long room where the tables and hooks and shit had been, “and I think this was where they were making the drugs that were keeping the thing quiet.” He swallowed hard, his mind going back to that pitiful beast.

“That makes sense,” Harper mused. “When I was doing the tests on the meat, I found some traces of ketamine and other sedatives.”

“We’ll be riding in the back of the lorry when you go to make the pick-up,” Ianto said, sounding reassuring.

“We’re going in,” Harkness said, “stun guns only.”

Rhys looked at him in surprise. The man looked wrecked, and was trying to hide it. He wondered what it was about this that was bothering him so much, but was too afraid to ask.

“We’ve handled bigger than this,” Harper protested. “Why not just go in, guns waving?”

“These men aren’t organised criminals,” Harkness scoffed. “If we go in there, guns blazing, they’ll kill the evidence and run.”

Rhys wasn’t sure that death would matter too much to that poor beast. It might even be a mercy.

“I wasn’t suggesting blazing,” Harper snarked. “I only said waving.”

“The last thing we need is a bloodbath,” Harkness answered sombrely. “Once we’ve cleared the lorry, Rhys, you’ll get clear.”

“Alright.” He had no choice really but to agree. He seriously doubted he’d want to hang around too long, if he was completely honest.

“So,” Patrick said, almost sounding tentative, “once we stun gun all the bad guys, what do we do with the creature?”

“We save it,” Harkness said shortly.

Rhys nodded, agreeing completely. This was what he’d come to Torchwood for: to get help for that poor beast crying all alone in that warehouse, surrounded by bastards who were cutting it up just to make money. There was no way anyone with any heart would leave it there to be tortured.

And yet, he got the impression that there was something else going on that he didn’t know about…which didn’t surprise him, this being Torchwood. The glances Harkness was giving Ianto, and vice versa, were too obvious to ignore, and judging from the others at the table – with the exception of the new bloke, who seemed vaguely confused – they also apparently knew just what was driving Harkness along.

“And how are we gonna do that?” Harper demanded. “That thing is huge! We don’t have any way to get it out of that warehouse! And how do I treat it, anyway?” The doctor leaned forward, his face full of compassion even though his words were harsh. “Jack, it might be too damaged to save.”

“We have to try anyway,” Harkness growled. “We’ll stabilise it, wait for the Rift to open, and then send it on its way. Even if it doesn’t end up back to its real home, anything would be better than staying here.”

“There’s also plenty of ocean for it to hide in if it stays here,” Ianto added.   “It’s going to be getting it out of the warehouse that’s going to be problematic.”

“We’ve all seen enough death,” and with those words, Harkness looked truly haunted. “It’s about time we do something about it.”



Chapter Five




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Comments

Loved the update! Without Gwen there - they might be able to avoid anyone getting shot.
Great chapter! I hope the poor thing makes it out in this one.
Great update. That poor, poor creature.
It will be interesting to see how this goes down without Gwen there to give away the rest of the team this time. It would be nice if they could actually save the creature this time, too, but I'm not sure how they'd go about it given it's size.

Poor Jack. One more thing to bring back his nightmares.
Woo-hoo!!! I really enjoy Gwen being out of the picture :D:D:D This episode is going so much smoother now!
I love that Rhys is able to stand up to Jack. It's interesting really how Rhys sees that Jack is charming and even likes him - to an extent - but he is not charmed by him the way most others are. Conversely Ianto is completely charmed by Jack, he just knows how to manage it so that he can function as an individual unlike Gwen. I am really hoping that this time around they are able to save the poor creature. :)
great update! You got the 'homoerotic' bit in as well!! Points for that.

Poor spacewhale, and Rhys..sometimes ignorance IS bliss...
I don't know if I've said so in a previous review, but I really like that this is from Rhys' POV. The one redeeming quality about "Miracle Day" was Rhys, if you ask me, and I'm happy you've given him a proper part in a GOOD story!
Wow, you picked the anthology scene between Jack and Rhys, and Ianto's reply is ... superb!
We feel the action through words.