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18 October 2009 @ 11:39 pm
Fic: Stake, Outed (Torchwood, PG-13)  

Title: Stake, Outed.
Author: Prochytes.
Fandom: Torchwood.
Rating: PG-13. Innuendo, voyeurism, and a little angst.
Characters/Pairing: Jack/Ianto; Johnson/Gwen (if you squint); Johnson’s Tech Guy/Tosh.
Disclaimer: All the pretty belongs to Auntie Beeb.
Summary: It is hard to watch and not be changed by the watching.
Word Count: 2188.
A/N: Spoilers for 2x11 “Adrift”, 2x13 “Exit Wounds”, “Children of Earth: Day One”, and “Children of Earth: Day Two”.

 

 

1.

 

In an undisclosed room on a deniable corridor in a building unrecognized by the Government, a man who did not exist sat at a keyboard. His name was Derek, and he was writing an e-mail:

 

Subject: Re: Aaaarghhh – colleagues!!!

 

Hi again, T.!

 

*Much* sympathy re: your workplace woes. My people are exactly the same about tech support. They ignore you completely until their systems crash, then expect you to fix everything in five seconds flat like you’re some sort of Paperclip!Jesus. Makes you wonder why we don’t just jack it in and hit the private sector, doesn’t it?

 

 More soon when work calms down a bit,

 

Best,

 

D.

 

PS Those casting spoilers for the Trek film you sent me are very interesting. Do you think he would make a good Spock? I can sort of see it.

 

“What are you doing?”

 

Many office workers have the sort of boss who routinely inspires a knee-jerk sense of irrational guilt by appearing, ninja-like, behind the workstation. Derek suffered more than most from this, because his boss actually was a ninja. Derek swallowed, and took a moment to compose himself before he swung around.

 

“It’s the strategy we discussed, ma’am. For reconnoitring Torchwood? The plan to establish an Internet friendship with Target Five and see if she can be coaxed into divulging intel on her colleagues.”

 

Johnson nodded. “I remember. What material has it produced?”

 

“Not a lot, ma’am. Target Five has been discreet. The most Target Five has let slip so far is Target Two’s habit of binging on ginger snaps after Target Two’s rows with...” Derek hesitated for a moment, as the Euphemism Well ran dry. Target Two’s fiancée just sounded crap. Target Two A? Target Two Point Five? “...with individuals outside mission parameters.”

 

“I see.” His boss’s tone made Derek uncomfortably aware that, as exploitable weaknesses went, ginger snaps were not exactly up there with Kryptonite. “Is the strategy likely to become more profitable?”

 

“I think so. At the very least, it is giving us valuable insight into the way Target Five’s mind works.” Derek blinked, and looked a little distant. “It is a quite remarkable mind, ma’am.”

 

“So the records suggest.” Johnson started scanning the e-mail. “Do you see any chance of turning her? Target Five would be a considerable asset.”

 

Derek contemplated observing that Target Five did indeed have very considerable assets, if surveillance footage of Target Five out and about in that green blouse she liked was anything to go by. He decided against it. Elite Nameless Extra-Governmental Units had no Codes of Conduct, as such; but Derek was fairly sure that perving on the beautiful mind and equally beautiful... endowments of one’s opposite number counted as unprofessional. It was the sort of thing a sloppy and amateurish outfit would do. The sort of thing Torchwood would do. “Unlikely, ma’am. Target Five’s sense of personal loyalty to Target One is too strong.  And there is the whole back-history with UNIT to consider, of course.”

 

“Of course.” Johnson looked closer at the screen, and frowned. Well, frowned a bit more than usual. “‘Paperclip!Jesus’?”

 

“Techie joke, ma’am. The old Office Assistant?”

 

“Hmm.” Johnson’s voice had an edge of displeasure, but Derek could live with that. In his experience, when Johnson’s displeasure did not have an edge, it had a calibre. Derek knew which version he preferred.  “You are, of course, being careful not to reveal anything that could lead Torchwood back to us.”

 

“Of course, ma’am.”

 

“Good. Continue.”

 

Derek looked back over the e-mail. Once he was as sure as Johnson’s stealth capabilities would ever let him be that she was out of the room, he started typing again:

 

PPS What you said about bosses and their wardrobe choices struck a chord. Mine likes pouches. I mean, really likes pouches. I swear: if Rob Liefeld could only see the way she dresses, he would die knowing he had not lived in vain.

 

Derek smiled to himself as he despatched the message. After all, he reasoned, the more common ground he established with Target Five, the more likely it was that the strategy would succeed.  So, obviously, all he was doing here was forwarding the mission.

 

Obviously.

 

2.

 

Work at the unit absorbed the vast majority of Derek’s waking hours. His scanty leisure time was devoted, as it had been since childhood, to the study of newts. Many of Derek’s key life-choices had been aimed at establishing that he was not, in fact, Gussie Fink-Nottle. Sometimes, at work, as the phone-taps hummed in the background while Blanchard and Green idly discussed the pros and cons of their favourite garotting stances, he found it hard to escape the suspicion that he had overcompensated.

 

In light of this personal interest in flora and fauna, Derek was especially gratified on the day he finally enjoyed some limited success at hacking into the Torchwood Hub’s CCTV, and saw the room his labours had uncovered:

 

“We have visuals, ma’am. I think it’s some sort of hothouse.”

 

“Excellent.” Johnson peered over his shoulder at the monitor. “Put it up on the big screen.”

 

Derek preened. Success was particularly welcome right now. Surveillance had yielded only slim pickings lately; Johnson had even, for want of anything better to do, detailed Derek to produce an analysis of Torchwood’s command structures for Higher Up. This had not been particularly challenging, as the basic outline of Torchwood decision-making rarely varied: Target One gave an order; then Target One and Target Two argued about it for a period of (usually) somewhere between ten and thirty-five minutes while Target Three hoovered, Target Five debugged things, and Target Four hunted for porn on the Internet. But the task had still squandered a considerable amount of time, and meant that Derek was now behind with the beta-reading of her latest Georgette Heyer fanfic which he had promised to undertake for To.... for Target Five.

 

Enthusiasm restored, then, Derek brought up the CCTV feed on the big screen. The whole squad crowded round for a better look.

 

“You described this as a hothouse,” Johnson said.

 

Derek nodded. “Yes. I’m fairly sure that most of the plants we’re seeing here aren’t Terran.”

 

“No sign of human activity, however.”

 

“It appears not, ma’am. Hang on, though. I think someone’s entering the.... Oh. Oh my.”

 

Silence simmered on for several seconds. Eventually Derek dragged his gaze away from the monitor, and spoke again:

 

“I think.... I think our hypotheses about the relations between Target One and Target Three have just been verified, ma’am.”

 

Johnson’ eyes had not left the screen. “Yes. I think I would have to agree that is the case.”

 

“I’ll update the files accordingly.”

 

“Good.”

 

Silence resumed. Derek tried to resist the urge to tilt his head.

 

“Switch it off.”

 

“Uh-huh...”

 

“Switch it off. Now.”

 

“Oh. Sorry, ma’am. Of course.” Derek tapped his keyboard. The monitor stopped painting the dark walls of the Command Centre in tropical colours. The rest of the squad coughed, murmured, and shuffled away. “I really can’t imagine what came over me.”

 

3.

 

 Derek pulled himself out of his reverie, and frowned. He looked back at the monitor, and resumed play from the point at which he had interrupted the program.

 

Hope it was impressive! Not crossing the road or an incident with a toaster...

 

“Has Target Five’s farewell message produced any more useful data?”

 

Derek paused the video. It took a little while to sink in for him that he had not even bothered to jump. “Not really, ma’am. I do anticipate more success at hacking the Torchwood network, however, in the light of recent events.”

 

Johnson’s eyes narrowed. “Your previous reports suggested that we achieved penetration several months ago.”

 

“Ah. Yes. Er.” Derek cleared his throat. “Those reports were... unduly sanguine. I’m afraid I underestimated the full extent of Target Five’s ingenuity.”

 

“How so?”

 

Derek gnawed his lip. He wondered whether it would help to mention at this point that the “Underestimating Target Five” Club had also included (a) the Ministry of Defence, (b) the Unified Intelligence Taskforce, and (c) the Daleks. Probably not. Daleks could count themselves lucky that they only had Davros to do their explaining to. “It turns out that Target Five had constructed a phantom network, set up expressly for other agencies to hack. Sort of like a fake treasure-chamber in a pharaoh’s tomb. What we penetrated was just the dummy vault.”

 

Johnson tapped her foot. The click sounded oddly loud, in the all-but-empty room. Most of the squad were accounted for out in the field, but Derek wondered where Green and Blanchard had disappeared to. “Everything we intercepted was a fake?”

 

“Not everything, ma’am. I’m fairly sure that the.... footage we saw was authentic, for example. Target Five spliced real material into her false network for verisimilitude. But most of our intercepts were a fiction. Target Five seems to have regarded enemy hackers as displacement activity. She sent them on wild-goose chases to stave off boredom during lunch breaks.”

 

“Most people just play Minesweeper.”

 

“Yes, ma’am.” Hang on a minute: was that a joke?

 

“At least we know now why we didn’t find anything when we followed that intercept to the Himalayas.”

 

“Quite so, ma’am.” Did Johnson just make a joke?

 

“Are you confident you can hack the real network now?”

 

“Yes, ma’am. It should be much easier now that... now that Target Five is gone.”

 

“I see. “ Johnson looked from Derek’s face to the screen and back again. “Target Five’s death caused you some distress.”

 

Derek flushed, and considered denying it. But this was Johnson. There really was not any point. “Yes, ma’am. I allowed myself to become... invested. It was a gross lapse in judgment.”

 

“I’m glad you recognize that. Continue.”

 

“It’s just...”

 

Johnson turned on her heel, and stared at him. Derek ploughed on regardless:

 

“It’s just... they held the line, didn’t they? No matter how sloppy and maverick they are. They saved their city, and paid the price. And we watched.”

 

“We followed protocol.” There was a line that appeared between Johnson’s brows, Derek had begun to notice, whenever orders from Higher Up were more than usually counter-intuitive. He saw it again now. “Following protocol is what we do. Is that understood?”

 

Derek nodded firmly . “Yes, ma’am.”

 

“Good. Continue.”

 

Derek turned back to what his monitor displayed:  smiling testimony to a short life, well-lived. He was no longer convinced it was a life he recognized.

 

4.

 

“Play it again from when she gets into the ambulance.”

 

“No problem, ma’am”. Derek leaned over to manage the rewind, taking care not to spill the toppings from his pizza. “Is this where you meant?”

 

Johnson leaned forward. “Yes.”

 

The two of them watched the screen for a while in silence. Eventually Derek stole a glance sideways at his boss’s absorbed expression. “I understand that Rupesh will not be joining us.” Good riddance, too. Sick psycho bastard.

 

“I eliminated Rupesh at the hospital.” Johnson’s eyes stayed locked on the unfolding action. “He was a sociopath and a menace.”

 

“Understood.” But ten months ago, you wouldn’t have thought that was our problem. “Does this mean Blanchard and Green are back on active duty, then?”

 

“Blanchard and Green are still suspended. And will be until they explain what they were doing with that hockey stick.”

 

“I see.” Derek munched pensively at his pizza. It was from a small local firm, and quite delicious. He had been wary of Johnson’s reaction, when he first started bringing it to the Command Centre; in fact, she had simply ignored it. “Oh, here’s the interesting bit again. My word. Who would have guessed Target Two had a DefCon above the ginger snaps?”

 

“Quite,” said Johnson.

 

“I think that we may have pushed her to a place even comfort food can’t reach.” Derek glanced again at the monitor, and winced in sympathy. “Ouch. She does wield a mean fire-extinguisher, doesn’t she?”

 

“Yes. More of a challenge, perhaps, than I expected.” Johnson leaned further forward. “But it is of no consequence. If the two of us came to grips, it would give me considerable satisfaction to break her.”

 

“Hnnghh.”

 

“Do you need some water?”

 

“Hot anchovy,” Derek croaked, “nothing more. Do go on, ma’am.”

 

Johnson turned her attention back to the screen. “Which is why this footage is so invaluable. In case I ever have to best Target Two hand-to-hand.”

 

Derek nodded vigorously, and dabbed at his streaming eyes with a napkin. “Studying your opponent.”

 

“Correct.”

 

“Checking out her moves for when you kick her arse.”

 

“Exactly.”

 

“I’m so glad you cleared that up, ma’am. For a moment there, it looked like you were just checking out her arse.” Derek froze. Oh my God, I actually said that. I’m going to die. I’m going to die right here, right now, in the deniable dark. And only the newts will ever miss me.

 

Johnson stared at the trembling techie. Then she stared at the screen. Johnson pursed her lips, judiciously, and cocked her head.

 

“It is a smashing arse, though, isn’t it?” said Johnson.

 

 “Absolutely, ma’am.” Derek breathed again. “Absolutely. I don’t suppose I could tempt you to some pizza?”

 

FINIS

Tags:
 
 
 
Nancy: Mini Alice and Johnsonnancybrown on October 18th, 2009 11:22 pm (UTC)
Oh my God. I laughed (It was the sort of thing a sloppy and amateurish outfit would do. The sort of thing Torchwood would do. ), I cried (Tosh's farewell and Derek's reaction), I cheered (Tosh's Pharaoh's Tomb), and I wanted to squish this story and have its babies.

Nice job!
prochytes: Clever Toshprochytes on October 19th, 2009 09:51 am (UTC)
Many thanks for commenting! The Pharaoh's Tomb did strike me as a very Tosh thing to do.
temporal_witchtemporal_witch on October 18th, 2009 11:40 pm (UTC)
Oh, nicely done! Great insight into Tosh and Torchwood Three using the eyes of a "nameless operative" who, in fact, has a name. I love this!
prochytes: Clever Toshprochytes on October 19th, 2009 09:54 am (UTC)
I am very glad you enjoyed it! Torchwood from an outsider's perspective is always fun.
temporal_witchtemporal_witch on October 19th, 2009 10:31 am (UTC)
And sometimes you get a more tangible, clearer view from a completely objective POV than one with prior knowledge. Yes!

I enjoyed it very much. :-)
i want to huggle you (and your little dog, too): tosh lookblue_fjords on October 18th, 2009 11:43 pm (UTC)
Awww, that was awesome! And what a great testament to Tosh that her "friend" was such a nicely-drawn character; I really wound up liking him. I love Johnson, and her slow thaw here. Bonus points for calling Rupesh a sociopath! And extra bonus points for allusions to Rhys, Jack & Ianto's relationship and Gwen's arse! This fic had it all. :)
prochytes: Clever Toshprochytes on October 19th, 2009 10:00 am (UTC)
Thanks a lot! It is splendid that you ended up liking Derek.

Bonus points for calling Rupesh a sociopath!

There is a lovely line in Terry Pratchett about how even people who do not actually have morals can have standards. I tend to see Johnson as regarding Rupesh with profound distaste from quite early on in her ethical trajectory.


Thanks again for commenting!
wynkat1313: Torchwood we have cookieswynkat1313 on October 19th, 2009 01:26 am (UTC)
oh wow. this is awesome. kinda painful in a good story way, and fantastic.

And this:
“It’s just... they held the line, didn’t they? No matter how sloppy and maverick they are. They saved their city, and paid the price. And we watched.”

oh yeah!
prochytes: Clever Toshprochytes on October 19th, 2009 10:03 am (UTC)
Thank you! I did mean that line to be something of a turning point. It is, after all, a fic highlighting Torchwood's trademark mix of shambolic and awesome. Thanks again!
drinking the otp kool-aidpocky_slash on October 19th, 2009 02:55 am (UTC)
Oh, this was achey and bittersweet. Such an interesting look at the team and at Tosh in particular. I loved the insights into Johnson and I loved Derek as a whole. Great job!
prochytes: Clever Toshprochytes on October 19th, 2009 10:08 am (UTC)
Many thanks! I am very glad you enjoyed the bittersweet.
jcad6169jcad6169 on October 19th, 2009 03:27 am (UTC)
I loved this. It is nice to have a little humor in all the darkness. Thank You so much!
prochytes: Clever Toshprochytes on October 19th, 2009 11:10 am (UTC)
I am very glad you enjoyed it! When the idea of doing a CoE comedy first struck me, I did feel a considerable degree of trepidation. But writing it was actually rather cathartic.
lone_star_woman: Outdoorsy_Toshlone_star_woman on October 19th, 2009 04:44 am (UTC)
This was great, and Tosh is fabulous.
prochytes: Clever Toshprochytes on October 19th, 2009 11:11 am (UTC)
Thank you; it is splendid that you enjoyed it!
(Deleted comment)
prochytes: Clever Toshprochytes on October 19th, 2009 11:47 am (UTC)
I am delighted that you liked it. The notion of Johnson's team turning Torchwoody did greatly please me. After all, the Whoniverse is a place where eccentricity is notoriously good at eventually assimilating those who are sent to keep an eye on it. Romana, of course, is the patron saint of this transformation.

I do like her, in a weird sort of way.

So do I, and not just because of the whole Hot Dark Action Girl thing. I would be lying if I said that was not a element, of course.

Points for the Liefeld joke and the Wodehouse reference

I thought that those would appeal. Johnson is fortunate not to be toting a Cubist Cannon three times as long as she is tall. (Well, as far as we know, anyway. There are certainly some Unfeasibly Big Guns out there in the Whoniverse.)

and Tosh's post-mortem arse-kicking

Something like that did seem likely to me. I was very pleased when Journey's End established canonically what I had always privately assumed: that Tosh, like Obi-Wan and Dumbledore, was blessed with the sort of intellect that enabled her to go on pwning the bad guys after she was dead.

Thanks for commenting!
elainasaunt: Agent Johnsonelainasaunt on October 19th, 2009 10:49 am (UTC)
Speaking as someone who had a crush on Johnson from way before it was shown that she wasn't 100% evil, AND who thought The Operative was one of the outstanding minor characters (plus, hey, Ben Loyd-Holmes is way hot), I adored this. Takes a brilliant storyteller to turn the optic like this and yet keep everyone in character.

One of my favourite lines (in more ways than one):
There was a line that appeared between Johnson’s brows, Derek had begun to notice, whenever orders from Higher Up were more than usually counter-intuitive.
prochytes: Clever Toshprochytes on October 19th, 2009 12:32 pm (UTC)
Speaking as someone who had a crush on Johnson from way before it was shown that she wasn't 100% evil

Same here. I remember the moment when I was viewing some of the trailers quite distinctly: "hmm - me like. Hope we'll be seeing a lot more of her."

Glad you liked the line about the, well, line. I think that habitually stoic people are so hard to read that people who have a lot to do with them have to get very good at spotting tells likes that.

Many thanks for the comment!
ignisophis on October 19th, 2009 02:43 pm (UTC)
Absolutely fantastic in so many different ways (which the commenters above have already detailed so I shan't reiterate). I particularly liked the description of Torchwood's leadership dynamic! I'm not sure whether I'm coming to dislike CoE less by being reminded of the good bits, or more by being reminded of all the squandered potential...

My mind is also now trying to picture Gussie Fink-Nottle and Bertie Wooster as black ops agents (Jeeves, of course, would be a natural).

Am slowly coming round to the possibilities of a Torchwood continuation featuring Gwen, Johnson & Johnson's crew - it wouldn't be anything like the same, but it could be interesting.
ignisophis on October 19th, 2009 02:47 pm (UTC)
Meant to add - Johnson very much remimds me of Naomi in Lost. It is a great pity that we didn't see more of them in their respective shows, while shows in which such a character plays a central role give us protagonists like Sydney Bristow...
prochytes: Clever Toshprochytes on October 19th, 2009 03:33 pm (UTC)
Quite so. As it happens, I have been contemplating a sort of "Continuity Underbelly" fic in which the secretive minor characters of different universes cross each other's path in the course of business, and I have considered using both Naomi and Johnson in that. I am sure that the interests of Charles Widmore and those of the more deniable functionaries of the UK Government must at various times have collided (or run together).
prochytes: Clever Toshprochytes on October 19th, 2009 03:26 pm (UTC)
Many thanks!

I particularly liked the description of Torchwood's leadership dynamic!

It must be particularly bemusing to people who actually have a command structure. One wonders what Yvonne would have made of Jack's little crew, if she had ever turned her attention away from Canary Wharf and the Reality-Poke. Jack presumably calculated (rightly) that she would not.

My mind is also now trying to picture Gussie Fink-Nottle and Bertie Wooster as black ops agents (Jeeves, of course, would be a natural).

That is pretty scary. Of course, newts (as I only discovered while researching for the fic) are sometimes remarkably poisonous. Assassin!Gussie might be surprisingly formidable.

Am slowly coming round to the possibilities of a Torchwood continuation featuring Gwen, Johnson & Johnson's crew - it wouldn't be anything like the same, but it could be interesting.

So am I. After all, it is unlikely that Johnson and her crew have endeared themselves to their former employers by behaving as they ultimately did. A scenario rather reminiscent of The A Team beckons. Much mileage also, I think, in the fact that Gwen and Johnson, while perhaps eventually inclined to bury the hatchet, are not readily compatible personalities.

Thanks for commenting!





hab318princess on October 19th, 2009 07:54 pm (UTC)
OMG, that was brilliant, loved the outside look in

I'll be at the Hub at the weekend (with the actor who plays the Operative - sorry, Derek! he's Derek now in my head! Thanks)
prochytes: Clever Toshprochytes on October 20th, 2009 08:35 am (UTC)
Many thanks! And have a great time at the Hub!
stuffphile: porn!stuffphile on October 28th, 2009 05:13 am (UTC)
Very awesome. Derek's and Johnson's interactions are highly entertaining.
prochytes: Clever Toshprochytes on October 28th, 2009 12:26 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I am very glad you enjoyed them.
Elliptic Eye: reallyelliptic_eye on December 8th, 2009 03:13 am (UTC)
Absolute genius. Your OC was instantly engaging and the whole thing just meshes perfectly with the Torchwood crack noir universe—hell, a thing COE itself didn't manage to do—with just the right amount of lampshading and just the right amount of straight-play. TL;DR, brilliant, from Tosh to Derek to Johnson. Added to memories.
prochytes: Clever Toshprochytes on December 8th, 2009 02:28 pm (UTC)
Many thanks! I love the definition of TW as "crack noir".