Word Count: 815
Summary: Jack's experience comes in useful...
Prompt: tw_unpaired 230: Poison
Betaed by: cowgrrl and eldarwannabe
Jack’s second death – his first in Victorian Cardiff – was a poisoning. Thinking back on it, he knows he should have recognised the effects of hemlock at the time. It used to be a favourite of his in the Agency, after all. A classic.
But then at the time he’d been busy getting dead drunk. He hadn’t really noticed the numbness when his legs had gone out from under him in the street. He’d thought, as much as he’d been able to think, that it was just the usual drunken loss of control. He’d thought it was hilarious, too. And his new friends had helped him up and hauled him somewhere quiet.
He remembered trying to tell them how kind and thoughtful that was, remembered struggling to get even the first words out, struggling to breathe.
After that, just darkness.
He’d woken up in the morning with no headache, no money, and no friends, and counted himself lucky to still be alive. It was another thirty years and another eleven “lucky escapes” before he hit a death he couldn’t explain away.
Since then he’s become something of an expert in the effects of pretty much every poison out there.
So when he clinks glasses with the Cerethen Ambassador and drains his jinal wine with a gulp, he notes the faint taste of citrus, and sighs.
“And I really thought things were going so well,” he says, putting his glass down with great care.
The translator devices in their ears take a moment to catch up with him, and the Cerethen pauses with its glass halfway to its mouth. There’s another few seconds of delay as the Cerethen’s growls morph into English.
“I do not understand what you –”
“How long have I got?” Jack asks, pushing his chair back and checking his watch. “Five minutes? Big mistake, Kel. I can call you Kel, can’t I? I figure if you’re gonna poison somebody you should at least be on first name terms with them, right?”
“This is outrageous,” the translator chirps in his ear. “Your fears are groundless. Perhaps you are unwell.”
Jack laughs, and grabs the edge of the table to stay upright as the floor lurches under his feet. He’s pretty sure that’s just his body reacting, not the ship changing course, since the rest of the wine and food didn’t budge.
“What’s the idea, Kel? My tragic death while in your tender care sparks some diplomatic incident which sparks a bigger row so you can wipe out humanity, claim a pre-emptive strike to get round the Shadow Proclamation, and settle down on Earth, no sharing required?”
The Cerethen turns an angry blue and plants all four hands on the table.
“That you suggest such a thing shows only how treacherous the human mind can be. We came to seek sanctuary, not dominion.”
“Maybe you should be seeking a better vintage,” Jack wheezes, and drops dead on the spot.
He gasps his way back into the world almost a full day later, just in time to clean up, down three pints of water (not quite getting rid of that dry feeling on the roof of his mouth), and make an appearance at the Cerethens’ departure.
The poisoner has already been caught and jettisoned into space, the standard Cerethen punishment for murder. Kel takes a certain amount of relish in telling Jack that’s thanks to his dying, since UNIT only revealed Jack’s immortality after justice had already been served. To Jack’s disappointment, he wasn’t even the real target, just a political red herring, a distraction from the personal feud which nearly resulted in Kelashriak’s death. Kel’s positively gleeful that it got his ex-wife killed instead.
“I aim to please,” Jack croaks, and is half-ready to turn that into a better come on now that Kel’s being warm and friendly, but their time is up.
The Terran offer of sanctuary, say the Cerethens, isn’t good enough. Not enough space, not enough freedoms, too much blind prejudice and xenophobia among the current human population. The Cerethens prefer their chances elsewhere.
Jack says his goodbyes with the little entourage of UNIT employees who’ve been overseeing things in his absence, and then they all beam back down to their assigned locations and the ship quietly vanishes off the radar.
When he gets back home, he finds Ianto’s suffered a bite from a Freeth in the Bay and his right hand is twice its usual size, while Gwen’s developed a rash all the way up both arms just from the Freeth’s slime. Toshiko tells him there are Weevil sightings in Splott and up near the university, so it’s a good thing he’s finally back.
Jack makes them all coffee. It seems like the thing to do.
Owen, of course, takes one sip and spits it straight back out.
“What are you trying to do, poison me?”
Jack just smiles.