The Night Starts Here by Asrai



Summary: In which Ianto Jones goes to Scotland, finds some closure and Jack comes back. Eventually.
Rating: Teen
Categories: Torchwood
Characters: Ianto Jones, Jack Harkness, Other Character(s)
Genres: Slash
Warnings: None
Challenges: None
Series: None
Published: 2007.09.21
Updated: 2007.09.21


Index

Chapter 1: Chapter 1
Chapter 2: Chapter 2
Chapter 3: Chapter 3
Chapter 4: Chapter 4


Chapter 1: Chapter 1

Title: The Night Starts Here

Author: Asrai

Summary: In which Ianto Jones goes to Scotland, finds some closure and Jack comes back. Eventually.

Spoilers: The entire series 1 of Torchwood and the series 3 finale of Doctor Who.

Rating: R (for language)

Pairing: Ianto Jones / Captain Jack Harkness

Disclaimer: All of the characters used in this fic belong to the BBC; I am making no profit with this and no copyright infringement is intended.

Author's Notes: This story is based around 28 snippets from A.E.W. Mason's novel The Four Feathers. I've taken the first sentence from page 10, page 20 and so on and based my fic on it, though I haven't used them in order.





Four weeks and a pointless trip to the Himalayas later, Ianto Jones found out that wherever Jack had gone with the Doctor, he'd taken his mobile phone with him.


The news that Jack had apparently tried to call them while the team were off to Nepal electrified everyone, at least for a day or two. Tosh traced the attempted call back to London and they all clustered around her computer station, watching some grainy CCTV footage of Jack running down the streets, together with a young woman and a slender man wearing a long coat.


Gwen couldn't be talked out of going to London herself to retrace Jack's steps; and Tosh and Owen went with her, the latter leaving Ianto with some very specific instructions regarding his behaviour while they were gone, the gist of them being “Don't touch anything that looks important”.


Ianto spent the day watching those blurry images of Jack, over and over again, trying to find a reason and failing.



Team meeting, with Owen defiantly sitting in Jack's chair after their recent failure to track him down. Ianto served coffee and then carefully chose a seat that was as far away from Owen as possible without seeming to insult the man.


So. Torchwood Two,” Owen said without preamble, and Gwen, who had been playing absent-mindedly with her pen, lifted her head and looked at Tosh who shrugged in answer. Clearly the two women didn't know any more than Ianto, which he found disturbingly reassuring.


Strange little man in Glasgow, yeah?” Owen carried on, “Name's Steve Halliwell, by the way. Turns out Steve is slowly getting old – or maybe he just doesn't want to be forgotten, who knows – anyway, he's had a bit of an accident a while back. Can't move too well at the moment and will be recovering for a couple of months, so he's requested that one of us join him – temporarily, probably.”


Silence greeted this statement. Ianto observed Gwen out of the corner of his eyes and he could almost hear her thinking. If she were to go to Scotland Rhys would almost surely go ballistic – a months-long separation was the last thing their relationship needed right now.


Any volunteers?” Owen was asking now, and Ianto knew who'd be quietly dispatched to Scotland in a few days' time, the 'probably' becoming 'maybe' and then a 'Weeeeeell...'.


After all, Torchwood Three could hardly spare its leader, nor its computer genius and Jack – if he ever came back – would be severely displeased to find Gwen gone.


The tea boy, on the other hand...


Ianto raised his hand before Owen could single him out and make his humiliation complete.



Tosh? What are you still doing here?”


Owen and Gwen had gone home hours before. Owen had slapped his back, winced in distaste and then wished him good luck. Gwen had made as if to hug him, only being prevented from doing so by Ianto retreating behind the safety of the tourist counter. Finally she'd smiled awkwardly and muttered something about Rhys waiting for her before leaving with brisk steps.


It was a Friday night; on Monday Ianto would be starting his new job at Torchwood Two.


Tosh turned around from where she'd sat staring at her computer screen and shrugged.


Just wanted to finish up some things before the weekend. Owen's given us the two days off and...” she trailed off uncertainly.


Is there anything I can do for you? Cup of coffee, perhaps?” Ianto asked, suddenly wanting to get out of the Hub, away from the place where he'd spent the better part of the last two years.


Tosh shook her head. Ianto nodded at her and turned to go.


Just...” he heard her voice behind his back. “Take care of yourself, ok? And don't be a stranger; a monthly report like the one we're getting now, well, sometimes, isn't really informative. If you ever want to talk to someone...”

Ianto turned around, smiled at her.


Good night, Tosh.”



Ianto preferred not to think too much about the fact that after two years of living in Cardiff his whole life still fit neatly into two suitcases.


It was a rainy Saturday morning; and a taxi would pick him up in fifteen minutes to drive him and his two suitcases to Cardiff International Airport from where he'd fly to Glasgow.


Two years.


Two suitcases.


After the Battle of Canary Wharf he'd put most of his things into storage, not wanting to face the task of sorting out what was his and what was – had been? - Lisa's. He'd only come back to their shared flat, the one they'd moved in together only weeks before, to pack some clothing – mostly suits – and some photographs, not bothering to even look at the rest.


And now he was two years older and the only change in the contents of the suitcases was that the number of black suits outweighed the number of charcoal ones.


Still, Ianto wasn't sad to leave this place behind. It had been the first furnished flat he'd come across upon his arrival in Wales and at the time he'd been too preoccupied to care much about his living arrangements.


Ianto checked his watch, put on a coat and spared a last look around to check whether he'd forgotten anything – he had not – before shutting the door softly behind him.



Well.


This was not quite what he'd expected.


Ianto knew that Torchwood Two was supposed to be even more strange than Torchwood Three with the prominent underground location and its immortal half-renegade leader.


Still, he wouldn't have expected to find himself in front of a large, rundown terraced house north of the city centre, vainly trying to locate a door bell and not quite believing that there was actually a letterbox in the doorway, neatly labelled Steve Halliwell – Torchwood Glasgow, Office Hours 9 am – 5 pm, Mon – Fri.


Finally giving up, Ianto rapped sharply at the door and waited.


Nobody came to open it; after a moment later however the latch clicked, the door swung back and revealed a narrow passageway that led to a dark stair case.


An irritable voice called from upstairs, “Well, come up then if you must!”


Taking a deep breath and straightening his tie, Ianto entered the house and the door swung shut behind him. The hallway he was standing in was dark, and permeated by a smell of dampness and cooked cabbage. He climbed the stairs slowly, reaching a beaded curtain at the end of it, and for a moment he wondered how the others were doing. Then he entered the room proper and blinked in shock.


He was standing in someone's living room.


Not a very nice living room, granted: The ceiling and wallpaper were yellowing; the furniture looked as if it had been bought at an Oxfam shop thirty years ago and then strewn randomly across the room; the windows were large but smeared with dust and dirt. Ianto didn't want to inspect the curtains or carpet any further for fear of finding them alive.


A small television set was flickering at the far end of the room, apparently on mute, and smoke was rising steadily from the sofa in front of it.


Ianto cleared his throat.


Come on then,” the same voice that had called him upstairs said.


He approached the sofa with trepidation and saw that a man was sitting on it. He was in his late fifties, with sandy hair and watery blue eyes which were now squinting up at him. His right foot and leg were in a cast, propped up on the sofa. The man took a deep drag of his cigarette and coughed.


Sir,” Ianto nodded politely, “Mr Halliwell, I presume?”


You're presuming right,” the man huffed, “Sit down, you're giving me a crick in the neck. And who are you, anyway?”


Sitting down carefully on the armchair next to the couch, Ianto desperately tried to contain his shock and keep a calm façade.


Ianto Jones, sir. The temporary replacement from Torchwood Three? I sent you an email a week ago.”


Email!” the other man sneered, “Never read the bloody things if I can help it. Didn't actually expect you lot to send somebody.”


He didn't say anything else and an awkward pause ensued during which the older man calmly smoked his cigarette, eyes glued to the tv screen.


So this is Torchwood Two?” Ianto asked finally.


No, lad, this is my lounge. Office is downstairs, lift's through the wardrobe in my bedroom. Have a look if you want.”


... In your bedroom,” Ianto repeated weakly, suddenly wondering whether this was all one elaborate practical joke.


Through there, first floor to the right. I'm not down there much at the moment, though, can't really move the leg. Achilles tendon rupture or some other such rubbish, it'll be a couple of months till I'm mobile again.”


How did that happen? In the field?”


In the field?” his new colleague – boss? - released a hoarse bark of laughter. “This is bloody Glasgow, lad, not London or Cardiff! No, I fell off the stairs is all.”


Ah.”


Don't just sit there, get going! It's all yours downstairs.”


Very good, sir.”


Ianto rose and made to leave the room, only to be called back by the other man.


Oh, and Ianto?”


Yes, sir?”


It's not 'sir'. Never was, never will be, just Steve is all right. Welcome to Torchwood Two.”




Toshiko: Ianto?


Toshiko: Ianto? You there?


Ianto: Yes.


Ianto: Sorry.


Ianto: Sorting out the Internet down here has been a bit of a nightmare, it's still not quite up to scratch.


Toshiko: ... Sorting out the Internet?


Toshiko: Are you serious?


Ianto: Sadly, yes.


Ianto: Things here are a bit unconventional.


Toshiko: How? I don't like the sound of that.


Ianto: Well, the only working computer I found here was running on MS DOS.


Ianto: Need I go on?


Toshiko: Please don't.


Ianto: Steve has been going to an Internet Café for the last couple of years to get his emails.


Toshiko: You're talking about the classified Torchwood emails?


Ianto: Yes.


Toshiko: So! Interesting first week then?


Ianto: If you want to call it that.


Ianto: I cleaned up.


Toshiko: Well that's good, isn't it?


Ianto: Strangely enough, no.


Ianto: Steve wasn't best pleased to find his office remodelled according to


Ianto: posh Yvonne Hartman-esque standards.


Toshiko: !


Ianto: His words, not mine.


Toshiko: I'm sorry Ianto.


Ianto: It's fine. Really I am.


Ianto: Just takes some getting used to I suppose.


Toshiko: Listen, I'm sorry I've got to go. Owen's calling me.


Ianto: Ok


Ianto: Bye, Tosh.


[conversation ends]


Ianto looked up from his computer, glancing around the office. In the last week he'd managed to throw out thirty years' worth of old junk, buy a completely new set of equipment and set everything up to run as smoothly as possible.


The office was actually located on the ground floor of Steve's house, with the archives and access to the garage underground. He had replaced the windows so that sunlight could stream in unhindered but it was actually impossible to look in from the outside. The CCTV monitoring system provided a constant background humming that he found strangely soothing, and the numerous screens gave the room a

blue-ish tinge at night.


He wasn't out of place here, wearing a suit, although Steve had complained loudly and persistently until Ianto had set aside a corner of the office for him. The wall there was still of a dirty grey colour unlike the gleaming white in the rest of the room. An old wooden table was laden with odd bits and ends, some cables and what Ianto suspected was an alien ironing board. To top it all off Steve had triumphantly placed an overflowing ashtray right on top of it.


Saving and encoding the IM transcript, Ianto sipped his tea and mentally added a coffee machine to the vital office equipment he'd need to buy later that day.




Saturday afternoon, and Ianto did not quite know what to do with himself.


Steve had more or less kicked him out of the office yesterday at 5 o'clock, saying that he should have a look at the office hours, and anyway, he himself wouldn't be able to relax properly, knowing that Ianto was down there, puttering about.


Quite what exactly Steve needed relaxing from Ianto hadn't dared to ask.


And really, Ianto could have used the second entry, the underground passage leading directly from the garage to a little-used street near the Canal – Steve would never even know that he was there – but he wasn't quite that desperate. Yet.


So he'd had a lie-in and then rattled around his new flat – furnished and within walking distance to the office – for a bit before deciding to go out and explore.


He wasn't used to this much free time; and he hadn't had a proper weekend off for months. First there had been the move to Cardiff; then all of his time had been spent at the Hub, caring for Lisa and an insomniac Captain until finally there seemed to be little point in keeping on pretending that he still had a life outside of Torchwood.


Now it appeared like he would be forced to build up one, however, even if camping trips with Lisa and lazy afternoons in bed with Jack were irrevocably out of reach.


Ianto walked to the city centre; and then, having nothing better to do, he went shopping, even though it was Saturday and the shops were packed. He bought clothing; casual clothes, jeans, tee shirts, trainers. He bought books, neatly crossing titles off a list with books he'd been meaning to read for months but never got around to. He bought DVDs to watch on his laptop, random ones that were on offer – four for twenty quid – and CDs of bands he'd never heard about before.


Now he was at home, slowly eating take-away Chinese and staring out of the window, surrounded by shopping bags and memories.


Lisa would have scoffed at the fact that he'd added cleaning supplies to his enormous pile of purchases. Jack would have made a lewd comment about the tightness of his new shirts and asked whether he'd bough any porn they could watch together.


Lisa, who was gone forever and Jack who was no less gone even if Ianto wasn't so sure about the 'forever' bit – and to be honest he didn't want to be.


Scooping up the last noodles he left the chopsticks stuck in his mouth and let himself fall back on the wide double bed, sprawling tiredly. His bed in Cardiff had been a single bed, but then again Jack had never come there. The hope that this one would be put to good use in the near future – or ever – was, realistically speaking, non-existent and still Ianto closed his eyes and lost himself in fantasies.



Toshiko: Good morning Ianto!


Ianto: Morning Tosh. How are you?


Toshiko: Tired


Toshiko: but fine.


Toshiko: We spent all night trying to track down this funny alien signal


Toshiko: only to realise that it was a kind of pre-echo coming from the rift. My calculations show that the ship sending out the signal will only show up in about fifteen years.


Ianto: Oh. Right.


Toshiko: Long night, I could have done with some of your coffee!


Ianto: Wish I'd been there.


Toshiko: What about you? Did you do something nice over the weekend?


Ianto: ...


[Ianto is typing a message]


Toshiko: It can't have been too bad?


Ianto: I spent all of yesterday watching Jane Austen films. Pride and Prejudice, both versions and Sense and Sensibility.


Toshiko: Ooooh, I liked Sense and Sensibility!


Ianto: ...


Ianto: Steve more or less banned me from coming in over the weekend.


Toshiko: How is that bad? I'd love it if Owen did the same!


Ianto: I suppose so.


Ianto: It's strange. Anyway, I've ordered some equipment and it should arrive any minute. Talk to you later?


Toshiko: You've ordered a coffee machine, haven't you?


[conversation ends]



Three weeks into his new job and Ianto had reorganised the filing system completely – not that there had been much of a system to begin with. He'd set up a monitoring system for alien activity spanning Glasgow and the rest of Scotland; he'd fought – and lost – the battle with Steve about smoking in the office; precisely every two hours he made them both a cup of coffee and he'd starting scouring online news communities for any mentioning of a Captain Jack Harkness.


He came in at nine o'clock in the morning and left at six in the evening. He'd read every single Jeeves and Wooster novel P.G. Wodehouse had ever written and watched the evening news with disturbing regularity.


In short, Ianto had somehow acquired himself an ordinary life; and the only thing reminding him of Cardiff, reminding him of London, were the suits he donned carefully each day. Until...


Aren't you a bit uncomfortable in those, lad?” Steve asked him one Wednesday morning.


I beg your pardon?” Ianto asked distractedly from behind his computer screen.


The suits, I mean,” Steve clarified and lit a cigarette, ignoring Ianto's frown as he did so. “Seems a bit pointless, with nobody there to admire you in them.”


Ianto swallowed, remembering some of Jack's comments and then shrugged, “I don't really think about it. It's just what everyone was wearing at Torchwood One, so...”


Yeah, well, this isn't Torchwood One.”


I'd hardly noticed,” Ianto commented quietly and Steve smirked.


Anyway, I think you don't want to be wearing one of these where you're going this afternoon, lad. A contact of mine has told me there's a little problem down in the sewers in Edinburgh. We'll need to check it out, but I'm not going anywhere with that leg. You can take the car.”


With all due respect, sir – Steve –“


Yeah?”


That car is a Vauxhall.”


So? You discriminating against the company car now, too posh to drive around in a tin on wheels?”


Well... It's a Corsa. With the letters 'Torchwood' written on it in bright yellow, 20 inch lettering. On both sides.”


Your point being?”



Steve? Steve, can you hear me?” Ianto tapped his earpiece and heard the connection crackle faintly.


Bloody – buggering – hell!” came his coworker's annoyed voice through the link.


Um, Steve –“


Why are you doing this to me, Jones? There's all these wires here and I've nearly set fire to one and fucking hell, the telly's doing nothing but show static, Mary's coming over in two hours and I can't fucking move and whose bright idea was this anyway? Little posh boy from some godforsaken village in Wales, where did you learn all this shit anyway, Oxford? Cambridge?, and blimey, there's too many buttons on this thing!”


Steve!” Ianto hissed, his patience rapidly coming to an end. He was nervous enough about this field trip as it was; he didn't need Steve moaning and grumbling in his ear as well. Normally he wouldn't have bothered staying in direct contact – he hadn't done it for the last couple of field trips during the last months – but this was different: This was people disappearing in a little Scottish village near Inverness.


To be honest, the combination of missing people and a small village made Ianto feel slightly queasy.


You were the one who didn't want to work in the office so I set it all up for you in the living room,” Ianto pointed out, getting out of the car – sadly, still the Vauxhall, although he had surreptitiously got rid of the lettering as soon as possible – and checking that his gun was safely tucked away in the belt of his jeans.


And I need you to monitor me and any strange signals near me. By the way, it's the button on the top.”


He nearly bit his tongue after the last sentence, even though of course the slip would mean nothing to Steve.


Jack would have smirked; Tosh would have blushed; Gwen would have been too distracted to notice; Owen would have made a rude comment.


Ianto wasn't sure whether he missed them or not but at times like these it sure felt like it.



So, how did you end up at Torchwood Two?” Ianto asked Steve on a particularly slow morning over a cup of coffee.


Why d'you ask, lad?” Steve retorted.


Ianto shrugged. “Just curiosity, I suppose.”


They'd been working together for nearly four months now. Somewhere along the way Ianto had ditched his suits for jeans and tee shirts and Steve had swapped his outright crankiness for mild sarcasm. Ianto had learned to trust Steve enough to navigate him via comm link during missions; Steve had learned to trust Ianto enough to give him keys to the house and drink the coffee he made without sniffing at it suspiciously before taking a cautious sip.


Up until now they'd kept private conversations to a bare minimum however: Ianto knew more about Mary, Steve's private nurse, than the man she was caring for with infinite patience.


Steve grinned sharply. “Believe it or not, I used to work for Torchwood One, same as you.”


Oh? Why were you transferred?”


Well,” his coworker drawled, “My superiors didn't care much for my, erm, unorthodox and lax methods. They decided to get rid of me quietly with a minimum of fuss and served me Retcon with my coffee one day.”


What happened then?”


I woke up the next morning, feeling like I had the mother of all hangovers – and I've had quite a few, let me tell you. I went to work as usual and my boss nearly had a heart attack. Turns out I'm one in a million people to be immune to Retcon.”


Immune to Retcon?” Ianto repeated, “I didn't know that you could be immune to it.”


Oh yes,” Steve said enthusiastically, “I'm special. Really special. Anyway, they weren't too happy. Back then Torchwood Two had been more or less abandoned, it was only the chief archivist at Torchwood House who used to come in and check everything once a week. Scotland isn't exactly alien central. They told me that I could come here or they'd start looking into more... permanent methods.”


Ianto shook his head and snorted, “Why doesn't this surprise me?”


What about you then?” the other man asked, “How did you join this bunch of anally retentive fuck-ups? Were you headhunted?”


No,” Ianto shook his head. “I'd just graduated from university and there was this girl -”



I – well – I badgered her into going out with me. I think it must have been the wine, but she told me all about her job at Torchwood. The next day I sent my CV to them and hoped like hell they wouldn't make me forget her. And they didn't.”


And they hadn't.


Ianto had started working for Torchwood the following week; and Lisa had first become his lover, then his girlfriend. Ianto had never looked back. He'd submersed himself into his new job and his new relationship, adapting completely to his surroundings and gradually cutting off most ties to his friends from university and his estranged family.


The Battle of Canary Wharf had brought his whole world crashing down around his ears, although he had refused to acknowledge that at the time. He'd refused to see that Lisa had really died in London and he'd refused to see that Cardiff wasn't Torchwood One. No, Ianto had carried on pretending, hiding Lisa's half-cyberised shell deep in the Hub and himself behind suits and the occasional ironic remark.


In the end, both had been taken away from him. The team had destroyed Lisa and he himself had been stripped bare every time Jack had undressed him with hungry fingers.


Ianto supposed that this, then, might be healing: Neither London nor Cardiff, but still Torchwood; and away from every place that was associated with Lisa or Jack. This was Glasgow and this was about him; not his dead girlfriend nor his absent kind-of lover. Just him, Ianto Jones.


You're still happy with your decision?” Steve asked after a lentghy pause, “What happened to her?”


She died,” Ianto replied, “She died two years ago.”


And he thought to himself that he'd finally come to terms with that.



Where are we?” Ianto asked, carefully parking the car in front of the large manor house in the middle of nowhere.


Ah, lad, this -” Steve made a sweeping gesture, “This is where it all started! This is Torchwood House.”

They both got out of the car and Ianto lazily stretched his muscles after the drive. Steve greedily lit a cigarette, having complained rather loudly about not being able to smoke in the car all the way from Glasgow to here.


Torchwood House,” Ianto said, “Is it named after us?”


Steve laughed, coughed and then took a defiant drag of his cigarette, ignoring his coworker's disapproving glance. “No! Torchwood was named after this house, not the other way round. It seems that in 1879 Queen Victoria stopped by this house. She met with some quite evil aliens plus the Doctor – you know about him, don't you?”


Ianto nodded and kept himself from making a snide comment that he also knew the Doctor's taste in men if Jack Harkness was anything to go by.


Anyway, she founded Torchwood right then and there. This was headquarters for a little while before the move to London. Up until the 1970s it was still used as the main archives for all branches. Nowadays... Well.”


Steve walked towards the entrance, snipping away his cigarette stub as he went. Ianto followed him, drinking in the sight of the dark house in front of him.


Passing through the courtyard Steve got out a large bunch of keys and unlocked the front door. A smell of mustiness and age greeted them upon entering the house; Ianto blinked in the darkness until Steve found the light switch.


And then Ianto couldn't help himself: he gasped in amazement.


Even in the entrance hall there were shelves all around them, reaching to the ceiling. All of them were crammed full with folders, boxes and the occasional book. They seemed to go on forever, the top of them nearly disappearing in the dusk of the dimly-lit ceiling.


But this is wonderful!” he said softly.


Steve nodded. “A hundred years of Torchwood. Nearly every room is full of those, and then there's the basement...”


Is this still used today?” Ianto asked, nearing the shelves and slowly trailing his fingers along them.


No. The bloke who was chief archivist retired ten years ago and comes in a couple of times per week to look after everything. London didn't think that this position needed filling again.”


But all that knowledge!” Ianto murmured, “If someone were to take all of this and make it digital... All that knowledge, it's been there for all of this time and nobody's used it for years! If done properly...”


And that's where you come in, lad,” Steve said softly and Ianto turned to look at him, “This will be your new job.”


As Ianto opened his mouth to protest the other man shook his head. “Don't. I know you chafe at being forced into doing nothing at the office. For heaven's sake, I'm lucky you haven't reorganised my bathroom toiletries into alphabetical order yet. That's why I want you to come here, two or three times a week, and make this stuff accessible on a computer.”


But -” Ianto protested, “That could take years!”


Steve smirked. “Better get started then, no?”



Ianto stared at the screen, blinked and then stretched with a soft sigh. A soft ping informed him that the data transfer was complete and he closed down all windows before getting up from the floor to make himself a cup of coffee.


This was the third week that he'd been working at Torchwood House; and thanks to a nifty alien device that could scan files and books at an astonishing speed and then transfer them to his computer, his work progressed faster than he'd originally expected.


He'd sent for the device from Cardiff; and Tosh hadn't been best pleased at having to give it up. After some tinkering with the software on it Ianto had even got it to introduce some basic referencing and tags automatically. Even though it was still a lot of work to do he was now positive that it could be finished within a couple of months instead of years.


Ianto wandered throught the hallways, down the stairs to where the kitchen was. He'd opened every single door in the house on a whim and now he could glance at rows after rows of shelves as he made his way downstairs, his steps sounding oddly muffled.


He came here once a week, usually staying at a small B&B in a nearby village for two nights, but taking care to return to Glasgow for the weekend; he'd grown too fond of his own life to give it up for a seriously neglected archive. Steve was happy because he didn't have to deal with his daily restlessness anymore. Ianto was happy because he'd found out more about aliens in the last three weeks than in his entire previous career at Torchwood.


He found a kind of inner peace here, in this abandoned house where it was never really bright inside, even with the sun shining outside and all the lights switched on. The silence around him was absolute, the creaks of the old wooden beams and humming of his laptop fading into the background as he worked and gathered knowledge for times to come.



Toshiko: Ianto?


Toshiko: Ianto!


Ianto: Yes Tosh? Sorry, I was just on the phone.


Toshiko: Ianto -


[Toshiko is typing a message]


Ianto: What is it?


Ianto: Has something happened?


[Toshiko is typing a message]


Ianto: Tosh you're worrying me. Are you all right?


Toshiko: Ianto, Jack is back.


Back to index


Chapter 2: Chapter 2


Two days later Ianto's mobile phone rang. He'd just been taking a nap to make up for the lack of sleep during the last two nights and nearly fell off the bed groping for his phone.


Yes?” he asked groggily, his voice thick with sleep and exhaustion.


Ianto?”


He sat up abruptly, his heart pounding in his chest. “Jack. Welcome back, sir.”


Ianto, where the hell are you?”


Ianto swallowed, his mouth suddenly dry. “Glasgow, sir. My flat, to be precise. Didn't the team tell you about my transfer?”


Of course they told me, but – how – I mean, why did you get transferred?”


He bit back the caustic reply that it had hardly been his choice, thank you very much. And sometimes that still rankled: That at the end of the day the team did not – had not – really needed him; Owen hadn't bothered to replace him after all and it had almost been half a year since he'd left Cardiff.


Getting up from the bed he wandered over to the windows and drew up the blinds. It was a dreary day and rain pattered softly against the window panes.


It seemed like the best solution at the time,” he finally offered, “Steve needed someone to help him out with the running of Torchwood Two while he was injured.”


Jack seemed to be exasperated and made his displeasure clear. “Running of Torchwood Two? There's nothing to run, it's Glasgow we're talking about here! Even so, Gwen told me it's been six months! Why haven't you come back?”


I beg to differ, sir, there is work for me here. I'm not finished yet.”


Ianto, I order you to come back to Cardiff immediately.”


He gripped his phone more tightly, growing angry. “That is hardly your decision to make. Steve Halliwell is my immediate superior and of the same internal rank as you. As such it is his decision when – if – I return to Torchwood Three.”


Something in his voice must have made Jack aware of his anger because he sighed. “I didn't mean it like that. I'm sorry, ok? It's just that -”


It's just what?” Ianto interrupted him, “You remember my existence two days after coming back and then decide to simply order me around? You've been gone for months -”


I couldn't help that!” Jack snapped, “And I've already explained it to the others half a dozen times, don't get me started again because you of all people don't have a clue how tricky time travel can be! And there was an incident here, I called as soon as I could.”


That's good to hear, sir,” Ianto said, smarting from the 'you of all people'. He knew he wasn't the brightest or most experienced member on the team; he knew that most of his knowledge stemmed from files in the Archives. Still, he didn't need to have driven that point home by his ex-lover just after he'd started to put his life back together again.


Listen, Tosh has just finished analysing some readings and I've got to go. Talk to you later?”


Goodbye, sir,” Ianto said, but Jack had already hung up. He glanced at the phone in his hand and briefly considered flinging it against the wall. He could go for a run, work through his frustration and anxiety, but it was still raining outside and he didn't fancy getting drenched.


In the end, not willing to face or even think about this whole new mess, Ianto took two sleeping pills and crawled back into bed.



You all right, lad?” Steve asked Ianto when he came down into the office.


What?” Ianto looked up from the screen he'd been staring at for the last fifteen minutes without taking in a single thing.


Are you all right?” Steve repeated, sinking down on his chair and propping his feet on the table, sweeping off several uncatalogued artifacts and an empty pizza box in the process. He frowned as Ianto didn't immediately reprimand him for making a mess.


Of course I'm all right,” Ianto said, taking a sip of coffee that had gone cold hours ago.


So why did you come here in the middle of the night? What's so important that it couldn't wait until this morning?”


Ianto didn't reply right away. What he'd been doing was to hack into the CCTV footage at Torchwood Three and watch the mildly teary-eyed reunion of Gwen, Tosh and Owen with Captain Jack Harkness. He'd watched how the man had descended down into the Hub via the lift a dozen times, from every angle available. He'd watched Gwen hug him first warily and then enthusiastically; and he'd listened to the ensuing meeting with his headphones on maximum volume, eyes closed: Jack explaining where he'd come from (the 51st century), who he was (a renegade Time Agent), why he'd gone off with the Doctor (to find the cause of his immortality and because he'd thought he didn't belong here) and why he'd come back (he'd – well – missed them).


Ianto just hoped that Tosh would never notice the security breach. Then again, he'd worked with that system day and night for two years and should, in theory, know it like the back of his hand.


After watching his old team go off and follow up an inexplicable surge in Weevil activity – and nobody had looked happier than Jack to get into that SUV – Ianto had taken a masochistic pleasure in wiping all of his online searches for a Captain Jack Harkness, going so far as to make sure that it was impossible to prove that they had ever been there in the first place. He'd then tightened their own internal security, ensuring that nobody who wasn't physically in the office could access their systems without Ianto knowing it.


He was almost sure that he wasn't important enough to Jack – or anybody – to be snooped after, but it gave him something to do at the end of a long and painful night.


It's the Captain, isn't it?” Steve finally asked and Ianto shrugged. “More or less.”


What happened, lad? I never did find out why he disappeared or where he went.”


It wasn't in the official report,” Ianto said, remembering a stone-faced Gwen designing those ridiculous 'Wanted' posters and Owen fudging the report they'd had to send to London.


Does it matter?” he asked.


It matters when you scare the living daylights out of Mary by leaving the wardrobe door wide open. She thought somebody had found out. You could have at least used the back entrance, lad, and not traipsed through my bedroom while I had company.”


You were both asleep,” Ianto pointed out, feeling a headache coming on. First taking sleeping pills, then forcing himself awake and pulling an all-nighter had probably not been the best of ideas.


Sod it, talk to me! You haven't been right these past few days, ever since that bird from Cardiff called to tell you that the Captain is back.”


Believe it or not, but this doesn't actually have to do anything with work. It's just... private.”


As he was saying those words, Ianto realised that they were true. The fact that his old boss had suddenly reappeared after over six months and ordered his arse back to Cardiff wasn't what was bothering him. No, Ianto's problem was that he'd begun to heal; he'd begun to forget about his tea boy status and being someone's part time shag. He hadn't minded at the time, hadn't thought much about it, to be honest. But things were different now.


What, were you two lovers or something?” Steve asked sarcastically and then watched in amazement as Ianto blanched.


The older man groaned. “Blimey, lad, I didn't know you had it in you!”


Ianto wheezed.


Briskly coming to a decision, Steve got up and tugged Ianto out of his chair. “Right then. I've got an order for you: Go home. Take the rest of the week off, and I mean it: I'll kick your arse six ways to Sunday if I find you lolling around Torchwood House. Go out, get sloshed and pull, or stay home, weep into your pillow and write maudlin poetry. I don't care. But when you come back here on Monday I want you back as you were, not some monosyllabic insomniac high on caffeine. Do you understand me?”


Yes, sir,” Ianto smiled weakly and, for a moment, felt pathetically grateful towards the other man.



Toshiko: Hey Ianto!


Ianto: Hello Tosh. How are you?


Toshiko: Bit bruised from last night's alien hunt, but Owen patched me up.


Ianto: What happened?


Toshiko: Turns out that there are alien tourist groups – you know, visiting exciting primitive civilisations.


Toshiko: That's us, by the way.


Toshiko: One of the group had brought their pets along. Dogs with no noses, can you imagine?


Ianto: ...


Toshiko: Anyway they got loose and we had to capture them. The size of their teeth more than made up for the lack of nose.


Ianto: But everything was all right in the end?


Toshiko: Yes, it was fine. What about you?


Ianto: I'm all right.


Ianto: Bit tired, long night yesterday although for entirely different reasons.


Toshiko: Do tell!


Ianto: Nothing special, I just went out with some people I hadn't seen since university.


Toshiko: Anything interesting happen? ;)


Ianto: I'm sure I don't know what you mean.


Jack: What she means is did you pull?


Toshiko: Jack!


Toshiko: I've told you not to read our IM conversations, they're private!


Jack: You're at work Tosh, nothing's private.


Jack: So Ianto? Did you pull?


[Ianto is typing a message]


Jack: I'm waiting.


Toshiko: Actually, so am I.


Ianto: You don't really expect me to tell you?


Ianto: Anyway I've got to go, things to do.


Jack: Wuss!


Jack: You're wasted up there in Scotland and you know it.


Ianto: I like here though.


Ianto: It's only temporary.


Jack: Temporary my ass.


Jack: You're giving up the excitement of a rift in time and space for organising an archive nobody's even thought of for thirty years!


Ianto: That's the work I was trained for sir. It's no sacrifice on my part.


Ianto: I'll talk to you later Tosh, there's some readings I'd like you to take a look at if that's all right?


Toshiko: Sure, no problem. Bye!


Ianto: Bye, Tosh.


Jack: What about me?


Ianto: Goodbye, sir.


[conversation ends]



Ianto rang the bell, stepped back and waited. A moment later the door was opened and a middle-aged woman stared at him in a rather unfriendly manner.


What is it?” she demanded harshly.


I'm sorry to interrupt ma'am, but is your husband in by any chance?” Ianto asked, smiling politely.


No. Left yesterday morning, haven't seen him since. Why?”


It seems that your husband, Ian McDonald, is in possession of a rather unusual technical device that has caused some minor disruptions to the city's electrical grid over the past few weeks...”


'Minor disruptions' was putting it mildly. The alien device had been sporadically active over the past two weeks, disabling electricity in the whole city for a few moments at a time. As Ianto could only track it when it was active he'd had to wait until yesterday, when McDonald had apparently figured out how to use it properly and killed off the electricity in Glasgow for two hours, in the middle of the morning rush hour. No wonder he'd got cold feet and disappeared for a while.


I've told him a dozen times to stop playing with that thing! Got it on Ebay he said, didn't even know what it was!”


Do you know whether he left it here or took it with him?” Ianto asked.


No idea.”


Well, I'm Special Ops,” Ianto said, flashing her a badge that was rather skillfully faked, “Do you mind if I come in and have a look?”


The woman – Mrs McDonald – shrugged and opened the door more widely so Ianto could step through.


His room's upstairs,” she told him roughly, “Second door to the left. Let me know when you're finished.”


Ianto smiled and nodded, wondering at how easy it was to gain access to the houses of complete strangers. His “Special Ops” ID was fake; and now the woman left him alone to explore the house while she shuffled off to the kitchen. Making his way upstairs, Ianto spared a fleeting thought for whether Tosh would have tracked down the device more quickly. Probably: It had taken him all of yesterday and the whole night to decode the signal, isolate a single frequency and then track it back to a house in the East End of the city.


Still, he'd had to do all of the work by himself. Steve had gone on holiday with Mary – their first holiday after an on-off relationship spanning ten years. The other man had been a nervous wreck when Ianto had driven him to the airport a week ago.


He carefully opened the designated door and grimaced in distaste at the mess he found within. Every available surface in the room and most of the floor were covered with electrical junk of some kind: Broken CD players, a meticulously dissected laptop, screw drivers, nuts, bolts, spanners... He stepped into the room, expecting to hear an ominous crunching sound under his boots. Getting out his PDA he entered the exact coordinates of the house; if the device really was still here he'd be able to detect it at this range even if it was currently deactivated.


A soft beep alerted him to the fact that it was indeed near him and as Ianto started looking around more closely it suddenly occurred to him that he liked doing this: This job, here, right now. It was like solving a gigantic puzzle and if he was lucky there was a prize at the end of it, another piece of alien tech to be analysed and catalogued – a small puzzle piece that somehow fit into the bigger picture of all those foreign worlds out there.


He wasn't an adrenaline junkie like is colleagues in Cardiff, and he probably never would be. He didn't thrive under life-threatening situations and he certainly didn't revel in them. But this, this was something he was good at – and it was better than cleaning up other people's shit by a long shot.




Ianto, my lad!” Steve exclaimed enthusiastically as he entered the office, “How are you?”


Ianto looked up from the microscope he'd been configurating and stared at the other man.


You've got a tan,” he said accusingly.


And I feel fantastic!” Steve grinned. “Reborn, even! Fantastic weather, excellent food, great sex – I even considered quitting smoking for a while before I remembered that I'd need some fortification to bear your woefully anal presence again.”


Thank you,” Ianto said drily, “The sentiment is appreciated, I'm sure.”


He wasn't surprised to see the other man light a cigarette in answer and drop down in his chair.


So!” he said after a short pause, “What's new? Glasgow's still standing, I see.”


Ianto gestured to the microscope and the odd bits of alien technology arranged neatly around it. “I've found out what caused the blackouts and retrieved it. I was able to activate it under controlled circumstances but I still don't know whether that is its original purpose or merely a side effect. I had nothing else to do, so...”


You took it apart,” Steve finished for him, “Find anything interesting?”


Lots of alien dust,” he deadpanned and the older man smirked.


Anything else?”


London contacted us three days ago,” Ianto said carefully and watched as Steve's good mood evaporated instantly. As a tiny outpost in an area with very little alien activity, Torchwood Two was usually ignored by their superiors in London, even more so since Torchwood One had been shut down. Its missions were clear: Cover up any alien activity in Scotland and find and contain the Doctor if possible. The first one was easy, the second ludicrous. Nevertheless, Steve had got used to having free reign and he grew cranky whenever London was mentioned – although twenty years ago, the parting had been less than amicable after all.


What do they want?” he asked gruffly, looking around for an ashtray. Unable to locate one – it had probably been buried under a pile of files – he dropped the still glimming cigarette into Ianto's empty coffee cup. The younger man scowled at him and Steve raised an eyebrow as if daring him to tell him off.


Apparently the Future Options Committee has decided that enough time has passed since the Battle of Canary Wharf. They want to review the closing of Torchwood One and discuss a re-opening.”


Blimey! You'd have thought that they'd learned their lesson when most of their staff got an involuntary upgrade,” Steve muttered. Strangely enough his comment didn't hurt Ianto; it didn't recall the images of metal and blood like it would have done some months ago. He went on, “The only branches left are Cardiff and Glasgow; Torchwood Four still hasn't been found. As such there aren't that many people with any real experience who are still active as well. That's why they've requested that one of us come to London for a week, to join in the debate so to speak.”


Steve sucked in a deep breath and groaned. He tipped back his head. “When are you going then?” he asked.


I beg your pardon?”


I said, when are you going lad?”


Steve – sir – as the leader of Torchwood Two I think it should really be you going to London. You've got more experience and -”


That's a load of bollocks and you know it,” the older man interrupted him. “You know me; I can't be bothered to be polite to people I like, can you imagine what I'd say to those city-bred sycophants? No, you'll do much better. You can even wear one of your pretty suits again if you want to.”


But -”


Or don't you want to go because the Captain is going to be there?”


Ianto didn't reply but stared down at his hands. In the month since Jack's return he'd talked to the man once on the phone and a couple of times when he'd sneaked into Tosh's and his IM conversations. He still hadn't sorted out his feelings regarding him; he tried not to think about it too much. When he did – as it inevitably happened, especially late at night – he felt a tangled mess of confusion and anxiety that left him slightly sick. Seeing Jack in London would be – awkward.


No,” he finally said, “It's... I have no desire to return to London or revisit the history of Torchwood One and what went wrong.”


What happened, lad?”


You know what happened,” Ianto said harshly, “Didn't you read my file?”


The older man shook his head. “Never bothered. I know you worked in London, then in Cardiff. You had a girlfriend who died and used to shag the Captain before he disappeared.”


I worked for Torchwood One, that's true. I was there when it call came crashing down. My girlfriend – Lisa – didn't die of an accident. She died because the Cybermen got her. I was there, Steve. I saw it happen.”


Steve suddenly looked at Ianto, really looked with an intensity that made him feel uncomfortable.


You survived,” he said softly, “You were at Torchwood One and you survived? One of what, 27?”


Ianto inclined his head.


Well then. Now, I could suddenly become very understanding and go myself, offering some platitudes about being sorry – which I am, just so you know – along the way. Truth is, I can't be arsed to go to London, so as your boss I order you to go. I'll even buy you a drink when you get back and give you a manly hug or something.”


Steve's abrupt change of mood saved Ianto from melancholy; it fit in with his usual behaviour and he would have been more disturbed if his colleague had presented his apologies for being an inconsiderate git like most other people would have done.


He smiled slightly, a mere twitching of the lips. “I'll get packed then, shall I?”



To say that Ianto was feeling uncomfortable as he landed at London City Airport was an understatement. To all purposes and appearances he didn't look at all out of place amongst the other businessmen sharing the plane with him. He had gone for the full outfit, wearing a black suit with matching waistcoat, a dark blue shirt and a black tie with light-coloured threads running through it. He'd even put on cufflinks although he seriously doubted that anybody would be looking at his wrists.


No, he was on edge for reasons altogether different: being back in London stressed him more than he cared to admit, especially since he knew what expected him – or rather who expected him.


Mr Jones?” a middle-aged man asked him as he stepped out of the airport. Ianto nodded. The man smiled coolly and said, “I'm Kevin Smith, from the Future Options Committee. I've come to drive you to the conference.”


Ianto followed the other man silently to a rather expensive Audi and inwardly clenched his teeth at the word conference. As if they'd be discussing a new sales pitch or the annual revenues of some mid-sized company!


The drive was passed in silence, with Ianto staring out of the window and taking in the half-mad bustle of an ordinary London day. At one point in his life, right after university, no city in the United Kingdom had been more seductive than its capital. Having grown up in a small village in the north of Wales he'd wanted nothing more than to join the 'real' world as he'd imagined it back then. And for a while his dreams had come true: He'd had a girlfriend he loved – a bit too much, some would say – and lived in the most exciting city in the country, with an interesting job that paid enough to enjoy it.


And yet Ianto knew that he'd never come back to live here. He'd been away for more than two years and even without all the memories he'd grown to appreciate a more sedate lifestyle.


The offices of the Future Options Committee were located right in the heart of the City of London and Ianto noted that even after the disaster of Canary Wharf they hadn't quite lost heir penchant for a corporate business image. Kevin stopped the car in front of a sleek but nondescript building and Ianto got out slowly, feeling exhausted already.


He followed the other man through the door, nodding at the security porter on duty and found himself in a large entrance hall.


The first meeting will be in half an hour, in the main conference room. There's signs up, you can't miss it,” his companion said and wandered off before Ianto had the chance to thank him.


He was left standing there, feeling more than a little lost and alone, although the hall was full of people waiting for the meeting to begin.


Some of them Ianto knew by sight; representatives from the Queen and UNIT, officially there on a purely consultative basis. The rest had to be working for the Future Options Committee and with some shock he recognised some of his former coworkers from Torchwood One: Lionel de la Mare, for example, had worked as Yvonne Hartman's deputy and been saved by the fact that he'd been in hospital at the time of the attack, being treated for depression and chronic exhaustion. It surprised him that the other man had not been Retconned but carried on working for the organisation that had been the cause for these symptoms in the first place.


Talking animatedly to him was Sue Redpath who'd worked for security and Ianto could almost taste the panic with which he'd hidden Lisa away from her. She'd been part of the team who had killed - “disposed of” as the official reports noted – the remaining Cybermen after it had all been over.


Ianto quickly stepped into a corner of the room, half-hidden by a large plant.


He didn't want to admit it to himself, but there was one face in the crowd he was looking for; and he couldn't help the slight jolt in his stomach when he found it.


Captain Jack Harkness, in all his glory, wearing his military coat and a large smile like he'd always done, as if he'd never been away at all.


Ianto lowered his eyes but he couldn't help himself: His gaze was drawn back to the other man. Jack was larger than life, always had been, but even more so in these surroundings. Where Ianto blended in perfectly with his suit, Jack stood out like a sore thumb wearing heavy boots and an outdated pistol. He didn't seem to notice, however, or didn't care even if he did. Gwen, on the other hand, who was standing beside him looked distinctly uncomfortable in her jeans and bright red top. She was whispering something to Jack and he laughed out loud, the sound carrying easily across the room; Ianto flinched.


Strangely enough the inner voice telling him to get a grip and stop acting like a bloody ninny sounded suspiciously like Steve's; whoever it was, they were right. Hiding away in corners wouldn't solve anything; in fact it put him in a defensive position should anyone actually want to talk to him. The habit to just fade into the background was one he'd quickly acquired at Torchwood Three. He'd wanted not to be seen, wanted to be ignored so that the others would forget about him and he could care for Lisa in peace.


In the end that strategy had worked a bit too well, even for his tastes.


Working in Glasgow had taught him to assert himself more, even if it was just putting his foot down about one of Steve's antics. Nevertheless, he mostly worked on his own there and the usual group dynamics didn't apply.


Here Ianto's instinct to disappear kicked back into full gear, however, and he had to force himself to cross the room, making his way towards Jack and Gwen. The other man didn't seem to notice him at first and Ianto had to clear his throat before he looked him full in the face. Something in Jack's eyes and smirk told him that the slight had been deliberate.


Gwen,” he smiled. “Sir. It's good to see you both again.”


He held out his hand. Jack reached for it immediately, grasping it tightly.


Ianto Jones,” he said, his voice full of wonder; and then he laughed, a full-throated laugh that, for a split second, had Ianto thinking that everything would be all right in the end.


Back to index


Chapter 3: Chapter 3


Ianto!” a familiar voice rang out and before he had the chance to properly register what was happening he was enveloped by a warm pair of arms and a cloud of spicy perfume.


Lindsay,” he said softly, hugging back, “It's been a long time.”


Damn right it's been a long time!” Lindsay said and released him. She was a small woman, of slender build and with shockingly red hair. Ianto had got to know her on his very first day at Torchwood One when she'd spilled the entire contents of her tea cup over his newly bought suit. Ianto's love affair with coffee had begun that day, as had a cautious friendship with Lindsay. She'd worked in the exobiology research group and had been severely injured in the fires breaking out in Torchwood Tower while hiding from the Cybermen.


The last thing Ianto knew of her was that she'd been in hospital, in an artificially induced coma while the doctors struggled to save her life; and as she was tucking back a strand of hair behind her ear he could see scars on the back of her hand.


Still, she'd survived; she was one of the 27 who had come out of the inferno alive if not unscathed.


I'm sorry,” he said quietly, “I think I meant to visit, but, well – Lisa...”


Lindsay shook her head. “Don't worry about it. I understand how much you loved her.”


And in a way, she really did: In a moment of drunkenness she'd confessed to her longstanding and unrequited crush on the other woman who had been regrettably – or not so regrettably in Ianto's opinion – straight. She'd even told him that the tea spillage might not have been entirely accidental; and that her resolve to hate him had wavered when instead of swearing at her he'd actually apologised for his clumsiness and brought her a fresh cup of tea minutes later.


It was a long time ago. At least it feels that way,” Ianto said. “How are you? Are you working for the Future Options Committee?”


Lindsay nodded. “It's not like I had anywhere else to got after everything went to hell in a handbasket, did I? Also, rehab took forever and I'm still relapsing sometimes, plus the whole post-traumatic stress disorder spiel, which employer would show any understanding? At least here I don't have to explain myself. I'm rather fond of my memories of the last six years, too, awful as some of them might be. And I love the work, couldn't bear to live without the extraterrestrial stuff nowadays.”


Ianto smiled, feeling a pang of compassion for his estranged friend. That was the thing about Lindsay: She'd tell the absolute truth, always, even to polite questions such as “How are you?” where a real answer was neither expected nor wished. She'd say it in such a light tone, however, that made it impossible to feel pity towards her. More often than not people would burst out into startled laughter when she answered them that she felt like shit because her last one night-stand had told her she looked like a starved midget without having the excuse of being drunk. So if Lindsay told him now that she was still suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder without making a joke of it this meant that things had to be bad.


Where are you sitting, by the way?” she asked him and Ianto shrugged, looking around the room.


The first day of the conference had officially ended, the meeting in the afternoon being mostly introductory. Lionel de la Mare had recently been elected head of the Future Options Committee – and Ianto could only hope that his policies would be the direct opposite to Yvonne Hartman's, although he hadn't exactly shown a streak of rebelliousness while working under her – and had introduced first himself and then the main representatives sent by UNIT and the Queen respectively. Jack had also been mentioned, with the Captain flashing the whole room a dazzling smile that had made Ianto's stomach turn, and not necessarily in a good way.


They'd spent four hours recapping what had caused the fall of Torchwood One: its refusal to cooperate, Yvonne Hartman's almost religious zeal in pursuing her goals, a lack of separation of power; the list went on. The whole thing had been accompanied by pictures of Torchwood Tower, the Void Ship, even a blurry CCTV picture of the Doctor standing in front of the TARDIS. Thankfully someone had drawn the line at showing the interior of the Tower after the Daleks and Cybermen had finished with it.


The whole group had then been bundled off to a modern five star hotel within walking distance to the offices of the Future Options Committee for a reception and a subsequent dinner. This hotel was also where Ianto – and, he suspected, Jack and Gwen as well – would be staying for the week and it was further proof that no expenses were spared when it came to the resurrection of Torchwood London.


There was a seating plan for the dinner, Ianto was sure of it. As a member of Torchwood Two – a branch most people didn't know existed until they started wondering about the gap between the famous Torchwood One and the infamous Torchwood Three – he fully expected to be seated in a far away corner of the room, probably near the kitchen.


Lindsay however simply grabbed his hand and dragged him over to her table, saying, “My colleague, well, my sort-of girlfriend, oh, you know what I mean don't you? Anyway, she was supposed to come too but it's her flat mate's hen night tonight and who has their hen night on a Monday? Bloody weird if you ask me. So, faced with the choice between playing posh and getting lashed with mates she chose the latter, only she was supposed to sit with me. Don't know if I'm supposed to be pissed off about her disappearing act really, I should be if she's my girlfriend and I'm not allowed to be if we're only fuck buddies, but my point is there's a spare seat at my table that you're quite welcome to.”


At this point Ianto could hardly keep up with her stream of words, delievered at an astonishing speed and in a clipped English accent he knew had been mercilessly drilled into her at a public school.


He took a seat next to her, at a table that was situated right in the middle of the room, and nodded politely at the other people already sat there: a man Lindsay introduced as head of logistics, an elderly woman who had served as director for a short while and who had recently come out of retirement; and two startlingly identical male twins who were members of UNIT, judging by their uniforms. Two chairs at the table remained empty; and the starters had already been cleared away and they were waiting for the soup as Captain Jack Harkness dropped into the seat right opposite Ianto's, Gwen sitting down at his side.


Ianto narrowly avoided choking on his wine. His calm façade didn't slip, even as Jack smiled at him longer than he ought to have. Glancing at Lindsay he wondered whether she could have set him up for this. But no; the other woman was eyeing Gwen interestedly, completely oblivious to her neighbour's discomfort.


Hello again,” Gwen said delightedly, obviously relieved to sit with someone she actually knew. “Sorry we're late – Owen rang us, there's been a bit of trouble with -” but she fell silent as Jack put a hand on her arm and shook his head.


It's classified,” Ianto said, more a statement than a question. Gwen nodded awkwardly and he decided to take pity on her, smoothly asking, “How are you enjoying London so far then?”


To be honest I haven't seen that much of it, I mean we only arrived this morning. I've been here before though, with Rhys -”


Ianto couldn't help but notice that Lindsay pouted slightly at this bit of information.


... but I'll see. What about you?”


London is... London. Familiar I suppose.”


Have you ever been back after... you know?”


No, there was no reason for me to return here.”


Ianto left London like someone had set his arse on fire,” Lindsay joined in the conversation, “Didn't even wait till they'd finished cleaning up what was left of the Tower. Still, can't blame him after what happened even if he did end up in Cardiff. Cardiff! He could have had a position on the Committee, but no.”


Your loss was our gain,” Jack said. “This leads me to doubt that you think Glasgow's any better for him?”


Lindsay shrugged. “Don't know, it all seems a bit provincial compared to London. Still, I've met Steve Halliwell once and he was a right laugh, to be enjoyed in very small doses. It's a miracle he hasn't shot you yet, Ianto, he's strange. How can you work with him all week?”


He's...” Ianto struggle to find the appropriate word and finally settled for, “unique. And I don't always work with him, at the moment I spend the majority of my time at Torchwood House.”


Torchwood House?” Gwen asked.


It used to be the main archive but became obsolete in the 1970s. It was all but shut down when Torchwood London moved into the Tower,” Jack explained. “As it is, it's a ghost house, full of forgotten files and useless artifacts.”


I beg to differ, sir,” Ianto objected, “It's certainly not useless. Most of our records were lost during the Battle. The files at Torchwood House remained unaffected, however. By making that knowledge available again we've started regaining what was lost.”


Too right, young man!” the elderly woman sitting next to him suddenly said, “I remember when the House was shut down. It was all very tragic, old Jamie nearly wept, bless him, although he stayed there of course. Never left, he must be over 90 years old by now. Tell me, is he still there?”


She fired questions at Ianto all the way through dinner, until she suddenly pleaded tiredness and retired before the dessert was served.


The minute she'd left the table Jack rose from his chair and sat next to Ianto, lightly squeezing his shoulder as he did so.


So,” he said softly, “Here we are.”


Indeed, sir,” Ianto replied and then fell silent again.


He pretended to be taking sips from his water but couldn't help sneaking glances at Jack out of the corner of his eyes. He was so close to the other man he could practically feel the warmth radiating off him. He smelled so uniquely of himself, of Jack, that Ianto had to keep himself from inhaling too deeply, to commit it to memory after half a year of nothingness. Jack's hair was a bit shorter than usual, a bit spiky; he'd probably had it cut recently. He was wearing a dark blue shirt and braces, looking the same as ever, down to his brown wristband. And yet – he seemed to be... lighter, somehow. Like a weight had been lifted off his shoulders and he could breathe properly for the first time ever since Ianto had met him.


I'm sorry, by the way,” Jack finally offered, “For that phone call. It was... inappropriate.”


Ianto couldn't help a startled smile. “I'd never thought I'd hear that word coming from you of all people.”


So? Do you accept it? My apology, I mean.”


He suppressed the sudden urge to embrace the other man with some difficulty.


Of course I do.”



The knocking on his door woke Ianto from mildly random dreams fuelled by lack of sleep and too much alcohol.


He opened his eyes blearily, squinted at the clock and groaned as the numbers '04.30 AM' flashed at him with a red cheerfulness that should be banned immediately.


Rolling off the bed he clumsily did up the buttons on his shirt. For some unfathomable reason he was also still wearing his tie, wrapped loosely around his neck and he straightened that as well. The results was that he looked almost impeccably neat as he opened the door, considering the time of night.


Jack,” he said softly to the man standing in front of him, “Do you know what time it is?”


Jack shrugged. “So? Did you have anything... better to do?” and accompanied the sentence with a leer that had Ianto close his eyes and pray for patience.


It's half four in the morning,” he pointed out, “I was asleep.”


Well, that's the thing,” Jack became serious, “Gwen and I are leaving in three hours and we haven't really had the chance to talk since that dinner, so...”


That was true; Jack and he had barely exchanged a dozen words all week. During the day the other man had always been surrounded by a group of people, above all Lionel de la Mare who'd come to value the opinion of Torchwood's most experienced leader. Jack provided a practical approach to problems that had likely never occurred to most members of the Committee who all firmly fell under the category of 'pencil pusher'. And in the evenings Lindsay had dragged Ianto off with her, insisting that he meet her friends, flat mate and assorted relatives. She'd made him see a musical in West End and taken him clubbing in Soho, as if wanting to make up for two and a half years of non-communication.


What is there to talk about?” Ianto whispered.


Jack made a sweeping gesture with his hands. “Well. Listen, do you mind if I come in? Because this is kind of awkward, standing in the corridor.”


Sir,” he said quietly, “We both know what would happen if you were to enter this room.”


And that would be such a bad thing?”


Under the present circumstances? Yes, I think so.”


We have unfinished business, Ianto. It's not just going to go away.”


It hardly matters now, sir. You are leaving for Cardiff; I'm returning to Glasgow tomorrow.”


Come back,” Jack said imploringly, “We need you.”


Ianto sighed. “Jack. I've got... I'm happy in Glasgow, or at least as happy as I can be. Are you honestly asking me to give up a job I'm actually good at to make you coffee in Cardiff? Stock up on tourist brochures? The team doesn't need me, it never has. And now that Torchwood London is going to be reopened you don't even need an archivist or recorder anymore, you can send it directly to London. Really sir, this is for the best.”


The older man stared at him, seemingly defeated. Making a sudden decision Ianto took a step towards him, grasping his head with both hands and pressing a quick kiss against Jack's mouth. His lips were dry and chapped from sleep; Jack's were softer and warmer than he remembered them being.


Take care of yourself, sir.”


And then he softly shut the door in his face, the clicking of the latch echoing the stuttering beat of his own heart.



Lindsay: So, are you glad to be back in Scotland freezing your arse off?


Ianto: It's not actually all that cold.


Ianto: And yes I am.


Lindsay: I'm not letting you out of my sight again you know.


Lindsay: I know that losing Lisa must have been -


[Lindsay is typing a message]


Lindsay: Anyway, just leaving was a bit harsh. You could have called or something.


Ianto: Lindsay


Ianto: Believe me when I tell you that it's more complicated than you think.


Lindsay: Then explain it to me!


Ianto: Not now.


Ianto: Not yet.


Ianto: But I will one day, that's a promise.


Lindsay: So!


Lindsay: Did I notice some UST between your former boss and you or was that just wishful thinking?


Ianto: Why would that be wishful thinking? Surely the thought of two men together isn't exactly arousing for you?


Lindsay: God no, don't be disgusting. All that hair... urgh.


Lindsay: No, I always figured you were just being polite when you said you were bi.


Ianto: I wasn't.


Lindsay: And the answer to the original question...?


Ianto: You might have a point.


Lindsay: Ha! I knew it.


Lindsay: Is that why you left Cardiff and refuse to go back now? UST with the boss?


Ianto: It wasn't exactly unresolved.


Lindsay: You've shagged Captain Jack?


Ianto: There's no need to be crude.


Ianto: But yes.


Lindsay: So what happens now?


Ianto: Nothing.


Ianto: He left and I did as well. I don't know if I'll go back to Torchwood Three.


Lindsay: You could always come back to London. Torchwood Five would welcome you with open arms!


Lindsay: Actually Lionel was really pissed off with that.


Ianto: What?


Lindsay: That they've refused to let him call it Torchwood One. He's been muttering about the crucial role of the main branch ever since.


Ianto: Well


Ianto: Torchwood One was destroyed. It doesn't exist anymore.


Lindsay: Ah well it's just wishful thinking on his part. He's got an inferiority complex a mile wide.


Ianto: Sorry


Ianto: But I've got to back to work.


Lindsay: Ok.


[conversation ends]


Ianto smiled as he logged off and went back to the 'puzzle' before him: An unknown artifact he'd found at Torchwood House the week before. It was the size of his fist, completely smooth and black in colour. He suspected that it was some kind of storing device, although the preliminary tests had come up with nothing. He'd begun looking through other artifacts files on the system, hoping to maybe find something similar, or at least another piece of software that would allow him to hook up the thing directly to his computer.


This was work he loved; and he was too absorbed in it to hear the door bell ring an hour later, nor did it properly register with him when the lift was activated and descended with a barely audible hum.


Love what you've done to the place!”


Ianto nearly dropped the scanner he'd been holding and raised his head. There was Jack, standing in the middle of the room and grinning. The surprised croak that emerged from his throat was less than dignified, Ianto was sure of it, but he simply couldn't help himself. This was Jack, here.


Jack.


The other man observed him intently and he suddenly became aware of how he must look: wearing a pair of jeans and a faded tee shirt – at least he'd ironed it before putting it on -, he'd also foregone shaving for the last two days. Faced with the option of staying in bed for another five minutes or scraping bristles off his face Ianto had decadently chosen the former option, a decision he now thoroughly regretted.


Sir,” he said, gathering himself, “This is somewhat unexpected.”


Exactly,” Jack replied.


Luckily Steve chose to enter the office at that moment, ignoring the Captain completely and absent-mindedly lighting a cigarette as he went over to his desk and started throwing files on the floor.


Damn it, lad, have you seen my wallet somewhere? I could have sworn I had it in my coat last night only it wasn't there this morning. Fucking hell!”


Maybe you left it at the pub?” Ianto suggested gently, glad for the distraction, even if it was a bit embarrassing to have Jack witness his current boss' rather unprofessional behaviour.


Then again, with the way he was dressed and sporting stubble he was hardly one to talk.


Don't be daft, I wouldn't have done that, wasn't that pissed – at least I don't think I was. Thanks for those painkillers by the way, they've done wonders for my hangover this morning. Where is my bloody wallet?”


Did you stop at Mary's afterwards?”


Steve turned around, a happy smile spreading across his face. “You're a godsend, lad! Must have left it at hers. Bloody woman, she kicked me out after... well, you know. Talk about afterglow! Can't stand my snoring, she said. The nerve of that woman! She snores enough to put any man to shame. 'Ta!” his colleague called out as he dashed off towards the garage, leaving a trail of cigarette smoke, a redfaced Ianto and a slightly bemused Jack behind.


Interesting man,” Jack commented.


Quite,” he agreed. “Why are you here, Jack?”


Because I wanted to see you.”


You saw me just over a week ago,” Ianto felt compelled to point out.


Maybe that wasn't enough.”


Why are you here?” Ianto repeated.


Because we need you.”


Wrong answer.”


Because I need you.”


Are you sure?”


No, damn it!” Jack said explosively. “Yes. I don't know. I think so. I've waited over a hundred and thirty years for the Doctor and spent another year in chains – and not the kinky sort either – and now I'm back and everything's fine, but -”


But what?”


I miss you.”


Ah.”


Ianto rose from his chair, switching the system on standby as he went. He put the device he'd been working on in a box and locked it away in the cabinet behind his desk. Then he grabbed his coat and held his hand out to Jack.


Come on, then.”


The older man eyes him suspiciously. “Was that the right thing to say?”


You don't need me,” Ianto said calmly. “You never have and you never will. But I do believe you when you're saying that you've missed me.”


That's quite a... cold attitude.”


It doesn't have to be. Take me to bed, Jack.”




Ianto was nearly asleep, dozing with his head on Jack's chest. The older man had pulled the duvet over them against a slight chill in the air and was now distractedly playing with the hair at the base of his neck, sending warm shivers down Ianto's spine.


It had been too long since he'd had this: feeling sated and cared for, listening to Jack's steady heartbeat with one ear.


He yawned.


Are you falling asleep on me?” Jack asked amusedly.


Ianto nodded in answer, mumbling, “It's just hormones, sir. I can't actually help it.”


Is that so.”


He must have fallen asleep then because the room was dark when he next opened his eyes. Stretching lazily, Ianto yelped as Jack suddenly nipped at his shoulder, immediately trailing his tongue over the spot to soothe it.


Awake?”


I am now,” Ianto said, “Are you hungry?”


Not necessarily for food.”


He sat up, reaching out and cupping Jack's face slightly. In the half-darkness of the bedroom his expression was a study in grey and shadows, with his eyes glittering at him. Ianto swallowed, then leaned over and kissed his lover unhurriedly, almost carefully so. He swept his tongue over Jack's bottom lip, opening his mouth as the older man started responding to the kiss. He shifted until he was almost sitting on Jack's lap, his free arm encircling his waist and languidly stroking his back, splaying his fingers to cover as much of the warm skin as possible.


Finally Ianto ended the kiss, gently pushing Jack away from him and taking a deep breath.


Was that more to your liking?” he asked, slipping off the bed – so it had been put to good use after all, he never would have thought – and groping for his jeans. He put them on, not bothering with underwear because Jack would only take it off again later anyway and flipped the light switch.


The room became fully illuminated; Jack blinked against the abrupt brightness and squeezed his eyes shut.


As long as the main course is still to follow,” he quipped.


Ianto inclined his head. “In a little while. I'm starving I'm afraid. Do you like Shepherd's Pie?”


Yes, but that's going to take ages!”


True. Take-away then? Only you'll be paying, I haven't got any cash on me.”


Deal. Do we have to get out of bed to eat?”


He threw the older man a withering look. “You're not eating in that bed if you're planning on me being in at a later point. There's a table in the living room.”


Jack grimaced, but obediently followed him into the other room, having put on trousers and his shirt at Ianto's orders. Ianto watched him glance around the room as he rang his favourite Chinese restaurant to place his order.


The room was probably not what Jack had been expecting, mainly because it had an unfinished air to it. There was a couch with a tv sitting on the floor in front of it; there was a table with four chairs. Apart from that the room housed an amazing number of books and DVDs, all stocked neatly against the wall – the result of having had every single weekend off for the last six months.


I didn't bother to buy furniture,” Ianto explained to Jack, taking pity on the other man's curiosity. “This was already in here and it was supposed to be temporary, so...”


Isn't that uncomfortable, not having a proper home?”


It was clear that the question was meant as a provocation. He could either answer with a quip about that being a bit rich coming from a man who lived under his office, for goodness' sake, or he could ignore it. Ianto chose the latter.


Would you like something to drink while we wait?”


Some water maybe?”


I'll be back in a moment.”


The thing was, Ianto didn't really mind that his flat was relatively bare. True, he spent a lot of time here, but it seemed right that the walls were empty, that there was a lack of photographs and sentimental knickknacks scattered around the place.


He'd shared a house with some people in London; the fact that his housemates had been students and left chaos in their wake everywhere they went had prevented any chance of creating something comfy for himself. The flat he'd shared with Lisa had mostly had her touch to it; in the end, they'd only lived there for less than a month. At the time Ianto had been utterly content to let his girlfriend do the decorating as a way of capturing more of her personality, even though he'd insisted on cleaning everything she'd bought – and that had led to more than one blazing row.


His flat in Cardiff, on the other hand, had been completely furnished, to the point of cheap prints of landscape paintings hanging on the walls when he'd moved in.


This, however, was his; this was him: A sparsely furnished flat with empty walls. Ianto liked it, the creamy whiteness soothing him as he'd slowly figured out what he wanted from life over the last few months. The walls were not so much empty as they were clean; and what was wrong with that?


Thanks,” Jack said as Ianto handed him a full glass of water and sat on the sofa beside him, putting his head on the other man's shoulder.


Well, this is new.”


What is?” Ianto asked.


You and me. Cuddling.”


This isn't cuddling.”


It comes damn close, you have to admit.”


Would you rather I stop?”


No. No. It's just unusual.”


Well, things are different now.”


How?” Jack asked.


We've never sat together on a sofa before.”


We've got one in the Hub though,” Jack pointed out.


I don't think we've ever managed to make it there.”


True. Ianto...”


Yes, sir?”


Why aren't you... I mean, not that I'm not glad because I am, but – I though-”


-that I would be angry with you?” Ianto finished for him.


Jack nodded, taking care not to dislodge him from where Ianto was leaning into him.


I am. I think I am. You chose the easy way out, not explaining yourself before you disappeared; it was more comfortable for you and I understand that. But I can't help resenting you for it. And I didn't appreciate your behaviour towards me, first by making... this public and then ordering me around on the phone after your return.”


So why did you sleep with me?”


Because I wanted to. Is that not reason enough?”


That remark earned him a chuckle from Jack. “You 21st century humans. Sometimes I think there's hope for you yet.”


Silence fell between them, a pause in which Ianto nuzzled Jack's shoulder. It was true; they hadn't done this before. This was domestic. Sleeping with Jack had been playful, or rough; or sweet; or hard, or lazy, occasionally kinky but it had never occurred to Ianto that it had been anything more than sex until he'd found himself in the other man's office, inhaling the scent clinging to his coat because he missed him.


I still want you to come back to Cardiff, you know,” Jack said, “You don't belong here.”


Where do I belong, sir? With you?”


If you want to. Yes. Yes, you do. You belong with us.”


No, Jack.” Ianto sighed and sat up straight, breaking the contact between them. “The team has no need of a tea boy.”


Jack opened his mouth as if to protest but Ianto shook his head. “Let me finish. I joined Torchwood because of Lisa. I could say it was because it suited my talents, or because it seemed exciting, but that would be a lie. I joined because of her. And I transferred to Cardiff because of her. I'm not brave. I don't bear pain easily. They could have Retconned me into oblivion after the Battle and I would have welcomed it, if not for her. I went to Glasgow because neither Owen nor Tosh could be spared, and you need Gwen on the team and I suspected you'd come back eventually. I didn't really mind going, but things are different now. I've found hapinness here; I've got my life back, my humanity if you will – the very thing you didn't want us to lose in the first place.”

Ianto took Jack's hand into his left hand, carefully stroking it with his right one, his fingertips mapping its contours: knuckles, tendons, skin, every single finger and finally the palm.


You see, my life has been dictated by others, even if only indirectly.”


So now you want to start making your own decisions?” Jack asked, mild hurt in his tone.


I didn't say that,” Ianto replied, “I've always made my own decisions. This is my life, my responsibility. Lisa didn't force me to join Torchwood, nor did she force me to bring her to Cardiff; I decided not to let her go. And you weren't even there at the time; I decided to go to Glasgow, based on what I thought you wanted.”


Taking a deep breath, Ianto continued, “I don't have a problem living my life like that. If you tell me to come back to Cardiff with you, I will. I'll go back to my old duties, but it will be for you that I return. It's important that you know this. I loved Lisa wholeheartedly; she was the reason I got up in the morning. I don't love wisely, Jack. I'm not saying that I love you; but I know that I will if you tell me that you want me back. And sir, I know that you abhor emotional ties. Do you really want that? I can't go back to what we were. Do you really want me to love you?”


Noticing that the other man looked mildly speechless Ianto smiled and pressed a quick kiss on Jack's forehead. “I'm not expecting vows of love and fidelity from you. I'm simply saying that I'd want to be more than your part time shag. You don't have to answer right away; and when your answer comes I'll accept it with no questions asked. Until then you're more than welcome to stay the night.”


Ianto stood up as the door bell rang. “That'll be the Chinese then.”


Back to index


Chapter 4: Chapter 4


Another pint, lad?” Steve asked him.


Ianto drank what was left of his Guinness and then nodded decisively. “I don't see why not.”


I don't need to ask you whether you want another, love, do I?” his boss then turned to Mary.


'Course not, especially since it's your round,” the woman answered.


Steve grinned and shuffled off into the pub, his walk slightly unsteady, and Ianto knew that he'd have to pack off the other man into a taxi later that night and personally bring him to bed. He didn't want a repeat of their last night out when Steve had stubbornly insisted on walking home on his own. He'd called Ianto three hours later, after having woken up in an alleyway lying on a pile of cardboard boxes with his trousers around his ankles and no recollection of how he'd got there.


Mary and him sat in companionable silence for a while; the woman was deftly rolling a cigarette and then lit it with obvious relish.


So, Ianto,” she said roughly, “What do you think of him?”


Who?”


Steve of course!”


That's quite an odd question.”


It think it's safe to assume that I'm an odd person,” Mary said drily.


Ianto inclined his head in agreement. Anybody going out with Steve couldn't be in their right mind, in his opinion. Not that he'd ever tell her that.


Why are you asking me?”


Because you work with him, yeah? Every day – well, almost every day. I suppose you see sides of him I don't.”


Sober, you mean?” Ianto asked and Mary smiled.


She was not a beautiful woman. Although she was ten years younger than Steve her face was full of wrinkles, lined by short curly hair with split ends and dyed a pale shade of red that never quite covered up the ash blonde it was supposed to be hiding. She was relatively small, but stocky and heavy-boned; her hands were rough, cheap golden rings on every single finger.


Neither was she compassionate, or particularly friendly – in that respect she and Steve got along swimmingly and Ianto usually listened with growing horror to the stories she told about whining patients too stubborn for their own good.


There is that,” she said. “Come now, spit it out.”


He is an unconventional man to work for,” Ianto said carefully, remembering last night when a UFO had shown up over Glasgow – thankfully in stealth mode with all its outer lights off or he would have had to Retcon half the city. Steve had not been best pleased to be interrupted while watching the football and he'd promptly passed that displeasure on to the visiting aliens – unknown species, humanoid in appearance and apparently travelling during the galactic equivalent of a gap year – once Ianto had opened a communication channel. His swearing had startled the aliens into apologising profusely and a mollified Steve had gone on to recommend them an out of the way pub near Manchester that served the best real ale on the British Isles and where neither staff nor locals would ask too many questions about their chartreuse skin colour.


Go on,” Mary prompted.


He's...” Ianto gave up on trying to be politically correct. “He's mad as a hatter and doesn't seem to give a damn about his work most of the time – except when he does, and then he comes up with the most random ideas that somehow turn out to be helpful. He'll smoke himself into an early grave if the alcohol doesn't finish him off first, but I couldn't wish for a better coordinator in the field. He never cleans up after himself and has an ongoing project to see whether the mouldy dishes in his kitchen will eventually wash themselves. He ignores all protocol by letting you know about Torchwood and I think he loves flaunting the rules, especially when there's somebody there to witness it. He seems completely self-absorbed but then he brought me to Torchwood House because he knew I was restless. In short, he's one of the more interesting people I've worked with.”


Blimey,” Mary said, “I don't think I've ever heard you speak so much in one go before.”


I try my best.”


I'm asking because... Oh, bugger it, the thing's this: Steve's asked me to move in with him and work for Torchwood.”


Ianto had to digest this bit of news before slowly repeating, “Work for Torchwood? He's never – I mean – Aren't you happy in your job?”


I'm a nurse. And I fucking hate my patients. Can't stand the little sods, always moaning about some thing or other. Twenty-five years of working in a hospital and I'm ready to murder some of them. Chasing aliens sounds a lot more interesting.”


Not that there's all that much chasing around these parts,” Ianto said, his mind whirling. If Mary came to work for Torchwood Two, where did that leave him? They didn't need three people in the office; they barely needed two, and his job at Torchwood House would be finished in about two months. Would Steve sack him then? Send him back to Cardiff?


Ianto flinched from this particular train of thought. Three weeks had passed since Jack had been in Glasgow; since then, silence. Jack hadn't called and he'd stopped interrupting Tosh and him during their IM conversations. He didn't know whether the other man was still thinking about what Ianto had told him that night at his flat or whether he'd dismissed him as another clingy 21st century human. Pride forbade him to ask Tosh about him; but it would also forbid him to go back to Cardiff if Jack didn't want him.


That left him with only one choice: London. Go back to the capital and work for Torchwood Five. Lindsay would be over the moon; and he'd get the chance to specialise in any field that caught his fancy. But his reluctance to join his friend in London was great; on the other hand, what choice did he have? Unable to stay in Glasgow, unwilling to go to Cardiff, he'd have to go to London if he didn't want to be Retconned out of the last five years of his life.


Ianto had read that clause thoroughly when he'd first joined; but back then his thoughts had been filled with Lisa and a brand new world; he'd signed without second-guessing.


It was too late to start now, anyway.


Yeah, well.” Mary shrugged. “You tell me what's more exciting: Cleaning up other people's shit – and I mean that literally – or running around with those bluetooth things in your ear and nattering away?”


I'd go for the second option as well,” Ianto gravely agreed. Steve came back at that moment, awkwardly holding three pints and putting them on the table with a sigh of relief.


Cheers,” he said with satisfaction, sitting down next to Mary, slinging an arm around her shoulders and taking a large gulp of his beer.


Blimey, that's good.”


Steve,” Ianto said quietly, “Mary just told me that you've asked her to join Torchwood.”


Has she now?”


Yes. Didn't see any harm in it, telling him. By the way, the answer is yes.”


Steve reacted by letting out a loud whoop of joy that had the other people sitting near them looking up in irritation, nearly knocked over his pint in the excitement of grabbing Mary and planted a sloppy, drunken kiss right on her lips.


Ianto looked away uncomfortably and drained half his glass in one go. It looked like he'd need more alcohol if he didn't want to end up as a blubbering fool, embarrassing both him and his companions by declaring his everlasting loyalty towards Steve, his fondness for Glasgow and his willingness to do everything, occasional sexual favours inclusive, if Steve didn't kick him out. Right now he was tipsy enough to do just that – another pint, however, and he'd be drunk enough to be disconnected from his own emotions, floating in a sort of haze with his only desire being the comfort of a warm bed.


Oh stop it,” Mary grumbled, pulling back eventually. “It's not like I've agreed to marry you or something.”


All in good time, love,” Steve said happily and Mary snorted. “When hell freezes over, Steve Halliwell. When hell freezes over.”

I assume my time here has then come to an end?” Ianto asked and Steve turned to look at him.


Aren't you happy to be rid of a job that bores you senseless, lad?” he asked more gently than Ianto expected, given the number of pints Steve had consumed so far this evening.


It's not all that boring,” Ianto replied, “And your injury...”


My foot's as good as new. Haven't needed crutches for months. That was the reason you came, remember?”


I remember. I'm sorry, I just thought...”


Lad,” Steve said, “To be honest, when I mailed in that request I thought they'd send me one of those spineless tossers London is so fond of. I'd stick around for a bit and then quietly fuck off to the Bahamas with this lovely woman at my side. Things turned out a bit differently – you're not spineless, for one, even if the tosser bit is true sometimes. I then thought I'd keep you, but you're wasted up here. And then the Captain came back.”


What has this got to do with Captain Harkness?” Ianto asked defensively.


The one who shags everything that moves and will flirt with anything even if it doesn't?” Mary asked.


That's the one. Although he seems to have developed a preference for you – God knows why! My point is, you're – crikey, I sound like a bloody woman – you're in love with him, aren't you? Ouch!” he complained as Mary elbowed him sharply into the stomach.


Bloody woman?” she hissed.


I didn't mean it that way?” he tried to pacify her and Ianto couldn't help but marvel at the fact that she had Steve Halliwell on a leash – and a rather short one by the looks of it.


Anyway. Answer the question, lad.”


I don't know,” Ianto said, frowning and Steve raised an eyebrow at him, clearly not believing a word. “That's the truth. I don't know. I think so; but this feels so different to... Well. Less than a year ago I hated him with my whole being. If he'd died back then I would have danced on his grave. And now...”


You'd follow him anywhere?” Steve prompted.


I've made the offer,” Ianto answered and finished off his pint.


He's asked you to go back to Cardiff,” his boss said matter-of-factly. “And I assumed you'd jump at the opportunity. If you don't want to leave Glasgow we'll find a way. Far be it for me to get rid of the only capable employee this organisation's ever had.”


Thank you,” Ianto said, relief spreading through him.


Enough with the sappiness, it's making me want to hurl!” Mary said briskly. “It's my round. Another?”


Both men nodded; Mary disappeared through the door and Steve started to grin. “Thought she'd never say yes! Two years I've been trying to get her to move in with me. Two bloody years! Talk about perseverance.”


I suppose congratulations are in order.”


Bloody well right. Didn't mean it to be a nasty shock for you though. I thought you got yourself sorted when the Captain came to see you is all.”


In a way, I did,” Ianto said, thinking back to the night he'd spent with Jack three weeks ago. He'd said everything that needed to be said; and his lover hadn't brought up the topic again, hadn't even said goodbye. He'd been gone by the time Ianto had woken up in the morning, leaving him in a bed smelling of sex and the living room table littered with empty take-away boxes.


Steve, I -”


At that moment his mobile phone beeped. Ianto got it out of his pocket, expecting a drunken and therefore rude text from Lindsay. What he got instead was Jack's number flashing on the small screen. He pressed the button to read the message with fingers that were barely trembling, then let out a deep breath and closed his eyes.


What is it?”


Ianto slid the phone across the table and Steve picked it up curiously. There was a single word displayed on the screen; just one.


Yes.”



Have you got everything?” Lindsay asked, sitting on Ianto's desk and dangling her legs, idly sipping on a cup of coffee.


Ianto checked the box he'd packed the day before, full of files and some artifacts and devices that he hadn't got round to analysing yet.


I think so,” he answered, sealing the box with tape and labelling it neatly: Work – TW2 – Fragile.


I hope it'll fit in the car,” Lindsay commented. “God knows you've got enough useless shit in there to supply half of Wales.”


May I remind you of the time you moved and needed two vans to fit everything in? One of them was filled entirely with clothes.”


Yeah, but Ianto, I'm a girl.”


That's a poor excuse for owning a hundred pairs of shoes.”


Ah, that's what you think.”


Ianto snorted and then threw a look around the office, really making sure that he hadn't forgotten anything.


He's spent the last week preparing for his departure. Apart from cleaning out his flat he'd foolproofed the computer system at the office, making sure that neither Mary nor Steve would be able to accidentally delete crucial data, like the contents of the entire Archives. He'd spent a whole day explaining the system to Mary, leaving the woman in tears of frustration and him in need of a strong drink. He'd emptied his desk, leaving only the monitor, keyboard and mouse behind, plus a coaster and ashtray in the vain hope that Mary would be slightly tidier than her partner. Ianto had even designed a brand new filing system, printing out a set of instructions that was five pages long and emphasised the beauty of the alphabetical system.


He'd also written down every single contact number he had so they could reach him at any time during the day and night, anywhere, and he planned to set up a permanent video link to the office once he was back in Cardiff.


He estimated the chances of Torchwood Two not falling into absolute chaos two days after he'd gone to be slim to none, but at least he could say that he'd tried.


Do you think I could get another coffee before we leave?” Lindsay was asking him now. “It'll be a long drive and last night was a bit rough.”


Nobody asked you to get into a drinking contest with Steve,” Ianto pointed out. “In fact, I seem to recall specifically telling you not to. You didn't stand a chance.”


We had to celebrate though! Give you a proper sendoff.”


Truth to be told, Ianto hadn't been feeling too well himself this morning, waking up with gritty eyes, a dry mouth and throbbing head. His mood hadn't improved when he'd found Lindsay draped over him, snoring loudly and drooling on his chest, clad in only the flimsiest pair of knickers and an unclasped bra. Only insistent poking had restored her to some semblance of consciousness. She had then let out a loud shriek that made Ianto's head hurt even more and started a verbal flaying that could only be stopped with the promise of an entire box of painkillers plus some Retcon on the side if she so wished.


Quite why Lindsay had decided to migrate from a perfectly comfortable sofa into his bed in the middle of the night would probably remain a mystery for the ages.


True,” he agreed. “I think this is it. Let's go, we can stop by a coffee shop and you can get doped on caffeine while I drive.”


Deal, but only if you're paying.”


In your dreams.”


They both took the lift upstairs into Steve's – and now Mary's – bedroom. The room had undergone a rather astonishing transformation in the last month. It wasn't any tidier than before, but there were new curtains in front of the windows, even if they were a garish pink colour that had Ianto wincing. There was an additional nightstand next to the bed, cluttered with cosmetics and a stack of heat magazines. Among the clothes scattered on the floor (Because the wardrobe was really a lift, as Steve had pointed out irritably one day – Where else were they supposed to go?) were now skirts and an interesting assortment of bras in every colour of the rainbow. The shelves next to the door, which until recently had housed Steve's porn collection, were now crammed full with Mills and Boon novels.


Ianto asked himself whether Steve had started regretting his new state of cohabitation yet.


He went into the living room, Lindsay in tow.


Steve? Mary? We're ready to leave now.”


Eh?” His boss' tired face appeared from behind the sofa. “You're leaving now?”


I'm afraid so.”


Bloody hell, it's the middle of the night!” Mary's voice emerged from where she'd curled up in the armchair, ostensibly watching morning tv but really dozing off every two minutes.


It's ten o'clock. We've got a long drive ahead of us.”


Should have taken a plane then.”


Lindsay offered to drive me and my stuff wouldn't have fit in two suitcases.”


Lindsay nodded and dangled her car keys. “It'll be like a really dodgy road trip, like in those American movies. Only, you know, in a proper car.”


I offered him our car!” Steve objected. “He could have brought it back during his next visit.”


His friend sniffed. “A proper car, thank you very much. Not a... a...” struggling to find the right insult to express her disdain she finally settled for, “Corsa.”


You Southerners, you're all the same. Always moaning and grumbling your pretty little arses off! That car is a beauty and nothing you'll say will ever convince me otherwise.”


And now it's all yours again,” Lindsay said sarcastically, “I hope you'll be happy together.”


Anyway,” Ianto interrupted their banter, “I'll give you a ring once we've arrived and please take a look at the instructions I've left you. I've filled up the coffee machine with beans and water, so that should be fine for the next week. I'm on your list of IM contacts and please don't spam me with links to porn sites or offers for penis enlargements because I'll never hear the end of it. You've got my mobile number and I've made you a list with your appointments for the next month. The car is due for a change of tyres on the 19th. Is there anything else?”


Steve got up slowly, grimacing as if in pain and Lindsay smirked, obviously glad not to be the only one with a hangover this morning.


There's two boxes of painkillers in the office,” Ianto said, “Please don't take them all at once.”


The other man nodded, a bit dazed and came to stand in front of him, wearing only his dressing gown and nothing else.


So this is it, lad,” he said cheerfully, “Take care of yourself. Have fun driving your coworkers up the wall on a daily basis, you've already done quite a fine job with me.”


I could say the same about you. I'll come up in a month or so, I'm still not quite finished at Torchwood House. Oh, and here are my keys – for the House and the office, including all the cabinets and lockers. There's a spare set in your desk as well if you want to give this one to Mary.”


Steve studied the bunch of keys that Ianto was holding out to him. He took it and shook it, a grin spreading on his face. Then he threw it into the air, caught if deftly and dropped the keys into Ianto's outstretched hand.


You keep them, lad. Just to remind you that you're always welcome here. Bit like a second home really, plus I'm likely to lose mine at some point and then it'll be handy having you taking care of them.”


Ianto closed his fist over the keys, feeling the metal warming against his skin.


That's against regulations, you know,” he said eventually and then hugged the other man tightly before he could protest.


Thank you.”




It was early in the morning as Ianto unlocked the door to the tourist office, the box with his stuff from Glasgow in one hand, with a full paper cup of coffee precariously balancing on top of it. He flicked the light switch and shut the door behind him, taking a deep breath to curb his anxiety.


Eight months.


It was nearly eight months to the day since he'd left his office behind him and although he was wearing the exact same outfit as then – it had some kind of beautiful symmetry to it, he'd reasoned with himself in front of the mirror earlier – he felt like a very different man now. More comfortable in his own skin, but less comfortable in the suit after several months of wearing jeans and tee shirts. Ianto loosened his tie a bit before resolutely adjusting it again.


The tourist office was empty; the desk completely cleared. His computer was gone, as were the leaflets, brochures and posters on the wall. The beaded curtain was tied together by a piece of string, revealing an equally empty room behind it.


Ianto didn't quite know what to make of that. He hadn't expected the others to staff the reception desk or actually work up here; but why go to the trouble of clearing everything out? Except if they'd assumed right from the start that his transfer wouldn't be of the temporary sort.


A prickle of unease started to spread through Ianto's stomach. After Jack's text he'd sent him an email the next day, informing him that he'd come back to Cardiff as soon as he'd have wrapped things up in Scotland. It had taken him longer than expected, almost six weeks, but he'd talked to Tosh a couple of days ago and she'd told him that she was looking forward to seeing him.


He took a sip from his coffee and put the box out of sight behind the counter before pressing the button that would open the entrance to Torchwood proper.


Ianto couldn't help but grow more and more nervous as he made his way down into the Hub. He wished he'd taken Lindsay up on her offer to stay with him for a few more days; at least she would have taken his mind of going back to his old job. But Lindsay had her own work in London to get back to, and so he'd sent her on her way home after she'd helped him to move into his new place. She'd left him with a bone-crushing hug, a fully stocked alcohol cabinet and a whole fruit bowl full of condoms of very flavour imaginable, laughing loudly as he'd pushed her out of the door, his face an unbecoming shade of scarlet.


The wheel rolled back more quickly than he would have liked and Ianto took a tentative step into the Hub.


Ianto!”


Tosh was running towards him, reaching out her hand awkwardly as if to shake his before throwing caution to the wind and embracing him warmly. Surprised but also secretly pleased, Ianto hugged her back gently.


It's so good to see you again!” Tosh said enthusiastically, “It's been too long.”


Ianto wasn't sure whether he would agree with her on that particular sentiment – it felt like exactly the right amount of time had passed, to be honest – but there was no denying that she was happy to see him.


And you,” he said honestly, releasing her.


Gwen and Owen had come up behind Toshiko. Gwen smiled at him and clasped his arm for a moment; Owen gave him a short nod.


High time you came back, this place's been a mess.”


Only because you conveniently forgot that it was your turn to do the cleaning last week,” Gwen said and shrugged as the doctor glared at her. “What? It's the truth, look at the plan!”


Plan?” Ianto asked; he tried picturing Owen with a broom in one hand and a bin bag in the other and failed.


We've made a sort of rota,” Tosh answered, “You know, who's doing the cleaning, making coffee, ordering lunch, file reports. It was Gwen's idea.”


And it's been working fine, except for when it's Owen's turn.”


I'm a doctor, not a bloody maid,” the man in question huffed, “I'm overqualified.”


Keep telling yourself that,” Gwen muttered and they all watched as Owen visibly bit back a scathing comeback, turned around and wandered off to his workstation.


Do you want some coffee?” Tosh asked Ianto and he blinked at her; talk about role reversal. “Jack's just made some. It tastes awful and I think you can stick your spoon in it and it'll stay upright in the middle of the cup but he swears that that's the way they drink it in the 51st century.”


I think that's a myth,” Gwen piped in.


Before Ianto had the chance to answer an amused voice rang out. “Are you insulting my coffee-making skills? Because we could go back to having Instant.”


Jack emerged from the conference room, walking down the stairs with his hands in his pockets and a grin on his face.


Sir,” Ianto said and inclined his head.


Ianto. Took you long enough, in the end.”


But I'm back now.”


That you are.”


Jack mustered him and Ianto asked himself whether he'd be embarrassed if he decided to kiss him in front of everybody again. But Jack merely settled for a nod and a satisfied, “I like the suit. Welcome back.”


Thank you, sir.”


Gwen, my office,” Jack said, turning around, “There's something fishy about a couple of police reports and I want you to take a look at them.”


See you later,” the woman said and followed her boss. That left Ianto with Tosh.


So,” he said, trying to be casual, “My computer upstairs seems to have gone. Did you store it somewhere?”


Tosh looked at him with big eyes. “Your computer? Upstairs? Didn't Jack tell you?”


Tell me what?”


We closed down the office upstairs after he came back and cleared it out. We didn't really need it anyway, so...”


I see.” Ianto frowned.


Let me show you your new place!” Tosh said, grabbing Ianto's hand. “I set it up after you told me you'd come back and Jack's been fussing over it ever since although we had to pretend not to notice.”


She led him down the stairs and across the room to where Suzie's station used to be. Ianto had cleared most of it away, leaving only the desk and a chair behind. Now, however, there was a computer, complete with two monitors; a tool box, a pile of stationery, basic scanning equipment and a brand new mobile phone with a bluetooth earpiece.


We thought you'd be more comfortable down here. It must get lonely upstairs, so... Anyway, you've got more space here as well.”


Ianto walked over to the desk, lightly touching the pens and biros, all neatly arranged parallel next to each other. He tapped a key and the monitors sprang to life, displaying the generic Torchwood interface and an instant messaging window. There was an empty mug with the Torchwood logo sitting on the desk as well, neatly placed on a coaster.


I... Thank you,” he finally managed to say, “I would never have expected this.”


It's been my pleasure,” Tosh said. “Oh, and I've emailed you the general admin rota for the next month. You're not on it for this week so you can settle in properly but you're down for paperwork and coffee next week. Which is just as well, considering it's Jack's turn this week – I see a lot of trips to Starbucks coming up. Are you going to be all right for now? I've left a translation programme running overnight and it should be finished any minute now.”


Yes. Yes, it's fine,” Ianto said and she smiled at him one last time before going back to her own desk.


As for Ianto – he was more than mildly stunned. Sitting down at the desk – his desk – he tapped a few keys, a window popped up on the screen and he quickly started typing.


Ianto: Jack?


Ianto: I know you're busy, you don't have to answer right now.


Ianto: I suppose I just wanted to say...


Ianto: Thank you.


[conversation ends]




Jack?”


The other man looked up from the paperwork he'd been studying with a frown and smiled at him.


Ianto. Come in.”


Ianto entered the office and quickly glanced around the room. Not much had changed in here. Jack's coat was hanging on the stand in the corner and his desk was as full as ever; except now there was a framed picture standing next to one of the lamps, showing a grinning Jack standing next to man with untidy hair who was wearing a crumpled suit and a dark-skinned, vaguely familiar looking young woman. Ianto recognised the two of them as the people from the CCTV footage when they'd tried to track down Jack in London all those months ago.


Is that the Doctor?” he asked, pointing to the picture.


Jack nodded. “That was taken shortly before he dropped me off here. The girl next to him is Martha Jones. She saved the world, walking the Earth.”


Ianto couldn't possibly understand that comment; but he also didn't feel like investigating it further, at least not now.


Where you happy with them, sir?”


Jack looked at him sharply. “I was, in the beginning. But then I had a whole year with nothing to do but think and that caused a slight change of perspective.”


So you're glad you're back?”


Are you?” Jack retorted without answering the question.


Ianto came around the desk and stood next to Jack. The other man had to twist in his chair to look up at him and Ianto gently touched his face.


I've bought a house here, Jack. Does that answer your question?”


The older man inhaled deeply and leaned into Ianto's touch. “Have the others gone home?” he asked softly.


They left an hour ago.”


Well then.”


Jack rose and drew Ianto closer to him. Ianto embraced him and could feel Jack pressing a kiss on the top of his head.


Stay with me tonight, Ianto?”


As if I could ever deny you anything,” he whispered, “Yes.”


Fin.

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