Most of the time, it seemed to Ianto that Jack only had two speeds; flat out, for the various crises Torchwood had to deal with, and dead slow, which was reserved for paperwork and any other job he didn’t want to do. Today, Jack was in a slow phase; after sitting at his desk for an hour, he’d got through two mugs of coffee, half a packet of Jaffa Cakes, and precisely one item from the precarious stack of reports gracing his in box. Trying to motivate Torchwood’s leader to work faster was proving to be an exercise in futility.
“As if I don’t have enough to do with my own work,” Ianto grumbled to himself, looking up at the glass-walled office as he collected more reports to add to Jack’s workload. “At this rate I’ll probably end up doing most of his paperwork as well. Good thing I can forge his signature.”
Everything changed an hour or so later when the Rift alarms started going off. Then, as if a switch had been thrown, Jack was suddenly the decisive man of action, striding down from his office, coat in hand, asking Tosh what they’d got.
Ianto was busy, and slightly peeved with his boss and lover, so declined the invitation to accompany Jack on the retrieval. Jack looked disappointed, but shrugged it off and took Gwen instead.
While they were gone, Ianto got on with the long list of tasks he’d set himself for the day and didn’t give Jack another thought. Okay, that wasn’t completely true, it was impossible not to think about Jack at all, but mostly he concentrated on what he was doing. He wasn’t worried about Jack; he’d be fine, it was just a routine retrieval. Tosh’s readings had indicated an inanimate object; probably some kind of tech, and Jack was always careful with anything he didn’t recognise. Well, usually he was careful. Sometimes things he thought he recognised turned out to be something entirely different, which had led to some nasty moments, with Ianto usually on the receiving end, but most of the time Jack exercised a degree of caution…
Jack breezed back into the Hub through the garage entrance less than twenty minutes after he and Gwen had left. Okay, ‘breezed’ might not be the best description, it was more like a whirlwind had entered the Hub.
“What’s the rush?” Ianto asked. “And where’s Gwen?”
“I left her in Splott, packing up the device.”
“You did what?” Ianto wondered for a moment if he’d misheard. “How is she supposed to get back without the SUV?” He glared at his lover, hands on hips.
“Oh, no, she still has the SUV. I was restless and I didn’t feel like waiting, so I ran back.” Jack was bouncing up and down on his toes, grinning a slightly manic grin. Ianto was reminded uncomfortably of the Doctor. Then he registered what Jack had just said.
“Wait a minute, you ran from Splott? That’s almost three miles and you’ve only been gone twenty minutes. Even with your driving, it would have taken almost ten minutes to get there, what with the one-way system and the traffic…”
“Yes!” Jack bounced some more. “I should get on with something. Paperwork, here I come!” He spun on his heel and zipped up to his office so fast he was a nothing more than a blur of motion, and when Ianto raised his eyes slowly to where Jack was now sitting at his desk, he quickly closed them to shut out the dizzying sight.
“Oh dear.” The pile of paperwork in Jack’s in box was going down at an alarming rate while the pile in his out box was going up just as fast. Jack himself was mostly a blurry, half-seen shape in his desk chair. Digging his Bluetooth earpiece from his pocket, Ianto fitted it into his ear and called Gwen.
“Ianto, I was just going to call you. Jack’s disappeared! He was right here when I was putting the device we found in a containment box, and then I turned around and he was gone!”
“It’s fine, Gwen, he’s here, doing his paperwork.” Which would have been a bizarre concept even if Jack hadn’t somehow turned into the Flash.
“How did he get back there so fast? I’ve got the keys to the SUV.”
“Apparently he ran. Listen, Gwen, did anything odd happen when you found the device?”
“No, not that I remember. I mean, I might have kicked it by accident, when we were shoving rubbish around with our feet, trying to find what came through the Rift, but it didn’t do anything.”
‘You mean it didn’t do anything to you,’ Ianto thought gloomily. Jack, on the other hand… “Are you sure there wasn’t a flash of light, or some kind of sound from the device?”
“No, nothing like that. I just blinked and Jack was gone.”
“Okay, well just get back here as fast as you can then, because something is going on with Jack, and this device the two of you found is the most likely suspect. Tosh should take a look at it, see if she can figure it out.”
“Jack’s alright though, isn’t he?”
“Uh, more or less, just behaving a bit… speedy. He just did paperwork that would usually take him at least two days in less than five minutes. It’s… disconcerting.”
“That doesn’t sound too bad, he’s usually so slow when it comes to paperwork. I’ll be back in about fifteen minutes, pet.”
Clicking his comm. off, Ianto looked back towards Jack’s office just in time to not quite see his lover zoom through the door in the direction of the kitchen. When he got there himself, Jack was munching his way through a box of breakfast cereal, eating it by the handful.
“Jack? Are you feeling alright?”
“Yep! I feel great, just really hungry!” Speaking with his mouth full, Jack sprayed cereal all over the kitchen and Ianto, who rolled his eyes as he dusted himself down. Jack swallowed quickly. “Sorry, Ianto, I’ll clean that up as soon as I finish this.” He waved the cereal box. “It’s pretty good without milk. Crunchy!”
Not wanting to be showered with cereal again, Ianto waited in silence while Jack finished his snack, which didn’t take long at all, only speaking as Jack set the empty box down, before he could zoom away again.
“Aside from being hungry, have you noticed anything odd?”
“You mean this?” Jack vanished from in front of Ianto and reappeared seconds later with dustpan and brush. “Isn’t it fantastic? I can do everything so fast!”
“And that doesn’t seem strange to you at all?”
“Of course it does.” Jack’s shoulders twitched slightly in what Ianto decided must have been a very fast shrug. “But why waste it? Think how much I can get done around here! I didn’t even have time to get bored doing my paperwork; I was finished almost before I’d started. Now stay there while I clean up the mess I made. I don’t want to knock you over.” Jack blurred into action, leaving Ianto looking a bit windswept. “All done!” Jack announced as he came to an abrupt halt in front of Ianto, reaching out to straighten the Welshman’s tie.
A quick glance around the kitchen showed everything to be spotless and gleaming. Even the floor had been swept. Ianto blinked at the sight. “Ah, well, very good,” he said lamely.
“You know, why don’t you take it easy?” Jack suggested. “You’ve been looking a bit stressed and overworked lately. I can clean out the residents toda; shouldn’t take me long. He was gone again before Ianto could draw breath to reply.
Ianto was waiting in the garage when Gwen drove in, pulling the SUV into its usual parking spot. A harried expression on his face, he almost snatched the containment box out of her hands as she got out, before hurrying through to the main Hub and placing his burden on Tosh’s desk. Tosh set to work immediately, analysing the device. She was looking a bit stressed too.
“Surely it can’t be that bad.” Gwen had followed Ianto and was standing behind him.
“You have no idea,” Ianto told her.
A faint whooshing sound announced Jack’s arrival. “I’ve washed and polished the SUV, inside and out, Ianto. What can I do now?” he asked eagerly.
“Uh, you could clean the empty cells on levels five through twelve,” Ianto suggested. “Been a while since we’ve needed to use them and I haven’t had time.”
“Consider it done.” Jack zoomed away again.
Rubbing his hands over his face, Ianto sighed heavily. “That should keep him occupied for the next fifteen minutes, if we’re lucky. Any idea what that thing is, Tosh?”
Torchwood’s tech expert glanced up from her examination of the squat, greyish object and smiled apologetically. “Not yet. I’ll figure it out, but it’ll take time.”
“I know you will. Meanwhile, I need to come up with more jobs for Jack. I’m worried if he runs out of things to do he might decide to reorganise the archives! If he does that he’ll wreck my cataloguing system!” The pained expression on Ianto’s face made Tosh want to hug him. Idle Jack was hard to deal with, but the tireless, all-action version was proving a nightmare. He’d also eaten his way through most of the kitchen’s edible contents, so Ianto handed Gwen a shopping list and asked her to go pick up supplies.
“Couldn’t Jack do it? I mean, he’s so fast it wouldn’t take him very long…”
“Only if you want the task of Retconning everyone in Asda. Can you imagine the chaos he’d cause? People would think Superman was doing the weekly shop.”
“Oh, I didn’t think of that.” Gwen took the list and hurried out.
It was after five in the afternoon by the time Tosh had the device figured out and was ready to try restoring Jack to normal. The afternoon had gone by in a bit of a blur for Ianto, much like Jack did when he zoomed past. He’d struggled to find tasks to keep his lover occupied; the immortal was so full of energy that he couldn’t stay still for more than a couple of minutes at a time, unless he was eating. He’d cleaned all the guns in the armoury, done a full inventory of the stationery cupboard’s contents, ironed his laundry, cleaned and reorganised his office and bunker, gone through the whole Hub replacing burned out light bulbs, washed and polished the cars belonging to the rest of the team, done another pile of paperwork, cleaned the bathrooms, and when he’d run out of jobs, he’d made a chain of paperclips that must have measured a couple of hundred metres at least.
Putting Jack back to rights proved rather anticlimactic. The device, which Ianto had decided to call an accelerator, didn’t seem to do much of anything when Tosh activated it. There was no flash of weird light, no zapping noise, or any other kind of sound either. Jack, who’d been sitting on the sofa twitching and fidgeting restlessly, simply yawned, lay down, and fell asleep. It was strange to see him so still, or to see him clearly at all after the best part of a day only catching brief glimpses of him as he paused between jobs. Smiling slightly, Ianto tucked Jack’s coat around him to keep him warm, then went to make himself, and the rest of the team, a restorative cup of coffee. After the day they’d just had, he figured they all needed it.
As nice at it had been, at least at first, to have Jack actually get on with a few things around the Hub, Ianto decided he much preferred normal Jack, going about his day at a leisurely pace except during emergencies. There was a lot to be said for taking one’s own sweet time. Watching someone rushing about was far too tiring.