“Being the boss isn’t all it’s cracked up to be,” Jack said with a weary sigh, slumping bonelessly into his desk chair. He sipped from the glass of Scotch Ianto had poured for him, letting the fiery liquid trickle slowly down his throat to pool in his stomach, helping to warm his insides. He didn’t drink alcohol often, but he needed it tonight; it had been a rough few days even by Torchwood standards.
“I don’t imagine it would be, there’s a lot of responsibility involved.” Ianto replied, setting the decanter down and replacing its stopper.
“Too much.” Jack tipped his head back, staring sightlessly up at the ceiling, contemplating recent events.
They’d got lucky; the sleeper cell had been discovered before they could act, otherwise it might have been impossible to defeat them. In some ways they were worse than Cybermen, since even the people themselves had no idea they were anything other than normal humans until their programming was activated. They could hide in plain sight without anyone knowing they were even there.
“The fate of the world.” Pulling the spare chair around to the end of the desk Ianto sat, sipping appreciatively from his own glass; Jack only bought the very best for his private stash. He could afford it.
Lowering his gaze, Jack focused on his lover. “You know, I never wanted to be in charge; I’ve always been better at following orders than giving them.”
Ianto snorted in disbelief. “I can’t imagine you ever following orders; anyone tells you what to do you ignore them and just do what you think is right. Don’t forget, I’ve read all your mission reports from way back, seen all the citations for insubordination.”
Jack smiled faintly. “Then you’ve read the sorts of things I was expected to do in my early days with Torchwood. Would you have followed those orders, capturing innocent aliens and sending them to London for vivisection, or killing them outright?”
“No.” Ianto shook his head, took another sip of Scotch. “That kind of treatment of any living creature is nothing short of barbaric.”
“And yet Torchwood One was still experimenting on intelligent beings when you worked there.”
“Not my department, thankfully. If I’d known… I’m not sure what I would have done. I didn’t have that kind of authority.”
“How could you not know? You were a junior researcher,” Jack pointed out.
“Emphasis on the ‘junior’. I was little more than a lowly clerk, filing papers, looking up information, and helping in the archives. I didn’t have the right security clearances for the labs, so I never knew what was going on in them. Not many people did aside from Hartman and the whitecoats working there.”
“I did my best to keep One from getting hold of living specimens, even if it meant killing some of them myself. Better a quick death at my hands than the alternative. Got me in trouble with my bosses more often than not.”
Ianto nodded. “So I’ve read.”
“They weren’t all bad though,” Jack hastened to say. “Not all of them agreed with London’s methods.”
“And I imagine that was largely down to you, educating them, changing Torchwood Three from the inside.”
“You know me so well.” The familiar wide, white smile flashed briefly before fading. “It wasn’t easy though; not all of Torchwood Three’s leaders were open-minded enough to listen to a subordinate, even one who’d been working here longer than they’d been alive, but I did my best. In the last few decades, since maybe the late Sixties, early Seventies…” Jack trailed off, toying with his glass, a faraway look in his eyes. “I worked with some good people over the years, and they helped as much as they could. Changing attitudes takes time, but time was one thing I had plenty of.”
“You still do.”
“Yeah.” That wasn’t something Jack needed reminding of.
They fell silent for a little while, sipping their drinks, both men deep in thought. Finally Jack spoke again.
“Alex always listened to me, and he usually took my advice. He treated me like an equal; I considered him a friend.”
“Alex Hopkins.” It was a statement rather than a question.
Jack nodded. “My predecessor. He’s the one who handed Torchwood Three to me, right before shooting himself. Told me to give the place a purpose before it was too late.” He sighed, running a hand through his hair. “I tried to manage by myself. For months I resisted hiring anyone else; didn’t want to be a leader, responsible for the lives of other people, but in the end… This job is too much for one person, even an immortal, so I hired Suzie, then Tosh, and then Owen…”
“And then me,” Ianto finished for him.
“And then you,” Jack agreed. “Didn’t know how badly I needed a personal assistant and administrator until you persuaded me to take you on then got us all organised.”
“Mostly organised,” Ianto corrected. “There’s still room for improvement.”
“Maybe so, but this place runs more smoothly now than it ever has, and that’s all down to you.”
“I do what I can.”
“And I appreciate everything you do more than I can say. I should tell you that more often.”
Ianto stared into his glass, avoiding Jack’s eyes. “There’s no need; I already know.”
“Of course you do. You know everything.”
Ianto inclined his head, finished his drink, and set the tumbler back on the desk before rising smoothly to his feet. Walking around behind Jack, he rested his hands on his boss’s shoulders, long, strong fingers skilfully kneading the tight muscles.
Jack groaned, his chin falling forward onto his chest. “God, that feels amazing.”
Behind him, Ianto smirked. “Not God, still just Ianto.”
That drew a snort of laughter from Jack. “You, Mister Jones, are not ‘just’ anything; you couldn’t be if you tried. You’re a miracle worker. You have magic fingers.”
“You’ve said that before, more than once, and not just about my fingers.”
“Mm, credit where it’s due.” A wicked smile spread across Jack’s lips. “Being the boss does have some perks, now that I think about it.”
Ianto raised an eyebrow, pausing in his massage to stare down at the top of Jack’s head, like he was trying to see right into his lover’s brain. “You’re only just noticing that?”
“No, but I’m usually too busy being the boss to say anything, and when I’m not, I’m too busy enjoying said perks. Speaking of which, why don’t we take this down to my bunk where we can share the enjoyment instead of you doing all the work?”
“We could do that.”
Before either man could move, the Rift alert blared out.
“Or not,” Jack sighed. “Back to being the boss again.” He set his glass on his blotter; there was still a finger of Scotch in the bottom.
“I’ll get your coat.”
So much for getting an evening off, but that was Torchwood; there was always another crisis to deal with. As much as Jack often disliked being the one in charge, he knew his knowledge and decades of experience, not to mention his inability to stay dead, made him the best person for the job.
“Guess we’d better go save the world. Again.”