The Doctor Takes Ianto Away
Having left Rhys on a bench in front of the Tourist Information Centre, happily talking on his mobile and enjoying the breeze coming off the Bay, Gwen stormed back into the Hub and adamantly declared that she was not going to give Rhys the Retcon. “I’m not doing it! I won’t drug him.”
Toshiko turned and watched her team mate cross the floor. “You have to.”
“You can’t allow him to remember.” Owen spoke next, followed by Ianto, who said,
“It’s the rules.”
“But none of you have any partners outside of this,” Gwen replied stubbornly.
Trying to maintain an air of calm and reason, Jack leaned casually against a pillar, his bottle of water hanging by his side as he attempted empathy. “But we understand how you feel.”
“No, you don’t.” There was a chilly sneer in her voice, “No, you don’t, Jack. You all think it’s cold and lonely out there. But it isn’t for me because I have him. He matters. And I’ve lied to him for long enough! What he did today was so brave, braver than any of you because we signed up for this. But he didn’t. He did it because he loves me!” Gwen was the epitome of obstinacy as she continued, “and I won’t take that away from him. I won’t! And if that means I have to quit or you Retcon me or whatever, then fine. Fine!”
Barely looking at Ianto who stood behind him in silent support, Jack tossed his water bottle to the Welshman and approached Gwen, standing quite close, trying to use his height advantage to intimidate her but she just stared up at him, not backing down.
“You really think you could go back to your old life before Torchwood?” he demanded.
“I wouldn’t know anything different.” She shrugged as though it didn’t matter to her one way or another.
There a moment of intense silence in the Hub and then everyone could hear the slight tremor to Jack’s voice as he finally and quietly said, “I would.” He stood looking deep into her eyes, trying to imagine his life without her, thinking of how quiet his world would be, how empty it would feel. Finally, unable to face that cold and lonely reality, he gave in and a look of soft fondness came over him as he agreed. “Give Rhys my love and I will see you tomorrow.” He watched as she spun on her heel and hurried out, vanishing through the cog door and he struggled to get his emotions under control before turning away only to see Toshiko looking at him but he found he was unable to meet her gaze, afraid she would see the desire, affection and guilt that filled his eyes.
As he headed upstairs to his office, Jack snatched his water bottle from Ianto, not bothering to speak to the man, ignoring… not wanting to see… the pain he knew was in the young man’s eyes.
Ianto listened to the sound of Jack’s footsteps retreating, each step resonating through the metal stairs as he ran his fingers through his hair and signed deeply, trying to ease the tightness that squeezed his heart in a giant invisible fist. Once again Jack had let her insolence and disobedience slide. He’d honestly thought that he was starting to mean something to Jack, that they were becoming close, were developing a friendship, maybe even the beginnings of a relationship, but he didn’t have to see Jack’s face to hear the raw emotion he felt for Gwen colouring the man’s voice as he’d let her have her own way.
When Jack had walked past him, he’d seen the look of deep want and extreme loss in Jack’s eyes; he’d even seen a hint of anger over Gwen’s devotion to Rhys. In a flash of instant pure clarity unlike anything he’d ever experienced before, Ianto knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that Gwen would always be Number One in Jack’s heart, and that no matter what he did for Jack or with him, that no matter what he ever said to the man, Ianto knew that he would always always be at the very bottom of the list.
Jack withdrew to the refuge of his office, where he switched on a monitor and then flung himself into his chair. As he steepled his fingers he saw Gwen come into view on CCTV and join Rhys, kissing him deeply, and his heart clenched with jealousy as he watched until she and Rhys were out of sight and even then he stared at the screen, thinking about all that could have been, knowing that he’d just thrown away possible future he might have created with Gwen Cooper.
Downstairs, Ianto avoided looking at Tosh and Owen as he gathered a few files an artefacts from the various desks, not wanting to see the knowing, sympathetic looks on their faces. Without bothering to make his usual round of afternoon coffees for the team, he quickly went downstairs to the Archives, fleeing to the sanctuary his little office where he locked the door behind him and sat at his desk, putting his head in his hands. He knew that things had just irreparably changed and that he’d lost a war he hadn’t even really been aware he’d been fighting.
The next ten days were quite busy, with the Rift delivering all manner of artefacts that needed to be retrieved including a lost little alien who didn’t survive the trip to Earth. After seeing to all his other duties, there wasn’t enough time left in the day for Ianto to enjoy any form of intimacy with Jack even if they had been so inclined; in fact, most nights Ianto fell asleep fully dressed on the sofa under the Torchwood sign and Jack snatched a few winks sitting at his desk doing paperwork.
On day eleven, the most surprising item to arrive literally delivered itself right to the Hub. The team was in the conference room, guzzling down a round of Ianto’s coffee after finishing lunch; instead of enjoying the well-earned fruits of his labour with the others, Ianto was actually in the kitchen brewing another pot of fresh coffee. His own lunch sat on the counter, untouched. He was so exhausted from being not only out in field nearly every day but still performing all his usual duties around the Hub that he’d fallen into a light doze while standing up waiting for the coffee to finish. He didn’t hear the TARDIS arrive despite the whirlwind of chaos she brought her so he was startled into a mild squeak when a strange voice came from behind him. The young Archivist whirled around to see an unknown man standing in the kitchen doorway.
“Sorry!” The Doctor held up his hands. “Didn’t know if you might have heard me… normally the TARDIS tends to be quite the calling card, you know.”
Realising who he was looking at, Ianto smiled politely and gave a brief nod of his head. “Doctor.”
The Time Lord beamed. “And who might you be?”
“Jones, Sir, Ianto Jones.”
“Ah yes, Jones,” the Doctor repeated. “I’ve heard a lot about you from Martha Jones. No relation though?”
“No, Sir,” and in spite of himself Ianto smiled.
“Don’t suppose there’s any way I could slip in and make myself a cup of tea?”
“It’s all right, Sir, I’ll do it for you,” Ianto offered.
The Doctor smiled gratefully and didn’t hesitate to thank the young Welshman. “You are quite the treasure, Mr Jones. Thank you very much.”
Ianto shook his head. “You don’t have to thank me, Sir, being the Torchwood tea-boy is the only reason I’m here.” He didn’t hear the bitterness in his voice or see the sadness in his eyes, but the Doctor did and a sharp pang of worry coursed through him.
“Ianto, I’m sure you have a lot to offer…”
“No, you’re right, sir. I also clean the Hub, take out the trash, do the dishes, fetch in the team’s food, collect the dry cleaning, feed Janet the Weevil, Myfanwy the Pteranodon, and any other aliens we may have in residence, maintain the armoury and the range, clean, fuel and supply the SUV, and man the Tourist Office to keep our cover story active.” Ianto chuckled ruefully. “And in my spare time I organise and maintain the Archives so the team have what they need when they need it. They’d be completely lost without me, I’m sure.” He heard the sarcasm in his voice as he spoke the last and he winced.
The Doctor let Ianto’s words stew in his brain while he watched the young man move efficiently around the small kitchen, brewing him a pot of tea and putting together a small silver tray with milk and sugar, cup and saucer before setting up a larger coffee tray for the team. The smaller tray fit perfectly on the big one, which he thought was quite clever. It didn’t escape his notice that while Ianto put four clean mugs on the tray he didn’t include a fifth one for himself and the Time Lord considered the implications of that as he silently trailed Ianto up to the conference room, and when Ianto stepped aside to allow him to enter first, he went around him through the door.
“Doc!” Jack exclaimed joyfully, leaping up the instant he saw him and enveloping him in a hug. Then it hit him and he stood back, crossing his arms and frowning. “Doctor? How did you get in here? I didn’t hear the TARDIS.” There was a note of accusation there, as if the Time Lord had managed to pull one over on him.
“No, you didn’t either. Oh, that’s good! I was wondering how well it would work!” The Doctor bounced on the balls of his feet. “Just a little something I picked up on Tantalus 12; you’re the first chance I’ve had to try it out!”
“What does it do?” Ever the techie, Tosh was curious. “Is it a sound dampener or some sort of cloaking device?”
The Doctor grinned mischievously. “That’s for me to know and you to find out,” he teased in a sing-song tone. “We’ll talk later.”
Not completely satisfied with the answer Jack nonetheless pointed to the chair on his right. “Sit, Doc, sit. What brings you by?”
As soon as the Doctor sat down he realised he’d been blocking the doorway; Ianto entered right behind him, put his burden down on the table and then set the Time Lord’s small tea tray in front of him. He poured the coffee, handed out the fresh steaming mugs and collected the dirty ones, and then set a plate holding a rather generous amount of assorted biscuits in the centre of the table.
The Doctor watched as the team selected their favourite biscuit and sipped their coffee, noting also that once the new pot of coffee was served, Ianto left the room and no one, especially not Jack, tried to stop him.
After explaining that he was just dropping in while the TARDIS refuelled, the Doctor enjoyed one of the best pots of tea he’d drunk in a very long time while he caught up with the team’s recent escapades. He sympathised with Owen about the dead alien; “Moultangs… sweet, lovely creatures but very delicate. Even if he’d survived coming through the Rift, you wouldn’t have been able to save him, Doctor Harper. I’m sorry you didn’t get to meet him though, cos they are wonderful conversationalists. The number of topics they are knowledgeable about is truly staggering… from history, art and music, to the classics and literature from around the universe to philosophy, science, medicine and technology.”
When the others had drunk their coffee and eaten all the biscuits, they wandered out and back downstairs to the Hub floor to go about their work, while Jack stayed behind to talk to the Doctor. The Time Lord had seen the way Jack had been trying not to stare at Gwen during the meeting – sometimes not very successfully – watching her surreptitiously from the corner of his eye just as he’d the look of intense want on Jack’s face as he watched her walk out of the room.
“Jack, what are you doing?” the Doctor asked unexpectedly.
“Huh?” Jack looked around in surprise. “What do you mean?”
“Is this Ianto Jones who just served you and cleaned up after you the same young man you said kept you alive and sane during the year of hell we spent on the Valiant? Is he the same one you talked about non-stop with such excitement when we were returning from the Crucible, the same one you couldn’t wait to see again?”
Jack’s face broke out in a half smile that was gone in an instant. “Yeah, same one,” he shrugged. “Why?”
The Time Lord tried not to frown at Jack’s lack of enthusiasm. “Aren’t you two involved?”
“Not really, no.” Again Jack shrugged his shoulders noncommittedly. “We’re just sort of… I don’t know… he’s convenient, I guess.”
The Doctor tried not to let Jack see how shocked and disappointed he was with Jack’s answer, with his behaviour and with Jack himself, so he quickly changed the subject. “Mmmm… craving malt vinegar and salt. Fancy getting some chips?”
“Yeah, sounds great!” Jack reached up to activate his comm. “I’ll tell Ianto to go out and get us…” He was interrupted by Gwen’s voice shouting up the stairs at him.
“Jack, Weevils in Splott! Let’s go!”
Jack jumped to his feet. “Sorry, Doc, duty calls. Rain check?”
“Certainly,” the Doctor nodded. “Any time.”
It only took a few minutes for Jack, Gwen, Tosh and Owen to dash out of the Hub, leaving it empty but for a lonely Welshman and an unhappy Time Lord. Struck by an impetuous notion, the Doctor gathered up the dirty dishes from the team’s after-lunch coffee break, added his tea tray and carried everything downstairs.
Finding Ianto in the kitchen tidying up, the Doctor took advantage of the fact that Ianto hadn’t accompanied the team to Splott to set a very hastily thrown-together plan into motion. After helping Ianto wash and dry the dishes, he then followed the Welshman down to the Archives, where the Doctor wasted no time in getting to the point.
“It’s as plain as the nose on your face, Ianto Jones, you are absolutely miserable. I know it and you know it.” He waved his arms around the Archives. “And we both know that you’re wasting your time and talents around here being the Torchwood dogs-body.”
“But…” Ianto gestured at the vast maze of shelving units bulging with bins full of artefacts and tat and boxes stuffed with papers and files. “This…” His voice tapered off as he looked around, suddenly realising the sad futility of all that surrounded him. Unable to find a single word of denial, Ianto simply looked at the Time Lord and shook his head. A huge lump formed in his throat and he was so afraid that if he tried to speak he would burst into tears that he just seemed to fold in on himself.
Not normally a hugging person, the Doctor found himself struggling to keep from gathering the younger man in his arms and offering him the comfort he so badly needed. “Come with me, Ianto? Let me… let the TARDIS show you the Universe? Please?”
Ianto frowned in confusion. “Why would you want someone like me? I mean, I know about your other companions and compared to them, I have nothing to offer.”
‘If only you knew, Ianto.’ Out loud, the Doctor smiled gently and said, “Did you ever think that maybe I have something to offer you? Did you know that the library in the TARDIS contains thousands upon thousands upon thousands of books, portfolios, scrolls, documents – you name it and it’s in there – and only about a third of them are in English, although the TARDIS will translate everything for you. Plus there’s a huge collection of art… paintings, etchings, statuary… you name it, I’ve been collecting it from throughout the Universe. If nothing else, it is a real mess in there, papers everywhere, books out of order…” He leaned in closer and dropped his voice to a conspiratorial tone. “You know, just between you and me, I think the old girl does it on purpose just because she can. The fact that it drives me crazy is simply the cherry on top for her!”
Ianto stared at the Time Lord for a moment, blinking at all the information, processing the offer before him, and then he gave a short burst of laughter. “She sounds like quite the handful, Sir.”
Two hours later, tired, filthy and grumbling, and with a Weevil too stubborn to return to the sewers in tow, Jack and his team returned from Splott to find the Hub dark and silent. After putting the Weevil down in the cells, Jack sent the others home to get cleaned up and get some much-needed rest, while he went in down into his bunker and took a long, hot shower. He redressed and climbed the ladder to his office, flinging himself down in his chair and reaching for the phone, wanting a coffee to relax with. As his fingers dialled the intercom for Ianto’s desk down in the Archives, his eyes suddenly focused on three things.
Ianto’s handgun, comm link and ID were carefully lined up on Jack’s desk.
With an odd sinking feeling in his gut, he stood up slowly and crossed the room, going out to stand at the top of the stairs to look down on the main floor of the Hub.
The TARDIS was gone.
He rushed down to Tosh’s desk and activated the program that would detect all life signs, human or alien, in the Hub… it quickly brought up a multi-layered map of the facility, showing the location and identity of each life sign: he was on the main floor, Owen’s collection of various rodents were in the med bay, Janet and an unnamed Weevil were down in the cells, it even showed the colony of sentient mushroom folk Ianto had given refuge to in the boiler room. Myfanwy wasn’t in her nest but he assumed she was out for the night hunting sheep in the Brecon Beacons.
There was no Ianto anywhere… not in the Tourist Office upstairs, not in Myfanwy’s aerie high up in the rafters, not in the kitchen, not in the Archives… he was nowhere to be found.
The sinking feeling in his gut was now a churning acid-filled burn, as his worry turned to fear.
After a frantic search through his desk drawers for an unlisted phone number, Jack called Martha in London and after a lot of begging, bargaining and promising, he finally got the contact details for the Doctor, but no matter how many times he tried calling or what time he made the call, all he ever got was the answering machine.
In a cheery voice the recording announced voices that alternated between a clipped British accent and seductive Welsh vowels that “We’re sorry but the resident Time Lord and his brilliantly wonderful new companion are out at the moment having the time of their lives. If you think your call is important enough then by all means, please leave a message and if we feel like it, someone might possibly call you back at some point… some time… some when… maybe… but probably not… but then again, who knows, stranger things have happened.”
Jack’s phone never did ring.