Part One - Ianto
It wasn't good, he had to admit. Not at all.
He'd gone against the team when they hadn't taken the case and secured himself a place on board the SkyPuncher anyway. Because the others had been busy and it was his duty, as he'd told Zeynep on the longest phone conversation he'd ever had with a stranger in a life-or-death situation. Then again, he'd also told her he wanted to prove himself, that he wanted the team to like him. Which was a bit ridiculous, when he really thought about it. They'd accepted him back months ago, hadn't they? He was out in the field now, doing more than making coffee and filing. They talked to him, even trusted him to a degree. Tosh liked him, he was sure. Owen, not a chance. Gwen, who knew; she was too wrapped up in one thing or another to worry about the rest of them.
No, it was more that he wanted them to believe him. He knew what he was talking about. There was a global conspiracy with aliens and their mysterious plans, and there was a direct threat against Ephraim Salt and his new commercial spacecraft. Of course, he couldn't tell them how much he knew. That would mean admitting to being more than Jack's PA. Which they had all suspected from that asinine kiss Jack had planted on him in front of everyone after Abaddon, but Ianto had refused to talk about it. "I guess he was glad to see me. I do make good coffee." He had also refused to answer any questions since Jack's return. Owen had rolled his eyes, Gwen had frowned, and Tosh had looked at him knowingly.
He didn't want to admit to the team that he and Jack had been sleeping together for months before Jack had disappeared the first time. That Owen was probably right and Ianto had been nothing more than a part time shag given the speed with which Jack had run off after his Doctor. That Jack had asked him out on a date and things seemed different only Ianto wasn't quite sure what the hell was going on now given that Jack had run off on them again. Frankly, it was all too confusing sometimes, and Ianto was still pissed off with Jack for leaving instead of coming to them for help. He didn't want to think about Jack and whatever Jack was doing; he wanted to move on with life and work.
So he hadn't told the team what Jack had shared in confidence late one night about the case he'd been investigating, some sort of alien conspiracy. He didn't tell them about George Wilson and his daughter and Erebus and the Committee. He trusted Jack and Jack had trusted him. Jack had told the others some of what was going on before he'd left them to fend for themselves again, but apparently it had not been enough for them to listen to Ianto. In spite of feeling deserted, Ianto had not been able to bring himself to tell the others what Jack had shared with him and had hoped they would simply take his word. He'd been right about the dangers of opening the Rift to get Jack and Tosh back from 1941, after all; he was right about the SkyPuncher.
Sometimes he hated being right.
Ianto was seated on the back of an ambulance in the middle of Izmir having his leg tended when his mobile went off. Hoping it was Zeynep, his only connection to the country and the only person who had believed him, he'd answered quickly only to find Tosh on the other end of the phone practically shouting in his ear.
Yes, he told her, that was the SkyPuncher that had hit the communications satellite. Yes, it had gone down in Turkey. Yes, he'd been on it. Yes, he'd been the one floating down in a parachute.
At that point Owen got on the line and started swearing up and down that Ianto was a bloody idiot (and didn't that sound familiar? Hadn't Zeynep called him the same thing several times? If he hadn't been right about everything he'd start believing them) and that Ianto had better get his arse back to Cardiff because he had a lot of explaining to do with calls coming in from UNIT, Whitehall, and Buckingham already.
Ianto sighed and hung up on him.
And then he was arrested.
He'd really thought it couldn't get any worse. He'd gone up on the first commercial spaceflight convinced it was in danger and hoping to stop it. Instead, all the passengers had been drugged, the plane had crashed, the deep wound in his leg required multiple stitches, and he had bruises everywhere from a piss poor parachute landing. Now he was being arrested and charged with terrorism. Brilliant.
Too tired to offer more than a token resistance, Ianto let them take him into custody. He couldn't bluster his way out like Jack and he couldn't talk his way out without any evidence or official government support. He doubted his team would stick up for him since he'd gone off on his own, Jack was god knew where doing his own thing again, and Ianto's only witness was a call-center employee who (thankfully) enjoyed playing flight simulator games. He was acutely aware that he could very well be thrown in a dark cell and left to rot, but there was nothing he could do. He could barely stand any longer thanks to the adrenaline crash and he needed medical attention for his leg. About all he could manage was to slip the data stick from Ephraim Salt into his boxer shorts and hope it wasn't found.
He was taken away by UNIT, somehow not surprised to find they had a presence in the city. Probably not another coincidence. After tending his leg more thoroughly, they took him to a small, cold cell, where he was given a sorry excuse for a meal and a thin blanket. After some futile pacing that only made his leg more sore and pointless shouting that left him hoarse, he eventually laid down and fell asleep, only to wake up with a gasp as he dreamed he was falling, falling, falling, and his entire body jerked hard against the cold concrete bunk.
Several hours later he was dragged out and interrogated. Having watched Jack a few times, Ianto thought he knew what to expect. He'd expected the usual animosity from UNIT toward Torchwood. He'd expected the good cop/bad cop routine. He'd expected to be asked about the coffee. He hadn't expected to be grilled mercilessly under the assumption that he had snuck on board the SkyPuncher with the express purpose of bringing it down on his own.
This time Ianto fought back. He worked for Torchwood and demanded his phone call, his representation, his team. He demanded they listen to the recording of his call with Zeynep, that they investigate the tracking system of the plane, that they let him go and find the real men trying to bring down Ephraim Salt.
Instead they threw him back in his cell. His leg hurt, his head hurt, his whole body hurt. He couldn't sleep, but he couldn't pace any longer and eventually he wore out his voice shouting at the door. He went back to the bunk he'd slept on earlier and tried not to break down. It was bad. Really bad.
He woke from a light doze sometime later to find a clean pair of scrubs and another pitiful excuse for food. He left the scrubs, barely stomached the food, and ended up falling asleep once more. The next time he was woken from a deeper sleep he found himself hauled out of the cell and taken to a small conference room. No one spoke to him, and he wasn't sure whether to be worried or relieved. As soon as he stepped through the door he found himself with an armful of Tosh. He almost wanted to cry.
Instead he let himself be held, breathing into her neck as he tried to hold it together while she embraced him tightly. He didn't know if she'd be able to help him, but she was there and that was enough. When she stepped away, he was handed over to Gwen, who squeezed him even harder. There were tears in her eyes that Ianto didn't quite understand. Was she glad to see him or was he in that much trouble?
Owen stepped forward with a frown. "You look like shit," he said flatly.
"That's because I feel like shit, Owen," Ianto replied. "Got any drugs?"
His frown deepened. "What for?"
Ianto tapped his sore leg. "Thirty stitches in my leg and a parachute landing on concrete. Last painkiller they gave me was…so long ago I don't remember."
Pushing Gwen aside, Owen looked Ianto in the eyes, laid his hand on Ianto's forehead, glanced down at his leg and ran his eyes across the other various cuts and bruises he could find. "What the hell happened to you?" he murmured. "And did they give you any antibiotics? You're warm, you could be fighting an infection."
Ianto shrugged. "I don't think they're particularly concerned with my health or comfort at the moment. Apparently I'm a terrorist."
They all started talking at once, until there was a small cough from somewhere behind Gwen, who stood aside and motioned a woman forward. And even though he'd never seen her before, Ianto knew immediately that it was Zeynep, the voice of his angel as his ship fell from the sky.
She stared at him as he stared at her. "Mr. Jones?" she asked in a voice he recognized, that he'd remember forever.
"Speaking," he choked out with a wry smile. "Although I'm pretty sure I maxed out my card up there so if I need to buy something to stay on the line…"
She smiled, and it was both the strong smile he'd imagined and one clearly laced with nerves. She was probably terrified to be there, to be involved in whatever was happening. He honestly hadn't expected to meet her after their conversation had ended. As much as he'd wanted to thank her, he knew she would be with her family, holding her children and thanking Allah that she had survived what Ianto had dragged her into and put her through.
The guilt hit him then and he stumbled. Owen took his elbow and frowned again, but Ianto shook him off and walked unsteadily toward Zeynep. He held out his hand for hers, then took it in both hands and held tight.
"Thank you," he whispered. "Thank you for saving my life."
She nodded, and then somehow they were embracing. There was laughing and crying and it was yet another surreal moment to add to the list of surreal moments Ianto was collecting at Torchwood, particularly that month.
Finally he wiped his eyes and stepped back. Gwen handed them both tissues, bless her, and he laughed until he could speak again.
"I don't understand, what's going on? Why are you here?" He turned toward the others. "Why are you all here?"
"We're here to help, Ianto," Gwen said, offering that smile she used for particularly obtuse witnesses. "We weren't going to let you suffer by yourself."
He bit back the bitter retort of 'Why not?' sitting on the edge of his tongue. He didn't know what to say and glanced around the small room, anywhere but at the looks of pity and concern the others were throwing at him. He settled on a coffee machine in the corner and started toward it.
"Ianto!" Tosh exclaimed, grabbing his arm and pulling him away. "Stop that. We don't need coffee right now."
"It's not a problem, Tosh," he said, barely holding it together. "It's what I do."
He was vaguely aware of Zeynep frowning at him and ignored Owen's snort from nearby.
"Not right now, sweetheart," said Gwen. "You're injured, you need to sit down and rest."
"I've been resting for…" Ianto trailed off, unsure how long he had been there. "How long have they been holding me?" he asked.
"Thirty-six hours, mate," said Owen, appearing by his side and guiding him toward a chair. He pulled it out, settled Ianto down without protest, then took a pack off his back and began examining Ianto like any other patient.
"What are you doing?" Ianto asked. Owen rolled his eyes, perhaps trying to hide the concern Ianto saw reflected there.
"Checking to see how much they messed with you. How many fingers?"
Ianto batted the doctor's hand away. "Piss off, I'm fine. Well, no, I'm dirty and hungry and in a fair amount of pain, but that's not the point. What's going on? Did they find any survivors?"
The others exchanged a look Ianto knew well. "No," he whispered. "You can't tell me they're all dead."
"You lucked out again, mate," said Owen, and Ianto froze. Tosh looked ready to hit the doctor.
"Owen!" she hissed. Owen glanced up at Ianto's blank face and actually looked ashamed.
"Sorry, Ianto," he said softly. "I didn't mean it like that."
"But it's true, isn't it?" Ianto replied. "I lucked out again, only…" He shook his head, letting his eyes slip closed as despair overwhelmed him. "This time it was my fault. I failed."
He looked up at Tosh. "But it is. All of it, it's my fault. If I hadn't gone up there—"
"It would have happened anyway, Mr. Jones!" said Zeynep, stepping forward and using that no-nonsense voice Ianto remembered from their phone conversation. "You said it yourself, it was a trap from the beginning."
"A trap I set in motion," Ianto replied dully, leaning back against the chair. "All because I happen to make good coffee."
Gwen and Owen looked confused, but Tosh pulled up a chair and reached for his hand. "Ianto, Zeynep's right. It was a trap and it would have happened anyway. You didn't poison the coffee, did you?"
He shook his head.
"Well, then," she said, as if that proved it. He gave her a questioning look and she continued. "If you hadn't served the coffee, someone else would have done it. The passengers would have still been drugged, but instead of you being there to figure out where the plane was heading, no one would have known anything, and it would have crashed into the office block, killing hundreds of innocent people."
"She's right, Mr. Jones," said Zeynep, nodding in agreement. "You were the one who figured out the plane was locked onto my headset. You saved everyone in the building."
"You pulled the fire alarm," Ianto pointed out.
"I wouldn't have known to pull the fire alarm if you hadn't told me a plane was about to crash into my building," she retorted.
"The plane was going to crash because I kept you on the phone. I sentenced you to die all so I wouldn't be alone," Ianto murmured.
"But I am alive, thank Allah. And again, it was because of you. You suggested trying to land the plane in water, which made me think of the quarry and tossing the headset off at the last minute."
"Ianto, she's right. I listened to the recording," Tosh said quietly. Ianto stared at her before he covered his face with his hands and groaned.
"Oh god, it really does keep getting worse, doesn't it?" he asked. He sensed rather than saw Tosh frown.
"What do you mean?" she asked.
He looked up at her. "Not my best moment, Tosh. And definitely not something I want my coworkers listening to for entertainment."
She shook her head. "Ianto, you were injured and trying to stop a plane from crashing and killing hundreds of people. You have nothing to be ashamed of."
"I bet he screams like a girl," Owen said. Ianto stood and took a step toward him, only for Gwen to step between them.
"All right, let's calm down," she said. "Owen, stuff it or next time I'll let him shoot you in the other shoulder." Ianto raised an eyebrow in surprise at Owen, which somehow resulted in them grinning at one another over Gwen's head.
"The recording is for my ears only," said Tosh, and then cut off any protest from Gwen. "I mean it. It's not pleasant so you don't want to listen anyway. What's important is that it proves everything Ianto said back at the Hub."
"It proves nothing," Ianto said wearily. "I could have been lying through my teeth up there."
"But the forensic evidence backs you up," Tosh replied. "The cockpit readings, the black box, the autopsies. I even looked at the tracking system and it was easy to see that it had been tampered with."
Ianto felt the first glimmers of hope, that maybe this was going to work out after all and he wouldn't be stuck in a Turkish prison for the rest of his life. "So why am I still here?" he asked. The door opened at that moment and the UNIT officer in charge of the facility, Captain Badem, walked in.
"It's certainly not for the exalted company of Torchwood," the man drawled in a thick accent that Ianto quite couldn't place. "You're a lucky man, Mr. Jones. Your team worked hard to exonerate you and you're free to go, but we have a few more questions, if you don't mind."
Ianto sighed. "Of course you do."
The captain gestured to the others to sit around the table as he took his place at the head. A PA entered and made coffee for everyone; Ianto itched to get up and do it right, but settled for placing his hands on the table in front of him so that they wouldn't twitch.
"As Ms. Sato already told you, everything we've found so far supports your statement. The bigger question now is not what happened, but why. What can you tell us about this global conspiracy, Mr. Jones?"
Ah. Of course. Ianto had opened his big mouth on the phone and now UNIT was asking questions about something Jack had wanted to keep secret. He would have to answer carefully, especially since Jack was off investigating on his own. Not only would Ianto have no backup, but he could put Jack in danger by revealing too much.
"Not much, I'm afraid," he replied truthfully. And he didn't. Jack had clearly been holding back information about the conspiracy, as he did about most things. Like not being able to die or where he'd been with his Doctor.
"Do you know who is involved, who was behind the incident on the SkyPuncher?" asked the captain, leaning forward and pressing for answers. Ianto shook his head again.
"It wouldn't be much of a secret conspiracy if I did, would it?" he asked. "I've no doubt it was the Committee, however." The captain frowned.
"What do you know about this Committee, then? Or Erebus, Mr. Jones?"
Ianto knew he had to tread carefully now. "Only what I've heard." Also true.
The captain narrowed his eyes at Ianto. "Mr. Jones, it would be very easy for me to arrange a delay on that release. Talking circles around the answers doesn't help anyone here."
"I realize that, Captain," Ianto replied with a nod. "But I assure you there is little I am holding back. I don't know that much about it. A few theories, mostly, but very few facts, as most conspiracies tend to go."
"How did you first learn about it then?"
Ianto hesitated, then glanced at Tosh, who nodded in support. He took a deep breath. "Captain Harkness told me. Privately," he added quietly. He saw Tosh's smile, Owen's smirk, and Gwen's frown.
"Ianto," Gwen started, "why didn't you—"
"Say anything?" Ianto cut her off. "I did, Gwen. I tried to tell you at the Hub that something was going on. You didn't believe me, and I couldn't tell you any more than what Jack had already shared with the team."
"You could have told us more, especially if it was from Jack," she replied, and she sounded hurt. He shook his head.
"I doubt you would have believed me even then," Ianto replied. "And Jack told me in confidence. He didn't want it getting out that he was aware of anything."
"Was he looking into it?" asked Captain Bardem, interjecting himself into their team row. "This conspiracy?"
"I don't believe so." Ianto lied through his teeth, ignoring the looks the others threw at him. "But he didn't say much about his plans, to be honest. It was more of a warning, I suppose. He wanted me to be aware of the information and keep an eye out for more."
"Why did he tell you so much and not the rest of us?" asked Owen, earning a nod of agreement from Gwen. Tosh watched them carefully.
"I am the general administrator of Torchwood Three," Ianto replied blandly. "I'm aware of many things you're not, Owen. I see and hear things no one else sees or hears. Apparently Jack felt this was something I should be aware of in order to gather information and help protect the team."
"Did he tell you in bed, then? When he had his—"
"Owen!" Tosh snapped. "Stop it!"
"What?" asked Owen. "We deserve to know whether it's pillow talk or not."
"You don't deserve the time of day, Owen," Tosh retorted.
"He told me weeks ago, Owen," Ianto replied wearily. "And it's none of your business why. It's his. And he's…" He stopped, almost giving away too much, but remembering at the last minute that they were once again hiding their leader's disappearance. Clearing his throat, he continued. "He's an arsehole half the time and an enigma the rest of the time so trying to figure it out won't happen. He didn't tell me that much. I've been following up on my own when the occasion warranted, like with the SkyPuncher."
"How?" asked the captain.
"I have my ways," Ianto replied flatly.
"Mr. Jones," Captain Bardem started, but Ianto cut him off.
"Captain, I cannot tell you how I came upon the threat to the SkyPuncher. It would put people at risk, innocent contacts who don't deserve to be caught up in this." He turned toward Zeynep. "Like her. Is she free to go?"
The captain nodded. "Of course. We've already spoken with her. Everything she said corroborated what you said. The recording and other physical evidence backed it up. But I must warn you…we will continue looking into this so-called conspiracy, and why they felt the need to sabotage and frame Ephraim Salt."
Ianto nodded and stood up, feeling strangely in charge when everyone followed suit. "I wouldn't expect anything less. And we will as well. Perhaps we could share information at some point?"
Gwen glanced between them. "Er, Ianto…"
"What are you suggesting, Mr. Jones?" asked Bardem.
"That you assign a contact to Torchwood to periodically discuss our ongoing investigations. I don't believe this is anywhere near over. An exchange of information every so often will only help bring it to a close sooner rather than later, and perhaps save lives."
The captain nodded thoughtfully. "I'd consider it. I'll talk to Colonel Mace first. Thank you for your cooperation. It's…" He almost smiled. "Unusual and refreshing."
"And for yours," Ianto replied. He had no regrets about his unorthodox suggestion, because he was sure UNIT would never put together the pieces of the puzzle Jack had been gathering and fitting into place. Not before them, and in the meantime, Ianto could use their information to his own advantage, while feeding them only the barest minimum.
Ianto did not shake hands with the captain; considering he'd been held in a cell for the last thirty-six hours, he had no wish to mask his experience with false pleasantries. In fact, he wanted nothing more than to get the hell out of there and back to Cardiff.
"My assistant will see you out," said Captain Bardem. "Good luck to you. And…" He paused at the door. "You did the right thing, Mr. Jones. It might not have worked out like you'd hoped, but it could have been much worse."
They all stared at the door as the captain left.
"I'll be damned," said Owen. "I don't think I've ever seen UNIT so bloody nice."
"I'll take it," said Ianto, turning toward them. "Can we go now?"
Tosh nodded as Owen gathered his things. "We're booked on the first flight to Cardiff tomorrow." She reached out and squeezed his hand. "I hope that's all right, it was the best we could do."
"Of course it is," Ianto replied, returning the squeeze. "I'm just glad you're here. Thank you for coming."
"Of course we'd come, sweetheart," said Gwen, her hand on his arm. "We were worried about you."
"You're part of the team, Ianto," added Tosh. "We need you."
Ianto smiled wanly. "Not really. You could have very easily dismissed me as a rogue agent and distanced yourself from any culpability."
"Yeah, but we can't work the damn coffee machine," said Owen, clapping him on the back. "Now, come on, let's go. I'm starving."
"Mr. Jones?" asked Zeynep, who was walking behind them, apart from the group. Ianto turned back to her and smiled.
"Going to try to sell me more insurance?" he asked, and she smiled back.
"You bought it all," she laughed. "I still can't believe you insured your exotic bird just to stay on the line!"
"What?" asked Gwen as Tosh burst out laughing.
"You insured Mfanwy?" asked Owen. "As a bird?"
"Owen," Tosh warned. Ianto rolled his eyes and turned back to Zeynep, who was waiting patiently.
"Would you like to have dinner tonight? My husband and I would be honored if you joined us at our home." She glanced at the others. "All of you."
"We couldn't impose—" started Gwen, but Zeynep waved her off.
"It is no imposition. Please. Join us." She turned back to Ianto. "I would like you to meet my family, my children."
"We'd be honored," Ianto answered for all of them. "Thank you."
After exchanging mobile numbers, they left the facility, and for the first time since he'd crash landed in Turkey Ianto stepped into the sunshine and took a deep breath. He was alive and he was free. In spite of failing to save Ephraim Salt and the SkyPuncher, Ianto had saved hundreds of lives on the ground and still had the data stick tucked into his shorts to examine later. His team had come for him, and they were having dinner with the woman who had saved his life.
Maybe it wasn't so bad after all.
Of course I'm writing a follow-up to 'Fall to Earth'! As soon as I listened to it I wanted to know what happened next. If you haven't listened to the new Big Finish audio drama, do try to do so. It was wonderful! I hope this does it justice. Many thanks to Taamar for the title. There is a second part, and I hope to post it within a week. Thanks for reading!