HELP WANTED

Author's Note: Fans may recognised the song lyrics I have used at the beginning of each chapter (and in some cases, mid-chapter). They are all from Panic! At The Disco's album "A Fever You Can't Sweat Out" and the song name is referenced at the end of each set of lyrics. The only exception is "Ianto's Soliloquy" quoted directly from Season One's episode "Greeks Bearing Gifts", written by Toby Whithouse.

I also wish to reference TC Grange, my long-suffering ever diligent editor. She is also responsible for such colourful phrases as "Himbo Man-Slut", used here to describe Captain Jack...


PROLOGUE

"Swear we'll shake it up

If you swear to listen…"

- The only difference between martyrdom and suicide is press coverage

The day following Lisa's death, the atmosphere at the Torchwood Three Cardiff Base was tense, which was to be expected. Jack nodded curtly to Ianto, acknowledging his presence and nothing more, and exchanged a few quiet words with Gwen.

"You would never have shot him, not really," said Gwen.

"Wouldn't I?"

"Will he stay?"

Jack shrugged. "But I think we'd best be prepared in case he does leave," he said.

"How'd you mean?"

Jack smiled. "I think its time our Assistant had an assistant of his own. God knows he could use the help with all the… pressure he's been under lately. And if he leaves, we'll at least have someone trained up to take over."

"You sound as though you've already got someone in mind." Commented Gwen.

Jack continued to smile his enigmatic smile as they watched Ianto move slowly and methodically around the Hub, shoving rubbish into a black garbage bag.

oooOOOooo

"Caoimhe Morain." Said Jack, pointing at the screen over Toshiko's shoulder. "Track her down, offer her the job and bring her to me."

"Sorry… Kee-vah…how did you pronounce that?" Asked Owen. Gwen rolled her eyes.

"Caoimhe – that's Irish, isn't it?" She said, writing down the address. "I'll get her."

"No. You need to stay here and get in more weapons practice; your shooting last night was appalling." Said Jack. "No, Owen can pick her up."

"Oh, come off it, Boss! I need to recalibrate half the medical equipment downstairs after Miss Psycho Britches drained the power last night… alright, alright." He trailed off, seeing the look on Jack's face. "G'is the address then," he sighed, holding out his hand to Gwen. She passed it to him and, with a single murderous glance in Jack's direction, disappeared in the direction of the firing range.

oooOOOooo

By the time he'd arrived at the address, Owen had forgotten how to pronounce the name. He approached the double-storey building muttering to himself.

"Kay-oh-mee? Kyo…. Kwe-oh-me-hay? This is rubbish, I sound like a prat," he grumbled. He studied the names on the apartment intercom buttons. "C Morain," he murmured, pressing the appropriate button.

"Aye?" Came the disembodied voice.

"I'm looking for Kay-oh-me Moy-ran," said Owen loudly into what he hoped was the receiver.

"Aye, that's me" said the voice. "Only it's pronounced Kee-vah Moor-anne."

"Right. Well, mind if I come up?" Asked Owen.

"Aye, I do mind," said the voice. "Owing to the fact that I have no idea who you are."

Owen swore under his breath and searched his pockets for identification. "Is there a camera or something I can show my ID to?" He asked, trying to keep the impatience out of his voice. "Only I'm in a bit of a hurry."

"There's no camera, I've spoken to the landlord about installing one but he… never mind, I'll come down."

Minutes later, a pretty red-head was peering at Owen through the glass of the front door. Owen held up his ID

"Doctor Owen Harper, Torchwood Three, Cardiff," he told her. "Jack Harkness sent me to offer you a job."

"Jack Harkness?" She echoed, deactivating the interior locking mechanism and opening the door. "Captain Jack?" She took the identification and studied it.

"Aye… I mean, yeah," said Owen. She narrowed her eyes at him. "Sorry, I'm not taking the mickey…"

"And he wants to offer me a job at Torchwood Three?"

"Yeah. You know him then?"

"Who doesn't know Captain Jack Harkness?" Said Caoimhe. She handed the ID back to Owen and said: "Well, I'll just get my coat then."

Owen blinked: "What, just like that?"

"If Captain Jack Harkness needs me at Torchwood then aye, just like that."

"So," began Owen once they were in the car. "How d'ya know Jack then?"

"I knew him when I was working for Torchwood One, in London," replied Caoimhe. "I was just doing administration duties there…"

"Torchwood One," Owen mused, cutting her off. "Did you know a Lisa Hallett as well?"

"Aye, I knew Lisa," said Caoimhe. "Well, sort of, she only started a week before I left so when I say I knew her… Is she at Torchwood Three too? Do you know her?"

"We've met," Owen answered dryly. "Cheeky bitch nearly killed us all last night, not to mention the damage she did to my equipment."

"I see," she said, not really seeing at all.

"You obviously weren't in London when the whole Cyberman thing happened?"

"No, my Mam got sick and I went back to Ireland to take care of her." Said Caoimhe. She ducked her head and Owen had to impression she was wiping away a tear. "By the time I got back to London, the Torchwood Institute there had been destroyed which rather left me out of a job. I moved here to Cardiff and I've been temping ever since, but it's not the same. Nothing could ever be the same after Torchwood."

They drove the rest of the way in silence.

oooOOOooo

"The rooms have a hint of asbestos

And maybe just a dash of formaldehyde.

And the habit of decomposing right before your very eyes…

Along with the people inside."

- Build God, then we'll talk.

Caoimhe followed Owen along the dank corridor, down the lift and through the porthole-like door into The Hub of Torchwood Three's Base. Her first impression was of a damp, underground warehouse, so very different from the clean, bright offices of Torchwood One in London. Water dripped from the tower overhead and on every available surface sat technology from other worlds.

A glass canister containing a severed hand suspended in clear bubbling fluid sat on top of a sheaf of papers. Presumably it was being used as a paperweight.

Mismatched arm-chairs and couches grouped around a scratched coffee table (which was laden with old take-away pizza boxes) made up a make-shift sitting room. Paperwork was piled high on another desk, and up a metal staircase, Caoimhe could see a glass-walled, triangular office. High above her a screaming cry sounded, but as no one else seemed concerned about it, she ignored it. This was Torchwood, after all, and the cry could belong to anything. Probably it was some sort of harmless alien life form.

Across the room, a pretty Japanese woman worked furiously at a keyboard in front of a bank of screens. She looked up briefly and nodded in a friendly manner toward the newcomer, then went back to work. Far off, Caoimhe could hear muffled gun shots – clearly this base had its own firing range somewhere within the bowels of the building. The shots stopped, and soon after a pale brunette appeared, earmuffs still around her neck.

And then, there was Captain Jack Harkness, smiling his charming smile and extending his hand in welcome.

"Caoimhe Morain," he said. "Good to see you again."

"Hello Jack," Caoimhe smiled.

Owen was muttering to himself again, peering at the piece of paper again. "Kee-va…. Kwee-vah. Looks like Kay-oh-me if you want my opinion", he was saying. Jack cleared his throat and Owen looked up hastily. "Sorry…"

"As I was saying," went on Jack. "You've met our Owen Harper – my second-in-command. This is Toshiko Sato, computer genius, and Gwen Cooper, police liaison…"

"Hello," said Gwen, shaking Caoimhe's hand and smiling.

"And this is Ianto Jones…" Here Jack paused, as though unsure how to describe him. "You'll be working with him," he finished weakly.

Caoimhe finally noticed the young man skulking in the corner. He touched her extended hand briefly without meeting her eye. Dressed in a perfectly tailored black pinstriped suit, crisp white shirt and navy blue silk tie, he carried himself like a defeated man. Caoimhe sensed a coolness between him and the other staff and wondered about it.

To cover the obvious tension, Gwen said: "Caoimhe… that's Irish Gaelic isn't it?"

"Aye," she answered.

"I never thought I'd see a name harder to pronounce than some of these Welsh buggers," put in Owen.

"Most people just call me Kif. Perhaps you'd better stick with that before you do yourself an injury," she retorted, turning on him.

Jack grinned at the look on Owen's face, but directed his next comment to Gwen: "At least she managed to put him in his place without releasing a deadly alien on the population," he chortled.

Gwen reddened. "Am I never going to live that down?" She asked.

"Nope," the others answered in unison.

"Well, Kif then," said Jack. "I'll give you the tour, and then Ianto here can show you the ropes."

Kif glanced at the sullen man named Ianto again, thinking to herself that working with him didn't look like it was going to be much fun. Still, working for a Torchwood Institute again, even one as obviously seedy as the Cardiff branch, was better than being farmed out by a temping agency. She followed Jack down the stairs to the vault to begin the tour.

oooOOOooo

Upon their return to the main Hub, Jack and Kif discovered Ianto was no where to be seen.

"He's gone back up to reception," Toshiko called, without looking up.

"Well, that's as good a place as any for you to start," said Jack.

oooOOOooo

ENLIGHTENMENT

"Haven't you heard that I'm the new cancer?

I've never looked better

And you can't stand it."

"And I know, and I know,

It just doesn't feel like a night out

With no one sizing you up."

- There's a good reason these tables are numbered honey, you just haven't thought of it yet.

Kif sensed an ulterior motive in the invitation to drinks. Seated around a table with Gwen, Owen and Toshiko, three pairs of eyes on her, she suddenly realised how a lab-rat must feel.

"So," said Owen finally. "Had a good first week?"

Weak opening, thought Kif. Beating around the bush…

"It's certainly different to working at Llewellyn Caderyn and Associates," she allowed.

"Ianto not giving you a hard time?" Asked Tosh.

Getting closer, thought Kif.

"Not at all," she said. "In fact he's barely spoken two words to me – outside of telling me what I should be doing, that is."

"What are your… impressions of him?" Asked Gwen.

Bingo, now we're getting to it, thought Kif. But what are my impression of him? Many different adjectives occurred to her: hostile, sullen, withdrawn, unfriendly, sad…

"Shattered," she said finally.

Owen raised one eyebrow, and the women exchanged a glance.

"He appears whole," Kif went on. "But inside it's as though he is broken into a thousand pieces. He is functioning, but just barely."

"Very astute," murmured Owen – the comment directed at Gwen and Tosh.

"Why?' Asked Kif. "Why is he broken?"

Another glance around the table from all of them.

"Last week," Gwen began. "There was an incident…"

"Incident is one way of putting it, yeah," Owen cut in.

"What sort of incident?" Asked Kif.

"Were you in London during the battle at Canary Wharf?" Toshiko asked. "When the Cybermen attacked?"

"No, I was in Ireland with my Mam," said Kif. "But from what I've heard, I'm lucky I wasn't there. The Cybermen weren't just attacking – they were… recruiting."

"Recruiting, converting," said Owen. "Only they called it upgrading. Originally they were just taking human brains and transplanting them into cybernetic bodies, but that was taking too long. Toward the end of the Canary Wharf invasion they began upgrading entire human bodies."

Kif winced. "I didn't know that," she said. "But what has that to do with Ianto…"

"Yeah, I'm getting to that," said Owen. "You said you knew Lisa Hallett…"

"Met her," said Kif. "I didn't really know her."

"Then you probably never knew her boyfriend, either," said Tosh.

Kif shook her head, bemused. "Didn't you say Lisa Hallett nearly killed you all…?" She said to Owen.

"Lisa began one of those full-body upgrades but she was pulled out of the machinery when it shut down before the upgrade was completed," said Gwen. "By her boyfriend. Ianto."

"If she was only partially upgraded she must have been in terrible pain…" said Kif.

Owen shrugged as if this was neither here nor there.

"Ianto brought Lisa to Torchwood Three – without anyone's knowledge," said Tosh. "He kept her alive in the basement, on life support, with drugs for the pain. He was convinced she was still human and that he could heal her. Save her."

"Only once you become a Cyberman, there's no going back," said Owen.

"Hold on, if Lisa was on life support, drugged to the eyeballs and from the sounds of it, barely alive, how on earth could she be capable nearly killing you all?" Asked Kif.

"Ianto brought in a doctor: a cybernetics expert to be exact." Said Tosh. "Once I was able to restore the internal CCTV footage, which Ianto had tried to alter of course, we were able to see everything he'd done."

"Anyway, long story short, she was up and about and planning the next great Cyberman empire using Torchwood as a base," said Owen.

"Using you lot as the first upgrades," guessed Kif.

"That, or 'deleting' us if we wouldn't comply."

Kif shook her head as she tried to absorb this information. "Well, obviously that didn't happen so…"

"So how did we get out of it?"

"Mmm."

"Pterodactyl."

"I beg your pardon?" Said Kif.

"Jack set the pterodactyl on her and we escaped up the lift – the perception-filter lift that is, not the main exit gate lift," said Gwen.

"As you do…" Kif murmured.

"Then it got really ugly." Said Owen.

"Jack and Ianto had this… Mexican standoff, guns pointed at each other and everything!" Tosh put in.

"Ianto wanted to go back in and reason with Lisa," said Gwen. "He still thought he could save her, that she was still human enough. Jack told him to go back in and finish the job," she went on, and her voice caught. "He said: 'you execute her or I'll execute you both'."

"No!" Exclaimed Kif, her eyes round with horror. "Jack would never…" She stared at each of them in turn. And on each face she read the same thing: oh, wouldn't he? "Did he then? Finish the job, I mean?"

"We gave him 10 minutes – then…"

"Then you executed her." Kif finished for them. Her expression was hard and horrified and terribly sad, all at the same time.

"It was the only way," Owen said, quietly. "She'd already killed the pizza delivery girl – transplanted her own brain into the girl's skull. Even then she still intended to 'upgrade properly', and she wanted Ianto to join her. It was kill or be killed."

"No wonder he's so…" Kif couldn't even finish the sentence. "I can't believe Jack didn't retcon him."

Owen snorted. "Neither can I…"

"Jack understood Ianto did what he did out of love for Lisa," Gwen put in, shooting an annoyed look at Owen.

"And after all that you just… cleaned up and he came back to work like normal?" Kif asked.

Tosh nodded. "The very next day."

In spite of everything she'd heard, Kif was impressed with that. Ianto had clearly adored this Lisa Hallett – why else would he risk his life to save her from the Cybermen, then risk the lives of his colleagues to heal her? And just as he'd seemed on the verge of succeeding, he'd had to witness the woman he loved regressing. Degenerating. Becoming less human, before his eyes. Witness her try to kill his friends and finally, witness her execution at the hands of his Boss and mentor.

No wonder there was tension, coolness, between Ianto and the rest of the team. No wonder Ianto Jones seemed a broken man in an immaculate suit.

oooOOOooo

"I am

Alone in this bed

House and head."

- Nails for breakfast, tacks for snacks

The next morning…

"Ianto," said Kif, cutting him off mid-sentence. He started, surprised into looking at her directly for the first time ever, and she had a split-second to register the clear blue-grey of his eyes. "I heard what happened with your Lisa," she went on. "The others told me."

He looked away. "Did they?" He said quietly.

"I'm so terribly sorry Ianto, such an awful way to lose someone you love. I can't imagine how you must be feeling."

"I'll survive."

"Aye, you will," agreed Kif. "And I admire you." Ianto eyed her askance. "It must have taken incredible courage and strength of character to come back here: to continue working after what happened."

"I don't know about that."

"Just my humble opinion."

oooOOOooo

WORKING

"This is the scent of dead skin on a linoleum floor,

This is the scent of quarantine wings in a hospital.

And it's not so pleasant and it's not so conventional,

It sure as hell ain't normal but we deal, we deal."

- Camisado

Months passed. Kif became accustomed to her new job and the people she worked with. She was kept busy typing reports and filing paperwork, learning the payroll system, and keeping detailed inventory of the organisation's weapons and alien technology collection. As well as the less-savoury aspects of the job: dealing with bodies, covering up alien murders, cleaning out the cells in the vault (a particularly gruesome task given the presence of the "Weevil") She was also required to take her turn on the reception desk upstairs at ground level and gracefully discourage interest from passers-by. The ice finally broken with the admission she knew about Lisa, Ianto had slowly come out of his shell and became… if not more friendly, then at least less hostile. He became more pleasant to work with and even smiled occasionally.

The whole team was kept busy, in fact. Most of them worked a six and a half day week (when Jack noticed they'd been there for too many days in a row, he insisted they take the afternoon off) and 16 hour days at that. Jack didn't appear to ever go home and when Kif commented on it, Ianto admitted Jack kept "quarters" within the building, although they were only supposed to be used occasionally when they "pulled an all-nighter". Most weekends, Jack insisted either or both Ianto and Kif take at least one entire day and night off, and during the week, he tried to insist the same thing of the others, although with all the alien activity that had taken place lately, no one seemed to have time for time off. And in an organisation such as Torchwood, the concept of Occupational Health and Safety was rather moot, given the working conditions.

Kif suspected there was usually more of a social aspect to the job, when the team wasn't so busy – but she was kept so busy herself she barely had time to notice the interplay between the team members.

oooOOOooo

FINANCES

"Talk to the mirror

Oh, choke back tears,

And keep telling yourself: 'I'm a diva!'"

- There's a good reason these tables are numbered honey, you just haven't thought of it yet.

"Every month, the money is deposited into this account," Ianto pointed to a bank statement. "And we keep track of it in here." He lifted a heavy green ledger from the top of the filing cabinet and dropped it on the desk with a thump.

"And you don't know where the money comes from?" Asked Kif.

"No one does," he answered. "Except perhaps Jack."

Kif picked up the bank statement. "Howecort Throde Inc", she read.

"Howecort Throde is an anagram of Torchwood Three," said Ianto. Kif resisted the urge to voice a sarcastic "thankyou, Captain Obvious" and opened the ledger. Turning to the current page, she ran her finger down the columns, frowning, and glanced up at Ianto.

"Who's been doing your bookkeeping?" She asked.

"I have," Ianto replied. "I'm a little worried about it actually; we seem to be getting into the red. To be honest, bookkeeping isn't my strong suite," he admitted.

"I can see that," said Kif, trying to keep her voice as neutral as possible. "Do you mind if I have a good look at this before I start entering anything else? Only I don't think Torchwood's financial position is as bad as all that. I just think your bookkeeping might be… a little up the creek."

"Up the creek?"

"Just a little."

"I see," he said stiffly.

"Only I managed the books for the last place I was at – I've a certificate in bookkeeping…"

"So take a look at it," snapped Ianto, and he stalked off.

"I'm not threatening your manhood, Ianto, I'm just questioning your bookkeeping skills," Kif murmured under her breath. She looked down at the ledger again. "And when I said 'this might be a little up the creek', what I meant was 'this is a total shambles'. No wonder you think you're in the red…" she trailed off as she got to work.

Four hours later, she was still hard at work when Jack reminded her to go home for the day. Kif collected the bank statements for the past five financial years and slipped them, along with the heavy ledger, into a carry bag and left the Base.

By midnight, working alone in her apartment, she'd located the original error made nearly two years earlier. By 2am, she'd worked her way back up to the previous financial year, rewriting and correcting the ledger as she went. By this time her eyes were grainy and burning with exhaustion and she decided to pack it in for the night. She slept through her alarm and arrived back at work nearly an hour later than usual.

Ianto opened his mouth to comment on her tardiness when he noticed the heavy bag she was carrying. Putting two and two together, he closed his mouth again and nodded in the direction of her desk. Jack watched this little by-play but said nothing.

oooOOOooo

"So, the money was still coming in, but you weren't accounting for it correctly. You were accounting for the outgoing but not the incoming and the result was what looked like a financial haemorrhage." Kif pointed out the changes she made to the ledger to a bemused Ianto.

"I don't understand, I thought I was accounting for the incoming here," he said pointing to one of the columns.

"No, you need to put it in here, but take it out here, otherwise you end up…" Kif could see she was losing him already. "Anyway, we're nowhere near as badly off as you thought we were. Looks like you can actually afford to pay me now."

Ianto's face was a neutral mask, and Kif wondered for a moment just how angry with her he was. Then the penny dropped. He wasn't angry with her for pointing out his errors; he was mortified to have made such a mistake in the first place.

"If it makes you feel any better, Einstein didn't understand double-entry bookkeeping either," said Kif, quietly.

"Albert Einstein was a patent clerk," Ianto pointed out.

"Aye, a patent clerk who didn't understand double-entry bookkeeping."

He eyed her as though he was sure she was pulling his leg. "I suppose even genius has its limitations," he said with a tiny smile.

"Genius…" said Kif, one eyebrow raised. "No statute of limitations on arrogance, though."

Ianto inclined his head slightly. "Touché," the gesture said. Then: "Thank you for putting it to rights," he verbalised.

Kif shrugged. "It's not rocket science," she said. "Do you want me to take it over permanently?"

"Please."

"By the way, who came up with 'Howecort Throde Inc'?"

"Hector Rethwood," he said, his lips twitched into a smirk as he turned and left her with the financial paperwork.

"Hector Rethwood," Kif murmured, frowning. She doodled the name on a scrap of paper, then rearranged the letters to spell 'Howecort Throde' and finally 'Torchwood Three'. Kif grimaced and shook her head. "Cheeky bugger," she muttered, crumpling the paper and throwing it into the wastepaper basket.

oooOOOooo

COFFEE

"Prescribed pills to offset the shakes,

To offset the pills you know you should

Take it a day at a time."

- Nails for breakfast, tacks for snacks.

"Alright then, coffee." Said Ianto. Kif joined him in the galley kitchen and eyed the collection of coffee mugs, milk, sugar, sweeteners and other unidentified substances. "Gwen," he began, pouring hot coffee into one of the mugs. "Black, no sugar. Owing, I suspect, to the fact she's had to drink it that way while out on the beat, and she's gotten used to it."

Kif nodded.

"Tosh," said Ianto, picking up another mug. "White, semi-skimmed milk – not too much though. One and one only artificial sweetener. Watching her figure, not that she needs to."

Kif glanced over at the Japanese woman and silently agreed.

"Owen," said Ianto, scooping sugar into yet another mug. "Full-fat milk, three sugars – doesn't give a toss about his figure." His lips twitched into what may have eventually become a grin.

Kif hid her own smile.

"And finally, Jack." Ianto picked up a black mug. "Make sure it's strong. White, doesn't matter what sort of milk. One sugar. And a dash of this." He picked up one of the unidentified bottles and added a few drops of its contents to Jack's coffee.

"What is it?"

"No idea," said Ianto. "I don't ask where it came from, but he supplies it himself."

Kif raised her eyebrows. "Misuse of alien technology?" She asked.

"It's possible."

Kif cast an eye over the range of coffees on the tray. "It's like feeding exotic zoo animals," she murmured. Ianto's lips twitched again and she had the impression he was trying hard not to laugh. "And what about you?" She asked finally.

"I'm sorry?"

"How do you take your coffee?"

Ianto blinked in surprise. "No one's ever asked me that before," he said. He paused. Then: "I don't. I drink tea. And I make it myself," he said firmly, anticipating Kif's next question. He turned on his heel and left Kif to serve the coffee.

"Well, la di dah," Kif muttered once he was out of earshot.

oooOOOooo

MISTAKE

"Oh please, she's not bleeding on the ballroom floor

Just for the attention.

That's just ridiculously on..."

- Time to dance

Kif was working at reception when the package arrived.

"Delivery for a Doctor Owen Harper," said the delivery man. His monogrammed coverall identified him as Conley.

"I'll sign for it," said Kif, flashing a charming smile and rising from behind the desk.

Conley regarded her carefully for a moment. "You're not Doctor Owen Harper," he told her.

Smart lad, thought Kif sarcastically, potential Mensa member this one. "No, I'm his Personal Assistant," she lied patiently, smile fixed in place. "And I'll sign for the package."

"I don't know, it says here…"

"Look, I can page the good doctor if you'd like, only he's a very busy man and I shouldn't think he'd be terribly happy about having to come all the way up here to reception to sign for a package personally, when I'm perfectly capable of doing it for him," said Kif briskly. She moved towards the phone and picked it up. "It's getting me into trouble you'll be…"

"No that's okay," Conley said hurriedly, his features registering a species of dull alarm. "Do you have any identification?"

"Well, nothing that reads 'Personal Assistant to Doctor Owen Harper', no."

"Just a driver's license would do."

Kif rummaged in her purse and handed the license over. Conley's lips moved silently as he squinted at it. "Kee-vah Moor-anne," said Kif, resisting the urge to roll her eyes as she anticipated the next question. "It's Irish, it means… oh, never mind."

"Right," said Conley, handing the license back. "Sign here."

Finally, thought Kif. She bared her teeth at him again as he handed the shoe-box sized package over and left the building. "Just because I'm a woman… I'll bet Ianto doesn't have to put up with this sort of thing," she muttered as she locked the outer door and made her way down the corridor to the lift.

By the time she'd arrived at the Hub, it was clear all hell had broken loose. Kif pushed the package under her desk for safe keeping and hurried to Tosh's workstation to monitor the tracking as the rest of the team, including Ianto for a change, disappeared out the door. Jack yelled instructions to her over his shoulder as he shrugged into his coat and prepared to join the others.

"And for goodness sake, don't let it out of your sight!" He snapped. "I'll pick you up on com-link once I'm in the truck!"

Kif nodded grimly without taking her eyes off the screen as Jack departed. And Owen's package had been completely forgotten.

oooOOOooo

"That's when you s-s-stutter something profound

To the support on the line.

And with the way you've been talking

Every word gets you a step

Closer to

Hell."

- Nails for breakfast, tacks for snacks.

Hours after the others returned: pale, sweating and ill-looking, Owen said: "By the way, I was expecting a package today, don't supposed it arrived while we were gone?"

"Oh aye," said Kif, remembering suddenly. "Its here." She retrieved it from beneath her desk and handed it over. Owen winked his appreciation and disappeared in the direction of the autopsy room. She collected a few things from her desk and headed back up to reception.

Not 10 minutes later, Jack burst in looking flushed, furious and terrified. He grabbed Kif by one arm and hauled her out from behind the reception desk.

"How long ago did that package arrive?!" He snarled through gritted teeth.

"This morning! Before you all left to… ow, Jack you're hurting me!" Kif squeaked, trembling. She'd never seen him so angry.

"How many hours?!"

"I don't know! Six, maybe…" She was cut off as he began dragging her down toward the Hub. "Jack, for goodness sake!..." She stumbled as she was man-handled across the Hub floor and down the stairs toward the autopsy room. She had a moment to register that the autopsy room quarantine doors were sealed before she was thrown against them, her face pressed against the glass.

Terrified, her breath fogging the glass, she struggled to comprehend the scene within. Owen was lying supine on the table, not dead given the seizures he appeared to be suffering, but clearly not conscious. Someone wearing a biohazard suit was working over him, occasionally touching the side of the helmet to activate the com-link. The suited individual looked up and Kif's eyes met Ianto's briefly before he went back to work.

"What's happening?" Kif whispered.

"Toshiko is giving Ianto instructions on saving Owen's life," said Jack directly into her ear. He was still holding the back of her neck so she couldn't turn away from the scene in the autopsy room. "Ianto, with his usual ruthless efficiency and quick thinking, quarantined the autopsy room before the virus that is now attacking Owen could become entirely airborne and escape. And hopefully he got into that biohazard suit before it infected him as well."

"What virus?" Kif's voice was barely audible.

"The virus that was in that package that should have been kept at a maximum temperature of 4 degrees centigrade!" Said Jack, his voice rising. "The virus we were going to use to treat the Weevils to stop them turning rogue!" He went on, nearly shouting now. "The virus that when heated to room temperature for over 6 hours and exposed to air can become deadly in a matter of minutes!" He roared.

Kif felt the blood drain from her face. Her knees buckled and if it wasn't for the fact that Jack still had her pinned to the quarantine door, she would have collapsed.

"Give her a break, Jack, she didn't know," Gwen said, coming up behind them. She placed a hand on his shoulder, and he allowed her to pull him away.

Kif turned to face Jack and Gwen, her eyes wide with horror. Jack shot her a final, furious glance and stalked back up to the Hub. "What if he…?" Kif began.

"They're doing everything they can," said Gwen. Her dark eyes were troubled but sympathetic and she placed a reassuring hand on Kif's shoulder. Kif turned back to the glass and watched Ianto as he worked over Owen's now motionless body. She could now see a video com-link screen which showed Toshiko calmly giving him instructions, although she couldn't hear the audio. Ianto's helmeted head nodded as he moved to inject Owen with something. "You'd better get back to work," Gwen said eventually.

"But I want to help!" Said Kif, turning on her. "Isn't there something I can do?"

"Keep busy, keep out of Jack's way, and be ready to find anything Tosh or Ianto need," said Gwen. "That's all you can do."

Kif nodded, swallowing around a lump in her throat. She cast a final look at Owen and Ianto through the glass, and returned to her desk. A little while later, she prepared coffee for those who were able to drink it. Jack grunted as she handed him his mug, but as he didn't begin yelling at her again, she considered this an improvement.

Hours later, Kif caught a flurry of movement as both Gwen and Jack moved toward the autopsy room. She hesitated, and then followed them. The audio link was open when she arrived, and she could hear Ianto's voice giving the others a report.

"He seems to be stable," Ianto was saying. "Breathing, pulse, blood pressure, blood glucose, all normal. No traces of a virus in his blood work and strangely enough, no traces of a virus in the air either."

"How is that possible?" Asked Jack.

"If I didn't know any better, I'd say that vial didn't contain a virus at all, but something else altogether," said Ianto. He picked up the glass vial which had been discarded on the floor. "Paradoxyllin monoclavulox." He read.

"That's not a virus," said Tosh. "That's an antibiotic!"

Ianto was rummaging through the rest of the package, holding up each vial in turn and reading the labels. "They're all the same," he reported.

"But if Owen wasn't exposed to a virus, what did he react to?" Asked Kif. "He looked as though he was dying! Antibiotics shouldn't have affected him that way unless…"

"Unless he's allergic to penicillin and went into anaphylactic shock," Gwen finished for her, and all the others stared at her. "Rhys is allergic to penicillin too, he wears one of those medic alert bracelets so paramedics don't give it to him," she explained.

"I'm not sure, but I don't think that's on Owen's records," said Jack.

"It's not," said Ianto, removing the helmet and deactivating the quarantine doors. "I'd know." He ran his fingers through his damp, sweaty hair.

They all turned as Owen began to stir and moan. Kif caught Jack's eye and nodded toward the door. He joined her in the hallway.

"It's still my fault," she told him.

"Yes, it is," agreed Jack. "But it could have been much worse. If it really had been the virus we were expecting, and not just an airborne form of penicillin, we'd probably all be dead."

Kif nodded. "I should have checked the package as soon as it arrived," she said. "I should have made sure it was stored correctly and informed Owen straight away."

"Yes." Said Jack again.

"It won't happen again." Said Kif. Her tone was humble, but she met Jack's eye.

"No it won't."

oooOOOooo

"This was no accident,

This was a therapeutic chain of events."

- Camisado

In the wake of the events following the arrival and improper handling of the package, the following things happened:

Owen received a dressing down from Jack for failing to inform him that he was fatally allergic to some forms of antibiotics. A note was made on his medical file.

Ianto received a warm commendation from Jack and the others for his quick thinking, disregard for his own safety and "ruthless efficiency", which saved Owen's life.

Toshiko took the liberty of cancelling all future orders with the medical supplies company that had sent them an experimental form of airborne penicillin in error. She also made it impossible for them to do business with anyone else by wiping them from the databases of all the major hospitals in the United Kingdom.

Kif was reminded by Jack that everyone makes mistakes and now that she'd made one that'd nearly cost someone their life, given that each and every other member of Torchwood Three had also committed a monumental error at some stage, she was now officially part of the team.

oooOOOooo

CHAMELEON

"There are no

Raindrops on roses or girls in white dresses

It's sleeping with roaches and taking best guesses

At the shade of the sheets before all the stains,

And a few more of your least favourite things."

- Build God, then we'll talk

Early one afternoon, Toshiko was monitoring their tracking system and notified the others that some sort of alien craft had landed just outside Cardiff. In the space of 30 seconds, the four of them: Tosh, Jack, Owen and Gwen, had disappeared in one of the armoured vehicles, leaving Ianto behind to talk them through the tracking as they rushed to the site.

Kif was trying to service the photocopier when they returned. She watched from the corner of her eye as Toshiko and Owen searched through online databases and CCTV footage, trying to identify the alien they were hunting – an alien that was posing as a human. Jack stalked around the Hub with Gwen following his every move with her eyes, chewing a fingernail and offering tentative suggestions. Ianto circulated among them unobtrusively; handing out mugs of coffee, then disappeared into the background again.

Kif turned back to the photocopier manual and picked up a screwdriver – calling a photocopier technician was completely out of the question, and while Ianto was perfectly capable of doing the job, he'd delegated it to Kif to see if she could handle it. It wasn't difficult, with the right instructions and parts, but it was fiddly, and Kif was trying to pay attention to what the others were doing as well.

Some time later, Ianto sidled up to her. "See how they're starting to snipe at one another?" He murmured.

"Mmmm," replied Kif.

"They're just starting to get hungry, but they don't even know it yet," he told her, a tiny smug smile on his face. "I'm going out to get Chinese – what do you fancy?"

Kif thought for a moment. "I could go for some Singapore noodles," she said. "And fried rice – but I expect you'll be getting that anyway."

Ianto inclined his head slightly in acquiescence and disappeared through the porthole door and up the lift. Kif went back to work, occasionally shooting a look at the others as their exchanges became increasingly heated. She glanced at the door, and then back at Owen and Gwen, who were now standing mere inches apart, snarling at one another.

Sure enough, just as Gwen shoved Owen into a wall with her hands clamped around his neck, Ianto materialised carrying fragrant white cardboard boxes.

"Who's for Chinese?" He asked cheerfully.

Seated around a cleared desk on a variety of mismatched chairs, the Torchwood Cardiff team tucked in to their food. Kif observed the others silently. She noted that although Ianto hadn't bothered to ask the others what they wanted, no one was complaining about the selections. Also, there didn't seem to be too much of any one thing and not enough of another. Clearly, Ianto knew the others preferences so well, he could tend to them blindfolded with one hand tied behind his back. And, Kif thought wryly, I doubt this lot even notice.

With the tension broken, Jack started to tell a funny story about an alien he'd encountered which sparked an impromptu competition: everyone trying to top the last story with an even funnier one.

oooOOOooo

Hours later, when Jack called it a night and ordered everyone to pack up and head to the pub, Kif began putting her tools away and hurried to the bathrooms to wash the grease from her hands. When she returned, everyone save Ianto had left.

"What… did they just… go off without us?!" She exclaimed.

"Mm-hmm," smiled Ianto. "We're just part of the furniture, didn't you know that?"

Kif shook her head in bemusement. "Are they always like that?" She asked.

Ianto simply lifted one eyebrow at her, still smiling sourly.

"But that's so rude! We work just as hard as they do, harder even! We clean up after them and make sure this place stays standing, and… and pay their wages and practically wipe their backsides, and then they just sod off down the pub without even throwing an invitation our way?!" Kif was outraged. "How do you put up with it?!"

"Job satisfaction," replied Ianto.

"Job satisfaction?!" Exclaimed Kif. "Are you mad?!"

Ianto leaned over, his eyes glinting evilly, still smiling. "Job satisfaction," he said, "is the satisfaction that comes with the knowledge that this place, and that lot, would collapse inside two days without me… without us, to keep it running." He paused. Then: "I know it. You know it. But they don't."

"What if we went on strike?"

"We'd be out on our ear within two hours," said Ianto. "But we'd be welcomed back within two days, I guarantee it!"

Kif shook her head again, but she was smiling too. "Ungrateful gits," she opined.

"That about covers it, yes."

"So now what? Do we have to stick around until they get back, then?"

"One of us does. You go, I'll stay."

"No that's not fair, I'll stay with you – we can nick off to the pub ourselves afterwards. Without them."

This time Ianto's smile was genuine. "Now you're getting it!"

oooOOOooo

Later, at the pub…

"So, what is it with Jack anyway?" Kif asked.

"How'd you mean?"

"Well, he's kind of… different, isn't he? I mean, he's human, I assume?"

"We think so."

"But what do you really know about him?"

"Not a lot," sighed Ianto. "Not where he's from, although we assume he's American from his accent. Not how old he his, although once again, we assume he's in his late 30's or early 40's. Not even if 'Jack Harkness' is his real name or if he was ever really a Captain."

"I met him when I was with Torchwood One, in London," Kif said. "He, er… worked his way through the office, if you catch my drift."

Ianto raised one eyebrow, almost smiling.

"Not me though!" Kif exclaimed. "I do have some standards! Jack is charming and gorgeous of course, but I get the feeling he has so many notches on his bedpost he could just about use it for kindling!" Ianto roared. Kif smiled. "It's not that far from the truth, is it?" She asked.

"I heard Tosh say to Gwen once: 'he'd shag anything as long as it was gorgeous enough'." Ianto shrugged. "From my observations, that's a fair comment."

"What about the others?" Kif asked.

"Do you mean, what do they know about Jack? Or would they shag anything?"

"Both. Either. Do any of them have a personal life to speak of?"

"Gwen has a boyfriend, Rhys. You know that anyway."

Kif nodded, sipping her beer.

"But just lately I've gotten the feeling that she and Owen are having an affair," said Ianto.

Kif choked on her beer. "No! Gwen and Owen!" She exclaimed. "Actually, you could be right about that. I thought she was going to throttle him today but he looked strangely… turned on by the experience!"

"Well, that's no surprise, there's another one who'd shag anything that moves." Said Ianto dryly.

"Does Jack know? About Gwen and Owen I mean?"

Ianto shook his head. "I don't think so. I don't think he'd be happy about it though, for a number of reasons. Not the least of which being that I think he's… rather fond of Gwen."

"Oh aye?" Said Kif, leaning forward. "Do tell."

"It's just another feeling. He's attracted to her in the same way he's attracted to everyone, but he hasn't made a move on her because of Rhys. But all the same, I get the feeling he's falling in love with her."

"Oh dear. And Owen's having a go at her behind his back…" Kif grimaced. "That could get messy."

"And then there's Tosh, and she's got a bit of a thing for Owen…"

"Oh God, it's all a bit incestuous, isn't it?!" Kif giggled. "And what about you, Ianto Jones?"

"What about me, Caoimhe Morain?"

"You pronounced my name correctly, well done, I'm impressed." Said Kif. Ianto inclined his head slightly and lifted his glass. "But don't change the subject." Kif tapped her finger against her lips and regarded Ianto carefully. "No, I can't see Gwen or Tosh being to your taste… And Owen is far too crude… Which just leaves… Jack!"

Ianto looked away, smiling, then turned back and said: "There's nothing going on between me and Jack."

"Oh, but I don't believe you!" Kif cried. "What is it between you and Jack?!"

"I told you there's nothing," Ianto smiled serenely.

"I'll get it out of you, so I will!" Kif grinned, sipping on her beer again.

"So we've talked about everyone else," said Ianto. "What about you?"

Kif allowed the subject to change. "Ask away."

"Do you have a boyfriend?"

"No."

"Girlfriend, then?"

"No! My tastes run a little more mainstream than that."

"Well, I'm afraid you'll never fit in at Torchwood with that attitude, young lady," grinned Ianto. "We're all a little left of centre, didn't you know?"

Kif chuckled. "I suspected as much!"

"So, who at Torchwood do you fancy then?"

"I'm not telling you that!" She laughed.

"You know the dirt on everyone else…"

"Except you," she put in. "Tell me what it is between you and Jack and perhaps I'll tell you."

"I don't think so."

"Well, that's my final offer."

Ianto drained his beer. "Drink up, and I'll give you a lift home," he said.

oooOOOooo

Kif directed Ianto through the streets of Cardiff to her apartment building. She climbed out of the car and leaned back in through the open window.

"What is it between you and Jack?" She asked again.

Ianto shook his head. "First, tell me who you fancy."

Kif rolled her eyes. "Goodnight, Ianto."

"Goodnight, Kif."

She stepped back from the car and watched as it disappeared down the road and around the corner.

"It's you I fancy, Ianto." She said softly into the night. Then she turned and went inside.

oooOOOooo

Lying awake in bed that night, she pondered what Ianto had said: "we're all a little bit left of centre…"

Did that mean…? No, surely not, I mean, he'd hardly have risked life and limb for a girlfriend if he really preferred… She thought.

She pushed the idea of Jack and Ianto out of her mind for the time being and instead remembered the curve of his lips as he smiled, and the blue-grey of his eyes, and the sound of his voice. A voice that sounded as though it belonged to a talking book, or a late-night radio announcer.

Kif smiled as she drifted off to sleep, trying to imagine what he might look like wearing something other than a pinstriped suit…

oooOOOooo

SPECULATION

"The strip-joint veteran sits two seats away,

Smirking between dignified sips of his dignified

Peach and lime daiquiri."

- But it's better if you do.

"So, what do you think?" Asked Tosh, leaning forward, her voice lowered conspiratorially.

"D'ya think he's shagging her?" Suggested Owen. "I know I would be; only she doesn't even look at me sideways."

"Owen!" Exclaimed Gwen.

"Ianto, at least, can pronounce her name correctly," said Toshiko tartly. "Something you've never bothered to do."

"No one but Ianto could pronounce that name, its impossible!"

"Kee-vah," said Gwen promptly.

"Kee-vah Moor-anne," expanded Tosh.

"Yeah well…" said Owen, looking away.

"Anyway, what're you complaining about? It's not like you don't get any action…" Gwen trailed off. "I mean," she stammered, "that aphrodisiac spray you borrow…"

"I only used that the once!"

oooOOOooo

PLAY

"Please leave all

Overcoats, canes and top hats

With the doorman

From that moment you'll be

Out of place and underdressed

I'm

Wrecking this evening already and

Loving every minute of it

Ruining this banquet for the mildly inspiring end."

"When you're in black slacks with accentuating off-white pinstripes.

Everything goes according to plan."

- There's a good reason these tables are numbered honey, you just haven't thought of it yet

The Base was relatively quiet. Most of the team were out on a job and Ianto was puttering around, collecting discarded rubbish from the floors and surfaces and shoving it in to a black garbage bag. Kif had finished working on the payroll, balanced the petty cash tin and cleaned out the cells, and she didn't much fancy making a start on weapons inventory. The atmosphere was lazy and as neither Ianto nor Kif had anything urgent or important to keep them busy, they were disinclined to engage in "make work" simply for the sake of it.

Kif grabbed the basketball that had been discarded earlier by the others after an impromptu game of Two-on-Two (a game that the "assistants" were never invited to join) and began shooting baskets from the chalk-drawn foul line. The rhythmic "swish, bounce, catch" was having a soporific effect when suddenly, the ball was snatched from her hands and a suited blur performed a snappy lay-up, sinking the ball with a neat efficiency that could only mean…

"Ianto!"

Ianto performed a celebratory dance beneath the hoop as he caught the ball then shot a look of triumph at Kif. He licked one finger, drew a "one" in the air, and then pointed at himself.

"Oh aye, that the way it is?" Kif asked. "You challenging me, Jones?"

"Bring it on, Morain," Ianto shot back, his broad Welsh vowels mangling the American slang.

"I'll bring it if you can take it," said Kif, and she launched herself at him.

Twenty minutes later, sweat pouring down their faces, the scores were tied at 19 points each. The next score would be the decider. Kif had discarded the jacket and cashmere sweater she'd been wearing and Ianto had removed his jacket and tie, and had even gone so far as to roll the sleeves of his crisp linen shirt up over his elbows. Kif tried not to imagine what he'd look like if he removed any more of his clothes, and ignored the adolescent clamouring in her brain that insisted she pay more attention to the fact that this was the least-dressed she'd ever seen her co-worker.

Kif had just snatched the ball from Ianto's hands and was dodging back and forth, trying to get a clear shot at the hoop. She feinted to the left then spun on one foot, intending to take the long way around the sitting area when Ianto tackled her from behind, pinning her arms against her sides and making proper disposal of the ball nigh impossible.

"Basketball is a non contact sport, you Neanderthal!" She snarled at him, struggling against his embrace.

Ianto laughed in her ear. In spite of the fact that part of her was rather enjoying being pinned against his solid frame, another part of her wanted to win this challenge. So she fought dirty. Kif stomped her heel down onto Ianto's foot and threw one elbow back into his mid-section.

"Oof!" He exclaimed, letting go immediately. Kif spun around, jumped, and shot the ball over his head. It landed neatly through the hoop, swishing the net. Kif punched the air, giving a little yelp of delight and performed a parody of Ianto's earlier pantomime: licking one finger, drawing a "one" in the air, and then pointing to herself.

"That was an illegal move," Ianto gasped.

"Oh, and tackling me wasn't? What part of 'non contact sport' don't you understand?"

They both broke off and looked up as the yellow warning light came on – the others were on their way back down the reception lift. Kif spun around, located Ianto's jacket and tie which were slung over the back of Toshiko's chair, and threw them at him. He rolled his shirt-sleeves back down and shrugged into the jacket while Kif pulled her sweater back on over her head and smoothed her damp, sweaty hair back into its usual bun.

"Here, let me," she said, and went to straighten Ianto's tie.

"Alright?" He asked, holding his arms out for inspection.

"Aye. Me?"

"Fine."

Kif darted behind her desk, put her reading glasses back on and pulled a sheaf of papers towards her. Ianto had retrieved the garbage bag and resumed tidying the common area.

The others appeared through the porthole door, talking over the top of one another, and moved to their workstations with barely a glance at those who'd been left behind. Owen tossed an empty drink container into Ianto's bag as he passed him and Jack placed a DNA replicator onto Kif's desk with a careless "archive that, will you?" before heading up to his office with Gwen in tow.

"I'll take that down to archives, if you like," Ianto said loudly, picking up the replicator and winking at Kif once his back was to the others.

Kif grinned and said. "Thanks for that Ianto, I really appreciate it," in an equally loud voice.

Neither Owen nor Toshiko registered they'd heard this exchange.

"We're just part of the furniture," Ianto muttered, and Kif rolled her eyes at him.

Kif no longer wondered how Ianto had managed to slip under the radar for so long, keeping his partially-converted Cyberman of a girlfriend in a make-shift intensive care unit in the basement of the building. Considering they were experts and geniuses in their field, they were shockingly unobservant when it came to the "help" (for this, Kif now realised, was how the others saw her and Ianto). Even Gwen, a former police officer who should have been better at that sort of thing, didn't seem to realise that anything other than hard work went on when the two assistants were left to their own devices.

Ianto and Kif had made a game of running amok whenever the rest of the team were away from the Base – especially when they all left to down a pint without bothering to ask whether either of them would like to join them.

Ianto had returned from archives. "Would you like to do reception or should I?" He asked Kif.

"I'll do it," she answered, getting to her feet. "It's not like I exist down here anyway."

"You're going down next time, Morain," Ianto muttered from the corner of his mouth as she past him on the way to reception.

"You talk the talk, Jones, but can you walk the walk?" Kif muttered back at him. He smiled as the door closed.

oooOOOooo

Upstairs, Kif checked the Torchwood Three website and made a few minor changes. She straightened the brochures and watered the office plants, checked the answering machine messages, emptied the wastepaper basket into the outside bin and rearranged the objects on the desk.

Reception duty was considered the first line of defence for Torchwood and a high-level security job, but mostly it was dead boring. In the six months she'd been in this job, she'd only had one really exciting episode while "manning" the reception desk – a prisoner had escaped from the dungeons below and made its way up to street level. Kif had prevented it from leaving for long enough for Jack to appear and shoot the beast with a Taser, but considering it was the middle of the day and the square beyond the glass doors had been teaming with civilians, Kif still shuddered to think what might have happened if the creature had escaped into the wide world.

Sometime later (Kif had hacked into the Irish police database and was looking up the names of former school friends), Ianto appeared.

"Our illustrious leader has bestowed upon us a leave of absence pass for the evening," he began formally. Then he grinned. "Fancy a pint?"

"Love one," Kif answered, swinging her handbag over her shoulder. "Loser buys."

"Thought you'd say that," said Ianto dryly. "Loser will drop you off home afterwards, too."

"Ta." Said Kif.

oooOOOooo

"So," said Kif once they were seated at a booth and sipping their beers. "Are you going to tell me now about you and Jack."

"Oh, not that again," moaned Ianto, pinching the bridge of his nose as though he had a headache. "It's been weeks, I thought you'd forgotten."

"No chance," grinned Kif.

"Okay, we had an affair… sort of. It was long, long before you joined the team and we only slept together the once." Ianto told her. Kif, who'd been in the process of taking a large mouthful of beer, spat the entire contents back into her glass and goggled at him.

"You are joking?!" But the look on Ianto's face… "You're not joking, are you?"

Ianto regarded her soberly, not a trace of the teasing grin that would be there if he was trying to pull her leg.

"I was only kidding!" Spluttered Kif. "All along! I thought you just, sort of, had a little crush on him or something…" she trailed off. Then: "what… happened?"

"It doesn't really bear going into," he said, studying the table. "I'm sure it meant more to me than it did to him… You know what Jack's like." He shrugged, looked away, and then looked back at her.

"I don't know what to say," said Kif, her eyes wide. "I'm…"

"Appalled?"

"No," she said. "Just surprised. But… Lisa?"

"Lisa was close to death, I wasn't sure if she would survive." Said Ianto. "I'm not proud of it, but sometimes we just need… human comfort. In whatever form it comes."

"I do understand that," Kif said quietly. "But why are you telling me this now?"

"Because you asked. Because I want you to know." Said Ianto. "So you can make your mind up about me, with all the facts."

Kif looked into his solemn blue-grey eyes and smiled. She reached out and touched his hand. "Okay," she said. "So now I know."

"So now are you going to tell me…"

"No." She said firmly, and laughed. Kif knew she needed to tell Ianto how she felt about him. She wanted to – but after that revelation… "I'm sorry Ianto, I can't."

"Right," said Ianto. He drained his drink. Then: "Should we talk about something else then?"

"Aye, that'd be grand!"

They changed the subject and ordered another round of drinks.

"Better make this my last, I don't want Gwen's old mates picking me up for drunk driving," said Ianto.

"How did a copper get involved in Torchwood, then?" Kif asked.

"She never told you?"

"Come off it, they never tell me anything!"

"She sort of stumbled across Torchwood one night. The team that is, not the premises." Ianto began. "And then she came looking for us. She found us, too, we were impressed. Jack gave her the tour, introduced us all and told her all about what we do."

Kif blinked in surprise. "What, just like that?"

"Then he took her out for a drink, slipped her an amnesia drug and sent her on her way."

"He retconned her. That was good of him." Kif said.

"It was better than the alternative."

"What, killing her, covering it up and dumping the body somewhere?"

"You know how it works," said Ianto. "Then I hacked into her computer, erased the document she was writing about us, and that was that. Or so we thought." He smiled, his eyes twinkling.

Kif shook her head.

"Somehow, she threw off the memory drug and came looking for us again. Jack was very impressed with that. Gwen had pieced together a murder she was investigating and connected it to Suzie Costello, she was Jack's second-in-command before Owen." A pained look crossed Ianto's features. "Suzie tried to kill Jack. Then she killed herself. In front of Gwen." Ianto looked up into Kif's horrified face. "Jack said Suzie knew she'd be made to leave Torchwood for what she'd done. One of the last things Suzie said was: 'how can you do any other job once you've done this one?'."

"Well, that at least I can sympathise with," said Kif. "I didn't know what I was going to do when I came back to London to find Torchwood destroyed. But to kill herself…" she trailed off, shaking her head. "She really must have thought there was no other alternative."

"After what happened with Lisa, I was sure I'd be made to leave, too. I wasn't sure I could go on, anyway."

"But you did," said Kif. "I meant what I said the last time we spoke of this. I think you showed tremendous courage and strength of character to come back to work after what happened."

"In the end, there wasn't anything else I could do," he told her. "How can you do anything else, after doing a job like this?"

Kif shook her head. "This has been a… mind-numbing evening," she said, rubbing her temples.

"I agree," said Ianto. "Perhaps we should get blind drunk after all."

Kif laughed. "I don't think so; we still have to work tomorrow. I have no wish to muck out the Weevil's cell with a hangover."

"You're right, of course." Said Ianto. "Should we call it a night, then?"

"I think so."

oooOOOooo

TEA…

"Sit tight I'm going to need you to keep time

Come on just snap snap snap those fingers for me.

Good good, now we're making some progress,

Come on just tap tap tap those toes to the beat."

- The only difference between martyrdom and suicide is press coverage.

"So," said Kif, when they'd arrived at her apartment building. "Would you like to come up for a cup of tea?" She met Ianto's gaze briefly, then looked away, blushing.

"Yes, I would." He smiled.

Kif unlocked the outer door and started upstairs. "I warn you," she said over her shoulder. "When I say 'welcome to my humble abode', I do mean humble."

"I'm sure it's fine," said Ianto. "It looks like a nice, clean building anyway."

"Oh aye, the landlord likes to keep the common areas looking good. He says it 'discourages the riff raff'."

Ianto chuckled and followed Kif down a long hall on the second landing. She unlocked a door and called out:

"Mrs Patel? It's just me!"

A tiny, middle aged Indian woman bustled into the living room entrance to the apartment, shushing and flapping her hands at them.

"Sorry!" Whispered Kif. "Is he asleep?"

"He is asleep; you are very late Miss Kiffy!"

"I know, I'm sorry Mrs Patel, I should have called." She gestured toward Ianto and said: "This is Ianto Jones, we work together. Ianto, Mrs Patel."

Mrs Patel shook Ianto's hand and wagged her head from side to side. She turned back to Kif: "He has eaten and had his bath and he's been asleep for about an hour now. I need to be getting home."

"Thank you, I'm sorry I'm so late," said Kif. She retrieved an envelope from the kitchen table and checked the contents. From her purse, she added a few more notes and handed the envelope to the older woman. "I'll see you tomorrow, Mrs Patel."

"Kiffy," Mrs Patel stage-whispered in a voice loud enough that it carried throughout the apartment. "Kiffy, he is a handsome one, you hold onto him, okay?"

"Okay, Mrs Patel, goodnight!" Said Kif, hiding a smile. She closed the door and turned to Ianto, taking a deep breath and blowing it out in a sigh of relief. "I'm sorry about that," she said. "She fancies herself as a matchmaker!"

"Most woman that age do I've noticed," said Ianto with a half-smile. "Especially Indian woman. She hasn't tried to marry you off to one of her sons then?"

"Oh no, her sons are all married to 'nice Indian girls'." Kif imitated Mrs Patel's head-wag and clipped accent perfectly, and Ianto laughed.

"So," Ianto said, clearly unsure how to word what was on his mind. "She's the babysitter, then?"

Kif smiled. "My neighbour, down the hall – she's just a wee young thing – she has a two-year-old little boy, Jamie. She works the late shift most nights and it costs her a lot less in babysitting if I take over from Mrs Patel when I get home. They usually spend the evenings here and Nancy, my neighbour, collects Jamie when she gets home. He's asleep by that time anyway." She grinned. "You thought for a minute that I had a child. Didn't you?"

"Well," said Ianto. "I was wondering how you'd managed to keep that a secret all this time." Then: "it would be well nigh impossible to work at Torchwood and be a parent too, wouldn't it? The hours we sometimes have to keep."

"Oh aye, to be sure," said Kif. She put the kettle on and began to assemble the tea things.

"Do we need to keep our voices down – if the little one's asleep?"

"Oh no, that child would sleep through the end of the world, so he would! His mother will be here to collect him inside the hour, anyway. Go on, sit down and make yourself comfortable. And I apologise, like I said, 'humble abode' doesn't begin to cover it."

"Its perfectly comfortable and charming," said Ianto, settling himself on the sofa.

"You're charming," Kif murmured under her breath, smiling. When the kettle had boiled, she swished a little hot water in the teapot, then carefully measured 3 teaspoons of tea leaves and poured water over them to steep. She covered the tea-pot with a cosy, poured milk into a jug, and added them both to the tray already laid with two teacups and saucers, and a small basin containing sugar lumps.

In the living room she served the tea and thought to herself: this is all terribly civilised, and smiled. Ianto might spend his days covering up alien landings in Cardiff, disposing of bodies and cleaning up after the rest of the Torchwood team, but Kif knew from working closely with him that he appreciated good manners and niceties – tea served with care, Kif suspected, was one of those niceties.

Kif noted Ianto taking in his surroundings out of the corner of his eye.

"It's not much, but its mine," she told him.

"Yours? Not rented?"

"No. When my Mam died she left me a tiny inheritance. It wasn't much but it was enough for a down-payment on this place. I found a job in Cardiff almost straight away, so I didn't have to squander too much in day to day living expenses. Of course, Torchwood pays better than temping," said Kif.

"And for good reason! Some of the things we're expected to do…"

"Hazard pay," said Kif.

"Hazard pay," agreed Ianto. They sipped their tea in companionable silence. Kif watched as surreptitiously as she could manage. Eventually, he turned and regarded her over the rim of his tea-cup, blue-grey eyes twinkling as though an evil thought had just occurred to him.

"Well," he said. "I told you my deepest, darkest secret. Are you going to tell me now who it is you fancy at Torchwood?"

Kif ducked her head, and then raised it to meet his eye. "Ianto, if you haven't figured that out by now, then I have no idea what you're doing in my apartment."

Ianto nodded. "I thought as much," he said. He placed his tea-cup carefully on the saucer, scooted across the couch and gently removed Kif's tea-cup from her hand, placing it down beside his own. Then, taking her head gently between his hands, he bent down and kissed her softly on the lips. His mouth tasted hot and sweet from the tea, his kiss tentative and urgent at the same time. Kif was stunned into motionlessness, her hands lying in her lap as though she'd forgotten how to use them, and Ianto pulled away, misinterpreting her lack of reaction.

Kif reached up and stroked his cheek lightly with the back of her hand, then guiding his chin with one finger, brought his lips back down to hers, and kissed him back. His hands found their way back up to cup her head again, and she became aware, even as he was kissing her deeper, that the tips of his fingers were moving down her jaw line and back up to just behind her earlobes, pressing ever so gently, caressing. At once Kif was unable to breathe, and at the same time she felt as though liquid life itself was pulsing through her veins.

She pulled away, gasping, gaping at Ianto who once again misinterpreted her reaction and began apologising.

"No…. don't stop, what was that? What did you do to me?" She gasped. She reached for him again, pulling him into a fierce embrace and crushing his lips down onto hers. This time, however, Ianto kept his hands away from her head, merely holding her gently to him as they kissed. The after effects were such that the kiss alone was sufficient. When they pulled away from each other, both were breathing hard.

Kif took one of Ianto's hands in hers, and guided it back to the side of her head. His fingertips slipped behind her earlobes again but they only brushed the skin. "What was that you did?" She asked him. In answer, he pressed the spot just behind the ear, and she swooned. Removing his hands, he steadied her.

"Okay?" He asked, peering into her eyes. She nodded.

"What…"

"It's some sort of… erotic alien acupressure. That's Jack's definition anyway."

"Jack taught you that?!"

"He's a man of many talents." Ianto said. "Now you see why he has all the luck with anything and everything he wants to take to bed."

"How do you do it? Could I do it to you?" Kif asked.

"You could if you knew how," he told her. "It's just… we have to be very careful. It wasn't designed with humans in mind – our bodies are so fragile, we can't handle too much."

"But it's just… I don't know, pressing on certain spots…"

"Pressing on exactly the right spot at exactly the right moment, with exactly the right amount of pressure," Ianto corrected. "People occasionally stumble across it within the throes of passion but we're all so concerned with the usual erogenous zones: the lips, nipples, penis, clitoris. We usually miss the really important zones altogether."

Kif laughed. "That's incredible! But the… how did you put it… usual erogenous zones...?"

"Are still important, especially to humans. But if you can combine the right touch, on the right spot, at the right moment, with just the right stimulation to the usual parts, you get…"

"The best sex in the universe," Kif finished for him. "Oh my God, Ianto!" He laughed and reached around her head.

"May I?" He asked, and unclipped the barrette holding Kif's auburn hair back. "It'll work better without this in the way." He ran his fingers through her hair, lifting and separating the locks and even that, Kif thought, felt as though electricity was passing along the burnished gold filaments of the hairs. She closed her eyes as his fingers combed her hair into a position that satisfied him.

"Are you ready?" He asked, solemnly. She nodded.

Taking her head in his hands again, he lowered his face to kiss her. His fingers slipped down and up under her ears, brushing that spot again but not pressing on it. Kif moaned and Ianto smiled a little against her lips. Then his fingers were in her hair, the tips travelling gently over the scalp, finding the pressure points and pressing on them gently, oh so gently, as he angled his own head to kiss her more deeply. Kif moaned and shuddered under his touch, and he pulled back a little, allowing his fingertips to only brush the sensitive spots, lest he push her too far. Through her ecstasy, Kif had managed to sink her own fingers into Ianto's dark brown hair, and she moved them around trying to replicate what he was doing to her. Ianto shuddered as one fingertip inadvertently hit its mark, and he felt her double back to search for the same place again. When she found it and pressed, he groaned and pushed her away as gently as he could manage.

"Too much!" He gasped. He laughed breathlessly at her alarmed expression. "But Kif, that was gorgeous, come here!" He embraced here again, plunging his hands back into her hair and feeling her fingers return to his. She sought other spots and, guided by his reaction, pressed gently on them, feeling him tremble under her touch and at the same time shuddering under his. He pulled away again and laid his forehead against hers. Breathing hard, they held one another, laughing together quietly.

After a while, Kif asked: "Is it just the head?"

"No, all over the body…"

"Show me…"

KNOCK KNOCK

Both Kif and Ianto jumped at the sudden intrusion. Kif's eyes went to the clock and she let out the breath she was holding, eyes closed, one hand on her chest.

"Who is it?" Ianto whispered.

"My neighbour, Nancy. She's here to pick up Jamie." Kif hastily smoothed her skirt and jacket and ran her fingers through her hair and hurried to open the door before Nancy knocked again.

"Love your hair! You should wear it like that all the time!" Whispered Nancy as she came through the door. "Is he sleeping… oh, hello!" She had just noticed Ianto perched on the couch, looking uncomfortable. "Didn't realise you had company."

"This is my, er… colleague. Ianto Jones." Kif told Nancy, her mind suddenly blank as she tried to remember Ianto's actual relationship to her. Sometime in the last hour, the lines had been blurred somewhat.

"Colleague," echoed Nancy, one eyebrow raised. "Right. Well, nice to meet you, better get my son and be off then!" She disappeared into the bedroom and re-emerged moments later carrying a swaddled bundle of toddler. At the door, she whispered to Kif: "he's cute! Go for it!"

"What is it, Matchmaker Day or something?" Kif muttered as she closed the door. She looked over at Ianto, and they both started laughing – it was all they could do under the circumstances. She flopped down onto the couch and cuddled back into his arms. He buried his face in her hair and kissed the top of her head.

"You were saying something about the rest of the body…" she prompted.

"Oh no, not tonight!" Said Ianto.

"Why not?"

"I told you, our bodies are far too fragile to handle much of… that. Yours especially, I might end up hurting you," he shuddered at the thought. "Besides, if we go too much further, I might not be able to stop, and that would be very dangerous. For both of us." He paused. Then: "in fact, I'd better be going."

"Going? No, hold on a minute," said Kif. "You want to leave?"

"I don't want to leave," he told her, taking one hand and kissing it. "But I don't want to push this too far, too quickly."

"But…"

But he silenced her with another kiss, this time on the mouth. She savoured the feel of his lips on hers, a simple kiss. The feelings it invoked were still pleasurable, just different. She still felt her body respond to his, and she was certain he must feel the same way.

"Please don't go now, not after all that," she pleaded.

"But it's too dangerous…"

"Then don't do any more of that… alien acupressure whatever. Just kiss me and hold me. Make love to me, just the normal, human way."

"I… don't want to ruin this. I want our first time to be wonderful." But Kif could see his resolve was weakening.

"It will be wonderful. You're wonderful." She said, and she kissed him again. He kissed her back, not pressing his fingertips to her face or scalp or anywhere, just pressing her body to his as hard as his arms could hold her, until she gasped for breath.

"You must tell me," he said, pushing her away and breathing hard, and then kissing her again. "You must stop me, if I go too far. If I forget myself and start… pushing you, you must make me stop before I hurt you. Promise me!" He said earnestly, holding her head and making her look into his eyes. "Promise me because I might not be able to stop on my own."

Kif nodded. "I promise," she whispered. "Oh, Ianto…" She fell into his arms and he scooped her up, carrying her to the bedroom and laying her gently on the bed.

Ianto stepped back and she propped herself on her elbows to watch him undress. Slowly, methodically, draping each item carefully over the top rung of Jamie's portable cot which sat in the corner, and never once taking his eyes from her face. Once naked, he crawled onto the bed towards her and proceeded to undress her in the same way. By the time he'd finished, Kif felt as though he'd already made love to her with his eyes.

His touch was tender yet urgent, careful to avoid pressing the points that might push her body too far, skimming over them with his fingertips and only lingering when he couldn't resist – like sharing a gorgeous secret.

As he entered her, he slipped one hand under the small of her back, lifting her hips to meet his and held the position, the muscles in his right arm bulging with the effort.

Kif could feel the climax building inside of her. Her breath coming in gasps, she exclaimed: "Ianto!" His eyes flew open and he nodded and without breaking rhythm, he pressed a spot on her lower back, just left of her spine.

Every single nerve in her body was on fire! Kif's orgasm exploded over her and she felt it through every cell, down to her toes and up through every single strand of hair on her head. The room, and Ianto disappeared, and she was floating in space. She could see every single star in the universe, could comprehend the placement of every single star in relation to each other and she felt as though she might go insane with the knowledge. Then the stars were rushing toward her, and the lights became darkness.

After a while, Kif felt herself stir, and she woke to find a frantic, distraught Ianto leaning over her, stroking her hair and gently patting her cheeks.

"Kif! Can you hear me? Are you okay? Oh, Kif, I thought…"

"Of course I'm okay, what do you mean?" Said Kif, pushing his hands away and smiling up at him. "Ianto, that was the most incredible…"

"You've been unconscious for half an hour!"

"Unconscious?! I can't have been, we were just… ohhh," she said, grabbing her head as she tried to sit up. She felt extremely woozy.

"No, don't try to move," said Ianto, his voice almost a sob. "I'm so sorry, I shouldn't have…" he buried his face in his hands.

"No, you haven't done anything wrong," said Kif. "Ianto, look at me." He lifted his head and she could see tears in his eyes. "But what did you do?"

"It's a special spot – it's… only for that time… during lovemaking…" he couldn't go on. He drew himself up. "I could have killed you!"

"But you didn't," she told him. "I'm fine. Really. I saw…" She trailed off.

"What did you see?"

"Stars." She said in a small voice, remembering. "All the stars, in all the times, past present and future. Everything that has ever and will ever exist…"

"That's too much," choked Ianto. "That's too much for the human mind to comprehend!"

"I'll be okay," she assured him. "Please, Ianto, please stop. It was wonderful – you were wonderful." She reached out and kissed him, kissed his eyes to dry his tears and his mouth to stop his sobs. She pulled him down to lie next to her; his blue-grey eyes were liquid black in the moon light as he ran his fingertips up and down her bare arm.

"I don't know if it's safe for you to sleep," he said.

Kif laughed softly. "All I want right now is to sleep!" She said. "I don't think I could stay awake if I tried."

"You might slip into unconsciousness again," he told her.

"Stay with me then," said Kif. "Keep me safe."

"I…"

"We'll wake up extra-early in the morning so you can go home and change your clothes before work," she told him, guessing the reason for his reluctance.

Ianto grimaced. "Do you think me that fastidious?" He asked.

"Ianto, I've been working along side you every single day for six months, I know you're that fastidious!"

He leaned over and kissed her softly on the mouth. "I won't sleep," he told her.

But before she could protest, Kif felt her own body succumbing to drowsiness.

oooOOOooo

Predawn, Kif woke to find Ianto asleep beside her, and she smiled. He hadn't moved from the position he'd been in when she fell asleep beside him and she suspected he'd made a good effort of staying awake to watch over her. But sleep had finally taken him over, and she kept as still as possible so as not to wake him.

Eventually though, it became apparent they'd both need to wake up and get moving, if they were to have time to stop at Ianto's house on the way to work for him to shower and change. Kif leaned over and kissed his mouth, moving her lips against his until he stirred and woke.

"Morning, handsome," she smiled. He pushed the heel of one hand into his eye socket and rubbed.

"What time is it? I must have dozed off."

"We'd best be getting along if you still want to change into fresh clothes," Kif said. Contrary to her words, she snuggled into his arms and kissed him soundly. He kissed her back, running one hand up and down her spine.

"How do you feel?" He asked her when they parted.

"A little… fragile," Kif admitted. "A bit headachy, like a hangover. Good hangover though!" She spanked his bare backside gently with one hand, and then scooted out of the way before he could retaliate.

In the bathroom, she showered and dressed quickly, then stood in front of the mirror, brushing her hair. She caught it up in her hands and began twisting it into a bun, then changed her mind and let it fall loose around her shoulders. Kif's auburn hair was quite long, and very thick and unruly, seeming to curl in all the wrong places and lay flat in places where a little body would be welcome. This morning, however, it sat nicely over her shoulders and down her back. With her fingers, she combed it into the position Ianto had favoured the night before, and smiled. Then she dropped the barrette in her bag with the idea of clipping her hair back later if it became too bothersome.

Appearing behind her, Ianto lifted her hair away from her neck and kissed her softly. He'd dressed in yesterday's rumpled clothes – clearly a toddler's portable cot was no substitute for a good valet.

"Let's go," he whispered.

oooOOOooo

TOMORROW

"Girl, I was it.

Look past the sweat.

A better love deserving of…"

- Lying is the most fun a girl can have without taking her clothes off.

After stopping at Ianto's apartment for him to shower, shave and change into fresh clothes (Kif pottered around the living room, marvelling at how immaculate the place was) they headed for the Torchwood Base.

"I think we should keep this… us… to ourselves, for the time being," Kif said. She reached over and laid one hand on his thigh, and he squeezed it briefly before returning his own hand to the gear shift.

"Agreed. And I think you should get Owen to give you a CT scan," Ianto replied. "Just to make sure you're okay."

"Ianto, I'm fine," Kif assured him yet again. "Anyway, what am I going to tell him? 'Ianto and I were having a bit of a shag last night and I passed out'?"

"Well, when you put it like that…" He grimaced.

oooOOOooo

"Morning all," called Owen. "How are we?"

"I'm fine, but I think you should take a look at Kif," Ianto piped up immediately.

"Ianto!" Kif hissed under her breath.

"Why, what's wrong with her?"

"She lost consciousness last night; I think you should do a CT scan."

"I'm right here!" Kif growled. "You don't need to talk about me as though…"

"Passed out, did'ya? That's no good. C'mon then, I'll do it before it gets busy," said Owen, heading for the autopsy room. Kif shot a single murderous glance in Ianto's direction and followed him.

oooOOOooo

"I've got more wit

A better kiss

A hotter touch…

A better fuck

Than any boy you'll ever meet…"

- Lying is the most fun a girl can have without taking her clothes off

Later…

"Kif!" Jack barked. "My office. Now. You too, Ianto!"

Kif and Ianto exchanged a wary glance and followed Jack into his domain. Jack shut the door behind them, perched on the front of his desk and crossed his arms, regarding them shrewdly. Kif met his eye. Ianto did not. Interesting, though Jack, and directed his questions at Kif.

"Owen tells me you had an abnormal CT scan," he said.

Kif rolled her eyes. "Owen has a big mouth. I'm fine, Jack, it was just a little swelling. He said regular hospital equipment wouldn't have even detected it," she told him.

"You lost consciousness last night." It was a statement rather than a question. "Why?"

Kif glanced at Ianto before she could stop herself, and then said to Jack: "That's really none of your business."

"It is my business when one of my team's health is concerned." Said Jack. "And judging from the fact that you're wearing your hair down for the first time in living memory," (Kif blinked in surprise at this observation) "and the fact that Ianto is blushing like a school girl, I suspect that the two of you spent the night together."

"That," said Kif coolly, "is also none of your business." Thinking as she said it: so much for keeping that a secret.

"It is my business when you used a dangerous form of alien technology that left you unconscious!" Jack roared.

"Jack, she's fine!" Ianto burst out, speaking up for the first time. He had sprung to his feet and was shielding Kif with his body as though he expected Jack to attack her.

"You could have killed her!" Said Jack, rounding on the younger man.

"I know," said Ianto, hanging his head. "I'm sorry." He turned to Kif. "I'm sorry," he said again.

"I was never in any danger," Kif said to Jack. "Ianto was in control at all times."

"He couldn't possibly be in control, he doesn't know how to…" Jack trailed off, running his fingers through his hair in frustration. He sighed. "If you were after the best sex in the universe, you'd have been safer with me…"

SLAP

Jack was cut off as his head snapped back. Ianto's hands were balled into fists but Kif had beaten him to it, slapping Jack so hard that he staggered back against the desk.

"How dare you! You egotistical bastard!" Kif's voice was cold with fury. "Given the choice between an… an arrogant, self-worshipping, himbo man-slut like yourself! And a kind, gentle, caring man like Ianto, I would choose Ianto any day!" Not to mention a man who makes modesty and self-deprecation as sexy as hell, she thought to herself.

Jack stared at Kif, an angry red handprint already coming up on his cheek. He hadn't moved from where he'd landed against the desk.

"Now if you don't mind," Kif went on. "I have work to do." And with that she left Jack's office, slamming the door on her way out.

Ianto approached Jack, who flinched back involuntarily. "If you ever speak to her like that again, I swear to God I'll kill you," he whispered through clenched teeth.

Ianto's threat seemed to break the spell and Jack blinked and laughed humourlessly. "If you think you can kill me, Ianto old man, give it your best shot." He said. Ianto's eyes narrowed and Jack went on: "But you're right, that was completely uncalled for and I apologise."

"Don't apologise to me," said Ianto. "Apologise to her." He left Jack's office and took the time to straighten his tie and smooth the lapels of his jacket before returning to the main floor.

"I want to do another scan tomorrow," Owen was saying to Kif. "And let me know if you experience any odd symptoms."

"Such as?"

"Such as headaches, nausea, odd flashing lights in front of your eyes."

"I will," agreed Kif. Owen nodded and went back to his work.

"Are you alright?" Asked Ianto when Owen had gone. He touched Kif's hand briefly, and she smiled up at him.

"I'm fine."

"Himbo man-slut?" Ianto smiled. "That's a good one, I must remember that…"

They both looked up as Jack emerged from his office, made his way down the steel steps and disappeared out the door that led up to reception.

Wonder where he's off to, thought Kif.

Bet he's off to have a darned good think about things, thought Ianto.

They both got back to work.

oooOOOooo

Hours later, Jack returned.

"Kif, may I see you in my office?" He asked quietly. Kif shot a glance in Ianto's direction, and then followed Jack back up the stairs.

"I want to apologise for what I said before," began Jack, after inviting Kif to sit in one of the chairs, and sinking into another chair himself. "I have no idea what came over me." Kif regarded him with her large, dark eyes, not saying anything. Jack went on: "I don't allow anyone to remove alien technology from this building without my express permission. It hasn't happened for a while but I don't exercise as much control over those people as I'd like." He smiled wryly. "But the alien technology Ianto used – that knowledge he can just carry about in his head and use whenever, wherever and on whomever he pleases and I can't control that at all. And that makes me very nervous."

"He said you taught it to him…" said Kif.

"And I shouldn't have," Jack cut in. "Look, I'm not going to insist you and Ianto cease… whatever…"

"What Ianto and I choose to do outside of work has absolutely nothing to do with you…"

"Your work here is exceptional, so is Ianto's," Jack went on as though she hadn't spoken. "And I won't risk losing either of you by making you choose between the work, and each other. It's obvious you care about one another. I just ask that you keep it professional…"

"We always have," put in Kif. She noted the look of surprise on Jack's face and realised she'd just given him the impression that her affair with Ianto had been going on a lot longer than he imagined. Good, she though. Let him think he has no idea of what's going on around him. Perhaps in future he'll pay more attention.

"Well good," said Jack. "You'd best get back to work." And he dismissed her with a wave of his hand. Kif rose to leave, but turned at the door.

"If you truly feel that Ianto's work is exceptional, you should tell him, not me. It'd mean a lot to him to know that," she said.

Jack nodded, and she left him.

oooOOOooo

CHAT

"Well, is it still me that makes you sweat?

Am I who you think about in bed?
When the lights are dim and your hands are shaking as you're sliding off your dress?"

- Lying is the most fun a girl can have without taking her clothes off.

Rain pelted the windows as Kif lay in the circle of Ianto's arms. It was, she thought, what any alien life form studying planet Earth might call the 'Standard Human Post-Coital Configuration' – the male on his back, staring up at the ceiling, the female cuddled into his side, his arms around her, her one free hand gently caressing his chest, perhaps one of his hands trailing up and down her arm. Thank goodness neither of them smoked; otherwise the cliché would be complete.

"Ianto?"

"Mmmm?"

"With Jack," she began. "Was it…"

"Kif, do we have to…"

"I know you said you only slept together the once, but it was more than that, wasn't it?" She asked in a rush before he could stop her again. "He was teaching you that acupressure, that's what it was about, wasn't it?"

"Mostly," admitted Ianto.

"He had you… practice on him?"

"Yes."

"Did he ever do it for you in return?"

"Occasionally," said Ianto. "He was more a taker than a giver in that respect." Kif murmured her agreement with this sentiment. "He usually did it in return mostly to instruct me on what I should be doing."

"The man's generosity knows no bounds," Kif drawled.

"It's the man's generosity that you're benefiting from, may I remind you?!" said Ianto, squeezing her gently. She laughed softly.

"So if it was just supposed to be 'erotic acupressure instruction', how did you…"

"One day it went too far," Ianto explained, and then shook his head. "No, that's not a good way of putting it, makes it sound as though he forced me. He was worried afterwards, in case he'd hurt me, but I was glad. I wanted it as much as he did."

Kif scanned her own feelings and was surprised at her lack of jealousy at this admission – her lover telling her how much he'd wanted another. If it were another woman he was speaking of, she thought she may have felt differently. But this was Jack they were talking about…

Ianto smiled. "You weren't far from the truth when you said 'I thought you just had a little crush on him'," he said. "From day one at Torchwood, even though I was trying to take care of Lisa, I was infatuated with him. And when he singled me out for special attention… Let's just say I'd wanted him for so long before he finally… took me."

"Did you love him?" Kif couldn't bring herself to ask the question in the present tense – to ask "do you love him?" She wasn't sure she wanted the answer to that.

"No. Yes. It's always been a bit of a love/hate relationship. I don't believe he ever felt for me half of what I felt for him." Said Ianto. "Jack is… well, you said it yourself, he's not like a normal human being. He doesn't seem to sleep, he seems invincible. And he seems to need sex the same way you or I need food, or air. Sex for the rest of us mere mortals is a luxury, a pleasure, but something we can do without if need be. But for Jack Harkness it seems to be something he needs to survive. Tosh says he'd shag anything as long as it was gorgeous enough. I say he'd shag anything, period. Because he needs to."

"And to him, you were…"

"Just another play-thing. A convenient one, within easy reach every day, and willing."

"What changed, then?" Kif asked, praying that things had changed.

"He grew bored of me; I grew tired of being his toy. He moved on to other conquests and I went back to tending Lisa, telling myself that it had meant nothing, that she was still the love of my life. I grew resentful of Jack – and the others. They took me for granted. You know that, they take us both for granted."

"Mmmm." Agreed Kif. She propped herself up on one elbow and gazed down into his clear blue-grey eyes. "And now?"

"Now?" He echoed. "Now Jack is my boss and my friend and occasionally a thorn in my side, but nothing more."

"Is that the truth, Ianto?"

"I wouldn't lie to you."

I hope not, thought Kif as she leaned down to kiss him. Because I think I'm falling in love with you.

oooOOOooo

PREPARATION

"I can't imagine a time when this isn't everything.

The pain is so constant,

Like my stomach is full of rats.

Feels like this is all I am now.

There isn't an inch of me that doesn't hurt."

- Ianto's soliloquy, 'Greeks Bearing Gifts', written by Toby Whithouse.

In the following weeks, however, Kif came to realise that Ianto's feelings about Jack were not what she should be worrying about. She noted his reluctance to spend too much time in secure archives, near the morgue freezers, and she began to form a theory. But who to question about it? She didn't want to ask Ianto himself, not when it might cause him unnecessary pain. She thought long and hard and eventually settled on Toshiko.

oooOOOooo

"That's right," confirmed Tosh, when Kif questioned her.

"And Jack wouldn't allow him to…?"

"Too dangerous. If the body was ever dug up and fell into the wrong hands… It's safer here."

"But that mean's he never got to…" Kif shook her head, frowning. "I'm going to talk to Jack."

oooOOOooo

"Tosh is right," said Jack when she approached him. "It was too much of a risk."

"But if you just removed the cybernetic parts and archived them…"

"Too much work for no gain," Jack stated simply.

No gain, thought Kif. Only the peace of mind of one of your team members.

"But Owen and Tosh are both medics, they have the knowledge to be able to do that," Kif pointed out.

"But not the time," said Jack. "I can't allow that amount of time in lost production for something that has…"

"No gain, I heard you the first time," Kif snapped. She sighed and ran her fingers through her hair. "Have you thought about how much better Ianto would feel if he could just have some closure?"

Jack raised one eyebrow. The expression clearly said: "Care Factor? Zero."

"What if it was done outside of work hours?"

"I'm not asking Owen or Tosh to do that." Jack said firmly.

"Fine," said Kif. "Then I will."

oooOOOooo

"Let me get this straight," said Owen. "You want us to give up our precious evenings off to…" and he repeated back everything Kif had said.

"Aye, that's about the long and the short of it." Agreed Kif.

"For what purpose?" Asked Tosh.

Kif shook her head in amazement. "You don't get it do you? Because it's the right thing to do! Because it needs to be done for Ianto's sake. Because Jack won't allow it otherwise."

"You want to do it for Ianto," Owen stated. "I'd ask you why you care, but I think I already know the answer…"

"Because I love him." Said Kif, looking Owen in the eye and daring him to defy her.

Owen nodded. "Alright then," he said. "But you need to be here too. I'm not giving up my spare time unless you're going to help."

"Whatever you need," agreed Kif. "Just let me know."

oooOOOooo

"Inside

What a wonderful

Caricature of

Intimacy."

- Build God, then we'll talk.

So they worked. Kif, Tosh and Owen. After hours, when the others had gone home for the day – well into the night. Kif declined Ianto's frequent invitations to spend the night with him, her excuses becoming more and more flimsy as she watched him draw away from her, blue-grey eyes hurt and confused, fine Welsh 'stiff upper lip' firmly in place. She longed to assure him the time spent with Tosh, and especially Owen, wasn't what he thought.

She took responsibility for organising the operation – laying out the surgical equipment before they began and cleaning (or disposing of) it afterwards. She donned a white coat and mask and assisted (usually Owen but less often Tosh) where she could, and she carefully cleaned, labelled and archived each piece as it was removed. Jack would occasionally come and stand in the doorway of the autopsy room, leaning against the frame, watching the procedures with his arms crossed and his eyes hard and amused at the same time. As though he thought it was all a bit of a joke, not to mention a pointless waste of time, and more fools Tosh and Owen for indulging Kif in her little project.

Two weeks later, the job was finished. Owen ran a scanner over the body one last time, checking for any remaining cybernetics parts they may have missed. He pronounced it 'clean' and Kif thanked him warmly for all his hard work.

With Toshiko's help, Kif prepared what was left of Lisa's body for cremation, flushing embalming fluid through what was left of the circulatory system and wrapping the much-reduced frame in strips of calico cloth. When she'd finished, only Lisa's unmarked face was visible.

"I hope its enough," said Kif, softly.

"It will be," said Tosh, smiling a little. "You've done a good job."

oooOOOooo

FAREWELL

"Strike up the band!

Oh the conductor is beckoning,

Come congregation, and let's sing it like you mean it…"

- I constantly thank God for Esteban

A week later, Kif and Ianto were working together in reception. The distance between them in the previous weeks had been mended somewhat – they had spent a few nights together but she hadn't told him anything about their time apart and he hadn't asked, but it hung between them unasked and unanswered.

The others had returned from a job and for once the entire Torchwood Three team were congregated in reception when an elderly priest knocked on the door and entered with the air of confidence only members of the clergy seemed able to convey when walking amongst strangers. His lively blue eyes darted from face to face before they finally settled on Kif, and he smiled broadly.

"Bethany!" He cried.

"Hello Father," smiled Kif, and she circled the reception desk to clasp both his hands in her own and kiss him on the cheek. "Father, these are the people I work with, the ones I was telling you about. This is Captain Jack, that's Owen and Gwen and Toshiko, and this is Ianto. Uh, everyone, this is Father O'Callaghan."

The priest nodded to each person in turn, but reached out to shake Ianto's hand as he was introduced.

Jack raised an eyebrow at Kif and she cleared her throat, flushing. "Er, Father, perhaps you'd like to… freshen up at your hotel? Only I don't think we're quite ready…"

"Aye, to be sure," the priest cut in. "You call me on the telephone when you're ready. I'll write the number down, I have a mobile telephone now, you know!" He seemed delighted with his piece of technology and scrawled the number on a piece of paper from the reception desk. Then he bade them farewell and disappeared into the rare Cardiff sunshine.

"I'm sorry," Owen piped up as soon as the priest had left. "Bethany…?"

Kif smiled. "Father O'Callaghan is an old family friend. He married my parents, baptised me when I was a baby, and confirmed me when I was of age. And he performed both my parent's funerals." She told the others. "Bethany was my confirmation name – Father always calls us by our confirmation names. He says it's the name God will use when we're called to his bosom and he shall do the same, and who is he to argue with the Almighty?"

"Right," said Owen, shooting Gwen his 'there's one born every minute' look and disappearing down the corridor.

Jack fixed Kif with a baleful eye. "I'll assume the good Father is here for…" he began.

"Yes," Kif cut in, daring him to deny her.

"I'll have Toshiko see to it that everything's prepared," he said. "You'd better…" he nodded in Ianto's direction.

"Yes," she said again, and turned to face her bemused lover.

oooOOOooo

Kif waited until they'd ordered their drinks and settled themselves in a booth near a window before she began to explain what was going on.

"Father O'Callaghan", she began, "has travelled from Ireland to Wales as a favour to me. He's here to perform the Rite, with your permission of course, so that Lisa may be decently laid to rest."

Ianto's flinched at the name of his dead girlfriend and withdrew his hand from Kif's. "Jack would never allow that," he said, his voice hoarse. "He wouldn't allow the cybernetic parts to be buried and they wouldn't be sufficiently destroyed by cremation either."

"The cybernetic parts have been removed," Kif explained. "Toshiko and Owen, and I… that's what we've been working on. Oh Ianto, I wanted to tell you!" Her voice cracked and she felt tears prick her eyes as she remembered every hurt look he'd given her over the weeks she'd been avoiding him. She swallowed around the lump in her throat and went on, her voice steady now. "All the cybernetic parts have been removed, cleaned and stored in secure archives. Lisa's body is… is all hers," she finished quietly.

She paused, then went on: "The brain, too. I know she transplanted hers into that girl's skull but we…" she trailed off. That was probably way more information than he needed.

"You achieved all of that behind Jack's back?"

"As much as I would like to defy that man sometimes, no," said Kif. "We had his permission, if not his support or encouragement," she went on dryly.

"You did all this?" Ianto looked at her, his eyes dark and troubled.

Kif shook her head. "Tosh and Owen did the work. Mostly Owen, actually, I just assisted…"

"But you made it happen."

"Yes."

"Why?"

"You know why."

"And now your Father O'Callaghan is here to preside over her funeral, is that it?" Ianto asked.

"Well, that's up to you."

"How'd you mean?"

"It's your decision. It needs to be your decision. Tosh, Owen and I took away the reasons why it couldn't happen. The physical reasons." Kif leaned over and took Ianto's hand again, holding his eyes with her own. "But it has to be you who makes to decision to lay Lisa to rest, so you can have closure and move on. Because you can't…" here Kif faltered. All of a sudden her reasons for preparing Lisa's body seemed so selfish. She closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and then made herself look Ianto in the eye again. "Because you can't move on and have a life with me unless you let go of the past. Unless you say goodbye to Lisa. Properly."

"So you did this for yourself." It was a statement rather than a question.

"I did this for you. And for me."

oooOOOooo

Kif returned to the Hub alone and waited.

When Ianto returned some time later, he said: "Lisa wasn't Catholic, she was Presbyterian."

"How much does it matter to you?" Kif asked.

"I don't think it matters at all," said Ianto. "Her parents would have conducted some sort of farewell ceremony when she went missing from Canary Wharf. I just wondered how much it mattered to your priest."

Kif smiled a little. "He would say it doesn't matter at all, it's the same God whether you're Catholic, Presbyterian, Muslim or a miserable wretched heathen of an agnostic."

Ianto blinked in surprise at that.

"Of course, he doesn't actually put it like that in his Sunday sermons, it'd create quite the scandal during Mass," said Kif.

"Yes, I suppose it would," said Ianto quietly. He toyed with some papers on the desk. "Can I see her? Before the… funeral? Spend a bit of time…"

"Of course," said Kif. "Would you like me to call Father O'Callaghan, then?"

"Please."

oooOOOooo

Ianto followed Kif down through the vault to the lower basements. As the paused in front of the locked door, she glanced over at him. His face was pale in the gloom, his eyes wide and scared but determined. She took his hand and he squeezed it, smiling tightly at her, then let it go, and entered the room on his own. Kif closed the door quietly behind him, and returned to the Hub to make her phone call.

oooOOOooo

When Father O'Callaghan arrived back at the Base sometime later, Kif led him and the others down to the basement and asked that they wait in the corridor. She leaned her forehead against the cold metal of the door for a moment, and then went in.

Lisa's wrapped body lay on a raised dais, bathed in candlelight. Ianto stood side-on, his cheeks wet with tears and he touched Lisa's face one last time before turning to Kif.

"Is it time?" He asked.

Kif nodded.

oooOOOooo

Ianto stood apart from the others as the priest performed the Funerary Rite. Kif longed to put her arms around him, or at least hold his hand, but she knew she mustn't, so she stood at his shoulder as close as she dared.

When it was over, he kissed Lisa's cold lips one last time and covered her face with the remaining calico. Then he carried the body in his arms and laid it gently in the furnace. It would be reduced to ashes in a matter of minutes.

The other's filed past him on the way back up to the Hub, murmuring the usual funeral sentiments. Tosh and Gwen were both wiping their eyes, and Ianto allowed Gwen to hug him before he turned to face Jack. Jack had no words for the younger man. He simply placed one hand on his shoulder and after a moment's hesitation, leaned in and kissed him on the cheek.

Left alone with Kif, Ianto turned to her finally.

"I need to go away for a while," he said. "Get away from this place."

Kif nodded as though she'd been expecting it. Part of her had. Part of her hoped that it wouldn't be necessary for Ianto to leave, to "find himself", or whatever it was he was thinking of doing.

"I'm not… leaving you," he went on. "I'm just…"

"I understand."

"I know you do."

oooOOOooo

EPILOGUE

"No no no.

You know

It will

Always

Just be

Me."

- Lying is the most fun a girl can have without taking her clothes off.

The announcement of Ianto's departure came as no surprise to the others. Jack, of course, had been expecting it for months. On his last day they wanted to take him out for drinks, but Ianto wouldn't allow it. Kif understood. What was the point of them now extending the hand of friendship?

He allowed only Kif to accompany him to the train station.

As the guard blew the whistle, he took her in his arms and laid his forehead against hers.

"I know how you feel about me," he said. "You'll just have to take my word for it that I feel the same way about you. I just can't say it."

"I know." She said. "I'll just have to say it for you, then. I love you."

Ianto took her face in his hands and kissed her soundly on the mouth. Very gently, he slipped his fingers behind her earlobes and caressed.

"I will come back," he told her when they parted.

"I know you will."

Then he boarded the train, and she waved until it was out of sight.