It was a night of May, and outside the mess-room at Wadi Halfa three officers were smoking on a grass knoll above the Nile. (p. 90)
"Another pint, lad?" Steve asked him.
Ianto drank what was left of his Guinness and then nodded decisively. "I don't see why not."
"I don't need to ask you whether you want another, love, do I?" his boss then turned to Mary.
"'Course not, especially since it's your round," the woman answered.
Steve grinned and shuffled off into the pub, his walk slightly unsteady, and Ianto knew that he'd have to pack off the other man into a taxi later that night and personally bring him to bed. He didn't want a repeat of their last night out when Steve had stubbornly insisted on walking home on his own. He'd called Ianto three hours later, after having woken up in an alleyway lying on a pile of cardboard boxes with his trousers around his ankles and no recollection of how he'd got there.
Mary and him sat in companionable silence for a while; the woman was deftly rolling a cigarette and then lit it with obvious relish.
"So, Ianto," she said roughly, "What do you think of him?"
"Steve of course!"
"That's quite an odd question."
"It think it's safe to assume that I'm an odd person," Mary said drily.
Ianto inclined his head in agreement. Anybody going out with Steve couldn't be in their right mind, in his opinion. Not that he'd ever tell her that.
"Why are you asking me?"
"Because you work with him, yeah? Every day – well, almost every day. I suppose you see sides of him I don't."
"Sober, you mean?" Ianto asked and Mary smiled.
She was not a beautiful woman. Although she was ten years younger than Steve her face was full of wrinkles, lined by short curly hair with split ends and dyed a pale shade of red that never quite covered up the ash blonde it was supposed to be hiding. She was relatively small, but stocky and heavy-boned; her hands were rough, cheap golden rings on every single finger.
Neither was she compassionate, or particularly friendly – in that respect she and Steve got along swimmingly and Ianto usually listened with growing horror to the stories she told about whining patients too stubborn for their own good.
"There is that," she said. "Come now, spit it out."
"He is an unconventional man to work for," Ianto said carefully, remembering last night when a UFO had shown up over Glasgow – thankfully in stealth mode with all its outer lights off or he would have had to Retcon half the city. Steve had not been best pleased to be interrupted while watching the football and he'd promptly passed that displeasure on to the visiting aliens – unknown species, humanoid in appearance and apparently travelling during the galactic equivalent of a gap year – once Ianto had opened a communication channel. His swearing had startled the aliens into apologising profusely and a mollified Steve had gone on to recommend them an out of the way pub near Manchester that served the best real ale on the British Isles and where neither staff nor locals would ask too many questions about their chartreuse skin colour.
"Go on," Mary prompted.
"He's..." Ianto gave up on trying to be politically correct. "He's mad as a hatter and doesn't seem to give a damn about his work most of the time – except when he does, and then he comes up with the most random ideas that somehow turn out to be helpful. He'll smoke himself into an early grave if the alcohol doesn't finish him off first, but I couldn't wish for a better coordinator in the field. He never cleans up after himself and has an ongoing project to see whether the mouldy dishes in his kitchen will eventually wash themselves. He ignores all protocol by letting you know about Torchwood and I think he loves flaunting the rules, especially when there's somebody there to witness it. He seems completely self-absorbed but then he brought me to Torchwood House because he knew I was restless. In short, he's one of the more interesting people I've worked with."
"Blimey," Mary said, "I don't think I've ever heard you speak so much in one go before."
"I try my best."
"I'm asking because... Oh, bugger it, the thing's this: Steve's asked me to move in with him and work for Torchwood."
Ianto had to digest this bit of news before slowly repeating, "Work for Torchwood? He's never – I mean – Aren't you happy in your job?"
"I'm a nurse. And I fucking hate my patients. Can't stand the little sods, always moaning about some thing or other. Twenty-five years of working in a hospital and I'm ready to murder some of them. Chasing aliens sounds a lot more interesting."
"Not that there's all that much chasing around these parts," Ianto said, his mind whirling. If Mary came to work for Torchwood Two, where did that leave him? They didn't need three people in the office; they barely needed two, and his job at Torchwood House would be finished in about two months. Would Steve sack him then? Send him back to Cardiff?
Ianto flinched from this particular train of thought. Three weeks had passed since Jack had been in Glasgow; since then, silence. Jack hadn't called and he'd stopped interrupting Tosh and him during their IM conversations. He didn't know whether the other man was still thinking about what Ianto had told him that night at his flat or whether he'd dismissed him as another clingy 21st century human. Pride forbade him to ask Tosh about him; but it would also forbid him to go back to Cardiff if Jack didn't want him.
That left him with only one choice: London. Go back to the capital and work for Torchwood Five. Lindsay would be over the moon; and he'd get the chance to specialise in any field that caught his fancy. But his reluctance to join his friend in London was great; on the other hand, what choice did he have? Unable to stay in Glasgow, unwilling to go to Cardiff, he'd have to go to London if he didn't want to be Retconned out of the last five years of his life.
Ianto had read that clause thoroughly when he'd first joined; but back then his thoughts had been filled with Lisa and a brand new world; he'd signed without second-guessing.
It was too late to start now, anyway.
"Yeah, well." Mary shrugged. "You tell me what's more exciting: Cleaning up other people's shit – and I mean that literally – or running around with those bluetooth things in your ear and nattering away?"
"I'd go for the second option as well," Ianto gravely agreed. Steve came back at that moment, awkwardly holding three pints and putting them on the table with a sigh of relief.
"Cheers," he said with satisfaction, sitting down next to Mary, slinging an arm around her shoulders and taking a large gulp of his beer.
"Blimey, that's good."
"Steve," Ianto said quietly, "Mary just told me that you've asked her to join Torchwood."
"Has she now?"
"Yes. Didn't see any harm in it, telling him. By the way, the answer is yes."
Steve reacted by letting out a loud whoop of joy that had the other people sitting near them looking up in irritation, nearly knocked over his pint in the excitement of grabbing Mary and planted a sloppy, drunken kiss right on her lips.
Ianto looked away uncomfortably and drained half his glass in one go. It looked like he'd need more alcohol if he didn't want to end up as a blubbering fool, embarrassing both him and his companions by declaring his everlasting loyalty towards Steve, his fondness for Glasgow and his willingness to do everything, occasional sexual favours inclusive, if Steve didn't kick him out. Right now he was tipsy enough to do just that – another pint, however, and he'd be drunk enough to be disconnected from his own emotions, floating in a sort of haze with his only desire being the comfort of a warm bed.
"Oh stop it," Mary grumbled, pulling back eventually. "It's not like I've agreed to marry you or something."
"All in good time, love," Steve said happily and Mary snorted. "When hell freezes over, Steve Halliwell. When hell freezes over."
"I assume my time here has then come to an end?" Ianto asked and Steve turned to look at him.
"Aren't you happy to be rid of a job that bores you senseless, lad?" he asked more gently than Ianto expected, given the number of pints Steve had consumed so far this evening.
"It's not all that boring," Ianto replied, "And your injury..."
"My foot's as good as new. Haven't needed crutches for months. That was the reason you came, remember?"
"I remember. I'm sorry, I just thought..."
"Lad," Steve said, "To be honest, when I mailed in that request I thought they'd send me one of those spineless tossers London is so fond of. I'd stick around for a bit and then quietly fuck off to the Bahamas with this lovely woman at my side. Things turned out a bit differently – you're not spineless, for one, even if the tosser bit is true sometimes. I then thought I'd keep you, but you're wasted up here. And then the Captain came back."
"What has this got to do with Captain Harkness?" Ianto asked defensively.
"The one who shags everything that moves and will flirt with anything even if it doesn't?" Mary asked.
"That's the one. Although he seems to have developed a preference for you – God knows why! My point is, you're – crikey, I sound like a bloody woman – you're in love with him, aren't you? Ouch!" he complained as Mary elbowed him sharply into the stomach.
"Bloody woman?" she hissed.
"I didn't mean it that way?" he tried to pacify her and Ianto couldn't help but marvel at the fact that she had Steve Halliwell on a leash – and a rather short one by the looks of it."
"Anyway. Answer the question, lad."
"I don't know," Ianto said, frowning and Steve raised an eyebrow at him, clearly not believing a word. "That's the truth. I don't know. I think so; but this feels so different to... Well. Less than a year ago I hated him with my whole being. If he'd died back then I would have danced on his grave. And now..."
"You'd follow him anywhere?" Steve prompted.
"I've made the offer," Ianto answered and finished off his pint.
"He's asked you to go back to Cardiff," his boss said matter-of-factly. "And I assumed you'd jump at the opportunity. If you don't want to leave Glasgow we'll find a way. Far be it for me to get rid of the only capable employee this organisation's ever had."
"Thank you," Ianto said, relief spreading through him.
"Enough with the sappiness, it's making me want to hurl!" Mary said briskly. "It's my round. Another?"
Both men nodded; Mary disappeared through the door and Steve started to grin. "Thought she'd never say yes! Two years I've been trying to get her to move in with me. Two bloody years! Talk about perseverance."
"I suppose congratulations are in order."
"Bloody well right. Didn't mean it to be a nasty shock for you though. I thought you got yourself sorted when the Captain came to see you is all."
"In a way, I did," Ianto said, thinking back to the night he'd spent with Jack three weeks ago. He'd said everything that needed to be said; and his lover hadn't brought up the topic again, hadn't even said goodbye. He'd been gone by the time Ianto had woken up in the morning, leaving him in a bed smelling of sex and the living room table littered with empty take-away boxes.
"Steve, I -"
At that moment his mobile phone beeped. Ianto got it out of his pocket, expecting a drunken and therefore rude text from Lindsay. What he got instead was Jack's number flashing on the small screen. He pressed the button to read the message with fingers that were barely trembling, then let out a deep breath and closed his eyes.
"What is it?"
Ianto slid the phone across the table and Steve picked it up curiously. There was a single word displayed on the screen; just one.
„Give me a token which I may carry back, so that he may know I have fulfilled the charge, and reward me." (p.80)
"Have you got everything?" Lindsay asked, sitting on Ianto's desk and dangling her legs, idly sipping on a cup of coffee.
Ianto checked the box he'd packed the day before, full of files and some artifacts and devices that he hadn't got round to analysing yet.
"I think so," he answered, sealing the box with tape and labelling it neatly: Work – TW2 – Fragile.
"I hope it'll fit in the car," Lindsay commented. "God knows you've got enough useless shit in there to supply half of Wales."
"May I remind you of the time you moved and needed two vans to fit everything in? One of them was filled entirely with clothes."
"Yeah, but Ianto, I'm a girl."
"That's a poor excuse for owning a hundred pairs of shoes."
"Ah, that's what you think."
Ianto snorted and then threw a look around the office, really making sure that he hadn't forgotten anything.
He's spent the last week preparing for his departure. Apart from cleaning out his flat he'd foolproofed the computer system at the office, making sure that neither Mary nor Steve would be able to accidentally delete crucial data, like the contents of the entire Archives. He'd spent a whole day explaining the system to Mary, leaving the woman in tears of frustration and him in need of a strong drink. He'd emptied his desk, leaving only the monitor, keyboard and mouse behind, plus a coaster and ashtray in the vain hope that Mary would be slightly tidier than her partner. Ianto had even designed a brand new filing system, printing out a set of instructions that was five pages long and emphasised the beauty of the alphabetical system.
He'd also written down every single contact number he had so they could reach him at any time during the day and night, anywhere, and he planned to set up a permanent video link to the office once he was back in Cardiff.
He estimated the chances of Torchwood Two not falling into absolute chaos two days after he'd gone to be slim to none, but at least he could say that he'd tried.
"Do you think I could get another coffee before we leave?" Lindsay was asking him now. "It'll be a long drive and last night was a bit rough."
"Nobody asked you to get into a drinking contest with Steve," Ianto pointed out. "In fact, I seem to recall specifically telling you not to. You didn't stand a chance."
"We had to celebrate though! Give you a proper sendoff."
Truth to be told, Ianto hadn't been feeling too well himself this morning, waking up with gritty eyes, a dry mouth and throbbing head. His mood hadn't improved when he'd found Lindsay draped over him, snoring loudly and drooling on his chest, clad in only the flimsiest pair of knickers and an unclasped bra. Only insistent poking had restored her to some semblance of consciousness. She had then let out a loud shriek that made Ianto's head hurt even more and started a verbal flaying that could only be stopped with the promise of an entire box of painkillers plus some Retcon on the side if she so wished.
Quite why Lindsay had decided to migrate from a perfectly comfortable sofa into his bed in the middle of the night would probably remain a mystery for the ages.
"True," he agreed. "I think this is it. Let's go, we can stop by a coffee shop and you can get doped on caffeine while I drive."
"Deal, but only if you're paying."
"In your dreams."
They both took the lift upstairs into Steve's – and now Mary's – bedroom. The room had undergone a rather astonishing transformation in the last month. It wasn't any tidier than before, but there were new curtains in front of the windows, even if they were a garish pink colour that had Ianto wincing. There was an additional nightstand next to the bed, cluttered with cosmetics and a stack of heat magazines. Among the clothes scattered on the floor (Because the wardrobe was really a lift, as Steve had pointed out irritably one day – Where else were they supposed to go?) were now skirts and an interesting assortment of bras in every colour of the rainbow. The shelves next to the door, which until recently had housed Steve's porn collection, were now crammed full with Mills and Boon novels.
Ianto asked himself whether Steve had started regretting his new state of cohabitation yet.
He went into the living room, Lindsay in tow.
"Steve? Mary? We're ready to leave now."
"Eh?" His boss' tired face appeared from behind the sofa. "You're leaving now?"
"I'm afraid so."
"Bloody hell, it's the middle of the night!" Mary's voice emerged from where she'd curled up in the armchair, ostensibly watching morning tv but really dozing off every two minutes.
"It's ten o'clock. We've got a long drive ahead of us."
"Should have taken a plane then."
"Lindsay offered to drive me and my stuff wouldn't have fit in two suitcases."
Lindsay nodded and dangled her car keys. "It'll be like a really dodgy road trip, like in those American movies. Only, you know, in a proper car."
"I offered him our car!" Steve objected. "He could have brought it back during his next visit."
His friend sniffed. "A proper car, thank you very much. Not a... a..." struggling to find the right insult to express her disdain she finally settled for, "Corsa."
"You Southerners, you're all the same. Always moaning and grumbling your pretty little arses off! That car is a beauty and nothing you'll say will ever convince me otherwise."
"And now it's all yours again," Lindsay said sarcastically, "I hope you'll be happy together."
"Anyway," Ianto interrupted their banter, "I'll give you a ring once we've arrived and please take a look at the instructions I've left you. I've filled up the coffee machine with beans and water, so that should be fine for the next week. I'm on your list of IM contacts and please don't spam me with links to porn sites or offers for penis enlargements because I'll never hear the end of it. You've got my mobile number and I've made you a list with your appointments for the next month. The car is due for a change of tyres on the 19th. Is there anything else?"
Steve got up slowly, grimacing as if in pain and Lindsay smirked, obviously glad not to be the only one with a hangover this morning.
"There's two boxes of painkillers in the office," Ianto said, "Please don't take them all at once."
The other man nodded, a bit dazed and came to stand in front of him, wearing only his dressing gown and nothing else.
"So this is it, lad," he said cheerfully, "Take care of yourself. Have fun driving your coworkers up the wall on a daily basis, you've already done quite a fine job with me."
"I could say the same about you. I'll come up in a month or so, I'm still not quite finished at Torchwood House. Oh, and here are my keys – for the House and the office, including all the cabinets and lockers. There's a spare set in your desk as well if you want to give this one to Mary."
Steve studied the bunch of keys that Ianto was holding out to him. He took it and shook it, a grin spreading on his face. Then he threw it into the air, caught if deftly and dropped the keys into Ianto's outstretched hand.
"You keep them, lad. Just to remind you that you're always welcome here. Bit like a second home really, plus I'm likely to lose mine at some point and then it'll be handy having you taking care of them."
Ianto closed his fist over the keys, feeling the metal warming against his skin.
"That's against regulations, you know," he said eventually and then hugged the other man tightly before he could protest.
Feversham did not change his attitude, but the look on his face was now that of a man listening, and listening thoughtfully, just as he had read thoughtfully. (p.20)
It was early in the morning as Ianto unlocked the door to the tourist office, the box with his stuff from Glasgow in one hand, with a full paper cup of coffee precariously balancing on top of it. He flicked the light switch and shut the door behind him, taking a deep breath to curb his anxiety.
It was nearly eight months to the day since he'd left his office behind him and although he was wearing the exact same outfit as then – it had some kind of beautiful symmetry to it, he'd reasoned with himself in front of the mirror earlier – he felt like a very different man now. More comfortable in his own skin, but less comfortable in the suit after several months of wearing jeans and tee shirts. Ianto loosened his tie a bit before resolutely adjusting it again.
The tourist office was empty; the desk completely cleared. His computer was gone, as were the leaflets, brochures and posters on the wall. The beaded curtain was tied together by a piece of string, revealing an equally empty room behind it.
Ianto didn't quite know what to make of that. He hadn't expected the others to staff the reception desk or actually work up here; but why go to the trouble of clearing everything out? Except if they'd assumed right from the start that his transfer wouldn't be of the temporary sort.
A prickle of unease started to spread through Ianto's stomach. After Jack's text he'd sent him an email the next day, informing him that he'd come back to Cardiff as soon as he'd have wrapped things up in Scotland. It had taken him longer than expected, almost six weeks, but he'd talked to Tosh a couple of days ago and she'd told him that she was looking forward to seeing him.
He took a sip from his coffee and put the box out of sight behind the counter before pressing the button that would open the entrance to Torchwood proper.
Ianto couldn't help but grow more and more nervous as he made his way down into the Hub. He wished he'd taken Lindsay up on her offer to stay with him for a few more days; at least she would have taken his mind of going back to his old job. But Lindsay had her own work in London to get back to, and so he'd sent her on her way home after she'd helped him to move into his new place. She'd left him with a bone-crushing hug, a fully stocked alcohol cabinet and a whole fruit bowl full of condoms of very flavour imaginable, laughing loudly as he'd pushed her out of the door, his face an unbecoming shade of scarlet.
The wheel rolled back more quickly than he would have liked and Ianto took a tentative step into the Hub.
Tosh was running towards him, reaching out her hand awkwardly as if to shake his before throwing caution to the wind and embracing him warmly. Surprised but also secretly pleased, Ianto hugged her back gently.
"It's so good to see you again!" Tosh said enthusiastically, "It's been too long."
Ianto wasn't sure whether he would agree with her on that particular sentiment – it felt like exactly the right amount of time had passed, to be honest – but there was no denying that she was happy to see him.
"And you," he said honestly, releasing her.
Gwen and Owen had come up behind Toshiko. Gwen smiled at him and clasped his arm for a moment; Owen gave him a short nod.
"High time you came back, this place's been a mess."
"Only because you conveniently forgot that it was your turn to do the cleaning last week," Gwen said and shrugged as the doctor glared at her. "What? It's the truth, look at the plan!"
"Plan?" Ianto asked; he tried picturing Owen with a broom in one hand and a bin bag in the other and failed.
"We've made a sort of rota," Tosh answered, "You know, who's doing the cleaning, making coffee, ordering lunch, file reports. It was Gwen's idea."
"And it's been working fine, except for when it's Owen's turn."
"I'm a doctor, not a bloody maid," the man in question huffed, "I'm overqualified."
"Keep telling yourself that," Gwen muttered and they all watched as Owen visibly bit back a scathing comeback, turned around and wandered off to his workstation.
"Do you want some coffee?" Tosh asked Ianto and he blinked at her; talk about role reversal. "Jack's just made some. It tastes awful and I think you can stick your spoon in it and it'll stay upright in the middle of the cup but he swears that that's the way they drink it in the 51st century."
"I think that's a myth," Gwen piped in.
Before Ianto had the chance to answer an amused voice rang out. "Are you insulting my coffee-making skills? Because we could go back to having Instant."
Jack emerged from the conference room, walking down the stairs with his hands in his pockets and a grin on his face.
"Sir," Ianto said and inclined his head.
"Ianto. Took you long enough, in the end."
"But I'm back now."
"That you are."
Jack mustered him and Ianto asked himself whether he'd be embarrassed if he decided to kiss him in front of everybody again. But Jack merely settled for a nod and a satisfied, "I like the suit. Welcome back."
"Thank you, sir."
"Gwen, my office," Jack said, turning around, "There's something fishy about a couple of police reports and I want you to take a look at them."
"See you later," the woman said and followed her boss. That left Ianto with Tosh.
"So," he said, trying to be casual, "My computer upstairs seems to have gone. Did you store it somewhere?"
Tosh looked at him with big eyes. "Your computer? Upstairs? Didn't Jack tell you?"
"Tell me what?"
"We closed down the office upstairs after he came back and cleared it out. We didn't really need it anyway, so..."
"I see." Ianto frowned.
"Let me show you your new place!" Tosh said, grabbing Ianto's hand. "I set it up after you told me you'd come back and Jack's been fussing over it ever since although we had to pretend not to notice."
She led him down the stairs and across the room to where Suzie's station used to be. Ianto had cleared most of it away, leaving only the desk and a chair behind. Now, however, there was a computer, complete with two monitors; a tool box, a pile of stationery, basic scanning equipment and a brand new mobile phone with a bluetooth earpiece.
"We thought you'd be more comfortable down here. It must get lonely upstairs, so... Anyway, you've got more space here as well."
Ianto walked over to the desk, lightly touching the pens and biros, all neatly arranged parallel next to each other. He tapped a key and the monitors sprang to life, displaying the generic Torchwood interface and an instant messaging window. There was an empty mug with the Torchwood logo sitting on the desk as well, neatly placed on a coaster.
"I... Thank you," he finally managed to say, "I would never have expected this."
"It's been my pleasure," Tosh said. "Oh, and I've emailed you the general admin rota for the next month. You're not on it for this week so you can settle in properly but you're down for paperwork and coffee next week. Which is just as well, considering it's Jack's turn this week – I see a lot of trips to Starbucks coming up. Are you going to be all right for now? I've left a translation programme running overnight and it should be finished any minute now."
"Yes. Yes, it's fine," Ianto said and she smiled at him one last time before going back to her own desk.
As for Ianto – he was more than mildly stunned. Sitting down at the desk – his desk – he tapped a few keys, a window popped up on the screen and he quickly started typing.
Ianto: I know you're busy, you don't have to answer right now.
Ianto: I suppose I just wanted to say...
Ianto: Thank you.
"Yes." (p. 240)
The other man looked up from the paperwork he'd been studying with a frown and smiled at him.
"Ianto. Come in."
Ianto entered the office and quickly glanced around the room. Not much had changed in here. Jack's coat was hanging on the stand in the corner and his desk was as full as ever; except now there was a framed picture standing next to one of the lamps, showing a grinning Jack standing next to man with untidy hair who was wearing a crumpled suit and a dark-skinned, vaguely familiar looking young woman. Ianto recognised the two of them as the people from the CCTV footage when they'd tried to track down Jack in London all those months ago.
"Is that the Doctor?" he asked, pointing to the picture.
Jack nodded. "That was taken shortly before he dropped me off here. The girl next to him is Martha Jones. She saved the world, walking the Earth."
Ianto couldn't possibly understand that comment; but he also didn't feel like investigating it further, at least not now.
"Where you happy with them, sir?"
Jack looked at him sharply. "I was, in the beginning. But then I had a whole year with nothing to do but think and that caused a slight change of perspective."
"So you're glad you're back?"
"Are you?" Jack retorted without answering the question.
Ianto came around the desk and stood next to Jack. The other man had to twist in his chair to look up at him and Ianto gently touched his face.
"I've bought a house here, Jack. Does that answer your question?"
The older man inhaled deeply and leaned into Ianto's touch. "Have the others gone home?" he asked softly.
"They left an hour ago."
Jack rose and drew Ianto closer to him. Ianto embraced him and could feel Jack pressing a kiss on the top of his head.
"Stay with me tonight, Ianto?"
"As if I could ever deny you anything," he whispered, "Yes."