Pizza and planets
Ianto Jones saw the blue box appear in the plaza over a pile of pizza boxes. Torchwood seemed to be eating more pizza than ever, which he would have thought would be statistically impossible without Owen Harper around – but every couple of evenings, there he went, off to Jubilee Pizza, and came back with a meat feast, a marinara for the girls, and whatever he happened to fancy that night. This evening it was a Hawaiian, which Jack said had nothing to do with Hawaii but Ianto sometimes quite enjoyed.
So his mind was occupied with the meal to come, whether they had enough coffee left, and how to get the gloop out of Jack's second-best shirt, when the box arrived, complete with sound and wind effects. Oddly, Ianto noticed, the few other people out did not seem to pay any attention to the apparition.
But he had seen it before, and knew what to expect. He hoped, now, he'd know who to expect as well – except Jack had sat them down and explained certain things about the occupant of the box since the attempted Dalek invasion, and Ianto was prepared for anyone as he crossed to wait near its door.
After a moment the dust around him settled and the light on the top dimmed. The door opened, and out stepped the person Ianto had been mostly expecting. He stuck his hands into the pockets of his brown pinstriped suit and looked around.
Ianto stepped forwards. "Doctor?"
The man turned, an expression of careful good humour on his face. "Possibly."
"Ianto Jones, sir. Torchwood. Were you looking for us?"
"Weeeeell," said the Doctor, scratching his ear, "I was refuelling. Am refuelling."
"We have pizza," said Ianto, "and I suspect Jack would lynch me if he knew you were in Cardiff and I knew and you hadn't been to visit."
"Can't have a lynching," the Doctor said. "All right. I'll come, Ianto Jones."
Ianto nodded, and led the way down to the front entrance. "I'd take you the quick route," he said, over his shoulder, "but you seem to have, er, parked on top of it."
"Sorry," said the Doctor. "Can't move her, she's linked up to the Rift."
He followed Ianto down the corridor and into the lift, eyebrows raised at the disguise of the tourist office and even further in the passageway itself. Once the door rolled back into the Hub proper, the Doctor simply stood and looked.
"Pizza!" called Ianto, leading the way in. "And a visitor."
Jack was there in a moment. "Visitor?" His eyes slid past Ianto and to the Doctor, and Ianto found himself wishing his boss looked at him with even half that much longing. "This is a surprise," Jack said, after a second's pause.
"For me too," the Doctor said. "Your Ianto picked me up in the Plass."
"Flirt," said Jack, to Ianto, and then he crossed the space between him and the Doctor and had enveloped their visitor in a hug. "Good to see you."
The Doctor hesitated, and returned the hug. "Yeah. You too, Jack." He broke apart from the embrace. "Soooo, this is the famous Torchwood Hub. How does it feel to have your Most Wanted in the doorway?"
"Queen Victoria would be horrified," said Jack, with a grin.
"Or, not amused," Ianto threw out.
The Doctor grimaced. "Not you as well. Rose and I had a bet on that one. I lost."
"Speaking of the lovely Rose ..." said Jack, hitting the button to close the door and putting his hands in his pockets, "where is she?"
"Oooh, a Venusian modulator!" the Doctor said, picking up a gadget they had been unable to identify. "I love these. Not the pinnacle of engineering, but they're good fun."
"Doctor," Jack interrupted, a warning tone in his voice. Ianto busied himself with pizza, watching them out of the corner of his eye. The Doctor fiddled with the modulator. "Doctor!" Jack repeated.
"Ianto, got that pizza yet?" Martha appeared from the medical laboratory, and with a squeal hurried up the steps and into the Doctor's arms. Ianto began to think he had missed out on a hug.
Taking a piece of pizza, Jack stood back. Detaching herself from the hug, Martha touched her earpiece. "Mickey! Get up here, now!"
The Doctor's face split in a grin. "Mickey's here too? Mickey Smith?"
"He was qualified," Jack said, shortly; Ianto could tell he was annoyed with the Doctor. "And he had nowhere to go."
"His decision, not mine," the Doctor returned.
With a clattering of footsteps, brushing off dust, Mickey and Gwen came from the basement.
"Look what the cat dragged in!" exclaimed Mickey, but he exchanged some sort of complicated handshake with the Doctor with evident pleasure.
Gwen looked at Ianto. "Isn't ..."
He nodded. "Yup."
"You must be Gwen Cooper!" said the Doctor, crossing to her. "And we were right – spatial genetic multiplicity. Brilliant!"
"Hi," said Gwen, a little uncertainly. "What's spatial whatever?"
He folded his arms. "I met your ancestor. Great-great-aunt, maybe ... me and Rose, just after we met, and Charles Dickens, in Cardiff – brilliant man, old Charlie-boy, just brilliant, absolute genius – and your ancestor, Gwyneth. She worked as a maid to an undertaker, and there was an attack of the Gelth."
"The what?" Gwen asked.
"Gelth," said the Doctor. "They're gaseous beings. They were trying to break through the Rift. Almost succeeded, but Gwyneth held them back." He tapped his forehead. "She was a bit telepathic."
"What happened to her?"
The Doctor turned away. "She died. Saved the world, and died doing so. You look just like her."
Gwen pushed hair out of her eyes. "Oh."
"Speaking of Rose," Mickey said, "where is she?"
"He's avoiding the question," said Jack, arms folded.
"And what about Donna?" added Martha. "Doctor. We were the last to leave, the other week, and Rose and Jackie and Donna and ... well, you, you were all still there. Where are they?"
"Gone." The Doctor's voice was hollow. Ianto and Gwen both moved back, from the circle surrounding their visitor.
"Gone where?" Martha pursued.
"Rose and Jackie and ... him," said the Doctor, "they're back in the parallel universe. Jackie has a child there. He needs her. Pete needs them both. They're dead here; this isn't their home now."
Jack snorted. "C'mon, Doctor, you know I could've given them false identities. They were declared dead at Torchwood; Torchwood could've brought 'em back to life."
Mickey's face was stony. "You gave Rose the other you?"
"He needed her."
"She needed you," Mickey said. "God, all she ever wanted was you, all those years we spent in Pete's world."
The Doctor, eyes distant, said, "she's got me. For the rest of both their lives. They've got each other. Isn't that enough?"
Gwen nudged Ianto. "Is this making sense to you?" she murmured. He shook his head.
"But you didn't leave Donna in the parallel universe – did you?" asked Martha.
The Doctor looked up. "No. And ... give me your phone, Martha."
Digging in a pocket, Martha brought it out and handed it over. The Doctor fiddled for a second, buzzing something over it, before giving it back. "There."
"What did you do?" Martha turned it over in her hands.
"Erased Donna's number, and any record it has of calling her," the Doctor said. "Because you can't, not ever, never again. None of you. You can't call her, can't see her, and she must never know about me."
"But why?" asked Mickey.
"Because," the Doctor said, turning fully to face them, and Ianto thought he'd never seen a face so stricken, "if she remembers, her mind will burn up. I had to take her memory away."
Martha put her hand to her mouth. "The ... the thing, with your hand, it did that to her?"
"Human mind," said Jack. "I'm sorry, Doctor."
"Yup." The Doctor nodded. "So'm I."
The mood in the Hub was getting gloomier by the minute. Ianto straightened, and lifted the pizza boxes. "This is getting cold, people. I suggest we retire to the boardroom. Coffee, anyone?"
"Isn't there any beer left?" Mickey questioned.
"I rather think you drank it," Ianto said. "Sorry."
Mickey took one of the boxes. "Damn."
The boardroom was brighter, and everyone's spirits seemed to lift once the lights were on and the pizza boxes were open on the table. Everyone except the Doctor, who had been persuaded to come up but who was loitering in the doorway as though he did not quite dare to come in. Ianto slid a slice of meat feast on a plate and took it to him.
The Doctor eyed the pizza as though it were a Weevil about to attack. "No. Really, no. I'm not hungry."
"He never eats," said Jack through a mouthful.
"Rarely, anyway," Martha added. "Though, chips, that time."
"He's always been a sucker for chips," Mickey said. "Him and Rose and chips." He swallowed. "Does the other you eat chips?"
Folding his arms, the Doctor looked down at Mickey, not a trace of a smile on his face. "He is me. A me who won't turn into someone else, a me who won't leave her. They've got each other for the rest of both their lives – chips and all."
"I'll explain later," said Martha, under her breath, to Ianto and Gwen. "It's complicated."
"When is it not, when he's around?" Mickey said, overhearing. He picked up his pizza. "I've got work to do."
Jack shook his head at Martha, who had made to stand up and follow Mickey. "Let him go." He looked up at the Doctor. "If you won't eat, I'm not having you standing there making everyone mad. Hub tour?"
The Doctor shrugged. "Why not?"
Jack glanced round. "Ianto, with me. Martha, I need that data. Gwen, talk to Andy about those murders last week. Doctor, this way."
They went back down to the central Hub area, Ianto hanging back a little and wondering why Jack had asked him to come along. The Doctor's hands were back in his pockets and he was looking round, clearly picking up on every detail.
"Is that a ... Jack, you have a pteranodon," the Doctor said, as Myfanwy came swooping across.
"Rift," said Jack, succinctly. "She's tame. We let her out occasionally for a fly."
"You shouldn't have an extinct creature as a pet," the Doctor returned. "What does she eat?"
Ianto shrugged. "Pretty much everything, but we've trained her off computers. She's fond of chocolate."
The Doctor gave him a beaming smile. "Chocolate, brilliant. However did you find that out?"
"Trial and error," said Ianto, blinking in the smile.
Jack put a hand on his shoulder. "Ianto's good at that sort of thing. Okay, what d'you want to see?"
They began with the Rift monitors. The Doctor prodded and fiddled and squinted, and Ianto fidgeted nearby and hoped nothing would break. After a while, the Doctor straightened from where he was bending down to the equipment, took off the glasses he had put on, and gave Jack a hard look.
"You copied my technology," he said.
"Just a bit," said Jack. "Really, just a bit. The only bit I understood. It works."
"Yes." The Doctor nodded. "Evidently, otherwise we wouldn't have been able to use it to get the Earth back home. Nice work, by the way, Ianto Jones."
"And Gwen," Ianto added. "Erm. Thanks."
"But next time, Jack, ask first," the Doctor continued.
Carrying on, they showed him the medical lab, where Martha was busy with alien parts and a computer and told them to go away and leave her alone; the hothouse, which the Doctor appeared to appreciate; and the storeroom, where his eyes widened and he began to pull things off the shelves with exclamations of delight and horror.
"Telephone!" he said, tossing a long, thin device they had been unable to categorise at Ianto. "That's a gun, how did you get that? Oooh, a necklace from Hulerion Seven, worth a fortune, that is." He held the necklace up to the light. "Bit useless here, of course. These aren't, though; Jack, better destroy them."
Jack caught the bottle of dull grey pills deftly and looked at them. "Psychotropic alterers, I know."
"So what are they doing here?" asked the Doctor, pausing in his examination of the shelves.
"They fell through the Rift, like everything else," Jack said, replacing the pills on the shelf and folding his arms. "And we're not answerable to you, Doctor."
The Doctor turned around and faced Jack fully, and Ianto was not sure he liked the expression on his face. "What else do you have hidden here, Jack Harkness?"
Ianto led the way down to the vaults, unlocking doors and doing what he did best – being there, silently. He found himself grateful the cells were mostly empty, apart from a couple of Weevils and a rather morose being they couldn't talk to and were hoping to send back through the Rift when Mickey had got the equipment working again. The Weevils were in adjacent cells, and Ianto stood back after opening the door to let the Doctor and Jack through.
"Oh," said the Doctor, hands in pockets, in front of the glass. "Oh, I'm so sorry." He stepped closer, and the Weevil moved, to the back of its cell, growling softly. "It's all right, I'll take you home. Many more of you out there?" There was silence. The Weevil had stopped growling, and was eyeing the Doctor with what Ianto swore could be a quizzical look. "I'm the Doctor," the Doctor went on. "I have a ship, I can get you all home."
"All of them?" Jack put in. "Doctor, there are hundreds of these things out there in this city."
"They live in packs," said the Doctor, his eyes still on the Weevil. "In groups. They don't like being alone. They shouldn't be locked up."
"They go rabid and start killing people," Jack said. "We have to lock 'em up. They live in the sewers, generally; we've had Weevils in Cardiff for a good thirty years."
The Doctor turned. "Weevils?" he asked.
"We don't have a better name for them, sir," said Ianto. "It seems to suit them."
"It's not their name," the Doctor returned. "They're called Granularians, or that's the closest approximation you'd understand. They're from a planet fifty-six million light years from here, a younger planet than yours. They're still evolving, barely learned to walk, and here you have them locked away in a cell!" His voice rose at the end of the sentence, and Ianto could hear the fury in it. "A cell, Jack. Trapped, unable to do anything."
"It's for the safety of the city," said Jack, his voice clipped and angry, "that's what we do here, Doctor. We keep the city safe."
"Just why I never liked Torchwood," the Doctor said. "I'll take them off your hands. There's room in the TARDIS for as many as you can round up. I'll take them back home." He looked back at the Weevil. "Home, eh, how about that? You can roam the grasslands with the rest of your people."
Ianto met Jack's eyes, and raised his eyebrows in a question. Jack sighed. "It could take days, getting them all rounded up."
"Not with me around," said the Doctor, with supreme confidence. "You've got enough equipment here, not to mention what I've got in the TARDIS, to build a transmitter. We'll bring them to us. Put them in the TARDIS – I'll get the old girl to fit out a room for them – and off we fly. You're not keeping them locked up any longer, Jack." He touched the glass wall of the cell. "I'll get you home, you and your kind."
With that, he was off, long coat flying as he took the stairs back up to the Hub two at a time. Ianto, trotting beside Jack after him, said, "Is he always like this?"
Jack sighed. "Oh yeah. There's no point trying to stop him, either; he doesn't do orders."
In the Hub the Doctor was already gathering together bits of equipment, watched by a bemused Gwen. He snapped out instructions and Jack, to Ianto and Gwen's surprise, obeyed them, adding to the Doctor's pile.
"A box. I need a box!" said the Doctor, pulling something apart and throwing the bit he did not want across the room.
Ianto found a box and wordlessly put it on the table.
"What's going on?" Gwen asked.
Giving her a run-down occupied the rest of the time until the Doctor declared himself satisfied with the odds and ends he had collected. "I'll build it in the TARDIS," he said. "Coming?" He flashed them a grin.
"We do have work to do," Jack said, but the tone was half-hearted.
"Come on, Jack," the Doctor said, "I could do with the help, and anyway don't you think they earned it?"
Jack looked at Ianto and Gwen. "Well?"
"Yeah," said Ianto, "all right." He exchanged a look with Gwen, who smiled back. Jack touched his earpiece.
"Mickey, Martha; the Doctor's got a bee in his bonnet about Weevils and we're off to the TARDIS." He glanced at the Doctor. "Where's it parked?"
"On our lift," Ianto put in. "We'll have to go out the back way."
Eventually there were four of them accompanying the Doctor and his boxes; Martha said she could do with the quiet to finish her job. "Still got my key, though," she said, holding up the plain Yale key she always wore around her neck. "I'll come and join you when I'm done."
Outside the blue box the Doctor felt in his pocket and drew out an identical key. He unlocked the door, pushed it open, and stood back. "You first," he said, to Gwen and Ianto. "Go on."
Jack and Mickey were both grinning. "Go on!" Jack added, giving Ianto's shoulder a push.
They went in.
It was a moment Ianto knew he would always remember, in a life packed with memorable moments. He stopped walking just a few steps inside the box, and felt Gwen stop by his side, and both of them just gazed.
Martha, Jack and Mickey had spoken of the Doctor's ship on more than one occasion, but Ianto had always thought that "bigger on the inside" meant "just a bit bigger". He had been wrong. It was more like a cathedral, lit from somewhere with a gentle golden light, the ceiling high above their heads and doors, half-open, leading to long corridors.
"Wow," said Gwen, softly.
"What do you think?" asked Jack, from behind them.
"I think 'wow' about covers it," Ianto said.
"Makes a change from 'it's bigger on the inside'," commented the Doctor, elbowing his way past them and dropping his coat neatly on one of the ship's struts. "Welcome to the TARDIS. Time And Relative Dimension In Space. The best ship in the universe." He ran a hand along the circular console. "Someone bring those boxes."
They followed him out of the vast circular room, down a corridor, up a flight of stairs and down another corridor. "Lab, lab, lab," the Doctor muttered. "C'mon, old girl, where've you put it now?" He pushed open a door. "Aha!"
The laboratory was clean and white and full of equipment Ianto did not recognise. The Doctor began emptying the boxes and laying out wires and components on a table.
"Why don't you give Ianto and Gwen the tour?" Jack suggested, to Mickey.
"Don't get lost," the Doctor added, putting on his glasses and bending over the table.
Mickey shrugged, and led the way back out of the laboratory. "What do you want to see?" he asked.
"Everything!" said Gwen, her eyes alight with interest.
"We'd be here for days," Mickey said. "This thing's huge. I don't think I've seen half of it. Let's try the wardrobe, for starters."
"A wardrobe?" Ianto asked, raising an eyebrow. "Doesn't sound very interesting."
"You wait," said Mickey, with a grin.
It took them a few wrong turns, but after about five minutes Mickey pushed open a door and let out a hoot of satisfaction. "Wardrobe!"
"This isn't a wardrobe," said Ianto, following him in, "it's a temple to clothes."
Gwen ran her fingers along a rack. "It's incredible. All this inside a wooden box!" She pulled out a silver jumpsuit and held it up. "Nice."
"Very you," said Ianto.
"I don't think it would fit me," Gwen said, putting the jumpsuit back. "I wonder who it did fit."
For a while they wandered through the racks, pulling out clothes at random. Ianto tried on a variety of jackets and coats, Gwen became rather concerningly girly over dresses, and Mickey stood and examined a leather coat intently.
Eventually they moved on. Mickey took them to the kitchen, and the library, which Ianto wished he could spend more time in. They poked their heads into rooms they passed, but missed out any number of closed doors too. By the time they got back to the laboratory Jack and the Doctor had somehow managed to build the bulk of whatever it was they were building, and the Doctor was visibly more cheerful. He looked at them from over the top of his glasses.
"Hey, I know my way around," Mickey said. "Yeah, we managed. How're you doing?"
Jack tightened a screw on the gadget. "We're getting there. Ianto, would you make us some coffee?"
"There should be some in the kitchen," said the Doctor, blowing metal dust off his machine. "Tea, please; milk and five sugars."
"I'll help," Gwen said.
They found the kitchen again. There was coffee and milk in the fridge, but not a lot else, and an ancient coffee maker in a cupboard. Gwen put the kettle on and they watched it boil.
"This is weird," Ianto commented, as the water heated.
"It's weird that it's not more weird," said Gwen. "What do you think of him?"
"The Doctor?" Pouring water, and getting to work with the coffee maker, Ianto considered. "He's ... less alien, than I thought."
Gwen accepted the kettle and spooned sugar into a mug for the Doctor. "No, but that's all just looks, isn't it? He's really alien. You can tell he just thinks differently from us."
Ianto watched the coffee drip into mugs.
"Do you think he knows ... about Jack, I mean?"
"About Jack in what way?" Gwen looked at him, eyes questioning.
Fussing with the milk frother, Ianto shrugged. "About Jack being in love with him."
"It's true," said Ianto, pouring milk. "I'm not stupid. And anyway, Jack's not a one-man – one-being – bloke. I've always known that. But do you think the Doctor knows?"
Gwen stirred the Doctor's tea, and picked up her own coffee. "Yeah. But he won't tell Jack he knows, and he wouldn't do anything about it."
"You worked all that out from just watching him?" Ianto asked, astonished despite himself.
"No!" Gwen laughed, and led the way out of the kitchen. "I've been talking to Martha. She says he's useless at relationships. That's why she left him."
"Women and their gossip," said Ianto gravely. "You will never fail to astonish me."
The transmitter was almost finished by the time they got back to the laboratory and the workers seemed happy to break for drinks. The Doctor sat down and propped trainer-clad feet up on the workbench.
"Snap," said Gwen, with a grin, waving one of her own, identical shoes in the air.
"They're good for running, don't you think?" the Doctor said, swallowing tea. "Always something to take into account, the running."
"Do a lot of running, do you?" Ianto asked.
"You have no idea," said Jack with a grin. "He runs ieverywhere/i. Remember chasing Margaret Blaine when we were here before, Doc?"
"Wait," said Gwen, holding up her hand, "the mayor? The one who died in the earthquake, a few years back?"
"She was an alien," said Jack.
"She turned into an egg," the Doctor added, with a grin. "Took her back home, gave her a fresh start. Quite a lot of running, that day."
"So it wasn't an earthquake," Gwen pursued. "It was you!"
"It was Margaret," said the Doctor. "I was just refuelling."
"Hang on," Ianto said, "when was this?"
"About three years ago," said Jack. "Linearly speaking. You were still in London. I had Suzie and Owen and Tosh here – on lockdown, because I didn't want them running into me haring after the Doctor up above."
"Leaving us to do clean-up," Gwen said. "I was with the police," she explained, off the Doctor's raised eyebrows. "Until I got recruited by Jack."
Ianto nodded. "I remember the news reports now. We all reckoned it was aliens, back in London. Mam and Dad believed the earthquake story, though."
Finishing his coffee, Jack stood and went back to the machine.
"One of many fine pieces of government misinformation put about in the past few years," he said. "Hallucinogens in the water, mass hypnotism – really, I don't get why people believe that but wouldn't believe the truth."
"What are they saying at the moment?" asked the Doctor, slurping down the rest of his tea and swinging his legs off the table. "Can't really hide it when a planet goes walkabout."
"Aliens, and they're putting the credit on Harriet Jones," Mickey said. "Though they made it sound like she was working secretly for the government. Haven't mentioned the Copper Foundation at all."
The Doctor paused in fixing a wire. "The which foundation? Copper? Mr Copper? Short, white hair, native of Sto?"
"The one you brought off the Titanic, yeah," Jack said. "He came to our attention when he started spending money. We put him in touch with Harriet Jones when we found out he knew you. After that, it was all them. He funded the subwave network."
"Good!" said the Doctor. "No, better than good; brilliant! Thanks for not locking him up, Jack."
"He was a harmless old man," said Jack.
Flicking a switch on the gadget, the Doctor looked up. "And your Weevils would be harmless, if you didn't antagonise them. Can't go by appearances." There was something in his voice that sent a shiver up Ianto's spine.
The machine whirs, and a light comes on, and the Doctor lets out a "ha!" of triumph.
"Is it working?" Gwen asked, as the Doctor checked it over.
"Yup. Working fine. Just got to set it to the right frequency," he twirled a dial, "and take it outside. Too much interference in here. Come on!"
He led the way out of the TARDIS, and put the transmitter – which resembled nothing so much as a pile of metal and wire – down in front of the box. Nobody paid them any attention whatsoever.
"I've increased the perception filter," said the Doctor, when Ianto questioned him about this. "No point scaring the populace. They'll be scared enough when the Weevils come. Now ..." He disappeared inside the TARDIS again, and emerged a few moments later looking pleased. "And she's set up a passage to the safe room she's set up." He gave the side of the box a pat. "Good girl. Shall we?"
"Hold on," said Jack. "You look after the aliens, Doctor, we'll look after the humans. Gwen, give the police a call, tell 'em not to worry about the Weevils. People'll panic. Ianto, put the ambulance service on standby in case they get violent." He activated his comms. "Martha, get up here."
The Doctor looked mulish, but stuck his hands in his pockets and waited. Moving away from the group, Ianto called the ambulance service and found them argumentative but, eventually, reluctantly agreeing to put three vehicles on standby for them.
"Much obliged," he said, hanging up.
"All done?" asked the Doctor, as Martha arrived from the Hub.
"Yes," said Gwen. "The sergeant says we owe him one, Jack."
"We owe him several, and we'll pay the debt back in full next time there's an invasion," said Jack calmly. "All right. Do your worst, Doctor. If this thing blows up I'm blaming you."
The Doctor merely grinned at him, and pressed a button.
They waited. Ianto exchanged a glance with Mickey. Gwen folded her arms. Jack was smiling slightly.
"What?" The Doctor looked at them all as if they had gone mad.
"Is it supposed to make a noise, or something?" asked Mickey.
"It is," said the Doctor. "Must be outside your range of hearing. It's signalling, all right."
Ianto pulled out his PDA and switched it on. "Ah. Yes," he said. "We've got incoming Weevils. Fast. Lots. Really, a lot."
"Step back!" said the Doctor. "Back up next to the TARDIS. And here they come ..."
The Weevils came, running, snarling, from all directions. They converged on the Plass and made straight for the TARDIS door. Standing to its left, Ianto found himself watching Jack and the Doctor, who had moved the same way. Both of them seemed, somehow, to be enjoying themselves; the Doctor relaxed with his hands in his pockets and Jack by his side. In the pale light from the TARDIS, both of them seemed alien and strange, and Ianto understood that neither of them really belonged in the here and now, on 21st-century Earth.
The rush of Weevils subsided at last and became a trickle, and then petered out entirely. Ianto checked his display. "I think that's it," he said.
"Excellent!" said the Doctor, with enthusiasm. "A shipload of Granularians and a flight to freedom. Who's coming? Jack? Martha? Mickety-Mick Mickey?" He looked straight at Ianto. "Ianto Jones, fancy seeing time and space?"
"I reckon we should all go," Mickey put in. "Torchwood on tour."
Everyone turned to Jack, who sighed deeply. "You bring us back to the here and now, Doctor," he said. "Or else."
"You'd better, or Rhys will have a fit," said Gwen. "My husband," she added, off the Doctor's eyebrow-raised query.
"We could take him too," the Doctor offered.
"No, it's all right," Gwen said. "He knows about Torchwood and aliens and that, but I don't think he'd cope very well with travelling in space. I'll tell him when we get back. So we'd better get back."
They were all inside the TARDIS now, and the Doctor, standing at the console, raised his hand, snapped his fingers and the doors closed.
Jack frowned. "That's a new one."
Something undefinable crossed the Doctor's face, but it disappeared as soon as it had come and he began flicking switches.
"Get the helmic regulator, Jack," he said, circling the console, stretching for a lever. "Mickey, mallet, hit that button."
The column in the centre began to move and Ianto felt the ship shudder into motion. Gwen reached for a nearby rail and laughed a little nervously.
"I can't believe we're doing this," she said.
"Neither can I," said Jack.
The Doctor continued to circle the console, bashing buttons at intervals and reaching for levers. It looked, Ianto thought, rather like a mad sort of dance. The ship lurched a little, and almost seemed to groan, before coming to a halt.
"And, we're here," the Doctor declared, as the central column stilled. "Granularia, a world that's not what you'd call particularly hospitable to humans, but not uninhabitable. Home to your Weevils, and a bunch of other primitive lifeforms, barely sentient, really, but harmless enough. We're ..." he checked a screen and a series of circular diagrams which made no sense to Ianto, "about a hundred thousand years into its existence."
He moved away from the console, picking his long coat up as he did so and shrugging it on.
The Torchwood team followed – Jack, Martha and Mickey close on the Doctor's heels, Ianto and Gwen a little further behind. Outside the TARDIS it was cold, with a bitter wind and a strange, sulphuric scent to the air. Ianto pulled his jacket close around him and saw Gwen stick her hands in her pockets.
"Smell that air!" said the Doctor, with every appearance of enjoying it. "Ianto Jones, Gwen Cooper, welcome to another planet."
Martha, her eyes sparkling, turned to them. "What do you think?"
"It's a bit repetitive," Gwen said, "but, wow. We're on a different planet."
"My first trip, we met Shakespeare," said Martha, with a grin. "The actual Shakespeare."
"I got a spaceship," Mickey added. "With 17th-century France. Long story."
"Aww, they don't want to hear about the past," the Doctor said, and Ianto had the feeling he was deliberately changing the subject. "How about the present? Bit barren, I suppose, but look at those stars!" They all looked upwards, at a galaxy sparkling with a million different stars. "You lot miss out on this," the Doctor added, "barely anywhere left on Earth with a view like that."
"The desert, and the ocean," said Ianto, wanting to defend his planet. "Quite a lot of Earth covered by big emptiness, no pollution."
The Doctor merely grinned at him delightedly. "I like you, Ianto Jones!" He turned. "Right, let's empty the TARDIS, shall we?"
Getting the Weevils out of the TARDIS proved fairly simple. The transmitter was hauled out again, the Doctor fiddled with it for a moment, and they came rushing out. Each Weevil, as it cleared the TARDIS, paused and sniffed the air. Some seemed to leap in joy, while others ran off into the distance. They tore off their filthy overalls, leaving them in a heap on the ground. Torchwood and the Doctor watched in silence until the TARDIS was empty, and then the Doctor turned the transmitter off. The Weevils disappeared, and Ianto let out a breath he had not realised he'd been holding.
"There." The Doctor seemed satisfied. "All gone. I'll leave you the transmitter, Jack; you can round them up occasionally, give me a call when your cells are full and I'll fetch them for you. I'll have a look at the Rift, too, see if I can't close the gap between this world and the Earth."
"Can you do that?" Ianto asked.
"Yes," said the Doctor, simply, before shrugging. "Well, in theory, though I've often found theory to be somewhat flawed. But that's my problem – Time's always my problem. And right now I think it's time for a proper meal. What do you say? Jack? How about that little place on Fantasma Five?"
A slow grin spread across Jack's face. "You mean the one with the little canapés?"
"That's the one. Can't beat a good canapé, I always say. I can still get you all back whenever you need to be back; so that Gwen's bloke doesn't fret, at least." He beamed a smile at them all. "C'mon, canapés, what d'you reckon?"
It was just a few minutes, and apparently a hundred and twenty-seven light years, later, and the Torchwood team and the Doctor were seated around a table in the Doctor's "little place". The table had a circular middle which rotated, prompting Mickey to point out it could be a Chinese restaurant. But when the food came they were all forced to admit it was far, far better than any Chinese – indeed, any restaurant full stop – back on Earth. The canapés were piled high on the table and their glasses were filled with something vaguely alcoholic, and Jack and the Doctor were telling stories about their travels.
"I'll never forget," said Jack, his mouth full, "that moment when you and Rose arrived. I was all set to go up in flames with my cocktail, and there you are, dancing."
"To what?" asked Gwen.
"Glenn Miller," said Jack. "He wouldn't let me join in." He pouted at the Doctor, who laughed.
"You hadn't earned it, then."
"Oh, so I did later, eh?" Jack said, with a grin and a glint in his eyes.
The Doctor shrugged. "Might've."
Ianto watched them, and wondered if Torchwood would have a leader the next day. But he pushed the thoughts aside and focused on joining in everyone else's good humour, though he – and, he suspected, Gwen – felt like an outsider as Martha, Mickey and Jack orbited around their star.
The meal lasted a while, but eventually they hauled themselves up from the table and staggered back to the TARDIS.
"I'll take her back slowly," said the Doctor, hitting buttons. He alone seemed to be unaffected by the vast quantities of rich food and drink.
"Time for coffee, then," Ianto said, waving off everyone's offers of help.
In the kitchen he went through the automatic motions of coffee-making; pouring milk, finding chocolate powder for the top of Martha's cappucino, watching the coffee drip out. He was in the process of looking for a tray when he heard footsteps and felt someone watching him from the doorway.
"There's a tray in the second cupboard on the left." It was the Doctor's voice, and Ianto found the tray – an ancient laminated affair apparently made to celebrate the Queen's coronation – and put it on the sideboard before turning to face him.
"I'm fine. Don't need any help."
"I'm not here to help," said the Doctor, hands in pockets, leaning against the doorframe. "I'm useless with coffee, anyway; ask anyone. Nah, I'm here to tell you he won't come with me."
"Have you asked him?" Ianto questioned.
"Not this time, not yet," the Doctor said. He scuffed the floor with the toe of his trainer. "There's no point. It's you he wants – Torchwood, you, Gwen. Cardiff."
Ianto folded his arms. "He abandoned us, for you, before. He went flying off to you when the Daleks arrived. Third time's a charm."
The Doctor scrunched up his face. "Oooh, I've never liked that particular saying. Relies a bit too much on superstition." He looked up and met Ianto's eyes, and for the first time – despite the TARDIS, and despite everything Jack had said about this man – Ianto believed he was alien. "He'll help, if I need him, and I know I'll always be able to rely on that," the Doctor said. "Emphasis on always, and that's the problem. Jack's wrong, Ianto; he's a fixed point and that bothers me. Gets me up here." He tapped his temple. "I owe him ... oh, so much, and he's sacrificed more than even you will know. What he wants now; what he needs now, really, is a fixed point of his own. That's you, Ianto, and Torchwood. He'll never need me the way he needs you. I'm not going to take that from him."
Ianto turned round and busied himself with coffee, mainly so he did not have to keep looking into those eyes.
"You'll look after him, won't you?" the Doctor asked, after a moment.
Picking up the tray, Ianto turned and nodded. "Yeah. And ... you know ... thanks."
The Doctor moved aside to let him through the door.
"I rather think it's me that should be thanking you. We needed that Rift, and if you and Gwen hadn't been handy the Earth would be stuck in the Medusa Cascade for all eternity. Ianto Jones, saviour of the universe."
Ianto found himself smiling. "Sounds good."
"Don't let it go to your head," the Doctor said. "Really, don't."
He led the way back to the console room, where he was collared by Gwen who demanded to be told more about her ancestor. Ianto handed out coffee and drank his leaning against a strut, listening to the Doctor tell an outrageous story about Charles Dickens, gas, ghosts and a girl called Gwyneth.
"Rose didn't want to leave her," the Doctor said, coming to the end of his tale. "But it was already too late. She was full of heart, Gwyneth; just wanted to do the right thing. And she did – saved the world."
"Sounds like my Gwen," Jack put in, with a smile.
"Don't let Rhys hear you say that," Gwen said, blushing. She turned back to the Doctor. "I think I'm glad she met you."
The Doctor's face split in a grin and he reached out to hug Gwen. "Definitely her descendant," he said, and looked at her thoughtfully. "I wonder if you're telepathic too?"
Gwen detached herself from him.
"I don't think so," she said.
"Empathic," added Jack, "not telepathic."
"Ah, well," the Doctor said, "few people are." He lost the smile for a moment, just as the TARDIS juddered to a halt. "Oh, we're back." Checking a screen, he glanced up. "And bang on time. Well, just a couple of hours after we left, anyway. Eleven o'clock."
"Rhys is going to kill me!" said Gwen, her face aghast. "I promised I'd be back by ten tonight."
"Go," Jack said. "Run. Blame it on me."
"I always do," Gwen said. "Good to meet you, Doctor."
The Doctor raised a hand. "You too. Run! Use those shoes!"
Laughing, Gwen ran.
Jack stood up and put his coffee mug on the tray. "Martha, Mickey, Ianto; I'll see you guys back in the Hub."
Standing too, Martha went to hug the Doctor. "Still got that phone?"
"Waiting for your call, Doctor Jones," he said. "Mickey Smith."
"Doctor," said Mickey, and grinned. "Look after yourself, all right?"
The Doctor looked affronted. "I always look after myself. Always all right, me."
"Liar," said Mickey. "See you."
Ianto followed them towards the door, turning before he left the ship to see both the Doctor and Jack watching him. Jack gave him a reassuring nod, and Ianto, hoping he could trust the Doctor, went out after his colleagues.
In the Hub Martha went to tidy her things up and Mickey checked his emails, but Ianto could not settle and chose instead to pace up and down, glancing up at the ceiling now and again. What could they be talking about?
He had tidied up the sofa area, washed all the mugs and sorted the recycling and still Jack was not back. Martha, pulling on her coat and with her phone out to call Tom, paused as she passed him.
"He'll come back," she said, with a smile.
"What if he doesn't?" asked Ianto.
"He will," Martha said. "But if not, I'll just hassle the Doctor by phone until he does. Have a good night." She gave him a knowing smirk and disappeared up the stairs.
Mickey was gone shortly afterwards, and Ianto retreated into Jack's office. The room, with its odd mix of antique and alien, was comforting, and he picked up the book Jack was reading and began at page one.
He was at page 23 when a hand rested gently on his shoulder. Ianto looked up into a pair of blue eyes.
"Come to say goodbye?" he said, closing the book.
Jack laughed, and took off his coat. "No. Listen." From above there was a faint whooshing sound, echoing and otherworldly. "That's the Doctor, leaving. Without me, as he promised." He unbuckled his pistol and hung it with the coat.
"I ... why do you stay here?" asked Ianto.
Perching on the edge of the desk, Jack shrugged.
"I've seen the universe. Been to the end of it, with the Doctor. I'll get a chance to see it again." He reached out and touched Ianto's cheek. "You can trust him, Ianto, and you can trust me. I won't leave you."
"Unless the universe is in danger, again," Ianto pointed out, reasonably, but feeling ridiculously euphoric.
Jack sighed. "I wish. He wouldn't mend my teleport. Didn't matter how much I begged."
"Kind of," said Jack. "A bit."
Standing up, Ianto met his captain's gaze. "Fancy continuing the theme, then?"
Jack laughed, and took Ianto's hand. "You reckon you can make me beg?"
"I might not wear pinstripes and trainers like he does, but there are some things I think I can do better," said Ianto, a rush of euphoria sweeping through him. He tugged at Jack's hand. "Let me show you."
And so the night that had started so normally, and taken such a strange turn in the middle, ended the way Ianto had always hoped it would – just him, Jack Harkness, and the quiet darkness of the Hub.