This is set sometime after Meat in the second season but there are no particular links to that or any other episode. Jack and Ianto are feeling the strain of work.
The light peeped through the gap in the curtains. As the sun rose, the light shone directly onto Ianto Jones' face. He mumbled in his sleep, shuffling around to avoid the glare. He turned on his side and bumped into something large and immovable that grunted. In his sleep-befuddled state he reared back in surprise and shock and let out a small, high pitched cry, a bit like a yelp. He opened his eyes wider and focussed gradually on a human form on its side, facing away from him, sharing his bed. Ianto assumed it was Jack Harkness but propped himself up on one elbow to make sure. It was. A relieved Ianto flopped onto his back and gave himself time to wake properly. He stared at the ceiling and wondered what day of the week it was and after some consideration reasoned that it was Friday. He peered at the alarm clock; he had been asleep just five hours. He wondered if he could get some more sleep now but decided not. If he closed his eyes again he wouldn't wake until Saturday!
He looked across at Jack who was snoring slightly. If Jack was sleeping at this hour it must have been a busy time. He never usually slept this late. And he'd gone off sex. Well, Ianto amended, not off it exactly, at least he hoped not. They had been so busy they hadn't had time for sex, the first occasion that had happened since Ianto and he had got together. Even the flirting had disappeared. They hadn't had sex last night, even though they had managed to share a bed for the first time in a week. They'd fallen to sleep as soon as their heads had hit the pillow. Ianto missed the sex almost as much as he missed spending time with Jack, relaxing together. He couldn't remember the last time they'd eaten a meal together, just them, or watched TV or a movie. Damn it, it wasn't fair.
Beside him, Jack groaned and moved. He ended up on his back lying side by side with Ianto. "What time is it?" he muttered.
"Just gone seven o'clock."
"Oh." They continued to lay there, neither moving, just staring upwards. Jack wondered if he should make a move on Ianto, if the Welshman would expect it. He hoped not. He really didn't have the energy and would rather not attempt it than make a poor showing. He couldn't remember the last time he felt so tired.
"Do you want the shower first?" asked Ianto after a long silence. He didn't want to move but knew they had to: the Hub wouldn't look after itself.
"Don't mind." He hoped Ianto didn't expect him to share a shower, he just didn't have the strength, he really didn't.
"Okay, I'll go then." Ianto continued to lay where he was. He was relieved that Jack hadn't jumped on him but felt he had to be available in case he made a move. After a couple of minutes, when he felt it was safe to assume that Jack was as tired as he was and would not be making demands, he pushed the duvet back and swung his legs out of bed. He sat for a moment, then walked to the window and pulled back the curtains letting in a flood of light. There was protesting moan from the bed.
Ianto went to the bathroom and did not see the driver of the dark blue car with his binoculars focussed on his window.
Ianto shucked off his briefs, throwing them in the laundry basket. He stepped into the shower and stood unmoving for a while as the water cascaded over him. It felt so good. He washed his hair and his body and then shaved, feeling human for the first time in a long time. Jack was lying where he'd left him. Ianto plodded round the bedroom getting dressed, worried by the silence. Jack usually had an innuendo or two to throw his way when he was naked in front of him. He hoped it was only the pressure of work that had given rise to this lack of interest.
"What's going on today?" asked Jack, sitting up and swinging his legs free of the covers. He yawned widely and stretched, the bones cracking. With Owen and Gwen out injured they had been under considerable pressure. Luckily there were no major Rift incursions but there had been a relentless stream of minor ones, more than enough with three people. Too much really.
"Nothing special. Gwen's back today and Owen says he's well enough to come in."
Jack stretched again then levered himself upright and stumbled to the bathroom. He stayed under the shower for a while, waking up, before shaving. He found his clothes laid out for him on the remade bed. He smiled: Ianto was looking after him again. He'd missed these little caring touches over the past weeks when they'd been working round the clock and had not been able to spend time together. It meant a lot to him to be cared for again after so many years of solitude. Fully dressed, he went into the kitchen where he found Ianto at the table, digging into cereal. On the table was juice and cereal for him too – yep, this was what he had missed.
"I'll make coffee in a minute," mumbled Ianto round a mouthful of food. He was checking his mobile. "There's a text from Tosh. Says there's been some Rift activity out Porthcawl way that may need investigating."
"Doesn't say. Just says it's not urgent and to go into the Hub first." Ianto got up and put his empty bowl in the sink. He turned to the coffee machine and began brewing up.
"Okay." Jack realised that they'd only spoken of work during the past weeks when they'd been so busy. He missed their chats during the down time they'd increasingly spent together. He'd discovered so much about the young man when they'd been alone. Ianto, among other things, loved Charles Dickens books, adored weepy movies and was afraid of daddy-long-legs. He was also rabidly anti-politics – or maybe that should be politicians; he ranted at their speeches on TV or radio. His vehemence made Jack laugh, having long ago inured himself to the breed.
Coffee mugs were put on the table and they sat together, in silence, Jack finishing his cereal and them both drinking. The Welshman looked at Jack and saw how slumped over he was sitting and how dull his eyes were. This was more than just ordinary tiredness, this was the result of his many and varied deaths over the past few weeks. With only half a team he'd taken on more and more of the workload to allow Toshiko and Ianto some, though not much, rest time. As a result, Jack had had to take risks he wouldn't normally contemplate and a lot had not worked out. Regardless of his seeming recovery, he was suffering. Jack looked over at him and smiled, a shadow of his normal beaming grin. Ianto smiled back pretty sure that his was as shadowy as Jack's.
"That was good," said Jack, raising his now empty mug. If it wasn't for regular shots of caffeine he'd have wilted long ago.
"Thanks." Ianto got up and quickly rinsed the crockery. "Right," he said wearily, wishing he could return to his bed and sleep some more but knowing it was not possible. Even if Gwen and Owen were back, there was still so much to do.
Jack stood and they went through the living room to the front door, Ianto checking the windows were shut and locked on the way. Together they exited the flat and walked down to the car, squeezed into a space that was barely big enough for it. Ianto manoeuvred into the driving seat and reversed out, letting Jack in when the passenger door had enough clearance to open. They drove off.
The driver of the blue car saw them leave and eased out of his vehicle. He padded across to the outer door of the block of flats and, with a small metal tool, let himself in. He climbed the stairs to the flat just vacated and used the tool again. He entered and shut the door behind him.
"Morning, Tosh," called Jack as he entered the Hub. He'd woken up a bit in the fresh air and was more his usual self now though still bone weary. He stopped by the workstation occupied by the young woman. "What's up in Porthcawl?"
"Not sure at the moment, just a slight stirring of the Rift. I'm monitoring it for now." She smiled up at him and at Ianto as he came up the steps. "Did you get some sleep?" she asked, well aware that they needed it badly.
"A bit," replied Ianto, making for the coffee machine.
Jack walked off to his office and hung up his greatcoat. He looked at his desk and wished he hadn't; the pile of papers and associated items stacked there was daunting. That was the problem with busy periods, there was a lot of paperwork! Deciding against tackling it, he turned back and sat in Owen's chair. "What time did you get in?" he asked Toshiko, a slight accusatory tone in his voice.
"Just before you. Honestly!" she protested when she saw he did not believe her.
"So how come you knew about the Porthcawl 'stirring'?"
"Remote monitor. I looked at it and texted you but didn't come in until about fifteen minutes before you did." Ianto appeared with coffee and she took her mug gratefully. Even when she was telling the truth Jack made her feel guilty. She was not as exhausted as her colleagues as she had been mainly in the Hub while they had been running round Cardiff.
"Okay," said Jack, sipping his drink. He knew things were bad when he had to drink this much coffee just to keep going. "What's the status otherwise?"
She turned to her screens. "You may want to look at this." He came over and stood, looking over her shoulder. "Worrying, don't you think?"
"I can't see anything."
"Precisely. No Rift activity anywhere in the vicinity."
"And long may it continue," came from Ianto who had been alarmed by her earlier words.
Toshiko smiled warmly at him. "I think we may have caught a break, the first in a very long time. Maybe there'll be nothing today."
"I suppose that means I've got to tackle the paperwork," grumbled Jack, looking through the window into his office. "And you, my little techie friend, can help me." Toshiko groaned but rose to follow him into his office. In all honesty she didn't mind cataloguing the artefacts and tech, there was always something new to learn.
Ianto looked after them for a moment and then round at the rest of the Hub. The place was a mess, in particular the Medical Bay that had been used rather a lot in their amateur way. He went off to gather the cleaning materials. He was swabbing the floor by the work stations, trying to remember what had caused the blue stain, when the alarms sounded and Gwen came through the door. She walked up the stairs, favouring her left leg,
"Gwen, good to see you."
"I hate to say this, Ianto, but it's good to be back. I really missed this place." She beamed at him and he felt heartened as a result. She did have a certain something that energised her colleagues.
"How's the leg?"
"Better. Doctor gave me the all clear." She looked over to Jack's office and saw him and Toshiko with their heads together over some piece of alien tech. "Any chance of a coffee. I've been drinking instant for the past two weeks."
Ianto shuddered. "I'll get some, soon as I've finished this."
"Thanks, sweetheart. I'll log in and see what's been happening. It sounds as if you've been really busy." She could not help but notice the dark circles under his eyes and his drooping shoulders – so unlike him.
"We have." He smiled in reassurance, not wanting to think he was blaming her. She couldn't help being injured. "But for the first time in a long time, there's no Rift activity so at least it looks like today will be quiet."
"Touch wood and whistle," said Gwen, matching her actions to her words.
At Ianto's flat, the intruder looked round one last time. He checked his list then picked up the bags he'd filled and let himself out of the front door. Back in his car, he followed the same route as Ianto had earlier and used his metal tool to open the Welshman's car.
Gwen was at her workstation, glad to rest her leg that ached even though it was healed. She spent a bit of time reading the daily log that Ianto had completed conscientiously every day though in nothing like the usual amount of detail. She realised that Toshiko had not exaggerated the activity they'd had to cope with, and they'd been two down once Owen had been off too. As she finished her coffee, she saw Toshiko come out of Jack's office and wink at her. She smiled back before rising and making for the office.
"Gwen, good to see you back," smiled Jack as she entered the room. "How's the leg?"
"Fine. The stitches are out and the wound's healed." She sat down across the desk from him.
Jack narrowed his eyes and eyed her suspiciously. "I think we ought to check on that before you go running after Weevils. And in Owen's absence, that means I get to look." He leered at her.
"God, Jack, I'm back five minutes and you're trying to get into my jeans," she laughed, pleased to see him at least trying to act normally. She could see the same signs of tiredness on his face that she'd already spotted in Ianto. "How is Owen?"
Jack leant back in his chair and it creaked alarmingly. "Back on planet Earth."
"Was he really as out of it as you said?"
"Uh huh. He was weaving round the Hub singing Barry Manilow songs, kissed and groped Ianto and goosed Toshiko before we understood what was wrong with him. And before we could dose him up, he decided to go swimming in the lake out there and jumped in, naked." Gwen was in hysterics; the alien 'chocolate' Owen had ingested was a potent hallucinogen. "Ianto refused to pull him out – he's still smarting from the kiss – and Toshiko was too embarrassed so yours truly had to go in after him. Ended up chasing him round the Hub until I cornered him in the vaults."
Gwen wiped her eyes as the tears caused by the laughter threatened to ruin her mascara. "I wish I could have seen it."
"Well, it was caught on CCTV …" Jack let the thought hang in the air.
"Have you still got it?"
"Of course not, what do you take me for? Wiped it as soon as I could."
"Right! So how much do I have to pay to see it?"
"One of those squishy chocolate cakes from that posh bakery should do it," he replied, grinning.
"It's a deal. I've been looking through the log, it's been pretty hectic while I've been away."
"Nothing we couldn't handle."
"Right! Jack, that was a hell of a lot of work for three people. And I know you sent Tosh and Ianto home to sleep which means you were doing a lot of it alone."
"I don't sleep, I've told you that. I could manage." He was on the defensive and he knew she knew it.
"Don't tell me that! I can see how exhausted you are. How many times did you die, Jack?"
"How many?" She was not letting this go, just because Jack could not die permanently he seemed to think it made him immune to tiredness as well.
He shrugged, "I don't know." He saw her look and added hastily, "Okay, it was a couple of times a day."
"Oh, Jack," she sighed. "No wonder you look like you do."
"Great morale booster, Gwen, thanks."
They sat and chatted for a bit longer and Gwen got a clearer idea of just how they'd (barely) coped in the three weeks she was off. She wished now that she'd insisted on coming in, she could have manned a desk at the very least, but Jack had been insistent and she had felt she owed it to Rhys not to try and do too much too soon. He was still trying to come to terms with her job having learnt about it only weeks earlier. And the rest had given her time to get a lot done for the wedding.
Around ten o'clock, the door alarms sounded and Owen sauntered in. He went to his desk and logged in with just a quick word to Toshiko and Gwen. Jack came upon him in the Medical Bay some time later, having returned from a meeting with a contact.
"How are you?" he asked, arms crossed and expression dubious.
"Fine, thanks. All cleared up."
"Sure about that?"
"Absolutely. God knows what you gave me but it made me sick as a dog for the past week. Cleared out the alien stuff completely and everything else. I must have the cleanest insides in Cardiff."
"What do you remember about what happened?" Jack leant against the railing, foot resting on the lower one.
"All of it," he admitted shamefacedly. "And no doubt you'll never let me live it down."
Jack smiled, relishing his colleague's discomfort. "Oh I might, in a thousand years or so." He went off, humming the tune to Copacabana. Owen grimaced and went back to sorting out his domain.
Lunch was taken in the Conference Room, the first time they'd been together in nearly a month. It was a leisurely affair as the Rift was still quiet. They all welcomed the chance to enjoy the meal – pizzas – and catch up on what had been happening. Owen came in for a fair bit of ribbing which he took in good part: he'd always believed that he shouldn't dish it out if he couldn't take it. When they'd finished and all was cleared away, the Rift alarm sounded.
"Weevils, in the marina," announced Toshiko. "Two of them."
"Owen and I'll go," said Gwen, grabbing her jacketand making sure she had her gun. Owen picked up the keys to the SUV and was on her heels.
"Hang on," said Jack. "I'm not sure it's a good idea for you two to take this. You have only just come back to work."
"We're fine," protested Owen. The pair ran out of the door before Jack could say any more.
"Jack, that Porthcawl thing," said Toshiko into the silence. "That stirring just went up a notch." She pointed to the screen as the Captain looked over her shoulder. "I think someone should check it out."
"We don't have a vehicle right now. It'll have to wait 'til Batman and Robin get back."
"I don't think we should wait. Ianto's got his car here, go in that."
"He's not driving my car." Ianto was adamant on this point. He never had and never would allow Jack to drive his car, he'd seen what his boss did to the SUV.
"Then you go with him. Probably needs two of you," urged Toshiko. "I'll monitor from here and give you the updates as you go."
Jack looked at Ianto and realised that he would enjoy a drive with the young man. It was a bright, warm sunny day and even Porthcawl looked attractive sometimes. He raised his eyebrows questioningly and saw an answering nod and smile. Yes, they'd have an hour or two to themselves.
"All right, seeing as you're so keen to get rid of us," said Jack pretending reluctance. He got his greatcoat and Webley from his office while Ianto located a standard equipment box and a gun; who knows what they'd find.
They left the Hub and walked to Ianto's car, parked just a little way away. Ianto dumped the box on the back seat and carefully hung up his suit jacket: it was too hot to wear it in the car. Jack threw his greatcoat on the back seat and was inside, belted up and ready before Ianto had closed his own door. They smiled at one another, both welcoming the thought of a drive together. Ianto started the car and drove off.
In the shadows, the man who had been watching and following them all morning saw them leave. He had been joined by another and they exchanged knowing looks. All was going to plan.
Ianto was relieved when they reached the M4 having battled through Cardiff's afternoon traffic. The good weather had brought out the tourists and it seemed none of them was able to read the road signs, always ending up in the wrong lane at junctions and causing congestion and confusion as they attempted to cross the traffic. Once on the M4, however, the traffic cleared and they were able to motor west into the bright sunshine. It really was a glorious day and the weather looked set to remain good for the weekend, according to the forecast. Ianto hoped so and that he and Jack would get a chance to enjoy some of it.
Beside him, Jack was fiddling with the CD again. He had been looking through the selection in the glove compartment and was changing the one they had been listening to for another. "Just leave it, Jack."
"No, I don't like the rest of the album. That's better." The music issued from the speakers and Jack turned up the volume. One of Johnny Cash's classic hits filled the car and Ianto smiled.
"This how you see yourself? The man in black?"
"Yep. Though man in blue in my case," smiled Jack, beating time with his hand on Ianto's thigh.
Good sign, thought Ianto, he's touching me again. The hand stopped beating time and just rested in place, warm through the material of his trousers. He waited but the hand didn't move. Which was just as well, Jack's roving hands could wreak havoc with his concentration and there were other cars on the road. Jack wondered if he should move his hand, just slip it up a little and to the right. He stared out of the front windscreen as he pondered the possibilities and smiled. Oh, he was starting to feel himself again and that meant he wanted to feel all of Ianto too. But then he noticed the vehicles around them and decided, regretfully, that now was not the time. Later, he promised himself. Ianto, hands on the steering wheel, was thinking along similar lines.
The comms buzzed and Jack answered. "Yes, Tosh?"
"You need to come off the motorway at Junction 37 and follow the A4229 until you're past Nottage. Let me know when you get there and I'll give you more directions."
"Okay. We're only just on the outskirts of Bridgend so it'll be about 20 minutes or so. The others back yet?"
"Uh huh. They lost the Weevils, they'd vanished but hadn't harmed anyone."
"Good. The three of you can get on with some of the paperwork this afternoon." He smiled knowing how welcome that would be.
"I'll tell them," agreed Toshiko and cut the connection.
"Did you hear that?" Ianto nodded. "Looks like we'll be at the coast."
"My mum and dad used to bring me down here for a day out when I was little," Ianto said, smiling at the pleasant memories. "It's a lovely spot."
"Maybe we'll have time to explore. You can show me where little Ianto used to play." His hand was back on Ianto's thigh, a little higher than before.
They drove on and came off the motorway, following the route Toshiko had given them. As they reach Nottage, Jack called her up on the comms. "Tosh, we're at Nottage."
"Okay. I have a firm fix now. Carry on into Porthcawl proper until you get to the sea front then turn left with the sea on your right. It'll probably be signposted Newton."
"Will do. Where then?"
"It's about three hundred metres down that road."
"What precisely are we looking for?" Jack was getting frustrated. It was unlike Toshiko to be so vague with the cause of the alert.
"Not absolutely sure. Probably a building of some kind."
Jack thought he heard sniggering in the background but put it down to static. "We're in Porthcawl and it's busy, lots of people out in the sunshine. And now we're turning left, like you said. It's all holiday homes, Tosh."
"Well they're buildings," she replied exasperatedly. "You're almost there, another fifty metres or so and to your right."
The car crept forward. "There's a white bungalow, Tosh. Doesn't look dangerous." Ianto drew in through the gate and stopped the car. The two men peered at the smart building in front of them. It was well maintained, a recent build by the looks of it, with plants in tubs by the front door. "Are we in the right place?"
"Absolutely" replied Gwen. "Go to the door and punch 5187 in the key pad and you'll have the key. We don't want to see either of you until Monday."
There was silence in the car. The two men looked at one another and then at the bungalow as the laughter of their three Torchwood colleagues came through the comms. "What?" asked Jack.
"You've earned a weekend off, both of you. Enjoy yourselves, we can manage here."
"That's very kind of you," said Ianto, "but we haven't got a change of clothes or …"
"All taken care of," interrupted Owen. "There are bags in the boot of the car with some food to see you through the rest of today."
Jack was grinning, more than ready to accept the gift offered him. "Thanks, guys. Keep me in touch with what's happening." He broke the comms connection and took off his Bluetooth. "Come on, Ianto, seems we're on holiday." He got out of the car and stretched as he looked around. The building sat on its own patch of ground and faced the sea although he could not see it. "Come on," he shouted, encouraging Ianto out of the car. He went up to the door and punched in the code Gwen had given him and obtained the key which he used to open the door. He looked back and saw Ianto closing the car door behind him. Jack smiled and went into the building.
Now I've set the scene, the next chapters will be a little shorter but (I hope) just as interesting! I should point out that I have never visited Porthcawl so the descriptions in this story are based partly on my imagination and partly on information gleaned from the Internet.