(a rare disclaimer because I keep forgetting...I own nothing!!)
"And that's why they have to stay on the island," Jack Harkness finished, feeling uncomfortably like a parent telling bedtime stories. Not that any child should ever have to be subjected to these kinds of stories. Or adult, come to that.
He looked at his newest recruit bent over a file.
"Do you understand?" he asked her.
Tina nodded, looking nonplussed.
But Ianto was watching her too.
"Do you understand what Jack's told us?" he asked her, his tone of voice, though gentle, causing her to look up sharply at him. "These people are victims. They've been through ordeals that none of us, even us, can imagine. It's affected them in terrible ways. They have loved ones left behind who..."
"I get it," Tina said, "what's happened, happened. They need to be contained and there's probably every chance they're a possible threat. We don't have to go there, do we?"
Ianto shot Jack a glance with I told you so written all over it while Gwen shot him a small, grateful smile. He really wasn't sure whether he wanted to be proved right or wrong regarding sharing the story of Flat Holm with every new recruit.
"Someday we're going to find a way to help them," Ianto murmured.
"Ok!" Tina stared at him as if he was an annoying insect buzzing around her head.
"They deserve to not be forgotten about," Ianto finished. His face was red.
"Weevil spotted in the warehouses by the pier," Jack murmured, sensing that he needed to get away. Ianto nodded curtly and headed for the door.
Tina, apparently unaffected by Ianto's departure, turned back to her file. Jack walked over to her.
"Ianto says you're doing it again," he said, trying his best to keep the weariness out of his tone.
Tina looked up, to all intents and purposes indignant, but by now, he could see the tell-tale smile curling up the edges of her lips.
"You ask him to make coffee," she said.
"I've read his file," she said crisply, "you employed him in the capacity of..."
Jack cut her off. "That was a long time ago."
"Right." She picked a paper off the top of her pile and held it out to him.
"Jack, I don't know who last updated these but you've got two dates of death for Dr Owen Harper." She pointed to a figure on the page.
"Which one is correct? I assume it's the most recent one as there's plenty of mission reports in between and he was hardly dead while he did those! But still..." She raised an eyebrow and shrugged. "Maybe Ianto...or whoever wrote this...mixed a few dates up."
"Yeah. The most recent." Jack walked away from her and back up the steps to his small office. Every day he told himself that this afternoon routine had to stop but not today. Never today. He sat down, closed his eyes and allowed himself to sink back into blessed quietness.
It was funny to think that he needed peace. The hub was completely silent, as it seemed to be most of the time these days. But there was a difference between the silence in here and the silence out there. Out there, it needed containing and covering. It needed ignoring Ianto's recent reticence and the way he did his work quietly, as if trying not to attract the least bit of attention. It needed ignoring Gwen's efforts to cover up every awkward moment when none of them could think of anything to say.
When he opened his eyes again, it was Gwen, rather than Ianto, sitting in front of him and she didn't have coffee with her.
"Are you ok?" she asked.
Jack nodded and looked out the door behind her, to where Tina sat writing on a file and crossing lines through paragraphs of text. Probably with red pen. Gwen followed his gaze. Of the three of them, she had made the most effort. She chatted to Tina, invited her out for drinks at the end of a shift, tried to create some sort of niche for her to fit into even it was only as lame as "we girls have to stick together."
"We can't exclude her because of who she isn't," she said gently.
That was all very well. Jack would be the first to admit that everyone deserved a chance. It had been his decision to hire Tina in the first place. The work was too much for three people. It had always been, right from the moment they'd lost Toshiko and Owen but in the first days, working 60 hours without a break had been a better option than admitting anything as terrible as the need for replacements. Tina had come primed and pristine from UNIT and he had thought, had hoped, that her background being so similar to Martha's, and so free of shadows and darkness, would cheer them on and remind them of the sheer possibility this place once had, and still could have, to offer.
Instead of offering any of this as a defence, Jack said simply;
"She failed the Weevil test."
"The Weevil test! Come on, I tried it on you, remember? Oh, maybe you don't. Every potential newcomer gets to see a Weevil."
"And their reaction says a lot about them. Says it all. You know what she said? She said, 'why keep them here? Shouldn't we just eliminate them?'"
"She was new! She didn't know what to think!" Gwen paused. "Did I pass?"
"With flying colours! Just the right amounts of terror and wonder! It was very Silence of the Lambs!"
"But you retconned me!"
"Maybe that was part of the test!"
"Yeah right." Gwen smacked him lightly on the shoulder but her face was serious. "We have to give her a chance, Jack. She's working out ok. Ianto will have to make some kind of peace with her. Where is he anyway?"
"Looking for stray Weevils. There's a UFO sighting on the football pitch if you want it. On! Like that pitch would be big enough for any self-respecting spaceship to land on."
"You'll tell Ianto to lay off on Tina then? We need her, Jack."
"I don't have a problem with her!"
"Jack," Gwen gave him a small smile as she turned away, "you haven't flirted with her."
"Maybe I'm just being professional!"
He ignored her snort of laughter as she continued back down the steps.
He had no problem with Tina. It was true. It was annoying that Ianto didn't seem to like her and that she made no bones about the fact that she was considered herself to be far more qualified for the job than he was. It was also faintly irritating that Gwen hovered over them all like a pushy mother at a childrens' party, encouraging small talk where she could. But they'd get over all of that. It was nothing you could complain about. Not to Tina who had come to work for them at very short notice. Not to Gwen who had been there every second she was needed these past few weeks and certainly not to Ianto who had sat up nights with him, made endless coffees and generally kept him sane.
Gwen and Ianto who between them, had quietly taken on the work of their missing colleagues and never once attempted to blame him for any of it.
He leaned back in his chair and breathed in deeply....
If there were any more complaints, he'd seriously consider firing the lot of them.
In the heart of the hub, Gwen was watching him with apprehension in her eyes. Tina was tapping something into a screen, her face creased in concentration.
"Jack..." Gwen began hesitantly.
But Tina didn't let her.
"It's Ianto," she said briskly, "he's run into some trouble on the main street."
"And you're just sitting there? What is it? Is he ok?"
"She doesn't mean that sort of trouble," Gwen muttered quickly.
"He started a fight in a pub," Tina finished.
"I'll go if you want," Gwen said, "it looks like he might have gotten himself arrested."
"No, I'll go." Jack threw his coat over his shoulders and headed for the door.
He was going to kill Ianto.
But there were no obvious signs of trouble when he arrived at the pub. Around one side, Ianto stood, half leaning against the wall of the building, smoking a cigarette.
"You smoke?" Jack asked, momentarily distracted.
"Not recently," Ianto said, looking sheepish, as well he might. "How would that work, sir, if I took it up again? Does the smoking ban exist in Torchwood? I suppose it does, being a workplace, but then again, things tend to happen in Torchwood that normally wouldn't, in workplaces."
Jack walked up to him, took the cigarette and stubbed it out with his heel.
"You get enough alien toxins without adding your own," he said.
Ianto laughed, a soft, bitter sound and Jack looked closely at him.
"The other man came off worse," Ianto said quietly.
"Am I supposed to be pleased about that? You spend your afternoon beating up random strangers in pubs instead of monitoring possible security risks but hey, at least you won!"
Ianto didn't reply. His face was pale, almost white and already a large bruise was forming underneath his left eye. He was also shaking.
"You know, if this is you winning a fight, I probably don't want to see the other guy," Jack commented lightly, "where is he? In a coma?"
"I didn't say I won like that," Ianto replied tiredly.
"He was...he'd seen me before...with Owen. That arrogant little prick, he called him. So I told him." Ianto caught his breath sharply. "I told him that Owen was a doctor, and a hero and that after all he did to save this city over and over, he was allowed to be a prick some of the time if..." He trailed off as if unable to say anymore.
"Most of the time," Jack said quietly, feeling himself smile at the thought. Ianto nodded, still looking at the ground.
"I didn't know you and Owen went drinking together."
"We didn't, as a rule." Ianto looked away from Jack as if it was the only way he could continue speaking, "it was after...after Lisa."
"Yeah. He came around to my place the next evening and took me here. I hadn't much choice in the matter." Ianto's face relaxed slightly. "We sat drinking for hours and just when I couldn't feel much worse, he took me home again, left me at the door, and said he hoped he'd helped because he saw enough of us in the hub and didn't intend to make a habit out of socialising after hours with us."
"And that helped?"
"Us," Ianto said suddenly and fiercely, "that was what helped, Jack. I was...in his eyes, I was part of it."
"You always were." Jack stared at him, caught somewhere between anger and sadness.
Ianto stared at him for a long moment as if debating whether or not to challenge his words. His stare was intense, as if the unspoken words were overpowering him. He shuffled forward and laid a hand on Jack's shoulder.
"You understand now," he said quietly.
"Why. Why I couldn't kill Lisa."
For a second Jack debated hitting him and adding a bruise to the other side of his face to balance it out. But instead his lips seemed to move of their own accord.
"Yeah. I do."
There was an awkward silence that for a moment, neither of them seemed able to fill. Jack looked around him, taking in the sounds of normal drinking and chatting from the pub.
"You weren't arrested then?"
"No. I left before they called the police on me. To tell you the truth, I was afraid."
Jack looked at him, eyebrow raised. "You were afraid of fighting?"
Ianto allowed himself a small smile. "That wouldn't do, would it, Sir?"
"Afraid of what I'd do if I got going," Ianto admitted, "afraid I couldn't stop. Does that make any sense?"
Jack nodded. "With you, it does. You're one of the angriest people I know."
"Next to you?" Ianto laughed; the same bitter laugh that didn't register in his eyes.
"No one's ever called me angry," he said, "It's usually sensible. Dependable. Hard-working. Happy." He spat each word out as if they tasted horrible. Then his body seemed to sag with the loss of them.
"You have every reason to be angry," Jack told him softly. He shrugged out of his coat and draped it over the younger man's shoulders.
"Come on. We need to get you patched up. Are you hurting anywhere else?"
Ianto shook his head but his first steps said something else as he stumbled, inhaling sharply.
"Take your time," Jack said, slightly concerned at the increasing pallor in his face. It wasn't as if they had a doctor ready and waiting at the hub anymore.
As if reading his mind, Ianto asked, "does Tina know about this?"
Ianto didn't comment further but walked slowly forward. Jack slowed his pace and kept an arm ready in case he stumbled again.
"I know why you don't like her," he said, "who she reminds you of."
"It's not because of Owen and Tosh."
"No. It's Yvonne, isn't it?"
Ianto stopped walking and looked sharply at him.
"It crossed my mind," he admitted finally. "The way she thinks that...it's all ok. If it's alright for Torchwood, then it's alright for everything, like Torchwood is the be all and end all. I used to think..." Ianto stopped and seemed to force himself to keep going, "that was you too."
"No. And when you do, when you have to think like that, you suffer for it. I see it."
"The anger," Ianto said simply.
"Hey, I'm not the one bruised and battered here!"
Ianto said nothing but Jack put an arm around him.
"Ianto, Tina's going to wake up back at Unit in the next few days. She'll have a promotion and a new uniform and no idea that Torchwood ever happened."
"That's not fair to her."
"Maybe it's not. But do you want to see another Yvonne Hartman walking around?"
"You wouldn't let that happen."
It seemed to take ages to get back to the hub. Ianto half sat, half fell onto the couch and closed his eyes. Tina glanced up from her books at him.
"If you're drunk, you shouldn't be here," she said sharply.
"Tina..." Jack stared her down, "if you want to do something useful, make him a coffee."
She stood up, bristling.
"Fine. But at the very least, he's disobeyed orders. I heard you tell him to go and look for Weevils! In UNIT, we'd have faced severe disciplinary action."
Ianto opened his eyes.
"I'm always happy to go hunting for Weevils, Sir," he said with a quiet smile.
Jack winked at him.
"I couldn't agree more, Tina! Disciplining my staff is something I take very seriously. Very seriously indeed. Ianto's really in for it this time."
"I'm terrified," Ianto said solemnly.
"As well you should be. So...do you want your coffee before or after your...discipline?"
Tina turned away and marched towards the coffee machine. Even her back looked angry. Ianto took Jack's pre-offered hand and hauled himself to his feet. The colour was returning rapidly to his face.
"Whatever you think is best, Sir."
A few days later
Tina switched on her computer and turned as Gwen arrived, coffee in hand.
"Good morning." Tina waited for her to sit down before asking her question.
"If Weevils are such a problem, why don't we just organise some sort of a cull and have done with it? At this rate, the vaults will be full to bursting point."
"What do you mean?"
"Jack and Ianto. They've been out Weevil hunting since yesterday afternoon and they're still not back. What?"
Gwen had turned away slightly but even so, Tina could see that her shoulders were shaking with silent laughter.
"What? What's funny about that? I would have thought that you, in your position..."
"I'm sorry." Gwen cut her short. "It's just...they haven't been...em....Weevil hunting in quite a while." She took a deep breath but started laughing all over again.
Tina turned back to her computer. Torchwood was still a complete mystery to her and she was no longer sure if it was the place for her. The alien threats were either kept as pets in the hub or laughed over. The staff were clearly unbalanced and as for the boss...
...his fashion sense clearly hadn't seen the light of day since 1945...