A/n: Many thanks to Eira and alienstar07 for the beta! - my elements for the challenge were: Rose Tyler, experiencing technical difficulties and mystery. This (should) be a 3-part story.
Everything from the rift seemed to appear in warehouses these days, very often in the middle of the night. Whilst this meant that the clean-up operations were easier than alien tech landing slap-bang in the centre of Bute Park, they were usually wet, cold and dark.
Gwen Cooper cursed her new boots as she skidded on yet another patch of slime; they'd looked so good in the shop and the heels weren't that high, but she was going to have to consign them to the 'not for work, not under any circumstances, not if you want them to last longer than a month or don't want to break your neck' side of the wardrobe. Meanwhile, Ianto was the first to reach the mystery object. He stood, gun trained on it and, honestly, feeling like a bit of an idiot. The item that had been flung through the Rift that evening was flat, circular, and plastic-looking, no bigger than his PDA and, for all it was covered in buttons, appeared to be broken.
Tosh, Jack, Owen and Gwen arrived soon after, all stopping suddenly next to Ianto. Guns at the ready, as Tosh scanned the disk.
"It doesn't seem to be functional; I would say it was damaged as it came through the Rift."
Jack peered down at the disk, which lay innocently in a puddle.
"I recognise it. It's a Casbyt, they're from the 39th Century, but they were pretty unreliable. Didn't take anyone where they really wanted to end up. People used to end up stuck in the most awkward situations with them. I remember this time when--"
"So it's safe to pick up, Jack?" Ianto interrupted.
"Sure," he nodded. "Pop it in an evidence bag and Tosh can have a fiddle with it later."
Ianto put away his gun and bent down to pick up the disk, but as his fingers closed around it, it flashed a series of colours. The last thing Ianto saw, before the floor jerked under his feet and he fell into darkness, were the horrified faces of the team.
* * *
When Ianto awoke he was still flat on his back on a freezing cold floor, but as he opened his eyes, he realised he wasn't in Cardiff anymore. At first, his vision was blurred, but slowly, the splodges of colour morphed into the shape of a blonde-haired woman, crouched next to his head. Gradually, she helped Ianto to sit up and as he took in his surroundings, he groaned, rather melodramatically – but Ianto felt he deserved a bit of drama. His head was pounding; his arms and legs ached; and it was looking increasingly like he wasn't even on Earth anymore, never mind Cardiff.
Between the two of them, Ianto expected Jack and Tosh to at least be able to work out if something was turned on, especially when Jack actually knew what it was. Unconsciously, he opened his clenched fist and the Casbyt (as Jack had called it) clattered onto the hard floor. The woman reached down to pick it up, and the movement broke Ianto out of his thoughts.
"Don't!" he said sharply, perhaps a little louder than he'd intended because she jumped to her feet and took a step backwards.
"Sorry," she muttered, and then knelt back down next to Ianto. "Wait; you spoke English, didn't you!"
She sounded excited and Ianto nodded warily, pulling himself to his feet and taking a better look at the girl and his surroundings. She too spoke English, albeit with a London accent, and wore jeans and a t-shirt that were definitely twenty-first century. Maybe he hadn't travelled as far as he thought. Although, she did seem surprised at their shared language.
He was, so it seemed, in a cell. It was similar to the Vaults in Torchwood, down to the glass wall for observation, although this glass was thicker and covered in bulky metal bars. He couldn't see any guards and so was wondering how he'd got there, (and, more pressingly, how he was going to get back out) when he realised he'd never introduced himself to his cell-mate.
"I'm Ianto Jones," he told her. "I'm from Cardiff. How did I get in here, wherever 'here' is?"
"Rose Tyler," the woman grinned and Ianto was unsure as to why her name rang a bell. Maybe he'd met someone with a similar name once or met somebody like her in London?
"Currently stuck in this prison cell, in the Tower of New London, on the planet of Delta Drei. They're keeping me in here as some kind of bargaining piece."
"A bargaining piece for what?" Ianto asked, intrigued.
"They want the Doctor to kill a dragon, apparently. Don't worry. He should be back any minute; in fact, I thought you were him 'cos you appeared right out of thin air ."
Ianto stared dumbly at her. Dragons! And...
"Did you say, 'The Doctor'?" he asked, sitting down heavily on the concrete bench that was set to one side of the cell.
"Yeah," she grinned again, "do you know him?"
"Not directly, he's more the friend of a, uh, friend." It struck him suddenly, that was why he knew the name. Because the Rose Tyler who sat in front of him was the one who had given Jack his immortality. She looked a few years younger than Ianto's twenty-four, and he wondered if she'd met Jack yet.
Again Rose interrupted his musing. "How did you get here then? You said Cardiff? What year? 'Cos you don't look like you're from the future." In fact, Rose thought, he looked like he'd dropped straight out of Canary Wharf or some other business hub and if he hadn't been clutching that suspiciously alien device, she would have assumed that he had a sensible office job, a pretty wife, and 2.5 kids.
Ianto weighed up his options and decided the universe probably wasn't going to explode or implode if he answered her questions with as little information as possible, or maybe altered the truth a little.
"I am from Cardiff," he answered, "in 2008. I assume you're from London and from about the same time. I work in the Mayor's office as her P.A though I mainly do filing, paperwork, make coffee and arrange meetings. That thing on the floor was on the desk. I picked it up to examine it, and the next thing I know, I'm waking up in this prison! Is this some kind of practical joke?" He hoped she bought it. Really, there was no reason for her not to. Ianto had become a proficient liar whilst working for Torchwood – both through administering Retcon and, of course, through hiding Lisa.
She seemed to buy it because she looked at him and said, "So now you know the universe is bigger than you'd ever thought."
"Well," Ianto laughed, "you know I haven't actually seen any aliens yet."
"What about your friend?" she asked "the one who knows The Doctor. Didn't they tell you about what's out there?"
Ianto swore inwardly. He'd forgotten he'd said that. But, it felt like a heavy metal band had taken up residence in his skull, and he really couldn't be bothered making anything else up. Anyway, Jack was a common enough name, especially as Rose hadn't met him yet. She wouldn't know him from Adam, and nothing further would need to be said.
"Oh no," he smiled, "Jack's rather secretive when the mood takes him."
"Jack?" she asked "as in 'Captain Jack Harkness'?" She did a rather good impression of Jack's accent, along with an excellent version of the Harkness-1000-watt–grin.
Ianto nodded. "Yeah, he does make rather the impression. I assume you've met."
"A while ago," Rose sighed. "He didn't stay with us that long."
'Before you and your precious Doctor abandoned him straight after bringing him back to life,' Ianto thought cruelly, before realising how sad she looked.
"Well, he can be flighty," Ianto lied, thinking of all the years Jack had waited for The Doctor, but was glad he did as she smiled again.
They sat in silence for a short while. Ianto tried to calm his thoughts down with the most mundane things he could, unfortunately, working at Torchwood meant they weren't really mundane at all and all that meant was he was thinking more and more about being trapped in a prison on an alien planet with no idea of how to get home. If that wasn't weird enough, he was sitting in companionable silence with the girl who, by accident, had brought his lover permanently back to life.
In the end, he settled on mentally going through his shopping list. This calmed him down until he realised he needed to buy cat food and who would feed the cat if he didn't get back that night? Jack, he hoped, although he doubted it. Jack and the rest of the team would be far too busy with the fact that Ianto had vanished into thin air to worry about the cat only Jack actually knew he owned.
"Do you reckon in the future they'll have devices that mean you can feed your cat whilst you're on holiday?" he asked Rose suddenly. She looked at him and he smiled (at least he hoped it was a smile, it felt more like a grimace). "I haven't fed my cat," he clarified and she beamed at him, probably glad of something to talk about, he thought.
"Oh, I had a cat once, but then all the strays started coming in off the estate, so we had to nail the cat flap shut," Rose laughed, and Ianto joined in. Her giggle was infectious.
Then, without warning, both the glass and cage doors sprung open, and a man dashed inside. He was wearing a suit, and to Ianto's amazement, a pair of converse trainers. Rose leapt to her feet and cried, "Doctor!"
Ianto only had time to feel mildly annoyed that The Doctor was better looking than he expected before he found himself seized by the hand and dragged into a sprint down a series of tight corridors, all with identical glass-fronted cells. Suddenly they stopped short, directly in front of a small blue police box. Rose tugged him inside as The Doctor raced to the controls and began wrenching controls and prodding various buttons, until a whirring, whooshing, noise started and the floor jerked sharply beneath Ianto's feet.
Whilst Ianto was examining the inside of the TARDIS, The Doctor took the opportunity to scan him surreptitiously with the Sonic Screwdriver. Frowning, he pulled Rose to one side to where Ianto couldn't hear them.
"What did he tell you about himself?" he asked her, gesturing to Ianto, "How did he get here?"
"Ianto Jones," she answered "Human, from Cardiff, apparently works for the mayor."
"New Cardiff?" the Doctor asked "or New New Cardiff? Or even New New New New Cardiff?"
"No, Cardiff, Earth, 2008. You mean there's really a New New New New Cardiff? How many Cardiff's do they need?" she laughed, and then remembered the alien device. "Wait, he had some disk that brought him here, but he wouldn't let me touch it. He said he'd just found it lying on a desk. Is he an alien then? He doesn't seem like one."
The Doctor shook his head. "Nope, he's definitely human. Three alien Mayors in a row", he grinned, "Only in Cardiff! Does he still have the disk?" he enquired. Rose could tell he was itching to get his hands on it, but she shook her head.
"No, it was on the floor, and neither of us thought to pick it up before we ran."
The Doctor scanned Ianto again. "But he's armed" he said, almost sadly, as if Ianto was a new toy that had come without batteries. "And he's covered in pheromones, fifty-first century by the look of them. See if you can find out anything more... No, wait, I'll do it."
"Ianto Jones!" he called across the Tardis. The young man looked sheepishly towards him, his hand resting on one of the controls. The Doctor bounded over to him and stuck out his hand for Ianto to shake, which the young man did, albeit slightly hesitantly.
"I don't believe we've been properly introduced, Sir, although I do know..."
"The Doctor," he interrupted Ianto, "It seems you're more familiar with me than I am with you. Have we met?"
"No, and we won't in the future, at least as far as I know, so I would say we're safe from paradoxes and the like, Sir," Ianto replied
"Paradoxes?" the Doctor frowned "How do you know about them? And come to think of it, why would someone who works for the council possess not one, but two guns?"
"Ah." Ianto sighed "Well, 'Back to the Future' can be incredibly educational, and you know those council meetings can get rather... intense..." he trailed off. "You aren't buying any of this are you?"
"Not a word, so tell us the truth, Ianto Jones, what are you really doing here?"
Ianto spared a glance at Rose before answering, and wished that he hadn't lied to her.
"I am who I said I am, and from Cardiff, but I don't work for the Mayor or the Council. I work for an organisation which monitors Alien activity."
"UNIT?" the Doctor interrupted.
"No, Torchwood. I can't tell you much about it because... well... you know, paradoxes and everything, but Torchwood was formed in the eighteen-hundreds by Queen Victoria for the purpose of protecting the British Empire from the threat of ... well... the Doctor."
The Doctor sighed, "I suppose this is the moment where you pull a gun on me. You're all like that, shoot first, and ask questions later!"
Ianto shook his head. "I have a... friend who wouldn't be at all pleased at me threatening you, sir."
"Oh?" the Doctor raised an eyebrow.
"He knows Jack," Rose leapt in before Ianto could even open his mouth. The Doctor gave Ianto an odd little look before turning to face Rose, his wide grin back in place.
"Well" he said, waving his sonic screwdriver once again in Ianto's direction, "that explains the 51st Century pheromones although, I'd say you must spend rather a lot of time together." He wiggled his eyebrows and Ianto wondered if he'd been spending far too much time around Jack, or if the Doctor was trying to look suggestive. Then he wondered why everyone kept trying to start conversations about Jack with him this week (Gwen had twice today already, backed up by Tosh), and he didn't know what they expected him to say, though he was pretty certain they wanted a bit of scandal.
The he realised that both Rose and the Doctor were waiting for him to reply, so he stuttered out something about them working together, and then closed his eyes, running a hand through his hair. His headache was back with a vengeance, and he felt dead on his feet. He just wanted to be home, either at his flat or at the Hub (which made him consider for a moment exactly when he'd started thinking of the Hub as a second home), with a plate of spaghetti bolognaise and, Rift willing, some late night TV, curled up on the sofa with Jack. Hell, he'd even settle for a tuna mayonnaise sandwich and a quick kiss over a cup of coffee in Jack's office if he could just get back.
He opened his eyes again to find the Doctor and Rose still standing in front of him. He sighed and sat down slowly, he didn't know why, but for a second, before reopening his eyes, he'd imagined it was all a weird dream.
"Can you take me home?" he asked, as his stomach twisted itself into knots, dreading a negative answer.
"Of course!" the Doctor answered "right back to the second you vanished. I'm not a Time Lord for nothing, you know!"
This cheered Ianto up immensely, until he heard the Doctor's next words. "But are you sure you wouldn't like to come on a trip with us first? We could go anywhere you want."
Ianto shook his head, mutely, and watched the Time Lord bounce over to the controls and start pulling levers again, he never seemed to lose the boundless energy he radiated, and Ianto wished he could have some as it, as the TARDIS began to shake.
To be continued