Title: The Year That Never Was, My Foot
Author:
CSIGeekFan
Rating: M (for swearing)
Fandom: Torchwood
Length: 5400 words
Spoilers: Through Season 1, Season 2 Ep 1 ("Kiss Kiss, Bang, Bang")
Disclaimer: BBC owns Torchwood. I'm just playing with the characters for fun, because I enjoy them so much.
Summary: What really happened from the perspective of the Torchwood team, while Jack was gone for "The year that never was"?
Author's Note: I would like to thank SA3466996 for her continual brilliant comments on my work. Reviews and comments are appreciated; and thank you for reading.

X X X

The power struggle began eleven days after Captain Jack Harkness disappeared.

"Why should you be in charge?" Owen Harper demanded, hands on hips and stepping directly into Gwen Cooper's comfort zone.

"Because Tosh and Ianto listen to me," Gwen retorted, not backing down.

From Ianto Jones' perspective, the petite dark-haired woman actually looked to stand a bit taller.

"What? They don't listen to me?" he barked.

"Well, actually, not really," Ianto quietly replied from his perch leaning against the door frame to the conference room.

"Who asked you, Teaboy," Owen snarled back, clearly irritated by Ianto's intruding opinion. Then the doctor turned and looked at Toshiko Sato. Giving her a pleading look and his most charming smile – something he still needed to work on – he asked, "What about you, Tosh? Would you listen to me as leader?"

Ianto actually felt sorry for his friend. Poor Tosh looked truly caught between a rock and a hard place, flipping her wide-eyed glance between the squabbling Torchwood team members. Time ticked by in obvious discomfort until she quietly cleared her throat and said, "Gwen tends to be more on top of the big picture. Plus, weren't you the one that got us stuck in the Himalayas?"

Defeated, he made a few unintelligible snarling noises as he stormed out of the room.

X X X

He'd never get used to it. That's what Ianto figured as he chambered a bullet, held the gun out, and fired.

The sigh emanating from Gwen next to him didn't bode well, though. He must not have hit his target; and he'd know… just as soon as he opened his eyes.

"Ianto," Gwen breathed out, reaching over to remove the revolver from his hand. "How long have we been at it?"

"Too long," he wryly replied after blinking his eyes open; and then he stared at the target with a grin. He'd not only hit the target, but managed to land his shot straight through the paper figure's forehead. All he could really say was "Well... that was unexpected."

"Only you could possibly shoot better with eyes closed," she said, chuckling and shaking her head – sending her dark hair tumbling around her shoulders. "But in the field, you don't have time to stop, carefully aim, and then shoot. And in a crowd, you certainly can't clamp your eyes shut."

"I managed to shoot Owen in the shoulder not so long ago," Ianto interjected, with a tinge of pride in his voice. "I even looked while I shot him."

"And where were you really aiming?" Gwen asked, working to keep her face straight. For a moment she just stared, and he resisted, because damn it all to hell, a man had his pride.

Reluctantly, Ianto quietly admitted, "The wall behind."

Looking over at the table covered with every shape of gun imaginable, he thought about the mechanics of what he endeavored to learn. He could explain how each and every one worked; yet when he grasped one in his hand, it terrified him. It might be required for him to actually use it on someone one day, and he lived in utter fear he'd do serious harm. The few times he'd carried one in the field and actually pulled the weapon, he'd been hot, sweaty, and terrified. Not that anyone noticed – he made sure to keep his face schooled and not allow his hands to tremble until later when alone.

"I work so much better down in archives or at the machines," he finally admitted. "I'm wickedly fast with the fingers." Holding up his hands, he wiggled the digits in question and quirked up his lips, making Gwen shake her head.

"You do know that I really appreciate this, don't you?" he asked her in that quiet, serious manner of his.

"Yeah," she replied with a tired smile. "I know."

X X X

"You okay?" Tosh asked of Ianto, as he sat staring off into space. The couch had been calling him all morning. After delivering a cup of fresh brew to the occupants of the hub, he'd settled in and begun to look unblinkingly at absolutely nothing. That had been quite some time ago.

"Yes. I'm fine," he answered, still not allowing the hot, heavy lids to droop.

They'd had a couple days of quiet. Absolute quiet. No activity, nothing happening, already straightened the bloody tourism office, and ready to go insane kind of quiet. The sort of quiet that led Ianto to thinking about Jack. And apparently not blinking.

"You're just… sitting there," she said, her voice perplexed.

"I know," he replied. "I'm wondering how long before my eyes dry up and fall out."

"Why?"

"My contribution to the scientific community."

X X X

"Well, that was a lovely way to spend a Sunday," Ianto said with a wide grin, dropping his knapsack on the floor next to the slab in the morgue. When he received the expected grunting swear words from Owen, he smiled wider.

"You don't have to be a bastard," Owen muttered, slamming a couple of rolling trays out of his way and reaching behind a cabinet – all the while trying very hard not to touch anything unless necessary. Pulling out a change of clothes with only his fingertips, the doctor turned around and glared when Ianto laughed.

The young archivist really should've known that was the wrong move; because Owen tossed the clothes on a clean tray and placed his hands on his hips.

"How would you like if I gave you a nice big hug," Owen asked, his voice a hissing sing-song request. Opening his arms wide, he slowly walked around the metal table toward Ianto, making the younger man inwardly nervous. The sneering grin on Owen's face didn't help – neither did the look of determination. "You like having a man to hug. Try me."

"Uh, no thanks," Ianto mumbled, backing away. As the physician got closer and Owen's grin turned menacing, Ianto backpedaled right into the bottom step, slipping on something, and causing himself to land with a nasty thump on the stair. Glancing at the floor, he glared at the blue goo on which he'd slid, and then darted his widening eyes back up to a dripping, blue Owen.

"Give Owen a big hug Teaboy," the doctor said, reaching down, pulling Ianto up forcefully, and wrapping his arms around the younger man.

Purposely rubbing himself all over, while Ianto tried to draw away, Owen started to laugh. Sort of maniacally, actually. Just to make the point, the grinning doctor grabbed Ianto's head with both hands and rubbed his face all over the other man's.

Putting his hands out, Ianto sighed as blue slime slid down his brand new charcoal pin-stripe suit. The bloody thing had cost him a month's wages, and he was getting seriously pissed. Who the hell knew if blue goo would come out at the cleaners?

"You're a bastard," Ianto muttered, glancing down and wincing at the sight of his favorite red tie, now stained in the wet blue. His beautiful, vibrant silk tie. Feeling his face flush in general pissed-offed-ness, he did something that would even make Jack proud.

Reaching out, Ianto grabbed Owen by his shirt front, murmured, "No, it's done like this," and locked lips with the smug man. The doctor didn't move for nearly fifteen seconds, and Ianto used it to deepen the kiss.

By the time Owen figure out he was actively playing tonsil hockey with another man, Ianto had already finished his little slip of the tongue and was standing back, looking arrogant. The girls applauded and laughed from above, with Gwen even letting out a mighty wolf whistle and thumbs-up.

Turning around, Ianto climbed the stairs sedately. Owen stood slack-jawed sputtering at the bottom. As he passed Tosh, Ianto leaned in just enough to whisper, but careful not to touch her. He really had no desire to spread any of the gunk onto her gorgeous green top.

"You ought to try it," he whispered for her ears only. "He's really not bad."

Walking out with a straight face, he waved and said, "I'm off to change. Let me know if we need to blow up anymore blobs. I'll be sure to invest in more stain removal products and maybe some breath mints."

X X X

"It's going to be all right," Gwen said, sliding down the dark alleyway's brick wall beside Ianto.

"How?" he quietly asked. "I could've gotten you all killed."

Closing his eyes, he tilted his head back against the building and sighed. In all the weeks Gwen, Tosh, and Owen had been working with him, Ianto had yet to need to fire his weapon. Not until tonight, and then he'd stood frozen like a statue.

"I just… I just couldn't bring myself to do it," he muttered, frowning. Disappointment ran deep through his veins, and he glanced over at Gwen. He was supposed to be a Torchwood agent – a man of action.

"You're not used to this sort of thing," she said, laying her hand on his knee and giving him a sympathetic look. "You always worked in archives – sure, you'd been shown the basics, but how often have you had to put weapons training into practice?"

"Will you say the same when one of you ends up dead because of me?" he softly asked, voicing his real fear. "Or how about I accidentally shoot someone I shouldn't? We both know I'm not the best shot."

The admission, although reluctant, made Gwen ache even more than the actual inability. He tried so hard.

"We're a team, Ianto Jones. You, me, Tosh, and Owen are a team, and a damn good one," she resolutely stated. Because they were. "Just because you have a harder time in the midst of gun fighting, it doesn't mean you'll get us killed."

"And when you need me to fire and I can't?" he softly asked.

"I hope you can do it, but for now you're with us for support – extra eyes, ears, and hands," she responded, her voice gaining a little enthusiasm. He didn't know who she was trying to convince – him or her.

"That's just as important as being able to point a gun; and it's not like you can't handle the weevil spray. You seem quite adept with the weevils," she added.

When he frowned, she turned and put her hands on his cheeks and softly said, "And I'd rather have you cover me during hand-to-hand than most anyone. You're smart and creative; plus, you care. That gives you an edge. Don't ever doubt it."

For a full minute, they simply stared, until Gwen let go and settled back against his side. Her belief in him made him feel needed; something he so desperately appreciated. And in all honesty, he just liked knowing someone had faith in him.

As time in the cooling night passed, with the two snuggled together in the dank alley in the middle of Cardiff. It felt good to just have someone to hold onto, and Ianto found himself pleasantly drifting into the lightest doze. The last couple weeks of chasing artifacts and aliens had exhausted them all. He could hear Gwen's breath slowly begin to even, and she relaxed.

"Even in the midst of a hellish day, I like my job," Ianto eventually murmured.

"But you miss Jack," she replied, her voice a bare whisper.

"Yep. I miss Jack."

X X X

"For crying out loud, stop being such a baby," Ianto said, as he stared at the deep cut in Owen's head. Gwen had gone off with Tosh to lock up an odd creature with the body of a man and the head of a wolf – not the beautiful wild kind, but the mangy kind. It had drifted through the rift; and scared out of its mind it had attacked. Sympathy was all Ianto felt toward the creature. He did toward Owen as well, at least when the other man wasn't complaining.

"Just stitch it up," Owen muttered, sitting morosely on the table.

As Ianto went to work, following Owen's quiet instructions (shot to numb the area, then a quick patch with needle and surgical thread), he wondered at the doctor's mood; and knew he'd been the cause of it.

That morning, Ianto had glanced at the calendar and made a remark that it had been almost eight weeks since Jack had left them. It wasn't that he'd meant to upset anyone, although he'd been plenty upset at the realization. The words had simply slipped out quietly as he'd glanced at the date. Owen had been snarky and withdrawn ever since. More than usual, anyway. The doctor was never a bright ray of sunshine.

As he finished his final stitch, Ianto murmured, "I'm sorry about bringing up Jack being gone two months."

"You don't need to remind me, Teaboy," Owen grunted in reply.

"I know, I just thought…"

"Don't. Think." As Ianto cut off the stitch, Owen turned and glared. "Just leave it alone. Your problem is you think too much of him. One day you'll admit you were no more than a quick shag. He's gone."

Huffing out of the morgue, Owen took the stairs two at a time, leaving Ianto standing with blood on his latex-encased hands and a needle between his fingers. Dropping it onto a tray, he turned and sat on the table. The physician had been right, of course. He'd been nothing but a bit on the side for Jack for months; and to some degree, Jack had been nothing but a replacement for Lisa.

Lisa. He'd barely thought of her in weeks, as busy as things had gotten at times. Yes, he still missed that sense of belonging to another person, but that had shifted with Jack in the picture. Since their leader had abandoned them, though, Ianto had learned something else.

He – Ianto Jones – belonged to Torchwood; now and always.

At the end of the day, the work he did made him feel good – lonely, still, but better than before. It made him feel needed.

Heaving an audible sigh in the empty room, he removed the bloody gloves.

Ianto followed Owen's trail more sedately, and found him pouring cold coffee into a cup. Laying a hand on the physician's shoulder, he said, "Jack didn't leave because of us," and felt the other man stiffen.

"Fuck off," Owen muttered, although Ianto could've sworn the doctor's voice held a mournful quality. The young archivist knew Jack had forgiven their doctor for shooting him not so long ago, but wondered if Owen had forgiven himself.

After a quick squeeze of the shoulder, Ianto headed to archives to work. He was way behind on reports.

Jack might be gone, but shit still fell through the rift.

X X X

"All right, everyone, it's been a hell of a week," Gwen announced, scanning over the faces in front of her.

"No shit," Owen replied from his position leaning against Tosh's work station.

Grinning, Gwen cocked her head and said, "I've come to a decision. If we miss something, then we miss something. We're shorthanded, and we're certainly not Gods."

As everyone stared at her, she shrugged and added, "So drinks are on me."

When she was met with blank stares, she rolled her eyes and succinctly explained, "We're taking the night off. And the rift be damned."

"And if any weevils come through the rift?" Ianto asked, voicing his concern. It bothered him that no one would be here to watch or monitor. This was what they did – their duty.

"Then we track them tomorrow," Gwen replied, stepping forward and laying her hand on Ianto's arm. "I won't feel bad if anything happens tonight, because there's something we need to consider."

Giving Ianto's arm a reassuring squeeze, she stepped back and said, "If we work ourselves into the grave, then no one will be here to run Torchwood. So tonight, we're taking a well-earned respite."

"I can go for that," Owen replied, looking suddenly chipper and ready for anything.

"Me too," Tosh added, smiling in that shy way of hers.

"Ianto?" Gwen quietly asked in her most pleading tone. "Just one night. With luck there won't be anything, but please, just take this one night."

Thinking of all the things left to do – logging a week's worth of activity in archives, updating his journal, cleaning up the hub, and the much-needed firing range practice – Ianto felt his shoulders sag with the weight. And that was the factor that gave tangible proof to Gwen's argument.

He was dedicated to Torchwood; and she had a point. If they worked themselves into the ground, they couldn't perform.

"Owen can buy the first round," he said, garnering a smile from Gwen and a sputtering of profanities from the doctor.

X X X

"Thanks, Yan," Gwen murmured as her archivist-turned-gunslinger slid a coffee in front of her. Turning her head, she smiled and added, "You're doing much better in weapons."

"Somehow, I don't see it ever being my strong suit," Ianto replied with a shrug and a wry grin.

"It doesn't need to be," she resolutely stated. "But you needed to fire a weapon, and you actually managed to shoot a leg. I'm assuming that was your goal?"

"Yes, it was," he replied.

He didn't add that he'd closed his eyes. Sometimes the less his leader knew, the better.

X X X

"Here you go," Ianto murmured, sliding a cup of hot tea in front of Tosh. While she often drank his supreme coffee, he also knew she much preferred a cup of tea with just a hint of whiskey after a hard, aching day. This one hadn't ended well – the death of any creature, even a weevil, hurt everyone.

"Thanks," she replied, her voice small and almost lifeless.

"Is there anything I can do?" he asked, concerned enough to watch, but also trying hard not to stare.

When she didn't reply, he picked up his tray of remaining coffees and slowly headed toward the morgue. He stopped for a moment to watch the doctor clean off the last of the trays, heave a sigh, and then lean back against the table. When Owen pinched his nose in an act of pure fatigue, Ianto made his presence known.

As he descended the steps, he said, "I've a cup for you. I've already delivered Tosh hers."

"And why would I care what you gave Tosh?" Owen asked in that harsh tone he used when annoyed or wanting to be left alone.

"Because I think she's crying," Ianto replied, keeping his face that bland mask he often wore when doing the mundane cleaning-and-clearing tasks. Laying the cup of brew in front of the doctor's computer monitor, Ianto turned and slowly ascended the steps. One final delivery to make before he could head back to his own domain.

However, Owen's footsteps heading in the direction of Tosh's work area made his lips quirk in satisfaction.

Ianto found Gwen in the conference room, with the lights dimmed.

Quietly, he set the cup in front of her. He might've thought she was asleep – and deservedly so – had she not whispered, "Please, Ianto. Sit."

Taking the seat next to her, he watched the former police constable take a sip of her coffee and heave a long, mournful sigh.

"It's been a hell day," she said. "They come like that – either boring as hell or beating us to hell. Nothing ever in between."

"True," Ianto replied. "But better hell on Earth than hell in… well… hell. You know, with flames like a sun."

When she quirked her brows at him and gave him that 'I can't believe you just said that' look, he gave a quick grin, rose.

On his way out the door, he added, "Some of us burn easily."

X X X

"Ianto, what the fuck did you do with the files on my desk?" Owen yelled, as he took the stairs up from autopsy two at a time. Storming down the hall, rounding the corner, and then descending another set of steps, he headed straight down the hall, counting doors. Fourth door on the right would yield archives; and the bloody Welshman better have a damn good explanation for absconding with his annual summary reports.

"Where are they?" he asked, swinging the door open.

Two things surprised him. First, pushed in a dark corner of the room and out of sight of the internal CCTV camera that faced the entrance of the room, Ianto lay curled on a small cot. Second, Owen's yelling hadn't woken the young man.

The only reaction the doctor received was in the form of a moan as Ianto stretched out flat on his stomach, curling his arms up under his pillow like a kid.

Creeping halfway into the room, Owen frowned at the piles of paperwork shuffled messily on the desk – stacks and stacks, in fact. It looked like he was weeks, if not months behind.

Frowning deeper and feeling just a little pissed in general, Owen noted the pallor of Ianto's skin, and wondered if he was just a miserable failure of a doctor. Sure, they'd been hit hard and heavy lately. Weevils seemed to think Cardiff was a wonderful place to holisay as of late, and it had been getting worse. Several alerts a week had become the norm; and that on top of alien artifacts, alien trash, alien luggage, and alien aliens had been dropping through the rift on a surprisingly regular basis.

And with anything and everything alien came mountains of paperwork. Owen's twenty page monstrosity that sat atop Ianto's desk attested to that. Looking closer, the physician realized that his report had gone missing, because Ianto had completed it for him – including a bloody inventory.

Backing out of the room slowly, Owen made sure to make no noise as he quietly slid the door closed and headed back down the hall. He'd been going home on a regular enough basis to at least remember his flat. Apparently, Ianto hadn't if the amount of work was any indicator. Actually, the young Welshman had been out on most of the field activities, too.

Making his way towards Gwen's desk, he settled on the corner and waited for her to look up before giving her a tight look.

"Since none of us really wants a repeat of the cyber-girlfriend, I think maybe Ianto needs a day off," he said. "We don't want an over-stressed Teaboy."

"What are you talking about?" she asked.

After laying out the mess he'd found – albeit a neat and orderly one in his estimation – Owen said, "He's exhausted. To top it off, he's still expected to keep an eye on the tourism office, clean up around here, and pull overnight shifts watching the rift."

Leaning back in her chair, Gwen rubbed her eyes. They were all tired. Taking one more off the rotation would only serve to make things worse. Some days, she really hated having to be the one to make the decisions.

"Two days," she said. "I'll take him off field duty and watch rotation for two days to let him get caught up." She'd have to make sure not to offend the young man's sensibilities, as well. He'd come a long way toward really belonging as a full-fledged member of their team instead of a glorified butler.

It was the best she could do.

As Owen slid away from her desk, Gwen picked up the folder she'd been perusing; but found she couldn't focus.

"You do understand that if I ever see Jack again, I'm liable to knee him in the balls," she muttered before Owen stepped out of the room.

"Get in line," he replied.

Actually, he'd probably swagger in with a grin and a hug and they'd all feel relief.

Gwen sighed and muttered, "We're so full of shit."

"Yeah."

X X X

The first time Ianto actually hit something at which he aimed, he wanted to throw a party. Well, he wanted to do a happy dance. Since he wasn't about to act in such an undistinguished manner, he settled for a glass of wine after returning home.

Settling onto the couch, he leaned back, closed his eyes, and didn't wake until five hours later. Looking at the bathroom mirror, and in slight disgust, he took in his rumpled appearance and stripped off his jacket, waistcoat, shirt, and tie and dropped them in the hamper. His reflection gave evidence to the number of bruises crossing his back and chest, as well as the small gash across his abdomen.

Perhaps he ought to have let Owen check him out after all; but honestly, after chasing a particularly nasty thing with tentacles and a single eye halfway across the city, he hadn't particularly cared to go back to the hub for a change.

Turning, he eyed the bruises along his shoulder blades and sighed. They would hurt tomorrow if he forgot to sit up straight and let himself sag against a chair back. Just those few slumbering hours had made the previously adrenaline-numbed muscles begin to ache.

When the knock at the door came, he frowned and walked through his flat shirtless, opening the door just a touch to see Tosh standing on the other side.

"Tosh, it's not even three in the morning," he stated with a frown. In an attempt to be a little more affable, he masterfully relaxed his face, and softly asked, "Are you all right?"

"I came to check on you," she replied. "I finished the reports, put them on your desk, and thought I ought to swing by just to make sure." After a slight hesitation, she asked, "Can I come in?"

"Um, sure," Ianto replied, wildly looking about for something with which to cover himself. He didn't make a habit of walking around half-naked in front of others. Realizing he'd have to leave her standing outside his door to retrieve something, he mentally sighed and simply opened the door. Better half naked than rude.

In the process, though, he'd forgotten about the bruises until she softly gasped.

"Are you all right? Let me call Owen," she said, pulling out her cell.

"No," Ianto replied, and then smiled. "It's all right. If they hurt too much in the morning, I'll have Owen look them over and maybe take a pain killer."

Not totally convinced, she continued to stare at him until he rolled his eyes and said, "Really, Tosh. It's not the first time I've been beaten up this bad. Remember the cannibals?"

That may not have been the best tactic, considering she blanched. Reassuringly, Ianto added, "My injuries were worse when that happened, and I handled it just fine."

"Yes, but you had…" she let her sentence trail off.

"I had Jack," he finished for her. Jack had stayed for a day and a half to make sure Ianto was all right.

And that was precisely the memory Ianto had been attempting to avoid – the one of Jack's hands tenderly brushing across his chest and back, then his face and neck. The Torchwood leader had been murmuring the whole time about just checking to make sure, but there'd been comfort there; compassionate and strong.

Drawing in a deep breath, Ianto thought of his time with Torchwood. Until everything had happened with Lisa, he doubted anyone would have considered stopping to check on him. That Tosh stood in the middle of his home in the wee hours of the morning, looking at him with comfort in her eyes, gave him something he hadn't expected to find.

The best kind of friend.

X X X

Gwen didn't know when it happened, or even how it happened, but it did.

Standing back and watching the group work together, she realized that somehow in the past three months, they'd come to be a cohesive unit. Instead of barking for coffee, Owen had taken to barking for information from Ianto.

On top of that, while Owen could still be a snarky shit at times, he'd become less combative with all of them, even occasionally asking for a coffee (which occasionally flustered Ianto).

He still butt heads with Gwen at times, but she had taken to looking at his arguments as a challenge.

Smiling her first real smile in weeks, she felt like maybe she'd done something right.

At the moment, the trio stood at various machines, calling information out to one another. Tosh had been working all morning with Owen, trying to get him to understand the complex algorithms currently processing. All he could manage was a frustrated growl before he demanded, "Who the hell understands this?"

"Apparently even a butler," Ianto replied with a straight face before heading off to make another round of coffees.

"Prick," Owen muttered under his breath as he tried once more to concentrate on what Tosh was saying. It only lasted another minute, though, before Owen shifted impatiently from foot to foot and yelled, "Enough! I'm going down to where I belong."

Turning, he aimed his next comment at Ianto, "The butler can bring me my coffee downstairs!"

When Ianto walked through with a tray, he handed a cup to Tosh with a friendly wink, noted Gwen still standing near the railing leading up to Jack's office and offered her a cup as well.

"Taking one to Owen, are you?" she asked, tilting her head in curiosity. If Owen had called her a butler, the last thing she would do was bring him his coffee. Then again, she wasn't Ianto, and the young man tolerated more from others than she ever could. Bless him.

She barely heard Ianto's low, soft voice as he passed.

"This butler makes an exceptional decaf."

It took everything she had not to laugh. Oh yes, the team was coming together rather nicely.

X X X

In all this time, she'd never opened the hatch. Typically, Gwen didn't spend a great deal of time in Jack's office, although she did escape to his desk for administrative paperwork. Ianto spent more time there than any of the others – taking care of the plants, tidying up, laying out expense sheets, and doing whatever it was he did to make the place run smoothly.

So after everyone left, she sat at his desk, and found her eyes going to that dim little spot with a hatch in the floor. A hatch that remained closed.

Finally, unable to resist the temptation any longer, and having worried her new engagement ring to death on her finger, she rose and slowly approached. She really just wanted a peek inside. So bending down, she gripped the wheel.

"Ahem," Ianto said in the most obvious attention-getting manner possible, while still looking aloof.

Gwen shot up straight, and turned to look at him, knowing she looked guilty as sin. Her face felt like it had caught flame.

"If you need me, I'm nearly caught up in archives, so I thought I might be heading home for the night," he added. She had thought he'd already gone.

"All right, Yan," she replied, unable to keep herself from glancing down at the door leading down.

"I've some reports for you to sign off," he added, taking a couple of steps in and dropping the folders on the desk. Tilting his head slightly, just enough to convey his displeasure at her attempt to invade the private quarters below, he smiled politely, turned and walked away.

Ianto understood her attraction to Jack. Anyone within ten feet felt drawn to the man. It didn't mean he relished the idea of her dropping into Jack's living quarters. Particularly since he was pretty sure his missing burgundy waistcoat and navy tie were tossed somewhere on the floor down there.

X X X

Three months and three days after Jack left, a bloody blowfish decided to surf its way through the rift. Seriously – who ever heard of a blowfish driving a car?

"This is going to be a seriously weird night," Gwen said as they chased the alien down the street in the Torchwood SUV.

"You're just now noticing?" Ianto asked. Without waiting for a reply he announced, "Owen, I vote you leader."

"What? Why?" Gwen asked.

"Because Owen's just paranoid enough to know that if one works for Torchwood, then nothing is ever normal around here," Ianto offered by way of explanation.

Although, he really didn't see how the night could get any stranger.

X X X

Author's Note: I hope you enjoyed the story. Reviews are appreciated, and thanks for reading!