Chapter 13 – What a difference a day makes.
The shortlisting process had been more difficult than he anticipated. A lot of the applicants seemed rather too similar. Their files all bore the same information: a traditional University education, a varied skill set, 3+ languages and "proactive" personality types (whatever that was). Nothing really made them stand apart. Jack preferred his usual method of recruitment – find people out in the field who were remarkable and tempt them into his world. Still, since Torchwood had expanded he recognised the need to select and train recruits who would be flexible enough to be deployed anywhere to a range of roles. Having read through everything twice only two of the files really caught his eye.
The first was that of a young woman who had lived in Tibet and worked with a powerful Transarch Coven (he'd once partied away a new year on Transarch 4 and always looked back fondly). She was a skilled fighter and her reference called her "fearless" – a good attribute given the overactive rift. Jack liked strong women and was drawn to her experience of the world outside of the norm. The other was the file of a man in his mid-twenties. He had intelligence test scores that were off the scale of anything Jack had seen. What's more he'd worked to pay way through university the hard way and still come out with first class honours. The man was practically minded too – his experience read as careful, considerate – a quick thinker who although lacked confidence had courage and foresight. Jack knew he had the right kind of team to bring the best out of someone and to build their confidence in the field.
Absently, Jack let the last two files flop onto his desk into a separate pile; several loose papers went flying. Never was one for filing. Newbie can help with that. High achievers across the board, he figured at least one of the two would fit with the team and take the pressure off. They'd had so much activity recently they were struggling to cope, there was only so much they could do between the 4 of them. An extra pair of hands could be invaluable.
"Gwen, get in here!" Jack called out loudly and lazily. Leaning back he put his feet up on the desk whilst his chair wobbled precariously. A few minutes later a frown-laden brunette appeared at the door.
Jack exaggerated looking at his watch, "Did you take your time on purpose?"
"Oh." Jack pouted.
Gwen was unperturbed and merely grinned in response – offering no apology. She was used to trying to take Jack down a peg or two, and it usually worked.
"What do you need Master Of All?"
"I've narrowed down the two recruits I want to see – Main and Jones. Can we get them both up here for interview tomorrow, or is that too soon?"
"No, it should be fine, they're all in head office awaiting assignments – in fact we're a bit behind, so I'll have to call down and check they haven't been snapped up by another unit!"
"Hey, I'm the Head of Torchwood, surely I get the first pick of the shiny new toys?!" Jack's tone was verging on a whine, and he looked up at Gwen through his lashes knowing full well he was acting like a spoilt brat.
"Well maybe the .Torchwood. should have requisitioned the files sooner and not left them sat on his desk for three weeks!" Gwen replied, already heading out of the door shaking her head, though secretly smiling.
Ianto and Molly sat and stared at the screen, sipping tea as they contemplated what was in front of them. Ianto had both hands clasped around his mug, his expression revealed the cogs whirring in his mind.
"Are you sure it's him though?"
"Yes. For the hundredth time." A hint of annoyance was creeping into his otherwise startling calm tone.
"Maybe it's his father, or grandfather?"
Ianto looked at Molly, trying to convey his contempt for her response with his eyes.
"Don't look at me like that Ianto Jones! I'm trying to be logical here, sensible and…."
"Yes, yes." Ianto cut her short. "The thing is looking at this logically there are very few explanations. He must be some kind of time traveller. That is definitely him – I know him too, um, well."
"Time traveller wouldn't exactly be outside the realms of possibility would it? I mean we all know about The D…"
"I can't believe this!" Ianto interrupted again.
Molly gently placed her hand on Ianto's arm, "Well why should he have told you? You didn't tell him the truth either! I don't know why you're getting upset about it."
"I'm not upset." Came the reply. Just a bit un-nerved. "It's just a bit…weird. You know." Actually, I'm not sure even I know. He glanced down at his phone, almost expecting it to ring or the text tone to sound. It didn't, the screen stayed blank. His own rather blurred reflection stared back up at him.
The pair sipped their tea again and Ianto closed down the file, ensuring all the changed he'd made went unsaved. Don't leave a trail.
"I suppose we'd better get back to proper work rather than wild speculation" Molly offered, pushing her wheely chair away and manoeuvring herself back to her desk.
Ianto sighed. He knew she was right. I need to get over this Harkness thing. It would help if we could stop text flirting for start.
He snatched his phone up and turned it off, pocketing it as his chair spun back to the screen. Work time. As he re-opened his emails he saw a few new items had appeared. Scrolling down he ignored the ones from Josh (the self-proclaimed office joker) and quickly scanned the subjects. By far the scariest read: Interview for Torchwood Archivist – Tomorrow. Glancing at Molly, who was now engrossed in a paper file on her desk, he excitedly opened the email and scanned the information.
We're pleased to invite you to an interview day tomorrow. Heading up the team is Gwen Cooper. Position available is Senior Archivist. Extensive collection of alien tech needs immediate categorising and new systems established. Opportunity to work for a dynamic team. Some field work expected in time. 9am The Hub - Cardiff.
Ianto's initial excitement dissipated slightly as he re-read the key details.
Gwen Cooper. Cardiff.
GWEN COOPER. CARDIFF. Oh.
Ianto had barely slept, thankful that he'd gotten his clothes out the night before he smoothed his tie down and buttoned up his jacket. The train from London to Cardiff was crowded and everyone had a half asleep look about them. Laptop open, Ianto angled it so that he could see his reflection in the dark screen. He looked tired, though presentable. His hair had finally done what he asked of it and he knew he looked good in his suit. Trying to tell himself he wasn't dressing to impress Jack, merely to feel confident, he fiddled with his cufflinks. Who am I kidding?
He hadn't had much time to contemplate the actual interview or what it would entail. Having left the office late the previous evening, holding onto a few 'good luck' utterances and a hug from Molly, he had headed home in a daze. The train journey barely registered with him, and as he ate some reheated left overs his mind raced through what was going to happen. Playing out possible scenarios in his head, Ianto felt a cold sense of dread rising in his chest. His phone, turned back on and charging, beeped, illuminating the living room. Ianto realised then how dark it had gotten and flicked on his lamp, reaching over and unplugging the phone.
James: You're on my mind today. I'm in town next week. What to be on more than just my mind? Jx
Jones: Hello to you too. So you go quiet again and then proposition me from nowhere?! X
James: Yes. Problem with that Jones? Jx
Jones: Not as such, no. Sorry – big day tomorrow, need my beauty sleep. X
James: Beauty sleep? As if. I seem to remember you being completely stunning the less and less sleep you were allowed. Jx
Jones: Seriously, BIG day. Speak soon. X
With the exchange halted, he turned off his phone and looked towards the bedroom. Packing awaited.
Jack was stumped. As he rolled over in his bed he re-read the text exchange. What's changed? The Welshman had always been keen to play along, flirt a little and give him something to look forward to. This felt different. Maybe he's met someone serious. Jack felt more annoyed at the thought than he anticipated. A little taken aback by his own feelings he texted one last line,
James: Of course. Hope it goes well. You're always on my mind, btw. Yes. Jx
Jack knew it was a little manipulative, but something about that man had worked under his skin and he wasn't ready to let him slip out of reach.
Sorting out what he was going to wear was tricky, and by the time he'd packed a bag and done some reading he felt his bed calling. Climbing under the covers he felt exhausted, months of training rushed to catch up with his body. Months of wondering about the mysterious Captain Jack caught up with his mind. The game is up. Nice while it lasted.
Rather than fall into a welcome sleep, his mind worked overtime to ensure he couldn't rest. Ianto knew what Torchwood Cardiff meant. He knew the next day he'd face Jack and everything would come out. In a way he was glad they wouldn't be able to hide any longer, though he felt heavy as he realised what it meant. The end of the affair. There hadn't been anyone else of interest, despite Molly's attempts to set him up with various friends he hadn't felt the same rush, the same spark. As he reflected honestly, he was sad that it ending, that it would be lost from his life.
Watching the countryside flash continually past the scratched train window his thoughts drifted to the last time he'd seen Jack. A very naked Jack. This is very unhelpful, considering I'm about to meet him "for the first time".
Maybe, he mused, he wouldn't even get the job. Hell, he didn't even have to go for the interview. He could just get another train straight back to London and say he'd changed his mind. He knew he was up against another recruit. She was here, somewhere on this very train. Let her have the job. Draining the end of a disappointing train-coffee he looked at his watch. In 20 minutes they would be pulling into Cardiff. This is it, decision time.