Disclaimer: All characters belong to the BBC.

Setting: This is set just after Cyberwoman for Ianto, for the Doctor it is after the events of the bulk of Doomsday but possibly before he sees Rose at Bad Wolf Bay.

Author's Note: When Rose sees the heart of the Tardis, she says she can see everything that has and will happen, and the Doctor says he can see that all the time. So this story relies a bit on that concept. Its only short but please review.

Flicker of Hope

It was a grey, wet day in Cardiff as Ianto Jones sat on a bench, staring blankly across the bay, his eyes not really taking in what was laid out before him. He was technically on his lunch break, but was seriously contemplating never again returning to the Hub.

Since Lisa's death, he had become even more isolated from the team than previously, and now it was only Jack who would engage in any sort of communication with the Welshman. However, today Jack was in London meeting with Unit, and so Ianto had endured an entirely silent morning, and now he wasn't sure he could face the afternoon.

A youngish man in a brown suit, a long brown jacket and incongruous red sneakers sank down onto the bench beside him, and turned to him with a bright grin.

"Lovely day, isn't it?" he exclaimed, cheerily.

Ianto said nothing, merely looked the man up and down, before turning back to the bay.

"Yeah, you're right," his unwelcome companion continued undeterred, "It's rubbish. Mind you, you live in Cardiff, you should expect it."

"You're the Doctor, aren't you?" Ianto asked, without turning.

To say the Doctor was surprised was an understatement, nonetheless he held out a hand politely.

"I'm afraid you have me at a disadvantage Mr..."

Finally Ianto turned to look at him with wide, blue eyes. Politely he shook the offered hand.

"Jones, Ianto Jones."

"Hmmm," The Doctor looked puzzled for a moment, as though trying to place the name, "Ianto Jones... Ah yes, Ianto Jones, Torchwood if I'm not mistaken?"

Ianto nodded.

"I am," he paused, unsure what it was about the man before him that inspired him to open up, "I'm not sure for how much longer though."

The Doctor quirked an eyebrow inquisitively but didn't speak.

"I worked at Canary Wharf... my girlfriend she was...sort of converted..." Ianto stumbled over his words, and the Doctor closed his eyes in sympathy. After struggling for a long moment Ianto continued, "I tried to...help her... but she died last week."

A lone tear tracked slowly down his face.

"I am sorry Mr Jones," the Doctor was entirely sympathetic, still haunted as he was by the loss of Rose Tyler.

"And now, to the rest of them I may as well not exist," his face was filled with sorrow, and his voice wavered slightly, "So I think it will be best for everyone if I leave."

The Doctor nodded slowly, thinking hard, suddenly he jumped up eagerly.

"Ianto Jones!" he gestured violently at the confused man before him, "Oh Ianto, Ianto, Ianto, Jones."

He grinned brightly.

"You work for Captain Harkness now, is that correct?"

"Yes Sir," Ianto agreed, "In fact I think he's looking for you."

For a moment The Doctor looked perturbed.

"Yes, I know, he'll find me soon enough," he looked around a little bit nervously.

"He's not here," Ianto reassured him, "he's in London."

The Doctor visibly relaxed, earning a tiny smile from the puzzled Welshman before him. After a moment, the Doctor retook his seat.

"So you are thinking about giving up?"

Ianto nodded, sadly.

"And do you enjoy your job?"

There was a long silence, broken only by the squawk of seagulls swooping and diving in the stiff sea breeze. Finally, Ianto nodded.

"I did... until Lisa."

The Doctor shifted so he was sat closer to the sorrowful young man.

"I think you should go back."

Ianto shook his head, fear evident in his eyes.

"I'm not sure I..."

"You can," the Doctor stated with utter confidence, "Ianto Jones; Defender of The Earth. Ooh I rather like that!"

"By making coffee and tidying?" a hint of Ianto's sarcastic sense of humour surfaced.

"Oh no, Jones, Ianto Jones, much more than that."

The look of disbelief on his face prompted the Doctor to make a decision. It wasn't something he usually did, but somewhere in his mind was the sense that this was important, and he wasn't above giving the timelines a little nudge occasionally.

"I'm going to tell you a secret Ianto Jones," he began, "Your Captain Harkness is right, this is the time when everything changes for this little planet."

Ianto looked nervous at the turn in the conversation, Torchwood training had been very explicit when it came to paradoxes and the prevention thereof. The Doctor read the expression clearly and grinned.

"Don't worry I've had lots of practice at this. Well... I say a lot, I mean some... well I say some... It'll be fine!"

This did nothing to reassure Ianto.

"Anyway, where was I? Oh yes. Everything changes. And Torchwood, you brilliant people in Cardiff, you're ready for it. And you Ianto Jones, you save the world."

The Doctor's brightness was false, he saw all the permutations of time and he knew what fate was likely to befall Ianto Jones, but in standing up to the 456 he would pave the way for Jack to save the day. Without Ianto Jones, the earth would be subjugated and would fall. In that moment, in Thames House , he would literally be the most important person in the world.

"I'm sure Torchwood will manage," Ianto mumbled, his voice uncertain. The Doctor shook his head.

"They won't Mr Jones. They need you, can't do it without you. In fact at the end of this planet," The Doctor told him, "When the sun dies and the Earth is swallowed, there are still people that remember your name, Ianto Jones. Don't let them down."

Ianto looked down at the ground, and nodded once, slowly before rising to his feet.

"I'd better get back then," he conceded finally, holding out his hand once more, "Thank you."

"You're more than welcome." The Doctor rose to his feet and made to walk in the other direction. When he was a few metres away he turned and called out to the retreating Welshman.

"Oh, Mr Jones?"

Ianto spun to face him.

"He'll come back," the Doctor told him "Remember that. He'll come back for you."

That irrepressible grin.

"Because you're important, you are! Don't forget that. You're as important as anyone else."

And with that, he turned, his long coat swinging around him, and he ambled down the Bay with a cheery wave.

Ianto Jones took a deep breath. It was time to go back to work.