The Ghost and Mr. Jones
Author: Milady Dragon
Disclaimer: I don't own Torchwood, or "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir", on which this story is based.
Author's note: I wrote this for Reel Torchwood Round Four, and it's based on the movie "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir", one of my all-time favorite films. I do hope you enjoy this, I know I loved writing it.
"I can't believe you want to move all the way out here!"
Ianto Jones turned from his enjoyment of the view to regard his sister, Rhiannon, as she stood well away from the cliff. She had her arms wrapped around her upper body, as if warding off a chill, even though it was the height of Welsh summer. The breeze off the Irish Sea was cool, but not freezing, and it tickled his lungs pleasantly when he inhaled.
He rolled his eyes. "I don't know if I do yet," he corrected. "But you have to admit, it's peaceful here."
"It's out in the middle of bloody nowhere!" she argued. "This is no place to raise a kid!"
They'd gone on and on about that – and other reasons why Ianto shouldn't move to the coast – ever since he'd seen the ad for the cottage online. Ianto had fallen in love with the idea of having a place so far from what Rhiannon called civilization, and she'd argued against it, saying it wasn't healthy and accused him of hiding from the world.
Maybe he was. But then, if he didn't deserve to, who did?
"I'm meeting the estate agent in ten minutes," he said, changing the subject. "You're perfectly able to head back to Cardiff now."
"No way," she answered. "Someone has to show some sense, and if you aren't willing to, then I'll do it for you."
Ianto didn't say anything, instead choosing to stride toward the car he'd parked just off the road, abandoning the gorgeous view and knowing that Rhiannon would follow. She was so certain she would be able to talk him into whatever she wanted…which was for him to come home to Cardiff, and take a job in an office, buying a modest home using the settlement he'd received from Lisa's death and putting the rest away for his son, Gareth, and his eventual education. She didn't understand that he had enough for the house, and for Gareth…plus there would be enough for him to easily retire on for a while. The government had paid the survivors of Canary Wharf very well indeed, and Ianto had gotten more because of losing his wife and being made a single parent in one fell swoop.
And, if he decided to get a job later on…well, he'd worry about that when the time came. Right now, Ianto felt he needed the time to mourn and heal, and Rhiannon felt that meant he should come back to the bosom of his family.
Ianto felt otherwise.
The drive into Aberaeron was done in silence, which suited Ianto just fine. It was a picturesque town, not too small, with an antique charm that Ianto found himself appreciating. It was so very different from London, and for that he was grateful. He desperately needed change; something else Rhiannon didn't seem to understand.
The estate agents' was on Heol y Farchnad, just off the main street, in a very cheerful blue building that actually had Ianto grinning. He found a place to park just down the road, in front of a clothing store that seemed to cater more to the tourists that came out to the holiday cottages that dotted the area, and he and Rhiannon joined the bustling throng, walking back up toward the estate agents'. A small painted sign saying 'Williams Real Estate' was mounted next to the door, and Ianto held the door open for his sister, and then entered himself.
The interior of the office was pleasant, with adverts for various properties tacked up on the walls and a large surveyor's map of Aberaeron and its environs behind a battered wooden desk, the fairly new computer an odd counterpoint to the place's charm. A middle-aged woman sat at the desk, and she smiled when Ianto and Rhiannon approached. "Welcome," she greeted them enthusiastically. "Are you here for one of the holiday packages?"
"No," Ianto answered politely. "I have an appointment with Mr. Williams, about the cottage for sale?"
The woman went a little pale, then put a smile back on her face. "You'd be Mr. Jones, then! Mr. Williams will be back in a bit; he just went down the street to meet his wife for lunch. Please…have a seat. I'm Ruth, by the way…welcome to Aberaeron! Could I get you a cuppa while you wait?"
"No need, Ruth," a friendly voice interrupted her. Ianto turned, as a jovial-looking man came into the office. He stepped forward, offering his hand. "Rhys Williams," he said, shaking vigorously. "You'd be Mr. Jones, then? Punctual…not used to that, with all the holiday folk we get. You'd be wanting to see Spitfire Cottage, then?"
Ianto nodded. "It seemed to be just what I was looking for, but that was online…"
Rhys Williams nodded as well, releasing his hand. "And as good as the technology gets, it's seeing it with one's own eyes that's the best." He glanced at Rhiannon, and apologizing he greeted her. "Welcome, Mrs. Evans," he greeted. "Come to try to talk your brother out of moving out amid the heathens, then?" He winked at her.
Ianto had the pleasure of seeing Rhiannon speechless.
"Why don't we take my car?" Rhys suggested, collecting a set of keys from Ruth, who was looking at Ianto oddly. "That way we can come back here if you decide to sign the contract on the property."
"Lead the way," Ianto said, cutting off anything that Rhiannon might have said.
Rhys' car turned out to be a late model Range Rover. Ianto had planned on letting Rhiannon have the passenger seat, but she practically stomped to the rear and climbed in without saying a thing. Ianto cast a look at Rhys, who seemed vaguely amused by it, and then crawled into the front, pulling on his seat belt.
Rhys drove them south out of town, espousing on the area and just how peaceful it was; commenting that his wife, one of three local coppers within a hundred miles, had to work a second job in order to keep from going mad with boredom. He laughed as he said it, which Ianto took to mean that it was somewhat of a joke between the couple.
He hoped to be that bored.
The trip took them past a large holiday cottage area, the place fairly full with people who'd come up there to escape the cities. Ianto hoped that the cottage he was going to see was well enough away from them, since he wanted quiet, and he doubted he'd get it if he was too close. He inquired about local children; Rhys answered, and Ianto realized that Gareth wouldn't be so alone there as he'd thought. There would be others his age he could play with.
The land began to rise, up toward the cliffs once more. Ianto could feel himself getting excited at the prospect of seeing Spitfire Cottage in person. Something seemed to call him there; he couldn't say what, only that it promised quiet and peace, and a chance for both himself and Gareth to deal with what had happened.
About ten minutes later, Rhys turned into a rough path heading toward the sea. The cottage he'd seen online grew as they approached, and the estate agent followed the driveway around to the front of the house, which faced the cliffside.
"Here we go," Rhys said, pulling to a stop. "Spitfire Cottage, built in 1946 as a retirement home for Captain Jack Harkness, a real-life war hero. He lived here until his passing in 1965, in a boating accident out on the Irish Sea."
Ianto got out of the vehicle, his jaw dropping slightly at the cottage. It was a two-story affair, painted a cheerful blue, with white shutters that were pulled back to reveal the large, inviting windows. A rounded balcony was on the upper story, with large French doors that Ianto guessed must show an amazing view of the sea.
A stone path led the way up to the white-painted door, and he followed Rhys as the estate agent led the way, opening the door with a flourish. "On the ground floor is the kitchen and lounge. The appliances are a bit dated, but they work, and all the plumbing and wiring is up to code."
The short hallway had two doors leading off; Rhys pushed the right-hand side one open to reveal the lounge. It was as wide as the house was, and sunlight streamed in from the windows at the rear, revealing an inviting space with a massive stone fireplace. Already Ianto could see the room with his favourite leather sofa, enjoying the telly with Gareth and having a fire on chilly nights. He enquired about the fireplace, and Rhys assured him that it was all in working order.
The well-worn yet cared-off hardwood floor creaked slightly under his trainers as Ianto followed Rhys into the kitchen, Rhiannon's disapproving presence at his back. Rhys had been right; the appliances were hardly up-to-date, but Ianto could certainly work with the enormous black gas stove. There was a perfect place for his coffee machine on the counter by the white refrigerator, as well as a microwave near the stove. This room wasn't as light, and only had one set of windows looking out over the front yard; at the back of the kitchen was a pantry space and a place for a washer and dryer, as well as the other window.
"There's a small toilet under the stairs," Rhys added, waving absently in that general direction. "The real selling point of this cottage is the upstairs." He ushered them up the stairs, the landing opened up onto yet another window, two doors on either side, almost echoing the downstairs.
The right-side room was a small bedroom, perfect for Gareth's needs. Ianto could imagine all his son's football posters up on the walls, and the general disarray that comes with a seven-year-old boy.
The master bedroom though took his breath away.
It was a large, airy room, walls painted a soft blue colour. A fireplace – a smaller mirror of the one downstairs – was on the outside wall. On the interior one was room for the bed, and two doors led off, and Ianto guessed they were for the closet and en-suite that had been advertised online. But what really drew his eyes was the very feature he'd seen from the outside: the large French doors, leading out to the small balcony. A large telescope took pride of place in front of the doors, pointing out toward the sea.
"This belonged to the Captain," Rhys said, as Ianto ran his hands over the well-cared-for brass of the telescope's barrel. "From what I've heard, he was quite the stargazer. We can certainly move it out if you don't want it – "
Rhys was interrupted by a loud rapping sound, and all three of them turned in order to locate the source.
They were the only ones there.
The estate agent had gone somewhat pale, and he cleared his throat nervously. "Although it seems a shame to take it away."
Ianto had to agree. "I like it here. It fits." He hooked his thumb toward the large portrait over the fireplace. "I assume that's the Captain?"
"Yep, that's Himself," Rhys answered. "Handsome devil, wasn't he?"
Ianto couldn't deny it. The man in the portrait was dark-haired and blue-eyed, with a twinkle in those eyes that made the young man think the subject was up to no good. He was wearing a long RAF greatcoat, the side held open by a hand hidden within a trouser pocket, revealing a pale blue shirt and darker blue braces. He looked to be in his very early forties, and Ianto wondered how long after the War it had been done.
"I don't know why anyone would want to have a dead man's picture in their bedroom," Rhiannon scoffed. "That's gruesome, it is."
Ianto stifled his sigh. Of course Rhiannon was going to nitpick the place; after all, she wanted him and Gareth within easy distance. "I wonder just how good a likeness it is," he mused, just to irritate her.
"I think it's very good," Rhys volunteered, "but down at the Records Office there'd be pictures and such if you wanted to check."
"This is a lovely place," Ianto said. It really was. The cottage already felt like home, and he hadn't even moved into it yet.
"I'd like to talk to my brother for a moment, if you don't mind?" Rhiannon said, dismissing Rhys easily.
Ianto frowned at her rudeness. "Rhi – "
"Nah, it's fine," Rhys brushed off the insult. "Take as much time as you need. I'll be down at the car." He turned and headed out, leaving Ianto alone with his sister.
"That was uncalled for," he snapped angrily, not believing she'd be like that with anyone. Rhiannon had always been blunt, but never nasty.
"You can't be thinking of buying this place!" she exclaimed.
He crossed his arms over his chest. "And why not? It's perfect for what Gareth and I need right now."
"Like hell! You and Gareth need family…not to hide yourselves away. Lisa would be appalled if she knew – "
Anger boiled up within him. "How dare you bring Lisa into this," he snarled. "You didn't even like her!"
Rhiannon looked shocked by his outburst. "That's not true!"
"Don't even try to deny it. You were always inviting Gareth and me over, when you knew she would be working or with her family."
"I was just trying to look after my baby brother!"
"I'm not your baby brother any longer, and I'm going to do what's best for me and my son. I'm going to take the place."
"You can't!" Rhiannon cried. "This isn't any fit place to raise a young boy! It's hardly big enough for one person, let alone two!"
"It's perfect," Ianto said. "It does need a little work, but we'll be quite happy here."
"It's a wreck! Did you see that kitchen? It's the bloody Stone Ages in there!"
The words were barely out of Rhiannon's mouth when another bang, this one much louder and coming from somewhere around the fireplace, echoed through the room.
Was it Ianto's imagination, or had the portrait moved?
He shook off the half-baked notion, turning his attention back to his sister. "This place might be a bit outdated, but it can be worked on. And I don't need your permission to move anywhere. I'm doing what I think is best for my son and me."
"You're making a mistake, Ianto," Rhiannon warned.
"Then it's my mistake to make. I'm going to put an offer in, and then bring Gareth up here and see what he thinks. I shouldn't have let you talk me into leaving him in Cardiff." It had made sense at the time to let him stay with his cousins, but now Ianto knew why Rhiannon had suggested it: Ianto wasn't about to make any sort of decision without Gareth being involved.
He turned and left the room, heading downstairs and not caring if Rhiannon followed. He should never have brought her along; she was going to find fault with any decision he made that didn't have anything to do with him moving back to Cardiff permanently. He'd tried on several occasions to explain to her that he was an adult and didn't need her mothering him, but she persisted, and he knew he had to get out from under her overbearing presence before he said something he'd really regret.
He emerged out into the sunlight, blinking slightly to clear his vision. Rhys was standing next to the Range Rover, looking at him expectantly. "I'll take it," Ianto announced, hearing Rhiannon say something nasty behind him. He didn't care. This was what was best for him and his son.
"Fantastic!" Rhys exclaimed. "However, there's something you might want to know before you sign anything…"
"I knew the place was a wreck!" Rhiannon snorted.
"No, it's not that," Rhys denied. "The cottage is in great shape. No, it's about the…reputation, the place has. You'll hear about is sooner or later, and I didn't want you to go into it ignorant, as it were."
Ianto's heart sank. He really wanted this place, and if this was bad news…"What is it?"
"Well – and I haven't really seen any evidence myself, mind – it's just that the last tenants claimed the place was haunted." He almost looked ashamed to admit it.
One eyebrow went up on its own volition, even as Rhiannon laughed. "You're serious?" Ianto asked, not so worried anymore.
Rhys nodded. "Said that it was the ghost of Captain Jack himself. He'd move things, make noises, that sort of thing. Oh, and they swore he'd watch them…well, having sex." The estate agent blushed a little.
It was Ianto's turn to laugh. "Well, I don't have to worry about that!" Still, it was certainly a strange thing to have to disclose about the cottage.
"That's just plain silly," Rhiannon scoffed.
"Rhi, please," Ianto snapped, getting tired of her behaviour. He glanced back up at the cottage, knowing that it was perfect for his family. For a second he thought he saw a dark shape standing at the French doors in the master bedroom, but it was gone suddenly.
He really didn't believe in ghosts. So it wouldn't impact his choice at all.
"I still want to put in an offer," Ianto said. "I think my son and I will like it here. And, if there is a ghost…well, hopefully he won't mind sharing."
He watched from the balcony as the young man and his sister got into the car, to head back to the town. He frowned; he didn't like it when someone moved into his home, but even he knew he couldn't really stop it from happening, being dead and all.
Well, he'd see if this man and his son were worthy of Spitfire Cottage. If they weren't, then he would make certain they left as quickly as possible.