A/N: Surprise! I'm back! I'm terribly sorry it took so long. Thanks for all the continued feedback.
disclaimer: I don't own Doctor Who.
Today had not been a good day. It had been a bad day. A very bad day.
It hadn't been one of those miserable bad days where everything went wrong. Those days were bad, but once over and done with, things were so bad they couldn't get any worse. From there, things could only get better. It was the kind of day that ended in a sigh of relief, because it was over and tomorrow would be better. But it hadn't been that kind of bad day.
No, today had been the other kind of bad day. It had been one of those stressful bad days that were decisive in how many more bad days were to come. It had been the kind of day that – if not handled properly – would end in misery, regret, and a looming sense of dread of the days to follow.
John had been director of Torchwood for two months now. They had flown by in a haze of paperwork, meetings, and caffeine-fueled late nights spent working. The sheer amount of work involved in being director had taken John by surprise. How Pete had managed to keep up, and have time to be a father and husband as well, John would never know. John had only had dinner at his flat a handful of times since becoming director.
Though some nights John had chosen to stay late, reluctant to return to the flat, knowing Rose would be there. The few meals he had shared at home with Rose had been frigid, miserable affairs. The strain on their fractured relationship had increased when John barred Rose from the field nearly a month and a half ago. She couldn't see he was only doing what he had to for her own protection. Every time he saw Rose, he could see her love for him fading from her eyes. It killed him, watching their love die. So he stayed away, as if by doing so he could preserve what little they still had.
Tomorrow would be John and Rose's first anniversary. This was a far cry from how John had imagined their first anniversary going when he and Rose exchanged vows merely a year ago. He was drowning in work and barely on speaking terms with his wife. He didn't even have any plans with Rose to commemorate the occasion.
But for once, John's shattered marriage was not the source of his problems.
The reason that today had been so awful was because of the alien John was currently sharing dinner with. It was a Sycorax. Not Just any Sycorax, either. It was their ambassador.
Because of the Doctor and Rose's encounter with the warrior race on their first Christmas together, John had been wary the first time the Sycorax made contact with this earth. John, Rose, and Jackie had pushed Pete to sign a peace treaty with the would-be invaders.
It was the only time John and Jackie had ever truly agreed on anything.
From the moment John had entered existence, Jackie had hated him. She had been right in the end, and John hated her for it. She knew her daughter had only loved John because when Rose looked at him, she saw the Doctor. And now that Rose was seeing that he wasn't the Doctor . . .
Anyway, Pete had worked with the leaders of the earth and the Sycorax to work out a peace treaty, and he had been successful. The Sycorax had signed the treaty and left earth in peace.
But apparently the Sycorax only honored treaties as long as all the original members involved in the treaty maintained their positions. John supposed it worked just fine for them. Their entire race lived under one government, and once appointed, leaders held their positions for life. It wasn't going to work for the earth, though. Not with new leaders being elected all the time.
After John replaced Pete, it had taken a lot of persuading to convince the Sycorax to give John a chance before declaring the peace treaty invalid.
So today had been it. John's chance. His chance to get the Sycorax to continue to honor the treaty while he figured out a permanent solution.
So John had done his best to impress the Sycorax, to prove he was a capable leader and a worthy ally. He spent the morning telling the ambassador about his plans for Torchwood's future – how he planned to handle Torchwood's increased role in Britain's politics, firmly establish earth's place in the galactic community, and arm the earth against invasion.
The ambassador had just listened silently, with a faint aura of disdain.
Around noon, John had switched tactics. He gave up on trying to impress the ambassador. He spent the afternoon trying to prove that humans were more useful as allies than slaves. He took the ambassador to that chip shop Pete had opened a few years ago. He gave the ambassador a tour of London, showing off London's favorite tourist destinations and several museums.
Now, John watched the Sycorax ambassador as they silently dined together in a posh Italian restaurant. Had he done it? Was the peace treaty going to continue? Once finished, the ambassador left without a word.
As he paid for the meal, John contemplated what he would do next. He had more work than he cared to think about waiting for him back at Torchwood. He really should go back and try to get more done. He could talk to Leticia, tell her about his fears. For some reason, he always felt better after confiding in her. Or he could go back to his flat. He was tired. He just wanted to fall asleep and forget his problems for just a little while. Though he didn't think he could relax if Rose was there. After today, he couldn't deal with her too.
John decided to stop by the flat. It was closer anyway. If Rose was out, he would stay and try to get a decent night's sleep. If Rose was there, he would go to the Tower and work until he passed out in his chair.
When John got to the flat, he found a note taped to the front door in Rose's handwriting.
GONE OUT. MIGHT NOT MAKE IN BACK TONIGHT. ROSE
John breathed a sigh of relief. He wouldn't have to face Rose tonight She was out, probably with Jake (he ignored the twinge of jealousy at the thought) and Martha. He could stay and try to get some sleep. Hopefully in would ease his anxiety. It didn't.
John arrived at Torchwood the next morning to discover Rose had not been out with Jake and Martha. She had been with the Sycorax ambassador. She had worn a smug smile as she told John that she and the ambassador had come up with a way to permanently maintain the peace treaty. All John had to do was agree to the ambassador's simple request.
John had been too relieved to feel annoyed or frustrated with Rose for going behind his back to conduct negotiations of her own.
That is, until he heard the ambassador's request. Apparently, the Sycorax had grown used to dealing with governments like earth's, with new leaders being elected all the time. Their solution was simple. The Sycorax kept a permanent representative for each of their allies. All John had to do was give the ambassador a person to represent earth. That person would accompany the ambassador off-planet and live with the Sycorax. John would have agreed in a heartbeat, if it hadn't been for one significant detail.
"No." John bluntly refused. "Pick someone else."
"I've already decided." the ambassador said. "Rose will come with me, or we'll end the treaty."
"No." There was no way he was going to let Rose be taken away from him.
"She will come."
"I said no." John practically snarled. "You will not take Rose. If you do we will take it as an act of war." John knew he should stop. He wasn't in a position to declare wars on behalf of the earth. He couldn't stop, though. Not with this alien bastard trying to steal Rose. "I will burn up galaxies if you try to take her."
"You would choose to save a single female over protecting your people from a war they could never win?" asked the ambassador. He sounded faintly amused, but there was a threat veiled be the words.
"I would." Of course he would. John would always choose Rose. Every time.
There was more arguing after that. John refused to let Rose go. The ambassador refused to accept anyone but Rose as the earth's representative. In the end, the ambassador stormed out, declaring the treaty was over.
"You will regret this, John Smith." were the alien's parting words.
John ignored the words. As long as Rose was within reach, he would regret nothing.
Ianto entered his flat after work with his back turned to the interior. He closed the front door and just stood there for a moment, facing the door. He needed just a few moments to himself. A month ago he hated coming back to the empty flat. Now he missed the solitude.
Ianto finally made himself turn around. He observed his flat despondently. Much had changed over the past month, and his flat had suffered for it. Once – it seemed like a lifetime ago – his flat had been clean. Pristine. Now the place was a mess.
Amidst the chaos, the origin of the mess sat on the couch, focused with laser-like intensity on a sheet of paper he was bending and twisting. He wore a t-shirt and jeans, more normal than when Ianto first met him. The bowtie, however, was still there, draped around his neck, untied.
The floor in front of the couch was buried under a pile of crumpled paper.
"I'm back!" Ianto declared unnecessarily as he stooped to pick up one of the papers. It was a vaguely round shape with handle attached. It took a few seconds for Ianto to realize that the paper was a miniature replica of a cyberman head. Once he knew what it was, though, Ianto thought it was a very good replica.
Ianto picked up another paper. This one was a rectangular box with a knob at one end. He didn't recognize what it was, but the attention to detail was admirable.
A third paper was a castle. There were also various animals and shapes. And that Australian opera house that had been destroyed in the war with the Sycorax.
Ianto dropped the papers back on the floor and looked up at the Doctor. The Time Lord had finished his latest creation and was now holding in up to admire.
Ianto thought it was impressive. Every fold and twist was precise. It looked exactly like the real thing. Yet another monument lost in the war with the Sycorax. The Eiffel Tower.
Ianto did have one question, though. "Where-?"
"Tokyo, twenty-sixth century. The fifth extraterrestrial Japanese colony. It only lasted five hundred years. Never did find out what happened. They were famous through out the Andromeda galaxy for their origami. I had to improvise for him, though." The Doctor gestured to the cyberman head on the floor.
"I was going to ask where we're going to put all of these, but I'd love to hear the rest of that story, later." Ianto had discovered early on that he could keep the Doctor occupied by listening to tales of the alien's previous adventures. They were completely mad, but at least it kept the Doctor from destroying the flat more than he already had.
"Naw. It's rather boring. I was just trying to pass the time while Donna was shopping. I thought I'd tell you about the time Rose and I visited Cardiff . . ."
Half and hour later Ianto sat at the kitchen table, half-listening to the Doctor's tale while eating dinner. It was just as bizarre as all the Doctor's other stories. The Doctor, Rose, Rose's boyfriend, and Jack Harkness had saved the earth from being destroyed by the mayor of Cardiff, who was a alien fugitive. It was completely mental.
Ianto found it hard to believe that the Rose in the Doctor's stories was the same Rose Ianto knew. The Rose in the Doctor's tales was a bright, care-free, compassionate young girl. The Rose Ianto knew, on the other hand, was a battle-hardened soldier.
Ianto also found it hard to believe that an alternate version of himself had taken the flirtatious, charismatic Captain Jack Harkness as a lover. Ianto couldn't believe he would want a male lover at all. Yet according to the Doctor, the Ianto Jones and Captain Jack Harkness of the Doctor's universe had been lovers until Ianto died. That was also strange, knowing in another universe, he was dead. He hadn't made it to thirty.
That had been an unsettling evening. Listening as the Doctor told the life story of a dead man. Knowing that in some strange way, he was that dead man. It hadn't helped that the Doctor had told that story with a childish sort of enthusiasm (apparently, it had been eating away at the Doctor that he hadn't been able to recognize Ianto sooner).
Ianto listened to the Doctor talk about Jack Harkness. What kind of man was this Harkness bloke? What about this man could have been so appealing he had captured the other Ianto's eye?
Knock! Knock! The knock on the door interrupted Ianto's train of thought, as well as the Doctor's story.
"Shit!" Ianto shot out of his chair. Had John Smith's men come for the Doctor? He had been careful to keep both the Doctor and himself under Smith's radar. The Doctor hadn't left the building since he arrived. Ianto had known it would only be a matter of time, though. Had it been one of the neighbors? The Doctor had done a few odd repair jobs for the building's residents. Broken telleys, malfunctioning toasters, faulty lamps, that sort of thing. It had been more to occupy the Doctor than earn extra money. Had the Doctor "upgraded" something?
Ianto seized the Doctor's hand and dragged him out of the chair. He shoved the Time Lord into the flat's only bedroom (the Doctor didn't sleep as much or as often as humans, so sleeping arrangements hadn't been a problem).
"Hide in the closet." Ianto hissed in the Doctor's ear. They he gave the Time Lord a shove and shut the door. He prayed that the Doctor would do as he was told.
Ianto dashed back through the flat to the front door.
Ianto swung the door open, fully prepared to deal with the thugs John Smith had sent –
– and came face to face with Martha.
Martha knocked impatiently on Ianto's door. She could hear the dull thud of footsteps from inside. Ianto was obviously here. Why was he taking so long?
Martha kept knocking. She wasn't going to leave until she saw Ianto. Something was up with him, and she was determined to find out what it was. Before long her knuckles started to go numb form being repeatedly pounded into the door.
After a minute or so, the lock finally clicked. A second later the door swung open. Ianto's expression morphed from wary to surprised the moment he saw Martha.
Ianto just stared at her before recovering from his shock enough to say, "Hello Martha. What are you doing here?"
"What am I doing here?" Martha laughed incredulously. "What are you doing here?"
"I live here." Ianto said with a roll of his eyes.
The motion was so familiar Martha wondered for a second why she had thought anything was more wrong than usual. But no, normally Ianto would still be at work at this time.
"No you don't." Martha said. "You crash here at the end of the day. You sleep here. You live at work, except for the past month you haven't. And god it's cold out here." Martha pushed past Ianto and entered the flat despite his protests. "What the hell . . . ?"
Martha could count the number of times she had been to Ianto's flat with the fingers on just one of her hands. That flat had always looked the same. Pristine, sterile, lifeless. Always.
But not this time. Now it looked like a tornado had blown through. The place was full of clutter. There was a mountain of paper by the couch. Post-it notes were stuck to everything that ran on electricity, discouraging anyone from dismantling the objects they were protecting. Dirty dishes sat by the sink, left to be washed at a later date. Books were scattered across the kitchen table. A few had been pushed aside to accommodate dinner dishes for two –
For two? So that girl had been telling the truth. Ianto did have a new flatmate. Ianto never brought anyone to his empty, lonely flat.
But it wasn't empty anymore, Martha mused as she cast a glance at the mess. She looked at the table again. It was no longer lonely here, either.
Martha spun around to face Ianto.
"What's going on with you, Ianto?" asked Martha. "You've been acting strange ever since the D – since he was here. You've been avoiding me, you're flat's a mess, and you've got a new flatemate," Martha waved her hand toward the messy table set for two. "That for some reason you don't want me to know about – "
"Who told you that?" Ianto cut in.
"What? That you've got a new flatemate? It was one of the girls. She said you're new flatmate was a handsome young bloke. She thinks you two are shagging."
"What – ? Why – ? I – " Ianto spluttered indignantly. His face was flushed.
"Oh my god! It's true?" Martha didn't care who Ianto liked, but she had never realized he like blokes. Though to be fair, he hadn't shown much interest in anyone at all since Lisa.
"Ianto? Isn't that Martha? I don't need to hide from her, do I?" asked a young male voice.
Ianto shot a panicked look behind Martha. She turned around to see a young man – practically a teenager – poking his head out the bedroom door. He was wearing loose jeans and a worn out t-shirt. He had messy brown hair that flopped over his forehead. He also had a strip of bright red cloth draped around his neck. He seemed a bit disheveled.
For one absurd, confusing moment, Martha wondered if Ianto was keeping the man prisoner so he couldn't tell anyone that the two men were shagging.
Then Martha recognized the man, and everything made much more sense. Ianto wasn't keeping the man prisoner, nor was he shagging the other man (at least Martha hoped so. Rose didn't need more emotional turmoil right now).
"Martha Jones! Hello again!" exclaimed the man.
Martha stared at the man incredulously. What the hell had Ianto been thinking?
"Doctor?" asked Martha.
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