Now that Rhiannon knew Ianto worked for Torchwood, he should have known she was never going to be put off finding out more for long.
“Well?” she said, the next time she met her baby brother for coffee.
“Well what?” Ianto sometimes found his sister confusing, she’d start talking as if she was carrying on a conversation that may have begun weeks or even months earlier.
“Listen, Ianto, I know what you do, I know you’re dating your boss, I’ve signed the…” Rhi leant forward across the table and dropped her voice to a barely audible whisper, “Official Secrets Act.” Ianto could practically hear the capital letters. She straightened up and sipped her coffee. “When do I get to see where you work? Or isn’t that allowed?”
Strictly speaking, it wasn’t, but then again, strictly speaking Rhi shouldn’t have been told about Torchwood at all. Jack had given Ianto permission to tell his sister because he didn’t want it to seem like he was giving Gwen preferential treatment. Rhys had become involved with Torchwood during the space whale incident, and Gwen had insisted he keep his memories, against Jack’s wishes at the time. In truth, Ianto thought that hadn’t turned out to be such a bad thing. Rhys was a good man, he helped out with transport from time to time, and had been inside the Hub on numerous occasions when an extra pair of hands had been needed. But if he was allowed inside Torchwood’s secret base, then why shouldn’t Rhiannon be permitted the same privilege?
Ianto came to a decision; he was probably making a huge mistake, but… “If you really want the grand tour, I suppose we could go after we finish our coffee.”
“Seriously?” Rhi asked, surprise written all over her face.
“You’re here, things are quiet at the moment, and it’s raining, so we might as well go somewhere that’s out of the weather.”
“That’s brilliant! I thought you’d say no, or come up with a load of excuses. Jack won’t get mad at you, will he?”
“If he does, I’ll accuse him of favouritism; that should take care of it. Gwen’s husband is in and out often enough and Jack doesn’t bat an eye anymore.”
They drank their coffee in a leisurely fashion, because Ianto wasn’t about to be rushed, the Hub wasn’t going anywhere, but when they were done, he helped Rhi into her raincoat, led the way out of the coffee shop, and put up his umbrella before stepping out into the pouring rain and starting across the Plas, arm-in-arm with his sister.
“Sure you want to do this?” he asked her, giving her one last chance to chicken out.
“You’re not changing my mind, Ianto Jones!”
“Wouldn’t dream of it.” Not having to lie to Rhi anymore had taken a huge weight off his shoulders.
They hurried through the puddles, and down the steps to Mermaid Quay, where Ianto unlocked the door to the Tourist Office, ushering Rhi inside and locking up behind them. Setting his umbrella in the stand just inside the door, he turned to Rhiannon, who was looking at him with a disgusted expression on her face. “Very funny, I don’t think! Bringing me to a tourist office. I thought you were serious about showing me where you work!”
“Relax, Rhi; I am. The Tourist Office is a front. It’s real enough, and I do spend some time working up here, I even assist tourists occasionally, but this is also what I suppose you could call the visitor’s entrance. Come with me.”
“Where to? Barely room to swing a cat in here!”
“Be patient a moment; you’ll see.” Striding behind the desk, Ianto hit the button and watched his sister’s jaw drop as the false wall swung aside.
“Bloody Hell!” she exclaimed. “It’s like something out of a Bond movie!”
“Of course it is. No secret agency would be caught dead without an underground lair.” Ianto realised he was quite enjoying himself. “After you.” He gestured towards the hidden passageway and followed Rhi inside, the wall swinging closed behind him.
“So where does this go?”
“To the lift. Like all good underground lairs, it’s quite a way down. There are stairs, but they don’t get much use.”
Ianto stood calmly in the lift as Rhiannon fidgeted impatiently beside him. As it came to a stop at the bottom and the doors opened, he glanced at her and warned, “Brace yourself, and you might want to cover your ears.”
“What for?” Most of Rhiannon’s question was drowned out by the cacophony of screeching sirens that accompanied the cog door opening, and she flinched, hunching her shoulders against an almost physical wall of sound as she followed her brother through the entrance. Then she stopped dead and her eyes went wide as she gaped at the sheer size of the place she found herself in. The sirens cut off as abruptly as they’d started and silence fell.
Hands in his pockets, Ianto smirked at Rhiannon. “Welcome to the Hub.”
“Oh my God! It’s bloody huge!”
“This is just the main work area. There are at least twenty levels below this one, going down deep into the bedrock.”
Rhi stared at her brother incredulously. “You’re kidding!”
Ianto shook his head. “It must have taken decades to build. Most of the lowest levels aren’t used, and some were never completed; it’s easy to get lost if you don’t know your way around down there.”
“And you work here.”
“I spend more time here than I do at home. Part of my job is to keep this place organised and running smoothly. It’s a big job.”
“You’re telling me!” Rhi gazed around her at the banks of computers, the glass-walled hothouse, the metal catwalks, the bottom section of the water tower, surrounded by the Rift pool, and the shabby sofa beneath the Torchwood sign. “It’s incredible! But where is everyone?”
“The Rift was quiet so I gave them the afternoon off.” Jack leaned casually in the doorway of his office. “Rhiannon. Nice to see you again.”
“Jack. Is it okay that Ianto brought me here? I wouldn’t want him getting in trouble on my account.”
“It’s fine. Not often we get to show this place off.” Pushing away from the doorjamb, Jack sauntered down to join them. “For obvious reasons, we don’t get a lot of visitors.”
“I suppose not. You wouldn’t be very secret if you did. Not that you are, with that bloody great SUV you lot swan around in.” As Rhiannon scanned the Hub, trying to take everything in, she heard a harsh screech coming from somewhere above her and her eyes were drawn upwards towards the distant ceiling. She caught her breath at the sight of the massive winged creature gliding around high overhead and she clutched at Ianto’s arm. “What is that?”
Ianto followed her gaze and smiled. “That’s Myfanwy. She fell through the Rift a few years back. Jack and I captured her and now she’s sort of the team mascot.”
“She’s an alien?”
“No, she’s just a few million years from home. The Rift runs through time as well as space and it dragged her out of earth’s past. She’s a Pteranodon from the late Cretaceous period, somewhere between seventy-five and eighty-five million years ago. Come on, I’ll introduce you.”
“Introduce…?” Rhi scurried after her brother as he strode across the concrete to an area set up like a makeshift kitchen. He rummaged in a drawer until he found a bar of dark chocolate, breaking off about a quarter and putting the rest back. Moving out into a clear space, he whistled loudly and the flying reptile screeched in response, banking sharply and swooping down to land about twenty feet from Ianto. She waddled towards him, ungainly on the ground, and Rhi took a couple of steps backwards at the sight of the long, viciously toothed beak, barely resisting the temptation to take refuge behind Jack. “Ianto, be careful!”
“It’s fine, Rhi; Myf’s as gentle as a lamb.”
Reaching Ianto, the huge creature rubbed her head against his chest, purring in a surprisingly soft tone. Ianto scratched beside her bony crest. “Hello, old girl. Want some chocolate?” The massive beak clacked eagerly. Ianto laughed and offered the sweet treat, which was taken with surprising delicacy and gulped down whole. “Complete chocoholic, this one,” he threw back over his shoulder at his sister. “Come closer if you want, just move slowly so you don’t scare her.”
“Me scare her? That’s a laugh! I’ll pass; I’m fine right where I am. I wouldn’t want to be any closer to that beak”
“Suit yourself.” Laughing again, Ianto gave the Pteranodon a shove. “That’s all you’re having today, girl. Can’t have you getting too fat to fly. Be off with you now.” He backed up a few steps to give the prehistoric bird room as Myfanwy lumbered around to face the other way and with a single powerful leap, flapped her long, leathery wings, taking to the air once more and soaring upwards. “Isn’t she magnificent?” Ianto turned to his sister, a delighted smile on his face.
“I can honestly say I’ve never seen anything quite like her.” Rhiannon’s legs suddenly felt a bit shaky and she tottered over to sit on the sofa, Jack offering her a steadying arm to lean on.
“Are you okay?”
“I will be. This is just…” Rhiannon gestured around her. “It’s not at all what I was expecting; there’s a lot to take in. You have a pet dinosaur!”
“Yes we do.” Jack grinned and plonked himself down on the sofa beside her. “Ianto spoils her so she likes him more than me.”
“She likes me because I feed her and take care of her,” Ianto corrected, joining them and sitting at Rhi’s other side. “I get to feed everything here, including the team.”
“It’s true,” Jack agreed. “We’d all starve without Ianto. He’s completely indispensable.” High above them, the Pteranodon screeched again. Jack grinned. “See? Myfanwy agrees.”
“Of course I am. None of you are capable of tidying up after yourselves, and without coffee the whole place would grind to a halt.” Ianto turned to Rhi. “So, in future when I tell you I’m busy at work, maybe you’ll believe me.”
“Maybe I will,” Rhiannon said, nudging her brother with her elbow, “but I’ll keep saying I don’t anyway, otherwise Johnny and the kids will think something funny’s going on. Got to keep up appearances, right?”
“Right,” Ianto agreed. “So, are you ready to see the rest?”
“You just try and stop me!”
Ianto laughed and got to his feet, pulling Rhi up with him. “Alright then. On with the tour!”