Jack was not a morning person, even after two wars and nearly two hundred years of living. He'd developed the ability to sleep anywhere and wake alert when he had to, in the wars, but in the relatively nine-to-five world of Torchwood (relative to trench combat, anyway) he'd allowed himself a little slack. He could be groggy in the morning, as long as he still got up at a reasonable hour. This was allowed.
He did immediately notice that there was something wrong in his office, as soon as he came up into it, but he didn't notice what for a good minute and a half. He just stood there, looking around, trying to figure out what it was. Niggling at him like a loose tooth --
There, on his desk. His watch-stand had been moved. Not much, just a few inches, inwards slightly from the edge of the desk. In its place was a plain white mug from the kitchen, one of four that Suzie had brought in one day because she was tired of always getting stuck with the KISS ME I'M ALIEN mug.
There was coffee in the mug.
Jack didn't tend to drink beverages whose origins were a mystery, but at least the presence of the mug put him on warning. And given yesterday's offering, he was fairly certain he knew who'd accomplished it. He checked his watch; just now coming on eight am. Ianto Jones was early.
The question was -- questions, really, were -- how the goddamn had the kid gotten into the Hub, and what the goddamn he was going to do with him now that he was here.
He carried the mug carefully to his doorway and leaned over, looking down.
"HAVE WE BEEN ROBBED?" Owen called up to him, clattering around in the medical bay. "I CAN'T FIND MY FILES."
"Very considerate burglars," Jack called back. "They left me coffee."
"DON'T DRINK IT!"
"Owen, sometimes I wonder about your opinion of me," Jack said. He caught movement out of the corner of his eye; there was Ianto Jones, in a suit (he learned fast), carrying a serving tray with three more steaming mugs on it.
Jack detested the arrogance and pride of Torchwood One, even after its fall, but he would admit that they did put out some fine-looking young men.
"Your files are in the second drawer to the right from the steriliser cabinet, Dr. Harper," Ianto said. "I have, as it were, filed them."
"And who the hell are you?" Owen demanded. Jack watched, amused, as Ianto set one of the drinks on Tosh's desk before turning back to cross the narrow Hub catwalk and offer another to Owen. Owen recoiled slightly.
"Ianto Jones. Your new General Support," he said.
"General Support for what?"
"That would be why it's called General," Ianto explained patiently. Jack grinned.
"You're freaking him out, kid," he called down. "Owen Harper, Ianto Jones. I hired him last night after he almost got me killed by a pterodactyl. Good times."
Owen eyed Ianto, and then looked up at Jack. "Good times, huh."
"I think Owen thinks I hired you because of your ass, Ianto."
"If that would have convinced you sooner, I would have made more use of it," Ianto answered.
"Well. Feel free now," Jack replied.
"Would have been nice to have a briefing, Jack," Owen called up.
"You're getting one!"
Ianto tipped his chin at Owen's mug, still in his own hand -- an oddly mature gesture. "I haven't poisoned it, by the way. Though I can't speak for what might have been in the pot before I cleaned it. Lingering traces of sentient mold, potentially."
Owen took it as a challenge. He looked him in the eye as he accepted the mug and sipped. Jack waited for it; Owen would find some way to assert his authority. Three...two...one...
"Might as well," Owen said disgustedly. "Never put sugar in my coffee."
"Noted," Ianto said.
"Did you clean?" Jack asked, eyes sweeping the Hub. It looked less...cluttered, somehow.
"You're quiet. How'd you get in?"
"My clearance codes are still valid, I discovered. Handy," Ianto said.
"Torchwood One's clearance codes were wiped from the mainframe."
"So I thought, but those were the general-use top-security codes. Individual codes were still present. I've wiped them," Ianto added.
"Right, you can stay. Keep the hell out of my bay," Owen said, shoving his finger briefly in the young man's face as he passed.
"Don't mind Owen. He's like that in the morning. And early afternoon. And often late at night," Jack said.
"Jack, there's some thing weird about the hallwhoa," Suzie said, arresting in mid-entrance. "Owen. You've changed."
Ianto smiled. "Good morning, miss."
Suzie looked at Jack, who shrugged and sipped his coffee. "We have a butler, Suzie mine," he said. "Meet Ianto Jones. Ianto Jones, Susie Costello, my second-in-command."
"Coffee?" Ianto offered her the final mug on his tray.
Suzie crossed her arms. "You've made yourself at home. Are you here for the job or to invade and conquer?"
"I'm told that up-and-coming young professionals shouldn't make a distinction between the two."
"Are you an up-and-comer, Ianto Jones?" Jack asked.
The serene smile faded slightly and for a moment an unspeakable weariness showed in his eyes. It disappeared almost as soon as it had come. Jack blinked.
"I try, sir," Ianto said.
He wondered if he'd imagined it. "All right. Get acquainted with the team. Suzie, make sure he doesn't pee on the carpet or chew anyone's shoes. Ianto, help her get the pterodactyl situated. End of day, my office."
"Yes, sir," Ianto said quietly.
"You're not an android, are you?" Suzie asked, peering at him as if he were an escaped animal from the zoo.
That same tiny smile again. "No, Ms. Costello."
Suzie and Tosh spent the afternoon whispering to each other, after Ianto took the box.
It wasn't that they didn't want him to take the box. It was just that it hadn't occurred to them. They'd all been arguing about it; Jack had left them to deal with an artefact and they were trying to figure out how a three-way rock-paper-scissors for who had to process and file it would work.
"I did it last time," Owen said.
"You had to do it last time, it was medical," Suzie pointed out.
"Which is why I shouldn't have to do it again!"
"It's still medical!"
"Ms. Costello, Ms. Sato, Dr. Harper," said a voice, and all three of them raised their heads from the fight. Ianto was standing just beyond them. "Excuse me."
He moved forward, through them, murmuring an apology as Tosh stepped aside. He examined the box, closed the clasp, and carried it away.
"What are you doing with that?" Suzie asked.
"Processing and filing," Ianto replied, without looking back. "I was in research, I know all the procedures. The appropriate forms for signature will be on your desk before end of day."
"I'm telling you, he's an android," Suzie said to Tosh. "He came through the Rift and Svengali'd Jack and made himself at home."
"Even if he did I think we should keep him," Tosh replied. "He's cute. And now Owen won't spend all day sulking about cataloguing."
"What if he's an evil android?"
"Well, how evil are we talking?" Jack asked, joining them. Both of them jumped. "I mean, world-domination-machine in the basement evil, that'll get him fired. Serial killer evil, we should probably not keep him around either."
(Sometimes in his darker moments Jack wonders just how psychic he is.)
"Tormenting Owen evil," Suzie said.
"Kicking cats evil."
"Huh," Jack rubbed his chin. "That's a tough one. I say keep, but deprogram. I only fire for kicking dogs."
"What've you got against cats?" Suzie asked.
"I like dogs," Jack replied defensively.
"But you know he was there, right?" Tosh said. "At Canary Wharf. That's what his records say."
"I don't have any reason to believe he wasn't. And I don't care," Jack added. "Granted, an evil android from out the Rift could potentially hack his way into our mainframe and rearrange our reality for us, but it seems like a lot of work just to be Torchwood Three's errand-boy. On the other hand, if you wanted me to be really thorough I could try getting him out of those clothes and see if his skin has any seams."
The women just looked at him.
"Yeah, he wears a lot of complicated layers, you're right," Jack said, as Ianto opened a file cabinet labeled "ARCHIVAL FORMS", looked inside, frowned, and removed a shoe from its depths. They watched as he studied it, placed it on top of the cabinet, and continued his quest for the proper paperwork.
"Nothing much fazes Ianto Jones," Suzie said.
"He creeps me right the fuck out," Owen said, sitting in Jack's office with his feet on the edge of Jack's desk.
"Is it the cleanliness or the efficiency?" Jack asked, nudging Owen's feet off the desk. Owen brought them down with an annoyed thump.
"He's Torchwood London. You hated Torchwood London. How do we know he's legit?"
"You think he's a spy for a branch of the organisation that doesn't even exist anymore?" Jack asked. "Who's he going to report to, the ghost of Yvonne Hartman? Suzie thinks he's a robot, you think he's a spy, I dread to imagine what Tosh thinks he is."
"Well, what do you think?"
Jack set his pen down and leaned back, contemplating. "You want to know, really?"
"Yeah, I do."
"Last night, Myfwanwy dropped me on him."
"Beg pardon?" Owen asked.
"The pterodactyl. Myfanwy."
"He named it?"
"No, I did. It's a nice name," Jack added before Owen could open his mouth.
"Anyway, then she tried to kill us both by falling on us, so I rolled us out of the way. And there I was," Jack grinned, "Under six feet of very attractive business suit -- "
"Oh god. You hired him because you want a shag?"
"I don't make a habit of screwing the staff," Jack said sharply. Owen snorted. "I hired him because he wanted a shag -- metaphorically, or something -- and instead he got up and walked away. And I want to know why."
"I think he's twisty. How do we know if he's on our side?"
"Who exactly do you think our enemy is, Owen?" Jack asked. And this is when he felt it must all have started, because even when he wasn't present Ianto had a way of slipping quietly out of the conversation.
"I tell you who's not on our side, and that's most of the creatures that come through the rift still breathing. Anyone who's ever tossed some harmless killing machine through the rift. Any humans who get their hands on anything connected to the rift..."
Jack dove into the argument headfirst, on a purely academic level; he and Owen spent half an hour discussing Torchwood's priorities and challenges, as someone with more tact than Owen might say, and by the end of it neither one of them remembered that they'd been discussing Ianto at all.
It took exactly three days for the team to get used to Ianto's presence and begin to ignore him. Jack did not notice this as it was happening, because he was learning to ignore Ianto too, but later Ianto admitted he'd timed and arranged it quite carefully, keeping out of sight and mind, silently providing what was needed without being noticed, making things work and then disappearing back into the Information Centre.
Those had been fun discussions, Ianto picking fruitlessly at the food Jack made him order, not touching the beer Jack also made him order, hollows under his eyes. He needed to be out of the Hub for a few weeks, to give tempers a time to cool, but that didn't mean Jack had to abandon him.
"You know what it reminds me of?" Jack asked, tucking into his pastie with enthusiasm. If you were enthusiastic you didn't stop as much to wonder what you were eating. "Torchwood One. They brought the cybermen over too. Of course, they had government funding and all kinds of shiny toys."
Ianto flinched away, eyes tracking through the window to the pavement outside. He hadn't meant to make it sound like an insult; he was trying to turn it into a sort of compliment, in fact.
He reached over and tipped Ianto's chin back, making him face him even if he couldn't make him meet his eyes.
"But you, Ianto Jones, you just had your wits." He paused. "I want to know how you did it."
"Why?" Ianto asked wearily, pulling back and out of Jack's grip.
Ianto looked away. "Indulge you," he repeated.
"Well, you owe me something for punching me, let's put it that way," Jack said. "You like balance, that ought to appeal to you. Besides, I need to know if any of the rewiring you did is likely to affect the Hub."
That was reason, if nothing else was; Ianto nodded.
"So, indulge your Captain. Start at Canary Wharf."
Jack could be ruthless when he wanted.
He saw Ianto's eyes dull a shade further. "That far."
Ianto dragged his face back on his own this time, even managed to fix his gaze somewhere around Jack's nose.
"Secrets kill us slowly. I know that. Yours kept you alive after Torchwood burned, but they'll kill you in the end. Someone else has to keep your secrets for you if you want to survive this. So." Jack nudged the beer towards him. "Drink, and give me your secrets. I can help lock them away for you. This isn't punishment. I want to help you."
Ianto shook his head and pushed the beer away, but he did open his mouth.
"She was heavy," he said. "And it was hot. That's what I remember. We walked over bodies to escape, we had to have, but it was like walking through sand. Push away and you don't notice, do you?"
Jack was silent. Ianto looked down again.
"She stopped me at the exit. There were -- " he laughed, shocking Jack. "There were trucks full of conversion units. Mobile army-building. It couldn't have been easier. She told me how to -- install her. There I was..."
He reached out and took a shaky sip of the beer then, wiping his lips with the ball of his thumb.
"Madly strapping her into this spiderweb, that's what I called it. Making sure the power was up. She told me what to do, I should have been suspicious then -- Lisa -- " he hesitated. "She wasn't like that."
"She told me to leave the truck a few blocks away. I swore I wouldn't leave her. She said I had to. I had to go back. So I did. They found me, sent me to a doctor, sent me home. It was harder in London, there are so many people there," he said. "When the smoke cleared, nobody seemed to care about us. The survivors. No retcon, no communication. The psychologists they hired...they said I was coping well."
"Really? I'm not. It's not difficult to know what to tell them." Ianto sipped his beer again. "Not difficult to know what to say to anyone who isn't really interested in the first place."
"Ouch," Jack said.
"You asked for the secrets."
"Where was Lisa's body during all this?"
Ianto winced a little at the way Jack phrased it. "Still in the truck. I was modifying it piece by piece, scavenging at night after Suzie and Owen left. In low-power mode the conversion unit won't even drain a car battery. I came back to Cardiff. I knew you were here. Thought there must be some way in. I tried everything."
"I was there," Jack reminded him. "Someone told you a pretty shirt and tight jeans might get you in?"
"You are Jack Harkness. Your...proclivities are well-known."
"Only you could make the word proclivities sound so filthy, Ianto."
"I'm certain you could as well," Ianto replied.
"So you showed up with your bright young face and your coffee," Jack said, "and charmed your way past our defences."
"Was it charm? I thought it was simply a willingness to do the jobs nobody else wanted." Ianto's eyes unfocused a little as he studied his pint glass. "There is a kind of charm in blending in, though. If you disappear, all the bad things disappear too. There were whole hours when I was just part of the Hub. I heard everything, read everything, saw everything, and none of it registered. It was so -- "
"Horrifying?" Jack suggested.
"Wonderful," Ianto corrected, finally meeting his eyes. "I could bag a body or catalogue a weapon or file eyewitness accounts and not judge or feel or think. I welcomed the numbness. It made fooling you easier, too."
Jack knew the signs of shell-shock when he saw it, though it had been called other things since the wars. In his own time it was called Temporary Traumatic Reactive Behaviour. Ianto's disiniterested psychologist would have called it PTSD.
Shell-shock was best, he thought. It was sort of Victorian, and also hinted at the violence that caused it.
Ianto was looking at the table again, the muscles in his jaw tightening.
"Suzie was right," he said eventually. "About what I was. I worried about what they'd see, what you'd see. But then...what was I going to say to them? Give someone enough time and they'll get used to anything. They got used to me. Everyone went out one night and I brought -- "
"Lisa's body," Jack prompted.
" -- yes -- into the Hub. It didn't take long. Half an hour, I think. Once she was here, there was no hurry. I upgraded the tech when she told me to, kept her out of pain as much as I could." Ianto shrugged. "End of story."
"Not by half, but I'll settle, for today." Jack sipped his water. "Is it easier? Not feeling? Being -- part of the Hub?"
"Of course," Ianto replied without hesitation. "Much easier. Just not an option anymore, that's all."
"Why not? When you come back, they won't like you much. It'd be easier to tolerate Owen if you didn't feel or react or judge."
"'When'?" Ianto asked, raising an eyebrow.
"I'm not firing you for being young and stupid."
"You didn't answer. Why can't you go back to not-feeling?"
Ianto looked up at him. "Then I'd just be...them. Cyberman without the metal. Wouldn't I? And all your fighting to kill her and save me would have been a waste."
"And you abhor a waste."
"Jack, Ianto. I have a name."
"What will you be when you come back? Not an android or a spy."
"No. I'll be a traitor." Ianto turned away. "I'm not very hungry, Jack. May I go?"
"Yeah, I think we're done here for now," he said, tossing a handful of bills on the table. "Rift allowing, I'd like to see you tomorrow."
"Well, as I understand it, my schedule is open," Ianto replied, shrugging into his coat. "And I'm rarely far from my mobile."
"I'll call," Jack said, and watched as Ianto hurried from the pub.
It took a while to reconstruct everything, but the weeks following Ianto's betrayal were quiet ones and the team were all sort of -- subdued, in a way Jack hadn't expected. It gave him time to study what his erring employee had been up to, time to find and flag the gaps in Torchwood's CCTV cameras and set Tosh to installing new anti-tamper measures which required his digital signature before footage could be deleted.
Interestingly, Ianto had only bothered removing the most severely incriminating footage -- the night he moved the Cyberwoman into the Hub, and presumably any time he had to maneuver a large piece of equipment through the central atrium. It was a little like he was asking to be caught, and maybe he had been; Jack hoped he had been.
He tracked backwards from morning arrivals in the Hub, Ianto invariably greeting whoever got there first with hot coffee and sometimes breakfast, even when that person was Jack. He found Ianto emerging from the passage to Lisa's room into the atrium, usually around seven; keeping on that passage, he could see Ianto going into it at five sharp every day. Two precious hours, and often he was carrying a small bundle of flowers or a book.
He followed him backwards across the Hub to the showers on the other side, emerging damp-haired and suited for the day. Jack narrowed his eyes. The kid hadn't been sleeping in the Hub, he knew that much.
No -- ticking back even further in the morning camera records, he could see Ianto walking into the locker room dressed in trackpants and a hoodie.
Jack sat back and stared at the freeze-frame, which from that angle and with low-resolution looked a little like some kind of police poster. Have you seen this man?
The time signature on the camera read four-twenty-nine; if he looked at other days, Ianto always arrived between twenty-five and thirty-five past four, except for times when he was still there from the night before, clearing up after a messy mission. Twenty-five minutes was time enough to shower, shave, and put on a suit for his two hours with his girlfriend before he faced the day.
Regimentation was a way of coping -- hell, it had worked for Jack in the war. Wars. Whatever other shit you might be wading through, you knew you'd be awake at a certain time, you knew what was expected of you. The young man in the hoodie, head turned back over his shoulder as if looking for the source of some soft noise, was holding himself together by bloodied fingertips and timekeeping.
Jack jumped up to Plass-level cameras, switching backwards and backwards as he followed Ianto through the dark pre-sunrise Cardiff streets. He wasn't as good at back-tracking as Tosh but he got there eventually -- a camera just outside a shop that Ianto's flat must be located above. The light in his front window went on every morning precisely at 3:15, and Ianto emerged precisely at 3:25. Ten minutes for breakfast.
He let the tape spool forward again, an unchanging route -- a four-mile run from the flat to the Hub, every morning, not too difficult for a young and reasonably fit man. Not necessary, of course, Ianto owned a car and surely he could have woken forty minutes later if he used it, but Jack could see it for what it was: a tiny luxury, the allowance of motion, the illusion that if he ran fast and hard enough he could get away from his life. Maybe that four-mile run was the only time he ever did.
Jack had seen friends lose their loved ones to wasting diseases of all sorts, cancer and syphilis and tuberculosis and diseases not even thought of yet -- Star Twelve Influenza, Kestionatosis, Spacer's Lung. He'd seen colleagues pale and gaunt and exhausted from spending every spare moment in hospital with their loved ones. In 1919 he'd seen people clinging to every last inch of life as the Spanish Flu swept the world.
He knew the signs. He just hadn't cared to look. Too busy staring at Ianto's ass to take more than a second glance at the dark circles under his eyes.
Some nights, the cameras told him, Ianto simply didn't sleep; he finished clearing up whatever mess they'd left, checked his watch, showered, and went back down to see his Lisa at five sharp.
Jack didn't want to feel sorry for him. He'd forced his way in arrogantly, just like the trained Torchwood One soldier he was, and he'd endangered this fragile little world Jack was supposed to be protecting, and he wouldn't fucking give up, even after the monster killed him and Jack brought him back.
But he did feel sorry for Ianto. Because it was no kind of life for anyone, where your only momentary relief was to run towards the thing that was imprisoning you.
Jack could relate.
He tapped his fingers on his mobile for a good five minutes before dialling.
"Jack," Ianto answered. Jack grinned. Caller ID was pretty recent and the whole world was still adjusting to this new technology, but at least it meant two things: he'd answered when he saw who it was, and he was following Jack's...well, order was such a harsh word. Firm suggestion, then, of using his name.
"Ianto," he replied. "How are you?"
"Making breakfast," Ianto answered, which wasn't actually an answer to his question.
"Good. You know, I was thinking, you look like a man who likes to run."
"Do I, sir." Neutral tone, not really a question. Just words to fill the spaces where Jack wasn't talking.
"You do. I'm not much of a runner myself, unless something's chasing me, but I do like hunting."
"Yes?" Ianto prompted.
"Yes. I wondered if you'd like to go hunting with me this evening."
There was a long silence.
"Weevil?" Ianto asked cautiously.
"Well, I know you can handle yourself against one."
"Are you sure that's wise?" Ianto said, and there was a wry note in his voice that made Jack wince.
"I don't think you're capable of throwing me to a Weevil, Ianto."
Silence on the other end.
"Seven o'clock?" Jack suggested.
But he said yes, after all. And Jack knew that a little shot of adrenaline could do wonders for patching things that were broken. Like him and Ianto.
Ten hours later, panting and holding his coat around his shredded shirt in a dark Cardiff alley, he watched Ianto cuff and hood a particularly uppity Weevil, and he noticed that aside from being spattered in mud and wet through from the drizzling rain, Ianto --
Ianto was smiling. Just slightly, hardly even visible in the darkness, but definitely smiling in triumph. Jack wanted to kiss the upturn at the corner of his mouth.
Which was the moment Jack realised he really was in big trouble.
Ianto looked up at him, smile fading. "That was...efficient," he said hesitantly.
"Yeah," Jack breathed, then got a firmer grip on his self-control. "See? Sacking you would have been a complete waste."
Another small, fleeting smile.
"If you say so. Jack."