Ianto's missed this. As much as he loves travelling through the universe in his TARDIS, nowhere smells quite like Cardiff. He knows he’ll always be drawn back here from time to time, to refresh his memory of where he came from and the place he called home during some of the best and worst years of his life. The only truly sad part is that he can never return to his own time; just like the Doctor, he can’t go home, he’s forever barred from it. On the whole, it’s a small price to pay for the life he now has, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t miss it. Rhi has used her camcorder to provide him with abundant videos of Cardiff in the early years of the twenty-first century, so at least he can see it any time he wants, but videos can’t capture the smell.
Cardiff has changed a lot since his time; it’s bigger, cleaner, the buildings taller, but the scent of the breeze off the sea remains the same, the tang of salt hanging in the air along with the sharpness of ozone. He breathes in deeply, drawing the scent to the depths of his lungs before releasing it in a long, drawn out sigh. It’s the scent of home, and if he doesn’t turn around to see the unfamiliar city behind him, he could almost believe that nothing has changed at all and it’s the last few centuries that have been the dream. Not that he regrets what he’s become, far from it, but he supposes you never really outgrow your beginnings.
There’s a monument now where the water tower used to be, above the Hub, which is now the Torchwood museum. Her Majesty had UNIT dig out the rubble and take away all the artefacts that could be considered dangerous. The rest was restored to look as much like it used to as possible, using images from the CCTV that had still been on the Torchwood server for reference. That footage is played in an endless loop on screens set around the walls, so people can see real video images of earth’s heroes, the Torchwood team who gave their lives protecting this city and the planet from the worst the universe could throw at them. Ianto’s glad that Tosh regularly deleted his and Jack’s after hours antics from the server, after downloading them to a memory stick for his and Jack’s personal use of course. He’s no prude, but some things should not be for public consumption. Although he was never able to prove it, Ianto always suspected she kept copies for herself; maybe UNIT found them. He can just picture the expressions on the faces of the top brass if they ever decided to review the recordings.
He and Jack, both heavily disguised, toured the museum a couple of days ago. It was nostalgic and a bit creepy, there are waxworks of themselves, dressed in replicas of their familiar outfits; his wearing a three piece suit and standing by the coffee machine, Jack’s in his World War Two era clothing sitting at the desk in his office. Even Jack’s bunker is an exhibit. Tosh, Owen, and Gwen are represented too, and their likenesses are uncannily good. Seeing them like that hurt; Tosh and Owen died saving lives, they deserve to be remembered and honoured for that, but oh, how he misses them.
Since the tour, they’ve wandered the city, finding some parts that haven’t changed much. The Castle is more weather-beaten but still standing, Bute Park is smaller than he remembers, the Norwegian Church is still where they left it. Even Mermaid Quay is still there, the tourist office now the official entrance to the museum. Exploring the new version of Cardiff has been enjoyable, but this is what Ianto really came back for, so this is where they always end up, leaning on the railings and staring out across the bay to the barrage, breathing the sea air while the breeze ruffles their hair. They don’t even really mind the rain; that too is familiar and unchanged.
Ianto smiles into the wind and licks salt spray from his lips. If he can’t go home, then surely this is the next best thing.