Ianto really couldn't figure his boss out, and he'd been working for him for a month now. Captain Harkness – Jack, Jack, he really had to start calling him Jack – was a mystery to him in the way most people weren't. There was something off about him, something that wasn't just his unpredictability or the secrets he was so obsessed on keeping. Like he was always waiting for something, something that had nothing to do with Cardiff, or the Rift, or even Torchwood. Nothing to do with those at all. Owen didn't seem to care, Suzie was much too unapproachable, and Tosh always told him off for prying.
He wasn't prying. Just interested, that's all. Still, he could wait.
Sometimes Ianto thought Suzie knew more about the Captain than she was letting on. There were looks between them, sometimes, as though they'd simultaneously recalled some secret of the universe Ianto wasn't privy to. So Ianto made coffee, always hoping that somehow he'd bring it to Jack's office just at the moment when everything could be revealed. But every day there was just a pile of empty mugs around Jack's desk, and no answers.
Ianto filed another report, not caring that he always had all the secrets of Torchwood at his fingertips. There was a clatter of excited footsteps as Suzie rushed past him, clearly brimming with some new idea that he'd probably hear about tomorrow. Jack came and stood at the doorway to his office, staring into some place that Ianto could not fathom. It was a full five minutes before Jack noticed anyone was there, and all Ianto could think of was how much he wanted to climb inside his head, and see whatever it was that Jack saw.
Then Jack spotted him, and the look disappeared again, to be transformed into a beaming smile that Ianto was becoming concerned was reserved him alone. He really wasn't sure at all what that meant.
Ianto knew he was like this with everybody, but every time Jack flirted with him he couldn't help the back of his neck reddening. He hesitated to call it unprofessional, because nothing here was, really, but it couldn't be a good thing. If he was a different sort of man – if he was Owen, maybe – he might say something about it. But he didn't. Yet it worried him, nagged him at intervals, how a man could be so open and closed at the same time. Jack worried him most of the time, what with one thing and another.
Every moment Ianto had, he was thinking about Lisa, taking care of Lisa, making sure he was doing everything he could for Lisa. That was his real job, his important work. Yet his focus was slipping, almost imperceptibly. On the nights were he did sleep, dreams took a strange turn. Dark corridors, half-opened drawers and a man just out of reach. Ianto always woke up sweating.
And sometimes Ianto was almost tempted not to take each opportunity alone in the Hub to travel downwards, but instead up and out and following Jack, wherever it was that he went. A vault full of stars and secrets, deep underground. And then suddenly Jack would realise that Ianto could handle it, and divulge all of what he kept so hidden.
But Ianto resisted, instead continuing his research into someone, anyone that could help Lisa. He couldn't help worrying from time to time that this whole Jack thing was getting a little out of hand.
Jack had been in a strange mood all day. It had unnerved Ianto – what if he'd noticed just how much attention Ianto was paying to his every move? But once the latest artefacts had been stored away, and the others had gone home, he couldn't help but linger, just in case that today was the day everything would slot into place.
'Ianto,' Jack said, startling him, and his voice was strange too.
Ianto just smiled mildly. 'Sorry, sir, just finishing up a couple of things. Nowhere particular to be today.'
'Really?' Jack raised an eyebrow, considering, and Ianto mentally crossed his fingers.
'Everything alright?' Ianto asked.
'Oh yeah, I think so,' Jack replied, with a slow smile that made Ianto suddenly realise he'd misjudged the whole thing.
Jack stepped forward, and now his mood wasn't strange at all, rather all too apparent. Ianto laughed nervously.
'Jack, I--' Ianto started, and it was as though he couldn't speak fast enough, because Jack was still approaching, and this hadn't been what he'd meant at all. 'Girlfriend,' he managed, before moving hurriedly backwards.
Jack laughed, head ducking for a moment. 'Well then. You should get home to her, shouldn't you?'
'Yes,' Ianto hastened to agree, before disappearing down the stairs and outside. He paused outside in air ever turning cooler.
That line of enquiry was unsuccessful, then. Walking home just a little more briskly than usual, he shook his head clear. Best to let it slide for a bit, probably.
Lisa was in one of her more lucid moods today. 'Tell me about this Torchwood. How does it compare to London?'
Ianto laughed. 'Oh God, you'd hate it! Complete shambles, really. When you get better, maybe you can organise them all a bit – they sorely need it! Good people, though. Captain Harkness, he's – well, he's nothing like Yvonne was, anyway. Very mysterious. I like him, though.'
'Ianto! I recognise that smile!' There was a teasing note to Lisa's voice that Ianto hadn't heard in what felt like a lifetime.
'Nonsense,' he replied quickly. 'Only you, Lisa.'
She didn't smile as he'd hoped. 'And what about when I'm gone?'
'Don't talk like that! I'm going to make you better, I've just been in touch with a doctor, he's an expert and he's coming all the way from Japan to take a look at you. I'm going to save you.'
'And if you don't?' she replied softly. 'This captain of yours, he sounds like a good man.'
'You need rest,' was all Ianto said in answer, and she didn't protest as he lowered the unit down again.
Ianto walked upstairs in a flood of feeling.
After everything that happened, everything that Jack did, Ianto really ought to have stopped caring so much. Apparently, things didn't quite work like that. He had hated Jack, this rushing rage that threatened to spill over any moment, but somehow that had seeped away, and even in the midst of all this heartache he still couldn't shake the fascination.
'Ianto.' Jack's voice was different again today, and this time Ianto wasn't quite so afraid.
So he stood there, not backing away now, and Jack didn't seem so predatory any more. Jack's hands were on his shoulders, and Ianto closed his eyes: a moment of relief. When Jack kissed him, Ianto just sighed into it. Jack smiled in a strange, sad way when Ianto pulled away, and Ianto couldn't really help but smile back.
'I am so sorry--' Jack started, but Ianto shook his head.
And Jack seemed to understand.
You could learn a lot about a person from the rubbish they left around. That was how Ianto knew about most things, about all of them. Of course Jack realised that, and so Ianto wondered sometimes if it wasn't deliberate, the tantalising clues left slipped from off a desk, or hidden underneath an empty coffee mug. Reports from alien junkies, the sort of people usually loathed by the Torchwood team, with extracts highlighted, mostly pertaining to descriptions of a man sometimes referred to as a doctor. Ianto had been at Torchwood One long enough for that to set bells ringing, and that night he didn't sleep, instead immersing himself in files and records salvaged from Canary Wharf.
So Jack was looking for the Doctor. Ianto wasn't really surprised – that's what Torchwood was for, when you got down to it, wasn't it?
'You're here late again,' Jack said with a note of surprise.
'D'you know what I can't figure out?' Ianto started, tired of the preamble now. 'I mean, there's a lot of things I can't work out about you, Jack, but the one thing that honestly makes no sense to me? If you really wanted to find this Doctor, why not use Torchwood?' Why not use us? he didn't say, but he thought it nonetheless.
Jack laughed, but it wasn't a pleasant sound. Ianto held his gaze, determined not to let it go, not this time.
'Oh, very good, Ianto. Very good. Well, you're smart enough to get this far – you tell me.'
'You don't trust us with anything, do you, sir. We're just mere mortals, unable to handle the truth – much too big for us, I'm sure. Am I on the right lines?'
'Right, because you're a picture of open honesty. Does anyone here know what you're doing, what you're really doing? Suzie knew, of course she knew, but how convenient for you, she's dead now. I'd like to think I know everything you're doing, but do I? Previous events would suggest perhaps not. What other secrets are you hiding, Ianto?'
Ianto had always had a set of rules of work. The less people notice what you're doing, the better you're doing it. Don't have too much initiative – a little goes a long way. Don't get too involved with the people you work with most closely. Ianto had broken them all, at some point or other. He hadn't added don't kiss your boss to the list, but he would have, had he thought of it.
And he was breaking that rule right now, grasping Jack's lapels and meeting his mouth in a rush of air and frustration and secrets. Then everything seemed to break loose simultaneously, and Ianto was crashing up against the wall reaching blindly for Jack and there were hands on his skin and oh god what was he doing.
That was how it started. Ianto still hadn't got much closer to any answers, though.
'I hate hiding everything from you all, you have to believe me,' Jack said once in a rare moment.
'It's alright. I'm not sure it's important any more.'
'No,' Jack agreed. 'Maybe you're right.'
Because even though Ianto knew almost nothing, he couldn't help feeling that every time he kissed Jack he was a little closer to understanding him.
'Tell me exactly what happened, Gwen.'
Gwen waved her arm across the Hub in a state of bewilderment. 'He was-- he was just here. We were talking in his office, he got up to see where you three'd got to… Then there was this wind, or something, everything started rattling, and he was just gone.'
'Did you hear anything? Did you see anything?' Ianto stared at her intently.
'There was a sort of whooshing sound – oh, it's really hard to describe, it's not like anything I've ever heard.'
Owen sprang into action, dashing off to the computers, and the others followed. Ianto slowly put down the coffees, processing. He then walked over to a computer, searching through all his files. Bringing up everything he could on the Doctor, he found a bit of CCTV footage from the Powell Estate, London. He played it, and watched a blue police box disappear out of existence. A sort of whooshing sound indeed.
Once the rest of the Hub was hopefully a little more permanently back in order, Ianto turned to Jack's office. Everything had been shoved back in place somewhat piecemeal, and he started separating it out. Messages that needed dealing at some point, things they needed for the records, urgent material.
Tosh was leaning against the doorway. 'You're so sure he's coming back, aren't you?'
Ianto smiled. 'Always has before, hasn't he?'
Tosh looked him with pity in her eyes – how that riled him – before slipping away.
But there was a bit of him that had doubts. If all Jack had wanted was the Doctor, if that was where he was now, would he return? Would he have anything to return for? But they couldn't do this without him, couldn't handle the Rift without him. Ianto looked around Jack's papers, Jack's safe, and had no answers. He clasped his hands together in a strange sort of prayer.
Please come back.
Ianto couldn't do this without him.