There was that man again; the Italian.
Ianto knew he was Italian because he’d heard him buying espresso in the Costa on North Colonnade. He’d complimented the barista on her beautiful smile, a ray of sunshine on this overcast day, and he'd drained the coffee in a single gulp. The man had then noticed Ianto watching them.
"Terrible coffee." He’d confided quietly with a false shudder and a grin. Ianto hadn’t managed to stop a small laugh escaping him and a grin of his own. The Italian had checked his watch, given an expressive shrug that seemed to say "I’m sorry, I cannot stay", smiled warmly again and left.
That was the second time Ianto had seen him. Two weeks earlier he and Lisa had been leaving work and heading for the tube and he’d seen the Italian coming up on the opposite escalator. They’d briefly made eye contact as they passed each other and the other man had smiled at him in a way Ianto was stunned to interpret as appreciative, and slightly flirtatious. Ianto considered himself to be open minded. He’d looked at men in the past and thought they were attractive. He’d even fantasised about a few in private moments that he kept to himself, but he’d never felt attracted enough to go out and do anything about those fantasies. However, this smile and those eyes - even with the slight red imperfection in the right one - for a split second, cut right through him.
The third time he’d seen him, Ianto and Lisa had been having a romantic post-work dinner in Amerigo Vespucci, an intimate Italian restaurant in Cabot Square. Lisa had just managed to talk Ianto into splashing a little cash on a bottle of Champagne. He was still pretending that he would have preferred beer, which wasn’t true at all as he loved Champagne but he was Welsh male enough not to want to admit that, not even to the love of his life. Then he’d heard the laugh - deep and rich - from somewhere behind him.
There he was, dressed in a casual - expensive - dark suit and having dinner with the head of Torchwood, their ultimate boss, Yvonne Hartman. From the look on her face she was obviously charmed by the man. Ianto had looked away quickly. All night he’d focused intensely on Lisa and tried - and mostly failed - to ignore them.
"Ooh, who’s that dishy man having dinner with the Ice Queen?" Lisa had asked much later and Ianto had finally looked in their direction again.
"Don’t know." Ianto had muttered.
"Well, someone looks like they’re getting lucky tonight." She’d said with laughter in her voice. "Hope the poor sod doesn't get frostbite!" Ianto, sort of, laughed in response.
He’d watched the Italian help Yvonne Hartman into her coat and place a hand on the small of her back to guide her out. As he’d looked up, he’d caught Ianto’s eye and smiled. Thankfully Lisa hadn’t been looking at that moment.
Now here he was again. Ianto had been delivering some files to the boss’s offices, a route which took him past one of the meeting rooms that ringed the building. Raised voices caught his attention, but he tuned them out, until one with a familiar Italian accent spoke. Ianto checked that no one could see him and paused to listen.
"Miss Hartman, you are not listening to me..."
"With great respect Mr Colasanto, your grandfather has been of great assistance to us over the years, as you yourself have been more recently, but we can’t stop the experiments now, not when we’re so close..."
"The Families care nothing for Torchwood, or for your British Empire." He insisted. "They will see you destroyed because you are the biggest threat to their plans..."
"Mr Colasanto..." She cut in.
"Yvonne, stop the experiments." He said softly but firmly.
"No." She replied, just as firmly.
Ianto jerked as someone rounded the corner behind him, and he was forced to move on.
Ianto ran down the corridor, through the smoke and the confusion screaming out her name, "Lisa? Lisa!"
His level of panic was steadily rising; she wasn’t at her desk or anywhere he’d expect her to be. What if those terrible things had got her?
The tears in his eyes were blinding him so he didn’t see the man before he ran into him and sent them both to the floor. The man recovered first and stood up calmly, astonishingly calmly given the confusion surrounding them. Ianto blinked to clear his vision and was amazed to see that it was the Italian and that he was holding a hand out to help him to his feet. Ianto took it gratefully; both thrilled and horrified by the inappropriate tingle that shot down his arm as he did so.
"I’m sorry." He blurted as he stood. "Thank you."
The man viewed him calmly.
"You must leave. Now." He said firmly.
Ianto shook his head.
"Lisa, my girlfriend, she’s still in here somewhere. I have to find her!"
The man nodded at once; evidently understanding completely.
"Of course you must." He replied, placing a hand onto Ianto’s shoulder for a brief moment. He moved as if to leave. He glanced at his wrist briefly but then looked back at Ianto. He visibly seemed to wrestle with himself for a short moment and then change his mind. "I will help you." He finally said and pulled a map of the building out from his coat pocket, shuffling it till he found the floor they were on. "Where was she last?" Ianto pointed out her desk location. "That’s very near the cyber conversion units." He tone was low and rough as he said it.
Ianto frowned. "The what?"
The man looked at him very seriously with a slight sheen of tears in his eyes.
"We may not find her." He said very softly. "You must be prepared for that."
Ianto felt as if he’d been kicked in the stomach and the man reached out to touch his shoulder again.
"What is your name?" He asked and Ianto told him. "You must be strong Ianto." He said as their eyes met. "You must be strong in case we cannot find her, and maybe even stronger if we do."
Their eyes were locked for a long moment as the noise died around them. In later times Ianto couldn’t come up with words to describe what exactly passed between them then. Lust? Comfort? A transfer of strength? When it was over he certainly felt stronger for it.
"We must go quickly now." The Italian said and broke the contact.
Together they pulled Lisa from the wreckage of the machine. Ianto forced tears down angrily. This was no time for them. Now he needed to be strong and to get her away from this place of nightmares.
The Italian left him supporting her and began grabbing cases and filling them with bits of machinery.
"Can you carry her and this?" he asked him, holding a case out to him.
"What are these for?" Ianto asked confused.
"You will need them to keep her alive." The man replied bluntly. "She will die, soon, without the machine." Ianto took the case even though it was a struggle to hold both.
The Italian grabbed many more cases and made for the door. Ianto followed, weighed down by pain in his heart, as well as by the girl in his arms.
"Stay with me Lisa." He told her. "I won’t let you die."
People were running everywhere and a strange wind was whistling through the building. Explosions could be heard in the distance. Ianto and the Italian struggled with their burdens towards the freight lift.
"That won’t work." Ianto called out turning to the fire escape stairs instead; terrified by the thought of how many flights of stairs down they’d need to go with Lisa dying in his arms.
"Trust me!" The Italian grinned broadly.
Ianto warred with himself only very briefly before figuring that he hadn’t done too badly trusting this stranger so far. But, if the delay in this not working was too much for Lisa, then he would have to kill the man with his bare hands. The strength of the emotion shocked him.
The Italian held up a device to the lift doors and the lights above them came on immediately. Ianto stared in amazement.
"Who are you?" He asked in awe.
30 seconds later the doors opened and the Italian bowed to Ianto before making a "you first" gesture. Ianto carried Lisa into the lift, carefully laid the case aside and then lowered her onto the floor. The metal that was now encasing her body scrapped harshly on the lift floor. Tears filled his eyes again and he looked down at her helplessly. He sat down to cradle her from the metal floor, lowered his forehead onto her cold shoulder and wrapped himself around her; trying to warm her with his body heat.
The Italian looked down at them, tears appearing in his own eyes, then held up his device to the lift control panel and pushed the button for the basement loading bay.
The Italian led them through the semi-darkness of flickering broken strobes to a van parked in a dark corner. He pulled out a key ring holding a large number of keys and selected one that bore a sticker with this van's license plate number. Then he moved to the back and opened the doors. He hopped up and held out a hand to Ianto to pass up the metal cases.
Once they were done he set to work opening cases and setting up devices.
Ianto clung to Lisa, stroking her hair back, and watching whilst overwhelmed with emotions. He felt fear for Lisa; his love for her and terror at the thought of losing her was immense. There was confusion over everything the day had brought; he was just a junior researcher, so this was not a normal day at the office. Then there was the incredible Italian, this fantasy figure before him, who was inspiring both awe and no small measure of lust in him right now. Then there was the guilt because of the lust at a moment like this.
Once the Italian had finished setting up whatever it was he was setting up, he gestured to Ianto to pass Lisa up to him. With tender care she was handed over and the Italian began attaching her to the machines. Ianto climbed up into the back of the van and cried as the machine came online and Lisa gasped. Her eyes opened wide, but then fell slowly closed again. Her breathing grew steady and monotonous. She was alive but the machines were doing most of the work now. Ianto took her hand and stroked her palm.
"Is she in pain?" He asked quietly.
The Italian swallowed harshly.
"Yes." He replied, looking up at Ianto with great sorrow in his eyes.
Ianto shuddered involuntarily at this honesty and dropped Lisa’s hand for fear of hurting her more with that simple action.
The Italian stood and pulled Ianto into a fierce hug. This was a hug of support; the Italian was his rock whilst he momentarily allowed himself to fall to pieces. The Italian stroked his hair and said nothing.
Gradually Ianto’s senses came back to him and the two men stepped apart.
The Italian took control again. He pulled an old and beaten up looking moleskine notebook from an inside coat pocket, tore out a page and scribbled some information on it. He handed the paper to Ianto.
"Mr Tanizaki?" Ianto queried as he took it.
"Yes, when you’re settled somewhere safe, contact him and he will help you." The Italian pressed the paper into his palm. "Tell him that Angelo Colasanto sent you to him."
"Your name is Angelo?" Ianto asked past a sudden lump in his throat.
The Italian - Angelo - smiled and pulled his hand back. He moved to leave the van, checking his watch as he did so.
"But..." Ianto began. Angelo turned back and Ianto suddenly wasn’t sure what he wanted to say, so he went with, "I don't know where to go."
Angelo looked thoughtful and then suddenly smiled.
"You are Welsh, aren't you, Ianto Jones?" The grin broadened. "This is fate."
He walked back over to Ianto and, once again, reached into his magic pockets. This time he brought out a photograph. He looked at it fondly for a long moment before handing it to Ianto.
"Go to Cardiff. To Torchwood Three. Go to the place where the stones sing and you will find this man."
Ianto looked down at the photo and saw an attractive dark haired, broad-shouldered man dressed in an RAF greatcoat. The man was grinning broadly at something out of frame.
"His name is Jack Harkness, and he will take care of you." Angelo stepped in close to Ianto, smiled fondly, reached up a hand and ran it down Ianto’s cheek. "He’s going to adore you!" The smile turned into a grin.
Before Ianto could do anything else, Angelo leant in and kissed him. It was just a brief kiss, just a momentary touch of lips. Ianto instinctively began to reach out blindly for more but Angelo sighed deeply and reluctantly stepped away. Ianto bit his lip and pulled himself together again. This was feeling all right and all wrong both together.
"You really must go now." Angelo said solemnly, turning his back and checking his watch. "Go quickly."
Ianto climbed down from the van, closed the doors and turned to Angelo who was watching him silently. Angelo pulled the keys from a pocket and threw them to Ianto, who caught them, locked the doors and moved to the driver’s side door. Ianto paused and looked back.
Angelo smiled sadly.
"Do not tell Jack that I sent you. Never tell him you saw me." He said.
"Who are you? Who are you really?" Ianto asked quietly.
"A ghost." Angelo grinned, although tears sparkled in his eyes. "Buona fortuna, Ianto Jones."
Ianto raised a hand to wave goodbye and climbed into the van. Angelo watched as he drove off.
He held himself stiff and upright until the van was out of sight, and then he collapsed to the ground. His watch started beeping.
Angelo looked down at his hands and saw them begin to start wrinkling up to an old man’s hands. The watch, which wasn’t a watch but a countdown timer, said 5 minutes to go. He struggled to get the black box from his pocket and to open it. He didn’t normally leave it till the countdown was this low but he’d had no chance with Ianto here and he'd sent him off as quickly as he could bring himself to.
He wrapped the tourniquet on his arm and prepped the injection. The red fluid disappeared into his flesh and he gasped in agony as it swept into him. The effect was instantaneous. His hands became young again and he let out a long pained breath as organs within him restored themselves. Okay maybe not a ghost, he laughed bitterly, but rather a vampire.
This was his torment, to live like this. To be as immortal as he could be in order live enough to pay back his sin, but to never be able to again approach the man he loved. This mixture made from his blood, running through his veins, was the closest they could get. Still, he could send him good people to love and be loved by. He could protect them as best he could.
His mission was not yet done here. Ianto had been a distraction he'd found he could not refuse to indulge in. Now he must return to the task in hand. He’d failed to stop this and now he must clear up Yvonne Hartman’s mess. The Doctor, he knew, would save the day in the big picture, but, as he always did, he would leave humanity to tidy all the details up ourselves. Angelo had to ensure that the secrets in this building did not fall into the wrong hands. His team would by now have stolen what they needed and saved everyone they could. There was just one thing left to do.
Angelo pulled out his cell phone and hit one of the speed dials.
"Code 42." He said firmly. "Go."
Even from the lead lined basement he could hear the precision explosions that rocked the building above him.