Eberts was crying.
He was being subtle about it, sure, but Darien could see the tears, clear as anything, and hear the sniffles even as Eberts held a training manual open in front of his face. Like Eberts needed a training manual. He probably had the damn thing memorized.
"What's going on?" Hobbes asked, looking from Eberts to the Official, to Jones, who was biting his lip and looked almost… apologetic. That was when Darien knew something was up. Jones never looked apologetic. Jones was probably a junior high vice principal in his spare time, given how well he could make other people feel apologetic for things they hadn't even done simply by shooting them a well-timed stern look. Jones could make you quake in fear just by holding up an incorrectly filled-in form and quirking an eyebrow.
Whatever had happened, Darien knew it was bad. Hobbes gave him a wide-eyed look. Yep. Hobbes could feel it too.
"Some sad news today, gentlemen," the Official said, folding his hands in the center of his desk. "It seems that Mr. Jones has chosen to pursue his career elsewhere. He's handed in his notice, and two weeks from today, he'll be headed back home to England."
"Wales," Jones said in that weird way that managed to be polite and condescending at the same time. "Although, I do have a new job lined up in London, so I'll be visiting England soon enough."
Eberts tried to choke back a full-on sob, but he didn't do a very good job.
"We'll certainly be worse for his absence," the Official continued, as if he hadn't been interrupted by Jones' correction or Eberts' hysterics, "but I think we'll manage all the better for the organizational systems he put in place during his brief time here with us."
"Perfection," Eberts whispered. His hands were shaking. It was really kind of creepy and pathetic.
"I do my best," Jones said with a pleased, tiny smile. "I'm sure Mr. Eberts will have no trouble running things in my absence."
Another sob from Eberts.
"Anyway," the Official said, glaring at Eberts, "I just wanted to make you two aware of this. Please, carry on."
Eberts took this as his cue to run crying from the room. Hobbes and Darien exchanged another look and then followed him at a much calmer pace. Also, they weren't sobbing like little girls.
"Jones is leaving," Hobbes sounded a little awed as he said it. "Who'd have thought? I figured that kid had a long life of paperwork and organizing and covering up our screw-ups in his future."
Darien shrugged. "Maybe he got tired of paperwork and organizing and covering up our screw-ups," he said.
Hobbes gave him an incredulous look. "Are we talking about the same Jones?" he asked. "I think that kid bleeds red tape."
"Hey, he's just a kid," Darien said. "Maybe he woke up this morning and realized that there's more to life than covering up weird deaths, filing, and cross-referencing." Hobbes didn't look any less incredulous. "Or maybe he's homesick."
And Darien didn't care so much, it was just that he was curious. Jones was tight-lipped about why he was going and where he was going. Eberts kept crying, Hobbes kept theorizing, and the Keeper kept giving Jones sad looks. It was like someone's dog died. Darien wondered if they would miss him this much if he were ever to leave. The answer was probably 'no.'
But, he was curious. He couldn't help himself. He saw the Keeper stop Jones in the hallway to pull him into an alcove and… well. It wasn't that hard to turn round the corner, go invisible, and creep back over to listen.
"Torchwood?" the Keeper said. "Torchwood. You can't be serious!"
Jones looked around nervously. "Claire, I told you that in confidence. You know and the Official knows. That's all. I don't want it—"
"What in the world would make you leave us for Torchwood?" she asked.
Torchwood. What the hell was that supposed to mean? Must have been Jones' new job, but the way the Keeper was saying it, it was like he'd be picking up garbage or something.
"I miss home," Jones said.
"London's not home," the Keeper said. "Unless—oh, tell me you're not going to Torchwood Cardiff! With that imbecile--"
"No, no," Jones said quickly. "I'm not suicidal. I'm headed to London. They had a very persuasive recruiting campaign at the last inter-agency summit. Plus—well."
The Keeper put her hands on her hips. "Oh, come on! It's Torchwood!"
"It's still better than…did you know The Agency has more security issues, unnecessary deaths, public incidents, and beaurucratic cock-ups than any other group of its kind in any other major world government?" Jones said. Darien hadn't known that, but it didn't surprise him.
"We're a family here!" The Keeper insisted.
"Yes, a homicidal family," Jones said. "Torchwood has better facilities, a longer life expectancy, and it's never had to use an invisible man to illegally throw casino games in order to acquire its budget!"
"You always fixate on that! It was one time!"
"Also, if they spy on you at Torchwood, they have the decency to do it behind your back and not to send their invisible agent to do it right in front of you, Mr. Fawkes."
Jones turned and looked right at him. It was more than a little creepy. Darien had to check twice to make sure he was still invisible, and only then did he sigh and revert back to normal. The Keeper didn't look pleased. Jones was as unreadable as usual.
"Darien!" the Keeper exclaimed. "You know you're not supposed to use the gland for things other than official Agency business!"
"Well, this is Agency business," Darien said. Jones snorted, very quietly. "Sort of. Anyway, no one sent me, I was just… curious. Also, man, you gotta let that casino thing go. Even I've let it go and I was, arguably, the person who got the most screwed in that whole deal."
"Regardless," Jones said, with an air of finality, "the point is, my prospects are better at Torchwood. Just barely, but I'll take what I can get. I'm sorry, Claire, but I have to look out for my future."
"Eberts will cry for days, you know," the Keeper said, but even Darien could tell it was without any real effort, at this point.
"He'll be fine," Jones said. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to finish filing this week's liability claims and write a how-to manual for the temps." He smiled politely at the Keeper, gave Darien another one of those Looks, and then swiftly walked down the hall towards the admin office.
"You know," Darien said as they watched him go, "that kid honestly scares the crap out of me."
The Keeper rolled her eyes. "Darien, really. I just can't believe he's going. And to Torchwood of all bloody places!"
"Yeah, what the hell is that place? You keep talking about it like you wouldn't wish it on the girls who made fun of you in high school."
"I wouldn't," she said. She paused. "Well, maybe I would. It doesn't matter. Torchwood is almost Britain's version of… Area 51, I suppose. That's what the rumors are, at least. No one really know what goes on there, but it's crown-sanctioned, so there's no oversight and everyone who works there is arrogant and obnoxious."
"Jones should fit right in, then," Darien said. The Keeper smacked his arm.
"Darien! Ianto is a sweet boy. I don't understand why he'd choose to associate with those people. I mean, yes, admittedly, the Agency has a rather high level of catastrophic projects and KIAs, but the work we're doing!"
Darien shook his head. Whatever. If Jones wanted to run back to England, or wherever, let him do it. Maybe, this way, no one would hunt him down with threatening looks when he didn't finish his mission reports in a timely manner.
Darien was cursing England—sorry, Wales--and the Official and invisible things other than himself and Hobbes and his brother and basically everyone he had met since leaving prison. He wished he was in prison. Being in prison would have been better than being pinned down by fire from some sort of weirdass future laser weapon. An invisible weirdass future laser weapon, at that, held by some sort of invisible—well, he'd only gotten a quick glance at it before it had gone invisible, but it looked like a giant bird.
Darien's life was a lot easier when he was in prison.
Darien was out of options, and he was about to make a break for the door, even though the bird!thing could see through his invisibility, when an oddly familiar voice called out, "Jack, now!" and the bird!thing exploded in a rain of feathers and blue-tinged guts.
"Oh, disgusting," Hobbes called out from somewhere in the warehouse. Darien returned to visibility, shaking off bird guts along with the flakes of Quicksilver.
"What the hell was that thing?" he asked.
"More importantly," Hobbes asked, looking around cautiously, his gun still raised, "what just shot it?"
"That would be us." That voice was unfamiliar, but when Darien turned around, half of the duo approaching them certainly wasn't.
"Jones?" he asked incredulously, the same time as Hobbes.
"Agent Hobbes, Agent Fawkes," Jones said. He looked a little older, maybe. He'd filled out a little. Other than that, it was the same Jones that Darien had gotten used to seeing around the Agency, except now he was in the field and carrying a gun. Weird. They didn't even let Darien carry a gun.
"What the hell are you doing here?" Hobbes asked.
"You know these two idiots?" the guy with Jones asked.
"I work here," Jones said, holstering his gun. "Torchwood, remember?"
"But England, I thought you said," Darien said. "There's a difference between England and Wales, or at least that's what everyone keeps on telling me."
If Jones had expressions like normal people, Darien got the sense he'd be looking pained as he said, "It's a long story. This is Jack Harkness, he's my boss, the leader of Torchwood Cardiff. Jack, this is Agent Robert Hobbes and Agent Darien Fawkes. I used to work with them in the states."
"Wait a second," Darien said. He held up a hand. "I remember now. When you were leaving, the Keeper asked you if you were going to Cardiff and you said--"
"Times change," Jones said smoothly. "How is the Keeper?"
"What Keeper?" the other guy--Harkness--asked. "What are you talking about? You came here from Torchwood One."
"And I did have a job before that," Jones said, raising his eyebrows. "It's not my fault you didn't dig deep enough to figure out where." He turned back to Hobbes and Darien. "What about Eberts? How's he?"
"Wait, where did you used to work?" Jack said. "What do you mean 'the states?' Is that why you like my accent so much?"
"I think you're getting me confused with you," Jones said dryly.
But Darien wasn't finished. "You said--" he started to say, but Jones sighed heavily and rolled his eyes, cutting him off.
"Yes, yes, Torchwood cocked up and the Agency is no longer the worst place on the planet to work by quite a large margin," Jones said. "I ended up here, my career's in the toilet, I'm shagging my boss, and my life expectancy dropped dramatically, but at least Torchwood has never used an invisible man to rob a casino to obtain their funding. I can still hold on to that."
Darien raised his hands and took a defensive step back. "Okay, okay," he said. "I'm just saying."
"An invisible man robbing a casino?" Harkness said behind them. "Actually, that's not a half-bad idea. I think we've got a Trijatrian Invisibility Ray in the archives...."
Jones pinched the bridge of his nose.
"Do you think the Official would let me transfer back?" he asked.
"Hey!" Harkness said.
Darien looked at Hobbes and shrugged. To be honest, Darien kind of missed having someone yell at him about his mission reports. And if it would get Eberts to stop getting misty eyed every time he filed a form....
Hobbes nodded and Darien grinned.
"When can you start again?" he asked.