24 January 2008
And so, things returned to normal.
Well, as normal as things were for Torchwood.
Everyone came back in, refreshed after their 'adventure' with Bilis Manger. Ianto smiled out over the main Hub area from the gantry, where he'd been feeding Myfanwy; he and the pteranodon had as good a friendship as one could have between dragon and ancient flying lizard, and they respected each other. She nuzzled his good shoulder, looking for more, and Ianto laughed, pushing her away. "Go on, greedy," he encouraged. "You've eaten more than I do on a day!"
She squawked, launching herself off the gantry, floating gracefully on the warm updrafts from the Hub floor. He watched her for a moment, then headed back down, sliding the sling he wore back into a more comfortable position. Owen had ordered he wear it for a week, and the way his chest felt Ianto wasn't going to argue. The bruises would heal fairly quickly; it was the burn itself that would take time, since dragons weren't prone to that sort of injury. It caused a bit of pain when he changed form, but he could handle that.
Gwen was seated at her own station, going over the case files from her suspension. She'd been angry at not having been called in for the crisis; it had led to quite a yelling match in Jack's office, until Jack had gone 'Captain' on her and told her that they couldn't risk that she hadn't been compromised. That had seemed to mollify her enough for Ianto to take her in hand and reacquaint her with weapons' training. While she didn't pass with flying colors, it was good enough for her to regain her carrying rights.
At least she didn't seem quite so irritated with him anymore. Ianto wondered how much of it in the last months had been Manger's influence. Still, it was obvious she still didn't like him, and was trying to be polite about it. Well, as long as she was polite, he could be the same.
It was quiet, and blessedly so. Ianto walked through the Hub and toward the kitchen, knowing the team would be wanting coffee shortly. His eyes tracked toward Jack's office, and he watched as his lover was speaking on the phone, his booted feet propped up on the desk, looking utterly relaxed. Ianto knew differently; Jack was still bothered by what he saw as his participation in ruining a good man, and it didn't seem to matter that he really wasn't at fault in the matter. It had all been Manger, and he'd only used Jack's shape to push his own agenda forward. Owen had autopsied the man this morning; from all signs he wasn't a shape-shifter, but there had been some chemical changes in Manger's brain, suggesting that it had all been some sort of mind control that had had them all acting oddly. It made sense, from Owen's experience, that it had to do with some sort of illusion. They'd never really know just what Manger had done to all of them, or if he'd been correct in his assertion that the demon Abaddon was imprisoned under the Rift. Ianto had spent part of the morning doing research, and all he could find was some religious texts that happened to mention him. Perhaps one day he'd ask one of the Great Dragons about it…
"Ianto!" he heard Toshiko calling out.
He poked his head out of the kitchen. "Yes, Tosh?"
"It's lunchtime. What say we all go and get something to eat at that new Thai place?"
It was tempting. Ianto glanced back at Jack's office; the boots had come down, and judging from the expression on his mate's face the call was about to get ugly. "It looks like Jack's going to be stuck on that call for a bit," he answered. He thought it might have been with someone from the Ministry, but he wasn't certain. "Why don't you three head out, and Jack and I will join you when he's done?"
She smiled. "Sounds like a plan. Is there anything you'd want us to order for you so it'll be ready when you get there?"
He considered. "No, don't worry about ordering for us. It's a calm enough day, so maybe we won't be interrupted."
Toshiko rolled her eyes. "You say that now…"
Ianto laughed. "Go, you lot. Jack and I will be there as soon as we can."
"Don't have to tell us twice," Owen butted in. "C'mon Tosh...Gwen…I'm starved."
The trio laughed as they left the Hub, and Ianto abandoned the coffee making in order to join Jack in his office in hopes to avoid any sort of incident. He walked in on Jack just getting wound up.
"– and, with all due respect," he was saying in a tone that reeked of 'I don't actually respect you at all', "Torchwood isn't something that should be discussed in Cabinet meetings!"
Oh, not that again…
"No, I don't care what the Minister of Defense wants," Jack went on. "No, it's really none of Mr. Saxon's business what Torchwood does. We answer to Her Majesty only, so I suggest you take it up with her." Jack saw him enter, waving him over.
Ianto took the invitation, coming to sit next to his lover, his rear planted quite firmly on the edge of the desk. He rested his hand on Jack's shoulder, trying to ground him. The dragon really didn't want to have to play make-up with the Ministry.
"I'm sorry, but this conversation is over," Jack snapped. "I have nothing else to say. Remove the Torchwood briefing or else I'll have to speak to the Queen. And believe me…she won't be as nice about it as I am." With that, he hung up, and not too gently. "You know, I do worry about the mental acuity of some of the people in charge of this country."
Ianto laughed. "At least you didn't call whoever it was any sort of disgusting names."
"Nah, not worth it." Jack smiled up at him. "I noticed the others left. Does this mean I get some alone time with my favorite dragon?"
"I should hope I'm your only dragon!" Ianto teased.
Jack tugged Ianto down into his lap, making an 'oomph' sound as the dragon connected with his thighs. "You need to go on a diet, Mr. Jones," he murmured, putting his arms around Ianto in order to keep him from moving.
"I can assure you," Ianto said primly, "that I am at my optimum weight for my human form."
"Well, you're certainly optimum, I have to say." With that bit of corniness, Jack kissed him.
Ianto gladly returned it, moaning as Jack's tongue swept its way within his mouth, making lazy strokes along Ianto's own tongue. They spent a very pleasurable several minutes in such activity, before Ianto reluctantly pulled away. "The rest of the team went to lunch, and have asked for us to join them," he whispered.
"I think I prefer Dragon for lunch myself," Jack growled playfully.
Ianto smirked. "I should hope so." He wriggled carefully out of Jack's arms, careful not to put any pressure on his injury.
Jack pouted as Ianto stood. "You're no fun."
"I don't recall you saying that the other night." Ianto held out his hand. "Come with me."
His lover looked at him closely, then took the offered hand. Ianto pulled him up and out of the seat, trying to ignore Jack getting right up into his personal space. "So we're going to have lunch with the team, then?"
"Actually," Ianto said, "I have another idea."
He'd been thinking about it since yesterday, when he'd awakened with Jack wrapped around him, feeling such comfort that he knew he didn't want to ever let go. Ianto wanted to put his plan into action, and he was really glad that their teammates had left them to their own devices.
The dragon pulled Jack along, downward toward the lower levels of the Hub. They approached the dragon's hoard, and Ianto had to let go of Jack's hand long enough to get the key out of his waistcoat pocket and unlock the door.
He ushered Jack inside, putting the lights on as he made his way over to one particular cabinet against the far wall. Ianto's heart was hammering as he reached up with his uninjured hand for a small wooden box on the upper shelf, hoping he wasn't doing the wrong thing.
Ianto turned to look at Jack, who had curiosity written all over him; even his posture spoke of how intrigued he was by Ianto's actions.
He took a step closer, opening the box. Ianto really hoped he wasn't overstepping, but he knew how he felt about Jack, and Jack hadn't made any secret of his emotions toward the dragon. Taking a deep breath, he said, "I once told you that I wanted to sing the Song of Commitment to you. After everything that's happened, I've decided that I'd like to do that today, if you have no objection."
The smile that blossomed on Jack's face answered any sort of niggling doubt that Ianto may have had. "I don't have any objection," he answered softly.
"Then, please," Ianto said, offering the box, "take this."
Jack's hand was trembling as he reached into the box, pulling out the object within. It was a ring, in Welsh gold, set with an oddly cut sapphire. "It was my father's," Ianto explained. "My mother had it made for him, even before the first of the great empires of the world had been formed. It's one of the last things I have of his, and I would like you to have it."
"Ianto, I…" Jack swallowed, looking at the dragon as he held the ring up to the light. The sapphire flashed blue fire against the reddish gold of the band.
"My father had slightly smaller hands than yours," Ianto rushed on, "but I think it should fit. Oh, and there's engraving on the inside." He held his breath, waiting for Jack to either accept or decline what he was offering.
He wanted Jack to accept so very badly.
"I don't have anything for you," his lover said, awestruck.
"You've given me so much already," Ianto answered. "Please, let me give this to you, as a pledge of my commitment to you." He wanted it to be so much more, but a true mating was just out of their reach. All he needed to know was that Jack truly wanted to commit to him. That was what was important.
Without another word, Jack slid the ring onto his left ring finger. It was a little loose – Ianto's father had worn it on his middle finger – but it didn't look like it would fall off.
Smiling, Ianto transformed, and began to sing.
The Song of Commitment was one of the oldest dragon songs, and its magic filled the underground room as the dragon sang the ancient words, affirming his commitment to Jack for eternity. He could feel the connection with his lover, and he could see that Jack also felt the same. It was special, this song, not meant to be sung in public, but for the most private of vows between soon-to-be mates. There was also a public Song of Intent, and the dragon wanted to sing that one as well, but would wait until they could gather all of their friends together for its performance.
For now, the Song of Commitment would signify everything he wanted to give Jack, including his heart.
Jack had moved to stand beside him; the dragon felt a warm arm across his shoulders, and Jack's reassuring bulk against his side. The pain from his injuries didn't matter as long as he sang for his lover.
"I really do love you," Jack whispered in his ear, once the song was done.
"And I, you," the dragon answered, changing back to his human form. He leaned forward, kissing Jack, pouring everything he was into the intimate touch of lips. Jack did the same, and Ianto never felt so cherished than in that moment.
"Do we have to join the others for lunch?" Jack purred in his ear, once they were done.
"We do," Ianto answered. "But wait until tonight…I have plans."
"Do you really?" Jack smiled softly. "I do hope they're good ones."
"They are. Trust me."
"With my heart, Ianto Jones. With my heart."
Ianto could feel the same soft smile grace his features. "The same, Jack Harkness."
"C'mon then," Jack said, taking his good hand. "I'm starving."
"You'll need to eat, to keep your strength up," Ianto teased, as they left the hoard room, locking the door behind them.
"Now that sounds like a very interesting hint of things to come," his lover leered.
They headed back up into the main Hub, hand in hand, Ianto happier than he had been in weeks. He and Jack had a long future together, and they would commit as much as they could, human to dragon.
"You're not gonna tell me what you have planned?" Jack wheedled, heading toward his office to get his coat.
"Nope," Ianto said, popping the 'p' in the way he knew Jack liked. "You'll just have to wait."
"If you say so," Jack's voice echoed out of the office, where Ianto could see him shrugging on the greatcoat.
Ianto was about to make a comment about impatient captains, when he noticed that the hand that Jack had told him was the Doctor's was beginning to glow, the preservative fluid bubbling away energetically.
He knew what that meant.
He also knew what he had to do.
"Jack!" he shouted urgently.
"Are you that hungry – " he started to say, noticing the bubbling jar. "Oh my Goddess," Jack gasped.
"You have to go," Ianto urged, even though all he wanted to do was bundle Jack in his arms and never let go. He knew how important these answers were to his lover, and the dragon would never stand in the way of that.
"But, Ianto…" Jack denied, shaking his head.
"No, you know you need to talk to him, to find out what happened to you. You've waited so long, Jack."
Jack stared at him for a moment, as if trying to read into the dragon's very soul. Ianto met his eyes squarely. "If you don't hurry you could miss him," he said gently.
Jack nodded, then in a flurry of movement he had the jar stuffed into a backpack, and together the pair were running out of the Hub, up the stairs and into the Tourist Office. They burst out onto Mermaid Quay, Ianto running in step with his lover, as they took the turning onto the Plass and toward where the invisible lift was, knowing that the Doctor's time machine would be there.
Ianto hoped that they could catch the Time Lord before he left, for Jack's sake. If they could only talk…then Jack wouldn't have to leave, and would get the answers he'd been waiting for, for so long. Ianto would never begrudge him those answers, to find out why he couldn't stay dead. They would catch the Doctor, give him his hand back, and discover what made Jack the way he was.
He could see the tall blue box in the distance as they pounded across the Plass. Ianto heard Jack shouting for the Doctor has they ran full out, and the dragon knew they were going to make it…
But then, the strangest noise came to their ears, and Ianto realized what was happening.
The Doctor was leaving.
"Go!" he cried, using his good hand to push Jack forward, toward the departing TARDIS. "You need to go now!"
Jack put on a burst of speed. "I'll be back, Ianto Jones!" he shouted over his shoulder, as he left the dragon behind.
Ianto stopped, panting hard, his chest aching with the exertion. He watched as Jack made a leap toward the disappearing machine, managing to grab onto the box as it faded from view.
His heart was pounding against his ribs, and the pain wasn't just from his injury. Jack was gone, had left to find whatever answers he could.
But, he knew Jack would be back. He'd promised.
And, there were times when you had to let what you loved the most go.
Ianto caught his breath, staring at the spot where the TARDIS had been…where Jack had been. The only thing he could do was make certain that Torchwood would still be there when his lover – his mate – returned.
Already feeling lonelier than he had in his long life, Ianto Jones headed back to the Hub.
He had a team to run.