“– can’t believe you actually know Richard Castle,” Rhys Williams’ voice faded in as Ianto Jones and his two companions jaunted into the alley that ran behind their destination.
The place didn’t stink as badly as some alleys Ianto had found himself in – and when a person worked for Torchwood there were quite a few of them – and it ran the length of the block between the imposing rear walls of the shops that had doors opening into it. There was an emergency door and a tall rolling metal one in the wall they were next to, the words ‘Waterstone’s’ on a small sign over the smaller of the two. While Ianto knew he could open either one easily with his telekinesis he decided to be polite and warn Alexis that they were waiting.
‘I’ll be there in a sec,’ the girl called out telepathically.
“I’ve only actually met him once,” he admitted. “Alexis has to vet all the Tomorrow People through her father before he decides how to kill them.”
Gwen Cooper went pale. “What do you mean, ‘kill them’?”
“Sorry,” he said, although secretly he wasn’t because he did enjoy winding people up, “I meant kill them in one of his books.”
“Of course that’s what he meant,” Rhys snorted. “Obvious, innit?”
Gwen smacked her fiancé in the arm. “Only to you, you big lug.”
Ianto couldn’t help but roll his eyes at their antics. “It depends on the impression you make as to how long you last before you end up as a corpse. I think John lasted five pages, and Elena nearly two chapters. Paul, though…he didn’t even make it a paragraph before he became a corpse.”
“What about you, then?” Rhys asked.
“I don’t know yet,” Ianto answered. “I think I might be in this next one –“
The emergency door swung open, squealing slightly, revealing Alexis Castle, her cherubic face framed by her vibrant red hair. “Hey there,” the American girl greeted them with a smile. “C’mon in. Dad’s just about finished with the signing, and then we can all grab something to eat.” She pushed it open farther in order to usher them inside. “I should warn you; Dad’s in the mood for fish and chips. He says he can only get decent fish and chips here in London, and he won’t pass up the chance.”
Ianto greeted her with a hug, and then followed Rhys and Gwen past the girl and into the back area of the bookstore. The loading dock led directly into the large storage area, where boxes were stacked neatly on metal shelves and in labeled genres. “Thanks for letting us in,” he said.
“Not a problem. Dad can’t wait to meet someone you work with who isn’t Captain Harkness.” Her tone was teasing.
Ianto snorted. “It’s only because Jack and your Dad are too much alike to really get along all that well.”
“Don’t tell Dad that,” Alexis grinned. “He’ll get all pouty and then where would we be.”
“He doesn’t mind us just showing up then?” Rhys asked worriedly.
“Nah, not at all.” Alexis shrugged. “He’s a great dad, and he fully supports me being a Tomorrow Person, but he does like to know who I’m hanging out with.”
“And I’m sure them being fans is the best part,” Ianto said.
Alexis laughed. “That’s certainly a plus!”
She led them through the storage area, and then out of an employee door and into the main store itself. Ianto loved Waterstone’s in Piccadilly; it was eight floors of books, and when he’d lived in London he would come here every weekend. Lisa would roll her eyes when he’d come back to the flat, carrying bags filled with books…
Ianto still missed Lisa, but it was much better now that he had Jack fully into his life. Six months on since their reconciliation after the incident with General Carson and his aborted attempt to create a virus that would turn off the genetic code of the Tomorrow People – Homo Superior – he and Jack were living together, and were getting closer every day. Jack had embraced Ianto’s powers without reservation, and to Ianto that had been the greatest gift his immortal lover could have given him.
Torchwood and the Tomorrow People had come to form a partnership that had managed to save the planet at least twice since they’d come together that fateful December. The first time had been their confrontation with Bilis Manger and his attempt to raise Abaddon from within the Cardiff Rift; it had been during that particular affair that Rhys had found out about Torchwood when Manger had tried to kill him in order to get Gwen to open the Rift. Alexis had been the one to save him, which had endeared the young woman to Gwen, who still wasn’t sure that a fifteen-year-old was qualified to save the world but had finally accepted that John, the leader of the Tomorrow People, had known what he was doing when he’d sent her to ‘babysit’ Rhys.
Jack had wanted to Retcon Rhys after they’d managed to stop Manger and keep Abaddon from getting free, but John had convinced him not to. Gwen had argued against it as well, in her own demonstrative way. Ianto had to admit that Rhys had certainly come through for them several times since, especially when they’d had to face yet another Sorson invasion that had only been thwarted by an alien device that had had to have been hauled from Cardiff and out in the middle of the Brecon Beacons – and Toshiko had been all too happy to share what had happened the last time the team had been out there, for which Ianto was grateful that he’d been on the Trig at the time. It had been a good thing that Rhys had had access to a fairly large lorry, since they hadn’t had a matter transmitter large enough to handle the load.
Ianto genuinely liked Rhys. More than that, Johnny, Ianto’s brother-in-law, liked Rhys. The two men got along like a house on fire, and there was many a time when Rhiannon and Gwen had commiserated over becoming rugby widows. Ianto had to admit getting a bit of a laugh out of it, especially when Jack would also make the same complaint on nights when Johnny, Rhys, and Ianto would go to the pub on match days. Of course, Ianto didn’t drink since he didn’t want to lose control of his powers and accidentally telepathically read the wrong person, so it was hilarious getting his friend and brother-in-law to their respective homes and into the sometimes welcoming arms of their significant others.
When he’d heard that Rhys was a fan of the Derrick Storm novels, Ianto couldn’t pass up the chance to tell Alexis, who had informed him that her Dad would be doing this particular book signing. She’d invited him to bring Rhys and Gwen along, and Ianto had jumped at it, not able to resist seeing Rhys go into fanboy mode over his favourite author. He’d kept their destination a secret until the very last moment, which made it all the much more fun.
Truthfully, they could have easily used the matter transporters to go anywhere Richard Castle was holding a signing, but Ianto always had had a soft spot for this Waterstone’s and had been looking forward to being in London once more. Certainly, a lot of bad had happened in this city, but all that was outweighed by the good times he’d had, with Lisa and with the Tomorrow People.
Although, as much as London was a nice place to visit, Cardiff was now home once more.
They accompanied Alexis up to the Mystery section of the enormous store, and it was obvious immediately that something was going on. A line had formed near the service desk, and a table had been set up just beyond it, where a life-sized cut-out of the author had been put, holding the newest of the Derrick Storm novels in his hand and flashing a cocky grin to all and sundry.
Richard Castle had the exact-same cocky grin on his face from Ianto’s vantage point near the end of the queue. He was obviously flirting with the middle-aged mother who was currently getting his autograph, while the child she held by the hand looked incredibly bored with it all. Ianto didn’t need to be a telepath to read the woman’s excitement at meeting the handsome author.
‘Please don’t call my Dad handsome,’ Alexis requested. ‘It would just go to his head.’
Ianto assured her that he would keep that to himself. Besides, while Mr. Castle was quite good looking, he really didn’t compare to what he had waiting for him back in Cardiff.
‘And that’s why you rated about a page in Dad’s new book. You paid too much attention to Captain Harkness and not enough to him when you both first met him.’
‘So much for your advice not to pander to his ego,’ Ianto sent back, laughing mentally.
“I tell everyone that, but you’re about the only one who listened to me. You and John.’
‘John got more literary time than I did, though.’
‘That’s because John is with Elena, and Dad likes her.’
That was true. Castle seemed to be inordinately fond of Elena. “So…a page?”
Alexis laughed, but didn’t answer.
Richard Castle caught sight of them, and waved them forward. Alexis led the way, and Ianto didn’t need to be empathic at all to sense Rhys’ excitement at getting the chance to meet his idol. The few people still left in the line looked irritated at what had to seem like preferential treatment, but Ianto couldn’t bring himself to care.
Castle rose, and greeted his daughter with a hug. “Just a few last minute fans,” he said airily, releasing Alexis and nodding to Ianto. “Jones, nice to see you again. I see you didn’t bring your other half with you today. Although…” he suddenly turned on the charm, catching sight of Gwen, “you’ve more than made up for it.” He held out a hand to her. “Richard Castle. It’s nice to meet you, Ms…?”
Gwen took the offered hand. “Gwen Cooper,” she introduced herself, and Ianto didn’t think he was imagining the faint blush on her face.
“And I’m Rhys Williams, Gwen’s fiancé,” Rhys put himself between Gwen and Castle, giving the author a side-eye worthy of every jealous man ever born.
It didn’t seem to faze Castle one bit. With the same bright smile he shook Rhys’ hand. “I’m surrounded by the Welsh! Glad you could come, Mr. Williams. I understand you’re the fan in this bunch?” At Rhys’ nod, Castle said, “It just shows what good taste you have. Give me a few minutes and then we can get out of here.”
He went to sit back down, and Ianto couldn’t help but be amused. He had to give Castle credit; he was nearly as smooth as Jack was. Which was, of course, another reason why the two men didn’t really get along all that well.
True to his word, it was only a few more minutes before Castle was smiling and posing for his last photo, and the manager of the Waterstone’s was thanking him profusely for spending time in their store. Gracefully, Castle accepted the gratitude, and before long the five of them were out on the sidewalk.
“The closest chippy is about three blocks down,” Ianto indicated to his left. “We can grab something to eat there.”
Castle looked at his shrewdly. “Either you read my mind – which I know you TP would never do – or Alexis ratted me out to you.”
“Dad,” the girl rolled her eyes.
Castle put his arm around her, grinning widely. “Always taking such good care of me...even though I’m supposed to be the adult in the family.”
“Someone has to look out for you and Grams,” Alexis answered, returning his grin.
“And you do that so well.” He turned back to Ianto. “Lead the way, Jones.”
Ianto did so, making his way through the late afternoon crowds, the thoughts of the humans around him tickling against his mental shields. He would never deliberately read anyone, but it wasn’t hard to pick up on things when people seemed to think so loudly. It made him wonder what they would think if they knew someone could catch their surface thoughts so easily was walking among them.
“So,” Castle said, “you seem to know London pretty well, Jones. I thought you lived in Cardiff?”
“I do,” Ianto answered. “But I lived here in London for several years and I came to Waterstone’s quite often.”
“That’s right,” Gwen said knowingly. “I’d almost forgotten.”
Ianto shrugged. “That’s fine, Gwen.” It really wasn’t, but he couldn’t actually fault her for not remembering. Living in London wasn’t something he really dwelled on any longer. It had been a wonderful time of his life, but it was over now.
He couldn’t help but notice the shrewd curiosity on Castle’s face. “This sounds like an interesting story.”
“Dad,” Alexis chided him. “That’s Ianto’s business, and not yours.”
“I don’t mind,” Ianto said, sending her his gratitude mentally. “Me and my fiancée lived here until she was killed during the terrorist attack at Canary Wharf.”
He knew that Alexis could sense the last remnants of the pain he still carried over Lisa, but he hadn’t been lying when he said he didn’t mind talking about it. He certainly couldn’t tell the complete and honest truth about what had occurred, but he knew now that Lisa had been long dead before he’d even gotten out of Torchwood One that horrible day.
Castle looked contrite. “Sorry about that.”
“As I said, it’s fine. I do miss Lisa, but I have Jack now, and although I lost her I can’t help but think that I gained Jack.”
“I’m not so sure that’s a good trade-off, mate,” Rhys snorted. This wasn’t the first time that he’d heard about Canary Wharf, and Ianto knew this was an attempt to lighten the mood.
“Ouch,” Castle added, wincing theatrically, seeming to catch on to what Rhys was doing.
Ianto sighed good-naturedly. “I do wish you’d quit picking on Jack. He’s not all that bad.”
Gwen threaded her arm around Ianto’s. “Don’t let them get to you, sweetheart.”
He patted her hand. “At least I know one of you is on my side –“
He didn’t get anything else out before cold darkness rolled through his mind like an arctic wave.
Believe in me.
I am your friend.