Jack placed a hand on her shoulder, startling Toshiko. She whirled around to look at her boss, his eyes concerned and a small frown on his face. "Go home."
Toshiko shook her head. "But I only need to analyze the rest of this CCTV from Roath then I'll figure out if—"
Jack squeezed her shoulder. "Leave it," he pressed. "A possible Storrothers smuggling ring is hardly worth you losing sleep over."
She bit the inside of her mouth. Tosh wanted to stay. She felt like she was on a roll with this latest case. Several coffee shop owners in Roath had been rumored to sell a new exotic blend. People from hundreds of kilometers away would drive out just for a cup. One of Jack's sources had informed him that the secret ingredient to the popular drink was the blood of an alien called the Storrothers; and many shop owners had come together to farm the alien and make a profit. Torchwood needed proof of any of this before they could move forward. "Jack, please. It's only 7 o'clock. One more min—"
"I sent Suzie and Owen packing over an hour ago." The Captain gave her an exasperation expression. "It's an order, Toshiko." He turned, sticking his hands deep into his pocket. "Go home!"
Tosh sighed, defeated. There was no way she was going to be able to sneak in another second of work now. She let her computer run as per norm, picked up her purse and headed out the invisible lift exit.
Usually, Toshiko walked straight to her flat after she was done with work. She wasn't sure what possessed her that night; if it was the warm night air or maybe she had breathed some strange alien pollen while working diligently at her desk. For whatever reason, she turned left down a completely different street full of shops that locals and tourists frequented.
The first couple of shops she went into were boring tourist ones selling tiny Welsh flags and magnets that had beautiful scenic views of Cardiff Bay and the surrounding areas. Tosh bought a mug for her mother to send overseas. It'd been a while since she'd even wrote to her mother, so perhaps a large mug for her morning tea would be a nice apology gift.
Why she stepped foot into the pet store in particular was unknown to Toshiko. She didn't like animals especially. She never had a pet growing up. Nor was she the type of person who frequented websites about cats who liked cheeseburgers and ogled at how cute they were.
Yet she spotted the adult male cat in the top window. He was a bit chubby, a cuddle bug, Toshiko thought with a smile. He was all grey with a stripe of black on his chest. The cat stretched out and pawed at the window toward Toshiko. He yawned, showing all of his great teeth. His eyes were so blue.
There's colorfully decorated sign in the corner of the window. The neat script is written is read and pronounced the cat's name: IANTO (YAN-TOH).
Toshiko waved over a shop girl and gestured to the cat. "I'll take him."
"Get down, Ianto," Toshiko ordered and batted her cat away from the coffee maker. He loved to climb onto the counter whenever she made her morning coffee. He'd even rub up against it sometimes; odd. Otherwise, Ianto was the ideal house pet. He always went in his litter box, didn't scratch up her furniture, and he seemed to wait patiently by his food bowl around the time Tosh usually had her own meals. Even at the vet, he didn't yowl or try to skitter away when the doctor gave him his shots. Ianto was calm and collected, licking his paws. The vet said that Ianto was his favorite patient.
Ianto mewed but obeyed his owner, hopping down from the countertop. He took a few, long and languid scratches at his scratching post, then yawned like he had tired of the toy quickly. He made his way over to where Toshiko was sitting at her small table, the bell attached to his red collar jangling all the way, and rubbed against her leg.
Tosh smiled and instinctively reached down with her non-dominant hand and petted Ianto from head to tail. Her dominant hand was busy writing a brief letter just saying the niceties to her mother that'd go along with the mug Toshiko bought not long ago the night she bought Ianto.
It's nice, she thought. Her life is nice.
Toshiko looked up to the corner of the room when she heard the noise. Her cat was lying on his side by his food bowl. It seemed that Ianto had gotten impatient this morning. She laughed. "Okay, Ianto. I'll be there in a minute."
"He's cute," Suzie said as she was passing by Toshiko's work station, casually tossing a cricket ball in the air. She leaned over, resting her chin on Tosh's shoulder invading the genius' personal space. "I didn't know you had a cat."
"Tosh's got a pussy?" Owen yelled from the couch. He was eating some pizza and reading a men's magazine. "I didn't know that."
Toshiko clenched her teeth and shut her eyes, trying her best to push back the oncoming tears. She knew it had been a mistake to put up a photo of Ianto at her station. Tosh had a feeling that once she did someone would comment on it and ask questions, poking into her private life. But she'd had Ianto for a couple weeks now. There was no question that Toshiko loved her job at Torchwood, but whenever she was there she sorely missed her cat. She'd just hoped that maybe everyone would have left her alone, not leer over her station like usual and not notice the only photograph beside her computer.
Suzie laughed and chucked the cricket ball at the doctor, who yelped and cursed, calling Suzie a 'right bitch'.
"Hey, what's going on down here?" Jack poked his head out from his office, phone in hand, clearly annoyed.
"Toshiko's got a cat, Jack," Suzie shouted through her fit of giggles. "Did you know that?"
Apparently, Jack's interest was piqued because he put on hold whatever it was he had been doing in his office and raced downstairs to Toshiko's station. He smiled down at the picture, grazing a finger over the cat's body. "Aw, it is cute. What's its name?"
"Ianto," Tosh blushed. "His name is Ianto."
Jack nodded before addressing the rest of the team. "Where are we on that Roath case? It's been far too long. It should have been done by now. Suzie?"
The woman second in command of Torchwood Three was already on her way back to her respective station, shucking her white lab coat on. "The Storrothers extract in the coffee is nearly undetectable. It's taken me this long to fully analyze and confirm that they had been using their blood in the coffee. They are using minuscule amounts but it's very potent, causing the addicting effect on customers. Whoever's doing this is good."
"Have you done the autopsy on that body who drank the coffee, Owen?" Jack asked politely.
Owen audibly turned another page in his magazine. "Does it look like I have?"
"Owen," Jack growled, pinching his fingers to the bridge of his nose. "Get your fat arse off the couch and do that autopsy or so help me!"
The doctor grumbled as he violently threw down his magazine on the floor. He grabbed the large box of pizza and carried down with him to the medical bay.
Jack directed his attention to Toshiko, his face pleasant again. "How are we coming with that footage?"
She shrugged. "Not great. There's just nothing there. Whoever is behind all this is covering their tracks very well, like Suzie said."
The Captain dipped his head. "Hm. Just keep working on it." He paused on his way up the stairs. "Oh, Toshiko, you really do have a cute pussy cat." He winked.
Toshiko went beet red as she heard Jack and Suzie laugh uproariously.
She liked lying on her bed with Ianto cuddled up beside her. It was comforting. It meant she was never alone when she home. She chuckled as she petted Ianto's exposed belly. Her flat felt like a home for a change.
Ianto purred happily and licked her palm, as if in response to her thoughts.
"Oh Ianto," Toshiko sighed and head-butted her cat. "You got it easy, don't you? Just have to worry about when your food bowl will get filled, if your scratching post is getting less… scratchy. You don't have to think about the Earth under a constant threat of invasion… or that you can't figure out how five coffee shop owners are smuggling Storrothers into their shops and harvesting their blood so their coffee tastes better."
She planted a kiss on the top of Ianto's head, making cooing sounds as if she was talking to a newborn baby. Toshiko scratched behind his ears before sitting upright with her legs crossed. "I don't think Jack will mind if I do a bit of outside work, do you?" She grabbed her lap desk and laptop that had been charging all day and got into a more comfortable position. Tosh didn't even get a chance to boot up her computer before Ianto jumped on top of the Chiclet style keyboard, comfortably planting himself there.
Toshiko laughed. "The thing's not even turned on. You can't have wanted to sit there because it was warm." She pushed the cat off the laptop, which was harder than it should have been. Finally she was able to turn on her computer and start her work.
The culprit shops were all along Wellfield Road. Everyone who went in and out of the shops were daily regulars and employees. There weren't any suspicious parcels being brought into any of the shops that could contain a four foot high alien that resembled an Afghan Hound. The thought had occurred to the team that they were draining the aliens off-site but Jack had struck that notion down. Why even have a middle man at all when you were supplying the goods?
Most of the coffee shops employees started to come in around between 4 o'clock to 4:30 in the morning, usually wearing street clothes and carrying a tote bag or a purse. The rest of the employees roll in fifteen minutes to a half an hour later and then the shop will open soon afterwards for the early morning rush. Nothing was out of sync with the rest of the coffee shops in the surrounding area.
Suddenly her screen went blank.
Toshiko glanced around the room, completely confused until her eyes settled on her cat, wrapped up in the now unplugged laptop cord by the outlet. It seemed crazy, but Toshiko could have sworn that Ianto was pleased with himself. He had a strange grin.
She growled with frustration as she pulled the cord away from Ianto, who tried his best to keep his grip on it with his claws. "I don’t know what's gotten into you, Ianto." Tosh wadded up the cord and gathered her laptop in her arms. "You're going to stay in here while I do my work."
Honestly, what was wrong with Ianto? He never misbehaved! Tosh thought she had been lucky when she adopted him but—
Toshiko stilled as she heard a distinctive crunching noise, like the sound of bones breaking and twisting. It was like the sound of bottom of desks and chairs scraping across a classroom. Chills ran up her spine and goose bumps freckled her skin.
"I can't let you do that, Tosh."
She whirled around. At the foot of her bed was a man. A very naked man. Who happened to have the same collar she bought for Ianto stretched painfully around his neck.
Toshiko did the only thing a reasonable person could do.
"Sorry I don't have anything else for you," Toshiko called out, hoping that Ianto heard her all the way in the loo. "I don't usually keep men's clothes lying about. You got a bit lucky that my cousin left his suit with me and never came back for it." She nervously fiddled with her coffee machine. This was so awkward. "Does it fit?"
Ianto strolled into the common area with confidence. He adjusted the striped grey tie and rolled his shoulders back. "This will do just fine." Ianto pouted, which Toshkio thought was truly adorable. "Coffee? You're making coffee? You should have let me do that." He brushed Tosh aside and started to take over the simple machine, adding things like milk and sugar to the coffees when they were finished.
"Coffee?" Toshiko spluttered. "You can make coffee?"
"Of course I can make coffee!" Ianto shot back, a bit offended. "I'm rather amazing at it. It's an integral part of my skill set."
Toshiko was about to disagree that making coffee could not be a part of anyone's skill set until she took a sip of Ianto's coffee, and moaned deeply. It was seriously like no other coffee she had ever had in her life. It was incredible. Her eyes flicked open. "Please tell me there's no alien blood in this coffee."
Ianto smiled softly. "No, but my race does make the best coffee in the universe. Why do you think they are murdering us and harvesting our blood?"
Tosh blinked rapidly. "Wait a second." She followed Ianto as he left the kitchen and sat at the table. "You mean you're a Storrothers? We didn't know that they were shape-shifters! How—"
"Tosh," Ianto interrupted gently. "Stop." He chuckled lightly. "You know, I thought I could expect better out of Torchwood. I mean if you have to deal with something out of the norm, Torchwood is the answer right? But what can I expect after Canary Wharf? Why did I think Cardiff would be better? Should have just tried that bloke up in Scotland."
"Canary Wharf? Scotland?" Toshiko parroted. "You know about Torchwood? But how--?"
"Worked for Torchwood One as a researcher. I was there at Canary Wharf. I," his adam's apple bobbed. "I lost someone."
"I'm sorry," Toshiko replied automatically.
Ianto waved his thanks. "Don't worry about it. It's not important to this situation, really."
Toshiko raised an eyebrow. "What do you mean?"
"The smuggling ring with the coffee? Torchwood has got it all wrong."
She sat back in her chair. "Are you about to tell me that the Storrothers are the perpetrators here and the owners of the coffee shops are being used? Because that seems a little far-fetched."
Her man-cat laughed a low, beautiful laugh. "No, humans are kidnapping aliens for their blood and putting it in their coffee to attract customers. But that's not the whole story. And you have the wrong species."
"And how do you know this?" Tosh asked, crossing her arms over her chest a little defensively.
"Because these men, these humans, are committing a genocide against my species."
A weight hung in the air for a few moments. Toshiko was stunned. She couldn't help but gape at Ianto.
"I suppose," Ianto's tone was more cheerful. "That I can understand why Torchwood made the mistake. Could have been bad intel? I mean you can't exactly believe every blowfish on the street, can you? But I think the more likely reason is because my race and the Storrothers are almost the race on the molecular level. We're cousins, I suppose. Guess your medical officer or whoever Torchwood roped into doing the science-y stuff got that bit wrong. It's thrown you guys off the track from the beginning."
"Then… what are you?" Toshiko finally asked the question that had been burning on her tongue since she saw that her pet turned into a man. "What is it about your species blood? Why do they want you?"
"We're called Tonkinians," Ianto says with a satisfied smile playing on his lips. "Oddly enough it sounds a bit like the Earth cat breed Tonkinese. Although, as you've seen we look more like your average British Shorthair." He clicked his tongue. "Can't quite understand that one, but I suppose we had to adapt to look like some breed."
"How many of there are you? In the UK? The world?"
The alien cat barked out a laugh. "Ah, Torchwood's knowledge is still as rubbish as I remember. You haven't even heard of my species have you and we've been on this planet hundreds of years." He ran a hand through his thick hair. "What was I thinking to rely on Torchwood?" He uttered under his breath. "I promise to give you a full in depth history lesson later, but we're running out of time. If we keep wasting it there won't be a history of my race to tell because we'll be extinct."
Ianto took a few sips of his coffee before he continued on. "I'm not sure how they found us out. In my opinion it doesn't really matter. Those men found out that we're pretty handy with coffee, skill set remember?" He said before Tosh could ask anything. "It's more than a skill set really, it's kind of born in us, it's in our blood. Like there's some genetic code in all of us to make the most brilliant coffee. I know that sounds horribly stupid. And it is. I mean, it's not like it's the greatest accomplishment, having your race known for its cup of joe. Is how it is. Somehow, those shop owners on Wellfield Road figured it out. They wised up. Found ways of tracking us. At first, I think it was just to bribe us in how to make better coffee. But, maybe once they found out that add a dash of our blood into their own coffee and boom! There was no stopping them." Ianto sighed heavily and gazed upwards at the ceiling. "You asked me how many of us where there. True is, I dunno anymore. Those men have killed so many. Whole clans have been wiped out. I'm the only one left in my family."
Toshiko gasped and reached over to grab Ianto's hand. "I'm sorry. Truly sorry. If we had known. If we'd been more clever—"
"Not your fault, Tosh," Ianto smiled sadly. "Never your fault. Although, your team needs to know something very important."
"What is it?"
"If humans drink too much of the coffee infused with our blood they go boom."
Tosh cocked her head to the side. "Boom?"
Ianto mimed an explosion with his hands with sound effects. "Boom, yeah. How big the boom depends on how much they drank and the contents. It can vary from just an internal rupture of the brain or a full out splattering the walls effect. I think you've had a least one victim in under your medical officer's knife?"
"Yeah," Toshiko confirmed. "But he was still intact," she sighed. "This changes everything. I need to call Jack. I need to call everyone back to the Hub. We have to let them know that's going on." She already had out her mobile and was texting the team.
Toshiko met Ianto's gaze. He seemed lost. "Yes, we. I can't do this by myself. You're important to this mission."
They we silent as they waited for responses from the team. Toshiko took the time to really look at Ianto, the man. He was young, in his early twenties if she had to guess. He had a round face, rather boyish. His brown hair was cropped short, but still long enough that you could run your hand through it decently. His eyes were sparkling blue, like they had been in his cat form. He was rather pale, like he usually didn't get much sun. His playful smile suggested his light-hearted nature. Yet his near perfect posture, the way he'd knit his eyebrows together when he said something that upset him. It suggested that he was rather serious and tense. And Ianto seemed all too comfortable in a suit.
Toshiko's mobile beeped. Text from Owen. He was on his way. That was everyone.
"We're good to go," she announced. Tosh began to stand up but hesitated. "Ianto, can I ask you something?
"Why did you stop me from working before if you are more eager to see these guys stopped?"
Ianto gripped her hands from across the table. "You shouldn't bring Torchwood home with you, Tosh. Don't let it get inside you, inside your safe place."
Tosh hummed. "Can I ask you one more question?"
"I'm all ears."
"Why are you Welsh?"
Toshiko was ready.
The app on her mobile phone indicted to her that everyone was gathered in the Hub. Ianto had transformed back into his cat state and was riding in his cat carrier. In Toshiko's bag was the suit.
Tosh was only a couple steps away from the invisible lift. She could do this.
He mewed in response and rubbed his head against the carrier's wire door.
As Toshiko descended down from the list she could hear the arguing.
"It's 3 o'clock in the morning," Owen shouted. "If she can't be here for an emergency meeting that she called then I'm bloody going home!"
"Give her five minutes, Owen," Suzie soothed. "She could be in traffic or something."
"Really? Really Suzie? Tosh is stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic at 3am? Where the fuck do you think we are? New York City?"
"Hmm," Jack hummed. "I haven't been to New York since the '30s. The Empire State Building was almost complete. Show girls and pig-men. It was a weird time."
"Oh God, not another one of your stories!"
"Owen, hush!" Suzie bellowed.
"Toshiko," Jack exclaimed once he saw her. "Nice of you to join the party."
She smiled politely as the lift stopped and stepped off. "Hello everyone. Thank you for coming."
"Yeah, and why the hell did you wake up us in the middle of the night?" Owen's eyes widened. "Bloody hell, is that your cat?"
Toshiko set the carrier down and opened the door letting Ianto free. Immediately he scampered out. He wandered over to the Captain and did a figure eight through his legs before jumping up onto the nearest work station, which happened to be Tosh's. "Yes, that's Ianto. And he's the reason I called the meeting."
"What!?" Suzie roared, her temper lost. "You called a meeting just so we could meet your cat? How fucking pathetic are you, Tosh?"
"Actually," a deep Welsh voice interrupted. "She's pretty amazing."
Everyone turned to see a nude grown man sitting on Toshiko's desk, looking rather comfortable. Ianto kept Toshiko's gaze as suddenly the rest of the team ordered for him to put his hands up and surrender, training their guns on him.
Ianto complied but shook his head. "Torchwood."
"And you thought it'd be fine to harbor an alien in your home?" Jack screamed, his face red with fury.
Toshiko should have expected this. Or least she should have been able to protect Ianto better. She shouldn't have let them take him down to the cells and lock him up like he was one of the Weevils. Because he wasn't just some alien. He was Ianto.
At least they'd let him dress himself. And no one had hurt him before putting him in the cell. And Ianto did look relaxed as he lay on the floor, resting on his elbow.
"Jack, you don't understand—"
"I understand perfectly, Toshiko! You've gone behind my back and betrayed me. How could you do this to me? After everything I've taught you? Why would you endanger the team like this?"
"Because she's doing you a favor."
They both turned to Ianto. He had got up during their argument and was now standing against the clear wall of the cell.
Jack crossed his arms, chin held high and faced Ianto head on. "Oh really? And how's that?" He stepped closer, almost to the edge of the wall.
"You've lived a long time, haven't you Captain?" Ianto stated matter-of-factly. "No doubt some facts have escaped you over the years. Perhaps you've forgotten about my race. About the Tonkinians? We blend well after all. It's in our blood."
Jack's eyes went wide. He tapped his eyepiece and gave out orders for Owen and Suzie to get some weapons and ready the SUV.
They were going to take down the smuggling ring.
"What are you going to do now?" Toshiko asked later that night when everything was over.
Ianto shrugged. "I dunno."
Jack was exhausted. Late night/early morning Weevil hunting was never a fun task. It was always made worse when no Weevils were bagged. A wasted night. No sleep, no rest and he'd have to spend the rest of the day leading his team into danger. Jack needed to be his best at all times. If he wasn't, lives could be lost due to some stupid oversight on his part. These were never his favorite days.
He turned a dark corner made his way down the boardwalk. Today he was entering Torchwood through the fake tourist office. Jack stopped short. Ianto was standing outside the door to the tourist office. He was dressed in street clothes today, jeans and a hoodie. Jack's heart pumped a little faster as he walked forward to the Welshman.
"Morning." Ianto greeted the Captain and offered him the hot beverage he was holding, "Coffee?"