There was a pause in their lives, like the breath you take before you leap off a cliff, like the hush before the first leaf teeters from its branch in Autumn. Amy breathed. Amy fell. Amy flew. She was tired of waiting. "We need to find him," she told Rory.
Rory reached for the binder he'd already collected. "I've been searching at work when there's down time. Websites vanish when I'm not looking, so I've been printing things out."
The binder (blue of course) was filled with chat logs, message boards, emails, rumours, anonymous sites. "How long have you been searching?" she asked, a little confused.
"About ten years."
"I never thought you were mad. All right, I did. But I believed that you believed in him. Funny thing, though. Around 2006, a lot of the sites went dead. Something about the Big Bad Wolf. I've got these, which isn't half of what there was. People rebuilt."
He flipped to another page. Amy read to herself the conspiracy theorists' crackpot ideas. Men in Black. Missing computers, missing memories, missing people.
"You could have said something." She was angry. She was angry at the Doctor for leaving her at Demon's Run, angry at River for refusing to answer any more questions after the most vital question, angry at Kovarian for the deceit and imprisonment and kidnapping, angry at herself for everything. Rory made an easier target. Amy punched him in the arm.
"Ow. You're supposed to say, 'Thank you, Rory. This is fantastic work, Rory.'"
"Where is he? And where is our baby?"
They locked eyes, and for all of Amy's anger, she could read Rory's horror and worry and frustration right back. He pressed his hand overtop hers. "I don't know. But I know he turns up here more than he should."
It was a photograph of a place she didn't recognise. "Is this in London?"
"Actually, it's Cardiff."
Her eyebrows raised. She'd pictured the two of them on a madcap chase across the Continent, following clues and rumours of a strange blue box and a mysterious man. Cardiff is... "Really?"
"What have we got to lose?"
Time. Effort. Melody. But they could gain all three if this worked, if they found him.
The Rift had been a bastard for the last week. Three solid days without sleep, the rest with no more than two or three hours between crises, this had not been their best moment. Ianto wasn't any happier than Jack or Gwen about the overload of work or the lack of sleep, but now that things had cooled off, he did have a place to retreat, and he knew for a fact that Jack was holed up in his office pretending to work. Gwen could deal with the new people in the Hub proper. God knew he was afraid of getting close to the latest batch of new arrivals, not with Sheilagh and Rupesh wandering around somewhere with new memories, not with Miranda cooling in a drawer next to Toshiko.
Bad memories threatened to take over the rest of the day. He knew he ought to go home and crawl into his own bed alone for a while. His job looked much less bleak from the other side of his pillow, though to be honest, the other side of his pillow usually did have a nice view.
Ianto glanced up to the CCTV camera. Jack would be watching the feeds. "I'm thinking about going home," Ianto said. No response.
Before he could get up the energy to close the tourist shop, the door opened, admitting two people a little younger than he was. Ianto steeled himself for the standard barrage of questions as he asked, "Welcome to Visit Wales. May I help you?"
The woman was gorgeous: all long legs and red hair and a wicked smile. Her male companion had a lanky frame with the hint of knowing how to use every muscle. They'd ask stupid questions, but he could admire the scenery.
"Hi," she said. "We've got some questions for you. We think our…."
"Friend," they both said together.
"Might have been here recently?" She gave Ianto a hopeful smile. "He travels."
"A lot," supplied her boyfriend or husband or gay best friend.
The tourist office had been closed for two weeks. Even if their friend had come by, Ianto wouldn't have seen him. "Sorry. Have you checked the local hotels?" Automatically, he reached for a brochure as the man pulled out his mobile phone.
"Here," he said, handing it over.
Ianto stared at the snap. He'd never seen the man before in his life. He'd swear to it. The goofy young face, the fashion sense that reminded Ianto strongly of his grandfather at church, not a single detail was familiar.
He did however instantly recognise the blue box in the background.
The woman's face brightened as Ianto felt his own sag. "You've seen him? Was it recently?"
The man said, "He may have our daughter with him."
Several thoughts piled in at once. The Doctor was famous, in Ianto's mind at least, for kidnapping. Had he stolen this couple's young child as he'd stolen Jack?
The outside door burst open. All three heads snapped over to look.
Instead of one of the Doctor's many faces, Jack appeared, a bit out of breath, as though (for example) he'd noticed two attractive young people walking into the tourist office and decided to take the express lift to the Plass and run down here to meet them. Already his most flirtatious grin was plastered on his face.
"I see you have customers," he said, sticking out a hand to the man. "Captain Jack Harkness. And you are?"
"Rory. Rory Williams," said the man, a bit confused at Jack's charm on full-blast.
"Nice to meet you, Rory Williams," he said with a wink, and he turned with a bow to the woman. "Are you the gorgeous Mrs. Williams?
Her face broke into a real smile as Jack took her hand. "Amy Pond. Williams. Yes." She shook her head to clear it, then said to her husband, "If this is the welcome wagon, we need to come to Wales more often." Jack had not let go of her hand.
"Have you signed up for the tour? Ianto here gives amazing tours of the area. I take two or three per week, just for the experience."
Amy bent closer. "So you're an expert, then. I bet you could teach us everything you know."
"That would take a while."
"We've got time."
"Oh, I love the sound of that."
Rory cleared his throat. "Thanks. We're not really here for the tours."
Ianto realised he still had Rory's mobile in his hand. He walked around the counter to stand next to Jack, hiding the screen. "Are you finished?"
Amy said, "Oh, I hope not."
Jack transferred his smile effortlessly from Amy to Ianto. "You said your shift was almost over. Wouldn't it be nice to end the day with a quick tour of the area?"
They were both exhausted, and here Jack was suggesting they invite these two out-of-towners somewhere close by for a quickie. Ianto did cast his eyes over the pair again, and admitted to himself the prospect had some appeal. Perhaps later.
He held up the mobile phone.
"What?" said Jack.
Ianto glanced over. The screen had gone dark, spoiling his triumphant moment. "Hold on." He fumbled with the screen until Rory took it away and fumbled with the buttons himself. Jack had turned his attention back to Amy, whose face was not longer as bright. For a moment when Jack had walked in, she'd forgotten the reason she'd come to Cardiff. Jack had that effect on people; Ianto had enjoyed the same temporary lull when they'd first met.
Rory pulled the snap up on the screen again and passed the phone to Jack.
Jack glanced at the picture, his eyes moving off before being dragged back by blue. "Oh."
He looked at Amy and Rory again, this time with a different calculation than how easy would it be to convince the pair of them to join them in bed. He handed Rory his mobile.
"How do you know the Doctor?"
Over the comm system, Jack told Gwen, "Ianto and I are taking off. Don't call."
Gwen said, "That's fine. Make sure he eventually does get some sleep."
As they locked up, Jack told Ianto, "Call the restaurant. See if you can get us a reservation for four."
Ianto said, "I'll book at the hotel restaurant. They're usually available on short notice."
Over drinks, Jack told Rory, "I remember the echo of a memory of you. Something happened."
Rory said, "We rebooted the universe. You'll have to remind me."
In the hotel room, Jack told Amy, "It won't be the same when he comes back."
Amy said, "It never is."
Rory cracked an eye open. Amy's hair spilled over the pillow beside him. He tried to piece together the last few hours, but only when he saw her hand splayed on the broad, bare back on the other side of her did certain pieces fall into place. Without looking, he stretched out behind himself. His fingers found another warm body dozing easily in the oversized bed.
It wouldn't be morning for another hour. Tomorrow they would resume their search for the Doctor, for Melody, for some sense to their lives. Amy had waited. Rory had waited. Apparently Jack had waited, too. Ianto had never met the Doctor, but he glared at Jack when he said so, and Rory suspected he'd done some waiting of his own.
Rory closed his eyes again. Strong arms embraced him from behind, holding him protectively.
He'd waited thousands of years. He could wait until dawn.