Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.
Closing Time by Semisonic
“I should go.” Ianto could barely catch his breath as he pushed himself up and climbed off Jack, too many emotions colliding inside him. Because just for a split second he’d forgotten. He’d forgotten why he was there, what he was doing, that Lisa was suffering, waiting for him to save her. He’d forgotten the desolation and the nightmares. Jack had made him laugh. Laugh. For the first time since Canary Wharf. He’d laughed, while Lisa was at the small flat he’d found for them, probably crying in pain in like she did most nights.
And that wasn’t even the worst of it, because for a second there, lying on top of Jack while the other man had shifted subtly beneath him, their noses brushing as Jack titled his chin up in a blatant invitation, Ianto had barely stopped himself from closing the small distance between their mouths to kiss him like it was the most natural thing in the world.
Now guilt was riding him mercilessly. He shoved his shaking hands in his pockets as he hurried away, hunching his shoulders against the tension he could feel building in his chest.
“Hey!” Jack called out, his voice echoing slightly in the huge, empty space. Ianto paused and half looked back, but couldn’t turn around, not when he was struggling to keep it all inside. “Report for work first thing tomorrow.”
All he could manage was a single small nod, not even sure if Jack had seen it as he resumed walking, keeping his pace steady, even though he wanted to run.
“Like the suit by the way.”
For some reason, those words—an echo of his own complements on Jack’s coat—were almost his undoing.
He swallowed down the sob threatening to rise up and continued walking away from Jack. His plan had worked. He’d gotten the job he needed at Torchwood Three to save Lisa, except it was nothing but a hollow victory. He had no idea how he was going to front up tomorrow morning and pretend like everything was fine with the deceptions he’d already started spinning.
Jack might have been an arrogant prick—according to Yvonne Hartman anyway—but he certainly wasn’t dumb. Ianto knew he was going to have his work cut out for him if he was going to pull this off.
He walked from the deserted warehouse and then caught a cab back to his flat, letting himself in quietly just in case Lisa was actually sleeping. When he went into the bedroom, however, it was to find Lisa breathing heavily, staring at the ceiling where he’d taped up pictures for her to look at, sweat beading her forehead. He hurried over to the dresser where he’d left their dwindling supply of pain killers and sedatives that seemed less effective with each passing day.
“Hey,” he said gently as he stepped up next to her. There was a small space between stacks of equipment he’d scavenged from the ruins of Torchwood One to keep her alive. She kept telling him, however, that if she was going to survive and heal, then he needed to build something similar to a conversion unit. At first he’d adamantly refused, not wanting any kind of cyber technology anywhere near her—well, any other than the bits and pieces she was currently connected to. But as she’d deteriorated, she’d convinced him it was the only way she was going to come through this.
For the technology and information he was going to need to build it, there’d only been two options—UNIT or Torchwood Three in Cardiff. He’d ruled out UNIT almost right away. He wasn’t cut out for the military—the few times he’d been forced into the field during his tenure with Torchwood One had pretty much been terrifying and he still wasn’t sure how he’d survived any of them… luck, probably. So it’d only left Torchwood Three and Jack bloody Harkness, as he’d often heard Yvonne refer to him.
“How was your night?” Lisa asked in a rasping voice, swallowing after she got the words out.
He reached for the jug of water on the night stand and poured her a cup. “It worked, finally. I got the job. I’m starting first thing in the morning.”
His voice sounded strained, and of course Lisa noticed right away.
“What happened?” she asked, bringing her head up and accepting the pills on her tongue, then letting him give her the water through a straw.
“Jack Harkness. He’s not what I expected. I don’t know if I can do this, Lisa.” He swallowed down the lump in his throat, the guilt raking painfully through him again. How could he sit there and say that, when it might be the only way to save her life?
Despite all he’d heard about Jack during his time at Torchwood One—that he’d flirt with everyone and anyone, that he didn’t have an ounce of humility but was gorgeous enough to pull it off, that he pretty much swanned around and did whatever he wanted—Ianto really hadn’t been prepared for the force of nature that was the man himself. Nothing he’d seen of Jack so far fitted with the picture he’d created in his head. Jack had an intensity about him that Ianto hadn’t expected to find.
She gave him a wan smile. “You’ve never given yourself enough credit, Ianto. You can do anything you put your mind to, I’ve seen it so many times. I wouldn’t be here if that wasn’t true.”
He returned her smile, though he knew it was strained. “Of course you think that. You’re blinded by love.”
She gave a laugh that came out sounding more like a cough and stretched her fingers for his hand. He clasped it tightly, hating how they always felt cold, no matter how many blankets he put on her or how he kept the heating turned up.
“You’ll be fine, Ianto. I know it. Don’t worry about Jack Harkness. Just dig whatever information you can about cyber units out of the archives and in a few short weeks, it’ll all be over. I’ll be better and then we can go to Hawaii.”
“Hawaii?” he repeated, leaning in to kiss her cheek. “I though it was Fiji you wanted to visit.”
“Anywhere there’s you and a warm tropical beach. Maybe we can visit both.” Her eyes drooped, and she seemed a little more relaxed.
“Think you can get some sleep now?” He stroked a hand over her forehead, and she leaned into his touch.
“You should get some rest as well,” she murmured. “First day tomorrow.”
His stomach flipped over, but he couldn’t work out if it was nerves or anticipation. Probably a lot of both. Lisa seemed to be slipping off to sleep, so he whispered goodnight and quietly left the room. He made himself a cup of tea and stood in the kitchen drinking it, listening to the constant whoosh and whirr of the machines helping to keep Lisa alive.
A few short weeks. A simple ruse. Get into the Torchwood archives and find what he needed to build something like a conversion unit—just not a conversion unit. More like a life support unit. He would do it for Lisa. He’d do anything for her.
He rinsed the mug and then went into the livingroom, pulling out the pile of blankets and pillows from where he kept them stored during the day. He set up the couch with automatic movements borne of doing this night after night. Sometimes he wanted nothing more than to crawl into bed with Lisa and hold her, but she was in constant pain. He could barely risk touching her without inadvertently hurting her. The weeks since Canary Wharf had been hell, but surely he was starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Ianto walked along the quay, just like he had a few mornings past when he’d ambushed Jack with a cup of coffee. Except this morning he was wearing a suit—very carefully selected blue-grey shirt, navy blue tie shot through with silver pinstripes and a dark suit. He’d worn a suit everyday in London, so when he’d made the final attempt with Jack last night, he’d decided to go all in—full Torchwood One mode. Not that he’d been flawless about the whole thing. The pterodactyl had been a little frightening and he’d almost given up the game when he hadn’t been able to help yelling as he’d run into position before he and Jack had launched their admittedly faulty plan. But it’d all worked out in the end—almost too well.
Every time he’d closed his eyes last night, he’d flashed back to that moment when he’d ended up on top of Jack, breathing in those 51st century pheromones—whatever that meant—and feeling every muscled inch of the man pressed into him. He’d never been so evidently attracted to a man before, and the deep welling of lust had been shocking and overwhelming in its intensity. A few times he’d looked at other blokes and thought they’re a bit alright, but it’d been more along the lines of being able to see why a woman would find the guy attractive and wishing he had a bit more going for himself. He hadn’t been prepared for Jack, and now he wondered what was going to happen when he laid eyes on the man again this morning.
He didn’t have to spend long waiting as the door to the tourist information kiosk flung open and Jack came striding out, coat flaring behind him and grin lighting up his face. He really did look amazing in the coat. With the infectious smile and the swagger, the man was just—
Shit. There it was. That low burning warmth starting in his stomach and radiating outward.
“No coffee this morning?” Jack asked as he stopped in front of him, totally throwing him off kilter.
“Oh, no. I didn’t think— I can go get—”
“I’m kidding, Ianto. Relax.” Jack set a hand on his shoulder and squeezed gently, but then let go and shifted back again just as quickly, moving off along the boardwalk. “Coming?”
For a second, he stared after Jack, before shooting a glance back at the door to the tourist information office, then hurrying after his new boss.
“If you don’t mind me asking, sir—” he started as he caught up.
Jack glanced over his shoulder, arching an eyebrow, a gleam in his eye that Ianto couldn’t decipher. “Sir? Hmm, I like it. The others all call me Jack, but a little formality never hurt anyone. Ask away, Jones, Ianto Jones.”
Ianto took a second to grope for his equilibrium, which he’d possibly left in his car since he didn’t seem to be in possession of it, and then straightened his already straight tie to settle himself.
“Where are we going? I thought the entrance to Torchwood Three was through the tourist information office.”
Jack threw his shoulders back as he clasped his hands behind his back. “Going down through there is so pedestrian. I thought we should start your first day the right way.”
Ianto didn’t reply to that cryptic comment as they crossed the Plass and then Jack stopped at the base of the water tower.
“Here, stand next to me. Best view in Cardiff.” Jack held out an arm and Ianto dubiously stepped over. But apparently the two feet he left between them wasn’t good enough for Jack, who tugged him right into his side until there was no space between them and each breath he took was nothing but the damned amazing scent of Jack, making his pulse pick up speed.
Before he could gather his thoughts enough to either protest or move away, Jack held out his arm, pushing the sleeve of his coat back to reveal a thick wrist strap with some kind of device inside it. He pressed a couple of buttons and the paving slab beneath them shifted and smoothly started dropping beneath street level. Ianto grabbed Jack’s shoulder in surprise, but when he saw the smile that crossed the other man’s face, as well as the fact that Jack shifted subtly closer, he cleared his throat and made himself let go.
As they left the outside world, he became aware that no one on the Plass was taking any notice of the two people slowly but surely sinking into the ground at the base of the water tower.
“It’s an invisible lift,” Jack told him. A chameleon circuit imprinted on—”
“Otherwise known as a perception filter,” he interrupted, sending Jack a look that said his attempts at trying to impress him were failing. He felt like he needed to get the upper hand somehow, since Jack had kept him off balance from the moment he’d stepped out of the tourist office.
“Very good,” Jack replied, seeming more impressed than annoyed. “I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised, given your background.”
Something in Jack’s tone told him that his background wasn’t necessarily a plus in this situation, and once again, he was reminded of the few times Jack had called Yvonne and the inevitable yelling that had followed. He’d answered and transferred a few of those calls in the months he’d spent as Yvonne’s PA, and the first time he’d approached Jack in the park over the weevil a few nights passed, he’d had the ridiculous fear that Jack would recognise his voice.
Jack Harkness hadn’t made a secret of the fact he disagreed with how Yvonne ran Torchwood One. The pair had almost been mortal enemies, so before he’d told Jack his name, he’d carefully altered his records and deleted all references of ever working with Yvonne, knowing Jack would do some kind of digging on him. If Jack found out he’d been Yvonne’s PA, that Ianto had known and experienced more of Torchwood One’s inner workings than a simple junior researcher would have ever had access to, he knew this would all be over before it began
The lift arrived at floor level and Ianto took in the cavernous space. He’d heard and read a few things about Torchwood Three; the rift manipulator, the legendary archives that rivalled even those Torchwood One possessed before the tower had come down; Jack Harkness and the fact he’d flirt with anything that breathed. Not to mention the weirder rumours surrounding Jack; that he must be in possession of some sort of time travelling technology which he refused to acknowledge or share because there were unverifiable accounts of him over the past hundred-plus years of Torchwood Cardiff history. It was part of why Yvonne had hated Jack so much. She’d wanted to know all his secrets, have more control over what Torchwood Three were doing, but apparently Captain Jack Harkness was a power unto himself. Now that he’d met the man, he could understand why.
Jack led him around the base of the water tower and up half a dozen metal stairs to where there were several workstations set up. Two women were present—one an Asian woman with short dark hair and glasses, and the other a tall, slender woman with curly hair
“Owen!” Jack hollered as he came to a stop. A second later, a man emerged from a section with the words cold storage in black and white tiles across the lintel above the steps. The man was wearing a white doctor’s coat and seemed to be sizing him up. He also kind of looked hung over.
“So this is the bloke you said was stalking you and then suddenly decided to pull a job out of thin air for last night,” the man said with a London accent, crossing his arms belligerently. “Personally, I would have stuck with the plan to retcon him back to infancy.”
“Doctor Owen Harper, Ianto Jones.” Jack turned to look at him and leaned in a little. “Just ignore him when he gets like that, which is about eighty percent of the day. The rest of us do.”
“Screw you, Harkness.” Owen tossed him the finger before turning and stomping back down the stairs. Ianto watched him go, trying not to let his mouth hang open. He had never heard anyone tell their boss screw you, let alone flip them off. But Jack simply laughed and then turned to the Asian woman.
“Toshiko Sato,” Jack motioned her closer and Toshiko came over, pulling off her glasses and then holding out a hand to shake with him.
“Nice to meet you. I just want you to know up front that I was the one who checked your records and complied the report for Jack, so I already know more about you than you’re probably comfortable with.”
“Um—” For some reason he looked at Jack when he found himself lost for words at Toshiko’s almost painful honesty.
“Don’t worry, our Toshiko is discreet. If there was anything in those records you’re worried about, she won’t breathe a word.”
Jack hustled him on, over to the work station that was set a little away from the rest and scattered with dismantled pieces of tech.
“This is Suzie Costello, second in charge.”
Suzie glanced up and sent him a reserved nod, expression neither friendly, nor hostile. Just disinterested. She quickly returned to whatever she was working on.
He couldn’t help noticing the hub was in disarray. Tosh’s desk was mostly clean, but everywhere else was cluttered with random pieces of what could have been alien junk for all he knew, empty takeaway boxes and containers, stacks of a paper coffee cups and an impressive film of dust over the things and place that obviously weren’t touched or used very often.
“So, that’s the team. Now you get the grand tour.” Jack’s hand landed on his lower back, making him jump a little. Jack shifted back again, eyeing him closely. “No need to be nervous, Ianto. You’re going to be fine here.”
He cleared his throat, adjusting his tie a little. “And what is it you want me to do, exactly?”
From the corner of his eye, he noticed Tosh watching them curiously, and even Owen’s head appeared over the top of the stairs, taking in the exchange.
Jack glanced around and suddenly seemed unimpressed with the audience. “Why don’t we take this up to my office? We can start getting the personnel files in order and discuss the terms of your employment.”
Jack started to step toward what was presumably his office as Owen came the rest of the way up the steps.
“Hang on, Harkness! It’s your turn to go out for coffee.”
Jack threw an annoyed look over his shoulder. “You go, I’m kinda busy here.”
Owen crossed his arms. “I went the last two times. If you’re not going, then send Tosh.”
“I told you, I’m close to a critical break through on these rift predictions.” Tosh looked up long enough to frown at Owen over the top of her glasses.
“Suzie?” Owen called out with a hopeful note in his voice.
“Nope, I’m pulling rank. You want it so bad, Owen, you go get it.”
“I could—” The words were out of his mouth before he even knew what he was going to say. He looked at Jack. “I don’t suppose you have a coffee machine here? I could just make it for you.”
Jack crooked his finger and then led him up a circular set of metal stairs leading to another level where there was a kind of kitchenette set up on the balcony that ran around three of the hub’s four walls. It seemed like an odd place to have it, but he kept his thoughts to himself as Jack shifted some stuff around to reveal an ancient-looking coffee machine.
His taste bud were practically tingling at the thought of the coffee he was going to get out of this machine… if it still worked. He’d worked as a barista when he'd first arrived in London, before he'd landed at Torchwood One. It’d been a convenient coincidence that he happened to be excellent at making coffee. One of the cafes he’d worked in had been owned by an Italian couple whose pride and joy had been a forty-year-old coffee machine that looked very similar to the one Jack had just uncovered.
“This had been here for longer than anyone can remember, but no one can figure out how to work it. Truthfully, it’s probably broken.” Jack stepped back and glanced at him. “If you get coffee out of this, then there won’t be anything in the hub you won’t get a handle on.”
Ianto took off his jacket, ignoring the way Jack was watching him closely as he rolled up his shirtsleeves. “Give me half an hour.”
Jack raised an eyebrow, but started back toward the stairs. “Thirty minutes and counting.”
He didn’t reply as Jack clattered back down the stairs to the main level. He was too busy already examining the parts, working out what might need cleaning and if anything looked broken. He had no idea why, but he got the feeling that whatever happened with this coffee machine was going to dictate the rest of his days here at Torchwood Three. Though he wasn’t planning on staying—he’d have to disappear as soon as Lisa got better, because if Jack ever found out he’d stolen information from the archives to mess with cyber technology, Jack would retcon him back to childhood, if not kill him—but for some reason, he wanted to prove himself. And it was going to start right here with this coffee machine.