As his eyes slid shut for the final time, Ianto's reality narrowed to Jack's arms, holding him in a bruising grip, Jack's face, drawn with loss, Jack's voice whispering, "Don't go." He tried to hold on, but everything slid away from him like the last, vivid vestiges of a dream.
When he opened his eyes again, it was to the sight of a black clipboard bearing the Torchwood logo and a hand with bitten nails making notes. At his sharply drawn breath, the clipboard moved to one side and a woman peered down at him through a pair of smudged glasses.
"Welcome back, Mr Jones," the woman said. "How are you feeling?"
"Thirsty," Ianto croaked, feeling muzzy and a little sick; like a hangover, but with less kick.
"Oh, of course." The woman put down the clipboard and picked up a bottle of water sitting ready next to the Progenitor Unit. She cracked the lid and added a bendy straw and then helped Ianto finish sitting up so he could drink. "Small sips," she reminded him. "Your intestinal tract is all shiny and new and needs to adjust to ingestion."
"I remember," Ianto said, between small, grateful sips.
Once he'd drunk about six sips, the woman set the bottle aside. "I need to ask you a few questions before we finish off the physical."
Ianto nodded. Looking down at himself, he found he was naked bar a draped sheet, and the skin he could see was pale and unscarred. There was a swab of cotton wool on the inside of his left elbow, and the overhead scanner was still lowered over the Progenitor Unit. No doubt he'd been scanned and tested every which way already. As his thoughts started to clear, he got a flash of memory from last time, after Canary Wharf... "It's Dr Singh, isn't it?"
Dr Singh beamed at him. "That's right. Alice Singh. And do you remember where you are?"
Ianto made a mental note: Alice. Better get her onside if he could; he might need her help later, depending on the current politics. "Torchwood Four," he replied, and preempted the next question, because he needed to know. "I died at Thames House. How long has it been?"
"Two days," Dr Singh said, looking sad. "The crisis is over, but I don't really know what happened. I'm sure the Director will brief you on the situation once we're finished here."
"You can't tell me what happened to the other members of Torchwood Three?"
Alice shook her head. "Sorry. Need to know only, and I don't need to know."
"Of course. Typical Torchwood." They shared grim smiles. "It's been forever since I was last at Four. I feel so out of the loop." Ianto swung his legs over the side of the Progenitor Unit, letting the sheet shift a little so that more skin showed. "Who is the Director now, anyway, Alice?"
Alice's eyes widened as she glanced at the slipping sheet, the sudden flash of interest magnified by the lenses of her glasses. "It's Director Manse, still." Then she blinked and turned away, fumbling with the clipboard again, holding it in front of her like a shield. "I need to... finish off the physical..."
Deadpan, Ianto said, "Okay. How do you want me?"
Looking uncertain about whether the entendre was intentional, Alice said, "Right there will do."
Ianto dutifully remained still as Alice pressed a stethoscope to his chest and made him cough, then allowed himself to be photographed. She showed him a couple of the shots, and even though he'd known, it was still a shock to see his twenty-two year old face again.
"It's like a reset," he said, staring. "Timetravel or something."
"Back to the factory settings," Alice joked. "Think yourself lucky, Mr Jones--"
"Ianto." Alice flushed. "We had one agent, she'd been in deep cover for thirty-five years, with no chance of us taking a new baseline scan. She was caught and executed at fifty-four, and came back as a twenty year old. Took a bit of getting used to."
"Well, that puts things into perspective. What's a measly four years compared to that?" Ianto pushed the camera back into Alice's hands. "You know what, Alice? I really, really need a coffee. Don't suppose you'd escort me down to the cafeteria after we're done here?"
Alice smiled at him. "If you like."
"I'd like," Ianto said.
After half a cup of weak coffee, a small bowl of soup, an hour of Torchwood Four gossip from Alice, and a much needed shower, Ianto felt almost himself again. His muscles felt weak and untrustworthy, and the clothes he'd been given -- a pair of cheap black trousers and a white polyester button-up shirt -- left much to be desired. But he felt ready to face the Director, at least, so he waved off Alice's concern when she delivered him to Manse's office.
"Thank you," he said, pressing her hand briefly, aware of the Director's secretary watching them. "I'll see you later."
Alice nodded and fled back to her lab, looking disappointed and relieved in equal measure.
The secretary looked over her glasses at him and told him to take a seat. He dutifully sat, not giving in to the urge to pick at his thumbs, until the Director was ready to see him a carefully gauged quarter-hour later.
"Tell me about the Doctor," Director Manse began, once they were both seated -- her behind a behemoth of a desk, Ianto in a rather spindly chair in front of it, a Truth-teller strapped to his left wrist.
"I didn't get to meet him face-to-face, but..." Ianto told her everything he knew. The device on his wrist flashed a soothing green throughout.
Once he'd finished, the Director looked at him over her steepled fingers, her eyes cold. "That's not much to show for three years undercover, Jones."
Ianto refused to be cowed. "It's more than any other Torchwood agent has ever learned about the Doctor." The light flashed orange. "Other than Captain Harkness, of course," Ianto added, and the light went green again.
"Ah. The infamous Captain Harkness." The Director tilted her head to one side. She had that look about her: vengeful ex. Ianto would have to watch his step."His great knowledge of the Doctor didn't seem to help in the recent troubles with the 4-5-6, did it?"
"No, ma'am," Ianto agreed. It was true enough, after all.
The Director seemed somewhat mollified by his response, and Ianto wondered what on earth Jack had done to piss her off.
He resisted the urge to fiddle with the Truth-teller; drawing attention to it would only make things worse.
Leaning back in her chair, but watching him like a hawk, the Director said, "I admit you exceeded my expectations with Harkness. He's a suspicious bastard, which makes it hard to plant anything on him. All the agencies have tried it at one point or another, and no-one else has managed to get that close to him. You handled it well, Jones."
"Do you know why you succeeded?"
Ianto looked her in the eye and once he had her full attention, shifted his wrist just slightly to the side so that the device's light was at a more oblique angle. "The analysts were right about the Lisa Hallet scenario. That's what made the difference. He trusted me after that."
With an amused snort, the Director said, "Typical of the man. Try the usual tricks and he rumbles them at the first whiff. But give him an obvious traitor and he trusts them."
"His motivations are often a mystery. It worked in our favour this time, though."
The Director looked away, contemplative, and Ianto shifted his hand back into its original position. "I take it he destroyed the Cyberman? There's not going to be an ugly surprise at some point down the track, is there?"
"She's dead and burnt," Ianto replied, the device flashing its steady green-green-green. "The Captain took care of it."
"Good." The Director paused for a moment, and Ianto took advantage.
"If I might ask," he said, "what happened after I died?"
The Director waved a hand dismissively. "Harkness pulled a rabbit out of his hat at the last minute, as usual. Used a kid to overload the 4-5-6's transmission frequency. He's a ruthless bastard, but he gets the job done, I'll give him that. You'll have access to the UNIT files until you've completed your own reports. You can get the full picture there."
"I see. Thank you, ma'am."
"I'll expect those reports in a fortnight, Jones." She gave him another assessing look. "If there's nothing else urgent you think I need to know, we're done here."
Ianto stood, slipping the Truth-teller from his wrist. "Nothing that can't wait, ma'am." He placed the device carefully on the Director's desk and then turned to go.
"One more thing, Jones."
Ianto turned back.
"As 'Ianto Jones' is officially listed as dead now, you're off active field status, at least until we can do something about your face to make you a bit less recognisable. That means the Must-Report clause is no longer in effect. Death will stick next time, so don't get yourself killed." She smiled, but there was no humour in it. "At least not until you've completed your reports."
"I'll do my best, ma'am," Ianto said with his sincerest smile, glad that the device was no longer attached to his wrist. Then he turned and left, heading out to find his newly assigned office.
3. Machine Error
Ianto had barely settled into his new office and booted-up the computer when there was a knock at the door. He turned, expecting to see Alice or maybe the general administrator, Kathy Chen, who had set up his security access and shown him to his office. Instead, he came face to face with himself.
They stared at each other for a long moment.
"I have dibs on the name," the other Ianto finally said, walking into the room and settling himself into the only other chair. "You got to swan around out there for years, while I was stuck here in the Archives. So I get the name."
Ianto raised an eyebrow. "Unless there's a gap in my timeline I don't know about, I've had the name longer. That means I get first pick. Jones' Law."
The other Ianto gave a tiny little smile and Ianto tensed, recognising it. "Yeah, but you have all those years of field experience. Unlike me, you have a good chance of getting back out there." He made a circular motion in front of his face. "Bit of plastic surgery, a new name, and you'll be good to go. You might as well make the change now and get it over with."
After a moment of consideration, Ianto conceded. "Point. Call me Iain, then."
"It's an esoteric choice, but I'll try to remember," the other Ianto said, dryly. "So, how did you cark it?
"The usual. Alien menace threatening the earth. You?"
"Lisa." The other Ianto paused, a look of loss on his face, and Ianto remembered his own grief for Lisa. "I remember choking on water and then waking up here. You can imagine Four's surprise when reports came in that you were still alive and kicking. How did you manage that? I've always wanted to know."
"Jack. He gave me CPR."
"Really?" The other Ianto looked surprised. "Wouldn't have thought he'd piss on me if I was on fire. Surprised it worked, too; the Progenitor Unit registered you as brain dead."
Ianto shrugged. "Maybe Jack did something else before I woke up. Maybe the Progenitor Unit misread the data. Who knows."
The other Ianto's eyes narrowed with suspicion. "You're on first name terms with him? I take it you got him back in the sack after all that went down?" The unspoken question was clear enough: Are you compromised?
With a jolt, Ianto remembered exactly how angry and trapped he'd felt when he'd first infiltrated Torchwood Three, and how much he'd blamed Jack. Cursing himself for the slip, Ianto replied as nonchalantly as he could. "Yep. It wasn't difficult. You know what he's like. Sex on the brain."
"I remember. Rather you than me." The other Ianto grinned at him and Ianto was a little taken aback at how threatening he looked. "I don't suppose it actually did any good? No matter what the psych boffins said, I never got the impression he was going to stop peddling those endless stories of his, no matter how often we fucked. Astonish me and say he cracked."
"Oh, he cracked," Ianto said.
The other Ianto sat forward in his chair. "No!"
"Yep. I confessed my undying love to him, and then he promised he'd always be mine for as long as he lived. We were going to get married in the spring."
The other him smirked and leaned back in the chair, obviously relieved. "You're good. You had me going for a second there. Shame, though; he would have deserved it if you'd got one over on him."
"Sadly, the only thing I got over on him was a leg," Ianto said, trying not to look as relieved as he felt. Lying to an alternate him wasn't like lying to people who were oblivious to his tells. His fist ached where it was clenched beneath the desk, out of the other Ianto's line of sight. "Speaking of getting one over, is there anyone I need to watch out for here at Four? Made any enemies? Lovers? Bizarre alien love-children?"
"Funny you should ask," the other Ianto said, and Ianto finally allowed himself to relax as the other man started to talk about his adventures in the Archives.
4. Name, Rank, Serial Number
"First name?" the bored-sounding clerk asked, fingers poised over her keyboard.
"Iain," Ianto replied.
"Iain Shane," the clerk said, and spelled it out, waiting for Ianto to nod before she continued. "Is this name related in any way to your previous identity?"
"The first name is a variant on Ianto. Please don't make me change it to John. I hate John."
The clerk did some kind of check on the computer. "That's within acceptable parameters as long as no other part of your name is related."
"Thank you," Ianto said, and smiled, trying to catch her gaze.
Without pausing or looking away from the screen, the clerk continued, "Do you want a middle name?"
"Yes," Ianto said, "Beau," and spelled it out.
"Other than 'Iain', is any part of this nominated name a mnemonic, diminutive or reference to your former life, including, but not limited to, friends, family members, colleagues, pets or known preferences of any kind?"
The clerk typed some more. "Congratulations, Iain Beau Shane. You're a boy." She finally looked up from the screen and winked at him.
Ianto laughed for the first time since he'd died.
A year after his death, Ianto was called in to see Director Manse. He walked into the Torchwood Four conference room unsure what to expect, and found himself facing not only the Director, but the current head of UNIT, the Undersecretary of Defence, the Queen's spokeswoman, and Doctor Martha Jones.
"Oh, my God," Martha said, and was around the table in a flash, pulling him into a hug and crying all over his lapel. "I didn't believe it... the Director said you were here, but I didn't believe it."
Ianto swallowed hard, and cradled the back of Martha's head in his palm. He breathed in her scent: antibacterial soap and the outside world. "Martha. It's so good to see you. But what are you doing here? What's going on?"
Martha reluctantly let him go and stepped back. She wiped away her tears, and when she looked at him again, her face was tight with stress, her eyes sending him some kind of warning. "Did you hear that Jack left earth? After..." she hesitated for a moment, "after you died?"
"After the 4-5-6," Ianto said. "Yes, I heard. It was in the reports." Ianto had read a lot of reports in his time, and the subtext in these had been easy to decipher: good riddance.
Martha nodded, and given the downward twist of her mouth, Ianto assumed she'd read the subtext the same way he had. "Turns out, things aren't going so well without him." She turned and glared at the Director and the others. "I'm yet to be convinced to lend support towards any plan to bring him back, though."
"Ah," Ianto said, as understanding dawned. They wanted to use him as a bargaining chip, as though dangling Ianto like a lure would be enough to tempt Jack back. "What about Gwen?" Last he'd heard, she was alive and well and rebuilding Torchwood Three; surely they must have approached her first.
The Director's nostrils flared, and Ianto wondered what on earth Gwen could have said to her. Something pithy and containing rather too much truth, no doubt. Ianto couldn't wait to hear the full story. If he and Martha played this right, it might happen sometime very soon.
"Ms Cooper maintains she has no way to get in touch with Captain Harkness," the Director said.
Suck on that, Ianto thought. Go, Gwen.
The Undersecretary of Defence spoke up. "The real question is, do you have any way to get in touch with the Captain, Mr Jones? Because if you don't, this whole conversation is rather moot."
Everyone in the room turned to look at him, including Martha, who had one hand in her pocket. Ianto wondered just how fast she could speed-dial the Doctor.
Ianto eyed them all, weighing the tension in the room, and then walked over to the table, pulled out a chair and sat down. "That's not the real question," he said. "The real question is: how much do you want him?"
There was a beat of silence.
Realisation dawned first on the Director's face. "There's something you want."
Martha came and sat down beside Ianto in a clear show of support, and beneath the table he took her hand in his and squeezed.
"Yep," Ianto said, and then he smiled.