Summary: "I see," said Ianto, who, sadly, was beginning to see, and was rather wishing he was still too drunk for rational thought. "You don't pay me enough for this."
It was early, and Ianto wasn't quite awake yet, having spent much of the previous night trying to help Lisa weather a pain spike. In an effort to clear the mental fog resulting from too little sleep, he had bought a disposable cup of truly terrible coffee on the walk to the Plass, and was slugging it down fast to limit how long it stayed in contact with his mouth.
He paused just before reaching the door to the Tourist Information Office, juggling the cup and a box of pastries so he could reach his keys. He cursed under his breath and twisted to reach further into his pocket, finally snagging the damn things, only for them to fall from his fingers as he straightened up.
"Bloody, bloody fuck," he said, tiredly, and dropped to one knee to retrieve them.
That's when he saw the box sitting innocently on the Tourist Office's stoop. It was largish, like those used to stock supermarkets, and said "Nestle Coffee Blend 43" on the side. Ianto blinked at it, but even through the fog of tiredness procedure asserted itself quickly. He stopped groping for his keys, put down the box of pastries and pulled out his phone.
"Ianto!" Jack answered on the second ring, sounding chipper, and Ianto wondered somewhat bitterly if he had found some magic tech that allowed him not to need sleep like normal mortals. "Calling to check if I'm hungry?" He managed to make it sound like innuendo, which Ianto usually indulged but didn't have the patience for this morning.
"No, Sir, checking to see if you're expecting an instant coffee delivery."
"I wouldn’t dare." There was a rustle on the other end of the line, the click of keys, and then Jack said, "I see it. Stay clear, I'll be up in five."
A good deal less than five minutes later, Jack appeared from the Plass, clearly having come up via the invisible lift. He was carrying a scanner, and barely pausing to nod at Ianto, he pointed it at the box and fiddled with the settings. After nothing pinged, bleeped or otherwise signalled the alarm, he announced, "Looks like we have a terrestrial mammal. I think I know what it is. Let's get it inside." He shoved the scanner in his pocket and scooped up the box, standing aside so that Ianto could unlock the door.
Once inside, Jack set his load down on the counter. "This happens a few times a year, actually." He opened the box and reached inside, saying, "Hey, there, gorgeous." There was a scrabbling sound and an excited yelp, and then Jack was holding a tiny ball of sleek brown fur in one large hand. He stroked its nose gently. "I figure the owner planned to drown them in the bay and wimped out at the last minute."
Another yelp came from inside the box, and Ianto hastily set down his terrible coffee and the pastries and edged closer, peering inside. There was a wriggling pile of four more puppies, all the same reddish-brown, tails wagging madly as they looked up at him.
"Oh," Ianto said, falling instantly in love. He reached out, already feeling the ghost touch of fur beneath his fingers.
"Damn it!" said Jack, and shoved Ianto aside, lowering the puppy he was holding into the box and swiftly closing the flap.
Ianto glared at him -- because what the hell? -- and then the door jangled and Tosh breezed in, saying, "Good morning! Isn't it glorious out there today?"
With a sidelong, speaking look at Ianto, Jack casually leant against the counter so that their bodies screened the box from view. Ianto’s ire evaporated -- it didn't need a genius to foresee what would unfold if the team got wind of the puppies, and it would just make Ianto's inevitable trip to the pound that much harder. Pets and Torchwood didn't mix.
"Toshiko!" Jack said, flashing his most charming grin. "Looking lovely today." With an easy grace he eased her into his arms, swirling her around in a giddy waltz until they reached the secret door. Tosh was laughing as Ianto pressed the door release, and Jack was smiling back, large and genuine as he ushered her through. He paused for a moment on the threshold, glancing back at Ianto, smile fading.
Ianto nodded. He knew what to do.
Ten minuted later, Ianto was sitting in the SUV, the box next to him in the passenger seat. After a moment of hesitation, he let go of the keys, leaving them dangling in the ignition. He eased back the lid of the box and the puppies looked up at him, eyes barely open, tails whipping back and forth, clumsily pawing each other. Gently lifting one up, he cradled it in his lap, breathing in the puppy smell. He let it lick his hands with its hot little tongue.
He had been trying to talk Lisa into getting a dog. She was a cat person at heart, but she had been starting to weaken. He had almost had her at ‘yes’ when Canary Wharf...
The puppy yelped as Ianto's hand clenched. He loosened his hold immediately, soothing it with, "Shhh, sorry, sorry. You're okay. No harm done." In penance, he let the animal climb his chest and lick his chin, ignoring the sharp press of small claws through the fine weave of his shirt.
When the garage's rollerdoor rattled a few minutes later, signalling the arrival of Owen's car, Ianto lifted the puppy from its nest in his lap and put it back in the box. His fingers lingered over silk-soft ears one last time, before he carefully closed the flap, and reached for the SUV's keys.
The next time, Ianto was coming back from a food run. He let himself in, stepping carefully over the box, and went to get the scanner without making a fuss.
He had just returned and was about to run the scan when Gwen appeared. She peered over his shoulder at the screen, and then down at the box.
"Has someone dumped kittens?" she demanded, sounding scandalised. "I thought I'd left that kind of thing behind with being a copper."
"Actually," Ianto said, frowning at the readings: they looked a little odd. "I'm so not sure..."
"It says terrestrial mammals, doesn't it?" said Gwen, and pushed past him to kneel down next to the box. "The poor mites must be perished."
It did say terrestrial mammals, but it was also, Ianto realised belatedly, set up with one of Owen's test filters. "Gwen! Don't open--"
"Ooof," Gwen said, falling backwards as a small furry missile attached itself to her chest.
"--the box," Ianto finished. He dropped the scanner, pulled his gun and hit his comm, calling for Jack, Owen and a containment box.
Gwen was shouting, "Shit, shit! Get it off!" but managed to abort her instinctive flail. The creature was neither savaging her or making any threatening moves, just clinging to her and whimpering.
The creature continued to make pitiful noises as Gwen and Ianto calmed down and took stock: all limbs attached, no immediate threat. After a moment, Ianto reholstered his gun and bent to pick up the dropped device.
"So," said Gwen, with remarkable sangfroid, given she was sprawled on the ground and there was an alien attempting to hide in her bosom, "not a kitten, then."
"Not unless kittens usually come in blue and have prehensile tails, no," Ianto replied. He checked the scanner for damage, and then reset it so that he could take an accurate reading.
The secret door sprang open and Jack and Owen burst through, guns at the ready.
"And here's the cavalry," said Gwen, rolling her eyes, but otherwise keeping still while Ianto re-ran the program.
Jack took one look at the situation and lowered his weapon. "Gwen," he said, a hint of frustrated amusement in his voice, "what are you doing with that glathr?"
Ianto looked up from the read-out -- UNKNOWN EXTRATERRESTRIAL, NON-TOXIC, UNARMED, 72% PROB. JUVENILE -- and lifted an eyebrow. "You know what it is, Sir?"
Jack reholstered his gun, an oddly shifty expression on his face. "Yep, I've seen one before. They're harmless."
"The scan agrees with you, for what that's worth." Ianto held out his hand to Gwen.
"Thank god for that," Gwen said, accepting the help gratefully, gingerly bracing the creature with her free hand as she rose. Once upright, she cooed at the little creature and chucked it under the chin. "Oh, aren't you adorable!"
"Are you simple? Don't touch it!" Owen snarled, bustling over to her. "Harmless doesn't mean it doesn't have alien germs."
Gwen froze mid-coo. "Don't be a prat, Owen. Jack said it's safe."
They all turned to look at Jack, who was, oh yes, definitely looking shifty. "Relax, Owen," he said. "It's a pet. Designed to be the perfect gift. It locks onto the first person it sees, adores them for a couple of weeks, and then fades away. No muss, no fuss. No kids forgetting to feed and walk it once the gloss has worn off."
"A gift?" said Owen, suspiciously, clearly having noticed Jack's shiftiness. Then the penny dropped. "Oh, fucking hell! You got me racing all the way up here to contain your fuzzy wuzzy alien gift basket!" He turned to Gwen and said, sourly, "I hope your arms fall off, Cooper," and stalked off towards the secret door, muttering to himself.
Ianto could feel the back of his neck burning with sudden heat. He looked down at the scrolling text on the scanner's screen -- CARBON-BASED, 89% PROB. NON-SENTIENT -- and thought about the box, waiting for him on the stoop of the Tourist Office. When Jack had stormed into the room, he hadn't looked surprised about the creature, only that it was attached to Gwen. And now, Ianto couldn't help remembering the box of puppies all those weeks ago, and the way he'd indulged himself in the car park, and Jack's penchant for spying through the CCTV. Ianto looked up cautiously, and found that Jack had an arm around Gwen's shoulder. They were conferring softly, the animal staring at Gwen's face with bright, adoring eyes.
Without disturbing them, Ianto quietly made his way into the back room. He just needed a moment to get his heart to stop beating quite so fast... he knew perfectly well that Jack liked to surprise his team with these kinds of gifts. It was just one of the things he did. Ianto always tried to be close by when Jack gave Tosh new tech to play with -- the look on her face was a bright point in any day. Suzie had been the same. Even Owen's bitterness eased into burning curiosity whenever Jack gave him new medical tech or an exotic sample to test.
Gwen was harder -- Jack was still figuring out what made her tick. He'd given her a set of undercover contact lenses last week, and some kind of alien flower -- which Owen had promptly confiscated -- a few days before that.
As for Ianto, the day Jack had smugly revealed the coffee machine had been a happy one, even back then, when he'd rarely felt anything but weary terror. It had been a long time, however, since Jack had tried to give him anything. Since Lisa, they'd been too busy circling each other, figuring out the new boundary lines.
Ianto straightened as he felt a presence behind him.
"That didn't go quite as planned," said Jack.
Ianto carefully placed the scanner on the bench. It wouldn't do to damage it, especially as he'd already be in for a serve from Owen for changing the settings. "I'm sure Gwen will enjoy it, Sir."
Jack's hand landed on his shoulder, warm and alive and easy, as though there had never been the threat of death between them. Jack said something else, but Ianto didn't hear it, lost in a flood of relief. He shifted beneath Jack's touch, turning into it, and just didn't think, didn't think, didn't think, until his head was resting on Jack's shoulder, both hands clutching Jack's shirt. A long breath in and out, full of Jack's scent, and Jack's hand came up to rest on his neck in a possessive curve, as though Ianto had always been his.
Ianto closed his eyes. For the first time in months he felt still, as though he didn't have to run as fast as he could just to stay where he was; as though he could stand here for as long as he wanted, and Jack would too, holding him close, as patient as a monument, and just as unchangeable.
"Do you need help finding your mum?" Ianto asked the girl sitting in the inadequate shelter of the Tourist Office's doorway. The sun was a weak grey blur on the eastern horizon, and it was pouring rain. Ianto's umbrella had sprung a leak, his socks were damp, and he really didn't have the patience for anything much. Hadn't had patience for anything much going on three weeks now.
"Mr Jones," the girl said, looking up at him with old eyes in her young face. "Your Captain owes me two favours. I know he's not here at the moment, but my need is urgent. I will accept the favour from you, and subtract it from his tally."
"Of course you will," Ianto said tiredly, and ushered her into the office. She immediately climbed up onto the counter, and pulled out Ianto's secret stash of biscuits, dripping water all over the brochures in the process.
One surreptitious scan (PREPUBESCENT TERRESTRIAL HUMAN), half a packet of Hobnobs, and two cups of hot chocolate later, the girl wiped her mouth on the back of her hand and said, "I need you to send a message to Alpha Centaurai."
Ianto blinked. "Through the power of positive thinking?"
The girl -- Faith, she'd announced through a mouthful of Hobnob crumbs -- rolled her eyes and kicked her little feet out, hitting Ianto in the thigh with her shiny, bullet-like shoes. "No, with your sub-etheric resonator."
Before Ianto could think of a suitable reply to that, Faith thrust a piece of white card at him, covered in neat, girlish copperplate writing. "The fate of the world depends on it, but I know I can trust you to get it right. I've seen your face in my cards."
"Your cards," Ianto said, a memory beginning to stir -- there had been a girl, a psychic girl called Faith, in one of the old files he'd scanned during his research on Abaddon.
Faith gave him a sly smile. "I can do a reading for you, if you want. You could find out the answer to your question."
Ianto only had one question: whether Jack was coming back. He was pretty sure Faith already knew that, and probably the answer too. Ianto eyed her assessingly, wondering exactly what a 'reading' would cost, and how Jack and become indebted to her. "Do people often run out on you with unpaid debts?"
She smiled and tilted her head to one side. "No, never."
The tension that had been twisting Ianto's insides for the last three weeks eased slightly. It wasn't really an answer, but then he wouldn't have believed her cards, either, no matter which answer they'd given.
The door jangled and a grim looking man entered, along with a gust of chill air. He was carrying a dripping umbrella and an Astronaut Barbie backpack.
"Good timing," said Faith, grabbing another couple of Hobnobs, shoving one in her mouth, and tucking the other in her pocket for later. The man said nothing, just silently stepped forward and helped Faith off the counter. He opened the door and held up the umbrella, so that Faith could exit without getting wet.
Faith skipped to the door, but paused on the threshold, turning to look back at Ianto. "I'll leave it in your capable hands then, Mr Jones." Then she winked, and added, "I can see why he likes you. Give the Captain a kiss for me when you see him," and dashed out into the rain, leaving her minder behind with the unused umbrella.
There was a flash of red stockings and a glint of wind flung hair, and she was gone.
The minder shared a long-suffering look with Ianto, and then followed Faith out into the rain. After a moment, Ianto locked up the Tourist Office and took Faith's card down to Tosh.
They sent the message the next day -- it turned out to be a warning to stay away from Earth, similar to one Jack had sent out once before -- and afterwards, Ianto tried not to be consumed by the mystery of it all.
Such were the perils, it seemed, of working with immortals, no matter the stripe.
Ianto was very drunk.
He didn't really want to go home to his horrible little bed-sit, but he had no clean clothes left in the Hub. It seemed, through the fog of alcohol, very important that he fix the situation before Owen arrived to find him in yesterday's clothes. Or worse: Jack's.
So he stumbled out of Jack's warm, cramped (cosy) bed at fucking early o'clock, despite Jack's grumbles and grabby hands. He tripped across the Hub while pulling on his pub-scented suit, waking Myfanwy and setting off the sub-etheric resonator's alarm as he went.
"Shhhhh," he slurred at Myfanwy, and managed to hit the alarm's off switch on the third try. Fucking Owen and his fucking invitation: "I need a drink, Jones, and you're buying." And fucking Jack for taking him back to the Hub instead of home.
After getting turned around on the stairs, he finally managed to open the secret entrance, stagger across the Tourist Office, and fall out the door into the frigid night air. The cold felt like a knife to the gut, and he only just made it to the edge of the pier in time to be violently sick into the dark water of the bay.
God! Why had he drunk so much? He had some vague recollection of a game involving alien trivia and shots, and that yesterday had been horribly traumatic, and oh, god!, he'd had alien vomit in his mouth, and he was never, ever doing CPR on an alien again. That was Jack's sole purview from now on, and good luck to him!
"Gross," said a young voice, just as Ianto finished retching and was about to give up the whole endeavour of going home, smelly clothing or not. What was wrong with wearing Jack's clothes anyway? Who cared what the team thought?
Ianto looked up blearily, and there was a kid standing next to him. Ianto blinked, and yes, the kid was still completely naked, and shivering in the cold. The kid was scowling back at him, hands on his hips, clearly immensely unimpressed.
"Who're you?" Ianto managed.
"Jack!" the boy said, the "duh," unspoken, but there all the same. He couldn't be more than nine; he only came up to Ianto's navel.
"Jack who?" Ianto asked, and looked yearningly at the Tourist Office door... he was sure he remembered Jack trying to pull him back into his warm, cosy bed... maybe all this was just an alcohol-fueled hallucination...
The boy rolled his eyes in the way of small boys everywhere. "Captain Jack Harkness. I'm from next week. There was this temporal displacement device that came through the Rift and transformed me into this." He gestured at his pint-sized, nude body. "It was all Owen's fault! Then I kind of accidentally got sucked up by a time eddy that Tosh set off when she was trying to reverse the effect. It sent me back here." The boy stopped and looked expectantly at Ianto. When Ianto just stared at him, he sighed and said, "You need to hide me for a week so I don't cross my own timeline."
"I see," said Ianto, who, sadly, was beginning to see, and was rather wishing he was still too drunk for rational thought. "You don't pay me enough for this."
"But the perks are fantastic!" the kid -- Jack -- said with a leer that was so totally Jack and so totally wrong that Ianto believed every word out of the wretch's mouth.
There was really nothing else for it, so after a few fortifying breaths, Ianto scavenged a t-shirt and a pair of shorts from the Lost and Found box in the Tourist Office, forced a protesting Jack into them, called a taxi, and took the boy back to his bed-sit, trying to give off wholesome vibes for the sake of the taxi driver, rather than seedy-drunk-paedophile vibes. He wasn't entirely sure he succeeded, especially as Jack kept putting his hand on Ianto's thigh.
"You live here?" Jack said, wrinkling his nose as they walked in the door.
"For my sins," Ianto muttered.
Jack gave him a way-too-knowing look, and then took his hand. "You know you don't have anything to prove to me, don't you?"
Ianto's eyes prickled mortifyingly. "I'm going to be sick," he lied, and dashed for the bathroom. He locked himself in and took a long, scalding shower until the tears were safely quelled. He snuck out later, once things had gone quiet outside, to find Jack sacked out on the couch. He looked adorable -- face flushed and hair a little sweaty in sleep, just like a real child -- and Ianto was taken by a clutch of love and protectiveness so strong it was an effort not to stroke Jack's hair. Instead, Ianto snuck into his bedroom, grabbed some fresh clothes, and fled the scene.
The next morning, Ianto woke with a thumping hangover to find a text message waiting for him: "stvng 2 dth. dnuts & cffe, asap."
For the rest of the week, Ianto drank heavily, and every time adult Jack looked concerned, Ianto just said, "Alien vomit. In my mouth!" which worked surprisingly well. Ianto made a note of it for future reference.
Apart from the daily donut and coffee drop-offs, he tried not to go home at all, because walking in on nine-year-old Jack watching Ianto's secret porn stash was not something he could see again without going blind.
Jack lifted the mug of coffee, smiling at Ianto. He sniffed the contents and then quickly set the mug down on the corner of the desk furthest from where he was sitting. "Do you think I could have a cup of tea instead?" he asked.
Ianto picked up the rejected coffee. "Of course," he said, extremely politely, and refrained from asking if Jack was okay. Jack had bitten his head off the last time he'd tried.
Ianto turned to go, but Jack immediately called him back.
"Do we have any peppermint tea?"
"I think so."
"Can I have that, then, Ianto?" Jack steepled his hands together in supplication.
Not trusting himself to speak, Ianto nodded and left as fast as he could without drawing attention. He had barely made it into the kitchen when the team huddled in around him.
Gwen looked askance at the untouched cup of coffee. "Did he even try it?" she demanded.
Ianto shook his head and went to the sink to fill the kettle. "He asked for peppermint tea."
There was a collective intake of breath.
"Right," said Owen. "That tears it. I say we lock him in a cell and run tests."
"I already scanned him," Tosh said. "It came up clean."
Owen opened his mouth, probably to say something disparaging about Tosh's scan, but Martha broke in before he could speak: "It was a full biometric scan, Owen! It's definitely Jack. There has to be something else going on."
Owen got a surly look, chin jutting out. "Great. So at least we'll know it's really him when he snaps and takes over the world."
"That's enough," said Gwen. "Locking him up is a last resort. Apart from anything else, it'll tip him off that we know something's up. We need more intel first."
As one, they all looked at Ianto, as though he could somehow magically fathom the mystery that was Jack Harkness.
"Ianto..." Gwen began, in her 'tactful' voice.
"Oh, thank the Gods," Jack said, barging into their midst and waving a blinking device. "False alarm, Ianto!"
After a beat of silence, in which everyone stared at Jack, and Jack stared back at the team crowded into the tiny kitchen, Tosh said, "Why do you have that progesterone monitor, Jack?"
"Errr," said Jack, looking shifty.
"What do you mean, 'false alarm'?" Ianto demanded.
Jack's face flashed about fifteen expressions all at once, mainly variations on panic. "Well," he said, stretching the word out. "There's something I've been meaning to tell you. Do you think we could have a word?" He glanced at the team. "In private."
"Oh, for fuck's sake," Owen said. "How many times do we have to have the contraceptives talk?"
Gwen's eyes grew so wide they were practically out on stalks. Martha made a choking sound and covered her mouth with one hand. Ianto suspected she was laughing.
He leaned back against the bench and clutched at it so his knees wouldn't give way.
"Thank you, Owen," Jack said, looking daggers at him, "for your tact and discretion."
"Can it, Jack. Tact and discretion went out the window when you barrelled in here announcing to the world that you weren't up the duff to the teaboy."
Ianto made a squeaking sound that he would deny to his last breath, and Jack's annoyance turned to concern.
Before the situation could turn into even more of a soap opera cliche, Tosh asked, matter-of-factly, "Does Torchwood even have a maternity policy?"
Everyone turned to look at her.
"Actually, it does," Ianto said, grateful for the reprieve. He'd looked it up back when he'd been with Lisa. Torchwood was big on nepotism and keeping it in the family, where possible, so female agents were actively encouraged to stay in the fold, even if they got knocked up. A holdover, perhaps, of the Victorian era. There was the Retcon option, too, of course; but that went without saying. "Quite a generous one."
"Oh, good," Tosh said, blushing a deep red and averting her gaze.
Owen was the first, as always, to put it together. "Tosh, are you saying..."
"Not so much a false alarm," Tosh admitted, blushing even harder. Pandemonium ensued, everything else completely forgotten in the excitement and the avalanche of questions: "But who?" and "When did that happen?" and "How far along?"
Ianto hugged her and whispered, "Congratulations," and then took advantage of the distraction and slunk off to the Archives.
A few minutes later, Jack found him, as Ianto had known he would. He sat down on the floor next to Ianto and leaned his head back against the wall. He waited a moment, giving Ianto a chance to get in the first word, before finally breaking the silence.
"I should have told you."
"Yes, you should."
"I'm sorry," Jack said, and he sounded sincere.
Ianto thought about all the secrets Jack kept, the things he'd never say, the darkness that filled his eyes whenever something reminded him of his time away with the Doctor. It was all of a piece. Ianto had always known Jack was quicksilver; he'd done his research. Expecting anything else would be like expecting the sun to rise in the west.
"Okay," Ianto said at last.
Jack turned to look at him, surprise etching his features. "It doesn't bother you? That it could happen again?" Then immediately: "I'm careful. It shouldn't, and I'll take care of it if it does."
It did bother him a bit, but not for the reason Jack thought. Ianto shrugged one shoulder, long since reconciled to Jack's strangeness. "I always wanted kids," he admitted, even though he knew he shouldn't.
Lisa had wanted them too; they'd always agreed on that. Back then, before the Battle -- it felt such a long time ago -- Ianto had thought that he'd be a father by now. He'd had it all worked out. He would be a stay-at-home dad, while Lisa followed her brilliant path as far as it would go. Lisa had kissed him and laughed and said she loved him when he'd suggested it.
Something subtle altered in Jack's expression as he searched Ianto's face: a lingering sadness, perhaps. Then he wrapped his arm around Ianto's shoulders and pulled him into a hug. "I can see that." He kissed Ianto's temple, softly, a butterfly kiss. "For what it's worth, I think you'd make a great dad."
This entry was originally posted at http://cupidsbow.dreamwidth.org/336383.html.