Two Tales: A Diptych

As betrayals go it was really rather small but to Ianto it was still a betrayal


1. By Any Other Name (Ianto)

Spring had come early that year. By the beginning of April the Baglan Bay power station was straining under the demands of Cardiff’s air conditioning. It was the hottest day for that month in local memory newspapers said, which to Ianto wasn’t saying much. Nevertheless throughout the city kind employers waived dress codes and allowed the precincts to be filled with chattering workers in shorts and tee-shirts. Ianto, in deference to the air of casualness permeating his surroundings, had loosened the top two buttons of his shirt and had carefully slid the knot of his tie down slightly in the off-chance Jack might notice and comment inappropriately.

The previous week had been gloriously fun. He’d cajoled Jack into an extra-curricular jaunt to a quiet beach near Milford Haven. It had taken over two hours driving to reach the shore but it had been worth the effort. They had sat there munching Ianto’s cheese sandwiches whilst the dying sun painted the water bronze, the sand cold between their toes. Jack hadn’t said much but he had smiled at Ianto with those dazzling pearl-white teeth. Gannets swooped overhead in the fading light returning presumably to their nests on Grassholm Island. Ianto found the evening idyllic, a world away from the petty squabbling of their underground hideaway.

After the solitude of a weekend at home he’d spent the first part of the morning messaging the Captain with inquiries as to how Sir’s last forty-eight hours had gone and whether he’d been out enjoying the sun. It was a friendly-enough banter, and at the very least it passed the time between the post arriving with Owen’s latest eBay acquisitions and the first of the emails from Torchwood Command asking for a clarification of VAT on last year’s Hub expenditure.

By mid-morning he’d tripped over Toshiko and Jack often enough to know they were up to something. A mismatched pair of arms stuck out over the catwalk grating by the invisible lift. Beneath the steel lattice there came a flurry of expletives as the wrong shape of screwdrivers were flung out from below to land with a splash into the moat. Myfanwy circled warily above, unsure whether this new form of marine life was edible. Not wanting to appear too curious Ianto retreated to the seclusion of his office secure in the knowledge that few secrets remained hidden for long at the Hub.

It had almost gone two o’clock when Ianto realised none of his messages to the others had been answered. With a growing sense of trepidation he descended the stairs to the main complex and looked around. A pair of beady eyes gazed back at him from the roof beams. Fearing the worst he leapt up the stairway to Jack’s office. Empty too. The hairs on the back of his neck prickled as he hunched over the security monitors, flicking through the channels as much in reassurance as in panic.

Janet sat hunched on the floor of her cell, moaning quietly to herself. In the next cell along the Elyrian metapool was amusing itself by dripping all over the light fitting. Thankfully they’d found out early on that the thing was non-conductive. It still left a nasty mauve stain wherever it flowed though.

And then there was the camera above. It was like watching an invisible rock in a river. There was no better metaphor, thought Ianto. On the screen the lunchtime masses wandering through to take in the sea air were making an unconscious detour around a large section of the Plas, oblivious to the incongruity of their actions.

If the revellers saw a dark suited figure emerging from a side exit, push through through the perception filter to stand and stare at them with anger and loss in his eyes they didn’t react. They were in too high spirits to break the mood. The food on the table had mostly been eaten: a few unopened bottles of beer sat expectantly in an ice bucket but the wine bottles were conspicuously lacking their contents. It was, to any bystander privileged enough to pierce the hiding veil, just another group of office workers taking advantage of the good weather for an impromptu street party. There was no conscious effort in anyone’s part to not invite Ianto, they had just forgotten about him. And if Ianto had chosen to fight his innate social shyness and sit down with them, then, well, the more the merrier.


2. The Earth Beneath His Feet (Jack)

The Hub ought to have been a temperate environment with its underground microclimate. For whatever reason, and part of it Jack surmised had to be psychosomatic, it felt hotter, despite the thermometers only showing a slight increate in ambient temperature. Whatever the real situation may have been one thing was certain – Owen was being more irascible than normal. Taking solace in his superiority Jack retreated into his office with vague comments about needing to regularise the financial accounts. In. Absolute. Silence.

Thirteen minutes after opening the first of the morning’s demands from Command for some attempt at a balance sheet he noticed one of the icons on the terminal flashing. With a sigh he typed back. Hello Ianto.

Morning Sir. Did you have a good weekend?

Not bad, Ianto. He hesitated over reciprocating. The requests before him formed part of his official duties and were pressing. Torchwood may have been above the law but there was more than just the Cardiff office asking for a share of the funds. Nothing was infinite. They’d forced him to pay Gwen less than Suzie because she had been ‘just a regular police hack. Hardly a technical specialist’. It was still more than Gwen had ever been received before although it was only slightly higher than Ianto’s salary.

I hope you got out in the sun, Sir. It’s not healthy trapped underground all week.

He sent a smiley back before clicking his own status to ‘busy’. Despite his misgivings about the motivation behind the excursion he’d let himself be persuaded the previous Tuesday into accompanying Ianto for an evening drive. Since then he’d been careful to keep things low-key.

It had been a pleasant enough night however what he had expected would be a quick drive around the bay turned into a three hour marathon along the south coast with only a baguette for sustenance. He’d let Ianto do most of the talking. For the first time in a while the his companion seemed genuinely relaxed and it was nice to see him finally unwinding. The only downside had been one of the damn gulls crapping on his shoulder. He’d scraped the muck off with a bit of grass whilst Ianto was off having a leak to avoid a later fuss.

Of course, Jack had said on the way back, I do care for you. It had been Ianto who had brought the L-word into the conversation. All Jack had said was how attractive the young man looked. And damn it he did look hot: the soft smooth skin of his neck, pale toes wiggling in the sand, the dark hairs of his legs poking out from his trousers.

A knock brought him out of his reverie. Gwen’s head popped around the doorway wearing one of its placid, bovine smiles. "I was thinking about that platform thingy…" She explained her idea. It was just the kind of pointless, technically-impossible task he loved, and a welcome distraction from the fiscal terrors of the double-entry system. Like any good general he soon marshalled his troops for the show.

The problem with chameleon circuits, he explained to Toshiko, is they were built without recourse to normal screwdrivers. She grunted in response, fighting a losing battle to keep the edge of the grid compensator level: "Chinkasu!"

Jack snorted playfully, throwing something overhead. "Tsuppattenjya ne-yo."

"Yarichin!" Finally the circuit throbbed into life under her fingers. A grubby face smiled happily at him in the darkness of the pit. "I think we did it, Jack."

"Then let’s wash up and eat," he said. "Before Owen collapses into an alcoholic stupor."

It was only afterwards when he stacked the plates did he realised they only numbered four. It washed over him with a feeling of dread and despair. No one had thought to mention the party to Ianto. Come tomorrow there would be the sullen silences followed by the repetitive arguments: "I do everything for you, Sir. Why do you keep treating me like this?"

Why do I have to be solely responsible for your happiness, Ianto? he thought, scraping a string of mozzarella off his fingers. I don’t want that responsibility. But he knew like the Baron of the story that the monster was of his own creation.