Chapter 1 Chapter 16
Chapter 2 Chapter 17
The door of the Tourist Office opened with a click. Ianto looked up from his computer screen, which was playing CCTV from Janet's cell. She'd looked a bit sluggish when he'd fed her that morning and Ianto was concerned she might be coming down with something. He minimized the screen to protect it from the unsuspecting public before looking up.
"Delivery!" Connie called in a rather annoying sing-song voice. "I've got packages!"
"Aren't you meant to use the mail slot?" Ianto commented. "It's got bio-containment, radiation containment, psychic emanation containment, it's fitted against eight types of non-terrestrial explosives-"
"I get it, I get it, Torchwood has all the shiny tech," Connie laughed. "This is my last delivery today, I'm free!" She set Torchwood's packages on the counter gently, then walked around it. "Gimme some sugar," she grinned.
Ianto backed away, reached behind him to the mini-cafetiere set and deftly produced a small container of sugar. He offered it to Connie, face completely blank.
She snorted. "Funny, but that's not what I meant." Tossing the sugar on the counter (thank goodness it was closed) she dragged Ianto to her by his coat sleeve. He didn't put up much resistance, but leaned against her on the counter as they kissed.
After a few moments, during which Ianto remembered quite vividly that Connie hadn't been in town for nearly two weeks, she pulled back from the rather heavy snog.
"When do you get off?" she asked, breath somewhat labored.
Ianto grinned. "That depends on what time my shift ends."
Connie giggled. "That was awful," she shook her head.
"You don't mind, really."
Slowly, she wrapped his dark blue tie around her hand, pulling him closer until their breath was mingling. Ianto closed the last centimeter and met her grinning lips.
The door to the Hub swung open.
Ianto jumped back from Connie like he'd been burned. Luckily, she managed to unwrap his tie from her hand before he inadvertently choked himself. Looking to the door, he froze when he saw Toshiko standing in the doorway, staring back at him.
Connie recovered quickly, stepping out from behind the counter and approaching the tech expert. "Hi, I'm Connie March, courier for UNIT," she offered her hand.
Toshiko shook it, though Ianto noticed her miniscule flinch when UNIT was mentioned. "Toshiko Sato." Her gaze slid past Connie to Ianto, almost glaring as always when looking at him. "Jones, Jack wants you in the conference room."
Ianto was at the right angle to see Connie's face and smothered a groan as her eyebrows rose. "I'm sure Ianto would be right down to the conference room if you asked him nicely," she said pointedly.
"Connie, don't," he muttered. It had the opposite of the intended effect.
She turned to face him, planting one hand on her hip. "Don't tell me not to talk. Maybe if she were more respectful to her colleague I wouldn't have to say anything."
Ianto didn't think he'd ever blushed harder in his life. "I think you should leave."
Her eyes blazed at him, but after a moment, Connie turned back to Toshiko. "It was a pleasure to meet you," she said, dangerously polite. Toshiko's face was mostly expressionless, but her eyes were just a bit wider. She nodded, and Connie left without looking back. The door slammed behind her,
After a moment of silence, Toshiko cleared her throat. "Conference room… Ianto?"
Before he could look up, she was already gone.
When Ianto arrived at his flat a few hours later, he was surprised to find Connie there, watching a movie full of explosions on cable. "What are you doing here?"
She looked up defensively. "I always stay here when I'm in Cardiff."
"I know, I just thought you wouldn't want to stay tonight. You seemed rather angry earlier."
"I wasn't really mad at you," she said apologetically. "I was angry for you. I can't believe you just let them treat you like that!" Realizing her voice had risen, she flicked her hair back self-consciously. "Okay, so maybe I was just a hint mad at you, too," she said sheepishly. Scooting over on the couch and shrugging was her way of saying the argument was over.
Ianto smiled, relaxing, and took of his coat and hung it on its hook. Toeing off his shoes, he plopped next to Connie on the couch. "It's not a matter of letting them, that's just how they're going to act," he reasoned.
"But if you never do anything, it's never going to change!" Connie insisted.
"Do what?" he asked, a bit of exasperation creeping into his tone. This was not the first time they'd had this conversation, but it was the first time Connie had met a member of the team besides Captain Harkness.
"You have to-" she stopped as a tractor exploded on the screen and muted the television. "You have to stick up for yourself. Say something, tell them you're not going to let them treat you that way. She was ordering you around, Yan, is she even your superior?"
Ianto tilted his head; he hadn't actually considered this. "She's been at Torchwood nearly four years, and I signed on with London in May of… that's more than four years ago," he realized.
"There you are," Connie said matter-of-factly.
"But that doesn't matter, not in Cardiff," Ianto explained. "Captain Harkness is the Head, but Gwen's the second-in-command even though she was only here a few months before me. They don't go by seniority, just ability."
"Are you any less able, any less of an outstanding Torchwood agent than the others?" Connie challenged.
"I make the coffee and file paperwork," Ianto sighed.
"Paperwork makes the world go 'round, you told me that!" she crowed.
"I was drunk."
"It still stands."
"I can't just… talk to them like that, tell them… I don't even know what I would tell them."
"Tell them you want to be treated as an equal!" Connie urged. "That you're not just the secretary they can push around!"
"That's not me, though," Ianto told her. "Look, I'm friendly, I get on with people. But I'm not confrontational. I'm not… I don't do things like that."
Connie worried her lip, but then nodded. "I can see that," she admitted slowly. "But what are you going to do, then? You can't just leave things as they have been."
"I'm just going to be myself," Ianto answered." Eventually, they'll see that I'm not the enemy."
Connie scrutinized him for a few moments. Then: "That's a shite plan, you know that, right?"
"Yeah," he acknowledged immediately. "They're way too stubborn for that."
"As long as you know."
They stared at each other.
Tosh sipped half-heartedly at her lager, eyes sweeping tiredly over the pool hall. From the corner booth that she, her line of sight covered most of the huge room, full-to-bursting of people enjoying their games. She didn't see any of it, however, caught up in her thoughts.
This was meant to be a date. Her tentative attempt to ask Owen out had been a long time coming, but Gwen had overheard and assumed that she was organizing a tournament, instead of a date, so she was forced to organize this evening out to maintain cover. Now that she was here, though, she couldn't bring herself to care and had gotten out in the first round.
It was so stupid, Tosh sighed, that she couldn't just ask him out. Why was it so hard? She'd only fancied him for three years.
She was startled by a shift in the weight of her seat. Looking over, she gave Rhys a small smile. "You out too?"
He nodded, grinning. "I'm rubbish at this, me. Can't hit the balls straight to save my life." He squinted at her. "You look a bit blue."
Tosh shook her head, trying to dredge up a convincing smile this time. "I'm just tired. Work's been hard lately."
"All these mysterious cases," Rhys rolled his eyes. "Bloody exasperatin' it is. I get it, thought, I'm not askin'!" he qualified at her worried expression. "I know you can't tell me."
"I am sorry," she said honestly. Tosh couldn't imagine what it must be like for Rhys, to know his girlfriend was in danger every day but not know anything about who she was fighting.
"Nah," Rhys shook his head. "Tonight's meant to be relaxin', eh?" He lounged back into the corner of the booth and gazed out over the room. Then he sat up straight. "Hey, that's Ianto!"
Tosh followed his gaze. It was Jones, at a table on the other side of the hall. He was lining up a shot into a corner pocket while a small crowd looked on. They were at the wrong angle to see the shot, but from Jones' grin as he stood Tosh guessed he'd made it. The mixed reaction of the crowd, ranging from ecstatic to melancholy and the bills being exchanged between the onlookers suggested it had been a good, close game.
Rhys stood up. Tosh was surprised to see him frowning heavily. "Where are you going?" she asked.
"I'm gonna give him a piece of my mind, that's what. Gwen said he was the one responsible for you four gettin' investigated, he sold you out!"
"Wait!" Tosh called. Rhys stopped a few steps from the table. "You can't!"
"And why not?" Rhys questioned, beginning to look quite angry. "My girlfriend was in tears because of what he did! She was nothing' but friendly, and I've got some things I want to say to him!"
Tosh jumped up and grabbed his arm. She knew there was no way she could actually stop him if he was determined to go, but maybe she could convince him.
"This isn't the time or the place!" she insisted. Rhys wasn't looking at her, still glaring daggers across the hall at Jones. "You said yourself, Rhys, tonight's supposed to be about relaxing! If you do this, you'll probably start a fight, and we'll all be kicked out. And I really need a night without that, please Rhys!"
She hadn't realized just how much her issues with Owen had gotten her down, because suddenly tears were all too close to the surface. What she'd meant as an argument to convince Rhys not to confront Jones in public was more true than she'd known.
Rhys looked down at her. He considered for a long moment. "All right then," he said eventually. "But it's for your sake, not his!" He jabbed a finger angrily in Jones' direction.
"I know," she said, slumping back into her seat. She noticed her drink was nearly empty. "Could you get me a refill, please?"
Rhys muttered his assent and took her empty glass. She looked up from the dark, sticky table when he patted her hand. "Whatever it is that's got you down. I know I'm not Torchwood, but maybe that's what you need? Someone to talk to who's not in the thick of it?" He gave her a sympathetic look. "Think about it." He headed off toward the bar.
Tosh blinked wearily at the table. Dragging her eyes up to watch the room again, her gaze caught on Jones.
It was almost funny, she thought, how different he looked. Instead of the formal, complimentary suits he wore to work every day, Jones was dressed in jeans and a rugby shirt not unlike the one Rhys was wearing. His hair was casually styled and he was toasting with several men around one of the standing tables. The group tried to chug their lagers. Tosh watched Jones laughing as one of his friends choked, slapping him on the back.
He looked normal. Like any of the other people in the pool hall. Untouched by Torchwood, by the things they saw every day. He looked like he wasn't keeping secrets from anyone.
He looked happy.
Link to next chapter: http://meatball42.livejournal.com/5612.html