Links to previous chapters:
Chapter 1 Chapter 16
Chapter 2 Chapter 17
Chapter 3 Chapter 18
Chapter 4 Chapter 19
Chapter 5 Chapter 20
Chapter 6 Chapter 21
Chapter 7 Chapter 22
Chapter 8 Chapter 23
Chapter 9 Chapter 24
Chapter 10 Chapter 25
Chapter 11 Chapter 26
Chapter 12 Chapter 27
"Ianto! Are the kids at home, are they all right?"
Ianto rushed to hug his sister tightly, avoiding an IV line and a heart monitor. "They're fine, how are you?"
"You got them the babysitter and all?" Rhiannon fretted.
"They're absolutely fine," Ianto assured her. "You think I'd leave them all alone?" he asked, managing a smile.
Ianto looked to his sister's husband Johnny who was holding her hand from the seat next to the hospital bed. "What are they saying?"
Johnny looked like he'd gained ten years since Ianto had seen him last. "It's worse this time," he answered. "They said that it's some rare mutation."
Ianto nodded solemnly and took his sister's other hand. "What are our treatment options?"
Johnny gulped. "There's this experimental thing, that the doctors thought might work. But the NHS doesn't cover it, and without it..." he trailed off. Ianto could see his lower lip trembling.
"Well it's treatable, they said, that's all right then, isn't it?" Ianto said, nodding again to his own words.
The couple shared a look filled with worry. "But that's the thing Ianto," Rhiannon explained. "We haven't got money for the treatment. The insurance won't cover something that's not been properly tested yet, and-"
"Doesn't matter," Ianto said quickly. "We'll get it."
"We can't ask you to-"
"You're my sister, Rhi," Ianto said resolutely. "I don't care how much it costs. I work for the government after all, there's always something," he joked.
Rhiannon tried to smile, but shook her head. "I just want you to know, Yan," she whispered. "In case it doesn't all work out. You're the absolute most amazing brother I could ever have wanted, and I love you so much-" her voice broke.
"Don't talk like that," Ianto told her, lips trembling. "We're going to get through this, all right?" He covered her hand with his free one and met Johnny's eyes over the bed. "It'll all work out, I swear it."
"Isn't there anything we can do?" Gwen said loudly, looking around at her colleagues, whose faces ranged from stoic (Jack), to closed off (Owen), to apologetic (Tosh). None of them met her eyes.
"Don't we have any alien medical things that can help her?" Gwen asked urgently.
"Yeah, I've got a machine that cures cancer and I've just been saving it for a rainy day-"
"This isn't the time for jokes, Owen!"
"I'm not joking!" Owen shouted. His voice echoed in the empty Hub and Gwen suddenly felt very cold. Owen shook his head violently. "You're the one who's joking, if you think there's anything we can do to help her! Jones is on 'is own," he finished, and stormed out of the Hub.
Tosh watched him pass. "I'm sorry," she said to Gwen. Then she trotted after Owen.
"There must be something we can do," Gwen insisted to her last remaining team member. "Anything we can do to help him! Can't we help them pay for the treatment?" she asked plaintively.
Jack shook his head. "I know we've got all the good equipment, but we don't have that kind of money left over in the budget." He held a deep breath in his cheeks and let it out, giving her a soulful expression when she made a frustrated noise. "I don't know, Gwen, sometimes there's nothing to do."
"Well I am not giving up on this." She strode away determinedly.
Jack watched her go, watched as the cog wheel door rolled back into place and he was left alone in the quiet, empty building. He leaned against the outer wall of his office and looked up into the unoccupied space above the Hub.
"Hello, my name is Gwen Cooper, I'm calling from Torchwood Three."
"Torchwood Three? Can I have your verification number?"
Gwen listed off the digits from memory, waving away Rhys who was motioning her to bed. "Just a few minutes darling!"
"Oh! Yes, I'm here," Gwen replied, surprised with the speed at which she'd been forwarded.
"Well, you've reached Yvonne Hartman. What can I do for you?"
Gwen frowned, remembering the blonde woman Jack had spoken of with such loathing. She'd never seen the Director of Torchwood One, but from what Jack had said, she ought to have counted herself as lucky. "I wasn't aware I'd be speaking to you, ma'am."
"Oh yes, our interactions so far have been rather unfortunate, have they not?" The woman on the other line said apologetically. "Let's see if we can turn that right around, shall we? What is the purpose of your call?"
Gwen hesitated. "It's about Ianto Jones."
"Yes, Ianto! He's been very good about getting all of Torchwood Three's paperwork in on time," Hartman said amiably. "But am I right to assume this isn't a social call?"
"That's right, ma'am," Gwen answered, beginning to smile optimistically. Perhaps Hartman wasn't as bad as Jack thought. He was sometimes bad at communicating with people, whereas Gwen often managed to talk them over to her point of view: maybe Jack just hadn't given Hartman a chance. "Ianto's sister seems to have taken ill, and she needs a rather expensive treatment."
"That's just terrible!" Hartman said, sounding shocked. "The Torchwood Institute medical plan covers the immediate families of all its employees, price is of no concern to us! Ianto should know that."
"I suppose he's been busy," Gwen justified. "What with makin' arrangements and everything."
"You must be correct. Well, there's no need to worry about that anymore. I'll take care of the insurance myself," the woman said with finality.
"Thank you Ms. Hartman, I'm sure he'll be so pleased to hear it," Gwen smiled.
"Do me a favor dear, and don't mention this to anyone," Hartman asked. "Ianto's so private about things, I'd hate for him to be embarrassed."
"Of course," Gwen agreed.
"Please feel free to call if anything else comes up, Gwen. Goodbye."
"Are you coming now?" Rhys called.
"Just a minute!" Gwen answered. She set the phone on its cradle, and sat on the couch to think.
Jack must have been wrong about Ms. Hartman, Gwen decided. Someone so generous wouldn't be spying on her employees.
Gwen resolved to be nicer to Jones as well. Whatever the confusion had been regarding the Ghost Machine case, Jack had cleared it up quickly enough, so it must have been just that, confusion. Whatever had passed in the meantime, Gwen knew she could be a bigger person and ignore whatever... tendencies of Jones' that might make her uncomfortable.
Yes, she decided. Helping Jones' sister get her treatment would be the first step toward setting this right.
"What is it?"
"The doctors said- they said my treatment's been paid for! In full!"
"That's… that's wonderful, Rhi."
"Did you have anything to do with this, Yan? It must have been you!"
"It… was probably just my civil servant's insurance kicking in."
"Whatever it was, we're both so grateful!"
"I am too, Rhi. Look, can I see you tomorrow? I'm got somewhere I really need to be right now."
"All right then. I love you."
"Love you too."
Ianto closed his mobile and placed it on the coffee table. He lay flat on his couch, eyes staring blankly at the darkened ceiling overhead. He knew what had happened.
He'd been bought. The question was, who by?
Ianto looked back from the door to Captain Harkness' office. The captain was cradling the freshly made coffee between his hands, but motioned with his chin toward the chair. "Sit down?"
Ianto sat, feeling a bit offset. In the last month, the level of harsh words and glares from the captain had decreased to almost nothing, but they still never spoke beyond requests for paperwork or coffee. The captain's casual summons, almost like those for a friendly conversation, were a bit off-putting.
"Can I be of assistance, sir?" he asked respectfully, resolving to ignore his unease and act normally.
Captain Harkness smiled wryly. "I think that's supposed to be my line."
"I'm afraid I don't understand, sir." Ianto frowned and tried to minimize the way his back tensed up. The captain's, inversely, rested against the back of his chair; it was the closest to a comfortably slump Ianto had ever seen from him.
The captain shifted in his seat. Ianto was surprised to see one of his hands fiddling with a pen, and realized this must be a nervous tell of the captain's.
"You didn't take today off, I see."
"No sir, I didn't need it."
Captain Harkness' blue eyes met his. "Do I get to know why you needed the time off?"
Ianto managed not to clench his jaw while holding the captain's gaze. "It won't affect my performance, sir," he evaded.
"Now that would be a shame," Captain Harkness replied, and even through his best attempt at a straight face the grin that wanted to appear was completely apparent.
Ianto resisted the urge to grind his teeth together.
"Indeed," he said succinctly. "Is that all, sir?" He made to rise.
Ianto nearly flinched when the captain's hand caught his, holding him at the desk. When he looked back the other man's face was serious once again.
"We know something's wrong, Jones," Captain Harkness said intensely. "Whatever news you got yesterday obviously meant trouble."
Ianto's eyes widened slightly as his stomach drew tight with dread. They knew something was wrong. Trouble. Sure, the trouble was that he'd been mysteriously paid off the night before, and it looked like he'd just found out which of the two branches of Torchwood was behind it.
"We just want you to know that we're here if you need any support."
The near-absence of sleep the night before and the stress of his sister's condition had worn down Ianto's hold on his composure, and he reacted without thinking. His upper lip curled up and he spat, "You've certainly done an excellent job of proving that, sir."
He pulled his hand away from the captain's just slowly enough to not be entirely rude and straightened his tie. When he looked back Captain Harkness' expression was still full of surprise and- dare he think it- guilt?
"May I return to my duties now?"
The captain's mouth snapped shut and he cleared his throat briefly. "Yes, Jones."
In a small act of revenge, Ianto closed the door a bit too loudly as he left.
Jack sat back in his padded swivel chair, fingers laced behind his head. He blew air through his lips that ruffled the hair that was flung over his forehead as he tied to blink himself into understanding the scene that had just taken place.
There was an immediate thought pulsing in the front of his mind, but Jack ignored it until he'd considered everything fully, even though his intuition screamed that it was right.
If it was, he might not handle it right now.
He'd never seen Jones express emotion like that. His rarely seen frustration included clenching fists and lots of sighs, anxiety was slightly widened eyes and extreme correctness of motion, sadness was drooping eyes and extra coffee. Jack had never seen him mad.
But he had been. And the worst part was, he had reason to be.
Ever since John had left with his warning about the young man, Jack had been reconsidering the label he'd afforded the London liaison. He'd been so wrapped up in being angry at London in general for their policies against aliens, he'd forgotten that they barely treated their own with any more trust or respect. For every extraterrestrial who'd been experimented on or killed in the name of Queen and Country, a human who had fallen through the Rift, been affected by some artifact or mutated by a supernatural force had been mistreated just as much. Yvonne Hartman was a control freak who didn't want anything to be done without her approval, and was paranoid of leaks and conspiracies. More than that, she knew that control was the key to the world and Jack knew she was not above using blackmail, bribes or threats.
So was he really surprised that Jones wouldn't tell him about his sick sister? Especially when their situation seemed to be so conclusively awful anyway.
'He really thinks we'll use his dying sister against him,' Jack thought in shock. How had this happened? He admitted to himself that he would not be above blackmail if it were necessary, but only if the situation absolutely demanded it, and only against those who deserved it. Jones was not one of those people, no matter what bureaucracy he was from.
During Jones' time with Torchwood, Jack had gone from actively hating the young man, to grudgingly accepting him, to respecting him enough to keep him at a distance. He honestly thought it was for Jones' own good that he not become part of the Cardiff team. But Jack was vaguely horrified that he and his team had been so awful to their somewhat-colleague as to convince him that they would sink so low in order to gain his loyalty over Torchwood London.
Was that the sort of picture had they been presenting this whole time? Morally bankrupt mastermind traitors?
Jones was right. They'd never shown him anything to indicate he could rely on them, but Jack hadn't realized that they'd been this bad. He'd thought they were just being alienating, not… terrible, Gwen had said earlier.
Jack let out a shuddering breath. The powerful thought that had been waiting in the wings crashed over him, leaving the icy feeling of cold hard truth in its wake.
He was no better than Yvonne Hartman
Link to next chapter: http://meatball42.livejournal.com/8154.html