Rating: If you're old enough to watch Torchwood, you're old enough to read this. (All Audience)
Summary: Ianto had known Torchwood's retirement policy since the first day he started in London: twenty years and a gold watch, or...less...and a little white pill. And he wanted out. A first season AU.
Author's note: Thanks to copperbadge for looking this over.
Warning: Extremely dodgy Whoniverse "science."
Part 1 | Part 2
Ianto slipped into his usual seat--his old seat--as he and Owen came into the conference room. Tosh took a sip of her coffee and tried not to grimace. Asking Ianto to make coffee would probably be pushing it, but Owen's coffee, while not bad, but nowhere near as good as Ianto's had been.
"I have the report from London," she said when everyone settled. "The Ijada appeared in early August two years ago, though they may have been operating for a few days before they were first noticed. The first reports were area hospitals missing bodies, same as here. They took over a hundred bodies before their ship was destroyed, all apparently within four hours of their original deaths. Unlike traditional zombies, the bodies breathed and had pulses, just no brainwave activity."
"Braaiins," Owen moaned. Ianto snorted.
"As far as the reports go, no one--no one living--was hurt by the, um, bodies," Tosh continued. "As a zombie invasion it was remarkably peaceful." Until Torchwood London blew up their ship, of course.
"One bloke crashed his car trying to avoid one when it stepped out into the street," Ianto said, "But that wasn't an attack." He had a thoughtful look on his face.
"Precisely," Tosh said. "Even Jack hasn't tried to hurt anyone." London's policy was not Cardiff's policy, Jack kept telling them.
"Yet," Owen corrected. "How long were they around last time? Maybe they just didn't have time for their plan to come together."
"Less than a day," Ianto said. "When you have a hundred dead bodies roaming around London you don't exactly take your time dealing with it." He looked a little uncomfortable, maybe even guilty.
"Understandable," Tosh said. Even in London a bunch of people with Jack's blank stare would be noticed, at least in some quarters. "It's just--Jack had a note on the file: Idiots. Both lots."
"Even if they're peaceful, we can't have dead people running around Cardiff," Gwen said. "Their families--" She grimaced.
"If they're controlling 'em from their ship, can we block 'em?" Owen asked.
"It wasn't an implant or anything that would keep working if communication was lost," Ianto said. "But we never isolated a signal."
"We've got Jack and the equipment of the Hub," Tosh said. "How hard can it be?"
Ianto straightened up after too many hours hunched over the sensors and took a gulp from his mug, trying not to taste it. The coffee was crap, but he wasn't going to make another batch, damn it. He wasn't Torchwood's butler anymore. "So it's definitely not electromagnetic," he said.
"I wouldn't say definitely," Tosh said cautiously, though he thought her caution was more habitual than any real doubt. "But yeah. Makes sense, electromagnetic wouldn't penetrate this far underground. Even mobile signals can't get through."
"So that leaves what?" Owen asked.
"Psychics, tachyon, gravitronic...?" Ianto offered.
"It has to be something that the human brain--nervous system--can receive and recognize without a separate receiver," Tosh stated. She looked at Owen. "You never saw anyone or anything tampering with Jack's body, right?"
"Right," Owen said. "But--" He stopped when Gwen appeared.
"UNIT has spotted the Ijada ship--or what we think is their ship," Gwen said. "They wants to know whether we're dealing with it or if they should." She had taken over communication with UNIT and the outside world.
"They have the weapons to shoot it down," Owen said. "Bit of a brute-force solution, but it worked last time." He looked down at Jack's body--they had all been careful to call it his body, not Jack, especially when it moved--with an indecipherable expression.
Ianto opened his mouth to protest but Tosh beat him to it. "No," she said. He closed his mouth; his contribution would only make Owen more stubborn, suspicious of Ianto's motives. "Jack had a reason to think it a bad idea last time."
Owen looked almost relieved. "So we tell them thanks but we're on it?" Tosh and Gwen exchanged a glance and nodded. Ianto nodded too. If they had shot down a ship unnecessarily last time that was bad enough without repeating it.
"They're not going to wait very long unless we can show them we know how to deal with this," Tosh said.
"Jack--could convince them to wait," Ianto said. He didn't like Jack--he had every reason to hate Jack--but he had a commanding manner when he wanted it.
Owen snorted. "If we had Jack back it'd mean the problem was sorted, now, wouldn't it?"
"Maybe--" Gwen stopped, raised her hand to her headset. "Shit," she said after a moment. "The police have found the first mobile body," she reported. "Or I think so. There are reports of a disoriented female walking in traffic near the university."
"Could just be one of our local bag-ladies," Owen muttered. Gwen glared at him.
"They haven't connected it to the missing bodies, but if they take her in and run fingerprints they might," she continued.
"We should go get this one," Tosh said. "Another example, maybe one more typical than Jack--" She shrugged. Ianto nodded; it would do them no good to find something that worked on Jack only because of his immortality. Or worse yet, not find something that would work on everyone except Jack.
"Right," Owen said. "Tosh, Ianto, keep looking for--for anything you can find. Gwen, you're with me, lucky girl." He grinned at her expression, held up his hands in mock-injured innocence. "Since you're our liaison with the police and all, that's all I meant." Gwen gave him a hard look before heading off towards the SUV, a grinning Owen following behind.
Ianto looked after them. "Are those two--never mind." The attraction between the two had been obvious before he...left...masked behind their eternal bickering. From the looks of things nothing had changed. Tosh was looking wistfully after Owen, so nothing had changed there either. He took another gulp of coffee. How the hell did they manage to make it weak and bitter at the same time? "Oh, screw it," he said. He raised a brow at Tosh. "Coffee?"
Her eyes widened. "Yes, please." She followed him to the coffee machine and watched with eager eyes, verging on lust, as he dusted off the espresso machine, obviously supplanted since he left by a grubby Mr. Coffee maker.
He chuckled. "If I thought it was my body you wanted instead of my coffee I'd be flattered." God knew that she deserved better than Owen.
Tosh ducked her head, blushed. "Sorry. I mean--"
"Joke, Tosh." They didn't really know each other, did they? He hadn't meant to make her uncomfortable, and now she was not looking at him in an obvious way. "Can you give me temporary access to the network?" he asked hesitantly. It was a lot to ask. "I want to see if I can find anything more about the Ijada in the archives." She opened her mouth and he continued quickly. "I mean, you know the system best, but--" But she was an electrical engineer, a hardware and software geek, not an information specialist. "But I have some ideas," he finished lamely.
"Oh. Oh, yes. Of course," she said, probably more eager to get away from the awkwardness than anything else. "I'll just go and--" She waved a hand towards her workstation before scurrying off.
He finished the coffees and carried both cups to her workstation. Tosh was frowning at her monitor, but took her coffee with an absent thanks.
"Your login is active and you have all your old permissions," she said, still frowning at the computer until she took a sip of her coffee and smiled blissfully.
All his old permissions? That was much more than he'd expected, more than she should have given him, really. "Thank you."
She looked over her shoulder at him. "No, I mean they were already there. Still there. Jack--never deleted them."
"He must have forgotten," Ianto said. Except someone that careless wouldn't last long in the world they lived in.
Tosh frowned, obviously not convinced. "You can use Suzie's old workstation," she said. He nodded and headed over to it.
He was knee-deep in UNIT's files when Gwen and Owen returned with their new 'body' in tow, helpfully strapped to a gurney. She--it--was already struggling, but the straps were rated for weevils and no human muscle, however over-clocked, could budge them. He let Owen and Gwen wrestle the gurney down the stairs into the autopsy bay while he turned back to the screen. Searching on 'mind control' without 'electromagnetic' had turned up a couple of dozen incidents, but most of the aliens involved were familiar and not useful. He opened the file on one he didn't recognize, an attempted invasion/subversion in Yorkshire in 1977. A crash and a clatter distracted him for an instant, but no one was screaming so it couldn't have been important.
"Oi! Ianto!" Owen called a moment later. "You going to come help with this or what?"
"No?" Ianto called back without looking. The Doctor called the aliens Sirens, said no human could pronounce their real name. The Doctor's involvement was no surprise, he'd been hanging around under UNIT's protection most of that decade. Torchwood analysts had been arguing ever since about whether he attracted more alien invasions than he prevented. This one he'd found the solution to, though, something to do with his ubiquitous sonic screwdriver.
Sirens. Sonic screwdriver. Yes--
"Ianto!" That was almost a scream, from Gwen instead of Owen. He turned from the computer and found the other three struggling to hold the gurney before it slipped off the stairs and fell to the floor ten feet below. He ran over, sliding under the chain that served as a railing and dropping to the floor to grab the gurney from below. With four of them they got it down without dropping the Ijada-possessed body on its head.
"Thanks ever so, mate," Owen growled. "Had time to finish your game of solitaire, I hope?"
Ianto gave him a closed-mouth smile. "Yep. I reckon I won, too." He shoved the electromagnetic sensors out of the way, pulled in a new set of machinery. Tosh watched for a second before diving in to help.
"Sound waves?" she asked, kneeling to attach sensors to the concrete floor. "It makes sense, the vibration would travel through the ground--"
"Air, water, ground," Ianto agreed. "If the vibrations affect newly-dead cells--"
"But--that's not possible, is it?" Gwen said. "I mean, how would that make them breathe and their hearts beat--?"
"It shouldn't be possible," Owen said, his tone more thoughtfully than the words. "None of this shit should be."
"But it is," Ianto finished for him. "Bunch of aliens in 1977--not Ijada--were controlling villagers in Yorkshire, possibly using sound waves --"
"Here it is!" Tosh said, her voice nearly squeaking in excitement. "See? Here and here--" She pointed to the display, where a regular wave something like a sinus rhythm was crawling across the screen. "Jack's heart is beating in time with this wave."
"Huh." Owen studied the display, comparing it to the read-outs of Jack's body's vital signs, and then hooked the new body up to similar monitoring. Every heartbeat, every breath, even the electrical activity in the brainstem were the same between Jack's body and the new one. Tosh tuned the sensors, matching each bodily function to the frequency that controlled it. They all studied the display in silence.
"Right," Owen said at last. "So how do we stop it? Stuff cotton wool in their ears?"
"Ulysses used wax," Ianto offered. The Doctor had blathered on about the Greek legends of the sirens, after all. "But I don't think that'll work any better."
"Sound-proof room?" Gwen suggested more seriously.
"I don't think we could block all vibration," Ianto said. "Too many frequencies involved."
"I, um--" Tosh started before falling silent. They all turned to look at her and she flushed. "I--in my first week at Torchwood Jack had me build a sonic modulator," she said, finishing all in a rush. "I don't know where it is now--"
"Secure archive," Ianto said automatically; he'd seen it while retrieving a cyber-component that he'd hoped would help Lisa. Tosh gave him a panicked look and he nodded reluctantly. He knew why she didn't want to talk about the sonic modulator, yes. Owen and Gwen still looked mystified.
"But we could use it to disrupt the signal," Tosh finished. She hesitated. "I think."
"Can we get into the secure archives?" Owen asked. "Without zombie-man here?" he added, nodding towards Jack's body.
Ianto was already halfway up the stairs. "Unless Jack changed the password, yes," he called back.
Jack hadn’t changed the password, another piece of his mystifying behavior, though Ianto was pretty certain that he didn't know Ianto knew it. He found the sonic modulator and dropped it into Tosh's waiting hands from the railing.
Owen scowled as Ianto clattered down the stairs back into the autopsy bay. How the hell had the tea-boy--ex-tea-boy--learned so much about Torchwood? And was he, Owen, supposed to be doing something about a disgraced former employee running around the Hub like he owned it?
The device in Tosh's hands let out an unearthly squall, instant headache time. "Christ, Tosh!" he yelled.
She silenced it. "Sorry." She fiddled with it and turned it on again, producing a low thrum that only made Owen's teeth hurt. She tuned it, keeping one eye on the sound sensor display and the other on the device's controls. The monitors on Jack and--on Jack's body and the other body--beeped as their hearts skipped a beat. Tosh stopped, studying the monitors, and then made a final adjustment.
Owen clenched his fists, driving his fingernails into his palms, as the monitor on the woman's body flat-lined, a steady squeal from the machine indicating its distress. This was what they wanted; the woman was already dead, had been for half a day. Even if he could get her heart beating again, she was gone.
Ianto reached over and turned the machine off, silencing the noise. "We don't need this anymore," he said, almost managing a casual tone of voice. He stared down at the body without expression. The last dead body Ianto had seen had been his girlfriend, Owen realized. There didn't seem to be anything to say.
Owen forced himself to turn from the dead woman to Jack, whose monitor showed only a momentary irregularity in heartbeat and breathing before it had settled into a new and different rhythm. He was alive. Maybe. "Brainwaves are still flat," Owen said, looking at the EEG.
"Unconscious?" Gwen asked hopefully.
"Brain dead. No higher cerebral functions, minimal brainstem activity," Owen said, his voice grating on his own ears. He laughed, "The lights are on but nobody's home; the elevator doesn't go to the top floor." He shoved his clenched fists into his pockets. "Damn it, Tosh, you must have missed something!"
"I didn't!" she said. She stabbed a finger at the display still displaying the conflicting sound waves. "See? His heart's not beating in time to any of the waves anymore, his breathing is slower, nothing's the same!"
"Except he's still dead," Owen said. Jack wasn't supposed to be dead. He was the constant, the one damn thing that never changed.
Gwen spoke before Tosh could annoy him with more of her babbling. "Maybe--maybe whatever keeps him alive doesn't know the Ijada are gone yet."
"So what, we yell in his ear? Oi, mate, you're alive again!" Owen said, suiting actions to words. Jack stayed as dead as before.
Tosh started giggling, more than slightly hysterically. "Dogbert's tech support," she gasped out.
Ianto's eyebrow rose. Apparently whatever geek reference she was making wasn't lost on him. "Shut up and reboot?" he asked.
Jack's death had let the Ijada into his body, his corpse. Killing him again--god, it might even work. "Right," Owen said, pulling his sidearm. If anyone was going to shoot Jack it was going to be him. The girls shouldn't have to and Ianto had no right. "Not exactly what I went to medical school for, was it?"
Watching Owen shoot Jack wasn't as satisfying as it ought to have been. Ianto winced at the blood, at the sound echoing off the concrete walls and floor, at the waxy gray pallor of Jack's face.
Ianto faded backwards, fetched up on the stairs and sat on the third one up. He could leave, the others would never notice his absence. They might not even tell Jack that he'd been here. He came back for Cardiff, for humanity, and even if the Ijada turned out to be something less than the zombie apocalypse he couldn't find it in himself to regret it. But he didn't owe Jack anything, certainly not his death or imprisonment.
Jack--Jack saw Lisa as no different from the woman whose body was still lying on the other gurney: dead already, forced into a parody of life by an alien in possession of her body. Jack had never known Lisa, had never talked to her before Dr. Tanizaki changed her. And--and even Ianto had to admit that the thing that killed Annie and transferred Lisa's brain into her body was--not his Lisa.
Jack gasped, a great whooping inrush of air like a drowning man surfacing from the sea. Owen, Gwen, and Tosh clustered about him, drawing in until Ianto couldn't see him. "Crap," Jack said. Ianto snorted. "Remind me to stay away from Ceti decoy mines."
"Decoy mines?" Tosh asked immediately. Maybe she'd learned that the only way to get information out of Jack was to ask while he was distracted. Ianto had used the technique a time or two.
"Nasty war, about seven hundred years from now," Jack said easily, a little too easily to be perfectly truthful. "The Ceti--the losing side, eventually--created mines to look like survival pods, in the hope that their enemies would pick them up and be destroyed when the mine went off. Worked, too. For a while." He chuckled and Ianto knew he was going to start spinning a line of bullshit to distract the others from his death. "I once knew--" He stopped abruptly, probably realizing he was no longer wherever he'd died. "How long was I dead?" he asked at last.
Owen snorted. "Either three minutes or--" He looked at his watch with a flourish. "--twelve hours and thirty-five minutes, depending on how you count it."
Gwen was helping Jack sit up, his head now visible over hers and Tosh's. Jack was turned to face Owen, however, and hadn't seen Ianto. "Would you care to explain that, Owen?" His voice was neutral. He either knew that Owen knew about his immortality or he was doing a good job of acting. But Jack was nothing if not a good actor.
Gwen and Owen tumbled over each other to explain. Tosh cut through them both. "Ijada," she said. The single word appeared to explain enough for Jack; his face flickered through surprise, dismay, and chagrin, before settling on a one-sided grin.
"Well." Jack stood, turning towards the stair where Ianto was sitting, and then stopped. "Well," he repeated. Ianto got up; he would face his fate on his feet, thank you very much. Jack's lips pressed together and then he shook his head. "Ianto. " It was neither greeting nor accusation. He strode forward and Ianto scrambled to get out of his way. "Holiday over? " he asked cheerfully as he passed. "Work to do."
Jack stopped at the top of the stairs, leaning over the railing. "Tosh, crank up your translation program, see about feeding it Mid-High Galactic or the closest variant you have. Ianto, archive 7-beta, shelf 86-92-alpha. Gwen, pull up plans for the Hub. We need a spot with power that is solid bedrock underneath, no lower levels. Owen, help Gwen clear the spot when she finds one."
"And what will you be doing?" Gwen challenged.
Jack smirked. "Changing my shirt and figuring out the best way to give a bunch of idiot tourists a right ticking off."
Shelf 86-92-alpha contained a single device, light enough to carry without a dolly but large enough to be awkward. The awkwardness made it easier for Ianto to ignore the corridor leading off to the left on the level above that led to the chamber where Lisa had lived--or something had lived--and died months before. No, she was Lisa, Lisa had lived there. What had died there, that was the question. He started up the stairs, not even swearing under his breath when he mashed his hand between the device and the stair railing. The device was big and awkward and that was all that he was thinking about.
He paused at the turning. Who was he kidding? He set the device down and stared into the corridor, no different from any of a hundred corridors just like it in the Hub. The room at the end of it was empty, scoured clean, Jack had seen to that--had shown Ianto that--before he left. The converter frame, the cyber-components, all had been incinerated. What was left of Lisa and her vic--and the other victims was stored in cryo-chambers. There was nothing left. Nothing.
"Need some help with that?" Jack's voice and his hand landing on Ianto's shoulder made Ianto jump. "Kind of bulky, I should have warned you."
Even Jack couldn't have forgotten what was down that corridor. But if he wanted to pretend he hadn't come down to check up on Ianto, so be it. "I doubt two people on a stair would be any less awkward," Ianto said drily. Especially if he and Jack were the two, he didn't add. He picked the device up again and started up the next flight of stairs. "It's not heavy."
"No shame in asking for a little help," Jack said, following much too closely behind. He could have been talking about the box, he could have been talking about...more.
Ianto stopped, closed his eyes. The idea of talking to Jack about Lisa was obscene. "I don't need your help. Sir." He managed to keep his voice even, calm.
"Then I'll just follow behind and admire your...carrying capacity."
Gwen straightened up from clearing the last box of unidentified things from behind Suzie's old workbench. Ianto had once been in charge of making such piles disappear into the archives where he would...file them or something. Sort them. Maybe even identify them. Since he had left they piled up, bred in corners until they threatened to fall over on someone.
"You could help, you know," she snapped at Owen, who seemed to view his role as more decorative than functional.
"When you're doing such a bang up job?" Owen smirked. He came over and for a bare instant she thought he would take the box. Instead he removed a small device from the top of the pile. "Was looking for this last week. Never know where anything is around this dump anymore."
She wasn't the only one who noticed. "Since Ianto left." If she could get Owen's support for Ianto, they might be able to convince Jack not to Retcon Ianto again. Retcon or worse.
Owen snorted. "He had his uses. Pity about the whole trying to destroy the world thing, but nobody's perfect, right, love?"
She bit back her first retort. "He wasn't trying to destroy the world," she said evenly. "He loved that woman. Lisa. He loved Lisa and was only trying to save her."
"And almost started World War Last in the process," Owen retorted. "You never saw what the Cybermen did to Torchwood London. Blood everywhere, people turned into cybernetic killing machines, brains ripped out of their bodies--" He sounded almost gleeful at the description of the carnage. She remembered the knives coming down from the conversion unit and shuddered.
"He loved her," she repeated, trying to banish the images. If Rhys had been caught in one of those machines she would have fought as hard as Ianto. "If the woman you loved--"
Owen looked at her for a long moment and then smirked again. "You know me, love. Much too sensible for all that love jazz." He shook his head. "Never the same bird twice, that's my motto."
Jack stayed out of Ianto's way as he and Tosh connected the device from the archives to Tosh's translator, but Ianto was still conscious of the weight of Jack's eyes on him. Jack--Jack had his own reasons, no doubt, but Ianto was still grateful to be allowed to see the Ijada incident play out before he was...dealt with...in whatever manner Jack saw fit.
"Damn," Tosh swore. "We need a coax to 9-pin adaptor. Could you--"
Ianto smiled as he pulled the connector from his pocket, because some habits were hard to break--including checking for obvious auxiliary parts when fetching equipment.
Tosh smiled back. "Of course." She took the connector and plugged it in with a flourish. "All done!"
Jack strode down, thumbs tucked in his braces. "Good work, you two." He raised his voice. "Gwen, get UNIT on the line and check that they're still monitoring the ship. I want to know when it moves off. I hate talking to myself."
He thumbed the microphone on and then stood with his hands clasped behind his back. "Attention Ijada ship! I am the Harkness of Torchwood. You are in violation of Earth hygiene and sanitation codes regarding use and disposal of biological tissue and samples. We are willing to waive all fines and sanctions providing you leave all tissue and samples in their current locations and remove your ship and selves from this solar system immediately." He thumbed the microphone off and looked at Gwen. "Well?"
She boggled at him--Ianto knew he was doing the same--before thumbing on her headset. "Any change?" she asked, obviously not sure whether she should expect anything. She listened for a moment. "Thank you. Let me know if--yes, right. We'll send you a copy of the report once it's completed." She thumbed her headset off. "It's leaving," she said unnecessarily. Jack smirked.
"Hygiene and sanitation?" Owen demanded. "You mean we only needed to threaten them with the Ministry of Health?"
Jack's smirk grew. "Yup. They're only tourists, thrill seekers by Ijada standards. They aren't even in that ship up there, it's just a relay station. They never leave their home planet."
Ianto collapsed into Tosh's chair, started laughing. He came back, he gave up his life and his freedom, to save Cardiff and Earth from armchair explorers watching a David Attenborough special. Tosh caught his eye, hid her laugh behind her hand. Gwen chuckled.
"Bloody hell," Owen said, apparently addressing the ceiling. He looked down, glared at Jack like it was his fault. "It's three in the effing morning, too late even to get a drink."
"Don't worry, you can go on the pull tomorrow," Jack said consolingly. "Go home, everyone. Get some sleep, come in tomorrow afternoon."
"Shit, Rhys is going to go spare," Gwen said, looking at her watch. She grabbed her coat.
Ianto stayed seated. Everyone didn't mean him, of course.
Owen and Tosh left with a "Ta" and "Good night," respectively, but Gwen stopped at the cog door, looked back.
"Gwen." Jack's voice was definite and commanding. "Go home. Give Rhys a kiss and get some sleep."
Of course Gwen didn't take commands well, she never did. She was looking right at Ianto. "Jack--" Ianto dropped his elbows to his knees, stared at the floor. He didn't want to listen to them argue over his fate. It was too much like being ten again.
Jack must have said or done something, because the next thing he heard was Gwen saying, "All right, then." Reasonably cheerfully, so even Gwen's vaunted compassion couldn't stretch far enough to cover what Ianto had done. "Good night."
"Good night," Jack replied. Ianto didn't bother. "Ianto. My office."
Jack watched Ianto drop heavily into the chair opposite his desk and wondered if he was tired enough to tell Jack the truth. Whisky might have helped, but there was no way Ianto would accept beverages from Jack, not now.
"So." Jack leaned back in his chair, putting his hands behind his head and his feet up on the desk. "Ready to come back yet?"
Ianto's head came up. "What?"
Jack swallowed a laugh. "I had a bet with myself that you were going to say something this morning, but you disappointed me. Still, this probably worked out better."
"Better." It wasn't a question; his inflection was perfectly flat.
Jack shouldn't be enjoying this, but life was too long not to have fun. "Tell me, Ianto. Why did you come back?"
Ianto snorted, echoes of his earlier laughter. "Cardiff was--I thought Cardiff was in danger. From armchair adventurers." The last three words were full of bitterness.
"And you came racing back to lay the problem at my feet. Why? Couldn't find another pterodactyl?" Jack pursed his lips, mocking disappointment. "Pity, really. Myfanwy could use the company."
Ianto was glaring at him now. "You--think I wanted to come back?"
It was time to stop indulging Ianto. "Didn't you?" he demanded. Don't you? he wanted to ask. "Or were you going to spend the rest of your life hanging out in cafes, drinking coffee and pretending to work?"
"I didn't engineer this!" Which was as much confirmation as Jack was ever likely to get that Ianto had arranged the pterodactyl.
"Not this time, no." Jack shook his head. "Ianto--" He sighed theatrically. "I let you go thinking you might create a new life, a life outside of Torchwood." Which was a lie, since he'd been pretty certain Ianto would be back. "But you didn't. You were bored and drifting and just waiting for an excuse to come back. So now you're back. You can leave again if you want to, but if you do there's no coming back, not even for the end of the world." That wasn't entirely true, but he needed to push Ianto into making a decision.
"I can leave. And be Retconned again." It would be so easy for Ianto if it weren't his choice, if Jack forced him to come back. Too easy.
Jack chuckled. "If you want to be. I can even give you the good stuff, something that will work on your genotype." Ianto started at that. "I gave Torchwood the formula for Retcon. I bet that's something Yvonne never told you." Ianto shook his head, looking dazed. "Stopped them from killing so many people. But I didn't give them everything." It would have been far, far too easy for Alice or Yvonne or any of the lovely sociopathic ladies between those two to use it on him, after all. He cocked his head at Ianto. "So tell me, did you know before you took it that it wouldn't work? Or were you trying to commit virtual suicide?"
"I knew." Ianto's voice was hoarse, raw truth at last. "I--a year and a half ago. There was--I was supposed to forget, but I didn't. I looked it up afterwards, found that Retcon doesn't work on some people, though no one knew why. I never told them that I remembered."
Even before Canary Wharf was destroyed he hadn't trusted everyone. Good boy. He wasn't self-destructive, either; he wouldn't go running into danger, getting someone else killed in his pursuit of penance. "If you come back there'll be conditions."
"Figured," Ianto muttered, quietly enough that Jack might not have been supposed to hear. Yet he looked more reassured than not. Mr. Jones liked knowing the price upfront, it appeared.
"If you come back I want all of you." Jack ignored Ianto's faintly alarmed look. "Everything, body and brains. If you know how to do something that needs doing, you say so. If you don't, you damn well figure it out. No more coasting on suits and coffee."
Ianto snorted. "Butler was never the top of my career goals." Fully trained researcher, right.
"You played me once and I admire that," Jack admitted. "Not many people manage to con an old conman. You tried to play me again with the Retcon and I let you." Ianto opened his mouth but Jack glared him down. "I. Let. You." Ianto shut his mouth. "Try it again and I won't bother with Retcon." He laid his Webley on the desk. "Clear?"
"Crystal, sir." The threat didn't seem to faze him.
"Ooh, love the way you say sir!" Jack said with his biggest, cheesiest grin. Annoying Ianto was almost as much fun as flirting with him.
Ianto was not amused. "If I come back I'm not taking any shit from anyone. Not from you, not from Owen."
"You'll take orders from me," Jack countered. "My good little soldier. Anything else, anyone else, that's up to you."
Ianto gave him a long, level look. "Deal," he said at last.