Characters: Ianto, Jack, Team, mentions Lisa.
Word Count: 1260
Spoilers: Fragments. Set pre-series.
Summary: Ianto may have finally got into Torchwood Three, but he’s still the outsider.
Written For: Challenge 143: On The Outside at fan_flashworks.
Disclaimer: I don’t own Torchwood, or the characters.
Starting work at Torchwood One had been tough, Ianto had been just one more anonymous cog in the great machine, but he’d also been one of almost a dozen new hires joining the company on the same day. He hadn’t even been the only newbie in the department he was assigned to; there’d been two others and they’d stuck together, helping each other out until they all found their feet. They’d even remained friends after they were transferred to different departments. The Torchwood Tower had been such a vast place, and it never hurt to have a friendly set of eyes and ears in other parts of the company. Office politics was a big thing; everybody played the game, from the bigwigs right down to the lowly office clerks and janitors. Who you knew was easily as important as what you knew.
But that was London. Ianto didn’t really know what to expect when he eventually succeeded in securing a position with Torchwood Three; not a lot was known about the staff there, aside from their flamboyant leader. Ianto learned soon enough that Captain Jack Harkness was everything rumours made him out to be, right down to his flashy World War Two era greatcoat; he was handsome, charismatic, flirty, outrageous, and cocksure, the whole outward playboy persona concealing a sharp mind and an iron will. He wasn’t someone anyone in their right mind would want to get on the wrong side of, Ianto was positive he would be a deadly enemy if crossed, but that was a risk he had to take, for Lisa’s sake. Torchwood Three was the only chance he had of saving her, so right from the start he’d known he had to get inside, no matter what it took, or what it might eventually cost him. Lisa’s welfare was all that mattered.
But even after his efforts to gain employment there were finally rewarded and he was allowed to join the Torchwood Three team, thanks to helping the Captain capture a Pteranodon of all things, he found he was still very much on the outside looking in.
He’d known that the Cardiff branch was much smaller than London; it was an outpost, only there because of the Rift that ran through the city. Nevertheless, he’d imagined there would be somewhere around fifteen to twenty people working there; after all, someone would need to monitor the Rift at all times, which would surely mean two, or more likely three, work shifts. As it turned out, he couldn’t have been more wrong.
On his first morning, Jack introduced Ianto to his new colleagues, all three of them, not including Jack himself. Weapons expert and second in command Suzie Costello, computer and tech wizard Toshiko Sato, and team doctor Owen Harper, who was also in charge of science and forensics. All of them doubled as field agents. It seemed ludicrous to Ianto to expect a grand total of four people to deal with all the flotsam and jetsam that the Rift spat out, not to mention the alien refugees and the not infrequent invasion attempts. No doubt that accounted for the mess all over the Hub, and the complete chaos in the lower levels known, rather optimistically, as the archives. Nobody had time to spare for anything besides their own job. Whether he was willing to admit it or not, Harkness really did need someone to take charge of organising the Hub, if only to keep the team from drowning in rubbish.
The smallness of the team, and the fact that the four of them worked so closely together, had made them into a tight-knit group. It didn’t really surprise Ianto that the welcome he got from them was on the frosty side. He was an outsider, an interloper, not one of them; they might need him, but Owen and Suzie didn’t want him there. Toshiko was more approachable than the rest of them, but even she didn’t seem to know quite what to make of the new hire.
Ianto set to work immediately, there was a lot that needed doing and the sooner he got started, the sooner he could prove his usefulness. He worked around the team members, who were busy at their workstations, trying to make a noticeable dent in the accumulated rubbish, and by the time one o’clock rolled around, he’d filled a dozen bags with trash. It was a good start, but he’d worked up an appetite and if he was hungry, it was a safe bet that his new colleagues were as well. No doubt he was expected to see that everyone got fed regularly, as well as keeping them caffeinated.
The team gathered around the boardroom table for lunch, which Ianto had ordered and taken delivery of; they were soon laughing and talking, sharing stories and private jokes. Ianto sat apart from them to eat and they barely even seemed to notice his presence. He should have been pleased about that, he needed to keep a low profile because of Lisa, but it just made him feel lonelier than he had when he was alone. There was nothing like being surrounded by happy people to drive home how much he didn’t belong, and it stung.
Ianto missed company, having someone to talk to, and share things with; Lisa spent so much of the time in a drugged sleep to spare her the pain of her injuries that he sometimes worried he might start talking to himself just to fill the silence. Now here he was, with actual people, and he might as well have been invisible for all the attention they paid to him. The only time anyone spoke to him was to request, or more accurately demand, more coffee. That was Owen of course; making sure the hired help knew his place. Well, okay, he could handle that. Ianto pasted on a calm, impersonal mask, the efficient and dutiful servant, and went to make a fresh pot of coffee, leaving his own lunch half-eaten. Hopefully it would still be there when he got back.
He had a job to do and a secret to keep; there was only one way he could balance the two. On the outside, he would be what they expected him to be, the janitor and general dogsbody, fetching whatever they needed whenever they needed it, and cleaning up after them. He’d hide his feelings behind the mask he’d perfected growing up on the estate, where showing any sign of weakness would result in being picked on by the older and bigger kids. He didn’t need to belong in order to save Lisa; as much as he craved the companionship it would bring, belonging would only complicate things. He had no intention of sticking around once Lisa was cured anyway, and leaving people he barely knew would be much less of a wrench than leaving people he’d grown to like. Besides, it would be easier to deceive and betray the team if he didn’t care about them. As long as they continued to treat him as an outsider, he’d have no reason to feel guilty about what he was doing, so really, it was all for the best.
Deep down inside though, he wished it could be different. Under other circumstances, maybe he might one day have been able to call these people his friends. Just as well he’d never be in a position to find out. Pouring the fresh coffee, he picked up his tray, put on his blandest smile, and went to serve the team.