Characters: Ianto, Jack, Owen, Tosh, Gwen.
Summary: On a mission out into the countryside to deal with a bunch of aliens who are up to no good, Ianto finds himself having a very strange day.
Word Count: 2943
Disclaimer: I don’t own Torchwood, or the characters. They belong to the BBC.
A/N: Parts of this will be familiar to drabble readers from my drabbles ‘Birdsong’ and ‘A Bit Tied Up’. I originally intended to continue the story in a series of drabbles, and even wrote three more parts, but I could never get around to posting them, so I gathered the whole lot together and reworked it all into a longer story instead.
Ianto lay flat on his back on the grass, staring up at a blue summer sky dotted with fleecy white clouds, and listening to the birds singing. It was beautiful, peaceful, and serene, so much so that despite everything, he was relaxed and smiling. There were, after all, far worse ways to spend a warm summer afternoon.
A skylark, so high above him it was almost invisible, trilled its sweet song while swifts swooped low across the meadow, shrilling their call and snatching up the insects buzzing around him.
In a copse of trees a short distance away, he could hear crows and magpies squabbling, and a dove cooing. Nearer to hand, in the hedgerow a few metres to his left, the ticking of a robin sounded surprisingly loud.
All was silent, except for the birds; the aliens the team had come out here after must surely be long gone by now. A small frown knotted Ianto’s forehead. As nice as this was, he really hoped Jack would come along and untie him soon. He didn’t particularly relish the thought of being stuck out here alone all night. What if it rained?
Lying completely immobile, he thought back on the events that had led to him being in this somewhat undignified position. The team had come out into the countryside beyond Cardiff on the trail of a gang on aliens who’d been smuggling illegal substances to earth, namely some very potent homemade alien alcohol. They were basically bootleggers, and while their booze hadn’t killed anyone outright, the hangover from drinking it was so brutal that more than forty people had been left wishing it had.
Tracking the bootleggers and their contraband to their hideout in the nearby copse, the team had spread out around it to make sure none of the aliens managed to give them the slip, with Ianto making his way around to this side where, much to his disgust, not to mention embarrassment, they’d someone succeeded in getting the drop on him. He still wasn’t sure exactly how they’d managed it, his memory of subsequent events seemed to be oddly fuzzy, but he’d been captured, tied up, and then just left. Perhaps he should have been expecting something like this to happen; dignity in Torchwood, especially where he was concerned, was notoriously difficult to maintain. ‘Just one of the many and varied delights of the job,’ he thought huffily. Still, at least they’d been nice enough to leave him in the shade of the trees so he wouldn’t get sunburn. He supposed he should be grateful for that small mercy.
Because of the way he’d been tied, he couldn’t see his wristwatch, so he had no idea how long he’d been lying there and he started to wonder about the rest of the team. Were they alright or had they perhaps been captured and tied up too? On the one hand, if they had then he’d feel a bit better about being captured himself. On the other hand, if they were all tied up too, who was going to rescue him? It was a bit of a dilemma. He didn’t have any choice but to wait though, so he decided he’d just listen to the birds and try to enjoy his unscheduled break. Surely someone was bound to come along and untie him eventually; he just needed to be patient.
On the other side of the copse, the aliens had been rounded up and sent on their way in their small spaceship, without their contraband, which the team had confiscated, or their ill-gotten gains, which had been taken as compensation for the harm they’d caused. They wouldn’t be back; Jack had told them in no uncertain terms what would happen to them if they ever set foot on earth again, and because they were of a species known for being devious rather than brave, they’d unanimously decided to look for a less hazardous place to ply their illegal trade.
All in all, it had been a surprisingly successful mission and Jack was well satisfied with the result. Everything had gone smoothly, except for one thing; Ianto seemed to be missing. He’d been sent around to the other side of the copse to prevent the aliens from slipping out that way and escaping, but there hadn’t been a peep from him since he’d contacted Jack to say he was in position, and there was no reply when Jack tried to contact him over his Bluetooth earpiece. That was worrying, so leaving the rest of the team at the SUV loading the contraband, Jack set off in search of his missing Welshman.
Twenty minutes later, he rounded a hedge and there was Ianto, stretched out on his back in the shade of the trees, his eyes closed, and looking quite peaceful, all things considered. Jack was greatly relieved to see he was breathing and didn’t appear to be injured in any way.
“Ianto? Are you okay?”
At the sound of Jack’s voice, Ianto’s eyes snapped open and he turned his head, smiling with relief. “Jack! Finally! I was starting to think something must have happened to you and the rest of the team. What kept you? Do you have any idea how long I’ve been lying here?”
“Not really.” Jack walked over to his lover, confused by the younger man’s odd behaviour. “What exactly are you doing? We could’ve used your help carting the bootleg booze back to the SUV. It took us four trips, and that was only because we made the aliens carry most of it for us.”
“What am I doing?” Ianto stared up at Jack incredulously. What kind of dumb question was that? It should be patently obvious! “What does it look like I’m doing? The aliens tied me up!”
Jack frowned; that was unexpected. Then his expression cleared as understanding slowly dawned and he almost laughed. “Ah, I see. Ianto, I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but no, actually they didn’t.”
“What are you talking about? Of course they…” Ianto trailed off as he realised something. “Oh. That’s weird.” He raised one arm, looking at it in puzzlement. “How did that happen? I was tied up a minute ago.”
“Um, no, you weren’t; you only thought you were. Interesting.” Jack sat down on the grass beside him as Ianto sat up.
“Why is it interesting?”
“Well, funny thing about those particular aliens; they have some rudimentary telepathic powers. Not much, just enough to project a pretty convincing illusion when several of them work together.”
“Oh. So you’re saying they projected an illusion that convinced me I’d been tied up and couldn’t move?”
“Exactly. It’s a clever trick, but the most interesting thing about it is that it only works if the target has psychic abilities.” Jack grinned. “I can see I’m going to have to start teaching you to block telepathic projections.”
That was a bit much for Ianto to take in. “Hold on, back up a bit! Are you telling me I’m telepathic or something?”
Jack nodded excitedly. “Oh yes! Without a doubt!”
“What about the rest of the team?”
“Oh, don’t worry about them, they won’t need training.” Jack waved one hand dismissively. “Not a trace of psychic ability in any of them. I didn’t think you had either, although now I think about it, I should’ve probably suspected it long ago, the way you always seem to know what the rest of us need and supply it before we can ask.” Jack beamed at Ianto proudly. “You never cease to surprise me, Mr Jones!”
“Erm, thank you. I think.”
Jack patted Ianto on the knee. “Don’t look so worried! Nothing about you has changed, you’ve just discovered something you didn’t know about yourself, that’s all.”
“That’s all? That’s easy for you to say.”
“Come on, we’d better get back to the SUV. The others will be coming to look for both of us if we’re not careful, and then where will we be? We could keep missing each other and spend all night going around in circles.” Jack stood up and offered Ianto his hand, pulling him to his feet.
Ianto snorted. “Somehow I doubt that.” With his usual fastidiousness, he dusted bits of grass off his trousers and jacket.
“I left Owen in charge.”
“Ah, well, I stand corrected.” Owen and the countryside really didn’t mix. “Then again, he’s as likely to just head back to Cardiff and leave us behind as he is to come looking for us. We’ll get back to the SUV a lot faster if we go straight through the copse rather than around it.”
“My thoughts exactly,” Jack agreed. “You must have read my mind.”
“Oh, haha, very funny.”
“I thought so.”
“You would. Lead on, MacDuff.”
“Aye aye, Sir!” Jack saluted, spun on his heel, and marched off across the grass, towards the trees. Ianto followed, head down, hands in his trouser pockets, deep in thought. He had a lot to think about; discovering he had telepathic powers wasn’t an everyday occurrence.
They picked their way through the undergrowth until they found a footpath, after which the going got a lot easier. As they reached the far side of the copse and the trees started to thin out, Ianto moved up beside Jack and grabbed his arm, halting him. “Jack? Please don’t tell the others what happened.” He was mortified about having been tricked by the aliens, even if it had only been by a telepathically generated illusion. Or possibly because of that fact, he wasn’t quite sure which. “I’ll never hear the end of it from Owen.”
Jack turned to face Ianto, placing his hands on his lover’s shoulders. “Are you sure? I mean, think about it; would you rather have them believe you got careless, were jumped by the aliens and physically tied up, or that you were temporarily incapacitated by a psychic projection because you’re the only member of the team, aside from me, with telepathic abilities?”
Ianto weighed his options. “Well, when you put it like that, I suppose the latter does sound marginally less humiliating.”
“And don’t forget, it also happens to be the truth.”
“There’s that.” Ianto sighed heavily. “Oh well, no use just standing here; I suppose I’d better go and face the music.” He set off along the path again, this time taking the lead. “I’m sure they’ll all think it’s hilarious,” he added gloomily.
Catching up, Jack fell into step beside him, draping one arm comfortingly around Ianto’s shoulders. “If they do, I have no doubt you’ll come up with a suitable punishment for them. You always do.”
“Is that supposed to make me feel better?”
“Is it working?”
Ianto half smiled. “Maybe. Just a bit.”
Arriving back at the SUV, they found the rest of the team waiting for them, which was a relief since it meant they wouldn’t have to go in search of the search party.
“Found the Teaboy, I see,” Owen smirked, lounging against the rear of Torchwood’s official vehicle. “What happened to you then, lose your comms?”
“Nothing like that,” Ianto replied tartly. “I don’t lose equipment, unlike some people I could name.”
“Now now, children, play nice,” Jack chastised them both, an amused grin on his face. “For your information, Owen, our alien visitors used a very clever bit of psychic trickery on Ianto that took him out of the game.”
“If they can do that, then why didn’t they use it on the rest of us?” Tosh asked, puzzled.
“Because my shields were far too strong for their limited telepathic abilities to penetrate, and the rest of you don’t have any psychic abilities and were therefore immune,” Jack explained, waiting for the meaning of his words to sink in.
Tosh was first to catch on, her eyes going wide. She smiled at Ianto, impressed. “I always knew you had hidden talents!”
“Wait a minute…” A look of dawning comprehension crossed Owen’s face, quickly replaced by an almost horrified expression. “Fuck! You mean Teaboy’s psychic?”
Jack’s grin widened. “Got it in one, Owen! Isn’t he just full of surprises?”
“Even managed to surprise myself this time,” Ianto admitted ruefully.
“You didn’t know?” asked Tosh.
“Not a clue. Everyone joining Torchwood One was supposed to be tested as part of their orientation, but the day I started work, the person who did the testing had to go home with a migraine and for some unknown reason, my test never got rescheduled.”
Everyone immediately started firing questions at Ianto, none of which he had answers to, but Jack hushed them. “Enough! This is neither the time nor the place for twenty questions. I suggest we head back to the Hub; don’t forget we still have all the alien moonshine in the back to dispose of.”
“Don’t remind me,” Owen grumbled, climbing into the back of the car with the two girls. “Stuff weighs a ton.”
Ianto slid into the front passenger seat as Jack got behind the wheel. “Buckle up, kids, time to go home.”
“Try to keep within the speed limit? Crashing while loaded down with highly flammable liquid wouldn’t be the best idea,” Ianto said, fastening his seatbelt.
“I do know how to drive,” Jack huffed.
“So you say, but I’m still waiting for you to prove it.”
“If that’s the thanks I get for rescuing you from not being tied up, maybe I should’ve just let you stay like that all night.” Jack started the engine and eased the SUV out onto the road.
“Would I have? I mean, if you hadn’t come along.”
“No, it would’ve worn off before much longer. Without the aliens around to maintain the illusion, it would begin to degrade pretty quickly. Your mind was probably already starting to break free of it when I found you, otherwise it would’ve taken a lot more than just telling you that you weren’t tied up for you to shake it off.”
“That’s good to know. For future reference.”
“Oh, don’t worry, I doubt you’d fall for a trick like that again; forewarned is forearmed. Besides, I’ve already said I’ll teach you how to shield yourself.”
“The sooner the better. I don’t much like the thought of being vulnerable to suggestion like that. Next time it might not be something as benign as making me believe I’m tied up.”
“We’ll begin first thing tomorrow, I promise,” Jack assured him.
Little was said on the drive back, everyone digesting what they’d discovered. The SUV was pulling into Torchwood’s underground garage before Owen finally spoke up from the back seat. “Let me get something straight; if Teaboy is psychic, does that mean he can do to us what the aliens did to him? Can he get inside our heads and make us do stuff without us even knowing?” There was a note of genuine worry in his voice.
Ianto twisted around in his seat and gave Owen a positively evil grin. “Apparently so. Looks like you’d better be careful what names you call me in future; I’ve no idea yet exactly what I can do with my mind if I try, but I could probably use someone to practice on while I’m learning. Maybe I’ll make you believe you’re a chicken, have you go around all day clucking and scratching at the ground.”
“Um, you know I don’t mean anything when I call you Teaboy, right? It’s just friendly teasing.” Owen had gone a bit pale.
Ianto decided to let him sweat a bit. “If you say so, Owen. Well, now that’s sorted, I think it’s about time we got the alien moonshine unloaded, don’t you?”
“Yeah, good idea.” Owen opened the rear door. “I’ll just go get the anti-grav trolley, shall I?” Without waiting for a reply, he darted out of the backseat and disappeared through the door into the main Hub.
“You couldn’t really make him think he’s a chicken, could you?” Tosh asked as soon as Owen was out of sight.
“I’m not sure. Probably not, but he doesn’t need to know that, or at least not right away,” Ianto replied with a wink.
“You are a devious man, Ianto Jones,” Jack chuckled.
“You’re the one who said I always come up with suitable punishments for any infractions, and Owen commits more than enough infractions on a daily basis to have earned a little retroactive punishment. I’m sure there are several recent pranks I haven’t paid him back for yet.”
“More than likely, and I didn’t say I disapproved, just try not to do any permanent damage to him; he’s the only medic we’ve got, and we might need him.”
“I’ll bear that in mind.” Ianto followed Jack around to the back of the SUV as Jack swung the rear hatch up and pulled the tailgate down. He frowned at the stacked crates of bottles. “What are we going to do with all this? Just store it in the archives?”
“Probably. I’ll have Owen analyse a bottle though, just in case it has any possible alternate uses.”
“Spaceship fuel? Paint stripper? Miracle rust remover?” Ianto joked.
“You never know your luck.”
“Yeah, and it wouldn’t be the strangest thing that’s happened today.”
Jack slipped his arms around Ianto’s waist, pulling him close and whispering in his ear, “Just wait until you get some control over your abilities. I guarantee there are some things I can teach you that you’re gonna love.”
Ianto laughed. “I’m sure you’re right.” However strange his day had been, he was fairly certain whatever lay ahead of him was going to be stranger still. He couldn’t wait to find out.