Characters: Jack, Ianto, Tosh, Gwen, Owen.
Summary: Jack returns to the Hub to find Ianto behaving a bit strangely.
Word Count: 1105
Written For: Prompt 017 – Altered State at fandomweekly.
Disclaimer: I don’t own Torchwood, or the characters. They belong to the BBC.
Everything had been fine when Jack left the Hub an hour or so earlier to check in with one of Cardiff’s alien residents, but when he got back, something was definitely a little… off. Ianto was in the tourist office, but he failed to look up when Jack entered, instead focusing intently on the counter top.
“Ianto? What’re you doing?”
“Playing patience,” Ianto replied.
Jack approached cautiously. “Uh, doesn’t that work better with a deck of cards?”
“Mm,” Ianto agreed vaguely, continuing to stare at the bare expanse of wood before finally reaching out to move a non-existent card.
“Ianto, you don’t have any cards.”
“S’okay, they’re in here.” Ianto tapped his head briefly then continued his game. He hadn’t so much as glanced Jack’s way during the entire exchange.
Going back to the tourist office door, Jack locked it and put up the closed sign. Whatever was affecting Ianto, he was obviously in no condition right now to deal with lost tourists.
Drawing his gun, he pressed the button that opened the secret passage and made his way along the corridor, but took the stairs down rather than the lift, preferring not to announce himself with blaring sirens when he didn’t know what he might be walking into.
In the main Hub, everything seemed to be perfectly normal. Jack could hear Owen’s tuneless singing coming from the autopsy bay, where he was examining his latest subject. Gwen was on her phone, talking to Rhys, and Tosh was busy at her computers. The tech genius glanced up with a smile when Jack approached her workstation.
“Everything alright with Max?” she asked.
“Max is fine, obeying the rules and settling in well. I’m more concerned about what’s been going on here while I was out.”
“What do you mean? Everything’s been quiet. Gwen and Ianto went on a retrieval; they found that.” Tosh pointed to a small box on the end of her desk. “I haven’t had time to look at it yet though, I want to finish these security upgrades first. Owen’s examining the thing from yesterday, and that’s about it.”
“Then why is Ianto up in the tourist office playing cards when he doesn’t have any cards to play with?” Jack asked.
“What?” Tosh brought up the CCTV of the tourist office on one of her screens. There was Ianto, sitting at the desk. It looked like he was talking on his phone. He swivelled back and forth in his seat, absently tapping the fingers of his free hand on the countertop.
Out of the corner of his eye, Jack could see Gwen, swivelling in her seat and tapping her fingers on her desk.
Jack swore softly. “Gwen, hang up. Now!”
“But I’m talking to Rhys!”
“Rhys can wait. Hang up.”
Reluctantly, Gwen did so. On Tosh’s screen, Ianto hung up too, only he wasn’t holding his phone; his hand was empty.
Gwen glared at Jack while Ianto glared at nobody.
“What happened when you and Ianto found this?” Jack pointed at the object on Tosh’s desk.
“Nothing. It was an ordinary, everyday retrieval; we went out, found the thing, and brought it back here.”
“Fine. We followed Tosh’s directions, located the object… Oh, we both went to pick it up at the same time and bumped heads, that was funny, then I picked it up and we came back here. That’s it. Why?”
“Because from what I’ve seen, it looks like Ianto’s mind has somehow been slaved to yours. Were you playing patience earlier?”
“Well yes, but I’d already written my report, it didn’t take long, and I didn’t have anything else to do. I was playing when Rhys called.”
“When I got back, Ianto claimed he was playing patience and the cards were in his head. You play cards, he plays cards, you talk on the phone, so does Ianto, only without a phone. Whatever’s going on, it only seems to be going one way.”
“It must have started when they bumped heads,” said Tosh.
“How was Ianto acting on your way back to the Hub?” Jack wanted to know.
Gwen shrugged. “Fine. We just walked back, I left him up in the tourist office and came down here, then I wrote my report and got my cards out.”
Jack sighed. “Tosh, I know you want to finish your upgrades, but I think this thing needs to take priority.” He indicated the box. “Can’t have Ianto only doing what Gwen does, with no free will of his own. Could get awkward. Gwen, just… talk to Rhys, or play cards, that should be harmless enough. I’ll see if I can bring Ianto down here where I can keep an eye on him.” Jack strode off towards the lift to fetch his lover.
The next few hours were spent with Gwen and Ianto playing cards, one with cards, the other without. It didn’t seem to bother Ianto that he was moving and shuffling cards that weren’t actually there. From what he said in answer to Jack’s questions, he could see the cards perfectly clearly in his head. At least he seemed happy enough, even if he wasn’t very communicative.
Both Gwen and Ianto were getting bored with playing patience by the time Tosh managed to disconnect the link that had formed between their brains. Ianto was moodily moving his invisible cards and sighing a lot, while Gwen did the same with her deck at her workstation. Jack was watching his lover when all of a sudden he sat up straight.
“Oh, thank God!”
“Are you alright?” Jack looked into his lover’s eyes, concerned.
“I am now! Felt like I was a passenger in my own body!” Ianto pulled a face and shuddered. “And I know a whole lot more about Gwen and Rhys than I ever wanted to.”
Jack smiled sympathetically. “Looks like I might need to give you some special training. Tosh thinks the reason that device worked on you is because you have some latent telepathic ability, allowing a link to form between Gwen’s brain and yours.”
Ianto looked horrified. “You mean something like that could happen again?”
“Not without outside help,” Jack reassured him. “Don’t worry; I’ll teach you to block.”
Ianto nodded, relieved. “Okay, good, thanks.” He stood up and straightened his tie, the way he always did when he was feeling a bit agitated. “I need coffee. And possibly Retcon.”
Jack laughed. “Let’s hold off on the Retcon for now. Welcome back.”
“I’m just happy to be alone in my head again, thinking my own thoughts, although…”
“If I ever need to blackmail Gwen, I’m set.”