Summary: There was absolutely never a good time to run out of tea. But now was an especially bad time.
Notes: Written for day 20 of my 23 Ficlets project to celebrate my 23rd anniversary in the community
There was absolutely never a good time to run out of tea. As far as Ianto was concerned, there should always be a minimum level of tea kept in the cupboard. And there would have been if he’d done the supply ordering properly this month… and if he hadn’t caught Gwen’s cold.
After brewing tea for her all last week to help her conquer her sore throat, he thought he’d had just enough left until he could resupply. But when he’d unpacked the shipment early this morning, he realized he had left tea off the order entirely. Sure, the most important things had been properly accounted for. The weevils would get their meat, Myfanwy would get her fish, and Jack would get his coffee. But there was absolutely no tea left.
So it was no wonder that Ianto was in a miserable mood as he started the coffee brewing that morning. There was no such thing as a typical morning at Torchwood—at any of the hubs, but the rift made this one especially unpredictable. It could be a boring day of manning the tourism office, directing confused tourists to the right bus line to get to Cardiff Castle. Or it could be a day of trying to track down and then stuff aliens back into the time and space where they’d come from, or as close to it as they could get. Or both. One thing was for certain, however: Ianto Jones did not feel up for any of the above without a cup of tea.
He coughed into his shoulder as he did the dishes in the kitchen, his throat raw and his voice nearly gone from so much congestion, coughing, and attempts to clear it. He heard someone behind him—Gwen, from the sound of her footsteps and the tink of spoon against cup as she added sugar to her coffee. He supposed the coffee must be ready, then, though he couldn’t smell it with his stuffed-up nose.
“You don’t sound so good today, Ianto.”
He placed the last dish in the drainer, turned off the water and turned.
She frowned at him. “You don’t look so good, either.”
It would be entirely unfair of him to blame her for the way he felt… and yet… “G’bordig, Gwed,” he whispered, which was really all his voice could manage at the moment. But just saying the words hurt his throat and made his nose buzz and itch. With wet hands from the dishes still, he pulled his handkerchief out of his pocket just in time. “IhChiffffff! Hshhhfffff!”
“Goodness, bless!” She did look a little guilty, even without his having to say something. That only made him feel worse, however. “I’m sorry.”
“Dot sniff your sniff fault.” He made a whole business out of wiping his nose, which really needed blowing, if he was honest, but he refused to do that in front of anybody.
“You know…” She leaned back against a counter as she casually sipped her hot coffee. “I was thinking I might take a turn up in the office today. I know we had to close it all last week because I was ill and we were… shorthanded.” Things definitely had run more smoothly with Tosh and Owen about, but even mentioning that loss was still painful for all of them. “How about you monitor things down here today and I take a shift or two with the tourists?”
Ianto wasn’t fooled; she was doing this out of guilt. But the truth was he could barely speak. His ability to provide excellent customer service was at an all-time low even before you added in the coughing and sneezing and general wretched state he was in. “If sniff you would’t sniff bide…”
“Not at all,” she said quickly to spare him having to say anything more. “That’s why I offered. I’m happy to do it. Except… if I run into a tough question, do you mind if I text it to you?”
He had to admit it would feel nice to be useful. “That would be fide.” Trying to talk on the phone was definitely a no-go as well. He thought about telling her about the mapping software on the computer and the desk full of preprinted travel itineraries, but ultimately he decided she was clever enough to figure both out for herself.
“Guess I’ll head up there now and get the lay of the land, shall I?” She raised her mug to him in a sort of thank you wave and headed to the stairs.
Ianto, on the other hand, took no mug of tea over to the bank of monitors and slumped down into the chair in an entirely ungraceful sort of way. Then, feeling uncomfortable about that presentation, he straightened himself up and fixed his tie. They’d rearranged the workstations a bit recently, and so there were far more monitors here to watch than there would have been when they were fully staffed. The alerts were working again, so he wasn’t too worried about missing something, because it was tiring looking at the data feed streaming past or at gloomy, overcast Roald Dahl Plass currently deluged by rain.
Just watching the gray day outside made him want to make a cup of tea and curl up in a flannel blanket. He shivered and hugged his arms to his chest, though he couldn’t do that for long either. Quickly he retrieved his handkerchief again. “ihhh-Shixxshhh!” And now his nose felt wet and runny again. His adjusted the handkerchief so that he could blow his nose.
“Bless you, Ianto!”
Ianto winced, settling on merely wiping his nose quickly, repeatedly, and hoping he looked presentable enough to Jack. “G’bordig, Sir.” The whisper wasn’t very loud, but it was just enough to be heard over the sound of Jack’s boots on the metal walkway.
Jack came over and circled around the workstations. He stood behind the monitors so he could be face to face with Ianto without actually getting too close. “Well, you aren’t your normal charming self today, are you?”
Ianto shook his head, sniffling. He wiped his nose again, just to be sure it wasn’t running. “Doe,” he whispered. He couldn’t stand looking at Jack’s gorgeous, smiling face and not be able to kiss it, because he didn’t want Jack catching this, too. So he forced his gaze down. He watched the rain patter on the invisible step. It was mesmerizing.
He kept his eyes fixed on the monitor. “Yes?” he whispered. “Do you deed by helb with subethidg?”
There was a pause, and he heard movement, but he didn’t dare look up. His nose was tickling again. Burying it in the handkerchief, he closed his eyes and wished very much Jack were back in his office, not watching this. “hhtttshxxxx! Hijjshhhh!” He wiped and rubbed and wished he were invisible.
“Ianto?” Jack’s voice was so soft, comforting, really.
Ianto risked looking up at him and saw he’d walked around and was standing next to the desk now, closer, holding a tall takeout cup with a top on it. “What I need is for you to drink this tea before it gets cold.” He set it down on the desk where Ianto eyed it suspiciously. “It’s from that little shop we went to last month. You said you liked their breakfast blend.”
Ianto reached for it, wincing with embarrassment this time as his hand trembled. He gave his nose one more wipe, sniffed, then brought the cup to his lips for a sip.
The tea was amazing. It was a full-bodied black tea with hints of orange and cinnamon and something else he couldn’t quite identify. He could barely smell anything, but apparently this was strong enough for him to be able to taste it. The warmth caressed not only his sore throat but his belly and spread through the rest of his body. He took another sip, savoring every drop.
“I’ll just leave you two alone then.”
Ianto smiled the first genuine smile of his day.
Jack headed back to his office, but not before adding, “Let me know if you need another cup of tea after you finish that. Or if you need anything else.” That suggestive tilt of his head and quirk of his eyebrow kept Ianto smiling long after Jack had left him to blow his nose in private.