The team stared at each other, speechless. It was some sort of joke, right? Other talents aside, the boss couldn’t disappear into thin air. Tosh bit her lip and thought of Bilis. Could he have just… gone? She looked around the Hub, half expecting Jack to pop up from some hiding place with a shout of surprise! But he didn’t.
Jack’s absence was strangely palpable, ironically enough.
Owen surveyed the scene with raised eyebrows, went to his desk and pulled a half-full bottle of whiskey from the back of a file drawer. “Well, that was too messianic for words.” He declared, unscrewing the cap and drinking deep. “Ianto? You going to start book on when he returns to us mere mortals?” Owen seemed determined to ignore the devastated expressions around the office..
“Bloody hell!” Suprisingly, this came from Tosh. “How can you-“ she threw up her arms in frustration. Instead of articulating what was on her mind, she stomped over to the bank of computers on her desk and jabbed at the keyboard.
“It wasn’t the rift…” she muttered, eyes flicking from screen to screen, “Although… Whoa!" She stared at a multicolored display. "The more accurate thing to say is that it wasn't that rift” She looked over her shoulder at the rift manipulator, and then back at her computer.
"What do you mean? Did the manipulator... cause something, maybe?” Gwen asked. The manipulator scared her even before it had been turned on. Why on earth did Jack feel the need to build it, anyway?
Tosh shook her head. “No. Sort of.” Tosh frowned. “It looks like a small, but very intense space/time rift was opened over there, just now.” she pointed towards Jack’s desk, through which Ianto was rummaging. He looked up, alarmed.
“What happened to it, then?” Ianto asked, nudging a drawer shut with his knee.
“Closed, almost as soon as it opened. No trace of long-term damage, either.” Tosh whistled, impressed despite herself. “Nicely done. Whatever it was.”
“And it took Jack,” Gwen didn’t want Tosh to get distracted.
“Seems so,” Tosh grumbled. She didn't like being mystified, especially by the rift - or anything like it.
Ianto looked at a nearby table of odds and ends and frowned. Something’s missing... “Where’s the hand? In the jar?”
Owen rolled his eyes. “For fuck’s sake, who cares about the hand? Where’s our boss? More to the point, who’s going to sign our paychecks?”
“Ever the pragmatist, Owen.” Gwen muttered from her perch on the rails by the morgue.
“Someone’s got to be,” he shrugged. “I’ve got bills.” And I’m not glooming over Jack running off. Was I the only one not sweet on the boss?
“Don’t worry about it.” Ianto said as he turned his attention back to Jack’s desk, pulling open the lower drawers.
Ianto’s voice emerged from behind the furniture. “It’s covered. I’ve been signing Jack’s name on the paperwork for months. Any PINs I don’t have, I’m sure Tosh can figure out. The end-of-year stuff is already taken care of, so our budget’s fine. The PM doesn’t give a shit who gives her the weekly brief, as long as someone does. And I’ve got a full set of keys. For everywhere.” Ianto appeared above the desk for a moment. “We’ll be fine.”
“Not bad.” Owen conceded with grudging admiration.
Ianto shrugged and didn’t bother replying before returning to his rummaging.
“But… what’ll we do?” Tosh asked plaintively.
“What we’ve been doing, I guess.” Gwen suggested, apparently unworried. She wasn't worried, in fact, as she was still floating on the boyfriend-and-boss-back-from-the-dead high, and had faith that if Jack had wandered off – or been taken away – it would just be a matter of time before he returned. After surviving – and beating – Abbedon, a simple disappearance into a space/time rift seemed like small potatoes.
“Ah, here it is.” Ianto announced, pulling an envelope from deep inside the desk. “I thought I saw it the other day. He could have left it somewhere a bit more obvious, though…”
“What? You go through Jack’s desk on a regular basis, then?” Owen asked.
Ianto grinned unexpectedly. “What do you think?”
“I think I’m going to lock my desk from now on, that’s what I think,” Owen replied, worried about the sanctity of his porn stash and that gleam in Ianto's eye.
“No point,” Ianto jangled a bunch of keys. “Everywhere.” He insisted, and watched Owen's face fall. “Just a tea boy, hm?” Ianto looked smug. Owen, meanwhile, rapidly re-evaluated everything Ianto had done since... ever.
Gwen tried to drag attention back to the matter at hand. “What’s that, then?” she asked Ianto, nodding towards the envelope Ianto had unearthed.
“Here,” Ianto passed it to her. Dusty and slightly yellowed with age, Jack’s handwriting was clear upon the front. To be opened in the event of my disappearance – JH.
“Oh.” Gwen frowned. “Am I the only person in the office without an in case of sudden death plan?”
Three voices chorused back: “Yes.”
“Hmm. I suppose I’d better fix that.” She tore the envelope open with her thumb and pulled out a single, handwritten sheet.
“Dated… today?” Gwen exclaimed. “But the envelope…?” She shook her head, letting it go.
“Everyone,” Gwen read aloud. “Sorry if I scared you but something came up. I’ll be back soon. A year the most. You can manage by yourselves, I’m sure. Love and kisses, Jack.”
Gwen looked around the office. Ianto’s face had become the expressionless expanse that she was starting to recognize as a mask for stronger feelings. Owen, meanwhile, stared thoughtfully at Ianto. Tosh looked shocked and, a moment later, reached for the bottle in Owen’s hand. “Ew. How do you drink this stuff?” she gasped after taking a swig.
“Swallow it quick, it won’t taste as bad,” Owen said automatically.
“Story of my life.” Tosh deadpanned, and then grinned at Owen’s open-mouthed surprise. “Oh, please. I’m not a priss all the time.”
Gwen moved to cut off the inevitable leering reply from Owen. “This is-“ she began.
“Ridiculous? Yeah, it is.” Owen nodded. “But you got the right idea, just now. Unless we all fancy going out and getting, you know, real jobs, we might as well try to keep this place going without Jack. We’ve just got to figure out where to start, yeah? What's outstanding?”
Gwen giggled. “That explains the PS,” she brandished the letter. “Don’t let Owen boss you around.”
Owen puffed up in a moment of righteous outrage. “What? He just assumed I’d…? And he..? Bloody hell." Owen sulked. "Not with the Tea Boy from Mossad, over there, I won’t.” he grumped. Ianto looked irritated, but quickly covered it up.
Tosh caught her breath. “Well, I don’t know about you, but I want to look into that… whatever it was. The localized rift.”
“That’s as good a place to start as any,” Ianto agreed, picking up an old coffee mug and frowning at the state of the contents. “Jack was putting a report together for UNIT. I’ll see if I can’t finish that, I suppose.”
Gwen approached her desk, “There’s cover-up still to do from Mark Lynch’s nasty little club. We should clear a nice profit from those properties we seized, though.”
“I thought we were going to keep them for… other projects?” Ianto asked.
“Not all of them.”
“Oh, alright. I'll want to talk to you about that, later.” He had some ideas, already, and didn’t want them uprooted.
“I’m pissing off home to get shamelessly drunk and eat pizza.” Owen volunteered.
“That's nice.” Gwen said, her attention on her computer.
“Have fun.” Tosh had half-crawled inside the rift manipulator with a torch and an LED-strewn meter in hand.
Ianto collected mugs.
Owen gaped at the scene. “How on earth can you... return to normal like this?” He asked - somewhat rhetorically.
“Drugs in the water.” Ianto muttered as he sidled by.
Owen whipped around after the besuited office assistant. “What?”
“Nothing.” Ianto replied without turning, voice neutral and heading for the stairs.
Owen looked around the Hub, and thought about the half a pizza he had in the fridge at home. Half a pizza and not much else. If he got some takeout sent over, he could expense it... and have some company while he ate. And there still the matter of the Weevil in the cells - and no Jack looking over his shoulder... “Fuck it. Fine. I’ll stay. If you insist.” He grumbled, slinging himself down into his chair.
The only response came from Tosh, “Does that mean you’ll order some pizza...?”