It was just going on early afternoon according to Ianto’s watch. He followed the movement of the second hand as it ticked its way across the face for a minute or two before tugging his sleeve back down into place and reaching over to adjust the temperature of the steam for the coffee machine. The door to the Boardroom was ajar and Ianto could hear the voices of Owen and Gwen as they delivered their findings on the murdered family Jack had sent them to investigate.
He was only half listening to the conversations as he prepared a fresh brew of coffee for the team. He’d convinced himself that the first batch had been spoiled and that he hadn’t added nearly enough coffee beans to the second, now on his third attempt Ianto still found himself reluctant to finish up; the very notion of entering the Boardroom to provide everyone with their drinks twisting at his stomach.
It wasn’t so much the thought that everyone knew that bothered him (though of course it played its part); it was more the knowledge that he’d handled the whole situation so disastrously. He should have more in control of himself, he knew, but being confronted by the video footage itself had sent a jolt of shock through him, weakening his mental defences and opening him to every wayward emotion that passed his way.
If the surprise of the CCTV footage hadn’t been enough, next had come the slam of shock and grief from Toshiko and Jack combined- the effect numbing him till his body was able to react. And react it did. He’d felt everything bubbling up to the surface, his masks crumbling to nothing as his own turbulent emotions had mixed with theirs to spill forth.
He’d tried fleeing, of course; the idea of self-preservation setting him to flight even if the attempt had proven futile in the end. Fear and worry and anger and betrayal and sadness and pity and- just everything!- it had all washed over him, so fast, so many, he’d been unable to sift through them, to close his mind to their power until Jack pulled him into his arms and he’d broken down. He’d just let everything go. And he was mortified at the knowledge.
Ianto reached up to check the knot of his tie before smoothing his hands over the front of his jacket. He was once again dressed as impeccably as always in a fresh suit, his face washed clear of his earlier distress and if it weren’t for the fact that Ianto knew everyone currently sat through in the Boardroom knew of his attempted suicide and subsequent breakdown, you wouldn’t have been able to tell that anything at all was untoward where he was concerned.
The coffee machine finished filling the jug with a gurgle and a soft beep. Ianto sighed, lifting the jug and staring almost gloomily into the dark liquid it contained; the strong scent of caffeine filling his nostrils and stubbornly proclaiming that there was naught wrong with this pot of coffee.
Ianto sighed again. There was nothing else for it then. He began pouring out the drinks.
- - -
“I just don’t see how this concerns us.” Jack said flicking through one of the reports Gwen had passed across the table. As far as he could tell, these murders weren’t the doing of anything more sinister than a human. He’d convinced Owen and Toshiko already, but Gwen was indignant that this was something they should be looking into.
“We have a duty to investigate these killings,” Gwen pressed on, determined. “There are too many things that don’t add up about this case. I don’t think any human would be capable of this.”
Owen muttered something about the Brecon Beacons under his breath and Gwen scowled at him, shifting uncomfortably at the mention of their past brush with the cannibals.
“I meant in terms of actual ability,” She clarified before launching into a reiteration of the evidence they already had. There had been no DNA lifted from the scene for the killer. The bodies, though they had clearly been lifted and gruesomely stuck to the walls, appeared all but untouched. There were no signs of a struggle- at least where Mom and Dad were concerned. The boy had been found with a watch clutched tightly in his hand but that- eerily- contained nothing with which to trace the killer either.
Each victim also had had the tops of their head removed--
“With surgical precision,” Owen had said, somewhat gleefully. “Ever seen Hannibal? Where he kidnaps that Krendler guy, drugs him up and then performs a craniotomy on him? Same kind of thing here; the victims were still alive whist there brains were being removed.”
-- their deaths caused by the removal of the brain more than the wounds they’d had inflicted upon them. And yet, Jack couldn’t think of any kind of alien species that would go to so much trouble just to collect human brains. It was entirely plausible, he felt, that these killings were the result of an extremely skilled human being and as such not their problem.
A tensed silence fell over the room, the tension evident as Jack and Gwen stared each other out. Toshiko kept her head down, her laptop humming gently beside her whilst Owen chewed contently upon the end of his pen, looking bored by the whole debate.
Ianto chose that moment to step into the room, a tray laden with cups of steaming coffee weighing his arms down.
“Coffee?” The Welshman asked, looking politely about the room. He appeared as calm and unruffled as he usually was despite what they’d discovered about him earlier that morning.
“Ah, Ianto, you’re a lifesaver!” Jack smiled widely at him as he stood to scoop his mug from the tray. He held Ianto’s gaze for a moment before discreetly nodding his head and dropping back down to his seat.
Ianto finished handing out mugs to the rest of the team; his skin prickling at the curious, dissecting looks he was given by each of them in turn. Toshiko was the only one who couldn’t meet his eyes and he felt a pang of sympathy towards her. He knew she felt guilty, blaming herself for everyone else having had found out about his brush with death. A part of him blamed her too, if only for the fact that she had not been quicker at hitting the escape button on her laptop.
“Will there be anything else, sir?” Ianto asked, turning his gaze back to the Captain.
“Not unless you happen to know of any aliens that wear watches?” The quip was directed towards Gwen more than anyone else, as Jack threw down another of the glossy photographs they’d taken of the crime scene.
“I’m afraid not, sir.” Ianto answered, glancing at the photograph. It showed a wrist watch, the glass face of which was cracked. The design was intricate. It was no doubt a pricy timepiece. Beneath the image, in big bold marker, the caption read ‘Brand of Watch: Sylar’.
Ianto felt his blood freeze. He knew that name. He’d heard it whispered through his mind- words and images and impressions of emotion- when he’d shared his last kiss with Peter.
“Perhaps not an alien, sir,” Ianto began, lifting the picture from the table and unintentionally drawing everyone’s attention back towards him. He cleared his throat, looking up to find all eyes on him.
“Ianto?” He turned to look at Jack. The Captain was sitting a bit straighter, obviously waiting for him to elaborate.
“I can’t explain it, but I’m beginning to recognise these killings. They’re not the work of another species.” Ianto put the picture back down. “You should speak with the Petrelli’s, sir.”
Jack’s gaze turned suddenly sharp. “What do they have to do with this?”
“They know more about Sylar than we do. He’s… been tracking Peter.” Ianto was frowning as he replied, as if only just hearing the words as he spoke them.
Jack gave him a long, hard look; searching him for any hesitation or deceit. Ianto’s face was perfectly masked under the scrutiny, his walls rebuilt to an almost unnatural composure.
“Toshiko,” Jack turned away after a few minutes, refocusing his attentions on the rest of the team. “Get in touch with the airport. The Petrelli brother’s are not to get on their flight under any circumstances.”
Toshiko nodded, her fingers already speeding across the keyboard of her laptop.
“Gwen,” Jack turned to the ex-copper, “I want you to see if you can find anything on this ‘Sylar’ character. Try the American databases if you turn up nothing this side of the Atlantic. And Owen, I want your own autopsy reports on my desk before our guests arrive. If anyone can find trace DNA on the bodies, it’ll be you.
‘Ianto, you’re with me. We’re going to the airport.”
Jack pushed up from his seat and stepped towards the door, snagging his grey coat on the way. With the meeting clearly dismissed everyone began gathering the various bits of papers and photographs they’d need for their respective assignments.
Ianto slipped unnoticed from the boardroom, following Jack down the stairs and towards the garage. He wasn’t entirely sure how he should be feeling right now. Excitement seemed to war with a strange sense of foreboding as Jack unlocked the SUV and climbed in. Ianto took the passenger side.
“I owe Peter a thank you anyway,” Jack said as if in passing as he started the engine. Ianto jolted.
“I’d rather you didn’t.” Ianto said, staring resolutely ahead. Jack turned to look at him and Ianto fought back the flush of colour trying to stain his cheeks.
“I don’t want it brought up again.” Ianto continued when Jack made no move to leave the subject, “Ever.” He added, as an afterthought.
“Ianto-,” Jack twisted slightly to better face him. “Have you tried talking to somebody? Would you, if you haven’t?”
Ianto shook his head. “No. To both questions.” He fiddled with the cuffs of his shirt. “We should get going.” He said after another few minutes passed. He heard Jack sigh beside him before the Captain looked away and turned his attention to driving.
- - -