Ianto Jones turned over in his bed and pulled a pillow over his head. It didn’t work. He could still hear the noise. He sat up in the bed and reached to close the window. But it was too stuffy with the window shut. He pushed it open again and looked out to see where the persistent noise was coming from.

“For fuck’s sake,” Alun complained. “We didn’t get to bed until after two. Jack expects us in the office first thing in the morning. What time is it and who the fuck is phoning?”

“It’s five o’clock,” Ianto replied. “And I don’t know who’s phoning. It’s the payphone on the corner of the street.”

“Rip the fucking thing out,” Alun said.

“I might just bloody well do that,” Ianto answered him. He clambered out of bed and put a dressing gown over his pyjamas before shoving his feet into his shoes and grabbing his keys from the bedside table. “You go back to sleep, cariad. I’ll be back as soon as I’ve stopped it ringing.”

Alun propped his pillows and half sat. The early morning breeze through the window was nice if it wasn’t for the noise from the street. He listened as Ianto slipped out through the front door of their apartment on the second floor of a four storey modern block. A few minutes later he emerged from the communal door and walked towards the offending public phone box. He expected him to take the phone off the hook and leave it like that. He’d be back in bed snuggling up to him in a matter of minutes.

Ianto fully intended to do that, after giving whoever was phoning a piece of his mind. He picked up the receiver and put it to his ear.

“Hello,” he said. “Who is this and do you know what time it is?”

“I’m Tabitha,” replied a soft, sweet voice, much to his surprise. He had expected an incoherent drunk trying to get through to a taxi or something stupid like that. “Who are you?”

“I’m Ianto,” he answered. “Ianto Jones. Where are you calling from, Tabitha? Do you know this is a public telephone? Who were you trying to reach?”

“I’m lonely,” she said. “It’s dark and I’m all on my own.”

It was a child’s voice. Not a baby, maybe ten or eleven, he guessed.

“Where are you?” Ianto said again. “Can you tell me? Are you scared?”

“I’m not scared,” she insisted. “I’m just lonely. I need somebody to talk to. Will you talk to me, Ianto Jones?”

“It’s very early, sweetheart,” Ianto said. “You ought to be asleep. So should I. I’ve got to go to work in a little while. Do... do you have a daddy? Does he go to work? What about your mummy?”

“They’re not here. I’m on my own,” Tabitha told him.

“You shouldn’t be on your own. Tell me where you are and I’ll get some help. Has somebody taken you away from your mummy and daddy? Is that what happened? Are you locked in somewhere?”

That was the only explanation that made sense. The child had been snatched and had somehow managed to get hold of a phone and dialled a random number.

But what could he do? There was no way to trace the call, at least not while he was in the middle of the call. He didn’t dare hang up to call the police. If he did, then his connection to her was gone.

“It’s dark, and I’m lonely,” she said again. “Please be my friend, Ianto Jones. I need somebody to talk to.”

“I’ll be your friend,” he assured her, though it felt a strange thing to say to a child he didn’t know. “I’ll talk to you. What do you want to talk about?”

Maybe there would be a clue if he kept her talking.

“How old are you, Tabitha? Where do you go to school?”

“I’m ten,” she answered. But she didn’t answer the question about school.

“Ten. I can hardly remember being ten. I think I used to like reading books. Do you like to read, Tabitha?”

“Will you read a book to me, Ianto Jones?”

“I can’t right now. It’s the middle of the night and I’m in the street, in my pyjamas. I can’t read a story. Sweetheart, if you’re frightened, if you need help, what you should do is put down the phone and then pick it up again and dial 999. Ask to talk to a policeman and tell him where you are. Can you do that, Tabitha?”

“I don’t want to talk to a policeman. I want to talk to you, Ianto Jones. I want you to read me a story.”

“But I can’t... I...”

The phone clicked and then there was static followed by the dialling tone. He had lost her.

“1471!” he said to himself and began pressing the buttons, hoping there would be a number he could call. He remembered he was in his pyjamas and he had no loose change or even a credit card to put in the slot to pay for the call. But it was no use anyway. He got the standard ‘Caller Withheld Their Number’ response.

He put the phone back on the cradle and waited. Maybe she would call back. He looked up at his bedroom. It was the only one in the block with a light on and the only one with an open window. The apartments came with double glazing and air conditioning. But he and Alun were both country boys. They preferred to open a window even in the city.

They were probably the only people in the block who heard the phone ring.

He stood there, leaning against the wall of the phone box for fifteen minutes. He was starting to sag from tiredness and drift into a standing doze before he decided there was nothing else for it but to go back to bed. He did so reluctantly. He was worried. There was a child in trouble, and he was the one person she had reached out to. He felt as if he was abandoning her as he walked away from the phone box and back into the apartment block.

Alun had fallen asleep propped up by the window. Ianto shook him gently awake and told him what had happened.

“It wasn’t a wind up? Some idiot playing you....”

“It was a child’s voice,” Ianto insisted. “She was lonely and I think she was scared, even though she said she wasn’t.”

“Poor kid.”

“I wish she’d phoned back,” Ianto continued. “I can’t help wondering... was she prevented from calling? I’m sure somebody is holding her against her will. Apart from anything else... she said it was dark where she was. But it’s not dark outside. It’s well past dawn, now.”

“Ianto... call Jack,” Alun decided.

“He won’t be happy. He hasn’t had much sleep tonight, either.”

“Call him.”

Ianto reached for his mobile phone and pressed the first preset key. It only rang three times before Jack answered. He didn’t sound remotely sleepy. Ianto explained what had happened.

“Don’t let anyone else use the phone until we get there,” he said. “We might be able to trace the call.”

Ianto got dressed quickly and brought a cup of coffee that Alun made back down to the phone box. Standing inside it was the only way he could think of to stop anyone else using it. He hoped nobody came along wanting to make an emergency call, or who just wanted to get stroppy with him.

Nobody did. As he drank his coffee a man with an Irish wolfhound walked past. The dog cocked its leg on the outside of the phone box. A jogger went by in the opposite direction. A milk float whirred quietly by. None of them noticed a man standing in the phone box watching the phone and hoping it might ring again.

Jack arrived with Garrett in the Torchwood SUV. Gwen parked her car behind them. A van with ‘British Telecom’ on the side turned up at the same time. Ianto recognised Agents Kendrick and Morgan from Garrett’s office as they surrounded the phone box with barriers and yellow lights and set up a striped tent around the nearby junction box.

“What those two don’t know about tracing telephone calls isn’t worth knowing about,” Garrett told him. “And meanwhile we’re re-routing any incoming calls to that box up to your lounge, so you can wait in comfort for her to call again.”

“If she calls again,” Ianto said. “I hope she does. But...”

“Come on.” Gwen put her hand in his. It felt soft and warm. Her smile was best described with the same two adjectives. She was PC Cooper in reassuring mode and he was getting the full force of it.

Alun was making coffee for the combined Torchwood/MI5 personnel who had made their home into a field office. Jack was already busy linking up three laptops he brought with him to Ianto and Alun’s home computer. Gwen sat in front of one of them and immediately hacked into the police incident room.

“There are no reports of missing children, male or female, in South Wales,” she reported after a very short time. “That’s something, at least.”

“Unless nobody knows she’s missing, yet,” Ianto suggested. “You’ll keep monitoring the reports?”

“Of course.”

“Maybe she isn’t in South Wales,” Alun pointed out. “When all’s said and done, she could be phoning from anywhere in the UK. Did she even sound Welsh?”

Ianto thought about that. It was a very good point.

“Yes, she did sound Welsh,” he said. “She’s from this region, even if she didn’t phone locally.”

“I’ll widen my search,” Gwen promised. “Don’t worry, Ianto. We’ll find her.”

PC Cooper in reassuringly optimistic mode, he noted. Even though there was nothing to be optimistic about. Then he noticed Jack and Garrett talking together quietly beside Agent Kendrick, the MI5 man who was monitoring the re-routed phone line ready to both record the conversation and trace its origins should Tabitha call again. Both were frowning. He steeled himself for something bad.

It wasn’t bad. But it was very puzzling.

“You don’t use that payphone much, I suppose?” Garrett asked him.

“Why would I?” he answered. “We have a landline and both of us have mobile phones in the apartment.”

“So you wouldn’t have known that it doesn’t accept incoming calls? There’s a notice above the receiver.”

“It doesn’t?” Ianto and Alun looked at each other. “Then... how come it was ringing? How did she get through?”

They looked at each other again then looked back at Garrett Dunne, a very serious man who did a serious job and who had mobilised his own very serious people because of them.

“We’re not making this up,” Alun assured everyone. “There was a phone call. Ianto was down there for ages.”

“She’s real,” Ianto added. “I mean... if I was going to make something up... do you think I would invent a girl called Tabitha... I mean... it’s not a name anyone thinks of just like that.”

“That’s true,” Gwen commented. “I’ve been thinking about that. Trying to think when I last heard of anyone with that name.”

“The half-Human, half-witch child of Samantha and Darren in the 1960s sit-com, Bewitched,” Jack said. Everyone was a little surprised. He wasn’t the sort of person who usually had television trivia at his fingertips. Gwen looked about to say something in reply when the telephone rang. Not the one that Garrett’s agents had set up, but Ianto and Alun’s home phone. Alun reached for it, then passed it to Ianto.

“It’s HER,” he said in a stunned whisper.

“Fucking hell,” Agent Kendrick swore. “We’re monitoring the wrong phone.”

“Keep her talking,” Garrett said as his agent worked feverishly and presumably so did the ones down in the street with the junction box.

Ianto had no intention of doing anything else.

“Are you all right, sweetheart?” he said. “I missed you, before. Why did you stop talking?”

“The man was with me,” was her worrying reply. “But he’s gone, now.”

“What man?” Ianto asked. His face was pale and his throat felt dry as his imagination skimmed over all the disturbing possibilities. “Tabitha, has anyone hurt you?”

“No,” she answered. “I’m just lonely in the dark.”

“Where are you, Tabitha?” Ianto asked. “Why is it dark where you are? I’m in Cardiff, in Wales. It’s daylight here. It’s going to be a lovely sunny day. Are there no windows in the room you’re in?”

“It’s dark,” she repeated. “It’s lonely in the dark. I want to talk to you.”

The last sentence was heard by everyone as the agents managed to splice their phone tracing equipment into Ianto and Alun’s landline.

“That’s definitely a Welsh accent,” Gwen confirmed. “But is she in Wales? It’s daylight here.”

“Unless the windows are blocked where she is,” Jack added. They were all imagining the very worst. A child in a locked room, windows shuttered or covered in some way. Or a place where there were no windows, a basement, a cupboard. Or perhaps she was blindfolded.

But if so, how was she able to use a telephone? Kidnappers didn’t usually make such facilities available to their hostages.

And how did she get Ianto’s number?

Gwen decided that was the least important question.

“Do you have any idea how many girls under sixteen are reported missing in the UK right now,” she said to Jack quietly as Ianto continued coaxing answers from the mystery girl. He glanced at the horrendously large figure on her screen. “A lot of them are custody cases. Dads grabbing kids at the school gate and running, that kind of thing. There’s a whole section who the authorities think might be in Pakistan being married off to men who want British citizenship. The rest...” She shook her head sadly. “Not one of them is called Tabitha.”

“That’s still good news,” Jack told her.

“I hope so,” Gwen said. She listened to the conversation between Ianto and the girl. She was asking for a story again.

“Read her something,” Garrett said. “It will give us more time.”

“Read what?” he asked. “I don’t have children’s books in the flat.”

“Here.” Gwen reached into her bag and pulled out an iPad. “Download an e-book. I’ve got a free book promotion code, there.”

Ianto asked Tabitha what her favourite book was. The answer came back. He didn’t need Gwen’s promotion code. It was old enough to be in the public domain through Project Guttenberg. He accepted another cup of coffee from Alun as he settled down to read The Railway Children to Tabitha. Every so often he spoke to her to see if she was still there. She was.

After an hour, Agent Kendrick reported that they were drawing a complete blank with the phone trace.

“There’s nothing,” he said. “No landline, no mobile. Even if the kid was using something like Skype on a pc, we’d get an IP address with the software we’re using. But we can’t get a fix at all.”

“A secure phone?” Jack suggested. “Somewhere top security?”

“We’d know if it was that,” Garrett pointed out. “Besides...” He looked at Agent Kendrick. “Ten minutes ago, Agent Morgan accidentally cut off the line altogether. The phone should have been dead for three minutes. But Ianto and the kid carried on chatting as if nothing happened.”

Jack sat up very straight and stared at the receiver where the child’s voice, happily talking about ice cream with Ianto, was loud and clear.

“A long time back,” he began. “I came across a child... actually, technically the kid was dead. But nobody had told him that... and he could communicate through anything with a speaker grille. Whether it was switched on or not.”

“You think Ianto’s talking to a ghost?” Gwen asked.

“No. Not exactly,” he answered. “But I think this is something more than we first thought. This child... first she called a phone that isn’t supposed to be able to take calls and talks to Ianto. Then she calls his home phone and talks to him again. And MI5’s finest can’t trace the call. Something very strange is going on here. Something that falls into Torchwood’s ballpark with a big goddamn bang.”

He shook his head and looked at Ianto as he continued to read the story to the child on the other end of this unlikely telephone connection. He was smiling contentedly as if he had forgotten that there was something sinister about Tabitha’s situation. She was laughing when she replied to him. If she was in a frightening place, if she was in any danger from the people who left her alone and in the dark, then she was not worrying about it as long as Ianto kept reading and talking to her.

Jack was worried, though. He felt strangely powerless in all of this. Ianto was the centre of attention. Garrett and his men were doing amazing stuff with their technology. Gwen’s fingers were smoking as she kept trying to find some mention of a missing girl called Tabitha in the nation’s police databases. Alun was keeping everyone supplied with coffee. Jack had very little to do now.

“Should I go beyond the UK?” Gwen asked. “What about Ireland? It’s perfectly easy to telephone the UK from Ireland.”

“You might as well,” Jack answered her. “Keep trying. It can’t do any harm.”

“But is it doing any good?”

“I don’t know. But we have to keep trying. For as long as Ianto keeps going, I know I definitely am. If we get any kind of clue... something that tells us where she is...”

Then what? The child COULD be anywhere in the country. It wasn’t inconceivable that she was calling from overseas. That might be the simple reason why Garrett’s people couldn’t trace the call.

But that still didn’t explain why she called in the first place. How did she call that payphone? How did she call Ianto in his home?

The impossible questions whirled around his head. He searched for easy to explain answers. Yes, a clever hacker could have got hold of both phone numbers. But Tabitha didn’t sound like one of those. She sounded like a lonely little girl.

He could have tested that. There was all sorts of voice analysis technology at Torchwood that could recognise if she was lying, that could recognise if she really was a ten year old girl or a really sadistic impersonator winding Ianto up for some kind of kicks.

But he didn’t want to use any of it. He didn’t want to be that cynical. And nor did he want to find out that Tabitha was some kind of ghost, an echo of a life hanging around in the telephone wires, reaching out. He didn’t want her to be some game played by aliens trying to measure Human emotional responses.

Of course that meant he wanted her to be a real, frightened girl in the dark on her own. He wasn’t sure what that said about him.

Ianto had never even considered the possibility that Tabitha wasn’t for real. He had been talking to her too long. He could sense the anxiety in her voice when she said she was lonely and the laughter when she forgot her troubles through talking to him. He just wished she would tell him something more about herself, something that would allow him to work out who she was.

“Do you like trains?” he asked her, in relation to the story he was reading her. “Have you been on any good journeys by train? Have you been on holiday? Did your school go on any special trips?”

“I like being out in the sunshine,” she answered him. “I like... I like...”

His heart missed a beat as she faltered.

“The man is here,” she said. “He wants me to talk to him, not to you. Ianto Jones... I like you talking to me. I want to hear the rest of the story from you. Will you wait for me?”

“Of course, I’ll wait. But Tabitha... don’t.... Tabitha, tell me your number and I’ll phone you back... wait...”

The line went dead. He held the phone uselessly in his hands and looked around at Agent Kendrick. He confirmed that the call had been terminated at the remote location – wherever that was. It wasn’t a fault on the line.

“She said she would call back,” Ianto said.

“Well, before she does, drink something. Have something to eat,” Alun told him. “You’re throat must be raw from talking.”

“Just a little bit,” he answered. “But... what is that man doing to her? Using this time... when she could be... anything could be happening to her... using this time as a rest break... It feels wrong.”

“She didn’t seem THAT scared,” Garrett told him. “Child molesters aren’t my area of expertise... but I know about fear. And even though she’s worried about ‘the man’ she’s not as terrified as she would be if he was coming to do anything physical to her.”

“She could be too traumatised from previous attacks to be scared any more,” Ianto responded. “Maybe she’s become resigned to it.”

“Doesn’t sound like it,” Garrett insisted. Ianto didn’t look reassured. “In my work... we learn to recognise nuances in voices. We deal with hostage situations, with people under duress. She does seem unhappy in an indefinable way. But your company, the sound of your voice, even alleviates that. She sounds almost like a happy, normal child at times when she’s talking to you. Ianto, believe me, she isn’t a rape victim. She’s not in that kind of trouble.”

“Then what kind of trouble IS she in?” Ianto asked. But nobody could answer that question at all.

He ate a little food and drank coffee. Then he waited beside the phone. Everyone waited.

The landline stayed silent. His mobile phone rang. He looked at the panel where recognised numbers from his contact list were displayed. A new number would appear across the screen. A withheld number would display ‘withheld number’.

There was nothing on the display. But it was backlit as it was when there was an incoming call.

His hand shook as he pressed the answer button then slipped it into the docking station and switched to speakerphone.

“Ianto Jones, are you there?” Tabitha asked. He sighed with relief. Everyone else groaned. All the equipment for tracing landlines was useless with a mobile phone.

“Yes, cariad,” Ianto replied, too happy to hear her voice to care about how. “Oh, yes, I’m here. Are you all right, my pet? What did the man want? Did he hurt you?”

“He wanted me to talk to him,” she answered. “But I don’t want to talk to him. I want to talk to you, Ianto. I like you.”

“You don’t even know me, cariad,” he told her. “You don’t know what I look like, even.”

“You’re tall,” she said. “And you have brown eyes and a nice smile.”

“She’s inventing you, in her mind’s eye,” Gwen guessed. “She’s imagining what you look like. Tall, brown eyes, nice smile... could be a lot of men.”

“He does have a beautiful smile,” Jack admitted. “Ask her what she looks like.”

Ianto did. Her answer was the closest thing to a clue for hours.

“I’ve got brown eyes, too. And brown hair. I’ve got brown shoes. I wear my brown shoes to go outside on my bicycle.”

“Tell me about your bicycle,” Ianto asked, seizing on that feature of her life. “What colour is it?”

“My bicycle is...” Then she gave an anguished sob. “My bicycle is broken. The car ran over it.”

“What car?” Ianto asked. “How did your bicycle get broken?”

But that question upset her even more. She was crying, now. She hadn’t cried before.

“Push her about this,” Jack said. “It’s important.”

“No,” Ianto answered. “Can’t you tell how much she’s hurting. Tabitha, pet, it’s all right. Never mind the bicycle. We’ll have the story again. Would you like to hear the rest of it?”

“Yes, Ianto, yes I want to hear the story.”

“Ok, honey, here goes.” He found his place in the iPad text and began to read. Tabitha stopped crying and settled down to hear him read to her. Agent Kendrick and his colleagues settled down to trying to hack into Ianto’s mobile phone network to see if it was any easier to trace the call that way.

Then Andy Davison arrived. Gwen looked around as he was admitted to the room. He had told the agents he needed to speak to her.

“What’s happening?” he asked as he sat at her side. “What’s with all the spy equipment? Who’s Ianto talking to?”

Gwen briefly explained. Andy’s mouth opened in a wide ‘o’ of astonishment.

“But... Gwen... that’s kind of why I’m here. I went down to the Hub but Beth told me you were all here. Anyway, DI Swanson told me to find out why you’re hacking into our police databases and looking for missing kids. She said if you have some freaky Torchwood case going on that involves kiddy fiddling she wants to know so she can cut their perverted alien balls off personally.”

“If that was what it was about, I’d help her,” Gwen said. “It’s not that. At least we don’t think it is. All we really know is the girl’s name. Tabitha.”

“Tabitha?” Andy repeated the name.

“I know, it’s unusual. We all said we hadn’t heard the name since...”

“Yesterday afternoon,” Andy said. “That’s when I heard it last. Gwen... you’re looking in the wrong database. Tabitha isn’t in missing persons. Try traffic statistics. She’s a hit and run victim. I was there. Little girl with long brown hair on a pink bike... the bike was in bits. She nearly was, too. She...”

Andy looked around. He realised that everyone around him had stopped what they were doing and were staring at him. Even Ianto had paused in his reading.

“Where is she?” Alun asked. “Where was she taken?”

“St. Helen’s hospital,” Andy answered. “But...”

Ianto grabbed the phone from the cradle and pushed the hands free attachment into the socket before slipping the earpiece in place. He kept reading from the iPad as he walked quickly towards the door. Alun was a second or two slower to stand up then he ran ahead and grabbed the doors. Jack and Garrett followed. Andy and Gwen behind them.

“I don’t need all of you,” Ianto said when he reached the car park and Alun opened the passenger side of his Audi Quatro for him.

“Yes, you do,” Jack replied. “I have the gismo that turns traffic lights green ahead. Let the SUV go in front.”

“I’ve got a police siren and a flashing blue light that gets the traffic out of your way without gismos,” Andy countered. “The SUV can bring up the rear. We’re in front.”

Ianto accepted the idea of an escort because he didn’t want to argue any further. He fastened his seatbelt one handed while continuing to read The Railway Children to Tabitha on his mobile phone. Andy fired up the Peugeot. Alun followed. The strobing blue lights of the Torchwood SUV reflected in his rear view mirror as the odd cavalcade moved off and quickly gained speed.

“She’s in the Intensive Care Unit,” Andy reported as St. Helen’s Hospital came into view ahead of them. “They won’t give out any more information about her because she’s a minor and we’re not relatives.”

“Will they let me see her?” Ianto asked. “They must.”

“What if it isn’t her?” Alun said. “Ianto... if she’s in the ICU, how can she be phoning you? They don’t have phones in there, because there’s too much electronic equipment.”

“It’s her,” Ianto replied. “It has to be her. How many girls called Tabitha can there be who need a friend so desperately as this?”

Alun stopped the car in front of the casualty department and let him out before looking for a parking space. Jack left the SUV in a bay marked ‘Doctors only’. Garrett placed an MOD pass in the window. The police car stopped next to a stationary ambulance. Andy and Gwen were only seconds behind them as they all ran after Ianto. They were in time to confirm his identity at the entrance to the Intensive Care Unit and insist that it was vitally important that he should see the little girl called Tabitha Barnes who was admitted to the hospital yesterday.

“Just him,” said the charge nurse fiercely. She glared at Garrett. “I don’t care what sort of passes you have. You can all wait right here and be quiet.”

She brought Ianto to a curtained off bay. Inside, a little girl with brown hair was lying in the bed. Her head was bandaged and she had purple bruises all over her face and neck. Her left arm was in a splint and both legs in casts. She was unconscious. There was a woman who had to be her mother sitting at her side. She looked around at the new arrival without very much hope.

“Is she...” Ianto approached the bed tentatively. “Has she said anything at all? Has she woken?”

“She’s been in a coma since she was brought in here,” the charge nurse said. “She’s said a few random words. But nothing that makes sense.”

“She said a name,” her mother said. “Early this morning... when it was starting to get light outside... she said a man’s name.”

“What name?” Ianto asked desperately.

“Ianto Jones,” Mrs Barnes said.

“That... that’s me,” Ianto told her. “I’m here... I’m here to finish the story. Please... won’t you let me?”

She could have told him to get out. He was a complete stranger and he had no right to be there. He was relieved when she nodded sadly and asked the nurse to fetch another chair. Ianto sat and grasped Tabitha’s undamaged fingers gently before scrolling down the iPad page to where he left off. He began to read softly. He was on the last chapter, anyway. His voice choked a little from the emotional impact of the family reunion that gave a happy ending to the characters. Mrs Barnes smiled sadly.

“Always brought a lump to my throat when I saw the old film,” she said. “But how did you know it was Tabitha’s favourite story. And... what do you mean about finishing it?”

He took a deep breath as he started to answer her question. But he never got more than two words out. A buzzer sounded as the machines monitoring Tabitha’s vital signs started to register increased levels of everything from her blood pressure to her breathing, to her brain functions. Ianto reached out his hand and felt the girl’s fingers close around his. Her mother gave a relieved sob as she spoke.

“Thank you, Ianto Jones,” she whispered hoarsely. “Thank you for talking to me when I was lonely.”

“Any time, cariad,” he replied. Then he and her mother had to stand aside as the medical staff came to examine her. But the signs were good. Tabitha was out of the coma and was responding to the initial cognitive tests.

“It doesn’t make any bloody sense at all,” Andy said as the Torchwood crew drank vending machine coffee in the hospital waiting room. “How could she have phoned him if she was in a coma?”

“I can’t explain it,” Ianto replied. “I don’t think anyone can. Not Torchwood, or MI5, or that section from the Vatican who verify miracles. She was in a deep coma. It was dark to her, and she was lonely. The only voices she could hear were the doctors and nurses trying to wake her from time to time. That was what she meant about the man wanting to talk to her. But she wasn’t ready to talk to him. Her mind reached out... and she found the phone box outside my flat. She found me to talk to. And... I’m bloody glad she did. I don’t CARE how she did it.”

“I agree,” Garrett said. “Even though it’s going to take some explaining to head office why I used a phone tapping crew to trace an unconscious girl lying in a hospital bed.”

“I think you’d better make something up about Ianto’s neighbours being suspected terrorists, instead,” Jack told him. “I’ll file this in the ‘fucked if we know’ drawer. Meanwhile, crisis over. We can all stand down. Ianto... take half a day’s compassionate leave.”

“I intended to anyway,” he replied. “Now she’s out of danger, Tabitha’s being transferred to the children’s wing in a bit. I’m going to go down to the shop in the lobby and buy her a doll or something. They’ll let me see her again once she’s settled.”

“Give her this, with love from Torchwood,” Gwen said, passing Ianto the iPad that he had switched off when he was finished reading the Railway Children. “She’ll be here a while. It’ll be something to read when you’re not available.”

With that, everyone but Alun left him to it. Ianto sighed happily and reached into his pocket for his mobile phone. He had felt it buzz to tell him there was a text message. He wasn’t entirely surprised to see it was from Tabitha. It said ‘thank you’. He got ready to send a reply, but a cleaner emptying the waste bins coughed meaningfully and pointed to the notice on the wall telling visitors to switch off their mobile phones.


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