Notes: Written for a ficlet challenge. curriejean requested: "TW, Jack/Tosh CJH AU - if getting shot actually stopped Owen, and no one came back." With a bonus helping of Ianto-Owen animosity.

Pairing: Jack/Tosh

Rating: PG

Disclaimer: Torchwood and its characters are the property of the BBC and Russell T. Davies. I make no profit from this fanfic.

Before Owen could move, Ianto darted forward and grabbed the ring out of his hand. Owen slumped against the pedestal base of the water tower, glaring up at Ianto, his hand pressed to his shoulder.

"You're bloody lucky you missed," he snarled.

"I didn't," Ianto snapped. "Try it again and the next one goes through your heart."

Struggling to his feet, Owen looked at his bloody palm and groaned. "They're stuck there now, you tosser. I hope you're happy."

Ianto didn't say anything. He stalked off to lock the piece of the Rift Manipulator in the secure archives, after which he intended to change the password. Again.

Twenty minutes later, Gwen checked in over the comms to say that she still hadn't found anything more from Tosh, nor had she seen any more of Bilis Manger. Owen, patching himself up, told her to come back in.

Five minutes after that, the invisible lift activated. Ianto, cleaning up the blood Owen had spilled, looked up in surprise; Gwen rarely used the lift. At the first sight of Jack's coat flapping, he swallowed, heart in his throat. Thank God.

As he came closer, though, Ianto revised his opinion. Jack looked different than he had when he'd left the Hub earlier that day. Something spoke to an utter exhaustion in his eyes, a deepening of the lines around his mouth.

"Jack?" Ianto said.

"Well, bollocks," Owen groused in the background. "Fine, teaboy was right. Where's Tosh? Did the timeshift bring you back or what?"

Ignoring both of them, Jack swept past Ianto and up into his office. The door closed behind him. Ianto glanced at Owen, who wore the same puzzled look he could feel on his own face. Owen shrugged, nodded toward the door; Ianto sighed, sucked in a breath and headed for Jack's office.

All things considered, Ianto decided it was best to knock before he entered. He waited for Jack to call, "Come," pushed open the door and stepped inside. Jack was seated at his desk, still wrapped in his coat, his fingers steepled. He glanced up at Ianto after a moment, almost as if he'd forgotten he was there.

"Jack, what happened?" Ianto asked. "Did the Rift open? Where's Tosh?"

Jack's throat worked. He reached into an inner pocket and tugged out a picture, tossing it across the desk. Ianto picked it up. It was old and faded, a little wrinkled. The image was of a wedding: bridesmaids and groomsmen flanking the happy couple at the center. The style of clothing placed it at around thirty-five years ago, Ianto guessed, but it suited Toshiko, who beamed from the image. Jack's arm was firm around her, his own smile softer, prouder. His eyes on her.

"She died eleven years ago," Jack said. "We lived through all of it. I took care of her," he said, and his voice cracked. "I promised her I would, and I did."

Fingering the picture, Ianto stared at Jack. Realisation and regret swept over him all at once. His throat didn't seem to work right. "It's my fault," he whispered, raw and empty.

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this page last updated on 23 january 2010