Notes: Something that occurred to me while writing this is how fanfic is so ideal for writing in shorthand. Much of this fic is set around episodes, and if it were a piece of standalone fiction it would not work at all. (I say that as if I have some hope that it works now! Seeing as how this started as several different pieces that somehow ended up joining together, I'll be amazed if anyone besides me can follow it.) Anyway, this takes place starting after "Out of Time" and encompasses various events through to "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang". S1/KKBB spoilers as well as DW series 3 spoilers. Thanks to the wonderful lemniskate for her help with this thing.
Disclaimer: Torchwood and its characters are the property of the BBC and Russell T. Davies. I make no profit from this fanfic.
When Jack returns to the Hub, the Tourist Centre is closed. He lets himself in, locks the door behind him, and takes the lift down, fatigued enough that he doesn't feel like dealing with stairs, and comes into the Hub to find it empty save a lean figure at Owen's workstation: Ianto, slumped forward a little to focus on the monitors, a stack of filing at his elbow. Alone in the base -- save Myfanwy, who's making cranky sounds in her nest and will soon need to be fed -- he's not even pretending to be working. It's strange to see Ianto fucking off; Jack stands back for a moment to watch without interrupting, not that Ianto notices him anyway.
It isn't until Jack drops the set of keys on the desk next to him that Ianto looks up. Jack knows what Ianto's seeing: he looks like shit, grey and peaked, his eyes reddened, and the unpleasant smell of car exhaust clings to him.
"Sorry I took so long," he says. "Stopped to get your car cleaned before I came back."
Ianto's eyes track down to the keys, then back up to Jack. "Pardon me?"
Confused by Ianto's tone and too tired to hide it, Jack just stands there for a moment, his head wobbling. He goes around the desk, taking his coat off and hanging it on the rack. "I... brought your car back," he says. "You can go home, if you want."
"I'm a bit confused," Ianto says quietly, "what makes you think I'd still want a car a man committed suicide in."
Silence stretches between them for a long moment; then Jack draws in a breath and shakes his head, raking a hand through his hair, and drops into his chair. "Of course. Yeah. That's pretty stupid of me, I didn't even think about it. First thing in the morning, we'll go car shopping."
"Can Torchwood afford it?" Ianto asks in that same deceptively mild tone.
"Torchwood had better," Jack says. He reaches for a ledger, starts to open it, then lets the cover fall shut. "I am sorry, Ianto. I didn't even think about it."
"I know." Ianto stands, finally, taking up the stack of folders. "You were preoccupied. I'll be heading out now, unless there's something else you need."
Jack blinks at Ianto. He didn't exactly come back expecting Ianto to jump him, but this strange distance confuses him. "Ianto?" he says.
Ianto raises an eyebrow. His face is utterly expressionless save that cocked eyebrow of cool inquiry.
"If you're upset with me because of the car--"
"It's not about the car." Ianto shifts the folders under his arm. "Goodnight, sir."
The distance between them feels a lot wider than the few meters from Jack's desk to Owen's. Jack stands again, comes around his desk and leans in the doorway of his office, tucking his hands into his pockets. "What is it, Ianto?"
Ianto sighs, taking a breath; but he turns toward Jack again, and Jack feels a moment's relief that Ianto's not just walking away from him. "To be honest, Jack, I'm pretty angry that you helped a man commit suicide in my vehicle and didn't bother filling me in on it until after."
"Is it the suicide part or that I didn't tell you that's bothering you more?" Jack persists.
"Right now, it's the fact that you won't let me leave," Ianto says.
Jack takes a step or two toward Ianto. "And that's not going to happen until you talk to me," he informs Ianto, whose brows have lowered stubbornly over his eyes. Jack has often found that look in Ianto's eyes exciting, especially when it's focused on him and both of them are naked. At the moment, however, it makes him want to grasp Ianto's shoulders and shake this out of him.
Ianto sets the folders down again, leaving a neat stack on Owen's desk. "I do have an issue with you helping John Ellis kill himself, yes," he says slowly.
"You saw how he was, though," Jack promptly argues. "He wasn't coping with being separated from everything he knew."
"So you just let him die," Ianto fires back.
"He would have done it whether I was there or not. If I'd stopped him today, he would have just waited 'til I wasn't looking and done it himself. I tried to talk him out of it; you have to believe I did. This way--"
"This way you got to be part of it."
"This way I was able to give him some dignity," Jack snaps. Ianto's words sting. Jack knows there's no way Ianto can be aware of the fact that Jack can't die; he's been too careful to conceal it from him (from all of them, but Ianto especially). Times like this, though, he doesn't half wonder if Ianto suspects something.
Ianto draws in a breath, glance flickering upward as if in a silent plea for aid before meeting Jack's eyes again. "Why was it so important to you to help him?"
"He reminded me of myself, I guess." Jack finds he's the one looking away, now, his hand absently sliding over the back of Owen's chair. "Out of his time, cut off from everything he loved. I was able to adapt. He couldn't. He was too -- too set in what he knew."
"Out of his time. Like you are?" Ianto's tone rides the line between irritation and genuine curiosity, and Jack looks up at him again. He's stepped a pace closer, one hand on a hip.
Jack bites his lip and steps back. "Don't ask me," he says. "You know I can't--"
"Can't tell me, yes, I know." As he finishes Jack's sentence, Ianto's voice swings back to frustration, and he steps away once more. "Fine. Whatever."
"Ianto," Jack says. He knows he's pleading. It's been a rough day on top of a long week; selfishly, maybe, he doesn't want the night to end like this.
"I just." Ianto pushes a hand through his hair, and when he looks at Jack again, the emotion shows naked on his face: longing, need. He'll take any crumb that Jack will give him. It guts Jack to realise just how he's been stringing Ianto along. "You keep saying you can't say anything, your past is so secret and it'd be telling us more than we're ready to know, blah, blah, blah."
"It doesn't matter, Ianto, it honestly doesn't," Jack tries. The words rasp out of him. He hates not being able to tell Ianto -- or anyone for that matter; why can't Ianto see that? "My past, it's not important."
"If it's so unimportant, then tell me." Ianto's throat works hard for a moment. "You're important, Jack. You matter to me. But when you keep holding me at arm's length like this, when you keep refusing to tell me anything at all, I don't feel like I'm worth being told. Like I'm not important at all."
"God, Ianto, you are," Jack says helplessly. "You don't know how much I wish I could tell you about it, but I just, I can't. Someday you'll understand. There's so much--"
"So give me something," Ianto says. His voice is ragged. "Anything. I don't care what. It doesn't have to be great secrets of the past or future or why you know the things you do. Just one thing. Where you were born. Anything."
Jack goes quiet, head dropping. He hears Ianto exhale sharply.
"Right. I know. You can't tell me." There's a sound of paper sliding against paper: the folders being picked up. "That's fine. I understand." When Jack looks up, Ianto is walking away.
"Ianto," he says, soft, tired.
Once the door has closed behind Ianto, Jack walks blindly to his desk and sits down again, dropping his head into his hands. The Hub has gone silent, save for softly humming computer fans and Myfanwy, perched at the grated opening of her pipe-nest, shifting and restless now. Jack absently pushes a button on his wriststrap, opening the gate at the far end of her nest to let her out. A moment later, she screeches exultantly and flies to temporary freedom. Jack wishes he could escape that easily.
He's held Ianto off, it's true. It's nothing different than he's done with other lovers in the past. Before he became the leader of Torchwood, it was simple; he wasn't so attached to the organisation, so he could come and go more or less as he wanted, keep it at a distance. After all, the Doctor might return to Cardiff at any time. That was what he was waiting for, planning against; Torchwood was something to pass the time, an occasional job for money and for something to do. Even after Alex Hopkins blew his brains out all over Jack's shirt, Jack still didn't want to feel attached to Torchwood.
He wonders, now, when it changed. Not that he's not still planning on hopping back into the TARDIS the moment it lands on Cardiff soil again -- oh, he's been spoiling to confront the Doctor for over a century now -- but he does feel different toward Torchwood these days. It's not Torchwood, though; it's his team that have changed him. Suzie Costello and her singleminded hunger for knowledge, her ability to plan surprising him even in death; Toshiko Sato's cool brilliance and tenacity, her sweet shyness; Owen Harper's raging cleverness, his anger and fire; Ianto Jones and his uncanny ability to know exactly what's needed at the right moment; Gwen Cooper's huge heart and the way she can connect with anyone. He's more attached to them now than he's ever felt to a team in the past.
It only took a hundred years to change that opinion; though, given that his introduction to Torchwood was two sadistic women whose first act toward him was to try to kill him in as many imaginative ways as they could conceive, it's probably not that surprising that it took that long.
But he can't let any of them get close. Ianto's no exception, regardless of the physical side to their relationship. At the end of the day, Jack's heart is wherever the Doctor is. His bag is always packed and ready; he keeps himself well-hydrated just in case; the severed hand is kept on prominent display in the hopes that it'll serve as an early warning for the return of its owner. (Jack's wondered more than once if the Doctor is going around without it now, or if he's regenerated since its loss; but then, he burns with a thousand questions for the Doctor. Number one, of course, is, "Can you fix me?" The hand is somewhere around number ten on the list.)
But as days go by after that confrontation in the Hub, and Ianto staunchly ignores Jack's flirting and innuendo, Jack starts to wonder if it was a mistake. Ianto's not cold, exactly, but he treats Jack now exactly as he does all the others: with respect and friendliness and nothing more. Jack tells himself he doesn't miss Ianto and their late-night fun in the Hub. It was all just physical.
And there's not a lot of time to let it bother him, really, between Owen going suicidal and throwing himself into cages with Weevils, and then Jack himself being pulled back into 1941 by the capricious Rift. (This makes the third time he's visited this particular day, Jack has a moment to think when he's in the basement of the Ritz, waiting out the air raid.) When the man who was born Jack Harkness asks him if he has someone waiting for him, Jack replies honestly: that there's no one. He doesn't even think about Ianto.
Hearing that Ianto shot Owen in the shoulder to try and stop him using the Rift Manipulator makes Jack laugh. Owen doesn't particularly take it that way, but as he's still bandaging himself up after extracting the bullet from his own body, Jack grants Owen the right to be at least a little snippy about it.
"You should've heard the little wanker," Owen snarls. "All trying to give Gwen orders, telling me you needed him, like he had some right to tell me how to behave."
Jack makes a noncommittal sound as Owen's rant continues. Owen's second in charge more or less by default these days, but after this he's starting to think he should bump Owen a little further down the command chain. He may have rescued Jack and Tosh from 1941, but the irresponsible action is already displaying consequences in the form of increased Rift activity.
His comment about Ianto stays in Jack's head, though, echoing hours later. 'Jack needs me' was the phrase Owen quoted at Jack. Jack doesn't know how to feel about that. Ianto's loyalty to Torchwood has solidified since the Lisa incident; Ianto's loyalty to Jack, even after how Jack's treated him, unsettles Jack even more.
Sitting by himself in the Hub, the lights dim, Rift monitors pinging quietly in the background, Jack wonders if it's not too late to fix things with Ianto.
It's really too bad he doesn't get a chance to apologise before everything gets blown to hell. Literally.
It cuts him apart when the others turn on him, a united front, determined to open the Rift in the horribly misinformed hope that it'll somehow make things better. Jack does his best to turn them on each other but it doesn't work, just backfires when he insults Gwen for sleeping with Owen (which, OK, might just be a little bit of jealousy on his part that she turned to Owen and not to him), and she proceeds to slug him and then Owen grabs his Webley and kills him. When he revives, it's to a Hub that's shaking apart at the foundations, and he's a little too busy trying to get out of there without dying again to worry about accusations and apologies.
Facing down the gigantic nightmare creature called Abaddon, Jack thinks of his long life, the things he's done, the challenges he's run from. If he makes it through this, he tells himself, he won't run from Ianto any more.
Then Abaddon sucks the life out of him and for a long time, Jack doesn't think about anything at all.
Jack loves all of his team in different ways. There's Tosh and her mad genius, her shy sweetness, her core of steel. He loves the way she can undress alien tech with her eyes; he aches for her loneliness and the longing looks she casts Owen's way when she thinks the medic isn't looking. Owen, all snarling rage and grief, beating himself up because he can't take out his anger anywhere else, the best and most intuitive medic he's ever known. Gwen, whose sense of compassion can be a hindrance as much as a help but who'll never stop reaching out because she knows it's the right thing to do. Jack has to admire that sort of mad compulsiveness; it's why he loves the Doctor, after all.
And then there's Ianto. Maddening, teasing Ianto, who played hard-to-get to drive Jack to deliberate distraction. Who brought a Cyberwoman into Torchwood and kept her, under Jack's nose, out of desperate love and hope. Who fought back from that betrayal to earn their trust all over again. Who simply was there when Jack needed him.
Ianto had actually begun to get his hopes up. He's not a generally down person, it's true, but after Canary Wharf, saving Lisa (or what he thought was her), losing her, and then getting a lifeline in the form of his continued employment at Torchwood, he'd been starting to feel as if he were once again on solid ground. Jack showed trust in him again -- more than he deserved -- even forgiveness, as gentle as a soft hand on his shoulder. He'd felt confident enough to make a pass at Jack, was thrilled to find the attraction still there, stretching between them even stronger than before.
Jack kissed him (claimed him) in front of everyone, three hours ago. Now he's disappeared. The CCTV logs are clear: Jack heard a strange noise, metal grinding on metal. He grinned, grabbed the jar with its severed hand in stasis fluid, and took the stairs at a run. From above, the CCTV recorded him sprinting across the Plass toward a blue police box (an antique piece by all appearances), diving at the damn thing, which had never been there before -- and then, in a moment so improbable Ianto wouldn't believe it if he hadn't seen it -- the police box disappeared, Jack clinging to its exterior surface and shouting one word over and over: "DOCTOR!"
Ianto's seen one hell of a lot of unlikely things since he first took a job with Torchwood. Aliens aplenty; prehistoric creatures; strange technology; humanity warped by solitude or equally fucked up by the stress of modern-day living. But Rift activity aside, things don't just disappear. Especially police boxes from the Sixties that never should have been there in the first place.
Ianto subsumes his anger in work. He has research to do, so he goes straight to the Archives. It's quiet down there, the air cool and dry, and this way he doesn't have to listen to Gwen and Owen argue about who's going to be in charge and what they're going to do about finding Jack. (Ianto doesn't feel clearheaded enough to figure out how to suggest that tracking down a disappearing police box will be difficult if not impossible in a way that won't end in him and Owen trying to rip each others' throats out.)
Besides, there's something naggingly familiar about that police box.
Ianto researches diligently for a couple of hours before he discovers why. It's in records recovered from Torchwood London, which had been dumped into several boxes and then locked, unsorted, in a storeroom. Ianto sorts as he searches, so by the time he comes across the report file full of pictures, he's seated on the floor with stacks of folders around him.
He gets up to look through the file, legs stiff and cold, carefully not thinking about how Jack cornered him down here a week ago and kissed him breathless. He takes the file to a table and spreads it out. All of the pictures are snaps from CCTV, but they corroborate that elusive memory. A blue police call box in the big warehouse room at Torchwood Tower. Yvonne Hartmann gleefully applauding a tall, skinny man in a brown suit and long leather duster. The box loaded onto a truck, hauled away. Yvonne's favourite Torchwood catchphrase: "If it's alien, it's ours."
That was what Ianto'd seen. The rumour of the Doctor flew through the building, tearing everyone away from their standard duties. Ianto had no idea what it was, but Lisa dragged him out to look anyway. They'd watched in reverent silence as it went by.
"The Doctor," Lisa whispered, and shivered. Ianto remembers putting his arm around her and feeling that tremble in her. The Doctor -- the reason for Torchwood's very existence -- had never been more than a hazy legend to them. Apparently he was more than a mythical boogeyman after all.
Ianto closes the folder with a jerk, swinging around. Tosh stands there, smiling tentatively, and he sags against the table.
"Sorry," he says. "You startled me."
"My fault." She shrugs dismissively. "We've ordered food. I thought maybe you'd like to come up and have some."
"Have Gwen and Owen killed each other yet?" he asks, scooping up the file.
"They've called a ceasefire for now," Tosh says, laughing a little. "Is that why you came down here?"
"That, and I wanted to see what I could find out about -- the Doctor." Ianto feels strangely hesitant saying it aloud, as if he won't be believed.
Tosh only nods, though, her sleek hair bouncing. "Me too -- well, I had my headphones on to tune them out." She sighs. "I think they're just pissed off at Jack, so they're taking it out on each other."
"You're not mad at him?" he asks. Tosh leans on the table next to him, smiles up at him from under her fringe.
"Furious, actually," she confesses. "But I'm sublimating."
Ianto smiles wryly. "Me, too," he says. He lets an arm drop around her shoulders to give her a quick squeeze. "Come on. Let's go eat."
They emerge in the main floor of the Hub to find that Gwen and Owen have, indeed, reached at least a temporary stalemate. His wound is bleeding again; she's re-bandaging it, careful to keep any physical contact to a minimum.
"I figured we'd eat out here," Tosh says, indicating the steaming Jubilee Pizza boxes on the coffee table. Ianto nods and goes to the refrigerator. If there's ever been a time for all of them to have a drink at work, this is it.
By the time Gwen and Owen are done -- and have begun grudgingly apologising to each other -- Tosh and Ianto have set out the food, plates, napkins, and bottles of beer. "Oh, this is lovely," Gwen cries as she tops the steps from the autopsy bay. Ianto drops to sit on the sofa as they all set in on the food; for a little while, all is quiet save the sounds of industrious eating and a murmured "Cheers" as Owen lifts his bottle and the others echo him.
"So," Tosh says brightly, once they've begun to slow down a little. "Did you two settle things?"
Gwen nods, her beer dangling between her fingers. "Owen has graciously decided that I will be taking command in Jack's absence."
"Only," Owen puts in grumpily, "because I've still got a hole in my shoulder." He glares at Ianto, who casually ignores him. "I'm still second in command."
The look on Gwen's face suggests she doesn't even want him that high up in the chain of command, but she's too tired of arguing to debate the point. "What about you two? What have you been up to since -- well. Since Jack disappeared?"
Ianto glances at Tosh, an eyebrow raised. "Research," they say in unison. Tosh giggles and covers her mouth with one hand.
"Yeah? What'd you find?"
"Still compiling it," Tosh says after a moment in which she and Ianto can't decide who's going first. "I've had to hack into UNIT, but they've got hell of a lot on this Doctor. If that's who Jack meant."
"I think it must be," Ianto says. "If he's the one who was at Canary Wharf."
Gwen sits up, her half-eaten slice of pizza falling out of her hands. "What?" she gapes, the sound of surprise echoed by both Tosh and Owen.
Ianto tells the story, then, adding as much detail as he remembers, though he leaves out the bits about Lisa. He gets the file and shares out the pictures; the blue box is clearly the same as the one the CCTV showed standing on the Plass earlier. "I didn't see him, though -- the Doctor, I mean," he concludes. "Just the box."
"So what does this mean, then?" Gwen muses, flipping through the CCTV snaps (Ianto had made her clean her hands first).
"Too early to say," Owen says. "We don't have enough data."
"he used to say he was waiting for a doctor, the right kind of doctor." Gwen shuffles the snaps back into a pile and hands them to Ianto again. "And how he'd always only drink water."
"He told me once he needed to stay hydrated," Tosh offers. "In case he had to travel unexpectedly."
Morosely, Ianto recalls the packed bag of clothes Jack always kept in his office, gone now along with his coat and the severed hand and Jack himself. "He was always going to leave," he says quietly.
Owen tips his head and gives Ianto a far-too-perceptive look. "He kissed you," he says suddenly, jabbing a finger in Ianto's direction. "What was that about?"
Ianto feels his ears go hot. He drinks from his beer while Tosh and Gwen make little surprised sounds of agreement and turn their full attention on him. He ponders making a run for it, or if that'd just make it worse.
"I don't want to talk about it," he says, staring at the beer in his hand.
Owen starts to nod. "I knew it. I knew something was going on with you and Jack, I just didn't know what."
"What-- I don't--" Gwen, of course, is giving him a wide-eyed look as if she's never seen him before. She lets out a nervous laugh. "Jack and Ianto?"
Tosh, meanwhile, is making connections in her head. "The CCTV!" she gasps suddenly. Everyone looks at her, except for Ianto, who's looking for a hole to crawl into. "After Suzie -- when the CCTV was down for four hours -- remember, Jack sent us all home except--"
They all look at him again. Ianto stands up with his hands out as if he could somehow push away their gazes. "No," he says. "No. I'm not -- I am not talking about this."
"As if I care." Owen gets up, too, slouching off to his desk.
Gwen comes over to Ianto to put a hand on his arm, her eyes apologetic. "I'm sorry, sweetheart, truly," she says. "It's just -- I had no idea you -- and he--"
Ianto's used to being permanently in Gwen's blind spot; still, it feels like an insult. "Don't worry about it," he says, shrugging off her hand.
"But I--" she starts, and now she looks distinctly guilty. Ianto feels so tired.
"Honestly, Gwen." He gives her his best false smile. "We were keeping it pretty low-key. You couldn't have known." He lets her hug him, more for her sake than for his own.
"You know what," she says when she pulls back, "I'm glad for you."
Ianto's smile is wry. "Let's get him back first. Then you can be glad for me."
"Of course," Gwen laughs. She swings around and picks up her jacket. "I'm making my first executive decision," she says, addressing all of them. "Everyone, go home."
Tosh blinks owlishly at her; Owen's frozen in the middle of whatever he was typing.
"I'm serious," Gwen says. "Go on. We have a lot of cleaning and repair work to do and we're all exhausted. We're not going to locate Jack tonight. Go home. Get some sleep. I need -- I need to see Rhys, anyway."
Ianto's the last to leave, once Gwen's shooed Tosh and Owen out the door; she'd glanced back at him, asked him quickly if he'd be all right, and left before he could answer. He's strangely reluctant to go. The Hub has never, to his knowledge, been this empty. Myfanwy is fed and locked up for the night; now she really will be their guard dog. He puts the Hub into 90-percent lockdown and slips out.
Jack really hates the Doctor's timing today.
He's finally starting to feel himself after coming back from that terrible long death-by-Abaddon -- and he's anticipating coffee, even if it's not Ianto's special brew -- when he sees the hand's liquid solution bubbling wildly. Hears the TARDIS' transport sound, that unique whine of grinding metal, through the ground above his head. No thought is in his mind then but going after the Doctor.
It's not until after he's crash-landed on an alien planet, died again and met the gorgeous Martha Jones, that he thinks: Ianto's never going to fucking forgive me now. The thought is swiftly abandoned while he goes running for his life and in the subsequent adventure into which he's plunged, with not a moment to spare to think of Torchwood (he trusts them, though, knows they'll deal in his absence).
Though he's just a bit disappointed by the Doctor's response to Jack's condition -- that he can't be fixed, whatever Rose did to him is permanent -- this news is mitigated somewhat by the revelation that Rose Tyler is alive and well, safe on a parallel world, and that the Doctor isn't immediately shoving him off again. An impossible thing Jack might be now with his infinite capacity to live, but at least his ability comes in useful in the ensuing roller-coaster ride of getting the Utopia transport ship up and running, discovering that Professor Yana is really the Doctor's age-old nemesis, the Master, and returning to Earth to find that Harry Saxon is now Prime Minister of Great Britain.
Long days follow Jack's imprisonment on the Valiant. In between the hours of torture and the countless deaths the Master visits on him, Jack quietly and carefully plans with Tish Jones and her family, working out the details of the Doctor's inspired idea to use Martha to save the world from the Toclafane, coming up with distractions to lull the Master into complacency.
When he has moments to himself, Jack thinks about his team. Knows they're fighting for humanity and loves them fiercely for it. Prays they're safe, knows they're not. Once this is all over and time is reversed -- for such should happen, he believes, once the paradox machine is disabled -- he has plans of his own to bridge the distance between them. Gwen, Ianto: he wants to make this right with both of them.
"You miss him, don't you?" asks Gwen.
Ianto turns to her, hands still on the keyboard. He's using the computer in Jack's office to catch up on the database; it's easiest since he can get into everything from it. Standing across the desk from him, Gwen gives him a soft, sisterly smile.
"Jack," she says. "You miss him."
"We all do," Ianto says, shrugs, and turns back to the monitor. It's been two weeks since Jack disappeared; two weeks and three days, if one was counting precisely. Not that Ianto is.
The desk creaks just a little as Gwen leans on it. "I know, but. You."
Here it comes, Ianto thinks grimly. He's been fielding the looks from the others ever since the kiss in public. He sits back and looks up at Gwen. "Of course I miss him," he says.
"D'you-- Ianto--" Gwen starts, lets out a little embarrassed laugh. "Do you want to talk about -- I mean, if you want to talk about Jack. I'll listen." Her voice is gentle, not probing or gossipy, which he appreciates. "You were -- it was going on for a while, wasn't it? Seeing him?"
Ianto swallows. He looks at the monitor; it's easier than meeting her eyes. "It wasn't really like that," he says. All too acutely he remembers how angry he was with Jack over the incident with John Ellis's suicide. "Jack's not exactly the relationship type."
Gwen laughs again, a little more relaxed this time. "No," she agrees. "But he mentions old boyfriends, you know, past -- past relationships. And then the, when he kissed you." Ianto glances up at her now. She's looking down at her hands, her fingers moving nervously on the thigh she's braced on the desk. That Gwen and Jack have unspoken feelings for each other, Ianto's never denied. That she might be jealous of him is something he hadn't expected. "I'm sorry," she says after a moment. "I'm prying, I know--"
"No, it's all right." Ianto chews on the inside of his cheek for a moment and then gives her a hesitant smile. "Whatever Jack and I had, it was -- strictly physical. When he comes back--"
"If he comes back," she automatically corrects him.
"If," he repeats, with no sincerity in his tone, "it won't be the same between us. I don't want it to be."
"Good for you, Ianto," Gwen says, firm and clear, and reaches over to cover one of his hands with her own. He looks at her hand on his, and for the first time, he sees the sparkling gem on her ring finger. He raises his eyes to hers again and now she's beaming. He congratulates her warmly, easily, even getting up to come around the desk and hug her.
After she's left him to his data entry, he wonders -- very privately -- what Jack will think of this new development.
Jack's first priority, when he walks away from the Doctor and returns to Cardiff and Torchwood, is to seek the forgiveness he needs from his team. He knows it won't be as easy as all that, but he's prepared to take whatever they need to throw at him. He's relieved, however minutely, when a new crisis pops up under his nose (even if said crisis brings the man now styling himself Captain John Hart back into his life), because it gives them all something to focus on that isn't his unscheduled departure.
Talking to Gwen in the Vaults gives him the opening he's been looking for with her. He's stunned, in the middle of trying to tell her that the thought of her kept him fighting to return, to feel the engagement ring on her finger. He recovers quickly enough: congratulates her, asks the right questions about how it happened. After, though, he chides himself. He couldn't have expected her to wait for him or something silly like that. Even though it hasn't been that long in Gwen's timeline, five weeks is still a fair chunk of time. And Gwen's right: she does need stability, dependability. Rhys will give her that. He has done since before she began at Torchwood, after all.
Truth be told, Jack found himself on the mild side of annoyed at Gwen's "No one else will have me" comment. He likes a little coy banter as much as the next man, but she'd just told him she was engaged to Rhys, with the glittering rock still staring him in the eye. What did she expect him to do, jump her right there in the cells and prove to her that someone else did want her? She knew she was an attractive woman; that self-confidence was one of the things that had initially drawn him to her.
He thinks about waiting to approach Ianto, after that strange rejection. He'd always planned on talking to both of them; the opportunity with Gwen simply came up first. After that discussion, he's actually feeling a little wary about Ianto now; what if Ianto's starting dating someone while he was gone?
They all pair off to go hunting for John Hart's missing canisters. Jack worries about Gwen, even though he's sure she can handle herself -- one doesn't preclude the other. Tosh and Owen work well together; by process of elimination, he and Ianto go together to the office building.
He lays it on a little thick; his mouth tends to run at the best of times, and he's actually a little nervous with Ianto now. When they get into the SUV together, it's the first time they've been alone since before he left. Jack knows the last memory Ianto has of him is a warm kiss, followed by an abrupt disappearance. Ianto's got that British stiff upper lip down to an art. He's silent during the drive over, except to call directions as they approach the location.
So Jack babbles to cover the silence while Ianto remains mute. Jack starts counting it a win if he can get Ianto to roll his eyes or snort. It's easier once they arrive at the office block; Jack can riff on the sexiness of offices (especially when he thinks about how well Ianto fits in them) for hours.
Jack finds, though, that he needn't have worried. Ianto's abrupt with him in the office building, cutting short his suggestion to use the photocopier in wicked ways, but when Jack simply asks Ianto how he is, he's rewarded by a genuinely stammering, nervous Ianto. Ianto takes him up on the offer of a date almost without hesitation; he even makes a teasing comment about Jack's predilection for rooftops. It warms Jack immensely, gives him something to tuck away for later while he focuses on the upcoming confrontation with John Hart.
Death follows, and life again, worth the pain this time for the shock in John Hart's eyes when he sees Jack alive instead of sprawled, broken-backed, over a concrete bench. Jack's proud of the way his team handles John and his unexpected bid at manipulating them to keep him alive; Gwen, especially, for being willing to sacrifice herself in what would be the only option, if not for the DNA samples they keep on hand.
It'll be some time yet before he's fully earned their trust again. Still, Jack thinks they've come a long way since he returned to Torchwood.
The disposal of the bomb triggers a minor timeshift that leaves the five of them stuck seven hours earlier in the day, approximately the same time Jack found them facing down the blowfish in a house in Grangetown. Jack herds them back to the convertible, suggesting an evening at a nearby deluxe hotel and spa as a way of avoiding their earlier selves until the right amount of time has passed.
"The St David's?" Gwen suggests. The idea of relaxing in luxury lights up her eyes.
"Too close to the Hub, we can't risk it," Ianto points out. The debate continues until Jack overrides it with his choice of hotel; since he's paying, they have little choice but to give in.
At the hotel, Jack asks for a suite with rooms for each of them and insists on making sure everyone has access to every service offered by the spa, from a variety of manicures and pedicures to hot stone massages and mud baths. They're led to a luxurious suite and given schedules for the various services, and while Owen and Gwen are quick to choose rooms, Tosh lingers in the suite's main room, settling on the couch with a sigh of relief.
Once he's checked on her to make sure she's fine, just tired, Jack trails Ianto to the room he's chosen. He lingers in the doorway as Ianto explores the room in silence. Finally, Ianto turns toward Jack and gives a little helpless sort of shrug. "If you're going to come in," he says, "come in."
Jack does, gladly, closing the door behind him. "You've still got the stopwatch, I see," he comments.
Ianto manages a little smile, hand covering his pocket, where he'd tucked the stopwatch after the detonation of the bomb. "It -- comes in handy."
He holds himself stiffly, and while Jack wants nothing more than to cross the room, close the distance between them, to feel Ianto warm against him, he stays where he is. Ianto's worth waiting for. "So," Jack says, and laughs a little. "God, this is weird. I've imagined a thousand ways this could go, and none of them were like this."
Ianto lets out a sound like a sigh and leans back against the bureau, arms folding across his chest. "You imagined this?" he asks.
Jack scratches at his nape, nodding. "I had a lot of time," he says. "While I was away. Kind of -- enforced time to do nothing but think." He's not going to elaborate right now, despite the curious look on Ianto's face; there'll be time later for that. "And I knew the first thing I wanted to do when I got back here, when I saw you again, was to say this: I'm sorry."
It clearly isn't what Ianto was expecting. One eyebrow goes up, but Ianto's dark eyes reveal nothing. "You're sorry?"
Jack nods, blowing out a breath. "I am. I'm sorry I shut you out. I'm sorry I didn't think about using your car to help John Ellis kill himself until afterward. I'm sorry I--" He takes a step forward, slow, then another. "I'm sorry I didn't talk to you more. That I let things be just physical when I knew you wanted more."
Ianto looks genuinely surprised. He watches Jack warily for a moment, then slowly shakes his head, starting to smile. "You know, now that's funny. Because I pictured this happening, too."
"Really?" Jack blinks.
Ianto nods, straightening. "Only, after you apologised for everything, I usually ended up telling you it wasn't good enough and I couldn't just accept that."
"Oh." Jack deflates a little. This is a side of Ianto he hadn't expected to see. Sure, he never thought it'd be an instant accepting of his apology followed by nakedness, but Ianto seems so cool to him now, even with having agreed to the date and all. "But--" he starts.
Ianto shakes his head, still smiling that vague little smile. "The thing is now, though. Now you're back?" He swallows, and for the first time Jack sees the loneliness flickering behind Ianto's eyes, the thinness of the shell keeping him together. "I don't even care. I look at you and I'm just glad you're here."
"Ianto," Jack says quietly. Ianto makes a quiet sound and crosses the room. His hands frame Jack's face and his mouth finds Jack's, no ceremony or hesitation in his surging kiss. Jack groans against Ianto's mouth, his hands finding Ianto's hips to pull him closer. He can feel Ianto trembling; it's an echo of the shake he feels in his own bones.
They lay together in the same bed later, after massages and facial treatments and every spa thing Jack can think of. Jack closes his eyes and breathes in the smell of Ianto, overlaid with rich expensive scents. Beneath all that is an earthy Welshman he can't believe he still has the good fortune to be holding.
"It won't be easy," he murmurs into Ianto's hair.
Ianto scoffs quietly against Jack's shirt. "Because it's been so smooth before this?"
"I'm serious," Jack says.
"I know." Ianto pushes himself up a little so he can look into Jack's eyes. "Don't think I haven't given this a lot of thought, Jack. I'm still dealing with the fact that as far as I know, you can't die."
Jack nods briefly and brings a hand up to stroke Ianto's close-cropped hair. "I was serious about that date, you know," he tells Ianto.
Ianto smiles a little at that. His kiss this time is as gentle as a benediction. "Good. Because I'm going to hold you to it."
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this page last updated on 20 april 2009