When the Fog's Too Thick to See

Notes: This came out of some interesting discussion I read recently regarding the possible nature of Jack and Ianto's relationship, as well as a desire to explore them from a darker, more realistic angle. Set mid-S2, no specific spoilers. Many thanks to lemniskate for looking this over and providing an excellent title for me.

Pairing: Jack/Ianto

Rating: PG-13

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

"Honestly, Ianto, don't you ever leave the Hub anymore?" Tosh asks him once, her eyes dancing the tease. Ianto pauses as he pours, then shakes his head.

"No," he responds, handing her the mug.

Tosh looks at him more seriously, her head tilted. "You don't... leave? Ianto, you have a flat, I know you do."

"Bedsit," he corrects. "And that would be 'had', past tense. I let the lease expire two months ago."

Tosh frowns as Ianto goes off with the tray to deliver the rest of the coffees. As usual, his rounds take him into Jack's office last. She hears Jack's low laugh, catches the timbre of Ianto's voice saying something just quiet enough that she can't hear it, and frowns.

After that, she starts paying more attention. Surely Ianto was joking. He can't be spending all his time in the Hub. She looks up the apartment block in Cathays listed in his personnel file as his home address, rings them on the pretense of being a potential employer, and finds out that Ianto Jones isn't a tenant there any longer. His only telephone number is the one on his mobile; she tries running other searches, but with the sheer number of people in Cardiff who share his first initial and last name, she gets no immediate results.

She reshapes the program to target it better and lets it run over a period of days. It's not snooping, she tells herself. She's concerned for Ianto. He's so young, and whatever he has with Jack surely isn't a relationship in which they're living together as boyfriends?

The thing is, though, Ianto wouldn't lie to her. She knows that. She runs the search program anyway. A week later, she still has no hits.

They're working together on audits a few days later when she pauses, in the middle of the list, and looks across the conference room table at him. He's pale, dark smudges of exhaustion underscoring his eyes. The team was busy late into the night tracking some alien spoor that turned out to be the leavings of something resembling a dog, only with vicious claws and a barbed tail. They'd been forced to kill it. Ianto looks as if he hasn't slept since.

"Are you all right, Ianto?" she asks, careful to keep her voice level.

Ianto looks up from the list he's cross-checking against hers, blinking at her in a puzzled, owlish way. "Of course," he says. "Number twelve?"

"I'm serious," Tosh says. "I'm worried about you."

"I'm fine," he replies, giving her his best friendly smile. "I promise."

"How are. How are you and Jack?" she tries. She's so bad at this.

Ianto looks down at his list. The papers tremble a little in his hand. "Everything's fine with Jack and me," he says.

"Ianto," she says quietly. He looks up at her again, his smile fixed firmly in place.

"Shall we continue?" he says.

"If there's ever anything," she begins, trails off, tries again. "If you need to talk."

Ianto nods and reaches over to give her hand a quick squeeze. It's more physical contact than they usually have. "Thank you, Tosh. I mean that."

The conversation's being dismissed. Feeling lost, Tosh returns to the list and finds number twelve.

One night, she stays late, head so deep in code that she doesn't notice the time passing until she hears a muffled thump from the direction of Jack's office. It shakes her from her meditation and she sits up, calling, "Everything all right?"

A startled moment of silence drags on before she hears Jack, strangled: "We're fine, Tosh. Go home, it's late." Quieter, under his voice, rumbles the warm sound of Ianto's laughter.

Her cheeks go scarlet and she grabs her handbag, barely remembering to save and lock up her work on the mainframe before taking her jacket and leaving them to it. At home, she pours herself a large glass of wine and allows herself to picture it. It's a lovely mental image.

Later, though, curled up alone in her big bed and thinking desolately of Tommy Brockless, she wonders what it's like for Jack and Ianto after. Jack's bedroom, the tiny bunker beneath his office, isn't exactly designed for double occupancy; isn't really even designed to be a bedroom. It must be strange, if Ianto sleeps there at all.

A few days later, she's headed down to the boardroom when she realizes they're in the corridor talking. She doesn't want to disturb or interrupt, but when she hears Jack's tone of voice, low and unhappy, she plasters herself to the wall.

"You shouldn't be staying here," he tells Ianto. From Toshiko's vantage point, she can see the back of Jack's head and a hand folded over a bicep. Beyond him, Ianto's face is in shadow and his arms are crossed on his chest.

"I've nowhere else to go, Jack, and you know it," Ianto says. "If you're saying that you don't want me here--"

"It's not that." Jack's hand comes up to the back of his head, scratching up the hair there, a frustrated motion. "You should have a life outside this place."

"There's nothing else for me," Ianto says quietly. "All I've got left now is this. Torchwood, and you."

"Are you even listening to yourself? What about your sister, your niece and nephew--?"

Toshiko recognises the tone of Jack's voice. It's the same one he uses on Gwen when he tells her to go home to Rhys, to keep hold of her home life. Jack doesn't give Tosh that lecture. (He doesn't have to give it to Owen, she thinks ruefully; Owen's never had a problem shrugging Torchwood off at the end of the day.)

"It's not the same as it is with Gwen and Rhys," Ianto replies, and Toshiko's slightly amused that he drew the same mental conclusion she did. "You know things aren't -- aren't easy. With my sister."

"And it doesn't help when you never leave this place to go visit them," Jack argues.

Ianto's back goes stiff. "Fine," he says. "If that's what you want. Sir."

"Ianto," Jack says, annoyed, but Ianto's already turned to walk past him to the boardroom. Jack's hand massages his forehead now, head bowed. Swallowing, Tosh straightens and makes a point of clattering as she comes around the corner toward him. Jack turns toward her with a bright smile, and she returns it, pretending she didn't just witness the scene. It makes her feel guilty to have lingered, now.

She's still trying to figure out how to approach Ianto when the Rift alarm goes off late the following morning. "Low level Rift activity," she reports, typing commands to enlarge the city map as Jack comes up behind her. "Looks like Penarth. Can't tell what it is, probably something small."

"All right," Jack says. "Why don't you and Ianto take the SUV and go check it out?"

It's not a request, despite the phrasing. Tosh raises an eyebrow at him, then glances over at Ianto, who's at his workstation, looking clearly surprised. Jack glances from Ianto to Tosh, his arms folded over his chest, hands on his biceps. "Problem?" he asks.

"None at all," Ianto says, closing down whatever he was working on and crossing over to the armoury for their weapons. Tosh stands, giving Jack a glance, and reaches for her jacket. It's not unusual for Ianto to be sent out on field work more often these days, but she gets the impression Jack doesn't want to be anywhere near Ianto right now. He rests an impassive look on her before turning to stride back into his office, calling, "Keep in contact," over his shoulder.

The atmosphere in the SUV is one of chilled silence for several minutes as they head out of the underground garage and Ianto steers them onto the A4232. Toshiko occupies herself with setting up tracking on the monitor in front of her, but it only takes thirty seconds or so and then she's got nothing else to do but try not to look at Ianto.

Finally, she tries for a bright tone. "So," she says. "How are you, Ianto?"

"Fine." His tone is clipped.

"And... how are things with you and Jack?"

Ianto lets out the barest breath through his nose. "Suppose this is about yesterday," he says.

Guilt sweeps over Tosh. "I -- I didn't know you knew I was there."

"It's the heels," Ianto says, and Tosh glances down at the pumps she's wearing today, the same pair as yesterday. "We're fine," he continues. "Nothing to worry about."

Tosh watches Ianto in silence. He shifts lanes to pass a lorry and then glances at her again, decidedly uncomfortable. "What?" he says at last.

"You're not all right," she says softly. "Even if I hadn't seen what I did see, you and Jack aren't exactly warm and fuzzy today." Ianto's quiet, his eyes dark and distant. "What is it?"

Ianto doesn't speak for long moments, so long that Tosh is starting to think the subject has been dropped when he finally takes in a breath and glances at her. "I can't seem to make him understand," he murmurs, "that I've got nothing else. In my life. It's Torchwood and him."

"It... doesn't have to be," Tosh suggests quietly.

Ianto sighs. "But it is. I don't -- fit -- in the normal world anymore." He swallows, and Tosh realises abruptly that they've never, not once, talked like this. Ianto's revealing more about himself than she's ever seen from him before.

"That's not true," she says, and he gives her a gentle smile.

"I've been through too much," he says. "We all have, I know that, I'm not saying you haven't either. But -- Canary Wharf..." He trails off and Toshiko reaches out impulsively to place a hand on his upper arm, squeezing just for a moment in sympathy before drawing back. He gives her a short nod of acknowledgement. "And then Lisa, and everything else we've been through dealing with Torchwood. I'd go back to the bedsit and there'd just be this... ringing. In my ears. I couldn't shut off."

"So you stay at the Hub," she says softly.

Ianto shrugs briefly, gives her the slightest quirk of a smile. "And there's Jack. He's a pretty compelling argument to stay."

"I still don't quite understand what's going on between the two of you," Tosh admits.

"Join the club." Ianto lets out a sound like a laugh, startling Tosh. "You may have noticed by now that labels are... not Jack's thing."

"But they're yours." Tosh can draw her own conclusion from that. "Does it matter?" Her tone is innocently curious, but the sharp look Ianto gives her answers the question better than any words could.

He draws a breath in, though, taking a moment to concentrate on the exit branching off to the A4055. Toshiko recalibrates to make sure they're still heading in the right direction. Typing the command, she gives Ianto a brisk smile. "Nearly there," she says, and Ianto nods.

The Rift has spewed out what looks to be a quantity of leaves and some metallic objects resembling nothing so much as old-fashioned keys. The only reason they can tell that the leaves are of alien origin -- aside from their unusual colour and the residual Rift energy clinging to them -- is that they're strewn across an otherwise-spotless counter in a small jewelry shop. Ianto apologises to the owner for the inconvenience and explains that they're the cleaning service while Tosh brings in a containment unit. While they carefully rake the lot into the box, the owner keeps up a litany of complaints about the presumed vandals who must have come in and done this to his pristine shop. Ianto assures the gentleman that there will be no charge for cleaning services, which mollifies him somewhat, and in no time they're in the SUV again on their way back to the Hub.

Tosh has kept one of the leaves out of the unit to examine it. "Dead organic matter," she says. "Almost looks like it came from any tree here, but it just doesn't resemble leaves off any tree I've ever seen."

"The colour, for a start," Ianto notes. As the leaf in question is bright blue fading to violet at the tips, Tosh nods in absent agreement.

"It'll be interesting to see if it's carbon-based. I'll start scanning when we get back."

Lost in her musings and already running searches on the general aspects of Earth-based trees and leaves, Tosh is too absorbed for the remainder of the trip to bring up any more awkward conversation about Ianto's personal life. She remembers that she'd wanted to ask more only when they walk back into the Hub to frosty silence from Jack. Probably just as well, she thinks, glancing sidelong at Ianto and seeing his spine go stiff. Her timing has always been terrible.

Tosh loses herself in analysis of the leaves for a while, pondering strings of genetic material and planets of possible origin. Ianto's taken the keys to clean and categorize; Gwen offered to help, but Ianto gently brushed her off. With nothing to do, Gwen sits in Jack's office to talk and Tosh soon tunes them out, occupied with her report.

When Owen leans on her desk, Tosh makes an absent hmm? of inquiry.

"Drinks?" he asks, twirling his car keys in one hand.

It takes her a moment of blinking up at Owen to orient herself. He just wants to unwind from work, she knows; he's not asking her out. She nearly assents anyway -- it's not as if she's accomplishing anything here -- but then she glances over at Jack's office. He's alone in there, the lamps burning over whatever paperwork he's engrossed himself in. Tosh hadn't even noticed Gwen leave.

She smiles up at Owen, shaking her head. "Thanks, no. I need to finish up this report."

"Suit yourself," Owen shrugs, and heads for the door, yelling that he's leaving as he goes. Jack doesn't respond.

Tosh works a little more on the report, wrapping up her conclusions and printing out the data on the leaves, then binds it all together and brings it into Jack's office. "Report on today's Rift activity," she says. "The organic part of it, anyway. Ianto's classifying the rest."

"Thanks, Tosh." Jack doesn't even look up from his paperwork. A pencil is tucked behind his ear. "Why don't you take off," he suggests. "It's been a long day."

"I was... wondering if we could talk, actually," she says, moving to sit down in one of the chairs by his desk.

Jack glances up at her, his eyes dark and unreadable. "Not you, too," he says.

She raises an eyebrow. "What do you mean?"

"Gwen was in here for a good half hour, lecturing me about Ianto," he replies, going back to the form he's painstakingly filling in. "Are you picking up where she left off?"

"I'm sorry," she says, because apologising is her habit. "I didn't know that was what you and Gwen were talking about, I wasn't paying attention. But no, I didn't come in here to lecture you." Jack's eyebrow lifts sardonically, and Tosh sighs. "I just wanted to say that I'm worried, I guess," she tells him. "Ianto and I talked a little bit today, on the way to Penarth." The humour is rapidly disappearing from Jack's eyes, and Tosh takes in a breath and hurries on. "The thing is, what I don't know if you realise is that he's in love with you, Jack."

She's got his full attention now. Jack puts the pencil down and closes the folder on the form. "He told you that?" he asks.

"Not in so many words," Tosh admits. "But it's not hard to see when one's looking. Not out of -- prurience or anything like that," she hastens to add, "but because I care about both of you and I want you to be happy."

Jack inhales slowly, his fingers folding together on the desk. "I don't know if you've noticed this," he says, "but this job? Not really the kind of place that you can go home, slough it off and be a happy little family at the end of the day."

Tosh simply rolls her eyes. "Must I point out that I nearly got choked to death by cannibals last year? I still have nightmares."

"Sorry," Jack says, in a surprisingly humble tone.

"My point is," she goes on, swallowing, "you both have someone to lean on at the end of the day. You should cherish that. Don't order him out of here when, for him, you're all he's got."

Jack's throat works and he looks down for a moment, then back up at her. His eyes glitter a little. "I don't want that for him," he whispers. Tosh is stunned by the vulnerability in Jack's voice. "I never did. He should have a chance at a life. Torchwood agents don't tend to survive to old age."

Swallowing the lump in her throat, Tosh reaches over and covers Jack's large hand with her own. His fingers squeeze hers; she's reminded, for an absurd moment, of how she comforted him in this slight way when they were trapped in 1941 and he confessed to her that he wanted to save the real Jack Harkness from his inevitable fate. "Don't you see, Jack," she tells him quietly, "that's why you need to hold on to him."

His head drops for a moment, and then Jack inhales, hand scrubbing across his eyes.

"Will you talk to him?" she asks. "For me?"

Jack nods. She gives his hand another squeeze and stands up. Impulsively, she leans across the desk and kisses his cheek. "Goodnight, Jack."

His hand comes up to cradle the side of her face and he smiles warmly from up close at her. Tosh is used to Jack directing his active charisma at other people; it's not often it's directed at her, and her stomach distinctly flips. She's glad when he only kisses her cheek in return, then lets go of her hand.

"Goodnight, Tosh," he says. "And thank you."

As she locks up at her workstation and gathers her things, Ianto comes by with a single coffee in a blue-and-white striped mug and a plate of biscuits on a tray. Tosh gives him a smile and tells him to have a good night. He responds with a little bow and a smile and continues into Jack's office.

Despite herself, Tosh lingers, fussing over her handbag. She just wants to see. Ianto sets the tray down on Jack's desk. Jack's hand reaches for Ianto's before he can withdraw; Ianto doesn't resist. He blinks at Jack, a mixture of puzzlement and surprise on his face. When Jack draws Ianto down into a gentle kiss, Tosh blushes and takes her bag, heads out of the Hub.

Walking home, she begins to smile.

Back to the Torchwood Fic.

this page last updated on 23 january 2010