Warnings: Angst. Loads of it. Mention of attempted suicide, language, sexual situations, character deaths. Episode references: 'Cyberwoman', 'Something Borrowed', 'Kiss Kiss Bang Bang', 'End of Days', 'Children of Earth'.
Five Times Ianto Told Jack 'Don't'...
Captain Jack Harkness sighed and rubbed a hand roughly over the back of his neck, knowing it would take more than the firm squeeze he gave the tight muscles to ease his tension tonight. He fell heavily into the chair behind his desk and, after a slight hesitation, entered the code to access the CCTV network on Roald Dahl Plass above.
It took a few seconds of flipping through footage, but then he saw what he was looking for. A suited man — shoulders slumped, head bowed, hands shoved deep into his pockets — walking across the Plass, each step dragging and weighted as if the movement was causing him immeasurable pain. He looked like a shadow — dark and spectral, like something ephemeral that was always lurking, but was nothing more than a flicker in your peripheral that you were never quite sure you saw. Jack swallowed, realising that description fitted the other man perfectly. He was a ghost of Torchwood's making.
Ianto Jones was broken, perhaps beyond all repair. And Jack was responsible.
He sighed again, closing his eyes with the long exhale, as Ianto stepped out of the reach of the camera. Jack opened his eyes with his next breath, staring at the video of the deserted Plass for another moment then he jabbed a key on his laptop, making the screen go black. He reached for the crystal decanter of scotch he kept on hand for the end of difficult days because this had been the mother of all bad days. As he poured a generous glass for himself, he heard footsteps coming closer.
Gwen Cooper ignored the terse command and walked across the room to lean one hip against Jack's desk. 'Are you okay?' she asked, and Jack let out a bitter bark.
'Oh, I'm just fine,' he declared loudly, voice full of false, acerbic cheer. 'I love ending my days with a good mystery and this show had it all: intrigue, betrayal, love, murder, although I reckon killing the heroine off might prove problematic...'
'Stop it,' she snapped, glaring at him. 'God, Jack. Ianto...'
'I know!' Jack said angrily, scowling at her as he pushed himself to his feet. 'I know.'
He walked across the room, staring unseeingly out the window at the work level of the Hub as he drained his glass. They both fell silent, the normal buzz and hum of the mainframe filling the dead air between them for almost a minute before Gwen asked softly, 'What are you going to do?'
His fingers tightened around the glass as he shook his head, suddenly feeling more exhausted than he had in a long time. 'I don't know,' he murmured, wondering the same thing himself. 'I just... don't know.'
He waited until he heard the alarms for the cog door go off, indicating Gwen had followed his instructions this time then he opened the hatch to his private quarters. He descended down the metal ladder slowly, each limb seeming heavier with every step. Exhaustion tugged at every cell, but Jack knew that his respite would be short and even more restless than usual. His sleep was often plagued with nightmares of him failing his team in some way, but he'd never come closer to having that transpire than he had tonight.
I failed Ianto.
Jack's hands raised to rub at his temples, the pain that had been gathering all night intensifying as his guilt swamped him. He had been able to stave it off earlier, push it down and cover it with fury and fear, but now that he was alone in the aftermath, regret and frustration slammed into him.
'I should have seen it,' he muttered to himself, his fingers moving from his temples to his eyes and scrubbing at them. 'I should have seen him.'
He knew that he'd been lax with Ianto's entry paperwork, doing the bare essentials as he allowed himself to be distracted by a pretty face; and perhaps if he'd been more thorough, he could have seen the signs and prevented the events of the night.
Jack let out a derisive snort. That had been Ianto's intention, of course; he'd done his research like the spectacularly thorough man he was, and planned out his course of action precisely: distract the highly sexed Jack Harkness with tight jeans, a beguiling smile, and a pterodactyl then sneak the cyberman in right under Jack's unsuspecting and foolish nose. Well, it had worked like a charm. He'd fallen for Ianto's con hook, line and sinker, and he was disgusted that he was actually impressed by the depth of Ianto's planning and dedication.
'I didn't have a clue,' Jack admitted to himself, the words falling flat and hollow in the musty atmosphere of his cave.
He'd never caught so much as a glimpse of all the anger and pain Ianto had been hiding and he wasn't sure if that was due to Ianto's spectacular acting, or his own nescience.
Stupid, stupid, Harkness!
He had been doing exactly what Owen and Susie had accused him of doing when Ianto showed up for his first day of work — thinking with his dick. He'd allowed his desire to seetouchtaste Ianto to overrule his common sense, and he had failed his team by not taking his responsibilities seriously.
Jack slipped his shoulder holster down his arms, taking the Webley out and placing it respectfully on the small bedside table before tossing the holster more haphazardly onto a nearby chair. He stared at the sleek lines of the old-fashioned weapon, eyes losing focus as he recalled the sight of the muzzle pressed hard into Ianto's forehead, denting the pale skin as those teary blue eyes glared up at him contemptuously.
“Like you care. I clear up your shit, no questions asked, and that's the way you like it. When was the last time you asked me anything about my life?”
Jack grimaced as the accusation echoed around his head, cutting as sharply into his soul as they had when Ianto had first forced them through gritted teeth. He'd promised himself his team would be different to Torchwood One, that his Torchwood would be everything London wasn't, but he had been every bit the mercenary and uncaring leader as he believed Yvonne Hartman to be.
“You like to think you're a hero, but you're the biggest monster of all!”
Fingers dug painfully into his eye sockets as he rubbed, trying to force back the memory of the disgust and hatred in Ianto's eyes. When his hands dropped back by his side, he recalled the beaten figure he'd watched walking across the Plass tonight and his head gave another, more insistent throb.
Once he'd stopped weeping, Ianto had insisted on cleaning up. He'd snarled like a wounded animal at Jack when he offered to help carry the bodies to the incinerator, then ignored him as he hosed away the crimson trails of blood that marked the path taken. The look on his face as he dismantled the conversion unit...
Jack had wanted to turn away, to give Ianto some time alone with his sorrow, to stop the stabs of resentment and regret that cut through him like a dagger with each screw Ianto unfastened. But he didn't. Something inside stopped him, told him to stay, even if all he did was watch. He needed to see this through until the end — his penance for his sins and, whether he realised it or not, he thought Ianto needed it too.
Jack had seen the moment Ianto's pain became too much, the moment his heart had broken and the default mask of bland and blank efficiency came back up. It was the moment the fires in the incinerator flared, consuming Lisa's body. Ianto had turned and stared at him, eyes disturbingly emotionless, before he'd limped out of the room.
Jack clutched at his aching head, desperately wishing for peace, for relief from the weighty onslaught of regrets and 'what ifs' the events of the night had brought down upon him. Just a moment of refuge... Tempted, he touched the gun, lightly stroking a finger along the still-warm butt. He could give himself that peace. He could buy a minute or two of oblivion with just one strategically placed bullet...
As he contemplated the notion, another sudden, horrifying thought slammed into him and for a moment, the world tilted, time and space narrowing until only one tangible thought remained.
Ianto's gun. Where was Ianto's gun?
It took nearly ten precious minutes to get to Ianto's flat, Jack's momentum briefly brought to a halt by the sight of the rundown building. Ianto's well-pressed suits and impeccable presentation didn't jell with the overflowing rubbish bins and peeling paint of this location, and the juxtaposition startled Jack into abeyance.
A moment later, though, he jolted into action, slamming the door of the SUV and running for the stairs of the building. Torchwood personnel files had listed number four as Ianto's residence and, one flight up, Jack hammered desperately on the numbered door.
'Ianto!' he called, trying the handle. It was locked. He rattled it uselessly anyway then went back to thumping on the door. 'Ianto!'
Still no answer and Jack didn't hesitate for another second, kicking the door hard in a common weak spot. Once, twice then on the third bone-jarring kick, the door flew open, and Jack was stepping over the threshold before it had even slammed into the wall behind it.
He strode down the short hall then, as he stepped into the dinette, halted as suddenly as if his feet had adhered to the floor. Ianto — beautiful, broken Ianto who Jack had never truly seen, never truly thought about as more than a gorgeous arse, velvet vowels and orgasmic coffee — sat at the kitchen table, the black casing of the gun he'd never had occasion to use vivid against the pale, yellowing Formica of the table top. His filthy hands lay flat, just centimetres from the butt, and Jack could see the rust-red flakes of dried blood still under the nails.
'You're paying for a new door.'
Jack flashed a quick, strained smile at the other man whose eyes were fixed to the pistol in front of him. 'Gladly,' he said, eyes moving cautiously between the gun and Ianto's face.
'And for repairs to the wall it hit.'
Jack nodded in agreement, edging slowly forward as if Ianto was an animal he was afraid of spooking. 'You should have answered your phone,' he said, trying for a normal tone as he closed the distance between them. 'Or the door when I knocked.'
'Most people would accept that a closed door and unanswered phone meant either: a) I'm not home, or b) I don't want to speak to you. Most people wouldn't kick the door in...'
'I'm not most people,' Jack admitted, pausing when Ianto's right hand, flat on the table and closest to the gun, twitched.
'No,' Ianto conceded faintly. 'You aren't.'
His gaze hadn't shifted from the gun during their exchange, and Jack swallowed nervously. 'Can I take the gun, Ianto?' he asked softly, trying not to allow his fear to come through and failing miserably.
'No,' Ianto murmured, glassy eyes fixed on the firearm. 'No, I don't think so.'
'I'm trying to decide, you see,' Ianto continued, his voice steady and detached, a slight hoarseness the only indication of the raw and roughened cries of earlier. 'Would me taking the opportunity for retribution from you hurt? Would you welcome the chance to put a bullet through my head? Are you that malevolent, Jack? Or do you still have enough humanity left that you aren't looking forward to... disciplining me? In which case, would making you look me in the eye when you kill me be a far more satisfying revenge?'
Jack shook his head. 'I'm not Torchwood One, Ianto,' he said firmly. 'There will be no killing.'
Ianto was perfectly still for a moment longer then he said softly, 'So, retcon then? Well, that makes my decision a whole lot easier.'
Even though Jack had been expecting it, Ianto's hand moved so swiftly that, before he could take a step forward to stop him, the other man was on his feet, thumbing the gun's safety off. For the first time since he'd entered the apartment, Ianto met his gaze and Jack took a step back as the furious intensity engulfed him.
'I won't let you take her,' Ianto hissed, raising his arm and pointing the gun at Jack's head with a steady hand. 'I won't let you take what I've got left of her.'
'You won't shoot me, Ianto,' Jack said softly, keeping eye contact with the other man. 'It's not in you...'
Ianto stared at him in disbelief for a moment then he moved forward until the barrel pressed against Jack's forehead, directly between his eyes.
'I have nothing left to lose,' he said, echoing his words of earlier that night. His lip curled up and his eyes reflected his disgust and anger. 'I can taste you, Jack. And I hate that you stole even that from me — my last kiss, my last taste of Lisa...' He cocked the gun and pushed it harder into Jack's flesh. 'You won't take anything else of her from me. I won't let you.'
Jack drew in a slow, deep breath then carefully began to lift his hand. 'Ianto,' he said in what he prayed was a soothing tone. 'I won't hurt you, and I won't retcon you, not unless you ask me to. Give me the gun.'
'I don't believe you,' Ianto spat. 'But I won't get the chance to find out if you're lying or not. You're right, Jack. I don't have it in me to kill you...'
Jack made a swipe at the gun as it shifted away from his forehead, but was too late to stop Ianto pressing it into the soft flesh beneath his own chin.
'...but I am imminently qualified to take the coward's way out,' Ianto said tremulously, a sob breaking free as his control slipped away. 'I can't live without her, Jack. I won't.'
Jack saw the increase in pressure on the trigger and didn't think, snapping his arm up and snagging the weapon from Ianto's grasp, the gun going off mere inches from the other man's face. There was a brief struggle then Jack grunted, 'Sorry, Ianto,' before head-butting him.
Ianto cried out in pain and surprise and loosened his grip on the gun. Jack tore it out of his hand and quickly discharged the magazine, letting it fall to the floor with a thud.
Ianto straightened with a snarl. 'Fucking bastard!'
The second blow to the jaw of the night hurt just as much as the first and the impact made Jack stagger back, stumbling over the coffee table and landing sprawled across the deceptively hard couch. He saw the next blow coming and threw himself sideways to avoid it, sweeping his leg across Ianto's and knocking them out from under him, bringing the other man down on top of him.
They both let out gasps of pain then Ianto reared back for another attack. 'No,' said Jack quickly, grabbing the front of Ianto's gore-covered shirt and pulling him back down onto him. 'No, Ianto. No retcon, no... retribution. Stop now... Please...'
Ianto struggled, screaming, 'Don't! Don't fucking touch me!', but Jack wrapped his arms and legs around him, holding onto the thrashing body until the frenzied movements began to slow. Jack felt a powerful shudder run through Ianto then his too-thin frame began to shake.
'Ianto...' Jack sighed sorrowfully, gripping the other man tighter when he realised Ianto was weeping. 'I am so sorry...'
Jack stroked his finger over the fading black and white photograph, smiling weakly down at the woman's beautiful face, the shining excitement and love in her eyes making his heart ache. He leaned back in his chair, clutching the photograph to his chest as he closed his eyes, reaching into the dark recesses of his mind to unlock the place where he kept the most precious of his memories.
Watching Gwen marry Rhys had reminded him of how it felt to belong to someone like that, to have someone belong to him. He feared, though, as he was lost in his memories, that he'd hurt the first person in a long time who had made him feel that way. And here he was, hiding in his office - too gutless to face him, to own up to his mistake and ask for understanding, for forgiveness.
The soft shuffle of footsteps — uneven gait, dragging his feet - he's tired - made Jack look up, making a poor attempt at a smile as Ianto paused in the doorway. 'Thought I told you to go home,' he said warily.
Ianto shrugged, his hand tugging at his already loosened tie as he stepped into the office. Jack sat forward as Ianto reached him and braced his elbows on the desk. Ianto sat on the edge, his inscrutable eyes searching Jack's face for a long moment before he sighed and glanced down at the photograph still clutched in Jack's hand. He looked back up at Jack for permission.
Jack held the picture out, letting Ianto take it with a reverence that made Jack's heart swell with love for this beautiful man. Ianto smiled as he gazed at the photograph, his finger also reaching out to touch the frozen image, but instead of tracing the bride's fine features, his fingertip gently caressed the lines of the groom's face.
Jack's breath caught in his throat at the expression on Ianto's face. Whether it was exhaustion or a build up of the frantic, emotional day, Ianto had let his guard slip and Jack basked in the glow of pure, raw adoration and love that radiated from the other man.
Jack swallowed, forcing the words past the lump in his throat. 'Ianto, I'm s...'
'Don't,' Ianto whispered, carefully placing the photograph on the top of the pile Jack had rifled through earlier then returned the lot to the storage box. He shut the lid then stood and replaced it in Jack's drawer, closing it quietly.
He glanced questioningly up at Jack, a wrinkle of uncertainty furrowing his brow. 'Enough now?' he asked softly.
Jack inhaled a tremulous breath. He knew what Ianto was asking him and, yes, it ended tonight.
'Enough,' he whispered in confirmation, and the corners of Ianto's mouth curled up.
Jack bit his lip, watching Ianto's face — what he could see of it as Ianto snuffled into the pillow - for a reaction as he drew the tips of his fingers slowly over the still too-prominent ribs.
Screwing up his nose, Jack slid under the covers, wriggling his fingers over the underside of Ianto's foot. He traced the line of the arch, but there wasn't so much as a twitch in response.
'Alright,' he muttered under his breath. 'How about this?'
His hands slid along the contours of Ianto's prone body until they reached the silky skin under his arms. Jack combed his fingers through the soft hair there then gently teased the skin. Ianto's lips tightened and he pressed his face harder into the pillow.
'Oh, that's the spot, isn't it?' Jack murmured, stroking his fingers along the sleep-warm flesh that was tensing under his light touch. 'Got you.'
'Don't,' Ianto choked out finally, twisting away from Jack's hands. He rolled onto his back and glared up at Jack, hair sticking up in tufts all over his head and a half-annoyed, half-amused expression on his face. 'Arse.'
'Your arse is ticklish?' Jack said, deliberately misunderstanding. 'Let me see.'
Ianto chuckled as Jack gripped his hips tight and flipped him back onto his stomach then let out a rich, full-bodied laugh when Jack nuzzled his face into his buttock then pressed butterfly light kisses along the crease. Ianto moaned when Jack's thumbs spread his buttocks then sighed when he felt warm air tickling the pucker hidden within.
'Ticklish?' Jack asked, his voice rough.
Ianto murmured an agreement. 'Very,' he whispered then buried his face in the pillow when Jack's tongue joined the assault.
Jack sighed, slumping back into the couch. The soft cushions embraced him, and Jack closed his eyes, trying to relax. He'd been able to push aside his memories of the past year while they were chasing John Hart around Cardiff, but they'd returned full force now the adrenaline had faded and John was gone, slamming into him like a wrecking ball and putting paid to his plans for the night. He'd been hoping to spend some time with Ianto — they needed to talk badly — but he hated the thought of the other man seeing him like this: weak and sad and vulnerable. Especially when the Ianto he'd returned to was nothing of the sort.
It was ironic that despite all Jack's efforts to make Ianto part of the team, it took his disappearance to make it actually happen, to make the others see him in an entirely different light. He was no longer the tea boy, the archivist, the one Jack was shagging. He was Ianto — reliable, strong and capable. He was stunning and far too good for Jack Harkness, and the thought that Ianto might have left him behind made him ache.
A knock on the door made him jump nervously, but he quickly pushed himself to his feet. His breathing hitched when he saw the tall, dark-haired man standing there, and Jack took a moment to take a deep breath before he opened the door.
'Hi,' he said with a tentative smile which Ianto returned.
'Hi.' Ianto's hands were in his pockets and he hunched his shoulders, looking as if he was already regretting tapping on Jack's door. 'I'm not sure what I'm doing here.'
Jack pushed the door all the way open, stepping back so Ianto could pass without brushing against him. 'Well, now you're here, why don't you come in?'
Ianto hesitated, Jack holding his breath until the other man nodded curtly and walked past him into the room. They stood in front of the couch, shuffling with an awkwardness they'd never felt before.
'Drink?' asked Jack, waving towards the mini bar, but Ianto shook his head.
'No, I just...' He licked at his lips then cleared his throat before asking in a rush, 'How are you?'
Jack blinked. 'What?' he whispered, tremors shaking him.
No one had asked him that. The Doctor hadn't when they finally repaired the damage to the TARDIS, Martha hadn't when they stood side-by-side watching the Doctor cajole the TARDIS out of the safety of the Void, the rest of the team hadn't — too concerned with asking where he'd been, what he'd been doing, why he'd left them. No one had asked Jack if he was okay.
'I can see it, Jack,' Ianto said so softly Jack could barely hear him. 'In your eyes. You've been broken while you were gone. Someone broke you and didn't bother trying to put you back together.'
Jack sucked in a shuddering breath as hot tears stung his eyes. 'Ianto...' he choked out, before his knees gave out and he collapsed onto the couch. 'God, Ianto. I... They... It was a year, Ianto. A year of hell and...'
'Don't,' Ianto said quickly, sinking down beside Jack and sliding his hand comfortingly around the back of his neck. 'I don't want you to regret telling me what you're about to tell me, so... don't. Don't tell me. Not tonight. Not when it's all so raw, when you're so... bare. Tell me when you're ready. Tell me because you want to, not because I happened to be here when you shattered.'
The strong, reassuring hand and low, soothing voice steadied Jack, and with a final shiver that started in his shoulders and juddered right down to his toes, he nodded, looking up at Ianto gratefully.
'I don't deserve you,' he said hoarsely, and Ianto shrugged, a half-smile playing about his lips.
'Well, you're immortal, aren't you?' he said lightly. 'You've got a while to try.'
Jack laughed, the sound jarring after so long without hearing it. 'God, Ianto,' he breathed, clutching the other man's hand desperately. 'I missed you so much.'
Ianto shot him a tight smile and joked weakly, 'Twelve months without one of my blow jobs, I'm not surprised.'
'No.' Jack said, lifting a hand to Ianto's face, dragging his thumb over his lips. 'I missed you.'
Ianto's eyes fluttered shut. 'I missed you too.'
Jack couldn't resist any longer, leaning in and pressing his lips lightly to the other man's. Ianto made a whimpering noise in his throat and tilted his head so their mouths slid together firmly, the sensation like a cool drink of water after days walking the desert. It was home.
Jack stood passive as Ianto's sure hands efficiently washed the thick layer of dirt from Jack's skin, brown-tinted suds sluicing over trembling limbs and wasted muscles. Jack stared down at the top of Ianto's head, watching as the steam made his hair curl. He tried to remember if he knew this, if he knew that Ianto's hair curled in the heat, if he knew that he turned that particular shade of pink from the warm water, if he'd memorised the path the beads of water usually took as they rolled across his skin. He couldn't remember Gwen's smile, couldn't remember Tosh's eyes, couldn't remember the sound of Owen's voice...
An overwhelming sense of loss made him stagger, but Ianto held him steady, Jack clinging to him like he was his only anchor to the Earth - which he had been over the past thousand years.
Ianto Jones. Twenty five. Brown hair. Blue eyes. Beautiful Welsh vowels. Makes fabulous coffee. You love him. Ianto Jones. Twenty five. Brown hair. Blue eyes. Beautiful Welsh vowels. Makes fabulous coffee. You love him. Ianto Jones. Twenty five. Brown hair. Blue eyes. Beautiful Welsh vowels. Makes fabulous coffee. You love him.
He buried his fingers in Ianto's hair, twisting a curl around his forefinger. 'I like your hair like this,' he said, still not quite used to the gravelly, underused quality of his voice. 'Did... before...?'
'Yes,' Ianto said quietly, straightening and giving Jack a gentle smile. 'You've always liked it when it curls. I hate it. You call me Goldilocks and I threaten to cut off your caffeine drip.'
Jack's lips curved into a smile, and he immediately felt guilty. Tosh and Owen were gone. He had no right smiling when they were gone. He hadn't been there. He didn't get to tell them how fantastic they were, how much he adored Tosh's brilliant mind, how he loved Owen's tenacious nature.
He gazed at Ianto as the other man finished washing all the soap off their bodies. Had he ever told Ianto he loved him?
'All done,' Ianto murmured, brushing Jack's dripping hair off his forehead. 'Ready to get out?'
Jack shook his head slowly, reaching for Ianto's face. He cupped the stubble-rough cheeks, brushing his thumbs over Ianto's jaw, tracing the curve of his mouth, stroking his finger along the bridge of his nose then dragging his thumbs over the arch of his brow. All the while, his eyes were locked with Ianto's, watching as emotion flickered in their depths.
'Ianto,' he whispered. 'I lo...'
Hurt speared through him, and Ianto saw it, grasping Jack's wrists before he could pull away then turning his head to kiss Jack's palms, one after the other.
'Not like this,' he said quietly. 'Not now when we're hurting. Tell me later.'
Jack made a noise of dissension when Ianto pressed their lips together, but Ianto simply shook his head, sliding his thumb over the shell of Jack's ear.
'It's okay, Jack. There'll be a later,' he murmured against his lips. 'I promise.'
Jack pulled Ianto close, burying his face in his damp neck. 'I love you,' he mouthed into Ianto's skin, not having as much faith as Ianto in later, then Ianto held him tight as the tears came.
... and the One Time Jack Stole His Line
'I love you.'
Not like this. Not now. Save your breath and tell me later - when this is all over. It's gonna be okay, Ianto. I promise. It's gonna be okay.
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