Author's Notes:
I haven't had time to really devote to the last chapter of More Bitter so thought I'd write a short piece just to keep up the practise

It had been one of those hellish days, when everything that could possibly go wrong had decided to go wrong. The first problem was the Rift. It had been spewing out all manner of junk all morning, causing Gwen to yelp when a mass of unidentified goo had appeared on her desk, Owen to curse when something smacked him on the back of the head, Tosh to bang her fists against the computer screen in frustration when her calculations just wouldn’t add up and Jack to grouse every five minutes that he had to drink instant coffee due to Ianto’s necessary absence whilst filing these new additions in the archive system. It had seemed almost a blessing when a Weevil was sighted running wildly by the motorway. The whole team, minus Ianto who was left to deal with the Rift’s latest ‘gifts’, piled into the SUV and headed off to see what would cause a Weevil to venture so far out of the city in broad daylight.

The ‘almost blessing’ turned out to be the next in a long line of problems awaiting the team, when they arrived to find the Weevil cornered into a lay-by, surrounded by cars full of curious, and quite frankly scarily mad, people. It had taken them half an hour to persuade the crowd that they did in fact know what they were doing, in which time three people had been injured and the Weevil almost battered to death by an increasingly angry mob, and another ten minutes before an exhausted and extremely irritated Owen had managed to persuade them the Retcon was in fact essential for the treatment of their “shock”. By this time the police had been swarmed by angry protestors, a car trying to flee the scene had crashed and caused a pile-up and it was already getting dark by the time everything had been sorted out. Climbing back into the car, with a sedated Weevil fighting for its life in the back, Jack headed back for the Hub, hoping to find an end to this miserable day.

Back at the Hub Ianto had been swarmed by artefacts that had dropped through the Rift for a further three hours after the team had left. He was sure he’d be cataloguing the new items for the next month, but at least he had managed to move them all out of harm’s way and the Rift had finished its mad burst. He had been working flat out and was exhausted, his eyes dry and sore due to the prolonged hours staring at the computer screen and all he wanted to do was go home and sleep. But he’d heard from Jack, just minutes ago, that the team were finally on their way back and in serious need of some coffee, food and rest. Knowing that it was his job to keep the team going at times like this, Ianto set the coffee machine ready and called the local Chinese to put in their usual order. He then moved down into the cells, preparing a space for the Weevil he’d heard was in bad shape, ensuring that all of the equipment Owen had asked for was within reaching distance. With the preparations complete he climbed the stairs back to the central area just in time to hear the lift descending.

“Ianto, you won’t believe the afternoon we’ve had.” Jack said with a sigh, shrugging off his coat and draping it over Ianto’s outstretched arm.

“Yeah, a right excitement that was!” Gwen said, sarcastically.

“Load of bollocks if you ask me.” Owen muttered, loud enough so that everybody heard.

“Not that we asked you,” Jack said with a smirk, “but that does sum it up quite nicely.”

“So what was the Weevil doing out there?” Ianto asked, curiously.

“Haven’t the slightest,” Owen said with a shrug, “but whatever it was doing it didn’t finish it ‘cos some bloody idiots took it upon themselves to try and tear it apart.”

Owen and Tosh had the Weevil draped between them and made their way towards the cells to find the one that Ianto had prepared. It looked in terrible shape, Ianto thought, and he made a note to fetch it some of the food the Weevils seemed to enjoy as treats for when it was up to eating again… *if* it was up to eating again.

“The food should be here any minute,” Ianto said, realising that Jack and Gwen were still stood before him, looking for all the world as if they might drop with exhaustion any minute. “The coffee’s are almost ready too so why don’t you sit down and I’ll go fetch them.”

“Thanks Ianto,” Gwen said and Jack simply smiled gratefully at him. Tosh quickly rejoined them and Owen followed a few minutes later, having hooked up several monitors to the Weevil to alert him of any changes in its condition. All four of them sank into their chairs around the table and gratefully sipped at the extra strong coffee Ianto had made, waiting for the food to arrive. When it did, Ianto handed it round and then waited in silence for them to speak. Jack broke the silence.

“Right, guys, I know we’re all tired, but there’s still work to be done before we can go home. Tosh, I need you to check the computer and see what caused the Rift’s activity to suddenly accelerate this morning and see if you can’t check the CCTV footage around Cardiff and check if there were any other unusual occurrences today. I find it hard to believe it’s a coincidence that both the Rift and a Weevil both acted strangely on the same day.” The whole team murmured agreement to this conclusion and Tosh went to collect her laptop. Jack continued,

“Owen, keep an eye on the Weevil. I don’t want to lose it, especially after it acted so strangely.” Owen simply nodded, his face betraying his concern for his charge.

“Gwen, I need you to deal with the police — make sure they don’t have any unnecessary data on all of this and smooth over the rough relations this is going to cause. They’re going to really dig deep at this so you’re going to have your hands full.”

“Great.” Gwen muttered, knowing full well that Jack was right.

“Ianto, I’m sure there are masses of items that fell through the Rift and need sorting through, so they are your priority. I’ll be checking through the ones you can’t identify, as usual. Any of you have any questions, call me. Understood?” he asked, looking at each one in turn. A round of ‘yes’ and nods followed before each member grabbed his or her takeaway container and moved on to the job which would take the greater part of the night and the following day to resolve.

Three weeks had passed since that dreadful day, and things had settled down to the usual crazy, but steady pace. The Weevil had grown stronger and stronger each passing day, under the careful eye of Owen and had enjoyed the extra treats Ianto had brought it every now and again. It was now pretty much back to its normal strength and settling in to life in the cells as well as any other member of its race.

Tosh had studied masses of data readings but could find no direct link between the Weevil’s strange behaviour and the Rift’s accelerated activity. Jack had mentioned on numerous occasions that he was sure the Weevils were closely connected to the Rift, for they had often reacted to the changes in its energy output. With this in mind he had asked each member of his team to set up ways to record these changes, in the hopes that one day they might understand the link between the two and use it to their advantage — if the Weevils were able to warn them of changes in the Rift they could not sense themselves they might be better prepared for its surprises.

Gwen had managed to smooth over the relations with the police and Jack had been systematically checking the items Ianto could not identify when cataloguing the latest arrivals (to which many more had been added in the previous three weeks). Life at the Hub had essentially returned to normal, or as normal as life at Torchwood could be. And yet, Ianto was still as exhausted as ever. Whereas the other members had resolved their problems fairly quickly, Ianto’s job was taking far longer and he was reaching his limit. He knew he needed to break and rest properly soon, he’d seen the signs of exhaustion many times before, but he just couldn’t rest knowing that he had so much work to do — not when there could be another such day looming in their near future. One never knew with Torchwood. So he continued to push himself at a harsh pace, hidden in the archives so many days that the other team members rarely got to see him for much longer than a few minutes at a time. Gwen and Jack had both mentioned he’d looked tired, and Jack in particular had lamented the fact he hardly got to see Ianto these days, but neither had seen past the front which Ianto put up when in their company, knowing that were they to know how exhausted he was they would force him to rest. So when he moved too quickly and felt his head spin he fell to the floor in a faint, unbeknownst to the rest of the team.

“Jack, where’s Ianto?” Jack jumped as Owen’s voice sputtered into his earpiece. Wondering what the physician could want with Ianto, he cleared his throat and replied.

“In the Archives I think,” he said, “why?”

“Well he hasn’t fed the Weevils yet and they’re pretty restless. I just came down to check on them and it looks like he hasn’t been since this morning. He usually comes down every couple of hours doesn’t he?” Owen sounded concerned, even though he would never admit it, and if Owen was concerned then Jack definitely was. It certainly wasn’t like Ianto to miss a feeding — he truly cared for the welfare of those held within their cells.

“Thanks for letting me know, Owen, I’ll check the CCTV.” Jack opened up the CCTV footage for the Archives on his screen and inhaled sharply when he saw Ianto sprawled across the floor, a pile of papers strewn all around him, as if dropped. Moving out of his seat and running out the door he reactivated his earpiece and called to Owen.

“Owen, get down to the Archives and bring your kit. Ianto’s on the floor and I don’t know what’s wrong.” Jack’s voice held an edge of panic as he realised he had noted his lover’s pale hue grow weaker and weaker over the past few days and cursed himself for not realising he might be sick. He’d just put it down to Ianto being tired after all the work he’d been doing. He ran into Owen on the stairs and the pair raced towards the Archives in silence.

Jack reached the door first and ran in, dropping to his knees and pulling Ianto over to lay on his back, his head resting in Jack’s lap.

“Careful!” Owen warned, as he saw at Jack’s worried face looking up at him and knelt down next to the two of them. He knew that Jack and Ianto had some ‘thing’ going on and however much he detested admitting there could be anything between them, he knew Jack felt enough for Ianto that Ianto’s current condition could really scare him. He grabbed hold of Ianto’s wrist and checked for a pulse, finding it weak but steady. His skin was cold and clammy, and his lips dry and cracked, signalling to Owen that the man was more than likely beyond his limit, having worked too hard and not looked after himself well enough. He also noted the bump and bruise forming above Ianto’s right eye, where he had obviously hit the floor. He’d need to keep an eye on his colleague to make sure he hadn’t given himself a concussion.

“What’s wrong with him?” Jack asked suddenly. But before Owen could answer Ianto began to stir. Jack’s attention moved rapidly from Owen to Ianto, and he smoothed his hands through Ianto’s hair as he encouraged him to wake up.

“Wha…” Ianto began, but his voice was scratchy and he had to stop and clear his throat and lick his lips before he could continue. “What’s happening?” he asked, looking from both Jack to Owen and trying to sit up.

“You need to stay down, Yan.” Jack said, placing a restraining hand on Ianto’s chest.

“I’m fine.” Ianto tried to protest but Owen’s hand joined Jack’s, causing Ianto to look at Owen in surprise.

“Jack’s right, mate. You just collapsed, you need to stay still while I check you out.”

Ianto sighed and looked rather embarrassed but submitted to Owen’s examination and responded to all his questions.

“How do you feel?” Owen asked.

“Tired, my head hurts, a bit cold, nothing major.” He replied.

“How long have you felt like this?”

He had to think. “I… I don’t know… a few days I guess.” Jack sighed.

“Why didn’t you say anything?” he asked. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Because I knew you’d make me stop working and I have so much work to do.” He replied.

“Ianto, the work can wait.” Jack said, looking at Ianto pointedly. You’ve been working flat out for the past three weeks.

“And not eating enough is my bet too,” Owen added, looking at Ianto with an even stronger expression than Jack’s, daring Ianto to claim otherwise. Ianto simply looked away.

“When was the last time you ate?” Owen asked.

“I, uh… yesterday… no um… I can’t remember” he said after a long silence.

Owen shook his head and turned to Jack. “We need to get him upstairs. I can give him a drip to replace the nutrients he desperately needs and keep an eye on him to make sure he doesn’t have a concussion.” Jack nodded. Owen looked back down at Ianto.

“And I don’t want any arguments from you,” he said, seeing Ianto’s mouth open ready to speak. “You’re going to lie in bed, like a good little patient, and let me deal with this. Once you’re rested we can have a chat about the importance of looking after yourself.”

“I didn’t know you cared,” Ianto said.

“Yeah well when you go and collapse and I have to come and stitch you back up I care. Besides, the Weevils aren’t very happy either — and I can’t be doing with grumpy Weevils too.” Owen said hastily. Jack hid a grin, knowing that this would go a long way in showing Ianto that he did matter to the team, even if Owen couldn’t openly say he worried about him as a person and not just a tea-boy. Not that Owen would ever admit that, which just made Jack smirk even more.

Two days later Ianto was released from Owen’s care with the strict instructions to watch what he ate and get at least five hours of sleep every other night if he couldn’t quite manage *every* night. Jack had commented that he would make sure of that, causing Owen to growl and walk away muttering to himself. Ianto looked at Jack with accusation.

“What?” Jack asked, feigning innocence.

“Did you have to be so openly obvious?” Ianto asked.

“About what?” Jack asked, trying desperately to hide his grin.

“About, you know… us.” Ianto replied.

“Well it’s not like Owen doesn’t already suspect something — the way I almost broke down the Archives door to get to you kinda gave it away.” Jack said, his face lighting up in laughter.

“Oh you didn’t?!” Ianto cried, burying his face in his hands.

“I did too.” Jack said proudly.

“He’s going to make my life *hell* now, Jack, you know that don’t you?”

“If he gives you any stick, you come straight to me, darling.” Jack said, doing a great impression of a ‘50s film star protecting his love.

“Oh god…” Ianto groaned.

“You just don’t know how to be looked after, do you Ianto Jones.” Jack said, laughter lighting his voice.

“Not when Owen’s around, no.” Ianto said firmly.

Jack looked at Ianto, his face suddenly turning grim, as he reached out and placed his hands on Ianto’s shoulders.

“Well if you don’t want Owen involved then *please* take care of yourself in future. I don’t *ever* want to turn on the CCTV and find you in that state ever again. Do you have any idea what that did to me?” Ianto looked into Jack’s eyes and saw real fear there and moved closer to place a chaste kiss on his lover’s lips.
“I promise, I will take better care of myself, Jack.” Ianto said, hoping to ease the concern from his lover’s face.

“Good.” Jack replied, his face lighting up again, “I’m getting old, you know.” And he winked at Ianto, “I can’t be doing with all this worrying.”

Ianto chuckled, a sound that came deep from within his throat and always sent a chill down Jack’s spine. Jack growled and threw his arm around Ianto’s shoulder, pulling him close to whisper in his ear.

“How about we head home and get started on taking care of you?” he said, his voice husky with desire.

“Sounds good to me.” Ianto said, his voice just as low.