by Vera Steine [Reviews - 4]

  • Teen
  • None
  • Character Study, Drama, Hurt/Comfort, Introspection, Romance, Slash

Author's Notes:
Experiment in what I call "streams of consciousness" writing. Polished and re-polished it, now I'm putting it out there. Enjoy!


That fateful morning, he woke up feeling depressed. It was a feeling he was used to, he'd spent months waking up to that feeling while Lisa lay half converted in the hub; the grey blanket of depression pushing down on his shoulders and keeping him firmly separated from the rest of the world, the living world, the world that didn't know. It had been nearly a year since he'd last felt like that, and that morning the feeling was simply what pulled him into wakefulness, its presence just there.

It was early, very early, but as was so often his habit, he rose early when he had got a chance at a good night's sleep, preferring to go to the hub before everyone else was there so he could spend some time with Jack; an alternative to staying late at night because then things could get in the way, last-minute rift activity that kept the entire team there, a quiet night in suddenly shattered by work. There was less of a chance of the team disturbing them early in the morning, so the habit of getting to the hub by six o'clock if he could had stuck.

He showered, shaved, and dressed, but the lethargy didn't shake. Not really hungry, he gulped down a weak tea and two slices of buttered toast before grabbing his keys and getting ready to drive to work.

The roads were deserted, Cardiff at 6 a.m. was barely awake; that meant a quiet drive. Normally he enjoyed these relaxed drives into work, but this morning he couldn't appreciate it as much. The lethargy still hadn't lifted, not even with the prospect of stepping into Jack's embrace as soon as he arrived at the hub, so he was simply going through the motions without too much introspection or diversion.

He turned the corner into Rockwell Street and was confronted with stationary traffic. He hit the brakes and let the car idle; following the directions of a uniformed policeman he turned the car into a parking bay. He wound down the window as instructed and said, "Good morning. What's going on?"

The police officer ignored his question and replied instead, "Could you turn off the engine, please, sir?"

Ianto complied automatically, leaving the keys in the ignition.

"Thank you. May I see your licence, please?"

Ianto repeated his earlier question as he handed it over. The policeman shrugged and replied, "Just a routine check, sir."

Routine checks generally weren't conducted at six in the morning when there was barely any traffic around, but Ianto ignored that; if he wanted to, he could find out soon enough what was going on when he got into work. The officer shone his torch on the driver's licence he'd proffered and shone it back on his face. Ianto blinked at the bright light, ignoring the urge to shield his eyes, and blinked again when the officer asked, "Step out of the vehicle a moment, sir."

He wondered if he should brandish his authority as a Torchwood employee, but decided that the situation didn't warrant it. He unbuckled his seatbelt and exited the car; the morning rain was light and merely dusted his suit, clinging to his hair. He thought of the last time he'd been out in the rain; he and Jack coming back from the cinema, Jack playful and all motion after having sat still for so long, tugging him along by one hand, tilting his face up to the rain and saying, "Ah, feel that, doesn't that just taste like freedom?"

Ianto had looked at the picture Jack had struck; beautiful, gorgeous, and unaware of it. Jack had caught him, pulled him in close and kissed him in the middle of the Plass, the rain and the darkness shrouding them from the rest of the world. He'd never wanted to let go, the perfection of that moment burnt into his memory, something he held on to when times got harder.

The policeman pulled his attention back to the present, saying, "Have you ever been in trouble with the police before, Mr Jones?"

He was speculatively ogling Ianto's black Audi, the suit he was wearing, and the driver's licence with his birth date on it. Ianto wanted to shake his head no, but he couldn't. Being seventeen, confused in a world that didn't understand him, confused with himself, the warring attractions within him, he'd sought out every distraction that came his way. Having no one to turn to, no one to understand, no one to talk to, his parents looking confused at him over the dining room table when he tried to broach the subject to them in any way possible, even with the classic, I've got a friend who…; blank incomprehension met his subtle probing, until he stopped trying. His brother had been teasing him because, in his eyes, Ianto had to be gay; his friends occasionally looking suspicious at him but never daring to voice their concerns, mired in their own confusion that was being a teenage male. He'd buried his worries and confusion in anything he could find; cigarettes, alcohol, drugs, truancy; any way he could act out, until eventually he'd added vandalism and shoplifting to the list.

A prosecution policy meant a criminal record that wouldn't expire for another few years. He focused back on the officer who was looking at him expectantly, already anticipating his answer because of his telling silence. "Yes."

His answer sparked something in the policeman's eye, and he could see a whole new set of procedures being geared into place to deal with a potential offender. "Care to tell me where you were going this morning, sir?"

He sighed, having got used to this reaction for a while now, being young and driving a mid-priced car was sufficient to attract police attention at times, and every roadside stop where they asked him about his record led to the same wary reaction, the same double check, the same searches of his car that never turned anything up, the same, "on your way then, Mr Jones," that was always said slightly begrudgingly. "I was on my way to work."

Work, Jack... a voice he was really missing right now. A way, possibly, to break through the listlessness that was still firmly shrouding him, Jack, who could always tell in a moment if something was wrong with him, Jack who somehow sensed what to do when it was really important, who knew when to lay a hand on his shoulder and when not to touch him, who knew when to kiss him and when to hold back… Ianto sighed again, feeling the Cardiffian rain mix with the lethargy, and wondered how long he was going to be standing here.

"Where's work then, exactly?" the police officer probed.

Again, Ianto thought about pulling rank, about brandishing his Torchwood status to get him out of the roadside stop, but it really wasn't worth ruffling the feathers of the locals for. And so he bore it and simply answered. "Mermaid Quay tourist office."

"Huh," the policeman replied, "didn't think they'd need you there so early."

Ianto didn't reply; there was no answer to it that would be satisfactory and not raise further suspicion, and he didn't want to add to the distrustful glint in the other man's eyes.

A cover story; ever since he started working for Torchwood, his whole life was cover stories. In London he had been working for a think tank, a fire had killed Lisa, homesickness had brought him back to Cardiff, and now he worked in a tourist office. No wonder both his brothers regarded him, every time he went home, as the black sheep of the family; the same hesitance that his family had had around him when he was seventeen and his arrest had made painfully clear that whatever he'd been trying to do -- trying to talk to them about -- were severe enough that they'd have to do something about it.

The subsequent relief when he had taken Lisa home the first time; the relief he'd seen in their eyes, especially his mother and father; a nice, normal young woman for him to bring home, it had to mean he would finally settle down, finally be all right. No longer the drifter that had a different job each time he called home, but a young man with a nice junior position in a nice, responsible government think tank, who brought home his nice, responsible girlfriend. Lisa had charmed them, she had a way that charmed almost everyone; without playing at being the perfect potential daughter-in-law, she'd been all smiles and politeness, and her eyes had radiated her affection for him that made her his mother's favourite in an instant.

He remembered how her eyes could radiate affection, how they could shine for him the moment she turned her gaze on him, even if they were in a crowded room together. He remembered her looking at him that way in the rare moments he woke up later than she, finding her staring at him with that intense look in her eyes, until eventually one morning she broached the subject they'd both been thinking about. "Let's move in together," she'd said, and with that simplicity he'd packed up his small bedsit and moved into her larger flat. That was when true bliss began, when the confusion finally disappeared from his life, and the knot of potential futures had unravelled into one straight line, Lisa, Torchwood, happiness, maybe marriage, children, a pet… The confusion about his sexuality, the confusion about his future, it had all disappeared.

Then, suddenly, it had all been a set of memories, grief over last times. The last time they'd had breakfast, Lisa chucking a piece of buttered toast in his general direction that hit him on the nose, and forced her to lick the butter off; Lisa inhaling a cup of his coffee while he told her for the umpteenth time that she should enjoy the drink, he put more effort into it than she gave it credit for. Lisa and he, the last time they'd made love, her breasts swaying in the low lamplight as she moved against him, twirling his hand into her short hair and thinking he could have this forever.

It had planted a seed in his mind, so that that day, on his lunch break, he'd stopped by two jewellers that were near the Torchwood Tower. He hadn't bought a ring, hadn't seen anything he'd thought she'd like, but he knew he would go back the next day to a different shop to try again. He'd started planning the potential locations and timings for the proposal, and when he'd returned, the whole tower had been buzzing with the arrival of their number one enemy.

He'd never seen Lisa unconverted again.

The torchlight in his face swayed, and he blinked back to reality and the present, watching the officer as he spoke into his Motorola radio. Whatever the answer was that came in an unintelligible garble back over the line, it made him frown, and then he turned to Ianto, saying, "If you could come with me a moment, sir."

The polite questioning tone had gone out of his voice, to be replaced by a style of commanding authority without being ostentatiously so that reminded him unerringly of Jack's.

"You have to understand… your girlfriend will not be the exception…" Jack, his Webley, unwavering, a few inches from Ianto's face; he was on his knees, hands behind his head as instructed, looking up at the man who had turned his world upside down not once but twice; the first time by simply being who he was, forcing Ianto to face up to an attraction he should not be feeling, the kind of feelings he had buried so many years ago, the kind of feelings he'd buried when he'd met Lisa, wrenched back to the surface and to the forefront of his life by the simple presence of a man who would not let up; the second time by discovering Lisa, a gun to the back of his head, the threat to kill him, and the words, in that same quiet, commanding authority.

There had been more, but he couldn't remember all the details of that night, the adrenalin making his memory fuzzy, the following events and Lisa's death rendering them immaterial to his grief-addled mind.

Jack, coming to see him a week into his suspension, had used that same unerring tone of voice to order him out of bed, to try and shake the lethargy that he now was feeling again, and when he'd failed to respond, had physically pulled him into the shower and turned the water on, leaving Ianto still clothed in boxers and a T-shirt. He'd stood there for a while until eventually Jack had ordered him to take his clothes off, which had led him to raise an eyebrow at the older man, but a simple shake of the head and Jack's words, "No, not in a million years," had made clear that was the furthest thing from the captain's mind.

Jack had forced him to shower, shave, and dress, forced him to eat, and then gave him a choice. "Talk or TV," he'd said, and made it clear by demonstratively taking a seat in the centre of the sofa that he wasn't leaving. For three nights, Ianto had chosen TV, until eventually he'd chosen to talk, first about nothing, then at last about Lisa, dredging up every last happy memory until the memory of her converted self was forced into the background. Later he'd been immensely grateful to Jack for forcing him to relive the good memories, at the time he'd been furious.

He was startled by a motion in front of him; the police officer reaching past him into the car and withdrawing his keys from the ignition. At another time he might have objected, but the lethargy kept him firmly shrouded. He followed the policeman in the direction of the police car and stood by it as the man had a conversation with a colleague. The rain had reduced to a steady drizzle, something chirped, and only with belated sluggishness did he realise it was his mobile. He pulled it from his inner pocket and answered it, Jack's voice on the other end, asking him where he was.

He replied with the explanation of a roadside stop delaying him, and that he would be there in a moment, and, "no, Jack, no need to pull rank all the time, no wonder you're always pissing off the locals."

Then Jack's voice softened, asked him if he was all right, and he realised some of his emotion must have shone through in his voice.

"I don't know," he replied, "feeling a bit under the weather maybe," and Jack's answer was a simple, "well, get here soon." Then with an added, "I miss you."

He clicked the phone shut without replying to the sentiment, but it nonetheless made him shudder just a little under his lethargic blanket, because if something, some part of him tried to crawl out and shake the depression, it would latch onto those three words. His sloth-like half won, unable to rouse itself from the almost hibernating state in which everything just washed over him, and he watched as the police officer came back and smiled a professional smile. "Would you mind putting that away, sir?"

He nodded, slipping the mobile back into his jacket pocket.

The policeman held up his licence, and said, "I'm afraid you're going to have to come with us, Mr Jones. There's a problem with your licence."

Odd. He'd replaced his licence two weeks ago, just before it had expired; his usual efficiency alerting him to that fact so he wouldn't drive with an invalid licence. He glanced at it, but knew that he had exchanged the old one for the new one in his wallet and had handed the officer the correct licence. He began to shake his head. "No, I just got a new one."

The officer's stance hardened, he squared his shoulders as if waiting for something; a stance of alertness that Ianto was all too familiar with because he saw it on every member of the Torchwood team every time they went out into the field. It was the anticipation of someone resisting. "I'm sorry, sir, but this licence is not valid."

He remembered queuing at the DVLA to get it, taking half a day off work and making Jack grumble about it; the rest of the team, noticeably Gwen, had harped back at Jack about how they never had any free time, and how he couldn't possibly grumble about them having to do something official. Jack had just been in a lousy mood that day, and Ianto had avoided him for the most of it, until Jack turned up at his door at 9 p.m. with take-away and an apologetic smile. They'd ended up going to bed before they'd had their late dinner, Ianto's obsessive neatness for once giving way and he'd spread the containers around on the sheets that had been destined for the wash after their impromptu activities anyway, and he'd had an inappropriately good time watching Jack lick sweet-and-sour sauce off his fingers.

He realised belatedly the officer was looking at him expectantly, and he said, "I went to the DVLA two weeks ago. This licence is brand new."

In the corner of his peripheral vision, he saw a second policeman stop short a few feet away, while the first officer said, "I'm sorry, sir, the DVLA has no record of issuing this licence. It's not on the database, so you're going to have to come with us."

Both officers took a step forward and in an instant Ianto knew what was going to happen next. He steeled himself not to react; when they asked him to turn around he did, and rattling off their familiar cautions, he felt them pull his hands behind his back and snap the handcuffs around his wrists.

It transported him back to the Brecon Beacons in a split second.

Kneeling on the floor, his nose filled with the stench of stale blood, the metal cutting into his wrists, the pain mixed with the anticipation of the next blow, the woman running her hand through his hair, licking the side of his face, kissing the bloody cut on his forehead. He flinched away from the memories, from the rising panic, but the handcuffs were cold and the recollection mixed with his grey depression to make his mind cloudy.

He'd never been able to look at a pair handcuffs without shuddering again. Those few days in the mountains had changed him for the rest of his life, and handcuffs were now the only phobia he permitted himself. Jack had discovered it to his cost, bringing handcuffs out one night and laying them suggestively on the desk; he'd smiled and said something about restraints being interesting, but Ianto hadn't been able to listen over the blood roaring in his ears. His voice had wavered when he'd asked Jack to put them away, and in spite of it being very early on in their affair, Jack had seemed aware of the fact that he was really upset. Ianto had ended up going home that night without sex, and Jack had never brought the subject up again.

He could have left it there, but he didn't, because a part of him worried about Jack tiring of him; he knew he wasn't ready to give him up yet, and another part of him wanted to push past the barriers, so two weeks later, he'd taken an old tie with him and laid it on Jack's desk as a challenge in return. "Will this do?" he'd asked, and Jack had given him such a dazzling grin that he'd known he'd guessed correctly; to keep Jack's interest, he needed to be inventive. With the silk of the tie, the memories were left dormant, and everything had been as perfect as always.

He felt himself led to a car and got in to it on automatism. The drive to the police station passed in a blur; he only noticed it had stopped raining when he got out of the car, then he was stood in front of the custody sergeant, who regarded him from across his desk without much interest, asking his name.

He replied to all the questions about himself, necessary medical information, his answer to the charges, only finally roused to interest when he was asked if he wanted anybody notified. He gave Jack's name automatically, then realised when he saw the looks pass between the arresting officer and the custody sergeant and heard their laughter, that he should have given Gwen's instead. The sergeant was suddenly more interested, leaning forward a little and studying him as he stood there with his hands cuffed behind his back, the metal still reminding him of the taste of blood and pain, that not even Jack's kisses, Jack's hands, or the safety of Jack's embrace had been able chase away.

"So, you're his boy toy then?"

Other memories: his first three months in London, trying to sort through the confusion in a city that was supposed to be more liberal, more tolerant, but somehow all the clubs defined you by the same labels as the ones in Cardiff had, the labels that didn't fit him; eventually he'd sought refuge in the seedier parts of town, trying to find some kind of answer or explanation for what he was, who he was. The risk that that came with got him into a few scrapes, then a beating for being in the wrong place at the wrong time and saying the wrong stupid thing. It had been his wake-up call, to stop looking for answers, been the moment that had made it clear to him that his answers lay somewhere other than he thought they did, and from that moment on, he'd kept on the straight and narrow, not venturing off into nightclubs, drugs, or alcohol. The memory of how people had looked at him, that slightly scathing, disinterested look that didn't see him, but what he supposedly was, which he knew inside was something other than whatever label they'd stuck on him in their mind.

He forced himself to stay still, not to shiver or slump, but to face the silence head on and not reply. His silence was his only answer; nothing could erase what had been said.

"Well, Jack Harkness it is, then." The sergeant went back to making notes and soon enough he was pulled away from the desk. The vice like grip curled around his bicep and made the handcuffs dig further into his wrists, he smelled disinfectant and blood, and suddenly the entire police station swirled and lurched. He pitched slightly forward, tripped over his own feet, hearing his own heartbeat pound in his ears, remembering a different laughter, a different mockery. He managed to force out some words, "I'm going to be --"

A rubbish bin was shoved under his mouth before he threw up his meagre breakfast.

Someone swore somewhere, said something about a doctor, and when he was done heaving and returned mentally back to the ground he was standing on, they pulled him along into a cell, telling him he would be fetched as soon as the police surgeon arrived. The handcuffs were removed from his wrists and he felt finally able to breathe again.

He looked around. The walls were grey and that seemed to fit his lethargy. He sat down on the concrete bench and leaned against the wall, anticipating being here a while, because the sergeant hadn't seemed to be in a hurry to dial Jack's number. He should have mentioned Gwen's name, but it was too late now, and in any case it didn't matter. It would all be cleared up, and then he could go back to his life and forget all about it. No early morning with Jack today, but there would be more of those in the future.

He thought of early mornings with Jack; shared laughter over cups of coffee, Jack pulling him close and kissing him slowly; the slowness, the laziness of mornings, the sort of intimate kisses that left Ianto's nerve endings tingling, that woke him up properly; they'd strip each other's clothes off and make love in the bunker under Jack's office. If he'd been early enough that morning, that could have been happening now; Jack always like to take his time in bed, but the first member of the team wouldn't have been in before 7.30; Tosh, always wanting to check on programmes she'd left running, or work on new and exciting ideas she'd dreamt up during the night. It would have been sufficient time, that morning.

He should have mentioned Gwen's name, he would be out of here in thirty minutes. He thought of the first time he'd met her, her suspicious glance at him over boxes of pizza and her start at watching the secret door open. She'd been brave enough to go in, and brave enough to remember, and he recalled his own shock at Suzie's death, at finding out what Suzie had done. He'd cleaned up the dead from her actions, and cleaned up her own body, and wondered if that was his, in the future; had wondered at the sanity of the other members of the team, if this was what Suzie could be driven to.

None of his answers had been found then, not for a month, and then Jack's Webley at his temple had answered all the questions for him. His life had irrevocably changed, he'd had to accept Lisa's death -- the death of the real Lisa -- at the Torchwood Tower on that fateful day at Canary Wharf, and had then mourned all over again for that loss.

There was no way to escape the memories or the depression now; staring at grey concrete walls was his only distraction, and it wasn't sufficient. His time in Torchwood, starting as a junior researcher who did little more than catalogue objects, until eventually after a year or so, he'd gathered enough knowledge to be able to make a move forward, to be allowed to run some tests, to be allowed to do anything other than box things and stick labels on them. Nonetheless, boxing things and sticking labels on them was a pastime that could teach you a lot, and he'd read the labels carefully, until he knew half the objects in the research department by heart, could find them, explain what they did, even if he didn't understand why they did it.

His efficient mind had moved him up a level, and he'd been happy with what was quite possibly the first promotion he'd ever had in life. Lisa had been there; within three months of his being hired, he'd literally collided with her in the corridors; as he'd made his apologies and moved to let her pass, she looked at him over her shoulder and shot him such a brilliant smile he'd fallen in love on the spot. Lisa didn't work in research, she worked in personnel, and as such she knew very little about what Torchwood truly did. They spoke little of it together as well, not wanting to taint their private life with the horrors one could start to fathom if they spend a long enough time around the artefacts and aliens of Torchwood. It didn't matter; he'd been successful both professionally and privately, had a beautiful woman in his life that he wanted to spend the rest of his days on earth with, and there was nothing more he could wish for.

Except to wish it wouldn't fall apart on him.

That was a wish he'd not thought to make, nor did he suspect it would ever have been granted. He wished for it now; for the fragile strands of what was left of his life, what he'd somehow managed to piece back together, not to unravel again. He didn't have with Jack what he'd had with Lisa, he'd never have with Jack what he'd had with Lisa; the potential of 2.5 kids in the suburbs an impossibility, very little of normality and normalcy was left in his life. But what he did have in Jack was someone he could rely on, someone to hold him, someone who needed him, someone who cared. It was more than he got from anyone else, his family included; the schism that had started between them in his mid-teens as he fought to understand himself and ran into a blank wall of incomprehension never having been fully healed; he hadn't even told them he was seeing a man, and he wasn't planning on telling them either.

Jack was more than he'd ever dreamt of once he'd lost Lisa, once he'd begun to move past the lethargy that was strangling him again, and then somehow he'd surfaced on the other side; one day he'd woken up and things had been different; he'd looked at Jack and felt the spark that he'd felt the first time they'd met, on a dark night in the park; this time it was across a dark hub in lockdown. He'd acted on it, because he'd been lonely; because he'd been in pain; because the hurt had to stop sometime, and he didn't know how else to stop it.

That night, for a few blissful hours, it had stopped. A few blissful hours when Jack's touch had burnt every inch of his skin, when Jack's lips had soothed the hurt that had become second nature to him, when Jack's body had re-awoken what he thought was long dead and buried inside of him.

When he'd snuck out in the early hours of the morning, sensing his departure wasn't going undetected, the confusion had been back again; the confusion of his teenage years, but it was like something had completed, like something was finished and over, and yet it was a shocking event that he hadn't expected to happen anymore since he was twenty.

For two weeks he'd kept his distance, and so had Jack; respectfully, he'd stayed out of Ianto's way and taken his cues from what Ianto seemed to want, and then one cold, shivering night, Ianto had known that none of it mattered. It had been Boxing Day, he'd just got back from seeing his family, where everything was the same, nothing had changed, and there was no room for his life-shattering and earth-moving experiences. He'd headed to the hub on instinct, not wanting to think about what he was doing, and found Jack in the throes of a pity party that was spending Christmas alone after he'd just lost someone.

They hadn't needed words then; Jack had pulled him along without saying anything, kissed him without doing anything more than look in his eyes for permission, and as he'd spent that night -- his second night in Jack's bed -- he'd known that he didn't want to leave, and as Jack's grip on his waist tightened after they'd come off both their climaxes, he hadn't needed the whispered words that broke the silence between them for the first time, Jack whispering into his hair for him to stay.

He'd promised to silently, then said it out loud, and Jack snuggled, seeming to wrap his whole body around Ianto in an almost desperate need for human contact. He'd known he never wanted to leave.

It was three weeks before Jack was gut wrenchingly pulled from him, not once, but twice.

He'd never expected standing in Jack's office and crying for the other man's death; never expected having contributed to causing it; the guilt and regret had mingled to a grief that was as strong as it had been over Lisa, and the words not again had pounded in his head as loudly as the headaches he kept getting from crying. Then Jack had been there again; he'd run to him; he'd known things might not be so easy anymore, forgiving a friend and colleague who betrayed you was one thing, but forgiving a lover? He'd held out his hand, hoping to somehow not lose Jack completely; had felt himself be pulled into an embrace that was so wholly everything they'd shared that he had buried his face against Jack's shoulder, closed his eyes and known that he was home. Jack had kissed him in forgiveness, he had kissed back, not caring about the rest of the team or the fact that they were in public, simply enjoying the contact because he needed it, and it had felt like he needed it just to breathe.

It was the last time he'd kissed Jack for the next three months.

How on earth had he survived, those months without Jack, the last of his lifelines after losing Lisa taken away from him in a cruel twist of fate that stabbed him just behind the eyes every time he thought of it, because Lisa had been taken from him by a hand other than his or her own, but Jack had left willingly, stepping on Ianto's heart and twisting his foot cruelly to press it into the ground. He'd felt like he'd had a million pieces of glass in his chest instead of a heart, and moved through life as if through a painful forest of shards.

He hadn't shown it, simply kept up the façade of being efficient, accepting another promotion because there was no one else who could do it, all the while his shattered heart had pounded, this is it now. This is the rest of your life.

Then Jack was back, hurt but alive, a little bit brighter, a little bit darker, but Jack, his Jack, wanting him, asking him out on dates and propositioning him, and Ianto had found himself slide down the unerring slope back into Jack's arms as if someone had tilted his world and he couldn't hold on. He'd been afraid, so afraid, those first few weeks, that it would be what they'd had before, sex and companionship but nothing more, nothing that signified commitment, nothing that could truly replace what he'd lost, what his life had consisted of. But it had been so much more than that, Jack asking questions, offering something, taking him out to restaurants and cinemas, offering touches and embraces and long nights spent together, offering snuggling and support and strong arms when he needed it. And sex, good, long sex, like he'd never had before in his life, and never mind the fact that Jack had come home, Ianto had come home.

Bolts slid back and there was the rustling of keys, and he stood up automatically, looking warily at the officer stood on the other side of the door. "The police surgeon's here, please follow me, Mr Jones."

He already knew nothing serious was wrong with him, knew what caused the nausea in the custody suite, but it didn't matter. He followed wordlessly, carefully avoiding stepping next to his shoes because the laces were no longer keeping them in place on his feet, and was led into a room that looked remarkably like a doctor's office, with a man of about fifty wearing glasses and looking so stereotypically like a British doctor that he nearly laughed, beckoning him in and shaking his hand.

He was grateful that the officer was instructed to stay just outside the door, and not intrude on the medical examination, because he didn't care to share his privacy with the police.

"Take a seat, Mr Jones."

He sat as instructed, answered all the questions about his medical information as the doctor took notes, previous history, what he'd eaten that morning, how he came to be nauseous --

He wasn't sharing that. He mumbled something about simply not feeling too well, the stress of being arrested and how unfair it was, and let the doctor draw his own conclusions.

Sharp eyes met his over the rims of glasses, and he knew he wasn't believed, but it didn't matter to him, nothing mattered to him because he would get out of here soon enough anyway, and he wasn't sick, he knew the cause, and this was just a precaution, just a way to make sure he wouldn't die while in incarceration.

A flash of longing broke through his sloth-like bubble, cutting through the greyness with a piercing stab of emotion that left him breathing hard. He wanted Jack, wanted to hear his voice, wanted to see the sparkle in his eyes that would undoubtedly accompany the words, you've been arrested?, wanted to run his hands through the silky strands of Jack's dark hair, wanted to feel those strong arms around him and pull that amazing body close to his, wanted to feel that mouth against his own, smell Jack's scent and know as unerringly as always that it meant safety, security, and home.

He didn't know if the doctor had seen the flare of emotion, but he'd seen the physical reaction it left in its wake, and a pen light was shone into his eyes, his blood pressure checked, his heart rate, and all the while he felt the blanket of grey settle back over him, the emotion raising it temporarily not enough to dispel it altogether. He let it all happen to him, followed fingers with his eyes as instructed, took deep breaths at the appropriate moments and wasn't surprised to hear that his heart rate and blood pressure were fine, if perhaps a little bit elevated from the stress.

He was offered anti-nausea medication and he declined, because in the cell there were no cuffs, and everything was fine. He was sent on his way again, shuffling as awkwardly as he'd got there back to the cell, where the door clanged shut behind him once more.

Nothing to do but wait, it seemed that was what he'd been doing all his life; waiting for Jack to come back, waiting for Jack to discover Lisa, waiting for Lisa to get better, waiting for something better to come along, waiting for his awkward teenage years to be over, waiting for life to become interesting. What was life, if not constantly waiting for the next thing, waiting for the other shoe to drop? He stretched out on the concrete bench, shifting a bit until he was comfortable, then finally rolled up into a ball and staying that way. Nothing mattered now anyway.

He didn't know how long it was that he'd lain there staring at the grey concrete walls, then the bolts clanged back and the door was opened, and a familiar voice said, "Ianto!"

He opened his eyes to find Gwen looking at him with a frown of concern on her face, and he roused himself enough to stretch and get up, and followed her out. In an uncharacteristic reversal of their assigned roles, she said, "I'm so glad to see you."

He raised an eyebrow at her as he laced up his shoes and looped his belt through his trousers.

She continued, "Jack's been insufferable. We couldn't find you, and he was sure you'd been on your way to work, and when you didn't show, he was beside himself."

Ianto nodded silently.

"When I finally tracked you down, he was so relieved and immediately sent me out here to get you," Gwen babbled on. Then she stopped and glanced at him. "Are you all right, sweetheart?"

He nodded wordlessly once more, not feeling a need or desire to speak; as he got into her car, he wondered idly about his own, presumably impounded. He'd figure that out later.

Gwen kept up her explanation. "Those idiots, all they ever do is rely on their database. The DVLA simply forgot to input your new driver's licence, and the number didn't add up, all of a sudden they're saying it's not valid. You should have just shown them your credentials, they would have had to let you go. Or had them call me, why didn't you, Ianto?"

He met her eyes but felt too tired to actually say something. Her frown deepened, her hand started moving away from the steering wheel, reaching for him in a gesture of concern, and he forced himself to speak some words. "It's fine," he managed, "it doesn't matter."

She nodded and pulled into the hub parking garage. They went in through the tourist office door, down the hall and into the lift; the cog door rolled back and he stepped into the hub; the grey began to lift. The rest of the team looked up from their work, and Jack, standing at Tosh's station, started moving across the floor to him.

They didn't need words. Jack took one look at his face and somehow seem to know, reaching for him with one hand when they came within touching range, pulling him close against his chest; Ianto wrapped his arms around Jack's waist, leaned his head on the other man's shoulder and closed his eyes, inhaling Jack's scent and feeling the strength of those arms comfort him. They were close enough that he could feel Jack's heart thumping in his chest, and it was everything.

"Oy, get a room."

Owen interrupted the embrace, and they moved apart, Ianto offered a sheepish smile, and Jack offered his hundred watt grin in return. Jack squeezed his hand before he let go, and said, "I've missed you," in a low voice, then adding a little louder, "Can you work some coffee magic?"

Ianto nodded and went off to his assigned role, the rest of the hub returning to normal around him. When he brought Jack his coffee, he mused idly about all the time they'd spent together in this room; work, not work, the kisses Jack had given him, their first kiss, their first time, all in the same small room. He set the mug down on Jack's desk and found the other man was watching him.

"Are you all right, Ianto?"

There was a frown of concern marring Jack's face, his blue eyes were open and intense, and Ianto found himself holding that gaze. The depression that had haunted him since that morning lifted fully. "I'm okay."

Jack put his pen down and stood up, reaching out and tracing Ianto's cheekbone with his fingers, an intimate gesture he performed so often when they were alone together, and so rarely during the day in the hub. It made Ianto smile unexpectedly, quite possibly his first smile of the day. He looked at Jack. "Kiss me?" He sounded needy to his own ears, but allowed himself the small indulgence.

Jack smiled back, not his normal sort of grin but something more intimate, his fingers slid down into Ianto's neck and he moved in for the requested kiss. Their mouths touched and the world stopped.