“He’s been in there for six hours,” Tosh said in a low voice.
Gwen looked over at the CCTV. There was no camera in the disused room Ianto had hidden Lisa in, but Tosh had swivelled a camera that had once been pointing at the stairs. In the corner there was a grainy, indistinct shadow of the open door.
“Fuck ‘im,” Owen said. “He can die in there for all I care.” He looked up from the floor. “He lies to us, risks all our lives for some cybermonster, and now who gets to clean up all the blood? Me!” He threw down the sponge.
“Go home, Owen,” Jack snapped. It had been his idea to finally leave Ianto alone. After he had crumpled onto his knees in the blood beside his dead lover, the four other members of Torchwood had mostly stood in horror. Gwen couldn’t even look at his drawn face. Owen was disgusted. Tosh was simply feeling hopeless. And Jack.... “Just go home.”
“Well, get him out of there quick,” Owen said. “If you think I’m going to spend hours hauling bodies that are more than twenty-four hours old, you’ve got another thing coming.”
“Oh, shut up, Owen.” Gwen glared at him. “He’s grieving.”
“Yeah?” Owen said with evident anger. “Well I don’t make other people pick up after MY tragedies!”
“You’re such a jerk.”
Owen shifted an eyebrow. “Yeah? Just how you like it, love.”
“Both of you, stop it!” Jack said. “I’m serious, Owen. Go home.”
Gwen turned back to the camera. “I’m worried,” she said. “I’m going down there.”
Both Tosh and Jack looked like they wanted to stop her, but Gwen glared at them. “I’ll be careful,” she said.
A few minutes later her dark figure could be seen sidling quietly up to the door. Her mouth formed the name, “Ianto?” She hesitated, and then she ducked. Jack was halfway down the corridor when he ran into her.
“He told me to go away,” Gwen said, but she was shaken.
Jack knew better. “He shot at you!” Jack said, his eyes burning fury.
“He missed,” Gwen said. “He wasn’t aiming at me. Let’s just leave him alone, Jack.” Jack tried to push past her, but she grabbed him. “Don’t!” she said, the compassion strong in her face. “Just don’t.” He let her guide him.
An hour later, Ianto still hadn’t come out. Tosh had given up the vigil and left. Two hours after that, sometime after three AM, Jack looked over at Gwen, who was nodding on her hand by the computer monitor. “Go home,” he told her.
“No, I’m fine,” Gwen said. “You’ll need help clearing up, and—”
“I said go home.”
“You’re going to try and talk him out of there, aren’t you.”
“Just go home, Gwen. Kiss your boyfriend and get some sleep.”
Gwen closed her eyes. “I guess the adrenaline is wearing off.” She took a deep breath.
As Gwen was leaving, Jack flashed back at that terrible moment as the cyber conversion unit had inched closer and closer to Gwen’s dark head, ready to destroy her. “I wouldn’t have let it happen, Gwen,” Jack said. “I might have let it take my arm off, but I wouldn’t have let it happen.”
Gwen laughed shakily and nodded. “Thanks. Goodnight, Jack.”
Jack only nodded. There was no way this could possibly be called a good night.
Jack didn’t know what he planned to do. He couldn’t decide whether to go armed or not. He couldn’t decide whether to go with angry or sympathetic. Finally he just decided to go as he was and see what happened.
He said nothing when he came to the door. Ianto Jones knelt between the two corpses, which at some point in the last few hours he had lain out in organized state. Lisa lay with Ianto’s jacket over her body, with as much of the cyber-augmentation removed as he could without tearing at her flesh. A gleaming pile of metal lay on the ground. On Ianto’s other side lay the pizza girl, the blood cleaned off her face, but the ugly scar of the brain transplant was still a lurid red.
Ianto may have cleaned her, but he hadn’t bothered with himself. His hands were still caked in dried blood, and he knelt on the ground as if at prayer, clutching the gun in his lap. As Jack rounded the corner, Ianto’s voice carried over the air. “I’ve been waiting for you.”
“Oh, have you?” Jack snapped.
“Yes,” Ianto said dully. He turned to look at Jack. “I knew you’d have to come yourself, eventually.”
Jack placed a hand on his gun, but he didn’t draw it. Ianto didn’t seem to be threatening him. Not really. But it was hard to tell. Jack knew, now, that he had never read Ianto correctly. Not from the first day.
It had all been lies. That burned in Jack’s chest. And the damning thing was, he had really begun to care for Ianto. Really started to believe that maybe things were going right for him for a change, relationship wise. Ianto was generous, open to anything, ready, willing. But now it seemed he had never wanted any of it. He hadn’t wanted Jack. He certainly didn’t care for him. He was using Jack’s lust just to lull him into a false sense of security. That hurt Jack’s sense of pride, not to mention bruised him in the one unarmored spot in his heart that he was letting go soft, for Ianto.
“Not send Gwen to do your dirty work,” Ianto continued.
“Gwen came down on her own,” Jack said harshly, “because she cared. About you. Though God alone knows why, since you nearly had her killed.”
Ianto shook his head slightly. “I didn’t mean for any of this to happen,” he said. Then his eyes flickered up at Jack’s face. “But I do mean this.” With a sudden flash, the gun that had been in his lap was lifted, and Ianto shot him.
The bullet passed through Jack’s shoulder, leaving his hand unmanageable. He lost his grip and his own gun fell skittering across the floor. Jack clutched his shoulder and staggered against the wall. He felt woozy. He sank to the ground. How much blood was he losing?
“You think I can’t do it, Jack?” Ianto said, standing over him. “You think I don’t mean it? You think I’m not prepared to follow through?”
“Ianto, you don’t want to do this,” Jack said from the floor.
“Oh, yes, I do,” Ianto whispered. “I said I’d see you suffer and die.” The gun went off again, shattering Jack’s hip.
Jack groaned. “You really—” he choked out “— don’t — want to try this.”
“I tried so many things with you, Jack,” Ianto snarled. “How is one more going to damn me?”
And he actually did it. Ianto pulled the trigger and shot Jack right through the heart.
Four minutes later Jack opened his eyes to find Ianto kneeling on the ground before him, watching him serenely. Jack’s gun was still lying on the floor by the door, but Ianto’s... Ianto’s blood sticky gun was lying by Jack’s hand.
Jack snatched it up in a flurry of panic before he realized Ianto was still just watching him. He did not look in the least surprised to see Jack come back to life. The hand holding the gun sank, and Jack sat up. He pushed himself backward and leaned tiredly against the wall. Well. So much for secrets. “How long have you known?”
“I worked in archives in London,” Ianto said. His voice still held no expression at all. “You’ve erased all the records on the computers, but there were hard copies of your file at Torchwood One. Three and a half drawers from the eighteen nineties to the nineteen sixties. I read every page before I came to Cardiff.”
Jack closed his eyes. He tried so hard to keep people from knowing how old he was. Tosh and Owen still didn’t know he couldn’t die. Suzie had never known. Gwen only knew because of that unfortunate incident just after they met. Ever since he had taken over Torchwood, Cardiff, Jack had thought he could pretend to have a normal life — as normal as Torchwood ever got, anyway.
“I wish I really could kill you,” Ianto said quietly. “You deserve it.”
“You going to start blaming me for all this?” Jack said, gesturing at the scene of carnage with his weapon.
“No,” Ianto said without inflection. “I did this.” His eyes were red and his face was pale and heavy. He did not try to defend his guilt. The scent of blood and death in the room was overpowering. Jack shook himself, checking his system. It seemed all the bullets had passed through him. Thank God; he hated having to dig them out. His shirt was ruined, though. He was glad he hadn’t been wearing his coat. That was hell to replace.
“Well, what are you waiting for?” Ianto asked after a long moment while Jack recovered. He eyed the gun in Jack’s hand. “Go on, then. Finish it.”
Jack looked at the weapon. Ianto really and honestly expected him to kill him. “I could.”
“I know you could. I know you will. I know that’s what happens next,” he said evenly. “I know this story. I worked in Torchwood archives. I’ve betrayed the institute, and endangered the agents, and I know far too much. Torchwood doesn’t let things like that go.”
“That was Torchwood, London,” Jack said. He set the gun down.
“You don’t let things like that go, either,” Ianto said.
“Don’t pretend you know me.”
“I know you, Jack,” Ianto said, and though the words were quiet, there was a snarl behind his teeth. “Every heartless, sordid, perverted inch of you. I know the names of everyone Torchwood had you kill, I know every mission you went on for seventy years, I know what you’re like...” he stopped and choked, and Jack realized he was nauseated. “I know enough,” he said instead, and he closed his hands into fists and hugged himself tightly. Protecting himself.
Jack knew that stance. That was something rape victims did. Shame and guilt and hatred and a loathing of your own body.
The truth dawned on Jack — months too late, he realized. “You’d never been with a man before,” he said.
Ianto looked away.
Something burned in Jack, and he wasn’t sure if it was rage or shame. “You’ve got no call to hate me for that,” Jack snapped. “You may have turned yourself into a whore, but that was your own affair, and none of mine.” His eyes narrowed as he stared at Ianto’s handsome, drawn face. “I’d never have touched you if you hadn’t made it so clear you wanted me. But you never wanted me. You wanted to distract me. Well, fine, then, Ianto Jones, turn me into a rapist, but I wasn’t the one who betrayed YOU.”
“What I’ve done pales in comparison to the lies you tell,” Ianto said.
“You’re really one to talk about lies,” Jack said. “You shattered all of our trust, nearly got Gwen killed. There’s an innocent girl lying dead there because you have a metal fetish!”
“Fuck you!” Ianto cried. “You don’t care. You don’t even know her name!” He looked over at the pizza girl, lying dead beside Lisa. They both looked quite peaceful in death. “That’s Lilly,” he said. “She was twenty years old. Trying to work her way through college. She had a boyfriend named Keith, and she kept cockatiels.”
It surprised Jack that Ianto knew all of that. Did he chat with the pizza delivery? He must have done.
“She has a little sister named Grace,” Ianto said. “About to take her A levels.” He was crying again. His head sank onto his crossed arms and sobbed, silently.
Jack didn’t know what to do. The truth was, he didn’t care, not really. It was terrible, but he hadn’t known that girl. Ianto knew her, and Ianto blamed himself. A dozen different things to say passed through his head, but ‘Don’t blame yourself’ was insane, and ‘It’ll be all right’ was a lie. Nothing he could say could make any of this better.
Why did he want to make it better? He should want Ianto to suffer! Ianto had lied to him, betrayed him, he’d just killed him.
He’d just killed him. Something no one could ever forgive. Then Jack realized the truth. Ianto WANTED Jack to kill him. He wanted Jack to make it easy for him. And Jack wanted Ianto... to not be hurting so badly.
Maybe that tender spot in Jack’s armor hadn’t hardened over yet.
Jack decided to get concrete. “We’ll make a police report,” Jack said. “An unsolved mugging. Owen will do a little cleaning up, and we’ll get her body back to her family.” A lot of cleaning up. They needed to get that brain out of her. It was going to be messy. Still. It was kinder.
Ianto looked up. “And Lisa?”
Jack stared back, his face expressionless. “We have to destroy the technology,” Jack said. “I’m sure you agree with that.”
“I don’t care,” Ianto said, as if he’d only just realized it. He shook his head, and looked at the gun. “If you’re going to do it, do it,” he said evenly. “I’m ready.”
For one moment, Jack considered it. He really did. Ianto had endangered them, betrayed them, betrayed HIM. He had turned Jack’s one solace — the sweet sting of sexual delight — into something corrupt and poisonous. Jack felt dirty, which was something he’d never felt before. Ianto had never wanted him. Had hated every minute with him.
But heated memories of Ianto still burned in his mind. Ianto’s face, flushed and desperate, the feel of his flesh, the taste of him. He may have hated it, but his body had responded. He was so young... and so beautiful.
“There’s been enough death,” Jack said quietly.
“You can’t trust me,” Ianto said. “I rather you killed me.”
Ianto turned to face him. “Your only other option is to fire me and retcon me,” he said harshly. “I’d rather you killed me.”
Jack blinked. “Why? You can’t want to remember this.”
“I want to remember HER,” Ianto said, his voice breaking. Tears leaked down his cheeks as he turned back to her. “You don’t know... she wasn’t like this. She was generous and kind and... STRONG, she was so strong. And then I had to be strong for her. I didn’t want... ANY of this. Every minute of these last months... fighting so for her... to bring back who she used to be. I loved her. I can’t forget that, I can’t. If I forget her, I’ll be killing her. Killing even the memory of her.” He shook his head. “I’d rather you killed me. I’d rather die knowing that love than let her die again.” He glanced up. “You’d have to take all of it,” he said. “Give me retcon enough for four years. Take my life from me. What would I fill that space with? I’d rather die.”
Jack regarded him for a long moment. Then, very deliberately, he set the gun on the floor, and kicked it toward Ianto. “Do it yourself, then,” he said. “Because I’m not going to kill you.”
Ianto picked it up and rounded on him, pointing the gun at Jack’s head. “What choice do you have!” he snapped. “You can’t let me go!”
“So stay,” Jack said. He hadn’t even realized he was going to say it until he did. Then he realized he meant it. Gently, slowly, he raised his hand and took the gun from Ianto, away from his head. “Stay.”
“You can’t want that.”
“You’ve paid for it.”
“You can’t trust me.”
“Earn my trust back.”
“Why would I ever want to stay?”
“For her,” Jack said. “Because you want to remember her.”
“For YOU,” Ianto said. “You think I’ll just let you torture me. No!”
“Then take the pills or take the bullet. I won’t force anything on you... ever again.”
Ianto’s shoulders slowly relaxed and he seemed to fade away from Jack. “I don’t believe you. I know you.”
Jack stared at him. “I am not what you’ve turned me into,” Jack said. “Anymore than she was what they turned her into. Yeah, I like it rough. And I like it hot and I like it dirty, but I don’t like it unwilling. You may not have liked what you turned yourself into. But I don’t like what you’ve turned me into, either. I may be arrogant, but I am not that man.”
Ianto turned away to look down at Lisa. For long seconds he regarded her seemingly sleeping face. “Then why did you kiss me?” he asked.
Jack had been hoping Ianto wouldn’t remember that. It had been such an act of desperation. For one thing, he had thought Ianto had died when Lisa threw him, and finding him alive had been such a painful relief. For another, he still wasn’t sure that any of his team would survive the Cyberwoman. And finally... finally, he had simply wanted him. Wanted to taste his lips, one last time. Because by then he had known, known with every inch of his heart, that he would never have another chance. Instead of admitting to any of this, Jack said, “Just to bring you round.”
“Liar,” Ianto said, without venom.
Jack wanted to touch him. He was hurt and angry, and he wanted to hold him. Either for Ianto or for himself, Jack wasn’t sure. Damn him. “You may have been faking all this time, Ianto,” Jack said. “And I may have been oblivious. But I meant every moment of it.” He touched Ianto’s shoulder. “If I’d known you didn’t...” He didn’t finish the thought. It hurt that Ianto didn’t. It hurt a lot. “I’m going to go away now. And then I’m going to come down with a stretcher. And I intend to clean up this... mess. You can help me, or you can lift up that gun and add to it. I leave it up to you.”
“Which would you rather I did?” Ianto asked. He still didn’t take his eyes off Lisa’s corpse.
“Bodies are hell to carry on your own,” Jack said truthfully. He headed toward the door.
“Why?” Ianto called behind him, and Jack turned. Ianto was looking at him. “Why would you let me stay?”
“You asked me another question earlier,” Jack said. “Whether I’d ever loved anyone.” He looked down at the blood and metal that had once been Lisa, and then back at Ianto’s grief stricken face. “The answer is yes.”
He left Ianto there to ponder that. When he came back, he didn’t know what he would find, whether or not Ianto would be crumpled between them with a bullet in his head.
Ianto was standing, staring at Lisa’s still, mutilated body.
They carried the bodies to the sick bay in silence, including Doctor Tanizaki. Ianto stayed vigil between them until Owen came to clean up the bodies. He closed his eyes as the corrupted brain was removed from Lilly’s skull. He waited until Lisa’s body was taken to the crematorium, and then waited outside for the oven to be finished. Gwen found him, his head leaning against the metal wall, still waiting for Lisa to be finished. She woke him very gently when the ashes were complete. “You should go home,” she said. “You need to rest.” She looked over at the cooled oven — alien technology cooled the ashes far faster than a conventional crematorium would.“Do you want to take them with you?” she offered.
Ianto looked over at Jack, who stared at him impassively. “No,” Ianto said. “She’s gone. It’s done, now.”
“Not quite,” Jack said. He opened the oven and picked out the fragments of twisted metal that still dotted the ashes. He threw them in a garbage bag and held it out to Ianto. “Throw those in the compactor on the way out.”
It was an order. Ianto regarded the garbage bag, and Jack’s outstretched hand. It was almost insulting. And yet... these fragments of metal had been what destroyed his Lisa. It would be a pleasure to see them crushed beyond all repair. Jack, Ianto was sure, knew this. Ianto’s hand reached out and took the bag. For a brief second, his fingers touched Jack’s. Then the moment passed, and Jack let go.
“Yes, sir,” Ianto said.