Summary: Set pre-show. Ianto’s first while of working for Jack.
Warnings: Spoilers for episode one; more importantly- I think this veers into fluff territory in a couple of places. I’m so sorry.
Author’s Notes: This shows exactly what I can get done in four hours if I stay mostly focused. I really like this (I can’t help it) and it was just such fun to write; I visualised it in my head, and it came straight out, I didn’t have to struggle with it or anything. The easiest thing I’ve written in a couple of months :D Part two entirely based on a conversation I had with bigtitch.
Carefully dry-cleaned suit, tasteful tie, shirt so white it bleaches your eyeballs. Ianto knows he looks the way he is supposed to; smart, tidy, and yet he blends into the background. It’s an outfit he’s perfected over the years, and he’s trying to make an impression. He’s not entirely sure what kind of impression, but it’s the first day of a new job that goes under the name “Torchwood” and he feels much better cocooned in the suit than he would in anything else.
Ianto makes his way through the early-morning blue haze that comes before sunrise, left hand stuck into the pocket of his plain black woollen overcoat, right hand wrapped around a warm paper cup of coffee. Cardiff, at this time of the morning, is peacefully quiet and for a few minutes Ianto forgets to be slightly nervous (he’s not very nervous; just slightly nervous).
He’s waiting for Ianto by the fountain opposite the Millennium Centre. Hands shoved into the pockets of a dark overcoat of the kind favoured by the Air Force. Dark hair and a half-smug little smile as he strides over, holding out a hand.
“Captain Jack Harkness,” he says, and Ianto shakes his hand. His own fingers are cold. Jack’s are warm, but it’s impossible to guess how long he’s been standing there, waiting. “Welcome to Torchwood.”
Ianto considers saying something like but… but we’re standing beside an ornamental fountain and there isn’t anything else around here, but quickly decides against it. He can tell it won’t end well. Jack puts a hand on Ianto’s shoulder, pushing him firmly but in a friendly fashion towards the fountain. Ianto wants to say something but doesn’t, and then the two of them are standing on one of the large paving stones near the fountain.
“Hold on tight,” Jack suggests.
“To what, sir?” Ianto enquires. The “sir” he tacks on the end isn’t deliberate but slips out anyway.
The paving stone is moving downwards and Jack is looking thoughtful.
“You call me ‘sir’?” he asks, “That’s very…”
For one insane moment, Ianto thinks he’s going to say ‘kinky’. He realises a second later that Jack is obviously thinking the same thing, because he bites his mouth together and doesn’t say anything. This is sort of a relief, though, because it leaves Ianto free to look around the large, quite dark, and shadowy room the paving stone is descending into.
“Is this Torchwood?” he asks carefully.
Jack steps off the paving stone and Ianto follows obediently, trying not to look around open-mouthed because if he does he’ll get distracted and then he’ll start laughing hysterically. They have a lift. Made of a paving stone. That goes downwards into a large Secret Base type thing. It’s all too Thunderbirds for words.
There’s a flapping of wings overhead and Ianto looks up, almost being blinded by the electric lights in the ceiling, and he catches a glimpse of-
“You have a pterodactyl, sir” he says carefully, aware his voice sounds on the edge of hysteria.
“We do,” Jack agrees, but he’s striding across the room without looking upwards so apparently it’s normal for extinct creatures to be flapping around in here. “You’ll be looking after him. He doesn’t like me.” Jack throws a disarming smile over one shoulder and Ianto tentatively smiles back.
“Will he like me?” he asks.
“You’d better hope so,” Jack replies, but it doesn’t sound like a threat. He’s reached a desk in the far corner that seems to be overflowing with pieces of paper, and pulls out a thick block of white cards, held together with elastic bands.
“Catch,” he says, and Ianto obediently does. He looks down at the top card and sees a picture of a very creepy looking thing with a lot of small black text beside it. He looks up enquiringly.
“Ok,” Jack says, perching on the edge of the desk, “Aliens are real. Very real. And they’re here, and it’s our job to protect the world from them.”
Ianto thinks of lots of things he could say (including have you actually given this speech to someone else before? It could use some work) but instead he looks down at the handful of cards Jack has given him.
“And you have flashcards,” he says carefully, clinging to the cards because really, they’re the only solid things he has left. “Lots of flashcards.”
“Are you-” Jack begins, frowning slightly, like he’s starting to realise that perhaps dropping a pterodactyl and a bombshell on a man all in about five minutes is not the brightest of ideas.
“Do you have flowcharts?” Ianto asks before he can stop himself, aware that there’s a sarcastic edge sliding into his voice that he just can’t get rid of, as well as the vague hysteria that’s putting its feet up and making itself at home. Jack stares at him and Ianto resists the urge to start laughing. He wonders if he’s crazy. Drunk. Dreaming.
“Ianto,” Jack says slowly. Ianto pulls himself together, trying to stop the helpless laughter from bubbling up in his throat.
“Sorry sir,” he says breathlessly, remembering that falling to pieces in front of his new boss is not and never a good idea. “There are lots of aliens. Everywhere. And we have to protect the Earth from them. With flashcards.”
Jack gives him a look but Ianto can’t help it. And in a moment, they’re both laughing.
It takes less time than Ianto would have believed possible to learn all the notes on Jack’s information (apparently never flash) cards, to learn how to recognise aliens at a moment’s notice, to learn about the Proper Care and Feeding of Pterodactyls, and to establish a filing system that Jack can understand and therefore the office/Bat Cave thing doesn’t get overrun with bits of paper.
Jack spends a lot of time searching for prospective team members. Ianto makes him coffee and tidies up and practices being invisible. It’s surprisingly boring but he still manages to stop himself wailing: but you promised me that there would be aliens!
So it’s a bit of a shock when Jack comes to find him upstairs when Ianto is calmly shutting down the computer systems for the night to save electricity (otherwise the lights flicker and it upsets the pterodactyl), dangling a pistol off the end of one finger.
“Come on,” Jack says, and disappears back downstairs. Ianto calmly finishes shutting down the system, and then follows.
Jack is waiting for him, in his shirtsleeves and with a wicked smile, next to a table covered in guns.
“Time you learnt to use these,” is all he says. Ianto considers telling him that he’d much rather not, all things considered, because learning to use a gun usually precedes having to actually use a gun, and Ianto has never killed anyone before and would like to keep it like that. But instead, he carefully slips his suit jacket from his shoulders, and walks over to join Jack in front of a range of brightly coloured targets.
Jack carefully explains the logistics of firing a gun and how to load it, and then hands one to Ianto. Ianto doesn’t want to do this but can’t work out a way to say he’d rather not, so simply takes it, slots in a cartridge of bullets, and lets out a slow breath as he turns, as instructed, side-on to his target, and concentrates on hitting the mark through the hideous yellow glasses. And then Jack is behind him, moulding himself alongside Ianto’s body like he’s always been meant to be there, carefully adjusting his position, and he can’t quite breathe properly.
Bang. Bang. Bang bang bang. Bang bang. Bang. Click.
“Good,” Jack whispers in his ear and Ianto pretends that he’s not responding in any way to that honeyed voice.
Different guns. Different bullets. Different ways of putting on and off the safety. And Jack is still so-too- close. At one point, when Ianto is carefully trying to load one particular weapon, Jack bites down lightly on his earlobe. Ianto nearly shoots his foot off.
Three and a half hours later he’s firing a gun like he’s always been doing it, and Jack is looking at him with something similar to pride in those blue eyes.
(Months and months and months later, and Jack still insists that they do this. He calls it ‘refreshing’ Ianto’s memory, but Ianto remembers perfectly well how to fire a gun, and besides, Jack gets him naked now, nothing on but headphones and protective glasses, doing his best to distract Ianto from his task. Warm, steady hands sliding over his hips and his finger shakes on the trigger.
“I was under the impression you thought I looked good in a suit, sir.”
“You do. You look pretty good out of it too.”)
It’s not until Suzie joins them and Ianto is forced to do four days’ worth of overtime that he realises that Jack doesn’t sleep. Not in a metaphorical sense; he seriously doesn’t ever lie down and close his eyes. Ianto snatches hours here and there, pretending he isn’t tired and abandoning his tie somewhere around two a.m, drinking coffee like it’s water. But Jack doesn’t sleep at all, not even a little, and yet remains permanently fresh and flirtatious and logical. That isn’t Ianto’s first sign that Jack is far from normal, but it’s the first that he actually can’t ignore.
On day four, three forty-five a.m, Ianto makes his way into Jack’s office with another mug of coffee.
“Still here, Ianto?”
“As always, sir, ” Ianto replies softly. He bites his lip for a moment and then stops himself. “Aren’t you tired?” It slips out before he can prevent it.
“What do you mean?” Jack asks sharply, face hard and cold.
“Nothing,” Ianto says swiftly, placing the coffee cup on the desk and clearing away the four empty cups. He turns to leave and Jack catches his wrist.
“Ianto,” he says slowly, dangerously, “Is there something you want to ask me?”
“No,” Ianto replies, then caves. “You haven’t slept in four days, sir.”
“I don’t sleep,” Jack replies simply.
“Surely you must-”
“I don’t sleep,” Jack repeats calmly. “But you look like you could use some rest, Ianto. Leave the coffee cups to me.”
Jack lays a warning finger against Ianto’s lips as he gets to his feet.
“Get some sleep. You need to be up early to feed Rover.” He jerks his head towards the place in the ceiling where their pterodactyl has built his nest. Ianto once again wonders why Jack thought it would be funny to name the creature Rover, and perhaps that’s actually why Rover doesn’t like him, but he steps away from Jack anyway with a murmur of “yes, sir”, and makes his way to the little room where there’s a bed for anyone who has to stay overnight.
And that’s where they leave it. Only they don’t.
Owen doesn’t exist yet, and so Jack does the organisation and autopsies himself, while Suzie does all the technology and so on, and Ianto catalogues and stores artefacts, makes tea, and amuses himself by scaring off the paranoid conspiracy type people, who hang around outside the fountain looking about (a few of them even make it into his reception area, where he loads them down with Snowdonia brochures and grins in a maddening fashion).
Anyway, Ianto is delivering lunch downstairs, and although Suzie eagerly heads over to eat her pizza, Jack is still working on dissecting an unsettlingly blue alien creature found crawling out of the sewers last night. Ianto goes to tell Jack that lunch is ready, but clearly surprises him, because the other man jumps at his presence. Jack slices his hand open with the scalpel. Blood, slick and red, slides down his skin. Ianto walks over with offers of plasters and bandages and apologies on his lips, but Jack is shaking his head and looking faintly panicked. Ianto learns why a moment later, as the blood is sucking itself back into his skin, and the skin itself is healing cleanly over.
“Oh,” Ianto says softly. Jack looks cornered and then angry.
“Haven’t you ever heard of knocking?” he snarls. Ianto takes an involuntary step backwards.
“I’m sorry,” he says, and then stupidly adds, “I won’t tell anyone.”
“No,” Jack hisses, “You won’t tell anyone because you didn’t see anything.”
He still hasn’t let go of the razor-sharp scalpel and Ianto gets a mental image of himself, lying slashed and bloody on the autopsy room floor. The word please rises up to his lips but he doesn’t say it.
“I didn’t see anything,” he agrees quickly. Jack nods and his breathing slows and calms. The scalpel falls from his suddenly limp fingers, clattering on the floor. The noise is too loud.
“Ok.” It comes out on Jack’s exhale. And then his face lights up again, and he looks fine and cheerful again, as though he hadn’t just been threatening Ianto. “Did you say something about pizza?”
“I did indeed, sir.”
“Excellent.” Jack claps him on the shoulder and then walks past without looking at him.
Ianto stands perfectly still for a moment, trying to work out what it all means.
“No,” Ianto says, and then says it again for good measure, because sometimes Jack doesn’t listen and you have to repeat yourself a few times to make sure that he hears you. “Really, no.”
Jack isn’t listening to him. Ianto sighs. It’s been a crazy few months, what with Owen and Toshiko’s arrivals, and he’s staying late today, and is now wishing he was safe at home after all. Jack has clearly gone completely insane.
“Go on,” he says, still invading Ianto’s personal space, backing him up against Toshiko’s workstation.
“Are you not listening to a word I’m saying?” Ianto demands. “No!”
“It’s important to me,” Jack pouts. “It was 1941. Bombs were falling on London. And I was on an invisible Chula warship with a beautiful girl, right in the heart of the air raid, dancing the night away. Let me relive it.”
Ianto thinks of lots of things he could say to that, like there’s no way you were around in 1941, or what kind of person dances in the middle of an air raid, but the only thing that comes out is:
“But I’m not a beautiful girl.”
Jack considers him with a smirk on his face, half-serious, half-amused.
“You’re not bad,” he says eventually.
Ianto looks at him for a long moment.
“I don’t dance,” he says, “I don’t know how to. This wasn’t in the job description!”
“Neither was the pterodactyl,” Jack points out. “Or the weevils in the basement, or-”
“Can’t you go and find Toshiko, sir?” Ianto pleads.
“If I wanted to ask Toshiko, I’d already have asked her,” Jack says reasonably. Ianto pouts, but he doesn’t leave and Jack picks up on this all too quickly, manhandling him into position, one hand closing around his hip, other hand intertwining with Ianto’s.
“Why am I letting you do this?” Ianto asks in a fatalistic tone, as Glenn Miller's Moonlight Serenade fills the empty base. Rover doesn’t like it and starts squealing, but Jack’s warm breathing beside Ianto’s ear soon drowns that out. It starts out awkward but then Ianto stops fighting Jack for the lead and catches himself wanting to lean his head on Jack’s shoulder. They move together, step to step, and Ianto’s natural grace actually helps out here.
“See?” Jack whispers, “It’s not so bad.”
“Sir-” Ianto begins, not sure exactly what it is that he wants to say, but fairly certain it will involve the words but I’m dancing with you and I have no idea why which, as you can understand, is quite awkward. But he never gets to say the words, because Jack stops moving suddenly, moves his hand from Ianto’s hip to the back of his neck, and pulls him in for a long, slow kiss.
“I’ll bet that wasn’t in the job description either,” Jack whispers, and doesn’t give Ianto a chance to reply as he does it again.
Jack has this habit of forever playing the seducer, even though he has to know by now that Ianto is well and truly seduced. It’s both awkward and cheering, Jack making suggestive comments and Ianto always telling him that he’s harassing him, the two of them sharing little smiles. He doesn’t let Jack force him into dancing again, though. Ianto doesn’t trust him and he doesn’t trust himself.
But all good things must come to an end and it’s late and dark and Ianto lowers the glove that can bring people back from the dead into a box and locks it carefully, like he does every time something like this happens, shutting it into Jack’s safe and locking the door. Toshiko and Owen look awkward, like school kids caught with something they shouldn’t have, shifting from foot to foot while he carefully catalogues the alien tech they borrowed. Ianto knows that he ought to give them some kind of lecture, but he doesn’t. It’s been a long and awkward day, and instead he lets them trail off home.
Ianto tells himself that he is not waiting for Jack to finish shutting Suzie into her bodybag, because he knows that Jack will not want him around. But he carefully tidies up, climbs up into the crawl space near the ceiling to feed Rover, and is still around when Jack walks into his office.
They share a look, an endless look, as Ianto finds himself walking up to Jack’s desk, even though he knows that he shouldn’t.
“Do you need anything, sir?” he asks, and his voice rasps and sounds strange in the oppressive silence. Jack smiles helplessly and shakes his head, and Ianto turns away because he’d like to go home now and maybe even be a little bit grief-stricken at what’s happened to Suzie, and he knows that there’s nothing he can do here.
Jack catches his arm and presses his lips to the inside of Ianto’s wrist, just for a moment, like he needs it, and then lets him go. Ianto walks away and then pauses at the door.
“Goodnight, Jack,” he calls into the silence. He doesn’t get a reply. He isn’t expecting one.
He turns off the lights as he leaves and leaves Jack to the dark and the silence, because he knows when to push things and when to let them go.