Pairing: Jack/Ianto (slight Jack/Suzie, Ianto/Lisa, implied Suzie/Owen)
Summary: After a conversation with widowedanthem, we decided it would be way fun and angsty if Jack had been in love with Ianto during all the events of Cyberwoman.
Author’s Notes: For widowedanthem and justian, probably the only people in the world who literally want to read this. I'm not sure what I'm trying to achieve.
Life is not a fairytale and Jack has been forced to learn that in every broken bone, every time someone has walked away without even giving him the lifeline of a goodbye, and every time he’s found himself on his knees with his hands drenched in blood. Jack is a melodramatic man, perhaps it’s irritating, the way he strides about in that billowing coat, pulling his gun from its holster like he’s the fastest draw in the West (again), laughing in the face of outright terror and pretending to know everything. But without the melodrama there’s a whole lot of melancholy and that’s much, much less fun. Stripped bare and screaming at the darkness and he thought he’d got over that a long time ago.
And perhaps the immortality should have been given to someone who would appreciate it and wouldn’t always look for loopholes. Because there has to be something, someone, a smile, a knife, a poison, a fall, an electric shock, a laugh, a punch that can split him, break him, make him stay down. These things are never foolproof and Jack is still searching for just the right wire to trip. Hasn’t found it yet but he’s learning that patience is a virtue.
He’ll never tell how he came from the dead halls of Satellite 5 to this miserable and rained-on existence in Cardiff, hiding out underneath a fountain like a Gerry Anderson puppet show; this could be punishment for leaving a trail of deception and tattered hearts across the universe, but not even fate is that cruel. Right?
And maybe Jack really is so cheap now that he’ll fall for a pair of blue eyes and a cup of hot coffee. It’s all right. He fell for a lot less once upon a time and he’s getting too tired to hold out for a soulmate of any kind. Assuming that he even has a soul left. Which is frankly rather unlikely, given some of the things that have happened to him over the past few years.
Ianto Jones, with a background file so censored Jack will never crack it without at least Tosh’s help (and that would somehow defeat the object of the whole stalking/snooping thing), is a vague and quiet shadow in a smart suit, who can make the best coffee this side of Rigas-7 (lovely coffee bars there; free refills and so much caffeine that three cups would kill you immediately). Jack hired him shortly after he and Susie lost the ability to see the floor under a mess of Jubilee pizza boxes and bits of probably important paperwork.
“We need a skivvy,” Suzie had said, hands on her hips, tired after nearly an hour of futile searching for her notes on their latest alien artefact (last seen falling off the top pile of paper on her workstation three days ago).
“Like we’re gonna find anyone desperate enough to clean this crap up,” Jack had replied, casting an eye over the sea of paper and rubbish in the vain hope of finding Suzie’s notes. He found a pizza leaflet, an overdue electricity bill, five comic books that had seemingly appeared from nowhere, and several stapled-together documents in Welsh before deciding that a) the notes were forever gone, and b) they needed serious help.
… And then Torchwood One went up. Torchwood Three became important, not just a tired little Welsh waystation, and even though they drove to London as fast as they could, The Doctor had gone by the time they got there, the world was in pieces, and there were so many bodies.
A week and a half later there was Ianto. He’d turned up at Torchwood, asked for an interview, looked at the mess and sighed in a soft little way, and got to work. Jack spent a couple of hours admiring his arse in that black suit and the way the trousers stretched tight when he bent over.
Excellent bottom indeed.
There’s blood on the basement floor, mixing with the water that inevitably drips down there. It’s soaking uncomfortably into the knees of Jack’s trousers, wet and slick and slightly sticky, but he doesn’t move because he can’t.
Stories don’t have the clean-up jobs in them. They have the heroes winning out. They have them walking into the sunset. They don’t feature the cost, or the look on Ianto’s face, they don’t have the fact it’s going to take weeks to get all this crap cleaned up and gone. They don’t mention the silent tears or Tosh on a stepladder, hands shaking as she dismantles the conversion unit, sickness on her face as the blades slip between her trembling hands and clatter on the concrete.
And the awkward silences aren’t even thought of.
Jack won’t let Ianto down here, because that’s opening a can of altogether too many worms, so it’s up to the rest of them to make the basement habitable again. To clear away the blood and water and metal. It’s not an easy task and Jack wonders, carefully, if he’s going crazy. Again. Oestrogen in the rain and an obsession with reality TV shows. Such a fucking insane little planet.
The comm in his wristband crackles loudly and Jack brings it to his lips.
“What?” he demands, and it comes out too savage. He notices the water/blood combination running over his hand, and wonders vaguely where it’s coming from.
“Sir?” Ianto sounds almost scared, and Jack instantly feels bad for shouting. That’s all he’s doing about Ianto these days. Speaking quietly and not trying any sudden movements. It’s really all he can do.
Ianto established a filing system, packed everything away in little boxes, and big boxes, and safes, and somehow managed to get the floor clear and found Suzie’s notes for her and made them cups of coffee and brought them food whenever they wanted it. Jack put on half a stone and Suzie got so wired on caffeine that she nearly broke the paving stone lift trying to reconfigure it to go faster before they both decided that maybe it would be better if they stopped taking advantage of Ianto.
The quiet Welshman said little, volunteered less, and instead quietly walked around the base, a shadow in a smart, perfectly-fitting black suit. He handed out reproachful looks until Jack and Suzie found themselves automatically putting coasters down so as to avoid cup rings on their desks, and carefully putting their papers away in the specifically labelled folders Ianto had designed, apparently idiot-proof (or so he said). Ianto was smart, graceful, and unsettlingly well organised. Jack began to wonder exactly how they’d managed without him (before remembering that they hadn’t).
The only thing that occasionally worried Jack was that when he tried to run a background check on Ianto, using all the computer systems Torchwood wasn’t supposed to have and did anyway, he could find absolutely nothing about what Ianto had been doing for the last five years.
“What is it Ianto?” Jack asks carefully, keeping his voice steady even as blood crawls further up the thighs of his trousers.
“Nothing, sir. It’s just that everyone else is just about to have dinner, and Gwen thought you ought to come up and eat something.” A pause. “You have been down there for quite a few hours.”
It’s the longest sentence Ianto has said to him in at least a fortnight. Jack bites his lips together.
“Get started without me. I’ll be up as soon as I can.”
Ianto doesn’t reply, but Jack was expecting that. He gets slowly to his feet, wet, and cold, and tired, and aching. His throat hurts when he swallows. What he wants now is a hot shower and somewhere to sit curled up in silence for a while, just to appreciate the sound. His team are safe. His base remains mostly intact. They’re not Torchwood One. They survived. Jack wants a while to be clean and quiet and to remember that, that above all.
(In stories, they don’t have to force themselves to remember. In stories, they know.)
He compromises on a clean pair of blood-free trousers, and a cardboard takeaway container of beef in black bean sauce, all the while watching Ianto avoid looking at him.
Jack hasn’t always avoided sleeping. He doesn’t need to sleep anymore, but old habits die hard. There something soothing about blankets and pillows. And when he did sleep, he slept with five alarm clocks, and several types of alarm that could go off at a moment’s notice. They were so sensitive that one used to go off every time Myfanwy flew across the Hub, but it was better than the alternative.
His dreams, when he had them, were laced with darkness and remembering what death was like. He’s died forty-seven times to date, but back then he’d only died thirty-six times and the whole thing still had this edge to it. His dreams were dark and muddy and tasted like oxygen deprivation. Jack went from sleeping once a week to sleeping once a fortnight to once a month. He grew to hate the act more and more because it was almost being dead, lying there, eyes shut, barely breathing.
No. The hand in the jar that was his only link to finding out why he couldn’t die (connect me, tell me, please, I just want to know what you did to me) fluttered against the glass as thought it was impatient and Jack fell into the habit of avoiding closing his eyes at all costs.
The last time he slept was also the first time he dreamt about Ianto. It had been a long time since he’d dreamt of anything other than cold, shallow graves and cyanotic smiles. He’d got used to it, in a perverse kind of way. That was what dreaming was for. For remembering the things he wouldn’t allow himself to acknowledge while he was awake. But that time he didn’t dream about dying at all- or if he was dying, he was dying in an entirely different way, fingers tangling in Ianto’s hair, biting the other man’s mouth open until everything was breathless and tangled. He woke up half-hard and swore he’d never sleep again.
Nearly a year later, and he’s kept to that word, even though he’s no longer quite as afraid of the implications.
Owen offers to give Gwen a ride home and Jack pretends really, really hard that he can’t see the look on Tosh’s face as she bids him goodbye. They might work in an underground space underneath a fountain, and fight aliens on a nearly daily basis, but inter-office politics and romances still threaten to split them apart. Ianto is calmly washing up their coffee mugs and binning their cardboard food containers, outwardly calm although his hands are shaking.
Jack sits up in the boardroom, feet on the table because there’s no one up here to give him reproachful looks (and a cold little place inside him suspects that Ianto wouldn’t give him a reproachful look any more; maybe an accusatory look, or maybe he’d ignore Jack entirely), and considers what he wants to do with his evening. There’s nothing on TV at all, and sitting around brooding is getting old, even though he is exceptionally good at it.
Shadows play on the metal walls and he remembers electricity sliding through his veins and praying that this would save- a bitter smile touches his lips.
“I’m going out,” Jack announces, pulling his grey wool coat from the back of his chair and pulling it on as he strides towards the door. “Lock up when you leave.”
Ianto says nothing, and stands absolutely still until the door slides shut behind his boss.
Owen is annoying, and immature half the time, and says what he thinks all the time without any thought of censorship or tact, but he is very good at what he does, so Jack hired him, gave him a workstation and a lab, and watched Owen and Suzie bicker. It was entertaining and more than once he wondered whether they were actually sleeping together- there was a strange edge there that he never quite understood. Ianto made Owen a lot of coffee and said very little to him, and Owen, for his part, made virtually no effort to get to know him. It worked ok that way.
Jack was getting himself more and more confused around Ianto, pretending outwardly that he was fine, inwardly feeling like a thoroughly confused teenager. It was tiresome and if it hadn’t been for Suzie, who sort of worked out what was going through Jack’s head and basically took over command until he got himself sorted out again, they would have end up mildly wrecked. As it was, no one else even noticed anything was amiss.
“He has a girlfriend, you know,” Suzie told him late one night, when they were seated in Jack’s office sipping martinis and Ianto had gone home hours ago.
“How do you know?” Jack asked, reaching for the cocktail shaker and nearly knocking it over.
“He told me,” she replied, yawning, leaning her head against his shoulder and settling her feet up on his desk, because Ianto wasn’t around to hand out reproachful I’m-going-to-have-to-go-at-that-with-fur
“Call me Jackie-boy again and I’ll hurt you,” Jack replied quietly, but with just enough of a twist to his mouth.
“Bring it on,” Suzie yawned, poking him in the arm with her cocktail stick. And Jack had simply smiled.
Sometimes he forgets how much he misses the way that she used to be.
In fairytales, and other stories of that ilk, the hero falls in love and then, however far away or potentially dead their love is, stays faithful. They don’t go slutting around in bars just because they can’t have the one they want, fucking strangers because it’s apparently better than being alone. Maybe, from time to time and in just the right kind of story, the hero is drugged and seduced. But Jack is forced to concede that he is the seducer, more often than not (and on a basis often enough to be unsettling), and there are never any drugs involved.
Jack stumbles back into The Hub at about three, maybe four a.m, drunk and dizzy. He nearly breaks his neck falling down the stairs (done that six times to date, waking up crumpled at the bottom of the flight going ah, right, maybe next time I’ll watch where I’m walking) but manages to get through the door in one piece.
And Ianto is still here, silent, seated on the sofa against the wall with a binliner on his knees and a blank look on his face. Maybe he was crying earlier, but he isn’t now.
This isn’t the first time this has happened, and it probably won’t be the last, but it’s different this time in that Ianto makes no effort to move to help him. It’s a death trap, this place, Owen and Tosh leave enough things about to trip over, and even Gwen is getting untidier the longer she stays here. They know that they have Ianto to clear up everything for them.
Jack stumbles his way across the Hub towards his office and quarters. Ianto watches him, calm and impassive, and Jack eventually falls over, tripping over a box of CDs Owen left beside his workstation (he is dead later on this morning), banging his head on the concrete flooring and groaning in pain.
Ianto doesn’t make a sound and as Jack carefully pushes himself to his feet he can’t help noticing that the other man isn’t even looking at him. He winces slightly, rubbing at his neck, and winces again at the feel of a bruise forming under his fingers. He starts trying to remember whose teethmarks they are, but he can’t.
Jack learned every single one of Ianto’s little quirks and habits even as Ianto learnt the rest of the team’s. He learned that Ianto adjusted his tie three times every morning before walking into The Hub, that Ianto preferred his coffee black with three teaspoons of sugar, and that Ianto had lists and lists and lists on all their preferences and how to tell their moods just from the lift of an eyebrow or the twist of a smile and just what kind of drink to brew in any given situation.
Suzie called it stalking. Jack called her jealous and then accused her of sleeping with Owen. She denied the stalker accusation but said nothing about Owen. Jack would have teased her for weeks but he didn’t. Whatever she was doing was her business. And he told himself that he wasn’t the slightest bit jealous.
“Don’t you have a home to go to?” Owen asked Ianto at about eleven-thirty one night when they were all sitting around trying to figure out what they were missing in a case of apparent alien abductions. Jack watched Ianto’s knuckles tighten around the mug of tea he was placing on the table, a momentary sign of anger, before the Welshman smiled.
“No,” Ianto replied, an underlying hint of sarcasm in his tone, “I honestly have nothing better to do with my life than ensure that your tea has two and a half teaspoons of sugar in it- not two, not three; just two and a half.”
“All right,” Owen mumbled, picking his tea up and taking a sip.
“And when I’ve finished clearing up everything, I just fold myself into a box under the reception desk until you need me again.”
“I was only asking,” Owen muttered, looking embarrassed.
Tea in front of Jack. Three teaspoons of sugar, no milk, stewed for five and half minutes. Exactly the way he liked it, although he couldn’t remember ever telling Ianto that.
“Thank you,” he said softly, and a momentary look of surprise flickered over Ianto’s face.
“You’re welcome,” he replied after a moment, and Jack tried and failed to remember any of them ever really thanking Ianto for the million tiny miracles he performed every day.
The hero isn’t supposed to do this.
Jack wakes up from something that isn’t so much sleep as an awkward drunken state of unconsciousness with his head pounding. He reaches automatically for his morning coffee and finds it absent. Sighing, because he was expecting that and it still hurts, Jack sweeps everything on the bedside table onto the floor of his room just because he can and then gets up slowly, appreciating the ache in his muscles as he staggers toward the shower. It’s like penance or something.
Half an hour later, hair drying and dressed in that baby blue shirt that really brings out his eyes, Jack makes his way upstairs and into The Hub. Gwen and Ianto are laughing together, sipping coffee, but the moment they become aware of Jack’s presence, their smiles slide off their faces and the sense of melancholy returns. Jack sighs between his teeth because he really, really doesn’t fucking need this, not now, not ever, and they don’t all have to keep beating themselves up over something that isn’t their fault; not any of them, not really. They’re victims of circumstance and Jack wishes that everyone would stop making him out to be the Bad Guy.
He’s not. He’s sure he’s not.
And the way that Ianto keeps looking (or not looking) at him is killing Jack, piece by piece, and for some strange reason he just isn’t healing.
Suzie was trembling. Jack slid a hand into hers, squeezing tight.
“It’s ok,” he promised her.
Owen was shivering, and Toshiko’s fingers were trembling on the keyboard as she attempted to erase the CCTV footage of what they’d done. Ianto was quietly making coffee for them all, but he looked white and sick.
“It’s ok,” Jack repeated to them all. He felt guilty, because he could taste the lie in his mouth, and it also seemed like a shitty way to end Tosh’s first week.
Five dead bodies. Jack concentrated on holding Suzie’s hand tight because it was something like humanity, something solid to cling to. She was squeezing back just as hard, knuckles white.
Owen wrapped his hands around his mug, sipping the coffee and then smiling.
“Good man, Ianto.”
Jack discovered why a few seconds later, as he took a sip of his coffee. It was more brandy than java, for which he was suddenly unbelievably grateful. Ianto sank into the chair beside Tosh’s, putting a hand on her arm.
“It isn’t always like this,” he whispered to her, and she nodded, offering him the beginnings of a smile.
“Go home,” Jack told them all quietly, “Don’t come in until you’re ready.”
People taken over by aliens, and they were beyond saving. Kill or be killed. All that fucking jazz. Jack had blood on his hands, they all did, and they’d saved the world, but at such a cost. The five of them with guns in their hands and resolute looks on their faces. We had to do it but that didn’t make them feel better.
Suzie stayed because she always did, second in command but more than that, she was an actual friend in the underground world where Jack convinced himself he needed nothing but his suspiciously unrequited obsession with their receptionist, two hours’ sleep a year, his big swishy melodramatic coat, and Suzie’s smile at the end of a long day. He turned out to be wrong, but no big surprises there.
“You should go home, Ianto,” Jack said, wondering if he’d ever be able to let go of Suzie’s hand. Wondering if he’d ever want to. He was still human then, far more human than he is now.
“I need to get started on organising the disposal of the bodies, sir,” Ianto replied quietly, gathering up the emptied coffee mugs.
“Leave that til tomorrow,” Suzie told him, voice trembling, hand sweating slightly in Jack’s grip.
“I’ll take care of it,” Jack said, shaking his head.
“It’s my job sir.” Ianto sounded firm; tired, but far from cracking. “And you both look like you could do with some rest.”
Jack had the almost irresistible urge to wrap his arms around Ianto and bury his face in that strong, suit-clad shoulder, just for a few minutes, until the corpses, Toshiko’s traumatised face, Suzie’s trembling fingers and Owen’s sickened face faded out. He instead nodded and carefully disentangled himself from Suzie’s grip.
It cannot go on like this, and Jack informs Ianto of this fact late one Tuesday night when the silence is beyond oppressive. There are a whole lot of words and threats still hanging in the air between them because they’ve never been discussed (you execute her or I’ll execute you both; you’re more of a monster than anything down there). Ianto cannot go on ignoring him, drifting around like a resentful, hurt, silent shadow. He just can’t.
“So fire me, sir,” Ianto says quietly, as though it’s obvious, as though it’s the only option.
“If I haven’t fired you by now, I’m not going to,” Jack replies. Ianto nods, swallowing hard.
“Yes sir.” He turns to go, and Jack catches his wrist.
“Tell me what I have to do to fix this,” he hisses between his teeth, more desperate than he wants to admit, even to himself. Ianto looks from Jack’s tight grip around his left wrist to the look on his face, and bites his lower lip momentarily.
“I don’t know,” Ianto says eventually, traces of bitterness entering his voice. “This isn’t a fucking fairytale where you can tie all the loose ends up and mend everything, you know.”
Lord, does he.
Jack reluctantly lets go, nodding, turning away, turning to the mess that is his office because he gave up on Ianto’s filing system a few months ago for reasons he can no longer remember.
But the next morning, there is a steaming cup of coffee beside his bed, and everything in his room is neatly straightened and folded and back where it belongs, so he assumes that something has slid back into place.
The glove took over Suzie’s attention and Jack lost her. Lost Friday night martinis and laughter and her teasing him about his feelings for Ianto and knowing for certain that she had his back. She withdrew from them all and all she cared about was that damned metal gauntlet.
“She’s out of control,” Ianto told him in an undertone, bringing him bagels one afternoon.
“I know,” Jack replied, watching Suzie run a fingertip down the metal of the glove, and then turn to her laptop, typing notes so fast that it was almost impossible to tell that her hands were shaking, unless you knew to look for it. “She’s obsessed.”
They both watched her for a moment through the glass walls of the conference room.
“I’m sorry, sir,” Ianto whispered. “I know that you and she-”
“Don’t you have something else to be getting on with?” Jack asked, interrupting him, unable to have this conversation, not right now. Ianto shut his mouth mid sentence, looking faintly but not obviously hurt, and walked out. Jack watched him go and looked back at Suzie, oblivious and trembling, and felt unbelievably lonely.
Owen is breaking pencils into pieces and tossing them at Tosh, in a childish way of trying to grab attention, and Tosh is getting more and more wound up. Ianto is tidying up the pieces of wood with a rather pissed-off look on his face, but keeping his mouth bitten together because as far as everyone is concerned, he lost the right to get pissed off the moment he sicced a cyberwoman on them all.
Maybe he did. Jack is altogether too aware that he’s got a moral blindspot when it comes to Ianto. His head aches but he’s hungover and that’s what he deserves. (Melodramatic, masochistic, fix whatever label you want on Jack, it’ll stick somewhere.) Instead, he watches the tension build up in the Hub, while Gwen pretends she isn’t there and Ianto watches them make a mess of the lovely clean floor, hands clenched. I clear up your shit, no questions asked and that’s the way you like it.
“Cut it out,” Jack eventually snaps, coming to the door of his office and making them all jump. “Owen, grow up. Tosh, stop letting him wind you up. Ianto-”
“Sir?” But there’s a bite in Ianto’s tone, like he’s sick of being ordered about, and Jack bites his mouth together.
“Nothing,” he says eventually, shaking his head and walking back to his desk, because he’s still not entirely sure where he stands now.
The tears weren’t what Jack was expecting, but he took them in his stride because that was what he did. The Glove was lying on Suzie’s workstation, on top of piles of notes and with a welder tossed carelessly beside it, and Jack was starting to think that her obsession was scaring the hell out of him (he knew it was scaring the hell out of Ianto; the IMs he was getting on an almost daily basis told him that, if nothing else) and he was powerless.
It was late when she walked into the boardroom, shutting the door behind her. Jack was drinking his martini alone and missing Suzie’s company; the clear alcohol became somewhat like liquid misery when she was gone.
“I don’t-” she began, white-faced and helpless, and then burst into tears. Loud, broken tears. Jack took his time putting the drink down on the table and crossing over to her, but had no reservations about pulling her into a hug, and she dug her fingers into his upper arms like she was trying to hold onto something solid, as raw, helpless sobs shook her entire body.
With the benefit of hindsight, Jack wonders whether he would have comforted her if he’d known that that was the first evening she’d slipped off and murdered someone, and he’s come to the conclusion that he would have done anyway. Murderer or not, Suzie was still his.
Words started themselves and then died on her lips, unfinished as she choked on them. Jack stroked her hair and let her ruin his shirt and bruise his arms with her desperate fear of the known and unknown.
Ianto looked apologetic as he walked in, clipboard in his hand, smart and silent in his suit.
“I’m sorry to interrupt, but there’s been a murder just called in.” He bit his lower lip. “You asked me to tell you next time that-”
Suzie had been begging them to let her test the glove on a real body, to see what would happen. Jack had finally given in, if only because he felt Suzie would go crazy otherwise. Of course, having her quivering and sniffling against his chest could be construed as crazy, but Jack had a Suzie-sized blindspot too, right alongside his Ianto one.
“Of course,” Jack nodded. “Get Tosh and Owen in and box up The Glove.”
Ianto smiled briefly and turned to leave, and Jack didn’t want him to go because he desperately wanted to hold onto the sense of normality and peace Ianto brought with him, but instead allowed the man to walk out and returned to trying to piece the world back together, with Suzie’s tears still drying on his shirt.
“Do you hate me,” Jack begins thoughtfully, like the reply doesn’t matter, “Or are you afraid of me?”
Ianto considers him for a moment.
“You had a gun to my head,” he says in a measured tone that gives nothing away.
“That wasn’t the first time you’ve had a gun to your head.”
“It was the first time I genuinely believed that the person on the other end of the gun would shoot,” Ianto tells him quietly, fiddling with his left cufflink.
“You didn’t honestly believe-”
“I did.” Ianto looks at him, finally. “You were beyond angry. I’d betrayed Torchwood. There was a large chance we were all going to die.”
“I still wouldn’t have-” Jack begins, and then stops. He would have done. He’s not the hero in this, and never was. He’d have blown Ianto’s head open; and cried over the body for weeks.
“Now ask me why I don’t trust you.” Ianto offers him half a smile. “Sir.”
The guilt is crushing and almost uncontrollable, but Jack needs to have these awkward half-conversations if he’s got a hope in hell’s chance of making everything normal again. Of getting forgiveness and maybe getting around to forgiving.
“I’m sorry,” he says quietly. And he doesn’t mean it. Not quite.
“Jack,” Ianto said, “The Glove’s gone. And the knife that goes with it.”
“I… don’t know.”
Jack looked at him, and Ianto crumbled.
“She’s gone too,” he said finally. Jack closed his eyes, because he didn’t want to hear this, he just didn’t.
“Oh God,” he said softly.
“I’m so sorry,” Ianto whispered.
“It’s not your fault,” Jack muttered, getting up and pulling his coat on.
“Where are you going?”
“To find her. Before she kills someone else.” The words tasted like bile in Jack’s mouth, and he almost choked on them.
“I’ll call Owen and Tosh back in,” Ianto said quietly, “And I’ll put some coffee on.”
That was how Ianto coped with things, Jack knew; he made coffee and descaled the kettle and cross-referenced the Torchwood archives and that somehow was expected to make the world a better place. And it almost worked.
“Thank you,” Jack murmured softly, walking out of his office and wincing at the CCTV footage playing to no one from the screens on Tosh’s workstation- Suzie had Gwen at gunpoint, and he knew then that it could only go down hill from there.
In stories, of the kind that Jack resolutely Does Not Read, the hero can’t afford to break down and be sad at the loss of a teammate. They are beatifically sad for a while and then pick themselves up and carry on, and everyone else understands perfectly and respects them for it. But fuck it, life doesn’t follow that line in any way, shape or form, and this leads to Ianto slamming his hand on Jack’s desk, the next step in an argument that neither of them ever began.
“Do you miss Suzie, even a little bit?” he demands, too loud, too fast. Jack leans back in his chair, every movement calculated to offset Ianto’s trembling anger.
“Of course I do,” he replies, trying to keep his voice calm because the last thing he wants right now is to be dragged into a shouting match, especially since he and Ianto are barely on speaking terms again. Unfortunately, this just makes his comment sound apathetic, even to his own ears.
“Really.” There’s a hint of a derisive laugh in Ianto’s tone, an edge of disbelief.
“You really think that I have time to sit around pining?” Jack demands. “When emotions get in the way, people get hurt. You should know that more than anyone.”
Ianto flinches. Jack mentally kicks himself. Stupid, stupid, stupid.
“At least,” he begins slowly, “I miss Lisa. I grieved for her. But you-”
“But me what.”
“But- is there- I mean- Jack, there’s no one in the world that you’d miss if they died, is there? Because you don’t love anyone enough to miss them when they’re gone.”
Jack wants to reply, but he can’t and he doesn’t. Ianto gives him a resigned smile and a parting shot:
“I asked you once and you couldn’t tell me, and I’ll bet you couldn’t tell me now; you’ve never loved anyone, have you? There’s no one you love enough to tear the world apart for.”
He’s turning and walking away on the last words by the time Jack finds his tongue, so his words come out more exasperated than he means them to be.
“Do you honestly not know?”
Ianto stops dead in the doorway, standing absolutely still for a moment, but he doesn’t turn back and instead keeps walking away.