Lady Paperclip (paperclipbitch) wrote,
Lady Paperclip
paperclipbitch

Yes, it's Torchwood, but if you go down there's House stuff.

Title: Like Stitches In The Scar (Part Two)
Fandom: Torchwood
Pairing: Jack/Ianto
Rating: PG-13
Genre: Slash
Summary: AU. Jack is crazily in love with Ianto. Ianto is rather worried about this. Mostly based around “Cyberwoman”.
Author’s Notes: Bwahahaha. Canon made my Suzie AU all by her lonesome, but who gives a damn right? Uncontrollable angst. Much love to widowedanthem for the original plot bunny, and justian for reading bits through for me and somehow squeeing in all the right places :) Will there be more of this? Who knows…

Part One



When Jack had lovingly placed Suzie’s body into a bodybag with shaking hands, he walked through the hub, turning the lights off. He thought, absently, that what he really wanted right now was Suzie standing in his office doorway with a bottle of Smirnoff and that edgy little smile she had, and actually caught himself turning to ask her to join him in the boardroom, before remembering. Owen and Tosh had sloped off awkwardly, but Ianto was still hanging around, like he had nowhere else to be. Jack reflected bitterly that he probably didn’t. Torchwood ate your life and then it took it away completely.

“Anything I can do for you?” Ianto asked, awkward-looking and grief stark on his face. “Sir?”

“You should go home,” Jack said softly, eyes smarting with unshed tears. “It’s going to be a long day tomorrow.”

Ianto nodded, walking away to get his coat. Turning back.

“Are you sure? Because-”

“I’m a big boy, Ianto,” Jack told him with a slight smile, the twist of his lips making them tremble and for a horrible moment he really thought he was going to break down, “I can take care of myself.”

“Suzie’s dead.” The quiet statement echoed around the Hub and Myfanwy screeched from the rafters like she understood. “You shouldn’t be alone tonight, Jack.”

On any other day, Jack would take this chance and cling onto it until someone had to tear his momentarily dead fingers from its neck, but he knew Ianto wasn’t offering what he wanted him to be offering and somehow he just couldn’t face any of it.

“I’ll be fine,” he promised (mouth tasting like the bitter sobs he was inches away from bursting into). Ianto looked at him for a moment, eyes searching Jack’s face.

“How long have you been down here?” he asked, voice cracking a little.

“Long enough,” Jack replied calmly, and although he saw the inevitable follow-up question forming on Ianto’s lips, the Welshman managed to bite it back, like he knew he wouldn’t get a straight answer anyway.

Ianto kept glancing over his shoulder as he left, and Jack watched him safely away on the CCTV before it was finally just him. Just him, and the silence, and his pterodactyl, and his best (only?) friend’s body in cold storage. Maybe he would have cried, but Suzie’s betrayal and death had killed off the last shreds of humanity within him. The only thing that ripped itself from him that night was a helpless, raw scream that echoed longer after it had finished and he turned away, eyes stinging, swallowing all his tears and words whole, losing what remained of his soul, once again, to barbed wire wishes.

*

A week after his almost maybe slight argument with Ianto, Jack is in his office, typing a report for the archives to be read by no one.

“Are you avoiding me Ianto?” he enquires, trying to make his voice sound light.

“Yes sir,” Ianto replies with more than a slight edge of sarcasm, “I am avoiding you by standing directly in front of you. Clever of me, isn’t it?” Before Jack can reply he moves to unload his tray. “Tea. Steeped for exactly five minutes and thirty-three seconds. Toast. Spread with a knife different to the one I used for Tosh’s toast, so that there isn’t the slightest trace of Marmite anywhere near your food. Lightly browned but I watched carefully so that it wouldn’t burn.”

“Thank you,” Jack says slowly.

“Well, you know sir, you can’t unburn toast,” Ianto says calmly. And that’s the point that Jack cracks.

“Are you using fucking toast as a metaphor now?” he shouts. He’s aware of a silence falling outside his office but he doesn’t care enough to stop.

“You have no right to be angry with me, sir,” Ianto points out. Their positions are reversed now and he’s irritatingly unruffled. Jack knows that he’s in the wrong here. He doesn’t care. “And just for the record, I wasn’t making a metaphor involving toast.”

This is not the way that Jack wants this to be happening but it’s out of his control now. He’s angry and somehow he’s hurt and none of this is right at all. He listens to Ianto walking out, Gwen’s voice rising in concern for him (because of course Jack is the Bad Guy; it’s amazing how quickly he’s fallen from grace, and all it took was a Cyberwoman in their basement. But oh yes. Her name was Lisa), Ianto shrugging off all enquiries with his usual quiet elegance.

Jack looks at his tea and his toast, perfect elevensies, prepared with care so that they will be exactly the way that he likes them. Prepared with care by a man who doesn’t even like him- Jack realises that he doesn’t know Ianto at all, and lets the food get cold.

*

“Gwen Cooper.” Jack rolled the syllables around in his mouth, getting to know the taste. He’d been reading all the background reports he got the team to compile that afternoon, claiming that there’d be a prize for the most information given to him (a lie, but then they were expecting that). “Gwwwen Coooooooper.”

It was about then that he noticed Ianto looking at him, a smile tugging the corners of his mouth, mug clutched in one hand.

“Sir?” Ianto asked, sounding as though he was trying to resist the urge to laugh.

“Gwen Cooper,” Jack informed him helpfully.

“I had rather gathered that,” Ianto smirked, setting down the steaming mug.

“What do you think? She seem stable enough to become our latest team member?”

“Why would I know, sir?” Ianto enquired, sitting down in the chair opposite Jack’s, poise absolutely straight. Posture so perfect Jack’s back hurt just from looking at him.

“Well, you’ve got to make her coffee if we hire her,” Jack said, “I suppose you get a say, somewhere.”

Ianto considered this for a moment.

“Give her a chance, sir,” he said when the pause threatened to become uncomfortable. “She deserves that, if nothing else.”

Jack nodded, tapping a pen against his desk, and then reached his decision.

*

“There’s a bin not two feet from you!” Ianto is screaming at Owen, hands full of paper and crisp packets, “Is it so fucking difficult to USE IT?”

Ianto never complains at them, no matter how much mess they make, not even the time that Jack and Suzie couldn’t find what they were looking for (even when they tried cross-referencing), and so took every single piece of paper out of Ianto’s carefully organised filing system. Ianto had come in the next morning to a thousand sheets of A4 on the floor and a marooned Jack and Suzie sitting on the nearest workstation, looking confused and like guilty children caught doing something they shouldn’t have done. Even then he’d only given a frustrated sigh, and used instant coffee in order to punish them for the next week.

But he’s angry now, and Owen looks a cross between perplexed and amused. Jack can tell the tension is building up, and wonders how long it will be before Ianto breaks.

“Look, mate,” Owen begins, and Ianto looks, just for a moment, as though he’s going to throw all the rubbish in his hands at the doctor, but instead he just lets out a long breath and dumps the debris into the bin himself, brushing his hands off.

“I’m sorry,” he says, and he sounds like he means it. “It’s ok. Leave your rubbish wherever you want.”

And he walks out, away to one of his little Ianto-y places that Jack has yet to find, even though he’s been down here for- well, for long enough to lose what remained of his sanity (and empathy), if nothing else. Tosh and Gwen look worried and Owen looks bemused, and Jack just wants to run to Suzie and her lovely calming influence and he can’t. He wishes that Ianto hadn’t brought her up again.

“How about we all take a break,” he says slowly, as though what’s just happened is perfectly normal and not at all a sign of impending and possibly even apocalyptic doom. “Take half an hour. Get some air or something.”

He turns away to return to his office and pretends he can’t hear the three of them hastily scrabbling to throw away as much of their clutter as they can.

*

Gwen was almost too humane for words. She made Jack’s skin ache. He liked her but he couldn’t help wondering if she was going to turn around at some point and become as jaded as the rest of them, and then hated himself for hoping that it would happen soon. She wasn’t Suzie. She was what they needed, but he couldn’t see himself sitting around laughing with her, listening patiently to her teasing him about just how many times he’d been staring at Ianto in infatuation today (although he still maintained that a) Suzie was making up half those occasions, and b) she shouldn’t have been making a tally in the first place). He looked at Gwen and felt absolutely no need to find a cocktail shaker. He knew that he’d have drinks with her, but Friday night martinis were once again lost. He considered vaguely asking Ianto to join him, but then reflected quickly that mixing alcohol and the man he was obsessed with probably wasn’t the brightest of ideas. No. He’d have to take his Liquid Misery alone and be grateful for it.

Everyone liked Gwen. Everyone forgave her for her faults. Jack mentally apologised to Suzie, as he realised that they were all remembering her purely as the half-insane bitch who had endangered them all. Not the woman that used to spend whole afternoons making cocktails until they were all so pissed they couldn’t sit upright for laughing. Life used to be better in some obscure way when she was around. Gwen expected them all to be somehow saintly, serious, human. Jack broke a drinking glass in his fist wondering whether he’d made a mistake. He left the bloodstained shards for Ianto to clean up the next morning and wiped his hands off on an already ruined shirt (he has half a wardrobe full of clothes he’s died messy deaths in; he can’t quite bring himself to get rid of them). His cut hand stung for a couple of days but then everything has a cost.

And Ianto continued cleaning up the blood and glass and split alcohol Jack insisted on leaving around because he wasn’t sad, he was angry, dammit, Suzie was weak and that’s why she succumbed, and he’d see to it that the rest of them didn’t fall apart along with her, come hell or high water, till the fingernails were ripped from his hands, till he found something that stuck him down and kept him there.

At least, that was the story Jack had, and he was sticking to it.


*

Thousands of years in the future, give or take a few minutes (or maybe a few thousand years; maths isn’t his strong point), Jack is dying. He is standing in front of a Dalek and tasting and smelling hot metal and then he is being blown into oblivion from a single white ray. He is kissing The Doctor, with his sticky-out ears and battered leather coat, and Rose, with her innocent smiles and blind faith. He is stripped naked on TV for millions to watch and croon over the unbelievable size of his- abdominal muscles. He is flirting and striding around in a far-too-tight white t-shirt and screaming because Rose is dead but she isn’t.

Right now, as in the future he dies and laughs and kisses and dies and dies and dies, he is wandering around the dark and dripping corridors of their basement. He feels queasy. His future self (but also past self, because it’s already happened even though it won’t come to pass for a good few centuries; try thinking about that without feeling sick) is dooming Jack to this fate. There is nothing he can do about it. There has never been anything he could do about it. He follows the sound of helpless laughter instead.

Ianto is sitting in the basement in the room where he kept Lisa for God knows how long, laughing to the point of hysteria. Jack wonders if it’s to keep from crying or if this really is the point at which misery becomes madness. It’s a knife-edge of a transition between them, and Jack hasn’t worked out quite which side he himself falls on.

“Happy anniversary,” Ianto says, when his laughter has died into something altogether different. “Fifty-four years, isn’t it?” Jack looks at him with something bordering on interest.

“Fifty-four years what?” he enquires, as though he doesn’t already know.

“Fifty-four years you’ve been down here festering in your own insanity,” Ianto replies. “I’m the one who organises the archives. You thought you’d hidden the documents well enough but you hadn’t. November 1952. A Captain Jack Harkness enters the Hub, and begins a carefully planned route to the top.” He’s looking at Jack like he’s the world’s biggest bastard. Jack reflects that he probably is.

“It wasn’t like that,” Jack protests.

“Maybe it wasn’t.” Ianto sighs. “I don’t care, to be honest. No one knows who you are, sir. I don’t think that you know any more.”

He has a point. Jack shrugs. He’s all bits and pieces like a scrapbook, held together with duct tape and broken promises. He loves Ianto but Ianto doesn’t bring him hope or the promise of salvation. He doesn’t even want it now. Thousands of years into the future and Jack feels himself break.

*

The world went to hell with very little warning. Late at night with his head in his hands and far too much alcohol in his system Jack has tried to think back to where the signs were, to exactly what it was that he had missed, the clues that should have been scattered along the way like breadcrumbs or pebbles in the moonlight. But somehow he couldn’t have connected Ianto’s lack of background records and vague references to a girlfriend to the woman in the basement, more metal than flesh, more machine than human.

Lisa.

He couldn’t bring himself to believe it at first. Even the CCTV footage that revealed Ianto breaching security for an unknown stranger, lying so badly about “a couple of bits of cabling have come loose”, face flushing. Even when Owen’s shaking voice told him they’d found parts of a cyber conversion unit. Not even when he heard Gwen’s screams, strapped into that chair, blades flashing over her head, electricity fluctuating dangerously.

No. He wouldn’t-couldn’t- believe it.

Not until he was carrying Owen back up the corridor with Ianto trembling and silent and Gwen looking even more terrified, and their Cyberwoman blocked the way to freedom. Looked at them for a long, long moment. …And walked away. All Jack could think was please, no, no, not Ianto, please, not him, but his instincts took over and it was almost too easy, almost too natural, to place his gun against Ianto’s head and take the safety off with a click. Gwen was shouting but Jack’s blood was pounding in his ears and for a terrifying moment he honestly thought he was going to pull the trigger.

*

Ianto cleans up the SUV quietly as everyone clears off home, looking tired. Weevil catching is almost routine (just follow the trail of blood and voila: Weevil) by now and even Gwen is starting to look a little jaded. It does tend to leave the car utterly wrecked, but it looks like today Ianto isn’t in the mood to be angry about the mess. He almost seems relieved to have something to do. Ianto does not do idling well. Always got to have something to clean, to polish, to tidy, to descale, to file.

“You really should get somewhere else to live, sir,” he says as he brings in Jack’s late night coffee. “It isn’t healthy just staying here.”

There’s a pause as Jack sips the coffee and appreciates the taste.

“Are you just going to pretend that nothing’s happened, Ianto?” he asks. The Welshman turns slowly to look at him.

“Yes.” He flashes Jack a tiny smile. “I’ve tried being angry, and confused, and horrified, and somewhat grief-stricken, and I’ve found, once again, that denial is the best method.”

“And you’re ok with that.” Jack’s head is pounding.

“Yes,” Ianto says again. He turns away and gets started on straightening the odds and ends on Owen’s desk.

“Go home, Ianto,” Jack sighs, stressing the word. “You don’t have to do all this. You have somewhere else to be. Appreciate it.”

“If I don’t do it, no one else will,” Ianto points out without looking at him.

“That’s not a good life philosophy.”

“It’s better than yours,” Ianto shoots back. Jack reluctantly has to concede that he’s right there.

*

With Ianto on his knees, hands behind his head, tears sparkling in his eyes and on his cheeks, Jack wanted to stop himself. Wanted to take three steps back, breathe out, let Suzie take over. Suzie was quiet and peaceful in her drawer a hundred feet away and couldn’t help, and there was nothing but grief and anger at the betrayal running through Jack. Gwen and Tosh’s shrieks couldn’t make him change his mind, not even slightly.

“Did you know that thing was down there?” he demanded. Ianto, torchlight glinting on his damp face, finally spoke.

“I put her there,” he replied. Jack wasn’t even aware of grabbing Ianto’s head, shoving the gun against his face.

“You hid a cyberman within Torchwood? And you didn’t tell us?” He was terrified, aware that he was losing control, aware that he’d kill Ianto right now and only feel the guilt later. “What else are you keeping from us?”

“Like you care,” Ianto said bitterly, Welsh accent thickening with only half-suppressed sobs. “I clear up your shit. No questions asked and that’s the way you like it. When did you last ask me anything about my life?”

Jack felt genuinely sick, and put the safety back on his gun.

“Her name’s Lisa,” Ianto said, “She’s my girlfriend.”

No, no no. Please no. Ianto, don’t do this.

“She worked for Torchwood. She was caught up in battle. I owe it to Lisa- we owe it to her- to find a cure.”

Jack thought his heart would be breaking right then, if it weren’t for the fact that for something to break, it had to be remotely whole to begin with. His voice was trembling as he spoke again.

“Ianto, you have to believe me, there is no cure. Those who are converted stay that way.” The grief passed into anger again. “Your girlfriend will not be the exception.”

“You can’t know that for sure.” Ianto was crying again, shoulders shaking, and Jack couldn’t stand to watch.

“You need to know what’s happening here. ‘Cause this is where these things start. Small decisions that become mass slaughter.”

*

Ianto gives people what they want. It fixes things over but it doesn’t make them better.

Three a.m and the Hub is cleaner than any place has the right to be and Jack is wandering about making things untidy again because somehow colour-coded clutter is unsettling. Suzie would never have stood for it. Suzie wound up in a body bag. Jack swallows too hard and reflects he really should bury her sometime. Literally and figuratively. Bugger Torchwood regulations.

“I miss Suzie,” he admits quietly, realising vaguely that he’s got nothing left to lose. “I miss Suzie and you miss Lisa and quite frankly nothing is right, is it.”

Ianto stands very still and then sighs like the world is cracking apart over his Armani-clad shoulders.

“Yes, Jack,” he says slowly, “I knew, and have known for a long time, how you feel about me. I can’t reciprocate, and it scares the hell out of me.”

He turns around and looks at Jack, with an ok, are we even now? kind of look on his face but even Jack can see that there’s more than just plain desperation going on there. It’s too late and they’re both too tired for this.

“Go home, Ianto,” he growls one last time, while he still can. He refuses to be Ianto’s penance but the quiet Welshman doesn’t move and Jack decides then that he won’t be responsible for his actions from now on.

Taking a chance, a desperate, quivering chance, breathless and more uncertain than he’s been in a while, he cups Ianto’s face in his hands and leans in. Ianto’s mouth is opening even before Jack finishes closing the distance between them and he takes that to be a sign of consent, finally pressing their lips together.

Ianto’s fingers tangle tentatively in Jack’s hair, pulling him into the kiss. Under Jack’s fingers there’s a hint of stubble and soft skin, and he feels Ianto’s eyelids flutter closed. There’s a moment of nothing. Of oblivion. Ianto does his best to give everyone what they want, even at the expense of his own wishes.

“I can’t,” he gasps, pulling back, fingers falling from Jack’s hair. “I’m so sorry, I just can’t do this.”

“Ok,” Jack says slowly, in place of please. Reluctantly he steps back. “It’s ok.”

“But it’s not, is it?” Ianto looks flushed and awkward, lips swollen, eyes a little too bright. Jack wonders if and then knows that he’s the first since Lisa.

“It will be,” Jack promises, soft, quiet, refusing to tremble.

Ianto nods, turning to go, unable to stop glancing over his shoulder. It’s not absolute rejection and, somehow, this time it hurts more.

*

Ianto looked half-drunk, half-dead, as he got himself to his feet.

“You’re not listening to me,” he insisted. “The conversion was never completed.”

“She already tried to kill Gwen,” Jack snapped, “Do you think she’s gonna stop there? There is no turning back for her now.” His sympathy was rapidly oozing away, now that Gwen was nearly converted, Owen had been knocked unconscious, Tosh looked terrified and Suzie wasn’t around to attempt to be sympathetic. And then Ianto had to speak once more.

“I’m not giving up on her.” He was on the point of tears again. “I love her. Can you understand that, Jack? Haven’t you ever loved anyone?”

Yes. You.

But this wasn’t the place for those words and Jack had more than himself to think about.

“You need to figure out whose side you’re on here. ‘Cause if you don’t know, you’re not going to make it out of here alive.”

*

Jack is exhausted the next morning. He spent all night with the Glove and Suzie’s mostly-frozen corpse, trying fruitlessly to raise her. He feels dizzy and crazy and sick from reaching into the time vortex, into the place you go after you die. Jack knows that he shouldn’t have been trying; he’s got this knife-edge within him, the line between life and death, and who knows what fucking around with a Glove that bridges the gap between the world of the living and the world of the dead could do. He knows that he was wrong. He doesn’t give a damn.

Ianto looks like he hasn’t slept but his shirt is ironed and his tie is straight and his cufflinks match, which really is all Jack can ask of anyone. He makes everyone coffee calmly and then disappears to do admin. Mid-morning, he brings Jack more toast.

“I tried to do something very bad last night,” Jack says slowly, because he wants to tell someone and Ianto is the only person he can think of to tell. Ianto is looking at him warily.

“Are we talking about- about-” Words fail him, and he makes a vague hand gesture that could mean anything, “Or are we talking about something else? Sir?”

“Something else,” Jack says quickly, because seeing Ianto that awkward makes a little part of him break. “I, um, sort of tried to resurrect Suzie.”

“Oh.” Jack waits for the shouting or the reprimand or something, but doesn’t get it. “That’s in direct violation of Torchwood Rule Twenty-Two-B, sir.”

“It is?”

“Yes. The rule goes into a lot of detail and is very specific, but it can be summed up as: no bringing deceased co-workers back to life, sir.”

“Ah.” Jack grimaces. “Unethical and illegal then.”

“Quite.” Ianto manages a tight little smile.

“Is that all you’re going to say?” Jack enquires. He’d get a bigger telling-off from someone- anyone- else. Ianto doesn’t even seem surprised.

“Yes,” Ianto tells him. Jack smirks, leaning back in his chair.

“Fucking hell, I love you,” he says softly.

*

Ianto was unconscious and probably drowning, facedown in the rift pool. Gwen and Owen had run for it, Tosh was trying to get out and reconnect their power. Jack was dying. Lisa’s grip on his shoulder was unbreakable and the electricity running through him was genuinely painful, and death was a welcome release.

Barely thirty seconds later, feeling as though he was still crackling with electricity, Jack dragged himself to his feet again, before Lisa had had time to go for Gwen and Owen.

“Is that all you got?” he asked, through lips almost too numb to speak. “I’m not so easily deleted…” He was buzzing all over and could barely hear or see. Lisa was emotionless as she turned back and electrocuted him again. Gwen was screaming but Jack could think of nothing as veins popped and fizzed and whole areas of his brain shorted out. He tasted blood and copper and sparks and impossibly, it was worse this time.

Lisa continued to look down at him, face impassive. She was beautiful, and for a moment Jack could see her before she became crazy and metallic, and he almost didn’t blame Ianto. The moment of clarity before death.

It took longer to come back the second time.

*

Jack wakes up with what could only be called a splitting headache by a gross understatement. His shirt is blood-spattered and he feels completely and utterly nauseous. Turning his head from his uncomfortable position on the floor, Jack can see Ianto attempting to clean blood off the wall.

“I really thought you’d got out of the habit of doing this sir,” he says quietly, not turning around, and there’s a tremble in his voice. Jack thought that he had too, so he keeps his mouth shut. “And you know,” Ianto continues after a momentary pause, “There are much tidier ways of killing yourself.”

Jack knows. He’s tried them. Shotgun in the mouth has such an air of style though. It’s his personal favourite. It does, however, leave a lot of blood and brain to be cleared up. Jack isn’t even sure why he did it. A moment’s thought, and he realises that it was death trying to call him back, after all that fucking around he did with the Glove. Oops.

“Yes, Ianto, but you’re the only one who considers cleanliness as an important aspect of suicide,” he tells him, slowly easing himself to his feet, and wincing. He feels awful. “I’ll help clean up, if you want.”

“You’ll only make it worse,” Ianto replies with a strange little laugh, dropping a red-drenched cleaning cloth into a strategically placed bucket and picking up another one. There’s a pause where Jack watches Ianto’s back and Ianto scrubs furiously.

“You’re such a selfish bastard, you know,” Ianto mumbles.

“If this is about the cleaning-” Jack begins.

“It’s not about the fucking cleaning,” Ianto says quietly, spitting the words between his teeth. Jack reaches out and puts a hand on his shoulder. Ianto flinches away, but turns enough so that Jack can see his face. There’s anger and fear, but a telltale redness around his eyes.

“Ianto-” he begins.

“You don’t think, do you? You never do. You just think- ha ha, I’ll just off myself, just to see what happens, just to see if I stay dead. You don’t think about the mess, or the trauma, or the other people who have to deal with it, or what happens if it actually finally works.” Ianto takes a breath. “I’ve been cleaning up in here for too long, because you couldn’t be bothered to blow your head in in one of the cells, or lay some newspaper down or something, with your corpse just lying there, and Gwen is downstairs trying to keep Owen and Tosh distracted so they won’t know what you did. And I’ve being trying to come up with a reasonable lie because for a while there I didn’t think that you were coming back.”

It’s a lot to process, all those words, spilling out too fast and in a Welsh accent thickened by anger. It’s more than Ianto has ever said in one go in front of him, even before Lisa came along to complicate everything. Jack swallows hard and then registers Ianto’s last words.

“How long have I been out?” he asks, half-afraid of the answer.

“Four and a half hours,” Ianto replies quietly. The fear has faded from his eyes and there’s nothing left but fury.

Jack swallows. Up until now, the longest he’s ever stayed dead is three hours, eight minutes and forty-two seconds, when he was stranded on some horrible little planet in the arse-end of the universe, and got half-eaten by rabid, dog-like creatures. Growing new internal organs took a while. But never- never this long. And not for a simple gunshot to the head. Jack knows (because he’s timed it on several occasions) that it should take no more than three minutes and thirty-seven seconds for his brain and skull to repair themselves. With a sinking feeling, he realises that Ianto knows this too.

“I’m sorry,” he says.

“No,” Ianto replies, calm although he’s shaking, “You’re not, or you wouldn’t have done this.”

He has a point. Jack bites his lower lip awkwardly, as Ianto turns away to finish bleaching away the mess.

“I didn’t mean-” Jack begins, and then stops himself. Of course he meant it. You can’t shoot yourself in the head and not mean it. There’s no being sorry for an irreversible act.

“Sir,” Ianto begins, clipped and with a forced sense of stability, “I suggest you change your shirt and- and just get out of my sight.”

Jack wants to say something but he can’t. So he takes Ianto’s advice for lack of anything else to do.

*

Breath rushed back into Jack’s chest and he grabbed at it, gasping and choking. It was the silence he hated most. Ringing silence and his mouth tasted like metal, a tang that would linger for another minute or two, until he was properly alive again. Every nerve ending in his body was singing with pain, and Jack doubled up with agony, while shattered memories tried to piece themselves together. He had no way of telling how long he’d been dead and what had happened, but right now, he also didn’t care. He hurt so fucking much.

But he couldn’t stay here, feeling sorry for himself, so he managed to crawl over to where Ianto was lying, unconscious, or maybe dead. Jack eased him up, cradling him as he knelt down. But slapping the Welshman’s face didn’t pay off, and for an ice-flooding moment, Jack thought that Ianto was dead. Actually dead. You cannot do this. Wake up. No, no please. Ianto, don’t die. Not now. Wake up.

Desperate, he pressed his lips to Ianto’s. It wasn’t a kiss of life. It was more than that. His body was screaming with pain and electricity and desperation and he kissed Ianto with the hope that some of it would spread and stick. Come on. I’m not letting you die down here.

Finally, just as Jack was worrying that an edge of necrophilia was appearing in the kiss, he felt Ianto’s lungs inflate, and he pulled back to watch the other man splutter and cough. He put his hand up between them, begging for silence before Ianto could ask questions, and ruin this split-second of peace and life.

*

“I’m allowed to fuck up once in a while, aren’t I?” Jack asks. He gets no reply. He isn’t expecting one. “So I used The Glove, shock horror, it didn’t work, I gave up, then I got the overwhelming urge to commit suicide and then I died for longer than I ever have before. Obviously not the best of ideas, but not entirely my fault.”

Still no reply.

“Gee, you guys are so chatty. Can’t get a word in edgeways.”

Jack is personally acquainted with around half the bodies in the morgue drawers. All ex-Torchwood members. All dead and gone. Friends and enemies and lovers and God knows what else. There’s a drawer here for Ianto, and Tosh, and Owen, and Gwen. Jack picked the drawer he wanted decades ago. Funnily enough, he’s never had to use it. Still, if today has taught him nothing else, it’s that he should keep it clean, in case of emergencies.

He sighs. “I think I’ve screwed up enough for one day. What do you guys think?”

“I think,” Ianto says quietly, soft footfalls on the floor and pausing in the doorway, “That you need to go and get some sleep, sir.”

“Sleep is for the dead,” Jack mutters, getting up from the chair he’s been sitting on. Ianto winces.

“You need help, Jack,” he says softly.

“So help me,” Jack replies, walking towards him. Ianto shakes his head.

“I have no idea how to,” he tells Jack. There’s an uncomfortably long pause. “Come on. You need to rest.”

*

The lift rose, leaving Lisa screaming and fighting against Myfanwy, who was out for blood. Ianto was screaming and fighting too, but Owen and Gwen wouldn’t let him go until they were safe and on the surface again. Ianto staggered away like he was going to be sick, then turned back, raw fury twisting his features.

The fist that connected with Jack’s face was fuelled by pain and misery and love and god knows what else, and it hurt. Jack felt his lip split open, and staggered back, tasting blood on his teeth. He was half ready to go and hit Ianto back, but Owen pushed him away. Ianto was sobbing.

“You could have saved her! You’re worse than anything locked up down there! One day I’ll have the chance to save you, and I’ll watch you suffer and die!”

“It was the only thing that would STOP HER!” Jack roared back, and oh, all he wanted to do right then was kill Ianto, kill him and watch him bleed. It must have shown in his face. And it was then that things got really, really ugly.

Ianto ran back towards the Hub, intent on setting Lisa free, on rescuing her, although he had to know that she was beyond saving. Beyond redemption. Jack had him at gunpoint again, and this time he genuinely believed that he would kill Ianto, as he told him to execute her, or I’ll execute you both. There was too much blood and too much blame and Jack felt genuinely sick but he couldn’t have stopped himself for the world.

*

“So”, Ianto says a couple of days later when everything has calmed down a little, walking into Jack’s office, “It’s all right to try and bring back someone that you care about, but-”

“Ianto,” Jack says, “You are a deeply beautiful man, your wonderful Welsh vowels send shivers down my spine, and I love you more than life itself on some days, but if you continue with this topic of conversation, I will have to hurt you.” He pauses. “ Don’t make me have to hurt you, Ianto,” he adds earnestly.

Ianto shakes his head and walks out, and Jack isn’t sure whether he hears the mutter of you are such a dick sometimes, sir, or if he imagines it.

*

Lisa was dead. Her beautiful cyberwoman body was trailing blood onto the floor, mingling with the water under the ugly shadow from the cyber conversion unit. And the poor pizza girl, bullet holes raw in her chest, head split where Lisa had tried to transfer her consciousness over, was also bleeding onto the concrete. Ianto knelt between the two, shaking and crying, as though he was no longer sure which one was the woman he had loved. Owen and Gwen were checking the surrounding corridors, while Tosh reconnected the power. Jack just stood and watched Ianto cry, for lack of anything else to do.

He heard Owen’s shout of “fucking hell” and Gwen’s retching sounds as they found the body of Doctor Tanizaki, but couldn’t bring himself to care. The adrenaline and fury were draining away and he was starting to shake from the shock, and he almost turned to ask Ianto to make them some tea when he remembered Ianto was the dishevelled and devastated wreck on the floor in front of him. He swallowed; his throat was burning and he wanted everything to go back to the way it was four hours ago. But that was impossible, so he cleared his throat.

“Go home,” he shouted down the corridor. Owen and Gwen, faces white and drained, nodded, and agreed to pick up Tosh on the way out. The lights flickered, and the horrible red glow of the emergency generator faded and became the clean white of the normal lighting. Jack let out a sigh of relief.

“I violated Torchwood Rule Twelve-C, sir,” Ianto said in a cracked and hoarse voice.

“And about sixteen besides,” Jack muttered dryly. “Just go home Ianto.”

“But-” Ianto turned his grieving, damp, and pale face to look at him. Jack wanted to hold him tight and sob into his hair for a while, but that wasn’t an option, so he turned his voice as hard and cold as he could.

“Go home right now, or I’ll make you dig the grave and bury her. With your bare hands.”

Ianto looked queasy, and he could barely make it to his feet, but he stumbled away down the corridor, and it was Jack’s turn to sit down in the near-flooded basement and try not to cry.

*

“Where did you hide the bodies?” Ianto asks quietly on an otherwise ordinary day. Jack considers the possibilities of playing dumb and then takes note of the look on Ianto’s face, and decides perhaps honesty would be the best idea here.

“Somewhere nice,” he says, “Plenty of fresh air. A view.”

“That wasn’t what I asked.”

“I know.”

Tosh and Owen are bickering and Gwen is down in the cells with the Weevils because “right now, they’re better company”. Thursday afternoon, the threat of a storm in the air outside, so everyone is twitchy and on edge. It’s not the right atmosphere for Jack to be having this conversation, but he has no choice in the matter.

“Come on,” he says, dragging on his coat. Ianto quietly follows him, not even taking the time to pull on an overcoat. Tosh and Owen don’t stop screaming at each other long enough to notice that they’re leaving.

Jack drives. Ianto sits in the passenger seat and plays with his seatbelt and then with his fingernails. There’s silence in the SUV and Jack considers breaking it, but neither of them do. He drives too fast and he’s not entirely sure which side of the road he should be on (still getting the hang of that one after how many years? Too many), but Ianto isn’t screaming “Oh God, oh God, we’re all going to die”, so he takes that as an encouraging sign.

He parks in the middle of nowhere and watches as Ianto tries to undo his seatbelt with trembling hands. He doesn’t offer to help because he knows that Ianto would only take offence. They step out into cold, biting wind.

It’s a walk of a couple of minutes to lead Ianto to the place where Jack buried a cyberwoman and a pizza girl and a doctor who only wanted to help, all hidden under the grass. There’s no marker, but Jack has discovered that you don’t forget where you bury the evidence, two a.m, spade freezing in your hands.

Ianto doesn’t cry. Jack wonders at this, and then realises that he’s probably run out of tears. Years and years of losing the woman you love one screw at a time, when some days she can’t hear you and some days she can’t stop crying and some days you can’t even bring yourself to wake her up for fear of how much pain she’ll be in. Jack realises, watching Ianto staring blankly at the ground with a mixture of misery, shock and guilt stark on his face, that Ianto is less devastated about Lisa’s death and more about the fact that all the hours he spent clinging on were wasted.

“I’m sorry,” Jack says softly, finally, watching the grey clouds skid across the sky and letting his coat billow out behind him in the wind, melodramatic to a fault as ever.

“Don’t,” Ianto whispers, accent thickening with grief, or maybe anger. Jack no longer knows how to tell. “You don’t mean it.”

So Jack bites his lower lip, and just listens to the silence.

*

When he was certain that the others had all gone, and he wasn’t going to vomit or sob at any inconvenient moments, Jack manhandled the three bodies into bags and hefted them up to the SUV. Myfanwy was shrieking and wailing in a miserable way, but Jack couldn’t bring himself to comfort her. He was in a bad enough mood already, and didn’t want to spread it around.

He drove for hours, with no idea where he was going, three dead bodies in the back of the car, the radio off. Tiredness and shock and pain and belated grief were running through him, and his thoughts kept spiralling off in strange directions. Eventually, when he felt certain that he couldn’t drive any more and not crash (and dying three times in one day might be pushing it, just slightly), Jack parked awkwardly, and began the dull and tiring task of burying the bodies.

It was dark, at least to begin with, but he had a flashlight and the knowledge that he had to get this done as soon as possible. Jack’s breath caught in his chest with every shovel of earth, a migraine pounding against his skull, and he thought he was going to be sick. But finally the three of them were under the earth, and he filled in the hole, patting down the grass to make it look as though nothing had changed. No roses. No headstone. Jack swallowed hard and walked away into the sunrise without looking back.

*

The rain is cold, and wet, and horrible, sneaking under Jack’s collar in an irritating and unpleasant fashion, and he shivers slightly. This isn’t romantic; the grey clouds are casting a pall over the world, and he’s getting soggy. Ianto is shivering, although that may have nothing to do with the weather, and if Jack were feeling gallant he’d slip off his overcoat and put it around Ianto. But he isn’t and he doesn’t.

“Come on,” he says quietly, putting a hand on Ianto’s arm, and Ianto allows himself to be lead back towards the SUV. The rain is getting heavier. It’s crying weather. But Ianto’s eyes are resolutely dry, and Jack cried most of his tears years ago. Instead, the weather is simply soaking into their clothes, leaving them cold and drenched. Liquid misery.

Jack is reaching out to open the door of the car when Ianto’s fingers close around his wrist, pulling around to face him. There isn’t a moment of confusion or any lingering gazes- Ianto simply puts his hand on the back of Jack’s neck (such cold, wet fingers) and pulls him down into a kiss. Ianto is icy and Jack is sure he’s freezing to the touch too, and it’s a pretty crappy kiss all round because Jack is mostly thinking about how cold and soaked he is (the taste of rainwater on Ianto’s lips is too like tears for comfort) and he can tell Ianto is worrying about how they’re going to drip all over the carseats on the way home, and he’s going to have to clear up a car that smells like wet dog.

It really is inconveniently pouring down out here, and Jack can feel Ianto shivering as he gently presses kisses down his rain-slicked jaw. Ianto pulls back, then gives him an apologetic look, as it’s all too clear he has no idea what he wants.

“Just take me home, Jack,” he says quietly. It’s not quite acceptance, or forgiveness, and it’s nowhere near an and they all lived happily ever after, but Jack can live with that.

Tags: character: ianto jones, character: jack harkness, pairing: ianto jones/lisa hallet, pairing: jack harkness/ianto jones, tv show: torchwood, type: slash
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