Pairings: Ianto/Jack (later: Ianto/Owen) [also: Ianto/Lisa, Ianto/Suzie, Ianto/Tosh, Ianto/Gwen, Ianto/Doctor]
Challenge/Prompt: fanfic100, 060. Drink
Genre: Slash (het)
Summary: Ianto makes coffee, drinks coffee, shares coffee, buys coffee, spills coffee, ruins coffee, loses all taste for the stuff, and learns a few things along the way.
Author’s Notes: This is one of those fics that sounds cracky but actually isn’t. I really, really like this and implore you to read it, but then that’s just me. And no, oddly enough, I didn’t drink any coffee at all while writing this. Although I did eat quite a lot of chocolate-coated coffee beans (thankyou drag_queen90)
Note: In case anyone is a native Welsh speaker; ignore the bits in Welsh. I’m sort of using a Welsh dictionary- thanks justian and little_red_kite- and therefore it may not make sense. Also love to justian for finding me some song lyrics about coffee that I actually liked.
That Old Black Magic: The Over-Caffeinated Adventures Of Ianto Jones
I’m moaning all the morning, and mourning all the night, and in between it’s nicotine and not much heart to fight; black coffee, feeling low as the ground, it’s driving me crazy just waiting for my baby to maybe come around.
Torchwood One is a write-off. Ianto thinks his left wrist might be broken, Lisa is bleeding out in an unsettlingly metallic way, and everyone he knows is dead or screaming. It’s not the best of days.
When he’s got Lisa to safety, and wiped up his face so he doesn’t look quite so helplessly tearful, Ianto walks through the shadowed and broken and lined-with-bodies remains of Canary Wharf. He throws up a couple of times and has to repeatedly stem a nosebleed. Eventually, he finds a working power outlet, and plugs in a kettle. It fizzes and sparks but heats up some water, and he finds some rather horrible instant coffee to pour into the only mugs that aren’t cracked. He knows what he’s doing with this, and he doesn’t even realise that he’s sobbing fit to break until a shadow falls over him.
“Are you alright?”
Ianto looks up into the tear-drenched face of a tall, slim man, dressed in a crumpled pinstriped suit. The Doctor.
“Yeah,” he says, laughter bubbling between his lips. “I’m fine.”
The Doctor sits down beside him, on the floor, back to the wall.
“Can I have a drink?” he asks. Ianto gestures to the grounds he’s attempting to make coffee with.
“It’ll be horrible,” he says. The Doctor shrugs, wipes his eyes and lets out a long, slow breath.
“It’ll match the rest of today, then,” he says. Ianto laughs again, helpless as fuck, and pours the water into the two mugs. The Doctor takes his and wraps his palms around it.
“I’m sorry,” Ianto says quietly.
“For what?” the Doctor asks too quickly.
“That girl who was with you,” Ianto says, “She’s gone, isn’t she?”
The Doctor looks awkward, nods, biting his lips together like he’s going to cry. Ianto puts a tentative hand on his shoulder, and the Doctor breathes in slowly.
“Did you lose someone?” he asks. She isn’t lost, I won’t let her be, thinks Ianto, but he knows Lisa will never be the same again and so he nods, holding back tears.
The Doctor takes a sip of his coffee in the painful silence.
“You’re right,” he says, “This is bloody awful.”
They both burst out laughing, until Ianto’s mug falls between his hands to crack on the floor, and the Doctor looks at him with so much pain in his eyes.
“You should go,” Ianto says softly. “You don’t need to stay here.”
“I thought I was under arrest,” the Doctor remarks. “Torchwood was set up to protect the world from me, after all.”
Ianto looks at him, so small and lost-looking, and he thinks his heart would break if it were whole enough and strong enough to still be capable of it.
“What’s Torchwood?” he asks, gesturing around the tattered remains of Canary Wharf. “Dead people and broken glass. There’s no point keeping you prisoner.”
They both heave themselves to their feet and Ianto walks with him to the blue box the Doctor travels around in.
“I didn’t catch your name,” the Doctor says.
“Ianto Jones,” Ianto tells him.
“Well, Ianto Jones, thank you.” He smiles, waves in the direction of the box, “Do you want to-”
Ianto considers running away and leaving all this behind, to travel around the universe with this man. And then he thinks of Lisa, and he can’t.
“I’m sorry,” he says. The Doctor half smiles, and they stand, awkward and dirty and bruised.
“I don’t know what to do,” Ianto whispers shakily. The Doctor carefully tips his head up, two fingers under Ianto’s chin, leans in, and kisses him. He tastes like tears and cheap coffee, but there’s something under that, something warm, something strong, something real. Ianto feels his mind clear as though some kind of energy, strength, has passed from the Doctor and into him.
“Yes, you do,” the Doctor says quietly. He smiles. “Pob lwc, Ianto Jones.”
Ianto stands and watches the blue box fade away until his tears are dry, but he still feels achingly lost.
It’s his coffee making that clinches the interview, and Ianto knows it. His ability to make hot and gorgeous drinks in the space of a few minutes overshadows whatever anyone else can do.
Captain Harkness’ mouth twists thoughtfully when he first looks at Ianto, face still bruised from the Canary Wharf attack, looking breathlessly young in his tailored suit, and Suzie Costello is twisting a lock of hair around her finger in a way that tells Ianto that he’s not the first or even the seventh candidate they’ve seen today. So he surprises them both by not pulling out a résumé and going into a twelve-minute monologue on his considerable assets, but instead asks if there’s somewhere he can make them a drink; they look exhausted. Harkness raises an eyebrow and Costello bites down something that might be a laugh, but they lead him out of Harkness’ untidy office and up some stairs to a little sort of kitchenette. It’s covered in half-sealed bags of coffee grounds and jars of Nescafé and kettles that have seen far better days, but Ianto takes a deep breath and gets to work.
He can tell Harkness wants his strong and simple, so lets it brew longer. Costello will want hers bitter, but Ianto takes another look at her and decides that she’ll also want milk. It doesn’t take long to brew them two mugs of coffee, hand them over, and then stand there fiddling with his cufflinks while they sip them.
“Well,” Costello says after a moment, “He’s got my vote.”
Harkness takes another mouthful of his, swills it around his mouth like he’s at a wine-tasting or something, and then narrows his eyes at Ianto.
“And you could make me this,” he begins, “Every day, if I wanted it. Whenever I wanted it.”
“Sir,” is all Ianto says. Costello and Harkness share a look that shows Ianto that no one has called Harkness ‘sir’ before, and they both kind of like it. Ianto wonders dispassionately if they’re sleeping together, then decides that that’s not the thought to start off the job interview with. He’ll only say something inappropriate at an inopportune moment, although years of being a near-invisible secretary have taught him one or two things about keeping his mouth tight shut.
“Well,” Harkness says, “I think that makes you officially hired. Welcome to Torchwood. Again.”
Torchwood Three is not Torchwood One, it’s much less pristine and Ianto feels claustrophobic and grubby the moment he looks at the converted underground station where he’s going to be expected to work from now on, but what the hell. Variety is the spice of life and so on.
“Ianto,” Harkness says halfway through his first day, “What is your coffee secret?”
Ianto pauses with his arms full of filing.
“I don’t give it up that easy,” he says with a smile. “Nice try, though, sir.”
Harkness winks one blue eye at him, and Ianto decides then and there never to tell him that he worked in a coffee bar to pay his rent before moving to Torchwood One.
Lisa is wide awake and staring at the ceiling. She’s always quiet now, nothing like the bubbly and forever cheerful woman that he knew. Ianto doesn’t know if they can save her, if there’s enough of her left to save, but he’s come this far now and he’s not going back for anything.
As Ianto carefully unbolts the door and walks in, he watches her face light up with a smile, and for a moment or two it’s easy enough to pretend that he can’t see the metal fused through her flesh, that this hasn’t happened and they’re still ok.
“How are you?” he asks, pressing a soft kiss to her mouth that she takes with a half-laugh.
“Fine,” she says, “I had a really exciting day. First, I watched the ceiling for a few hours. Then I slept. When I woke up, I stared at the wall.”
She’s smiling. Tentative, half broken, but smiling.
“I’m sorry Lee,” he says softly, sitting down beside her, “We’ll have to see what we can do about getting a TV down here or something.”
“Condemned to daytime television,” she says softly, “Fate worse than death.”
Ianto tries to smile but his breath catches raw in his chest, because it’s still too soon. Too soon because he dragged Lisa out of that machine a month ago and she’s so weak and he can’t believe that he managed to get her and the Cyber conversion unit and through security without anyone noticing. Still, if he’s learned nothing else, it’s that desperation makes you sneaky.
“Well,” he murmurs, “Maybe we could get you a DVD player.”
Lisa’s laugh is beautiful; he didn’t think he’d ever hear her laugh again when she was screaming, all blood and twisted metal and he had no idea what to do. He still barely does, and abruptly clasps her hand. She squeezes tightly back and though they’ve both been trying to keep the conversation light, Ianto knows what they’re both thinking about. For a minute, they’re just silent and let it crash down on them.
Ianto- he was running down the corridor, he was trying to find Lisa, couldn’t tell where she’d gone, there were Cybermen everywhere and the emergency lighting had kicked in and the world was streaked with red. And he tripped over something, went flat out, hard enough to bite his tongue and wind himself, and when he could sit up and look back he saw that it was Sarah. Sarah Miller, dark hair, laughing grey eyes, sprawled out on the floor, mouth open slightly, blood running over her face. Sarah, who he’d shared a flat with when he’d first arrived in London, Sarah, who’d introduced him to Lisa, Sarah, who was dating one of the girls in accounting, Sarah who was possibly one of his best friends in the whole world. Lying there like an abandoned doll, pencil skirt torn. She’d never make coffee again or hug him, or spend another hour convincing him to propose to Lisa.
There were almost a hundred and fifty of them in the admin offices of Torchwood One. It took a surprisingly large amount of people to keep everything ticking over. Now, there’s just him left. Ianto isn’t sure that he should be on his own to take care of Torchwood Three, but who knows.
“It’s ok,” Lisa whispers, squeezing his hand tight, and Ianto drags himself back into the moment. “It’s ok, Ianto. You’ve got me and I’ve got you and that’s all we need, I promise.”
Ianto nods, forces himself to smile. They’re both too shattered to do this, broken and terrified and Ianto has this scar across his ribs where he sliced himself open trying to rescue Lisa, and she’s more steel than flesh, but they’re still together. They’ve still got each other, and that’s all that matters.
He leaves her sleeping, and makes his way back up into the Hub again. Suzie’s sitting at her workstation, feet on the desk, spooning ice cream into her mouth.
“You look awful,” she says, proffering the tub. Ianto thinks about how he’ll feel eating ice cream on top of this all-pervading nausea and his empty stomach, but walks over anyway. He drops into a chair and Suzie gives him a smile.
“Are you all right?” she asks, picking another spoon up from the desk as though she was expecting him, and handing it to him.
“I’m fine,” he replies, a little shaky, a little blatantly not fine, and scoops out some of the pudding and shoves it into his treacherous mouth.
“You shouldn’t be so hard on yourself,” Suzie says quietly, helping herself to some more icecream. “You can’t expect to fix yourself in four weeks.”
It’s good ice cream; soft scoop, and apparently coffee flavoured. Ianto crunches down on something that might be a stray crushed bean and scoops out a mocha swirl, hands trembling a little.
“Would you mind,” he begins, tentative because he barely knows her, “Just not talking? Not right now.”
Suzie gives him a grin and obediently stays silent while they finish the ice cream.
“Want some more?” she asks eventually. Ianto feels physically sick.
“Ok,” he says, “What other flavours have you got?”
Jack hasn’t slept in five days. He thinks Ianto hasn’t noticed.
Suzie isn’t sleeping either, although she has the sense to ask Ianto for extra shots of espresso, clutching the coffee mugs like they’re lifelines. Ianto thinks about asking her just why she feels the need to kill goldfish and then bring them back to life again, and repeat the experiment dozens of times over, but then Torchwood seems to attract crazy people, so he doesn’t say anything.
“You should go home, Ianto,” she says over the rim of her mug.
“Probably,” Ianto replies, but Lisa’s having a bad night and he’s spending every minute he possibly can with her, in between running back upstairs to make Suzie and Jack more coffee and find bits of paper in his overly-complex filing system. “Someone’s got to be here to make sure you don’t both implode.”
Suzie gives a strange little laugh that Ianto doesn’t even attempt to understand, and he leaves her to it.
Lisa is making soft little groaning noises that break his heart, eyes shut with tears leaking out from under the lids. Ianto dabs them up with a tissue, holds her hand, tells her for the fifth time in an hour that he’s so sorry, but he can’t risk giving her any more morphine. Lisa accepts this with the grace that she accepts everything with these days, and Ianto hates that he saved her life, pulled her from that machine, only to leave her down in a badly-lit, draughty basement with nothing to distract her from the metallic edge to her breathing and the sound of her heartbeat. She insists that she doesn’t mind, but some days Ianto can’t help wondering whether she’d prefer it if he’d left her to die.
The next time he’s upstairs, Ianto knocks back a couple of espresso shots and waits for the caffeine to kick his system into overdrive. But he’s just patching up the cracks and doing a crap job of it; he’s still falling asleep on his feet.
Suzie has given in, and is passed-out on her workstation, dark hair covering her face, the Glove and its accompanying knife lying beside her. There are also two dead goldfish. Ianto scoops them up and dumps them in a biowaste bin, and resolves to talk to Jack about how deeply unsettling her obsession with this resurrection thing is.
Jack is hyper and worryingly perky when Ianto drags himself along to the office. Ianto wonders whether his boss is on some kind of really, really cool drug combination, and then wonders whether Jack would give him some if he asked nicely.
“You look less and less pretty every time you come in here,” Jack informs him. “Get some sleep, Ianto.”
“I will soon,” Ianto promises, running a hand through his hair. “Anything I can help with, sir?”
“No.” Jack gives him one of those toothy smiles and Ianto presumes something somewhere is going right in Jack’s Universe. “Suzie still around?”
“Fast asleep on her workstation,” Ianto tells him. “She’s asking for more goldfish. And she’s already killed twenty-two this week. And it’s only Wednesday.”
Jack’s smile fades.
“It’s late,” he murmurs, “You should go home. Or stay here. We’ve probably got a bed somewhere.”
“We’ve got everything else,” Ianto agrees. “Just got one or two more things left to do.”
Lisa groans softly as Ianto injects the sedative into her arm, whispers goodnight and I love you, and kisses her forehead, lips against the cold metal.
On his way back to Jack’s office, Ianto drapes a blanket over Suzie’s shoulders, removes her glasses, and turns off her desk light. She doesn’t even stir.
Jack is waiting for him, smirking slightly, and when Ianto looks at him through bleary eyes, he just points to the hole in the floor, with a ladder that leads down into Jack’s quarters. Ianto has never been down there before, not even to tidy.
“There’s a bed in there, and I won’t be using it,” Jack tells him. “Might as well take advantage. Go, Ianto.”
Ianto is too tired to argue, so climbs down into the dimly lit room, strips to his t-shirt and boxers and crawls under the blankets of Jack’s bed. It’s hardly been slept in, he can tell, but there’s the slightest scent of aftershave and something inherently Jack ingrained into the sheets. Ianto thinks about getting up and nosing around and investigating just what makes Jack tick; but he’s asleep before he can entertain the thought in any more detail.
About a week after the disastrous Day One where she sort of accidentally became responsible for the deaths of all those innocent men, Ianto asks Gwen out for a coffee. It’s a slow Thursday afternoon, and Gwen is immediately surprised (and slightly suspicious) because although she barely knows Ianto, she got the feeling he was never going to open up to her. She didn’t think he’d open up to anyone. Still, Owen and Tosh are giving her faintly knowing looks, and Jack is oblivious, so she picks up her coat and follows Ianto to a nearby coffee shop.
They don’t say much to begin with (“Sut mae dy goffi?” “Iawn”), and Gwen skims the frothed milk off the top of her cappuccino and pretends she can’t see Ianto wincing slightly as she promptly eats it. That’s all she really knows about Ianto. He seems to have some kind of coffee fetish, he’s quiet and professional almost to a fault, and, harassment or not, he does look bloody good in a suit. But he doesn’t seem prone to talking.
“Ianto,” she begins tentatively, because the silence is setting her teeth on edge, “Why-”
“Well,” he says, focusing more on his napkin than on her, “I know that Torchwood can be rather disconcerting, especially when you first join.”
“And…” Gwen prompts, playing with her teaspoon.
“And no one else was going to take you for a ‘Welcome To Torchwood Three’ drink,” he points out.
Gwen has realised that this is, sadly, true. She feels a sudden rush of gratitude towards Ianto. She barely knows him, she’s only been working with him for a week and a half, and yet he seems to know exactly how she likes her coffee, what she likes when it comes to takeaway, and also seems to be able to anticipate whenever she needs something. It’s a little unsettling. They didn’t have secretaries in the police force. They made coffee when they were thirsty and the person who made it ensured there was some for everyone. They didn’t have a man who served up gorgeous, rich java at opportune moments.
“So,” Ianto begins, slow and maybe a little uncomfortable, “What do you think of Torchwood?”
Gwen stares at him.
“You honestly think I can give an answer to that?” she asks, and watches his face split into a wicked grin.
“That bad?” he enquires, taking another sip of his coffee.
“It’s mad,” Gwen says thoughtfully, toying with her spoon. “It’s terrifying. And it’s beautiful too.”
Ianto’s grin twists slightly and she almost wants to ask him why, but she doesn’t feel that she knows him well enough to try.
“It is,” he agrees. They’re silent for another minute, and then Gwen says:
“You know more than you’re letting on about Jack, don’t you?”
There’s a moment where Gwen thinks he’s going to say something, or maybe she is, when her phone goes off. She answers it, to be informed by Owen that she and Ianto are needed back right now, there’s a kid with apparent telepathic abilities wandering about in a local secondary school.
“Is it always like this?” she enquires, drinking down the last mouthful of her coffee.
“Mae’n annod byw mewn byd sy mor bell o fod yn berffaith,” he tells her with a faintly rueful smirk, and they make their way back to the Hub.
After the general hysterical sobbing and retching and screaming has abated, and Ianto has stopped being a Whirling Vortex Of Pain and is back to being just a man with his suit soaking wet and someone else’s blood all over the place, Jack tells him that he ought to go home. Ianto tells him to fuck off, and then calls him ‘sir’ for good measure.
“If you stay here, you have to help with the clean-up job,” Jack points out.
“If you think for one minute I’m letting you get your hands on Lisa-” Ianto begins hotly.
“Ianto,” Jack says, and he doesn’t look anything like the man who was threatening to put a bullet through Ianto’s head an hour ago. Ianto can’t work out whether he’s more scared of Compassionate Jack than he was of You-Execute-Her-Or-I’ll-Execute-You-Both Jack, and realises that this is not a good sign.
“It’s my fault she’s here,” Ianto says quietly, “It’s my fault she’s dead. I owe it to her to bury her.”
“What do you mean, it’s your fault she died?” Jack demands. “Going to take credit for the Canary Wharf attack now, Ianto? That seems a little ambitious, unless you’ve got some real hard evidence.”
“Please shut up,” Ianto mutters, stripping off his ruined jacket and letting it puddle on the floor. He rolls up his sleeves with hands that are mostly not shaking.
“You’re in shock,” Jack says flatly.
“Yes,” Ianto agrees. “Useful, isn’t it?”
Jack looks faintly concerned but helps Ianto put Lisa and their unfortunate pizza girl into bodybags, which they then carry through the underground corridors and up into the morgue. Ianto doesn’t feel the need to speak and Jack doesn’t seem to know what to say, so the silence is almost a relief. But when the bodies are locked in drawers and Ianto is seriously thinking about violently throwing up on Jack’s shoes or perhaps just sobbing again, he remembers that there’s so much more downstairs to get cleaned up. So much blood.
Perhaps he sways on his feet; whatever happens, Jack grips his upper arm.
“Ianto,” he begins, “Go home. You are in no fit state to be here.”
Ianto thinks about saying oh, so you care about me now, do you? but his mouth seems to have lost the ability to work and instead he swallows too hard a few times.
“I’m fine,” he mumbles. “Really.”
He is shaking to a truly unnerving degree. Jack’s hand tightens and he begins to pull Ianto after him, back into the main Hub, where Ianto nearly drowned and Jack left Lisa to the mercy of Myfanwy. Ianto thinks about crying but swallows the emotion back down again, and doesn’t say Jack, you can let go of me now because having Jack’s hand in a bruising grip around his upper arm is probably the only thing keeping him from crashing into a million pieces.
“I think I would like to make some coffee, sir,” he says, vaguely and dizzily. Jack accompanies him up to their kitchenette, where Ianto starts up the giant coffee machine and makes them both mugs of mocha before he really thinks that perhaps overly sweet, chocolatey coffee would not be the best idea in this situation. He puts the mugs on a tray anyhow, carries them down to Jack’s office. His thoughts are screaming and he can’t think but he could do this task braindead and that’s sort of a relief.
Ianto places the mugs on Jack’s desk, and heads for the cupboard against the wall where Jack keeps a wide selection of liquor in various fascinatingly shaped bottles. Jack doesn’t drink very much, but Owen and Suzie used to raid it on long afternoons. He chooses a bottle of brandy, carries it back and sloshes it erratically into both mugs, spilling lots of it on Jack’s paperwork and feeling some sense of smugness that he doesn’t quite understand.
It’s a moment, then Jack picks one up, and takes a tentative sip.
“Aren’t you supposed to put brandy in tea for shock?” he enquires.
Ianto gives him a look and Jack looks momentarily chastened, which isn’t an expression Ianto is used to, and it unnerves him. He turns his attention to his mug of mocha and all of a sudden it seems too strong and too sweet and Lisa- oh God, she’s fucking dead, after all that, after everything he did, and they shot her down and- and-
Ianto looks at his coffee and then looks at Jack and then looks at his hands, which seem to have blood under the nails, and rethinks the whole being violently sick option.
Ianto finds Jack spread-eagled in his own blood on the floor of their containment cells, and the angry-looking Weevil they’ve only had here two days snarling against the wall. It doesn’t take Ianto long to realise that a) Jack is actually fucking dead (no one’s neck should be twisted at that angle), and b) if he doesn’t do something about the rather homicidal Weevil, then he’ll be very very fucking dead too. It’s the work of a moment to take two steps, pull Jack’s Webley pistol from its holster, and fire a bullet into the creature. And another one. The Weevil hits the floor, twitching, it’s dead (or will be) but Ianto doesn’t stop, walking towards the alien, firing until the gun clicks on an empty chamber. Even then, he can’t move, hands shaking violently, and then the pistol slides out of his sweating grip and clatters loudly on the concrete floor. He thinks about swearing or sobbing or at least turning around, but he just can’t. He doesn’t know how long he stands there over the Weevil’s still and bloody corpse, but after a while there’s a sharp intake of breath behind him, and then warm arms encircle him from behind, a pair of lips close to his neck.
“Ianto, it’s all right, I promise.”
Jack’s voice, but it shouldn’t be possible, because he was totally, completely dead. Ianto knows he was.
“Shhhh,” Jack whispers, turning Ianto around and letting him bury his face in Jack’s shoulder. He thinks again about sobbing, but a week ago he wanted to kill Jack with many sharp objects, so it would be hypocritical of him to cry hysterically right now. He just breathes in and out a few times, clinging to Jack’s braces.
“You shouldn’t be alive,” he says shakily, quietly.
“It’s a thing I can do,” Jack tells him. “I didn’t want for you to find out like this though.”
Ianto thinks of a lot of things, jagged and vague and he has Jack’s blood on his hands.
“Lisa didn’t come back,” he murmurs finally, voice barely above a whisper.
“No,” Jack agrees gently, “No, she didn’t.”
Ianto thumps a helpless fist against Jack’s chest and then takes a deep, deep breath and steps back.
“I shot the Weevil,” he says tentatively. Jack shrugs.
“We have others,” he points out, indicating their long-term Weevil who never seems to go anywhere. It’s been here longer than Gwen, and Ianto suspects Jack has a pet name for it; Jack is bloody weird like that.
“How did it get out?” he asks, to stop himself from screaming.
“I don’t know,” Jack replies, swaying a little on his feet. “You know what? I’m going to go get cleaned up. Can you bring me a really, really damn strong coffee to my office in about ten minutes?” He looks around at the bloody and messy cells. “Don’t worry about cleaning up yet. Just bring me a really fucking black coffee.”
Fifteen minutes later, Ianto carries a file and a large jug of coffee, so strong it could strip paint and possibly eat its way through the brickwork as well, to Jack’s office. Jack looks peaky but apart from that he seems in pretty good shape for a man who was bleeding out an hour ago. Ianto pours him a mug.
“Thanks,” Jack says, taking the coffee and greedily gulping it down. “God, that’s fantastic.” He points at Ianto’s file. “What’ve you got there?”
“Reports from Blaenavon, sir,” Ianto says, attempting to inject some normality back into this situation. “Rift dumped a soldier from the seventeenth century in their local pub. Suspected case of smallpox.”
“I think I died of that once,” Jack says dreamily, then snickers. “Good times.”
Ianto isn’t sure whether to believe him or not, so merely leaves him the coffee and the file, and turns to go.
“Hey, Ianto,” Jack says. Ianto turns back. “I’d be grateful if you didn’t mention this to anyone.”
“You died, sir,” Ianto tells him, “And now you’re fine. Who could I tell?”
Jack shrugs and pours himself another cup of coffee. Ianto swallows hard and the shock peters out and becomes something entirely different, and he has to go upstairs to the tourist office and lock all the doors and cry for a while before everything makes sense again.
(A few hours later when Jack and Owen have been and sorted out smallpox-guy, Jack leans through Ianto’s beaded curtain and informs him- “It wasn’t smallpox I died of; it was cholera. Still, easy to get ‘em confused, right?” Ianto smiles and waits until Jack’s gone before throwing up into a box of files on Splott. It’s not as though anyone will miss them.)
Ianto is not at all drunk but he decides that he would quite like to be. Jack doesn’t drink so he’s stone cold sober too, and they’re sipping black coffee with sweetener in it (because it’s Ianto’s latest experiment and it doesn’t taste entirely vile). It is also two a.m, the point at which all bad ideas magically become good ones.
“Scale of one to ten,” Jack begins suddenly, “How pissed off with me are you?”
“Eight point seven,” Ianto responds promptly.
“That high?” Jack looks disappointed. “Still?”
“Last week, it was eight point eight five,” Ianto tells him. “It’s dropping, sir.”
Jack considers this.
“You were quite upset when you thought that Weevil had killed me,” he points out. “You don’t want me dead, that’s gotta count for something.”
“I don’t want Owen dead either,” Ianto shrugs. Jack winces.
“Uncalled for,” he announces, puts down his coffee mug, and fixes Ianto with a firm blue-eyed stare. “The thing is, Ianto, I might be slightly in love with you.”
“Oh,” Ianto says. “Um. Are you sure you don’t just want to shag me, sir?”
Jack looks at him thoughtfully.
“Well,” he says finally, “I do want to shag you, but I sort of wanna hold you and stroke your hair for a while afterwards.”
“That isn’t love,” Ianto feels compelled to point out.
“It’s close enough,” Jack shrugs. “So? What do you say?”
“I loved Lisa,” Ianto tells him. “I gave up everything for her. And you killed her right in front of me. You can’t love someone that hard and that deeply and that desperately and get over it in a fortnight.”
Part of him expects Jack to look puzzled and say you can’t? in a confused fashion, but instead, his boss says:
“I know. I’m not asking you to.”
Oh shit. Save him from Compassionate Jack.
“Lisa was everything to me,” he says. “I can’t just sit back and be fucked by her killer.”
His head is buzzing, the sweetener is making his coffee taste more than a little funny, and words are coming out before he knows how to stop them. He wonders if he is drunk after all, then realises that no, he’s just bloody exhausted.
“What about fucking her killer?” Jack enquires, “How do you feel about that?”
“Oh,” Ianto whispers, “God.”
And he’d fight it except for the fact that this is inevitable. Ianto knows it. Jack knew it. He thinks even Suzie knew it (she knew everything).
“You don’t love me,” Ianto repeats, trying to keep some form of rationality, getting up to pace Jack’s office. “You killed Lisa and you lie to all of us and Gwen is the one you’re going to end up with, we all know it-”
“- But it’s the early hours of the morning and you’re the one I’m sitting here drinking slightly strange-tasting coffee with,” Jack points out, getting up too.
“And really, I’m not really, you know, gay. And most days I either hate you or want to leave you obscene post-it notes about the amount of mess you leave lying around.”
“Well,” Jack begins, “If that’s the way you feel, I’ll just-”
“Shut up,” Ianto tells him, using Jack’s braces to pull him closer. They look at each other for a moment but it’s as unavoidable as breathing and Ianto is too tired to argue any longer.
Next morning, Ianto throws out all the sweetener in the Hub, just in case.
Once they’re safely back in Cardiff and Ianto has stitches in his neck where a cleaver bit into his throat and welts on his wrists and Tosh looks like she’s going to be sick or maybe die, the ringing in his ears starts up. It’s been a long night, and Ianto and Tosh and Jack shower while Owen takes Gwen to hospital (and Ianto suspects that he’ll be doing a lot more than just leaving her with the ER doctors, but it’s not his place to say anything).
It’s not about them. Ianto guesses that Jack’s completely forgotten that he and Tosh are there, although he tries to tell himself he doesn’t care all that much. Jack is a dick, and Ianto reminds himself of this as he rubs at a smallish purple mark on his hip that didn’t come from their cannibalistic captors.
“Come on,” he says to Tosh. She frowns at him, face clean but still bruised.
“Come where?” she asks suspiciously. Ianto smiles.
“We should get something to eat.”
“No one’s going to let us in anywhere,” Tosh points out. “We look like we’ve gone three rounds with a blender.”
She has a point. Ianto has definitely had better days, but then he’s sure that if you’ve spent the day running about the countryside with mad villages whacking you around the head several times, you’re supposed to look a little worse for wear.
“I’m sure that there must be somewhere,” he says thoughtfully. “Face it Tosh; neither of us wants to be alone tonight.”
She gives him a sad and slightly wistful little smile but it’s true, and Ianto waves goodbye to Jack as he pulls his coat on.
“Where are you going?” Jack asks. There’s an expression on his face Ianto can’t read and doesn’t even want to try to decipher.
“Home,” Ianto replies. To be perfectly honest, he doesn’t want to be touched tonight, not like that, not pinned against anything, with another human being pressed close enough to feel breathing and smell skin. Bile rises in his throat but he resolves not to let this break him.
They find one of the restaurants along the Bay that doesn’t seem to mind their battered appearances, and they both make a concerted effort to talk about anything but work. Not cannibals, or blood, or Cybermen or fairies or Jack or anything. And, after a stilted beginning, words begin to flow. Ianto learns about Tosh’s family, and persuades her to teach him dirty words in Japanese. He reciprocates by teaching her to swear in Welsh, and recounts a couple of his better anecdotes from Torchwood One, the classified ones, the ones he hasn’t even told Jack, ones involving alien devices and gratuitous nudity and government officials until Tosh is trying not to shriek with laughter.
It’s actually genuinely lovely, sitting here eating complicated house salads (no meat; not tonight, not any night for the foreseeable and unforeseeable future) and sipping mineral water and watching Tosh’s face light up as she enthuses over anything and everything; so different to the closed and tentative persona she keeps up in the Hub. Ianto decides that they will have to do this again, on a day when they’re not both hurting so bad that it’s surprising they haven’t both broken into pieces.
For dessert, Ianto picks tiramisu.
“I don’t think I’ve ever had it,” Tosh tells him thoughtfully. “Is it nice?”
“Coffee, alcohol, cream,” Ianto says dreamily. “All the best things in the world with chocolate dusted on top.”
Tosh orders one too and they sit there in companionable silence and enjoy them.
“This really is good,” Tosh says, licking cream from her lips. Ianto gives her a smile and leans over to dab a spot she’s missed with the napkin. He doesn’t think about it and Tosh doesn’t react. In some ways, she’s the easiest person to get along with. Afraid of letting anyone in, yes; but she hasn’t got a spiky shell erected to keep everyone out.
“Ianto,” she begins as they’re paying the bill. Ianto bites his lip, and thinks about Jack and the Hub and mud and blood and that smell and just nods. They sleep the night in the double bed he bought to share with Lisa and never did; side by side, listening to each other breathe, forcing themselves to remember that yes; they’re still alive. Just about.
Milk And Sugar
“Ianto,” Gwen says, and she sounds a) drunk and b) surprised, “I wasn’t expecting you to be here.”
Ianto wasn’t expecting to be here either, but then he was filing and he looked at the clock and oh yes, it was one a.m again, and there was no point going home now. No matter that Ianto hasn’t really wanted to go home since he nearly got eaten by cannibals- it feels so much safer, somehow, in the Hub, where there are security protocols and things and even if the cannibals did manage to get in, Ianto is sure that Myfanwy likes him enough to eat anyone trying to devour him, which he thinks might be ironic in some special way he hasn’t figured out yet, it being nearly two a.m.
“Are you all right?” he asks, ever professional, even if it is late and Jack isn’t about so Ianto has taken off his jacket, waistcoat and tie.
Gwen nods, then shakes her head and dissolves into sobs. Ianto thinks oh fucking hell but doesn’t say it aloud, instead moving to hug her very, very carefully. Gwen buries her face in his shoulder and cries harder.
“I think I’m drunk,” she says when she’s calmed down a little.
“It’s a distinct possibility,” Ianto agrees. “But we could probably sober you up a little if you like.”
Gwen considers this, sniffling into his shirt collar.
“I don’t want to be sober ever again,” she informs Ianto, and starts crying again. Ianto decides that he doesn’t really like Drunk Gwen, and resolves never to tell her this.
“Come on,” he tells her, taking her hand and helping her stumble into Jack’s office, sitting her down in a chair and telling her not to touch anything. He raids Jack’s liquor cabinet and finds a couple of shot glasses and some vodka, setting them down on the desk and sitting beside Gwen. “Going to tell me what happened?”
“Rhys and I-” Gwen begins and Ianto remembers that this is why he doesn’t ever get himself involved with the complicated little lives of Team Torchwood, “We were out for a drink- and I think we drank too much, and-” The sobs make her next words even more incomprehensible, but Ianto gathers that they had a rather vicious fight and Gwen’s here because she has nowhere else to go.
Sighing, he unscrews the lid of the vodka, pours Gwen a glass, pushes it towards her. She looks at him and then drains it, quick, decisive.
“I’m sleeping with Owen,” she says, setting the glass back on the desk.
“I’m not sure you should be telling me this,” Ianto replies, because he knows.
“That’s what Rhys said,” Gwen mutters, bursts out into awkward laughter. “Only he didn’t. Because I couldn’t tell him.”
She drops her head into her hands, shaking, and Ianto strokes her hair. He doesn’t understand why Gwen does this to herself and to her boyfriend, but it isn’t his place to ask, and he’s not even sure if she knows.
Gwen drinks another three shots, and Ianto pours himself one because it’s late and he’s tired and Jack is out tonight after hearing about a sighting of a blue box in London (does he really think Ianto doesn’t know that he’s looking for the Doctor?) and all sorts of things are swirling about in his head.
“You’re sitting there judging me,” Gwen mutters, sprawled in her seat, looking more than a little worse for wear, and Ianto reflects that he really isn’t taking care of her properly, so screws the lid back on the vodka and puts it back in the cupboard.
“I’m not judging you Gwen,” he tells her patiently. “I’m not in a position to judge when it comes to sex in the workplace.”
Gwen won’t remember this tomorrow, and is too drunk to put it together now, which is a relief. Ianto eases her to her feet and helps her along to the rooms Torchwood keep underground for when it becomes necessary to sleep in the Hub. He takes off her coat and her shoes, and lays her carefully down on the bed.
“Ianto,” Gwen says softly, “You’ve got to be pretty fucking clever, you’re still young. Why the hell are you still here cleaning up our shit for no thanks at all?”
Ianto tucks her in carefully, picks a chair up and sets it beside the bed so he can watch her sleep and make sure she’ll be ok.
“If you figure it out, let me know.”
He drives her home in the morning, feeling gritty and tired. A man who must be Rhys answers the door, looking bleary and miserable, dressed in yesterday’s clothes, but he manages a smile when he sees Ianto carrying Gwen, fast asleep against his shoulder.
“Ianto Jones,” Ianto tells him, shifting Gwen a little so that he can hold out a hand, which Rhys just about manages to shake. “I work with Gwen. I thought maybe it was time to bring her home.”
“Thank you,” Rhys mumbles, “I’ll take her from here.”
Gwen is lighter than she looks and she’s also fast asleep. Rhys takes her from Ianto, and carries her towards what must be their bedroom with such tender care that it makes Ianto’s stomach hurt. He bites his lip and makes a decision.
When Rhys has tucked Gwen into bed and made his way back out into the kitchen area, he finds the flat empty, but a mug of steaming coffee sitting on the sideboard, sweet and milky, waiting for him.
Tosh is still sitting by the fountain on the verge of tears when Ianto has locked up (no sign of Jack anywhere, and he tells himself that he doesn’t care).
“Come on,” Ianto says softly, “You can’t stay here all night.”
Tosh nods numbly and allows him to drive her home, misery smeared tiredly down her face. They don’t talk during the car journey, which is a relief- neither of them are great conversationists to begin with, and everything’s a little too close to the surface (Oh God, they were going to fucking eat us, and I thought- I thought-) for small talk. They sit in the car for a moment, silent, and then Tosh says:
“Please come with me.” And Ianto does.
He’s never been to Tosh’s house before, his domain is the Hub and he has no need for interaction with the others outside of it (or at least that’s what he tells himself). The kitchen is covered in groceries, only half unpacked, and Tosh makes a helplessly miserable sound before running into what Ianto thinks might be her bedroom.
He stands absolutely still for a moment and then swiftly tidies the kitchen, putting food away and emptying an eggcup full of cigarette ash (and he knows that Tosh doesn’t smoke). There’s a bag of proper, gorgeous ground coffee on the sideboard, which Ianto is going to guess Tosh didn’t buy (lovely woman; knows nothing about coffee), and a few minutes’ searching in the cupboards yields a cafetiére Tosh has probably never used. He rinses it out, and brews the coffee, carrying it through with a couple of mugs to Tosh’s room.
Tosh looks desperately despondent, but a wan smile spreads across her face as she sees the coffee.
“You’re wonderful,” she says as he pours her a mug, and somehow they end up sitting on her bed, drinking in companionable silence.
“Ianto,” Tosh says hesitantly, “I’m so sorry.”
“For what?” he asks, although he suspects that he knows.
“When- when I could hear your thoughts- I had no idea that you were still so… so lost. We all forgot, and we shouldn’t have done.”
Ianto doesn’t even want to think about the self-centred whining that she must have been listening to.
“How much did you hear?” he enquires.
“Not much,” Tosh assures him quickly. “Enough.” There’s a pause, and she sighs, then speaks as if the words will stay with her forever. “‘I can’t imagine a time when this isn’t everything.’” She’s whispering, but Ianto hears every word like she’s shouting. “‘The pain’s so constant, like my stomach’s full of rats. It feels like this is all I am now. There isn’t an inch of me that doesn’t hurt.’”
“Ah.” Ianto wonders whether to feel relieved or ashamed that Tosh caught him on one of his poetically maudlin days. Then again, if she’d overheard him on one of his I fucking hate Torchwood and everyone in it days- well, she probably wouldn’t be sitting here with him right now.
“Don’t worry, I don’t spend all my time thinking about myself,” he tells Tosh. “Sometimes I think about coffee filters. Or bin liners.”
Tosh stares at him, and then laughs. She sounds almost shocked, like she’s forgotten that he has a sense of humour (although given how Ianto has been lately, he can’t exactly blame her). Ianto decides that it’s probably time to impart the only piece of wisdom that he has (that has nothing to do with stain removal, anyway).
“It does stop hurting,” he tells her softly. “And they will get over what you did, and you’ll look back on this with nothing but a vague sense of regret. I promise.”
Tosh nods and then her mug drops between her hands and there’s coffee soaking into the duvet and she’s sobbing into Ianto’s shoulder with her fingers digging desperately into his upper arms, so hard it almost hurts. Disjointed words spill between her lips and Ianto catches some of them, like telepathic and not fair and knife to my throat and I heard nothing from him at all and she’s dead and Owen and Gwen.
Ianto, from this angle, can see a birthday card still standing on the bedside table, bearing Owen’s casual scrawl. A suspicion clicks into place, he thinks shit, Tosh, and starts stroking her hair.
“It will all be ok,” he whispers, and for one horrible moment, he can’t remember who he’s talking to.