sam_storyteller: (Default)
sam_storyteller ([personal profile] sam_storyteller) wrote2005-07-18 12:55 pm
Entry tags:

Compromise; Torchwood, PG

Title: Compromise
Rating: PG
Characters: Team; mild Jack/Ianto
Summary: After the Beacons, Ianto's inner censor is offline and Jack refuses to go home. German expressionism ensues.
Warnings: None.

Originally Posted 10.31.08

Also available at AO3.

***

"Dr. Harper did a good job," said the paramedic, pulling off a pair of gloves and tossing them into the biohazard disposal bag. "But she needs a full exam, disinfection, sterile bandages. She needs hospital, Captain Harkness."

Jack glanced at where Gwen was standing, looking out at the lush green of Brecon Beacons National Park, five hundred square miles of mountains and grasslands and, apparently, cannibals.

"Ms. Sato's taking oxygen but they want to look her over for internal bleeding. Mr. Jones is tracking all right, but he's on the edge. Your people should be in beds at Merthyr Tydfil General."

"If I had my way, they would be," Jack said. "But...?"

"Ms. Cooper says she'd just like to get back to Cardiff, Ms. Sato's insisting she's all right, and Mr. Jones is worried about getting your car home. If you could...have a word, sir..."

Jack nodded. "Gwen!"

She started and turned.

"In the ambulance with Tosh. Tosh, stay the hell there and shut the hell up."

The paramedic looked unimpressed until Gwen wiped her nose, gave him a rebellious look, and climbed into the ambulance. Tosh stopped arguing. Owen leaned out past Gwen.

"Where'd Ianto go?" Jack asked.

"Here," Ianto called, appearing from behind the SUV.

"Ambulance. Now."

"I'll ride with you," Owen said to Jack, as Ianto made his way stiffly past.

"You stay with them."

"There isn't room for four of us plus the paramedics, Jack. Someone's got to ride with you."

"I can do," Ianto said, pausing at the rear of the ambulance.

"Inside," Jack pointed at him.

"He's the least injured," Owen protested. Ianto shifted his weight from foot to foot, watching. "Let 'im ride with you if he wants. Better if I sit up with the girls anyway."

Jack glanced from Ianto's slowly bruise-darkening young face to Owen's set jaw.

"Keep him conscious, keep him talking, he'll be fine. I looked him over, Jack," Owen said.

"Fine. SUV -- passenger's seat," Jack added, when Ianto automatically moved for the driver's side door.

"Right," Ianto said vaguely. Jack glanced at Owen.

"Head trauma. And probably the painkillers."

"Keep an eye on them, I need a word with the driver," Jack replied, and accosted a man sitting in the front cab of the ambulance.

"I want to take them through to Cardiff," he said.

"No can do," the man replied. "Our range only goes as far as Pentrebach."

"Not good enough. Cardiff A&E has our records, they know us there, we can get rush treatment." Jack offered the man a slim leather wallet with his Torchwood ID inside -- nothing more than a photo, the Torchwood logo, and a barcode. The two folded fifty-pound notes in the top were more convincing, really. The man glanced at it, took the bills out, and casually tucked them away.

"Dispatch, this is Tony with team nine, we're going to rush these people down to Cardiff, over," he said into the radio.

"Team nine this is Dispatch, what authorisation please? Over."

"Torchwood," Jack called, as the man pressed the button. "Operating out of Cardiff. We'll compensate your people past Pentrebach, Dispatch, over."

"Hold for permission, over."

"Copy," Tony said.

"Team nine, you are cleared. Have a safe trip to Cardiff, over."

"Copy," Tony repeated. "Out."

Jack smiled at him -- one of his favourite lethal smiles. "Let's get the show on the road, huh?"

"Yessir."

He circled around to the back and leaned in. Gwen and Tosh were speaking quietly, Owen sitting just behind Gwen with the paramedics. "Settle in, kids," he announced. "We'll push through to Cardiff. Ianto and I are following in the SUV. Try to get some rest."

Gwen gave him a grateful gaptoothed smile; Tosh closed her eyes and nodded.

When he turned towards the SUV, stepping back so they could close the doors, he saw Ianto waiting for him, hands busy with his PDA.

"Solitaire?" Jack guessed, sliding into the driver's seat.

"Cleanup checklist," Ianto answered. "In some ways this has been an easy mission."

"How hard did you hit your head?"

"Not much work for us," Ianto pointed out. "It's just humans being human. Inhuman. That's the word I mean. No retcon, no sweeping, no staged scenes, no body dumps. The police will take care of it. It's only a string of incredibly ghoulish homicides."

"Only," Jack replied. The ambulance, ahead of them, was pulling out. He started the car and swung it onto the road behind the ambulance, following at a decent distance. It'd be twenty minutes before they reached Merthyr Tydfil, the first major city on the way south; another forty after that and they'd be at A&E in Cardiff.

"Home in time for lunch," Ianto said, as if he'd been doing the math as well.

"From a hospital vending machine," Jack replied.

"There's a decent curry place near the hospital. I think. Or maybe it's off the arcade." Ianto frowned. "It's near to something. I'm not certain I'm quite lucid."

"Owen said it was the head trauma." Jack flexed his fingers on the steering wheel. "Painkillers working?"

"Yep."

"Anything worse than bruises? The paramedics were more worried about Gwen."

"Most people generally are," Ianto said. Jack got the sensation he was getting the running commentary inside Ianto's head rather than whatever he usually said to cover up thoughts like that.

"More concerned about Gwen?" he asked carefully.

"She does rather impressive hysterics." Ianto gave him a smile, which was disturbing.

"She was shot, Ianto."

The smile turned from real amusement to a sort of dry grimace. Jack realised he'd just made Ianto's point for him.

"You ducked the question," Jack said.

" 'You started it'," Ianto translated.

"Don't make me fire you."

"Don't do me any favours."

"Just a guess, but you're probably a mean drunk," Jack said, stung.

"I'm mean sober." Ianto turned to look out the window. "Just quieter."

"Still avoiding the question."

"Scrapes and bruises, that's all. Lovely big knot back here," Ianto replied, ducking his head forward. His fingers found the edge of his skull just above his neck. "And an impending case of extreme ve..."

Jack glanced at him. "Yeah?"

"I'm missing a word," Ianto said.

"Huh?"

"I don't know the word I want. It's missing."

"It'll come home when it gets hungry. Don't worry about it," Jack replied.

"What?"

"Hm?"

Ianto laughed, rubbing his forehead with the heel of his hand. "We're a comedy sketch."

"I'm not laughing."

"No, that'd ruin your image."

"Mean drunk."

"Easy target."

"And they thought I'd have trouble keeping you talking. We could sit here and let you insult me for the next hour, if you want." Jack kept his eyes on the ambulance, a few yards ahead.

"That would make me feel much better about nearly having been eaten while camping, sir," Ianto replied. "I'm not sure I'm that inventive, though."

"You haven't been storing up ideas?" Jack asked. "Stockpiling smart remarks in case the occasion arose?"

"I'm an im...pro..." Ianto paused, then sighed. "This is very hard with a limited word-set."

"Okay, small words," Jack said briskly. "You think Tosh'll be okay tonight?"

"She never loses it."

"Not in front of us, anyway," Jack said.

"Careful, Jack. She's fast. She might outlive you."

Jack bit down on the urge to breezily assure Ianto that this was probably not going to be the case. No need to pique his curosity. Unlike Gwen, Ianto wouldn't be brushed off with excuses, and he would be ingenious enough to do research of his own.

"But not you?" he asked instead.

Ianto shrugged, still staring out the window. "I'm on borrowed time."

"Borrowed time?" Jack asked, narrowing his eyes. "You feel that way all the time?"

"Staff shrink too, now?"

"Concerned boss. That's what you wanted, isn't it? This is me giving a damn how you are, Ianto. Don't blow me off."

Ianto lifted his left hand, gnawed at one of his fingernails.

"One of my mates got out of the tower at Canary Wharf," he said. "He kept writing me these letters, about how he was in the hospital for..." his eyes unfocused briefly. "The thing. Being unhappy."

"Depression? Survivor's guilt?" Jack suggested. Ianto shrugged.

"Being unhappy. He wondered why we lived and almost nobody else did. I knew why I lived. It was so I could help Lisa. Which means I also lived for the purpose of providing the world with new cybermen. I failed on both fronts, so it's only a matter of time. It's not destiny. Just a celestial paperwork mix-up or something."

"You seemed pretty keen to live back there."

"You mean when I was clubbed in the head for helping Tosh get out?" Ianto asked.

"Well, never let it be said Torchwood didn't value suicidal impulses. They're better than courage sometimes."

"I'm not going to kill myself. I'm just not worried about failing a third count."

"Self-preservation."

"Maybe." Ianto's voice betrayed his hesitation; perhaps at the moment he wasn't sure what preservation meant.

"There are people who would say that borrowed time was a bad way of describing a second chance," Jack observed.

"Am I allowed to shoot people like that?" Ianto inquired.

Jack glanced at him and chuckled. "Only if I miss. And I never miss."

"As we have proof."

"Can you think of anything we could talk about that wouldn't involve the sharp side of your tongue?"

Ianto shrugged again.

"You must have been a joy as a teenager."

"I got on all right. I know how to shut up when I need to. You've had the censored version."

"Of you?"

"Yeah."

"Still?"

"I'm not the most popular person in Torchwood right now, if you hadn't noticed. No reason to draw attention. And you can see how well it turned out when I snapped on Gwen yesterday." Ianto leaned back. "Easier to just keep quiet."

"You'd have made a hell of a spy," Jack mused.

"Thank you."

Jack watched him in his peripheral vision. "Quality kit."

"I used to read a lot of Ian Fleming books. I liked spying."

"But you went for Torchwood instead of civil service?"

"Got to have a university...thing. Degree. For that. I didn't."

"I've been meaning to ask about that. It's not like you're not smart."

"I had to make my way in the world, didn't I? Dad died when I was sixteen, I needed money. I didn't have time for university."

"You ever play capture-the-flag as a kid?"

Ianto glanced at him, perplexed.

"Sorry, did you just ask me if I'd ever played capture-the-flag?"

"Yeah."

"Oh. Did in school sometimes."

"Any good at it?"

A small smile. "Reckon so."

"Tell me about it."

"Why?"

"Keeps you talking. Probably won't get us into too much trouble."

Ianto leaned back. "I dunno, it's not like there was much to tell. Wasn't any good at rugby or anything."

Jack listened as "not much to tell" became a disjointed, half-remembered story about what he assumed was a weedy, skinny young kid who didn't get much glory in sport or in school. Middle of his class, fond of mathematics and spy novels, good at running and not much else. Fond of capture-the-flag too, though, because skinny and good at running were solid qualifications for a game like that. Even young, Ianto must have been stealthy, creeping and sneaking, using whatever was at hand for cover and camoflauge.

They passed out of the Beacons, heading south on the A470 through towns that -- after a hundred years in Wales -- fit Jack's American-twang mouth as if he were a native: Pentrebach, Pontypridd, Rhydyfelin, and finally Tongwynlais and the outskirts of the Cardiff suburbs.

Jack half-listened to Ianto talk, throwing out an occasional question, content to let him ramble now that his guard was at least partially down. Eventually, just past Whitchurch, Owen's voice buzzed in his ear.

"Jack," Owen said. Ianto, apparently picking up the signal too, fell silent. "Next exit we're off; they're dropping us at University Hospital."

"Sure thing," Jack replied. "How are the girls?"

"Gwen's sleeping, Tosh is hacking the hospital mainframe to get us in faster. Her idea, not mine. How's Ianto?"

"Missing some vocabulary."

"Not unexpected. Couple of days of rest, everyone'll be on the mend."

"Mmh," Jack said, unwilling to commit to such a bright prognosis. Physically, maybe, but he suspected that Gwen was going to be skittish for a while. Maybe Ianto too.

"Don't suppose you'd let me skive off and go home," Ianto said.

"Nope," Jack answered brightly, and pulled into the A&E dropoff.

The hospital staff knew Owen well enough, considering his reasonably long tenure with Torchwood and the frequency with which he brought in wounded team-mates. Tosh and Gwen were less familiar, Gwen being new and Tosh being in the field less frequently before Suzie's death. They'd only ever encountered Ianto a handful of times, never as a patient.

Jack, of course, was universally known and beloved, even by those who grumbled that Torchwood shouldn't get to pull rank when other people had been waiting for medical attention at A&E for hours.

"PC Cooper's going to be fine, they're just putting a fresh dressing on her now," one of the attendings said, when he accosted her in the hallway after she'd emerged from the room where his team was being treated in identical, curtained-off cubicles. "I must say if Dr. Harper ever leaves Torchwood, send him our way, he's a good triage man. Ms. Sato's doing well; she's had some trauma to her windpipe and she's covered in bruises, but essentially she just needs a few days' rest."

"And Ianto?"

"Mr. Jones..." she trailed off. "I understand why Dr. Harper gave him painkillers but it's making diagnosis rather hard, we can't tell what's the drugs and what's actual neurological dysfunction. We'd like to run a few scans and do some X-rays to check for fractures before we let him go, but he should be fine. We're waiting on the equipment now, might be about an hour. Otherwise he seems all right, though he's a bit filthier than the others. I don't know what you lot were up to..."

She trailed off because Jack's eyes had tracked past her, up to the muted television in the corner of the waiting room. The closed-captioning was talking about a major law-enforcement action in Brecon Beacons; the footage showed body bags being loaded into morgue trucks and police standing in front of yellow crime-scene tape. She turned.

"Been all over the news this morning," she said. "Were you mixed up in that?"

He gave her a charming smile. "Can't tell you that. We appreciate your help, though."

"Always a pleasure, Captain. Ah, and here's your team."

"About an hour for the equipment for Ianto, you say?" he asked.

"And a little more for the scans."

"Good. Let him know I'm taking the others home and I'll be back for him."

Owen was supporting Gwen, who didn't actually look like she needed much support. Jack offered Tosh his hand, and she twined her fingers in his, smiling at him gratefully.

"Ianto's waiting for a scan," he said. "Everyone in the car, I'll take you home."

He left Gwen off first, and then Owen because his was on the way to Tosh's. At Tosh's building he actually parked the car and came in with her, making sure she was settled.

"I'm fine, Jack, really," she said, but her voice was scratchy and she still looked pale. "I'm going to have a wash and eat some..."

She trailed off. He waited patiently, leaning against the wall.

"Could you do something for me?" she asked, twining her hands together in her lap. He gave her a questioning look. "There's half a meat-feast pizza in the fridge, and some chicken in the freezer. Could you..."

It took him a second to calculate what she was asking, and when the penny finally dropped it broke his heart. He bent, kissed her on the forehead, stroked her hair, and nodded.

"I'll take care of it," he said.

"Thank you."

The pizza and the chicken went into the bin, along with a steak-and-peas microwaveable dinner, just in case. He tied up the bag and carried it to the front door.

"I have to go back for Ianto. Sure you're okay?" he asked.

"Go on. Tell Ianto I'm thinking of him."

"He'll like that. Check in by phone tomorrow -- I don't want to see you at the Hub for the rest of the week. Send Owen a list of computer stuff you need if you feel up to it, he'll fetch it for you."

He tossed the trash in the dumpster, wondering if Gwen and Owen were executing a similar clearout of their fridges and what Rhys the Boyfriend would think of Gwen's sudden turn for vegetarianism.

When he got back to the hospital, Ianto was standing at the entrance, looking vaguely lost. Jack pulled up and popped the locks.

"Nice suit," he said. Ianto looked down at the scrubs he was wearing and tucked his filthy trainers under the seat as far as they would go.

"They said I could borrow them. Torchwood name's good for something, at least," he replied.

"Give you anything for the pain?"

The younger man held up a prescription bottle and shook it lightly.

"Good. You need anything else?"

"Retcon," Ianto said, his voice grim. Jack braked sharply and looked at him. "Sorry. Joke."

"Not funny."

"Not to you."

They rode the rest of the way in silence, until they pulled up at Ianto's building. Jack had only been there once before, taking him home after Lisa. They'd seen each other a few times over the month of suspension after, but Ianto always subtly conveyed the message that meeting in some public place -- a park, a pub, the arcades -- would be better. Now, Ianto looked up at the window of his flat, a third-floor walkup, and sighed.

"Need help getting up the stairs?" Jack asked.

"No, thanks."

"Want me to come up? I came in with Tosh," he added hurriedly, when Ianto gave him a quizzical look.

"How is she?" Ianto asked, unbuckling his seatbelt and hissing slightly as it apparently bumped a bruise.

"She's fine. Said to say she was thinking of you."

"That's kind of her."

They made their way up the steps slowly, Ianto holding onto the banister with white-knuckled grip but otherwise moving under his own steam. Jack followed, watching as he eventually fumbled his key into the lock and opened the door.

"You don't have to..." he started.

"I haven't got any pressing appointments," Jack replied. "Go get a shower. I'll make coffee."

Ianto's faint look of horror at the suggestion made him smile. "Tea?"

"Better," Ianto said, and Jack gently pushed him in the direction of the bathroom.

Once Ianto was headed in the right direction Jack wandered into the small galley kitchen. The coffee paraphenalia was very evident, but he went for the kettle on the stove, filled it and lit the gas burner under it.

The tea was in a small rack in one cupboard, Earl Grey and Irish Breakfast and a tin of loose-leaf herbal orange -- herbal was best, he decided, and Ianto definitely didn't need caffeine right now. As he scrounged a loose-leaf strainer from a drawer he listened for the sound of water running in the bathroom, but it never came. Setting the strainer down on the counter, he crossed the living room to see what the problem was.

Ianto was leaning forward, hands on the sink, the scrub shirt rucked up around his hips. He looked annoyed more than anything.

"Can't get my shirt off," he muttered.

"Generally it goes over the head," Jack offered. Ianto shot him a mirthless grin in the mirror. "Want some help?"

"Please."

He caught the hem of the shirt in his fingers, careful not to touch skin any more than necessary, and lifted it up, pushing it over the back of Ianto's head. Ianto tipped his shoulders left and right, wriggling it down his arms.

"Ta," he said, but he didn't move other than to toss the shirt on the floor. Jack studied his back, almost devoid of bruising; a few purple weals wrapped around from his side and there was a nasty abraded patch on his hip, but otherwise he looked all right. Jack realised Ianto was ignoring him, examining the much larger, more vicious bruises on his ribcage and upper arms.

Jack touched the small of Ianto's back; when he didn't move, he smoothed his hand up his spine, resting it gently on the nape of his neck.

"Not so bad," Ianto decided, still studying the reflection of his bruises in the mirror.

"Wash up," Jack said, and released his hold. The water started to run while he was measuring out the tea.

He stayed in the kitchen to provide as much privacy as he could, quietly opening cupboards and examining pots and various cook-tools. It'd been decades since he'd had a kitchen of his own, and he was completely perplexed by some of the implements a 21st century kitchen apparently needed.

The kettle whistled and he emptied it into the pot, swirling the strainer around in the steaming water. He heard the shower go off, the bedroom door open and shut once, twice. Ianto appeared in the entry as Jack was pouring the tea into a pair of chipped mugs.

"Sugar's next to the fridge," Ianto said, sipping his plain. Jack added a spoonful, stirred, and sipped as well. "It's good."

"Thank you," Jack replied. Ianto's hair was still wet, slicked against his head, and he smelled like soap. He was wearing loose flannel drawstring pajama pants and, incongruously, a dress shirt -- probably because the buttons meant he didn't have to put it on over his head. Jack didn't think he'd ever seen Ianto wear anything other than white or blue, standard office-grunt colours, but this one was a deep purple shade. Most of the buttons were still undone.

"Hungry?" Jack asked. Ianto nodded and brushed past him, edging through the narrow gap between Jack and the opposite kitchen counter. His hand was actually on the refrigerator door before he got that same hunted, hunch-shouldered look that Tosh had shown earlier. He let go of the handle.

"I can clean it out if you want," Jack offered. Ianto took a deep breath. "I did it for Tosh. She asked me to."

"It's all right. I'll have to eat it; if I go v..." he stopped.

"Vegetarian," Jack supplied.

"Right, I just...don't even like...vegetables," Ianto said. He was gulping in air, breathing sharp and loud. The mug of tea made a loud bang against the counter as he set it down. "I'll have to live on bread and -- apples or something..."

Jack rested his hand on the nape of his neck again, pulling him gently back. "Don't worry about it today."

Ianto turned sharply and Jack didn't have time to react before Ianto planted both his hands on Jack's chest and shoved him backwards. He caught himself on the counter before he fell and straightened quickly, automatically preparing for a second assault. Ianto was staring at him in horror.

"I'm sorry," he stammered. "I don't know why I even -- Jack, I'm sorry."

"It's fine. No harm done, see?" Jack said, spreading his arms. Ianto flinched backwards. "It's me, okay? I'm not going to hurt you."

He eased forward and, when Ianto didn't draw back any further, put one hand on his arm, telegraphing every movement before he made it.

"You know where you are?" he asked. "You know who I am?"

"Yes, sorry, I'm not, it's not a flashback, I don't know..." Ianto wouldn't meet his eyes -- not an uncommon occurrence, but at least usually he'd look somewhere in the direction of his face. "I'm not hungry anymore. You should leave."

Jack realised that all the way back to Cardiff, throughout the hospital and the trip home, Ianto was still camoflauging. He used anything and everything to hand, and Ianto was a good improviser. He'd used what words he had left, because he hadn't anything else. And now he was running out of energy to even find the words.

"I have nowhere else to be," Jack said quietly, not releasing Ianto's arm. "Maybe someone should stick around, keep an eye on you."

"I can look after myself."

"Ianto, we're on the same side. You don't have to look after yourself."

Ianto stumbled forward when Jack tugged gently. He pressed his wounded face against Jack's shoulder, shuddering as Jack slid a hand around his waist, cupped and held the back of his head gently. Jack could feel the rising bump where they'd coshed him. He half-expected tears, but Ianto didn't cry, just trembled. His hands dug into the leather of Jack's belt, clinging to it.

Telling him things would be fine was pointless, Jack had learned that a long time ago. But he'd also learned other ways to distract and reassure.

"Come sit down," he said, in Ianto's ear. "We'll get something you can eat. You should call Tosh tonight, say hi, make sure she knows you're fine. You're stuck here until you're feeling better, day or two at least. Owen's going to bring Tosh her computers, I can bring you some...books or something."

This got a muffled, unhappy laugh out of Ianto, who stepped back and rubbed his face with his hands.

"The curry place," he said quietly. "It's around the corner from my flat. That's where it is."

Jack left him sitting on the couch while he went to scrounge them something edible. When he returned, Ianto was at the small table he apparently ate and worked at when he was home, writing on a sheet of white paper. His handwriting was tidy as usual, but the text trailed down at the end of each line, like a child's.

"It's a list," Ianto explained, when Jack took the paper out of his fingers. "For you and Owen to do at the Hub. And Suzie, if she's feeling better."

For a second the surreality of Ianto thinking that a dead woman could feel better rolled over Jack like a wave.

"Gwen," he corrected gently.

"Right, that's who I meant." Ianto accepted the greasy paper bag Jack offered, but he didn't open it or begin unpacking. Finally Jack took the bag back and did it himself.

It couldn't be said that Ianto did more than pick at the curry. He ate plenty of naan, though, breaking the bread into small pieces and chewing them efficiently, wincing every once in a while when it pulled the bruised muscles around his jaw. After the third or fourth wince, Jack got up and silently shook out one of the painkillers. Ianto took it like a tired child, obediently washing it down with the last of the tea.

Jack watched him reach for more food and studied the list he'd been making. Feed Myfanwy, feed the weevils, double-check that Owen had run the autoclave, review the morning security logs, review and tag the morning police reports, check the incursion report on the mainframe --

"Some of this is Tosh and Gwen's stuff. Have you been doing their jobs?" he asked, surprised. Gwen might have fobbed a job or two off on Ianto, though he doubted it; Tosh, he thought, would be insulted at the idea.

"No. But you have to if they aren't there," Ianto replied.

"Is there anything that happens in the Hub that you don't know about?"

"No. I know everything," Ianto said, and gave him a weak smile. Then he looked down. "Sorry."

"For what?"

"What you said -- about defending myself. I didn't used to be a miserable bastard all the time, you know. I've just got used to it."

"Being a miserable bastard?" Jack asked. "You're really bad at it. I mean, compared to Owen."

"Defending myself."

"Ah." Jack pushed his curry aside. "I can see how it would be necessary."

"Not just that, not just here. It was just me and my dad growing up, and that was all right, but then he died and it was just me. Torchwood gave me a break, stopped things from kicking me around so much. Lisa wasn't the only reason I came back when I came to Cardiff. I thought, Torchwood is Torchwood, at least I'll have some kind of chance. I just thought it was me against the world again, once she died."

"Why are you telling me this?" Jack asked. "Not that I don't want to hear, but I don't understand."

"I don't have to fight you."

"Not if you don't want to."

"That's...good." Ianto nodded, almost to himself. Jack could see the slight glaze in his eyes that meant the painkiller was kicking in. "I didn't want to die, Jack, I really didn't. I just thought, well, Tosh'll get help. I knew she'd come back for me. I don't think I've ever just known someone would come back for me." He glanced around the kitchen, looking slightly bewildered. "Christ, I'm tired."

"Come on." Jack stood and offered his hand, helping him out of the chair.

Ianto let himself be walked to the bedroom and guided to sit on the edge of the bed. Jack switched on the cheap bedside lamp and glanced at the clock next to it, flicking the alarm button to off. Ianto unbuttoned his shirt and slid it down his arms but he didn't seem to know what to do next, so Jack pulled back the bedcovers and put a hand on his chest to ease him flat.

Instead of lying back, however, Ianto hooked his fingers in Jack's belt again and tilted his face up, kissing him. Really more of a brush of his lips, misjudged depth and timing, but it was enough to startle Jack into freezing. It gave Ianto time to adjust the lean of his body and kiss him properly.

Jack, who was big on self control but also big on going with the flow, kissed back.

Ianto pulled away after a second or two, opening his eyes.

"My timing's terrible, right?" he said, a hint of real amusement in his voice.

"Just a little," Jack murmured. "Why did you -- "

"I don't have to fight you anymore," Ianto answered, almost too quickly. "We're on the same side. You said so," he added, sounding petulant.

Jack threaded his right hand through Ianto's still damp hair, mindful of the bruises. "That's why you've been hanging back? How long...?"

"Only since about two minutes after I met you."

"Oh." Jack shook himself back to reality and leaned back. "Lie down. Sleep."

Ianto nodded, eyes already half-closed. Once he was in bed, curled into a ball in a messy nest of blankets, Jack switched off the lamp and left the room.

He cleaned out the refrigerator in the kitchen to give himself time to process, and anyway it had to be done. Cod and stew beef and precooked heat-and-eat meatballs in the freezer, half a tub of chicken fried rice, leftover pasta with cream sauce and prawns, and deli meat in the fridge. Apparently when left to his own devices Ianto Jones was a protein fan.

And, Jack thought as he sampled the pasta, a good cook.

Well, Ianto and Tosh might fuss about meat for a while, but worse happened in war, as they always said, and Jack had no trouble differentiating prawns from people.

He should go back to the Hub, check in, at least set up a remote monitor. He should check on Tosh too, but she was probably asleep. And he had no guarantee how long Ianto would sleep, and someone should be here in case he woke up confused.

Jack set the pasta aside, took the rest out to the trash, and then settled on the couch with the fork. He wasn't actually very fond of vegetarian himself.

Once he'd finished the prawns and washed out the dish, he wandered back into the living room. Small place, even if it was bigger than the places he'd lived when he was young. Refugee housing, barracks, small bachelor room at the Agency, hotel rooms, a spaceship built for one plus temporary guest, the Hub, officers' tents and more barracks. It was smaller than the TARDIS, though, and also the pretty little house he'd had the one time he'd given married life a try. This was still a place for sleeping and eating, not really for living.

Despite that, it had a sofa and a bed and kitchen gadgets. It had a little table for eating at, a floor lamp, two bookcases.

He studied the books, skimming over the neat stack of well-thumbed Fleming novels, stopping at one hardbound and pristine edition of Casino Royale. Inside the front cover, under a plain bookplate proclaiming it the property of Ianto Jones, there was a short inscription:

For Q
Dreaming of being Bond
Love
Lisa


He closed it and replaced it carefully. Next to the novels were research texts, the kind someone working at the London branch would probably need. History and mythology, astrophysics (surprising to see highlighting in the text; he'd have to ask Ianto how much he comprehended of it, sometime later), University-level Chemistry and Biology texts.

There were also two or three cookbooks, followed by a handful of biographies, mostly of old cinema stars. The DVDs bore out that preference: classic movies and silent films -- someone had reissued The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, which Jack hadn't seen in decades. There was a cheap battered copy of I Claudius. The Marx Brothers. An American In Paris. Magnum Force. Not many modern films, none that he could recall from the last year or so. Lots of Criterion Collection. M, which Jack had seen on the big screen in a crowded hall in Berlin before the second war.

A young, slick, well-paid researcher at a top-notch London firm, with a hot girlfriend and a bright future, had apparently stopped existing about eight months ago. Quiet, subservient, lying, miserable, shabby-flat-living Ianto Jones had stepped up into his place. The gap was visible where the DVDs left off on one shelf and the books started again on the next.

Welsh history and tourism. An electrical engineering text, dogeared throughout and flagged. Medical journals with articles about the latest research into cybernetics. Two books by Tanizaki, the man Lisa had killed. A box full of take-away menus not for Ianto's neighborhood but down by the Quay near the Hub.

A book on avian biology threw Jack for a minute, until he saw the paleontology text next to it; Ianto had said something about Myfanwy eating cat litter for grit and proving the link between birds and dinosaurs. Apparently that would explain the presence of The Beginner's Guide To Rearing Chickens as well.

Strange life for anyone, Jack thought. Stranger still for some bloke in a suit who liked German Expressionism, or at any rate wanted people to think he liked it. But even the distant foreign Ianto of London didn't strike him as much of a poseur. Get kicked around by the world long enough, and at a young enough age, and status symbols cease to matter.

"I haven't been able to find the remote for about two weeks," said a voice from behind him, and Jack turned from his examination of the DVD library. Ianto was standing in the doorway, watching him. "Reckon a film's better than channel-surfing without a remote anyway, though."

"I was looking," Jack said. "You like Dr. Caligari."

"Ja. And Metropolis, and Eraserhead." Ianto took a step forward. "Used to, anyway. They lose appeal after Torchwood."

Jack drifted his fingers along the titles. "And the Marx Brothers?"

"They never lose appeal."

"You like history," Jack said, tasting the idea. Ianto wasn't the blank slate he'd presented himself as, every day at work in that suit and tie. He had a past, there were things he liked and didn't like. "You like old things."

"Don't mistake me," Ianto said, the nasty edge back in his voice. "I live in the real world, Jack, just like you."

"But all this?" Jack asked lightly, indicating the bookshelf.

"It isn't real. For a while I don't have to live in the real world," Ianto answered. He looked miserable and exhausted and too young. Far too young for Torchwood.

Q, Jack thought. Dreaming of being Bond. A middle-of-the-ranks kid with more brains than muscle, who just wanted to be someone special.

"Go back to bed," Jack said softly.

"I wanted something to drink," Ianto replied, tilting his head at the kitchen. "Can't help that I caught you snooping."

"I'm curious. And you're extraordinary."

There was a snort of derision from the kitchen, as the tap went on.

"I'm impaired, and you're using pick-up lines," Ianto corrected. He flicked the tap off and lifted the glass to his lips, drinking slowly.

"Never so effective as when they have the ring of truth. But if you want me to wait and try them when you're not impaired, I can do that too."

"You really think you need them?"

"You tell me."

Ianto regarded Jack over the edge of the glass. "This isn't going to be healthy for either of us, you do realise that."

"I'm older than you, I'm your boss, and I'm secretive; you're young, confused, grieving, and mean sober," Jack said. "That cover it?"

"Except for the part where I'm not gay, yes."

"Labels," Jack said dismissively. "Who said you had to be?"

"You're that irresistable, are you?"

Jack just grinned at him. "Go to bed."

"Go home," Ianto replied, finishing the glass of water.

"I'm not going home tonight."

They stared at each other for a while. Jack was a patient man.

"Didn't it touch you at all, Jack?" Ianto asked finally. "Aren't you hurt...or afraid...or...something?"

Haven't you ever loved anyone?

Ianto certainly knew the right questions to ask.

Had it frightened him? All the things he'd seen, it was hard to know. He'd seen boys younger than Ianto hung on razorwire between the trenches. He'd seen men and women slaughtered by Daleks. He'd seen London and Cardiff bombed. He'd seen himself torture people. Always with the best of intentions, oh yes.

"Yes," he said, and held Ianto's eyes. Ianto inhaled.

"You can stay," he replied.

"I was going to."

"Yes, but now I've given you leave." Ianto still hadn't looked away. "So. Compromise?" he added, and leaned forward, reaching around Jack to rest a hand on the rack of DVDs. It almost brought their bodies close enough to touch. "You can stay, but I'm not going to bed."

"What are you -- " Jack stopped when Ianto leaned back again. He looked down at the case in Ianto's hand.

"I can sleep as well on the sofa," Ianto said, opening the case.

"M?" Jack asked. "You want to watch M? Now?"

"Yes."

"Why?"

Ianto put the DVD into the player. "Because the monster was human after all."

You're the biggest monster of all.

Jack stepped back, propped himself on the arm of the sofa, and watched as Ianto fiddled with the machine, obviously not quite capable of programming it himself. He slid his right hand over his left wrist and tapped a few buttons on his strap, quietly. A faded grey logo appeared on the screen and Ianto looked relieved. Music, once tinny but now remastered by Criterion, came over the speakers.

Ianto turned to look at him, then crossed the floor and eased himself down onto the sofa. Jack slid over, down the arm, and rested a hand on Ianto's head, ruffling his hair gently.

"You said you'd sleep," he reminded him. Ianto glanced at him and then, very carefully, leaned against his shoulder until Jack took the hint and let him settle, head in his lap, Jack's feet propped comfortably on the table.

This is going to be our movie, he thought to himself with not a little bit of dismay. For the rest of his life, he's going to associate me with a German film about a serial killer.

Ianto's shoulders twisted slightly, and Jack felt him relax. From what he could see, his eyes were closed.

"You'll miss the subtitles," he said gently, after a minute. Ianto didn't respond. Jack settled in, careful not to jostle him, and watched the film as Peter Lorre began to whistle Grieg's In der Halle des Bergkönigs.

Plenty of monsters turned out to be human in the end. The most he supposed he could ask was for Ianto to remember that. Then there might be enough, between his charm and Ianto's bullheaded determination, for them to be going on with.

END

[identity profile] quinn222.livejournal.com 2008-10-31 11:15 pm (UTC)(link)
I liked this a lot. There are so many fics in this genre that it's rare to read one that has a new take on it and a new emotional tone but this one does.

[identity profile] tacittype.livejournal.com 2008-10-31 11:26 pm (UTC)(link)
I loved this! I really enjoyed Ianto getting his grump on, and the vulnerability that it was concealing. And Jack was great in it too, nurturing without being fretful. The dialogue was fantastic.

(I don't think we have £100 notes - I've never seen one, anyway. The largest common use note is a 50.)
ext_3690: Ianto Jones says, "Won't somebody please think of the children?!?" (children)

[identity profile] robling-t.livejournal.com 2008-10-31 11:54 pm (UTC)(link)
"I'm mean sober." Ianto turned to look out the window. "Just quieter."

...Ouch. S1 Ianto, in a nutshell.

[identity profile] starstealingirl.livejournal.com 2008-10-31 11:54 pm (UTC)(link)
This is beautiful. And now, officially, my personal canon for how their relationship began.
shehasathree: (library)

[personal profile] shehasathree 2008-10-31 11:56 pm (UTC)(link)
love.
especially since i just watched Countrycide for the first time last night. :D :D :D
bookshelves - i've always maintained that they can tell you important (or at least interesting) things about a person. i really liked that bit.
ext_77335: (word nerd)

[identity profile] iamshadow.livejournal.com 2008-11-01 04:49 am (UTC)(link)
Agreed. Just about the first thing I do when I go to someone's place for the first time is look at their bookshelves. It's so revealing.

[personal profile] starkdependant 2008-11-01 12:31 am (UTC)(link)
This was lovely and heartbreaking Sam, well done.

[identity profile] louiex.livejournal.com 2008-11-01 12:41 am (UTC)(link)
A gorgeous new take on the post-Countrycide situation between the two of them~

[identity profile] demotu.livejournal.com 2008-11-01 01:18 am (UTC)(link)
Wow. This story hit me in so many places, I kept inhaling and murmuring to myself the whole way through. It's so sharp and clear, and I love what you do to both these guys so much.

"Just a guess, but you're probably a mean drunk," Jack said, stung.

"I'm mean sober." Ianto turned to look out the window. "Just quieter."


*wince* So wonderful. And Jack here:

"I'm curious. And you're extraordinary."

Made me fall in love with him all over again. He's gorgeous.

[identity profile] demotu.livejournal.com 2008-11-01 05:33 am (UTC)(link)
And, rereading this (which I'm sure I will do many times, thankyouverymuch), this line struck me hard:

Plenty of monsters ended up human in the end.

with the second meaning in there. You are a genius, and a masterful one at that.

(no subject)

[identity profile] demotu.livejournal.com - 2008-11-01 17:57 (UTC) - Expand

[identity profile] nikki4noo.livejournal.com 2008-11-01 01:19 am (UTC)(link)
With all the stories about Countrycide out there, it is very hard to find ones that don't hash over the same grounds. F

For me, personally, I don't believe that Ianto started anything physical with Jack until TKKS. Yes there was probably a kiss or two, instigated by Ianto and then stepping away from Jack quickly. Ianto had to forgive himself for Lisa and the deaths of two people before he could move forward. Then there was Jack confusing the crap out of him the whole time he was trying to do this.

This story fits in very nicely with what I could see happening between the two. We had the caring Jack who uses his charms to protect and care for his team, but still maintains that little rough around the edges. Ianto, the real Ianto starting to slip through and showing Jack the complex, broken, wonderful individual that is inside and hiding most of the time.

(Anonymous) 2009-05-29 10:08 pm (UTC)(link)
Yeah, your right. They didnt actually start shagging untill TKKS. Jack not want for trying though. Great fic.

[identity profile] angely78.livejournal.com 2008-11-01 02:02 am (UTC)(link)
Beautiful. And incidentally...

"I don't know the word I want. It's missing."

"It'll come home when it gets hungry. Don't worry about it," Jack replied.


...now, whenever I'm writing and cannot think of the word I want, I will have these lines going thru my head.

[identity profile] sam-storyteller.livejournal.com 2008-11-01 05:23 pm (UTC)(link)
It's something my mum says to me when I can't think of a word :D

[identity profile] tiger-flame.livejournal.com 2008-11-01 02:26 am (UTC)(link)
*hugs* as always, amazing *hugs*
thornsilver: (Default)

[personal profile] thornsilver 2008-11-01 03:03 am (UTC)(link)
Oh, boys!

[identity profile] vivichick.livejournal.com 2008-11-01 03:04 am (UTC)(link)
I will never NEVER get enough of the careful, sometimes awkward, silent negotiations of Jack and Ianto's beginning.
It's so telling of how they view themselves and their internal thoughts, even when you don't give voice to them.
Lovely, Sam.

[identity profile] wellowned.livejournal.com 2008-11-01 03:40 am (UTC)(link)
this is probably the best coda to an episode i've ever read.

(and that's going beyond this fandom, as i've yet to read anything this expressive in any other fandom as a coda.)

[identity profile] volitaire.livejournal.com 2008-11-01 04:00 am (UTC)(link)
Your writing leaves me speechless.

I hope you publish one day.

[identity profile] sam-storyteller.livejournal.com 2008-11-01 04:35 am (UTC)(link)
Thank you! I hope I do too :D

[identity profile] adjovi.livejournal.com 2008-11-01 04:41 am (UTC)(link)
Q, Jack thought. Dreaming of being Bond. A middle-of-the-ranks kid with more brains than muscle, who just wanted to be someone special.

oh jesus... i completely agree with poster above--this is such a different take on the tone of emotions. i loved the revealation that ianto was shielding all of the time, and jack knew he wanted him to leave once he'd run out of defenses. lovely, gorgeous fic.
ext_77335: (coffee)

[identity profile] iamshadow.livejournal.com 2008-11-01 04:59 am (UTC)(link)
This is quiet and melancholy and real. I love Ianto letting his guard down that bit, letting that edge show. There's a lot of anger inside him, and there are few times in canon that we really get to see it openly. It's too good an opportunity for Jack to pass up; a chance to see what makes Ianto tick. A few carefully worded questions, and Ianto's let him see something close to his true self.

I love it that Ianto makes the move, and that it catches Jack a little offguard. You see that in TKKS - when Ianto is all saucy about the stopwatch, Jack's all "Wait? What? Ohhhh, okay, gotcha." For someone who flirts with anything that moves, he seems uncharacteristically thrown when it's Ianto using a line on him. I like that Ianto has that power over him; that ability to keep him a bit wrong-footed. I think it's probably what appeals most to Jack about him, when it all comes down to it. After a couple of hundred years whoring his way around the galaxy, finding someone who can still surprise him like that has got to be attractive.

[identity profile] rainey-creek.livejournal.com 2008-11-01 05:27 am (UTC)(link)
I really, really like this. It feels so plausible.

[identity profile] polaris-starz.livejournal.com 2008-11-01 05:31 am (UTC)(link)
Jack glanced from Ianto's slowly bruise-darkening young face to Owen set jaw.

Should be "Owen's set jaw" I think.

This is wrenching. Ianto's defensive mechanisms and surliness, the little details about getting them to the hospital, having to throw out all the meat. This is amazing:

A young, slick, well-paid researcher at a top-notch London firm, with a hot girlfriend and a bright future, had apparently stopped existing about eight months ago. Quiet, subservient, lying, miserable, shabby-flat-living Ianto Jones had stepped up into his place. The gap was visible where the DVDs left off on one shelf and the books started again on the next.

Well done.

[identity profile] sam-storyteller.livejournal.com 2008-11-01 04:40 pm (UTC)(link)
Well caught! *fixes*

I do think Ianto must have been a much different person in London -- I like to think that he was just a bit of a cocky young hotshot. :D

[identity profile] darthhellokitty.livejournal.com 2008-11-01 07:28 am (UTC)(link)
Oh, that's just wonderful. I tells so much about both of them. It's so important to get that unimpeded study of the person's bookshelves.

[identity profile] dragynville.livejournal.com 2008-11-01 07:45 am (UTC)(link)
A gorgeous, new angle on some favorite situations: post-Countrycide stories and the start of their relationship. :D
elisi: (Stopwatch by kathyh)

[personal profile] elisi 2008-11-01 09:00 am (UTC)(link)
One of the reasons I love Jack/Ianto so very much is that the show did show us how or when exactly they ended up together, so we can speculate endlessly.

This was yet another superb version. :)
ext_89519: (Keira: long hair)

[identity profile] christophem.livejournal.com 2008-11-01 09:45 am (UTC)(link)
I really, really enjoyed this. It's comfort and fluff and angst and canon. Tosh breaks MY heart too, I love the Jack-Tosh interactions you've written. And I love mean-but-hurting Ianto.

[identity profile] beggar-always.livejournal.com 2008-11-01 12:25 pm (UTC)(link)
Oh I love this! Especially the "I'm mean sober...Just quieter." line. Thanks for writing it!
marginaliana: Buddy the dog carries Bobo the toy (TW - Bitchy Lesbians)

[personal profile] marginaliana 2008-11-01 04:27 pm (UTC)(link)
For the rest of his life, he's going to associate me with a German film about a serial killer.

Hahahahaha oh, Jack.

Page 1 of 3

<< [1] [2] [3] >>