Title: A Captain's Duty

Author: E.L. Evergreen

Disclaimer: I don't own them. Just a fan!!! Don't sue. Please.

A/N: The majority of this was written at 3am this morning… it's a bit long (forgive me) and blabbery, but my beta says I should post it. So, here it is.

A Captain's Duty

Jack sits quietly atop his desk, looking over the last of the paperwork for the day. He sent the others home early, feeling they deserve the rest. He sighs deeply, letting his eyes wander around his office. Though he's no stranger to disturbing and wicked things, the events he had witnessed today were enough to send a chill through him just thinking about them.

Gwen had been right in what she said: it would have been less of a shock coming from an alien… but, no. Humans were doing these things to each other.

And I sent my team right into it, he thinks to himself. He'll never forget the look on their faces when he burst through that door.

Gwen and Owen… they looked composed, but most likely they had been scared out of their minds. Toshiko; clearly frightened but determined as ever. Ianto…

He sighs again, forcing himself not to think of what could have happened if he had been just one tenth of a second later.

Troubled, he fights to understand what he had been thinking when he sent the two of them off alone. He hadn't thought it would take very long to find the SUV. Of course, he could have never been prepared for what they found. Never in a million years. The entire village.

He looks back down at the paper in his hand and shakes his head. The things people do to each other, and for what? Money? Fame? Selfishness? Certainly he wasn't one to talk of being selfish – after all, he was the one walking around with a stolen identity. An identity, he feels, he doesn't deserve.

Suddenly, he's aware of someone standing in the doorway of his office. It's Ianto, looking inconceivably tired and worn. The cuts and bruises on his face are enough to make Jack wince inwardly, and he's almost afraid to see any other possible, probable, injuries.

"I thought you went home," he says quietly, setting the papers aside.

Ianto is quiet as he studies the floor for a few long, awkward moments. "I-I didn't want go."

The underlying meaning is clear: he doesn't want to be alone. Jack doesn't blame him – after being tied up and nearly killed by an insane man with a meat cleaver, it's no wonder.

He feels guilty about not paying more attention to him after the events of the day. He arranged for Owen to take care of Gwen, and dropped Toshiko off… he had assumed Ianto would make his own way home, as always.

Some Captain you are, he scolds himself critically. "Are you okay?" he asks, trying to ease the tension in the room. Tension he can almost reach out and touch. In fact, it was worse now than it had been when the team found out about Ianto hiding his girlfriend-gone-wrong in the basement.

Ianto, once more, is quiet. Slowly, he reaches for a chair sitting near desk, pulls it to him, and sits. He winces in pain as he shifts in attempts to get comfortable, His eyes stay on the floor the entire time and he takes several deep breaths before speaking. "I thought we were going to die," he says quietly, his voice cracking. "I really, really thought it was over."

Jack opens his mouth to speak, but finds that words evade him.

"I didn't think you would find us," Ianto continues, his voice quiet, nearly inaudible. "I didn't think you were coming."

"You think I'd just abandon you?" Jack replies. He's partly astonished at such a thought… but mostly angry. He knows what it feels like to be abandoned, left scared and alone.

"I don't know. I thought… I thought maybe they got you, too. Or maybe you left, or—I don't know what I was thinking, I was just—" he shudders, and breaks off. A lone tear glides down his cheek.

He didn't have to finish the sentence for Jack to understand. He had just been afraid, and had every damn right to be. Jack suspects he never went through things like this at Torchwood One – after all, Ianto's a receptionist, a bookkeeper, a secretary, for loss of better description. It's not every day a secretary gets placed on the menu as an entrée for cannibal villagers.

Jack bites his lip, at loss for words. Of all the times to not know what to say. You're horrible, Harkness.

Ianto exhales deeply, pulling Jack out of his own, complicated world once more. "I'm sorry," he says. "I don't mean to drop these things on you."

"No," Jack replies hastily, "it's okay. The least I can do is listen." It's true: he led him into the place, the best thing he can do now is listen to how frightening it was.

"I don't want you to feel sorry for me," Ianto whispers.

What else am I supposed to do? He can't help but feel sorry for him. He's not trained like the others are.

Nevertheless, he replies, "I won't."

There are another few moments of an uncomfortable silence. Jack wonders why he's at such a loss for what to do. Then, suddenly, studying Ianto's face, his eyes lingering over each cut and forming bruise that they pass, he has an idea.

Sliding off the desk, he smiles lightly. "I'll be right back. Stay here."

--

He returns a few minutes later, a bowl of warm water in his hand, a few hand towels over his shoulder and a variety of other things in a small box. Ianto eyes both the instruments and Jack warily, but remains still for the most part.

Jack pulls a chair around from the other side of the desk, and sits in front of him. He dips a corner of one of the towels into the bowl and, after squeezing the excess water out, moves it towards Ianto's face.

He pulls back, almost as though acting on instinct. Jack frowns. "We'll never get anywhere if you're gonna act like that. Hold still, it won't hurt."

Ianto looks unsure, and remains tense, but allows Jack to dab at a cut above his eyebrow.

He works quietly, trying to be gentle but having to offer an apology when a specifically tender place is crossed.

"Why are you doing this?" Ianto asks, as Jack examines his face for any missed injuries.

"Because," Jack replies simply, distractedly. "I'm your Captain, and I'm taking care of you."

"You don't have to," he replies, wincing as Jack examines a bruise on the side of his neck. He paws him away gently. "I'll be fine."

Jack frowns at him again. "I'm not finished."

Ianto sighs. "Really, sir, please. If I were going to die, don't you think I'd have keeled over already?"

Clearly not amused, Jack continues to determinedly examine the younger man. "Tell me something," he says.

"Tell you what?"

"Anything."

Frowning, Ianto studies Jack, seemingly for some sort of sign as to what he's supposed to be telling.

"You accused me once," Jack explains, "of never asking about your life." He remembers that moment all too clearly. He wants to change it, though he's not entirely sure why. He wants to know more about the mysterious coffee-maker.

"T-there's really nothing to tell," Ianto replies. "I only said it because I was angry."

"There must be something," he says, ignoring the statement. "What's your favourite colour?"

"…Red."

"Nice colour," Jack says seriously. He catches Ianto grinning slightly out of the corner of his eye, but the smile is quickly replaced by a grimace of pain. He continues, "Favourite place?"

Ianto sighs with irritation. "Why are you doing this? Really, you don't have to." He pushes Jack away once more and stands.

Jack remains sitting, looking at the empty chair which Ianto had occupied only seconds before. It seems to him as though every time he tries to do what he feels is right, it backfires on him. Doesn't Ianto trust him? Though, Owen made the point a long time ago that there's nothing to trust: they don't even know who he is. Perhaps he should tell something about his life.

Why are you so desperate for him to open up to you? He wonders to himself. He's stubborn, like you. Just let it go.

"I was trying to help you, Ianto, because I'm your Captain. That's what a Captain's duty is – to take care of his men." The words leave his mouth before he can truly register them, but he knows instantly that saying them was a mistake.

"Is that it? Because it's your duty?"

Jack inhales deeply. "That's not what I meant. I mean… yes, that's what I meant, but…" Damn you, Harkness. Get a grip."I thought it might make you feel better. You don't get the credit you deserve around here."

Ianto scoffed. "For what? Making the best coffee in Wales?"

"That, and for putting up with the rest of us," Jack replies, standing. "You do more than you think."

"Trying to make me feel better again because it's your duty?!" Ianto snaps. Anger flashes across his face for an instant, so quickly Jack isn't sure it was even there. "I'm sorry, I didn't—"

"It's okay." He wanted him to break; to talk to him, tell him everything.

"I just feel like…" he trails off, and Jack isn't even sure if he knows how he feels.

Stepping forward, he places his hands on Ianto's shoulders. "You're important to us," he says tenderly, more so than he intends. It sounds strange to him, as though it's not his voice saying the words. "You're important to the team."

Ianto stares at him, his eyes studying his face for some sort of reassurance that his last words were not a masked lie. "…Am I important to you?"

Jack blinks at him, the question having caught him off guard. Ianto has obviously startled even himself, and he pulls back, breaking the eye contact they had held for so long.

Tightening his grip on Ianto's shoulders, he takes a long, deep breath before he answers. "Yes. You're important to me, too."

And it's nothing but the truth, even if he refuses to admit it to himself. He's afraid to let people in; afraid of what they'll think of the real Jack Harkness. But you're not even Jack Harkness, he argues inwardly. You don't even know who you are.

Instinctively, he looks down and finds himself shocked (and more than a little confused) to see another tear slip down Ianto's cheek.

"Ianto?"

Before he can ask what's wrong, what it was that he said, Ianto wraps his arms around his neck and buries his face in his shoulder. A distant but familiar twinge pulls at Jack as he strokes the back of his head gently.

He holds them there for the longest time, with no complaint. He feels as though he could stand there forever, just the two of them, hidden far beneath the ground, away from all the bad and horrible things that lurk outside in the night – and even in the daytime.

For the first time in a long time, Jack feels as though he's done something right; not because it's duty or because "someone has to do it," but because he wanted to. He wants this moment to last as long as it possibly can because he knows that, when it's over, it may never return.

The world around him seems to disappear. He smiles inwardly. It's a feeling he can't replace; one he can't possibly describe if he learned every word of every language on the Earth… and then some.

Ianto shifts in his embrace, but doesn't pull away. "I'm sorry, Jack."

He tenses a bit. It's a rare thing, hearing Ianto say his name. Don't start that, Jack hisses silently to himself. It's not the time or place.

"For what?" He forces himself to reply, praying his voice doesn't fail him and reveal that he momentarily drifted into a thought process that's completely inappropriate for the situation.

"Everything I've done."

Jack knows what he means: Lisa. "No use digging up old bones, Ianto, it's over."

"I had a dream a few nights ago," Ianto says, idly drifting to a new topic. "I haven't dreamt in a long time."

Jack was grateful for the subject change. "Really?"

"You were there. Just you. Nothing else. No people, no trees…no grass, or buildings." He scoffed into Jack's shoulder. "Are you thinking how silly it is?"

Jack pulls his head back, but keeps his arms wrapped about him. "No," he says. "I wasn't."

Carefully, cautiously, he reaches out and caresses the side of Ianto's face. He's a bit surprise when he leans into the touch, though he knows he shouldn't be.

The two of them have had their moments before, but this one's different. There's a door being opened here; a door that wasn't there before.

Slowly, Jack leans down and, after hovering for a few moments, presses his lips to Ianto's. He lingers there for a moment, feeling the arms that are wrapped around him tighten. Drawing back, he sighs quietly.

He didn't think Ianto's dream was silly. Not at all.