Ianto closed the door and leant against it, sliding to the floor in a flood of tears. He knew that he had lost everything in one day. Lisa was dead and he now saw her as a monster, his colleagues no longer trusted him and the one man who could have saved him, would have saved him, finally saw him for the traitor he was.
With each fresh revelation, the knife in his chest seemed to twist deeper, until with the last one he buried his face in his hands and keeled over sideways onto the floor.
Sobs wracked his thin frame, eating hadn't been a priority since he returned to Cardiff, an every part of him seemed to burn with an agonising maelstrom of guilt and loss.
Recollections flashed before his eyes, no matter how hard he tried to focus on the cobweb in the corner by the door, a testament to his distraction and disillusionment recently. He saw Abbie after Lisa had 'upgraded' her, reminding him of the times they had spent together before Torchwood, then he saw Lisa after Owen had stabbed her, thinking she was dead but secretly being more upset about the fact that Owen and Gwen had nearly been killed and it was his fault. Then it was Jack pressing a gun to his head and telling Gwen that he was, what was it? "Resisting the urge to shoot." Ianto wished he had, he should have, especially after what he said. Had he really called Jack a monster? He knew he had, the last 24 hours weren't going to become a bad dream just by wishing, and he hoped that Jack hadn't believed him; the captain was a hero, and the world depended on him not doubting that for a moment. But would Jack ever know that Ianto hadn't believed himself when he said it?
Jack was at that moment mired in self loathing and uncertainty magnified by years of experience. He was good at introspection. He'd sent the rest of the team home before Ianto, then told the young man to take a week to compose his thoughts before making a decision on whether he wanted to stay or not. Ianto had been all set to take retcon and leave Cardiff forever; Jack thought he would have taken his own life if Jack had asked it of him. For a moment, Jack wondered if it was purely selfish on his part keeping Ianto here where there were so many bad memories for him, but he pushed the thought aside roughly. Torchwood needed Ianto, and he was sure that Ianto needed Torchwood too.
The hub was virtually silent, even Myfanwy was quiet, sulking after her 'meeting' with the Cyberwoman as far as he could tell. He's always hated these times, when he'd been freelancing they had meant a disaster, but he'd got used to them since he started sleeping in the bunker under his office. The problem now wasn't the quiet, it was the emptiness. Jack had accepted the essential loneliness of his existence over a hundred years ago, but that hadn't stopped him from trying to fill it for brief moments over the years; he'd had to. Without someone filling that void, his life lacked purpose and point. And once upon a time he'd dared to dream that Ianto Jones, Torchwood's coffee king, would one day fill that space in his life. Maybe not even share his bed, that wasn't important these days, just be that someone who Jack needed to shed a light in the darkness, to tell him everything would be alright, someone he could tell the secrets that ate him away from the inside and still love him…
He slammed the door shut on that thought and pushed himself away from his desk, his feet taking him to the balcony to look down on the hub, still a scene of destruction. The power of Ianto's love had almost destroyed everything, but he couldn't blame him, not when he himself had once almost destroyed the world through greed. The guilt of that mishap still burnt him, he didn't deserve Ianto's love, even if he had had the slightest chance. With a love that strong, Ianto deserved and needed someone reliable, stable and strong; Jack was none of those things. He knew that one day the Doctor would reappear in his life and he would run off with him (after him?), he flirted with everything that moved and he had crises of confidence like this one. All in all, not a good choice for a relationship. He knew he could love Ianto as much as he deserved, God knew he did, love was something he was good at, even after all this time. But he wouldn't let himself. Ianto didn't deserve the destruction his love always brought.
Since he moved into this house, Ianto hadn't known when the post was delivered. If he was working it arrived after he left and if he had a day off he always slept until at least noon and it arrived whilst he slept. Today, however, it landed on top of him.
He hadn't slept, he'd just cried and lain there. Still with no desire to sleep, he got up and dumped the post on the kitchen table before making a coffee. As he drank it he went through the post and sorted it into piles of junk, bills and anything interesting. The third pile, even though he hadn't sorted his post for over a week, consisted of a postcard form his cousin who had been in China when she sent it, but by now was back in Huddersfield.
Ianto stuck the postcard to the fridge door with a thermometer fridge magnet, put the junk mail in a pile to recycle and went to file the bills, eternally grateful for direct debits. Looking round the living room he noticed the coffee cups on the table, the books in a pile on the floor, the newspapers folded untidily on the table and the sofa and the remotes lying all over the place. Back in the kitchen the picture was the same and he knew there was no change in the rest of the house. How did one man manage to get a house this size so messy? He took the coffee mugs through to the kitchen and washed them, then washed everything else that had accumulated. With that done, he set to work on the rest of the kitchen, descending into a frenzy of spring-cleaning.
Jack had got the computer systems back online by the time Tosh got in at nine o'clock, he pretended to be insulted when she showed how surprised she was but couldn't prevent the relief at not being alone any more from showing on his face. He was also grateful when she rested a hand on his arm and told him that she was sorry he'd had to face the decisions he'd had to make the day before, even though she left him with the warning that Gwen would have something else to say about it. He knew that one of the team would lambast him over how he had handled it, badly as ever, but that didn't mean he looked forwards to it. He'd had nothing but self-condemnation all night and whilst he deserved it, later was infinitely preferable to sooner and the guilt over that fact felt worse than anything he could remember feeling.
He carried on with the cleaning he had started, collecting mugs that Ianto had missed from around the hub and washing them, organising the bookcase in his office. Owen arrived whilst he worked and ignored him completely, which sent yet another spasm of guilt through him. How had he not noticed that something was wrong, Ianto had always been so thorough, a total perfectionist, but in recent weeks, maybe even months, his standards had slipped? And Jack hadn't noticed. He clenched his fist and resisted the urge to thump the wall, knowing that inflicting pain on himself wasn't going to solve the problems he had created. Yet again, he'd messed up royally, and he hoped he could put it right again.
Right on cue, Gwen appeared in the door of his office; he'd been so consumed that he hadn't hear her arrive, even with the alarms and flashing lights which must have accompanied her entrance. She was now glaring at him with her arms folded; 'Volcano Day' had arrived.
"Tell me about cybermen, Jack." The look on his face made it clear that he wasn't expecting that, so she felt she had to make the situation crystal clear, "I want to know what could possibly be so bad that you could treat one of your team, someone who relies on you, like shit. No, it was beyond shit, Jack. It was unforgivable. If last night is your true nature coming to the fore, Ianto was right."
"He was." Jack had broken eye contact with her almost immediately and was leaning on the back of his chair, his eyes fixed on the now clear top of his desk but clearly not seeing it, Gwen wondered what he actually saw, "Once upon a time I was a conman, a criminal. Then I met someone who made me better, but I think his effect's wearing off by now. I lash out when I'm scared, when I'm angry, when I'm hurt…" He smiled bitterly without a trace of humour, "When I'm jealous. Which makes me the exact opposite of the cybermen."
He passed her a file from his desk and she opened it, looking at reports from over the years of meetings with cybermen, he just repeated the information file she found on the first page, "The cybermen are extra-terrestrial, I think, although you won't find it in that file, that they first arrived on Earth just in time to cause the extinction of the dinosaurs, but the first date you will find in there is 1971 when they first tried to take control of Earth. They came back in 1986 and then in 2007."
"The ghosts?" She didn't look up from the file, but seemed disgusted by something she'd found in there. He wasn't surprised, considering what she would find in there.
He nodded, "Yeah, them. Torchwood one had eight hundred and twenty three staff, only twenty seven survived, and only seven of those were in the building on the day. We're incredibly lucky that we have Ianto, all things considered." He would never forgive himself if he'd ruined that.
"He was there?"
"No, he'd been sent out to collect some artefacts which Torchwood had 'acquired'." She heard the inverted commas drop into place, "He got there after the battle finished, but before we arrived, or he would never have got her out of there." The reason for this didn't need saying, "The cybermen are the way they are because they have had all their emotions removed. They believe themselves to be superior to all other forms of life as a result, and strive to make everything like them by upgrading them, turning them into machines of war. Never needing to stop, never faltering from their quest. You can't hesitate, if you face one and have a chance to kill it, you have to. Because even if you escape, some other poor sod won't be so lucky. It's not a life, it's an existence."
"So why did you hesitate before killing Lisa?"
He seemed at a loss, "I don't know. I think, I think it was because Ianto still saw her as the woman she once was, and I didn't want to take that from him. And also…" He hesitated, seemingly unsure of whether he should tell her what was on his mind, "I wasn't sure. I wasn't certain that my motives for stopping her were as clear cut as I would have liked."
"What other motive could you have had? You did the right thing as far as she's concerned." She still wasn't letting him off on his treatment of Ianto he noted.
"Jealousy." It was said in a small voice, sounding so completely unlike Jack that Gwen was sure someone else must have said it, but it was Jack's lips that had moved.
"Jealous of whom?" She looked completely incredulous.
"Of Lisa." Gwen was silent, shocked, "It's been a long time since anyone loved me that much. If anyone ever has." He looked completely broken, and Gwen resisted the urge to go to him and hold him, she knew that she couldn't be what he so desperately needed and that she shouldn't try. She filled the silence by reading Jack's report on the incident the night before, which he'd evidently recently completed; it was stained with tears which were still damp.
Reading through the report, she noted a gaping omission, "You haven't mentioned anything about how she got into the Hub. No mention of Ianto's involvement, except that he defended her."
He took the file back and looked at it in embarrassment, "We all make mistakes, some bigger than others, but this file will be here long after Ianto's gone. Mistakes like that shouldn't last any longer than they have to, and they certainly shouldn't be shared with the outside world." He straightened up and returned the file to his desk, "If the cybermen ever return, that file will have to be shared with every other authority. And I've heard a rumour that Torchwood 1 may be reopening. Under their policies I should have shot Ianto as soon as I found out."
"Then why didn't you? Would it have been worse than what you did?" She glared at him again as she recognised his distancing tactics.
Jack didn't turn back to her, "I didn't because I couldn't. Aside from the fact that I would have to live with the guilt for eternity, I cared, care…" he paused, "too much, I care too much for him to lose him like that. I know I'll lose you all one day, but by my own hand… I couldn't do it."
Ianto hadn't stopped all day. He'd got the kitchen, the dining room, both living rooms, the hall and the downstairs bathroom cleaned to perfection and had moved to the upstairs rooms. When he'd moved back to Cardiff, he'd bought a house this size in the belief that one day, Lisa would be properly alive again and they could start a family to fill this house. As it was, he'd never used the dining room or the second living room and only one of the bedrooms. A combination of moving from the centre of London to an obscure area of Cardiff and a Torchwood salary had enabled him to buy a nice and rather large house. He suspected that it would always be empty now. Probably best to move out into somewhere smaller actually. No matter what he'd said to Jack last night after the others went home, he couldn't leave Torchwood, it was all he had. He felt a familiar stab of guilt as the gratitude at Jack's not firing him, or shooting him, on the sport. It was all he had deserved, but Jack gave him a second chance. He hoped he was worth it.
The rift had spewed up three spikes during the day, two of which had produced nothing, but one of them had brought a very angry and very confused Terradonian through. Jack had tried hard to placate him, but had been forced to tell him that there was no way back. Encounters like this always left him feeling drained and guilty. Once upon a time he would have been able to take him straight back home, but today he was as stranded as they were, separated from the people they loved, desperately hoping for the coming of a man in a blue box who could make everything right again. Tosh had created a cover story for him and they had set him up in the alien quarter of Cardiff where he would have to start a new life. There were families there who had been living in Cardiff for over a hundred years and were on their fourth generation with no intention of ever leaving. Then there were the ones who'd been there a few years, who still asked him, when he saw them in the bar where anyone was welcome, if there was a way home yet. At that moment, every ear in the bar would tune in to hear him tell them that, no, they hadn't found a way to get them back yet, and a dark air would settle over the bar again. He didn't go there as often as he used to any more.
He was settled in his office writing up the report, then moved onto the pile of paperwork which had accumulated over the… he checked… years. Wanting to make Ianto's job as easy as possible if and when he returned, he settled down to complete the reports.
Author's note: Angst, angst, angst and it's only going to get angstier. Kudos to anyone who can pick up the more obscure classic Who reference in there. Some of the ideas are from the fic I was never ever ever going to write but which will follow this one.
I must also recommend the Doctor Who one-shot caled Tuesday, mainly because my brother, who acts as my beta reader when I'm not writing soppy angst and generally puts up with my Janto obsession, wrote it. I think it's very good, it made me laugh. There, now I can go back to being a cow to him, big sister and all that :)
I'm off on me jollies on Saturday (sorry, I'm from Yorkshire), so I will aim to get this finished by then. If not, I'll keep writing and try to find a wi-fi spot to upload it as and when I can. I hope you've enjoyed it thus far! I was sitting in the pub and nearly crying as I wrote the first bit :) Sad, I know
Disclaimer: Torchwood and the other little references to Who belong to the BBC. The only thing which belongs to me is the alien bar in the alien quarter of Cardiff, which I love but will gladly share with anyone who wishes to use it. Everyone needs somewhere to go for a drink with his or her more conspicuous friends.