I don't own Torchwood.
Thanks to Aelfgyu for betaing.
It had been a tough day all round and each member of Torchwood was wrapped in their own little bubbles of personal angst.
Owen was still feeling guilty about the space whale, Herman. Ianto and he had decided that if they were going to be adopting the space whale, then it at least deserved a name. Owen had wanted to call it Ruddiger but Ianto had vetoed that, and Owen had vetoed Gethin, saying that they already had one Welsh moniker for a pet in the Hub and that was enough. So once Ianto had ordered in the plankton, they had decided upon Herman in honour of Moby Dick's writer Herman Melville.
Jack was in his office staring at the CCTV, and Owen wasn't exactly sure what he was supposed to be angsting over. He could be yearning for a normal life like Gwen's; he could be worried about the risk Rhys now posed to Torchwood. Or, on the other hand, he could just be lusting after Gwen herself. Owen had given up trying to understand Jack Harkness when he had died and come back to life within three days. There were certain things that as a doctor he had to selectively ignore to avoid going completely insane.
Tosh was sitting at her desk and staring blankly at her computer screen. Owen wasn't exactly sure what it was that Tosh was angsting over at the moment either. But he kept catching her giving him lingering glances. Once he looked up she always blushed and returned to her computer screen, so he reckoned it was either something he had done, something he hadn't done or something he was going to do in the future that had gotten her so wound up; whichever it was, worrying about it himself wasn't likely to help. She'd probably found his secretly encrypted folder of porn on the Torchwood mainframe.
Gwen was nowhere near the Hub at this point in time. When she had stormed off after her dramatic spat with Jack, they all assumed that they had seen the last of her for today. She'd gone home to Rhys, who had risen quite a bit in Owen's estimation today—which put him at around a four.
That wasn't a bad score on the Harper Scale of Absolute Genius (patent pending). Gwen was a seven, mainly because of that thing she could do with her teeth—Owen often wondered if Rhys knew about that. Ianto was a six, which was a vast improvement on last year when he'd been a two—due entirely to his exceptional coffee making skills.
Jack was a seven, because he was Jack bloody Harkness—Owen had much admiration for his skills with women. Jack had been a nine last year but had lost points for running off and leaving them. Tosh was the highest scoring on his list—an eight. Mainly because she was quiet and didn't aggrevate his hangovers, she sometimes brought him food and she had never, to date, shot him.
Owen was, naturally, the only person to have ever been awarded a ten.
Rhys had proven himself to be a good bloke today, and Owen was somewhat happy that Gwen had decided to stop mooning after Jack and stay with her dependable fiance. Although Rhys would never be able to fuck Gwen into exhaustion the way Owen had—he didn't have the stamina. And no matter what Ianto said, that wasn't just Owen being mean—it was his professional medical opinion.
Not that Owen felt particularly guilty about the affair; there hadn't been any real intimacy in it at all, just some energetic, wholly satisfying sex without the complication of actually having to pay attention to Gwen whittering on. Jesus, that woman could talk; before sex, during sex, after sex, in her sleep. Owen mentally moved Rhys up to a five—anyone that could listen to Gwen Cooper for sustained periods of time without wanting to shoot her deserved at least a five, maybe a six. That put him at the same level as Ianto.
Speaking of Ianto—Ianto had disappeared down into the archives not long after Jack and Gwen had their row. It was hard to tell what Ianto was angsting over. It could be any number of things. It was always hard to tell what was wrong with Ianto, if anything. In Owen's opinion, Ianto was much too quiet for his own good. Since Jack left them he had come out of his shell a bit, becoming more vocal in his opposition to Owen's slack attitude to work in general, quicker to comment sarcastically on the more far-fetched plans that Gwen came up with, more willing to make Tosh smile with a few gentle words in her ear.
Owen didn't pretend to understand what Jack and Ianto were doing. He certainly didn't pretend to know what exactly Ianto thought he and Jack were doing. Owen couldn't see what the teaboy was getting out of it.
Great sex, obviously, but this Ianto who was fooling around with Jack did not equate very well with the Ianto who was so devoted to the woman he loved that he risked destroying the world. Gwen and possibly Tosh were aware of Jack and Ianto's rekindled shagathon, but they were hardly broadcasting it. The way Tosh told it Jack hadn't even flinched when Ianto had been almost shot. In Owen's opinion, Harkness could be one uncaring bastard; even Owen would be worried if someone he was sleeping with was being held at gunpoint. What with Gwen's penchant for hostage situations, he'd become very well acquainted with having a lover held at gunpoint, or knifepoint, or tentaclepoint.
It had been three hours since Gwen had left, and Ianto still had not emerged from the archives. Owen was starting to get a bit tetchy—after all, he hadn't had any coffee in almost ten hours. The report in front of him was making absolutely no sense whatsoever, and he was making no progress on the physical detail report for the space whale.
Owen stood and moved up the steps to the main level of the Hub; Tosh was staring at her computer screen and Jack, yep, Jack was still in his office brooding. He ignored them both and made his way through the main Hub and down the dark, dank tunnels to the archives. He nervously opened the door, remembering the last time he had gone into the archives and Ianto warned him in a voice that was low and dangerous that should he ever 'accidentally' stray into K-M again, bad things would happen.
"Ianto?" he called; his voice echoed back at him through the cavernous room. Owen really didn't know how Ianto found anything here; the rooms were HUGE and interconnected by a series of complicated, winding corridors. They were also filled entirely with ancient, wooden bookshelves stacked to the ceiling with files and artefacts.
"Ianto, I need coffee."
"Owen?" Ianto's voice sounded lost and distant in the vast room.
Owen followed the sound of his voice and was surprised to find Ianto sitting on the ground in Da-De, his legs splayed in front of him, waistcoat open and tie slightly loosened. Ianto looked up at him and smiled slightly, just a gentle quirk of his lips.
"Why are you sitting on the floor?"
"When did you get so tall?" Ianto's smile grew but he made no attempt to get up, he patted the floor to his left. "Pull up a seat."
Owen dropped unceremoniously down beside Ianto and gave him a sideways glance. The younger man closed his eyes, and there was a bruise beginning to form on his left cheek where he had apparently been punched by one of the goons. His lips were parted slightly and a frown line was visible between his brows as he concentrated on pulling in sharp, shallow breaths.
"You all right, mate?" Owen asked worriedly; he hadn't realised that Ianto had been hurt at the warehouse.
"Of course, Owen; getting held at gunpoint by psychotic idiots is all in a day's work for the resident archivist. File, make coffee, order dinner, make coffee, get held at gunpoint, feed the weevils, make coffee, go home." The list was punctuated by several slight gasps for air but Owen still gave a quiet chuckle.
"It's been in a day's work for you for a while now though, hasn't it? Since Jack left; it's been Ianto Jones: part time archivist, full time badass!" Ianto gasped a laugh. "Where did you learn those stun gun skills?"
Ianto smirked, turning his head so that his cheek was resting on the damp, stone wall and he was face to face with Owen. "Standard training for all Torchwood One researchers, just in case anyone was in the archives without authorisation."
Owen smirked, then looked at Ianto seriously, running a professional eye over the younger man, taking in the flushed face and shallow breath, the slight tremor that caused his hands, resting palm down on the floor, to shake. Owen put a steady, calming hand on the other man's shoulder. "Come on, mate, let's take a look at those ribs, shall we?"
Owen stood and offered Ianto a hand up. Ianto stared at it for a long moment, contemplating it, then grabbed the proffered hand and let Owen haul him to his feet.
Gwen returned to the Hub just before 5pm. She felt bad about challenging Jack and wanted to clear the air. She didn't regret her decision—she was right about refusing to Retcon Rhys—but the team had gotten much closer following Jack's disappearance, and she didn't want to jeopardise that.
Entering the Hub proper, she expected it to be empty after the day they'd had. At this time of evening after a big case, normally only Jack was found in his office, and Ianto could be found hanging around in the Tourist Office or in the archives. Tonight, however, Tosh was sitting at her workstation sipping coffee from a Starbucks cup and glancing worriedly between her computer screen and the medical bay.
"Tosh? What's happened? Did the Rift alarm go off?" Gwen asked, confused. Tosh shook her head, not looking at Gwen. "No."
"Why are you still here, Tosh?" Tosh ignored her and glared at her computer. "Where's Jack?"
"He's in the medical bay." Tosh said, without looking up.
"Is he okay? He's not hurt?"
Gwen sighed impatiently. "Right then, Tosh, what's the matter? You have to understand how I feel. With Rhys. I can't lie to him forever. Tosh. I love him, he deserves the truth."
"Not everything is about you, Gwen." Tosh said sharply, finally looking up to meet Gwen's eyes. "Not everything is about you and Rhys. You can't come in here and fawn over Jack in the way you do and then claim to love Rhys."
Gwen frowned indignantly and opened her mouth to argue but Toshiko, quiet, gentle, passive Toshiko cut her off. "We see you, Gwen, it's obvious; you know how Jack feels about you and you use it to manipulate him—you did it today. And you don't care what it does to Jack or Rhys or Ianto."
"Wait, Tosh—where has this come from?...Ianto? What does this have to do with Ianto?"
"Gwen, you know they're sleeping together again; you saw the CCTV Jack tried to delete last week."
Gwen didn't see why this should make any difference whatsoever. "Yes, I know they're shagging again, but so what? I love Rhys and Jack..well…Jack's just Jack, isn't he? And him and Ianto; I can't exactly imagine them sitting in a romantic restaurant whispering sweet nothings into each other's ears." She laughed at that image. "They're just shagging, Tosh; Ianto told me when Jack was gone. Jack doesn't do monogamy."
Tosh spared her another look that was equal parts exasperation and disgust, then she stood abruptly and walked in the direction of the archives muttering about needing to do some filing.
Gwen frowned after her, wondering what exactly she had done to garner such a response. So what if she flirted with Jack? Everyone did—it was a reflex around Jack. Anyway, she was with Rhys and was going to stay with Rhys because Jack insisted she keep a normal life. "Don't let it drift." That's what he had said. And Ianto? She didn't have to feel guilty about Ianto; he was her friend, but he and Jack were just having sex. A physical thing existing solely because Ianto was lonely and Jack was horny. Ianto had told her as much when she'd tried to comfort him after Jack left.
She had no reason to feel bad. Maybe she had used Jack's feelings to get her own way, but it was for the right reasons: it was to protect her relationship with Rhys, it was most definitely not because she wanted to see if Jack could live without her.
Gwen went over to the medical bay to find Jack.
Ianto was sitting on the autopsy table facing her with Jack behind him. Owen was standing with his back to her.
Jack was standing in the medical bay nervously watching and pacing slightly as Owen spoke intently to Ianto, hands on his shoulders and faces close together. None of them seemed aware of her presence. Ianto glanced over his shoulder at Jack and nodded to Owen.
"Okay, Ianto mate: shirt off." Owen said brusquely, motioning to Ianto casually. Ianto smirked at him, then threw another look over his shoulder at Jack who gave him a small smile before looking serious once again.
"Off!" Jack said jerking his thumb, his voice brooking no argument. Ianto gave a small sigh and rolled his eyes but started to unbutton his shirt. The white shirt was spotless, and Gwen marvelled at how Ianto could keep a white shirt pristine whilst rolling around in a warehouse but Rhys spilt spaghetti bolognese down his white shirts at every opportunity.
Gwen watched as Jack moved forward to ease the material off Ianto's shoulders when the young man winced and tensed slightly. As the shirt fell from his shoulders, Gwen gasped at the bruises across his ribs and extending around to his back.
Jack frowned at his archivist's back: "When were you going to mention this?"
"I believe we had more important matters to deal with, Jack." Ianto winced and hissed a breath through his teeth when Owen started poking at his chest. "There was the small matter of incinerating Herman--" both Gwen and Jack's eyebrows raised at that but Ianto couldn't see either of them. "--then I had to retcon those bastards, create a cover story, make the fire at the warehouse, then I had to deal with Rhys—well, I had to start planning how to deal with Rhys—but you helpfully took care of that for me, didn't you, Jack?" Ianto said sarcastically.
Gwen frowned at Ianto's flip manner and opened her mouth to say something to him, but Jack beat her to it. "Thanks for the critique, Ianto, but how about you do your job and I'll do mine?"
Ianto smiled bitterly even though Jack couldn't see him. "That is my job, Jack. Retcon. Anonymity. Maintaining the security of the operation. Keeping you all safe from the outside world." He grimaced as Owen placed a cold stethoscope onto his chest and breathed as he was instructed. "Don't see why you felt the need to let Gwen do it this time. Maybe next time she can deal with the blood and dead bodies, and I'll deal with the empathy?"
From where she was stood Gwen could see Jack's expression clearly; at the moment he seemed to be swinging between anger, concern and a mix of the two. He pointedly ignored Ianto's bitter tone. "How is he, Owen?" Gwen saw Ianto roll his eyes again.
Owen looked up from his scanner. "Two broken ribs and some nasty bruising but other than that he's fine. I'll get some of that Gnosian cream that speeds healing, but no sex for at least a week." Both Jack and Ianto's heads snapped up in surprise and dismay. Gwen could hear the grin in Owen's voice. "You're not fooling anyone trying to be discreet."
"A week." Jack echoed absently. Gwen smirked; without sex to keep him entertained Jack would be bored out of his mind.
"At least a week, maybe more, Harkness. I'm not having him puncture a lung just because you can't keep it in your pants." Owen looked deadly professional as he prodded at Ianto's torso.
"Here, Ianto, where the hell are all my industrial strength pain killers?" Owen asked as he started to dig through his drawers. Ianto grinned down at him "Well, Owen, if you haven't taken them from the supply cupboard that I mentioned to you in that memo, then I would assume they're still there."
Owen threw him a dirty look as he made towards the stairs out of the autopsy bay. Gwen quickly ducked into the rarely used doorway next to the sofa so that Owen didn't spot her eavesdropping.
Once Owen passed, she snuck back to watch Jack and Ianto's argument break out in full force. Ianto was naturally quiet and dignified even in anger, but in the few times she'd seen him arguing with Jack he'd been a force to be reckoned with.
It was strangely beautiful to watch them fight. Like fire and ice, she thought. Jack was fire, all explosive rage and burning passion, igniting quickly but dying rapidly once the fuel was spent. Ianto was ice, cold and calm, his rage building slowly and enduring much longer.
When they fought it was entrancing, a clever dance of significant words and even more significant silences, piercing blue eyes locked in a battle of wills. Tense muscles and stiff body language. They could be masters of passive aggression, misplaced paperwork and instant coffee used as weapons in a war being silently waged within the Hub.
When Jack and Ianto fought, it could be frightening, chilling, breathtaking, beautiful in its simplicity or mesmerising in its complexity, but it was always, always entertaining for the others.
Gwen was therefore surprised, and slightly disappointed, to find Jack standing in front of Ianto holding Ianto's hands to his lips. He was muttering something into them that Gwen couldn't hear but Ianto was smiling up at him in a way that was both sad and tender.
"But you did, Jack. You did. You stood there and pretty much said that Torchwood couldn't survive without her." Ianto's voice was quiet and held only a small note of reproach. "That you couldn't survive without her." Ianto swallowed. "This isn't personal, Jack. I know you think I'm jealous, but I'm not, I'm really not. From a completely professional point of view we cannot place any one member above the Institute and the work that we do here."
Jack turned one of Ianto's hands and kissed the palm gently, then he placed it palm against his chest just above his heart. He gave a small nod. "So you'd retcon Rhys then?"
Ianto looked up at him, chewing nervously on his bottom lip. "No. We can trust Rhys for now, I think. I'm just saying, Jack –don't set a precedent"
"What, you mean like becoming emotionally involved with my employees? I'd say that you're a little late on that score, Ianto Jones." Jack grinned and moved to stand between Ianto's legs easing the younger man's head to rest against his chest.
"Well, then, I'd just say that as long as you maintain a professional distance at work then there's no problem. Thanks for today, Jack."
"What? You get taken hostage and beaten up and I get a thanks?!" Jack drew back slightly and gave Ianto an incredulous look.
Ianto smiled at him. "No, you didn't treat me like a damsel in distress-I appreciate it." He laid his head back on Jack's chest and closed his eyes.
"Yeah, well, I know how good you are with ropes."
The two men shared a laugh and then lapsed into a comfortable silence, Jack rubbing slow circles into the nape of Ianto's neck with the pad of his thumb, as Ianto relaxed against him. Gwen was starting to think that she might have made some mistaken assumptions about their relationship.
"Seen anything good?" Gwen jumped as Owen came up behind her startling her.
"Go home, Gwen," Owen said; he didn't even sound angry, just tired.
Gwen watched dumbfounded as he breezed past her and down into the medical bay shouting at the other two to "Stop getting sentimental all over my autopsy table!"
Gwen left the Hub silently and ran all the way home to Rhys re-evaluating her understanding of relationships. Her and Rhys' relationship, Jack and Ianto's relationship, her and Jack's relationship-did they even still have a relationship?
Gwen was only flirting with Jack because she knew nothing would ever happen. But using Rhys, manipulating Jack, hurting Ianto—what kind of a person was Torchwood turning her into? Or had she always been like this and was only now able to see it? She thought of all the times she had used Andy's sweet infatuation against him—nothing big, just getting the coffee, finishing reports so she could be with Rhys, covering shifts, endless favours that were never repaid.
So much for being Torchwood's supposed humanity.
Well, no more, Gwen told herself—she did love Rhys, he was dependable, stable, affectionate, loving. Rhys was the antithesis of Jack. Rhys was exactly what she needed to keep her sane, to stop Torchwood from making her hard, making her cruel and manipulative. She had the potential to be aloof and calculating, she realised, and Torchwood would hone that ability. But Rhys.. Rhys would ground her, anchor her, save her.
With a renewed burst of affection for her fiancé, Gwen marched straight into the flat and, taking care not to jostle his arm too much, led Rhys to the bedroom to show him just how fully she appreciated his steadfast loyalty.
Owen sighed as he tidied away his equipment; he couldn't expect Ianto to do it for him tonight. Today he really had learned his pay as Torchwood's resident physician: a bullet removal and broken ribs—not a bad day's work.
Jack and Ianto had been in Jack's office for almost an hour now. Tosh was still at her computer, and, from the way that Jack had been pacing around and checking the window of his office every two minutes, Owen could tell he wanted Owen and Tosh gone as soon as possible.
So, Owen had decided to tidy up his stuff and take Tosh out for a drink. Leave Jack and Ianto to whatever it was they got up to after hours. That was their business, and no matter how much CCTV footage Tosh e-mailed to him, Owen didn't want to know. He looked, but that was solely for scientific purposes.
Throwing the last of the soiled bandages into the bin, Owen grabbed his jacket and trudged up the steps to where Tosh was staring blankly at her computer screen.
"Come on, Tosh, I'll buy you a drink."
Tosh looked up and blinked a bit blearily at him. "I'd better finish this, Owen."
"No way, Tosh," Owen said, pulling Tosh's jacket off the coat rack. "Let's go. You. Me. Drink. Now."
Tosh smiled and relented. "Fine, Owen, you win."
Owen helped Tosh into her jacket, and, over her head through the glass wall of Jack's office, he could see Ianto sitting at Jack's desk with his head on the table. Jack was sitting on the desk carding his fingers through Ianto's hair.
When Jack looked up and caught Owen's eye, he gave a small smile. Owen nodded and put a hand on Tosh's back to manoeuvre her towards the door, listening to her chatting about whatever program she had just designed. Owen smiled as the cog door rolled closed; Dr Owen Harper was officially off duty.
Both Rhys and Ianto were in good hands for tonight.
Thanks for reading.