Notes: My apologies for missed typos. I've pulled a muscle in my arm so one hand isn't moving as it should be and I keep pressing the wrong keys. Sorry if I missed any in my proofread.
Also, the brilliant response to this fic (thank you all so much!) has fuelled the creative flames for a couple more chaptered Torchwood stories. Both Ianto centric, one completely AU and one an AU cut of 'Meat' and beyond. As yet untitled.
Ianto came back to the Hub over a week later, pleading trauma and exhaustion. Without Owen's direct word against that, Jack couldn't do anything about it, and Owen was wise enough to keep Jones and Harkness apart as long as was feasible. But, eventually, Ianto came back, mostly healed and looking better than he had in a long time.
Jack had decided to stay out of Ianto's way and at least be civil to him. It would take time - probably a long time, he knew - for Ianto to even come close to accepting him, and Jack's own anger was only held at bay by the fear of Ianto going through with some of the things he had written about on his account.
He hadn't slept since the night before he'd visited Ianto. The nightmares about those words had been vivid enough for his tastes.
Jack was forced to trust Tosh and Owen in their way of dealing with Ianto. Gwen seemed to be adopting the same strategy as Jack - she was coolly polite, but never initiated conversation or contact, and avoided it if she could. Tosh, however, became Ianto's friend - they even met outside of work, occasionally - and Owen actually started to fulfil his role as the doctor, and therefore, the medical confidante.
Jack only heard of this, of course, after Owen submitted the report for signing.
"I'm putting Ianto on sleeping pills," he said briskly, and Jack blinked.
"He's not sleeping?"
"Funnily enough, no," Owen said dryly. "For some weird reason, he keeps having bad dreams and waking up again."
Jack rubbed at his temples, before saying: "How can you be sure that's safe?"
"What do you mean?"
"He's suicidal, Owen..."
"I know," Owen said. "He told me. I wrung it out of him under the doctor/patient deal. Don't worry, nobody commits suicide on the bastards I'm giving him. They taste disgusting and you have to dissolve them in water."
"To stop people offing themselves," Owen shrugged. "Excellent for PTSD sufferers and severe insomniacs. He'll train himself to sleep without nightmares just so he won't have to take the bastards any more."
Jack eyed the doctor for a moment longer before signing the report. He had to know - Torchwood rules - about any medications his team were taking. Normally, there wasn't any remotely interesting - asthma medicines, hayfever pills, the occasional antibiotic treatment, and, for older, more long-term members, happy pills. But not usually anything you could kill a man with.
"You're sure?" he asked, handing it back.
"Yes, I'm sure," Owen said.
"He...talks to you, then?"
"Not much," Owen said. "Just what I need to be aware of, as his doctor."
"So he's still keeping everything inside?"
"I think Tosh is dealing with that."
It came to Jack some time later, watching Owen and Tosh bicker across a desk like children while Ianto calmly and silently fixed whatever Owen had broken on the machine, that their excursion had worked, but not as he'd wanted.
There was a time - even before they found out about Lisa - that this would not have happened. There was a time when Ianto basically came into the main area of the Hub to serve coffee or attend meetings. Otherwise, he was the invisible presence in the archive or the tourist office, and nobody knew anything about him whatsoever.
Jack knew the existence of the invisible one, and it was a lonely place to be.
The breach had not vanished - it had moved. Now, instead of Jack being Ianto's connection to the team, he was the one estranged from him.
And that hurt.
He missed Ianto, truth be told. He missed the little smirks and the flares of barbed wit and the casual flirting with him across the room, when nothing needed to be said. Ianto had become his little goal - make Ianto smile, make him laugh, make Ianto pay attention to him, make Ianto care about him.
He would, had the evening played over, had spared Lisa. She had to die. But he would have spared Ianto the sights and sounds of her death. He would have spared him as much as possible, and not taken him to the country to add to his collection of horrors.
And the worst part was that Jack knew it wasn't going to end there. There would be more - worse, maybe - and eventually, Torchwood would kill Ianto, as it had killed everybody else.
He kept up a happy facade for the others. He smiled at their jokes and encouraged Tosh when her attention wandered and Gwen started a theory that Tosh had gotten herself a boyfriend at long last. Jack had privately chuckled at the put-out expression on Owen's face when he first heard that, and once, he would have theorised with Ianto later about it.
But now, Ianto didn't want to know.
Ianto's routine had changed too. He started his day in the tourist office, came down around lunchtime, didn't eat with the team, made coffee, worked in the archives, and went home when everybody else did. Sometimes, Jack knew, he went home with Tosh or Owen, after a particularly bad day; sometimes he went alone.
But he didn't stay in one of the little rooms set aside in the Hub for overnight purposes.
Those overnights had a sinister edge now that Jack knew what Ianto had done with them, but he still missed his presence. Had Jack gone for a nightly wander, he could find Ianto and talk to him and flirt with him. He'd even watched him sleep a couple of times (Jack had a thing about watching Ianto sleeping, he'd discovered some time ago) because the CCTV was too grainy to get the same effect.
And he missed that.
Jack eventually made the first move.
It was a simple thing, really, as first moves in those instances often are.
He brought him a coffee.
The coffee machine had died, promptly and abruptly, after Ianto was late in to work and Owen kicked it in a fit of caffeine-deprived temper. The new one wouldn't be coming for a while, and Ianto had retreated to the archives to finish sorting out some collapsed shelving that had messed up the system rather epically.
And Jack had brought him his coffee from Tosh's trip to Starbucks.
He hadn't said anything, just put on the desk by Ianto's elbow and offered the Welshman a small, tame smile.
Although Ianto hadn't smiled back, his expression was surprised.
And his eyes were no longer cold.
Jack knew then that their breach would heal. And maybe it wouldn't go back to the way it was before, but after everything that had happened recently, he was glad to at least have it back to a cautious friendship.
Maybe, someday, he could work for more.