Notes: The full oneshot for #26 out of 'Snapshots of Smiles'. Requested by Paraxenos.
Disclaimer: I do not own Torchwood and I am not making any profit from this work.
Jack glances up from where he's peering over the shoulder of Tosh's replacement - as much as he hates to think it - and frowns at Gwen quizzically. He realises rather quickly why she's called, though, and takes the stairs up to the kitchen two at a time to reach Ianto before he drops.
Gwen wasn't actually anywhere near Ianto - probably why she yelled for Jack - but she jogs up too as Jack removes the empty tray from Ianto's fingers and hooks an arm around his waist.
"Enough," he tells Ianto sternly. "That's enough, Ianto. You've reached the breaking point; now stop."
"I have to..." Ianto begins, but sighs and rests his head on Jack's shoulder.
"You have to take a break," Gwen says sternly, and plucks the tray from Jack, returning it to the kitchen. "You've been great, sweetheart, but you're exhausted."
She busies herself washing up in the kitchen - she's the only one allowed, and Jack suspects it's a little allowance Ianto's made to keep her feeling liked. Gwen needs love, always has, and she and Ianto didn't have too much of a connection, really.
"What's going on?" one of the newbies calls up, and Ianto groans.
"Nothing out of the ordinary," Jack says. "Back to work."
"Work?" Ianto scoffs.
"Yes, that thing you do too much of," Jack scolds. "I swear, one day you'll just work yourself into a heart failure or something."
"You'll give me a heart failure," Ianto parries tiredly.
But the banter is half-mast at best. Ianto's exhausted, and the way he leans into Jack is testimony to this. It's Ianto's little pattern that's been going on for far too long. Jack thinks it probably started right after Lisa died, in a twisted way to make amends, and he hasn't been able to shake Ianto out of it again.
Ianto's pattern is simply this: he works, and works, and works. He keeps going, come what may, until he's so tired he starts wobbling on his feet and dropping things. He's fallen asleep standing up before and only woken if the resultant fall sends him down the stairs. And then he'll crash, and sleep for twenty hours, and spend maybe a week in a normal, human pattern of work.
And then repeat.
It drives Jack up the wall, it really does. It's needless, and harmful, and one day Ianto's going to take a nasty fall and nobody will be here to help him. But Ianto's driven himself into it hard, and nothing Jack can do seems to pull him out of it.
They only realised what was happening after Ianto collapsed at work, in the middle of the Hub, in front of the whole team. Previously, they found out, he'd dropped off in the archives, or caught brief, restless naps in the tourist office. Which was worse, in a way, because at least now Ianto got proper sleep between his fits of workaholism.
The first time, Jack had been wrenched from his office by Tosh's frightened scream. He had pounded down the steps to find Ianto lying in the middle of the floor, bleeding from where his head had caught the edge of Tosh's desk as he'd gone down, and Owen bending over him grimly.
"What the hell happened?!" Jack had bellowed, haring over, and Tosh turned terrified eyes to him.
"He collapsed! He just collapsed!" she'd cried.
Owen had figured it out. He always had been sharper than they took for granted, and he'd noticed Ianto's tendency to overdo it. But he had thought - like the rest - that Ianto went home at night now that Lisa and their guarded watch of him had gone. They had often been wrong, once again.
Now, leading Ianto up to his office and supporting at least half of his weight in the process, Jack silently thanks Gwen for keeping up the vigil that they had set up after Ianto's first collapse. With Tosh and Owen gone, and Ianto not wanting to fill in their new additions until they were properly trained in 'the important parts', keeping up that vigil is harder than it had been before.
Jack sits Ianto in his office chair, brushing a hand over his hair in a fond manner and laughing when Ianto simply sighs heavily and closes his eyes.
"What am I going to do with you?" Jack asks, and Ianto smiles sleepily.
"Plenty things. I'm sure you can think of a few," he mumbles.
"Yeah, maybe when you're fully conscious," Jack agrees, and looks up when Gwen slips into the office with the customary mug of packet soup. For a man so pedantic about his hot drinks, Ianto is pretty close to being addicted to powdered soups, and can happily thrive off the things on a long day.
"Thanks," Ianto says as she pressed the mug into his hands, and Jack hovers his own under the trembling fingers.
"Can you manage?" Gwen asks, and Ianto snorts.
"Just asking," she says, but there's no bite in it, and she leaves to keep the newbies out and down to their research into the weird weevil movement patterns lately.
Jack lets Ianto sit (slump) and drink his soup in silence, and goes down into his box-room to ready the bed and set up the nightlight, because Ianto utterly hates cramped, dark, underground, enclosed rooms with only one exit. Whether looking after Lisa, the Battle of Canary Wharf, Torchwood One, the cannibals, or unrelated childhood fears put that there, Jack doesn't know, but he deals with it.
And hopefully, later, he'll be able to crawl in with Ianto himself and keep the bad dreams away anyway.
Eventually (and slowly) he gets Ianto down into the box room. Ianto strips right down to his boxers and undershirt, not even bothering to wash up or fold up his clothes, and practically falls into the bed. He's out before Jack can cover him up properly, and he drops a short kiss to Ianto's cheek before leaving him in peace, closing the hatch above to keep out curious eyes.
Leaving his office and returning to his own research, he nods to Gwen's anxious expression, and fields off the newbies' questions with a short frown.
Give it a week, and they'll see it again, and then maybe they'll figure it out.
They think Ianto's weird anyway.