Notes: The full oneshot for #61 from 'Snapshots of Smiles'. Requested by JantoGirl. Please note that this oneshot follows on directly from the snapshot, so you will need to have read that first.
Disclaimer: I do not own Torchwood and I am not making any profit from this work.
Jack stashed the new present far away in the depths of the archives, in a box that he wrote 'high risk of death upon contact' all over and buried under half a dozen other old artifacts that they had no use for. Not only did he not want anybody to come across it and touch it accidentally, but he didn't want Ianto to find it either, because he couldn't predict what Ianto would do if he did.
Jack would like to think that Ianto wouldn't do anything. That he would avoid it like everybody else, and eventually forget about it and carry on like nothing unusual had come through the Rift this time. But Jack didn't know that, and the look Ianto had given the metal box...
That look had frightened Jack, just for a moment.
He wasn't fool enough to think that Ianto was fine. He couldn't be fine; it hadn't even been six months since Lisa's death. Six months, when you loved someone as much as Ianto had clearly loved Lisa, was nothing. No time to heal, no time to move on, no time to forgive and forget, just a little bit.
And Jack didn't know if he could trust Ianto around things like that.
He'd been trying. Jack had known, even through his anger and his sense of betrayal, that something had gone wrong for Ianto to be able to get away with that. Jack had gotten complacent, somewhere along the line, and Ianto had been able to take advantage of that.
When Ianto had returned from his suspension, Jack had tried, very tentatively at first, to put things right. He thanked him for the coffees and the cleaning service; he asked how he was every day; he once even invited him out to the pub to watch Wales v Romania and said he'd buy the consolation round when Wales lost. He had been rebuffed that time, but he'd tried.
'Out of sight, out of mind' came to Jack's thoughts. Ianto seemed a lot better. He functioned normally, he came and went like the others did, he talked and interacted with the rest of the team...but there was still that barrier. He still didn't really connect with them. And although now he stayed after work to get paperwork done and usually ended up having a beer and watching a film with Jack in the conference room...it wasn't reassuring enough.
If Ianto could lie for all those months about Lisa, he could certainly lie for the last five months about being better.
So Jack hid the box, as deeply as he could, and locked the door of that particular storage room behind him, and hoped that the box, too, would pass out of sight, and out of mind.
"Where are you off to?" Jack asked as Ianto practically leapt up from lunch and didn't even start to clear up.
"Shelving collapsed in one of the storage rooms," Ianto said irritably. "Bloody stuff everywhere."
"And let me guess," Owen said, "it's one of the rooms that nobody's used in donkey's years, so the labelling is crap, and you hadn't got around to that bit yet."
"Bingo," Ianto said crossly. "And how did you figure that out?"
"A little thing called sod's law," Owen winked, and Ianto groaned.
"Very droll," he said.
"Remember your gloves," Jack called as Ianto left the room, and received an annoyed wave in return.
Ianto snapped the gloves on - designed to stop contact with any weird and wonderful alien devices that shouldn't be handled too much (or at all) - as he heaved open the door of the storage room. It was heavy and old, and looked like some kind of medieval dungeon from those exhibits in London. He'd taken his nephew to see them once, and he was still Davey's favourite uncle as a result.
For a little while, he simply sat with his back against the wall, surveying the damage and soaking up the cool darkness of the room. The single bulb hanging from the ceiling didn't do much in the way of light, but Ianto kind of liked it. It was quiet down in the archives, away from the team and the main parts of the Hub and the stupid, insane alien shit running around Cardiff and the rest of the bloody planet.
The tightening in his gut made Ianto groan and drop his head down in defeat. Fucking rats again. There just wasn't any relief these days - Torchwood policy designated his doctor as his shrink, and there was no damn way he was going to Owen about it. Owen would tell him to fuck off and that it was his own fault.
And it was. He should never have rescued her. He should have let her die...and then done it to himself.
With a heavy sigh, Ianto staggered up again and began to clear up.
Almost four hours later, Ianto's com beeped on the table. He heaved the cardboard box he had just dug out of the wreckage of timber and alien metal, and stuck the com link in his ear again.
"Yes?" he asked dryly.
"Where are you?" Jack asked.
"In the archives," Ianto said, a little irritably.
"You feel like taking a coffee break soon? Only I think Owen's about to go into withdrawal."
Ianto felt a pang of resentment as he examined the outside of the box. It was dusty and battered, and covered in Jack's handwriting, warning of death to any handler. He peeled back the tape and opened the lid, peering inside but not touching.
"Soon," he told Jack. "Just let me finish this one."
"Okay," Jack said, and the com died again.
Ianto removed it and frowned down at the box. It was a metal box inside a cardboard box, and he vaguely remembered it. It came about two months ago, so what in God's name was it doing down here?
Do not touch.
Of course. It was that thing Torchwood Two had had a copy of. That...killing thing.
Ianto lifted it carefully out of the box, something inside him screaming to let go, and another - perhaps stronger? - side screaming to take his gloves off and touch the bloody thing already!
Because right here was...absolution.
There was nothing on the other side. Nothing to bother him, ever again, and there would be him to bother in the first place. Cradled between his hands was a painless (in theory), irreversible (hopefully) way of...letting go.
Slowly, he put it down and peeled off one glove.
Tosh frowned over at her computer when it beeped for the fiftieth time, and she finally decided to deal with it. Honestly, technology didn't always makes things more efficient. She tore herself from poking at the alien puzzle and fiddled around on the computer before frowning even harder.
"Jack? I thought you said Ianto was going to come and make some coffee soon?"
"He is," Jack said from the autopsy bay, where he had been arguing with Owen over what, exactly, weevil liver could possibly be useful for.
"Well...he's not," Tosh said.
"Why not?" Jack scowled.
"He's left the Hub."
"What?" Owen said, coming up the steps. "No he hasn't. The lift's down here and he would've walked right past the lot of us to go out via the office."
"Well, my computers all say he's left the Hub," Tosh said irritably. She hated being told her technology was wrong. "The only humans in the Hub now are you, me, Jack and Gwen. Not Ianto. That's the only life-signs it's finding."
"Maybe he's just gone into a particularly deep bit of the tunnels," Owen suggested.
"We fixed that after Lisa," Jack rebuffed. He looked uneasy. "Can you check again, Tosh?"
She did - and shook her head.
"He's not here."
"Or..." Owen said, going a bit of a funny colour.
"Or what?" Jack demanded.
"That..." Owen pointed at Tosh's workstation. "It reads lifesigns, Jack. Not...biomass."
There was a horrible pause, before Gwen drew in her breath and started yelling into her com for Ianto to answer her. Jack shot over to Tosh's workstation.
"Where was he last?" he demanded.
When Tosh pointed it out, he turned on his heel, bellowed for Owen to follow, and set off, gun drawn, at a run into the archives.
The moment they found him, Jack knew what had happened.
He was lying on the floor of the storage room, which looked like a bomb site, but Ianto didn't. He looked...peaceful. Relaxed.
The box was lying on the floor beside him, innocently. Ianto was spread out on his back, arms slightly akimbo from the fall, but his legs together and stiff as though he had been standing and simply fallen over backwards. His eyes were open, as if he were simply staring at the ceiling and wondering what to do next, but there was nothing behind that glassy gaze. There were no signs of damage, no signs of anything at all...and no signs of life.
"No!" Jack cried, kicking the box away into the corner and throwing himself down beside the prone man. "No! Ianto! Ianto, wake up! Please, Ianto, please!"
The moment Owen touched him, he knew there was nothing that he could do. Ianto was stone cold; clearly, Tosh's computer had been trying to tell them something for a little while now. There wasn't a trace of warmth in him, though his limbs were still limp. They wouldn't be for much longer.
"He's gone, Jack," Owen whispered.
Jack knelt there, trembling violently, before choking out a harsh sob and hauling Ianto up in his arms to press his face into Ianto's hair and cry. Owen looked away, glaring at the floor and wondering what the universe was going to throw at them next.
They'd both seen Ianto's hands - one gloved, one ungloved, and the bare one stretched towards the box as though reaching for it.
They both knew what he'd done.
Tosh cried when they carried Ianto's body up into the body of the Hub. Jack put him down almost delicately on the autopsy table, and Owen chucked back a shot of whiskey before picking up his scalpel.
"I don't want anyone else here," he said, his voice rough with something undefinable. "When I'm done, I'll make him decent, and then you can all come back."
They did as they were told, Jack taking the girls up to the conference room to explain what had happened and...well, mostly to begin to grieve.
When Owen came to them, a few hours later, and well into what normal humanity called 'evening', his eyes were red and sore, and his hands curled into fists.
"I'm done," he said.
He had dressed Ianto in a white hospital gown after the autopsy - which found that his heart had simply stopped, for no reason that Owen could decipher. Everything had simply shut down, as if a switch had been pressed, and that was that. But in the gown, it looked as though he was asleep, or comatose, and Owen had closed his eyes and folded his hands over his chest.
It was Gwen who cried then, white-faced and red-eyed, and the entire situation seemed alien.
Jack was the one to put him in the morgue drawer. He wouldn't have it next to Lisa's - wouldn't give in to the final admission that they hadn't - he hadn't - been able to keep Ianto from her. He chose the one above Suzie's, because Ianto and Suzie had gotten along before she had gone a little off the rails, and in some morbid way, Jack wanted Ianto to be close to a friend.
"I'll...do the paperwork," he whispered, feeling everyone's eyes on him, then he brushed a quick kiss over Ianto's cold forehead, and left the others to say their goodbyes.
And then they would shut Ianto away in his drawer forever, and try to move on.
It was all they could do now.