Title: At the Going Down of the Sun
Warnings: A bad word or two, barely-there innuendo, a WWI poem mixed with a WWII plot...
Disclaimer: I don't own Torchwood. Or the poem. Or the World Wars. I just mixed it all up to make some fic.
Notes: This story takes place after Captain Jack. The title is from the poem For the Fallen ("at the going down of the sun and in the morning we will remember them").
Ianto worked his way through the hub, keeping Jack's office in his peripheral vision as he cleaned up the day's messes. The captain was faced away from him, head bowed, still cradling an empty glass in one hand. That he didn't fill it up again was probably a good sign, though if anyone deserved to throw back another drink just then, Jack was probably the one.
Ianto had gotten a basic version of what had gone on in 1941 from Tosh. She wasn't one to give away Jack's secrets lightly, but when she'd emerged from his office and found Ianto in the main room alone- Gwen and Owen having long since gone home- she'd she quietly told him about the encounter with the real Captain Harkness, and asked him to stay at work a little longer.
Ianto thought he would have done it anyhow- he knew well enough when Jack might need him- but Tosh's asking gave him all the more reason. She put up with so much shit from all of them, abided so much brokenness… He'd have pulled down the stars for her, if she'd asked.
He'd told her to go home, rest up, mind her injured hand, and she'd given him a kiss on the cheek for goodnight. Then he'd set about neatening up the cluttered workspaces, the way he usually did when the others had gone. That was the handy thing about his job; there was always some excuse to stay.
As he bent to retrieve an empty mug from one of the tables, he caught a flash of movement out the corner of his eye. He flicked his gaze up to see that Jack had turned around and was watching him now. Knowing he wouldn't get an actual summons, he straightened and went to the office door.
"Do you need anything, sir?"
He kept his tone cool and professional, making it easy for Jack to dismiss him if he wasn't quite ready for the company.
"Coffee?" Jack asked, his voice sounding rough.
Ianto ignored the telltale sign of crying. "Of course, sir."
He'd assumed it would be the thing Jack would ask for, and knew the pot he had brewing would be just ready. He prepared a cup the way Jack liked it and thought about making himself one- in case the night grew long- but then he decided he didn't need it.
When he walked back into Jack's office he found Jack had picked up his pen to do the necessary incident reports, but hadn't actually started writing. Ianto leaned over him and placed the coffee mug by his elbow, then gently took the pen out of his hand, letting their fingers tangle together briefly as he did.
Jack lifted his head, and murmured something that was probably a thank you.
Ianto drew back, but only a little, settling his hands over Jack's shoulders. He kept the touch light until Jack relaxed into it. He knew physical contact was a comfort the captain craved, but rarely permitted others to initiate. True, the girls- especially Gwen- liked to grab his coat, smooth his shirt, adjust his collar, but that was just his clothes; Jack seldom let anyone take his hands, or grasp his shoulders, or touch his face.
His face was turned into Ianto's forearm now, his head resting against Ianto's stomach. He drew in a deep breath, then let it out slowly, releasing the stress Ianto knew he'd been bottling up until just then. It had to have been a lot, expecting to be trapped in the past, knowing everything that was about to happen firsthand…
Ianto wondered about that for a moment- about how Jack had come to be in 1941 the first time, and what he'd needed a dead pilot's name for. Tosh hadn't been able to tell him any of that, or hadn't been willing to. But, like all of the others details about Jack that didn't fit, he told himself it didn't matter.
Then Jack spoke, as if he knew what Ianto was thinking about: "It was a job, that's all. I didn't think about him when I took his name. He was just… convenient." Jack shook his head, and Ianto felt the scrape of five-o'clock shadow against his wrist. "I knew his age, his rank, the town he'd been born in… Necessary details. I didn't know he'd been a good man. And a damned fine officer."
That Jack didn't cap that remark with a smirk and a joke said volumes about how torn up he was. "You loved him a little," Ianto guessed, knowing how the captain could be drawn to people in a heartbeat if he saw something admirable in them.
But Jack frowned at that assessment. "Maybe," he conceded, "in some ways." He shook his head again. "But that's the war. I don't know if…" He didn't finish, but Ianto still heard I don't know if I can explain it and You wouldn't understand anyway.
And that was fine because it was only the truth. Ianto understood a great deal- most of it terrible- but he'd never faced a war. If anything, he thought, there was more sense in the things he had faced because they were all the stuff of nightmares. He'd never had an enemy who might have been a decent person, or trained a gun on someone for no better reason than that they were on the other side.
Jack started to talk again, the words tumbling out as if he needed to be rid of them. "He was going into battle in the morning, and he was spending the night with his men, but he wasn't- it's not… There's only ever one man in command. No one else bears that responsibility, and it's-" Jack's voice broke, and he swallowed hard- "I didn't want him to feel like he was alone. Not on his last night."
Ianto nodded, even though Jack wasn't looking up at him to see it. "Good that you were with him, then."
There was a long moment of silence, then Jack said quietly, "But I wonder if… if I made it worse." He shifted a little, tensing under Ianto's hands again. "What did he do after I was gone? Did he tell himself it wasn't real? Blame too much to drink, and have a laugh with his men? Or did he think… Did he stay up all night with his questions, fly the next day with his head full of cobwebs?"
"Jack," Ianto said, then stopped. He wanted to say that what had happened hadn't been Jack's fault, but he knew that wasn't the thing to do. Instead he chose a more truthful line: "What's happened… it's done, that's all."
Because, really, it didn't matter whether or not Jack had been to blame. The real Captain Harkness was dead. That was it.
"It isn't over for us, though," Jack said wearily. "We'll be dealing with the rift opening… and it's not going to be easy."
"We might get a moment's rest first," Ianto replied, certain all of them could use it after the day they'd had. He absently rubbed circles against the back of Jack's neck with his thumbs, and added in a lighter tone, "And we can always let Owen handle whatever comes through."
Jack grinned as he leaned into the touch. "Don't tempt me."
"I'd never do that to you, sir," Ianto answered with practiced innocence, watching Jack's grin widen even as his eyelashes fluttered.
"Only every day," he said around a yawn.
Ianto frowned as the teasing exchange brought to mind Owen's earlier insult, but he firmly pushed away the sting of it. Owen was a bastard with a clever tongue, that was all- and Ianto couldn't even be entirely angry with him since he had gotten Jack back. The anger would wait until they were hip-deep in rift activity because of it.
Jack's head was getting heavier against his arm as the silence stretched. Ianto was about to suggest that they get some sleep when the rift alarm went off- followed immediately by the ringing telephone. Jack's eyes snapped open and he bolted upright in his chair, shaking off Ianto's grasp in the process.
Ruefully, Ianto stepped back and turned to the monitor to see what was going on. "Moment's over, then."
"Ianto." Jack had one hand on the phone, but used the other to catch him by the arm before he could move further. "It was enough."