Title: Some Secrets
Shouldn't Be Told
Disclaimer: BBC owns Torchwood. Surely, no one has a problem with me messing with the characters… do they?
Spoilers: Spoilers for "Cyberwoman"
Summary: Ianto has a secret that circumstances force into the open. Set a few weeks after his return from suspension.
Author's Note: Reviews are appreciated. I hope you enjoy.
X X X
Some secrets shouldn't be told no matter the circumstances, Ianto Jones thought. He amended it a moment later, though. They really shouldn't be told unless absolutely necessary.
Unfortunately, circumstances seemed to be deciding his fate yet again. Torchwood captured an alien creature called a Cloros, and it seemed like Ianto was going to have to once again let his team in on another secret he held close. It terrified the young Welshman, because his team already mistrusted him. What little trust he'd managed to rebuild since returning from his suspension would be swept away.
The only thing Jack Harkness knew would stop the creatures was an artifact sitting on Toshiko Sato's desk – an artifact that once resided in Torchwood One's archives.
Standing inconspicuously off to the side, Ianto watched Jack pace around Tosh. "How long will it take you?"
"A week, maybe. It's technology I've not seen before, and I need to research it. I'm not entirely sure what all the symbols mean yet," Tosh regretfully replied. Running her hand over the cool surface of an artifact sitting on her desk, she frowned in frustration.
A week. That would be several days too late. And the artifact in question would allow Torchwood to trap a deadly invasion about to happen and send it back to whence it came – all without the world finding out.
If the invading forces arrived, though… Ianto didn't even want to think about the consequences and shuddered. The creatures were humanoid in the same way weevils were humanoid.
Plus, they could apparently clone themselves.
These things were intelligent enough to scare even Jack. Apparently, he'd dealt with them before on a different planet, with pretty nasty results.
"How hard will it be to hold back the Cloros until Tosh can get that thing working?" Ianto hopefully asked. Maybe there was a way out of it with minimal loss of life. Maybe they could fight these creatures. Maybe…
"Impossible," Jack replied, turning to Ianto and staring at him. "Once they start pouring through the rift, we'll need an army to stop them. We need to stop them before they get a foothold on Earth."
"Right," Ianto mumbled. That meant, he needed to tell them his secret. Maybe.
X X X
With the tray in his hand, Ianto stepped into the boardroom, walking the perimeter silently as he set cups of coffee in front of each Torchwood team member.
When Jack said, "Thanks," Ianto gave a small smile and politely nodded. All the while, his stomach twisted with guilt.
"Look, I don't see what else we can do," Gwen Cooper said, planting her forearms onto the table and leaning in. "We need to prepare the government for a breach."
"And how do you see that going?" Dr. Owen Harper asked. "Do you see them saying, 'Why thank you, Torchwood. We'll be sure to keep the fair citizens of Cardiff safe'? No. I see them shooing us away, ignoring the warning, and the world going to hell anyway."
"He has a point," Tosh said, smiling shyly at Owen. "The government has a great capacity for ignoring warnings."
"So what do we do?" Gwen asked, running her fingers through her hair in evident frustration. "The only people who knew anything about the artifact died or disappeared at Canary Wharf. We've no idea how it works."
Silence descended over the room as everyone sank into their chairs, lost in thought.
"That's not entirely true," Ianto quietly said from his place along the wall.
He knew he should've kept his mouth shut the minute every head in the room turned to stare at him.
"So, Tea Boy, do you know how it's used?" Owen asked, snorting a laugh before looking at the others. He then condescendingly added, "After all, you worked for Torchwood One's archives. You must be an expert."
"No," he quietly replied. "But I know the experts – the ones that worked on it."
"We already looked through the survivors of Canary Wharf," Jack quietly explained. When Owen opened his mouth to deliver a snarky comment, Jack held up a hand, staving off the physician, and said, "All of the scientists and most of the analysts either died in the battle or were converted to Cybermen."
Ianto knew perfectly well that any trust he might've built these last weeks since the end of his suspension would be destroyed in the next moment. Part of him wanted to keep quiet – let the world deal with the fact that aliens existed and they could be mean bastards. Then he glanced at the faces around the table. They would be on the front line. Could he let them take the brunt of the attack?
He'd already lied so many times, he'd stopped counting.
"The list you have isn't accurate," the young Welshman quietly admitted. "It's incomplete."
"And how would you know that?" Jack quietly asked.
Ianto noticed how the typically lively eyes of his boss had just gone flat and he shuddered. "Because, Sir, I altered the records."
There. He'd said it. If this didn't get him retconned or executed, nothing would. Not only had he repeatedly lied to his boss, but he'd done the unforgivable.
He'd falsified official reports.
Staring straight ahead – not at any one person in particular – Ianto waited for someone to say something. Yet after a few stunned ticks, the only sound coming from the occupants was the occasional squeak of a chair. He might've smirked over having rendered the group speechless if he weren't just slightly beyond the edges of terrified at the moment.
"Who?" Jack quietly asked, his voice low, but loud enough to reverberate through Ianto.
Clearing his throat, he felt his hands tremble and drew an impatient, but steadying breath. The whole point of this futile attempt at honesty had been to provide a way for Torchwood to defend herself. So he couldn't withhold the names now.
"Ellen Markson, Richard Smith, Liam O'Donnell, and Sean Graves," Ianto quietly replied. He hated the wobble his tone took toward the end of the list; hated showing even that much weakness. But Jack had caught his attention, staring straight into him.
"Where are they?" Gwen asked, drawing Ianto's attention.
Now, of this he was extraordinarily proud. Smiling, he said, "I hid them. They're invisible to the world now."
Ianto could feel every eye in the room boring into him. In a flash, his nerves were back, making him doubting whether he'd done the right thing. So he cleared his throat and continued.
"If you look at your records, you'll see that Ellen, Richard, and Sean studied the artifact you are attempting to activate," he said, nodding toward the folder sitting in front of Jack.
"It says Liam O'Donnell led the effort – performed the majority of the research. I want him working on it," Jack replied, shutting the Torchwood One file describing the artifact. "Tell me where he is."
As bile rose in his throat, Ianto swallowed hard, hating that he couldn't remain as composed as he wished. "You'll be better served to recall the other three," Ianto tried to explain. He didn't want to have to say the words.
"Where. Is. He," Jack said, rising in that slow, powerful way he did when he wanted to intimidate.
"D-dead," Ianto stuttered, tilting his head to stare at the ground. "He committed suicide a month after. Couldn't take the nightmares."
"Christ," Owen breathed out, the standard ready sneer falling away. The room descended into a thick, overbearing silence.
Images of Liam hanging lifelessly flashed through Ianto's mind, and he shook his head to clear them away, albeit unsuccessfully. Even worse, he could still smell and taste the odor in the room after finding the decomposing body. He hadn't found Liam right away.
"If you will excuse me, I could use a bit of fresh air," Ianto quietly said, schooling his features into that unemotional mask he frequented. Without waiting for a response, he walked out the door. He hated thinking of it – having to clear the lingering sensory memories away. Even more, he hated the way it made him feel weak and ineffectual.
Liam had been the only one to remain in England, and he'd hung himself from a light fixture.
The brilliant scientist hadn't considered the effects on the others – hadn't been able to see beyond the nonstop flashbacks and terror. So on a misty, grey day, the man who'd just barely celebrated his thirtieth birthday had slung a rope up, climbed on a chair, and died.
Until then, Ianto had been the tentative bridge between the small group of survivors. After Liam's death, though, all communication ceased.
He'd reached the wharf before Ianto realized no one had followed. Lately, he couldn't manage to get a free breath without someone standing right there at all times. Not since Lisa had died.
Leaning against the railing, he stared out at the waves. The rush of cold air and the salty tang invaded his mouth, pushing back the nausea. It amazed him how quickly the dull, white noise of waves could so easily calm him; especially the waves near Cardiff. For several minutes, he let the elements calm his frayed nerves.
"You should have told me," Jack said, stepping forward to stand next to Ianto. Together, the men stared at the sea. Laying a hand on Ianto's shoulder and giving an encouraging squeeze, Jack said "Tell me what happened."
"Not now," he replied, hoping Jack would drop it. He'd just gotten the bile pushed down. If he tried to say anything, odds were he'd be heaving into the water below.
Turning his head, he finally looked at his boss, smiled grimly, and said, "I need to make a few calls."
Stepping away and striding in the direction of the hub, Ianto never looked back. If he had, he might have seen the look of regret that passed over Jack's face. Had he even slowed as Owen walked down the docks toward him, he might've seen the concern on the doctor's face. Yet he didn't reduce his pace until the old cog door rolled away, he slid into a chair, and he logged into his workstation.
It only took a few expert key taps to dig down into the depths of the personal files he'd placed on Torchwood Three's system. Code-locked, he doubted anyone but Tosh would ever be able to decrypt them. First she would've needed to know they existed, though – and if you wanted to hide something, do it in plain sight.
Pulling out his cell, he flipped it open and drew in a deep, ragged breath. He was breaking a promise.
X X X
He'd been afraid they'd all refuse. Several scenarios had played out in his head, and none of them ended well. The worse would have been had Jack ordered them taken against their will and be brought to Cardiff.
No force had been necessary to gather them, though, and Ianto was thankful for that small blessing. The only one who'd put up any resistance at all had been Ellen. Eventually, she'd softly said, "I'll be there soon, Yan," and she too was on her way.
They arrived as a group the following afternoon. Twenty eight-year-old Sean, with his midnight-dark looks strode in through the cog door behind Gwen. He'd been the jokester of the group and had always made everything fun. Yet when his friend walked in, Ianto didn't miss the way the dark-haired man didn't so much as flash a quick grin. Instead, the emerald green eyes looked troubled, and he placed a hand on thirty three-year-old Ellen's back as she strode in next and stopped at his side.
Taking up the rear, twenty seven-year-old Richard stepped forward, with his sandy haired and boy-next-door looks. He was the quietest of the trio; a young and dependable analyst with a vivid imagination and drive to understand the world.
Both men showed their solidarity in the way they flanked the petite blond between them.
It had been so long since he'd seen them… Moving to stand in front of his former team, Ianto tried to ignore the eyes of Gwen, Tosh, and Owen, and said, "Hello."
Richard broke ranks first, smiling wide and giving Ianto a quick hug. "It's fantastic to see you, Yan."
Returning a less solid smile, Ianto just nodded and nodded. Then he felt Sean's hand on his shoulder. The unusually sober young man murmured, "Heya, Ianto," before making room for Ellen.
Instead of saying a word, she gave him a huge grin and opened her baggy coat to reveal a largely rounded belly, making Ianto bark out a laugh.
"How?" he asked, and then wanted to immediately kick himself when her laughter trilled gently around him.
"Let me rephrase – when did you find out?"
"I knew that day," she replied. "It's why Tom made me crawl into the ventilation shaft. I'd just told him the night before."
"Considering Tom practically lived in our little lab, I'm surprised," Ianto playfully said, grinning at her.
He lightly chuckled when she winked and loudly whispered, "Who said we had to leave the lab to result in this?" She rubbed her protruding stomach, while he also felt his cheeks turn pink.
Ianto pulled her into a tight, quick embrace of welcome. The last time he'd seen any of them had been shortly after the battle. Only Liam had remained in contact.
When Jack cleared his throat, all four turned to face the man descending the stairs from the office above, with Ianto stepping in front of his friends. Unfortunately, the young man couldn't tell what the Torchwood leader was thinking; thus, Ianto found himself slightly trembling, and attempting to look cool and controlled. He hated when Jack schooled his features to look so stern, yet approachable. Ianto never knew what to feel, and internally fumbled around trying to react.
"Jack, let me introduce the only survivors of Torchwood One's Sector Five Archives - Research and Development. Their job was to study and classify those artifacts that others didn't care to," Ianto quietly said, lowering his head a little and waiting.
A few moments passed before Jack finally stepped off the last stair and held out his hand. Sean reached out and grasped it, nodding, while Jack smiled and said, "It's good to have you here. We really could use your help with one of your artifacts."
"I've just one thing to say," Ellen said, stepping forward, frowning fiercely. In effect, she pushed herself to stand between the men of Torchwood One and Jack. "I will not be retconned. Nor will Sean, Richard, or Ianto."
Considering she had such a soft voice, the fierceness in her tone made Ianto smile. She often caught people by surprise, considering her petite height and slender body. Most assumed she would be meek and amiable. They found out different if they pissed her off.
Ianto held his breath while Ellen and Jack stared at each other – sizing the other up. He didn't breathe again, until Jack nodded and softly replied, "All right."
Rubbing his hands, Jack got right down to business, while the former Torchwood One members looked at Ianto, quizzical expressions on their faces. The question they silently asked was simple. Can Jack be trusted?
Nodding sharply, Ianto turned his attention to his leader.
"All right, we need you to tell us how to use a particular device. We captured a scout a couple of days ago. From the intel we got from him, an army will be marching through the rift in the next day or two," Jack explained, leading everyone to Tosh's work station and pointing to an artifact. "This used to be yours. I know its capabilities, although it was implemented too late the last time I saw it in action. We need this up and running soon."
He gestured again to the device that looked like a large circular plate, with symbols written around the edges. "I know it's worked on this particular species before," Jack said. "I've no idea how it operates, though; and we don't have the time to find out."
"I remember that. Liam wanted to hang it on the wall as a piece of art, until we found out what it did. It's one of the…" Richard said, leaving off his sentence and shooting a glance to Ianto.
"It's all right," Ianto replied. "Go ahead and tell them."
This particular lie would be enough to have them all executed – at least under the former leaders of London's Torchwood. However, considering how much Jack detested the methods and philosophies of Torchwood One, Ianto didn't think his boss would mind. Much.
Glancing over at Ellen, who shifted uncomfortably with her stomach protruding heavily, Richard asked, "Is there someplace more comfortable? El needs to sit."
"Oh, yes, we should," Tosh readily agreed, recognizing the fatigue in Ellen's eyes.
When she nudged Owen in the ribs, he reluctantly nodded his head. So far, the physician had not been impressed with the "Tea Boy". The drama playing out in front of him simply had Owen rolling his eyes.
X X X
The guests settled into their chairs, with Ianto bringing up the rear and standing behind them. He smiled when Ellen swiveled, grabbed his hands, and winked. The perpetual signal of well-being.
The other members of Torchwood slowly progressed inside, as Ellen quietly asked, "Lisa?"
Everything stopped and Ianto's chest ached. It still hurt – every day that passed pained him. They knew she'd been partially converted, as had Elliot and Marcus. All of them had been near enough in age, with Lisa (the outsider of the group) and Ianto being the youngest.
"Dead," Ianto stated. "Not long ago. She died here."
"Here?" Ellen asked, her mouth fallen open slightly. "Oh, Ianto, tell me you didn't do something daft."
"Wish I could," he replied with a sad smile. "The cyber-conversion unit was keeping her alive, and I had to try. In the end, the process went too far. Lisa was gone."
He left off how his team had opened fire on her, taking away that last little bit of hope that she could be saved. In a bare whisper, he said, "The last death of Canary Wharf."
"I'm sorry," Ellen murmured, squeezing his hands. "I understand and I'm so very sorry."
And she would, Ianto thought. She'd lost as much as he. For a moment, they held each other's hands.
"I'd like to hear what Richard started to say," Jack said, and leaned back in his chair.
Turning to his English friend, Ianto smiled and nodded in encouragement. This secret, the oldest of them all, lived in only those who survived his unit in Torchwood One. Not even the higher ups had known of it. If they'd ever figured it out, the survivors held no doubt they would have been summarily executed. Those were the rules after all.
Richard looked at the others, who took their lead from Ianto. All nodded in turn.
"Some of us didn't believe in the philosophies and methodologies of Torchwood," Richard stated. "They believed that anything alien belonged to them to do with as they wished."
"And you didn't?" Jack asked, intrigue evident in his voice as he leaned back in his chair at the head of the table.
"No," Ianto replied. "We believed we should study alien technology for knowledge; we wanted to understand other worlds and other lives. Of course Ellen and Tom had backgrounds in anthropology, so I'm sure that influenced our conscious decision to… ignore certain rules."
"How can we understand the worlds out there in the Universe – understand their intentions towards us – without really studying their cultures, their beliefs, and their customs?" Ellen asked, glancing around at the group.
Behind him, Ianto nodded, watching Jack's eyes flicker in surprise.
"So you're telling me you committed treason?" Jack asked.
"Yeah," Sean replied. "All of us did."
"We knowingly cataloged some items as nothing more than anthropological remnants from other places and times," Ellen confirmed. "Typically, the items we hid away were weapons."
Nodding, Sean said, "When the Cybermen were converting people, we split into two groups. Liam, Elliot, Marcus, and Tom went to find the best way out of the building and locate Lisa. They were captured, although Liam and Tom escaped. Elliot and Marcus found Lisa hiding. The three of them were then partially converted."
"What did the rest of you do?" Gwen asked.
"We went to archives and locked down whatever technology we could," Ellen supplied. "Ianto and I were the only ones who knew the key combinations. It would take most people a year or two to figure out the encryption codes we'd developed."
"That's when they came," Ianto said, remembering the sound of thunderous steps marching in time down the hall. "They came, but we held them off. Tom had followed them to the archives. He pushed Ellen toward the back of the room and I stood there like an idiot. Liam came in just behind Tom. Then everything happened so fast, it's like a blur."
"Tom saved my life," Ellen said.
"He saved more than that," Sean interjected. "If he hadn't given us that extra time we needed, we would have never completed our goal."
"If he hadn't stood in front of them… none of us would've survived," Ellen added. Turning to look at Richard and then Sean, she softly asked, "Do you remember? Any army marched through the hall, and there he stood, daring them. Taunting them."
She couldn't help the tears that fell, not this time. The memory was too fresh.
Turning, Ellen smiled at Ianto and asked, "Could I possibly get something to drink? A bit of decaf perhaps?"
"Oh, of course," he responded. Pushing off the wall against which he'd rested, Ianto walked out the door.
"Leave him," Ellen said, when Jack gave her a questioning look. The upturn of her lips dropped away when she added, "He lived the rest. He doesn't need to hear it."
Frowning, Jack nodded and folded his arms across his chest.
At this, Richard looked down at the table, his face bleak, causing Ellen to lay a hand on his forearm. Sean stiffly stood up and began to pace. Around the room he moved, his hands clenching and unclenching into fists as the story unfolded.
"The screams came next," Ellen said, her voice choking. "So many screams. So many voices. It was like they were being broadcast throughout the building."
"We retreated into a hidden room behind archives. They found us rapidly enough," Ellen explained. "Tom had pushed Liam after us and was yelling at me to crawl into the air ducts. I did and made my way to the lower level where there was less activity. I found the route we needed to take to escape. So we had a plan."
"But someone had to stay behind," she added, staring blankly at the table. "The next thing anyone knew, Liam, Richard and Sean been shoved out through the ducts to join me and we'd been locked in by Ianto."
Her soft voice turned hard, when she muttered, "The daft bastard stood up to the Cybermen. For Lisa."
Richard looked at Ellen's hand on his arm. He laid his free hand over hers and said, "You would've done the same for Tom, except—"
"Except you watched him die," she replied, smiling tremulously. "It was so hard for Liam to tell me that it had been Tom's voice screaming with the others."
"Liam," she murmured, furrowing her brow. "We made a mistake there. We knew he was struggling. We should've kept a closer eye on him. We should've kept a closer eye on Ianto, too. It's easy to forget he's so bloody young. But when we caught up with him after the battle… he'd changed. I could see so much determination in his eyes.."
Taking a deep breath, she let it out slow a shuddering.
"Liam. Lisa. Marcus. Elliot. Tom. All dead," Ellen stated, tears spilling over. "Yan. He paid the ultimate price. He saw more than all of us." Drawing a deep breath, she put her palm on Sean's fisted hand when he stopped his pacing. Looking up into his eyes, she asked, "Who cleaned it all up? Was it fair to him? He cut Liam down and buried him. He gave us a chance."
"We never asked," Sean replied with a watery voice, laced with guilt. With a whisper, he added, "We didn't stop him either."
"And it's something we'll live with," Ellen replied, turning in her chair and grimacing. "But I won't apologize for being alive. I can't." With her right hand, she rubbed her protruding belly and smiled.
Ellen more somberly continued, "After locking us into the air shaft, he wiped our records. And then he went after the others."
"He found Marcus and Elliot mostly converted. Marcus… he was Ianto's best friend and flat mate. They were too far gone, so he killed them," she continued. "Shot them in the head."
At Tosh's soft gasp, Jack stated, "So he went after Lisa and he found her."
"Yes," Ellen replied. "We helped get her out of the building the next morning before dawn, although Ianto and Sean did most of it. The conversion hadn't gone to the point of altering her DNA – at least not completely; and she was still semi-responsive. There was little hope, but Yan looked so absolutely determined by then. And he had a plan, although I regret not getting the details."
"I expected her to die fairly quickly – her body was rejecting the Cyber implants and shutting down, even with the conversion machinery still attached. I think we all would've stopped him had we known he was going to smuggle her here," Richard interjected.
"To tell you the truth, I'm surprised it wasn't Yan found hanging by a rope," Ellen said, as Sean quit pacing and took his seat. "He saw more than all of us put together. We have no idea how he survived it in this first place, given the extent of the trauma, both physical and emotional."
"He's never said how his ribs got broken or how he ended up with all the cuts and bruises," she added. "He just showed up at his flat about four hours after us, battered and looking like death. But he wasn't willing to stop. Not until he had Lisa." She took a deep breath before looking straight into Jack's eyes and adding, "So under the cover of night, we went back for her. Yan then gave us new identities, and we left the next day. We haven't looked back."
"Enough of this," Richard gruffly said. Shaking his head to clear away the pain of the past he drew a deep breath. "I can't… we need to stop."
And as simple as that, the subject was dropped after a few tense seconds and a nod from Jack.
Smiling grimly, Richard looked at Jack and said, "We were asked here to show you how to use one of our artifacts. I remember it well. I assisted on the research, and from what I recall, it's not that hard to get it operational once you know the tricks."
"How many tricks?" Tosh quietly asked.
"Oh, a few dozen," Richard replied with a shy smile and making Sean laugh.
X X X
It didn't occur to Ianto that he'd be missed as he hid in his archives; and that fact alone bothered Jack more than all the revelations he'd experienced that day.
"We didn't know," Owen said, stepping into Jack's office, as if on cue. "After what happened with his Cyber-girlfriend, we were all so pissed…"
"I know," Jack replied. Finally taking his eyes off the CCTV footage of Ianto, he glanced at the frowning physician.
"We'd seen footage, scavenged the remnants of their archives, but I hadn't really thought about those few who remained," Owen asked, his stance showing his agitation. "They really had no resources available to handle the aftermath."
"I know," Jack replied. "But all we can do now is keep moving forward. Do you really think Ianto would appreciate our pity?"
Smiling grimly, Owen replied, "No. And as disgusting as I find it, a little care from you might help, though."
At Jack's quick grin, the doctor grimaced. "I don't know what he means to you, but don't mess with him. Right now you seem to be what he wants, though." Under his breath, Owen muttered, "And the less I know, the better."
Jack wanted Ianto, too. The attraction – quick and sharp – had been strong enough their first meeting to intrigue the immortal man. The confusion he'd seen in Ianto's eyes had only heightened the attraction. Jack loved a good mystery.
"I mean it, Jack. Don't mess with him. He's at a vulnerable spot right now," the physician reminded. "Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is a real enough thing. It can lead to severe depression and suicide. Ianto's co-worker is a classic example. Maybe you never experienced it, but someone as self-contained as Ianto might. And it's only been a matter of months since it happened."
"I know," Jack mumbled, heading in the direction of the archives.
X X X
"I'm surprised you're not up there with your friends," Jack said, leaning against the archives door. He'd been there for a couple of minutes, silently watching Ianto make notes in the massive artifact log.
"They don't need me up there right now. This is their area of expertise," Ianto replied, looking up. "Was there something you needed, Sir?"
The grin slid from Jack's face as he slowly entered the room and stood in front of the young man. "No. I just wanted to make sure you're all right."
"Never better," Ianto quipped, picking up his pen and flipping a page in the ledger. Maybe if he ignored his boss, the man would go away.
"Yan," Jack quietly murmured, rounding the desk.
The pen was plucked from Ianto's fingers with Jack's right hand, while the older man leaned over Ianto's back and flipped the ledger closed with his left. He felt Jack's warm breath against his neck, and his eyes fluttered closed. He shivered when Jack murmured in his ear, "I'm here."
Turning his head, he found Jack's face just inches from his own. Whatever it was he felt could be so very overwhelming, and he shifted, hovering his lips just a fraction from Jack's. He didn't know what to do.
Jack saved him from making the next move by closing the minute gap between them.
The taste of Jack's lips made something inside roar to life and the initial chasteness turned to something completely different. Opening his mouth, he prodded Jack with his tongue, until the other man did the same. Heat burned, gaining in strength, until Ianto felt like he couldn't breathe; and he didn't care. The hot mouth plundering his own made him feel so very alive at that moment.
Slowly, they ebbed away from one another, with Jack shifting until Ianto's cheek rested against the captain's firm shoulder; both breathing raggedly.
"It's not appropriate, Sir. We're at work," Ianto eventually said in semi-even breaths, picking up his pen and going back to work on the ledgers. His hand shook slightly, though, as he tried to focus unsuccessfully on the book in front of him. Although, it pleased Jack that the young man's face was tinged pink.
"Tell me what you remember," Jack said, making it a demand instead of a request. Pulling up the extra chair, he slid next to Ianto, leaned on the desk, and continued, "Tell me how you found Lisa."
"I followed a trail of bodies," Ianto quipped without looking up. "It wasn't particularly hard. There were a lot of them."
"Stop!" Jack hissed, irritated at Ianto's flippant attitude. Plucking the pen from the younger man, he slammed it on the desk and once again said, "Tell me how you found her."
Sitting perfectly straight and stiff in his chair, Ianto stared at Jack until he just couldn't anymore, and flicked his eyes away to the far wall of the room. Time weighed heavy on the young man, as Jack continued to stare.
"I don't want Ellen to know, but at one point I used Tom's body."
Intrigued, Jack asked, "How?"
"As a shield of sorts, you could say," Ianto replied with a shrug. "I made it to central archives, but I had to get past Daleks and Cybermen along the way. Both were marching through the halls. I dropped Tom after the initial round of Cybermen passed."
"Where were you in relation to the central archives office?"
"The office itself two floors below our," Ianto explained, "and I had to cross a the main north-south corridor to get to the stairs."
Absently, Ianto frowned and added, "One of them shot me, I think. I felt an impact, then was spun around, slammed into a wall, and thought myself dead."
"Ellen said you were injured," Jack supplied.
"I heard my ribs crunching," Ianto replied. He barked a short, wry laugh when he added, "I always thought that was a myth – that you could hear your bones crunching. Nope. You really can."
Wincing at Ianto's sardonic tone, Jack sighed silently. Ianto had gone back to working in an attempt to dismiss his boss.
"Tell me the rest," Jack said, placing his hand on Ianto's forearm. Ianto never raised his eyes from the ledger in front of him as he spoke.
"Not much to tell after that. I found Lisa, regrouped, and came back for her about fourteen hours later," he said with a shrug.
"What about Marcus and Elliot?" Jack quietly asked, watching Ianto's face turn sickly white.
"I'd no choice," Ianto mumbled. "They were caught in a place where they would suffer until death, or become fully converted. Neither was acceptable."
"You don't have to justify yourself to me," Jack said with a tight smile. "I've done things far worse for far less noble reasons. Now tell me about Lisa."
Ianto's voice softened when he said, "She was brilliant. Even with bits and pieces of metal attached and in horrific pain, she was just amazing. I could look in her eyes and so easily see the woman I loved. And the fact that she could respond to me gave me so much hope…"
Jack didn't need the words to know that Lisa had probably been about the only hope Ianto'd had at that point. He tried to put himself in the young man's place – tried to remember back to when he'd died. Wouldn't he have tried to do the same? If it had been the Doctor or Rose, wouldn't Jack have followed the same path?
Jack was so lost in thought, it took him a moment to comprehend Ianto's words when the young man looked up, smiled awkwardly and softly confessed, "My plan was not well thought out and a bit daft, now that I look back."
"Really?" Jack asked with rich sarcasm. "Just a bit?"
"Yes, well, you weren't about to help," Ianto said with a harsh tinge of bitterness. He began to turn back to his ledger and paused, but then looked at Jack and said, "I'd actually gone looking for you to help, but… after you knew I was with Torchwood One, you dismissed me outright. You wanted nothing to do with me or any other reminder of Canary Wharf."
"And that was a mistake," Jack replied. "I was so angry at Hartman and her crew after Canary Wharf – even before it, actually. I never gave you a chance."
Closing his eyes, Ianto rubbed his eyes lightly and sighed heavily.
"Yes, Sir, you did," he finally replied. "You didn't execute me."
X X X
What would've taken a week to understand was accomplished in just a handful of hours. A grateful Tosh worked with Richard and Sean, taking copious notes and learning the hazards of using the device. Apparently, used too often it could cause instability in the rift. The former Torchwood team hadn't known that, and were intrigued when Jack mentioned it.
"I'd like to thank you," Jack said, shaking each hand in front of him. "You can go home, but if you want, Torchwood would be happy to put you up at a nice hotel for the night." With a quick grin, he added, "Five star. A 'thank you' for helping us out."
All three shook their heads 'No' before Jack even finished speaking.
"We won't have to worry about anyone coming after us?" Richard quietly asked, his face a mask of hopeful skepticism.
"No," Jack replied. Then smiling wide, he asked "Unless you'd like to come back and work here?"
"Not on your life," Ellen responded and laughed.
Richard and Sean turned toward the door, following Gwen, but Ellen remained where she stood. Surprising Jack with a hug, the tiny woman whispered, "Ianto doesn't give himself enough credit. He lets bits and pieces of doubt creep in. That's just who he is – who he's always been."
Closing his eyes, Jack whispered back, "I know," and tightened his arms around her.
"He sees something in you," she said, her voice low and only for Jack's ears. "His eyes kept darting to you for approval when we first arrived."
"I see something in him, too," he replied, smiling wide.
"Kiss him for me," she whispered. When Jack chuckled in response, she smiled wide enough to show off a tiny dimple in her cheek.
"Oh, I think I can manage that," he wryly replied. With one last squeeze, he let her go.
Before she left, though, she laid a hand on Jack's arm and smiled. "This child will have a unique story. He'll know the sacrifices made and the generations alive because of the bravery of others. My child will know the story of Torchwood and the Battle of Canary Wharf. It's important that history be remembered, whether written or not."
Watching the woman walk – or rather, waddle – away, Jack thought of Ianto working down in the archives. He'd popped up just long enough to make coffee, say goodbye to his friends, and ensconce himself once again with the ledgers, books, and artifacts. Jack might've kept him longer with the group, but the young man's eyes had begun to mist, and Ianto looked like he was close to blubbering.
This goodbye had been the final between Ianto and his former Torchwood team. They all knew it.
As the cog door rolled closed, Jack headed up the stairs toward his office. Considering how late the hour had grown, the others would head out soon, leaving him alone in the hub with his thoughts.
Jack had been through battle before, and to that end, he truly did understand what they'd experienced; he'd felt compassion for his comrades, watched them fall in a hail of bullets during more than one world war. He'd seen the results of soldiers eating their gun, rather than returning to the front lines, and watched soldiers lose their minds along the way.
The surviving team of Torchwood One would move forward, step by step. Someday, they would heal. So much had happened over these last months; it was hard to imagine that the battle of Canary Wharf wasn't even six months ago.
Hundreds and hundreds died at Canary Wharf. Yet one day, a child would come kicking and screaming into the world, regardless of the existence of alien life.
It was a good lesson to remember, Jack mused. Somehow, life went on.