Jack emerged from the hatch in his office and lifted his arms, stretching out the kinks from a practically sleepless night.
The Hub was always quiet at this time of the morning; the only sounds were the trickle of water down the base of the water tower and the gentle hum of the Rift monitoring equipment. Jack had lived there for so long that those sounds had completely faded into the background – he had to actually concentrate even to hear them anymore.
This particular morning, however, there was something disturbing his silence, a faint noise from somewhere out in the Hub. Jack strode out of his office, in search of the cause. It didn't take him very long to find.
He glanced at his watch.
"Ianto, it's not even 7.30am yet. What are you doing here at this hour? For that matter, why are you here at all? You're supposed to be on leave."
"Couldn't sleep," Ianto grunted, scrubbing harder at the component of the partially dismantled coffee machine that he had in his hand. "And I couldn't face sitting at home any more."
In the four days since Lisa's death, Jack and Tosh had been taking turns to sit with Ianto at his flat, making sure he ate and washed and just generally being there for him. Despite their efforts, Ianto still looked like Hell, his face pale and gaunt; his clothes wrinkled, his eyes haunted. Jack knew he wasn't sleeping properly – didn't blame him really, given that he himself was sleeping even worse than he normally did.
"Are you sure you don't want to go home, try to get some more rest?" Jack asked gently. "I'll even come back with you, if you don't want to be alone."
Ianto shook his head firmly. "I need to be… doing something. Keeping busy." He set down the now sparklingly clean machine component and picked up the next. "I really can't deal with doing nothing. Especially not this morning."
Jack nodded and put a hand on Ianto's arm. "Okay then. I'll… ah…" He gestured to the various pieces of coffee machine laid out across the counter. "Leave you to it. I'll just be in my office if you need anything, though. Anything at all."
Ianto nodded as Jack did as he said and left him to his task.
The mood in the Hub that morning was quiet and sombre. None of them had been particularly jovial all week, but today it was even more pronounced. They all knew what was happening that afternoon.
Tosh and Owen had taken care of most of the arrangements. Ianto hadn't really been in any fit state to do it himself - although he'd certainly had input.
Shortly after lunch – a sad affair that involved more picking at food than eating it – they climbed into the SUV. Ianto carefully cradled a small box in his lap.
The spot he'd chosen - a little under an hour's drive out of Cardiff - was stunningly beautiful. Green hills rolled around them, and a small stream trickled past.
It was also a good fifteen minute-walk from where they'd parked the car at the side of the road. Which meant that, unlike so many other pretty spots in the region, it wasn't populated with picnic tables and young families out for a mid-week day trip.
Even the sun was shining down on them, making the water in the stream sparkle.
They gathered together down by the stream, Ianto still clutching the box tight.
"Lisa…" he began falteringly. "Lisa didn't know this area very well, so…" He had to pause again and take a gulping breath.
"Before… Before… She asked me that if the worst happened, we would scatter her somewhere… somewhere pretty." He looked around them. "I think she'd approve of this place; I hope she would have, anyway."
He worried his top lip between his teeth and spoke wistfully. "My dad brought me past here quite a few times when I was a kid; we went walking sometimes, in the summers. I always made him stop so I could throw sticks into the water."
He squared his shoulders and looked down at the box in his arms. The rest of the team had taken care of the actual cremation; burying Lisa had been out of the question, given her condition when she had died. Ianto hadn't been able to bring himself to be there.
"I'd always wanted to bring Lisa up here. I just didn't imagine it would be like this."
Tosh laid a comforting hand on his arm and he nodded resolutely.
"We're up here today to… say our final goodbyes to Lisa, and to remember her as she was. To remember Lisa, and not just…"
His words trailed off as he swallowed hard again to stay in control.
Tosh took pity on him and started them off. "I didn't get to know Lisa nearly as well as I should have, but what I knew of her, I liked. She was strong and brave, and she kept on fighting right to the end. The world needs more people like her, and she'll be missed."
"She went through so much, but she didn't whine about it, even though she had every right to," Owen added. "We could all learn a lot from her. My only regret is that I couldn't do more."
Jack stared off towards the horizon, and he sounded choked up when he spoke. "She was kind, and friendly, and funny. She wasn't afraid to laugh at herself. She definitely wasn't afraid to tell you if she thought you were wrong. She and I could have been great friends. I wish we'd all had more time to get to know her." He tried to surreptitiously wipe at his eyes; everyone noticed, but no one made any comment. They knew how he felt.
Ianto blew out a breath and held the box a little tighter. "When I first met Lisa," he started unsteadily. "When we first met, nearly seven years ago, I was hardly more than a boy, was just beginning to put my life back together. She was…"
He shook his head fondly in reminiscence. "She was the best friend I could have asked for. If… if it weren't for her, I wouldn't be who I am today. She helped me get my life back on track, and I'll always love her for that."
He didn't attempt to hide the unshed tears in his eyes as he went on. "But that was only part of who she was." He chuckled slightly through his tears. "She frustrated me and she aggravated me, and she'd drive me up the wall sometimes, but…"
He sighed. "But she always knew just what to say to cheer me up after a bad day. She… She would look after me when I needed it, and she let me look after her when the tables were turned. She knew me probably better than I know myself."
The tears were openly falling down his cheeks now, even as his mouth curled up in a bittersweet smile. "She was my life, and there will always be a little part of me missing, the part that went with her. No matter what's to come in the future, I will love her until the day that I die."
He opened the box carefully, taking a step closer to the stream.
Tipping it up slowly, they all watched as the ashes drifted down towards the water, scattered by the light breeze.
"Goodbye, Lisa. You will always be in our hearts."