Title: Unquestioning Love
Author: Erin Giles
Disclaimer: Torchwood is property of the BBC.
Characters/Pairings: Ianto, Rhiannon/Johnny, Mica, David, Tosh
Summary: Post Cyberwoman. Ianto goes to the one place he knows he'll find compassion after everything that's happened.
"It's just me."
Rhiannon looked up from the pile of Avon orders she was working her way through as the front door opened and closed, the voice of her little brother creeping down the hallway towards her. He followed in the wake of it, tatty jeans and a hooded jumper beneath a worn denim jacket that seemed too big for him now.
"Odd time of the day for you to come visiting. Odd time of the year to be honest," Rhiannon said as Ianto put a bag down on one of the kitchen chairs, avoiding her eye as he pulled nervously on the sleeves of his denim jacket.
"Everything alright?" Rhiannon enquired, frowning up at Ianto now. This Morning was just finishing on the TV and Ianto was watching it out of the corner of his eye rather than looking at his sister.
"Hello, anyone home?" Rhiannon pressed when he didn't answer her as she got to her feet to put the kettle on. "Ianto?" She reached out to touch his arm and he seemed to recoil, finally looking up at her with wide eyes startling in their raw emotion. His face was scratched and bruised, like he'd been in a fight, something she thought she'd seen the last of.
"Ianto, you're scaring me now," Rhiannon said as she tried to reach out to her brother again. He didn't recoil this time, instead his breath hitched in his throat slightly as if the start of a sob was forming.
"Can-" The word came out as a hoarse croak and Ianto swallowed before continuing. "Can I stay here, on the sofa, just for a bit? I'll pay you rent or something, Rhi, I just, can I stay?"
Rhiannon didn't even need to think about it. "Course you can, you daft sod. You know you're always welcome. You're not in trouble or anything, though, are you?"
Instead of answering Ianto burst into tears. Rhiannon was too stunned to do anything at first. The last time she'd seen her little brother cry like this he had fallen off the swing in the park and broken his leg. She just watched as he stood in the middle of the living room, sobbing openly as fat tears rolled like boulders down his face. His sobs were loud in her ear when she went to him as he seemed to fold in on himself, bringing them both to the floor.
She felt his hands twisting the fabric of her top between his fingers as she instinctively started to rock him.
"Hey, come on," she soothed even as she felt tears forming in her own eyes. Ianto's heart wrenching agony being passed onto her by nothing more than proximity and the fact that he was Ianto. She continued to whisper soothing nonsense in his ear as her hands held him close to her chest, waiting, like she had done on many occasion with Mica and David, for Ianto to cry himself out.
"What happened?" Rhiannon asked as she handed him a mug of tea sometime later, sitting down on the sofa next to him. He sniffled into the mug at first, supping quietly on it as he stared at the controller for the Xbox. There were a few false starting sentences before he finally seemed able to form one that didn't begin with a random stuttering letter of the alphabet.
"My girlfriend, Lisa," he said her name with such sorrowful love that it almost started Rhiannon crying again, "she died." Silence hung in the air for a moment as Rhiannon tried to push the mouthful of tea past the sudden lump in her throat.
"She'd been sick for a long time, but she died yesterday." The words were coming from Ianto as if he didn't quite believe them. Each word seemed to be premeditated before he let it slip past his lips.
"Oh, Ianto, I'm sorry." Rhiannon didn't know what else to say as she reached out a hand and placed it on his knee. He buried his nose in the mug of tea, unable to look at Rhiannon again. She wanted to ask him how that had anything to do with the mess his face was in, but Johnny would be home soon from the dole office and she didn't want to risk Ianto bursting into tears in front of Johnny – it would be mortifying for both of them.
"Why don't you go get a shower and I'll make us some lunch, yeah?" Rhiannon prompted as she heard the front door opening and closing. Ianto nodded blearily at her, bringing himself to his feet.
"Bloody nightmare, I swear that queue gets longer every month that I go down-" Johnny broke off as he came into the living room. "Oh aye, to what do we owe this visit?" Johnny teased, shoulder-bumping Ianto as his wife gave him eyes that clearly said 'don't'. Ianto mumbled something that Johnny couldn't quite make out before he was dragging his bag from the kitchen chair and disappearing out the door. Johnny listened to the stairs creaking before he turned to regard Rhi.
"His girlfriend's just died," she explained as she retrieved their used tea mugs from the coffee table and took them to the sink to wash.
"Christ, no wonder the bastard looks like crap," Johnny muttered.
"He's staying here for a few days," Rhiannon told Johnny, her back to him.
"I'll fetch that spare duvet down from the loft," Johnny said in reply. Rhiannon turned to look at Johnny, moving to hug him, grateful for the fact there was no argument from him.
"You're Uncle Ianto's going to be staying for a few days, alright?" Rhiannon said as she put two cartons of Ribena on the kitchen table in front of Mica and David.
"Why's he staying with us? He got nowhere to live?" David asked round a mouthful of chips. "I don't have to give up my bed, do I?" he added as an afterthought.
"No, he'll sleep on settee so you'll just have to not play on the Xbox before school," Rhiannon told them. Both of the kids gave out a little huff of annoyance at that.
"But why's he staying here?" David pressed again, another mouthful of chips impeding his speech.
"Don't talk with your mouth full, you," Rhiannon reprimanded. "And he's staying with us 'cause his girlfriend died, and he doesn't want to be on his own right now, alright? Now stop asking questions and eat your tea." Rhiannon turned away to plate up Johnny's, Ianto's and her tea. "And don't you go asking your Uncle lots of questions neither."
Rhiannon placed a mug of tea down on the coffee table in front of Ianto. She looked down at his sleeping form on the sofa. Even in sleep he looked exhausted, bags under his eyes, skin sallow and hair a homeless mess. He looked dreadful.
She'd heard him crying in the middle of the night when she'd got up to go to the toilet. She'd thought that something was wrong with the kids at first, but after looking in on them sleeping like angels she'd soon realised it had been Ianto, crying himself to sleep. She'd been halfway down the stairs in her dressing gown and slippers when she'd heard him talking. She'd paused above the creaking step, trying not to listen, but being unable to help herself.
"No, I'm not there, I'm at my sister's."
"He didn't say? I'm suspended for a month."
"I think it would be best if I just stayed away for the month."
His tone had been all professionalism, nothing in it that hinted at the severe amount of emotional pain he was in, or that there were no doubt still fresh tears making tracks on his cheeks. She had turned and gone back up the stairs then because she feared that she wouldn't find her brother in her living room. She wondered just how many faces little Ianto Jones had now.
She felt like she was trying to piece together a jigsaw puzzle with no picture of what the whole should be and numerous pieces missing. There was the dead girlfriend. That was the only solid piece of evidence she had on the matter, because no matter how good an actor Ianto had become you couldn't fake the kind of grief that was emitting from him in great gusting heaves. That and it somehow related to Ianto being in a fight and him being suspended from his job for a month. She didn't believe the story he had fed her yesterday any more than he did.
David came running down the stairs and into the kitchen, jerking Rhiannon out of her thoughts as she moved to fetch her own cup of tea while David helped himself to Frosties. Ianto didn't so much as stir from his slumber.
"You going to tell me what actually happened, then?"
They're in ASDA doing the weekly shop. She'd dragged Ianto with her to get him out the house for a bit and now he was reading down her shopping list like he was her kid instead of her brother.
"What?" he asked, looking up from a packet of Smart Price chicken fillets he was holding in one hand.
"About what happened with your girlfriend and how your face got in that state," Rhiannon said, not looking at Ianto as she picked up a packet of mince, seeking out the date on the label.
"I'm not daft, you know," she said looking up at him and his stunned silence.
"I can't-" He sighed before starting again. "It's complicated."
"Most things are." They'd forgotten about shopping now, both of them stood in the meat aisle of ASDA looking at each other with such intensity that they didn't realise they were blocking the pork chops.
"I can't," he repeated before he dropped the shopping list into her trolley and walked off. Rhiannon pursed her lips together, watching him go.
She found him sat on the kerb beside Johnny's car, the rain bouncing down and plastering his hair to his forehead.
"Get in the car you dumbo," she reprimanded as she threw the shopping in the boot haphazardly, jacket pulled over her head slightly as she jogged back with the trolley to retrieve her pound. He was sat in the passenger seat looking like a drowned puppy when she got back to the car, staring out the front windscreen at the hammering rain.
"You trying to catch your death, are you?" Rhiannon asked as she turned the ignition on, turning the heater on full blast, trying to demist the windows and warm Ianto up at the same time.
"I met her in London."
Rhiannon stopped pulling her seatbelt on, turning to look at Ianto, but he was still staring out the windscreen as he continued to talk.
"We both worked together in London. Then that disaster at Canary Wharf happened. We were both there."
Rhiannon gasped, a hand going to her mouth. She'd seen it on the news. Fire in the sky. Only 26 survivors BBC News 24 had said, her brother, apparently, one of them.
"She was injured and I foolishly thought I could save her. I brought her here, to my new job, thought that I'd be able to find a cure, be able to make her whole again, make her my Lisa." Ianto's voice was cracking as he spoke and even though Rhiannon suspected that she still wasn't getting the whole story, it was more than he had given her the other day.
"I was an idiot to think there could ever be any hope. I didn't cure her, I made her worse, made her into a monster and people I work with got hurt. I got hurt. I was just too blinded by love to see that what I was doing wasn't helping, it was just making things worse. I should have just let her go the first time." Ianto was clearly getting more and more angry with himself and his inability to save Lisa.
"But she was my Lisa." Ianto's face was twisted with emotional pain as he tried to stave off the tears that were threatening to fall. He took a moment to compose himself and Rhiannon let him, scared to interrupt in case he realised he was spilling all his secrets.
"I've been suspended. I betrayed the people I work with, my boss. My friends." Ianto finally turned to look at her, eyes no longer darting away from her face in that shy way that sometimes infuriated her.
"I'm sorry I came to you, Rhi, but I don't have anyone else now. They don't trust me, and I know that you probably don't understand, but I'm not asking for absolution, I don't deserve it, I just need-" Ianto blinked, trying to imply words with a look and Rhiannon was gazing into the watery blue depths of their mother's eyes.
"I kind of have to forgive you, even if I don't understand, 'cause you're my brother," Rhiannon tried to joke. Ianto's mouth quirked slightly in the start of a smile. She reached out and gave him an awkward sideways hug. "You know you'll always have me, Johnny and the kids."
"I know," Ianto whispered, voice broken as he tried to hide his tears in his sister's hair, the rain continuing to hammer down on the windscreen of the car.
"Wait your turn, David, let Mica finish playing with your Uncle Ianto," Rhiannon called over her shoulder as she pulled the front door open. There was a small Japanese woman stood on the doorstep, smart business attire and a shy smile on her face.
"Whatever you're selling, I don't want it, we've already got double glazing and we've got a Hoover that cleans the carpets just fine," Rhiannon said before the woman had time to even open her mouth. The woman looked momentarily stunned, an uncertain expression on her face as a hand reached up to tuck a stray bit of hair behind her right ear.
"Actually, I was looking for Ianto," the woman said softly. "My name's Toshiko Sato, I work with him."
Rhiannon continued to stand on the doorstep for a moment, eyeing this woman up and down. "You best come in then," Rhiannon said eventually, stepping back and allowing Toshiko over the threshold.
"Ianto," Rhiannon called as she shut the door and lead the way into the living room. "There's a woman from work here to see you."
Ianto looked up from where he'd been losing to Mica at Mario Cart on the Xbox. Toshiko was smiling hesitantly at him from the living room doorway as Rhiannon moved to put the kettle on. Ianto let David steal the controller from him as he rose to his feet, shoving his hands in his jeans pockets.
"Tosh," he said by way of greeting. She smiled at him in return. Rhiannon watched as they stood in awkward silence, looking at each other.
"Cuppa?" she asked to try and break the silence. Both of them turned to look at her and gave a hesitant nod.
"I just wanted to check you were alright," Tosh told Ianto as Rhiannon set a cup of tea down in front of her at the kitchen table, far too milky for Toshiko's liking, but she was too polite to complain.
Ianto nodded. "I'm okay, thanks."
Liar. Rhiannon thought, and from the look on Toshiko's face she clearly didn't believe him either. It wasn't hard to see through the lie; Ianto had dark circles underneath his eyes that spoke of sleepless nights on a lumpy settee.
"Everything alright at work?" he asked in a forced conversational tone.
"Coffee's not up to much," she joked, and Ianto tried to laugh, but failed. "We miss you, you know," Tosh then said, suddenly serious. Ianto scoffed.
"Not just your coffee, Ianto. It's odd without you there."
"Jack's suspended me for a month," Ianto replied, taking a slurp of tea.
"I think even he's regretting that decision," Toshiko said quickly, then immediately looked like she'd let slip too much, the filter between mouth and brain not working. "I think he sees it more as compassionate leave than suspension."
Ianto gave a humourless laugh. "He was pretty clear that it was suspension."
Rhiannon was surveying Ianto's now fully healed black eye, only the faded scars of cuts left just below it. She frowned.
"You know Jack gets wound up in the heat of the moment," Tosh said, trying to make excuses.
"I presume Gwen wanted to come over instead of you," Ianto said, steering the subject away from Jack.
Toshiko smiled grimly. "I don't think she quite knows what to do. I don't think she understands what it's like." Tosh gave Ianto a meaningful look, but Ianto ducked his head away and turned to look at David and Mica battling it out on the Xbox.
"That Toshiko woman seems nice," Rhiannon commented as Ianto passed her a plate to dry, soap spuds still clinging to the rim. Ianto didn't say anything, just hummed in agreement.
"The rest of them you work with, they're nice too are they?" Rhiannon pressed, putting the plate in the cupboard above the toaster. Ianto hummed again in agreement, not saying anything as he scrubbed at a pan with a scowerer. Rhiannon decided to try being less tactful.
"Who punched you then?"
Ianto didn't so much as pause in what he was doing. "No one. I was thrown across the room, hit my head off the floor."
There was a pause, nothing but the clanging of metal on metal as Ianto put the pan down on the dish rack, and the thundering of feet between bedroom and bathroom as Johnny got the kids ready for bed.
"You don't work for the Civil Service do you?" Rhiannon asked, quite suddenly. Ianto didn't say anything, just pulled the plug out the drain and started drying his hands on the kitchen towel Rhiannon still had a hold of.
"I'm going to head home tomorrow, before I out stay my welcome," Ianto said softly as he sloped back into the living room. Rhiannon picked the pot up from the drying rack.
"Too late," she muttered and immediately ducked out the way of a cushion being thrown at her. Ianto smiled as he slumped down onto the sofa, the cushion he'd thrown hitting him in the head a moment later as Rhiannon lobbed it back at him. Ianto hit her in the side of the arm with it as she sat down beside him.
"Just don't be a stranger now, yeah," she told him, looking at the television instead of him.