Title: The Undeniable – Part One
Summary: Ianto's been acting twitchy recently and Jack decides to find out why – but Ianto fights him every step of the way and Jack can't fathom this sudden lack of trust.
Warnings: Language, slash, some violence, light BDSM, moderate non-con. (Also Gwen is a bit of a plot-device in this story. Not intentionally tho, so don't think I'm a Gwen basher!)
Pairing: Jack/Ianto, Ianto/OMC
Series: Sequel to The Uninvited. (However it is not necessary to have read that story to understand this one.)
Timeline: Set after 'A Day In The Death'
A/N: This story includes a subject that I have no *personal* experience with, however it is something I hinted at in the Uninvited and decided would be fun to explore in its own story. If I seem naive with some details, that's because I am, but hopefully the story will not suffer for it. I won't tell you any more because it will ruin the surprise ;) Enjoy! (Oh, also totally not beta'd, so excuse any typos.)
The object was matt black and shaped like an over-sized peanut M&M. At least that's what Gwen had decided upon seeing it, but then she hadbeen complaining of feeling hungry at the time. Ianto had been a little more reserved when he'd logged the item's discovery into the Hub's database; describing it as a two-foot long ovoid without any defined edges. It was apparently constructed from a single sheet of unknown metal and the only marking upon it was a faint line etched around one end with no apparent purpose.
Jack stood in front of the workbench, arms folded across his chest as he contemplated the unusual pod. He'd never seen anything like it before and there was nothing in the archives to give them a clue as to its origin or function. It had come from about ten metres down in the ground, brought to the surface when developers of a new apartment complex had begun digging the foundations the previous week. As finds went, it wasn't the most outwardly exciting, but Tosh had leapt upon the challenge and spent every spare minute in the lab submitting the metallic pod to test after fruitless test.
Ianto appeared silently at Jack's side and it was only because of his experience with the young Welshman's ability to materialise out of thin air that Jack didn't embarrass himself by jumping in alarm. Ianto didn't say anything in greeting, merely leaned forward to study the pod with the vain curiosity of someone who knew there was nothing new to be found by looking, but simply couldn't help himself.
"See anything?" Gwen asked from Jack's other side. She'd been standing there for the past five minutes, attempting to emulate Jack's method of glaring down an enigma until it announced its raison d'être just to stop his intense scrutiny.
She'd so far had as much luck as Jack himself in this case.
"Nope," Ianto replied, sounding entirely disinterested, despite having his nose practically squashed against the dull surface.
Gwen gave a disappointed sigh. "I hate this kind of mystery. It's like a really odd-shaped present under the Christmas tree and you want to shake it just to find out what's inside. Only shaking this thing does nothing at all. It doesn't even make a noise, like when you accidentally break the crystal fruit bowl your Mam had bought specially for your Nan to replace the last one you broke..."
Jack could see the minute twitches in the muscles of Ianto's face that meant he was biting back laughter. The young man glanced out the corner of his eye at Jack, knowing he would have seen it, then turned a perfectly impassive expression towards their colleague. "You were a terror as a child, weren't you, Gwen Cooper?"
"Yeah, but I was a great little actress too," she told him, winking conspiratorially. "No one ever believed I was trouble because I could pull the best innocent act of all my friends and siblings."
"Ah, I see. Now I know who to suspect the next time the biscuits disappear."
Gwen giggled guiltily. "There were only a few left. And I was in desperate need of a chocolate fix, honest."
"I know," Ianto assured her. "That's why I've put an extra packet in your bottom drawer for next time."
Gwen's eyes widened in glee and she dashed off towards her workstation, shouting a thank you over her shoulder as she went.
Jack grinned at her retreating back, then turned his attention to Ianto. His smile softened with fondness as he studied his lover, who was still examining the pod as though nothing special had just happened. But Jack knew otherwise.
There weren't many people who truly believed in the concept of 'less is more'; who knew that small and thoughtful gestures were often appreciated more for their sincerity than big displays meant only to impress. There were even fewer who adopted the trait naturally into their lives, but Ianto was undoubtedly one of these rare individuals. Whilst he tended to the team's official requirements as his contract dictated, he also went the extra mile and provided those subtle personal touches that made all the difference in the world.
Whether it was catering for Gwen's sweet tooth, providing a sounding board for Tosh when everyone else had zoned out, bickering with Owen to allow the doctor to vent safely, or any of the countless other invisible services Ianto wove into his daily routine, it was all done without the expectation of being thanked or even recognised for having done anything at all. Jack suspected Ianto wasn't consciously aware of half the things he did, nor realised just how much it meant to the others, even if they didn't realise how much it meant to them either.
"You're looking at the wrong thing," Ianto said quietly, tilting his head to peer at the etched line from a different angle. "We already know what I am. It's the pod we need to figure out."
Jack's smile expanded again. "I don't think anyone will ever really know what you are," he said, the words tumbling from his lips without a thought.
Ianto's pretence of aloofness melted away as he turned bemused eyes towards the Captain. "That's either very profound or very rude," he said cautiously.
"I get that a lot," Jack countered. "Must be something in the delivery."
"Hmm," said Ianto. "Must be."
He returned his gaze to the pod and fell silent again. Jack's grin faltered when it became apparent that Ianto had no intention of asking which of the meanings applied to his comment. He cursed inwardly; not because of what he'd said but because Ianto's reaction – or lack thereof – was yet another entry to add to the mental list Jack had recently been compiling.
The list that documented all of Ianto's increasingly uncharacteristic behaviour.
Deciding to push a little harder, he leaned over to murmur in the young man's ear. "Let me guess," Jack began, "you're just itching to dust it."
The corner of Ianto's mouth, which Jack was watching carefully, curved upwards slightly. "No, I'm not."
"What's that in your hand?"
Ianto glanced down at the item he was holding. "That would be a feather duster, Jack," he replied evenly.
"Well unless you've developed a new kink, surely that means you intend to dust something," Jack said, encouraged by the petulance in Ianto's tone. He pressed closer, wondering if physical contact was the key, but Ianto tensed and took a step away from him.
"I do not have kinks," the young man said, biting out each word as though wary of getting one of them wrong somehow.
His expression closed up and Jack noted the change with alarm, taken aback by the sudden shift from nonchalant to offended in the blink of an eye. He frowned in confusion, but at the same time could not help but feel some degree of victory as well, because he'd unwittingly struck a nerve. For just a split second he had seen true emotion flash in Ianto's blue eyes and that was a rare thing indeed these days.
It had started a few months ago, after Ianto's body had been used by a mind-hopping alien with a grudge against Jack. He'd been trapped inside his own head, watching himself betray his colleagues and friends, even hurting them on one occasion.
To make matters worse, the alien had also messed with his senses; causing him to feel things he would never normally feel, including an insane lust for one Captain John Hart and an impossible physical pain every time Jack touched him.
Since that incident the young man had been rather more withdrawn than usual and, whilst it was a perfectly understandable reaction under the circumstances, Jack had two reasons to be worried about him.
First was the fact that enough time had passed for Ianto to have gotten over losing control of his body. Even though Jack knew Ianto hated being out of control, that he prided himself on his mastery of all things including himself, he had regained that control in a very empowering way and should have moved on by now.
The second reason was one Jack did not like thinking about at all, and it was one unique to Ianto. Had it been anybody else acting overly quiet and introvert, Jack wouldn't even have needed to number his concerns. But it was Ianto, or at least a version of Ianto, and Jack was forced to admit that this guarded facade was one that he recognised.
And that recognition was the true cause of his worry, for it harkened back to a time when Ianto was still new to Torchwood Three.
He'd been a far more reserved man back then, focusing solely on his work and content to linger at the edge of the team, an invisible and entirely non-threatening entity. The problem was that he had been withdrawn not because he was the new recruit employed only to clean up and help from the sidelines, but because he had a secret. A dark and deadly secret he couldn't risk exposing by getting too close to his new colleagues.
Now that he seemed to have adopted that wary persona once again, Jack couldn't help but fear that it meant he had another secret to hide.
Jack had been watching him carefully for the past few weeks, taking note of the way Ianto would deftly go about his day, no less competent or thorough in his work than before, but with a distance in his eyes that hadn't been there for a long time. When he joked with someone Jack could tell it was half-hearted, though the others didn't seem to notice. About the only time Jack could be sure he saw honest emotions in Ianto's eyes anymore was when they were alone together, but even the atmosphere during those moments had changed, with Ianto restless and eager and sometimes even irritable.
Jack had so far discovered no real explanation as to this curious development and although he sometimes did wonder if he was over-reacting, the memory of steel-wrapped death emerging from beneath his Hub assured him there was too much at risk if he ignored his instincts.
"Here," Tosh said, abruptly cutting through Jack's disturbing contemplations. He blinked, mind returning to the present to find he was still staring at Ianto, who in turn was staring resolutely at the pod and ignoring Jack's heavy gaze.
"Huh?" asked Jack, looking over to Tosh. Her hand was extended towards him, six plastic earplugs sitting on her open palm, whilst the rest of her attention was on a laptop perched beside the pod, her free fingers tapping rapidly away at the keys.
"If you're going to stick around, you'll need these," the tech wiz explained. "I'm going to start testing with some sonic frequencies and you won't want to be nearby without these."
"Huh?" Jack said again, only to be kept from further explanation as Ianto reached across and nabbed two of the plugs.
"You put them in your ears," the young man said dryly and once again Jack found himself wrong-footed by Ianto's reaction. How the hell could someone jump from impassive to affronted to sarcastic so quickly and make it seem perfectly natural?
Jack took a pair of earplugs for himself and slipped one into place. He held onto the other, not wanting to miss anything else that might be said, and noticed Ianto doing the same. "So what number is this on the list then?" he asked Tosh, instead of responding to Ianto's mocking.
"Sixteen," she said, tapping one final key before looking up from the monitor, apparently done with it.
Jack waited for her cue to put his other earplug in but she didn't move. He tilted his head at her. "Are we ready?"
Tosh nodded. "I thought we'd wait for Gwen to get back."
"She is rather excited about it," Jack agreed. "Even after all these fai-" Tosh's dark eyes flashed and he quickly amended his choice of words, "-fabulous tests that haven't gone wrong at all, no sir!"
"I'm excited about what?" Gwen asked, reappearing in the gap between the two men and saving Jack from a death-by-scowling. She stuffed the remaining half of a biscuit into her mouth, at which point realisation apparently dawned. "Oh, that, yes!" she said, trying to swallow and speak at the same time.
Tosh handed the last pair of plugs to Gwen then fitted her own and Jack hurried to put his second one in too, watching Ianto as he did so. A slight hint of disgust had creased the young man's brow at Gwen's poor manners, but it had vanished almost instantly and Jack was half tempted to break a few rules of etiquette just to see if he could get the same candid reaction.
A sharp squeal, muffled by the earplugs, interrupted his thoughts and he allowed himself to be distracted by Tosh's experiment, not entirely sure that he should be considering forcing Ianto out of his current stony disposition by insulting his sensibilities.
Working from her laptop, Tosh changed the pitch of the noise at regular intervals, hoping to hit a note that would open the container. If it was indeed controlled by sound. And if it actually did open, of course.
Ten minutes later and the frequency had reached so low that Jack was positive his entire body was physically vibrating. The pressure in his head was verging on painful and he was immensely grateful when Tosh stopped the programme and tugged out her earplugs in defeat. The other three did the same, faces tight with discomfort.
"Well, that was fun," declared Jack, working his jaw as though trying to pop his ears. "Perhaps we could pipe that stuff through the comm. system on quiet days to make sure we all stay awake."
"Thank god we don't have quiet days," Ianto muttered. He rubbed at his temples and Jack automatically sidled closer.
Ianto nodded, still rubbing small circles over his skin.
"You know what they say about how to cure headaches..." Jack said with a wink.
Ianto gave him a heavy-lidded glare and Jack grinned before turning back to Tosh. "Onto number seventeen, then?"
"Definitely," Tosh agreed with a determined glint in her eye, animated by the persistent challenge.
Gwen was leaning over the pod as they spoke, a disappointed pout on her face. She poked at the strange object. "I bet there's nothing in it," she said. "It could just be solid metal. Did we x-ray it?"
"The sensors couldn't penetrate the surface," Tosh explained. She began pulling out a coil of wire from a drawer, most likely for whatever number seventeen entailed. "But logic dictates there's a compartment inside, otherwise what purpose could it have?"
"It could be art," Ianto suggested, straightening his already impeccable tie. Jack had always taken that gesture to be one of anxiety, but there was nothing for him to be anxious about right then. Was there?
Gwen made a rude noise. "I don't think much of their taste then," she said. "Whoever they are." She prodded the metal oval again then jumped back in surprise as the lid toppled off onto the desk with a hiss of compressed air and a heavy 'clunk'.
All four of them stared at the now divided object.
"Uh," Gwen began cautiously, "yay me?"
Tosh recovered quickly and whipped out a portable scanner. "One of the frequencies worked after all," she said excitedly. "The top must have been stuck."
Emboldened by the other woman's reasoning, Gwen stepped forward, moving aside the lid and peering into the container with undisguised fascination. "Oh," she exclaimed. "Look!"
Everyone else bent their heads. There was a small square of empty space, the back of which was lit by a display of tiny coloured lights, blinking frantically at them in random patterns.
"Pretty," said Jack. "But obviously whatever it's meant to hold wasn't put inside."
"Unless it wasn't meant to hold anything. The lights could be a control system for whatever this thing does," Tosh said thoughtfully. Her gaze was still fixed on her scanner.
"Maybe. Work on it, but it isn't a priority, okay?"
"Mm-hmm," Tosh agreed, already tuning everything out but the new mystery.
Jack grinned at her enthusiasm, catching Ianto's eye to share the amusement. The younger man smiled back, though it seemed more than a little strained.
The rest of the day passed slowly, with a distinct lack of alarms or crises or anything else of interest to occupy the team. As the hours dragged on, Jack continued to obsess over Ianto's behaviour. Though the incident of his over-reaction earlier was nothing major, nor new, it had triggered something within Jack which could not be settled. No matter the harmlessness of the situation, he was through merely accepting Ianto's method of dealing with his problems.
Ianto pushed open the door to the underground car park and hurried over to his car. He could feel his shoulders hunching with tension, part of which was due to guilt over the flimsy excuse he'd just given Jack in order to get out of the Hub in the middle of the afternoon.
Chest constricted with discomfort and an almost tangible pressure following him out of the secret base, he slid into the driver's seat and sat there for a few seconds, relishing the feeling of escape that came with simply being inside a vehicle that could take him anywhere he wished to go.
Once the impending panic attack was safely deflected, he fished out his mobile and punched in a number from memory. It rang twice before it was answered.
"Hi, it's Ianto," he said anxiously. "I know it's only Tuesday but-"
"But you've had a bad day?" the voice on the other end of the line guessed. "It's okay, you're welcome to come over. You know I keep my afternoons free for emergencies."
"I know, thanks," Ianto sighed, the weight already beginning to lift from his shoulders. "I'll see you in a few minutes."