Disclaimer: I do not own Torchwood, and I make no profit from this work.

Notes: A small melancholy oneshot. Partly because I'm awake when I shouldn't be, and partly to get it out there that I haven't gone and died or something. I should probably get whacked for the long absence alone, but I'm trusting you guys not to lynch me.

The Life of No Impact

Although Ianto can't speak for every death that's ever happened or ever will, it seems to him that the process of actually dying takes forever.

Maybe it's just him. Maybe breathing toxic air and keeling over after one hell of a last-words-speech is one of those things that takes a while longer to wrap up. Maybe other people don't take so long, don't have so much time.

And there's the irony, because suddenly he seems to have all this time and there's nothing to do with it but ruminate.

Ianto's always had a bit too much time to think. He's not particularly sociable, and he has always spent his quieter hours thinking about things, mulling things over. He takes too long to come to a decision and now, here, at the end of the line, he can see that those decisions weren't really any better for the decisions he did make.

And here it is: at the end of the remarkably short road that has been his life, he comes to the realisation that, actually, it wasn't at all what he'd set out to achieve.

In fact, quite the opposite.

The life of Ianto Jones has been unbelievably, undeniably, irreversibily insignificant.

The cold, hard facts come to him in the eternal last moments of his life, and those facts are that he has made no impact whatsoever, not even, really, on the lives around him. He changed Lisa's life, but she's gone already. He hasn't changed Jack's, and even if he had, the change would be lost in the eternity that Jack will last before he gets this last moment to think about it. He didn't change the lives of his colleagues - he wasn't even, really, friends with his colleagues. And outside of work? Even there, there's nothing of note.

A quarter of a century to showcase, and there's nothing in the cabinet.

He always set out to be better. To be an improvement upon the line he came from - to be something better than the bloke working in Debenhams with a wife in the kitchen at home, and two kids who, between them, couldn't rack up three achievements a year to brag about. About the only thing that Ianto did give his father to brag about was the acceptance letter to university, and that was only Reading, for God's sake.

About the only impact Ianto's made is a hearty contribution to the Mayfair cigarette company's yearly profit margin, and propping up the laundrette round the corner with all the clothes that working for Torchwood managed to sully every single week.

And let's face, nobody counts propping up the local laundrette an achievement unless they own the bloody thing.

So what does he have to show for anything, in the end? At best, nothing. At worst, responsibility for Lisa's death and not forgiving his father in time for the old man to know it before he died.

And why, at the end of his life, does Ianto have so much damn time to think these things over?

He wonders if his mother was right, and there's a Heaven and a Hell, and which one he's destined for. Limbo seems the most appropriate for such a non-entity, he thinks vaguely, but then, he's been baptised. And even the Catholic Church isn't buying into Limbo any more.

He wonders if Jack is right, if all those people the Resurrection Glove brought back for a few screaming seconds had told the truth. Wonders if, soon, he'll find out what Nothing is like - only he can't, because for you to not-exist, you are also, by definition, completely unaware of not-existing.

And he wonders if neither of them were right, and he has died, and his eternal afterlife is this: an eternity of mulling over his life that, for all the good and bad it ever did, might as well have not existed in the first place.

If he hadn't existed? His father wouldn't have had such a disappointment for a son; his mother wouldn't have smoked like a chimney (possibly); and Dave Evans in his Year Ten English class wouldn't have gotten caught smoking behind the bike sheds. Those are roughly the biggest changes that he can think of - because even without him, the Cybermen would have killed Lisa, and Suzie would have killed other people and herself, and Gwen would have found out about them with her curiosity-and-the-cat syndrome, and Tosh and Owen would have died all the same.

And everybody knows that nothing and nobody will ever, ever impact Jack like they could other people.

And that's it. Not even thirty years, but those are the best years, the biggest years to change things before you change things by having children, and Ianto never even got close to having children, not even with Lisa. His not-thirty-years of nothing, and now they have ended on the floor of a government building, because of - yet again - something from Jack's past.

He wonders where Jack's gone.

And there it is - the hazy blur of awareness seeping out of the cracks in his mind.

For a moment, he remembers being drunk for the first time and stumbling in late and his mother taking the wooden spoon to the seat of his jeans and demanding to know what on earth he'd been up to, getting mud all over the kitchen floor like that.

He remembers the distance between knowing what was happening, and not feeling it or caring about it.

And this - dying, death, whatever - is just like that.

He knows, and he doesn't care. As long as he doesn't have to think any more, then he can deal with the not-existing thing, quite happily thank you very much.

It's an absurd thought, and he wants to laugh.

The world's biggest irony passes there, quietly into death: Ianto Jones, possessor of the life of no impact, dies on the floor of a chill government building in London, and he dies wanting to laugh at his own sorry, pathetic situation.

So when the non-existence takes him, still trying to find the laughter, it seems like the universe at last grants him that one small piece of mercy.