Summary: Jack thought that 21st century society would probably label Ianto as having OCD. He himself had no use for such epithets.
Disclaimer: Don't own any of it.
I think 21st century society would probably label Ianto as having OCD. I myself have no use for such epithets. When Ianto first started working for Torchwood, I simply thought he was neat. Perhaps a bit excessively neat. Pretty soon, Ianto had cleaned and organized the hub in a way that made it almost unrecognizable to me. Even the coffee cups were all perfectly lined up and organized according to colour. All the handles were turned exactly the same way. One day, I moved the handle of one of the cups slightly to the side. When I passed the cups again after a few minutes, the handle was back exactly where it had been. I switched a red and yellow cup around. Fifteen minutes later, their order had been restored. I caught Ianto glaring at me from the corner of my eye. To me, this was the first sign he was more than just 'neat'.
I kept watching the young man for the next few weeks, but never found a flaw in his work. He seemed to be settling in quite well, shy and reserved, but also capable of wit and equipped with a sharp mind. On a Monday afternoon, I'd gathered the team in the conference room to show them some footage of a reported alien sighting that we had to check out in the afternoon. Ianto seemed fidgety and uneasy, but I couldn't discern why. The video of the alleged alien was grainy and in no way shocking. When I'd given everyone their orders for the afternoon and they were filing out of the room, I held him back.
"Are you okay?"
He met my eyes and I saw him hesitate quite clearly. After a moment of internal struggle, he seemed to make up his mind and reached for the television remote. With a press of one of the buttons, he changed the volume from 25 to 26.
"Wasn't it loud enough?" I asked him. But changing the volume by just one number would hardly fix that.
"No," Ianto answered. He turned his eyes to the floor. "Doesn't matter. It's ridiculous."
He made a move to walk out of the room, but I grabbed his arm. "Try me."
Ianto replied quietly and with a hint of self-loathing in his voice. "The number is even now. Even is good."
He pulled his arm free and fled the room before I had a chance to say anything. When I saw him again, later that day, neither of us spoke of it. He was his quiet, unassuming and calm self and I saw no reason to upset him again. I did, however, resolve to make sure the volume of the television was always an even number. The next time we were in the SUV, I saw Ianto staring at the radio and I also fixed that one for him. He shot me a quick look of gratitude, before turning his eyes back to the road. After that, I even made sure my IPod and alarm clock were set at even numbers. Just in case. I never told the others about it. If Owen got his hands on the remote and put the volume at an odd number, I didn't call him on it. Instead, I rectified it surreptitiously.
I first thought Ianto didn't like me very much. Sure, he was friendly enough and always extremely polite. He insisted on calling me 'sir', so much that I'd stopped trying to get him to call me 'Jack'. However, he never seemed to set a foot in my office. I used to think he was avoiding me, until I noticed his desk. It was more than just organized. The piles of paper were neatly arranged, the space between the different pens was exactly an inch and everything seemed measured and carefully placed exactly where it was supposed to be. I looked at my own desk. It was, to describe it with perfect honesty, a complete and utter chaos. I spent two hours tidying it, throwing away papers I could have destroyed several years ago and filing everything that still looked remotely useful. The result was almost immediate. Ianto no longer shunned my office and even rewarded me with a smile on occasion.
It all changed after the events with the cyberwoman. Our carefully crafted relationship came tumbling down within several hours. I'd held a gun to his head, he'd accused me of not giving a shit. I allowed Ianto to grieve with the body for a moment, before ordering Gwen and Owen to take the corpse of the pizza girl, while Tosh and I lifted Lisa. Ianto followed our gloomy parade towards the autopsy room. He seemed to be detached and almost in a dream-like state. When we'd put the bodies down, Owen started preparing for the autopsies and Gwen took Ianto with her, presumably to get him a cup of tea. I went to my office. Inside, I was still fuming and not even Ianto's dreadful state was enough to call forth any empathy.
Thirty minutes later, I had calmed down considerably and had decided that a month's suspension would be a suitable punishment for Ianto. But when I asked Gwen where she'd seated the young man, she'd confessed to me that he'd gotten away from her. My heart seemed to stop for a moment, while I raced through the hub attempting to find him. I didn't even dare to think about what he was able to do to himself. My suspicions were soon proved to be unfounded. I found Ianto in the basement, where the body of his dead girlfriend had lain earlier. Ianto was sitting on his knees, stubbornly scrubbing at the dried blood that covered the floor. He was sobbing quietly and didn't look up when I ran to him. His suit was covered in blood and shredded in several places. I'd never seen him so disheveled before. I knew it wouldn't help either of us if I'd forced him to leave now. So I sank down on my knees next to him and helped him with the cleaning. He didn't acknowledge my presence, not even when the floor was spotlessly clean and devoid of any blood.
I then took his arm and helped him to stand up. He was unsteady on his feet and still didn't look at me. I told him of his suspension and he just nodded dully. I led him back to the hub, helped him in his coat and put him in the SUV. When I took him home, I realized it was the first time I was going to see his flat. It was exactly how I'd expected it to be. Perfectly organized and clean. Books in alphabetical order and not a speck of dust anywhere to be found. Ianto still seemed to be only semi-conscious, so I undressed him and washed the blood from his hands. I let his ruined suit drop to the floor and for once, Ianto didn't seem to mind. When I got him into the bed, he slept the moment his head touched the pillow. I left quietly, making sure not to upset anything in his immaculate flat.
During his suspension, I visited him every two days, trying to repair our relationship. The first week, Ianto refused to speak to me. He was still dressed in his three-piece-suit and ate when I put a plate in front of him, but it was little more than that. We watched television together and I talked to him, about everything and nothing, never expecting to get a reply. The second week, he suddenly responded to some inane comment I'd made and slowly, conversation started up again. We talked about television, politics, sometimes even our childhoods. But as soon as we approached the subject of Lisa and the events of the previous week, Ianto shut down completely. I tried to push him into talking to me, but quickly learned that wasn't the way. We went on like this for a whole month, until the last day of his suspension arrived. We were sitting on his couch, watching a political debate, when Ianto suddenly spoke:
His voice was quiet and I barely heard him. He surprised me with his words, but it was also a sign that the old Ianto, the Ianto whose trust I'd slowly won over the last year, was coming back. My reply was as simple as his apology:
It was enough.
Yet even after that short exchange, it wasn't like it had been before. Ianto seemed more on edge, much more stressed and uptight than he had been before. One day, I was sitting in my office, finishing up some dull paperwork, when I heard a crash just outside my door. I got up quickly and saw that the racket had been caused by Ianto dropping a coffee cup. He was currently on his knees, trying frantically to pick up the pieces. He was too quick and I saw him cutting his hand on a particularly sharp edge. I sat down next to him and told him to go see Owen. He wasn't listening, but kept picking up the shards, mingling blood with coffee.
"Owen, could you come down here for a moment?" I yelled towards the medical bay. "Ianto's cut himself and I need you to take a look at it."
"Can't you send him over here?" Owen yelled back.
Meanwhile, I tightened my grip around Ianto's wrist, effectively halting his movements. He finally looked up at me, his eyes wild and panicked.
"You're going to sit here," I made him stand up and sat him down on a nearby chair, just several feet away from the broken cup. "Owen's going to take a look at your hand and I'm going to clean this, while you make sure I'm doing it right, okay? As soon as I miss something, you're going to tell me."
He nodded at me and stayed put, while I set about cleaning the mess. Owen arrived only moments later.
"So what's the Teaboy done now?" He asked me gruffly, ignoring Ianto completely. "And why the hell can't he be bothered to walk down the steps where there's an actual medical bay."
I lost my temper then. "You're going to take a look at his hand, fix it and you're going to do it right here so that I can keep an eye on you. And if I hear you referring to Ianto as 'teaboy' once more, you'll be the one on suspension." Apparently my tone of voice was deadly enough to scare even Owen and without a further word of protest, he set about bandaging Ianto's hand. Luckily, the cut wasn't deep enough to require stitches.
However, the relationship between Ianto and Owen remained tense. A few weeks later, we were all gathered in the conference room to discuss the capture of a rogue Weevil. Everyone was somewhat stressed, because the Weevil had already killed two policemen and tonight, we had to catch him to avoid more casualties. While I was briefing the team, Ianto was tapping the table in a constant rhythm, every second a tap.
"Could you stop that?" Owen asked him, glaring at Ianto.
Ianto blushed and stopped immediately. I gave Owen a warning look and continued with handing out the assignment. After a minute or two, I noticed Ianto had started tapping again. It didn't bother me. He wasn't doing it to annoy us. To be honest, I didn't think he even noticed he was doing it. Apparently, Owen did.
"Look, you freak," he started, turning to Ianto. "Stop that fucking tapping of yours …"
He didn't get any further than that. Ianto surprised us all by getting up in the blink of an eye and punching Owen squarely in the jaw. There was a second in which everyone froze in surprise, including Ianto, but after that, Owen jumped up to retaliate and Ianto readied himself for a second punch. Gwen and Tosh reacted quickly and restrained Owen, while I held Ianto back, who struggled against my grip. Grabbing both his upper arms, I dragged him towards the door of the conference room.
"Go home. I don't want to see you back here until tomorrow morning."
Ianto glared at me, then shrugged himself loose. He adjusted his tie and disappeared from the hub.
That night, after the Weevil had finally been caught and I'd sent the team home, I went to visit Ianto. He opened the door, looking tired and slightly frightened. I followed him to his living room.
He broke the silence. "Are you going to fire me?"
He looked so young when he was scared. I felt a pang of sympathy for him, my earlier anger had completely dissipated. "No. I didn't fire you after …" I hesitated, but pushed on. "after Lisa. I'm certainly not going to do so now."
"But I punched Owen," Ianto spoke quietly.
"Everyone wants to punch Owen once in a while. I'm hardly going to fire you for something we've all dreamed about for several years," I joked, attempting to make the situation a little lighter. "However, I do want to know why you reacted so strongly."
He sighed and ran a hand through his hair, messing it up slightly. "He called me a freak. They used to call me that in school." He looked up at me and smiled wryly. "Not too strange, really. I must have been the only ten-year-old with perfectly filed homework."
"That doesn't make it all right." I told him sternly, but he just shrugged, defeated. "Hey," I said, catching his chin with my hand and turning his face towards me. "It doesn't. And if Owen calls you that one more time, he's the one that's fired. But I won't take you referring to yourself that way either, understood?"
He tried to nod, but I still had a hold of his chin. "Yes, sir," he then said softly.
"Good." I released him. There was a moment of silence, before I plucked up the courage to continue. "How are you, Ianto? I mean, how are you coping with it all?"
It was clear to him that I was referring to the loss of his girlfriend, but the guarded expression I had become so used to in the past few months, was already back into place. "Fine, sir."
I sighed, but accepted I wasn't going to get anywhere that day.
The next day, Ianto arrived back at the hub. He and Owen apologized reluctantly to one another and the work went on as usual. I did notice that Ianto was spending more time in the archives. He once told me in passing that he liked the order and I supposed that was logical. One evening, when I'd long sent everyone home and was about to get ready for bed myself, I realized that I hadn't seen Ianto leave yet. I walked towards the archives and soon found him. He was asleep, slumped against one of the filing cabinets.
I tried to wake him by shaking his shoulder slightly, but though he stirred and mumbled something, I wasn't able to rouse him completely. He was evidently exhausted, but looked uncomfortable laying on the cold, concrete floor. Without thinking about it too much, I put one arm around his shoulders, the other underneath his knees and lifted him up. He still didn't wake, but leaned his head against my shoulder. I carried him away from the archives and tucked him in in my own bed. He was surprisingly light for a man of his stature and I had no difficulty lifting him. I myself settled on the couch for the night, setting my alarm clock at 7:46, which would give me enough time to get ready before the rest of the team arrived. I decided to let Ianto sleep. He clearly needed it.
After that episode, Ianto started taking better care of himself under my supervision. For several weeks, everything ran smoothly. That was, until Suzie Costello was brought back from the dead and almost killed Gwen. Ianto seemed troubled and I caught him looking at my office several times.
"Something bothering you?"
He seemed startled by my question. "I'm fine, sir."
I ignored his reply. "Is it Suzie?"
He looked pained. "No, it isn't. I'm sorry, it's ridiculous. I should be feeling bad about Suzie and I am, I think I am."
"So what is it then?" I lowered my voice. "You can tell me. I won't laugh."
"It's the stopwatch."
I hadn't been expecting that.
"You put it in your pocket without resetting it."
"Excuse me?" I got the stopwatch from my pocket and handed it to him.
He pressed the top button and it went from pointing to 27 seconds back to 0. Ianto sighed in relief. "Sorry. It's ridiculous to worry about it, I know." He attempted to give the stopwatch back to me.
"Keep it," I told him, placing my hand on his shoulder. "And Ianto, if something bothers you, just tell me. Okay?"
He nodded shyly. "I just don't want you to think I'm a lunatic."
"I could never think that," I assured him seriously.
He gave me sincere smile and pocketed the stopwatch.
We never talk about Ianto's need for consistency and cleanliness. It's there, we both know it, but neither of us feel the need to explain it or analyze it. The same goes for the subject of Lisa, I suppose, but about that silence I still feel some uneasiness. I can never shake the feeling that Ianto needs to break down over it before being able to move on, instead of suffering in silence for so many months.
One night, he finally reached that moment I had been waiting for. It had been a tiring day, which had ended with a shouting match between Gwen and Owen in the hub, after which I'd sent everybody home. Even Ianto was getting ready to leave. He gathered up a pile of papers he'd carefully put in order and wanted to bring them to one of the filing cabinets. But because he was tired or because the lights were already dimmed, he tripped and the whole stack went flying. Ianto's system lay in completely ruins and for once, the young man reacted just the way I'd have reacted.
I then watched him sink to the floor and start crying. I rushed from my office to take him in my arms. He hardly seemed to notice my presence, but after working closely with him for the past years, I think I finally knew how to deal with him. Instead of talking to him or simply holding him, I patted him on his back in the rhythm Ianto tapped on the table when he was nervous or stressed. One pat for every second. Slowly, he started to calm down and began to relax in my arms. Eventually, he stopped crying, but made no move to get away. When he spoke, his voice was still thick with tears:
"Sometimes it hurts."
I nodded and was surprised that my own voice also sounded slightly hoarse. "I know."
In the end, it had always been worth it, getting to know Ianto the way I had over the years. Cleaning up my desk every day, tidying the hub as much as possible, keeping an eye out for odd numbers and always resetting all the stopwatches. It was worth it, I realized, when I sat there with Ianto in my arms. Society might find it necessary to deem him 'obsessive' and 'compulsive'. I, on the other hand, think it's enough to accept him as he is and love him for it. I hope he can do the same for me one day.
A/N Please leave a comment! I'd love to know what you think.