Rhys was in their kitchen, surrounded by everyday things and a bit of a mess because they were both not very orderly people and it was so beautiful and normal that Gwen's eyes got wet. When Gwen stepped into Rhys' line of sight, he smiled at her.
"Hello, gorgeous!" He closed the refrigerator door and opened a bottle of beer. "You're home. I thought you'd pull another all-nighter."
"Tough case," she muttered.
"Yeah," Rhys answered. "I guessed as much. Hey, let us order take-out and watch that Sandra Bullock flick you love so much. Call it an early night so that you can get back to work relaxed tomorrow."
Gwen sobbed. Horrified, Rhys put the bottle down and went to hug her.
"Gwen? Sweetie?" That was when he noticed the cut just under her eyebrow and the beginnings of a black eye. "Jesus. What happened?"
She buried her face in his shirt and clung to him.
"What is it?" Rhys asked. "Gwen, what is it?"
"How could it have been Owen all along?" Tosh asked softly, not really expecting an answer. Ianto shrugged.
He sat down on the couch and dropped his over-night bag beside his feet. Jack had sent him home with Tosh, explaining that he would clean up and look after Owen. Ianto had been reluctant to leave him alone but Jack had insisted. He'd even assured Ianto that their shared barriers would stay until his mind had recovered from the attack. Ianto could only guess how much energy it must cost Jack to share his barriers over the distance that was between the Hub and Tosh's flat.
He sighed deeply.
"I don't even remember the last few weeks."
Tosh handed him a glass of water and a pain pill before she sat down on the couch beside him. She was exhausted, but she wanted to make sure that Ianto was alright before she went to bed.
"Jack thinks that the team's broken beyond repair." She sighed. "He thinks it's his fault."
"Because he's the leader," Ianto said. Tosh nodded.
He asked, "What if he's right?"
Tosh looked at him.
"He isn't," she said. She pulled her legs up on the couch and leaned into Ianto.
He put an arm around her shoulders.
"That won't stop him from wondering."
Jack leaned his head against the plastic wall that separated him from Owen's cell. The doctor stared at him darkly.
"I need it back," he said.
"You can't have it," Jack answered. "It's destroyed."
"I need it," Owen answered.
Jack shook his head.
Owen slammed his body against the plastic.
"You're killing me!"
Jack didn't even flinch.
"Go away if you don't want to help me!"
"Go! Leave me alone ..." Owen turned away. "... like everybody else." He sank to the floor with his head in his hands.
"You should have seen him. Jack was so angry," Gwen whispered and leaned into Rhys who was sitting on the couch beside her. "Am I overeager? Do you think he's right?"
"You can be pretty stubborn," Rhys answered.
"I didn't even notice that one of us was … doing drugs. I mean … what kind of a friend does that make me?"
"You should think about transferring back to the police. This job … it's too much. I can feel you slipping away, spending more time with them than you do with me. It's eating you up."
Gwen raised her head form his shoulder and looked at him earnestly.
"I love that job."
He closed his eyes.
"Priorities, Gwen. Get them straightened out."
"Sometimes it gets too much," Tosh said, settling an arm around Ianto's waist and laying her had on his good shoulder. He was stretched out on her couch under the comforter – under her. The position wasn't new to them and it had never been about sex for them. They'd clicked from the very first moment they'd met. Both of them quiet and withdrawn, both of them curious and sharing a passion for old movies. She'd been with him during his suspension whenever she wasn't at work. That much Ianto remembered.
"Sometimes," he agreed.
Tosh asked, "Do you love him?"
"I … don't know. I don't think so."
"But you're starting fall for him."
It wasn't a question so Ianto didn't answer.
"He was really worried about you, you know."
"Yes, I know." He sighed. "We … had something for a while there, before Lisa. I … I'm not gay. It's just … different." He chuckled helplessly. "I guess it doesn't matter any more because it's over."
"I wouldn't be so sure about that. He adores you."
Ianto didn't answer and Tosh realized that she'd already said too much. She sighed deeply.
"You're comfy. Do you mind if I just pass out here?"
"Not at all."
Owen was curled up against the plastic that separated him and Jack. His head was pounding and he felt the need reach a new peak.
"It hurts," he said.
"I know. But it'll pass. The amplifier's destroyed. You should feel better in a few hours."
"I wanted to hurt you. So badly. I wanted to break you."
"That wasn't you," Jack answered. "It was never you. You never wanted to hurt anyone, Owen, or you would have killed one of us. Somehow, you were still able to hold back. You kept a small bit of control."
"You should give me Retcon."
"I won't. I know you, Owen. You're not that guy who worked with us the last few days."
Owen laughed helplessly.
"Somewhere deep within I am."
Jack shook his head.
"There's a beast within all of us. We have to decide what to do about it." He looked at Owen. "Believe me, I know. I've done things … you wouldn't believe. Sometimes out of stupidity, sometimes out of love or out of hate."
Owen stared at the floor.
"It was supposed to be fun."
"Mind control is never fun, Owen. At least not in this century on this planet. That's why I don't want alien technology to leave the base. It's like giving cavemen a car. Maybe they can start it and drive around, but they're likely to kill or hurt innocents in the process."
"Flattering," Owen answered.
"I do my best."
Rhys was sleeping soundly, one arm wrapped around her. Gwen stared out of the window into the night, wondering what would happen tomorrow back at work. It wasn't going to be pleasant, that much was clear. She sighed deeply. But she wouldn't leave. Whatever had happened, she wasn't ready to leave Torchwood. She doubted that she ever would be.
Ianto turned the page and tried to make himself more comfortable, but with Tosh's body pinning him to the couch, that wasn't easy. She sighed in her sleep and tightened her hold around his waist. Ianto thumbed through his diary, trying to trigger his memory of the last few weeks. He knew it could be done. Gwen had done it. And he wanted to know where he and Jack were standing at the moment. If he'd been able to apologize to the captain.
It hit him out of nowhere. A memory – Jack close to him, talking to him, inside of his mind. Experiencing the same memory and revisiting it with him. Feeling the affection and passion Jack linked with the memory. Jack experiencing Ianto's feelings.
Ianto gasped. Jack knew. The one thing Ianto didn't want him to know and Jack had found out. That Ianto felt something for him. Something bordering on love. He closed his eyes in defeat.
"How long will I have to stay here?" Owen asked.
"The stone's destroyed. It's only addictive when it's still functioning. You're experiencing the last remnants of its effects. We'll wait until tomorrow to be sure, but I think you're feeling better. I take it you haven't been under the influence for too long?" He raised his eyebrows in question.
Owen nodded slowly.
"No. A few days. And I feel better. The headaches fading away and … I don't crave a look into your mind right now." He laughed helplessly and Jack forced a smile. Owen leaned his head back against the wall and stared into space.
"You can go now," he muttered, not really wanting him to though. "I'm alright."
Jack shook his head.
"I'm pretty comfortable right now." He looked at Owen. "I think I'll stay a while."
Owen woke curled up on the uncomfortable bed in the cell. It took a moment for him to realize that he wasn't alone. Ianto was sitting at the end of the bed, dressed in a suit and holding a mug of coffee out for Owen to take.
"A little creepy," the doctor said, "but a sight to behold nonetheless." He eagerly took the coffee. The cell door was open.
Ianto noticed his curious stare and explained. "Jack thinks that it's okay for you to leave the cell. But you have to remain in the Hub until late this afternoon to be absolutely sure that you're okay."
Owen sipped the coffee and closed his eyes with a sigh.
"Heaven," he muttered.
"It's my job after all." He got up to leave.
Owen grabbed his arm.
The archivist looked at him expectantly. Owen cleared his throat.
"Listen ..." He'd never been good at apologizing. He hated it. It made him vulnerable. But he knew that Ianto deserved it.
"I never meant to say those things. About … you know, whoring and stuff." Ianto raised an eyebrow. Owen continued, "You are … an okay guy and … I ..." Owen rolled his eyes. "Do I have to do this? Ianto?"
The Welshman suppressed a smile, just so.
"Great," Owen sighed. Ianto headed for the door.
"But, oh, hey! Ianto."
The archivist turned around to Owen and the doctor raised the mug.
"Thanks for the coffee."
"It was an amplifier," Jack said. He looked at his team sitting around the table in the boardroom. "It helps races who don't have psychic abilities to reach out and read minds or control them. Humans, at this point in time, are not able to read minds. The amplifier detected that and helped Owen out."
"Wait a second," Gwen said. "When you say that we don't have the ability, how come that Torchwood One was able to train people to deflect attacks?"
"Ah!" Jack said, raising his index finger. "Right. Defending your own mind is not the same as reading minds or controlling someone. Humans start to develop that ability in the early 40th century when they start mingling with other races."
Owen cleared his throat.
"What the device did, was essentially helping me out. I got stronger with every use but the nasty side effect was an addiction."
"Typical," Jack said. "The amplifiers weren't restricted when they first came out. Turned out that humans and some humanoid races really shouldn't be allowed to use them. The amplifiers were deemed too dangerous for them, it has something to do with chemicals and hormones. Breaking into minds sets free endorphins. Normally not a problem, but the device amplifies that effect and essentially made those humanoid races crave another high. A better high."
"Which was, in Owen's case, Ianto?" Tosh asked. Jack nodded, looking at the archivist.
"I started out with you two and random people," Owen explained. "When I tried it out on Ianto I realized that it was harder to control him, but it felt better when I finally started to break through his defences."
Ianto grimaced, but he didn't say anything.
"So, this is for sure, right?" Gwen asked. "No intruder?"
"No intruder," Jack answered. "The amplifier's destroyed and we're safe."
"You sure?" Gwen asked again. Jack nodded. She raised her eyebrows.
"That means that Ianto's no longer a prisoner, right?"
Jack smiled and shook his head.
"All sorted out." He cleared his throat, becoming serious. "Now, let's sort out something else. The last few weeks … hell, the last few months were a disaster. But they made me see that I wasn't doing a good job." When Tosh went to contradict him, Jack raised a hand. "Don't."
"Don't," he repeated. "I don't want to talk about this in detail. I don't want to make a therapy session out of this meeting because I think that would be wrong. Just listen to me." He put his hands on hips. "Here's the deal: We ignore what happened. We ignore every hurtful word, every betrayal and every fight or argument or discussion. We don't forget them because that would be foolish but we try to see past them. We start with a clean slate – each and every one of us. And we'll be better than before. If anyone wants to leave Torchwood, say it now." They all kept their gazes on the table and Jack nodded. "Didn't think so. Does everyone agree to what I just said?" Small nods. "Okay. Can everyone of you now look at me and give me a smile?" They did and Jack smiled back.
"My kids," he said. "I've never been more proud."
"Sir?" Ianto asked and stepped into Jack's office.
Ianto held up some files.
"The reports on recent events."
Jack nodded and Ianto stepped closer to put the folders on the table. Two days of work had passed, the Rift hadn't been acting up and they had all been buried in paperwork and projects. They'd been acting cautiously around each other at first, but they'd fallen back into routines, now – Gwen and Owen arguing over nothing, Tosh watching them quietly and sharing annoyed and amused glances with Ianto. Jack hadn't been this relaxed in weeks.
Jack looked up at Ianto who seemed nervous all of a sudden and he raised his eyebrows questioningly.
"I think … I was going through my diary, trying to trigger some memories."
"Did it work?"
"Amazingly so," Ianto answered with a small smile. "Well ..." He sighed. "I remember us … sharing that memory."
"I remember the … feelings you link with it."
Affection. Passion. Happiness. Jack was cherishing the memory, not looking back on it with bitterness.
"Yeah," Jack said.
"You're not … I missed … anger or betrayal or something like that."
Jack got up and came around his desk.
"You entrusted me with the most fragile thing humans have. You gave me permission to go through your mind. I could have done anything. Access memories or emotions, manipulate you ..."
"I know, sir."
"They taught you to never let your barriers down."
"But you did."
"I trust you."
"Right," Jack said. "There's your reason then."
Gwen poked her head into the room.
"We're going out for drinks. You joining us?"
"Absolutely," Jack nodded.
He looked at Ianto who hesitated and after an encouraging smile from Jack shrugged.
"Okay, departure in ten minutes." With that, she was gone. Ianto went to fetch Jack's coat and helped the captain into it.
While he brushed the captain's shoulders, Jack said, "We'll meet on the shooting range again as soon as your shoulder's healed."
"I want you to be ready to accompany us in the field when needed. I'm changing your status from support to backup field agent. Which means that you'll need more training."
Ianto stared at him and Jack put a hand on his cheek.
"You're ready." He turned away and headed for the door.
"Sir," Ianto said and Jack turned around. Ianto stepped closer. "About the memory and … my feelings ..."
"Oh, Ianto Jones, let's just see what we're going to do about that."
"No rushing in ..." He kissed Ianto's forehead. "I wanna do it right this time."
A/N: Thanks again for all the reviews. This was fun! I'm currently working on a sequel called This Crying Earth. But since I'm writing in my native language German and then translate it, it could take a while before it goes online. I'd be happy to see you again as soon as I'm done with it. Bye!