Disclaimer: As ever, all characters belong to the BBC and RTD and I make no profit from this endeavour.
Author's Note: This was originally going to be a one shot, but it has grown in my head so there is a further 3 or 4 chapters to go, though they might not all be this length. The conversation Jack mentions regarding Owen takes place in my story "Picking Teams" although you don't have to have read that to read this.
Reviews are always welcomed with a big smile. I hope you enjoy.
The shrill howl of the proximity alarm broke Jack away from his dark musings of yesterday's disastrous foray to Brynblaidd, and he rose swiftly to his feet, reaching for his Webley in surprised frustration. Mentally he ran through the possible causes for the early morning alarm: Gwen, Toshiko and Ianto had all been given the day off sick to recover from the injuries they had sustained at the hands of the cannibals, and in three years of working for Torchwood, Owen had never voluntarily entered the Hub at seven o clock in the morning. That lessened the chances of it being one of his team and his heart was chilled by the possibility that some unknown force had breached the supposedly impenetrable security systems.
Silently Jack slipped out of his office, praying that the old metal gangway did not choose that moment to squeak, revealing his position to the intruder. Fortune was with him this morning, and the interloper entered the main Hub through the cog door to find Jack's weapon trained unwaveringly between his eyes.
Ianto hadn't been sure how his arrival at the Hub would be received, it wasn't often Torchwood employees were granted a day off, excepting being comatose in the local general hospital, however he hadn't thought that Jack would be annoyed enough by his appearance to point a gun at him. The sight of the weapon sent a momentary thrill of fear down his spine, even as his mind argued that if Jack had really wanted to shoot him he'd had plenty of opportunity prior to now.
With a curse borne more of surprise at the situation than anger at Ianto's appearance Jack re-engaged the safety on the pistol and swiftly stowed it in the holster. He couldn't fail to notice the momentary terror flash through Ianto's blue eyes, and could almost see the logical side of the young man's mind fighting with his reflex to run.
"Ianto?" he questioned, his voice bordering on incredulous, "What are you doing here?"
The eyes that lifted to meet him were bright with the fear and pain that had haunted the last twenty four hours, bordered by the bruises that darkened Ianto's face and Jack immediately regretted his abrupt tone. The Welshman looked small, almost lost, dwarfed by the huge room in which he stood. He wasn't wearing his customary suit, and stood instead in baggy jeans and a long sleeved t shirt; stripped of his usual formality he looked surprisingly young and achingly vulnerable. Hurried by concern, Jack crossed the gantry and descended the stairs stopping to rest his hands carefully on the young man's shoulders and look him directly in the eyes, worried by his prolonged silence.
"What is it?" he asked again, watching as Ianto's face twisted with uncertainty.
"I'm sorry," Ianto finally blurted out, "I didn't mean to disturb you, I'll just..." he attempted to move away from Jack's hold and step back towards the door, gasping slightly as Jack's restraining grip tightened on the fresh wounds hidden beneath his long sleeved t shirt.
"Wait!" he pleaded, inwardly cursing himself for the pain he had inadvertently caused the young man, "Ianto, I'm sorry, you just took me by surprise! I thought you would be at home, still tucked up in that nice warm bed I'm sure you must have."
Gently, he slipped an arm around his shoulders and guided him to sit on the battered sofa that had been part of the Hub's furniture for longer than Jack cared to think about; Ianto sighed softly as he sank into a softness that came from too many broken springs. Jack hovered for a moment unsure of the best course of action, settling finally on offering coffee, his face lit with a self-mocking smile, relieved at the weary answering half-smile that lit Ianto's face.
"No thanks sir," he answered, and for the first time Jack noticed the hoarseness blunting his usually soft Welsh vowels, "I can put some on for you though if you'd like?"
Jack dropped onto the sofa, beside his colleague, turning his unwavering focus to the pale young man, who was uncharacteristically slouched into the cushions.
"I'm alright for now," he answered, "instead, how about you tell me what's brought you to the hub at this hour in the morning?"
"I always come in at this time in the morning, sir," Jack could tell that Ianto was trying for casual lightheartedness in his response, but it fell a few notes short, coming out as tired defensiveness instead.
Jack raised both eyebrows silently, wishing, not for the first time that he could imitate Ianto's perfect single-eyebrow raise.
"I gave you the day off," he pointed out reasonably, "Don't tell me you've exhausted all the entertainment possibilities of Cardiff already? Some of them don't even open until nine."
A slow crimson flush crept tellingly up Ianto's face, almost, but not quite hidden by the spectactular violet bruising which had developed overnight. He looked so uncomfortable, pinned in place by Jack's resolute attention, like an insect trapped under a microscope, desperate to escape.
"What is it Ianto?" Jack asked again, his blue eyes softening in concern. Part of him wanted to reach out and take his hand reassuringly but he still wasn't sure, particularly after recent events, how such an overture would be received, so for now he settled for waiting patiently until the young man was ready to speak.
There was a long pause before he did so, and for a moment Jack thought that he had fallen asleep with his eyes open, staring blankly towards Tosh's work station. Finally he painfully cleared his throat.
"I have a favour to ask."
Jack nodded once, curiosity piqued.
Again there was another hanging silence as Ianto contemplated how to elucidate his request, his brain, fogged from lack of sleep was struggling to put words together coherently, and he found his mouth being stretched in a jaw cracking yawn.
"Sorry," he apologised, almost grateful for the distraction of his fatigue. Jack merely waved his hand for him to continue, and Ianto sighed lightly before continuing.
"I wanted to ask you to teach me," he finally muttered, staring resolutely at his knees as if they alone held all the answers to his problems.
"Teach you?" queried Jack, confusion putting faint lines across his forehead.
Ianto nodded once, but didn't lift his gaze.
"To be better, at fighting...weapons... guns..." he mumbled before suddenly bursting into movement and rising to his feet, " I was useless yesterday! I almost got Tosh killed, I was so terrified I couldn't think straight and then I nearly got..." revulsion crossed his features, his face paled and for a moment Jack wondered if he was going to be sick, "Oh God, they were going to eat me."
He tried desperately to stifle the sob that rose in his throat, not wanting to appear any weaker in front of Jack. He wondered why he had thought it had been a good idea to come here at all. Although he and Jack's working relationship had improved significantly since that incident, there was still a palpable tension between them.
Two weeks of suspension and nothing to do but think had given Ianto the time to realise that the Lisa who had been killed in Cardiff had no longer been the woman he loved, really that had been evident at the moment she had announced their incompatability but he hadn't been prepared to give up on the hope that she, his Lisa, might still be in there somewhere. His realisation however, had only served to heighten his guilt when he realised the level of betrayal to his colleagues, not least Jack. He hadn't meant those words that he had screamed at him out on Roald Dahl Plass, not really, but he had been so full of rage, and grief, and guilt, that it had to have an outlet somewhere. Now he wished he could take the words back but had no idea how and so there remained a low level friction, rumbling constantly between the two men. Jack would awkwardly ask how he was, and he would reply politely but equally uncomfortably, then they would both return to their jobs.
A strong hand returned to his shoulder, breaking his train of thought, as the other lifted his chin so that he had no choice but to stare into the crystal depths of Jack's blue eyes.
"You did good you know," Jack told him softly, willing him to believe it, "You thought on your feet, and gave Tosh the chance to get out and get to the others," he didn't see a need at this point to mention that she had nearly been strangled in the intervening period, "although, for future reference, a knee to the balls will hurt you an awful lot less than a head butt."
Ianto nodded, wincing slightly as Jack's fingers traced the bruise across his forehead with a gentleness often belied by his demeanour.
"I just want to be better," Ianto admitted softly, "if you ever need me to go out with you all again, though I wouldn't blame you if you didn't, I don't want to put the others in danger because I don't know what I'm doing. I've done that once already."
Jack couldn't fail to notice the bitter self-recrimination in the young man's voice. It was that more than anything that had him nodding in agreement. Last night he had been considering removing Ianto from any further field work, thinking that the young man wouldn't want to return. It was only a surprise intervention from Owen that had him considering other options, and he had been musing over the issue for most of the night trying to decide what was best for both Ianto and the team. He still hadn't come to a final decision, but the Welshman's stubborn determination to be better, rather than request to hide permanently in the archives, struck a chord with the Captain. He admired that doggedness in the young man, particularly now it was focussed on the team, rather than what he was hiding in the basement.
"Ok," he agreed, slowly, " you had basic weapons handling from Torchwood One I take it?"
"Clean it, load it, cock it and if you have to fire it in the archives then the whole world has gone to hell," Ianto remembered the weapon's instruction like it was yesterday, "They were right."
Memories of that day still haunted him, the weight of the weapon in his hands that was all but useless against the two forces that raged against each other, while he and his colleagues had been caught, helpless in the crossfire.
Jack saw the grief and exhaustion written across his face and now found himself desperate erase it. Ianto was so young, and didn't deserve to be haunted by so many ghosts. He caught himself wondering if he'd ever seen the young man truly smile, and came up blank. There'd been little smirks, usually when he'd accused Jack of harassment, but not a true, all-out grin. That had to change.
"Fine, we'll do some weapons practice today," he smiled slightly at the expression of relief on Ianto's face. "But first you need some sleep."
He steered Ianto back to the couch, rearranging the cushions around him until he appeared comfortable. Cursing at the lack of blankets , he reached for his coat, draped carelessly across Tosh's chair since Ianto had not been here to hang it in its customary place. He settled it carefully over him, ignoring the muffled protests.
Satisfied that Ianto was as comfortable as he was going to get in the Hub, he crossed to the computer where a few swift clicks took him into the team's media archive and he selected some soothing piano music, smiling at Ianto's appreciative hum behind him.
"Sleep well," he murmured, dimming the lights as he made his way back to his office to ponder how best to train Ianto Jones.