Part VI-

"What are we going to do?" Gwen Cooper asks Jones worriedly. "I mean, there's only the six of us now that Two's shut down. What are we supposed to do if they decide to take us over?"

"I don't think they want to shut us down," Jones replies absentmindedly, typing up his report on the slaughtered schoolchildren without any visible discomfort. "I reckon they just want to control us. Harkness is sort of a loose-canon, if you haven't noticed."

Gwen lets out an amused snort at Jones' understated description. Martha and Mickey have gone home, looking worn-out and miserable from the bloodbath, and only her and Jones remain. Jack is still up in his office making calls and technically Gwen should be home now, but she can't bring herself to leave when it seems that the world could fall down around them at any second.

"But do you think they could, if they wanted to?" Gwen continues, sitting down at the computer chair next to Jones, but avoiding looking at the screen. "I mean, we have the Queen's support, yeah?"

"The Queen does like Jack, God knows why," Jones agrees, slipping up and using their Captain's first name as he sometimes-rarely-does. "But she's not exactly the highest political authority anymore. She funds us, Royalty's always funded Torchwood, but I'm not sure she could do anything if the higher-ups decided to give us the boot."

"You're not exactly being very reassuring here," Gwen scowls, taking another sip of her coffee.

"I wasn't aware I was supposed to be," Jones replies archly, but Gwen's known him far too long to be offended, so she just rolls her eyes and glances up at Jack's office.

Sometimes she contemplates the strange twist of fate that allowed the relationship between her and Jones to change so much over the past three years. She was frightened by him in the beginning, hated him, or at the very least hated what he represented, and now every once and a while she thinks that he's probably her best friend.

"I guess it doesn't make sense that they would want to shut Torchwood down," she says, mostly to herself, to calm her nerves. "We are the only people who stand between this city and it's total destruction by alien forces. And we do occasionally save the world."

"Assuming the bureaucrats see the value in that sort of thing, of course," Jones says darkly with a quirk of an eyebrow.

"I dunno, there is a lot of money to be made in the world," Gwen replies in good humor and is rewarded with a small smile from her teammate.

"So we're worried about spies, too?" she asks. "What does that mean?"

"It means that they're interested, maybe even worried about us, but that it's a pretty recent development," Jones answers pragmatically, eyes still glued to the monitor. "Assuming that Johnson is the first move they've made, which is most likely considering we've hardly had contact with any other government organizations in the past couple years."

"So they're getting people to spy on us to...what? Scope us out?"

"Probably. It's unlikely they know much about us, despite Harkness' utter ineptitude at anything resembling secrecy," Jones says loftily, hitting a couple keys on the keyboard before printing the document and turning to look at her. "But don't worry, I know all the tricks they'll use if they send a spy here."

"But why?" Gwen asks uncomfortably, avoiding the mention of Jones' former status at Torchwood Three. "And why now?"

"Well, the Dalek invasion certainly turned some heads. The existence of aliens doesn't seem so mad anymore, I'm guessing," Jones says while heading across the Hub to the printer. "And if there is an actual alien threat, would you really want someone like Harkness in charge of your only defense?"

"What is that supposed to mean?" Gwen asks touchily.

Jones rolls his eyes. "Don't be naïve, Cooper. You were a copper, you know how these kind of things work. Harkness' hardly bureaucratic material. And suddenly Torchwood has a lot more political pull in the eyes of the British government. Not to mention he's extremely arrogant, impulsive, uncooperative, and has scores of enemies throughout the government."

Gwen raises her eyebrows at Jones' unusually bitter assessment, but resists the urge to call him out on it. It's obvious that Jones and Jack haven't been getting on these past few months, and she knows better than to get in the middle of that. She doesn't know exactly what they're sore over, but she suspects it has to do with what Jones inadvertently confessed to in Dublin. It's an uncomfortable situation and she doesn't like thinking about it, partly because she's never been able to reconcile the idea of Jones actually in love with their boss, even though she knows they've been...intimate, and partly because she knows there's no way this can end well, for either of them.

"Ugh, this entire thing is just idiotic," she groans leaning back in her chair to stare up at the ceiling. "I never signed up for this political bullshit, I just want to shoot aliens. To protect people, yeah? I don't give a shit about stupid intergovernmental power struggles."

"Of course," Jones agrees in amusement. "Oh, look, Harkness' off the phone."

"Right," Gwen says, standing and holding her pregnant belly to steady herself. "Let's see whether we still have our jobs."

She takes the lead, Jones following her up the stairs to Jack's office after a moment of brief hesitation, and enters the room just in time to see her boss throw the phone at the wall.

"Jack, what's going on?" Gwen asks, aghast.

"Frosbisher's a lying son of a bitch!" Jack rages, slamming his palms down on his desk and causing several piles of papers to topple over. "He's in on it, he's fucking in on it!"

"Frobisher? Who's-"

"Our liaison to the British government," Jones replies, crossing his arms over his chest and watching Jack carefully. "He's a civil servant."

"Shit," Jack snarls, whirling around and starting to pace back and forth behind his desk. "Shit, shit, shit!"

"So this Frobisher bloke...he's trying to infiltrate us?" Gwen asks slowly. "Or take over?"

"I don't know," Jack says through gritted teeth. " Could be either. Or both. He didn't admit to anything specifically, but I know when I'm being humored. Fuck, this is bad!"

"Why would they do this to us?" Gwen whispers, starting to get really worried. She knows it must be bad; she hasn't seen Jack this upset even about the end of the world.

"This is-" Jack pauses, looking around the room. "Where are Mickey and Martha, this is an emergency!"

"It's almost eleven, Jack," Gwen explains, softly. "They've gone home."

"What? Fine," Jack says distractedly, as if he didn't hear her. "Dammit, if Frobisher's conspiring against us, that means the Home Office's behind him. He'd never do anything without their full support, the spineless git!"

"The Home Office?" Gwen gasps.

"Frobisher's the Permanent Secretary," Jones informs her.

"But-" Gwen realizes, cold fear paralyzing her lungs. "But that's-"

"Everyone!" Jack finishes furiously, starting to pace again. "Police, MI5, anti-terrorism forces! And Frobisher-that bastard-he's been the liaison to Torchwood since the '80s, so he knows about my-my condition," he says bitterly and kicks his desk.

"Jack!" Gwen says, shocked at this unusual display of temper.

"Cooper, can you get the files on the Home Office and UNIT from the archives?" Jones asks suddenly, with a significant look in her direction. "They're in the IGO section."

Gwen blinks at the strange request. Besides the odd timing, Jones has always been the one to sift through the archives. And, technically, as she's second-in-command, he shouldn't be giving her orders.

"Er..." she starts and he throws her another, slightly more pointed look. "Alright."

She exits the office slowly, unable to help throwing a glance back at Jack's furious motions and the oddly determined look on Jones' face.

It takes her a couple minutes to figure out where the file is; Gwen's not down in the archives all that often, but eventually she finds it and it's bloody enormous. It's just pre-90's papers, too, the more modern information must all be on the Torchwood database, and it take her three trips to carry all of the file folders up. By the time she's gotten them onto the main floor, she's breathing like she just ran a marathon, sweating buckets, and stuck between being furious at Jones for not considering the fact that she's four months pregnant or grateful that it didn't even cross his mind. Refusing to carry them all up to Jack's office when it'll most likely be more convenient to look through them all on the ground floor, she starts to walk up the stairs to inform them she's got their bloody files, catching snippets of Jack and Jones' conversation as she goes.

"-eed to get a hold of yourself," Jones is saying harshly. "You're a bloody mess, you are. You need to get a grip, Harkness, or we're all going to go under."

"How many different ways can I say that I don't wantyour opinion?" Jack retorts coldly, and without knowing why, Gwen freezes in her tracks, her curiosity getting the better of her.

"And yet, somehow, I don't give a damn," Jones says rudely.

"That's enough," Jack hisses. "Today is not the day to cross me, Jon-"

"Yes, today was a particularly bad day, but you need to get over it," Jones says bluntly, and even though Gwen can't see either of them, she can almost feel the hostility radiating off Jack at that. "Our entire existence is at stake here! You need to pull yourself together and do something or Torchwood is going t-"

"You think I don't know that!" Jack shouts.

There is a long pause and Gwen closes her eyes against an impromptu kick from the baby girl-her daughter, how bloody mad is that?- inside her.

"You're the one who decided to keep quiet and pretend that nothing was wrong," Jones says quietly and Gwen frowns, now completely lost. "I don't think I can stress how much time we do not have for this."

"Oh, that's rich, coming from you!" Jack snarls in response and there's a sound that sounds like something has fallen off of Jack's desk again.

There is a long, awkward silence, and Gwen shifts hesitantly halfway up the stairs, wondering if this is her cue to enter.

"Now you listen to me," Jones says seriously, voice tight with an emotion that might be anger. "You're our leader, and you need to start acting like it, so get a hold of yourself. We're going to look through all our files and then you're going to make some phone calls. The Home Office might be against us, but I know you have friends in high places, higher and more powerful than the Queen. Frobisher may want us gone or restrained, but there are a lot of other powerful people with a vested interest in keeping Torchwood Three, with you at its head, intact. I'm pretty sure I still have the list I made a couple years ago, somewhere, if it helps."

"And if I fail?" Jack says in a pained sort of voice, as if every syllable is costing him something incredibly precious to utter.

"Don't," Jones advises, almost cruelly. "You're our leader. You are the only one who can stop this, Harkness. We need you to stop this."

"But no pressure," Jack quips bitterly, in a way that Gwen knows by now as the tone of voice he uses when he has no idea what else to say. Where other people are speechless, Jack jokes.

Jones doesn't reply.

"I thought you'd be for this more than anyone," Jack admits after a few seconds. "You've never had much respect for my methods."

"I think your methods are reckless, unreasonable, and occasionally, just plain stupid," Jones says in his usual tactless fashion. "But I trust you a hell of a lot more than I trust some bloody bureaucrat from London."


"You know," Jack murmurs, so softly Gwen can barely make out what he's saying. "Sometimes I really hate you."

"Only some of the time?" Jones asks without any real emotion. "Well, that's progress from where we first started out."

There is another pause and abruptly, Gwen begins to feel guilty for eavesdropping on a conversation that is rapidly getting more and more personal.

"Jack!" she calls out, trying to make her voice sound farther down the stairs than she actually is. "I've got the files!"

"Coming!" Jack replies after a beat, and Gwen tiptoes back down to the ground floor and opens a manila folder.

The three of them meticulously sift though the files over the next hour or so before Jack suddenly realizes the time and makes them go home. They still have to go through the database and all the Torchwood One stuff that Tosh didn't upload to the mainframe, but it's a start. It's still sort of terrifying and stressful, but Gwen no longer feels like some paramilitary organization is going to storm the Hub at any given second. Jones is right, Jack has been working for Torchwood for more than a hundred years. He's bound to have connections all throughout the government or he wouldn't be able to get away with all the mad stunts he pulls on a regular basis. They'll make it through this. They have to.

"Well, what was it this time?" Rhys mumbles sleepily as she gets into bed beside him, snuggling against his side. "Tentacle monsters? Psychotic killer robots?"

"Worse," Gwen murmurs into his hair. "The British government."

She doesn't mention the schoolchildren, not because she wants to lie to Rhys, but because no one wants to hear about dead children, especially not a father-to-be.

Rhys snorts with laughter and turns over, reaching around to lay his hand on her stomach. She smiles softly and covers his hand with her own. He's the only one who she really feels comfortable with doing this. Sure, it was kind of neat how many people stopped her on the street when she first started showing, but it got old and a bit intrusive real fast.

"So, I was thinking of a name..." he murmurs, stroking her hair on her cheek and Gwen smiles and burrows her head further into his shoulder.

Jack Harkness is a fucking coward.

He knows he was one before he met the Doctor, before he started caring about anyone but himself, but he thought he'd moved past it over the last hundred something years. He puts himself in the path of all manner of horrific dangers everyday, but he can't bring himself to talk honestly with one of his employees. He's tried. He really, really has. But he can't seem to find the words to say. What is he supposed to say? And Jones, Jones is completely unhelpful, all stoic and calm and clearly not as bothered by all this as Jack is unless it's just a front, but it would have to be a pretty spectacular front, right?

Because Jones said he loves him. Loves him! Which is terrifying and wonderful and insane, because this is Jones, for God's sake, and since when does he give a damn about anyone else besides his dead girlfriend? Never, that's when. So, all Jack can think is that he must be lying. It just doesn't make sense. Jones couldn't be in love with him. Wouldn't he have noticed? Jack has always been good at telling whether people genuinely fancied him or not. And he gets nothing off Jones. Jones doesn't blush around him or got distracted when Jack made lewd jokes. Jones isn't even nice to him. In fact, he is kind of an arsehole. He has never given any indication that he felt anything more than mild disapproval of him and now Jack is supposed to believe that he's in love with him? Fat chance.

So, Jack keeps his mouth shut. He has to take a step back and figure out what the hell is going on before he acts. He has to observe, be careful now not to rush into anything because he knows he's too emotionally invested to risk doing something stupid. He waits and watches, pretending that everything is completely normal all the while, because what else can he do?

That's what he tells himself at least. But it's been three months since Jones' confession and he's still at loss what to do. He knows what he wants, what he feels, has known for almost a year now actually, but he still has no idea what course of action to take. He knows he should probably confront Jones, but it'd be so much easier if he got the impression that Jones gave a fuck. Because as it is, Jones seems completely unburdened by the dilemma Jack has found himself in. He continues to act as if nothing ever happened between them, in the same way that he behaved after they all found out what really happened to Lisa Hallet. It's really annoying and confusing, and despite his many conquests, Jack doesn't think he's ever fallen for someone as emotionally constipated as Jones before and thus he feels like he's playing totally blind.

So, yeah, he's a coward, and no, he doesn't say anything and of course, neither does Jones. And that's how three months go by, awkward, filled with the long game of meaningless flattery and bureaucratic niceties that Jack is forced to play to save Torchwood, and completely devoid of sex, with no end in sight. The sex part, at least. Thankfully, he thinks they're almost out of the woods on Frobisher's backstabbing plot to take them over. At first it had seemed especially daunting, with no way of knowing what Frobisher was planning. But with the unlikely aid of Frobisher's young PA, who had at first remained immune to Jack's flirtation, but then had done some snooping on her boss' computer and decided to help them after all, Jack is pretty sure that the future of Torchwood is safe.

"Uh...Jack?" Andy calls up to his office just after sunset on a particularly cold day in November, "You better look at this."

Intrigued at his shell-shocked tone, Jack dutifully walks down the stairs to the main level to look at Gwen's computer that Andy has taken over as Gwen has started taking half days when things are slow.

"A police report was just filed in Penylan," Andy explains as Jack nears. "A Costcutter was just trashed. It's run by a Muslim woman, so the report pegged it as a hate crime, but the witnesses' statements made it sound like the attacker was...well, just look at this."

He pulls up a grainy security camera feed of the front of the store. Suddenly, a masked, humanoid figure bursts into the store, letting out an ear-piercing roar in a language that Jack doesn't understand. It grabs a terrified businessman and tosses him against the wall and proceeds to kick over a couple shelves.

"Pause it," Jack orders, leaning over to peer at the monitor. "Can you magnify that?" he asks, pointing at the face of the attacker.

"Err..." Andy stutters, mousing over the video. "Wait, I think I can..."

"Here," Mickey says, coming up from behind him to take the mouse. "Lemme deal with the tech stuff, mate."

He magnifies the face and then then amplifies the picture quality until it's clear that...

"...that's not a mask, is it?"Mickey says slowly.

"Is that one eye?" Andy gapes.

"Fuck," Jack says. "A Jagaroth."

"What's a Jagaroth again?" Martha questions as they speed off to Penylan. "There's nothing on them in our database."

"They're supposed to be extinct," Jack says shortly, drumming his fingers impatiently against the steering wheel as the light ahead of him turns red. "They're known for their violent and warlike behavior. Dammit! This is why I hate time travel!"

"Time travel?" Andy questions.

"What part of extinct do you not understand?" Jones replies coldly.

Andy scowls. "Hey, watch it. You're not exactly a font of knowledge her-"

"Enough," Jack says wearily. "Andy, the Rift is a tear in both space and time. You know that woman in London, Emma Morrison, that we keep tabs on? She came here on by airplane through the Rift from 1953."

"And she couldn't get back?" Andy asks, looking horrified.

"Nope," Jack says quietly, suddenly remembering that out of the the five people in the SUV, only he and Jones were present when the Sky Gypsy landed in Cardiff, almost three years ago now. Gwen is at home, Owen and Tosh are dead, and now Jones is the only one left. Without thinking, Jack glances at Jones in the passenger seat out of the corner of his eye. Jones doesn't notice.

"From what I remember, Jagaroths were extremely technologically advanced and were able to mimic other life forms. But considering the way it appeared in that Costcutter and its behavior I'd say its lost, probably without technology. That's a good thing," he adds to Mickey, who looks rather disappointed.

"Do you think they're more of them?" Martha wants to know.

"Doubtful," Jack replies gratefully. "If they came as a force, Cardiff would've been in ruins by now, but we'd better keep monitoring the area after we catch this one to be sure."

"Will our tranqs work on them?" Mickey asks dubiously. "Guns?"

"I have no idea," Jack answers truthfully. "I've never actually come across one before."

"Great," Jones mutters in that annoyingly pessimistic way of his.

They start at the Costcutter and slowly circle out from there. Three hours go by and still no joy, so they separate to cover more ground.

"Jack, I don't think we're going to find anything," Andy says over the comm at around eight. "I don't think that it's here anymor-Bloody hell, there it is!"

"Where are you?" Jack demands immediately, stopping in his tracks.

"In an alley off Waterloo Rd," Andy whispers. "It's digging through the dumpster outside of a restaurant. Bugger, I think it's seen me!"

"Don't do anything stupid!" Mickey cautions, breath coming in short puffs over the comm. "I'll be there in a second, I think. Christ, I hate the suburbs! Everything looks the same!"

"Martha, Jones, where are you?" Jack asks, messing with his wriststrap. "I'm all the way up by the athletic center."

"I'm on Winchester Ave," Martha replies. "Is that close?"

"Keep going north on Pen-y-lan for two blocks and then turn right!" Jack answers, consulting his wriststrap. "Back Mickey and Andy up! Jones, what about you?"

There is no reply.

"Jones?" Jack tries again. "Jones, come in!"

No answer.

"Uh, bad news, Jack," Andy shouts. "Tranq guns don't work!"

"Idiot," Jack hisses, jumping over an inconveniently placed decorative shrub as he reaches the end of the residential area. "Wait for backup!"

Andy doesn't reply.

"Andy!" Jack calls. "Andy!"

"Martha?" Mickey hisses.

"Bit busy right now!" she shouts and Jack hears shots in the background before the line goes dead.

"Shit!" Jack curses, running flat out now. "What the hell is going on there! Mickey, are you close?"

"Not yet, I've got caught up!"

"Jones," Jack tries again, and tries not to remember the last time, in 1973, when he lost two teammates in a radio silence. "Jones, are you there!"


He nearly gets himself killed streaking across the highway, but it's still another five minutes 'til he reaches the alley.

"Martha!" he yells into the night. "Andy!"

"Over here!" Martha screams, sounding shrill and afraid. "Hurry!"

He lunges toward her voice, turning a corner to find her crouched down next to a stack of crates, Andy's head cradled in her lap.

"Is he-?" Jack manages to choke out past his gasping breaths.

Andy groans in response, head shifting to reveal a thick streak of blood down the entire left side of his face.

"He got clocked pretty hard," Martha whispers, her right arm bent at an unnatural angle. "It's so strong, Jack, and our firearms don't work on it. It just threw us to the side."

"Where's Mickey?" Jack gasps, reaching out with one hand to steady himself against the brick wall. "He was closer than me."

"I haven't heard from him," Martha says, voice taking on an unnatural lilt. "And Jones?"

"Nothing," Jack replies, clenching his teeth, as if bracing himself through saying the words will make them hurt less.

Suddenly there's a crash from the street up ahead and Jack draws his pistol, edging past Martha and Andy out of the alley.

The Jagaroth snarls and twists around as he slowly approaches, jaw flaps shuddering and green tendrils on its face squirming frantically.

"Whoa, hold on," Jack says, immediately raising his hands. "I just want to talk."

It snarls something incomprehensible out, shoulders hunching defensively.

"Okay, so you don't speak English, which makes sense, really. Rather annoying language," Jack says lightly, hoping that Martha will use the opportunity to take Andy and get help. "What about Galactic Standard? Chuluan? Shadaic?"

The Jagaroth's head jerks at the last language, pupil dilating.

"Of course, you would understand Shadaic," Jack mutters under his breath. "All those different ways to say "to kill?" How could you resist?"

"You," the Jagaroth says in Shadaic, its voice shockingly low and booming for its shape. "Take me to my ship."

"Sorry," Jack replies, hoping he's not too rusty. "Your ship is gone. You've fallen through a rift in space and time. This is the planet Earth."

"This place," it snarls, looking around the suburban center. "It is...unfamiliar."

"Kind of a backwater planet, Earth," Jack agrees carefully. "But you get used to it after a while. So...I'm going to have to ask you to come with me now."

"Why is that?" it asks warily.

"You've caused a bit of a mess," Jack says slowly. "Humans aren't used to seeing ali-other life forms not native to this planet."

"And you presume to stop me?" it laughs, voice echoing eerily. "One lone inferior creature?"

"Jack," Martha says from behind him. She's placed Andy's head gently on the ground and has stood up, pointing her gun at the Jagaroth. "What is it saying?"

"It's lost," Jack tells her in English. "Let me deal with it."

"Not likely," Martha says determinedly, coming to stand next to him.

"Martha-!" Jack starts exasperatedly.

"Foolish creatures," the Jagaroth mocks. "Your weapons do not harm me and you break so easily. Already have I killed one of your comrades and injured two others. You shall be next."

"Kille-" Jack starts and then stops, an ice cold feeling spreading through his chest. ""

But he knows exactly what it's talking about. It's Jones. He's known since Jones hadn't answered any of his calls over the past fifteen minutes. He just didn't want to admit it.

He's firing before he consciously makes the decision to pull the trigger and empties all six bullets into the Jagaroth with no visible effect.

"Jack, what-" Martha cries, but then they're both throwing themselves out of the way as the Jagaroth barrels towards them.

Jack aims a rage fueled punch at the alien, but it smacks him aside with one green arm. He collides with the wall and hears Martha shoot a couple more times to no avail.

"Weak and inferior," the Jagaroth is booming by the time he staggers to his feet.

It's standing over a barely conscious Martha, gripping her by the throat.

"Don'," Andy mutters from the other side of the alley as Martha chokes, shifting painfully. "Don' do tha."

"Hey!" Jack shouts furiously, running toward it, because he's not going to let Martha and Andy die too, not here, not now. "HEY!"

He throws himself on the back of the Jagaroth, grabbing hold of its neck and forcing it to let go of Martha. With a booming roar, the alien throws him off, sending him careening into the dumpster.

"Pathetic," it intones as Jack lies gasping on the ground, colorful lights dancing over his vision. "Your weapons and technology are unimpressive. You will die now."

"Wanna bet?" comes Mickey's voice from the other end of the alley and before Jack can even turn to look at him there's the dull roar of an oversized gun and the Jagaroth implodes.

They all gape at Mickey for a few seconds, looking between him and the dead alien and back again.

"Wow," Andy slurs. "You are so hot right now."

Martha nods, stunned, and despite the fact that this is Mickey Smith, Jack can't help but agree.

Mickey shoulders his gun, quirking an eyebrow.

"Please never say that again," he tells Andy. "Sorry, I took so long. I figured we'd need extra firepower so I made a pit stop."

"No problem," Martha says hoarsely, massaging her bruised throat. "We need to get him to a hospital. He's going to need a CT scan."

"Are you alright?" Mickey asks her, looking concerned.

"Fine," Martha says, giving him a small smile. "Jack?"

"Go ahead and take them to the hospital," Jack tells Mickey, standing up even though every single muscle in his body protests vehemently. "I'll clean this up."

"Jack, where's Jones?" Mickey asks, and for a second Jack's throat constricts and he feels like he can't breathe.

"I don't know," Jack says roughly, closing his eyes and clenching his jaw to avoid the overwhelming urge to cry.

"Drop off Martha and Andy and come back here for clean-up," he modifies.

"What are you going to do?" Martha, perceptive Martha, asks.

"Find Jones' body," Jack thinks, but instead, silently, helps Mickey with Andy and tries not to scream.

Ianto Jones groans, pushing himself off the ground unsteadily. He's in a parking lot outside of a funeral home and his head feels like someone bashed him over the head with a stop sign. Mostly because someone did bash him over the head with a stop sign.

He reaches up to touch his head gingerly and is pleased to find no blood. He spots his mobile on the ground next to him, in pieces though, and he groans in frustration. He's in the middle of Penylan without any means of communication in the middle of the night. He's never going to get back to civilization.

"Fuck," Ianto mutters and picks up the pieces of his ruined mobile. He doesn't bring his spare with him on missions to avoid breaking it, so he's completely on his own. Holstering his gun, Ianto heads for the road and hopes he can remember the way back to the SUV.

He walks northward for a couple of minutes, avoiding the headlights of the occasional passing car as he's wicked conspicuous. It takes about ten minutes for him to reach a sort of shopping area that he thinks he vaguely recognizes, but there's still a couple of people walking around, coming out of restaurants and the pub, so he shies away, wishing for once he had worn civilian clothes.

He loops around the back of the commercial area, through an alley that separates a chiropractic clinic and a nice Italian restaurant, and turns a corner to see Jack.

"Oi!" he says and Jack whirls around, face barely visible in the streetlight up ahead on the road. "Did you find it, then?"

Jack doesn't say anything and as Ianto gets closer, he can make out the shocked expression on Jack's face.

"Wh-What?" Jack croaks finally, looking thrown.

"The Jagaroth," Ianto clarifies impatiently. "I ran into it a couple blocks south of here. Guns don't work o-"

"Why the hell aren't you answering your comm?" Jack interrupts furiously, striding toward him with an almost manic look on his face.

"Mobile broke," Ianto answers, confused as to why Jack's so worked up about this and purposefully not mentioning the whole being knocked unconscious thing. "Why are you-Mmmgh!"

Jack has grabbed him by the labels of his vest and mashed his mouth against his so violently that it could almost be mistaken as a punch, except for, you know, all the tongue.

Ianto's so taken aback that he just stands there for a few seconds, before gripping Jack tightly by the back of the neck and kissing back desperately.

And, oh, God, has he missed this. The feeling of Jack's arm around his waist, rough wool under his hands, Jack's mouth against his. It's utterly mad, standing in a dark alley in Penylan with his boss' hand creeping under his shirt and his tongue down his throat and he knows he should stop, for so many reasons, but he just can't.

"Fuck," Jack groans, pulling away for air and kissing the spot on the back of Ianto's neck that he knows drives him crazy. "Fuck, I thought you were dead."

"What?" Ianto says shrilly, Jack's words enough to jar him out of his Jack-induced stupor. "What are y-"

"Shut up," Jack hisses, melding their mouths together again and shoves him against the brick wall on one side of the alley.

The abruptness of the entire sequence of events causes Ianto to blink in bewilderment as Jack unzips his vest and slides his hands down his chest.

"Wh-what?" he says again, feeling lightheaded and rather like he's caught in an extremely vivid dream.

"Shut up," Jack repeats roughly and bites at the hollow of his throat.

Ianto groans and reaches for Jack again, winding his fingers in his-admittedly great-hair and looping his arm around his neck, pulling his head closer to his to kiss him again. Jack gets his hand up Ianto's shirt again, much more easily now that his vest is unzipped, and they're pressed hip to hip, Jack's greatcoat to Ianto's under armor and Ianto has no idea what is happening.

"Maybe," he mumbles in between kisses and Jack's frantic fumbling with his trousers. "Maybe this isn't the best-"

"Oh, it is definitely the best," Jack moans, and Ianto is extremely hard-pressed to come up with a reasonable argument against that.

Alright, Ianto thinks, alright, and just gives in, even though this isn't something he's ever done before. He's always been an intensely private person, never done anything remotely close to having it off in an alley, not with Meghan, not with Lisa, not even with the anonymous woman he almost slept with after Lisa's death, but didn't at the last second, and not with Jack before this. Even with Jack, he's confined things like this to private areas like his flat or Jack's room, despite his boss' exhibitionist tendencies. He's never been quite as comfortable with himself in the sexual sense as the average person, and certainly not as comfortable as Jack.

But, it's Jack and Ianto's missed him, missed this, and sure, alright, he hasn't gotten laid in three months, too, and after a year and a half of regular sex that's a long time. So, it's okay if he's a little uncomfortable, okay if this is a bit too much for him, because he's spent his whole life with entirely too little, and Jack has always been a very good kisser and a good-

"Ngh, haaah, al...right, that', very, um," Ianto babbles, because Jack's got his hand, well, and he never did say what happened to the Jagaroth and it'd be pretty embarrassing if Jack had to tell Rhiannon that he got killed while receiving a handjob from his boss in an alley.

Groaning, Ianto leans forward to press his forehead against Jack's and he clutches the back of Jack's coat, kissing him just for the pleasure of contact with Jack's mouth.

"Ah, mgnhmm," Ianto moans as Jack twists his wrist just right, clenching his teeth against the embarrassing sounds leaving his throat and twisting his head away. He's not usually this embarrassed by his own noises, but Jack is being uncommonly quiet, favoring quick, desperate kisses on his mouth and neck, instead of his usual nonstop filthy commentary. It's enough to make a bloke (even more) self-conscious.

But, whatever, it's fine, great actually, until Jack finishes futzing with his trousers and sinks to his knees.

"W-Wait, Jack, I don't thi-" Ianto stutters, starting to panic now, but Jack just puts his palm to his abdomen. He presses him back into the wall and then his mouth is on him and-

"Mmmm! Jack, I'm not...ngh!" he gasps, trying to squirm out of the way. "Jack, I don't, please, fuck!"

The back of his head hits the wall and for a second he stares up at the night sky, before squeezing his eyes shut and gritting his teeth against the sensations brought on by Jack's extremely talented mouth. He digs his fingernails into Jack's shoulders, but Ianto can't make himself let go, even though he knows he should, knows he shouldn't let him, shouldn't let him see. Because it's too much, too exposed, too open, and Jack'll see him. He jerks his head to the side after a moment, trying to conceal his face and regain control, but it doesn't do any good, Jack won't let him hide.

"Jesus Chri-ah, ah, ng, Jack, wai-hah! Ah!" Ianto brings his right arm up to his mouth and bites down on the back of his hand hard to stifle his voice when Jack does something with his tongue that feels so good it should be illegal.

But it's too much, Jack has always flat-out said that he could make Ianto scream if he would just let him go down on him, and there's a reason Ianto's never let him do this before because he knows just how vulnerable he is now. He tastes blood as a particularly strong wave of pleasure hits him, and he jerks helplessly against the wall as his feels his orgasm approaching, unstoppable and so completely out of his control that he almost wishes he could disappear into thin air. Because he's completely at Jack's mercy now, it's just him and Jack, one of Jack's hands holding him up against the wall, he's sucking him off in an alley, a rabid alien might kill them both at any second, and the fingers on Jack's other hand are-

Ianto comes with an embarrassingly high-pitched cry, only slightly muffled against the back of his hand. His vision whites out for a few seconds and he slumps backwards with a series of pathetic sounding moans. He shudders against the wall as he struggles to remain lucid and by the time he's come back to himself Jack has stood and done up his trousers.

"Oh, hell," Jack says when he sees Ianto's hand and he reaches out to grab his wrist and inspect the bloody bite mark before Ianto can try and hide it. "Look what you've done to yourself."

He's wiped his mouth, but Ianto can still see a stain on the right corner. He suddenly has to suppress the wretched urge to sob.

"I can't," he blurts out without any sort of thought behind his words. "Jack, I can't."

He tries to pull his hand away, but Jack's fingers tighten on his wrist and he gets a hard look of determination on his face that Ianto recognizes oh so well.

"What do you mean?"

"Jack, I just can't," Ianto says again, weakly trying to struggle his wrist out of Jack's grasp. He has to get away, put some space between them because he can't have this conversation when Jack's only mere centimeters away.

But Jack doesn't let go, and instead presses his other hand against the two bricks right above Ianto's left shoulder, trapping him.

"I can't do this again," Ianto says desperately. "I can't...Last time, I almost...When Lisa...I could barely...and now..."

"Hey," Jack says soothingly, reaching down to cup his elbow, but Ianto doesn't let him talk.

"I just can't," he says distraughtly, almost hysterical. "Jack, there'll be nothing left of me!"

Jack frowns, looking confused, and opens his mouth to interject, but Ianto can't let him talk. Not if he plans on saying what he needs to say.

"No," he says, pressing himself back against the wall as far as he can go. "Don't. Listen. I'm not...I'm not like you, Jack. I'm weak. I can't...I can't endure it like you can. I just..."

He flails for the right words, still trying to pull his wrist out of Jack's reach, but somehow ends up with both hands on Jack's shoulders, Jack supporting him by the elbows.

"That's ridiculous," Jack starts hotly. "You are not wea-"

"Oh, you have no idea," Ianto cuts him off, closing his eyes, because part of him feels like he might cry. "You have no idea what I've done, in London, just following orders, just...cruising along, doing whatever they-"

"I am not exactly the best person to be making moral judgments about the things you've done in the name of Torchwood," Jack says quietly. He slides his hands down to rest on Ianto's waist.

"Hey," he murmurs, eyes surprisingly soft.

"I can't," Ianto says for the ninth time, reaching down to push Jack's hands off him. "I just can't do this again, because it's only going to end in tragedy anyway and I couldn't...I didn't want...I tried so hard not to be...but I just couldn't not...But it'd be better if we didn't, it'd be easier, because this can't possibly end well and-"

Jack pulls him forward by the waist and wraps his arms around him so suddenly that Ianto stiffens up defensively.

"Hey," he says again, breath warming his left ear. "It's alright, I've got you."

That's the last straw for Ianto and he squeezes his eyes shut, gripping Jack's shoulders so tightly that it's probably painful.

"Fuck," he gasps, letting his head drop onto Jack's shoulder. " Fuck, Jack. Jack."

Later, they clean up the Jagaroth's body and head home. Ianto sits in the back and leans his head back against the headrest and tries to ignore the awkward looks Mickey gives both of them when Jack asks him to drop them off at Ianto's flat from the driver's seat.

"You shouldn't have made Smith go back to the Hub alone," Ianto tells him dully, leaning against the wall inside his flat and watching Jack take off his coat and leather holster.

"Mickey can handle himself," Jack answers ambiguously, giving Ianto a look that suggest he's vaguely insulted on Mickey's behalf. "And don't give me some idiotic rule like: "All Torchwood personnel must wait eighteen months before being allowed to wander the Hub unsupervised."

He plops down at Ianto's pathetic excuse of a kitchen table and leans over to undo his laces. The fabric of his light blue shirt stretches with the motion, highlighting the strong curve of his back and the muscles in his arms. Ianto closes his eyes against the hot flash of want that burns in his gut before clenching his teeth and willing the feeling away. It doesn't work, so he opens his eyes again and regards the cold emptiness of his kitchen; the spotless counters, the cabinets filled with hardly used dishes, the stark fake-linoleum floor, and the unvarnished heater near the table. Sometimes Ianto feels like this flat is a microcosm of his life thus far; unfeeling and hollow. And there is Jack at the center of it all- because he always has to be at the center of it all-a bright, warm, ball of energy, of chaos that messes everything up and repulses Ianto with the utter foreignness of him almost as much as it attracts him.

"I wasn't going to," Ianto replies hoarsely, staring uncomprehendingly at the neon blue numbers of the digital clock on his microwave.

He sees Jack kick off his shoes and turn to look at him out of the corner of his eye, but he does not look away from the clock. Jack opens his mouth, stops, hesitates, and then-

"We should talk about this," he says firmly and Ianto glances at him to see the determined set of his jaw.

They really should. For so, so many different reasons. But Ianto doesn't think he could stand to have a conversation about the mess that they've found themselves in now. He's worn out, humiliated, and every cell in his body itches to touch Jack. And everything is ruined already, he thinks desperately, everything is so completely fucked up, so why not?

"I don't want to talk," Ianto tells him, voice surprisingly steady and meets Jack's eyes for the first time in over an hour.

Jack just looks at him, confusion clouding over his handsome face.

"What-" he starts, but Ianto expects this and grabs his arm, yanking him up out of the chair and kisses him.

Jack makes a small sound of surprise, but doesn't protest, curling both hands around Ianto's face to pull him closer and deepen the kiss. He's surprisingly gentle, but Ianto doesn't want gentle. He doesn't know what to do with gentle, not with Jack. Gentle means vulnerability and he's already shown Jack too much of that. What he wants is rough and fast, no talking, no affection. He just wants to fuck Jack hard enough that he'll forget this entire mess.

He has Jack against the table, sucking on his tongue and fumbling with the buttons of his shirt. Jack lets out a heady groan when Ianto pushes a knee in-between his thighs and throws his arm around around Ianto's back, propelling them backwards into the hallway and toward his bedroom, stumbling into walls like some cliché sex scene from a tacky Hollywood film. They fall onto Ianto's bed with difficulty, Jack growling in frustration as he struggles with Ianto's zipper, and Ianto shoves him down onto his back, kissing down his bare and quivering chest, and tries desperately to forget.

He wakes to sunlight streaming through his window, almost mockingly, with his back to Jack's hip, Jack's arm thrown haphazardly over his shoulder. His cheek pressed to the mattress instead of his pillow, Ianto observes the way Jack's hand lies half-suspended on the mattress, mere centimeters from his face. He simply watches it for a few seconds and then leans forward to brush the side of his nose lightly against the juncture between his pointer finger and thumb. Ianto closes his eyes and moves to rest his cheek against the back of Jack's hand for a few short moments before pressing a light kiss to his knuckles.

And then it's over. Ianto moves away, a cold, raw hurt spreading through his chest. He gently removes Jack's arm from his person and sits up, glancing down at Jack's sleeping form for a second before quickly looking away. He grabs his trousers off the floor, puts them on, and starts looking for his shirt.

"So that's how it is then?" Jack says suddenly and Ianto feels like his heart is going to burst out of his chest, not completely because he thought Jack was asleep.

He turns around slowly and crosses his arms uncomfortably over his scarred chest. "What?"

Jack sits up and looks at him with cold eyes. "You're just going to leave, like you always do," he says bitterly. "And what, pretend like it never happened?"

"I don't see how that's any of your concern," Ianto replies and turns away. He can't look at Jack right now, can't let himself falter. Because however much he wants this, wants Jack, he has to do this, he has to protect himself.

"Oh, I don't know why I'm even surprised," Jack snarls with a surprising amount of contempt, while Ianto locates his shirt and picks it up off the floor. "This is just so fucking typical. Because, of course, acting like an actual human being once and a while would be too much to as-"

Without thinking about it, Ianto spins around and throws the shirt back down on the floor angrily.

"You know, I don't understand you at all," he hisses furiously. "What do you want with me?"

"Don't act like you don't-" Jack starts, but stops suddenly, looking puzzled. "What did you say? Why did you say that?"

"Say what?" Ianto snaps irritably.

"You said 'what do you want with me,'" Jack says carefully, like he's just realizing something. "Most people would say 'what do you want from me.'"

"And how is this relevant?" Ianto says with a weary sigh.

Jack doesn't say anything for a few seconds, looking contemplative and confused. Ianto opens his mouth to say something disparaging about the consequences of Jack actually using his brain, but Jack cuts him off before he can even begin.

"You don't say 'what do you want with me,'" Jack says slowly, sounding more like he's talking to himself rather than to Ianto. "You never say that. It's always 'from me.' Not unless...not unless you've been trapped, or someone's taken you prisoner, or you're-"

"If you try and psychoanalyze me, I will punch you, Jack," Ianto tells him defensively, angry and self-conscious at Jack's tangent.

Because what he's saying hits just a little too close to home. Jack is showing far too much insight into the way Ianto thinks, how he is, and it's not right, it's too dangerous. He feels exposed and defenseless, alarm bells going off in his head, and a horrible sick feeling fermenting in the pit of his stomach.

"Do you feel trapped, Jones?" Jack asks him, titling his head to the side curiously, almost childlike. He shifts forward so that his chin rests on the back of his hands, arms supported by his knees and it takes every muscle in Ianto body to resist taking a nervous step back. Coupled with his words, it's like a mocking caricature of a psychologist, Ianto realizes, feeling sick.

"You don't..." Jack continues, and something must have shown on Ianto's face because now he's suddenly looking worried. "I haven't...You do know this isn't part of your job, don't you?"

Ianto lets out a derisive noise, but his heart isn't in it and Jack doesn't look convinced.

"Don't be thick," Ianto tells him, struck at the absurdity of reassuring Captain Jack Harkness that he's not taking advantage of him after last night.

"Because you're not, you know, trapped," Jack says seriously, and God, Ianto wishes he would just stop talking for once in his very long life. "Jones, I don't I have yo-"

"No, you do have me," Ianto cuts him off furiously, finally at his breaking point. "You've had me for years now. Christ," he laughs, a sad, ironic, weary sound, "'ve had me from the beginning."

"Jones..." Jack starts, frowning, and Ianto sees something horribly like pity in his eyes and has to turn away in disgust.

"Shut up, Jack," Ianto says coldly, exiting the room.

"Ianto," Jack says quietly and Ianto stops dead in the doorway, hand coming out to steady himself on the door frame, feeling like he's been punched in the gut.

His name. Jack knows his name.

"What part of 'I can't do this' do you not understand?" Ianto chokes, digging his short nails into the door frame in an effort to stay standing while his knees buckle dangerously.

"Then explain it," Jack replies softly, tactfully not bringing up the fact that just hours ago Ianto had practically thrown him into bed.

Ianto shudders and closes his eyes in concentration. He has to do this, he tells himself, he has to finish it and he needs the right words.

"I tried..." he starts haltingly. "I tried to be...but I never could do the casual thing. It's just not how I am."

"Who said it was casual?" Jack says unexpectedly and Ianto feels a flash of anger at his words.

"Why do you have to do that?" Ianto snarls, turning to face him again and stiffening up even more.

Jack crosses his arms over his bare chest-Ianto wishes he'd put some clothes on-and raises a quizzical brow. "Do what?"

"You know what I mean," Ianto bites out. "Be...difficult. This isn't a joke!"

"Do you see me laughing?" Jack says unimpressively, getting out of bed. Ianto automatically averts his eyes and Jack lets out a derisive snort.

"Oh, no, sir," Ianto says, sarcasm dripping off his every word, focusing on a pile of loose change on his dresser instead of looking at Jack. "Of course not. No one could ever accuse you of acting frivolously."

"Actin-Do you even listen to yourself?" Jack splutters.

Ianto rolls his eyes and pointedly refuses to look at the other man until he reluctantly puts on his trousers.

"This," Ianto says as calmly as possible, buttoning up his shirt, "is pointless. And I can't do it anymore. That's all there is to it."

"Well, I'm glad everything is so clear to you, Ianto," Jack retorts, using Ianto's Christian name like a weapon, and by the visceral reaction Ianto keeps having in response, it might as well be. "But for the rest of us not gifted with psychic access to your brai-"

"You want a explanation," Ianto interrupts, at his last nerve. "Fine. For whatever madreason I love you. I didn't think it was possible, after Lisa, that I could-And I can't do anything about it, believe me, I've tried. My problem, you see, whether you believe this or not, is that I...I feel too much. And it gets me in trouble. You make me want to be make me want things I can't have. I don't know what you want wit-from-with me," he stutters before clenching his teeth for a second and continuing steadily. "But I can't do it anymore. I'm just not built for this."

There is a long silence while Jack just stares at him, as if he's never seen anything like him in his very long life. Ianto feels his face heat up with shame, but he holds his ground, refusing to back down. He'll save the abject humiliation for after Jack has gone, but right now he needs to be strong enough to do what has to be done and see this through to the end.

"You know," Jack says finally, breaking the horrible silence. "You're kind of an idiot."

Of all the things Ianto expected Jack to say, this was not one of them. "What?"

"Do you honestly think this is a cakewalk for me either?" Jack demands inanely.

"I'm sure I have no idea what you think," Ianto replies icily.

"Oh, sure," Jack scoffs, grabbing at his white undershirt now. "Don't give me that. You just assume that this is all a game to me."

"Isn't it?" Ianto blurts out before he can stop himself and Jack's eyes darken substantially.

"What must you think of me?" Jack says darkly, in what is probably a rhetorical question.

"I've already had the humiliating experience of telling you what I think of you," Ianto sighs, turning away, but there's something fluttering in his chest at Jack's words, something painful and poignant that he tries ruthlessly to suppress, because it can't be, Jack wouldn't ever...he's lying or having him on, because there's no way in a million years that he could mean what Ianto thinks he means...

Jack grabs his wrist to stop him from leaving the room and Ianto's breath catches in his throat.

This is insane and impossible and Ianto can't be here right now. He has to think about this, has to take time and think this through because otherwise...otherwise...

He doesn't resist when Jack pulls him back, reaching out gently with one arm. But he closes his eyes when Jack's fingertips make contact with the side of his face, because wanting something doesn't necessarily mean you're ready to get it.

"Have you really not figured it out yet?" Jack says softly and Ianto's eyes snap open to stare at him.

"Wha-What?" Ianto says again, and then, with more strength. "Don't play with me, Jack."

Jack doesn't respond, instead leans in to press a light kiss to his jaw, then his neck, and Ianto hates him. Hates that he can't just say what he means, because apparently that's too much of a primitive 21st century concept for the great Captain Jack Harkness.

Jack's other hand comes up to grasp his shoulder and he kisses his forehead, his nose, the corner of his mouth and Ianto' eyes flutter shut of their own volition, breath coming out in short puffs. It's the most affectionate they've been with each other and it makes Ianto's insides crawl to think that Jack doesn't mean this, that this is all some cheap ploy to get him to let his defenses down, because even Jack can't be as stupid as to think that he can show Ianto what he feel...

"Oh," Ianto says softly, more to himself than anything as Jack mouths the underside of his jaw. "Oh."

Jack pulls back to look at him, eyes dark with desire, intent, and something else that makes Ianto shiver under his gaze.

"Er..." Ianto says, edging backwards. "That's, well, I had better, I mean," he stutters, feeling his face heat up to a truly ridiculous degree. "I should-Maybe, I should-"

He has to get out of here, wrap his head around this new development properly, make an informed, coherent, reasonable decision, because he's never been the type of person to just impulsively throw himself into a-

"Ianto," Jack says with a bit of an amused grin, hands coming down to lightly rest on his waist, thumbs making soothing circular motions above his hipbones. "Don't."

Ianto swallows back the lump in his throat and fights his body's urge to shake violently. He knows he must look ridiculous, eyes wide with an innocence that he no longer possesses, but he can't help stare incredulously right into Jack's eyes.

"I-" he starts quickly, but then falters, glancing down distractedly at Jack's hands on his sides. "Er...That is-I'm not sure what to-"

Jack kisses him then, just lightly on the mouth, and Ianto's eyelids flutter shut automatically. He hesitates just briefly, but then twists his head to the side to deepen the kiss, bringing his hands up to grip Jack's shoulders tightly.

"Oh," Ianto thinks dazedly as Jack's fingers clench his hair. "Oh, fuck, I-"

He pushes up the undershirt that he had watched Jack pull on only minutes ago and clutches Jack back as if his life depends on it. Because if he doesn't kiss him and keep kissing him he's going to cry and this is much more pleasant anyway. He's still a bit sore and bruised from last night, but it doesn't matter a bit because it's Jack and he needs this, needs to touch him or he thinks he might explode.

"Wa-Wait!" Jack says, tearing his mouth from Ianto's after several long moments that are still somehow not enough. "I have to-" He cuts himself off and presses a quick, fast kiss to Ianto's cheek, and then to the corner of his eye.

"I have to tell you something," Jack finishes breathlessly.

"Now?" Ianto demands in disbelief. "Really? Right this instant?"

"Yes, now," Jack says insistently, smoothing down the sleeves of Ianto's dress shirt and playing with the cuffs. Ianto leans into his touch, trying to capture his mouth again and get it doing far more interesting things than talking, but Jack twists away. Ianto narrows his eyes.

"It's," Jack says, talking a deep breath, as if preparing himself for a speech, and there is no fucking way that's going to do. "It's about the year I was g-"

Rolling his eyes, Ianto pulls Jack to him by the waist and goes for his fly.

"Guh...ugh, okay, that's," Jack says in surprise, raw red mouth falling open to gasp for air. "Mmmm, ah, fine I'll-we'll-shit, Ianto!"

Jack Harkness dozes for what seems like only a few minutes, but he's surprised to find it's nearly noon by the time he gets around to opening his eyes. One of Ianto's arms is flung haphazardly across his chest, and Jack glances to the side and, just for a moment, watches the other man breathe. Ianto's head is only halfway on the pillow, cheek scrunched against the sheets in a way that Jack finds strangely endearing.

This may be completely insane and a really bad idea, but Jack's wanted this for so long now that he can't find it in himself to care.

Almost as if able to tell that he's watching, Ianto's eyes open, and he blinks several times before focusing on Jack. Immediately, he stiffens and lifts his arm quickly off Jack's chest, pulling it back.

"Hey," Jack says, grabbing his forearm before he can disengage completely and raising a questioning eyebrow. "Relax."

Ianto appears to be confused for a moment and Jack bends down to press a light kiss to the side of his wrist, not taking his eyes off Ianto's even for a second.

"Oh," Ianto murmurs, and the look he sends him between his eyelashes makes Jack's heart skip a beat.

Embarrassedly, Ianto let his arm fall back down to Jack's chest and glances away, cheeks reddening. Jack would be amused if he didn't know exactly how much it costs for Ianto to be able to do this, so he doesn't comment, but instead reaches over to slide his hand through Ianto's hair and kiss his temple.

Ianto's face softens to the point where he actually looks his age and Jack smooths down the side of his face and says. "I need to tell you something."

Ianto blinks, immediately awake.

"About what?" he asks warily.

"About the year I was gone."

Ianto tilts his head to the side in a way Jack would find appealing if he wasn't too busy focusing on the horrible writhing sensation in his stomach as he steels himself for what he is about to say.

"Year...?" Ianto says slowly, sitting up and taking the covers with him. "You were gone four months."

"No," Jack says, closing his eyes tiredly. "I was gone a year."

He doesn't explain all the details, just enough for Ianto to get a picture of the hellscape the planet Earth had become. Jack doesn't even mention the torture, because Ianto already figured that out on his own anyway. And even then it's hard at some parts, hard to talk about it and not go back to that horrible year of smoke and chains and boiling heat and death.

Ianto takes it pretty well, it seems, not that Jack was expecting him to freak out. He finds the idea of an alternate universe more disconcerting than anything, but still manages to seem a bit embarrassed when Jack mentions the kiss.

"So..." Ianto says finally, curled up slightly on the mattress now, head pillowed by his upper arm in a shockingly casual position . "So, you've known," he says hesitantly. "You've known how I...for more than two years?"

"No," Jack tells him quickly. "No, I didn't, I...had no idea actually," he finishes awkwardly and promptly wonders why he is such an enormous idiot.

Ianto frowns. "But when you came back...that was the only time you saw him-me, right? So when you came back you must have realized that even before you left I..."

"You were really different," Jack admits as delicately as possible. "More...relaxed. Guess that's what the apocalypse does to a man. "

But even now as he says it he realizes that the Ianto looking at him through lidded eyes lying next to him is a far cry from the uptight Agent Jones he's used to.

"And the Master," Ianto says slowly and even as Jack tries to stop himself he can't help but tense up, "...he's dead?"

"His wife shot him," Jack says with an unamused snort, crossing his arms under his head and staring at the ceiling. "Surprise, surprise."

Ianto doesn't say anything for a while and then he rises from the mattress and leans forward boldly to kiss Jack on the mouth. Jack groans into it, fisting Ianto's short hair and pulling him closer because while he spent a year and a half messing around with Ianto Jones, Ianto has never before instigated anything between them. At the time, Jack had though he merely preferred to let Jack take the lead, but now he realizes that perhaps Ianto was too wary or even shy.

Jack breaks the kiss and moves down to nuzzle at his neck, sucking a red mark just to the left of his Adam's apple while Ianto lets out a broken groan of: "Ja-aaaaack," and straddles Jack's hips properly.

"So," Jack says conversationally, cupping his hands around Ianto's bare waist and grinning at the look on plain lust on his face. "What do you want?"

Ianto leans down slowly and pins both of Jack's shoulders to the bed. His grip is firm on the juncture between Jack's upper arm and chest, and Jack's breath hitches audibly.

"Well..." Ianto says deliberately, turning his head to the side to breathe into Jack ear, grip deliciously tight. Jack's eyes flutter shut and a soft "ah" escapes his mouth in anticipation. "You could-"

His phone goes off.

"You have got to be kidding me," Jack says incredulously, eyes snapping open.

Ianto's grits his teeth in frustration, but he sits up and tosses the phone to him without comment.

"Yes, Mickey," Jack says sharply after glancing at the caller ID and trying very hard to sound professional and not like he was just trying to have an orgasm.

"Rift activity near Cardiff Castle," Mickey says. "CCTV cameras in the area show a couple Weevils."

"Of course," Jack says sarcastically, trying to think of Weevils and not Ianto's warm body in the bed next to him. "Why not?"

"I've already called Gwen to take over at the Hub," Mickey says, ignoring Jack's comment. "And despite my deepest objections Martha has checked out of the hospital and is insisting that she-"

"-for the hundredth time, I'm fine!" Martha's voice comes faintly, sounding deeply exasperated. "And I'm coming, Mickey, don't you dare try and stop me."

"Best just not to argue with her," Jack advises in amusement.

"You've got no idea, mate" Mickey mutters, confirming Jack's suspicions of the nature of his and Martha's relationship outside of work.

"Anyway," Mickey continues. "I've got all the staff and tourists evacuated, spread some story about a gas leak, but we'd better get there quick." There is a brief pause. "Jones is with you, yeah?"

"Yes," Jack says, glancing over at Ianto quickly. "Yes, he is."

"Well, good," Mickey mumbles, sounding embarrassed. "I'll meet you at the entrance, then?"

"Right," Jack replies and hangs up.

"What is it?" Ianto asks.

"Weevils in Cardiff Castle," Jack tells him and starts looking around for his trousers.

"Oh, naturally," Ianto says and rolls his eyes.

Five hours later, Jack, Ianto, Mickey, and Martha return to the Hub wearily with four Weevils in tow.

"If I never see another of those stupid narrow winding staircases again it'll be too soon," Mickey groans, flopping down onto his computer chair as soon as they get the Weevils into the cells.

"I dunno," Jack says contemplatively, "seems like it could be a good place for a quick sh-"

"Yeah, brilliant!" Gwen says quickly. "Did you have to retcon anyone?"

"Just a groundskeeper," Martha tells her. "Which reminds me, Jack, do you know if there's any data on how retcon interacts with heart medicine?"

"Owen might've kept some notes on it," Jack says and throws a longing glance at Ianto as he types his report into the computer.

"Oh, I talked to Andy a bit, too," Gwen tells him. "He's a little out of it, but the doctors said that he can check out tomorrow afternoon."

"Good," Jack nods, drumming his fingers anxiously on the railing that surrounds the first level.

"Harkness," Ianto calls from across the room, holding up the phone. "There's message for you from Frobisher."

Jack grins. "Aha, admitting defeat, no doubt."

He strides across the room and takes the phone from Ianto, taking care to brush his fingers ever so slightly over Ianto's.

Ianto raises an eyebrow.

"Well, c'mon now, Jones," Jack says a tad flirtatiously. "Back to work."

Ianto gives him an amused look and, no doubt noticing the forlorn glances Mickey and Martha keep sending the empty coffee pot, heads over to the machine. Jack watches him interestedly as he goes and only then raises the phone to his ear.

One highly satisfying phone message and a pile of filed paperwork later, Martha, Mickey, and Gwen trickle out of the Hub, refusing to stay as Jack had technically given them the entire day off the night before.

Ianto shifts awkwardly from foot to foot, obviously unsure if he should leave or stay until Jack finishes up making the obligatory idle notes on the day's events and throws in the towel. He exits his office and leans over the second level railing, looking down at Ianto as he halfheartedly rearranges some papers.

"So..." Jack breaks the silence, strangely nervous. "I was thinking ... maybe we could, you know... dinner? A movie?"

Ianto abandons his organization to glance up at him and blinks.

"Are you asking me out on a date?" he asks, expression a mixture of confusion and amusement.

"Interested?" Jack asks quickly, going for coy to cover up the fact that he actually has quite a lot invested in Ianto's answer.

Ianto appears to consider it for a few seconds and lets out a quiet breath of laughter.

"Alright, Jack," he says easily, and his lips curve upward in the same soft, secret smile the man on the Valiant had given him so many years ago.

To say that the last few months of Lois Habiba's life were eventful would possibly be one of the largest understatements of the century.

Just in July, she was the new junior PA to the Permanent Secretary of the Home Office. It was a great job for someone right out of college, and though it was a bit dull and insipid, it was better than working at a greengrocers. The pay was decent, even if her supervisor and colleagues were rude and dismissive, but she kept her head down and did her job for the first three months mostly without complaint. Lois had always been a sensible woman, and she knew better than to hope for things that would just end up in disappointment. She knew her own skills, knew that she wasn't particularly clever or talented. She was just average, and she knew that it was best to strive for average accomplishments. There was a reason she choose to get her degree in Office Management rather than something more lofty or prestigious, and she wouldn't regret her choice just because of her first job out of college.

But then, in her fourth month of working at the Home Office, everything changed.

It wasn't as if she has done anything differently than usual. She got up, got coffee, took the tube to work, and picked up the phone. That's all she did, she picked up the phone.

And on the other end of the line was Captain Jack Harkness.

To tell the truth, Lois doesn't really remember much of their conversation. She remembers being confused as to what he wanted at first, confused as to why he wasn't immediately asking to speak to Mr. Frobisher. He just sort of talked a lot, mentioned something called "Torchwood," and asked her to look up a bunch of stuff on her computer, favors, her called them. It wasn't until the subtle flattery started that she realized what was going on. Feeling rather vindictive, she'd told him in no uncertain terms that she would not give him any information and hung up. Lois actually remembers feeling slightly proud for the rest of the day, useful and responsible, because she did know Ms. Spears' password and she technically could have given him the documents he'd wanted.

"What's Torchwood?" she asked Ms. Spears later that day right before her lunch break. "Is it like some sort of NGO?"

Ms. Spears almost dropped her cup of tea straight into her lap. "Where did you hear that name?" she demanded.

"Er, there was this phone call-" Lois started, but Ms. Spears cut her off with an irritated click of her tongue.

"Listen, Lois," Ms. Spears scolded. "Your job is to file things, and assistant myself and Mr. Frobisher. You transfer phone calls, not overhear them, do you understand me?"

"Sorry," Lois said instead of doing the right thing and telling her about Captain Harkness' questions. She kept that part to herself.

She ended up being in a bad mood the entire day, angry at the way Ms. Spears continued to treat her, angry at everyone assuming that she was a complete idiot. She spent the entire night being irritated and insulted and after an hour long rant to her best mate over the phone, Lois decided that the next day she would figure out what Torchwood was all on her own.

She was completely unprepared for the mess this would cause. Even in the worst case scenario, she just would've assumed that Torchwood was some fringe NGO with vague anti-government sentiments. She never dreamed it had something to do with aliens and that it was in actuality part of the British government.

Maybe it was only because her job was so mind-numblingly dull, but Lois became obsessed. Every chance she got, she'd log into her computer using Ms. Spears' password and look up more information about the mysterious organization. Over the next few weeks Lois sifted through all the information the Home Office had. It wasn't much, the Home Office knew relatively nothing about the inner workings of Torchwood's operation besides a couple employees and their leader Captain Jack Harkness, who they had information on that dated back to the 1950s and is categorized as immortal, which hardly seemed possible. But they had collected a list of events that Torchwood had been involved in, and it was, well, it was mad. They were practically heroes, stopping alien invasions, saving the world. News stories about weird occurrences in Wales and all over the UK suddenly started to become connected and make sense. Lois felt like she was seeing the world with new eyes.

And then came the files from Frobisher's own office, files detailing the planned infiltration and eventual takeover of the institution.

For almost three weeks, Lois agonized over what to do. She couldn't ask anyone, not her parents or her friend for advice, because she know they'd be horrified that she was even considering breaking the Official Secrets Act.

But the use of lethal force was an option in Mr. Frobisher's plan to take control of Torchwood and Lois didn't sign the Official Secrets Act to sanction murder in political squabbles. And even if she did, these people: Jack Harkness, Gwen Copper, Mickey Smith, Ianto Jones, Andy Davidson, and Martha Jones, they're all that stands in the way of aliens invading the planet. Just six people against the whole of the universe, and now, the Home Office as well.

So while it was probably the stupidest thing she had done in her short twenty-two years, much stupider than nicking the answers to her Chemistry exam when she was fifteen, Lois Habiba called Jack Harkness.

And when she put down the phone, she was a spy.

It's a lot more glamorous than it sounds. All she basically did was go over the same documents she read before and make notes in a small notebook in shorthand that she kept in the same compartment of her bag where she stored her tampons. (She figured it was the least likely place the guards at the front door would want to look.) The most risky thing she did was put on a pair of contacts with video cameras in them and watched a couple meetings Mr. Frobisher had with various other highly-ranked officials in the government through his office window.

Still, at times it became too much. The first few days Lois had to run to the bathroom to be sick no less than fourteen times and even out in the street she felt like every random passerby was watching her, waiting for her to screw up, not to mention how bad it was inside the office. But she forced herself to do it, even at night when she woke up convinced that at any second the police were going to break down her door and throw her in prison for the rest of her life without a trial. There were peoples' lives at stakes here, she forced herself to remember, good peoples' lives. Though she'd only talked to him over the phone (having received the contacts in the mail) she sort of began to like Captain Jack Harkness, despite his flirtatious manner. So she did what she had to do, even though she didn't really understand how Captain Harkness thought that mere information could help Torchwood survive.

"But how are you going to stop them?" Lois asked him once. "I mean, there're only six of you."

"Oh, you'd be surprised," he laughed in response. "Someone reminded me that I have friends in other high places besides the Home Office. I just need to know what I'm dealing with before they can help stop this. Which is where you come in."

Lois blushed in pleasure.

It went on until right before Christmas, when Lois was finally caught. Even now she's not entirely sure what she did to set them off, but quite placidly, Lois was escorted from her desk to a car with darkened windows that took her to a sterile white cell in a UNIT holding facility.
Her rights as a citizen were withdrawn. She would be held there indefinitely. They were not required to provide her with legal representation. She would not be allowed communication with any person or organization outside the facility. There was no right of appeal.

Lois spent a week there before Captain Jack Harkness came to get her.

"I had to put up quite a fight to get you out of there," he told her in the first time they meet face-to-face. "Luckily UNIT still owes me a few favors, though I expect they're probably sick of me stealing all their best prisoners."

"Where are you taking me?" she asked dully, voice hoarse from not speaking as he led her out the door of the holding facility to a black SUV with the word "Torchwood" emblazoned on the side.

He grinned a startlingly attractive grin at her and said. "Lois Habiba, would you like a job?'

And that was how Lois started working at Torchwood.

She pretty much does the same things she did at the Home Office, file stuff, answer phone calls and bring them all coffee and clean up after them. According to Captain Harkness they all did that sort of thing before she came (meaning Mr. Jones did it all himself.)

Though the move was sudden, and she couldn't tell her parents or friends why she had to move out to Cardiff with basically no notice, Lois finds she enjoys working at Torchwood. Even though she's younger than the rest of them, none of them treat her with the disrespect she became accustomed to working at the Home Office. In fact, many of her new colleagues are in awe of her so-called bravery in thwarting Frobisher's "evil plot to destroy us all."

Gwen and Martha like having another woman around and welcome her into the fold almost immediately, even though Gwen's second-in-command and Martha's the team medic. Captain Harkness is brave and witty, and Mickey is patient and understanding when he shows her how to use the computer. Lois is still rather terrified of Mr. Jones, half of whose job she more or less took over, but out of all of them she likes Andy best. Andy's pretty new to the whole alien thing as well, and he only works part time, the other part of his job being a Sergeant of the local police (whom he sort of spies on as well.) He understands what it's like to be her more than the rest of them with their guns or their jokes in the face of danger or time-traveling pasts.

There's so many things that take getting used to, her new flat, the Cardiff weather, the technology inside the Hub, the weird reports she has to type up and aliens to classify, the fact their office is underground the Roald Dahl Plass, but the thing she has the most difficulty getting over is how unprofessional they all are in the office. Mickey, Captain Harkness, and even Gwen and Andy regularly play increasingly juvenile pranks on each other. Captain Harkness makes so many inappropriate remarks to all his employees that an entire rainforest wouldn't be enough to cover all the harassment forms. Gwen seems to have no problem telling her civilian husband about all the intricacies of her job and, Mickey and Martha appear to be in an a serious inter-office relationship, from the rather long kiss they shared at the New Years' Party just a week and a half after Lois started. Andy has no problem making all sorts of insubordinate remarks to Captain Harkness and about a month after she stared working at Torchwood he even claimed that Captain Harkness and Mr. Jones were involved. At the time, Lois had laughed it off, thinking that there was no way that the professional and efficient Mr. Jones would start something with his boss.

And that's not even counting the Board. According to Gwen, the Board used to be used for important things like mapping out parallels between alleged alien attacks or doing equations, but now the Board is used to keep track of the score in some kind of contest between Mickey and Mr. Jones involving the mad stunts they pull off in the field. On one side of the Board there are the words "The Preachers" written in blue marker, apparently the name of the group Mickey used to be a part of in his adventures in an alternate universe. Under it is written "CYBERMEN BEWARE!" To represent Mr. Jones, "Torchwood One" is written in red on the other side of the Board, complete with the caption "aka psychotic, trigger-happy meddlers." Under that, "OF DOOM" is scrawled in a hand that looks suspiciously like Andy's.

As far as Lois can tell, you gain points by doing something extremely dangerous and clever that works in the field and you lose points when it doesn't or you get injured. Mr. Jones and Mickey are usually head to head, but Mr. Jones gains and loses points at a much faster rate. It's mostly Gwen, Mickey, and Andy who are involved in the arbitration over points to be awarded as Mr. Jones is much too professional to be involved in such childish games. (Or he at least pretends to be. Lois has seen him glance at the Board speculatively every once and a while.) They argue over technique and strategy, Gwen taking it upon herself to be Mr. Jones's advocate with a surprising amount of dedication. Gwen and Mr. Jones have a strange friendship like that. Martha disapproves in a halfhearted sort of way and Captain Harkness seems to find the entire setup hilarious, slapping Mr. Jones companionably on the back in congratulations whenever he's takes the lead, which leads Andy to wiggle his eyebrows knowingly at her in at an attempt to be suggestive that makes her cringe every time at the absurdity of it all.

It's only after the birth of Gwen's daughter Anwen when they're all sitting at a restaurant in town, celebrating Gwen and Rhys' parenthood and Gwen's subsequent return to work that Lois discovers that Andy may have not been joking about Mr. Jones' and Captain Harkness' relationship after all. It happens after Rhys tells a funny story about a lorry delivery going ridiculously wrong, and Lois laughs so hard her lipstick falls out of her purse and under the table. She gets out of her chair and is crouching down to get it when she looks slightly up to see Captain Harkness' hand on Mr. Jones' thigh. For a second, she just stares at his hand, unsure as to what she's seeing. Then, blushing horribly, she grabs her lipstick and bangs her head on the underside of the table in her haste to stand up.

"Sorry," she says quickly, going even more red.

"Easy there, Lois," Gwen laughs. "We 'aven't even started drinking yet and you're already under the table."

"Just-uh-dropped my lipstick," Lois explains in embarrassment, trying not to stare at Captain Harkness and Mr. Jones.

"Well, we might as well start drinking if we're going to be stumbling about," Captain Harkness reasons with a dashing smile. "I propose a toast."

"Oh, no," Mr. Jones, Gwen, and Mickey all groan at the same time.

"Shut it you," Captain Harkness says, raising his glass, and if Lois' is not mistaken, she's pretty sure the angle of his other arm has moved is now around Mr. Jones' waist. "To Anwen Williams, may you have the looks of your mother and the intelligence of your fa-oh, wait, that better be the mother, too."

"Oi," Rhys protests. "Shut it, you bast-"

"Alright, alright," Gwen says, holding her hands up. "Shut up the pair of you."

Rhys and Captain Harkness pay her no heed and only the drinks arriving stops them from having a proper row.

But even though she knows she shouldn't, Lois can't help notice that Captain Harkness' hand stays on Mr. Jones' waist throughout the rest of the night.

She waits for the opportune moment for most of the next day, until finally Mr. Jones goes down into the archives for something and Captain Harkness is holed up safely in his office.

"This might be overstepping my bounds," she starts carefully. "But I was just wondering, are Captain Harkness and Mr. know..."

There's a brief pause where they look a bit confused and then immediately look extremely awkward.

"Er, yeah," Martha says finally, taking pity on her and breaking the strained silence. "I mean, we're pretty sure..."

"You didn't believe me?" Andy says, looking slightly insulted.

"I kind of thought you were joking," Lois admits sheepishly.

"Why do you want to know?" Mickey asks gruffly, looking supremely uncomfortable with the current topic of conversation.

"I was just curious," Lois says self-consciously, inwardly reminding herself that there is a reason she got locked in a UNIT cell for seven days and that maybe she should try and learn from that experience.

"Well, yeah, they've been..." Gwen tells her, shrugging her shoulders helplessly, "...for...huh, how long has it been now?" She cocks her head to the side, thinking. "Around two years, I reckon. Though I shouldn't count the couple months they weren't speaking to each other. "

"What ever happened with that?" Andy asks curiously, swiveling around in his chair to look at Gwen. "I mean, even I noticed that they weren't getting on for a while there."

"I suppose they must've, you know, made up," Gwen says awkwardly, rubbing the back of her neck.

"But, two years?" Martha says incredulously. "I-I didn't know it was that long."

"Yeah, we started to notice it right before, well, right before Owen and Tosh died."

Grief clouds Gwen's face for a few seconds, and Lois' eyes drop to the floor, unsure what emotions she should project in the face of the deaths of former Torchwood Agents that she never met.

"But, yeah, they're just kind of...them," Gwen sums it up with a vague wave of her hand. "Neither Jack nor Jones really talk about it, so...neither do we. It's just there, in the background." Gwen frowns. "It's not really any of our business, you know?"

"Oh, yes," Lois says quickly, eager to agree with her, holding up her hands defensively. "I was just wondering."

"But two years," Mickey says, dropping his uninterested act. "And he barely sleeps at the Hub nowadays. For someone like Jack that's seems pretty series, innit?"

"What do you mean "someone like Jack,"" Gwen asks defensively.

"Oh, come off it, you know what I mean," Mickey says, rolling his eyes.

"Yes, I do, but that doesn't mean that you should just make assumptions about-"

"Lay off, Gwen, he didn't mean anything by it," Andy interjects.

"I know," Gwen says crossly to Mickey. "But I don't think you should say things like th-"

"Calm down, kids," Captain Harkness says and they all jump when they realize that he's come out of his office and it leaning against the wall on the second floor watching them. "What's going on?"

There is a long silence in which everyone but Captain Harkness tries to ascertain how much of their conversation he heard.

"It's nothing," Martha finally says, pasting on a fake smile with alarming alacrity. "Nothing important, I mean."

Captain Harkness raises a disbelieving eyebrow, but doesn't question her further.

"Have you seen Jones?" he asks instead, crossing his arms across his chest. "I have a question about his ridiculously vague report on those Autons we ran into the other day."

Andy lets out a short cough.

"I think he's in the archives," Lois offers up helpfully and prays that Andy can control himself and keep a straight face. "I can go get him if you like."

"That would be great," Captain Harkness beams at her, and Lois hastily retreats before her cheeks flare red and give her away.

"Errr...hi," Lois says when she finds Mr. Jones looking through a large stack of files down in the archives. She avoids saying his name because he gets annoyed when she calls him "Mr. Jones" to his face, but she still isn't comfortable enough with him to merely call him "Jones" like the rest of them. It just seems too informal. "Captain Harkness wants you."

The innuendo of the phrase only comes to her a few seconds later, and she blushes in mortification, but Mr. Jones doesn't seem to notice.

"Did he say why?" Mr. Jones asks, turning to look at her and putting down his papers.

"Something about your Auton report, I think."

Mr. Jones rolls his eyes exasperatedly, but stuffs the papers back into their file in the filing cabinet and heads for the exit.

Lois thinks she hears him mutter "Bloody Harkness," under his breath as he goes.

Later, Andy calls about some suspicious sightings in Cathays and the rest of the team piles into the SUV that Lois had stocked up just a couple of hours ago. Lois likes it when they leave her alone in the Hub (though not for too long) and quickly busies herself sorting out the new shipments of medical supplies and ammunition. She feels useful, important, and even irreplaceable when she's alone in the Hub, which is something she never dreamed of when she was in college. Even if she only cleans, files things, packs the SUV, and restocks supplies, she's still a quite necessary part of the team that protects the human race from alien threats. Lois was worried, panicked almost, in the beginning that she wouldn't be able to adjust to life working for Torchwood. That being restricted from where she can go because of her actions (treason, the nasty voice in her head whispers) would suffocate her. But she finds she likes her colleagues and her boss (who still has yet to stop singing her praises for her work at the Home Office, to her utter embarrassment and secret pleasure), almost to the point where she's beginning to think of them as friends.

But just because she likes her job more than she ever thought was possible, it doesn't mean that there aren't drawbacks. And she's not talking about the distance from home or the Cardiff weather. More like the dangers that come with fending off hostile aliens.

"Lois!" Martha's voice comes frantically over the comm right as she's about to feed the pterodactyl. "Lois, I need you to open the garage door and turn on the lights in the medical bay."

"What happened?" Lois asks fearfully, running to open the door that separates the garage and the rest of the Hub.

"It's Jack, he's just a bit sick," Martha replies, sounding rather out of breath. "Don't worry, he'll be fine, I just need to do a few tes-look, Lois, we'll be there in a minute, just hold tight."

True to Martha's word, the SUV pulls into the underground garage after only a few minutes and Lois peeks nervously out of the door.

"Is he alright?" she asks in shock as Mr. Jones and Mickey half-carry Captain Harkness out the car.

"M'fine," Jack mumbles and then lets out a series of hacking coughs. Lois steps aside as Mickey and Mr. Jones lead Captain Harkness through the door and take him down into the medical bay.

"Jus' tired, really," Captain Harkness tries again, but Martha pays him no heed and pushes him back onto the autopsy table.

"Oh, really," Mr. Jones says furiously. "Yes, you're brilliant, Harkness, let's just touch the ominous, glowing piece of alien technology, clearly nothing could go wrong with that plan."

"It was my fault," Gwen says miserably from the sidelines. "I shouldn't have let him touch it. Christ, my first day back and already I've-"

"It's hardly your fault that he's a grade-A idiot," Mr. Jones says icily and Lois has never seen him so angry before.

"Bugger off, Ianto," Captain Harkness mutters as Martha strips him of his shirt, and Lois is confused for a second until she realizes that Ianto must be Mr. Jones' first name. She's not sure if it suits him.

"And, Martha Jones," he continues with a wearily grin. "You only had to ask if you wanted to take my clothes off-"

"Alright, that's enough," Mickey scowls. "If he can make stupid jokes, he's probably fine, Martha."

"Just let me check a few thin-" Martha says, getting out her stethoscope, but Jack puts his hand on her arm reassuringly.

"I'm fine, Martha," he tells her earnestly. "Really."

He manages to sit up alright, but then nearly falls off the table and Mr. Jones has to grab hold of him to steady him.

"Riiiight," Andy says with a raised eyebrow. "You're in great shape."

"Did you all use to be this insubordinate?" Captain Harkness mutters rhetorically, trying to stand shakily. "Now let me go, Jones, I'm fin-"

"Sit. Down." Mr. Jones says dangerously, and Captain Harkness lets out an annoyed puff of air, but ultimately complies.

Martha does a few tests, but Captain Harkness appears to be improving quickly, so she ends up stopping halfway through most of them.

"Do try to be more careful, though, Jack," she tells him. "You really should have known better than to touch that tech."

"I know, I know," Captain Harkness waves her off. "I will, I promise."

Mr. Jones lets out an incredulous snort. Captain Harkness ignores him.

"We'd better get that stuff out of the SUV, then?" Mickey says.

Captain Harkness glares at him. "Is messing around with that new technology all you care about? Your dashing leader has been injured and-"

"You lot go ahead and do that," Mr. Jones says, crossing his arms over his chest and glaring down at Captain Harkness.

"Maybe we shou-" Gwen starts.

"Now would be best," Mr. Jones says cuttingly.

Gwen looks skeptical, but relents. Mickey rolls his eyes as he and the rest head off to unload the SUV. Lois is a little hesitant because of how mad Mr. Jones looks, but she goes to do the routine scan for any sightings of Torchwood activity on the internet all the same.

"That," she hears Mr. Jones say from the med lab, "was extremely stupid."

"Here we go again," Captain Harkness sighs.

"Just because you're immortal doesn't mean you should just throw yourself into danger without think-"

"Oh, stop worrying," Captain Harkness says, and she can't help herself, so Lois leans back in her chair a little to see him throw his hands up in annoyance, still sitting on the autopsy table. "I'm fine, Ianto. I came back, didn't I? I always come back."

"Can you really say that for certain?" Mr. Jones persists, starting to pace furiously. "A piece of tech made you immortal, so it stands to reason that another piece of tech could kill you for goo-"

"The Tardis is not just a piece of tech!" Captain Harkness interrupts hotly, but Mr. Jones pays him no heed.

"And even if it didn't kill you," Mr. Jones continues, "it could have been like that whole mess with Abaddon or last year with the phones where you out of commission for days. You have responsibilities, you can't just leave us and-Mmph!"

Captain Harkness has pulled him down by the lapels of his vest and kissed him right on the mouth. Lois gapes, feeling her cheeks flush a deep red as Mr. Jones' hands come down to rest of Captain Harkness' shoulders, because it's just so strange to see her colleagues in such an intimate position.

"I told you," Captain Harkness says when they break apart, leaning his forehead against Mr. Jones'. "You worry too much."

"Who said I was worried?" Mr. Jones retorts, almost sullenly, and Captain Harkness smiles and leans up to kiss him again."I'm very-Mmm-angry with you."

"I'm sure," Captain Harkness grins, pulling him closer by the waist.

"Mmh, yes, I'm, ah," Mr. Jones says, halfheartedly struggling as Captain Harkness turns to kiss his neck. "Jack, not here."

"Fine, fine, be cruel," Captain Harkness says melodramatically, letting go of Mr. Jones' waist and leaning back on the heels of his hands.

Mr. Jones immediately takes a step backwards and straightens his clothes, wiping his mouth on the back of his hand.

"If you're not going to play with me, does that mean I can leave?" he says unconcernedly, giving Mr. Jones a dirty grin. "Or maybe you should give me a more thorough check-up, Dr. Jon-"

"Dear God," Mr. Jones says, eyes rolling towards the heavens. "Do you ever stop?"

"Nope," Captain Harkness says cheerfully. "It's why you like me so much, Ianto, don't lie."

Mr. Jones lets out a grumble that is neither an acquiesce nor a protest and sensing the end to the conversation, Lois turns back to her monitor and tries to focus on the scan taking place.

"I think it's safe to say that's not at all why I like you," she manages to make out Mr. Jones muttering.

The tone of his voice is soft though, soft and strange, and she really should not be here right now, even just listening. It's too personal and a bit uncomfortable, hearing him talk like that, somehow even more uncomfortable than watching Captain Harkness kiss him.

"Why do you like me then?" Captain Harkness says, uncharacteristically serious.

"Oh, Jack," Mr. Jones sighs, and as Lois gets up to leave she sees Mr. Jones lean closer to Captain Harkness, fingers brushing against the side her boss' face. "It's clearly just the coat."


A/N: So there it is, I'm all finished! I tried to tie up the loose ends in this chapter and I think I succeeded. I struggled with last POV a bit; it was hard to do an outsider's POV and get all the points I wanted to get across, but in the end I couldn't resist because it's Lois! Who's epic!

Anyway, I hope you liked the conclusion to To The Sticking Place and the story in general (which ended up being more than a 100k! How did that happen?) A big part of this story was written as a way for me to reconcile the events of Children of Earth. I loved it for having a fantastic plot and great character development, but obviously I was also devastated when Ianto died. So writing this made me feel better (and allowed me to change/make commentary on a few aspects of Torchwood I find just a bit ridiculous XD.) I started this in November and have written basically nothing else since then, so I have to say it's a bit of a relief that it's finished! And now I can look forward to Miracle Day!

A couple people have asked me if I'm going to write a sequel. Probably not, but I won't rule out a oneshot or two in the same universe. I already have some ideas that I might follow up on later, but I think an entire sequel would be a bit much. (Full disclosure: To The Sticking Place was initially supposed to be a oneshot. I think it's fair to say that I utterly FAIL at writing oneshots, so you never know.)

As ever, many thanks to my betas Sleeping Soundly, for beta-ing 50k overnight and still wanting more, and Resonance and d, for complaining about my commas enough until I actually decided to fix them. You guys rock!

Also, to everyone who's left really wonderful and heartfelt reviews: thanks so much!

If you have any comments, questions, or criticisms, please review!