The first part of this takes place just after Exit Wounds. The second takes place after CoE, but before House of the Dead. This was written for the prompt "Thunderstorm."
The deaths of their colleagues had deeply affected the surviving members of Torchwood, but none moreso than Jack. It was as if the piece of him that held a lust for life had just been removed and thrown away, or stored in the back of some forgotten, musty box in the storage container that held the physical remnants of Tosh and Owen's lives.
They all felt like they were working on autopilot, with their emotions and grief muffling and muting the world around them. Ianto's workload had nearly tripled, as he was now doing autopsies and computer hacking as well as field work, organizing and administration, and manning the tourist center, and he was the one who offered to stay and monitor the Hub most often. He felt that Gwen needed time to take a break and be with Rhys, and that Jack was still working through his grief and guilt and needed time. It was his duty to take care of them, he knew they wouldn't do it themselves.
But at least Gwen had Rhys to go home to, to cry on, to talk with. Jack was accepting no comfort from him. In fact, nearly all physical contact had ceased, and Jack was no longer smiling at him or flirting. It was all business, and Ianto was getting worried. His Captain seemed brittle, holding everything together for the sake of himself and the team, but Ianto was pretty sure that one wrong word or action would send the immortal over the edge.
Ianto slept at the Hub now. Not with Jack in his bunker, but down in the archives in the tiny room he'd set up for himself long ago when he'd first sneaked Lisa in. He worked late into the night, every night, staying up even later than Jack. Even from his computer down in the main Hub, he could feel the emotions spilling from his Captain, despite his closed off-ness. He was grieving, feeling guilty, in pain, and lost from the blank spots one thousand years beneath the earth had caused. And Ianto could do nothing. Jack was unresponsive, shoving his two team members away, hiding. And Ianto had no idea what do, what to say.
It was late at night, or early in the morning, depending on your preference, and Ianto was asleep at his computer station. He was dreaming— dreaming of a time when Tosh and Owen were still alive, when he and Tosh had had a day together of going to the cinema and out for lunch, just being friends, and when Owen had helped him through the time when Jack was gone, protectively treating him like a younger brother rather than a less-than-agreeable colleague. Something pulled him out of the dream and he looked around, groggy. Everything was in place, and there were no noises but the sound of thunder faint from outside. He looked up at Jack's office. The light was on, which it hadn't been earlier. Getting up, he climbed the stairs to the office, only to find that Jack wasn't there. He must be outside.
Ianto pulled on a coat and took the tourist's entrance out. He began to cross the Plass, squinting against the torrential rain. Lightning lit up the view in front of him, everything crashing into sharp focus. A lone figure stood out on the edge of the Plass. His head was down, shoulders hunched. His body was a dark shape, folded in on itself against the wind. He was drenched, his clothes plastered to his body and hair flat to his head. He looked devastated, lost and world-weary.
"Oh, Jack." Ianto trotted across the Plass, slowing before he reached his captain. He walked up tentatively, and put a gentle hand on Jack's shoulder. To his surprise, Jack didn't pull away or shake him off. He simply stood there, head bowed, allowing his vulnerability to be fully visible in the way that his shoulders shook and shadows darkened his face. It was as if he was trying to make himself as small as possible, as dark and hidden and protected as possible.
"Jack." When his lover looked up, there was such pain in his eyes that Ianto had to bite back a gasp and fight the urge to flinch away. Instead, he slid a hand up into Jack's hair and rubbed gently at his scalp. "Jack. Listen to me. It wasn't your fault."
"I convinced them to join me, I made them go into the field." Jack's voice was rough and keening with pain. "I killed them."
Ianto took the Captain by the arms and turned him bodily to face him. "Look at me, Jack. Listen to me. You did not kill them. We are Torchwood. They joined you and went into the field of their own free will. They knew the perils of the job. The risks were well worth the results in their eyes. You are disrespecting them by blaming yourself this way."
Jack's eyes dropped, shuttering away the pain for just a moment before he looked back at Ianto, capturing him with eyes afraid and desperate.
"I'm scared, Ianto. I don't want to, but I can't stop thinking about the possibility of losing you and Gwen."
"You won't. Not any time soon, anyway. I'm here, I'm safe. I'm not going to do anything stupid or reckless to put myself in danger. Gwen's with Rhys, she's safe, and she isn't going to, either." Jack nodded, his face still full of anguish. "Now let's go back inside, get you dry. Please, Jack. Don't beat yourself up over this. They died in the field, with honour and bravery. They deserved to be remembered, not mourned forever."
Jack nodded again and released his crushing grip on the railing. Lines crisscrossed his features and his expression was desolate. Ianto could see deep circles under his eyes and a slump to his shoulders that was heavier than he'd ever seen before. He led his Captain back to the Hub, aware of Jack's trembling body.
When they got inside, Jack began to shake harder, the mild air clashing with his cold, wet body. Ianto led Jack down into the tiny bunker beneath his office, stripping him down and leading him into the shower, where he washed Jack gently, allowing his Captain time to stare off into middle distance and try to clear his head.
Jack was silent during the shower, drying off, and Ianto's gentle coaxing into the bed. But when Ianto slid in beside him, Jack suddenly reached out and grabbed him, clutching him to his chest, burying his face in Ianto's neck. A shuddering breath whooshed past his ear, and Ianto rolled over, holding Jack as tightly as he could, rubbing the nape of his neck with a thumb.
"I'm not going anywhere, not for a long, long time. I promise."
Jack's grip tightened on him for just a moment, a shadow passing over his face, more agony in his eyes than ever before, and then he sighed, loosening his grip, closing his eyes. When he opened them, they were clearer than before, though still shining with unshed tears, and he nodded once at Ianto before pulling him closer still.
"I won't leave you, not for a long time." whispered Ianto as his Captain's breathing evened out.
"You'd better not." Jack whispered back, his fingers tightening their respective holds on Ianto's hair and chest.
Rhiannon wasn't sure what had driven her out into the storming night. Okay, yes, she was. She just didn't want to think about it or she'd get angry all over again. David and Mica and Johnny had been yammering at her all day, asking for this and that, bickering, making too much noise and she hadn't been able to think. She'd shouted at all of them, grabbed her raincoat and an umbrella, and stormed out of the house.
At first she was just wandering, cooling off from her rage in the house. Then she realized that her feet were taking her on a familiar path. She sighed, feeling calmer than before, despite the fact that her apparent destination was sombre. The clusters of trees that surrounded the cemetery didn't do much in the way of protecting her from the rain. She trudged on, anyway. She was almost all the way there, and it was silly of her not to visit.
Lightening crashed overhead as she stepped into the clearing, and her breath caught in her throat.
"Oh, god." She brought a hand up to her mouth.
About fifty paces away, a man stood at Ianto's grave. He was hunched against the violent weather, his head bent down, posture more defeated than she'd ever seen on a person. His coat was heavy from the rain, and his shirt and hair were plastered to his body.
She'd only met Jack Harkness once. And she hadn't really met him, anyway. He'd been at Ianto's funeral, sort of. He'd come towards the very end, stayed at the edge of the treeline before coming up to Gwen, whispering in her ear (she'd clasped his hands and he'd looked away) and retreating back to the trees. She hadn't even been sure it was Ianto's Jack until she'd seen his eyes, the emptiness inside them. She had meant to go speak with him after the funeral, but as quickly as he appeared, he'd vanished.
Some time after Ianto's funeral, Gwen had come to her, and over tea (neither drank coffee any longer) had explained to her Torchwood, Jack Harkness, and all that her little brother had gone through and done. Then she told her how much Ianto had meant to them, that he had lost his life with honour. When Gwen was done, Rhiannon had slapped her in the face, screamed and yelled, blamed her, blamed Jack, blamed Torchwood, blamed London.
A few days later, she'd called Gwen and apologized. Gwen had accepted with understanding, saying that it was all right and she knew that Rhiannon was grieving, they all were. Then Rhiannon had asked about Jack. Gwen had said he'd left, gone travelling. That he blamed himself for Ianto's death. Rhiannon had nodded, though Gwen couldn't see her through the phone, and stated that at the moment, she agreed with Jack. That opinion had changed quite quickly. That was the last time she'd talked to Gwen. After that, she had thought back on the forlorn, empty man who had visited her brother's funeral, and instead felt exceedingly sorry for Jack's pain and plight of life.
Now, she approached the figure slowly, her shoes nearly sticking in the mud that threatened to suck them off her feet. He turned as she came within feet of him, and she gasped when she saw his face, the ruin in it. He looked haggard, torn apart and exhausted beyond human capacity. He was more than fifty pounds thinner than she'd last seen him, and he looked in ghastly shape.
"Rhiannon." His voice was empty. She nodded.
"Jack." He winced. "How long has it been for you?"
He let out a breath and looked back down at the headstone which bore her brother's name. "Six years. No one calls me Jack anymore."
He looked at her, his eyes holding an agony which she could not comprehend, despite the fact that she, too, missed her brother more than anything. But she had not seen him die, she had not held him as the life left him, she had not witnessed what Jack had witnessed. She did not know Ianto, she did not see him daily as Jack had. She did not have to live eternally with his death.
"You look like him." Jack said finally. "Sound like him, too. God!" He hit his leg with a closed fist, then brought his hand up and ground his fingers into his eye sockets.
"You time travel, can't you just go back and stop it from happening? Save him?"
"Don't you think I would if I could?" Jack snapped. "I'd give anything to get him back. But I can't! I can't." Rhiannon had stepped back at his outburst, and now he reached a hand out to her, mouth twisted in apology. "I'm sorry. Sorry. I just…it was my fault. And I miss him. If I could go back and save him, I would do it in an instant. But I can't go back and alter my own timeline. He died in vain and it's my fault and there's nothing I can do to fix it."
"It's not your fault. It's not. I don't care that you time travel and you can't die and you're experienced with aliens. Those things were strong. And the government, they were behind it too, weren't they. They didn't give you a choice. They were taking the children."
"It doesn't mean he didn't die needlessly."
Rhiannon wiped the wet strands of hair from her eyes. "Gwen and…the others….from the government said he died with honour, in battle."
Jack shook his head. "He didn't. We shouldn't have gone in there in the first place. It was pointless. It did nothing except get an entire building of people murdered, including Ianto. He died in my arms, pleading with me not to forget him. He told me he loved me. I couldn't say it back. I couldn't say it back!"
She put a hand on his arm, turning him, forcing herself to look into the blue eyes so full of pain, so sad, so achingly familiar to her brother's. "You did love him, though, didn't you?"
Jack nodded, his heartbroken expression deepening, his gaze turning inward. "So much. Too much. His saying that to me, it was goodbye. I didn't want to say goodbye, so I didn't say it back. I knew he was dying, and I didn't say it. I was so terrified of losing him, like I lose everyone. I thought telling him would make it hurt more when he…left. It turns out that this hurts more, much more. Sometimes I wake up and expect him to be beside me. That moment of ignorance, it's the happiest part of my day. It hurts more than anything that he…went…before I could tell him."
"Jack," she rubbed his shoulder, her little finger brushing against the back of his neck. "I think he'd simply be glad that he died doing his job, and that you knew how he felt about you."
Jack sunk to his knees, fisting the dirt in his hands, leaning so far forward his head nearly touched the grey tombstone.
"I don't care!" His cry was laced with sorrow and fury. "I'd give anything to see him again, to hold him, to tell him how I feel." Jack took in shuddery breaths, convulsing slightly as Rhiannon crouched beside him, her hand on his back. "It's never been this way. I've always been able to move on, to push their deaths to the back of my mind and keep going with just the memory of them in my head. But…he was the first one to know me. He knew who I am know and who I used to be. He saw parts of my past. He woke me from nightmares and listened when I told him stories. And he didn't hate me or blame me or leave me or put me on a pedestal. He treated me like a human. No one's ever really done that."
"That's Ianto for you. Always treating everyone equally, fairly, with respect." Rhiannon wished with all her might that she could just take some of this man's pain away. She wanted so badly to help the man her brother had loved.
"It was so foreign to me. I fell in love with him and I didn't know what to do about it. We were both too…damaged for anything considered 'normal' for the 21st century. But he loved me like I was any other person. That never happens. I'm just a…a freak!"
She nearly jumped back at the conviction in that last word. It was as if it had been drilled into his brain, he said it with such vehemence and belief. She put a hand on his shoulder once more. "Listen to me," she commanded, voice stern. "If Ianto thought you were a human being who deserved his love and respect, you are, and you always will be."
A groan rattled through Jack, his back vibrating mournfully under her fingertips. "He always was right," he whispered, so soft she almost missed it.
"He told me he loved you, right before all that stuff with the children started. He said it wasn't other men or anything, it was just you."
"I knew that. He didn't have to tell me. I knew. And…I've died, so many, many times in the last years. It hurts every time, I always wake up empty. He's not there with me and it's horrible. I don't want to have to live with it. I just don't. I've lived too long. For the first time in years, I wasn't alone. And now…"
He pushed up from the ground, running dirty hands over his worn face, careless of the streaks across his forehead and jaw. He stared down at the headstone with a broken expression, his eyes full of longing and despair.
"I can't. I can't stay here. I don't have anything left for me, anywhere. I have to go."
"Will I see you again? Will you come here again?"
He looked at her, his expression as ancient and world-weary as he truly was. "I don't know, Rhiannon."
He turned away from her, his gait slow and melancholy. It was as if he had no life left, no will to do anything but exist, and barely that.
She rubbed the gravestone gently as she watched him trudge away. "He really loved you. You oughta come back for him, I think he's worth it and more. Please, Ianto? Please?"
The stone did not answer. But for a moment, the wind blew harder, the whooshing sound became nearly vocal, with an accent and sonorous distinctive tone. She wondered if she was imagining things. Jack turned at the treeline and looked about him, looked at her, as if he'd nearly found something he longed for with his entire being.
Then the wind died down, replaced with the consistent patter of the rain, and Jack turned away, head down again, shoulders slumped in miserable defeat, mournful pace resumed, and vanished into the sombre darkness of the trees.