Fore note: Un-beta'd. I would like to thank all those who have read and favourited and requested alerts (100+ now! So many! Oh my!) and so on for hanging in there and still hoping. I know it's been a long time since I posted and for that I'm sorry. Life has been rough these last months (long long story) and until now I just haven't been able to make myself write (well, write and finish). I'm hoping this new addition (and some revisions I will be attempting to get to before I sit down to write Suspension III) is up to snuff - if not, well, so be it, I'll mend it later. Hope it makes sense, I've been as muddle-minded as Ianto (though, not for drinking mind you). As always, reviews and constructive criticism very much appreciated. Diolch yn fawr iawn!

Disclaimer: Torchwood belongs to the BBC and is the creation of the masterful Russell T. Davies. Recognisable characters and scenarios belong to the appropriate parties and are borrowed for entertainment purposes only. Postcards from Italy lyrics belong to Beirut.

Spoilers: Torchwood series 1-3, Doctor Who 'Army of Ghosts', 'Doomsday', 'The Stolen Earth', and 'Journey's End' (potentially others)

Summary: Ianto Jones had made himself a shadow, hidden in the background, unnoticed. How does a shadow cope with being brought into the light?

Pairings: Jack/Ianto (eventually), Ianto/Lisa (mentioned), Gwen/Rhys, etc (standard canon couplings)

Ex Umbra In Solem
(From the Shadows into the Light)
by Gwyddelig

Chapter 6: Suspension II

"Guilt is perhaps the most painful companion of death."
- Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel

The morning was icy cold with early frost, bright freezing sunlight nothing against the rawness of Welsh autumn. Consciousness swam up to meet it, unwelcome but inevitable. He wondered, briefly and with a fuzziness brought of too much drink and too little of it water, if the chill would numb the pain still pulsing through him in time to the beating of his heart - a pain which had nothing to do with the massive headache that throbbed behind the too thin lids of his eyes.

A noise drew him further awake, buzzing softly but insistently through the haze. It coalesced, focused, and ordered itself into rifts and chords, words coming last through the fog.

"The times we had, oh when the wind would blow with rain and snow, were not all bad. We put out feet just where they had, had to go, never to go…" Stereo's still on, he realised. It carried on playing, unheeded - like life does after loss. "The shattered soul, following close but nearly twice as slow. In my good times, there were always golden rocks to throw… at those who… those who admit defeat too late. Those were our times. Those were our times…"

A knock interrupted the instrumental solo, startling the young woebegone man into an abrupt jerk… and off the couch whereupon he discovered the empty glass and whiskey soaked rug. Briefly, and ridiculously, he considered attempting to sop the alcohol up and wring it back into the glass - mustn't waste it - but shook the thought aside as asinine and too far gone for sobriety.

The repeated, and increasingly forceful, knocking - accompanied by a burst of Jack-tinted angry worry - returned his focus and, in a valiant effort to stave off further mind-shattering connections of fist on wood, he wobbled to the door. As he neared, the older man's voice joined the cacophony bent on shattering his skull.

He sourly wished that the promised 'talk' could have waited until, say, never - or at least until he wasn't hungover - but what he wanted and what he ever got were never one and the same. And it was more than obvious that, were Ianto to attempt to ignore the summons, Jack would end up breaking the door down. Something the Welshman would prefer to avoid.

Making it to there by some miraculous feat, Ianto swung it open, leveling what he hoped was a withering gaze on the (dashing) man in the (ever-present) military coat.

"Jack," he said without inflection, stepping aside to allow his boss - was he still? - entrance.

The older man heaved a sigh followed seamlessly by a scowl and swept into the flat carrying with him the humid cold of outside. Ianto felt it as it swirled about him, pondering the way it flowed and joined with the dry chill of the rooms within. It was a sensation wholly unto itself, not burned away by the still simmering angry-worry-turned-relief radiating from the American accented Captain.

There had been anger of his own the previous day, but Ianto couldn't find it now. Aside from the constant sick throb of his head which roiled his stomach with churning acidity, he felt numb. Emotionally numb. It wasn't a hollow feeling, nor a numbness derived of shock. It was more a lack of any feeling, an acceptance of pain so all encompassing that one no longer felt it. Wholly different from that which he'd felt before. He wrapped himself in it, holding tight to the blessed relief of non-feeling. It was safer that way.

Ianto must have zoned out because Jack was before him, a raised hand cupping the feverishly burning curve of his cheek. Feeling sharpened, found the cracks in his shield. Ocean blue eyes burned into paler ones in what Ianto thought must have been what they meant by 'soul-penetrating stare'.

A memory, another moment, a similar feeling - though this one was wrapped in cotton-wool, muted and vague. Remembered sensation, fingers on his cheek… lips - not hers - against his own. There was a strangeness accompanying the moment, a feeling of warmth drawing him out of darkness, seeping into the depths of him, imbuing him with something indefinable. The memory sharpened then and returned to normal clarity - blue eyes, so intent, so focused, focused on him… as if he were the whole world.

"Ianto?"

The younger man blinked again, finally surfacing from his own thoughts into reality. Jack was so close, closer still than Ianto remembered - why is he so close? - and so warm - radiating: warmth, comfort, life, something more. Ianto almost lent in, almost let himself give into the desire that - despite wretched guilt and despair, despite the growing pain in his head, despite the inevitable collapse of his walls under the pressure - curled in his loins at the thought of Jack Harkness - had done since long before, before Lisa, before Canary Wharf, before Cardiff and Torchwood Three… before Lisa and the monster and the betrayal.

Ianto remembered himself, though, and pulled away, bolstered his failing shields as best he could. He didn't deserve Jack's kindness, his forgiveness, his comfort. Not yet. Maybe not ever.

In that moment he realised his anger had truly left him - guilt, remorse, and shame holding its place. And while he still hurt, still missed Lisa fiercely, he was coming to grips with the necessity. She hadn't been Lisa, not then, perhaps not since the moment the Conversion Unit first sliced into her skin. She'd been a monster bent on world domination and the destruction of the human race.

"I'm sorry," he mumbled thickly. Despair washing over him anew as the gravity of what could have happened - what he could have caused - struck him. What warmth he'd garnered from Jack's touch left him, taking with it his breath as his headache surged with renewed force.

Not just what he'd nearly caused, but what he had caused. Three bodies. Blood on age worn stone. His fault.

Ianto felt his shields shatter with almost physical force. His head swam, the blood draining away as panic rose.

"Sit down, before you fall down," Jack commanded, steering Ianto towards the couch. Worry-fear-bitter-anger.

Hands on his shoulders, connection. His walls collapsed in a sickening lurch as undiluted Feeling crashing through to beat upon his psyche like breakers upon the shore.

"Stop it!" The Welshman cried out, voice a shrill, barely audible croak. Struggling to free himself from the Captain's grasp, he pushed hard against the onslaught.

The sudden silence was deafening.

Ianto gasped softly as the crushing weight of connection lifted. It took him a moment to realise that Jack had stepped back and was staring at him with something akin to shock written on his chiseled face - and a moment longer still to realise he couldn't Feel anything from the older man. Nothing at all.

The lack of sensation was disconcerting. He'd always felt something. Even with his shields at full strength, he was aware of those around him - could read their moods without effort. Never this, never a void of feeling had he encountered.

"Thank you," Ianto breathed out in relief, ignoring how off kilter the sudden dearth of emotion surrounding the other man made him.

There was silence for a short eternity, Jack's eyes boring into Ianto as if dissecting him. When the Captain finally spoke it wasn't in the ice cold tone the younger man had expected, but rather a warm one filled with a humored kindness. "You've been holding out on me, Ianto Jones."

Colour bloomed across Ianto's cheeks, staining them bright against the pallor that still graced his skin. "Sorry," he whispered, ducking his head. What must Jack think of him? The secrets, the lies - You hid yourself from us! - would he ever get away from them? Did he even know how anymore?

Jack sighed, a thread of sorrow seeping through before he clamped down on it. "I think it's time we had that talk.