Came up with one line of this in the middle of the night and had to write the rest of it today. The title still doesn't feel right to me so if anyone can think of a better title, let me know.
When they get back to Cardiff, Jack drops everyone off at their own homes. He follows Ianto into his flat. He stands in the middle of the living room as Ianto disappears into what is probably the kitchen. The apartment is a weird mix of modern and antique, sleek precise lines and roughish dark wood. The shelves are cluttered, but give off the feel of organized chaos. A stack of boxes is shoved into one corner. An electric keyboard is pushed up against the closet doors, the use for the closet being replaced by the old-fashioned coat rack by the door. It's not entirely what Jack was expecting, but then again, he's not sure exactly what he was expecting. He doesn't know Ianto well enough to judge, not really.
Ianto comes back with a mug of coffee and hands it to Jack. His eyes are dull and tired when Jack looks at him. "I'm going to go take a shower. I need—I need to get clean."
Jack nods and watches the Welshman wander down the hall. He's here because Owen insisted that someone look after Ianto, he has a concussion after all, and because Ianto refused to go back to the Hub. He hears the water start and stands there awkwardly, wondering what to do now.
"Jack?" The sound is muffled, but he's there in a moment.
"Are you all right?"
"I need help getting my shirt off."
"Right." He pushes the door open. Ianto's got his top shirt unbuttoned and mostly off, dangling from one arm. His undershirt is rucked up over his hips, and he's standing awkwardly with his arms out to the sides, breath shallow. Jack catches the hem and the left sleeve and helps Ianto ease his arm through.
"I…forgot." Ianto pants.
"Forgot you had two broken ribs?"
"You must have the highest pain threshold ever. Arm up." The other arm eases through. Jack splays his fingers to catch and spread the cloth and pulls the undershirt up and over Ianto's head. It joins the other shirt on the floor.
"You can do the trousers?"
Jack backs out of the bathroom, shutting the door. Heading back to the living room, he surveys the area and wonders what to do while he's waiting. He sits on the couch and stares tiredly at the dark wooden coffee table, but after a moment that's boring, so he stands up and begins to peruse Ianto's shelves, sipping at his coffee.
The very top shelves are full of reference books; dictionaries, encyclopaedias, thesauri, a couple of world almanacs. The next few shelves have knickknacks on them. He picks up a little glass statuette of a swan with a yellow neck and head, wondering if that was Lisa's or a gift from friend or family. A couple of birthday cards and postcards are scattered about those shelves, photographs of a younger-looking Ianto with his arms around shoulders of friends. A small maroon ring box that Jack doesn't dare open.
The next bunch of shelves are full of books. Jack skims over them, titles catching his eye as it skates along. Moby Dick, Anna Karenina, The Man with the Golden Gun, Beowulf, American Gods, The Da Vinci Code, The Shining, Dante's Divine Comedy. Ianto's just as well read as Jack expected. The last three shelves contain mostly DVDs and VHS tapes. Jack is surprised to see that many of the movies Ianto owns are black and white, and he can only find one or two that were filmed after 1985. The DVD cases for Goldfinger, On The Waterfront, Sleuth and The Maltese Falcon are battered and worn.
"Didn't expect me to be a movie buff, did you?"
Jack starts and whirls around. He hadn't even heard the shower shut off. "I, uh—"
"It's all right. They're just books and films." Ianto sits down on the couch. He's barefoot, wearing sweatpants and a tattered blue button-up shirt. His hair is still wet and dripping, but spiky and clumped where the towel has run over it. He looks exhausted and cynical, like a world-weary poet in one of those films on the shelf. It's the most casual Jack has ever seen him, and it feels like he's looking at a naked person.
"You…like old movies," he states lamely.
Ianto walks to the DVD player and presses a button. The DVD slides out and Ianto takes the case off of the top of the player and slots the disc inside. He puts it on the shelf where there's an empty space. Jack looks. Rebel Without A Cause.
"Because," he turns to face Jack. "In the old movies, even the extras are somebody. I like that."
As he watches Ianto hobble stiffly back to the couch, something inside Jack breaks, and a wave of sadness washes over him. He hurries over and helps Ianto to sit down, then sits beside him. He puts a hand on the archivist's shoulder, thumb sweeping back and forth.
"I'm sorry we treated you so badly back there."
"We were split up, and it was crazy. You had to think of the whole team, not just one of us. I don't mind. We were just—"
Jack shakes his head. "I didn't mean today. I meant…before. I'm sorry we treated you like you were invisible. Or like you were just some unfeeling, impersonal butler."
But Jack holds up a hand. "I know. I'm sure that on some level, you wanted us not to notice you. I get that. But we took it too far. We treated you like a janitor, or a robot. You were nobody to us, Ianto. It goes against the reason I started to head Torchwood, why I hired you all. I wanted to give purpose and meaning and life to those with nothing left. I wanted them to feel like they could be something, could do something. And I failed that."
"Jack, I had a purpose. My purpose was to take care of Lisa. And I failed at that too."
"It wasn't your fault, though."
"It was. And your failing me was your fault. We've both failed. And now we move on."
"How do you take this so easily, Ianto? How do you not break down?"
Ianto shakes his head. "I've had a lot of practice." Jack waits, but he doesn't elaborate. The Welshman clenches his hands into fists, flexing and releasing. He looks up at Jack. "So now what?"
"Now, we rest. And then you come back to work. And when you get back, you can be somebody."
And finally, finally, Jack sees a little bit of hope come back into Ianto's eyes.