A/N - This was originallyposted on Whofic as separate chapters. When I neatened it up I put it all in one document. - I was going through a lot of stuff myself when I wrote this and this acted almost like therapy.
The alarm on the night stand went off. Not because he had set it, but because he had neglected to turn it off. He rolled over and rubbed his eyes. He had no where to go today. Last night Jack had simply told him to "get out."
Looking up at the window, he could see the morning sun streaming around the blinds. For some reason he was surprised at the sunshine. Not that there had been any forecast for rain, but it just seemed out of place somehow… unexpected.
He turned away and stared at the wall on the other side of the room. He was alone. He had no where to go… nothing to do.
His thoughts turned to the drives home to visit when he lived in London. He'd be driving along the highway. Then with no warning or reason, the cars around him would seem to vanish. There never seemed to be a mass exit from the highway. The other cars would just slowly, imperceptibly not be there and he would be driving alone.
It was strange because, it wasn't as if he were traveling with them, or that they were even going to the same destination. But they were there, on the road with him.
His thoughts returned to Jack and the team. They were like the other cars. They weren't really his friends. They didn't go out after work. But they were there. They were his connection to something bigger. Now they were gone and he was alone.
He pulled the duvet over his head and sunk down under the cover. The almost overwhelming warmth enveloped him, muffling the sounds around him. All he could hear was the sound of his own steady breathing.
Here in his cocoon, he could almost believe that the previous day had never happened. Hell, maybe he could pretend the previous year hadn't happened.
If he tried hard enough, he could just about see his flat in London. Lisa would be in the shower getting ready for work. Soon she'd come back to the bedroom and pounce on him for not getting up. He smiled at the thought. Minutes passed and nothing happened. The muffled silence dragged on.
So he went further back in his mind. He was in his room at university cowering under the covers to avoid the inevitability of going to class. He hated being the one sitting alone in the back of the room that no one noticed.
He drew in a deep breath of the warm moist air under the duvet. He still was the guy sitting alone, unnoticed in the back of the room. How else would he have been able to hide Lisa all those months?
Maybe that's how it should be. He didn't have any friends here in Cardiff. His family didn't live nearby. Hell, even his neighbors didn't really know him.
Pulling the duvet tighter around himself, he closed his eyes and willed the outside world away.
Eventually his body gave him no choice but to emerge from the duvet and shuffle across the hall to the bathroom. His legs knew the way so he didn't need to open his eyes to see the normality of the flat.
He didn't turn on the light. When he finished, he stood in front of the sink. Almost every fiber of his being wanted to crawl back into the safety of his self made cocoon. Why was he still standing here?
He opened his eyes and looked at the figure in the shadows staring back at him. The man's hair was a mess, he needed a shave, there were some nasty bruises forming on his face and the eyes were bloodshot. What terrible events must have he encountered?
The man in the mirror stood alone in the darkness. He looked as if he had been though some kind of battle and now was the lone survivor, forced to continue alone.
He started to reach out to comfort the broken man, but stopped. That's how you get hurt. If you don't reach out, if you don't touch the world, then it can't hurt you.
Taking one last look at the haunted eyes in the mirror, Ianto turned and shuffled back to his bed. He crawled under the duvet and retreated once more from the cruelness of the world.
When he once again emerged from his cocoon, an orange glow was sifting through the blinds. Late afternoon, he guessed.
Shuffling across the hall once more, he made a point of not looking in the mirror. Looking down he saw he was wearing the boxers and white undershirt he had put on two days ago. He sighed and started the shower. He allowed it to heat up for a few minutes before stripping and stepping under the water. For what was probably too long, he simply stood there, letting the hot water stream over him. If he had and tears left now would be the time to let them fall, they'd leave no trails.
Coming back to the moment, he took the shampoo and washed his hair, then used the shampoo to wash the rest. Using all the correct products was too complicated right now. Simple… one thing at a time.
Eventually the water began to cool. He turned off the taps and stepped out of the shower. Glad he had decided to buy the oversized towels; he grabbed one off the hook and wrapped himself in it.
He shuffled back across the hall and stood at the foot of the bed. As much as he wanted to crawl back under the duvet, he decided it had better be washed first. So he took a pair of pajama bottoms and a t-shirt from the drawer and dressed.
He roughly dried his hair, not caring about how it looked. Who was he planning on impressing anyway? Shuffling down the hall into the living room, he sat down on the couch. Briefly he considered turning on the television, but then decided he wasn't ready to face the outside world yet, even passively. So he took the quilt that was draped over the back of the couch and pulled it over himself, created a new cocoon.
He sat flipping the channels on the television. He didn't watch anything for more than a few minutes.
It had been nearly a week. He had ensconced himself on the couch, still not having the desire to do laundry. The duvet had been joined by an increasing pile of clothes. His hair stuck up at odd angles where it had dried. He didn't think he had even glanced at the brush lately. Stretching, he scratched the more-than-just-stubble that covered his lower face. Apparently he hadn't glanced at a razor either.
Giving up on the television, he stood up and went into the kitchen. The dishes were piling up in the sink. He sighed and turned away, even though he could have easily just put them all in the dishwasher. Instead he opened the refrigerator and peered inside. The shelves were virtually empty. Only can of coke and bottle of water sat inside. He grabbed the water and turned to the cupboards. They were just as sparse as the fridge. Eventually he'd have to go shopping. Well either that or slowly die of starvation. He chuckled inwardly at that idea. No one had called or come to check on him in the past few days, so it could happen.
He shrugged and took a mostly empty box of crackers from one of the shelves and went back to the living room.
Finally needing to restock the kitchen, Ianto decided to go shopping. He settled on late Friday night deciding that no one went shopping on Friday nights, so there would be less people in the shop.
He dressed in a pair of jeans, t-shirt and a hoodie. Then, as he still hadn't brushed his hair, he grabbed a baseball cap from the closet and put it on.
As he stepped out of his flat, he felt very small. It had been over a week since he had set foot outside. He had gotten used to the comforting confines of the few rooms. He set off walking down the sidewalk, passing several of the local shops he normally bought his groceries at. Not that anyone would recognize him in his disheveled clothes and sight beard, but he didn't want to have to make conversation with anybody. He had decided to go to a Tesco (less personal) about a 15 minute walk from his flat.
Walking through the automatic doors of the market, he realized he hadn't made a list. Actually he hadn't even been thinking of anything beyond the fact that he needed food. He took a deep breath, grabbed a trolley and hunched over it as he started down the first aisle. Figuring he needs a bit of everything, he walked up and down each aisle. If something looks good, he drops it into the trolley. He would sort it out when he got home.
Deciding he had gotten enough supplies, he pushed the cart to one of the self checkouts. He didn't want to have to make small talk with the clerk. Managing to pack everything into two grocery sacks, he breathed a sigh of relief as he stepped out into the night air.
Ianto stood in the space between the living room and the kitchen looking at nothing in particular. For the first time in, he didn't know how long, he had no direction, no plans, nothing to strive for.
Briefly, his thoughts turned to Jack, but that brought the memories of what had happened and before the bile could rise too far in his throat, he shook his head to clear the painful thoughts.
He took a deep breath and headed down the hallway, deciding to sleep in the bed tonight. Knowing he still hadn't done laundry, he grabbed a guest blanket from the hall closet on the way. Once in the bedroom, he pulled the duvet off the bed and left it crumpled on the floor. He didn't have any clean pajama bottoms, so he just stripped off his jeans and tossed them on the pile. He crawled onto the bed and pulled the guest blanket over him.
His fitful sleep was suddenly interrupted by the blanket being unceremoniously yanked off him. Sitting up to try to grab it back, he came face to face with Captain Jack Harkness.
The shock of seeing his boss standing at the foot of his bed in the middle of the night was quickly replaced by the anger and memories the Captain caused to rush to his mind. The bile rose in his throat as images of this man shooting Lisa flashed through his brain. Yes, logically he knew she wasn't Lisa at that point, but logic hadn't exactly ruled his thoughts lately.
Jack looked at him grimly. "Is this what you've been doing the past week? Moping around here?"
"Get out," Ianto growled.
Ianto made a move to grab the blanket, but Jack pulled it away. Without any warning, Ianto leapt out of the bed and pinned the older man to the wall. He grabbed the blanket out of Jack's hand and threw it on the bed. Then, holding tight to the great coat, he half dragged Jack out of the bedroom and down the hallway.
In one fluid movement, Ianto shoved Jack out the front door. "Stay away from me," he said through gritted teeth, just before slamming the door.
From the other side of the door, he heard Jack's voice. It was calm, but serious. "You can't keep going on like this. You're going to have to move on."
Ianto leaned against the door and closed his eyes.
Exactly one hour later, Ianto stood in front of the water tower on the nearly deserted Plas. He had showered and dressed in one of his best suits and held a small duffel bag in his hand.
He placed the duffel on the invisible lift and saw it disappear from view.
He cleared his throat and began to speak. It didn't need to be very loud; he knew the hub security cameras could pick up a whisper.
"You're right, sir," he said enunciating the last word. "I should move on. Therefore, I am turning in my gun and security cards. Happy now?"
He turned and walked away without looking back.
Below the Plas, Jack sat in his office watching Ianto walk away into the night. "No, I'm not happy… and neither are you."
It had been a little over a week since he had walked away from Torchwood. He had easily gotten a new position. Even without the Torchwood mainframe, he had the skills to pass of a decent CV. It was a large company and he was glad of it. He was simply another employee, sitting each day dutifully at his cubicle.
He didn't know if it was punishment or what, but Jack still had not retconned him. All Torchwood employees were retconned or executed when they left, depending on the circumstances. Was Jack forcing him to live with these memories? Ianto didn't believe that the Captain could be that cruel.
Each day he would leave his coffee unattended at his desk to allow the dose to be administered. He would leave drinks and food unattended if he ate out. But still nothing.
He kept to himself. During lunch, he made sure he brought a novel with him, or he would take a walk outside. He refused to get close to his co-workers. When you got close to people, you got hurt. He was beginning to think that the ache of being alone might be better than the devastation of loss. It was easier to have nothing than to have had something so wonderful ripped away.
It wasn't as if he never spoke to other people. He'd say hello to the people at work. He'd laugh at their jokes, he'd even engage in the silly small talk, but he never gave up anything of himself. He created an invisible cocoon around himself.
Even though he no longer worked for Torchwood, he still found himself hyper aware of his surroundings. He wasn't looking for weevils or aliens, but he was on guard against Torchwood itself. No one was simply allowed to walk away unchallenged.
Therefore, he wasn't surprised when he arrived back at his flat one evening to see Jack standing on the steps waiting.
"You haven't retconned me," he said quietly as he got out his key and slipped past the older man.
"I never accepted your resignation."
Ianto fought to keep calm. So it comes to this. He took his key from the door and turned to face Jack. The older man's face remained stoic.
"If you're not going to retcon me…" he couldn't finish the sentence. Still unable to believe that it had come to this.
Jack's right hand moved to his waist. He pushed the great coat aside and to Ianto's astonishment, there was nothing there. Jack shoved his hand in his trouser pocket and met Ianto's shocked eyes.
"I didn't come here to kill you."
Ianto raised his right eyebrow, but didn't say anything.
"And I didn't come here to retcon you." Jack took a cautious step towards the younger man.
Ianto shifted away from Jack, eyes still on the older man. "Wha – what do you want then?" he stammered.
"To help you."
Ianto started to turn away from Jack. "I don't want your help, Sir." The last word was said with such bitterness that Jack flinched slightly.
Jack tentatively reached out to touch Ianto's arm. At the touch, the younger man pulled his arm away and turned quickly, his other hand in a fist aimed right at Jack's face. Because Ianto had caught him off guard for the second time, as well as the fact that he figured he deserved it, Jack took the punch.
Jack staggered back from the impact and when he lifted his head, blood was dripping from a fresh cut on his lip.
Ianto stood defiant, tears of hate burning in his eyes. "Piss off, Jack." He turned and unlocked the door to his flat, slamming it closed after he passed through. Jack heard the deadbolt and chain locks being engaged.
Ianto readied himself for work the same as every morning. He tried unsuccessfully to put the events of the previous night out of his mind. He had been surprised that Jack hadn't forcefully followed him into the flat.
Because his mind was elsewhere, he almost tripped over the figure perched on the steps outside his flat.
Jack stood up and smiled as he held out a cardboard cup of coffee. Ianto recognized the logo as being his favorite "store-bought" coffee.
When Ianto didn't take the offered cup, Jack nodded and then took a sip of the contents before holding it out again. "It's safe."
Ianto slid by Jack and walked down the steps, glad when Jack didn't follow him.
When he returned from work, Jack wasn't there.
He had almost forgotten the incident the next morning until he stepped out of his flat to find Jack standing there with a coffee in his hand and a smile on his face.
"Come back." He said. It was neither a statement nor a question.
Ianto stayed silent and moved to go around Jack. This time Jack blocked his path. He glared at the older man.
"Three month trial period."
Ianto tried once again to get past. "No."
To an outside observer, it would appear Jack was getting desperate. However, Ianto recognized the conversation. If this was how Jack was going to do it, he'd play along.
Finally managing to maneuver around the Captain, Ianto walked down the stairs. "There is no job for me there, and there never will be."
Jack watched Ianto walk away down the sidewalk. Had he finally broken through?
"Do you still like the coat?" He called after the retreating figure.
Despite himself, Ianto couldn't help the tiny smile that spread across his lips at Jack's words.
Back to the Beginning
It was Friday night. Jack had been, for lack of a better word, stalking him for two days now. Ianto knew exactly what Jack was trying to do. He had done the same thing to get into Torchwood 3 in the first place.
For what was probably the millionth time, he declined his co-workers invitation to go to the local pub after work. However, this time it wasn't because he was going to go home and hide from the world in his flat. He found himself actually wondering if Jack would be waiting for him again.
Walking up the sidewalk, he was disappointed to see the steps were empty. He glanced around to see if Jack was waiting elsewhere. He wasn't. As he climbed the steps to his flat, Ianto chided himself for being disappointed. He didn't want to go back to Torchwood. There was nothing there for him anymore. Jack waiting for him had just become a routine, that's all. It didn't mean anything.
He unlocked the door and stepped into his flat. He almost expected Jack to be waiting inside. He shook his head, again disappointed in himself. He knew that's why Jack had been doing this. The captain had wanted Ianto to question himself.
Leaving his keys on the little table by the door, he went into the kitchen, flipped on the light and began to make a cup of coffee. The aroma and taste always soothed him.
As he was waiting for the coffee to brew, he heard a noise from outside. He crossed through the living room and peered out of the front window. He had a nice view of the street, but could see nothing in the evening shadows. Just as he was going to go back to the kitchen, he heard a crash outside. Whatever it was, it was somewhere around the complex.
Ianto quickly went to the bedroom and grabbed the hockey stick he kept in his closet. He slowly opened the front door and stepped out onto the landing. Looking around, he held the stick up ready to strike. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw movement at the edge of the building. He turned to see a weevil burst out of the shadows followed quickly by Jack. Without even a moment's hesitation, Ianto's instincts took over and he jumped down the steps and ran off after Jack and the weevil.
He quickly caught up as Jack cornered the weevil in someone's back garden. The two men easily subdued the creature and soon stood panting in the darkness.
"Can you get it back to the SUV on your own?" Ianto asked as he brushed the dirt off his suit.
Jack nodded and Ianto turned to walk away. He had only gotten a few meters away when Jack spoke up.
"Report for work first thing tomorrow." It wasn't a request. Ianto didn't stop. He could feel Jack's eyes on his back. Just before he turned around the side of the house, he heard Jack's voice again. "Like the suit, by the way."
The next morning Ianto awoke to his alarm. He ignored the part of him that screamed not too… that it was Saturday. He showered and dressed in one of his best suits. He stood in the kitchen and silently ate his toast and drank his coffee.
Ianto checked his watch just before walking out the door. Just on time. He stepped out the door and noticed no one was waiting on the steps. When he reached the end of the walkway, he paused as if deciding which way to turn. After a brief hesitation, he turned right and headed off towards the bay.