Title: One Fine Day in the Middle of the Night
Author: nancybrown
Characters: Lisa, Ianto, Jack, Gwen, Tosh, Owen
Pairings: Ianto/Lisa, Jack/Lisa, Jack/Gwen (unrequited)
Warnings/Spoilers: Canon events as viewed in the looking glass, up through the end of S1.
Beta: Many thanks to rexluscus for the assist.
AN: Written for the Lisafest on Livejournal.

The movers arrive at seven o'clock sharp. Lisa waits for them in the lounge with her hammer, and as they watch, she affixes the last two nails on the oversized wooden crate. "It's my television and stereo equipment," she tells the men with a smile. "Please be extra careful. They're very fragile."

Her other things are packed less carefully, cardboard boxes closed haphazardly with tape, everything labelled in quick, messy handwriting that indicate a lack of interest in the contents. Kitchen, bedroom, everything is packed and ready to haul without so much as a peep about breaking lamps or protecting her grandmother's jewellery. All that remains is her watchful eyes as they strap the crate onto their battered old dolly, and stow it upright in the lorry.

"Moving to Cardiff, then?" asks one of the movers, either making conversation or trying to flirt with her. She doesn't know. She won't care.

"My boyfriend is from there."

His eyes drop to her hand, and sees no engagement ring. She refuses to have one yet, not until he's healed, not until this is all finished. When the world is right again, they will have a romantic evening out amongst people again, and the moon will be so bright, and she'll inform him it's the right time to ask. Not a moment before then.

"Well, good luck," says the mover, and she thanks him politely. It always does to be polite.

Her résumé is strong but the hiring manager isn't interested, not after she helps him fend off a Weevil, not when she approaches him directly for a job. Rumours about Captain Jack Harkness and his habits swirled around the London office, but here in the flesh, he's using his big head instead of the small one. Most disturbing.

Ianto's in too much pain and Lisa doesn't have access to good medication. She'll fake lingering stress from Canary Wharf in exchange for better drugs, but without physical proof, she can't get her hands on the right painkillers in high enough doses to soothe her lover. She's considered heroin, but she doesn't know how to acquired any for him. If she can't break into Torchwood Cardiff the easy way, she's going to have to consider truly breaking in.

She holds his hand, and tries to think.

"Maybe he isgay," Ianto says. "Charles said Harkness tried to make a move on him."

Lisa shakes her head. "Sheilagh told me she slept with him once. If anything, he's bi, but he's not interested in me."

There's a faint smile on Ianto's face. "I can't imagine why not. You're gorgeous." And she's positive he truly thinks so. Sometimes she wonders if she's so deeply caught in this hellish situation, so involved with him, because of how smitten he is with her, how heady the sensation is of knowing how intensely he loves her. She's dated before, she's been in love before, but she's never known anyone like him. When he's well, he worships her every step. How can she not adore him right back?

"I need a different angle," she says out loud. "I need to attract his attention and show him how useful I can be."

Like a gift, the portable Rift monitor Lisa swiped from the wreckage of Canary Wharf chooses now to start beeping. Both their heads swivel towards it. Lisa reads through the data. "I don't suppose you remember if we packed a dinosaur net?"

Torchwood Cardiff is small, dark, and messy. Lisa very nearly quits and gives up on the project two minutes after she steps inside for the first time. Rubbish is casually dropped anywhere. Their adherence to established Torchwood protocols is non-existent. The doctor, a sleazy drunkard, manages to insult her and hit on her within the course of two sentences. The second in command ignores Lisa when she's not giving orders without even looking at her. The technician manages one smile, but doesn't register Lisa as more than a walking source of caffeine. Jack divides his time between shouting orders at her and coming on to her, although that's not personal, that's how he relates to all of them.

"I hate it." She's checking Ianto's vitals on the unit. They both shiver in the chilly basement, and it would be a vicious quirk of fate if they both got pneumonia. "They're awful. They can't decide if I'm a cleaning woman or a piece of meat." She's so angry, and there's no room for anger outside of this room, not if she is going to continue to play nice, play quiet, play along whilst she searches for any help with Ianto's condition.

"I'm so sorry." He's lucid now, in between doses of stolen morphine. He says he'd rather have more pain and be awake when she's with him, but it breaks her heart. He struggles to breathe, to think. Lisa spends every minute she can spare with him, changing bags, reading out loud until her voice cracks, or just curling in her sleeping bag and listening to the uncomforting sounds of the machines keeping him alive. This is untenable. Someday soon, one of the others will find out where she goes. Someday soon, she won't have enough medicine to treat him.

Sometimes she wishes their positions were reversed, an awful, selfish wish because how dare she believe his suffering is easy in comparison to hers? (However deeply she hides this inside her heart, whose secrets she doesn't share even with the man she loves.)

Ianto says, "This is all my fault. You shouldn't have to be going through this." She shushes him, and ignores the metallic ring. (But she knows he knows she feels guilty about walking out unscathed. It's a terrible prospect to consider he may be manipulating her, and she shushes that away too.) Time after time, she sneaks into the room, and he is staring into nothing, and she can almost hear the data streams in his mind.

No. Ianto hasn't been taken over. He's ... ill. Yes, he's injured. Disabled. He's not a monster, not one of them.

She has to believe that.

"Lisa."Jack's voice is suddenly intimate in her earpiece.

"Go ahead."

"Forget the repairs. I need you up at the Tourist Office. That policewoman who's been sniffing around is on the Plass."

Fantastic. Something else to worry about. "On my way." When she's sure the line is closed, she kisses Ianto quickly. "That bloody Tourist Office again. Remind me, why did I suggest one of my roles could be guard dog?"

"Go get them, Fido," he teases, and she growls playfully. It's good to joke with him. It's like things are normal again.

Gwen asks a lot of questions, but mostly, she asks them of Jack, who is happy to let Lisa slip back into her shadows as he busies himself trying to get into Gwen's knickers instead.

"I told you he wasn't gay," she tells Ianto.

"I think we established that already. He propositioned you twice."

It's been five or six times, actually, but there's no use telling Ianto. He's told her he does not expect her to sleep with Jack, and that he won't be angry with her if she chooses to anyway. Half his body is converted. They haven't been together since before the Battle, and he feels like less of a man.

She's told him he's a fool, that she loves him no matter what, that they willbe having so much sex after he's better he won't be able to move for weeks. Her belief is crumbling, though, chipped away by the whir of the conversion chamber and the tinny reverberation she hears more and more every day in his voice. He is human. He has to be human.

"Tell me about the security in the Hub again." And there it is, the robot in the back of his voice.

Lisa smiles tenderly. "I'll take care of it. Don't worry, just rest." She doesn't want to tell him, doesn't want to have told him the secrets she already revealed. She loves him so much, but she's afraid. He instructed her when seting up the conversion unit, which wires to put where, how to construct the dampening field that hides his own life signs from the Torchwood sensors. Ianto, who got frustrated setting up a DVD player, now describes precise schematics for upgrades to his life support system.

"I love you." The tinny note is gone. Lisa wants to hold onto this moment, the clear look in his eyes, the simple faith he has that she will protect him, save him, heal him.

But she's not sure anymore that she can.

"You're working late."

Jack appears suddenly in the doorway, silent as the proverbial cat, and just as slinky when on the prowl. Lisa lets herself startle, because he expects her to, and anyway, Jack does frighten her.

"Just getting ready for tomorrow, sir." He likes the 'sir,' likes to feel important. Lisa watches him from behind her own placid expression as he fluffs up and preens every time. A predicable reaction from Jack makes the taste of bile she has to swallow worth it.

He places a not-entirely-friendly hand on her shoulder, the tip of one finger casually stroking the skin at her neck. "I do like to see a keen worker, but you are here all the time. Be careful, Lisa, or I'll think you're staying late to spend extra time with me."

"Would that be a bad thing? Sir?" She keeps her voice low, and her eyes away from his.

She does want to sleep with him. She's sure Captain Jack Harkness could convince rocks to want to sleep with him. Just the soft pad of one finger on her skin sends lightening through her arms, and down to an ache between her legs she's had to relieve by her own hand for months. If even half of his reputation is earned, she's guaranteed a fantastic night, and he won't ask her why she's always here.

He leans in behind her, his breath tickling her ear. "Not at all."

All she has to do is turn her head, and his lips are right there. His mouth is sweeter than she expects, without the stale tang of coffee she thought she would meet. He plays with the kiss, tender and teasing at her lips until they part. His arms slide around her. Lisa twists in her chair to meet him, pushing up and away from the desk. It's been so long since she's been kissed with any kind of heat, since her lover could hold her and make her feel this way.

Jack is all passion, all in the moment, so she's surprised when he pulls back from her, and strokes her cheek. "Hey. Sorry."

She tries to speak, but her throat is blocked, and she realises she is crying. He brushes at her tears, thinking God knows what. "Sorry," he says again, and kisses her on the forehead.

"Don't be." She has to recover, but how can she when everything is so very fucked up? "I'm sorry. I started thinking about Ianto."

"He was your boyfriend, right?"

"Right." She told Jack he'd died at Canary Wharf. She told the same lie to his family, and her own. But she also told them she moved to Cardiff to feel closer to him.

"I understand. It's too soon for you." He doesn't let go, but his tone has changed from seductive to kind, and that's so much worse she feels the tears squeeze out harder all on their own.

"Yeah," she manages at last.

He kisses her forehead again. "When you're ready to move on, just let me know. No strings, no pressure."

She closes her eyes and lets Jack hold her for a little longer. "Yeah," she says again.

The team is busy in Splott when the email comes through. Doctor Tanizaki is brilliant, one of the finest minds in the field. If anyone can help Ianto, safely remove his cybernetic components, return him to his full humanity, it will be this man. Afterwards she can decide if she should tell the others once Ianto is safe, or should they drop everything and flee Cardiff, run beyond Torchwood's grasp? Jack won't like finding out she's been hiding a Cyberman in the basement, and may take out the betrayal on her memories. Or worse.

Lisa purchases the tickets for Tanizaki, and makes his reservation at the hotel. She can worry about how Jack will react later.

"He'll be here early next week," she tells Ianto, who smiles weakly, his eyes closed. He's getting worse. She has to keep him sedated for twenty hours or more each day just to fight the pain. "He'll help you. I promise."

She slips out of the secret room before the team returns, and she puts on the coffee. Gwen is covered in blood that isn't hers. Owen is glowering in what Lisa is learning to recognise as self-hatred, and no matter what Tosh does to try and sort him out, he storms out shortly after, probably to a pub and a warm body. Jack helps Gwen clean up and sends her home to her boyfriend. (Lisa can never identify the emotions she feels each time Gwen mentions Rhys, and she doesn't want to try.) Lisa unloads the equipment and locks away the ghost machine, and she cleans out the coffee mugs. She speaks when spoken to, and offers false smiles when expected, and she stays out of the way.

She's almost out the door when she runs into Jack, and with a shock she knows she's been stalling, waiting to be alone with him. He's tired, but his eyes are friendly. Tanizaki will be here soon, and then her life has a chance to go back to normal. She wants her life to go back to normal, wants to drag the man she loves to bed, wants to be kissing him instead of kissing Jack, but more than anything, right now she wants to be touched.

"This doesn't have to mean anything," Jack says, and he's right. It doesn't have to mean anything at all.

The night Doctor Tanizaki arrives, Lisa's world ends in blood and screams.

For the first week, she stares at the wall, and she doesn't eat, and she wonders when Jack will burst through the door of her flat, wonders if he will shoot her or simply make her forget Torchwood and Ianto and everything. Gwen and Toshiko drop by to check on her, and they are kinder than they have any right to be to someone who nearly got them killed.

By the second week, she allows herself to believe she is being permitted to live and remember, because this will be a worse punishment: working with people who no longer trust her, never forgetting even an hour of it, thinking of what she's lost every time she sees the Torchwood logo. Lisa concocts complicated suicide plans, but her thoughts trail off before she can act on them. Owen checks up on her, orders her to take a set of pills, sets her a healthy diet because no-one can live on coffee and toast forever.

During the third week, she leaves her flat. She drives to the estate where Ianto's family lives. She watches them from her car without approaching. They think he died months ago, and they gave him a funeral, and they are moving on with their lives. There's a little girl playing outside who looks so much like her uncle that Lisa's eyes blur. She dreams almost every night about the children they will never have.

Jack finally comes to visit. It's awkward, and painful, and she doesn't deserve better. Although he is firm as he lays out his expectations for her, there's a depth of forgiveness she has no right to expect. She wonders if Gwen talked to him. She wonders if he's been in love before, if he's fucked up before, if he understands her after all. Jack comes to see Lisa for a few minutes every day for the rest of her suspension. By the end of the fourth week, she's ready to go back.

On her first day back at work, the weather goes awry. Before the end of her fifth day back, Lisa is the only one willing to speak to Jack at all. Maybe as a reward, maybe as another form of punishment, Jack decides she needs to become a more integral part of the team. They all go camping together in the Brecon Beacons. It's a fucking miracle she is neither raped nor killed, but she's not grateful for the perspective. By the time they find out Toshiko's new girlfriend is an alien, Lisa wonders why she didn't follow through with her suicide plans. Everything hurts.

Jack orders Lisa to handle Tosh's debriefing, punishing both with one task. Every sad confession Toshiko makes, Lisa has to record on the forms and remember her own sins. Afterwards, there's a silence between them, an understanding the others lack. Lisa believes this could turn to friendship, over tea and sorry tales, or something deeper, over wine and shared emptiness. But before she can make a motion, before she can form the words to ask, Toshiko turtles inside her own head again, and Lisa gives her space. Gwen and Owen are wrapped up in each other. None of them are in a place to offer friendship, much less any other contact to break Lisa's isolation.

Then Suzie comes back from the dead.

This doesn't have to mean anything. Lisa is lonely, Jack is warm. Neither bothers hiding when they're thinking about someone else. The other three don't know Lisa stays late on purpose, can't see the way Jack nuzzles his lips between her legs until she is wet and mewling, would never understand why she pushes him down against his desk (or one of theirs) and rides him, grinding until she comes again. If they suspect, no-one says a word, not until Jack and Tosh are caught in a time slip, and Owen calls her Jack's whore. Shooting him in the knee is small consolation, and he's lucky she chooses not to go with her first aim a little higher.

She still dreams about Ianto, even on the nights she spends in Jack's bed.

When the Rift is cracking, Ianto comes to her again, brilliant and whole, and she remembers how much she loves him. Opening the Rift won't bring him back, but she has to try. She's not prepared to watch Owen shoot Jack, nor to see Jack gasp back to life, and she's definitely not ready to watch him sacrifice himself to Abaddon. The Rift is closed, and the demon is gone, and Jack's body is cold in the morgue as Gwen keeps watch. Gwen nearly destroyed the world for her boyfriend. There's a quiet understanding in her eyes when she looks at Lisa, when Lisa brings her sandwiches down in the cold, quiet room. But Gwen doesn't leave Jack alone and Lisa can't tell Jack goodbye with her there.

She wants to tell him she understands. She knows why he gave the orders he did. She has forgiven him, and herself, for what happened. She wants to thank him for the last few months, as trite as that sounds even inside her own head. He's given her exactly the right space to mourn Ianto's loss, and he's given her the means to move on. She never thought she'd so grateful to a man she swore she'd watch die.

If she's fallen a bit in love with him, well, everyone does, and it's not worth mentioning. Not that she could tell him, not in front of Gwen.

She goes to his office alone. His coat is still on the coat rack, waiting for him. Lisa buries her eyes in one sleeve, remembering the warmth of him. "I'm sorry," she says to the empty room and the empty coat, but she doesn't know who she's apologising to. Jack for not standing by him when he needed her loyalty? Ianto for sleeping with the man who killed the thing he became? Both perhaps, and to herself as well for not living up to her own promises. But 'sorry' means doing better next time, her mother always said. Lisa has just made a commitment to stay with Torchwood Cardiff for the rest of her life.

Toshiko needs help adjusting the sub-etheric resonator. Lisa needs something to do with her hands. Then Tosh's face breaks open in shock and joy, and Lisa turns to see what she's looking at, whom she's embracing like an impossible gift. Lisa follows her as if in a dream, and she holds out her hand to Jack, like an equal, like a friend.

It's not their best kiss, Lisa thinks as her head swims, but she's going to treasure the expression on Owen's face for a long, long time.

The End

A/N: As always, my three favourite words are, "I liked this."