Word Count: 1500 ish
Spoilers: Major ones for 1.06, Countrycide
Disclaimer: Everything Torchwood related belongs to the Beeb
Summary: Four snapshots of Ianto through the eyes of the other team members, set in the weeks following Countrycide. Includes an attempt to explain the stopwatch.
“You ok?” I ask Ianto, tentatively, and promptly realise it’s a woefully inadequate and also completely stupid question. He’s sitting on the back of the SUV with blood on his face, a developing patchwork of bruises across his body, an incipient black eye and two cracked ribs. He looks up at me without raising his head, that bleak, pinched look around his eyes answering the question eloquently.
“No. Silly question,” I agree, forcing a smile. “I got some antiseptic wipes from the paramedics.”
He lets me clean the blood from his face and I reflect that it’s unfair that he’s been neglected (after Owen checked that there was no internal bleeding) while the cannibals are being loaded onto ambulances. So they did get shot, but that was after they’d given Ianto a thorough beating. The rational part of my brain admits that we could hardly have left them to bleed to death, but most of my brain isn’t listening to the rational part.
I notice his hands are shaking and realise – belatedly – that he’s in shock.
“Here – let me…” he moves slightly to one side, gingerly, while I reach past him to fish a sleeping bag out of the back of the SUV. I unzip it, drape it round his shoulders. Mentally running through the symptoms of shock, I ask, “Thirsty?”
He nods, a quick, small movement. I dip into the nearest bag – I think it’s Owen’s – and rummage through it until I find a bottle of Lucozade. Ianto takes a mouthful, makes a face, but holds the bottle between his hands and keeps sipping it. It occurs to me that I’ve never really noticed how young he is before – how his suits and his detached efficiency make him seem older, less approachable. In his rumpled and bloodstained jeans and jacket he looks like a lost little boy.
He doesn’t look at me as I sit next to him and put my arm round him in a vain attempt to stop his shivering, but he does lean into me slightly. Glancing up, I see Jack standing a short distance away, hands in pockets, the harsh moorland wind plucking at his coat. He doesn’t acknowledge my attention; he’s watching Ianto with concern lining the corners of his eyes.
“How are you feeling, Ianto?”
I’ve been meaning to ask him all morning, but after what he said during the...incident with Lisa about none of us ever asking about his life I’m worried about sounding insincere. But I’ve finally cornered him by the coffee machine – let’s face it, it’s a pretty safe bet if you want to catch Ianto.
He knocks out the old grounds with a sharp tap, and then glances at me. It was a week ago, and his black eye has faded to an interesting collage of green and yellow. He shrugs. “Surviving.”
“That good, eh?” I smile, hastily, to take the sting out of my words. He doesn’t reply, but refills the little cup with fresh grounds and hooks it back onto the machine.
I try again. “I just can’t stop thinking about it,” I offer, quietly. “I can’t understand why. If they were aliens or something it would almost make some kind of sense. I could pretend that it was normal in whatever dimension they came from. But people? It’s keeping me awake at night, the need to somehow comprehend it.”
He’s still not looking at me, but he’s stopped faffing with the machine and he’s listening.
“You know, I asked the – that bloke – why they did it. You know what he said? Because it made him happy.” Familiar anger and frustration surface and creep into my voice. “Fucking psycho.”
“I know,” he replies, picking up a mug from the top of the machine and inspecting it. “Jack told me.”
I glance at him in surprise. Since when did he and Jack even speak to each other? The last time I heard them have anything like a conversation about anything other than whether Jack would like another coffee Ianto was threatening to let him die a slow, lingering death should the opportunity ever arise. He looks up from the cup and gives a small, sad smile.
“Don’t you ever worry about Rhys?” he asks, softly.
For a split second I think he’s talking about Owen, then common sense kicks in and I catch his meaning. “Yes. I really do. It kills me that I can’t talk to him about all of this,” I vaguely indicate the Hub with a sweep of my hand, “Because secrecy be damned, I’d tell him all of it if I could. But it’s too dangerous.”
He nods. There’s a moment of silence, then he tilts the cup towards me with an inviting quirk of his eyebrows. Apparently this conversation is over.
It’s a couple of weeks after that palaver with the cannibals, and Jack comes out of his office and shouts that there’s been a Weevil sighting over in Grangetown and tells me to go investigate it.
Fine, I say, I’ll take Gwen.
Take Ianto, he says.
Ianto gives a small shake of his head that Jack pretends not to notice. Time to get back on the horse, he says.
Never liked horses, Ianto replies. They have mad rolling eyes.
Can’t say he’s far wrong on that count.
Anyway, Jack won’t take no for an answer so I end up in the SUV with the mopey tea boy. I ask if he’s got any requests while I rifle through the CD wallet.
No dance music, he says firmly.
I slide The White Room into the stereo and tell myself that it doesn’t count. Everyone likes the KLF.
I ask him, how’s life – not that I really care, you understand, but I do have to work with the miserable bugger every day.
He just shrugs. Fine thanks, he says. I don’t believe him, but if he’s going to be obtuse that’s his problem.
He does ok when we round up the Weevil – we corner it in the cellar of this run-down pub. It shoves past me and I stumble. I get back on my feet, swearing because now we’ll have to chase it round Cardiff all bloody night, but much to my surprise Ianto’s holding it at bay with a can of Weevil-spray.
Not bad, I tell him.
Thanks, he says.
On the way back to the Hub he declares that it’s his turn to pick the music.
“Five hours twenty-three minutes and forty-seven seconds,” I announce, sauntering down the stairs to where Ianto’s sitting at the computer.
He swivels his chair to face me and gives me a quizzical look. “Pardon, sir?”
I hold out my hand, showing him the stopwatch. “Overtime you’ve worked this week. And it’s only Thursday. Overtime that, contractually, you don’t actually get paid for.”
“I know,” he looks up at me disingenuously. “We’ve still got quite a backlog of filing, though. I’m just catching up.”
“It’s not that urgent. Go home. Relax.”
In a firm tone that brooks no argument, he replies, “I’d rather get it done, sir,” before turning back to his workstation.
I put a hand on his shoulder. He stops typing, but makes no other movement. “Are you ok, Ianto?”
To my surprise, he covers my hand with his and turns his head so I can see the crook of his slight smile. “I’m getting there, Jack. Thank you.”
I give his shoulder a squeeze and he pats my hand before returning to the keyboard. I let my hand fall away, a little uncertain. I can’t remember Ianto ever initiating any sort of contact with me before.
Abruptly, he spins the chair to face me again and looks up at me with an expression so intense I have no idea what he’s thinking. Then, in one fluid movement, he stands, takes my face between his hands and kisses me full on the lips.
The kiss only lasts for one, lingering moment and as I begin to respond he pulls away. His hands brush my face and fall to his sides as he takes a small step back.
Unusually enough for me, I have no idea what to make of this situation.
He glances away, then meets my eyes again. “I still need time, Jack. I just wanted to know if you – ”
“Yes,” I interrupt, the words tumbling out unbidden. How could I not? Accept the offer, however intangible, made to me by this beautiful, vulnerable, fierce, brilliant human being? “Yes.”
And he smiles, that dazzling, childlike smile that lights up his entire demeanour. Gently, he takes my hand and opens my fingers, still curled around the forgotten stopwatch. He takes the watch and presses the button. The ubiquitous ticking that I had barely registered stops, and we are enveloped in precious silence as he slips the stopwatch into his pocket.
He regards me gravely for a moment, his eyes flitting across my face as if he’s trying to memorise my countenance. Then he smiles, again, and says, “Good night, sir.”
And with that, he’s gone.
Unbeta'd, so any concrit welcome. If anyone wants to suggest a snappier title I'd be delighted - I suck at titles.