Characters: Gwen, Jack, Ianto, Rhys
Pairing: canon + various permutations of Jack/Gwen/Ianto
Authors: rm and kalichan
Rating/Warning: NC-17, het, slash & poly
Summary: Everybody lies.
Authors' Notes: This is our poly curtains!fic. You have been warned! Title is from the song of the same name by Vienna Teng. Set post Series 2, so spoilers for all aired eps.
Gwen tried to wring the dampness from her hair as she skidded towards the Tourist Information Office, late as usual.
"Bloody rain," she panted furiously to herself, feeling her wet jeans rub uncomfortably against her skin. As she got the door unlocked -- where the hell had Ianto got to -- her mobile beeped at her again.
jack & i left to do recon. rift spike near swansea. you stay @ hub & monitor. we're channel 2.
"But I'm here!" she called pointlessly to the empty office. "Fuck!"
As if in answer, her mobile beeped again.
jack says to tell you he's docking your pay next time.
Knowing her thumbs were incapable of expressing the appropriate degree of aggravation, Gwen raced down the stairs and into the Hub proper, slamming on the lights as she went. Myfanwy swooped over head, clearly wanting some attention, but Gwen didn't spare her a glance, hurrying over to her workstation instead and picking up the headset she'd left there.
"Jack, you there? Ianto?"
"Gwen," Ianto's voice said into her ear. "Finally made it in, did you?"
"Why didn't you wait?" she said with some exasperation. "Or phone? You could have picked me up!"
"Didn't want to be conspicuous, you're not on our way, and, maybe, you could be on time in future, ever thought of that?"
"Tell that to the nights I spend here and my husband who thinks he's a bloody Torchwood widow."
Ianto didn't reply, but Gwen knew he was grinning. Damn him and Jack anyway. "What am I suppose to do here now?" she groused, sitting down in her chair, and flipping her screens on. Her jeans squelched uncomfortably.
"Get into some dry clothes, for a start," Ianto suggested.
"Lovely, thank you. So helpful, you are."
"No sense in catching cold. Also, Gwen, if you're really bored... you could go down to the archives, I've got a spot of filing that needs --"
"Thanks, but I'll find work of my own," she said hurriedly before this already monumentally hideous day became even worse. Filing. For god's sake. It was never finished, and they just kept adding more stacks of junk. There was no way Ianto, or any other mortal, would ever come to the end of it, and looking at the paper archives gave Gwen a headache just thinking about the futility of it all. Maybe they should set Jack to sorting things out down there, keep him out of trouble.
"Okay, Gwen, let us know if any rift activity--"
"Sure, of course. Stay in touch."
As the line went silent, she looked up at the plaintively squalking pterodactyl. "It's just you and me today, darling," she sighed. Not unnaturally, there was no reply.
It was several hours later when Gwen realized that she couldn't even pretend she had any work left to do that didn't require leaving the Hub, and, of course, just on the off chance that Jack and Ianto needed someone here, there was no way she could leave.
And she'd already beaten Jack's score on the latest video game they'd installed.
She paced back and forth for a while before mentally throwing up her hands and trudging downstairs to the archives.
Staring at Ianto's workstation, and the boxes and boxes of paper and ephemera scattered around it, she groaned. And this was just one room. No matter how much order he imposed, they were never going to make a dent in the chaos. At least the alien artifacts and tech were kept in decent condition, but the pre-computer paperwork? Forget it.
She exited the room and walked back along the passage, realizing that, oddly, she'd never really explored these areas, not fully. Ianto, and presumably Jack too, knew the bowels of the Hub inside-out, but she'd never spent much time down here, always more interested in Torchwood's links to the worlds outside than in the history of the place itself.
Opening door after door, she marveled at the detritus left by -- must be a hundred years or more -- long tenancy. Funny how she'd never really thought about that before. When Tosh and Owen -- she clenched her teeth against the instinctive sting of pain at the memories -- had been here, they'd -- her included -- been so caught up in wondering about Jack -- and all the other monsters and toys that washed up on their shore. But not this strange underground place. That was just... home.
Curiously, she picked a room at random and flipped on the light, flooding it with a florescent glare. It was oddly disconcerting. Then she pulled out a couple of boxes at random from the shelves. They were full of paper, just jammed in every which way, and she began going through them in a desultory fashion, not trying to organize really, just looking through.
Official communiques, receipts, lists of supplies, newspaper articles all scattered in together with no rhyme or reason. All of the items in this particular box seemed to be from the 1930s and 40s, with the odd note from the 1950s thrown in, and Gwen began idly stacking them in piles, thinking she'd ask Jack about them when he got back.
And then, as if drawn by a magnet, her eyes fell on a yellowed sheet of paper, shoved in between a barbershop receipt and a meteorological report about unusual cloud patterns in the South of Wales.
EYES ONLY EYES ONLY EYES ONLY
2 JUNE 1936 --SUBSIDIARY TORCHWOOD BRANCHES -- GLASGOW, CARDIFF, BELFAST [HEREAFTER REFFERED TO AS TW2, TW3, TW4] ARE HEREBY DISSOLVED. ALL PRESENT STAFF REQUESTED AND REQUIRED TO REPORT FOR DUTY REASSIGNMENT AT TORCHWOOD LONDON. INSTRUCTIONS FOR TRANSFER OF ALL ALIEN TECHNOLOGY AND ONGOING PROJECTS ATTACHED.
She looked at the sheet again, rubbed at her eyes till the letters swam in front of her. But no matter what she did, they remained obstinately unchanging. After a while, she began sorting through the rest of the papers in the box, sure there must be some reasonable explanation, at first trying to be careful and methodical, but then with increasing speed. She looked for the attached "instructions", scrabbling through the rest of the papers in the box, but found nothing. No reference. Nothing. Just more scraps of paper.
Jack watched Ianto walk back to the SUV, containment case in hand. His economy of motion was pleasing, even as tense and irritated as he was now.
For whatever reason, Ianto hated lying and retconning and playing the government functionary to families whose circumstance bore any resemblance to his own. Jack couldn't figure it out, but then again, he lied to everyone. And families? Well, that was practically what they were for.
He shrugged to himself as he followed Ianto back to the car. He'd get over it. He always did. In the realm of Torchwood's dirty work, this sort of thing, even the part that involved digging through someone's compost pile, barely even counted.
As Ianto secured the case in the back of the SUV, Jack took the indirect route to the driver's side door, putting a hand on Ianto's arm as he passed him, and he was glad when Ianto looked up from the latches and straps long enough to give him a tight smile. Comfort appreciated always made Jack the right type of warm.
"Well, at least it was easy," Jack said a few moments later, as he put the SUV in gear and pulled out of the once again quiet street.
Ianto gestured in vague agreement. "Stuff's probably going to keep coming through there."
"Yup. Well, assuming our new little project actually works, should be able to get it patched up, or at least redirected, with the next event."
"Send Gwen?" Ianto asked, staring out the window.
"You really hate it out here, don't you?"
"My life could have been just like that."
"And aren't you glad it isn't? Pet dinosaurs aren't approved for Swansea, you know."
Ianto chuckled vaguely, and Jack relaxed into the sound.
"Out tonight. Pub or something?" Jack offered.
"Maybe," Ianto said, knowing the gesture for what it was. Let's be ordinary Jack was saying. They weren't, though, and that it was mostly for his own sake and not Jack's stung. But you could only ask a man to turn his life upside down so much, even if, especially if, he got a cool pet, hot sex and an underground lair for it all in trade.
Ianto ran a hand through his hair. God, his life was fucked up. He tapped at his comm.
"Gwen? We're headed back in. Nothing special, although the site looks like it might be good for a test of the new tech."
Jack grinned. All that efficiency and cute in a suit. Or out of it. His life was pretty pleasing right now, and he hummed to himself as he hit the highway, reaching across for a moment to put his hand on Ianto's knee before switching gears again.
The humming was good, kept him from making unreasonable declarations that would probably just make Ianto purse his lips. A damn shame that, but Ianto would get over it eventually, and hell, Jack had time. Plus, it was part of his charm. Always, always good for the chase, Ianto was.
"Hi, honey, we're home," Jack bellowed as they entered the Hub.
Ianto shot the absurdity a look.
"I'm down in the archives," Gwen said, coming across their comms. "Send Ianto down before I make more of a mess down here?"
Jack laughed. "You heard the lady."
Ianto looked down at the containment case and handed it over to Jack, ever so slightly reluctantly. "Paperwork, then safe."
"I know, I know! Who runs this place?" Jack asked as Ianto headed down to the archives.
"Me, last I checked," Ianto muttered.
Jack chuckled and strolled up to his office. There was something to be said for the quiet days.
Ianto keyed open the door that led into the archives. He was, quite honestly, rather surprised to hear that Gwen was working there in the first place. His suggestion had really been more a joke than anything else; he knew she didn't really like it down below.
He looked into the room he was currently working in, found nothing, and then hit his comm again. "Gwen, I don't see you."
"I'm several doors down from where you were set up," she told him. There was a pause, and Ianto heard the headset crackle. Then, "...is Jack with you?"
Ianto laughed. "You're not serious." She didn't say anything, so he amplified. "Of course not. He's up in his office."
Another pause, and then, "...okay."
He shook his head, as he kept opening door after door. He loved Gwen, she was as close as family -- and probably closer than his own, if he were honest -- but really, sometimes she behaved as if she were a few sparkplugs short of an engine.
Finally he opened a door, and there she was, sitting on the floor surrounded by what looked like every box and carton in the room, and paper stacked everywhere, all over the floor. He stared at her in horror.
"What are you doing?" he finally got out.
She made an urgent gesture towards his headset, and ostentatiously turned hers off, signaling him to do the same. Ianto did as she told him, noting that her eyes were wide with upset, and that something, clearly, was very wrong.
He moved some of the papers aside, and knelt next to her, automatically moving so his back was to the CCTV camera and her mouth was shielded.
"What is it?" he said. "What's the matter?"
She didn't say anything straight off, and Ianto began to feel really worried.
"Why..." he started, but then broke off before finishing the question. "Look," he said instead. "Whatever it is, we should get Jack."
Gwen seized his wrist in an iron grip, and shook her head emphatically.
"No," she said firmly. "Not Jack."
"I'm telling you," she hissed. "We are not talking to Jack."
"Okay," Ianto said calmly. "I'm going to need a bit more than that, I'm afraid. Why? What's all this wholesale terror?"
"Because," she said, "he's been lying to us all this whole time."
He raised an eyebrow. "What do you mean?"
Gwen passed him a single sheet of yellowed paper. "Look at this," she ordered.
Ianto scanned the paper quickly. Then he looked up and met Gwen's eyes. "So?" he asked, passing the paper back to her.
"What do you mean, so? There is no Torchwood 3, Ianto. Did you know that?" she said, her tone low and intense.
"We're in Torchwood 3. Therefore, clearly there is."
"How do you explain this then?" she said, brandishing the paper at him.
"Okay. So they closed it in the thirties -- they must have started it back up again."
"D'you think I'm an idiot?" Gwen flung at him. "There's nothing, no reference to it, nothing. And I found this too." She produced another piece of paper. Ianto was beginning to get a headache. He looked at it. It was a map of the UK, with the Torchwood seal on the top. Clearly marked at Cardiff, Glasgow, and Belfast were storage facilities, with no access stamped across them.
"That looks like it's from the 40s, Gwen," Ianto pointed out reasonably.
"Wartime," he said. "Obviously they wanted to get things out of London, during the Blitz. Probably thought it'd be too dangerous to keep stuff there. Wouldn't want the Nazis to get their hands on the stuff. It's interesting though."
"Interesting? That's all you have to say?"
"Well, it is." He looked at the look on Gwen's face -- suspicious and tragic all rolled into one -- and sighed. "Obviously this was all reversed after the war."
She shook her head.
"You've got a case of archive fever," Ianto said. "Maybe if you spent a little more time down here, you wouldn't get quite so excited over things like this."
"Maybe," she said unwillingly, still eying the towering stacks of paper.
He stood up and extended a hand towards her.
She still had the order in her hand, and then in front of his aghast eyes, she folded it into quarters, and stuck it into her jacket pocket. "I'm keeping it," she told him.
From long experience, he knew there'd be no arguing with her. "Up to you," he said. "Go upstairs, Jack probably wouldn't mind some help with the paperwork. And he might want you to talk to the police out there."
She sucked in her breath. "Okay," she said. "What are you going to do?"
He looked ostentatiously at the mess she'd made. "Tidy up in here, what d'you think? It's like living with hyperactive toddlers."
"I think you're the youngest one here," she pointed out, with a return to something resembling her usual manner.
"Only in years," he said, and she smiled weakly at him.
After she left, he shook his head. Mad. She was totally mad. He bent down to pick up a box. This was going to take forever. He had to admit she'd found an interesting piece of Torchwood history though, and he resolved to ask Jack about it later. Nothing like hearing about it from someone who'd actually been there, as creepy as the idea sometimes made him feel.
They sat side by side at the bar, each of them with a pint. Ianto had his tie off and collar open and that he hadn't changed entirely was merely a concession to Jack's thing about the suits. He'd have been happier in denims himself, but thirty was ever closer and he supposed he had to stop being bitter about wearing a suit for a living sometime. At least his came with guns, and wasn't that a kick?
Next to him, Jack was talking in low tones about nothing particularly particular. Not facing him and not intense and Ianto loved it. So normal. Two blokes making small talk and no one watching with the sense to notice the gravity between them or the way Ianto kept licking his lips, tasting, even through his beer, the musk and salt of blowing Jack earlier.
His cock stirred in the face of the secret, and he smiled. Torchwood was a kink all in its own right.
It wasn't hard, getting Jack to talk about the War. Jack always talked about the War, and it reminded Ianto of relatives now dead who had mostly bored him with it when he was a kid. Except Jack's stories weren't boring, even if they didn't come with plastic army men.
"What did you do?" Ianto asked, watching the pair of them in the mirror of the bar, savouring the trick of reflected eye contact that he was pretty sure Jack was smirking at.
Jack raised an eyebrow for clarification.
"With Torchwood. I assume you weren't the only man needed at some front or another."
"You're asking me if a bunch of girls ran war-time Torchwood?"
"I'm asking you if a woman -- probably terrifying, surely hot, knowing you -- was in charge of the Hub?" Ianto clarified, feeling satisfied to have worked Gwen's question into the mix.
"Oh... well," Jack stammered slightly and look abashed.
Cute trick, Ianto thought. Suspicious one too.
"Ah, so you were shagging her," he offered, seeing if Jack would take the out or, more plausibly, offer a name.
"Yeah... well, once I got home."
Ianto watched his own reflection frown and that serious little line appear between his eyebrows. "What was her name?" he asked slowly.
"Stella," Jack said, and there was no pause this time.
Ianto chuckled. "Stella?"
"Yup," Jack confirmed. But he didn't describe her at all, and Ianto thought that was very odd indeed.
"You seem tense," Jack said, reaching out to rub at his arm soothingly.
Ianto leaned back to drain the final fourth of his pint in one swallow. "What? Did you think I was satisfied with just one go?" he asked lightly. And it was true. He wanted Jack. Wanted to be buried balls deep in him right now. Because maybe that way he could make him say true things, or, at least, failing that, make himself not care.
Gwen had the devil's own luck and an overdeveloped sense of righteous paranoia. Useful, sure. But not fun. Not right now, anyway. He hated when trusting her meant suspecting Jack. But with Tosh and Owen gone, it was, generally, the only way the equation could go.
It was moments like this when Gwen wished with all her heart that she hadn't quit smoking back at university. Because times such as these really, really called for a cigarette. She turned over in bed for the fiftieth time and stared at the red, glaring digits of the clock. Still only 3am.
Rhys made an interrogative, sleep-filled grunt as the mattress creaked underneath them with her shifting, and she felt remorse flood through her. No reason why she should be keeping him awake too.
She turned back towards him, and caressed the back of his head soothingly, ruffling his hair with her fingertips -- felt like feathers, it always did -- and watched him settle back into sleep. She wished she could follow him, but her mind simply wouldn't quiet.
She exhaled as softly as she could, and then eased herself out of bed. Pulled on her discarded t-shirt, padded out into the kitchen, and opened the fridge, thought better of it -- she wasn't actually hungry -- and then grabbed the half bottle of whiskey from where they'd left it on the counter and a glass.
Torchwood is driving me to drink, she thought with a grimace.
She took an enormous swallow from her glass, staring at the jacket she'd thrown over the sofa arm when she'd got home. The paper was in the inside pocket. But what good would it be to look at it again? She knew it by heart. Ianto's suggestion had been logical enough, she supposed, but the alarm bells in her head were still clanging away. And Gwen had learned to listen to the noise. It was usually right.
Everything looked sinister, all of a sudden. The underground lair, the secrecy... the pterodactyl. How did she know what to trust?
Herself included. Everything they'd done, everything she'd done, everything she'd become, everything they'd all suffered. Death, pain, mishap after mishap. She'd silenced her doubts thinking that all of it had been for the greater good. But how did she know for sure?
And then there was Jack. Whom she loved.
But everyone loved him. Who really knew him?
No one, that was who.
Not even Ianto.
She thought of Rhys snoring away in their bed, and wished she could join him there in sleep, wished she could wake him up and tell him straight out what was bothering her. But she couldn't.
He wouldn't understand, and if he did, he'd just tell her to have done with the whole daft business, let bloody Torchwood get on with itself and find another way to save the world. Or he'd tell her to question Jack directly, or any of the myriad of sensible, logical things to do that were completely out of the question. But you'd have to be in it to get those reasons, and he wasn't, and she wouldn't wish it on him.
Gwen drained her glass, and reached out to pour herself another. Maybe she could drown out these thoughts in a pleasant fuzz of drink.
She awoke with a crick in her neck, eyes glued shut with sand, a mouthful of sofa cushion and Rhys's fingers tickling her neck.
"Wake up, you lush."
"Mmphm," she managed to get out.
"What, was I snoring?" he said affectionately. She cracked open her eyes to see him standing in front of her, freshly showered and smelling of soap. "I've told you to belt me one when it's too much to bear."
"Not snoring," she mumbled. "What time is it, then?"
"It's 7:30," he said. "If it wasn't snoring...Gwen, are you all right? Why come out here and get pissed?"
"Just couldn't sleep. Oh, my head. Wait, did you say 7:30??? FUCK." She sat straight up in horror, groaning as the movement sent waves of agony rushing through her skull. "Bloody fucking hell. Late again."
"Black coffee," he said helpfully, and then bent to kiss her, manfully not making a face. "And some toast. You have a shower. Don't want to stun them with the smell of drink. Lay them all flat, you would. I'll drop you by the Plass."
She pulled herself upright. "I love you," she said, peeling off her panties and t-shirt and heading for the bathroom.
"I know," said Rhys.
As she walked into the Hub, cringing from the sound of the claxons, and sat down at her desk, she saw Jack grinning at her from over the railing.
"Heard that before."
"You've a filthy mind, Jack."
"Thank you," he said. "Don't think that hangover's gonna get you out of helping me with that case today. We've got to stake out that arcade."
Gwen envisioned the flashing lights, the nauseating smell of bodies, the hordes of screaming kids and blanched. "Today? But I thought... can't Ianto...."
Jack laughed. "All right, I'll have pity on you this time. But only 'cause you look like hell. I'll do it myself."
Ianto popped out of the antechamber with a cup of coffee, and Jack's coat over his other arm. "Here you go, Gwen."
"Bless. You're a life saver," she said, and drank, watching him over the rim of the cup as he bounded up the stairs, and then held the coat for Jack to shrug into. "Why aren't you going with Jack?"
"I've loads to do downstairs. You can help me if you like."
Gwen felt herself stiffen, hopefully imperceptibly. "I hate it down there," she said, as naturally as she could. "You know that."
"It's nice and quiet," Ianto said. "Wouldn't hurt your head, and you could be being useful."
"Good idea," Jack said. He pulled Ianto's hair playfully, and then winked at Gwen. "I'll see you kids later. I'm channel 1, by the way."
"I think we'd have guessed that, Jack," Ianto said with an easy smile.
Gwen observed that the smile didn't quite reach his eyes and tensed some more. Something was definitely going on there. Jack grinned at them, seeming not to notice that anything was odd, and then ran lightly down the stairs and out towards the garage. There was a silence in the Hub after he left, broken only by the hum of the computers, and the trickling of the water. Then Ianto signaled Gwen to follow him with a quick jerk of his head.
Once they were downstairs, he led her to the same room she'd discovered the paper in -- was it only yesterday? It seemed so much longer ago. Everything was still out of its boxes, but now stacked in neat piles, very differently from how she'd left it. She looked around, taken aback.
She looked a question at Ianto, who said simply, "I didn't sleep either."
"So I see. What is it?"
"I think you were right," he said slowly. "There's something going on."
"What do you mean?" Gwen said, feeling all the poison in her mind pooling, and wanting more than anything to have it put back, safe in its box. But there was no way and wishing wouldn't mend matters. She couldn't go back to yesterday and unsee it. "What have you found?"
"That's the problem. You found that order, then there's only a lot of junk to do with Torchwood 1. And that's it. No mention of Torchwood 3 anywhere that I can find. It's like it's not there. Like it never existed after the 30s."
"But these are Torchwood's documents," Gwen cried. "It can't be classified within Torchwood, can it? That doesn't make sense."
"That's only the beginning of the things that don't make sense," Ianto said slowly.
"What d'you mean?"
"I don't know exactly," Ianto said. "But whatever it is, Jack's lying about it."
"Well, that's not exactly new, is it?" Gwen asked somewhat tentatively, knowing this had to be a minefield for Ianto.
"Yes and no," Ianto said, clearly turning over the facts they had in his mind. "Here's the thing. How can we not exist? We're here. Jack talks to the prime minister all the time."
"Does he?" Gwen blurted.
Ianto looked at her like she'd gone mad. But maybe it wasn't just her. Maybe it was everyone. "What? Of course he does."
"How do you know?"
"Do you place the calls? What's his secretary's name? Does Jack ever put it on speaker?"
There was a pause. "Oh my god," Ianto said very quietly.
"Well, don't jump to conclusions," Gwen said, recovering herself at what Ianto was beginning to think was the least appropriate time ever, "just check the phone records."
"I don't handle the bills," Ianto said quietly, aware that he was entering a state not all that different from shock.
"What?! But you're always --"
"Bitching at you about the expense reports. Which I then give to Jack."
"Well, but... surely you file something directly with London?"
"And that never struck you as strange?" Gwen asked, shouting now.
"Pet pteranodon. Boyfriend can't die. Hell, boyfriend. Everything's odd. I --"
"God, you're a shit admin, you know?"
"Try to remember how I got this job, all right? It wasn't exactly due to relevant skill set."
"No, I'd imagine not. Okay. What about the bills?"
"I don't touch anything directly. I do the budgets, but blind."
Gwen sighed. "Account numbers for basic services?"
"What names are the accounts under?"
"Jack's. I mean... he does live here."
"Time to find the bills," Gwen said.
Ianto grabbed her wrist before she could head up to the main level to start the search.
She raised her eyebrows at him.
"I won't search Jack's office. Not like this. Not with you. For one thing, we'll get caught. For another, if it's got to this point, we just need to ask."
"Does that really strikes you as... safe?"
"Jack's already not executed me more than once," Ianto said with a small grim, smirk. "And I guess it looks like we're about to find out why."
"Other than the cute suits?"
Ianto rolled his eyes. "Yeah. Other than the cute suits. Look, we need to strategize, and we need to do it not here. Pub tonight, without Jack."
"He'll want to come with."
"Sure, and I can tell him I want some time with you alone to try to figure out what's been up lately. Girl talk. He'll respect that."
"Oh god," Gwen said with dismay.
Ianto shrugged. "Maybe I'll let him meet up with us after. I mean, I don't think he's going to shoot us at all. But I really don't think he's going to shoot us in public."
"What are we going to do?" Gwen asked.
"Talk to each other. Talk to Jack."
"I mean after. Could you stand to give this up?"
"Do you think it's going to come to that?"
"He's lied to us. Tosh and Owen... whatever it is, they never even knew. I --"
"Look. Maybe he has his reasons."
"You love him," she said flatly, not making it a question.
Ianto shrugged again. "Don't worry. Right now, I'm pretty angry. And disturbed. Really disturbed. Now, let's get back to pretending like this isn't happening, okay? You've got half an excuse to get you through the day. I don't."
She nodded, but before she could leave the room, their comms beeped. Ianto raised an eyebrow, and Gwen shrugged in response before they both responded.
"Jack? What is it?" Gwen's voice remained even, and Ianto knew he was staring at her with admiration in his eyes. He looked down so she wouldn't see it.
"Sorry 'bout the hangover, Gwen, but I need you both out here," Jack said, sounding both harried and business-like.
"Yep. Take Ianto's car and don't stop for red lights. These kids are getting possessed or something."
"Got it, be there as fast as we can," Gwen rapped out. Then she gestured for Ianto to follow her with a jerk of her head. "Hurry up."
No matter what had changed, it seemed this couldn't. Or wouldn't. At least... not yet.
They didn't get to the pub that night, or the next, or even the one after that. A week went by, and it was one thing after another, with a snatched few hours of sleep here and there and re-heated Chinese food and what felt like gallons of coffee.
They were stretched so thin now without Owen and Tosh.
(And why hadn't Jack hired more people? Surely a government organization would be run better than this?)
Ianto noticed that Gwen would no longer nap on the sofa in Jack's office, as she'd used to, but only on the one in the Hub's antechamber. She spoke normally to Jack, but wouldn't snake her way under his arm as she'd been in the habit of; now, casually, she'd lean on Ianto instead, linking her arm through his and resting her head on his shoulder.
Every time he saw her he realised that she was smaller than he remembered; somehow, it was always a shock that she only came up to his chin and that they weren't in fact the same height.
He found his eyes automatically searching for her when he entered a room and it was easier than looking at Jack. Because he wasn't looking at Jack anymore, he was watching him.
While quickly sucking his cock as he talked on the phone (but to whom?), when Ianto shoved a file or a report over the desk (but why? where did they go?), every time Jack nodded at him or smiled, when Ianto rapidly fucked him in the showers, hurried and panting -- it was like it was happening to someone else, while he stood back, away from it all, constantly observing and taking notes.
Everything was suspect. And -- this was what was truly alarming -- it didn't stop. Nothing happened to reassure him. No explanation. Nothing.
He felt as if he'd walked into a world where everything was made of paper, and Gwen was the only other thing besides himself made of flesh.
After things finally eased, he and Gwen stood in front of Jack's desk as he pulled out the decanter of brandy to celebrate. They each accepted a snifter, Jack eying them as they first sipped hesitantly from their glasses and then drank faster.
Smiling benevolently, he poured them another and then another.
Ianto found the words tumbling from his mouth, almost without volition. "Shouldn't you ring up Whitehall, Jack? They'll be glad to know we finished this, won't they? Must've been worried."
"Later," Jack said lazily. "They can wait. It's like a marriage. Never tell 'em when to expect you."
Ianto winced as Gwen threw him a furious glance, slammed her glass down on the desk half drunk, and flew out of the room.
"What's with her?" Jack said, coming to his feet in surprise and seeming like he was about to go running after her.
Ianto put a hand on his arm to hold him still. "She's... I think she's been having some problems at home."
Jack narrowed his eyes at him. "Oh yeah?"
"Yeah," Ianto improvised. "Rhys, you know. You probably hit a nerve."
"Since when are you and Gwen so... chatty?"
"Since... always," Ianto said, trying to sound as if his answer was obvious to even the most moronic of questioners. When Jack just continued to stare at him, he added, "you know, after you left that time. To find your Doctor. We got... close."
"I'm going to go after her," Jack announced, almost as if Ianto hadn't spoken.
"Listen, I think that's a bad idea. If she's having problems with Rhys... they're probably because of you. Let me."
"What do you mean 'because of me'?"
"Don't make me say it, Jack."
"And you're the right one for her to talk to?"
"You know," Ianto said rapidly. "Girl talk."
Jack laughed, and Ianto mentally heaved a sigh of relief. It was going to work.
"Okay," Jack agreed. "Go find her. I'll look for you later."
Ianto nodded, then turned on his heel, headed out the door, and out of the Hub.
He'd tried four pubs before he found her, sitting in a dark corner with an empty glass, a half-drunk pint in front of her, and another full one waiting.
"So is that one for me?" he asked.
"No," she said, still sounding angry. "I need them both."
"Gwen, I didn't mean to... it just came out."
"It's all a game to you, isn't it?" she said dully. "You don't care. You love him, and you don't care."
"I care," Ianto said, and then took her pint anyway, because he bloody needed it too. "Of course I care."
"No, you don't," she spat, getting up. "You don't care about Torchwood, or helping people, or saving the bloody world, you just want Jack. That's all you want. All you are."
She flung herself out of the pub, and then Ianto found himself running after her, yet again, not sure this time if he was furious or worried.
When he caught up to her, he seized her by the wrist, and yanked her after him into the alley, next to the rubbish bins. She struggled to get away, landing a solid punch on his cheek, and he rocked back, but managed to keep blocking her with his body.
"Listen to me," he ordered, still holding her against the brick wall. "Of course I bloody care. He's been lying to us, over and over, and maybe it's some fucking plot, for all we know, some elaborate fucking con to overthrow the government and take over the world, maybe he's got John Hart on fucking retainer, and I suck his cock, and sort through the files, and order the bloody take-away and pull out my gun when I'm ordered, and I can't trust him no matter how much I want to, and oh Christ do I want to, and I hate it, I hate every bloody second of it. You think this is fun for me? You have no idea."
Gwen stilled as the torrent of words came rushing out. "I didn't know," she said slowly.
"Yes, you bloody well did," he shouted. "And you can't not trust me, because you're the only one."
"What d'you mean?"
"The only one who could... stop him."
"I can't," she whispered.
"Why? Because you love him? That's no reason."
Gwen's eyes widened and then suddenly her hands were in his hair and she was pulling his head down and they were kissing -- roughly, brutally, teeth clacking against each other -- and Ianto felt his vision blur as he gave in to it.
This was a dumb, dumb thing he was doing, Ianto knew. And unlike Gwen, he didn't even have the excuse of being drunk. And Gwen was drunk, which definitely wasn't making the situation reflect better on either of them.
But it had been so long, so long since he'd been with someone properly alive that he actually liked. Jack wasn't properly alive, or properly human even, and it always shocked Ianto -- no matter how much he adored the idea of sex with Jack and life with Jack and the privilege of being chosen by Jack -- that his skin wasn't cold and didn't ever, in any way, seem inhuman.
But himself and Gwen, now they were the same. Lives sacrificed to Torchwood and lying about it or in denial all the bloody damn time. Jack might not have ever felt cold, but Gwen was warm and alive and the sort of girl who threw punches, just like he had been the sort of boy who shoplifted; now he was the sort who wore suits, but he wasn't even sure what that meant. It was all an act and one of so many.
"This is a terrible idea," Gwen said, breathless and still half kissing him as her hands went for his belt.
Ianto found he couldn't really help but agree with the words and gesture both.
"Yeah," he managed as her hands fumbled their way to his cock. "You sure you want to do this?" he gasped, grabbing her wrists, but not making any real attempt to stop her.
"Does it matter?" she asked, and it was enough to actually disturb Ianto into some sense.
"Does it? When was the last time you were sure about anything?"
Ah, this he understood, commentary on Torchwood. The thing was, until Gwen had found that memorandum and had her little freak out, Ianto had actually been sure of everything: himself, Jack, his whole fucked up life. Hell, before that he'd even got to be sure of Lisa for a time. Torchwood, for all its cruelty, had never done to him what it was clearly doing to Gwen.
"Right this second, I don't really care," he said, pressing her hands to his cock, figuring it would shock her into either action or sense, not that he was sure which he preferred.
She laughed, tilting her head back against the brick wall, and Ianto couldn't help but be taken in by it -- her all delighted and pained, small (at least compared to him) and fairly damn dangerous.
He kissed her sweetly then, thinking damned, damned, damned over and over to himself, because he was. She was married! And he suspected that all of Jack's 51st century not giving a shit aside, he'd probably be pretty unimpressed with this particular turn of events.
Well, fuck him, Ianto thought. This current betrayal somehow stung worse than the one he never allowed himself to think on anymore. Because this did stretch all the way back to that, and, somehow, he'd wanted Jack to save him, but somehow that had just led him here, to ripping the snaps on Gwen's jeans open when she kissed him, drunk and biting.
"Fuck," he said, trying to push his fingers down into her clothes, into her knickers. Did she really have to wear things that were so tight? It didn't seem fair, but he twisted his wrist at an odd angle and was finally able to slide his fingers against her, slick and rough. He sucked at her throat so he wouldn't have to look at her.
Gwen squirmed, went up on her toes, wiggled enough that Ianto was able to slide his fingers under her and then up into her. He hissed with it and so did she, but then she was cursing and pushing him away and shoving her jeans down over her hips herself.
Ianto had a flash of wondering whether she was completely insane.
It didn't last long.
As Gwen struggled out of her jeans, she felt the cold, scratchy brick against her ass, shocking her with its chill; it was like the claws of mice walking patterns on her skin. It should've been a wake-up call, it and the freezing air against her thighs, the smell in the alley -- old piss and beer and rubbish bins -- the raucous shouts from inside the pub. It should've jolted her back to her senses.
But it didn't.
It was heat, sordid and overwhelming and wrong and... perfect.
Fuck you, she found herself thinking, over and over, fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, though she wasn't even sure who she wanted to scream it at.
Ianto's fingers were tweaking her clit now and she felt shivers go up her spine that had nothing to do with the cold. He pushed her back, so she was all the way up against the wall; her hands fumbled frantically at the fastening of his trousers, till she'd managed to get his cock out.
He shivered as the cold air hit his flesh, but then, quickly, his hands were seizing her hips and lifting her up -- from somewhere removed, she spared a quick thought to register surprise at his strength -- and then his cock was finally, finally, finally working itself into her cunt, and she groaned out load.
She twined her arms around his neck, her fists in his hair, probably hurting him, but she was well past caring as he fucked into her with short, quick, unfamiliar thrusts that were making her climb higher and higher, until finally she had her head back, and was tumbling into her orgasm, eyes wide open, staring at the stars.
As she felt herself convulse around him, he groaned and came, bucking against her; she was so wet she couldn't even feel it. The single rational brain-cell that was still left to her softly said fuck. But it was too late to do anything about it now. Later, she thought forcing the panic away, I'll think about it later.
Still holding her up, Ianto laid his head down against her collarbone. Her fingers were still in his hair, and she stroked it gently, feeling her heartbeat slow down to its normal rate.
Ianto's mind couldn't even make words. His face was between Gwen's breasts -- they were soft, it was nice – and his cock softening inside her. His arms shook a little from strain. Slowly he felt brain-function return, and he pulled back so he could see her face, though he wasn't precisely sure he wanted to.
As he did, he watched her expression change into one of pure horror.
"Oh, fuck!" she gasped.
"Yeah," he agreed, because what else was there to say?
Her eyes widened even further and she shook her head frantically. He realised she wasn't actually meeting his eyes, but instead looking over his shoulder at something. He felt a sinking sensation in his guts, but craned his neck to look behind him anyway.
And standing there was Jack.
Ianto felt as if someone had just punched him in the stomach, very hard.
The inside of Gwen's mouth had gone completely dry. Jack was just looking at them, with the blank expression that boded very, very ill for whoever it was directed towards. Gwen could feel the sticky wetness seeping out of her; Jack arched an eyebrow, very slightly, and she knew he knew it, knew too that she'd never felt so humiliated in her entire life.
He let them roast under his gaze, let the silence drag out horribly for a full minute, and then deliberately turned on his heel and walked away from them, greatcoat swirling around him.
Ianto gently set Gwen down and turned away from her, quickly buttoning up his trousers. Gwen began pulling up her jeans too, as fast as she could.
"He doesn't get to do this," she hissed.
"This." She gestured to the alley and him. "We're going back to the Hub. We're going to settle this once and for all."
Ianto started walking ahead of her.
"Where are you going?" she called after him.
"To get a taxi," he called back. "Back to the Plass."
In the cab they sat as far apart from each other as they possibly could. Ianto leaned against the door and, when he glanced over at Gwen, saw that she was doing the same and staring out the window.
He was furious at her, but whether it was for finding the memo that had started this whole mess or having the tantrum that somehow led to him fucking her in an alley, he wasn't really sure.
He could feel her on him still, and his lips were swollen from the vicious way she had kissed him. He flexed his hand. Somehow he'd managed to scrape his knuckles on the brick lifting her up; it hurt, and it made him sad, especially knowing that she was sitting there unable to look at him.
She could probably feel his come leaking out of her; she was probably ashamed. At least, Ianto hoped she was, because he certainly hadn't dodged that particular emotion. He hoped she was on birth control. He hoped this situation wouldn't get even worse. He figured it probably wouldn't, but they'd still have to talk about it. He grit his teeth and let his breath hiss out between them, lest he start berating himself for his own stupidity aloud.
"I'm sorry," she said.
Ianto glanced over. Sure enough, still looking out the window. "Don't."
"Why? You're angry."
"Sure," he said, wanting to save whatever strength he had (and it was very little) for the impending confrontation with Jack. That was going to be truly terrible. Betrayal, it was always betrayal between him and Jack; this wasn't about the sex, not really, but he didn't know if Gwen got that or had bothered to see all he stood to lose, including Jack's rather unlikely and, Ianto was starting to suspect, disturbingly deep, affection for him.
"About which part?" Gwen asked.
"I don't know," he said, looking out the window himself so he wouldn't have to ask her to comfort him against their own sins.
"But I am sorry," she said. Ianto thought she sounded small, like a child.
"Which part?" he asked in mimicry.
"The part that comes next." Her voice was worse than crying.
Jack shrugged his coat off and slung it hastily over the back of Ianto's chair, knowing Ianto would be as attentive to it as ever, no doubt in some bizarrely grim act of contrition.
He wanted to punch something. Anything. No, not just anything. He wanted to punch Ianto. Not for fucking Gwen, he didn't really care about that. But for being clumsy, for lying, for doing it in a goddamn alley and sneaking around as if Jack were someone to be feared.
It stung and Jack had no idea what it was about, which was also part of the problem. He was an idiot to be so fond of someone who was so unreadable. Someone so unexpectedly unreliable. From the moment they'd met, Ianto Jones hadn't stopped being a dangerous child, but Jack had kept forgetting it.
Hell, he wanted to punch himself.
And Gwen! Jack's mind tried to dance away from the image of her almost cradling Ianto to her, because it was, in the abstract, charming and a bit hot. And in specific? Well, if Jack was going to think uncharitable things about his team he didn't want to do it in such a nasty 20th century way.
"Fuck!" he shouted at no one in particular. Because they were children, and they were sure to want to discuss it with him. At length, over and over, when it probably wasn't even worth the time and wouldn't solve anything anyway; betrayal was the only way these people knew how to want anything. He hated it.
Jack sighed, and with no useful or reasonable violence available to him, strode down to their shooting range where he could at least be precise and blank.
"Jack?" Gwen called tenatively when the cog door rolled back.
Ianto pushed ahead of her. He wasn't going to be afraid to be in his own bloody office.
"He's not here," she said.
"Yeah he is," Ianto replied, nodding his head towards Jack's oh so precisely placed coat. One day, he thought, he might laugh at this.
Gwen frowned. "We should check his office."
Ianto shook his head, considering.
"Ah," he said after a long moment listening, feeling the concrete convulse ever so slightly with sound from below. He turned to Gwen. "Range," he said and headed for the stairs.
"Are you insane?" she hissed.
He turned. "What?"
"You want to see Jack? With a gun in his hand? Now?"
Ianto shrugged. "He's already put a gun to my head once. I figure I can handle a second go 'round. Probably won't even piss my pants this time. Stay up here if you want," he said, starting to move and not looking back to see if she would follow.
"Ianto!" she called.
"You're frightening," she said, as if it were a compliment, while she jogged the few steps to catch up with him.
"No. Not really," he replied, hating how women sometimes seemed to only know how to desire men that scared them.
Even with his ears covered, Jack could still feel the shift in the air as a door opened to let Ianto and Gwen enter the range. Deliberately, he fired again anyway, his finger squeezing the trigger gently, once, twice, three more times. One for each of them, dead in the black.
Then he slowly turned to face them, noting that they'd clapped their hands over their ears and were wincing. Good, he thought. That made three of them.
He took off the earmuffs and tossed them aside. He did not, however, holster his gun. Ianto and Gwen's eyes both tracked the weapon in his hands, and he felt a bitter laugh wanting to burst out. He suppressed it. Did they really think he would shoot them like some kind of outraged husband from an antique romance, for fuck's sake?
"It's after business hours," he said casually, but with a bite to it. "What're you kids doing here? And together? Where's the fun in that, all out in the open?"
"Jack--" Gwen tried to start.
He cut her off lightly. "But isn't your husband wondering where you are?"
"A fine time to start worrying about Rhys," Gwen said viciously. "When've you ever been concerned about his feelings before?"
"I could ask you the same question. And of the two of us, the one who took a vow? Yeah, that was you."
Gwen sputtered, and Jack turned to Ianto. "Girl talk, huh?"
Ianto took a step towards him instead of away, and Jack was distantly amused at his refusal to back down.
"You know," he continued lazily, "it's really insulting if you think about it. Do you really think I care if you bang Gwen six ways to Sunday? I don't know how I could have possibly given you that impression."
Ianto just shook his head, as if Jack was stupid, or deficient or something, and it was an effort not to close the distance between them and just start punching.
"No, really," he said lightly instead. "And Gwen, listen, if you're gonna work your way through all of Torchwood, well, first of all, I think that's my prerogative, don't you? But I'm a generous guy. I share! Obviously. I just like to know what I'm sharing. Try to evolve a little, huh?"
"We are not sharing," Gwen said through her teeth. "It was a mistake, and I don't have to justify myself to you."
"You're right, you don't. You don't owe me anything, except your job, your life, and oh yeah, your planet... also, I thought we were--"
"I thought we were a lot of things too, Jack. And I was wrong."
Jack looked from one to the other; for the first time since he'd come across them in that squalid, pathetic alley, he felt, not justifiably furious, but slightly wrong-footed. They seemed... not right. Not sheepish, not delighted. They were angry. And he didn't have the slightest idea why.
Ianto watched as Gwen took a deep breath before continuing. Jack was just staring at them now, looking faintly confused. Ianto tried to steel himself against that look, the strange one that always made him feel guilty and warm all at once because it told him that appearances aside, here was a man out of his time and thus out of his depth.
He might have stopped there. But Gwen charged forward because she was Gwen and that was what she did. She reached into the breast pocket of her jacket and gave Jack the piece of paper.
"Explain that if you can."
Jack scanned the paper quickly; Ianto saw his jaw tighten as the penny dropped. He also noted that the gun was still in his hand.
Looking up, his eyes met Ianto's. "You in on this too?" he asked, and Ianto could read a world of hurt in the words. "Of course you are. Stupid question."
"I'd like an explanation, yes," Ianto replied shortly.
Jack turned slightly to include Gwen, so that the question was to them both. "Why does it matter?"
"Why does it matter?" Gwen repeated blankly. "Because you've... you've been lying to us all this time. There is no Torchwood. You've just... you've just made it up."
There was a silence.
"Tell her it's not true, Jack," Ianto said. "Please. Tell me it's not true." He hoped he didn't sound like he was begging.
"Well?" Gwen prodded.
"There is no Torchwood," Jack said, finally. "At least, not anymore."
Gwen felt the world closing in on her at his words, as if she were being crushed but very, very slowly. Jack took a step towards her, but she was already moving backwards till she was against the wall. If she didn't have that hard surface straightening her spine, she thought she might crumple to the ground right there. Jack, clearly thinking she couldn't bear to be so near to him, looked as if she'd slapped him in the face. Well, she'd no pity to waste on him. Not now.
"Tell me," she ordered. "How is this possible?"
He glanced at Ianto, probably looking for help, but found none. He looked back at her.
"Answer the question, Jack," Ianto said with brutal calmness.
"I thought you'd probably guessed," Jack said to him, and Gwen thought her heart might explode out of her chest with rage.
"No, you didn't," Ianto said quietly. "Why would I?"
"You worked for Torchwood London. Didn't you wonder why you'd never heard of us?"
"No," he said slowly. "I didn't. I saw you, after Canary Wharf, and then I just... extrapolated."
"Right," Jack said. "You had other things to think about. You saw me and Suzie and Owen and Tosh picking through the wreckage, and you just didn't ask questions. Better things to think about like how you could--"
"That doesn't excuse you, Jack," Gwen broke in before Ianto could reply. "I'm asking, and I want the answers. Now."
"Like it says. They closed Torchwood 3 for operations in 1936. Transferred ongoing projects, set up a salvaged teleport in case of rift emergency or in case timers went off... for things like Tommy. Teleport made it easy; could've been easily destroyed if the Germans came through. They kept the Hub as a storage facility, so they didn't have to move the freezers. All of that just stayed put. They had guards on it, and everything."
"Where did you go?"
"I joined up. Again. I must've fought in that war at least five separate times. If not more."
Just another interrogation, she thought to herself fiercely. Right. She crossed her arms over her chest. "I'm not interested in your stories, Jack. I want to know what happened here."
He spoke slowly, as if it was hard to find the words, as if he was having to translate them in his head. "Afterwards, a long while afterwards... I came back. And sort of... moved in. Squatted. So to speak. It's a long story. You're not interested."
They stared at him, and he shrugged.
"Cardiff. It grows on you. Besides, I needed to be here. I was waiting. For my Doctor, remember? And then there were others. They didn't fit up there, and there was a job to do. Laurie. Rhian. Alex. And it was... I didn't lead them. We weren't soldiers. Just... a merry band of outlaws protecting the Earth from the scum of the universe. But they died, all of them. You knew that, Gwen. I told you."
"I don't know what I can believe from you, Jack."
"They were real. And they died."
Ianto frowned. "It makes sense actually. I mean, what kind of government organization knows that there are six people who work somewhere, and greets the fact that five of them are dead with equanimity? The only rational response -- and the position of Torchwood London -- almost certainly would have been that Jack had killed them all himself."
"What could they have done to him? He can't die."
Ianto laughed humourlessly. "Plenty. He doesn't have superhuman strength. All they'd have to do would be stick him in a metal rocket ship with a flight plan to the center of the sun? Or sink him to the bottom of the ocean in a strongbox? Or--"
"As arousing as I find your...inventive... mind, do you think you could you stop talking about me as if I weren't here?"
"What happened after?" Gwen asked coldly, as if he hadn't spoken.
"After? I thought... I thought I ought to do it differently next time. This time. So I did. With rules and regulations and people in charge, and command structure. I thought... it might have saved them."
After a pause -- where Gwen suddenly realised that there'd been no inquiry about Owen and Tosh's deaths, or probably Suzie's either and wondered how on earth they could have missed all of this for so long -- Ianto shook his head.
"How can we believe a word you've said? How can we trust you? You've been lying to us from the beginning,” he said.
Gwen could see that Jack looked weary, more tired than she'd ever seen him look before. Ground down, found out... wrong, all wrong. Still, he managed to raise an eyebrow.
"This, coming from you?"
"I did it for love," Ianto shouted. "What the bloody hell's your excuse?"
Jack shrugged again. "Much the same.”
“Don't,” Ianto growled harshly.
“Fine,” Jack spat. “Saving the world. Gets to be a habit."
Gwen sank down to the floor. "How do we even know that's what we've been doing? Whose side are we on?"
"You trust the government to look after the world... but not me? Because I didn't dot my 'i's and cross my 't's?"
"When you talk to the Prime Minister, who are you talking to?" Ianto interjected.
Jack looked surprised at the question, but answered anyway. "Directory Inquiries."
"And you scolded Owen for ordering pizza under Torchwood?"
"That was different."
"Because it was less insane?" Ianto snapped.
"I don't know what's right or wrong anymore," Gwen said, low in her throat. "I don't know anything."
"I'm still the same man, Gwen."
"A liar. And a con man."
"Yeah," Jack agreed. "And a murderer. You knew that before." He looked over to Ianto. "You too. We're none of us clean."
The two men stared at her as she clambered to her feet.
"I'm going," she said hoarsely. "Home."
Ianto cleared his throat. "Are you...?"
"Am I what?"
"Are you coming back?" Jack said, with some effort.
There was a pause. Then, "I don't know."
They waited in silence until she left, Ianto hoping that she had her wits about her enough to do her clean up here, rather than at home.
"Why are you still here?" Jack asked, sounding more tired than combative.
"I guess I know why you didn't execute me now," Ianto said, ignoring the question.
"Maybe I should have," Jack said.
"Gwen's the one that found the memo."
"Let me guess, she was the one that suggested the fuck in the alley too?"
"Not suggested as such, but actually, yeah," Ianto huffed with vague and miserable laughter. "I am sorry about that. On both your accounts."
Jack narrowed his eyes. "Really? Why?"
"Well, we have enough problems right now, don't we?"
"Do we?" Jack asked.
"You still haven't put your gun down," Ianto observed, and Jack grimaced, surprised and clearly displeased at having been caught out.
He turned abruptly and fired down the length of the range again. Despite his best efforts, Ianto flinched at the sound.
"There," Jack said, placing it on the table. "Empty."
"Again, Ianto. Why are you still here?" Jack asked.
"Because after I walk out that door, I don't know what happens!" he yelled.
"What do you want to happen, Ianto? Do you want to be with Gwen? Do you want to be at Torchwood?"
"Is that an either or proposition?" he asked dumbly.
"I don't know, is it?"
Ianto ran his hands through his hair. "I'd undo this, Jack, if I could."
"You can," Jack said coldly.
"Not if Gwen stays."
Jack chuckled. "Yeah, she's not so hot with secrets, is she?"
Ianto shook his head. "No, she's not," he said, even as he was distracted by the idea of waking up cottoned-mouth and no memory of the last two weeks with Jack fussing beside him. The notion was almost arousing.
"Go home and sleep, Ianto. Wake up whole. Confess to somone whatever sin it is you actually think you committed here tonight. Call Gwen, make sure she's okay. And then be in my office at noon."
Ianto thought Jack spoke like he'd given this particular set of instructions before. "Orders, Jack? Right now? Really?"
"Come on, don't you want to know how I did it? Don't you want it to be yours now too?"
Ianto gave a lopsided smile, but it was bitter. He was less enticed than he would have wished.
"I'll get over this, you know," Jack said, trying, it seemed, to make peace, as if he were the one who had to do the forgiving.
"You know what?" Ianto replied, the quiet broken again to the violence that had always lurked adjacent to their comforts. "Fuck you. Just... fuck you."
Jack took a few steps back and spread out his arms and laughed. "Kings of the underworld."
"Two conditions," Ianto said.
Jack dropped his arms, clearly glad that they had reached the point of negotiations. "Name them."
"One. Never make that joke again," Ianto said, deadly serious.
"You show me everything. You tell me everything. And most importantly, you explain to me why Mr. 51st-century I shag everything and don't do jealousy got so fucking pissed off before we even dropped this bomb on you."
Jack started to speak.
"No," Ianto said harshly. "Tomorrow. Your office."
He turned on his heel and left.
Gwen walked into her flat and as the door clicked shut behind her, she felt the cold, hard knot inside her belly loosen a bit, and her eyes began to sting.
Home. With the monsters outside. Except one. Because she was inside, wasn't she? And it was safe here, and she didn't deserve to be safe.
No more than Jack did.
God, what had she done?? She'd destroyed it all herself, torn it all down, killed, salted and burned. There was no going back.
As her eyes adjusted to the dark, she saw Rhys on the sofa, his head flung back, and his mouth open. Somehow under her gaze, he jerked awake and saw her standing there.
"Where've you been, then?" he asked, his voice thick and muddy with sleep. "More world saving from weevils and talking fish? Thought I'd wait up for you, but I fell asleep."
She literally couldn't speak; her voice felt like it was imprisoned somewhere choked and airless, a million miles away.
"Gwen? Gwen, love... what's the matter?"
And as she let herself sink down next to him, let his arm go round her, let herself cry into his shoulder, soaking his shirt, she knew somehow, that it wouldn't work, that she would be uncomforted by his kindness, because much as she wished she desired it...she just... didn't.
It didn't hurt nearly enough.
She cried for that too. And for all the things she wanted not to want.
continue to chapter 2.