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“Well, I ran from him in all kinds of ways. Guess it was his turn this time.”

Had a northern lad. Well, not exactly had.
He moved like the sunset. God, who painted that?
First, he loved my accent. How his knees could bend.
I thought we'd be okay, me and my molasses.

 

Gwen stands in the entrance to Jack’s office, framed by the fluorescent lights of the Hub, her arms folded across her chest and small frown lines creasing the space between her eyes. Ianto barely looks up from the stack of forms on Jack’s desk, his pen hovering above the salmon pink paper, but he registers her countenance. He stares at the lines he’s been trying to fill in for the past hour (Reason for temporary leave, Length of requested leave) and wonders if that’s how he’d once looked to Jack when he darkened the doorway.

When he doesn’t acknowledge her presence, she steps forward and clears her throat. He glances at her again and offers a small smile, which she takes as an invitation to sit down. He continues to stare at the paper.

“It’s late,” she says and leans forward a bit, rubbing her hands on her thighs.

“Oh.” Ianto sets the pen down and really looks at her. Her eyes are wide with the stalwart attempt to keep them open, and dark grey smudges shadow them. He’s ashamed he hasn’t noticed before, but of course they’re all run ragged. “There’s no reason to stay. You should go home. All of you. We’re fine for the night.”

“I’m not asking to go home. I’m reminding you to go home.”

He looks back down at the stack of forms, not out of some sense of shame, but because he needs to judge how long it’ll take to finish them all and if it would really be worth it to drive home afterwards; it’s not like Jack’s around to mind him using his bed, and Ianto’s pretty sure he wouldn’t mind even if he was.

The external silence stretches while Ianto’s mind chatters inanely. Gwen clears her throat again.

“What’re you working on?” she asks and leans even closer to the desk. Outside of the office, Owen shouts something to Toshiko and he and Gwen both turn quickly towards the door, but there doesn’t seem to be an actual problem.

“Leave of absence request.” He picks up his pen and rolls it between his fingers.

Gwen pales and her eyes widen even more. “Ianto, I know it’s been a hard couple of weeks, but –“

“No. No, absolutely not. It’s not for me. It’s for him.” He’s a bit surprised, really, at Gwen’s reaction. “Got to go through the proper channels and all.”

She seems to relax and smiles. “And once it’s submitted, can we reject it?”

Ianto laughs. It’s soft and hesitant, but it’s real and that’s something. Gwen beams at him for a moment before the concern edges its way back over her features.

“You need to go home, sweetheart.” Her voice is low and intimate, barely more than a whisper, and he turns his head slightly to hear her better. “If he comes back, he knows where you live.” She pauses and frowns. “He does know where you live, right?”

Ianto doesn’t know which part to tackle first, so he simply shrugs. “He’s, ah, been there a few times.” He coughs slightly. “But that’s not – someone has to monitor the rift overnight. And by the time I finish up here, there’s no point to going home.”

Gwen stands up. “I’m not going to force you. I just want you to take care of yourself. And I hope you haven’t got any pets.” She smirks, stretching her neck slightly, and makes for the door. Resting a hand on the frame, she turns around. “He’ll come back. Right?”

Ianto forces himself to nod.

 

And don't say that you don't.
And if you could see me now, said if you could see me now.

 

It is finally decided, by a silent and unanimous vote, that Gwen is in charge (which is to say that no one wants to give orders and they are therefore happy to follow hers until they outright disagree). But she is good, and listens to opinions in a way that Jack had never bothered.

Not that he blames Jack – the man had seemed to know more than all of them put together.

Now Ianto stands in a dark alleyway, Owen at his back, with his gun raised and pointed at the group of snarling Weevils.

“Gwen!” he shouts as the Weevils move closer together. “Now!”

Gwen raises the dart gun Owen had prepared and shoots each, missing a few of her marks on the first pass. Eventually, though, she gets them all and they slump to the ground. The team waits a minute and, when none of the creatures move, they all rush over.

“All right,” Owen says, kneeling and fiddling with something that Ianto thinks looks suspiciously like a piercing gun. “We have a little over an hour to tag and dump ‘em back in the sewers. Tosh?”

“There’s an entrance about a kilometer east from here, but it’s on a main thoroughfare. The next one is about four kilometers west.”

Gwen frowns, her hand on her chin. “We can’t walk that with six Weevils. Any ideas?”

“Looks like I’ll be chauffeuring again,” Ianto says, smiling. She grins at him and nods.

“We’ll tag ‘em first, and I’ll go with you,” Owen announces as he places the device near the Weevil’s right temple. “We’ll need to make at least two trips, and I don’t want to have to deal with you throwing your back out again. You’re a fucking pain in the arse when you’re held up.”

Ianto rolls his eyes and they get to work. It doesn’t take long with four people, and their efficiency has increased out of necessity. But then, they’re not trying to impress the boss or show each other up anymore, either. They manage to get three Weevils into the Range Rover with careful placement, utilizing the back seats. Buckling them in is difficult, and it’s messy work. Ianto’s already resigned to cleaning the upholstery if the weekend proves as slow as Tosh had predicted.

As Ianto drives over damp streets, Owen turns to him. “Do you think he’s coming back?” It’s bizarre how sometimes Owen can look as terrified and out-of-place as Ianto feels, like a child lost in the shops.

“I don’t know,” Ianto sighs and turns down a quiet road.

But that’s not true. He knows, deep down, that Jack’s gone for good.

 

He don't show much these days; it gets so fucking cold.
I loved his secret places, but I can't go anymore.

 

Ianto stares out at the bay and takes a final drag of his cigarette before tossing it by his feet. It rolls a bit, the smoke coiling around his shoe, and then he stamps it out. He flips up the collar of his coat to keep the rain from tracking down his neck and longs for an ideal, tropical summer.

It’s been a few weeks since Jack left, one of which had been spent traipsing through mountain passes in Nepal. He’d taken up smoking again there, when their guide had handed him a bidi with a red string tied to the end. It was strong, much stronger even than the Marlboros he had smoked in his youth, and it kick-started the habit all over again.

Owen had given him hell for it when they got back, but he’d been guzzling his third beer at the time, and then they’d gotten an alert that there was a Weevil sighting in Cathays, and they both laughed. They never brought it up again.

He contemplates smoking another and wonders what Jack would say if he knew. If he would care at all, or if he would ask him to quit, or join him. Ianto continues to stare out at the bay, at the heavy clouds in the sky. He takes another cigarette out of his pack and flicks his lighter and inhales. It feels good, the smoke mixing with the cold, slightly salty air.

Jack had never said a word about leaving, but it looked pretty damn planned from what little could be seen on the CCTV. Just up and ran when something better, packaged in a blue box that brought back too many painful memories (“Looks like Yvonne’s got her Doctor then, doesn’t it?”), came along.

It was strange to work without Jack’s constant presence hovering over them. They were stretched thin without their leader, but they’d managed for this long as a team, keeping up appearances for each other. As long as there was something to fight for.

He turns, leaning his back against the rail, and looks at the city. It’s a decent vantage point; he can just make out the white tip of Jack’s favorite perch against the dark clouds, and he laughs at himself for half-expecting to see a swish of blue-grey.

He used to meet Jack up there, occasionally, with a thermos of coffee. It’d felt like meeting him halfway, but he isn’t interested in heights on his own, so he doesn’t bother with roofs now. He prefers the ground, overlooking the water.

Ianto throws his half-smoked cigarette on the stones and steps on it as he walks back to the Hub.

 

"You change like sugar cane," says my northern lad.
I guess you go too far when pianos try to be guitars.
I feel the West in you, but I, I feel it falling apart, too.

 

It had been late when they finally fell into Jack’s tiny, creaking camp bed, their mouths and legs tangled together. It had been even later still when Ianto finally fell asleep, sated and yet blanketed by the usual sense of unease, like he had settled into a role that didn’t fit him quite right, too tight and long in the inseam.

Jack shuffled on the bed and Ianto groaned inwardly. It couldn’t be later than four in the morning, and of course Jack was going to be wide awake and bouncy. Ianto’s legs were tangled in the sheets; he’d have to pull them off to be laundered when they got up, and put on a fresh set. He braced himself for Jack’s onslaught, closing his eyes tightly.

But instead of the usual protestation of ancient bedsprings and the slap of Jack’s feet against the floor, he was covered in warmth and felt Jack’s mouth press lightly against his shoulder blade.

“I don’t know what to do with you,” Jack said softly, and Ianto figured that he thought he was still asleep.

Ianto wanted to laugh, or cry, or anything, but he kept quiet in the hope that Jack would keep talking. He didn’t, though. Just sighed and wrapped an arm around Ianto’s waist, pulling him close.

Truth was, he didn’t know what to do with himself, either. Or Jack, for that matter. He felt the carefully constructed box he’d placed this liaison in start to crumble around them. The give-and-take that had begun to form was different from the mutual taking that they had happily engaged in at first.

He wondered who they were trying to kid, and whether it mattered in the end. He shifted his own arm so that his hand covered Jack’s.

A hand lands on his shoulder, small and warm.

“Ianto? Are you all right?”

He blinks. Toshiko stares at him, her brow crinkled in contemplation and worry. He smiles and hands her the mug of coffee he was supposed to be delivering before his mind had wandered.

“I’m fine.”

“He’s coming back, you know,” she says softly, squeezing his arm once. “He wouldn’t leave for good without saying goodbye.”

Ianto nods and, for some reason, this time he doesn’t have to force it.

 

Girls, you've got to know when it's time to turn the page.
Or when you're only wet because of all the rain.

John is gone. Jack is back.

Ianto wants to laugh at himself and his ridiculous propensity for rhyme, but he can’t be arsed, really. He’s bone weary from the previous night, and the previous months, and the large hotel bed with its warm duvet and fluffed pillows is so very tempting. Much more so than the spa treatments Gwen and Toshiko are happily taking advantage of. (“Well, we’ve earned it,” Gwen had said to him with a smirk. “And so have you, but I think you have more pressing things to deal with, yeah?”)

At first, Ianto had thought she meant sleep, and he’d nodded quite resolutely. But now, with Jack in his doorway looking equal parts contrite and hopeful, he realizes just what she was insinuating. He wishes she’d at least warned him, but then he’s supposed to know everything, so he can’t really blame her. And, truth be told, a good part of him had expected this.

He feels Jack’s eyes look him over, but his expression is relieved rather than lecherous. He looks so uncertain standing there, but so genuinely pleased. His coat seems too big on his frame, as though he’d lost weight, but Ianto can’t see any other indications to confirm this.

Ianto glances back at his bed, a little mournfully, and takes a deep breath. Jack doesn’t say anything, except “Hi.” He just stands there and waits, patiently, leaving the ball in Ianto’s court.

Jack needs me.” His protestation to Owen (months ago, centuries ago) echoes in his head and he’s decided.

“Come in, then. No use standing in doorways. People will talk.”

Ianto steps back to let him in. Jack smiles at him; it’s a real smile, more in his eyes than in the shape of his mouth, and Ianto knows he’s made the right decision, at least for now.