Gwen’s fourth day of working for Torchwood, and Jack has already flirted with her thirty-five times (she counted), groped Ianto Jones looks-good-in-a-suit in front of her seven, and flirted with the three other members of the organization nearly every other time he interacts with them.
She stops Ianto in the hall one day as he passes her. “Is-Is he always like that?”
“What has Jack done?”
“Does he always flirt like this?”
“It’s not…normal conduct. Most bosses don’t act like that.”
“Jack’s not most bosses.”
She fidgets. “Has he slept with everyone here or something?”
“I don’t know the answer to that, Ms. Cooper.” Ianto’s face is as bland as ever and Gwen wishes he would react to something. It seems like there's no one here who isn't somewhere between desperate and a robot.
“Oh. Okay. And it’s Gwen.”
“Yes. If you need anything else?”
“No, no. I was just wondering.”
She’s standing on her toes, just behind him, watching him unlock the door to some building, and she wonders if he’s going to keep her at his flat, keep an eye on her like she knows the UNIT higher-ups told him to.
But when he flips the light switch, what’s in front of her is not some weird 1940’s-themed room, but a pre-furnished flat, bright and clean and wonderful. She thought the jeans and blouse he provided her with had been a luxury, but this place where he lives, it’s amazing.
“It’s not mine,” he says, seemingly able to read her mind. “It’s yours.”
“It’s worth about what you should’ve been paid for making that incredible device. Well, sort of.”
She opens her mouth and no words come out. She can’t even thank him; she’s too shocked and elated and confused. She wants to cry from the overwhelming strangeness of it all and it must show on her face because he steps closer and puts a hand on her shoulder, pulling her close. He smells good, and he’s gentle, so she clings to him.
She manages to get out an, “I’m sorry, I’m being ridiculous,” before she bursts into tears. Sobs are wracking her body, and she has no idea where they’re coming from. He murmurs reassurances, his hands large and gentle as they stroke her hair. After a while, she’s managed to regain her composure and reluctantly pulls away.
“Toshiko, don’t apologize. It’s all right. It’s a big change from where you were before. I’m sorry about that, by the way.”
He smiles again, like he did when he lead her out of her cell to the outside world, big and bright. “So!” He gestures around him. “How do you like your new home?”
“It’s incredible.” Tosh can’t entirely figure out what to say. She doesn’t know how to express her gratitude. She can’t laugh, not quite yet, but crying doesn’t seem appropriate. “Thank you. Thank you so much. I don’t know how to repay you.”
“Toshiko Sato, if you’re the genius I know you are, your skills are going to repay me far better than money ever could.”
Eight weeks later and she still has panic attacks when she steps out her front door, she still feels awkward talking to anyone but Jack, she still feels lost in the city and lost in her head. The only time she feels comfortable is with her computers and her machines, discovering alien technology and learning.
And then Jack takes her out for backup because Suzie’s ill with flu and she nearly gets killed. She’s fine, hardly a scratch on her, but she’s shaking and terrified and her brain feels skewed and strange. Jack bundles her in his coat and takes her back to her flat, pouring her some brandy he’s conjured out of nowhere. She sits on her sofa, his coat big and heavy on her shoulders, glass held in both hands. He’s sat beside her, facing her.
“Are you all right?”
She hiccups, tears long gone. “Not—not really. I could have died.”
“But you didn’t.”
“But I could’ve.”
“Toshiko, working for Torchwood, I’ve learned something. It’s better to think about and appreciate life, that you’re alive, and that you’re breathing and existing, than it is to dwell on the fact that you nearly died.”
“I don’t know how to do that.”
He cups her face, turning her toward him. His eyes are serious. “I want you to remember how to live, Toshiko. I know things are scary, but I promise you, they will get better once you start to live.”
His gaze is kind, kinder and more human than anyone she’s seen in months, and it makes her want to scream because what kind of life did she get herself into that she worked nearly twenty-four hours a day and never met a stare that wasn’t dead and dusty inside until now?
When he leans toward her, she makes a conscious decision that she is going to do this, and she is going to feel alive. Because she can’t keep being half-dead in a world like this and survive. So she leans in, and the feeling of his lips against hers is such an unfamiliar experience after too many years on her own, stuck obsessing over her job or just feeling far too alone to go out.
Her lips part against his and he licks his way into her mouth. A hand slides up her leg and her breath hitches.
He pulls back. “Tell me if you want to stop.”
But she’s made up her mind. And he’s more human than anyone she’s seen in years and treats her more kindly than anyone has in months, and she just wants to live again and it feels to her like this might be the way. Just to reaffirm that she is real, that she exists on this plane and not some strange world of numbers and distant thoughts.
She shakes her head and pulls him back to her and the hand keeps moving, across her thigh, over her stomach, cupping her breast, mapping out her body. His touch reminds her that she has a physical form, that she’s alive.
He pulls away from her and she groans at the loss of his hands. He grins. “You know, as interesting as it might be to do this on a sofa, I think it might be better to move to the bed.”
He gives her hand a little tug, and she follows him to her bedroom. He pulls off his braces and shirt and she gapes at him. The handsome seems to go all-around. He presses her hand against his chest; his beating heart thumps against her palm.
“We’re alive, Toshiko. This is a celebration of life. A celebration that you’ve made it through another day, another week, another year.”
She nods, her fingers twitching against his chest, and his hands slide under her blouse, bunching it under his hands to pull it off.
When they climb onto the bed, Jack sliding down her body, breath hitching when she clenches one hand in his hair and presses the other over his heart, she feels bright. She feels present. She feels alive.
When Jack brushes her hair behind her ear and leers at her after she finishes giving her report, she laughs.
“I was wondering how long it would take you.”
“Why, Suzie, it’s like you know me!”
No, I don’t. No one does. Who are you really, Jack? But she smiles and replies, “Well, yes. It has been at least four months, and I am your second in command.”
“A second in command who deserves some much-needed appreciation.”
Her smile turns, but she lets him closer. “I’m sure.”
He grins wider, his white, white teeth the perfect mask for whatever he’s hiding inside and Suzie just wants to break through it and find out who Jack really is, what makes him tick.
“Would you prefer comfortable or dangerous, Miss Costello?”
“Well, seeing as dangerous would mean the possibility of trauma to either myself or my colleagues, I’d much prefer comfortable.”
He leads the way down a manhole in the floor and Suzie needs to suppress the urge to laugh because of course Jack lives in the Hub in an underground bunker that looks like it was stolen from the 1940s. She doesn’t have the time to explore the trappings of the little room because Jack is suddenly behind her, lips and teeth and tongue exploring her neck, and her eyes fall closed as she gives him better access.
His hands are sliding under her shirt and she turns to face him, her fingers reaching up to unbutton his shirt and slide off his braces. They make quick work of their clothes because this sort of coupling is not about foreplay. It’s about getting as far under one another’s skin as possible.
When he begins to move inside her, she has to hide her grin against his shoulder because she knows that even though she’s closer to Jack than any of the others will ever be, she still has no idea who he is, and doesn’t think she ever will. Because she’s researched him. She’s asked around. What is Jack Harkness but a name? Sex, and ether, and a mask with white, white teeth. But it’s fun in a self-destructive way, and a challenge to try, and Suzie has never said no to a challenge, or to self-destruction.
It’s been nearly a year and he still doesn’t know how to be. He doesn’t talk much, finds himself staring out at nothing, finds himself nearly in tears at the silliest things, finds himself half wanting to run up in front of whatever attacking alien it is today and just let it take him.
He goes home to his nearly empty flat with the big picture windows and the king-sized bed and the purple sheets. A bachelor pad, and doesn’t that make him want to vomit? He sits there and he thinks of where he could be right now, how he could be at home in London with Katie. He thinks of it until he can’t anymore, and then he drinks and lies awake trying to keep his mind as blank as possible.
He knows what this is. He knows about the grief, and the self-destruction he’s always been obsessed with. But he’s breaking and lost and he has no idea how to stop that because it’s never been like this before. He’s never been this gone.
Most nights he stays inside and watches telly or sleeps or drinks, or stares at the ceiling wishing something, everything was different. Some nights he goes out to get drunk. When people hit on him—men, women, whatever, it doesn’t matter—he turns them down with a shake of his head because he’s too broken for this, too cracked for a one night stand with someone who only cares about themselves and whose name he’ll probably never know because he knows he’ll just replace it with Katie, Katie, Katie.
It seems that Jack has noticed the widening fractures in Owen’s life because one night he slides onto the barstool beside Owen, who’s trying to drink himself into becoming more liquid than solid, and gives him an annoyingly toothy grin.
“What is it this time?” Owen sighs. “Weevils in Canton? Foamasi in Tremorfa?”
“Just having a drink.”
Owen eyes him but Jack just order them both another round and says nothing. It’s not like Owen to turn down an offer of alcohol, so he doesn’t. Jack’s checking out the bartender’s arse and Owen snorts.
“If you wanted to get laid, you could’ve gone somewhere with better pickings. Somewhere where I’m not around to watch you eye up every living thing in the place.”
Jack brushes off the suggestion with a shrug.
“Are you okay, Owen?” And he should not be asking that question. It’s obvious he isn’t okay, not even a little bit, but Owen doesn’t know what Jack is, doesn’t know him well enough and he’s not ever going to admit he’s falling apart at the seams to some man he barely knows, who’s supposed to be his boss and is doing a very weird job of it.
“Fuck off, Harkness.”
“Well, I could do that, but you didn’t answer my question.”
“I won’t answer your question. Piss off.”
It’s a disappointment but not a surprise when Jack tosses down a note and takes Owen’s arm. Owen tries to pull away but Jack’s grip is strong, and he’s not really trying that hard, anyway.
“You’ve had enough. You’re going to be into falling-over territory soon and I know you drove here.”
“So I’ll get a cab home.”
“I’ll drive you."
Owen knows Jack’s intentions are probably mostly on the side of good when the Captain spills him onto his cold purple bachelor pad bed, but he doesn’t let that stop him from hurling whatever insults his drink-hazed mind can think of.
“Shut up, Owen.” Jack pulls off Owen’s shoes for him and tosses them in the corner somewhere. His hand reaches to pop the button on Owen’s jeans, but Owen’s fingers wrap round his wrist and pull. And Owen has no idea what he’s doing, but Jack is leaning over him, staring down at him with those blue eyes that hide too much and carry an emotion in them that looks entirely too much like affection.
“Owen?” Jack’s breath smells like whiskey and the strange unearthly scent of Jack, and Owen has no idea what’s going on but he’s leaning up anyway, and when he kisses Jack, it’s like he’s shattered completely.
Jack has a hand cupping the back of Owen’s head, but he presses Owen back into the mattress with a palm against the centre of his chest and for once, Owen doesn’t argue.
Usually Owen’s the one doing the fucking, but he knows without knowing that Jack’s not going to let Owen fuck him tonight, so he just surrenders that hope and lets Jack in. And it feels like he’s being split open and broken and sewed back together. He comes with no name on his lips, his hands clawing at Jack’s back because he hates the man, he hates him because he’s supposed to and because he killed Katie and because he meddles in everything.
Owen wakes alone and sore and angry, but the cracks are back to where they started. He can begin all over again and then something like this will inevitably happen the next time he begins to crumble so fast he can’t stop it. Because Jack never lets anything go, always has to be the big man and hold everyone up, and it isn’t fucking fair.
It’s his own fault, really. Really, what else was going to happen when he stalked Jack in tight clothes and flirted to get a job and then nearly kissed the man after breaking his fall in an empty warehouse? But Jack’s been sticking to flirting and bad innuendo, and general compliments on Ianto’s attire, and that’s all well and good. Except Jack’s eyes follow him about the Hub from his office, and there’s a little part of Ianto’s brain that says Jack wants more, and really, so does he. It just makes everything so much more complicated in all these little ways, and he knows he’s basically powerless to stop it.
So when Ianto walks upstairs from checking on Lisa to find Jack heading down into the basement in the opposite direction, he gives the Captain his best sly come-on grin. Jack’s shark teeth grin back and he crushes Ianto against the stone wall of the corridor. Ianto raises an eyebrow.
“You’re telling me you’ve been flirting with me this whole time and that’s the best you’ve got?” It’s better to be enigmatic than show all your cards; Ianto knows how to do this even with Jack’s breathing in his ear.
“Oh, Jones, Ianto Jones. You have no idea what my best is.”
But Ianto does because he’s seen the absolutely insane amounts of improperly deleted CCTV footage of Jack shagging colleagues and randoms in bars over the last decade, courtesy of the very weirdly put together file on Captain Jack Harkness in Torchwood London’s files.
So when Jack kisses him, Ianto thinks he knows what to expect. Fierce and claiming, sure, but not this oddly hesitant exploration, an appreciation of discovery. He sighs into Jack’s mouth because, jesus, it really has been a long time since he’s touched another human being that isn’t mostly metal. His hands come up to frame Jack’s face, to slide into his hair and twist into the strands.
Jack’s own fingers are dancing up his sides, untucking his shirt and popping buttons open. They slide into Ianto pants and grasp his cock and Ianto closes his eyes and bucks up into the fist because it’s just been far too long. Jack’s braces are suddenly gone when Ianto opens his eyes; his shirt is hanging open and his trousers are undone. He presses Ianto’s hip with a hand.
And it’s undignified, but why should that matter when Ianto’s entire life is nothing but undignified at the moment? So he turns obediently and leans against the wall, reaching one hand down to help Jack pull off his trousers and pants in one bunch, and spreads his legs as far as the confines of the fabric will let him.
Once Ianto breathes past the uncomfortable fullness and Jack starts to move, he starts to wonder just how everything got so insane. Lisa’s only a few metres away and he’s fucking the boss, and there’s no time to think about it anymore because Jack’s fingers wrap around his cock and stroke and Ianto shudders, all thoughts leaving his head. It really is mindless, rutting sex, but Ianto prefers it that way because it means he doesn’t have to think and hope and wonder about everything.
Jack comes as a muffled cry against his neck, Ianto a few moments later, biting back any sound as he shudders and shakes under Jack’s weight. Then they’re sliding apart and Jack’s cleaning himself efficiently, tucking away and grinning at him. The captain winks and heads back up the stairs. Ianto waits until he can no longer hear his footsteps before he sinks back against the wall.
Ianto doesn’t know whether he wants to laugh or cry or hit something. He came here to cure Lisa and get out, to run with her to somewhere they could be safe. But Jack Harkness is a charming mystery, and he’s just so utterly human, and Ianto can’t believe how quickly everything’s become a tangled mess. His loyalties are scattered in pieces on the stone floor and he has no idea how to even feel anymore. He stares back up the corridor and tries not to laugh at the realization that with this, everything just got more complicated and it is never going to work itself out.
Jack is gorgeous, and he talks and acts like some old film hero. It’s attractively enigmatic, and tends to make Gwen forget that her new job is really dangerous and that if she doesn’t stop staring she might get killed.
Sometimes she wonders what it would be like to sleep with him. She sees the way he flirts with the rest of the team, the way he smiles at Tosh and touches Owen and banters with Ianto. She wonders if they’ve all slept with him.
She sees the way he looks at them, like they’re broken things he fixed, like they’re lovers he knows far too well or children he doesn’t know well enough, like one word from him could make them into something new. And she thinks it’s ridiculous and perhaps incredibly arrogant of him to think that way of employees he’s quite probably fucked. Then she sees the way they look at him, like they owe everything to him, like he’s pieced them back together, like he’s made them who they are, like he owns a piece of them.
And she realizes that she doesn’t think she can do it. She doesn’t think she’s broken enough for Jack. There’s nothing for him to catch and touch and put back together with words and love and sex that’s far more than just sex. There’s nothing in her that isn’t whole, nothing in her that is cracked or lost or needy. She’s the one with everything among those who had nothing and now only have Jack.