“Jack, can I talk to you for a minute?” Ianto asked, poking his head through the door frame into Jack’s office.
Jack was sitting at his desk working on a report and was grateful for the interruption. “Sure,” he replied, gesturing for Ianto to sit down.
He didn’t. Remaining standing just inside the door, he asked, “It’s really slow today, so I was wondering if I could have the afternoon off.” He didn’t offer a reason, and after a moment he looked down at the floor.
Jack was startled by the question. He couldn’t remember a time when Ianto had asked for any time at all off of work, much less a last-minute, all-afternoon request. He also found it odd that Ianto was obviously lingering in the doorway ready to bolt as soon as an answer was given. “Is everything okay?” He asked, feeling like boss and lover both deserved a little bit of an explanation. They didn’t have plans that evening, but they’d really gotten past plans, with Jack just wordlessly accompanying the younger man after the team was dismissed or with Ianto lingering around the Hub with Jack after hours, uninvited.
Ianto looked up and Jack saw his eyes flash with uncertainty before he just nodded, saying, “Yeah. I just have some things to do.”
That was all Jack was going to get, apparently. He sighed, “You’re right. It’s slow. Go on.”
Ianto nodded and stepped out the door, but Jack called him back, “Hey.” Ianto turned.
“Call me tonight when you’re finished?” Jack asked, leaning back in his chair.
There was a moment’s too much hesitation before Ianto nodded and left silently. Jack knew something was wrong.
Jack worked for about an hour, but the fact remained that it was incredibly slow. He and Gwen were sitting in the conference room having a cup of coffee while mulling over the budget report that wasn’t even due for another three days, a new record for promptness for Jack, when she startled him.
“Is Ianto all right today?” She asked, leaning back from the reports and taking a drink of her coffee.
Jack looked up sharply, “Why?” he asked.
She shrugged, “Not sure. He just seemed extra quiet today and he left early.”
Just as she answered, Tosh wandered in, carrying her own cup of coffee. She sat down and Jack asked, “Tosh, did Ianto seem off to you today?”
She looked at Gwen and then back to Jack. “Actually, yes. I tried to get him to take a break with me earlier today but he wouldn’t come, claiming some project you had him working on. I know he wasn’t working on anything, though.”
“How do you know?” Gwen asked.
“Well, his head was down in his arms when I walked in and there was nothing on his desk,” She said quietly, as if she were revealing a secret. “He insisted that he couldn’t take the time out to leave, though.”
“What’s the date?” Gwen asked suddenly.
“May 4th,” Tosh said, looking startled, “Why?”
Gwen sighed, “I thought maybe an anniversary for Lisa or something?”
Jack grimaced. “It’s not the Canary Wharf anniversary. Other than that I’m not sure, but,” and he paused before continuing, “I would think he might’ve told me if it was something like that.” Tosh and Gwen nodded and Jack followed with, “Well, I’ll ask him tonight. I’m sure it’s okay.”
Gwen stood up, “Well, I’ve got to get this reworked. Let me know if you need anything, Jack.”
He nodded and she headed back to her desk. Tosh looked at him questioningly. “What?” he asked with a smile.
“You two are close, but he doesn’t tell you everything,” She said neutrally.
The smile left his eyes and he nodded, “No. I’m not the best example of that, of course.”
She shook her head, “No.”
“You know what’s wrong, don’t you?” He asked quietly after a moment.
She looked at him and nodded.
“Will you tell me?” he asked with a pleading in his voice that he couldn’t control.
She looked away for a moment. She turned back and met Jack’s eyes and said, “I don’t think so.”
Jack nodded, knowing that Tosh and Ianto were close and was glad of it, but he suddenly felt deliberately wounded anyway.
“Jack,” she said, leaning over the table toward him, “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said anything at all. It’s just, well, I think he’ll be okay tomorrow.”
“Is it Lisa?” Jack asked, trying again.
“Okay. I’m sorry,” he said, drinking more coffee and gathering up the papers left from the budget. He stood and put his hand on her shoulder. “I’m glad he has you, you know,” he said, kissing the top of her head as he left the room. He headed back to his office and couldn’t concentrate, so he did what he knew he shouldn’t and did some investigating of his own.
A couple hours later when it was clear nothing was going to happen any time soon, he sent everyone else home and sat in his office listening to Vivaldi for a while. He wasn’t sure what to do with what he had learned from the file, but he certainly understood why Ianto would want to be alone this afternoon. He drank a shot of scotch in memory of what he’d found, and then made a decision.
Ianto Jones was angry at the rift for being silent today. Of all days to have nothing to do, it had to be today. He couldn’t remember the last time he didn’t have anything to do on this date. He’d managed to be busy with Torchwood last year, the year before that he had Lisa, and the previous years had melted into days of making sure something was planned so he didn’t think too much. This year it had snuck up on him and he’d been completely sideswiped with nothing to do but think.
“Goodbye, Mum,” he said quietly, looking up into her stormy eyes. She looked away and didn’t answer, and then she turned her back on them and stared out the window. Rhi said goodbye and got nothing either, so finally the two of them walked out of the room and found their father waiting in the lobby. He didn’t say anything, just unfolded his tall, thin frame out of the small hospital chair he’d been sitting in and frowned at them. “Quit crying,” he growled to Rhiannon, who had lost control of herself on the stairs down to the lobby. She tried, and Ianto slipped his small hand into her bigger one as they left the building and felt her grip it tightly. Their father silently unlocked the doors to the car and climbed in behind the wheel. The drive home was silent, too, and Rhiannon didn’t let go of Ianto’s hand until they climbed out of the car.
As Ianto walked into their house, he headed toward his bedroom, intent on burying himself in something, a comic book, a game, anything. His father startled him when he grabbed Ianto’s arm, hard, and spun him around and pointed his finger in Ianto’s face. “This is your fault. You and your school troubles and just bein’ weird. You’d better not cause me any trouble at all, boy, or I’ll make sure you understand just how much of this is your fault.” He shoved Ianto down the hallway and into his bedroom and Ianto whirled to see the darkness in his father’s eyes and the wild look on his face. Rhiannon stood in the hallway behind them, her face contorted in fear as his father slammed the door to his room and left.
The day his mother was committed was the day his world finally crumbled to pieces.
Ianto had caved and told Tosh what was wrong, fumbled through asking Jack if he could leave, knew Jack thought something was up, but then stumbled out of the tourist office into the afternoon sunlight and climbed into his car and just started driving. He surprised himself when he arrived at his apparent destination.
“Ianto?” Rhiannon asked when she opened the door.
He suddenly didn’t know what to say. He really wasn’t in the habit of showing up on her doorstep unannounced. He really wasn’t in the habit of showing up on her doorstep at all. She looked at him anxiously and he found himself unable to hold her gaze, shifting his eyes to stare at his feet.
“Come in, you idiot,” she said after a moment, gently tugging his arm and pulling him into her living room. He looked around and saw the vacuum in the middle of the floor. He realized the kids were probably still in school, which was good for him. She offered him some tea and they sat down at her kitchen table together.
“You came today,” she said, setting the tea down in front of him. “You usually just call.”
He sipped the hot drink. “I know. I’m sorry for not calling.”
She smiled at him. “I’m glad you came.”
“I didn’t know I was going to come. I just had some free time,” he mumbled into his cup.
“Yeah, that’s okay. It’s just good to see you,” she said, reaching across the table for his hand. He just looked at her hand, though, and then back at his cup. They hadn’t been close like that for a while. She pulled her hand back, “Sorry.”
He looked up at her and just stared for a moment, lost in the memory of the tough girl who would come in after, scolding him for provoking their father and then wiping the blood away and holding him while he cried. When he got older and didn’t cry anymore she just slipped in, bandaged his wounds and left him alone. “It’s okay,” he told her. “I just, well. I usually have a way to keep busy for this day.” He took a deep breath. “I just didn’t have much to do today and it got. . . overwhelming.”
She nodded, “Yeah. Okay.”
They sat for a while and he asked her about the kids and Johnny, and soon the kids came home from school and squealed in delight to see their uncle, and he played outside in the garden with them and then walked them down to a playground nearby and pushed Mica on the swings and kicked a football around with David for a bit. He dragged them home to Rhiannon over an hour later and left after many hugs. She walked him out to his car.
“Got something to take your mind off it tonight?” she asked. He was impressed that it wasn’t more obviously a question about girlfriends.
He gave her a grin and said, “I’ll phone some mates if I need to. I’ll be okay.” After a pause, he pulled her into a hug and whispered into her ear, “Thanks.” She nodded into his shoulder and pushed him into his car. He drove to his flat, not having any other ideas of what to do with himself.
He let himself into the silent living room and threw his coat on the rack and pulled his shoes off. He wandered across the pale carpet and into his stark kitchen and stopped. Sitting on the black-granite counter was a clear glass vase, and in the vase were six gorgeous day lilies and a note.
“I figured out what might be wrong today – though Tosh didn’t tell me. There’s food in your fridge so you won’t skip dinner. Don’t worry about calling me, just be safe and get some rest. If you do want company, I’ll be around. --- Jack”
Ianto stood and stared at the note for a moment and then the day caught up with him. He leaned on the counter with both hands, head ducked, taking deep breaths, trying to stop the waves of grief and anger threatening to overwhelm him. After a moment he stood and straightened his shoulders and then opened the refrigerator door. He had to laugh, which might have been one of Jack’s intents. Pulling the bottle of wine off the full, top shelf and then closing the door, he dug his phone out of his pocket and dialed Jack.
After only one ring, Jack answered, “Hey,” in a voice filled with concern. Ianto smiled.
“You stocked my fridge,” he said, chuckling into the phone.
After a pause, Jack replied, “Well, it was empty. And I didn’t know what you’d want.”
There was another pause and Jack asked, “Are you all right?”
Hearing the worry in Jack’s voice, seeing the flowers on the counter, the food in the fridge, Ianto suddenly sunk to the floor with his back against a cupboard and clung to the phone. “No,” he said raggedly. “Can you come over?” And, just as suddenly, he knew what he wanted. “I’d like to tell you about my mother.”