The first week after Jack
leaves disappears is terrifyingly like the first week after Lisa died.
Ianto had thought he was over this. He’d thought he was through with loving people who were halfway out the door, halfway to gone, but it’s obvious he’s not. Lisa is dead. Jack has vanished. They’ve both left him. He wasn’t enough to keep them here.
He never was, can't understand why he thought he ever could be. That is, apparently, the way life will always be for him.
He’s broken, shattered, and this time he doesn’t have Jack's firm, staunch presence to help put himself back together.
It’s cold comfort that the others are little better. Gwen is wrecked and Owen shaken, Tosh withdrawn back into herself.
But they're all traitors, and this is what they deserve, isn’t it? Ianto wants to be strong for them, wants to fix them, but he has no idea how. Easier to fix himself, he thinks despairingly, and he’s never managed that, either.
If Jack were here, he’d know what to do. He’d flirt with Gwen and send her home to Rhys with a smile, tease Owen out of his mood and take him on a pub-crawl, and gently draw Tosh out of her shell. Ianto can't do any of that. It’s just not who he is, and he’d doubtless bullocks it all up if he tried. He isn’t Jack, can't imagine even trying to fill those shoes.
So he doesn’t.
Stand up, he tells himself, staring into the mirror that he usually avoids. A pale man looks back at him, tired and heartsore, with eyes that are most definitely older than twenty-four years. Torchwood One and Four are nonexistent; you can't let Torchwood Three fade away too. Jack wouldn’t want that.
Jack will need somewhere to come home to.
There's no doubt, in Ianto’s mind, that Jack will come back. He’s got eternity, after all. And even if he returns after Ianto is dead,
which is quite possible, given the average lifespan of a Torchwood employee, Ianto wants Torchwood to still be standing.
This is not selflessness. It’s the hope that maybe, somehow, some way, Jack won't forget him the minute he’s out of sight. That some part of Jack, some little shard, feels as much for Ianto as Ianto does for him. Because Ianto is stupid, stupid and foolish and far too prone to falling in love, and should have known he’d never be able to keep his thing with Jack purely physical.
It’s fairly obvious that Jack doesn’t have the same problem, but oh, how Ianto wishes he did.
It’s selfish of him, he knows. Jack will live forever, unable to die, and Ianto shouldn’t want to inflict any more pain on him than is absolutely necessary. But then, Ianto’s not a good person. He’s not even particularly nice.
Ianto blows out a soft breath and rakes a hand through his hair, wondering if the others on the team would even recognize their ever-collected tea boy in the frazzled young man staring out of the mirror. Probably not, but then, Ianto’s worked hard to cultivate a certain image and never stray from it. They never seem to realize that he’s the youngest of them, for all that he has the most experience after Jack.
That’s good, though; that’s what he wants.
The Rift alarm goes off, echoing inside his skull. Ianto sighs again and resists the suddenly almost overwhelming urge to beat his skull open on the mirror’s edge, even as he straightens and pulls out his phone. A text message is enough to summon the others in—they're all on edge, expecting the world to tear itself apart without Jack here. Ianto rather expects it, too, though he doesn’t have quite the hero-worship for Jack that the others do. Seeing the rather odd face the Captain pulls in particularly intense orgasm fixed that quite nicely, thanks.
It had made Ianto laugh the first time, actually, which had made Jack pout, and Ianto laugh harder. They’d ended up rolling around on the bed, giggling like teenagers groping for the first time. Ianto still remembers it as one of the best nights he’s ever had, with anyone.
So Jack's not an infallible hero to Ianto. That doesn’t mean he’s not a hero, or that Ianto thinks the world will be any definition of stable with him gone. But he’s better prepared to hold things together than the others, especially now. Even with his and Jack's relationship, he’s still going to be better at standing strong.
His phone beeps three times, signaling three texts. Ianto doesn’t need to look at them to see what they say (immediate agreement and compliance from Tosh, an “I’ll be there in a moment, wait for me,” from Gwen, irate and utterly unthreatening grumbling from Owen, who will nevertheless be the first to arrive), but heads for the armory as he fits his new comm into his ear. The gun feels heavy in his hand, but familiar. He’s had training, from One and from Jack—though it’s a tossup which was more ridiculous, One’s bureaucratized funnel system to turn out as many field agents as possible (the end test of which Ianto deliberately failed; he never particularly wanted to be a field agent) or the Captain’s lesson in how-to sexual harassment. He’s not helpless.
The others are going to need help in the field, and even though what Ianto said to Tosh during the incident with the cannibals is still very much true, and he can't completely understand the thrill they get out of it—because Ianto is above all a sensible man, even when he’s doing foolish things—he’s…
They need extra hands, an extra gun.
He can provide that until the Captain returns.
And Jack will return, there's little doubt about that. The only question is to when. Ianto, personally, is willing to wait forever.
There's no time for sentimentality.
Torchwood is needed.
It’s aliens, of course. Equally predictably, it’s not easy.
It’s a race Ianto has never encountered before, though he is certain Jack would have known them—biblically, no doubt—and been able to tell the team exactly why the creatures having crashed in the midst of a travelling funfair was so terrible.
To be fair, Ianto and the others discover that for themselves within ten minutes of arriving. It turns out the aliens—who look rather like exceptionally hairy hobbits, and have Ianto formulating cover stories involving bands of uncivilized pygmies the moment he sees them—have raided the cotton candy booth in the seven minutes it took Torchwood to arrive.
Sugar rush .
Ianto’s never been exhausted in his life. It’s like herding cats dosed up on catnip and let loose in a yarn factory. The only aliens remaining in control of their faculties (two of them), who seem to communicate in clicks and yips, are helping in rounding up their companions, and looking just as frazzled as the Torchwood team. Ianto pauses for a moment, looking around, and half-wishes he hadn’t.
Gwen is on the ground, three of the creatures on her back and pulling at her hair. Another two have Owen treed in the scaffolding of the Ferris wheel. Tosh has taken refuge on top of the SUV, typing rapidly on her tablet as she tries to conjure some type of technological miracle. Ianto himself is all but wading through a pile of downed pygmies—the stun gun he prefers to carry is far more useful here than a real gun, because they're friendly aliens, and while Torchwood One might not have changed their shoot-first approach because of that, Torchwood Three follows the Captain’s rules even when the man himself is absent. They won't hurt these visitors if they have any choice at all.
A pygmy bolts across Ianto’s path and slams into a tent’s support pole, emitting a high-pitched giggle-wail that makes Ianto’s hair stand on end. He jabs it with the stun gun and sighs, rolling his eyes.
Just another day at Torchwood, then.
They survive, because that’s what they're all good at. They go on, do the work, save lives, and try to stay alive. None of them ever really doubt that Jack is going to return, that he’ll sweep in at some sufficiently dramatic moment and save the day, the girl, and the team, or all of the above.
Ianto’s not angry with the Captain—he never has been. It’s a little awkward, though, because he’s well aware that their thing, which formally started over Suzie’s corpse with reference to a stopwatch, was never supposed to be official or permanent or anything of the sort. Jack doesn’t grow attached, except to things he can't have. And they’ve both known, from the very start, that Jack can have Ianto however and whenever he wants.
Still, Ianto knows he wasn’t supposed to get invested. He wasn’t supposed to get attached any more than he already was. It’s impossible, though, and it was from the very start. Ianto has always loved the wrong people, loved too deeply and too blindly, to the exclusion of all else, and he can't be anything but invested.
He loves Jack. No matter the pain, regardless of the waiting, despite the fact that he knows quite well that Jack will never feel the same, Ianto loves Jack with everything he can bear
and a good bit that he can't.
There's no rationality to it, but then, this is Torchwood. If Ianto wanted rationality in any facet of his life, he’d have Retconned himself long ago. Even if the world is a little more prone to implosion, even if it’s spinning a little off its axis and out of alignment now that Jack's
left gone, he’ll keep on.
He’s Torchwood. It’s what they do.
“Hey, kids. Did you miss me?”
And just like that, the Earth falls back into perfect orbit.
Ianto’s orbit—firmly around Captain Jack, and forever unwavering—settles as well.
It won't ever shake again.