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Unable to stay

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The suitcase was still under the bed, just where he'd left it. He couldn't remember the last time he'd used it. Who had time for holidays? It probably hadn't been used since he and Lisa had done that trip to France so many years ago. Packing back then had been a nuisance, now it was just going to be an unfortunate necessity. There was no holiday attached this time, just the prospect of an empty bed, bleak weather, and having to force himself through each day.

He didn't want to leave, but there was no other choice in the circumstances. This might have been his flat, but he couldn't stay here. Hauling the case onto the bed, he opened it up, feeling just as empty and hollow as it did. Not for long though. Soon the only thing that would feel empty would be him.

The top drawer emptied easily into the bottom of the case - socks and small clothes - nothing requiring careful folding. It wasn't until he came face to face with the wardrobe that he was forced to confront the enormity of what he was doing. Four jackets and matching pants were pulled out, laid on the bed to be packed last, the wardrobe looking barren and abandoned without them.

As if sensing abandonment, he felt rather than heard Jack's presence as he hovered in the open doorway. Before Jack could open his mouth, Ianto stopped him with a look.

'No, don't speak to me. Stand there if you must, but don't say a word. Not one.'

Jack was hurt, but he knew why Ianto had given him the caveat.

Ianto looked up for a split second when Jack was looking the other way, and was surprised to find Jack adhering to the one rule he'd put in place. It was for his own good. Jack had a devilish way with words and Ianto knew that given half a chance, he'd try to talk him down and out of this crazy idea. And worse, Ianto knew he'd cave in to whatever promises and apologies Jack made. One word was all it would take, just his name beseeched in the right tone of voice would send his resolve crumbling away. He had to do this, and he had to put up a wall between them or else he was never going to go through with it.

Jack watched on, trying not the hide the pained expression that was plainly on his face.

No, not that one, he thought, that's my favourite, as he watched Ianto slip the tie off the rack and place it in the case. Whatever Ianto left behind would inevitably end up being pulled out of the cupboard so that Jack could hold it up to his face, breathing in the scent of the man who'd worn it. That was assuming he left anything at all. Jack might just crawl into their bed, burying his head in Ianto's pillow, and refuse to ever get out again.

Ianto began rolling up the tie, feeling through soft silk under his fingers and trying desperately hard not to think about memories of the silk being wrapped around his wrist, tethering him to their bed head. He had to go. He couldn't stay here, and the harder he wrapped the tie around his hand the more he knew it for sure. He pulled it off and quickly shoved it in.

He should have felt joyously happy. Four days ago they'd saved the entire planet from sacrificing millions of children to the 456. Four days ago he'd nearly died, but Jack had somehow saved him, giving him something of his immortality to put a stopper on death. They should have been celebrating, perhaps packing a suitcase and taking a well earned trip to the Bahamas.

But four days ago Jack had lied to him. Four days ago he'd come to realise that everything he knew about Jack was a lie. Four days ago Jack had done the unthinkable, and try as he might, Ianto couldn't stand to be in the same room as him.

He hadn't been there when Jack needed him most. Jack may have spared him from death, but it was a hospital bed he found himself waking up in, the only survivor of the alien virus in Thames House. By the time he'd frantically discharged himself, which was easily done since everyone around him had simply stopped functioning, watching on in horror as the world they knew was ending, he was too late. He was running down the halls of the facility where they'd taken Jack, only to arrive after it was over. He'd never forget the image of the boy lying there, helpless and bloodied, his mother screaming over and over again in her grief. Jack's grandson and daughter - the ones Ianto had never even known about - and Jack, standing there devoid of all emotion. Ianto wanted to ask why, but the words had turned to dust in his mouth. Why hadn't he said something sooner, why hadn't he let Ianto in, why hadn't let Ianto help. So many why's. Instead he'd simply melted into the background, watching it all unfold like a helpless spectator. He'd kept his own family at distance from Torchwood, and now he was letting Jack do the same. It wasn't his place to get involved, watching as Jack's own daughter walked away from him, never to return. He knew how she felt.

Ianto had tried to put himself in Jack's shoes, trying to understand what made a man sacrifice his own flesh and blood, but found he couldn't. In the days since, there was only one question on his mind. What if it had been David or Mica that had been close at hand? Would Jack have sacrificed them without so much as a second thought? Did those closest to him really matter that little? It was the question he desperately didn't want to know the answer to. Had he been there, would he have tried to stop Jack? One child or millions, and still he didn't know the answer, but he couldn't accept the choice Jack had made. The man standing in front of him had become a complete stranger overnight. A heartless, emotionless shell that he once would have done anything for. Now, thinking about what he'd done made Ianto feel sick.

The shirt slipped easily off the hanger and he folded it, packing it into the case. Concentrating on the neatness of the folds stopped him from thinking about everything else, just for a moment, refocusing his thoughts. He went back for another, then a third, before realising that none of them coordinated with the ties he'd already packed. That wasn't like him at all.

His subconscious didn't want him to go, that what what it was. No, he decided, he had to go. He couldn't bear to be in the room with Jack anymore. He'd filled out the paperwork without even thinking about it, transferring himself to UNIT for an indefinite period. In the aftermath of the 456 incident, they'd need all hands on deck to unravel the mess. Torchwood was gone, but he could still be useful. He hadn't consulted Jack, or Gwen, simply rubber stamping the whole thing himself. Cardiff didn't need him. It had Jack, a man who'd sacrifice everything for the greater good. He'd proven that he didn't need Ianto or Gwen. They'd do just fine without him. More to the point, Jack would do just fine without him.

Shoes. I need shoes, he thought. How had he not thought of that? He'd already signed a short term lease for a pokey little flat on the outskirts of London, but he hadn't given a thought to shoes.

Ianto was hurting. He couldn't spare a thought for how much Jack might be hurting. Did a man who killed his own grandson have the capacity to hurt? Who knew. Feeling Jack's eyes on him from the doorway, he wasn't sure anymore. Jack didn't want him to go, but if that was true why did he still keep so many secrets? Anything he said could have been a complete fiction and Ianto would eat it up like it was God's honest truth. How blind had he been to think that Jack felt him worthy of the truth? He was just another pawn to be used, a warm body for comfort and probably nothing more. If he felt remorse for his actions, Ianto couldn't find it in himself to afford Jack any sympathy. His own feelings threatened to overwhelm him. He didn't have anything left to offer Jack.

He smoothed his hand over the neat piles of clothing in the suitcase, making sure they were packed flat. There wouldn't be time to iron them by the time he got in tonight. He'd also have to pick up a new toothbrush on the way. They'd probably sell them at the train station, or the local Spar. Yes, he'd get toiletries when he got there. He could take what he had now, but it would mean grabbing them from the bathroom, and that meant going past Jack who was stood in the doorway. He didn't think he could. One look at those blue eyes and he'd want to stop and say something, to ask him why he'd done it. He wanted Jack to grab him and stop him, to tell him that he meant everything to him and that he needed him. He wanted to know that Jack had only done what he'd done because the world had given him no other choice. Perhaps if Ianto had been there, they could have found another way together. He blamed himself for what had happened just as much as Jack for making the choice.

But instead, Jack had done the one thing Ianto didn't expect, and done exactly as he was told. Don't say a word. Those had been Ianto's instructions. Word were all meaningless. Words just equated to the base components of lies, and Ianto had had his fill of lies and half truths.

He only prayed Jack would eventually leave so that he could get out of their bedroom at all. Please stop me, Jack. If there's any hope left in this world, please stop me from leaving. He desperately had to know that Jack still felt something, and that the person he'd had fallen in love with was still in there somewhere, buried underneath all the pain and the horror.

Jack wanted to cry, but he found he couldn't muster up any tears. All his emotions had abandoned him, leaving him feeling empty and hollow, just like his lover. He wanted Ianto to hold him and tell him everything would be okay, and that he'd be forgiven for the terrible things he'd done. Instead, his lover looked at him as if he were a monster. Perhaps he was. The two people in this world he'd been meant to protect more than any others and he'd destroyed them. He wished he could have destroyed himself instead. Maybe he'd still get the chance yet.

Ianto was leaving him, perhaps forever. A few days ago he'd thought he was going to lose him forever, and then a miracle had happened. But for one life, he'd had to pay the price of another. He should have known that it would all come at a horrendous cost. It always did. Had he known, he might not have made the same choices.

Ianto had commanded him not to say a word, and for once he found himself able to abide by it. He couldn't find words to express what he was feeling. If he could have thrown himself into a bottomless pit and stayed there for all of eternity, he would have. He didn't deserve love, and he certainly didn't deserve someone like Ianto. He couldn't blame Ianto for wanting to leave.

Hearing the zip skirt around the case, sealing it shut, it felt like Ianto was unzipping his heart, spilling all of the blood from it, leaving him bleeding and dying right there on the floor. He couldn't breathe. This was the real death; one he wouldn't come back from.

This is your fault, Jack. You hurt everyone who knows you and you'll always end up alone.

He backed away, fading from the doorway like a spectre. He couldn't watch Ianto walk out that door, knowing he probably wouldn't ever come back. he might have saved the world, but he'd lost everything else in the process.

Ianto turned and found the room empty. Jack was gone, unable to stay. Even thought he now had the flat to himself, it still felt as if Jack were everywhere all at once, permeating the walls and the air itself. He had to go, or he'd suffocate. Gwen would understand why he had to leave. He dragged the suitcase along the hall, pausing in the kitchen to bin the contents of the fridge. Jack might come back but he wouldnt eat. He probably wouldn't even sleep. He'd only come back to punish himself.

Taking the bag outside to drop into the dumpster, he felt the drizzle clinging to his face, as if trying to keep him here. No, he thought, stepping back inside. Maybe he'd come back, or maybe he wouldn't. He didn't know if he could forgive Jack and whether there was anything left to salvage. He'd miss his family, the ones he'd come so close to losing, but he'd be protecting them from getting involved with Jack. That was the best he could manage.

He pulled the suitcase out into the foyer, letting the door click behind him, feeling a huge lump in the back of his throat that he struggled to swallow down, leaving his old life behind him. His suitcase had never felt so heavy.