There was something deeply unsettling about a Jack Harkness too tired to take his own or anyone else's clothes off, but Ianto was too tired to be properly unsettled by it. He made a mental note to look back upon this at some point in the future and be truly disturbed; it would probably come just before or after the point when he looked back on this and laughed.
For now, Ianto slumped on the settee and tried not to move at all. His head was tipped against Jack's shoulder, his hand resting on Jack's still-trousered thigh. Jack's hand had fallen on top of his, and rested there heavily. Every part of Ianto's body ached, and he knew Jack was, for once, not much better off. Jack had been making Ianto and Gwen take nights off between disasters, even a day or two when he could spare one of them, but he'd been constantly in motion himself, trying to set Cardiff to rights.
He'd even been running out to deal with things alone when neither Ianto nor Gwen could keep up with him anymore. Ianto knew it was a bit stupid to worry about what could happen to Jack on his own, but death did tend to incapacitate him for at least a few minutes. It could put him off his stride for a while after that, depending on the exact degree and kind of trauma. The collateral damage from one of Jack's deaths was potentially enormous. If he kept running about by himself it was just a matter of time, and he would only blame himself, and push himself harder still.
The answer was to find replacements for Tosh and Owen, of course, maybe even an extra warm body or two for field work. Ianto had a stack of CVs he'd swiped from Jack's desk, where they'd been doomed never to be reviewed. There were dozens of candidates with various levels of training and experience to recommend them, but Jack just kept tending to the immediate crises, insisting that someone would turn up, because people always turned up.
"Just like you, right?" He'd chucked Ianto under the chin and kissed him. That, like most of the ways Jack mixed business and pleasure, was too familiar to be unsettling at all.
Maybe Ianto would have to start arranging for these people to turn up. He could tell them it was an interview, reschedule it at the last minute to the location of an outbreak of Rift activity. Jack could meet them in action and see where things went after that.
It might work. Ianto would have to ask Gwen about it; he'd need her help to carry it off more than once or twice.
As if his thought had summoned her, Ianto heard Gwen's familiar footfalls on the grating. With an effort, he opened his eyes and looked. She was walking toward them, neatly dressed, and looked like she'd had a shower and some sleep. She was just coming off her turn for thirty-six straight hours away. Ianto was due for one of those next week, if nothing came up, and he felt a dull burn of jealousy.
Gwen came to a stop a few feet in front of him and Jack, and Ianto forced himself to push off and sit more or less upright. When he looked at Gwen properly like that, straight up and down, he could see something was wrong; she was much too tidily dressed for work, holding herself too stiffly. Ianto felt the moment Jack saw it; Jack's hand tightened on his and then let go, and Jack was braced as if for impact. Ianto felt awake again, sharply and rather unpleasantly so, though he still didn't feel eager to move.
"Stand, please, Jack," Gwen said.
Ianto felt Jack push back into the cushions, automatically resisting whatever was about to happen. "Gwen, what--"
"Stand, Jack, please." Gwen's voice shook a little, but there was force behind it. She held Jack's gaze steadily, eyes wide and bright, lips pressing tight.
"Please," she repeated softly, and gestured from herself to Jack and back. "I've something to say, and I'd like to be facing you, eye-to-eye, when I say it."
Jack heaved himself to his feet and Ianto followed. He could not fail to follow Jack now, could not leave him to face this of all things alone. Gwen had said she didn't think she could bear it much longer, and now she'd gotten to the point where she had to have this conversation with Jack.
He'd have to orchestrate finding replacements on his own, then, but perhaps that would simplify matters. He rested his hand on the back of Jack's shoulder, his fingertips landing only inches from Gwen's as she also reached out to touch him.
He saw her other hand settle on the gun at her hip--he'd failed to notice her going armed, but they all did so often, now. Only Ianto wasn't, and Jack wasn't, because they'd got exactly that far in undressing; both their weapons were three crucial feet away on the end of the settee.
"Captain Jack Harkness," Gwen said, with a police officer's careful precision. "I am relieving you of your command."
Ianto thought he felt a tremor pass through Jack's body, but it might only have been himself feeling shaken. Jack stood his ground, steady as stone, and shook Gwen's hand off his shoulder with a laugh, weary but almost honestly amused.
"As if you could."
Gwen's expression didn't change, though she folded her arms across her chest--taking her hand off the gun, so maybe Ianto should be going for his, if he could just make himself move away from Jack.
Jack had laughed, though, and that had to be the right reaction. Gwen couldn't possibly be serious.
"It wasn't a question, Jack," she said, perfectly deadpan. "I think you'll find I have done, several seconds ago. You are relieved of command of Torchwood."
Ianto shifted his weight to the side, looking away from Gwen to Jack's face for the first time. Jack's jaw was set, his expression stonily furious.
"Saying it isn't going to make it so, Gwen. What are you going to do when I refuse, shoot me? That's not going to get you far."
Gwen shook her head, her eyes steady on Jack's. "That's your way of running things, Jack, not mine. I won't put my gun to anyone's head to make them follow orders."
Her gaze flicked sharply sideways, meeting Ianto's eyes for the first time, and he felt it like a blow, and had to look away. He remembered snarling at Jack, that childish protest. I won't do it. You can't make me.
But Jack couldn't make him, and hadn't. And that had to mean Gwen couldn't make him, either. Whatever she was trying here, she couldn't possibly force it through.
"That's no way to run an organization." Gwen said. "Not sensibly, not for any length of time."
As if there were anything sensible about Torchwood--about Jack's Torchwood, anyway. Ianto couldn't help thinking of Torchwood London, the memory laden with the guilty awareness of disloyalty as he considered the ruthlessly organized machine the Institute had been, all but kneeling down to kiss the Charter and the books of rules and regulations. There had been standards and protocols, quality kit and assigned working shifts and rotas for making the coffee. There had been staffing redundancy and a Human Resources Department.
"Torchwood operates under a Royal Charter," Gwen recited slowly, as though laying out a logic puzzle. "I have spoken to the Prime Minister and been granted command by Her Majesty. I have the Hub's authority codes."
Ianto looked up, startled. That shouldn't have been possible--she had to be bluffing. Gwen looked like she was bluffing, actually, a brittle kind of breath-held tension gripping her. But Ianto had seen her look just the same in the field--the first time she ordered them into danger in Jack's absence, and again when Jack had tried to put her off the Flat Holm Island facility. She was scared of what was going to push back against her, but not because she didn't believe what she was saying.
Because she was scared of what she'd have to do next. Because she would do it.
"You're locked out, Jack. I repeat, I am in command now."
As unobtrusively as he could, Ianto raised his hand to the comm in his ear, tapping at it. It wasn't just quiet. It was dead.
"Emergency protocol 417," Jack said to the air in tones of utter blithe authority. Ianto's stomach twisted.
Jack scowled, raised his wrist and tapped at his wristband.
Still nothing. The Hub was silent and still around them.
Ianto wished Gwen would gloat, so that he could hate her for this--for putting Jack into this position, for making Jack helpless. She didn't speak, didn't smile, but Ianto saw the tiniest portion of tension ease from her; she'd cleared a hurdle and she knew it.
Jack dropped his hands to his sides. "Do you have any idea how long I've been here?"
"One hundred fourteen years in Torchwood, eight and a half in command, give or take your recent sabbatical," Gwen replied promptly.
Ianto had had a vague idea that Jack had always been at Torchwood, but one hundred fourteen years was so definite, and such a long time to be doing this job. And yet--eight years in command, out of all that?
"Torchwood is mine." Jack's voice dropped nearly to a growl. "There's no end to the ways I could sabotage you."
"This isn't about who wins in a back alley fight, Jack. We both know you can destroy me if you like." Ianto thought of Suzie's body in the morgue drawer, killed when she overreached--dead of Torchwood, Jack had said. Dead of Jack, which was the same thing. Jack had only been defending them--defending Gwen, in fact--but surely he wouldn't--Gwen hadn't raised a weapon, hadn't threatened anyone's life. Surely he wouldn't.
Gwen looked as if she were repeating the same to herself, a hectic flush on her cheeks, chin tipped up firmly. She was looking up at Jack, meeting his eyes squarely. The effect was half bloody-minded determination, half human sacrifice offering her throat to the knife. "This isn't about you and me. This is about properly constituted authority. Torchwood is chartered by the Crown. Command has been granted to me. The only question that remains is whether you will continue to serve where you are needed."
"Needed," Jack echoed, giving the word a bitter twist, his shoulders slumping as his anger turned to scorn. "Clearly I'm not needed at all--there was my recent sabbatical, like you said. I suppose thats what convinced you that you could run Torchwood."
"We can survive without you if we must, and don't you dare fault us for it," Gwen snapped, forgetting to be afraid in the sheer frustration of dealing with Jack in a mood.
"You taught us well, but Ianto and I combined haven't got four years at this, let alone a hundred fourteen. Cardiff is still a disaster zone. We need you out there, but we also need someone here. Someone to actually be in command at headquarters, not just leading the team in the field."
It wasn't a coup d'etat, Ianto realized, staring at Gwen. It was a sensible division of labor. It wasn't just properly constituted authority--it was efficient. Jack out there fighting, Gwen in the office.
Only Gwen had ambushed Jack with it, and Jack was resisting, because what else could he do--and Ianto was standing beside him, asking himself that question. There was no end to what he owed to Jack; failing Jack now was not an option he could consider, no matter what higher and more distant authority Gwen invoked.
Gwen looked right at Ianto, then, as if she'd heard that. "Ianto, this affects you, too. You must make your choice. Will you follow me, yes or no?"
Jack turned, too, stepping away from Ianto and facing him, so that Ianto was pinned beneath their combined gazes. Jack gave away nothing, but then what could he possibly have to signal to Ianto? Where else could Ianto's loyalty possibly lie, but with Jack? The question should be simple. It was simple.
It was only that following Jack would mean following him into battle--not against aliens and chaos and evil, but against Gwen and the Crown, for God's sake--or, worse, against both at the same time. Jack might deem it necessary, but it would be civil war, and they would be the revolutionaries. Ianto still wouldn't bet against Jack--not against Jack facing down the planet, Jack against the bloody universe--but it would be ugly, and he himself was not nearly so durable. He didn't mind going down fighting, but he didn't want to go down fighting Gwen.
On the other hand, he'd seen what Torchwood could bring down on itself when it went wrong. It would be worth fighting that.
"I was at the Battle of Canary Wharf," Ianto said, before he'd quite decided to say anything. Gwen's mouth went tight, and her nod was respectful, as to a mourner; she knew more than she had done, of what Canary Wharf meant. Ianto tried not to look directly at Jack, but he felt the coldness of his stare anyway. He'd heard Ianto's temporizing as the betrayal it nearly was.
"I've seen what became of the last woman who the Queen placed in command. I know what she used us for, thinking she was doing right. Is that where you're headed?"
There was no possible answer to that but no--still, the way she answered might give him some idea of what to do next. Might give Jack some idea, because Ianto didn't see how he himself tipped the balance much, one way or the other.
Gwen pushed her hair back and offered him a small, weary smile, and he suddenly wasn't sure she'd gotten any sleep at all--who had time to sleep while planning a coup?
"It's still me, Ianto. It's still Gwen. You know me."
And it was true, that was the terrible part; he knew her as he'd never come close to knowing the fearsome Yvonne Hartman. He was too close, maybe--he couldnt tell whether the belief that she'd never make those mistakes was fondness talking, or a well-informed evaluation. He'd been blinded by love before, after all.
"Everything I know about Torchwood, I've learned from Jack. Torchwood London went down in flames, and we're lucky it wasn't worse. No one wants to rebuild it the way it was."
Gwen reached into her jacket and withdrew a set of folded sheets, with an unmistakable wax seal. "Torchwood London followed its mandate to the letter. You saw what came of that; so did the Queen. The Torchwood Institute's Charter has been dissolved by royal decree, and Her Majesty has granted a new one."
That caught Jack's attention, and Gwen saw it. She gave up all pretense of speaking to Ianto, gesturing to Jack with the folded pages like an olive branch, like a bridge. Like a rope for a drowning man.
"In general, this document sets forth the guiding principles of your Torchwood, Jack." Gwen dared to smile at Jack now, wryly, as if they were all on the same team still. "So much as anyone can derive principles from observing you."
Jack's scowl only deepened at Gwen's mockery. He folded his arms across his chest, looming at Gwen like only a man with a hundred-odd years of practice could.
This was bigger than Jack, though. This was Torchwood. This was the Charter.
"You may find the exact language of paragraph twelve interesting," Gwen said, dropping her gaze not so much as if she could not hold Jack's eyes but as if she were dismissing him, leaving Jack glowering at the top of her head. She gently broke the seal and unfolded the pages, shifting them until she found her place. She read slowly, in a measured, practiced tone, clumsily pressing expression into the dry phrases.
"Firstly, contrary to the grievously mistaken doctrines of the past, the Torchwood Institute recognizes that the alien person commonly known as The Doctor has been ever a friend to the United Kingdom, the Planet Earth, and the human race, all of whom owe him a great debt of gratitude."
Ianto stared blankly at Gwen. Firstly, he thought. Turn the entire fucking Charter on its head. Not that he could object to it, personally; it didn't take a genius to notice Jack's perpetual friendly references to a particular doctor. Ianto had long suspected--no, had known--that Jack was, in that rather significant instance, subverting Torchwood's essential directive. Ianto just hadn't thought the Queen knew.
"And secondly," Gwen said, looking up from the page to divide a significant look between Ianto and Jack, snapping Ianto's attention back into focus.
"The remarkable human person known to the Torchwood Institute as Captain Jack Harkness--"
Jack's face went utterly blank, and then he turned his back on them both. Ianto thought now is when you jump him but didn't know if that was directed to himself or Gwen, instruction or prediction. He stayed frozen, and so did Jack. Gwen kept reading, gaining speed and certainty as she went.
"--Shall have the inalienable right of self-determination in his dealings with the Torchwood Institute, including the right to end all association. Irrespective of his status in relation to the Torchwood Institute, Harkness shall for ever be afforded all the rights, privileges and protections of a human person legally residing in the United Kingdom."
Human person. What had Torchwood done to Jack, in his first one hundred six years, that the Queen and the Prime Minister and Gwen all found it necessary to call him human and give him the right to quit if he liked?
Those were simple questions, though, with obvious answers. Ianto knew enough of Torchwood's history and techniques to know that. One hundred fourteen years ago, they'd found a man who couldn't die, perhaps talking even then about a Doctor. What wouldn't they have done to him?
And Jack had had his revenge on Torchwood, a hundred six years on. Somehow Jack had seized control of Torchwood Three. He'd stolen Torchwood's name and twisted it to his own ends, Charter be bloody damned.
And now the Queen took back what he'd made and named it Torchwood all over again, with all honor. The Charter Jack must have hated, the Charter that gave them the right to do what they liked to him because he was alien and unnatural, was dissolved. In its place was this document, upholding Jack as a remarkable human person.
"Legal residence." Jack turned to face Gwen, a stubborn sneer on his face as he stepped close to her, enough to emphasize the difference in their heights, enough to make her show her throat if she wanted to meet his eyes. "I have to say I've been offered more interesting bribes."
It's not a bribe, Ianto thought, though it wasn't his place to say. Jack wouldn't hear it anyway--not now, not with that look on his face. It's victory.
"It's not an offer," Gwen said, exasperated but gentle, as if Jack were no more than a stubborn child. "It's what you've been owed for a very long time, Jack, and it's already set down regardless of what you do next. "
Gwen slapped the Charter against his chest. "It's up to you whether you stay or go, but this belongs to you."
Jack looked down at the Charter like Gwen was holding a weapon on him; nothing he couldn't recover from, but apt to ruin his day. Ianto saw a glimmer of it on his face, in the set of his shoulders. Jack wanted to take a step back, but wouldn't, couldn't. Because he was Jack, because Gwen had started it and he couldn't resist finishing it. So he stood his ground, and Gwen stood hers. Ianto wanted to clap their heads together, or run away from home, or both.
Gwen turned abruptly to face Ianto, lowering the hand that held the Charter. "Ianto?"
Jack didn't even look at him this time, and Ianto wasn't sure whether that was supreme confidence in Ianto's loyalty, or the disgust Ianto had rightfully earned by turning traitor against Jack, failing to state his loyalty immediately and decisively.
It might be better, working for Gwen under the new Charter. She might be good at it; Jack might be as happy as ever, if he could be brought around to it somehow.
But Ianto couldn't choose based on mere happiness or efficiency. His loyalty was to Jack--and the question now was what that meant. Did he owe his allegiance to the Jack standing before him, rigid and furious and on the verge of destroying someone he loved because she'd dared to best him? Or would Ianto serve Jack by throwing in his own lot with the Jack set down on the page in Gwen's hand--Jack's goals, and the promise of Jack's freedom.
If Jack himself issued an order now, Ianto would follow it without a second thought. But he could see Jack would not stoop to that; if Ianto was his man, Ianto would follow even before Jack led.
Gwen was watching him, waiting.
A hundred fourteen years. Jack ought to know a thing or two about thinking of the long run. Not this moment, but what this moment would mean, down the line. A choice made not from fear of the consequences, but in hope of them.
"Yes," Ianto said, as clearly as he could, all his attention focused on Jack, who was looking away from him, though he could feel the weight of Gwen's gaze. "Yes, ma'am."
Ianto saw Gwen's nod in the corner of his eye, and turned to look at her as she turned toward Jack--meaning, no doubt, to ask him for his final answer as well.
Jack was a blur of motion, and Ianto grabbed at Jack's shoulder and missed as Jack pounced upon Gwen. Her body went rigid as his hands came up to her throat, and Ianto thought wildly of the guns--Gwen herself was armed--damn Jack for this, it was Gwen--
But his hands settled on her face, and he was kissing her, fast and fiercely, before stumbling backward from her shove with an impossible smile.
"Sorry," he said, sounding cheerfully, breathlessly unrepentant. "Sorry, that was dreadfully insubordinate, wasn't it? My bosses always find I'm a handful. In one sense or another."
Gwen touched her fingers to her lips, staring warily at Jack. Ianto thought of the paralytic Hart had used on her--but she was still standing, and Jack's smile was bright and careless. Anyway, he'd kissed Ianto with that mouth, not half an hour ago.
"Jack," Gwen said, and her frown made it a question, though the falling tone of her voice made it nearly a reprimand.
Jack snapped into a stiff posture of attention--Ianto found himself following suit almost involuntarily--and raised his hand to salute. "Senior Field Agent Captain Jack Harkness, reporting for duty, ma'am!"
Gwen, looking bemused, returned the salute. "Senior Field Agent Captain, is it?"
Jack was still smiling, and Ianto was still waiting for the penny to drop.
"Apparently I have a right to self-determination," Jack said, reaching out his hand for the Charter, flipping it open and glancing over its contents. "That's got to include at least setting my own job title. Ma'am."
Gwen rolled her eyes, and looked over at Ianto, as if for support. He looked back as steadily as he could, a bit numb.
"Fine," Gwen said. "But that doesn't make Ianto a Junior Field Agent, you know."
"No, no ma'am, of course not," Jack agreed, looking up at Ianto as well. His smile turned smaller, more comfortable, and he stepped closer. "Field Agent Ianto Jones, full stop. We'll save 'Junior' for the ones who still run away from Weevils."
Jack was smiling. Jack was pleased.
Ianto smiled cautiously back. "I don't think you ever saw me run from a Weevil--" sir. "Jack."
Jack squeezed his shoulder, tilting closer. "I never did."
Ianto couldn't tear his eyes from Jack's, couldn't speak. Jack leaned closer yet, still smiling, and said, "I'm so glad it wasnt you. You had years to go yet before you were ready, and you are exactly the kind of person who breaks up with someone in the middle of deposing him."
Ianto blinked, and said the only thing that came to mind. "Before would tip my hand, after would be... inappropriate."
Jack laughed and kissed him, lightly and quickly. "Exactly, of course. But for the record, it's not one of my favorite ways to lose a job."
Jack turned, abruptly, keeping his hand on Ianto's shoulder but opening the conversation to include Gwen again, though she could hardly have failed to hear them before. "A conspicuously well-orchestrated bloodless coup, on the other hand--good work, Gwen, really."
Gwen shrugged, but she was smiling too, her relief as palpable as Ianto's own. "I did consider shooting you, but this seemed much more efficient."
Jack nodded. "It's been tried--Jane Cleary, about four years ago. She did it in secret and hid my body, which saved everybody a shock when I woke up, but that's no way to run a coup d'etat. I didn't want to reward that particular strain of leadership initiative, so I came back to sort her out."
Ianto exchanged a glance with Gwen, and she smiled and shrugged--she probably couldn't remember the last time Jack properly told a story about himself, instead of just mysteriously alluding to it, either.
"By the time I got here, Owen and Tosh and Suzie had already killed her, which showed great loyalty but no forethought--between the three of them they didn't even have the access codes to get back inside the Hub after they locked themselves out. I mean, literally, Owen was having a cigarette on the step and Suzie was trying to figure out how to disassemble the door while Tosh tried to talk her out of it before the automated defenses killed them. I thought it might be Suzie, after that, but..." Jack trailed off, frowning.
"I was starting to think I couldn't train a successor without driving her mad," he said. "But then there was you, Gwen."
Gwen shook her head. "I don't think your strategy of waiting for your second to forcibly remove you from command helped, Jack. That changes today--Ianto, if anything happens to me, you take command of Torchwood, is that understood?"
Ianto nodded stiffly, trying not to stare blankly at Gwen.
Jack squeezed his shoulder again. "You'll be ready when you have to be."
"If nothing happens to me," Gwen added, "several years from now when we've got Torchwood Cardiff well in hand, you'll take command anyway, and I will go and set up Torchwood Five."
"Five?" Surely re-building Torchwood One should rate a higher priority.
"Five," Gwen repeated. "Torchwood One and Torchwood London have both been deemed unlucky designations, but Her Majesty would like at least one office of her Institute in England. We'll choose a suitable location when the time comes."
"Oh," Ianto said. "Of course."
Jack slung his arm around Ianto's shoulder. "I think you've blown his mind, Gwen. You're going to make me jealous."
Gwen shook her head. "I'm going to go compose a harassment policy, Jack. You two have thirty minutes before it goes into effect, and then we'll have a staff meeting--"
The rift activity monitor sounded; Ianto looked to Jack automatically, but Jack was looking to Gwen. Awaiting orders.
Gwen was looking at her phone, tapping at its screen with a stylus. The monitor went silent, and Gwen kept tapping for another minute.
"All right," Gwen said, looking up. "Cardiff Police have been alerted to the location of the possible disturbance; if it's something they can't handle themselves, they'll clear civilians from the area, secure a perimeter, and notify us."
"Oh," Jack said. He sounded startled and pleased, and his arm slipped from Ianto's shoulders to loop around his waist. Jack was thinking ahead already, and they did have thirty minutes to kill, now.
"So," Gwen said, pocketing her phone and turning away again. "As I said, staff meeting in thirty minutes, use your time wisely. Ianto, I'll want your opinion on those CVs you've been hoarding."
"Yes, ma'am," Ianto called after her. It got easier every time.