Every inch of Ianto’s body ached and yet, he sadly acknowledged, this was not the first time that he’d been hurt this badly. He’d been on the losing end of a savage beating on several occasions, starting when he was fourteen and he’d been caught by the estate’s resident bullies. They’d thrashed him so badly that he’d actually spent a night in hospital, all because the gang’s leader thought Ianto had been staring at his girlfriend (Ianto had actually been looking at one of the gang members, but he’d never admit it – that would have been a beating he wouldn’t have survived).
Then, years later, while he was working for Torchwood One, he’d been on his way to work when he’d seen an elderly woman being mugged by a couple of teen-age street thugs. Ianto had immediately stepped in, and by virtue of a lucky blow that knocked his head into a granite building and left him semi-conscious, the two boys had managed to kick the living daylights out of him before a London bobby finally arrived to break things up. Surprising the number of men and women who simply passed right by, pretending they didn’t see anything. That time he’d only ended up with a couple of cracked ribs and a broken nose; the upside was that he was the darling of the female staff who cooed and fawned over for over a week before the next gossip-worthy thing caught their attention.
However, it was the first time someone had wanted to eat him, someone human that is. He’d actually been on the menu as a side dish to accompany Jack, who was the main course, naturally, when the Zorvain had landed in a shepherd’s field and had captured the team to be their ‘takeaway meal’ for their return journey home. However, thanks to Owen, things took a drastic turn for the better. Destined to be the crew’s starter, the stench of the medic’s post-alcoholic-binge had caused the aliens to vomit profusely on one another.
It was Toshiko’s quick thinking – she was going to be their after-dinner sweet – that had ended with the team going free. She’d been able to convince the alien captain that humans were obviously not a compatible food source. ‘In fact,’ she’d said, ‘given your violent reaction to our scent, I’d go so far as to say we’re actually toxic to your species and would probably prove fatal if you consumed us.’ Not only had the Zorvain let them go, they’d literally thrown them off the ship into the muddy field in their haste to leave the planet.
As much as he’d been proud of the work he did for Torchwood One it was never considered a safe job choice for anyone and even though the personnel file that Jack had read said he had only been a junior researcher that wasn’t the whole truth. No, Ianto Jones had once been a well-trained field agent, a damn good one actually until what was supposed to have been a simple mission to retrieve a few artefacts from a black market dealer had gone horribly wrong. The dealer and his employees turned out to be Klagnagics, a very well-armed race of psychic junk peddlers who resented anyone interfering with their business deals. During the ensuing gun battle they’d used their mind-reading abilities to anticipate and counter every move the Torchwood team made and then to kidnap them all. In the end, although he’d managed to kill the aliens and save the lives of the Torchwood agents, Ianto was the only functioning member of his team to survive. Two had died in captivity, including his commander, and the other three were… well… it would have been better if they had died as well, in Ianto’s personal opinion.
After the accident, after the ensuing investigation, after the medical exams and the psychological evaluations, after self-recriminations and soul-searching, Ianto had requested reassignment to the Archives. It was the quietest, most benign job that Torchwood One offered, unless you counted serving chips in the Tower’s canteen. Despite his best efforts, Ianto could not bring himself to pick up a gun afterwards without seeing the horrified looks on his teams face as they were slowly tortured to insanity or death.
All things considered, Ianto had been the lucky one; the Klagnagics deemed him too low on the chain of command to bother wasting any time on. They’d concentrated the majority of their sadistic efforts on the team’s leader and second-in-command in hopes of gaining strategic knowledge about the contents of Torchwood’s alien artefact archives. Eager to get in on the ‘fun’, the underling who’d been charged with securing Ianto’s arms and legs hadn’t done a very good job and that oversight had spared Ianto’s life. He’d been able to free himself and retrieve not only his own weapon but one of the alien plasma rifles as well. He’d made quick work of destroying the aliens and rescuing part of his team but to his deep sorrow, he was too late to save the others.
After release from a mandatory week-long stay in hospital while he underwent a thorough psych eval and hours of counseling, Ianto had gone back to his flat to brood and re-examine his part in the mission. Finally, he’d come to the same conclusion that the Torchwood investigators had: while the mission results were indeed tragic, they had been unforeseeable and therefore unavoidable. Actually, what Ianto heard was, “shit happens, Jones, get over it”, but it made no difference; he was irreparably broken and he refused to entered the field after that.
Yvonne Hartman had carefully examined all Ianto’s test results as well as his reports on the incident and while she regretted the fact that a field agent with Ianto’s obvious potential was no longer viable as such, she hadn’t wanted to lose such a valuable worker. That’s the phrase she’d used to his face when she’d happily granted Ianto’s request to become a staff researcher; privately, she’d decided that Torchwood and The Empire had invested far too much money in Ianto’s training and now his medical care and he owed them big time. She was determined to get every penny’s worth of productivity out of him that she could no matter what job he did until he died.
And that was how Ianto Jones put an end to future encounters with angry aliens.
‘Somehow I never thought my return to field missions would be greeted by bloody cannibals!’ Ianto fought back the bile that rose in his throat as he remembered being at the mercy of those monsters.
‘I’m the bloody butler! Why the hell did Jack bring me along when the only one who didn’t have a problem with me was Tosh?’ Ianto fumed impotently. Since returning from his suspension Owen and Gwen had gone out of their way to ignore him. Even Jack barely spoke to him unless it was work-related; he didn’t even ask for coffee anymore, and when Ianto delivered his mug to him, Jack didn’t acknowledge it or him. No, Toshiko was the only one genuinely happy to have him back although she kept their conversations short so as not to draw Owen’s ill temper down on him.
In a way, Tosh’s genuine affection for him made Ianto feel a little uncomfortable and a lot guilty but more than anything else, he felt truly sorry that he’d almost gotten Tosh killed, twice! First with the Cyberwoman and then today in the Brecon Beacons.
But the pain racking his body was nothing compared to the emotional hurt Ianto was feeling as he was completely ignored by his team, despite the fact that he’d come to expect the behaviour. He tried to rationalise it; Jack and Owen’s focus was solely on Gwen because she had been injured, but damn it all to hell, so had he! Ianto was getting angry; just because he wasn’t moaning and groaning and making a pitiful scene didn’t mean he wasn’t suffering too.
The left side of his body and his belly had taken most of the physical abuse from both their cannibal leader, who’d kicked him with his size-fifteen, steel-toed boots, and his despicable cow of a wife, who’s taken great pleasure in slamming the butt of a shotgun into him over and over again. His knee was about three times its normal size, his hip ached miserably, three fingers on his hand were definitely broken, he could barely see out of his left eye, and from the way red-hot pokers stabbed through his chest with every breath he took, Ianto was pretty sure he had at least one broken rib, probably more.
As he perched gingerly on the SUV’s rear bumper, he watched the bustling activity that ebbed and flowed all around him – around him being the key point. The constables were busy putting the cannibals in vehicles to take them away, the EMS staff were completely absorbed with Gwen and her diva performance and Jack and Owen were clearly ignoring him. The only one who’d taken the time to spare him even a brief glance was Tosh just before she was taken away by an officer to give her statement to the police.
Ianto ruthlessly fought back a derisive snort, knowing that it would only end up making his chest hurt him more. ‘I got fucking tenderized by these bloody bastards, I know I need medical attention, but do I even get a fucking plaster? Oh no, of course not! Miss bleeding-heart gunshot-wound drama queen is so much more important than the pathetic, waste-of-space, beaten-up Tea-Boy!’ Ianto’s indignation got the better of him and he let loose a sharp exhalation only to instantly regret it as his chest exploded with white-hot pain, causing him to double over in agony as tears burned his eyes.
Breathing slowly, Ianto forced himself to calm down and relax so he could straighten up again. He wasn’t a hater by nature; he didn’t want to feel so damn bitter but he just couldn’t help it. If Ianto thought he’d been invisible when he’d first started in the Cardiff Hub, it was nothing compared to how invisible he became after the Cyber incident; he refused to think of that thing as Lisa. Realising he was heading down a dark path with those memories, he shook his head gently but resolutely; he’d put too much effort into putting that all behind him to dredge it up again, especially now.
As far as the members of the Torchwood Three team were concerned, he practically didn’t exist for them, well except for Tosh, that is; the others only remembered him when they were hungry, needed a file, craved coffee or in Owen’s case, demanded that clean something up, ‘…now, Tea-Boy!’.
Ianto shifted position, trying to ease the pressure on his left hip and then closed his eyes as a fresh wave of pain racked his body. A small agonised hiss escaped his parted lips as he moved to stand, he couldn’t stay still any longer; he needed to move – he was afraid that if he didn’t move then he never would. Even as a small boy, Ianto had been unable to sit still for very long; he had to do something even though he knew it would be a very bad idea given the extent of his injuries. He stood on legs that trembled so badly that when he took his first few steps, he risked falling and jarring his possibly broken ribs, but at that point Ianto simply didn’t care. All he knew was that he wanted – no, he needed – to put as much distance as he could between him and his unfeeling team-mates.
As he slowly walked away and put the hustle and bustle of activity behind him, Ianto was overwhelmed by the feeling of being trapped. He wanted so much to run far away from everyone and everything, to leave Torchwood behind. In the beginning, he’d stayed to save Lisa and when that obligation was gone, he’d stayed on as a penance for Annie’s death. Despite the fact that he’d been ignored and taken for granted from the first day he set foot inside the Hub, he still harboured a small hope that one day he would be accept as an equal part of the team.
But it didn’t matter how many cups of perfectly brewed coffee he delivered without being asked, how many hot meals he had waiting when the others returned from an exhausting mission, or how many times he worked through the night to make sure every field kit was restocked, every weapon cleaned and every report filed, he was still on the outside looking in.
Every snide remark made behind his back but just loud enough that he heard, every team outing that didn’t included him but which was discussed at length in front of him, every trivial order rudely barked out only served to remind him that Ianto Jones was nothing more the Tea-Boy. And little by little all those negative things added up into a massive mountain of disappointment ending in an avalanche that finally destroyed his frail hope.
With a deep sigh, Ianto accepted the fact that no matter what he did, no matter how hard he tried, no matter how much he wanted to belong, the others would never see him as anything but a waste of space to be used and thrown away. Ianto couldn’t help but listen to the little voice in the back of his head telling him that it was time to put Torchwood and all its blood, destruction and death behind him to be remembered as nothing but the stuff of bad-curry-induced nightmares.
Despite the problems at Torchwood One, there was one very important rule that had been drilled into every agent’s head: when you’re in the field you always have your team’s back no matter what and in turn you place you trust in them that they’ll do the same for you. Try as he might Ianto simply could not see himself putting that kind of trust or any faith at all into any one of the Torchwood Three members. ‘And I they’ve certainly made it obvious that they won’t be putting that kind of trust in me,’ Ianto thought bitterly as he continued to make his way slowly and cautiously towards the SUV.
His bitterness towards the others didn’t really surprise Ianto all that much; it had been brewing deep within him for a while now. A normal human being could only be treated like an invisible animal for so long before something snapped. Once upon a time, Ianto Jones had been a good, kind-hearted man but that was before bitterness and hate began festering in his heart. Yes, he made a mistake, yes, it was a big one and yes, it could have destroyed the world, but damn it, he was trying his best to make things right. Everything he did for the team was to try and to make up for his previous actions and he really was trying to earn their trust back. Of course, it would help if they actually gave a damn about him.
‘Is it so much to ask for just one fucking thank you? Just once, that’s all I ask.’
But, now, after being tenderized, after being almost killed, after nearly being eaten for God’s sake, Ianto found – to his immense surprise – that he suddenly could not care less about them. It was painfully clear – no pun intended – that he was never going to truly be one of them. No matter how hard he worked to make up for his mistakes, it would never be enough for them. ‘Well screw them! I’m tired of being their bloody Tea-Boy! I’m done with them and I’m done with Torchwood.’
Ianto couldn’t believe how easy it was to think about leaving Torchwood behind and the sense of relief was almost euphoric, like an enormous weight off his shoulders. ‘Imagine how fast the Hub would disappear under Owen’s garbage without me to clean up after them all!’ The mental picture of the nasty-tempered medic going down for the third time beneath a sea of pizza boxes, take-away cartons and mouldy half-eaten sandwiches made Ianto giggle hysterically. He had to stop and catch his breath before he could continue walking.
‘Maybe it is time for a change. I am so tired of losing people I care for to idiotic causes. There’s already enough blood on my hands due to Torchwood, I want anymore.’ Ianto was truly tired, bone-aching tired, every inch of his body hurt like he'd never felt before, and all he wanted to do was curl up in his bed and forget he was ever a part of Torchwood.
“Ianto?” From behind Ianto a soft voice spoke up hesitantly as though unsure if it should disturb the wounded man.
Ianto’s first instinct was to ignore her and keep walking, but he couldn’t bring himself to shun the only person on the team that seemed to truly care a little about him. Stopping in his tracks, the young Welshman closed his eyes, took a slow albeit pain-filled breath to calm himself down and plastered a smile on his face before he turned around.
Tosh returned Ianto’s smile shyly at and she suddenly found that she wanted nothing more than to wrap her arms around the young man and protect him from all the horrors she knew were out there. Unfortunately, she knew that Ianto wouldn’t like that, not in the least, so all she could do was offer Ianto her friendship, even though something was telling her that she might be too late.
“Jack wanted me to tell you we’re getting ready to go.” Tosh saw the hurt that flashed through Ianto’s eyes briefly and for a moment she wondered what had caused it. Then it dawned on her that Ianto felt he wasn’t even worth Jack coming over and telling him face to face. Tosh’s heart went out to her young friend and she silently cursed Jack and Owen and their ridiculous need to focus all their attention on Gwen. ‘I get that Gwen was shot but what about me? That monster tried to choke me to death! What about Ianto? He clearly got the worst of it.’ For a moment, bitter rage surged through the normally calm Toshiko; ‘Aren’t we worth being worried over?’
Tosh hated the fact that she was jealous but ever since Gwen had arrived she seemed to be all that mattered to Jack and Owen and she was tired of being an afterthought. ‘I wonder if this is how Ianto has felt all these months It must hurt to not even be worth a hello and how are you.’ Tosh suddenly wondered if she’d ever made Ianto feel like that; ‘Oh, God, I hope not!’ Right then and there, she vowed that she would treat Ianto better from that moment on. 'I hope that Ianto gives me the chance to fix my mistakes and give me the chance to become his friend.' Tosh felt a blush of shame darken her cheeks; she should have tried befriending Ianto from the moment he joined.
Tosh knew that she was just as much as an outcast as Ianto was; she wasn’t as outgoing as the other three so it hurt to see how easily they could open up to each other, go out to bars and be the life of the party. ‘I know what it's like to be in Ianto’s shoes and yet I still treated him like he was nothing more than a speck of dirt. Well that all changes right now!’ Tosh vowed to herself.
It was only when she saw Ianto stumble and nearly fall did Tosh break herself out of her thoughts and she quickly moved to aid her injured team-mate. “I’ve got you, Ianto, just lean on me.” Seeing the way he cradled his left arm against his chest, she carefully ducked under his right shoulder, and wrapped her arm around his waist.
Despite the fact that he hated anyone in Torchwood seeing him weak Ianto had no choice but take Tosh up on her offer and let Tosh support him. ‘I shouldn’t have stopped moving,’ he told himself ruefully. ‘Now I’ve stiffened up completely.’ Together they slowly made their way to the SUV where the others were impatiently waiting for them.
“About bloody time, Tea-Boy; can’t you see Gwen’s been hurt or don’t you care that she’s in pain?” Owen sneered as he looked Ianto up and down. “You look like shit, by the way,” he threw over his shoulder as he turned away to open the front door for Gwen.
Ianto and Tosh shared a quick glance but said nothing as they silently seated themselves in the back seat of the SUV and then sat there watching with barely disguised disgust as Gwen was gingerly helped into the passenger seat by Jack and Owen. It made Ianto sick to his stomach to see how they fawned over the woman even when it was obvious to him that she was exaggerating the effects of her injuries. Tosh had to turn her eyes from the sight of Owen carefully adjusting the seat belt so it wouldn’t press too much on her wound before gently brushing Gwen’s hair back from her face; she was quick but not fast enough that Ianto didn’t see the flash of pain in her eyes.
Ianto felt rage fill him, not for their treatment of him, he was quite used to it by now, but for their careless treatment of Tosh. Sweet, gentle Tosh, the only one to reach out to him after he returned from his month-long suspension, the only one on the team to offer him any kind of friendship. In that moment Ianto hated Jack and Owen more than ever. ‘I think it’s time that the pushover Tea-Boy went away and the seasoned, not-to-be-messed-with former Torchwood One field agent took his place.’ If Ianto’s jaw didn’t hurt so badly he would have let a cold smile spread across his face.
It was high time Ianto Jones told the others a few hard truths about themselves and then he was washing his hands of Torchwood Three. Forever.