Torchwood; team gen
PG-13, 1600 words
Summary: It's a weight they can hardly carry.
Notes: Spoilers for Exit Wounds.
"Run, Ianto Jones."
"Ianto, please, you have to help me!"
He's running, and the sky is falling. Owen's shouts are getting nearer, and he's going to make it, he's going to get there in time, just so long as he keeps running.
"Ianto, stop. Aren't you going to save me?"
Lisa's eyes pierce straight through him, and there's an army of cybermen behind her. Ianto wheels around, looking for a gap, and someone's laughing.
The sound of a gunshot--
Ianto starts upright, forcing his eyes open. He's got to keep awake - can't sleep, mustn't sleep.
The silence is unbearable. Jack's in his office, a visible presence, because Gwen needs to know that he's here, for the faint hope it offers that some day things might go right again. But he's strange and distant, more damaged than ever while he does what he can for them. Gwen doesn't know what he's been through - doesn't want to know, else words like buried alive and millennia start to surface and bile rises in her throat.
Ianto's been down in the vaults for what seems like days. She doesn't know if he's working, but imagines so, because he hasn't let himself give into the way this is eating them up, becoming more closed off than she's ever known him. He barely lets Gwen touch him.
She gets to her feet, sure there must be something that needs doing, even if the Rift is still vibrating with the aftershock and not allowing anything to move in or out of it. She walks past the workstations and with all her might doesn't think about the empty chairs at her side. But her steps are unsteady in this desolate place, and she stumbles against a desk.
A coffee mug goes tumbling down, shattering. Gwen claps a hand to her mouth to stop herself screaming.
"Jack, are you ok?" Martha's anxiety is ill-disguised over the phone. "We tried to send a squad through, but the blasts were too strong."
"Hey, you," Jack says, too exhausted to summon enthusiasm in his voice, but he hopes she'll understand. "I'm still here."
"I've sent the report through, take a look." He can't bear to say it; hell, he could hardly type it.
"Ok," Martha says, and she's typing, then after a few clicks she falls into a long silence. She takes a shaky breath. "Jack."
"I am so sorry."
Every morning when Gwen wakes up, sun streaming through the blinds and Rhys asleep next to her, she has a sensation of total peace, a moment of bliss. She's begun to live for that feeling, that forgetting and release. It's getting shorter every day, and when it's gone, her stomach starts to twist itself into knots once again as the world comes rushing back.
Gray looks so harmless, lying in repose in his vault. Ianto stares down at him, weighing his gun in his hands. Three shots, straight into the skull, that's what the man deserves. He wants to do it, and he's got to. Ianto needs to know he's dead and gone.
Then there are footsteps, and Jack walks into the room. He doesn't say a word, but his knuckles are white as he grasps at the railings.
"He murdered her in cold blood, Jack," Ianto says, voice cracking.
The moment hangs, and that's all the opportunity Ianto needs. His fingers tighten around the trigger, and he's going to do it, he's going to, he's going to --
-- his arms start shaking, and the gun clatters to the floor.
They're chasing after as-yet-unidentified aliens, the most prominent feature of their physiological make-up being foot-long tusks. The two creatures split up in an underpass, and in a maze of subways and tunnels Jack gets separated from Gwen and Ianto. He drops into a crouch, straining to hear any movement at all above the drip-drip-drip of the rain.
There's a snuffling sound to his left and he races off, rounding a corner and nearly running smack into the back of one of the aliens as it bears down on Ianto. Startled, he shouts as he rams the butt of his gun into the back of its head. It crumples to the ground, and Jack lets out a breath, looking up and ready to attempt a quip, a line, something.
Ianto's stood with his back against the wall, wide-eyed with his gun hanging uselessly by his side.
Ianto shakes his head mutely and Jack grabs his shoulders, not sure whether he wants to pull him close or ram his head against the wall.
"Maybe it was time," Ianto mutters. "We all die young, don't we?"
Jack stares at him in horror. "Don't you do this, Ianto. Don't you dare."
The thing is, no matter how much his losses hurt - and God, they ache, a weight Jack can hardly carry - it keeps his mind away from other things. If he stops to think, if he stops to breathe, he feels roots creeping down his throat and death's sharp and jagged edges tearing him to shreds, and he doesn't know how to live with that.
"When was the last time you went home?" Gwen asks Ianto gently.
He stares blankly at her for a long moment, and she sighs. "Sorry, never mind."
He frowns and wanders away, seeming dazed. Gwen looks up as he goes and catches Jack's eye as he watches from the balcony. He nods, and she follows him to his office.
"He's scaring me," she says.
"I know." Jack takes out a box, looking at an array of powders and vials and little white pills.
"No, Jack, you can't."
"Wish I could, though." He gathers a pile of fine powder. "This is just to make him sleep - sleep, and no dreams."
"Do you think he'll take it?" Gwen asks.
"I'm not giving him the choice."
Jack watches Ianto as he finishes drinking, sees the way his eyes glaze over almost immediately before his head drops forward. He slumps, and Jack walks down, fumbles in Ianto's jacket pocket for the keys to his flat, then bundles him into the car and takes him home.
Martha gets leave from UNIT, and she and Jack have conversations Gwen can't follow, but she sees the way she's beginning to put the light back in his eyes and is more grateful than she can say. She takes Martha to visit Ianto, where she can administer more sedatives, make sure he's comfortable.
"He's already lost everything once," Gwen explains as Martha lifts his head up to rearrange his sheets. "He worked for London."
Martha nods. "Tell you what, though. We're made of strong stuff, us Joneses. He'll be all right, Gwen, just you see."
It's been two weeks, and they still haven't told Owen and Tosh's families. Even in death, Torchwood owns you, body and soul.
"If you can spare me, I'm going to go visit Owen's mother on Tuesday," Gwen says.
Jack shakes his head. "No, that should be my job."
Jack tries to formulate a protest, because he has a duty. But Gwen's the only one of them who looks remotely human these days.
"Guess I'm not winning any boss of the years contests any time soon, am I? I always tried, you know. Made them hate me at times but I really... I tried to do right by them." Jack hesitates. "Did they know that?"
Gwen bites her lip, then nods fiercely. "Yeah, yeah they did."
Gwen's sitting by the window when Ianto finally begins to stir. "Jack," she calls, "he's coming round."
"Mm?" Ianto asks groggily.
"Hello, you. Welcome back."
Ianto blinks and pulls himself upright.
"Take your time," she tells him, because he looks rested, happy, and she doesn't want to break the spell a moment before she has to.
"Hey there," Jack says, leaning against the doorway with something closer to a smile than Gwen's seen in days.
They share a glance, then she goes out to fetch some water. When she comes back, Jack's sitting at the foot of the bed while Ianto stares at his hands. But he smiles a "thank you" when she hands him a glass, and when he meets her eye there's grief in his expression where there's been nothing but a terrifying blankness ever since they died.
"Ready to come back to work?" Jack asks.
Gwen wakes up. There's no moment of relief; they're gone is the first thought that crosses her mind. But she slips out of bed, smoothing the hair off Rhys' face before going into the kitchen. She puts the kettle on and calls Jack.
"Anything going on?" she asks.
"Looks like a quiet day," Jack tells her. "You're all clear."
"Ok, I'll touch base soon," she promises, reaching for a map as she hangs up. There's a post-it note marking a street in North London, train times scribbled down the side. She checks the details again, then makes tea and picks up a notepad where she's written a Japanese phone number down.
She's got a photograph in front of her - Owen and Tosh, grinning happily as they raise their glasses to the camera. They're in a pub Gwen doesn't recognise, and she can see Suzie exchanging a look with Jack in the background. She supposes, idly, that Ianto must have taken the photo.
She looks at Toshiko and nods, a silent promise. She takes a deep breath, picks up the phone, and dials. It starts ringing.