fictional: (gwen/ianto)
[personal profile] fictional
Title: Enough To Go By (2/10)
Characters: Gwen, Jack, Ianto, Rhys
Pairing: canon + various permutations of Jack/Gwen/Ianto
Authors: [livejournal.com profile] rm and [livejournal.com profile] kalichan
Rating/Warning: NC-17, het, slash & poly
Summary: Close enough for government work.
Wordcount: ~8500 (this chapter)
Authors' Notes: This is the second chapter of our poly curtains!fic. The first installment may have been lost to the sands of time, so in case you need a refresher, all parts can be found here. Apologies for the long lag, but [livejournal.com profile] kalichan was somewhat waylaid by the universe. The title is from the song of the same name by Vienna Teng. Parts 1 & 2 are set post Series 2; Parts 3 & 4 will be set post Torchwood: The Golden Age; Parts 5-10 will be (sort of) CoE compliant.
Note on CoE: We generally like to be as canon compliant as possible, and as such, have redrawn the EtGB arc to encompass certain key elements of CoE while discarding others in a way that we think is entirely justifiable under the laws and structure of the Whoniverse. Rest assured, while later parts of the story will contain some spoilers, you will be able to read this story regardless of your acceptance/denial of the events depicted in series 3 as a whole.

Chapter 1


When he'd arrived back at the Hub the next morning, Ianto hadn't really known what to expect, although he'd figured a ridiculous speech or an attempt at seduction on Jack's part was probably likely.

Instead, Jack had just nodded at him curtly and motioned him up to his office.

While he hoped he was hiding it well, he knew Jack had seen him scan the room for anything out of place, including weapons and retcon. Even then, Jack had had the decency not to comment or smirk, a small mercy for which Ianto had been, he realized, disproportionately grateful.

Instead, Jack had opened the lowest drawer of his desk and started stacking its contents -- a series of ledgers that looked positively ancient -- on its surface.

"You wanted to know everything," he'd said, his manner more than a bit hostile. "This is everything."

And so Ianto had been sitting there in Jack's chair at Jack's desk looking through over 100 years of Jack's financial records trying to make sense of them as they slowly morphed into Torchwood.

"I don't understand. Were you always planning this?" he asked, turning a page that cracked in his fingers.

"Money's never a bad thing to have," Jack said, sounding non-committal.

Ianto noted the deposits were irregular -- not from steady employment then -- and at sums that he suspected were rather outrageous for their time.

"How'd you get it?" he asked.

Jack shrugged. "Jobs for Torchwood."

"What type of jobs?" Ianto asked.

"What do you think?"

Assassination, Ianto thought clinically. Spying. Interrogations. "How else?" he asked.

Jack smiled. "Gambling."

"Gambling?" Ianto almost laughed, but none of this was funny.

"I knew what was going to happen. Gambling."

"But--"

"20th century was my specialty at the Agency," Jack said, sounding briefly nostalgic and proud. "They make you memorize all sorts of ridiculous stuff, in case you ever get stuck somewhere and need funds. It's not as efficient as whoring, as a rule, but it's less work. Too bad the 21st Century's when it all changes and goes into flux. Can't really rely on it anymore."

"Christ," Ianto said.

"Do you see why I don't tell people things?" Jack asked, a note of vindication clear in his voice.

"No. I don't."

Silence then, while Ianto tried to make sense of the books as banks morphed into other banks, as currencies merged out of existence, and as wars vaporized assets as surely as flesh.

The books were a mess. Jack's handwriting was terrible, the paper ill-preserved, and some entries, in pencil, so faded with time as to be nearly illegible. Ianto suspected, (quite reasonably, he thought) that there were funds here that had simply been lost and were waiting to be found again by Jack's heirs, who were always, of course, Jack himself.


"Have you spoken to Gwen?" Jack asked into one of the long silences.

Ianto didn't look up from the ledger he was examining. "Yeah."

"Well, is she okay?" Jack asked with rather more heat that Ianto thought he was entitled to.

"Fine."

"Did she tell Rhys?"

That was enough to make Ianto look up. "Which part?"

Jack laughed, but Ianto thought it seemed little more than the reflex of muscles.

"I don't know," Ianto finally said. "I also don't know what business it is of yours."

"Ianto --"

"No. You've lied to us about everything."

"Not everything," Jack said, almost pleading, almost dejected, but not quite, not enough Ianto thought.

"Really? What's true then, Jack? Because I'd really like to know."

"That everything changes. That what we're doing here matters. That... well, you. Gwen. I... that's not fake."

"No, Jack. We're not. We're real people. We were clear on that without your help, thanks."

"That's not what I mean!"

"Then what do you mean?"

"How I feel about you," Jack said softly.

Ianto rolled his eyes. "A seduction is not going to get you out of this."

"Why do you think I was so furious last night?"

"Because you're a liar, Jack. Because you do get jealous. Because you expect to be able to do whatever you goddamn please without any consequences whatsoever and you can't stand it when someone actually has the audacity to decide that you're not the only person who gets to do whatever the hell they please."

"It's not like that!"

"Really? Then what's it like?" Ianto shouted, throwing his pen down on the desk. "What's it like to have your fake little impotent empire and fuck your employees and hope they won't notice that despite all your promises you've never had the ability to fix anything at all?"

"Don't make this about Lisa," Jack said gently.

"Fuck you!"

"You found me," he pointed out. "You and Gwen both. I didn't promise you anything. I didn't have to. You would've climbed on board no matter what I said."

"That's not true!"

"Isn't it? You'd have got into bed with the devil himself to save--"

"Just shut it!"

"And Gwen!" Jack's voice was chillingly jovial. "I mean, you... maybe you'd have had to convince yourself. You were a kid, playing at love. Adolescent hormones, whatever. Powerful stuff. Maybe you had morals once, I don't know. But not when I met you. Gwen, though-- she's different. Seems so good, doesn't she? So noble. So righteous." He laughed. "The worse it is, the more it turns her on."

Blindly, Ianto swung at him, and then suddenly they were wrestling on the floor. There was no science to it though, he was just hitting out like a kid in a school yard, wanting to rub Jack's smiling face into the dirt, and that didn't do him any good -- Jack had him down by the throat in what felt like no time at all.

"Are you having delusions of chivalry?" Jack asked, his voice unruffled. "Defending your girl?"

"She's not my girl," Ianto choked out from under the pressure of Jack's forearm. "But you're wrong about her."

"I'm not. She hates herself for it, but that's who she is."

From somewhere near the region of the door, a voice came. "You're right about that."


Jack's head swiveled, and he saw Gwen's polished, black leather boots from underneath the desk. Cursing under his breath, he eased up on the pressure instinctively, and felt Ianto gasp for air as he let go. He stood up then, releasing him. Ianto staggered to his feet as well, and there they all were, standing, staring at one another in a silence so charged and awkward, Jack wanted to throw grenades at it, just to hear something explode.

"I came back, didn't I?" Gwen added, finally, into the quiet.

"How much did you hear?" Ianto said hoarsely through his bruised throat, and Jack held himself as straight as he could to avoid wincing at the sound of it.

She ignored him, staring straight at Jack. "I want to know everything."

"You're late," he said. "I hate repeating myself. Besides, didn't I tell you I'd dock your pay next time?"

Next to him, he heard Ianto give a short, involuntary bark of a laugh before he managed to silence it, just as the corner of Gwen's mouth quirked up. He thought, as he so often had, about wanting to press a kiss right there, into the corner of her mouth. Might never happen now, and Jack thought he'd reconciled himself to that, but no.

"Where is that coming from, anyway?" Gwen asked.

"Your pay?"

"Yes, Jack. My pay."

"Me."

"Care to amplify?" she said, her voice lilting dangerously.

Ianto bent and picked up the ledgers which had fallen to the floor in their scuffle, and placed them on the desk. "I'm still piecing it together," he said to Gwen. "But a lot of it seems to be here. Gambling, he says. And jobs for Torchwood. The things real people wouldn't dirty their hands with. But that's our Captain," he added contemptuously, his lip curling.

She stepped forward, and began skimming through the ledgers almost at random, as if she could absorb their information in a single glance. "What's this?" she said abruptly, pointing to a number on the page.

Ianto looked over her shoulder. "It does seem inordinately large. And look at the date... 1895, even larger amount then, accounting for inflation. No one would wager a sum like that. And none of the other numbers match it."

Gwen narrowed her eyes at Jack, who didn't stir. "Yeah. Came by that honestly."

"How d'you know?" Ianto asked. "You haven't even looked to see what we're talking about."

"£95,000, right?"

"Yeah," Gwen agreed, the suspicion clear in her voice. "And you have to know that we're having a bit of trouble believing that you do anything at all honestly."

"It was left to me."

"By?" she prodded.

"My wife."

Gwen blinked. "You were... married?"

Jack nodded.

"How could you do that?"

"Well, I got down on one knee and---"

"No!" Gwen cried. "How could you do that? To her? Marriage. That means something! Did she know the truth about you? That you can't die? That you're a liar and a thief? That--"

"She knew I loved her," Jack snapped. "That was all she needed to know. What does your husband know about Torchwood? What does he know about you? He's your anchor, sure enough. But what good are you to him?"

Gwen stared at him, eyes wide and filling with tears. "How can you say that to me, Jack?"

"How could you say all you've said to me? I'm still here, Gwen. I'm still your Jack. I didn't tell you the truth, but I didn't lie. Nothing we've done here is false. It just isn't... licensed. Does that really matter so much?"

"Yes," Ianto said shortly, as Gwen simply looked from one to the other in dismay.

"Why? Why does it matter?"

"Because you didn't trust us, Jack. You decided to do this all alone. And now you're angry because we're not on your side. Except that's where you put us, so I don't know why you're upset," Ianto said.

"And look how well you're handling it," Jack said grimly.

"Maybe if you'd given us a chance, instead of letting us discover it on our own,” she snapped.

"Only Gwen," Jack grumbled under his breath, before raising his voice. "I tried that once. It didn't go well."

"Really? How's that?" she asked, putting her hands on her hips expectantly.

Ianto tried not to wince. He knew this story, albeit, in an entirely different context. Jack had confessed it to him once. A confidence. And an expression of affection Ianto didn't feel the need to hide from, or, for that matter, lash out against.

"Murder/suicide," Jack offered with a shrug.

Gwen blanched. "Meaning?"

"Meaning, the leader of my little band of outlaws -- which before you look any more terrified wasn't me, because hey, not so good at this administrative leadership thing, right? -- had a too much information grade-A freak-out. He shot and killed the rest of the team while I was out bagging weevils. On New Year's Eve. I come back from a job, see the handiwork, get treated to a melodramatic speech and then bang! Alex shoots himself. So, keeping folks fully informed and apprised? Maybe not the awesome shiny plan you think it is."

"Information doesn't drive people mad," Gwen said, tense and stubborn and doing her best to avoid offering Jack any sympathy he could use against her or Ianto.

Jack merely arched an eyebrow at her, then looked at Ianto meaningfully and coughed.

"Archive fever. I wasn't joking, Gwen. At London... well, retcon and the mental ward. Saw it a couple of times."

"But --" Gwen said uncertainly, as if she not only no longer knew what was true, but whose side Ianto was on.

"But it certainly doesn't excuse Jack's actions," he said sharply, holding her eyes.

"I don't know what you two want me to do," Jack said, spitting out the word that lumped Ianto and Gwen together with an obvious fury.

"I don't know, Jack. Stop acting like you're the injured party here, for one," Ianto said, and used the excuse of a good line and Gwen's presence to get the hell out of Jack's office. The books could wait. Assuming he even wanted to bother more than he already had.


"Is that it, Jack?" Gwen asked when Ianto had gone; it was the first time she had allowed herself to be alone with him since she had discovered that memo. "Is it your feelings that are hurt by all of this?"

"I found you fucking him in an alley," Jack said with a smile that was just about the most unsettling thing Gwen had ever seen.

"He's a big boy, Jack. As I'm sure you know," she said, letting the innuendo hang there. "If you want to make yourself the victim here, that's your own delusional business, but if you're seriously implying that I somehow took advantage of your precious Ianto, you've lost your mind and this whole situation is more disturbing than I could have ever have guessed at."

"I'm sorry Gwen, it's just that I'm a little surprised." Jack's voice was low and menacing. "I figured when you next decided to cheat on Rhys, you'd go for me."


At the sharp cracking sound of a slap, which traveled through the open door of Jack's office, Ianto winced, but for only a moment. Good for Gwen, he thought as he continued to absently tidy their work area. If nothing else, Gwen at least had had the sense not to wind up on the floor with Jack's arm across her windpipe.

He smiled to himself as he heard her clatter down the stairs towards him. It surprised him a little that he was still so fond of her even in the midst of wishing she'd never found that memo and that Jack had never seen them as he had. And even though he knew he should, Ianto couldn't quite bring himself to regret having had sex with her. It was something nice -- dangerous and stupid and surely a massive source of drama too -- in all of this for him to hold on to. It wasn't, after all, like he could really expect or even justifiably desire the comfort of Jack's flesh in light of the most recent turn of events, but that's what he usually did, when he was upset, so for now, the memory of Gwen would have to do.

"He deserved that," Ianto said, without looking at her, using the compulsion of organizing as a refuge.

"Yeah," Gwen said.

"Did it feel good?" Ianto asked, mainly to keep the conversation going.

"Oh. Yeah," she said, with a shrill laugh.

"Good. Did you....?"

"Did I what?"

"Rhys?"

"I... if... look, Ianto... if it's all the same to you... I..."

"You're right," he said simply, knowing exactly the spot he'd put her in. "It doesn't serve any purpose for you to tell him, unless this is a larger issue between the two of you. It's not my... well, look, I just want to know if he's gonna come after me with a cricket bat," Ianto said, joking weakly.

"More the rugby sort. Down to bare hands. Which, well... you didn't do so well with Jack, did you?"

Ianto rolled his eyes. "It's Jack."

Gwen laughed. "Yeah."

"We're a pair, aren't we?"

Gwen nodded and laughed again, leaning against him.

"Are you staying?" he asked.

Gwen bit her lip and looked off to the side. Ianto thought she almost looked like she was having fun. "For a bit, yeah, anyway. I mean... I want the story at least, right?"

"I... good. I can't do this on my own, Gwen."

"You're staying then. Like, really, really staying?"

"Yeah. Maybe. I mean. It's Jack, right?"

"You... god, Ianto, I'm sorry. You really... you and him. I shouldn't've...."

Ianto shrugged nervously. "For him more than me, I think, if you could believe that. One more fight for us to have, I suppose. I'll take it, right now. Till we figure out what to do. You and I, I mean."

"In it together?" she asked, face lighting up.

"Yeah. I mean, who else've we got?"

Gwen laughed, and it almost sounded giddy. "Do you believe him by the way?"

"About?"

"All of it."

"Those ledgers aren't forged. Too sloppy. And too old."

"The wife?"

"Don't know."

"And the team? Before us."

"That part's definitely true," Ianto said, turning grave. "Jack told me. Before all this. Although I wasn't ever sure. I thought he might've done it."

"What?!"

"Killed them all, yeah."

"But --"

"Long as things kept running, I assumed London just didn't care. And they could have deserved it. Besides…" Ianto trailed off, then shrugged. It had all been so easy at the time. "I had to save Lisa."

***


It wasn't lost on Ianto, when he was the one who kept the business of Torchwood going that day. Gwen checked in on her current projects, and, with a bit of prodding, Ianto made sure she liaised with the regular police. No matter what they did next, Ianto thought keeping that relationship open to handle the possibilities was probably critical.

For his own work, he started moving Jack's ridiculous ledgers into a spreadsheet. There was no way he had any intention of attempting actual forensic accounting while also struggling to read Jack's handwriting, especially at the point it had been heavy with 19th century affectation. There was also going to have to be a lot of research. There were banks that had surely folded or merged amongst Jack's accounts and the stock certificates were surely going to be a problem of their epic own. Some of it, Ianto suspected had been lost to Jack's typical disorganization. If he were going to stay, it was all going to have to be found; Jack's personal finances -- an idea which probably didn't even exist right now, he guessed -- separated out and a proper budget created.

Solving things like numbers and organization, that much Ianto could manage, even if he felt like he was drowning in the rest of it.

What surprised him most of all, though, was Jack coming to sit quietly with them in the main work area, pulling out a box of alien electronics from under Tosh's desk -- it would always be Tosh's desk -- and beginning to work -- repairing, sorting, or investigating,
Ianto had no idea. But it touched him, even if he didn't want it to, and made him consider the possibility that Jack was now and perhaps always had been lost, and perhaps a bit mentally unwell as well.

At six, as if they somehow had normal jobs, Gwen went awkwardly home to Rhys, murmuring that she'd see them both tomorrow. Ianto had given her a firm yes to that, even as Jack had almost embarrassedly acknowledged her with a slight nod coupled with a brief non-verbal sound that could have meant anything.

"All right," Ianto said, closing the ledger he'd been working on inputting into the computer. "I'm headed home. If you want to talk through the non-work part of this, Jack, come along."

Jack looked up from where he was tinkering. "I wasn't aware there still was a non-work part of this."

Ianto rolled his eyes. "Are you coming or not?"

"Do you want me to?"

"I wasn't asking for my health."

Jack powered down the device he was working on with a sharp click. "Is talking really what you had in mind?"

"Well, there might be some shouting."

Jack gave him a pale imitation of his usual grin. "There usually is."

***


Gwen opened the door of her flat to find Rhys at the stove, beating some eggs with a whisk.

"You're home early again," he said. "I was just making an omelette. Want some? I've got chips as well."

She shook her head.

"There'd have been something better, but I wasn't expecting you, not after you were home at half-six yesterday too. What, are all the aliens on holiday?"

"Sort of," she said.

"Or not on holiday as the case may be. Suppose they're actually just staying home. Why do they show up here in waves anyway? Are we, I don't know, the cool destination spot for blowfish on spring break?"

"I could murder a glass of wine. On second thought, just hand over the bottle."

"Anything the matter?"

"No." Gwen slammed shut the fridge door, having retrieved the bottle of chardonnay. She thought about just upending it into her mouth for anesthetic purposes, but decided against it and filled a glass instead. Draining half of it in one swallow, she filled it up again to the brim.

"No, nothing's the matter, or no, you can't tell me about it because it's 'classified'?"

At the word, Gwen felt her eyes fill and brim over.

"Gwen," Rhys said in horror. He wrapped his arms around her, and ushered her over to the sofa. "Tell me. What is it?"

"It's not classified. Nothing is classified. Nothing is anything!"

"I know I'm thick as the wall, but I'm not following you."

"It's Torchwood," she said. "Everything I've done… I do. It's all a lie."

"What?"

"Your omelette will burn," she said, sniffing inelegantly.

"Sod the omelette. What's happened to you?"

"It's not… no one knows what we do. We're… outlaws. Jack's been running a con on us the whole time. Not just on us, but the police in Cardiff, everything. They all think he's got authority, and it's all a bloody sham he's been perpetuating for years."

"Wait, the aliens are a joke? I knew it, I bloody knew it!"

"No, you great stupid lump! Of course they're not. You've seen them, man, how can you say that?"

"So, what are you going on about?"

"It's not… real. They don't… Nobody knows about us. We're off the map. Jack's been paying us from his pocket. I work for him, for bloody Captain Jack Harkness, and that's not even his real name."

"Gwen, love, I…" He shook his head, and came to a stop.

She looked at his kind eyes, staring back at her, and nodded at him to continue. "Go ahead. Just say it."

"Keeping in mind that I'm on your side, love, always and forever, all right, and that I've never liked that Captain much above fair on the best of days, I really don't see what the bloody difference is. You're doing a job, an important job, saving the world from extra terrestrial attack, and what difference does it make where your pay packet comes from?"

"He lied to me, Rhys."

"It's not the first time, is it?"

"No," she agreed, drawing out the word and letting it hang there.

"The lies… that's maybe a problem between you and Jack… but it doesn't invalidate the whole rest of your work, does it?"

"I suppose not."

"You lie to people for their own good all the time. S'pose to Captain Jack, we're all a bit like civilians, eh?"

"I'm not a civilian!"

"Give him a bit of time to get used to you, no?" When she grimaced, he said swiftly, "And what does Ianto think of all this? Not bothered, I suppose."

Gwen swallowed. But he was right, wasn't he? Torchwood was mad, and no one outside it would ever understand. Sometimes, lies were the only thing to offer. "He is a bit. When it came out… well, we all… went a bit mad….even… even Jack." She hugged Rhys tightly to her. "Thanks for making me see sense, sweetheart."

"What else am I for?" He grinned at her, a great, contagious, lovely smile that warmed her all the way through.

She took his face between her hands, and kissed his generous mouth. "Listen, if it's all the same to you, I don't want to talk or cry anymore."

"Message received," he said against her lips, as he let her push him down onto the sofa. "Better than eggs, this. By far. Whatever happens outside, you know this is here, right? I'm here."

"Oh, I do," she said, as he peeled off her jeans, and she sank down onto him, and felt his big, warm hands on her hips, and the milky smell of his skin as she buried her face in his neck. But even through the familiar, liquid pleasure that rose in her, as his thumb found her clit, and his lips kissed her temple, she found herself floating, somehow distant from it all, as though it was all happening through glass, or underwater, or simply very far away.

***


On the landing, Ianto fumbled for his keys, and then opened the door into his flat. He and Jack had made their way to his house in pretty much uninterrupted silence, and it continued just shy of oppressively as he automatically held the door open for him and then flicked on the living room lights.

"Drink?" he asked.

Jack shook his head. "You go ahead if you want."

"Sit down," Ianto suggested. "Hovering there, you make me think you're going to vanish at any moment." Jack always seemed too big for the flat, even naked and in bed. With his greatcoat on and standing there it was laughable how much he seemed not to belong on this planet or in this solar system, much less in Ianto's relatively small and ordinary sitting room.

Jack sat, and Ianto briefly wondered if the rest of this evening were going to be as uncomfortably awkward as it seemed to be going so far. He poured himself a glass of gin, neat, and Jack grinned. "On second thought," he said, "I believe I will have a glass. If you don't mind. Put some ice in it for me, okay?"

Happy to have something to do with his hands, Ianto obliged.

"So," Jack said, after a long swallow and another lengthy pause, "What did you want to shout at me about? Or should I go first?"

"You're angry with me about Gwen," Ianto said flatly.

"Yes," Jack admitted. "I'm not jealous, I just… I don't understand. Did you do it to fuck with me?"

"No, you idiot. Did you lie to me for years just to fuck with me?"

Jack narrowed his eyes dangerously. "No. Did you?"

They glared at each other for a long moment, and Ianto wasn't sure if they were about to start punching or fucking each other. He wasn't sure which he would prefer, either. "Of course not," he spat out. "Frankly, you weren't on my mind at all."

"Then," Jack corrected, slowly. "But I am now."

Ianto nodded. As if Jack didn't know. "You know why I did it. Lied, I mean. Why did you? Did you really think we wouldn't stay, if we knew that we were working for you?"

Jack drained his glass and stared off into the distance before replying. "I didn't want to be that… connected. I wanted you lot… I wanted it to go on. It's not about me. It's never been about me. I'm just a guest here, you know. A refugee. It's your home. All of you."

"Bullshit."

"What?"

"You heard me. You're just giving me stock answers now. The patented Captain Jack Harkness patter. Stop. I want to hear something real."

"Do you really think you're going to appreciate that more?"

Ianto shrugged. "Try me."

Jack looked down at his glass and absently circled his wrist to swirl its contents, being pleased with the sound the solitary cube of ice made and the way the alcohol hung, just for a second, on the glass's inner surface, as if it were oil.

"You know what I think about, a lot?" he asked without looking up. "I think what the fuck is wrong with me that I'm so fascinated by this kid who's a fifth of my age."

Ianto snorted. "A fifth? That's generous. Tell me, do you ever stop 'adjusting' the truth to make yourself feel better?"

"Yeah, well...." Jack shrugged. "Anyway. Point is, I spend a lot of time thinking, how am I gonna tell him that, because he's pretty fucked up before we even get to the issues we have with each other. But it's there all the time, and I don't know what I'm doing."

"We've established that much. I should also note the flattery isn't actually going to solve this."

Jack looked up. "It's not flattery, Ianto. I think you're crazy, repressed and self-loathing."

"Thanks."

"Let me finish --"

"Sure."

Jack glared at him. "You are a daily reminder of why I do what I do how I do it."

"And how's that?"

"You take enough risks. You and Gwen both. I can live with being responsible for you two, for a team, what's left of it, for trying to give you the skills to deal with what's out there. But I'm not interested in making you soldiers for the Crown or wasting my time pushing papers, or letting you in on a secret that frankly wasn't -- and isn't -- any of your business so you two can pretend this job is some sort of democracy, or, worse, some sort of novelty."

Ianto looked at him impassively. "Do you want to know what I think?"

Jack shrugged.

Ianto banged his glass down on the counter. "Damn you, Jack, what is with you and this defeated submissive bullshit?"

"You and Gwen are going to leave."

"What?' Ianto laughed viciously. "Do you think we're going to take retcon and run off and go play happy families because we fucked? In an alley? Because we were drunk and scared and actually afraid of you? You're not stupid, Jack, please don't act like I am."

"You deserve a normal life. You came to me because you wanted a normal life! With Lisa, and I couldn't give you that."

"It wasn't there for you to give," Ianto said quietly, "but I'll thank you for your pretensions of altruism."

Jack ignored him. "And Gwen... this is a lark for her."

"And that's why she slapped you across the face today? Did it ever occur to you Jack that you're so fascinated by us, because we're actually up to the task!"

"I'm not jealous, you know, It's just that I think of you, both of you, as mine."

"Charming. How is that --"

"I thought, if you ever went there, and it's not a bad idea per se, you'd tell me about it or invite me or... I dunno. It's not the type of secret I expected. From either of you."

"It happened once, Jack."

"Look, back home, the sin was never sex, just how you handled it."

"We handled it badly, I get that. But it wasn't planned, you betrayed us first, and you cannot tell me you've been faithful considering we're not actually dating!"

"Maybe we should be."

"This is ridiculous," Ianto muttered, exasperated.

"Why?"

"Because we already are!"

"You're contradicting yourself," Jack pointed out.

"Youth's prerogative," he snapped, cleverness a reflex.

Jack gave him a wry and somewhat unpleasant smile.

"Look, are you staying?" Ianto asked.

"What, tonight?"

"Yeah."

"Do you want me to?"

"I'm tired, I'd rather you were here than not, and if you are staying, you might want to take off the coat."

Jack closed his eyes for a moment. "Ianto, I'm --"

"No. No apologies. Doesn't matter. Just... do better."


Jack stood, and, for a second, Ianto thought he was going to leave, but then he shrugged of his coat, his motions surprisingly small and economical and draped it over the arm of Ianto's sofa.

"Better?" he asked, before sitting back down.

Ianto smiled slightly. "Better. Now, do you want to tell me about your wife?"

"Which one?"

"The one that died."

Jack looked at him evenly, and it was like an indictment.

"How many times have you been married?" Ianto asked very slowly.

"Legally? Three. Should've done it a few times I didn't too. Would've, a few times I couldn't. That cover it for you?"

"Were they all rich?" Ianto asked without inflection.

"I loved her, Ianto; that was dumb luck."

"You have a lot of that, as a rule, don't you?" Ianto asked, feeling ashamed.

Jack smiled, and this time it reached his eyes. "You bet."


Ianto paused for a moment and seemed to make a decision. "All right. Dumb luck: Gwen. And me. Either of us working for you. Both of us surviving. Neither of us walking out on you the other day. Make the most of it. Help us fix this."

"And that's it? I'm forgiven?" Jack asked, peering up at Ianto as he stood.

Ianto shook his head and held a hand out to Jack. "Not really, but it'll come or it won't."

Jack took his hand almost tentatively and stood.

Ianto gave him a crooked smile. "Let's go to bed."

"Bed? It's barely seven."

Ianto raised an eyebrow at him. "I've never heard you complain before."

"I know, but... dinner?"

Ianto tugged at Jack's hand. "Never let it be said you're not a man of your appetites."


As he followed Ianto into his bedroom, Jack had to wonder at his own hesitation. Had someone described recent events to him and inquired how he would react in this moment, he'd have said he would have pushed Ianto down in his sitting room or over the kitchen table or just about anywhere and had his way with him as quickly as possible, to take back as barbarically and ridiculously as possible what he had come to think of as his -- that was the problem with fucking one's subordinates, not the potential pettiness of demand, but the power of self-delusion.

But no, now that what he had considered an entirely impossible moment had come to pass, Jack was hesitant, fearful of doing the wrong thing and worried that Ianto might solely be acting from a warped sense of duty. It wouldn't be the first time, although that was just part of Ianto's character, and Jack had never let it bother him too much.

In the bedroom, as Ianto kissed him gently and sucked consideringly at his lower lip, Jack realized they had never done this before. Sure, they had crashed together so many times -- in fear, in relief, in boredom, and even what he had hoped was the beginning of romance -- but it was never something they thought about, not ever, because Jack didn't need to, and Ianto didn't want to.

But he sure was thinking now, that much was clear in the kiss, and Jack wondered if he would pass the test, assuming the test had anything to do with him at all.

"This is different," he murmured against Ianto's lips.

"Everything's different," Ianto said, and Jack wondered if he was being scolded.

"I like this, I think," he said, knowing that he was being too honest and that Ianto would probably prefer him silent.

But Ianto just smiled against his mouth, and said, "Good."


Jack was strange. Sleeping with Jack was strange. Always had been, always would be, but it was the sort of thing Ianto had gotten used to not thinking about. He'd had to, lest grief overwhelm desire in the wake of Lisa (and Owen and Tosh, if he were honest) and lest fear overwhelm him in the face of Jack's eternalness. That Jack was a man... well, that was an issue in there too somewhere, but Christ, he worked for Torchwood and it paled in the scheme of nearly everything. It wasn't like he had time anymore for a real life where those sorts of things mattered, but it was interesting, kissing Jack, undressing Jack, in the shadow of such things, as if they were somehow actually relevant.

He blamed Gwen.

Not in a bad way, not really. They'd needed comfort, and they'd been angry, and they'd fucked. Hardly the first time Torchwood had invited such folly surely, and if they were going to be complete fools, they could be content with the fact that they'd at least done it in exceptional car-crash style. It was, Ianto thought, almost funny.

"What?" Jack asked, and Ianto realized he must have chuckled to himself.

"My whole life," Ianto said, still amused, pushing off Jack's dress shirt and making it clear he should pull out of the rest of his clothes.

"What do you want?" Jack asked, as he stepped out of his trousers and made his way to the bed, Ianto marveling at the way he always seemed to own any room.

Ianto didn't answer the question until he'd slid into bed beside Jack and pressed them together, rolling his hips. "Just this."

"Making it easy," Jack teased.

"Making it simple. I could do with simple right now."

"Yeah," Jack said and it was much a sound of pleasure as an acknowledgment that Ianto probably felt more than a bit overwhelmed right now and not in the good way.

He ducked his head and pressed his forehead against Jack's neck in silent, animal thanks that they had both somehow wandered onto the same page.


Jack took a breath, against both pride and pleasure, and said, "You didn't do anything wrong, you know."

Ianto paused in his movements and Jack felt him smile against his shoulder.

"I know," he said, and Jack hoped there was some gratitude under the harshness.

He reached for Ianto's cock then but couldn't quite make himself turn things fast and frantic. This was too much like something he'd never had with Ianto, the hesitation of something new, and it was a delicious, strange respite in what had, in just a couple of days, become a very bad week.

Ianto trailed his nails up the inside of Jack's thigh. "Delicacy later, Jack," he huffed.

Jack laughed. Maybe the world hadn't changed too much. "There's a later then?"

Ianto lifted his head and rolled his eyes. "What do you think?"

Having apparently passed the test, Jack laughed.



They dozed after, Ianto more than him, but that was always the way. It made Jack a little nuts that his body didn't quite need as much sleep as he wanted it to, or that, with all the time in the world, he insisted on sleeping as little as possible, lest he miss anything, but such was the way of things. He could blame it on time and space all he wanted, but the fact was, he'd always been a bit of an insomniac.

He leaned up on his elbow to squint at the clock on Ianto's bedside table. 9:17. In the evening. He groaned as he flopped back down on the bed, jostling Ianto.

"Ugh. What?" the other man asked.

"Do you want me to order some food in or something?" Jack asked, skipping past any number of niceties and his own complaints about boredom.

"What? No," Ianto said, sitting up and trying to actually gain consciousness. "I'll make some eggs or something," he said and yawned. "Are eggs okay?"

Jack chuckled. "Eggs are fine, although you hardly seem in any condition to be allowed near fire."

Ianto shrugged and swung his feet down to the floor. "Yeah, that's why you hired me."



"So, are you staying?" Jack asked, gesturing with a fork as he sat naked and cross-legged on Ianto's bed, eating a plate of scrambled eggs.

"It is my house,” Ianto noted.

"I meant Torchwood."

"I know. Yeah. Of course. Obviously, Jack," Ianto said, pulling his robe tighter around himself and leaning back against the headboard as he ate his own breakfast or dinner or whatever it was. "Things are going to have to change, though."

"How?" Jack asked, as casual as if they were talking about the weather.

Ianto shrugged. "Dunno yet. Suppose we'll find out."

***


"Conference room," Gwen said, breathlessly, as she walked into the Hub the next morning.

Jack raised an eyebrow. "No good morning? No—"

"Shut up, Jack," she interrupted. "I want to do this right now."

Puzzled, he looked at Ianto for an explanation, but received only a shrug in reply.

"No idea," Ianto said. "Your guess is as good as mine."

"Huh."

"I suppose we'd better follow her," Ianto said, as she clattered up the stairs. "Or she's liable to come back down here and kick our arses."

"Too right, Ianto. Both of you, in here. Now!" Gwen shouted from over the railing.

They followed her up the stairs to the room, which was – Jack thought with a never too distant pang -- far too big for just the three of them.

"All right," she said briskly, and sliding papers to each of them as they took their seats. Jack was briefly thankful that his spot at the head of the table still seemed to belong to him. For the moment, anyway. "I've written up an agenda."

"For what?" Jack asked.

"For the next few days and weeks. Any emergencies naturally take precedence, but meanwhile, I want us to start operating on the up and up. We're to reconnect with the government. The Home Office. The Prime Minister. Whoever. They should know that Torchwood is up and running again, and has been for some time."


Ianto turned to look at Jack, whose face was alarmingly blank and registered no emotion whatsoever.

"Why?" he asked, his tone absolutely even, and Ianto felt a small shiver skitter down his spine.

"I'm sure they've found other people to do their dirty work, since Torchwood-London went under. And that's unacceptable."

"What?" Ianto asked. "Why?"

"Because," Gwen said slowly, her eyes never leaving Jack's, "we can be trusted. Who knows about anyone else?"

"Am I supposed to say thank you?" Jack inquired.

"Might be gracious of you, yeah," she snapped back.

"Jack," Ianto intervened, before they started going for each other again, "I was wondering. If Torchwood 1 was watching this… supply dump, as they thought, how'd you get away with squatting here?"

"Someone owed me a favor or two. A blind eye in very high places. They don't mess with me, I don't mess with them."

Ianto blinked. "And that did it? Fear of you?"

"Not alone." Jack bared his teeth in what could possibly have been construed as a smile, if one were very stupid, and very optimistic. "But what else is retcon for?"

Gwen flinched.

"Still trust me, Gwen?" Jack asked.

"I don't know if it's because I'm an idiot, or because I'm right. But… yes. I do. Don't prove me wrong, Jack. Please."

"What about UNIT?" Ianto asked, making notes on Gwen's agenda. "I mean, they know we're here, obviously."

"Right, because of Martha," Gwen chimed in.

"Nah, Martha had nothing to do with it. They all got the same story as you. Not like they were ever going to check back with TW 1, and not like TW 1 ever shared any information, with, well, anyone, much less an international organization. And they think we're all balls to the wall crazy anyway, so…"

"Aren't we?" Ianto asked.

"Well, yeah, but isn't it more fun this way?"

"So," Gwen said, ignoring this pleasantry, "UNIT doesn't have to be told anything, because they've been getting the fake story, and we're going… to make the lie real. So it doesn't matter. It's true."

"In a nutshell," Jack agreed. "Assuming we even think coming out of the cold's even a good idea."

"Not negotiable, Jack," Gwen said. "Ianto can do as he likes, but that's where I draw the line."

"Why? Why there?"

"You'll leave here one day, Jack. In fact, remember? You already did. And if there's just us, here, protecting the earth…"

Jack looked pained. "I left you… to deal with Cardiff. And the Rift. Narrow, focused. I knew you could do it."

"The Rift? You mean, protecting the earth from all of time and space? It's not like being the village police! Look, it doesn't matter whether it's the whole globe or just this small city. We need something to go on. Something to hand down. Something that makes sense. Not just you in a basement, playing with your toys and hoping for the best. Torchwood should outlive even you, Jack. Otherwise I pack my bags and offer up my services to the United Nations."

He held up his hands in surrender. "Okay. Okay. I give. Ianto, you agree?"

"Gwen speaks for me," Ianto said, shortly.

"Fine," Jack said. "I have a couple of conditions. One, I want it understood that Crown or no, you work for me, I'm the head of the Torchwood Institute. And two, I will be bankrolling this endeavor, okay?"

Ianto laughed. "Guilt?"

"An addiction to being in charge?" Gwen offered.

"Think what you like, as long as you agree."

Ianto rolled his eyes. "Very good, sir. Anything else?"

"S'all I can think of."

"We'll stick to this agenda then?" Gwen asked.

"Let's go through it point by point," Jack said, rolling up his sleeves.

Ianto found his shoulders relaxing slightly, as he let go of tension he hadn't even been fully aware of. Maybe, just maybe it was all going to be okay.


The day passed slowly, as they tried to tackle each item on the agenda. The trouble was that each item would, when attacked, invariably spawn several more tasks, phone calls, and stacks of paper in front of each of them, hydra-like. Ianto had felt a brief spasm of guilt for that; he was supposed to be the one who took care of this kind of thing, but it was far too much for one person alone.

Every so often, he'd turn his head to Gwen's workstation, or look up to Jack's office, watching him pace and talk at the same time, while running his fingers through his own hair, a sure sign of frustration.

He caught Gwen looking once in a while too.

"It must be humiliating," he caught himself saying out loud once, in a brief pause. "Explaining. Even as little as he's going to."

She sighed. "Yes," she agreed.

"You're not happy? That's not part of what you wanted?"

"Surprisingly? No. It must be so hard for him."

"What, being a man instead of a god? Dealing with us like people instead of puppets?"

"I suppose," she said thoughtfully, "if he didn't want to, he wouldn't stay."

He sighed too. "Well, we can all hope, I suppose."



It was eight, before they finally stopped, oddly wearier with all this than with a long day of chasing weevils and blowfish. Gwen's head was pounding, and she counted eleven separate paper cuts on her fingers.

She stood awkwardly. "Lads, I've got to quit now."

"What?" Jack's head jerked up.

"No, no," she said hurriedly. "Just for tonight. I'm seeing double, and there's just no way we're going to get through this in one day."

Jack nodded.

"Okay. Well, I suppose I'm off then," she said clumsily. "I'll see you—"

"Gwen, wait," Jack interrupted. He stood up and came closer. "I think… we could all use a drink. What do you say?"

"A… drink?"

"You know, just to… clear the air. We all said and did some things, and maybe we should try to recreate a normal, friendly working environment. Since, apparently, none of us is going anywhere."

"Oh," Gwen said. She looked at Ianto, who was staring at his keyboard fixedly, just as he always had when there was a conflict going on that he wasn't involved in. "All right. A drink."

Ianto raised his head, and the corner of his mouth quirked into a smile. She felt herself smiling back and was unwillingly warmed. And charmed. And a whole host of things she had been resolved not to be. Bloody Torchwood, she thought.


Unfortunately, when they strolled into the bar that they usually frequented, someone seemed to be hooking up a karaoke machine.

"Oh, god," Ianto moaned, "why have you decided to make my life into this surreally existential black comedy? Why?"

"Better than French farce," Gwen said.

"Clearly," Jack chimed in, "you two haven't had enough experience living in French farce. The sex is usually pretty good. And this one could have music!"

"Jack," Ianto said in horror, as he eyed the karaoke machine, "you're not going to sing, are you?"

Jack winked.

"I need a pint," Gwen declared.

"Just one?" Ianto asked. "I need several."


As Jack bounded up to the front of the room, Ianto and Gwen exchanged glances, and then as one, swung into a booth, both of them sliding into the same side, so they could see.

Somehow, Jack of course managed to skate easily to the head of the line.

When the music started, Gwen’s eyes widened with surprise.

"Snow Patrol," Ianto said consideringly.

"That... that is seriously weird," Gwen noted.

"How does he even know what Snow Patrol is?"

"You listen to it?"

"No."

"Owen sort of did."

"Huh."

"I think he does these things to fuck with us."

"I would hope," Ianto said, disturbed by the notion that there could be any actual sincerity behind the ridiculous display.



When Jack returned to the table he slid into the other side of the booth.

“So, what did you think?”

“You’re full of surprises,” Ianto observed, unwilling to sound either impressed or shocked. Although he was both.

“Keeps you on your toes,” Jack said with a grin.


Gwen laughed – because after everything, how lovely it was to remember that not all of Jack’s surprises had sharp teeth -- and took a swallow of her pint. Almost without volition, she rested her head on Ianto’s shoulder, and his arm snaked around her. She was surprised at how natural it felt when he squeezed her waist.

Then Ianto gently detached himself, and moved to the other side of the table, sliding in next to Jack, somehow both awkward and predatory. She watched as they kissed, long, slow, and deep, and she felt a visceral shiver tickle its way down her spine.

It wasn't, of course, that she was unaware of how they were with each other; she had, after all, walked in on them in situations far more heated than this, but those had been frantic and this was anything but. Besides, she was almost sure she had never seen Ianto acknowledge what Jack was to him in the world outside of Torchwood. She wondered if he ever had before, and from the shock and relief that seemed evident in Jack, she couldn't help but suspect not.

Without stopping the kiss, Ianto’s hand blindly stretched across the table. When it found hers, it clung tightly, as if he were being swept out to sea, and her hand was his only rope. Unable to look away, she watched them kiss, seemingly utterly unconscious of their surroundings, except for Ianto’s fingers interlacing with hers.

next chapter coming soon
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August 2009

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