Disclaimer: I do not and never will own Torchwood or the characters within.
Characters: Ianto Jones, Jack Harkness, Owen Harper
Summary: After the disastrous trip to the Brecon Beacons Jack helps Ianto begin to cope.
Ianto Jones spent the return journey to Cardiff huddled in a back corner of the SUV wrapped in a thin silver emergency blanket that did nothing to stop the intermittent shivers. He felt cold both inside and out and there was a sense of distance between himself and everyone around him. The incessant ache that pervaded every cell of his weary body made his thoughts slow and sluggish for which he was very grateful. It kept the hysteria at bay.
“Slight concussion and severe bruising,” Owen finally declared after prodding and poking at him an hour later.
“Is that all?” Ianto managed to say as he tried to pull his shirt back on before giving up when his aching muscles protested too much.
“And two cracked ribs with mild shock,” Owen added without hesitation. “You’ll stay here tonight where Jack can keep an eye on you. And you will sleep. Here’s a sedative to make sure of it. Take it after you’ve cleaned up a bit. Tosh made up a bed for you in the sick bay.”
“Is Tosh okay?” Ianto asked as he twisted his fingers in his shirt. He’d asked after Tosh several times already.
“Tosh is fine,” Owen replied without rolling his eyes at the repetition. “Just a few bruises and she’s gone home now with her own sedatives to take. You’ll see her tomorrow.”
“I tried to save her,” he mumbled.
“And you did,” the Captain said as he appeared above them and began making his way down the stairs.
“Should have done better,” Ianto whispered, his hands fisting in the material.
“How is he, Owen?” Jack asked as he watched Ianto with barely concealed concern. Due to Ianto’s alien nature they had allowed the paramedics only a cursory look at him and had waited until their return to the Hub to properly examine him.
“He’ll do,” Owen replied as he stretched. “Slight concussion, mild shock, a couple of cracked ribs and a lot of bruises. Clean him up, put him to bed and let him sleep. Light foods tomorrow and off duty for a week.”
“A week?” Ianto exclaimed looking horrified. “I can’t take that much time off.”
“Trust me song boy, I’m already suffering from caffeine withdrawal but that’s what you’ll do if you want to heal up properly.”
“It’s only for a week, Ianto,” Jack said gently as he placed a hand over Ianto’s fingers stilling their twisting movements. “We can manage without you for that long.”
“You didn’t last time,” Ianto muttered rebelliously and then flushed.
“I know, but that was four weeks under very different circumstances,” Jack kept his voice calm. The last time had been Ianto’s suspension for the Cyberwoman incident and the others had discovered just how irreplaceable the young man had been. “We can keep the place tidy for a week and no-one will touch the archives or the coffee machine.”
“I know I certainly won’t,” Owen said. “That machine hates me.”
“It hates everyone except Ianto,” Jack grinned. “Come on, let’s get you cleaned up and let Owen go home,” Jack said as he prompted Ianto to his feet and began walking him to the stairs.
“Good, I’m knackered,” Owen said around a yawn. “I’ll give him a quick look over tomorrow before you take him home,” he added as he helped Jack get Ianto up the stairs. He grabbed his jacket from his desk. “I’ll check on Tosh when she gets in tomorrow. Gwen knows she’s off duty for a week as well.”
“Gwen might be a bit annoyed with me right now so make sure you enforce that week off,” Jack remarked with a depreciating manner.
“What did you do, Harkness?” Owen frowned.
Jack shrugged. “Kind of let it slip that she’d been shot to her boyfriend. Used the Special Ops excuse and apparently she hadn’t mentioned it to him.”
Owen let out a small laugh. “No wonder she’s pissed at you. According to Tosh, Gwen’s been telling him that she’s working on investigations only. No front-line stuff.”
“Ahh,” Jack commented with a grimace. “I didn’t know that, and as it was human cannibals with not an alien in sight I didn’t think it’d hurt him having a basic story.” His breath puffed out. “She’s got a side full of buckshot holes. It’s not like she could hide it from him.”
“I’ll call in at her place on my way in tomorrow,” Owen said before he looked at Ianto. The young man looked pale and exhausted as he shook off Jack’s hand and began to walk slowly in the direction of the showers. “Get him settled Jack. He’s nearly out on his feet.”
“Yeah. Good night Owen and good work today,” Jack told him with a grateful smile. Owen made a small scoffing sound and shrugged.
“Just another normal Torchwood day,” he said as he headed to the cog door, car keys in his hand. “See you tomorrow, Harkness.”
Jack heard the sirens briefly wail as he turned and hurried after Ianto. The young man hadn’t gone too far and was steadily if slowly walking down the corridor. Jack was tempted to put an arm around his waist and help him along – hell, he was tempted to just pick the man up and carry him. Not that he said anything when he noticed the set expression on Ianto’s bruised face. Jack let his breath out silently and slowed his pace to match Ianto’s.
“I can manage, Sir,” Ianto said after a few minutes.
“I see that,” Jack replied agreeably.
“I don’t need any help,” Ianto tried again.
“I’m not offering any.” Jack’s voice stayed light and casual.
“Then why are you following me?”
“I need to shower too,” Jack stated as if it was obvious and then grinned when Ianto turned to look at him, eyebrow raised.
“I’ll agree that you need a shower, Sir,” he said slowly. “But since when do you use the communal showers?”
“Since I have a rather stubborn employee who is rather badly hurt and won’t accept any help and I’ve got Doctor’s orders to look after him. Showering in the same room is the least I can do,” Jack replied with a friendly leer on his face that wasn’t present in his voice.
Ianto bit his lip and kept walking. He knew that the Captain was determined and stubborn, and nothing Ianto could say was going to stop him from following Ianto. He didn’t know whether to scream or sigh. All he wanted was some privacy. Just a little time away from everyone to try and reconcile the events of the day. He sighed. It was obviously too much to hope for.
The shower room was a landscape of tile and pipe. Black and white and mottled steel, it was cold and bare and Ianto was stripping off his filthy clothes as he headed to the nearest showerhead seeking hot water. The chill of the impersonal room intensified the cold numbness within him and he turned the tap as far as it would go. Water spluttered in a frigid dribble for a moment before it settled into a smooth flow of increasing warmth. Ianto stood under it and let the water surround him.
Jack stripped off in a more leisurely manner and took position at the showerhead next to Ianto. He waited for the water to warm up keeping an appraising eye on the young man.
Bruises covered his ribs and back and wide black bands marked the back of his thighs. Jack mentally catalogued the marks, separating those that had come from a beating and others caused by kicking. He noted the abrasions at Ianto’s wrists and ankles and the almost-bruises that marked his cheeks. Jack frowned. Ianto had paid heavily for saving Tosh, and Jack couldn’t be prouder. Or guiltier. He should never have gotten Ianto into such danger. He had failed to keep Ianto safe. He had failed to keep them all safe. Why none of them had blamed him yet was beyond his understanding.
The sudden slap of flesh on tile had Jack blinking out of his thoughts and turning to Ianto. The young siren was pressing his forehead against the tiles and pounding at the wall with his fist. Water sluiced down his back in steaming floods that left any unmarked skin glowing red.
Jack reached out for Ianto’s shoulder and hissed at the boiling heat of the water.
“Ahh Ianto! Come on,” Jack coaxed, reaching for the cold water tap. “You’re going to give yourself third degree burns and Owen’ll have my hide for not taking care of you.”
“Won’t,” Ianto said above the water’s rush. He turned his face towards Jack. His eyes were red and Jack was fairly certain that there was more than just tap water running down the bruised cheeks. “It’s not hot enough. Humans are so fragile in some ways.”
Jack nodded. “I know, but even if you can handle the heat normally, I don’t think it’s a good idea when you’re so badly injured.”
“Do you think humans are so evil because they’re so fragile?” Ianto asked and Jack wondered if Ianto had even heard him. There was a vacant look to the red-rimmed blue eyes that met his.
“No, I don’t think that at all,” Jack replied. “We just met a bad bunch, that’s all.”
“I've met too many bad bunches,” Ianto said with a choked sound. His fist pounded the wall again. “Canary Wharf, the Brecons. I’ve read the histories, I was told – warned – to stay hidden, to stay safe. But I shouldn’t have been worried about what they would do to me. I should have been more worried about what they do to their own kind.”
“All people, regardless of their race or their species are always their own worst enemy,” Jack said carefully.
“If I had sung them dead would I have been evil too?” Ianto questioned him in an almost pleading tone.
“No. You are not evil, Ianto Jones. You wouldn’t have done that,” Jack reassured him.
“To never harm others.” Ianto gave a broken laugh. “It’s the first thing I learnt. And I have broken that Rule so many times before. I’ve hurt…” Ianto closed his eyes. “I’ve hurt so many,” he whispered.
“But never deliberately or maliciously,” Jack told him as he adjusted the water and stepped in close offering support without actually touching him.
“I wanted to sing them away,” Ianto admitted. “I wanted them to die, to disappear forever.”
“But you didn’t.”
“I could have sung the resonances to end them. I could have sung them into atoms,” Ianto’s voice was distant and almost casual but Jack noticed an increasing tension building in the young man. The fisted hands were trembling against the tiles.
“And do you want to know the worst thing about today?” Ianto asked and Jack just knew it was rhetorical. “What they did to me was worse than if they had cut my throat.” Shaking fingers unfurled and rested on the small waterproof bandage at his throat.
“Ianto?” Jack laid a careful hand on Ianto’s shoulder and the young man straightened up and stared at him.
“Do you know the one thing that a Siren is most afraid of, Sir?” Ianto demanded. The apathy had gone from his voice and eyes. The shock had worn off Jack realised.
"The one thing above all else that a siren dreads is having no voice,” Ianto told him as he began to shake. “No voice,” he repeated. Fingers twitched and then tore at the bandage ripping it from his skin and laying bare the scabbed line at the base of his throat. Blood beaded and was immediately washed away.
“He had a cleaver at my throat and I could do nothing because I had no voice! They gagged me. A single piece of dirty cloth and I had no voice. No way to stop them, no way to save myself or the others. That stupid evil man didn’t even know what he was doing. I’ve seen the shows on the TV where you tie someone up and you gag them. It’s all part of the scene but not to me. Not to a siren. Gagging someone – keeping them alive and silent is the worst possible fate or punishment for a siren. And they gagged me,” Ianto rambled in a flat voice with burning eyes.
Jack hadn’t thought of it like that. To him the cleaver at Ianto’s throat had been the one image that had struck the most terror into his heart.
“I would have welcomed the cleaver if that gag had stayed there,” Ianto pronounced and Jack stepped back as if struck before surging close again.
“No!” he exclaimed and grabbed at Ianto’s shoulders forcing the man to meet his fierce gaze. “No! Never say that you would welcome death, Ianto. It’s not worth it. Death is never worth it. I won’t let you become silent, Ianto.”
“You saved me this time but what the next time? Or the one after that?” Ianto pointed out and shook his head. “You won’t always be able to save me and I never want to be that vulnerable again. I will sing before I am gagged again.” There was heavy promise in the words.
“If you must, then you do so,” Jack told him and Ianto blinked clearly not expecting Jack’s agreement.
“And if its death-song?” he queried hesitantly but without apology.
“Then they die,” Jack stated. “But what I am going to do, Ianto Jones, is to teach you some of those human ways of protection so you’ll always have a way to save yourself – and the others too, if necessary.” Jack gathered Ianto to him, wrapping his arms carefully around the bruised form and ignoring the feel of wet skin against him. “But know this Ianto Jones,” he murmured against Ianto’s ear. “I will always want to save you.”
Ianto shuddered against him, his face buried against Jack’s shoulder. Jack held him for a long time until only fresh water flowed between them.
Continued in In Concert