?

Log in

No account? Create an account
 
 
18 June 2008 @ 06:57 pm
Ouroboros, Torchwood, Jack/Ianto, PG-13  
Title: Ouroboros
Author: valderys
Pairing: Jack/Ianto, Lisa/Ianto
Rating: PG-13
Word Count: 8,066
Notes: AU, post-Cyberwoman. Not fluff, not at all. My first (!) attempt to explore what might have happened if Pizzagirl!Lisa had survived. It’s always bothered me that they shot her down like a dog…
Summary: Ianto never gives up, and he never surrenders. Not even when he’s forgotten what he’s meant to be fighting for…


Ianto turned away. He turned away from her, from the monster that she’d become, from the sweet girl she’d become again. He turned away, his own thoughts roaring, threatening to overwhelm him, but they weren’t loud enough for him to ignore the click of metal.

That was Jack’s gun, his Webley, old-fashioned and out of date, an affectation of oil and precision engineering, but one you had to cock. He would hear that sound, that precise little metal click, in his dreams, his nightmares, if you could tell them apart. He heard that still small sound and he threw himself backwards. He forced himself to move faster than he thought possible, because he had to be in time, it was impossible that he would be too slow, he already had far too much that he was unable to forgive.

Ianto threw himself backwards, his suit flapping as he turned, and barrelled into the girl, knocking her to the floor under him. Her slight frame was warm under his hands, he hoped he hadn’t winded her, or damaged the… body further. Ianto realised he had a nail that was throbbing; he must have bent it back some time today, and he could feel laughter welling up in his throat, that he could notice something that small, that insignificant, as he waited for them both to die.

The sound of gunfire was dreadful in that small space, and Ianto stared into… Lisa’s unfamiliar eyes and smiled his love in those last few seconds. But then the noise stopped and he was still alive. He thought he was alive. The smell of cordite almost overwhelmed the smell of blood, but he could move, he could breathe, the air still stung his throat. It seemed good enough. He didn’t move though. He curled his fingers into the girl’s shirt, and hung on. She stared at him, but didn’t try to talk, and Ianto was grateful for that.

He’d done everything he could. He’d lied for her, he’d whored for her. He’d cheated, and stole, and been responsible for murders. The only way he could give her up now was if they pried her from his cold dead fingers.

Ianto realised he still had the gun Jack had given back to him. It was on the floor by his shoulder where he’d dropped it as he’d moved. He took it up again, in the ringing silence after the gunfire, he took it up again and then he turned once more, making sure his body was still a shield. But he had to see them, he had to know what they were going to do. He couldn’t afford to turn his back, or to let them sedate him – Owen could be sneaking up behind him with a needle, even as he cowered.

Things were far from over, and he had to be strong – he had to remain strong – for Lisa’s sake. Nothing had really changed. Lisa still needed his help. It was still the two of them against the rest of the world.

He looked up into four sets of appalled eyes, and slowly raised the gun.

***


“Well?” asked Jack, “I want options, people.”

Ianto thought about the suggestions he had. How he wanted to do up one of the cells in a nice pastel blue. Lisa liked blue. He wanted to suggest that he’d like his own cell decorated in yellow, something not too bright, but cheerful none the less. In fact, thinking about it, he had a catalogue he could show them.

Considering he was hand-cuffed to a pipe in the main work area though, and could barely hear the conversation from the conference room, he didn’t think his opinion would be required really. Which was a shame since they would be discussing his own and Lisa’s fates. Thank god for Owen and his usual sloppy habits – at least he’d left the door open. Every so often Jack would glance down at Ianto, as he passed the windows, as he paced. Jack was fond of pacing, Ianto knew. He watched him now, four paces and turn, four paces and turn.

Lisa was in the cells, or so Ianto had gathered. That was good. That was perfect. He knew the cell areas intimately. He’d been afraid…

No time to think about that. He must be sharp, he must understand what was going to happen, and he must plan for it. It would be harder now, of course, when he was a lot more than good old Ianto who clears up all the shit, invisible Ianto that they’d all ignored. They would pay more attention now, it would be more difficult, if they even allowed him to stay. He wasn’t going to take a drink from anyone either, for fear of sleep and retcon-induced oblivion.

If he had that option. The vault would be the worst. He tried not to think about that.

So he strained to hear. Gwen seemed to be arguing for their release, for their… rehabilitation, Ianto supposed. Good for Gwen. Any time she could buy them both would be good, better than good, great even.

Ianto remembered, in their Mexican stand-off, that it had been Gwen who’d grabbed Jack’s arm, Gwen who’d stopped Jack shooting them both in cold blood, as Ianto half-lay on the floor with his gun, and the new Lisa. Ianto could be grateful for that. He really could. He hadn’t wanted to shoot anyone, not really. But he’d also recently had Jack’s gun in his ear, and Jack’s voice snarling that he had to choose his side.

Ianto thought it’d been perfectly obvious what side he’d been on, and just because Jack hadn’t liked or wanted the answer, hadn’t changed the facts.

But that would work in his favour too. They were all so certain, so sure that Ianto would do the right thing eventually. That he would go along with the team, and its consensus. Well, he did do the right thing – he was continuing to do the right thing. And that would mean that they might believe that he had changed his mind.

They’d left him in the main part of the Hub too, as though they didn’t want to put him in the cells, which meant they didn’t think of him as a threat, not properly. That was good as well. Tosh had searched him, as Jack had held his gun on him, scowling, and Ianto had wanted to laugh, had wanted to cry some more. Was he really likely to try and attack little Tosh? She’d been so apologetic as she’d searched, as she’d taken his keys, and his gun, and even his ID card. Ianto had held his jacket open for her, carefully, showing Jack first. He’d tried to meet Jack’s eyes, but he hadn’t succeeded. Ianto thought that was probably a bad sign.

So it was all a toss-up really.

Tosh hadn’t checked his wallet though, and that was where he kept his lock-pick. Four paces and turn. There. That was the time window. Tosh had left the alien universal lock-breaker on her desk too, so it hardly mattered that they had taken his keys. Did they really think so little of him?

Jack caught his eye on the last pace and turn. Jack’s eyes were full of something other than anger, finally. They were full of pity. Ianto looked away this time, his mind jumbled, feeling every ache from today. Feeling Jack’s mouth on his as he lay in the water, after Lisa had thrown him away. It didn’t matter, that both of them had betrayed him, that neither of them had given up on him, Lisa or Jack. Jack was right, his loyalties couldn’t be split, but what Jack had failed to take into account was that he’d made his choice long ago. Ianto decided the pity meant that the team must be coming to the end of their debate. That the decision had been made, and Ianto really doubted it was in his or Lisa’s favour. Sorry Gwen, Ianto thought silently. You tried your best.

Four paces and turn. The lock-pick was cold in his hands, still slippery with Lisa’s blood. The hand-cuffs were well-maintained though – after all, he maintained them. That would do. There. The click was almost silent but he still held his breath. There was shouting from the conference room. That was his chance, his distraction. He’d have a head-start. Pray that was all he needed.

Ianto ran for the cells.

***


“What am I going to do with you?” asked Jack as he stared through the glass.

Ianto knew it was rhetorical, but it didn’t hurt to try. “You could let us go.”

Jack laughed, a short bark that didn’t smack of humour, but Ianto smiled dutifully anyway. He supposed it was funny in a way. The chase had been a hard one, at least. They’d nearly done it. Nearly made it. Nearly was nowhere near good enough.

His body had new bruises, but Lisa was all right. For now. He’d managed to protect her, for all the good it would do, now that they were both locked up. But he’d done his duty. Ianto stared at Jack through the glass, looked at the pinched skin around his mouth, at the blue shadows under his eyes, and wondered what he himself looked like on this terrible, never-ending day. Wondered, in fact, if Jack was just a kind of twisted mirror. But if Jack looked like he was suffering too, was it wrong that Ianto immediately found himself considering his options – what might he try? What might make Jack save them both? He smiled a little more widely.

“I don’t think that letting you go is exactly on the table,” said Jack, slowly, and Ianto’s guts clenched. He forgot – Jack didn’t precisely forgive easily.

“No, I suppose not.” Since smiling didn’t seem to be working, he frowned instead, thinking about his next move. The cells were far harder to break out of. He wouldn’t have much time. His body ached, but his soul felt more bruised, although part of that was almost being able to tell where Lisa was, but not quite – the cell next door, he decided. Jack’s eyes had flicked there at least once during their short conversation. He wanted to bite the bullet, to get it over with.

“You can’t put us in the vault, Jack. We’re human beings, not aliens. Torchwood was never meant for that.” He hoped.

“I could keep you here though, in the cells,” Jack’s response was swift, and perhaps predictable. Ianto tasted salt and metal. He tried to let the bright pain of his bitten lip ground him, but it was too hard. He wanted to weep, not flirt. Not bargain for his and Lisa’s very lives. But that was Torchwood too, as much as anything else.

“Besides,” said Jack, “I am yet to be convinced that ‘Lisa’ is anything close to human.”

It wasn’t something he expected of himself, because control was second nature. But it wasn’t a conscious decision. Between one breath and the next Ianto was against the glass and beating on it, trying to get at Jack, to kill him, maybe to just stop him. It didn’t matter. Streaks of bright new blood, his own, Ianto thought hysterically, appeared on the window, smearing Jack’s features into a clown’s mask.

He was still trying to force his way through the unyielding door when the gas jets hissed into life. He held his breath for as long as possible, and stared at Jack.

“That answers that, doesn’t it?” said Jack, and Ianto wanted to plead, not for his own life, but for Lisa’s. “I’m being merciful, Ianto Jones. I’d want you to remember that, except that you won’t.”

Jack held up the little white pill Ianto had come to dread the sight of, even when it hadn’t been his turn, even when instead it had been some poor sod who’d seen something they shouldn’t, even when all the poor bastard was going to lose was a Saturday night down the pub in Grangetown.

“Don’t kill her,” he gasped, wanting his last breath as himself to mean something, “Not in cold blood. You can’t do it. Retcon her too. Jack!”

His mind buzzed frantically, and it occurred to him, even as the thought made him sick to his stomach, that he wasn’t above a bit of last ditch emotional blackmail. For months now he’d been lying, and he’d been cheating – what was one more sin?

“If you cared for me at all, even a tiny amount. Don’t kill her.” He watched as Jack clenched his fists, hoping desperately that what he said would help, not make things worse. “Don’t punish her because of me. Please, Jack.”

And even as Ianto felt his vision beginning to grey out, as Jack’s face swam in his mind’s eye, he held on to that, to the anger that simmered in familiar blue eyes, and to the memory of a copper tower that stretched into the sky, from its roots here in the depths of the earth, to the shining water as it cascaded down its sides to the pavement far above.

It wasn’t like he could test it. But Ianto truly, desperately, had to believe that it would work.

If he couldn’t trigger himself to remember, then he’d never see Lisa – or Jack – ever again.

***


Why, thought Ianto Jones, why did anyone want to live in Rhyl? Why, for that matter, did he want to live in Rhyl? Although that question was easier, he didn’t want to live here, but that’s where he’d been found work, that paid something, which wasn’t easy after the coma, after spending two years away from his life, and his lack of career, and the world.

He stood on the promenade, leaning against the railings, eating chips. Occasionally he threw a chip to the seagulls as they squabbled and cried in air above, or as they waddled on the beach below. He didn’t turn around, the sea, as iron-grey as it was, was a more cheerful sight than the desolate emptiness of the boarded-up beachfront shops in winter. Kiss-Me-Quick hats and tattered posters advertising ice-cream and free games of mini-golf. Rhyl was cheap at the best of times, and February was not the best of times.

No, the sea was what he watched, every lunch hour, staring out into the waves. There was something about the light on the water that he almost remembered, but he couldn’t quite grasp…

Ianto watched as another used condom washed up below him, and found his hands were clenching into fists. He found it was easy, in the end. He turned around and walked back to the debt collection agency, carefully throwing away the greasy paper with the last of his chips. No-one looked surprised when he gave his notice, indeed, mostly they just looked envious.

It didn’t matter what, but there had to be something better than this.

***


“Hello,” said Ianto, trying for his most respectable, wondering why the woman was staring back at him with such shock. She had really huge eyes.

“Yes?” asked the woman, sharply. She was fumbling with her earpiece, he noticed. Probably blue tooth, or a mobile, or something. That probably explained the shock then – she hadn’t heard him approach. He tried to appear unthreatening, although really, it was the middle of the afternoon and there were people about. It was the middle of Roald Dahl Plass, for god’s sake!

“I’ve just moved back to Cardiff. I was wondering, could you tell me the way to the local tourist office? I’ve never needed it before, because I used to live here, but somehow… Well, you know how it is – if you leave a place, it all looks different five years later.” He shrugged, and tried not think about his missing two years. Tried not to look like a crazy person who’d been in a coma.

“Don’t ask me,” she said, abruptly, like she was trying to be rude, but that it didn’t come naturally. “Why me? Do you think I look local, or something?”

Ianto smiled, thinking he wasn’t the only crazy person around here. “You sound local,” he offered, apologetically, and then abruptly, she giggled.

“Yes. Sorry. What was I thinking, it’s been a long day, and, well, then. There you were! Out of the blue.”

Ianto smiled again, and this time the woman treated him normally, behaved normally. Ianto hadn’t realised he’d been clenching his fists until he was relaxing his cramping fingers. But now she seemed happy enough to give him directions – back into the centre of Cardiff, right near the castle apparently. Funny. He’d thought there was an tourist office closer than that…

It was funny, in fact, that of all the people here wandering at the Plass, that it was her that Ianto had picked to ask. The other almost-crazy person. It had just felt right, somehow.

Ianto stared up at the water-tower. A copper coloured behemoth reaching to the sky. He shivered a little, thinking the breeze from the sea must have picked up, but he couldn’t stop staring. Since he’d come back to Cardiff, he often came to the Plass, wondered about, down to the harbour, along to the restaurants, into the Millennium Centre. He didn’t know why, but it was comforting.

The woman with the huge eyes was still watching him. If Ianto didn’t know better he might have thought the hand she had in her pocket was fingering something more deadly than a mobile phone. It was a silly thought, and he smiled again, before moving off. Maybe Jones, Ianto Jones had been watching too many James Bond movies.

***


Ianto met her on a Thursday. It was an ordinary day otherwise. He’d just had a job interview, so he was wearing a suit, which was something he didn’t really do. It felt a bit uncomfortable, to tell the truth, like stepping into someone else’s shoes. Like someone was walking on his grave. It was probably why he hadn’t done so well in the interview – well, that, and his two missing years. It was funny though. He still got the job.

Ianto never told her, but he reckoned that it was her doing. Lisa. She was his good luck charm, his four-leafed clover, she made the world a brighter place, she made him laugh. He’d nearly forgotten what it felt like to laugh.

They met in a coffee shop, Starbucks, of course, nothing much else left now on any street, even in Cardiff, and as soon as Ianto had clapped eyes on her sweet face, somehow… He knew. It was like being hit by a bolt of lightning. Such a cliché. Ianto wasn’t used to being a cliché. But with Lisa, he hardly cared.

They talked for hours, until the shop closed, and it wasn’t until Ianto checked his voicemail that he even realised that he’d got the job. They had to go out to have a real drink then, to celebrate. It felt so natural. Like they’d done it before.

In the pub, Lisa confessed that he had to forgive her, she’d had a car accident, and her memory was incredibly patchy – some things were clear as crystal, but some things… She took a deep breath, and showed him the scar. It was a jagged white puckered line all across her forehead. Lisa wore her fringe long to cover it. A pane of glass had nearly taken the top of her head clean off. It had been awful, apparently, but she didn’t remember anything. It was a mercy, really. That’s what they had all said, in the hospital, over and over again. That it had been a mercy.

Ianto wanted to kiss that jagged white line. He felt like he’d been given a miracle all of his very own. Lisa was obviously embarrassed about the scar, because she covered it up again as quick as quick, but Ianto wanted to tell her about his own far less visible damage. The coma that had taken two years of his life, the odd marks and long-healed hurts on his own body, that he didn’t remember. He could be himself with Lisa, as much as it was possible to be, with someone who could understand. It was like falling in love for the first time, all over again.

Ianto found he wanted to hold and protect Lisa. He didn’t want to ever let her go again.

***


Lisa wanted to go to France. She’d never been abroad – she didn’t think so, at least. She wanted to go camping. Ianto just smiled, and agreed.

Lisa was small and neat and quick, like a bird in flight. She was blond-haired and brown-eyed, which Ianto knew hadn’t been his type in the past, as far he remembered, but what did that matter?

Lisa was from London, but she hadn’t wanted to stay there, not after the accident. She said she’d felt pulled to Cardiff. Me too, said Ianto, feeling his heart melting in his chest. It was fate. It had to be.

Lisa laughed like a trickling stream, all spurts and giggles. She didn’t laugh very often though – she said she couldn’t remember her laugh, that it felt like someone else’s. She preferred to make Ianto laugh.

Ianto was ticklish on his elbows. On his elbows! No sensible man should be ticklish on his elbows. Which Lisa said proved that Ianto was no sensible kind of a man.

Lisa had a memory that was worse than Swiss cheese. She didn’t know what post boxes were for. She had to be reminded every time where the trolley’s in the supermarket were kept. The year she turned twelve was a great gaping chasm. She was all holes, patched together lightly. He loved every inch of her.

***


A cockney idiot was swearing at someone’s girlfriend. At least, that’s what Ianto thought he was doing. It was crass, tasteless, and was going to get him beaten up, if he wasn’t careful.

The boyfriend was going to take a swing, Ianto could tell. He nudged Lisa, who had just finished her drink, and nodded at the door. They really didn’t need the aggro. Lisa hated any kind of scene and Ianto wanted her out of there as soon as possible, just the sound of an argument could make her start shaking, and Ianto hated to have her scared. Not after all she’d been through. He cupped her elbow as she got up, making sure he stood between Lisa and any incipient violence, but in the end it didn’t matter.

The cockney git swore one more time and swung away… into Ianto. Reflexively, Ianto put up an arm, and the git bounced off it, harmlessly he thought. Lisa sucked in a sharp little breath but otherwise was quiet. Ianto wanted to kill this random little shite anyway, for upsetting her, for ruining decent folks’ evenings. Until the bloke’s eyes widened as he saw who he’d shoved.

“Fuck,” said the twat, “Fuck me. Ianto bloody Jones.”

Ianto swallowed through a throat gone suddenly dry. He didn’t recognise this bloke. He would have staked money on it, which meant… what?

“Umm. Do I know you?” Ianto said, suddenly cold with a weird kind of dread, “Because if I do, I have to ask. How do you know me?”

Ianto caught the bloke’s arm, as he moved to back away. But the pissed-off boyfriend was still behind him, and Ianto was in front – his own personal version of a rock and a hard place, maybe.

The guy tilted his thin lips a little sideways, in what might pass for an ironic grin. “Sorry, mate, not really fair, you caught me on the hop. And I’m a bit pissed, to tell the truth.”

He didn’t appear to want to say anything more, even though it was a non-answer. Instead, the bloke went to push past Ianto, to push past Lisa, before Ianto pulled her carefully to one side, protecting her. Ianto found a funny slow-burning pulse of anger kindling from nowhere.

The pub was crowded but the bloke didn’t have to stumble, just then, just as he passed Lisa. He must be more pissed than Ianto’d thought. But the two of them were heading out anyway. It wouldn’t matter if Ianto got some answers along the way. He raised an eyebrow at Lisa, and she nodded, her eyes white and strained.

In the street, Ianto caught the guy’s elbow again. “Seriously, how do you know me?”

He realised he’d lost any pretence at civility, and that Lisa was shaking, minutely, under his hand.

“Look,” said the bloke, “I am sorry. But you don’t want to know.”

“I’m pretty sure I do…” Ianto began, when the bloke interrupted him.

“No. You don’t. But I’m tired. And I’m not getting a shag tonight, and I’m pissed, and I can feel the hangover starting already. I can’t be arsed with this, ok? So I’ll tell you. Even though I shouldn’t.”

The bloke took a breath, like he was steadying himself, and Ianto caught the gleam of an earpiece through his straggling hair. There was a tiny flash of light. Ianto realised he could see it because the bloke was looking past him at Lisa. Then he looked back at Ianto and the light vanished.

“I was the doctor who oversaw you when you were in your coma, all right? Satisfied?”

Ianto found his head was hurting, like it was stuffed with cotton wool or marshmallow. Like he imagined it must feel on the really good drugs. He didn’t understand, but his hands were cold, and oddly he found the bloke was right. He didn’t really want to know.

“Yes, ok. That makes sense. Thank you, I suppose. Umm. Have a good night?” Ianto stammered, sweating, even in the cool night air.

The bloke shrugged, and grinned again, in a way that didn’t meet his eyes. He hunched his shoulders in his leather jacket, hands in his pockets.

“That your girlfriend?” he asked, suddenly, and Ianto nodded. “She doesn’t say much, does she.”

Why was this random stranger so interested in Lisa? Ianto stepped in front of her again, just in case, and the bloke snorted.

“All right, I was only asking. Not looking for an orgy.” He hunched a little lower in his jacket, and Ianto thought he looked like he was afraid, or guilty, somehow. It was very strange.

“I hope the two of you are very happy,” said the cockney twat, who didn’t seem so much of a git right at that moment.

When the bloke walked away down the street, Ianto felt as though he’d missed something important. But he was equally certain that he was glad.

***


In the end, it wasn’t the water-tower. It wasn’t the wide sweep of the harbour as he walked down from the Plass, or the gap in Gwen’s teeth, or the taste of Jubilee Pizza.

In the end, it was simpler than that. He took Lisa to see a film.

The Electro was opening up again. Ianto couldn’t wait to show the old place to Lisa, he could almost smell the popcorn, and the vaguely sweaty seats, and the comfort of a Saturday morning with his Dad watching old cartoons. It wouldn’t be like that now, of course, but still – Ianto wanted to share what he could. It was a heady thing, not having to worry about what he remembered, and what he didn’t. The Electro would welcome him back, would welcome them both back, and it would be as though he was a child again. He couldn’t wait.

It didn’t disappoint. There was rain on the way, but the Electro lit up the street as though it was welcoming them home, all shining windows and round smoky lights, all red velvet and plush inside.

They settled into the back row like giddy teenagers.

“I love you,” whispered Lisa, and Ianto squeezed her hand. He was so happy, it felt like his chest was being squeezed with it.

The owners were dressed in period, in suits, as manager and usherette, and Ianto felt somehow underdressed. Unconsciously, he reached up to adjust a non-existent tie, which jarred him a bit. He never wore a suit. But then Lisa reached up a hand and pulled his errant fingers back down to his lap, and Ianto grinned at her; it was amazing what the Electro could inspire. It was a testament to its ambience and his imagination.

The film was only a clip show, but Ianto felt drawn to it anyway. He had no obligation to remember people and events that had happened long before he was born. There was something ultimately comforting in that. Hope Street flickered in front of him, and Lisa leaned her head on his shoulder, like an old-fashioned sweetheart. He smiled when the carnival acts began.

Which made it all the more shocking when the memories returned, like bombs exploding, strewing sudden destruction, and bitter lasting pain.

Oh, not all at once. Not like a piece of film slotting into place, careful, and distanced, and measured frame by frame. More like great jagged wounds, forcing themselves into his mind, like knives stuck into the screen, whether he wanted them there or not.

Jack. Smiling and silver, filmed so long ago. His image captured a hundred years past, those eyes staring into the camera while holding a gun to his head, just for second, just for a split second… And Ianto thought.

I know those eyes are blue.

***


It was a beautiful day. The sun shone over the bay, sparkling on the water, and dazzling his eyes. The coffee he held was fragrant and steaming, a testament to the art of the man who made it. The mug was… white. Everything was perfect.

The slamming of a door brought Ianto back to himself. The hand holding the mug shook, just slightly, and he steadied it, even as he looked up into the well-known and beloved features of a stranger. He swallowed and proffered the mug. The man didn’t take it.

“Haven’t we been here before?” the man said, and the world swung on its axis. His voice was so familiar, the foreign nasal twang, the promise of honey under the vinegar, like a thousand films from his childhood. Ianto wanted to rub himself all over it like a cat, but he didn’t really remember why. He trembled.

“I’m Ianto Jones. I think your name is Jack. I remembered being here, like this, now. I remember… Why do I remember your name is Jack?”

“Go home, Ianto Jones,” said Jack, and this time his voice was harder, less mocking. Ianto found he’d clenched his hands into fists, an involuntary reaction. Why did he want to punch this Jack, why did he want to do far more than that?

Jack began walking away, and Ianto ran in front of him, stopping him with a hand to his chest. “You can’t… You can’t make me. You can’t leave it like that.”

“I think I can. The choice was made long ago. There’s no way back now.”

Jack took Ianto’s hand away from his chest, and pushed lightly. Ianto rocked back on his heels. He didn’t know what he expected, but an outright refusal? No, he hadn’t let himself believe it would come to that.

Jack was walking away again, and Ianto… He didn’t want to pursue this man, not really. He was compelled to, not through any kind of desire, although there was that too, but because he didn’t know what else to do.

“Please. Can you just tell me about the burning? About the blood? Can you tell me why I’m remembering metal, and bodies, and destruction? Can you tell me why I’m remembering my girlfriend with a different face?”

Ianto’s voice broke on that, he couldn’t help it, and he bit his lip. He was ashamed. He was holding it together as best as he knew how, but if this man, this Jack, couldn’t help him, then… He was shivering inside, breaking up, as though a thousand pieces of him were blowing in a sharp north wind, swirling around in his head, and heart. He didn’t know what was real any more. When one of them landed, he was there, in the moment, back there in a broken reality. A place and time that had never happened. Or only happened in his nightmares, as he dreamed on the ventilator, his eyes twitching in REM sleep, a hopeful sign, or so they had told him when he woke up. He no longer believed that. He felt like he was going mad.

The man – Jack – had stopped. Turned towards him a little. “Did you say – girlfriend?”

There was an arrested look in his eyes, the inexplicable anger giving way to something else. Sadness, perhaps. Ianto wrapped his hands around the coffee mug, for the warmth, and the minimal comfort. He didn’t know why the sadness should scare him more than the nightmares, but it did.

“Her name’s Lisa – Lisa Hallett. She’s… not well. I don’t want to scare her with this.”

“You may not have that option,” said Jack, and the bleakness of his tone made Ianto shiver.

Suddenly, Jack was pulling him around, and taking him through the entrance to the little tourist office, dragging him down steps, through tunnels, disorienting him, although, as Ianto would be the first to admit, it wouldn’t take much. The noise of the huge round toothed door ratcheting open came to him as a taste in the back of his throat, like the mint of freshly cleaned teeth, like the greasy smell of cheese, and garlic bread. All familiar, all slotting into place like he’d done this just yesterday, or the day before. He straightened up minutely, because that was what you did when you faced the new… working day.

He stared at Jack, frightened of his own memories, but Jack just stared back, implacable.

The… Hub opened up around him. Grandeur and squalor, as always. The sterility of white tiles, water sheeting down from overhead. Torchwood declared boldly across the walls. Screeching coming from above, and Ianto flinched. Jack just looked bored.
The clutter of efficient-looking tech in the middle of the space, and then the staff, his old… team, who were in various stages of shock and surprise, that was also possibly, just very possibly, tinged with pleasure. Maybe even welcome.

Ianto wasn’t going to count on it though.

Then… Gwen got up, and came over, arms outstretched, her whole face smiling, and Ianto didn’t like to touch unnecessarily, except with her he did, apparently. The hug went on a long time, and Ianto breathed in that scent of flowers, and cordite, and chocolate that was uniquely Gwen. He found he was blinking back moisture.

They parted naturally, and he found himself smiling, for the first time since the Electro.

“So the nearest tourist office was back near the Castle, was it?” he asked, as other things slotted into place, and she giggled. God, how could he have forgotten Gwen’s propensity for giggling?

Owen, bizarrely, was next. And Ianto was almost sure that they hadn’t got on at all well. But maybe he wasn’t remembering everything, because Owen had that sort of half smile Ianto recalled from the pub, when Owen had been an obnoxious drunk, and Ianto could remember now, how entirely often Owen was precisely that, so it wasn’t as though he didn’t have practice. But here, now, he was coming forward, and almost looked like he was going to punch Ianto companionably in the shoulder, which would have made Ianto boggle more than almost anything else, but he didn’t, he turned aside at the last moment, to fiddle with some equipment, and somehow that meant just as much.

“I might have known you’d break retcon if anyone could. You always were a stubborn bastard,” said Owen, and Ianto stayed smiling, because that was how it was meant.

He looked now for…Toshiko. Tosh. And she was smiling at him too, but she wasn’t coming forward, and he remembered that was just like Tosh. Quiet and unassuming. Preferring to be in the backgrounds of places, not the foreground, just like Ianto. And then he caught his breath, because there he was, Ianto Jones, large as life, looking down from beside Tosh’s desk. Several pictures, on cheap print-outs, obviously from security footage, grainy, but unmistakably himself – staring out to sea, leaning on the railings at Rhyl, striding through a busy Cardiff street, laughing at something kept carefully off-camera.

Tosh had never forgotten him. And that touched him more than he could say.

Whole vistas were opening up now, great swathes of memories were slotting into place, and maybe he should have been more frightened, but he was tired of fear, and Ianto had always been more in control when he knew things. When they made sense.

He turned to Jack finally, still smiling, after all the greetings, but Jack stared back at him, serious and grim. And that’s when the last of it fell into place, and locked, and became real. The cybermen, and Canary wharf, and blood, the burning greasy smell of cauterised flesh, screaming, his own tears, and… Lisa.

Jack’s eyes were blue, and sad, and old. Ianto remembered them shaded dark with passion, and burning pale with anger. He remembered the jut of a gun barrel creasing the flesh by his ear. He remembered fighting, and running, and then running again. He remembered the slide of Jack’s skin, the taste of salt, and the ever-present scent of 51st century pheromones.

He remembered betrayal.

“I’m sorry,” said Ianto, and Jack winced.

“Come on,” he said, “My office. Now.”

***


“It was the right thing to do,” said Ianto, as he sat on the other side of Jack’s desk. “I don’t regret it. I can’t. She was human again – she may have murdered to do it, but she was sick. And she’d become human again. Torchwood has never been about killing humans.”

Unlike the aliens, hung unspoken in the air.

Jack’s fingers were restless, tapping and fiddling with the papers on his desk. Ianto knew that meant he was uncomfortable. He supposed that was fair.

“But she couldn’t be allowed to be uncontrolled,” said Jack, at last, and Ianto nodded. It was a long time ago, more than a year. He had a certain perspective now.

“Thank you for not... disposing of her.” He really was grateful, with the benefit of hindsight. Jack could have been far more ruthless. He wanted to say more, he wanted to explain… But Jack was closed off, remote. Ianto supposed it was too soon. “The retcon… You gave her the largest possible dose, didn’t you? Her memories are a mess. But she’s happy.” He raised his chin. “I make her happy. I always did.”

“I never doubted it.”

There was a small pause. Ianto didn’t want it becoming awkward.

“So what now?”

Jack got up, and began to prowl, and Ianto found he wanted to smile again. He remembered this too. Four paces and turn. Four paces and turn. He wanted to get out his old stopwatch, and time it, Jack was so precise.

“I didn’t know,” said Jack, “About you and Lisa, being a couple again. No-one mentioned it to me. I’m going to have words about that.”

Ianto looked around, finally beginning to notice the changes, as well as the similarities, of the remodelled Hub. It was a bit dizzying, to tell the truth. He wondered if the archives were still the same.

Absently, he said, “We found each other despite everything. Even without memories, we still found each other. They’ll write a film about us next. Shame I can never tell her.”

Jack’s voice was iron. “You’re going to have to do far more than that. You’re going to have to leave her. And you’re never going to see her again.”

“What?” Like a rubber band releasing itself, Ianto snapped his head round, the words barely registering, only the terror, and the horror, that he thought he’d put aside. Jack’s eyes were full of compassion, and now… Now the fear was back.

He didn’t carry lock-picks anymore. He didn’t have the codes to the doors, or a set of keys, or any of the other advantages he’d had when he’d been Torchwood’s archivist and coffee-maker. He found his eyes skittering feverishly from Jack’s gaze to the door, measuring distance, measuring time, measuring intention. Jack didn’t move.

It had been a year but still. Ianto remembered. He forced it all back in, stayed sitting quietly, he let his bunched hands relax and placed them on his knees. He thought about pasting a smile on, but Jack would know that wasn’t true. He wasn’t running on adrenaline, no sleep, the horror of Tanizaki’s murder and his team’s animosity this time around. He could afford to wait. After all, it was what he was best at.

Instead, he simply asked, “Why?”

Jack had been observing Ianto closely, until now, but at that Jack seemed to relax a little. Now that Ianto wasn’t immediately going to run, perhaps. Jack sighed, faintly, and rubbed a hand through his hair. “God, I hate these bits.”

“You always did hate explaining yourself. I think.”

“Look, you have to understand, Lisa Hallett has the potential within her to utterly destroy the human race,” said Jack, sounding exasperated. “If she remembers. And that’s the key. If she remembers. You found each other again, great, wonderful, let’s sing a song. But you managed to break through the retcon. If you did that, she has the potential to do the same.”

Argue with him, Ianto thought. It’s what he expects. “She’s shown no signs, Jack. God! She can barely remember how to order Chinese food. She can’t use a mobile phone even, she forgets how it works. Every time. She’s not a threat.”

Jack stared at him, and Ianto wanted to squirm under that gaze. It was so strange. A year ago, everything about Jack had been so familiar; the line of his jaw, the way his greatcoat hung on his shoulders, the way he laughed. It had to be familiar – Ianto had a secret, a purpose, to hide – he’d needed to know everything in order to succeed. And now, a year later, after his failure, after he’d forgotten it all, it was still as familiar as ever. As though he’d never really left.

The tension in his stomach was the same. The careful dissembling was the same. Ianto inhaled sharply, and let things trickle out in a sigh, as a visceral memory of how he used to distract Jack came flooding back. His cock twitched in his trousers, and Ianto felt ashamed, but still determined. Lisa deserved better than that from him, but sometimes, just sometimes, he truly hoped the ends really did justify the means. He wished he could ask for forgiveness.

“You saw something, something that triggered your memories to return,” said Jack, slowly and deliberately. “Every day you spend with Lisa increases the chance that she too will remember. You could say something, do something, at any time.”

“You’re a time bomb, Ianto Jones.”

With a laugh, that was almost a sob, Ianto threw himself out of the chair. He needed the movement, needed to do something. Because Jack wasn’t wrong, he knew that. But if Lisa was alone when it happened then, surely, things would be so much worse? He would be able to talk her down, talk her out of it – wouldn’t he?

He went cold with the sudden visceral certainty that if he couldn’t, no-one could. That Jack was more than capable of being as ruthless as was necessary. That it wouldn’t come down to talking, any more than it had in that cold blood-soaked basement a year ago. That it probably wouldn’t even be difficult for Jack. He didn’t know Lisa. He didn’t care.

There was a sudden crushing warmth and strength that pushed him the last few inches and into the wall of the office. Ianto could feel the scrape of wool along his collar, emphasising the small amount of height that Jack had over him. He could smell Jack’s sweat and musk. The slight chemical sweetness of his hair product. Oh, it was a heady mixture. His hands splayed against the wall without him willing them to, his legs wanting to part, long before an insistent thigh would insinuate itself. It was sense memory, an automatic reaction, even after a year. He gasped and felt Jack shove him harder.

“Well?” Jack asked, and Ianto groaned, and pushed back.

“Do you know what triggered me, Jack?” he moaned, “Do you want to know? You did. Just one glimpse of you, in celluloid, not even in person. One glimpse and I remembered… everything.”

Jack was breathing harshly into his neck, his lips millimetres away from his skin. Ianto stretched his shoulders, feeling the resistance, hearing Jack’s breathing change. He felt… Powerful. Vulnerable. Unleashed. God, he missed this.

“So what’s it going to be?” asked Jack, his voice growling now, harsh and heavy in the close atmosphere.

“I’d do anything for Lisa. You know that. Even this.”

“Yes…” Jack whispered, and Ianto sucked in a huge lungful of air.

“If it’s the only thing to do, then… I’ll leave her. I’ll have to.” His voice trembled with emotion, with the knowledge of what he was offering.

Jack pushed forward a little more, trapping Ianto even more firmly against the wall. Ianto could feel the scrape of Jack’s stubble against his cheek, sending flashes of lightning down to his groin. Jack’s nose was pressed into Ianto’s hair. Fleetingly, Ianto wondered what the others thought, if the others could even see them. Jack was always more careful than you might think about stuff like that.

Ianto licked his dry lips, flexed his fingers, feeling each tiny crack in the plaster under his hands, the throb of his cock as it pushed against his flies, each beat of his heart, faster than usual, magnified in this place, as it always was. There was nothing quite like it. The heady, dangerous, sick excitement of it all. He didn’t know how he’d ever forgotten that.

“It’s all right, Jack,” said Ianto, finally, whispering it to the walls, to a promise he’d made long ago. “I’ll do it. I’ll come back to Torchwood. I’ll come back to… you.”

***


Epilogue

Ianto Jones smoothed down his waistcoat, and adjusted his tie. He took a deep breath as the door ratcheted open, calming his nerves before he began his working day.

He would put coffee on straight away, as usual, before feeding Myfanwy. He would put the correct newspapers and journals out onto relevant desks. He would be perfectly normal.

He would remain sharp, always thinking, always observing, because he must understand what the others were doing, whether there might be any suspicion, and he must plan for every eventuality. It would be harder now, of course, when he was a lot more than good old Ianto who clears up all the shit, invisible Ianto that they’d all ignored. They all paid more attention now, but especially Jack. It would be more difficult this time, certainly, but Ianto had... supplies in his pocket, in case Jack needed distracting.

He also had retcon in his pocket, because he learned from his mistakes.

Once Ianto knew that he could completely cover his tracks, could delete all traces of himself and Lisa from the systems, he knew what he was going to do. It was no more than had been done to him.

He’d told Jack the truth. He’d do anything for Lisa. Ianto thought it had been perfectly obvious all along what side he’d been on, and just because Jack hadn’t liked or wanted the answer, hadn’t changed the facts.

But that would work in his favour too. They were all so certain, so sure that Ianto would do the right thing. That he would go along with the team, and its consensus. Well, he had done the right thing – he was continuing to do the right thing.

But that meant they had to believe that he had changed his mind…
 
 
 
SteerpikeSister: sexysixsteerpikesister on June 18th, 2008 06:34 pm (UTC)
wow.....thats was incredible! i'm cheering Ianto on, all the way. bad, naughty Jack, for being such a dick. you have his cold, ruthless side down to a tee. its not often we see good ianto centric fic that isnt slash, so i'm not used to het, but this is brilliant!
Valderys: Ianto with gunvalderys on June 19th, 2008 12:40 pm (UTC)
Well, Jack's being merciful by many definitions, including Ianto's, but Ianto is just not willing to leave it at that! (And I don't really blame him)

And the het? Yeah. *shuffles feet* It was sort of an accident. Would you believe that I was about halfway through this before I realised that I was actually writing my first het fic in about five years? :)
thrace_adams: not just a teaboythrace_adams on June 18th, 2008 07:29 pm (UTC)
OH wow, Ianto, very cold, very calculating, not a side we see very often of Ianto. That epilogue was just brilliant.
Valderys: Ianto with gunvalderys on June 19th, 2008 12:42 pm (UTC)
I think we forget exactly how much Ianto is used to hiding in plain sight. How much he keeps buttoned up and unsaid. But that's the Ianto I'm so much more interested in exploring... :)
missthingsplacemissthingsplace on June 18th, 2008 07:48 pm (UTC)
Oh wow, that was so good!
Valderys: Ianto with gunvalderys on June 19th, 2008 12:43 pm (UTC)
Thank you, hon! Glad you enjoyed!
Rhi: faye fayevipersweb on June 18th, 2008 08:01 pm (UTC)
this is a really nice au. i like the ruthlessness of Ianto. And the extent to which he is willing to go.
Valderys: Ianto with gunvalderys on June 19th, 2008 12:45 pm (UTC)
I really think that Ianto is capable of anything. I mean, remember the 'Pray they survive' moment in Meat? I think it's a side of him that isn't explored as often as it could be.
Chelsea Frew: Torchwood_Ianto1_Smile_Countrycidechelseafrew on June 18th, 2008 08:20 pm (UTC)
That was awesome. Really well done AU, and I could totally imagine things going in this direction.

Thank you so much for sharing your story!
Valderys: Ianto with gunvalderys on June 19th, 2008 12:50 pm (UTC)
Thank you! It's funny. I have all sorts of ideas bubbling around about Lisa surviving, and although I originally wanted to write this because I hated Jack and team's ruthlessnes in shooting Pizzagirl!Lisa, which was a fluffy impulse, I've since realised - there's no happy endings in this AU. Not really.

God, I love that :)
unavailable, fictional, and over-qualified: behind glassspoggly on June 18th, 2008 09:16 pm (UTC)
This was gorgeous and heartbreaking. I loved your characterization of Ianto to death.
Valderys: Ianto with gunvalderys on June 19th, 2008 12:55 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I wasn't sure of the characterization myself, because I don't think my Ianto is sarcastic enough... But then, it's when he's relaxed in 2nd season that it comes out more, and I suppose my Ianto is very far from relaxed! :)
Gunbunny: ianto shirtburntcopper on June 18th, 2008 11:35 pm (UTC)
wow. seriously good, and then it turns out that he;s *still* planning...
Valderys: Ianto with gunvalderys on June 23rd, 2008 03:58 pm (UTC)
Oh yeah... That was always going to be in there, from when I sat down and wrote the first sentence. Ianto's the original Energizer bunny - he never gives up! :)
felmyst on June 18th, 2008 11:53 pm (UTC)
what a fantastic ending...it was such an original AU...absolutely loved it..
Valderys: Ianto with gunvalderys on June 23rd, 2008 03:59 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much, hon! It means a lot.
Ravencraevn on June 19th, 2008 04:00 am (UTC)
Oh, I love this! It's beautiful and cruel. I love the cyclical nature of it; repeated images and thoughts, and the idea that this battle could go on forever...
Valderys: Ianto with gunvalderys on June 23rd, 2008 04:01 pm (UTC)
Oh yes - thank you for that imagery! And yup - it could go on forever, and ever... It's implicit in the title, mind - that's why I chose it! :)
It All Comes Back to the Breath: pic#72414255jo02 on June 19th, 2008 06:04 am (UTC)
Oh wow . . . this was relentless - and bleak - and brilliant.

Did I mention relentless - in the way that it came full circle, and then my heart sank when I realised that it was going to happen all over again!

This is some of the best fic I've read in ages - thank you.
Valderys: Ianto with gunvalderys on June 23rd, 2008 04:06 pm (UTC)
Aww, I hope it didn't sink in a bad way - I did warn for not-fluff, you know! Perhaps I should have warned for bleak? :) Although in my head, it was just a slightly twisted version of the eternal star-crossed romance-type storyline...
(Deleted comment)
Valderys: Ianto with gunvalderys on June 23rd, 2008 04:11 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much for that! There are a ton of post-Cyberwoman fics out there, so it means a lot! And yes, I like exploring Ianto's ruthless side - I think people forget that it's there. He'll do *anything* to protect the ones he cares about. At least, that's what I think.

And Lisa? I did fudge a bit with that - technically even though Jack had retconned her into oblivion, she should probably still have been a bit more insane. For a start, she'd be remembering herself as black, when she was now white. Something that fundamental would probably fuck you up, I should imagine. But the fic was already 8,000 odd words, so I left it. I might return and explore that side of things sometime though...
summerstreesummerstree on June 19th, 2008 06:40 pm (UTC)
I really enjoyed that - Thank you
Valderys: Ianto with gunvalderys on June 23rd, 2008 04:13 pm (UTC)
Aww, thanks, hon! I don't know how much you like Torchwood, so thanks for reading my scribbles!
Etharei Helkamirë: Torchwood - Iantoetharei on June 20th, 2008 05:36 pm (UTC)
I always have a great deal of admiration for authors who are willing to experiment and explore the limits of the canon characters and plotlines, which you very definitely did here. Dark and ironic and ruthless, but still totally in-character for Ianto. I especially love the little trick at the end, lulling the reader into a false expectation of the end, and then maintaining Ianto's singular goal all the way through.

Great concept, and brilliantly written!
Valderysvalderys on June 24th, 2008 08:33 am (UTC)
Personally, for me, it's the way out what-ifs, and the exploration of the edges of canon that have always interested me, in all my fandoms. And for some reason I like putting Ianto through the wringer :) As if the poor lad doesn't have enough to contend with! I think people forget the kind of dedication and obsession someone must have in order to do what Ianto does, and I like exploring that side of him.

I've also always liked twist endings :)
LauraB1: 1941Jacklaurab1 on June 20th, 2008 11:34 pm (UTC)
That's great. Very well done!

And so very messy, if and when Jack realises he's been played.
Valderys: Ianto with gunvalderys on June 24th, 2008 08:37 am (UTC)
Ohhh yes - if Jack realises :) Because this time? That means he's been played by Ianto - twice. He's going to be pissed. But in this AU, in my head, anyway, Ianto really is prepared to wipe out two years of everyone's memories to ensure his and Lisa's safety. Not sure that's any better, mind you!
Gummo Bergman's "Silent Strawberries": TW - Bitchy Lesbiansmarginaliana on June 21st, 2008 02:40 pm (UTC)
Ugh, wow. The ending of this really packed an amazing punch. Brilliant.
Valderys: Ianto with gunvalderys on June 24th, 2008 08:38 am (UTC)
Ooh, good - thank you, hon! I do like to throw in a twist :)