Valderys (valderys) wrote,

Danse Macabre, Jack/Ianto (NC-17)

Title: Danse Macabre
Author: valderys
Recipient: maharetr
Fandom: Torchwood
Pairing: Jack/Ianto
Rating: NC-17
Word Count: 7,640
Notes: Written for the apocalyptothon. Some spoilers for Torchwood season 2. Prompt was for ‘An On The Beach-style final days’.
Summary: A day in the very ordinary life of Ianto Jones.

Ianto Jones wakes up at 6.30 in the morning without fail. Sometimes he lays in the semi-darkness, and pulls the duvet up to his chin, listening to the sound of the occasional car as it drives down his street, letting the start to the day roll over him peacefully. Sometimes he rolls over and gets up straight away, it all depends. He always turns off the alarm before it rings at 6.45.

Once he’s up, he pulls on his dressing gown, and goes to clean his teeth, and have a shower. The water is nearly always hot, but sometimes he has to bang on the pipes, because they’re old, and the air will get in despite his efforts. He always makes sure he apologises to Mrs Pugh in the downstairs flat, if he has to do that, because you should keep on good terms with your neighbours. His Dad taught him that. It makes Ianto comfortable to know he’s keeping up with the social niceties.

Breakfast, if there’s time, consists of coffee and toast. Ianto measures out the coffee grounds carefully into a cafetiere, as the kettle boils. Even as the rich aroma assails his nose, he’s thinking about the better coffee he will make in work, what blends he will use, whether Gwen will want the vanilla roast today. The bread is slotted into the toaster as the coffee brews, and pops as Ianto pushes the plunger down. Ianto is economical in his movements. The small efficiencies make him smile, they please him.

He eats his breakfast on the tiny wooden table in the corner of his living room. Sometimes he reads the paper, if it’s been delivered – the Guardian – or, if it’s been a particularly hectic week, he tries to catch up with his diary. He uses a fountain pen, a beautiful green one, with a gold nib. He has blotting paper covered in little trails and squiggles of blue ink, that he carefully brings over to the table with the diary, and keeps in the top drawer of the dresser the rest of the time. He’ll take his diary to work with him, so after he’s finished writing, he carefully blots the new words, closes it and places it in his briefcase.

Ianto gets dressed for work then. His wardrobe is small and wooden, and it’s beginning to get full. Ianto is anxious about this, because a good suit needs room to hang properly; to breathe, and to prevent creases. There’s no room for another wardrobe either, so he wonders whether he’s going to have to consider moving. It’s a pity because he loves his flat otherwise. The high Victorian ceilings give the illusion of extra space and the cornices are original and intricate. He likes being able to hang his pictures properly from a dado rail.

Ianto thinks of this every day, as he stands with his hand upon the wardrobe door and decides upon his suit, his shirt, his tie. But as has become a habit by now, he puts off thinking about it for another day, as soon as the door shuts. It’s not as though moving would be easy at the moment, anyway. Practically impossible, in fact. Ianto lets himself forget about it, as a kind of luxury. He doesn’t allow himself to forget anything else.

At 7.15, Ianto is leaving the flat, locking it up carefully, waving to Mrs Pugh if she’s at her window, before walking off into the early morning. Sometimes the day is bright with sunshine and Ianto throws out his chest, taking deep lungfuls of fresh new air. Sometimes (often) it’s raining and he has to huddle under an umbrella, and a long coat, dark wool or a grey mackintosh, depending on the season.

Then Ianto walks along his quiet street, only grown quieter of late, with the rare cry of a gull for company. He pauses at the corner and nine times out of ten, the ginger tom from no. 29 will run towards him to wind around his ankles like a particularly heavy and belligerent ghost. Ianto always stops to scratch its ears. The cat is looking thinner, he thinks. Ianto’s becoming concerned that he may have to add buying cat food to the list of chores that frame his day. He’d like to check on the owners of no. 29, but if he’s right, then it’s already far too late for that. He makes a mental note to borrow the universal lock-breaker anyway.

It takes Ianto twenty five minutes to walk to work. It would take him less time if he rode a bike, but when he first started working for Torchwood Three the thought of Owen mercilessly taking the piss out of him for arriving in bicycle clips had put him off. There had also been, despite mudguards, the distinct possibility of splashes or oil stains. Now, Ianto enjoys the quiet time the walk offers him, it helps him clear his head, gets him set up for the new working day. He also knows that if he runs he can make the same distance in fifteen minutes, or drive it in less than five. He knows because he’s timed it. Stopwatches have a variety of uses. Anyway, Torchwood can always pick him up on the way, if there’s an emergency, it wouldn’t be the first time.

It’s odd though, there seem to be less emergencies lately. Ianto finds that peculiar, but is grateful for the respite. It doesn’t suit everybody, and that can’t be helped, but Ianto finds he has the time now to do things that previously he’s only dreamed about. He can put things in order. He can finish all his special projects. He needs to do that, before the end.

Ianto arrives at the Hub at 7.40. He has always been the first one in, as long as he has worked for the organisation, not counting Jack, who actually lives there. It’s a state of affairs which has always seemed appropriate to him, given the scope of his duties. Of course, it was necessary in the beginning, when he had Lisa, but now it just seems right. Suzie used to come in not long after Ianto, but she was never sociable, at any time of the day. A calm professional hello, a cup of coffee brought to her desk – that was all that Suzie ever required. Some days she would come in later, with Owen, and look sly. Ianto always wondered why either of them had ever thought their affair had been a secret. He’d also wondered why they had thought it was a necessary one.

By 7.45, Ianto is sorting the post, in the little office upstairs. He finds it gently ironic that even a secret organisation like Torchwood gets junk mail – although to be fair, most of it is addressed to the Mermaid Quay Tourist Office. Not all of it though. He puts aside the choicest items to amuse Jack with later, and anything that may indicate the need for a visit with a search-and-destroy computer virus, and a judicious amount of retcon. For a second, Ianto stops and considers whether it’s really required any more, given the current circumstances, but only for a moment. It’s part of his duties, and the decision to act on the information is not his responsibility.

At 8.00 he goes downstairs. As the huge door ratchets open, Ianto takes a breath and composes himself. He tugs his waistcoat down. It’s a nervous habit, but one that he’s let himself keep. It’s harmless enough. He knows that sometimes Jack looks for him on the CCTV, to check he’s ok, Ianto assumes – Ianto is happy to show Jack how normal he still is. How he really hasn’t taken the news as hard as many. Why should he, after all? He’s not losing anything more than millions of other people, and in many ways a lot less. He likes it that Jack looks though.

By 8.05 the espresso machine has been put on to warm up, and Ianto is checking the milk levels in the fridge, and already wondering if Jack will let him use the SUV to go and fetch more supplies. The supermarkets aren’t likely to have much left, and Ianto doesn’t want to take scarce stocks from someone who might really need it. He has a source, if Jack will let him go. Good old Uncle Dewi and his herd of Guernseys.

The hissing of the machine, and the scent of the beans as they’re ground, offers Ianto a few minutes more quiet thought. He stands by the machine and arranges the mugs on the countertop, less of them now, only three. There are others that are packed away, and two that Ianto can’t quite bear to part with, not yet. Martha’s been with them long enough to also have a mug of her own. It’s on the shelf, waiting for her. Although Ianto wonders when she’ll ever have the time to visit them again.

At 8.15 he pours his first cup of real coffee, savouring the aroma and the heat in his hands. There’s been no sign of life, and Ianto dithers briefly, before deciding that it’s not as though he’s likely to be actually waking Jack up. He pours a double shot with a dash of milk into Jack’s blue striped mug, and makes his way to the hatch. He knocks and leaves the tray where Jack will see it – because Ianto has tried negotiating the metal ladder with a tray once before. It did not end well.

Gwen arrives in the Hub somewhere between 8.30 and 9.00. Ianto has noticed that she’s been getting later though, and wonders if it’s worth trying to talk to her about it. He thinks he understands. She’s got a life, and a family, outside of Torchwood, at least for now. It must feel more pointless for Gwen than any of them, coming in day after day, when she could be spending that time at home with Rhys. He wonders if they’re close enough for him to tell her he gets it, he really does. He doesn’t want to overstep their boundaries though, so today too he stays silent, just asks after Rhys, about her journey to work. She laughs and stares at him with eyes that are a bit too wild. There’s no problem with any journey, if you have the petrol, as Ianto knows very well. Rhys is fine.

Ianto gets on with his routine, keeping a careful ear out for Jack. He empties the waste bins into a black plastic bag. He notes that one bin liner is ripped and fetches a new one from the cleaning supplies cupboard. He listens to Gwen muttering into her coffee as she works at her computer. At 9.15, Jack emerges from his hole in the ground, rumpled and with his braces dangling. Ianto frowns and stares after him.

Jack disappears towards the showers, and Ianto shares a wry exchange of grins with Gwen, but it doesn’t stop him padding after him, aware that Jack has got on yesterday’s t-shirt. Ianto pauses outside the hatch and opens the metal cupboards that serve Jack as a wardrobe. He purses his lips, disapproving, as he always does, of the accommodation, and the fact that Jack won’t let him change things. There are a number of fresh t-shirts, and blue shirts, in various shades. Ianto takes one of each, shakes them out a little, and follows Jack. He considers. The same trousers will do Jack for today, Ianto decides. There’s been no fights, or any foreign substances of any sort squirted around recently. Thank goodness.

Jack takes ten minutes in the shower, and he doesn’t sing. Ianto frowns again. Jack doesn’t always sing in the shower, but it’s common enough. Ianto finds he’s humming ‘Anything You Can Do’ almost without realising it, as though it has to be somebody’s duty to fill the musical gap, if Jack’s not in the mood. The showers are communal, but it’s not as though Jack is body shy, or that Ianto hasn’t seen it all before, so he lingers.

At 9.30 Jack comes out from the tiled showers and into the changing area. He has a towel wrapped round his waist, but he’s still damp, water beading on his shoulders, and running down his chest. Ianto swallows. He holds himself very upright, and indicates the clothes he’s placed on the hooks on the wall. Jack grins, and it nearly disguises the weariness in his eyes. Then Jack saunters towards him, his gaze never leaving Ianto’s own.

The kiss is warm and wet, and Jack cups Ianto’s cheek and strokes his thumb along his jaw. His palm is furnace hot, and Ianto opens his mouth and leans in a little before remembering his suit, and the water still trickling down Jack’s chest. He contents himself with sliding his hands up to Jack’s shoulders, curling his hands into his wet hair. He wants to pull him closer, to push him back against the wall, he wants… Instead, of course, Ianto pushes him away, with a light rocking motion, although he can’t quite bring himself to let go. He apologises with a quick quirk of his lips, an apologetic slide of fingers along the nape of Jack’s neck, and immediately frowns. It’s far too early for shenanigans, and Gwen knows where they are. How long they’ve been. It’s 9.40, and Ianto must get on with his work.

Jack sighs faintly and lifts the towel from his waist to dry his hair. For a few seconds Ianto stares, mesmerised, before wrenching his eyes away, physically turning his body and making himself move to the door. He’ll let Jack get dressed. For now. He relaxes when he hears Jack’s chuckle, and smiles, properly, where Jack can’t see him, before he walks away.

From 9.45 to 10.15, Ianto dusts the main Hub, starting with Jack’s office. It’s the only time Jack won’t be hovering, and Ianto feels uncomfortable handling items that have great personal value to Jack in his presence. Or sometimes handling any of the items, personal or just purely strange – like the coral. Why does Jack keep a spreading piece of white coral on his desk? It’s a mystery. Ianto should probably ask, but he’s not one to pry. He wants to – but that’s why he doesn’t.

At 10.20 Ianto makes another coffee for Gwen, and checks the rift monitor for activity, while she drinks it. She wanders around aimlessly, picking things up, putting them down somewhere else. His fingers itch to stop her. At 10.35, to distract himself, Ianto walks down to check the big fridge, and the chest freezers, and makes a note on the inventory clipboard hanging up beside them. He ignores the silly smiley face and the crude comment that are written on the wipe-board on the fridge door in dry-erase pen. They’re in two different colours, in two different hands. They’ve been there for weeks, but Ianto’s not going to be the person to wipe the memories clean.

At 10.45 he takes out a plastic tub from the fridge, and takes off the lid, before microwaving the contents lightly, to warm it. The slightly sweet, slightly sickly smell of almost raw meat fills the air. He breathes through his nose until the minor nausea passes, as it always does. Ianto usually works through the occasional flashback to a gore-soaked flagged kitchen in the same dogged manner. He picks up a steel bucket and fills it, before setting it to one side. Then he takes another plastic tub out of the freezer and transfers it to the fridge, before rinsing out the emptied tub and putting it on the shelf next to the others.

Walking back along the corridor, a drip of water lands shining on his suit shoulder until Ianto brushes it away. The bucket bangs his legs and makes him wince slightly, but he doesn’t stop. Once back in the Hub proper, he squeezes protein enzyme into the bucket as he climbs up the steps to Myfanwy’s eyrie. She shifts restlessly, her wings rustling together like dry leaves. But he’s trained her well. She waits until her meal is poured into her trough. He wants to scratch her behind her ears, but since she doesn’t as such have proper ones, and would probably bite his fingers off if he tried… Ianto smiles at her, fondly, and considers how they must leave a hatch in the roof open for her somehow – if it becomes necessary.

When he comes back down, Jack is in his office, paperwork scattered, his head bent. He might almost be working, but Ianto doubts it. Ianto pauses, waiting, but Jack doesn’t look up. He goes over, and hovers in the doorway, conscious of Gwen looking at them both, but when Jack finally does reluctantly glance up, his eyes are hooded and strange. Alien. Ianto thinks better of what he was going to say, closes his mouth with a snap. He tells Jack instead that he’s off to visit Dewi, and he needs the SUV. Jack shrugs and Ianto takes that for agreement. He turns abruptly, before remembering where the keys are. He turns round again just in time for Jack to throw them, but Ianto manages to catch them with a speed that is completely automatic. He frowns. Something about it amuses Jack though, a quick bark of laughter, and then Gwen giggles too, as though that gives her permission, and they’re a team again. Just for a second. Ianto rolls his eyes, thinking, it’s nice to know he has a purpose. He could have dropped out of university for this.

At 11.15, Ianto goes via the freezer area and picks up all the empty tubs, before making his way to the underground parking garage. It’s virtually empty, since the major panic and subsequent evacuation of Cardiff happened weeks ago. Since then, petrol has been getting scarce, for other people anyway, so the garage is empty and echoing. After Ianto stacks the tubs in the SUV, he picks up two of the large plastic jerry cans from the boot and goes into the Hub again, making his way along to the tank outlet hose, in corridor 3C, which looks rather like their own personal petrol pump. Ianto presumes that a classic design is not about to be improved upon, but is secretly proud that it is round and bulbous, rather like a fifties notion of futuristic tech. He’s comfortable with that kind of technology. A old-fashioned land that never was. He rather likes that.

By 11.30, Ianto has filled the jerry cans, the petrol sloshing against their sides as they fill. Ianto wrinkles his nose at the smell, and holds them carefully. He doesn’t want to get his suit dirty. He can almost hear Jack’s voice in his head, hinting at other ways they could get dirty, and Ianto sighs faintly, wistfully. He puts the thought away as unproductive, and trudges back to the SUV.

Ianto is happier once he’s behind the wheel and out into the sunshine. The thrum of the engine is loud on the quiet streets. Ianto almost expects people to put their heads out of doors to find out who is making such a racket, but of course, they don’t. Despite the lack of traffic, Ianto is meticulous with his indicating – he brakes for junctions, and stops at red lights. He carefully steers around occasional debris, or the remnants of wild parties. Streamers and tinsel blow in the wind. At a particularly tedious traffic light, he glances out of the window and stares at a tableau of cartoon figures spray-painted onto the brickwork. There is an exaggerated skeleton leading a scattered mix of humanity round in a comical dance. The people seem oblivious, they are kicking up their heels and dancing madly, even as the skeleton leads them through a fiery doorway towards damnation. It’s not subtle, but Ianto smiles anyway. The artist was talented, with a certain poetic touch. The light changes and Ianto puts the SUV into gear and drives on.

It takes thirty minutes to drive to Uncle Dewi’s farm, deep in the greening hills of the Cynon Valley. It used to take longer, but not any more. Ianto holds his breath as he carefully negotiates the lane up to the farm itself – no-one knows when anyone will be infected, it’s a medical lottery, but whole communities can vanish in a matter of days. He lets his pent-up breath out in a rush, when he sees movement – a figure tossing hay over a hedge into a field. The cows are lying down, huddled together, and randomly Ianto thinks, that means storms tomorrow. He shivers.

Dewi slaps Ianto cheerfully on the back, with a kind of manic cheer. Ianto stares at him carefully, but there are no other symptoms. No twitching of the muscles, the whites of the eyes haven’t expanded, there’s no hint of froth on the lips at all. He smiles a little too widely, in relief, before asking after the family, after the village. The pleasantries are a kind of ritual, and everyone is always fine, even though Ianto knows he’s seen at least one more door swinging open, wide to the elements, as he’d driven through.

Dewi takes the petrol with muted gratitude, and siphons it off carefully. Ianto watches the cows and wonders how easy it is to milk one. He feels a traitor for even speculating, but realities must be faced. He doesn’t let a hint of his thoughts cross his face as Dewi’s wife, Cerys, brings out the milk in a large churn, and Ianto’s other supplies. The plastic tubs are filled with offal, mince and other animal parts that Ianto doesn’t care to contemplate much. He tells them their guard-dog will be very grateful.

Just before he heads off again, Auntie Cerys presses a loaf of fresh homemade bread upon him, and Ianto finds himself genuinely touched. He presses her hands between his, and feels them tremble. He wishes there was something he could do. The cheek he kisses is soft and smells of violets.

Once on the road again, he breathes deep, coughing, trying to rid himself of the memory of artificial flowers. It’s too hard, it’s such a clinging scent, and Ianto wants to help, he really does. They all do. But there’s nothing to be done. Not even by Torchwood. If only there were, things would be very different. He shakes his head, like he’s shrugging away a fly, and drives on.

By 13.10 Ianto is back in the Hub and putting away the supplies. The plastic tubs in the main freezer are shuffled around by date. The newly filled tubs are placed at the back. Carefully, Ianto washes his hands, before going back to the main hub, carrying the fresh bread. There’ll be cheese in the fridge by the coffee machine, and the last of the tomatoes, Ianto thinks. He’ll make sandwiches for lunch.

Jack is on the phone when Ianto brings him his sandwich. It only takes a few seconds to realise he’s talking to Martha. Ianto pauses inside the office doorway, his heart in his mouth. He realises his hands are shaking slightly, and he puts Jack’s sandwich on the desk before he drops it.

“No,” says Jack, and.

“Yes,” says Jack.

Jack stares at the sandwich as though it’s the most important thing in the world, before Ianto realises his eyes are really looking blindly past it. It doesn’t take much to guess that whatever else Martha is saying, there’s no good news. No breakthrough in UNIT’s plague research, just more people quietly dying. Or not so quietly. Shaking themselves to death. The Ague, it’s called, or St Vitus Dance – and although properly that’s the official name for Sydenham’s chorea, it didn’t stop the media from adopting the nickname. In the early days, before the seriousness of the situation had been fully realised, the media had been rather jolly, in a macabre kind of a way, and it had stuck somehow. It had stuck.

Abruptly, Ianto turns on his heel and walks out again. He hasn’t got time for this. He puts Gwen’s sandwich down by her work station, and she heaves a little hitching sigh, and smiles her thanks. He pauses long enough for her to lean against him for a few seconds, and he checks the rift monitor over the top of her head. There’s still no activity, and Ianto wants to throw something. Calm suits him, the calm before the storm, it’s appropriate and right. But Gwen needs to be doing something. Ianto wishes he could find her something to do. He clenches his fists.

By 14.00, Ianto is walking down into the archives, beautifully fresh bread and cheese sitting like lead in his stomach, the memory of Gwen’s voice telling him she’s all right really, echoing in his ears. The air down here is cool, with a certain level of moisture in the air, although not too much. Perfect for preservation, in actual fact. Ianto would like to think that it was a deliberate design on the part of Torchwood’s original architects, but he keeps the records, and he knows that’s not true. It’s more of a happy accident.

The artifacts from 1939 are woefully under-recorded. There’s no proper inventory or even box lists, with the basic details. He supposes the outbreak of war might have meant things got sloppy, except he knows that isn’t precisely the case either. He’s checked. There was an unspecified disaster that year, and almost everybody died, although the records are sealed, so Ianto can’t find out what went wrong. It seems to happen with alarming frequency at Torchwood Three. Ianto pauses for a moment, considers who might have to do this same job for his own small team, some fine day. He vows to make it easier for his successor. He is almost certain that it will be, and he finds a certain satisfaction in that.

It’s easy to lose himself down here, in the cool twilight. Ianto has a job to do, and it’s one he does well. He can allow himself the luxury of forgetting the time, he can permit himself what peace preoccupation offers, as he sorts, and catalogues, and labels. And after 1939, there is 1956, and then 1897 could do with some clarifications, and that’s only the artifacts – there are all the files, all the documentation, after that. Over a hundred years worth of accumulated paperwork, most of which would benefit from better indexing, and digitization, so that Torchwood can actually consult them, and search them properly, instead of relying on Jack’s memory. Or his own.

Ianto stands, and stretches his back, realising he’s been bent over for some time. The work there is left to do scares him in some ways. There just won’t be enough time. On the other hand, he’ll never cease to be useful, however long it takes. And there’s a certain satisfaction in that as well. A certain comfort.

He checks his watch, and then bites his lip. It’s 16.45. If he doesn’t hurry, he’ll miss the dry-cleaners. Ianto takes one last breath of the cool still air, before hurrying out, and up, his mind already clicking ahead to the next task, and the next. He takes a short cut to the parking garage, and stops, his pulse leaping suddenly, as he notices that the SUV has gone. He reaches for his earpiece and realises he’s left it by the coffee machine, that he’s not as conscientious about wearing it lately as he should be. That he’s been getting lax. He dithers, wondering whether he should go fetch it, but if he waits any longer the dry-cleaners will be closed.

Ianto lifts up his chin, and takes a small breath. If he was needed, Jack would have come looking. It’s not worth changing his routine for. He walks on.

Rainbird Dry Cleaners are shut when Ianto arrives outside their sunshine yellow front door. Or rather, when Ianto tries the door it isn’t locked, but there are no lights on, and no-one in evidence. He holds his breath when he pushes open the door, but there is no sickly sweet odour of rotting flesh to greet him, just the slightly prickly chemical smell he forever associates with this type of cleaning, and with his childhood too, in a weird kind of a way. Associates it with his Dad even, if he lets himself dwell.

There’s a note on the counter, an apology to customers that the shop has to be temporarily closed, due to a family emergency. Ianto shuts his eyes, and nearly crumples the note in his fist, before smoothing it out again for others to read. He lifts his head again, and blinks away the prickle that the chemicals have caused his vision, before walking calmly behind the counter to look for his Jasper Conran suit, two pairs of Jack’s trousers and one red UNIT cap. He’ll have to think about other kinds of cleaning for the future, or maybe look for a dry-cleaning manual in the archives, he could learn to operate the machines, he’s sure – it’s not an implausible idea. Just one more task to add to his list.

On the way back through the garage, carrying the clothes, Ianto notes that the SUV is back in place.

Inside the Hub, it’s 17.25 and Jack and Gwen are playing basketball. Ianto actually stops and stares – it’s so strange. He hasn’t seen them do that since… Before Owen and Tosh died. He realises that his hand has crept up to his heart, is clutching there, and he lowers it again. Gwen is laughing, properly laughing. Her eyes are bright and shining. She whirls to tell Ianto about the emergency, the strange object that dropped out of the rift into Cathays Park and burnt some kind of alien crop circle symbol into the turf. She tells him about the outrage of the groundskeeper, and about the repelling field, which meant that every time she and Jack went to grasp it, the object went sailing away again. She tells him how they figured out a way of blocking the field with their own bodies, until eventually a lucky rebound put it in the back of the SUV.

Ianto is smiling as Gwen talks. She tells him she’ll investigate the object properly tomorrow, because now? Now Gwen is going home to Rhys, to tell him about her day. Jack just stands there, grinning, like a proud father, his hands on his hips. Ianto shakes his head, as he says goodbye to Gwen. She reaches up until her lips softly brush his cheek, and Ianto can only stand there, almost paralysed by the unexpected intimacy. He finds he’s humming though, as he puts away the dry-cleaning, before deciding to head down to the cells. It’s nearly breakfast time for certain semi-nocturnal beasts, and Janet will be getting hungry.

Opening the can of dog food, and the packet of digestive biscuits, that are Janet’s favourites, Ianto thinks about whether things would be different if they still had Owen and Tosh. If they had Owen, then he would be doing everything he possibly could to combat the plague, to cure this St Vitus Dance – there would be a frantic air of urgency hanging over the Hub, and he and Gwen and Jack would be doing all they could to support him. At the same time, Tosh would no doubt be devising brilliant methods of delivering the vaccine, with total faith that Owen would succeed. They’d be happier and busier. There’d be more... hope.

Ianto pushes the plate through the slot in the door, and leans his head against the perspex, watching as Janet begins to delicately pick through her dinner, separating out the choicest bits through some arcane process of her own, and crooning a little to herself. He feels peaceful, watching her, knowing that Gwen is with Rhys now, that they’re all fine for another day. That he always has his duties.

And Jack. The main door to the cells creaks slightly, so Ianto knows when Jack comes in. He’s expecting the hand on his shoulder, the warmth as Jack crowds up against him, the edge of his coat wrapping itself around Ianto’s leg. Ianto leans back a little, pushing against Jack, and Jack groans quietly, and buries his nose in Ianto’s neck, nipping at the skin there. Ianto tips his head to one side and closes his eyes, his nerves fizzing, suddenly, as though he’s been waiting for this all day. And maybe he has.

Ianto can feel Jack, the hard length of him, and he pushes back again, insistently, his hands splaying themselves on the perspex. He feels light-headed, like he’s been running, as though there’s not enough oxygen in the room, and it occurs to him, briefly, that maybe he has been trying to escape from the end of the world, in his own way. That maybe there might be other ways to escape, ones in which Jack is entirely happy to participate. It also occurs to Ianto that Janet is not exactly the audience he’d have chosen for this sort of thing, if he’d had a choice. Although he finds doesn’t really care.

Jack is running his hands down Ianto’s body now, under his suit jacket, sliding underneath his waistcoat, tugging at his shirt. Ianto shifts, intending to turn round, but Jack stops him, crowds against him even more tightly, until Ianto can barely move. He lets out a several panting breaths, unreasonably aroused by the confinement, knowing that Jack knows. Jack kicks his legs apart, leaning down hard, and that’s Ianto trapped completely. God, it feels so good.

Jack’s hands are everywhere, his breath hot on his neck, even as he expertly undos Ianto’s belt and trousers. He lets go of Ianto long enough to undo his own, to slide all the bunched fabric down, and at the coolness of the air on his skin, at the release of pressure, Ianto whimpers. Then Jack is crowding back into Ianto’s space, his coat surrounding them both again with warmth and musk, the slight tickle of Jack’s hair so sensitive on his cheek, as Jack leans over him, kissing his neck, his shoulders, his hair. Jack’s skin is furnace hot, and his cock is pressed hard into the crack of Ianto’s arse.

His knuckles are white now against the glass, and Ianto wants to move, except he also doesn’t. He wants some friction on his cock, now it’s free of its fabric prison, without even a seam to rub against, he wants it desperately, but he also wants Jack inside him, and to do that, Jack will have to let him go. His head is a whirl, is a jumble of conflicting desires, all fighting against themselves. Ianto throws his head back in an animal growl when Jack’s hand makes its way back down Ianto’s body, caressing his sides, scratching lightly at the thick thatch of dark hair at his groin, before finally grasping his cock and pulling at it in a firm stroke.

All his splintering senses narrow down to this one point of pleasure, and he pushes, straining, both towards Jack’s hand, but also against his own trapped body, a complicated push-pull, that makes his muscles burn and his senses reel. Ianto turns his head, frantic for something, for more, and Jack is there, his tongue pushing in, messy and glorious, his fingers never ceasing their long firm strokes.

In a haphazard way, Ianto wonders if he should be embarrassed that he is this close, this quickly, but Jack... Jack is Jack. Ianto can’t let himself go too often, or he’ll burn up in the heat of him. Jack must know that, surely? And then in one jagged shining unexpected second, the world tips, and Jack is the only solid thing to cling to, and Ianto splinters into pieces, spilling over Jack’s fist, and onto the glass.

As Ianto comes back to himself, he realises his head is hanging low, and his legs are trembling, the muscles spasming lightly, and that Jack is the only thing even remotely holding him up. Jack is nuzzling his hair, but still tense, coiled, obviously waiting. Ianto takes a huge breath and braces himself, taking his own weight again. He opens his mouth to indicate as much, but Jack is done delaying, and Ianto smiles even though Jack can’t see it. Burning up, indeed.

Jack leans back just enough, before reaching, fingers cool with lube, and gently running his hand down the crack of Ianto’s arse. His preparations are hurried, but not perfunctory, Ianto is pushing back against the blunt pressure of three fingers long before Jack is ready, desperate for more, and nearly sobs in relief when Jack positions himself and pushes inside. This. This is what he wants, to be filled, to be fucked, to have his senses overwhelmed, until all he can feel is alive. Jack grasps at his hips and begins to thrust in earnest, and Ianto is a boneless thing, full of pleasure, sparks running over his skin, and under his eyelids, as though a thousand fireflies are dancing on his flesh. He lets his head hang even lower, changing the angle, just enough, and there, that’s it. He pushes back now himself, impatient, greedy, and lets the rhythm beat at him like waves upon a shore. Lets the pounding of his blood, and the harshness of his gasps sound in his head like music.

Jack comes with a groan, with a final thrust, and his back arches, as Ianto holds on for both of them. He’s halfway there again himself, and smiles a little at that, without feeling any great need to do anything about it. Even his hair feels like it’s been well fucked, and it’s marvellous, even as Jack gently pulls away, and Ianto straightens himself with a tiny moan for his back. Not that it matters, given his general level of well-being otherwise. Jack presses a damp cloth into his hand, and Ianto thinks that sometimes he’s glad Jack is always this ready and prepared – even if that preparedness rarely extends past sexual encounters of various kinds. Sometimes that’s all Ianto needs.

He cleans up, and then he tidies his clothes, and looks over at Jack, who is doing the same. They both smile at each other, at the same time, and Jack laughs then, as Ianto ducks his head, suddenly shy, which he is aware is ridiculous. Jack hooks an arm around his neck, and Ianto leans in, breathing deeply, and Jack kisses his temple, until Ianto nudges him and moves it to his mouth. They stand there, kissing lightly, breathing slowly, until Janet shifts, or makes another noise in her cell, Ianto isn’t sure, but he knows, somehow, that the moment is over.

Jack sighs and releases Ianto, who straightens and tugs his waistcoat down. It’s 18.20 and he really ought to think about what they’re going to have for their tea.

They end up having spaghetti bolognese. Ianto doesn’t claim to be a gourmet chef, he’s not even a passable Jamie Oliver, but he can manage a bit of spag bol or chilli or macaroni cheese, in a pinch. Jack even likes his cooking, but Ianto doesn’t take it as a compliment. He’s seen Jack wolf down too many terrible meals, including army field rations, with just as much enjoyment. But still, beggars can’t be choosers. Jubilee Pizza closed down two weeks ago, the Taj Mahal a week after that, and fresh food generally is getting harder to come by in the city. Ianto has a freezer full of vegetables and mince.

Ianto finds he enjoys his cooking though. It gives him a better feeling than the endless take-aways they used to have, a more family feeling, and that seems right somehow, in the current climate. He makes a mental note to ask Gwen if Rhys might like to join them one evening, then wonders if he’ll be presuming. He hopes not. It also occurs to him that cooking for four in the primitive conditions he’s working with (two electric rings and a dodgy oven, god he hates Baby Bellings) might be pushing things, but Ianto finds his lips have curled into a smile. Maybe he just likes living dangerously.

After supper in the conference room, Ianto decides he can ignore the washing-up, at least for a bit. It’s just the two of them, in the quiet Hub, and he realises he’s humming again, as he makes one last after-dinner coffee – another show-tune, Cole Porter, he thinks, which must be Jack’s bad influence. It’s a funny kind of contentment that Ianto feels as he heads towards the sofa. Jack has put his feet up, his hands behind his head. There’s an open beer in front of him, and Ianto finds he’s even able to ignore the sudden urge to look for a coaster. Instead, he sits next to him, and somehow it’s natural that Jack should slide down until his head is resting against Ianto’s shoulder, his spine a little curved to fit.

The silence feels right too, warm and solid. Although that’s not to say that Ianto doesn’t have questions. They just don’t seem to have any urgency about them, that’s all.

“Jack?” Ianto asks, because it seems to him he should still ask them, before he can’t ask anything any more.

“Hmm?” says Jack, his murmur a low contented buzz against Ianto’s chest, that Ianto is loathe to disturb.

“This isn’t the end, is it? This disease? It can’t be. You’re from the fifty first century…”

Jack has tensed against him, just a little, and Ianto dips his head until his lips are just brushing Jack’s hair.

“The twenty first century is when it all changes, remember?” says Jack, and Ianto snorts his derision, before Jack laughs with a kind of broken sound, and curls into Ianto’s body, away from the room. “Ok, ok…”

There’s a pause, pregnant, like the audience waiting in a hushed theatre. Ianto smiles into Jack’s hair. It’s more like Shakespeare with every passing moment. Or maybe Private Lives.

“Look, do you remember the influenza epidemic after the Great War? Did you ever read about that?” asks Jack, quietly, and Ianto thinks back. There was something…

“It was Spanish Flu, wasn’t it? That outbreak. I know I read something about it last year… Academics have been trying to get infected tissue samples from victims to use for viral research today? Is that it? There’s probably something in the archives…”

Jack sighs, and Ianto runs his fingers soothingly through his hair. “Yeah, that’s right. And would you say that it’s well known? That people remember it?”

Ianto frowns and thinks about it. “Probably not. I suppose. It was a ‘flu outbreak nearly a hundred years ago. What’s that got to do with…? Are you saying the diseases are related!”

“No, it’s not that.” Jack’s voice is muffled, as though he’s hiding, and Ianto’s not sure why. “It’s just that… I forgot this. St Vitus Dance, the Ague, the whole shebang. I forgot it. The way everyone forgets Spanish Flu.”

Ianto pauses with his hand resting lightly on Jack’s head, as he thinks. All the empty shops, the refugees, the lime pits. All the dead. Everything. And he closes his eyes.

“Everyone knows about the Great War, right? It gets taught in history class,” says Jack, plaintively, as though he can’t stop talking, “Well, between 1918 and 1920 the Spanish Flu pandemic killed up to 100 million people round the world. The War only killed about 40 million. But no-one remembers the ‘flu. It’s a bit like that for me – because for the twenty first century? I only remembered the... later stuff.”

Ianto resumes his petting of Jack’s hair, as he considers. It’s horrible, and Ianto knows he might well have to learn to milk a cow, or grow his own veg, or feed many a starving animal, before things get better. He’ll have to be on clean-up duty too, probably, clearing houses, feeding the lime pits. He may even die himself, shaking his bones to pieces, it’s certainly not beyond the realms of possibility. But the human race will move on, will stretch itself out to the stars, and this little disaster won’t even be a footnote in history.

Should he be horrified? Should he be upset with Jack, that he forgot something this terrible and tragic? Frankly, there are so many things he could be upset with Jack about, if he really put his mind to it, that really, life is far too short. The human race gets through it. Somehow that’s enough to know. In fact, maybe it’s an odd sort of thing to find comforting, but, strangely, Ianto decides he might be ok with just that.

For now though, it’s 19.30 in the evening, and Ianto has the washing-up to see to, three buttons to sew on Jack’s shirts, one on his own, and the ironing’s waiting for him. That’s quite enough to be going on with.

He looks down to see Jack has turned his head a little. One blue eye is peering up at him, and Ianto sort of half shrugs then, lifts a hand from the softness of Jack’s hair and instead traces one finger delicately along Jack’s lips, before pausing at the corner of his mouth. Under his fingers Jack smiles, and Ianto feels the movement, feels Jack’s tongue swipe at the offending digit and it tickles, it makes him smile.

“None of that now,” says Ianto, fondly, earnestly, “I’ve still got work to do.”
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