Pairing: Jack/Ianto, mention of Lisa
Word Count: 3,252
Notes: A bit stream of consciousness. Quite dark in theme. Rather wordy. What can I say? Ianto had Views :) Set in some loose universe, sometime after ‘Meat’.
Summary: Everyone wants to be unique, wants to be loved – but Ianto has tools in his arsenal to ensure it.
We are each our own devil, and we make this world our hell.
- Oscar Wilde
It was an odd thing, being in Ianto’s position. Well, that was part of the point. His position was odd. Although, it wasn’t so much the position that he was in, so much as the fact that he was the person creating it. Torchwood Three had had a number of vacancies over the years, as Ianto, more than most, could attest. He’d filed the mission reports away, of course, but he’d also itemised the expenses claims, and the payroll receipts. From more than a century ago, until the present day. Smooth, slightly yellowed – watermarked, no less! – paper all the way up to the flimsiness of computer-printed threefold sheets, it all showed the same thing. There had never quite been an employee like Ianto Jones.
Perhaps he should feel flattered. It was pleasant, in one way, to know that he was unique, but then, in another, it made him feel even more lonely. In some ways, the loneliness actually made up for it – because loneliness was something many, many employees of Torchwood had in common. But he didn’t want to be just the same as everyone else in such a depressing fashion. He liked Tosh, for example, but he didn’t want to share her penchant for microwaved meals for one, or solitary drinks in the local pub, clutching a good book. He also didn’t want to think about joining her in that pub, and whatever that might mean. Taking himself from a deferential junior fellow employee, into something closer to a friend. It would be pleasant, of course, almost appealing, if it wasn’t for the fact that Tosh deserved better. Ianto had thought about such an occasion, as indeed he thought about every possible ramification of everything he did (or at least, when he had the time to do so) and he believed that it would end in tears. Possibly his own. And there were quite enough of those to be going on with.
No, when Ianto filed away all the evidence of other employees of Torchwood, he didn’t so much think of them as people, so much as he thought of them, as…rivals. So in many ways he was glad he was unique.
For a start, Torchwood Three had never had a… butler before. Or was it more proper to consider Ianto as a batman? He had also considered calling himself a secretary in the official paperwork (which, of course, was entirely up to him, since he’d taken over that kind of administration on day four of his employment) or perhaps even a factotum, but they had all seemed either demeaning titles, at least in his own head, or too reminiscent of a different role that had belonged to others before him, or, worst of all, inaccurate. Secretary, for example, brought to Ianto’s mind a young man of good family, aiding a member of the peerage to take care of his estates. Which was inaccurate both regarding his own role and also in its connotations for others – for whom secretary apparently meant an uneducated girl who filed her nails while discussing the latest soap operas. Such comparisons had to be discouraged, if only because the sight of Jack looking faraway at the latter description made Ianto clench his hands into fists and unintentionally crease payslips for Roger Backley dating from 1976. Such vandalism was unforgivable. Not to mention that his typing speed was a mere 80 words a minute, which meant he was hardly qualified to discuss soap operas anyway (although Lily Allen, now, was a different story).
Getting back to the point at hand, however, Ianto might have been happy with the title of archivist, since he was painfully aware, particularly in sub-basement eight, that Torchwood Three had had no such animal in its entire 120 year history – except for the fact that even archivist was not strictly correct (and Ianto appreciated being strictly correct, although luckily Jack appreciated it even more). There were many, many other facets to his job than purely archival work, however rewarding such work proved to be. The barista part, for example. The domestic cleaner part, for another. The ingredient part, luckily prevented. He could go on.
So his own job title, like his own job description, like his own person specification, was self-authored, and not even signed off by Jack, because Ianto kept tweaking it. Particularly the job description. As the tasks he took on increased, as his portfolio grew, as it were, he kept adding to the document. The person spec was easier, though, and shorter. Somebody who is flexible, and willing to take on new challenges. Plenty of smooth, meaningless words designed to cover a multitude of sins. Although the willingness to sin could almost be included. That thought made Ianto smile.
Initially, he hadn’t touched his own personnel record, of course. Jack had what he thought was an accurate dossier, with all the ‘i’s dotted and all the ‘t’s crossed – shiny and downloaded and completely sterile. Ianto had approved and didn’t have the inclination to change it, however much the knowledge of its small inaccuracies and bigger lies itched and chafed. Lisa. Lisa was the first person who had unwittingly led him to his slippery path, had caused him to take the first steps towards archival perdition, and Ianto would gladly do it all again. For Lisa he would have done anything. Would do anything. Don’t think Ianto Jones wasn’t still looking out for a time travel device, or an alternate time-line manipulator, for cyber-removal tools or manual. That was one of the many unique things about Ianto Jones. He didn’t forget. Other people did. They let things slip, they moved on. They… allowed that. He didn’t. He just didn’t. Ianto wondered sometimes if anyone else realised that about him. Someday, if they hadn’t, they might regret it. Someday.
Although that was not to say he didn’t have his own faults, of course. The afore-mentioned archival perdition, for example. If there was such a thing as Hell (which was looking increasingly unlikely given the habit Torchwood employees had of coming back from the dead and reporting on what they found) then, in that place Down Below, Ianto would probably be strung up with typing ribbon, and drowned in red ink. Oh, and maybe with various tender bits being torn to pieces by appropriate people, because Ianto hoped he acknowledged his faults, as he saw them. And cheating was one of them. And jealousy was another.
Although, and Ianto hoped this would be acknowledged too, perhaps he would be allowed time off for good behaviour with regard to the jealousy – because it wasn’t as though he didn’t already suffer in this world. Perhaps it was his punishment for having cheated on Lisa in the first place? Perhaps it was his punishment for daring to like something he knew was wrong, with his beautiful girl in agony below him in the dark, below them, even as they stroked and sucked and moaned, and yes, he would recognise it – enjoyed themselves thoroughly. Ianto might have thrown up after his first time with Jack, but it wasn’t with disgust at what they’d done. Oh no, far from it. His skin had tingled, Ianto remembered. Like he had been torn free of some imprisoning shell, like he was stretching after shedding his skin like a snake. And even as he’d wiped the vomit from his tie, he’d known. That this was what he wanted. That he couldn’t give it up. He deserved Hell for that.
And he’d got it. Or something a little bit like it.
It was after Suzie died, Ianto recalled. Not long after Gwen had first come calling, all big eyes and cold pizza, the scent of fear and confusion rolling off her in waves. It was then that Jack had added something else to Ianto’s unique skill set – something so unique he found it impossible to imagine leaving. Nowhere to go, for a start. Ruined him for anywhere else, really. Other people had jobs they could walk away from, but not Ianto, not any of them, really. Not even Lisa. Working for one Torchwood, to die in another. Ianto wondered whether he should go on holiday to Torchwood Two – the Scottish Highlands probably had some unique aliens, and change was as good as a rest, they said. Perhaps he should have taken Lisa to Scotland instead, maybe the air would have done her good? They could have seen the sights. He swallowed down the potentially hysterical laugh that lurked behind his teeth. Now then, none of that. He’d literally made his own bed, and he was going to lie in it, and it didn’t matter how much the lying made him sick to his stomach.
So, it was after Suzie, but soon after, Ianto thought, that Jack had taken him to one side and thrown a small bottle of pills at him, his own recipe. Retcon. Told him it was Ianto’s job now. His role, his task. Done by others before him, but unique to him none the less. Because every single person he persuaded into taking a paracetamol for their headache, or into just one quiet drink, to calm their nerves, or just a sip of water, you must be gasping after that… Every single person was unique, and their memories were unique. And Ianto destroyed them. Made them as though they never were. Homogenised them, turned them back into sheep, into the crowds of people who shopped on Queen Street, fought with their children, ate their lunches. Indistinguishable from one another, never knowing whole worlds lived beneath their feet, a breath away, a mere step, a mere swallow even. Ianto had that power, and yet it was Ianto who was never the same again. He wished sometimes that he was stronger.
Because it was a temptation. It was a seductive drug – much stronger than heroin, or cocaine – and Ianto would swear to himself that he wouldn’t touch it again, that he could leave it alone, any time he liked. And like any addict, he’d be lying. Perhaps he could make himself forget using it, wouldn’t that be clever? A spectacularly useful method of utilising retcon’s unique properties – if that was the problem. But of course, Ianto didn’t take it himself. Heaven forbid. Just the thought was enough to have him in a cold sweat. Ianto was the man who knew everything, he wasn’t about to fundamentally kill the man that he was, in order to become a different person, however much better that person was. No, it wasn’t in him to do so. But to kill others? Apparently he could do that. He could physically kill people too now, he supposed. It was certainly easier to stun-gun a man in the face, for example, once he’d already committed the murder of a person’s memories. Slaughtering someone’s mind offered a more unique horror for Ianto, than any mere cessation of their life, for which he supposed he also had Lisa to thank. He analysed himself very well, he thought.
Still. However self-aware he was, it didn’t stop him going to non-existent Hell. Because however aware he was, it didn’t mean he was going to stop. He sometimes wondered if people ever considered anything about him, really, even now, even with him being part of the team, and going on field missions and generally becoming… less unique. Becoming an ordinary Torchwood operative. He didn’t share well. That was another fact that he doubted people realised, that they hadn’t thought through. There was a reason he had to know everything, that it was always his coffee machine, that he couldn’t let things go. He didn’t share well. Ianto sometimes wondered if he’d been greedy like that even in the nursery, whether he’d ever managed to play nicely with others. He doubted it. He would ask his Mam but it was a bit late for that.
But Jack… Jack liked playing with others. It was his middle name, his fundamental role, almost his raison d’être. He’d taken one butler stroke archivist stroke batman to his bed and played, and then he’d turned around and taken the Mayor’s secretary home to the man’s studio flat, not to mention the flower seller by the pier, the girl from checkout 3 at Tesco’s, and that nice young lad Ianto didn’t remember the name of, but he’d had a green door. Lived in one of those old terraces in Grangetown. There were others but Ianto had stopped counting (that wasn’t true, Ianto never stopped counting, but he liked to pretend).
It was so easy for Jack, after all – he laughed and he smiled, and he had them falling at his feet. Or whatever else he wanted them to fall on. Torchwood wasn’t as secret an organisation as they liked to think, and Jack and his dalliances weren’t as subtle as he doubtless thought they were. He didn’t quite shout it from the rooftops, but sometimes… Sometimes Ianto thought he might as well. It would make things easier, really. And Ianto liked to be tidy.
But there were other times, darker times, when Ianto decided it was all a game between them. That Jack liked Ianto in all his… efficiency. Because Ianto had that tendency to be jealous, that Jack could hardly fail to have noticed, surely? And there Jack went, throwing that bottle into the air, knowing Ianto would catch it. A little plastic bottle of temptation, of damnation. Glowing brown and amber under the light, a little cracked by the lid where Ianto had clutched it too hard. Jack surely knew, and approved even. His laugh was dark and smoky, and made Ianto shiver. He could hardly fail to have noticed Gwen, at least, with her oh-so-flexible love of Rhys and her puppyish adulation. Jack couldn’t have failed to notice that now she didn’t remember. Them. Together. Their night of passion, with the way the air curdled the next day, and her bright eyes, and Jack’s scent wrapped round her like a present, oh yes. Ianto knew. Did Jack think he was blind?
He must want Ianto to do this. Really. A show of devotion to him, Jack; a penance almost, something to equal all the struggle Ianto had gone through for Lisa. That must be it. Nothing was easy, not relationships. Not love. Love like that was painful, was earned if you were lucky, must be paid for in the end. And Ianto paid heavily for all his guilty pleasures, in memories. In the willing murder of other people’s very selves.
Ianto didn’t play well with others. He didn’t share. And if he had to accept that Jack was never going to be devoted in the same way – didn’t even understand the concept really. Didn’t see the big deal. If he was going to accept such a compromise, as Jack smiled and glittered and fucked his way around Cardiff, if he was going to put up with the humiliation, and the way his jealousy made him feel, choked and struggling, his fists seconds away from pounding the wall, or pounding Jack instead, well. If he was going to put up with all that then – he was going to have his own compromise. It was as simple as that.
If Jack could have his own rules, well, then so could Ianto. And he chose... He chose to keep Jack all to himself. Let Jack sleep around, let him fuck whom he wanted. It didn’t matter.
Because they wouldn’t remember it.
The only person who knew what it felt like to be pushed by the throat into a wall by that hard and ready body, was himself. The only person who remembered the scent of crushed leaves, the frantic hands, the scrape of teeth along a collar bone. The only person to hear the gasp just before that stillness, as Jack pulsed into his hand, his mouth, his arse. Ianto Jones. He was unique. He liked it that way. Really.
Were it not that he had bad dreams. Hamlet’s complaint, but it wasn’t as though the Dane was wrong. Ianto found he would come starting awake at night, sheets twisted round his legs, the cold sweat of the latest nightmare drying on his brow. He couldn’t help but imagine them all, hundreds probably, perhaps even thousands, all the people and creatures before him, in Jack’s long lifetime, sharing his bed. He wanted to destroy them, all of them. The thought of it kept him wakeful, picturing their blood, their empty eyes. He couldn’t help it. For example, he’d wanted to kill John on sight, but all he’d been able to do was watch him walk away. There hadn’t even been the opportunity to spike a drink, or offer a reviving coffee. Oh, yes sir, just as you like it, sir. He’d spent the hours of their repeated night watching John, watching himself, being careful, trying to make an opportunity, but he’d failed, and the knowledge of that failure pricked and stung like nettles. Still. There might be other chances. Ianto knew that sick look of desperation and determination in John’s eyes. He saw it mirrored in his own every morning. John would be back for Jack, and then Ianto… Ianto would be waiting.
But in the meantime – there was Jack. There was always Jack. And there was always Jack’s roving eye. Ianto’s work was never done. And in the quiet hours, the peaceful hours, pursuing his archival duties in sub-basement eight, there was the rest of the project. He was going to Hell (amply demonstrated, with flip-charts and several coloured pens) but his dreams were less disturbed now, he’d found. He tried not to think about what that might mean. He tried not to think about archival perdition, or the ghost of his father sadly shaking his head, or all the screams of his fellow employees at Torchwood One.
Because it didn’t matter. What was one more betrayal?
And Ianto Jones carefully knelt down, on clean paper designed to protect his suit, and drew out the latest in a long series of boxes. The words ‘Employee Numbers 30 to 60’ could just about be made out on the side. Carefully, he lifted the reinforced cardboard lid, and laid it to one side. He ran his finger along the files and stopped at number 38, before carefully lifting out the manila folder. He looked lovingly into the eyes of the yellowing picture attached by a brass paperclip to the front of the first sheet, and then delicately caressed the side of her face. A pretty girl, with brown hair, a warm arrested expression on her face for the camera.
“Oh yes,” said Ianto Jones as he stroked the picture just once more, his voice thick with love and certainty, “Moira Campbell. He’d have liked you. I think he definitely liked you.”
The light was orange, as he held the folder up, and it flickered in the mild breeze from the world above. It was but the work of a moment to throw the folder into the small brazier, an old barbecue really, set up to one side, well away from any accidents. And Ianto watched it for a few seconds, in the darkened room, until the cardboard began to smoulder, and the photo caught and flared, and the papers inside curled up and dissolved into ash, until there was nothing left. The blaze died down again to its dull red glow.
And then he turned back to file number 39.