Pairings: Jack/Ianto, John/Nick, Gwen/Rhys
Characters: Jack, Ianto, Gwen, Rhys, John Hart and a cast of (probably!) thousands.
Spoilers: Set after Exit Wounds. Sequel to 'Will My Arms Be Strong Enough?'
Rating: Adult - it's going to get very dark in some places.
Warnings: Slash, language, angst, dark themes.
Summary: Now the team have to carry on.
Disclaimer: I'm a student. I don't own Torchwood.
Author's Note: This is a sequel to 'Will My Arms Be Strong Enough?' I recommend reading that first, if you haven't already done so. It's the first fic of my trilogy called 'The Soldier and the Healer' (and yes, I do know it's only going to be a trilogy, even though I've not written the third one yet!) featuring one of my own characters; Ianto's cousin, Dr. Nick Jones and his journey through the weirdness of Torchwood - and beyond.
The Master List (as it stands) is here: anduria-trianys.livejournal.com/27610.ht
Ianto collapsed onto the ground, tears soaking his shirt as he watched the golden cloud expand, encircling the two men. It still looked so fragile, as if it was merely made of the small flecks of ash you find on a bonfire, but he knew that it was so strong.
He started suddenly as he felt Jack’s arms wrap around his waist and pull him close, only to gasp in pain as he felt his lover’s tears mingling with his own, soaking his cheeks. He didn’t even have to think as he wrapped his arms around Jack and held him tight, both of them sharing their grief.
Neither of them looked up to see the cloud burn brighter and brighter, before it suddenly started to fragment and fade away, taking both men with them. But as the sun set over the bay, they both thought that they felt a feeling of calmness and of comfort wash over their minds, soothing their thoughts and calming their souls.
Jack smiled softly through a mist of tears. The sun had set on two more of his beloved team-mates, but it would rise again one day. Just as had happened with Owen and Tosh; they were gone, but never forgotten.
And, right there, Jack made a promise that, while they may not be with them, Captain John Hart and Dr. Nick Jones would never be forgotten.
Jack stood up slowly as the sun finally set and wiped his eyes on the back of his hand, composing himself. He could feel Ianto stood beside him, also trying to calm down, but his slim body was shaking and his breath was coming out in ragged gasps. With a deep breath, he reached over and gripped his lover’s shoulder tightly, restraining the urge to pull him into a fierce embrace, just to remind himself that he was really there.
He was reassured, however, when he felt a familiar hand slip on top of his own and slowly start to intertwine their fingers, holding them tightly together in an exchange of mutual comfort, friendship and love. Swallowing, Jack turned his head slightly, his clear crystal blue eyes meeting the stormy sea he saw in Ianto’s. He opened his mouth slightly, but the only word to pass from his lips was a tight whisper of his lover’s name.
Ianto nodded. “The Rift signal’s gone,” he said, forcing them back to business, even though he was still very pale and his face was damp with tears. “I guess that means…” he trailed off, unable to say the words out loud, but merely nodded vaguely in front of him.
Jack blinked slightly. “Right,” he murmured. “I…oh, yeah…right…” He shook himself, though he didn’t remove Ianto’s hand from his shoulder, and forced himself to focus on what happened next. “Gwen, Andie…back to the SUV. There’s nothing to see here…not any more.” Clearing his throat, he gently removed his hand from Ianto’s and turned his back on the view across the water, forcing a small smile to his face. “Come on, kids…let’s go back to the Hub. There’s work to do.”
Andie nodded, instantly recognising the shift into the ‘leader’ persona, and fell into step with him, without asking questions. Gwen, however, was not so content and started to run after him, firing questions and demanding answers – answers which Ianto could tell Jack was in no state to give at the moment. Before she could cause any lasting damage, the young man sprinted up to her and caught her by the arm.
“I’ll talk to him later,” he whispered. “Just let it go.”
“Let it go?” Gwen repeated. “Ianto, your cousin and his boyfriend just disappeared in a puff of smoke! Are you really going to –“
“Just leave it,” insisted Ianto. “Jack will explain things when and if he’s ready to. Don’t force him.” The last words were spoken with a firmness that made Gwen step back slightly, her large eyes wide with surprise. Convinced he had done his job, Ianto nodded curtly and followed Jack and Andie back to the SUV, trying to hide the slow ache in his chest when he reached out to caress his lover’s hand again.
Ianto moved slowly around the autopsy bay, gathering up Nick’s white lab coat and folding it in his arms, before finally placing it in a metal box, stroking the lapels back, revealing the faded photograph of the two of them that his cousin had always kept with him, alongside the old and chewed-up biro and the small red notebook where he wrote funny little poems. Ianto considered himself lucky to have been one of the few to have seen what was inside it.
Sighing quietly, he removed the small items from the coat pocket and laid them gently on top of the white fabric, his fingers running over the soft covering of the book. He was about to shut the box, when a hand appeared and gently removed the photograph, placing it in Ianto’s hand. Puzzled, the young man turned round to see Jack watching him with a small smile on his face.
“Keep it,” he said, his voice strangely hoarse. “He was more than just a colleague to you – and you know it.” He closed his eyes for a second and, before he walked away, he said, “You don’t have to do this, Ianto. Not for Nick.”
It was only as his lover walked away that Ianto realised he was holding John’s red coat tightly in his arms, gripping it as if it was a part of him. At the same time, he noticed that his hand was wrapped around the old picture of him and Nick. They had been fourteen, maybe a little older, leaning against a gate to a field, dressed in bright sweaters, threadbare jeans and mud-covered hiking boots, following a trek in the hills with Ianto’s father.
He choked back a small sob as he remembered the conversation that night.
“What’s the matter?” Nick asked as he spread the sleeping bag across the groundsheet. “You’ve been staring at me for the past hour as if I’ve sprouted a pair of extra heads.”
Ianto shook his head. “It’s nothing,” he murmured, fiddling idly with the hem of his jumper. “I’m just a little tired, that’s all. It’s been a long day.”
“But it was worth it!” Nick’s brown eyes sparkled as he kicked off his hiking boots and flicked some mud off his jeans. “The guys at school will never believe me when I tell them I did that!” A silly grin crossed his face. “Me…Nick Jones – a rock-climber extraordinaire…taking on – ow!”
“A rock-climber extraordinaire who still flinches when I throw a cloth hat at him?” asked Ianto with a raised eyebrow. “Tell it to the space cowboys, Nicky.”
“Space cowboys?!” repeated Nick. “What are you, five?”
“What?” Ianto started to laugh. “I wasn’t the one who almost cried at the sight of the cliff earlier and said that there was no way anyone was getting me up there!”
Nick opened his mouth to say something else, but the words wouldn’t come out. “Yeah, yeah,” he growled instead as his already pink cheeks darkened. With a small scowl, he replaced the round glasses onto the bridge of his nose and picked up his book. “And don’t think you’re getting me up or down any more of them, Ianto Jones. You may be my best friend, but –”
“Oh, come on!” Ianto plucked the book out of his cousin’s hands. “You enjoyed it really – we both know you did.” He poked Nick in the side playfully.
“Hey! Stop it!”
“No way!” Ianto was laughing now. “You admit that you enjoyed it first – and don’t forget I already saw your little rock-climber extraordinaire skit earlier.” He waited for a response, but when there wasn’t one, except for a small grunt, he crowed with laughter. “You did enjoy it!”
“Okay, fine!” snapped Nick. “I might’ve enjoyed it…a little bit…but you’re still not getting me to do it again!” He picked up his book again and disappeared behind it.
Ianto rolled his eyes towards the ceiling of the tent. “What are you like, Nicky?” he laughed. “What are you like?”
“Well, let’s see…I’m like a fourteen-year-old schoolboy with red hair, brown eyes and glasses, who happens to be something of a geek,” answered Nick. “And who also happens to be sharing a tent with an irritating so-and-so masquerading as his cousin.” He tried to frown, but his eyes were still twinkling merrily, taking any hint of a sting out of his words.
This time it was Ianto’s pillow that went flying.
Ianto closed his eyes and counted very slowly to twenty as the memory washed over him, making his chest ache with the violence of his heartbeat. His fingers tightened around the edges of the picture as he struggled to control his breathing. At this moment, he wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry. Both seemed equally appropriate.
I told him that he was the one person I could never lie to…but in the end, I did. Whether I wanted to or not…I still did. And the last thing he said…the last thing I heard him say was…
“Why did you forgive me, Nicky?” he whispered to himself, feeling the paper of the photograph bending slightly over his fingers.
“Because he loves you,” said a quiet voice behind him and he turned to see Andie standing behind him. “You mean the world to him, Ianto –“
“Meant the world to him,” Ianto corrected her automatically. “He’s not here –“
“Just because he’s not here doesn’t mean that he doesn’t love you,” Andie retorted. “People leave us, but their love never does. I mean…you’re going to die one day, but does that mean that you’re going to stop loving Jack?”
“No!” gasped Ianto, not even shocked at how vehement his response sounded. “Andie, I’ll never stop loving –“ he broke off and smiled weakly as he realised what the woman was saying. With a small nod, he slipped the picture in his pocket and shut the box, pausing only to run his hand down the front of Nick’s coat. “We should get back to work,” he said quietly.
Two hours later…
“I feel sort of bad for leaving Gwen and Andie to watch the Rift when it should’ve been me and John,” admitted Ianto, running his finger over the crystal tumbler of Scotch in front of him.
“Don’t feel bad,” insisted Jack, rather sharply. “You heard them; they insisted that you take the night off and get your head around things.”
“I think it’ll take more than one night to do that, Jack.”
“I know. But it’s a start at least.” They sat where they were for several minutes sipping their drinks and carefully linking their hands together.
“I’ve seen a lot of people working here, Ianto,” Jack continued quietly, running his fingers through his hair. “I’ve worked with them, heck, I’ve led them too. I’ve loved them, cherished them and I can honestly say that it was a privilege to work with them. And you know I’m not one to play favourites.” He took a deep breath. “But you also know that I’m not one to lie when I don’t have to. So, believe me when I say that, even though he was here for such a short time…your cousin was one of the best operatives to work with me here at Torchwood Three.”
He smiled softly. “It wasn’t just a privilege to work with him. It was nothing less than an honour.”
Next Time: Jack begins to feel the strain.