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: John and Nick's flat is cleaned out.
Disclaimer: I'm a student. I don't own Torchwood.
The Master List (as it stands) is here: anduria-trianys.livejournal.com/27610.ht
Three days later…
Andie threw her jacket over her head as she jumped out of the back of the lorry and onto the slightly cracked pavement underneath. “When we were down in the Hub, I didn’t anticipate the weather being quite like this,” she half-grumbled. “It doesn’t rain, it bloody pours.”
Gwen, who had been sat in the front, laughed. “Andie, how long have you lived in Wales?” she asked. “This is actually fairly pleasant weather for this part of the country.” She stepped nimbly over one of the puddles in front of the block of flats.
Ianto followed a few seconds later. “It is a little cold, I will give you that,” he said, flicking a soft smile in Andie’s direction. “But the rain isn’t too bad.”
Andie rolled her eyes. “After living where I’ve lived, you find that any rain is bad rain,” she replied, shuddering as several drops of water seeped underneath her coat. “Give me sunshine, give me wind – hell, give me snow; just don’t give me rain!”
Rhys, who had driven them over so that they could use his van, laughed softly. “You’re certainly in the wrong part of the world, Andie, if you hate rain.” He jumped out as well and wrapped his arms around Gwen’s waist. “My wife here is right; this is nothing compared to those April showers – and there’s barely a month to wait until they come about.”
“Don’t worry, darling,” said Gwen, seeing that the other woman was looking apprehensive. “I’ll be sure to warn you when the worst of those come about.” With a small giggle, she linked arms with Rhys and started towards the door.
“Don’t call me darling,” growled Andie, racing after her.
Ianto followed at a slower pace ignoring the amusing but slightly childish banter around him, allowing the rain to trickle through his hair and down his face as he gazed up at the stylish building in front of him. He rested his hand on one of the silver poles framing the doorway, tracing a pattern through the raindrops with one finger. He watched as the water slipped gently over his hand, dripping off his skin and onto the ground where it instantly vanished amongst the blades of grass at his feet.
Slowly, he reached into the pocket of his trousers and drew out the small photograph he had taken out of the Hub when they had locked away Nick’s lab coat. But he didn’t look at the picture this time; instead, he turned it over and slowly traced the faded lettering on the back, smiling as he heard the words whispered in his mind.
“Sometimes, I wish that I could freeze the picture,
And save it from the funny tricks of time…”
He swallowed hard on the lump in his throat. Those words hadn’t been there when the picture was taken; they must have been a more recent addition. He shuddered – had Nick known all the while that he wouldn’t have long? Or had it been a simple case of him wanting to preserve his childhood memories for the rest of his life? Or was it just Nick writing down a couple of random lines from one of their favourite childhood songs?
“You all right, mate?”
Ianto jumped out of his reverie and looked up to see Rhys standing beside him, armed with several large boxes and with an expression of barely hidden concern on his face. Blushing slightly, Ianto slipped the photograph back into his pocket and straightened up, picking up a few of the boxes and offering the other man a small smile before he followed Gwen and Andie through the glass doors and into the lift, his hand still brushing the picture in his pocket.
“Wow,” breathed Gwen as the four of them stood in the middle of the living room.
“I know,” murmured Andie, looking around her. “It seems…bigger.”
“No.” Ianto’s voice cut through the air like glass. “It’s barer.” He ran his hand gently over the back of the sofa, feeling his breath catch as the soft blanket slid to the floor and landed in a heap.
The moment his soft voice spoke those words, everybody else knew that he was right. The flat’s large living room had never been highly decorated or densely furnished, but somehow John’s wild personality combined with Nick’s cheerful and vibrant hospitality had made it seem so much more like it was being lived in. Now it just felt empty, too much like the home of someone who had only recently died.
Gwen was the first to break the uncomfortable silence by clapping her hands together. “Right, well, we should make a start then. No sense in lingering too long, so…Ianto, if you and Rhys can take the bedroom, then Andie and I –”
But Ianto had already started towards one of the other rooms. “No,” he said, his voice quiet, but his eyes cold. “Sorry, Gwen, but this is one time when you don’t get to take charge.” He bent down and picked up the blanket that had previously rested on the sofa. “Nick is part of my family, and I promised myself that, if anything happened to him, I would be the one to sort things out.”
“We leave the things in the bedroom until last,” insisted Ianto. “In fact, I would insist that we leave that room alone were it not for the fact that I know it’s not what Nick would want.” He finally managed a weak smile. “Besides, I’m sure there are things in there that Nick wouldn’t particularly want me to be going through – and I can safely say I agree.”
Gwen looked at him sharply for a moment, but then her mouth twitched into a small smile. “You’re right. I’m sorry; Nick was practically your brother.”
“Is,” Ianto corrected her, gently but steadfastly. “He will always be that to me, no matter what happens.” Just like Owen and Tosh will always be our friends…and our family…
“All right then, what do you suggest we do?” asked Rhys, who had been watching admiringly. He loved Gwen with all his heart, but that didn’t mean that he was blind to her flaws. He knew perfectly well that she needed to be put in her place occasionally.
“Andie and I will pack the things in the sitting room and the nursery,” Ianto answered. “Gwen, you and Rhys can take the kitchen and the study.” He pointed them in the right direction. “If I know Nick – and I do – he’ll have yards and yards of bubble wrap hidden in all the cupboards. Wrap everything delicate in bubble wrap, including the pictures. If in doubt, err on the side of caution.”
“Yes sir!” teased Gwen as she gave him a salute. Rhys chuckled.
Ianto’s face twitched slightly. “And finally,” he handed them each a couple of permanent marker pens and a notepad. “I want each box labelled with everything that’s inside it, so make sure you know before you seal it up. I don’t want anything unaccounted for. Oh – and put the pictures in separate boxes to everything else.”
“Why?” asked Andie.
“Because I suspect Jack and I will want to keep a few of them aside and I’d rather not have to trail through five hundred boxes to find them,” answered Ianto. “Plus, I think the rest of Nick’s family would like to keep a few pictures of him too.”
“So, why is Jack not here then?” asked Rhys as he examined a small box containing a set of small silver spoons with stones set in the handles. “I’d have thought that since him and John used to be so close, he’d be insisting that he come along and supervise us.”
Gwen shook her head. “If there’s one thing you get to learn about Jack Harkness, it’s that you can’t predict him,” she replied, wrapping a beautiful china bowl in bubble wrap.
Rhys smiled. “I guess it goes with the type,” he said. “I mean, I would never have thought that John Hart would own things like these.” He indicated the small spoons he had been playing with. “I wonder if all fifty-first century men are that nostalgic.” He waited for his wife to echo his surprise, but when she merely shrugged, he raised an eyebrow. “I’m starting to wonder if anyone will find anything to surprise you these days,” he half-joked.
Gwen looked at him. “Sorry, love,” she apologised. “I’m just getting less surprised by unpredictability by the day, I guess. One of the many side effects of working for this place – you start to just accept that some things are just plain odd.” She packed the bowl gently in one of the boxes and placed a cushion on either side of it. “But to answer your original question, Jack’s not here, because he said he had something to do at the Hub; something about finding new employees.”
Rhys looked a bit shaken at that. “So quickly…”
“We can’t afford to wait for too long.” Gwen started to fold up the tea towels. “Jack waited long enough to recruit Nick. He doesn’t want to do that again.”
They packed in silence for a while before Rhys spoke again. “You know, with how dangerous what you do is – and don’t think I’m suggesting that you give it up, because you know I’m proud of you – I’m surprised that you don’t have more than one doctor on your team.”
Gwen was silent for a few minutes. “I know,” she admitted. “With all the trouble Ianto and I get into on our own, it would be the logical thing to do. But it’s sort of a sore spot for Jack…after Owen…” she trailed off again.
Rhys waited for a while to see if she was going to speak again, but when she didn’t, he cleared his throat and showed her the open fridge. “What’s Jack going to want doing with all this food and,” he laughed suddenly, pulling something out of the fridge door, “these empty milk cartons?”
“We can take these to Catrin’s,” said Ianto as he slowly folded the quilt covering Trevyn’s small bed. “It’ll be good for her to have some spare sheets and pillows there, especially with how much Trev dribbles in his sleep.”
Andie chuckled softly. “Shall I make up another box of baby things to take to Catrin’s then?”
Ianto nodded. “That would be a very logical idea.”
She nodded. “Very well then, Spock,” she said, ignoring the quilt as it landed at her feet. “Hey, come on, you asked for it!” she added and then began to place the small pillows in plastic covers before packing them up.
But Ianto didn’t look at her. He was facing the window and running his fingers over a wooden mobile made up of several small coloured frames, each one holding a different photograph. It was old and the frames were slightly chipped and the pictures were fading, but it was still so beautiful. Below that was an ornate silver frame with a photograph of Nick and Trevyn playing on a beach. Again, the picture had faded slightly, but the memory stayed; a chance to remember a time that had long since gone.
“Gone,” he whispered as his hand dropped down to trace the moon and star patterns engraved in the silver, “but never forgotten.”
Eventually, he did turn around and smiled when he saw Andie looking over his shoulder. “Trev’s second birthday,” he explained. “They’d planned to drive down to Aberystwyth for the weekend, but then Alison came down with a nasty cold and she couldn’t go. But Nick didn’t want Trev to miss out on his birthday, so I went down with them instead. It was probably the one weekend in that month when it didn’t rain,” he added with a laugh.
Andie laughed and passed her friend some bubble wrap. “Why don’t you leave that photo with the ones for Trev?” she suggested. “That way, he’ll always have a way to remember the good times he shared with his dad.”
“Thanks.” Ianto nodded and wrapped the picture up and suppressing a small shiver as the bubble wrap covered Nick’s smiling face. “I think that was one of the happiest times of their lives. Nick got a chance to get out of that flat and relax…and Trev got to spend a whole weekend with the father he loved with all his heart.” He placed the picture in another one of the boxes and wrote something on the label. “The father he’ll never forget.”
Rhys coughed slightly as they stood in the doorway of the main bedroom. “No offence, Ianto, but…has your cousin always been this messy?”
“Oh yes,” replied Ianto as he picked his way through the piles of clothes that were liberally decorating the floor. “Still, at least they remembered to change the sheets that morning.” He paused for a moment to look around and then clapped his hands together once. “Right, well…if I know Nick, then that black chest of drawers in the far corner over there,” he pointed it out, “will be the one that I really won’t want to be going into – for what I hope are obvious reasons. So –” but he didn’t get any further before the two girls rushed towards the chest of drawers in question, giggling crazily. “Well, I guess you’re with me then, Rhys.”
“It would appear so,” replied the Welshman with a small smile. “Where do you want us to start?”
For the next half an hour, Ianto walked around the room, picking things up and putting them in boxes – only avoiding the black closet – until the room was almost completely bare, except for the heavy furniture. He forced back a smirk as he watched the wistful look on Gwen and Andie’s faces as they sealed the box they had been packing up; Gwen had almost been drooling over the sight of a certain black corset and matching stiletto-heeled shoes.
As they left, however, something fell onto the floor as Ianto’s hand brushed one of the bookshelves. He stopped, turned back and knelt down to find a small green velvet box lying on the floor next to the door. Quickly checking no one was watching, he bent down and picked it up, running his fingers over the smooth fabric and frowning. He had never seen this before in his life.
However, he didn’t have much time to wonder about it, because Gwen stuck her head round the door and asked him to help her with one of the boxes of things from the kitchen. He nodded and dragged himself upright – but not without hastily slipping the small box into the pocket of his jacket first.
Next Time: Jack’s been researching new recruits, but what has he come up with? And what was in the box that Ianto took?