Characters: Jack, Ianto, mentions Gwen
Summary: Jack is moping about everything that went wrong with the space whale. Ianto decides he's moped long enough.
Word Count: 1425
Written For: juliet316’s prompt ‘Torchwood, Jack Harkness, he just needed to go somewhere where he could have a new perspective on things,’ at fic_promptly.
Disclaimer: I don’t own Torchwood, or the characters. They belong to the BBC.
A/N: A much-expanded version of the original 500-word ficlet.
Despite all Jack’s hopes, everything had gone wrong. The captured alien he’d been so desperate to save was dead, burned to ashes along with the warehouse turned abattoir. Rhys had been shot trying to play the hero and protect Gwen, and Ianto… God, he’d come so close to losing Ianto! If Dale’s gun hadn’t run out of bullets, Ianto would be dead. Jack could hardly bear to think about it; that day would come, eventually, even if his lover lived to a ripe old age, but it would still be far too soon.
To cap it all, Gwen had kicked up a fuss when he’d ordered her to Retcon Rhys, flat out refusing to do it, challenging his authority yet again. The rules about Retconning outsiders who learned what Torchwood really did existed for a reason; they’d been put in place to ensure the safety of both Torchwood agents and the public. If the truth got out, it could be catastrophic; the people of earth just weren’t ready to deal with the existence of aliens. It could cause widespread panic, making Torchwood’s job even more difficult and dangerous than it already was, and put the lives of innocent aliens at risk. Why couldn’t she understand that?
He’d been in no mood for another round of butting heads with her, so he’d given in, making himself look weak and giving the rest of the team the wrong impression. Now Ianto was probably convinced he had a thing for Gwen, unrequited love or obsession, when the truth was that he was just so damned tired. Too many sleepless nights courtesy of his nightmares about the Year That Never Was.
He’d needed space, to get away somewhere he could gain a new perspective on things, and he’d known exactly where to go. As he always ended up doing in such circumstances, he’d fled to the safety and security of a secluded rooftop, where he could wallow in his feelings of inadequacy in private. So here he sat, huddled in a corner, wallowing, no doubt looking as pathetic as he felt. It would be best if none of the team saw him like this, he was supposed to be their leader and obviously he wasn’t up to the job or things wouldn’t have gone the way they had. He’d fucked everything up royally, and it wasn’t the first time either. Maybe the Master was right and he really was just a worthless freak.
“It wasn’t your fault.”
The voice startled Jack out of his moping and he looked up to see Ianto staring down at him, an uncompromising, almost stern expression on his face. “What?” Jack had heard what Ianto had said, but surely he must have heard wrong. It had to have been his fault; there was nobody else to blame. The plan that had led to such a complete disaster had been his.
“Sometimes no matter how hard you try, things don’t turn out the way you want them to. This was just one of those times, Jack. It was kinder to put that poor creature out of its misery anyway; it was suffering so much. Even if we could’ve saved it; then what? A lifetime of captivity would’ve been cruel; it was meant for a kind of freedom we could never give it. Sometimes you have to set aside what you want in order to do what’s right, or what’s necessary, and you did that. Don’t beat yourself up about it. There was no other choice you could make.”
Jack nodded slowly. If he was honest with himself, he’d wanted to save the space whale more for his own sake than for the alien’s. Truth was, he would only have been prolonging its suffering. The whale’s fate wasn’t the only thing weighing him down though; Ianto could have died because of him, and since the man himself happened to be standing right in front of Jack, maybe now would be a good time to address that and apologise.
“I’m sorry, Ianto; I almost got you killed…”
“No.” Ianto’s voice was firm and brooked no argument. “No, you didn’t. I almost got me killed because I was careless and got caught. You trained me better than that; if anyone should be apologising, it’s me. I screwed up. Stop blaming yourself, Jack. You did the best you could in a shitty situation. Life isn’t perfect, and neither are any of us. Some battles we just can’t win. Deal with it and move on.”
“Just like that?”
“Isn’t that what your wallowing is all about? Getting it out of your system so you can pick yourself up, dust yourself off, paste the famous smile back on and act like everything’s fine?”
“That’s not…” Jack lost track of what he’d been about to say and gave Ianto an offended look. “I was not wallowing!”
“Of course you were. This is where you always come for a good wallow in self pity.”
“If this is your idea of a pep talk, I think it needs some serious work.”
Ianto smiled slightly at that. “I’ve found that sugarcoating things doesn’t work with you.” Walking over, he sat down against the wall, squeezing into the corner beside Jack. “You may be immortal but you’re not invincible, and nobody, least of all me, expects you to be perfect. That would be mind-numbingly boring. You do need someone to knock a few home truths through that thick skull of yours from time to time though, and that’s a task I’m quite willing to undertake. It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it.” He glanced sideways at his lover. “Is it working?”
“Maybe?” Jack’s smile was a bit weak, but it was a start. “Ianto? Listen, about Gwen; I know how it looked back there, but…”
Ianto didn’t let him finish, raising one hand to silence him. “You don’t need to explain, Jack. She just keeps pushing and pushing, but no matter how hard you push back, it makes no difference. She gets something into her head and then there’s no budging her. Immortal or not, you’re still only human, and some days you just don’t have the energy to fight her, so she wins by default. Not an ideal result, I’ll admit, but I think Rhys will keep quiet; he’s a good man, and a whole lot smarter than Gwen gives him credit for being. He could prove useful to us.”
“What d’you mean?”
“Think about it; he practically runs a haulage firm, so if we need something big transporting at least now we have a contact with the necessary equipment.”
Jack took that in, frowning thoughtfully; what Ianto said made sense. “I guess you’re right, but… monitor him for a few weeks anyway, just to be sure, okay?”
“Already set up,” Ianto assured him.
“All part of my job. Look, things today didn’t go quite the way any of us hoped they would, but what matters is we ended that poor whale’s suffering, got dodgy meat off the market, dealt with those responsible, and the team all got out more or less in one piece. Did it go perfectly? No, but it was still one for the win column.”
Jack inclined his head in grudging acceptance, and they sat in silence for a bit until Jack broached the other issue that had been gnawing at him; might as well get everything out in the open at once. “Just so you know, I don’t love Gwen. Not like that. I thought I saw something in her when we first met that reminded me of someone I used to know, someone I lost. Turns out I was wrong.”
“Of course.” Ianto winked. “I know everything. Haven’t you figured that out by now?”
Jack gave a wry smile. “I probably should have, but I can be a bit slow sometimes.”
“I know that too. So, are you about done with the wallowing? Because my arse is getting cold and I’m hungry.”
“Now you mention it, so am I.”
“Good. How do you feel about vegetarian pizza?”
“With extra cheese?”
“Of course! What d’you take me for? I have my standards. It’s not pizza without extra cheese.”
Laughing, Jack scrambled to his feet and offered Ianto a hand up. The day hadn’t gone the way he’d planned, but it hadn’t been the total disaster he’d built it up to be in his head either, and he silently thanked the universe that he had Ianto to point that out for him.