Characters: Ianto, Jack, Yvonne Hartman, Lisa, Others.
Word Count: 2672
Spoilers: Cyberwoman, Fragments, Season one in general.
Summary: Jack Harkness’s reputation for being a danger to himself and others is well earned.
Content Notes: None needed.
Written For: Challenge 191: Abandon at fan_flashworks.
Disclaimer: I don’t own Torchwood, or the characters.
Practically from the moment he’d met Torchwood Three’s leader, Ianto had noticed that Jack Harkness threw himself into pretty much any situation with a kind of reckless abandon, as if he really didn’t care what happened to him. He gave the impression of being utterly fearless and completely in control, yet bordering on suicidal. It was jarring and more than a little disturbing.
Hailing as he did from South Wales, Ianto supposed it wasn’t particularly surprising that he’d heard so many stories about the head of the Torchwood Institute’s Cardiff branch while he was working for Torchwood One. His new colleagues in London had been eager to pick his brain, asking if he’d ever seen Torchwood Three’s fabled leader in action, what with living so close to the Welsh capital, and when he admitted he’d never seen anything even remotely unusual during all his twenty years there, they’d been only too happy to regale him with what they’d heard.
They whispered surreptitiously to him of the rumours that the Captain, as they referred to him, had a cavalier disregard for the consequences of his actions and was responsible for the deaths of his entire team on the eve of the millennium, at which point he’d taken over. He was, they explained, a dangerous man to know or work for, a maverick, a loose cannon, and a compulsive flirt who’d shag anyone.
Ianto had taken it all with a grain of salt, although the one time he’d seen Captain Harkness at Torchwood One, on one of the man’s rare visits to London, he’d been struck by his larger-than-life persona and magnetic personality. He hadn’t even got that close to the man in the vintage WWII greatcoat, but he’d found himself unable to take his eyes off the imposing figure striding across the lobby towards the lifts as everyone present quickly moved out of his path. There was just something about him that drew all eyes to him irresistibly.
It was well known, at least to the people who worked on the upper floors of the tower, that Yvonne Hartman loathed the Captain, and the antipathy was mutual. Hartman claimed Harkness was endangering lives with his reckless attitude, although in retrospect she was hardly one to talk considering the massacre precipitated by her own recklessness. That had left only twenty-seven people alive out of the more than eight hundred Torchwood personnel who’d been in the tower that fateful day. Some might call the incident a battle, but Ianto had been in the thick of it and knew the truth; it had been nothing less than wholesale slaughter.
As far as Ianto knew, reckless or not, Harkness had never been responsible for any comparable disaster, so he’d figured maybe the stories had just become highly embellished as they did the rounds, with perhaps a smidge of wishful thinking; everyone loved a romantic hero. Either that or they were propaganda spread by Hartman to discredit the Captain and Torchwood Three. He’d clung to that belief right up until he got to spend more than a few minutes in the man’s company.
First, there was the fight with the Weevil. At the time, Ianto had thought it a bit stupid to go after one of the toothy aliens alone, but then again, maybe it hadn’t been intentional. Maybe Captain Harkness had been in the park for some other reason when he’d stumbled across the creature. Stuff like that was bound to happen sometimes in a city teeming with the sewer-dwelling monsters.
Harkness didn’t seem at all reckless the next time they met, quite the opposite in fact; he’d clearly done his research on Ianto, discovering that he was one of the few survivors from Torchwood One and deciding that made him unsuitable for hiring. That wasn’t good news for Ianto, but it was an indication that the man was nowhere near as impulsive as he’d been led to believe by the tall tales circulating among his now deceased colleagues.
At meeting number three, Harkness displayed a certain ruthlessness in his threat to run Ianto over, but that could have just been annoyance and frustration speaking; he probably wouldn’t really have done it. However, trying to capture a Pterodactyl with just a syringe filled with tranquilliser, no darts, no nets, and nothing even remotely resembling a plan… Well, who grabs a prehistoric flying creature by the ankle and allows himself to be taken on a wild ride around the inside of an abandoned warehouse while trying to stick a needle in the thing? For that matter, who tranquillises the only thing keeping him from crashing twenty feet straight down onto a concrete floor while in midair and without a safety net? Captain Jack Harkness, that’s who. So, maybe the whole reckless abandon thing was a tad more than just a rumour.
Still, the whole escapade was exciting, a real adrenaline rush, and more fun than Ianto could remember having in a long while, so it wasn’t all bad, even though it left him bruised and battered from trying to break Harkness’s fall. Plus it netted him the job he needed, which was a good thing. Right? Of course it was. The guilt and shame he felt over lying to the man didn’t alter the fact that gaining access to the Hub by whatever means necessary had been Ianto’s goal all along.
Once on Torchwood Three’s payroll, and with full access to the Hub, Ianto quickly settled into the routine of juggling a full-time job with caring for Lisa. He wasn’t expected to go out in the field himself, but he soon grew accustomed to seeing his boss return from field missions covered in blood while the rest of the team were usually unscathed. Ianto couldn’t decide whether that meant Harkness was unlucky, overprotective of the people under his command, or had some kind of death wish. He hoped it wasn’t the latter, but when Jack started taking him out on Weevil hunts and he got the chance to witness his boss’ behaviour firsthand, Ianto began to have his doubts about the Captain’s sanity. The idiot actually seemed to enjoy risking his life by throwing himself bodily at creatures that could rip his throat out before he could blink. No matter which way you looked at it, that was not rational behaviour.
Despite having a reckless streak a mile wide, Ianto found Jack to be charming, likeable, good company, and completely dedicated to his task of protecting the people of Cardiff from the objects and entities that fell through the Rift. It didn’t hurt that he was also drop-dead gorgeous, effortlessly sexy, almost scarily uninhibited, and smelled mouth-wateringly delicious, but Ianto tried not to focus on those attributes too much.
He was quite proud of himself for resisting the temptation that was Jack Harkness for almost six weeks, but later, when he looked back on those days, he could see it had always been inevitable that he’d eventually abandon his principles and fall into bed with his boss. Not that they seemed to get as far as anything resembling a bed very often, which was perhaps just as well since on those occasions when they did make it to Jack’s quarters, his cot proved a bit too small for two fully-grown men to fit in with any degree of comfort. Desks, walls, the sofa, and the autopsy table were usually quite sufficient for their needs; the cot only got used as a last resort, when for one reason or another, standing was too much like hard work and being horizontal was deemed preferable.
After the whole debacle that was Lisa’s, or more accurately, the cyberwoman’s, escape and rampage, things cooled off between Ianto and Jack considerably while they licked their wounds. Jack was understandably angry and hurt, while Ianto was too swamped by a mixture of grief, guilt, and shame to think straight, so it was hardly surprising they kept each other at arm’s length for a while. At the same time, Jack started regularly including Ianto in field missions, which meant he had a front-row seat in all kinds of perilous situations from which to observe the Jack Harkness show, featuring death-defying acts of insanity, and stupidity masquerading as bravery. Unsurprisingly, he started to remember all the old tales of the Captain’s recklessness. Although he’d thought them exaggerated at the time, now it seemed to him that the man’s escapades had, if anything, been played down. The reality eclipsed anything he could have imagined.
For instance, no matter how narrow and winding the roads got, or who was in the car with him, Jack never failed to drive like the hounds of hell were hard on his heels, flooring the accelerator and taking turns so fast that passengers frequently got plastered against the car doors, or against each other, by centrifugal force. Stopping at their destination didn’t involve slowing down either; Jack merely stamped on the brake, slamming the SUV to an abrupt halt, often resulting in a hair-raising skid in wet or icy weather. Adjusting to all of that took some doing, and whenever possible, Ianto tried to ensure that someone else, preferably himself, did the driving. Pedestrians and other road users were generally safer that way. Sometimes he had to wonder if Jack was saving people from aliens only to finish them off with his driving. Remarkably enough, Ianto never heard of Jack actually hitting anyone; presumably the natives of Cardiff had learned to jump out of the way when they heard the telltale roar of the SUV’s engine.
Then there was Jack’s habit of spending his downtime standing right at the edge of the roofs of the tallest buildings he could find, often hundreds of feet above the ground. Cardiff was a windy city, being right on the coast, and watching the Captain braced against the elements, that coat of his whipping around his legs, Ianto had to wonder how the man managed to avoid falling off. Ianto wasn’t exactly afraid of heights himself, but he had a healthy respect for them and he could see no logical reason why Jack should feel compelled to completely abandon common sense and stand right on the edge, unless he was debating whether or not to jump off. Maybe he just liked tempting fate, but if that was so, then it would seem that fate had yet to accept his dare.
Over time, as Ianto began to focus more on organising the Torchwood Three archives, he started to discover a few intriguing nuggets of information about Jack. While he’d been committed to protecting and caring for Lisa, Ianto hadn’t been able to spare much time for the job he’d used as an excuse for spending countless hours in the lower levels of the Hub. He’d done just enough to make it clear he was working there and so avoid arousing suspicion, but with Lisa gone, the archives had quickly become his refuge and he’d thrown himself into his mostly self-imposed task with gusto.
What Ianto found as he pieced together crumbs of information garnered from countless mission reports, some dating back more than a century, was extraordinary, but oddly not as unbelievable as he should have found it. For one thing, it soon became clear that Jack had been with Torchwood considerably longer than anyone could have reasonably expected.
After more than a year of working for the man, Ianto was as familiar with Jack’s handwriting and signature as he was with his own, and he found it in old reports again and again over the years, the earliest instances in ink now yellowed with age, but still clearly legible. Not only that, but Jack, or more often ‘Captain Harkness’, was referred to over and over in the reports of other agents. What was written about him was often uncomplimentary, citing his recklessness, big surprise there, his unwillingness to follow orders, and his unorthodox methods, among other things. There was no doubt in Ianto’s mind that the Captain Harkness mentioned was the same person who was now in charge of torchwood Three. Jack certainly looked good for his age.
Ianto’s initial assumption that Jack might be a member of a very long-lived but otherwise human-like alien race was quashed very effectively when he came across the first mention of Jack’s death, or as it turned out, a mention of one of Jack’s many deaths. Before long, he’d accumulated a list of no fewer than seventeen deaths by various means, including but not limited to getting shot through the head, being stabbed through the heart with an alien spear, run over by a tank, decapitated, and boiled alive. After that last, Jack was noted as saying that he was never eating lobster again and intended to start a campaign for the ethical treatment of crustaceans.
The implications were somewhat disturbing: Jack was not simply long-lived, nor was he immortal in the sense of not being able to die. Instead, he died repeatedly, but always came back to life, miraculously whole again no matter how he’d been killed. It explained his complete disregard for his own safety; he must have grown so used to Torchwood using him as cannon fodder that he no longer valued his own life, only the lives of others. Ianto decided that something would have to be done about that, but carefully, without letting on that he knew Jack’s secret. It was all very well if Jack sacrificed his own life to save others when there was no time to come up with a better option, but he’d clearly grown jaded enough over the years that nowadays he didn’t even consider alternative courses of action.
Jack’s unique condition also explained the frequent bloodstains on his clothes and the fact that even when supposedly injured he never seemed to require medical attention. He’d say it wasn’t his blood, or that it was just a scratch and he was perfectly capable of taking care of it himself. Perhaps a few pointed complaints about the difficulty of removing blood from certain fabrics would encourage Jack to be a little more cautious in future. That would be a start.
By the time they became lovers again, Ianto had become accustomed to chastising his boss over the damage to his clothes, telling him that if he wasn’t more careful, he’d soon have nothing left to wear, and no, that should not be taken as tacit approval for public nudity. He didn’t want to be required to bail Jack out of jail every time he ran out of clean clothes. Besides, most of the year Cardiff wasn’t a particularly warm place to live, and blue with cold wasn’t a good look on anyone.
The rips, tears, and bloodstains didn’t stop, but they did become less frequent, which was something. Ianto doubted he’d ever completely cure Jack of the impulse to throw himself into danger at every opportunity; if there was a safe way and a dangerous way to do something, Jack would choose the dangerous way ninety percent of the time without a second thought. Deeply ingrained behaviour patterns could be hard to break, but perhaps after dying so many times it was the only way he could feel alive, which was a sad thought. Whatever the reason, Ianto was fairly sure that Jack’s gung-ho attitude to life was as much a part of him as his smile, and those damnably addictive pheromones of his. That was sort of okay though; there was nothing like a little reckless abandon to get the adrenalin flowing.
There was just one small problem, Ianto decided as he matched his Captain stride for stride later that night, chasing down a rogue Weevil. Jack’s recklessness seemed to be rubbing off on him, and unlike Jack, if Ianto got himself killed there’d be no coming back…
‘Note to self,’ he thought as the pair of them hurdled a toppled trashcan like a pair of steeplechasers and skidded around the corner into a narrow alley between buildings. ‘Be careful!’