Characters: Ianto, Tenth Doctor, Jack, Donna Noble, Gwen.
Spoilers: Nada. Set after the Doctor Who episodes ‘The Stolen Earth’ & ‘Journey’s End’, but slightly AU. Exit Wounds compliant.
Summary: Ianto has a few bones to pick with the Doctor over his treatment of Jack.
Word Count: 3595
Written For: My genprompt_bingo square ‘A Battle / Fight / Confrontation’.
Disclaimer: I don't own Torchwood, Doctor Who, or the characters. They belong to the BBC.
The first time the Doctor deigned to visit Torchwood was shortly after the earth was stolen by the Daleks and towed back into place by the TARDIS. Ianto doubted he really wanted to visit even then, but after several phone calls from Jack, he finally agreed to collect the remains of the Dalek that had breached the Hub and dispose of it safely, along with a few of the more dangerous items the Rift had seen fit to drop on an unsuspecting Cardiff.
Naturally Jack was excited; he considered the Doctor to be his hero and mentor, the one person in the universe he looked up to with the greatest respect and admiration. Gwen was also filled with awe and excitement at the thought of meeting the man Jack had told so many stories about. Ianto was less enthusiastic, but then he knew things that Gwen didn’t. Because of that he had a few bones he wanted to pick with the Time Lord. So when Jack said the Doctor would be arriving shortly, Ianto simply smiled noncommittally and said he’d make sure to pick up some good tea and a bunch of bananas.
‘Shortly’ turned out to be almost a month later, and Ianto had to replace the bananas several times, either because Gwen or Jack ate them, or because nobody ate them and they went rotten. Like all other combustible garbage, the rotten ones got slung in the incinerator that helped provide power for the Hub, so at least they didn’t go completely to waste.
When the TARDIS finally arrived, materialising on the invisible lift to refuel from the Rift, Jack dashed upstairs and out through the tourist office to greet the man he still considered, to be his friend despite the way the Doctor treated him. Gwen followed hard on his heels, while Ianto remained behind to put the kettle on and warm the teapot. Setting out a proper cup and saucer beside it, he proceeded to make mugs of his best coffee blend for the rest of them. By the time Jack and Gwen returned, with the Doctor and his current companion, a red haired woman he introduced as Donna Noble, the coffee was made, and the tea was brewing.
“What can I get for you, Ms Noble?” Ianto asked politely. “Would you prefer tea or coffee?”
“Usually I’d ‘ave tea with the Doctor, but that coffee smells bloody amazing. I’d kill for a cup, if it’s no trouble. And call me Donna.”
“No trouble at all, Donna.” With a gracious smile, Ianto served the drinks and offered around a plate of chocolate hobnobs, which soon vanished as if they’d been inhaled. The Doctor certainly had a healthy appetite. Ianto was glad he’d set aside a couple of the biscuits for himself, because he very much doubted anybody else would have thought to save him one.
Refreshments finished and the assorted cups, mugs, and plates returned to the kitchen for washing, Ianto looked across at Jack.
“Why don’t you and Gwen show Donna around while I take the Doctor down to the archives to fetch those items you were hoping he’d safely dispose of for us?” he suggested. “It shouldn’t take long, and then you and the Doctor can catch up. Always best to get business out of the way first, don’t you think?”
“Excellent idea, Ianto! Whatever would I do without you?” Jack fairly beamed at his lover.
“Wander around with dried egg on your shirt, unable to find anything in the mess, I should imagine,” Ianto told him.
“More than likely,” Jack agreed. “Well, Donna Noble, are you ready for the grand tour?”
“You bet your boots I am! Lead the way, handsome!”
As soon as Jack and the two women were out of sight, Ianto turned to the Doctor. “If you’d come with me, Doctor?”
“Why not?” the Doctor bounced to his feet, shoving his hands in his pockets, and sauntered after Ianto, down the long flights of stairs into the lowest levels of the archives and the reinforced, climate controlled area where all the really dangerous or unidentified objects were stored in stasis boxes.
Coming to a halt at last, Ianto turned to the Doctor, shoving his own hands in his trouser pockets so he wouldn’t be tempted to do something unpleasant to the Time Lord.
“Right, now that we’re alone and there’s no chance of anyone overhearing this conversation, I have a few things I want to say to you, Doctor.”
“Be my guest! I’m all ears. Well, not literally, that would look a bit odd, unless we were on Ooogleblomp where everyone has different numbers of eyes, ears, noses, mouths, flargs, and zoomps. Then I’d fit right in. It’s really not a good place to be during the cold season though, all the sneezing and nose-blowing gets quite deafening, and earplugs are always in short supply so if you go there it’s best to take your own, and lots of tissues, just to be on the safe side…”
“Doctor, shut up!”
The Doctor’s mouth shut with a click and he stared at Ianto in surprise.
“That’s better. Now, here’s how this is going to work; I’m going to talk, and you’re going to listen. Are we clear?” Ianto glared intimidatingly at the Doctor, who nodded mutely. “Good. I know you like to think that you’re an enlightened and superior being, but you’re not. Deep down, you’re just as prejudiced as anyone I’ve ever met, and considering some of the people I’ve crossed paths with, that’s not a compliment, just in case you were wondering.”
“That’s a bit insulting! What have I ever done to you?” the Doctor asked indignantly. “We’ve never even met in person before, I’m sure I’d remember if we had.”
“To me personally? Nothing. Jack, on the other hand…” Ianto shifted slightly, cocking his head to one side and frowning. “You’ve never even bothered to look beneath the surface with him, have you? The thought that there could be more to him than what you see at first glance has never even crossed your mind, so you’ve never tried to see past the flirty, devil-may-care mask he uses to protect himself. Instead, you just dismiss him as not being worth the effort when you don’t really know anything about him.”
The Doctor opened his mouth to say something in response, but Ianto glared him into submission again.
“You know,” he continued conversationally, “if I were a less civilised and well-mannered person than I am, I’d probably be justified in beating the crap out of you for what you’ve put Jack through. He trusts you, admires and even respects you; you’re his hero, the person he wants to be like. He credits you with turning his life around and making him a better person, and yet you treat him like something you’ve scraped off your shoe.”
“He’s a fixed point, he shouldn’t exist!” the Doctor protested. “It makes my skin crawl to look at him. He’s wrong!”
“Is he? Who says so? You? Are you the leading authority on everything in the universe, always right, completely infallible? Can you tell me for certain that Jack becoming the way he is was a mistake and not something the universe wanted to happen?”
Now the Doctor looked confused and a bit uncertain.
Ianto pulled one hand from his pocket and waved it dismissively. “That’s not the issue at the moment. Even if his existence is a mistake, whose fault is that anyway? Certainly not Jack’s. He never asked for any of this. He doesn’t want to be immortal, doesn’t want to live for eternity watching everyone he loves grow old and die while he lives on. And make no mistake, Jack does love, deeply and passionately, to the very depths of his soul. He loves and he cares, his heart is big enough to encompass every living thing in the universe, and with very few exceptions, he has compassion enough for all. He’s not fond of Daleks and Cybermen, but then who is? You don’t exactly rush to their defence either.”
Ianto paused, watching the Doctor to see if he intended to refute any of what had been said so far, but the Time Lord remained silent, frowning, so he continued.
“Correct me if I’m wrong, but from what Jack’s told me of the events that resulted in his current condition, he’s the way he is because of the actions of your then companion, Rose Tyler. As I understand it, he was trying to buy enough time for you to carry out your plan to stop the Daleks, even though he knew it would probably cost him his life. Turns out he was right; he was exterminated by a Dalek. That should’ve been the end of the story, right there; he died helping you, but Rose didn’t want him to be dead. Thanks to the power she’d absorbed, she was able to restore him to life, but because she didn’t understand and couldn’t entirely control that power, without meaning to she brought him back permanently. Is that about how it was?”
The Doctor looked pained. “More or less.”
Ianto shrugged and smiled sadly. “It was an accident; Rose didn’t mean to do it and Jack doesn’t blame her, but what did you do? I’ll tell you. You loved Rose so you fixed her, somehow removed all that power from her so she wouldn’t be harmed. Jack says that Rose told her you drew the power out of her and absorbed it yourself, and it caused you to regenerate into…” Pulling one hand from his pocket again, Ianto gestured to indicate the Doctor’s current body. “This body, the new you, your tenth incarnation if I’m not mistaken; Torchwood One had very detailed files on you. But again, that’s not relevant right now. The point is, for a while you had all that power inside you and you didn’t even try to reverse what Rose had done.”
“He was wrong!” the Doctor repeated. “There was nothing I could do!”
“You could have tried! Hell, Jack would have preferred death over what he got. He was ready and willing to die for you, figuring that way he could make amends for some of the things in his past that he’s not proud of. You didn’t even care enough about him to give him that. He sacrificed everything for you because it was the right thing to do, but you didn’t even have the decency to say goodbye, you just ran away and left him, alone and confused. He thought you were his friend!”
Ianto stalked towards the Doctor until they were standing toe to toe. “Do you have any idea what you were condemning him to by leaving him there? You abandoned an immortal man on a space station filled with corpses, with no immediate way for him to escape because you’d deliberately broken his vortex manipulator.” He was seething with anger now. “Of all the callous, heartlessly cruel things to do… You just left him without a second thought, abandoned him with all those dead people. He had no idea what had happened to him, didn’t know back then that he couldn’t die. He thought you must not have known he was still alive, believed you’d come back for him, and he waited for you! He waited as long as he could, but with no one to run the station it started shutting down. Lights, power, life support… If he hadn’t succeeded in fixing his VM just well enough for one trip, he would have died up there, probably over and over, starving to death or dying of dehydration, then reviving, again and again until either the air ran out or the cold of space prevented him from reviving properly, because with no power there’d be no heat. Did you ever for one second think about any of that?”
“No.” It was hardly more than a whisper. The Doctor looked stricken and there were tears in his eyes. “I never thought… I just… His very existence terrified me so I fled, I just wanted to get away from him, didn’t even want to have to think about him. I’m sorry.”
“It’s not me you should be apologising to, is it. But that’s not all. Jack got to earth alright, but his VM burned out, stranding him in the middle of the nineteenth century. He eventually made it to Cardiff because he knew you’d come here to refuel at some point; he settled in to wait, and then Torchwood captured him. Do you know what they did to him? I do, I’ve read the reports from that time. Shall I tell you?”
The Doctor nodded slightly.
“They experimented on him for months, torturing him to death in every twisted, sadistic way they could come up with, just for kicks, timing how long it took him to revive afterwards. Much like what the Master did to him during the Year that Never Was.”
“How do you know about that?” The Doctor sounded as shocked as he looked.
“That’s impossible, you weren’t on the Valiant when the Paradox Machine was destroyed!”
“No, I was dead by then, but I remember.” He shrugged. “Eidetic memory; No idea how it works, but I don’t forget, not anything. We’re not here to talk about me though; we’re talking about Jack. He endured everything he was put through, flirting with his captors to hide his suffering. He didn’t want to give them the satisfaction of seeing his pain, so he put on an act. By all accounts, it was very convincing. Eventually they grew bored and gave him a choice; he could remain a prisoner, or agree to work for Torchwood. He chose the latter, working as a freelance agent, doing his best to protect as many aliens as he could, and still he waited. Eventually he became a full time employee, and started working to change the institute from the inside. There was nothing he could really do about London, he had no authority there, but gradually he re-shaped the Cardiff branch, and when he took over as leader, he severed ties with One and built his own team. This Torchwood’s purpose is to protect and help, we kill only as a last resort.”
The Doctor opened his mouth to say something, but Ianto held up one hand to forestall whatever it was. “We don’t have your resources, Doctor; we do the best we can with what we’ve got, but sometimes killing is unavoidable, although we’re as likely to terminate a human to protect aliens as the other way around.” Ianto shook his head. “That’s beside the point. Jack waited for you here in Cardiff for over a century, trying to turn the Torchwood Institute into something good, and he did it for you, because even now he’s still trying to get your approval. He’d take any crumb you threw him, but all you do is use him without showing him the slightest consideration.”
There was silence for a moment except for the faint sound of the Doctor scuffing the sole of one sneaker against the floor.
“Over a century waiting for answers about what happened to him, why you left him, and whether he could be fixed, and when you finally showed up and he ran out to greet you, you ran away again.”
“That wasn’t my fault! The TARDIS was trying to get away from him!”
“You and your TARDIS are linked, you could’ve overruled her. Jack wanted to go back to the happiest period of his life, but I guess it’s true that you can’t go home again. You called him ‘wrong’, told him you couldn’t stand to be around him. Have you any idea how deeply your words cut? No matter what he does to try and please you, it’s never enough. You let him die for you, repeatedly, and he does it willingly, yet you just shrug his deaths off as unimportant because he always comes back. He dies in agony and comes back the same way; sometimes he remains in pain for hours, even days, after reviving. But because you’re so offhand about it, he’s come to believe that his deaths, and his life, aren’t important, that his suffering doesn’t matter, that he’s expendable, only good for getting himself killed so that others are spared. You’ve taught him that, Doctor. That’s all on you. It doesn’t matter how many times I tell him that he shouldn’t have to suffer, that he matters, he doesn’t believe me because the person he trusts most in the universe has already convinced him that he doesn’t. The question is, what are you going to do about it?”
“I can’t fix him. I would if I could, but there’s no way to undo what Rose did to him without unravelling time itself.”
“I believe you, but that wasn’t my question.”
“What do you want from me?”
“I want you to apologise to him, tell him you were wrong about him, convince him that he matters, that he’s worth more to you than mere cannon fodder, a handy distraction to be used and discarded. Every time he sees you, every time he helps you, he comes back to me a little more broken. If you keep treating him like that, you’ll break him completely, eventually you’ll turn him into the monster he already believes he is. Then what will you do? An immortal, unstoppable monster of your own creation, wandering the universe; are you so eager to replace the Master?”
The Doctor flinched as if he’d been struck, but Ianto ignored him.
“Jack is a good, kind, caring and compassionate man, you’d see that if you bothered to really get to know him. It breaks his heart every time he fails to save someone, alien or human, or worse, has to take a life or sacrifice one for the sake of many. But he does whatever is necessary, because he understands that as the leader of Torchwood, it’s his responsibility. He could be your ally throughout the rest of time, if you’d give him a chance. But if you keep chipping away at him with your indifference and your harsh words for long enough, you’ll end up with an enemy instead of a friend. I guarantee you wouldn’t like that.”
“No, I don’t think I would.”
Ianto paced back and forth for a moment, biting his lip, obviously trying to decide something, then mind made up, he stopped in front of the Doctor, looking him right in the eyes. “I love him, Doctor, there’s nothing I wouldn’t do to protect him, but I’m only human. Even if by some chance I beat the odds and don’t die young as Torchwood agents usually do, I won’t be around forever. I’ll grow old, and then I’ll be gone and Jack will be alone again. Hopefully he’ll move on and find someone else to love after I die, and then someone else after them, on and on to the end of time, but he needs a friend, someone who’ll be there trough it all, and there’s really only you. Can you be his friend? Can you put aside your loathing of his condition and treat him like a person instead of some impossible thing?”
“Yes,” the Doctor said quietly. “Yes, Ianto Jones, I can do that, I promise.”
Ianto nodded. “Good, I hope you mean that, Doctor, because I’m counting on you.”
“I do, you’ve given me a lot to think about; I’m ashamed at how short-sighted I’ve been. I suppose you’re never too old to learn.”
“That’s what I tell Jack all the time.” Ianto quirked a slight smile and looked around the cavernous room they were standing in. “Alright, now that’s all settled, it won’t be long before the tour ends and Jack comes looking for us, so we’d better head back up to the main Hub.”
“What about the things you wanted me to get rid of for you?”
“Oh, I got those sorted and loaded on a couple of trolleys weeks ago; all you have to do is bring the TARDIS to sublevel seven, I’ll show you exactly where on our way back up, and then you can ask her to provide a suitable storage area and we’ll move everything aboard and unload it. Shouldn’t take long.”
“I’m impressed, you’re even more organised than Donna! You two would get along really well. Have you ever thought of taking a trip through time and space?”
“Of course I have,” Ianto replied with a smile, “but my place is here, with Jack, especially now. It’s been a rough few months what with losing two of our friends, and Jack being buried alive under Cardiff for almost two thousand years. He’s doing much better now, but I have no intention of leaving him for any reason, at least not while I’m still alive.”
“Jack’s lucky to have someone who loves him so much.” The Doctor sounded almost wistful.
“It goes both ways, Doctor,” Ianto said, starting back up the stairs. “Come along, don’t want you getting lost down here, took me half the day to find Gwen the last time she took a wrong turn, the passages wander for miles across more than twenty levels.”
“Don’t you ever get lost?”
“Never. An eidetic memory does have some advantages.”
“You’d make a good Time Lord.”
“I’ve often thought so.”
With that, Ianto led the Doctor back up the stairs to see about loading the TARDIS.