Title: Whiskey Beginnings
Fandoms: Torchwood/the Avengers
Characters/Pairings: Steve Rogers, Ianto Jones, past Jack/Ianto and past Steve/Peggy
Summary: In one short year Ianto Jones’ life changed in ways that could only come from a madman’s nightmares. His best friend was dead and his lover left with the promise to come back but he never did, even though the young Archivist had faithfully waited. Finally, unable to stay with Torchwood any longer, Ianto set out to start a new life. Assigned to work for SHIELD, Ianto and Steve find themselves bonding over similar memories and fallen friends and in the process, they that they share an unexpected link.
Disclaimer: I don't own Torchwood or the Avengers
The dampness of the New York air had Ianto hiking the collar of his jacket up higher trying to fight off the chill of the brisk night. It felt strange to be in a new city, especially one so far away from Cardiff but it was a fresh start and one he definitely needed. His Virgin Atlantic flight from London Heathrow had landed just twelve hours ago, and by the time he’d made it through Customs – what a nightmare that was, even with his special clearance – and then gotten a taxi to his hotel, he’d been up for nearly thirty hours. Although his body was screaming for rest, Ianto wanted to take the weekend to learn about his new home before he started his new job with SHIELD on Monday.
As he walked along, dodging late-night partiers and early-morning joggers, Ianto looked back on his old life. It'd been a year since Toshiko's sudden death and six months since Jack had disappeared, off to help the Doctor when the Earth was stolen and moments after Jack’s cocky departure, Torchwood was invaded by a Dalek. He’d looked Ianto in the eye and promised to come back but after a week of hearing nothing from his lover Ianto slowly began to wonder.
Two weeks of sleeping alone, of rebuilding the damaged Hub and of trying to pretend nothing was wrong, Ianto began to give up hope of seeing Jack again.
Three weeks into Jack’s leaving them and Gwen had reached her breaking point. She’d caved and broken Jack’s golden rule: she called UNIT for help. Not that Ianto could blame her; two people protecting the world was laughable and they were lucky to have survived as long as they had against the crap the Rift had been throwing at them. They tried as hard as they could, but by the end of the third week they had run themselves ragged and because of their mental and physical exhaustion, they’d had one too many close calls that almost didn't have them coming home.
But what he didn't like and what he couldn't be around any longer was Gwen herself, or more specifically, what Gwen was turning into. From her first day in the Hub, Ianto had somehow known that Torchwood would get too deeply under her skin. Without Jack to keep her under control, to remind her of her humanity, to tell her to keep a tight hold on her life outside Torchwood, ‘Don’t let it slip’, he’d told her time and again, she’d slowly become jaded.
Without Jack, her view that she was always right quickly clouded her judgement, becoming arrogance, stubbornness and even cruelty at time and before Ianto knew it Gwen had turned into Yvonne Hartman version 2.0 and it frightened him. She frightened him.
Acting on gut instinct, Ianto Jones did something he’d never, ever thought he’d do: he handed in his resignation.
He knew Torchwood protocol inside and out, so he knew that no one simply left Torchwood. Ianto could still hear the echo of Owen’s grim pronouncement that ‘…sometime within the next twenty-four hours, I get Ret-conned. All my memories erased. I don't know where or when, but he'll get me.' So every day for a week, Ianto woke up fully expecting to find he’d been Retconned but to his immense relief it turned out that a call from Queen Elizabeth herself had overruled the protocol.
Apparently, Her Majesty rather enjoyed talking to Ianto; when he’d taken over making and receiving phone calls to and from officials, including Buckingham Palace, they’d struck up an unlikely rapport. The Queen wouldn’t admit it, but she found her talks with Ianto to be quite refreshing; he didn’t tell her what he thought she wanted to hear but rather, he always told her the truth. She valued his honesty and did not want to lose their friendship. In fact, Her Majesty was comfortable enough with Ianto that over afternoon tea in her private drawing room, she’d privately that she too was worried about the direction Torchwood Three was taking under the leadership of Gwen Cooper-Williams.
As a result of her grave concerns, Queen Elizabeth herself recommended that Ianto Jones become her government’s official liaison between SHIELD, UNIT and Torchwood.
As he walked along the cold streets of New York City, Ianto acknowledged that as much as the memories of losing Lisa and Tosh hurt, and those of Jack made his heart physically ache, he really was glad he wouldn't be losing a single one of them. He didn't want to forget Lisa's smile, or the way Tosh's eyes lit up when she discovered something new.
As for Captain Jack Harkness, oh his dear, sweet, lusty, annoying, sexy Jack, Ianto didn't want to forget the gleam in Jack's eyes when he was plotting something naughty, or the way he curled his arms possessively around Ianto's waist and held him close after they’d made love. Of all his memories, the one Ianto cherished the most was the way Jack would look at him sometimes with such naked emotions that Ianto knew without a doubt the immortal truly loved him. No, Ianto wanted to hold on to those memories for as long as he could; they were all he had left of his friends and his lover now.
'You know, I could really use a drink right about now.' Ianto wasn't a heavy drinker – Jack’s near teetotaler habit had worn off on him – but after dredging up the memories of everything and everyone he'd lost he deserved a dram or two of Scotland’s best. He deserved to forget for just a little while that he'd lost his best friend and worse, the only two people he had ever truly loved.
Stepping into the dim warmth of the bar Ianto was pleased to see that despite its rather unassuming exterior, it was in fact quite nicely appointed. Glancing around, he saw that there were only a few other people scattered about the modest-sized bar and that its interior and atmosphere really wasn’t that different from his local back in Cardiff. Even though he was new to the city, Ianto was surprised to find that he recognized one of the patrons, even though he hadn't actually been introduced to the man. Steve Rogers, one of SHIELD’s top agents, was sitting alone at the end of the bar, nursing a beer and a shot.
Earlier that day, Agent Phil Coulson had thought it was a good idea to introduce Ianto to the team he would be working with when he reported for duty on Monday. The Avengers had been delighted to meet their newest colleague and they’d done everything they could to make him feel welcome. Touched by their enthusiastic acceptance and eager to get started, Ianto was willing to start his new job on the spot, but after the young Welshman’s meeting with Tony Stark and Clint Barton, Phil had insisted that Ianto take the weekend to… ‘recover’ from his encounter with the notorious duo.
Two minutes into the meeting and eight seconds after being introduced to Tony, the Avenger began hitting on Ianto as if his job depended on it. Caught off guard by Tony’s uncanny imitation of Jack Ianto had felt a sharp pain in his chest; he was instantly reminded of the way Jack had flirted with him in Bute Park and it had taken all his willpower not to laugh hysterically. He’d left Torchwood to get away from the memory of Jack Harkness, and now he was expected to work on a daily basis beside a Jack clone. Fate could be such a cruel mistress.
Thinking back to his introduction to the SHEILD team, and to Tony in particular, Ianto caught himself smiling as images of the 1950’s movie about pod people flitted through his mind. ‘It’ll kill Jack when he finds out he’s not…’ Ianto’s smile faded as it dawned on him that Jack would never know that he wasn’t the only first-class flirt. ‘Jack’s not coming back!’ he reminded himself ruthlessly.
Shaking off his sudden attack of the blues, Ianto decided to take a chance and he quickly threaded his way around the empty tables towards Steve Rogers. Refusing to be deterred by a sudden attack of hero-worship, Ianto cleared his throat and smiled shyly at Steve when he looked up at him. “Excuse me, Mr Rogers, would you mind if I join you?”
Pissed off by the intrusion into his personal time, Steve spun his stool around, a sharp retort on his lips ready to rip into the interloper, but then his annoyance vanished and he smiled as he recognized the young man standing before him from earlier that day. “Of course not, Mr Jones, it would be nice not to drink alone.” The agent motioned towards an empty stool and then gestured for the bartender. “And please, call me Steve.”
Smiling Ianto slid into the seat next to him and he had to fight to keep a silly grin off his face. “A beer’s fine, please,” he told the hovering bartender; he could hardly believe that he was sharing a drink with the legendary solider himself. It was a child-like dream coming true. “Then please call me Ianto.”
"I know we didn’t actually have a chance to meet today and I do hope someone apologised for Stark’s over-the-top behaviour…” He broke off momentarily as he saw a faint flush suddenly colour Ianto’s cheeks. “But there's something so familiar about you." Steve knew he couldn't have met the young Welshman before but there was just something about Ianto he couldn’t quite put his finger on.
Ianto felt a pang of concern as he wondered if the news he was about to tell Steve would hurt the man; after all, it was well-known that he was still clearly in love with her. "Peggy Carter was my grandmother."
Steve's breath caught in his throat and his hand tightened painfully around his beer glass; he’d been informed of Peggy's passing and losing her had left a deep scar on his heart. As much as his heart ached from her passing he had been happy to learn that Peggy, the love of his life, had lived a long full life and that she’d had raised a family. Steve’s eyes widened slightly as he realised what had caught his attention. "You have her smile," he said softly.
Ianto blushed again, deeply this time; it was not the first time he’d heard that and since his grandmother had been his hero ever since he was a little boy, so it meant a lot to him that part of her lived on in him. “Thank you, Steve. Mam-gu…” he saw the look of confusion in Steve’s eyes and he elaborated. “It’s Welsh for grandmother… she used to tell me stories about you and your adventures. Course, I’m sure they were quite umm… sanitised shall we say, for a little boy’s ears!” he hastened to add. The last thing he wanted was for SHIELD to think his beloved mam-gu was a blabbermouth.
Steve chuckled as he pictured a ten-year-old Ianto at Peggy’s knee, listening with rapt attention as she wove stories of intrigue and adventure. “Peggy was a great story-teller,” he recalled fondly. “Were you close, you and your ma’am-goo?” The agent winced as he heard how badly he’d mangled the Welsh term.
Ianto grinned at Steve’s discomfort. “Yeah, we were. My mam had to go to work when I was four, and mam-gu too care of me every day until I started school, and then after class, I’d go to her house to do my studies until it was time to go home for tea.” He caught Steve’s eye and held it. “She loved you until the end of her days,” he offered, hoping that would help ease some of the pain.
Steve felt his throat close up with emotion and he swallowed convulsively. Unable to stop the words from coming out, he said, “She was my first real love, you know? While she will always hold a special place in my heart I’m glad to hear that Peggy moved on with her life and had a family. She was a very special lady and deserved all the happiness she could get.” Steve hadn’t wanted her to mourn him forever; he wanted her to live and be happy, to fulfill her dreams.
“She was happy, and my taid loved her with all his heart.”
“Tyde means granddad, right?” Steve grinned proudly.
“Right,” Ianto grinned back. “Stories about you were her favourites. She didn’t have a telly until I was about twelve, so we spent a lot of time reading and talking.”
Struggling to keep a tight rein on his emotions, Steve drained his glass and motioned for another. “Could… would you tell me about her?” he asked in an almost shy voice. “Please?”
“I would be delighted to.” Surprised by the request, Ianto couldn’t help but return Steve’s shy smile; it felt nice to be asked by his teammate to talk about his family. At Torchwood no one, not even Jack or Tosh, had ever asked about his family or his past; it was almost as if that part of his life ceased to exist the moment he’d walked through the Hub’s cog door.
Ianto was a master story-teller, and Steve decided that it was yet another gift from his grandmother; as Ianto spoke, his face and hands became animated and his eyes lit up brightly, and for a few minutes Peggy Carter was alive and well in a dive-bar in New York City. Hours passed and Steve couldn't remember the last time he laughed and cried so much. He’d learnt a lot about the team's new handler, including the fact that the man had survived something as horrible and terrifying as Canary Wharf and had come out the other side sane and still able to fight for others. Watching as Ianto displayed passion, humour, pathos and even a quick display of anger, he could see so much hidden strength in the man; it was as if the soul of Peggy Carter, the woman he’d known so long ago, the angel who’d stolen his heart, was still alive and well and living in the body of a handsome young Welshman.
Shaking himself from his reverie, Steve tuned in to what Ianto was saying. “…she had such a crush on Sean Connery; remember that scene in Doctor No, when he’s in his swim trunks on the beach with Ursula Andress? Mam-gu loved watching that bit over and over again. She’d send me to the kitchen for more biscuits or another glass of milk – she thought she was being clever, but I knew she just wanted to look at James Bond’s body!” Ianto burst into hearty laughter when he saw the look of pure surprise on his companion’s face.
Caught out by the younger man, the SHIELD agent decided to turn the tables so with a mischievous grin, he said, "So that’s why Peggy like to dress you up like a spy for Halloween? That explains the suits." Steve found himself teasing the young man. “She wanted her own mini-James Bond!” Now it was Steve’s turn to laugh.
Ianto blushed faintly. "I think she knew that from a young age I wanted to be like her, she was my hero. Because of her stories about you, I dreamed of joining SHIELD but Torchwood found me first. I was in my final year at University and I was walking home late one night when I witnessed something I shouldn’t have. I stumbled into a Torchwood One operation and unwittingly helped the agents capture a Scirtillian they’d chased in to the park. They weren’t sure what to do with me afterwards, so they took me back to Torchwood Tower and once they learned who I was related to they didn’t waste any time in offering me a job.”
Steve was suitably impressed. “Talk about being in the right place at the right time!”
“Mam-gu called it serendipity!”
As Ianto continued his tale, it turned out that life wasn’t all sunshine and roses at Torchwood One. How was Ianto supposed to know that Arto, the man he’d been working for at the campus cafe, was really an alien, one that had been hiding from Torchwood One. He still remembered the brutal and unnecessary force they’d used to take him down even though he hadn’t done anything wrong. His ship had crashed and he had just tried to make a life for himself on Earth until his people could come and rescue him.
It wasn’t until a few years later that Ianto learned of Arto’s fate: two months into his capture, two months during which he’d been poked and prodded, interviewed and interrogated, examined and even tortured, he had been killed while attempting to escape. Ianto was eternally thankful that his eyes had been opened and that he’d somehow managed to save himself before his soul had been wholly corrupted by Torchwood One.
Touched by the air of sadness and guilt that enveloped Ianto, Steve raised his glass in salute. “You’re a good man, Ianto Jones, with a kind heart and strong spirit and something like that can’t be corrupted, not even by the most evil of forces. I truly believe that your grandmother, your mam-gu, would be very proud of you and what you’ve accomplished.” The older man had seen the doubt in Ianto’s eyes and it was clear that the young Welshman had been wondering whether or not he was just as bad as the organization he had once worked for. It was a doubt he knew all too well; all these years later, he still occasionally wondered if he had been the right choice to become Captain America.
Ianto looked at him, and Steve could see the shine of unshed tears glittering in his eyes. “Yeah?” he whispered hopefully.
“Yeah,” Steve stated decisively. Then, desperate to change the subject and get Ianto’s mind off of his past, he raised his glass a second time and proposed, “How about a toast to fallen friends?” Ianto was one of the few who truly understood what it was like to lose everyone you cared about in one fell swoop.
Smiling gratefully, Ianto lifted his glass and tapped it against Steve’s, "To fallen friends."
After they’d both sipped their beer, Steve raised his glass one last time. “To Peggy Carter, the most memorable and influential woman in both our lives.”
“To mam-gu!” and the men drained their glasses and smacked them down on the bar at the same time.
Silence fell over their little corner of the world as they became lost in memories of loved ones, friends and colleagues they had lost.
It was Ianto who decided to break the silence. “It’s been a long time since I’ve felt like I’ve belonged. Even with my old team there were times when I felt like I was invisible. I was nothing more than Ianto the trusty Tea-Boy whose only reason for being there was to keep the coffee flowing, make sure they were fed regularly, and stop them from drowning in their own garbage.”
Ianto blinked owlishly and a light blush coloured his cheeks as he realised that the few drinks he’d consumed had loosened his tongue considerably. He’d never complained about Torchwood to a virtual stranger before; in fact, until she’d finally passed away from old age, his beloved Myfanwy had been his only confidante.
Steve could detect hints of bitterness and sorrow in Ianto’s words and he hastened to erase them. "You're family now, Ianto, and we’re sure as hell not going to treat you like you’re only there to pick up after us. But – and this is a big but, my friend, there will be numerous and insistent demands for your coffee, I guarantee it. After today you’ve gotten everyone hooked! And Ianto?” Steve waited until the young man looked up at him. “We will not abandon you, not if I have anything to say about it," Steve vowed sincerely; he’d clearly heard the pain in Ianto’s voice as he’d spoken of the way he was treated by his former team. It honestly baffled Steve how anyone could have treated Ianto Jones as though he were simply dismissible and make him feel like he was invisible. ‘That won’t happen to you here, Ianto.’
After hearing Steve’s heartfelt words, Ianto felt himself able to smile a true smile, one that came from his heart and lit up his eyes, and for the first time in a year the pain of having Jack abandon him for the Doctor didn’t hurt nearly as much. Ianto hoped it was a good sign for his future, that while he still loved Jack he was beginning to move on with his life; after all he didn’t have forever to wait for a travelling immortal.
Feeling a renewed sense of purpose for his life, Ianto lifted his glass again and Steve could see a new light in his eyes and it made him look younger somehow.
“To new beginnings.”
'Now that's a toast I get behind!' Steve nodded approvingly. “To remembering the past but not letting it overrule our new lives or our fresh start.”
Ianto clinked his glass against Steve’s. Yes, it was time he put Torchwood One and Three firmly in the past and as hard as it would be, he had to put Jack behind him as well. ‘I love you, Jack Harkness, and I most likely always will but I have to move on. I deserve to find a new piece of happiness and I truly hope that wherever you are you’re happy and that you’ve found the peace of mind that you couldn’t find at Torchwood…' Ianto felt his heart give a tiny hiccup, nothing like it would have done even a month ago; '…or with me.’ He gave his glass a final tip in the general direction of the Universe.
Needing to shake off the sadness that came whenever he thought of Jack, Ianto turned a mischievous gaze onto his new teammate and hopefully, new friend. “So, tell me about my new team; is Tony Stark always that big of a flirt?”
Steve grinned happily; he too was eager to leave the heavy subject of their pasts behind and move on to something far more lighthearted. “Oh, trust me, Ianto; he was on his best behaviour today! Normally he’s much worse, but Agent Coulson told him to reel it or he’d be on bathroom duty for a month. I’m warning you, be prepared, cos when you come in Monday morning you will receive the full force of Tony Stark’s version of charm.”
Having experienced – and survived – flirting of the highest calibre from inter-galactic playboy Jack Harkness, Ianto was convinced that he could endure anything Tony could throw at him. “I think I can handle him,” Ianto grinned confidently. “What about the others?”
Letting his own smile grow, Steve grabbed their beer glasses, stood up and headed for a table in a quiet corner. “Let’s get comfortable; this could take a while. You hungry? You wanna order some food?”
Ianto was actually starving; he hadn’t eaten anything since his flight from London. As a parting gift and to say thank you for everything he’d done for Queen and country, Her Majesty had given Ianto an Upper Class ticket on Virgin Atlantic. Having only flown a few times in his life, he’d never experienced the pure luxury that Virgin Atlantic provided for its guests. He enjoyed an excellent dinner, including a cocktail and a starter, and an excellent chicken Marsala with wild mushrooms, grilled asparagus and a creamy risotto.
Dessert had been a decadently rich chocolate lava cake accompanied by coffee that almost – almost – rivalled his own, and even though he didn’t have room for it, Ianto had polished off his meal with a fruit and cheese platter. It was hands down one of the best meals he’d ever eaten. Later, stuffed and sleepy, he’d folded out his seat and even though he was six feet tall, Ianto was still able to lie flat and fall fast asleep.
“Actually, yeah, I do.” He snagged the menu from the table and perused the offerings; it was typical bar food, hot wings, fries, burgers and basic sandwiches. He handed the menu to Steve and motioned for the waitress to come over. “May I please have the Philly cheesesteak with mushrooms rather than peppers and onions and extra cheese?”
“You want fries with that, hon?”
Ianto nodded. “Yes, please, and another round?”
“Gotcha,” the blonde scribbled on her notepad and turned to Steve. “How ‘bout you?”
Steve selected a double cheeseburger with coleslaw and a side of fries and another beer as well.
“I’ll be back shortly, gentlemen,” and with a snap of her chewing gum, she was gone.
While they waited, Steve began telling Ianto all about his new team and hopefully his new friends and new family. Sinking into his seat Ianto let Steve’s stories of his new teammates wash over him and a quote from one of his grandmother’s favourite movies popped into his head. ‘I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.’