Pairings/Characters: Tony/Ianto, Natasha/Pepper, Jack, Rhys/Gwen, Rhys/Suzie, Owen/Diane, Nick Fury, Coulson/Clint, Maria Hill, Jasper Sitwell/Tosh and Jack/AU!Ianto
Summary: After the events of Countrycide Ianto comes to the realisation that Torchwood was no longer the place for him. As he struggles to find a new life for himself Ianto is approached by Nick Fury and unexpectedly finds himself working for SHIELD. Given his past experience in working with ‘difficult’ alpha-males, he is assigned as Tony Stark's new handler; does Tony have the compassion and willingness to help heal someone whose as broken as him?
Disclaimer: I do not own Torchwood or The Avengers
Art by: hollymarchosias
It was late in the afternoon and the tension in the Hub was still high; Gwen had spent most of the time quietly talking to Owen in hushed, furtive tones. She was determined to get him to change his mind and back her up on her new plan. She wanted them to approach Tosh as a united front and convince her to agree with them about Retconning Ianto. So far she’d had very little luck; Owen was proving to be much less malleable than he should be given the fact that she’d tried all the tricks in her arsenal to seduce him into seeing things her way.
“But, Owen, surely you can see that this is for Ianto’s own good! Can’t you see that Torchwood’s broken and damaged him enough?” Gwen demanded as she struggled to keep her voice in a hushed whisper. “Don’t you think he deserves better than this?”
Frowning deeply, Owen shook his head at Gwen. “In case you haven’t noticed, Gwen, we are all a little damaged here, which doesn’t bode well for your future, now does it?” he sneered at the woman. Just because he was sleeping with her didn’t mean that he was going to fall over and bow to her every whim. And he certainly wasn’t going to sugar coat what it truly meant to be a part of Torchwood; the very definition of the job meant suffering and pain.
Owen held up his hand when it looked like Gwen was going to speak again. “No, Gwen, the answer is no. You came in here with this naiveté that was cute at first but now it’s downright annoying. You’ve only begun to get your feet wet out in the field and you haven’t faced any of the true horrors yet. We have and they’re not pretty. Jack’s right; it’s Ianto’s decision and his alone whether or not he wishes to forget his time with Torchwood. It would be best for everybody but especially Ianto if you stopped pushing your own beliefs onto the rest of us.” He held up his hand again as her mouth opened. “I’m not done yet. Finally, it’s time you remembered that you’re the newbie here and you don’t have even a quarter of the experience we have so there’s no way you can possibly understand what Ianto has lived through.”
Gwen stared after Owen as he stalked off, thereby signalling the end of their conversation. She was gobsmacked by the doctor’s attitude. ‘Owen hates Ianto! He should be on my side in wanting to get rid of him!’ Gwen couldn’t understand why suddenly everybody was on the Ianto love-train all of a sudden. Pouting mutinously, Gwen stalked over to her desk and threw herself down into her seat with a loud huff.
Just as she took her seat the Hub alarms began to blare and that gained everyone’s attention, even Jack came out of his office because there was only one person missing from their little group. Even so, Tosh and Gwen slid open their desk drawers, ready to pull out their handguns in an instant, and Owen popped up from the Autopsy Bay with a rather lethal looking bone saw in his hand. Sure enough the heavy cog door rolled back to allow a limping Ianto access.
Tosh was out of her chair on her feet and over at Ianto’s side before the younger man had taken two steps into the Hub. “Ianto!” Before he could protest, she threw her arms around him and gave him a quick hug, mindful of his sore body before stepping back and looking at him closely. “Are you sure you should be here? I thought the doctor told you to rest for at least a week.” Tosh gently admonished.
Ianto smiled sheepishly at Tosh and bowed his head. Yes, he was still on doctor’s orders and per those orders, he should be nowhere near the Hub – those were just one of the conditions of his early release from hospital – if the attending physician had had his way, Ianto would have remained there for at least three days, just to ensure there were no unforeseen complications or undiscovered internal injuries, but Ianto Jones was nothing if not stubborn. He’d insisted on going home at the soonest possible moment with the promise that someone would be with him at all times – obviously, it was a promise he had no intention of keeping. After all, now that Lisa was dead and his co-workers were ignoring him, he really was alone in the world.
Ianto had waited until Toshiko was gone before checking himself out of St. David’s and he’d taken a taxi home, where he spent the rest of the evening and most of the night engaged in an internal debate. Finally, at around three in the morning, Ianto Jones made a decision, one that would alter the course of his life forever. Before he could change his mind, although that was very unlikely to happen, Ianto sat down at his computer, typed as quickly as he could with only one good working hand and then sent the document to the print button with a decisive ‘click’. That done, he shut off the lights and went to lie down although he never did fall asleep.
When morning came, Ianto rose, washed, dressed, made coffee and watched the news – his normal workday routine. He plucked the single sheet of A4 from the printer, signed his name to the bottom with his usual impeccable script, put it in an envelope, and addressed it to Captain Jack Harkness. He gathered his keys, his mobile, his travel mug of coffee for the drive over and the envelope; he wasn’t really up to going anywhere, but less into the lion’s den, but something told Ianto he had to do this today. As he drove the familiar streets of Cardiff, heading for Roald Dahl Plass and Torchwood’s car park, the letter of resignation seemed to burn in his back pocket, searing its words into his flesh. His mind was a roiling sea of questions: Was this the last time he would step into the Hub? Would he ever see or talk to Tosh again? Who would care for Myfanwy and make sure she got her weekly bar of chocolate? Would Jack notice that he was gone? Would he even care? Ianto didn’t have a definite answer to any of his questions, but the last two lingered in his mind even after he’d parked his car.
Ianto had never felt more self-conscious in his life, not even the first time he got completely naked in front of a girl. He chewed on his lip and fidgeted nervously as he looked anywhere but at Tosh, who looked like she wanted to hug him again or at Jack who had retreated to his office and was staring down at him from the window. It was so much like his first day back after his month-long suspension for the incident in the basement that Ianto momentarily considered turning around and going back home, he was that unnerved.
Thinking it might be better to face Gwen and Owen first, Ianto cast his eyes onto his other two teammates he immediately noticed the looks of distrust, pity and anger that Gwen was sending him and something snapped within him. Straightening up as best he could, Ianto turned to face her head on. “All right, I get it, Gwen. I get that what I did was wrong and I am deeply sorry that you all got hurt and I know that in trying to save Lisa I endangered the whole world. I now have the blood of two people on my hands…” Ianto’s voice shook with raw emotion. “…and that is something I am going to have to live with for the rest of my life. I am haunted by Annie’s death; I see her lying in a pool of blood every time I close my eyes. But I am tired you all passing judgement over me as if you’ve never done anything in your lives. Well I’m sorry to say your hands are all as stained as mine.”
Everyone was startled out of their thoughts by the pure venomous tone in Ianto’s voice. It seemed that all of Ianto’s bitterness over their past treatment of him was coming to a head and they were caught fallout. Gwen and Owen stared at one another, Gwen with a surprised look on her face and Owen with a sneer twisting his lips. Above them, Jack sighed deeply as he accepted more than his fair share of the blame.
Ianto winced in pain as his furious outburst put a strain on his ribs and he desperately wanted to sit down; between the walk from the car park and now the standing, his knee was throbbing fiercely. Forcing himself to calm down, he allowed a gentle smile to grace his face as he lifted his eyes to meet Tosh’s. “I want to thank you, Tosh, from the bottom of my heart; you are the only one who reached out to me when I truly needed a friend and I know that I can never repay you for your kindness or the friendship you offered me but please believe me when I say that I will always treasure my memories of you. I am truly sorry that I ended up hurting you.”
A sad smile caused a small downturn to Tosh’s lips and tears began to well up in her eyes; she did not like where this was going and it was breaking her heart. ‘Please don’t leave me, Ianto; we have so much good work left to do together.’
Ianto’s gaze then zeroed on Gwen and his smile disappeared immediately. “You, Gwen, you’re new but you chose to treat me just like the others, like I was part of the background. You regard me as your personal servant, meant to be at your beck and call and to submit to your every whim. You never bothered to get to know me, yet you callously passed judgement on me despite the fact that on your very first day you released an alien sex gas that claimed a dozen innocent lives…”
“You can’t blame me for that, Ianto! That was an acci…” Gwen’s self-righteous protest died off under Ianto’s withering glare.
“…but you still have the unmitigated gall to stand and judge me, like you’re so much better than me. Well I have news for you, Gwen Cooper, for a so-called bleeding heart who claims to care so much for people you’re one hell of a bitch to your team-mates. You get some kind of sadistic thrill in constantly rubbing our faces with the fact that you’re the only one with a relationship outside of Torchwood. You brag about how happy you are with Rhys so tell me, Gwen, tell all of us just how happy are you really when you lust after Jack like a dog in heat and sneak around behind your boyfriend’s back to sleep with Owen?” Ianto sneered derisively at Gwen. He was so damned tired of how she always thought she was just so much better than the rest of them when her faults were equal to theirs.
“How dare you!” Gwen screeched in indignation as she flounced over to the foot of the stairs that led up to Jack’s office. Unable to think of anything to say to counterattack Ianto’s cruel yet all true words on her own, she bellowed upstairs, “Are you going to stand there and let him talk to me like that?”
Ianto didn’t wait to see if Jack responded to Gwen’s demand for attention. “I had to beg and plead to get a job here and when I did, you all made it perfectly clear that I was nothing more than office support, the lowest of the low, not worth a single second of your precious time. Heaven forbid that you actually lower yourselves enough to thank me for all the work I do. But we all know that the mighty Torchwood team could never be so humbled. As far as you’re concerned, files and artefacts simply appear out of thin air when you need them, the mystical beverage faery brings you fresh coffee and biscuits and the SUV magically comes to life and restocks itself. And let’s not forget about the invisible elves that clean up every disgusting mess you make, Owen.”
”What can I say, Tea-Boy.” The medic merely shrugged. “I’m sure as hell not gonna thank you for doing the only thing you’re half-way good at.”
“And that’s another thing, thank you for bringing it up, Owen. At least I don’t go around putting people down, thinking I’m better than everybody because I work for Torchwood.”
“Don’t flatter yourself, Jones. I am better than you – I went to school and became a doctor so I could save lives. You went to school and learned the bloody alphabet so you could file pieces of paper,” he snarked insolently.
Well aware of the fact that Owen was deliberately provoking him, Ianto pulled his temper back and continued. “I may have made myself invisible but you all allowed me to. Not one of you wanted to get to know the Tea-Boy; after all, he’s just the man who looks after you, who cleans up not only the Hub but all the crime scenes as well. He’s only the one who has to inform grief-stricken family members that a loved one won’t be coming home; he’s only the one who has to deal with securing Weevils, the one who has to fight off single-handedly the dangerous predators that are drawn to the blood and carnage you all leave behind because you’ve pranced off to the pub to congratulate yourselves on how brilliant you were.”
Up in his office, Jack listened to every word Ianto uttered and he felt every nuance of emotion behind those words. ‘What have we done?’ he asked himself, although he knew full well what they’d done and more significantly, not done.
“You like to look down your noses at anything to do with Torchwood One; you like to think that you’re better than they were when the truth is you didn’t know them. You know absolutely nothing about them so what gives you the right to judge them? The cold hard truth is that you are just like them except for one thing: they never tried to hide their arrogance. Tell me, did any of you even shed a single tear over the many lives lost that day or were you all too busy celebrating the destruction of what you considered an evil chapter of your little group?”
Ianto straighten his shirt as he looked coolly at each of them one by one before his gaze landed on Jack for the first time since he’d walked into the Hub. “I quit,” he said tersely. “Find another poor dumb soul to look after you. I’ve already worked for one group of heartless monsters whose arrogance and stupidity led to the loss of hundreds of innocent lives; I refuse to work for another one.”
That said, Ianto threw his letter onto the nearest desk then turned on his heel and stalked out of the Hub, his head held high. For the first time in months his heart felt lighter and the tight band that had been squeezing it for so long released. The next thing he noticed was that a massive weight had lifted from his shoulders, all from letting them know exactly how he felt.
Stunned into frozen silence, the team watched him go and a heavy weight settled in their hearts as guilt begun to eat away at them. They knew that their treatment of Ianto was wrong, they’d known it the whole time but it didn’t stop them from treating him like dirt. There was no denying that the young Welshman had betrayed them by hiding Lisa and yet not one of them could deny that they were just as guilty of betraying Ianto by not supporting him through his grief afterwards.
Unable to look at one another, they each retreated to their own workspace; Gwen slumped down in her seat and fiddled with the contents of her purse, studiously ignoring the stark white envelope lying on the corner of her desk. Tosh disappeared behind her monitors and tried to focus on refining her Rift prediction software, but she couldn’t see the lines of data through the tears in her eyes. Even Owen was subdued as he went down to his autopsy bay and began rearranging the contents of one of the cupboards.
Up in his office, Jack was devastated, wracked by guilt and oddly an inconsolable sense of loss. When the door alarms died out and the only trace of Ianto’s presence was the envelope lying on Gwen’s desk, Jack staggered over to the ratty couch in the corner and collapsed onto it. ‘What just happened?’ He tried to process what he’d just seen and heard but his brain just wouldn’t – couldn’t – cooperate; he was frozen inside and out. ‘Every word Ianto spoke was true; the team did treat him like shit and I’m the worst of them all!’ Jack searched his memories and his heart, trying to find some iota of innocence within himself, some indication that he had been kind to Ianto but there was none. ‘I’m the head of Torchwood Three; I should have set an example of forgiveness and understanding for the rest of the team, but all I did was play follow the leader behind Owen and Gwen!’
‘We did treat Ianto like he was beneath us, we never thanked him, not even once, for the many things he did around the Hub every single day, and we never took the time to realize that without the work he did around here we would fall apart.’ The more Jack thought about the situation, the deeper his depression became as he admitted to himself that the worst part of all was the fact that they had treated Gwen like an old friend from day one, welcoming her into the fold, easily letting her fit in among them. It was something they never once tried to do with Ianto.
With a lump in his throat, Jack whispered to the empty room, “We treat Weevils better than we treated Ianto Jones!”
In truth letting him in was something they never wanted to do; Ianto brought the taint of Torchwood One with him and that simple fact made him the Torchwood Three’s enemy number one. Jack had never made it a secret that he hated Torchwood One and everything associated with Yvonne Hartman. Despite Rose Tyler’s unfortunate fate, he was beyond pleased to see their own greed drive them to destruction, feelings he passed on to Owen, Tosh and Suzie.
Downstairs, the full impact of Ianto’s actions was finally setting in and the atmosphere had become funereal. Gwen kept opening her mobile, intending to call Rhys, but she didn’t know what to say; she was too afraid she’d blurt out her role in Ianto’s decision to leave so she’d snap her phone shut again. Owen sat at his desk with is favourite war game open on his computer, but instead of racking up his score, he simply sat and stared at the screen. Even Myfanwy felt the loss of her favourite human; up in her aerie she was restless, chirping and squawking mournfully.
But it was Toshiko who was the most strongly affected by Ianto’s resignation. She’d given up trying to hide her grief and now tears rolled unchecked down her cheeks; on her main monitor she had the screen in quarters, each one showing a different clip of CCTV footage from the Hub, each one showing Ianto Jones in action. “Oh, Ianto, what have we done?” she whispered; reaching out she froze one view of Ianto when he was actually smiling, although at what she had no idea, and with one trembling finger she traced the side of his face. “I’m so sorry I let you down, my friend.”
Individually, each of the remaining members of Torchwood Three came to the same conclusion: they were solely responsible for the near destruction of Ianto Jones. Guilt surged through their hearts as they realized their hatred of Torchwood One had blinded them to the extent of Ianto’s loss and the fact that he was hurting and calling out to them for help.
In truth they had all forgotten that Ianto was just as human aw they are and therefore did not deserve to be treated like their servant. They’d all ignored the fact that even after the events involving Lisa, Ianto was still the most feeling and human of them all and their cruel treatment of him had slowly killed his spirit.
“He’s really not coming back, is he?” Tosh asked in a choked-up voice as she fought and failed to hold back the tears that continue to fall.
“No, he’s not.”
“Oh, Jack!” Gwen gasped and jumped up from her seat as she realised that Jack had come out of his office.
Standing on the landing looking down on his fractured little kingdom, it killed Jack to utter those words but he knew that they had finally succeeded in doing what Canary Wharf and Lisa Hallett’s death couldn’t: they had broken Ianto Jones. Impotent rage, deep despair and hopeless realisation filled Jack’s soul; ‘I hope you know what a valuable asset you’re getting, Fury, because we sure as hell didn’t.’
Tosh’s heartbroken sobs spurred Jack into action and as he bounded down the stairs, taking the steps three at a time, before crossing the floor and engulfing Tosh in his arms. He never noticed that Gwen had eagerly moved forward when she saw him coming towards her and Tosh’s desks, her arms outstretched, ready for Jack to sweep her up in a comforting hug. Instead, he went right on past her leaving her standing there with a foolish look on her face and anger in her eyes. Jack settled Toshiko’s head on his shoulder and held her trembling body tightly, trying to absorb some of her pain as she wept.
For several moments the only sounds in the Hub were Tosh’s sobs, which were slightly muffled by Jack’s shoulder, and Myfanwy’s screeches, which echoed loudly through the rafters.
Pausing in the little office he’d created behind the counter of the Tourist Information Centre, Ianto collected a spare tie that had somehow found its way into a desk drawer, the paperback mystery he’d just started reading, and his favourite fountain pen, which was the last gift he’d ever received from his grandfather. Finally, he laid his keys, his ID badge, his work mobile and his stun gun in a straight line in the centre of the desk; he would never need any of them again. As he turned to leave something caught his eye and he looked back at his workspace.
Tucked into a back corner sat two small framed photos. The first, in a frame made of driftwood collected from Cardiff Bay and designed by a local artisan, was of him and Lisa sitting poolside at a small bed and breakfast in Spain. It had been taken on the only holiday they’d ever spent together. The second, in a simple silver frame, was of the team. Tosh had managed to find a rare moment when all five of them were together and laughing over a joke; even Ianto had a quiet smile on his face. She’d given the framed pictures out as gifts shortly after Gwen’s arrival.
Picking up both items, Ianto started for the door but then he paused and looked at the pictures again, indecision written all over his face. ‘Do I really want these mementos or are my memories enough?’ he asked himself. The answer came instantly. ‘No, I don’t,’ and he firmly set them on the counter.
As his hand closed on the doorknob, Ianto turned back, looked at the pictures one last time and then darted forward and snatched one of them up. Tucking it into his pocket before he changed his mind again, he slipped through the door of the Tourist Information Centre and closed it quietly behind him. The snick of the lock as it clicked into place was absolutely liberating.
Behind him and in plain sight, a simple silver frame toppled over and lay waiting for the first person to come through the Hub’s hidden door to prop it up again.
As Ianto strolled along the boardwalk, there was a spring in his step that was last seen in London and as the cool breeze filled his lungs and left the taste of sea water on his tongue, the enormity of what happened finally hit him. There were unshed tears in his eyes when he realized that he was free. FREE! He wanted to laugh and he wanted to cry; he wanted to run back and he wanted to dance away on the wind.
‘Now I just need to figure out what to do with my life.’ Ianto knew that he had enough money in the bank that he could go for several months before he had to get a job, just as he knew that when the time came, MI5 or even UNIT would gladly snap him up. A brilliant smile lit up Ianto’s face, prompting an elderly couple strolling past him to smile in return, but Ianto didn’t really notice; he was too caught up in the knowledge that suddenly his whole life was ahead of him and he had no clue what to do with it.
A spur of the moment impulse led Ianto inside the only coffee shop whose brew he was willing to drink. He ordered a large black coffee, went back outside and settled down on a bench that offered him an unparalleled view of Cardiff Bay and across the water to the city beyond. As he sipped his drink, savouring its heat and its bitter flavour, Ianto let his eyes flutter shut with a deep sigh. He decided not to dwell on his future, what would be would be, as his grandtad had often said, but instead he simply focused on the cool rain that began hitting his face, first as a light sprinkle and then as big fat drops plopping loudly on his skin. Even though he was starting to get wet, he didn’t care; he honestly couldn’t remember the last time he’d stood out in the rain, not to clean up a crime scene, not to confront a snarling Weevil, not to collect a Rift-delivered artefact, but just because he wanted to enjoy the feeling of the rain on his skin.
Ianto Jones’ grandtad didn’t raise a fool; Ianto knew this was an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for him to start living again, something he hadn’t done since Canary Wharf. Since the day the Tower fell, he’d been nothing but a walking ghost, not living but merely existing. Before the cannibals of the Brecon Beacons, before he’d been forced to confront his own mortality while lying in a hospital bed, before he’d found the backbone to say “I’ve had enough!”, merely existing had been enough but not now, not anymore. Now it was time for Ianto Jones to start living for Ianto Jones. After everything he’d been through in the past few months, he more than deserved it.