Title: Flame beneath ashes - Chapter 14: Unlocking
Summary: AU. After the events of Countrycide, Ianto was retconned and allowed to start a new life in London. Intervening accidentally in a burning building, it's a very differentman Jack meets four years later. But can Ianto really escape his own destiny?
Characters: Ianto Jones, Jack Harkness, Gwen Cooper, Owen Harper, Toshiko Sato, Myfanwy, Original characters.
Pairing: Jack/Ianto, Owen/Tosh, Gwen/Rhys (mentioned), Ianto/Lisa (past)
Genres: Alternate universe/action/romance.
Warnings: Violence, swearing, sexual situation (nothing graphic), character's death (temporary)
Spoilers: Spoilers for seasons 1 and 2. Exit wounds and Children of Earth are only mentioned as incidents and Miracle Day, of course, never happened
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
Author's Notes: Special thanks to my precious beta reader badly _knitted who takes time to beta my work, though she has hardly enough time to write her own wonderful fics.
Also a huge thank you to everyone who has been so kind to comment this fic and to those who have added me to their favourite author list and story alerts. Sorry for the delay due to unfortunate circumstances. The epilogue should come sooner.
Chapter 14: Unlocking
"I want you to kiss me."
Time suddenly seemed to stop, then expand endlessly, each second becoming an eternity. For what seemed like hours instead of a handful of seconds, they stood frozen, not daring to blink, whilst they desperately tried to convey their feelings through their gaze.
Taking Ianto’s face between his hands, Jack slightly tilted it back and plunged even deeper in his eyes, drowning himself in the intense blue gaze.
"You're sure?" he asked hoarsely.
Ianto only nodded, afraid if he tried to speak his voice would fail him.
That was all he needed for the last string of Jack's restraint to snap. Closing his eyes, he slowly leant over and brushed his lips against Ianto's in a tentative and chaste kiss. Though it wasn't much, the sensation of Ianto's soft lips against his was enough to send shivers along his spine. He slightly raised his head and let his eyes wander across Ianto's face, searching for any trace of discomfort or second thought, but all he could read there was trust and longing. Drinking in the beautiful sight before his eyes, he let his thumbs graze along the line of Ianto's jaw, revelling in the sensation of warm skin and light stubble under his fingertips.
He just couldn't believe he was being given the chance to hold this wonderful man in his arms. It amazed him that knowing the truth about Lisa's death and his past, Ianto was still attracted to him and willing to give them a second chance. For sure, thought Jack, I will soon wake up, once again alone and miserable, and find out all of this was only a figment of my over-active imagination. But for the time being, he was just glad to get caught up in his fantasy.
He was pulled out of his reverie by the feeling of Ianto's arms circling his neck and drawing him closer. Brushing his lips against Jack's ear, the young man whispered.
"You're thinking too much. Stop zoning out and kiss me again."
He had barely finished his sentence before Jack's lips were on his, capturing his mouth with soft, sliding pressure. Ianto’s body shuddered with desire. It was new, thrilling and, at the same time, it felt like the most natural thing in the world. Kissing Jack was different from anything he had ever experienced before and not only because Jack was a man. It was everything he had expected and even more, as if he had never been kissed before. As their lips sealed together, Ianto felt a strange kind of pleasure coursing through his body and let out something that sounded suspiciously like a whimper, but he couldn't have cared less.
Closing his eyes tightly, he endeavoured to memorize every detail of their kiss, from the softness of Jack's lips against his to the lingering taste of coffee on his breath and the warmth of his hands stroking his neck.
Realizing that Jack wouldn't make the leap of his own accord, Ianto cupped his hand behind Jack's head and slowly let his lips slide apart, before tentatively tracing the older man's lips with his tongue. A low groan escaped from Jack's throat. He parted his own lips in turn and their tongues met up, each one brushing just a little bit against the other.
What had started as a slow and shy kiss, quickly became more intense and demanding as they explored each other's mouth and their tongues tangled, slick against each other.
Ianto's grip on Jack's hair became a bit stronger, whilst Jack's hands left Ianto's face and drifted down his chest to rest on his hips, pulling him closer. Finally overwhelmed by the desire that consumed him, Jack let his tongue invade Ianto's mouth and explore at will. Ianto stiffened briefly, then relaxed, relinquishing control. Fully surrendering to the lust and desire which was setting fire to his body and soul, he carded his long fingers though Jack's hair, eliciting another growl from the other man, whose hands clutched almost painfully at his hips.
Soon enough, Ianto found his back pressed against the wall, Jack's body grinding against his. Finding their way under the hem of his t-shirt, the older man's hands started to roam over the taut muscles of Ianto's abdomen, leaving a trail of prickling on their way. A strangled groan escaped Ianto's throat as he arched under Jack's touch. Pure raw desire washed over him. It felt so good. So right. He wanted more. So much more. He wanted Jack’s mouth, Jack’s hands. Everywhere.
He wanted him to set the fire to his body and soul.
He felt his heart tightening and his eyes welling up from frustration. He knew what he wanted, had always known it, since the very moment they had fallen in each other arms in that warehouse.
I want... you… us. I want to remember…
A very vivid image of their two bodies, glistening with sweat and entwined in a feverish embrace, flashed in his mind. Their open mouths sharing the same breath. Moans of pleasure filling his ears.
Oh God! I want it. I want it back. I…
Once again, he was overwhelmed by a new wave of sensation. Jack’s hands on him, all over him. Stroking, rubbing his flesh and sending jolts of ecstasy through his entire body.
He could felt his skin prickling and the temperature of the room rising. It felt hot. So hot. Too hot. It was as if molten lava was coursing through his veins. He gasped and tried to catch his breath.
The heat suddenly became unbearable. He tensed. Something was wrong.
A too familiar burning smell assaulted his nostrils, setting off an alarm in his head. Smoke. The place was on fire. They needed to warn the others and get out, right now. He tried to speak, to move, but no sound came out and his limbs refused to obey. Panic rose in him as he realized that he couldn't see either.
Excruciating pain exploded in his head and he screamed at the top of his lungs.
His eyes snapped open and it took him only a split second to know he wasn’t in the Hub anymore. Smoke and flames were everywhere. He could hear muffled sobs and distressed cries around him and for a moment, it felt like he was back at the warehouse just before the accident. But the impression didn’t last.
You have to be upgraded.
As soon as the sound of the metallic voice reached his ears, he knew where he was. He was back at Canary Wharf. He was back in Hell. A heart-breaking cry filled the air. Lisa. She was screaming with pain whilst he desperately tried to haul her out of the conversion chamber.
She was so heavy in his arms and it was so hard to drag her outside, but he couldn’t fail. He couldn’t leave her behind. He had to save her. She couldn’t die. She was too young and they still had so much to experience together. They were going to get married and have kids. A lot of kids. Lisa would be a wonderful mother. He knew it. She was all he had here on earth and he swore he would do anything to save her.
Jack, what are you doing?! - Resisting the urge to shoot.
Jack’s voice was devoid of all emotion except cold rage and Ianto had no doubt he would squeeze the trigger without blinking an eye. Jack hated him now. He didn’t care about Ianto’s reasons. He didn’t even want to hear what he had to say. In the end, in spite of his fine speeches, Jack was exactly like Yvonne Hartmann; just another bastard scavenging alien technology to suit his own purposes, regardless of the consequences for the others. He should have known better than to trust him. He couldn’t rely on anyone. He was alone.
NO! Call it off her! You can do that! Have some fucking mercy!
But there was no mercy. None of them even tried to save her. They just wanted to see her dead. So they could dismantle the unit, burn her corpse, then pretend nothing had ever happened. None of them cared about her. They didn’t even care about him. They didn’t know anything about him. He was nothing more than a piece of furniture, a servant. And for Jack a convenient hole to screw whenever he felt the need.
He hated them. He hated Jack. He wished they were dead instead of Lisa.
One day, I'll have the chance to save you... and I'll watch you suffer and die.
It was a lie. He couldn’t kill Jack. Couldn’t kill Lisa. Maybe he should kill himself instead. At least it would stop the pain. He was so tired of fighting. He wanted it to end. Cold spread through his body until he felt completely numb. He had lost everything. Lisa. His job. Jack. He had no reason to live now. None.
Sorry she's dead? Or sorry you mentioned it? - I just didn't think. - You forgot.
He knew it was cruel and unfair, but he didn’t care. Just for a moment, he wanted to be mean and rub it in their faces. He needed to pour out his anger, his pain and loneliness. But as his eyes met Jack’s and he caught the hurt in his look, he knew it was futile. He had no right to blame them. He was a traitor and a liar. As much as he tried to ignore it, he had been the first to forget her. All those nights he had spent in Jack’s arms, he had tried to pretend he was doing it to distract him and protect her. But to tell the truth, he had wanted it, since the very moment he had met Jack in the park. He was a liar and a coward.
They need to eat. We're food.
The door of the fridge slammed shut in front of him, but too late. The picture of body parts partially wrapped in plastic filling the bloodied fridge was already printed on his retinas.
I think they're the best we've ever had.
The scenery had changed, but the semi-darkness and unbearable stench remained the same. They were in the middle of the closest thing to Hell he could imagine. Blood was everywhere. Bodies hung from the ceiling. When his eyes caught sight of organs in jars on the chopping board, he knew with an absolute certainty he was going to die.
You see ... meat ... has to be tenderized first.
Everything hurt. Tosh had escaped and they were enraged. They hit him. Kicked him again and again. He felt a dirty piece of cloth being forced into his mouth and gagged at the foul taste. He was going to die there. Alone. Begging on his knees in vain. He was going to bleed to death and no one would come to his rescue. He may have wished for death, but not like that. God, no! Not like that!
Maybe, if Tosh had still been with him, Jack would have come for her. But he was alone and Jack hated him now. Ianto had betrayed him. He had betrayed the man he loved. There was no more hope.
Rough hands hauled him up and the blindfold was ripped from his head. The edge of a chopper gleamed in the dim light.
Jack… Help me…
The world wobbled and Jack’s distant distressed voice calling Owen’s name was the last thing he heard before darkness took him.
I love you… Jack…
TW TW TW TW TW
The sound of footsteps, followed by metallic tinkles went through the dark as Ianto slowly came to his senses. He gradually became aware of his surroundings and someone moving and rummaging nearby, but he couldn’t bring himself to open his eyes.
The events of the day rushed through his head. The hangover, his conversation with Jack at the coffee shop, Owen’s test, Jack with him in the Tourist Office, their kiss, then the pain in his head and the blackness that had swallowed him.
A dull soreness had replaced the unbearable pain in his skull and his body felt heavy like lead. Through the haze of his mind, he briefly wondered if Owen had sedated him, but quickly dismissed the idea. The medic was too wise and careful to take the risk of drugging him whilst he was still unconscious.
Keeping his eyes shut and his breathing slow and even, he waited, expecting the pain to come back at any moment. But nothing happened. Strangely enough, he found himself more or less in the same state as that very morning when he had woken up from his heavy drinking. A bit confused, but calm and almost… relieved. There was no sign of the rats which had taken up residence in his stomach for months.
A draught of cold air brushed him and he shivered involuntarily. Almost immediately, he felt a raspy cover being spread over his shoulders. A hand, cold and dry- Owen’s, he guessed- brushed his shoulder, then the sound of the footsteps drifted away before fading away altogether.
Finally alone, Ianto frowned, eyes still closed. Things were by no means what they should be.
He shouldn’t be so calm and composed, shouldn’t feel relieved at all. He should feel guilty and sad, for having betrayed Jack’s trust and hurt his feelings. He should blame himself for the death of Doctor Tanizaki and Annie, and for having failed in his promise to save Lisa.
It only seemed logical that the guilt and hurt would come back, along with the memories. Being told about what had happened was far different from actually remembering it. And God knew that his memories were pretty vivid. He could effortlessly remember Lisa’s screams as she had been fighting off Myfanwy or Annie’s empty gaze after the Cyberwoman had transferred Lisa’s brain into her skull.
He had no doubt those images were going to haunt him for the rest of his life, but surprisingly enough, they seemed to have lost their devastating effect on him. They were clear but distant, as if those things had happened ages ago and to someone else.
Ianto suddenly realized that, in a way, it had been another lifetime. As a fireman, he had experienced his fair share of horrors. Some of them could easily compete with the traumatic events from his past and they had indisputably forged his character and made him the man he was now.
Though the circumstances of Lisa’s death had been horrendous, it was her absence that had turned out to be the most painful, as well as the certainty that he had also lost Jack’s trust and care –he wouldn’t dare to say affection- in the process. Through the four years which had passed since then, he had had plenty of time to learn to accept the inevitable, to grieve and mourn his loss.
His thoughts drifted towards Lisa and all those months she had spent trapped in that evil machine, suffering to no avail, only because he couldn’t bring himself to let her go and accept that, despite appearances, she was already dead. Had he been less blinded by the wish to save her at all costs, he would have understood the way the machine used the most intimate details of their life to lure him.
Maybe his own injuries and the months he had passed lying on his bed of suffering had been some sort of penance for the hurt he had caused. Anyway, lamenting on what should have been done or not was of no use now. He couldn’t bring Doctor Tanizaki and Annie back to life. No more than he could resurrect the other victims of Canary Wharf.
He played once again in his head his last conversations with his teammates. Maybe it was time for him to turn the page and move on. He had forgiven them and they seemed to have forgiven him. As for Jack, he had shown pretty clearly that he was still interested in him. God! He had even asked him out on a date. A date!
It was said that time healed all wounds, and maybe it was true. The same way the fire had left scars on his body, his past choices and their fallouts would scar his heart and mind permanently, but in the end, the wounds had closed and the pain was gone, so...
The rational part of his mind had taken over from his emotions and with all the cards in hand to define who he was and where he came from, he had now to decide what the best way forward would be for his life.
He had dealt with his past. It was time to face his future.
Taking a deep breath, he gathered his courage and forced his eyes to open.
TW TW TW TW TW
A gloomy atmosphere was hovering above Jack's office when Owen finally returned from the autopsy bay. Jack was hunched in his chair, elbows on his knees, holding his head with both hands in a perfect embodiment of defeat. Gwen stood beside him, one of her hands resting on his shoulder in a vain attempt to comfort him. As for Tosh, she was curled up on the old couch near the circular window and was staring into space.
With a heavy sigh, Owen crossed the doorstep and plopped down on the other end of the couch. Tosh immediately caught his hand and squeezed it gently.
"He’s sleeping," he said before any of them found the courage to ask.
"How is he?" asked Gwen hesitantly.
Owen shook his head.
"Still too early to tell. At first sight, the scanner doesn’t show any brain damage, but…" he trailed off and shrugged.
"But?" repeated Gwen.
He let out a weary sigh before answering.
"It’s rather his mental status which worries me."
"When will you…" she started to ask again.
"Don’t know." Owen cut her off more harshly than he intended to. He leant back on the couch and winced as he felt one of the springs poking him in the buttocks. Goddam, they needed to change it. This thing was certainly as antique as Jack.
"We have to wait until he wakes up. Only then will I be able to assess the extent of the damage."
"What’s the worst case scenario?" Tosh finally dared to ask, her hand now rubbing Owen’s knuckles.
The doctor paused for such a long time before answering that she started to wonder if he had even heard her. When he finally spoke, it was with a dull voice.
He knew that it wasn’t what they wanted to hear, but it was the grim truth. Chances were that, on his waking, Ianto’s state of mind would be even worse than it had been before he was retconned. In that case, Torchwood’s secret hospital would be the only facility capable of taking care of him.
Gwen crossed her arms on her chest and averted her eyes.
"It’s so unfair," she moaned. "He was doing so well. You reckoned yourself that the odds were against…"
"Yeah, I know."
Owen pulled a face and ran a hand through his hair.
"Seems like he finally found a good reason to open the bloody Pandora’s Box."
"I kissed him," muttered Jack in a faint voice which seemed to come from out of the grave.
Three pairs of eyes focused on him, as he slowly lifted his head and looked at them with bleary eyes.
"We were… talking about… us. He said he wanted me to kiss him… and I did… I…" His eyes met Owen’s and he sighed. "All of this is my fault. I should have listened to you."
Jumping up from his chair, he started to pace furiously, clutching his hair with both hands.
"It was stupid! Stupid!" He slammed his hand against the nearest wall and leant his forehead against it.
"Oh, Jack," Gwen tried to soothe. "Don’t. You couldn’t guess…"
"Oh please, Gwen!" exclaimed Jack with exasperation. "Stop mothering me. I’m not a kid anymore."
"Neither is Ianto," countered Owen firmly. "He is an adult and he was aware of the risks. It was his choice, so stop the martyr act, okay? It’s not helping."
He slowly stood up and went to put his hand on Jack’s shoulder, before adding more softly:
"We are all in the same boat with you. If you are to be blamed, then we are too. We all agreed for his return and though I might have expressed some reservations at first, I let it happen, regardless of my bad feelings about it."
Jack glared at the doctor and shrugged his hand away without a word. He slowly walked towards his desk, opened the top drawer and retrieved a small bottle of pills which he slammed on the desk blotter with a small thud, before turning his back to them, arms crossed.
"The last two weeks, remember."
"Jack…" grumbled Owen.
"We had a deal," retorted Jack dryly without turning around.
"Don’t you think you should at least wait until I wake up, Sir?"
The sound of Ianto’s sharp voice startled all of them and, as they turned as one man towards the door, Jack’s hand knocked over the bottle of pills which fell from the desk. The lid popped off and the little blue pills scattered all over the floor with a crackling noise. But Jack didn’t care. Like the others in the room, his attention was fully focused on the young man, who was casually leant against the frame of the threshold, his pale face sporting an undecipherable expression.
The blankness in Ianto's eyes was ripping at Jack’s heart.
Sir. The word resounded in his ears like a knell and his last hopes came to nothing.
"Ianto!" Tosh was the first to recover from her surprise.
Jumping up, she threw herself into his arms, hugging him tightly.
"Oh, you gave us such a scare," she mumbled against his shoulder whilst the young man returned her hug and briefly pressed his lips to the top of her forehead.
Without a word, he gently disentangled himself from her embrace and pushed himself away from the door frame, his eyes still steadily locked on Jack who was staring back.
"Ianto?" she asked worriedly. He didn’t answer and she sent a puzzled glance at Owen, but he and Gwen were too engrossed with watching the motionless stare shared by the two men to pay attention to her.
It was obvious that something crucial was going on between the two of them, but they were damned if they could say whether it was for the best or the worst.
Without breaking eye contact with Jack, Ianto slowly walked towards the older man, thoroughly mashing the scattered pills under the soles of his boots in the process.
Jack shifted uncomfortably and braced himself, expecting anything, either a punch in the face or a new rant about the fact that he was the ‘biggest of the monsters’. He took a deep breath and waited.
Ianto took the few steps that placed him directly in front of the older man. Nothing happened and Jack suddenly became uncertain. He felt the whole team watching them. Unsure of what to do, he tentatively stretched out his hand, but Ianto ignored it. Instead, he cupped Jack’s face with his hands, tilted his head and kissed him.
For the second time that day, the world seemed to stop turning and Jack’s breath was taken away. Unable to think straight, he stood unresponsive for a moment. He could hardly believe it. Ianto was kissing him, just like that, in front of everyone.
This kiss was even better than the one they had shared earlier in the Tourist Office. There was no hesitation, no restraint from Ianto. It was a kiss of forgiveness and love, which chased away any trace of doubt or resentment. It was the seal of a new beginning.
He vaguely registered the faint sound of Owen snorting and the girls cooing in the background, but didn’t pay attention to it. The feeling of the young man’s lips on his was incredible. Instinctively, Jack’s arms wound around Ianto’s waist as he pulled him against him and returned the kiss, savouring a moment of pure elation.
When they finally broke away, Ianto’s forehead touched Jack’s. A warm smile lit up his face as he looked at Jack’s still shut eyes and parted lips. He softly chuckled, his hands resting on either side of Jack’s neck.
"You’re gonna have to find a better excuse to weasel out, you know," he whispered. "Because I really want to have that date." His low voice became even more seductive. "Dinner, movie, I want the whole package."
Jack merely nodded, too afraid that Ianto would vanish into thin air if he dared to open his eyes. Ianto’s smile widened. He leaned over and planted a quick kiss on Jack’s lips, before letting go of him and turning around.
Jack’s eyes snapped open. He lunged forwards and grabbed Ianto by the arm halfway to the door.
"Where are you going?" he blurted, unable to hide a slight hint of panic in his voice.
Ianto lowered his eyes to the hand on his wrist and Jack immediately released it, wincing at his involuntary display of possessiveness. Ianto shook his head and smirked at Jack’s sudden awkwardness, wondering where the fearless and dashing seducer from his memories had gone, as it appeared he wasn’t the only one who had changed during the last few years.
"Well, unless you intend to fire me, I'm going to get on with my job." He ran a finger across the top of the desk and pulled a face. "This place is a pigsty."
Jack lowered his gaze and held back a peal of laughter at the reminder of Ianto’s legendary mania for tidiness.
"Yeah. Can’t deny in that area our level of expertise leaves much to be desired."
Ianto raised an eyebrow and couldn’t help snorting.
Jack merely shrugged and ran a hand through his hair, looking away.
Ianto’s features softened and he nodded.
"At least until you get bored of seeing my face."
Burying his hands in his pockets, Jack squared his jaw and gave him a challenging look through his eyelashes.
"Be careful, I might take you up on that."
"I hope so," replied the young man slyly.
He was about to turn on his heel when Owen’s commanding voice made him stop dead in his tracks.
"Hang on, Teaboy. You are going nowhere before I give you a full examination."
Ianto rolled his eyes and sighed.
"I’m fine, Owen. Really. Just a slight headache. That’s all."
Owen raised an eyebrow.
"Oh, yeah. After seeing you snogging our fearless leader with so much enthusiasm, there is no doubt about it." He placed himself in front of the young man and glared at him. "But until further notice, I’m still the only doctor here and I’d prefer to make sure of it myself. I’m fed up with surprises. Am I clear?"
Ianto seemed about to argue, but finally decided otherwise.
Owen nodded, satisfied.
"Good. Let’s go."
He stepped aside to let Ianto pass, favouring him with a small gesture of reverence whilst trying his best to hide a smirk. As they reached the doorway, Ianto suddenly stopped causing Owen to bump into him with a grunt.
Pointedly ignoring him, Ianto glanced at Jack over his shoulder.
"Oh, Jack. Before I forget, could you be so kind as to retrieve my suits from storage for tomorrow, please?"
Jack’s brow furrowed.
"I thought you didn’t wear suits anymore."
Ianto shrugged noncommittally.
"This place obviously needs to regain a little bit of decorum." A cocky smile spread on his lips as he added. "And I also remember you said I looked good in them."
"Yeah, yeah. I did," admitted Jack dreamily.
"Whatever. Move your ass," grumbled Owen, unceremoniously pushing Ianto outside.
Tosh raised the eyes to heaven and sighed, following them closely.
"I’ll make sure those two idiots behave."
"I’ll give you a hand," chuckled Gwen.
She turned towards Jack and cleared her throat, uncomfortable.
"I think you’d better be warned that I didn’t have time to show him the archives earlier."
Jack tipped his head back and hissed between his teeth.
She winced with sympathy.
"You said it. Do you want me to…" she suggested unenthusiastically.
He gently turned her down with a small shake of his head.
"No thanks. I think I’ll handle it."
"Ok." She backed off quickly, quite relieved to let him deal with this particular issue.
After she gave him one last pat on the arm, she left the room and Jack leant back against his desk and stared into space.
Calling a spade a spade, at the time Ianto had joined Torchwood Three the archives were a mess. To such an extent that it was almost impossible to find anything in them. It had taken Ianto months to achieve the Herculean task of putting them in order and he had had every right to be proud of the results. At the time of his breakdown, there wasn’t a single item collected since Torchwood’s inception that hadn’t been scrupulously inventoried and stored.
Since then, it was sadly obvious that they couldn’t pride themselves on the same dedication as the former Torchwood One archivist. Truth was that they had been even more than careless and the archives had gone back to the exact state they were in before his intervention, if not worse.
To say that the young Welshman would be pissed off when he found out was an understatement.
Jack slowly walked around the desk and sat down. Leaning back in his chair, he joined his fingertips and a delighted smile bloomed on his lips.
Ianto is going to kill me for that, he thought. But what a lovely way to die.
To be continued