Title: Personal Days (Four Times Ianto Jones Took a Day Off, and One Time He Didn't)
Characters/Pairing: Ianto-centric, Jack/Ianto on the side
Notes: For writerinadrawer's round two, week eleven challenge, to write a 'five things' fic. I notoriously hate this as a format, and probably with good reason - this was the story that inevitably found me voted out.
Chronology: As people have noted confusion as to wht's going on where, I'll explain the chronological order here, by episode: Cyberwoman, Countrycide, some ambiguous time probably around They Keep Killing Suzie, post-End of Days (while Jack is gone), and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.
Ianto Jones marks out his life in turning points: joining Torchwood London; the Battle of Canary Wharf; coming to Torchwood Cardiff; making the final mistake that led to Lisa's death. Now, standing before Jack's desk, he counts the seconds before this point puts him on to his next stage of life or ends it.
Jack's Cheshire Cat grin is gone, replaced by something serious if not altogether hard, and if Ianto doesn't believe the Captain is the type for a premeditated execution, then certainly he thinks Jack capable of retconning him so hard he forgets his name.
Instead, Jack asks him a question. "Why did you join Torchwood, Ianto?"
"I ... wanted to make a difference, I suppose."
"And?" Jack prompts.
"And ... I wanted to do something useful with my life."
"And ... I wanted to help people. Forgive me, sir, but I don't see what--"
"You're in here to answer questions, not to ask them," Jack cuts him off, not unkindly. "And if you were me, what punishment would you give for insubordination and betrayal?"
"I ..." Ianto pauses, not comfortable with the potential of meting out his own punishment. "I suppose I would fire and retcon the traitor."
Jack is silent; then, unexpectedly, he smiles. "Then it's a good thing you're not me."
"Ianto Jones, you are hereby formally reprimanded. You will be penalized with thirty days' suspension, without pay."
The sense of bureaucracy is stunning, unexpected. Ianto takes the pen from Jack and signs his name on the paperwork, initials the box, and wonders at whether this is good fortune or bad luck.
Jack's expression softens, and he covers Ianto's hand with his before Ianto can pull away. "I've forgiven you," he says gently. "Now I want you to take this time and learn to forgive yourself."
Ianto is sore and bruised. There's a trickle of blood running down his back between his shoulder blades. He wants badly to have a shower, but Jack is stubbornly refusing to budge from the threshold of his flat.
"I hope you know I'm not letting you come back to work tomorrow."
Dazed, and with his sense of decorum slipping, Ianto sways toward the hall. "I've taken enough time off."
"Ianto." Jack makes an exasperated sound, and soon there's a large, warm, steadying hand on the small of Ianto's back. "You need to rest, recover."
Ianto can't find the energy to protest as Jack helps him out of his clothes. The painkillers Owen gave him are working a hell of a lot better than any paracetamol. "Then I'll work Boxing Day to make up for it," he argues, a little nonsensically.
Jack laughs softly and shakes his head; and if Ianto doesn't understand what's so funny, then he certainly doesn't hear the sad undercurrent in the captain's tone.
Jack doesn't question Ianto's request, but quietly signs off on it and returns the paper to Ianto's plastic 'in' tray that afternoon. There's nothing of the captain in his wondering expression and all of Jack, but neither of the two sides ask.
As Ianto carefully buckles the urn into the passenger seat of his car and prepares for the drive to London, he's grateful for that. He's worried Jack wouldn't understand; even Gwen knows nothing of his errand. When they all think of Lisa, they think of Cybermen and a grotesque conversion of flesh and steel.
But Lisa Hallett had a life once. She had friends, likes and dislikes, and knew what it was to love. She had family. A mother who has nothing of her daughter's memory but a carefully-worded letter from a boyfriend she'd met only twice.
Ianto dreads this meeting more than he ever had their first, what seems like so long ago now. He loved Lisa, a part of him always will, but now it's time to let her go. And that, he thinks, Jack would understand.
Gwen looks surprised when he tells her.
"You're taking a day off?"
Ianto tries not to be curt with her, but he wants her to understand that he needs this. He needs a day to himself, a day to catch his breath, even if it's just spent lazing on his couch, eating ordered-in Pad Thai and watching something ridiculous like Army of Darkness on the telly.
Jack always said it was important not to lose themselves, and now, Ianto needs to prove to himself that he hasn't lost the way, that he really is making some difference now, that he's worthy of the second chance he earned so long ago now. He's a part of the team, integral and necessary in his own way, but equally he needs to know they can get along without him.
The same way Jack knew they could get along without him.
Jack isn't kidding when he says he'll put them up for the night. They get three rooms at the St. David's, and if Gwen sees it as generous when Jack offers to let her invite Rhys, Ianto sees it as a maneuver to pair them off. He almost offers to take a room with Owen to be vexing, but Tosh's flustered reaction at doing so instead is so much better.
When Ianto emerges from the shower, feeling silly back in his suit trousers and the same pink shirt, Jack is standing at one of the windows overlooking the bay, nursing a tumbler of scotch. Across the water, the lights of Mermaid Quay are reflecting brightly.
"Right across there," Jack remarks, "I'm just getting back to the Hub."
"Somewhere out there, we're chasing a blowfish." Ianto joins Jack at the window, standing shoulder-to-shoulder.
When the captain draws a sudden, sharp breath, there's an undercurrent of something nervous and foreign in Jack, the same thing Ianto felt in the British Gas building. "You've had a long night--and day. You should get some sleep--consider it a free day off. I'll stay up and keep an eye on things."
"I'll stay up with you," Ianto says softly. "I don't want to miss this. Somewhere out there, we're still missing you--"
Jack turns to face him with searching eyes.
"But I'm right here," Ianto finishes, and pulls Jack down to kiss him.