Pairing/Characters: Jack/Ianto, Gwen.
Summary: A minor malfunction of equipment in the Hub and an outsider's point of view on it leave Jack upset. Ianto does his best to improve the situation.
Author's Notes: This was based off of a prompt that I was shown and that I really liked, and I’ve finally finished it, so I hope you enjoy it!
Also posted on FF.net and AO3.
There was some shouting, then a thud, and then silence stretched in the Hub. It wasn’t all that unusual – not for that particular workplace, anyway – but still enough to bring Jack out of the haze that had taken over his mind as he read the most recent e-mail from UNIT.
He emerged from his office as quickly as possible and descended down the stairs, only to be met by the sight of Gwen kneeling down to an ominously tall ladder and a heap of dark clothing on the floor.
“What’s happened?” Jack asked as he neared her and a small gasp left his lips when he realised that it was Ianto she was looking at. An irrational surge of panic passed through him – he’d got rather paranoid in the last few weeks – as he shook his shoulders none too gently. “Ianto, are you all right?”
The young man groaned. “Yes, fine,” he managed as he coordinated his body into a sitting position. “You know those additional lights I wanted to hang on the ceiling? Well, this ladder’s not doing it.”
“I told him he’d fall,” Gwen said almost apologetically. “The ladder was stretched out too far and he was balancing on the edge of it, it’s not that surprising that it wouldn’t… Bloody hell, Ianto.”
The last bit had been more in reaction to the sight of Ianto’s face than of his actions and Jack found himself speechless too as he saw his lover fully for the first time after the fall.
“That bad, is it?” Ianto asked softly and Gwen fetched him a mirror from her workstation. His expression, already displaying utter misery, only darkened further.
“It’s not that bad,” Jack tried, even though he was quite sure that his smile was wavering. Ianto’s left cheekbone was swelling rapidly, his cheek was injured and a wide patch of red was blooming into blue around his eye with alarming speed. “Maybe if you use one of those lotions Owen always used to give out for such situations, it’ll get less noticeable.”
“Maybe,” Ianto intoned. He didn’t sound too convinced and Jack couldn’t blame him – most of Owen’s cures had been effective, but this? This would require a miracle to get off quickly. “Good thing I walked on the way here this morning. If this swells even more, there’s no way I could drive.”
“There’s no way you’re going out alone on your own either,” Jack put in, trying to project enough authority for Ianto not to protest. “You might have a concussion!”
“Jack,” Ianto started, the warning edge of his voice lost as the Captain kept going.
“It’s half past seven and I don’t think anything would be open,” he continued. “Well, apart from hospitals, and I know that you’re not a big fan.” Not that Jack was, and neither was Torchwood as a whole – too many things that were too difficult to explain – but this could at least be dealt with without lying. “So tomorrow it is. But for now, I’m going to take you home.”
This time, much to Jack’s relief, Ianto didn’t protest at all. Sometimes Jack suspected that he didn’t really mind the coddling all that much, given that he only put up the weakest of resistance, but they still had to go through the entire farce before the young man would let him properly take care of his wounds.
They left the Hub – Gwen getting into her car and them taking the walk back to Ianto’s flat – and despite everything, Jack gave himself time to enjoy it. It was still the middle of July and half past seven meant broad daylight, so many people had opted for a stroll around the Plass.
“Everyone’s looking at me,” Ianto grumbled, trying to hide most of his face by looking down, and Jack hooked their arms together to bring him closer.
“No offense,” he quipped playfully, dropping a kiss to the side of Ianto’s face and over his bruised skin, “but you look like you’ve been in a pub brawl.”
He gave an absent-minded smile at Ianto’s moaning as he looked around them. Ianto seemed to be only partially right, he noted – people were looking at them all right, but most of the eyes were focused on Jack. Their expressions varied between anxious and disapproving and something he couldn’t quite place – as if the looks just bounced back and they couldn’t stand to stare for too long.
Jack frowned to himself as he tried to remember every mission they’ve had in the past week or so. Maybe they’d damaged something and hadn’t fixed it, and now the citizens were mad at him? He quickly discarded the thought. They always went through the damage assessment protocols (and didn’t the fact that said protocols existed in the first place say everything anyone needed to know about Torchwood) and always did their best to fix the mess. So what could it be?
And then he saw it.
The last woman that had looked at them – young, probably about thirty and with a child trailing behind her – had skimmed over them both with her eyes, briefly stopping over Ianto's recently acquired black eye and then over their arms, intertwined at their elbows, before she looked away, the same bizarre combination of discomfort and embarrassment written all over her face.
It occurred to him, then, how they must look for aside. While Ianto was very similar to him when it came to their built – he was just as tall and generally took up the same space – but there was something fundamentally innocent about the way he looked on the outside (and too many people had done the mistake of underestimating him just because of that, Jack thought grimly). And here he was now, looking like he’d been beaten black and blue, and Jack was crowding him into his side in a way that was supposed to be supporting but could easily come off as possessive as well. It explained it all – the way people had looked at him, both angry and unwilling to get involved, and it also explained why Ianto didn’t notice anything wrong with everyone’s behaviour – their hostility wasn’t directed at him.
“What’s the matter?” Ianto asked with a small smile, clearly noting his troubled expression. It helped calm Jack a bit from the dark mood that was quickly taking over him but then again, Ianto often did that to him.
“It’s nothing,” Jack assured him and flinched away when Ianto made to kiss him. The younger man’s smile melted off his face and he stared at Jack with a little more intent and a question in his eyes. “Really, there’s nothing wrong,” Jack continued and then sighed when Ianto just raised an eyebrow. “I’ll tell you when we get home.”
Confusion was still apparent in the look Ianto gave him, but he shrugged it off and tugged the Captain closer. “Well, hurry up, will you? I don’t want the entire city to think I’ve had my arse kicked by an alien, thank you.”
Oh, if he had even the faintest idea how much worse than that it actually was.
Once they’d got to his flat, Ianto had obviously forgotten everything about his lover’s strange moods, because as soon as they’d closed the door behind their backs, his arms had engulfed Jack into an embrace and brought him closer for a kiss. It distracted him for a longer than he’d liked to admit – Ianto was a great kisser and when he put his mind to it, he became absolutely phenomenal – and let himself be led to the bedroom and pushed down on the bed by Ianto's eager hands. For all his image of the perfect, repressed archivist, behind closed doors Ianto was a rarely hedonistic man and wasn’t the least bit afraid to take precisely what he wanted.
Jack flipped them over and winced when his lover stared up at him, all the colours on his face creating something that almost resembled a mask. “Ianto,” he started as the man in question got to work with his shirt buttons, “Ianto, stop.”
“What is it?” Ianto let go of him immediately and Jack was grateful for the lack of any sort of bodily stimulation that could get in the way of the talk he was planning on having.
“Ianto, are you...” It sounded almost ridiculous, in retrospect, to ask him something like that, especially given the fact that things had been just getting heated, but he went on nevertheless. “Are you feeling safe with me?”
The ridiculousness was further enhanced by the incredulous look Ianto gave him. “Of course I do,” he said without an ounce of hesitation – which, while relieving, didn’t really soothe Jack’s anxiety on the matter. “Why would you ask me that?”
“Nothing, just,” Jack said, struggling to find the right words. “When people look at us, do you think they see us as equals? Or could I, I don’t know, come off as too controlling, or–”
“Jack, what are you on about?” Ianto seemed to have lost patience for his stammering by now. “Look, if you’re not in the mood, I get it, okay? Just make up your mind!”
“Okay, okay,” Jack grumbled and rolled off of Ianto and onto the bed next to him. It would be much easier to talk, he realised, if they weren’t trying to undress one another at the same time. “It’s just that, when we were on our way here, people saw us together and they thought that– well, that I’d–”
“What is it?” Ianto asked, voice much gentler now, although he still looked bemused. Jack could easily guess why that was – he was always the more confident one when it came to public exchanges of affection. Ianto was only just learning to be comfortable with it and he was never really sure what to do when Jack held his hand like it wasn’t a big deal, and yet Jack himself was the one who’d started the topic now.
“Everyone seemed to think that this,” he motioned at Ianto's face, “was my fault. That I’d been the one who– well, you know.”
“Oh, Jack,” Ianto said. His expression had softened and his eyes were piercing through the Captain’s with unnerving ease; as if he could suddenly see the gears in his mind turning and kind of wished that he couldn’t. “I’m sorry.”
“Not your fault,” Jack hurried to say – even if it partially was, considering Ianto had been either bored or adventurous enough (or, knowing him, both) to inflict that kind of damage on himself. “It was just – I don’t know. It was stupid to delve into it so much, but I just can’t believe that anyone would think–”
“It’s perfectly understandable that you’d be upset,” Ianto cut him off. “I would be, too, if anyone had even implied anything like that about me. Jesus Christ,” he added under his breath. “Just when you think that everyone in this city knows us…”
That was one of the main problems about it, Jack thought. Everyone in Cardiff knew who they were; it was unavoidable with the amount of work they had to do. And now some of those people had made an assumption – and an absolutely incorrect one, at that – which felt like an invasion. Jack had never been one to value his personal space all that much, but this? It was almost physically painful to think about.
“But you don’t need to worry,” Ianto continued, bringing his attention back to himself. “They can think whatever they want, right? They don’t know us. That’s what you always say, after all.”
It was strangely endearing to realize how often Ianto threw his own quotes back at him, Jack thought as he brought him closer for a kiss. “Yes, of course,” he replied, heart much lighter than it had been only seconds ago. He had that enjoyable tendency around Ianto – with enough physical contact between them, he could forget most – if not all – of his worries. “No one else matters in the least.”