A Cure For Pain by Aeron Lanart
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I’d become used to pain; first there was the loss of Torchwood One, then there was Lisa and all the misguided passion I spent in trying to save her. That was familiar, and while not exactly welcome, was proof of still being alive and more importantly still being me. I’d done that very human thing; being almost proud of my pain while living with it, and hopefully through it, though deep inside I was half certain that no-one else had ever felt that pain like me. Of course I was wrong, but I didn’t expect to be shown that in quite the way it happened.

I knew there was something different about Tosh, but she’s so good at deflecting attention from herself that I convinced myself I was wrong, that I was seeing things where there was nothing to see. I should have gone with my gut instinct and pressed her a little harder. As it was I was as surprised as the rest of us, barring Jack, when Tosh actually did bring Mary into the Hub; he’d warned us that we might be getting an ‘unauthorised’ visitor, carefully not looking at me while he said it, but I’m not sure any of us knew quite what to expect. Watching Mary hold the knife to Tosh’s throat brought too many unpleasant memories flooding back, made the pain lance through me once more as I helplessly watched the scene play out before me, unable to do anything.

When Tosh was released she ran toward me, and she stayed close as events continued to unfold. This put me in just the right position to see Jack’s face as he admitted to killing Mary. I don’t think Tosh saw it; I think, like I had previously, she only saw the monster behind the man. I saw something else. In the instant before he turned away I saw pain and disgust, and not directed at any of us. Perhaps I only saw it because I recognised those feelings after having seen them reflected in my own eyes as I looked in the mirror. The weight and depth of the feelings that I caught in that unguarded glimpse shocked me to the core and made me realise that I had only felt a fraction of what Jack had unwittingly revealed. I had barely been able to carry on; I couldn’t understand how he managed to live with that kind of burden without breaking, and still be Jack. It broke my heart to see it, and as I mentally gathered the pieces back together I recognised that all the festering resentment of Jack that I’d carried with me since Lisa’s death had bled away, leaving me with feelings that were no longer clouded by the taint of hatred. It was a new kind of pain, but not unwelcome.

I watched them escape the Hub, following them on the CCTV. I continued to watch after Owen and Gwen had left, ensconced in the room off the tourist office, flicking through the different feeds as Jack and Tosh parted to watch the night; him to the Altolusso, while she remained outside the Millennium Centre.

I didn’t feel able to leave the Hub, so I caught up on some of the work that always seemed to be outstanding, checking the CCTV occasionally just to reassure myself that they were both OK; not that Jack was visible, but there had been no sign of any disturbance or of anyone leaving via the service doors. There was still no sign of him long after Tosh had left and I was considering going up after him, even though I was fairly sure my presence wouldn’t be entirely welcome. I was closing things down for the night when the door of the tourist office was rattled by someone trying the handle. It was too late for stray tourists and the police never bothered so I carefully drew my gun and approached the door.

“Who is it?” I asked, not sure whether I would get a reply. I did, and it wasn’t one that I’d expected.

“Adam Pierson. Any chance of letting me in? It’s bloody cold out here.” I slid the gun back into its holster and unlocked the door.

“Jack isn’t here,” I said as he came through the door. He gave me a hint of a grin.

“Are you so certain I’ve not come to see you, Ianto?”

“About 95% or so, yes.” I kept my face as devoid of any expression as I could, it would not do for Methos to know how pleased I was to see him again.

“I must be slipping.” Another smile, this one was softer and more open. “I don’t suppose you know where he is?” I swallowed and ran a hand through my hair. He noticed my distracted expression immediately. His face hardened and he took a step closer, hazel eyes boring into mine. “What happened?” I couldn’t tear my eyes away and I felt like a rabbit trapped in the glare of headlights.

“He... He’s not feeling particularly good about himself right now.” I raised a hand to stop Methos interrupting. “Not my place to explain, but I can tell you where to find him. I was going to check up on him myself, but he’ll be a lot more pleased to see you.” Methos backed off, much to my relief; he can be very intimidating if he chooses to be.

“And where would that be?”

“On the roof of the Altolusso building. You’ll need the code for the service doors.” I leaned over the counter to grab a pen and paper, scribbled the code down for him and pressed the paper into his hand. “Take care of him for me?”

“For both of us. Come on Ianto, I think you should go home.” He grabbed my arm, and I couldn’t help but sag against him for a moment.

“I was almost ready to leave when you arrived.” I disappeared back through the bead curtain to grab my jacket and car keys, and checked once more that there had been no sign of Jack moving from his eyrie before powering down the monitor and switching off the light. Methos preceded me through the door, and scanned the skyline as he waited for me to lock up.

“I’m not sure when I’ll be back, Ianto. But when I do visit again I want a cup of your coffee.”

“You’ll have it.” He didn’t say goodbye, just strode away from me back toward the plass, and on to the Altolusso. I watched him go, unable to suppress the stab of envy in my heart, and not quite sure of whom I was envious.

It felt strange the next morning entering a Jack-less Hub; the very stones seemed to be crying out for the lack of his presence, and Myfanwy certainly was. She sat beside me, while I tidied her nest and sorted out her breakfast as if she was lonely, giving me the oddest sounding squawk as I scratched her head, almost as if she was saying thank-you. I received a parting screech from her too as I headed back down to the main part of the Hub, wondering when Jack would arrive. He had always been back in the Hub by the time I arrived in the mornings when Methos was here before, and if I hadn’t known otherwise from the CCTV I would never had guessed he’d been out all night. And I was always in at least an hour before everyone else. I’d started the coffee brewing, and was briefly checking the rift monitors when I heard the clunk-rumble of the lift rising. Jack, of course, as the rest of us weren’t able to operate the lift from above. Having assured myself that the rift hadn’t spat anything nasty out overnight, I decided not to wait for him, being certain that he would need his first cup of coffee sooner rather than later. It didn’t stop me being aware of him, or from watching him as he stepped off the lift and raised a hand in greeting, calling my name before he headed up to his office. I couldn’t help but stare; the man was positively radiating happiness ‘til he shone with it. I felt another twinge of envy; wondering what it would be like to be the one who made him look like that, as well as being curious as to just how Methos had managed it. I clamped down on those feelings, there was nothing I could do about it, or not yet anyway. I straightened my tie, half smiling to myself as I did so; Jack already knew that there was a lot more behind the calm exterior that Ianto Jones presented to the world than met the eye, maybe he would soon discover an aspect he hadn’t considered. I was still smiling when I took Jack his coffee.

“You look happy.”

“Maybe it’s infectious, sir.” Jack gave me a megawatt smile.

“Maybe.” He took a sip of his coffee, eyes closed as he savoured the taste. He opened them again as he put the cup down. “Perfect as usual, Ianto.”

“Couldn’t have you starting the day with anything less...” I took myself out of his office, and headed up for my own.

Gwen and Owen breezed in, barely acknowledging I was there as I opened the door for them. There was no sign of Tosh. I was starting to become a bit worried; Tosh was usually the next one in after me and being late just wasn’t her style. Then I reminded myself that she probably didn’t feel up to facing the boss who had killed her lover, something I could definitely relate to. She arrived with the first of the rain showers, water beading her hair and shoulders, head down. She gave me a quick, sad smile as she passed but said nothing as she waited for the door to open, just stood there looking forlorn. She let the door swing shut again without going through and came over to lean on the desk. I met her eyes, they were full of the pain I had mostly laid to rest the day before and I couldn’t help but reach out and squeeze her hand.

“How did you cope?” she asked in a small voice, a multitude of meanings in that simple sounding question. I brushed moisture off her face gently, whether it was rain or tears I wasn’t sure.

“One day at a time. Work helps, but you know where I am if you need me.” She stepped away from the desk with a tight little nod.

“Thanks Ianto.” I didn’t follow immediately as I had work I needed to finish off before heading downstairs, and a perverse part of me wanted to make the rest of them wait for their coffee. Fear for the coffee machine drove me down sooner than I had intended, and it was with some relief that I discovered they’d decided to have tea instead. Jack had lost some of the shine from earlier, not a surprise I suppose with Tosh’s desk so close to his office, but what *was* a surprise was how much that loss hurt. I fled to the archives, secure in the knowledge that I would probably be left well alone, unwilling to examine my feelings any closer than I already had done.

As always, everything settled down over the next few days as we dealt with what the rift threw out; normality for us, but never boring or predictable. And I managed to surprise the odd happy and far-away expression on Jack’s face when I took him his morning coffee that couldn’t help but awake an answering smile from me, but that was just between the two of us. Tosh took me up on the offer of being a shoulder to cry on and an ear to bend only once and that was because the two of us were a bit drunk, and fed up of Gwen and Owen’s unsubtle flirting and what-have-you. Especially the what-have-you. Time rolled on in its inexorable fashion, and I found myself more prepared to accept my changing feelings about Jack. I still didn’t do anything about it, unless the flirting over morning coffee counted, but it became a comfortable ache in the background of my mind that needed prodding occasionally like a loose tooth. I’m sure he noticed as the flirting-wattage was definitely increased, to the extent that Tosh was giving us the eye-rolling treatment rather than Gwen and Owen. I have to admit I rather liked that, but I didn’t tell her.

Then Suzie was brought back, and everything was turned on its head.

That time passed in a haze of adrenaline and coffee fumes, and it wasn’t until I was standing over Suzie’s body in the morgue, for what I sincerely hoped was the last time, that reality began to assert itself once more. Reality is a somewhat fragile thing in Torchwood though, and its appearance can often be deceptive. I was running that thought through my head when Jack came in, and thanked me for dealing with Suzie. He looked tired and worn, all his sparkle extinguished. I tried to reassure him while not wanting to seem too concerned; taking refuge in formality like I so often did, but it didn’t seem to reach him. He leaned back against the doors of the cold storage lockers, every line of his body screaming exhaustion and misery, and I couldn’t help but contrast the hopelessness with the light and life and sheer joy he’d shown the day after he’d executed Mary. I doubted Methos would oblige us this time by appearing to piece Jack back together; which meant one thing and one thing only. It was up to me to try and be the cure for his pain. Not that I would find it any great hardship of course, but I wasn’t entirely certain how Jack would respond to a suggestion from me in his present mood. I stole a glance at him, and the need to do *something* overwhelmed me, but what? Apart from myself, my only weapon was the stopwatch and I really didn’t think ‘I’ve got a stopwatch and I know how to use it’ would necessarily be taken the right way. Still, the general idea had merit, even if it was a bit macabre to be propositioning the boss over his former second-in-command’s body; I suppose that just made it a very Torchwood thing to do. I took the plunge, mentally keeping my fingers crossed.

“If you're interested ... I've still got that stopwatch.” It was probably such an odd thing for me to say that he couldn’t help but be interested. He raised his head to look at me, puzzled.

“So?” I smiled, not really trying to be suggestive but it came out that way. It was a private smile, one that we had shared over coffee in the morning when no-one else was there to see.

“Well, think about it... Lots of things you can do with a stopwatch.” I held my breath for a second, hopeful. Then a smile sneaked across his face. I’d hit pay dirt.

“Oh, yeah. I can think of a few.” The look he gave me did nothing for my composure, and I became very glad I had the clipboard to cling on to. I continued in the same vein.

“There’s quite a list.” That was a downright lie on my part as I could actually only think of about 5 but I was pretty sure Jack probably did have a list somewhere and would hopefully have no qualms about expanding my education.

“I'll send the others home early.” He looked at his watch. “See you in my office in - ten.”

“That's ten minutes ...” I dug the stopwatch out of my pocket and clicked the button to start it; it felt like I was making the most significant decision of my life, one that I hoped I would not regret making in the future, unlike some of the others I’d made. “... and counting.” Jack hurriedly pushed himself away from the lockers, smile still in place. As I watched his retreating back I remembered that there had actually been something I needed to ask, and I called his name. His *name*, not Captain or sir and the taste of it felt good in my mouth. He turned back to face me, and I asked him about the death certificate; after he’d answered I made a joke about locking the door on her, to stop her walking which he seemed convinced would not be required. He turned to leave once more, and as he walked away I couldn’t help but disagree.

“I wouldn't be too sure...” Jack stopped, but he didn’t turn round to face me; so I finally let out what had been worrying me ever since we’d first used the glove all that time ago. “That's the thing about gloves, sir. They come in pairs.” That did make him turn back, but I couldn’t hold his gaze for long, and as I concentrated on my clipboard, he left once more. I dug the stopwatch out of my pocket with nerveless fingers and checked it. Only nine minutes left until I found out if I’d made the right decision or not. Heart thumping with anxiety and anticipation in equal doses, I finished dealing with Suzie and step by nervous step made my way up to Jack’s office.