julad (julad) wrote in tw_flashfic,

A Soft Spot for Apocalyptic Fuck-Ups by Julad (Exposure challenge)

Title: A Soft Spot for Apocalyptic Fuck-Ups
Pairing: Um. How gen is anything with Jack in it? It's Jack and Ianto, but it's not quite Jack/Ianto.
Rating: R-ish? Nothing more adult than the show itself.
Spoilers: Cyberwoman, implied spoilers for other S1 episodes.
Notes: Post-Cyberwoman, 2500 words. Thanks to kaneko, josselin and ukcalico.

In the dim, mechanics-strewn cavern, the only sound is Ianto's laboured breathing, choked on tears. The only movement is his hand as it strokes the Cyberwoman's face, and his back as it shudders.

There are six other bodies in the room. Two lie prone and inert, eyes blankly open. Four more stand unmoving to the side, guns lowered, but their legs are still braced for recoil, their arms are still straight and their fingers are still poised on triggers.

Jack is the first of these to move. He straightens up and holsters his gun with the decisive flourish he gives everything, even in situations where he wouldn't, if he'd thought about it.

"It's over," he tells Gwen, Owen, and Tosh. "Go home."

The other three move more cautiously. They put their guns away hesitantly, as if they're not sure they should.

Gwen takes a step towards the unmoving bodies, starts to reach for the pizza delivery girl who walked, oblivious, into their apocalypse. The body suddenly slumps from the machine and falls to the floor, and Gwen jumps back with a squeak.

"Gwen, leave it," Jack tells her. "Go home. Get some rest."

Gwen hovers there, and her hands flutter nervously, like she wants to touch the girl but can't.

"Jack," Tosh says, gesturing to Ianto, edging towards him.

"I'm telling you to leave," Jack shouts, voice still loaded with restrained fury. "I give the orders, and I deal with the consequences. Go home, all of you."

Gwen and Tosh hover on the verge of disobedience. Owen breaks the silence.

"Well I've sure as fuck had enough," he announces. "I'm not sticking around for more." He stalks out.

Gwen hesitates a moment, pulled between her solidarity with Owen and her sympathy for any murder victim. With one last, disturbed glance at the scene, she follows Owen. Tosh scurries over to Ianto and touches his shoulder. "I'm sorry," she whispers, and then her footsteps follow Gwen's out.

Jack holds still until the steps fade away, the distant grinding of the doors starts, and then his posture sags. Nothing left but himself and the consequences. He considers them carefully.

The pizza girl, red gash across her forehead, red pulp where her chest used to be. The cyberconversion machine, an abomination that needs obliterating. Ianto's with the Cyberwoman, refusing to look at him, or uncaring that he's there.

Jack is no stranger to dealing with ugly messes, and has a more than passing familiarity with messes this ugly, this loaded, and this personal.

He tackles the most straightforward thing first. Cold and methodical, he goes to the console of the cyberconversion machine, opens the panel, and empties a clip of bullets into it. Then he reaches into the smoking wiring and rips it out a fistful at a time. He finds every power cable leading into the machine and pulls it free, then yanks the opposite ends from the walls. Every part of the machine that he can bend, smash, or tear out with his bare hands, he bends, smashes and tears out. By the time he's done, he's sweating, but he feels cleansed, just a little.

That was the easy part.

Ianto is still curled protectively around the Cyberwoman, so Jack gathers up the body of the pizza girl and carries her upstairs. He finds a morgue trolley in one of their storage rooms and awkwardly shifts the boxes of alien technology somebody (Tosh) has dumped on it--difficult with a body in his arms, but he's somehow unwilling to leave her lying on the floor while he prepares her cold death bed. He lays her down very gently when it's cleared, and then carefully fishes through her pockets and retrieves car keys, a mobile phone, a Crunchie wrapper and a small purse. He wheels her into the autopsy room, covers her with a sheet, bags the personal effects and labels the bag with the name on her Cardiff University student ID--Annabel Jane Williams.

Then goes back up to his office, and pauses with his hands on an empty glass before moving to pick up the phone instead. He hits speed dial #2 and complains that their pizzas never arrived.

"I'm sorry," a nice Welsh voice tells him. "One of our delivery staff seems to have walked off the job. We'll have your order over as soon as we can."

"Don't bother," Jack says, rudely. "I've already sent somebody out for kebabs." He puts the phone down and resists the impulse to wipe his hand. He leaves Annabel Jane's belongings on Tosh's desk with a brusque Post-It: "Cover story."

The second dead body at least won't need a cover story. Back in the autopsy room he unloads another set of boxes from a second trolley and wishes he'd thought to mention this particular inconvience while at Tosh's desk with Post-Its to hand. Then he has to clear a pile of boxes from the doorway where he dumped them. Then the trolley veers violently sideways when he pushes it, right into the boxes he just moved, and sends three toppling. He swears loudly, kicks the trolley, looks underneath to discover an ethernet cable tangled around one of the wheels, and swears again. Then he takes a deep breath, because this is not even close to the worst of his problems right now. He restacks the boxes, untangles the cable and leaves it coiled neatly on a shelf, and carefully manoeuvres the trolley back down to the basement to collect the Cyberwoman.

Ianto is lying on the bloodstained floor with his head pillowed on her metal chest. He could almost be asleep, but the tension in his arms as he clings to her says otherwise.

"Ianto," Jack says, and just that word wavers between kindness and a threat.

"There's another body," Ianto says, without opening his eyes. "This level, in the furthest corner of Sector C, covered with a green tarpaulin."

Jack freezes where he stands, but Ianto does nothing to acknowledge his continued presence. Jack turns decisively on one heel and stalks off.

He crouches down next to the anonymous lump under the tarpaulin and hesitates--he doesn't know who's under there, and suspects he's happier not knowing. It smells like blood and gore, though, and it's going to need dealing with--whatever this particular mess is, ignoring it won't make it go away. Business-like, he flips back the tarp, and then can't quell a sharp breath at what's underneath it.

The mystery body is a grey-haired man, gruesomely mutilated by the cyberconversion machine. Presumably, this is the man on the CCTV earlier. Nobody he recognises. Good. Nobody he authorised to enter the Torchwood facility, which is not good, but right now that matters less. He bags a wallet full of Japanese things he can't read, pen, mobile phone, PDA and hotel keycard, and labels the bag with the name on the credit cards--still nobody he recognises. He lifts the body of Dr Tatsuya Tanizaki onto the trolley, covers him quickly, and wheels him to the autopsy room to lie in state next to Annabel Jane. He leaves the man's personal effects next to hers on Tosh's desk.

As he makes his way to the store room again, in his mind he still sees bloody metal buried in a skull where an eye used to be. He already knows that the image is going to keep him company for countless years to come-- he has a fine collection of them already, and they visit him as dreams, flashbacks, an afterimage on a blank page. He didn't need any more of them.

Wheeling a third trolley into the basement, Jack doesn't bother to address Ianto his time. He picks him up, throws him over his shoulder, and carries him into a corner where he can dump him unceremoniously on the concrete.

"Lisa!" Ianto gasps, scrabbling to get up. He can barely make it to his hands and knees.

Jack presses a boot to his back and pushes him down. "Stay out of my way," he orders, and means it.

Ianto rolls onto his side and curls up, mewling piteously. His eyes are nearly swollen shut, unseeing in a wet, sticky face. Jack ignores him. The Cyberwoman is cold and heavy, maybe half metal, and a grunt escapes him as he lifts her. She's difficult to manoeuvre, and makes a thunderous noise as he drops her onto the trolley, less neatly than he would have liked.

In the corner, Ianto covers his face with his hands as a dry, hacking sob escapes him.

Jack wheels the Cyberwoman up to the autopsy room and covers her with a sheet. She doesn't have any personal effects on her. He takes the clipboard, writes Cyb, and then pauses. With a sharp, irritated breath, he stomps up the stairs to Tosh's terminal and logs on. There's a list of Torchwood One personnel on their Intranet, and he searches for women under thirty named Lisa. There's three. The first is a blonde, but the second he thinks he recognises, and he stares carefully at the ID photo on the screen until he's sure. Lisa Hallett, he writes on the autopsy sheet; occupation Torchwood Technical Officer (Alien Propulsion Systems and Energy Sources); date of birth August 16, 1980; next of kin Deborah Hallett, Sussex. Address... he looks at the stairs leading down to the lower levels and throws down the pencil and the clipboard before he can suppress his rage. A moment later, he calmly takes the clipboard down to the autopsy room for Owen to check in the morning.

One more body to deal with.

Ianto is still on the floor in the corner where Jack left him, unblinking, unmoving. Jack picks him up, throws him over his shoulder, and carries him upstairs to the showers. There's no reaction as Jack leans him against the wall while he starts the water and adjusts the heat. His eyes focus briefly on Jack's face when Jack starts brusquely stripping his clothes--a moment of loathing, a moment of hopelessness, and then his eyelids fall shut. Jack gets his jacket, tie and shirt off and drops them on the tiled floor, then kneels to undo his shoelaces. He holds Ianto's hip to keep him upright while he lifts each leg to pull off shoes and socks. He unbuckles Ianto's belt, and the ching of it echoes loudly in the silent room. He hooks a thumb into the waistband of Ianto's trousers and underwear, and uses an arm around his waist to pull him back from the wall long enough to push them down to his feet. Then he slings his other arm behind Ianto's knees and carries him into the running water.

He props Ianto against the warm tile and points the showerhead to rain on Ianto's chest and neck. He soaps up his hands thoroughly and runs them brusquely over Ianto's body, sweeping at blood, sweat, and dirt until the skin under his palms is smooth and clean. He keeps his eyes averted when he feels he should, smirking bitterly at having to, because this is not one of the ways he imagined he could get his hands on Ianto's naked body. He carefully washes Ianto's face with just soapy fingertips, keeping the soap well away from his eyes, but doesn't bother with shampoo, settling for running sudsy hands through Ianto's hair and then tilting the showerhead to rinse it. It takes him several minutes to get Ianto's hands clean. By the time he's done, Jack's shirtsleeves and shirtfront are soaked; his trousers are clinging damply to his legs, and his shoes are full of water. He turns off the tap, checks that Ianto will stay upright when he lets go, and pauses to kick his shoes off before retrieving a stack of towels from a locker. He strips off his own sopping clothes, leaves them in a pile on the floor, and wraps the first towel around his waist. He uses the next two to dry Ianto briskly, throwing them on top of the wet pile when he's done. He wraps the fourth towel around Ianto's waist and tucks the corner in securely.

Ianto still gives no indication that he cares what happens to him, but he's a bit more pliant as Jack picks him up again. He lets his head fall onto Jack's shoulder as he's jostled on the way up the stairs, and doesn't bother to lift it again.

Jack carries him into his own quarters, pulls back the bedsheets with a little more grace than his manoeuvres with Lisa, and lies Ianto down on the mattress. He quickly exchanges his own towel for sleep shorts, crawls in behind Ianto, and pulls him close.

This last is what finally snaps Ianto out of his stupor. He pushes Jack away suddenly, scrambling out of the bed and back until his body hits the opposite wall. Almost defensively, he pulls the towel tighter around his waist.

Jack watches him carefully, and waits.

"You were going to kill me," Ianto says eventually, voice painfully hoarse.

"Yes," Jack tells him. "I was. You didn't give a fuck about the fate of the world, and I did. I was going to put a bullet through your fucking skull." He sighs. "Come back to bed, Ianto."

Ianto wraps his arms around himself, and he's starting to shudder.

"You killed--" his voice rasps into nothing.

"No. We executed the thing that killed her."

Backed up against cold brick, shaking, Ianto squeezes his eyes shut. He's rigidly upright, but he seems to be crumbling.

"She--" He doesn't seem to want to say the rest.

Jack swings out of the bed and is across the room in two strides. He puts his hands on Ianto's shoulders. "We executed the thing that did that," he says, very softly, and draws Ianto close. "Come on."

Ianto lapses into dumb obedience, allowing himself to be guided back in the bed, covered, and wrapped in Jack's arms.

"You don't have to be nice to me," he whispers, almost derisive.

Jack laughs quietly against the back of his neck. "You don't know me," he says darkly. "You don't know the things I've done." He presses his lips to Ianto's clammy skin. "But you would have destroyed the world to get back something you lost, so you know me better than I thought."

Ianto's shivers peak and then subside as Jack holds him tightly.

The kisses Jack presses on Ianto's shoulders and neck slowly warm the skin and unknot the tense muscle under it. "I know you," Jack tells him, very softly. Ianto's breathing hitches into a half-sob in the dark, and then evens out again. Jack pulls him even closer, as if holding Ianto tightly enough will keep him from flying apart. Eventually Ianto softens, and his breathing slows. He rolls onto his stomach, and with a hand around Jack's wrist, pulls him over to sprawl on top of him. Jack runs a reassuring hand down his back, closes his eyes, and wraps them both securely, brushing his lips against the skin in reach.

It's no consolation, he knows, but it's more than he ever got.

Tags: exposure

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