Suzie Costello wasn’t particularly good at people. Machines, she could do. Social interaction? There was a reason her longest relationship had lasted six weeks, and her truest love was alien tech. But she had picked up a few things in her thirty-four years on earth, and one of those things was that old men liked young pretty things, and that young pretty things tended to be easy to manipulate.
She liked Jack. He was a good boss, mostly; he liked her detail orientated mind, something he lacked, and she liked that he could talk enough for the both of them. Sometimes, despite his general chirpiness, he could be a right bastard - but then, he was the one who had to make the hard decisions in the end. She knew he was older than he looked, and had seen things that would terrify her, despite her experience, so she kept her mouth shut and pointedly didn’t ask. As his second in command, it was her job to make sure he had all the facts to make those hard decisions, and to support him. Publicly, at least. But they had a good system, and she didn’t want to upset that system, not now that everything had finally settled after One.
But there was a complication, and that complication was shaped like a person. It shouldn’t be Suzie’s problem, that was Jack’s job, but when Jack was part of the issue -
The complications name was Ianto Jones, and he was young, pretty, and unfortunately, desperate.
In Jack’s defense, it was Suzie who hired Ianto. Well, Jack hired him, but it was Suzie who told him to. It wasn’t like her boss went looking for a handsome young team member like some kind of creep - it wasn’t like that at all.
Ianto Jones, unlike Suzie, had actual administrative experience. The Torchwood Three archives had been an absolute mess for years, and Jack had never seen the need for a total overhaul of the archaic and frankly ridiculous system. Sure, Jones was One , but he was a junior researcher, for Christ’s sake; he wasn’t exactly Yvonne Hartmann. She didn’t doubt he’d lost a few people during the Battle of Canary Wharf too. That would turn anyone off of the distasteful attitudes of the higher-ups.
With his little show to Jack - trying to appeal to Jack’s well-known appreciation of attractive people, a tactic Suzie was unfortunately familiar with in her younger years - he had made it clear he was desperate for a job, despite the tragedy. Or perhaps because of it. That was what Torchwood did, after all. It showed you new worlds, showed you the joy and wonder and terror, showed you awe in the original sense of the word, and it made you like it. Even Retcon couldn’t stop the longing for the stars, and as Torchwood Three’s morgue showed, even in death one did not leave.
“Oh, for God’s sake Jack,” Suzie said, when her Captain complained about One trying to shoulder its way into his team. “He’s twenty three. He graduated university two years ago, and he’d been at One for eighteen months. He’s hardly a branch head.”
“We don’t need any more staff,” Jack said. “The team has a good dynamic, I don’t want to upset it.”
“Tosh and Owen will understand, and it’s not like he’ll be a major presence. He was an administrator, not a field agent,” she replied patiently. “He has the skills we need, and understands why Torchwood is necessary. He won’t need extra training, has signed all the appropriate forms for the Crown, and, again, he isn’t an agent. That alone means we probably won’t need to replace him for at least five years. It’s a sound investment.”
“We don’t need him,” he repeated, and there was a mulish set to his lips.
“I need him. I can’t play your secretary, and be your SIC,” she said bluntly. “Hire Jones, or go actively recruiting. Either way, something has to change.”
With that, she had left his office. Two days later the Hub had a pet pterodactyl and Ianto Jones had the brand spanking new position of ‘General Support Assistant’.
“Well, he does look good in a suit,” Jack said, and that was that, apparently.
Despite his complaints, Jack adjusted to the young man’s presence quickly. They all did, even Owen, cantankerous as he was. In fact, Jones slipped so seamlessly into life at Torchwood that it was almost like he wasn’t there at all. Oh, he was invaluable; the archives were much, much better, and the Hub as a whole was tidier, if not cleaner - but he was so quiet, it was hard to remember he was there.
Unless, of course, Jack was focused on him.
The day was warm - a miracle for Cardiff, really - which didn’t affect the Hub all that much, since it was deep underground, mostly tiles and metal, and thus cold all year; but it meant that the insulated Tourist Office, with its lack of open space, and air conditioning, must have been sweltering.
“He-llo, Yan-to,” Jack whistled at the young man as he came downstairs holding a tray of mugs. His suit jacket must have been abandoned in the hotbox that was the office, and his shirt was very precisely rolled up to his elbows. A loosened collar was another concession to the heat, but the ever present waistcoat was still there, and buttoned up. It all emphasised his broad shoulders, and narrow waist. Suzie rolled her eyes at the display, but Jack appeared to be enjoying it. “I’ve had dreams that started like this.”
“Please, whatever you do, don’t share them,” Owen grumbled, while Jones just smirked and placed the tray on the table.
“Didn’t you make one for yourself, Ianto?” Tosh asked as he handed her a mug.
Jones shook his head. “I think I might melt. I’m a good Welshman; I’m built for rain, not heat.”
“I’ve got a bottle of sparkling water in the fridge,” Suzie offered. “Colder than the stuff from the tap. If you’re still in the office, you’ll need it more than me.”
“Thank you,” he said, and there was a hint of surprise in his voice. She wasn’t known for her accommodating behaviour, she would admit, but she liked to hope she wasn’t too terrible.
“No problem,” she said, and took her own mug.
She had turned back to her own desk, but her attention was caught by a wolf-whistle from Jack, and she looked over her shoulder to see Jones rising from the fridge. Jack had been eyeing up his arse then.
She expected Jones to make a snappy retort, or roll his eyes, but all that happened was that his ears went a little red at the tips, and he headed back up the stairs without looking back. Jack, who was back in his own office, didn’t notice.
Her eyebrows furrowed, and she found it difficult to focus on her latest report on the Glove for the rest of the afternoon.
Once she started noticing it, she couldn’t stop.
That colour suits you, said with a smile and a wink. You should wear it more often.
Ianto, bring your beautiful self over here and take a look at this.
I don’t suppose Ianto could read this instead? His accent is much better than yours, Owen.
Oh, Jones (Ianto, she reminded herself, Jack didn’t like using surnames) gave as good as he got, sometimes. At that last one, he’d replied, entirely deadpan: I’m afraid I have to decline, sir. My days as a phone sex hotline operator are over.
But sometimes he would just give a tight smile, and scurry back off to his Archives.
See, the thing was, it was a joke. Jack was just being Jack. He’d flirted with Suzie even after he’d found out she just wasn’t interested in men; he was just like that. He was tactile, and suggestive, and while he made certain he never crossed any boundaries, he was a Cassanova. That was just who Jack was.
Suzie just rolled her eyes, and Jack was always careful to telegraph his movements, so there was never a repeat of the blowtorch incident. Tosh flustered at first, but Jack eventually settled into the eccentric older sibling figure for her, and the flirting took a backseat to genuine praise and affection. Owen just grumbled, but he never had a problem with saying no, and probably wouldn’t actually mind a roll in the sack, if Jack was actually interested, (which he thankfully wasn’t ).
Ianto was incredibly grateful for a job. Not that he ever said so, of course not, but she could see it in his shoulders when he thought they weren’t looking. The tension. There was a hidden kind of determination about him, and Suzie had a feeling that it masked an even more hidden sense of helplessness. She wasn’t Jack, who could read people like they were an open book, and she wasn’t sure what surprised her more; the fact she could see past Ianto, or the fact that Jack couldn’t.
But maybe it was because Jack didn’t want to look.
Ianto Jones was 23 years old. He was young, attractive, and despite his reserved demeanor, he was quick, with a dry kind of wit even Suzie found funny. Pretty and smart, and despite the steel stomach, he was soft, particularly towards Myfanwy (he even named the bloody thing). In other words...he was exactly Jack’s type.
Fifteen years ago, Suzie had been 19, pretty, and desperate for independence. Her boss back then hadn’t been Jack, who backed off after an immediate no. She hadn’t been the type to say that no, not back then.
It’s not your problem, Suzie, she tried telling herself. Jack is in charge of team cohesion. He’s not stupid, he’ll notice soon enough. You have to think about the work. The Glove.
She didn’t know if Ianto was the type to say no. She didn’t know if he knew he could. He’d been at One, after all.
“Ianto! Just the person to brighten up my day, what do you have for me?”
If Ianto had been a woman, she might have picked up on it sooner. She’d always considered herself a feminist. But so did Jack, who had scrubbed all the sexist bullshit out of the Torchwood Three rulebook back in 2001.
She could just tell Jack to cool it off, and he would, no questions asked. He would probably assume Ianto had spoken to her, since technically, that was how it was supposed to work. But that missed the root of the problem, really; because Jack was a good boss, a modern boss, but he was perhaps...too modern. Too used to people being blunt, and not used to thinking about subtle cues, at least in non-serious settings. He was also a man, and Suzie had no doubt that played into it.
But that didn’t change the fact that Ianto had never said anything about it. While Jack probably wouldn’t point that out, or even ask, Suzie could be accused of jumping to conclusions. And even if she wasn’t - Ianto was part of the team. She may not be the most sociable out of all of them, but she wanted a good working environment for everyone. Working in Torchwood wasn’t the safest career in the world, but she would be damned if she didn’t want the team to feel confident enough to speak up about issues without worrying about job security.
God, she sounded like Jack.
She would have to talk to Ianto, let him know he could come to her; for anything, not just this. She needed to show she was on his side. She would - shit. She would have to do that for the whole damn team.
This was too much. She was Jack’s second in command, yeah, but this wasn’t what she signed up for. She had to focus on the Glove. She had to-
Susanna Costello. You may have taken that semester on Feminist Theory to piss off Dad, but you learned from it.
Ianto first. Then she could panic about having actual leadership responsibility.
In fact, Ianto did not, actually, come first.
They had just left a scene; a Weevil kill, but a remarkably clean one. Jack said she could try using the Glove. It lasted a minute, and the girl was sobbing about her mother the whole time. A part of Suzie noted that she felt remarkably cold about the entire thing, but the rest of her was more focused on the feeling of the Glove, the power at her very fingertips.
The case wasn’t important. The important part was being in the car, after, while Tosh and Owen bickered, and Owen proclaimed that he was simply heteroflexible .
“You 21st century people and your labels,” Jack said. It wasn’t the first time he said it, but for some reason, it pissed her off more than usual. “How quaint.”
Suzie bristled. “Just because you feel like your identity doesn’t require specialised terminology doesn’t mean they aren’t important. I’m a lesbian. It’s my identity. It’s not just that I ‘like’ women. In a heteronormative, patriarchical world, being a lesbian literally affects everything about my life. It affects how I perceive my own gender, my relationships with the people in my life, and my relationship with society. It’s not quaint, it’s who I am, and since I accept that you don’t need any labels, I would appreciate it if you could be decent enough to accept that some of us do.”
There was an awkward sort of quiet in the SUV. Jack, in particular, barely glanced at the road to stare at her.
She took a deep breath, before turning around to Owen. “Also, you should do some research on the Kinsey Scale. Most straight men don’t actually want to suck another’s cock. Just for future reference.”
Nothing else was said until they reached the Hub.
Owen and Tosh were the first to get out of the SUV and flee the silent tension, but Jack stayed in the car, and Suzie knew he wanted to speak to her privately, so she didn’t follow them. Instead, she turned to look at him. He was watching her with an uncharacteristic intenseness she rarely saw outside of the worst cases.
She sometimes forgot that Jack was a predator, wearing the skin of a man.
She did her best not to squirm, despite feeling like bacteria under a microscope; like everything she was was left out on display, her good parts and the rotten core, showcasing the scared little girl who was still terrified of the dark, and still wanted to make her father proud. She was thirty four years old. She wasn’t afraid of her boss.
“I’m sorry,” Jack said, breaking the silence. Suzie blinked in surprise. “You were right. I’m looking through a different cultural lens, but that doesn’t devalue your personal experience through your own culture.”
Sincerity - another rare occurrence with Jack Harkness. After a moment, she nodded. “Thank you.”
“Suzie?” he said, just before she opened the car door. “Please don’t be afraid to tell me I’m being an asshole. I need that, sometimes.”
There was a perfect opening.
“Don’t worry,” she said, and smiled at him. “I’ll be around to keep your head from getting too big.”
She still needed to talk to Ianto.
Talking to Ianto Jones was surprisingly hard, even for someone like Suzie, who spent most of her time going out of her way to avoid talking to people. Despite how quickly he’d gained the status of ‘integral part of keeping Torchwood running’, she never really saw him.
Ianto would hide in the Tourist Office all day, or the archives, only surfacing to make coffee for the team, order food, and clean up before vanishing. He made all the necessarily confidential phone calls in the secure conference room, but would disappear as soon as he’d finished and informed Jack. Despite his meticulous filing, she couldn’t work out just where he wrote his reports. He was like a ghost in the Hub, and Suzie didn’t like it. She really hoped that he wasn’t trying to avoid Jack.
But after a while, it became more obvious it wasn’t just avoiding Jack. In fact, it felt more like he was avoiding the entire team. Or, perhaps, he felt excluded from it. Suzie was ashamed to realise that she had gone out for drinks with Jack, Tosh, and Owen, and only noticed that Ianto hadn’t been invited when she returned to the table after going to the loo.
She tried to think back to when Ianto had last joined them on one of Jack’s ‘team bonding’ nights. Then, when she couldn’t dredge up that memory, she tried to work out if Ianto had ever been to the pub with them.
He’d demurred two invites, she thought. Maybe Jack had stopped asking, but -
He was alone in the Hub, right now. While they were all enjoying a pint (or a cocktail, in Jack’s case), Ianto Jones was watching the Rift, and probably doing all of the general busywork that kept Torchwood running.
Suzie wasn’t particularly close to any of her teammates, but that struck her as incredibly sad.
She pulled up her bag and pretended to rifle through it while Jack signalled for another round. “Oh, I’ve left my keys at my desk,” she said, turning to Jack.
“I can get them for you at the end of the night,” he said, but she shook her head.
“No, it’s okay, I can go get them now, and call a taxi to come get me.”
Tosh frowned. “You sure? It’s pretty early.”
Suzie pasted on a smile. “I’m done in, really.”
“More for me then,” Owen said, reaching for the pint the bartender had just placed in front of Suzie.
“Goodnight, Suzie,” Jack said, and she nodded as she passed, but internally felt the urge to slap him round the head. Jack was supposed to be in charge of team cohesion, not Suzie, and he hadn’t even noticed that their newest (and youngest) member of staff barely interacted with them.
God, this second-in-command stuff was bullshit.
Outside, in the cool Cardiff air, she took a deep breath and told herself that the worst thing that could happen was if Ianto said no.
As she entered the Hub, she spotted Ianto coming back up from the archives. There was a little line between his brows, but he smiled easily enough at her, before frowning. “Is something wrong? I haven’t heard anything from the Rift monitors -”
“No, no,” she rushed to assure him. “Everything’s fine, don’t worry about it.”
He relaxed, but he still looked a little tense. “Aren’t you supposed to be out with the others?”
“Er,” she managed. She hadn’t thought quite this far ahead. “Yes, technically.”
“Technically?” he asked, arching his brow.
“Come for a drink with me,” she said, and cursed internally as both of his eyebrows raised. “I mean. You never come to the team pub nights.”
“I don’t tend to be invited,” he said. “It’s okay. I’m not a field agent, I’m not part of the team.”
“That’s bullshit.” Suzie took a deep breath, and tightened her grip on her purse. “You’re as important to this team as Owen is. Possibly even more, because we can find a doctor anywhere, with a damn sight better attitude, whereas your coffee is a once in a lifetime experience.”
Ianto smiled a little, but she could sense that he didn’t really believe her. “It’s nice that you thought of me, but I have things I should be doing -”
“One drink,” she said. “It’s eight pm anyway, you should be signing out.”
“The Hub really shouldn’t be left unattended -”
Suzie waved her mobile. “Remote Rift monitor - it will ping us if we’re needed. By the time you’ve had a drink, Jack should be back.”
He still looked conflicted, glancing back downstairs, so she put on her best, most convincing smile. “One drink. It’s a Friday night. You deserve it.”
“All right then,” he gave in with a kind of amused reluctance. “Just let me get my coat.”
It was less than fifteen minutes later that she found herself sitting down at the pub with Ianto. Despite the day of the week, it was relatively empty, and they managed to get seats right at the bar. It was a pub she came to pretty regularly with Pilgrim - and one that the team didn’t frequent, because Jack was barred. The owner, thankfully, wouldn’t recognise them; Ianto because he hadn’t been part of the team back then, Suzie because she kept her head down and had left the second the bar fight started. She said as much to Ianto, who gave a small laugh.
“Why doesn’t that surprise me?”
“What, the fact that Jack can start a fight with an empty room, or the fact I was willing to abandon him to it?”
“The Captain is a...unique man. Not everyone will enjoy exposure to him,” Ianto said, smiling. It was small, but somehow more genuine than anything else she’d seen from him.
“You can say that again,” she said, waving to catch the barmaid’s attention. “Don’t get me wrong; Jack is a...decent man. But God, some days I could just smack him.”
“I can’t agree with that statement,” Ianto gave a wry grin. “I happen to like my job.”
Suzie laughed. “Jack wouldn’t fire you for not liking him. In fact, he’d get a kind of perverse pleasure out of it. Anyone who can withstand Hurricane Jack is blessed with more willpower than I. Oh, a pint of - what do you want, Ianto?”
“Do you have Ysbryd y Ddraig? ” Ianto asked the barmaid, who nodded with a pretty smile aimed straight at Ianto. Ianto clearly didn’t even notice, and Suzie rolled her eyes.
“Two pints of that,” Suzie said, and handed over a tenner to the girl, shaking her head at Ianto as he reached for his wallet. “Oh no, I’m the senior team member, I pay.”
“Can I get everyone else to buy my drinks then?"
She laughed. “Good luck trying to get Owen to reach into his own pocket. No, normally Jack pays, but - well, he’s an idiot.”
Ianto shrugged, his eyes on the bar. “I know I’m not really -”
“You’re a member of Torchwood, Ianto,” she said. “And much nicer to be around than Owen.”
“As if that’s hard,” he said, and Suzie grinned.
She liked Ianto, weirdly enough. It wasn’t that Suzie didn’t get along with her colleagues, but, well. She didn’t really get along with anyone, really. She liked Toshiko’s work ethic, and her intelligence. Owen was a brilliant doctor, despite his bedside manners. Jack was the closest she had to a favourite person, and well, he was in a league of his own.
But Ianto was funny, in a quiet way. She knew he was a bit of a nerd, and that he probably did know everything there was to know about Torchwood. But eyes still held that haunted, hunted look that followed the survivors of One, and while baby fat still clung to his cheeks, his nails were bitten to the quick.
“So, Discworld?” she asked, as the barmaid deposited the glasses and Suzie’s change in front of them. Ianto’s lip quirked.
“I could just be supporting a local brewery,” Ianto said.
“And it’s just a coincidence that it’s the one beer from that brewery sold as a Discworld tie in, is it?”
“Ah, but you know of Bearhugger’s Old Restorative, and recognised it immediately. That shows that you’re a nerd,” he said.
“Never said I wasn’t. I’ve been reading Pratchett since you were in nappies,” she said, and Ianto looked genuinely delighted.
“You’ve been reading since The Colour of Magic?”
Suzie had thought she’d gotten too old to be talking about fantasy literature, but after the first pint they’d moved on to a shared love of Tolkien, and they ordered another round. Before she knew it, they’d been talking for three hours, and giggling about the inaccuracies of Star Trek aliens.
“And, the whole idea of the Federation? Of the Utopic Earth? Don’t make me laugh,” she said.
“That’s a little cynical, don’t you think?” Ianto asked, eyebrow raised.
“Nevermind aliens, you think humanity could ever get along with each other enough to make a United Earth?”
He looked contemplative for a moment, but before he could respond, Suzie’s phone rang out shrilly. It took her a moment to dig it out of her bag, but she knew immediately that it was Jack, and she sighed as she answered it.
“Suzie,” Jack said cheerfully, but there was an undercurrent of worry in his voice. “When you came back to the Hub, did you see Ianto? Only, his phone and bag are here, but his coat isn’t, and Tosh says he isn’t answering his home phone -”
“Oh, he’s here with me, would you like me to pass him over?”
Jack stopped dead, then said with a curious lilt to his voice, “He’s...with you.”
“Yes,” she said, pretty cheerfully, as she had drunk just enough to not give a damn about what that curious lilt was. “I found him sitting alone at the Hub while everyone else was at the pub, and I decided to take him out for a night. Don’t worry, Captain, I’ll return him safe and sound.”
“Oh,” Jack said, and there was so much packed into that one word.
“We’re having a good time, thanks for asking,” Suzie said, just to rub a little salt in the wound. “We’ll be back to pick up Ianto’s stuff in a little while. Don’t lock up yet.”
With that, she flipped her mobile shut, and turned back to Ianto, who had a pained look about him. “I really should -”
“Should enjoy your drink, and relax for once,” she said.
“I don’t need your pity,” he said, quietly.
Suzie shook her head. “It’s not pity. You’re a member of the team, and you aren’t really treated like it. I’m the second most senior member of us, and it’s my job to deal with those sorts of problems.
“Besides,” she adds in an undertone. “I actually like your company.”
“You didn’t know that before tonight,” Ianto said wryly, tilting his pint towards her.
“And now I do,” she said. “Aren’t you glad I invited you out to learn that?”
Ianto smiled, and ducked his head. “Thank you,” he said, and it was soft, just like the rest of him, but it was entirely sincere.
“You’re welcome,” she said. “But we will have to go back for your mobile. I can’t believe you left your stuff at the Hub.”
Ianto grimaced. “And my keys. But you said one drink,” he said, gesturing to the empty glasses that the barmaid hadn’t collected yet. “This was not one drink.”
“Do you regret it?”
He grinned, a quick flash of teeth, and for a second he looked younger than twenty three, and something in Suzie’s chest ached. “Not at all.”
When they stumbled back to the Hub with their arms linked tightly, they were giggling madly, even as Jack buzzed them in from the Tourist Office. He stared at them in surprise, and who could blame him; Ianto looked relaxed, truly relaxed, for the first time, and if Suzie were the type to appreciate men, she would call him handsome. But she wasn’t, and she couldn’t get past the atrocious sideburns anyway.
“Keys,” he muttered to himself, and extracted himself from Suzie’s grip. Jack held up the sports bag that Ianto brought with him every day, and Ianto’s phone in his other hand. “Thank you, sir.”
“You sound like a Welsh Alfred,” Suzie accused. “No, Jeeves. You sound all proper.”
“Very good sir,” Ianto said primly, which set Suzie off again, and Jack watched them bemusedly.
“Does this make me Wooster?” he asked idly.
“Yes,” Suzie said, before she could stop herself.
“You don’t happen to have any aunts, do you sir?”
Jack shook his head. “No, no aunts here. But if you want to discuss the homoerotic undertones -”
“And that’s enough for tonight,” Suzie cut in. “Someone hasn’t eaten dinner and better get home before the takeaways shut.”
Ianto rolled his eyes. “Yes, Mam.”
“Will you be okay getting home alone?” Jack asked, probably aiming it at both of them, but his focus was on Ianto. Just like her first boss did, at the end of a long night.
“We’ve already ordered a taxi,” she said, and subtly inserted herself between the two of them, tugging Ianto towards the lift. Ianto went easily, thanking Jack again, which she ignored. “Good night Jack. I’ll see you in the morning.”
As the doors closed, she caught Jack looking at them with an indecipherable look on his face, even as he waved a goodbye.
She didn’t exactly speak to Ianto that night, at least not about the elephant in the room. She couldn’t quite work out how to work it into the conversation, and she felt like a coward for avoiding it.
But something had changed. Ianto was just as reserved as ever, wry and distant, but she would carve out a few moments every day to speak to him, and if she couldn’t manage, he started waiting for her at her desk during their few breaks.
“Vanilla latte,” he said one day, placing her mug carefully beside a stack of paperwork she had been avoiding until today - an act she bitterly regretted. “Don’t tell.”
“You are an angel,” she said, taking a sip. It was, like all of Ianto’s coffees, divine, but flavoured lattes were a bit of a treat, and she held back a moan.
“Think of it as a reward, for doing your paperwork.”
“Mmm, you do know how to treat a girl.”
Ianto smiled, but it was a little sad. “I’ve had some practice,” he said, and left her alone to process that.
The next day, she stayed in the Tourist Office for a few minutes to bitch about the Glove, Jack’s restrictions on it, and how she knew she could get it working for longer, if she could just have access to fresh enough corpses. He made all the appropriate noises, and hid his smirk carefully enough that she couldn’t just cuff him over the back of the head. She did, however, give him a dirty look, and his smirk grew.
When Friday rolled round again, they made tentative plans to try the new fish and chips shop around the corner, and sat together on a bench by Mermaid Quay, sharing the massive fish supper.
Again, Suzie didn’t ask, even though she knew she should. But she hadn’t seen anything from Jack this week, and she didn’t want to spoil the moment, not now when Ianto was gazing out at the sea with an almost smile on his face.
When all hell broke loose, as was Cardiff’s wont, Ianto was coordinating from the Hub as Suzie attempted to disarm the alien equivalent of a dirty bomb, Tosh frantically tried to hack into the Dostronan’s communication systems, Jack endeavoured to negotiate with their Queens, and Owen was treating and Retconning civilians caught up in the crossfire. U.N.I.T. were being their typical unhelpful selves, and she could hear Jack getting more and more frustrated with their interference, before Ianto smoothly intervened over the comms, with a subtle but pointed reminder of how well U.N.I.T. hadn’t handled Christmas 2005.
Afterwards, Suzie was sweaty and exhausted, and let the wall hold her upright. While the bomb had been disarmed, it hadn’t been easy. Out of the corner of her eye, she spotted Owen coaxing Tosh away from her computer, looking as tired as Suzie felt, and, after a moment of searching, she saw Jack pouring himself a liberal serving of scotch. Ianto was nowhere to be seen.
She frowned. It wasn’t like Ianto to be missing straight after such a critical moment, as much as he avoided the team during regular work hours.
“Anyone seen Ianto?”
Tosh shook her head, a hint of concern crossing her face, but Owen snorted. “Probably headed to write his report like a good little admin. You know how he is.”
Suzie considered that. While he was conscientious about paperwork, Ianto wasn’t quite that anal.
She was just about to heave herself upright and go looking when the man in question came up the stairs from the archives, looking more put together than the entire team put together. He smiled gently at Tosh and nodded to Owen, before coming to a stop beside Suzie and offering her a hand up. “Would you like a ride home?”
“God yes,” she said, taking his arm. “I was dreading trying to get a taxi. You’re a lifesaver.”
“I live to serve,” he said with a little bow, before glancing at Jack, who had come to stand outside his office, surveying them all with his drink in hand.
“Go home, take the morning off,” Jack told them, then turned to Suzie’s companion with pleading eyes. “Ianto, sorry to ask this, but could you take the remote monitor duty tonight? It’s Tosh’s turn, but -”
“Of course, sir,” Ianto nodded. “I could come back to the Hub, after I’ve dropped Suzie off?”
“No, it should be quiet, it’s just in case,” Jack said, and he smiled. “Try and relax for once, Ianto.”
“That’s impossible,” Owen called. “He’s not got a stick up his arse, it’s an iron bloody poker.”
Jack smirked. “Well, if he ever wants a hand removing it-”
“And that’s enough,” Suzie said, feeling Ianto’s arm tense under her hand. “A little professionalism, please.”
“Sorry, Agent Costello,” Jack said with a laugh that tapered off when she glared at him, and allowed Ianto to guide her away to the car park, towards the little black audi that Ianto drove. They didn’t say anything as Suzie settled into the passenger seat, resting her head against the window and closing her eyes as Ianto pulled out.
“You didn’t have to do that,” Ianto said softly when they hit the main road.
“He should know better,” Suzie said.
“It doesn’t bother me, really.”
Suzie snorted. “That’s why you freeze like a deer in the headlights sometimes?”
“I flirt back, you know,” Ianto said.
“So did I, once,” she said, and silence fell once again until she had to give him some directions.
“Good work today,” Ianto said as she let herself out of his car.
“You too,” she said, then smirked. “Especially with handling U.N.I.T.”
“All in the job description,” he quipped and she laughed as she closed the door.
Despite the awkward car encounter, where she was really too tired to approach the thorny problem that was Jack’s harassment, her not-quite-friendship, but not-quite-anything-else with Ianto continued to grow. When they weren’t saving the world, Fridays became a regular thing. Sometimes it really was just one drink, sometimes it was dinner at one of the numerous restaurants near the Plass. Ianto still worked way too late most nights, and spent too much time away from the main Hub and team, but then again, so did she.
It was one of the team’s lunches in the common room when she had to admit to herself that it was less of a professional interest in a junior teammate, and more of a personal relationship. She wanted Ianto to feel like Torchwood was...home, she supposed. The same way Suzie did. He, like her, didn’t appear to have anything outside of work, and she wanted him to at least feel the same level of acceptance as she did. She popped out to retrieve the box she had stored in the communal fridge, complete with a post-it threatening Owen’s balls if he opened it.
Ianto looked up with poorly disguised horror as she flounced back in, a grin on her face. “No,” he said desperately, but the secret was already out, and from the corner of her eye, Suzie spotted a slow grin spreading across Jack’s face. “No, we agreed, no presents-”
“Well, I can eat it myself -”
He scrambled for the box. “I take it back, I always want food.”
“Uni student mindset,” she said wisely, holding it out of his reach. “No, you’ll spoil your lunch.”
“Yes, mam,” he rolled his eyes. “Shall I wash behind my ears before I come to the table, too?”
“Enough cheek from the birthday boy,” she said. “Go on then, open it.”
Ianto opened the box to reveal a single, albeit large, cupcake, with royal blue icing. The two bright pink candles she’d splurged a whole fiver for said 24 on top. “It’s hideous,” he said with wonder.
“I knew you’d like it. It was either this or the Star Trek cake at Tesco’s, but that was big enough that you would have to share with the team.”
“Some of us are polite,” he said with a hint of reproach.
“It’s your birthday?” Tosh asked, and there was something in her voice that Suzie couldn’t place.
Ianto shrugged, obviously a little uncomfortable. “It’s just another day, really.”
Suzie knocked him with her elbow, and turned to the table. “Anyone got a lighter? Jack? You’re the old fashioned one.”
Jack grinned and produced a zippo lighter from somewhere. “Well, if I’d known it was someone’s birthday, I would have hired strippers.”
“You have access to my files, sir,” Ianto said dryly. “Which is what Suzie did.”
“Glad he didn’t,” Owen chimed in.
“Happy birthday, Ianto,” Tosh said, with a shy smile, and Ianto offered her one back. Distantly, Suzie wondered if that was where Ianto’s affections lay; Toshiko was pretty, and sweet, but a little too...doormat-like for her. But she had hidden depths, like Ianto, and Ianto would be better for her than -
“Yeah, yeah, teaboy’s old enough to shave, congratulations,” Owen said sarcastically, and Suzie turned her stink eye onto him. She was trying to make Ianto feel like part of the team, and other than Jack, he’d been the biggest obstacle.
But Ianto just rolled his eyes, and blew out his candles.
“What did you wish for?” Jack asked.
“Little too old to believe in things like that,” Ianto said, but something about his melancholic smile told Suzie he’d made one regardless.
Getting Ianto more integrated with the team was hard when he kept disappearing down the archives for hours. However, that quickly fell down the priority list when she got the call, about two months after she asked him for a drink, that her father had died.
It wasn’t - she didn’t -
It wasn’t bloody fair.
Something, deep in the back of her mind, clicked, like a switch being turned off.
He was dead. What was the fucking point anymore.
Suzie sat there, breathing heavy. There was a fuzzy kind of silence in her head, the same kind of quiet one heard leaving a rock concert. A loud silence, one that echoed in the empty space that was her plans.
It hit her, suddenly, that she’d been distracted by Ianto. That she used her evenings off to drag him out from the dusty archives. That she hadn’t been to a Pilgrim meeting since that day she’d taken him to the pub. That she hadn’t spoken to Max in weeks.
It - she hadn’t really done anything. She hadn’t hurt anyone. Other than Retcon Max into oblivion, but he was almost as fucked up as Suzie, and frankly, he would probably would thank her for it. If his brain wasn’t swiss cheese. If she hadn’t planned to-
The thing was. The thing was, as important as the Glove was...she was distracted. And she didn’t...she didn’t want to risk her place at Torchwood for it. Not now.
There was no point, now.
She glanced at the knife she had crafted from the lump of metal that had been dredged up with the Glove, and put her head in her hands.
She had been ignoring it. Focusing on Ianto instead of dealing with her own bullshit.
But she wasn’t stupid, and she wasn’t quite crazy enough yet to not know that she was going off the deep end.
She couldn’t talk to Pilgrim about this. She couldn’t tell her old therapist, who she’d Retconned months ago. She couldn’t tell her father, Christ ( he’s dead, he’s gone, he’s not coming back ). She couldn’t tell Jack, because Torchwood was all she had, and she knew he’d take it away - the Glove, the job, her memories, everything. And it wasn’t like she had any friends, not really.
Suzie bit her lip. Friendship was too big of a word, but that wasn’t quite true. They definitely weren’t close, but...it was this, or losing herself.
She took a deep breath, and dialed the newest contact on her mobile.
“Ianto…” she paused. “I fucked up.”
“I don’t know what to do,” she said, and realised she was close to crying. “Jesus, I don’t-”
“Stay where you are,” Ianto ordered. “Where-”
“In the Hub,” she said. “I don’t - Jack’s went out and -”
“I’m coming upstairs,” he said, and it was a comfort, knowing he was so close, even if she had thought he’d gone home hours ago. “Stay there -” there was something muffled, like he was talking to someone else, before he came back. “I’m coming. Can you stay on the line for me?”
Distantly, she thought she might be hyperventilating.
“Suzie, talk to me,” Ianto pleaded.
“My father died,” she whispered, and squeezed her eyes shut. “And God help me, Ianto, but I wanted to be the one to kill him.”
Thirty seconds later, Ianto came sprinting up the stairs. Suzie had pulled her knees up to her chest and tucked herself behind her own desk, but he found her easily. It was the most ruffled she had ever seen him, wide-eyed and panting, his tie askew. He came to a stop in front of her, and reached out to her, backing away when she flinched. Instead, he kneeled beside her, careful to leave her an escape route.
She scrubbed a hand over her face, and hung up the phone. “Yan,” she managed, but she had no idea what to say. I’ve essentially programmed a man into becoming a killer. I think I was about to become a killer myself.
“Are planning on doing anything in particular with that knife?”
She shrugged again. She hadn’t realised that she was holding it. Suzie supposed it was rather brave of Ianto to be kneeling next to an obviously distressed person wielding a dangerous weapon. “I don’t know.”
“Can you tell me what happened?”
“I think it’s the Glove, you know?” she said, her eyes trained on the blade in her hands. “I think it gets into your head, finds all the weak spots. It tells you things…”
“Tells you what?”
“How did I know this metal was the type as the one that made up the Glove? How did I know that someone killed by the knife would be easier to resurrect? I just...knew.”
Ianto shifted closer, and held out his hand, palm upwards. “Can you give me the knife, Suzie?”
She considered it. She actually considered, for a moment, running Ianto through with the blade. Of using the Glove on him, because she was so close -
Suzie exhaled heavily, and handed it to him, hilt first.
“Thank you,” he said politely, his tone incongruous compared to the almost hilariously alarmed way in which he tossed the knife out of their reach. “Have you...is anyone hurt, Suzie?”
“No. Well. Not yet.”
“Can you tell me what happened?”
Suzie sighed, and tilted her head upwards, looking up to the tall ceilings of the Hub. “I’m going mad, I think.”
Ianto shifted again, this time coming to rest right beside her, shoulder to shoulder. “Can I touch you?” he said, and she shrugged again. He pulled off his jacket, and carefully arranged it over her shoulders, and Suzie very nearly burst into tears. It was, quite possibly, the nicest thing anyone had ever done for her.
“You said something about your father…” he began, trailing off.
“Bastard,” she spat.
“I had assumed that,” he said mildly.
“I had this - plan, I think. I don’t know. I don’t know how much of it was me, and how much of it is the Glove,” she said. “I could - people could live forever, you know? Given enough time, I could make it work. I could show him.
And then he told me he had cancer. Lungs. Stage four.”
“You wanted to save him?”
“No. Yes. I - I wanted it to be me. I didn’t want it to be the fucking cigarettes he smoked his whole life. I deserved to do it,” she said. “I know. I know it’s not right. But it was just him. Just him, and no one else.”
Suzie swallowed. “Nobody needed to know, and no one else would get hurt.”
“But something happened?”
“I’m not making any sense, am I?”
Ianto shook his head. “Not yet. But you’ll get there, I think.”
In fits and starts he drew the story out of her, from her father, to Pilgrim, to the Glove. From the way he had locked her in her room, had micromanaged every inch of her life, to the way that Max had listened, to the way she had begun to mess with his head. She spoke about the Glove, the way it whispered to her, the stories it told, the future it saw.
“Cardiff - Earth, we’re the dumping ground,” she said, quietly, her head having come to rest on his shoulder at some point. “We get the universe’s trash. But the Glove, God. The Glove is so much more.”
Ianto had wrapped his arm around her shoulder. “Is it? Or is it just trying to make you think that?”
“I don’t know,” Suzie whispered. “I don’t know anything anymore. I don’t… I don’t want to hurt anyone. Not just to hurt them."
“You’re not a killer, Suzie Costello,” he said. “You’re a lot of things, but you're not the type of person who would enjoy cold-blooded murder.”
“He'd have deserved it.”
“He did,” Ianto said. “But Max doesn’t. Mark and Sarah Brisco don’t.”
“I...I know that. But-”
“I think the Glove is hurting you, Suzie. We - we should probably tell Jack.”
“No!” she pulled away. “I can’t - I can’t lose this job Ianto, it’s all I -”
“We need to come up with a story, tonight,” he said, and pushed himself upright. “To convince Jack to destroy it. We can’t let it get into someone else's head. After that, we need to find Max Tresilian. You know more about Retcon than me - we probably can’t reverse the memory effects, but the programming-”
“You’re not telling Jack that I…”
Ianto looked at her, and there was a kind of horrific understanding in his eyes. “You’re hurting, Suzie. The job we do...it isn’t a pretty one. It messes with your head. But there’s only so many of us who can do it.
“And,” he added, looking a little uncomfortable. “You’re my friend.”
Suzie blinked back tears, and accepted his hand to help her onto her feet.
“Thank you,” she whispered, and pulled him into an awkward hug.
“Don’t thank me yet,” he said, detangling himself. “Jack will be back in three hours, so we better have a convincing story for then.”
“And you’re certain this was what caused it?” Jack asked, eyeing the box that now held the Glove up warily.
Suzie nodded. “Yes. If Ianto hadn’t been there…” she let it trail off, watching Jack imagine the possibilities of a mind-controlled Torchwood agent - his second-in-command, no less.
“How did you know?” he turned on Ianto. “That it wasn’t Suzie you were talking to?”
“She just seemed off, sir,” Ianto said. “We’ve spoken a lot over the past few weeks, and I noticed that sometimes it felt like Suzie wasn’t quite...there. Especially after she had worked with the Glove. Sir.”
“And you didn’t think to tell me?”
“Jack,” Suzie said reproachfully. “I’m his superior. He couldn’t exactly go around making accusations.”
“This isn’t One,” Jack said.
“I know that now, sir,” Ianto said. “I just thought that...well, if I separated the Glove from Suzie, I would be able to prove it.”
“And you’re sure that the containment box has stopped the effects? That you’re no longer being influenced?” Jack looked at Suzie, concern painted clearly on his face, and Suzie felt a small flare of guilt about lying to Jack. But, as Ianto had told her, it wasn’t a lie, not really. The Glove had been messing with her head, even if it wasn’t controlling her.
“Well, I can’t be certain,” she admitted. “But I’ve managed to tell Ianto about what I remember doing, and I couldn’t, before. And I no longer feel the urge to go around killing people. No more than usual, anyway.”
Jack nodded, and clapped a hand on her shoulder. “I want you to stay here tonight, let Owen take a look at you in the morning, do some brain scans - make sure that thing didn’t do anything else. Then take a week.”
“Suzie,” he said. “You just told me that an alien object - that I gave you to study - was controlling you. That you very nearly killed someone. That’s going to hit you soon. Take the week, we can handle the Rift, and after that, we can discuss if you need more time.”
With that, he tugged her forward to press a quick kiss to her forehead. “We could have lost you, and I wouldn’t have known why.”
Suzie blinked, but Jack had already turned back to Ianto. “Good work, Ianto. Lock this away in the secure archives, and head home. I’ll write up the report myself. Unfortunately, I do think you’re going to have to get a commendation for this.”
“Perish the thought, sir. However, could I stay with Suzie? Just for tonight?”
Jack looked at him, assessingly, then gave a sharp nod. “Take the day off tomorrow.”
“That’s not necessary, sir,” Ianto said as he slid the containment box into the secure cabinet.
“Do normal bosses have employees arguing about days off?” Jack asked them, waiting for Ianto to lock the door before shooing them out. “Go on, get out, both of you. Owen will be in at 8, so you have three hours.”
Suzie gave Jack a tired smile as she left his office, and he offered her a nod.
“Oh, and Ianto?” Jack called as they walked away. “Thank you.”
“Just doing my job, sir.”
“Suzie’s more than that,” he said, and left the doorway.
Suzie felt something warm settle in her stomach.
Suzie used her week to work out how to deprogram Max. Ianto came by every day, sometimes for a few minutes, sometimes with dinner. He filled her in on how things were at the Hub (hectic, with a man down), on what the others had been told (Ianto had broken the Glove’s influence over Suzie, but Jack failed to mention her murderous tendencies), and, perhaps a little meanly, ways in which Tosh had tried and failed to get Owen’s attention. Suzie only felt a little bad about the last one, and only because Tosh had sent a very nice text asking how she was.
On Wednesday, he came with her to visit the grave. She hadn’t gone to the funeral - not many people had, only one of her aunts and her sons, who had arranged it. She didn’t do anything like spit on the earth that held him, but Ianto tangled their fingers together after she’d angrily scrubbed at her eyes.
Jack stopped by once, to check in. Suzie had told him the truth. She was fine. Coming to terms with the fact she had been controlled by an alien artifact. She didn’t tell him about her father, the Glove’s whispers of immortality, or how she’d been doing something to Max Tresilian, something she wasn’t sure she understood yet.
When he asked about Ianto, she shrugged. “We talk.”
“You talk to me.”
“You’re my boss, Jack,” she said. “He’s a friend.”
“Aren’t we friends, Suzie?”
Suzie looked him in the eye. “Friendship means letting people in,” she said, and he didn’t stay for long after that.
In the end, it was anticlimactic. The Glove - or Suzie, because she didn’t really know where it ended and she began - had left a failsafe. A final, generous dose of Retcon, and the repeated utterances of “Hope” is the thing with feathers stopped Max from being a ticking time bomb. She couldn’t fix the mess she’d made of his psyche, and she felt... something , but it wasn’t quite guilt.
“Maybe I am evil,” she said absently.
Ianto raised his eyebrow as he handed her a vanilla latte on her first day back.
“I don’t feel bad,” she said. “I should, but I don’t. That’s evil, right?”
“It’s cold, certainly,” he said, and tapped at the small pile of paperwork her desk had acquired during her absence. “But I think...Torchwood doesn’t hire good people. Tosh is the closest we have, but sometimes even she forgets that our victims are real people.”
“Who does Torchwood hire?” she asked, genuinely curious.
“Broken people,” Ianto answered. “People who can’t be broken by the job, because they were already shattered before they came here.”
Suzie considered it. She remembered Owen’s files, the thick folder on Katie Russell. Tosh’s parole, the way she still hated small spaces. The darkness in Jack’s eyes that his attitude couldn’t hide. Ianto’s bitten fingernails and cold hands.
“Maybe you’re right. But maybe that should change.”
“Maybe it should,” he said, and let that thought settle in the comfortable silence.
He straightened up, obviously preparing to leave, before shooting her one of his sincere smiles, there and gone again. “I’ve set up a subroutine so Mainframe will be keeping an eye on Max Tresilian - Tosh shouldn’t notice it, I buried it amongst the other tracking routines, and I’ve allocated some funds towards any psychiatric care necessary in the future,” his face scrunched up. “Jack doesn’t check what I tell him to sign. That’s probably a security risk.”
Suzie threw her head back and laughed. “You, Ianto Jones, are a wonder.”
“I do try,” he said mildly, and turned to leave, but Suzie called him back.
“You’re wrong, you know.”
“About Tosh being the only ‘good’ person on the team. You’re a good man, Ianto,” she said.
Something complicated crossed his face, but he disappeared before she could ask.
Life settled back into almost normality. Ianto hit the six month mark of his employment, Suzie officially left Pilgrim, the Rift kept spitting out gifts, and Jack continued to sexually harass his youngest employee. Just a typical week at Torchwood.
One of the alien cadavers on Owen’s autopsy table turned out to be less dead than the initial assessment suggested (well, it had a massive hole in its chest, even she couldn’t blame Owen for that one), and was holding the resident doctor hostage, large claws poised over his throat. Owen was, to his credit, remarkably calm about the entire affair, attempting to apologise to the unidentified alien. Unfortunately, the alien either didn’t understand, or wasn’t feeling particularly merciful towards the man who had been poking around in its insides. Suzie could relate, knowing she felt the urge to choke Owen on a daily basis.
“Now, why don’t you put my team member down, and we can talk about this-” Jack coaxed, but it just snarled and gripped Owen tighter. Owen scrabbled for its wrist, turning a little red. Suzie grit her teeth and crept forward another few desperate centimetres. As much as Owen pissed her off, she wasn’t going to let him die. Not on her watch.
The alien was clearly intelligent, keeping its hostage alive, its back firmly against the far wall of the autopsy bay, and its eyes on all the visible team members. Jack had both of his hands up, and Tosh had dropped her weapon when the alien had gestured at her. Unfortunately for it, Suzie had been in the shadows at the other side of the autopsy bay, and apparently in its blind spot. If she could just creep forward enough without being noticed she could shoot-
Ianto’s voice came through her earpiece.
“She’s a Shambonie, and she’s pregnant,” Ianto said, and his voice sounded the same as it did the night Suzie had called him. It wasn’t quite panicked, because he would never be so undignified, but it wasn’t the usual mild tone everyone else was used to. “Don’t shoot her, she’s just scared!”
“Mate, she’s trying to kill me,” Owen hissed, then gulped as her grip tightened.
“She’s using you as a bargaining chip, and you were poking around at an open wound-”
“I thought she was dead- ”
“Please,” Ianto said, and she knew he was talking to her. “Don’t hurt her.”
“You’re soft, Jones,” Suzie murmured, but she made eye contact with Jack, who nodded. “Alright, Jeeves, what’s your plan?”
“Torchwood Two had a similar situation in the eighties, and human sedatives should work without harming the fetuses. Tosh, where’s the tranquilizer gun?”
“Still in the SUV,” Tosh murmured. “But - the Retcon aerosol prototype is on my desk. We’ll hit both her and Owen…”
“Sorry Owen,” Jack said, still holding his hands up. “But-”
After a hectic hour, the Shambonie had been treated by Tosh and was back onboard her ship, Owen was confused and groggy but finally awake, and Jack was staring mournfully at the destroyed prototype.
Ianto, who had helped haul the heavily pregnant alien back to her crew, was leaning against the wall, his suit jacket abandoned somewhere. He looked exhausted, and was the least put together she had ever seen him, including the night she had lost it, and Suzie almost found it adorable. But he had a satisfied air about him, and it reminded her of his voice earlier.
“You,” she said, nudging him with her shoulder. “Are a bloody soft-touch.”
“That softness might get you killed one day,” she said. He shrugged again.
“I work for Torchwood,” he said, as if that was an explanation.
“Don’t make it easier for them, please,” she said.
He glanced at her. “I don’t plan to.”
She nodded. Then Jack came bounding over, a customary grin painted on his face.
“I love days like this,” he said cheerfully. “Where everything ends happily.”
“Someone mark it down,” Suzie said. “A day where no-one died.”
“All thanks to Ianto here,” Jack said, clapping him on the arm. “How did you know about Torchwood Two?”
“I am the resident archivist, sir,” Ianto said, a little prissily, and she bit back a smile. “It’s my job to keep on top of such things. Torchwood Two has just begun digitalising its archives, and I’ve been cross-referencing our archives with theirs. I remembered reading it,” he said, his voice suggesting an eye-roll when Jack was still looking at him.
“Eidetic memory?” Jack asked.
“I’m just very good at my job, sir.”
Jack’s grinned. “Competency, I like that in a man.”
Ianto didn’t restrain his eye-roll this time. “I’m sure you do.”
Jack gave Ianto a very obvious once-over, ending in a wink, gripping his shoulder a little tighter. “Good job today, Ianto,” he said, before bounding away, probably to check on Owen.
Suzie was suddenly reminded of her earlier assessment of Jack’s type. Pretty, clever, and soft. Glancing at Ianto out of the corner of her eye, realised that the description was more apt than ever.
“You can tell him to stop,” she said. “Hell, I will tell him to stop for you. Jack should know better.”
“Leave it, Suzie,” he said tiredly. “He doesn’t mean anything by it.”
“That doesn’t change that you’re uncomfortable,” she resisted the urge to raise her voice, facing him directly. “It doesn’t matter if he isn’t - you don’t have to be scared. To say so.”
He turned his head to look at her. “It isn’t worth it, okay? It’s fine. It doesn’t bother me.”
With that, he walked away from her, leaving Suzie alone and frustrated.
She would talk to Jack anyway, she decided. Even if Ianto didn’t care (which he did, she could tell), Jack should know better. There would come someone less accommodating, or someone too accommodating, and it would all go wrong. Hell, it was already going wrong, because Ianto still wasn’t part of the team, and she didn’t know how to fix it.
Despite her best intentions, life got in the way as it did. Ianto still stayed too late, and Suzie still got too wrapped up in her work to remember that there was something outside of Torchwood. She still did her best to drag him outside once a week, but he never accepted invitations to team building things, and no one but Suzie thought to push, which she didn’t want to do.
In truth, she was getting worried about Ianto. She had noticed the bags under his eyes getting darker, and that his suits hung a little looser. His fingers, the only part of him that betrayed the immaculate exterior, bled frequently as he bit at the soft skin around his nails. Suzie never caught him doing it, but she had taken to carrying around little plasters, and offering a listening ear. He never took her up on the offer.
She wasn’t good at this. She’d never had a friend like Ianto (she’d barely had friends, period) and she didn’t know how to navigate these kinds of relationships. In the past few months Ianto had become a constant, an integral part of what kept her running. She wasn’t ashamed to admit that she was, frankly, terrified of the darkness that lurked behind his eyes. Not afraid for herself, really - afraid of what it meant for Ianto, and afraid of what she would do if something happened to him.
She wondered if he knew she used him as her moral compass.
A week after she returned to work, U.N.I.T. reached a crashed meteorite before they did, and started poking at things they shouldn’t. The team arrived just as the meteorite - a ship - released a bright pink and glowing gas. Four hours later, they had a 20 year old girl in their holding cells.
“An orgasm alien,” Tosh sounded bemused as they watched the CCTV feed. “That’s a new one.”
“Not a bad way to go,” Owen said contemplatively.
“A pile of sand,” Suzie said. “Sounds...messy.”
“But fun,” Jack said with a smile, before glancing at something behind her. “Whatcha doing, Ianto?”
“I thought I might take some tea down to Carys,” he said, and Suzie turned to see him holding a mug carefully. “And ask her what she wants for lunch. Since she appears to be our guest for the time being.”
Owen geared up to make a crude joke, but Tosh elbowed him before he could. “That’s a good idea. Thanks, Ianto.”
That, Suzie thought, was why Ianto had been hired, really. To pick up the slack. She hadn’t thought his duties would extend to reminding them to be compassionate on occasion, but then, Suzie was clearly lacking in that area, Tosh had to be reminded to eat herself, and Owen preferred cadavers to patients. Jack was...Jack.
Jack, for his part, watched as Ianto descended with a surprisingly warm expression. It wasn’t anything like a leer, or even a grin. If she didn’t know better, she’d call it almost affectionate.
She wasn't sure she did know better.
Suzie’d barely returned to her own desk, still thinking about the look on Jack's face, when Owen whistled. “Get a load of this.”
When she glanced up, she could see Jack and Tosh staring at the screen, enraptured, and against her better judgement, Suzie went back.
“Oh, damn,” Owen said, just as she managed to see the screen. The mug Ianto had brought Carys was smashed on the ground, its contents spilled across the floor of the cell. She had pinned Ianto against the wall, and had ripped his shirt open, kissing him violently.
“We should probably do something,” Tosh said, and Jack nodded absently.
“Jesus,” she said, and sprinted downstairs.
Behind her, she heard Jack say, “Fuck, we should-”
She reached the containment cells just as Carys managed to open Ianto’s trousers, and grabbed the girl’s shoulders, ripping her away from her teammate. Carys - or the alien, she didn’t really care - snarled at her, and Suzie felt herself hit by a wave of attractionarousallust. It was all she could do to keep her head and drag Ianto out of there, shoving him into the wall as she slammed the door shut and activated the inbuilt shielding.
Panting, she drew back to look at Ianto.
He was tucked into the corner, his knees pulled up to his chest. And he was shaking.
“Yan?” she said softly, and waved Jack and Tosh back when she heard them thundering down the stairs. He didn’t respond, staring at his balled fists, and his breathing was bordering on hysterics. “Yan, it’s okay, it’s just me. I’m going to touch you, alright? I need to see if you’re hurt.”
“‘M not,” he mumbled. “She didn’t…”
Suzie took a step forward. “Can I just check that? She shoved you pretty hard.”
For a long moment, she didn’t think he would respond, but eventually he gave a sharp nod. Suzie knelt down, broadcasting every movement as she reached for him, feeling for any bumps on his scalp.
Distantly, she could hear the girl crying, a repeated mantra of I’m sorry, oh God, I’m so sorry, and Tosh’s voice, but she couldn’t care less as Ianto flexed his hands. Maybe it was uncharitable of her - the girl wasn’t at fault, really - but if she’d been a few moments later, Ianto would have been violated, and quite possibly dead.
“Can I give you a hug?” Suzie asked when she finished her inspection. Ianto all but threw himself into her arms, tucking his face into her neck, and taking a shuddering breath. She held on tightly, rubbing his back, and felt every protective instinct in her rise. She was going to extract that alien from Carys and kill it slowly, Jack be damned.
Ianto gave one final deep breath, and she could almost feel the way he was pulling himself back together, putting his walls back up. She held on until he finally let go, and she pretended not to see the way he scrubbed at his eyes.
“New policy,” he rasped. “No one visits the cells alone.”
“At least, not when there’s a crazed sex alien in them,” she agreed.
“Should have thought it through,” he said. “She seemed okay, for the first minute.”
“It’s not your fault,” Suzie said, squeezing his hand. “Are you okay?”
He shrugged, his lips pressed in a thin line. “I will be. We need to help Carys. It’s killing her.”
“That’s your priority right now?”
Ianto frowned. “She didn’t - nothing happened to me. But Carys doesn’t have any choice in there either,” he said. “She doesn’t deserve to die.”
“Jesus, okay,” she said, and got to her feet, offering Ianto a hand up. She was surprised to see that Jack had stood behind them, facing the cell; shielding them both while offering Ianto a little privacy. He turned when he heard them get to their feet, and Suzie nodded at his look.
“I’m fine, sir,” Ianto said, his voice stronger than before. “But I do believe I need a change of clothes.”
Jack smiled, and if it was a little false, she wouldn’t call him out on it. “Put it on your expenses form, we’ll get you a new suit.”
“I intend to,” Ianto said, and squeezed her hand once before letting go. “Something Carys said sir, befor -” he swallowed. “She said she was hurting. That it’s killing her.”
Jack’s face lost all traces of humour when Ianto mentioned Carys, and he turned back to the girl, who was curled up at the far end of her cell sobbing. “Owen’s doing some scans,” he said, and his voice was hard. “We should know more soon.”
“It isn’t her fault, sir,” Ianto repeated. “She’s just as much as a victim as anyone else.”
Jack glanced back at him, and Suzie felt like an intruder, watching the charged eye contact, before Jack broke the staring contest. “Owen will take a look,” he repeated, but his voice was softer. “You can take the rest of the afternoon, Ianto. We’ll call you when we have more information.”
“If it’s all the same to you sir, I’m going to take a shower and order the team lunch,” Ianto said, and there was an undercurrent of strength in his voice. “Carys doesn’t have time, and Owen will need caffeine if we want him to be at his best.”
With that, he straightened himself up and stepped past Jack, and Tosh, only to stop at Carys’ cell, and say, gently, “We’ll fix this, Carys.”
Carys glanced back up at him, clearly terrified, and he gave her a tight smile as he headed to the doorway.
Suzie watched him go. Jack looked at her, and she shrugged at the question in his eyes. Then she hit his shoulder.
“Ow!” he complained, rubbing the spot she’d smacked. “What was that for?”
“For indulging in the peep show while the youngest member of our team was assaulted,” she hissed.
Jack gave her a guilty look. “We did come-”
She narrowed her eyes.
“I’m sorry,” he said.
“It’s not me you have to apologise to,” she said. “But I’m not going to tell Ianto. He doesn’t need to know that you perverts were watching him be assaulted. ”
Tosh, for her part, looked gutted, and Suzie knew immediately that she would forgive her - even if she was going to think up a very creative punishment - but it was Jack’s expression that made her sigh. Remorse, yes, but a horrified sort of realisation too.
“You didn’t even think about that, did you?” she asks rhetorically, and pushes past them both, not sparing a look for Carys. She wasn’t Ianto.
Suzie knew she wasn’t a good person, but Ianto was. She would help Carys because it was her job. Ianto would help her because it was the right thing to do.
Two days later, with the alien dead and Carys safely back at home, Suzie watched Ianto’s shaking hands as he used the coffee machine.
When she looked up, she saw Jack watching the same thing.
It had been a while since Suzie had been into the archives - since Ianto had been hired, actually. He’d always been the one to fetch paper files and old artifacts they were looking for, to sort and store their new finds. Anytime Suzie had been down to the basement levels, she’d stuck to what she thought of as ‘her’ workroom, with the forge and her tools, and the door that locked from the inside. Subconsciously, she had begun to see the archives as ‘his’. She could bother him in the Tourist Office, but if he was downstairs, she would page him and wait till he came up.
But he wasn’t answering his PDA, and she could tell Jack was about to go down himself, and she absolutely did not want that. Dark basement, and alone with Ianto? Jack wouldn’t be able to help himself. He’d make a joke, or even a move, and that was the last thing Ianto needed. He might know that he could say no now, but she wasn’t sure he was in a place to.
It had been three days since he’d properly spoken to her. He was acting...off, shifty almost, and only she had noticed (although, sometimes, she thought Jack was sending him concerned glances).
“Yan?” she called as she opened the door. The archives were as dark and dank as ever - but significantly tidier, and somehow dryer. They were also entirely empty.
“Ianto?” she raised her voice. It echoed back at her, but there was no response from the supposed inhabitant. Still, she was thorough, checking each stack for any sign of the errant archivist. There was a half-drunk mug of coffee on a small plastic table seven stacks in, and two open folders. After that, the stacks seemed messier, and she realised that must be how far Ianto had gotten in sorting them.
When further searching proved fruitless, Suzie turned back on herself, and that’s when she heard it.
It was faint mumbling from this distance, but she could hear two voices, and one was definitely Ianto. She followed the noises down the corridor, and spotted light pouring from the windows of what was supposed to be the materials storage room.
“I don’t want to give you any more morphine,” she heard Ianto say, gentle and apologetic. “I’m scared I’ll overdose you.”
“That’s alright,” the other voice - higher pitched, a woman’s voice. “I’m okay, baby.”
“You’re not though,” Ianto said, and it sounded like his heart was breaking. Suzie crept forward. “You didn’t even recognise me this morning.”
“I know,” the woman said. “I’m so sorry, Yan.”
“It’s not your fault,” he said, and then, softer. “I’m going to fix this. I promise.”
She could hear something else, something that was very like a heart rate monitor. With a growing sense of trepidation, Suzie stepped close enough to see through the windows. And had to cover her mouth to stop herself from gasping.
“I know you are,” the woman, smiling up at Ianto from the mess of machinery. “Thank you, Ianto.”
Ianto leant down, and while she couldn’t see his face, Suzie thought he was kissing her. “Rest. I’ll be back down soon.”
“Love you,” she - it - said, and from Suzie’s vantage point she could see Ianto squeeze her hand.
“Love you more,” he responded, and there was a crack in his voice that broke what little was left of Suzie’s heart.
She ducked out of the doorway when Ianto turned, and she held her breath as he left the room, not even glancing at her way on his way back to the staircase. Jesus fuck, she thought a little hysterically. There was a fucking cyber in their fucking basement.
How could Ianto be so stupid?
Suzie took a deep breath. No, she could guess why he was so stupid. He told the cyberwoman that he loved her.
She knew Ianto’s soft heart would get him killed. She didn’t think he would take the fucking world down with him.
If Jack found out, it was a toss-up whether he killed Ianto or Retconned him. Either option left her sick to her stomach. It was a piss-poor repayment for everything he’d done for her over the past few months.
No wonder he hadn’t wanted to draw attention to himself. No wonder he let Jack think with his dick more than his head. No wonder he was desperate.
On the other hand, he’d spent seven months hiding his fucking cyber girlfriend from everyone, from her, in their fucking basement.
She took a deep breath and dug her nails into her palms.
Cybermen, the Jack in her memory intoned, coldly surveying the wreckage of One. They start small. It only takes one. They take a base, assimilate their captives and make them their forces, and before you know it, the Cyber race is spreading out across the universe, erasing whole worlds and cultures, and ‘upgrading’ them
It doesn’t look it, he’d said, swallowing, and for the first time in the four years she’d been at Torchwood, she’d seen genuine fear in his eyes. But we got lucky.
Eight hundred lives is nothing compared to the whole human race.
Ianto had crawled his way out of the rubble of that slaughter. He should know better.
But Torchwood was full of broken people, and broken people didn’t always make the best choices, she thought wryly.
She’d always thought that he’d handled himself very well, considering his age and experiences. But it wasn’t coping, it was denial. It was desperation.
Maybe Retcon would be best. They couldn’t take the entire time he’d been at Torchwood, but everything after Canary Wharf. He didn’t need to remember this. He could have a life, as close to normal as it could get, believing his girlfriend had died in the battle, and the psychiatrists that Jack had provided the survivors could help him work through that.
Maybe it would be for the better if he just forgot everything about Cardiff. It was better than Jack killing him.
But the terrible, awful, selfish part of Suzie didn’t want that. She didn’t want to lose him. She couldn’t.
Ianto was a good person, if misguided. He was clearly doing this out of love. He really thought he could save her.
Suzie knew better. And Suzie wasn’t a good person.
She waited until Ianto had gone to fetch lunch from the one cafe that didn’t deliver, and snuck back downstairs.
“You’re not Ianto,” it said as she entered the room. “Where is Ianto?”
Suzie stepped into its eyeline. “Out.”
“Who are you? What have you done with Ianto?” its fear sounded real. Christ, maybe it was real; there was flesh and bone there, under the exoskeleton, a half-done transformation. She’d heard that they’d just kept the bodies, at the end. To save time, Jack had theorised.
Maybe this was still half-human.
But Jack had told her a little about how they worked. It wouldn’t be long until the cyber programming broke through. There was no cure, he’d assured them, her, Tosh, and Owen. You could delay it. But you couldn’t stop it.
“He’s fine. I’ll look after him,” she said, softening her voice.
The cyber - the woman - blinked. “You’re Suzie Costello,” she - it - said confidently. “Ianto talked about you.”
“I am,” she said. “What’s your name?”
“Lisa. Lisa Halett.”
“I’m sorry, Lisa,” Suzie said, and stepped into the light.
“Are you going to kill me?” this time, there was no fear, only bland curiosity.
“Yes,” Suzie admitted. “But I think that deep down, you know you’re already dead.”
The eyes that once and maybe-still-sometimes belonged to Lisa Halett went cold and flat.
This close, she could tell she didn’t need the gun she’d brought with her. The conversion unit (a whole, functional conversion unit, what was Ianto thinking ) was acting as life support. Suzie placed her weapon on the medical tray, and took a look at how the machine was wired.
She carefully picked up a vial of morphine that Ianto had oh-so-conveniently left out for her - that would be the missing supply Owen kept ‘misplacing’ - and a needle, withdrawing far more than the human body could handle.
She slid the needle into the I.V., and injected the fatal amount.
It stared at her. Suzie looked back coldly.
Lisa Halett blinked out of eyes that were her own, and whispered: “Thank you.”
She waited until the twitching stopped, then, very gently, closed Lisa's eyes.
Then, she turned off the power.
It gasped, and choked, clearly unable to breathe unassisted, and Suzie watched calmly as the cyber died.
She disposed of the needle and the used vial in the bin Ianto had thoughtfully set up. He was always so conscientious. Always tidying up after himself. Always doing everything alone.
She turned the machine’s power back on, and checked the flat heart rate monitor. It didn’t change. She picked up her gun, and calmly left the room.
He wouldn’t be alone, this time. He’d have Suzie.
Telling Jack after the threat was dealt with was always going to be the safer option.
She could have hidden it. She could ‘discovered’ Ianto accidentally, and helped him deal with everything in that blasted room without anyone else in the team being any the wiser. But she risked losing him that way, risked Ianto falling into the dark space that haunted the edge of every Torchwood operatives mind. Suzie wasn’t equipped to deal with that, it wasn’t something she could help with.
Jack was the one who knew grief, and knew how to drag people back from that edge. He’d done it for Tosh, for Owen. He’d even done it for Suzie, when she was first hired as an angry, lost woman who had nothing left except a chip on her shoulder. Even if he wouldn’t react well at first - and she had no doubt that he would say some things she would slap him for later - Jack was the best person for this. He needed to be told.
Well. ‘Telling’ was a strong word. She arranged things so he came with her, when they found Ianto. Unfortunately, that meant that Tosh and Owen came too.
“Ianto Jones,” Jack said, his voice thick with horror and anger and betrayal. “What have you done?”
Ianto was on his knees by the machine that held the corpse of Lisa Halett, and Suzie’s chest ached. He was facing away from her, but looked broken, in more than the Torchwood sense of the word. Like the ground had been stolen from underneath his feet, like she was looking at the face of a dead man. She refused to let that be true, and took a step forward, but Jack flung his hand out to stop her. She glared at him.
“It doesn’t matter now,” Ianto said, his voice empty and hollow. “She’s gone.”
“You brought one of them here,” Jack’s voice was icy. “Into my base. Into my-”
“Her name is Lisa!” Ianto twisted, his face anguished and his voice full of furious, righteous grief. “Her name was Lisa, and she was a person! She was my-”
His voice broke, and he slumped, his head falling into his hands, and Suzie shook off Jack’s restraining arm to go to him, to wrap her arms around his shoulders, tucking his head under her chin. She could see Tosh, with her hands over her mouth, and Owen watching with a conflicted sort of disgust, and a horribly empathetic sense of understanding.
“She’s gone,” he sobbed, and shuddered under her hands. “She’s-”
“Shh, shhh,” she hushed, rocking him gently. “I know. I know, Yan.”
Ianto whined into her chest, his hands coming up to fist the fabric of her shirt, and when she glanced up to Jack, she could see his face was a complicated mix of anger, horror, and grief. He scrubbed a hand over his face, clearly debating, but when the other twitched towards his Webly, she snarled: “Haven’t the cybermen done enough damage, Jack?”
“He committed treason, Suzie,” Jack said, his voice cold and hard. “He nearly started a second cyberman invasion in my Hub - you’ve seen what those things can do!”
“And he survived Canary Wharf himself,” she responded, as icy as him. “Nobody in this room is stupid, but not one of us are innocent either,” she casted a glare at the other two.
Jack threw his hands up.
“Get him out of my fucking sight,” he spat. “I can’t even-”
“Ianto,” she murmured, softly. “You’re going to have to go with-” she thought for a second, staring at the other two, before settling on the person who would understand most, without being too sympathetic, “-Owen for a minute. I’ll be up soon,” she promised when he shook his head.
Owen had already started forward, but Ianto kept refusing. “I can’t leave her, I can’t, I can’t-”
“There’s nothing you can do now, mate,” Owen said, resting a hand on his shoulder. “I’m sorry.”
Suzie gently untangled herself, prying his hands away to hold them, and looked him straight in the eye. “You need to go upstairs for a few minutes, okay? What would Lisa say, if she knew?”
It was a gamble, because the only thing Suzie knew about Lisa Halett was that she was brave, and that she loved Ianto Jones. And that Ianto Jones loved her. But there was something about loving Ianto, about loving him in return, that told her what she needed to know.
“We won’t do anything without you,” she promised as he cast his eye back to her body. “Two minutes. It’s alright, Ianto.”
She helped him to his feet and pressed a kiss onto his forehead, before nodding to the doctor. Carefully, Owen guided Ianto away from the room, from his girlfriend's corpse, and Tosh followed, placing her hand on the small of his back. There was silence for a minute as their footsteps and reassuring murmurs faded, before Jack whirled on her.
“You knew,” he accused, pointing his finger at her. “You weren’t shocked, you were prepared, you fucking-”
“How do you think she died, Jack?” she asked, and watched his eyes widen, his hand fall to his side.
“I estimate she was sixty percent through the conversion process. Lisa Halett was still there and fighting, but it wasn’t going to be long before she succumbed,” she said dispassionately, clinically. There would be a time, much later, when she would have to come to terms with who she was, and what she was willing to do. But that time wasn’t now.
“How long did you…”
“An hour before you did,” she swallowed. “I overheard them talking. He loved her.”
“He committed treason. He betrayed me ,” it was clear which he thought was the greater offense.
“Have you ever loved someone, Jack?” Suzie threw at him. “Properly, not just a fling. Have you ever met someone who makes your world turn on a different axis? Someone who makes you want more, want to be more?
“Have you ever loved someone so much that you held onto them, even though you know you should just let go? Even though common sense says you shouldn’t, even though they’re long gone? Someone you don’t need reciprocation from, you just love them anyway,” she finished, more softly than she intended.
Romance wasn’t something Suzie was well versed in, but she knew a little about a love like that. She was thinking of her mother, and maybe, almost, Ianto. From the pained look on Jack’s face he had his own memories.
“He didn’t say anything,” Jack said lowly.
“He’s twenty-fucking-four years old. He clearly has severe, untreated PTSD from Canary Wharf, and none of us noticed,” she paused, then, a little bitterly added: “ I didn’t notice.”
“You know what those things did, Suzie,” he murmured.
“I know you lost someone,” she replied, and watched his head snap up. “Oh, come off it, I saw you pouring over the list of the dead. I’ve known you long enough that I can tell when you’re grieving.”
Jack started pacing, avoiding her eyes, but Suzie stayed right where she was, beside the corpse.
“He was desperate to save her,” Suzie said. “He would have done anything. He let us walk all over him. He let Owen take the piss out of him and ignore him in turns, let himself be overworked, hell, he probably would have let you fuck him if that’s what it took.”
Jack stopped dead, and she could see the blood drain from his face.
“You didn’t even think of that, did you?” she said softly. “I knew, when we hired him, that he was desperate. You kept flirting with him, and he responded, but it was off. Like he couldn’t decide if it was fun or not. Whether it was serious or not.
“It reminded me of my first job, where I would have done anything to keep a roof over my mother's head,” she whispered, and as his head whipped up.
Jack swallowed. “Did he-”
“No, he’s never said anything,” she said. “Told me off for mentioning, actually. I kept meaning to bring it up with you, but I could never find the right time,” she laughed mirthlessly. “Guess we know why he was conflicted now.”
“Shit,” Jack said, dragging his hand through his hair again. “What am I supposed to do, Suzie? I can’t just forget that he threatened the safety of the planet, just because he has a sob story. He brought a cyber into the Hub, and maybe she was still mostly human, but she wasn’t going to stay that way.
“I can’t kill him,” Jack murmured, and Suzie dug her nails into her palm. “I would, if I had to. But I can’t do it, knowing the threat is already gone. So that leaves Retcon.”
“Don’t,” she said, and there was desperation in her voice. If it had been anyone else, if it hadn’t been her team, if it hadn’t been Ianto, she would have said Retcon. She might even be swayed to execution: they served their Queen and country, after all. But it was a member of her team, and more than that, it was Ianto.
“I can’t just let him get away with it!” Jack yelled, and his voice echoed in the almost empty basement. “I don’t want to, but he could have gotten us all killed, and I don’t know what to do! He’s a member of my team, he’s my responsibility! This is my job. Protecting the Earth, protecting you. And he threatened that. So, tell me Suzie, what do I fucking do, because I sure as hell don’t know!”
“I don’t know,” she said, and her voice was strange and quiet. She’d done her best to help Ianto’s fate, but here and now she wasn’t his friend. She was Jack’s second-in-command. This was part of her duties. She would back him up regardless of what decision he made, even if it killed her inside, because that’s what the right hand did.
Jack took a deep breath. Then another, and his shoulders fell. “There was a man, once upon a time,” he started. “A man, and a girl. She was pretty naive, but he wasn’t, and they were both so stupidly kind. Even when they shouldn’t have been.
“I made...a mistake. Something bad. I was greedy, and stupid, and I screwed up. Big time,” Jack admitted, and despite his words he sounded fond, as if he was remembering better times. “And they forgave me. They gave me a second chance. He gave me a second chance, despite everything he’d seen, because he believed I could change.”
Suzie took a few steps forward, placing her hand on Jack’s arm. He looked her in the eye.
“You know him better than me,” Jack said. “Tell me, who is Ianto Jones?”
Suzie thought back to his sly smirk when he served Owen instant after the doctor had made a particularly nasty remark towards Tosh, and the compassionate look he’d hidden when he gave Owen a mocha after he’d lost one of the civilian victims. The decaff he served Tosh after 4, to make sure she would be able to sleep at night, and the sudoku from the morning paper that he left on her desk without fail. The way he ordered different types of food, different favourites, depending on who’d had the worst day. The way he’d held Suzie’s hand as she went to the grave, and text she’d received on Monday morning, asking if she wanted a beignet or a croissant for breakfast. The way he still wanted to do his best to save everybody, even though this job taught you that was impossible.
“He’s reserved, but he’s kind,” she said. “And he loves this job, despite everything. He loves Torchwood, and he still has a heart.”
“And is that enough?”
“We’re all on our second or third chances, Jack,” she said. “Tosh, Owen. Me. You hand them out like sweets.”
Jack sighed. “Four weeks suspension, then we’ll talk. We clean this shit up, and then he goes. I don’t care where, as long as it’s in Cardiff.”
“Okay,” she said. A month's suspension, a parol; that was good. That was doable. “Okay.”
Suzie took Ianto back to hers. Tosh promised to drop Ianto’s car off, and some casual clothes, because Owen had told Suzie under no uncertain terms that Ianto was not to be left alone.
He was quiet during the taxi ride, and when they reached Suzie’s apartment, he made no move to do anything, except to do what Suzie suggested, like take a shower or change his clothes. She sighed. She was rubbish at this. Ianto was good at this, had been great with her, but she struggled to return the favour.
Jack had ordered her to take the weekend to stay with him. On Monday, Tosh took over while she went to work. On Thursday, Owen came round instead with a prescription of antidepressants and the number of a therapist in the know. The weekend came round again with only one Rift alert, and they hadn’t needed either of them.
Sunday, Jack knocked at her door with a box of doughnuts. She left him and Ianto talking in low tones in the living room, and had a shower. When she came back in, Ianto looked like he’d been crying, and Jack wasn’t much better, but before he left he squeezed Ianto’s shoulder, and pressed a kiss to Suzie’s cheek.
On the Monday, Ianto made her a coffee before she woke up, and she finally had the sense that things would be okay, someday.
The week before Ianto came back from suspension, they burned Lisa Halett’s body. She repaid the favour and held Ianto’s hand the whole time as he watched, his eyes red but his face dry. Jack watched Ianto over the pyre (not that Ianto noticed) and Suzie watched Jack. There was forgiveness in his gaze, she thought, and something that she didn’t quite have the name for yet.
Suzie took Ianto out to the pub they had their first drink in after, and they sat in silence for a while.
“I know it was you,” he said quietly. She tried not to freeze. “Everyone else was shocked. Not you. And you were the only one who would have had the guts to do it quietly.”
There was a long silence before he sighed. “I should hate you.”
“Why don’t I?” he asked plaintively.
Suzie met his eyes over her pint. “Why do you think, Ianto?”
“Because you were looking out for me,” he said. “Because you were doing what you had to.”
She nodded, and took his shaking hand over the table.
“Because you were doing what I couldn’t,” he admitted, voice terribly, terribly small.
Suzie squeezed his hand.
“Just. Tell me. She didn’t suffer?”
“Just like falling asleep,” she promised.
“I don’t forgive you,” he said finally. “Not yet.”
“You will,” she said, and was surprised in her own confidence.
He nodded, not looking at her. “I will, one day,” he repeated.
Suzie was happy to have her flat back to herself, even as she missed Ianto’s early morning coffee and compulsion to do her housework for her. But she was even happier to have him back in the Hub, where he belonged.
“My archives are a mess,” he complained to her when she came downstairs to pick up an old report. “One would think Jack doesn’t know the bloody alphabet.”
“Frankly, I’m surprised he’s literate,” she said.
“My ears are burning,” Jack said as he came in. “Are we talking about me?”
“We,” she said, gesturing to the three of them. “Are not. Ianto and I are. Run along.”
“Excuse me, who pays your salary?”
“The Queen,” Ianto responded blandly as he turned back to his shelves.
Jack pouted, and Suzie laughed at his face. There was something a lot like relief in his eyes, though, and she could see Ianto’s shoulders slowly relaxing.
“Was there something you needed, sir?” Ianto asked.
“Yes, actually, I was coming to bother you into making us all some coffee and going over the expense reports with me,” Jack said, putting his hands together in a pleading gesture.
“Has Suzie actually completed her expense report?” Ianto raised an eyebrow at her.
“Oh, ha ha,” she narrowed her eyes. “I am not that bad.”
“You’re worse,” Jack informed her, grinning.
“I despise you both,” she said, but decided discretion was the better part of valour, and retreated to make sure she had, in fact, completed her paperwork. Out of the corner of her eye, she spotted Jack put his hand on Ianto’s shoulder. She considered intervening, but Ianto seemed to lean back into it, and thought better of it.
Jack knew better, now. The rest was down to them.
Jack made the hard decisions. Suzie had his back. That was what her job was.
Unlike Tosh and Owen, she didn’t give a damn about Jasmine, or her mother. It was unfortunate that they were separated, of course; but the world was worth more than one child who didn’t want to stay in it. However, unlike Tosh and Owen, Suzie lacked…compassion, or perhaps just morals. She knew she wasn’t a good person, and she’d come to terms with that.
The problem was, as much as he liked her, Jack knew that too.
“You did the right thing,” she tried.
Jack stared into the glass of scotch and didn’t reply.
“It was her or the world,” she said. Theoretically, she understood Tosh and Owen’s objections. She agreed that children deserved to grow up happy, and loved, and safe from the universe's horrors as much as possible, to be raised by people who could take care of them and love them unconditionally. It was why she knew she would never have any. But to her, it seemed like an easy decision. The fairies wouldn’t hurt Jasmine.
Jack downed his glass, and there was a flicker of something on his face. This whole case had had him twisted up, right from the start; from the memories he had been forced to share with her (another checkmark on her and Ianto’s theory that Jack was actually immortal), to his grief at the loss of Estelle (possibly another checkmark, Ianto had thoughts ), to the idea that a child was in danger.
There wasn’t anything Suzie could do. Emotions, team cohesion, that was Jack’s job. She was his analyst, she could give him the numbers to make the decisions, and she could back him up when he made them. But she couldn’t put him back together again after.
After a few fruitless attempts, she left his office, tired and frustrated and heartsick. The team was all she had; Ianto and Jack and Tosh and Owen, they were the closest she had to a family. She couldn’t handle the tension.
But she spotted Ianto’s jacket, laid over the top of her chair, and when she looked down, she saw him at the coffeemaker. When he noticed her, he winked, and pulled out a hip flask and poured a liberal amount of whatever it carried into the blue mug she recognised as Jack’s, before adding Jack’s preferred accoutrements.
He also added a good dose in her mug, because he was a gentleman like that.
She met him at the top of the stairs and took her proffered mug, arching an eyebrow at him. “Do you just carry one of those around at all times?”
“One never knows when one could require alcohol,” he said in his most put-on prissy voice, then he gave a small smile. “I had a feeling, after Estelle, that he might need this.”
“I think you’re right,” she admitted. “But he’s in a right bad mood. He might lash out at you.”
Ianto glanced inquiringly at her. “Oh, no, he didn’t try anything with me,” she said. “He knows better.”
“As one would hope,” he said, and squared his shoulders. “Wish me luck, I’m going in.”
“Carry on then, Jeeves,” she said, and he nodded in acknowledgement, gripping the two mugs he held tighter. Suzie leaned against the railing and cupped her own, and watched him unflinchingly enter the lion's den.
Jack refused to look at Ianto, but he didn’t let that stop him, replacing Jack’s tumbler with the mug. He said something that made Jack acknowledge him, and gripped Jack’s shoulder tightly for a second, before letting go and sitting on the edge of the desk. Jack finally looked up, and Suzie’s breath caught. His face was open, all the hurt he carried clear to see - but he was looking at Ianto like he was the sun, and Jack was the helpless celestial body caught in his orbit.
This - this was why Torchwood needed people like Ianto Jones.
This was why Jack needed Ianto.
Suzie was the brains, and Jack was the leader. Ianto was the heart that they both came home to, they both used as their compass. He was what they were fighting for, after all.
After a minute, Jack seemed to relax, finally reaching for his mug. Suzie waited for a few moments, watching the two people she cared about most just exist in each other’s space, before Jack caught her eye, and nodded, jerking his head in invitation.
Suzie took another sip of Ianto’s coffee, and went to join them.