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There Must Be Fifty Ways To Leave Your Lover

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"The problem is all inside your head", she said to me
The answer is easy if you take it logically

“Last night I dreamt you left me.”

He pulls Katie to him, stroking her hair. “Oh come on. No one’s leaving anyone.”

But inside he winces and shudders and screams because he knows he’s quickly giving up on her, and that’s worse than leaving.

I'd like to help you in your struggle to be free
There must be fifty ways to leave your lover

Rhys is standing in the doorway to their bedroom when she gets home, face stony. She’s had a long day and she just wants to cuddle and sleep.

“What’s wrong?” She asks when she sees him.

“You’ve been sleeping with other people,” It’s a statement, not a question. Rhys’s eyes are tired and hard and she’s never seen him look this grim. “I think you should leave.”

“Rhys— I didn’t—”

“Don’t. Don’t say you didn’t, Gwennie. You’re lying to me. Don’t you know I can always tell when you’re lying? I’ve been letting it go, thought you had some top-secret special ops job, but this… Please leave, Gwen.”

“Rhys, please—”

“Do you have any idea what this was doing to us? Any idea at all?”

And that’s the problem. She doesn’t. She didn’t think about it, didn’t see. She never knows what she’s doing.

She said it's really not my habit to intrude
Furthermore, I hope my meaning won't be lost or misconstrued
But I'll repeat myself, at the risk of being crude

A year after Owen’s death and they’re getting a signal from some far off time and place that reads like English, like morse code, like a plane signal. Gwen’s no good at codes and Jack’s out on a Weevil hunt.

Ianto translates the code carefully.

Torchwood. Owen. SOS. I’m lost. Bring me back. DH.

There must be fifty ways to leave your lover
Fifty ways to leave your lover

There’s smoke blinding him, and pain is searing through his side but he presses on. He has to. He follows the screams, grimacing at their volume as he nears, at the heat from the flames. He can hear her screaming.

“Lisa!” He puts a hand to his burning side. It comes away wet, his entire palm red with blood as if he’d put his hand inside the wound instead of just on top of it. His vision is grey around the edges and he stumbles.

“Ianto!” Her scream is harsh in the angry orange light of the flames. “Help me!”

He stumbles again and falls. He feels something snap. This time he doesn’t get up.

You just slip out the back, Jack
Make a new plan, Stan

“You know when this is all done…Dinner, a movie.”

This really isn’t the time, and Ianto is nowhere near emotionally ready for this. “Are-are you asking me out on a date?”


And he can’t go through this again, he really can’t. He’d given up months ago on Jack coming back, gotten over his pain and loss and finally let go. He’d decided back then that he wasn’t going to get himself into this sort of situation again.

“No. I can’t, Jack. I just can’t.”

Jack’s hopeful expression crumbles. It hurts to turn away.

You don't need to be coy, Roy
Just get yourself free

She’s always known Adam was slightly psychotic. You have to be at least half-crazy to even work for Torchwood. But she’s speechless. Her hands are clenched in the sheet about her waist. She can’t even find it in herself to throw something.

“I’m not sorry,” he says. His face is its usual impenetrable mask of hyper-alert glee. The image of him kissing Ianto, her friend, appears in her mind and she wants to vomit.

“You bastard!” she spits. He just grins.

Hop on the bus, Gus
You don't need to discuss much

“I think we should stop this,” Suzie tells him one night when they meet in the corridor of empty cells in the lower levels for a quick shag. They’re already tugging at each other’s clothes; she’s biting at his jaw, his hand is wiggling its way under her skirt.

“Yeah,” he agrees as he pushes into her. There’s a crazed distractedness about her that he can’t shake. Her eyes are full of deep darkness and nothing but obsession. It scares him. “It’s probably a good idea.”

Three weeks later she’s lying on his slab.

Just drop off the key, Lee
And get yourself free

"Hello. Do you have an appointment?"

Clear blue eyes stare up at the two of them. He’s obviously bored out of his mind, but he fakes cheeriness well.

“Uh, yeah. We have a meeting with the director. We’re from the Cardiff branch.”

“Right. Take a seat. There’s coffee over there if you like. It’s dreadful stuff, but it’ll do in a pinch.”

“Thanks.” They sit, as far from the reception desk as they can get. Jack looks satisfied. Owen looks crestfallen. He leans towards Jack.

“He doesn’t remember us at all, does he?”

“No. That was a lot of retcon he took. He looks happy, though.”

“If you call being bored out of your mind, ordered around by a boatload of pricks, and sorting papers all day happy.” Owen hisses.

“It’s not much different from the Hub.”

“He was part-time field agent at the Hub. He had Myfanwy. He had us!” Owen ducks his head as Ianto looks their way. “It’s completely different. I wanted him to stay.”

She said it grieves me so to see you in such pain
I wish there was something I could do to make you smile again

He slams out of the office and down the metal steps. Footsteps hurry after him.

“Jaiikve! Jaiikve!” He wheels. “What happened? Where are you going?”

“I can’t do this Chuone. They took two years of memories from me. Two years. I’m leaving.”

Sharp cheekbones made sharper in the glaring overhead lights. Eyes angry and disappointed, but understanding. The smile is somewhere between mocking and genuine.

“Good luck to you, Jaii. I hope to see you again.”

“You won’t.”

I said I appreciate that and would you please explain
About the fifty ways

“Don’t do this,” Owen pleads, but his voice is quiet, because he really does want Ianto to keep a hold on his waist, and he’s just saying that because Ianto belongs to Jack and not him. “You’re going fuck everything up if you do this.”

“I don’t care.”

“I do. You should be with him. You pined over him for months.”

“And then I got the hell over it. Owen—”

“Don’t. I’ve—I’ve managed since it started. If you keep doing this you’ll just make it worse.” He stops talking when Ianto’s hand cups his cheek. He can’t stop staring at the Welshman’s lips and it’s obvious that Ianto knows this because he pokes out a pink tongue and licks them and Owen can’t stop, not now.

The kiss is far more passionate than expected, and Ianto’s kissing back with equal hunger and it feels like it’s been building for months and this is right. But it can’t be, it can’t be, it can’t be. Owen pushes Ianto away and backs to the other side of the room.

“Go back to Jack. You deserve him. I’ll only mess you up.”

“I’m already messed up.” Ianto follows him as he all but runs upstairs. “Owen. It's my decision.”

Owen takes the hand that’s held out to him.

She said why don't we both just sleep on it tonight
And I believe in the morning you'll begin to see the light
And then she kissed me and I realized she probably was right

Lucia accuses him of being absent, of being cruel, of not loving her. She says the work they do is not healthy for their daughter. She says a lot of things that she can’t and won’t take back the next morning. He packs his bags and leaves like she told him.

He still loves her; he tells her that. She shoves him out. He still tells her that, twenty years later. She says she hates him, he makes her feel old and infirm and inadequate. He doesn’t need to say how old he really is, how old she makes him feel. It wouldn’t matter. She cut him out of her heart years ago.

There must be fifty ways to leave your lover
Fifty ways to leave your lover

“Don’t go,” she whispers into his shoulder. She knows it won’t help. She does it anyway. “Don’t go.”

“I have to.” She jerks lightly; she thought he was asleep. He strokes her back. “It’s my duty.”

“You’ll die if you go.”

“That’s my duty, too.”


He shifts so he can look at her. “If it’s going to save the world, I’m going to do it. Everyone else is far more important than me. You’re more important.”

“Don’t say that.” He kisses her in reply. There’s nothing left to say.

You just slip out the back, Jack
Make a new plan, Stan

He reads the letter before the general can send it. He knows it’s for the best, it’s easiest, easier than explaining and watching her shock and denial and her back as she leaves him.

Dear Ms. Cole,

It is with regret that I write to confirm the suspicions of my telegram and to sadly inform you of the death of your partner, Captain Jack Harkness. He was believed to be Missing In Action, but word has come from overseas that his plane went down. Though a body was never recovered, he is believed to be dead. I regret the sorrow this letter will bring you, and offer my dearest sympathies.

It’s for the best. Really, it is.

You don't need to be coy, Roy
Just get yourself free

Jack comes in drunk one night a week after Tosh and Owen’s deaths. He’s been fighting, all scraped and cut up and bruised, but he’s still angry and Ianto is there, cleaning, reading, unwilling to leave.

Jack is stronger than most 21st century humans normally, and with adrenaline and fury running through his veins, he can easily overpower the Welshman. Ianto struggles, crying and yelling and punching futilely as Jack forces himself upon him. After a while he gives up and just lies there. He’s always been around to help, always been the comforter of the team. He supposes this is just another way.

When Jack passes out, Ianto pulls himself from under the captain and drives home, shaking. He cleans himself up and then vomits in the toilet, trying to stop trembling. He can’t sleep. The next morning, he asks for a transfer to UNIT.

In the aftermath, he hates himself for being surprised it hasn’t happened earlier.

Oh you hop on the bus, Gus
You don't need to discuss much

Suzie twists to look at the man beside her. He’s got a satisfied smile on his face and his right hand is slightly tangled in her hair.

“You know you really shouldn’t be doing this.”

He raises an eyebrow. “Yeah? Why not?”

“You are my boss.”

“So I should get to decide.”

“It…doesn’t exactly work like that.”

“Eh, here it does. Why?”

She shrugs, dislodging his fingers from the strands of hair he’d been playing with. She feels like she’s been going mad with restlessness.

“I don’t want to do this anymore, Jack. I’m not another project.” He droops beside her and for a moment she thinks maybe he really does feel, maybe he really does have emotions, and for her. Then he shrugs as well.

“All right.” That’s it, then.

Just drop off the key, Lee
And get yourself free


It’s like a tradition at Torchwood. No one gets to keep the ones they love. Not for any solid amount of time, not for anything that might ever become stable.

You have to be half-crazy, broken, crooked, strange and wild and dysfunctional and hurting to work for Torchwood. If you aren’t already, it’ll make you that way. If you are, it only gets worse.

And then, one day, you will leave it forever. The only memories of you will be meat bundled up and frozen in a drawer, and pieces of paper with your name in them. You give it your all, put your soul into this job, love it with everything you have, and it lets you go without so much as a tear.