There's a man on her rooftop.
Suzie pauses for a moment, running through a few scenarios of how his presence will impact her creeping desire for a long drop and a short stop, and then shrugs it off. A witness will be good, actually, in case something goes wrong and she somehow survives the fifteen-story fall.
Then she realizes that he's standing on the edge himself, looking down, and clearly about to step off.
"Hey," she says, once she's close enough not to have to shout. "Budge over, will you?"
The man looks up, instantly wary, and they regard each other for a moment. He's pretty enough, Suzie supposes, with those big blue eyes and clean, lean lines, though entirely not her type—and from the look she's getting in return he probably feels the same. But he clearly sees something in her that mirrors something in him, because he takes two careless steps to the side on the wall and lets her join him without a fuss.
They stand there for a long moment, and Suzie isn't entirely sure of the protocol at moments like this, but small talk just seems…wrong. A part of her is amused wondering what people will think when they find the two bodies side by side—"romantically tragic joint suicide" will probably be the first thing that springs to mind, and the inevitable misconception makes her want to laugh.
There's a soft huff of nearly-laughter off to her side, and after a moment the man says, "Forbidden lovers kept apart in life, only to find each other's embrace in the sweet oblivion of death?"
Suzie laughs, too, because it's just as wonderfully ironic as she had considered. "That's good," she returns. "Writing bodice-rippers in your spare time?"
"I think bodice-rippers, by virtue of their genre, are required to have happy endings."
She looks at him for a long moment, wondering why that feels so much like a slap in the face, and then says, "So this is our ending?"
The man looks up at her, and his blue eyes are full of something that's so far beyond grief it's come right around the other side and changed to fury—fury at life, fury at himself, fury at circumstance, fury at the simple fact that he's still entirely capable of feeling, even after everything.
"Yes," he says simply.
Suzie nods, and somehow it's jarring to have it put in those terms, laid out flat like that. She's considered this in every way possible, turned it over in her mind a thousand times and studied all the angles—because that's what she's good at, that's what she does—and she knows that this is the right choice, almost relishes it, but—
"There's no such thing as a happy ending," she whispers into the chilly winter wind, and then lets her head fall back to look up at the sky. Cardiff's light hides the stars, and suddenly that feels like an incredible, heart-wrenching travesty. Then she laughs a little, because it is, because she's got a few minutes left to live and she's never going to see the stars again. Then she asks, "Bad day?" Because this man is the same as her, and she'll be damned if she's going to be rude to the last person she'll ever meet.
"Bad week," the man huffs, and he sounds a little amused as well as he wraps his arms around himself. "Bad month. Bad year, even. Not a single thing's gone right since Hartman started on that mad imperial trip."
Startled, Suzie blinks, and takes a second glance at the man. "You're Torchwood?" she asks, and that's irony she can laugh at. Two Torchwood agents ending up on the same ledge, ready to step off and end everything. The world really is a small place, sometimes. Or the gods just have a very, very sick sense of humor.
For the first time, the man seems to be at a loss for words. Suzie snorts, half-turning to offer a hand. "Suzie Costello, second in command, Torchwood Three."
He huffs, shaking his head, but shakes hands anyways. "Ianto Jones, researcher, Torchwood One."
Suzie smiles at him, and he smiles back, and in that instant every bit of her resolve crumbles to dust. "Oh, bugger," she sighs, and hops back onto the roof with a roll of her eyes. She lets herself drop, stretching out full-length on the concrete, and tips her head back in another vain search for stars.
A heartbeat, another, and Ianto steps back onto the roof too, sporting a small wry smile that speaks volumes. "I'll have you know it took me all day to gather the courage to do this," he tells her solemnly, lying down beside her. "Take responsibility. I want dinner at the very least."
Suzie rolls her eyes at him. "Let me guess: you're the meticulous type who cleans out the fridge and boxes up your clothes before going to off yourself."
"There's nothing wrong with being tidy," Ianto sniffs, but he's smiling a little regardless.
With a smothered chuckle, Suzie presses the backs of her hands over her eyes. "My father died," she confesses in a rush of breath. "There were complications in his last surgery. He died, and God, all I ever wanted in this world was to kill him myself. And then I left the Glove out, and Owen was playing with that blasted 'hands-free surgery device' of his and blew it to pieces. All of my plans, undone by a moron who's a bloody awful shag and a cruel old bastard."
Ianto sits up, wrapping his arms around his bent knees and resting his chin on them. "My girlfriend was taken by the Cybermen during the invasion," he answers after a moment, all humor gone now. "They started converting her, but the process wasn't finished. I…I got her out, but. Torchwood Three was my only hope of keeping her alive while trying to find a way to reverse it, but then—then I woke up one morning and she'd bitten her tongue off. Died. And now I'll never know if it was an accident or if it was suicide. If she did kill herself, it's—she knew I wouldn't have been strong enough to kill her myself, and so she had to bear that burden all alone, while I was so desperately hating what she'd become that I couldn't even see her anymore."
He's crying by the end of it, just a little and completely silently, and Suzie's hand finds his without the need for conscious thought. She doesn't say anything, because—just as Ianto had no comfort for her—she has nothing in all of her experience and vocabulary that can comfort him in this.
"Sorry," is all she says, and it's a mere whisper, half a breath and a bit of hope to give it substance.
Ianto just shakes his head, but his breathing has steadied, and he rolls out flat again, their fingers still intertwined. "Fathers are the worst," he manages, when the silence starts to stretch.
Suzie props herself up on one elbow to look at him, because more than distant sympathy, that sounded like the voice of experience. She studies Ianto's face for a moment, the lines of grief etched into the too-pale skin, and considers for an endless heartbeat. "Mine hated me," she says experimentally. "Locked me in my room for days straight if I wasn't a perfect, lovely, studious child."
Cracking an eye open in return, Ianto nods, just a bit. "Broke my leg," he confesses. "Flew into a drunken rage and wanted to know why I wasn't manly enough, wasn't as good a son as his friends' kids. My sister told me it was my own fault." Then, clearly launching a test of his own, Ianto ventures, "I had to leave home, live on the street after he caught me kissing Greg McCarty, from my rugby team."
Suzie laughs a little, rolling back over, because this is apparently a night for confessions to complete strangers whose lives have an eerie similarity to hers. "Don't discriminate," she affirms between giggles. "If it's gorgeous, why not shag it?"
There's a startled pause, and then Ianto laughs too, deep and sweet. "Wouldn't want to be stingy," he manages. "Share the love, and all that?"
Her sides are starting to hurt now, and Suzie can't remember the last time she felt like this, breathless with laughter and truly amused at the whole bloody world. "You should meet Jack, then," she offers. "He'd love to help you share the love, definitely. You're just his type."
Ianto arches a brow at her. "His type?"
"Pretty." Suzie waves a hand at him, trying to illustrate. "Breathing."
That's enough to set them both off again, and somewhere high above them, Suzie could swear that she sees stars.
Six days straight of living all but in each other's pockets, spending all time not at work entirely together, and Suzie gives up. She looks up at Ianto from across his breakfast table, having spent the night on his couch (and the previous night with him on her couch), and wonders when they became a married couple without the benefit of sex or a joint bank account.
Ianto looks back at her, and she can see it in his eyes, the desire not to let her out of his sight, nor to let himself pass from her sight, for fear of what might happen if they do.
Cardiff, as a city, has far too many convenient ledges.
A touch awkwardly, Ianto clears his throat and says, "When is you lease up?"
"A month," Suzie answers, "but the landlord already has his eye on remodeling. I'm sure we could work something out."
"I've been making my living as a thief," Ianto says warily. "And I used to work for Hartman."
"I'm an alien hunter," Suzie answers, dry as dust. "And I once had food poisoning."
Two days later, she moves into the spare room that used to be an office, and that's that.
Somehow, in the space of the next week, Ianto finds himself sharing an apartment with Suzie, sharing meals and bad telly and stories about the insanity of Torchwood with someone who understands, in every sense of the word. Suzie is a whirlwind on a leash, a burst of energy directed at whatever's caught her interest, with a brilliant mind and a penchant for taking things apart and putting them back together just for the fun of it.
The first time Ianto comes home from grocery shopping to find the microwave in bits and pieces across the kitchen, Suzie bent over one particular fragment and muttering darkly, he just raises an eyebrow, steps over the discarded outer shell, and heads for the fridge.
"Touch the coffee maker and I will personally see to it that you burn in the lowest pits of Hell for all eternity," he tells his new roommate placidly. "Owen was a prick again?"
Suzie hisses between her teeth and stabs her screwdriver at the bolt a little harder than necessary. "I could add a hard drive and make it call you 'Master' every time you turned it on," she suggests, waving at the machine in question. "And Owen's always a prick, but never more than when he's not getting shagged regularly. Apparently, 'I'm bored of this, let's stop' is code for 'bring out the big guns, she's just playing hard to get.' Damn it!" The screwdriver slips out of her hand and goes clattering across the table.
Ianto deftly catches it before it can hit the floor and hands it back. "I'm rather partial to 'Supreme Dark Overlord,'" he admits. "Should I find some friends and a dark alley and have a chat with him on his way home?"
Suzie looks up and tilts her head, considering. "By friends you mean…?"
"Friends," Ianto repeats firmly, flicking a hand at the balcony in illustration. They most emphatically do not talk about his new line of work, which involves darkness and valuables and strangers who slip in through windows rather than the perfectly serviceable front door. The change of pace from "Torchwood researcher" seems to be what Ianto needed to recover, and he's fairly satisfied in saying that he's thriving in this return to his old line of work.
He has quite a few old friends who would be quite happy to do him this favor, too, and at the moment there's no one he'd rather spend it on than Suzie.
But Suzie is already shaking her head, if a tad regretfully. "No," she says, and there's faint disappointment in her voice. "As satisfying as that would be, I think it's best to deal with him myself."
"Well," Ianto says, plans already forming. "If you're sure."
"Back in the business, I see, Jones," Martin says with a smile when Ianto slips into his shop a little after noon.
"Never could stay out of it for long," Ianto admits wryly, setting his bag down on the chair and pulling a flash drive out of an inner pocket of his coat. "You'll see this gets where it's supposed to?"
"Yep," the middleman says cheerfully. "On time and everything. Five percent cut, as ever?"
"Indeed." Ianto glances around the shop and then raises an eyebrow. "Really? Antiques?"
Martin tips his hat to him, pushing an envelope across the table. "Plain sight, and all that rot. Got another job if you want it—corporate espionage stuff in London. Willing?"
Ianto nods, accepting the envelope and glancing at the information inside. "The payment for this one?"
Martin waves his phone. "Sent 'em a message when you got here. Transfer should be going through now. If nothing else, this age of technology's been a blessing for those of us in the business. Drop by when you've got this one done, Jones, let me know you're still breathing. It does an old man's heart some good, seeing the prodigal son return."
"You're forty." Ianto rolls his eyes, long-suffering. "Ancient, indeed." But he's smiling as he shoulders his bag and waves a quick farewell.
Stealing is wrong, perhaps, but Ianto's always been very good at it, and he's never been one to let talent go to waste. Or to let morality get in the way to survival.
It's one of the things he and Martin have always seen eye-to-eye on, and the basis of their very profitable business relationship.
Suzie's mentioned a new French place across the city that she's heard good things about. Ianto flicks open his phone, checks his bank account, and then smiles and snaps it shut. He'll make reservations, then.
This…having someone. It's…novel, perhaps, but brilliant.
"Who's that?" Jack asks, leaning over Toshiko's shoulder to frown at something on the screen. Covertly, Suzie glances up, finding them studying the feed from a CCTV camera in the Plass.
"I don't know," Tosh says, also frowning. "He's been standing there for almost an hour already. Do you think…?"
Jack straightens up and reaches for his coat. "I don't know," he answers grimly, "but we're about to find out. Owen, you're—"
With a sudden surge of suspicion, Suzie checks her watch. Her eyes widen when she sees the time, and she bolts to her feet with a clatter of machine parts and tools. "Wait! Sorry, he's probably waiting for me." A quick glance at the screen shows that it is indeed Ianto, bundled up in a winter coat and scarf, standing by the fountain. She rolls her eyes, because she'd told him what time she'd be done with work so they could go have dinner together, but hadn't meant "come pick me up". Especially not in front of the entire team and Jack, who is worse about prying into personal business than a nosey great-aunt. "Jack, I'm leaving now. Let me use the lift."
The Captain is staring at her with a fairly odd look on his face, and Suzie raises a brow at him in silent question as she pulls on her coat and gloves. He blinks, and then says in a strange tone of voice, "You're leaving at four?"
Suzie frowns at him. "We have reservations," she defends, not entirely certain what he's getting at. "And there's a show we want to catch at the Electro afterwards."
"You're leaving work. Leaving Torchwood," Jack reiterates. "Before midnight, for a date."
So that's it. Suzie will be the first to admit that she gets caught up, sucked into her work, but surely they don't all think she's so single-minded, even about Torchwood. "It's not a date," she tells Jack flatly. "We're just friends. I've decided to renounce men, and he understands. This is a celebration dinner."
Jack just gapes at her in shock. Suzie firmly strangles the urge to laugh, snags his unresisting wrist, and hits the button to activate the invisible lift. Grabbing her bag, she steps on as it starts to rise, and only then gives into the urge to snicker a bit.
Ianto doesn't even flinch when she appears at his side, sliding an arm through his. "Good day at work?" he asks in clear amusement, leaning over to kiss her cheek. "You're glowing."
Suzie accepts it as her due. "A device came through this morning," she says. "Unknown origin, but it opens viewing holes into other dimensions, as far as I can tell. It's fascinating."
"Check the online Archives," Ianto offers after a moment, looking thoughtful. "Two's files, March 1999, found in Lancaster by Agents Willow and Smythe. I think that one was lost with Four, though."
"Eidetic memory?" It's something she's been wondering for a while now.
"Just good," he answers with a smile. "How was Doctor Harper's face when you left?"
So that's his reason for picking her up. Just the recollection of Owen's expression heartens Suzie immensely. "Livid," she responds, vindictively merry, as they join the flow of people out of the Plass. "I didn't love him—I barely like him, the vast majority of the time—but if he thinks I'm getting shagged again and he's not it will put him in a right state."
There's a long moment of contemplative silence, which Ianto respects, and then Suzie turns her face towards the weak winter sun, already setting, and says softly, "Is this how it is now? We've given up on our plans, and now we can just…be happy?"
"I rather think that our plans gave up on us," Ianto counters, but he's smiling again. He's been doing that more and more, of late. "You said when we met that there's no such things as a happy ending. To be happy now, as we are…it feels a bit like spitting in the face of that, and that's—"
"Just what's needed," Suzie finishes for him, because she feels it, too. Tightening her grip on his arm, she leans into Ianto's shoulder with a sigh. It's comforting that he's only a few inches taller than she, and even though no one in their right mind would ever mistake the two of them for siblings, she wonders if this is what it would feel like to have a brother.
She…rather likes the feeling.
Suzie rolls over in bed, drowsy with the half-awake languor of a weekend morning and nowhere to be, and hears the front door shut. The sound of patent leather shoes hitting the hardwood and a heavy bag thumping down beside the coatrack lets her know that it's Ianto returning from a late night-early morning job, and she sighs sleepily, debating getting up and saying hello.
Apparently, attempting—and failing—to commit suicide with someone else makes one strangely codependent, she muses with some amusement. Who knew?
The sounds of the coffee grinder whirling and water running fill the air, meaning that coffee will soon start. Suzie sinks back into the blankets, deciding that she's got a few minutes and might as well take advantage of them to get what rest she can. She loves Torchwood, adores it, is a junkie who won't be able to ever get enough of a fix right up until the day it kills her, but even she can admit that it's tiring. Sometimes, she thinks Ianto well rid of it, though she's got a sneaking suspicion that he won't be out forever.
With a click, the coffee maker turns on, and a woman's sultry voice purrs, "Supreme Dark Overlord Ianto, how may I serve you today?"
There's a long, incredulous pause, and Suzie grins wickedly into her pillow.
"It's no use," Owen snaps, stalking into the Hub as he tugs off his coat and suit jacket. "Bastard wouldn't budge, no matter what I hinted at. Maybe send Suzie in to glare at him, that'll get him shaking soon enough."
"How about we don't," Suzie chimes in, not looking up from her computer. "Suzie remembers what happened last time she went undercover. Does anyone else?"
Jack sighs, running a hand over his hair and regarding the man's file with a dark look. "We need to get that information off his servers," he says grimly. "Tosh, is there any way…?"
The tech shakes her head, pulling her gaze away from Suzie, who's smiling back, with a quick blush. "I can't find a way in. Maybe if I was there, but his network is just about impenetrable without physically standing in front of it."
Suzie pauses for a moment, considering, and then lifts her head. "If we could get someone in the building, what would they need to do?" she asks.
Tosh turns to face her, frowning. "Ideally, we could copy his hard drive and then download a worm into his servers," she offers after a moment. "But his security is tighter than anything I've seen. We can't get anyone in."
With a grin, Suzie pulls out her phone. "I think I know someone. Jack, how do you feel about contracting out on this one?"
The Captain is also looking at her with confusion, but he shakes his head. "Care to share with the class, Suzie?" he asks in bemusement.
Suzie just flicks a hand at him, putting the phone to her ear. "Ianto! Are you back from London yet? It went well? Good. How would you like to do some contract work for Torchwood? No, not in the Archives. Your other line of work. Terms? You can discuss it with the Captain if you like." She pauses and chuckles. "Yes, that Captain Harkness. Five minutes? I'll be waiting."
With a satisfied smile, she snaps her phone closed and turns to look at Jack. "Oh, don't make that face. He's safe, and it's not like you've ever cared before." Standing, she swirls her coat around her shoulders, and then raises an eyebrow. "Well? Care to meet a thief, Jack?"
Jack hesitates for a long second before giving in with a chuckle. "All right," he agrees easily enough. "Let's meet this Ianto of yours, Suzie. Is he the reason you've been so chipper lately?"
"I told you, Captain, I've sworn off men." Suzie casts a quick look at Tosh, who flushes and ducks back down behind her computer. "We're just friends."
As they emerge into the wind, Jack tucks his hands into his pockets and surveys the Plass. "So. Young, old, fat, thin, bald, blond? Give me a hint."
Suzie watches a lean, elegant figure stride across the square, and smiles, turning to greet him. "Ianto. That was quick."
Ianto smiles in return, taking her hand and kissing her cheek. "I had business with Martin. Now, what's this about contract work?" He looks over at the man standing behind Suzie's shoulder and nods in greeting, then offers a hand. "Sir."
Jack accepts the handshake with a rapidly widening grin. "Captain Jack Harkness. I hear you're a thief." His once-over is very, very far from subtle.
Flashing a raised brow at Suzie, Ianto answers dryly, "Ianto Jones. I hear you're a flirt. Perhaps we can work something out regardless."
Jack laughs, startled, and Suzie winds her arm through Ianto's, earning a sweet smile from him and offering one of her own in return. Yes, she thinks, watching the two men, her anchors. This was a very good idea indeed.