Ianto can't remember much of the battle of Canary Wharf itself. His recollection consists mainly of what happened after.
He knows there was a lot of blood, giving off a red miasmic glow that covered everyone and everything he passed. He remembers the guns, the scattered dead bodies in the halls, the screaming—he remembers Lisa's screams the most, shrill in his ears as he dragged her half-converted body to safety. And he remembers hearing his own voice, a desperate wail for anyone listening nearby (which, seemingly, there hadn't been).
"Someone—please, someone—help us!" Ianto's words are punctuated by gasping breaths for air as he pulls on Lisa's heavy, metallic body without making much progress. He knows that he won't be able to last much longer without collapsing, but he's got to get Lisa out of that hellhole first. "Someone—anyone—help!"
Ianto also remembers the explosion, a loud bang from somewhere to his back and right that sends both him and Lisa flying until Ianto's head makes contact with a concrete wall, followed by a period of blissful blackness that nothing could penetrate.
When he finally wakes up again, it is nearly three days later, and he's lying in a hospital bed with his leg and arm dangling from the ceiling in their own separate casts, and his head is bandaged so tightly he can hardly turn his head to see Rhiannon dozing off next to him with a pile of knitting in her lap.
"Ianto!" She sounds relieved and close to tears, one of the few times he's heard her use that tone around him. "Thank God, you're awake! Doctor said you'd be fine, but you wouldn't wake, we were so worried—"
"How—how bad—Lisa?" Ianto croaked, his lips not wanting to react properly to form the right words. "Where's Lisa?"
Rhiannon smiles sadly at her brother. "You've broken your arm, your leg in three places," she tells him. "Concussion, too, you fractured your skull in the explosion, but doctor says—"
"Lisa!" Ianto insists, his throat suddenly dry. "Where's Lisa?"
The sympathetic look in Rhiannon's eyes tells him the truth before her words can. "I'm sorry, Ianto," she says. "Your girlfriend—she was already dead when they got to you—"
It takes three nurses, two doctors, and four times the usual dose of morphine to stop Ianto's screaming; and despite all this, the hysterical cries Ianto makes during his sleep wake up half the ward every night for the next two months.
By the time Ianto's body is fully healed, Ianto feels like nothing more than an empty shell. Maybe it would have been better, letting himself be turned into a Cyberman and destroyed at Canary Wharf, mindless and soulless once and for all. It probably would have been less painful for him in the long run.
After being released from the hospital, Ianto spends the next few months drifting from one odd job to the next, finally returning to live with his sister in Cardiff at Rhiannon's insistence and taking up work at a small coffee shop on the Plass. He'd hoped never to have to set foot in any Torchwood again, but he'd forgotten by then that there was another branch of Torchwood in Cardiff somewhere near the bay, run by a man dressed in RAF uniform who had a thing for other men's behinds (if Ianto remembered correctly from the first time he'd met Captain Jack Harkness in the archives of Torchwood London).
He only remembers this fact when he steps out from the back kitchen one morning, a clean carafe straight from the night's wash under each arm, to find the Captain and the rest of the Torchwood Three team waiting at the door impatiently for their morning fix. Captain Jack still wears the same coat, Ianto vaguely registers as one of the carafes slips from his numb fingers and crashes onto the tiles, the same dark blue RAF coat with stripes that billows in the morning breeze outside.
As it turns out, once Ianto finishes cleaning up the mess of glass he just created, Captain Jack hadn't just come for more coffee. He wanted Ianto to come with him, to work for Torchwood Cardiff this time around. "We know what you used to do over in London, and we need more people with your skills," the Captain says, giving Ianto another slow once-over that makes Ianto feel slightly uneasy. "And your looks," he adds with a leer.
Ianto is just opening his mouth to reply, ready to turn down the offer and snipe that he's had enough of Torchwood to last him several lifetimes, when he catches the eye of the olive-skinned woman standing by the Captain's side, her arms crossed under her bosom as she watches Ianto carefully. She gives him a look with her eyebrow raised, as if to say, Well, go on then, what are you waiting for?
Ianto hesitates, then glances back to the Captain, who seems to be waiting for a response. "When do you want me to come, sir?" he asks simply.
The Captain grins rather lecherously, and Ianto realizes the double entendre only too late. "I knew I'd like you, Ianto Jones," the Captain says, clapping Ianto on the back. "Welcome to Torchwood—again."
Deep inside, Ianto wonders if the Captain really would like who he really is, all that's left of him underneath the quiet and efficient façade he's constructed after Lisa died, but he keeps his thoughts to himself. No one's really interested in what he thinks, anyway; they're happy enough to leave him to himself while he picks up after them and brings them coffee just the way they like it. No one asks Ianto any questions, and that's pretty much the way Ianto wants it.
So when Suzie—the woman by the Captain's side, his right-hand woman in more ways than one if office rumours were anything to go by—comes down one night to the newly-organized Archives while Ianto is still working, it's safe to say that Ianto is surprised.
"Is this all you want, Ianto?" Suzie gestures to the neat stacks of folders on Ianto's worktable, surrounded by steel shelves rising to the ceiling, what was actually the ground floor of the Hub. "I mean, you've done an amazing job and all, but I know you could be doing so much more if you wanted." She presses into his private space, taking slow and sultry steps closer while Ianto remains frozen like the proverbial deer in the headlights, until her hot breath is tickling his chin.
"I've seen your file, I know what you really can do," she whispers. "Jack knows shit—I never show him everything I have, you know."
(I bet you don't, you slut, snarks a voice inside Ianto's head that sounds suspiciously like Lisa. Ianto, don't listen to her, she doesn't care about you—she just cares about getting in your pants.)
"You have more experience in alien life-forms than Owen did before he came here—hell, you could probably hack any given network faster than Tosh could if you had a mind to it! You're wasting your time down here. Don't tell me this is all you want?" Suzie snorts elegantly—everything she does is always so very elegant. "Serving us coffee every morning, cleaning up our shit every night? Is that all you really want, Ianto Jones?"
Ianto wants to tell Suzie that no, actually, what he wants is to never have to see Torchwood or anything related to it ever again, so that he doesn't have to think of Lisa every time he sees that large T created from hexagons and die just a little more inside. But instead he asks with a shrug, "What would you have me do, then? I thought I was supposed to be the coffee-boy. Isn't that what you wanted?"
Suzie gives him one of her patented looks of disgust that brooks no backtalk. "Stop evading, Ianto," she insists. "Tell me, do you want to spend the rest of your life like Tosh, teaching her computers to speak in Japanese, or Owen and his jolly band of weevils? Or do you want to do something with yourself? Because there are only two ways to go up in Torchwood Three, and it's through Jack or through me." She leans forward, pressing the tight curve of her bosom against his shirt, and smirks. "But something tells me you're not Jack's type."
Ianto hesitates for a long moment before reaching down and cupping her buttocks with his fingers like he's seen the Captain do during meetings when they think no one's looking, then squeezes hard. He has to admit, despite the screams of protest coming from his conscience-that-sounds-like-Lisa, Suzie's got a very nice bum.
Suzie groans in expectation and leans against him, burying her face into his neck and giving him a mouthful of her wavy hair. It tastes a bit like jasmine. "Oh, the things you'll learn from me, Ianto Jones," she murmurs before giving him a hard bite-kiss on his neck.
Ianto has to wear his collar popped for days after to hide the hickey, much to Owen's amusement at the Welshman's seeming and sudden lack of fashion sense; but Ianto is so well-shagged by then that he couldn't care less if he wore his pants backwards and his shirt inside-out. The feeling's almost enough to wipe out his guilt at betraying Lisa's memory, so that's all right, too.
He and Suzie carry on with their (in)discreet affair, never taking it outside of Torchwood but rather always making love in the shadowy Archive room where Ianto spends the most of his time. Ianto is more than aware of the constant CCTV around him, and it wouldn't be too hard for him to hack into the network and erase the footage; but he has no doubt that the Captain is watching as he and Suzie take turns straddling each other over different filing cabinets—in fact, he wouldn't have been surprised if the Captain liked to watch, or if Suzie had come up with the whole idea herself and let her boss in on the joke afterwards.
Because Suzie doesn't treat Ianto like a real lover, more like another alien artifact from the Archives that she will toy around with before putting it back on its shelf to go back to its dust-gathering. Ianto knows this, sees this in Suzie's eyes as she cleans herself up after their "sessions" together, sees this in the eyes of the Captain whenever the American glances at Suzie during office meetings. Suzie's mentioned off-handedly before that she makes a good dominatrix; but she obviously doesn't think Ianto's ready for it or capable of such things, so instead she takes out her fetishes on the Captain. Ianto saw the tell-tale welts on the Captain's back and shoulders once when his boss' shirt was ruined by alien sludge—it's not like Ianto is blind.
(Ianto's also not entirely innocent: Lisa used to keep a pair of handcuffs under their bed for special occasions, and he knows how far apart to space the knots in a rope in order for a whipping to be the most pleasurable of punishments; but Suzie never asks and thus Ianto never offers.)
It might have gone on forever, this odd three-way relationship Ianto and Suzie and the Captain have, and as it was it lasted for a good half-year before that policewoman shows up.
Gwen Cooper, that pretty dark-haired thing with wide eyes and a gap-toothed smile, her innocent air reminding Ianto a bit of Lisa when she'd first joined Torchwood. The Captain obviously likes her, much to Suzie's displeasure; he goes so far as to let the woman come into the Hub ("Straight into the Hub! Like she owns the place or does so much as work here like the rest of us!" Suzie had grumbled later that evening while Jack was out, gone with Gwen to the pub in order to Retcon her—Gwen, not Suzie) and introduces her to the entirety of Torchwood Three.
And even after she was Retconned (and had her computer remotely hacked and wiped out when she tried to make notes for later, courtesy of Ianto at Jack and Suzie's request), Gwen Cooper is far to nosy for her own good. Even though she clearly doesn't remember a thing, she still comes back to snoop around the Plass the next evening.
Ianto watches as first Suzie goes up through the Tourist Centre, a grim look on her face, followed by Jack on the invisible lift. When a gunshot rings out through the Hub via the CCTV speakers, Ianto jumps up and runs topside after Suzie, wondering if the Captain had decided to off the girl since she won't stop following them.
But no, the Captain's the one lying on the sidewalk by the lift with a bullet through his head, and it's Suzie who's holding the gun, aiming it at a terrified Gwen while ranting about how she never wanted to leave Torchwood and now Gwen's gone and blown her cover and it's all Gwen's fault.
Ianto steps in front of Gwen before he can get over the shock of seeing his boss dead before his eyes (Torchwood people really don't have a long lifespan, they weren't kidding), and Suzie's eyes widen. "Put down the gun, Suze," he coaxes her, fairly certain that she won't shoot him, her coworker if not her lover. "That's not going to help, come on, just put it down, there's a good girl…"
In the split-second after Suzie's eyes harden before she re-aims her gun, Ianto's certainty disappears like a Cardiff fog on the wind. "You're a worthless, traitorous bastard, Ianto Jones," Suzie says without any emotion whatsoever. "And you're not even half-decent in bed."
And then she pulls the trigger, twice.
As Ianto falls, he's certain he hears a third gunshot and a woman's scream, probably Gwen's. He also thinks he hears the Captain shouting for him as he lies there on the cold concrete, feeling blood soak through his suit and pool around him; but he figures that last bit was just part of his dying imagination, as the Captain was very much dead the last Ianto checked—
—until Ianto groggily comes to in a hospital bed (again), and this time it is the Captain, very much alive, who is sitting in the bedside chair and waiting for Ianto to wake up.
Jack's been in the room for over thirteen hours when Ianto's eyes finally flutter open. Jack can tell that Ianto is still high on painkillers from the glazed look in the young man's eyes, and he hopes that maybe the drugs would be enough to make Ianto "temporarily" forget what had happened on the Plass.
Ianto slowly blinks. "You," he rasps. "You're dead."
Jack winces to himself. All right, so perhaps Ianto isn't totally out of it yet.
"Just a scratch," Jack lies, fighting the urge to rub his forehead where less than a day earlier there had been a hole right through his brain. "I'm fine, and you will be, too. Owen says you're quite the fighter, you nearly clocked him one when we got you into the SUV—"
"Suze," Ianto croaks, interrupting Jack's rambling. "What—happened—Suzie?"
Jack allows his eyes to flicker away to the far wall for a moment; when he looks back at Ianto, he can tell that the other man understands. "I had to, Ianto. I'm sorry. She was getting out of control," Jack says apologetically. "You understand, don't you?"
Ianto closes his eyes with a sigh. "My fault," he breathes. "Always—always my fault."
"No!" Jack instinctively takes Ianto's hand. "It's not your fault," he says, softly but firmly. "Don't ever think that it was, got it? If anything, it's mine, I should have seen the warning signs before it was too late—"
Ianto shakes his head without opening his eyes again. "No, sir," Ianto murmurs sadly, the words starting to fade and slur together. "Always my fault. Everyone—I've been with—dies young. First Lisa, now Suzie." Ianto's mouth twitches at the corners. "I should really—learn by now..."
"Ianto, it's not your fault, it really isn't," Jack insists, but Ianto's already asleep again, worn out as he is both by talking and from the drugs in his system. Jack wants to say more, but it's not like Ianto would hear him now; and Jack's not even sure he knows how to explain himself in any case.
Lisa, that girl from Torchwood One—that wasn't your fault, Ianto Jones, Jack thinks as he holds Ianto's hand and watches over the sleeping young man, so innocent and breathtakingly handsome as he lies motionless on the hospital bed save for the rise and fall of his half-bare chest.
She died...because of me.
Jack had been quietly treading the lower levels of the ruined Torchwood One after one last check for survivors when he heard it. He'd thought there hadn't been anyone else left; but if those shouts and screams of pure agony were any indication, he had been wrong.
"Someone—please—someone help us! Someone—anyone—help!"
Jack starts running towards the sobbing cries for help, but he stops and throws up an arm to shield himself as an explosion rocked their level from somewhere just ahead, in the same direction as he's headed. When the smoke and debris finally clears enough to see through, he can barely make out two figures lying sprawled on the ground ahead of him. He hurries his pace, wondering if he is already too late to help.
Coming closer, Jack sees a young man sitting half-propped against a charred support beam, blood leaking from his ears and mouth and his leg bent at an unnatural place and angle. Jack recognizes him from one of his London visits a few years previous—Ianto Johnson? James? Last name began with a J, anyway, and Jack recalled the man looking sinfully good in a suit. Never say that Jack Harkness ever forgot a pretty face—as one of Yvonne's favorite archivists; he no doubt had been the one who'd accidentally triggered the hidden bomb and received the brunt of the blast. Some feet away is a half-converted Cyberman—make that Cyberwoman—whom the young man had been unsuccessfully trying to carry away; she is still awake and groaning, clawing ineffectually at the metal that encases most of her body with bloody fingers.
One gunshot later, and the girl is permanently out of her misery. Jack turns to Ianto, ready to fire again, but hesitates with his finger still gripping the trigger. Something in him just stirred. Is it pity? Sympathy for a man who'd been trying to save someone so obviously far gone? Who would do such a thing, at such great risk to everyone else around him? For what possible reason—
The young man slowly shifts, his face twisting into a grimace as he tries to move his broken limbs. A single word escapes his bloody lips before he slips back into unconsciousness.
Jack glances from Ianto to the dead Cyberwoman, then back to Ianto again. "You loved her?" Jack asks aloud, surprised in spite of himself, but of course there is no response. Jack doesn't need one, anyway: deep in his heart, he knows the answer.
Jack raises his gun skyward and fires once, emptying the last bullet in his gun into the ceiling. Then, he bends down and awkwardly brushes his lips over the young man's upturned forehead. "If it was for love, I can forgive you for that," Jack says in an undertone as he pulls away, gazing at Ianto and memorizing the handsome features. "But love's a dangerous thing, you know. You're always going to lose something, so you can't go around blaming yourself for the losses, understand? Never blame yourself for it."
Jack steps back from Ianto's still form and spins on his heel, sprinting towards the exit as fast as he dares without setting off another explosion. As soon as he is outside and in the bright sunlight, he inhales the fresher air deeply, feeling an invisible load lift from his shoulders. He waits until the medics arrive and go inside before continuing the walk back to the Torchwood vehicle, away from all the death and destruction that was Canary Wharf.
Someday, Ianto, Jack thinks as he drives away, someday I'll find you again, and I'll tell you what really happened today. But will you forgive me then, I wonder?
Exactly two years later, when Jack finally tells him the truth over several bottles of wine and whiskey, and ironically for the very same reason that he tried to save Lisa when no one else would, Ianto does.