Title: Reach Out and Touch (Within Your Reach remix)
Summary: If Jack was watching for betrayal before, he isn’t now.
Disclaimer: Torchwood belongs to the BBC and Russell T. Davies.
Original Story: Reach Out and Touch by
Notes: Thank you for beta and general wonderfulness. Written for .
You sit in the emergency vehicle, holding the ice pack to your head, still too shocked to think. Your body hurts in ways you never imagined: it hurts to inhale, it hurts in a different way to exhale, it hurts to move your head, it hurts to move your feet. The cut on your neck stings. Your hands ache.
They were going to eat you.
Jack returns from handing Evan Sherman to the police, and pauses at your side. “Ianto.”
“Are you cleared or do they want you in a hospital?”
“I’m cleared, sir.”
“Then I’m taking you straight home.”
“Yes, sir.” Your words are already slurring. The light hurts your eyes. You want to lie down, curl up in a ball, sleep for a year.
Jack looks at you, then puts his hand on your shoulder and gently squeezes. “You did fine, Ianto,” he says gently. “You did just fine.”
* * *
For days everything hurts. You go about your work slowly as an old man, careful of all the bruises and slowly healing cuts. You’re hardly aware of conversations and assignments. The work is soothing in its repetition, and when you go home to sleep you collapse into bed, without even enough energy to think back over the day.
You wonder if Jack will ever take you out into the field again. You have the training. You feel like you’ve survived your baptism by fire. It can’t get any worse than this, can it?
You try not to feel afraid.
* * *
“. . . and then he head-butted him,” Tosh says softly to Gwen over lunch. “Just–umph.” She jerks her head to demonstrate. “That’s how I was able to run.”
They both look at you and you quickly look away, embarrassed that you were listening while they discussed you, and busy yourself with bagging pizza boxes. Tosh is small and delicate and you are not, and it wasn’t even a conscious decision. It was just the right thing to do.
When you look up again the girls are talking about something else, their voices low. So where is the pricking feeling of being watched coming from? You glance around–and there he is, arms crossed, eyes on you.
You nod. He nods back. You go back to work.
* * *
Jack has always watched you closely, from the day at Torchwood One when he said, “You should come and work for me,” though since the Incident (you can’t quite say her name, it still hurts like acid in your veins that you are alive and she is not) you’ve thought the vigilance was waiting for you to slip up again.
If Jack was watching for betrayal before, he isn’t now.
* * *
The bruise over your left eye, just above the brow, eventually fades. It’s pale enough now to look like a dirty mark, a smudge that could be wiped clean with a flannel and a spot of soap. There’s another, bigger bruise on your cheekbone, still clearly visible, though it’s shrinking now, the shape of the rifle butt no longer clearly visible. The cut on your neck, the one that peeps out over your collar, has scabbed over and the scab is starting to flake, breaking up into an uneven dotted line. The grazes on your palms have healed over nicely, though your hands haven’t quite regained their freshly-manicured perfection.
Now that you can move without (excessive) pain, there’s more time to think, and so you have been thinking. You think about the strange practices of remote villagers and how cheaply human life can be held. You think about the conversation with Toshiko–how panic had overridden sense, however briefly, until you were yelling at each other instead of trying to find a solution, and how you’re still trying to find an answer to that question: Who protects us?
You think you know. You suspect you know. You’re not sure if you know.
* * *
The quiet days pass by. You all recover under Jack’s watchful gaze. The bruises around Tosh’s neck fade, Gwen stops grimacing whenever she bends or reaches, Owen stops snapping at any loud noise.
Owen also insists on regular examinations. “Headaches? Double vision? How’s the knee? What about the bruised ribs?” You let him look you over, you answer his questions (perhaps not entirely truthfully), because it’s less of a bother than opposing him.
Out of the corner of your eye you glimpse Jack hanging back, watching. He silently leaves when Owen pronounces you coming along just fine.
* * *
You place a cup of coffee on Jack’s desk and pause. You’re doing this a lot lately: you have something to say, but you don’t know what yet, quite. You almost say “I’m sorry” but first, it’s inadequate, and second, it’s not true. Not entirely. You’re not sorry you loved Lisa, that you tried to take care of her. You are sorry you endangered the team, the world.
You’re sorry that you disappointed Jack.
He looks up at you expectantly. “Was there something you wanted, Ianto?”
You merely smile–you know it’s a faint smile, but you can’t muster up anything more right now–and go back to your duties.
* * *
You start watching him back. You used to be better at being subtle, but the truth is you simply don’t bother. You linger in doorways, you hesitate at his desk. There are things you’re noticing now, that you hadn’t allowed yourself to notice before. The skin at the back of Jack’s neck, for example, when he’s bent over paperwork: you watch him idly and think that his skin would taste like caramel. You wonder what his heartbeat would feel like under your hand, how his mouth would taste if you kissed him. You think his hair will be soft and thick against your fingers.
But there are so many things to settle before you can act on any of that. You have to tell him you understand what you did, and you are sorry, and you want his forgiveness and his trust again.
You have to tell him you’ve figured it out; that the answer to Who protects us? is We protect each other.
Eventually you’ll have to start speaking. You hope you’ll find the words by then.