Title: Five Ways Ianto Jones Said Sorry
Pairing: None (Ianto/Jack if you want to squint)
Summary: In a few years, maybe, the stains will start to come out.
Spoilers: Spoils the hell out of Cyberwoman and gives a couple of small spoilers for Small Worlds.
Taking Owen for drinks was not actually the way in which Ianto felt he'd made it up to Owen. Taking Owen for drinks was the way in which Ianto got Owen to talk to him again.
Gwen and Jack had been begrudgingly forgiving after a few days, though Jack still had stern glances left to hand out, and Tosh was sympathetic quite immediately. Soft handed and shiny eyed, she touched him and tried to smile and Ianto was so very grateful that she didn't say anything. Hearing the word 'forgive' might just have broken him right then.
Owen, however, was the one who seemed like he was never getting over it.
Which didn't surprise Ianto one bit. At the time, Jack was angrier. However, Jack was not a man to hold onto very much for very long. Things came and went with him like tides. Anger, joy, emotion, fits and starts of sleep. Owen, however, was a dam that held back water and grudges for ages and ages.
Taking Owen for drinks was a downright necessity. Because like all dams, given time and the correct amount of pressure - he would break.
So they sat in the regular seats and Owen didn't skimp on refills and very sneeringly made it known that this was all going on Ianto's tab and he didn't care at all that Ianto had just taken a two week pay dock as punishment for hiding a half-cyberman in Torchwood's basement.
Ianto's first gift to Owen is not telling anyone what Owen confesses to him.
Sloppy and drunk and grinning a mad, fishhook smile, Owen claps Ianto on the shoulder like they're best mates again and says, "You ought to have a go with Gwen. We snogged like mad in the...the...I don't know what the bloody hell it was, but there was a body in there all right! If it wasn't for her damn cellphone, and your damn girlfriend, I might have got some."
Ianto doesn't know why Owen is telling him. Ianto does know that this is one of the few things that'll still be with him by the time he's dead. He thinks he may only have scars, and secrets, and his very best suit.
Then Owen's head turns when a very lovely, barely clad woman comes by in a shirt that leaves nothing to the imagination.
Ianto's second gift to Owen is taking the punch from the angry boyfriend that was meant for Owen. Black-eyed and bereft of pride, Ianto's on the ground and Owen is staggering around, making vague threats while looking for somewhere to get sick.
From the ground, Ianto looks up at Owen. Even drunk, he manages to have the harshest eyes.
"Thanks," Owen says, looking down at Ianto. He does not offer his hand, but turns away and vomits on the side of someone's car.
Ianto thinks that means that they're okay again. He spits blood onto the ground and picks himself up.
He takes Owen home.
With some of their furniture destroyed by faeries, Gwen and her boyfriend have to get all new things. It's become a topic of discussion amongst Torchwood in the off moments.
While she's flipping through a furniture catalog, she spots a coffee table that she really, really likes. Tosh agrees that as end tables go, it is very fabulous. Owen says it looks like a table. Jack says that it would go great with an art deco set up, and she might even try pairing it with the lamp that she pointed out a few pages back.
Somedays, Ianto wonders why Jack doesn't just wear a sign and get it all over with.
Gwen sighs. "Of course, it's the most expensive one."
He smiles and quietly puts a note to himself in his palm pilot.
The next morning, Gwen and her boyfriend are awakened by a knock at the door. Ianto is very good at knocking and running. So they don't see him hiding just out of view.
At Gwen's feet is the world's best coffee table.
The next day, Gwen is pointing fingers, trying to figure out who dropped the coffee table off at her door. The smile that Jack gives makes everyone think he did it, but Jack refuses to confess to everything.
Ianto does not at all mind letting Jack take the credit. Especially because he knows that Jack knows, and mostly, Jack is pleased.
Tosh has not been without a hot cup of coffee or tea. Her station is meticulously clean (as are everyone else's, but he takes particular care with Tosh's).
Late at night, when Gwen's gone home to her boyfriend and Jack is wandering about it's just Tosh and Ianto.
Ianto fills her cup with more coffee and then says, "Why don't you go home, I can finish this up."
Technically, that's true. However, it only takes Tosh an hour to do the clean up reports, the bug sweeps, and the daily system maintenance. It takes Ianto all night.
He finishes the remnant of Tosh's cold coffee and hunches over her station as the hours crawl by. Jack sometimes passes by, and Ianto hasn't gotten up the courage to make direct eye contact with Jack yet.
He's done a couple of hours before Tosh is due to come in. He takes off his jacket, loosens his tie, and grabs a bucket of cleaner and a scrub brush from the maintenance closet.
Ianto tries his best. He gets down on his knees and he scrubs. Hoping that in a few years, maybe, the stains will start to come out.
Jack knows about his one man campaign to apologize to the other members of Torchwood. He knows about the table, the drinks, the nights when he tells Tosh to pack it in. Ianto is fairly sure that Jack even knows about the scrubbing.
Once, he found a bucket and brush down there that he didn't leave. Ianto isn't sure if it was because Jack was scrubbing the stains out, too, or if Jack left them there for him as a sign that he's not nearly done yet.
Jack never lets him know.
Down in the basement, he's still trying to scrub out the blood stains.
He's tried bleach. He's tried ammonia. Secretly, he's wondered if it would be that bad to pretend to accidentally mix them. The way he wonders if it would be so bad if he covered himself in the sauce they use to feed the pterodactyl. Suzie seemed perfectly content with a gun.
It crosses his mind every day. Some more than others.
Ianto is not quite sure that it matters whether he tries to apologize anymore. Gwen has her table, Tosh has her nights off, Owen has one less angry boyfriend/husband to contend with. Still, it makes no difference.
There are stains he can't scrub out and a hollow place he can't fill. Ianto is nothing if not exhausted and it looks like he's out of everything. Out of fight and out of hope and out of reasons. He wants to mourn her and he can't, he wants to mourn himself and he shouldn't.
You don't mourn when it's all your own fault.
Ammonia on one side, bleach on the other and the door closed. Ianto hasn't done it yet. He's still scrubbing, still trying to make that decision.
Little whispers say, not so soon after Suzie. Still too soon. Wait a little, for pity's sake, Ianto.
Bigger whispers say, It's over now, Ianto. It's over.
The door creaks open and Jack leans picturesquely in the doorway. Ianto tightens his jaw and keeps scrubbing. Shame colors his cheeks, but Ianto won't dare get up. Won't dare try to hide anything else from Jack. If humiliation is what Jack wants, Ianto can serve it up with coffee and cakes.
"You know, lung scarring isn't as sexy as it sounds," Jack says. "You'd be surprised how much of that stuff you can live through. I use the word live tentatively, though."
Ianto knows exactly what Jack is getting at but can't bring himself to confess all that much.
"Excuse me, sir?" Ianto asks, but doesn't turn.
"Bleach and ammonia, Ianto."
Funny little laugh, trying to hide it all. Ianto says, "Oh, is that what I've grabbed? How stupid of me." He can't help sitting back and turning to look at Jack.
Jack is all out of good humor and his face is a clear indication of that. He doesn't have to say it, because the frown and the low eyebrows say 'don't insult my intelligence' quite clearly enough. Jack closes the distance between them and will not let Ianto avoid his eyes.
"Ianto -" Jack begins to speak.
Ianto nods. "I know what you're going to say, sir."
"I really, really doubt that."
Ianto looks down at the floor and the dark, wet stain. "I don't know how much longer I can keep scrubbing."
"Then stop," Jack says. Jack puts his hand over Ianto's. "Why do you think I kept you on?"
Ianto gives an empty chuff of laughter and breathes out the last whispers of what's left of him. "Someone's got to clean this up."
From there, Ianto has no laughter and fears there might just be nothing but tears left. He turns his face away from Jack and refuses outright to cry. Ianto does not think he's earned that just yet.
Jack shakes his head, puts a giant, warm hand on Ianto's shoulder. "I kept you because you are worth fighting for. Everyone here is worth fighting for, Ianto. That's why I picked them. It's why I picked you."
Ianto nods, too shaken to move or to speak. Jack shakes his shoulder and stands up.
Jack is just about out the door when Ianto knows there's something that must be said. "I lied, sir."
Jack does not turn around. He stands as a backwards shadow in the doorway.
"I don't mean about Lisa. When I said that I wouldn't save you. If it was all up to me...I wouldn't let you die. I'd save you. I'd always save you."
"Like I said, I know, Ianto."
When Jack is gone, Ianto bursts into tears. The first he's cried since that night.
There is a grave of a pizza girl that is never without flowers.
Ianto does penance there, when he's finally gotten the stains out of the floor. When the scars are healed. When bigger storms have come over.
Mostly, the others have forgiven, forgotten.
In the rain, in the snow, in the heat, in the wind, and on the devastastingly beautiful days that are crueler than he expected - he is there.
All he can do her are small favors, but he will do them as long as he can.
There is a file somewhere in Torchwood. It is the only record in the universe left to tell what really happened to her. It is a file that a hundred years from now, some other Torchwood will find, when Ianto's finally gone to dust.
A hundred years from now, they will know what happened. And they will know that Ianto Jones of Torchwood, killer of Lisa and the pizza girl, the traitor, was sorry for it.