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Round one - challenge five story post

Okay this is the story post, please don't post your votes in the comment to this post. The voting post is here: http://torchwood-las.livejournal.com/9736.html
The prompts for this round were: Mistakes and Weather.




1.

Title Eyes Open
Word Count 558
Rating G
Warnings None

It wasn’t a late-in-the-day epiphany.

It wasn’t a sudden realisation that only came once it was too late, once he was in too deep and there was no way out.

It wasn’t something that he only admitted to himself after the fact, after Ianto’s death, during those six months – those achingly empty six months – before he left Earth.

It would have been easier if it was.

But Jack had known all along that it was a mistake. And so he only had himself to blame.

He’d known it was a mistake when he gave in to those blue eyes, that understated smile, those too-tight jeans and that too-fitted suit and the too-eager request to be a butler, a receptionist, a driver, anything Jack wanted. He knew full well that he should stick to his initial decision, that he should send this kid back to wherever he came from without a second thought. Instead he gave him a job and a set of keys and a whole lot of his patented smouldering glances, and, later, a whole lot more.

If there had been any doubt at all that getting involved with Ianto was a serious error, it was erased when Ianto nearly unleashed hell on Earth, courtesy of his basement secret. Jack knew then that he had an out, a government-sanctioned way to leave this behind, and he sat for hours with his gaze flicking from the Retcon bottle to his Webley, knowing he should just choose one and get the whole thing over with. Knowing he wouldn’t choose either. 

It wasn’t just in the big moments, the decision-making moments, that Jack knew he was making a mistake. It was an almost constant awareness. He felt it when he started wondering whilst he dressed in the mornings what shirt Ianto would most enjoy on him that day, and when he started using his free time at the office to extensively research potential coffee-themed birthday presents and weekend breaks to sunny cities. He felt it when he began to automatically reach for Ianto’s hand when they walked outside, and he felt it even more when his hand began to feel empty without Ianto’s in it. 

Sometimes, Jack wished that he’d been blindsided. That he’d started out carelessly screwing the office boy and that without him noticing, it had turned into so much more, and that he therefore couldn’t really take responsibility, because who knew when they were going to accidentally fall in love? But it hadn’t been a surprise. The first time they’d kissed, the first time they’d touched even, he’d known that one day this boy would have the power to destroy him in every way possible. He’d gone into it with his eyes open. And he knew it would end in tears.

Those tears clouded his vision now and then on these long nights heading to who-knows-where on a ship that was cold and dank and colourless. Every evening he downed scotch after scotch and nodded absently to more tales from the other passengers. And every evening he fiddled with the vortex manipulator, trying all the tricks he knew and then some to force it into life. It was his only chance now, his only way back.

Jack had known all along that it was a mistake. And given the choice, he’d make it all over again.



2.

Title Like A Hero Going Home
Word Count 799
Rating G
Warnings No warnings apply. Title comes from the quote by Tecumseh, “Sing
your death song, and die like a hero going home.”

Like A Hero Going Home

“Coming here was a mistake,” Jack says.

It’s funny, Rhys thinks, how small Jack looks now. Like something has been eating away at him from the inside. He’s too thin by half, sunken and listless. A little over a year he’s been away from Earth, but it might as well have been a decade or more.

“What, to the flat?” Gwen asks. She glances out the window – uselessly, as there is only fog. It’s unnerving the way it just sits there thick and dark. Anything could be hiding in it. “They won’t think to look here. It’ll be good for a couple of days.”

She’s pregnant again, his Gwen. She’s just starting to show, and Rhys had spent a good deal of time these past months resting one hand on her belly while the other held Anwen tight to his chest. His hands, strong though they may be, can’t protect them but it’d still felt good to try.

That was before the world went pear-shaped, before his mother-in-law took charge of watching over his little princess while they tried to save the world.

The flat was grubby and bleak when the three of them broke in. It had remained unoccupied, purchased under a fake name as a safe house over five years ago. The electricity and water had long since been shut off.

“Shouldn’t you have a key?” he’d asked Jack.

“Lost it.”

Rhys had tidied up a bit while they sat around the war table. Wiped down the counters, swept the floors, aired out the bedroom. They wouldn’t be staying long, most like, but it seemed a shame to keep the place so dirty and dismal.

Clean now, and with enough emergency candles lit, it almost feels cozy.

(There are still linens on the bed, and clothes in the closet. If it wasn’t for the layer of dust, he would swear –)

“No, they won’t,” Jack agrees. “Still.”

Rhys frowns, runs a hand over his hair. “We’re safe though, yeah?”

“We’re safe,” Gwen assures him with a sad smile. “Nothing here but ghosts.”

Jack gets up then and goes to the window. There’s still nothing to see out there, of course, but Rhys is pretty sure that’s what Jack’s looking for right now.

“A mistake,” Jack repeats, his breath clouding up the glass.

Torchwood, muses Rhys, was built on mistakes. Jack’s life, too, come to think of it. Over the years, Rhys has picked up on a few things; dead relatives, withdrawing mentors, lost lovers and partners and teammates, falling into the wrong streams of time.

Gwen sighs from the couch, her two hands resting against the swell of her belly. She struggles to stand and brushes Rhys off when he moves to help her.

“He’d want you here,” she says, voice soft. “Ianto...he’d – if he knew it meant you were safe. That’s what he wanted.”

She puts a hand on Jack’s shoulder. It’s a private moment between them, so Rhys creeps out of the sitting area and into the kitchen. He’s been here before – rifled through the cabinets for wine glasses or tea (both of which still make up a strange shrine along with the dinner plates, cups, and tins of vegetables), set out a platter of lasagna or spag bol, looked between two men in an attempt to figure out what they were.

He rearranges the shelves so that all of the labels face out and he checks the dishes for cleanliness. The top plates are covered in chips of white paint and soot, and there’s a spider spinning its web in a mug, but the rest will do in a pinch. If they can hide out here long enough to regroup, they’ll need the salvageable foodstuffs and things to eat them on.

He hears Jack laugh. It’s a little sound, such a shadow of what once was, but it cheers Rhys all the same as he goes about his inventory. It’s a lot like spot-checking a lorry before sending it on delivery, really, and it eases him.

It’s when he’s moved on to playing with the dry tap, flicking it on and off to no avail, that the sirens begin to sound. They’re low and ominous, and he freezes. An attack or a military raid – they sound the same now, or at least they inspire the same trepidation. The fog alters the ringing so that it seems like one long, indistinguishable bellow.

He starts blowing out candles, one by one, as fast as he can. In the sitting room, Gwen and Jack do the same until they all come together by the sofa. In the last bit of flickering light, he catches Jack’s eyes – they are bright, alive and dancing.

And just like that, mistakes and ghosts are all but forgotten in the heavy dark.




3.

Title From the shadows
Word Count 698
Rating PG
Warnings Mention of canon character deaths

Rain was drifting in from the sea, chased by the wind, clinging to the wool of Jack's coat and dripping from his hair. He barely noticed, too distracted to be cold. His window of opportunity was closing fast but he had no idea if he should act. If he should execute the well thought out plan. Risk everything.

From his hiding place in the night's shadows between two buildings, Jack could see Ianto sitting in the brightly lit restaurant across the street, studying the menu. Every now and again, he checked the door or his watch. Jack knew who he was waiting for. He knew exactly when the wait would be over. He didn't have much time left. The last years had led to this very moment. After the 456, he'd left Earth, looking for the one person that could help him. He'd finally found John in the Vegas Galaxy and offered a deal for one trip with John's Vortex Manipulator.

He'd offered himself.

John had refused, just handed him the manipulator. “Now we're even.”

Jack swallowed. He knew that he'd come too far to stop now but still … his Time Agent instincts were telling him not to interfere. They were hard to ignore.

He stepped off the curb.

”Jack, don't.”

He turned around. A young man was standing there. Bright red braces, a tweed suit jacket and a bow tie. Jack didn't know him … did he? He squinted, saw something familiar in the man's eyes … ”Doctor?”

”Hello, Jack.”

He stepped towards the man. ”You're so young.”

”Older than the last time you saw me.”

Jack looked back at the restaurant and his shoulders slumped in defeat when he saw his younger self rushing through the door, giving Ianto a kiss. ”You distracted me.”

”Yes.” The Doctor stepped up next to him. ”Are you mad at me?”

”I don't think I have the energy.”

”Because you know this would have been a mistake.”

Jack looked at the Doctor in disbelief. ”How can rescuing him be a mistake?”

”He's not supposed to survive, Jack.”

Anger spread through him at the Doctor's indifference. ”That's not your decision!”

”If it was, I would rescue him.”

Jack was surprised. ”You barely know him.”

The Doctor looked at him as if he couldn't understand Jack's confusion. ”He means enough to you to contemplate upsetting time itself. That's reason enough.”

They stared towards the restaurant again, watching Ianto and the younger Jack. When Jack looked back at the Doctor, the streetlights showed him a troubled frown on the smooth face. Jack asked, ”How do you decide who to rescue? Sometimes you go out of your way, other times ...”

”It's not my decision.”

Jack stared at his younger self and Ianto. ”I was so stupid. Thinking that ...” He sighed. ”He's so strong, so brave ...”

”He has to be. There is only a very special blend of soul that can get close to you.”

”I forgot how fragile he is ... what was I thinking, taking him with me?”

”Would you have been able to stop him?”

Jack smiled wryly. No, Ianto wouldn't have listened, but ... ”I could have at least tried.” He saw the younger Jack press a kiss on Ianto's hand. ”A week later, he's dead. And I loved him.”

”So you wanted to take him away tonight.” The Doctor nodded in understanding. “But can you be sure that he would have come with you?”

”He's too loyal to me. That's always been a flaw.”

”Jack, his death is a fixed point in time and space. What makes you think you can change it? He would say no and you know it.”

”Then why did you stop me?”

”Because it would have broken your heart to hear him say no.”

Jack looked back at his younger self and Ianto. ”It feels wrong to turn my back on this.”

”I know,” the Doctor said, ”but sometimes, wrong is the only thing that's right.”



4.

Title Litterbug
Word Count 775
Rating PG
Warnings None

Even by Cardiff standards, the weather had been terrible these past few days - inclement, bruised, and moody, with dark clouds that rolled in over the bay each evening around dusk. A steady trickle of rain built in intensity throughout the night, flaring up here and there into a proper downpour at least once each night before dawn. Ianto’s mood seemed to match the weather, swelling in and out at unpredictable intervals, dark and then lighter again, uncontrollable, powerful.
 
Perhaps all of this had been a mistake, thinking that he could just show up on Torchwood Three’s doorstep asking for a job, and that this would be enough.
 
Lisa had been the one who’d made him buy the suit, over six months ago now. There’d been a wedding, a wealthy cousin of hers, in Richmond. They were twenty minutes late for the service because they’d overslept; the power had gone off in his flat, a freak summer wind storm.
 
Honestly, Ianto wasn’t sure that the suit flattered him at all anymore. He’d lost weight, and the fabric hung on him a little too freely now. Inside his left breast pocket, the announcement was still folded up where he’d left it that afternoon, months before. Colin and Angela - joined forever in love.
 
Ianto crumpled it in at the edges and tossed it in the gutter by the edge of the road, feeling rebellious as the rain soaked through it, blurring the ink. In an hour, it would be a pulpy mess, unrecognizable.
 
He’d tried this same plan last night, but it had rained then too, and in an hour, he’d been soaked through to his undershirt.  He’d felt pathetic, standing there on the side of the road, shivering from the biting rain that clung to his shoulders, weighing him down.
 
Tonight, he’d brought an umbrella. His suit was freshly dry cleaned  - the same-day service shop off Princes Street. He’d try again.
 
He’d discard his umbrella just as the SUV rounded the corner, and then he’d step out into the street, blinking the mist from his eyes. He’d shrug off this man’s anger, his frustration, his outright denial, and would appeal to some other (darker, more dangerous) side of him, maybe.
 
It should have been a mistake. But the rain had cleared up a little after a while, and Ianto’s mood had lifted with it. He’d become even more bold, and as he stood there in front of the idling SUV, he’d drawn up his shoulders and looked this man straight in the eye. In his chest, something stirred, some tiny sliver of warmth opened up in his heart. He’d started to really want this job. Not just because he had to want it, not just because it was the only way, not just for Lisa. For himself.
 
Because he hadn’t felt this alive since Canary Wharf.
 
He’d done all of this - rescuing Lisa, implementing this plan - partly because for the first time in his life, he’d been sure that he’d found something that only he could do. It was terrifying to realize that he felt this exact same way now, lying flat on his back on the freezing cold floor of an abandoned warehouse, looking into the eyes of a stranger  - a man who would surely kill him in an instant if he knew the truth.
 
It should have been a mistake, and maybe it was.
 
The rain had turned into a downpour again as the warehouse door clanged shut behind him. Ianto could hear it battering against the metal roof steadily, drowning out the sound of the wind and the pounding of his heart in his chest. His eyes were opened wide to everything the skies had to offer, adrenaline still flooding through his veins.
 
He walked all the way back to the road, back to where the SUV had first stopped. He could still make out a letter or two of the discarded announcement, just barely. He nudged it further into the roadside puddle with his toe, until the last of the ink slid into darkness. (Litterbug, his father’s voice said, deep and cold, unforgiving. It echoed somewhere in the darkness, and Ianto shivered.)
 
The wetness was creeping down into his collar, soaking into his skin. He’d have to wear this suit to work tomorrow, he reminded himself; there wouldn’t be time to dry clean it before the morning.
 
It should have been a mistake, but instead, Ianto forced his feet forward, one after the other. They crunched in the wet gravel, as he made his way back towards where he’d parked his car, and out of the rain.