Faith in a Higher Power
By Echo Fain
The Captain rarely asks him to work late. More often it's his own choice to linger, to make himself available for Jack's needs, verbal or physical. It's his choice, how he explains himself to the others or even whether he bothers with an explanation. He doesn't mention it and they keep silent all questions.
Except for Owen, of course, but that's only because Owen can't bear for anyone to pretend that things are other than what they truly are. Owen must expose everything, strip back the secrets to their core and dirty the truth with his cynicism, even if only as a way to prove that Jack is fooling no one but Ianto. Tosh tells him to ignore Owen, Gwen pretends that she's not uncomfortable on some subconscious level, but they are both polite and sweet to him.
He knows when Jack needs him; it's like an alarm goes off under his skin, an awareness of Jack's fragility and pain. There are times when Torchwood's functionality hangs on the sanity and hopes of Captain Jack Harkness. In those times, Jack needs someone who accepts and forgives all his black sins. When the charm fails and Jack is left with the impossible, terrible choices that no fair and just god would ever delegate to a human---not even one from the 51st century---there is Ianto Jones. Ianto, who carries so many scars of his own. Jack is forced sometimes to make unbearable decisions; the others don't always accept, but Ianto does. What else would he do? Since being given a second chance, his loyalty is to the team, to Jack, and he makes it unshakable, because if he doesn't, Torchwood will fall with Jack.
Jack needs his unshakable faith and loyalty.
Ianto's lost his small and weak human faith. Canary Wharf did that to him. Losing Lisa. The Cybermen, the Daleks. Torchwood is a lethal way of life; it's no mere job, it's a calling. And like all the most important callings, its needs must destroy the outside life of every last member of the team, field agent or not, and yet not a single one of them would choose another path. Not even him.
He stays. He stays and he does what needs to be done. He shores up the falling defenses, mends the tattered flags, patches up the wounds that no one else can see. He stays, does what needs to be done to maintain equilibrium, and has become nearly a law unto himself. He doesn't believe he will see thirty.
Belief is a new thing for him.
There was no human faith in his heart when he stalked the Captain, but he hadn't yet understood that simple truth. Not then. If asked, then, he'd probably have said he had some sort of faith, even if only a bare-bones faith in the concept of gravity---but he'd have been telling an unconscious lie. The last of his human faith had died at Canary Wharf. Stalking Jack, that hadn't been about faith. He'd been desperate for the job, for a place to stash Lisa. He'd been desperately seeking a truth he could believe in. He just hadn't known he was looking that truth in the eyes, meeting Jack Harkness.
He doesn't believe the Captain is a saint. The idea that Jack could be a saint is laughable. Jack, whose feet of clay show when the hardest choices must be made. When, to save the earth and its people, the director of Torchwood 3 makes a decision that harms vulnerable individuals. How could someone like Jack, so irreverent and so damaged, be a saint? No, it's easier to believe that God is dead. If God ever existed at all.
Yet, he does have faith of a sorts...in Jack. He has faith that Jack will always fight for them. For humanity, the earth. It's what Jack does now, no matter what he might've been in his past. And Jack has faith in him to do the correct things when they are needed. For the good of the team.
Jack let the chthonic ones take the child, Jasmine. The silence in the Hub, when they'd returned, had been deafening. Jack had sequestered himself in his office away from the others' silent accusations and frustrated stares. Ianto had stayed that night---to ease, in a small way, the burdens that never lifted from the Captain's heart. They'd talked; well, Jack had talked. Mostly, he had listened.
When he stays late, he is performing an administrative duty never outlined in the Torchwood regulations. He tweaks Jack's emotional valves and asks the right kind of questions at the right pace---the kind that Jack will answer, made honest by being startled into quick, dirty truth. Sometimes it is conversation and the gentle prying-out of self-recriminations that none of the others, not even Gwen, would ever hear. Coffee or scotch, depending on the mood, and a call for take-away. Long hours of music and genteel conversation that inevitably turns to Jack's confessions and self-doubt. That was how he had learned about the Doctor.
Other nights, he responds to Jack's lingering stare. On those nights, he flirts a little more aggressively, to let Jack know that all advances will be welcomed and reciprocated to the best of his ability. That he will play the games and give Jack the balance of pleasure due for the pain endured. And the bandage is formed of a different catharsis.
He doesn't flatter himself; he's honest. Whatever it is that exists between them---stress relief? budding romance born of some instinctive internal connection between their souls? fuck-buddies?---whatever the relationship's form, the Captain can't afford to put a label to the nature of their beast. To do so would make Jack vulnerable. Ianto won't allow that vulnerability to exist, if it's in his power to prevent, and he's not entirely sure himself if he wants to verbally acknowledge what happens between them.
There is a part of him that acknowledges the irony of their sexual encounters. He takes care of Jack the way a wife or a butler would while never losing himself to the role. He is himself and his place in Torchwood is that of an administrator, of sorts. Taking care of Jack is part of the job. His mortality prevents it from being anything else.