Title: Gift for Lady Korana

Author: tarotgal

Fandom: Torchwood (set after Doctor Who Season 4 but before Children of Earth)

Rating: PG-13

Pairing: Jack/Ianto

Disclaimer: Not my world or characters; just my story. Written for fun, not for money.

Summary: Ianto has a cold, a fact that barely registers with Jack as they've got more important matters to deal with.

Author's Notes: I can't even begin to apologize for this being so very late. I hope it's worth the wait! Written as a holiday (2007?) gift for Lady Korana.

 

                Slowly Ianto's mouth opened and his eyes closed. His nostrils twitched just slightly and his head bobbed downward so his nose met his waiting handkerchief. “hepitshuhhh!” He massaged the rest of the tickle out of his nose and looked over at Jack. Jack sat still at the table, leafing through the files just as he had been doing before.

 

                Ianto trudged across the conference room and slipped into his usual chair. Gwen took the chair across from him a few minutes later and helped herself to one of the files. She asked, “Any luck locating him?”

 

                Jack shook his head. “No suspicious sightings, or unsuspicious for that matter. No blips on the radar. Nothing at all. It's like he stole the device and then vanished completely.”

 

                “Berhabs he left Wales? Or the bladet?” The fact that Ianto's voice was heavy with congestion was incredibly unmissable.

 

                Yet Jack made no mention of it, as if Ianto were perfectly normal. “It's possible, but we haven't detected any vehicles entering or leaving the atmosphere.”

 

                Ianto only managed a nod before he felt a sneeze coming on. He raised his handkerchief and turned from them. “uh-huh-Ihtchooo!

 

                “Bless you, Ianto!” Gwen said, looking concerned. “My goodness, your cold sounds like it's getting worse.”

 

                Ianto nodded again and sniffled into the handkerchief. It wasn't just his imagination then. It was getting worse. Chills ran up and down his back and arms. But he didn't like talking about his condition. It was bad enough he'd come down with this little head cold in the first place. Torchwood had taken a break after Tosh and Owen had died, and then another break after the planet was stolen. Why couldn't this cold have struck then? Why now when they were in the middle of something important? It wasn't quite saving the world but it wasn't just some escaped weevil either.

 

                Someone who'd looked very much like a humanoid had been sighted with a suspicious device and was now on the run.  Jack had recognized the device as part of a dimensional shift stabilizer, a key component in something much larger and much worse. Alone, it couldn't do any damage. But if he had access to other parts or the ability to manufacture other parts, they'd be looking at a manmade rip in space and time right in their own backyard. Jack was determined not to let it get that far. But they had very little to go on. Even Gwen's connections with the local police couldn't scare up more than the Torchwood computers had already spit out at them.

 

                Leads were drying up faster than the team could find them. “I suppose we could always just do it the old fashioned way and hit the streets—” Gwen began, but was cut off by an alarm going off.

 

                All three of them left the conference room and bolted toward what had been Tosh's computer, once upon a time. Ianto got there last and stood behind the others as they watched the images and numbers dance across the screen. The facial recognition software had gotten a hit.

 

                Well, sort of. “Spotted at an ATM four hours before his escape but nothing after?” Jack said, sounding exasperated.

 

                “At least we know the new additions to the program work,” Gwen pointed out.

 

                Ianto tried to think of something to say, but his head was feeling a bit light and foggy and he really just needed to sneeze again. “hihShuhh!” It was as he was straightening back up from the sneeze that had doubled him over that he noticed something out of the corner of his eye on one of the side monitors.

 

                “Bless you,” said Gwen.

 

                Jack still said nothing about it; Jack barely looked at him.

 

                Ianto pushed his feelings aside entirely and gestured with his damp hanky towards the monitor. “Wait. Back ub the feed a few bidutes add zoob id,” he said. His team members moved to comply, but Ianto still had to point it out. “Rail tickud,” he said, referring to the tiny, white slip visibly sticking out of the man's back pocket when he left the ATM with his money. “To…” More zooming in and some pixel reconstruction gave him the answer. “To Liverbool.”

 

                However stuffy his voice was, the other two understood him with no trouble at all. “Ianto, get the car,” said the captain at once, grabbing his coat off the back of a nearby chair. He paused in mid-grab. “Actually, you know what, I'll drive. You two grab the equipment and meet me upstairs. You've got two minutes.”

 

                Ianto grabbed the laptop and monitoring devices, as well as a box of tissues. This was going to be a long ride.

 

*

 

                Ianto dozed off about twenty minutes into the drive, exceedingly glad he wasn't the one behind the wheel this time around. He stayed awake just long enough to get into the RailEurope records and retrieve the itinerary of a passenger whose name matched the stolen identity used at the ATM earlier. The passenger had no checked baggage but one carry-on.  The itinerary showed that he'd be taking one train to Birmingham, then switching to another one for the rest of the way; Torchwood's plan was to nab him at the first possible moment. Their fugitive was finally making it easy for them at last, or so it seemed. After telling Jack to floor it to Birmingham, Ianto's head tilted to the side and back against the headrest. He felt the steady, rumbly motion of the car speeding along and he was out like a light.

 

                Ianto didn't wake again fully until an hour and a half later. Ianto came to but didn't immediately open his eyes. He was quite torn between wanting to know how long they'd been travelling and wanting to go right back to sleep. But the sound of his name caught his attention, so he leaned toward the staying awake option for now.

 

                “All I'm saying is that you could show Ianto a little sympathy,” Gwen said. “He's sick. He shouldn't even have come along. He should be back at the Hub or, better yet, at home in bed.”

 

                “We needed him here,” Jack replied.

 

                “You mean you needed him here.”

 

                There was a pregnant pause. “We're down to just the three of us. And we stand a better chance of catching this guy if it's the three of us rather than just two. Besides, what would Rhys say if he knew you were heading to England on a road trip alone with me?”

 

                Gwen snorted. “I'm less bothered with what Rhys would say than I am worried about Ianto.” There was silence for a few moments. “Aren't you worried about him? That's quite a cold he's got.”

 

                Jack said quietly, “Ianto's a big boy. It's just a head cold. He can handle a few sneezes. He'll be all right.”

 

                “hehh!” Ianto pinched his nose at the end, desperate to stay quiet so they'd think he was still asleep, but it did no good. “heh-Tshhhhhh!

 

                Both jack and Gwen looked back, though Jack's was a quick glance as he was driving and Gwen's was accompanied by a sympathetic “Bless you.”

 

                Ianto sniffled and nodded appreciatively, even though he didn't feel especially appreciative. “H-how long was I asleep?” he asked, startled at the scratchiness in his voice. He cleared his throat repeatedly and blew his nose. And when he was done, he was shocked to see Gwen still staring at him. “I'm all right,” he told her, thinking of what Jack had said. Sure, he would feel better if he were home in bed, but this was where he wanted to be. He wanted to be with Jack and Gwen. He wanted to be able to help. “Just a little ill. I've felt worse, believe me.” He coughed and cleared his throat. “Where are we?”

 

                Gwen nodded. “You've been asleep a while. We're nearly there. We just got to Birmingham.”

 

                Ianto sat up, sniffling. That didn't give him much time to get himself together. He felt less tired after the nap, that was certain.  But his nose felt so stuffed and his head was aching. He set to work blowing his nose, apologizing for the unpleasant sound. If he could have spared his friends from having to listen, he certainly would have.

 

                “How long will the fugitive have to switch trains here?”

 

                “Fourteed bidutes,” Ianto told him.

 

                “That doesn't give us much time,” Gwen said. “Do we know what platforms the trains are going to be on?”

 

                Ianto had to check on that. The information usually wasn't typically available until just before a train's arrival or departure, and even then it wasn't usually broadcast online. But Ianto played around in the system a little and came up with the answer. Except he couldn't communicate it right away. Rubbing his tickling nose, he quickly passed the laptop up to Gwen. Then he turned to the side and tried to muffle the sneezes using as many tissues as possible. “h'Shhhuh! Hishhhh! TShhhh! Ngshhhh! Hih-UhShhhhh!

 

                Gwen gave him a sympathetic look. Jack said loudly, “The platforms, Gwen?”

 

                Gwen nodded and turned around. She read the screen and announced, “Train 640 is getting in at platform 4 and Train 901 will be leaving from platform 2.”

 

                “Heptshh! Ihgshhhh! H'shhphhhh!” Ianto knew he wasn't going to be much help if he couldn't at least stop sneezing. He tried blowing his nose, but that just seemed to make it tickle more intensely. “ehKTchhhh! HEHShhhhh! NShhhh! Huhshhhhhh!

 

                “Ianto?”

 

                Ianto opened his eyes to see Jack's looking back at him in the rear view mirror. Ianto rubbed his nose, trying to keep from sneezing long enough to hear what Jack had to say. He dreaded what it might be.

 

                “I want you and Gwen on the platforms. I'll head to security and see if they can't delay the train a little without cancelling it. We don't want to tip the suspect off and risk losing his trail again.”

 

                And that was it. No 'maybe you should stay in the car.' No 'are you sure you'll be okay?' Not even a 'I don't like the sound of that. How do you feel?' Jack was completely, intentionally ignoring his condition.

 

                “And I don't have to mention that if we fail to get him here, it's an hour and a half to Liverpool and we might not make it before the train. Or, for that matter, before the guy gets his hands on the other parts. He might have someone waiting for him on the train, or he could have transportation at the docks. We have to be ready for anything.”

 

                Ianto felt like he was in a daze as he got out of the car at the station. He ran behind Gwen, bypassed security with ease, and navigated through the busy terminals to the platforms. Overheated, out of breath, and still inundated with a cold, Ianto rested his hands on his knees and doubled-over to catch his breath as soon as he was in position. They'd made it with about three minutes to spare. One way or another, this would be over in half an hour, one way or another. And if they caught him now, it would mean heading straight back to Cardiff, which was certainly preferably to any alternative: going to Liverpool, hopping a boat to who knew where, or watching the universe split apart at the seams.

 

                “Train's arriving,” Jack informed them. Jack's voice in Ianto's head through the Bluetooth earpiece was loud and harsh. It made his head pound terribly.  

 

                “Got it,” Gwen said, making Ianto's head explode a second time.

 

                Ianto cleared his throat. “We're id blace.”

 

                And they were, for the moment at least. Gwen was stationed on one end of the track and Ianto at the other. Jack had eyes on the whole operation and could alert them if he saw their target before they did. Ianto waited nervously as the train pulled up and stopped. There was a nervous fluttering in Ianto's chest, and suddenly he wasn't sure he could do this. Was he up to it? Would he even recognize the guy? It was a good minute before the doors opened and the passengers began to disembark, but it felt like ages. And when Ianto saw the passengers, the fluttering in his chest ceased. He had a job to do. And, believe it or not, he was pretty damn good at what he did.

 

                At least he was on a normal day. The platform was soon filled with passengers claiming baggage, scurrying about to find a directory or the next platform or other members of their parties. Ianto's gaze went from face to face, looking for a match, wishing he were as good at that as the software. Jack had the laptop hooked up to the security cameras, but with so many people about, having eyes on the ground as well was crucial.

 

                “Where are you?” Ianto whispered to himself, searching every face. But the words scratched his throat and he coughed. And the cough made his nose bother him. He pressed his shirt cuff to his nose and tried to keep it under control. “eh-hehhh?” The tickle grew worse. He figured if he could just sneeze and get it over with, he could go back to watching the people more closely. So he relaxed and let his eyes close for a brief moment. “hih-hihShihhh!

 

                “Ianto?” Gwen's voice was annoyingly loud through the earpiece now. “Are you all right?”

 

                Ianto cleared his throat. “Yes.”

 

                He knew he wasn't all right, though. His nose was running and tickling much worse now. The sneeze hadn't done anything but encourage more to strike. Ianto held his breath, feeling foolish, but that didn't help either. “ehhh-Hischhhhh! hehTchhhh!” People on the platform were beginning to stare. “hih-hih-KTChhhhhh!” And at that one, he had practically sneezed on someone. Mortified, Ianto cupped his hand to his nose and mouth and turned away. There was a standing billboard about ten paces away. Between it and the far wall, he'd have some privacy. It would only take a moment to blow his nose and get himself in order. There wasn't much chance of the suspect leaving the train that that exact instant. And, if he did, Jack would be sure to see him anyway. “HipTushhhh!” So Ianto took his chance to get himself in order so he could do his job properly.

 

                He rounded the side of the billboard, digging his handkerchief out of his pocket as he did so. Only a few seconds of privacy was all he needed. But there was someone else there, and Ianto bumped into the man. “Oh, excuse be…” Ianto began. Then his eyes widened.

 

                He recognized the face, the jacket, and the familiar carrying case. Seeing the look in Ianto's eyes. the man tried to run for it. “Hold it!” But the man didn't stay put. Luckily, Ianto was quick enough to grab, to throw himself at the man. Coughing and sniffling, Ianto tackled the suspect, bringing them both crashing to the concrete floor of the platform.

 

                “Ianto!” It wasn't Gwen shouting; that was Jack. And he sounded concerned. “There are no cameras there. What's going on?”

 

                “Got him!” Ianto managed to get out, though all of his energy was being used to hold onto the man.

 

                “We'll be right there,” Jack assured him.

 

                Despite the running nose and the need to sneeze, Ianto kept the man pinned down. “Get off me! I didn't do anything,” the man kept insisting. The man kicked and squirmed, flailed and fought, but Ianto refused to budge. Every bit of him hurt, especially his knee which had slammed into and scraped along the concrete on the way down. It stung now, and Ianto suspected it was bleeding, but he wouldn't move to check.

 

                Gwen arrived first, having just run the length of the platform. She swooped down, intercepting the case, and opened it. “It's here,” Gwen confirmed. “Nice job, Ianto.”

 

                “Get this guy off me!” the suspect cried.

 

                “I can do that,” Jack said. He put a reassuring hand on Ianto's shoulder. Ianto eased off, letting Jack and a few train station security officers take control of the suspect. Ianto hoped for something from Jack… even just a look acknowledging what Ianto had done, but Jack vanished around the corner, leaving Ianto sitting there. He felt silly and childish. And sick. He still felt sick.

 

                Gwen squatted down in front of Ianto and felt his forehead. He pulled back. Then, feeling a little embarrassed, he tugged the leg of his pants up to reveal a badly skinned knee. “Gwen… I need a bandage. There's a kit in the car.”

 

                She nodded and went for it, taking the device with her and leaving Ianto sitting there, alone and feeling worse by the second.

 

                Ianto managed to fall asleep almost as soon as he got into the car. And when they arrived home, Jack headed into the hub first. Gwen helped Ianto in. His knee had stiffened from not using it for two hours and he was glad as well as ashamed to need the help.

 

                “I can manage now,” Ianto said, once they'd reached the kitchen.

 

                “Are you sure?”

 

                He nodded. “Thanks.”

 

                “I'll secure this in one of the drawers and then head home. If you need a ride home then, just let me know.”

 

                Every part of Ianto cried out to go home and get some rest. He was five seconds from accepting the offer when another sneeze found him. Ianto apologized quickly and turned away from Gwen, burying his nose in the crook of his arm. “hehShuhhhffff!” He sniffled awfully and shook his head. “I'll see you tomorrow, Gwed.” It was out before he could stop himself. And then she was gone and he was left there with two cups of perfectly-made coffee.

 

                With a deep breath, which made him cough just a little, Ianto headed to Jack's office. The door was open and Jack sat there, fiddling with some mysterious gadget. “Coffee, Jack?”

 

                Jack barely looked up. He nodded and made space on his desk for the mug.

 

                Ianto set it down along with his own, because the tickle in his nose was back. Surely it had the worst timing ever. Ianto inhaled sharply and let his nose find the crook of his arm again in haste. “hih-IHSchhhfffff! HehShufff! Sniff!

 

                If ever there was a time for a 'bless you' it was now. But Jack remained conspicuously silent and Ianto couldn't take it any longer. He cleared his throat. “You really ared't goig to say adythig? You're dot goig to tell be to go hobe? Or go lie dowd od the couch eved?”

 

                Jack kept his eyes on his work as he replied. “I know you. You're not going to stop working. And even if you did, you would never go home. So why should I bother saying anything to that effect?”

 

                “Maybe because I want to hear it anyway?”

 

                Jack looked up at last. He took an especially long look at Ianto. After those deep eyes probed him, both men were slightly flushed. Jack said, “I have something better for you to hear.”  Jack stood up and motioned for Ianto to come over.

 

                As soon as Ianto was around the desk, Jack pulled him close, into a tight hug. Jack's arms made Ianto feel warm and secure. And he felt… “Jack? Is that?” He reached down and confirmed the hardness already pressing against him. Jack gasped and then gave a soft moan.

 

                “Look what you've done to me,” Jack told him. “You've been driving me crazy.”

 

                Ianto felt like laughing. “Is this why you haved't beed able to look at be all day?”

 

                “I wouldn't have been able to keep my mind on the work.” Jack's warm face nuzzled against Ianto's neck. “But I didn't want you to go home. I wanted you where I could hear you… steal glances at you. I absolutely love you like this.”

 

                “What, all weak and sdiffly?”

 

                “You took down that guy tonight on your own. Hardly weak.”

 

                “But defiditely sdiffly.” He sniffled for effect and Jack instinctively thrust against Ianto's crotch.

 

                Jack's voice was slightly higher and faster than normal. “Yes, definitely sniffly. I won't argue with that. But you're also so snuggly like this.” He hugged Ianto tighter and sort of hummed happily.

 

                Ianto raised his eyebrows. “You becabe a tibe agedt add joided Torchwood just to get sobe sduggles?”

 

                With a laugh, “Of course not. Just one of the perks of the job, thanks to you.”

 

                Much as Ianto loved being held like this after the day he'd had, Ianto felt another sneeze coming on and tried to pull back. But Jack held him even closer, tighter. “Jack… I-hehh… I h-have to…”

 

                “I know,” Jack whispered breathlessly.

 

                “I-hah-hahShooo!” Ianto sneezed into Jack's shoulder, and Jack shook with excitement. Ianto chuckled.

 

                “Bless you. I hate to let your good coffee go to waste and I know you don't like to take it easy when there's work to do, but what would you say if I suggested we go to bed?”

 

                Ianto laughed. “You had me at 'bless you'.” He let himself be led to Jack's room, savoring the tightness of Jack's hand squeezing his eagerly.