Title: Rain, Rain, Go Away
Fandom: Torchwood… set maybe after Countrycide? Early season 1, at any rate.
Rating: G! Is that even POSSIBLE for a TW fic? Or a tarotgal fic, for that matter?
Spoilers: Um… kinda sorta for the show in general. I guess this might hint at a S1 pairing, too. But it's about the most non-spoilery you can get for a TW fic set in S1.
Summary: The team—and Cardiff—get a little too wet.
Rain, Rain, Go Away
For the third time that afternoon, Ianto Jones checked the thermostat that regulated the temperature in the small travel office that was a front for Torchwood. It still read 21 degrees. The first time he checked it had seemed far too cold in the room, and the second time he checked it was because the room felt too hot. Now it was back to being cold. As a shiver ran up his spine and down his arms, Ianto tapped the plastic-enclosed control panel. The simplest explanation was that the reader was broken. Or perhaps the dial was stuck in place. Tapping it seemed to do nothing to jar it, but it did make him feel like he was doing something. If he had to spend all day smiling and handing out brochures about Cardiff, he wanted at least the temperature to behave itself.
The office door opened just then, and he turned to see Jack entering, soaked to the skins. Ianto grabbed a towel from beneath the counter and pressed the button to open the door to the hub, then he hurried over. He helped Jack off with the greatcoat, shaking it a bit to throw off some drops clinging to the wool. Jack shook his head a bit, the wet, dark hair now dripping onto his shoulders and the floor. Ianto put the towel around Jack's shoulders and handed him the coat. “Thanks. It just started raining,” he said. “Got caught in it.”
Ianto nodded. “You'd better head down, sir. There's a problem with the thermostat in here.” Ten minutes in this freezer and Jack's wet hair would turn to icicles.
“Is there? Ha. Better call the maintenance crew over then,” Jack said absentmindedly. He took Ianto's advice, however, and headed for the hub's secret back door.
Ianto agreed. “Yes, sir.” Then he suddenly went rigid. He made a quick grab for the handkerchief in his pocket, burying the lower half of his face in the white linen. He pitched forward, hunched over, hands pressing the cloth to his nose to muffle the sound. “Ihtchfffff! Ah…” He gave a small sniffle then wiped his nose, folded the hanky neatly, and tucked it back into his pocket. “I just dusted in here last Tuesday.”
“Sounds like it's due for another cleaning,” Jack said, smiling as he headed down the stairs. “You'd better get on it.”
Nodding, “Yes, sir.” He rubbed a finger alongside and then under his nose. Then he headed to the broom cupboard. Though he usually waited until the end of the day to clean, there was no one in needing travel advice at the moment, so he figured he might as well start now. He began with the puddles on the floor Jack had made.
* * * * *
The rain had not let up for one second. It ranged from drizzle to downpour but came down steadily and constantly. There was nothing to do but put up with it and hope it stopped soon, though Jack wished that the rift might make itself useful for once and deposit a weather regulation machine in their midst. He hated the cold, wet feeling of his clothes sticking to him and chilling him. His hair dripped and shoes squished with each step. Not to mention that the overcast conditions did nothing to compliment his eyes or his smile. It was truly miserable outside.
Jack headed down into the hub via the back stairs again. He hated using the invisible lift when it was raining because of the lift's slowness and the mess of rain water that gushed in during its use. He walked across the facility with only one thought held in his mind: taking a nice, hot shower. He was halfway there when he heard a sneeze.
As it was dreadfully early—just shy of four-thirty in the morning— and they weren't in the middle of any pressing case, he had naturally assumed the hub was empty. He leaned on a metal railing and looked around, finally spotting Ianto at a computer workstation. This called for an investigation.
Ianto looked even more miserable than Jack felt. Besides looking a bit damp he also appeared exhausted and ill. He slumped in the chair, staring up at a set of monitors that were having trouble displaying maps of the city. The screens kept cutting on and off, making it feel like a slow strobe light in a club. Though Ianto looked incredibly annoyed, it also looked like he didn't have the energy to get as worked up about it as he should. As a result, he simply sat there, glaring at the displays as they flashed on and off in his face.
Ianto did not take his eyes off them, though he scrubbed his forehead with thumb, forefinger, and ring finger. Then he dropped his hand down and pinched his nose. His breaths were short and halting. He pinched harder to no avail. He lowered his hand again and waved it in midair as though that were helping fan something away. The sneeze started out tiny but built quickly enough. “ih-ihh-ihhhh-Yih-HIHTshhhhhhhhh!” It snapped Ianto forward in his seat, then bounced him right back in the chair, where he remained motionless afterwards.
Ianto gave a start, sitting up straight, cupping his hand to his nose, and looking around wildly. His eyes rested upon Jack, not four paces away, and he looked absolutely mortified. “Excuse be.” Ianto sniffed several times, and replaced the hand at his nose with a well-used hanky.
“That was some sneeze,” Jack commented. “And your suit's rumpled. Using my copious detective skills I'm going to bet that you're ill.”
Ianto nodded wearily.
“You know, most people leave work and go home when they're ill. You apparently do just the opposite. Care to tell me why?” Jack held his breath, momentarily thinking about what else could be hiding in his basement.
Ianto paused, thinking, then shook his head. “There's work to do,” he said, words muffled by the handkerchief.
“Someone else can make the coffee for a while,” Jack said, putting his hand on Ianto's shoulder. The touch made Ianto jump. “Go home and get some rest.”
But Ianto shook his head again. “I'd rather be here, if that's all right with you. I brobise to keeb, well…” he sniffed and ducked his head down slightly in embarrassment. “Ihhh-HihKshhfff! Sniff! I brobise to keeb by cold to byself. But I have to stay here, sir.”
Jack shrugged and shivered, which reminded him that he was still soaked, dripping, and desirous of a shower. “Suit yourself. I'm going to go take a shower. I'll be in my office if anything comes up.” He started to go then turned back, pointing with a circular gesture at the monitors. “Is this anything?”
Ianto shrugged. “Haved't decided yet.”
Jack nodded. That was as good an answer as any before five in the morning. He'd check in later. After his long, hot shower.
All throughout his shower, Jack heard Ianto sneezing. There must have been a vent or something that ran right through to his bathroom, because he could hear each sneeze quite clearly, just above the sound of the running water. He wondered how he'd never noticed it before, but usually he didn't take showers when the others were in the hub. And maybe it was just that one work station that generated such interesting acoustical results. Or maybe it was just because Ianto's sneezes were louder than people talking.
Whatever it was, Jack got used to the sound of unpredictable, irregular sneezes. He stood in the shower, letting the warmth penetrate him, and Ianto sneezed. Jack squirted a dollop of shampoo into his hand and ran it into his hair, and Ianto sneezed. Jack grabbed the body gel and worked it into a lather in the poof, and Ianto sneezed. Jack rinsed off, stretching his arms up over his head and sighing happily, and Ianto sneezed. Jack stood under the spray, just enjoying the shower, and… heard nothing.
Slightly concerned, Jack got out of the shower and wrapped up in a thick, white towel. He towel-dried his hair and listened. Even with the water off, he couldn't hear anything. No sneezes at all. He went through his routine more quickly than usual, dressing first then fixing his hair. He shaved and checked himself in the mirror. Just short of stunning, but definitely presentable. Jack headed out to see what was going on and saw, from afar, that Ianto had fallen asleep. His head lolled to the side, his eyes were shut, his breathing was slow, and his mouth was wide open.
Jack was just about to go over and suggest yet again that Ianto go home when he heard footsteps. He looked over to see Tosh arriving. A glance at his watch told him he'd spent far more time in the bathroom than he'd thought. Tosh was early but not by much. She headed to her computer station, set her purse, umbrella, and rain jacket down, then she noticed Ianto not far away. “What's all this?” she asked, and Ianto woke with a start.
“sorry?” he asked sleepily, rubbing his nose, his eyes, and then his nose again.
“This,” she said. “What happened to the rift monitor?”
“Oh.” He sat up straighter and ran a hand over the front of his suit to stave off any wrinkles that might have been trying to settle in. “I thought it bight have to do with the raid.”
“The rain,” she repeated, making sure she heard right.
“Yes, the raid. I dod't dow what it beads, but I've darrowed it dowd to either a brobleb with the sedsors id the field or…”
“Or actual rift activity?” Tosh finished for him, checking the readouts on another monitor. “This isn't good.”
Ianto shook his head. “Could just be a weather sbike.”
“Or it could just be that the transmitters are broken.” She groaned. “We're going to have to go out there and check some of the sensors, aren't we?”
“I thig… so… huh-hahChhhhh-KChuhh!” Most of the double-sneeze found its way into his handkerchief in time. “Excuse be,” he muttered miserably. “I caught the bost dreadful head cold.”
“I noticed,” Tosh said, still half-looking at the monitors with curiosity. “Did you take anything for it?”
Ianto coughed and nodded. “Cold bedicide. Subbosed to be dod-drowsy but the box defiditely lied,” he said. “Add it doesd't seeb to have dode a bit of good adyway.”
“Poor thing,” said Tosh, entirely sympathetic. “You sound awful.” She moved to press her hand to his forehead to check for fever but he pulled back.
“Dod't!” he warned. “I'b covered id gerbs.”
“Covered in germs? That's just what I like to hear first thing in the morning!” came a shout from the stairs just as Owen appeared. “You're feeling ill, Ianto?”
Ianto nodded and coughed.
Owen waved his hand. “Come on over. Let me get a look atcha.” Owen took off his jacket and slipped on his white lab coat. He washed his hands thoroughly as Ianto slowly made his way down to the med station. “Go on, hop up and make yourself comfortable,” Owen said, as though it were at all possible to be comfortable while sitting on an examination table. Owen dried his hands and made a basket with the paper towel. Then he pulled on gloves, snapping them dramatically but not inspiring so much as a smile from the man. “What seems to be the problem? Mysterious virus of unknown origins? Tenacious alien flu? Something exciting I'd never be able to publish about in the medical journals?”
Ianto opened his mouth to answer, but instead a sneeze burst from him. “hihhhSchhkkk!” He wiped his handkerchief back and forth at his nose. “Just the cobbod cold. There's dothig you cad do for be.”
“Let me be the judge of that,” said the doctor. “I've never met a Rhinovirus I didn't like. Open up for me now.”
Owen inspected, prodded, and poked at Ianto for twenty minutes straight. He listened to the man's breathing from every angle. “Plenty congested.” He took the man's blood pressure and checked his pulse. “Your heart's racing. What kind of medicine did you take already?” He felt Ianto's neck and the sides of his face. “Hmm.” He inspected eyes, ears, nose, and throat. “Yep.” And he took Ianto's temperature. “Interesting.”
“What?” Ianto asked worriedly, tucking his shirt back into his suit pants and then hugging his arms to his chest to keep warm.
“It's officially just the common cold.”
Ianto smiled feebly. “Told you.” He shivered again and Owen draped a blanket around his shoulders. Ianto hugged it tightly around himself then sneezed before he could cover his nose. He did manage to direct it towards his left shoulder, though. “hehYishhh! Snff! Excuse be.” He dug out his handkerchief and wiped.
Owen made a face, brow furrowed and features kind of screwed up together. “If you're sticking it out here today and don't want to get us all sick, you should really use tissues.” He plopped a fresh box on Ianto's lap. “Here. Blow and throw. I don't want to see any lying around on keyboards or coffee makers.”
Ianto nodded and sniffled. “Guess you brobably thig it's stubid of be to be workig like this.”
“Hey.” Owen clapped his gloved hand to Ianto's neck, resting his thumb on Ianto's cheek. “You work for Torchwood. I understand how it is, mate.” He gave Ianto one of his large, rectangular, wide smiles. “Now, to get you feeling better…” Ianto nodded, waiting for some good news. “Hate to say it, but sleep's the best thing you can do for yourself. As much as possible as often as possible. After all that's happened lately, it's not surprising that your body is run down.” Ianto, who couldn't argue, shrugged in understanding. “I'm going to give you some cold pills and some painkillers to take the edge off. And I'm going to pester you to make sure you take them on time, no matter what's going on.” He glanced worriedly up at Tosh and the blinking monitors.
Gwen was in now, dripping and joining Tosh by the computers. “Ianto?” Tosh called out to him, as though she'd known when they'd been talking about. Ianto did not reply, as he did not have the voice to answer. “Got some questions for you when you're free.”
Ianto looked questioning at Owen, who nodded. “You're done here. But I'm going to be watching you.”
Ianto shrugged off the blanket, shivering slightly as he headed back up, tissue box held behind his back. He wasn't hiding anything or fooling anyone now… but he wouldn't look right carrying the thing around under his arm. That wasn't the way Ianto did things.
“Morning, Ianto,” Gwen said, as he joined the women at the monitors.
“Bordig,” he said, bobbing his head a bit shyly.
Gwen sounded disappointed. “Oh, Ianto. You should be home in bed.”
He shrugged and muttered so softly they almost missed it, “Cad't go hobe.” He sniffed hard and leaned against the back of the chair. Then, before anyone could try to convince him or let him think about the decision, “What do you deed?”
“When did you first notice the sensors doing this?”
Jack knew Ianto had been there a little after four, but Ianto's answer revealed that he had been there far longer. “Two-thirty.” They gave him looks of sympathy as they realized what that meant. “For a secod it looked like there was rift activity everywhere. Thed there was dode at all add the picture started fluctuatig- just a little at first. Frub what I cad tell frub the brief ibages, the sedsors bight just be broked. Or…”
“Or the entire city could be engulfed in this,” Gwen finished, understanding. Ianto nodded.
“Right,” said Tosh. “Well I've tried all I could think of to fix this on our end. I've restarted the sensors and rebuilt the map system. I've run every diagnostic in the book and a few others they don't write books about. I've even tried the ol' unplug it and plug it back in method,” she joked, though nobody laughed. “I think it's time we tell Jack about this.”
“He already knows,” Jack said, striding over dramatically on cue.
Ianto looked down and fingered the tissue sticking out of the box. It wasn't as nice as a handkerchief by any means. The disposable paper was rough and would soon hurt his nose. He seemed torn about using it for a moment, then he pulled out a tissue and bunched it up under his nose. “Tishhh!” The sneeze was small, sounding as if he were embarrassed to sneeze in full company. But the tiny sneeze alleviated nothing and a small series followed right behind, each wetter and more forceful than the one before. “ehTshhh! hepTchh! IhKshhh! Hhuhh… huh-Gtushhhhhh!”
“Oh my… bless you!” Gwen produced, sounding enthusiastic and impressed. The others were slightly softer and kinder, even Jack.
Ianto muttered something completely unidentifiable and blew his nose repeatedly until it had stopped dripping. He heard the steps of Owen approaching and quickly tossed the balled-up tissues into a bin before Owen could order him to do so. His cheeks were flushed red and he held another tissue to his face as though to sort of hide part of himself behind it. If he didn't move or make a sound, it might be possible to overlook and ignore him; he certainly did not look as though he wanted attention, so Jack chose to stick to the problem at hand.
“I suppose we can rule out a massive-scale fairy attack?” Jack asked the team.
Tosh nodded. “We can look more closely at weather patterns afterwards, but the readings I'm getting are significantly different. There haven't been any reports of strange sightings or murders for that matter. Just this rain.”
“Lots of rain,” Gwen corrected, still soaked from being outside just a bit ago. She dripped on the floor and Ianto didn't even seem to notice it. He wasn't noticing much apart from his runny nose.
Tosh continued, “The rift sensors use redundant readings to build a picture of the city for us. However, if more than one of the sensors is giving us faulty data, it'll affect the others' displays in some way. Best to check two or three at once, more if we can manage it. We need to check them for damages and then run basic diagnostics on them.”
“All right,” said Jack, as Tosh produced three handheld devices with which to test the sensors. He made eye contact with all but one of the team members. “We'll split up and—”
“I'b goig,” Ianto insisted, followed by a soft clearing of his throat. He picked up one of the devices. “I dow how to work this.”
Jack frowned but didn't feel that there was time to argue. “Fine, but you're going with Owen so he can keep an eye on you.” Ianto looked both pleased and put out. “You two can take the east. Gwen and Tosh will hit the west, and I'll head to the north section of the city.”
“The device has the exact location of every sensor,” said Tosh. “Check the first ones you come upon and report back.”
“And drive safely,” Gwen added. “It's really coming down out there.”
“Switch the radios on and listen for any road closures,” Owen suggested.
As if the system knew what they were talking about, the monitors immediately flickered spastically. Jack didn't like the look of that.
“Okay, gang. Let's get moving.” Jack cast a worried glance in Ianto's direction on their way out. Ianto was too busy blowing his nose to notice Jack looking.
The rain was coming down in sheets so hard it actually *hurt*. Jack felt it pelting him in the back as he bent over the sensor and rain the diagnostic. The device was simple enough to use—just a few buttons to push—that Jack felt he'd made the wrong decision as far as Ianto was concerned. Owen could have handled it alone easily. The reader beeped, indicating that it was done and sending its data to Tosh's computers at the hub. Jack decided it was high time for him to head back, too.
This was a strange situation, Jack thought as he drove back. The front wheel of the SUV hit a deceptively deep puddle, and the whole vehicle lurched to the side. He spun the wheel to the left, overcorrecting, scraping the curb, but avoiding getting stuck. Rain in Cardiff was hardly unusual, but the whole town was slowly being swallowed up by it now. Yet here he was, driving back at breakneck speed, strangely more worried but about one of his team members than about the place he'd called home for more than a century.
Jack was the last to arrive back, and from the sound of it, other parts of Cardiff were far worse than what he'd seen. Apparently, Owen's car had gotten stuck, requiring them to take turns standing in shin-deep water, pushing until it got free. Thankfully the engine had made it through intact. That was more than could be said for its passengers. What could have been described as an abnormally good mood of Owen's had been drowned out completely now. And Ianto… “Towel?” Ianto's voice sounded weaker and impossibly stuffier.
“Thanks,” Jack pressed the dry cotton to his face.
“You're welcobe, sir.” Ianto then took a seat at the meeting room table not a moment too soon. The tissue box was crushed between his arm and side, but he pulled several tissues out. “huhhh… huh-EHPShhhh! hihShuhh!” Ianto blew his nose and flushed when Tosh set a mug of tea down in front of him. It probably wasn't as good as Ianto's— at least, that was the case for the coffee she'd brought— but Ianto had barely survived the forty minute drive. He was soggy and shivering. His nose was running without stop and his sneezes were more frequent. “heh-EpShhh!”
Owen gulped down half a cup of coffee, pulled a face briefly, then glared in Ianto's direction. “Thought I told you to take—”
“I told you I did,” Ianto said, quickly cutting him off. His hand unconsciously moved to a pocket which gave a soft rattle like pills in a bottle. “Half ad hour ago id the car.”
“Well then quit sneezing already.”
Ianto somehow managed to sink deeper in his chair. “I'll do by best.”
“Just like you did your best getting the car unstuck?”
“You were drivig.”
“And you were supposed to be pushing! What was the point of—”
Ianto turned, pinching his nose between thumb and forefinger. His whole body shuddered as he tried to stifle the sneeze, “ih-PFTT!”
Owen sighed exasperatedly. “Oh just go on then. Don't know why I bother. You're sure you took the right number of pills?” He grabbed his coffee cup and drank more.
Ianto stayed silent and nodded. All of his energy had been used up during the excursion, and it showed. He had offered a few minutes back to put some of their wet clothes in the dryer, but no one had taken him up on it. Instead they insisted he take it easy, go lie down on a couch, or go home. He was quite drowsy and looked miserable, but still flat-out refused to go home. He barely moved enough to even touch the tea.
Apart from the sogginess, the outing had been something of a success. They had established, through seven independent readings, that there was nothing whatsoever wrong with the sensors. The readers were working properly as were the transmitters, and the software that filtered out the extraneous and compiled the display was working just fine. Which meant now they had only two very big problems.
The first was that, if it wasn't due to damaged hardware or broken software, it was something to do with the rift itself which had probably caused an overload and interference. The second problem was that they'd almost not made it back to the hub through the storm. The downpour was torrential now, coming down in strong, icy sheets. There was no wind and there was absolutely no indication of it letting up any time soon. Jack wondered if the storm would stop even if the whole town was under water, but he definitely didn't want it to get to that point.
With the towel wrapped around his shoulders, Jack switched on the television set and flipped to the local station. “It's an isolated storm and it's not moving,” Jack said, pointing at the radar imagery. The sound on the television was down so low it might as well have been muted. “They're declaring a flood alert and a state of emergency. Pretty soon some of the main roads will be cut off completely. If the storm doesn't dissipate or move on, there will be structural damage. There are already evacuation procedures in place.” It was kind of funny that a town which was built on a rift of time and space could be so well-prepared for floods which *never* happened and so ill-prepared for things like aliens that were present on a daily basis.
“But how is this possible?” asked Gwen. “A storm that comes out of nowhere and just sits here and floods us?”
“It did't cobe out of dowhere, though, did it?” Ianto asked, a tissue held to his nose. It seemed he didn't even care about looking unkempt to the others now if it meant his nose wasn't visibly running.
Jack shook his head. “Ianto's right. This storm came out of the rift.”
There was a chorus of 'what?'s from around the table, and everyone began talking at once, trying to rationalize and/or disprove it all at once.
“Wait, wait. Hear me out,” Jack said, holding up a hand and trying to get a word in edgewise.
They quieted, except for Ianto, who had to sneeze again. “ihh-Hshuhh!”
Jack explained his thought process. “All sorts of things travel here through the rift, right? Objects, aliens, viruses. Is it too much to believe that weather could? There's no sign of any other alien activity, no energies found that say this storm is being controlled by anyone. It's a simple storm and getting worse.”
They were all silent, contemplating. Tosh finally nodded. “It would explain things.”
“Okay, okay,” said Owen, holding up one hand. “Say that a storm did travel through the rift. It doesn't matter, since we can't send it back. However it got here, we still have to deal with it being here. What the hell do we do to combat a storm? We can't exactly lock it up down in the vaults with the Weevils now can we?”
“I'll take that as a no,” Owen said, a definite edge to his voice.
Jack took charge again. “All right, Owen, I want you to take some samples of the rain and analyze them for anything foreign, anything we might be able to isolate and use. Tosh, I want you to get a hold of local meteorologists and see if they've got any ideas about how to get rid of a storm. Gwen, I want you researching. I can't remember something like this happening here before,” and Jack's memory went back quite a ways, “but maybe it's happened elsewhere. If we can eliminate strategies that have failed in the past, that'll save us some time now, at least. And Ianto… stay here for a moment. I want a word.”
The others got up and trudged off to their respective work stations. Under other circumstances, they might have been cracking jokes or quoting a certain nursery rhyme, but they all felt too wet and too worried. Before she disappeared around to the side, Gwen looked back at the meeting room, her eyes full of sympathy for Ianto.
“I dow,” Ianto said stuffily. He looked up at Jack, whose arms were crossed over his chest. “You're goig to tell be to go hobe.”
“No.” Jack sat down on the edge of the table, one leg bent, the other straight and on the floor to support half his weight. “No, I think by now I've got the message that you're not planning on going anywhere.” Jack figured it was something more than just the crisis and dedication, now. It was something darker that made Ianto want to stay. Some worry, some need. Jack couldn't fight what he didn't know, and Ianto wasn't telling… yet. So Jack wasn't going to try to push the matter. Not that way at least. “But whether you want to or not, you're going to get some rest.”
Shaking his head with insistence, “I cad helb.”
“You can work yourself to death, too, and that's not going to do any of us any good at all.” Not to mention that a soggy, worried team and someone ill in their midst were not the best of combinations. Jack uncrossed his arms with a sigh and put a hand on Ianto's shoulder. “Go downstairs and lie down on my bed. I don't care if you can't fall asleep; just rest and stay warm. We'll be just a yell away if you need something. And I've got some clean socks and undershirts in the top drawer of my dresser if you want to change into something more comfortable.”
“I'm not listening.” Jack got up, reached over, and helped pull Ianto to his feet. “Go.”
Grudgingly, Ianto shuffled for the door. He glanced at the quiet television as he passed it, then he turned around when he got to the door.
Jack pointed a finger, smiling with exasperation. “Go!” Or was Ianto expecting Jack to make him go? Jack readied himself.
“Sniff! Jack, do you think this is the Great Flood?”
“What?” This was certainly *a* flood.
Ianto buried his nose in the depths of a balled-up tissue that was making his nostrils quite pink. “IhhHrshhhh! uhhShehhh! Sniff!” He rubbed his nose, manipulated the tissue into a new ball, and scrubbed his nose with it again. “Frob the Bible, frob leged. The ode that took out whole codtidedts. Do you thig that's what cabe through the rift?”
Jack thought for a moment. “I hope not.” It was hardly reassuring, but the best he could offer.
Ianto seemed appeased, though, and headed for Jack's room.
After watching the man like a hawk to make sure he made it to the bedroom and didn't double-back, Jack immediately jumped on the phone and called the local government which had already left him twelve phone calls that morning.
Jack realized halfway to his rooms that since he was just going there to wake Ianto up anyway, there was really no reason to tread quietly. He thought about walking more loudly, in fact, to announce his presence. But he felt silly clumping down the stairs, so he ended up just walking normally. When he got to his room, he found Ianto completely passed out and looking both miserable and incredibly uncomfortable.
Ianto had fallen asleep with his clothes on—everything from shoes to tie to wristwatch. He was curled on his side in a half fetal position, hugging the tissue box to his chest, and lying on top of the covers. The man looked especially pale against the dark suit and the smoky-blue sheets. However, the man was fast asleep finally, so that was something at least. Jack hated to wake him, but it had to be done. “Ianto?” Jack whispered, wanting to rouse him as gently as possible. “Ianto, it's time for you to take more medicine.” He put his hand on the man's shoe and jiggled it a little. “Ianto?” No response. Absolutely no movement whatsoever. Not even so much as a sniffle. Jack sitting down on the bed did not even make him stir.
“Come on now, Ianto.” Jack said, a little above a whisper. His tone was smooth and gentle, but unyielding. “Just take a couple pills and then you can go right back to sleep.” He put a hand on Ianto's shoulder and shook lightly. Still nothing. From experience, Jack knew several other methods of waking someone who was sleeping so soundly, but was not sure Ianto would appreciate either a gunshot or a kiss at the moment. Though… the kiss wasn't altogether a bad idea… Jack shook the thought from his head and tried not to look at the man's already-parted lips, ready and waiting for his touch. “Ianto?” he said a bit more loudly. “Time to wake up.” Nothing.
Starting to get a little worried, Jack touched the back of his hand to Ianto's forehead. Jack tended to run a little hotter than the normal human, but he could still tell what was normal and what wasn't. His stomach churned and he thought of calling Owen right away, but their resident doctor was busy analyzing rain water samples and not especially pleased that he had the task that took him out in the rain repeatedly.
Then Jack noticed a beautiful pair of dark eyes staring up at him. “Sir, your hadd is like ice.”
Whatever worry was still in Jack faded from his face. “No, your head is like fire,” he said softly. He pulled his hand away instinctively. How much touching was too much?
Ianto winced. “Blease, sir?” He reached out with one hand, took Jack's hand, and pulled t back. He sighed silently so that his body relaxed and his eyes closed. He shivered just a little, and Jack wanted to pull his hand away again, but didn't dare now. He flipped it over, cupping his palm against the curve of the forehead. “What's habbedig with the raid?” he asked, his eyes still closed.
“The rain is still coming down,” answered Jack. “But first thing's first. You need to swallow a couple more pills or Owen'll kill me.”
Ianto opened one eye, looking at Jack as though to protest and insist that Jack would be able to handle being killed. But he didn't say a word and Jack didn't know how much the man knew… or suspected. “Water?” Ianto pulled both bottles of pills from his pocket.
“Water.” Jack repeated, nodding. He smiled sheepishly. “Forgot that. I'll be right back.” Ianto closed his eye. His chest rose and fell slowly. Something jumped in Jack's stomach. “Don't fall asleep again now.” He dreaded having to wake Ianto again.
“Wod't,” came the stuffy promise. Though his eyes were closed, Ianto pulled a tissue out of the tissue box and pressed it to his nose. He winced, but there was nothing for it now. His body tightened and curled in on itself. “Cah-cad't,” he muttered. “huh-huh-hptchhh! hehKshh! ihShh! Hihshh!”
Jack made it into the bathroom just as Ianto was simultaneously blowing his nose and apologizing for doing so. That would have been amusing had it not been for Ianto's illness. Jack filled a small, disposable paper cup with water. He brought it to Ianto, who was still blowing his nose. Jack did not even flinch to see the small pile of six or seven tissues on the bed by Ianto's face. It was not as though Jack used his bed on a daily basis. This was the most he'd even been in his bedroom for months. At least it was getting some use. Still, Jack dragged over a trash basket while Ianto took the pills. “More water?” Jack asked, noticing that Ianto had drained the cup. “Or tea?”
Ianto considered then shook his head. “I'd lige to go bag to sleeb.”
“Okay,” said Jack. “But how about sleeping under the covers this time? And… taking off your shoes at least?” Mud went hand in hand with rain, after all.
Ianto looked down, startled, as if he hadn't realized anything existed apart from his head and his head cold. “Sorry. Thought I'd just lie dowd add I fell asleeb idstead. I cad wash—”
“I don't care about the blankets. Aren't you uncomfortable, though?”
Ianto said nothing. His nod was tiny, miniscule, nothing more than a half nod, really. But it was affirmative, and he sat up when Jack put an arm around him and helped him to do so. In fact, he leaned right into Jack then. Perhaps closer than he even needed to be, Jack noticed. Off came shoes and slightly-damp socks. Off came the suit jacket and the black tie with thin, pink stripes. “That's edough,” Ianto started, but Jack's hands kept going. Off came the wrinkled shirt and next was the wrinkled… “Jack!” His cheeks flushed red as Jack unfastened Ianto's belt. Jack's hands stilled and their eyes met.
Jack wet his lips and stood. He turned his back to Ianto and pulled a rolled-up pair of white socks and a soft, white undershirt from his dresser drawer. He tossed them over his shoulder. Ianto, now out of his wrinkled trousers as well, put them on and got under the covers to hide his bare legs. He shivered and slid down further, so only his chin and above were not covered by the blankets. “Cold?” Jack asked. “I might have another blanket around here somewhere. Or there might be one down in—”
Ianto shook his head.
“Can I get you anything at all before I take off to save the world again?” It had been a long time since he'd taken care of someone who was ill. And he had never taken care of anyone he wasn't involved with. Moreover, he had never taken care of Ianto. His usual techniques wouldn't work. He was in over his head, treading water.
Ianto shook his head again, then reached out and pressed the butt of his hand to his forehead. “The raid?” he asked. Slowly, his body relaxed again
“Still falling,” Jack said.
Ianto shivered again, more violently. Jack stood up, alarmed. Not quite so alarmed that he was going to go for Owen immediately, but alarmed enough to insist upon getting another blanket and a hot cup of tea for the man.
Ianto snuggled under the new blanket with a soft thank you, trying very hard to look dignified while snuggling; somehow, he managed. And he clutched the mug of tea in both hands, feeling its warmth as it cooled down to a decent, drinkable temperature. He stared at the cup, steam rising from it, for a good long while. Jack stared at Ianto just as long, not really knowing a good procedure to excuse himself from his own bedroom, not really wanting to leave just yet.
Outside the room there was rain—massive amounts of rain. Outside were government officials demanding Torchwood fix this. And they still didn't even understand what it was. They had working theories, at best, and even less of an idea about how to stop it.
“Jack?” Jack nodded. “What about heat?”
“Are you still too cold?”
Ianto shook his head and inhaled some steam. He stretched his hand out and handed the cup back to Jack, then dove for his tissues. “eepTchoo! hihShhh! hihShoo! Eh-eh-EHShoo! Sniff!” He skipped blowing his nose. He had too much to say. “Sniff! SNIFF! Doe, Jack, heat. What habbeds to liquid whed it gets too hot?”
Jack glanced at the mug for the answer. “It evaporates.”
“Is there a way to… I dod't dow… get it hot edough outside?” Ianto shrugged and tried to joke, “I dever thought I'd wish we had Torchwood Lodod's lasers.”
“Yeah,” Jack nodded. He handed the tea back. “That's… not a bad idea.” Not the laser, exactly, but the concept. He was itching to see what could be done and rose quickly, but he paused and looked down at Ianto. “Sure you're all right?”
Ianto cracked a smile. Between the tea and the tissues, there wasn't much about him that was all right. But he would never say anything. Jack knew that. “I'b all right. Go.”
Jack went. Quickly.
“The phenomenon is called virga,” Tosh explained, after Jack had floated the idea. “Due to hot temperatures, falling rain evaporates before it hits the ground. It's seen occasionally in especially hot deserts.”
Jack nodded. “So what we'd be talking about is orchestrating something like that on a much larger scale, at a much higher elevation. Is that doable?”
Tosh shrugged. “I can try running some simulations based on the chemical composition of the clouds. We should be able to figure that out based on Owen's samples and analysis.”
“Bonified rain collector, that's me.” Owen did a salute.
Gwen said, “The Chinese Weather Modification Bureau has been working on some measures to stop it from raining during the opening ceremony at the next Olympics. They haven't been very successful in their trials, but they have a number of systems. We might be able to use their system and modify it with our technology to generate heat.”
“It's worth a shot.”
He meant to go to his office, meant to do a hundred things that needed to be done. But a minute later he found himself standing not in his office but his bedroom, beaming excitedly with news of the solution.
Jack was rather impressed at how quickly Ianto had fallen asleep; he had half-expected to find the man still awake and eager for news. But Ianto's breathing was slow and deep, full of snores and stuffiness but as steady as the rain. As Ianto badly needed his sleep, there was no rush to wake him now.
Jack walked over to the bed, remembering how heavily Ianto slept. Without fear of waking Ianto up, Jack leaned over and tucked the covers more tightly, warmly, around the man. “Thanks,” Jack whispered.
Ianto did not wake, but he might have heard anyway because Jack could have sworn that Ianto mouthed the recognizable words 'You're welcome, sir.'
Jack sat down on the edge of his bed again. He reached out and put his hand on Ianto's shoulder. Then, smiling in remembrance, he brushed his fingers over Ianto's forehead.
Immediately, Ianto stirred and opened his eyes. “Hi, Jack,” he whispered. His voice was horribly rough, but he cleared it and that seemed to be an improvement.
“Time for your medicine.”
“It's beed six hours already?” Ianto stretched and sat up as best he could.
“Mmm.” Jack nodded. “I remembered water this time.” He didn't exactly expect praise, but Ianto's tiny, little smile was oddly encouraging.
“Water,” Ianto repeated, swallowing the pills and washing them down with half the glass. “What about the raid?”
“Yes, gone.” Technically there was still a light sprinkle, but most of the rainclouds had evaporated and Tosh said within the hour the rain would stop completely. There would still be lots of cleanup work and flood damage, but there were other people to take care of that sort of thing. It wasn't under Torchwood's jurisdiction. “Another Torchwood victory. Crisis averted, world saved, rest of the day off to celebrate.” The team, and Owen in particular, had been especially glad about that. Jack took the empty glass back from Ianto and leaned away to give him a little room. It looked like Ianto could use it.
“hihShuhhh! ihhhChuhhh! ihChooo! Snfff! Excuse be.” Ianto relaxed a little and retreated back under the covers. “Guess you'll be wadtidg your bed back?”
Jack laughed. “You can keep it a little longer. I won't need it.” And, damn, it was nice to have a man in it again, no matter what the circumstances of his being there were.
“You dod't sleeb, sir?”
Shaking his head. “Depends what you mean by sleep.” Jack sparkled. “You, on the other hand…”
Ianto gave a very long, sleepy blink. “I cad't go hobe,” Ianto said, not meeting Jack's gaze.
“So you've said. Many times.” He didn't push… but didn't need to.
Ianto closed his eyes. “I cad't go hobe because the roof of my flat caved id. Dab ladlord was subbosed to get it fixed last bodth add dow everythig I owd is brobably soaked.”
Jack laughed again, mostly in sympathy.
“I was asleeb id bed tryig to fight off this cold add thed suddedly there was a crack add raid literally everywhere.”
Jack laughed, unable to stop himself. It wasn't funny. Not at all. Not one bit. All of poor Ianto's possessions, his clothes, his furniture, his books, all ruined. And he was ill on top of that. It wasn't funny, but Jack laughed anyway. Because it *was* funny. “I thought for sure you were so dedicated, committed to your job. Trying to show us… me… you're needed around here. Making tea in the face of danger, come hell or high water, that kind of thing. Then I thought it was something… darker. Some memory you couldn't face. Or maybe you couldn't stand being ill and alone. Fever dreams or needing comfort and company—but all the time it was that your flat got wet? You *literally* couldn't go home and rest.” He doubled over, laughing soft, body-shaking laughs.
Ianto smiled and, after a few seconds, gave a laugh as well.
“C'mere.” Jack reached over and pulled Ianto to him, both men shaking a little together and laughing a lot. Jack hugged Ianto warmly around the shoulders then placed a kiss on Ianto's forehead. “You stay here as long as you need,” Jack whispered heavily. “When you're feeling better and not sneezing every five minutes, we'll go out and get you some new things. New suits, okay?”
Sniffling, Ianto nodded. He rubbed at his nose and winced as his knuckles touched the slightly-chapped skin.
Jack got up. Ianto's eyes widened and he made to reach out to Jack, but caught himself in time, pretending to need to rub his nose again. And, actually, he did need to rub his nose again. But Jack only stood so he could pull a handkerchief out of his back trouser pocket. He sat back down and pressed the hanky into Ianto's hand. Ianto stared at it. “It's not going to bite.”
“You can do a load of laundry for me when you're feeling better if you're that concerned.”
“I will, sir.” Jack tucked the covers around him as Ianto's breath caught. “ihh-ihKTchhh! epHshh! Ngshhhh!” His body shook with each wet sneeze, undoing the progress Jack had just made on the rumpled blankets. “ihKChhhh! hehFShhhh!” He rubbed the hanky at his nose and sighed. “So buch better.”
“I'm glad.” Jack tucked the covers around Ianto again and the man settled back into bed comfortably.
* * * * *
Ianto yawned into the back of his hand, tapping the toe of his shoe against the dryer. One load of laundry had assuaged his guilt for completely taking over Jack's bedroom for a week, but four loads of laundry had really been what was necessary to do the job properly. He couldn't possibly mix darks with lights after all, and the linens really required their own load. The gentle thump-thump-thumping of the clothes spinning in the dryer probably would have made him feel sleepy even if it weren't late at night. Apart from that sound, it was quiet in the hub. Everyone else was either home asleep or home ill… or both.
Ianto eyed the digital numbers on the dryer's display. Three more minutes until fluffy, warm goodness. He tapped the tip of his shoe against the metal dryer.
Ianto turned to be sure he hadn't imagined the voice. Jack stood there, fully clothed, in stark contrast to Ianto, whose new uniform of late was shorts, socks, and Jack's soft, white undershirts. “How's the rain tonight?” Ianto asked. After days of clear skies, Ianto couldn't help but notice the new droplets on the greatcoat and Jack's hair.
Jack looked slightly surprised that Ianto had noticed. “It is light and moving on, just as it's supposed to,” Jack replied. “Not that you'd know. You've been down here doing laundry all evening.”
“Just doing my job.”
Jack crossed his arms over his chest, cocked his head, and raised his eyebrows.
Ianto changed approaches. “Just eager to get to bed, sir. Working on the last load now.”
Jack smiled. “You'd better get on it.”
Nodding, “Yes, sir.” He watched Jack turn and walk back out of the room. Ianto's eyes lingered on the empty doorway as he heard the heavy footfalls in the corridor and then on the stairs. Truly, what would two minutes matter in the grand scheme of things anyway? Ianto yanked open the dryer. He immediately pulled out a hot towel and went after his boss. He wouldn't want Jack to catch a cold, after all.