Title: Snapshots

Author: tarotgal

Fandom: Torchwood

Rating: R

Pairing: Jack/Ianto

Disclaimer: Torchwood is not my brain child. If it were, it would have gone like this.

Summary: After Ianto makes a wrong move and catches a cold, he's confined to the Hub until it runs its course.

Author's Notes: Lady Korana won a ficlet as a prize in my “guess which Margo I am” contest. I got a little carried away with the snapshot concept.





                After the question, Jack looks demanding and Owen gives in. Owen rolls away from the lab equipment and leans back in his chair. It gives with a bounce. “I've got good news and better news.”


                Jack motions for him to get on with things. Ianto shifts his weight from one foot to the other, uncomfortably.


                Owen begins. “First, the good news. I've analyzed the sample from the container and it's a cold virus. An alien cold virus, maybe, but definitely a cold virus. It might be unpleasant but it won't kill Ianto.”


                “And that's the better news?” Jack asks.


                At this, Owen grins. Ianto gets a bad feeling about that grin; instinctively, he inches closer to Jack. Owen sits up straight and looks straight at Ianto. “No. The better news is that it's highly communicable. There's no way Ianto missed catching it. And it's going to be a bit unpredictable. Should be fun to see what happens. Looks like you won't be leaving the Hub until it's through with you.”




                Ianto is feeding the weevils. Getting the food to them without having to watch them eat was a skill he had honed during his time at Torchwood. Ianto hears familiar footsteps and looks over to see Jack.


                “How are you feeling?”


                With a shrug, “Well enough.”


                “Well enough to feed weevils?” Jack asks.


                With a smile, “Well enough for anything.”


                Jack returns the smile. “I can think of a few anythings to keep us occupied as we wait.”




                “How do you feel now?” Jack asks, dragging two fingers from one of Ianto's nipples to the other while his tongue plays lazily at the man's naval.


                “I… oh…” Ianto's eyes roll and toes curl. “I feel wonderful.”


                “Not sneezy yet?” Jack asks. “No sign of that cold you're supposed to be coming down with?”


                Ianto shakes his head. Then he takes hold of Jack's head and tugs slightly, guiding him up. Jack acquiesces to a kiss and rolls with Ianto in his arms, across the bed in one direction then back again in the other.




                Ianto is making coffee for five, even though he doesn't plan on drinking his cupful. The warmth is all he wants. And he wants to make sure the others are happy and taken care of. It's a small, simple gesture they tease him about or take for granted, but pretty soon he knows he won't be able to do anything except lie in bed. He wants to do what he can while he still can.


                He prepares each cup of coffee the way its drinker likes. And after delivering each mug, he sits down with his own and stares at the empty container he shouldn't have opened. It looks so harmless now. Ianto knows better than to hope Owen was wrong in his analysis, but he can't help but wonder what this cold will be like.




                Everyone is watching him out of the corners of their eyes as he tries to go about his regular work. They stare when his head is turned. They notice every breath and movement. Ianto worries that when this cold comes on, they'll either swarm him with attention or avoid him completely for fear they'll catch if from him.


                Ianto isn't sure which he prefers. But he hopes Jack will stick around. It will be miserable enough to have a raging head cold and be stuck in the hub; he doesn't want to go through that completely Jack-less.




                Ianto is making another pot of coffee. This time it's all for Jack, so it's strong and delicious—just like the man himself. He's nearly done when he feels the tickle in his nose. At once, his hand dives into his pocket, frantically searching for his hanky. But his fingers can't tell the difference between the cloth handkerchief and the cloth pocket lining. So, instead, he grabs a napkin from the counter by the coffee pot.


                He backs up a few steps so that he won't sneeze on the spoons and cups and plates and other clean things the others might touch. He inhales involuntarily at the first step back. Then he backs right into something and can't excuse himself as he's in mid-sneeze. “ehTChhh!”  


                He struggles for breath, turns on the spot, and wrenches his eyes open to catch a glimpse of Jack. Relieved, he lets his eyes close and lets the sneezes come. “IhKShhh! Eh-Tchuh! ihhhKTchhhhh!” The napkin is not sufficient.


                Somehow, Jack understands. Jack reaches into Ianto's pocket and effortlessly finds the handkerchief. Jack caresses the back of Ianto's hand, easing it down, replacing it with his own and the handkerchief. He waits for the last sneeze, half-stifled. “Ih-IH-chfff!


                Then Jack wraps his arms around Ianto. “So, it looks like you've come down with that cold, finally?” Ianto nods, his cheek rubbing against the great coat. He wonders when Jack got to be so warm. He wraps his arms around Jack, wanting to make sure the man doesn't go anywhere.


                “Knew it was going to happen,” Ianto murmurs.


                 “Doesn't make it any better, I'm sure.” Jack strokes his hair and kisses his head. “Come on. I want Owen to look at you.”


                Ianto clings more tightly. Owen is the last person he wants to see just now.




                Ianto shudders. He was cold before, but sitting alone on Owen's table while Owen pokes at him makes him feel worse. He looks around for Jack and doesn't see the man around anywhere. He's a little annoyed that Jack would just deposit him here with Owen and then disappear. He's also a little annoyed that Owen is taking so much pleasure in this. Ianto frowns around the thermometer in his mouth. “I haff to sdeess,” Ianto tells him, not because he has to sneeze just now, but because he wants to the thermometer out. He wants to get down. He wants to get away. He wants to go home.


                Owen takes out the thermometer, but makes Ianto stay put. Owen throws out phrases like “highly contagious” and “bed rest” and “confined to the hub.”


                Ianto is only half-listening. This is hardly his first time with a head cold. When he does feel like sneezing again, he considers not using one of the tissues from the box Owen gave him. He considers sneezing on Owen. Ianto gets to see Owen in the mornings without coffee. It hardly seems like a fair trade-off for Owen to see Ianto now so weak and vulnerable. But he knows he would never go through with it.


                So he nestles his nose in a fistful of tissues and turns his head to preserve what decency he has left. “hey-Ihtchhhh! Ihfshhhh! Ehhhhhh-Kitchuh!” He snuffles and blows and coughs and feels incredibly alone and self-conscious.


                And then Gwen is there with a blanket for him. He has no idea where it came from or why she's there to give it to him just now, but he hugs it around himself.




                Ianto is completely unable to find Jack. He pokes around the Hub, looking, but trying not to look as though he were looking. He keeps the blanket Gwen gave him draped over his shoulders. And he keeps some of the tissues Owen gave him clutched in one hand. But Jack isn't to be found anywhere.


                So Ianto grabs a biscuit and sits down at a computer to read through a screen of information he doesn't care a thing about. It's just something to do. He feels out of the loop, unaware of what the rest of the team is working on. It's disconcerting.  




                “I went out to get a few things,” Jack says, in answer to Ianto's question that was equal parts curious, needy, and accusatory. When Ianto doesn't answer, he adds, “The things are for you.”


                Curious wins out. “Oh?”


                Jack first pulls a pair of pajamas out of a bag. “You're going to need something comfortable to sleep in. So I got you the comfiest pajamas I could find.


                They do look a little nice, though brand new. “Couldn't I just wear yours?”


                Jack pulls a box of tissues out of the bag and avoids Ianto's eyes. “I don't have any.”


                Ianto remembers this now, that Jack is either dressed handsomely or entirely naked; there is no in-between for the Captain.


                Jack sets another bag on the bed and begins clearing papers and books off of it; during cases, he used it as an overflow desk. Ianto looks worried. “Do you mind me using your bed? I could just sleep on the couch.”


                Jack looks a bit hurt. “You won't get any rest on the couch, what with our monitors going off and people walking by and everything. Besides, I don't sleep in my bed.”


                Ianto remembers now. Jack doesn't sleep in his bed because he doesn't sleep at all. “Still, you use it for organizing…”


                “You'll take the bed,” Jack tells him, sounding like his boss more than his friend or lover, “so I can keep an eye on you.”




                “hehhhhhh… hehhh-IHKShhhhh!” Ianto's body shakes from the power of the sneeze. He dabs a tissue at his nose and looks up to see Tosh with a tray of food. He groans a little and retreats under the blankets a little. He doesn't want her to see him like this. He doesn't really want anyone to see him like this. Except maybe Jack.


                “I brought you lunch,” she tells Ianto.


                “Thags,” he says, sounding stuffy, but he's not about to blow his nose with her hovering there. “Cad you just leave it?”


                She hesitates, then sets the tray down on the corner of the bed, where Ianto's feet aren't. “Feel better,” she says.


                He nods and listens to her retreating footsteps. Then he starts to sit up but doesn't get so far. “IHTChhhh! Heh-heh-heh-EHShuhhhhh!” He shakes and so does the bed. The tray on the bed doesn't fall off, but doesn't escape the movement either. The glass of orange juice topples over, saturating the sandwich. The soup sloshes out onto the cookies, the tray, and the bed. The grapes roll off the plate, onto the tray, and onto the floor. Ianto groans. Shivering and sniffling, he crawls down the bed to inspect the damage. The movement tips the soup bowl over completely and, before he can get to it, the tray plummets off the edge.


                The sound did not escape Tosh. She returns and cleans up, despite his stuffy protests and apologies. “Don't be silly,” she says. She strokes his head. “Lie down. I'll clean this up and fix you something else. It's really my fault anyway.”


                He does what she tells him, snuggling back up under the blankets. But he still feels guilty. If he hadn't opened that box, none of this would be happening now. Plus, that sandwich had looked really good.




                Ianto is tired, but can't fall back to sleep. For a long while, he lies in bed, alone and shivery and full of regrets. Finally, he pulls a blanket around his shoulders and hugs it to his front as he trudges across the bedroom and office. He sees Jack and Gwen talking. They're standing too close to each other for his tastes.


                When he sneezes, it catches their attention. They come over to him. Gwen fusses and admonishes him for getting out of bed. She ushers him back to bed and tucks him in with tissues and a heating pad. Ianto keeps his eyes on Jack the whole time. The man looks amused, which is infuriating.


                But when Gwen's gone, he gets Ianto another pillow and gives him an amazingly soft handkerchief in place of the tissues. Jack locks the door behind them and strips down to nothing. Without a word, he climbs into bed and wraps himself around Ianto.


                Ianto forgets about the box and the spilled tray and Gwen's fussing. All he knows is that warm body and a man who wants him even when he's sniffly and not at his best. He nuzzles and closes his eyes and falls to sleep.






                Seventeen hours into the cold, Ianto realizes precisely why it was he was put on this planet. He's here to sneeze. Words like steady, wet, and repetitive hardly do justice to what is happening to him. Ianto lies curled in bed with a damp hanky pressed to his nose, which runs perpetually. He sneezes, takes a breath, and sneezes again. His whole body obeys the sneezes, helpless to resist as one after another after another strike him.




                At first, Jack is thrilled and Ianto smiles briefly between sneezes. But after Jack is spent and cleans up, and Ianto is still sneezing, he grows concerned. “Try to blow your nose,” he says, offering a bunch of tissues and a kiss.


                Ianto tries. He empties his nose a half dozen times, but the tickle is still there.


                “hih-Shoo!” Pause. “hehhShuhhh!” Breath. “ihgShuhhhh!” Blow. “hahhShoo!


                “I think we should call Owen in,” Jack says, worriedly.


                “ehh-Hihshihh!” Ianto shrugs. It doesn't much matter to him at this point. “ehhh-Ih-hihKshhhh!” Sneeze after sneeze after sneeze. “ehgshuhhh!” Ianto can't see it ever ending. “ihhhTchhh!




                Jack sits on the examining table, legs spread wide. Ianto sits in front of him, and Jack has his arms around Ianto.


                Ianto keeps sneezing, and his body is exhausted from it. But Jack keeps him warm and upright as Owen examines him. It's easier to handle Owen when Jack is there with him. And Owen seems more concerned this time.


                “How long?” Owen asks. Torchwood's doctor looks like he had been pulled out of bed by Jack's phone call.


                “A… ah… a-Hecktchooo! A couple… hih-heh-IHShhhhhh! Hours. AhKShuhhh!” Ianto tells him.


                Owen frowns. “I've never seen anything quite like this. But I might be able to give you something else that will help.”


                “Please,” Jack says, hugging Ianto close as the man shakes helplessly from another sneeze.


                Owen keeps frowning but he gets to work.




                Jack tucks Ianto back into bed. There's a fresh handkerchief clutched in his hand, but he's not sneezing now because he's fast asleep. Jack sits on the edge of the bed, stroking Ianto's head. It helped the man fall asleep and now he's worried that if he stops, Ianto will wake.


                What Jack doesn't know is that Ianto has been awake the whole time, just savoring Jack's soft, comforting touch. He struggles to stay awake, but thinking of coffee doesn't do the trick. Jack's soft fingers caress his skin and slide gracefully through his hair. He can't help but smile and he finally drifts off to sleep.




                “How are you feeling?” Jack asks as soon as he sees the Welshman's eyes open. Jack's hands twitch, inching closer to the tissue box in case the sneezes return in full, continuous force as before. “Going to sneeze?”


                In reply, Ianto snuggles close to Jack. He sniffles wetly, but he doesn't say a word. His nose rubs against a sensitive spot on Jack's neck, making Jack shudder, though he pretends not to.


                “Really, Ianto, how are you?” He plucks a tissue from the box, bunches it against Ianto's nose briefly, and then flips his hand over to feel Ianto's forehead for fever. He starts to pull it away once he determines Ianto isn't running a fever, but Ianto reaches up for it. He takes Jack's hand and squeezes it. Jack looks worried and still wants his answer.


                But Ianto pulls on the hand, pulls Jack closer, and kisses the man squarely on the lips. Jack tries to pull away again, but Ianto holds him close, hands on Jack's cheeks, until the man's mouth smiles against Ianto's. Ianto sniffles and gives Jack just a little space. “I hab good dews add better dews.”


                Out of habit, Jack runs his hand through Ianto's short hair. “The good news?”


                “The good dews is that I feel good,” he confesses. He gives Jack another kiss and sniffles as he rubs his nose against Jack's. “But by dose is still bretty tickly add full of cold.”


                Jack chuckles and slips his arm around Ianto. He hugs the man excitedly and eases one of his legs between Ianto's. “Mmm. Sorry, Ianto. No leaving the Hub until you're completely well.”


                Ianto grinds against Jack's thigh. “That's the better dews.”