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Wednesday, March 27th, 2013 10:48 pm
Title: What Never Should Be: Ghost Machine
Chapter Two: Late Night Confessions
Author: blucougar57
Summary: Disharmony and conflict threatens the Torchwood Three family when ghosts surface from the past. (Sixth story in the "What Never Should Be" universe.)
Rating: T
Warnings: None, as yet.
A/N: Thank you to everyone for your patience and understanding. Things are starting to get back on track now, where health and other issues are concerned. Still pottering along, but I am on holiday for two weeks now, which helps. I really hope to get at least one more chapter of this written and posted before I have to go back to work, and I really want to get stuck in and write the Jack/Gage reunion.....



Chapter Two: Late Night Confessions


Leaving behind two very confused individuals, Ianto entered the cell and crouched down in front of its occupant.

"Hello, Gage," he said quietly.


Slowly, the other man lifted his head to meet Ianto's concerned gaze. The face was far more gaunt than Ianto remembered but the eyes were exactly the same and they flared now with recognition.

"Ianto... My god, Ianto, is that you? Is it really you?"

Before Ianto could confirm or deny it, Gage had flung himself forward and threw his arms around Ianto in a massive bear hug. It took some effort on Ianto's part not to push him away. The stench of alcohol and other unpleasant aromas was nearly overpowering, and it made the young man's stomach churn.

"Never thought I'd see you again," Gage whispered, clinging to him fiercely. "Oh god, Ianto, I am so sorry."

Ianto swallowed a reflexive urge to tell Gage that it was all right because, in truth, it wasn't – not yet. As much as Jack had often confessed to missing Gage terribly, Ianto really didn't know how Jack would react to seeing him again. It could either be very good... or very, very bad. There was still an awful lot of hurt lingering just beneath the surface, and Ianto could only imagine how Jack would react.

"C'mon, up you get," Ianto murmured. He was quietly glad that he'd opted to dress in old clothes for his night-time sojourn into the Hub. It was highly doubtful that the stench surrounding Gage would be easily gotten rid of, given that it was at least partly due to malnutrition, and Ianto could already sense it permeating his clothes.

"Where are we going?" Gage asked softly and, for a split second, Ianto was struck by a vivid memory of himself in a car with Jack as they drove away from Torchwood One in the dead of night.

"We're going home. You can clean yourself up there, have something to eat and get some sleep, if you can. We'll talk tomorrow when you have a clear head."

Somewhere behind him, Ianto heard Andy make a derisive noise.

"Be a week before that one has a clear head."

Gage glared past Ianto to Andy.

"I'll have you know that I've never had a hang-over in my life! I'm Irish and I know how to hold my liquor, not like some little Welsh upstart!"

"All right," Ianto muttered, even as Andy bristled in irritation at the jibe. "Let's not start a pissing contest, shall we? Andy, do we need to do anything? Paperwork, or the like?"

"No," Andy conceded in exasperation. "Since the kid he was fighting with did a runner and the publican doesn't want to press charges, he's free to go. Just get him sober and keep him out of trouble, please?"

Ianto smiled wryly as he guided his old friend out of the cell.

"I'll do my best."

* * *


"Gwen," Ianto said as they exited the building, "the piece of tech needs to be secured at the Hub. Can you do that? I'll log it properly in the morning."

"Sure," she agreed, her attention wandering to Gage. "Ianto, who is he? How do you know him?"

"He's an old friend of mine and Jack's," Ianto answered. "Someone that neither of us has seen for a long while. I'll explain what I can tomorrow, all right?"

If his tone was short, she never reacted, except to smile and nudge him lightly.

"I think you mean later this morning. It already is tomorrow."

Ianto grimaced.

"Goddess, you're right. Look, if you can secure the tech and leave a message for Owen and Tosh, go home and don't worry about coming back in until eleven. I expect I'll be in around noon, once I've had a chance to talk with Gage."

"So... You'll be bringing him back to the Hub, then? It wouldn't be a security risk?"

Ianto shook his head. He felt mildly annoyed at the lightly probing questions, but reminded himself that they were also perfectly legitimate queries. He decided that it wouldn't hurt to offer just a titbit of information, hoping it would satisfy her for the time being.

"Gage is Torchwood, Gwen. He was with Torchwood London long before I was ever recruited there, so no, it's not a security breach. Besides, once he sobers up properly, he might recall more about that tech he was so anxious to get hold of. I'm sorry, I can't tell you anything more right now."

"It's fine," she murmured and though he could tell her curiosity was not yet satisfied, she clearly was not going to push the matter further. For that, he was immensely grateful. "Don't worry about the tech. I'll take care of it, I promise."

He made no effort to hide his relief.

"Thank you."

* * *


Fifteen minutes later, he was ushering Gage into his and Jack's home, his mind already calculating what he would need to buy for his old friend.

"Think you can manage a shower without keeling over?" he asked, feeling just slightly mollified by the abashed look on Gage's face.

"I'm really not that drunk, you know."

"No? By whose standards?"

"Fair point," Gage muttered. "Yes, I can shower safely."

"All right, then. I'll find something for you to wear. I hope you're not attached to anything you have on, because it's all going into the furnace, the first chance I get. In the meantime, there's a blue robe hanging up in the bathroom that you can wear. The bathroom is just down that hall, second door on the left. Take as long as you need and I'll have some food and coffee ready for you later."

Gage started towards the bathroom, only to pause and look back at Ianto.

"Was he all right, Ianto? After I left, I mean."

Ianto wasn't inclined to sugar-coat his response, and he didn't even try.

"No," he answered bluntly. "He wasn't all right. He blamed himself and it took me a long time to get him to accept that he wasn't at fault."

Gage looked stricken.

"Ianto..."

"Get cleaned up, Gage. We'll have time to talk later."

* * *


Ianto had often envisaged his and Jack's reunion with Gage Adams. From the time their friend and fellow conspirator had left the TARDIS, right up until very recently, Ianto had imagined a joyful reunion. In none of his imaginings had he considered that he might feel anything but relief at Gage's return. As he stood in the kitchen, though, preparing a supper of toasted sandwiches and coffee, he realised that the only emotion he could feel right then was anger.

Anger at Gage for leaving without a word of explanation; anger that it had been left to him to try and make the then still-childlike Jack understand that he'd done nothing wrong; anger at the sheer bloody cruelty in Gage's actions – intended or otherwise.

Right then, Ianto was struggling to find anything positive in Gage's sudden reappearance and that thought alone made him sick to his stomach.

Ianto was still standing there, brooding in silence, when Gage emerged, clean and wearing the blue robe that Ianto had suggested he use.

"All clean," he said with a half smile that in no way hid his nervousness. Ianto looked him up and down with critical appraisal. Somehow, the man's cleanliness only seemed to accentuate his gauntness even worse.

"I've made some toasties," he said finally. "I don't have much else in the house, I was intending to do a shop tomorrow."

Gage eyed Ianto warily. The younger man's harsh tone hadn't escaped his attention.

"You're angry at me."

It wasn't a question, and Ianto was too tired to even attempt to deny it.

"Yes," he confirmed. "I am."

Gage nodded grimly.

"I figured you would be." He spread his arms wide. "All right, let's have it."

Ianto didn't waste his breath asking what Gage meant. He already knew, and it was all he needed for the emotional dam to burst.

"You left him! You stupid, selfish son of a bitch, you left us! He cried for days after you left and it took months for me to make him accept that it wasn't his fault!"

"God, Ianto, I am so sorry. I guess I wasn't thinking straight at the time, but I really thought I was doing the best thing for everyone."

"How?" Ianto demanded incredulously. "In what parallel existence could you call just disappearing without a trace the best thing?"

Gage looked uncomfortably at Ianto.

"It actually was kind of stupid when I stopped to think it over, but by then it was too late. I didn't have any way to contact you and I didn't dare go back to Britain because of UNIT..."

"Gage!" Ianto interrupted. "For God's sake, stop babbling and spit it out."

The Irishman shut his eyes for a moment, and Ianto could see him attempting to regroup before speaking again.

"The day you visited your parents and you left us to look after Jack... Did you ever happen to find out what happened that made him so hysterical?"

Ianto didn't have to think very hard to remember. He vividly recalled the discomforting 'birds and the bees' talk he'd had to have with Jack that had ended up being part and parcel of his efforts to reassure Jack that he'd done nothing wrong to drive Gage away.

"I seem to recall something about him getting an erection, and you having a momentary lapse of common sense... Oh, bloody hell, Gage, don't tell me you decided to bugger off because of that?"

To his credit, Gage had the decency to look thoroughly embarrassed.

"Told you it'd sound stupid."

It was Ianto's turn to shut his eyes, willing himself to calm down. With the history they shared, he could concede that Gage at least deserved a chance to explain himself properly. Also, Ianto hoped that if he understood Gage's reasoning, then he might have a chance at stemming any anger Jack might experience.

"All right, Gage," he said finally with careful and deliberate calm. "Talk to me. I want to understand, so talk to me."

Gage sighed and slumped back on the couch.

"The only reason Jack ever trusted me was because you told him that he could."

Ianto frowned.

"At first, maybe, but you still earned his trust in your own right."

"It was always a pretty fragile thing, though. I nearly lost it when he was poisoned, remember?"

"That wasn't your fault. Jack understood that once he'd recovered enough for me to explain it to him."

"Maybe, but it didn't help, either. Then there was that day with the cold shower business. I really messed up badly with that and you can't argue that I didn't."

"No," Ianto conceded, "but at the same time, all it needed was for us to explain it to Jack once he'd calmed down. There must be more to it than this."

"Ianto," Gage said in a soft, strained voice, "my idiocy nearly got you killed. How could I possibly stay on the TARDIS with you after that?"

Ianto felt the starkly unpleasant sensation of bile rising in his throat.

"You mean UNIT? You think that was your fault? You can't be serious!"

The haunted expression on Gage's face told Ianto that he was utterly serious.

"If I hadn't done what I did, then Jack wouldn't have gotten spooked and gone looking for you. He wouldn't have panicked when you weren't there and UNIT would never have known he was there."

Ianto couldn't help himself. He began to laugh, hard. Discomfort and confusion crossed Gage's face at the other man's reaction.

"What's so funny?"

"Sorry," Ianto said in a strained voice. "But if I don't laugh, I reckon I'll probably cry. You're an idiot, Gage. I'm sorry, but you are. You're a complete and utter bloody fool. If you'd just waited long enough for me to recover so we could talk, I would have been able to tell you that it wasn't your fault. In fact, it might just have saved my life."

"I don't understand..."

"Listen to me, Gage. UNIT had been in contact with my family after Canary Wharf fell. They told them that I'd been abducted by a monster that escaped from Torchwood One, and to let them know if they heard from me. My father did just that after I called them the first time from the TARDIS. UNIT had surveillance on the house when we arrived that day. As for what happened, it wouldn't have mattered even if Jack had stayed safely inside the TARDIS. He wasn't their primary target that day. I was."

Gage gaped at him in shock.

"You?"

"That's right. If Jack had still been in the TARDIS when I left my parents' house, I would have either been captured by UNIT, or I would have been shot dead. I'm tipping it would have been the latter."

"Bloody hell," Gage muttered. "Well, now I really do feel like a right fool."

Ianto smiled wryly. Even though he didn't agree with it, he at least now understood Gage's reasoning and felt that he would have a good chance at helping Jack to understand as well.

"So now, the only question is why the Doctor didn't tell you any of that at the time."

"Don't blame him," Gage said ruefully. "He tried to tell me that I wasn't seeing the complete picture but I wouldn't listen. I was so sure that I'd messed up irreparably that I didn't want to hear it. Even though he told me you'd be okay, it wasn't enough. I just couldn't bring myself to wait long enough to face you."

"Damn it, Gage," Ianto said, but there was no heat in his tone.

"I know, I know. I'm a bloody idiot. I just hope he'll forgive me. Where is he, anyway? Did he stay with the Doctor?"

A small smile touched Ianto's lips as he remembered that Gage had left before Jack's mental and emotional restoration had happened.

"No, we live here together. Jack's in London at the moment, though. He'll be home the day after tomorrow. That is, unless he throws a tantrum and storms out of the conference he's at, which is entirely possible."

"So the Doctor did it, then?" Gage asked, hope lighting up his face. "He helped Jack get his memories back?"

"Yeah, he did," Ianto confirmed softly. "His memories, and then some. We needed you, Gage. Jack needed you. We hit some pretty rough waters for a while, and we could have both done with having you there to help."

"I am so sorry, Ianto," Gage whispered. "I just never imagined that either of you might need me that much. You... You're all right, though, aren't you?"

"We are," Ianto said. "It's just been a difficult road."

"And now here you are... Have to say, though, I'm kind of stunned that you settled here. I mean, right on the doorstep of Torchwood Three? That must be pretty difficult for Jack, and if the Powers That Be ever decide to make the base operational again, you might have some real trouble on... What? What's wrong?"

Ianto shook his head, acutely aware of the baffled look on Gage's face, as opposed to the amused look he imagined was probably on his own face.

"Sorry, nothing's wrong. I just forgot that you don't know. Torchwood Three is operational again, Gage. Jack and I are in charge."

The expression on Gage's face was comical in its sheer astonishment.

"You're bloody having me on!"

"No, I'm not, I promise you. Jack is now the Director of Torchwood, by decree of Her Majesty the Queen."

Gage laughed long and hard, and his utter delight brought a grin back to Ianto's face as well.

"Oh, that's bloody brilliant, that is!" Gage exclaimed. "Absolutely fucking brilliant! He's gone from being Torchwood's resident test subject to the head bloody honcho! I bet that well and truly put the proverbial cat among the pigeons with those poncy UNIT bastards!"

"Some of them resented it," Ianto conceded, "but fortunately most were willing to accept Jack. One in particular, Colonel Tom Anderson of UNIT America, has been brilliant. He stepped in to help when one of our team was being threatened by another UNIT official, and he's given us his full support all the way along. Jack would cheerfully do anything he asked, within reason, and so would I."

"Well, that's something," Gage murmured. "Still, it's hard to believe that the two of you are running Torchwood now! What does the Doctor think about it?"

Ianto snorted.

"The sneaky sod planned it with the Queen herself. We have a whole new charter now, Gage. No more of that old rubbish about the Doctor being our enemy, and none of that 'if it's alien, it's ours' bullshit. We defend against hostiles, assist friendlies and we only kill when there is absolutely no alternative. It's a different era now, Gage. It's how Torchwood was always meant to operate."

Gage raised an eyebrow in bemusement.

"Sounds like you're putting a sales pitch to me, lad."

Ianto smiled faintly. He hadn't actually been thinking along those lines but once Gage had put the idea in his head, he knew there was no getting rid of it.

"Would you be interested?"

Silence met the question, and a thoughtful and slightly melancholy look filled Gage's face.

"Well, I don't have too many other options open to me at the moment. Got to say I'm a little amused, though. Never thought for a second that I'd potentially end up working for Torchwood again, not in a month of Sundays."

"There are worse places to be now," Ianto pointed out gently. And there was that melancholic look again.

"I know, lad. Believe me, I know."

Ianto gazed at Gage curiously before venturing a question.

"The Doctor said you'd asked to go home. I assume you meant Ireland?"

"I did, yes."

"So what brought you back here? I assume something happened."

"Something did," Gage answered somewhat evasively. "But I'd rather not talk about it yet, if you don't mind. I know I need to be honest with you, but I don't especially want to have to tell this story more than once."

Ianto could certainly understand the sentiment.

"Fair enough. We'll wait until Jack gets home. Damn, he's going to be glad to see you, Gage."

Gage smiled wistfully.

"I'll be glad to see him again, too. I really will."

* * *


to be continued...


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