Gummo Bergman's "Silent Strawberries" (marginaliana) wrote,

Fic: Random Shoes (The Four Day Jones Remix) 1/2

Title: Random Shoes (The Four Day Jones Remix)
Fandom: Torchwood
Pairing: Ianto/Eugene/Martha, ultimately Ianto/Jack
Rating: NC-17
Length: ~15,000
Warnings: explicit sex – het, slash, and other; character deaths (but you should know who's dead already)
Summary: He doesn't deserve to be forgotten. Jones and Jones (and Jones). AU.
Notes: This takes place after Exit Wounds but before The Stolen Earth/Journey's End. Many thanks to aunty_marion for looking it over.


Day 1: Eugene
Eugene walks along the road and comes across a familiar black SUV parked on the shoulder. One of the officers holds up the edge of the crime scene tape and Eugene ducks underneath.

"Thanks," he says absently, crossing to where he can see the team crouched near something in the grass. "Hey, Ianto! Gwen, Jack. The guys at the rope just let me through, so…"

They ignore him.

"I'd say at least fifty miles per hour," says Gwen.

"Travelled on the bonnet, bounced, maybe rolled, smashed his face on the road," says Jack. Neither of them acknowledges him, but Eugene's used to that. What he's not used to is Ianto's blank stare as he scans the scene and looks right through Eugene. Ianto, at least, usually gives a polite hello as he's rushing past. Eugene looks down at the something at the edge of the road. It's a body, and after he gets over the thrill of seeing a live dead body, Eugene realizes that it looks familiar.

"Hey," he says, "excuse me, but that kind of looks a lot like me."

"No bag – nothing," says Ianto. "What was he doing here? Perhaps he was hit deliberately... if he really did have something important to tell us." This last part is murmured.

"Like what?" says Gwen sceptically.

"I don't know," Ianto says, shrugging. "He certainly seemed to think it was important, judging by the number of times he tried to talk to us."

It more than looks like him, Eugene thinks. It is him.

"I think it's just an ordinary RTA," says Jack gently. He picks up one of the body's hands.

"Guys?" says Eugene. Something here is very, very wrong.

"It was a red car. There's red paint under his fingernails."

Eugene takes a step closer. "Am I dead?" he asks, almost not wanting to know the answer. He reaches out to Ianto but staggers back in shock when his hand goes right through Ianto's shoulder. He looks around, eyes wild.

"Am I dead?"

------

Eugene registers, in the back of his mind, that the phone lying in the grass is ringing. Gwen answers it and says something to the person on the other end, but her words just sound like nonsense in Eugene's ears.

"What happened?" says Eugene. "How did I end up here? I mean, I'm dead, but I'm not dead. So ... Shit!"

Jack pushes himself up from his crouch forcefully and strides back towards the SUV without a word. As Eugene feels himself beginning to freak out, Gwen and Ianto exchange a look, then follow Jack hastily. Eugene strides after them, heart pumping.

"So, what? Am I a ghost or a zombie? Oh, God. Right, calm. Better stick with Torchwood. They'll know what to do."

Gwen pulls the door of the SUV open, then pauses and looks at Jack. Eugene climbs inside while she's distracted.

"Come on, Gwen," Eugene says, "stop mooning and let's get on with figuring out why I'm all ghosty. Jack's not that good looking."

Well, okay, yeah he is, he thinks, but then there's Ianto. The object of Eugene's train of thought is sitting in the passenger seat facing pointedly forward. Eugene tries to catch Ianto's eye in the rear-view mirror and has another nasty shock.

"Oh, what?! Of course, I'm invisible. Why am I invisible?" He shivers.

Finally Jack and Gwen get in. "Anything on his phone for today?" Jack asks.

Gwen flips through. "Just some pictures of random shoes."

"Mind if I look?" says Ianto. He holds his hand back for the phone and Gwen passes it over. Jack starts the SUV and they drive off in silence.

-----

Eugene doesn't remember how he got here. Oh, he remembers the big picture of his life – the school failure that destroyed his family and left him with nothing but a mysterious alien eye to show for it; the years following in which he solidified his purpose waiting for the alien to return for what he'd left behind; his first meeting with Torchwood.

He remembers seeing Ianto for the first time then, climbing out of that hulking SUV, wearing a suit and looking every inch the James Bond figure that Eugene had been anxiously expecting. Even their leader in his big flappy coat wasn't as impressive as Ianto's calm professionalism. Eugene wanted Ianto and wanted to be him, both feelings mixing with his nerves and rolling over him in a flash of emotion. He felt himself flush.

"Hurry up, Ianto!" the flappy coat guy called. And Ianto smiled at Eugene, a quick flash of teeth and a nod of the head as he hefted up the equipment from the hatch of the SUV and followed the others over to the remains of something strange.

Eugene dropped his papers then, without being able to get out even a word, and then he had to scramble to catch them all again. When he looked up again, Ianto was kneeling over the body or whatever, utterly focused. Eugene sighed and went home.

He remembers every time he'd seen them, the Torchwood team. Ianto seemed to come into the field only some of the time, so Eugene slowly learned the names of the rest of the team. Jack, the flappy coat guy; Owen, the frog-like one who was most likely to make a cruel remark at Eugene's expense; Tosh, the quiet one; Gwen, gap-toothed, always making up to the officers on the scene.

He never managed to talk to any of them more than a few sentences at a time. They simply rushed past, always busy, intent on dealing with the crisis or unexplained phenomenon of the day. Even Ianto only ever had an apologetic smile and a "hello" to offer, cut short by Jack's call and possessive glance.

Eugene remembers all of this, remembers his life, such as it was. A life spent waiting and watching and wanting. But he doesn't remember why he's dead.

-----

Gwen breaks the news of Eugene's death to his mother. Eugene thinks he ought to be there, thinks he wants to see if she really did love him, but then after the first moment he can't bear the look on her face. He follows Ianto into his bedroom instead.

"Not quite how I'd hoped to get you in here," Eugene jokes, watching Ianto systematically rifle through the magazines and papers on the desk. "I was thinking more about coffee, a curry, a kiss in your secret underground lair…"

Ianto opens the display cabinet and runs a finger along the shelf.

"That's my collection," Eugene says proudly. "Alien artefacts." Ianto's hand stops at an empty display stand. He sticks his head out into the living room and calls to Gwen.

She comes into the bedroom. "What is it?"

Ianto gestures at the shelf. "Space junk collection, well, some. Mostly just weird bits of metal and old Roman coins and so on. But he's got a half-melted Gnarlfarkian flute in here," Ianto points to something Eugene had always thought was a laser blaster, "and a very nice piece of Tholian fur."

"Not as useless as we thought, then?" Gwen murmurs. Ianto gives her a look that Eugene can't quite interpret.

"Something missing, though," says Ianto. "This stand here, it was empty. It's possible whatever it was had something to do with how he died."

Gwen takes the stand from him and carries it back into the sitting room, Ianto following on her heels and Eugene just a step behind.

"Why didn't they stop?" Eugene's mother asks. "They killed my boy and just drove on…"

"That's what we're here to find out," says Ianto gently. "Mrs. Jones, do you know what's missing from Eugene's collection?"

Gwen shoots him a disapproving look but holds out the display stand. "It was in this stand here," she says.

"It could be important," says Ianto.

The question eases the pain from Mrs. Jones' face for just a moment. "It must have been that daft eye of his," she said. "He was always going on about it. Alien eye, and one day the alien was going to come back for it and then things would be different." She smiles fondly.

Eugene sees Ianto and Gwen exchange a look out of the corner of his eye, but his focus is on his mother.

"Look, Mum," he says, "I think there's probably been some mistake. But don't you worry. We've got the best team ever working on this. Torchwood will sort it out."

"We'd better take his collection just in case," says Gwen. Ianto disappears into the bedroom again. "I'm sorry, Mrs. Jones." Eugene's mother begins to cry.

"Look, Mum, I gotta go," Eugene says. Ianto comes out of the bedroom with a box.

"If there's anything else you can tell us about that alien eye," he says, but Eugene's mother just shakes her head. Ianto balances the box in one arm and lays a comforting hand on Mrs. Jones' shoulder.

"I'm sorry," he says. Eugene follows them out of the house and back to the SUV.

-----

Eugene is shocked by how spot-on his ideas about Torchwood were when they get to headquarters.

"When you Torchwood people do a secret underground lair, you really go all the way," he says to himself. "Big giant rolling door, alarms… pterodactyl. This is… This is… I am totally… Christ almighty! The Head of Vexor 11. No way! And… Wow, a hand… in a jar, okay, sure."

"We should find out what he last ate," says Ianto, setting the box of Eugene's belongings onto one of the desks. "And where he's been. What was he doing out on the road?"

"I don't know," says Gwen wearily. "Playing with his lightsaber? He was a geek."

Eugene scoffs and is relieved to see Ianto give Gwen an incredulous look.

"Who can we get to do the autopsy?" Ianto says. "I don't have the training, and you..." Eugene feels himself go a bit faint at the thought of an autopsy and leans on the railing of the stairs down to the medical bay. He's seen CSI, thank you very much. Then he realizes he's leaning next to his own dead body and staggers over to one of the desks instead.

"Not a chance," says Gwen. "We could call Martha, though," she offers.

"Jack won't want her involved, not after…" Ianto trails off as Gwen nods. "I don't want to—"

"Okay," says Jack, coming down the steps from his office with a file folder in his hand. He stops a few feet from the desk where Eugene is standing and doesn't look down into the medical bay. "A red Vauxhall's been stopped outside Caernarfon. Very drunk guy admits knocking a man over near Cardiff, victim fits Eugene's description. The man says he thought he'd be okay, so he kept going."

Ianto looks over the railing at the body and Eugene has to swallow hard. He makes himself examine Jack's blank face rather than following the line of Ianto's gaze.

"Still," Ianto says, "don't you think there's something odd about all this?"

"It was a road accident and there was no alien involved," says Jack firmly.

"I'm not so sure."

"Ianto…"

"Look, it's sad that he died," says Gwen, "but what can we do?"

"Same as we do with any strange situation – we investigate it," says Ianto.

"We can't afford to investigate." Jack's voice is flat.

"We can't afford not to," Ianto counters. "It's what we're here for."

"We're here to save the world from interplanetary blowfish, not from humans who've had a pint too many. I need you on call for emergencies, not wasting your time on a cut and dried accident. Drop it, okay?"

Eugene's head snaps back and forth between the two men as their voices get more and more heated.

"But Jack—" Ianto takes a step towards Jack, lifting one hand tentatively.

"I said drop it!"

Ianto jerks back, curling his hand into a fist. He stares at Jack, eyes wide.

"Go home," Jack continues. "Be back at the usual time tomorrow."

Ianto takes another step closer. "I was going to—"

"Go home," Jack repeats. Ianto's face shutters and he grabs his suit jacket off the railing before walking stiffly up the stairs.

"I'll just, er," says Eugene, then gives it up and follows Ianto. He catches Gwen giving Jack a pointed look out of the corner of his eye as he goes up the stairs.

Ianto walks steadily out through the tourist office and then sags against the brick wall, pinching the bridge of his nose between his right thumb and forefinger. He takes a deep breath of the cool night air, and Eugene fidgets a little, shifting from one foot to the other.

"So thanks," he tells Ianto. "Not that you can hear me, but. Thanks for trying."

Before he can say anything more Gwen hauls the door open, stopping short in surprise at seeing Ianto still there.

"You all right?"

"I'm not giving up on this," says Ianto.

"Is it because he had a bit of a crush on you?" Gwen asks. "Eugene, I mean."

Eugene cringes a little. He hadn't thought he was that obvious.

"No, of course not," says Ianto. "We never had the time of day for him, but now I've seen that collection. Well, most of it was complete balls, of course, but he had a few good pieces in there. Maybe he really did have something important to tell us."

"But Jack said—"

Ianto laughs, the sound harsh against the soft noises of the wind and the water. "That doesn't matter. We all have our pet projects."

From the way he says it, Eugene has a pretty good idea there's some history there. His suspicions are confirmed by Gwen's pained hiss. She looks away.

"Oh," she says quietly, and then she looks back at Ianto and her voice gets firmer. "But Jack knew what he was doing then, didn't he? I learned my lesson."

Ianto closes his eyes briefly and then straightens from the wall, looking Gwen straight in the eye. "I'm not replacing Lisa with Jack," he says with quiet force. "That's my lesson. No one gets unthinking allegiance from me, not anymore."

He strides off across the Plass, leaving both Gwen and Eugene to stare open-mouthed after him. When he disappears from sight, Eugene shakes himself.

"Sooooooo," he wonders aloud, looking at Gwen. "What am I supposed to do now?"

-----

Eugene goes home again, since he doesn't know where Ianto lives and has no particular desire to follow Gwen about. When he gets there, though, he wishes he hadn't. He stands outside in the dark and watches the flat all lit up inside. His mother cries, a constant drizzle of tears flowing down her cheeks because she's obviously too tired to sob; his brother doesn't look up from his video game, even at the dinner table. When Eugene was home he'd always tried to rub the edges off Terry's disinterest, and now that they think he's dead he can see how much it's going to bother his mother to have no one to talk to.

He feels tired, and even though he doesn't know if he can sleep, he lies down on the lawn and curls into as small a ball as possible. He knows he could go inside and sleep in his own bed, but something keeps him from doing it. He doesn't belong in there anymore. He doesn't know where he belongs.

-----

Day 2: Ianto
It's only just gone ten thirty and already Ianto is ready for the day to be over. The thing is, he's just got too much to do. He's already tidied the Hub, done Jack's filing from the day before, picked up the dry cleaning, visited a video store that will definitely not be getting his business in the future, and choked down his breakfast – two eggs, ham, and chips, plus an utterly loathsome cup of coffee not even up to the standards that Owen made (used to make, Ianto reminds himself) – at the cafe around the corner. Now he pauses in front of the blank, dingy windows of the office building and thinks about going back to the tourist office. There is coffee to be made, reports to tackle, and plenty of brochures for the Creepy Cardiff Walking Tour that could use being sorted and stacked into nice neat little piles for the visitors. And, well, Jack will probably be wondering where he is.

But at the same time, he's just not ready to give up yet. He remembers arriving at crime scene after crime scene and finding Eugene already there, waiting with that look of eager hope on his face. How, he wonders, did Torchwood never manage to kill that hope, when they've killed so much else? There must have been something about Eugene that they missed, something strong. He can't do anything for Tosh now, can't solve the computer puzzle she'd been working on in the days before she died, can't promise to make sure Tommy has a good life. He can't do anything for Owen, can't tell him how proud Jack was of him, can't bring back any of the women Owen loved. And he apparently can't do anything for Jack, who's still alive but living like he's dead. But he can do this one thing, maybe, can find out why Eugene died. It's worth something.

He pulls one of the doors open and smiles his best professional smile at the receptionist. Probably a lot of people would find the office depressing, but to Ianto it just feels comfortable. Then again, he's spent a significant portion of his life making coffee for psychopaths and aliens, so telemarketing would almost be a step up. Almost.

He pulls out the phone and opens up the picture of the shoes again. It has to be important, Ianto thinks, because why else take a picture of some random shoes, especially if you just happen to take it on the day you died? Though it was typical of Eugene to have gone for the shoes, rather than faces or something actually useful for identification. Well-meaning, but always the wrong end of the stick – that was Eugene all over.

Ianto scouts the office, comparing the shoes of the people he sees with the picture. Ugly brown Hush Puppies – no. Several pairs of solid lace-ups – nice, but no match. A long line of women in uncomfortable heels – no. Ianto begins to feel like he's being watched, and he knows he's drawing attention to himself by walking around like this. And then he finds an exact match – a pair of greenish-gray trainers sticking out from underneath the khakis in a feeble attempt at business casual.

This must be Gary, he thinks, not knowing why. The man looks like a Gary – solid, average-looking, with a mop of hair that mimics his clothes in being completely unkempt. Putting his supposition to the test Ianto walks over to the water cooler and asks.

"Yeah, yeah. How do you, er… ? Are you…?" Gary stutters through his reply.

"My name is Ianto Jones. I'm investigating Eugene's death."

Gary makes a strangled noise.

"Can you tell me," Ianto continues, "did you happen to see Eugene the day he died?"

"No," says Gary. "No, sorry." Then he turns and walks away without another word, leaving Ianto open-mouthed behind him at this display of grief.

"Is it true? He got run over?" A voice interrupts Ianto's musings.

Ianto turns. The woman hesitates, then steps closer. She's a little bit pretty, with reddish brown hair and an oval-shaped face, but there are lines worn around her eyes and her makeup is a little too thick.

"Yes," Ianto says warily.

"Oh, God. Sorry, I'm Linda. I'm a Silver Seller." She sniffles a little and blinks her eyes. Ianto reaches into his jacket and pulls out a carefully ironed handkerchief. He doesn't know whether to hand it to her or just hold it out, so he settles for shifting closer so that she can take it without him seeming too obvious.

He lets her sniffle for a moment, then prompts her. "Silver Seller?"

"It's all about belief, see?" says Linda, wiping her eyes. "If necessary, I am Kitchens for a Lifetime. Eugene was only ever himself."

Ianto feels his mouth quirk into a little bit of a smile. "Mmmm? Not particularly talented as a salesman, was Eugene?"

"Oh, no," says Linda. "I think Craig kept him on out of the goodness of his heart. Have you met Craig?"

"Your boss?" asks Ianto. He hesitates, then lowers his voice and plunges ahead, because he knows that tone. He's heard it in his own voice. "Are you two…?" Linda nods.

"But I can't talk about it here 'cause of Craig's, you know… position," she says.

Ianto nods understandingly, then looks at his watch. "Listen… I want to ask you a few more questions. Do you want to meet after work?" Linda nods again.

"Sure, meet you downstairs then?"

"At seven? All right." Just then Ianto's phone rings and he steps off to one side of the hallway to answer it, cringing inside.

"What is it, Gwen?"

"Jack wants to know where you are. He said it can't possibly take this long to haggle with the drycleaners."

"Bollocks," says Ianto.

"Are you sure I shouldn't call Martha?" asks Gwen. "It's just. She seemed to make him a bit more mellow, when she was here."

"No, Gwen. Look, I'll be right there."

He forces himself to smile at Linda as he quickly threads his way back through the maze of cubicles, but the raw feeling in his stomach is reminding him why he doesn't do this sort of thing often. Ianto hates sneaking. It had come as an unpleasant surprise when it turned out he was exceptionally good at it.

When he was hiding Lisa in the basement of the Hub, he'd justified it by building up his anger at everyone else, his hatred of Owen's slimy pizza boxes and Jack's endless requests for coffee and files and picking up the biros that he "dropped" beside his desk ten times per day. He told himself they deserved it. But when she died, Ianto had been ashamed to find that a significant part of what he felt was relief.

No more secrets, Jack had said, and Ianto had wanted more than anything to believe it could be that way.

"Do as I say, not as I do," Ianto says bitterly as he gets into his car. He puts the key in the ignition, then stops and pulls his phone and Eugene's out of his pocket. He dials Gary, gets voicemail. "Listen, Gary, this is Ianto Jones again. I have a few more questions for you, so I'll give you a call tomorrow, okay?"

-----

The rest of the day is, oh, yes, just as crap as the beginning. When Ianto gets back with the dry cleaning and the milk and the ingredients for Myfanwy's protein sauce, Jack gives him one of those looks, stony and blank, that seems to rip at his insides. By that point, though, Ianto's had time to work up his anger again, reminding himself of the way Jack treats everyone else like children, the way he proudly hoards the pieces of his life like he's doing them all a great service by setting himself apart. The way Jack hasn't touched him since Tosh and Owen died. So instead of being intimidated or ashamed Ianto matches Jack stare for stare, shoves the hanger with the shirts into Jack's hand, and goes back upstairs without another word.

There are no disasters today, so Ianto stays in the Tourist Office all afternoon. Gwen IMs him and he tells her to make her own bloody coffee before logging off. He goes through the box of Eugene's belongings, sorting them into the categories of "interesting," "possibly interesting," and "future jumble sale items." If Jack comes up while he's working on this, Ianto thinks, then at least they can yell at each other instead of stumbling along in miserable silence.

What ends up in the "interesting" pile is the stand from Eugene's supposed alien eye, the contents of Eugene's pockets (keys, scraps of paper, a bit of lint), and a pile of index cards with Eugene's notes about his collection (mostly wrong). He puts the card for the alien eye on top; it's the only item he couldn't find, and nothing else in the collection is valuable enough to inspire any real interest.

There isn't enough information to allow for conclusions, Ianto decides, so he tucks the interesting items into his bag and stashes everything else back in the box. Then a family of four walks in to ask directions to Llandaff Cathedral, the start of a flow of tourists that keeps him busy for the next few hours. The feeling of being watched never quite goes away, and that keeps him on edge, too.

But by six o'clock, the edge of Ianto's anger has been blunted. He's glad Jack stayed in his office all day, glad he didn't get the fight he was spoiling for. The fight, of course, is not really what Ianto wants, and he's not too proud to admit it. He wants Tosh back, quietly finding the exact thing to say to and make the rest of them all feel ashamed of themselves, and Owen, with his ability to make everyone united in irritation. Most of all he wants Jack – whimsical, charming, flirty Jack or even melodramatic, childish Jack; he wants to play strip Trivial Pursuit and have Jack argue about how none of the twentieth century events actually happened quite the way the cards imply; he wants to feel jealous of Gwen again, rather than jealous of the soil of Cardiff. It isn't fair of him to have so little patience, he knows, not when Jack spent more than a thousand years underground (half-asleep and half-dead after those first few deaths, Jack said, not waking and dying each time). But if there's one thing Torchwood has taught Ianto, it's that fairness rarely comes into the equation.

Ianto meets Linda in front of the office building at seven on the dot. He takes her to one of his favourite coffee shops, one with fresh scones even in the evening. They take a table away from the windows so that Ianto won't be tempted to watch the passers by while he listens.

"Tell me," he asks Linda, wrapping his fingers around the warm mug, "was there anything particularly strange about Eugene in the last week or so? Anything he did that seemed odd?"

"Well," says Linda, "one day he came in, very low."

"Why?"

"He wouldn't talk about it. Anyway, I was fed up too because Craig had..." Linda looks away and Ianto gives her a supportive smile even though she can't see it. "Well, anyway, I said, I'd love to get away from it all and go to Australia. Eugene suddenly got very excited. He said, 'Yes! You've got to go.' I said, 'But I haven't got the money,' and he said he'd get it for me."

Ianto raises his eyebrows. "He was going to take you to Australia with him? Was he in love with you?"

"Oh, no!" Linda seems shocked by the idea. "He loved someone he said was unattainable. He was just trying to look after me. He said, 'Don't stay here and waste your life waiting for something that may never happen.'"

Ianto wonders about Eugene's unattainable love. He's identified all the names in Eugene's phone and none seem like they could fall into that category (of the names that aren't actually take out restaurants, most are relatives and co-workers and a few school friends). Unless it was Gary, Ianto thinks. In a split second he conjures up a melodrama of a story in his mind – Eugene confessing his love to Gary; Gary sadly and unbendingly straight and unable to return Eugene's love; despairing, Eugene runs out into the road. It would explain the extremity of Gary's reaction, if he thought he'd caused it all. After a moment, Ianto discards the thought. Gary just doesn't seem like Eugene's type somehow, especially considering his supposed crush on Ianto.

"But where was he going to get the money?" he asks Linda, forcing himself to focus on the story.

"Exactly," says Linda. "I said, 'You haven't even had a new pair of socks in six years.' He stood up, and he said..."

Ianto's phone rings, and he checks it quickly. It's Gwen, but she's not using the urgent ring so he hits "ignore" and turns his attention back to Linda.

"Sorry, he said…?"

"He said, 'I'm going to sell it.' I said, 'What?' He said, 'My alien artefact.'"

"The eye?"

"Yeah, that's the one. You've seen it?"

Ianto nods just to keep her going.

"Load of rubbish, I thought," she says. "He brought it into the office and it just looked so… so cheap, you know? Some people laughed. But he went ahead, put it up on eBay and all, and of course, it just sat there. Then, out of the blue – two pounds fifty. A kid from Birmingham. And then that was just the beginning. Two hundred… Three hundred… A thousand… They just kept on going up. Three thousand pounds! For a spare body part. Pete said you can get a bathroom suite with a celebrity appearance for less than that! Then one day, it just… jumped. Fifteen thousand five pounds fifty."

"Who bought it?" Ianto asks. This must be important, he thinks. That's the kind of value someone would kill for, alien or human.

"I've no idea," says Linda. She hesitates, looking down at her mug. "Is it all my fault?"

Ianto tucks a finger under Linda's chin and lifts it until she's looking him in the eye. "No," he says, trying to put all the conviction he can manage into his voice. "It's not your fault." He hardly knows Linda, but he'll do anything he can to keep her from feeling that kind of guilt, the kind he knows only too well. He'll carry the names of Togo Tanazaki and Annie Lander with him until he dies.

Before he can reassure her further, his phone rings again.

"Sorry," he says, and looks at it. It's not Gwen this time, but a number that looks only faintly familiar.

He flips it open. "Ianto Jones."

The voice on the other end is tentative.

"H-hello. It's Eugene's mum. There's something I think you should see."

-----

Mrs. Jones offers Ianto a cup of tea before showing him the video. He chokes down just enough of it to be polite as he watches. It makes for pretty depressing viewing, not because of Eugene's performance but because of his father's commentary. Ianto once again feels a sense of kinship with the dead young man, knows that feeling of wanting to live up to someone you admire and failing every time.

The video comes to an end and Mrs. Jones switches the television off.

"Someone gave him the eye then, as a consolation prize?" Ianto asks.

"Yeah, it was that Mr. Garrett, the science teacher," says Mrs. Jones. "A plastic eye!" She scoffs. "Still, Eugene treasured it."

Ianto makes a mental note to follow up with the science teacher.

Eugene's brother looks up from his video game. "That was the night Dad walked out," he says.

"Went away, Terry," Mrs. Jones corrects.

"You can stop now, Mum," says Terry.

"What do you mean?" says Mrs. Jones, looking nervous.

"Eugene's dead," says Terry. "He may have been able to square the root of the square root, but he couldn't cross the road! Dad left when he found out Eugene was a failure. That's what Eugene said."

"That's not true," says Mrs. Jones fiercely. "He went 'cos of his job. He has a very important job."

Ianto intensely wishes he weren't hearing this, but he knows there could be something in it.

"Does Mr. Jones know about Eugene?" he asks.

"Well, you see, he works for a big corporation in America," says Mrs. Jones.

"Stop giving us that shit!" shouts Terry, dropping the game onto the sofa. "He's not Superman, Mum! He works at a garage on Filey Road. Eugene found him about two weeks ago. He found him on the internet. He's a cashier. Works nights."

Two weeks ago, Ianto thinks. That must have been what prompted Eugene to sell the eye. He'd kept it for so long, waiting for the alien to come back and claim it. That's what Mrs. Jones had said before. And then he found out his dad had walked out on them, walked out because of Eugene's failure. It must have felt like everything he'd ever known had come crashing down.

Like Lisa, Ianto thinks, like Jack. Finding out the person you loved wasn't loving you while you were apart, finding out they were someone else entirely. Finding out that even when they were around, they were somewhere else in their head.

"Thanks for showing me this, Mrs. Jones," Ianto says. She's sobbing into a handkerchief now and Terry's staring sullenly at the carpet. Ianto rests a hand on her shoulder. He wants to tell her it's better not to live a lie, but he's not sure if he believes it. He's retconned enough people just trying to preserve those lies, hasn't he? He's almost taken the pill himself a time or two. Because wasn't he happier then, thinking he could save Lisa? Wasn't he happier thinking he could find a family at Torchwood, find someone to love again? He's stripped of those illusions now.

He pats her shoulder and says, "I'm sorry. I need to go."

A few minutes later he's pulling up in front of the store in Filey Road. He turns off the engine and leans back in the seat. A man leaves the store, and even from across the road Ianto can see the resemblance to Eugene in the shape of his face.

He unbuckles his seatbelt and starts to get out of the car, then stops, as if jerked back by an invisible chain. The man over there abandoned his family, had people who loved him and just walked away. Now one of them is dead and Ianto just can't bring himself to be the one who tells him. Mrs. Jones will call him, or she won't. It's not Ianto's place to decide.

Ianto shuts the door of the car and puts his seatbelt back on. "It's all right," he says, as if to comfort someone. He guesses it must be himself. "It's all right."

-----

It's late now, but Ianto goes back to the Hub, hoping to look up the eBay auction before the morning. Jack won't be asleep, but maybe he'll be brooding on the roof and Ianto can slip in as far as the tourist office without being noticed.

He's only been there a few minutes, though, when the door to the lift opens and Jack steps out. His face is impassive, but Ianto can see the signs of weariness in it, the slight hollowing underneath his eyes.

"Gwen said she couldn't reach you," Jack says.

"She didn't use the emergency code," says Ianto. He looks back at the screen. "If it's not an emergency, then my evenings are my own."

"Why are you doing this?" Jack asks. "He's dead."

"I know he's dead, Jack," says Ianto, rolling his eyes. "It's… this is for me as much as it is for him."

"Ianto, we have to move on. You don't understand—"

Ianto is suddenly furious. "No, Jack, you don't understand. Whatever you're calling this, moving on isn't it. Not for me. Maybe you can say, 'I loved, I lost,' and that's it, but I can't." He bites back the rest, everything he could say about his mother and Canary Wharf and Lisa, feeling the blood rise in his face as he turns back to the computer.

There is a long moment of silence. When Jack's voice comes, it's subdued.

"What do you think happened to him, then?"

Ianto bites his lip. "I'm not sure yet. He had an alien eye in his collection and sold it on eBay. There must be some connection there."

"What," says Jack, "like a sixth eye? A Dogon sixth eye?"

"Possibly," says Ianto. "I haven't seen it yet. The pictures for the auction are too blurry to tell." He wants Tosh for this project, wants her uncanny eye for working with amateur photographs. Instead he'll have to make do with Photoshop tutorials.

"There was a trade in them," says Jack. "Who's got it?"

"That's what I need to track down next." He tries not to sound impatient.

"It'd be good to have," Jack says after a pause, and Ianto can tell he's forcing his voice to sound light. "Lets you see behind you, where you've been. Kind of puts things in perspective. It's useful, fun, slightly terrifying; that's why they're in demand."

"I can get it for you," says Ianto. He risks a glance away from the computer. Jack's face is still impassive, but it looks wearier somehow.

"Okay," says Jack with a puff of air that is almost a sigh. "You've got the weekend. But keep your phone on."

He doesn't look Ianto in the eye as he turns and goes back into the lift. Ianto waits until Jack is gone and then pinches the bridge of his nose. Well, he thinks, that's something. The feeling of being watched is gone.

Part 2
Tags: my fic, torchwood
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