Note: 'Karma Police' belongs to Radiohead, 'Getting Better' belongs to whoever owns the Beatles rights now; not mine, no infringement intended.
Ex Umbra In Solem
(Out of the Shadows into the Light)
Chapter 5: Suspension
"All pain is a punishment, and every punishment is inflicted for love as much as for justice."
- Joseph De Maistre
There had been dinner, small talk, playing nice - always playing nice - fake plastic smiles like fake plastic trees, decorative and lyrical, but neither real.
He thought he might be drunk, a little or a lot he wasn't yet certain. Either way it probably wasn't the best of ideas. Worse still to be drunk of any sort with Thom Yorke crooning softly over the piano keys and guitar strings, words of some crapulous hallucination delicately quavering - "This is what you get, this is what you get, this is what you get when you mess with us…" - dancing through his brain like a morbid echo, a pistol report. Maudlin misery accompanied by someone else's drunken broodings.
"I've given all I can, it's not enough… I've given all I can, but we're still on the payroll…"
Whiskey warmth buzzed along his nerves, soothing and disturbing in turn; and in that moment he'd have given anything for a different kind of buzz - the hiccuping sway of alcohol not numbing enough of him, not reaching that core pit of misery. "For a minute there, I lost myself, I lost myself…" He wished he could.
The song spiralled on to its end, harsh and sharp warping the dwindling chords and withering words. It cut through the fog only enough to allow wavering thoughts, distilled and fragmented, muddled but with definitive shape. Of their own, they drifted back through the day.
He had been wearing a T-shirt and jeans when Owen arrived, grimacing like a man walking into his own execution. In the hours after his dismissal he'd sat in his shower, torn between scrubbing his skin raw and watching as the pink trickles of her blood flow down the drain. He was sure Owen could see the pinkness on him - raw skin touched with flaking fragments of blood he couldn't bear to wash away.
The moment passed and a half-amused snort ripped itself from the doctor's throat as he paused to read the verbiage splashed across the shirtfront, white letters proudly proclaiming "I'm a Natural 20."*
"You're a twat is what you are, mate," Owen replied with grudging amusement, taking another moment to truly look at Ianto himself. "But you look like shit. So I suppose that makes you more of an arsehole."
Comfortable snark, holding onto unsteady ground with familiar slander. Inside, Owen was seething, torn between his dislike for the man he considered a traitor and his own empathy for Ianto's plight - the younger man felt the war for dominance like a turbulent tide. It was understandable, warranted even; but he didn't tell the Londoner so, instead stepping back to allow Owen - as per orders - to enter his flat.
"Alright, teaboy, off with it," the medic ordered almost sinisterly, glee brimming in his dark brown eyes - apparently morbid joy had joined the party. "All of it. Full starkers, mate. Ain't hiding nothing from Dr. Harper today."
The Welshman glared as Owen snapped on his gloves, practically radiating sick excitement at having been granted leave to torment his favourite victim. The embarrassment was coiled around tendrils of anger and hatred, seething in his belly, churning and nauseating - but it felt better than the sick knot of loss and guilt. Aware of his flush but defiant, Ianto dropped trow and stripped off the tacky shirt - feeding off his dislike for the ornery doctor with every irritation-stiffened jerk.
Once Owen was satisfied that the teaboy would indeed live - "Bruised and banged up a bit, but you'll survive." - he ordered Ianto back into his clothes and demanded a coffee.
"You got off better than you deserve," the grouchy Englishman said conversationally, if snidely, as he accepted his cup of steaming brew. "Really, you should be dead - and that's not 'cause Jack shoulda put a bullet in your brain. Far as I could tell you were dead. I mean that thing-"
"Her name was Lisa."
"Thing threw you 'cross the room like you were nothing. And all you got out of it is a few scratches and bruises?" Owen scoffed distastefully. "Either you're just damned lucky or - I dunno what."
"Are you finished?" Ianto said, his question indicating far more than the empty coffee cup sitting beside the coaster in petty defiance.
Scowling, Owen stood. "Yeah, yeah…"
Owen had proceeded to snark about Ianto 'topping' himself, Jack's insistence on 'keeping the teaboy around', and told him not to do anything he himself wouldn't do before Ianto managed to slam the door in the Londoner's face with a satisfying thud.
It was almost funny but Ianto was a bit grateful for the distraction Owen presented - then and now. "Not telling him that, though. His head's already too big for his body," he muttered to himself, sipping the fire water with a drunken giggle that turned into a rather uproarious fit before subsiding into hiccoughing spurts as the hilarity of the situation hit him. He wanted to hate Owen, hate Jack, but instead he was grateful to them, indebted even.
He lent back against the cushions with a groan. "How did my life get so messed up?"
When Jack showed up, coattails swirling in the wake of his long-legged strides, Ianto wondered why he hadn't just 'topped himself' after all.
"T-shirt and jeans, almost as good as the suits," Jack mused aloud, sweeping in and striking an assessing pose, eyes gleaming with appreciation as they often did when his gaze turned toward Ianto. "Grab your coat," he ordered smartly. "Doctor Harper has prescribed 'fresh air and relaxation'-" he paused as Ianto glowered at him skeptically. "Alright, he said 'take him out and get him drunk'… Salt's has good cawl and better beer. Just what the doctor ordered! Get a move on!"
They'd eaten, they'd drunk - well, Ianto had drunk, Jack had watched lasciviously while telling wild tales about aliens and his sexual exploits there with. He'd kept the tone light, never allowing conversation - what little there was - to so much as venture near recent events. And, if it weren't for the fact that he felt like he'd had a hole ripped out of him and left to seep and fester, Ianto might say he had a good time.
Even worse was Jack seemed to be projecting care and a certain amount of affection that balmed Ianto's soul as surely as numbing salve on a wound. As the night wore on, he felt less and less of the soul deep pain. Certainly the alcohol was in part responsible, but he couldn't deny Jack's presence soothed him in ways he wasn't yet ready to accept - not when he had lost so much, not when he had so much to make up for.
And more to the point, his drink fuzzy mind insisted, Jack should be angry with him. He should be seething with the betrayal, but instead he was sitting here, sharing a plate of chips and babbling about his 'sexploits' with six-legged pseudo-aquatic aliens and projecting an emotion Ianto couldn't fathom he merited at the moment.
Ianto chuckled self-depreciatingly, head lolling against the back of the couch. Jack had comforted him right up until the moment he'd seen him back through his door with a 'get it out of your system now' and a stern 'tomorrow, we have to talk' before vanishing as if he'd never been there at all.
But the emotions lingered, strange creatures crawling through his shattered soul. They didn't abate his guilt or his pain, not yet; but they did offer some measure of reassurance that this wasn't the end of the world. He had a lot to atone for, a lot to come to terms with, but things would get better.
The glass slipped through his limp fingers, sleep claiming his drunken mind, as The Beatles drifted softly from the speakers in tune with his final thoughts…
"It couldn't get no worse…"
Sorry to those who are following this. Didn't mean to take so long (in fact, I had the majority of it done before the end of the year), life ran away from me and well... that's how it goes. The debate now is to continue the suspension (week by week) or to move on to the returning episode... I'm not decided. Not guaranteeing when I'll have the next. Life is -still- rather busy. Hopefully though, not too long. Thanks for reading! Diolch yn fawr iawn!