title : after Ianto; and before
author : chasingxtheair
fandom : Torchwood
pairing : Jack/Ianto
rated : PG
spoilers : all seasons, and - you know, that massive spoiler for COE; also, it includes a bit of kid!Ianto, but I don't really think that's spoilery, eh?
summary : Jack falls apart. In ways he'd never experienced in all of his lifetimes; in ways he'd never even allow himself if he'd been thinking straight. So he does what any desperate man would do; and tries to find what he once lost.
disclaimer : Torchwood and its characters don't belong to me. No copyright infringement was intended.
After Ianto – and God, it hurt to even think in those terms, but - after Ianto, Jack fell apart. In ways he’d never experienced in all of his lifetimes; in ways he’d never even allow himself if he’d been thinking straight. But the mind boggling darkness that surrounded him, tugging at his sides, pulled him into numbness; towards the not caring about anything but this. He didn’t want to save the world anymore, damn it – didn’t want to fight without that face to wake up next to in the morning. Couldn’t even bear to be around Gwen’s sweetness, around her not-quite understanding. She’d known him, too – but as a friend; and Jack supposed she’d never really known what Ianto’d meant to him. How could she?
He wandered the Cardiff streets at night, always ending his journey in front of Ianto’s place. It defied him, this building – hurling memories at the lonely bloke across the street, making him flinch in pain and take another swig from the bottle he was holding. Jack was not a drinker by default, but the idea of warmth inside his belly was more tempting than usual these days. He’d crouch down, close to the ground, touching his fingers to the coldness of the asphalt in a silent tribute to what had been. What could never be again.
He’d never thought he’d turn to Martha Jones so easily. That didn’t change the fact that one night, before his evening ghost walk, he’d knocked on her door, his silent desperation seemingly telling her all she’d needed to know, because she let him in almost instantly, pushed a mug filled with something steamy in his hands, and sat down beside him on her burgundy red couch. Jack couldn’t remember ever having talked so much, and didn’t know how he managed without bawling like a newborn, but afterwards, he’d felt decidedly… warmer. He spent the night at her place; his mind a blur and the bottle left unopened.
Every morning, waking up felt like deep-seated agony. The hurt of always reaching out and finding emptiness beside him rolled over him in waves, crashing down on his heart. He recalled nights; blissful nights with Ianto, where he’d silently whispered an I love you when he was convinced Jack was fast asleep, not even daring to say the words out loud for fear he’d leave instantaneously. His fingers would brush across Jack’s body, curled up beside him. In the morning, they’d always find their limbs entangled, so close together that it seemed they were no more than one.
“Can you go back?” She asked that morning at the breakfast table, keeping her eyes focussed on her task at hand (making an exquisite peanut butter & jam sandwich, which she would later devour in front of him) (Ianto had loved jam) to give him all the time he needed to answer her. He didn’t even have to think about it, knowing exactly what she’d meant : go back in time; maybe even save him. Or maybe just glance at the life they’d had together, tasting all the moments again, savouring them on his tongue.
“I think so.” He said, not looking her in the eye either, because the intensity of the conversation was best kept down a notch. “Whether I should is another matter.”
It would probably make him hurt more… or even less; and that was not a way to deal with grief. At least, that’s what they said in all those self help books people kept throwing at each other’s head whenever something like this happened in real life. He could pretend it was a fairytale, pretend that he’d be able to visit Ianto whenever he liked and have him not be gone; but would that really matter?
“It might help,” she told him, folding her sandwich neatly in two and stuffing her face with it. She looked at him with eyes that registered everything : every little crease that hadn’t been there before, every dark shadow that made him look that much older. He almost smiled at the thought. Older. “You look horrible, Jack.”
He hadn’t meant to. Still the words she’d said turned inside his mind, again and again, filling the voids between echo’s of all the things Ianto had said – once upon a time. So he reached for his device and set the date; pausing for a minute before pressing the button, feeling the familiar tug pull him from reality.
It was august 19, 1991 and the sky above him was bright blue, so unlike the greyness he’d left behind in his own time (although, could he really call it that?). Or maybe the sky had been the same, but Jack ’d failed to see it, so wrapped up inside his own grief that the world around was less important. And he was somewhere on the outskirts of London, his feet dug deep inside a patch of grass before the playground. A little boy ran around, wearing his crown and chasing all his friends in a game of tag - for some reason, it made Jack think of naked hide and seek, and he felt ashamed at the inappropriateness of that particular situation right now. He could hear outraged cries in a heavy Welsh accent and smiled. Apparently, Ianto Jones had never been fond of cheaters.
He looked just the same, only a great amount smaller. He pulled the same faces when he didn’t like something, and the familiar look of surprise on his face when he spotted Jack standing near the gate made his own breath catch. With a wary glance over at what appeared to be Ianto’s mother in deep conversation with some other ladies, Jack approached the fence and crouch down to little Ianto’s height. “Hi,” he said. “Happy birthday, Ianto Jones.”
“I’m eight today!” the boy happily cried out.
“I can see that.” Jack pointed upwards. “It’s says so, right there on your crown.” He pulled a face he knew always amused his Ianto, and continued. “You’re really big for an eight year old!”
He received a pout in return. “I’m one of the shortest kids in my school. Teacher always makes me stand in the back.”
Jack smiled. “Well, I think you’re the perfect height, little Ianto.” It was almost impossible not to go aww watching the smile spread, but immediately after, a worried frown took its place. One Jack had seen time and time again : he called it Ianto’s serious face, which had annoyed his partner to no end.
“You look sad.”
It made Jack want to cry. It made him want to pull the ignorant kid into his arms, hold him close and tell him everything and anything. But just like he’d done whenever he’d watched Rose grow up in the right universe, he kept his mouth tightly shut and put on a façade.
“I’m alright,” Jack assured him. “Go on,” he said, watching Ianto’s little friends awaiting his return. “Go play with your friends.”
Ianto nodded and did exactly as he was told, but he turned back mid-run. “I really like your coat, sir.”
“Thanks,” Jack called back, feeling a heavy tug inside of his chest. “I really like your crown.”
When the boy swung around to smile again, there was nothing left of the stranger. Only the memory.
December 5, 2008
He was outside of Ianto’s apartment, only minutes after he’d seen the pair of them go in. They’d looked normal enough, but even from this distance, Jack had noticed a slight hunch of Ianto’s shoulders, a certain rigidness in his back. He knew that meant trouble, but whether or not the other him knew? Probably not, judging by the smile that had been on his face. Of course, he couldn’t blame him. Most of the time, being around Ianto made him smile; made him happy. No doubt he felt this was one of those times.
It wasn’t. That much was obvious when Ianto reappeared a couple of hours later, pulling his jacket closer to his body and biting his bottom lip to keep from bursting. Jack noticed the small bottle hidden in his hands, enveloped by the red gloves that had been a gift from him (red was, after all, Ianto’s colour) and decided to follow. It was by definition a bad idea, but seeing Ianto so torn up – probably because of something he’d done, well, he couldn’t just let that happen.
Ianto headed straight for the docks. He sat down on the ledge, letting his feet swing underneath him. His reflection in the water was blurry at best, but still it seemed the most interesting thing around, because his eyes never skidded upwards. Not even when he heard footsteps approaching.
“Go away, Jack.”
Just like that. “How did you know it was me?”
Ianto shrugged. “I don’t know. I probably have a sixth sense wherever your concerned.” He took another swig. “All the same, go away.” This time, he looked up – probably wanting to scare him away with his angry stare that was always incredibly effective, and stopped. “You’re not him, are you?”
Jack sighed a little and went to sit by Ianto’s side, hoping that because he wasn’t, it would be safe to do so. The sight of their reflections side by side drove a metaphorical stake through his heart, and the worst part was that he’d always been able to tell Ianto everything; and he’d always said exactly the right thing to make it all okay again. But he couldn’t let Ianto know this time and he had to hope that he wouldn’t see straight through him. “How could you tell?”
“For one thing, you look awful.” Ianto raised a hand to touch Jack’s cheek, but hesitated. He didn’t know if this version of him still allowed things like that, after all – and he didn’t want to cross any boundaries. When Jack didn’t flinch, but leaned into his touch, he heaved a sigh of relief. “Tell me what happened?”
Jack shook his head. “Can’t.” he said, and Ianto understood. “What else?” Ianto looked confused by his question, so he explained further. “You said for one thing, you look awful. What else is there?”
“Oh. There’s a scar at the bottom of your neck,” Jack’s skin shivered when Ianto pressed his fingertips against the spot. Even through the gloves, he could feel his warmth, the touch that was so Ianto. “It wasn’t there before.”
“My my,” he grinned. “Aren’t you a little observer?”
Another shrug. “I notice things.”
“So why aren’t you in bed with me?” Jack cocked his head in the direction of the apartment. “You know – other me.” He reached for the bottle, “give me one of those, will you? I’m freezing.”
“I was just thinking.”
“You couldn’t think inside, where it was warm?” Thankfully, he couldn’t, otherwise Jack would’ve waited out here for nothing, just staring at the bedroom window like he did in his own time, lonely and miserable.
“I couldn’t think when you were next to me.” Ianto smiled. “Which seems ironic, now.” He paused, trying to muster up enough courage to say, or ask, something truly important. “Jack…are we still whatever we are where,” he corrected himself, “when you’re from?”
Jack never skipped a beat. “We are.”
He couldn’t tell Ianto the truth; couldn’t break his heart like that. And so he lied and prayed Ianto would believe him. He seemed to study Jack’s expression very carefully, but if he didn’t believe him, he certainly didn’t let it show. “What exactly are we?”
Jack laughed. “I think that’s cheating. Which I always thought you were opposed to.”
“Maybe I’ll make an exception this time.” Ianto all but begged.
“Is that what this is about?” Jack said, “you’re sitting out here because you don’t really know what’s going on in there?”
Ianto nodded. “Don’t tell me I’m a coward running away,” he warned. Jack made the zippy movement over his lips and grinned. “Won’t say a word.”
He then leaned towards his lover, capturing his lips in one of the sweetest kisses they’d ever shared. It was unfair to both of them; and Jack knew that he shouldn’t have done it, but he’d craved it for so long. Feeling Ianto, tasting him. The way his hands snaked around his chest, pulling him closer into him. Not because he was cold, but because he simply needed Jack just as much. His breathing becoming more shallow and fast, losing himself inside of this moment that wouldn’t…couldn’t last. Jack was the first to pull away, adding another kiss as a quiet afterthought.
He stood, noticing the way Ianto’s eyes followed his every move. He seemed more reassured than when he’d found him. Jack, on the other hand, looked more torn than ever. Don’t, don’t, don’t. Don’t scare him. So he just smiled again, one that didn’t quite reach him eyes. “Did I say ‘I love you’ yet?”
Ianto looked surprised, but shook his head. No.
“I wouldn’t worry,” Jack told him. “I will.”
Let me know what you think, eh? It's my first time writing this pairing, so I'd LOVE to hear your thoughts! It would really mean the world to me! <3