per aspera ad astra (amazonqueenkate) wrote in jackxianto,
per aspera ad astra
amazonqueenkate
jackxianto

"The Natural Order of Things"; Jack/Ianto; R (1/1)

Title: "The Natural Order of Things"
Author: amazonqueenkate
Pairing: Jack/Ianto
Rating: R; sex, some subject matter
Disclaimer: Despite my dreams of working for the BBC, not mine.
Summary: He spends an hour during his afternoon sitting in the window of a coffee shop, drinking out of a paper cup and watching the bay. You’ve done all your research before you discover this, because you’ve been trying to stay out of sight. It’s amazing how few people at Roald Dahl Plass notice a man in dated military dress who often drives a large, black SUV. Of course, not everyone on the street is Torchwood. Not everyone on the street is looking for Torchwood.

The entirety of London looked up at Torchwood Towers and knew what the organization was. In Cardiff, you only hear whispers.

Sensible, after Canary Wharf.

Author's Notes: This has been on my harddrive since "Fragments", but I wanted to wait to post it after "Fragments" had aired in the U.S. Unbetaed, though I've read it through so many times, I can't imagine too many errors I haven't already caught.



This is how it’s supposed to happen: You meet a nice girl. You take her on dates and, eventually, you buy her a ring with a shiny rock on it. You get married and have children because one day, on one of those dates, you realize you love her.

You don’t meet a girl and date a girl and risk your life for a girl and then lie on a concrete floor with the man, the only man in the world, who can help you save her and let your heart race while you share his breath. That’s not how it works.

The day Jack hires you, or rather, the night, you leave the warehouse, drive back to your flat, put down your keys, take off your shoes, go into the bathroom, and dry heave until you’re a sobbing heap on the rug. 





It takes three weeks and six days to find Captain Jack Harkness.
   
He spends an hour during his afternoon sitting in the window of a coffee shop, drinking out of a paper cup and watching the bay. You’ve done all your research before you discover this, because you’ve been trying to stay out of sight. It’s amazing how few people at Roald Dahl Plass notice a man in dated military dress who often drives a large, black SUV. Of course, not everyone on the street is Torchwood. Not everyone on the street is looking for Torchwood.

The entirety of London looked up at Torchwood Towers and knew what the organization was. In Cardiff, you only hear whispers.

Sensible, after Canary Wharf.

You spend the last three days staking out the coffee shop, chatting with a waitress and trying to uncover everything you can about Captain Jack. The waitress’s name is Ellen, and she’s slim, coy, and flirtatious – a bit like Lisa, but you think that and then only want to throw up. Eventually, she asks the obvious question:

“Why’d you care so much about this bloke, anyway? I mean, Lord, he’s cute, but there’s got to be more than that.”

You check your watch. He’ll be there in ten minutes. You need a hasty retreat. “Old boyfriend,” you answer quickly.

“You and he? I should’ve known. It’s always the ones that look like that who end up bent. A bloody shame. You lot don’t leave us any of the good ones!”

The day you watch him, you watch him from outside the shop, sitting on a bench across the way with a book in your lap. It’s sunny out, painfully bright, and you wear sunglasses even though you hate them because it lets you look from book to window to book again without anyone noticing. The glass hides nothing, and there is Captain Jack Harkness: tall, dark, broad, wearing braces but not the coat you’ve heard so much about, drinking coffee out of a paper cup and watching the bay.

The waitress is right. He’s cute. He looks almost young, like his face never grew too far out of his late teens, but you wouldn’t call it boyish. Ageless? He watches the sea like there’s about to be a tidal wave, though, and you think that he’s attractive when he frowns but might light up a room when he smiles.

After he’s done, you watch him stride out of the coffee shop, long steps that somehow look lazy, and the only thing you can think is, “He doesn’t look extraordinary.”

You’re wrong, of course. He looks like he could save the world.





You make him and his team coffee for six months before the first time the machinery in their basement drains too much power. It looks like a brown-out, and Toshiko swings her chair around to her keyboard and starts pressing keys.

“What’s going on?” Jack demands, coming out of his office. There’s always something just slightly manic in his voice when he’s surprised.

You start picking up empty coffee cups like nothing’s wrong, even as Suzie and Owen crowd around Tosh’s station. “I don’t know,” she says, and there’s always honesty when Tosh is sorry, even when she’s not in control. You hear it in her voice and add a balled-up napkin to the tray. “We had a momentary loss of power. I’m tracing the source.”

Jack waits for the three seconds you can hold your breath without your heart bursting. “And?”

“Nothing.” Toshiko looks over at him. “Absolutely nothing out of the ordinary. It’s almost running better for the power loss.”

“Run a level-three diagnostic. I want to know where every last molecule of energy is going. The rest of you, back to work.”

Owen lopes back to a body and Suzie returns to whatever Suzie ever does, leaving you to sort the trash. The coffee tray is loaded with wrappers, empty cups, the last three bites of pizza crusts, and a magazine you think may be older than you are. You’re expecting Toshiko’s fingers to be flying over the keys and Suzie to be studying a newly-discovered alien artifact when you raise your head.

What you don’t expect Jack to be watching you, hands on hips.

“Ianto.”

“Yes, sir?”

“Call the electric company. Find out if they have any idea why the bay’s tourism office just lost power.”

You bend to pick up the tray, and tell yourself it’s not because you’re avoiding his eyes. “Of course, sir.”

You tell yourself you can’t feel his eyes on your back as you walk away, either.

When you inform him that Welsh Electric knows nothing (of course they know nothing, they’ll never realize and who are you to tell?), he nods. But later that night, when the rest of the team is gone, Jack watches you deliver his coffee with eyes that are too sharp, too careful, and you can’t tell if it’s worry or suspicion.

So you drop to your knees on the cold floor and tell him all he needs to know.

It’s the only thing you have left, since loyalty was never an option.





You’re hardly able to process what’s happened when he suspends you.

He tells you without ever looking away. He comes to your flat, stands in your doorway, explains everything in a dull, emotionless tone, but he never once looks away from you. Try as you may, you can't read whether it's anger, fear, or betrayal in his eyes. Does it matter? Either way, your stomach is a stone and your breath comes in dry, hungry little swallows. He takes your gun, he takes your ID, and he leaves without glancing back up the stairs.
 
You're left with three weeks, and as much as you should be thinking of Lisa, of her face and her smile, of the way she lived and the other part, you find yourself spending every last moment thinking of how, twenty-four hours before he shot the woman you loved, you'd lain in his bunk, dragged nails across his skin, and murmured blessings and curses to his name.

It’s the cruelest punishment of all.

Your gun and ID card are delivered in a box by courier just as you’re dressing on the twenty-second day. Ianto Jones. Torchwood Three, Cardiff. The photograph’s almost identical to the one that burned, and you consider setting fire to this one, just to watch the plastic bubble and then melt away. You begged, promised, pleaded, and bartered for one laminate rectangle and now, instead of feeling determination, you feel your stomach turn. You feel your eyes fill.

You feel Jack Harkness’s hand in your hair, as real as his eyes (and Gwen’s) on you when you step back through the door.

Perhaps that’s the source of the anger-or-fear-or-betrayal you couldn’t and still can’t read in his face, that one hand through your hair, your name on his lips. But then again, perhaps it’s the deaths he almost died, the lives others lost. Or perhaps it’s Canary Wharf and Daleks, Jack’s history or the history of the world, something now or in the past or in the future, or a reason buried deep in the endless vault of Weevils, secrets, and lies.

Secrets and lies are all you’ve had.
 
"Welcome back," he says later, when the hub is dark and you’ve delivered coffee, but even in saying it, he doesn't look at you. You watch him writing the report, his lips pursed and his eyes lowered, and you're left thinking about the things you've lost:
 
Time running from him, time running toward him, time twisted around him, time idling in his mind.
 
Everything from subject to preposition blurs together, and you’re left with Jack Harkness.
 
It may as well be nothing.
 
"Thank you, sir."





Suzie Costello’s paperwork scatters across the floor, page after page of her life, her death, her second life, and her second death discarded as trash against concrete and metal grating. Jack steps onto one, boot print and creases, but then he’s stepping off and forcing you against the wall. His lips and teeth are rough against your neck, and when he catches your wrists and forces them above your head, you feel like all your blood drains straight south. Somewhere, you can hear it, the ticking stopwatch on his desk, counting up.

“Ianto,” he murmurs, and there’s so much darkness in his voice. There’s so much darkness between you, even in the atoms of space between his thigh and your groin, his lips and your collarbone, that it seems light can’t escape. Maybe it doesn’t. Maybe there’s no light left in the world. You’ve seen Suzie die and live and die, you’ve seen Jack die and live and die and live, and it seems like light is a million miles off.

But he’s a sachet in his pocket and fingers that work your fly open, and then, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter because the ticking is replaced by his gasps and yours in the air. His hands are all over you, and you wonder if this is how he feels alive again. He’s killed so many times, he’s died so many times, and maybe this is the last thing he has.

You don’t want to think about that.

You don’t want to think.

It takes fourteen minutes, fifty-two seconds for you to be jelly in his grip, to soil his shirt, to listen to him panting against the juncture of your neck. It takes seven minutes, thirty-nine seconds to slither down into his bunk.

Jack Harkness, who doesn’t sleep, nods off after twenty-six minutes and five seconds, twenty-six minutes and four seconds of that time spent stroking your skin while his chin is on your head.

When you wake up, he’s gone and the stopwatch is still ticking.

Counting up.





Jack’s dead for four days, six hours, and thirty-seven minutes. Perhaps marginally less, since when he comes around the corner with Gwen, he’s dressed. He’s dressed, he’s clothed, he’s present, and time in the hub stops.

Gwen lets go of his hand.

Tosh drops a spanner.

You say nothing, but then, neither does Jack.

You can’t speak, you can’t move, and so it’s Tosh who rockets first to her feet, Tosh who propels herself to him, and Tosh who holds him first. It’s Tosh who buries her face in his neck, but then, her heart isn’t in her throat, her stomach isn’t trembling, her eyes aren’t brimming with tears.

Yours are.

Yours are, and Jack only allows you one moment’s hesitation, one moment’s stutter, before his arms are around you. Before his lips are on yours and you feel him again: warm, present, real. Alive.

You don’t know whether to cry or run away. In the end, you’re stone even when he moves away, even when he looks at you, even when his hand stays on the back of your neck and for a second that feels like an eternity, you watch his eyes trace over your features, nose to lips to chin to eyes again.

There are words on your lips that don’t quite form.

That night, before you go for coffee, before Jack goes to his Doctor and comes back again, he sits at his desk with his chair tipped back. The others fuss about, duck in and out, and it’s only after Gwen darts away that you find something to say.

It’s, “I’d follow you into fire.”

Jack smiles softly and asks, “Haven’t you already?”

Your eyes meet, and you don’t say anything else.

You know.





This is how it’s supposed to happen: You meet a nice girl. You date her, love her, marry her, and spend your life with her, keeping everything together. You form a bond, you make each other happy, and someday, when you part, it’s knowing that the life you had together was worthwhile.

But this is how it really happens: You meet a nice girl and lose a nice girl and find yourself armed with a stopwatch or a gun or a field hockey stick at the defense of a man in a Royal Air Force greatcoat and a name that isn’t his. You stand beside him and defend everything he’s worked for – everything you’ve worked for, everything you’ve shared – because one day, out of the blue, you realize you love him.

Maybe you have always loved him. You don’t know.

It’s just how it works.
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