Title: You and Me and the Satellites
Word Count: 6300
Spoilers: Cyberwoman, End of Days, speculation on series 2.
Rating: Adult content: sex, language, violence. (It’s a trifecta!)
Summary: “Is that what Torchwood did to him? Is that what we did? We took away that smile.”
Author’s Notes: What if . . . post-Cyberwoman, Jack retcons Ianto and he leaves for a new, Torchwood-less, life. But Jack can’t forget and can’t let go.
Thanks to , Dotter of Is, Crosser of Ts.
Thank you to everyone who voted for me.
Except for the girl behind the counter, after Jack returned everything was exactly the same. Her name was Claire: she’d been thoroughly vetted, Tosh assured Jack, and was discreet and intelligent and they would have nothing to worry about from her. As far as Jack was concerned, however, she was not as much fun to look at nor to tease as–someone he tried not to think about–and she made terrible coffee.
He resisted asking for two months, but one night he said to Tosh, who was tapping away on her computer, “Have you ever looked him up?”
“Yes,” she said simply. It spooked him a little that she didn’t need to ask who he meant.
“Is he all right? Do you know what he’s doing? Where he’s living?”
“I think he’s doing fine,” she said. “He’s working for a software firm now, here in Cardiff.” She stopped typing, hesitated a moment, then said, “Don’t laugh,” as she got out a folder from her files.
“Never,” he said and took it. He opened it and thumbed through the pictures–blurry captures from CCTV, mostly. His hair was a little longer and he was dressed more casually than Jack had ever known him to be, but there was no mistaking those long legs and that narrow face, often softened by laughter. Jack looked back at Tosh.
She shrugged. “I miss him, too, Jack. I worry, too.”
Jack nodded and looked through more pictures. “He looks happy.”
“Yes, he does.”
“Is that what Torchwood did to him? Is that what we did? We took away that smile.”
Tosh said gently, “We gave it back. He has friends, a life. It was the right thing to do.”
“I hope so,” Jack said and put the pictures away. He told himself it was enough just to know. He was all right, he was alive, he was happy.
But it wasn’t. It wasn’t enough at all.
* * *
Many of the pictures showed him in front of a coffee shop, his laptop open on the table in front of him, so one afternoon Jack took a novel and went there. He ordered coffee and took a table with his back against the building.
The day was bright and cool, so Jack left his coat on as he read and sipped his coffee. The book didn’t hold his attention: he looked up at every passing figure, hoping, trying not to be disappointed with each unfamiliar face.
Jack waited all afternoon, and when the sun went down and he’d drunk far too much coffee in one sitting, he got up and went back to the Hub.
It’s for the best, he thought. I should never see him again. I should leave him alone.
But he knew he wouldn’t. Knew he’d be back the next day, and the next, and the next and the next, until he saw for himself.
* * *
It took ten days. Part of this was the weather–it was too rainy to justify sitting at a cafe all afternoon for days–and part of this, Jack thought, must be some perversity of fate, conspiring to keep them apart.
But Jack had his book and a coffee and had settled in for another afternoon’s wait, and when someone took another table nearby he barely glanced up.
But he did glance up–and for a moment it seemed like his heart stopped beating.
He opened his laptop and took off his jacket, sipped from his coffee and started typing away. He looked amazing–trim and relaxed, in just jeans and a pullover, one foot propped on the nearest chair and jiggling a little. His hair was tousled from the wind and he had a a days’ growth of beard. There was a broad silver ring on his right hand and a wood bead necklace around his neck.
This, Jack marveled, was our quiet Ianto–our perfectly groomed and spotless Ianto, our fastidious Ianto.
Ianto glanced up from his laptop and Jack looked quickly at his book. He tried to focus on the page but the words blurred in front of his eyes. He tried to read nonchalantly.
When he looked up again Ianto’s eyes met his, and Ianto smiled. With an effort Jack smiled back, swallowed and looked back at his book. Seeing Ianto for himself was one thing–making contact was the worst possible thing he could do.
Then you shouldn’t have sought him out, he thought and scowled faintly, leaning his chin on his hand to cover it.
A computer clattered onto his table and Ianto sat himself in the empty chair. “Hullo,” he said warmly.
“Hi,” Jack said.
“It’s all right if I join you, isn’t it? You’re not waiting for anybody?”
“No, I wasn’t.”
Ianto smiled, warmer than Jack could remember seeing his entire time at Torchwood. “Good. I’m Ianto.”
“Nice to meet you, Jack. You don’t mind if I get a little work done, do you? Deadlines.”
“Go right ahead.”
“What are you reading?” Ianto said after a few minutes of typing.
“Oh–it’s a spy novel. It’s not very good.” He showed Ianto the cover. “What are you working on? Or can you talk about it?”
“It’s nothing much, just a website. Catalogs, shopping carts, that sort of thing.”
“You’re a designer,” Jack said softly. He’d never known that.
Ianto shrugged, smiling easily. “Computers like me.”
“I can believe that,” Jack murmured, his eyes just drinking in the sight. And he couldn’t say, Oh, God, Ianto, I missed you so much no matter how badly he wanted to.
Ianto chuckled, fingers flying over the keyboard. His eyes met Jack’s again, and he said quietly, “Do you have someplace you need to be?”
Good lord. Was Ianto coming on to him? Jack had always assumed, because of Lisa–but maybe he’d been wrong. “I–I actually should get back to work soon.”
“Oh.” His mouth made a little disappointed pout and then he concentrated on his work.
Jack turned a page and sipped his coffee. This was the right thing to do. Leave him alone, let him get on with his new life, forget about him.
Except there was a niggling thought: This could be your only chance. And he’d wanted Ianto, wanted to touch him and taste him, and now–
He still did.
He turned another page. It would be sleeping with Ianto under false pretenses, and Jack had always prided himself on being completely honest in his relationships.
But it was Ianto.
Oblivious to the struggle going on within Jack, Ianto was typing away, frowning sometimes with concentration, glancing up at Jack now and again as if he was waiting for something to happen.
“Well,” he said finally and closed the computer. “I do have to be going.” He packed the computer away and Jack stopped pretending not to watch. “It was nice to meet you–and share a table. Oh–here.” He took a small silver card case–a trace of the Ianto Jack had known–from one of the pockets in his computer bag, and gave Jack a card. “Email me sometime.”
“Sure,” Jack said, knowing he wouldn’t. Shouldn’t. He tucked the card in the back of his book, and Ianto pulled on his jacket and slung his bag over his shoulder.
“Well. See you.” He walked away.
Jack watched him go. Walk away, he thought, be happy, be safe, be normal–that’s my gift to you. Forget the pain and live.
He couldn’t do it. He was not a saint: he was just a man who’d be alive for too long and was still figuring it out.
“Wait,” he said and Ianto stopped walking and turned to him with a smile.
* * *
Ianto’s flat was exactly how Jack imagined it: neat, comfortable, masculine. He had books on programming on his shelves and a wave-shaped CD holder on his wall, a few low-maintenance plants here and there, furniture that was plain and comfortable; and the bed, glimpsed through a half-closed door, was low and wide.
Ianto said, “Would you like a beer?” the moment the door closed behind them.
“No,” Jack said, taking off his coat. “Thanks.” He had to ask–there was so much he didn’t understand, just yet. “Do you do this often? Bring home strangers, I mean.”
Ianto shrugged, pouring them both glasses of water. “Not as much as I used to. Getting some wisdom in my old age, I suppose.” He smiled as he handed Jack a glass. “I feel like I know you from somewhere–like we were children together, perhaps.”
“That’d be impossible,” Jack said softly and drank to cover his suddenly-trembling hand.
“Yes,” Ianto said with good humor, “I figured you didn’t grow up in Wales. I can’t put a name on the feeling–I just have it. I knew you were . . .” He thought it over a moment. “Safe.”
“Oh,” Jack whispered, “I’m not safe at all.”
Ianto looked skeptical and leaned over to kiss him. His mouth tasted cool but his skin was warm, and Jack cupped his face in his palm and kissed him. “See?” Ianto whispered, their mouths still mostly pressed together. “Nothing to be afraid of.”
Only all my life, Jack thought, but only kissed him again. He’d thought so much about this body that to be actually touching him felt unreal. He ran his hand over Ianto’s shoulders, up and down his neck, felt the muscles in his arms and back. Ianto’s arms were loose around his waist, a thumb gently brushing Jack’s spine. They kissed, leaning against Ianto’s kitchen counter, until Ianto pulled away and took Jack’s hand.
Jack followed him, wordless, and sat on the edge of the bed, watching Ianto pull off his jumper and the t-shirt underneath. His body was narrow and pale, his muscles lean. He touched Jack’s face and kissed him sweetly, pushing him onto his back and settling his body on top of Jack’s.
How long they kissed, Jack didn’t track; he was utterly preoccupied with the feel of Ianto’s skin under his fingertips. He was so warm, the texture of his skin smooth. Jack felt every rib, the knobby bones of his hips, wrapped his hands around the long muscles in his thighs.
Ianto pushed himself up and looked at Jack, and traced a hand down Jack’s chest. “Will you take your clothes off?” he said softly, his face teasing and uncertain. “Will you let me touch you?”
“I got lost,” Jack said and Ianto laughed quietly and began unbuttoning.
“I thought perhaps you were shy.”
“No . . .” Jack watched his hands, those clever fingers, and with another look at Ianto’s face began helping. Whatever else Ianto saw in him, he wouldn’t be disappointed with Jack’s body, at least, Jack thought with some pride–and he gasped a laugh when Ianto dipped his head and nipped at his undershirt.
“So many layers,” Ianto observed and finished stripping Jack, no more fooling around. Nudity was actually a relief to Jack–it was so simple, it put them both on equal footing, long lean lovely Ianto and his own solid, broad self.
Ianto resumed exploring, using his mouth as much as his hands, and Jack let his head fall back and closed his eyes. He cupped the back of Ianto’s head to feel him move but otherwise let Ianto lead the way, let Ianto pin him down and hold him and taste him.
“I need to tell you something,” he said finally, holding Ianto’s face in his hands. “I–I–” He couldn’t. He said, “I’ve been alone a long time.”
Ianto smiled and kissed his hand. “Well, I’m here,” he said simply, and Jack pulled Ianto to him and kissed him, tangling their legs together. He touched the younger man, slow and careful, until Ianto quietly laughed and whispered, “Are we going to do anything or are you going to just play with me all night?”
“I like playing with you,” Jack said, grinning. “I’m getting such interesting reactions.” He circled a nipple with his thumb and Ianto shivered. “Like that.” He kissed Ianto’s throat and scraped his face against Ianto’s stubble, wanting the burn. “I just don’t want this to end.”
Ianto caressed his cheek and then slowly kissed him. “‘Though we cannot make our sun stand still, yet we will make him run,'” he quoted softly and pulled Jack onto him. “Don’t stop, Jack.”
He didn’t stop. He kissed Ianto again and again, over his chest and his stomach, the endless length of his legs, his low belly and the salty-hot skin of his erection. Ianto grabbed his hair at this, winding his fingers deep, and he stroked Jack with the bottom of his foot as Jack sucked him. He felt the orgasm begin in Ianto’s toes, how it shuddered down his spine and released into Jack’s mouth as Ianto groaned and trembled.
Jack lifted his head and whispered, “Lube? Condom?” and Ianto twisted away long enough to get his supplies out of a drawer in the bedside table, his hands shaking as he gave them to Jack. Jack took a long moment to look at him–this beautiful body he’d been craving for so many months, this gentle quiet man he’d missed so much–and bent to kiss him, long and hard. Ianto’s arms wrapped around him and his legs sprawled open, giving as good as he got with a teasing tongue and hungry lips.
Jack pulled back to watch Ianto’s face as he carefully pushed into him, slow and sweet, until he was buried completely inside him. He began to rock and Ianto’s hips rocked with him, his neck tense and his breath rough and fast in his chest. “Jack, Jack,” he gasped in a strangled voice and his fingers dug into him hard enough to bruise.
Jack stopped thinking, giving himself entirely over to the sensation of Ianto beneath him, surrounding him. He’d had fantasies, surely, he’d daydreamed and wished for this, and now it was here and–and–he was happy. He would have laughed if he hadn’t been too busy moaning.
Sex was so simple, by itself, just friction and heat. What made this incredible–what made it worth doing and remembering and playing over and over again in his head–was that it was Ianto’s hand brushing his hair back from his eyes and Ianto’s body that was so sweet and Ianto’s blue eyes looking back at him, honest and trusting and more tender than Jack would have believed.
He said, “Ianto,” in a voice that sounded far, far away and felt all the tension in his body let go–far, far away as well, perhaps–and he dropped his head onto Ianto’s chest and wept.
* * *
Ianto held Jack, spooned to him, long legs laid over him protectively. Jack wondered when he’d become someone who needed to be looked after instead of doing the looking, but he didn’t move away.
Ianto was touching him, too, absently like one strokes a pet. No one touched him anymore, as if the others at Torchwood were afraid of scaring him and the people he met sensed his need so strongly they ran away. He dropped a kiss on Ianto’s arm and felt more than heard Ianto’s answering chuckle.
“It’s all right, you know,” Ianto said, hands and voice equally soothing. “It’s just the endorphins. You said you’ve been alone–it can be hard, sometimes, to realize you’re not.”
Jack pulled Ianto’s arm more tightly around him. “I know.”
“I like you very much,” Ianto added. “And I fancy you utterly.”
Jack smiled at this. “Thanks.”
“So stay the night and we can have another go,” Ianto said and Jack managed a soft laugh and closed his eyes.
“I can’t stay,” he said regretfully. “I do have to get back to work. They’ll be wondering where I am.”
“Oh. Well, you have my number. Is your boss a taskmaster?”
“I am the boss,” Jack said, and Ianto was kissing his shoulder, and he said, “You know what, I’m the boss, I can stay out as long as I want and shove their questions.”
“That’s the spirit,” Ianto said, and he laughed when Jack turned over to face him and started kissing him again. Ianto held his chin in the V of his hand, his other hand on the small of his back to hold them together. Jack kissed him, rolling his hips against Ianto’s lazily, and Ianto’s mouth was open and his hips pushed back just as lazily.
“I could really fall for you,” Ianto whispered, kissing his way across Jack’s face. “I don’t even know what it is about you. I just know I need you.”
Jack draped himself over Ianto and didn’t answer, couldn’t.
* * *
“I was in love with someone,” Jack began slowly. The sun was setting, the bedroom was painted with pink and golden light, and Ianto had made cheese omelettes and truly splendid coffee. Jack had known they’d have to stop having sex eventually–the trouble was, if they weren’t kissing they would probably talk, and talking meant explaining things, and it was so hard to explain things.
On the other hand, there was something to be said for eating dinner from the same plate with someone whose mouth was still swollen from yours.
“I was in love with him for a very long time,” Jack went on, and Ianto listened, his chin on his hand. “But I didn’t see him for years. Circumstances. You understand. Then a few months ago he came back into my life–and at first it was incredible. It was like how it used to be. It was fun and adventurous and wonderful. And then . . . it wasn’t.”
He drank some coffee, the mug hot in his palm.
“So I came back to the life I’d left behind to be with him .. . and nothing’s changed, and everything’s different, and I . . . I just wanted something simple.”
Ianto leaned over and kissed him. “I’m sorry he disappointed you.”
“No, it wasn’t disappointment. It was just . . . it wasn’t what I hoped for.”
“So what do you hope for? Aside from simplicity?”
“More snogging, less ‘oh God, oh God, we’re all going to die.'” Ianto tilted his head, puzzled, and Jack shook his head and smiled. “Never mind. Let’s just say my friend has a knack for finding trouble.”
“I’m trouble-free,” Ianto said, laying his head on Jack’s shoulder again. “Some of my friends can get boisterous but it’s not even football hooliganism.”
“I can believe that,” Jack whispered and kissed the top of his head. With no Torchwood in his life, Ianto was living simply and joyfully, as he was meant to. But there was only so much one could learn from CCTV and hours of sex, so he said, “So that’s my tragic tale. What’s yours?”
“No tragedy,” said Ianto with a shrug. “Quite ordinary, really. I grew up here, went to university in London, I live here now. I like my job. I’ve been in love once or twice.” He touched Jack’s arm, deliberately running his fingers down the inside of his elbow. “Lately, though, I’ve–it’s very strange. I’ve felt like I’m waiting for something–like I’m missing something, and I don’t know what.”
“Me, maybe,” Jack said, and Ianto chuckled.
“Perhaps.” He got onto his knees and kissed Jack hard, holding his head in both hands. “Perhaps you’re the answer to all my questions.”
Jack smiled up at him and pulled Ianto onto his thighs, laughing when Ianto yelped and hastily moved the coffee cups and plate to safety on the nightstand. “One question, one answer,” he said and bit Ianto’s neck, just enough to leave pink dents from his teeth.
“Oh–really? All right. Let’s see. What’s your last name?”
“Harkness.” He kissed Ianto’s shoulder.
“Where were you born?” Ianto pushed his hand into Jack’s hair and tilted back his head.
Jack kissed the point of his chin. “Far, far away.”
“That’s not an answer.”
“That’s the only answer you’re getting from me about this. Next question.” He licked a nipple and Ianto shivered.
“Why are you in Cardiff?”
His answer was muffled by Ianto’s chest, which tasted of perspiration and the Nutella they’d brought out earlier. “Work.”
“Do you like your job?”
Jack paused, considering. “It’s not something you like or dislike–it’s just necessary.”
“Serious work, then.”
“Yet you’ve left it all afternoon to spend your time with me.”
“That’s true,” Jack said, “and eventually I’ll go back and it will have my full attention again. But right now–” He kissed over Ianto’s heart. “It’s just you.”
Ianto wrapped his arms around Jack’s neck and kissed his mouth, climbing onto him so that their bellies were pressed together. “It’s just you, too.”
* * *
It was late. Jack knew he should go. He’d indulged himself too much already–the more time he spent with Ianto the more likely it was that he’d say the wrong thing and Ianto would remember how they truly knew each other.
But he couldn’t. Not yet. His only chance to be with Ianto like this–to be with Ianto, ever–and he didn’t want to see it end.
Ianto was stretching, long strong arms above his head, his back muscles flexing, and he turned to Jack. “Let’s get a drink at the pub.”
“Yes. It’ll do us good to stretch our legs, I think. It’ll do me good, at least.”
“Pushed you a little too hard, have I?” Jack said with a wicked grin, and Ianto pounced on him to give him a quick kiss before pushing away again.
“Get up, lazy. I want a drink and I want to have you with it.” He paused and laughed when Jack raised an eyebrow at him. “Have it with you. You’ve worn me out so much I’m mixing up my words.” He slapped Jack’s ass and then picked up his abandoned clothes.
Jack rolled onto his back and stretched himself, debating. He could say now that he needed to go, though Ianto would want to know why work was suddenly calling him at ten at night. Or he could have that drink and kiss Ianto goodbye afterwards. Or, he could have that drink and come back to Ianto’s flat and stay a while longer.
Yes. He liked that plan best. He jumped to his feet and picked up his clothes too, dressing hastily. “How far is the pub?”
“Not far–walking distance. Less than ten minutes.” Ianto pulled his jumper over his t-shirt and crossed to him, to help Jack button up his shirt. “You dress like my grandfather.”
“Thank you,” Jack said dryly.
“Oh, don’t pout. It suits you.” He finished buttoning Jack’s shirt for him as Jack watched him through lowered eyelashes. “You know perfectly well how beautiful you are.” Ianto kissed his mouth lightly. “Come along. If my mates are there I’ll have to introduce you ’round.”
Jack, putting on his overcoat, paused. Meeting mates was only the next step to meeting family–meeting mates meant serious business. “I’ll be on my best behavior,” he said at last.
“Then they’ll think you’re mad. Just be yourself.” He slung his arm over Jack’s shoulders and guided him out the door. “They’ll love you. They love me, after all.”
And who wouldn’t? Jack thought and wound his arm around Ianto’s waist.
They were walking on a quiet side street, talking about nothing, smiling at each other, when the man stepped in front of them. He was skinny, really no more than a boy, scraggly in a too-big coat, a knit cap pulled low on his head. His voice was rough: “Give me your wallet,” and a switchblade flashed in his shaking hand.
Ianto put his hands up at once, Jack more slowly. “Take it easy,” Jack said soothingly. “Nobody wants to get hurt tonight.” He took a step closer to the boy and the boy jerked, knife jabbing out blindly, his face blank with panic. “It’s okay, it’s okay,” Jack said and took his wallet very slowly from his back pocket. “There. All my cash. It’s yours. It’s fine.” He held out the notes. “It’s okay.”
The boy snatched his money and Jack nearly relaxed when the boy turned the knife on Ianto. “Now you.”
Ianto’s eyes were huge and he swallowed. “I–” He fumbled for his wallet and the boy’s shaking grew worse.
“Stop fucking around!” He jabbed the knife at Ianto’s chest and the young man cried out, startled and afraid.
Jack grabbed the boy, tried to wrestle the knife away from him. “Don’t!” Ianto shouted and there was a flash of light on metal, and Jack gasped as pain blossomed in his stomach. The kid backed away and the knife clattered on the pavement.
Jack looked at his hand. It was sticky and dark. “Oh, God, Jack,” Ianto was saying as Jack sank to his knees. “Don’t–oh, God–”
Jack felt the pavement under his head. Felt Ianto’s hand on his face. Felt the blood on his hand.
He felt his heart stop.
* * *
He revived minutes later, breath returning with a gasp, disoriented and sore. He could hear someone crying, and he whispered, “Ianto,” and tried to sit up.
“Jack! God, Jack!” Ianto was holding him, kneeling on the ground, rocking him in his arms. “Jack, you were–I couldn’t find your pulse–Jack, he stabbed you!”
“I know.” He put his hands on the ground to support himself. Ianto touched his face and his shoulders as if in wonder. “I’ll be fine. Just give me a minute. Have you called emergency services?”
“Oh–no, I–” He fumbled for his mobile but Jack put his hand over the keypad.
“Don’t. They’ll ask too many questions. I’ll be fine.” He let his head hang. He could feel the itch and burn of healing in his skin, the severed blood vessels reattaching themselves. The boy had clipped his kidney, but the pain was fading quickly. He’d just have to go easy on the drinks tonight, if they got there.
Which was looking more and more unlikely.
“Jack,” Ianto said. He kissed Jack’s mouth, and looked at him directly as he held Jack’s head between his hands. “What the hell just happened? I thought you were dead.”
Jack closed his eyes and leaned against Ianto. This is the price, he thought. The price for happiness is the truth. “I was,” he said and got laboriously to his feet as Ianto stared at him.
“I died, Ianto. Just for a few minutes.” He lifted up his bloody, torn shirt to show his belly, knowing that nothing remained but drying blood to show he’d been injured at all.
“I–I don’t–I don’t–how?”
Jack offered Ianto his hand. “Come with me. There’s something I need you to see.”
Ianto looked at his hand, and then put his own in it and stood. “Show me,” he said in a voice that sounded resigned and close to tears.
* * *
Ianto said nothing when Jack took him into Reception, though his face, so open during all the time they’d spent together, closed like a door when Jack opened the lift.
He said, trying to sound light, “First floor, dinosaurs, computers, Weevils and coffee.”
“What is this place?” Ianto said quietly.
“This is where I work. This is Torchwood.” He opened the main door, grimacing at the lights and siren. Hopefully it was late enough that the others would be–
“Oi, is that you, Jack? Finally decided to work today?”
Too much to hope for. “Owen,” Jack said, his hand lightly on Ianto’s back. “And Tosh,” he added as she started up from her workstation, “and Gwen,” he finished with a sigh as she climbed down the stairs from the kitchen, coffee mugs in both hands. “You remember Ianto.”
Ianto’s head jerked to look at him. “Who are these people?”
“These are your former co-workers, Ianto,” Jack said and Tosh stifled a protest.
“I’ve never been there before.”
“You have. You worked for me for almost two years. This is Torchwood Three–before that you worked for Torchwood One, in London. You made quite an impression as a student, you see. You could have taken any position in the country, but you chose Torchwood. Not completely understanding what it would do to you, I think.”
“I came home after university,” Ianto murmured and rubbed his eyes with one hand. “I came home–”
“You went to Torchwood, where you met Lisa,” Jack went on. No mercy. This wasn’t a time for it. The other three were silent, watching them, and Tosh looked poised to spring in case Ianto toppled over. “You loved Lisa.”
“Oh God,” Ianto said, his head still low, his face still hidden behind his hand. “Oh, God, Jack. Stop.”
“At the battle of Canary Wharf she was partially converted into a Cyberman,” Jack said and Ianto nearly sobbed. “You brought her here. You hid her from us. She nearly killed you, she nearly killed me, and nearly converted all of us into Cybermen. She would have rebuilt the Cyberman army starting with Torchwood.
“So we killed her.”
“Jack,” Gwen said in a warning tone and Tosh’s hands were covering her mouth. Ianto still had not looked at him.
“And then we did what I thought was best,” Jack went on, relentless. “I gave you Retcon. We built you a new life. We let you go.”
Ianto was breathing very fast, his head hanging, one hand clenched in a fist.
Now was the really hard part. Jack said, his voice getting a little thicker, “Except I missed you. I had to see that you were okay. I never meant for this to happen–but there you were, and you were so beautiful and friendly, and I’ve missed you so much and it’s been so long since I’ve been as happy as I was today.”
The punch, Jack reflected later, should not have surprised him. Nor Ianto’s face, white with rage, and his gravelly voice that had been so smooth and gentle when they were alone. “You took away my life!”
Jack staggered and the others ran to join them–to separate them if it came to blows, Jack supposed, but he was had no intention of hitting back. Ianto was still shouting, ignoring anybody who wasn’t Jack: “How could you do this to me! I could have loved you! I could have–I would have–” He flinched when Gwen tried to touch him, to calm him down, and backed away from them all. “I wish I’d never met you,” he said to Jack, and then was through the door and gone.
Jack flexed his jaw and prodded his chin. “Well,” he said as Owen tried to have a look, “that went better than I expected.”
* * *
Jack had to fill out a report–of course he did, there were reports for everything, many of them unnecessary until he came along–so he was writing when Gwen quietly let herself into his office and sat down in the chair in front of his desk.
“Are you the delegate?” he said without glancing up.
“We all know you miss him,” she began in a prepared tone.
“But I’ve endangered Torchwood for my own selfish purposes and Ianto’s worse off than he was before,” Jack said wearily. “Yes.”
Gwen looked away a moment. “So what are you going to do now?”
“I don’t know,” Jack said honestly, throwing down his fountain pen, not caring that ink spattered over the form. “I don’t know what I’m going to do. What I thought was the right thing was the wrong thing. Maybe the wrong thing is the right thing. Maybe there is no right thing in a case like this.”
“We can’t just leave him loose on the streets of Cardiff, knowing what he knows.”
“Can’t we? I don’t know if I dare Retcon him again and take the chance of–”
“No, Jack,” she said, her voice harsh, “what we can’t take a chance on is if you can control your–your need for him.”
“Just say it,” said Jack. “My obsession.”
“Your obsession, then. All right: you want to know what the right thing to do is? Don’t toy with him. Retcon him and leave him alone or let him remember and be in his life. You can’t have it both ways.”
“I know,” he said and blotted up the spilled ink. “I know. It should be up to him. If he wants to come back we’ll take him back. If he wants to forget, we’ll help him forget. And I’ll leave him alone,” he added at Gwen’s look. “I can do it.”
“I suppose we’ll see,” Gwen said and got up from the chair. “What if he doesn’t want to come back and doesn’t want to forget?”
“We’ll work on a third option.” He felt exhausted. Sex and dying takes a lot out of a guy, he thought wryly, and decided reports could wait. He just wanted to lie down for a while.
* * *
It felt unreasonably early when Claire knocked on his door. “Captain? That man from last night is here.”
Jack started up and grabbed his shirt. “Did he say what he wanted?
“No, Captain. Should I ask him?”
“No, I’ll be right there.” He quickly laced up his boots, and followed Claire up to the main level of the Hub, buttoning his shirt as he went.
Ianto stood in Reception, his hands behind his back. He wasn’t in a suit–Jack tried not to be disappointed. Ianto glanced at Claire, and said to Jack in a clipped tone, “Can we go for a walk?”
“I’ll be back soon,” Jack told Claire, who nodded, her eyes wide. Ianto left Reception and Jack followed him out to the Plaza, shivering a little in the cold.
“She seems nice,” Ianto said at last.
“Her coffee’s terrible.”
Ianto made a sound almost like a laugh. “I remember,” he said simply. “Lisa. Torchwood One. Canary Wharf. You.”
“I never meant to mislead you.”
“Yes–you never said anything actually dishonest to me. That’s quite a feat. But I’m so angry at you I can hardly bear it.” Jack sighed, and Ianto went on quietly, “But at the same time I knew you, even when I didn’t know you, and I wanted you even though I didn’t know you, and I trusted you even though I didn’t know you. Which is the worst part.”
“Ianto,” Jack whispered.
“Please let me finish. You told me things you never said in a year and a half of working for you. You were more honest with me thinking there would be no consequences than you ever had been. I find that very troubling.”
“Yes,” Jack said. “I can see that.”
“I was falling for you, before,” Ianto said. “Before–everything. I think I remembered that when I saw you yesterday.”
“Oh,” Jack breathed.
“Everything’s all mixed up,” Ianto said. “What I remember, what I know is actually true, all these ambivalent feelings. . .” He sighed.
“I can give you the Retcon again,” Jack said. “Forget it all, move on, have that life you were enjoying so much. And I’ll leave you alone this time. I promise.”
“I don’t want to forget, Jack.”
“Do you want to come back?”
“Do you want me to come back?”
“Yes,” Jack said. “Yes, I do, I do, Ianto.”
Ianto walked a few paces more. “I don’t want to wear the suits every day. I’ve found I like casual wear.”
Jack started to smile, his hopes rekindling. “Will you take over coffee duty? Claire’s coffee is truly horrendous.”
“I’ll consider it.” He stopped, turned, and kissed Jack’s mouth without touching him otherwise. “Hm,” he said thoughtfully and started walking again. “You taste the same.”
“Is that a yes?”
“It’s just a kiss. I still haven’t forgiven you.” He turned and walked backwards a step or two. “Not yet, anyway.”
Jack watched Ianto walk, his slender back and narrow shoulders hunched under his jacket, and then smiled and hurried to catch up. It was a start.
Ianto quotes “To His Coy Mistress” by
John Donne Andrew Marvell.
I listened to this song incessantly while writing this, and so I share: For Blue Skies by Strays Don’t Sleep.