Title: One Hundred Thousand Stars
Genre: Futurefic. Implied Jack/Ianto.
Word Count: 1140
Summary: “You’re late.”
Author’s Notes: I’ve been playing 28 Flavors of Ianto Jones, and got a request for “waiting for Jack” for the Angsty Ianto prompt. It’s my favorite of the lot.
The wedding rehearsal dinner ended after midnight. Ianto couldn’t bring himself to tell Bronwyn to come home, tonight of all nights, and left her snuggling her lad with promises they’d not do anything crazy before the wedding.
“We’re getting old,” he said to his wife, arm around her shoulders, and Elizabeth laughed. He’d fallen in love with her laugh, all those years ago, and it had never changed even though her hair was silvery and her body softening and her memory less reliable.
“Speak for yourself,” she said and leaned her head against his shoulder.
Elizabeth went to bed as soon as they got home, and though he lay beside her for a while sleep didn’t come. Ianto went downstairs, where his youngest son was playing video games, earphones in to keep from disturbing the rest of the family. Ianto thought about telling him to go to bed but only paused long enough to drop a kiss on Tom’s dark hair. He was rewarded with a very teenaged eye roll and a “G’night, dad.”
He drifted into the kitchen. Toast, perhaps, or ice cream. Or an apple.
There was an odd, grinding, whooshing sort of noise from the other room. Ianto called softly, “Tom, your game’s too loud,” as he turned away from the larder, and dropped the box of crisps he’s taken out.
“Ianto,” Jack said quietly, and his smile was still beautiful.
* * *
He’d imagined this moment, of course. For the first year he’d imagined passionate kisses and vows of everlasting fidelity. For the next five he thought of a thousand cutting comments, how good it would feel to connect his fist with Jack’s face, if he could just turn and walk away no matter how much Jack begged.
After that, he had nothing left but resignation. He knew the cycle, he knew the stages, he knew that he was mourning the end of a love that never really had a chance to thrive.
It was a bit like burying a child, he thought. So much lost potential.
He met Elizabeth when he was thirty-four. She was a student at Cardiff University and worked in his preferred bookstore. She started setting books aside for him that she thought he’d like, they’d talk about them over the counter while other customers shifted impatiently behind him, and when he finally asked her out for coffee he wondered what sort of madness he was indulging in. She was pretty and untouched and merry, and he felt wizened and strange and old. But she kissed him without hesitation and when he said he couldn’t talk about his job she didn’t try to wheedle out anything more.
They waited to marry until she was done with school. Her parents were just glad she’d found someone steady, even though he was fourteen years older than she; his parents, bewildered by his long bachelorhood, adored her. All of Torchwood Three came to the wedding, and Gwen said, squeezing his hand, “Don’t let it drift, Ianto.”
He wanted to name their first son Jack, but they went with David instead. Jack wasn’t a family name for either of them, it was just the name of someone he wanted to remember, and he couldn’t tell Elizabeth why.
* * *
“Jack,” he said and bent, stiff and groaning, to pick up the box of crisps. When he straightened up again Jack was still there, watching him, looking the same as he had all those years ago right down to his boots. Ianto said, “You’re late.”
“I’m sorry,” Jack said.
Ianto felt self-conscious of his gray hair and liver-spotted hands. “It’s been a long time.”
“Too long,” Jack said. “Too long, and I’m sorry, I’m so sorry–we meant–”
“I know,” Ianto said. “It’s all right.”
“It’s not all right.” He stepped close, his hand out to take hold of him, and Ianto thought if Jack wanted a hug he could do it but a kiss he wasn’t so sure about–but Jack stopped himself, and said simply, “I owe you a trip to the stars, Ianto.”
Oh. Oh, it hurt. Thirty years ago, less than that, he would have wrapped himself around Jack and never let go.
The trouble with time, he thought, is that it never stops moving.
“My daughter is getting married tomorrow,” Ianto said. “I have two sons in university and another about to start. I have a wife.
“I can’t go, Jack. Not for a hundred thousand stars.”
Jack nodded and let his head drop–when he raised it again he was smiling ruefully. “Our timing has never been quite right.”
Ianto shook his head, holding the box of crisps to his chest. He’d often thought it wasn’t fair–they’d only had a few kisses and one incredible night. He couldn’t say out loud If you’d come back sooner we would have had all these years together–but it must have been in his face, because Jack dropped any pretense of hanging back and wrapped his arms around Ianto, pressed his face against Ianto’s neck and dug his fingers into Ianto’s back.
“I’m sorry,” he said into Ianto’s skin. “I’m sorry.”
Ianto embraced him–awkwardly, then fiercely, holding onto him tight. “Don’t be,” he said and kissed Jack’s hair. “I’m happy. My life is good, Jack. It’s very good.”
Jack raised his head and kissed Ianto, one big hand wrapped around the back of his neck. “I’m glad you have that, then.” He leaned his forehead against Ianto’s and Ianto closed his eyes as they breathed together.
Finally Jack said, “I have to go. The Doctor’s waiting,” and Ianto nodded, not following Jack when he pulled away. “I’ll come see you again soon, okay?”
Ianto nodded. “Soon.” He watched Jack step into the corridor, and there was the sound of an opening door and the strange whooshing noise again.
He sighed, put the box back in the larder, and leaned both hands on the kitchen counter, breathing deeply. He didn’t look up when Tom ambled into the room.
“Dad? Are you all right? You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”
“Yes.” He straightened up. “Just tired. It’s been a long day and it’ll be a longer one tomorrow. Going to bed soon?”
“Yeah, yeah. Do you need help upstairs?” His children like to joke about their old dad, but sometimes Ianto thought they took his age far too seriously.
“I’m fine. Good night, Tommy.” He climbed the stairs back to his bedroom. Elizabeth was sleeping soundly, her breathing even. Ianto ran his hand over her hair, then opened the curtain just enough to let in a little moonlight.
All those years. All those lost years.
He closed the curtain and got into bed beside Elizabeth, and lay his arm lightly over her side. Tomorrow was going to be a busy day.