Title: The Density of Water, the Weight of Air
Series: Lovers in a Dangerous Time
Warning: Post “The Last of the Time Lords”, Pre-series 2 Torchwood.
Word Count: 3900
Summary: Some things are inevitable, like sunrises, like Jack.
Notes: Thanks to for beta.
When Jack came through the door–looking tired but unharmed–the girls got to him first, both scolding him and claiming hugs. “Where did you go? Where have you been?” they demanded as Gwen kissed his cheek and Tosh wrapped both arms around his waist and buried her face in his coat.
Owen was next: “Can’t get rid of you, can we,” he said and the hug was quick, ending with manly back-slaps, but Owen looked like all the stress he’d been carrying for weeks was finally gone.
Ianto hung back, twisting a coffee mug in his hands. There were a hundred things he could say, some angry and some understanding, but the truth was he didn’t want to say a word. He wanted Jack to speak, to explain himself, to do more than laugh and smile and kiss back.
When the others reluctantly stepped away Jack looked at Ianto and spread his arms. “Ianto.”
Ianto didn’t move. “You left without saying goodbye.”
“I know.” He didn’t look the least bit apologetic about it, either.
Ianto looked down at the mug. There was a lipstick print on the side. He said, “I’m not sure I can forgive you yet.”
“Come say hello anyway.”
He looked at their faces: Tosh worried, Gwen sympathetic, Owen skeptical, and Jack patient. He sighed, put the mug down, and went into Jack’s arms. “This doesn’t mean I forgive you,” he said into Jack’s neck as he embraced him under his coat.
“I know, I know,” Jack soothed him, hands on Ianto’s back, and as Ianto tucked his head against Jack’s neck he thought maybe he’d forgiven Jack, at least a little.
Everyone was reluctant to leave even though it was late, but finally Jack said, “Go home. Get some sleep. I won’t disappear over night.” He was kissed a few more times by both the girls and once, quick, by Owen, and when the door was shut and the lights had stopped flashing, he turned back to Ianto with a smile.
Ianto didn’t smile, even when Jack sat down on the couch beside him and leaned back, hands folded behind his head. “Sunburn suits you.”
Ianto chuckled dryly and looked away. “Tibet was very beautiful.”
“Yeah, I’ve always thought so.” Jack paused. “How are you?”
“Confused,” Ianto said in complete honesty.
“It was the Archangel network–”
“Not about Saxon. I think we’ve all figured out the truth about Saxon. I mean about you.” Jack was gazing at him, steady and patient, and Ianto said, “Why did you come back?”
“You’re my responsibility. All of you,” he added when Ianto started to speak. “This whole planet–you’re mine to look after. The Doctor won’t always be here but I will be. Quite possibly until the end of time.”
“So that’s it, then. You’ll just exist, never dying, never growing older–”
“Oh, I’m growing older,” Jack said. “Just very slowly. Who knows what I’ll be in a million years, or a billion. Maybe I’ll be a grasshopper like that myth. Maybe I’ll just be a very, very old man. Maybe I’ll start over as an egg.”
“Maybe,” Ianto murmured and picked up a coffee cup on the table, wincing at the coffee stain on the bottom: it needed to be scrubbed again. “It sounds terribly lonely to me.”
“Maybe,” Jack said. “Or maybe I’ll find someone every lifetime who’ll prevent that.”
“Or a few someones,” Ianto said and Jack laughed.
“Maybe,” he said again, and then put his hand over Ianto’s. “I’ve already found a little family for this lifetime.”
“You seem to forget,” Ianto said in his calmest voice, “that you and I are no longer together.”
“I haven’t forgotten anything,” Jack said. “I just refuse to accept it.”
Ianto removed his hand from Jack’s and got up from the couch to take the dirty mug into the kitchen. After a moment Jack followed, frowning, and leaned his hip against the sink as Ianto began running the hot water. He said, “While we were in the Himalayas I had a dream. I’ve been putting it to the general atmosphere of the place–if there’s a place ripe for exploring your spiritual side it’s Lhasa.”
“What did you dream?” Jack said.
“I dreamed that I was dead.” He turned off the water. “I was dead and I had to see you. Had to, like I couldn’t move on until I did. And you were chained up in this awful room–God, it was so lucid–and you were filthy and scrawny and you kept saying my name.”
Jack said nothing, just shifted his position against the sink. His expression was serious.
Ianto said, scrubbing the cup and not caring if he splashed soap on his suit, “I said I loved you just how you are.” He glanced quickly at Jack, whose expression hadn’t changed. Ianto rinsed the cup with a quick swish of fresh hot water and put it in the drainer. “It was only a dream.”
“Can I tell you something?” Jack said, his tone quiet.
“You kept me sane.” Ianto looked at him, frowning. “A lot happened that I haven’t told you about, and I probably never will. But you should know: memories of you were what kept me going.”
“Of me,” Ianto said, unable to keep the skepticism out of his voice.
“You and everyone who’s ever loved me. Really loved me. Not just the fun fucks, not just the passing fancies. Every memory I have of real love, I held onto it and relived it as best I could.” He moved closer to Ianto, not reaching out for him or even taking his hands from his pockets.
Ianto wished he knew what to do with his hands aside from putting them on Jack’s chest. If he pushed Jack away he’d only end up pulling him closer, and if he pulled him closer he’d kiss him, and if he kissed him–well, some things were just inevitable.
It was also inevitable that Jack would break his heart again.
He crossed his arms over his chest and said, “Well. I’m glad to have been of assistance.”
Jack dropped his head–when he looked back up he was smiling, disarming and wry. “Stubborn Ianto,” he said quietly. Ianto looked at him, trying to keep his expression neutral, and he inhaled sharply when Jack moved closer still–close enough for Ianto to feel Jack’s breath against his lips.
“Jack,” he said in a warning tone.
“Forgive me,” Jack said.
“For everything that you’re angry about.”
Ianto barked a laugh. “I don’t know if I can do all that in one day.”
“Try,” Jack coaxed, his voice soft. “Try, Ianto. You don’t want to be angry with me–I can see it in your eyes. You want me back to badly you can hardly bear it.”
Ianto said, “You left. Without saying goodbye. We just got you back and then you left.”
“But I came back. You’re not getting rid of me that easily.” He smiled, amused, his eyes half-closed. “Say your forgive me. Kiss me. I need you.”
“No, you don’t,” Ianto said–wincing when his voice came out low and gravelly instead of bland and smooth. “You’ve never needed me.”
“I’ve always needed you. I needed you before I knew I needed you. I think I needed you before you were born.”
“Jack,” Ianto said and Jack took hold of his face and kissed him.
Don’t, Ianto wanted to say, but put his hands on Jack’s waist and pulled him closer, parting his lips to the gentle flick of Jack’s tongue and inhaling the coffee-flavored intake of his breath. Jack turned him against the sink so that the edge dug into his back, but Ianto didn’t care: Jack was holding him and kissing him and nothing else mattered. He kneaded his fingers into Jack’s sides and kissed him back.
Jack said he couldn’t bear the confined space and musty smell of his quarters and he didn’t want Ianto to freshen things up for him this late at night, so they went to Ianto’s flat, where the sheets were clean and crisp and there was room enough to stretch out.
Ianto left a message for the others: Jack is with me tonight. He’ll be back in the morning. They’d all seen Jack kiss him the day he returned from the dead; he no longer cared what they knew or thought they knew.
“What do you want?” Ianto asked him, feeling he could deny Jack nothing. Even if he wanted to, which the more sensible part of him knew he should–but the part of him that had held Jack’s coat to his face and breathed in his lingering scent knew there was nothing Jack would not get from him tonight.
“I want to take a bath,” Jack said, and Ianto nodded and took him into the lav. Jack undressed slowly and Ianto folded his clothes and put them aside. They were quiet, any attempt at talking masked by the sounds of the tub filling and the air vent blowing.
Jack sighed with satisfaction as he slid into the water, and looked at Ianto who was still fully dressed, not even his tie unknotted. “Join me.”
“I’ve showered.” Ianto sat on the edge of the tub so he could stroke Jack’s hair. “Just relax for a bit.”
“It’s not the bath I need,” Jack said and took Ianto’s hand, weaving together their fingers. “It’s you.”
“Jack,” Ianto began, and then again more softly, “Jack,” when Jack kissed the back of his hand.
“Get in before I pull you in,” Jack said, smiling, and Ianto shook his head but took away his hand so he could slide off his tie and unbutton his shirt. He lowered himself into the water carefully, between Jack’s splayed legs, and leaned back against Jack’s chest with a sigh. Jack wrapped his arms around Ianto’s waist and held him close, sighing too.
Ianto started to speak, and then turned his head so he could kiss Jack’s arm and rest his head on Jack’s chest. Jack kissed his hair. He began to touch Ianto, fingertips and palms over his chest and his belly and his shoulders and his thighs. There was nothing sexual about this touch, at least not overtly so, though Ianto knew they would make love before the night was through as surely as he knew the sun would rise. It was reassurance now, a little ritual, Jack seeing for himself that Ianto was with him, unchanged and whole.
He would do it himself, he knew, before the night was through. Find the story that Jack wouldn’t tell written on his skin.
“You’ve lost weight.”
Ianto shifted under his hands. “So have you.” Jack’s body had a sinewy look to it–strong as ever, but leaner.
“You didn’t have any to spare,” Jack pointed out and laid both his hands on Ianto’s hips. “Is this from wandering around in the Himalayas?”
“Yes,” Ianto said, “and from worrying and from–well. How it’s been.”
Jack rubbed his hips and kissed his shoulder. “I can’t apologize, Ianto,” he said quietly. “I needed to go, and I’m glad I did even though it was–it wasn’t easy. It wasn’t even always fun.”
“I missed you,” Ianto said. He laid his hands on top of Jack’s, stilling them. “I mourned you when we thought you were dead. I genuinely mourned you.”
Jack kissed his hair and brushed his lips over Ianto’s ear.
“And then you came back and you kissed me and I thought–” He pressed his foot against the top of Jack’s to make sure he had Jack’s attention. “I’m still in love with you.”
He held Ianto tighter, cupping the side of Ianto’s face in one hand. “Then we’re going to be all right, aren’t we.”
“No, we’re not,” Ianto said and pulled out of his arms. He turned awkwardly, water splashing, and he wished this had come up while he was still behind the shield of his suit rather than naked and vulnerable and on his knees, but still he faced Jack. “I won’t do this again.”
“Ianto,” Jack said in an uncertain tone.
“I love you. I do love you, exactly how you are. But I am how I am, too, and never the twain will meet, Jack. I want you to stay with me tonight. I need you to just as much as you do. But after this, we’re–I can’t be your lover anymore.”
“I see.” Jack was no more self-conscious naked than a small child, and Ianto wished he would fidget, draw up a leg, something to react to him. But he merely nodded and said, “I see,” again, and his expression was resigned.
Ianto got to his feet and pulled a towel from the rack, stepped out of the tub and began to dry himself off. “Are you hungry?” They had fed him from the meager stores at the Hub, but no amount of biscuits and coffee would satisfy real hunger.
“Yes.” Jack lay back and closed his eyes.
“What do you want?”
“Chips,” Jack said softly, “and potstickers and meat loaf and stuffed tomatoes and ice cream and apple pie and–”
“I’ll see what I can find,” Ianto said and took a dressing gown from the hook at the back of the door. “It may just be beans on toast.”
“Ianto,” Jack said, and when Ianto looked at him Jack’s eyes seemed depthless as the sky. “This isn’t over yet.”
Ianto said nothing as he closed the door behind him. He let out a deep breath and wondered if it was really worth it to fight or if he should just surrender now.
Ianto had bought a dressing gown for Jack months before, and Jack was wrapped up in it when he wandered into the kitchen as Ianto stared into his mostly-empty refrigerator. He draped his arms over Ianto, resting his chin on Ianto’s shoulder. “What are you looking for?”
“Something to feed you. I’ve been eating out since we got back.”
“Hm. . .” Jack squeezed him a little tighter and Ianto inhaled, wanting to turn back his head and steal a kiss. “I see leftover Chinese back there .. . cold lo mien. That brings back memories.”
Ianto looked at him, then said, “I don’t have any chopsticks,” and took out the box of leftovers. Jack took the box from him and opened it, and inhaled the scent with relish.
“I’m sure we can improvise.” He took out a fingerful of noodles and dropped them into his mouth, and smiled at Ianto once he’d chewed and swallowed. “I’ve missed this.”
“Where did you go, really?” Ianto said quietly, and took the noodles Jack offered him, slurping them into his mouth.
“I told you. The end of the universe.” He wiped a dot of sauce from the corner of Ianto’s mouth with his fingertip, and grinned at Ianto as he licked it off.
“You didn’t tell us the whole story.”
“Nope,” Jack said cheerfully. “And I’m not going to, either. I’m just glad to be home. Do we need to talk about it?”
“I want to know what happened. Here, have a fork,” he added, getting one from the drawer. “You’re getting sauce all over your fingers.”
Jack sucked on his fingers, still smiling. “Nothing happened. Life is beautiful and I’m back where I belong. And you’re beautiful and I refuse to accept that we’re through.”
“Take the fork,” Ianto said, pressing it into his hand.
Jack sighed but took the fork. “Ianto.”
“Sir,” Ianto said, which probably would have been more effective if he wasn’t wearing his dressing gown. “I’ve had a lot of time to think. Amazing how hiking lends itself to contemplation.”
“I’ve had a lot of time to think too,” Jack said, more softly than Ianto would have expected. “And I missed you, Ianto.”
“Stop it,” Ianto said. “Stop sidetracking me. I’m trying to make a point, Jack. You are welcome to stay here tonight. I want you to stay with me tonight. But after that–no more.”
“I am completely serious.”
“But why?” Jack said, the fork and carton forgotten in his hands.
“Why do you think?” Ianto said, finally losing his patience. “Because I can’t do this again! I can’t watch you run off and then come back and expect me to be waiting for you! It doesn’t matter how much I love you–I can’t let you keep breaking my heart.”
Jack’s said, his tone more mild than accusing, “You have never trusted me.”
Ianto looked away, wishing he had something to fidget with.
“It doesn’t matter how much I love you, either,” Jack said. “You don’t trust me not to hurt you.”
“You did hurt me,” Ianto said. “As you may recall.”
Jack smiled grimly and said, “Yes. I suppose I did. But you won’t forgive me, either. Not for Jack, not for leaving–not for the Doctor, I have to assume–and probably not even for Lisa.”
“I trust you with my life. Anything more than that–” He stopped and shook his head. “Let’s just go to bed, all right? I’m tired of talking.”
“Go to bed and just sleep, I suppose,” Jack said, putting down the carton with a sigh.
Ianto turned to go into the bedroom, and said over his shoulder, “Clean your teeth and I’ll think about kissing you.”
It happened faster than he could think: Jack’s hand was on his shoulder and he was being shoved against the wall and Jack’s mouth was on his and Jack’s hands were tugging at the dressing gown. Ianto wrapped his arms around Jack’s neck and sucked on the tongue that was unceremoniously licking into his mouth. He groaned as Jack’s thigh tried to rub between his legs.
“Say yes,” Jack growled and his teeth caught Ianto’s lower lip a moment.
“What?” Ianto gasped, already pushing Jack’s dressing gown off his shoulders.
“Say yes. Say yes.” He got onto his knees and held Ianto’s hips. “Say yes.”
“Yes,” Ianto said, thrusting a hand into Jack’s hair as Jack began kissing his hip bones. “Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes.”
“And you didn’t even make me clean my teeth,” Jack said, smug.
Ianto thought about raising his head to glare at Jack, but only poked him with his foot instead. “Hush. I’m tired.”
“Sex was your idea. I would have slept at the Hub. I would have slept on the sofa, even. But . ..” He stroked his hand over Ianto’s back and Ianto nearly purred with satisfaction. “You can’t resist me. Even when you’re furious with me.”
“Gloating is so unbecoming,” Ianto mumbled and turned over so he could wedge himself against Jack. Jack chuckled and draped an arm and leg over him, resting a hand on the small of Ianto’s back.
“I don’t care if it’s unbecoming. You love me. You love me so much . . .”
“Shut up,” Ianto mumbled into Jack’s neck. Jack chuckled again and his hand slowly stroked Ianto’s spine.
He said, after a few minutes and in a much more thoughtful tone, “Maybe I do fall in love at first sight. But that means so many different things, if you think about it. Not just the first time you see someone–it can also mean the first time you see someone clearly.”
Ianto opened his eyes and started to speak, but realized he had nothing to say. He breathed evenly, waiting for Jack to go on.
Eventually Jack did. “I fell in love with you day by day,” he said, fingertips gently flicking the nape of Ianto’s neck. “Every day. Seeing you. Talking to you. Watching the way you move, learning the ways you think . . . seeing that you were so much more than just a handsome boy in a suit.”
Ianto pressed his lips together to keep himself from kissing Jack’s throat.
Jack’s voice was even softer as he went on. “I was gone for much longer than you think. And it was . .. it was awful. It was nightmarish, Ianto.
“So I thought of you. Happy moments, happy days. Even the parts that hurt, they were better than the life I was actually living, and so I relived them . . . lost myself in them. Anything to keep myself from going mad.” He exhaled, and then tilted up Ianto’s face and kissed him. “Why wouldn’t I want my partner back, Ianto?”
Ianto studied his face, and then carefully sat up and leaned back against the headboard. “Your partner?” he said, keeping his voice steady with effort. “That would imply some sort of equality.”
“Not just imply, I hope,” Jack said. “State explicitly.”
Ianto bent over him and looked into his eyes. Jack’s face was as open and naked as Ianto had ever seen it, and though his hands twitched he didn’t reach for Ianto or even move. Ianto brushed his fingertips over Jack’s forehead and down his nose, across his jaw and down his neck. He leaned in closer, inspecting Jack’s skin, noting with satisfaction that Jack’s breath hitched and his heart started beating faster as Ianto touched him.
“What are you looking for?” Jack whispered.
“The truth,” Ianto said. “The truth about what happened to you.”
“I don’t have any new scars.”
Ianto glanced up at him, and then smoothed both hands up Jack’s torso. “You’re right, you know,” Ianto said, still touching him. “I do still love you. I suspect I always will.” He stopped, and laid his head on Jack’s chest. Jack inhaled slowly and places his hands on the back of Ianto’s head. “I don’t know how to do this.”
“Well,” Jack said softly, “neither do I. As I see it . . . we’ll fight. We’ll fuck. We’ll make up. We’ll meet people who distract us. We’ll say terrible things to each other. We’ll hate each other sometimes, but we’ll never stop loving each other.”
“I’m never getting rid of you, am I,” Ianto said.
“Nope. One way or another, you have me for life.”
Ianto smiled, and then raised his head and said, looking at him, “My life. You’ll outlive me.”
Jack nodded, face somber. “I can’t die.”
“Strangely appropriate, that.” He ran his hand over Jack’s hip. His skin looked very pale compared to Jack’s light tan. “I’ve often thought you should live forever.”
“I wish you could too,” Jack said quietly, and Ianto moved up his body to kiss him.
“Don’t. You’ll always find somebody to love you.”
Jack smiled and held Ianto’s chin. “They won’t be you.”
Ianto tried to look exasperated, but just kissed Jack again. “I really love you, you infuriating person.”
“Good.” Jack smiled, a rare, gentle smile. “Because I really love you.”
Ianto cupped Jack’s jaw and kissed him, and then settled himself against Jack’s side, his head on Jack’s shoulder. Jack cradled him in one arm and kissed the top of his head.
Their life together would never be simple; he knew Jack was right about that. There would be other lovers, fights, days when they wouldn’t speak–but there would be days, too, when they were each other’s world.
Because that’s love, Ianto thought. It’s messy and it’s hard and it’s imperfect . . . and it’s home.
He looked at Jack: the other man’s eyes were closed, his face soft, his breathing even. “Actually asleep, are you?” Ianto whispered. He kissed Jack’s lips and pulled the duvet over them, laid his head on Jack’s shoulder and closed his eyes.