Title: Tell My Mother Not To Worry
Characters: Jack Harkness/Ianto Jones
Word Count: 2400
Summary: Please remember me . . .
Spoilers: “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang”, “To the Last Man”
Thank you to for beta. The title and summary are from “The Trapeze Swinger” by Iron & Wine.
The baby was probably a year old—old enough to know something was wrong, not old enough to do more than scream his fear. One of the PCs had picked him up and was clumsily trying to calm him, though her jostling was only upsetting him more if the increased volume of his sobs was anything to go by.
Jack had a quick glance around. Tosh and Ianto were examining the area for traces of leftover Rift energy, while Gwen and Owen were interrogating the devastated-looking husband. The man was deep in shock, it would appear: even the cries of his son weren’t getting through to him.
Jack went to the PC and held out his arms. “Here. Let me try.”
She looked surprised, but handed the boy over anyway. “We’ll get someone from social services if his father can’t take care of him, Captain Harkness.”
Jack nodded as he adjusted the boy in his arms, and began the slow rhythm of stroking and patting the boy’s back, his cheek against the baby’s dark curls as the boy wailed. Jack closed his eyes, trying to project feelings of comfort and safety to the child as he slowly swayed.
When the boy’s sobs had quieted to whimpers and he’d shoved a thumb into his mouth, Jack opened his eyes and kissed the boy’s hair. He could feel eyes on him—Ianto was looking at him like he didn’t quite believe what he was seeing, until Tosh nudged him to help her with the equipment.
Seeing his son in a stranger’s arms must have broken through the husband’s shock: he pushed himself up from the curb while Gwen was in the middle of a question and approached Jack.
“I can take him now,” he said, wincing and smiling at once when the boy wailed, “Dadadada!” and leaned out of Jack’s arms towards his father.
Jack placed him in the man’s arms. “What’s his name?”
“Oliver.” The baby was whimpering again, but he pressed himself against his father’s chest with complete trust as his father held him tight. “His name’s Oliver. I’m Howard.”
“Captain Jack Harkness,” Jack said.
“Got kids of your own, then?”
Jack couldn’t answer for a moment—it was so hard to explain. “All grown up now,” he said finally and the other man nodded.
He asked quietly, “Can you really find the thing that did this to my wife?”
Jack put a hand on his shoulder. “We’ll do our best,” he said, and the other man sighed in acceptance.
Ianto was quiet in the SUV, not contributing to the theories and discussion as they drove back to the Hub. Jack glanced at him in the rear view mirror a few times, but Ianto, too lost in thought, didn’t meet his eyes.
Once they had the body in the autopsy bay and Owen began his examination, Ianto followed Jack into his office and closed the door. “Where did you learn to do that?”
“Do what?” Jack took off his coat.
Ianto hung it, his expression contemplative. “Calm a panicking child. I’ve never seen you be that gentle with someone.”
“Yes, you have.” Jack sat at his desk and got out the night’s paperwork from a drawer.
“All right—outside of bed, I’ve never seen you be that gentle with someone.”
Jack shuffled papers for a moment, smiling to himself. “I have experience with children.”
“You’re going to tell me this story,” Ianto said, but before they could speak any further Gwen had opened the door to ask them to come down to the medical bay.
It was late when they got back to the flat, past midnight, and Ianto was dead on his feet. Jack steered him back to the bedroom and had him sit on the bed, kneeling to help him take off with his shoes and socks.
“You don’t have to stay tonight,” Ianto said, slowly unknotting his tie. “I’m too tired for anything.”
Jack took hold of Ianto’s long, pale feet and gently rubbed the soles. “Can I stay just to hang out?”
“Of course,” Ianto said softly, touching Jack’s hair. “But I’m warning you in advance—I may not be good company.”
“All you have to do is lie there and look pretty,” Jack said and Ianto softly laughed.
They’d gone to bed together many times before this, undressed each other many times—usually tearing at each other’s clothes, popping buttons and kissing through cloth, too hungry to wait. It was sweet, though, to slowly undress Ianto, to help him slide beneath the duvet, to brush his hair back from his forehead, to tenderly kiss him.
Ianto blinked at him sleepily and trailed his fingers down Jack’s arm. “Come to bed.”
“In a minute,” Jack said and sat down to untie his boots. He only undressed down to his undershirt and shorts, and got beneath the duvet with Ianto and pulled him close, smiling as Ianto kissed him and tucked his head against his neck. Ianto was so still and his breathing so even Jack thought he’d fallen asleep right away.
“I can’t stop thinking about that boy,” Ianto said and Jack lifted his head to look at him. “His life is never going to be the same and there’s nothing we could do.”
“We caught the bad guy.” He rubbed Ianto’s shoulder and kissed his forehead. “There’s nothing more to be done.”
“Yeah, but . . .” Ianto sighed and wrapped his arms tighter around Jack’s chest. “My mum died when I was twelve.”
Jack knew this—he’d seen it in Ianto’s personnel file—but he still hugged Ianto tighter. “I’m sorry.”
Ianto nodded. “Thanks.” He was quiet a moment. “Breast cancer. It wasn’t sudden. It was long. My dad was never the same afterwards.”
Jack gently scratched Ianto’s back with his fingertips. “You had to grow up fast.”
“I suppose.” He breathed, quiet and even. “I don’t think we knew what to say to each other until I was twenty.”
“But you kept him going, didn’t you,” Jack said softly. “Fed him. Looked after him. Made sure he went to the places he needed to be.” Ianto chuckled dryly and nodded, and Jack said, “Kind of like how you do with me.”
“And there the resemblance ends.” Ianto pushed himself up to kiss Jack’s mouth. “Tell me how you knew what to do with that baby today.”
“I did tell you.” He traced the lines of Ianto’s face with his fingertips. “I’ve had experience with children.”
“You ran a super-secret daycare center,” Ianto guessed, and Jack laughed and pulled him close again.
“No. Good try, though.”
Ianto propped himself up on his elbow and studied Jack’s face, then kissed him and lay his head on Jack’s shoulder again. “Maybe Oliver will be lucky. Maybe his father will find somebody to love them both.”
“How is your dad?” Jack asked and felt Ianto smile.
“Probably buried under all the newspapers he’s got since the last time I visited.” Another pause, while Jack stroked Ianto’s hair and slowly ran a hand up and down his arm. “I should go see him soon, shouldn’t I?”
“Yes,” Jack said. It had been nearly two centuries in his personal time line, but he could still remember everything from when she was tiny: the way she had smelled, the way her hands had felt against his face, the way she had slumped against his chest in her sleep.
It was both the easiest and the hardest kind of love he’d ever felt.
Ianto whispered sleepily, “You were some child-king’s bodyguard,” and Jack chuckled.
“No. I . . . took care of one for a little while. That’s all.”
“I see.” Ianto brushed a slow hand down Jack’s chest. “Do you want to come with me to see my dad?”
“Yes,” Jack said.
They went Sunday morning. Ianto called first, to be certain his father would be home, and spent most of the call telling him he didn’t need to make them breakfast. Nonetheless, the little house smelled like eggs and bacon when Martin Jones opened the door, and Jack looked away as father and son awkwardly hugged each other.
Whatever Ianto had told his father about him, Jack knew he wasn’t what Martin had expected—maybe someone younger, someone who wouldn’t look him in the eye and shake his hand firmly. Martin was what Ianto would be in thirty years, Jack suspected: tall, spreading at the belly and jowl, hair still thick but shot with silver, eyes tired but keen. Martin took their coats and asked Ianto to make the coffee. He said, “I know you won’t drink mine,” to which Ianto shrugged and nodded, faintly smiling, and told Jack to make himself at home while they finished making breakfast.
Jack waited a full thirty seconds before he started exploring. Books on airplanes and gardening, a small upright piano, a pile of boots near the door, a few photographs in frames but more stacked in a shoe box near the armchair. He was looking at them before we showed up, Jack thought, and sat on the floor to thumb through them as well.
The photos were not in order, so he saw Martin decades younger with a pretty blue-eyed girl, so tall and slim she could only be Ianto’s mother; Ianto tiny and new and pink in a cradle, then tall and thin and somber in front of his digs at Cambridge, then a plump baby again in his laughing mother’s arms. There were many photos of Ianto’s mother healthy, her eyes shining and her long black hair tumbling past her shoulders—fewer once her face became gaunt and her hair disappeared. Mostly there were photos of the two men, Martin looking lost even when he smiled and Ianto’s eyes far too old and wise for his age.
Jack put the pictures away when he heard footsteps from the kitchen. “Come eat,” Ianto said—never one to use five words when two would do. Jack got to his feet, put his hands on Ianto’s shoulders and kissed him lightly.
“Tell me you’re glad you came.”
He raised an eyebrow, but repeated obediently, “I’m glad I came. Now come eat.”
Jack did most of the talking, which was normal, but Martin smiled at the appropriate places and Ianto only once pretended to crawl under the table in embarrassment. “My father, Jack,” he warned, and Jack laughed, unable to help himself.
Jack asked Ianto to play piano for them while he and Martin did the washing up. He was good at it—Ianto was good at everything, Jack thought proudly—but Jack didn’t miss how Martin frowned deeper and deeper as he played. “Where did he learn?” Jack said finally, craving any information that might be a key to his quiet lover.
“His mum. My wife.” Martin handed him a plate to dry. “Then he taught himself. Always more clever than we could keep up with, that boy.”
“He still is,” Jack said.
Martin chuckled, handed him another plate, and took a deep breath. “Whatever the two of you are, I hope you’re looking after him,” he said and then occupied himself with stacking coffee cups in the drainer.
Jack had to hold onto the counter for a moment. “I know what it’s like. I really do. I—I have a daughter of my own.” Martin’s eyebrow shot up—So that’s where Ianto gets it, Jack thought—and he added hastily, “She’s a long way away. Ianto’s never met her. But I know how it feels, wanting to—” He’d never known how to say it, really, it was more words than even he had. “Wanting to make the world easy for them.”
Martin smiled to himself—and Ianto did that too, Jack knew that expression, there were so many thoughts Ianto never shared—and said, “He’d never forgive you for that.” Briskly, “So, this daughter of yours. She can’t be very old at all—you’re far too young for more than a teenager.”
Jack nodded. The truth was the last time he’d seen her she’d been chronologically older than he; and they’d had that last terrible fight, where she’d wept and said she’d never known him and didn’t want to now, couldn’t he see she was living her life without him? But there was no way he could explain that to Ianto’s father.
“And her mum?”
“Ancient history,” Jack said, also not about to explain to Martin the intricacies of fifty-first century reproduction and family dynamics. “Anything that happens to Ianto because of me will just be because of me.”
Martin nodded over the coffee cups. “I suppose that’s all right, then. He’s smiled more today than I’ve seen for years. That’s all right.”
Jack relaxed, wanting to ask more—what was Ianto like as a child, what had he studied in school, who had taught him Welsh—when the music stopped in the other room and Ianto came back in. “The piano needs tuning,” he said, “and how long as it been since you’ve dusted?”
“Since the last time you visited, I think,” Martin said and smiled at Jack as Ianto began lecturing him on looking after himself.
They didn’t stay past lunch. Ianto did the cleaning he thought necessary and Jack got in his way, and Martin shook his head at them both and made more coffee. It was not the laughter-filled visit Jack had imagined, but he liked comparing Ianto to his father, the person who’d shown him how to be a man. Clever, controlled, serious, gentle—he felt he could see Ianto in context now.
After they returned to Cardiff Jack thought he should go to the Hub, but Ianto—needing to let something out, Jack thought—convinced him to stay, not that it took much to convince him. They spent the afternoon making love, and as the sun set Jack stroked Ianto’s hair and thought about nothing. It was glorious.
“You should spend a lot more time naked,” he said, and Ianto quietly laughed.
“I thought you liked my suits.”
“I love your suits, but I also like you naked.”
Ianto moved close to tuck his head against Jack’s neck. “Thank you for coming with me today.”
“Any time. I liked him.”
“Oh.” He looked at Jack and Jack looked right back, loving the ruddy shade to his skin and the well-kissed softness of his lips. “Good, then. Good. What did you two find to talk about? I can’t imagine you had much in common.”
“Only you,” Jack said. And, he thought, the deeper connection of I’m trusting you to look after my child. “It’s enough.”