Title: The Book I Never Read
Warning: Spoilers for Cyberwoman, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, From Out of the Rain, The Stolen Earth/Journey’s End
Word Count: 1300
Summary: Five times Jack said he was sorry (and meant it).
Notes: Playing drabble games. For .
It’s days before the anger passes completely. When it does Jack is able to notice the odd moments when Ianto slips away from his duties (completed, of course: no matter how torn up Ianto may be inside he leaves nothing undone) and stands in the morgue, his hand (and sometimes his forehead) on the nameless panel where Lisa Hallett’s body rests. No one bothers him there–Jack thinks no one sees Ianto there but him–and it’s clear Ianto prefers it that way. He’s not one to flaunt his grief.
The first time he does it after Brecon Beatons, though, Jack feels it’s time to say something, and so walks across the turnstile to the morgue. Ianto does not turn at the sound of his feet but his shoulders stiffen until Jack lays a hand on his back. He draws his hand across the younger man’s shoulders and holds him loosely at the base of his neck. He steps close enough to whisper in his ear, not failing to notice that Ianto’s eyes are closed and his color is high.
Jack says softly, “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”
Ianto says nothing, but turns his head towards Jack’s and briefly touches their foreheads together.
The first time they do it Jack is a little . . . eager, is probably the polite way to put it. Ianto takes off his pretty suit to reveal acres of pale skin and lean muscles, and Jack thinks savoring is for later and takes him far more roughly than he ever intended.
Afterwards Ianto lies facing away from him, breathing slowly, and Jack thinks he should leave Ianto alone and not crowd him–but instead he rests his hand on his favorite place on Ianto’s back, the vulnerable spot between his shoulder blades, and when Ianto sighs and relaxes Jack pulls him closer. No protests from Ianto when Jack pulls him against his body and kisses the back of his neck.
He whispers, “I’m sorry. It’ll be better next time.”
Ianto says nothing, but he reaches back for Jack’s arm and pulls it over his side.
When they’re alone, finally, when Owen and Toshiko and Gwen have gone home, and Jack is watching Ianto find excuses not to leave, he gets comfortable on the couch and says, “Where do you want to go on our date? I don’t know what restaurants you like that don’t do takeout.”
“I don’t care,” Ianto says, straightening a pile of already straight papers.
“Ianto?” says Jack, and he leans forward and looks at Ianto, who for a moment refuses to look back until the silence stretches out and he has run out of things to distract himself with. Jack says gently, “Ianto, I won’t do that again. I promise. I won’t just–”
“I missed you,” Ianto says, and there’s something in his tone that says he’s been working up the courage to say this, working up the courage or the strength. “I missed you–” He stops, makes a quiet half-laughing sound. “I just missed you.”
Jack whispers, “I’m sorry. I missed you too–and you have no idea how much.”
Ianto says nothing, but he crosses the Hub and sits beside Jack on the couch, tucking his long body against Jack’s side so Jack can hold him tight.
Which Jack does. Which Jack does gladly.
When the films have been disposed of and the flask is safely stored away, Jack and Ianto sit on the pier, looking out at the moonlight on the water. In a quiet tone, Ianto tells Jack about his mother. “I never knew who I was going to come home to. Sad mam, fun mam, sleeping mam. Some of her medication made her very fatigued,” he adds to explain, and Jack nods.
After a moment Ianto goes on. “Psychiatric medicine in those days was still a matter of throwing everything into the pot and seeing what worked, and when she couldn’t take the ups and downs anymore she just stopped taking them.” He looks at Jack, serious. “My dad did everything he could. He tried to make things easier on her, but he had a business to look after, not just a child.”
“So you’d spend a lot of time in the shop.”
“Yeah.” Ianto looks out at the water again. “It always smelled like cotton and coffee.”
Jack reaches over and takes his hand. “So what happened?”
“Her lows kept getting lower and longer. She wouldn’t get out of bed for days. Wouldn’t bathe, wouldn’t eat. Dad sent me to my gran’s for a bit, but she was eight-three at the time, she couldn’t look after me, either.” His fingers are tight around Jack’s hand. “So when my father came to fetch me he said it would just be the two of us for a while, and I could see Mam once a week. In the institution.”
Jack holds his hand tighter. “I’m sorry, Ianto,” Jack says. “I’m sorry.”
Ianto says nothing but clings to his hand, breathing deeply and his eyes on the water.
They’ve been here before: feet up, shoes off, drinks poured, buttons undone, only this time Gwen is there too because she has to hear the story, and they’re all a little drunk and happy and relieved.
Still, Jack can’t stop himself from giving Ianto promising looks, and Ianto returns them, until finally Gwen puts her hands on their knees and says, “I should get home to Rhys,” and pushes herself to her feet.
“We’ll call you a cab,” Jack says. “Have one more drink.”
“I’ll call Rhys,” says Gwen, “and I should probably be somewhat more sober when he comes. Good night,” she bends to kiss Ianto’s forehead, “and good night,” she kisses Jack’s. “And no disasters until tomorrow, please.”
Jack crosses his heart with his fingertips. “No disasters.”
“Good night, boys.” She makes her wobbly way upstairs and Ianto chuckles and takes another drink.
“I think she wanted to stay.”
“I think so too, but,” Jack leans over to refill Ianto’s glass, “it would have been awkward because I want to get you naked and I’m not in the mood for an audience.”
Ianto drinks. “I don’t know which is more unbelievable: that you’re not in the mood for an audience or that you think you’re going to get me naked tonight.”
Jack takes a moment to react. “Am I not getting you naked tonight?”
“You left us. To face Daleks. Alone.”
“I told you I was leaving,” Jack points out, “I told you I’d be coming back–which I did–and you were fine.” They’ve already drunk a toast to Toshiko tonight but Jack feels another coming on. “I knew you’d be fine.”
Ianto sighs and has another drink.
“Ianto,” Jack says, and reaches over to touch his face, to draw his fingers over Ianto’s ear and the line of his cheekbone, “I’m sorry, Ianto.”
Ianto says nothing–and then says, “You always do this, you always think an apology is going to make everything better and you know something? It doesn’t always make things better. Sometimes it just makes things worse.”
“Oh,” Jack says and his hand drops from Ianto’s face. “Is now one of those times?”
Ianto takes another drink, and then puts the glass on the floor and gets to his feet. “No.”
“Sounds like it’s my lucky night,” Jack says and starts to smile. “So am I forgiven?”
Ianto rolls his eyes. “You’re forgiven. Of course you’re forgiven. You’re always forgiven. Come on.”
Jack doesn’t move at first. “Ianto,” he says and Ianto looks down at him patiently, his hands on his hips. “I know I’ll keep doing things that upset you. I’m just that talented.” Ianto smiles patiently, and Jack says, “But when I say I’m sorry I always mean it.”
“And when I say you’re forgiven I always mean it,” Ianto says and holds out his hands. “Now, come on. You said something about getting naked and that sounds like an excellent idea to me.”
Jack laughs and puts his hands in Ianto’s. He’ll always make mistakes–it’s part of being human–but Ianto will never be one of them.