Title: The Man Who Wasn’t There
Fandom: Torchwood/Doctor Who
Pairing: Jack Harkness/Alonso Frame
Spoilers: Children of Earth, The End of Time
Word Count: 1055
Summary: Jack says many names in his sleep. None of them are Alonso’s.
Notes: Written for ‘s 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover challenge. Prompt: In the middle of the night.
Jack talks in his sleep.
Of course, Jack talks a lot and doesn’t sleep much, so it’s no real surprise that when Jack does sleep, he doesn’t stop talking. It’s just, when he’s awake he tells stories — funny, exciting stories, great stories, better stories than Alonso has ever heard — and when he’s asleep, he only says a name.
Alonso is never quite certain of what made Jack choose him. Sometimes he thinks Jack liked the look of him, too. Sometimes he thinks it was just that he was there and Jack was ready.
He thinks this mostly in the middle of the night, when Jack whispers a name in a voice full of anguish. “Steven,” he says sometimes. “Ianto,” he says others. Sometimes, “Alice,” “Toshiko,” “Owen,” “Gray.”
Alonso listens to him and strokes his hair, and wonders who these people were that Jack says their names with such longing and despair.
“Who are you?” he says to Jack that first night, after the short conversation in the bar. It was easy to find a room with a bed and a door that locks, and really, what more did they need?
“I’m nobody important,” Jack says, and then kisses him, holding Alonso’s face in those beautiful hands and Alonso thinks that right now, this man is the most important being in the universe.
Alonso falls in love with Jack’s hands first. They’re beautiful. They’re broad and long-fingered and graceful, and they stroke him like Jack means to light him on fire.
Alonso falls in love with Jack despite himself, despite Jack’s obvious but quiet grief, despite the other names Jack says in his sleep. He loves Jack’s body, his eyes, his laugh, his stories. He loves everyone in the room knowing that this handsome man desires him, cares for him.
(On bad days, he wonders if Jack’s friends and contacts are laughing at him for tagging along after Jack like a lovesick puppy.)
Alonso knows it won’t last. He knows that Jack thinks of him as a refuge, not a lover; he knows that when they have sex Jack is thinking of someone else; he knows that someday Jack will go. It isn’t that Jack seems particularly unhappy with him, or that Jack holds leaving over Alonso’s head. It’s just that, no matter where they go, Jack never seems to be really there.
“I love you,” he says to Jack one night, as Jack is inside him, driving him mad with lust and pleasure, and Jack’s face changes in a way that hurts Alonso to his very core.
“Don’t,” Jack whispers and buries his face in Alonso’s neck. “Don’t.”
They travel. They work whatever jobs come their way, which often means leaving in a hurry. That’s all right with Alonso, really — he’s never lived outside the law, and it’s exciting, it’s fun, it’s wonderful. Jack makes everything amazing, but when Alonso tells him this, Jack’s face does that awful, closed-down thing that Alonso hates, as if Jack can’t bear to hear himself praised.
“Tell me who Ianto is,” Alonso says.
It’s a bar on a backwater world, and some of the patrons are blue and scaly and some of the patrons glow from the multiple tentacles, and some are just like them, though probably much more dangerous. (Jack is dangerous. Alonso is … a dangerous man’s lover. It’s a sort of protection, he supposes.)
Jack looks away, which is what he does when he doesn’t want to answer.
“Tell me why you say his name in your sleep,” says Alonso and Jack gives him a sharp look.
“I don’t say his name in my sleep.”
“You do. You say a great many names, but his most often. Who was he?”
Jack drinks his water. It’s another mystery to Alonso, that they go to pubs and bars and lounges all across the universe and Jack drinks nothing but water.
“Someone I lost,” is what he says, is all he says, and when Alonso touches his hair in an attempt to comfort him, again Jack looks away.
Alonso loves Jack, but as time goes on it becomes more and more clear to him that he doesn’t know Jack and never will; that his storytelling lover never confides in him, never really lets him in; that for all the sex they have they’re never really intimate; that he always thought love would be something else, would feel … better than this, and if he want something different than what he has, it means he should seek out that something.
The thought of leaving Jack feels like dying.
Jack’s tossing wakes him, and the name Jack moans is that other man again, “Ianto,” and he says it with such heartbreak that Alonso says, “Jack!” loudly and turns on the light over the bed, and Jack blinks at him, confused.
“You had another nightmare.”
Jack passes his hand over his face. “They’re not nightmares,” he says wearily. “They’re not bad dreams.”
“They’re good dreams,” says Alonso, feeling flattened. “Good dreams that make you want to cry.”
Silence from Jack. Alonso has listened to many silences from Jack, wondered many times what they meant, what he’s not saying, and this one is too much. Just one more silence where another man would tell him of his dreams.
Alonso takes a deep breath. He throws back the bedding and gets up, gathers his clothes and starts pulling them on. “Alonso,” says Jack. “Don’t be rash.”
“I’d tell you not to look for me,” Alonso says as he buttons his shirt, “but I don’t think you will.”
“Where do you think you’ll go? What do you think you’re going to do?”
“I’ll go anywhere I can and do what you’ve taught me,” Alonso says. “I’ll be fine. You … I can’t do any more for you. I loved you, Jack, but I can’t do anything more.”
Jack doesn’t protest. Doesn’t beg him to stay. Doesn’t do anything more than watch him dress and watch him go.
As Alonso walks away he tries to feel free and unburdened, like he’s just shed dead weight, but the truth is he thinks he understands why Jack says those names with such pain. It wasn’t perfect, but sometimes it was good, and now it’s gone.