I will type up the whole story later when I have the energy.
But for now:
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Characters/Pairings: Ianto, Jack (Jack/Ianto), mentions of Owen and Tosh, et al.
Word Count: ~1300
Things To Be Aware Of: Takes place post “Exit Wounds.”
Summary: Things really could’ve gone differently, or how Owen’s deaths save the Joneses.
Beta: analineblue <3
Author Notes: Hey! Remember me? Remember when I used to write fic a lot? I was just telling analineblue that I was out of inspiration and then this hit me over the head. Note that, while there are song lyrics in the beginning, this is not songfic. I just have a really big, useless crush on Rufus Wainwright, okay?
Wandering properties of death
Arresting moons within our eyes and smiles
We did rest
Amongst the granite tombs to catch our breath
Worldly sounds of endless warring
Were for just a moment silent stars
Worldly boundaries of dying
Were for just a moment never ours
All was new
Just as the black horizons blue
Then along the bending path away
I smiled in knowing I'd be back one day
-Rufus Wainwright, “In A Graveyard”
Owen’s death had shocked Ianto to the core.
His first death, the real death. The gunshot wound following the one diplomatic, reasonable gesture Owen Harper had ever made, as far as Ianto knew. Funny thing was, up until the gun fired, Ianto thought it would work.
And then Owen was dead.
There was something about it that affected Ianto in a way that even Lisa’s death couldn’t, that Suzie’s death didn’t come close to, that Jack’s temporary demise almost touched – because it was so quiet, and noble. He’d always figured that Owen would refuse to die just for the sake of being contrary and that even if he did finally succumb to mortality (as he must), he’d do it full of rage; with clenched fists instead of outturned palms.
And then Owen wasn’t dead anymore.
And then he was dead again, along with Toshiko, in the way it should have happened in the first place – screaming at the injustice of life, and sacrificing himself for the sake of thousands. Maybe that’s why it doesn’t feel like so much of a surprise this time around. Or perhaps he’s just gotten even better at compartmentalization.
He stirs his tea slowly, without his usual efficiency, just to watch the sachet bob and float in the water, in the wake of his spoon. It’s soothing only because it’s repetitive, but that doesn’t matter. Not right now, when he’s in yesterday’s suit, dirty and drained and distant.
It’s still Owen’s loss that he feels the most at the moment, if only because it was Owen who got him through all of the other losses. He was abrasive and real, like pouring alcohol into a wound to sterilize it – it burned, but in the end you were grateful for that sting. And Ianto was a man who appreciated honesty, no matter how harsh the tongue that delivered it.
Soon enough, though, Owen will meld with Toshiko so that their absence reads in his mind as OwenandTosh, the same way Ianto looks back and sees LisaandAnnie and Suzieandherfather. When you sacrifice yourself for Torchwood, it seems as if you get to come back to claim a soul for company. As he takes his first sip of scalding tea, he wonders who he’d take if given the option, once he dies.
He doesn’t ponder it for long; he already knows the answer. It would be a kindness, really.
The tea, still too hot to drink (his lips and tongue burn with it), accompanies him to the kitchen table. It’s an old thing made of aluminum and faux red leather seat cushions. It looks more like it belongs in some greasy spoon rather than in Ianto’s immaculately clean kitchen, but he’d be hard pressed to let it go. He has a fondness for it that he doesn’t quite understand, something that makes him relate to the set’s cheery nostalgia.
Owen and Toshiko are dead.
This thought takes much longer to fully form in his mind. In fact, it still hasn’t. Right now, it’s taking the shape of ‘Owen and Toshiko have popped round to pick up some lunch for everyone,’ a fleeting lack of them that will surely be remedied in the next quarter hour or so.
“You told me I was wrong.”
Ianto glances up at Jack, who leans against the doorframe, shower-damp and pale in a pair of too-loose jeans and a hoodie. He looks taut, like his skin has been stretched over bones too big, and shrunken, stooped. His eyes are just as bright, just as alive, though, and that’s something. Ianto lets out a breath and draws in another, and it feels like the first times his lungs have worked in over twenty four hours.
“And then I felt guilty for bringing him back,” Jack continues, and then he takes a seat at the table, too.
Ianto stares into his mug, because looking at Jack in this light (fluorescent, cold, weak) makes him nervous. It’s like looking at a corpse, except for his eyes. Except for his eyes. Except for his eyes. Ianto feels himself bite his lip, even though he doesn’t know why he does it. Tea is so much easier to watch.
“But I don’t feel guilty anymore. Ianto, look at me. I could’ve…you….”
He doesn’t look up until Jack’s voice breaks, and then Jack just looks like a man, a simple man, and god, that’s infuriating.
“Yes,” he says, his hands clenching into tight, white-knuckled fists. “Yes. It should’ve been me, not him.”
Ianto’s mouth is tight, too, a straight implacable line. Jack is pale still, ghostlike, and his eyes are so much wider, so much bluer than they have any right to be. Because Owen and Toshiko are dead, and it’s so selfish of them to be worrying about each other.
(No it isn’t. You can only help the living. And we’re living.)
His fist is squeezing Jack’s hand before he feels the warmth of its approach, before he knows his fingers have opened up to receive it, before the familiar skin even registers its presence.
(We almost lost each other. Almost. Almost.)
“I’m not glad he’s dead,” Jack says after a moment. He’s winced once or twice at the pressure of Ianto’s grip, but he hasn’t once tried to extract his hand and for that, Ianto’s grateful.
It’s dark outside, now. The red-violet-pink of the horizon has faded blue to black until there is nothing left to see but the orange of streetlamps and their own reflections in the window. Ianto watches them out of the corner of his eye, the way their hands cling to each other as they sit across the table, so far apart. He loosens his hold, lets the lines of his shoulders and his neck relax. The tea helps.
“If I had to choose –”
“No one’s asking you to,” Ianto says, and closes his eyes as Jack swipes a thumb over the inside of his wrist.
“I lied. I do still feel guilty. I just – if I didn’t bring him back….”
Ianto says, “I know” again, and then once more, “I know.”
His eyes are still closed, because the light and Jack’s face are both just too much to look at, even the reflection against the night-darkened glass is too bright. His head throbs, and Owen and Toshiko are dead. Jack’s hand is warm in Ianto’s, and Jack’s free hand covers their clenched fists, and they’re doing nothing but sitting because Owen and Toshiko are dead.
Ianto tries to force his mind away from that line of thought and falls back into comfortable territory. There’s the shopping to be done, (and the cataloging and storing of their personal affects), and there’s three days worth of filing in Jack’s office, (and the official paperwork to fill out and submit, and Mainframe needs to be properly updated, their profiles deleted), and the cells could use a thorough cleaning.
He opens his eyes to find Jack staring at him in a way he hasn’t seen before – it’d be so easy to close his eyes to it again, to just block it all out, but he forces a deep breath and a steady gaze. He takes another sip of tea, and feels Jack slip out of his hand.
“Come to bed,” Jack says, still watching. “Please.”
Ianto nods. They stand together, almost synchronized, and then Jack grabs Ianto’s arm to pull him close. They stay like that for a while, pressed together and warm, blood rushing through their veins, air pumping into and out of their lungs, synapses firing in their brains. Jack’s skin smells like soap and clean earth and air, and their bodies are familiar shapes against each other. He can feel Jack’s breath against his ear, and hear the wet sounds his mouth makes as it moves.
“Bed,” Jack repeats quietly.
Ianto reaches for the mug.
Jack presses his lips to Ianto’s left temple and guides him to the bedroom by his hand. Ianto follows, easily led.
(There is never enough time. Never enough.)
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