Fandom/Pairing: Torchwood; Jack/Ianto
Warnings/Spoilers: kind-of-NSFW (slightly-graphic mentions of sex, language); vague spoilers through COE
Genre: established relationship, a bit angsty
Word Count: ~2,280
Summary: Ianto would have lived forever for Jack, would have traded places with him, if he could.
Notes: This turned out a little more sad in the end than I'd planned on, so I apologize for that. XD;; Perhaps it's a bit of a companion to Forever too, though that wasn't really my intent when I started. Oh, and Jack gets a POV! ...And though it feels very strange to say, this was initially inspired by the message at the bottom of a tea cup. ^_~ I hope you enjoy it!
(x-posted to jackxianto)
It rolls over Jack in waves sometimes at unexpected moments, without warning.
He doesn’t want to think of death, of dying, of last breaths and last words in the light of Ianto’s eyes, but he does sometimes anyway, because he can’t help it. Because he’s been here so many times before, and even if it’s been years, decades, lifetimes since he’s felt this, it all comes back in a split second, in a heartbeat.
Sometimes it’s enough to make him get up, walk away, leave everything behind for a while.
And sometimes it’s enough to make him run.
He knows how unfair it is, can see it in Ianto’s eyes when that light’s gone missing sometimes. It tears at his heart—he knows that they all deserve more, especially Ianto, but at the same time, it makes him want to run faster.
Because he’s been here too.
He knows what it’s like to love someone without being able to understand, without knowing who they are, and he really wouldn’t wish that on anyone if he could help it.
It’s like Ianto can see what Jack’s thinking sometimes.
Lots of times he can’t. Lots of times he looks at Jack and he can’t make out anything real at all, nothing makes any sense.
But other times it just unfolds in front of him like a scene in a film, and he knows, he understands.
Jack is thinking of death. His death.
It’s kind of strange how he’s come to regard it as this inevitable thing, this future event that feels so real he wonders why it’s not marked on the official Torchwood calendar, details-to-follow, or something. Of course it was always real, always inevitable, especially in this line of work, but somehow because of Jack, it’s become almost quantifiable. Something that almost takes shape if he closes his eyes long enough.
He doesn’t have the courage to ask Jack about it. About what Jack sees in those moments when he’s thinking about it too. Maybe because he already knows. Not just because of Lisa, but because he feels it too.
Because he never stops thinking that maybe this time, Jack won’t wake up. That one day Jack really will take his last breath and Ianto will be left here with a heart full of all of this, and there will be nothing anyone can do, no release.
In little ways, here and there, when it gets to be too much, when his heart feels too full of it, Jack distances himself.
He knows it’s not fair, can feel the complete hopeless unfairness of it all in the confusion in Ianto’s eyes, in the light that’s just barely holding on.
He tells himself that this is what he has to do, but that’s not entirely it. He knows he could give in, if he really wanted to. He could give in, let this overwhelm him, like he would have years and years ago.
It was easier then, sure, but it’s still possible now.
The thing is, he isn’t sure how much he really needs this, how much he wants it, how much it’s worth to him.
He isn’t sure how human he wants to be anymore.
Ianto tries to imagine what it’s like in Jack’s mind.
He tries to get inside, tries to lure Jack out. He wants to hear his stories, especially the long ones that Jack shies away from telling at first. He wants to know about the lives Jack has lived, the people he’s lost, even if it’s painful, and even if it makes him feel smaller than insignificant, because he wants to understand.
Because he knows what it’s like to love someone and know that it’s going to end, but he doesn’t understand what it means to love someone, to know to know that it’s going to end, and to know that you will go on forever. For so long that you forget everyone you ever knew, ever touched.
He thinks about it down in the archives, alone, all those rows and rows of cabinets and files, covered in dust, forgotten.
Inside each of them, there was a life. Someone Jack had known, once.
He thinks about it when Jack is buried deep inside of him too, when they’re so close he can’t really tell where Jack ends and he starts, moments that stretch on and on and on, and all he can feel is Jack’s skin, Jack’s lips, Jack.
This doesn’t really make it any clearer though--it just makes him fall harder, deeper.
In the end it’s a scrap of paper here, a letter there. A photo, a ticket stub, a flyer printed on crumbling, aging paper—that’s all that remains of what was once real and true. The love of your life, papers piled up in a dusty box, shoved into the corner of a desk drawer--it’s all the same in the end.
Still, Jack worries sometimes that in this new digital age, something will be lost. Everything, maybe.
So he prints off emails. Photos. Saves post-it notes and to-do lists, scrawled in Ianto’s neat, tidy script. If he could figure out how to save cups of coffee, he’d save them too.
He’s not sure sometimes why he holds on so tightly, when it only makes things worse in the end.
He wonders if it wouldn’t be better not to save anything at all. To set fire to all these old letters, written by faces that have already started to blur.
He can’t let go though, won’t.
Maybe someday, he thinks, but he knows that the day he leaves this all behind will be the day he leaves for good, and he’s not willing to think about that, not yet.
“You know,” Ianto says one night, his eyes bright, his face half-squashed into the pillow, the fabric around him pressed out in thick creases on all sides. “For someone who’s going to live forever, you really think about it a lot.”
They’re at Ianto’s flat. Jack’s been lying here for the past two hours listening to Ianto breathing next to him, watching the rise and fall of his chest, the way the light from the cracks in the blinds hovers over his bare skin, and he has to admit, he’s thinking about death. About how much has changed since he’s had it taken away from him.
“Think about what?” Jack asks, even though he already knows the answer. He wants to hear him say it, maybe.
“Death,” Ianto says lightly, his fingers tracing a line down Jack’s shoulder, stopping just before his elbow. “Dying,” Ianto continues. “Though I’m not sure if it’s you or me this time.”
“Both,” Jack admits.
“Hmm,” Ianto hums, and Jack just watches him.
When Jack doesn’t say anything else, Ianto props himself up on one elbow, staring down at him.
His eyes are tracing lines along Jack’s skin now--his cheek, his neck, his adam’s apple, his collar bone. Jack swallows. He loves this, loves how Ianto looks at him with such complete acceptance sometimes. Whether he deserves it or not is something else. Jack’s sure he doesn’t, not by a long shot.
“What if it’s worn off,” Ianto says, his voice quiet in the darkness, the moonlight still playing patterns over the sheets. “I wonder that sometimes. Every time, actually,” he admits with a small laugh. “Silly, right? But I do. I worry every single time that you’re not going to come back.”
“I still remember how it felt,” Jack says, and already his pulse feels lighter, a little jumpy. “Just barely, but I remember. That fear. That power.”
“Power over your own life.”
“Yeah,” Jack whispers.
“You miss it,” Ianto says, and it’s not quite a question.
“Like hell I do,” Jack says, a little surprised by how sure he sounds. “I’d give anything…to have it back.”
Ianto just nods. Under the covers his legs shift over towards Jack’s. Their toes brush.
“It’s kind of counterintuitive, really,” Ianto says a second later. “I mean, from where I’m standing…” He stops, looks at Jack, and his eyes are sad. “Well, I guess that’s just it, isn’t it. I can’t—“ Ianto purses his lips together and then shakes his head. “I wish I understood,” he says quietly.
“Me too,” says Jack.
“I’d trade places with you, you know, if I could.”
The words lie somewhere between them for a moment. To Jack, their weight is almost unbearable.
“It’d be the least I could do, really,” Ianto says, as if it’s the easiest, most obvious thing in the world.
Jack stares at him for another moment and then he kisses him, presses his lips to Ianto’s skin so hard it hurts, slides his body against Ianto’s until they’re both on fire, and then he fucks him, rolls Ianto over onto his back and fucks him so hard he can’t see straight, so hard he almost forgets those words falling off those perfect, perfect lips.
He feels Ianto’s fingers digging into his hips as he pulls him closer, deeper. Ianto arches his back, and draws Jack in, and then they’ve hit a rhythm, and it’s like drowning--he doesn’t want to come up for air. This, this is why I’m here, Jack thinks, and then, no, not this, him.
And then Ianto breathes his name into the air between them and Jack comes, and it’s as brilliant as ever, with Ianto panting underneath him, skin slick with sweat, messy and dirty and completely wrecked.
Ianto holds on.
He holds onto his memories with Jack like they’re made of gold, like a lifeline, because they are, sometimes. He burns the memories into his skin so that he can feel them lingering there all the time, just under the surface, so that sometimes when he’s alone he can almost feel Jack’s fingers, buried somewhere underneath his skin.
He doesn’t want to think about death, about dying, and last breaths, or last words and so he doesn’t, he thinks about life, and living forever, and how amazing that is, how amazing Jack is, and how he’s going to prove it to Jack someday, so that Jack believes it too.
He doesn’t have the courage to ask at first, but then one day he does, and Jack stares at him for so many long moments that Ianto wonders if he’s made a mistake, but he hasn’t, no, he knows he hasn’t.
Because Jack feels so good, like this, inside--Ianto would do anything to keep him here, to make this last as long as he can.
And then one day he’s gone.
Jack’s not prepared. He’s not ready. Hasn’t had enough time. Wants more.
Has more, actually, has forever, but this isn’t the way he wants it, not like this.
All the infiniteness of space and time and all he wants is to go back. To go back and to say no, no to everything.
He can’t protect anything he loves, ever, and this is why. Because he can’t. He can’t go back, and even if he could, he wouldn’t be able to say no.
It’s the most important thing, and he’s missed it. Failed. Again.
He thinks back to one particular night—a full moon, Ianto’s flat, Ianto’s toes, curled up against his under the covers, and those eyes, searching every inch of his body for something that Jack isn’t sure he ever possessed in the first place.
Ianto had wanted to understand, and Jack had kissed him.
The memories roll over him in waves.
He doesn’t want to think about this but it’s all he thinks about. He relives it, over and over again, a hundred, a thousand possible outcomes, but in the end it’s always the same.
It’s enough to make him run, so he does. He doesn’t know where to go, just that it has to be far, and when that’s not far enough, he goes further and further and further until he thinks he might actually be lost, and then he turns the corner and goes a little more.
What if it’s worn off?
Never, Jack thinks, and he’s far away from this, so far that it should be a blur, he should be lost, but it’s not, he’s not--it’s crystal clear, right in front of his face, right behind his eyes every time he closes them, and he knows exactly where he is.
Never, he thinks, and he wants to tell someone, but there’s no one to tell, so he just remembers, over and over and over, and it’s like everything is made of gold it’s so perfect.
He’s left it all behind, but he’s still holding on—it feels like a paradox, and maybe it is.
Jack feels more human with every passing moment.
Ianto finally understands.
It’s not like before, nothing flashing in front of him, no memories, just Jack, right here, in this room, where everything’s turning grey.
There’s fear in Jack’s eyes, desperation, and in that instant he finally, finally understands.
They’re not so different after all.
Something soars in his heart, but it’s too late, there’s no time--and then it fades as Jack’s face goes out of focus, comes back.
Ianto burns this image--this, Jack--into his memory for the last time, because it’s the only thing he can do, and then it fades again, and there’s just darkness.
“He would’ve lived forever for me,” Jack says in the din of the bar, his voice quiet, half-drowned in the noise, miles and miles and miles away. “But instead...”