Fandom/Pairings: Torchwood; Ianto/Lisa, Jack/Ianto
Warnings/Spoilers: None, really. Some spoilers for Cyberwoman, I suppose.
Genre: character study, mostly, some angst, some fluff :)
Word Count: ~4,250
Summary: They’ve had this conversation before, a hundred different ways, so many times.
Notes: So when I started this, I thought I would attempt one of those “five times” things, but with conversations. “Five conversations Jack tried to have…” or something along those lines? But then I ended up with a few too many conversations, and the whole thing sort of got away from me, so... Basically, this is the progression of their relationship, post-Cyberwoman. A bit of a get-together, really. ;) As always, comments are greatly appreciated. <3
(Cross-posted to jackxianto)
The first time Jack tries to talk to him, their bodies are still warm—Lisa’s, and that pizza girl.
Their blood on Ianto’s hands is sticky, drying unevenly between his fingers. He feels unbelievably dirty, and wants more than anything to get away, to move, but somehow he can’t seem to send the right message to his legs to get up, get out.
“Talk to me,” Jack says, but Ianto barely hears him.
Everything is buzzing, and Jack is moving around him, his body solid and imposing, his movements filled with reason and purpose, and his voice—his voice is filled with that same purpose too, as if somehow Ianto’s response actually matters. It’s all Ianto can do not to vomit all over Jack’s feet as he stands over him expectantly.
“Talk,” Jack says, and he’s grabbing Ianto’s shoulders roughly.
“Make me understand,” he says, and Ianto just shakes his head, can’t bring himself to vocalize even a single word for this man, this stranger.
Eventually the hands—Jack’s, Captain Jack’s--on Ianto’s shoulders go still, and then the contact disappears entirely.
Ianto closes his eyes, welcoming the heavy darkness behind them, as dull footsteps fall far, far away, into the silence.
The second time, it’s just over a week later, and Jack is standing outside the door to Ianto's flat.
He’s making a show of sincerity, of friendliness, and Ianto has no idea what to think.
But Jack just barges in, past Ianto’s attempts to keep him in the doorway, until he’s standing in the middle of Ianto’s living room like he has some right to be there.
Ianto lets him.
Lets him stand there gawking at the mess that's been accumulating, and the cheap used furniture, all of it. Jack has driven him home before, once or twice, but he’s never been inside Ianto’s flat.
Ianto can’t decide if it’s weird because it’s Jack, or because he just wasn’t sure anyone would ever knock on his door again, after everything that’d happened.
“It’s been a week,” Jack observes. “How are you?”
“Does it matter?”
It's an honest question, on Ianto's part. He wonders if it makes him sound angry, or bitter, because he's really not either of those things.
“Yes, Ianto, it matters,” Jack says, not looking at him, looking at the walls, at the corners of the ceiling, as if he thinks he'll find some clue there as to... what, Ianto's not sure.
“I’m fine,” Ianto says.
Jack shifts, clearly uncomfortable, and Ianto wonders if maybe Jack doesn't know what he's doing here either.
It's strange, and it’s awkward, but Ianto hasn't talked to anyone for days--he didn't think he wanted any contact, with anyone, least of all Jack, but maybe he did, maybe he does, maybe...
And then Jack is clearing his throat, and glancing at the door, and Ianto is a little appalled at the disappointment that washes over him.
He certainly can't blame Jack for wanting to leave, after all.
It’s not like he's completely falling apart at the seams yet, but all the same, he knows he's not exactly himself either. Everything feels far away, hazy, distorted, like he's viewing it from behind some kind of thick, wavy glass. But at the same time, he feels raw, exposed, like his insides are out on display, disgusting and bloody and... In any case, he’s pretty sure he doesn’t make for very good company right now.
It takes him a few seconds to realize that Jack's talking as he walks back over to the door--updating him, probably for the sake of politeness, or for a lack of anything else to say, about what's going on with The Team, with Torchwood, and for a second it feels like he’s talking about another world. It all seems so far away, so unreachable.
Ianto’s eyes cloud over. This overwhelming sense of unease, of not knowing how to make any of this work, he guesses that must be it. Guilt, too. Knowing how much danger he put everyone in. It lies heavy in his chest, and Ianto has to concentrate on breathing, his heart pounding double-time.
"Call me if you need anything," Jack says, finally, and Ianto just nods, not trusting his voice, just wanting Jack to go now, really.
"Thanks," he says, and what he means is thanks for coming, thanks for not putting a bullet through my head last week, but the back of Jack's coat is halfway to the SUV, and Ianto's sure he doesn't hear him.
Jack shows up again a week later, around dinner time.
"Come with me," he says, standing in the doorway this time, waiting.
"No," Ianto says, reflexively. "I mean, I--"
Have to get dressed, have to-- And it's the first time in forever that he's thought he's had to do anything. It makes him think of Lisa. He had to save her, had to protect her, once. It was so important. Except that he couldn’t. Didn’t.
"Get your coat, and come with me," Jack says again, giving him a quick once-over. "What you're wearing is fine."
Ianto doesn't move, just stares at Jack, at the buttons on his coat, at his collar, at his adam's apple because he doesn't want to look him in the face.
"Why?" he asks finally.
Jack doesn't answer, but brushes past him, crossing the room and sweeping open the door to the hall closet.
Ianto has no idea how he knew it was there.
He throws Ianto his coat, and gestures to a pair of shoes by the door.
"Come on, we're going out."
In the car, Jack is quiet, which means, essentially, that they spend the short drive in silence.
Jack drives fast, but not as fast as he usually does when they’re rushing out to a job, and when Ianto sneaks a glance at his face, it's almost grim, determined. Ianto doesn't know what that means, and normally he'd be squirming in his seat, but then he remembers that the secret is already out, Jack already knows everything. He's not sure why this is such a relief, but it makes his heart feel a little lighter anyway.
Dinner isn't really anything special--a small, homely looking place downtown, with large wooden tables and warm yellow lights. The kind you went to for a round of drinks with your mates after rugby--nothing special at all, and Ianto wonders how on earth Jack knows a place like this.
Jack orders beer, and chips, and Ianto picks at them, trying to avoid the urge to crawl out of his skin. He feels so out of place, being here right now, like he should be talking, but he can't think of a single thing to say. He's never been good at small talk.
Jack fills in the spaces well enough though, and after a while, Ianto stops feeling self-conscious and starts actually listening, starts becoming interested in what Jack’s saying, in his stories, despite how outlandish, how seemingly unbelievable they always are.
What feels like an eternity passes, and Ianto doesn't think of Lisa, doesn't think of her body bleeding out onto the concrete floor, how the wetness had crept up his pant legs and made him want to tear them off, or how he'd stayed down in the hub’s basement for so long, with so much death around him that he couldn't stop smelling it for days.
Jack’s voice is calm, and sure, demanding of Ianto's attention, and so Ianto listens. It’s the first time Ianto’s heard him talk this much.
And then in the car in the way back, Jack's expression changes again, like the traffic lights--caution--and Ianto starts to hold his breath before he realizes what he’s doing.
"You can talk to me about her, you know," Jack says, his eyes fixed on the road.
"No," Ianto says, without really meaning to say anything, his heart pounding.
"Not about Canary Wharf, or any of that. I mean before."
"I've lost people too. I understand why you did what you did."
"I'm willing to listen, that's all I'm saying."
"You couldn't possibly understand." Ianto is whispering without meaning to, talking to himself, really.
"Talking, remembering,” Jack is saying, and Ianto can hear emotion in his voice, for the first time ever, maybe. “It's the only way--"
"I don't want to remember!"
Ianto can't control his voice anymore. He's practically shouting. Jack's back has gone strait and rigid, his hands gripping the steering wheel.
"I don't want to remember her. Us." He chokes a little. "I want to forget as quickly as I can, and I can't so don't talk to me like you understand, like we have something in common. I’m nothing like you.”
"You don't know anything about me," Ianto finishes, deflating as he realizes how ridiculous, how immature he sounds.
"You're right, I don't," Jack admits, as the car grinds to a halt in front of Ianto's flat.
"I'm sorry," Ianto says after a long moment. His face is warm, and he wishes he could disappear, just fade into the black of the SUV slowly, painlessly.
"I didn't mean that."
"Yes, you did," Jack says, smiling a little. "But it's okay."
Ianto stares at him for a second, and then reaches for the door handle.
"Thanks for dinner," he says, and his voice sounds so fake, so hollow that it turns his stomach. He can practically taste the bile crawling up his throat.
Ianto doesn’t speak to Jack again until after he’s returned to the hub.
Gwen's the one who calls him to let him know that the okay has been given for his return. She doesn't offer any explanation, and Ianto doesn't ask questions.
When he thinks about it though, it seems strange, out of character, even, for Jack to have forgiven him so unequivocally.
But he’s afraid to question it.
He isn’t sure that he really wants to know Jack’s reasons.
“How are you,” Jack asks one Tuesday, completely out of the blue.
Jack's joined him in front of the coffee maker. The hub is still deserted this early, shadowy and quiet before the rest of the team arrives, like always.
The coffee maker sputters, halfway through its cycle, and the smell is earthy, rich.
“Fine, sir. You?”
Jack just raises his eyebrows.
“You don’t have to do this, you know.”
Ianto freezes, Jack’s mug in his hands, and forces his eyes up to meet Jack’s.
“Sorry, do what?”
“Pretend like nothing’s happened.”
“I don’t know what you mean, sir.”
Ianto pauses. Sets Jack’s mug down in front of him. Tries to steady his hands, and his voice.
“What else--” Ianto stops, swallows. “What else am I supposed to do?”
“You could talk to someone.”
“Is this Torchwood’s way of telling me I need professional help?” Ianto says, and it’s almost a joke.
Ianto waits, shifting a little. “Sir?”
“I’m just trying to figure out what you want.”
“I don’t want anything,” Ianto says, and it’s true.
He doesn’t want anything from any of them; he knows they don’t owe him anything, and even if they did, all he wants is acceptance, and they’ve already given him that, more or less. It’s possible that he thought he wanted something from Jack, once, that the idea possibly crossed his mind--him, and Jack--but he finds he just can’t go there anymore, not right now.
Right now, he just wants to be allowed to do this, to play his part, to keep going.
"I'm fine," he assures Jack, but his voice sounds frustratingly small, unconvincing.
Jack just stares at him for a moment.
“Well, if you change your mind, you know where to find me.”
At some point, Ianto does change his mind.
He allows himself to let Jack in, just a little, allows himself to believe that this connection is real, that it's okay to do this thing with Jack, this thing that, if he were completely honest with himself, had started with a weevil, and a stick, and his tightest jeans, so many months ago… He thinks he can do this now though, maybe, and not completely lose his head.
He’s gotten pretty good at compartmentalizing, in any case, and is even better at making what's in front of him work.
They don’t really talk about Lisa, or before, because that's how Ianto wants it, and he's gotten pretty good at deflecting Jack, distracting him with things that are far more interesting than probing questions about how he’s feeling, and Ianto finds that this works pretty well... Most of the time.
It’s a Saturday night—he and Jack are doing the overnight shift at the hub, as per usual these days--and Ianto’s honestly not sure how the conversation starts.
Jack must have asked, somehow or another, an innocent question, probably. And his deflection must not have been quite perfect enough, because here he is, sitting on the edge of Jack’s tiny little camp bed in his boxer briefs, trying not to fidget, as Jack leans on his dresser, staring over at him from across the room, looking as charming and as amiable as ever.
They’d gone out tonight, before coming back to send Tosh and Owen home--a nice dinner, wine, a pleasant enough walk along the Plass under the stars, where a particularly tender Jack had kissed him senseless, until they’d practically stumbled down here, losing most of their clothes along the way. A pretty typical evening, really.
And now Jack has made it clear that he's in the mood to talk.
For someone who’s usually so closed, who has so many secrets, Jack talks to Ianto. Tells him things that shock him, sometimes. Details so intimate Ianto never would have imagined Jack would confide in anyone so much. He’s flattered, really, but… He can’t always bring himself to return the favor.
“Come on, Ianto. Just tell me about her. Tell me something, anything.”
They’ve had this conversation before, a hundred different ways, so many times. Ianto’s not even sure what it is that he’s avoiding anymore. He’s okay, he’s past this, he’s past her, but… He still doesn’t know how to do this. He doesn’t know how to remember her, how to talk about her, and have it be normal. He looks to Jack, feeling like an idiot, wanting Jack to give him the answers, like always, but Jack is just sitting there, just waiting.
“Anything, Ianto. Doesn’t matter how small.”
Ianto’s not sure what it is. Maybe it’s the lingering effect of the wine in his blood, or the pleasant ache of his muscles due to the frankly rather amazing sex he and Jack just had, but Ianto feels different tonight. Almost like it would be okay, this thing that’s felt taboo for so long, that maybe he can give this much to Jack, that maybe he wants to give Jack this much.
“She hated my coffee,” Ianto says, finally.
He’s not sure why this is what’s won out, over all the other millions of details he could have shared. He’s not sure why this image is what comes to mind over all the others--Lisa, bright and smiling, teasing him. Her kitchen, sunny, as sunny as it could be for London, and her coffee mug, striped green and blue and yellow, large and bold, dwarfing her small hands.
“No way,” Jack says, looking shocked.
“Always said it was too strong.”
“Hmm... No such thing.”
“Yeah,” Ianto agrees, and he's smiling, just a little. “She still drank it though. I think after a while she got used to it and just wouldn’t admit it.”
Jack is still watching him from a few paces away, curious, attentive.
“She was too good for me,” Ianto says, shaking his head a little. “Her family had these holiday parties where a hundred people would show up, you know? Birthdays, too. People just showed up from all over.”
“Sounds nice,” Jack says.
“She was really smart, too. Smarter than me.”
“I find that hard to believe,” Jack says fondly, and Ianto shakes his head.
“She was. Ambitious, too. Really good at her job. Motivated.”
“And I thought she was the one.” He laughs a little. “We didn’t really talk about that stuff very often, but…”
“But you knew.”
“I thought I knew.”
“That’s usually good enough for me.”
“Yeah, well.” He smiles a little, and his heart feels lighter, freer than it has in months. “Me, too.”
“She was my whole world,” Ianto says the next time the subject comes up. “I don’t know when it happened, long before Canary Wharf though. I just… I cut everyone else out. Or maybe they cut me out, and I didn’t notice.”
He hadn’t been feeling particularly down today, nothing like that, but it’s raining, and he’s so tired—exhausted, really. There'd been bloody weevils everywhere, and Jack had been gruff, and Owen had been snarky, and the day had just been crap since it started this morning, which feels like ages ago now.
The couch sags under his weight as he shifts a little. His neck is sore where he’d gotten pinned down earlier, before Jack had saved him, before Jack had just walked over, and thrown the weevil off of him like it was nothing. Ianto’d been left gasping on the concrete, clutching his throat where he’d nearly been strangled to death, while Jack ran off to catch the others.
“You know, you just realize,” he says, sounding almost drunk, feeling drunk, but it’s just exhaustion, just thirty-six-plus hours on his feet, that’s all.
“You depend on someone so much,” he says, rambling. “And then one day you realize you don’t have anything else. No one else even knows you at all. You don’t mean anything to anyone.”
Jack is silent next to him, just watching him. Ianto's completely wrapped up in his own head, has been all day, but he still sees Jack's fingers twitch involuntarily, sees his adam's apple bob as he swallows, hard.
“I was lonely, with her," Ianto says. "Because I knew that without me, she’d be fine.”
Ianto is saying these things, and he’s sure he’s thought them before, but it feels kind of like a revelation all the same.
“But you know, when it happened, after Canary Wharf… I was all she had.”
“She loved you,” Jack offers. “There’s nothing wrong with that.”
“But I… I wanted her to depend on me. And then she did, and I couldn’t let her go.”
Jack is staring at him, expression fixed, the picture of calm attention.
“I couldn’t move on.”
“But you did.”
And Ianto realizes that he’s crying, warm tears spilling over his cheeks. “I don’t know why I did it, why I did any of it…”
“You loved her.”
Ianto just stares at Jack, feeling the tears on his face, feeling like a fool, but he just can’t stop talking, can’t shut up.
“You know, the first time she told me she loved me, I wasn’t sure. I said it back, but I wasn’t sure. What if I did it for me?” Ianto says, panic creeping into his voice, his skin, his bones. “What if I kept her alive like that, for me? And then…and then I killed her, and I don’t even know why--”
“Ianto, I killed her. Gwen, Owen, Tosh – we killed her, not you.”
Jack sounds so sure, and Ianto doesn’t say anything after that, just lets Jack wrap his arms around him, lets himself be held close, let's Jack's warm breath flatten his hair against his head. He tells himself that it’s okay, that Jack is different; that he’s different, with Jack. That everything is different now.
But he hesitates, just a little, and it’s scary and overwhelming, and he has no idea what’s wrong with him, but he just holds on, just hangs there, breathing Jack in, letting him run his fingers through his hair, because it feels so good.
Because being with Jack has always felt so fundamentally good, that he can’t just bring himself to think of the alternative.
And then Jack leaves, and there's no conversation, no communication involved at all. He just goes.
And he shouldn’t be, but Ianto is surprisingly okay.
The world keeps turning, just like it had without Lisa. It just keeps turning, and turning, every single day.
He's okay though. Lost for a while, sure. And sad--yeah, that too--but ultimately he’s okay. And there's something wonderful about that, about realizing that he's worth something even if all of this goes away.
It changes something in him, makes him stronger before he even realizes what's happening.
Obviously, Jack's world had kept on turning without him too, but when Jack comes back, he’s different. He comes back, and it's like he's decided something, and while Ianto isn't really sure exactly what that something is, it feels good.
He feels good, with Jack. Being with Jack, thinking of him, of them, it feels good; it feels right.
Jack's different, and he's different, and together they're different too, like a weight has been lifted, like something has been forced wide open inside of both of them, and it's breathtaking and liberating and exactly what Ianto swore to himself he'd never feel for Jack, but it doesn't matter. Because it's wonderful too, and Ianto doesn't doubt it, doesn't second-guess it for an instant.
Ianto sees the past year of his life flash in front of him in a whirlwind sometimes, so many things thrown together--bad things, good things, things he wouldn't wish on his worst enemy… But with this as the end result, he thinks it almost feels like everything is exactly as it should be.
Ianto's flat is chilly in December, as always--he can feel the slight draft on his exposed arms and shoulders, where they’ve found their way outside the covers.
He presses close to Jack, draping one arm over his chest, admiring those smooth planes under his hands by feel, the pads of his fingers drumming lightly against Jack's collar bone. Jack’s breathing had steadied a few minutes ago, but Ianto is still a little breathless, his heart still thumping loudly in his chest. He’s still a little sweaty too, though he’s pretty sure Jack doesn’t mind.
"You should never have taken me back," Jack says lightly. He threads his fingers through Ianto's hair lightly. "What on earth were you thinking?"
"I could ask you the same thing," Ianto says, his head pillowed against Jack's shoulder, feeling the warmth of Jack’s skin on his cheek.
"I was a complete bastard, running off without any warning like that," Jack says.
Ianto shakes his head, rolling back over onto his pillow.
"And I lied to you, seduced you under false pretenses," he says, smiling a little.
Jack lets out a surprised laugh, and rolls up onto one elbow, looking down at Ianto suspiciously.
Ianto’s smile widens in the semi-darkness.
"Well, okay, maybe not completely false pretenses."
"Wait," he says, frowning a little, though he can't quite hide the playfulness in his eyes. "Since when did you seduce me?"
Ianto rolls his eyes. "I was there, Jack, remember?"
Jack laughs, flopping over onto his back with a huff.
"Okay, okay, fine, but that's not fair. Those jeans were sinful."
"I could say the same about that coat."
"I bet you could," Jack teases.
There’s a pause--a car passes by the window, rolling along on the street outside.
"You didn't exactly run off without any warning, you know."
Ianto rolls his eyes again, at the ceiling, and then turns to face Jack, suddenly feeling a little serious, like there's something he never realized he needed to set straight.
"I clean your office every day. I knew you still had that bag under your desk."
"That could have been anything—gym bag, emergency trip provisions…anything."
Ianto fixes Jack with a pointed stare. "But it wasn't."
Jack frowns. "So what, you were just waiting for me to go, is that it?"
"More or less," Ianto says, raising his eyebrows.
There's a long pause, and then Jack asks, quietly, "And what about now?"
"Mmm," Ianto hesitates. "No. I guess not."
Ianto shrugs. He pauses, but not really because he has to think about this, because there's really no question, no lingering doubt, nothing. He feels like there should be, maybe, but... He shifts close to Jack, lets one finger trace a lazy circle from Jack’s neck to his shoulder.
"I don't know," he says honestly. "Maybe I just decided to take you at your word."
Jack grins, slipping his arm around Ianto’s back, pulling him close.
"You sure you want to do that, Jones?"
"Yep,” Ianto says, shivering a little as Jack runs his fingers down his back, against the sensitive skin at the base of his spine. “Pretty sure, yeah."
"Well, that usually works for me."
Ianto chuckles a little, feeling Jack’s arms tighten around him, his palm splayed out over Ianto’s hip possessively, even though obviously no one is looking. The gesture makes his chest tighten a little anyway though, makes his heart beat a little faster, brings a flush to his cheeks.
“Me, too,” Ianto says, meaning it, as he leans over to place a light kiss on Jack’s lips, sealing the deal the best way he knows how.