You Keep Me Warm at Night
Just a little drabble set after Gwen's wedding... the usual disclaimers apply: I don't own anything (but if Jack wants to come and be borrowed, he's welcome on my doorstep anytime… Ianto too…)
Jack folded up the photo and put it back in the box, the smile still playing across his lips; despite being exhausted, he felt good. Rhys was a great guy – Gwen deserved a great guy, somebody like Rhys, somebody who made her happy… don't we all deserve –
"Jack – ?"
"Ianto," Jack started at the familiar voice, "I – I didn't hear you come in," he almost (but not quite) forced thef smile he offered up in the younger man's direction…every man's a younger man… the thought niggled at the back of Jack's brain. Before standing to great his visitor, he slipped the box back into the desk drawer. Where it belongs – in the past. "It's late," he moved towards Ianto, the same smile continuing to play across his lips.
"I wasn't tired – too much excitement I guess," Ianto didn't quite meet Jack's gaze.
"Yeah - lot of excitement." It seemed as if the closer he got, the more interesting that spot on the floor between Ianto's feet was becoming for the other man. "Something on your mind?"
Jack knew when he was being lied to but he liked to think he had the good sense to know when to let a lie slide – then suddenly Ianto looked up at him. "Something is wrong," Jack resorted to stating the obvious – and taking half a step away from Ianto as he did it. There was something in Ianto's demeanor – something – off colour. He ran over the events of the day in his mind but nothing jumped out at him as 'wrong' (at least not any more wrong than him stopping Gwen's wedding and then calling Rhys's mother a bitch…but he really had thought it was the shapeshifter.)
"It's not what you think – what I think you think," Ianto said quickly. Panicky.
"And what do you think I think?" Jack raised an eyebrow… maybe I'm getting too old for this…
"It's not – not like before."
"Before?" Did Ianto realize he knew he was being lied to… ? They'd been together – been together – enough that Jack had figure Ianto could read his body language as easily as he could read Ianto's – "Is there something you want to get off your chest?" Jack asked.
"Sorry – maybe it's just late."
"It is late," Jack allowed himself to resume an easy manner – something was eating at Ianto but he was nearly completely sure it wasn't work related. But was 'nearly completely sure' good enough…? Ok, old and paranoid… Jack mused to himself… not the most attractive of combinations… Jack reached for his coat – "You want to go grab a cup of coffee or something?" Maybe all he needed (all they both needed) was a bit of fresh air –
Reflexively, Ianto took the coat from Jack's hand, as if to help him on with it, even as he began protesting the notion of going out – "I could just make some – "
"I know you could – but let's go out."
Ianto seemed startled by the idea.
"What, afraid to be seen in public with me?" Jack offered up one of his wicked grins.
Ianto ignored the question and handed Jack back his coat, "Why don't we stay in, instead?"
"I could still make coffee – ?"
"You know just how I like it," Jack said in a lascivious tone that garnered an attractive blush in the younger man's cheeks; he draped his coat back over the chair and meandered towards the cappuccino maker a few paces behind Ianto. He remained just behind him as Ianto worked – just close enough, but just out of reach – it was a calculated tactic that wasn't really calculated at the moment. Some habits died hard. Mostly he was trying to puzzle out what had brought Ianto to him at this hour, acting the way he was acting.
No answers seemed readily forthcoming.
A few moments later, Ianto turned, still seemingly recovering from blushing, and handed Jack his mug. "Just the way you like it."
Jack offered up another one of those wicked grins, "Just the way I like it," he moved towards a sitting area, motioning Ianto to follow with a nod of his head. "So – ?" he asked when they'd arranged themselves, with a cushion noticeably in between them.
"So?" Ianto asked back.
"So." So this is personal…
Ianto's cheeks grew more flush. "Some wedding, huh?"
Jack watched Ianto over the top of his cup, "Yeah. Shame only Gwen and Rhys will remember it."
"You love her don't you," the words tumbled out of Ianto in a rush; it wasn't a question.
"Gwen – you love her."
Jack felt heat in his own cheeks; he put down his cup. "There are all kinds of love, Ianto."
"But you love her. Really love her."
"It doesn't matter. She's Mrs. Rhys Williams now."
Silence. Expectant silence.
Jack found the spot on the floor between his own shoes awfully interesting for a few moments longer than he would have liked... he realized his hesitation was all the answer Ianto really needed. He said the words anyway: "Yes. I love her."
"I knew you did. The way you danced with her tonight. The way you looked at her – the way she looked at you. You could have had her, you know – if you'd stayed. If you hadn't gone chasing after some doctor – "
"She loves Rhys." And Rhys is a good man…
"You've always loved her, haven't you?"
"I'm not sure I'd say 'always'," Jack said slowly, trying to feel the situation out as he blundered through it. "But I have always admired her. I admire all of you – what I said before – about how I wouldn't change things – "
"What about your doctor?" Ianto cut him off. "Did you love him the moment you laid eyes on him – or did you just admire him from a distance?"
"I came back, you know." For you… for Gwen… she deserved better than him, though. She deserved – stability. That's what Rhys could give her. Stability. Happiness. A normal life outside of Torchwood. "I came back for all of you, Ianto." Responsibility… that had been his parting comment to the Doctor. He had a responsibility…
Ianto's voice – his accusatory tone – cut deep into Jack's thoughts: "That doesn't answer the question."
"Like I said – there are all kinds of love," Jack looked at his coffee cup – his coffee – just the way I like it… "There's fiery love – wild – passionate love, the kind that burns deep inside and you can't help it being there, even if the person it burns for is better off without it." Gwen… "There's elusive love," Jack smiled. 'His' Doctor – he wondered what the Doctor would think of that… "The kind of love that yes, started at first sight and might be all the better for being so elusive – and there's – " Rose… how could he describe how he felt about Rose…? "There's love that bears no words because nothing can quite describe the depth and breath of it. She's why I am the way I am."
"Rose Tyler," the sound of her name was still enough to make him smile – make him hurt. Make him wonder – would he ever see her again? If Torchwood was somehow responsible for separating Rose and the Doctor – could Torchwood bring them back together again? Or would the Time Lord find a way – ? Or was there no way – no possibility – was she truly lost - lost to both of them – ?
"Who is she?" Ianto wanted to know.
"She's the one who – who made me the way I am," Jack repeated. "The not being able to die part, I mean." He measured the look on Ianto's face. Of all of them, Ianto had never asked the question – why. How. What made the impossible possible. For his part, Jack never talked about it, not with anyone… just Gwen. Just once. Before he knew what had brought him back from the dead. Who. How… Leave it to Rose… Jack smiled again despite himself.
"What happened?" Ianto's tone was softer this time. Gentler. Almost – understanding –
"A girl made a wish," Jack answered just as softly.
"Must've been some girl."
Jack laughed, "You have no idea," no idea at all… He looked over at the younger man again, taking in the sight of him; for all Ianto had seen, all he'd been through, there was still a quality of innocence about him. There was still trust – and the need to be trusted. The desire to love and be loved… Jack reached out and wasn't surprised when Ianto took his hand, despite the hurt Jack knew he must be feeling. He twined his fingers into Ianto's and started telling him the story of his immortality: "I'd managed to get myself killed in a rather uncharacteristic act of bravery – "
"You're one of the bravest men I've ever met – !" Ianto protested.
Jack's smile deepened, "Maybe. Maybe not. But before I met my Doctor," he had to admit, he liked the phrase, "I was pretty much your average everyday coward."
"I can't believe that."
"The Doctor happened," Jack leaned back, bringing Ianto with him – the distance between them didn't diminish. Jack didn't push the issue, he just held onto Ianto's hand, savouring the warmth of it. The steadiness of if... "Watching him – admiring him – knowing him – wanting him – he changed me," there was no use sugar coating it; Ianto had asked the question, he deserved the truth. He needed it. Even if it hurt.
"So who is he?" Ianto's tone betrayed the pain Jack already knew he was feeling.
But the truth always hurts… Jack looked at him again – found his gaze. Held it. Wondered if anyone had ever really looked at him quite like that before… "He's – he's incredible – dynamic – sexy – in a – a weird n Elivs Costello sort of way," Jack was only barely aware of his smile. "This time, anyway," he added as a quiet afterthought.
Jack gave over half a laugh, "It's hard to explain. But it doesn't matter what he looks like, it's who he is. Who he was. Who he will be. He's one of a kind. The last of his kind."
"And you love him."
"Since the moment he rejected me."
Ianto blinked – "Rejected you?"
"What – you don't actually think we were ever 'together' do you?"
"I just assumed – "
Jack shook his head, "There's all kinds of love, Ianto," he said again. "Wild love, passionate love, love at first sight love – elusive love. There's also slow love. The kind of love that builds over time – the love of a good friend. A trusted colleague."
Ianto looked away and was quiet a long moment, digesting those last two statements. Friends. Colleagues. Even when he turned back, and even though he didn't let go of Jack's hand, he didn't meet Jack's gaze and his smile was clearly forced, "Not exactly the resounding declaration of affection I'd always wanted to hear – but I suppose a bloke takes what he can get," he raised his cup in a mock toast.
"That's not what I meant."
The forced smile deepened, became more forced. "Sure it is." Ianto picked up his empty cup and reached for Jack's cup as well – Jack hadn't touched his coffee, but he hated it cold… and I'd know… that's what I do… a tea boy… make the coffee… get them to where they need to be on time… clean up after them…. do it looking good in a suit… part time shag…
"Ianto – "
"It's all right," Ianto lied. It wasn't as if Jack made any secret of what he was like – what did a few dates mean, anyway? Owen might have been hurting when he'd called Ianto a part time shag – a tea boy – he might even take it back in hindsight (or perhaps not) but just because he'd been lashing out didn't make what his assessment of the situation any less true. Whoever this doctor was (or who Jack had painted him to be in his mind), Ianto doubted that anyone could hold a candle to him. The fact that it was an 'elusive love' didn't matter – maybe even made it worse because this way Jack could imagine that this man was perfect, that he didn't leave cups of cold coffee laying around or toss his dirty socks onto the middle of the living room floor. There was no competing against something that had never even happened. The fact that Jack had asked Ianto out on a couple of dates didn't change anything…
Part time shag…
Right. Friends. Colleagues. Ianto tried to tell himself that it could be worse but he was having a hard time imaging anything that would make him feel any worse – after all, he'd set himself up for this and he knew it. He knew what Jack was like. They all did.
Jack caught Ianto's arm before the other could fully stand up, "The love of a friend – someone I trust – someone I rely on – depend on – "
"Yup. That's me." You can really stop rubbing it in now… but he couldn't bring himself to say the words. Worse, he knew he'd keep coming back, taking whatever scarps of affection Jack gave him, just like he always did. Like tonight – Jack had asked Gwen to dance, not him. He'd had to be the one to do the asking…
Dabbling… that's what he'd said to Martha. They were just 'dabbling'. Maybe that's all it really was… So why does it hurt so damned much to have him describing me as a 'friend' – a colleague – a bloody lap dog… the little dog who sat and begged for scraps from the meal Jack saved for people who didn't want even it, people like this doctor who rejected him… what an idiot… Ianto thought at himself. Why had he even bothered to come by tonight? What had he honestly expected…? Part time shag…
"Ianto – listen to me – " something in Jack's voice - in his eyes - it made him stop running away, at least for the moment. He couldn't read the expression other man's face (he thought it might be hurt but it was too hard to imagine Jack hurting); all Ianto could do was listen, even though all he wanted to do was to leave - now - with what dignity he thought might still haveleft, in tact. "There are all kinds of love," Jack said again, "Sometimes its – hot – fiery – sometimes it's slow burning – steady – the kind of flame that keeps a man warm at night – the kind of flame that comes from a friend – a lover. The kind of love – the kind of love I try to avoid."
Ianto stopped trying to get up – get away – run off and nurse his pride (what little was left of it.) "Avoid?"
"Because it's the kind of love that stays with a man for the rest of his life – and in my case that's going to be a long, long time. And it hurts. It hurts knowing that – that because of one stupid wish made in an extraordinary moment, I can't die. When she wished that 'Jack wasn't dead' she forgot to put any kind of caveat on it – and so I'm not going to die. Ever. But you will. You – Gwen – Tosh – even Owen – again – eventually. Even the Doctor. Everybody I've ever cared about – everybody I ever will care about – everybody I've ever loved or will ever – you all die. All but me."
Ianto met Jack's gaze – really met it. The hurt in the other man's eyes was so real it was almost tangible. Jack was so strong – so brave – so full of confidence… and in this very moment he seemed so breakable. "Have you ever hated her – this – Rose Tyler – for doing this to you?"
Jack's smile surprised him: "If you'd ever met Rose, you'd understand how no one could ever hate her, least of all me."
"She must be something."
"She is. So are you."
"I'm just – "
"Just my friend. My lover. Someone I trust. Someone I depend on – and maybe that isn't the resounding declaration of affection you wanted to hear – but it's more than I give most people."
"Jack," Ianto moved a little closer, "I – I know – you look at – the past – your past – and – you look ahead all the time – to tomorrow – next year – next century – but – don't you ever think that maybe you're missing out on something? Here. Today. Right now."
"Not just me – "
Jack pulled him into a kiss so suddenly Ianto almost forgot that a few seconds ago he'd wanted to walk away, nurse his wounds – figure out his own 'tomorrow' – "When I said I wouldn't change anything – "Jack told him when their lips finally parted, "I meant it. You said you'd miss me if I went away for good – I'd miss you too."
"All of us."
"All of you. But I'd miss this," he kissed Ianto again, harder this time – stronger – the younger man gave as good as he got – gave without reservation – without fear – without hesitation. "Because – if you think this is just – just some part time shag – some – arrangement of convenience – "
"It's not what I think – not what I want to think," Ianto cut him off, blushing at Jack's use of Owen's phrase.
"Good. Because it isn't. Even when you're not here – you keep me warm at night."