Rating: T (PG-13)
Disclaimer: I don't own them, I intend no infringement.
Spoilers: Journey's End (Doctor Who), Exit Wounds
A/N: the last chapter, and it's not a happy one. You have been warned. I wanted to write a happy ending, but the characters had other ideas, and this series needed to finish. I'm trying to move in a different direction as a writer, and this should be the last unbeta'ed thing I'll produce. If it's unsatisfactory, I apologise. Without further delay, I present:
too close to ...
They were getting ready for bed, as if it was somehow a settled routine, which Jack began to realise it probably was becoming. They took turns brushing their teeth, stripped down to their boxers, and Jack settled into the bed first, Ianto sliding between the covers after him. Jack rolled onto his side and propped his head up on one hand, looking at Ianto lying on his back, staring at the ceiling. "So, they survived the first week."
A shadow of something crossed Ianto's face. "Survived seems an accurate term."
Jack's fingers suddenly itched to reach out and run through Ianto's hair, but something, maybe it was the tone of Ianto's voice, maybe the fact that he was still staring at the ceiling and not looking at Jack, kept him back. "It wasn't that bad," he tried.
Ianto finally cut his eyes to him. "You had to step in and save Mickey. Twice."
"All beginnings are hard," Jack said, trying to be upbeat. It was true, even though taking Mickey out for his first weevil capture had ended in Jack's death, twice, as he'd stepped in to save the new field agent from certain demise, and had led to an awkward explanation to Mickey how it was that he'd come back to life again. He'd had a feeling then, that Ianto wasn't best pleased with the situation, but he hadn't had the emotional strength to try and discuss it with him, and Ianto hadn't said anything himself.
"How many times are there going to be beginnings, Jack?"
Jack sighed. There were a lot of things he didn't want to talk about. "More for me than for you," he said, colder than he'd intended.
Ianto looked away, focusing on the ceiling again. "I know."
Jack said nothing after that. It felt like there was nothing more to say, and maybe they would never be able to discuss that part of their future together, if there was a future together. It felt like there was so much they should talk about, so much they needed to discuss. He knew there were so many things he should say, so many things he should apologise for, so many things he owed Ianto an explanation about. But like so many times before, the words stuck in his throat, and he felt he was without the strength to deal with it. There was a pressure on his shoulders, on his chest, a pressure he knew and he fought it. Don't think of choking, he reminded himself, don't think of the smell of damp earth. To counteract the memories that sometimes were the only thing clouding his mind, he leaned in and buried his face against Ianto's neck, his nose in Ianto's hair. For a moment, Ianto tensed and lay perfectly still, and Jack feared being pushed away. Then Ianto slid his free hand over Jack's shoulder and into his hair, holding him in place, letting the strands slide through his caressing fingers. It never ceased to amaze Jack the last few months that Ianto seemed to sense what he needed; maybe he had before then, too, and he felt a lump in his throat at the realisation that he couldn't remember, couldn't remember if his lover had always been this caring, if they'd been different or the same. He could smell the citrusy scent of Ianto's shampoo, a hint of aftershave that was still left on his skin, and fought to rid his mind of anything else. They lay like that for a while, Ianto's fingers running through his hair, Jack lying close to him till at last he felt the pressure recede. He pulled away slightly and Ianto let him go, moving his hand back down Jack's arm, Ianto's fingers sliding along his palm, teasing his own.
He opened his eyes to find Ianto had turned his face towards him and was looking at him. He forced himself to keep holding Ianto's gaze, even though the sweet anguish and misery was almost impossible to bear.
"I can't keep doing this."
At last, it happened. The words he'd been fearing for the last months, the words that would implode his world, implode what was left of his ability to survive; Ianto had at last said what he'd feared was going to happen and what he'd fought so long to prevent. "I know," was the only thing he could find to reply.
"I love you," Ianto said, his voice thick with emotion, "but I can't go on like this. I'm hurting, Jack. I need... something you can't give me right now -- and you need --" He broke off.
Jack nodded, feeling tears push at the back of his throat and burn behind his eyes, somehow unable to shed them. "I know. I know it all. I've known it for a while, I just... didn't know how long it would be before you knew, too." The words came out in a rush.
Ianto bit his lip and nodded as well. "I've been trying to deny it. You need me, I know you do. But you don't need me enough."
Jack wanted to deny that, because he knew he needed Ianto, needed him badly. But he didn't need him enough perhaps, to fight that much harder for him, to be able to fight that much harder. "I know," he repeated uselessly.
Ianto leaned in and kissed him, a soft pressure on his lips that was nothing more than that, and couldn't soothe the gaping wound in his chest. "Get some sleep, Jack."
In the morning, he found himself drinking coffee on the floor of the morgue again. This time, it was drawer 48, next to Tosh, Owen.
"You'd love this, Owen." Jack laughed drily, no real mirth in it. "You'd have laughed at me if you knew, if I'd come to talk to you. 'Teaboy's broken up with you?', you'd say, and you give me one of those incredulous looks, as if you can't quite believe it's for real. You never stopped looking at me like that, Owen. Like you never truly started believing in aliens, more like you could never really trust me to tell you the truth."
He sighed deeply, pushing his coffee away from him. He leaned his forehead on his knees and stared at the concrete floor.
"I might have hurt you most of all, Owen. You never had happiness, you never had the sort of joy you deserved. I promised once that I would save you, and I never did. I tried to --"
He leaned back and rolled his eyes up to the ceiling, the tears he couldn't shed last night all of a sudden burning his eyes and rolling down his cheeks silently.
"I'm sorry, Owen. I'm sorry."
He pressed his fist to his mouth to stop the sobs from escaping and took a few deep breaths to try and get himself under control again.
"If you'd see me like this you'd laugh at me." He tried a lopsided grin. "'No use crying over a dead man, Jack', you'd joke. 'I was already dead, remember?' You'd say something like that, gallows humour, you were always good at that." Ah, Owen...
He was silent for a moment.
"It was just bluster, wasn't it, Owen? You were hiding so much behind that sharp mind and quick mouth. You just pushed people away... I think you were even jealous of Ianto. I don't care any less for you, Owen."
He sat there for a while longer, but he'd run out of things to say. Eventually he stood up, dusted off his clothes, and left the morgue.
Martha brought him his coffee mug later that morning. She set it down on his desk and sat down in the visitors chair across from him. "You left it in the morgue this morning."
Jack looked at it. "Did I?"
Martha merely raised her eyebrows. "What's going on with you, Jack?"
He sighed, suddenly feeling all his years. He rested his elbows on the desk and pressed his palms to his eyes. When he looked back at Martha, there was a frown of concern on her face. "I don't know what's going on with me, Martha."
She reached across the desk and laid her hand over his. "I can't pretend I can understand what you've been through, but I saw you, on the Valiant. I saw you, how strong you were. Where did all that strength go, Jack?"
He knew there were tears in his eyes, and he didn't want her to see. He blinked a few times to try and clear them. "This was nothing like that, Martha." He tried to find the energy to smile, but his muscles didn't work. "This was nothing but darkness, endless death... The Valiant, there were good days, there were people, there was light, food, respite."
Her eyes didn't leave his face, but she seemed to have run out of words. He didn't care, he'd said more than he'd ever intended to tell her already.
"I know you said there was no need for me to keep secrets from you. You said I could talk to you."
She nodded. "Yes, but from what I've seen, that Ianto is there for you already."
A bitter laugh escaped him. "Not any more, Martha." He shook his head. "Not any more. We're over."
She gasped, withdrawing it from his, bringing a hand up to her mouth. "Since when?"
She stared at him. "But who, how?"
"He'd had enough," Jack said, running a hand through his hair. "I can't blame him. He's been through so much. He needs me to be there for him, can't expect him to always be there for me. I can't even remember if he was always there for me," he added bitterly.
Ianto still served him coffee, and the hardest thing was not to grab him and beg him to take him back. It had been a long time since Jack had been in the position of having been broken up with by someone he really wanted. It was hard to watch Ianto walk around the hub, doing his job, sit down the table from him in boardroom meetings, and meet his eyes as they worked, both of them looking away quickly. The pain that shot through his chest every time their eyes met didn't lessen, and at the end of the day he was exhausted.
The last few months, and he remembered, those before as well, when he needed someone, when he didn't want to be alone, he'd ask Ianto to stay, and the young man always did. It was that he wanted most, Ianto's warm presence in bed, Ianto's soft reassuring voice, someone to help him forget for a while, sex and companionship.
An hour of tossing and turning and he gave up, got dressed again and headed for the roof. The Millennium Centre roof was dry, the moon was out, and for a while he lay on his back staring at the stars, wishing now more than ever that he could go back to travelling beyond them. If there was no Ianto Jones, what was keeping him here? What was keeping him tethered to a planet that was little more than a hunk of rock, spinning about a no more than average star, in a solar system that had little to offer in the way of intergalactic life? He knew the answer to it, knew his responsibilities and duties lay there as well as his personal preferences for this planet. Still, he wondered what he would be doing if he could go away. Try his luck in the Vegas Galaxy, pay a visit to the time agency at the height of its glory, try and find the Doctor, see if he still wanted a companion.
He sighed. The pain in his chest didn't lessen.