Chapter Twenty Nine: Morning Sun
Jack found Ianto sitting on the roof of the Millennium Centre. It was the first time he could ever remember finding his partner out here of his own accord (usually he came up to the roof to find Jack or because Jack had asked him to join him).
He knew Ianto had gotten the message that they'd found the remains of that wax seal; Vickie, Mickey and Gwen were working on it, now.
But Ianto didn't turn around to greet him.
Jack stood and waited, unable to tell if the younger man wanted to be alone or if he simply hadn't noticed him. If the case were the former, he didn't want to intrude.
A rose-hued sun was just starting to come up over the bay, the city. It was beautiful. The sky was streaked with bands of blazing ruby and orange. Light and colour glittered on the water. In the distance a ship's horn blew. The wind carried the scent of the ocean…
Jack stood for many more long moments watching, but Ianto didn't turn to face him. He seemed to be staring out at nothing… everything.
He was about to turn and leave the younger man to his thoughts when Ianto's voice stayed him. "Breathtaking, isn't it?" it wasn't really a question.
"Yeah. It is," he agreed. The Captain joined his partner, taking a seat on the edge of the building next to him, but not too near. Despite Ianto's greeting, he wasn't sure his presence was welcomed; the younger man's tone had been very distant. It looked like Ianto had been crying… "We'll figure this out, Sweetheart," Jack reached for the other man's hand.
Ianto neither rejected his touch nor reciprocated the action, he simply seemed to be allowing his hand to be held.
Jack took a deep breath and let it out. "Talk to me…?" He asked.
"I've got so much going through my head right now, Jack. Too much." He faced his partner. "I'm completely mixed up inside. It's not just what's going on with Dafydd."
Nerys hadn't stayed long last night. She'd told Mam she was just running a quick errand… it made him feel guilty. Now he had his sister lying to their mother… his whole life was one big stack of lies.
The look on Ianto's face was enough to break Jack's heart… his soul. "What can I do to help?"
"I don't know if you can help. I don't know if anyone can."
Jack rubbed his thumb over the younger man's fingers… over the ring… "Some things… some things can't be fixed," he agreed, searching his partner's face for some clue, some indication, anything that would let him believe the other man wasn't going to tell him they were through. He'd known it was more than the thing with Dafydd before Ianto had said as much. The thing with Dafydd – Henry's presence – they had just brought whatever it was to the fore… and Jack could take some guesses about the sorts of things that might be bothering the younger man.
"No matter what, I will always love you Ianto," he said at last, not finding anything in the other's face to tell him he was staying.
The Welshman nodded; turned away. He was silent a long, long while before speaking again. "I… I am so sorry," his voice was barely audible. "I… I feel so damned selfish…but I can't do it." He couldn't add one more thing to his life to lie about. "Please say you'll forgive me, Cariad."
"I…" he found himself having a hard time speaking. "There is nothing you could ever do that I wouldn't forgive. I have loved you for so long… maybe I shouldn't have wasted all that time… I am so sorry for that." Maybe if I had told you sooner… "If… whatever you need… anything you ever want…"
Ianto turned and looked at him again, clearly puzzled by Jack's words. "Henry didn't tell you what we talked about, did he?" he asked.
Jack blinked. "No." Henry?
The Welshman swallowed hard, and forced himself to maintain eye contact. Behind him, the sky was lightening, grey becoming blue… night becoming day. "I can't give this up, Jack," he said as if that explained everything. "I want my days with you. I want afternoons at the beach and take long walks in the park. I want to go out to breakfast together just like always." He needed Jack to understand why he couldn't take what Henry had offered him. He needed Jack not to be hurt. Angry. He knew he was being selfish and he hated himself for it… "I can't give up the things I love the most about our life together." And it was tearing him up inside.
They could have forever. Together. He would never have to leave, Jack would never have to bury him.
He could watch Remi grow up... her children. Her children's children. He could always be there, watching over them, keeping them safe.
But he would never truly be a part of their lives, not without birthday cake and Sunday afternoons.
Jack regarded his partner a long moment as understanding slowly dawned. Henry… he must have offered Ianto… he'd offered immortality. But Henry's immortality came with an impossibly steep price. "Sweetheart, you have nothing to be sorry for."
"We could have forever, Jack… but I just can't and I'm so sorry.… I don't mean to be so selfish… I just can't give up my days… the sun… "
"Shhhhh," Jack silenced him by leaning over and brushing his lips over the younger man's mouth. "I wouldn't ever ask you to give that up. Ever. I'll take whatever we get. Another day. Another week. A year. I don't want to give up long walks in the park either, or going out to breakfast just like always or that football game we keep promising Jason. If you wanted to," he held his partner's hand a little tighter; "if you wanted to, I would love you just the same and of course I never want to lose you…" he pulled the younger man closer as he lost his own battle with tears. "But I would never, ever, ask you to give up so much just for me. That doesn't make you selfish."
"I feel like it does."
Ianto wasn't sure he was convinced. He looked out at the lightening sky. What did they really know about the Universe, he wondered. What could any of them say with absolute knowledge? "Do you think there's anything to Wendy's beliefs?"
Jack swallowed, but the lump in his throat remained, his gut was still tight. More than anything, he wanted to believe Wendy could be right. There were times when he was desperate to believe it that there was something after this, life after death. Some way of coming back. Somewhere to go where you got to meet up with everyone who had gone on before. But he knew better. "Yan… we both know… this is it." One life. Then nothing. No heaven. No hell. No coming back. Just darkness. "We have both seen concrete proof that there is nothing else out there."
"But what if Owen didn't see anything… what if you never see anything... because you're not dead long enough? The longest you've ever been gone is a few days. What if it takes more than that to get to the other side? What if there's really some other way back…" Wendy believed so whole heartedly in reincarnation. Vickie claimed to have seen proof of it… he'd talked to her after Nerys left and Dafydd fell back asleep. She and Henry had had a case and they had seen absolute concrete proof…
"Suzie was dead for months, Sweetheart. All she saw was darkness."
Ianto pulled in close. "So talk me into accepting Henry's offer…" please…. I am so afraid of losing you… leaving you… he tried to say the words, but they refused to come out.
"I don't want to give this up, either," he glanced out at the sunlit city. "I want our days together. I want breakfast in bed and sneaking out for a banana split when the rest of the team thinks we're shagging in the archives," he flashed a mischievous smile at his partner; Ianto returned it. It wasn't that they never shagged in the Archives… all over the Hub… it was just that the rest of the team thought they did it more often than they actually did. Jack loved nothing more than playing sneaking off with Ianto to play hookie. Sometimes they went for a banana split, sometimes they went to shag in the SUV… sometimes they just took a walk around the Plass or went window shopping in the Millennium Centre.
"I want to see you naked in the sun on some beach," Jack added with a smirk. "I want to feed you pineapples and whipped cream off every inch of my body," he flashed another mischievous – and decidedly lascivious – grin that made the younger man smile, the last of his tears drying up. Jack continued on in a serious tone. "I want you to have a normal life, Ianto, as normal as I can give you."
"I gave up on normal a long time ago, Cariad. But I do love you. I love our life together and there's nothing I would change or do over again."
Jack gave him an appraising look… there was something he wasn't saying.
The younger man just smiled at his perceptiveness. "We'll talk more when the rest of this is sorted. I promise you, though, it's nothing bad. I just… I'm sorting through some things. I have some things I need to think about." He leant up and pressed his mouth to Jack's; it was the only way he knew to convince his partner that none of the things on his mind involved him leaving or anything else that was bad