Title:Check Your Weapons at the Door
Rating: K+ (PG)
Spoilers: Adrift, Cyberwoman (tiny), End of Days (tiny)
A/N: I finally went ahead and dared to write something post Adrift. I really like this (excuse the self pimp), its a bit different from my previous work, but I was trying to be less fluffy. Hope you all still enjoy it! Please review.
Time to face the music, had never been an expression Ianto Jones was terribly fond of. That is to say, he didn't shirk his responsibilities if he had any, but that didn't mean that facing up to them was going to the a pleasant experience. He wasn't easily intimidated, tended to face things head on even when they required a certain amount of bravery, but usually those actions tended to lean towards the physical, and not the emotional.
Lisa had once told him she suspected him of being so overly polite to people in general, and her in particular, because if he didn't put his foot in it, if he didn't do anything wrong, he'd never have to face up to his own mistakes, never have to face a confrontation. He'd been reminded of it the week after she told him, when they were standing across from each other in his living room, yelling over something he now couldn't remember what it was. It was the first time in his life someone had pointed something like that out to him, the first time in his life he'd had that kind of epiphany. He'd realised abruptly that she was right, and it had made for a rather sudden ending to the fight. When he later told her what had made him deflate so suddenly, she'd thrown her head back and laughed. That memory, no longer accompanied by a hard pain in his chest, although regret and a certain amount of heartache always lingered when he thought of her, he pushed away.
It was time to face the music, time to face Jack, explain his actions, his decisions, and the consequences be damned. There was a part of him that knew he could weather this, knew he could face this, and they could move past it, and there was a small, infinitesimally small, tiny part of him that was utterly terrified. It was one thing to defy Jack, convinced that he'd made the right decision as he did so, it was another to face the possibility that this would be the time Jack would permanently kick him out of his bed.
The last couple of months had taught Ianto something, taught him that he had begun to need Jack, and that he did no longer want to do without him. It didn't make their relationship more like a relationship, like what passed as normal in the 21st century, didn't make it all of a sudden sweetness and light, or even remotely comparable to what he and Lisa had had, but it didn't stop him from knowing that he needed it.
What he had with Jack was different, constrained by the differences in culture that stood between them, difference in age, Jack's immortality, and how Jack viewed the world. And although it wasn't like what he'd had with Lisa; that all-consuming first love, the dreams of marriage, children, a house in the suburbs; everything he couldn't imagine wanting when he'd been eighteen, everything his parents had had; everything he'd all of a sudden understood in a blinding flash of self-realisation and maturity. What he had now was different, rawer, harsher, rougher, less comfortable, some weeks full of anguish, some weeks full of lightheartedness and laughter. One thing that was comparable to what he'd had with Lisa, was that Jack, like her, could tip his world onto its side.
He really didn't want to lose that. He really couldn't afford to lose that.
Gwen had gone home a while ago, the rest of the team had followed, all of them intimidated by the anguish and raw emotions of the events at Flat Holm Island. Ianto had almost followed them, then had realised that he needed to face this, and wanted to get it out of the way, because just letting it simmer and then coming in the next morning to deal with it after all, was not a good solution, period.
Knowing all that and making the decision to face up to it anyway, he still made Jack a cup of coffee just the way he liked it, a small placatory gesture that he knew wouldn't save him from the other man's anger. He carried the mug into Jack's office and set it down on his desk, but instead of staying on the side where Jack's chair was, he took up position on the opposite side of the desk and didn't sit down. Jack looked at the coffee, looked at him, and capped his pen with a decisive gesture, laying it down on the desk and regarding Ianto.
Ianto nodded, not sure what to say.
Jack picked up the coffee and took a sip, setting it down again and looking at Ianto once more. "You decided you had to inform Gwen on your own." His tone was neutral, conversational, no threat or judgement in it.
In a way this reassured Ianto, and in another way it worried him; he didn't know where he stood, didn't know when the cloud would burst and he would be exposed to Jack's anger. "Yes."
"And now you're here," Jack said, leaning back in his chair. "For what? So I can yell at you? For punishment?"
Ianto raised an eyebrow at that, and slowly shook his head. "If you need to get it out of your system, you can yell at me. Whatever's going to happen, I thought we should clear the air tonight; I didn't want to leave it till the morning."
He surprised himself with his candour, but apparently hadn't surprised Jack, who kept regarding him with a level stare. "I could yell at you," Jack replied evenly, "I could tell you how much it hurt that you betrayed me, but I'm guessing you already know that. And I'm also guessing it's not going to change your mind, make you do anything different. You did what you did because you believed it to be right, and you will continue to believe it was the right thing to do no matter what I say to you." Ianto blinked in surprise while Jack continued. "I don't particularly feel like expending all that energy on someone who's going to stand there and sanctimoniously know he was right all along. It'd be a waste of my breath, and a waste of my time. I'm not going to be able to change your mind."
Ianto didn't know what to say, floundered around for something that would somehow make it better, take the sting out of Jack's words, because it suddenly became apparent to him what the depth of his betrayal was. Finally he settled on, "You're right. The two of you -- she was never going to let it go."
Jack drank some more of his coffee. "No," he admitted, "she wasn't going to. And maybe what you did was the right thing, god knows I made my own mistakes, allowing her to do the things that I let her do. But --" He pointed a finger at Ianto, his eyes tightening slightly, a tone to his voice changing timbre, only a slight change but enough for Ianto to hear it. "I specifically told you not to tell her. You asked me to tell her, after we met in the boardroom, and I specifically said to you not to tell her."
He'd hurt Jack, he'd known it when he did it, but to feel that, to see it, that was hard. He let Jack's words sink in, and said at last, "I'm sorry I went against your wishes. But if I said I'd change it in the future, I'd be lying."
Jack nodded slowly. "I know," his voice was almost sad, "and that leaves us at an impasse."
Ianto hung his head for a moment before looking back up. "What does that mean?"
Jack ran a hand through his hair, scrubbing his face, looking tired and worn. "I don't know," he said honestly.
"Can we leave it what it is?" Ianto ventured.
"What do you think would happen if we did?" Jack made it sound like it was a rhetorical question, but when Ianto looked at him he realised neither of them knew the answer. "This is the third time you betrayed me." He raised a hand to forestall any objections, even though Ianto had no intention of speaking. "I know I have my share of bad moments and mistakes, I'm not denying them. But how many times are we going to do this before we can't move past it?"
Ianto considered his words carefully. "That implies two things, Jack."
Jack raised his eyebrows questioningly. "What?" he said shortly.
"One, that we're more than a convenient outlet for each other," Ianto said boldly, "and two, that there is an us, a future."
Jack blinked, sat there for a moment just looking at him and then finally answered, his tone betraying hurt, "You think we don't?"
Ianto shook his head slowly. "I've never heard you say it."
"There are a lot of things I don't say." Jack looked at his coffee hesitantly, then pushed the still half-full mug away from him.
Ianto suddenly felt like he was at a crossroads, that it was time for him to make a decision. He looked at Jack for a brief moment, then said, his voice calm, "We can be just that, Jack. We can be just sex. If that's what you want, I'll take it, I'll go along with it. But if you don't, and my betrayal of you is something that we can't get past, then it would be nice if you broke the habit of a lifetime and for once told me."
Jack sighed. "Ianto, I -- my life is complicated."
"I'm not asking for your life story, Jack." Ianto sighed as well, and at last sat down in the visitor's chair across from Jack. He regarded his lover. "I don't need to know everything that makes you tick, if I ask you a question, it's because I'm curious, and I'd like an answer, but you can tell me to go away." He smiled slightly. "You've been doing that very well for the past two years. I'm not all of a sudden asking for commitment. I'm asking where we stand."
"Can I ask you to leave that be?" Jack tried.
Ianto shook his head. "This has been a long time coming, Jack. We go on dates, you talk about betrayal, but the truth is, I don't really know if I won't walk in here one morning to find you in bed with someone else." He held up a hand when Jack opened his mouth to say something. "I don't care, I don't want to hear. My point is, I don't know if I'm going to walk in here one morning to find you gone. I don't know whether or not I have a reason to worry when your ex stops by, or your doctor, or when Gwen --" He broke off rather abruptly, having said more than he'd been meaning to say.
"First off," Jack started, irritation creeping into his tone, "there is nothing between Gwen and me. And I know we haven't said anything about monogamy, but I was kind of hoping you'd realised by now that with the schedule we're keeping and the amount of time you spend here, there isn't really space for anyone else. I'm also kind of hoping there is no one else in your life. As for the other things..." He made a futile gesture.
Ianto shook his head, feeling the stress of the day resting on his shoulders. "That isn't the point, Jack. I'm not asking you to defend yourself, I'm not asking you to account to me for the things that have happened. I'm asking you how you see the future."
Jack took a long time before replying. When he finally did, he looked Ianto straight in the eye and they both knew there was no posturing and no lies anymore. "In our line of work, and that is no platitude, we don't know what the future brings. Maybe you deserve more from me, than me, I don't know. I just know I want to keep doing this, as long as we can, until one or both of us tires of this, or until --" He broke off, but they both knew what he'd been thinking.
Ianto looked back at him, happy that Jack wasn't skirting the issue but willing to have this conversation with him. And yet he still said, "Chalk it up to insecurities, or 21st century mores, Jack, but what is this exactly?"
"This is more than just sex, Ianto. You mean more to me than just sex. Maybe not enough more than you want me to, but I'm only human. In the end of the day, we're both only human."
Ianto sat and stared at him for a while. It had been a long time coming that he'd admit to himself what he now could feel, that he loved Jack. He knew he shouldn't say it, that that emotion would only stir this turmoil more, so he kept quiet. He regarded Jack; he looked tired, worn, as if it was long past the time he'd planned to get some rest, but was nonetheless forcing himself to continue. At long last, Ianto said, "So where does this leave us?"
"There's a reason why I'm so understanding," Jack said with a dry chuckle. "I do realise why you did it. I know that maybe it would have gone worse if you hadn't. I also trust you with the big stuff."
Ianto nodded slowly, the conversation making him feel drained. "So you'll forgive me with time?"
Jack nodded back. "I've already forgiven you. It wasn't that big a transgression."
Ianto smiled. He stood and straightened his suit jacket, saying, "I should get home."
Jack looked up at him, and after a beat, said, "Could I ask a favour? I know you want to get home, and you're free to do so, of course..."
"What is it, Jack?"
"After going out to Flat Holm today I really wouldn't like to sleep alone," Jack confessed, his tone soft. "I was kind of hoping you'd stay."
Ianto felt his heart shatter just a little at the pain in Jack's eyes, his voice, and the tentative way that he phrased it. He loved Jack. The older man might never know it, but Ianto now knew it would shape his decisions for the rest of the time he'd spent with Jack. He smiled and nodded slowly. "I'll stay."