Notes: The full oneshot for #63 from 'Snapshots of Smiles'. Requested by chocolatekiller, Healthy Obsession, JantoGirl, x-Athenea-x, LittleMissTake, WickedWitchoftheSE, jayni-guardian, SophieWofy91, Paraxenos and JANTO-FOREVER.
Disclaimer: I do not own Torchwood and I am not making any profit from this work.
I Didn't Mean It
And the flat rang with the silence that followed Jack's words.
The sudden silence, after the screaming and the shouting and the outraged yelling was shocking. It was obscene. It was unnatural and it simply shouldn't be.
"Ianto..." he breathed, trying to break the weight of that silence, but it pressed in from all sides until his eardrums ached from the pressure and he wanted to flail like a drowning man and free himself.
But neither man moved.
Ianto was staring at him in a way that Ianto had never stared at him before. Eyes wide and white, the blue almost glowing in the pale pools of white that glimmered around the irises. His eyes were swimming and drowning in his eye sockets; the image was surreal and Jack hated it. The whites of his eyes were only comparable to the white of his face: bloodless, frozen, dead.
He looked dead.
Dead man standing. Under any other circumstance, Jack might have laughed.
But now, here, in the silence, laughter was a foreign language.
"You should have just trusted me, Ianto! You should have trusted me! But you didn't trust me to make the right decision and someone could have been killed!"
There were a thousand excuses, rolling in his mind and bouncing off the walls of his skull. Thousands upon thousands of ways to explain away the row - and they would have worked. A bad day, a stressful afternoon, the adrenaline and worry about the day's events piling up and up - hell, the entire week hadn't been easy. And then the shock of faithful, loyal Ianto deviating from his instructions and disobeying...the shock of that. It wasn't even a betrayal, for God's sake, he hadn't done much, but Jack was already at the end of his rope.
Maybe if they hadn't argued this far, the excuses would have worked.
But he had no excuse for that.
"Trust you? How am I - how are any of us - supposed to trust you when we know nothing about you! We know nothing about you, Jack, but you know all and sundry about us! That generally doesn't inspire trust!"
Jack was vaguely aware that he was shaking. He didn't know why. The personal attacks hadn't cut him deeply - if at all. Was he shaking because of what he had said? Possibly. Probably. But Ianto wasn't shaking, he was just standing there.
Dead man standing.
He looked like he had the night they escaped the cannibals. Like he'd been stuffed in a tumble dryer and given a spin. Wrung out, exhausted, white-faced and shocked.
Dead, glittering eyes shining out of a chalked face, staring at something Jack couldn't see - at something nobody could see, because it wasn't there, and hadn't been there for some time.
But what, if anything, did Ianto see that they could too?
The man was as much a mystery as Jack. But for the wrong reasons.
"Oh, everything about you? If I'd known everything about you, I would have known about the girlfriend in the basement issue, wouldn't I? And why didn't I? You kept it a secret! I'm not the only one!"
Jack wanted to shake him. He wanted to pry words out of him, coax something out. Anger, sadness, tears, hysteria, anything. But he was dead - Ianto was dead and beyond Jack's reach. He had drowned in the silence and now Jack couldn't reach him.
He made no move to try. It would be futile.
Ianto was the unreachable. He always had been, and Jack suspected that some part of him always had been. Even in moments of barbed humour, in moments of friendliness, Ianto was a restrained man.
He had never let go.
Maybe if he had let go, he would have drowned in the silence earlier.
"If I had told you, you would have killed her!"
And if Ianto had died here tonight, what would have been the point in Jack's presence at all? There would have been no mess, nothing suspicious.
But then, there would be no cause of death. Could a post-mortem find that a man drowned in his own sorrow, and the guilt that another man piled on him? Could it locate the straw that broke the camel's back?
Could Jack had taken a little time to be with him, if he'd died? A little time, a little bullet, just an hour or so?
It would be an insult. Jack had killed him; Jack did not deserve to join him.
And now, standing here frozen in time and silence, Jack wasn't sure he could bring him back, this time. A kiss wouldn't work now; no contact would suffice.
It would be like touching a crypt door. Cold and unyielding and containing the lingering stench of death and decay.
"Instead you killed her, didn't you, Ianto? You pulled her out of that conversion unit and you as good as murdered her!"
Jack had dealt the death blow, but in the same way that the last fall kills the cancer patient.
Ianto had been rotting and rancid for a long time. His insides eaten away by a disease that mortals seemed to suffer and die from every day, worse than hunger and cancers and stabbings. Worse than anything they could inflict upon each other, because they could not control this one. It came and went as it pleased, and left only destruction behind.
If only he had never loved.
"I didn't mean it," Jack whispered.
He wasn't sure what he didn't mean, but it was enough. The spell was broken, the shattered glass of the wall of silence lingering in the air for a brief second before returning to sand and vanishing in the thin whirr of the desktop fan.
Ianto snapped back to life.
For a moment, his eyes focused and he blinked, hard, before dry lips parted.
"You did," he murmured, "and you're right."
Jack wanted to say something else to stop the silence reforming, but Ianto moved, prising cold feet from the spot on the carpet he had died on, briefly, and moving towards his bedroom door.
It shut behind him with a click.
That night, curled on the sofa and listening to the dreaded silence from Ianto's room, Jack knew it didn't make for a peaceful sleep. He wanted to go in and fix things, wanted to chase the silence away and take back...what?
"I didn't mean it," he told the living room, but he didn't know what he meant.