AN: Chapter Four is upon us! Instead of a song this time around, I get to enlighten all of you with Shakespeare. Interspersed in this chapter of my story, I have included the 'Pilgrims' Hands' scene from Romeo and Juliet, which is specifically in Act I, Scene 5. Yes, it's supposed to be a bit heartbreaking seeing such a beautifully poetic and romantic scene juxtaposed with this. If you don't do so well with Shakespeare, though I highly recommend enjoying the beautiful poetry and symbols used, here's a 'modern translation' provided by SparkNotes: nfs(dot)sparknotes(dot)com(slash)romeojuliet(slash)page_66(dot)html
Thanks, once again, to run(dot)dog(dot)run, for their amazing assistance and feedback as I was writing this chapter, and also a big thanks to SixKings for their pointer on last chapter; do re-read the second paragraph of Chapter Three to see the awesome substitute I came up with for such an ugly cliché as 'I couldn't get the guts to do it'. Thanks to all the other awesome reviewers I have; you all are awesome support.
University Hospital of Wales. Evening, nine days after Gwen's wedding.
Jack is a hero. Bloody hell, it must be embedded in his DNA, isn't it? I watched the life float back into that little body, and all the tension that had been floating around my head all morning evaporated. All day, all I'd been able to worry about were these poor people; a mother and a father, two young women… I wanted them saved from these ghosts that had walked off of their piece of film. But as I ran to catch that metallic flask and watched the breaths escaping it, I could feel my heart shattering. If only I had held on a little tighter to that flask, if only I had tried a little harder.
But it was all right, because Jack is a hero. He held that small boy, smiling so brokenly, and I couldn't stop the tears that began pouring down my cheeks and dripping onto my pressed suit jacket before I had a chance to scrub at my face with the heel of my hand. We'd saved him, but he had no parents, no sister. His life, even though it would continue, would be hell. But he was alive to live it, and maybe one day he would grow up to save the world from alien scum.
We left soon after Jack had explained to the nurse what she should say happened to the boy, letting me give her the dose of Retcon required for her to forget the metallic flask; it was a bit of a hassle, but it would be better if we didn't have to deal with her telling all of her mates how we'd brought a boy back to life with a weird puff of smoke.
Walking through the hallways of the hospital, Jack pointed out to me a woman who was being spoken to by a nurse. I recognized her; she had visited the young girl who had been attacked just off of Hope Street. Her mother? My throat closed up again, and Jack rested a hand on my shoulder and hurried me along. There was little comfort in his touch, just an ushering nudge.
I glanced over at him, and the warmth that had filled his face from before, when he was holding that boy, was gone.
He looked up at me, and I recognized the look in his eyes. "I'll need you to go over to Jonathan's flat, see if there's anything we need to recover. We will need a bit of a clean-up this time around, I can trust you with it, right?"
I just looked at him for a bit. I didn't know what I expected, a hug and a pat on the back and the rest of the night off? Or what, did I think he would invite me to come to the Hub with him for a relaxing evening to wash away the stresses of today? No, ever since this morning, all I'd gotten were orders and commands. Come with me, follow me, do this. I was used to getting down to business, but this was almost cold. I just nodded. "Yeah, I'll do it."
"Good. I'll take a taxi back to the Hub, you finish things up here." He left without a word, striding ahead of me. I watched him, slowing my own pace to a halt and watching him go. Behind me, I heard the woman break down into sobs.
What I wouldn't do to have fallen for a man who would lift me off my feet when I fell instead of waiting for me to pick myself back up. Screw building self-reliance.
If I profane with my unworthiest hand
This holy shrine, the gentle sin is this:
My lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready stand
To smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss.
When I got back to the Hub late that night, I didn't find Jack in his office, or down in his sad excuse for a bedroom. So after a few minutes of wandering around, I admitted defeat, got in my car and went back to my flat. I spent yet another night in a cold bed, and woke up once again alone. And when I got to work in the morning, Jack called me into his office for a report on everything that I did the night before on the clean-up. I formally briefed him on everything I had done, pretended to listen to him for a moment, and then took the flask off of the desk and handed it to him. We had a moment of eye contact there, and I saw him about to open his mouth to say something, but I ignored the fact that I had seen it and left the office quickly.
I didn't think that Jack would come after me so quickly; I assumed I would continue getting a cold shoulder, for whatever reason I didn't know. But after only a few minutes, he found me, filing away my documents regarding this time's clean-up operation. (At least this time I wasn't having to invent work for myself.) "Ianto, did you hear something?"
After I finished slipping the manila folder into the appropriate slot, I looked up at him, shaking my head, getting back to work. Jack stood there, arms folded and eyes cemented to my back like some kind of watchful hawk. I kept working for a few moments before the spine-aching feeling of him watching me started to get to me. I turned back to him, stopping my work, saying in my most forced calm tone, "Did you need anything else…Jack?" I'd had to stop myself from calling him 'sir'.
He paused, and I knew he'd caught my trip up over my own words. He thought over whatever he was about to say for a few moments; maybe he was actually taking care in his actions before just blazing in this time. "Just… you seemed really shaken after all of this. Making sure you're all right."
I rolled my eyes. Why is it that even though this is all I'd wanted him to say ever since last night, now I found it almost annoying? "You don't have to baby sit me, I'm fine." The answer to my own question came to me halfway through my statement; the attention was nice, but a bit overdue. My realization probably showed in how I said 'I'm fine' just a little bit half-heartedly.
Jack, perceptive as ever, stepped in close to me. "Ianto… we haven't really talked, not since… the other night." He couldn't hold back a smirk. If I'd been in a better mood, I probably wouldn't have been able to hold back a small grin as well; I couldn't deny it had been quite the firecracker of an evening. "You're not having second thoughts, are you? Don't see how you could, not after all the… affirmation I was getting?"
He shouldn't know how to get me flustered so well. But he did, and now echoes of that night's Fuck, Jack, yes, please were running through my head. "None at all." Maybe it was a bit curt, but I did a good job this time with any second guesses I had.
The thing about Jack's body language was that it perfectly adapted itself and optimized its effectiveness to whatever it was he was trying to get. In this scenario, the slightly quirk of his lips and tilt of his hips was very effectively getting Jack exactly what he seemed to want right now: me. "Perhaps we could send our team home early tonight? I'm sure with a bit of preparation, I could have quite the evening set up for the two of us…"
I could feel the springs and clichéd butterflies bouncing up against the upper walls of my stomach, and it was mixed with just a dash of unpleasantness, because I knew that Jack knew just how well he was manipulating me right now. "I have those U.N.I.T. reports to finish, and we're low on groceries…"
Fuck, bloody hell, and god DAMN it, he just had to lean in and whisper in my ear. "Make sure you pick up the essentials." Oh… bugger. And with that parting shot and a kiss to my neck, he sauntered along, clearly pleased with himself. I swallowed a lump in my throat down harshly, glad that I had the strength to not exactly say yes to his request. But it was rather common knowledge between the two of us at this point that I would say yes. Bugger.
Good pilgrim, you do wrong your hand too much,
Which mannerly devotion shows in this;
For saints have hands that pilgrims' hands do touch,
And palm to palm is holy palmers' kiss.
Firecrackers were one thing. But how did a firecracker so fire hot and so vibrant produce something so flat and cold? When Jack and I were finished that night and he lay with me for only a little while before kissing me on the forehead and telling me he had some phone calls to make, I couldn't help but feel that I had been a recreational activity for him of sorts. Like Ring Around the Rosie, only much more obscene and involving the depression of an employee.
Nights seemed to often happen similarly to that one. Jack would corner me at some point throughout the work day, pluck all the right strings on my libido's imaginary violin, and then I would wake up in the morning alone. And he would continue to toss me looks of seduction throughout the workday, paired with coldness I couldn't identify.
The longer this went on, the more my head started to fill in the blanks of our situation. This nameless coldness, this absence of warmth that I often felt when I was with Jack, could be explained by the fact that Jack didn't feel at all what I felt for him. Was I really just a shag, a distraction from the labors of work? He didn't seem to be going out and doing what he did to me with any random strangers or such, but I never could stop being angry every time I saw him glance at Gwen while she worked.
It would have been totally excusable, had it not been made so clear time and time again that he knew exactly what it was he did to be. I could almost smell it when he smirked when my knees went weak (did that have to do with those 51st century pheromones?), and I know that when we suddenly became glued to each other when the Hub was our own, Jack always looked right into my eyes, and I felt the shiver that went through his body when I said his name…
That time when Gwen tried to convince Jack to investigate the negative rift spikes and missing persons. I remembered when I had found out about Flat Holm, and Jack had explained to me why we couldn't do anything for them. But seeing that determination in Gwen's eyes, that obsession… I needed to at least try and help her. "Jack…" I chased after him as he quickly left the conference room. I stopped him in the hallway with a hand to his elbow. "Can't we at least explain to her? About them…"
Jack gave me a harsh look. Almost like he was disciplining me, clearly establishing that boss-slash-employee relationship. Cold. "No."
My brow furrowed in irritation. "Why?!"
He wasn't budging, stubborn as ever. "No."
That's all I was going to get? Just 'no'? "Jack, listen, if I just tell her about the island, and how they're being cared for…"
Jack interrupted me. Really, didn't he hold a single iota of respect for what I had to say? "…She'll try to tell the boy's mother. Nobody can know. It's a need-to-know item. Gwen doesn't need to know."
I arched my eyebrows in a bit of confusion. "So why did you tell me?"
This tripped him up. He just looked at me, cold and harsh for a moment, but I knew his mind was reeling. I thought for an instant this would be it: an affirmation of what I meant to him. A moment of truth. Something to back up the cold touches I felt after every night. "You shouldn't have found out. And if you tell her, Ianto, I swear to God, I will Retcon the both of you if I have to." And with that he marched away with a sweep.
I was left speechless, turning back to Gwen, who was looking up at me and could tell from what she had seen but not heard that my attempts had been fruitless. I looked at her for a moment, stuffing any emotions that were bubbling at the surface down, packaging them in cellophane and holding them back.
So that was it? That was it. Guess I could stop hoping. …Hoping for what? A happy ending? A picture-perfect love story? With Jack Harkness? Right.
With that knowledge, I made my way down to my work-station, using a GPS unit I had to program the location of Flat Holm into it, packaging it in the office and leaving it on Gwen's desk. If all I am to him is an employee, I thought, let's see what happens when I deliberately disobey him. (I sounded like a rebellious teenager, bloody hell.)
The stern look I got the next day was the only answer I received. He never mentioned the GPS, even though I knew that he knew that I had given Gwen the key to find Flat Holm. Instead of any verbal answer, that night he approached me with his shirt already unbuttoned in the tourist office. But as he forcefully spun me around and pressed me to the desk, I couldn't ignore the underlying message as he ripped my shirt from my body with a grunt: You may think you can, but you can't ignore that I'm in control.
I was panting as Jack shoved his hands in my pants, forceful and strong, and I let my eyes flutter open to see his gazing right into mine. Time froze for a moment as I was smothered by that intense stare, that same look he'd given me the day before. "Coming back in? Work to do."
Suddenly, I was ducking away from him to the other end of the office, hurriedly buttoning up my shirt. He hadn't said a single word to me; he'd just stormed into my presence and asserted his power over me. It was… insulting. Jack simply looked at me for a moment before asking me, "What's wrong?"
"Stomach upset," I said as an excuse. "I'm… going back to my flat." I began shuffling around the desk to find my keys.
Jack said nothing. Still, the only word I could find for him was cold. Why was I so attached to him? Why couldn't I walk away? Why was I settling? Hadn't Jack himself been the one who said that I deserved somebody better than him? So many questions, and I couldn't find the answers with Jack still far too close to me. "Ianto," he said, not quite as sternly, but his arms were folded. What, was he actually concerned now?
"I'll see you in the morning, Jack." I grabbed my keys, looking up at him for a moment, feeling my heart falter just a little bit at the almost worried look he was giving me. No, stop it Ianto. You're dreaming. Don't get in any deeper, you're heart will surely shatter.
Have not saints lips, and holy palmers too?
Ay, pilgrim, lips that they must use in prayer.
O, then, dear saint, let lips do what hands do;
They pray, grant thou, lest faith turn to despair.
I could imagine a perfect life with Jack and I. I did it often, the rare times I was alone in my flat without Jack.
Jack would saunter into work, see me working at my desk, and he would smile that grin that always made me melt. I would cough lightly, knowing what we had done the evening before, and that morning, and look away for a moment. He would continue to pop up throughout the day, and if he saw me frustrated he would make some immature quip and cheer me up with a light kiss to my neck. At night, gentle touches and whispered wishes would be the only thing that would be needed to make it clear what we had.
I could almost visualize the perfect moment… waking up in the morning to discover I'd slept the whole night with my head against Jack's bare chest, and Jack, seeing me stir, kissing the top of my head.
But these visions of perfection were constantly plagued by my rapidly cynical-growing consciousness. Jack rarely acknowledged me during work unless we were alone, and then it was all smothering and teasing and sexual. There was the occasional moment, yes, where we'd smile at something together, but it was as if once Jack realized we were sharing something he quickly stepped away from it. Like he was aware of what my dream was, and he was intent on keeping it from me.
Why did he keep chasing me down then? Why was it that every time we were alone he charmed me as if he knew what my dream was? Why did he keep yanking reality back into the picture? The real question was why wasn't our reality what I wanted it to be?
He doesn't love me.
It was the worst realization of my life, I think. Worse so than when Dad died. Worse than when Mom left. Worse than almost failing that science class in school. Worse than losing Lisa. Because I couldn't really control any of those things, not really. It was the bloody teacher's fault for making the course impossible, and I couldn't do anything to save Lisa after all, even though I tried. But maybe I was doing something wrong that made it so that Jack couldn't love me. Maybe I was the problem.
Or maybe I wasn't. Maybe Jack was right. I deserved somebody better. I hadn't done a single thing to deserve being treated this way except following and obeying and being my loyal, idiotic self.
But I'd already tried leaving Jack before. That had gone horribly. Could I do it without falling back into Jack's empty arms?
Saints do not move, though grant for prayers' sake.
Then move not, while my prayer's effect I take.
[He kisses her.]
Thus from my lips, by thine, my sin is purged.
What happened? I can't move. I can hardly breathe. There was an explosion… oh God. Was everybody else all right? Was I all right? Where was I? I opened my eyes to realize I was trapped underneath a huge pile of debris and bricks. It was upon this realization that my shoulder began literally screaming at me in protest. I let out a guttural scream, gripping at the dirt, different spots on my body stabbing with pain, my head spinning. I can't move… I'm trapped. Am I going to die?
"IANTO!" My head shot up at the sound of that voice. It was Jack… oh god, it was Jack… he was all right… he was coming for me. "IANTO!!!"
I cried back out to him, hoarse, too hoarsely for him to hear me; I could barely hear myself say it. "I'm here… Jack…"
I couldn't really see very well; I think I hit my head. But I saw two pairs of shoes rushing over to me, one a set of boots (Gwen) and the other Jack's…
"Are you alright, Ianto?!" I didn't respond to her; what kind of question was that?
Jack knelt down next to me, running a hand through my hair. "Ianto, don't move, alright? I'll get you out of this." I didn't move, biting on my bottom lip as I felt my shoulder throbbing more. I saw his face enter my line of vision. "Ianto, did you hear me?"
"Y-yes," I said back hoarsely, gazing into his worried eyes. I remained motionless like he commanded as he hoisted a pillar I hadn't known was on my back off of me, helping me to my feet. God my shoulder… okay, Ianto, keep it cool, deep breath, Jack's got it under contr-FUCKING HELL.
It definitely was not the most pleasant experience when Jack cracked my shoulder back into place, but I got a hold of myself quickly, thank God. More important things. "Where are the others?"
"We need your help with Toshiko." That was about all I processed at first while Jack gave orders to Gwen. Jack's hand on my chest was comforting…
Comforting? I turned to look at Jack, who was also looking at me. I hadn't even processed that Gwen was already gone.
"You okay?" I just looked at him for a moment before nodding. He patted me on the back, ushering me along. But his hand remained on my back. "I thought for a second I'd lost you," he muttered.
I looked back at him, already regaining strength in my stride as he made our way through the rubble. "Would you miss me?"
He looked up at me, pausing, just looking at me for what felt like an eternity. I didn't notice that we'd stopped walking until he leaned in to give me a quick kiss on the lips. I was left speechless for a moment before he began ushering me along again. "Come on, we need to hurry. Tosh could be crushed any second."
That was enough to distract me from that kiss for a moment. But it didn't stop me from thinking about what kind of an answer that was. Was that a 'yes'?
Then have my lips the sin that they have took.
Sin from thy lips? O trespass sweetly urged!
Give me my sin again. [They kiss again.]
You kiss by th' book.
Nothing would ever be the same anymore. Nothing could keep going, not after this. I could still see Tosh, lying there in Jack's arms, smiling broadly as the light left her eyes... And Owen… who knows what he experienced, watching his own body decompose…
Oh dear God.
I completed all of the necessary protocol, going with Gwen to both of their flats and packing up everything. Their lives, all packed in boxes, stored away in our garage of sorts, alongside who-knows-how-many Torchwood 3 operatives.
Just another two souls lost to our line of work.
I was trying to be strong, especially when I was with Gwen. She was collapsing, a complete mess. But I also wanted to show Jack that I could do it, that I could handle anything he was to throw at me.
It was freezing outside, out on the bay. I leaned against the railing, staring out at the crashing waters, the noises of the waves falling deaf on my ears. The crest of each wave crashed back down into the water, disappearing. I tried not to connect their brief lives in Torchwood with each crest of the waves, but I couldn't help it.
I didn't notice Jack walking out of the office and walking over to me. He leaned against the railing beside me, looking out at the water with me. I glanced at him for a moment to acknowledge his presence, but I said nothing else. I didn't know what to say.
Jack reached over, placing his hand on mine on the railing. "You're freezing."
I pulled my hand away, pulling my coat close around me. "I could die tomorrow, Jack."
He didn't know what to say. I don't know what I would have said to that, either.
"I could get caught by a gun shot, or sucked up by the rift, or…" I looked over at him. "…I don't know how much time I have."
Jack nodded. "That's why we do all we can. Now."
I nodded with him. "Right. We don't wait." I felt a sudden surge of emotion leaping up from my stomach up to my throat. I knew what my stomach was telling me to say, but I didn't want to listen to it. I wanted to believe that all of this would change everything between Jack and I, that we would have our fairytale perfection that I dreamed about. But that isn't what the past few days had taught me. They'd taught me that I couldn't waste a moment. "That's why I can't… see you anymore Jack."
Jack's eyes widened, spinning around to face me. "Ianto-"
I shook my head at him. "I can't waste another moment of my life on you, Jack Harkness." I stuffed my hands in the pockets of my heavy coat. "I… don't think I'll be in work tomorrow. I'll be in Monday."
I wasn't sure how to interpret Jack's reaction to all of this. He looked sad, looked like he didn't want me to do this. "Ianto…" He paused, as if he expected me to interrupt him, but when I didn't, he was left speechless. He looked away, leaning back against the railing.
So I continued. "Jack, I don't know what you even think I am to you. But I'm here, telling you now… I'm worth more than that." I adjusted my coat, turning around and beginning to walk away.
I don't know if Jack knew I heard what he said next: "You are." But he didn't come after me, didn't chase after me, didn't prove me wrong. He let me walk away, and he didn't put up a second of resistance.
I was right. He knew what I was worth, and it was more than a casual fuck. I wasn't going to lower myself just so that I could dream.
AN: All done. Hooray! Ianto left Jack. Be happy. Or very sad if you're a fangirl. I dunno, I'm kinda sad. (Obviously, we know they get back together, cause CoE has them dating. Duh.) Next chapter will be out soonish, once I pick an inspiring song. Something about being INDEPENDANT. xD