Very necessary Author's Note: I wrote this shortly before Children of Earth. It was only finished about an hour before I saw the first episode. I forgot to upload it here, in the excitement of getting to the TV to watch NEW TORCHWOOD EPISODES WHEE, and only realised recently that it was missing. I'm putting it on this site for the sake of archiving all my fic in the same place, but if you've already seen Children of Earth then it probably won't interest you.
It was a nice funeral. Jack didn't know why he was so surprised; Ianto was a nice person, so it shouldn't be surprising that so many people loved him and showed up to say goodbye. The others on the Torchwood crew didn't seem to have much of a life outside the job. Despite their closeness, Ianto had never said much to Jack about what he did when he wasn't at work, so Jack had assumed that, like the others, there wasn't much else to his life at all. Yet it took until his funeral for Jack to learn just how many people there were in Ianto's life.
At the cemetery, he stood at the back of the crowd. There wasn't much left for him to say. It was a nice day. Sunny, not too hot, just the right amount of breeze. Nice weather, nice funeral, nice man. It was still awful.
Gwen found him when it was all over and gave him one of those wide-eyed yet unreadable looks that she was o good at. "You're not coming back to work today, are you?"
Jack didn't know whether that was a question or a recommendation. "I guess not."
"Because I can handle it."
"Not that we don't need you."
"I just thought you might think I was…"
"Why would I think that?"
But there was truth in what they weren't saying.
"Take care of the place. I know you're good at giving orders." Jack went to hug her, but she pulled back and looked at him suspiciously.
"You make it sound like you're not coming back."
"Don't be silly." He turned away.
"Don't patronise me."
"Come on Gwen, I live there. Even if I were leaving, I'd have to come back for my stuff." Gwen seemed convinced, although still worried. "I'm just going to take a bit of time, okay?"
"See you back at work, then," she said, and she walked away as Jack turned back to watch the dwindling crowd around the grave.
There weren't many left now, just his family, mainly. Jack had met them earlier at the funeral, but he didn't want to talk now. They'd be nice, probably invite him around for tea or something, and as kind as it was, Jack didn't think he could handle it. They were from completely different parts of Ianto's life, so different it was almost as though they knew two different men, and Jack liked it that way. And besides, he didn't much like tea.
Jack wasn't entirely surprised, when the crowd of Ianto's family had finally moved on, to see a more familiar man also still standing there.
"Nice of you to come, Doctor. How did you find out?"
"Oh, you know, I come across news sometimes. Mainly from Martha. Why didn't you tell me, Jack?"
He shrugged. "There's no big emotional secret behind that one. You just never gave me a phone number for the TARDIS."
"Oh. That was a… I can fix that."
He shrugged again. It didn't really matter that much.
"Come on, Jack, let's go for a walk." The Doctor stepped around the hole in the ground that separated them and put an arm reassuringly around Jack's waist. "I think the gravediggers want us to leave so they can fill in the hole."
"It's weird how this is just a job to them," Jack said, after a moment. "Death, mourning. A person's life all gone, and it's just routine hard work."
"I don't go to many funerals," said the Doctor, after a moment. "Not as many as I should, anyway."
"Just makes it easier. I have to say a lot of goodbyes. I find it better not to dwell on them."
"Are you telling me to get over it? I know about keeping going and moving on. I'm older than you are, now."
"But you're right, I did spend most of it underground, so I'm not sure how much I really learned."
"You learned a bit about being alone, I bet."
"Bastard didn't even give me a coffin. I was lying in dirt for a couple of millennia."
They were silent for a while before Jack decided to talk again.
"It's not just Ianto. I mean, I'm sad that he's gone, of course I am, but it's a dangerous job, and these things happen. It's just like when Owen and Tosh died. It's sad, but it would be silly to be shocked by it. It's just that I'm starting to realise…" He paused for a moment. "I worked for Torchwood as a gun for hire for over a century before I actually became a full time staffer. The head of Torchwood, in fact. Do you know why I took over then?"
"Because it was the first time you could join without being subordinate to anyone?"
Jack cuffed him on the back of the head. "Funny. Because everyone who was working there had died. I built Torchwood again from the ground up. And everyone I hired then, everyone on my original team, is dead now, just eight years later."
The Doctor watched him, thoughtfully. "After the year that wasn't, when we got rid of the Master, you said you didn't want to come with me any more. You said Torchwood needed you. That you loved your team."
"Why do you mention that?"
"Because it's starting to sound like you don't want to go back there again."
Jack sighed. "The thing is, Doctor, I can't get past the fact that I'm going to see everyone I love die. Any human knows that everyone dies. There's no philosophy that can tell me how to deal with that, because nobody's had to really, realistically consider it before. And I don't think I'm really well-equipped for philosophy."
"You're not the only person who's ever faced this problem, you know. There's me."
"Do you have the answers?"
"I'm working on it."
"What am I supposed to do, just not get close to anyone?"
"No, I tried that. It just makes your life empty as well as eternal."
"Then what am I supposed to…"
"Come with me."
They stopped walking.
"It's always been an open offer," the Doctor said, with a shrug. "So you had a reason not to come along when I first made it. But things have changed now. Gwen can take over at Torchwood, I know she's capable, and anything she can't do, Martha can probably help with."
"It's different now, though, isn't it?" Jack wriggled out of the Doctor's grasp for a moment. "I know you talked about me coming with you before, I always thought it would be like, well, a trip. I mean, maybe a long trip, but still… and I get what you're saying. There's nobody else in the galaxy like us, so yeah, we should stick together. But you're talking about… forever."
"Captain Jack Harkness," the Doctor interrupted, with a wry smile creeping onto his face for the first time that evening, "Are you afraid of commitment?"
"Oh come on, it must scare you too," Jack said, defensively. "I mean, you of all people must be used to knowing that people… leave you. Like you always get a chance to start over."
"Sure," the Doctor said, with a shrug. "It's terrifying."
They were silent for a moment, and some way behind them, they could just hear the thud of dirt hitting wood.
"Is that all you have to say about it? Because it doesn't sound to me as though you're having any doubts, terrifying or not."
"Well, it was my idea. I've spent a bit of time thinking about it." The Doctor scratched the back of his head, and sighed. "I suppose I may as well bare my soul, as it were."
"Only fair, if I'm doing the same." Jack finally smiled himself. "And I guess it's a good idea to make an honest and open beginning when you're proposing lifetime commitment."
The Doctor looked slightly startled at that choice of words and Jack even laughed. "See, now I believe that you're afraid."
The Doctor smiled sheepishly. "Well, it's certainly a bit scarier when you put it like that. But the thing is… it's not as if I haven't had problems with my companions before. One of them betrayed me once. And just before the first time I met you, Rose brought along this guy who was… difficult."
"Why, was he getting in the way?" Jack smirked.
"Ha! If the worst thing about Adam was that Rose thought he was cute, I'd have been delighted. I didn't give a damn what they got up to. And if Rose was cheating on her boyfriend… well, I don't do relationship advice." He sighed again. "There are just some people you don't want having access to space travel."
"Okay," Jack crossed his arms. "Where is this going?"
"When I've had trouble with companions in the past, I could just drop them home. I can't do that with you."
"You could shove me out the TARDIS door if you wanted to! It's not like it would kill me. Well, not for long."
"That's not it." He scratched his head again. "You and me. Two of a kind. If we… if it didn't work out… I don't know if I could leave you, knowing what you'd have to face." He paused, and cleared his throats. "I don't know if I could face it yourself."
"I'm not Adam, whoever he is. I am the kind of guy you want when you're adventuring through space and time."
The Doctor shrugged. "People change. People fight. Even people who love each other."
"Stop it, you'll make me blush."
Which part of it? Jack wanted to ask. Instead, he looked back towards Ianto's grave, now hidden behind a low rise. They'd walked for a while.
"Walk with me to the TARDIS, will you?" the Doctor asked.
This time, he didn't try to take Jack's arm, and they both walked out of the cemetery and down the road, keeping their hands in their pockets and their thoughts to themselves. When they reached the old blue box, the Doctor swung the doors open and leaned on the doorway, watching Jack as he stroked the wood panels thoughtfully, with his feet still on the concrete.
"You're right," Jack said, not looking at the Doctor. "It's truer for us than, well, any other relationship in history ever. If things go bad with us, we literally won't have anywhere else to go. Anyone else to go to. I mean, okay, we could. But we outlive everybody else."
"Sure, sure, you're right." The Doctor crossed his arms and looked back out at the street, at the hedge across the road marking the cemetery border. "If we only see each other once in a while, we don't get sick of each other. And we both know it'd be too hard to handle without…"
"So we'll just have to make sure we don't get sick of each other, right?"
The Doctor looked back and saw that Jack was now standing in the doorway of the TARDIS, too, leaning on the other side of the doorframe. Smirking at him. The smug bastard.
"So, where do we go next?"