Chapter Five: On the Cold Hill's Side
He's here, I can see him.
Ianto. Ianto. Ianto.
I pray to any Gods that might be listening that you're real.
"What the hell!" John tried to jump back. The fact that there was hardly any room in the cabin negated this action so he sprawled himself across the wall instead. "What the... the hell..." He trailed off then tried again. "Er, Jack?"
"See why I feel like I'm going mad?"
Ianto's ghost looked as shocked as we felt. His hand went out to mine and before I could see if they would touch, before I could know if he was really real and there, Ianto faded.
"Shit, Harkness. I had enough of hallucinations in the time loop, don't say this is a habit of yours."
"Not one I'm trying to keep, trust me." I sagged, burying my face in my hands.
"Uh-huh," I said, my voice muffled.
He turned away, rustling in his bag for something I couldn't see. Then he pulled out a very full bottle. "Drink?"
"God, yes please."
The dead are always trying to find ways back to the living, always trying to find that extra special way to cling on.
Jack's mine. I accept it.
I can't deny him any longer.
"Quite reading over my shoulder, John," I said, not glancing from my page. "There's no smut or pictures to colour in this one, you wouldn't like it."
"Never figured John Hart to be the colour-by-numbers type," came the reply. I stiffened. The book fell into my lap.
I didn't know what to say. John had gone out to talk to the crew of the ship, he hadn't liked some of the noises the engine was making. You could call it being cautious or you could call it being nosy. I preferred both. We were talking about John after all.
"Hello," I said.
I really didn't know what to say. "How've you been?"
"Jack." Oh God, his voice.
Through quivering lips I said, "Ianto."
I didn't feel his hand on my shoulder; there were no fingers tracing the skin of my neck, no soft caress to my side. These cravings were immaterial in the end. All those months where I had wanted nothing more than to have Ianto hold me, have someone hold me who knew how all the broken pieces of my heart and soul fitted together and it turned out I didn't need to be held. As long as Ianto was there – his presence enough to quell the empty ache in my chest.
A breath I didn't even realise I was holding rushed out of my lungs and I hiccoughed.
Ianto's arms came around me then, making me jump. I hadn't expected the contact yet revelled in it nevertheless.
"How?" I managed to whisper.
"Not entirely sure. Don't ask questions, I might disappear in a puff of logic."
I laughed, feeling the low sound reverberate through us both. Actually feeling.
"Feeling feels good," I murmured, lost in my thoughts. I half expected Ianto to quip at me, say some snide remark about how ridiculous my words were.
He didn't. Ianto just said, "I know what you mean."
He pressed a whisper kiss to the skin behind my earlobe. I couldn't bring myself to turn and face him though I wanted to so much it hurt. I drew in another ragged breath.
"Never easy, is it, cariad?"
"I'll always be here."
I stared at the rivets on the opposite wall. "Will you?"
"If you'll have me."
Of course I will, I wanted to say. The capsule door slid open, interrupting my grand speech.
"The hell?!" I heard John say from the doorway. His eyebrows couldn't have risen higher with a stepladder. I grinned at him and Ianto faded from sight with his lips at my ear, whispering promises and endearments.
He stared at me.
"Everything alright with the ship?"
"With the ship? The ship's fine. Everything's just hunky-dory."
I tried an apologetic smile, not entirely sure of what to apologise for.
"I mean," continued John, "it's not like we've got ghosts sniffing around our arses day after day, is it? That would be crazy!"
"Is eye-candy back from the dead?"
His bluntness shocked me, I must admit. "No," I said. "It's just we—"
"Good! That at least proves we haven't got Jesus or Hamlek bloody Glint on our hands."
I tilted my head. "You don't believe that ghost story, do you?"
"What? Jesus? Nah. Christianism never held much pull for me, however hard they tried to shove it down my throat during rehab."
"Rehabs," I corrected, a small smile tugging at my lips. "Plural."
I am in love with a ghost. A dead man who should have left me when he had the chance and yet stayed for the sake of my sanity and my heart, because he wanted to keep me whole.
He didn't want me to be alone.
Ianto Jones, I don't deserve you.
The fifth time Ianto made himself whole, it wasn't in front of me. The first thing I knew about it was when John rushed into the seating area of our latest shuttle, red-eyed and angry.
"I have had enough, Harkness," he said, flopping onto the large cushion next to me, glaring at the shelf above my head. "I've had bloody enough."
I followed John's pointed finger to where Ianto stood, faint in the reflected light of the asteroid belt outside the ship. Ianto's expression was pained, and I could tell that because he had no expression, just the quiet, calm facade that told me he was burning inside but wouldn't admit it outside.
If he even had an inside. If he even had an outside.
I tried to think. My head hurt.
"Ianto, could you—" I waved my hand a little. He seemed to understand and disappeared with a pleading slant to his features. "John, what's—"
"Ex-lovers is one thing," said John.
I waited for him to continue.
"But this is..."
I had to ask. I just had to. "What did he say to you?"
"I don't want to talk about it."
Sulking. How original. "John, stop that."
"Oh, you're allowed to mope but I'm not?" John pushed himself up, glowering down at me. "Double standards, that's very Jack."
We stayed like that for a long time, testing each other's gazes, seeing who would crack first.
"Will you leave?" I asked in a quiet voice.
John's hand come up slowly. I didn't move away, and he played with my hair a little, looking at me along the length of his arm.
"No," he said, "you won't get rid of me that easy. At least not again."
From one of Jack's tag-alongs to another, I had only wanted to talk to John Hart. Honest. It's not my fault his emotions are so apparent to me, and hardly down to me that he reacted the way he did.
Well, maybe it is, a little.
I'd only wanted to understand. I hadn't meant to dredge up the past, though, and there is hurt in John Hart's mind that goes far beyond Jack's treatment of him in the past. I'm almost sympathetic.
That night I dreamed of Earth. I had been away from what the rest of the galaxy called Sol 3 for over a year now and it was nice to see it again, even if I knew the blue sky and green plains were all in my head.
Or maybe not.
I whirled, feet sliding on the wet grass. "Ianto." I took a proper look around, not recognising the land around me. I could hear the sea, it sounded peaceful, unaffected by emotion or human toil. "Where are we?"
"There's rain in the distance, and sheep over that hill. Think about it, Jack."
There was something in Ianto's eyes, some sense of peace and comfort, like the lulling of the waves I could not see.
"We're home," I said.
"We're home," he agreed, smiling.
Ianto had created this dreamscape for us: a place where we could be that wasn't the darkness of death or the pain that hid behind John's now usual glare.
I spread out my greatcoat (which I was wearing to my surprise) on the damp grass and sat down, then leant back. Ianto came over and rested his head on my stomach. We listened to each other's breathing for some time.
"I miss this," I told him. He quirked an eyebrow.
"Since when did we ever do 'this'?"
"Well, I wanted to." I toyed with the hair on his head, lightly ruffling the dark brown strands. "Don't think I didn't want to."
"I wanted to, too," said Ianto, turning to look along my chest and meeting my wistful eyes.
All of a sudden I asked, "How real is this?"
"As real as you want it to be, Jack."
"Good," I said.
Then I kissed him.
I woke up in the bunk across from John, the Ianto's taste still playing on my lips, the pressure of his arms still clasped around me, and I sighed, content in a way I hadn't been for some time.
Author note: Hamlek Glint is a reference to the Doctor Who book The Resurrection Casket. (Which is fantastic, by the way.) and I'm also playing on mine and Rachel's theory about Jack and John and their past relationship, 'cause one of them left, and it sure as hell wouldn't have been John...
Also, if you have never been to South Wales, go. It's so pretty.