TITLE: All That We See
AUTHOR: Erin Giles
DISCLAIMER: Torchwood is property of the BBC.
CHARACTERS/PAIRINGS: Jack/Ianto, The Doctor, Jack/OFC
SUMMARY: Sometimes a dream is just a dream.
SPOILERS: Set post-CoE.
AUTHORS NOTES: It is entirely possible that I have been reading far too much literature of late, so if you get all the literary references then you get a cookie. Also my beta, pinkfairy727, has informed me that this cannot be read without crying, so this has a severe tissue warning and comes with a free hug.
"I thought I'd find you here," Jack said softly, looming over the figure sitting on the sandy paradise of a beach. It definitely wasn't a beach in Wales -the sun was too warm, the sea too clear and the sand too white.
"Where else would you find me?" the answering reply came, a teasing quality to it. Jack shrugged as he sat down, mirroring the image of the man beside him, his knees pulled up to his chest with his elbows resting on them.
"You do know you're dreaming?" Ianto asked, Welsh voice lilting as he squinted into the sun to try and look at Jack. His white shirt, open at the neck, pulled taut across his muscles as he twisted slightly towards Jack.
"Then pray, what angel wakes me from my flowery bed?" Jack replied, a smile cracking his face as Ianto rolled his eyes before turning to look back out to sea. Jack could see Steven playing in the waves with Gray, their childish laughter carrying back up the beach to them.
"This is all very cliché, you know," Jack commented, his eyes drifting back to Ianto's bare feet that were shifting through the warm sand.
"Tell yourself that," Ianto retorted as he watched Tosh and Owen walking hand in hand up the beach, Owen in linen trousers and a shirt, Tosh with a white sundress on. Jack watched as Tosh let out a shriek of protest when Owen swung her up onto his shoulder before they both tumbled back onto the sand. Jack frowned and made a noise of discontent in the back of his throat.
"Just not the usual things my brain comes up with," Jack commented.
When he blinked it was as if someone had flicked a switch in his brain, turning the sun off and plunging the world into darkness. He was still at the beach, but it was night now and he was treading water; alone.
Something hit his shoulder and he gave a rather womanly yelp before he spun round in the water, only to find it was a dead body floating next to him. He recognised the suit straight away: Ianto's favourite. When he rolled the body over so the slack jaw of death was facing skywards he found lips tinged blue with asphyxiation and bloating.
"Ianto!" Jack gasped through cracked lips, blinking back tears.
Jack's head snapped round as he squinted through the sun at Ianto, who was looking at him placidly, sweat beading along his hairline in the warm sun. They were sitting on the beach side by side again.
"Don't do that again," Jack said in nothing more than a breathy whisper, wiping at his eyes with the back of his hand.
"If we shadows have offended," Ianto replied, a smile tugging at the corner of his lips. It was Jack's turn to roll his eyes before he let his eyelids close against the sunlight pouring down on them. He lay backwards in the sand, propped up on his elbows slightly, waiting for Ianto to say something.
"Shouldn't you be saying something cliché now? Teaching me some invaluable lesson or reassuring me that you'll always be here?" Jack enquired.
"I only ever lied to you once, and that was lying by omission," Ianto replied, causing Jack's eyes to snap open and look at Ianto. "I told you that 'I tell you everything,' and it was true," Ianto answered in reply to Jack's questioning look.
"How do I know you're not lying now?" Jack had a dubious look on his face.
Ianto let out a laugh at that. "I'm only able to tell you what you already know, Jack, or have you already forgotten this is your cliché of a dream? We could just as easily be sat on a beach huddling in the rain in Wales," Ianto suggested.
"No," Jack replied quickly, sitting back up again and rubbing his hands together to get rid of the sand. He could feel every grain as it slid from his sweaty palms, so vividly real in his imagination, the Welsh rain stopping as quickly as it had started.
"You ran away again then," Ianto commented as Jack turned to look at him, really look at him. He was exactly as Jack remembered him, brows knitted together in a look of concern, blue grey eyes – the right one slightly lighter than the left. Sideburns that would have been right at home over a hundred years ago when Jack had first joined Torchwood and just enough stubble to scratch against Jack's own when they kissed.
"Gwen's not going to forgive you this time, you know," Ianto continued, apparently unfazed with how intently Jack was studying him.
"I'm not going back," Jack answered, dipping his head away from Ianto in guilt.
"You'll go back," Ianto told him, using that tone of voice that was reserved for the times when Jack was being a complete idiot about something rather trivial. It happened often enough, usually when Jack didn't get his own way in the bedroom. The tone left no room for argument.
"You still owe Rhiannon those tales of her brother, the hero."
"How did-?" Ianto cut Jack off with a sharp look. It was so easy to forget he was dreaming, that none of this was real, that Ianto wasn't a pile of ashes drifting on a breeze somewhere over the Welsh coast.
"Are you my conscience then?" Jack asked, trying to keep the smile from his face.
"Yes. If you see a light, go towards it," Ianto told him blithely. Jack smiled then, if only to keep from crying. Silence lapsed between them as Jack watched a small boat bobbing on the horizon. He could make out a tiny figure in the vessel waving back towards shore, and for a brief moment Jack wondered if they were waving or drowning.
"You know it wasn't your fault," Ianto said quite suddenly. Jack didn't reply straight away, he was thinking.
"Does that mean I don't think it was my fault, or me trying to reason with myself?" Jack pondered aloud. Ianto turned to look at him again.
"Let's try not being logical for a minute – since you never were any good at it – lets just try me, Ianto Jones, here, saying that it wasn't your fault, Jack," Ianto said levelly. Jack could feel tears slipping down his cheeks at those words, because it didn't matter what his brain was telling him, conflicting the real with the unreal.
"But you are being reasonable and logical, and it's not fair," Jack burst out quite suddenly, all but yelling as seagulls cried overhead. Jack let out a shuddering breath because he didn't want to cry.
He closed his eyes against the unstoppable onslaught of tears, but when he opened them again he was in the box that the 456 had previously occupied, looking out into a room that he would never forget. He moved forward as Ianto stumbled and fell into his own arms. He couldn't do anything. What he was seeing had already come to pass and these memories were caught up in his dreams as much as they plagued his waking life.
"I would never have done it if you lived," Jack confessed, palms and forehead flat against the glass as he stared out at the most tragic and beautiful death he had witnessed.
"I'm not real, Jack, you don't have to lie to me anymore," Ianto said from where he was standing beside Jack in their glass prison.
"I would have found another way instead of sacrificing Steven," Jack lied; he knew there had been no other way.
"There was no other way, Jack," Ianto comforted, reaching out to touch Jack for the first time. The touch burned through Jack's greatcoat, making Jack shudder. The words 'I love you' drifted through the glass to them and Jack closed his eyes.
"Don't," Ianto echoed Jack's own words back to him.
"Don't say it? Why? Because you don't deserve to be loved?" Ianto questioned, but Jack didn't open his eyes. He didn't want to turn and look at Ianto, and he didn't need to reply because he knew the answer, and Ianto would no doubt voice it.
"You always did get five when you put two and two together, Jack, even when your subconscious spelt it out for you," Ianto sighed. "You deserved to be loved. You've done terrible things, but as my Mam used to say it all balances out at St. Peter's gates."
Jack opened his eyes then, because he didn't expect to hear that, his head rolling over on the soft pillow to look at Ianto lain out beside him, bare-chested and sweat glistening on his hairy chest in the moonlight.
"This is definitely more my sort of dream," Jack joked, trying to steer the conversation more towards one he wished to be involved in, but his subconscious was having none of it.
"You gave up," Ianto whispered between kiss-swollen lips as he rolled over in the bed. Jack could feel a leg being pushed between his own and he couldn't think straight as he was suddenly staring up into Ianto's eyes where he could see the beginning and the ending of universes.
"They put you in a cell and you gave up," Ianto repeated, words whispering past Jack's ear but they seemed to penetrate his soul.
"I'm sorry," Jack choked out after a moment, closing his eyes so that he could see himself sat on the bench in a cell, head in his hands, giving up. He hadn't cared at that moment in time if a third of the world's children were given away. He hadn't been able to summon up the energy to care because he was so fed up of the world bearing down on his shoulders and everyone looking to him for answers, even though he had the most questions out of the lot of them.
"It's worth it," Ianto said, breaking the awful silence.
"Is it?" Jack asked, eyes snapping open to find they were back on the beach as the sun sunk low on the horizon, a cold breeze setting in now.
"Lord, what fools these mortals be."
Jack was jostled awake as the bus rattled over potholes in the road, his dream slipping through his fingers like grains of sand. He grasped at them fruitlessly as the last vestiges of sleep clung to him.
"Sorry, love," a woman apologised as she bumped into him with a crate of chickens that squawked loudly, scaring off the last of Jack's dream in a ruffle of feathers. He shifted in his seat, letting a sigh pass his lips as he rotated his neck, trying to get the kinks out of it.
"I thought I'd find you here," a voice said softly beside him, and for the briefest of moments Jack had a feeling of déjà vu so strong he felt like he had missed the last rung on a ladder.
"Where else would you find me?" Jack replied, and it was there again, mingling with the feeling of disappointment as his gaze met that of the Doctor's grinning mug.
"Well, knowing you, Jack, anywhere in the Universe, but Wales seemed like the best place to start," the Doctor replied, beaming at Jack like he'd just found the Holy Grail. "North of Wales though? Really, Jack?" the Doctor enquired, looking around the bus at the mismatch of people. Who took a chicken on a bus nowadays anyway? Who took the bus?
"Thought I'd go somewhere I'd never been before," Jack said quietly and then jumped because someone at the back of the bus had shouted the name Ianto and Jack was terrified to move even though he knew it wasn't Ianto Jones, deceased Torchwood employee, they were calling for.
"But you could have gone anywhere, Jack," the Doctor argued, still looking round the bus and eyeing a boy who was wiping his nose on his sleeve suspiciously.
"So could you," Jack replied quietly, heart still pounding loudly in his chest as he uncrossed his arms, placing them in his lap instead as he stared out the bus window at the passing countryside.
"Ah, sometimes I like the quiet life," the Doctor said and Jack didn't believe him for a second. The fact that the Doctor was grinning ear to ear as he said those words didn't help his cause.
"Been anywhere nice?" Jack enquired, a biting tone to his voice as he straightened in his seat slightly.
"Nothing new to tell," the Doctor replied, winking at Jack. Jack didn't know why he was so mad at the Doctor. Logically this wasn't anything to do with him, but that was why Jack was so infuriated. Where had he been?
"I've been about me," the Doctor voiced, as if he could suddenly tell what Jack was thinking. "To be or not to be, that's me, Jack. For in that sleep of death what dreams may come," the Doctor uttered under his breath. "Met Shakespeare once," he mused, itching his right ear. "Terrible flirt, reminded me of you to be honest." The Doctor laughed again and Jack turned sharply towards him, gearing up to yell. The Doctor was gone.
Jack started awake at a hand on his shoulder, the book that had been in his hand clattering to the parquet floor.
"Sorry," the figure leaning over him apologised, bending to retrieve the book and hesitantly handing it back to Jack. "Thought you'd died or summat considering you said you never slept." A nervous laugh followed before sheets were being clutched to an ample bosom. She glanced at the cover of the book that Jack was reading, remembering that a copy of it had sat next to the Bible on her father's bookshelf.
"Be all my sins remember'd," she muttered under her breath as she turned away from Jack, the sheet hanging low across her back so Jack could see the curve of her arse beneath.
"What did you say?" Jack called after her. She stopped at the door, turning back to him, a shy smile on her lips. The girl had been anything but shy the previous evening, but a blush crept up her cheeks that had nothing to do with Jack lounging in a chair naked.
"Shakespeare, init?" She nodded towards the book in Jack's hand and Jack looked down at it, as if he was only just realising it was still clutched to his chest. "I always liked the comedies me, not the tragedies. Always much nicer to believe that everyone gets married and lives 'happily ever after,'" the girl replied, smiling dreamily as she hung from the doorframe by one hand.
"I know life ain't one big romanticised novel like, but don't mean we don't want our Prince Charming to come and sweep us away." She giggled at that, as if the notion was somehow strange. "You could be my Prince Charming," she suggested, walking back across the wooden floor towards Jack and kneeling before him, the sheet slipping slightly as she stared up at him with wide eyes that should be full of innocence.
"I'm no Prince Charming," Jack said after a long pause, rising from his seat and pushing past the girl. "Get dressed and get out," Jack added as he padded across the floor into the next room, shutting the door behind him. He let out a shuddering breath as he lingered on the threshold, unsure what to do now. Just like every other dream he had suffered gladly he pushed it out the door with the girl.
It didn't mean anything.