"People came to the island from far around, from China, from India and even faraway Africa, and told the people on the island about a land called Horaizan, where everybody was eternally happy, but the only way to reach this land was by travelling through the gates of death." The Land of Perpetual Life.
"Do you ever think about dying?" Ianto asked, slouched back on the Hub's sofa, diary open on his lap.
Ianto was good at non-sequiturs, Tosh thought. Although, if she was honest with herself, it wasn't as random as it seemed, not with their job. For a moment she didn't speak, just let the silence press deeper.
"It's hard not too, sometimes." She replied. "I just hope that when I do... I hope it's for something worthwhile. I mean, I'd hate it to be an accident with my toaster, or trying to fix Owen's microwave because he forgot to pierce the plastic lid of his lasagna."
"There's a good reason I've banned him from the kitchen, you know." Ianto laughed, but it wasn't his usual laugh, and Tosh knew something was wrong. She didn't ask, didn't want to pry. She let Ianto take his time, knew he would tell her eventually. He was young, she thought, in that moment. Too young for thoughts of death. He should be out getting plastered with his friends, not sitting down here in the dark.
"He died, you know." Ianto said, "Michael Bellini. And we couldn't stop it. Every time we met him, wherever we were. Yesterday or twenty years ago, and none of us knew, not until it was too late. Even Jack."
"Not even Jack can save everyone all the time." said Tosh, although her heart said: 'yes, yes he can. If we trust him enough.' He has saved her, after all, saved them all from prison and death and a million other things beside.
"I know." Ianto sighed. "I just wish we could have done more."
"Let me tell you a story." Tosh said. "A story for your diary, perhaps."
Ianto laughed again, and Tosh was glad to have put a smile on his face.
"It's the bedtime story my mother told me the night I met Michael. a tale of The Land of Perpetual Life. The story of the man who wished never to die:
Long, long ago there lived a man called Sentaro. He was neither very rich, nor very poor. He had inherited his father's money and he lived comfortably within his means, as one ought to live. One day, without any reason whatsoever, the thought of death and sickness came to him. The idea of falling ill or dying made him very wretched..."
"...he returned to his old home, and giving up all his old vain wishes, tried to live a good and useful life and to observe the lessons taught him in the book, and he and his house prospered." Tosh finished the tale and turned to Ianto with a smile.
"Do you suppose he would have been happier if he had stayed?" Ianto mused.
"It depends what you count as happiness."
Ianto and Tosh turned at the sound of Jack's voice. He had obviously been listening to the story too.
"He didn't want to die." Ianto said. "He got what he wanted. In time he could have put the arguments with his neighbours and the problems with his business behind him. He had all the time in the world to sort out his problems."
"Because I could not stop for Death, He kindly stopped for me; The carriage held but just ourselves and Immortality." Tosh said, slowly. "It was Suzie's favourite, you know. I read a little of Emily Dickinson's poetry after... after she died. Some of it was lovely. Still the hint of death, but a better death."
"I went to heaven,- 'T was a small town, lit with a ruby, lathed with down. Stiller than the fields at the full dew, beautiful as pictures. No man drew." Ianto quoted. "I read some too."
He turned and smiled at Jack, before adding, "Jack prefers ee cummings."
'i like my body when it is with your body. It is so quite a new thing. Muscles better and nerves more.'
"dying is fine)but Death
Death if Death
good" said Jack, his voice soft.
"Not the quote I was expecting." Ianto said, giving Jack an odd look.
Tosh felt as though she shouldn't be seeing this, should be somewhere else. These were private looks, secret moments.
'i like your body. i like what it does, i like its hows. i like to feel the spine of your body and its bones, and the trembling -firm-smooth ness and which i will again and again and again kiss.'
"I think I should head home." She said. "It's late, and it looks like the Rift will be quiet tonight."
"I'll walk you to your car." said Jack.
As Tosh collected her coat and bag, powered down her computer and collected her latest project to take home (it was something to do if she couldn't sleep), Jack took her place on the sofa. Ianto snapped his diary shut and Jack laughed, gently.
"It's nothing I've not seen before." he teased.
Tosh made her way towards the door, letting them have this moment together.
"if I should sleep with a lady called death, get another man with firmer lips to take your new mouth in his teeth (hips pumping pleasure into hips)." She heard Ianto say. Perhaps he'd forgotten she was still there, perhaps he didn't realise she could still hear.
There was silence for a moment. It hung thick and heavy in the air.
Then Jack said: "I think that's enough poetry for one evening." and the world continued to turn.
"Are you staying?" he asked Ianto as he got to his feet. Tosh saw Ianto nod, before she turned her back and busied herself buttoning up her coat.