Title: The End Is Where We Start From
Pairings: Ianto/Jack, Gwen/Rhys, mentions of Ianto/others, Jack/others
Summary: Jack chose a new beginning after Toshiko and Owen's deaths; one that didn't include Ianto or Torchwood. Ten years later, Ianto has moved on. Really.
Warnings (if any): AU after 'Exit Wounds'. Some sexual content. Some language.
Total word count: 9280
Original prompt number: #9
Author's notes: Written for bbc_medley. I'd never heard 'Diamonds and Rust' before, but loved it on first listen. I read some background about it and this idea came along. It was meant to be a couple of thousand words, but the boys had their own agenda. I hope the angst isn't too excessive. Thank you, D, for the advice and encouragement.
Disclaimer: This story/artwork is based on characters and situations created and owned by the BBC. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
Ianto had gotten used to having his sleep broken by early morning phone calls when he was with Torchwood, but since leaving, he'd come to enjoy, and rely upon getting, a full night's rest. So when the phone rang at two am, he was understandably annoyed.
'Jack,' he grunted without preamble when he picked up.
'No one else I know would be inconsiderate enough to call me at this time.'
'Oh, I didn't... You never used to sleep much.'
'That's because whenever I had a moment to myself, I was fucking you instead,' Ianto said, jamming the phone between his cheek and shoulder as he used his hands to push himself up.
'Don't remember hearing any complaints.'
'That's because there weren't,' Ianto retorted, settling himself against the headboard. 'Then. I repeat, what do you want?'
'It occurs to me that I've been a complete bastard.'
Ianto rolled his eyes, despite the fact Jack couldn't see him. 'That's only just occurred to you?'
There was silence – no mock hurt or defensive whine – and Ianto had just opened his mouth to ask if Jack was still there when the other man spoke.
'I've never said I was sorry. For leaving.'
Ianto's mouth snapped shut as Jack continued. 'I was... it was cowardly. I was mad with grief over Tosh and Owen, and so damn guilty because it was my fault.'
'Jack, it wasn't...'
'It was, Ianto. I brought the threat into the Hub, brought John and Grey into your lives and, when we were standing there listening to Tosh's message, all I could think was that one day – probably one day soon – I'd be listening to your beautiful voice telling me goodbye and I couldn't stand it.'
His voice broke and Ianto heard him clear his throat. 'I'm sorry for hurting you, for not talking to you first, for not taking you with me. But I'm not sorry with the way things turned out because it meant that you've been safe all these years when we both know that, if you'd stayed with Torchwood – with me – you would have been dead by now. I can't be sorry that you're still here.'
Ianto swallowed hard and attempted to slow his breathing, which had sped up during Jack's apology. There were no words, no quips, no dry witty remark. Even he – at his most resentful and furious – couldn't kick Jack when he was exposing himself, his heart, so completely.
A full twenty seconds of absolute silence passed then Jack said dully, 'If you really don't want me here, Ianto, I'll go. If there's no hope at all for us, I'll leave and this time, I'll stay away.'
Fear and anger collided and the resultant surge of emotion left him breathless with panic. 'You'll leave?' Ianto snapped, voice heavy with sarcasm as he tried to ignore the clenching in his gut at the thought of losing Jack again, losing him for good. He realised that he'd never really given up hope that Jack would return for him, and wasn't sure if that made him devoted or pathetic. 'That's not like you.'
There was another extended silence and Ianto sighed, staring blankly up at his ceiling. 'Jack, I... I don't know what I want. Seems to be the status quo when I'm around you.'
He listened to Jack's steady breathing as he prodded at the scars his old Jack-inflicted wounds had left behind. But like a flesh wound, the ache had eased with time, and the skin had healed, leaving only his mind's fickle recollection of the injury, of the pain that had accompanied it. Ianto squeezed his eyes shut tight when he realised that no amount of scarring would stop the gnawing want, would stop him wanting to take the same stupid chances over and over again.
'All I've ever wanted was you,' he whispered, shame and resentment flushing his cheeks. 'The one thing you could never give me.'
'I can give you that now,' Jack promised, voice low and urgent. 'I can give you what you want, Ianto. If you still want it.'
His heart was pounding so hard, so loud in his chest that Jack must have been able to hear it. 'That's the million dollar question, isn't it?' he said, a little bitterly because he'd been doing just fine before Jack came back and swept through his life like a hurricane and now his skin felt too tight and it hurt too much to breathe. 'Go to sleep, Jack. Give me some space, yeah.'
Ianto called in sick the next day, letting Jean know he probably wouldn't be in for the rest of the week. He lay in his bed, eyes closed as he listened wearily to her burst of anxious chatter about the difficulty of rearranging his schedule at such short notice. She finally began to lose momentum, and Ianto had opened his mouth to say goodbye when she added, 'And Captain Harkness has been sitting here waiting since I arrived...'
'What?' He shot up in bed, biting back a vividly descriptive curse when he heard a deep, amused voice in the background say, '...told you to call me Jack.'
Fury bubbled inside him like molten lava and he snapped out, 'Call Security and have him escorted off the premises. Call the police if he comes back. Oh, and tell Jack that if he doesn't stay the hell away from me that I'll find a way to make it stick. He'll know what I mean.'
He hung up on her shocked gasp at his uncharacteristic anger and flung himself back down onto the bed where he buried his face in his pillow and screamed until his throat was raw.
'That wasn't very nice,' a voice that only belonged in his nightmares or his wet dreams murmured from somewhere very close to Ianto's ear. 'If I didn't hear a similar threat once a week, I'd be offended.'
Ianto clung to the last vestiges of sleep, but they receded rapidly, leaving him mostly-awake, naked, and in bed with Jack Harkness; a situation he had sworn that he'd never find himself in again.
'Only once a week?' he grunted, rolling away from Jack and settling on his stomach. 'You must have mellowed.'
Jack was silent and Ianto raised his head off the pillow, twisting his neck to peer over his shoulder. Heat blazed through him - skin burning, blood on fire – when he saw Jack staring at the bare flesh of his back and arms with the greedy desperation of a starving man. He felt his cock – trapped between his abdomen and the mattress – swell, the hurried redirection of blood making his head spin.
Jack inhaled a shuddering breath and, with what appeared to be a great effort, wrenched his gaze away from Ianto and focused on the wall opposite. 'Sorry,' he said shakily, running a hand through his hair. 'You... you're beautiful, Ianto. More beautiful than I'd remembered. I want...'
'No, you don't, Jack,' Ianto whispered, staring at Jack's profile, his heart feeling like it was breaking all over again because he just couldn't do this, he couldn't let himself believe that Jack came back for him. Not this time. 'I can't be what you want. I thought I could be once, but... I can't redeem you, I can't save you. I'm not Gwen or Rose, and I never will be.'
Jack seemed taken aback. 'I know. I'm not asking for anything, for you to be anyone, but you, Ianto. I just want you.'
'You want me?'
'Jack,' he admonished sharply, bristling at the blatant untruth.
'Ianto, I have always wanted you. From that first night – you in that studded belt and tight jeans,' Jack insisted then shrugged one shoulder. 'I just... wouldn't let myself have you. Not completely. Not the way I wanted to.'
'So what's changed?' Ianto asked. 'What's stopping you from dumping me on some planet and fucking off with a better prospect?'
'Won't happen,' Jack said promptly. When Ianto raised a sceptical eyebrow, Jack lifted his chin stubbornly. 'I've been out there without you, Ianto. And now, I'm here. Begging you to let me stay. Begging you to come with me. I can't escape you, no matter how hard I try.'
'Did you try hard?' Ianto asked acerbically, and Jack's face turned stony.
'I had to. It hurt too much to think about you because then I remembered what I'd done to you, how I'd failed you, how I'd failed Tosh and Owen and Gwen... I had to try hard, Ianto. I had to get away, and the Doctor refused to take me anywhere if I kept killing myself to get a break from the Welsh vowels in my head.'
'Oh, Christ, Jack,' Ianto whispered, closing his eyes on the images of Jack's many deaths that played like a horror film in his head. He took a deep breath and looked up at the other man. 'So you're saying that you want me however you can have me?' he asked. Jack nodded. 'And it's that simple?'
'It can be if you want it to be,' Jack answered. 'I can stay here with you, or we can go and see the stars.'
'You never used to offer me anything but here and now,' Ianto murmured, staring at Jack. 'Where's that man now that I don't want promises and pretty words?'
'He realised he wants to share more than a moment of your life with you. He's realised that, while he can live without you, he doesn't want to.'
'Your words are like trinkets, Jack: beautiful, but ultimately, just stone and metal that tarnish and scratch and lose their shine,' Ianto said, turning over before he sat up, sheet pooling around his hips.
Jack held Ianto's gaze as he reached into his pocket. 'But if you take care of your trinkets...' He pulled out the stopwatch that had been put to nefarious use during their time together and a surprised exhale juddered from Ianto's lips, 'they can last for a lifetime.'
'You kept it,' Ianto breathed, touching the cover reverently, the silver warm from its proximity to Jack's body. 'I looked for it before I left...'
'I didn't want to forget you.' He smiled ruefully. 'Turns out that wasn't a problem.'
Ianto glanced up at Jack, swallowing hard against the words of forgiveness, of stay with me forever, blinking back the tears of acceptance, of please don't leave me again. 'How can I trust you?' he whispered. 'I've seen how easily you can walk away from the people you say you love.'
'Because I came back!'
The words burst from Jack like a detonation and then he was right there, straddling Ianto, caging his face in the hands Ianto still could still feel the ghost of inside him. 'I came back. I came back...' Each fervent exclamation was punctuated with a press of lips to the closest patch of skin, and Ianto couldn't hold back a sob, his shoulders shaking with the force with which it was expelled.
Jack's lips were on his in a moment, feeding promises and apologies and salty tears into Ianto's mouth, into his heart, and Ianto melted under the avalanche of emotion. He clutched at Jack's shirtfront as he deepened the kiss, pulling him in until their chests were pressing together, hearts pounding in tandem alongside each other.
Jack moaned into Ianto's mouth before his tongue swept past lips and teeth to stroke and tease. Ianto's fingers tightened around his fistful of fabric then let go, skimming over Jack's chest, over his shoulder, to tangle into the soft strands at his nape, thumbs rubbing over the hypersensitive skin behind Jack's ears. Jack gasped something incomprehensible against Ianto's lips then dragged them sideways, down onto the bed.
'Too many clothes,' Ianto complained when their mouths were torn apart by the movement. He plucked at Jack's buttons, his hands trembling too badly to be of any use. Jack's were almost as bad and, pretty soon, it became clear their attempts to rid Jack of his shirt in the traditional way were futile. Jack swore and gripped the material, ripping the sides apart. The buttons flew off and hit the bedside table in a shower of tinkling pings. Ianto left Jack to dispose of his own trousers, reaching across to search desperately through his drawers for lube and a condom.
It was clumsy and fumbling and over way too fast, but as Ianto panted against Jack's sweat-damp shoulder, his body quaking with the power of his release and Jack's come slick between their bellies, he knew that his life was never going to be as bright without Jack, that he was never going to feel whole without Jack.
Hot tears spilled over before he could stop them, falling to the bedding below. Jack was holding him close, holding him as if he was never going to let him go, but Ianto managed to pry a hand free to scrub at his face. Jack tipped his head back and slid his hands along Ianto's spine until they were cradling his jaw, tilting Ianto's face until they were face to face. Jack's eyes were watery as he slowly leaned in to kiss Ianto gently.
'There is you, and there is me, but, Ianto Jones, there will always be we,' he murmured, twisting Ianto's words from the day of their reunion. 'No matter how much we both fight it.'
They stayed in bed for the rest of the day: touching and kissing and, unusually, but with a startling lack of self-consciousness, making love instead of fucking. They spent hours relearning each other's bodies, time slowing as they remapped the subtle changes to territory they had once known by heart. They ate and drank when they began to feel light-headed, and chased rivulets of water over each other's stomachs, lapping it up as the drops were about to fall to the bed. They talked until they were hoarse, telling stories of adventures and conquests, and carefully avoided any mention of the elephant in the shape of a police box in the room.
Too soon, Jack gasped and closed his hand around the suddenly glowing TARDIS key on a chain around his neck, and Ianto realised that, despite the time of reckoning having arrived, he still wasn't certain what he was going to do.
'I can talk him into spending the night,' Jack said subduedly, dressing as if he was functioning in slow motion, 'but he'll want to go...'
'I'll have an answer in the morning,' Ianto promised. 'One way or another.'
Jack faltered at Ianto's last words, his fingers fumbling over the surviving buttons on his shirt. He finished his task then sat on the edge of the bed, staring down at the floor for a long moment before he appeared to make a decision. He looked at Ianto, defenses down and heart unguarded.
'I've only ever loved one other person as much as I love you,' he said softly, but determinedly, for now, seemingly content to ignore the shocked expression on Ianto's face at the declaration. 'And it was easy to love him because I knew - deep down, I knew – that I could never have him. He was safe. It was okay to let myself feel for him because he could never be mine.'
He inhaled then let the breath go slowly. 'But you, well, you weren't safe or easy, and I could have you. You were right there and I could just reach out and take you. You scared me, Ianto, because you didn't react like you should have when I tried to scare you away with my immortality and my past. You didn't run away, and I sure as hell couldn't find the strength to push you away.' He gave Ianto a wistful smile. 'You'll break my heart, Ianto, but it'll be worth it. It'll be worth every single tear when you go if I get to have you, just for a little while.'
Ianto was speechless and trembling from the raw longing in Jack's voice. Jack smiled sadly and cupped Ianto's face in his warm palms, brushing his thumbs back and forth over Ianto's cheekbones before leaning in and kissing him – chaste and lingering. He pressed their brows together for the space of several heartbeats, noses bumping gently, breath mingling as it slipped past their lips. Jack sighed softly before pulling back far enough to tip Ianto's head so he could kiss his forehead then, without a backwards glance, he was gone.
Ianto collapsed back onto his pillows with only the pleasant ache and burn of his well-used muscles, and his intensely aching heart, to confirm that the last day hadn't been a vivid dream.
'Rhys, it's Ianto.'
'What... Ianto? Bloody hell, man. Do you know what time it is?'
Ianto swore under his breath as he checked the clock and did some rapid calculations in his head. 'Sorry,' he said repentantly. 'I forgot. I'll call back...'
'No, she's awake now and she'd never forgive me if...' There was the rustle of fabric and a murmured inquiry. 'It's Ianto. He said he'd call ba... okay. See you, Ianto.'
'Bye, Rhys. Sorry, again.'
'Ianto? Are you alright? What's happened?'
'Nothing. I'm fine. I'm sorry, Gwen. I just needed to talk to you and I forgot...'
'Oh, sweetheart, you can ring whenever you like. Ignore Rhys. He's moody because Tegan's cutting teeth and won't have a bar of me. Daddy's little girl, that one.'
'You're all fine, though? The boys...?'
'Team Williams doing just fine,' she assured him. He could hear her moving, could hear the crinkle of a crisp packet. 'How about Mr Jones? You don't usually need to talk to me so badly that you forget the time difference. You must be addled by all that sun.'
There was a heavy silence, such a dense nothing that Ianto thought for a second that she'd hung up. 'When?' she finally asked, her voice low.
'A couple of days ago,' he told her and he could almost hear her bristle.
'And you're just calling now?'
'You said you didn't want to speak to him again.'
'So did you.'
Ianto sighed, rubbing at an eye with the heel of his hand. 'Gwen, I didn't ask him here; he just turned up. And I didn't mean to - er...'
'Oh, Ianto, love, you didn't! You didn't sleep with that bastard?'
Ianto closed his eyes and waited for the explosion as his silence answered her question. He winced at the pitch at which it arrived, holding the receiver a more comfortable distance from his ear as he listened to her extol all the reasons that getting involved with Jack Harkness again was a Very Bad Idea. As she wound down, he managed to get a word in.
'Don't you think I know all that? I told him to go and... God, Gwen, he asked if he could stay with me here, live with me.'
She made a noise very much like a hiss. 'Ianto, do you really think that Jack Harkness will settle...'
'I... I'm not sure,' he said quickly, before she could begin a fresh rant. 'He said he'll do whatever I want – stay here together, or go...'
'Go?' she said, voice sharp and high. 'Go where?'
He hesitated then said cautiously, 'With him... and the Doctor.'
Another thick silence in which he felt every single mile of the distance between them then, 'Leave Earth?'
'You... Ianto, you can't. You have a life now, sweetheart. You have a business and friends and...'
She sighed. 'I know how tempting it must be, Ianto. I know how much you still miss him – so do I – but he left us,' she whispered, tears in her voice. 'He left us when we needed him the most, and he didn't even bother to say goodbye.'
'I know,' he said, just as softly.
'How can you let him back into your life? How can you trust him not to do the same thing again?'
There was a long silence, Gwen's concern and fear palpable, even across continents and oceans. Finally, she asked, 'What are you going to do?'
It was Ianto's turn to sigh. 'I have no idea.'
Jack was standing in the doorway of the blue police box when Ianto stepped out into his backyard. They looked at each other as he approached, Jack obviously agitated by Ianto's lack of expression. 'Well?' he asked when Ianto reached him, looking like he wasn't sure that he wanted to hear the answer. 'What's it to be?'
Ianto pushed his hands into the pockets of his jeans, hunching his shoulders as he pretended to examine the phone box. 'Gwen thinks I'm mad for even giving you the time of day,' he said casually, watching for Jack's reaction out of the corner of his eye.
Jack flashed one of those big, toothy smiles that didn't reach his eyes. 'Gwen's just mad I didn't come and see her first,' he joked weakly. 'She'll forgive me. No one can resist this jawline for too long.'
Ianto cocked his head, tilting his chin towards Jack. 'If I'd told you that I didn't want to see you, that I wouldn't even consider letting you back into my life, would you have given her the same offer?'
Jack shook his head, smile fading. 'No,' he said shortly. 'I didn't come back for her. Gwen has her life, and I have no part in it. Not anymore. And that's how it should be.' The corner of his mouth quirked up. 'You were never a substitute for her, Ianto, although the fact you still get jealous gives me hope that you really do still love me.'
Ianto was annoyed that his old insecurities were still so damned obvious and he wondered if he'd become that person again if he went with Jack. If he'd be that same Ianto Jones who was happy for whatever scraps of Jack he was thrown, who accepted Jack's every rule in regards to their relationship (which wasn't allowed to be called a relationship because everyone knew the world would fucking implode should they actually clarify what was going on) without a word of objection. If Jack stayed in his life, was he going to be the butler, the secretary, the shadow again?
'I lose myself when I'm with you, Jack,' he whispered, his confession shaky around the edges. 'I turn myself inside out to be what you want and I lose myself. I don't want to be that person again.'
For only the second time since he'd known him, Ianto saw true fear on Jack's face. 'Ianto, I don't want you to be the guy who takes my coat, or fetches me coffee, or makes food magically appear. I don't need a sidekick for my adventures,' he said emphatically. 'I want the man who loved so deeply, he tackled a pterodactyl. I want the man that made me work my arse off to get back into his good graces after I was stupid enough to leave him. I want the man who held me when I needed comfort, and who made me laugh harder than I had in years, and who was so damn frustrating sometimes that I wanted to scream.' He reached out as if to touch Ianto's arm then pulled back uncertainly. 'I want the stubborn, sarcastic, loyal, generous man that I fell a little bit more in love with every day.'
Ianto blinked and cleared his throat in an attempt to hide how deeply Jack's words had touched him. 'She... she was a pterodon,' he deflected, rubbing the back of his neck, and Jack smiled.
'Sorry, always got that wrong.'
Ianto stared at him, still not entirely certain he was about to do the right thing. 'You'd really stay? Give up everything...' He waved towards the sky, 'for me?'
Jack smiled that slow, intimate smile that made Ianto's blood heat and heart skip a beat, and inclined his head towards the TARDIS. 'I've got a bag packed – just in case you told me I could stay,' he said. 'And yes. I've got a long, long time to indulge my wanderlust, Ianto. Right now, for your lifetime, I want to be with you. Wherever that is. I need to be with you.'
'I don't need you,' Ianto said abruptly, surprised that he meant it. 'I used to think I did, but I don't.'
'I never thought you did. You've always been stronger and more capable than you thought you were, Ianto. So much stronger than me.' Jack bit at his lip then said tentatively, 'I guess this is where I ask if you want me.'
Ianto cupped Jack's face and kissed him, soft and sweet, before pulling back. 'I've never stopped.'
Jack's eyes shone a little too brightly then he was kissing Ianto, pushing him up against the phone box when the slow, powerful kiss made Ianto boneless. When they finally parted, his hoarse whisper of, 'Ianto?', was more desperate and pleading than Ianto had ever heard him sound.
Ianto pushed him back a little and cocked his head, gazing at Jack in consideration. 'I am not, nor will I ever be, amenable to a threesome with the Doctor.'
'Understood,' said Jack promptly. 'To be honest, I don't fancy him much anyway these days. He looks like a teenager and he makes me feel old.'
'You are old,' came a muffled shout from the police box.
'It's rude to eavesdrop!' Jack yelled back, his eyes never leaving Ianto. 'Does this mean...?'
Ianto pushed off the TARDIS and walked slowly back towards the house, his stride becoming more sure with each step. He opened the back door and hefted a straining-at-the-seams backpack over his shoulder before locking the door. He spun on his heel and smiled at a beaming Jack.
'I was always a sucker for a trinket,' he said as he walked towards Jack. His smile faltered a little, though, as Jack reached for the pack, a blinding grin on his face. 'Jack...'
Jack's hand changed course and instead, he brushed the back of his fingers against Ianto's cheek. 'I'll never let us rust or tarnish, Ianto,' he said quietly, his gaze burning with intensity and promise. 'I swear.'
Ianto inhaled deeply then nodded decisively, handing the stuffed backpack to Jack. Jack smiled and slung it over his shoulder, wrapping his other arm around Ianto's waist. 'Thank you,' he said softly, pulling Ianto in close to his side. Their lips met in a sweet kiss that turned Ianto's insides into liquid. 'You won't regret it.'
Ianto grinned then turned to the TARDIS, butterflies taking flight in his stomach as the full gravity of what he was about to do hit him. 'No,' he murmured as the door was flung open. 'No, I don't think I will.'