Characters/Pairings: Jack/real!Jack, Jack/Ianto, Jack/others
Spoilers: up through "Captain Jack Harkness"
AN: This is nothing. Five minute fic set in the middle of "Study in Charcoal." For fide_et_spe, who asked nicely.
The trick to getting a laugh was knowing what button to push, how hard, and when to stop. Jack could set off Toshiko and Gwen into gales of laughter just by miming shooting Owen. He did it three times, which was the calculated maximum funny, and then dropped the game. Owen glared every time. Ianto tried to ignore all of them, but he had a gorgeous little smirk teasing his lips after Jack informed him he wouldn't face disciplinary charges.
Jack was an old hand at wearing smiles he didn't feel, and the one he wore at the moment was as familiar as the texture of his braces, of his wrist strap. The smile followed the girls out the door, and Owen soon after.
Ianto lingered. He tidied and he washed up and he cleared away, like always. Jack heard his tread right before he appeared at the door. "So, I thought … "
"Not … not tonight." Jack interrupted him, knowing if he let Ianto finish the sentence, he'd change his mind, ask Ianto to stay, use him as a substitute to warm his bed while another man was on his mind. It wouldn't be the first time, but when somebody shot someone else on your behalf, Jack felt the proper "thank you" ought not include a proxy fuck.
Ianto's head jerked abruptly. "I'll see you in the morning, then."
Jack returned to his newspaper clippings. He remembered black and white, greyscale, sepia. There was an artistry to photography back in the monochrome days, when light was everything, and shadow dared to indicate more. Jack, the real Jack, stared up at him from over sixty years ago, his eyes exactly as bright as they were a few hours back, their colour more vibrant in his own memory than anyone would ever see again.
He hadn't …
He sat back, staring into a shadow cast by his desk lamp, watching the gentle bubbling light from the Doctor's hand.
He couldn't say he hadn't intended to fall in love with Jack. That was laughable. He always fell in love, every time. He didn't have to sleep with whoever it was, didn't even have to kiss them. Enough time around anyone and a piece of his heart went wandering, never to return. But he always held part of it back.
English was terrible for this. His own language, rusty with disuse and not even born yet in this time, was rich with words to describe emotions for which English had only damp substitutes and clunky approximations.
Home had words to mean "person I am sleeping with, for whom I have some fondness but no particular attachment," and "person I am life-bonded to," and "co-parent of my children," and "person I have never had sex with but love with great devotion," and "person I care about as family but would also shag given a chance," and "person I once loved and recall with great fondness and would happily love again."
English had "fuck." Which was a good word, and he'd used it on many a happy occasion, but not helpful here.
He'd loved Rose and the Doctor in a way he'd never loved anyone before, and it had nothing to do with sex (though he and Rose had enjoyed themselves, the Doctor had declined to join in). They'd looked at him, and they'd seen someone worthwhile looking back; in the Doctor's case, this had taken a while. When he'd first landed on Earth, stuck in the wrong time, his desire to get back to them, get back to where he was loved and belonged, these had consumed him, eaten his days and cast a curtain between him and the bedmates he took in desperation, in loneliness. When his nature had shown itself, and when he'd finally stopped denying the previous times he should have figured it out, he had all the more reason to hold back part of himself, even as he eased into this life.
Lovers were plentiful. He'd tried with his wife, tried to move on, and for his efforts, he'd watched her die young. Some lovers had transitioned into "co-parent." A few others dug deep inside him. He'd loved them all. But he'd still maintained an aloofness, even as bodies joined, even as he'd laughed and licked and loved. Part was self-defence, part was his simple inability to believe he would ever care about anyone as much as he did for the two people he'd misplaced in time.
When the final list of the dead had been drawn up at Canary Wharf, he'd spent an unexpected night sobbing. The next night he'd spent with the first person he could convince to go back with him to the hotel room he was using as a base of operations while he cleaned up London's disaster.
"What's your name, love?" she'd asked him, her platinum-blonde hair harsh in the room's overhead light, and he'd given her the same lie he'd worn for so long, the name he'd stolen and then kept because it was the name Rose called him. She'd moaned his borrowed name; he'd forgotten hers before he came.
Photographs made permanent images that were designed for movement: quick, bright things became solid, pinned, dead. Jack's eyes could not see him, could not drift over his face. His lips would forever be set in this particular expression, not softly parting with a sigh of need and want. There was no way to feel his skin, sharp in planes and smooth like a baby's at the side of his neck. All gone. All greyscale.
He hadn't intended to fall in love with Jack Harkness. He shouldn't have been able to fall in love with him. He'd known him so short a time, he'd touched him so little. He was supposed to hold back his heart.
If he could let go, what did that mean?
The hand wriggled in its tank, as if dreaming. Owen cracked jokes about the souvenir Jack had brought back from the ruins of Torchwood Tower. Tosh shuddered and avoided it. Gwen asked questions about it that Jack dodged. Ianto dusted it.
Nearly two hundred years of habit were difficult to break. He'd managed to do so in just one night.
No. Not quite in one night.
He sat back, then reached with long habit to where he kept the tin box. A copy of this photograph would go in there, to remind him of the man and of the night he'd finally allowed himself to love someone completely.
Jack was dead. Jack had been dead. He'd lost him before they'd ever met. And knowing this, he'd given over his heart, and it felt … right.
So many years, he'd been chasing a dream in a blue box. One kiss, and it was okay to finally let go. Oh, he loved the Doctor, and he always would, and he needed the answer to the million pound question which only the Doctor could provide. (He hoped. How he hoped.) But for the first time in over a century, he was free.
He could choose now. He could fall in love, or he could not fall, and he could pick one love, or a dozen. Jack had been looking for comfort, but he had given so much more.
Jack's picture went into the box, with Abigail, with Phil, with the snap of Lucia and Melissa, with all the faces who'd brought him to tonight, one piece of his heart at a time.
The trouble started around four in the morning.
Jack monitored the news reports, feeling his guts tighten as strange sightings rolled across the regular channels. Ianto came in shortly after six, looking like he hadn't slept and avoiding Jack while he went about his morning duties. Toshiko arrived half an hour later and without prompting, began collating the sightings data.
He managed to corner Ianto in the kitchenette. "Got a minute?"
"No." Ianto's hands moved over the coffee machine, starting the first strong brew of the day.
"We should talk."
"We don't talk."
"Then now's the perfect time to start." He liked the sound of those words.
The cog door alarm sounded. Owen and Gwen staggered in together. For all that they'd avoided arriving at the same time when they'd been lovers, now things were over between them, they no longer seemed to care. For much the same reason, Jack suspected, Ianto took a sharp step away from where Jack stood.
"If you'll excuse me, sir," Ianto said. "I have things to do while this is brewing."
"Yeah. It can wait," said Jack. He didn't watch Ianto go.