Part One - Something Old
Jack watched as Ianto walked away with Tosh, not sure what he was supposed to be feeling after all that had happened—and not happened—between them that day. It was the middle of the night and he was exhausted, both mentally and physically. They had all had spent the entire day trying to ensure that Gwen not only had the wedding of her dreams, but managed to survive it with an alien egg inside of her. Sometimes Jack wasn't sure which had been harder, but it was done: Gwen was alive and happily married, and the wedding guests were blissfully unaware of anything but a beautiful ceremony and some rather strong champagne afterwards.
He hadn't died, and it wasn't as if he didn't usually stay up for half the night, so he wasn't sure why he was so physically tired. Emotionally, he was even more exhausted, and that was even worse. He just wanted to move on and not have to deal with any aftermath, and yet he knew, deep down, that it wouldn't happen. Not this time, not if he wanted…well, whatever it was that he wanted, which was difficult to sort out with so many thoughts chasing circles through his mind.
"So why are you stuck with me and not our new Torchwood dj?" asked Owen from the passenger seat, gazing out the window into the darkness instead of at Jack. Jack glanced sideways at him and shrugged.
"Guess he just wanted to ride home with Tosh," he offered. The same question had occurred to him when Ianto had offered a polite yet abrupt good bye, but he didn't really want to think about the answer.
"Or he didn't want to ride home with you," said Owen, cutting straight to the mark as usual. Jack almost winced from the truth, because he had come to the same conclusion; he just hadn't figured out why.
"I talk a lot," he replied, trying to sound casual. "Maybe he just wanted peace and quiet for the ride."
Owen actually snorted, though how that was possible, Jack wasn't sure. "Right. You're a talker, but I somehow doubt you two get up to much talking, especially on dark roads in the middle of the night."
"Well, if you must know…" Jack started, offering a cheeky grin. It felt forced, though, because Owen was right again. They didn't talk much, not about the things they needed to talk about anyway, and then something like this would happen, some miscommunication or misunderstanding, and Jack would have no idea what to do other than shag Ianto into the nearest wall, which he somehow sensed wasn't going to work this time.
"No, I do not want to know," said Owen, sounding pained. Jack chuckled, but heard the insincerity in it and stopped. Owen turned back to the window and after a long silence spoke again.
"Think it has anything to do with that dance?" he asked.
"What dance?" asked Jack.
"What dance," Owen muttered, shaking his head. "No wonder you're not the commitment type."
"What?" asked Jack, completely confused. "What do you mean, I'm not the commitment type?"
"Well, you're not, are you?" said Owen rather bluntly. "You've said before things are different where—and when—you're from, no labels and that sort of thing. So I imagine the complexities of a monogamous relationship—let alone a marriage—are probably too irritating to have to deal with."
"Says the man who used to shag his way through Cardiff's waterfront pubs on a regular basis," said Jack. Owen's comment stung, and he felt like childishly biting back to cover the hurt. Owen rolled his eyes in a very Ianto-like manner that made Jack wish the Welshman was sitting in the passenger seat instead.
"Key words being 'used to,'" the doctor replied, eyes back out the window. "And honestly, it wasn't like I made it out to be."
"You mean there wasn't a different girl every night?" Jack asked, hoping to keep the conversation light because he didn't want to go wherever Owen was heading with whatever he was trying to say.
"Nope," said Owen, admitting it rather too quickly. Jack suspected that if the man was actually alive he would have never had shared such a thing. "Not every weekend."
"Owen, I'm shocked. You just ruined your reputation for me."
Owen shrugged; the old Owen would have had a snappy comeback. "It's true. I drank a lot, but more often than not I went home alone."
Jack was silent after the unexpected confession, until he worked up the courage to ask more, hoping to keep the conversation away from the original question. "How come?"
"Because I, for one, find the idea of monogamy and marriage rather appealing, believe it or not," Owen replied, bringing it right back around. "Just like Gwen, just like Tosh, and I suspect just like Ianto."
Jack's head whipped around, and he almost curved off the road. "You think Ianto wants to get married?" he demanded. Was that why Ianto had gone home with Tosh? Was he having this same conversation with her? Was he thinking of ending it between them so he could pursue the same sort of life Gwen had just pledged herself to?
"Bit hard when he's busy shagging the boss," Owen pointed out. "But yeah, why wouldn't he? He's young, smart, well off, and if I were interested in such things, even good looking." He laughed at himself. "He'd be a good catch for some lucky bird."
"I can't believe you just said…" Jack counted in his head, "…five nice things about Ianto. What is it about weddings that makes everyone so sentimental?"
"It's the happy ending," Owen said. "The one not a lot of people get. I didn't get it." He turned away before Jack could say anything about that. "Gwen got it tonight, and maybe Tosh and Ianto want it. God knows they both deserve it."
"Yeah, they do," Jack murmured. It had not really occurred to him to wonder what Ianto might want for his future, particularly after watching one of his coworkers get married. He remembered glancing over at Ianto during the ceremony—why they hadn't sat next to one, he wasn't quite sure—and catching Ianto with that rare, happy smile on his face as he watched Gwen and Rhys pledge themselves to one another. Ianto was happy for them; so was Tosh and so was Owen, who they all knew had slept with Gwen.
Why was Jack not happy then?
Jack was silent for so long that Owen finally turned back and started the conversation again. "Have you ever asked him?"
"Asked him what?"
"If he wanted to get married?"
"To me?" Jack exclaimed, and Owen let his head fall back as he laughed, which made something in Jack's chest tighten just a bit, that Owen apparently found the idea repulsive when really, it wasn't that bad.
"Of course not, you knob," the doctor replied, shaking his head and still laughing. "As if that will ever happen," he added.
"Hey, it'll be legal in a few years," Jack protested. Which was true, he knew it from having studied history as a Time Agent.
"That's not what I meant," Owen replied, and Jack sighed.
Jack thought about his answer. "No, he's never talked about it. I think he was very serious about Lisa and saw them together in the future, but I'm not sure he's thought past that since she died."
"Or past your cock," Owen muttered.
Jack didn't reply but felt his jaw clench just a bit at the unsaid implication. "Look, I know what you all think—" he started, but Owen shook his head as he interrupted Jack.
"Doesn't matter what we think. What matters are you and Ianto. Or at least Ianto, since you have all the time in the world, and he doesn't."
"Ouch," said Jack.
"The truth hurts sometimes," said Owen. "Being dead's changed a lot of things for me."
"And one of those is suddenly being concerned about Ianto?" asked Jack skeptically. Again Owen rolled his eyes.
"Hardly. But it definitely made me realize that our small, insignificant lives, in all their ridiculous glory, are not infinite. There's so much I can't do anymore, so much I won't ever do now. I'd hate for Ianto to wake up one day and regret shagging the boss for so long that he never bothered to settle down into a real relationship."
A real relationship. It was like being kicked in the gut. Jack suspected that was another part of the reason Ianto had left. Gwen's wedding had almost certainly thrown their own undefined and slightly dysfunctional relationship into a new light, one Ianto was perhaps even now starting to question with Tosh.
But at the same time, they had something. It wasn't conventional, no, but it worked for them, didn't it? There was a lot Owen didn't know, after all.
"We have one," Jack said quietly. "A relationship."
Owen tilted his head to the side. "Quick fucks around the Hub do not define a real relationship."
"What does?" asked Jack.
"You know, actually being together. Going out together, and not just to stun Weevils. Dinner, concerts, movies. Picnics in the park, overnight trips. Shopping and cooking and just sitting around the flat, watching telly or playing a game or even just doing nothing. Enjoying one another and actually caring about one another, not just the next shag."
Another kick to the gut, this one harder than the last. God, Owen as a dead man was a bigger prick than he had been alive, if only because he suddenly seemed to have developed a conscience and no filter whatsoever. Jack wasn't sure if he'd survive the trip back to Cardiff.
The thing was, he and Ianto did do those things, every single one of them. Except for the picnic, maybe, which Jack added to his list, if Ianto was still interested after the mess Jack had apparently made of the day. But for some reason he couldn't tell Owen all that. He took a deep breath and started somewhere else.
"I was married once," he started softly, and Owen whirled around with such a look of shock that Jack actually laughed. "It's true. It was a long time ago, though, and it didn't last long. And I've been in other relationships as well, real relationships." He thought about Angelo and Estelle and Lucia, not to mention a fair few others, then shook his head, trying to focus. Owen hadn't said a word.
"So it's not as if I'm not capable of having a lasting relationship, even a monogamous one," Jack said. "It just gets harder and harder, knowing how my life compares to theirs. Knowing that I'll outlive them every time, that I'll just lose them again and again."
Owen nodded silently, and Jack continued, as if purging something he'd been holding back for a long time. He hadn't vocalized these thoughts for years, decades maybe, and he'd never talked with Ianto about it, because they simply didn't talk about them. It was as if there was an unspoken agreement between the two men that whatever they had was to remain undefined and unsaid, if only to protect them both from getting in too deep and ending up hurt.
"I've been here long enough to see and understand the appeal of relationships and marriage, but now…it's been so long, I don't feel like I can afford it."
"Can't afford to risk it?" asked Owen. "Risk actually caring about someone so much you'd do anything for them?"
"Exactly." He shrugged, ignoring the niggling voice in the back of his mind that was screaming at him that what Owen had just said was exactly how he felt about Ianto. He did care about the Welshman who had somehow ended up in his bed as a casual shag, but then had stayed much longer and become something more. And he would do anything for Ianto, it was just that most of the time…he didn't know what, unless it involved immediate danger and the threat of losing him.
Jack could feel Owen studying him, as if debating whether or not to ask whatever was obviously on the tip of his tongue. This time Jack rolled his eyes.
"Spit it out," he said. "Since we're already sharing."
"What about Ianto, then?" asked Owen, as if he had been reading Jack's mind. "Is he just a quick fuck or a real relationship?"
Jack looked down at the steering wheel. "I'm not sure that's your business," he said, starting to regret how much he had already confessed.
"Well, as the team doctor, I do have to look out for the staff," said Owen. "And I think something happened tonight that's got you two riding home in separate cars, something that is therefore my business because it affects the well being of at least two patients under my care."
"How so?" asked Jack, perhaps a bit too harshly; Owen ignored his tone.
"I don't want to see anyone get hurt," Owen said. "You or Ianto. Call me a concerned party, or maybe even a friend." He paused. "Jack, can I ask you something?"
"I think you've already established you're not afraid to tackle the big issues here," Jack said ruefully.
"No, I'm not. But I bet Ianto is." He paused as he gathered his thoughts. "You spent a good part of the day making bitter remarks about the wedding. You looked pissed off at the ceremony, like you were disappointed we actually managed to save it for Gwen and Rhys. And you looked positively lost when you were dancing with Gwen."
Oh god, here it came: that damn dance.
"So let me ask you: were you thinking about Gwen today, or something else? And did you think about Ianto once before he cut in on you and Gwen?"
Jack didn't have an answer for him, and that, he realized, was his problem.
Apparently I can do people sitting around talking like no one's business. Stay tuned for more talking soon. But no worries, as an actual plot is starting to take shape for my next big story...once I finished the two I've got started here. :)