Part Three - Something Blue
Jack dropped Owen off at his flat before returning to the hub, alone as the sun started to rise.
As he drove back, he pondered what Owen had asked him in the car. Had he thought about Ianto once during the previous day? Yes, he had. Yet he had been too wrapped up in everything else going on around him to show it, once again demonstrating his remarkable lack of consideration for the people he cared about. He may have felt like he lost Gwen, but because of it, he might actually be very close to losing Ianto instead. He couldn't let that happen.
Owen had opened his eyes, strangely enough. Owen who hadn't had but one or two real relationships since his fiancé had died. Owen who was no longer a living, breathing person, but who now saw things far more clearly than he ever had before. Owen, who had always given Jack and Ianto—especially Ianto—such a hard time for whatever it was that they were up to.
The irony of it would be laughable, if it wasn't so serious.
Jack had completely ignored Ianto's feelings, Ianto's needs. All he could think about was Gwen—leaving him, leaving Torchwood, even though she wasn't leaving either, she had just got married. Yet it felt like a loss, because she was the only one of them who had managed to maintain some semblance of a normal life outside the hub, and normality had won. Jack had lost yet again, and in the process, he had overlooked the one person he cared about the most, the one person who might have actually been there for him because Ianto always seemed to understand and support him. Instead he had treated Ianto more like the quick fuck Owen assumed it was, instead of what it had come to be.
Because all those things Owen had said about a real relationship…they did those things, all of them. Which meant, in spite of his best efforts—and Ianto's too, he knew—they were knee deep in something that qualified as a real relationship in Owen's book. Jack accepted that, and he wanted to make it right. He needed to, because he needed Ianto. He had always needed him, though he hadn't always realized it: someone he could share just about everything with, who accepted him as he was no matter what, who was there for him when he had to make the hard decision, or when he died and came back to life. And Jack liked being with someone who also needed him: he liked being the one to chase away the demons when they grew too strong at night, to offer comfort when the world weighed too heavily on such young shoulders. Jack wanted to be that person for Ianto because he cared…dammit, he really cared, and now he'd gone and messed it up again and might never get the chance to really explain how much he cared, as complicated as it was sometimes.
As he entered the hub, Jack reached into his pocket and blew a handful of confetti through the air, watching it float away as if he were letting go of the past and looking toward the future. As he watched it settle, he was suddenly struck by a thought and walked quickly toward his office.
Taking an old tin from his desk, Jack sifted through the contents, old photos and letters, a collection of memories from a lifetime of experience. He finally stopped when he came to the one he was looking for: a photograph, old and faded, of a young man with a beautiful woman, glancing sternly at the camera because that was the proper thing to do at the time, even though they had both been bursting with joy.
Owen may have been shocked, but Jack had loved her deeply. He had been living with his immortality for a long time at that point, long enough to realize that he was lonely after pushing people away for so many years and couldn't live like that any longer. He had wanted someone—had needed her. Yet it hadn't lasted long, and he had again retreated into the cocoon of distance and detachment that had become the safe haven for his soul, his sanity, and his heart.
Setting the old photo aside, Jack continued to look through the tin, finding what he was looking for at the bottom. He pulled them out with a smile, turning them over in his hands and nodding to himself. Yes, this was what he needed to do. It was time to break out of the cocoon again, to take that risk Owen was talking about. It was time to live for the joy of now, rather than in fear of the future.
It was late—or early, depending on how one looked at it—but he sent Ianto a text, hoping he'd catch the other man awake.
Can I come by? J
He tapped his desk impatiently, gently polishing the mementos in his hands before packing everything back into the tin. Finally his mobile dinged at him.
It's late. I'll be in this afternoon if you need anything. I
Jack shook his head; he wasn't taking no for an answer, mostly because if he didn't do this now, he might lose his nerve by the time he saw Ianto and everything would most likely go back to the way it was: awkward and uncomfortable until they fucked it away again. He wanted to resolve it now, with honest words, not an automatic shag.
I won't be long. We need to talk.
This time he didn't have to wait as long, but the answer made his heart clench tight in his chest.
There's nothing to talk about, Jack. I'll see you later.
Jack could imagine the look on Ianto's face as he typed, the tone of his voice if he were to speak the words out loud. Owen had been right: Ianto had not wanted to ride home with Jack because of the way Jack had acted that day, and now he didn't want to talk about it. Yet Jack was nothing if not stubborn and determined when he set his mind to something he knew was right.
I'm coming over. I have something I want to share with you.
As soon as he hit send, Jack could imagine Ianto rolling his eyes, thinking Jack was referring to something else entirely…which for once, he wasn't.
One word that spoke volumes. Fine. It wasn't fine, but Jack was going to make it better. Everything was clear now, everything made sense, and everything was going to be all right. Because deep down, he cared too much to let it go any other way, and if he got hurt again in the end, then at least he would have lived his life honestly, with a strong man like Ianto by his side.
He hoped, anyway. Pocketing the trinkets from his memories box, Jack slipped the tin back into his desk, grabbed his coat, and hurried back to the SUV. The grin on his face hid a racing heart, because he was nervous for the first time in many years. He just hoped he wasn't too late, and that his gift was accepted for what it really was.
Ianto put down his mobile, ran a hand through his hair, and sighed. He hadn't even had a chance to shower and change, let alone fall into bed to wallow with his thoughts for a few short hours and ponder everything that he and Tosh had talked about on the way home. Because he knew he would, though he probably wouldn't sleep much because of it.
So maybe it was better that Jack was coming over, only Ianto wasn't sure why, or what either one of them was going to say. What was done was done, time to move on. It was what they did, after all. Had a misunderstanding or a fight or even got genuinely pissed off about something, then shagged it away a few hours later without really talking about it. Hell, sometimes Jack didn't even apologize, he just showed up in the archives or the tourist office and wore Ianto down with his puppy dog eyes and fake misery. And because Ianto didn't really want to talk about it either, he always gave in at the end. It was what they did, who they were.
As he puttered back toward the kitchen, rolling up his sleeves and taking off his tie, Ianto wondered why Jack couldn't just wait until later to kiss and make up. At least it would be less fresh in their minds and not at the crack of dawn. Ianto was tired and didn't want to think about it now; he wanted to go to bed and move on when he went back in to work.
He started a kettle for tea, which wasn't his favorite drink, but he wasn't about to put down a mug of coffee at five in the morning and ruin any chance at a few hours rest. His mind wandered as he waited, and his eyes drooped closed more than a few times, until the kettle whistled at exactly the same time a knock sounded at the door. Startled from where he had been leaning tiredly against the counter, he took the kettle off the burner and started toward the front of his flat, where there was another impatient knock.
"Christ, I'll be right there, Jack!" he shouted at the door, yanking it open to find Jack standing there, hands behind his back as he shuffled on the threshold, actually looking…nervous?
"Hi," he said, the same look on his face from when he first asked Ianto on a date: uncertain, yet hopeful. Ianto was surprised, because he had been expecting a far more forward and aggressive Jack given his insistence on coming over.
"Come in then," Ianto grumbled as he turned away. "Can't have you waking the entire building."
"Thanks," said Jack. Letting himself inside, he shut the door quietly behind him, locking it just like Ianto usually did. He laid his coat on a nearby chair and followed Ianto into the kitchen.
Ianto offered him a cup and saucer. "Tea?" he asked, not really giving Jack a choice. The civility of drinking tea would be his shield, because he was tired and upset and needed a shield of some sort if he was going to make it through whatever Jack wanted to talk about.
"Perfect," said Jack. "Thanks for letting me come by."
"What couldn't wait until tomorrow?" asked Ianto, moving toward the small kitchen table and sitting. Gods, he was tired and didn't want to do this now. He had meant what he told Tosh: they didn't talk about…well, things, because that just made the situation complicated and messy and neither of them wanted that, they'd agreed on that much. It was what it was, and most days Ianto was happy to leave it that way.
Except for days like the previous one, where he'd watched one of his good friends and co-workers get married. On days like that, he wished he had a better idea of what it was that he and Jack were doing so he didn't have to hope for more. Because he did want more, sometimes, and he hated that he did because it hurt. And since he knew it would never happen, it had occurred to him on the way home, as he and Tosh rode in comfortable silence, that maybe it was time to end it. Maybe it was time to move on before it hurt even more. He could search for that normal life Gwen had managed to cling to and hope that one day he'd find someone to share it with.
Jack sat down across from him and was silent for a few minutes. Ianto wasn't sure what to say and finally opened his mouth just as Jack started to speak. They grinned sheepishly at each other.
"Go ahead," said Ianto, blowing into his cup before taking a sip. "You texted me, you should start."
"Right," said Jack, and suddenly he seemed nervous again. He reached into his pocket and pulled out something that he kept hidden in his palm, running his fingers over whatever it was as if it drawing strength and comfort from the mysterious item. "Look, Ianto, I'm sorry."
"About?" asked Ianto, wondering if Jack really had any idea of what he was apologizing for. He usually didn't, not when he actually used the words.
"About yesterday," Jack shrugged, looking down at the table. "I know I was out of it all day and wasn't really thinking of anything else but—"
"Gwen and her wedding," finished Ianto more calmly than he felt. "Understandable."
"But I wasn't thinking what you think I was thinking," Jack said, meeting Ianto's eyes. Ianto raised an eyebrow.
"And what do you think I was I thinking?" He stopped, feeling like he was trapped in a bad bit of television dialogue that would forever go back and forth. "Or rather, what did Owen tell you?"
Jack's eyes went wide. "Did you talk to Owen?"
"Of course not." Ianto shrugged in reply. "You drove him home and then show up here wanting to talk, so I really have no choice but to assume that he must have pointed something out to you."
"Because I don't usually see it myself?" asked Jack ruefully.
"Exactly. So, go ahead. Read my mind." He hadn't meant to sound bitter and challenging, but it came out that way. Jack, however, rose to the challenge.
"I know it looked like I was upset about Gwen getting married, and in some ways I am. It's going to be hard for her, balancing Torchwood with a marriage. And yes, I feel like I've lost someone special, even though I've lost her to a good man who will give her a good life." He paused to take a deep breath. "I guess deep down I'm a little envious, really."
"Of Rhys?" Ianto asked, carefully keeping his voice neutral this time, but Jack smiled and shook his head.
"Nope," he replied. "Of Gwen."
Ianto snorted. "Should have known you've been eyeing him up all this time."
"Oh, that's so wrong," said Jack, sticking out his tongue in disgust. "No, not like that. I'm envious that she gets the normal life—the husband, the house, the inevitable kids—and the rest of us don't."
Ianto set down his tea cup and looked into it, trying to hide his surprise. Finally he nodded and glanced back up. "That's exactly what Tosh and I were talking about on the drive back. A normal life."
"So do you want that life, then?" Jack asked, and Ianto thought the other man sounded scared, the underlying tone to his voice both nervous and sad.
"I don't know," said Ianto honestly. "I used to, and sometimes I still do. But it would be hard. Torchwood doesn't leave much room for that sort of thing."
"Gwen's going for it," Jack pointed out.
"Yes, but she's always been different than the rest of us. She doesn't have our pasts, our histories. She can do normal."
Jack was silent. "And the rest of us can't." It was more of a statement than a question. He was still playing with whatever he was holding in his hand.
"Jack, why are you here?" Ianto asked. "If you already talked to Owen about this, why are we going over it again at five o'clock in the morning?"
Jack sighed. "I wanted to talk to you about it."
"I'm not sure what else there is to talk about," Ianto pointed out. "You apologized, end of story. Everything will go back to normal, just like it always does—Torchwood normal."
"That's the thing," Jack said, frowning. "Why can't we create our own normal, outside of Torchwood? It might not be the same as Gwen and Rhys, but it could still be ours."
He had said we and ours. Ianto tried not to let his feelings about that show on his face, so he sipped at his tea again before replying. "I don't understand."
Jack laid out whatever he had been toying with on the table. It was a pair of square cufflinks, simple in design but obviously high quality, brushed silver with a deep blue stone set in the center. Ianto glanced up at Jack in confusion, but Jack only smiled sadly.
"These were mine," he started, his voice so soft and gentle that Ianto almost had to lean forward to hear him. "I wore them on the day I was married, over ninety years ago. Her name was Elizabeth, and she was as beautiful on the day I married her as on the day she died." He pulled out a worn, faded photograph and handed it across the table.
Ianto was speechless. He shouldn't have been, knowing that Jack had lived through the entire 20th century. Of course Jack had had other lovers; it only made sense that he might have been married as well, possibly even had children. It was just that Jack didn't talk about it much; he only seemed to refer to his more casual encounters, rarely mentioning the people he had loved and lost as if it were too painful. And looking at the photograph before him, Ianto suddenly realized that it probably was just that: Jack had been married, and his wife had died, and yet he would continue on, outliving their family and friends, forever.
Which was exactly why they didn't talk about them. The same thing would happen to them one day. So it was what it was, and that was enough…wasn't it?
"She was beautiful," Ianto murmured, handing the photograph back with a sad smile. He was glad Jack had shared it with him, though he wasn't sure why it had to be at five o'clock in the morning. "Did you have long together?" he asked, wanting to know more and hoping Jack would share.
Jack shook his head. "A few years. She died during the flu pandemic. We both got sick, actually, but I obviously recovered, and she didn't. I woke up from the fever only to find she had died during the night."
"I'm so sorry," Ianto whispered, and he reached across the table to take Jack's hand. Jack only nodded as he struggled to hold back rare tears. When he looked up into Ianto's face, his eyes were bright.
"Owen asked me what I was really thinking about today. Was I thinking about myself, about Gwen? Did I think about you? The answer is that I was thinking about everything—about my own wedding, about Elizabeth, about Gwen and that damn alien, and yes, about you. But I didn't really show it, did I? Even when you had to cut in for a dance to get my attention." Jack chuckled, and Ianto leaned back with his arms across his chest.
"I wasn't trying to get your attention," he said, feeling defensive. "I just wanted to dance."
"But not with Gwen," Jack teased, and Ianto rolled his eyes.
"You looked like you needed a distraction," he said, keeping his voice level. Jack's grin immediately dropped.
"I probably did, and I'm sorry. I wish I could go back and do it again," he said, and now it was Ianto's turn to frown.
"The dance? Don't worry about it Jack, it was just a dance."
"It should have been better—it should have been more."
Jack looked so sincere that Ianto really wasn't sure what was going on anymore, so he shook his head and just tried to deflect it. "Well, I've never danced with a bloke before, so I wouldn't know."
Jack offered a small smile that slipped off his face too quickly. Ianto didn't know what to say—this was even more awkward than the dance itself—and hid himself in his cup again. Jack sighed and stood up, scooping the cufflinks into his palm as he began to pace around the small kitchen.
"Ianto, can I tell you something?" he said, standing in front of the refrigerator and staring too hard at the sparse grocery list hanging there.
"Of course you can," Ianto said. "Or you could wait until tomorrow."
"It is tomorrow," Jack murmured absently.
"Then by all means continue, because sleep is completely overrated."
Jack turned around, his face crestfallen. "You really are upset with me, aren't you?"
"I'm sorry, Jack," Ianto said, shaking his head as he stood and took his cup to the sink. "It's not that I'm upset...well, maybe I am. But I'm tired, it was a hard day for a lot of reasons, and I just don't know if this is the time to be talking about this. If we even need to talk about it."
When Ianto turned around, Jack was standing in the middle of the kitchen, staring at him with such a look of despair that Ianto glanced over his shoulder, certain there must be some sort of deadly alien lurking behind him. Obviously there wasn't, but the pain and fear he saw clearly in Jack's eyes did not go away.
"Jack, what's wrong? Tell me what's wrong."
Jack's mouth moved as if it were hard to form the words he wanted to say. It was so out of character that Ianto was starting to wonder if something had happened to Jack—alien tech was always a possibility, or maybe he was lost in a flashback. Feeling both worried and annoyed but letting his compassion guide him, Ianto slowly approached the man struck dumb in the middle of his kitchen and took his hand again.
"Talk to me, Jack."
"I'm scared," he whispered, closing his eyes and shaking his head.
"Of what?" asked Ianto, thoroughly confused now and thinking once again that something must have happened, that he'd have to call Owen any moment and bring the team back in to figure out what was wrong with their leader.
"Of us," he said. "For us. Ianto, are you so angry with me that it's over? Have I messed up so badly that…that you would leave?" His face was with struck with naked emotion, and Ianto felt his heart begin to pound.
"What do you mean, leave? Leave Torchwood?" he asked.
"Leave Torchwood…leave me," Jack whispered, his voice breaking on the last word. Ianto dropped Jack's hand and stepped back.
"Oh." He swallowed thickly, recognizing that this was it, this was the pain they had been trying to spare themselves by never really addressing what it was between them. It was worse than he had imagined, the thought that it could be over—all he had to do was say the words, and he could move on, try for a normal life.
"No," he finally whispered back, then cleared his throat. "No, I'm not that angry at you, Jack. Disappointed, maybe, but I'm not so upset that I would leave. I admit that the temptation to live a normal life is strong sometimes, like when a close co-worker gets married and lives happily ever after, but…" He took a deep breath. "…but I don't think that's really who I am now. I'm Torchwood." Deep down he knew he was Jack's as well, but he would never, ever say that out loud.
Such a look of relief passed over Jack's face that Ianto was startled when the other man suddenly stepped forward, took his face in both hands, and kissed him soundly. It left him breathless but still confused when Jack stepped back and nodded, smiling broadly.
"I don't want you to leave," said Jack, his voice stronger and more confident. "I don't want you to leave Torchwood, and I don't want you to leave me, no matter how much of an arsehole I can be. I want to have as normal of a relationship as possible." He took Ianto's hand and slipped the cufflinks into them, folding Ianto's fingers over the studs and then bringing them to his lips to kiss them gently. "With you."
"I don't understand," said Ianto for what felt like the tenth time that night.
"I want you to have them," Jack replied.
"But they're yours, they're a reminder of your wedding day—"
"I have other things, other mementos to help me remember," Jack said. "They're yours now, a reminder for you, for us. And they go with your eyes." Jack wagged his eyebrows with a grin, but Ianto just gave him a suspicious look…tempered with the barest hint of the smile he felt growing within.
"Why?" he asked.
"Because you have blue eyes," Jack replied, his own now twinkling with amusement. Ianto ignored him.
"No, I mean, why do you want me to have them? And why now?" He thought he might know the answer, but he didn't want to even think about it unless Jack actually said it.
"Because I meant what I just said," Jack replied. "I want to be as normal as we can, together, with and without Torchwood." When Ianto didn't reply, Jack continued. "I know we've haven't really talked about it before, about us, but maybe we should. Maybe we need to stop pretending that we don't care. Maybe we need to—"
"Stop," said Ianto. He let his eyes slip closed before taking a deep breath and opening them again. "Jack, what about the future? What about the day when you…you move on, or when I—"
Jack put a finger to his lips and silenced him, his eyes crinkled with that eternal pain Ianto saw slip by every so often. "That's the risk we take," he whispered. "To feel and experience something really amazing now, you have to be willing to risk losing it later."
Ianto sighed as he looked down at the cufflinks in his hand. Ninety years. How could he do that to Jack, be with him now only to have to leave him one day, to become nothing but a memory and a set of cufflinks handed on to another lover after another ninety years? Did he really want that, for either of them?
Yes. He did. He wanted it more than anything because he couldn't imagine anything else.
"I'm sorry," he said, closing his fingers around the cufflinks again and glancing up into Jack's eyes. Jack looked shocked and scared.
"What? No… Ianto, please don't say that. You're not going to—"
Ianto leaned forward and kissed him quickly to stop him even thinking it. "No, I'm not leaving. I'm just sorry you'll have to go through this all over again."
Jack's relief was palpable as he blew out a long breath. "It's worth the risk," he said, pulling Ianto toward him. "You're worth the risk." He grasped Ianto's hand, opened it, and took up the cufflinks. Very slowly he rolled down Ianto's shirtsleeves and fastened each silver link through the cuffs, never once losing eye contact. It was strangely intimate, and felt like far more than what it actually was. Maybe it was more; Ianto knew something had changed dramatically and his life would never be the same.
"This is where you say I'm worth the risk too," Jack whispered, but he was smiling. Ianto inclined his head as if thinking.
"What if I'm still trying to work that out?" he asked. He hoped Jack heard the teasing in his voice; deep down, Ianto knew it was worth the risk. It was just that he also knew that moving forward wasn't only taking a risk, it was acknowledging a certainty: one day, it would hurt them both.
Jack narrowed his eyes and growled a bit in that way he had when Ianto bantered with him, but he had no comeback. "I can show you," Jack offered, his hands winding around Ianto's waist and bringing them flush together.
"You've just put my shirt back on properly, new studs and all," Ianto pointed out, pretending to admire the cufflinks. "Here I thought you might as well take me out for a posh breakfast."
"You can leave the shirt on then," Jack replied. "And I'll cook you a posh breakfast, but only if you drop your trousers. Now."
Ianto rolled his eyes but smiled, then reached around and took both of Jack's hands, leading him out of the kitchen. "I'd like breakfast in bed, if you don't mind. That seems like a fairly normal thing to do."
"As long as you eat it naked," Jack replied.
"As long as you cook it naked," Ianto tossed back, and Jack laughed.
"You know me," he said, and Ianto suddenly stopped, so that Jack bumped into him right at the threshold of the bedroom. He turned to Jack with a shake of his head.
"I thought I did, but you surprised me just now," he said softly.
"I've got a few left in me." Jack grinned back, but Ianto tried to keep it serious.
"I mean it, Jack. You really…yeah, you really did." He cleared his throat, because he had no words for what had passed between them, so he simply leaned forward and kissed Jack once more, deeply and passionately. "Thank you for the cufflinks," he whispered when they pulled away.
"Thank you for accepting them," Jack murmured back. "I hope you understand what I was trying to say. I'm not always good with words." He leaned his forehead against Ianto's and sighed. "Tell me you understand."
"I do, Jack," said Ianto. "I really do."
"Good," he said, and his voice, if possible, grew even more hoarse. "Because I think I've finally realized, or admitted, or accepted, that I—"
"Don't," said Ianto softly, his turn to place a finger against Jack's lips. "You don't need to say anything."
"I want to."
"I know, Jack."
"You're too good for me, Ianto Jones."
"I know that too, Jack."
But more importantly, he knew what they were, what they had, and where they were going. And for one of the first times since they'd fallen into their strange, undefined arrangement, Ianto felt like maybe, just maybe, they weren't that dysfunctional after all and did have a real relationship. And maybe they could have a normal life together, for however long they had with one another.
It was definitely worth the risk.
The end! Yes, that's a lot of talking for those two, isn't it? And a bit soppy as well. Well, it could have happened. Think about how their relationship changed over the next few episodes; maybe this was a turning point. Of course, I think something happened that disrupted whatever they had going before CoE, since there is far too much couple angst during Day One, but that's another story. And I've still got one story to finish, plus about six more started or at least floating around pestering me, so I won't be getting into any of that soon.
Thank you so much for all the reviews and the follows! Honestly, the follows freaked me out, so I hope it lived up to your expectations and then some. And if not…well, it is what it is, and I'm happy with how it turned out. I do love it when Jack and Ianto actually figure things out, after all. Many thanks to Cerih and Darcy58 for their encouragement, and to all of you for reading!