?

Log in

Previous Entry | Next Entry

Round one - challenge six story post

Okay this is the story post, please don't post your votes in the comment to this post. The voting post is here: http://torchwood-las.livejournal.com/11316.html

The prompts for this round were: Celebrations and a time piece (watch, clock etc)



1.
Title Coping Mechanism
Word Count 998
Rating PG
Warnings Mention of suicide


“He couldn't cope,” Jack said, looking down at John Ellis's body, lying pale and dead before him. It was cold in the room holding the cryo chambers but Jack welcomed the temperature. He didn't want to feel warm and alive – not with John lying there dead and cold.

Ianto raised his eyes from the clipboard. ”I already suspected as much.” He jotted down a few more letters – Death by suicide maybe – then he looked at Jack sadly. ”I'm sorry. I know that he meant a lot to you.”

Jack crossed his arms and stared at John's features, seemingly more relaxed and happier in death. ”Yes, he did.” He looked at John for a moment longer, then he sighed and turned away. He left without another word, knowing that Ianto wouldn't stop him, and he was grateful for that. It was painful enough that he wasn't alone right now, the rage at his inadequacy slowly rearing its ugly head. Why hadn't he seen this coming? Or had he and just ignored the signs? Because he sometimes wished he could do what John had done, without being dragged back to life?

The short way to his office seemed long, his limbs felt heavy and uncoordinated. For the first time in a very long time, Jack felt absolutely shattered. He sank into the chair behind his desk and put his head in his hands, pulling at his hair until it hurt. Maybe he felt so tired because he'd died so often tonight. Or maybe because John's death hit a bit too close to home.

His eyes strayed and found one of the monitors hooked to the wall. The news were showing decorated streets and smiling people milling about in the shops – somewhere up there, it was Christmas. Ianto entered the office and, slightly irritated, Jack asked, ”Why are you still here?”

Ianto paused for only a second, then he continued to the little table that held the liquor and poured a glass of Scotch. ”Work to do, sir.”

”You should be with your family right now.” Not here, all alone with Jack, his anger and the slowly mounting need to kill himself again. Because it had felt good in the car with John. Forgetting everything for just a few minutes. Not caring about anything but himself.

”Not tonight, no. We've made arrangements for New Year's Eve.” Ianto set the glass down in front of Jack. ”I don't feel like celebrating Christmas this year.”

Jack wrapped the fingers of one hand around the glass. ”Lisa?”

”It's not just because of Lisa. Gwen and Tosh have taken the day off to be with their families and you need somebody here who keeps you and Owen from killing each other.” He paused. “Even though I don't need to worry about you, isn't that right, sir?”

Jack froze, the glass half-way to his lips. Jack was a bit surprised that he wasn't more worried about Ianto knowing that he was immortal. Maybe because there was no doubt in his mind that Ianto would keep this to himself. ”How did you find out?”

”There were rumours at Torchwood One, clues have been piling up lately and the way you smelled of exhaust fumes when you came back with John's body … nobody smells that strongly when they haven't been sitting in that car for a while. So I looked for CCTV footage in the area. You were in that garage for over an hour.” Ianto's voice was calm, as were his eyes.

Jack looked at him for a long time, the only sound being the clock on the nearby wall ticking away the seconds. Then he said, ”I died eight times while in that car with John. Looking at him was like looking into a mirror.”

Ianto stepped around the desk and leaned against it. “You're not from this time”, he deduced. ”But you're coping. I see you coping every single day, you get on with your life.”

Jack slammed the glass on the desk. ”Because I have to!” he yelled, the anger at himself, at Ianto, at the Doctor and at John bubbling over. “I can't begin to count the times I was where John was tonight. Perched on the edge of a roof, holding my gun to my head, provoking a Weevil … I died so many times because I just couldn't cope. Don't you dare stand there and telling me that I've got a grip, like you know me! You have no idea about me! I'm not coping. Maybe I never will.”

Silence entered the office. Jack was staring at Ianto, breathing heavily. Ianto answered the stare calmly.

Then, catching Jack by surprise, he cupped Jack's face and pressed a gentle kiss to his lips. ”Felt good, didn't it?”

Jack deflated, exhaustion getting the better of him. ”I'm sorry.”

”You didn't hurt me.”

”I overstepped a line. I'm your leader, I shouldn't ...”

”It's after hours, it's just you and me. You're not my leader, you're my lover. You're allowed to unburden yourself.” He leaned back and gave a wry smile. ”Besides, it's Christmas. It's kind of a tradition to yell at others. You can ask any family having relatives over during the holidays.”

Jack chuckled and sighed deeply, rubbing his tired eyes.

Ianto pulled him into his arms. ”Believe it or not, you are coping. John gave up on life, he didn't see any way for himself to live in this time, he didn't have a place here ... but you … you have a place. Right here. With us. Whenever you're ready to accept it.”

Jack put his arms around Ianto, thinking of the Doctor. “I don't know when that might be.”

Ianto pressed a kiss to his neck. “That's okay. You just let me know when you do.”



2.
Title Message in a Bottle
Word Count 998
Rating PG-13
Warnings None
 
“I have to warn you -- I’ve never been very good with these things.”
 
“What, birthdays?” Ianto asks.
 
He’s standing in front of Jack’s desk, his hands in his pockets. The scene in front of him is familiar, comfortable -- Jack, leaning back against the wooden chair, tilting his head up from the papers in front of him, which Ianto is certain he’ll be ready to abandon in an instant, UNIT deadlines be damned.
 
“That’s odd, considering how many of them you’ve had. And anyway, you invited me.”
 
Jack laughs and the full-bodied sound lodges itself dead-center in Ianto’s chest. It stays there as Jack gets up to make his way around the front of the desk.
 
“I was thinking of celebrations in general,” Jack says. “But that works, too.”
 
He wraps his arms around Ianto’s waist.
 
“Happy Birthday, Ianto,” Jack says, his chin resting solidly against Ianto’s shoulder, and Ianto smiles.

--
 
“What was it like when you were a kid?” Ianto asks.  “Did you celebrate your birthday?”

He watches Jack, leaning back in his chair behind the desk again, and it’s silly, but his heart races a bit at the prospect of being told something, anything, about Jack’s past. He has no idea how the conversation had arrived here; somehow the question had just slipped out.
 
Jack is quiet for a moment and Ianto just watches him. Jack’s eyes are still and round, like polished stones.
 
“I don’t remember,” he says finally, getting up from the desk.
 
After another moment Ianto follows him, and they stand there frozen for a moment, staring down through the glass at the empty hub.  Jack’s hand closes around Ianto’s fingers as he hands him the drink he’d left on the desk. The smooth glass under the pads of Ianto’s fingers is cool and slippery with condensation.
 
“It was a long time ago,” Jack whispers, and then his lips are pressed against Ianto’s; it’s sweet and bitter and desperate and measured all rolled into one, and before he knows what’s happening, stacks of papers are being shoved hastily to the corners of the desk.
 
Their half-finished drinks are moved a safe distance away and all Ianto can think about as Jack’s fingers dance over the zip of his trousers is how much he wants this. His guilt for asking about the past, his suspicion that Jack is lying like always when he says he doesn’t remember -- all of that has vanished.
 
 It’s his twenty-sixth birthday, and this, right here, is the only thing in the world that he really wants.
 
--
 
“Okay, fine, I’ll bite,” Jack says later, after they’ve moved from the office down to Jack’s bunker. “What do you want to know?”
 
When Jack shifts, Ianto’s center of gravity shifts right with him on the tiny bed. It’s been ages since they’ve been down here; the room smells a bit musty.
 
“Anything,” Ianto tells him. “Something about where you’re from, what it was like -- anything.”
 
He closes his eyes as a rush of red hot warmth rises up from somewhere deep inside of him.  His chest aches in the silence, at the thought of Jack calculating, sifting through his secrets, maybe, trying to find something he’s willing to reveal.
 
“Never mind,” Ianto says. “You don’t--"
 
“There was sand everywhere,” Jack starts, cutting him off. “It seemed to stretch off in every direction except for one -- where the sea was. You could hear it from our house. It was louder at night, and in the early morning. I used to lie awake listening to it.”
 
Ianto closes his eyes and ends up with an image of a rainy, pebble-strewn beach in Brittany, and Lisa standing there in a plaid jumper and wellies.  It’s not a bad memory, but it’s not exactly a good one anymore, either. He wonders how many of Jack’s memories have ended up like this.
 
“I was obsessed with what was on the other side of the water. My brother and I…we used to write messages and then send them off in whatever we could find -- bottles, tins, anything. We thought someone might read them.”
 
Ianto smiles, leaning back against the wall. “What kind of messages did you write?”
 
Jack shakes his head. “I don’t remember.”
 
“What was on the other side of the water?”
 
Jack furrows his brow. “Everything to the south, I guess.”
 
“And what was it like in the south?”

Jack shakes his head. “I left Boeshane as soon as I was able to, and…”
 
“And?”
 
“And so I never spent that much time exploring.”
 
“Not even to find out if any of your messages arrived?”
 
“Not really, no,” Jack says.
 
--
 
“I told you I was no good at this,” Jack says much later, as he places a ghost of a kiss against Ianto’s ear. Ianto shivers.
 
“Oh, I wouldn’t say that,” Ianto says and lets out a breath as Jack continues to press his lips against his neck, his jaw, his collarbone. “I got what I wanted, after all.”
 
“Mostly,” he adds after a second, because there is one other thing he’d been hoping for. He glances at Jack.
 
“Maybe I’ll send you a message in a bottle sometime. I could float it out over the bay,” Jack says, his breath dancing over Ianto’s chest, setting his nerves on fire.
 
Ianto closes his eyes. He maps out the position of Jack’s body next to him on the bed by rote, by the patterns in the air. He raises his hip just a little to meet Jack’s palm.
 
“Yeah?” Ianto says. His breath hitches a little.
 
“Yeah,” Jack says. “Want to know what I’d write?”
 
At this Ianto lets out a small huff of a laugh.
 
Happy Birthday, Ianto Jones. Anything you want, it’s yours.”
 
Jack is watching him expectantly and Ianto raises his eyebrows. It’s his birthday, after all. He supposes he’s allowed to be a little selfish. He watches Jack’s eyes widen in anticipation.
 
“Stopwatch,” Ianto whispers. “Now.”



3.
Title This Jack, That Jack
Word Count 999
Rating PG-13
Warnings Very mild language, mild sex references


Ianto can’t be sure. He has his suspicions, but they’re as vague as they are persistent. Even after they solidify into something resembling a theory, there’s no safe way to test it, no way to check without risking everything. Still, he wonders.

----

The first time he senses something is different is on his birthday, his first at Torchwood Three. Tosh organises a meal to celebrate, and Jack makes his excuses – lame, work-based excuses that nobody buys. That’s not unusual though; Jack doesn’t do birthdays. Owen maintains that it’s because he’s a miserable prick, but Ianto assumes it’s because Jack doesn’t want to think about everyone aging around him, destined to grow old and die whilst he remains the same. 

The unusual part comes later, when Ianto is at his flat, replete after an evening of quality Indian food. There’s a knock on the door, tentative at first and then determined. It’s Jack, leaning against his doorpost with studied casualness and a pre-prepared smile.

‘Ianto,’ he says, oddly breathless, and something flickers over his face as their eyes lock. Then Jack breaks the gaze abruptly and slips past Ianto, entering the flat as if he belongs there.

‘I wasn’t expecting you tonight,’ Ianto says, and instantly regrets it – Jack will think he isn’t pleased to see him. But Jack just smiles again and shrugs, as if he’s surprised himself by coming too. Ianto grins back. It’s awkward, but nice.

‘I wanted to give you your birthday present,’ Jack says, reaching into his coat pocket and retrieving a small parcel.

Ianto is certain that his shock is showing on his face, partly from the way his cheeks tingle with heat, and partly from Jack’s fondly amused gaze. Jack hasn’t looked at him like that before, at least not that he’s noticed, and it throws him as much as the present.  

‘Open it,’ Jack urges, impatient, so Ianto does, carefully unfolding the paper whilst they stand in the hallway. The gift takes his breath away. It is a watch, finer than any he’s owned before, with a shimmering silver face and a butter-soft strap in dark grey Italian leather. It is perfect. Anything from Jack would have been wonderful, but this is...more. He places it carefully on the side table and then pushes forward, nudging Jack back into the wall and pressing his lips to Jack’s in thanks.

Jack freezes. 

It only lasts for a moment, but Ianto feels it – Jack’s body tensing up under his hands, his muscles taught, his mouth hard and unyielding, as though he is shocked by the kiss, as though he has forgotten how to be kissed. A second later it’s as though it never happened; Jack’s lips soften whilst his body melts into Ianto’s and Ianto manoeuvres them both down the hall to the bedroom.
They’ve had sex before, but it’s never been like this. Jack has never been so gentle, so reverent, so determined to run his tongue and trace his fingers over every part of Ianto’s body from his earlobes to his toes. It is overwhelming. It is, Ianto thinks, the first time they’ve made love.

Afterwards, Jack strokes his hand over Ianto’s chest and starts to speak, stops, and starts again. ‘You shouldn’t tell the others I brought a gift. They’ll all be wanting one.’ 

Ianto smiles gently up at him. ‘We’ll never speak of it again,’ he replies, and the relief in Jack’s eyes is distinct. They fall asleep together, but Jack is gone by morning. Jack doesn’t comment – doesn’t even show a flicker of recognition – when Ianto wears the watch, and the next time they have sex, it’s just sex.

----

Ianto gets used to Jack behaving erratically. Most of the time he knows where he stands, and it’s in a not-quite-relationship consisting primarily of quickies in the archives. After Jack returns from his sojourn with the Doctor, there are occasional date-nights too, dinners filled with superficial banter and, sometimes, a rare truthful conversation in the afterglow. 

But now and again, Jack will turn up at the flat unexpectedly when Ianto had assumed he was working late, and blow him away with his tenderness and his willingness to sit and talk for hours, asking questions about Ianto’s views on everything under the sun seemingly just to hear him talk. It’s on these days that Ianto wonders.

This Jack is so different. Quieter, more tired, more wistful. In a way he seems wiser, and even older, if that is possible. And Ianto doesn’t know, isn’t sure he wants to know, what gets into Jack on these days, why Jack suddenly seems to cherish him to a degree Ianto can hardly comprehend, and then reverts to normal the next day. He never asks though, and something in the back of his mind stops him from referring to these moments whilst Jack is in one of his more everyday moods.

----

One evening with this more thoughtful Jack, Ianto makes a mistake. He is sitting on his sofa with Jack’s head in his lap, sifting Jack’s hair gently through his fingers, when he notices the grey. It’s just a couple of strands of silver but he mentions them teasingly – it looks like Jack is ageing after all – and Jack’s whole body stiffens in response.

‘Thanks for telling me. I’ll get the hair dye out later,’ Jack says, tightly, and for a moment Ianto assumes he’s just sensitive about his looks. But Jack can’t relax afterwards, and it’s not long before he leaves. As he does, he holds Ianto’s hands tightly and gazes at him for a long, heavy moment before brushing their lips together and disappearing down the street.

The next day, when Ianto comments lightly on how well the dye has worked, Jack looks at him as though he’s lost his mind. ‘What dye?’ he asks, and Ianto shuts up.

After that, there are no more surprise visits. 

Ianto misses them, misses that Jack. And he wonders. 

But he can’t be sure.


Comments