Title: Holding back
Characters: Jack, Ianto
Length: 2,437 words
Content notes: none
Author notes: Written for Challenge 442 - Resurrection at slashthedrabble
Summary: Jack thought he was protecting them, when he was only protecting himself.
They lay there, wrapped up in each other's arms, Jack's fingertips tracing idle patterns on Ianto's torso. He was enjoying the feeling of Jack's hand on his skin. They'd had sex plenty of times, but intimacy, this was new. They'd never found time for it before. Now they had the whole night together, tucked up in Ianto's flat, warm underneath Ianto's bedcovers, avoiding their past selves. Suddenly they had nothing but time. Hours of it that would stretch on until morning, and neither of them could find sleep, no matter how exhausted they were. There was something unspoken about not wanting to waste a single second of this precious time together, as if they might never have it ever again.
Ianto hadn't expected Jack to ever come back. He expected them to pick up right where they'd left off even less. He'd tried staying clam and cool-headed, pretending that everything was perfectly normal, like Jack regularly disappeared for months on end and just came back whenever he felt like it. Then he'd gone and ruined it by blurting out those stupid words.
'Are you going back to him?' He'd sounded so pathetic and needy that it wouldn't have surprised him for Jack to say yes.
'I came back for you.' No, not him, he'd meant you plural, as in the team. I came back for the team. More stupid wishful thinking.
Then Jack had gone and thrown him for a loop, blundering awkwardly through innuendo laced conversation that was his bread and butter any other day of the week. He was asking Ianto how he was, asking him to dinner and a movie. This time he wasn't going to mess things up by reading between the lines something that wasn't there.
'Are you asking me out on a date?' Was he interested? Why was that such a hard question to answer? Be cool, Jones. Just say, "sure, that'd be nice".
'Well, so long as it's not in an office. Some fetishes should be kept to yourself.'
Idiot! Why would you say that? Please let the floor suck me up whole right now. He couldn't have made more of a hash of things if he'd tried, and yet Jack was still looking at him.
Distract him, send him somewhere else until you can get your shit together. Go suggest he photocopy his arse in the next room if you have to! Luckily his final instruction had been far more composed than that. He'd be spared any more awkwardness tonight if he was lucky.
How he'd ended up back at his flat was still a bit of a blur. Of course, they'd needed somewhere to hang out where they wouldn't cross their own timelines, and Jack had nowhere else to go. Not entirely true, Ianto realised. He couldn't go back to the hub, which for Jack was like home, but he could have gone pretty much anywhere else. Still, it hadn't stopped Ianto telling him in no uncertain terms that he was coming home with him. Not in that sense, just that Jack could kip on his sofa.
'Looks just the same,' Jack had observed, standing just inside the doorway.
Ianto apologised. 'Kevin McCloud's diary has been packed and he hasn't found time to come around yet.' Why? Why did he have to answer everything with dry-witted sarcasm? It was because he was nervous as hell, he knew that.
There was a warm sensation in his hand. He looked down, finding Jack gripping it.
'I missed you.'
Ianto felt utterly disarmed by those three little words. Before he knew what he was doing, he was kissing Jack, arms wrapped around his neck, pulling him close, finding Jack's arms equally fixed around his waist, keeping him tightly pressed to his body.
The rest was short and sharp, clothes disappearing along the hallway, bodies falling heavily on the bed in a tangle, tongues everywhere. Jack took him quickly, and half an hour later it was all over, neither of them able to stay the distance. It was hardly romantic, and it was definitely not dinner and movie material, but what came afterwards as they lay there in the afterglow was nice. It was tender, almost soothing after the past twenty-four hours. They never did this, just lying here, hands slowly rediscovering curves and edges. All of his earlier anxiety had melted away, replaced by a calming aura that they were right where they were meant to be. It was more than Ianto had hoped for, but there was still something else there, lurking in Jack's expression - a different kind of darkness to the one that enveloped the room.
At first Jack hadn't said anything about where he'd been and what had happened to him whilst he'd been gone, letting the silence hang between them like a jealous lover. Jack knew though that he wanted to make it up to Ianto for leaving. Not just leaving, but abandoning him. He'd always planned coming back right when he'd left. He should have known the Doctor would be less than reliable on that front. He just hadn't expected it to be so long, and the effect it would have on his team, and on Ianto. He had to give him something - something to prove to him that he hadn't intentionally left without saying goodbye - or at least explaining himself. His window of opportunity had been so small that he'd acted without thinking. Ianto, who should have been furious with him, but whose first words to him had been only to ask if he was leaving again. He didn't deserve that kind of devotion, from any of them. It wasn't going to be easy to win back their trust, but he had to start somewhere, however difficult it was.
After a few minutes covering the basics of finding his Doctor, Martha Jones and travelling to the year one hundred billion, he got into a comfortable rhythm. This wasn't so bad, it was just facts after all, Martha was a junior doctor from London, the humans in the year one hundred billion were building a rocket to take them from this godforsaken rock and on to Utopia, and the brilliant Professor Yana that had made it all possible, with a little help from the Doctor, of course. For once in his life, Jack wasn't the centre of the universe. No one here was waiting on him and relying on him to make everything happen. He was just a passenger along for the adventure, and he'd loved it.
He had no intention of telling Ianto everything. The year that never was, was just that, never was, and never would be. Whatever happened there should stay buried, but the more he spoke, feeling warm and safe in Ianto's arms, the more he found the rest of it spilling out of him like an overflowing dam. Soon he'd told Ianto everything, The Master, the endless torture the Master had subjected him to, watching his team captured and brought before him, then being killed right in front of him as the Master giggled like a schoolchild, deaf to Jack's own screams for mercy. He couldn't stop the words tumbling out of him even if he'd wanted to. And all the while, Ianto lay there, holding him, letting him talk until there were no more words left, until he was utterly spent, physically and emotionally.
Ianto had so many questions, and Jack answered them without him uttering a single word, openly, honestly and in many cases, brutally. He was glad that the Master was dead, or he would surely have killed him himself for all the pain and suffering that he'd caused.
But there was still one question Jack had purposely not answered. It was the one Ianto wanted an answer for more than any; it was before John Hart, before the year that never was, before the Doctor. It was the very first question, the one that had been there all along. He pulled himself close, head resting underneath Jack's chin, unable to meet Jack's gaze as he asked it.
'Why didn't you tell me?'
Jack was confused for a moment, trying to fathom what it was he hadn't told Ianto. He'd told him everything that had happened since he'd come back from Abbadon. That's when he understood the question.
Ianto knew that Jack was keeping dozens of secrets from him, as was his right. He was the leader of Torchwood, and it was his job to know everything, but to only share what had to be shared, and at the right time. He'd seen the reports in the archives from decades long past, written in Jack's own cursive script, seen photographs, Jack always the same, smiling but never aging. Some kind of permanent youth, he'd assumed. None of the reports had ever mentioned anything about Jack dying, or coming back.
Perhaps he'd been more cautious than Ianto gave him credit for, pulling out any files that made mention, hiding them away, but leaving the rest. Just enough to make him wonder, without giving anything away. He'd always seen it there in Jack's expression, young face, old eyes. Not being able to die made more sense. It had just seemed so completely impossible. Advanced genetics was one thing, but this? This was something Ianto couldn't understand. Jack couldn't die. If there was a secret he should have shared, shouldn't it have been this one? The thought of it had been bothering him ever since, and he'd had plenty of long, lonely months to turn it over in his mind, still unable to find the answer.
Jack tensed in his arms, pulling away slightly, but Ianto didn't let go. He'd never ask anything of Jack ever again if he could just have the answer to this one question.
'I didn't want you to look at me like I was... wrong.'
Wrong. That wasn't a word from Jack's normal vocabulary. Jack was open to all things, the infinite wonder of the universe, as he liked to call it. Things were different, or interesting, weird or wacky, but they were never wrong. Someone had planted the word there, and Ianto was pretty sure he knew who. Jack's Doctor had explained that he was an impossible thing, and that the TARDIS had tried to shake him off. He'd been abandoned by the Doctor all those years ago, never understanding why until now. No wonder Jack was reticent to tell people. He was carrying his immortality around like a heavy ball and chain, like a prison sentence.
Knowing Jack couldn't die wasn't what worried him; it was knowing Jack could die, and had, maybe dozens of times, and that no one had been there to help him. Death would scare anyone. Knowing you were coming back could hardly be a comfort, and potentially knowing what was on the other side, waiting for you, even more so.
'Gwen knew.' That was all he could find words to say. 'Why?'
He couldn't help but be jealous of Gwen. She was always the favourite, always at the centre of it all. She was the one chosen to know Jack's secret. What made her better than the rest of them?
'She was there the night Suzie shot me in the head before she killed herself. Retcon wouldn't have worked. She'd already broken through it once. If I'd thought it would work a second time, I'd have done it. I asked her not to say anything. She was protecting me. Protecting you. I would have preferred that none of you knew.'
That was Jack through and through. Always putting everyone else's needs above his own, rather like Ianto did. It was just how they were built, paying some invisible penance, hoping there was redemption for them in the next life.
'You're not wrong, Jack. We wouldn't have loved you any less.'
What he meant was that he wouldn't have loved Jack any less, but he couldn't say those words, not yet. It was too soon for that. He wasn't sure that Jack loved him back, despite whatever it was they were sharing right now. He didn't want to risk opening himself up that much.
'I wanted to. I just... couldn't ever find the right time.'
When would have been the right time, Jack wondered? Before Ianto's cyber girlfriend had killed him, trying to protect Ianto? After Jack had killed her, earning nothing but Ianto's wroth and scorn? After the cannibals had nearly killed them all, Ianto having been seconds from nearly losing his own life, the only one he had, which he'd sacrificed to save Tosh? Perhaps before Suzie had been resurrected herself, sitting there exuding confidence, ready to spill the beans on Jack's little secret. Or maybe in the aftermath of the night he'd made his suicide pact with John, the pair of them asphyxiating slowly in Ianto's car, both seeking the release of death, and knowing that only one of them would ever find that peace. Certainly he couldn't have faced up to the truth after he'd been rescued from 1941. Bad enough that he'd already committed himself to staying there permanently, worse that he'd fallen in love, albeit fleetingly, with the real Captain Jack Harkness. Was he intending to live out all the years in between and then return just after he'd gone missing? Ianto deserved better than him, and he wasn't about to do anything that might drive a wedge between them.
Perhaps he'd hoped that it would happen by accident, and that he wouldn't have to say the words. That was what he'd gotten, wasn't it? Only Ianto was finding out along with the rest of them. It wasn't personal and it wasn't intimate. And worst of all was that Gwen had lorded it over them that she knew, hurting Ianto even more. He should have been the first to know. Yes, he'd left it all to chance, and look what a mess he'd made of things.
Ianto ran a warm hand up and down his arm, distracting him from his thoughts, the fine hairs on his arm tingling under Ianto's touch like electricity.
'Doesn't matter,' he said. 'We're here for you now. You don't have to do this alone anymore.' He snuggled closer and held Jack tight, as if they'd done this a hundred times, instead of just the once right now.
Yes, Jack thought, reciprocating the firm embrace. Ianto was here. That was all that mattered. He was the reason he'd come back, the reason he'd always come back. Immortality, right or wrong, could wait. Just for a little while.
Original 500 word version can be found here.