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 “Taking the Bullet” Pt 4/4

Author: <lj user=marzipan77>

Jack/Ianto, some Jack/Gwen UST, Team, Rhys

Angst/Drama

Rating: Let’s say R, shall we?

Missing scenes and epilogue to “Meat”, Series 2

Summary: Some wounds are shallow, some deep; Ianto’s grown used to taking the bullets.  But when a psychic connection with a tortured creature leaves him empty, Ianto realizes he has nothing to lose.

 

 

Light engulfed Ianto in a soft glow, stroking across his skin, slipping into his pores to fill up every crevasse of his soul with warmth and strength.  It roused his withered spirit, dispelled the shadowy weights that wrapped it round, dissolved the bonds of despair and hopelessness.  At its center, where their lips met, his and Jack’s, it didn’t taste like passion or arousal, none of the familiar stirrings of need and want.

 But it was primal and pure and selfless.

 

He closed his eyes, feeling the brilliance pressing against his eyelids from both sides, and he swallowed down life.

 

<<Ianto.  Ianto.>>

 

Somewhere within the glow he found himself, found the pain and the passion, the acceptance and the desire, the joy and the grief, and he took them in, each one, stacking them like blocks in his spirit, reconstructing his being.  Some had faces – his mum, Rhi, Lisa; some smelled like the dust of ancient tombs, like the sea, like coffee; some felt of the sharp metal of a gun, or the hard wood of a bat, or fine, feathery strands of hair.  And always, just there, out of the corner of his eye - Jack.

 

<<That’s it.  Slowly.  Do you feel it?>>

 

Almost done, now.  The fit was rough, teetering, just that one block missing, the head of the arch, the keystone.  Where?

 

<<I’m right here.  Come on – come and find me.>>

 

A timeless time he hesitated, unsure, the thing between them thin as gossamer or thick as steel cable; the cold blackness of space or the scorching heat of a coal fire.

 

<<You felt its pain.  You held all of its misery and loneliness within your mind.  Do you dare touch me?>>

 

Ianto reached out and found another hand reaching for his.

 

Nothing separated them now.  Ianto saw through the eyes of an immortal man, a man who laughed and cried and held a layer of lead around his heart, a layer he’d built up inch by inch with every hiss of death and every gasp of life and every year of grieving friends and enemies.  He stood within the storm of Jack’s memories, small flickers of clarity lending faces and names before stealing them back and hoarding them in tightly clasped hands.  Ianto floated for another thousand years, seeing, feeling – and then –

 

He dug his insubstantial fingers into tiny cracks, pried apart the whitened knuckles that kept it all hidden, secret – that kept Jack Harkness alone.

 

<<No.  Not that.  Not him.  Not her.>>

 

Jack’s denial only urged Ianto on, fueling his struggles, and now it was Ianto calling out, daring, chasing Jack through the light.

 

<<Let me in.>>

 

Spears of brighter white stabbed at him, pouring out from the weaknesses in Jack’s armor.  Ianto shrugged off alien skies and landscapes, waded through pools of laughter and tears, and slipped past the frantic gropings of impossible beings until he came to the dark core of Jack’s heart.

 

The shock of his release left him panting, the brilliance shutting down all at once, leaving him blinking the mental afterimages away.  The medical bay leaped up around him, cold and stark, metal table against his back, the faint, lingering smell of blood.  Ianto lifted his head, his shoulders, bent elbows holding his weight, and stared.

 

Jack had stumbled backward, hands going back to steady himself against the counter.  His face was even paler than before, eyes wild with panic.  “What the hell-”

 

Ianto shifted to sit at the edge of the table, the strange lethargy gone, the memories of alien wounds and ocean depths of sorrow replaced by his own pungent regrets: a hand that wasn’t held, a cold, empty bed as the dawn broke, a gaze that skimmed across his skin to seek hers.  Now, coupled with his, were Jack’s own fears, raw and trembling – fears that the time traveler had built his entire existence around, fears that kept him chasing and grasping after impossible connections when he had but to stop, to wait, just a moment, and let loving arms find him.

 

Ianto’s features settled back into their customary blandness, eyebrows raised as he carefully worked his shirt cuffs into neat folds.  His control was tentative, the box into which he’d stuffed his misery at Jack’s betrayals, his resentment at the captain’s, to all appearances, easy brush offs, was bulging at the seams, straining to hold in not only his own despair, but Jack’s centuries long dread as well.  Emotions bled from it, sending out thin strands of anger that wove in and out beneath his skin like fine copper wire at the sheer, bloody waste of it all.

 

“Just what the hell did you think you were doing?”  A remnant of Captain Harkness’ usual sharp command didn’t quite smother the apprehension beneath his words.

 

Straightening his back, Ianto lifted his gaze to pin Jack to the wall.  Jack had brought him back, infected Ianto with life.  Ianto was not about to waste it.

 

“You invited me in, Jack.  Don’t complain when you don’t like what I found.”

 

The captain jerked upright, one hand brushing through his hair, fierce blue gaze settling into an everyday sort of wariness.  “Huh, well, humans – of this century, anyway – aren’t supposed to be able to do that.”

 

“What, root around in your brain?  You started it.”

 

Jack shoved his hands up under his armpits and widened his stance, chin up.  “You’re an empath.”

 

Ianto pursed his lips, thinking, adding up the sum of his feelings.  “I was.  The creature made it so, barging in and all.  Pretty sure that bits over.”  He nodded slowly.  “Thanks for that.”

 

Jack shrugged.  “All in a day’s work.”

 

Ianto dropped to his feet, hands on his hips.  “No.”

 

A flicker of unease chased across Jack’s face.  His eyes narrowed, head turning to the side as he obviously assessed Ianto’s meaning.

 

“No?”

 

“No, Jack.  We’ll not be playing that game.”  He took a step forward, just far enough to crowd the other man.  “We can talk here, or in your office, but we will talk.”

 

“Is that right?”  Jack’s smile was dangerous, and this, Ianto knew, was not an act.

 

“Yep.  That’s the cost, Jack.  The cost of all this,” Ianto flipped his hands up at his sides as if weighing the misery of the past day.  “Words.  Truth.”

 

Jack’s breathing sped, his head shaking back and forth.  “You don’t know what you’re asking,” he whispered.

 

A dark smile slipped out from behind Ianto’s control.  “Don’t I though?”

 

He followed the tight, angry shoulders of his captain through the hub, muttering a few words of comfort and reassurance to Tosh and letting Jack stare Owen back into his chair when he wasn’t more than halfway out of it.

 

“Great.  Hysterics, round two,” he heard the doctor mutter as he passed by.

 

Jack grabbed one of the sweating water bottles as he brushed past his desk, twisting the lid ineffectually back and forth as he paced.  Ianto moved more carefully, letting the water glide down his parched throat.

 

“To start,” Ianto paused, hoping that Jack would settle somewhere, or at least look at him, but beyond a few furious glances thrown in his direction, Jack seemed to be pretending Ianto wasn’t there.  “Why didn’t you believe me – about the creature?”

 

That touched a nerve and Jack spun, pointing the water bottle like a gun at Ianto’s chest.  “That’s not what … it isn’t that …”

 

“Oh.”  Realization hit Ianto low in the gut.  “You,” he swallowed painfully, “you didn’t want to believe it.”

 

Jack shifted closer, gaze locked to his, and Ianto saw the hurt, the woundedness in their depths.  “I didn’t want you to –“

 

“- you didn’t want me to know how you felt,” he finished for the struggling immortal.  The struggling, completely idiotic immortal.  “You are a selfish bastard Jack Harkness,” he chuckled, snorting at the surprising warmth that suddenly filled him.

 

Jack’s teeth were clenched around his words.  “I never wanted to hurt you, Ianto.”

 

“No?  How about Gwen, then.  Or Rhys?”  He stepped in, hip to hip, until the bottle pressed hard against his chest, just over his heart.  “Do you plan to go on like this?” his low-pitched voice rumbled between them, “pretending there’s no more to you than the over-sexed toddler shouting, ‘mine, mine, mine’ as he rummages ‘round his toys?  Playing the heart-broken hero with longing glances towards the untouchable woman of his dreams as he settles for the doting cabin-boy?”  He spread his hand over Jack’s chest, seeming to hold the man close with the intensity, the powerful heat of their connection.  “You forget, I’ve seen your heart, Jack.  And I know.” 

 

It was Jack’s turn to close his eyes, to try to drift into the very air around him and disappear.  “No.  You’re fooling yourself.  You don’t –”

 

Ianto smiled, leaning in, cheek to cheek, to breathe across Jack’s ear.  “I know I love you.  And I know that scares the shit out of you.”

 

He moved away gracefully, just as the alarm began to blare, just as the cog door began its grinding movement.  Gwen’s hurried footsteps on the stairs brought Jack to the door, his face composed into a chilly mask.

 

It only made Gwen’s fury seem hotter, her self-loathing steeped deeply in guilt and shame slamming into them full force.  “I’m not doin’ it.  I won’t drug him.”  She brushed off Tosh and Owen’s – and Ianto’s - words and stood toe to toe with the reason for her rampaging emotions.

 

Ianto heard the denial in her raging shouts, watched the self-reproach in the clenched fists she beat against her own chest.  God, she was trying to back away, to snap this bond between her and Jack – didn’t he see?  She was trying to choose, once and for all – she was trying to convince herself to choose Rhys – a good man, a brave man, a man who truly loved her and always would.

 

He caught the bottle Jack threw at him, watching over the captain’s shoulder as he walked towards her, and Ianto waited, wondering if Jack would do the right thing.  Finally.  If he’d admit – if only to himself – that it wasn’t Gwen he longed for.

 

“Do you really think you could go back to your old life before Torchwood?”

 

Of course, that was the question, wasn’t it?

 

“I wouldn’t know anything different.”

 

“I would.”

 

Ah, Jack, Ianto sighed, head bowed.  It wasn’t lust for her body or the wish for a declaration of love that put the tremble in his voice.  It wasn’t big brown eyes or female bits that kept him on edge, jealous, craving.  No, it was fear.  Fear of what Captain Jack Harkness, former time agent, alien, tortured and resurrected soul could never have.  The cost of a life lived over centuries among beings who flashed brightly by like signposts along the road.

 

What he wanted most of all – what he’d left them to chase after – what he couldn’t let go of even now, with truth and love and Ianto waiting at his back.  Jack wanted the scrapbook perfection of ‘a normal life.’  Whatever the hell that was.

 

No matter that he bragged of tentacled lovers and sleepin’ his way across the galaxies and shallow intimacies that never reached his heart, Jack Harkness’ dreams weren’t like a Welsh boy’s childhood hopes of adventure and travel and heroism.  No, he’d had all that, hadn’t he?  No, Jack wanted to live in a happy family snapshot.  He wanted predictable and steady, kids at his knees, nights playing darts with the boys down the pub; mortgages and trips to the Tesco and taxes and aching joints and grey at the temples.  Grandkiddies on the weekends and aging and the certainty of death all wrapped up in the only ‘normal’ couple he could see: Rhys and Gwen.

 

And while he was looking for that, gazing off into the distance longing for family, Jack would burn the only bridges that he hadn’t crossed; he’d turn his back on the reality of Ianto’s love, his promise of devotion for as much of a lifetime as he was allowed; the only lifetime Ianto would ever have.

 

Ianto had only the one to get it right, after all.

 

But Jack said, “Give Rhys my love and I will see you tomorrow.”  And Ianto didn’t know what that meant.

 

When she left, Jack grabbed the water out of his hand and flung himself back into his chair, eyes glued to the CCTV monitor, still watching the couple kiss and walk off into the sunset.  Ianto rubbed one hand down the back of his neck, intending to leave, meaning to walk away without another word wasted, and let the man pout and sulk and imagine ‘what might have been.’

 

He never intended to speak.

 

“I could do that, take one of the blokes at the coffee shop up on his not so subtle offers.  I could bring him home – he’d probably stay the night, want to hold onto me a little longer than it took to bring him off.  Maybe in a month or so he’d want to move in, leave a toothbrush, change of pants.”  Ianto leaned against the frame of the door, gaze distant, unfocused, as if he could see this future he’d painted in his mind.

 

“He wouldn’t smell like you – no 51st century pheromones.  I couldn’t talk about Myfanwy’s eating habits or that it was Weevil slobber that soaked my clothes, or why I had to run out at all hours, coming home battered and bloody.  But it would be all right.  He’d take me to the movies, hold my hand in the dark.”

 

He felt the warmth at his back before Jack’s hands slipped across his shoulders, down his arms, barely touching.

 

“But he’d be second best,” Ianto kept on.  “And, somehow, sometime, I’d let something slip – a word, a smile – just like you do, Jack.  I’d be thinking of you and he’d know it, just like I know, Jack.  He’d know it wasn’t love, that my heart would never belong to him.”  Ianto turned into the circle of Jack’s arms.  “And it wouldn’t be enough.”  He brought his hands up behind Jack’s neck, leaned in, foreheads touching, and swallowed the tears.  “And he’d leave me.”

 

“No, no,” Jack murmured, kisses raining on Ianto’s eyes, at the corners of his mouth, down his throat, hands splayed against his back, holding on, holding tight.  “No, don’t leave me, Ianto.  Don’t leave me.”

 

Ianto felt the shaking; the wetness on his cheeks, and wondered which of them was crying.  He held on, unable to move away.

 

“I’m sorry, so sorry,” Jack breathed into his hair.  “I’m a fool.  Not good, not good enough.  Never worth your pain, I know that.”  Lips darted in to taste his, lingered, saying more than the words.  “You’ll never be second best.  Never.”

 

And Jack went home with Ianto.  Undressed him slowly with reverent hands, promised better, choked out regrets against the skin of Ianto’s belly.  In the dark between dusk and dawn Ianto reached out and he was there, warm and lithe and there.  And it was a beginning.

 

In the end, the stars fall into place sometimes.  There is loss and gain and heartache and joy.  And, sometimes, second best is good enough.  And sometimes, it’s more – so much more.

 

End.

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