Fandom: Torchwood/Doctor Who
Rating: R for language.
Notes:Written as a Channukah present for hllangel based on mutual passion for John Barrowman's rendition of "You're So Vain."
Spoilers: Oblique references for TW Series 1.
Warnings: Angst, aging, character death, present tense and lots of commas. Be afraid, be very afraid.
Once again, Beta Goddess Carol rocks my world and saves my ass from the pernicious cliche monster.
Summary: Jack needs me.
He’s made so many mistakes.
Sometimes he sorts through them in his mind while he’s arranging trays of coffee and tea, assigning each mistake a category such as biggest or stupidest, still trying to figure out if there was anything he could have done differently, that wouldn’t have left him here, now, knowing the pieces of the puzzle were in front of him all along and he never saw the big picture until it was too late.
The years of feeling old and empty have nearly drained him of the ability to remember when he didn’t. When he does remember, he wishes he hadn’t. The only thing that tastes worse than the bitterness is the knowledge that he was once young and naïve. He nearly chokes on the chuckle that emerges as he thinks of how stupid he’d been about people in general and how exceptionally self-deluded when it came to one Captain Jack Harkness.
Most days, he awards the title of First Mistake to the night he gave in to Jack’s blatant advances. For months he’d been labouring under the delusion that he was in control of the situation, seducing Jack into caring about him through a campaign of devotion, along with the odd intriguing comment about stop-watches and the like. As if anyone seduced Jack Harkness. As if Jack cared about anybody but himself.
His once-shiny memories have long been tarnished by disillusionment, and then shattered by time, into a mosaic of jagged fragments, each one capable of drawing blood if he lets his mind touch it too long.
I’ve wanted you for so long. The gentleness of Jack’s touch the first time his fingers delved between Ianto’s buttocks. Crisp, starched shirts that softened in the humidity generated by lust and friction in the Captain’s cramped quarters. Tell me you love me. Curses, sometimes Jack’s. Tears, always his. I’ll never leave. Mirrors. See how good we look together. The screaming silences when Jack went into himself and wouldn’t let Ianto near him, physically or otherwise. Excuses and apologies. Attempts to set Ianto up with “nice girls,” leading to the realisation that Jack was trying to give him away.
Worst of all, the cold fact that Jack had left him, but you couldn’t actually say he’d lied because he was still here.
Still here, still young, and still mourning his ‘lost angel’ or -- as Ianto thinks of her in his darker moments and for the last decade or so, they’ve all been dark moments -- Gwen fucking Cooper. Not the nicest thing to think of a deceased colleague, nor even literally accurate, at least when it came to Jack. In fact, Gwen fucking Cooper had made her mark simply by not screwing Jack and then having the good luck to die.
How could he compete with Jack’s image of Gwen, with his idealisation of her “sensitivity” and so-called “humanity”? She’d bumbled into Torchwood full of self-righteousness, taking no responsibility for any amount of damage caused by her narcissism and casual lies. No wonder Jack had gravitated towards her, sharing emotional intimacies that by rights should have been his. Their fearless leader had been willing to forgive the one-time P.C. everything from professional ineptitude to that rather revolting liaison with Owen Harper.
Ianto had observed all this from behind a mask of detachment, keeping his heart warm with the knowledge he was still being invited into the boss’s bed on a regular basis. He took those hands on his body to mean that he’d been forgiven his transgressions and the full-blooded moaning he was able to coax from Jack’s beautiful mouth as his proof that Gwen Cooper was nothing more to him than a somewhat attractive employee, living out her sad little soap opera for the team’s amusement.
Then she had to go and die.
Gwen fucking Cooper managed to get herself killed saving a bunch of school kids from an Auton attack. What could make possibly make Jack think any better of her? Except the fact that he’d never actually slept with the bint.
Not because he preferred Ianto, mind you, but because Gwen was like a sweet he’d been saving for a special occasion, and now he’d never get to taste her. Meanwhile, Ianto was alive, growing older and angrier as he realized that Jack’s true desire was for those things he couldn’t have. Sluts he’d never shagged, answers he’d never get, and That Man.
He’s not sure precisely who the man is or how many times he’s come to Cardiff, but he still has nightmares about the fleeting glimpse he caught of Jack and That Man in a café together. A hint of sideburns, a head of unruly hair and a face even younger than Jack’s. What made Ianto feel the same kind of gut-wrenching agony that had marked his life in the days after Lisa’s death, was the expression on Jack’s face. The focus, something verging on adoration, the clear happiness just to be in That Man’s presence.
All he knows for sure is the effect that That Man’s inevitable departure seems to have on Jack. Maybe he should be grateful. The last time it happened was so many years ago that he was still allowed out in the field. Jack had returned to the Hub after one of the mysterious absences that Ianto had learned to associate with That Man and proceeded to scandalise his newest team by kissing him, the one they’d come to call “The Old Bloke,” so fiercely, and certainly without any regard for propriety or even acquiescence, that Ianto was able to delude himself one last time.
If anyone asked, he could tell them exactly how many decades, years, months, days and hours have passed since then and he hates himself for knowing. No one asks. No one cares.
You’d think after all these years, now that he’s once again nothing but the tea-boy, (too old be called a boy, but tea-man would sound ludicrous) he’d have developed the ability to hate the Captain, if only because he still looks perfect and Ianto is no longer the one pretty enough to be seen in a mirror with him, but he can’t, because he needs to believe that under all that swaggering self-confidence, beyond the fact that he’s still using the smile to make sure that none of his implausibly attractive employees die without taking a “Magic Captain Ride,” the long-ago promise never to leave could still possibly mean something.
The “nice girls” are a thing of the past. More recently, Jack has taken to introducing him to “ex-wives of close friends,” all women of a certain age who twitter about Jack while eying Ianto speculatively, apparently more than willing to accept Jack’s cast-off. Ianto’s not having any and risks the wrath of Harkness to advise him that he’s a brilliant alien- hunter, but a rubbish match-maker. That makes Jack smile, complete with the dimples and lit up eyes. Ianto tries not to envision himself in cap and bells, although Court Jester might actually afford more dignity than his current status.
He wishes he could turn off the part of his brain that replays Jack’s promises on an endless loop of betrayal. Jack won’t leave, only because he can’t, but he left Ianto a long time ago. Ianto will still fall asleep thinking of how he used to run his fingers over the cleft in Jack’s chin and kiss the hollow of his throat, feeling vibrations of pleasure and smiling with self-assurance at how well he knew Jack’s body. If only he’d known anything about Jack’s mind, maybe he wouldn’t have made the same mistakes.
Time to stop daydreaming or the coffee will be as bitter as he is. If he can’t provide decent coffee, he’ll be no use to Torchwood whatsoever and Jack will give him away, once and for all. That’s the mistake he most fears, yet sometimes looks forward to.
He’ll finally be free.
And if you think that's dark...check out the sequel written by the amazing haldane RIGHT HERE