Characters: Jack, Ianto, Lucia Moretti, Tenth Doctor, Others.
Spoilers: Seasons one and two, plus Jack’s time with the Doctor.
Summary: Of all the things Jack could be afraid of, he fears rejection the most because he knows all too well how it feels.
Word Count: 1417
Written For: celebratinguniqueness’s prompt ‘Torchwood, Jack/Ianto, rejection,’ at fic_promptly.
Disclaimer: I don’t own Torchwood, or the characters. They belong to the BBC.
There are few things Jack fears, because honestly he has little reason to fear when he knows even death is never going to be permanent. Nevertheless, death, even while not feared as such, is still unpleasant; so is returning to life. For a long time he stopped caring about the pain and suffering death brought him, but these days he’d just as soon avoid it if at all possible. Perhaps he’s finally learning to value himself and his own life, or perhaps it’s just that he’s already died far too many times.
Mostly, his fears now are for the endless future stretching out before him. He’s not a man who does well on his own, he needs people around him, needs to love and be loved in return, and there’s the root of the problem. Those he falls in love with will inevitably leave him, one way or another, because they’ll grow old and eventually die while he never will.
He’s already experienced the problems his unique condition can cause when it comes to relationships. There was his wife, back in Victorian Britain, who died along with their children in a fire that he… survived, apparently unscathed. Then there was Estelle. He’d fallen hard for her, even tentatively thought about proposing, but what kind of future could they have had? As she grew older, she’d start to notice that he never changed, and she’d grow to hate him for his eternal youth. He’d soon realised that if he did pursue a relationship with her, there’d come a time when he’d have to leave, before the fact that he wasn’t aging became too obvious, and that would break both their hearts. Better not to get too deeply involved; it was wartime, he could be reported M.I.A. and just never return to London.
So that’s what he’d done; it had seemed preferable to having her reject him somewhere down the line for looking as young as ever while she grew old. He’d kept track of her throughout her life though, because while he could choose to leave her, he couldn’t choose to stop loving her. He’d needed to make sure she’d be alright.
Lucia had been different. She was Torchwood, he’d thought she knew and understood the nature of his ‘gift’, and besides, he hadn’t intended to fall in love with her. But then she’d fallen pregnant, and marrying her had seemed like the right thing to do, and then as the years slipped by, everything he’d once feared would happen if he’d stayed with Estelle came to pass with Lucia. She’d resented his lack of grey hairs, the fact that she was developing crow’s feet around her eyes while he wasn’t, and the idea of him outliving her not just by a few years but by millennia grated on her. She was envious, even jealous, wanted to know why he couldn’t share his gift with her; why, if he loved her like he claimed, he couldn’t find a way to keep her looking young and beautiful too. Her resentment grew day by day until she left him, taking their daughter with her, threatening dire consequences if he tried to find them.
The rejection hurt more than death and revival. Jack shied away from serious relationships after that, indulging instead in casual flings with anyone who would have him, and there were plenty of willing bed partners to be had. It wasn’t the same though, it didn’t feed the hunger in his soul to belong to someone and have them belong to him, and he felt something deep inside him shrivel and die a little more each day. He had people all around him, those he worked with and those he met in bars and clubs, but he was still lonely.
Ianto was never supposed to be more than another in a long line of casual arrangements; Jack had intended for them to be friends with benefits at most, the young Welshman simply someone convenient who could scratch the itch for him as he returned the favour. It beat resorting to his own hand. Sex for recreational purposes, maybe a bit of conversation on the side; two lonely people making each other feel a little less alone. But then there’d been the whole thing with the cyberwoman, and that had made him doubt everything he’d shared with Ianto. It had taken both of them quite a while to get past their anger at each other, and Jack had made up his mind not to go there again, but Ianto… He’d said just once, but once became twice, then three times, and then before they knew it they were right back where they’d been before, only things had changed. Jack had never intended on falling for Ianto, but he realised it was happening anyway.
It was almost a relief at first to run off with the Doctor, at least until the one person in all the universe Jack had thought would accept him no matter what rejected him with the words, “You’re wrong,” like it was somehow Jack’s fault he couldn’t die and not the result if someone else’s well-meaning mistake. Jack put up a good front, but inside his heart was breaking. He’d thought the Doctor would help him, either fix him, make him mortal again, or sweep him off on more adventures through time and space. Instead Jack had just wound up spending a year being tortured to death over and over by a madman, and when it was over, the Doctor had cared more about the Master than he had about the Hell Jack had lived and died through. After that, Jack had wanted nothing more than to return to Cardiff, his team, and especially Ianto.
It was strange, asking Ianto out on a date: scary, nerve-racking, but thrilling at the same time. This time around Jack was determined to do things right, show Ianto just how much the young Welshman meant to him, but the fear of rejection continued to hover in the background. Jack couldn’t help worrying; would Ianto tire of him after a while? Would he meet a woman and decide he wanted what Gwen had, a normal life with a normal person, with maybe the chance of having a family? Torchwood agents, with Jack being the exception, didn’t typically have much in the way of life expectancy. They died young, although Jack had made a promise to himself that he’d do anything in his power to ensure Ianto had the long and happy life he deserved. He’d already suffered so much…
Now here they are, a couple of years on from that first date, and Ianto has just dropped a bombshell that Jack had never in all his ruminations on life and relationships considered, even for a moment.
“Sometimes I wonder how long it will be before you dump me. Some day, if I live long enough, I’ll start to look old; my hair will turn grey, maybe it’ll even fall out, I’ll go all wrinkly, and then you won’t want me anymore. You’ll find some new young pretty thing and take up with them instead, and I’ll be left behind, forgotten about.” Ianto doesn’t say it like a joke, he’s deadly serious and his voice cracks on the last few words.
Ianto is scared that one day Jack will reject him? Does he really believe Jack could be so shallow? All this time Jack has just assumed that Ianto will one day grow to resent him, just like Lucia did. That he’ll come to hate Jack for always looking young and handsome, for not going grey and wrinkly over time, and yet Ianto is as scared of being tossed aside as Jack is.
“Never going to happen.” Jack pulls his Welshman close. “You can get as grey, and bald, and wrinkly as you want and you’ll still be my Ianto. Looks are just window dressing; it’s the person inside that matters. You will always be you, no matter how old you get, and I will always love you for being the amazing man you are.”
“I promise.” If Jack has his way, he’ll never have to let Ianto go, but even if he eventually does, he hopes it won’t be until his lover is very, very old indeed. He plans to cherish every single day he gets with his Welshman, because each one is a blessing and he never wants to take a single second of their time together for granted.