Characters: Jack, Ianto, Gwen, Rhys.
Spoilers: Children of Earth, but with a few twists.
Summary: Jack hated the word couple, but there wasn’t time to explain to Ianto. They were in the middle of a crisis; explanations would have to wait until later.
Word Count: 1800
Content Notes: This is a fix-it, so Temporary Character Death.
Written For: Amnesty 6 at beattheblackdog, using Challenge 14: Couple.
Disclaimer: I don’t own Torchwood, or the characters.
“I hate the word ‘couple’!” Jack didn’t mean to snap, but the middle of a crisis was neither the time nor the place for this discussion, and besides, he really did hate the word.
“Me too,” Ianto agreed, and Jack wondered briefly whether he really did hate it, or was just saying what he thought Jack wanted to hear, a weak effort at mollifying someone he thought he must have angered, even if he had no idea why. Probably the latter; Ianto had replied too fast, and his voice lacked conviction.
‘When this is over, I’ll explain,’ Jack told himself firmly. ‘Let’s just get through whatever we’re dealing with first.’
Getting through it didn’t turn out to be as simple or as straightforward as Jack had hoped. He got killed, bomb planted in his stomach, blown up along with the Hub, the pieces of his body collected and held prisoner as everything knitted back together again, buried alive in concrete, and dropped off a cliff before there was any time to talk to Ianto again. By then though, Jack wasn’t in any condition to hold a long conversation, too raw from everything that had been done to him, and reeling from memories of the Year That Never Was. He told himself it didn’t matter, there’d be time later; for the moment, the situation with the children took priority. Well, that and finding somewhere safe to hole up while they figured out their next move.
Never would he have thought he’d be grateful to Torchwood One and all their resources. The warehouse was shabby, and mostly empty, but it was a roof over their heads, a place to lay low and regroup. Jack just wished he could spare more time for Ianto. Everyone’s nerves were frayed, making them snap at each other and say things they didn’t mean, but that didn’t make Jack feel any better about the way he was treating his lover. ‘I’ll make it up to him later,’ he vowed.
He should have made Ianto stay at the warehouse, but the stubborn Welshman had insisted that Jack needed someone with him as backup. He should have had Ianto evacuate Thames House, but it had seemed more important to confront the 456 as soon as possible. He should have told Ianto to find the hazmat suit they both knew was in the building, would have if he’d been thinking more clearly, but he’d only recognised the danger when it was already too late, and now they were both dying. There wasn’t going to be any ‘later’. He’d kept putting it off and now they were out of time.
‘I never told him, never explained, and now I’ll never have the chance.’ Jack wanted to turn back time, all the way to when they’d returned to the Hub after collecting the hitchhiker, but he couldn’t, and when Ianto said those three all-important words, all Jack could say was, “Don’t.”
After the way he’d been behaving over the last few days, he didn’t deserve Ianto’s love, especially not now. Ianto Jones, heartbreakingly young at just twenty-six, loyal, and brave, and determined to stand firm against one more alien threat, not giving an inch. He was the other half of Jack’s soul and now, because of Jack’s stupidity, Ianto’s life was ending far too soon.
It couldn’t end like this; he wouldn’t let it, not if there was the smallest chance. He pressed his lips to Ianto’s, for what could well be the final time, but it wasn’t merely a kiss; it was Jack’s last-ditch effort to preserve the man who’d come to mean so much to him. He could only pray that in this at least, he hadn’t left it too late…
Locked in a cell, Jack sat on the stone bench, Ianto’s head on his lap. Ianto was still weak and Jack was pathetically grateful they hadn’t been shoved in separate cells. Wrapped in Jack’s coat, Ianto seemed somehow small and vulnerable, but each kiss restored more of his strength. Jack might have been able to heal him faster if he hadn’t been feeling so drained himself. Too many deaths in too short a time taxed even his healing abilities, and added to that, he was giving Ianto probably more of his life force than he could really spare. It didn’t matter, only Ianto’s continued recovery was important.
They hadn’t talked much so far, both of them needing to rest and conserve what strength they had, but there was one thing Ianto really needed to know, and this time Jack wasn’t waiting until later, because ‘later’ was far too uncertain.
“Hmmm?” Blue eyes opened and peered up at Jack though the dim, dusty light in the cell.
“Remember back at the Hub when I said I hated the word ‘couple’?”
“I remember.” Ianto sounded resigned.
“I didn’t mean that the way it sounded. I mean, I do hate the word, but not for the reason you probably think. It’s just, a couple, a pair, two of something… Where I come from, those words are used for objects, things, not people, and definitely not to define a relationship. To me, the term is derogatory, like an insult. I know it’s a standard term on earth, and I’ve done my best to adapt, but some things I grew up with on Boeshane I’ve never been able to leave behind. Calling lovers a couple just irritates me.”
“So what are lovers called in your native language?”
“Eress’aan, it doesn’t translate too well into English, but it means something like two become one, two halves of a whole, one soul shared between two people. There are other, similar terms for relationships between three or more people, but for us, it would be eress’aan, two people, one heart.”
“Eress’aan. I like that. Is that what we are?”
“Yes, and don’t you ever doubt it. I should have told you before, I just didn’t want to admit it to myself. Maybe I thought I was protecting myself from the inevitable heartbreak of losing you, but it wouldn’t have worked anyway, I know that now; I’m already in too deep. I love you, Ianto Jones. I would have done anything to save you, even sacrificed the whole world, because losing you would be like losing half of my heart, half my soul, and I’m not at all sure even I could survive that.”
“Well, I’m glad you didn’t have to do anything quite as extreme as sacrificing the world, I think I might have been a bit miffed with you if you’d done that,” Ianto told him sternly.
“Lucky it didn’t come to that then, although… the day’s still young, and we’re not out of the woods yet. The 456 are still intent on taking children, and the government is still planning on giving them what they want.”
“Then we’d better make sure that doesn’t happen.”
Jack sighed heavily. “Agreed. Any idea how though? Because I’ve been racking my brain for hours, and I still haven’t come up with anything.”
“How about turning their signal back on them? I’ve been thinking; you said sound killed the one at Thames House. If we create a constructive wave from that sound and transmit it back to their ship in orbit…”
“Transmit it how? They’ve been using children as conduits, and there’s no way in Hell I’m using a child. They’d never survive!”
“We won’t have to. Mainframe still exists; we know that, we’ve been in contact with her. Tosh was working on an A.I. interface for her, and that programme will still be in her files. It was developing gradually, semi-organic technology, she was growing it towards adulthood, but it had only reached the equivalent of maybe ten years old when she… when we lost her. All we have to do is create the wave, channel it through the A.I. personality matrix, let it cycle a few times to build up enough power, then transmit it out into space on the 456 wavelength. Use every satellite we can get access to send it out in all directions. The 456 will have nowhere to hide.”
“That could actually work!” Jack leaned down, planting a kiss on Ianto’s lips that for once had nothing to do with transferring energy; it was pure exuberance and love. “Ianto Jones, you are a genius!”
“No I’m not, Tosh was the genius, and she would have thought of it ages ago if she’d been here; it only came to me when I was… Let’s just go with ‘near death.’ It’s easier to contemplate than being actually dead and then being brought back.”
“Fine with me. Okay, let’s get things rolling.” Carefully sliding out from under Ianto’s head, Jack went to the cell door and started yelling for the guards.
Less than twelve hours later, it was over. Ianto’s idea and Tosh’s programme had worked; the 456 ship had exploded so spectacularly that footage of the resulting fireball was being broadcast on news shows on every continent. The British government was in disarray as the Queen began the arduous task of cleaning house, and UNIT wasn’t faring any better, many of the highest ranking officers already ensconced in cells at the facility where Tosh had once been locked away from the world. To Jack, it felt like poetic justice.
None of that was Torchwood’s business though; they were heading back to Cardiff to rebuild, but they’d have to find alternate accommodations until the crater that was all that was left of the main Hub could be dug out and repaired. The lower levels, archives and such, should still be intact; they were designed to withstand just about anything that was thrown at them and Ianto had managed to lock them down before Jack had hustled him onto the invisible lift and sent him up to the Plas.
“Look at you two!” Gwen grinned as Ianto and Jack joined her and Rhys in the limo that would be taking them back to Cardiff in style, courtesy of Her Majesty. “Acting all lovey-dovey and couple-y!”
Ianto rolled his eyes. So what if he and Jack were holding hands? What was the big deal about that? He looked at Jack, then they both turned to Gwen, speaking in unison. “Don’t call us a couple! We hate that word!”
Gwen held up her hands in surrender. “Okay, okay, not another word!” She mimed zipping her mouth shut, but couldn’t keep from muttering under her breath, “But you so are!”
Jack wrapped his arm around Ianto’s shoulders, pulling him close. The whole world saw them as a couple now, there was no way around that, and he supposed it didn’t really matter, because even if no one else ever understood, they both knew they were so much more than that.