I really, really appreciate you taking the time to read this. If I could trouble you a bit more to comment, I'd be delirious with joy. ^_^
Without further ado...
"Death is certain for the born. Rebirth is certain for the dead. You should not grieve for what is unavoidable."
-Lord Krishna's advice to Arjuna, Bhagavad-Gita
Certain For the Dead 1/?
by Meredith Bronwen Mallory
HERE AND NOW (I): Intersection
When all is said and done, it's surprisingly easy for the members of Torchwood Three to leave the Pearce residence. Too easy, Jack knows-- he can feel Gwen thinking it, her gaze a mixture of disgust and reproach as she stares at him, through him. Jasmine's mother is still weeping and, though he knows she has not even begun to fully comprehend her loss, Jack also knows she will survive. Already that small corner of the human mind so dedicated to maintaining sanity is grasping, mercilessly pulling her towards a story she can understand. A case of suburban horror, he imagines. Some bland salaryman snapping, killing the boyfriend and the partygoers. Jasmine ran off into the woods, Ms. Pearce will tell herself, off to her special place, and she just never came back. The Ret-Con will work because she wants it to, so very badly, so badly her mind depends upon it. Jack puts it in a glass of water, touching her shoulder in a somewhat rehearsed gesture of comfort, and his stomach turns violently as she downs it all in one gulp.
And that's all there is to it. The witnesses from the party are all dead; there will be some cleanup work on the death certificates, but it's nothing Owen can't handle in the morning. Right now, his hand still burns from where it touched Ms. Pearce's brightly colored pullover-- all Jack wants to do is *go*, away, and the whole planet almost feels claustrophobic. Toshiko drives, silent in the face of Owen's token barbs, while Jack sits ramrod straight in the passenger seat. Gwen isn't speaking to him, hasn't said a word since they left the small, seemingly nondescript row house on Plymouth Road. It's a silence Jack savors, even through the anger and resentment it contains, because he knows it will not last long. Gwen is incapable of leaving well enough alone-- hell, it's one of the driving reasons he hired her-- and this case will not prove the exception. Pretty soon, she'll be jumping in with more questions, picking things apart; normally, Jack could meet each thrust with a parry, blocking effortlessly. Now, however, he needs just a moment to collect, to brick back up the memories and emotions that still linger like the ghosts of touch.
(Estelle and her fairies; her friendly creatures of rainbow, beautiful as the good in the world she so wanted to believe in. Jasmine's face, blank as china, knowing only a child's love and a child's hate. And the 'faeries' themselves, demanding their chosen, wrathful that Jack would block them again.
He had felt one brush against him, garbed in memories of Estelle's soft breasts and oriental perfume-- "We will have the human child."
Jack wanted to be sick, no matter what Gwen thought of him-- he wanted to purge the memories, to take away the voice that had whispered to him alone, "You took from us once. You have the boy-child, and now we will have the girl.")
He needed to see Ianto.
A cursory return to headquarters, and the others go out to the pub. Or rather, Owen and Gwen do-- Toshiko slinks off, slippery as a shadow, to decompress in her own way. Jack waits until the Hub is almost silent before earnestly applying himself to the task of getting drunk. He drinks for pleasure, for social reasons, in any number of places, but the Hub is the only location he allows for true intoxication. What is a hub but a center; what is a center but a heart? A heart of steel and wire, all-encompassing and safe in its own cold changlessness. And there was Lisa, a heartless being within a lifeless heart-- and Jack knows he's well on his way towards true inebriation. Such poetic thoughts! But the concepts are like stacking dolls; he follows each line of association without fighting the current. Once, a pretty blond shop-girl had told him he was really a romantic at heart.
Rose had him pegged from the beginning.
Anyway, it's all connected. Wheels within wheels, he's discovering. Perhaps, if he lives long enough, he'll find that all lines intersect, that nothing happens by chance. Stubbornly, almost religiously, he holds onto a belief in chaos-- he needs it, in the face of all the evidence to the contrary. If he ever sees that grand design, he suspects it will make him well and truly mad, so he believes it out of being.
("You humans. Look something right in the face and say 'you don't exist', even as its gobbling you up. Bizarre species." The Doctor, of course. The man has a lot to answer for, considering, but Jack intends to ask-- among other things-- how he manages not to get tangled up in his own paradoxes.)
Jack pours himself another glass, having settled into something of a rhythm, and contemplates committing suicide tonight. It's just an idle thought for now, but it may solidify as the evening goes on. He can hear footsteps in the level below his office-- a glance out the window reveals a rustle of movement that can only be Ianto, getting Myfanwy her supper. Nothing will be done as long as Ianto is here; Jack loathes the thought of the younger man moping up his blood and gray matter. Ianto has seen enough blood; it would no doubt shock the Welshman, but Jack goes to lengths to spare him when he can.
(That otherworldly hiss-- fire and water, earth and air: "Does this one boy mean so much to you? How will you ransom him away?")
Patiently, Jack waits for Ianto to finish coddling the pterodactyl. It won't be long now-- after everything that has happened, Ianto still hasn't altered his routine in the slightest. Soon, he will be up to give Jack the final report of the evening, vanishing to whatever out-of-the-way corner of the Hub he's claimed for his own. Jack has not actively sought out this refuge, though he knows it is not where Lisa once slept. Toshiko had wanted to keep the Cyber Conversion Unit for study; a request he had almost granted. A sudden, horrible image had occurred to him, a nightmare for a man who rarely slept. In his mind's eye, he had seen Ianto, sleeping in Lisa's steel cradle, like a man buried alive.
A purely fear-driven thought, and not a rational one-- not something Ianto would ever do.
(A boy's voice, so raw and young. And long ago. "The silver girl. I see her and she makes me feel so sad.")
Jack destroyed the conversion unit the next day.
And there's Ianto, report in one hand, mug of coffee in the other. As reliable as the moon and tide; as deceptive as the serpent in the garden. 'As seductive, too,' Jack thinks, taking in the high cheek bones, the beautiful lines of the Welshman's form. That suit. A temptation in no way overt or intentional-- Ianto was alluring by his very nature. Intelligent and physically beautiful, yes, but also full of *feeling*, of belief.
("How do they choose who they want?" Gwen had asked, puzzling over the faeries.
"No one knows," Jack lied.)
Looking at Ianto, Jack knows exactly what the elementals yearn for. It is the capacity for emotion that draws their eye, an inner silence and chaos. Goodness and malice, selflessness and tyranny. The contradiction that Ianto embodies just standing there, waiting for Jack to summon him across the threshold.
"What's a nice boy like you doing in a place like this?" Jack asks. Too familiar again, too soon, but the alcohol makes him want to play fast and loose. He suspects there's a part of himself that wants to be caught out. He wants Ianto to call him on these things, and he pushes for it at the oddest of times. Before Lisa was discovered, Ianto sometimes pushed back, gave a little hope. Was it all for cover? There is no way of knowing, no matter how much Jack searches the other man's face.
"Evening report, sir," Ianto says, seemingly unmoved by the cheesy reference. "And some coffee, so you'll sober up." A faint hint of something-- regret, disapproval?
"At least the Doctor was straightforward confusing," Jack mutters. He pours yet another glass, then makes a big show of looking between the bottle and the cup. Eyes locked with Ianto's, he sets the glass aside and chugs deliberately from the bottle. Ianto's sigh is detectable not so much as sound, but as a movement of lips.
"I want to get drunk," Jack says, somewhat childishly. "I just handed a little girl over to an unknown existence amongst some merciless non-humans." More quietly, "I let them have her."
"So I heard," Ianto replies carefully. There is no clue in his tone as to where this information comes from, but Jack doesn't need it. Gwen had been getting vocal even before Owen pulled her to the lift. For a long moment, the two men simply stare at each other as if separated by a great distance. A real distance, Jack knows, if not a physical one. Something softens fractionally in Ianto's expression-- it's in those deep blue eyes, the set of his mouth. "The report basically details the meteorological changes associated with the..." an almost sheepish pause, "faeries. As you said, there's really no other way of detecting their activity." Ianto crosses the room in a handful of smooth strides, laying the folder neatly along the edge of the desk. With the other hand, he offers the coffee, eyebrow raised. Jack takes the mug silently, allowing their fingers to brush. It is an indulgence-- a very dangerous one at that-- but an almost necessary one as well. Here is Ianto, real and alive, an adult bound by the rules of disbelieving. They can't have him now.
("You took from us once. You *owe* us, One-Called-Jack. You have the boy-child...")
A thousand words seem to cloy on Jack's tongue. Beneath his fingertips, Ianto's skin is smooth and warm-- he lets the touch linger just a second too long. Ianto starts, flushing little as he takes a step back. Jack wonders where Jasmine is, and if she's happy there... if Ianto would have been happier there.
'I did it for you,' Jack finds himself wanting to say. Even as he opens his mouth, he isn't sure if the statement applies to Lisa, or to events some twenty years before.
Ianto says, "Good evening, sir."
Beat. "Good night, Ianto."
A hesitant, lingering glance. Then Ianto closes the door, leaving Jack to sip his coffee and curse how many times two paths could cross.
Feedback is like Ianto's coffee-- it's perfect, and it's addictive. ^____^ Please?