Summary: Some things are invariable, Jack finds, and Ianto is one of them.
Author's Notes: This is quite possibly one of the angstiest things I’ve ever written, and that’s saying a lot when it comes to me. It’s also very odd and not my usual style at all, so I hope you enjoy it – it just came to mind and I poured it out because it wouldn’t leave me alone. As always, feel free to let me know what you think!
Also posted on FF.net and AO3.
Sometimes Jack remembers the old myth that the human heart has a limited number of beats and the faster your heart rate is, the closer you are to death. Sometimes, he feels the mad flutter of Ianto’s heart under his fingers and counts them; counts each beat as if it’s the last. Ianto’s usually smiling while he does it, not sparing a thought about all of Jack’s fears, because that’s how he is – adrenaline is like a drug to him and he cherishes it; cherishes being just on the edge of too close to death.
When Jack touches him, Ianto is always cold and pale under his fingers, as if he’s already one foot deep into his grave. His eyes are ice cubes and Jack gets lost in them more easily than he does in anything else, and he feels betrayed. The Universe could not be so cruel; he fumes to himself after Ianto is asleep in his arms, content and relaxed. Surely he could not be allowed to love someone so young and so breakable. Surely there had to be something to keep him well away from falling in love with someone born to die.
Ianto is, of course, oblivious to that as well. For someone so incredibly sharp, he can be quite slow sometimes, and much to Jack’s misfortune, he tends to find it charming. He loves every look of wonder and awe that Ianto directs at all the new things in his world; he adores the simple smiles and touches and the endless curiosity that drives everything that Ianto does.
He’s so alive. Everything in his body and his soul is a worship of life and humanity; energy in its purest form. Whenever they’re together, Jack would take him in fully and see it all – his widened eyes, his racing heart, parted lips with short, shallow gasps coming from between them and everything about it would scream alive, alive, alive.
He curls up in his embrace afterwards, gives him a kiss and a playful smile and, when Jack starts threading his fingers through his hair, Ianto falls asleep. His breathing evens out and his heart slows down and back to normal, and Jack can almost relax to the beat of it. Almost, because it’s still there – a quiet, constant reminder that time is still going. Time is running out, and Jack has to obey it because he knows no other way.
Ianto laughs when he tells him that and reprimands him about his paranoia. He tells him to calm down and lighten up and lets it go, because he can afford to. He’s not scared; he never is, and Jack is jealous, because his lover genuinely doesn’t care. ‘It’ll all work out, you just watch,’ Ianto says and kisses him with fire in his eyes and wind in his hair, and his kiss tastes like new beginnings and passing summers, and Jack can do nothing but surrender to him entirely. Some things are invariable, he finds, and Ianto is one of them. The Sun will still rise every morning and the Earth will still turn and Jack will still love him and Ianto would still burn ever so slowly and enjoy it all the while. And even when all of this was gone – when the Earth would burn and the Sun would explode and Ianto would long since be nothing more but dust and memories, Jack would be the only thing left behind, and it would hurt just as much.
“I hate you sometimes,” Jack whispers once, voice muffled by frantic kisses all over Ianto’s face as he pulls him out of the line of fire and Ianto pulls back with a hearty laugh and a bloody scratch that passes halfway through his face. “You have no idea how much.”
“I brought the heavy duty stuff,” his partner says and brandishes a rather large gun. “I don’t think that these things can be chased away with a Webley.”
“Hey,” Jack tries to joke while he simultaneously trying. “Never knock the power of a good, old-fashioned revolver.”
“Never, sir,” Ianto echoes, clearly amused. “I don’t tend to underestimate antique things that work better than they might look like on a first look.”
Jack brings him closer for another kiss, passionate and full of longing and warmth, and Ianto responds to it eagerly with his usual exploratory tactics; his tongue sliding over Jack’s teeth while one of his hands grips the back of Jack’s head and the other around his waist.
For Ianto, love is just like everything else he does – he throws himself into it with all the passion he can find in himself, which is not little. He’s wonderful and blinding and devastatingly mortal and Jack’s desperate longing for him only increases more at the mere hint of it.
It’s how it is, really. Just like the time that always scares the Captain so much, Ianto is unpredictable and perfectly expected all at the same moment; he moves forward without looking back, without any mercy for anything he leaves behind and Jack fears him. It’s one of the reasons he wants him so much – he’s terrified of him and that’s just how it is.
Every so often, they’d go out at night and Ianto would look at the sky and remain silent for long minutes that sometimes stretch into hours. He looks at Jack with eyes that look just a bit more shiny than usual and asks, “Can you miss something you’ve never experienced?” and all Jack can say is, “Yes.” He knows that his lover is asking about the stars (he’s always wanted to see them up close), but it’s something else Jack himself is talking about.
He knows how this will end. He already mourns all of the days that would never come because Torchwood would take its sacrifice; all the moments they will never get and all the things they will never do. It hasn’t happened to him yet – Ianto is still very much there, warm and comfortable in his arms – and yet he already misses it. He grieves for the lost moment before it has ended and tries to look as comfortable as possible – no need to worry Ianto with this.
No need to remind him of how fast the clock is ticking.
Ianto is obsessed with time. It’s just a quirk that Jack has always found interesting; something that makes him all the more unique. He has at least four clocks in his flat and never parts with the watch on his wrist and everything he does is measured in seconds and minutes and hours and Jack likes to think that if there were a hand for years on the big clock for Ianto’s life, it would go round and round many times before its mechanism wears out and comes to rest.
The bigger part of him is quite sure that there isn’t a hand for years in the first place. What would be the point? Every day could be the last, so why would the Universe waste its time with things like that? Why would it offer him something he could never possibly have?
“I can hear you thinking, you know,” Ianto says with a smile. Jack returns it and gives him a brief, chaste kiss.
“I hope you’re receiving only the good stuff,” he quips and Ianto’s smile becomes even broader as he props himself up on his elbows.
“Of course,” he says, and it would be indignant if it isn’t for the wicked flame in those stormy blue eyes. “I don’t waste my time with the bad ones. And neither should you.”
He kisses him again and this time, when Jack’s slightly obsessive reflex makes his fingers wander down and over Ianto’s ribcage, the only thing he can feel is life.