Pairing: John/Ianto, mentions of Jack/Ianto, Jack/John
Word Count: 3,393
Spoilers: Up to 2.01 Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang
Summary: Captain John has a lot of time to kill in Cardiff. At least it’s only time.
JOHN HART: We're a cosmic joke, eye candy, an accident of chemicals and evolution. The jokes, the sex, just cover the fact that nothing means anything. And the only consolation is ...
When John arrives, it’s raining. He’s been on a desert planet – Aridius? – for months, so he laughs up into the sky, revelling at the touch of water on his face. It feels wonderful on his skin, washing him clean again, as though he’s been born anew…
Oh, who is he kidding? He licks his lips, and tastes petro-chemical residue, and ozone. That’s more like it. The dregs of a society raping its planet. He smiles, because there are some things that are universal. And there are some things that are appropriate, because you always get what you deserve in the end. He knows that. But you can have a damn good time along the way.
This is, of course, before he realises that it rains here all the bloody time.
There’s a man. In the post-office. Wearing a uniform. Ianto tips his collar down and a trickle of water goes the wrong way. His collar gets damp. It’s uncomfortable enough that he nearly forgets the man in the post office. In uniform.
Ianto queues up. The Hub needs stamps, and a padded envelope, and somehow Owen has managed to use up all their string, although Ianto refuses to ask how.
The electronic voice counting down his place is soothing. It reminds him there are things that are still ordinary, that he has a place, even if it is only in this line, for these few minutes. He buys his stamps, and envelope, and string. He passes the money to the cashier in a distracted sort of a way because there’s a man, in uniform, in the post office. And he’s watching Ianto.
Ianto’s mouth dries and he freezes, when he realises he’s passed the cashier an Androzani dinar, not a fifty pence piece. She chides him on it, calling him ‘love’. He mutters his apologies, mentions his holiday in Azerbaijan. He wants to fucking kick himself. Even these few minutes of peace are shattered now.
And the man, is still watching.
Ianto collects his umbrella from where he left it against the wall, but he doesn’t put it up as he goes outside. He remembers what Jack said, he remembers what he’s been taught. The umbrella would restrict his field of vision, and rolled up, provides a kind of weapon. He’s not carrying his gun, and Ianto makes a mental note to do so, in future. Even to the post office.
The man follows him, but Ianto isn’t really surprised.
So. What John wants is here somewhere. A puzzle, contained in three canisters, somewhere in this god-forsaken city. It doesn’t take a genius to realise he needs help. It doesn’t take a genius to realise he can’t even home in on the correct energy signatures. This fucking place is lit up brighter than a whore’s front door. Which, whilst being an entertaining analogy and a tempting thought, is no use to man nor beast. Ooh. Yum.
But all that power means it’s cheap – he can bounce through the centuries like a rubber ball, if he’s so inclined. John tries it for a while, before he realises that it doesn’t really matter where he goes, Cardiff is boring in any century. He picks up something else though, and that’s enough to stop him. Enough to have his mouth watering, his hands clenching.
He’s here. Or he was. Will be. Fucking hell.
Ianto wanders, knowing he should go back to the Hub, but reluctant to return with a tail. It’s the middle of the afternoon. Gwen will want a cup of tea soon, with a biscuit – a digestive probably. She’ll go on about how she’s meant to be on a diet, but Torchwood’s schedules don’t exactly allow for a regular Pilates class. Ianto will murmur something about all the aliens keeping them fit. Gwen will tell him to stop humouring her, she’s a whale, like always, and Ianto will politely ignore her, until next time. He wonders if that will happen today. Before the man in the uniform started staring, Ianto would have thought the probability was close to 100%, but now he’ll put it at approximately 65% and dropping. Briefly, Ianto wonders if Gwen will notice he’s not there to make her tea. He puts that down at a lowly 35%, because he’s under no illusions. They may be pulling together more as a team but even so…
He’s getting wet, and Ianto thinks he can feel the rain making its way through his light anorak, and beginning to soak the wool of his suit. He winces at the thought of the fine broadcloth becoming ruined, the suit pulled out of shape as it dries. He fingers his rolled umbrella. It’s a weakness, worrying about such a thing, he knows it, but nevertheless, he turns into… a bar. It’s long and low, decorated in a clean modern style. There are screens along the back of the bar, showing leaping flames – tacky, and hardly appropriate given the weather – plus the usual bottles and glasses. It’s not quite empty, but close enough. He stands at the long counter.
The man in the uniform enters in a leisurely fashion behind him. Ianto can feel all the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end, even given their current soaked state. But he can feel something else too, something more than adrenaline and worry – anticipation. Ianto finds he’s grateful to the man, for the unexpected gift. For feeling anything at all.
John skips back and watches him – the sleek black vehicle, the long swishing coat. Typical… Jack, apparently. He’s calling himself Jack in this century. How sweet. And he has a team.
John goes back another couple of hundred years and shoots some people. Soldiers, he thinks, by the gaudy uniforms, so they have it coming. Signed up for it and all that, so really he’s only helping them out. He takes a fancy to the jacket, and it’s conveniently red, so the blood barely shows. He steals a name too – Captain Hart. Why not, after all?
Jack has a team. There’s something so fundamentally wrong with that statement that John barely restrains himself from doing more damage. Can’t change the past too much – the Time Agency may be dead and fucking gone, but never let it be said that he didn’t pick up a thing or two. No paradoxes. Naughty. No breaking the furniture.
Nothing says he can’t break other things though.
“Buy me a drink,” says the man in the uniform, and rests his elbow on the bar.
Ianto stares ahead, uncertain and silent, for long enough that the barman raises an eyebrow, looking bored.
“Um. Sure. A pint of Carlsberg, and he’ll have…” Ianto trails off nervously. He still hasn’t brought himself to look at the man directly.
Uniform guy tips his head sideways, squints, before pointing at a bottle. It’s green. Ianto thinks that it might be midori. “One of those, to start with.”
Then he leans fully on the counter, pushy and insinuating. His elbows brush Ianto’s, and Ianto restrains a flinch. He hasn’t quite got over the oddness of this. He hasn’t quite understood…
“I’m… John. And yes. If you were wondering. The answer’s yes.”
Ianto turns and opens his mouth, properly, at last, “I don’t…”
“Oh dear, don’t be dull, eye-candy. This can’t be your first time.”
John’s smiling, and now finally, Ianto’s looking. He’s got a weather-beaten face, not young, but you could cut his cheekbones with a knife. Gorgeous, Ianto thinks, dispassionately. Seen and done a lot – and it’s visible, if you know where to look. Not like… Jack. Who has seen and done a lot more, by all accounts. Ianto might wonder why he’s thinking of Jack, except that it’s not exactly a rare occurrence. And John’s wearing…
“What are you wearing?” he asks, abruptly, and John laughs, before grabbing his arm and dragging him to a booth. It’s a small one, in a corner, and John pushes Ianto onto the smallest bench and then crowds in with him. Ianto wonders if he should be worried. His heart is beating fast, at least.
“Wouldn’t it be more fun if I ask you that?” John counters, and Ianto realises he’s still clutching the umbrella. He places it carefully on the tabletop and smoothes it down. He wonders why he’s not politely excusing himself. He wonders why he’s not running.
“It’s kind of you to show an interest,” he says, dryly, and then realises. Of course. That must be it. Showing an interest in him. How long has it been since anyone did that?
“Oh, I’m far from kind,” says John, and kisses him.
Jack would help him, John thinks, if he asks nicely. If he smiles and pretends and lies oh-so-sweetly, Jack would do it. For him. Probably. But there’s a slight flaw with that plan. Jack leaves.
John watches him go, coat flying, legs pumping as he runs, clutching on to some blue box, that is certainly more than that. He watches him more than once, from different angles, playing with his own timeline, playing with fire, with paradox. He can feel the fizz of it in his blood. It’s an issue, certainly, because his canisters don’t come through the rift quite yet. But it means that he’s left with Jack’s team.
John wanders about time and space, as he thinks it through. He doesn’t play well with others. His people skills are poor. Occasionally fatal. But at least he knows his own limitations.
On his travels, he finds he picks up souvenirs here and there. A pair of boots. A sword. Perhaps he should think of the team that way? After all, he’s good at picking things up. How hard can it be?
John tastes of the rain and the wind, as his hands slide into Ianto’s hair, as he leans in. But he smells of something else, something spicy and exotic, almost alien. He’s good at it though. He kisses like he means it. An expert in the casual encounter, perhaps. Although, it’s not as though Ianto has had all that much experience, and certainly not with men, but with John, somehow everything reminds him of… He gasps and pulls away. John smirks at him.
“What? Bored already? I thought humans were meant to have longer attention spans than that.”
It’s a confirmation, really, that Ianto didn’t need. He’s regretting coming out unarmed more each passing second. His heart is beating in his throat. He breathes hard, clenches a fist, but it’s not enough. He doesn’t know what to do. He never does – not these days. Not since … Lisa. Not since Jack. Not since Jack left. It’s as though he’s alone under a crushing burden no-one else can see. He’s going through the motions, but he can’t do anything else. As though he can’t even see what else there is to do. He’s a cipher, a glyph. The invisible man. A statue.
“You’re just like… Who are you?”
John trails his hand up Ianto’s leg, before grabbing his cock through his trousers and squeezing, knowingly. Ianto chokes, reaches out instinctively, nearly upsetting his pint. John leans nearer, putting his lips so close to Ianto’s ear that his breath makes Ianto shiver, “Well done. I see you’re working it out. Clever boy. But I’m not like him, not really. I see you, eye-candy, I watch you. Every day. But the difference is – I like what I see.”
John sits back then, leaving Ianto tingling, his body aroused, his mind racing. It might just as well be one of Jack’s games – a touch here, a touch there, never enough, not in public, but then Jack liked to tease. Ianto wants to cry. He wants to punch something. Not another one of them. Another Jack. Or is he exaggerating? Magnifying something as small as the way a man kisses into something more than it is? No, he’s good with the details, he’s the memory man, he knows that much. He’s not wrong.
“What do you want?” Ianto asks, at last. Because that is who he is. He wants to know. Still. At least he always has that.
“I’m Captain John Hart,” says John, grinning like a cat that’s got the cream. “And I want you, Ianto Jones.”
John watches Jack’s precious Team for a while, and contemplates kidnap. The Carer might do, or more enticingly, her beautifully solid boyfriend. John can anticipate having fun with him. He wonders if he’d bend or break, and thinks that breaking is more likely – a delicious experiment.
The Technician is equally lovely; so repressed, so withdrawn. John imagines she’d be a screamer. He thinks he might make the Physician watch, which might prove more than entertaining. His reactions might surprise both of them, and since it’s ultimately for their own good… John’s an altruist, really, unsung, unappreciated.
But then John teams up with a Blowfish that drops out of the Rift, and bang goes that idea. Well, he could still risk it – but somehow John thinks the Blowfish’s appetite for life extends beyond enjoying a good party. And while John’s better than good, he can’t watch the kiddie-kids all the time.
No, in the end, although he toys with all the possibilities, there’s really only one choice. If any of them are damaged beyond repair Jack will strip John’s assets for him, and while he’s a big boy now, why make life harder than it has to be? Why go through all that grief when John can have his cake and eat it too? And such intriguing cake...
“I don’t know anything,” says Ianto, instantly, and then fights not to bite his lip, since he was too quick, too sure. John won’t believe him. Ianto struggles to think, to remember his training, although has he even been trained properly in hostage techniques, in interrogation? Can he hold out if John tries something more?
All that’s coming back are bits and pieces. Jack casually throwing down the hint of an anecdote. Ways to subtly resist, or ingratiate. Ways to manage pain. It’s not enough. Ianto finds he wants to rewrite the basic training manual, wonders whether a recommendation from an archivist will hold any weight. Wonders if he’ll get back at all. Promises himself a strongly worded email.
“Now, I find that hard to believe – remember, I’ve been watching.” John leers a little. It’s surprisingly attractive on him. “I bet you know a lot.”
Disbelief wars with fear, as Ianto stares. It’s not as though he’s been casually picked up in bars very often, or even at all. He doesn’t know the protocol in a normal situation, and this? This is far from being normal. A thought crosses his mind; it should be Owen.
“But I can’t tell you anything,” Ianto corrects himself, feeling reassured by the honesty. He takes a drink to prove it. His hand hardly shakes at all.
“Am I asking?” says John, and knocks back his own concoction. He grimaces at the taste, and wipes his mouth with the back of his hand. He looks so rueful, that Ianto almost finds himself smiling.
“That’s better,” says John, sly now, “I must remember that green drinks never deliver as promised. Although, it’s always fun finding out. I’m all about the fun.”
“I’d never have guessed,” Ianto says, dryly, and then is horrified at himself. It’s weak, but it’s banter. It’s something he might once have said to Jack.
John puts his hand back on Ianto’s thigh. “Careful, eye-candy, don’t go all mushy on me.”
“No danger of that,” says Ianto, and feels a sudden sense of freedom, of free-fall. John waggles his eyebrows in pleased response, and Ianto has to suppress another tiny smile. He frowns hard to compensate. The innuendo, the joking, it’s at once so familiar and so strange, that he has a mixed up feeling of déjà vu. Jack might come striding in through the door any second.
But it’s not enough. Jack left. Abandoned them all. Ianto knows it, and this Captain John Hart is not the same. Nothing’s the same. He has to move on.
He’s just not quite sure if this is the way to do it.
Watching the Office Boy is deadly dull. John nearly gives up, because all he does is move from their base to his accommodation and back again, and sometimes not even that. Sometimes he stays on the base, for days at a time. John doesn’t understand – that’s not living. What does he do for kicks? How can he stand it?
If it wasn’t for Jack’s sticky fingerprints all over him, John wouldn’t give the Office Boy a second glance. Well – maybe a second, but certainly not a third. So he’s pretty? So are thousands of others. He wonders what else Jack sees in him.
Then he breaks into the Team’s shiny computer system and leaves sticky fingerprints of his own. The Office Boy’s file is particularly interesting, if you read between the lines. There’s a lot of lying in there, betrayal and jealousy. You name it. John can only approve. Was the great Jack Harkness actually fooled, actually used and thrown aside by a two-bit, primitive administrator? That makes things worthwhile, that spices up the chase.
Maybe this will actually be fun, after all. John gets all the intel he needs from an insider who knows Jack as well as John himself does, and someone… someone else who was abandoned. John has a sneaking suspicion that the Office Boy is handling it better than he himself did.
John isn’t surprised very often. He finds he actually admires this Ianto Jones. And he doesn’t say that about just anyone.
“So – do you want to get out of here?” asks John, businesslike suddenly, his hand still running lightly up and down Ianto’s in-seam.
“It’s...” Not that simple, Ianto wants to say, before he realises, perhaps it is.
What exactly is stopping him? That John is an alien, probably fallen through the Rift? It does make him a potential security hazard, that’s true. Jack would be shocked that he’s even contemplating... what he’s contemplating. But Jack isn’t here. Jack may never be here again. Of course, it probably means Ianto should be vigilant, that he should do things by the book. By the book that Jack used to throw out of the window all the time.
John puts his head on one side, “Oh, come on, who does it hurt? You might even enjoy it.”
“That’s not the point,” says Ianto, softly, still thinking.
John sighs, and removes his hand, “Your loyalty does you credit. Even now.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, that I know Jack. Knew him. You’re not the first he’s left, you’ll certainly not be the last. But whatever. I’m certainly not going to force you.”
John leans back, throwing his arm along the edge of the booth. He eyes Ianto’s pint with interest.
Ianto feels cold. John is no longer touching him, and it shouldn’t make the slightest difference, but... He realises that no-one touches him any more. His team mates barely know he’s there. He remembers Gwen and the biscuit with her tea. He wonders if she’s missed it yet.
He’s empty, a hollow man – and he remembers that this stranger, this Captain John Hart, has made him feel more alive in the last half an hour than anyone or anything has since Jack left. Since Lisa... died. And, Ianto realises, he needs that. Needs something to cling on to in the darkness.
Is it selfish to want just this one thing for himself? A mindless encounter he can throw himself into, lose himself in. Someone who reminds him... of Jack. Is that wrong?
John’s looking at him again with those eyes, too knowing, too sure. Ianto can feel the sympathy though, he isn’t sure he expected that.
“Come on,” says John, quietly, “I promise you, he’ll never know. Who’d have thought? I like you, eye-candy.”
Ianto looks at him, all sprawled elegance and charm. A studied pose, but there’s a raw animal power in there too. His mouth waters.
He puts is own hand on John’s denim-clad leg. It’s warm, and the muscles under his palm tense and release. John smiles widely.
After all, thinks Ianto, who can it really hurt?