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Title: A Process in the Weather
Ratings & Warnings: soft 15 / R for adult themes
Characters: Jack/Ianto
Spoilers: All of seasons 1 and 2 of Torchwood
Beta: [livejournal.com profile] slartibartfast 
Wordcount: 5,405
A/N: Written for [livejournal.com profile] andromeda05 as part of the Jack/Ianto exchange at [livejournal.com profile] thestopwatch.  The title is taken from the Dylan Thomas poem.

Summary:  Ianto knows all about the fragility of the human body; he knows how it bleeds and how it breaks. And he knows, as he thinks of the cold uncaring perfection of metal, that it is better than the alternative.

A Process in the Weather

When Ianto wakes up, the clouds are still there. He watches them through the gap in the curtains as one black swell looms up and then rolls into another. When Ianto was young he used to think that skies like this meant the end of the world, the Flood repeated and all of creation’s ugliness and imperfection wiped away. The earth cleansed and free to begin again. Now he is older he knows better, but he still cannot shake the heavy feeling that pools low in his belly, pressing at his insides. They’ll be lucky not to be digging in a storm, but there’s no question of not doing it, of course. Tosh would have done it, Ianto thinks, and even Owen after a few mutinous mumbles.

Ianto smiles to think of them, but it hurts too.

Jack is already downstairs in the little breakfast room, looking out of place amid the white tablecloths and bowls of potpourri. A full English breakfast is laid out before him, just the way he likes it: no black pudding, extra mushrooms and toast. When Ianto takes the seat opposite him, their knees meet under the table.

“No sleep, then?”

Folding away his paper Jack shakes his head. “Nope. Too much to think about.” He reaches for his fork, saying around a mouthful of beans: “sorry for starting early. Hungry as a Tallorean cowbeast.” He grins, prodding half a leftover sausage with his knife. “’S good. You should try it.”

Ianto shakes his head. “I don’t think I could eat that much.”

“Bad idea, Ianto. Hard day’s work ahead of us.” Jack spears the sausage and holds it up coaxingly, giving it a little wiggle over the salt and pepper shakers.

“Have you seen the weather?” Ianto replies, studiously ignoring the dangling meat.

Jack only shrugs, looking back to his food. “It’ll be fine.”

*

They call Gwen when they reach the site, Ianto ducking into the cover of the SUV to avoid the wind as Jack goes around to the back and begins to pull out the equipment. Gwen sounds tense and exhausted; Ianto is fairly sure that he can hear Rhys being sick in the background.

“Well whatever the clouds are like, I’d much rather a swap, thanks,” she snaps back after Ianto asks her about the weather. “You try cleaning up vomit for two days and then tell me which one’s the easy job.”

Fair cop, Ianto thinks. “He found one of Owen’s CDs in the car.”

“Which one?”

“Some dance music. He didn’t want to talk about it.”

“Well, there’s only so much you can say, isn’t there? About repetitive beats and all that.”

Ianto digs his nail into the join of the SUV’s passenger window and the frame of the door, running his finger back and forth. “I meant about Owen. He hardly ever talks about him, or Tosh. Not after that first night.” Ianto sighs, looking over to where Jack is lining up cases of shovels, brushes and rain covers. “‘Now we carry on’, that’s what he said.”

There’s a pause on the other end of the line, and Ianto can hear Gwen’s breath catch and a slight wobble enter her voice. “We all deal with this in different ways. Jack wants to keep going, that’s all. It’s what he does.”

Ianto, worried that she is about to cry, asks her instead about the weather again and is relieved to hear the annoyance come back into her voice. He doesn’t want to upset her—he doesn’t want to upset Jack, either. It’s just the quietness that he can’t stand: being surrounded by the evidence of two lives that Jack seems to want to leave behind.

For a man who does so much of it, Jack is surprisingly bad at coping with dying when it’s other people involved.

*

As they dig the clouds weigh heavier and heavier above them, pressing down in the cold sky and shrouding the peaks and valleys in an eerie shadow. With the collar of his jacket turned up Ianto is still cold and he lays his shovel down, now and then, to rub at his arms fiercely and try to stamp some life into his feet. The ground is hard beneath him, and the effort of driving his shovel into the soil again and again has made sweat gather in the small of his back even as his head and legs are freezing cold. It is hard to break his fingers away from the handle of the shovel and, when he does, bright red welts stand out over the pale skin on his palms and fingertips. They have been digging for three hours and the pit between them is crushingly small, their twin piles of shifted dirt insignificant in the rugged landscape. Ianto has, for a moment, a breathtaking sense of being utterly unimportant.

Jack pauses, breathless, and leans against his shovel as he looks over to Ianto. “We should start coming across stuff soon. The last thing we need is another day out here. Two,” he pauses to heft his shovel again, planting his feet firmly, “is more than enough.”

The sting in Ianto’s hands doubles as he remembers that he’ll be doing this tomorrow, too. By the time that they finally unearth the first box—labeled, as they’d been promised, with the distinctive moon-and-stars design—he has lost all feeling beneath his knees and the red patch over his left index finger has developed into a fully-formed blister, pus-coloured and aching.

“Look on the bright side,” Jack says with merciless optimism, flashing his best wink, “I’ll kiss it better later.”

Ianto frowns at the shovel as he lifts it again, ducking his head against the wind. There is a woolly hat underneath one of the seats in the SUV, but he doesn’t want to use it. He won’t forget the smell of Tosh’s conditioner for as long as he lives.

*

In the mid-afternoon—according to Ianto’s watch; if anything, it’s darker than it was in the early morning—it begins to rain. At first a few leaden, ominous drops splatter over the windscreen of the SUV and make Ianto swear as they drip down between the back of his neck and the collar of his jacket, but within minutes the water is falling thick and fast. Little pellets of rain collide with the quickly-forming puddles and make them shatter, shards of water leaping up. The bottom of the pit, where the corner of another much larger box is already revealed, begins slowly to turn to mud. Even Jack, who has been cracking jokes and breaking into song at regular intervals (repeatedly returning to ‘Hi-ho, hi-ho, it’s off to work we go’) eventually admits defeat: he throws down his shovel with a squelching sound of mud and rubs his hands together briskly.

“Much as I’d like to see you getting wet and dirty, I’ve gotta admit defeat sometime. Tea in the SUV. Quick march.”

Ianto raises an eyebrow, waiting for another jagged tear of lightening to illustrate his point. “We’re going to sit in a metal box for an electrical storm?”

Jack grins. “Like I always say, live dangerously. Come on.”

Ianto is a little unclear about what happens next: everything is all jumbled up in his head, the pain in his side and his sudden breathlessness and his shock and the mud twisting under his foot as he tries to turn, sending him slipping into the pit. He has landed on his side, he processes slowly; his back hurts, but it’s nothing lethal. Cold rain is falling on his face, and there is dirt in his mouth. Just as he is trying to sit up Jack is suddenly beside him, stumbling down the steep walls of the hole and dropping to his knees in the mud, reaching out a hand for Ianto’s face.

“Ianto? Ianto. Ianto. Can you hear me?”

Ianto blinks up at him, nodding carefully. “Yes. I’m fine, it’s nothing.” He moves his arms and legs experimentally: yes, all in one piece. As he sits up his head spins, and a brief clench of nausea grips his stomach. The pit must be deeper than it looked. Jack is frowning at him, pale with concern.

“Can you walk to the SUV? We’ll drive back and get you changed.”

Ianto nods again and, sure enough, manages to make it over to the car, biting his lip as he walks and pressing his fingers to his side. Once inside, with the heating on full, he carefully peels off his jacket and t-shirt, hissing at the movement: underneath his skin is revealed already faintly discoloured, a large bruise surfacing over his belly. Slightly to the side, where one of the sharp metal edges of the box caught on his jacket and lifted it up, there is a cut of a few inches over his hip: Ianto looks for a moment with detached calm at the revealed flesh beneath the skin, the almost shockingly red blood already welling up.

Jack swears. “I’ll get the First Aid kit.”

Inside, everything is labeled in Owen’s angular writing. PAINKILLERS max 2 per 4 hours unless you’re Jack. BURN CREAM is not lube, Jack. BUG SPRAY not for use on giant wasps.

Ianto’s stomach suddenly hurts in a way that has nothing to do with his fall.

Brisk and businesslike Jack ignores the notes, pulling out some antiseptic wipes and a bandage with adhesive edges before pushing the kit out of sight. “We can clean it out again at the B&B,” he says curtly, ripping the packet of the wipe with his teeth. “My medical skills aren’t up to scratch.”

“Don’t worry about it,” Ianto says quietly, focusing on not hissing with pain as Jack rubs the mud away from the cut, his movements sharp and quick. As Jack presses on the pad he can, Ianto realizes, hardly look at the wound: he has somehow withdrawn within himself, leaving on the exterior a competent, slightly cold version of who he can be.

“Is there a story I should know about lube?” Ianto asks jokily as Jack is pressing down the edges of the bandage, trying to lighten the atmosphere, but Jack ignores him.

“I’ve got to give you a shot incase there was anything nasty and extraterrestrial on that box. Pants down.”

A jab against ‘space-tetanus’, that’s what Owen had called this particular cocktail, but Ianto doesn’t remind Jack of it.

*

Enid Pendry reminds Ianto of his Aunt May: they both smell like shortbread and seem to move in an almost visible cloud of goodwill and maternal instincts. Within a minute of opening the door to find two bedraggled houseguests shivering on the front step Mrs Pendry has fetched them both big, fluffy towels, sat them down in the kitchen (“don’t worry about the mud, they’re only tiles”) and is brewing a large pot of tea. Behind her, Ianto can see out the back door to where the now torrential rain is slowly but surely washing away the Pendrys’ garden.

“A bad day for hiking,” Mrs Pendry murmurs soothingly as she spreads some biscuits out over a plate. “You’re lucky I didn’t have to send Ted out with the dogs.”

Ianto looks at the improbably large bundle of scraggly fur and long limbs lying at the far end of the hall. One eye opens and looks back. Ianto has never seen a dog that’s taller than him on two legs before, and it’s more unnerving than he would have expected.

“Nothing we can’t handle, Enid,” Jack replies with a smooth grin and a wink. “If you saw what we manage to get through day in, day out…”

Mrs Pendry, seemingly unaware of Jack’s flirtation, begins to pour out the tea into four mugs, the lid on which she rests her fingertips chattering slightly as her hand shakes with the weight. “Well, you’ll eat with us at least, when Ted’s back,” she says with a beam as she hands them both their cups. “There’s no way you can make it to the pub tonight.” She nods towards the window, through which can be seen only a shifting, coursing waterscape: the rain seems to be not so much falling as hovering, filling up the air. “The weather will only get worse before it gets better.”

Jack laughs, his eyes twinkling. “Can’t get enough of us, can you?” He takes a sip of his tea, still smiling. “Too bad this’ll all clear up. I’ve got a feeling about it.”

Ianto holds his tea carefully, feeling as the heat seeps through the china to burn his fingers. The drumming of the rain against the windows feels like it’s beating in his head. It sounds as if it will rain forever.

“Don’t worry, Mrs Pendry,” he says politely. “We won’t inconvenience you any more. I have some food we can eat upstairs.”

Both Jack and Mrs Pendry look at him with surprise and Ianto shrugs as carelessly as he can manage, blowing on his tea. “My parents loved camping.”

*

Despite the storm pulsing about the house—regular rumbles of thunder make the windowpanes chatter—Jack manages to get something approaching signal on the little TV, and a grainy and flickering version of University Challenge lights up the screen.

“Great,” Jack remarks sarcastically as he makes himself comfy on his side of the bed. “Reruns. Can’t we at least get Baywatch or something?”

Ianto picks up one of the fresh towels that has been left on their dressing table, folding it over his arm. “I’m going to take a shower.”

The short hallway to the bathroom shared by the three guest rooms is lined with family photos, and Ianto pauses to look at them as he walks along. When they arrived the night before Ianto had wanted to look at them more, but Jack had only rolled his eyes and said that Ianto had to get his priorities sorted, before looking meaningfully down at the bulge in his own trousers. Today, Ianto takes his time. Most of the photos are of two children, slowly growing up—a girl with brown curls and a boy with big front teeth and freckles. They’re at the park, the beach, being swung by their father on swings. The girl wins a trophy for swimming. The boy plays the trumpet. The girl becomes beautiful and has her photo taken with her friends in party dresses. There is a framed acceptance letter from Durham University. There is a photo of her during her graduation, and later at her wedding.

Ianto walks back and checks, but in the last photo he can find the boy is still in his late teens, standing on a pier with his mother, looking perhaps a little sickly. There’s nothing else.

The hottest that the shower will go is enough to make Ianto’s skin flush red, but it is nowhere near hot enough. He drapes his clothes neatly out over the drying rail and steps under the water, wincing briefly, and ducks his head to wet his hair. The thrumming of the droplets against the tiles merges in with the pounding of the rain outside until Ianto can no longer separate them in his mind and he feels, all of a sudden, very cold.

The mud washes off easily, clumps of dirt swirling away down the drain by Ianto’s toes. By now the bruise on his stomach has deepened to an ugly purple with yellowing edges, and Ianto carefully runs his fingers over it, catching his breath as it hurts. Once he is entirely clean—he runs a complementary bar of soap carefully over himself, pressing it hard against the skin of his neck until he feels spotless again—he gingerly pulls the bandage away from his side, hissing at the tug of the adhesive on his skin. The cut itself does not look so bad in the cosy, homely cleanliness of the Pendrys’ guest bathroom: already the bleeding is almost entirely stopped, scabs forming.

Still, though, it hurts like a bitch as Ianto, standing shivering on the bathmat, tries to towel his hair dry. “Don’t be such a fucking wuss,” he can hear Owen say, as clearly as if they were back in the Hub together and Ianto was about to be treated to the entire miracle of Owen’s bedside manner.

All in all, Ianto thinks he could have dealt with hearing more of Owen’s sharp tongue. It wasn’t that bad.

*

Owen and Tosh probably stayed together in B&Bs just like this one, Ianto reflects as he goes back along the hall. They must have had separate rooms, of course—but he can imagine them coming back from a day out at one of the digs that were always their responsibility and taking their separate showers, washing away the grime, before meeting together to drive out to a pub for a nice meal. He can imagine them in their rooms at night, Tosh reading a book on something ridiculously complex and Owen watching rubbish TV. He can even imagine the way that Tosh would be so careful, in the mornings, to look good for him—and how Owen would never notice.

Sometimes, Ianto stays awake at night and wonders if he should have told Owen, should have mentioned it. If that would have helped. He doesn’t think it would have, but that doesn’t stop him wondering. It’s funny, how things turn out. Funny and painful.

Jack is lying back on the bed when Ianto gets back to the room, and the TV is mercifully off. As Ianto stands by the bed to dress he looks over to the pile of papers that Jack is slowly making his way through, a muddled collection of hand-written bullet points and lengthy printouts which Ianto recognizes instantly. Jack’s been compiling the notes on a young officer in the Buckinghamshire police force for a long time. It’s not that Ianto doesn’t understand: the three of them are working themselves to the bone to keep Torchwood running with such huge losses; they need to replenish themselves, find some fresh blood. There is no time for mourning when the world is at stake. But still, it seems callous, this filling of their shoes: Ianto has to hold back the desire to affirm that they can’t be replaced, the two of them, that there will never be another Tosh and there will never be another Owen.

And though he knows it’s nothing, he can’t imagine how Jack could do this searching now, when they are as good as standing in the shadows of their dead colleagues—doing their jobs, trying to learn their skills, following their routine. Every aspect of this trip is so saturated with their presence that Ianto feels as if he is drowning in it, and Jack can’t even say their names.

“Twenty-four, aced the entry tests, amazing ass, now drawing attention to himself by ‘anticipating the needs of others’,” Jack quotes dryly, “and I don’t think they mean that in the strictly traditional sense.” He lets the papers fall to his chest and looks up at Ianto with a hint of a grin. “How d’you feel about a six-foot-four telepath with stunning green eyes entering the team?”

The rain lashes against the window with intent, and Ianto feels as if it’s driving into his skull. He swallows, his tongue dry and swollen in his mouth, and pauses in doing up the zip of his jeans. “Don’t you want to talk about them, Jack?”

Jack frowns, his voice suddenly hard. “Wanting to hire someone else doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten about them, Ianto. I’ll never forget. But we move on. We’re Torchwood. That’s what we do.”

Ianto knows all about Torchwood and all about moving on. He knows about the greater good and necessary sacrifices. He knows that Tosh and Owen would have been proud to die the way they did. None of it helps.

Once Jack is done writing he stands up and starts pacing back and forth along the length of the room, watching the intensifying storm.

Ianto watches Jack.

*

In the time that follows, as the hours of the afternoon slowly unwind themselves over the clock on the wall, the rain continues to pulse down, beating a dirge against the windows. Ianto can almost sense the grey water snaking over the roof and trickling down the edges of the windows, trying to find a way in. The air feels very heavy.

Jack cannot be still. To Ianto’s surprise, he doesn’t suggest sex—the eager appetite of last night is all gone—but instead he plays Solitaire, fiddles with his PDA, reads all the local tourism magazines left spread neatly on the coffee table. Among all that he does, all his quick jerky movements and pointless chattering, he never looks over as Ianto carefully cleans out his cut again and then deftly bandages it up. He doesn’t look at Ianto’s bloody t-shirt, wrapped up in a ball on a plastic bag in the corner.

Ianto lies back, and feels the steady pulse of pain in his side. He wonders, briefly, how it must have felt for Tosh when she was shot, how she kept her strength for long enough to calm Owen, to talk him through his last moments, to hide the fact that she was dying too. He tries to imagine the levels of quiet, selfless bravery that she had in her, but he can’t. Shy, self-effacing Tosh. None of them really knew what she was capable of.

There’s no plan, when Ianto begins to talk: he just does and it feels natural, like it is both painful and healthy to talk about everything that they have lost. Slowly, he finds himself breathing easier.

“Tosh loved Smarties,” he says with a little smile at the ceiling. “The blue ones, especially. When they cancelled them while they looked for a natural way of producing that colour she went crazy. You should have seen her when they finally came back. A few days after you—left, she bought seventeen packets and lined all the colours up, saving the best for last. Her lips were blue for days.”

“I didn’t just leave,” Jack says argumentatively from the corner by the window. “You know it was more complex—”

Ianto doesn’t protest that he wasn’t talking about that; he just takes a deep breath, goes on. He doesn’t have to search for a memory: they’re thick in the air about him, crowding in his throat, rushing to be voiced.

“Owen was a genius at pool. You always said that he was a cheat, but I don’t think he was. His height didn’t matter, he just had an eye for it. He knew how things would react. Cause and effect.” Ianto smiles briefly. “Probably why he was so good at winding us all up.

“Tosh used to keep girly magazines in one of her drawers, underneath all her maths. Cosmopolitan, Heat. I’d never have believed it before I found them, but now I like it, I think. Imagining her curling up on the couch when we were all out, alternating between quantum mechanics and the gossip pages.” Ianto pauses, runs a fold of the duvet between his fingers, before turning his head to look at Jack, stark against the grey light coming from the window behind him. “She was never as weird as we all thought she was. She wanted the same things everyone does—someone who loved her, a—”

“Ianto,” Jack warns. “What are you doing?”

But Ianto goes on, suddenly feeling strong and reckless and ready to push, to break through Jack’s silence. The aching of his battered body makes him feel stronger, somehow. Reminds him that he’s alive. Him at least.

“Owen was brave. We were chasing this alien up by Caernarfon Bay—bit like a cross between a mastiff and a turtle. Big teeth, nasty spiked shell. Tosh and I got split up from them, and an hour later Owen comes limping over the hill with Gwen in his arms and it’s only when we’ve finished resuscitating her that he shows us just how much flesh that thing took out of his leg. A bite the size of—”

“I don’t need you to remind me, Ianto,” Jack cuts in, turning sharply around. “Just because of who I am doesn’t mean that I don’t know how—fragile you are.”

How fragile you are. There’s something about the way Jack says it which makes Ianto angry. Ianto knows all about the fragility of the human body; he knows how it bleeds and how it breaks. And he knows, as he thinks of the cold uncaring perfection of metal, that it is better than the alternative.

“We die, Jack,” he snaps back, sitting up on the bed. “We get old and we get hurt and we die and you can’t always be turning your head away, you can’t try to ignore—this blood, and the things they left, and the photo of that lady’s dead son in the hall.”

For a moment the room is very quiet. Outside the rain beats against the house, and a rip of lightening casts a white light over the valley outside. The ridges of the hills loom up out of the darkness, sharp and glistening in the rain.

Jack turns to look back out the window, blocking out the available light and leaning heavily against the frame. His shoulders are tense and raised, the tight muscles over his neck visible above his collar. He braces his arms against the walls to either side of the window, his hands fisted, and his voice is taut with barely-restrained anger and pain.

“I’ve seen so many people die, Ianto. You have no idea. No idea what it’s like to watch them—to wait as everyone dies and someone else comes along and takes their place. The whole world just--pulsing with life and every breath, every heartbeat just telling you over and over that everything will die.” Jack pauses before laughing, the sound harsh and hollow. “Except me, apparently. I’m left to watch it, alone.”

Suddenly Jack looks very small, there against the window: very powerless and very alone against the raging storm outside. Ianto imagines what it must be like, to live life far enough removed to see everything in proportion and yet to still be able to feel, to love, to mourn. He tries to imagine how long Jack must have lived and how many loved ones he must have watched die. He understands, for a moment, the great distance that Jack keeps carefully about his heart.

Very slowly Ianto gets to his feet and crosses the empty space of the room, reaching out tentatively, holding his breath, to rest his hands on Jack’s hips. Jack doesn’t move, his eyes fixed on something out there in the storm, and Ianto takes that as permission, the lack of defenses as some kind of welcome. Slowly he moves closer, pressing his cheek to Jack’s back and wrapping his arms about the other man’s waist. This close Jack is warm and human, with soft flesh and rushing blood just like anyone else, and it would be easy for a moment to escape the memory of his curse. It is part of the cruelty of it, Ianto thinks, that Jack looks just like everyone else when, fundamentally, he has been made so different.

For a moment they stand there together, the storm out before them and the safe warm room behind, and Ianto realizes with a still kind of clarity that he too will die.

Gradually, between the crashes of thunder which are slowly softening and the darkening flickers of lightening, Jack begins to come back. Tension drains out of him, dripping down his neck, back and arms, slipping away from his fingers and toes. His breathing becomes quieter, more controlled. His anger and his sense of unbelonging ebbs away.

After a while Jack tries to turn in Ianto’s arms and Ianto lets him, placing a series of gentle kisses around Jack’s shoulder, reaching up to kiss him on the lips. Jack reaches down to grip him tighter, suddenly hot and hungry, and opens his mouth—but Ianto pulls back slightly, shaking his head.

“Slow down, Jack,” he murmurs. “Go slow.”

For the first time, it is silent. Jack does not make any jokes or share any X-rated anecdotes. Ianto does not say anything dirty. They stand together at the end of the bed and Ianto, his heart pounding in his chest, begins to take off his clothes. He unbuckles his jeans and pushes them down with his boxers. He bends awkwardly to peel off his socks. He raises his arms to pull off his t-shirt and hisses quietly at the corresponding stretch of his cut. Finally he stands before Jack, naked and human, and allows himself to be observed: flesh, bone, mortal.

When Ianto reaches for Jack to undress him too Jack catches his wrist, shaking his head simply before pushing Ianto gently back onto the bed. There is a sadness in his eyes which Ianto doesn’t want to argue with and he lets himself be guided back until he’s lying with his head on the puffy white pillows, breathing shallow, looking up at Jack kneeling beside him. This is not lust, Ianto thinks, it does not burn: instead it has filled him up with a steady drip, drip, drip, a cold water filling up every inch of him until he sways with its tide.

Jack sits back on his heels and Ianto, his mouth dry, watches him for a moment. There is a second where he thinks he might have lost Jack, might have pushed him away inside of himself—but Ianto feels the beating of his own heart and he thinks of Tosh’s silent love for Owen and he takes strength in the fact that he is alive, that he will be for quite some time, God willing. He reaches out for Jack’s hand.

At the first touch Jack almost flinches back, but Ianto grips his fingers and gently pulls his palm over. He presses Jack’s fingers over his heart, watching Jack’s look of almost physical pain as he feels the beat. Together Ianto slowly lets their fingers move down, tracing the line of his sternum, the arch of his ribs stubbornly shielding his lungs. The press of Jack’s fingers leaves fleeting white traces over his skin. Down, further, avoiding the white bandage which Jack flinches from to reach the delicate skin between Ianto’s hip and his pubic bone. The coarse curls of his pubic hair. Jack tenses slightly, his fingers edging ahead with anticipation—but Ianto catches him, pulls him back. The bits of him that Jack already knows well need no more accepting. Instead he brings Jack’s palm up to cup his wrist, feeling the rhythm of his pulse before moving back to trace the faint blue lines with the tip of Jack’s index finger. Then up again, to the press of his collarbone beneath the skin (and there the slight bump where it never healed properly after a rugby injury from Ianto’s childhood), and higher still until Jack, of his own free will, cups Ianto’s throat gently.

Ianto tilts his head back, entirely vulnerable, entirely strong, and closes his eyes. He can feel Jack’s hand moving with his Adam’s apple as he swallows. He can feel the slight graze of one nail against the underside of his chin. He wills Jack to think about it all: his vertebral column, the twisting length of his nerves, his windpipe, his jugular. How tenacious all of pulsing breathing bleeding humanity is, and how fragile.

Slowly Jack withdraws his hand, but Ianto does not open his eyes: he lies and he waits, feeling almost weightless and adrift. Jack’s fingers touch his side fleetingly, nails picking at the edges of the bandage, slowly lifting it up, and Ianto imagines what he sees: blood and tissue, the grime and miracle of bodies that will die.

It stings as Jack carefully presses his lips to the edge of the cut, kissing the deepest purple depth of the bruise, but Ianto doesn’t mind. He feels very light all of a sudden, as if liberated by the heaviness of acceptance.

Outside, though it still rains, the clouds have begun to clear.

[fin.]

Comments and constructive criticism welcomed!

(no subject)

Date: 2008-09-07 06:09 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] virginhuntress.livejournal.com
Absolutely lovely. :D

(no subject)

Date: 2008-09-07 06:22 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] theohsocurlyone.livejournal.com
There is a woolly hat underneath one of the seats in the SUV, but he doesn’t want to use it. He won’t forget the smell of Tosh’s conditioner for as long as he lives.

Ouch.

That was wonderful - understated, tender, and the voices of Jack and Ianto, and their reactions to each other, were absolutely spot-on.

*sniffle*

(no subject)

Date: 2008-09-07 06:33 pm (UTC)
ext_1798: (books fond/skellorg)
From: [identity profile] wildestranger.livejournal.com
Gorgeous. Loved how visceral your writing is, and Ianto here is deliciously poignant.

(no subject)

Date: 2008-09-07 07:25 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] christine-twfan.livejournal.com
That was simply stunning. Thank you for sharing it.

(no subject)

Date: 2008-09-07 07:34 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] drowning-london.livejournal.com
I miss TW and Tosh and Owen... *sniff*

Lovely, beautiful story. But, really.... how could Ianto ignore Jack's dangling meat??? *cuddles*

(no subject)

Date: 2008-09-07 09:45 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lefaym.livejournal.com
I loved this when I first read it, and I still love it now. I love the interplay between strength and vulnerability.

(no subject)

Date: 2008-09-07 09:52 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] erin-giles.livejournal.com
I really wish I was having an articulative day so I could tell you how wonderful this piece was. Just amazing imagery and detail - like when Ianto was on the phone to Gwen running his finger along the window ridge - just brought the whole story to life in a way I am in awe of.

What made me click on it was the title (being a huge Dylan Thomas fan) and I think you've captured the general feeling of the poem in the story very well! Brill piece - and adding it to my memories to read again on a rainy day! ;)

(no subject)

Date: 2008-09-07 10:03 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] criccieth.livejournal.com
oh yes. I like that. I really do.

Though Jack's got a bloody nerve, telling Ianto of all people he has no idea what it's like to watch loved ones die!!

(no subject)

Date: 2008-09-07 10:34 pm (UTC)

(no subject)

Date: 2008-09-08 03:47 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] genagirl.livejournal.com
I don't know if it's the sad, cold feel or the pain that Ianto brings that makes this feel so hopeless but at the same time filled with life. I love all the emotions and thoughts it stirs, how inevitable it seems. And then the ending which is acceptance and hope and healing. So very moving. *mems*

(no subject)

Date: 2008-09-08 06:46 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] pecos.livejournal.com
That was very mature, deep and satisfying. Thank you.
Edited Date: 2008-09-08 06:46 am (UTC)

(no subject)

Date: 2008-09-10 04:53 pm (UTC)
ext_2496: (Default)
From: [identity profile] aelfgyfu-mead.livejournal.com
Lovely story--I really enjoy your style, and your characterization feels spot-on. Tosh did have that girly side to her, and Owen was brave--and Ianto needs to talk about them even more than Jack needs not to talk. I'm glad the story ends with Jack's acceptance of others' mortality, at least for a little while.

(no subject)

Date: 2008-09-15 10:33 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lucy-locket.livejournal.com
Love!! The line about Tosh's conditioner broke me a little bit.

(no subject)

Date: 2008-09-17 03:37 pm (UTC)
ext_2261: (pic#)
From: [identity profile] sgac.livejournal.com
My God. Wah.

You know how you start reading cautiously, with trepidation, becuase this could be tiresome juvenilia or an eyeball-bleeder or just plain Can't Write. And within a couple of paragraphs you realise Can Write, but you're still cautious, becuase it could still be a waste of time.

But you reach the end with jubilation, because this one did more than pass the tests and check the right boxes. This one did things like create a mood, bring the characters into canonically-sharp focus, add something real and new and true to a tired genre. This one did things and did them well.

(no subject)

Date: 2008-09-25 03:22 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] adjovi.livejournal.com
fantastic writing--so very painful and lovely. thank you.

(no subject)

Date: 2008-09-26 12:58 pm (UTC)
ext_17079: ([j/i] just ghosts of ghosts)
From: [identity profile] greenapricot.livejournal.com
This is wonderful, excatly how post S2 fic should feel.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-03-02 03:03 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] planejane.livejournal.com
Achingly beautiful. I feel like I was there; in those very private and truly intimate moments between them. Bravo.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-03-02 03:23 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] laura-guerin.livejournal.com
That was beautiful!

(no subject)

Date: 2009-03-02 04:26 pm (UTC)
ext_3970: (Torchwood - B/W Janto Heart)
From: [identity profile] pinkfairy727.livejournal.com
Wow! I adore this. You portrayed everything perfectly.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-03-02 09:20 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] teaboyfan.livejournal.com
The atmosphere you created was perfect for the tone of the story; I could almost feel the rain and mud (and the clearing at the end). And there were a couple of breathless moments where I was afraid Ianto had pushed Jack into even deeper withdrawal; I should have more trust in his judgment and knowledge of Jack. The sudden recognition of his own mortality actually increased his empathy for Jack right at that point in time. It's hard to imagine facing loss over and over with no hope of an end, and still staying sane and able to love. There have been many well-written post-Exit-Wounds stories, but yours really captures the sense of enduring in the face of grief.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-06-07 07:17 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] pearlseed.livejournal.com
It's still sad and beautiful all in the same breath. I even liked Owen in this story which is very unusual. Both Jack and Tosh are very gentle and fragile in this story. Thank you for having it here for me to read.

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