“So the Doctor’s just standing there, looking at his fist like he doesn’t know what it just did, and the poor man’s cowering on the ward floor, and all the patients are staring. Then Jenny starts shouting about how the bloke was only being friendly, and the upshot was that he’s threatening to report the Doctor to the General Medical Council for – and this isn’t funny?”
“Sorry,” Ianto said, although his sulky squareish face (still a coat of many colours between the bandages) said he was anything but. “I just don’t find Mr “Molto Bene” all that hilarious.”
“So Jack liked him too?” Hathaway rolled his eyes and sat back in his chair, careful not to dislodge the crutches he’d propped against it on arrival.
“The same Jack who’s buggered off back to Cardiff and Gwen. Honestly, I preferred it when she was pregnant with a shape-shifting alien. Long story,” Ianto added, seeing the policeman’s face.
“You let him go,” Hathaway pointed out, flicking through the uppermost of the magazines Donna had left on Ianto’s bed before taking the Doctor and Jenny off for some impromptu family counselling (the Doctor had to Stop Punching Boyfriends, Jenny had to stop Using Her Eyelashes on the Unwary).
“He didn’t exactly fight it, though. Looked bloody glad to be rid of me.”
“God, look at her br – oh, c’mon Ianto,”(and privately Ianto felt a little thrill – James already said his name better than either Lisa or Jack), “He nearly went mad while you were ill, everyone knows that.” Hathaway closed up the gossip magazine (although marking with a careful thumb the page where Girls Aloud could be seen without their clothes), and regarded the other man meditatively. “Immortality like his must be a burden. Knowing you’ve got this gift that goes so much farther than your abilities as an ordinary man. Having the obligation to save people, and yet seeing those closest to you fall. Because of you. Seeing their feelings for you destroy them.”
“If you don’t stop with the Christ-parallels,” Ianto said tightly, “I’ll rip off your other foot and shove it halfway down your throat. I bet Jesus was a much better boyfriend than Jack.”
“The Medieval saints seemed to think so,” Hathaway murmured, and reached across to take Ianto’s hand. Ianto looked at him.
“And how’s the Inspector?”
The long pale face had the grace to flush. “Fine. Better than.” He didn’t quite detatch their hands, though, which annoyed Ianto at first but then became immensely useful, because that was the moment Jack, Tosh and Owen charged back through the door.
Tosh looked a bit demented, Owen cynically unsurprised that the almighty bed-hopping-clusterfuck-of-doom was continuing to bed, hop and cluster, and Jack as if his save-the-world-with-group-sex theories had been abruptly replaced by a get-Ianto-back-by-punching Hathaway scheme. Owen put a supportive hand on Jack’s shoulder as the latter tried to remould his features from “unjustifiably outraged cuckold” back to “Leading Man on Tragic Mission”. In the face of such provocation – Jim’s stance was undeniably possessive, and the bedridden Ianto didn’t seem to mind – Owen thought he did well. Jack, meanwhile, took a couple of deep cleansing breaths, set his eyes to Cerulean Intensity, and (wishing only that a bit of cinematic rain had recently fallen on his head to make him look more heroic and vulnerable) stepped forward.
“Ianto,” he said meaningfully, leaving a meaningful pause while his eyes fixed solely on his lost love and yet managed to register the (meaningful) facts that Hathaway had no colouring, crutches and a stupid haircut. “We need. To talk.”
Ianto scowled and clutched Hathaway’s hand. Hathaway tried not to wince. “How’s Gwen?”
“We didn’t get that far. I came back. For you.”
Much like Elizabeth Bennet at the moment of Darcy’s first proposal (minus the sprigged muslin and eventual acquisition of property), Ianto Jones started, coloured, doubted, and was silent. Hathaway knew when he had lost. Swinging from chair to crutches in a savagely-executed three-point-turn, he swung and stumped his way from the room with as much dignity and bitterness as a lopsided man could muster. Owen put a supportive hand on his shoulder too (Tosh gave Owen a look, at this, that said she was onto him).
“All right, come on, let’s leave Teaboy and Jack to the inevitable,” he said wearily, ushering her out. Or, depending on your point of view, following Sergeant Hathaway in order to get a good view of his bum. Whichever, Tosh was happy to acquiesce.
Jack hesitantly approached the bed.
“You look good,” he offered, smiling.
Ianto’s face told him not to be a fool. “D’you want some water? Your jug’s empty.” Ianto looked a bit mystified by this, but nodded, allowing Jack to take the jug, cross to the basin at the side of Ianto’s room, and refill it. This gave the Captain a moment’s privacy that was suddenly necessary.
To Jack’s surprise, his face was hot and his hands unsteady; it had become apparent to him, blinking at the cold white tiles in which his own shadow was just visible, how badly he wanted this to work. The jug was heavy in his hands when he came back, but Ianto’s bitterness seemed to have subsided a little; he was holding his glass (or rather beaker) and allowed Jack to fill it without a word. After he drank, his face (also flushed, Jack noticed, between and beyond the now-yellowing bruises) relaxed visibly. Jack wondered how much pain he was in.
“What do the doctors say?”
Ianto inclined his head. “They’re more confused than anything – Owen keeps slipping me more drugs, and most of the staff are convinced I’m MI5 – but they don’t mind too much as long as I’m improving. Which I am.” He made a dissatisfied movement. “Apart from the gap where my kidney used to be.”
Jack exhaled. “Wondered when you’d get mad at me about that.”
The younger man turned his head, squinting up at him a bit. “Why’re you here, Jack?” It was meant to sound impressive and intimidating, and Jack knew Ianto would probably hate him for finding it neither of those things. Sitting down, Jack gently rested his hand on Ianto’s, trying to find the right words (and at that something of wariness came into Ianto’s eyes, because if Jack put much effort into this, it was going to be hard to remember what a cock he was).
“Why’d you do it, Ianto?”
“…because he was shooting at you, and I love you.” He huffed. “Idiot.”
Jack frowned. “But I can’t die.” This seemed to Jack a reasonable observation. It made Ianto lose his temper completely.
“No, you DO die. You die all the time, every time, and every time – “
“ – you don’t know whether I’m going to come back, I get that –“
“That doesn’t make any difference cock pissing Christ,” Ianto suddenly hissed, having thumped his bandaged hand on the blankets (and beneath them, his knee) for inadvisable emphasis. “You die, every time you die, I watch you suffer, I watch you hurting, and – that makes me forget. I don’t love you because you’re some sort of immortal sex god – shut UP,” he said quickly, as his cheeks went red and Jack started protesting “ – after all, you’re only a deity who can’t bloody wash up without breaking mugs or find your way around a kitchen without nuclear war, see, Jack. I saw Branning firing a bullet at you, at a man. I love you – and admittedly this isn’t an experiment I’m particularly keen to repeat, but I’m not sorry I took that bullet for you, and if you’re ever mortal, I’ll bloody well do it again.”
“Try and stop me.”
“Ianto…” Jack murmured, reproachfully. Ianto hated that “Ianto…”. It meant coaxing eyes and a warm thumb running over his knuckles and great difficulties in remembering how who was in the right and who the wrong. He glowered up at Jack, and lost the fight. “I can’t lose you.”
Ianto paused. “You already have, once. And you will again.” It was one of the cruellest things he’d ever said to Jack, but the words slipped out easily enough.. And, to his credit, the Captain was brave enough to nod, and say “I know.” He’d had a speech prepared; one about how he’d got used to his loved ones being mortal and being killed, and how the difference was that between standing in cold water and feeling storm waves breaking over your head. There’d been an admission, too, that – just as his feelings for Gwen had gone from possibility to a fistful of certainty once he saw the ring on her finger – death had made Ianto dearer to him than he’d ever been before. That would have to be said later, but not now. Jack looked down at Ianto’s hand on the blankets, and the sob that came into his throat was unmusical and unbidden. “I watched you die. Over and over.” His voice cracked. “You looked so scared, Ianto, you were in so much pain.”
“Likewise,” Ianto said, but his voice was only gruff with tears and his eyes were fixed anxiously on Jack. “And wouldn’t you die, to save me from going through that, over and over?” The logic was inescapable, if crude, and Jack set his jaw.
“It’s not the answer. I’m immortal, you’re not,” he protested, sounding nearly petulant, even though his eyes were red and the lines of his face wavering.
“I was temporarily immortal,” Ianto muttered. “If that’s the definition of dying on loop. And I’m still not sorry. …but I’ll try not to accidentally die saving your life. But if they ever find a way to make you mortal,” he warned; and despite Jack’s exasperated face, nothing would alter the set of Ianto’s jaw. The older man eventually gave up, attempting a smile:
“Well, this is the first time I’ve said it, but: I hope they never do. At least, not while you’re around.”
Jack saw Ianto’s colour rise in his cheeks, and that his eyes were perhaps as red as his own. He leant in gently, then, and found Ianto’s lips waiting for his without resistance. He tasted unfamiliar; hospital food and hospital aircon, but he strained upwards towards Jack in the old familiar way. Gone were the anguished movements of his deaths, the need to force air and energy into Ianto before he expired; and at that thought, Jack’s chest tightened and he had to press closer. They were kissing a little awkwardly, not so much because Jack couldn’t really hug him (this was true; anywhere the bullet or battle hadn’t ripped up Ianto’s skin, internal warfare had left Ianto bruised) as because both Jack’s hands were still shaking, badly. He fanned them very gently over Ianto’s face, and felt his own heart squeezing tight at the smoothness and warmth and life of Ianto, still here, still offering more chances and prepared to treat each day as though it might be not only his, but Jack’s last. Encouraged by the fact that Ianto was still kissing back, that he hadn’t yet hurt him, Jack stroked his face, his shoulders, his chest; Ianto rubbed one hand along the back of Jack’s neck and bit down on Jack’s underlip; while even Jack had to admit that their particular brand of Ianto-Jones-is-big-and-butch-Jack-Harkne
He was dismayed to find his hand stopped. Ianto’s skin was flushed, his hair damp at the temples and – when he looked at Jack’s outraged, crestfallen (although judging by the pressure against Ianto’s thigh, that word carried entirely the wrong connotations) expression – his lips were beginning to quirk.
“But why NOT?” Jack spluttered.
“One word,” said Ianto regretfully. “Catheter.”
Tosh and Owen got the bus into town. Owen made a fuss, but Tosh insisted. She said she’d had enough of car travel for a while, and Owen – mindful that Tosh had recently threatened to kill him – decided to agree. They walked up the High Street in the late afternoon sunshine, the fumes less objectionable now the school run was over, and the sun enjoying a last consumptive flash of brightness before the shadows got longer and the sky darkened to smoky red and indigo.
Tosh was quiet, especially when they passed St Mary’s Church, the scene of their journey into space. Owen didn’t try and draw her into conversation, focussing instead on his surroundings. Across the road, turning down a side-street between a fancy-looking college and a fancier-looking shop, he spotted one of the girls from the Healy and Sutcliffe files – a housemate, arm-in-arm with another girl. They’d be pleased to have their mate back, he supposed. Not, with one thing and another, that Owen could say he cared much.
Tosh looked up towards the clock tower, Carfax, at the top of the street. The sun hit her face, but she didn’t narrow her eyes, just stood there, illuminated for a second in gold and amber and bronze. Her hair furled back in a breeze from the street. “Fancy a drink?” she asked, as if she didn’t mind what he said, as if she already knew some secret about his answer; and Owen found he’d never been more disposed to say yes.
Lewis had the feeling that his new case wasn’t going to be so interesting. A North Oxford householder had been murdered in a suspected burglary that – for once – looked as if it would turn out to be just that. The body had been found in the cellar of his home, where Lewis (poor old Lewis) had accordingly spent the afternoon – a dull afternoon only slightly enlivened by the news that the murder weapon had been discovered abandoned in Port Meadow. Neither location afforded Lewis much signal, and thus it wasn’t until he was driving back to the Radcliffe Hospital that he thought to check his phone. Several calls from Hathaway. Lewis smiled; he’d thought a good deal about Hathaway that afternoon, and was feeling cheerier about things. Thus encouraged by the idea that Hathaway was looking forward to seeing him, he drove on rather faster, towards a hospital Hathaway was no longer in.
It was an angry and slightly embarrassed Lewis who charged up the stairs to his flat half an hour later, to be met by a hopeful and very embarrassed Hathaway (who, incidentally, was also very well-dressed).
“Why the hell have you discharged yourself?”
Whatever Hathaway had been expecting, it wasn’t a harangue. He looked cross.
“I’m feeling better.”
“You’re bloody stupid, is what. Come over here – Christ, be careful,” Lewis warned, fretful as an old mother hen as Hathaway swung on towards the doorway, dislodging something he’d propped up against his sticks. Lewis stooped. “Pizza?” Caught side of the bottle wedged under Jim’s arm. “Wine?”
“Warm wine. Cold pizza. I did try your phone,” Hathaway complained, keeping up a litany of whinges as his superior unlocked the door, binned the pizza, and insisted on shepherding a now sulky and oddly flushed Hathaway through to the sofa. “Took me bloody ages to get here. And get changed. Showering’s a nightmare.”
“You’re going straight back to that hospital, you know,” Robbie insisted, while hanging up both their coats, turning the lights on and searching the fridge for what Hathaway sincerely hoped was beer (Lewis clearly disapproved of the wine for some reason, and had already consigned it to the outer darkness somewhere in his kitchen). At the sight of apple juice, Hathaway pouted.
“Not with the painkillers,” Lewis explained, pushed the bottle into his hand, “And get some cushions under that leg of yours – fine, I will, you daft great…” The expletive disappeared into mumbling as Lewis looked for somewhere else to sit (the remaining armchair was covered with ironing, something Lewis would have found mortifying if his guest wasn’t Hathaway – or, indeed, he’d had any idea why Hathaway was actually there). Hathaway, looking somewhat displeased at being treated like a child (Lewis did had a vague thought that James’s dark red shirt was one he hadn’t seen before, but nothing further), nevertheless lifted his legs a little, in an offertory sort of way. Lewis hesitated, but then complied, drawing Hathaway’s (long, and rather heavy) legs back over his lap as he sat down. “You could still have concussion,” he protested, tiredly.
“Doubt anyone’d notice the difference,” James joked, and then – as though it wasn’t a request of revelatory and potentially life-changing import – “…they said I should find someone to stay with, for a few days.”
Hathaway’s intonation went up with his eyebrows; stunned, Lewis blinked at him for a couple of seconds, before saying “Oh, aye,” in what was meant to be an equally casual manner. It wasn’t, but it earned him Hathaway’s sweetest and most mischievous smile (which was a bit disconcerting, resembling as it did that of a quietly-confident angel, albeit one drinking cloudy apple juice half in Lewis’s lap) for a few seconds. The younger man spoke.
“That’s good, then,” he said, calmly, “Because I really want to stay tonight.”
And from the look in Jim’s eyes, there was only one way to interpret that.
Lewis managed to stop himself saying “You what?” because the hammering in his chest already knew the answer, as did his groin; and, embarrassingly, things were starting to make more sense now. The new shirt. The wine. The pizza.
In the last half hour, Lewis had had a twenty-six year old blond waiting in his hallway and wanting to sleep with him, and what had Lewis done? Nixed the seduction scene, shouted about concussion, and given him apple juice.
The look on Jim’s face said he was prepared to be forgiving.
“You don’t mind?” he asked, derailing Lewis’s train of thought. Lewis flushed.
“No, but –“
“I mean, if you think it’s too soon,” Jim began, apparently sincerely, but Lewis saw the moment when his sergeant registered his inspector’s changed expression. Jim stretched self-appreciatively along the sofa, letting his hips reach higher as he slid a little more into Lewis’s lap. “Only I’ve been thinking about this all day, and I thought that in view of our mutual miraculous escapes from destruction, we might push the boat out a bit, you know, order a takeaway, not that you’ve not already binned –“
“Hathaway?” Lewis’s cheeks had gone red.
Hathaway didn’t look all that upset to be interrupted. In fact, he was looking insufferably smug. Lewis went redder.
“Sir?” Jim stretched again, longer, like a cat in the sun.
“I can’t kiss you,” Lewis said, starting to grin, “if you keep bloody talking at me.”
Half an hour later, Hathaway was in Lewis’s bedroom doorway, two wineglasses empty and stained red on the kitchen counter (Lewis hadn’t needed persuading, but he had needed a drink). They were kissing like teenagers; wonky teenagers, given the slight height discrepancy and Jim’s reliance on a cane, but Lewis was gathering confidence and need and heat every second, until his hands were roaming over Hathaway’s back and hips, and Hathaway craning and whimpering to get more of his mouth. He was so good at this, Jim realised, but his brain kept short-circuiting and it was impossible to tell him and he was regretting the plaster cast that made it impossible just to get on his knees. Robbie was nervous, yes, of hurting him, but he was strong, and soon Hathaway was pressed from neck to hip against the doorjamb, both of them kissing eagerly and deeply until there was a flush high in Lewis’s cheeks and Hathaway’s face was red.
Lewis wanted him. James was long, and lean and perfect, capable of making Lewis’s mouth go dry with the slightest twist of his body, capable of making him feel terrifiedd and possessive and tender all at once. As they moved in unsteady tandem into the bedroom, Lewis’s brain registered the muscles in Jim’s arms, the buttons on his shirt, where Lewis’s eyes now glued themselves as James’s long fingers began to undo them, utterly sure, pressing his lips back against Lewis’s in a demanding kiss. But then, every so often, there’d be a moment of give from the younger man’ a sudden unexpected release and surrender in how James grabbed at his shoulders or arched his back and god, Hathaway was hard for him, full and hard like a schoolboy, rubbing up against his thigh. And, suddenly, Lewis wanted to know what it would be like feel him come.
They kept kissing, eventually up on the bed together (Lewis helped him down, always careful), Hathaway’s hands sliding eagerly up and down his shirt-front, Lewis not quite brave enough to do the same but then getting one hand inside Jim’s shirt. The still-cool silk brushed the tiny hairs on the back of Lewis’s hand for a moment before his palm collided with that warm, smooth skin. Jim groaned and arched and muttered God, sir into Robbie’s shoulder, and that was the moment when Lewis realised simultaneously that yes, the title thing was erotic, and he was as nervous as all hell. “Stop,” he said, uselessly, and then Hathaway was looking at him, wild-eyed and wary.
“What?” he asked, and then, searching Lewis’s face more carefully, “Oh, shit.” He exhaled, rested his forehead against Robbie’s for a moment, then resurfaced (Robbie felt rather disoriented; having Jim’s face that close had been like kissing him and now he didn’t know why he’d said stop at all), trying to stay composed. “What’s wrong?”
Lewis shifted, trying to get a bit of space so that the heat from Hathaway’s body was no longer hitting him in waves. “Are you sure about this, like?”
Immediately there was amusement in Jim’s eyes, rather than fear; Lewis felt Hathaway edging his words with wryness before he spoke them, his voice warm and rich like wine in a glass. “Robert,” he murmured (and the name felt doubly intimate, spoken so ironically), “I’m in your bed. I love you. …I let you throw my pizza away,” he added, trying to drag the conversation back into the land of the light-hearted, an attempt he ruined by saying, quickly (and, undeniably, as if he’d been thinking of it for days), “what Ianto did, I’d take a bullet for you, too.”
You young fool, Lewis wanted to say, except behind the thought was I would too, I would, crashing over him like a wave so there was nothing else to do but kiss him, kiss him and cling in a sort of blind horror because suddenly in his arms there was a young man willing to offer his life as well as his body.
But that was Hathaway, that had always been Hathaway, priest and copper and life-long penitent, a life born of fire, and ever since they met this had been building forever. Hathaway was why. Lewis kissed him urgently, and even when they were silent and still again, Hathaway could feel the older man’s heart beating loud against his. Then came the click of Hathaway’s belt as they both watched Robbie undo it, slide it undone in the silent room. Then Hathaway reached for Lewis, sliding his hand up the inside of a still-slim thigh through suit trousers that cost a third of Hathaway’s (and suddenly Lewis remembered a bed in Venice, tangled phone-cable, white shirt and shorts, but that was Morse and that was a lifetime away) and Lewis closes his eyes and Hathaway’s breath is warm and behind his eyes a million stars explode without waiting to be asked. Lewis opens his eyes gasping, knowing that another moment would bring disaster, but Hathaway’s head is uppermost, barleycorn-coloured head pushing closer to his groin, mouth so warm and so skilled, and Lewis’s legs are twitching helplessly and it is that that convinces him to pull Hathaway up, and to say, unevenly – not yet.
Hathaway can be mollified with kisses, but Lewis can’t; his hands keep ending up in unexpected places and he suspects that sex with Hathaway, if it doesn’t actually kill him (the pounding of his heart and the explosions in his brain suggest it might), will probably send him near to completely insane. They undress each other with more enthusiasm than finesse; Lewis retains enough lucidity to switch the light off, and to persist in this point despite Hathaway’s loud and vocal complaints (but Lewis is learning to turn those to groans and shouts, and it gives him a sense of brilliant triumph when he does). There’s a certain amount of awkwardness about easing Jim’s trousers over the cast; in obliging, Lewis nearly knocks them both off the bed. Despite, or perhaps because of the dark, the moment is sweetened by a laughter that also helps Lewis disguise his desire to look at James’s body as much a possible. This is new to him, and he’s not quite comfortable with it – one thought, as he looks up at James, nags.
But then (and Robert Lewis can feel himself blushing), he looks back up at James’s face, flushed and glistening, and faintly ridiculous in its obvious excess of desire, and if the position of kneeling on your own bedroom floor with your detective sergeant’s trousers in your lap is a ridiculous one to be in, Lewis nevertheless feels a tender compassion for Hathaway, who is stretched out on the bed naked, except for his underwear, his watch, his cross and a solitary blue sock. Hathaway suddenly looks very young, and – in the half-light from the door – very vulnerable, the planes of his skin turned blue and white and his sides and back lost to the dark. He strains towards Lewis with a half-murmured word, and whatever James Hathaway sees in him, Lewis is glad to forget his own search for it, because Hathaway does see it, and he wants him, now.
He’s young, and he’s hard, and he’s beautiful with his eyes shut and his mouth on Lewis’s, and Lewis really wishes the impromptu tenderness blooming around his heart had chosen a better time, because his chest is too tight and his mouth much too dry and he’s terrified. When Lewis reaches down and closes around him, Hathaway moans aloud and half-opens his eyes in a gaze full of white heat that has just the tiniest hint of doubt; Lewis knows Hathaway’s next words will be You don’t have to so he snaps his wrist and kisses him harder, deeply, before there’s more time for exasperation.
Even now, Lewis is surprised by just how much he wants to get this right; he moves his hand firmly, telling himself all experience counts for something, his own flush deepening (and his heart racing) as Hathaway groans and arches, his long pale body going velvet-smooth in Lewis’s arms. “Fuck, sir,” he breathes, head thrown back like some sort of porno (it’s all Lewis can think), so Lewis seizes the impulse and shoves forward, biting at his neck, relishing Hathaway’s surprise (and the way Hathaway’s hands suddenly tighten on his back, oho, that tells him something). All the time, Lewis keeps his hand going, working furiously in Jim’s lap as Robbie experiments with his mouth and teeth elsewhere - apparently Hathaway likes to be bitten which is a sentence to stop traffic, bet smarmy Welsh boy didn’t know that bet Christ God Jim’s legs are shaking – which means, which usually means for Lewis, which means – and then Hathaway’s back arches in a complete arc clean off the bed and he’s coming over Lewis’s hand and arm and chest, and Lewis has never seen anything like, and Lewis has his own name (never before said just like that) ringing loudly in his ears.
They’re both breathing hard, Hathaway panting and Lewis not far behind. Hathaway falls down against him, turns his face in against Lewis’s collarbones and shudders for a moment, feeling as shocked as Lewis looks. Then he sprawls back on his elbows, half-laughing at his own breathlessness, and says “God, fuck me.”
Lewis has restrained himself so far, but now he fails. “You what?”
“Fuck me, in a minute.” He runs his hand up over Lewis’s chest, thumb deliberately grazing his nipple, giving the older man a delighted look when his hand is captured and he himself kissed. Robbie sees the flare of pleasure in the sergeant’s eyes; he doesn’t guess how much Hathaway already likes to see him like this. Shirtless, unbelted, his hair tousled and his eyes giving Hathaway absolutely all his attention (Hathaway doesn’t like competing).
“Are you sure?” Lewis asks, but his voice has a ragged edge and Hathaway does know he looks bloody good this way, Ianto’d said as much, so he grins and leans up to kiss him again.
“Considering how good you are at that,” he murmurs, pulling Lewis’s arms back around him (Lewis resists for a moment because he’s got semen on his hand and his stomach and he can’t help tensing very slightly when his body meets Hathaway’s and not only because he’s desperate to get off). Hathaway watches Lewis eye him, watches him wet his lips, and smirks. Lewis doesn’t blush at the praise, this time.
“Oh, there are lots of ways,” Jim begins loftily, preparing for a bit more arching-and-stretching to further his point, but there’s a dangerous element of practicality creeping up in the back of Lewis’s eyes and Hathaway thinks it’s completely disgusting that anyone can be practical and in bed with him. When Lewis rolls his eyes and says “The cast, Hathaway,” he makes a juvenile noise of complaint and slumps back on the bed like a stroppy teenager. Wryly amused (and having to keep his eyes firmly on Hathaway’s face, away from his cock and ridiculous abandoned designer pants, because the effort of being “wryly amused” and not “predatory” makes the sweat bead on his brow), Lewis leans up on one elbow and sighs. “You’re meant to be taking it easy.”
“Then fuck me on my back.”
“How would – oh god, no, that cast weighs a tonne.”
“On all fours, then.”
Lewis hesitates, then frowns. “No.”
Hathaway exhales and closes his eyes, stretching an arm across them. “Are you honestly telling me you don’t want to fuck me?”
Lewis lies down beside him, awkwardly. “Of course I want,” he falters a bit, and Hathaway lifts his arm to sneak a look, grinning, “ – that. But we can wait six weeks, or however long the cast’s on.” He gestures towards Jim’s cast, but Hathaway’s just smiling at him, at the that and the we and Lewis’s certainty they’ll still be doing this in six weeks’ time. It’s more than enough to make James Hathaway happy, and he leans towards Lewis with his best I-know-everything face, but just before Lewis’s eyes close, he wets his invisible lips and tells him, “I’m going to blow you”. Matter-of-factly, just like that. And then he slides down the bed and does.
Tosh didn’t much fancy returning to the room she shared with David, but fortunately the B&B was “full” (the inverted commas because Owen was sure he’d seen the landlady whip a “Vacancies” sign out the window as the two of them trudged up the drive). Owen makes an apologetic phonecall to Gwen, and is relieved to hear that she’s enlisted Martha, the omnipotent Martha who’s apparently wangled a week off from U.N.I.T. to come and help hold the fort. The world hasn’t had to be saved for days, Jack and Ianto are back on track, and even Tosh – smiling, Sphinx-like, at Owen’s suggestion they blow Torchwood’s expenses and book the Randolph – seems to be maintaining a fragile peace.
The shadows are getting long over Oxford and the doors and windows seem more like empty eyes. Owen looks at the sunlight turning gold on Tosh’s face and the faces around them and knows that it cannot possibly last. But then, with Torchwood – and, he is beginning to concede, with Tosh – possibly is, itself, a term open to debate.
Last scene of all. Six (and a half) weeks later.
The Doctor stood in the doorway of the TARDIS, hands in his pockets, an even beam across his face as he surveyed the little group. He had had a smashing week; working (playing) in the Hub had been lots of fun – he’d spent a full morning laughing at what he occasionally accidentally called “Muggle tech” – and since Jenny had been spending all her time there as well, he hadn’t had to assault anyone. Thanks to Donna, the Doctor understood that assaulting any boy who looked at Jenny was an unacceptable impulse; unfortunately, fists kept colliding with faces and it was nice to spend a week out of temptation’s way.
Donna slipped her arm through his; the Donna turned and directed the full force of his smile at her, just for a moment. Being with Jenny suited her, he thought; she looked – well – smashing, really. She and Jenny had been shopping and had their hair done, and now his best friend (his smile brightened) looked like a queen. Yes, the Doctor had enjoyed their little week of domesticity – TARDIS parked in the Hub, it had been easy to come and go, and he’d enjoyed eating his meals in the Hub or Cardiff restaurants, rather than in the TARDIS as usual. Even this simple last act – bringing the TARDIS back to Oxford to collect Ianto and Jack – gave him undeniable pleasure.
It couldn’t continue, of course. Donna, standing beside him, knew that already; she’d noticed the tapping of his foot a few days ago, the way that – even now, when he was happy and content – his eyes had begun to dart around. He loved the Torchwood team (even Ianto, who still spectacularly failed to return that love in any form), but he was ready to go. So was Jenny – at least, this time, they’d all be leaving together. For the fiftieth time that day, Donna’s eyes sought Jenny in the little crowd, and (finding her, for the fiftieth time) told herself not to be so stupid, not to worry, she was not the girl’s mother.
“Come on, space boy,” she muttered, nudging the Doctor gently. “People’ll notice us.”
“Perception filter,” the Doctor said cheerfully, not missing a beat. Donna rolled her eyes.
“I don’t mean the ship, dipstick, I mean us. Them.” She gestured. The Doctor followed her gesture, and – contemplating the odd combination of Gay Pride march, polyamorous clusterfuck, Diversity Day and Policeman’s Ball currently being enacted in front of them, conceded that Donna might have a point.
Ianto had been discharged. For the purposes of travel, he had been offered a wheelchair, which he had refused despite Jack’s anxious interventions and constant worry at his side. Jack, as Owen had memorably and rather graphically observed, was giving Ianto so much attention it was as if “Teaboy was about to spawn his arse-babies and Jack’s a father handing out cigars”. Owen had made this remark in an Italian restaurant in Cardiff, putting everyone firmly off their meatballs. On the whole, though, the Doctor approved – not of the arsebabies, of the attention. Ianto was pale, scarred, and unmistakeably gaunt, but his smile was radiant when it fell on the Captain – a Captain who, finally, seemed to have learnt his lesson. He was more in love than the Doctor had ever seen him. It was a high price, and it was wrong, but – as the Doctor reflected, his smile flickering out for a second – Jack was wrong. Was still wrong, and as a result, some high prices would always have to be paid.
This reasoning, embellished with sub-clauses about how Jack was an ungrateful, undeserving tosser with a face like a cat’s arse, was the essence of the fiery and righteous anger currently burning in Detective Sergeant Hathaway’s breast.
It was good to be with Robbie. Hathaway loved Robbie. Robbie loved him back. This was good. It was not good to see Ianto thin and ill, regardless of partial recovery. It was not good to see him occasionally wince when he thought nobody was looking. It was intolerable to see him looking at Captain Jack Harkness as if he was the source of all the good in the world, when Hathaway wanted to see him burned as a witch. He felt that the world would be a much better place if he forgot his religious sensibilities and broke Jack’s arm once or twice.
“Robbie,” the Doctor said cheerfully, coming forward to shake Lewis’s hand. This started off a round of hand-shaking and hugging, throughout which everybody was conscious – while trying very hard not to be – that Ianto and Hathaway were leaving each other until last. Jack was the most conscious of this, and – in his own mind – the most subtle. In everyone else’s mind, Jack might as well have had big stabby red lines (stabby red lines of HATE) proceeding from his eyes and jabbing, laser-like, into Hathaway’s inoffensive and blue-shirted chest. It was also apparent to the assembled throng that Lewis didn’t seem to be experiencing the MAJOR ANGST AND WOE of the greatcoat-clad Captain. Instead, he was smiling, like a man that knows a secret. He shook hands with Jack equably enough, and went so far as to give Ianto a hug.
“You know,” he said, looking at the Welshman fondly, “you really weren’t a bad policeman. Any time you fancy a career change…” he let the sentence trail off, beaming back in answer to Ianto’s smile. Hathaway beamed too. Jack found it all slightly sordid. And then Ianto was opposite Hathaway.
For a moment there was one of those silences where nobody can decide whether it would be better to pretend to be looking at the sky, or simply throw themselves under the nearest bus. Every heart in every breast sped up for a swooping second of awkwardness, before Hathaway smiled, Ianto smiled, and they shook hands like two ordinary chaps at the end of some business weekend. Their smiles were warm, their handshakes firm and genuine. They each hesitated for no more than a millisecond after, leaving Ianto free to step back, nod a further appreciative thankyou to the Doctor (who seemed, in a strange way, to be hosting this little gathering) and make his way towards the TARDIS.
Despite themselves, everyone around felt a little disappointed. Even Lewis. Donna and Jenny, for whom the Dead Gay Love (Ex-)Priest Angst had replaced all forms of pop culture, had been frankly hoping for a snog, while Tosh was blinking, Owen staring and Jack (suddenly and unfairly deprived of something to angst at) looked like he’d just swallowed a very large lemon. Or a condom. The Doctor wrinkled his nose.
“Now hang on a minute,” he called, over the heads of the Torchwood Three team, who (in varying states of mystification, sulkiness and inexplicable cheer) were queuing up for the Police Box, behind a shuffling Donna and dispirited Jenny. “Is that IT? Big goodbye, weren’t you two just –“
“Yes, that’s it,” Ianto said, sounding just a bit forced. Owen made a frustrated noise, pushing past Ianto into the box. Eyebrows raised, the faintest trace of irony on his lips, Ianto stepped back to let him past. Robbie felt his sergeant start slightly, beside him.
“Actually, sir, we’d better be going,” Hathaway said clearly. Jack instantly stopped, turning back to shoot the policemen a suspicious look (as if they were keeping a second, Ianto-tracking time machine in the back of their police car). This volte-face meant Jack missed Ianto’s face as he turned, cheeks suddenly going red as he came to a decision.
“Actually,” Ianto said, patting his vest pocket, “I think I’ve left my phone inside.”
“You’d better go and look,” said Lewis, genially.
“I’ll come with you,” Hathaway offered.
“Good idea,” said Ianto.
“Button it, Harkness,” smirked Lewis, as the two young men disappeared back round the corner.
“And he’s letting you?” Ianto asked for the fourth time. Hathaway shrugged and nodded, his eyes fixed (as were Ianto’s) on the endless and unaccommodating series of doors in the corridor.
“Call it a favour. A one-off. Although maybe not.” He shot Ianto a sidelong, slightly smirking look. “Let’s just say his curiosity’s been piqued, and he knows – well, he knows how I feel about him.” His steps slowed, but Ianto wouldn’t stop.
“And so do I,” he added, emphatically, his tone brisk – and turning triumphant – as he spotted something significant on the opposite wall. He headed towards it, loosening his tie. “Which is why I suggest we get in here and make this quick.”
“Thought you’d never ask,” Hathaway smirked, sounding supremely smug as he shut the broom cupboard door behind them.
Immediately, they were kissing, Jim’s hands firmly on Ianto’s arse, spreading his own legs as he pulled the Welshman in against him with satisfying strength. There wasn’t a lot of room to move, but there was enough room for snogging, for biting, for button-popping and zip-bursting and shoving each other against the rather grubby door. For a bit the mauling was rather one-sided; James tried to rectify this with a muttered “M’not going to break, you know,” then decided there were easier forms of provocation; his teeth on Ianto’s nipple for example, through cloth. Ianto groaned and complied, tugging Jim up by his collar and shoving him against the shelves, finding blessed friction in rubbing himself hard against the other man. And then, suddenly, he was down and kissing Jim’s stomach, with Jim shirtless, and Hathaway had no idea how it had happened.
“What the fuck are you doing?” he hissed, one hand already – and involuntarily – in the younger man’s hair.
Ianto thought verbal explanation was unnecessary.
“But - I want to make you come!”
“Not averse to the idea myself,” Ianto muttered quickly, struggling with Hathaway’s button, “but we don’t have much time, and anyway, I have to do something with your jizz, it’ll make a mess.”
Hathaway stared for a second, then started to laugh. “You’re blowing me because it’s tidier? What sort of a quickie is thi – ow – I want to fuck you.”
“…in a – medical supplies cupboard?”
“No, actually,” Ianto decided, and Hathaway pulled him back up. “They’ll know we’ve been too long,” he protested, but Hathaway’s eyes were gleaming and both of them were groaning and they were back to the feeling of revelling in their own strength, of Hathaway’s long legs between Ianto’s, Ianto’s arms pushing himself up between Hathaway and the wall, Hathaway stroking him with such sudden and dazzling expertise that the only thing to do was start – not begging, but demanding, trying hard not to shiver when lidded eyes smirked and hid their secrets, when hands teased and delved with an almost detached curiosity that was a world away from the clothed prick dragging against his thigh. Turn round, Hathaway murmured, in a voice he’d not used for a while, and Ianto said god, anything and was surprised to find he meant it.
They both knew what they wanted. They had no time, only sweat-slick fucking up against the cupboard wall, Hathaway shorter and stronger in his thrusts, Ianto bearing as much of his weight as he could on his elbows, both kissing and groaning and then just shouting as they finally got what they deserved. Jim’s shirt was damp against Ianto’s back, where he mouthed the endless curve of muscle and perfect white skin, obsessively kissing and biting at his neck (thicker and more muscular than his own). Ianto let James wank him off, dazzling musician’s hands continuing to dazzle and tease, his head thrown back against Jim’s shoulder, all four of their knees threatening to buckle as they staggered together, the teaboy and the policeman, with Oxford City’s best and brightest sneering intellectual fucking his way to the loudest orgasm of his life. As soon as he came (Ianto giving him the most filthy instructions), he reached round and began to jerk him off without restraint, Ianto’s murmurs giving way to shouts in English, then swearing, then finally swearing in Welsh, so colourful-sounding that Jim laughed through his panting as Ianto groaned and came, slumping back expansively against the lithe, long body behind him.
“Fuck,” he breathed, in both languages, and reached back for him. Jim, smug and sated and enjoying the possessive, tangled kiss which followed, could only – happily – agree.
All good things must come to an end, however, and despite the epic sex and glorious afterglow – including a cleanup operation that kept getting heated whenever they remembered and started kissing again – the fact remained that they were in a cramped and unsoundproofed cupboard, covered in sweat and come, on a “find Ianto’s phone” mission which had now taken up the best part of at least twenty minutes. Ianto – oddly, so James thought – seemed much more worried about this than Hathaway.
“I thought your Captain was into free love,” he drawled, re-knotting his (chavvy, as Ianto suddenly wanted to tell him) white tie over his white shirt. Ianto buttoned his jeans. Discomfort was starting to spike in his stomach, and as he slowly moved around the cramped space to collect his clothes, he was aware (again) that he was not a well man, but that James was.
“Your policeman bloody isn’t,” he shot back, but – disappointingly – got no reaction. James’s smug smile didn’t last long, though. As Ianto dipped to pick up his t-shirt, he frowned.
“Is that the scar?”
Ianto told himself not to flinch as he straightened up. Hathaway’s palm was suddenly there and careful above his hip.“Christ, they made a mess of you.”
Ianto’s cheeks tinged pinker. He wanted to tell Hathaway that it wasn’t a word he would have expected, from him, but Hathaway (he knew) was looking at him with want and concern and as those careful hands dragged him back round to face James, he didn’t want to risk his pride by speaking.
“Is that why you kept your shirt on?”
Ianto shrugged. “Didn’t think you’d noticed.” He flicked a glance up at Hathaway and told himself to feel annoyance rather than pity. “Yes, I am covered with them, and no, it doesn’t matter. Now, come on.”
“Ianto –“ James faltered, his palm still warm against the largest scar, the scar where they’d removed his kidney. It didn’t hurt, Ianto realised; it didn’t even feel weird.Quickly, he stuffed his shirt back into his jeans and turned the handle. “I said, come on.” The corridor was empty.
They walked, Ianto’s heart hurting like it was stuffed up with glass and Hathaway unable to guess what he felt, not from that pale set profile and the round shoulders.
He wanted, he wanted all the way to stop and pull Ianto into a hug, and although the stay with me speech was not what they’d agreed and not what he’d rehearsed, at the hospital doors he ended up doing both, words pouring out of his mouth into Ianto’s ear and Ianto’s body pressed tight in his arms. He said stay with me and Ianto said he wouldn’t and running his hands down Ianto’s back and kissing him Hathaway hoped again that the world would suddenly end and they would drown. He’s not good enough for you, he blurted out, and Ianto frowned and asked why is nobody moving and Hathaway asked what and why the fuck does that matter because his heart was breaking and that was irrelevant, but Ianto (whose eyes were nevertheless a bit red) thumped him on the shoulder and, really not looking comfortable now, asked no seriously, why is nobody moving.
Exhaling with the exaggerated sarcasm Hathaway usually reserved for tedious meetings but which was apparently also appropriate for heartache, Hathaway unhooked his chin from Ianto’s shoulder and resisted the urge to shriek in terror and climb Ianto like tree. Nobody was moving. Not the paramedics unloading a sweet little old lady with a dizzy spell, not the grim gaunt smokers in their dressing-gowns, some leaning against their own wheeled bags for drips (either ominously clear or disgustingly yellow). Not the nurses and doctors visible through the windows, not the slowly-deflating disgruntled inhabitants of A&E (not even the limping netball player or the renegade toddler with earache), not even the drivers in the car park or the pigeons shitting on the roof (in fact, suspended several dozen feet above Ianto and Hathaway’s lucky heads, there was actually a small piece of invisible, frozen shit). Nobody was moving. Even in the demographically-righteous grouping of heroes and planet-savers around the TARDIS, not an eyelid flickered. Immobile Lewis, Hathaway noticed, looked calm and content; immobile Jack, in comparison, was redefining the frowny face in a sulky, petulant (and, James noted, a gratifyingly worried) way that highlighted incipient jowl.
And then Jenny bounded forwards, a smiling Mary Lennox in a slightly gruesome garden.
Both men took a step back. Ianto decided this was probably a moment when the stupid (well, heroic and life-saving) Doctor’s stupid (well, friendly and personable) daughter turned out to be Evil To A Previously Unprecedented Degree. James decided that Ianto’s seriously weird friends were making him seem a less attractive prospect. “Did you enjoy the sex? I stopped Time for you!”
It was hard to decide which statement was more alarming. James went red and started trying to deny it, Ianto took a protective half-step in front of James to shield him just as James did the same for him, so as a net result they bashed knees and ended up looking stupid and sheepish. Jenny tilted her head and grinned at them, fondly. “Thought you deserved a last shag. C’mon, Ianto, get in the TARDIS, Jack’s going mental. Lewis seems pretty cool, though, did he know?”
Ianto stared at James. James was inscrutable. Jenny grinned some more. “Great to have met you, James.”
“Yeah, and you. Ianto?” He spoke more softly, just touching the other man’s hand. “I meant what I said. You can always come back. If you ever –“
“He loves you,” Ianto reminded him, without malice. “And you love him. I know that.” He kept his face smiling as Hathaway flushed and grinned, sheepishness spreading over his face with something that Ianto wanted to pretend wasn’t the start of relief. He said goodbye in an even voice and turned towards the ship, giving Lewis a last glance and patting the still-frozen Jack on his arm. And, confirming – if confirmation was needed – what a weird occasion this was, Hathaway suddenly moved forward, and shoved a business card into his hand. It bore the name of a hotel in a town not far from Cardiff, and – squashed in, in biro, between the printed details - a date several months hence.
Ianto thought he knew what it meant.
“You can’t spell “February”,” he commented, hoping his breathing would go back to normal soon. Hathaway leant back against the TARDIS, long and smug like a cat in the sun.
“You mean, Lewis can’t.”
Which meant that Ianto knew nothing at all. He glanced over at the still, placid face of the Inspector. The blue eyes, wide-set with the left slightly slanted; the squarish face, the high forehead, the lingering impression of boyish – if implacable – good looks. The clear skin, the height that went unnoticed despite the owner’s obvious strength. The flush that might have denoted drink in another man, but which in Lewis’s case was probably just ancestral. Ianto looked at the stocky shoulders, fair skin and set jaw, remembered the accent that went with them and had an uncompromising and relentless moment of déjà vu. He badly wanted to accuse Hathaway of some sort of fetish, but Hathaway’s smile was delightful and his resistance to Ianto’s now-narrowed eyes apparently total. Ianto exhaled through his nose.
“You’ve gone mad. Or he has. He’s, he can’t possibly.” But he was thinking about the sudden acceleration of Hathaway’s sexual skills, his newfound expertise in the cupboard and its likely – indeed, certain – source and cause. He was also remembering that brief but incredibly enjoyable clinch in space. Hathaway didn’t know about the last bit, but his expression as he straightened up from the TARDIS doors suggested he’d guessed the rest. He shrugged.
“I suppose he was intrigued.”
Ianto stayed where he was, still fingering the card. “I can’t –“
Hathaway smiled at him, touched his fingers idly to Ianto’s cheek. “Tell Jack you’re on police business,” he said, voice warm. “Seriously, tell him. We’ll both be there.”
Ianto started to walk away. Hathaway laughed, shoved his hands back into his pockets. “Is this the bit where I ask you to call me?”
Ianto stopped at the door of the TARDIS, turned, looked at Hathaway, then ducked inside. And immediately, Time started again.
“Come on, guys!” Jenny called, masking the split-second of confusion where everyone registered Hathaway’s sudden return. Jack glared, taking a suspicious step or two forwards.
“He’s in there,” said Hathaway shortly, walking away. Lewis, rubbing away a sudden headache but recognising the danger signs, caught up with Hathaway to take his arm.
“What’s the matter?”
“Didn’t you give him the card? Hathaway! Look at me, you –“
The younger man’s face was red, and Lewis knew he’d never find the words to say what he felt. “He’ll come. I know he will.”
“If Jack and bloody Torch – the bloody team doesn’t kill him first.”
Lewis sighed, raising his eyebrows at the sulky protusion of underlip (and rather more worried by the crack in James’s voice). Producing a rolled-up file from his jacket pocket, he whacked Hathaway on the arm. “Burglary. Leckton Road. Turns out our victim wasn’t the right victim at all. Coming?”
They started back towards Lewis’s car. Hathaway’s long body had settled into one long resentful slouch as he brooded, and Lewis wasn’t having any of it. On an adolescent impulse derived from Hathaway’s own, he lent across and bumped shoulders with his sergeant. “Fancy a meal tonight? I’ve heard that new Jamie Oliver place’s easier to get into now.”
Hathaway shot him a smile. “Is that a date, sir?”
Relief pouring back into him like sunlight, Lewis grinned and nodded. “Aye.” And then, “Shut up,” as Hathaway started to tease. In the summer sunlight, they were both beaming like they’d just saved the world (and/or – but it was a sentence that didn’t need finishing), and when they got round the corner, James reached for Lewis’s hand.
They didn’t look back to see the TARDIS leave. The Doctor was thrilled to have such a large team flying his ship; despite his constant attempts to be everywhere at once, he managed to settle (if anyone could feel “settled” with the Doctor around) everybody but Ianto (consigned to a large, fluffy armchair which the TARDIS had apparently grown for him. The TARDIS seemed to have forgiven Ianto for bleeding to death on her floor; he could feel her purring) into their own position at the control desk, before their combined crankings and pumpings and whizzing-button-pressings brought the TARDIS into glorious, botched-together life. At the moment of takeoff, light streamed through the grille above the doors, the last second of Oxford sunlight before the darkness that meant they were back to flying through space (but hopefully not time). Jack’s input (the manipulation of a large and faintly phallic lever, probably Jack chose it or else it was the Doctor’s way of saying “yes, I am sometimes a bit gay, but right now I have a gobby redhead girl who constantly belittles and rejects me, and it’s strangely enjoyable, so go on, play with that”) was apparently only required for a few moments; as soon as the TARDIS was moving, he moved away from the desk and came towards Ianto, a slightly wary look in his eyes.
“Did you find your phone?” he asked, slowly.
“Yes,” said Ianto, guilelessly. Jack perched on the arm of the chair, looking confused and a little mournful; suddenly, despite his best efforts and in defiance of his better interests, Ianto felt sorry for him. After all, this was Jack.
The words, when he wanted them, came easily. “I love you,” he said, and the handsome face above his relaxed into a gratified, crooked grin
“Oh yeah?” Jack looked as if he was enjoying himself; then, without waiting, he lent down and in and kissed him, as if Ianto was the only boy, girl, hermaphrodite or willing sentient life form in the world(s). It was far more romantic than it sounded, really. When he pulled away, Jack stroked his hands over Ianto’s hair as if the other man had become suddenly precious, suddenly fragile; Ianto, though, seated in the arms of the TARDIS, thought he had never felt stronger.
Jack’s feelings were written on his face, every hope and doubt there for Ianto to see. Not for always, maybe, but for now – and, it was starting to be clear - for as long as Ianto Jones wanted. Now, when Jack said I love you too and I’m sorry, he meant it, and Ianto thought for the first time what a responsibility being handed the heart of Captain Jack Harkness might be. So he said it’s okay, Jack but he changed the Jack to cariad, and Jack’s face lit up like the sunrise again.
“I’ll take better care of you,” he promised, jaw set – Ianto rolled his eyes, but Jack was serious (he said so. Seriously. With a serious, serious face of Leadership), running a hand down Ianto’s cheek before leaning in to kiss him again. At the last moment, he glanced down. “Hey, what’s that?”
Ianto looked down too. The card, the hotel card, still folded against his palm. He looked back up at Jack and his heart soared.
“Police business,” he grinned, and kissed back.