Rating: R for sex and language
Summary: Post Exit-Wounds, the two former Time Agents reunite outside of Jack's territory.
(This contains a snippet of frottage comment battle porn from a WIP which finally P'ed. Er... that came out wrong, huh?)
ETA: Art gift! laurab1 has made a lovely title header for this story. Thank you!
Over lunch in the Hub's conference room, Ianto munches dispassionately on a turkey sandwich and Gwen plays with a paper straw wrapper. Breaking the silence, Jack cracks a joke, forces a smile that doesn't quite reach his eyes and lets them know he's going away.
"How long, Jack?" Gwen asks quietly, a note of uncertainty in her tone.
Jack glances at Ianto and notes that he is holding his breath. Since Owen and Tosh... they had kept one another close.
"I'm not hopping the space/time continuum if that's what you're both concerned about. Venice. One week, and I'll be back. Promise."
Jack isn't sure why he'd responded affirmatively to the invitation from his former partner. But... he had.
Jack pulls thoughts from nowhere or blanks his mind and takes in the sight of potted plants on iron balconies. He wanders without a destination; another first.
Jack knows he's making it worse, but he isn't ready to feel better. He's come early to wallow alone, to twist a teaspoon slowly in the afternoon light and watch the reflection play on the wall as the caffè della casa cools before him. He walks without purpose through cemeteries and winds around neighborhoods of small old houses and large old houses. He stops to stare at cheap, faded Carnevale masks in a storefront and his own reflection in a dirty canal.
Elegiac. He rolls the word over his tongue. Grief and time, and solitude. These are luxuries.
He dismisses a flash in the corner of his eye, more than once. Couldn’t be. Not yet.
It's nearing the end of the third day, at sundown, when Jack realises he hadn't been seeing things. He ducks into a doorway and when his tail passes he steps out and grips him by the shoulder.
"You've really lost your touch," Jack tells him.
"I knew you were there."
"What? I blend," Jack retorts.
"Yeah, you and that coat."
"You certainly can't talk."
"Guess not," John Hart concedes, tipping a grin. “I don’t exactly wear camouflage. Not anymore. Though uniforms... I tend to like a bit of uniform. A sliver of ceremony. A touch of tradition, a-"
"I thought you were planning to be here tomorrow."
"Well, I’m stalking you, Boeshane. Obviously."
"I was concerned."
"You have a very odd way of showing concern. In general." Jack’s voice rises, chokes and draws the shop clerk’s attention for a beat before she returns to her task, straightening a row of ceramic mugs.
“Come with me,” John says, softly.
“I don’t want company at the moment.”
“Think you really do. Or you wouldn't have come, would you?” John gives his arm an insistent tug. Jack allows it, lets himself to be led down the street in the near dark.
“A bar? What a surprise.”
“Don’t judge. It’s unbecoming. I need a drink after following your mopey arse about.” Inside, a television flickers with sporting news, but the surface of the bar is reassuringly ancient and polished. A bartender with a shaven head and a snowy white shirt places two cocktail napkins on the surface with a practiced flourish.
Jack glances sideways at John, who requests absinthe.
“Water for me.”
The bartender throws Jack a dubious look. Really? He clarifies: “Aqua minerale, per piacere.”
The bartender nods. "Prego."
“Healthy living? You?” John scoffs.
“Hydration. It’s the new thing.”
“Like you have that to worry about your health anymore, Superman. If I were you, I’d be huffing Selachian cluster dust from the hot pink backsides of Ockoran concubines. Daily.”
“You would.” Jack accepts the drink with ice and a twist. “But that shit always made me aggressive.”
“And randy, you must admit.”
For the first time that day, Jack cracks a smile. “All right. So,” he says, tracing a damp circle on his glass. “To what do I owe the dubious and unexpected invitation?”
“Dubious, yes, but you showed, didn’t you?”
“Curiosity got the better of me.”
“I wanted to check up on you, see how you were, after... you’ve been a basket case.”
“How would you know? I-”
“A little bird-“
“No little bird sang,” Jack says, forceful and certain.
“Could I finish? May I speak? A little bit of surveillance equipment in your cave.”
“You bugged the Hub?”
Jack shakes his head. “When?”
“I had some time to spare at one point. You were sort of tied up.” John takes a final swig of his drink and motions for the bartender.
“Chained, if I recall correctly. And then you proceeded to torture me.”
“I know. Electricity. Really primitive. Sorry.”
“Look,” Jack says, glancing at John’s elbow on the bar and shifting his gaze to the ragged edge of scar tissue visible at the edge of his wrist. “You and I… we’re fine. I know what pressure Gray had you under and we’re square, all right?”
“I don’t think we are,” John says, staring Jack down.
“What do you want?”
“Said I’d see you around.”
“This is not what I had in mind. What’s it been, a month?”
“You know, Jack… I remember sitting on a forsaken dirt ball outer system vacation spot with you at one point and getting into more than one philosophical discussion about the nature of time. How screwed up we were, stuck there. Seems to me you have a lot of time now so I asked for a few days. Is that, I don’t know, awful or audacious or something?”
“I'm here, aren't I?" Jack rolls his eyes and motions at John's glass, cloudy and topped with a dripping spoonful of rock sugar. "How can you drink that?”
“Have you tried it? Interesting effects on the brain, on perception.”
“So I hear.”
“Again, I say, water?"
Jack rolls his eyes and sips.
“Where are you staying?”
“You’re going back to Cardiff?”
“No, I just…” Jack stops. “Just… let’s go to yours.”
John tilts his head.
“…and not like that,” Jack continues. “We’re talking.”
They pay and walk and weave their way around well turned-out girls and boys out for a late dinner. John’s head swivels more than once.
“Venice seems to be your sort of place,” Jack points out the obvious as they turn, take a quieter path.
“It is. Bars, great food, gorgeous people. Only thing missing is-
“Let me guess. Monaco next?”
“You’ll lose your shirt, gambling there,” Jack says, amused.
“Oh, you so underestimate me, as usual. But speaking of, someone tried to buy my jacket the other day. Antiques dealer.”
“You’d blend better.”
“I don’t have to blend. I’m not on a mission for the bloody Agency.”
“Sure about that?”
"Dead sure, Jack. Dead sure."
John has a small room in a good hotel with a turn-down service and white marble floors in the bath. Jack is impressed.
"This is nice. Do they put chocolates on your pillow at night?"
"The word is sumptuous. You never appreciated things like that before."
“Yeah, well… my standards have gone up.”
John lets that one go. Jack is jumpy, he thinks. On edge. It’s like he’s got a layer of fatigue stretched over him like a caul but he’s all nerves underneath. So John tells him stories, just like he used to. And Jack has stories too. Some of them are funny… he has a way with a tale, Jack does. But some are just sad.
The woman during the war. Jack tells that one. And he tells John where he picked up the name he’s wearing. The stories are good, but the drink was good too, and John lets Jack's voice lull him down and push him over, just like it used to. That’s how they'd get to sleep. Five years is a long time but they both love a yarn, and when they would run out of stories they would made them up and the characters would blur together like the long-shot of a crowd in a film. Them and then and what and when I saw and felt. A film others wouldn't, couldn't understand, not really.
Hours later, John raises his head from the pillow, throws a hand behind it and peers at the chair in corner of the hotel room as his eyes adjust.
“Fuck me, Gorgeous. Are you still awake?”
“No. And yes.”
“You’re hilarious. Or maybe you’re the joke. Can’t die, won’t drink, don’t sleep?”
“I don’t sleep much these days.” Jack says, quietly.
“Can’t you be awake and horizontal? You. Sitting there. It's just... fucking creepy.”
“Fine.” The side of the bed dips with Jack’s weight as he removes his boots, then chases them with his trousers and shirt. He slips beneath the top sheet, but not before John sees his boxers are tenting.
“… and don’t think you’re going to use that on me just because I’m convenient.”
“You wish. And you have historically been incredibly inconvenient.”
Suddenly, John’s mouth is hovering above his, feather-light, seeking permission for once. Jack lifts a hand and slips it behind John’s neck, drawing him in. At first, just a taste. Liquor and languor and need. The kiss deepens into something indolent and delicious.
“Actually, I do wish.”
Jack groans into his mouth. “I don’t need this.”
“I do. And you do. Don’t tell me you don’t fuck anymore, either.”
A pause follows and stretches out in the half-dark as Jack does the same. “That, I do,” he says, his voice raw and low.
John smooths his hand over Jack’s thigh and slides up, stopping short. Jack inhales through his teeth and his cock jumps under the bedclothes - and again when John’s mouth drops to the crisp linen and emits one hot breath. John lifts an eyebrow, throws him a filthy look and licks slowly along the line of Jack’s cock, painting a damp line onto the white sheet.
“You... fucker,” Jack moans, turning his head to the side into the pillow.
John shifts, swings a leg over and straddles Jack, over the sheet, trapping his arms at his sides. He begins to grind, slowly at first, then faster, head thrown back, cock in hand, twisting his hips and screwing Jack into the bed.
Jack comes first, bolting upward with a ragged gasp before John follows and collapses, dipping his damp forehead to Jack's chest. A moment passes before he speaks:
"You claim you're someone else now. Someone better. But the look on your face, the first time I got you off... it was just like that. On your cot at the Academy.” He drags his wet and hot forehead along Jack's chest and murmurs into his collarbone.
"I really missed that look."
After and after again, the gasps and shudders and whispers die and the elegant room is quiet.
“I thought you were probably dead, but I didn’t really believe it,” John says, as his fingertips play along Jack's back and over his shoulders. “I had hoped you were just AWOL, out of range. But ‘dead’ did cross my mind more than once.”
“I did. And when I couldn’t find you, I decided to find Gray.”
"Because I didn't know what else to do," John says. "And because you would have wanted someone to... pick up the search."
“I was stranded,” Jack says, his voice barely above a whisper.
“This system? Not so bad.”
“Somewhere else. Then I ended up in Cardiff, and was stranded again.”
Jack is silent, reflective, and John is too, realising how much he doesn't know, will never know.
“How long?” he repeats, insistent, propping himself up on one elbow and rolling Jack back until he can see both eyes as Jack blurts out the year and the date. Memorised like their serial numbers once upon a time and always.
Five years. That's a wink and a blink compared to this.
John is shocked silent. He swallows against the lump in his throat, tightens his grip and drops a kiss on Jack’s collarbone before he can speak again.
“I’ve never felt more like a distant memory,” John says.
Jack looks at the ceiling. A smile creeps into his voice as he speaks.
“A recent memory, now.”
“Not that I’m forgettable.”
“No,” Jack confirms, before he starts to laugh. Before they both do.
A few hours later, John is on the road, heading southwest on the A4/E70 on a motorcycle he’s bought on a whim after surreptitiously hacking a cash machine.
Jack sits in business class on a 747, a cup of metallic-tasting coffee untouched before him.
He rests his temple on the window frame and watches the earth disappear beneath a lush blanket of clouds.