Title: Falling Into Place
Summary: Jack Harkness accepts a job at an IT company in Cardiff, hoping to begin a new life. When he's teamed up with a brilliant but broken Welshman, their lives may change in ways they never could have imagined. Jack/Ianto AU.
Pairings: Jack/Ianto. Also Jack/Gwen (sorry – trust me!), past Ianto/Lisa, past Jack/John, Owen/Katie, Tosh/Tommy, Gwen/Rhys.
Rating: Adult / NC-17 (overall story)
Warnings: Adult themes and situations, some course language, romance, angst.
Disclaimer: This story is based on characters created and owned by the BBC. No profit is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
Author's Notes: Thanks to my beta prothrombintime
Chapter List: http://riftintime.livejournal.com/4748.html
With a trembling hand, Jack dropped his phone carelessly onto the desk. He slumped back in his chair and closed his eyes, not even attempting to rub away the tears that had begun to slide down his cheeks. His arms fell limply against the sides of his chair.
Rationally, he knew that the news shouldn't be a shock. It was something he had been afraid of for years; an outcome that he'd almost accepted as being inevitable. But that didn't lessen the impact or diminish his overwhelming feelings of guilt. This was his fault. If he had been a little less selfish, if he had just stayed put, this wouldn't have happened. He was certain of that.
He felt numb, unable to move. A searing coldness was burrowing deep inside of him and consuming his heart. He refused to open his eyes. Time passed. It might have been mere moments or perhaps hours. He had ceased to be aware of his surroundings beyond the close confines of his office.
A familiar tap on his door finally roused him. Jerking up abruptly in his chair, he blinked several times and raising a still shaky hand, wiped it roughly across his face.
"Jack?" Ianto asked as he closed the door behind him and sat down at the opposite side of the desk. He frowned and looked at Jack with concern.
"Hey," Jack croaked out as he glanced down at his watch and realised that Ianto was here to meet him for lunch. He tried to force his features into a smile but knew almost immediately that he'd failed spectacularly.
"What's happened?" Ianto leaned forward as he gazed at Jack searchingly.
Jack shook his head and looked away. "I just had a call from a friend in London," he mumbled as he stared out the window.
"It's John… he's…" Jack stalled and rubbed his hand forcefully over his face again as he tried to muster the courage to get the words out. "Oh, God, Ianto… he's dead."
"How?" Ianto asked quietly.
"Overdose," Jack said, his breath catching. "Apparently it was deliberate."
Ianto swore under his breath. "Jack, I'm sorry," he murmured as he continued to watch the other man carefully.
Jack nodded and rose unsteadily to his feet. "I need to get out of here," he said as he distractedly grabbed his keys and wallet, and then moved towards the door.
Ianto stood up as well, reaching forward and picking up Jack's discarded phone from where he'd left it on the desk. "I'll come with you."
They made their way out of the building and across to the Plass; the area was bustling with people as it always was at that time of day. They walked silently side by side. The open space and fresh, slightly chilly air was a welcome respite from the claustrophobia Jack had felt at the office. He tried to draw deep breaths, and his initial shock slowly began to abate.
As his awareness returned, he remembered what they were meant to be doing and turned to Ianto. "We should get some lunch," he suggested suddenly.
Ianto shook his head. "Doesn't matter. I'm not hungry anyway."
"You need to eat," Jack insisted.
Ignoring Ianto's further protests as he always did, he guided them towards one of their favourite lunchtime café's. Jack waited outside, away from the flurry of people, while Ianto entered the crowded shop to procure their food. He returned several minutes later with a bag in his hand.
Jack told Ianto that he wanted to go home. He didn't trust himself not to fall apart at any moment. He needed the privacy of his own space. They continued their journey to Jack's apartment in silence. His emotions were in disarray, but he felt exceedingly grateful of Ianto's comforting, undemanding presence at his side.
A short time later, they were standing at his apartment. He unlocked the door and they moved inside. Ianto ushered Jack towards the sofa and put the bag containing their lunch down on the coffee table in front of him.
"I'll make some coffee," he said quickly and walked towards the kitchen.
Jack nodded distractedly, and tugging off his coat, tossed it aside and sank down onto the sofa. Looking around the luxurious living space, he felt disgusted with himself. He'd abandoned John to start this new life, and now because of his selfishness, his friend was gone. Jack had thought he'd done the right thing for both of their sakes, but he began to question his real motives. He'd hoped that without John having Jack there to coddle him, he'd find the strength to stay in treatment and get better. But a part of him had known that this day would come, yet he'd still walked away with barely a backwards glance.
Ianto returned and gently touched Jack's shoulder to get his attention before pushing a glass into his hand. He turned away, picking up Jack's coat, and hanging it with his own neatly by the door. Then he put Jack's phone down on the table and padded back to the kitchen.
Without looking at the contents of the glass, Jack gulped it down, savouring the burn as the scotch hit his throat.
Ianto reappeared a few minutes later with two steaming mugs of coffee. Placing one down on the table in front of Jack, he cradled the other in his hands as he sat down at Jack's side.
Ianto quietly sipped at his coffee for a couple of minutes while Jack was lost in his thoughts, berating himself over and over for his careless actions, and cursing John for being weak and for giving up on himself.
"Do you want to talk about it?" Ianto asked softly, breaking the empty silence.
Jack didn't reply at first. He wasn't sure what to say or if he even wanted to talk, but after brief deliberation, he decided the need to unburden himself was too great. "I keep thinking I should have been there," he began. "That I shouldn't have abandoned him…"
He stifled back a sob. "That if I hadn't left…" he continued as his voice cracked. "He would still be alive now."
"Maybe," Ianto conceded. "But there always would have been a next time. If he was determined… well he'd find a way, and you couldn't always be there to stop him." He paused and added gently, "I think you know that."
Jack sighed and leaned forward to pickup his mug. "Yeah. Doesn't make it any easier to live with though."
"No," Ianto agreed, pausing to sip his coffee. "I know what it feels like," he continued hesitantly after a moment. "Wondering what you did wrong… if there was something more you could have done… wishing you had been enough… going crazy with regrets and what-if's…"
Jack nodded. "A part of me knew this was going to happen. But I thought… I hoped… that if I wasn't a part of his life anymore, maybe he'd have a better chance. I thought I was enabling him. Each time he went off the rails, I'd be there to try to help him pick up the pieces again… But maybe that's why I really left – because I couldn't handle it anymore. Maybe I was a coward." He paused and drew a shaky breath. "I saved myself, but I couldn't save him."
"You're not a coward, Jack," Ianto said firmly. "I think some people just can't be saved."
"I suppose. It's such a waste, Ianto. He was incredibly talented. I used to joke that he was a modern day Van Gogh." Jack gave a bitter laugh. "It sounds almost prophetic now, like it was inevitable that this would happen."
Suddenly, Jack slammed his mug down on the table as he felt a surge of anger overwhelm him. He buried his face in his trembling hands for a moment and then looked up at Ianto. "I'm furious at him for giving up," he said brokenly as the tears started to fall again and he gave in to his grief.
Ianto looked at Jack in shock but quickly shuffled closer and wrapped his arm around Jack's shoulders. He remained silent as Jack sobbed without constraint, watching the older man with an expression of concern. Eventually, Jack recovered and wiped at his eyes. Ianto lowered his arm but remained sitting close.
Jack turned and looked over at the far wall. "He gave me that before I left," he said roughly, indicating the painting hanging there, an impressionist style jagged cliff top overshadowed by a sky of swirling reds and purples. "He said it was something to remember him by."
Ianto turned and looked at the painting. "I remember it from the first time I was here," he said softly as he stared at it. "It's beautiful," he whispered appreciatively. "The colours… they're so intense. It's very… ah… poignant."
Jack nodded. "It's like he poured all of his rage and torment into that canvas. All of his work was like that. As if he was capturing fragments of his soul in everything he painted."
"That was how we met," Jack continued quietly. "A friend dragged me along to a gallery exhibit and one of his pieces was on display. I remember being captivated by it. I stood there and looked at it for the longest time. John came up and stood beside me and asked me what I thought of it." Jack chuckled slightly at the memory. "Then after I made a complete idiot of myself, he told me he was the artist."
Ianto turned his gaze back to Jack. "Did you love him? I mean… were you in love with him?" he asked uncertainly.
Jack looked at Ianto in surprise. It wasn't the sort of question that Ianto would normally ask. He wasn't sure how to answer it.
"No," he eventually replied. "I cared a lot about him. I did love him I suppose, but no, what we had… it was mostly physical. It was more lust than love. Sometimes it was comfort, although I'm not even sure if that's an accurate way to describe it. We were never really together. Sometimes it seemed like John might have wanted more, but he never would have committed to anything. He'd bed anyone who took his eye and not spare a thought for anyone else. Even if I had wanted something more with him, it never would have worked. We both knew that."
Ianto nodded slowly. "And if you had stayed?"
Jack shrugged. "I guess nothing would have changed. That was the problem. Nothing ever changed… I couldn't do that anymore."
"From what you've told me, I don't think he would have wanted you to sacrifice your happiness for him," Ianto suggested, catching Jack's gaze and holding it.
"You're right," Jack said reluctantly as he thought about it. "For all John's failings, I'm sure he cared about me. He wasn't a bad person, not really. He knew I wasn't happy there, and I don't think he begrudged me for leaving."
Ianto rested his hand on Jack's knee and gave a gentle, reassuring squeeze. "Perhaps he's found some peace now."
"It's all we can hope for…" Jack agreed, giving Ianto a sad smile and resting his own hand over Ianto's. He tried to draw strength from the familiar warmth. "Maybe his demons have finally been laid to rest."
They sat in silence for some time. Eventually Jack shook himself out of his reverie and glanced surreptitiously at the man sitting placidly beside him. A swell of affection rushed over him. Placing his empty mug down, he picked up the bag and waved it at Ianto. "You haven't eaten your lunch," he admonished.
Ianto rolled his eyes. "Neither have you."
"Maybe later," Jack said as he pulled his sandwich and pastry from the bag and dropped them down on the table. He folded the top of the bag over and placed it in front of the younger man. "Eat it when you get back to work," he said firmly.
"All right," Ianto agreed with more than a hint of martyrdom in his voice. "I suppose I should get back," he continued hesitantly. He looked at Jack and frowned. "Will you be okay?"
"I just need a bit of time to myself," Jack answered. "I'm going to take the afternoon off…" he added as he paused and tried to recall what he was supposed to be doing for the rest of the day. "Damn. I have a meeting with Tosh to go through…"
"I'll take care of it," Ianto said, cutting him off. "Tosh will understand."
"Okay," Jack said gratefully. "Thanks."
"Is Gwen home tonight?" Ianto asked as he stood and picked up his lunch bag.
Jack shook his head. "No, she's up in London on a training course. She won't be back 'til Thursday night."
"Oh," Ianto replied, looking uncertain. "Ah, you could come over to mine tonight? You won't have to be alone then." Pausing with a self-deprecating shrug, he added, "I can make us something nice for dinner."
Under different circumstances, Jack knew he would have had a hard time holding back his laughter. He'd never need the enticement of a home-cooked meal to want to spend time with the Welshman.
"Are you sure?" he asked, feeling his spirits lift a little. He wouldn't have admitted it, but he hadn't been relishing the idea of spending the night alone with only his grief and dark thoughts for company.
"Yeah, of course," Ianto said hurriedly. "I can collect you on my way home? I'll give you a call when I'm about to finish up… I'll try to get away early, say around half-five."
"Sounds good," Jack confirmed. He attempted to give Ianto an appreciative smile.
Ianto nodded and moved towards the door, collecting his coat and shrugging it on as he juggled the bag from one hand to the other.
Jack followed and waited for Ianto to turn and face him. When he did, Jack wrapped his hand around the back of Ianto's neck and pulled him into a desperate kiss. He felt Ianto tense briefly, but then he rested his hands on Jack's hips and relaxed into the moment, returning the kiss with equal fervour.
Jack pulled away with a small sigh and held Ianto against his chest in a tight embrace, drawing comfort from the Welshman's familiar scent and solid warmth. "Thank you," he whispered.
Ianto eased himself back from Jack's arms and gave him a tentative smile in return. Then, he quickly disappeared out the door.