Characters: Jack Harkness, Ianto Jones, Alice Carter (well, sort of)
Warnings: Implied slash, mention of character death.
Summary: Jack has a talk with Yannis and sees a different method of coping with immortality.
Disclaimer: I don't own Torchwood.
Despite being so tired his eyelids felt heavy, Jack was finding that he just couldn't drop off to sleep, no matter how hard he tried. It wasn't a matter of being uncomfortable; quite the contrary, the guest room – well, guest house was really the correct term for where he was – that Yannis had shown him to was extremely pleasant and comfortable, with a sturdy mattress, soft pillows and newly washed sheets, smelling of a strange, yet pleasantly beautiful, combination of jasmine, oranges and freshly made chocolate. All around him small clusters of, apparently house-trained, cirdanas were currently winding their way around his bedposts, their light slowly diminishing to a soft glow, the only light in the room as their music played softly, the sound of a gentle lullaby easing him to sleep.
But Jack couldn't find the peace he needed to rest. Every time he shut his eyes, even if it was only for a brief moment, all he could see would be the picture he had shown Saket earlier that day – the picture of himself and Ianto sitting together and smiling with their arms around each other as the friendly woman in the restaurant had taken a photograph of them. They both looked so happy and full of...full of...
“Full of life,” Jack whispered to himself as he removed the photograph from the pocket of his trousers and gently stroked the corner, his fingers drifting over the soft spikes and curls in Ianto's hair and trailing over his face and shoulders. “So...so alive.”
It was almost hard to believe that the younger man would be lying in a body bag barely three weeks later with little more than a half-healed cut on his pale cheek but with his lungs full of poisoned air after taking barely one breath inside that room.
Jack closed his eyes briefly and breathed out, hoping to block out the image of his dead lover. He was momentarily surprised when it worked, before realising that it wasn't Ianto who swam before his eyes...at least, it wasn't his Ianto...
His eyes flew open in shock and he flopped back against the pillows, his heart pounding so violently he almost expected to see it exploding out of his chest. Sighing, he swung his legs over the side of the bed and cradled his head in his hands.
“God,” he whispered, running his fingers through his hair so violently he almost ripped some of the strands out. “This cannot be happening...this just cannot be happening...”
He rubbed his forehead so hard he almost wondered if he was ripping his skin off, but at least it was stopping him from screaming in frustrated agony at the situation he found himself in. It was bad enough that he had spent so long staring into those all-too familiar eyes while knowing that they weren't the eyes that he had...that he had fallen in love with, but at the same time, he had also found out that this Ianto – Yannis, he reminded himself – also, somehow, had the same longevity issues that had plagued him for so long.
And then, just to put the snow on the mountains, he was in a relationship with...him. Indeed, Saket was virtually him, except that, this time, he was the one who was mortal, the one who would one day leave him.
How had this happened? Here he was, landed on a planet that, as far as he had known, was completely uninhabited, but which actually turned out to have a rather substantial population, but also had a man here who Jack knew well and who would never leave him alone. Even if they hadn't been romantically involved or even friends, there would at least be someone who might be there to see the end of the universe with him.
Unfortunately, as wonderful as the thought of having someone out there with him for eternity was, Jack knew that he wouldn't be able to be around him without it being hugely destructive for the pair of them, purely because he would be unable to look at Yannis without seeing Ianto – his Ianto – and comparing whatever their relationship was to what he had with his lover, which would only make the other man resent him because he would be living in the shadow of a dead man for the rest of his immortal life.
“How can the universe be so beautiful and yet so cruel at the same time?” he murmured as he swung himself off the bed and out of the house without even realising he was doing it. He knew, as he walked across the fields without paying much attention to his surroundings, that he was whining a bit, but at the moment, he didn't much care. Under the circumstances, he felt that he was rather entitled to whine; after all, he'd done a pretty good job at being stoic for a very long time beforehand!
“Life's a bitch and then you don't die.”
Jack stopped in his tracks. Oh, you have got to be kidding me! Slowly, he turned around and looked into the pair of stormy blue eyes that had invaded his mind all evening, despite his weariness.
“Ian...Yannis,” he said quickly, forcing himself to remember who the man actually was. “I mean...Lord Yannis,” he stammered, this time forcing himself to remember the appropriate etiquette for addressing rulers.
But it was plain that Yannis wasn't fooled by his attempted nonchalance. “Drop the act,” he said sternly. “Putting on that forced formality doesn't do you any favours, especially considering I don't appreciate being considered stupid.”
“Why would I think you're...” but Jack trailed off when he looked up and saw what was behind them. “Oh, my God,” he whispered, absently brushing past the other man to get a closer look. “Is that...?”
“The Library of Alexandria – or at least, a reconstruction of it.” Yannis' voice was pleasant and polite. “And behind it is actually a reconstruction of the lighthouse.”
To anyone else, Yannis' friendly tone would have been a sign that they had successfully avoided any more awkward questions. However, after spending so long around Ianto, Jack knew better than to think any such thing; his lover had had a knack of lulling him into a false sense of security by letting him change the subject, but then ambushing him with the original issue at a time when he wasn't expecting it. Nevertheless, he decided to walk with the other man and see if he could find out anything else about the planet.
“You really do seem to love ancient history,” he said as they walked past reconstructions of several temples of Greek, Roman and, if he remembered his statues correctly, Indian origin. “But there don't seem to be any people, apart from you and Saket, living up here.”
“You're right,” said Yannis. “Saket and I are the only ones living up here.” He sat down on the floor and stared up at the sky. “For a long time, I thought that all these places would make the hilltop seem more lively, even if the only people who live in them are the souls of the dead.” Slowly, he turned to look at Jack. “You're like me, Jack. I know you are. I know that you know what these places are really for.”
“I know,” said Jack quietly.
“Then, if you don't mind me asking, why didn't you do the same?”
Jack blinked, shocked. “Why would I? If I was ruling over an entire civilisation – heck, even if I lived in the largest and most remote area on a planet, then there is no way I would want to turn it into a graveyard!”
“It's not like that! It's like,” Yannis stopped, thought for a moment, and sighed. “When I wake up or walk around and I see all these places...it's like they're back with me again. All the friends, family and lovers I've lost in the past; seeing these places and knowing that there's a part of them there, even if it's just their cremated remains in jars, or their bodies buried several feet underground, is like their way of telling me that they'll always be with me, no matter what happens.”
He picked a blade of grass and twirled it around, dispersing several tiny baby cirdanas, their faint glow sending small flickers over his fingertips. “Can't you understand that? Can you understand loving someone so much that you'll do anything to make sure there's at least a way, any way, that you can look around or out of your window and still know that they're there, even if you can't see them?”
Jack's chest tightened sharply and he gripped at the grass behind him, ripping several blades out in the process. He was remembering that evening a long time ago when his Ianto had said some very similar words to him before watching as Jack and the rest of the team had pumped bullets into his girlfriend. Suddenly, the words Ianto had almost sobbed to him echoed around in his head like a prayer for mercy.
“Can't you understand that, Jack? Haven't you ever loved someone that much?”
“Yes,” he murmured. “I can understand that.” For a moment, before he looked at his companion without the misty haze brought on by those memories, he thought that he was actually talking to his lover. Then, as he blinked, the fog cleared and he realised where he was and who he was actually talking to. Fortunately, he also realised that he did understand Yannis' thought process as well as he had understood Ianto's.
“I do understand your feelings,” he reiterated. “Like you said, I have the same...long life as you and I know how it feels to watch people you love die. And I know how it feels to bury them. But there's a difference between you and me, Yannis.” He waved his hand around. “You show that you remember them by reconstructing these amazing places, so that, as you said, you can look out of your window and see them as clear as the light of day. But for me, it's different. I don't need all that. Just keeping the memories of what we shared safe in my heart is enough – although, I will admit to carrying some small tokens around with me.” Cautiously, he touched the inside pocket of his coat where he still carried Ianto's old stopwatch. “For me, it really is the smaller things that make all the difference.”
Yannis smiled. “I suppose that's a cultural difference, really,” he said. “Here on Tyrennis, people have cherished the thought of beauty and grandeur for a very long time. Do you know Cyrus' story?”
Jack paused to quickly drag the memory of earlier in the day back to the forefront of his mind. “Ali – Alexis told me part of it earlier today,” he said. “But she said that she didn't know the whole story; that you would actually know it better than she did.”
“What did she tell you?”
“That Cyrus was seeing two people, Helgira and Bracken, at the same time, and when Bracken suddenly died, he went mad with grief and started isolating himself in the jungles where the two of them would go together. She said that there was something in the story that was a testament of Cyrus' love for one of them, but she didn't say which one.”
“Ah!” Yannis pulled Jack to his feet and half-dragged him across the grass, a broad grin spreading over his face. “Now, you're about to see the very reason I get so thrilled by ancient history.”
“You mean besides using positions off Greek vases or from the Kamasutra during sex?” Jack joked, but then he realised where he was and trailed off. “Wow.”
Yannis had led him out of the open air and into the middle of a wild and vibrant jungle. Huge trees towered above them, their bright green leaves trailing halfway down the trunks and colourful flowers and petals blew around them in the light breeze. As he looked through the long leaves, Jack could see a clearing with waterfalls and flowers in more colours than he had ever seen trailing into pools below them. Stepping through, he gazed around the natural paradise, smiling as the cirdanas flew around the pool. But his attention was more drawn towards the beautiful structure lying on a small island in the middle. Plants brimmed from the balconies of white marble which still looked brand new and shimmered in the faint light from those cirdanas now that the sun had set, leaving only the stars in the sky.