Characters: Jack Harkness, Ianto Jones, Alice Carter (well, sort of)
Warnings: Implied slash, mention of character death.
Summary: Yannis and Saket each open up to Jack, but what will Jack say to them in return? And who were Liath and Alexis?
Disclaimer: I don't own Torchwood.
“The hanging gardens of Babylon,” he whispered and then turned to Yannis. “Right?”
“Yes,” said Yannis. He gently wound his fingers around one of the protruding leaves before letting them go slowly. “You know that Bracken was an archaeologist?” Jack nodded. “He had a special place in his heart for Babylonian history, and always harboured a dream that one day he would be able to go and see them in all their glory. But then the expedition here came along and he got swept up in it. He never told anyone about his Babylonian dream, though, yet somehow, Cyrus knew.” He smiled sadly and gently picked a piece of lint out of one of the pots. “Why else would he have built this place for his lover's tomb – the place where he would rest for the rest of eternity?”
Jack blinked. “Bracken is buried here?”
“His remains are here,” corrected Yannis. “Look.” He took Jack's hand again and guided him around the gardens, pointing out the plants. “Each of the plants growing here, both inside the gardens and outside, was one of Bracken's favourites...and each one has a small urn with some of his ashes buried underneath it.”
Jack was briefly lost for words. “So...he lived his dream in the end,” he whispered. “Cyrus helped him to live his dream, even if it was in death.”
“Yeah,” said Yannis, coming over to join him. “And I've tried to do what Cyrus did for Bracken – to help my friends, family and partners to live their dreams...to show them in death what I was too scared to say to them when they were alive.”
Jack nodded. “I understand.” And he did. He knew what it was like to love someone but to know that what they had would never be forever. He had done the same thing himself; known that he was falling, but been too frightened to get too attached because he knew how much it would hurt when they left him.
But over time, he had realised that he was making a mistake. There were so many lovers who had never known how he felt about them while they were alive, and each time, he had regretted not telling them. After that, he had made every effort to make sure anyone he came close to knew how much they meant to him – and he hoped that they knew that too.
He jumped suddenly, as he realised that Yannis had gently taken his hand and was stroking his fingers as he looked at him intently, even as his eyes fluttered slightly.
“Jack,” he whispered. “I...”
“Don't.” Jack pulled back quickly and withdrew his hand. “I know that, in some ways, we would be perfect together, but...it wouldn't be right or fair.” He sighed. “I would be lying if I said I hadn't been thinking about you all night, but we can't. I don't want you to have to suffer with someone who'll see his dead lover every time he looks at you. You deserve so much more than that – you deserve to be loved for who you are.”
He stared down at one of the pools and breathed in the scent of the honeysuckle bush next to them. “And it wouldn't be fair on Saket, either.”
Yannis closed his eyes and rubbed the bridge of his nose. “You're right,” he said, “it really wouldn't be fair. And...and you deserve better than to be with someone forever who is going to look at you and –“
“And see Saket.” Jack nodded, understanding all too well what Yannis wasn't saying. “And...have you told him how you feel, yet?”
“I...” Yannis worked his mouth several times, tried to speak and then sighed. “No, I...” and he dropped his head with a groan. “I'm scared.”
“Scared of what?” Jack suspected he knew, but he also knew that Yannis needed to admit it to himself. Admitting to having a problem was the first step to resolving it. However, the shock of the answer he actually received nearly blew his brain out of his head.
“It's not just about me being afraid of getting too attached to him. I know that it's too late for that. I'm there and there's no way I can change that, no matter how much the thought of losing him frightens me, even though I know that one day it is going to happen.“ He looked up at Jack. “I'm more scared that Saket doesn't feel the same way about me.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well,” Yannis sank down on the grass, “he's been really good to me and – well, yes, the sex is great and he really does know how to take me on a good date!” He laughed briefly before subsiding. “But he can be so...so closed off sometimes. Every time I try to talk about us and our future, he just changes the subject or distracts me with...something.”
“Usually, yes. But at the same time, he can be so caring – he remembers my birthday, our anniversary dates and he treats Alexis as if she's his own, even though she can be so cool towards him.” He ran his hands through his hair. “I mean, in my heart, I know that I mean something to him, but at the same time, I really want him to just say so. I want him to tell me how he really feels – to actually say the words to me – before it's too late. Is that so wrong, Jack?”
“No,” Jack said instantly. “No, it isn't wrong.” He sat down beside Yannis. “But maybe...maybe you need to make the same move.”
“Well,” Jack paused, choosing his words carefully. “Okay, you said earlier that you were scared of getting too attached, because you knew how much it would hurt when he...passed away. And you also said that that's not the overwhelming issue.” He reached over and clasped Yannis' hand in his. “But, Yannis, it is an overwhelming issue. It's part of the reason you're attracted to me – as much as you might try to deny it, I know it's the truth, because it's also part of the reason I'm attracted to you.”
“And it's also what's stopping you from being completely honest, not only with Saket, but also, and more importantly, with yourself.” Jack picked up a flower that had fallen off one of the trees and a blue cirdana flew out of the centre and onto his shoulder where it settled down and fell asleep. “I told you I made that mistake before and I regret each and every time I did – and I will each day for the rest of my life, and that's a very long time.” Gently, he rubbed Yannis' shoulder. “Don't be afraid of loving someone and letting them know you love them. Regardless of whether you do or not, it is still going to hurt when they pass on. In fact, it usually hurts more if you wait too long, because you then have to live with all these regrets and wonder what might have happened if you had just been honest.”
Slowly, he stood up and placed a gentle kiss on Yannis' forehead. “Don't let Saket be another one of those. Break that long line, Yannis. You know that it's been going on for far too long.” He patted the other man's shoulder again and stood up, making his way back out of the clearing.
“Thanks for the advice.” Yannis' tone was quiet and dry, but even with his back turned, Jack knew that he was genuinely mulling over his words. He smiled slightly to himself and walked back through the jungle and back into the open air. Taking a deep breath, he started to walk back to the Acropolis – and his guest house – when he suddenly saw someone sitting on a wall and staring at the sky.
“Saket?” he ventured, smiling weakly as the other man jumped in shock. “Sorry, I didn't mean to scare you.”
Saket shrugged. “Couldn't sleep, either?” he asked and then laughed weakly as well. “It seems like a night for it,” he added, shuffling along the wall so that Jack could sit down. “I heard you and Yannis talking, Jack and I want you to know that...that he's wrong.”
“Wrong about what?” asked Jack, taking his coat off and sitting down on it; he had a rather strong feeling that this might be a long conversation.
“That I don't care about him.” Saket rubbed his face. “I do...I care about him more than...more than I knew for a long time. I'm just terrified of hurting him if I tell him.”
“How are you possibly going to hurt him if you tell him?” asked Jack blankly.
“Because,” Saket paused, thinking. “Jack, here's the thing. One day, Yannis is going to lose me. Whether he likes it or not, I am going to die. Nothing is going to change that, no matter how much we want it to. If I try pushing him away, maybe it won't hurt as much when...when I do eventually die.”
“Do you really think that?” asked Jack softly. “Because I may not have known you for very long, but I know you well enough to know that you're cleverer than that. The longer you wait to tell him how you feel, the more you're hurting him, because you're making him think that you don't care.”
“But if –“
“By spending all these years making him think you don't care about him, you're not just hurting him by making him think his fears are entirely valid, but you're also hurting yourself far more than you would if you waited until the moment that you die in his arms to tell him how you really feel.”
Saket looked at him. “You sound like you speak from experience.”
“I do,” said Jack. “The first time...my partner –“
“Yeah – the first time he told me he loved me was in the moments that he was dying in my arms after being poisoned by aliens.” Jack bit back the pain at the memory. “Saying it broke his heart, and I knew that it was because he only realised when it was too late that he shouldn't have waited so long to tell me. And it broke my heart, because I hated the thought that he even had those regrets.”
He turned round and looked at his doppelgänger. “Saket, I'm going to say the same thing that I just said to Yannis. Don't let yourself have those regrets. Make sure he knows exactly how you feel about him, because your time together may be short. But his time in this world is not going to be short, and he's going to have so many memories of his life, including memories of his time with you. So, you need to give him as many wonderful memories of you as you possibly can – and that includes taking every opportunity to –“
“To tell him how much I love him,” said Saket with a smile. “I know – I know you're right, Jack. It's just...it's hard, you know? I have tried before to tell him that, but each time, I get scared, because I feel as if I'm driving a stake into his heart.”
“You're driving a sharper stake through his heart by not telling him,” said Jack. “Just promise me that you'll tell him by the end of tonight – just to put his mind at rest.”
Saket nodded. “Okay.”
“Thanks.” Jack patted his shoulder and stood up, dusting his hands down. “Oh, by the way – where are Liath's grave and Alexis' house?”
“You can't miss either of them,” said Saket with a small laugh. “Liath's grave is the marble statue of Athena with the owl and it's stood right outside the Acropolis.”
“And Alexis' house is halfway down the path and it's the only one that's painted red,” continued Saket with a chuckle. “Like I said – you can't miss it.”
“Thanks,” said Jack and left Saket alone. He paused briefly along the walk back to pick a small bunch of blue flowers and ferns, which he then tied together with several knotted blades of grass. Then, taking a deep breath, he walked up to the statue of Athena and, barely even pausing to look at it, he knelt down at the base and gently traced the letters engraved on there, blinking back tears that had found their way into his eyes for the first time.
“I'm so sorry, Grey,” he whispered as he laid the flowers down. “I know this can't make up for what happened, but...I just want you to know, if there's any way possible, that I love you. No matter what happens.”
Then, he removed a piece of paper and a pen from his pocket and, leaning against the wall surrounding the royal complex, he started writing. For the first time, he knew exactly what he wanted to say and he didn't even try to stop the tears as they rolled down his cheeks, even as the drops stained the paper and smudged the ink as he wrote. When he had finished, he walked back down the path and, upon seeing the painted red house – as Saket had told him, it was indeed the only one that was painted red – he kissed the letter and then gently wedged it into one of the slits in the door, letting his fingers caress the edges of the pages.
Despite what he had written, Jack knew that there was also so much else he had to say. But now that he was actually standing there, there were only two words that he could say.
With a final small sigh, he turned away from the house and walked back down the path to where he had arrived. Then he gently picked the small blue cirdana from his shoulder and blew on it gently, smiling to himself as a small trail of blue light shimmered in front of him, lighting up the path as he turned his back on Tyrennis and departed for whatever the universe had in store for him next.
By the way, some of you may have been wondering about the names I chose and, yes, some of them were chosen deliberately! So, here are the meanings.
Yannis is this world's version of Ianto. His name is the Greek version of John...just as Ianto is the Welsh version of John.
Saket is this world's version of Jack. His name is another name for Krishna, one of the ten avatars of the Hindu god Vishnu. Apparently, in his youth, Krishna went around charming the milk-maids. He was also apparently very good-looking. I think that describes Jack pretty well, no?
Liath is Saket's dead sister (and Alexis' mother) and she's this world's version of Gray. Her name is actually the Irish word for 'grey' (Amazing what Google can show you!).
I didn't actually pick Alexis' name deliberately - I just wanted a name that sounded a bit like Alice, to be honest, and that was the first name that came to mind.