(let me know if it's okay to cross-post these to tierfallen, my dear ♥)
There is a characteristically long, meaningful pause as Jack clambers up out of his hatch into the proper Hub. Also characteristically, Ianto is the only one who could be arsed to get here so early.
But that’s all right. Jack’s here—with bells on. Or, more specifically…
“You’ve got something on your head, sir,” Ianto says, voice completely neutral, as he gathers up some of the crumpled napkins that always materialize on Owen’s desk overnight.
“It’s to celebrate the capitalistic perversion of a little-known Christian holiday,” Jack explains, trying not to grin and ruin the fun.
“Never heard of it,” Ianto says. “We have a Welsh winter holiday, though; perhaps it’s similar.”
Jack finds a stray coffee mug, steps forward, carefully balances it on Ianto’s tray, and doesn’t step back again. “Yeah?”
“It has a Welsh name,” Ianto says calmly. “So it’s forty characters long, including eight Ws and one apostrophe.”
“Very Welsh,” Jack agrees.
Ianto nods and rearranges a few items on the tray. “The rough translation is ‘Get Seduced by Your Boss First Thing in the Morning Whilst He’s Wearing a Silly Hat Day.’”
Jack’s mouth wobbles into a helpless smile despite of his best efforts to keep it in a disinterested line. Ianto always wins this game.
“Wait ’til you see what I’ve got on underneath,” Jack says.
Jack particularly hates 1930. Everyone’s still in a giant tizzy about the New York stock exchange, which has admittedly gone thoroughly kaput, and there’s nothing he can do about it—about any of it. The greatest curse of immortality is the powerlessness. Jack can prepare himself for what he knows, from various con-conduct history lessons, but he can’t help anyone else—not because it’ll create paradoxes, but because they just won’t listen.
They don’t believe him. His attitudes and his verbiage are foreign and untrustworthy as it stands; adding the gift of prophecy nullifies any authority his opinions might have had. He tries to give wise-sounding advice that just so happens to be a little prescient, but it’s a rare triumph when they buy in. He couldn’t help the first World War, he won’t be able to stop the second, and he can’t convince a single soul that the Depression will end, and life will go on. He hasn’t even tried to explain that their world isn’t the only one that’ll keep on turning—not by a long shot.
It’s just hard—hard to remember cloaked ships and sonic blasters and the best of companions; hard to have lost them all; hard to be left here, stranded, singular, with nothing but a malfunctioning VM to remind him of the good old days. It’s hard to be stuck on a slow-thinking, slow-changing, prudish planet full of beautiful people whose concept of love won’t even comprehend him for decades and decades more.
This life—this unending, indestructible thing he calls life, anyway; does it even count without the danger?—is essentially his personal quadrant of Tartarus.
He tries to focus on the fact that it’ll get better. In fifty-seven short years, Rose will be born, and he can go stalk her until he gets arrested as a pedophile, and then he can while away twenty years or so in prison.
…boy. Nothing like waiting out the Victorian Era to kill the ol’ optimism, which is apparently the only part of Jack that’s willing to go.
He kicks petulantly at the thin dusting of snow on the gravel; it’s in the process of melting and turning the entire road into a mud pit. He misses sidewalks. And pavement. He misses the Doctor taking Rose’s hand, beaming like a madman, dragging her down the avenue as she laughed, and they passed in and out of the spotlights cast by streetlamps and neon signs—
Focus. He can’t afford to get nostalgic; it makes him bitter, and when he’s bitter, he drinks, and when he drinks, he dies of alcohol poisoning and wakes up with a regular hangover and the resurrection kind.
He sighs to himself and stops, leaning against a rickety fence assembled with homemade nails. Two young men are running back and forth through this field, swamp of mud and halfhearted snow be damned, and he wishes he had their enthusiasm. He’d already seen too much the first time he died; it’s just gotten to be a bad joke at this point. You can’t crack Jack. Jack comes back. Jack can’t escape into the blessed oblivion of eternal sleep, and he’s trapped here until he receives a miracle from deities he doesn’t believe in.
Jack rubs his face. He can’t think like this. However infuriating the present may be, there are a hundred-thousand things to look forward to—artists he knows will be famous; books he can get first-edition; companies to avoid and industries to invest in. And there’s nothing to be afraid of, not a damn thing, because nothing can touch him. That’s something, isn’t it? He’ll just keep moving, just keep nudging Torchwood in a direction certain deadbeat Doctors would be proud to see, just keep walking towards an eternal sunset. He’ll just keep holding out and hanging on—there’s nothing else to do. He’ll just keep getting hurt but never getting away, and someday his prince will come.
But first there comes a sharpened staff.
Jack screams and drops to the mud pit of a road, twitching, blinking, and bleeding all over the place. There is a javelin in his chest.
A javelin. In 1930. There’s a reason he’s avoided every Olympic Games, and this is pretty much it.
His solitary consolation prize is the lovely voice that rises as it comes closer, cursing like a sailor on a bad day, trilling through a few traditional Welsh profanities as well for good measure.
Nothing like a particularly violent death to put things in perspective. Sometimes you just need a bolt from the blue. Or, apparently, a stray javelin.
The young man who peeks into his field of vision—and, with a final string of expletives, proves himself to be the owner of the voice—is gorgeous, even by Jack’s standards. Well, even by anyone’s standards; Jack finds gorgeousness in everything that breathes and sometimes things that don’t. Gorgeous has windblown blond hair and stormy eyes and strong shoulders, the lattermost of which Jack supposes would be necessary in order to throw a stick with enough force to skewer passersby.
“Are you going to be all right?” Gorgeous asks desperately. He follows up with another string of swear words, mixing English and Welsh indiscriminately this time.
Jack sighs, and bleeds, and smiles. “I am now.”
[Honeydew Syndrome, Josh/Metis]
Josh stares at the page, blinking gritty eyes, and the letters start to blend into a caterpillar of confusion.
…if he needed any more evidence that he’s overtired, that would be it.
Metis tells him that he does too much—tries to do too much, is more like it, since he’s reached the point at which the hacky sacks he’s juggling have become too numerous and started to drop.
…still a resounding No on the metaphors, then.
That’s Metis, too—Metis can snatch a word right out of the air, unfold it, unpack it, rebuild it, and set it back in flight like some kind of butterfly, twice as pretty as it was before. Metis can make poetry out of silence—and Josh isn’t so great at analyzing the stuff, but he can hear when it’s good.
It’s funny—Josh picks up the Bat Signal coffee mug that holds his pencils and then puts it down again—it’s funny how people worm their way into your life, changing moments and creating associations everywhere they go, spreading like a sickness, claiming bits and pieces almost at random, altering your memories one at a time. It’s funny how much Metis owns without asking, owns by being who he is, by speaking, by smiling when a stupid TV commercial comes on. It’s funny how you share your life with people like Metis whether you like it or not.
Josh rubs his eyes, then the rest of his face; might as well procrastinate thoroughly. He’s sunk—like a stone, like a ship, like a kite with too much of a tail.
…maybe that was a little better. Probably not.
His phone vibrates, dancing across the desk, and Josh shamelessly pounces on the reprieve.
It’s a text. It’s Metis. It reads do your homework. Josh’s emo-loser-geek-weirdo-poet boyfriend also happens to have ESP.
It figures—Metis tells him that he does too much, and then Metis tells him to do more. Metis tells him to expect more, of himself, of his life, of the universe at large. Metis tells him to believe in things, to hope recklessly, to dream with both eyes open.
its too hard, Josh texts back.
He spends a moment contemplating the Batman mug, and then the phone buzzes again with a reply:
i hold high standards for arrogant jock boyfriends. get back to work. i have a cookie for you.
Josh does what Metis tells him.