Jack stared after the departing figure of Methos long after he’d ceased to be visible, part of him wondering exactly what he meant to the ancient immortal. It never seemed important when they were together, and somehow Methos always managed to skirt round the issue, usually by distracting him one way or the other. Jack sighed; today he’d been distracted by Ianto without Ianto even being present. As if his thoughts had been a summons, he felt Ianto step up beside him, carefully reaching for his hand to give it a gentle squeeze. Ianto would have released the hand just as quickly, but Jack tightened his grip on the long fingers. This, he could hold on to; someone who didn’t fade away into the sunset. Ianto moved closer, his presence a comfortable warmth by Jack’s side; not demanding, but very much there.
“I wish...” Jack bit off the rest of what he was going to say. Ianto didn’t need to know how he felt about Methos, not when he was standing next to him so warm and vital. But then, Jack mused, he already knew and it appeared to make no difference to him; that level of acceptance had surprised him, and had been the basis of a good part of his conversation with Methos today.
“He’ll be back,” Ianto said. “He’ll breeze through the door one day when we’re least expecting him and dazzle us all over again.”
“Us. Methos is...” Ianto shook himself, but did not let go of Jack’s hand. Jack turned his head to look at Ianto, catching an expression of bemused longing that he supposed would not look out of place on his own face. “And he needs you.” Ianto whispered, carefully not meeting Jack’s eyes.
“What?” Jack knew what he thought Ianto had said, but it didn’t tally up with what he was thinking.
“Methos needs you.” Ianto spoke a little louder, but his voice remained soft and somewhat hesitant, he could almost feel Jack’s gaze burning into his skin.
“Whatever gave you that idea?” Jack sounded genuinely puzzled, and Ianto raised his head to cast a quick glance in Jack’s direction before looking away once more.
“You’re the only person on the planet who it is safe for him to trust, of course he needs you.” He said resolutely.
“I’m the...” Jack shook his head, unable to wrap his thoughts around what Ianto meant. “Ianto, explain. I think I’m missing something here.” Ianto met his eyes and smiled, before gently leading him to a bench where they both sat down, hands still intertwined.
“Methos is an immortal.”
“Yeah, we’ve already worked that one out.”
“No, Jack, you don’t understand. He’s told you about the game; hell, I’ve told you about the game, but I don’t think you’ve ever really listened.” When Ianto met Jack’s eyes this time, they were cold and distant. He made an effort not to look away again.
“I listen. Kill or be killed he said.”
“Then why don’t you believe?” Ianto replied with restrained passion. Jack mulled that over and realised that Ianto, for all his genuine youth, was right. Deep down, Jack could not reconcile that people who had been friends for possibly hundreds of years might still turn on each other, for the sake of a ‘game’. The realisation surprised him as he’d never thought of himself as an idealist.
“I’m not sure I can.”
“You need to try, because until you do, you’ll never truly understand just what you mean to Methos.” Ianto’s intensity was making Jack feel increasingly uncomfortable for many reasons. He tried to lighten the mood.
“And you, in your venerable wisdom, do.” The soft smile on Jack’s face defused any sting the words possessed.
“I think so.”
“Care to enlighten me?” His tone was purposefully light and encouraging. Ianto turned Jack’s hand over in his own and slowly traced the lines across his palm with a gentle finger
“You are his ultimate safety. His constant. The one person who he knows won’t leave him through death and will also never need to take his life. If you’re an immortal like Methos, having someone like that in your life goes beyond profound.”
“You asked him?”
“Of course I haven’t bloody asked him. I like my life, thank you.”
“Jack, I know what I’m talking about. Knowing about immortals was my *life* until I started at Torchwood. For once, don’t question me; just try to accept what I’m saying.” Ianto let out a resigned sigh and leaned his head against Jack’s shoulder as he watched the seagulls swooping over the Bay. There was nothing more he could do, nothing more he could say; Jack would either admit he was right or continue to refuse to believe it, and badgering him about it would not accomplish anything. He felt Jack’s cheek rest against his hair as they relaxed against each other. Ianto was fairly certain Jack wouldn’t mention the conversation again, but at least he knew he’d planted an idea in Jack’s mind that could be reflected upon, probably while Jack was watching him sleep. So they remained, comfortably silent, until the last of the autumn sun was leached from the sky.
As darkness fell, Jack buried his face into Ianto’s hair and inhaled deeply, the smell of coffee and hair gel and life. He wondered if Ianto had realised that the need for a constant worked both ways; Methos could die, but after 5000 years of life Jack was certain he had no intention of doing so if he could possibly help it, and that was incredibly reassuring. If Ianto hadn’t realised it yet Jack knew he soon would, but maybe not tonight. He grinned as he dropped a kiss onto Ianto’s head.
“We should go in.” He mumbled into a faceful of hair, moving away as he felt Ianto raise his head. Ianto met his eyes, and smiled that small private smile that no-one else ever saw.
“You’re right. I think I need to warm up a little.” He said. Jack’s grin widened.
“I think I can manage that.”
“I’m sure you can...” Later, Jack could never remember which one of them had managed to get through the door first in their mad dash for the Tourist Information Centre, but by then it was unimportant.