Rosemary and Time, by bramble_jam

(First posted to DreamWidth/LiveJournal on 2 September 2009, after season 2 but a year before Children of Earth was broadcast.)

Blame [info]agentxpndble for this, though it’s not her fault that what was meant to be cheerful porn about Ianto tying Jack’s tie for him went in an entirely different direction when I started writing it.

Rosemary and Time

Jack/Ianto, with brief sex scene
Series 1
2100 words

Jack frowned at the mirror. He’d been good at this, once. Once, twice, three times, and no doubt more times yet to come. His personal timeline looked like the product of a four year old learning to knit.

Not that he minded all that much. 1941 was still his favourite era, for a multitude of reasons. Not least being that he looked damned good in RAF dress uniform. Or at least he would if he could just get the knot on this damn tie right.

He needed a batman. He’d had a batman on more than one occasion, including at least one where he’d been wearing an officer’s uniform quite legitimately. He didn’t have a batman any more, of course. But like the Batman, he had a butler. One who had silently drifted up behind him as he’d loosened the tie for another go.

“If you’d allow me, sir. It should be done properly, today.”

“I’m out of practice.” Ridiculous to be justifying himself to this young man, so very much younger than he. One who’d never even worn a uniform, never mind fought in one.

But who still knew what it was to watch comrades fall in battle. And who knew how to look dapper, tie perfectly knotted in a beautifully symmetric Windsor. He turned around to let Ianto handle his tie for him. “You’d better do me, then. You’re better at it.”

“Thank you, sir. But perhaps we should keep the levity for another day.”

For once he hadn’t even meant it that way. But it wasn’t to be wondered at that Ianto had thought he had. “Ianto. It’s a solemn occasion. But one of the things we’re remembering is what they bought for us with their lives. It’s not disrespectful to enjoy life.”

“I know, sir.”

He looked into Ianto’s eyes, trying to read him. “But it’s still too raw?”

Ianto dropped his gaze, looking at the floor. “Feels…”

And even that much was more than Ianto usually let slip. It was tempting to probe, but instead he waited. A few seconds later, Ianto looked at him again, expression perfectly bland. “That tie really is a mess, sir.”

He reached for the knot, intending to undo it altogether. “Would you fix my tie for me, please?” Careful with his phrasing this time.

“Of course.” Ianto reached for the tie, pushing his hands out of the way. He was aware of the physical contact, in a way that he might not have been without the brief diversion of the conversation. He was always aware of physical contact with Ianto, with that trim body in a trim suit, but there were levels of awareness.

Now he was very much aware as Ianto’s hands carefully loosened the tie. He looked down, wanting to watch those strong, competent fingers as they performed the elegant dance needed to knot a tie neatly.

Ianto tutted at him. “Lift your chin, sir.”

“Just trying to see where I was going wrong.”

“I think you had the right moves, from what I could see. You simply need a little practice.”

Ianto had been watching him? Well, of course Ianto had been watching him, long enough at least to be sure that help was both needed and acceptable. “It’s been a while since I’ve worn this outfit.”

“Not since this time last year, I imagine. I suppose quite a few years since you last wore it at any time other than this.”

They held each other’s gaze for a long, silent moment. Then Ianto looked back down to his task, leaving Jack to think on something he’d only suspected until now.

Ianto knew, even though he’d never spoken of it before. Knew about more than faded photographs and bright memories of Jack in 1941; had always known, from before he’d ever met Jack. Because Ianto wasn’t one of Jack’s own, his hand-picked group of new people, but a fragment of Torchwood One. There had been times when he’d regretted bringing Ianto in, but not today. Today it was good to have someone who knew that he’d lived through every Armistice Day, including the zeroth one. Who knew why he always called it Armistice Day, rather than the newer name.

And, of course, knew what it was to watch comrades fall in battle. The others didn’t, not yet. They would eventually, of course; it was the way of Torchwood and some things never changed. But for now…

“Ianto. Come with me.”

“It’s a UNIT remembrance service, sir. UNIT and Torchwood… I don’t think I belong. And even if it wasn’t UNIT, it’s military. You have a right to wear a uniform, though maybe not that one. I don’t.”

Very much a fragment of Torchwood One, knowing too much about Torchwood attitudes to potential rivals; especially rivals with loyalties to anyone other than the Crown. “And if any part of the military will recognise that you have a right to be there, even without a uniform, it’s UNIT. They’ll know why you have names to remember.” A self-inflicted battle, perhaps, but still against the same threat that was the reason for UNIT’s existence.

Ianto’s fingers were perfectly steady as he finished the knot. Even so, Jack pulled him into a hug as soon as he was done. Held him for a long moment, and then let go as Ianto’s grip on him slackened. Then he set the red poppy straight again in Ianto’s lapel, as Ianto did the same for him.

###

If there hadn’t been a UNIT training exercise going on far back in the hills behind Cardiff, Jack would have gone to the service in town. But this year he was glad enough himself of the chance to stand in silent memory with men and women who wouldn’t think him crazy if he spoke of the enemies he’d fought. So very many of them, over the years; some that even UNIT would find strange.

As they got out of the SUV, the lieutenant walked up to them and said, “Good to see you, sir.” He glanced at Ianto. “New driver?”

“Ianto Jones. Only new to my staff. He was at Canary Wharf.” There shouldn’t be any need to say more than that. Certainly not to go into detail of what Ianto had seen and done that day.

The lieutenant looked again at Ianto. “There’ll be room for you to lay a wreath, lad.”

“Thank you, sir.” Ianto’s voice was no more than a whisper. He turned back to the SUV and picked up the small poppy-covered cross that lay on the back seat. At the sight of it, Jack was glad once again that he’d invited Ianto to come with him. He had no idea where Ianto had been planning to lay it, but it had been obtained before this morning.

They followed to where a small cairn of stones had been assembled, no more than half a metre high. A makeshift cenotaph, but a focal point nevertheless. They waited quietly as the soldiers finished their various tasks and gradually assembled.

Someone turned on a radio, bringing the service in London to a remote Welsh hillside. As the eleventh hour drew close, the lieutenant stepped forward in formal fashion, laid a small wreath at the base of the cairn, and saluted smartly. Then he stepped back, and others came forward with individual tokens of remembrance.

Jack let his mind slip back, remembering names and faces. Far back to a time before there were poppies to remember the dead. Though not so far back as to leave this planet. Let those memories lie still and quiet for now. He laid his poppy, and a handful of rosemary. Enough symbols to remember by without adding the ones these soldiers wouldn’t know. Then he stepped back and watched as Ianto walked forward, stiff-legged, and kneeled to lay his small cross. Watched the soldiers watching, and knew by their faces that word had gone round, that some at least knew that Ianto wasn’t just a random civilian driver for the visiting officer.

Ianto stood up straight, brushing the dirt from his knees; an automatic gesture that had no conscious thought behind it, not when Ianto’s mind was far from here. He came back to stand at Jack’s side, and Jack put an arm around his shoulders just as the sound of Big Ben striking the hour started to ring out.

Then silence, on the radio and around the cairn. As it came to an end, and people started to move away, Ianto said, “You were right, sir. Thank you.”

“Even if you don’t want to talk about it, it’s good to be somewhere where you know you could if you wanted to.”

“Yes.” Ianto was quiet for a moment, looking at the splash of red at the base of the cairn. “They’re not quite gone, not as long as we remember them. Are they?”

“No.” He’d gone through cycles of believing and not believing that himself. Mostly now he believed, if only because he did still remember so many of them when he chose to look through his memories. More than a century of memories now, just for Torchwood. Before that, memories of people not yet born, never mind dead. Time travel did strange things to grief when you knew they were still out there, that you could go back and see them one more time if you were willing to take the risk.

But now he could travel in time all he liked, and still never fill the extra time that had been forced upon him; not with only the old and well-loved names. They’d still die before him, no matter how many times he looped the thread of his life upon itself. He understood the Doctor a little better now. “Remember them, Ianto.”

“It’s the forgetting that’s difficult.”

“It gets easier with time.”

So soft he could barely hear it, “You’d know about that.”

“It still hurts each time there’s a new name to remember.” He held Ianto’s shoulders a little tighter. “But you learn how to live with it.”

“It’s safe to remember, here. But I think I’d like to go.”

###

They were still out in the Welsh wilds when Ianto pulled the SUV over, undid his seatbelt, and leaned back in his seat, eyes shut. “Sorry, sir. I just…”

Jack undid his own seatbelt. “Take all the time you need.”

Ianto opened his eyes and looked at him. “It’s not as if you’re going short of it, after all.” Then he leaned over and kissed Jack.

“Ianto?”

“Reminding myself… that there’s something worth dying for.”

They were out in the Welsh wilds, lonely enough to satisfy even Ianto’s taste for privacy. So he kissed Ianto back, and reached for Ianto’s cock. It wouldn’t hurt to remind Ianto that there was something worth living for too.

Wouldn’t hurt to remember it himself, given that he didn’t have any choice about the living part. So he concentrated on how it felt as Ianto fumbled with his fly and held his cock tightly. Stored it away in memory as Ianto stroked him, making sure he’d be able to recall every second of this fast, graceless fuck. Memorised the way Ianto’s cock filled his own hand, the sudden sharp spasm as they came together, and then the feel of Ianto’s cheek against his fingers as he caressed him for a brief moment. The way Ianto caught his hand and kissed it.

“You smell of rosemary,” Ianto murmured. “At least I know I won’t have to lay rosemary for you.”

Sooner or later, and probably sooner, “Ianto Jones” would be just one more name on his list to lay rosemary for. A list that grew ever longer, while he kept on dying himself but didn’t stay dead. But for now, Ianto Jones was more than regrets and memories, rue and rosemary. If he must outlive all his friends and lovers, at least he could enjoy them while he had them. “Time to go home, Ianto. Tell you what, let’s stop and get fish and chips for lunch. With salt. And vinegar. Lots of vinegar, the way you like it.” Strong enough to cover the scent of rosemary.

“Yes, sir. Eat it in the SUV, sir, so we can listen to Owen complaining about the smell for the rest of the week?”

“That’s a cruel suggestion, Ianto Jones. I like it.”

“I learn from the best, sir.”

Learn how to remember, Ianto, and how to forget, and when is the best time for each.

###

As they walked towards the fish and chip shop, Jack turned out his pocket, and let the last few crumpled leaves blow away.

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