Couplings: Jack/Estelle, pre-Jack/Ianto
Word count: 2631
Spoilers: Takes place right after Small Worlds, and references the events of The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances.
Summary: "I should be enough. Enough for you to bring her back to me. Please."
Other notes: First of a series. Written for flashfic_hub's Resurrection challenge.
Disclaimer: None of these people belong to me. They belong to the BBC/RTD
Jack watched from his doorway as the team left. They were all furious with him, and he could see why—of course, he'd sent a child to her death. He couldn't understand their refusal to see the larger picture, though. There was nothing else he could have done. Surely they knew that. If there had been, he would have done it; gotten rid of the horrible creatures before they had come into his life and stolen away one of the few good things he had left.
It wasn't like he hadn't been preparing himself, for years, to lose Estelle. He'd known he wouldn't have her much longer. She shouldn't have had to go like that, though; scared and alone. She should have been in her bed, Moses at her feet and him at her side. He should have been able to tell her, just one last time....
Well, there was always—
'What about what happened last—' the voice that, if he'd thought he still had one, might have been his conscience started. Jack cut it off, quickly, with a snapped 'No corpses with gas masks laying around this time' and turned back into his office.
As he walked down to the autopsy room, keeping a firm grip on the cylinder despite his trembling fingers and racing heart, Jack dimly realized that he hadn't seen Ianto leave. He was probably tidying up in the staff room or tourism office. No reason for him to come down here, anyway. Jack had told all of them that he would take care of making Estelle 'disappear'. He'd almost dislocated Owen's shoulder the night before to keep the doctor from doing an autopsy. He'd snapped that they had all seen the water and it didn't matter if it was normal water or if those creatures had arranged a spell of particularly acidic precipitation, if she had actually drowned or if her lungs had been destroyed by nitric acid and sulfur; that she was gone and that she deserved to keep one last shred of her dignity.
He thought he had seen Gwen smile, sadly, when he'd said that. He hadn't been paying particularly close attention to anything besides pulling a plastic sheet up around Estelle's chin, and then to getting spectacularly drunk. He was glad, as he walked into the room, that he had taken care of the first before throwing himself into the second.
If he ignored the metallic trays laden with saws and scissors and other cold, sharp things, Jack might have been able to convince himself that Estelle was asleep. Except for she never slept like that. She always slept on her left side, curled up like a cat. Jack remembered joking about that, once, when she was half awake; running a finger up her spine and telling her that she purred. She'd repeated the noise before stretching out and rolling over to him, musing about what noises she could get out of him.
Jack tore himself out of the memory. If this didn't work—they have been in there for over a hundred years—then he would let himself wallow in the past as he finished up that bottle on his desk. Right now, he had work to do.
Hesitantly, he stepped closer to the table, close enough that he could see every line on Estelle's face. It was a bit strange; it had usually pained him to watch his lovers grow old. But not Estelle. He had never stopped seeing that beautiful girl he had met over sixty years ago. Maybe it was because she'd never stopped acting like the girl he had known back then. Sure, she might not have gone out dancing every Saturday night, but Jack supposed that might have been more for lack of a partner than anything else. She had been—was, no past tense, not yet—so full of life. She didn't let the silly fact that she was over eighty stop her from doing whatever she wanted.
Jack was sure she would say that death wasn't going to stop her either, and he was going to make sure that it didn't. He carefully twisted the lid off of the cylinder, replacing it with his palm. He tilted his arm just slightly, dumping the tiny creatures into the cup of his hand and curling his fingers around them.
“Come on,” he whispered, as the nanogenes buzzed against his fingers, gathering information about how he was put together. “I know I'm not—” not quite human, the thought still bothered him sometimes, so he stopped the words from leaving his lips, “—but I should be enough. Enough for you to bring her back to me. Please.”
They stopped buzzing, but Jack felt them crawling around. They were bored; obviously, there was nothing for them to repair. Letting out a heavy breath, Jack set his wrist against the edge of the table and uncurled his fingers.
He had thought it was wondrous, before, when he had watched a swarm of them rework the damage they had done. Removing masks and replacing them with faces, replacing missing limbs and hidden disease. But nothing could have prepared him for the way he felt when he saw them swarm in and out of her mouth, saw the golden glow beneath the sheet—and then, just as they dropped away and Jack was wondering if maybe the sheer effect of eighty years, of time, was too much for them....
Estelle started coughing.
Hastily scooping the nanogenes (who had started to mill around the edge of the table in search of something else to fix) into their tin, Jack set the container onto a tray while he put a hand on her back. “Hey, it's all right. You're okay. You're okay.” He was a bit stunned when the truth of the words hit him, and he felt his eyes begin to water.
Clearing her throat, Estelle turned her head up at him. “Jack? Is that you? Oh, blast it, I must have upset somebody up there, if you're here.”
W—oh! Oh, she thought she had gone to...Jack couldn't help laughing, as he helped her to sit up. “No. No, I'm—you're—you're alive.”
“Oh, well that's a relief. Although I must say, Hell would have been a good deal nicer than this freezer.” She smiled as he took off his coat, draping it over her shoulders. “Thank you, Jack. Now, would you mind telling me where I am?”
“Torchwood Autopsy, ma'am.”
Jack started, turning his head up when he heard Ianto's voice. “What are you doing here?” he called up, instinctively tightening his grip on Estelle.
Ianto shrugged. “I always check the CCTV before I leave, figured I should make sure you didn't need me to do some attacking when I saw the dead rising,” he said as he walked down the stairs.
Jack glowered, but then he felt Estelle patting his chest. “It's all right, Jack. Would've figured it out in a minute; after all, plastic sheets, no clothes, those ghastly things over there,” she waved in the direction of one of the trays. “Even you're not that eccentric in your bedroom furnishings.”
“What are you talking about?” Jack asked, smiling nervously as he tried to hold onto the threads of his lie for just a little bit longer.
Estelle rolled her eyes. “Perfection like that can't be replicated, not that well. I know, Jack.”
That was all. No questions about how or why, not now, anyway. They would come, he was sure, but not now. He let out a heavy sigh, patting her shoulder. “Right. Well, then,” he waved his free hand at Ianto, who was now standing in the doorway. “Estelle Cole, Ianto Jones. Ianto, Estelle.”
Ianto inclined his head slightly. “A pleasure, ma'am. I'll go get your clothes and find you somewhere to stay for the night. I think there's a futon in the staff room, under all the wrappers no one throws away.”
“Thank you very much,” she said, and Jack furrowed his brow as she continued to watch Ianto. Ianto seemed to feel the weight of her gaze, because he coughed and straightened.
“Just doing my job, ma'am. D'you need anything, sir?”
Jack shook his head. “Ah, no. Thank you, Ianto. And I suppose it goes without saying—“
“The footage has already been wiped. I'll—figure out something to tell everyone before they come in tomorrow.”
Jack let out a heavy breath. “Thank you. That's all.”
Ianto nodded. “I'll be back in a minute,” he said, quickly turning and going up the stairs. Once he was out of sight, Estelle leaned against Jack, splaying her hand against his shirtfront.
“What happened to him?”
Jack frowned, resting his chin against her hair. “What do you mean?”
Estelle pulled back to look at him. “His eyes—he....” she frowned, reaching up to stroke his cheek, “....I saw the darkness, Jack—“ he started to say something, to try to reassure her, but she shook her head, “—it's all right, well, not...” she gave him a slightly-watery smile, “we'll talk about that, and the rest of it, in the morning.”
Jack nodded, stroking the back of her head as she continued. “He looks like he's seen it, too, the darkness. But...more like he brushed against it. Wishes it had taken him, instead of someone else.”
Jack closed his eyes, finding that he just couldn't look at her when he thought about what had happened with Lisa. “His girl—it was different,” he said, quickly, before Estelle could ask what he knew she would. “We couldn't do anything for her. And he knows that, but....”
“He wanted to throw himself in the hole with her.”
Jack made a noise in his throat. “Something like that, yes.”
Estelle sighed. “He needs something to make him remember why being alive isn't such a bad thing...he's quite handsome,” she said, almost as an afterthought. “Don't you think so, Jack?”
“What?” he tried to sound shocked, but it didn't work because he was grinning. Estelle shook her head, wagging a finger at him.
“I know about you, Jack Harkness. You thought me had me fooled, but I saw you watching all those boys in their uniforms back then, and it doesn't bother me now like it didn't bother me then. And he's a sight better than most of them.”
Jack laughed, hugging her close. “Well, yes, I suppose he is. But—“
She sighed, leaning her head against his shoulder. “Jack, I had my turn with you. And it was a very fun turn,” she grabbed his free hand, pressing her lips to the backs of his fingers, “but someone else deserves a go, now. Someone else needs to feel what I felt, and if anyone deserves it, it's him.”
Jack swallowed, turning his fingertips against her lips. “Estelle, I—“
“I know, Jack,” she kissed his index finger before dropping his wrist. “I know you do. Now, go chat up that gorgeous boy for me, hmm?”
Jack laughed, probably a bit too loudly in the open room, cutting off abruptly when he heard the door open. He straightened up quickly when he saw Ianto standing there, clothing in hand. “Ah, do you need a hand, Estelle?” he nearly-stammered. She smiled at him, shaking her head.
“No, dear. But I would appreciate it if you boys would give me a moment. Don't want to give you nightmares with what's under this sheet.”
Jack smirked. “Unless it's possible to be scared by too much beauty—“
Ianto groaned, grabbing his sleeve, “Oh, I'm sorry about him, ma'am. We'll be right outside, give a holler when you're ready and I'll show you to your room.”
Estelle smiled. “It's quite all right. Thank you again.”
Ianto nodded and pulled Jack out of the room.
“Why'd you do it?”
Jack raised an eyebrow, leaning against the wall across from Ianto as they waited for Estelle to change. “Do what?”
Ianto sighed heavily. “Jack.”
A lie wouldn't do, not here. Oh, he could make up a convincing one, sure. But it wouldn't be right, not now. “I loved her. Still do, really. Guess I wasn't ready to let go yet.”
Ianto cocked his head to the side. “Really? 'splain all the flirting, then. And before you say it's just flirting,” he said, holding up a hand, “you and I both know you didn't spend three hours out 'walking' on Saturday night, even if the CCTV says you did.”
Jack snorted softly. “You've got me there,” he said, before he sighed. “...I couldn't stay with her, Ianto. I can't tell you why, all right, but I couldn't. And...well, I'll skip the part about being lonely, even if that's true enough. But....” he pushed himself up off the wall, taking a step forward, “Just because an old flame is still smoldering doesn't mean new ones can't be sparked.”
Ianto swallowed, trying to step back before he realized he was already pressed up against the wall. “Yeah?”
Jack nodded. “Yeah. And I think that's something you should keep in mind,” he said, softly, as he reached up to rest his hand gently against the side of Ianto's face. “You don't have to stop loving Lisa,” he leaned in, putting his mouth to Ianto's ear, “but that doesn't mean you have to become a priest.”
Ianto drew in a shaking breath, pressing his palms flat against the wall. “Why are you telling me this, sir?”
Jack watched Ianto lick his lips, nervously, and had to force himself to drop his hand and step back instead of following the trail of Ianto's tongue with his own. “Just a piece of advice, do with it what you will.”
He took another step back, leaning back again to watch the wheels work in Ianto's mind. The mice finally came to a stop and Ianto took a deep breath, closing his eyes.
“Noted and appreciated, but coming from the man who...” the man who helped kill my girlfriend, the words hung, unsaid, between them. Ianto cleared his throat, straightening a bit. “Well, I just think it's a bit inappropriate, even for you.”
Even if Jack had been able to come up with a fitting response for that, the next moment Estelle peeked her head out from around the side of the archway.
“Ianto, is it? I'm decent, so I suppose I should let you show me where I'll be sleeping so you can head home. I feel awfully terrible, keeping you late like this.”
Ianto plastered on a smile as he turned to Estelle. “Oh, it's no trouble at all, ma'am,” he took her hand and started away. Before he did, though, he turned to Jack.
“Oh, sir, I'll be coming in at six—that way you and I can come up with what we're going to tell the others. You'll be in your office, yeah?”
There was something in Ianto's eyes—they were still dark with pain and anger, but there was a spark there that gave Jack the slightest bit of hope that Ianto might take his advice, even if he didn't do it with him. “Yeah. Good night, Ianto. Estelle.”
Estelle glanced between them and grinned. “Good night, Captain. And thank you.”
No, thank you, he thought, as he watched the two beautiful creatures walk away. It didn't hurt to see them leave, because even with the uncertainties of Torchwood, he was sure that he would see them in the morning.