Author: heddychaa, with thanks to the late Allen Ginsberg
Genre: Romance, Vignette
Disclaimer: Torchwood's characters, concepts, and events belong to their respective owners, including but not limited to Russell T Davies and the BBC. This is a work of fan-appreciation and no profit is being made.
Summary: Poetry in bed.
A/N: A surprise present for cen_sceal, to go with her beautiful fanart, Bedtime Rituals. Title and quotations from Allen Ginsberg's "Sunflower Sutra". Beta-d by _lullabelle_, dremiel, and azn_jack_fiend. (Full on triple-beta rainbow all the way across the sky!)
Unholy battered old thing you were, my sunflower O my soul, I loved you then!
“Did I ever tell you,” Jack says, “that I slept with Allen Ginsberg, once?”
“Mm?” Ianto murmurs sleepily into Jack’s neck, “No, but I’m not surprised, either.” His voice sends low vibrations humming down into Jack’s muscles.
Jack lets out a short laugh, shifting under Ianto’s weight. “I don’t know if that says more about me or Ginsberg,” he admits to the ceiling. He reaches around with one hand to toy with the short-cropped hair at the back of Ianto’s head.
He holds a slim old volume aloft awkwardly in the other: a very well-loved copy of “Howl and Other Poems”, second-run, printed after the obscenity trial, pages falling out of the spine. Signed with haphazard pointy petals sprouting out of the “O” in “HOWL”. Held overhead at arm’s length he can barely see the text to read, but he hardly needs to, anymore.
“What was he like?” Ianto asks, although Jack can tell he’s only humouring him. Jack can feel his nose burrowing slowly, contentedly, into the hollow above his collarbone.
He runs the edges of his knuckles down the line of Ianto’s spine, veering sideways to trace the sharp dips and peaks of each shoulder blade. “Arrogant,” he replies, at length.
“So a good match,” comes the muffled answer into his skin. It’s warm.
“You could say that. We were always bumping heads.”
He’s rewarded by the sound of something caught between a scoff and a snort, the sound of innuendo that’s found its mark. He touches his nose to the top of Ianto’s head, smelling the day’s sweat and the morning’s shampoo. He presses his lips down into Ianto’s hair, turning pages with his thumb, dog-eared and torn and scrawled over in black and blue ink, until he finds one rippled by a spilled drink.
“But no,” he says, sweeping his thumb across the warped page, the coffee he’d spilled in 1971. Lucia had thought the Beats were completely devoid of substance, railing against imagined persecution. Jack smiles, remembering Ginsberg’s nervous mannerisms. “He was. . . intense. Passionate. Listen.”
He grabs Ianto by the shoulder, enfolding him, and rests his chin on the crown of Ianto’s head. Under the blankets he feels Ianto’s feet draw up along his own, the tops of Ianto’s toes stroking along his arches and ankles.
“‘The grime was no man's grime but death and human locomotives’,” he starts, picturing it, the lone sunflower shooting up six foot tall in the rail yard, its spiny petals (just as Ginsberg drew them on Jack’s volume) covered in the soot of passing trains, silhouetted by the red-orange-purple light of the ending day.
“‘All that dress of dust, that veil of darkened railroad skin, that smog of cheek’,” he continues, Ianto humming thoughtfully into the flesh of his neck, narrow fingers tapping out a senseless impatient rhythm over his collarbone. “‘That eyelid of black mis'ry, that sooty hand or phallus or protuberance of artificial worse-than-dirt--industrial--modern--all that civilization spotting your crazy golden crown—’” At this Ianto draws his head back—Jack feels cold air on his neck—and Jack can sense him frowning. Can feel his sleepy body tense slightly, like someone has tugged on a string drawn up through the centre of him.
“Sooty phalluses?” he complains, more incredulous than offended. “Is this what passed for pillowtalk for Beatniks?”
“I hadn’t even got to the part about the--” Jack begins, but then thinks better of it. Pillowtalk. Right. He reaches to touch the back of Ianto’s head, gathering him in close again by way of apology. He turns the page, settling back into the pillow.
“‘A perfect beauty of a sunflower!’” he whispers into Ianto’s hair in that tone fathers use to read to sons, eyes on the page overhead. His lips touch Ianto’s scalp as he speaks. He can see the round top of Ianto’s ear, glowing red filtering light. “‘A perfect excellent lovely sunflower existence! A sweet natural eye to the new hip moon, woke up alive and excited grasping in the sunset shadow sunrise golden monthly breeze!’”
“That doesn’t even make any sense,” Ianto complains. “S’just words strung together.” He shifts slightly, growing heavy on Jack’s chest.
Jack lowers his arm that’s been holding the book aloft, dropping the fragile old volume onto the centre of Ianto’s back with his thumb still tucked in keeping place. Looking down, he can see Ianto’s closed eye, the infinitesimal crinkles in his eyelid, the dark shade of his eyelashes etched out like pen on the white of his cheek.
“‘Poor dead flower’,” he addresses him, brushing the tips of his fingers along Ianto’s fringe and shifting the shadows across his brow. He nestles back into the pillow, watching the twitching changes of expression on Ianto’s face as he sleeps. The tiny frowns, the juts of his lower lip, the gather between his eyebrows that deepens the shadows there. With a crooked smile, Jack recites, “‘When did you forget you were a flower? When did you look at your skin and decide you were an impotent dirty old locomotive? You were never no locomotive, Sunflower, you were a sunflower!’”
He laughs wistfully, giving Ianto one last squeeze, and twists to reach over and set the volume aside and turn out the bedside light. He listens to, feels the shape of, Ianto’s measured breathing in the dark. And says to himself, a little chiding, “‘And you Locomotive, you are a locomotive, forget me not!’”
Read the sequel, "Holy, Holy, Holy".