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: By morning the snow, and their tracks through it, will be gone.
A/N: A gift for lyryk. Thanks to azn_jack_fiend for the beta and prompt.
Fact: The world is a beautiful place—once in a while.
Another fact: We fall in love twice. Maybe more, if we’re lucky.
“Textbook Statistics”, Arkaye Kierulf
In the middle of the night, Ianto wakes from a nightmare to the warm orange glow of streetlamps through the window.
He processes sensory information one piece of input at a time. First, most immediate, is the stretching pain of the bruises that finger up over his ribcage and down his legs and arms. Second, the cold of the room, the clatter of the overworked heater. Third, Jack in bed beside him, snuffling into his pillow deep asleep. Fourth, oh.
Fourth, it’s snowing.
His toes curl in a flinch when his feet first hit the floor, but he manages to pad over to the window on the balls and heels of his feet, arms out for balance.
The window emanates a chill, the pane clouded with condensation. He streaks his hand across it, leaving himself wet-palmed. Peers out.
Outside the air is hazy, the orange light of the streetlamp refracting in the humidity to lend the whole dark street a weird glow. It’s eerily quiet and still, no cars or drunks, just the hush of two inches of white coating the ground and parked cars. Two black lines are carved down the centre of the road, but they’re refilling fast. Big snowflakes whirl through the air, lit up orange against the near-black backdrop of the sky. A patch of fog puffs across the glass as Ianto lets out a breath.
He doesn’t realize how cold he is, standing there in front of the window wearing only boxers, until he feels Jack’s hot palms on his belly, fingers splayed possessively.
His forehead knocks against the cold surface of the glass. A shiver runs through him, like a weak little voice of protest.
“You okay?” Jack murmurs into the back of his head, warm breath tickling Ianto’s scalp. His voice is slurred with sleep, and his arms around Ianto’s waist feel slack and heavy.
It hadn’t been a good day. Overcast, frigid rain, and a group of nasty tourists from ‘three or four systems over’ who hadn’t taken kindly to Jack’s usual spiel about ‘spooking the locals’. Jack had died, high-energy pistol shot to the stomach, and in the process of protecting Jack’s limp body, Ianto had been beaten so soundly he’d dreamt of cannibals. Thank God for Gwen talking their visitors down with the aid of some mood-altering concoction Ianto’d found boxed up in the archives a couple weeks earlier.
Wet and irritable on the ride back, with Jack too pained still to drive and clutching his gut, the atmosphere had been that one of ‘If Tosh or Owen had—’ that seems to come over them so often nowadays.
“It’s snowing,” Ianto says. It’s a misdirection, but Ianto’s not sure if he really means it as such. Maybe he doesn’t want to talk about whether or not he’s okay, can ever be okay. Maybe he really is just that intent on the weather. Jack’s nose brushes through his hair; the weight of his chin settles down on Ianto’s shoulder, cheek tucked against Ianto’s neck.
“So it is,” Jack says. In the hum of nighttime silence, Ianto hears him breathe in through his nose, long and slow.
They stand like that awhile, Ianto with his forehead and hand pressed to the glass watching the spin of the snowflakes, Jack at his back, arms around him, glowing with a halo of warmth like the ring of light around the streetlamp.
When Jack’s body goes tense behind him, Ianto expects him to say ‘Come back to bed.’
Instead, he says, “Get dressed.”
Ianto turns his face and their noses touch, hot and cold. “Why?” he asks, his voice oddly petulant.
“Because it’s snowing,” Jack replies, and nudges a little so that their foreheads rub up against one another.
“I’m not cold,” Ianto lies. Because he likes this, just this, right now, and he doesn’t want to lose it in favour of the practicality of pyjamas.
Jack’s answering voice is a bit patronizing. “Yes, you are. But I didn’t say, ‘Because you’re cold’, did I? I said ‘Because it’s snowing.’”
Ianto’s about to say something about ‘splitting hairs’ with a teasing eye roll, but Jack interrupts him: “It’s snowing, so let’s go outside.”
There’s a rush of cold that washes across Ianto’s back, and then the sound of Jack’s footsteps, Jack rummaging through Ianto’s flatpack wardrobe. When Ianto turns from the window, he finds Jack half-dressed, buttoning a fresh shirt, having stacked a sweatshirt and jeans on the foot of Ianto’s bed. When he’s dressed, Jack hands him a pair of woolly socks with a cock-eyed smile.
Out on the street, Ianto stands hugging himself against the cold and examining the puffs of white he makes when he breathes. Half a block away, Jack stomps through the snow with purpose, making a trail of big footprints.
His ears hurt. “All right,” he says, a little irritably, “You got me out here, now what?”
Jack spins on his heel in the slick snow, carving a black arch into the whiteness. He looks up at the sky, at the swirling flakes, and the orange glow catches his cheeks and chin. He looks impossibly boylike. “I dunno,” he replies, “Build a snowman?”
“You’re kidding,” Ianto counters. “There’s barely three inches here.”
In response, Jack just marches off through the snow again, spelling out his name in footprints. “I grew up in a desert,” he says out of the blue, standing at the end of a ‘K’ with his hands shoved down into the pockets of his greatcoat. His voice sounds strangely loud, projected, like he’s calling out to the quiet world. “No matter how many times I see it, I never stop being amazed by snow.”
There’s a comeback there, somewhere, some snarky remark about simple minds’ appreciation of simple pleasures, some callous dismissal of snow’s significance-- after all it’s just crystalline precipitation. But it’s at that exact moment that Jack thrusts his tongue out for a snowflake, not an inch of shame in it. Ianto watches one fall directly into the centre and melt away, all the while with Jack smiling slack-jawed around it.
Just this, right now, he thinks, and a coil of breath rises before his eyes, dissipating into the orange air.
He crouches, gathering and packing wet snow into his hands. His palms sting with the cold. When he straightens up again, holding the snowball between his hands like something precious, Jack is standing with his back to him, shuffling his heels through the snow to make little walls and piles.
Ianto aims for the very centre of his back. Draws his arm back and tosses overhand. The snowball hits Jack with a satisfyingly wet thump, exploding on impact. Before Jack spins to face him, Ianto can see shreds of snow still clinging to the wool of his coat.
He grins, baring his teeth. “You didn’t!” he threatens. “You did not.”
Ianto just smiles back and crouches down again. He blindly gathers more snow at his feet, eyes fixed on Jack.
As he’s hunched over scraping and packing snow in his frigid hands, though, Jack suddenly bears down on him, wrestling him down to his knees. And then he feels it, cold snow packed down the back of his sweatshirt, a wet shock down his neck. He squirms, but Jack holds him fast, catching his shoulders in a crushing grip and holding his arms pinned to his sides. Ianto yelps, laughing, twisting, and manages to catch a handful of snow in one hand, which he reaches up to smash into Jack’s cheek and eye. Jack shrieks aloud and soon the pair of them are both on the pavement in the snow, Ianto wet from cheek to chest to toes and Jack astride his lower back shoving handfuls upon handfuls of snow down the neck of his sweatshirt until there’s none left around them to draw from.
He turns within the confines of Jack’s hips, on his back now with his arms up, soaked, sore, shivering. Jack rests a wet hand on either cheek, cupping his face. Jack’s breath rises white between them. He’s smiling, his eyes dark in the light of the streetlamp. Above his head, snow floats by, weightless. Flakes cling to his fringe, his eyelashes.
Ianto pants up at him, waiting. Jack’s thumbs are cold and damp on his cheekbones. They’re so close.
“I surrender,” Ianto says. He means to say it blokey with a laugh, but it comes out gentle, breathless.
Jack kisses him. Their lips together are chilly, but Jack’s mouth, tongue, are warm. Ianto rises to meet him, feeling those hands glowing with heat on his face. All he can hear is the hum of the streetlight, the exhale of a low wind, the supernatural quiet of the snow. Their breathing, muffled by the movement of their mouths against one another.
The moment passes.
Jack offers him a hand to hoist him up, laughs at the wet splotch stretching from his arse down to the back of his knees. They lean against each other for support as they walk back to Ianto’s flat, arms looped around each others’ shoulders, limp and cold. Inside, they undress each other with chilly uncooperative hands, stripping back the wet layers barely speaking, eyes shy and bewildered.
Huddled under the blankets, they press their shivering bodies against one another. Ianto finds Jack’s hands in the dark, rubs his palms over Jack’s fingers to warm them. The window’s hazy glow at Jack’s back lights up the water droplets caught in his hair like dew in a spiderweb; his eyes are in shadow. The storm has passed. By morning the evidence of their tussle, smeared black through the snow, will be gone, filled or melted-- Jack’s name too. A few lingering flakes sail by and Ianto kisses Jack’s knuckles one by one, watching the colour of the world change around them.
This is all there is. It’s enough.