Notes: A 900 word piece of fluff. Coming so late because I was on vacation and didn't realize the deadline was LAST week, and kaneko is traveling and couldn't warn me. So really we win at this challenge. ;-) Thank you to misspamela for making sure this was not 3 stories awkwardly smushed together!
"This," Jack says, handing Ianto a pale green ball, "this is going to change your life."
The ball is cool in Ianto's hand, made of something almost entirely unlike frosted glass, but not like anything else Ianto has ever held. Ianto looks at it a moment. "Ah," he says. "Yes. I feel like a whole new man."
Jack is grinning. "It's not going to change your life that much," he says, and wraps his fingers around Ianto's other wrist, tugging gently. "Though that might be fun. If you're interested, I think we've got something around here that could make you feel like a whole new woman. No? Well, maybe later. For now, come on. Let's lie down."
Ianto raises his eyebrows. "Should I be afraid?" he asks, but Jack is shaking his head and guiding Ianto towards the bed. Jack's quarters are small, dark and warm, almost like a den, a hiding hole. Ianto has never asked why Jack doesn't live away from work, and Jack has never offered an explanation. He goes out frequently; he has mysterious errands and, Ianto thinks, investigations that the rest of the team knows nothing about, but in the end he always seems to return to the Hub.
"Just wait," Jack says, and pulls Ianto down with him. He arranges Ianto how he wants and Ianto allows it, amused by the particular care Jack takes with him, pushing into Jack's hands smoothing across his thighs, warm through the pants he put back on, after. He was going to be on his way home when Jack had licked his lips, asked him to wait, and dug the ball out of the chest beside the ladder.
When they're settled to Jack's apparent satisfaction, Ianto resting against Jack's chest, close and comfortably entwined, Jack runs his fingers lightly down Ianto's arm, trailing across the veins at his wrist. He braces Ianto's hand with his. The glass ball is warming in Ianto's palm.
"Ready?" Jack asks, and Ianto nods. Jack cups the ball between their palms and--
The world changes.
"What is this, Jack?" Ianto asks, startled. "Where are we?"
Jack just grins at him and begins to cross the narrow, rocky bit of ground between them and a sandy beach. He's naked and--yes--Ianto looks down and finds his clothes missing, his feet bare and pale against the rough pebbles.
Ianto looks beyond Jack towards the water, which is teal, purple, white, rising and crashing in perfect waves against the shore. It's the kind of ocean Ianto has only ever seen in bad paintings, perhaps done on velvet, and yet it's beautiful.
There are two suns low in the sky.
Ianto takes a deep breath, absorbing the shock. Whatever he'd been expecting from Jack's little toy--well, it hadn't been this. It hadn't been this at all. Something with vibrations, perhaps an aphrodisiac, maybe a crystalline chick that hatched in their hands; anything but this. The breeze is soft and warm and smells of salt. Ianto feels the hair on the back of his neck prickle, feels hair rise on his arms. It smells indescribably different from any ocean at home.
At home, Ianto thinks. On Earth.
"This is Treshadorian," Jack says. "A realistic representation, at least. What do you think?"
"Realistic?" Ianto picks his way across the rocks to stand by Jack in the sand. Jack waits for him, then leads him closer to the shore. The sand is different than sand at home too, softer and almost silky. "It's so beautiful here. It's unreal."
"I know," Jack says. He is abruptly quiet, his gaze almost somber. "There are so many places like this, Ianto. Places in the universe so beautiful it seems impossible that they should exist. Places so ugly you'd be sick just trying to take them in. Places that are both--like Earth, really. The best and worst of everything the universe has."
He shakes his head like he's shaking off that serious mood, and smiles. "But this is just Treshadorian. It's like Cancun, for the interstellar traveller."
"Oh, well," Ianto says. "I suppose I've always preferred Hawaii."
Jack laughs and steps into the water, till it hits and churns around his calves. He stares out at the horizon, resting his hands on his hips. Ianto looks away. They've been naked together so often but never outside. It doesn't seem to matter to Jack. He's totally at ease, comfortable in his skin. And really there's no reason to be self-conscious. It seems clear that they're the only people around, perhaps for miles, perhaps on the planet. The water is warm. Still. Ianto steps forward and watches it foam around his ankles, and tries not to stare at Jack.
"Toys like the litz, the green ball, they preserve a place," Jack tells him. "A memory, really. It's mostly accurate, idealized just enough. The water here looks good but in reality smells a bit like dead wet dog."
"I'm glad for the modification, then," Ianto says.
Jack grins at him, sidelong. "Plus there are tourists here all the time. Hundreds of thousands of tourists--all shapes and sizes, Ianto, you'd never believe it. Families with purple skin and twenty limbs each, sentient slime creatures, and those guys look like attractive young people compared to some of the other things you might see."
"I can believe it," Ianto says, and he can, though he's never really tried to imagine such a thing before. The beach just seems like a place where anything could be real, and probably is. Jack could say there are unicorns here, a few little green men in flying saucers, mermaids singing in the coves, and Ianto would believe it. Somehow that makes him feel even more small and naked than before, considering it, but Jack is smiling out over the water like the crowded beach is a fond memory of his. Something special.
"I wish I could take you here for real," Jack says. "I wish I could take you, all of you, to so many different places. I would love to show you what's out there."
Ianto hesitates. "I would enjoy that, I think. But there are still places on Earth where I've never been. I think I'd like to see the Sahara, before I travel the universe. I would like to see--I don't know. I suppose I would like to see lions outside of the zoo."
"Lions, huh?" Jack nods, his eyebrows raised, considering. "Good point. I guess I should think about the places we can go before I start worrying about the places we can't."
"That seems wise," Ianto says, and Jack reaches out to draw Ianto to him, thigh to thigh and hip to hip, bellies and cocks pressed together as the ocean washes warm over their feet.
"Wise." Jack kisses him, mouth soft, smiling against his. "Do you know what else would be wise, Ianto?"
"I might be able to guess," Ianto murmurs, tipping his head back so that Jack can kiss a path down his neck.
Jack bites down lightly on his collarbone. "Good, because I'd hate to ruin a moment with long explanations." He nuzzles Ianto's shoulder, and Ianto holds him tighter. "And this is a good moment, Ianto. We'll only be able to come here like this once, and it may be the closest you ever get to the rest of the universe. I wanted you to see it. I wanted to see it with you."
Ianto closes his eyes against the light of two setting suns, feels the strange sand under his feet and the water around his legs. He feels Jack warm and alive against him, and says, "Thank you," meaning this is close enough.
Jack trails kisses back up to his mouth, nipping, making Ianto gasp and clutch at him. When he draws Ianto back out of the water to the sand, Ianto goes, and when he lies down like this strange shore is nothing more than his mattress, Ianto follows. He kisses Jack, lost in the memory of a world so far away that he might never really see it. He runs his hands over Jack's strong, solid muscles, making him gasp, and with these distant suns setting over them he thinks, yes. This is enough.