In Sickness and in Health (52b/52)
Carys could feel
her hands turning numb in the cool April wind that whistled through the park directly opposite Ianto’s block of flats. She’d seen him and his partner enter their flat about half an hour ago; seemingly in good spirits. She glanced down at the dying grass at her feet. Maybe Ianto would be more amenable to listening to her now, she mused. This was, after all, why she had spent the entire day on the wooden bench– to seek forgiveness. She couldn’t just let their last meeting at the trial be the last meeting they ever had, she needed to make it up to him, to explain that it wasn’t her fault. That she’d had no choice. He knew what Wayne was like; he’d have to understand. Besides, he carried her surname and had stated himself how dedicated he was to her memory. She knew he wanted to forgive, to understand and to move on he just needed to be approached, that was all. She exhaled and looked over at the horizon. All she had to do was get up and go and talk to him and then it would all be fine and she wanted to go, she really did, but something inside her kept holding her back. She sighed in frustration and glanced back down at her feet. Hadn’t she had these exact same feelings of trepidation twenty years ago?
It was her fear then that had got them all into this mess and so it would have to be her fear that got them out of it and so, against her better judgement, she stood and found herself mechanically walking the long road to her son’s flat.
Minutes later, she found herself coming face-to-face with a very irritated and dishevelled looking Ianto. “Yes?”
“Oh. I erm...”Somehow, it had never occurred to her, that he had a life of his own. That it might be even possible for her to interrupt him. “I thought we could talk.”
“I’m busy,” stated Ianto flatly and made to close the door.
Carys reflexively put her foot in the door. “Please! Ianto, we need to talk.”
Ianto glanced down at her foot for a moment before his gaze travelled up to meet hers. “Don’t do that,” he said quietly before turning on his heel and walking down the hallway, stopping only to pick up a pair of trousers and toss them through the nearby doorway.
Carys took this as an invitation, however reluctant, to enter, and so with one more nervous glanced around her, she stepped over the threshold and closed the door behind her. She took a moment to notice the greatcoat hanging haphazardly on the coat stand and the door to the left of her from which rustling sounds were coming before hurrying down the hallway and into the living room where her son was waiting for her, shirt now buttoned and arms crossed. Although he wore an expectant expression, he said nothing.
She looked around nervously. “It’s a nice place you’ve got here. Jack must pay you well.”
Ianto inclined his head. “I get by.”
Carys nodded and fiddled with her sleeve. “So erm...”
“How did you get my address?”
Carys glanced up in surprise. “Oh...the barrister said it in the trial when he was saying how you pushed Wayne down the stairs.”
A momentary flicker of annoyance crossed Ianto’s features before they smoothed and he nodded, rocking back and forth on his bare feet as he did so. “’Kay.”
Carys bit her lip and stared out of the window as it dawned on her that she had no idea what to do. She didn’t know this person, not really. Not like she knew Rhi. She didn’t know what made him tick, how she should approach him, what she should say. The meeting with Rhi had been difficult yes, but she knew her; she’d expected the fury and the screaming and the shouting and the crying because that was what Rhi did. She could cope with that and work around it. She supposed she’d believed that Ianto would be similar, that he’d also parade his outrage. It was only now that she realised how stupid she was to have thought that. She’d believed he’d show his anger because Wayne had never bothered to hide it and if she’d learnt anything over the last week or so, it was that Ianto was not like his father. He was more complex; quiet and stoic.
“You know, if you’ve come here to explain yourself, you’re not doing a very good job,” stated Ianto after a while.
Carys looked up sharply. “Is that what you want? An explanation?”
Ianto shrugged, and moved to sit down at the table. “It’d be a start.”
Carys nodded and moved to sit down opposite him. She tried to look at him, but try as she might, she just could not meet his eye. She released a shaky breath before beginning. “I never... meant for any of this to happen...”
“I should hope not,” stated Ianto drily as he sat back in his chair.
Carys inclined her head in acknowledgement and leant forward, her forearms resting on the table. “If I’d have known, I’d never have –“
“But you did know. You experienced it firsthand,” stated Ianto as he shifted forward so he too was leaning on the table. Looking at her with an almost even expression.
“But I didn’t think-“
“Exactly. And that’s my problem,” said Ianto quietly as he stood and wandered over to the window.
Carys watched him for a long while, studied the set of his shoulders beneath his shirt and his rigid stance and realised that she had really hurt him. Of course, she had known already but it wasn’t until she was here, talking to him that it was really starting to sink in. She’d hurt him, abandoned him and he was rightfully wary of being hurt again.
She started again in a more level tone of voice. “Look, I’m not trying to make excuses here, but you know what Wayne is like. You know how manipulative he can be, how he ruins your sense of self- worth to the point that you hate yourself more than him. He gets inside your head and makes you believe that you deserve it, that it’s your own fault that you’re not good enough and when you’re in that state of mind, anything can happen – you’ve experienced it yourself when you pushed him down the stairs.”
“That was an accident,” muttered Ianto.
“I know. And that’s my point,” stated Carys gently as she stood and approached him. “You didn’t mean to push him down the stairs and hospitalise him, but you still did it. Because you were scared. Because you were angry. Because you’d just had enough.” She was standing directly behind him. “You and me. We’re not that different.”
Ianto was quiet for a long time as he stared unseeingly out of the window. The only tell-tale signs that he had even heard her was the tense set of his shoulders and the way he occasionally tilted his head ever so slightly.
“You could have reported him at any time,” continued Carys softly. “If you’d have done it after a beating, people would have believed you, they’d have helped you. You could have told that English teacher... she’d have helped...if you’d let her. And yet, you didn’t. You suffered in silence for years – you probably still would be if you hadn’t have committed that act...”
“I’m not trying to blame you, I’m just stating that it often takes something extreme to break the spell, to make you snap out of it and realise that, actually, there is something you can do. For you, that was pushing Wayne down the stairs. For me, it was leaving after he came at me with a knife. If I hadn’t have left then, I’d still be there and I know that for a fact.”
Ianto was still for several minutes before he slowly turned to face Carys again, an unreadable glint in his eye. “We are nothing alike,” he stated in measured tones.
“No. We’re not.” He stalked past her.
“Ianto...please! He beat me.”
“And you left me!” roared Ianto as he whirled around to face her. “You walked out and you left me with that maniac! Why should I forgive that?”
“Because you know what he’s like!”
“That’s why I can’t forgive you! You knew Lloyd was a violent and manipulative drunk who resented me and yet, you still told him I wasn’t his. You removed any paternal affection he may otherwise have had, and you gave him a reason to inflict that hatred on me. After giving him this information, you then walked out, leaving him free to do what he would.”
Carys was silent for a long time before averting her gaze. “That’s not fair,” she said quietly.
“It is perfectly fair and you know it,” stated Ianto coldly. “It was your choice to go away and it was your choice to stay away. So don’t you dare try to blame me for the situation you put me in.”
Carys looked up at him, eyed wide. “I never tried to –“
I just saw you do it! You stood there and you said it was my fault because I didn’t ask for help. Those are not the words of someone who wants to make amends.”
Carys looked at him, dumbstruck. “I...I’m sorry.”
Ianto merely raised an eyebrow in disbelief before perching against the back of the sofa and regarding his mother for several minutes, his expression unreadable. “No you’re not,” he said quietly. “You feel guilty for what happened to me whilst you were elsewhere and you feel guilty for what happened at the trial, but do you know what? I’m fine. I don’t need you or your excuses so why don’t you go back to wherever it is you came from and leave me alone.”
“But I am sorry!”
Ianto exhaled in frustration. “If you were sorry, you would have done everything in your power to make up for your mistake – including testifying.”
“But I did though!”
Ianto inclined his head in acknowledgement. “Eventually. When the guilt got too much. Although I think we could have done without it by then, don’t you?”
“Why are you being like this? I thought you wanted to see me.”
“I did. But that was before I knew what you were like and what you did.”
“Please Ianto! Rhiannon won’t talk to me and –“
“I was your second choice,” stated Ianto flatly. He smiled bitterly to himself and nodded curtly, before he stood.
“I think you should go now,” he said quietly.
“Please. Just go.”
Carys nodded. “I always cared,” she said quietly. “In my own way. I cared.” She looked around once more before walking out and down the corridor.
Jack was leaning against the doorway of the bedroom, hands shoved casually in his pockets as she passed.
Jack shook his head sadly. “It’s not my place,” he said gently.
Carys nodded and pulled out a small card with a number on it and handed it to him. “For when he changes his mind,” she said quietly before opening the door and leaving into the night.
Jack glanced down at the card, smiling slightly, before muttering derisively, “when?”
He pocketed the card and walked down the hallway and into the living room where Ianto was staring out the window, deep in thought, his back to him.
Believing it best to leave him be, Jack wandered into the kitchen and poured them both two fingers of whiskey. He then put the bottle back and carried the glasses over to where Ianto was standing, handing one of them to the Welshman, silently patient.
Ianto nodded and downed the amber liquid. “Thanks,” he muttered, his gaze never leaving the object of its focus. Jack just nodded in acknowledgement and followed his gaze to where Carys was hurrying across the road.
“She’s not coming back, is she,” stated Ianto almost to himself as he watched her disappear into the deserted park.
Ianto shook his head and turned his back to the window. “No. She won’t,” he said quietly as he folded his arms and leant against the wall. “And that’s fine because I’m better off without her anyway. I’ve just got rid of one useless parent; I don’t need another one – especially not one like that.”
“...It’s not even like I was unreasonable. She should have tried harder at the trial. She could have explained herself better... made a better case...I don’t know. Anything.” Ianto finally looked at him then and Jack could see the hurt glistening in his eyes.
Ianto was quiet for a time after that before he straightened. “All I wanted...all I ever wanted was to know that someone cared. That I meant something to someone and that my life was worthwhile. I thought if I could just meet her again, I’d get that. I’d get the loving mother that I remembered.” He glanced once more out of the window. “Clearly that was never meant to be.”
“It could be...” said Jack. “If you wanted it.”
Ianto shook his head. “No. Not again. I’ll build bridges with Rhi but I can’t...do that with Carys. She won’t stay. She’ll stay until her conscience is absolved and then she’ll bugger off to the back of beyond once again and where will that leave me? Nowhere. So no, I’m better off without her and that’s the end of it. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to have a shower.” And with that, Ianto walked out.
Jack stared after him for a moment before his hand slid almost unconsciously into his pocket to withdraw the card. He looked back out down the hall before his gaze returned to the rectangle in his hand. He stared unseeingly at it for a long time as he rotated it between his fingers before he placed it on the table next to Ianto’s phone. He looked about him, once more considering before nodding to himself and collecting up the glasses and returning them to the kitchen. He rinsed them out and placed them back in the cupboard before moving about the flat, drawing the curtains and checking the locks as he did so.
He then wandered into the bedroom where he sat amongst the dishevelled bedding, fiddling with it absent-mindedly as he stared out across the hallway, listening to the gushing of the shower as he contemplated the turn of events. Eventually, he roused himself from his contemplations and changed into his sleepwear. He then got into bed and distracted himself with a book until Ianto wandered in a while later, having retrieved his phone and the card from the living room table.
“You okay?” asked Jack as he glanced up from his book.
Ianto looked down at the card before nodding and giving him a small smile. “Yeah,” he said quietly as he placed the card and the phone onto his bedside table and crawled into bed.
Jack placed his book on the side and laid down so that he was facing the other man who exhaled and was quiet for a long time as he idly caressed Jack’s chest.
“Do you think I was too harsh?” he asked after a while, his eyes still fixed on his ministrations.
Jack slid his hands up Ianto’s back and pulled him closer. “I think you did what was right for you and I think that you shouldn’t second guess it.”
Ianto glanced up at him. “Really?”
“Yeah. Think about it too much and you won’t know whether you’re coming or going.”
Ianto relaxed and settled better into Jack’s hold. “This is true,” he murmured.
Jack smiled and stroked his hair affectionately. “See? I do speak sense occasionally.
Ianto looked at him for a long time before his lips quirked and he kissed him gently on the lips. “Occasionally,” he agreed as he settled back against Jack’s solid warmth. “When it matters.”