Tryst - Fic
Spoilers: Vague references to Fragments
Summary: Also known as "A Blind Date with your Boyfriend, Later"
Disclaimer: Don't own, don't sue.
“Can you keep a secret?” asks a familiar voice from behind him.
Ianto doesn’t pause, his hand smoothly bringing his glass from counter to lips and back to the counter. He doesn’t pause, doesn’t startle. Why should he? He’s not surprised. Never mind that the captain is supposedly out of the country for the conference with UNIT’s American branch — send an American to deal with Americans, the Torchwood policy has always been in regards to Jack, the captain’s lack of nationality aside. In Ianto’s opinion, Jack’s involvement in the dealings is strictly due to his ability to charm and hoodwink.
Tonight, the first skill seems to be the one in play, but of course, with Jack one can never fully tell. It makes Ianto wonder about Jack, and about himself. Simply from thinking about it, that familiar stirring warms his centre and spreads lower before the captain’s hand so much as touches his shoulder.
“What do you think, sir?” Ianto asks in return, not turning around, sitting straight and upright on the barstool without so much as glancing to the side.
The captain’s hand rests on his right shoulder, thumb brushing the place where his hair stops and his neck begins. Left ear, Ianto predicts and is correct, is completely proven correct in his knowledge of Jack Harkness’ seduction techniques as the captain’s lips nearly touch his skin.
He fights not to shudder at the heat, at the chill, struggles to stay collected. It always makes it better in the end, when he stays collected, when he lets the captain play.
“Can you keep a secret?” the man behind him repeats, so very close behind him, so close that Ianto needs only lean back to feel wool and heat and Jack against him.
He wants to lean back, doesn’t. He lets the captain play. No matter that they’re in public, that they’re in a bar Ianto somewhat frequents. He might like this, actually, the being in public, the being serious in public. This isn’t whimsical flirting; even without looking, Ianto has a very clear picture of what they look like, Jack touching his shoulder and whispering into his ear, radiating sex appeal and absolute focus.
“I work for you,” Ianto replies, taking another sip of his drink, waiting to see what the captain’s next move would be. “I would think that would be proof enough.”
Something brushes against his back, something like cloth, like the lapels of a greatcoat. Something brushes against his back and that hand on his shoulder trails down his arm, strokes skin through cloth as if savoring the feel. Ianto shivers then, but he doesn’t make a sound.
Lips brush his ear and suddenly all the Welshman can think about is how they feel on his cock. And maybe, just maybe, he makes a little sound at that point.
The question is repeated for the third time, serious for all that it is seductive. “Can you keep a secret?”
“Yes,” Ianto breathes, agrees without nodding. Moving his head would mean breaking contact and that’s not something he wants, not something he wants at all.
“How well can you keep a secret?” There’s a tinge in his voice now, almost amused and yet completely something else, something Ianto has no words for. It’s something dark in a lovely way and lovely in a terrible way and terrible in a way that could be darkly addictive.
Not for the first time, Ianto thinks his captain can’t be described in a human language. Wonders if somewhere out in the universe there might be an alien one that could suffice.
“Better than a dead man,” he replies and is rewarded with a chuckle, a deep and throaty growl of amusement that reminds him of dark chocolate, sweetly bitter, the sort he was never all that fond of until he met Jack. The power of association isn’t one to be overlooked, he knows now.
Fingers stroke his sleeve, trace patters into his upper arm and he stares straight ahead until he has to close his eyes at the murmur in his ear. “How long can you keep a secret?”
His mind tries to shut down and in that state, his answer could only be true: “All my life.”
This statement is answered with the smallest kiss, the slightest pressure of lips against his neck. “Who can you keep a secret from?”
“Anyone,” he says, a simple reply, an arrogant reply. Still, he has had the practice; it might be true. Could be true by now. Is quite likely true.
“Even from me?” the captain asks softly, breath and lips and murmur against his skin. The hand on his arm has stilled, feels warm and heavy and strong.
“I certainly wouldn’t tell you that, now would I, sir.” He doesn’t make it a question, doesn’t make it a true answer either.
The question is repeated, still soft, still far too soft. “Even from me?”
Ianto tries not to swallow. “If I had to.”
“Even from me.”
He very nearly hesitates.
He feels the captain shift, feels the older man move from behind him to beside. He feels the hand on his arm become the hand behind his head, palm sliding, fingers ghosting. He shivers from the sensation and doesn’t need to open his eyes to find the offered kiss.
Jack’s lips against his feel different after only such a short absence, or maybe it’s simply the way the captain’s using them. Ianto’s hand holds to the counter, part of a struggle to stay upright and not fall into the captain, but it’s so very difficult not to. Jack kisses him like a man dying of thirst, like a man proclaiming his love.
Both are absurd, but Ianto has had a bit to drink and so he’ll excuse the strange little fantasies of his mind.
Jack tastes different, like something Ianto can’t recognize and writes off as airplane food. And maybe, just maybe, he adores his captain, just a little, for getting an early flight home, for getting back sooner than announced just to do this.
The way that the captain is holding him, touching him, snogging him — all in public and he really must have had more than a touch to drink because he can’t imagine being all that comfortable with this even though it’s happening — the way that the captain is kissing him, it certainly feels like Jack has one thing and only one thing in mind.
Some not-so distant part of Ianto’s brain spares a thought to wonder if they’ll make it to a bed, going at this rate. He hopes so.
They break for air and Jack holds his head steady, presses their foreheads together and Ianto can’t hear anything but their breathing and his own heartbeat, can’t hear whistling or shocked remarks or music or anything else but them. He opens his eyes to gaze into those of the captain’s, dark and blue and dilated.
“I see you finished with the conference early, sir,” Ianto remarks with an impressively steady voice, albeit a somewhat breathless one. If he bends his neck just a little, stretches forward, he can kiss him again.
The captain’s eyes are unfamiliar for a moment, touched by a smile he presses against Ianto’s mouth. “Sorry to disappoint you, Ianto,” he replies playfully. “I’m not done with UNIT just yet.”
At this, Ianto tries to pull back, attempts to get his bearings, but Jack holds him where he is. It might be the public display of affection getting to him at last, but he’s on edge. “And you still came back early?”
“No,” Jack says quietly and only then lets him go. Even then, it’s not a full release, one hand straying from the side of his face to finger his lapel. This is the point where Ianto realizes that the captain is not wearing his greatcoat. “I came back late.”
To his credit, Ianto’s eyes widen only slightly. He doesn’t gasp, doesn’t exclaim, barely blinks. He does raise his hand, touch Jack’s hair, but it’s a motion that could be written off as a sign of affection.
“Very dignified,” Ianto tells him. “It doesn’t really suit you,” he adds, somehow feeling that two words aren’t enough.
“I was going for the refined look, actually,” the captain replies, an edge to his smile that is truer than the smile itself.
Ianto presses his palm against the older man’s cheek, keeps his fingertips touching the flecks of gray at the man’s temple. There’s no trace of stubble beneath his palm, just as there’s never been. This is somehow comforting.
“I do prefer salt over pepper,” Ianto admits, speaking purely of his tastes in food and yet willing to stretch the metaphor.
This time, the smile is true on its own, no edge to it at all.
Ianto leans forward and when Jack meets him in the middle, the kiss is surprisingly chaste, unexpectedly tender. He feels . . . loved.
There are so many questions he could ask when they pull apart once more, so many that perhaps he should. How old are you now? or Have you got the Retcon ready? or even perhaps Are you really here for me? Instead, he finishes his drink as the captain watches him.
He nods to the door and Jack nods in agreement.
The captain has only ever been to his apartment a few times in Ianto’s view of the universe and he takes the older man’s careful acclimation as a positive sign. Jack looks for things that aren’t there, blinks at an entire wall and Ianto wonders if someday, he’ll hang up photographs or artwork or anything really.
They’ve been silent since Ianto commented on the older man’s age and the silence seems made to last. He doesn’t know what to say, doesn’t know if there’s some sort of protocol for this sort of thing and then Jack turns to him and remarks, “I love what you haven’t done with the place.”
Something involuntary pulls at his lips and he nearly returns the captain’s chuckle. “I’m not sure whether if that’s a compliment, or a future insult.”
Jack’s eyes are blue and clear and there’s almost something terrifying behind them. Sincerity is something he’s long given up looking for and this catches him off his guard, throws him off his balance. Ianto quakes inside, reaches for the captain and finds himself instantly embraced. The force of the motion shakes him and steadies him at once and Ianto is far beyond trying to sort out what it is that he really feels.
The coat beneath his hands is strange, the fabric unfamiliar and making Jack smell wrong. The man beneath the coat, however, the man is still familiar, off in only the slightest of ways. And if it really is that off, if it is that odd or strange for Jack to hold him like he truly wants to, needs to, if that’s wrong, Ianto will never agree with reality. There’s an insistent press against his hip and yes, that’s obvious, of course that’s what Jack wants, of course it is, it’s the same thing as always except for it being completely different.
Ianto pulls back slowly and something in the way that Jack is loath to give him even that space is telling. “Take your coat, sir?” he asks politely, too politely, too politely on purpose.
Jack laughs, replies, “Yes you may” in a tone equally as formal and then utterly fails to remove said article of clothing.
At least it’s blue, Ianto reflects as he toys with one of the buttons holding the coat shut. It looks like a pilot’s jacket, like something out of a decently budgeted science fiction programme. He’s thinking about spaceships and travel through more than space and he makes himself consider the possibility that maybe it’s just a jacket and he should stop thinking so much about it.
The captain sighs in a way both resigned and understanding, touches Ianto’s hand before shucking the unwelcome replacement to his greatcoat. He hands it over and Ianto takes it and they go through the motions of settling in. It’s easier now, with the captain in trousers and a shirt Ianto could nearly imagine are from this century.
He hangs up their coats in the closet and when he comes back, the captain has already poured the both of them drinks. The captain has never done that before but, Ianto muses, maybe he has.
Sitting down across from the older man, he takes his small glass in hand and asks the question he needs to. He says it as simply as he can and when he does, Jack doesn’t look very surprised.
The captain takes a moment before replying, lets the time grow between the asking and the answer; perhaps, he even gives the opportunity to take those two words back, or to clarify.
There’s nothing to clarify. For Jack to do this, to come here, to be here now, there can only be a few reasons. He may die soon, Ianto knows, has always known. There was a time when that thought was a comforting one, a comfort he has at last grown out of.
Ianto waits him out.
The captain shrugs. “I’m out of town,” he replies. “Seemed like a good opportunity, no risk of paradox on my part.”
He wants to press, has the feeling that he shouldn’t. He asks another question instead. “All right. Why me?”
Jack’s head does that slight turn, the one that means he doesn’t get the question, doesn’t understand why it’s being asked. “I would have thought that was obvious,” he says, never the one for declarations.
“I know you, Jack,” Ianto says, lies. He knows enough and that’s what he’ll have to settle for. “I don’t need to know how far into the future you’ve lived to know that there are other people you could be paying visits to.”
He feels surprised at himself once the words are out, but Jack’s expression doesn’t change, doesn’t significantly alter. “I don’t suppose you’ll take ‘you made me happy’ for an answer?” Jack asks. “No?”
Ianto shakes his head, holds back his heart. He’s holding something else back as well, but he can’t be sure whether it’s a smile or tears. “No, sir.”
Jack sighs over-dramatically. “Didn’t think so.”
They’re quiet, for a time. They drink their scotch, set the glasses down upon the coffee table.
“You’re strong enough,” Jack says, but doesn’t say what for. “Don’t tell me you’re not,” he adds when Ianto tries to say just that.
They’re quiet once more, for a longer time. Ianto stands, takes their glasses to the sink. Jack rises, follows. Stands behind him.
“Is this a new hobby of yours?” Ianto asks, glancing over his shoulder. “Lurking behind people.”
“I prefer in front,” Jack corrects. All the same, he steps forward, his chest to the younger man’s back, his arms around Ianto’s waist, fingers playing lightly. His lips brush the skin of the Welshman’s neck, rise to his ear. “But this is nice too.”
Ianto allows his head to fall to the side, gives the captain access. He expects the clever play of teeth and lips and tongue against his neck, is growing hard in the mere anticipation of it, and yet what he receives in the end is a gentle nuzzle, the pressure of Jack’s smooth cheek.
“Let me hold you,” the captain tells him. “Please.”
For perhaps the first time, a question occurs to Ianto, one he has never before asked. “And who’s going to hold you?”
Jack chuckles, and only then does he nip at the offered skin, only then does he press against him in a promise of things to come. “That would be you,” Jack answers and there’s something there, something present beneath the innuendo.
“Yes sir,” Ianto mumbles and does just that.
The captain’s tenderness has ripened with age, has grown and changed into something almost devastating. Maybe it’s the regret behind the motion, perhaps the care, perhaps the gentle caution. His touches are soft and serious, delicate and demanding.
Being treated as such, Ianto feels suddenly fragile.
Jack eases him against the wall, fits his body against the Welshman’s with care. It’s different and strange and difficult, so very difficult for him not to simply grab the captain and force him forward through the steps. He’s practically shaking, not practically, he is, he’s shaking. He’s shaking and his breath is hitching and all the captain’s done is to glide his fingers down his sides, to bring his mouth temptingly close.
Ianto tightens his arms around the older man, moves one hand to touch that ever-unblemished face, kisses him and Jack kisses him back so slowly, so very slowly. He feels as if he’s being savored, feels as if the captain’s tongue — oh god, his tongue — is sampling him with the utmost deliberateness. It feels as if he’s touching a man who hasn’t been touched in lifetimes, a man who’s forgotten how to touch others in return and so must relearn.
It’s frighteningly tender and he could nearly weep for the future, for all of time to come.
He pushes against the captain, shifts and presses and pulls at him in all the little ways that let Jack think he’s still in control. He gives the man everything he silently asks for and a few things more.
“I want to take care of you,” he confides softly to the older man, to the weariness held within the circle of his arms.
It’s Jack’s turn to shake, maybe it is. Ianto’s hands might be shaking or the captain might have trembled under them, but either way, the result is the same. Jack presses a kiss to the side of his neck, presses lips and a word against skin.
His hand in the captain’s hair, he guides them down the hall, reminds Jack where the bedroom is. “Only if you say ‘thank you’ after, you realize,” he murmurs quietly.
“Oh,” Jack says, his smile faint against sensitive skin. “Well, in that case . . .”
“Do shut up, sir,” he rebukes lightly and when the captain laughs, he feels less afraid of him, for him.
Jack groans into him, sounding almost pained. It’s wrong, it’s in reverse; it’s backwards, the way he groans with Ianto under him, Ianto trying to relax and control his breathing and adjust, and really, this should feel so much different and not so incredibly, so completely the same. No, not completely.
It’s physically the same, very much physically the same, but what’s behind it, oh, that’s . . .
The captain whispers his name, punctuates each thrust into and biting kiss to his neck with that demanding, possessive word. But Jack’s not possessive, has never been possessive, has driven Ianto half-mad with his inability to be possessive. Jack’s more than willing to share, but no, he’s not, not any longer.
He thinks he knows what the captain’s asking for. “Jack . . . Jack.”
The captain shoves into him harder, makes reality flicker and that’s how he knows it’s real, from the unreality of it. “Like that,” the captain commands, pants. “Like, ah, that.”
“Jack,” he repeats and wonders how long it’s been since the man inside of him has been Jack Harkness. He wonders and then his mind stumbles and falls and refuses to get back up, decides it likes it down there in the gutter.
He says the name over and over, cries it out as encouragement, as a plea. Said and panted and growled, the word loses meaning, loses coherency, becomes just another sound of lovemaking, becomes a strangled syllable and nothing more.
“Ianto,” the captain growls and that word has meaning, that word still has meaning. It always will, when coming from those lips.
Maybe it can have enough meaning for them both.
He has to think about it for some time before it fully sinks in.
His captain reacts differently now, makes a different sort of noise when Ianto uses teeth and tongue than he used to, than he still does. It’s a subtle change, one Ianto will never have to accustom himself to. They’re all subtle changes in Jack, for the most part. Until he looks, that is.
He breathes the older man in, pressed up against his side, head on his shoulder because he knows the captain likes the tickle of his hair in unexpected places rather than for any actual comfort. No matter how old the captain becomes, it would seem, he will never have shoulders fit for head-resting.
It crosses Ianto’s mind to readjust, to move and shift, to replace his hand on Jack’s chest with his cheek, to make himself comfortable and possibly surprise a laugh out of the man. It could work, has worked before, when Ianto shakes his head.
He considers it, but the captain’s hand finds his, envelops his. Is that hand bigger now? Are the fingers changed? No, no they’re not, no they haven’t and it seems wrong in a way, in every way. He’s only ever had this feeling when looking in the mirror, when he saw the reflected survivor of Canary Wharf who looked exactly like Ianto Jones, who looked like Ianto Jones and yet was someone else entirely.
The captain’s fingertips trace up his arm, following the lines of muscle and vein in something that looks like memorization, something that feels like it.
Ianto lifts his head, dares to look at the captain’s face.
“When did you stop aging?” he asks when the man raises an eyebrow, the same arching change to his features that Ianto already knows so well. The captain is relearning him with each breath, and yet Ianto still knows him, can pretend he does.
“A while back,” he replies, as vague as ever. “I stopped paying attention for a while and then, well.” His shrug puts slight friction between their skin and the slowness of it could be deliberate, probably is. “It’s been decades. You know. Give or take a century or two.”
The captain looks at him as if expecting him to grin back or to roll his eyes, expecting him to treat it all as the joke he seems bent on telling it as.
Instead, Ianto touches a cheek boyishly smooth and twists his neck to kiss lips that are still soft and firm and bloody perfect at any task they’re set to. He keeps his eyes open, gazes into the heavy-lidded eyes of the other man, into the oldest eyes he will ever see.
“I assume something horrible will happen to the calendar in the future,” he murmurs quietly, after. “Some sort of interplanetary law banning it.”
“Oh, much worse than that,” the captains says, “but I wouldn’t want to scare you.”
“I’m not sure my OCD tendencies could handle it,” he agrees and Jack smiles, smiles and kisses him once more. Every kiss is once more and just the once, feels like it might be, feels like a good-bye that’s coming in advance, a good-bye that has come far too late.
Deft fingers run through Ianto’s hair, turn his head slightly as the captain looks at him, that smile fading into seriousness. Those old, old eyes study him, move over him with an almost physical touch, a touch similar to the hand on his arm, the fingers in his hair.
This is a memory in the making, Ianto knows.
“I’m different,” he says, even though he knows it’s the other way around in reality. “From how you remember.”
Jack nods, a slight and repeating motion of his head that fades away with time.
Ianto rolls on top of him, half rolls, half climbs. “How did we meet?” he asks, almost afraid of the answer he won’t hear.
“A Weevil,” the captain says, surprising him. “At night.” The man’s lips quirk as he pulls the Welshman down for a kiss. “Jones, Ianto Jones,” he murmurs before releasing him. It’s not truly a release of course, just a strong hand relinquishing control over the back of Ianto’s head. “It’s been, what, a year and a half?”
“Nearly,” he admits, feeling unexpectedly ashamed when his first thought is And you weren’t even here for all of it. And his second: “How long-”
His “for you” is swallowed up, the captain rolling them over with no small force and then all Ianto can do is try to hold on, try to withstand the sudden onslaught and reciprocate because there’s little point in Jack reaching out if there’s no one reaching back.
“Fuck me,” Jack orders and if it’s not precisely what he needs, it’s certainly what he wants.
Ianto can give him that much.
In the weeks and months and maybe years to come, Ianto will have to repress the urge to yell at his captain, possibly even to hit him. His current captain. This won’t happen during their working hours — it mostly won’t, anyway, not unless his captain takes a moment or three to stare off after Gwen. Or unless, of course, they’re shagging during office hours, which is never out of the question.
He’ll have this urge during sex.
He’s sure of it.
Watching the play behind Jack’s eyes, watching the emotion and awareness and lust and need as he slides into him, Ianto finally, finally knows what it feels like to have Jack’s full attention. To finally know that in this moment, Jack wants him and only him. He’s thought it before, has hoped for it, but this is the first time he’s ever been sure, completely certain.
For one temporally warped, impossible moment, Jack is his. Solely his.
And that’s terrifying. It’s so terrifying that Ianto never wants to feel calm again. He’s shaking as he realizes it, trembling as it occurs to him that this moment was, for Jack, a long time coming. This is his captain, this is his boss, this is his Jack making love to a memory.
This is his Jack, learning at long last to see the man who loves him.
“Show me a scar you don’t have,” he mumbles into the captain’s neck. They’ve cleaned themselves up, had a moderately exciting shower and Ianto has even gone so far as to change the sheets. After all that, he’s tired.
He must be tired. Jack’s getting comfortable to sprawl on.
“Hm?” The hand on his back doesn’t still, a lightly rubbing palm increasing pressure.
He closes his eyes, kisses skin that smells both musky and clean. “Mm.”
“What’d you say?”
“Not important,” he replies. “Sleep-talk.”
The hand on his back travels to his shoulder, brushes down his arm to find his wrist. Ianto’s hand is guided to the captain’s chest and he shifts on top of him to better see what’s not there. Jack’s fingers bring his to a spot, a simple, unblemished patch of skin. He touches, strokes down a ways.
“That’s over your heart,” Ianto says, says as if asking for confirmation.
“Yeah,” he replies.
The question he asks is short, lacking its ending. “Did someone . . . ?”
“Yeah,” he replies once again, before adding, “It grew back. Painfully cliché, having your heart cut out. Well. Ripped.”
“I’m sorry,” Ianto says softly.
“Don’t be,” Jack tells him. “It’s not something you ever did to me.”
One of them cries, maybe.
Or maybe the other does.
It’s possible that they take turns, holding and crying, and it’s just as possible that they don’t.
But when it comes down to it, Ianto’s had a long, strange day, so he’s allowed to have some long, strange dreams. If that is what they are. They might not be.
When it comes down to it, it’s all just possibilities and little details and there are much better things to focus on. Things like Jack’s soft smile, the almost gentle expression that creeps across his face as he sleeps, as Ianto watches him sleep for the first time.
His eyes are shut and his breathing is slow. Sleep touches him with light fingertips, traces his ribcage and caresses his face. He turns towards it instinctually and it takes him a moment to realize he’s being held.
“Sir?” He’s groggy and tired and so very nearly peaceful.
“I have to go,” the captain replies as his body tells Ianto that he’d rather stay. His leg is draped over the Welshman’s thighs; his arm warms the younger man’s chest. “It’s a temporal physics thing.”
He waits until the older man has his trousers back on before he asks, “Will you be back?”
“If I remember correctly,” Jack says, “my flight back from UNIT came in at about . . . twenty minutes from now. I’m cutting this a bit close.”
“Not what I meant,” he replies.
“You could,” he says, “if you wanted to.”
Something in that tone tells him not to push, not to pressure, not to back down. And he thinks, wonders: if he could go back to Lisa, go back to when the world seemed so much brighter and full of so much love, would he?
But no, that’s not the real issue. The question is, would he be able to leave?
The captain stands in the near-darkness of his window-lit bedroom, stands in the near-silence of his never silent apartment. He pulls on his shirt, buttons it up, and yanks on his boots. In the dark, it’s impossible to see the flecks of gray at his temples, impossible to see any difference between this man of the future and the man he is now. It’s impossible to see, and yet so easy to know.
Walking to the door, he hesitates, turns back. “You can’t tell me about this,” the captain says, as if searching for an excuse to speak. “Not a single word.”
“I know,” Ianto says and he imagines he can see Jack’s lips quirk. More seriously, he adds, “I can keep a secret, Jack. I promise.”
He sees the captain nod, can tell the motion in the near-darkness. He stands in the dark, pads over to the man with neither a stitch of clothing nor a shred of self-consciousness.
One reaches out, but both hold the other man close, hold him with nothing akin to gentleness. It hurts, pains in the way that means they’re not simply alive but living.
“Say it,” the captain asks without asking. “Even if you don’t yet- even if you don’t.”
“I love you,” Ianto says and the words have never left him so readily.
“Thank you,” Jack says and kisses him.
It’s not a declaration of love, of course, but it’s still better than a good-bye.
In the morning, Ianto wakes up sore and proceeds to spend a frantic half-hour in front of an assembly of mirrors, searching for any visible mark of the night before.
The aches say it happened and while this is all very well and good for Ianto’s sanity, he doesn’t think inexplicable bite marks would go over very well with the captain. The present captain. The same man, only younger.
Jack Harkness. Younger.
Now there’s a mind-altering thought that should not, under any circumstances, be allowed inside his brain. Not before coffee, at the very least.
He stumbles into his kitchenette, rubbing at his eyes and slowly processing the night before and vaguely wondering when it’ll happen, or if. That he is no longer certain of the once-imminent Retcon dose awaiting him is another thought that he doesn’t look too closely at.
All the same, he’s not surprised when he finds the pill on his counter with and a glass of water and a note. He reads it.
The handwriting has changed; it seems strangely unpracticed, as if the captain hasn’t had cause to write in English for some time. All the same, it’s still distinguishable, still the well-known scrawl he copes with on a daily basis. There are five words on the slip of paper, five words and a Retcon pill.