Title: Quiet The World Can Be

Author: Vera Steine

Disclaimer: I don't own them, don't make any money, etc. They belong to RTD and the BBC. The lyrics at the top belong to Dido, and can be found on her album, "Life For Rent".

Rating: K+ (PG)

Pairing: Jack/Ianto

Spoilers: Exit Wounds

Author's notes: At last, something other than post-EOD came out of my brain… I'd been sitting on this story idea since Exit Wounds aired, but had to do my grieving first :). I don't know if it turned out quite the way I planned, but I hope you'll like it anyway.

Thanks to my sister, Lady Snowflake, for the beta read.

Inspired by that brief moment where Ianto hugs Jack, and born out of my frustration when since that moment, for the next eight minutes of the episode (yes, I was counting) they didn't have a single moment together anymore. Grrr!

Thanks to everyone who reviewed my previous pieces, you guys rock! All reviews will be fed to my plot bunnies, so please press the button at the end to let me know what you think!

--

Oh how quiet, quiet the world can be
When it's just you and little me
Everything is clear and everything is new
So you won't be leaving will you

From: "Don't Leave Home", by Dido

--

We thought we'd lost you. When Jack came back, he went to him, turned his face into Jack's shoulder for the briefest moment, and assured himself that the man he loved was still there, still very much alive, still breathing and still the same. But the universe was in shambles, and there was no more time after that to assure himself some more of that fact. And because Ianto had always prided himself on not getting in Jack's way, on never asking for more than Jack could give, he didn't do anything more than that.

And then… The horror of not only losing Toshiko, but Owen as well, two people in the world he counted as friends, as something akin to family… He was numb the first few days, going through the motions, making cups of coffee and forgetting, for brief moments, not to make any for Tosh and Owen. Packing up their things, cleaning out their respective flats, and that wretched video. The end is where we begin. Ianto wasn't sure.

--

A week later, it hit him that something was wrong with him. He'd been going through the motions like always, making coffee, this time only for three people, and taking Jack his cup, he'd replied to Jack's absentminded thanks with a similarly absentminded, that's all right, sir. It was the hurt in Jack's eyes at the term of address that made him realise he'd said it. He extricated himself from the office without another word, not wanting to deal with what had just happened before he could figure out what had just happened.

He and Jack hadn't been together since it happened. Not for lack of trying on Jack's part, that is, a few subtle looks had been sent Ianto's way at the end of the workday, last night, and the night before that. He knew Jack well enough now that he'd known what Jack was asking without putting it into words. Please stay. But he'd found he couldn't, feeling the pressure of grief on his shoulders, on his chest, keeping him shrouded from the rest of the world. He wasn't ready to deal with the rest, with Jack and what had happened to him, with the horror he'd felt when he'd realised Jack had left, albeit not voluntarily, again. How many times could that happen before he'd drown in his feelings for Jack?

He took a deep breath. There was also Tosh and Owen, his grief for them, the constant reminders no matter how many things they'd pack into boxes, and the reminder that a life in Torchwood meant an early death, not only for him, but for everyone around him. How many times could he deal with that before that, too, would overwhelm? The distance he had unconsciously created between himself and Jack just now, was probably just an expression of all those fears. It didn't make it any easier. He wondered if he should let it happen, let them drift apart until they were both safe from being hurt by each other.

--

He hadn't made his decision, but Jack made it for him. A week later, Torchwood returning as much to normal as it could with two team members gone, coming back from a weevil hunt late at night, they said goodnight to Gwen and after she left, Jack broke through his defences with one simple sentence. I don't want to stay here.

Ianto looked into his lover's eyes and saw the despair Jack wasn't putting into words. Letting them drift apart might be the right thing to do, it wasn't what his heart wanted. He loved Jack, and couldn't bear to see him hurting. He smiled, sadly, and answered. Come home with me.

--

It wasn't as strange as he'd always thought it would be. Because he had thought about it, about Jack in his small flat on the outskirts of Cardiff, about the little things that would change between them if they'd ever share a living space that wasn't the hub. And he'd always dismissed it as impossible, Jack didn't do domestic and Ianto wasn't asking him to. He was happy, had been happy, with what had been offered. First, their… arrangement, and after Jack's return, an unspoken measure of commitment. Dabble. Yes, but with some strings attached.

Yet, when he led Jack through his front door to his living room, it wasn't as strange as he'd thought. It wasn't strange to have Jack sitting on the comfortable sofa that dominated the room, and he didn't feel awkward about offering coffee. When he returned with the two mugs they drank their coffee in silence, until Jack reached out, took the mug from his hand and set both their coffees down on the table. Ianto… His tone was plaintive, and just a little needy. All Ianto could do in reply was shake his head slightly, and kiss Jack.

--

Having Jack in his bed, as opposed to being in Jack's, wasn't as amazing as he'd thought it would be, but it was good. Jack didn't make any jokes about the bed being larger, and Ianto didn't say anything either, just rolled over afterwards, and settled his head on Jack's chest, just under his chin, as he liked to do when he got the chance. He thought he felt Jack kiss his hair before drifting off to sleep.

The morning after was the least awkward of all. They took their turns in the bathroom without having to say anything, and when Ianto handed Jack a mug of coffee as soon as he stepped into the kitchen, Jack beamed a smile at him. Jack drove them into work in the SUV, and there was nothing strange about that either.

--

The next night, all Jack did was look at him. Ianto knew, and nodded, not minding. Jack came home with him again, and Ianto said, you can always come here. The look on Jack's face was answer enough. They didn't stay at the hub anymore after that. Ianto asked after two weeks, even though he knew the answer before he asked the question. Too many ghosts, Jack explained, shivers down my spine when I'm alone there.

After a month, Ianto gave up the pretence, and gave Jack his own key, made space in cupboards and closets, and generally accommodated Jack's presence in his flat. Gwen raised an eyebrow at the clear evidence that no one stayed at the hub anymore at night, but didn't say anything. When she was alone with Ianto that afternoon, she said, I'm glad you're happy.

--

Somewhere during the week after Jack officially moved, Ianto gathered up his courage. I don't expect you to reciprocate. Jack gave him a quizzical look. But I love you, and I needed you to know that. Jack smiled, a quiet, sad, knowing smile, and replied, I know.

--

finis.