TITLE: Keep Holding On
AUTHOR: Erin Giles
DISCLAIMER: Torchwood is property of the BBC.
SUMMARY: If Jack and Ianto are going to make it through the aftermath of Exit Wounds they're going to need each other.
"Ianto?" Jack put a hand on the young Welshman's knee, squeezing slightly in reassurance.
Ianto's tired eyes turned up to look at Jack, blinking blearily in the dimly lit hub. He was still wearing the same suit that he'd been wearing for the past god knew how long. He felt as if he'd been awake for years, truth be told he couldn't remember the last time he had sat down. The couch dipped beside him to accommodate Jack and Ianto's gaze followed the older man as he leant back into the cushions, letting out a sigh. Ianto glanced down the stairs of the autopsy bay. He had scrubbed until his hands were raw and his knuckles were bleeding but he could still she Tosh's blood on the tiles. He turned back to Jack to find tears in the older man's eyes.
"I'm sorry Ianto," Jack breathed out. "I never meant for-"
"Don't." Ianto's voice was barely above a whisper when he spoke but his meaning was clear. He didn't want to hear Jack's apologies for his brother's mistakes. He didn't want to hear anything Jack had to say right now; it wouldn't make everything right in the world, it wouldn't bring back Tosh or Owen, it wouldn't rebuild Cardiff and it certainly wouldn't quell the fears in the pit of Ianto's stomach.
Ianto let out a breath he didn't know he had been holding as he leaned back into the couch beside Jack, his head rolling over on the cushions so he could see Jack. His eyes traced the tear tracks down the older man's face. He could still see soil clinging to the inside of Jack's ear and without thinking he reached out a hand to wipe it away.
"You didn't wash behind your ears." Ianto half mocked when Jack started at the touch. Jack licked his dry lips as Ianto finished wiping the soil from his ear.
"I didn't think I'd ever see you again." Jack whispered after a long moment, respective eyes still on each other as Jack reached for Ianto's hand that was idly sitting in his lap.
"I don't want to talk about it Jack." Ianto replied hoarsely and Jack could see unshed tears glistening in the young man's eyes. They fell silently down Ianto's cheeks as he continued to look at Jack, not saying anything, just watching the steady rise and fall of Jack's chest, the pulse in his neck strong and strangely hypnotic.
"Maybe you're right, maybe we shouldn't," Jack removed his hand from Ianto's and pulled himself rather abruptly to his feet.
"Jack?" Ianto's voice sounded near broken as he looked up at Jack, desperation in his voice. "What are you talking about?"
"Us, Ianto." Jack turned sharply to face Ianto who was now leaning forward on the couch, a hand in midair reaching out to Jack. Jack instinctively stepped back from it. "I've been buried for the last two thousand years and all I could think about while I was down there was getting back here and stopping it all, praying that nothing had happened to you." Jack sighed, moving over to lean on Tosh's vacant desk.
"I don't want you to die here. I want you to go. Just leave Torchwood and everything behind. Go somewhere, start a new life." Jack sounded defeated but there was conviction in his words as a silence descended between the two before Ianto was all but leaping from the couch.
"Fuck Jack! I love you!" Ianto all but screamed at Jack, spinning him round so that Jack could see the tears and pain glistening in Ianto's eyes. "I'm in love with you." Ianto repeated more softly.
"Did you never wonder why I stayed after Lisa? It wasn't just because I had nowhere to go, nothing else. It was you Jack. You gave me meaning again and all I could think about when John told us where you were was digging you out with my bare hands if I had to. When Cardiff was falling down around us all I wanted was to be with you at the end of it all." Ianto sighed, sagging back onto the couch.
"Torchwood will kill me, Jack. Everyone dies young here." Ianto looked back up at Jack to find the older man speechless. "But I don't care," Ianto shrugged. "As long as I'm with you."
Tears were falling freely down Ianto's cheeks now, running over old tear tracks and making fresh ones as they went. Jack's heart felt like it was going to burst with all the conceivable emotions that were running rampant through him, everyone flitting across his face unchecked.
"I'm scared Ianto." Jack's voice was deafening in the wake of Ianto's anger that had all but subsided, leaking back into the walls of the hub and merging with the overwhelming grief that still clung to them. Ianto felt at that moment that if he just took a shower and changed his clothes he could just wash away the last few days. As if soap and water could wash away the horrors just as it had washed away the dirt of the last two thousand years from Jack; but it was ridiculous and he knew it.
"So am I." Ianto replied after a long moment of just staring at Jack, watching the now rapid rise and fall of his chest. Jack's eyes got wild in his head for a moment, darting about the floor of the hub before he was moving towards the invisible lift.
"I need some fresh air." Jack muttered as he stepped onto the lift, Ianto's presence beside him almost immediately as the lift jolted into life.
When they reached the Plass it was deserted in the early morning light, no morning commuters, no early morning tourists trying to snap the sunrise over the bay; not even any sign of the police. Cardiff was in silent shock. The gravel of the Plass sounded too loud beneath their feet as they walked down towards the Bay, the wind almost deafening in their ears. When they reached the railings on the boardwalk Jack leant against them breathing deep as seagulls squawked overhead. The boats docked bobbed happily in the slight waves, buoys bouncing off the side of jetty.
When Jack turned to look at Ianto he found that the young man was still watching him intently as if scared what Jack was going to do next.
"You don't really want me to go do you?" Ianto's voice sounded childlike and innocent. Jack shook his head as he felt his heart break a little bit more, turning his head back out to sea to try and quell the sobs that were building painfully in his chest.
"Good." Ianto sighed as Jack felt his hand covered by Ianto's where it was still gripping the railing. "'Cause I'm not going anywhere."
Jack turned back to Ianto and offered him a teary smile which Ianto returned. Jack watched those baby blue eyes blinking back tears and he wondered what he had done to deserve this man and how he could even think of pushing him away. Jack huffed out a laugh, pulling the younger man into his arms in a half hug, kissing his forehead.
"I'm such a idiot." Jack sighed, continuing to hold Ianto close as he leaned their heads together, glancing back out into the bay.
"Well I didn't want to be the one to say it." Ianto's voice was mocking but so very tired sounding now.
"You know you're not alone in this Jack." Ianto continued after a moment as Jack felt his hand fiddling absentmindedly with one of the belt loops on his trousers. "You don't always need to be the one who's the strong stoic type."
"Look who's talking." Jack mumbled into Ianto's hair, watching as a seagull picked at a polystyrene plate left on a bench by some drunken teenager. Ianto sighed into Jack's shoulder, his hand tightening on Jack's hip as the wind whipped round them. Ianto shuddered involuntarily, muffling a yawn as they watched the sun rising over the bay, the stars fading from sight. Jack pulled away from Ianto, grasping his hand firmly as it slipped from Jack's waist.
"Come on," Jack tugged gently on Ianto's hand, pulling him towards the tourist office. "Let's get you cleaned up. Sleep wouldn't go amiss either."
"I don't," Ianto started as they stepped out of the wind into the relative warmth of the tourist office.
"If I'm going to keep fighting Ianto I need you with me." Jack interrupted, turning to Ianto as he closed the early morning light out by shutting the door. Ianto just stared at Jack again for a long moment, tears slipping down his cheeks before sobs were spilling from him unbidden. Jack reached out and pulled Ianto close to him, kissing the tears away from his cheeks before Ianto felt Jack's warm lips on own. Arms came round him enveloping him in a comforting and needy embrace as the kiss deepened and Ianto felt Jack pouring everything that had been left unsaid into the kiss.
"We'll make it through this." Jack whispered as he pulled back, resting his forehead against Ianto's so that his warm breath was hot on Ianto's face. Ianto swallowed, nodding slightly before his head slipped onto Jack's shoulder, nuzzling Jack's neck that still smelt of soil. It spoiled the smell of Jack now, mingling with the 51st century pheromones, but it was still Jack, alive and whole and in Ianto's arms; and Ianto never wanted to let go.
Ianto let Jack manipulate him into the shower and respectively into a pair of boxer's. He sat on the end of the bed, watching Jack intently as Jack inspected the cuts and bruises on his head and shoulder. Warm hands worked over Ianto's shoulder and the aching muscles there trying to relive some of the pain, but it was nothing compared to the numbing ache in the pit of his stomach. His hand involuntarily reached out to Jack, his palm resting flat against Jack's chest where his heart was. Ianto closed his eyes feeling the thud of Jack's heart against his hand, soothing in it's rhythmic throb, a reassurance that Jack was still there, that his heart wasn't broken beyond repair.
"It's not stopping anytime soon." Jack replied with a chuckle that vibrated through Ianto. Ianto withdrew his hand and opened his eyes, meeting Jack's gaze.
"Just checking." He replied softly before he sunk back into the bed, pulling Jack with him. They settled into each other's arms neither one holding the other as they both stared up though the hatch, watching the blue glow of the hub dancing on Jack's office ceiling.
"Promise me something Ianto." Jack's husky voice broke the deadly hush.
"Anything Jack." Ianto whispered back in the gloom, his hand moving slightly so it was resting over Jack's heart again, the steady thud lulling him to sleep.
"Hold on." Jack replied after a lengthy pause.
"To life." Jack breathed onto Ianto's cheek. "For as long as you can, keep holding on."
Ianto let out a shaky breath, curling himself closer to Jack.
"I promise." Ianto replied. He knew he couldn't promise he'd never die, but he could promise to hold on for as long as he could.
"Good." There was genuine relief in Jack's voice. "I don't think I can lose someone I'm in love with, not after I've lost so many people I love."
Ianto felt hot tears swelling up in his eyes again but he blinked them away, closing his eyes and surrendering to sleep. Jack listened to the steady thrum of Ianto's heart mimicking his own as he lay in the silence, eyes closed against the horrors of the world for the moment. Even though it felt like the world was falling down around them for this moment they had each other, and somehow that was going to make it okay.