Disclaimer: they are not mine, I just play with them.
Rating: T (PG-13)
Spoilers: Exit Wounds
A/N: finally had the courage to watch Exit Wounds again. This is the result, I know it's a drop in an ocean of fics, but I hope you will enjoy it anyway. Please review.
"Home" is proving a little stubborn and the elusive, but don't worry, I'm still working on it.

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There was nothing left to do. Jack had sent John Hart on his way, and Ianto had chosen not to watch the other time agent leave. He wasn't sure he'd be able to do it without either hitting or shooting the man. Instead, he and Gwen had set themselves the task of clearing away Tosh's and Owen's last effects. Jack had eventually joined them, clearing up the autopsy bay, until at last the files had been wiped from the computer and that tragic, awful message had played out.

Now Ianto just felt hollow, the pressure of grief mixing with concern over Jack, who seemed to be holding himself together far better than anyone had the right to expect of him. He heard footsteps on the metal grating of the walkway and looked up to see Gwen approach. She crouched by his side where he sat with his back against the wall next to the coffee maker, and lay a hand on his shoulder. "Ianto," she said softly, "I was thinking of going home, to Rhys. We're done here now, I just… If you want me to stay, I will."

She was looking at him expectantly with those big dark eyes, and he roused the effort to slightly shake his head. "Go home, Gwen. Go to Rhys, you deserve that."

"Will you be okay?" she asked, her eyes boring into his.

He realised belatedly she was worried about leaving him alone with Jack, about leaving the two of them with only each other for comfort. Right now, he didn't know where Jack was, somewhere in the hub tending to some cleanup that needed doing, or at least that he'd decided needed doing in that moment. Anything to occupy his mind, Ianto knew the feeling. He tried to smile, but it came out more as a grimace. "I'll be okay, Gwen. We'll be okay." Then, with an uncharacteristic frankness he added, "I'll go find Jack, make sure he doesn't bury himself in work." For a moment, he froze at his own choice of words. He saw it mirrored in her eyes.

"Take some time for yourself, Ianto." Her hand squeezed his shoulder momentarily. "I'll come in in the morning, we have to clean up, find some way to get through this."

She sounded more upbeat than she had that afternoon, he wasn't sure if it was because Jack had told her to, or because she tried to be strong for all of them. "Okay." He couldn't quite rouse himself enough to get up. "Gwen --"

She looked at him expectantly.

He made a futile gesture. "We'll cope," he managed, though the words seemed empty and useless to him. "Somehow, we'll get through it." He was trying to convince himself as much as her.

She nodded silently. After a moment, she leaned in and kissed his cheek, whispering softly, the tears audible, "Goodnight, Ianto."

With that, she pushed off and walked along the walkways to the exit. He didn't know how long he sat there until he finally unfurled himself and went to make coffee. He felt like he spent most of his time making coffee as a cover for something to do, as a cover for a way to approach his co-workers, to approach Jack. The machine hissed and spluttered a little more than usual, and he made a mental note on his long mental checklist to look it over when he had a chance. In the end, it spat out the dark liquid into the blue and white striped mug, and when it was done he picked it up and walked down to the hub floor proper. A quick check with one of the computers told him that CCTV was still out throughout most of the building, and in the end he had to resort to his comms to check where Jack was.

After a short delay, Jack responded that he was in the cells on level nine, and Ianto headed down that way still clutching the cup of coffee as if he needed an excuse to go see his lover.

Ianto was gratified to see Janet had been fed, which meant that Jack had actually done some work and wasn't just hiding down on level nine. He stood in the corridor and regarded Jack, momentarily feeling lost for anything to say or do. Jack looked back at him with eyes that didn't shine as brightly as they had when they'd woken up that morning, and Ianto had to remind himself that it wasn't that morning, hadn't been that morning for Jack for a while now. He stood for a long time looking at Jack, and they both seemed to be holding in whatever it was that neither of them was saying. At last, Ianto extended the mug a little and said, "I brought coffee."

The words were superfluous, but seemed to serve some sort of purpose. Jack took a few steps toward him and took the mug, smiling gratefully and taking a sip. "Thanks."

Ianto looked him up and down, somehow still trying to reassure himself that the man in front of him was Jack, that he hadn't lost him, that those horrifying moments that began as he'd stood on the roof of the server building and had listened to everyone's frantic calls for Jack were finally over.

Jack caught him looking, and paused with the mug halfway to his mouth. "What is it?"

Ianto shook his head as if to clear it from the thoughts. "Nothing."

Jack nodded curtly and finished the coffee. He looked around as if trying to find some place to put the mug down, and when there was none, he simply stood there holding it. They regarded each other in silence once more. Ianto's heart was aching, the grief was shrouding his mind in what felt like cotton wool, he could see it reflected in Jack's eyes, the deadness of spirit, the isolation of your own silent bubble. Jack's beautiful blue eyes weren't sparkling anymore, they were red rimmed and he looked worn, haggard, and drawn.

Ianto remembered Gwen, asking him if he was okay to stay there by himself. She'd been worried about him, while he'd been worried about Jack. He didn't know how long they stood there, and finally roused himself from his lethargy and took charge. He reached out and took the mug from Jack's hand, holding the mug in his left hand as with his right he took Jack's hand in his own and pulled him along the corridors and out of level nine, back up to the hub proper. Jack followed, unresisting, as he led him up to Jack's office and then down into the bunker. Jack cooperated silently when he got them both ready for the shower, and responded as expected when Ianto handed him his toothbrush and soap. The most disturbing fact about all of it was that Ianto had never shared a shower with Jack before that didn't come with a battalion of suggestive comments and flirty touches. Now, there were none.

They crawled into bed together and Jack automatically looped an arm around his waist. Ianto settled against him with a blissful sigh. He could feel Jack's heartbeat against his back, and there had been a moment today that he hadn't been sure he'd ever feel that again. Abruptly he shuddered, and Jack's grip on him tightened, and he felt soft lips press against the back of his neck. At last, he spoke again.

"There was a time I wondered if I'd see the sun come up."

"Me, too," was Jack's reply, his voice twisted in anguish and bitterness.

Ianto realised his mistake in an instant, and found Jack's hand where it rested against his abdomen and intertwined their fingers. "I'm sorry, I didn't think. What you went through --"

He stopped when he felt Jack's lips against his skin again. "It wasn't so bad. It wasn't as bad as you think."

Ianto froze, because when John had told them about Jack being buried under the city so long ago, it had seemed impossible that he would still be there, survived that; he'd been sure he'd never see his lover again, at least not the same and as he remembered him. Jack's fingers stroked his. "The ring John gave me, it did more than emit a signal. It's a point-to-point teleport, you can't jump location, just travel along the timeline. It was a bit of a gamble, I was off by a good hundred years, but I didn't spend so very long underground."

Ianto held his breath for a moment, imagining the horror of being buried underground for even a short period of time, and failed to understand how Jack could sound so calm about it. In a rush, he asked, "How long did you spend underground?"

"About a few weeks," Jack replied softly, "I reckon. It's a bit hard, measuring time when you're --" he broke off.

Ianto could feel every inch of Jack's skin that was touching his, could feel the tension in the other man's body as they lay together, both exhausted and neither close to sleep. "Jack --" he managed finally, his voice choking on his lover's name as he suddenly felt every ounce of the grief, anguish, and terror of the day.

"Ssh," Jack soothed, burying his face in Ianto's hair, his mouth against the soft skin at the nape, his voice muffled as he spoke. "I'm sorry, about everything, I'm sorry, I really am, it's my --"

Jack's voice was breaking, and he let the words out in a string, and Ianto knew what he was going to say next and cut him off. "No, it's not. You're not responsible."

His outburst made Jack stiffen behind him, but the emotions Jack's words had roused in him gave him enough energy to shake the lethargy again and turn around in Jack's arms. There was nothing he could say, there was nothing they could say to each other anymore. He leaned in then and kissed Jack, because he needed it, needed the kiss to be real because maybe then he could believe it was over, even though they'd lost half the team and it would never really, truly be over, and he needed to give that reassurance in the only way he knew how to give it, but when Jack kissed back, it didn't feel the same as it had a two days ago. And at that, Ianto's heart shattered just a little more.

--

finis