Rating: PG-13 (T)
Disclaimer: I don't own them, I don't make any money of them. They belong to the BBC.
Spoilers: Almost Perfect (novel -- probably required reading to understand fic), Army of Ghosts (Doctor Who)
A/N: thanks to mad_jaks for the fast beta, used_songs for introducing me to the word "visceral", and to misswinterhill for coming up with the plot.
When you take your eye off the ball, you lose focus.
He hadn't been thinking when he'd handed Ianto the tablet. He hadn't been thinking when he'd taken it from the locked medical cabinet, or when the glimmer of the idea formed in his mind. He hadn't, for a single second, been thinking what this could mean for Ianto. He'd been thinking, instead, how fast he could get things back to normal -- it was strange, so strange, how you could miss someone who was right there -- and he needed normal to keep from losing it.
Now he was sat on the floor with Ianto sitting next to him, sobbing quietly and biting his hand to keep the sound low as if, somehow, that made it less real.
Ianto had let Jack put his arm around his shoulders, but had resisted letting Jack pull him close. He was rejecting the offered comfort, though nothing in his voice had accused Jack. (Jack accused himself, but that was a whole other matter.)
"I remember... the blades, Jack, the knives... the blood, oh god, the blood... and brains--"
It was then that Ianto had dissolved into the sobs that were still shaking his body. Male again, but at what cost that transformation had come, Jack wasn't sure. Jack squeezed his shoulder, softly, feeling Ianto's lungs struggling for air while he tried to hold the grief in.
"Jack--" Ianto forced out a few moments later, his voice strangled, eyes scrunched closed.
Jack replied automatically, "Here," and Ianto turned bodily in his direction, like a child seeking safety in the dark. Jack shifted, moving his legs out of the way, and pulled Ianto in, unresisting now, needing.
Ianto's face soaked Jack's shirt as Ianto pressed his head against his chest. Jack wrapped him up -- as he had done when he'd gone to Ianto's flat to check up on him, pulling him physically close because everything was strange, different, and he needed, too -- and felt Ianto's slim body tremble with such heartache his vision blurred and his eyes burned.
Gwen's heels tapped on the morgue floor and Jack looked up quickly, startled. Gwen's dark eyes widened when she saw them, but she stayed silent, hovering. Jack shook his head slightly and she nodded, biting her lip; he saw her eyes moisten with the compassion that he loved her so much for. She backtracked; one last look, and she was gone around the corner.
Ianto cried, and Jack rubbed his back, feeling moisture make tracks on his own cheeks. "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry," he whispered at last, inadequately.
Ianto lifted his head, face swollen and eyes red. He nodded, tried to speak, but no words came out. Jack kissed him then, soft pressure against his eyes, tasting salt and sadness in equal measure, and wished the damage to both their lives undone.
Ianto shuddered silently and spoke at last. "Some things we're not meant to remember."
The words cut through Jack, truth like glass so bright, it could be a motto if it wouldn't kill him with the hurt of it. Ianto sounded collected, the words so well chosen, but Jack knew better; he heard the tremble in Ianto's voice, saw the composure for the front that Ianto wore in times of crisis, the projection that made people pass him by without a second glance and call him 'competent' or 'professional' without thinking about what went on inside.
He kissed Ianto again, his temple this time, not damp with tears. Had it not been Ianto who had kept him together so many times before? Ianto who sensed and offered and left and arrived; the keeper of Jack's sanity in a way that kept him awake at night worrying, now that he slept again.
Ianto started to pull away, a slight flush to his cheeks that could easily have gone unnoticed but didn't slip past Jack. He tightened his hold, pulling Ianto's head back down against his damp shirt. "Hush," he offered softly, and Ianto settled against him like a child after a nightmare, grateful for not being abandoned to the dark. Jack leaned his chin on Ianto's head, and kissed the soft hair. "I'm sorry," he said again.
"I know," Ianto replied, voice quiet. "Neither of us thought."
He hadn't thought of Ianto's perspective; he'd been too worried, too busy feeling responsible. He kissed Ianto's hair again because he knew nothing to say.
"It wasn't too bad, when I wasn't, you know, being..." Ianto paused, apparently searching, then came out with, "worried about the future."
It made Jack smile, because the turn of phrase evoked memories of much more dire straits they had been in. Then he remembered everything that had happened the past few days, his own time spent encased in a wall and what he'd seen, and shuddered.
Ianto lifted his head once more, reached up with one hand, brushed fingers over Jack's cheek. "Oh, Jack."
Jack tightened his arms around Ianto, and Ianto rested his head again. Jack let his fingers slide up into the short hair at Ianto's nape and stroked softly. "What does it make us, that we can forget?" He asked the question idly, the cold air of the morgue absorbing the words but tingeing them with accusation.
"I didn't forget," Ianto said softly, not blaming, just asserting.
"I know you didn't," Jack soothed, and kissed Ianto's hair. He had enough guilt, responsibility, and remorse for the both of them. He shifted slightly; concrete floors weren't made to sit on for long periods of time, especially not with his body contorted in the way it was.
Ianto, perceptive, noticed. He struggled up, trying to take some of his weight off Jack, but Jack was having none of it. He realised how much he wanted, needed, to hold Ianto in his arms and have it be just the two of them, comfort, visceral. He shifted to sit against the wall, taking Ianto with him until they were curled around each other again. It wouldn't last, this position no more comfortable than the previous, but he wasn't ready to give up yet. So little time.
Ianto's hand curled around his upper arm, not gripping too tight, just holding on; body leaning sideways against Jack's chest, Ianto's hair tickled Jack's neck in a way that reminded him of life. Sensation, physical sensation, there was no equal to it in the universe. No psychic link, no psychotropic drug, no poetry could come close to the tactility of holding a loved one in his arms.
It kills Jack, this pain. It kills him, and it keeps him living, keeps him human. He would be a shell devoid if it weren't for this -- human emotion, pain and contact, reminding him that all living is being hurt. Ianto, right now, was a warm body in his embrace, reminding him of what he'd not yet lost.
Ianto's breathing evened out more. His lips, stiff but warm, pressed against Jack's skin. "Thank you," he said softly.
Jack couldn't speak. He tightened his grip impossibly more and held on.