Notes: Set directly after the Doctor Who episode 'Stolen Earth'. After both parts, not between them.
Disclaimer: I do not own Torchwood and I am not making any profit from this work.
Together We Stand
It was Ianto's screaming that jerked Jack violently out of a light doze and into the waking world. Ianto was lying flat on his back, completely rigid, with his hands over his face and screaming, loud and long and without pause for breathing.
"Ianto! Ianto, wake up!" Jack yelled, forcing the man's hands back down and shaking him roughly. "Ianto! Come on now, wake up, snap out of it! It's okay, you're just dreaming, they're not here! Ianto!"
When he touched Ianto's cheek, with a motion that was somewhere between a slap and a sharp tap, Ianto's eyes flew open and focused instantly on his face, the screams dying in his throat and tapering off. The irises were fully exposed, and the pupils pinpricks in an ocean of terrible, electric blue.
"It's okay," Jack soothed, hauling Ianto upright in the bed and wrapping his arms around him. "It's okay, I'm here, it's alright..."
The shudder that rushed up through Ianto's torso was powerful, and Ianto's own arms came around Jack like a trap until he was clinging to the American. There was no other term for it - Ianto clung, like a terrified child, and shivered in Jack's embrace as though they sat in a walk-in freezer. His skin was slick with a cold sweat and chilly, and if Jack had pulled back enough to see Ianto's face, he had no doubt that it would have been completely white.
"Jack..." Ianto croaked.
Jack hushed him, using one hand to smooth down Ianto's unruly hair before returning it to his back to swipe calming circles over Ianto's spine and the back of his ribs. Ianto's face was buried in Jack's shoulder, pressing against his collarbone, and his hands fisted in the back of Jack's shirt. The grip was tight and desperate, and Jack wouldn't have won any prizes for guessing what his nightmares had been about.
In the Hub, when that awful, mechanical voice had come through the speakers, Jack hadn't missed the tension in Ianto's body when he'd pulled him in for a hug. He remembered reflecting bitterly at the time that all they needed to make this any worse for the young man was the equally frightening 'delete' to become the backing singer, and there they would have it: Ianto Jones's breakdown, in one easy little mp3 file, ready for download and replay at a single keystroke.
And now, he was proven right. Ianto had been thrown back in time, in his own way, and had probably just relived or reinvented the destruction of London and everything he'd loved. Faced with that, with was Jack knew Ianto must have seen, he couldn't blame the young man from having screaming nightmares. He'd probably have been screaming too.
"It's over, Yan, it's all over," Jack murmured, reverting to his nickname for the Welshman that he was strictly forbidden from using at work or anywhere close to their colleagues. "Ssh, calm down, it's alright now."
When Jack had returned to the Hub, and seen the hollowed-out remains of the Dalek, his guts had turned to water in sheer terror. For a moment - an irrational, single moment - he wondered if he hadn't been tricked, and his team were dead, and the Doctor had shown him what he knew Jack would want to see - their safety.
So when he had shot up to the conference room, and found Gwen and Ianto sat there looking haggard, exhausted and scared, Jack had felt such a wave of relief that he'd had to sit down for a moment. And then a moment later, he'd grabbed Ianto out of his chair and dragged him into an embrace that would have broken ribs had Jack squeezed a single iota harder.
And Gwen, bless her, had understood. She had simply smiled, given Jack a quick peck on the cheek, and vanished to find her own boyfriend. Husband. Whatever. Leaving Jack to hold on to Ianto and let it sink in that, although they'd come close, it hadn't happened. He hadn't lost someone else that he loved.
Now, sitting up in the bed and rocking a slowly calming Ianto in his arms, Jack knew that he wasn't alone with that fear. He didn't know whether his own vanishing off to help the Doctor had fuelled the nightmares, or whether the Daleks' return was alone responsible for this particular one, but he knew there would be more for a while yet.
And he didn't mind, because he knew damn well that nothing was going to prevent him being there to get Ianto out of those nightmares again.
"Better?" he whispered, when Ianto's grip slackened again and he pulled away slightly.
"Mm," Ianto croaked, his voice hoarse from the screaming. "I saw...London. Burning. People...just people..."
"I figured," Jack soothed, rubbing his hands over Ianto's chilled shoulders. He drew them both to lie down again and pulled the sheets up, and soon found Ianto clutching at him again, getting as close as was humanly possible. "Hey, ssh. It's okay. I'm here, it's alright."
Logically, Jack knew - and Ianto probably knew too - that Jack's presence didn't automatically make things okay. But it was surprising to Jack how that little platitude, that empty little-half promise, allowed Ianto's muscle to relax a little from their whipcord-tight state, and let him settle into the lines of Jack's body a little more.
"I'm not going away, Yan. Right here, all night. I promise," Jack murmured.
"I know," Ianto mumbled. "Just...don't want to let go."
"I don't mind," Jack said, offering Ianto a little smile. "In fact, it's very nice."
"Flirt," Ianto said, but it lacked its usual sarcasm and wit. Jack found his arms back around the young man in an instant, and Ianto's head resting on his shoulder as though it were habit.
"Try and go back to sleep," he said.
"Try," Jack insisted. "I'll stay up and watch out for your nightmares. Lack of sleep doesn't bother me, you know that."
There was a long pause, and Jack wondered if Ianto was going to formulate another protest, but eventually he simply sighed and settled, one arm sliding under Jack's body to hug his waist, and the other coming up to rest over Jack's chest, the hand near his heart - and Jack was sure it wasn't a subconscious decision. He kissed the top of Ianto's head and brought one hand to stroke the hair at the nape of the Welshman's neck, his free hand twining with Ianto's on Jack's chest.
"Go to sleep. It's alright. I'm here."
And it took longer than Jack would have liked, but Ianto eventually went slack in his grip and returned to his sleep. Hopefully, this time, a dreamless one.
And there, in the dark, peace seemed to come to Jack. Ianto, the person that he probably cared about the most right now, was curled up half beside him and half on top of him, fast asleep and safe. His heart was beating, his breathing washed over Jack's chest and neck regularly, and his warmth seeped through Jack's skin and into his very bones.
The quiet of the flat, the softness of the mattress, and the smoothness of the sheets made Jack feel more relaxed - but the feeling of peace that crept over him at somewhere past two o'clock in the morning, was down to Ianto.