Disclaimer: as much as I wish it, Ianto and Jack are still the brainchildren of Russel T Davies. Damn the man.
Teensy tiny author note: this is only my second ever Torchwood fanfic, please feel free to review and tell me what you think.
The office door opened.
"We need to talk."
Ianto stared at the floor as if Jack hadn't spoken. Occasionally one of his hands would twitch, going to scratch at the puffy, swollen skin around his eye, and he would have to stop himself.
It'll only get worse if you pick at it, Jack said.
Jack said this, Jack said that: all about what Jack said.
"Ianto, did you hear me?"
"I heard you, sir." The response was automatic.
Ianto heard Jack sigh. "This is off the record, Ianto. You don't need to call me sir."
"As you say, sir. As you say."
Jack rose from the seat behind his desk and moved to get a better look at his employee. There was dirt smeared all over those pale cheeks and bruises were beginning to emerge through the grime...
It was unacceptable. "Ianto, look at me."
Ianto closed his eyes. Jack's voice, always so persuasive, could not win now.
But closing his eyes was a mistake—
"Time to be bled!"
"I did it for you, Ianto. So we can be together."
"Takes a long time, but definitely makes the meat taste better..."
"Ianto, help me!"
—because the haunting images just swirled and swirled, and Ianto emerged from them with no air in his lungs, gasping for breath.
"Ianto?" Jack's voice was filled with sudden concern, but Ianto didn't hear it. Comforting arms wrapped around his shoulders, but all Ianto could think of was rusted knives, blood-streaked walls; a grip that would never ever let go, even in death.
Letting out a low moan, Ianto pushed himself up and away from the chair and Jack's now empty arms. Jack clenched his hands on empty air before letting them drop.
"Ianto, you have to tell me. I can't help if you don't tell me."
The Welshman leaned against the grimy glass of Jack's office, trying desperately to draw breath and stop the spinning.
"You can't help," he murmured. "You're the worst butcher of them all."
Jack's gaze turned steely. "Is this what it comes down to, then? Do we have to go through it all again, I will if I have to!"
Tears formed in Ianto's eyes, and he closed them against the image of his broken love: his last defence crumbled."Hold me, Jack." The words, almost a mirror of Lisa's last, burned in his throat. "I need you to hold me. I need you to tell me it's alright."
There was silence from the rest of the office, and then a great whoosh of air as Jack moved to Ianto's side.
Jack looked down at the Welshman. Ianto looked back, though the tears blurred his vision, and Jack made up his mind. Betrayal was one thing, broken was another. Feeling a twinge of guilt at what the boy might think, Jack pulled Ianto into his arms and pressed tender kiss after tender kiss to Ianto's forehead.
Ianto's sobs came ever harder after that, and Jack almost stopped, finding he could not bear the sound...
Slowly – and with no grace whatsoever – the pair slid to the ground and Jack sat holding the still shaking Ianto to him.
Time passed. After a while silence returned to this, the oddest of offices.
"Not exactly behaving professionally, am I?" Ianto finally said.
"I wouldn't worry about it," Jack said into Ianto's hair. "Neither am I."
A half laugh escaped Ianto's lips. "Nothing new there though, sir."
Back to 'sir' again, Jack noted.
"I should go and clean up," said Ianto, and Jack wasn't sure who he was talking to – Ianto or himself.
The Welshman pushed himself up off the floor, stretching his limbs and wincing when the new bruises caught.
"You alright there?" Jack asked, already standing. He looked at the younger man in concern. The concern became outright suspicion when Ianto turned to him and said, with a brazen smile, "Absolutely fine, sir. Can I get you anything from the medical bay while I'm there?"
It's all an act, thought Jack, but hadn't Ianto always been acting? With secrets and lies he had installed his cyber-girlfriend in Torchwood's very own basement and all the while he'd been projecting this... this facade of harmlessness, of indifference and innocence.
Jack saw through it now: Ianto was hurting. He was hurting deep beneath his suited exterior, and there was no one left to share it with.
Almost no one, Jack said to himself as he flung his arm across the doorway, blocking Ianto's path.
Jack had killed the only person – or thing – Ianto had ever trusted. Well, things would change. Jack couldn't kill himself, right? That made him the safest bet.
Ianto did not push at the arm that barred his way. He knew better than to duck too – Jack's reflexes were second to none. Instead he repeated, "Sir?"
Jack looked along the length of his arm, searching for a sign.
And there it was. One tiny glimmer, one tiny crack as Ianto's calm face fell into disarray for just one infinitesimal moment...
"Ianto—" Jack began, but Ianto cut him off.
"I can hear them." Ianto stared at the opposite wall of the Hub, concentrating on keeping even breaths. "I can hear their screams, all of them. I can hear my own too, and I hate it."
Jack smiled a wry smile. "I know what you mean."
Ianto looked at him then, eyes full of such desperation, and asked, "You do?"
The wry smile stayed in place, and even though no explanation was given, Ianto found himself smiling back, somehow.
"You can't bury this, Ianto." Jack moved his hand onto the Welshman's shoulders, turning Ianto to face him. "You have to face it and accept it, and move on."
Ianto brushed the older man's hand off and stepped closer. "How do you move on, Jack? How do you move on? I know you've killed, and you've obviously lost people in your time—"
"Or lost myself, don't forget that," Jack added with a grin that held little humour.
"—or lost yourself," Ianto continued smoothly. "But you're still here. You're still you. How?"
He was too close. How could Jack think like this?
Best to be honest, he supposed.
"You want to know, Yan?" Jack closed the gap between them. "You really want to know?"
"What did you call me?" Ianto asked, startled at their proximity.
"Yan. Don't like it?"
"It's better than Coffee Boy."
Jack chuckled. He listened to the other man's breathing for a while. Then Ianto, as softly as he could manage, said, "Yes, I want to know."
"I could show you." Jack's breath tingled across Ianto's skin; his hands rose up to frame Ianto's face. "If you wanted."
A warm touch, after so long. Ianto relished in the simple pleasure. "Show me," he said. "Please."
The office door swung shut again.