Notes: The full oneshot for #93 of 'Snapshots of Smiles.' I originally started this a long time ago, as it was a popular one, but a hardware crash lost the draft. It's taken me this long to be motivated enough to try again!
The Edge of the World
By the time Jack got there, Ianto had already stripped off his suit jacket, shoes and socks.
"You're not going over that!" Jack yelled over the wind, and Ianto rolled his eyes.
"Of course I am," he said.
"Ianto, I would survive the fall, but you..."
"Won't fall," Ianto replied. "Out of the three of us, Jack, I'm the one most likely to get to the box."
'The box' was in the middle of the plank walkway. It was an innocent enough box, because it didn't have its remote control, but it was also human technology from the future that had originated from, as usual, military technology. They couldn't leave it, but...they couldn't get it.
"We'll think of some other way," Jack argued. "Ianto! You're not walking on that!"
The plank was a foot wide, and wobbly, and there was a high wind. Even John's grace wouldn't have got him across there, and Jack desperately didn't want Ianto to run the risk.
"Yes I am," Ianto said, stepping up to the ledge and flexing his bare feet.
"Ianto!" Jack lunged for him, but stopped dead as one pale foot pressed down delicately on the boards. "Ianto, don't you dare!"
"Love you," Ianto said, almost casually, and stepped off the edge of the world.
For a long moment, he was still, and if Jack hadn't been so terrified of him losing his balance, he would have grabbed him and hauled him back onto the roof of the building. Gwen was frozen too, eyes wide and scared, and she had come to the same conclusion as Jack.
He'll never make it.
But Ianto was sure-footed, when he finally moved. His arms were slightly raised for balance, his eyes staring off into the middle-distance and completely ignorant of the chill wind tearing at his hair and clothing. He moved slowly, but deliberately, one foot in front of the other, and the toes went white with the pressure.
He was feeling his way across the wood.
Until now, Jack hadn't understood the expression 'heart in your mouth', but it felt as if it was crawled up his throat to beat loudly and obscenely in his jaw. He didn't dare call out again, didn't dare distract the man, but he wanted to bring him back so badly.
"Don't fall," he breathed. "Don't fall, please don't fall."
Ianto only stopped when his toes hit the edge of the box. The plank creaked alarming as he bent at the waist, legs rigid, to pick it up, holding it gingerly between both hands. When he turned to face Jack and Gwen again, his toes hung for a horrible moment in the void, dangling over the edge of the wood as he twisted around.
"Is it breakable?" he called to Jack.
"What?" Jack whispered, then shook his head. "No. Not unless you dropped it."
"Could I kick it?" Ianto rephrased, looking a little exasperated.
"Kick it?" Jack demanded. Why on Earth was Ianto asking to kick it when he was standing in the middle of a plank, seventeen floors up from the ground?! "You can kick it all you like when you're on solid ground, Ianto!"
"He means drop-kick," Gwen whispered. "Kick it over here, so he doesn't need to worry about that any more."
"And it's making my hands tingle," Ianto added, glancing slightly worriedly at the box. "Are you sure it doesn't do anything?"
"Kick it," Jack demanded, mouth dry.
He hadn't known that Ianto played rugby, hadn't really known the force behind a drop-kick, and when the box sailed over his head and landed with a clatter in the middle of the roof, Jack paid it no mind.
He hadn't known how off-balance the motion would make Ianto.
For a terrible moment - in which he heard both Gwen's and his own strangled gasps - Ianto wobbled, swayed on the beam and the world tilted on its axis.
And then, with the grace of a long-time sports player, he righted himself and found his middle-distance again.
"Oh thank fuck," Jack muttered, the curse slipping past in the anxiety of the moment. "Okay. Okay, you've kicked it. Now get back here!"
Gwen scurried to bag the box, turned it over and examining it for damage before she swallowed and stuffed it in her sports bag. "Jack," she whispered.
"What?" he hissed, turning to stare at her.
"You have to..." she swayed alarming and sat down abruptly on her backside. "You have to grab Ianto!"
Jack went white.
"I feel...dizzy, Jack," she said, and stared in curiosity at her hands, then alarm at him. "If it's done...!"
Jack swung back just in time to see Ianto stop dead, a foot and a half from the lip of the building, and raise a hand to his face.
"Oh," he said, sounding groggy. "Oh."
"Ianto," Jack breathed, horror a cold hand around his stomach. "Ianto, come on. A little further."
"Ianto, please, come on. I'll make you feel better if you come to me," Jack coaxed as Ianto swayed on his hips. His legs stayed concrete-still, but his torso shook on the joints of his hips.
"I feel really, really dizzy, Jack," Ianto breathed, still not moving.
Jack stepped up onto the ledge, reaching forward, "Come on. A few more steps."
Ianto was just out of reach, and Jack was certain that the plank wouldn't support the both of them.
"Please, Yan, please," Jack urged.
One shaky step forward. In that one movement, Jack knew how bad it was - he knew that Ianto must be afraid of moving, for the fear of falling. There was no way he was going to hold his balance much longer.
"Nearly there," Jack said. "One big step, Yan, and I'll catch you, I promise."
The big step took Ianto completely off-balance - he tilted alarmingly to the left, but Jack's seized his upper arms and hauled him painfully closer. Jack jerked his own body back to counter the momentum, and they fell onto the roof in a heap.
"I've got you," Jack babbled breathlessly. "I've got you, Yan, I've got you, it's alright, God, you're okay..."
Ianto clung, face in Jack's shoulder, and whispered: "Feel really dizzy, Jack."
Gwen made her way over. Her dizziness was less obvious, but there, and she dragged the bag with her.
"I don't feel bad," she said, "but he held it longer than I did. We should get him back to the hub."
"Yeah," Jack said, but made no movement. "In a minute. Just...give me a minute."
A minute for the heart to calm, and a minute to absorb Ianto's weight and warmth and realise that he was back from the edge of the world.
Just a minute.