Jack's eyes were tight with grief and anger when he returned to the Hub alone. He seemed surprised to see Ianto still here and got around it by ignoring him, which wasn't all that unusual. But Jack was broken and doubting himself and someone had to pick him up and put him back together, and Ianto was the only one there to do it.
This was Gwen's job, although she hadn't worked that out yet. She wasn't here to judge Jack for his decisions, she was here to worship him for them. Admittedly, she was never going to be very good at that job, and her praise wouldn't be worth much coming as it did from someone so hopelessly naïve, who had no experience of or idea about the price of those decisions. No, that sort of validation was much better if it came from someone who'd failed to pay the price.
Which is why Ianto was taking Jack his coffee with a mug for himself as well. He'd offer Jack whatever he needed, whether that be someone to listen, someone to reassure or someone to make the world go away. Whatever Jack needed, Ianto would be.
He knocked on the door and pushed it open, ignoring the fact that Jack had ignored his knock. "I brought you coffee, Sir," he'd dropped his mask, better to look like he was tired and still here in spite of it tonight. "I thought you might want to avoid sleeping tonight."
Jack didn't look up. "I guess you'd be familiar with the dreams that are judge and jury, Ianto."
Oh. Verbal punching bag it was. "At least they leave the morning after to be the executioner."
"You should have died," Jack told him bluntly. "I didn't expect you to last a week of your suspension. Why are you still here?"
"I thought my punishment was living with myself, Sir," Jack's gun was on the edge of his desk, so he picked it up and flipped it open. Still six rounds in it, so Jack's not tried killing himself yet. Ianto could start it, though; it's so tempting, just for a moment. "I could..."
Jack reached out and took the gun off him, spilling the rounds into his hand and scattering them on his desk. "Not today."
He knew about Jack's curse; he had done since the first night he stumbled into the Hub with nightmares. He and Jack were so close once, so close that Ianto would have come to him when Lisa took her turn for the worse and he had to bring her into the Hub if they'd still been that close. They weren't, though, and Ianto let himself feel a bit betrayed about that. Jack had known how bad things were for him, and he'd still got distracted by a damsel in distress. Or maybe it was that he thought he'd fixed the first damsel in distress, and the new one kept getting back into distress. He was fairly sure it wasn't about sex. Rather, it was the chance to keep playing the hero. Ianto needed a hero, but he couldn't exactly ask, could he?
It was another point of betrayal between them, though, and they both blamed the other. Jack thought that Ianto took advantage of their closeness; Ianto thought that Jack discarded their closeness. Still, it couldn't be helped now. The past was gone, but maybe they could leave it there and find a future.
Jack reached out for his mug at last and picked it up to inhale the vapours. "You know how they say that a friend in need is a friend indeed?"
Ianto nodded, more as acknowledgement than agreement. He'd always been more of the 'a friend in need is a pain in the arse' school of thought, although that had never stopped him coming to the rescue.
"I nearly married Estelle," Jack said, apparently a random aside, but nothing was ever random with Jack. If he told you something, it was because he wanted to tell you. Ianto thought that he went too long without anyone to tell. "I loved her. And I failed to save her. And here you are, offering me whatever I need to get through the night, even though I was never there for you. What did I do the night after I stole your hope?" he shook his head bitterly. "I sent you home and hoped you'd kill yourself so that I wouldn't have to."
"You were angry," Ianto pointed out. "I nearly destroyed the world. You just saved it, again."
Jack rested a large, warm hand on his thigh and smiled up at him sadly. "You're a better man than I've ever been, Ianto. And one day I'll earn the right to do this because you like me, not because you think I need it."
He made to remove his hand, but Ianto covered it with his own and held it in place. His other hand held his coffee mug, and he took a slow mouthful whilst Jack's hand relaxed against his thigh again. Finally, he set his mug down again and looked down at their hands. "I missed you. I was so low, everything was going wrong, and I needed you, and you weren't there."
"I know," he didn't let go of Jack's hand. Physical contact. He needed Jack to hold him. "Maybe it'll be time before we can do this out of true mutual affection... but mutual need isn't that bad an excuse, is it?"
Jack smiled up at him and stood up, retrieving his hand. He framed Ianto's face with gentle palms and stroking fingers, and searched for something in his eyes. "Is this what you want?"
He nodded and forced himself to meet Jack's searching gaze. "I want to feel like someone cares."
"Ianto..." Jack leaned in and kissed him, soft, dry lips tender against his own. "I care."
"I know." Ianto rested his hands on Jack's hips at last and dropped his gaze.
Jack pulled him closer and held him, and Ianto nearly came apart. It was much too long since anyone had held him like this. He couldn't stop the first shudder, and Jack's arms tightened around him. "I'm sorry. I never meant to hurt you."
Ianto wanted to laugh at the ridiculousness of it – he'd been about to say the same thing – but it choked him. He buried his face in Jack's shoulder, hiding from any chance of anyone seeing his tears, and clung on to the comfort he'd needed for so long.