Author's Note: I'm writing painfully slowly at the moment, but it's picking up. This is my entry for the third round of Jack_Ianto_LAS, which received no votes either way. The prompt was "Terrible Gift"

If you're interested in seeing the other entries, the comm is on livejoural at jack_ianto_las.

Ianto clenches his fingers in his hair painfully, tugging hard enough to spark tears he doesn't want to shed. He paces in the confined space of his living room – neutral space, the analytical part of his brain provides – knuckles white around the neck of a bottle of cheap vodka, and probably in his hair as well. Jack too is pale and distressed, and Ianto doesn't understand what he could possibly be scared of now.

"I didn't want this," he snarls, breathing hitching over the final word. He can't even say it, can't admit to it. "I didn't want this, I didn't ask for this. Why... why did you..." he shakes his head again and whirls away before he can do more than glance at Jack, who has sunk to the floor against the wall. "Why?"

He can tell he's not drunk enough yet, because the vodka still tastes foul, but the lights on the tree glitter off it in a way that is distracting enough to suggest that he's getting there. He raises the bottle to his lips and keeps drinking, eyes half-lidded because although he doesn't want to acknowledge the tree and all its glittering implications, the lights are dancing in his drink and he can't look away.

Jack sighs, and Ianto winces at the sharp thunk that his head makes as it drops back against the wall. His voice is quiet in the still and near-dark of the flat, but it chills Ianto like a sudden frost and stills his restlessness. "I didn't want this either."

The air rushes back into the flat suddenly and the lights fracture as tears fog Ianto's vision. He hadn't known that so few words could be so cutting when they were what he thought he'd wanted to hear, but right now he can't look at Jack, can't let Jack see what his words have done.

But they were exactly the words that Ianto gave Jack, and there's two of them in this, two of them hurting because they're not talking to each other, and he crosses the room to slide down the wall next to Jack and offers him the bottle. He wishes he hadn't because now he doesn't have anything to do with his hands, and he twines them loosely together, resting his wrists on his knees. "I..." He licks his dry lips and presses his shoulder against Jack's. "It's not the worst thing ever."

"No." Jack takes a long drink from the bottle, and Ianto can picture him screwing his face up in disgust when he pulls it away. He drops the hand holding the bottle to his side, and it rests between their legs, the weight of it pressing Jack's hand against Ianto's ankle. "No, the worst thing was finding you..." he trails off, can't say it, and lets his weight rest against Ianto more. "I couldn't let that... not today."

Ianto nods and watches the lights drift around the tree. "It would have been a dreadful Christmas."

They sit in silence, processing the morning's change. Jack is the one to break the silence. "It's never worked before." Ianto turns his head to the side to watch him, waiting. "I tried before, so many times, but it didn't work once people were..."

And he still can't say it, and Ianto's not going to make him, so he rests one hand on Jack's knee instead. "But you kept trying?"

"Not really, not since..." He looks away and Ianto sighs to himself, leans closer. "But it was Christmas. If I couldn't hope at Christmas..."

Ianto kisses him then, because it's the best answer he has and the only answer he has, and it's Jack's answer to everything anyway. It's not always as practical as it proved to be this morning, but it often gets the job done. They're frantic and desperate, wanting to drown in each other but not prepared to move yet, still sitting side by side, shoulders, lips and knees pressed together and nothing more. To move would be to admit to something, to break something.

Jack pulls away and leans his head against the wall again, eyes closed against the reality of this cold morning. "We don't know how long it's going to..."

"It might just be this once," Ianto finishes for him, turning back to the Christmas tree. "Yes, I know."

"Once is better than nothing," Jack points out slowly, sliding his hand onto Ianto's on his knee. "One Christmas miracle."

Ianto nods and lifts his arm, drapes it around Jack's shoulders to hug him closer, and lets it go. It's not what he wanted, but it's what he's got. And it's really not the worst gift ever.