A/N: Post Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang. H/C - light on a hurt, heavier on the comfort and understanding, because I needed fluff.
I figure something must have happened between Jack and Ianto between the end of that ep, and Sleepers, because Ianto was in far too good a mood for it simply to be about Jack asking him out on a date.
Ianto honestly hadn't intended to fall straight back into bed with Jack after his very abrupt return from... well, from wherever it was that he'd swanned off to with the Doctor. He'd had every intention of playing hard to get, to force the Captain to work hard to get back into his good graces. It was a risky manoeuvre. He'd known all along that despite her engagement to Rhys, Gwen still pined for Jack, and there was the chance that Jack might fall instead into Gwen's more than willing arms.
It might have seemed that was actually the case, given what Ianto witnessed between Jack and Gwen on the CCTV immediately after bringing John Hart back to the Hub. He was nothing if not observant, though, and where others might have interpreted Jack's exchange with Gwen as being a bad thing for Ianto, Ianto himself didn't see it that way.
He'd never tried to kid himself that Jack wasn't infatuated with Gwen, at least to a point. He knew Jack loved the feisty, frustrating, determined woman in his own inimitable way. Jack would always have love for more than just one person at a time. It was practically written into his DNA, but rather than allow himself to be despondent about it, Ianto chose to see it from a positive perspective. Yes, Jack loved Gwen, but that didn't mean he loved Ianto any less and, despite Jack's cavalier attitude towards sex, he respected the boundaries of relationships far too much to act on any unrequited feelings.
What Ianto had observed in the CCTV footage was not Jack lusting after something that he couldn't have, but rather accepting Gwen's choice to marry Rhys and to offer her a somewhat melancholy blessing. Gwen clearly saw it differently, judging by her careless comment about accepting Rhys' proposal because 'no one else would have her'. Frankly, Ianto thought that if that was her attitude, then she had a responsibility to cut Rhys loose, and leave the man with at least a shred of dignity, as well as the chance to go out and find someone who truly appreciated him.
It left a tiny smile on Ianto's face when, instead of throwing himself at her as Gwen apparently had expected him to, Jack had instead offered his congratulations and then backed away. Not that he was one to gloat, but Ianto wished things hadn't gone to hell the way they had so soon afterwards. He would have loved to oh-so-casually ask Jack where he'd like to go for their date when the others (namely Gwen) were within earshot.
Immature? Maybe. Satisfying? Definitely. He was only human, after all.
But things had gone to hell, because this was Torchwood and Torchwood didn't do bright, sunny and carefree fluffiness. John Hart made a half-arsed shot at stalling the team so that he could get his precious and apparently non-existent Arcadian diamond; Gwen barely survived being poisoned (Jack had warned her not to let John kiss her, so his sympathy was a little on the dull side, there); Owen was shot in the shoulder (again) and Tosh had a nice old migraine from being whacked across the head. And Jack, of course, died. Typical Torchwood day, really, even if it did happen at night.
Then time reset itself (and didn't that just leave Ianto experiencing serious déjà vu) and they had to avoid themselves for the next ten to twelve hours.
Ianto had been prepared to go home and curl up in his own bed for that period of time but Jack, bless him, decided he owed them and booked them all into the St David's Hotel, of all places, for some relaxation and serious pampering.
That was another thing that irritated Ianto; the attitude of the others, and Gwen in particular, that Jack had betrayed them by leaving. Yes, he'd been upset. They all had been upset by Jack's abrupt disappearance, and no one would deny them the right to feel that way, but betrayed? That was stretching it, especially after it became clear that he'd gone with the Doctor. Gwen, even more than Tosh and Owen, should have understood, after she'd confessed Jack had made references to 'the right kind of doctor' on multiple occasions in her presence, but she chose to act affronted at Jack's actions.
It really was a bit rich, Ianto thought at the time when Gwen turned on Jack in the Hub and verbally ripped him a new one for leaving them. Given their betrayal had seen Jack die a horrific death at the metaphorical hands of Abbadon, they were the last ones who should have been standing as judge and jury over Jack.
Really, a little understanding and sympathy wouldn't have gone astray from any of them, but it was like after the faeries incident when they'd lost the Chosen One, Jasmine. On arrival at the hotel, Gwen, Tosh and Owen had all taken their door keys from Jack and headed to their individual rooms without so much as a 'good night' to their hapless leader. When Jack had turned to Ianto, with a look that suggested he was expecting the same silent treatment from the younger man, Ianto had taken some pleasure in surprising him by taking his hand.
"I don't think we really need to bother with a separate room, do we?" Ianto had asked lightly. Jack's eyebrows shot up, and Ianto had smiled wryly. "No sex. Not yet."
Jack's face fell just slightly, but he quickly fixed it into a big grin that did nothing to hide the pain in his eyes.
"Not quite ready to forgive me yet, huh? Well, I guess I can understand that. Gives me something to work towards, doesn't it?"
Ianto silenced him with a quick, chaste kiss.
"There's nothing to forgive, except the fact that you left without at least leaving a note. I admit I don't know why you had to go, but you never do anything without a damned good reason. Don't see why you leaving would be any different. Now, come on. I'm knackered but I need a shower before I can even think about sleep."
It was when no dirty comment or innuendo was forthcoming that Ianto had really noticed for the first time that not all was right with his Captain. The second time was when he got a good look at Jack's emaciated body when the Captain was stripping off to take his turn in the shower. That disturbed Ianto greatly, and prompted him to phone Room Service and order a selection of food. Jack was clearly painfully hungry, but took care not to wolf food down too quickly, or to take too much.
All together, it was the sight of Jack behaving with unnatural reservation and timidity that finally encouraged Ianto to ask the same question that Gwen had asked hours previous in the Hub tunnels.
"Where did you go, Jack?"
He hoped he sounded less demanding than Gwen had, but he couldn't contain his curiosity any longer. Besides, it didn't hurt to ask, and if Jack truly didn't want to answer then Ianto wasn't going to force him into doing so.
Jack fell quiet, his gaze fixed on his hands, which were resting in his lap. Not easily, though, Ianto noticed. His hands had the beginnings of the faintest tremor in them – something else which disturbed Ianto greatly. He'd never known his Captain's hands to be anything but rock solid. He refrained from adding that Jack didn't need to feel obliged to answer. He either would or he wouldn't and Ianto wasn't going to patronise him by stating the obvious.
"I went to the end of the world," Jack admitted finally, repeating what he had said earlier to Gwen. "I saw the end of the world, Ianto."
"I gather you're not speaking geographically," Ianto murmured. Jack shuddered violently.
"I watched a madman unleash hell on the world, and I couldn't stop him. Everything I loved... Everyone I loved died."
Even me, Ianto thought numbly, his over-active mind adding in a most unwanted image to accompany what Jack hadn't said.
"How long was it for you?" Ianto asked, choosing not to press Jack on the details. They would come later, if Jack wanted to share it.
"A year," Jack admitted dully. "Maybe a bit more, taking into account what went on before and after. We had clean-up and repairs to take care of, so that took a little while. Yeah, a bit over a year."
It made no sense to Ianto, and he made no effort to try and understand. All he knew was that Jack had apparently endured a terrible trauma for a long time, and that effectively erased any possible lingering resentment he might have felt over Jack's departure.
"When was the last time you got to sleep in a bed, with someone holding you who didn't want to hurt you?" Ianto wondered softly. Jack laughed, but the sound was strangled, ugly.
"Bed? A couple of nights ago. I got to sleep in my old room in the TARDIS. She helped me to sleep... took away the nightmares. Physical contact that didn't involve torture? When we slept together before Tosh and I went back in time through the rift."
Ianto felt shocked. That was four or five months for him, but so much longer for Jack. For someone who was so tactile, and craved intimate contact like the body craved water, it seemed unimaginable.
"Jack, will you be all right if I hold you now?" Ianto asked softly. Jack looked sideways at him, fear mixed with hope etched all over his face.
"Please...?" he asked softly, in that too-timid voice that was so completely un-Jack-like.
Gently urging Jack to lie down, Ianto started to slide into the bed behind him, only to stop when Jack stiffened.
"Please," Jack whispered. "Not behind me. Not yet."
Ianto didn't question why, though he could reasonably guess. Instead, he went around to the other side of the bed and slipped in under the covers so that he and Jack lay face to face. He lifted an arm, but waited for Jack to move willingly into his embrace rather than risking doing anything that might frighten Jack.
A smile graced his lips as Jack uttered a sound of contentment and curled in against Ianto. Only then did Ianto lightly close his arms around the Captain.
"I won't leave again," Jack whispered, his voice muffled from where his face was somewhat smooshed against Ianto's shoulder.
"I won't hold you to that promise," Ianto assured him. "There may be a time again in the future when you'll have to go, when the Doctor will need you. All I want is to know you'll come back."
Jack shuddered in his embrace, and Ianto thought he detected a telling damp spot forming on his tee-shirt.
"Always," Jack promised, and Ianto smiled.
Jack had promised him, and that was enough.