Nightmare

Part Three – An Ending

Screaming, Ianto jerked upright, abject terror giving him super-human strength as he battled against the arms that struggled to hold him. "NO!" he screamed again.

Jack yelped in surprised pain as a flying fist connected sharply with his jaw and he fell backwards against the pillows. He'd been wrapped in peaceful slumber, dreaming that he and Ianto were discovering a new planet together. His sweetly smiling lover was in the middle of exclaiming over how beautiful the view was when the Welsh vowels that Jack so loved to hear were replaced by terrified screaming. The sound had ripped Jack out of his dream and into a waking nightmare. He opened his eyes to see Ianto sitting straight up, eyes wide open and mouth screaming in terror.

"Ianto!" Jack sat back up and grabbed the man again, shaking him violently. "Wake up, Yan!"

Jack's words had no effect; Ianto continued to fight him. Finally, the immortal realised he had no choice; he drew back one hand and slapped the Welshman across the face as hard as he could. "Ianto!"

The sudden silence was almost deafening in the little underground room and Jack realised his ears were actually ringing a little. He looked at Ianto. While the screaming had indeed stopped, it was clear that whatever had terrified Ianto was on-going. Jack stroked his hand along his lover's face; Ianto's skin was cold and clammy, sticky with sweat.

"Ianto?" Jack spoke softly this time. "Are you there?"

Slowly, ever so slowly, Ianto turned his eyes towards Jack, although his focus remained inward.

"Ianto, honey, can you speak? Say something, anything!" Jack was truly worried now. He had experience with the aftermath of Ianto's nightmares, just as the young man had with his, but this was like nothing Jack had ever seen Ianto go through before. He was almost unresponsive by now when he should be wrapped in Jack's arms, his breathing returning to normal and his shaking down to a few tremors. That's when Jack finally noticed that there was no shaking, no trembling, no muscle movement at all, just the steady rise and fall of his lover's sweaty chest as he breathed shallowly.

As Jack sat quietly, helplessly watching Ianto emerge from whatever hell he'd been trapped in, the immortal wondered what had been so horrifying in Ianto's nightmare as to render him almost catatonic. He watched as Ianto's eyes began to focus a little more. The young man's lips moved, but no sound came out.

"Ianto? Sweetheart, can you hear me?" Jack waited for what seemed like hours but was in reality only a few seconds before his lover's gaze fastened on him. "I'm here for you, Ianto," and he squeezed Ianto's hands.

"…ahk?" The rasp in Ianto's voice was painful to hear.

"Yes, it's Jack." Tears of relief sprang to Jack's eyes. "I'm right here. You're safe, Ianto." He stroked his hand across the younger man's sweaty brow.

Sudden awareness slammed into Ianto's mind and he grabbed Jack's face in a painfully tight grip. "Jack?" he yelled. "Jack, it's me, Ianto!" He took the older man by the shoulders and shook him roughly. "Jack, please, you have to remember me!" Ianto began sobbing. "Please, Jack!"

It took a little effort, but Jack managed to break Ianto's frantic grip and hold his hands tightly. "Ianto, look at me!" he commanded. "Look. At. Me." He waited until Ianto's eyes were locked onto his.

"Yes, I'm Jack. You're Ianto, Ianto Jones. You're in my bunker under the Hub. This is Torchwood and we're in Cardiff. Do you understand me?" he spoke firmly. "Do you know what I'm saying?"

Ianto looked at the immortal as if he'd lost his mind. "I know exactly who and where I am, Jack. You're the one who's been Retconned! You're the one who's forgotten all about me!"

"What?"

"Gwen Retconned you and stole… Oh God!" Ianto screamed and leapt from the bed in a horrified panic. "My baby! Jack, our baby!" Ianto wrapped his arms around his belly and fell to his knees with a teeth-rattling thud, screaming and sobbing hysterically.

Unsure of what to do and very tempted to call Owen, Jack knelt down in front of Ianto, but the man was completely gone, lost in his own private hell again. Surrendering to the inevitable, Jack fumbled behind him for his mobile. He hit 2 on the speed dial and called Torchwood's medic.

"Better be good," Owen growled over the line. "I'm sleeping."

"I need you, Owen. Something's happened to Ianto." Jack was in tears; he'd never felt so helpless before. "I can't wake him up!"

"Who's making all that noise?" Owen could hear someone keening in pain in the background.

"That's Ianto!" Jack clutched the mobile in one hand and with the other he held tightly to Ianto's wrist.

"You just said he was sleeping!" Owen barked. "Stop playing games, Jack!"

"Owen, please! There's something really wrong!" Jack was aware that he was begging but he couldn't help himself. "I need your help!"

The doctor could hear the fear in Jack's voice and he was already half-dressed. "I'm on my way, Jack. Just stay with him, okay?"

"Okay!" Jack snapped his mobile closed and gathered Ianto into his arms. He was completely unresponsive as Jack set him on the bed and lay down beside him. Ianto was curled up in a foetal ball, his arms still cradling his stomach. Occasionally, Jack would hear him moan and mumble disjointed words like 'no', 'baby', 'stop', and 'Jack'.

Twenty minutes after talking to Owen, Jack heard the cog door's alarms sound and a few moments later, Owen's head appeared at the top of the ladder. The doctor pretended not to see Jack hastily wipe tears from his face, although his puffy, red eyes were a dead give-away that the immortal had been crying. It was his boss' tears more than the sight of Ianto weeping on the bed that bothered Owen to no end. He'd never seen Jack so emotionally vulnerable before.

Mentally shaking himself, he crossed to the bed and pulled Jack off Ianto so that he could look at his patient. Jack fell back, but only to the foot of the bed where he sat, anxiously wringing his hands.

"What happened?" Owen performed a quick cursory exam; Ianto paid no attention to the poking and prodding. "Jack! I need answers!"

"A dream… it was a nightmare, he woke up screaming…" Jack reached out and laid his trembling hand on Ianto's leg, seeking comfort as much as giving it.

"Jack, go to the med bay and get my kit. It's…" Owen looked as his boss and realised that the man was next to useless at the moment. "Never, mind. I'll go. You stay here." Owen was up the ladder before he finished speaking and he was back within moments, a loaded syringe in his hand.

"Did he say anything when he woke up? What was the dream about?" The Torchwood medic jabbed the needle into Ianto's hip without hesitation and pushed the plunger.

Instantly, Ianto's body went limp and his incoherent mumblings stopped. Between them, Jack and Owen gently stretched out his arms and legs, resting his head on Jack's pillow. With a tender touch, Jack brushed Ianto's sweat-soaked hair from his forehead and placed a soft, chaste kiss on his lips.

Owen checked Ianto's vital signs again and was satisfied that the sedative he'd given the young man was doing its job properly. He pulled the desk chair out and sat down heavily. 'God, I could use a cup of coffee right now!' was the first thought that crossed his mind, and then he saw that the man who made the world's most perfect coffee was finally sleeping peacefully. With a weary sigh, he turned to Jack.

"Start at the…" Owen interrupted himself when he saw the worried, almost frightened look on the other man's face. "Are you okay, Jack? Can I get you anything?" He held up his hand as Jack opened his mouth to speak. "I'm already doing all I can for Ianto right now."

Jack managed a weak smile. "Thank you, Owen. I'm really sorry I woke you at such a God-awful hour, but I didn't know what else to do."

Owen waved his hand dismissively. "My job and all that. Now, start at the beginning and tell me what happened." He put his feet up on the end of Jack's bed and leaned back in his chair.

"I don't know what the nightmare was about. He hasn't had any for well over a year now." Jack was caressing Ianto's face with his fingers, so he didn't see Owen's look of surprise at his words.

'Didn't know they'd been together that long. I thought this was a new thing.' He watched through new eyes as Jack traced a fingertip delicately across Ianto's lips even as his own were trembling with barely-contained emotions. 'I'll be damned… Jack's actually in love with the Tea-Boy!'

Owen shook himself from his reverie and sat up, the thunk of his feet and the chair legs both hitting the floor drawing Jack's attention to him. "Did he say anything?"

"Yeah, but it didn't make any sense," Jack nodded his head. "He came around after a few minutes, but it was like he didn't know who or where he was."

"Huh, that's weird."

Jack shook his head and then nodded again as well. "When he woke up, he was screaming 'no' and then he just went catatonic." He fidgeted with the duvet, tucking it in around Ianto's still body. "I kept talking to him and he started coming around and…" Jack sniffed loudly, smiling ruefully at Owen but the smile didn't make it all the way up to his eyes.

"He told me he knew who he was but that Gwen had Retconned me so that I had forgotten who he was!"

"What!" Owen laughed. "That's like Tea-Boy forgetting how to make coffee!"

For a brief moment, Jack joined in the joke. "I know! Never gonna happen!"

After a few chuckles and a quick look to see if they'd disturbed the sleeping Welshman, Jack continued. "Then he said 'she stole my baby' and he jumped out of bed and started screaming and crying and… well, you heard him over the phone."

"Yeah, I thought you were taking the piss, Jack, I'm sorry." Owen pulled a face at the memory.

Jack waved him off. "No big deal; you're here now and that's all that matters. He's much better off asleep. I mean, you saw him when you came in, and he'd actually calmed down a lot since you and I talked." He ran his hand along Ianto's arm. "What do we do now?"

Owen got to his feet and came over to the bed; again he had to push Jack out of his way so he could examine Ianto. "He's gonna sleep for probably…" he looked at his watch; "… another three hours at least, maybe closer to five."

"That long!" Jack was dismayed. He wanted to talk to Ianto; he needed to know that his young lover was all right.

"I gave him a pretty strong sedative." Owen yawned. "It's about half-two now; I'm gonna kip up on the sofa." He climbed the ladder and paused at the top. "Yell when he wakes up or if anything changes," he instructed and then the medic disappeared.

Jack turned off the lamp on the night table, leaving his bunker bathed in the soft glow that shone down from his office and the Hub above. Taking great pains not to disturb Ianto, although Jack had to admit to himself that if Ianto 'accidentally' woke up, he'd be overjoyed, he shifted the sleeping man's body over towards the wall. He slid under the covers and arranged them both so that he had Ianto's warm, pliant body cuddled up against him.

With a deep sigh, Jack kissed the top of Ianto's head, and then he laid back and closed his eyes. He breathed in deeply, letting Ianto's scent fill his lungs, and he let himself be lulled by the steady beating of the Welsh heart that he loved so much. He knew he'd never be able to sleep, but still, it felt comforting just holding his lover in his arms.

The claxon alarm of the cog door woke Jack and for a few moments he forgot all about the drama from earlier. He breathed in deeply and snuggled into Ianto's body. He was rewarded when his young lover snuffled into him, then snorted and blearily opened his eyes halfway. He watched fondly as Ianto smacked his lips and grimaced at the nasty taste of morning-mouth he found there.

In those few seconds, Jack's memories of the night before slammed into him with the full force of their awfulness and he pulled Ianto in tightly against him. Ignoring the younger man's muffled mumbles of protest, Jack began snogging him like kisses were going out of style. Finally, breaking apart for some desperately needed oxygen, Jack let Ianto pull away and catch his breath.

"As much as I really enjoyed waking up to that," Ianto gasped, "you're unusually passionate this morning!"

"I'm just so glad you're okay," Jack beamed at his young lover and then suddenly he frowned. "You are okay, aren't you?"

"Of course I'm all right. We were just kissing!" Ianto laughed. "I love your kisses and…" he slid one hand beneath the duvet and stroked Jack's hip with his fingertips, slowly moving into that sensitive join between groin and thigh. "…your other things."

Jack hissed in a single breath when he felt Ianto's hand on his fevered skin and his body responded instantly to the Welshman's touch. "Oh, yeah…" He quickly and happily turned so that Ianto's hand would find his now-erect cock the next time he moved.

Ianto smirked. Jack was always so easy in the morning, no matter how energetic their love-making had been the night before or how sated their bodies were when they did finally fall asleep from exhaustation. He wrapped his hand around Jack's flesh and tugged gently, watching Jack's eyes glaze over and roll into the back of his head.

'Oh, Goddess, that feels so good!' Jack thought as Ianto pulled at his foreskin. 'I'm so glad he's all right!' Jack's eyes snapped open. Ianto really was all right, wasn't he? Reluctantly, Jack reached down and stilled Ianto's hand.

Startled, Ianto looked at Jack. "What's wrong?"

"We need to talk about last night, Ianto."

"Last night?" Now Ianto was really confused. "Why? We didn't do anything special, just dinner and a movie."

"You don't remember?" Jack sat up in bed and pulled Ianto up with him. "Your dream last night?" He grimaced; "well, more like your nightmare, I guess."

Ianto was silent for a moment, searching his memory. Finally, he shook his head. "I don't remember dreaming about anything at all, much less something that would trigger a nightmare." He shuddered as much from the chill in the air as from past experience. "And you know I always remember those."

Jack nodded in sympathy; he'd woken his young Welsh lover up on many occasions, pulling him from the grips of a Cyber-invasion-based nightmare.

"Are you saying I had a nightmare last night?" Ianto asked. "How do you know? Do you know what it was about?"

"I do," Jack nodded.

Ianto waited expectantly. "Well?"

Suddenly and quite unexpectedly uncomfortable, Jack squirmed. "Why don't we get dressed and go upstairs. I'll tell you while we have our coffee."

"Can't you just tell me now?" Ianto was getting worried; Jack had never prevaricated like this before.

Jack shook his head and swung his legs over Ianto and onto the floor. "Please?" He pulled his trump card and stuck out his lower lip; Ianto never could refuse him anything when he pouted.

Rolling his eyes in fond exasperation, Ianto stood up and kissed his favourite pair of pouty lips. "Okay, you win."

Within minutes, Jack and Ianto were dressed in old sleeper pants, worn T-shirts and soft woollen socks and were upstairs in the Hub's kitchen. Despite a burning desire to bombard Jack with questions, Ianto calmly prepared his signature coffee. He always found great comfort in the serenity of the patiently deliberate process. He went through the steps of selecting and grinding the right combination of beans, and then in brewing and pouring the perfect cup.

Just as Ianto set Jack's blue-and-white-striped mug of steaming hot, extra-strength coffee down on the table, Owen stumbled into the kitchen. "Coffee, Tea-Boy," he grunted as he flopped down bonelessly into a chair.

"Yes, Sir! Of course, Sir! Right away, Sir!" Ianto snarked good-naturedly. "What are you doing here so early, Owen? It's only about six in the morning."

Owen yawned widely and scratched his chest. "Just waiting to see what idiocy you come up with next, Tea-Boy."

"Owen," Jack growled warningly.

"I don't understand." Ianto set a large mug of coffee down in front of the medic. "What's going on?"

Jack sighed. "Sit down, Cariad," and he pulled out the chair next to him. "We need to talk."

Hearing Jack call him the Welsh equivalent of beloved, Ianto's concern exploded; something really bad must have happened. "Oh-kaaay…" He carried his own coffee to the table and took Jack's pro-offered seat. "What's going on?"

"Last night…" Jack paused and looked pointedly at Owen, who stared back at him through bleary eyes.

"What?" Owen took a noisy gulp of his coffee.

Ianto took the hint. "Don't you have an elsewhere to be, Owen?" He asked as nicely as he could. The longer Jack put off telling him what was going on, the more worried he was becoming.

"You yank me out of bed in the middle of the night because Tea-Boy has a nightmare and now you're throwing me out?" Owen snatched up his coffee mug and stomped out of the room, still grumbling under his breath.

Ianto took Jack's hand in his. "Cariad, please tell me what's going on." He gently stroked his thumb over Jack's knuckles; despite being scared about what he might learn Ianto could tell that Jack was in just as much need of comfort as he was. "Tell me."

Jack pulled Ianto's hand to his mouth and kissed it softly. He took advantage of looking into Ianto's eyes to order his thoughts. "You had a nightmare last night, Ianto," he began. "Do you remember any of it?"

Using his free hand to lift the cup – Jack refused to let go of the other one – Ianto sipped his coffee while he searched his memory. There were a few flashes here and there, but nothing he could pin down. "No, I'm sorry, I really don't."

"That's okay, then." Jack seemed overly-relieved by Ianto's answer, which immediately made Ianto suspicious.

"Jack, did I do something bad?"

"No! Oh, God, no, Ianto!" Jack was horrified that Ianto would even think of such a thing. "No, it's nothing like that at all!" he hastened to reassure his young lover.

"Thank God," Ianto heaved a sigh of relief and took another gulp of coffee, and then he waited as patiently as he could for Jack to continue.

"You had a nightmare. You woke up screaming." Jack grimaced; "scared me right out of a beautiful dream of my own, too. We were on this new planet, and we were naked and…"

"Jack," Ianto gently interrupted him. "You can tell me all about your naked dream later, I promise, but for right now…"

"Right, sorry." Jack grinned suggestively. "You know, you are so beautiful with the morning sun rising behind you."

Ianto hid his blush behind his coffee mug. "I'm sure I am," he murmured, thrilled to discover that he was in Jack's dreams; he had often wondered and constantly hoped it were so. He waited for Jack to speak again, but then he looked at his captain and it was easy to see that Jack had once again wandered off in his imagination. He cleared his throat and brought Jack back into the present. "You were saying?"

After a mental shake, Jack drained his coffee and held out the mug for a refill. "You kept fighting with me…" he unconsciously touched his jaw, feeling the almost-faded bruise where he'd been struck. "I had a hard time waking you up. And when I did… you were frozen in place, almost catatonic." Jack bit back a sudden sob. "I was so scared, Yan! I didn't know what to do or how to get you back."

Tears pricked Ianto's eyes as he heard the anguish in Jack's voice. "I'm sorry, Cariad, I didn't mean to frighten you." Ianto set the mug of fresh coffee on the table and pulled the other man in against his chest, hugging him tightly for a few moments. He kissed the top of Jack's head and when he sat back down, he tugged his chair a little closer to Jack's. "I'm here now, okay?" When Jack nodded gratefully, Ianto asked, "So what happened next?"

"Well, you thought I'd forgotten who you were…"

"Don't be ridiculous, Jack. How could anyone forget me?" Ianto joked uneasily; Jack's words were stirring something in the back of his mind, something he wasn't sure he wanted to remember.

"You said that Gwen had Retconned you…"

"Gwen!" Of all the people in the world Ianto thought he'd ever dream about, Gwen Cooper was the last one on the list. "You're kidding me!"

Jack shook his head; he wasn't smiling. "I wish I was. You said that she'd Retconned me and you were convinced that I had no idea who you were." Ianto could hear the tremor in Jack's voice and knew that the man was deadly serious.

"It's never going to happen, Jack. Gwen would never hurt you, you know that." He tried to reassure Jack but he didn't think he was having much success.

"I know, Ianto, it's just that…" Jack grabbed his coffee and took a long drink. "No, never mind."

Ianto studied Jack through narrowed eyes. "There's more to it, isn't there? What aren't you telling me?"

Jack shook his head and the motion sent the tears that were shimmering in his eyes falling down his cheeks. "Nothing."

Suddenly very afraid, Ianto dropped to the floor between Jack's legs and put his hands on the man's thighs, gently caressing the trembling muscles beneath his hands.

"On your knees for me, I see," Jack tried to make light of the situation and change the subject to sex. It didn't work, however; Ianto knew all of Jack's tricks and he was not to be deterred.

"Jack, right now, tell me what happened! Did I hurt Gwen? Is that what you're not telling me?" In his mind, he was seeing flashes of blood and of Gwen and he could hear someone screaming. Even coming to him in bits and pieces, it was all so terrifyingly real.

"You said that Gwen stole…" Jack looked down at Ianto kneeling before him, his eyes pleading silently, 'please don't make me tell you!', but Ianto was relentless. He could feel something horrible pressing on his memory, scrabbling around, trying frantically to claw its way out.

Realising that Ianto was not going to give up, Jack took Ianto's hands in his and pressed them to his lips. He didn't understand why he was so reluctant, scared even, to tell Ianto the content of his nightmare.

"Our baby, Ianto," he said succinctly.

Ianto looked perplexed for a moment, his brow knitted into a frown that under ordinary circumstances Jack would have found adorable.

Jack repeated himself. "You said Gwen stole our baby." He was totally unprepared for the effect those few words would have on his beloved Welshman. Later, he would look back and wish he'd been a little more observant.

Ianto fell backwards, stricken beyond belief by the memories that flooded his mind, by the agonising pain that swept through his body, and by the overwhelming sense of loss that threatened to stop his heart. He scrabbled backwards on his arse, trying to get away from everything he was seeing and feeling, but it was no use. With a horrible gagging sound, he surged to his feet and lunged over to the sink, barely making it in time to vomit violently down the drain.

Gasping for air, Ianto fell to the floor and rolled himself up into a little ball, and he lay there without making a sound.

It took Jack several long seconds to react to what he saw Ianto going through, but the instant he realised that his young lover was re-living his nightmare, he shouted out in panic,

"OWEN!"

Having expected he would be needed, Owen had remained out on the landing, sipping his coffee and eavesdropping shamelessly on Jack and Ianto. Darting into the room, he knelt down next to his team-mate's curled-up form. "Ianto," he kept his voice soft and he placed a hand on the man's shoulder. The medic was pleased to find that Ianto's body was calm; there was no shaking, no muscle spasms. "You in there, mate?"

Having born witness to last night's hysterical behaviour, Jack and Owen were quite surprised when they heard, "I remember."

Ianto began to relax his body and he slowly uncurled from his foetal position on the kitchen floor. "I remember it all." Given the magnitude of the events he was recalling, he was surprisingly calm.

Jack was at his side instantly as Ianto began to clamber to his feet, and the immortal helped him sit down and then he refreshed his beloved Welshman's mug of coffee. Rather than sit back down, Jack remained standing at Ianto's side until Ianto smiled at him and nodded towards the chair. Reluctantly, Jack sat back down after he'd pulled his seat as close to Ianto's as he could.

"What do you remember, Ianto?" asked Owen, shocking the other two men with his kindness.

Ianto sipped his coffee, mulling over his thoughts for a moment. "Well, I remember being pregnant, for one thing," he answered wryly.

Owen unsuccessfully tried to stifle a laugh. "They make pin-striped nappies now, do they?"

Now it was Jack's turn to laugh, and even Ianto had to smile at Owen's humour. "Good one, Owen," he admitted, but then his smile faded.

"In my dream, I was pregnant," he repeated himself, "with your baby, Jack, and…" Ianto was looking directly at Jack as he said those words and his breath caught in his throat when he witnessed the look of raw pain that flashed through the immortal's eyes. 'What did that look mean?' he wondered briefly.

"You already said that, Tea-Boy," Owen huffed impatiently. "Get on with it!"

Frowning at Owen, Ianto gave Jack's hand, still resting on his shoulder, a quick squeeze before continuing. "Gwen kidnapped me from the car park, said she'd drive me home because I had a puncture." He snorted. "Looking back, I'd say she's probably the one who flattened my tire."

Another sip of coffee and Ianto was ready to talk again. "She took me to an abandoned industrial estate and proceeded to cut me open like a fish."

Owen grunted in disgust and slammed his mug down on the table while Jack gasped, his fingers squeezing almost painfully into Ianto's shoulder.

"She told me that she'd been working on her plan for months. She Retconned the lot of you, and planted fake stories in your minds about me being just another Torchwood casualty, nothing special, and that after a few days, when she was sure I was dead, she'd call in a fake Weevil sighting to you so you'd find my body."

Again Owen snorted, but Jack leapt from his chair and paced the length of the kitchen and back. Both of the other men could see that he was struggling to keep his temper under control.

"It was only a dream, Jack, remember that," Owen reminded him as he watched Jack retake his seat. "Gwen didn't really do anything to Ianto, okay?"

Ianto studied Jack's face for a moment. "Are you all right, Cariad?" he asked, quite concerned about how white Jack was under his perpetually golden-tanned skin.

Jack sucked in a deep breath and twisted his head this way and that, relieving the brittle tension in his neck. "Yeah, it's fine."

Satisfied for the moment, but knowing that they'd talk later, Ianto continued with his story. "Gwen said that she'd changed all the records, deleted the CCTV footage, etc., basically wiping me from most of Torchwood's recorded history."

"Like that could ever happen! She can barely send stuff to the printer queue!" Owen chuckled derisively.

Cocking one eyebrow at the medic, Ianto grinned at him.

"What!" Owen stuck out his chin.

"Do you know how to use the printer queue?"

Owen flushed under Ianto's knowing gaze. "Yeah, well, Tosh showed me, okay?"

"Anyway…" Jack prompted.

With a smile for his lover, Ianto finished his coffee and then shook his head when Jack reached for his cup. "She created an entire life for the two of you, Jack. She Retconned Rhys into forgetting all about her and sent him moving off to Swansea or somewhere so his memory wouldn't trigger."

"What about me?" Jack was almost afraid to find out but he couldn't help himself.

"She Retconned you into thinking that you and she were a long-time couple and that our baby…" and this time, Ianto was prepared for Jack's emotional reaction to his words, "…actually belonged to the two of you."

Up until that point, Ianto had been able to remain outwardly calm as he told his story. Suddenly, the horror of it all crashed in on him and tears flowed freely down his cheeks.

"She said she made you forget all about me, Jack; that if you ever did think of me at all, it would be as a nobody who meant absolutely nothing to you! She made sure you would never, ever remember that I loved you!" The agonising loss in his voice was heart-breaking for the other two men to hear.

Hearing himself speak those words out loud was just too much for the young Welshman and he burst into quiet sobs, crumpling into Jack's strong waiting arms. Burying his face in Jack's neck, Ianto cried as if his heart were breaking. He was so distraught that he didn't even notice the silent communication going on over his head between Jack and Owen, nor did he see the medic quietly depart the kitchen.

After several very long minutes, Ianto had calmed down enough that he could sit back up on his own. Mopping at his tears, he smiled self-consciously at the large damp spot he'd created on Jack's shoulder.

Seeing the direction of his gaze, Jack chuckled and swiped his thumb across Ianto's cheek, wiping away a stray tear. "I've had worse," he dead-panned.

Ianto managed a wet giggle at that. "I'm sure you have, Sir."

"There was this alien on Proxima Pergus Prime that was…" Jack's voice trailed off and it was his turn for tears. "You know that would never happen, right, Ianto?" he asked anxiously. "You know I would never forget you, right?" He clutched at Ianto as the desperation in his voice grew stronger. "You know that, don't you?"

"It's all right, Cariad," Ianto hastened to reassure him. "Of course I know that."

"You do, don't you?" Jack repeated himself frantically. "I will never forget that you love me, Ianto, just as I'll never forget that I love you."

"I know, Jack," Ianto soothed the distraught immortal, "just as I'll always remember the same about you." He reached up and stroked his lover's tear-streaked face. "Always, Cariad, I will always love you."

"Thank you, Yan." The undisguised gratitude in Jack's eyes was enough to make Ianto weepy again and he blinked rapidly, forcing back his tears before they could fall.

Jack and Ianto sat quietly for a while, wrapped in one another's arms, each man both giving and receiving comfort from the other. Their quiet time together was finally broken when Owen stuck his head around the door.

"Everybody decent?" he snarked. He knew that they were; he'd been sitting on the floor outside the kitchen since he'd walked out earlier. He'd told himself it was so he wouldn't have far to run when – if – the Tea-Boy broke down again. But deep down – and he'd cheerfully shoot the first person who ever said the words – he actually cared about Ianto. 'Bollocks!' he told himself fiercely; 'all I care about is his coffee!' but even he knew his excuse was pathetic and wouldn't fool a soul.

Both men looked at him with puffy, reddened eyes. "Yeah, we're fine," Jack answered the medic's unasked question.

"Then can I PLEASE get a cup of coffee?"