A/N: Serious fluff in this chapter. And my apologies to all CI fans - this chapter is ALL about Jack and Ianto.
Jack awoke next to a comforting darkness, surrounded by the reassuring hum of the Tardis engines. He lay still and silent for a long while, relishing the feeling of renewed strength in his body.
He really did not want to open his eyes. The moment that he did, reality would intrude and he would be one step closer to having to leave the Tardis once more. The last time, he'd had a genuine invitation to stay, and it had just about killed him to walk away. The one thing that had saved his sanity had been knowing he was coming home to Ianto, and Ianto was the one solid reason he had for staying now.
It still hurt. Some deeper instinct told him that it would always hurt, but somehow that hurt was not anywhere near as pronounced when he thought of the young Welshman who had supported him unfailingly.
Slowly, sounds began to encroach on his consciousness. Voices murmured softly, gradually making him aware of other people nearby. And then, at the point when he felt he could no longer keep up the act, the Doctor's voice sounded in his ear.
“Open your eyes, Captain. I know you're awake.”
With some reluctance, Jack opened his eyes to find the Doctor hovering over him, a wry grin on his face.
“Welcome back,” the Doctor greeted him with a broad smile. Jack shifted, and was gratified to be able to push himself up into a sitting position. He looked around, expecting to see his team and the NYPD detectives around the room, but it was empty of all but himself, the Doctor and Martha. His chest tightened fractionally as panic momentarily threatened to claim him.
“Where... Where's Ianto?”
The Doctor's eyebrows shot up.
“Well, that wasn't the first thing I expected you to say.”
“Where is he?” Jack asked, the bearest hint of hysteria in his voice.
“He's fine,” the Doctor assured him. “He's in the gardens with all the others. Has been for the better part of the day, as a matter of fact. Both he and Bobby are perfectly fine. You're the only one still needing care, Jack.”
Jack shuddered at the surge of relief that met the Doctor's words, only to follow that with a miserable groan. He pressed his hands over his face, his eyes burning with unshed tears.
“I nearly got him killed... Nearly got them both killed.”
The Doctor paused, and then sat carefully on the edge of the bed and fixed Jack with his best no-nonsense look.
“It wasn't your fault, Jack. If you want to blame someone, then blame the Master. Without him, that thing would never have known you even existed. It would never have ended up on Earth. That wasn't your fault.”
Not speaking to start with, Jack swung himself around and pushed himself to his feet, only to sway dangerously. In an instant, the Doctor and Martha were at his side.
“What do you think you're doing?” Martha demanded to know as she tried to guide Jack back down onto the bed. He resisted, and tried to walk towards the door.
“Gotta see him. Gotta talk to him.”
“Wait!” the Doctor exclaimed. “Jack, wait! Just... wait.”
Jack slowed to a halt and looked sideways at the Doctor.
“What? I'm okay... Just a little woozy. I want to see my boyfriend, and make sure he's okay. I need him, Doctor. And anyway, I'm in the Tardis. What the hell is gonna happen to me here?”
“Well, you may have a point, but even so...”
The Doctor trailed off, staring at Jack incredulously. “I'm sorry... Did you just say 'boyfriend'?”
Jack stared back at him, unembarrassed.
“I think that's what I said. Pretty sure it is. Yep, it is. My boyfriend, Ianto.”
A broad grin suddenly split across the Doctor's face.
“Good for you, Jack! Good for you. But, you're still not up to wandering around the Tardis.”
Jack scowled, but the crushing wave of dizziness that crashed through him quickly stymied any further protests. Rather than force him back to the bed, though, the Doctor patted his shoulder and offered a compromise.
“How about we take you to your room, and I'll bring Ianto to you. Acceptable, Captain?”
It looked for a moment as though Jack might actually argue. But then, abruptly, his shoulders slumped and he nodded.
Ianto walked along the corridor, just a step behind the Doctor. The Time Lord had come to the gardens just a short while ago, and told him quietly that Jack was awake and wanted to see him. Equally nervous and eager, Ianto went, but was both surprised and confused when they went straight past the med bay without so much as a glance in.
“He's not in there now,” the Doctor explained without a glance backwards. “I took him to his own room. Bit more comfortable than the med bay. Thought he might actually get a bit of rest in there.”
“His... Sorry, his room?”
The Doctor nodded.
“That's right. All my companions have had their own rooms, and all of their rooms remain untouched after they leave... however they happen to go. Jack's no exception.”
“How long did he travel with you for?” Ianto wondered.
“Well, you have to understand that it wasn't a linear timeline... You know, wibbly wobbly, timey wimey...” He paused, glancing back at Ianto only to be deflated by the young man's blank look of incomprehension. “Okay, never mind. At a rough estimate? I'd say it was about three months.”
“Three months?” Ianto echoed. “He spent three months with you, and then spent over a hundred years pining after you?” He shook his head, incredulous. “The immortality thing really did screw his head up for a while, didn't it?”
“Oi, steady on there,” the Doctor retorted, hearing the unspoken insult in the young man's tone. Ianto, however, was unrelenting.
“You left him behind, Doctor. I understand he wanted to find you because he needed answers about what had happened to him, but that doesn't explain his ongoing... infatuation with you.”
The Doctor opened his mouth to reply, but Ianto beat him to it.
“The only reason I haven't already tried to hit you is because I know for a fact that Jack has already forgiven you for it. He's forgiven you, but it still hurts him to know that you deliberately left him behind.”
“He's told you that?” the Doctor asked in a suddenly subdued tone. Ianto regarded him darkly.
“He didn't need to. His nightmares speak for him.”
That silenced the Doctor momentarily. It came as no surprise that Jack had nightmares, but the Doctor had assumed those nightmares revolved exclusively around that year. It hadn't occurred to him that perhaps Jack still suffered emotionally and mentally over being abandoned on Satellite Five.
“He has nightmares about it?” the Doctor asked softly, though he wasn't so certain that he wanted to know.
“More frequently than he's willing to admit. He denies it, but it's a bit of a giveaway when he cries out things like 'don't leave me' and 'please come back', in his sleep.”
The Doctor shut his eyes as he came to a halt by a door, an unpleasant feeling of guilt sweeping through him.
“I wish I could say I'd change it if I could, but...”
“But you wouldn't.”
It was said regretfully, but not apologetically. Ianto looked away, feeling the old anger threatening to bubble to the surface once more.
“He did go back for you, Ianto,” the Doctor went on quietly. “I asked him to come with me again, when it was all over with. I would have welcomed him back on board, but he refused. He said he kept thinking about his team during that year... but it was your face that was in the forefront of his mind. He refused an offer to travel with me again because he wanted to go home to you.”
Ianto's breath caught in his throat. He had a vivid memory of the night Jack had come back to them, and of his quiet, sincere statement that he had come back for him; followed quickly by a similar statement to include the entire team. But the Captain's eyes had been on him, and Ianto had dared to allow himself to hope that maybe it wasn't just a line to get back into his good graces.
He had no doubt, after the efforts Jack had gone to over the last couple of months, that the Captain was genuine in his desire for a serious relationship, but still Ianto resisted on some minor level. Still, there had been doubts in his mind that Jack really, truly wanted him, and he harboured a deepset fear that Jack would still be willing to drop everything and go chasing after his Doctor once more.
Hearing the affirmation from the Doctor's own lips, though, cemented it in Ianto's own mind and put paid to any lingering doubts.
The Doctor motioned to the door.
“Go ahead. He's waiting for you.”
With a grudging murmur of thanks, Ianto opened the door and went inside.
He found Jack sitting on the edge of a large, comfortable-looking bed, with what looked like an old RAF cap in his hands. Ianto paused just inside the doorway, looking around the room briefly, and thoroughly intrigued by this glimpse into Jack's life before Torchwood. There wasn't a whole lot in the room, although Ianto had no idea whether that was down to the short time Jack had travelled with the Doctor or if there was some other reason.
His eyes were drawn to a coat rack in the corner of the room, and to the grey coat that hung on it – so similar to the greatcoat that Jack now favoured.
“I had that when I first met the Doctor,” Jack explained quietly in answer to the unspoken question. “I was playing at being an American volunteer in London during the Blitz. I missed having it after the Doctor... after the Gamestation. Had to wait seventy-two years after landing back on Earth before I could lay my hands on another one.”
Ianto crossed the floor and sat down beside Jack. After a moment's consideration, he reached across and took the cap from Jack's hands.
“You wore this?”
“Had the whole uniform. Looked good in it, too. Although, I wouldn't go for the cravat look again. Especially not after Bilis.”
Ianto smiled faintly. He wholeheartedly agreed there.
“I'm sorry,” Jack said quickly, with the slightest hint of panic in his voice. Ianto eyed him incredulously.
“For... Well... I mean...”
It took a supreme effort on Ianto's part not to laugh.
“You don't even know what you're apologising for, do you?”
Jack shrugged awkwardly.
“I was kinda hoping it'd cover pretty much everything I've done wrong since we arrived in New York.”
A small, wry smile quirked across Ianto's lips.
“Did it occur to you that you don't need to apologise for anything?”
The look on Jack's face strongly suggested he didn't believe that.
“I don't? Why not?”
“Well, contrary to what I might have led you to believe, Jack, you haven't actually done anything wrong.”
“No? You were pretty angry at me for the whole 'giving myself up to save everyone else' plan of action.”
“Yes, I was,” Ianto agreed. “But I also understand what you were trying to do. And besides, something you said when we were in the tunnels redeemed you for that.”
“Really?” Jack wondered. “Care to tell me what, so I can use it again next time I piss you off?”
Ianto's smile broadened fractionally.
“You said you were relying on me to come back for you.”
Jack answered that with silence. He remembered it well enough, and he remembered the sheer terror he'd been feeling at the time. What he'd said had been the truth. The thought of being left alone, at the mercy of the Grysliaak, had nearly paralysed him with fear, and it was only the knowledge that Ianto wouldn't abandon him that had kept him functioning. Of course, he hadn't anticipated Bobby taking the initiative, knocking him out and carrying him down the tunnel, either.
“I was,” he said finally when he found his voice again. “I was relying on you.”
Ianto put the cap aside, and took Jack's hand in his own.
“You were relying on me.”
“Yes,” Jack whispered, and felt something break inside of him as he realised just what he had said. Tears came before he could stop them, and a moment later he found himself wrapped up in Ianto's loving and protective embrace.
“I always knew that I needed you, Jack,” Ianto whispered as his lover and his Captain sobbed softly into his shoulder. “But I was never sure if you really needed me, until that moment. Now I know for sure.”
“Always needed you,” Jack whispered, hugging Ianto back clumsily. “I love you, Ianto.”
Ianto smiled tearfully, his heart swelling at the sound of those precious words. He knew well enough that Jack was not one to throw out those words on a whim. Oh, he was a master of the language of seduction, but in the time that Ianto had known Jack, he had never heard him say those three particular words. Not to anyone. To hear them now, being said to him, was enough to bring him to tears.
He tightened his hold on the Captain, and pressed his lips gently to the older man's temple.
“I love you too, Jack. C'mon, lie down now. The Doctor was right. You need to rest.”
Jack didn't object as Ianto urged him to lie down, but caught his lover's hand before Ianto could move away.
“Lay with me?” he asked with the puppy dog eyes that Ianto had never been able to resist.
Ianto slipped his freshly laundered jacket off and hung it on the coat rack with the grey greatcoat before laying down on the bed beside Jack. He guided Jack to roll over onto his side, and Ianto spooned in behind him, sliding his arms around to hold Jack close.
Silence reigned for the next few minutes, and Ianto was starting to wonder whether Jack had, indeed, managed to fall asleep when a sleepy voice spoke.
“So... Would you really have a heart attack if I asked you to marry me?”
Ianto nearly choked.
Jack's hand gripped his reassuringly, and Ianto fancied he could sense his lover grinning in response.
“Just wondering. Sleep now.”
Ianto rolled his eyes and settled down behind Jack, nuzzling his shoulder lightly. Sleep took them both at the same time, safe and secure in a loving embrace.
“Look at that,” Martha whispered when she and the Doctor looked in on the couple half an hour later. Both men were fast asleep in each other's arms, Jack having rolled over at some point so that they were laying face to face. Ianto's head was pressing in against Jack's chest, while Jack's cheek nuzzled the top of Ianto's head. It made for a truly touching sight.
“Would never have believed Jack was capable of monogomy,” the Doctor said wryly, winning himself a light slap on the shoulder from Martha.
“Stop it, you. Leave 'em alone.” She took a step into the room, reaching out tentatively as though she wanted to touch the sleeping lovers, only to pull back again. “Mum asked me to do something when we found Jack, you know. She wanted me to hold him, and let him know he wasn't alone. I guess I don't need to after all, do I?” She looked back at him, taking in his expression with a frown. “What are you looking like that for? Aren't you happy for them?”
The Doctor smiled sadly.
“I am,” he assured her. “I'm happy for them both, Martha. I just...”
He trailed off, not wanting to speak the worry that was on his mind; not wanting to spoil the beautiful moment by pointing out the bitter reality that, like himself, Jack was condemned to watching those he loved die while he lived on. Martha eyed him with a slight frown.
“What is it?”
“Nothing,” the Doctor murmured, offering her a brave smile as they retreated from the room. “Nothing at all.”
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