Length: 1,610 words
Disclaimer: no infringement intended, they belong to the BBC.
Spoilers: Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
Thanks to: huge thank you to caladria, for the beta(s) above and beyond the call of duty, and to used_songs, for giving it the final once over when I got lost.
A/N: this was a prompt from thrace_adams, as a tie-over for her timestamp meme request. It seemed really simple when I started, but that was three drafts ago. Hope you like it, honey! And don't worry, I haven't forgotten your actual timestamp fic!
It was 00.17 am when the doorbell rang. Ianto staggered out of bed and flicked on the hall lights on his way to the door. Squinting against the bright glare, he undid the deadbolt and swung the door open.
Jack stood on the other side, clothes rumpled, face pale. He blinked a few times against the light and tried a lopsided smile, which faltered.
"Jack," Ianto said, hearing shock in his own voice.
Jack ran a hand through his hair. "May I--?"
"Y-Yes," Ianto stammered, frowning and moving aside.
Jack stepped past him. "Thanks."
Ianto noticed the taut line of Jack's shoulders as he moved into Ianto's living room, before turning back to close the front door. He followed Jack into the living room and flicked on the lights there, too.
Jack didn't seem to notice, instead moving through the room and opening the drapes a little to look out at the night's sky. Ianto watched him for a moment, unsure what to say about Jack's sudden appearance, but before he could marshal his thoughts, Jack looked over his shoulder. "I'm sorry. If you want me to go, I will."
"Nonsense," Ianto replied. "I'm not turning you out. Is it still snowing?"
Jack turned fully. "Yes."
Jack's voice was a little rough, as if he hadn't used it in a while, and Ianto suppressed the urge to go over to him. They weren't back on equal footing yet, so soon after Jack's return, the proposed date still hanging over them as a make or break moment. At times Ianto felt he was holding his breath until that date finally happened. He shook the thought off and took Jack in.
His shoes were scuffed, the coat he hadn't shed yet was undoubtedly hiding a multitude of sins, because there were some traces of blood on Jack's collar, and his hair was messy. Overall, he looked tired, and his stance was rigid, as if he couldn't relax yet. Ianto surmised questions should wait, and said instead, "Coffee?"
Jack shook his head. "No. Too much caffeine." He looked awkward for a second. "Have you got cocoa?"
Ianto nodded. Even at this hour of the morning, his sense of politeness forced him to add, "It'll have to be instant, I'm afraid."
Jack smiled faintly. "Great. Please."
Grateful for something to do other than stand in the middle of his own living room being confused, Ianto moved off to the open plan kitchen and set the kettle to boil. He took down two mugs and prepared the drinks. He carried them over to Jack, who was staring out the window again. "Here," he said needlessly.
Jack accepted the hot chocolate with another faint smile and blew gently on the hot liquid.
Ianto drank from his own mug, scalding his tongue a little. He waited a moment, then he finally spoke. "Jack, why are you here?"
Jack flicked his eyes to him and back to the snow falling in the streets. "Weevil hunt went bad."
That explained Jack's appearance then. Ianto fumbled for an appropriate response.
Jack saved him from it by continuing. "It happens. I just didn't want to..." He trailed off, his shoulders tensing again.
Ianto looked at him with a slight smile. "Give me your coat, Jack, and drink your cocoa. I'll start a fire so you can warm up."
Jack silently looked back. The taut lines didn't disappear from his face, but he shrugged out of his coat and handed it to Ianto. Ianto left him standing by the window to put it away in the hall cupboard, and upon his return found Jack in the same position, staring outside. For a moment, Ianto wondered what he was seeing. Then he went to start the fire.
Not long after, the fire was crackling in the grate. Ianto crouched in front of the flames, poking it occasionally. Finally, he said, "You'll never warm up near those cold windows."
Jack, suppressing yet another shiver, looked at him as if he'd forgotten Ianto was there. But he obediently came over to the cushions Ianto had put down in front of the hearth, and settled on them. He stared silently into the flames for a while, then suddenly spoke. "I missed seeing the sky."
Ianto looked from the window back to Jack. "While you were away?" he asked.
Jack quirked a smile. "Yes."
Ianto wanted to say, where were you?, but it was a question that Jack had refused to answer every time one of the team had asked, and he doubted he'd get an answer now. Instead, he said again, "Why are you here, Jack?"
Jack swallowed, looking at the floor for a moment. "I know I shouldn't be."
"I didn't say that," Ianto replied tersely. "But we're... not exactly on the best of terms yet."
Jack looked at him. "I know." He picked at a frayed thread on one of the cushions. "I would have gone to Gwen's, but..." He smiled slightly, but it didn't reach his eyes. "I hoped you'd let me in. At least, the you I remembered would."
Eight weeks wouldn't make me change that much. But Ianto didn't speak the words. "Jack," he said softly, drawing Jack's attention back to himself. "You can always come here."
The smile quirked again, but underneath it was such sadness on Jack's face that Ianto wanted to forget what was standing between them, and just reach for him. "Thank you," Jack replied. "For that. For this." He made a vague gesture as to encompass the whole room.
Ianto smiled back. For a while, they sat silently.
An hour later, and Ianto was studying Jack from the corner of his eyes. Jack kept threatening to fall asleep, jerking his head up every time he nearly dozed off. Ianto reached out and touched Jack's shoulder. "You should sleep."
Jack remained tense under his hand. "I know."
"But you don't want to," Ianto surmised. "I know you sleep when you need to, Jack. What's going on?"
Jack shifted a little, facing the fire, now dwindled down to glowing embers. "I don't want..." He trailed off. "Ianto, please, don't."
"I won't say it's better if you talk about it," Ianto said softly, fingers stilling. "But--"
"It isn't better," Jack snapped, pulling away and glaring at Ianto. "And I can't talk about it, because it didn't happen. Not for you. All those questions you're not asking, so very politely, the answer is that it didn't happen, for you. I was away for more than a year, and for you it's what, eight weeks? I can't explain that; I can't explain about mad dictators and saving the universe and watching people become slaves and being aged and--" He broke off. "I can't tell you what I saw happen to people I love. It didn't happen." Jack wiped at his eyes. "It didn't happen, Ianto."
Ianto reached out and touched Jack's face, and wasn't surprised when Jack jerked away.
Jack narrowed his eyes a little. He took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "Let it go, Ianto. Like I said, it didn't happen."
Ianto glossed over the sting of this rejection, nodding slowly. "All right, it didn't happen."
"No." Jack scrambled up off the floor. He dusted off his trousers and ran a hand through his hair. "I'm leaving."
Ianto stood up as well, defeated. "Don't go, Jack."
Jack faced him, eyes hard. "Let it go, Ianto."
Ianto watched as Jack turned and went to the door. "Jack..." He followed, taking Jack's greatcoat out of the cupboard and holding it up for him.
Jack paused abruptly, regarding him strangely. "When will I turn around and you won't be there?"
Ianto's mouth was suddenly dry and he swallowed hard.
Jack hung his head. When he looked up again, he said, "If I stay, I can't answer questions."
Ianto nodded quietly.
"And this..." Jack made a futile gesture. "I can't-- No promises."
Ianto tried a smile. "You owe me a date."
Jack smiled back, but it was forced. "Yeah. Wasn't trying to get out of that one. Just..." He made another gesture.
Ianto caught the flailing hand and ran his fingers over it. "Come to bed, Jack. Whatever it is, you need to rest."
Jack looked at his hand, caught in Ianto's fingers. Ianto followed his eyes and waited him out. "I..." Jack said finally. He tipped his head back and stared at the ceiling. Anything not to look at him, Ianto supposed. "Don't know how well I'll sleep."
Ianto could sense the fear and pain behind that sentence, and forced resolute calm into his voice. "Doesn't matter."
Jack didn't look at him, still. "Don't want to scare you."
Ianto refrained from responding. He tugged on Jack's hand, and the other man finally met his eyes. "Come to bed," Ianto repeated.
Jack let himself be led to the bedroom, and stripped quickly, slipping under the covers with Ianto.
"I've missed this," Jack said against Ianto's skin, huddling close. "You have no idea."
Ianto had some idea, but tonight was clearly not the time to point that out. He slid a loose arm around Jack's waist. "Close your eyes," he instructed.
Jack smiled a little against his chest, his breath tickling Ianto's skin. He obediently closed his eyes, though, and seemed to relax an increment.
Ianto kissed the top of his head and blinked into the darkness. This was a long vigil if he was willing to sit it, but he was wide awake now. He tucked the covers tighter around Jack and steeled himself against the aching of his heart at Jack's soft noise of comfort.