Pairings/Characters: Ianto, Jack
Spoilers/Warnings: Spoilers for Lost Souls
Summary: After the events of Lost Souls, Jack and Ianto try to confront their own weary grief.
Author's Note: Written for the "exhaustion" square of angst_bingo. Title from All Things Will Die by Tennyson.
Death waits at the door.
See! our friends are all forsaking
The wine and the merrymaking.
We are call’d–we must go.
Laid low, very low,
In the dark we must lie.
--All Things Will Die by Lord Alfred Tennyson
“I’m sorry, Jack.” Ianto sighs, stretching out on the couch and flexing his toes.
Jack joins him, lifting Ianto’s head with his hands and sitting down, letting the Welshman settle his head in his lap. “What for?”
Ianto shrugs, shifting to a more comfortable position and chewing on his fingernail before Jack pulls his hand away from his mouth. “For being taken in by the creature. For wanting to stay with them.”
“It wasn’t your fault. It was manipulating you.” Jack smoothes Ianto’s hair back from his forehead. “It finds chinks in your armour, it finds your emotional weaknesses and it uses them. That’s what it did to you.”
Ianto shrugs again. “Didn’t take it very long, did it?”
“Ianto, by that time it was strong. It had already fed on multiple people.”
“Hmm.” Ianto is staring at the wall. The dark purple rings around his eyes are more pronounced in the dim light of his living room, and Jack realizes that he’s thinner now than he was. His skin is sallow in the yellow light, his face drawn.
Ianto looks smaller than usual in a black hoodie and jeans, his feet clad only in white socks with grey toes and heels. There’s a hole in the left one, and his littlest toe pokes through, vulnerable to the cold. His hands are stuffed in the pocket of the jacket, and it looks like the black is swallowing him up. To Jack, he looks painfully mortal.
Ianto sighs again and blinks slowly at the wall. His body is limp, but Jack can still feel the tension thrumming through him.
“Are you okay, Ianto?” he asks, when Ianto sighs for a third time.
“I don’t know.” Ianto turns to Jack, his gaze conflicted and dark. Jack wishes he couldn’t sympathize with all the emotions he sees there. Ianto closes his eyes and presses the back of his head into Jack’s thighs, pinching the bridge of his nose. “I just want them back so badly, Jack. I miss them. And not in the way that I missed my mum when she died, or my dad, or in the way that I missed my mates after Canary Wharf. It’s like there’s a hole where they were, and I can’t get rid of it, can’t fill it. Owen and Tosh. Lisa, too. It hurts. It hurts so much to go in the Hub and not hear them or make them coffee. Or to look next to me on a case and not see them.”
“I’m sorry.” Jack pets a hand across Ianto’s chest to stroke at his arm, trying to soothe. Ianto screws up his face in grief and it’s like he didn’t even hear.
“I just wanted to be with them. I wanted to go where they went. At that moment, I just wanted to vanish. Because sometimes it feels like it would be better to be in whatever dark place they are than to be where they aren’t. Some days I come into the Hub and their things are still around and I can’t go into the autopsy room without thinking of Owen or fix the Mainframe without turning to ask Tosh a question. Some days I just want to leave here to be with them.”
Jack’s gut feels like someone’s just stabbed him and twisted the knife violently, and he can feel tears prickling in the back of his eyes as he watches Ianto swallow thickly to keep his own at bay. There’s more grief in the young man’s face than any person his age should know. He looks as old as Jack feels.
“I know everything will die,” Ianto begins slowly, his voice heavy. Jack watches the dark twitches of sorrow across his face. “But I’m just so fucking sick of all the death. I’m sick of having to put my friends in cryogenics, or autopsy some old lady or some little kid. I’m sick of filing away names of the dead. I’m sick of seeing people killed, by us or by aliens. I just—I think I’m tired, Jack. I think I’m so tired.”
“Yeah,” Jack nods slowly. “Me too.”
Ianto lets out a long, slow breath. An involuntary whimper slips out at the end and he flinches, squeezing his eyes shut. Jack slides his hands into Ianto’s hair and begins kneading and rubbing gently.
“What are you doing?”
“You should sleep. You look wiped.” Jack rubs circular motions into Ianto’s hairline. Ianto closes his eyes and hums.
“You keep doing that and I’ll fall asleep right here. At least let me get into bed.”
Jack relents and pats his shoulder to signal acquiescence. Ianto pushes himself up and slides off the couch, shuffling into the bedroom. His movements are slow and laboured by fatigue as he pulls off his hoodie and trousers and gets into bed in his pants and vest. Jack joins him a moment later, also stripped down to his under layers. Ianto rolls onto his left side and curls up, rubbing at his eyes. Jack turns off the light and slides in beside him, sitting against the headboard and massaging his scalp lightly.
“There’s nothing, that’s what hurts.” Ianto murmurs in the darkness. “I’m never going to see them again. There’s nothing left of them except what’s in my head. I just wanted it all to be real. I wanted to vanish so I could see them all again.”
“Go to sleep.” Jack mutters in reply, hating the painful clarity of truth that Ianto’s half-asleep brain is voicing. His hand is still moving in gentle patterns across Ianto’s scalp.
In a few moments, Ianto’s breathing evens out and his body relaxes into the sleep. Jack slides down and curls himself around Ianto, pressing his nose to the back of the young man’s neck to inhale the thick scent that gathers there. He reaches across the Welshman’s chest and pulls him closer, wishing away the bell he feels echoing in his head, a nine-part toll. Ianto’s heartbeat is strong under his palm, and Jack secretly hopes he’s not there when it ceases its faithful rhythm. Stretches of time that Ianto cannot see reach before him, and he can hear the whisper calling. His grip on Ianto tightens, and the young man presses a sleeping kiss to his wrist, where his own pulse beats on eternally.