Warning(s): Spoilers for Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and The Last of the Timelords
Summary: Jack finally comes home from The Year That Never Was, damaged and in pain. Warning for some not-so-pleasant bodily functions.
The moment Jack is done with his tasks, walks down the corridor, and steps into the repaired TARDIS, he realizes just how exhausted he is. He knows that he’s not even at the height of exhaustion yet, that denial and adrenaline and anger are keeping him from realizing the weight of a whole year’s worth of fatigue. He doesn’t even try to keep his head up as he walks past the Doctor, through the control room, to his bedroom. He collapses on the bed, meaning to sleep, but all he can do is stare up at the ceiling. He knows the TARDIS is trying to make him as comfortable as possible, is sending little psychic nudges of affection his way, but this room doesn’t feel like his anymore, doesn’t feel like home anymore, and Jack suddenly realizes how desperately he needs to get back to Cardiff. He forces himself to sleep, just because he knows he needs it. He wakes up only a few hours later.
“Doctor?” He’s wearing grey sweatpants and a too-big, detestably ugly Scunthorpe United t-shirt that the TARDIS had provided him. Normally after waking, he’d be walking around naked, or at least in just his pants, but he feels cold and strangely vulnerable.
“Hm?” The Doctor looks up from his zoned-out gaze on the console. Jack knows the Timelord has burned the Master’s body on a pyre, he remembers the man shaking him awake to tell him he’d be stepping off for a bit. Somehow, Jack can’t find it in him to be sad.
“I was wondering…can we go back to Cardiff soon? I’d like to go home, see my team.”
“Of course. Just let me talk to Martha and her family.”
Jack nods and goes back to his uncomfortable room. He wishes he could sink into the TARDIS’ embrace here the way he used to, sleep the way he used to, feeling safe and rested and happy. But he can’t.
When they drop him off in Cardiff, he plays at stable and happy and strong, more for his sake than theirs, but for theirs too. He doesn’t want to stay on the TARDIS anymore, and he doesn’t want to be hurting in front of the Doctor, who will only say his hurts are far worse, or Martha, whom he respects and adores and doesn’t want to burden with another lost soul.
Then, of course, he goes to find his team. And John Hart arrives, of all people in the Universe. He never thought he’d see the knife-sharp (and just as deadly) face of his partner again, not here anyway. And their whole team is sent on a wild goose chase, a ruse he should have seen through the moment Hart started talking, but he is too tired, too disorientated, too off his game after a year in chains to catch it. And he dies again, and comes back. And his team, his wonderful, beautiful, brave, smart, alive team saves the day again. And time resets itself (for the second time in a year) and John has found Gray. And Jack is tired, so tired. Too tired.
Ianto calls in reservations at St. David’s and they hurry over in the SUV and the flashy red sports car, Jack gripping the steering wheel of his beloved black SUV as tight as he can in order to stay awake.
He can feel his strength slipping away as he attempts to park the car and has to back up three times to straighten out. His back hurts where he landed across the bench earlier in the night. His wrists hurt where they’ve been chained for much too long. His head hurts. His eyes feel gritty and watery and tired. His whole body feels like it’s throbbing and he nearly falls over when he gets out of the car and has to steady himself with the door.
He pulls himself together long enough to get the room keys and make it inside the elevator. Then he sags against the wall, one hand wrapped around his midsection, the other holding him up against the railing around the elevator wall.
“Jack?” Ianto sounds far away. “Jack?”
“Oi, Jack.” So does Owen. Where are they? Why don’t they get closer to him to talk? Is he that disgusting? Was the Master right?
“I—” he doesn’t even have time to say anything. His mind is trapped in a fog, and suddenly everything goes black.
He wakes in a soft bed with blankets pulled up to his chin, and scrambles upright. Where is he? Is this another one of the Master’s cruel jokes? Why is everything so bright?
“Jack? You’re awake! What’s wrong?”
Everything comes rushing back; the TARDIS, John, the team. He relaxes. Ianto’s here. “No, I’m all right. How long have I been asleep?”
“Only three or four hours. You were out, though. We had to carry you.”
“It’s all right.”
In the lull, Jack suddenly realizes just how much he needs to pee. He staggers upright and shuffles to the bathroom. “’Scuze me.”
He pisses for a long time, relishing the feeling of not being rushed, of not being watched, of not being chained. He sighs audibly, and savours the sensation of warm water and proper soap and cleanliness when he washes his hands. His legs feel weak suddenly, and he wobbles his way back to the bed. Ianto is sitting in a chair across the room, reading a book. He lies back down, and Ianto looks up at him.
“You all right?”
“I dunno.” He can already feel the exhaustion pulling at him, his eyelids heavy and face falling slack. There’s a long silence, and Jack is nearly under when Ianto speaks again.
“How long were you gone for?”
“A year,” Jack’s too tired to care right now, too worn out to hide. “One long, miserable year.”
Ianto stares at him. Jack’s eyes are mostly closed, and he wonders if the Welshman has frozen. Then Ianto sits back. “Oh.”
He’s back on the Valiant, and the Master is cutting him open in long, smooth strokes, spreading the Y-shaped flaps of skin; a vivisection. He thrashes against the pain, but the Master’s UNIT goons hold him still as his ribcage is opened up. The Master taps a bloodied finger against his chin, a thoughtful expression on his face. Jack wants to spit on that face, but his mouth his dry with screaming, and the blood that has pooled there won’t gather together, no matter how much he works the muscles of his cheeks.
The Master begins to prod at his organs as if he’s testing the ripeness of fruits and vegetables. Jack bites back a hysterical laugh as an image of the Master plucking lungs at hearts and pancreases out of the produce aisle at the green grocer’s runs unbidden through his mind. He hears some sort of sickly squelching noise, and is numbly surprised to see the Master holding his kidneys in one hand.
“Let him go.”
The goons do, finally, let his legs go, and only then does he realize that they’ve sort of been holding him up. He has no time to brace himself, and his arms crunch as they’re pulled from their sockets, his wrists snapping his half as his arms and body are forced in a downwards position that his hands cannot follow. The Master raises his scalpel again—
He wakes with a shout, and then a sharp pain as his head cracks against the desk and he crashes to the floor.
“Jack!” Ianto is at his side in an instant, hands around his wrists to pull him up, but Jack flinches and pulls away, shrinking back into the corner made by the bed and the desk, hands drawn protectively to his chest, head ducked. Somehow, Ianto knows not to stand, and backs away still in a crouch, hands up in front of him, palms forward. Jack’s breathing slows. He manages to pull himself up onto the bed and get back under the covers. There’s a long, long silence. All that can be heard is Jack’s ragged breathing.
“Jack, it’s not your fault.”
Jack plucks at the fabric of the light blue blanket, staring at the lumps where his toes are. “Still. Sorry.”
Ianto watches him for a moment longer before getting up and crossing to the TV, pulling a black binder from the top. Shiny gold lettering flashes at him from the front.
“Are you hungry?” He waves the binder at Jack as if to illustrate his point. “I could order us some food.”
“I…guess.” It’s been so long since he’s been asked if he wants to eat. It feels strange. He lets Ianto decide.
“You should at least eat a little bit. Let me order you something.”
It turns out that Ianto has ordered him cawl and bread and a side salad. He wolfs it down much too fast, too hungry and amazed at the real food in front of him to savour it instead of filling the emptiness of his shaking belly. He feels a bit better once he’s halfway through the meal. Ianto’s eating much slower, observing him with a concerned look on his face, but somehow Jack doesn’t feel cornered or watched. He simply eats with the fervour of a starving man, which, technically, he is. He doesn’t register the taste of the food, simply that it is good and that it is real and that it exists. Those certainties amaze him.
“What did they do to you, Jack?”
Jack represses a flinch, puts on his best grin. “I’m all right. I lived, didn’t I?” Ianto doesn’t look impressed. Jack pretends that he feels strong. “I’m fine, Ianto. Just tired. It’s been a long damn year.”
Ianto nods, but he doesn’t look satisfied in the least or fooled at all. “All right.”
He puts his dishes on the bedside table and drifts off to sleep again.
When he wakes, his head is throbbing a little where he hit it, and his back still hurts. He can hear Ianto pottering about in the adjacent room, maybe making coffee. The thought of coffee makes his stomach tremble, and not in a good way, and suddenly he’s aware of an urgency in his nether regions that has him breathing shallowly and shuffling frantically into the bathroom, barely managing not to slam the door as he lands on the toilet.
Everything is burning and liquid and gritty as it forces its way out of him. He can’t catch his breath. He’s shaking, shuddering, his abdomen is cramping up and he’s doubled over in pain, eyes watering. His arse is on fire and his muscles are spasming and he wants it to stop, hopes it will stop. He moans pitifully, and immediately hopes Ianto didn’t hear him. It hurts, it makes him burn and tears are rolling down his face, mucus dripping, breaths hitching painfully. He grits his teeth and breathes against the pain, against the smell, tensing and nauseated, and sharp little pains are riding up and down his midsection from his arse to his belly and he’s panting and crying and balling his fists and will it ever stop. His head spins and feels cold and hot at the same time, sweat beading on his upper lip. Waves of light-headedness hit him and it’s all he can do keep from pitching forward against his body’s onslaught.
When it finally stops, he cleans himself up, sobbing wretchedly, feeling humiliated despite the fact that no one was there to witness. His head is spinning, his belly trembling and shaky, his legs weak, and he feels like he’s made of glass. He washes up and leans his forehead against the cool wooden frame of the door. A wave of dizziness washes over him and he clutches the edge of the sink.
“Jack?” Ianto’s voice calls for him.
Jack’s breath hitches, his throat working. “H-Here,” he manages to croak.
Ianto opens the door and automatically grabs at Jack’s shoulders to steady him. If the smell in the tiny room bothers him, he gives no sign of it.
“Okay, Jack, come on, back to bed. That’s it.”
He helps Jack back into the bed. Jack’s belly is still feeling like a shuddering house of cards, his whole body feels like it could blow over in the wind. Ianto moves to go back to his chair, but Jack grasps his hand feebly.
“No, stay. Please.” He can’t bear to think of what might break inside of him if Ianto refuses. But the Welshman nods and climbs into the bed with him. Warm hands pass over his arms, smooth down his hair, rub across his chest. Gentle hands. Hands touching him in a way he hasn’t been touched in over a year. He sobs wretchedly.
“Jack? Can you tell me what happened to you?”
Jack shakes his head, tears sliding into his hair. “Noo,” he moans, and knows he sounds pathetic. But Ianto only pets his hair and shushes him.
“It’s okay. It’s okay, Jack, you don’t have to.”
But he does! He owes it to Ianto. He takes a shuddering breath, lets it out in a whoosh. Takes another. “Torture,” he whispers, nearly inaudible, but by the way Ianto stiffens, Jack knows he’s heard him. He can feel Ianto tense, all along his body. Is he dirty now? Tainted goods? Will Ianto leave him?
But then Ianto relaxes again and pulls Jack closer, and Jack can feel tears that are not his falling onto his neck. “I’m going to kill the fucking bastard.”
A laugh that sounds more like a sob wrenches its way from Jack’s throat. “He’s already dead.”
“That’s not who I meant.” Ianto’s hands stroke his hair, rub his trembling belly. “Go to sleep Jack. I’ll be here. It’ll all be better in the morning.”
Jack’s had enough shitty mornings this past year to know that it really won’t be. But he has Ianto, and he’s sleeping on a real bed for the first time in a year, and he’s home, and that’s good.