wen's voice crackles over his comms, high pitched and excited as she babbles on about Jack being back, telling him that Martha's come too and there's a new guy also, some guy named Mickey who Jack used to know and… and… “Ianto,” she calls, “Ianto are you listening to me?”
“Of course.” He answers. The words absentmindedly spoken through the ringing in his ears- Jack's back. He's back. Just like he promised. He's actually come back- and the sudden lightness he feels in his head comes as colour and blood drain from him and he sinks hurriedly to the floor, head pressing against his knees as he sucks in great gulps of air in a bid to stop the sudden sense of dizziness that washes over him, chilling him and sending waves of shakes throughout his body.
“Ianto?” Gwen's voice. “Ianto are you coming up? Jack's asking for you.”
Ianto blinks his eyes; a fast flickering of eyelashes against the moistness of his pupils. He thinks, faintly, that it must be the shock finally setting in. So much has happened in what feels like such a swift passing of time, he hasn't stopped, not really, not even once the Dalek stood frozen before them, no longer quite the threat it once posed to them. They'd manned their workstations, helped the Doctor work the Rift. Saved the planet and brought it back home. The Dalek had been destroyed. Tosh's- beloved Tosh’s- time-status reversed and then they had begun the clean up.
When do you suppose he'll get back? Gwen had asked, hopeful eyes watching him so carefully. Ianto had smiled back grimly, not quite meeting her gaze as he'd shrugged his shoulders and told her he didn't know, not long I should think.
He'd been lying, of course. Jack was back travelling with his Doctor. Jack who'd left them once before for this creature that could slip through time and space in the blink of an eye. Another immortal to share the forever’s of life with. Why return? What was there for him here in Cardiff?
His thoughts tasted as bitter as the bile in his throat. That he had doubted their Captain's promise. That he had doubted Jack's promises to him. To them. Only here, now, to have his own inner betrayal brought to the forefront of his mind, because Jack was back. He'd come back just like he'd promised he would and Ianto was both gladdened by it and sickened in himself.
“Ianto? Ianto, are you alright?”
“Fine, Gwen. Fine. Just finishing up here.”
“Ianto?” Another voice. More familiar to him than the air he breathes and he closes his eyes in distress at hearing it.
“Sir?” He hears Jack's chuckling come crackling over the comms.
“Where are you?” He asks, and there's an underlying question in his voice. Where are you... and why aren't you here already?
He clears his throat, lifts his head to lean it back against the cool, ceramic tiles of the wall behind him. “We had a bit of a pest control problem, sir. Just finishing up the cleaning. I'll be up in a moment.”
“Pest control?” And there is a whole other question entirely. Ianto smiles humourlessly to himself.
“I think it's safe to say it was exterminated.”
Even over the Bluetooth he can hear Jack's sudden inhale. “Daleks? In the Hub?” There's a sudden urgency to his voice.
“You didn't know?” Ianto swallows back the bile, the words spoken before he'd even registered thinking them. Even to his own ears it sounds like an accusation. He winces, presses fingers into his eyes till spots begin dancing across his inner vision. Another betrayal he's sure. This lack of faith in a man he believes he loves.
“I- Jesus, no! You don't think I'd-,” he drifts off and Ianto says nothing. “-Gwen?” And she says nothing. Or if she does, Ianto does not hear it. The silence presses on. Ianto suppresses another bout of shivers as he hugs his knees to his chest.
“Ianto, where are you?” There is a command in his voice now. Their Captain is back. Ianto shivers inwardly and the coward in him shrinks back as if to hide.
“I'll only be another moment or two, sir.” He promises though he's sure that Jack hears the hollowness of the lie in his words. Jack calls his name again and Ianto hesitates, his mouth dry and his skin clammy.
“I'm in the crematorium.” He answers finally and hears the comms click off. Jack's coming for him, he knows, and he winces when he thinks what Jack will think when he gets here.
He pushes himself to his feet. Brushes the back of his hand across his sweaty brow and turns his back towards the doorway as he focuses his gaze upon the small window before him- within he sees the heated flames of fire as it licks the metal of the Dalek into nothingness. His hands are soot dirtied from stirring the flames. His forearms too. His shirtsleeves are still rolled high and the rest of him is soiled with dirt and sweat. He feels naked. Underdressed for a confrontation he's not prepared in the least to face.
"Ianto?" He turns automatically at the call of his name to see Jack hovering in the doorway. His hands are shoved deep into the pockets of his trousers and without conscious decision Ianto's appraising Jack's appearance, seeing scorch marks and tears and he knows- stomach clenching as Jack steps into the room- knows that Jack's been forced to die again. Though how many times he isn't sure.
There's a heartbeats pause as Jack stops just inches from him. They stare at one another. Each on the brink of speaking but neither with the words to actually do so. Within his chest, Ianto feels as his own heart thudders against his ribs and in his throat and dares to open his mouth to speak, but before he can so much as utter the first word, Jack is reaching out to him and pulling him suddenly into his arms.
He can only gasp out his surprise as Jack grips him in a fierce hold; one arm at his waist and the other at his neck and Ianto lurches further into his arms, a whimpered cry of distress slipping from his lips as he clutches at Jack just as ardently as his Captain does him.
"Oh, Jack," he breathes, pressing his face into Jack's neck. I'm so sorry. He breathes wordlessly against his skin- scented with fire and ash and those fifty-first century pheromones that make him inhale another deeper breath. I'm so sorry; he thinks again, eyes scrunching closed.
"I'm sorry," he whispers, only it's Jack speaking the words and not Ianto himself. And that's enough to make him pull away, moving back enough to look at Jack and search his eyes for the meaning.
He shakes his head. "I shouldn't have doubted you," he says and Jack's fingers clench just a little more tightly into the hair at the back of his neck.
"And I should never have left you.” Jack returns. “Either of you. I should have known they'd come for you. I wouldn't have..."
"But you would have," Ianto affirms and Jack closes his eyes as if in guilt and nods his head. Ianto reaches his fingers up to trace across Jack's brow, the flicker of his eyelids, the curve of his cheek, jaw, mouth...
"I should have believed you," Ianto whispers and Jack blinks his eyes open to meet his own. It is he who looks away now only to have Jack's hands move to cup at his face and lift his head back to meet the stare of Jack's gaze.
"Yes," Jack says, "and no." Ianto frowns and Jack's smile is wry.
"I wish you had," he explains, "but I cannot blame you for doubting me. It must seem to you that I'll go anytime he calls and who knows when- if- I'll ever come back." He watches Ianto carefully. "Am I right?" he asks.
"A little," Ianto replies. Jack stares and Ianto slumps just a bit under the scrutiny. "A lot?" He tries again and Jack leans forward, pressing their brows together; his thumbs circling at Ianto's temples as Ianto's own hands scrunch themselves into the front of his shirt.
"I can't promise you I won't go with him again," Jack's words begin with a hesitancy Ianto's hardly ever seen from him, "But I can promise- I do promise- that I won't ever leave like I did before. That first time. I will let you know, Ianto. I won't do that to you again. Any of you. And I will always try to come back. Or let you know. Or-"
"It's okay," he interrupts. "I understand."
Jack’s gaze is intense but Ianto holds it. “I do understand.” And it’s his own sort of promise. “And I believe you. I’ll always try to believe in you.” He lets loose a shuddering breath as Jack nods once and draws them back together, his mouth pressing a lingering kiss to his crown as they hold each other for a moment longer till the crackle of splitting metal brings them back to the moment and mutually they break apart, turning to stare first at the furnace and then at one another.
“What say we head on up to the Hub and I introduce you to a few people?” Jack’s smile is subtly infectious and Ianto finds himself returning it just a little.
“Ah yes, Gwen mentioned something about you bringing us back a new team?”
Jack reaches for his hand, squeezing just slightly before letting go and throwing an arm about his shoulders instead as he leads them out of the crematorium.
“Well, there’s Martha whom you’ve met already, and a new bloke called Mickey. He assures me he knows how to work a computer but you never know with him, he may need some watching.” Jack winks and Ianto smiles a little more, shaking his head.
“I don’t have to worry do I?” Ianto asks, prodding Jack in the ribs.
“Worry?” Jack looks appropriately blank.
“About you. You and Mickey?” He presses, his lips twitching back another smile.
Jack blinks. “Me and… oh
.” His eyes widen. “Oh no
. oh god
no…!” And suddenly he’s laughing. And Ianto’s grinning with him. And things… well, they’re maybe not alright, but they sure feel like they’re heading that way, if only for a moment, but it’s a moment enough and that’s all he’s focussing on for now.
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