At Website: www.sundive.co.uk
Pairing: Jack/Ianto (Jack / Tenth Doctor implied)
Spoilers: for Torchwood (ALL EPISODES), Doomsday (DW)
Summary: in the aftermath of Jack's most recent suicide attempt
Notes: I'm aware that everyone's doing this, but the muse wanted to write it and at the moment there's no point in forcing it away from an idea. It's enjoying itself, I like to let it play sometimes.
Let Me Count the Ways
The first choked words out of Jack's mouth were, "The hand, Ianto… please."
"It's here, Sir. I've already sorted it." Ianto moved the new jar closer to his boss where he lay, broken, at the bottom of the steps, so that Jack could reach out his fingers and touch the glass.
His breath of relief was almost heartbreaking, given the circumstances. "Thank you." His eyes closed again. "Thank you."
The breaking of the preservation jar had been an accident, Ianto knew it. Jack might try to kill himself on a regular basis, when - he supposed - the abandonment just became unbearable, but he would never, ever purposely put the animated severed hand in harm's way. To put it in a new jar was the first thing Ianto had done when he'd arrived at the hub in the early hours of the morning to find Jack dead at the base of the metal stairs.
"You've made a bit of a mess this time, Sir," Ianto told him quietly. "What did you do?" Jack looked up and Ianto followed his gaze into the rafters. It took a moment for him to realise, "You jumped?!" Kneeling down, he put one hand against the side of Jack's head, sticky with drying blood. "Jack…."
"I should move…." He could hear the pain in the voice and it was hardly surprising.
"No, I think you should stay where you are for the moment." His head was rested at an angle on the concrete floor, but it was the only part of him that was. His neck was hanging off the bottom step from where his shoulders were pinning him in place, his feet were five steps up and Ianto's first guess was that he'd thrown himself down the steps headfirst. But he hadn't. He'd landed like that, on his back on the unforgiving metal. His spine must have broken in several places with a fall from such a height. "You have multiple compound fractures of your legs and arms and I think there might have been internal bleeding." He was covered in his own blood, mainly from the places where broken bones were sticking out through his clothing. "I'm going to have to splint these breaks, Sir, to allow them to heal cleanly. And it's going to hurt."
Jack's attempt at laughing simply spilt fresh blood out over his lips and chin. Ianto wiped it away. "You think… the fall… didn't hurt?"
"Then why do it?"
"I thought… if I broke my neck…."
"Isn't being alive but being paralyzed worse?" Jack didn't answer him. "I need to get some splints and bandages. Don't move."
Ianto stroked his thumb over Jack's cheek and drew his hand back, only to have Jack reach for it. "Ianto… thanks."
He nodded; it was the only answer he had, because to say it was all right would have been lying. It wasn't all right. He hated seeing Jack like this, and this was far from the worst. The first time, the back of his head had been splattered like some gruesome modern artwork all over the wall of his office. Ianto had screamed like a girl when he'd seen it, he didn't mind admitting, didn't have much choice as Jack had told him not to be such a drama queen and to get a cloth. The second time had been less bloody but no less messy - coke and absinthe, both in huge amounts. The stink of vomit and shit hadn't been easy to cover up before morning. The third time he'd seen coming, knew Jack was going to do it and hadn't bothered to try and stop him. In fact, he'd stood in the shadows of the Hub and watched him strip, cover himself in Barbecue sauce and release Myfanwy from her cage. The pterodactyl's attack had been brutal and Jack hadn't made any attempt to fight her off. Except once, except when he was lying bleeding on the ground, flesh torn from him, and she'd gone for his testicles. Ianto had covered his eyes then and eventually, when his hunger for revenge was sated and he was convinced Jack had suffered as much as, probably more than Lisa, at the end of that sharp beak, he'd fetched the dart gun and shot a tranquiliser into the dinosaur's neck. Jack had been nothing but a ravaged carcass, nothing to distinguish him as human, never mind the man he was. Ianto had sat on the ground with Jack's bloodied head in his lap and waited for the worst of the external injuries to start to scar over before covering him in a blanket and waiting most of the night for him to take his first agonised, startled breath.
He was as gentle as possible in setting the broken bones. But although Jack couldn't die the pain was just as bad without the fear. He clamped his teeth into the wooden and rubber bit Ianto had put into his mouth and let the tears flow unheeded across his face until it was over. Only then did Ianto move him from his uncomfortable position down the steps until he was lying on his back on the cold floor, a cushion under his healing head.
At was times like these when he needed his rest. Only at times like these it seemed. Ianto sat and stroked his fingers through Jack's hair, slowly, rhythmically, silently; looking only to relax and comfort him.
"How long have you been doing this for?" He asked after a long, long time; so quietly he thought Jack wouldn't hear him. But he did. As he'd said once, he never slept.
He didn't open his eyes, just replied, "Years, on and off. Sometimes I'll get a breakthrough, like finding the hand, and I won't hurt myself for weeks, months even. Then something happens, like Estelle, and it reminds me how alone I am."
Ianto knew from experience that pity, understanding, empathy weren't what Jack was looking for. The only things he wanted were answers Ianto didn't have. "I'm sorry she had to die."
"I'm sorry I lied to her, sorry I kept myself from her all these years. I don't know how to do any differently." It wasn't the whole truth, something else Ianto knew from these post-suicide, late night conversations. "I think she probably knew, somewhere inside her, who - what - I was. But she never said a word, never thought I could love her as I did when she was young. And you know? I didn't. Because for me, a million years, a thousand adventures and a hundred lifetimes have passed since then and I still don't know what it is to be in love. I don't think I want to know."
Jack shifted position slightly, tensing when the still broken bones screamed in protest. "Lie still." Ianto moved his hand down to Jack's throat, pausing there for a moment or two before resuming the stroking of his hair. "You've proved you can't die, why do you carry on doing it?"
"Because I'm hoping one day… I won't come back."
Ianto had known that would be his response. However much it saddened him, however sharp the pain Jack's admission caused, his own feelings didn't matter, not now. Jack didn't want them or need them. "Then you won't be immortal anymore. But you'll be dead. How will that help anyone?" He hesitated. "And what would I tell the Doctor when he comes looking for his hand?" He considered himself an expert in the fine art of surprise. Jack's eyes snapped open, hard, pupils like black pinpoints in blue pools nailing him in place. "I'm the only one who knows, I haven't said a word. When I was at Torchwood London, I worked with a man called Alex Klein. He was our Government liaison but during the invasion last Christmas he was Harriet Jones' aide. He was taken on board the alien spacecraft with Harriet and he saw the fight between the Sycorax leader and the Doctor. He saw the Doctor's hand get taken off in the sword fight and he saw it grow back. When I saw you had that… I just put two and two together." Jack was still staring at him. "What was he to you, Sir? A friend? More?"
For a moment the hard set of Jack's face, even from upside down, was a greater threat than any of the numerous times he'd had a gun held to his head and he thought what was coming would be worse than a bullet. But instead the raw response was directed elsewhere.
"The love of my life. The only man who has ever trusted me when he had less than no reason to, gave me somewhere to belong when he could have left me to die in a situation of my own making, convinced me that I wasn't a coward. And then left me to die."
Bastard. Ianto put his other hand on Jack's shoulder. "I'm sorry."
"Don't apologise for him. One day I'll find him, or he'll find me, and he can do that himself." He watched Jack gingerly shift his left leg, then his right. "I think I've healed, well enough to get up off the floor at any rate."
One hand on his arm, Ianto instructed, "Just take it easy, Sir."
He sat up, hand going to the back of his neck. "My head hurts."
It was always the same after an incident like this; he'd get a migraine that apparently felt like a dagger in the back of his spine and which eventually would lead to him throwing up anything he'd eaten in the last twelve hours. Ianto sat up behind Jack and put his hands on his shoulders. "If I may, Sir, I dated a masseuse once."
Jack glanced over his shoulder at him and nodded, smiling briefly. "Me too. A wonderful man… big, powerful… hands."
There was no better reward than stopping Jack Harkness from talking. Ianto pressed his thumbs into the tight muscles at the base of Jack's skull, gently at first, until the skin warmed and the tautness started to give. Jack didn't speak as he worked, but after a time he did lean back into the touch, shoulder blades rubbing against Ianto's chest. Moving from the base of Jack's skull to his shoulders, he kept the pressure firm through the stained white T-shirt, warming and loosening the muscles before working them into true submission. Sometimes he wished he could do the same with Jack, and sometimes, like when he found Jack shattered after the last suicide attempt, he really didn't want to.
But for some reason, tonight he felt different. Jack had made a mess of himself, and it scared him to think this was becoming routine but it wasn't as horrific as some things he'd seen in recent months. In a strange way, it was just Jack, and he liked Jack. Very much. Something about the mystery of the man drew him like a moth to light.
He followed the line of Jack's spine with his thumbs, working around each vertebra, being gentle, being careful. By the time he reached the small of his back, he was making love to Jack with his fingers. And Jack apparently knew it. As he straightened, backed off by a couple of inches, and found hard blue eyes locked with his own.
"Do you want this? Or was it simple proximity?" Ianto felt like laughing, and for once he gave into an urge of his. He hoped it wouldn't offend; this sound as it bubbled up softly from inside him. And to his relief, Jack smiled. "It's good to hear you laugh."
Ianto pulled himself together. "I want this." Before Lisa's death, before they found out about her living in the basement - if you could call it living - before he and Jack had squared off over a loaded gun, he would never have been so bold. But on that day, everything had changed. "I'm just not sure I want it right now."
Jack nodded, understanding, it seemed. "Then, could I push my luck, be really cheeky, and ask for another service from you?"
He hadn't lied; Jack didn't sleep, but he rested and sometimes his subconscious took over and his daydreams became nightmares. Ianto's arms provided a safe haven that night, keeping away the demons and the faeries.