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The Year That Never Was

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The guards dragged him into the conference room and brought him to an abrupt, stumbling halt. Their hands heavy and ominously on his shoulders, he first searched for the Doctor in his wheelchair. But before he could spot the Time Lord, his gaze fell on the four figures kneeling before the Master. Jack's heart stuttered to a halt for a second, but he praised himself that he held back the shocked gasp which had wanted to escape him.

Ah, nice of you to join us, Captain,” the Master greeted him in mock joviality and beckoned him over. The guards shoved him roughly across the room, his feet resisting him and feeling like lead.

He stopped before his captured team and drank in the sight of them, glad to see them again, but also knowing what this probably meant for them. He looked each of them in the eye and tried to convey calmness and reassurance.

It didn't really work.

As you can see, we have guests,” the Master drawled on, coming to a stand beside Jack.

He clasped Jack's shoulder in a seemingly comradely gesture, but Jack was gripped by a feeling of repulsion, like ants crawling all over his skin. He fervently hoped the Master was in agony from touching him so jovially – all for show of course – and it would really have lightened his mood if the Master lost his breakfast over touching the “impossible thing” as the Doctor so charmingly called Jack.

I thought you send them to the Himalayas and wouldn't bother again with them,” Jack spoke through gritted teeth, never turning his gaze away from his team.

Yeah, that was the original plan, but I'm sooo changeable. If I had a weakness, it would be that. But you see, Freak, I thought a little ahead, and I'm a Time Lord, we get bored really quick. Isn't that right, Doctor,” the Master threw over his shoulder to the still figure in the wheelchair which didn't answer him, but on the other side, the Master really didn't expect him to. “Life up here can become boring, and I have to entertain myself with something. So I thought I could invite your little friends for a bit of fun.”

Leave them alone!” Jack growled, but the Master only laughed mockingly.

Oh, I love your empty threads.” He suddenly drew a weapon, playing with it offhandedly. Jack felt his heart sink. “The thing is, Jacky-boy, we're crowded enough up here as it is. The Joneses and all, you know. I really can't make room for four new guests, unless you allow me to throw the Joneses over board... No? Pity.” The Master shrugged indifferently and pointed the gun at the team, one by one. He leaned closer to Jack. “I'm feeling generous today, Freak. One of them gets to live, and you may decide which one.”

He looked questioningly at Jack, still with a benevolent smile on his lips. Jack didn't reply, instead he stubbornly stared ahead.

The Master pouted disappointed. “No? Hmm, then I have to decide for you. Let's see. Which of the obedient little puppies is dearest to you...”

Like a general he walked up and down before the four kneeling agents, a look of exaggerated thoughtfulness on his face, while he again ignored Jack's furious cries to let his people be.

The Master came to a standstill behind Owen, intently watching Jack's reactions. “Doctor Owen Harper,” the Master recited from memory and began to rattle off professional and personal facts about Owen's life, while he crept up behind him to unnerve him. Jack kept a straight face the whole time. “A doctor would come handy, although I could only allow him to treat the Jones family. We wouldn't want him to poison one of the guards, or, dear Heaven, me. What do you say, doctor?” The Master stepped in front of Owen again and looked down at him questioningly.

Fuck you, you sick freak,” Owen just spat in disgust.

The Master chuckled. “So naughty. What do you teach them, Jack.” He turned to Owen again. “I really don't have time for a troublesome little brat.” And with that he pointed his gun at Owen and pulled the trigger.

The screams and cries of “no!” from Jack and the team were drowned out by the loud bang of the shot. Owen collapsed on the floor, gasping for breath while he clutched the gaping wound in his chest in a futile attempt to stop the bleeding.

With guns and machine rifles trained on them, they couldn't do anything to help Owen. Instead they were forced to watch him bleed slowly to death, while the Master simply picked up his monologue again. “Obviously it wasn't his company you desire the most. But let's continue. Toshiko Sato.”

He leant down to the terrified, but brave woman and smiled at her. He recited Tosh's life story in front of them all as well, but he frowned when Jack here, too, didn't react. “I think I start to see a pattern here.” The Master wagged his finger at Jack. “You've spent too much time with the Doctor. He so loves to pick up the lost cases, don't you, my dear?” He craned his neck to make eye contact with the Doctor, who just glowered at him. “It's not healthy, all those strays, giving them hope, a better, adventurous life, only to leave them again at the end. They can consider themselves lucky if they're still alive when you kick them from the TARDIS. I think I will have a little talk about that with Miss Jones when she finally joins us, see what her opinion will be on the matter. But back to you, Captain. You pick up the same habits, saving those lost causes, and in the end they die regardless, only because they trusted you implicitly.”

He smiled cruelly at Jack, and, with a signal of his hand, one of the Toclafane suddenly swooped down on Tosh.

Jack didn't want to watch the Toclafane tearing into Tosh with their blades, didn't want to hear her tortured screams, but he had to watch. He had to force himself to watch every horrible thing the Master did so that he knew, when the day came, why exactly he would put his hands around the Time Lord's neck and squeeze with all his might, even against the Doctor's wishes.

When everything that was left of his sweet, brilliant Toshiko was a mangled, lifeless body, her blood everywhere, the only thing keeping Jack back from lunging at the Master was the knowledge that then Gwen and Ianto's lives both would be forfeit. If he kept still, then one of them, hopefully, would escape the Master's sick, deathly game.

The Master, who had retreated a bit because he didn't want to soil his suit with Tosh's blood, stepped nearer again and stopped behind Gwen and Ianto. They both trembled in shock, tears streaming down their faces, Tosh's blood sprayed on the right side of Ianto's face because she had knelt next to him, but otherwise they kept completely immobile. They sought Jack's gaze, and he barely could see them clearly because of his own tears blurring his vision.

He focused on the Master when the Time Lord spoke up again, letting himself be consumed by his rage and despair, bottling it all up for just the right moment.

You see, I've done my homework,” the Master told them matter of factly, indicating at his reciting details from Tosh and Owen's lives. “I had your team under surveillance for some time, so I know an awful lot about them, and you, of course.” He smiled cruelly at Jack who shuddered in foreboding. “And that's why I know that you have an affair with one of those two.”

Jack tried. He really tried, but as the Master pressed the gun randomly against Ianto's head, making him gasp softly, Jack's gaze flicked down to his lover with the firm believe that now was the last chance to see him alive, to look into his beautiful blue eyes and see all the feelings Ianto had for him, but didn't want to admit to reflected back at him.

The Master cackled gleefully, and Jack cursed himself. “Really!” he cried, out of breath because he was laughing so hard, setting Jack's teeth on edge. Like an over-excited puppy, the Master bounced around, coming to a standstill between them. “I would have bet the Doctor's life that you shag the nice little police woman with her perfectly boring boyfriend at home since she's the only one you haven't saved from some alien or other, and therefore you had no reason to bring her on the team other than trying to get into her knickers.” The Master stepped around again and looked down at Ianto. “But fucking the secretary, that's really cliché, even for you, Captain. But on the other hand, still waters run deep, do they not, Mr. Jones?” He caressed Ianto's cheek with the muzzle of the gun, making the young man flinch for a second before he could stop himself, and causing Jack to recoil in impotent rage. “Maybe even I couldn't have resisted you after the absolutely brilliant stunt you pulled.” He tsked gleefully. “Hiding your Cyber-girlfriend in the basement. I'm surprised Jacky-boy didn't simply shoot you for that.” Grinning, he turned to Jack. “You're either more sick than I thought for taking a traitor to your bed, or simply masochistic.”

Ianto shuddered as the Master turned all of his terrifying attention solely on him. “Humans do strange things for love. I'm anxious to see what you will do for love, Ianto Jones.”

Both Ianto and Jack gulped upon seeing the cruel, promising little smile grazing the Master's lips.

And now to you, Miss Cooper.” The Master turned to Gwen. “I'm afraid you lost the vote.”

Great,” she bristled at him sarcastically, trying to mask the terror ripping trough her whole body. “At least now I can escape your endless blathering. My ears are bleeding already from all the rubbish you spew only because you're in love with your own voice.”

Although he knew this would be the last words she ever spoke on this world, Jack couldn't contain the small, proud smile forming on his lips, especially when he saw the minuscule tightening around the Master's mouth.

My, my, what a feisty little kitten,” he drawled, not really as amused as he wanted to make them believe. Obviously, insulting his personal vanity didn't sit well with him. Once again, he took a step back from Gwen and snapped his fingers. Immediately, the Toclafane swooped down on her, its blades drawn. Jack watched in renewed terror as the alien attacked Gwen with the blades, stabbing them through her body. Now Ianto's other side was splattered with the blood of his last colleague as well, but although the blades ripped more viciously through her body than Tosh, Gwen stubbornly tried to keep her screams back.

She collapsed when the Toclafane let up on her, barely alive, her blood spreading in a sickeningly red-glistening pool around her.

As finally Gwen's wheezing, desperate breaths died with her, leaving the conference room shrouded in ominous silence for just a second, the Master suddenly stepped forward again and clapped his hands gleefully.

Splendid. Another Jones to number among our little family up here. The more the merrier, don't you think.” The Master smiled giddily at Jack, then at the Doctor, and finally at Francine, Tish, and Clive Jones, who all were forced to have been present for the executions. “Promises well for the future. After all, we have still one more Jones we want to welcome up here. Soon, I'm sure.” He threw a smirking glance over his shoulder back at the Doctor who simply glared at him, trying to hide the pain he was feeling over more lost lives.

The Master turned on his heel, grasping the hand of his wife and leading her away. “Take the Freak back to his cell for the day, and put his pet with the others,” he instructed the guards before strolling from the room.

 

Every day, Jack lived in terror, hanging in his chains in the engine rooms, and he only relaxed when Ianto came at noon to feed him, having been forced to take over Tish's duties of caring for him. Before he hadn't seen his young lover for the day, he could never be sure if the Master hadn't killed Ianto after all. Even all the torture games the Master came up with, leaving Jack dead or worse at the end of every day couldn't put the amount of terror in his heart as the vision of Ianto's mangled corpse in his head.

But every day for the following week, Ianto showed up, healthy, considering the circumstances. Ianto's suit was gone, instead they'd given him a dark grey overall like the one Clive wore, but he was a sight for sore eyes nonetheless. At least this way Gwen and Tosh's blood was gone from him. It would have ripped Jack apart to see the dried specks on Ianto's shirt day by day, a painful reminder that he had failed his team, his friends... his family.

The few moments he had with Ianto every day were precious to him, even if the food was still the same bland mush and he still hang chained up in a sticky engine room, the muscles in his arms screaming from the pain until one of the guards brought him back to his cramped, bare cell after the Master was done with him for the day. He bantered with Ianto during the few undisturbed minutes they had together, flirted with him, which were the only things keeping them both remotely sane for the time being. Twice a week, Ianto was allowed to bring him to the showers, but where Tish always had hurried away with his torn clothes to wash them (at first, the Master had wanted to let him stew in his own filth, but after a few days the Time Lord started to complain, albeit mockingly, about the smell and his sensitive nose, so from then on they ensured his relative cleanliness), Ianto both times slipped into the room with him, always aware of the guards outside, quickly stripped off his own clothes, and stepped under the shower spray with Jack, setting on scrubbing him off meticulously. And when his hands did not always remain clinical, instead sliding a bit more slowly and firmly over Jack's bare body, it was sanctuary and solace for them both, brief as these moments were.

Slowly, Jack started to relax, cherishing the illusion that maybe Ianto would be save, that he wouldn't be bothered by the Master's sick games, and just had to fulfil the duties he'd done as of yet.

But then, after one week, the Master showed up unannounced while Ianto was with Jack, feeding him the crappy food. They both looked up in alarm, and Ianto stepped in between the Master and Jack to protect him which only elicited a chuckle from the Master. “How sweet. Now, Mr. Jones, I think you've been with us long enough to accustom to our life up here.” He raised a questioning brow, and, reluctantly, Ianto nodded briskly in obedience. “Very good. Since you're a clever boy and already have a ton of experience in betraying your boss, I think it's time to expand your responsibilities.”

Neither man answered (they didn't even want to know how the Master knew about Lisa), but they watched in horror as the Master calmly set the by now familiar metal case with all his torture instruments on the nearby table put up solely for this use.

The Master opened the case and looked inside for a moment. Ianto couldn't see the content, but if he had to be honest, he really didn't want to anyway.

After a while, the Master pulled out one of his knives, glittering silver in the dim light, and caressed it lovingly.

Should we leave you two alone,“ Jack drawled. He knew this would only make it worse, but he would suffer and die anyway, so why not have a little payback and satisfaction for all the torture, however petty it was.

Oh, on the contrary,“ the Master answered with a smile. „The more the merrier.“ He looked at Ianto, stepping up to him, so that the young man had to force himself to keep still. However, he flinched when the Master put his arm around his shoulders. „I expect you to pay close attention, Ianto.“

To what?“ he asked suspiciously.

The Master looked at him in mock affront. „To me being brilliant, of course. You should feel honoured, I've never taken on an apprentice.“

Apprentice?!“ Jack cried in outrage. „What the fuck are you up to!“

The Master waved the razor-sharp blade in front of Jack, scolding him. „Don't be so obtuse, or else I have to assume there really isn't a brain inside your pretty head. Maybe I should take a look to make sure.“ He tapped the blade against his lip in thought. „Hold the thought for me, would ya, boys. But back to my new apprentice.“ He dragged Ianto over to Jack, still keeping his arm jovially around his shoulders. „Normally, my device is learning by doing, but in this case, I'm sure you want to observe an expert first. You'll thank me later on. Beginner's mistakes only make it more painful for him, you know. Much more messy. All the blood...“

And with that, the Time Lord put the knife at Jack's throat, making Ianto gasp in horror, and slid his T-shirt in halve, baring his chest. Ianto relaxed again, but he knew that the torture was only delayed.

As it went, the things the Master put Jack through today were relatively harmless. Jack didn't even die at the end, instead the Master left him hanging in his chains, barely conscious, after he'd cut him with the knife repeatedly and extensively. With the Master's ominous “see you both tomorrow“ still ringing in their ears, he left them.

There was nothing Ianto could do for Jack, only stepping up to him, never minding that his clothes became stained with Jack's blood, and enfolding him in his arms to wait for him to heal, all the while murmuring soothing nothings.

Then Ianto had to leave Jack for the rest of the day. He desperately wanted to stay with him because there was a difference in leaving your lover behind hanging in chains when you've only brought him food, or if you just had to watch getting him tortured. He wanted to care for Jack, easing the pain of his mind the strain of the daily tortures put on him.

But the guards didn't allow Ianto to stay, so he had to leave Jack ultimately, waiting for the next day to see him again.

 

Whatever had come over the Master this day, it wasn't a passing whim. The next day, he showed up again, forcing Ianto once again to watch him torture Jack.

And on the next.

And the next.

After one week, after Ianto had somehow gotten used to the sight of the torture, feeling numb all the while, the Master unexpectedly thrust one of the knives in Ianto's hand. Dumbstruck, Ianto stared down at it, unwilling to comprehend what this would mean, although privately, both he and Jack had feared this outcome every day during the last week.

The Master grinned. “Now it's your turn, Ianto. You've watched me long enough. Now I want to see what you have learnt.”

Ianto looked up at the Master, horrified. He clutched the knife harder reflexively. “No,” he stated firmly. “You can't force me to do this to him.”

The Master calmly looked at him, then he sighed, suddenly grabbed one of the other knives with lightning speed and pressed it against Ianto's neck. “I can't force you?” he taunted, leaning close to Ianto's ear, his breath caressing Ianto's skin in mock intimacy. He pressed the knife into Ianto's skin, drawing blood, and then he brought the tip of the blade gently up to Ianto's face, caressing his cheek with it and resting the tip just underneath Ianto's left eye. Ianto stayed perfectly still, his heaving chest because of his panicked laboured breathing the only movement he dared make. “Believe me, boy, it doesn't make a difference to me which one of you I torture. The only difference is that he will live again at the end of the day, you won't. But don't think for even one minute that I care about you in any way. If you don't want to do it, fine. But then you will take his place up there in the chains.”

Ianto gulped. Rationally, he knew that the Master had a point. But that didn't change the fact that he couldn't just torture his own lover, his friend, and his boss. He simply couldn't.

See,” the Master chuckled evilly. “I told you I wanted to see how far you would go for love.”

What's that got to do with love?” Ianto hissed.

The Master shrugged. “Don't know. Just sounded dramatically poetic.”

Ianto withstood the urge to roll his eyes despite the severity of the situation. Instead, he looked over at Jack. Jack returned his pleading, helpless gaze firmly and nodded in consent.

Ianto took a shaky breath.

He already felt his soul being torn apart inside himself.

Listen to your boss, Ianto. And I'll tell you something.”

Now Ianto was forced to look at the Master again. He dreaded to hear what was coming next.

If you are a good boy and do as I say every Wednesday for one hour, then I will be generous. After our hour together, I'll leave him in your capable hands for the rest of the day, the night, and even the following day if I feel like it. You can take him with you, put him into your bed and care for him and whatever else you want to do to each other. What do you say?”

Ianto swallowed again. He didn't have a choice either way. Torture Jack, or be the one who got tortured. And if he said “yes” now, he would have Jack for almost two uninterrupted days. He could take care of him, and maybe this respite was what would pull them through all this, even if it was only another cruel way of the Master to torture them; lull them into safety, give them this small mercy, only for the next time to be ten times worse.

Heavy-hearted, he nodded.

The Master made a triumphant, gleeful noise and let go of him, bounding away like an over-eager puppy. He sought Ianto's gaze and, with a smirk, nodded to the knife still firmly clasped in Ianto's hand. He hadn't even noticed that he still had had it in his hand the whole time.

Suddenly, Ianto's hand began to tremble. Gripping the knife tighter and taking a deep breath, he went over to Jack. His knees felt surprisingly firm, though.

For a few seconds, he simply stood before Jack and held his gaze. Then Jack smiled encouragingly at him and nodded, ordering him to do it, and, in a fashion, absolving him of his deeds and at the same time taking the decision from him and therefore the blame.

Once again, Ianto gripped the knife more tightly and, trying to distance himself from everything he did, he thrust the blade into Jack's belly.

Jack's eyes widened when the blade slid into his body and he gasped, but otherwise remained completely silent.

Horrified, Ianto yanked the knife out again and it fell from his limp fingers. In disgusted, appalled fascination, he watched a red patch welling up on the dirty fabric of Jack's T-Shirt. He wanted to be sick because it was him that was responsible for the blood pouring out of Jack, and with it his life. Hiding Lisa and betraying Jack's trust had probably hurt him much more than this, but somehow, Ianto felt worse for the wound he'd inflicted now than for the mental wound all those months ago. Maybe it was because now he cared about Jack, even started to love him, he realised. Back then, he'd only been a means to an end.

The light in Jack's eyes flickered out and his head slumped upon his chest as he breathed his last breath. Trembling all over, Ianto watched him die.

He jumped violently as he was suddenly yanked around and was confronted with the hard stare of the Master.

That was pathetic, Ianto,” the Master snarled at him, holding the collar of his overall in a tight grip.

He didn't reply anything to this, just returned the mad look of the Master, but after a few seconds, he couldn't hold the gaze any more and he had to look away.

With a disgusted noise, the Master shoved Ianto away from him just as Jack came back to life behind them. He pointed at the knife on the floor.

Once more,” he ordered, and Ianto didn't have another choice than to pick it up and hurt Jack once more.

Take your time.”

The hand holding the knife trembling with disgust, rage, and desperation, Ianto stepped up to Jack anew. When he pushed Jack's T-Shirt up and put the blade against his unblemished skin, he forced his hand to keep absolutely steady. Mesmerised like a mouse before a snake, he watched the sharp blade slice a thin cut into Jack's belly. Blood welled up instantly from the thin gap, running down bronzed skin. He looked up at Jack, but he just returned his gaze calmly, the blade so sharp that it didn't really hurt yet.

Good,” the Master crooned in his ear, making him flinch. He reached out his hand and cruelly pressed his finger against the wound, widening it. Jack jerked, but otherwise didn't react. “Now, more,” the Time Lord breathed softly into Ianto's ear.

For the remainder of the hour, Ianto was forced to repeatedly cut Jack deeply with the knife, leaving him bleeding all over and trembling.

Finally, finally, the Master called a stop to the torture.

Ianto lowered the knife in relief. He was sweating profoundly from the efforts and the emotional pressure suffocating him.

The Master nodded and studied Jack critically like an art work – hanging limply in his chains, completely exhausted from the repeated heavy cutting and blood loss, although most of the cuts had long since healed. “Acceptable,” he eventually declared.

Ianto's shoulders slumped at hearing this, all tension finally leaving him all at once.

Next time, I expect a little more enthusiasm and finesse from you, though.” He fixed Ianto with an ice-cold glare before he jerked his head in the direction of the communal showers and the crew's quarters. “He's yours. Take him with you. I don't wanna see you two for the next couple of days any more.

The Master stalked away gruffly.

A guard released Jack from the chains and then he left them alone, too. Jack crumbled to the floor the minute the manacles didn't hold him up any more, and Ianto was at his side in an instant.

Come on,” he softly said while helping Jack to his feet, heavily supporting him. “I'll take you to the showers, then you'll feel better.

Slowly, they made their way to the showers.

Dropping their clothes carelessly to the tiled floor, Ianto helped Jack into the small stall, turning the water on as hot as they could stand it.

For a few minutes, they simply enjoyed the hot water caressing their exhausted bodies, as well as the treacherous peace and quiet.

Eventually, Jack turned around, his limbs heavy and aching, but at the moment, comforting Ianto was more important than his well-being. He pulled the trembling young man into his arms, and he instantly wrapped his arms around Jack, clinging to him while quietly sobbing.

His talking is the worst,” Jack whispered in Ianto's ear. “Don't let it get to you.”

I still can't do it, Jack,” Ianto sobbed quietly into Jack's neck. “You can't expect me to torture you every week for who knows how long.”

You don't have a choice. Either it's me, or you. And you know I will be fine.”

Only because you can't die doesn't mean you can't feel the pain,” Ianto argued, moving away from Jack to glare at him accusingly.

Oh Ianto.” Jack sighed, and drew him back against his chest. “You're too clever for your own good.”

You'll hate me someday,” Ianto sobbed suddenly, and Jack pressed himself harder against Ianto's shivering body. “All the things he will force me to do...”

Shh,” Jack crooned. “I won't hate you. I promise. You're as much a victim as I am. Even more so.”

That's what some Nazis probably told themselves, too, and they still did horrible things and ended up hated by everyone.”

Nonsense,” Jack snapped exasperated, and now it was him pushing Ianto away from him, pressing him against the cold tiles of the shower stall. He glared at him imploringly while lovingly caressing his face. “Stop making such dumb comparisons. You are a good man, Ianto Jones, and I will never, do you hear me, never hold any of the things the Master will make you do against you. I've forgiven you for hiding a Cyberman in my basement, then I will forgive you for this even more so, although there is nothing to forgive in the first place. But if you need my forgiveness so badly, then you have it.”

Ianto didn't answer him, instead pressing himself once more against Jack and hiding his face in the crook of his shoulder, silently weeping.

You know what,” Jack continued while holding Ianto securely. “When we get back home, we will go on a date. A real date. With dinner and a movie. Ev'rything you want.”

If we get back home,” Ianto mumbled dejected.

When we get home,” Jack clarified firmly, brooking no dissent on this.

Ianto didn't argue further with the other man about this. Short of a miracle saving them, he didn't believe that they would leave the Valiant alive. Well, Jack would, eventually, broken inside and all alone, but alive, whatever good that may do him, but Ianto wouldn't. He would die up here, together with the other Jones' and the whole of humanity in the end.

I'm still waiting for an answer,” Jack eventually reminded him gently, bringing him out of his musings, even managing to make the corners of Ianto's mouth twitch. Jack smiled softly at him and put his fingers under Ianto's chin to lift it up so that the young man had to look him in the eye. “Is that a yes?”

Ianto sighed, but nodded wearily. “Yeah, it is.”

Brilliant.”

Despondent, exhausted to the bones, and desperate, he let Jack lead him into the crew's quarters. After pointing out his cot, Jack pushed him down onto the narrow bed and laid down next to him, puling him tightly into his arms once more.

Ianto revelled in Jack's warmth and closeness and the comfort this gave him. Albeit it should be him comforting Jack, not the other way round.

That night, they slept in each other's arms for the first time in a long while. Before the whole world went to Hell, Jack normally hadn't been the type to spend the night, mind you, but on occasion, he came over to Ianto's flat and they did normal, domestic things together. Things like having dinner together that Jack had cooked, and rare, relaxed evenings in front of the TV when the Rift was silent for a change. And after, they retired to make love in Ianto's luxurious kingsize bed, falling asleep in each other's arms. These moments were rare, but they were enough for Ianto.

Or so he told himself...

After starting their affair rather stormily during Ianto's suspension because of the whole Cyberman business, after fierce words fell on each side, ending in a harsh, primitive kiss and even more animalistic sex, Ianto had promised himself that he would never push Jack for anything. Having sworn unconditional loyalty from that moment on, he only took what Jack was prepared to give him. Despite the fantastic sex, it wasn't much emotion-wise, but he knew that this was the way Jack ticked, and that he meant something to Jack at least.

So, being here together now, in the eye of the apocalyptic storm so to speak, made this moment even more precious, and for the first time in weeks they slept undisturbed and almost dreamless.

 

Once and again, the Master still forced Ianto to watch him torture Jack (to their relief, the Master didn't torture Jack every day any more; he probably had more pressing matters to attend to like burning down the world in his search for Martha – until he got bored again, or frustrated because they couldn't find her; then his cruelty often knew no bounds and he left Jack a bloodied, barely recognisable mess, the immortal's screams echoing through the whole ship while his tormenter didn't allow him to die, and he didn't even allow Ianto to care for Jack afterwards on this occasions), but for most of the time, he left him alone, allowing him to carry out his original tasks of simply taking care of Jack.

And torturing him every bloody Wednesda, of course.

Ianto knew he would hate Wednesdays for the rest of his life.

 

Ianto's heart stopped for a moment when he arrived in the engine room this Wednesday. Jack was chained up there as usual, but this time he was naked, and the Master stood next to him, a satisfied, giddy smile on his face like a cruel child and with one of the razor-sharp knives in his hand.

Ah, Ianto,” the Master cried delighted. “Good of you to join us. Shall we start immediately?” The Master waved him over. “Come on, don't be so shy.”

Gulping, Ianto bridged the short distance on trembling legs, unsure what the Master had planned for today because Jack being naked was new. It could only be a very nasty surprise for both of them. He wanted to throw up as the Master slung an arm around his shoulders and pulled him against his suit-clad body. He jovially pressed the knife into Ianto's unresisting hand – nothing new here so far. Ianto had to resist the urge to plunge the knife into the Master's chest – also nothing new. They would definitely never make it out of here alive save for Jack if he did, but then at least it would finally be over.

The Master stretched his hand out towards Jack, but never touched him, his fingers just hovering over his naked chest. “I know how much you care for our Captain, Ianto,” the Master told him. “ All those weeks you take such good and loving care of him.” He mockingly put his hand over his heart. “And that's why, today, I want to give you a present.”

I don't want any presents from you,” Ianto replied through clenched teeth.

The Master pouted. “No? Now I'm hurt, really, but on the other hand, I never intended to give you the present myself. You have to take it yourself. Sometimes, the best presents are the ones we give to ourselves – no nasty surprises, only things that we really want...” He leaned closer to Ianto and breathed in his ear, making him shudder, “And I know you want it.” He reached down and gently curled his fingers over Ianto's holding the knife. He steered the knife Jack's way until the sharp tip of the blade brushed against Jack's penis. Jack inhaled sharply, otherwise not daring to move. Ianto did the same, now holding the knife in an iron grip to prevent his fingers from trembling and thus hurting Jack as he understood what the Master wanted him to do.

Ianto wanted to protest in screaming rage, wanted to lash out at the Master, but he was frozen in shock, only able to stare at the sharp steel resting almost gently on the soft pink flesh of Jack's genitals. “You call him a freak,” Ianto hissed, his voice trembling, but otherwise he was completely calm, numb. “There's only one freak in this room, and it's not Jack.”

Finally, he looked up, straight in the Master's eyes. The Time Lord returned Ianto's hate-filled stare calmly for a few long seconds, but then, faster than Ianto could see, or before he could even react, the Master'd grabbed the knife out of his hand and forced the blade against Ianto's throat as he had the first Wednesday they had done this, pushing him violently upon the small desk that held the case with the knives. Ianto crashed painfully on top of it, the breath knocked out of him, and the knives rattled about in their case with the sudden crash. The Master pressed him down with his full body weight, and Ianto felt the cold steel against his throat and then a painful burning where the blade had cut his skin, blood welling up and running down his throat.

Ianto!”

Ianto became still, he even stopped breathing as Jack's frantic voice calling for him broke through the haze of rage clouding his vision. He broke the staring match he held with the Master and focussed on Jack.

Jack tried to smile at him reassuringly, although it looked more like a painful grimace. “It's okay. Just do as he says.”

No!” Ianto sobbed. “I... I can't...”

Yes,” Jack said firmly. “You can. And you will. I'll be fine.”

Ianto shook his head frantically, unable to say even one more word. But deep down, although he wanted do deny it, he knew that Jack was right. Jack would be fine physically if not mentally. And Ianto would die if he didn't obey the Master. He would like to say that this wasn't the worst the Master had made him do up 'til now, but it wasn't really true. Ianto had to do horrible things to Jack, always killing him slowly, beating him to death, breaking every bone in his body, gutting him, or exsanguinating him, and on one occasion even having to behead him, but this was by far the worst. This was too personal, too intimate. Not even holding Jack's still beating heart in his hand had been this bad, the warm blood running down his hand and arm as the Master cackled in the background, going on about finally being the owner of Jack's heart.

In the end, he had no chance but to nod briskly, whereupon the Master let him stand up, holding out the knife to him. Ianto grasped it with treacherously steady fingers.

The Master straightened his tie which had become askew in his struggle with Ianto and threw him a smirk. “Masochist. Told ya so.”

Slowly, Ianto stepped up to Jack, blocking out the Master's cheery “take as much time as you need”. Only a hairsbreadth away, he stopped, feeling Jack's body heat even though his skin was covered in goosebumps. The knife forgotten at his side for the moment, Ianto reached up with his free hand, gently caressing the smooth skin of Jack's belly, up to his ribs, and then his pectorals, brushing only lightly against a brown nipple. He put his hand on Jack's cheek, and the older man leant into the gesture, closing his eyes for a moment and drawing a shaky breath. Then he looked at Ianto and held his gaze.

After what seemed like an eternity, Ianto bridged the distance between them and pressed his lips on Jack's. He quickly deepened the kiss, pushing his tongue into Jack's mouth, and plastered himself against Jack's front.

In the meantime, he brought his hand down to Jack's cock, gently taking the flaccid member into his hand, careful to not put any pressure on it. Then, with a swift motion, his hands somehow completely steady, he swept the blade over and through the flesh in his hands until he felt it give, and hot blood spurted over his hand and soaking his clothes in the process. He pressed his lips harder to Jack's, swallowing his screams, and pushed his own body harder against Jack's which jerked and trembled in agony.

For a dazed moment, he held the dripping flesh in his hand, before he finally broke through his detached state. Horrified, he forced his fingers to open, and the thing he held in his hand (he couldn't think of it as anything else) fell to the concrete floor with a plopping sound. The knife from his other hand followed with a loud clutter.

Very good,” he heard the Master say from behind him, and something small and metallic sounding landed next to Ianto's feet. “He's yours for the rest of the day. And for all I care, tomorrow.”

Ianto didn't care if the Master was still there, or if he had left as he stiffly bend down and picked up the little key lying in Jack's blood. With now shaky fingers, he opened the locks on Jack's manacles, catching him swiftly when he couldn't support himself. Together, they slid to the floor. He clung to him like a lifeline while he waited for Jack to bleed to death in his arms. The pool of blood in which he sat and which spread around them became cold and sticky, and only now and then a fresh stream of hot blood would gush from Jack's wound, drenching Ianto's trouser leg further. He rocked him gently in his arms like putting a child to sleep, but it was as much for Jack's sake as for Ianto's. He knew he was in shock, and he wanted nothing more than to throw up everything he had eaten today, but he had to be strong for Jack at the moment. He could break down later.

Eventually, Jack became still, his agonized, laboured breathing faded away, and no more blood spilled over Ianto's leg – Ianto really would have liked to end Jack's suffering sooner, but the Master had taken the knife with him, denying them even that small mercy.

Only now Ianto allowed himself some silent tears, knowing that in a few minutes he had to be strong again for the last time that day, just until he'd brought Jack safely back to his bed. There, he could finally break down, and let himself be caught by Jack's arms; Ianto had to be strong to stand by him during his death and resurrection, but Jack was the one who was there for Ianto in the aftermath, when he had time to recall everything he had done that day to the man he loved. Actually, he thought that all the horrible things he'd put Jack – and himself – through would have deadened him to everything that was still to come, but in reality, it horrified him every time anew. “That shows that you're still human,” Jack had told him a few weeks ago. “When you're so numb inside that your own actions don't touch you any more, your humanity is gone.”

He knew this, but in this moment, he would have welcomed feeling empty inside.

Apart from the constant hum of the machines, it was eerily silent around them, almost like in a vacuum, no sound from another human being reached Ianto's ears. Every now and then, he would gently caress Jack's face and upper body, carding his fingers gently through his sweat-soaked hair, and kissing his cheek and temple. The whole time, though, he painstakingly avoided looking at the severed genitals lying in the pool of blood they were sitting in, knowing very well who would have to get rid of them, throwing them into the incinerator... much like he had to do with Lisa's and Annie's mangled bodies.

At the thought, combined with his memories, he wanted to throw up again, but he fought the urge down.

Suddenly, Jack flailed in his arms, coming back to life with huge, gasping breaths. Ianto hold him tight until the older man had calmed down again.

Please let's not repeat this,” he joked weakly. “Ever.”

I promise we won't incorporate it in our bedroom experiments,” Ianto promised, laughing equally as weak, tears streaming down his face.

Both of them trembling like leafs from shock and exhaustion, they clambered to their feet, leaning heavily onto each other. Mutely, they stumbled to the showers, and while Ianto adjusted the water temperature, he made a mental notice to check where they had put Jack's clothes.

It's quite a routine by now, hm,” Jack's tired, sarcastic sounding voice brought him out of his musings. “The showers.”

Ianto pulled himself up, shoving every thought to the farthest corner of his mind, and sought solace in the familiar task of getting Jack's body rid of all the blood, making him pure once more. “Well.” He cleared his throat. “It's not the date you promised me, but it's better than nothing. At least. We're together.”

Yeah,” Jack chuckled sadly. “We're together, alone, lots of naked skin. What more could we wish for.”

A nice dinner would be nice nonetheless. But then, I suppose nothing is ever textbook with us.”

Hmhm,” Jack made and arched back into Ianto's touch. “Couldn't even get our first time together right,” he mumbled, wool-gathering, finally starting to relax. “The sex before the first date.”

Ianto grunted sarcastically, and concentrated on a persistent spot of grime and blood on the back of Jack's thigh, but he, too, had to think back on the first time they had sex. “I thought that was normal for you. Wouldn't have taken you for the dating kind of guy.”

I'm not normally, you're right,” Jack admitted sheepishly.

And it isn't as if we had a choice,” Ianto continued. “Being possessed by an alien sex gas that forces you to have sex doesn't really count...” Ianto trailed off, and in that moment, Jack knew that it had counted for Ianto nonetheless. Wasn't as if he felt any different. Some may call him a slut, but normally, the people he had sex with meant something to him. In the course of his long life, he'd had more serious relationships than casual affairs. He flinched as he heard Owen's disbelieving snort in his mind, painful memories of his dead team welling up unbidden.

Still had sex before the first date... but I promise. We will have that date... As many as you want. And that will be textbook. It will be so clichéd with candlelight dinner, and roses, and a film, and the best romantic sex ever afterwards that we'll be high from the sugar rush of that evening.”

Ianto barked a stifled laugh and pressed a firm, loving kiss on Jack's nape.

He finished washing Jack in silence and afterwards, Jack gave him a gentle, but thorough cleaning in turn.

They fell into Ianto's bed after leaving the showers and for a few minutes, they forgot the horrible world around them while lying there together snuggled up. Ianto waited until Jack had succumbed to a deep, exhausted sleep. Then he carefully extracted himself from his lover's arms and returned into the machine room to take care of... well... of things necessary before he could return into the safety of Jack's arms for the night.

 

Ianto trembled in anticipated terror. He doubted that the only punishment they would receive for their attempted mutiny today would be the jovial verbal slap on the wrist the Master gave them, as well as Jack's death through the guard's machine guns. He'd learned the hard way what abysses lurked behind the Master's twisted smile and cheery manner.

So, now he waited. Together with Francine, Tish and Clive, he sat huddled in a corner of the conference room. After lashing out at them and forcing them to apologise, the Master ignored them so far. Instead he amused himself with taunting the slumped form of the Doctor after he'd reduced the poor Time Lord to the pitiful creature now cowering in the cage displayed at the other end of the room.

The more minutes went by, the more Ianto trembled in fear. He didn't know if they would be alive by the end of the day, and that would be okay. He was afraid, but if he had to die, then so be it. What he feared the most was that he would never see Jack again, for the guards had dragged him back to the machine room. He almost couldn't bear the thought.

Suddenly, a jolt went through Francine, who cowered next to him, bringing him back to reality. He looked up uneasily. The Master had left the Doctor alone and now turned to them.

Ianto gulped uneasily.

Take them back to their quarters,” the Master ordered, his gaze never straying from the Jones family. Then his insane gaze bore into Ianto. “And you come with me.”

Ianto gulped again, but did as he was told. On unsteady legs, he followed the Master through the Valiant's bowels.

Back to the machine room, no doubt.

This didn't bode well for Jack. And for Ianto, because he was sure that the Master would find some sick way of making them both pay. He may have left the Jones family off the hook, but not Jack, whom he already hated as it was. Jack would take the brunt of the Master's wrath. The only question was, would Ianto have to be his executioner?

Halfway there, the Master became impatient in his seething fury and almost dragged Ianto into the machine room.

Fearfully, he met Jack's equally terrified gaze, but the other man slumped noticeably in relief when he saw Ianto alive and unharmed.

Go to him,” the Master hissed and pushed Ianto Jack's way. He came to a stumbling halt before his lover, both of them unsure what the Master planned.

Don't touch him,” the Master snapped out more instructions. He stormed past them, coming to a close halt behind Jack's bound body. Then, the soft clang of a belt buckle being opened and the sound of a lowering zipper made Ianto freeze, and his blood turned to ice in his veins. He sought out Jack's gaze, who lowered his eyes in weary acceptance, defeat and shame.

Open his trousers, Ianto,” the Master cruelly instructed further, while he jerked Jack's body roughly back against his own, his finely boned fingers digging into Jack's hips.

Tears streamed down unhindered Ianto's face while he obeyed the Master with trembling fingers. Numbness warred inside of him with a helpless rage heretofore unknown to Ianto. He wished he was somehow stronger, that he had superhuman strength or powers so that he could release this rage to smart the evil Time Lord with even a chance of success. But he wasn't, and he hadn't, so the only option he had was cowardly helping the Master rape the man he loved right before his eyes.

It's okay,” Jack whispered without meeting Ianto's eyes. “It's okay.”

He wasn't sure whom of them Jack wanted to deceive with his false bravery, but it wasn't working either way.

Carefully, he eased Jack's trousers over his hips, lovingly caressing his hip bones in a futile way on his part to soothe his lover.

The force of the Master brutally entering Jack suddenly pushed his body forwards against Ianto's. With a pained whimper and stuttering breath, he buried his face in the crook of Ianto's neck; he didn't utter a sound otherwise.

Ianto kept his hands on Jack's hips, grounding both of them, and he stood upright and utterly motionless, trying to be a trunk Jack could lean against and seek shelter in the storm raging around them. He stared straight ahead; from the corner of his eye he could make out the Master's light brown hair over Jack's shoulder, but the image was blurry. The only thing he saw clearly was the metal wall of the machine room, but even this was only seen, not perceived. He felt numbness creep through every vein in his body like ice while he braced his body against the Master's forceful thrusts with which he violated Jack's body. He tried to block out the breathy grunts of exertion the Time Lord made, as well as Jack's hitched breath and occasional whimper. But he failed, although he tried so hard. Editing his visual senses was so much more easy than blocking out sound. Or smell. Bile threatened to choke him as he suddenly became aware of the smell of the Master's sweat, and he even thought that he could smell Jack's tears leaking through his clothes. He hurriedly breathed through his mouth.

Suddenly, Jack's body jerked one last time, then the Master stiffened behind him, and with a choked grunt, he came. Jack went limp against Ianto's body, hanging powerlessly in his chains. Ianto wrapped his arms around him and drew him against his body protectively, closing his eyes and burying his face in Jack's neck, crying silently with him.

He heard the Master fastening his trousers, but he didn't look. He didn't want to see the bastard, otherwise he couldn't have guaranteed for anything, his own safety be damned.

I hope you've learnt your lesson.” Ianto flinched at the Master's voice so close to him, and he wanted to recoil in disgust as the Master pressed something small and cold in his hand, but he didn't open his eyes, much like a child who believed that if it couldn't see the monsters, then they weren't there.

Then everything went silent around them after the Time Lord left, the constant hum of the machines for once soothing instead of aggravating.

Numbly, Ianto opened his hand and looked down. There sitting in the palm of his hand was the small key to Jack's bindings. After fumbling with Jack's trousers to pull them back up, trying to hold Jack upright at the same time, he stood on tiptoes to free his raw wrists from the biting iron. He grunted in exertion when Jack was free and simply slumped in Ianto's arms, Ianto's own strength the only thing holding Jack upright for the moment.

Painfully slow they made their way to the showers like they had done so many times in the past few months.

Bracing Jack against the wall in the showers, he methodically stripped him of his clothes, forcefully holding back a sob as he saw the blood-tinged come running thickly down Jack's thighs. Briskly, he shoved the white hot rage threatening to overcome him into the darkest corner of his mind. Jack was more important in that moment than losing himself to his fury.

They both sighed in relief when the hot water eased aching muscles, but Jack hissed when it came into contact with his chafed wrists – this was a scene that had played out before Ianto so many times already; Jack welcoming the soothing water, but shying away from its sting at the same time. Ev'rything was a ritual up here, it somehow kept them sane. But it was painful to watch every damned time nonetheless.

Ianto scrubbed every centimetre of Jack's body meticulously, more thorough than normally, trying to erase every last trace of the Master from Jack.

Ianto,” Jack murmured drowsily, halting him in his furious scrubbing, and he had to lean forward to better understand the other man over the patter of the water beating down on them.

Yeah?” he asked softly, unsure if Jack wanted his touch at the moment other than the clinical one while washing him, but he couldn't stop himself, he needed the closeness, so he lovingly pressed a kiss on Jack's wet shoulder.

Touch me, please,” Jack whispered, and Ianto again had to strain to hear him. Seeking the same closeness Ianto craved, he pressed himself back against Ianto's naked body.

Jack...”

No, please... I... I need you to take away his claim on me...”

Oh, how he wanted to do just that, claiming Jack back completely, not only through the cleansing water and soap, but the image of Jack's torn and bleeding anus still flashed before his inner eye while he'd tried to clean him as gently as possible. He'd healed in the meanwhile, but the memories had to be just as painful. At least, they were for Ianto.

He wanted to say something to forego what Jack wanted him to do, the thought of causing him only more pain more horrible than the urge to stake his healing claim on him, but he bit his bottom lip in silent resignation. Sighing, he dropped his forehead against Jack's wet nape for a few seconds, before he pulled himself together once more. He pressed himself against Jack's back while once again grabbing the bar of soap. He thoroughly lathered his hands before he slipped one to Jack's front, the other down between his cheeks. He gently started to stroke him to hardness while he slipped one finger inside of him, resolutely ignoring the slight wince Jack made when the still tender ring of muscles was breached. He took his time preparing Jack, all the while pleasuring him with his other hand to banish his dark thoughts of what had happened today. It worked, at least according to the small mewling gasps Jack started to make. And Ianto was glad; Jack's moans of pleasure triggering his own arousal gradually for he wasn't actually in the mood for making love.

They both shuddered when Ianto finally slid inside Jack, and for a few moments, they stood frozen under the water, unable to do more than breath deeply while they savoured the intimate connection – physical as well as spiritual – between them flaring to life and shutting out ev'rything else.

Jack gave himself to Ianto completely, sinking back against his strong body, Ianto's arms holding him up, and his head resting on Ianto's shoulder while he savoured the feeling of having Ianto inside of him. It hurt a bit, but he needed this pain; pain that was caused from love, not hate and disgust.

Ianto,” he whispered brokenly and linked his fingers with Ianto's. “So full...” He trembled with the effort of holding himself still, and Ianto's laboured, shaky breathing in his ear told him he did the same. For just a few moments more he needed to feel the connection...

Please, move,” he begged eventually, finally giving in to his desperate need.

Ianto drew in a deep, shaky breath of relief, then, while tightening his arms around Jack's slippery body, pulled almost all the way out before he buried himself again deep inside his lover with one firm stroke.

They let out a sobbed moan, both of them trembling like leafs. Ianto set a firm, slow pace, taking his lover with deep strokes, sometimes only rocking into him while he brought his hand 'round Jack's body to get him off with his hand. In the end, they came quietly, the only sound they made a hitched breath while their bodies stiffened in orgasm.

 

I know this nice little French restaurant,” Jack suddenly said into the silence; it was only a whisper so as not to wake up the others, but his voice sounded unnaturally loud in the otherwise still room.

Ianto startled in the dark, instinctively tightening his arms around Jack in the narrow bed. “What?” he asked drowsily.

For our date,” he clarified. “I'm planning.”

Jack...”

Why not,” Jack cut off Ianto's wary objection adamantly. The strange, jittery yet overly cheery note in Jack's voice made Ianto halt, and he suddenly realised that Jack needed to talk about the future. Their future. A happy future. He needed to distract himself from the horrible things that had happened to him today.

Okay,” he relented, burrowing his face in Jack's neck. “Tell me.”

Ianto calmly listened to Jack's excited babbling, to all his adventurous, but surprisingly romantic ideas and the places he wanted to take Ianto. He talked as if he believed firmly in an After The Nightmare. Ianto wasn't so sure. He doubted that they would come through in one piece. Even if he made it out of here alive, he wasn't sure if their relationship would escape unscathed. He feared that there would never be more between them than sex after all because of the things that happened today. But he couldn't possibly tell Jack that. He wouldn't be strong enough to bear destroying Jack's steadfast belief that they all would leave this ship alive and whole. Instead, for the sake of voicing some of his own pressing fears, he remarked on another, albeit much less grave concern, “Our... date. What if it will be awkward?”

Why should it be?” Surprised, Jack turned around in Ianto's arms and peered at him in the gloomy dark of the sparse emergency lights over the entrance to the crew accommodations.

Ianto felt Jack's piercing gaze scrutinising him although he couldn't really see him. He averted his eyes in sudden unease, and now it was him burying deep into Jack's embrace. “Well, we see each other every day all day long... On a normal work day – not now, of course. What if we don't have anything to talk about when we finally sit in that restaurant...”

Ianto felt Jack's lips pressed against his forehead crook into a soft smile. “Don't worry. That won't happen.”

How can you be so sure? Frankly, we don't have that much in common except work and sex. And I'm not really the most exciting company for someone like you, either.”

Jack slapped his ass in mock reprimand. “Don't talk like that,” he admonished the younger man. “Do you have any idea how exciting you are to me?”

Why?” Ianto really didn't understand, and so he didn't manage to hide his confusion in his voice.

Jack sighed heavily. “Oh Ianto.” He cupped Ianto's face between his hands and pressed their foreheads together. “You are so fucking clever and cute and, well, pretty shaggable in those suits of yours.” Jack brought his lips against Ianto's in a quick, dirty kiss which left both of them breathless. “And I love your dry wit and your dominant streak. And your coffee.”

Yeah, let's not forget the coffee,” Ianto joked, unsure if he was happy with Jack's assessment of him or not.

And you're completely loyal to me.”

Ianto made a protesting noise, but Jack shut him up through another kiss.

You are loyal to me, of that I have no doubt.”

I wouldn't betray you,” Ianto assured him with a lump in his throat. “Never again.”

I know.” He heard the smile in Jack's voice. “Then there's the sex of course.” He playfully pressed his groin against Ianto's suggestively, and the younger man could clearly see the dirty grin on Jack's face before his inner eye.

It's high time we get to know each other beyond sex and work,” Jack said quietly, the leer gone from his voice, having been replaced with utter seriousness.

Ianto swallowed heavily, unable to answer, and finally, a small spark of hope for a future relationship started to kindle inside him, although he knew that all of Jack's enthusiastic talking just now wasn't more than him coping and suppressing everything. But maybe, maybe there was a bit of truth in Jack's words and they really would get through this and manage to built a real relationship that lasted for the remainder of Ianto's life (however long – or short – that may be). Maybe Jack would stay with him until he was old and grey, holding him during his last breaths... It was a nice thought, comforting, and maybe it would actually come to pass.

Eventually, he managed to get his voice working again. Speaking around the lump in his throat, he softly answered, “I would like that.”

Jack made a contented noise before burrowing deeper into Ianto's embrace. A few minutes later, Ianto heard Jack's breath even out, but he still stroked over his back soothingly. Only when he was completely sure that Jack was asleep did he dare to voice the one sentence he'd not dared utter before, and maybe never would, not to Jack's face. “I love you,” he whispered and pressed a gentle kiss on Jack's brow. Then he settled down for sleep, too.

He never noticed the barely discernible hitch in Jack's breath nor the slight startle that went through Jack's body after hearing Ianto's whispered words, warmth spreading through his whole being.

 

It was over.

It really was over.

The Master was dead (the Doctor was heartbroken, but everyone else was glad, and if Lucy Saxon hadn't done it, Ianto would have pulled the trigger himself, the Doctor's wishes be damned), and the paradox machine destroyed; time had healed itself and had erased the paradox, and so the last year was wiped from everybody's memory... except those in the eye of the storm on the Valiant . This above all things was what Ianto couldn't stomach. All the pain they'd suffered for this whole year simply never happened for the rest of humanity, but still, it would haunt their small group in nightmares for the rest of their lives. Only because all physical traces were wiped away didn't mean those of the mind were as well. It was unfair, but on the other side, Ianto was glad that only a handful of people would remember the terror. And that all who had been killed were alive again... No, they never died... God, time related things were so damn complicated.

He looked over to Martha Jones, surrounded by her family. He'd met her at last and he couldn't help but being impressed by her courage and unshakable faith in the Doctor, only rivalled by Jack's faith in the Time Lord. All the more a shame that nobody would remember being saved by this exceptional young woman. Maybe, despite all the deaths, Earth would have learnt something from this catastrophe.

But, no. He mustn't think like that. If the year still had happened, then a lot of people he'd come to think of as, well, family (with all the good and bad implications) would have died a horrible death. Now, he and Jack would return to the Hub and the team, them unchanged, but he and Jack forever altered. Provided... Sudden dread gripped Ianto and made him shudder like standing in a cold draft. What if Jack wouldn't return with him? What if he would prefer travelling with the Doctor? He'd promised him that date, yes, but in retrospect that had probably been more a means to escape the brutal reality than a real intention of Jack's. And Ianto doubted that the Doctor would allow him to accompany them, least alone that Jack would ask him. He couldn't lose Jack! Not another person he loved. He...

He flinched when suddenly someone grabbed his hand. Startled, he turned his head and blinked at Jack who hadn't noticed any of Ianto's anxieties. He smiled at him warmly and squeezed his hand reassuringly. “Let's go home, yeah?”

And suddenly, all anguished tension and terror of losing Jack bled out of Ianto, leaving him utterly calm. He returned Jack's smile as well as the pressure of his fingers.

Yeah, let's.”

 

What are we gonna tell the others where we've been?” Ianto asked distractedly while still puzzling over the shocked faces Martha and the Doctor'd made when Jack told them about this poster-boy Face of what was it? Thing, and at the same time bristling that the Doctor hadn't even thanked Jack once or said sorry, who, after all, had to have endure a whole year of torture just because the Doctor hadn't been able to kill the Master when he'd had the chance.

He felt Jack startle beside him, caught out, and heard him wince. “Hell, if I only knew,” he sighed, carding his fingers through his hair, giving him a stylish-dishevelled look which caused certain stirrings in the direction if Ianto's groin. They were free and out of danger again after all and this somehow had lifted a huge burden from Ianto's shoulders despite the memories, leaving him surprisingly giddy as if on a high and, well, horny. So, who cared if they were on Roald Dahl Plass in the middle of the day. They'd never done it on the cobblestone-platform of the invisible lift after all... Hm...

Maybe...” Jack's voice startled him out of his musings, “We could tell them that there came up an urgent mission for Queen and Country and I didn't have time to tell anyone I was leaving.”

But you had time to inform me and take me with you?” Ianto asked sceptically, laying open the flaw in Jack's idea. “Owen will never believe that you took me of all people on an ultra secret mission. And Gwen will be sulking royally because you took me and not her.”

Hnpf, that's the least of our problems in this whole mess. I'll just tell them I needed your special skills.”

Which are? I don't thing making damn perfect coffee has ever saved a world anywhere.”

What a great world that would be,” Jack sighed wistfully. “But no, I'm talking about your unchallenged archiving skills which, as you frequently like to remind us, we all lack criminally.”

Archiving. For Queen and Country.” Ianto looked at Jack deadpan.

Why not. I'm the boss, and I say your archiving skills saved the wor... okay, the country if you want.”

I'm flattered,” Ianto replied drily. Then something else occurred to him. “Jack? What date is today?”

Huh? Why?”

Is it one day after, well, after the First Contact, or, I don't know, did the Doctor drop us the same day you left us, or something?”

Jack frowned. “He couldn't drop us off before the Master brought you onto the Valiant . Then there would be two of you – which I would love personally – and we'd have another paradox.”

Ianto groaned. “Great.” He rubbed his temples firmly as he could feel a headache approaching. “So, let me get this straight: You suddenly disappear in late March, three months! later during which Harald Saxon was elected Prime Minister in May and after he sent us on a wild-goose chase to the Himalayas as a distraction tactic, I obviously disappear the day of Earth's official First Contact, too, while the others probably still crawl through the Himalayas, or are back here – I don't have the slightest –, and, if the Doctor got it right – which I doubt –, we are now back home only twenty-four hours later so that we can maybe explain my absence with an upset stomach forcing me to go home while you were still gone for three months which you have to explain away, and now will have to save the country without my archiving skills because I'm off the hook.”

Jack mulled this over for a few seconds. “Yep,” he finally declared with a broad grin. “That sums it up nicely.”

God! I hate time travel!” Ianto moaned, rubbing his temples again, because now the headache had slammed into his skull full force.

Jack laughed loudly – and carefree, for the first time in months – and wrapped his arm exuberantly around Ianto's shoulders, drawing him against his side. “Welcome to my world!”

 

Turned out the team didn't crawl through the Himalayas looking for Big Foot any more, but sat cosy – and pissed off – down in the Hub twenty-four hours after the failed First Contact (So, the Doctor'd gotten it right actually).

Of course they didn't buy the “an urgent mission o n Her Majesty's commission came up, it was so urgent I couldn't tell you that I'm going” excuse much to Jack's disappointment, and while Jack had to endure an interrogation from Gwen, Ianto was pestered with questions from Owen and to a lesser extent Tosh where he'd disappeared to yesterday without telling anyone anything. They (Owen) were so persistent that, although Ianto could understand they were worried (slightly, and more for the sake of their – Owen's – coffee addiction than for Ianto's sake), it cried for a month's worth of decaf. He absolutely refused yielding to Owen's demands for a full examination after he'd served them his story of an upset stomach (Sorry, Jack, I'm off the hook; See how you manage talking yourself out of this), and instead fled down to his archives, leaving Jack to fend for himself.

 

That night, after seeing John Hart safely on his way again and enduring another fucking time shift, Jack followed Ianto home instead of remaining at the Hub. For the time being, he – and Ianto, too – had enough of small camp beds and cramped, dark places. It would take a long while for him to get used to those again.

Mutely, they dropped their clothes on the way to the bedroom, even Ianto didn't care were they landed, and crawled between the sheets, sighing softly in pleasure at the heavenly feel of a proper mattress beneath them and soft and clean pillows and duvets enfolding them. They were both bone-weary, but at the same time, they couldn't sleep, adrenalin rushing through their veins and keeping them awake and restless.

Suddenly, Jack drew Ianto against him and kissed him frantically, leaving them both breathless afterwards. “Sleep with me,” he pleaded shakily, easing himself under Ianto's body, while groping for the tube of lube in the bedside table drawer. He welcomed the younger man between his spread thighs and trapped him between them, wrapping his legs tightly around Ianto's waist so that he didn't stand a chance of escaping, even if he had wanted to.

I know it was hard for you, too, but you were my anchor during this horrible year. Only because of you I stayed relatively sane. So, please, I need you to ground me one more time.”

Ianto nodded at Jack's plea; how could he deny the other man. He bend down and kissed Jack once more, deeply, but with all the tenderness he felt for him, while at the same time fumbling with the lube to messily and hurriedly prepare them before he slid into Jack's warmth without preamble.

They both sighed relieved, and for a few moments, they stayed poised like that, only feeling each other.

You're wrong,” Ianto whispered eventually against Jack's lips. “You anchored me all those times I was shy of a mental breakdown. You made me stronger. Without your strength and support all those months, I wouldn't have been able to catch you when he...” He broke off since they both knew what Ianto was implying. Shakily, he caressed Jack's face tenderly when the other man shuddered in his arms in remembrance. “I've got you,” Ianto whispered fiercely, instinctively pressing himself deeper into the other man, grounding him thus not only through words, but through his body as well. “You can let go now. We're both safe at last.”

I was so afraid,” Jack admitted in a broken voice, confessing in the dark, clinging fast to Ianto while the younger man slowly rocked into him. “Every day I thought it would be the last I'd ever see you alive.”

Oh Jack.” Ianto kissed his brow affectionately, impossibly sad how broken this proud, caring man came out of this horrible experience. “This is not about me. I'm not important in the big picture. You are.”

Of course you are. I don't care about being essential for the big picture, but you are important to me, so that makes you important to everything else.”

Ianto had to swallow heavily around the lump in his throat. This came as close to saying “I love you” as Jack ever got, and he himself had to pull himself together so as not to declare his undying love to the other man here and now. Instead, he concentrated on bringing them both to an unhurried orgasm, the released endorphins when they tumbled over the edge letting calm and peace settle over them so that they could at least attempt going to sleep.

I wish you would allow me to make you forget the last year,” Jack whispered brokenly in the darkness some time later, his voice muffled because he had his face pressed into the crook of Ianto's neck, simply breathing in his scent and warmth.

No,” Ianto replied firmly. “I don't want to forget even a minute of it. We've been together in this and we will remember together.” He drew back a little to look at Jack, although he couldn't really make out more than his contours in the dark. “For your sake, I have to remember,” he whispered and put his arms more firmly around Jack. “When your nightmares wake you up, I have to know what they're about to be able to help you through them. I don't want to lie next to you helplessly, only telling you comforting nonsense without really knowing what you're going through. I know you have horrible memories worth a few lifetimes I will never know about, or can even comprehend, but with this, Jack, let me help you.”

But you will have them, too.” Jack had to choke back tears, but then, really not knowing why he should hold them back, he let them fall, only for Ianto's fingers to gently touch his face in the dark in search of them and wiping them away.

Then so be it,” he replied with confidence.

Jack drew in a choking breath. “I don't deserve you, Ianto Jones, not someone like me, but I need you regardless.”

Now it was Ianto who almost choked on his own breath. “You...” But he didn't continue, not wanting to challenge his luck. Maybe this either wasn't the “I love you” he wanted to hear, but it was enough. The certainty that Jack needed him made his heart soar with joy, and it was so much stronger than the nagging voice whispering that Jack would never say it, would never give him what he needed.

All those days,” Jack continued as if to himself and buried his face once more at Ianto's shoulder, wrapping his arms tightly around the younger man, soaking up his body heat to chase away the shiver his memories evoked again.

Ianto shivered himself involuntarily. He knew painstakingly well the number of days he'd had to torture Jack, on how many Wednesdays, and he remembered clearly what he had to do to him (fucking eidetic memory), but he still didn't want to trade this for blissful oblivion. Never.

You're not alone,” he promised ardently, kissing Jack's temple. “As long as I live, I will catch you.”

End