Title: Wild Wood
Rating: Mature (sexual content, language, psychological situations)
Characters/Pairing: Jack, Ianto, Jack/Ianto
Summary: Jack Harkness has many ghosts. Most of them are himself.
Author's Note: For tw_calender's October 13th, 'possession' prompt. I ended up interpreting out of the box. Waaay out of the box. Many, many thanks for exfatalist for beta reading, suggestions and listening to lots of whinging, as per usual. ♥
The first time it happens, Ianto has invited Jack home with him, knowing there's no rest to be found in an underground bunk in the Hub. Ianto wakes in the wee hours of the morning to find Jack sitting on the edge of the bed, staring at a nightlight on the wall that Ianto had surreptitiously installed to combat his lover's newfound fear of the dark.
"Jack?" Ianto sits up and flicks on the lamp, concerned that Jack has suffered another of the night terrors that are not uncommon to him now.
Jack turns to look at him, a mixture of curiosity and confusion on his face, and says something in a completely alien language.
Taken aback, Ianto worries that somewhere in the middle of the night, Jack has suddenly lost his mind. After being buried alive for nearly two thousand years, who can blame him? Jack has tried very hard to go back to being himself, but more often than not seems to have forgotten who that person is. Along with Gwen, Ianto has forgiven many mistakes and covered for others, like when Jack can't remember the name of Gwen's husband (Rhys), or how many sugars he likes in his coffee (Ianto adds four, because it is his job to know these things).
But Jack seems to be faring better at the moment than he has for months, aside from the whole matter of not speaking English or appearing to not recognize Ianto in the slightest. He climbs out of the bed and spends a moment squishing the carpet between his toes, then commences with nosing around the tiny bedroom of Ianto's flat. Jack picks up the book Ianto has been reading on and off for months and flips through the pages, then tosses it back down and picks up the old alarm clock from the nightstand as if it's a curiosity piece. He pokes at one of the bells and laughs when it rings, and says something to Ianto that, could Ianto understand it, certainly would be a smart-assed remark.
This goes on for some long minutes, during which Ianto tries not to seem as absolutely terrified as he feels. Still, Jack seems neither melancholy nor upset right now, and that can only be an improvement. When he crosses back toward the bed, the look on his face is painfully open. Ianto slides beneath the covers again, patting the cooling spot beside him, and Jack crawls back into bed to join him.
They fall asleep side-by-side without touching, like brothers sharing a bed, and Jack sleeps soundly the rest of the night. He doesn't seem to remember any of it the next morning, so Ianto doesn't mention it, either.
That night has almost faded from memory by the time it happens again. Jack has just returned from the dead with a noisy gasp, and sits in the passenger seat of the SUV staring at Ianto with that same curious look as before, though this time it seems to have an edge that says 'why, hello.' Ianto looks over from driving to meet Jack's eyes and Jack quickly looks away to examine the hole in the front of his shirt, muttering in that same alien tongue.
Jack doesn't say anything for a moment, as if he's puzzling something out in his head, then he turns a thousand-watt grin on Ianto. "You can call me whatever you want, gorgeous."
Ianto casts a wary glance between Jack and the satnav, concerned about the hour and a half drive they still have before they reach Cardiff again. It has been a long day and looks as if it's shaping up to be an even longer night. "Are you all right?"
"Doing better now." There's innuendo dripping from Jack's tone. A hand creeps over to rest on Ianto's knee, fingers walking their way up to his thigh and squeezing.
"Jack, I'm driving."
There's a click as Jack unbuckles his seat belt and slides closer. "Come on ... late twentieth, early twenty-first century, right? Exotic. Always wanted to try this."
Before Ianto can form the words 'try what?', Jack is palming him through his trousers with a warm and insistent hand. Ianto spares a moment to consider the impropriety of it, before he's forced to put his attention back on the road. The steering wheel jerks beneath his hands as Jack finds the lever to tilt it up, and Ianto feels his mouth go dry in horrified anticipation. He knows that he should find somewhere to pull off and park and shake some sense into Jack, immediately, but the fingers drawing down the tab of his zip are strangely compelling.
Warm, curious fingers wrap around his traitorously hard cock, and Ianto exercises all his willpower to keep from driving into incoming traffic as Jack's mouth, warm and wet, closes around the head. Ianto's hips jerk and Jack, laughing around his mouthful - cheeky bastard - uses his free arm to press Ianto's thighs hard against the seat.
Ianto stares straight forward at the road in front of him and nearly runs a traffic light, trying so hard not to think about the head bobbing enthusiastically up and down between his legs. He's thankful that he's stopped when his orgasm takes him by surprise. Ianto leans his head against the steering wheel with a low groan, uncertain whether to be satisfied or mortified. When a car sitting behind him honks its horn and startles Ianto out of his aftershocks, Jack stares up at him with a grin like the cat who got the canary, and fastidiously tucks Ianto back into his trousers.
Having absolutely no idea what to say to the person who may or may not be his lover, but who has certainly just sucked him off in the middle of traffic, Ianto dreads the remaining drive back to Cardiff. "I -" he begins, but Jack cuts him off with a kiss on the corner of his mouth.
"It's all right, you can make it up to me later," he says, full of suggestion, and stretches languidly in the passenger seat.
Jack is sound asleep before they make it home. When they stop in the underground car park and Ianto shakes him awake, Jack doesn't acknowledge what happened earlier, just goes back to sleep on the second leg home from the Hub to Ianto's flat. Feeling entirely too awkward to confront it or explain it, Ianto puts it away again and decides to say nothing.
A few nights later, after Gwen has already gone home, Ianto is almost ready for the angry man who rages over two years of lost memories. They fuck hard and fast against a wall in the Hub and, when it's all over, Jack is back to himself again.
It happens again and Ianto feels nearly prepared for the lamentation over the right kind of Doctor and his girl-companion and their spaceship that travels through time. Jack kisses him hard and sloppy and tasting of whiskey, and tries to get Ianto to dance with him to Glenn Miller, then breaks into an incoherent litany of sobs over not having been good enough.
Ianto sits up with him all night that night, and makes excuses for it when Jack wakes, disoriented, in Ianto's arms on the floor of his office.
Eventually, Ianto stops feeling guilty over these intimate glimpses into Jack's past, being shown all the ghosts that haunt his lover. The dashing RAF Captain twirls Ianto into his arms and tells him of this girl he loves, Estelle is her name; and how it just couldn't work out between them, and would Ianto mind in a time like this to be a comforting pair of arms for Jack to fall into? He always has liked pretty Welsh boys with cheekbones that could cut glass.
The next morning they both wake up hungover, and Jack accepts the explanation when Ianto blames it on the really good vintage from dinner the night before.
The sixth and last time is the hardest. Ianto stands and watches from the catwalk as Jack sits on his knees on the floor of the Hub and cries. Then he picks himself up and dusts himself off and leaves. Ianto follows at a distance, all the way up to the rooftop of a nearby building. Jack is standing there, hands in his pockets and the tail of his coat flapping in the wind and he almost, almost looks like himself, except for the touch of fear in his expression.
Ianto combats his fear of heights and steps out of the access door onto the roof. "Sir?" he calls.
Jack wheels on Ianto with an empty, disinterested stare. "Leave me alone," he replies miserably.
"I'm sorry, I can't do that." Ianto shoves his hands into his pockets and huffs a cold breath into the air.
"Who are you? Some stiff in a suit from Torchwood London -"
Technically, Ianto thinks, the irony of the accusation not lost on him. He tries to smile, but the muscles in his face strain with the effort. "Not exactly, sir."
"Stop with the sir," Jack growls, turning back to the glittering view of Cardiff.
Sighing, Ianto steps a little closer and tries a different approach. "Jack, I'm ... I'm here to help you."
"If this is the part where you show me what the world would be like without me in it," Jack states bitterly, "then you can save it."
Ianto rolls his eyes and wonders if it would be insubordinate of him to give in to the very strong urge to slap his captain. "I'm no angel," he deadpans, "and you're no James Stewart."
Jack snorts, as if laughing in spite of himself. (He probably is.) "Wanna know something?"
He turns and stares at Ianto, a challenge in his eyes. "I'm no Jack Harkness, either."
Ianto folds his arms across his chest, raises his eyebrows, and decides to indulge him. "Really."
"Really." Jack's vehemence would be almost endearing, if it didn't make him come across like a stubborn arse. "It's not really my name. I'm a phony. I stole it. Hear that?"
Knowing he looks less than impressed, Ianto remains carefully silent.
"I'm a tourist here," Jack insists, jabbing himself in the chest. "A passerby. Hanging around, being Torchwood's grunt, taking Torchwood's money. Enjoying the ride until -" He stops, and paces along the edge of the roof, the very symbol of frustration.
"Until?" Ianto urges.
"Until the Doctor comes and finds me and fixes me. I'm not meant to stay here, I don't belong here." Jack sounds almost desperate as he walks closer, reaching out to grab Ianto's lapels. "I don't want this. I'm not meant to be the leader of anything. Fucking Alex -" He stops, sucks in a breath. "I don't want to be in charge. What if ... what if someone gets hurt on my watch? What do I do then? I can't accept that kind of responsibility."
Ianto waits, expecting Jack to shake him, but it never comes. He tentatively reaches up to wrap his fingers around Jack's wrists, and slides his hands up to cover the other man's. Everything suddenly makes sense, and it makes Ianto feel weak in the knees. He wants to collapse and sob with relief, but he knows that now is not the time. Just a little bit further to go, smoothing out Jack's doubts and uncertainties, and his overwhelming sense of guilt.
"You can," Ianto says, quiet but firm in his conviction. "And you will."
"I'm not ready for this. I don't want it."
"Jack, being a leader isn't about knowing everything. You're only human -"
Jack opens his mouth as if he'll interrupt, but Ianto shakes his head.
"You're only human, you have flaws, you make mistakes. All you can do is trust yourself to make the right decisions, and I know, I know your team will trust you to make them, too."
Jack looks hard at Ianto, as if he can stare him down, intimidate him away, but Ianto is having none of it. He tightens his grasp on Jack's hands and squeezes, grounding the other man with touch as well as words.
"I'm not ready," Jack whispers, his voice cracking. He breaks eye contact to look over Ianto's shoulder, his gaze suddenly very far away. "I ... wasn't ready." He draws a breath and it turns into a long, shuddering gasp of a sob. "Ianto, Owen and Tosh -"
Ianto closes his eyes and wraps his arms around his lover, his captain. This time, he's not prepared to pretend there's nothing wrong. Jack has a problem, and it's time to confront it. "It's not your fault," he soothes.
"I let them down."
He sinks to the rooftop and Ianto follows, still wrapped around him.
"I don't -" Jack is trembling like a leaf as he looks up at Ianto again, eyes shining with tears. "I don't understand what's happening to me, Ianto."
Having thought about it quite a lot, Ianto sits down awkwardly on the roof and pulls Jack close to his chest, running his fingers gently through the other man's hair. "All the pieces are there," he reasons slowly. "You just have to put them back together."
"I don't know how they all fit." Jack falls silent, uncertain as a child. "I keep getting lost. Inside my own head. Am I going crazy, Ianto?"
"You're not going anywhere," Ianto says fiercely. He tightens his arms around Jack and holds fast. "Stay with me. You want to stay, don't you?"
"I think so. Yes. I just keep ..." Jack hesitates, struggling for the right words. "Drifting."
"Then come back to me. Come back to us. We need you, Jack. We can't do it without you." Ianto pauses. "I can't do this without you."
Jack doesn't say anything for a long moment, and Ianto fights the sense of panic that tells him that he's lost Jack again. Then finally, Jack rouses himself, straightens and looks Ianto in the eye, and his expression is clear and unburdened.
"You don't have to," Jack replies, strong and firm as he has not been in weeks. He gets to his feet and helps Ianto up, brushes the dust off and straightens his lapels.
Ianto is too cynical to be convinced, and too hopeful to question fortune. They all have their ghosts, and he knows that for Jack, these are only little battles in a much greater war. But he reaches out and takes Jack's hand in his own, and this time he doesn't lead; they walk together.