Title: Sleep tight
Characters: Jack, Ianto
Length: 1,197 words
Content notes: none
Author notes: Written for Challenge 59 - Bedroom at beattheblackdog
Summary: The bedroom was less important than the people occupying it.
Another late night, he thought, as Jack staggered wearily into their house some time just before dawn. Did it still count as a late night if you didn't get home until the morning? His brain couldn't even be bothered pondering the notion.
He'd sent the rest of them home a few hours earlier, when it still had technically been night. There wasn't much more any of them could do. They'd been too late to rescue the poor creature that had been ejected from the rift, its injuries too severe for Owen to do anything, assuming he even knew where to begin trying to piece its anatomy back together again. It didn't mean he didn't try, but between he and Jack and their limited medical know-how, they were both all too aware that there was nothing more to be done except for making it comfortable. Nights, and days, like these sucked; no two ways about it. Sending the rest of them home just helped to dull some of the hurt that came from feeling helpless to do anything. That and Jack was the only one who could understand the language that the creature spoke, so he elected to stay with it until the end. Owen could tend to final preparations in the morning when everyone had a clearer head.
Jack dropped his keys on the sideboard, toeing off boots and shuffling towards the living room. He was dog tired but he didn't want to wake Ianto. A few hours curled up on their sofa would be good enough for now. He was about to flop down on it when he caught the darkened outline of something there. Letting his eyes adjust to the darkness a bit more, he realised it was Ianto, huddled under the blanket that traditionally lay folded over the top of the sofa for just such occasions. Forgetting his earlier unselfishness, he gently shook Ianto awake.
'Hey, what are you doing here?' he asked.
Ianto yawned. 'Sleeping. Or at least I was.'
Jack chuckled. 'We have a bedroom for that, you know.'
'I know. I was too tired to make it there. Besides, I wanted to wait up for you to come home. Thought you might want someone to talk to.'
How did he do that? Always knowing exactly what Jack needed even when Jack himself didn't know. Yes, he was bone achingly tired, but he was also emotionally overwrought and just needed to have someone there to listen to him, even if all he did was babble about completely useless stuff. Overtired, he was talkative and restless, and only once he'd discharged himself mentally of whatever was on his mind, would he finally be able to settle into sleep. Long ago, he'd have gone and stood on a rooftop for hours doing the same thing, but somehow, talking it over with someone was so much better than brooding in silent loneliness.
'Are we going upstairs or what?' Jack asked.
'I thought we could stay here.'
'I thought pillow talk was reserved for the bedroom?'
'And since when has anything that should be reserved for the bedroom ever stopped us?'
Jack pulled up the blanket and crawled under it, until they were both curled awkwardly next to one another. It was just like the old days when they used to sleep cramped up on Jack's old cot in his bunker, and still did on the odd occasion. It was nice to feel so close, Ianto's body warm, pressed against his own. They lay there in silence for a few minutes before Ianto initiated conversation, knowing Jack needed someone to help get the ball rolling.
'Was it peaceful?' he murmured.
Jack sighed, tensing slightly. 'Yeah. Thank the Gods for small graces.'
'Good,' Ianto said, wrapping him up tighter. 'Did it say much?'
'He told me all about his family and where they lived. He had a mate and three offspring.'
Ianto nuzzled against his neck. 'Tell me about them.'
'They lived on a world with four suns. Every night he'd take them all out to sit on top of the highest dune and watch the four sunsets, and to thank the Gods for another day before returning to their home to break bread. He'd tell his offspring stories about all the places he'd been and the strange creatures he'd met when he'd been a volunteer with the intergalactic guard in his youth. Then in the morning, the sky would be the most incredible shade of sapphire blue, and the waters of the local spring would trickle down the rocks and into a deep pool at the edge of the village, and they'd go there to collect water and local fruits before beginning their day.'
'It sounds beautiful. How did he end up here?'
'He was travelling to another village many dozens of miles across the dunes. Once a week he'd go there to bring them medicines and help tend to any illnesses. There was a great sandstorm and he tried to make shelter until it passed, but it swept away his pack animal and all of his supplies. He thought he'd be buried alive in the sands, but then there was a bright light and so he followed it to its source, not knowing it was a rift flare.'
'It brought him here.'
'His family will think the storm killed him.'
'And they'll never know he survived, only to die alone on a far away world where he'll never get to see them ever again.'
Ianto's heart broke for the alien, and for Jack. Every story of an alien that became stranded here, lost and alone, was like Jack having to relive his own memories all over again. He was just another in a long line of beings stranded here on this strange planet full of people they didn't know, and no way of getting back. Jack would never again see his family either. At this point in time, they didn't even exist for him. Technically, he didn't even exist yet, but the TARDIS had changed him, made it so that he was fixed in time no matter what. It didn't matter that he hadn't been born yet, only that he was here, and stuck here, maybe forever.
'I wish there was something more we could have done.'
'Me too,' Jack sighed. The rift was oftentimes cruel.
There were a few more minutes of silence between them, and for a while, Ianto thought Jack must surely have fallen asleep.
'Thank you,' he finally said.
'For being here. I don't think I could have faced being alone.'
'Can I tell you something?' Ianto asked.
'I can't sleep in our bedroom when you're not there. It just doesn't feel right. I much prefer it when we're close like this.'
'Even if it means I have my elbow poking in your ribcage?'
'Even then' he said, pulling the blanket around them tight.
'Can I tell you something, then?'
'Anything,' Ianto repeated Jack's own words, sounding sleepy.
'I'm just glad I have you to come home to.'
Nestled close to one another, in a tangle of arms and legs they finally both managed to fall asleep.