He is running across the Earth that is dark and dying, Earth that’s crying out her pain into space as all life on her is destroyed by a madman. They must not see him, he’s wrong and will be destroyed…
No, he isn’t running. He can’t run. Chains bite into his wrists, they yank his arms up until he can hardly feel his muscles. He is bleeding from more wounds than he knows, everything hurts, and behind him, he can hear the mad laughter. Then darkness descends, suffocates him, and he only sees the burning flicker of the engines, the burning red of blood…
Darkness. He’s entangled and can’t move. He flails, his hands meet something unexpected. He doesn’t know where he is, why he can’t see anything. He realises he’s touching someone, and he shoves them blindly, tries to flee, finds himself sitting up.
”Jack?” he hears.
The voice is doesn’t belong. It reminds him of something, and he feels disoriented, falling in space.
A soft click, and suddenly light floods his eyes and hurts them. He jerks and cries out.
”Jack! It’s me. It’s Ianto.”
His back meets a wall, but he feels like he is falling falling falling. But no, he’s sitting on something solid. He blinks several times. He sees. The small cubicle, the narrow camp bed, the lamp. In front of him, the young man whose features come into focus. The face reminds him, grounds him into time and place, fills his uncertain heart with love. The face is worried, frightened. Jack doesn’t want him to be frightened.
”Ianto?” His voice sounds weak, hoarse. ”What are you doing here?”
There is a hesitant pause. ”I came with you. I stayed tonight.” Ianto frowns. ”Don’t you remember?”
”It’s an illusion.” He has dreamed of Ianto so many times. He knows not to trust anything. But why doesn’t he feel the chains?
The apparition of Ianto Jones comes closer, and then Jack feels hands on his face, solid and warm and gentle. ”We’re in your bedroom. Good times tonight, right here on your bed. Remember?” A smile. Hands stroking his bare chest. Ianto presses close to him, and Jack smells him, that familiar scent, and the smell of sex clinging on him. His body remembers heated caresses, remembers Ianto’s mouth on him, Ianto inside him, remembers everything dissolving into pleasure.
This voice is Ianto’s voice. He feels Ianto’s breath against his neck. Hands stroke his back, gently. Touch by touch, time and place slide back together and lock into memories.
It’s over. There is no Master, no Valiant, no chains. Martha Jones is with her family, the Doctor is… somewhere, with his TARDIS. Jack is back in Cardiff, at Torchwood, and he feels…
He feels Ianto pressing gentle kisses on his shoulder, his collarbone, his neck. He remembers last night, the take-away food and the chocolate and Ianto’s mouth on his, Ianto’s red-and-blue tie, Ianto looking dishevelled and lovely, Ianto’s lips red and swollen from kisses. He remembers undressing Ianto, driving him wild with desire, the passionate sex first in the upstairs corridors, then here in his narrow bed. He touches Ianto.
”You are here,” he murmurs. ”I am here.”
”Where else would we be?”
He can’t say a word to that. He inhales the scent of Ianto’s hair, feels his long limbs and bare skin against his body. Jack lets the sensations wash over him and chase away the mind’s phantoms.
The hammering of his heart slows down, the tendrils of fear stop clutching his limbs.
He startles when hands touch his hands, but relaxes when he realises it’s Ianto. He feels Ianto take one of his hands between both of his. Ianto starts gently rubbing his palm, his fingers, the back of his hand, caressing away fears one touch at a time. He looks into Jack’s eyes, clear eyes full of concern and questions. Jack closes his eyes to avoid the questions.
But closing his eyes makes darkness return, and he opens them again. He doesn’t quite look into Ianto’s eyes. He can feel them searching him. But Ianto’s gentle, comforting hands keep rubbing Jack’s palm. He caresses each finger in turn, lightly strokes the pads of his fingers, drawing shivers from Jack, grounding him in this moment.
”What is it, Jack?” Ianto asks.
Jack knows what he means. His throat constricts, his nerves flare up. He turns his head away.
”Don’t,” Jack whispers.
But Ianto doesn’t relent. ”What’s wrong?”
”Just a nightmare.”
”You’ve had lots of nightmares lately,” Ianto says. Jack doesn’t reply. Finally Ianto continues: ”Sometimes you look at us like you can’t believe we’re here, or that you are here. And you startle at any unexpected noise, or if someone touches you.”
Jack can’t say anything. He thought he was hiding it better.
”Something happened while you were gone?” Ianto asks. ”Something bad.”
Jack’s eyes blur, and he squeezes them shut. ”I can’t talk about it.” It’s hard to get the words out.
Silence. Then Ianto continues rubbing his hands. Jack is grateful. The touch tells him this time and place are real.
”You can talk to me,” Ianto says.
Jack shakes his head. He feels Ianto tense a little. When he opens his eyes, he sees Ianto looking guarded, perhaps disappointed.
Jack takes a deep breath. He pulls Ianto’s hands close and presses them against his own chest. ”It’s not because of you,” he says. ”I just… I can’t. I don’t know how to explain. It’s complicated.”
Ianto looks at Jack for a long while, then learns in and kisses his cheek, his jaw, his mouth. ”Whenever you are ready, you can tell me.”
Ianto’s eyes bore into his. ”Promise me?”
He shouldn’t promise that. He’s just going to hide it and pretend everything is all right. But he owes Ianto something, doesn’t he? Perhaps he must decide that one day, he is going to tell what he can. Maybe that’ll drive the nightmares away.
So he cups Ianto’s face with his hands, looks into his eyes, and says. ”I promise.” He kisses Ianto lightly, and feels him relax.
Jack holds Ianto as tightly as he can. If he can keep touching Ianto, he’ll know where he is, when he is. His memories won’t get away with him.
Ianto strokes his hair and wraps himself around Jack, like he knows how to protect Jack from invisible demons. Maybe he does.
”Can you sleep again now?” Ianto asks after a while.
”I think so,” Jack replies. They lie down, and Jack is grateful his bed is too damn small for two grown men, and he has every excuse to stay in full body contact with Ianto. Ianto kisses him, then turns off the light.
Jack doesn’t fall asleep again that night. But it's not so bad, lying awake next to Ianto, holding him and feeling him there, solid and warm and real. His mind may lie to him, but his touch can tell him he's home.