Characters/Pairings: Jack/Ianto, Martha Jones
Word Count: ~1700
Warnings: Post - KKBB
Summary: It’s like being battle-weary all over again.
Beta: analineblue, the ever lovely.
Disclaimer: Do not own, or lease.
Author Notes: Here. Have a long author’s note! First, this story is for star54kar, who won me in the AO3 Auction. She requested “a story exploring what we didn't see in canon when Jack came back from running off with the Doctor” and specifically asked for “what he needed to do to regain Ianto's trust and how they re-established their relationship.” She has given her approval, so it can’t be that bad! :) I had decided to work on this story while visiting at my parents’ house. On their desktop, I noticed a document called “Wehavehad.doc” and, thinking it may have been one of the wayward half-finished fics I’ve left lying around, opened it up. Turns out it was a transcription of a letter that my brother had put together for my mother. As I read it, the story I had been struggling to write faded away and the story herein slowly began to grow around these words. I liked them so much, I kept them! The letter was written to Martha Twyman Gilbert, who was the first wife of Andrew Jackson Gilbert (my great-great grandfather). The letter is from Travis J. Twyman, Jr., her brother, a Confederate soldier in the 19th Volunteer Infantry of Virginia. The letters came to us from my great-uncle in Virginia. The letter is dated with: Chafford Farm/May 15th, 1864.
Dear Sister Martha,
I received your truly welcome letter yesterday and was very glad indeed to hear from you and to learn you all were well. I have no news of interest to write other than that the Yankees are trying their best to take Richmond. They have a large force on the south side of James River between Petersburg + Richmond.
- - - -
Ianto raps his knuckles against the frame of the door, and Jack looks up from his work – not work, really. Just pushing ink against a piece of paper in swirls and blotches, waiting for his mind to sort itself into something like leadership. He’s been waiting for a little over a week now.
Behind Ianto, the Hub is dimly lit and quiet. It might be late at night or early morning. It’s been hard to tell; time may have reset itself in the world, but it’s done strange things to his head.
“Yeah,” he says.
It takes Ianto some time to respond. Jack feels his eyes, how they skitter over his face, but refuses to look back into them. Ianto’s been cagey, vibrating like a trapped animal since his return, and Jack’s been too out of his depth to do anything about it.
There was something about a date, he remembers.
He sighs, puts his pen down, says, “What do you need, Ianto?”
Saying his name, any of their names, out loud is still odd. The sounds don’t mean the same things they used to – now they stand for an autonomy he’s almost too willing to let them keep, except that it could kill them in the end.
“Just closing up, sir.” He takes one hesitant step into the office, then another. “Jack. Well. I’ll see you tomorrow, then?”
- - - -
There was a Large force Yankee Cavalry Raiders came around Lee’s Army to the Number of 15 or twenty thousand with the object of cutting the Railroad and taking Richmond if possible: our Brigade was sent above Richmond to keep them Back and last Thursday our Regt was ordered to help drive them out of a piece of Woods and as our Company was going in the Yankees shelled us and one shell burst right in our Company wounding Ben Gilbert severely in the groin. The piece of the shell flew all round but I came out safe with but a slight scratch.
- - - -
“How’s your family?” Jack asks.
He presses the receiver close to his ear, feels the heat of it against his skin. Martha’s voice seems far away, static and metallic, when she speaks.
“Good, yeah. Mum’s been a bit off, but she’s holding up. How’s yours?”
“Seem to be just fine without me, actually. Maybe I’ll take a vacation. I hear Barcelona’s nice.”
He lets Martha’s laugh take up the space in his head. He’s floating and shivering and restless in his skin.
After a moment of dragged silence, he says, “I’ve been in wars, you know. Deep in them, so deep everyone forgets what we’ve been fighting for – you just try to get from one day to the next without losing too much blood.”
“Or too much of yourself,” Martha says.
“Yeah, that too. So you, you cling to this idea of home, and how much better it’ll be when you get back there. And when you get there finally, you realize that everyone’s moved on without you. They’re different, the world’s different, and you aren’t sure where you fit in it anymore. The same thing always happens, no matter where or when you are. And the funny thing is – for them, it’s only been three days.”
“I know. But maybe it’s not them, or the world. Maybe it’s us. We’re the ones who’ve changed, and they haven’t had time to catch up. We watched them all die. This wasn’t a war, it was genocide. But we won, for whatever that’s worth.”
It hurts, suddenly, to breathe. More than the blades and bullets and beams. He exhales something that he hopes sounds like agreement.
“Listen,” Martha says, “I’ve got to dash. But maybe – just, talk to them, yeah?”
Jack is still holding his mobile when Martha rings off, and doesn’t put it down until a few seconds into the dial tone.
- - - -
How Thankful I am to that kind Providence for thus preserving me from all the danger for the Bullets flew thick + fast around me. There was no one hurt besides Ben in our Company. Even now while I hear the sound of Musket on the other side of James River next to Drewer’s Bluff and I don’t know how soon we may have to go in it but my Trust is in that All wise being who doeth all things for the best of those that Love + Serve Him.
- - - -
His legs feel heavy with disuse as he steps out of his office. He hasn’t looked at the time all night. The progression seems either too quick or too slow – hours pass in minutes, a day trudges by in a week.
Seated in Owen’s usual station, Ianto is sorting through a thick stack of paper.
Jack clears his throat. “Thought you went home.”
“Oh. I just remembered you wanted that expense report before you…and I know it’s here somewhere.”
“And that’s important at – what time is it, anyway?”
“Half past two. And more important than the circles you’ve been drawing for the past two hours all over the memo from the Cardiff constabulary. Sir.”
Jack almost feels like laughing, but that requires too much energy and the use of muscles that feel long atrophied. He smirks, instead, and it still feels like a victory.
“Although,” Ianto says, tilting his head thoughtfully, “you certainly managed to improve it.”
“I was actually drawing angry faces.”
“Ah, yes. Much improved.”
And then Ianto smiles at him, genuinely smiles, and it’s like everything slots back into place. Just for a second, but it’s a really good second. It’s been a long time since he’s had a moment like that.
He folds his arms across his chest, even as he feels the corners of his lips tug upward. “As your boss, I really should order you to go home.”
For a moment, Ianto looks panicked, and suddenly, it all makes sense, this increasing progression of late-night tasks that could be put off until the morning. Jack lets his arms fall to his sides and sighs.
“But you won’t go, will you? It doesn’t matter that I promised you I’d still be here tomorrow.”
“There’s a lot to be said for trust.”
It feels like a punch, and even now the need to fight back rises in him like heat. He lets the words slip past his lips before he can convince them to falter.
“You’re the expert.”
Ianto nods. It throws Jack, this easy complacency, this lack of defense, and he reels with it for a second. There is a new confidence, a blanket acceptance, in Ianto’s eyes that he swears wasn’t there a year ago. He looks both intimidating and safe, as though different casts of light reveal unknown features.
Jack pulls Toshiko’s seat over and sits in it, backwards, because relying on habit is what’s kept him sane this long.
“Are you awake enough for a story?”
“No,” Ianto admits, and smiles. “But I’ll make coffee.”
- - - -
You spoke of my making you a Basket, but it is Too late now as I don’t make any, but I wish you had let known it sooner, but I have a little blue key Basket which you might have if I could get it to you sooner. I do hope I may be able to get home this summer to enjoy some of your nice vegetables but I don’t expect it. Unless I get wounded or hurt in some way. It seems a very Long Time since I have seen home and how glad I would be to see Tommy. I was so surprised to hear he could walk. I have not heard from home for a month. When you see Pa jog his memory. Be sure to write to me as soon as you get this. Kiss Idella + Tommy for me and tell them I want see them badly. Give my love to Home folks and retain a large portion for yourself. Hoping this may find you well.
I am your affectionate Boo.
Travis J. Twyman, Jr.
- - - -
It is a quarter to five when Jack’s story ends, the two cups of coffee he’d finished off making him jittery enough that he can feel his fingers tremble. His eyes are closed. Ianto’s hand is on his knee, has been for the better part of an hour.
He hasn’t told everything – there are bits that are still too painful to talk about, but the important things (one year, everyone dead, torture, time resetting) come out clear enough even with the slight editorializing.
“Early,” Ianto corrects.
“You can get a couple of hours sleep, at least. Go home, Ianto.”
His name is suddenly easier to say. Everything is a little easier, and a little harder, now. He breathes for a moment, just focuses on that, and opens his eyes just as Ianto reaches for his hand.
“I won’t say I’m sorry,” Ianto says, and he looks so much older than he had when Jack hired him, “but – well, I’m here.”
Jack nods. He feels even more exhausted, while his body thrums with synthetic alertness. It’s like being battle-weary all over again. He stands up, pushes Toshiko’s chair back, and turns.
There’s an awkward moment of tentative hands searching for a proper hold, and they end up with Ianto’s hand on Jack’s shoulder before Jack pulls him close and hugs him. They stand like that for a moment, orienting themselves, maybe, or just prolonging this until they both collapse from fatigue. Finally, Ianto pulls away and clears his throat.
“I’d better –”
“I don’t have –”
“Please just stay. You can take the bed, I’ll sleep on the floor. Just – stay?”
Ianto bites his lip and closes his eyes, and Jack feels whatever last bit of strength he had slip away like silk from his fingertips.
“Yes,” Ianto says at last. “Fine. Yes. Just – don’t sleep on the floor. It’s fine.”
“Okay.” Jack smiles; it’s a little thing, but it feels right. “Fine.”