Title: Glitter Like Altars
Spoilers: Cyberwoman, Countrycide
Warnings: Foreplay, mild knife play, language.
Summary: Ianto prefers not to be a victim of his fears.
Note: I owe a debt to The Quiet Room for getting me thinking about rooms in the Hub.
There was a room for nearly any purpose in the Hub. Ianto knew the depths of the Hub better than most and had seen many of them. Some were still in regular use like the firing range, though the lesser-known training room a level below housed a collection of keikogi (which he kept laundered), fighting sticks (which he arranged according to size), and even a dozen push daggers (which he locked away). There were several bedrooms, many offices, a lab furnished with equipment from the turn of the (last) century, and another with computer equipment that looked like it dated from the early 1980s but Ianto knew from inventories had been in residence since 1953. There were four rooms (of which he knew) that his keys and passcodes wouldn't open; one had yellow crime scene tape crisscrossed across its door. And there was the Gloom Room.
The Gloom Room was not very deep in the Hub, but it might as well have been several levels down given the disuse and neglect in that particular corridor. As Ianto undertook his methodical survey of the Hub's lower levels, he circled around -- and away -- from the Gloom Room several times. At first he didn't recognize it as a conscious decision, merely a prickling on the back of his neck or a feeling of unease when he traversed a certain area. When he examined his diary, however, and reconstructed his exploration, he realized that there was something down there he was avoiding. Or something that was driving him away.
The room had a single old-fashioned padlock on its door when Ianto first approached it. The lock was easily managed by someone with his experience in opening them, but before he applied his tools he knew why his Torchwood predecessors had not bothered with anything more than a simple lock; the room radiated malevolence, even as he stood outside its door. When the lock yielded and the door opened, he was presented with an inky, dark void. No light escaped from the room, nothing reflected back at him. There was no sound, no scent, just blackness.
The feeling of negativity was palpable. He contemplated the scene before him thoughtfully while rubbing the back of his neck. Finally, he extended a hand and put the tip of his forefinger inside the room. Nothing happened. He pressed forward with his palm, immersing his entire hand in the darkness, but felt nothing. When he pulled his hand back out, examining it closely, he could find no wounds or trauma, yet he felt distinctly uneasy. He pushed down the sensation and stepped forward tentatively. His foot disappeared into the void, knee, arm, shoulder, head--
It was everywhere. Lisa was everywhere. She had died at Canary Wharf. She died in the grubby warehouse where he was hiding her. She was dying in his arms, under his hands, at his hands, it was his fault, God it was all his fault
--Ianto fell backwards onto the concrete, hard. Wincing, he pulled himself up and willed his hands to stop shaking. After a few moments, he closed the door and reapplied the lock.
Eventually, he installed Lisa in an empty chamber not far from the Gloom Room. The room's natural protective mechanism helped keep Lisa from being discovered too.
Lisa was long gone, her room lying empty and cleansed of technology and blood. As he climbed the stairs to the Captain's office, Ianto limped (a souvenir of a particularly rambunctious Weevil), felt wretchedly tired, and wondered fleetingly if Lisa's Cybernetic frame had allowed her any sensation of knotted muscles and yellowed bruises. Or if all she felt was cold steel. He shivered, and pushed open Jack's door.
Jack was on the phone with his back to the doorway -- something he only ever did in the safety of his own office, Ianto had noticed -- when Ianto approached his desk. Ianto set down the tray in his hands, put the cup of coffee he brought on it closer to Jack's side of the desk, then tidied a pile of papers while he decided whether to wait for Jack to finish his call.
"Yes, I can see how you would think that General, but it's not--" Jack made a sound of annoyance as he was obviously cut off, and Ianto reluctantly picked up his tray. Jack's 'chats' with General O'Neill always left Jack frustrated (Ianto suspected it was because the men were too alike), and Jack was far more likely to take out his frustration with Weevil hunting than opt for a nice night in.
Jack, perhaps sensing that Ianto had chosen retreat, spun his chair and gestured at Ianto to wait. He had an apple in one hand, and with the other had been creating a long, spiraling peel through the deft use of his pocketknife. To Ianto's horror, the tray slipped from his hands and clattered to the ground, startling them both. As Ianto collected it, Jack put down the apple and performed a somewhat comical pantomime of "You okay? Wait there. I'll be done in a second."
Ianto shook his head and retreated, out of the office and down the stairs. In the small kitchenette he released the tray, which he had gripped so tightly that his fingers were pale and throbbing. He squeezed his fingers together, clenching his hands into fists. Hold, and release. Hold, and release. Hold, and--
the cleaver against his neck, ready to break skin
the freezer full of careful portions of human flesh, securely wrapped in butcher's paper
The Cybermen didn't need the bodies, and piled skins like discarded tissue
Ianto closed his eyes and pressed his balled fists against his eyelids. He pictured Jack's pocketknife, and thought he was going to vomit. He opened his eyes and looked around the kitchenette, realizing he had carefully cleared away all of the knives. Owen had been moaning yesterday that he couldn't find a knife for the butter.
This was unacceptable.
His body knew the route to Lisa's room effortlessly, but he found that it still took some effort to make the turn toward the Gloom Room instead. Deliberately he placed his feet in that direction, and found himself before the door. The lock was still simple to open, the door glided easily, the lightless void still sat there… doing nothing. Ianto straightened his tie, adjusted his coat, and took a deep breath.
"I will not be afraid anymore," he said decisively.
In his heart, he was terrified.
He plunged forward, and the blackness swallowed him. At first it was simply dark, so absent of light that he could only tell his extremities were still in place because he could feel their heavy weight. It was simply quiet, an utter absence of sound and thought. It simply was. And then. Oh, then--
The conversion chamber smells like a charnel house, his colleagues bleating and moaning like livestock as their blood cakes in his hair and the knives descend and they throw away everything but the best part, the spark of life behind their eyes, the knives only care about the brains for making metal monsters and the villagers love their knives, sharpen them carefully and oil them and probably give them silly names and use them to carve recipes in his skin and kiss away the blood and then cut him some more and they write their names, ordinary names like Joe and Sue, on his parts, claiming the pieces of him that they will cut into bites and broil or bake and they will savour every part of him, every chunk they dig out and fillet with their beautiful knives
Ianto didn't realize he was screaming until he noticed that his throat hurt. He stopped at once, but the sound echoed in the corridor until it was finally consumed by the Room. He didn't realize that Jack was saying his name until he looked up at Jack's face and saw his lips form the word.
"Jack," he croaked.
Something like relief crossed Jack's face, but it was quickly replaced by anger. Ianto rather regretted that his hearing seemed to be returning when he was met with a string of concerned abuse. "--o you have any idea? You could have been killed! Doors are locked down here for a reason, Ianto!"
"Seemed like a good idea at the time," Ianto replied weakly. He struggled to right himself, and let Jack help him from the floor. He looked at the door, which was now closed and locked again, and back to Jack. "You went in?"
Jack scowled. "Didn't have much choice," he said shortly. "What the hell were you trying to prove?"
Ianto watched his own hands trembling with detached fascination.
Jack cuffed him upside the head.
"Ow!" Ianto protested.
Jack just glared at him. Ianto had the good grace to look abashed, and didn't resist when Jack pulled his jacket to drag him down the corridor. He followed meekly as they made their way back to Jack's office, then down the manhole that led to Jack's bedroom. "You're staying here tonight," Jack ordered, and Ianto nodded. He peeled off his shoes and clothes, hanging the suit in Jack's wardrobe and tossing the rest in a pile to be laundered, before getting under the covers. His hands were still shaking, he realized as Jack turned off the light, and Jack noticed it too when he slid behind Ianto, wrapping his arms around him.
They lay together quietly, Ianto trying to concentrate on the familiar sound of Jack's breathing, for some time before Jack finally spoke. "So what were you trying to do?"
Ianto sighed and turned to lie on his back. He stared at the ceiling and tried to ignore the rolling nausea that the images from the Gloom Room evoked. "Trying to get over a fear."
Jack propped his head on one hand. "Through the use of heart failure?"
Ianto made a face, and Jack laughed. "It wasn't that bad," Ianto said slowly, and at Jack's answering chuff of disbelief raised a hand to quiet him. "It was so intense, so much fear concentrated into a powerful dose that it was completely overwhelming. But," he shrugged. "Choosing to go in there still wasn't as bad as the dreams and the other stuff."
Jack's hand slid to his chest, rising and falling with each breath that Ianto took. He knew about the dreams that Ianto had suffered in the wake of Canary Wharf and their trip to the Brecon Beacons. "What other stuff?"
"I went to find a knife the other day in my flat and I couldn't. I thought I was going mad -- not a single knife in the kitchen anywhere. I found them all in a plastic grocery bag in the cupboard. I don't even remember putting them there, Jack."
Jack splayed his fingers across Ianto's chest for a moment. He took a breath and then asked quietly, "Do you trust me?"
Ianto considered him, his sober expression and eyes glittering in the dark. They didn't talk about trust, not with their history.
Jack's eyes were still serious, but a smile curled at the edge of his lips. "Let me rephrase -- do you trust me not to hurt you, physically?"
Ianto recalled the sound of the tractor crashing through the wall and Jack's gunfire. He remembered meeting Jack's eyes across the room as Tosh pulled the gag from his mouth and Owen worked at his restraints. He remembered Jack staying with him that night, massaging away the agony in his skin and tending to the bruises. "Yes."
Jack slipped from the bed and walked to a chest of drawers. From the third drawer down, somewhere near the back, he pulled out a roll of cloth and spread it open on the dresser. From it he withdrew an object and returned to the bed, settling at Ianto's feet with his legs crossed. Ianto hitched himself up and drew his legs forward, resting his chin on his knees.
Jack extended the object in his hand and Ianto took it, grasping it for a second before he recognized its purpose and let it fall to the sheet. The knife landed with a dull thud between them. Jack picked it up again and reached for Ianto's hand.
"A knife is just a tool," he said calmly and waited for Ianto to let him take his hand.
Ianto resisted. "I know that," he said with frustration, realizing that his hands were shaking again.
Jack showed the knife to Ianto, laying it flat against his palm. It was carbon steel, colored by age and use, but obviously well-cared for. The handle was rectangular, but with rounded edges. Jack lifted the knife and ran his thumb down the blade, showing the evidence to Ianto. "This one can't cut you. It's too dull. That's not what it's meant for."
"What is this one meant for?" Ianto knew full well what the purpose of this knife in this setting was, but he was not sure that he was ready for Jack to take him there yet.
"A knife is just a tool," Jack repeated. "A means to an end. Tools have all sorts of creative uses."
"And you are creative."
Jack smirked. "I like to think so." He rocked back a little. "So what do you think? Do you want to play with my tool?"
Ianto burst out laughing, which (he knew) was exactly what Jack intended. "You had to go there, didn't you?" Jack looked smug, but Ianto sobered. "You'll stop if I--"
"Anytime you want to stop, we're through."
Jack curled a hand around Ianto's neck and drew him forward for a kiss. It was, as always, electric. Jack kissed like he did everything else -- with enthusiasm and intensity. Ianto moaned.
"Turn over," Jack said against his mouth. Unwillingly, Ianto disengaged his lips from Jack's and rolled over, stretching to let Jack straddle his legs. He dug his fingertips into the mattress as Jack leaned forward to nuzzle the skin below his ear.
"I won't use the blade unless you can see it," Jack murmured in his ear.
"What are you planning on doing with it, then?" Ianto snapped, fear making his chest tight.
As an answer, Jack merely chuckled and moved down to lick a long, slow strip along Ianto's back. Ianto groaned and shifted his hips as his cock twitched, but Jack tightened his knees to hold Ianto in place. At the first touch of metal Ianto tensed but Jack made a shushing noise and pressed down, letting Ianto get used to the sensation. It was the square handle, he realized, warmed by Jack's grip. Jack used one hand to rub deep, slow circles across Ianto's back while smoothing the steel nub of the handle down his spine. Leaning forward, Jack kissed each vertebra after he traced it with the knife, licking and sucking a path downward. Muttering curses at Jack, Ianto tried hard to stay still until Jack stopped at the base of his spine and dropped a kiss on each cheek of his arse. "Turn over," Jack said again, and Ianto took some measure of satisfaction from the fact that his voice was choked with need.
Ianto ran his hands up Jack's thighs as Jack settled above him, their cocks jutting between them. "Done with the foreplay?" Ianto asked, his breathing heavy.
"This isn't foreplay," Jack corrected him. "Well, not just foreplay. This is an exercise in desensitization."
Ianto rolled his eyes.
Jack showed him the knife, now reversed so the blade pointed to Ianto. "Still trust me?"
Ianto pulled Jack down for a bruising, desperate kiss. When he released Jack, he nodded wordlessly.
Jack placed the blade of the knife (dull knife, Ianto reminded himself) just above Ianto's chest and met Ianto's gaze. He paused for a moment, then licked a line just below Ianto's right nipple. "I'm going to mark you here," he whispered. Ianto swallowed, but nodded. Jack pressed the blade down, dragging it lightly across Ianto's skin. A pale welt appeared, but Jack had already moved a few inches lower to lick a parallel line. Again he traced it with the knife, pressing hard enough to drag a line across Ianto's flesh but not hard enough to pierce the skin. After a while he turned the blade flat, working it back and forth like spreading butter. Ianto's skin tingled, and he felt his breath hitch each time Jack slid further down his torso.
Hitch with anticipation, he realized. Not fear.
Jack worked his way back up Ianto's chest and noisily sucked on Ianto's left nipple before nuzzling the skin below. "Having fun?" he asked.
Ianto considered kneeing him in the groin for sounding so smug, but he had plans for the groin later. "Are you planning on striping my entire body?" he countered.
Jack worried the skin beneath his teeth before tracing the bruise he had created with the knife. "Maybe. I'll make you my tiger."
"Zebra would be more appropriate," Ianto said wryly. "They're good at camouflaging themselves."
Jack licked and then drew another line. "I've always wanted to ride a zebra."
Ianto groaned and pulled Jack up by his ears. "That was terrible. And enough 'desensitization'."
Jack ground his hips against Ianto. "Are you going to stop hiding the knives?"
Ianto sucked on Jack's bottom lip. "Hopefully."
"And the next time something like this happens, you'll come to me before throwing yourself into the Black Room?"
Ianto slid a hand between them and gripped Jack's cock. "I was calling it the Gloom Room," he admitted.
Jack smiled. "Of course you were." He grabbed Ianto's arm and stilled him. "Promise?"
"I promise that the next time I have an uncontrollable urge to dispose of cutlery I will tell you." Ianto bucked his hips in impatience. "Are you planning on carrying through with the aforementioned 'riding' plan?"
Jack started to slide down Ianto's length, letting the knife clatter to the floor. "And can we maybe try some more desensitization training, sometime?" He pressed his lips around Ianto's erection and sucked gently.
"Fuck," Ianto bit off. When Jack stopped, clearly waiting for an answer, Ianto reached back, grabbed a pillow, and tossed it at Jack's head. "Yes! Though I might need to start small."
"I'll buy spoons," Jack promised solemnly. Ianto threw his head back and hissed as Jack hollowed his lips.
Later, as he was drifting towards sleep, Ianto remembered a question he had meant to ask earlier. "Jack, what did you see in the Gloom Room?"
Jack's breathing remained steady, and for a moment Ianto wondered whether he would pretend to be asleep. He finally spoke, though. "I saw myself, alone. All alone."
The answer turned hither and yon in his brain the way thoughts on the edge of dream do, and Ianto murmured, "I can help you with that."
Jack's embrace tightened for a moment, and he brushed a kiss against Ianto's hair. "I know."
Ianto dreamed of zebras, and tigers, and Jack.