Pushing open the double doors Minulaya saw the other was on the central dais.
'The Kind One has lost consciousness,' Medical Unit Eight reported.
'The Kind One?' Minulaya set up the scan.
'Companion Unit ZQA 4589 has told us much,' Medical Unit Eight advised.
'We were unsure if we should proceed. Delay might be detrimental so we decided we should start by getting him or her ready for examination. I have taken the Kind One's vitals.'
'You did the right thing,' Minulaya reassured them. Even with the chains removed some programming could not be fully over-ruled. Both were highly qualified medical units but could only act with direction. They had done well to even move the being and take his vitals. In days gone past they would have been paralysed into inaction.
'We gave him oxygen and he needed fluids so we set those up.'
'Well done.' Minulaya set up the scanner to run. 'Tell me what happened?'
'After you left he moved as close as he could to the other and stood watching.'
'He stood there all this time?' Minulaya thought of the hours she had spent away.
'Yes,' the two androids replied together.
'Then he fell down and we sent for help.' Medical Unit Eight set up the scanner arm to run.
'How is the other?' Minulaya asked.
'The healing unit has entered the fourth cycle. All projectiles have been disintegrated and repair has been initiated. The right breathing organ is sealed and beginning re-inflation.'
Minulaya went to check the being now on the dais.
Ianto opened his eyes to find the small being stroking his forehead.
'You are hurt. You fell down.'
'I'm injured?' Ianto asked, confused.
'My arm is sore that's all.'
'A projectile has buried itself into the top bone of your right arm and broken it,' Minulaya told him.
'No, Jack is the one who needs help.'
'Ack,' Minulaya struggled with the pronunciation. 'The healing machine has removed all the projectiles and sealed off blood vessels. Blood is being developed and we will give Ack little bit first then if all right we will give more. Then Ack needs rest until we can help more.'
She returned her focus fully to Ianto. 'You must let us help you. We need to take out the projectile then set your arm. Then it feel much better. First you have pain?'
Ianto went to object again but as he tried to move he became more aware of just how uncomfortable his arm was.
'This will make no pain,' Minulaya reassured him showing him a long slender silver device.
He watched Surgical Assistant Two take the device and then gently press it against several points on his upper arm and shoulder. Within seconds he felt a tingling like pins and needles.
'Kind One, can you feel any part of your arm?' Medical Unit Eight asked.
'No pain,' Ianto replied. 'My arm…but feels like it belongs to someone else.'
'Not know word, but pain travels down...' the translator broke down, 'and these now blocked,' Medical Unit Eight explained.
The other android now presented a strange contraption. It looked like a thick metal sleeve and was carefully snapped it into place around the swollen area of Ianto's arm. 'This will not give pain. If do, say.'
'First clean dirt. Then remove projectile,' the being explained as the object began to vibrate imperceptivity.
Ianto closed his eyes as he felt the object finish vibrating and began pushing and pulling. The sensation was not painful but felt downright unpleasant. A jolt and a screaming pain caused him to cry out and everything went blank.
'We will have to retract the bone manually,' Surgical Assistant Two said as they turned the machine off.
'I will prepare,' Medical Unit Eight moved across and opened several draws.
Ianto woke to the sound of heartbeats. His last memory was severe pain and to his relief the pain was now gone. He looked down and saw hard material covering his upper arm right down his wrist. A cast, he realised.
'We have to do arm old way,' Surgical Assistant Two said with a tinge of regret. 'I should have been thinking pain block might not work. Projectile gone and bone now back end to end.' Surgical Assistant Two put her fists together in demonstration.
Ianto felt hands helping him sit up. Twisting he saw the healing machine where Jack had been was empty.
'He now in rest place, Kind One,' Medical Unit Eight said as she saw the look of concern on his face. 'You can come but slowly.'
Shakily Ianto was led to a side ward. There Jack was lying down, covered with a light sheet of some kind. Around his right upper wrist was what looked like some kind of medical pump which was slowly infusing what looked like blood. At top end of the bed his vitals were being displayed on an electronic board just above his head.
Ianto felt weak with relief, gave Jack a gentle kiss on the lips then, taking his hand held it against his lips.
'Why did the Kind One not realise he was hurt?' Medical Unit Eight asked Surgical Assistant Two as they cleared away the debris of the last few hours.
'He was worried about the other and not himself,' Surgical Assistant Two said.
'Yes but why did he not tell us? He stood there all that time watching when he was badly injured himself.'
'When you care for someone else they become all important,' Minulaya interrupted. 'Each of us here would willingly give of ourselves to ensure the well-being of another.'
Medical Unit Eight nodded her understanding. 'Choice is hard. Sometimes I still struggle with choosing to care rather than programmed to care. And you are right; I would put myself forward in an instant if it would protect any of us here.'
'You look like you have something to say?' Minulaya asked Surgical Assistant Two.
'Today has had lots of disruption. I question if these are masters and I find confusion because they are organic and could be masters but not masters. Companion Unit ZQA 4589 has told us they have shown him kindness and understanding. They even protected him when they could have saved themselves.' Surgical Assistant Two looked at Minulaya struggling to put her thoughts into words.
'They don't act like a masters, they acted as you Minulaya,' Medical Unit Eight said in agreement.
'There are enough differences to suggest these are not Thralls. Perhaps they come from a culture that does not have slavery and see all beings as equals?' Minulaya pointed out.
'If that is so I want to know more,' Surgical Assistant Two said her eyes glowing brighter at the thought.
'We must ensure their wellbeing into return for the consideration they have shown Companion Unit ZQA 4589,' Medical Unit Eight said. 'I am excited to meet Companion Unit ZQA 4589 in person.'
'Then you go and I will remain and watch over our visitors,' Surgical Assistant Two said.
'And I am off to bed,' Minulaya declared.
'Sleep well,' Surgical Assistant Two and Medical Unit Eight echoed together.
Ianto held the palm of Jack's free hand against his face, his mind a whirl of every possible emotion going around and around in an endless circle of churn. 'What the all the fifty home systems was he supposed to do now?'
One moment he wanted to shake the man; then he was filled with distress as he recalled that terrible moment when he thought Jack was going to die, followed by the relief when he saw the one he now knew as Minulaya open a medical kit in the dome.
Did this put him and Jack on equal terms now? Jack had hurt him; he had hurt Jack, mentally emotionally and now physically that made them even didn't it?
No, the man has saved his life because he had made a vow. A fucking vow to save his fucking life. Oh it all made perfect sense. Jack had been waiting to do just this. That was why he had followed him to Zeta Sigma Three. Not because he had any feelings for him but because he was only acting out of guilt.
Restlessness filled Ianto and he stood and began to pace. On his second rotation he spied several sealed packets of blue cloth. Using his teeth he ripped one open then soaked the cloth awkwardly under a small surgical tap.
How was he now supposed to act? Ianto returned and gently moved a layer of dirt form Jack's cheek.
This was awkward in the extreme. How did one say thanks for taking three arrows and nearly dying in the process? He knew what his dad would do: buy the man something tangible like a space flyer. Ianto moved to rinse the cloth under warm water.
How do you say thank you to someone who saved your life due to a vow when he couldn't find the words to say I forgive you? Ianto gently cleaned Jack's forehead.
He stopped for a moment. Perhaps Jack's actions meant he didn't need to say anything because Jack's actions had evened up the score. Jack had hurt him; he had hurt Jack, now Jack had fulfilled his mission.
Bloody Jack…of course he had to act the hero. Stupid vow…well he should be pleased. Was Jack was just acting out of guilt? Ianto found himself on familiar ground and gently kissed Jack's forehead.
If it was just a vow, Jack could leave all this 'I really have feelings for you' nonsense and move on, he reasoned.
Ianto felt a sense of relief wash over him in a rush. Of course now they could just be friends. Now all he had to do was find a way back, get Jack his second chance, shake hands and watch him ride off with someone like River, came into his mind. A burning sensation made his chest ache. Anyone but her; he ground his teeth. Bloody woman! All over Jack like a bag of fleas. He could read her like a book; just the sound of her voice was enough to set his teeth on edge.
Ianto felt dizzy so he sat down and picked up Jack's hand again and with extreme care began to wipe each finger. Why? Why did you have to do it Jack? Did Jack really think his own life had so little value?
Ianto cupped Jack's chin and used his thumb to caress Jack's lips.
'What am I supposed to do now?' Ianto groaned and realised he had come full circle again.
Waking with a start Ianto saw it was one of the androids from earlier checking Jack.
Ianto saw that the light from outside was now dark. The being left without a word and returned a few moments later with a tray holding a drink.
Sipping it cautiously Ianto realised it was the same flavour as the day before. It was not unpleasant, warm and slightly sweet.
'Minulaya say you smell. You to go somewhere to clean.'
'I need to stay with Jack.' Ianto shook his head.
'You smell very smell,' the translator squawked. 'Jack is good. He asleep. You come and clean. Rest, eat, clean.'
Another android entered the room 'Kind One, this is Attendant Four, she take you to place of rest, clean and eat,' the android insisted.
'Jack.' Ianto took Jack's hand and gripped it tightly.
'Kind One, Jack is in sleep cycle, he will not wake for many hours while his breathing organ heals and he breathe better. He has blood and is good. See even loud speaking does not make him wake.'
'You don't understand I can't leave,' Ianto re-iterated and watched as the androids tilted their heads for a split second and they both left.
'Victory is mine,' Ianto thought but a few minutes later the androids returned with Minulaya.
'Attendant Four has told me that you don't want to leave Jack. You think we hurt him? Have we not looked after him good?' Minulaya pointed out.
Ianto shook his head, mortified that they thought he didn't want to leave because he didn't trust them. 'You have saved his life and there are not enough words to say how grateful I am. It's just…' he looked at Jack. 'I can't leave. I want to be here when he comes to so he knows he's safe and I'm okay.'
Minulaya took a moment to think. 'You worry for him he wakes in strange place?' Ianto nodded. 'You smell and have no clothes. How can it be help if you sit here all covered in dirt? This is heal place. We worry you have not eaten or taken any rest and you hurt too.' She pointed at Ianto's arm. 'How you help Jack if you become sick? What if you get clean in near place, we bring food and you stay here?' she reasoned.
'Clean room not far, just short way, we have clean clothes and washing things,' Attendant Four pointed at the door.
Their logic was impeccable and Ianto couldn't argue. Leaning over Ianto kissed Jack gently on the lips and followed.
A short walk and Attendant Four opened a door. Ianto wondered if there was some universal design for such facilities because it was so familiar it ached. Attendant Four turned on the water. Ianto caught himself in the mirror. He was a sight to behold; naked with a single belt, covered in a layer of blood and dirt so caked on he couldn't make out his own colour. The bottom half of his face was covered in a thick stubble which began to itch maddeningly now he thought about it but with no possible way to shave without the knife he would just have to content himself with a good wash.
Attendant Four now stood before him holding what looked like a long clear bag. Before he could form a question Attendant Four pointed to his arm.
'I am to help you cover.' Attendant Four handed over the device. 'It will keep your arm dry while you clean.' Nodding, Attendant Four slid it over his arm. After checking the cast seal was in place Attendant Four touched a small green button and it began to swell until the entire cast was covered.
'If you need press this.' Attendant Four now pointed to a round red object in the wall. 'I have put out drying cloths and clothes. We not sure of size but should fit.' Attendant Four pointed towards the shower. 'Red bottle wash body. Green bottle hair.'
'Thank you,' Ianto said and Attendant Four looked at with him with the same surprise Alfred did whenever he or Jack had thanked him.
'You are well named,' Attendant Four said and before he could comment the android left, closing the door.
Not sure what that meant Ianto turned his attention to the hot water. Checking the temperature Ianto stepped under the strong flow. Never again would he overlook the luxury of hot water and soap he agreed to himself. He reached out and pumped a handful of liquid soap which began to foam and he lathered himself up.
Rinsing himself for the third time to wash the ingrained dirt was undefeated and turned his attention to the thick layer of stubble on his face. Stepping out of the shower he did a quick search; nothing. Stepping back he saw there was a small impression on the wall. Pressing it he was rewarded as a long implement sprung out. After examining it for a few seconds he realised it was a shaver. He tested it against his arm first then, lathering up his face, used touch to shave himself clean. With a sigh of satisfaction he turned off the water and grabbed a towel.
'Now you eat,' Attendant four announced as Ianto opened the door to Jack's recovery room. Ianto saw several platters of food laid out on a long table. A waft of savoury scent made Ianto's stomach rumble reminding him how hungry he was. He had not eaten for over a day.
There was so much food Ianto was unsure at where to begin. Picking up a spiral of what looked like bread he took a mouthful. Three bites later he found himself trying to stuff two more into his mouth. He almost choked and poured himself a glass of some kind of purple liquid. He downed it in two gulps then refilled and realised where he was. Trying to demonstrate better manners he worked his way through the food.
Each bite sized delight seemed like an adventure, leaving him only wanting more. Belching he finished what could only be described as a custard cream pie leaving only a bowl of fruit.
'You like very much Kind One,' Attendant Four declared.
'Delicious,' Ianto said licking his fingers.
'I get more,' Attendant Four offered.
Over-full, Ianto shook his head. 'I am full and I thank whoever provided this. It was exactly what I needed.'
Attendant Four appeared to almost glow at his complement. 'You do not disappoint Kind One.'
Thinking the translator had missed hearing his name Ianto corrected her. 'My name is Ianto.'
'Yes Kind One, you are Ianto,' Attendant Four replied.
'Does Ianto mean Kind One in your language?'
Attendant Four seemed to stop and looked like the android was in thought. 'Yes we are agreed. Ianto will mean Kind One.'
'No that's not what I meant. Ianto is Welsh for John.'
'We make Ianto mean Kind One.'
'I don't deserve the title Kind One,' he pointed out.
'Companion Unit ZQA 4589 who you call Alfred has told us much about you. And his observations and words have proven true,' Attendant Four declared.
'You can communicate?' Ianto said startled. In the drama of the last hours the android had slipped from his thinking
'Yes he has told us how kind you were to him.'
'Kind must have a different meaning,' Ianto suggested now thoroughly confused.
'Perhaps. You have shown the same here. You thanked me for helping you even though I am not like you and it was my role to attend. You saved Companion Unit ZQA 4589 even at the risk of your own life. You treated him and me like we are you.'
'But,' Ianto tried to explain. 'You…we are same, just different.'
'Very hard thought but rare. You like Minulaya,' Attendant Four declared.
A yawn broke through as Ianto tried to reply.
'You now rest.' Attendant Four pointed and Ianto now saw a put up bed had been prepared. 'If need we will wake you.'
Checking Jack and kissing him gently on the lips he laid down and within seconds was asleep.
Jack floated in a dreamy state that was neither here nor there. It felt like he was drifting on ocean waves, gently rocking him back and forward. So this is death, he thought. He had always imagined nonexistence to be non-existent. At best a long sleep. A wonderful sleep with no pain. For the first time since he had found Ianto on the holosuite he felt at peace. This really must be death. He had been right; his vow had been the key to his redemption. It felt like a long cool drink after a terrible thirst.
Ianto would live because Jack had rightfully given his life. The debt was paid. A moment of regret intruded. True he had dreamt of loving Ianto like no other, spending his life in an effort to give Ianto the true love he deserved, living his life in adoration making every moment count. That was wish fulfilment at best and delusion at worst because that was never every going to be.
Time seemed to have a different quality and he now became aware of voices. Someone was gently touching his face. Now a sweet kiss, someone was holding his hand. The tone of the voice was worried and it took him back to the accident on the island where he was unsure if he had imagined the concern. Ianto sounded so worried. Now he could hear other unknown voices, speaking a language he could not understand.
Now the touch was rougher and for the first time he felt pain. It began as a niggle, spread out across his chest, and right thigh and shoulder. Ianto was there, he could sense him. If this was death why was Ianto here? A terrible fear gripped him. What if this dream was some sort of delusion and the reality was it had been Ianto who had been hurt? Not again he couldn't bear it he had to see.
Opening his eyes Jack felt at first relief to see Ianto then a sinking feeling of despondency came over him.
'Jack, you're safe.'
'Why couldn't you have let me die?' Jack fought to say but no words came out.
'Don't try and talk,' Ianto insisted.
'Why?' Jack managed to croak out.
'Jack you're safe, I'm safe, we've reached a sanctuary. There is so much to tell you and show you but first you have to get better.'
'Us talk?' Jack said.
'I guess I asked for that one,' Ianto said and Medical Unit Eight now interrupted and began to check Jack now he had come to.