Notes: The full oneshot for #41 out of 'Snapshots of Smiles'. Requested by Figaro2, ancientmaverick, Camille Echo, DarqueQueen7, bbmcowgirl, Peregrin Ionad, Paraxenos, TechnoMistress and laal ratty. This one was shockingly popular, apparently.
WARNING: the following oneshot contains graphic descriptions of suicide, suicidal themes, and strong language. Please do not read this if you're sensitive to any of that, especially the first two.
Disclaimer: I do not own Torchwood and I am not making any profit from this work.
Behind Closed Doors
Owen groaned when he finally squeezed out of his car, and decided that Ianto's neighbours were obsessed with parking all next to each other. Ianto had a flat, and no car, but everybody else in the damn block did, it seemed. And were throwing Welsh New Year parties or something.
He fished his medical bag out of the boot and decided sod it. The car was already scratched anyway. He slammed the boot without further care and sorted through the set of keys Jack had lent him to find Ianto's.
It was the morning after they finally got back from that godforsaken trip to the countryside. Owen had barely slept that night, and kept waking up from dreams about body parts and medical school. He really didn't need to mentally combine the two experiences.
After seeing to Tosh at the Hub and running her home last night, Owen had called off for a night of sleep (ha!) before seeing to Ianto. He had checked him over at the scene and knew he could last twelve hours without a check up. Jack had agreed and run Ianto home himself. And now morning had broken, and Owen was delivering on his promise to see to Ianto.
He didn't bother with the buzzers to get Ianto to let him in, simply unlocked the front door and jogged lightly up the stairs. He was stiff and slightly sore from their trip to the countryside, but he'd gotten worse on nights out in university. Unlike Tosh and Ianto, who'd both been black and blue, and in Ianto's case, suffering from mild blood loss.
He did knock on Ianto's door before inserting the key, and toed off his shoes in polite courtesy in the entrance.
"Oi, Ianto! It's Owen!" he called, but nobody answered and he rolled his eyes, thinking that the teaboy was probably asleep. Although that was a good thing - rest was the best medicine, not laughter - it would mean he'd have to wake him up, and Owen knew that Ianto was cranky when he was tired.
There were four doorways off the little hall he was standing in, and as luck would have it, the first three contained a bathroom, a kitchen and a tiny living room that made Owen's flat look well-lived-in. Deciding that the final door had to be the bedroom, Owen rapped quietly on the door.
"Ianto? Hey, Ianto, get yourself decent, I'm coming in."
There wasn't a response, and Owen decided that Ianto just had to be asleep. He poked the door open and slipped in, flicking on the top light as he did so.
"Ianto, wa- Jesus!"
Ianto was lying in his bed, but that was where any resemblance to a sleeping man ended. He was stretched out like a corpse in a coffin, on top of the sheets and dressed in a T-shirt and jeans, his hands limp by his sides, one draped off the edge of the mattress. A gas canister sat next to the bed, innocent in its deadly glory, with a rubber tube snaking its way across the bed and disappearing under the next of the plastic drawstring bag that Ianto had apparently secured over his head, the cords tight around a slack neck.
Owen had seen this before, in countless medical textbooks, and swore.
He tore the tube from the canister instantly and shut off the gas supply. Ripping open his bag, he retrieved a scalpel and hacked into the cords keeping the bag closed over Ianto's face. He knew, somewhere in the panic, that he'd nicked Ianto's neck and a trickle of blood was starting to escape, but he didn't really care.
He tore the bag off, throwing it away to God-knew-where, and frantically checked Ianto's pulse and breathing. Both were dangerously low, and he fumbled for his phone.
"Don't you fucking dare die on me, you stupid son-of-a - I need an ambulance!" he barked when the call was put through, and rattled off the emergency and Ianto's address as fast as possible. Which was suddenly not fast enough, not fast at all.
After being told that the paramedics were on their way, Owen abandoned Ianto for all of ten seconds to prop open the flat door and find the phone to release the security door at the front of the block. He sat the cordless device on the bedside table and bent over Ianto again, hands fluttering at his neck and mouth to make sure that he wasn't handling another dead body.
"Ianto! Ianto, come on!" Owen called, slapping Ianto's cheeks roughly. "Come on, wake up for me! Wake up for me!"
It wasn't going to work. By all rights, he should be dead. What the hell had he been inhaling? Owen only really knew of 'exit bag' suicides by helium and argon, and both would have killed Ianto before Owen had got there. Or had Ianto been tightening the bag when Owen had let himself into the building? Was he literally a few seconds too late?
"Don't you dare, you stupid bastard," he spat, feeling Ianto's pulse beginning to falter. "Don't you dare. Don't you let those freaks win; don't you let those cyber-whatsits win. You're tougher than this, you little shit, I know you are!"
The buzzer went; Owen depressed the release and within twenty seconds more, a couple of paramedics had bulldozed into the bedroom and were taking Owen's place, leaving him to check the canister.
Helium. Dear holy fuck, it was a miracle Ianto hadn't died. He should have been long gone by now, long dead, a real corpse, not just looking like one...
Owen relayed that information to the medics, and hoped grimly that Tosh didn't poke around curiously in his account at work today as they prepared to move Ianto. All alerts about hospitalised Torchwood personnel went to the team doctor of the appropriate organisation; mostly because they knew what was an emergency (this) and what wasn't (Tosh's appendectomy last year) better than a leader might. Which meant Owen would return to work to find an alert on Ianto in his inbox, and if Tosh poked around for juicy secrets, she would see it, and she would tell Jack, and Jack...
Actually, Owen had no idea what Jack would do.
He followed the ambulance to the hospital, reassured by its speed and the knowledge that they would be giving Ianto oxygen in the ambulance. Manual CPR wouldn't cut it after a suicide attempt involving helium, and Owen wasn't entirely sure that he would have been able to keep his head long enough to perform it properly. He was barely able to drive as it was.
And then Owen settled in for what he hadn't had to do - not really - since Katie's last visit to a hospital.
It was the only time he sympathised with patients' families. Waiting, Owen knew, was horrendous. Sitting there, hands between his knees in a cold, plastic waiting room, he kept expecting to hear either Katie's worried, forgetful voice wondering why they were there and if he was okay, or the hospital intercom to start calling him for his shift or to the emergency theatre.
And slowly, his thoughts turned to Ianto.
He and Ianto didn't get along on the surface, but they were guys. They had a guy relationship. Owen would never have admitted to caring about what happened to the Welshman; similarly, Ianto would probably have gone a third round with the cannibals before confessing to be Owen's friend. But for all the sniping and bitching and occasional object flung at the other's head, they could still get along relatively okay, if a little warily.
But Owen didn't know Ianto. He couldn't fathom what would have pushed Ianto over the edge to do something like this. The cannibals were horrific and mentally scarring, sure, but Owen had no urge to off him. Drink himself into a stupor to try and forget the entire trip, certainly, but not kill himself.
Was it Lisa? Owen had felt like that for a while after Katie died, though he'd never tried it. He'd seen too many failed suicides, too many permanent side effects from drowning attempts and suffocation attempts and hangings gone wrong to ever tie a rope to his rafters and do away with himself. He wouldn't be all that surprised if that had been it.
But then, surely it would have come sooner? And if Ianto had access to helium before, he would have died. If he'd tried before, he'd never even gone to hospital to deal with it. So, logically, this was the first shot he'd made - in Cardiff, at Torchwood Three, anyway.
Had this latest trip, along with Lisa, pushed him over the edge? Had it been the final straw? Or was it something else? Just a fit of depression, or a build up that had hit a climax, or...what?
Owen was a doctor, but he didn't really understand the suicidal. Not really.
Owen stood to meet the greying man who came the other way, and corrected him with a curt, "Dr. Harper," as they shook hands.
"You're a doctor? You came in with the asphyxia victim?"
"We get a lot of Joneses," the man pointed out, but he seemed to have relaxed a little at the realisation that Owen was a doctor. "Are you Mr Jones's doctor?"
"Yes," Owen said. "We work for the same research facility. I'm the medical officer for his...division."
"So you'll be overseeing treatment that would be necessary after release?"
"If you mean therapy, then yeah," Owen said grimly. "How's he doing?"
"Awake and lucid. He didn't get that much of the gas into him - helium, the paramedics informed us - so his oxygen levels were not yet fatally low. We can't see any signs of brain damage in his behaviour so far, but we're keeping him overnight. His lungs don't seem to have suffering, but we've sent some blood examples off for testing."
"He's going to be alright, then?"
"I would say so. Was it a suicide attempt?"
The doctor's lips thinned into a set line, before he nodded sharply.
"Does he have a record of suicidal behaviour?"
"Not suicidal, but...he lost his girlfriend a couple of months ago. Bereavement."
"Well I suggest that you keep an eye on him, because in my experience, exit bag victims tend to try again if they fail the first time. And failure is very low, Dr. Harper."
Owen bristled at being told something that he already knew, thank you very much, and simply asked to see Ianto.
Ianto was pale, drawn, and tired-looking, but looked to Owen clearly when he walked into the room and sighed heavily in a manner that suggested that he knew exactly what he was in for.
"Mind telling me what that was all about?"
"Not really," Ianto said.
"Oi. I'm your bloody doctor. Occasionally, I do my job, and somehow I feel like I've missed something here."
Ianto cracked a tiny smile, but said nothing.
"Did you try to kill yourself?"
The admission was so frank that Owen raised his eyebrows.
"Tried being the operative word," Ianto added bitterly, and Owen scowled.
"Shut it," he said. "I know you and I aren't exactly bosom buddies, you know, but you trying to off yourself is a little outside my comfort zone."
"Sorry," Ianto said blandly.
"I know you're not. Now. I'm telling you the plan, and you're not going to argue. You're staying here overnight. I will tell Harkness that you'll be out of action for the next week and to let you stay home with plenty of bedrest. You will, in fact, be staying at my flat, where you can't kill yourself with my things because I forbid it, and I'll take a week's leave to keep an eye on you."
Ianto opened his mouth to protest, but Owen ploughed on.
"You're going to start having little chats with me that other people like to call 'counselling', and I'm going to give you a full psyche exam to see if I shouldn't be pumping you full of a happy pills just to keep the coffee coming."
"And if I refuse?"
"I'll tell Tosh what you did."
Although Gwen had a mothering streak, Tosh was actually better when it came to Ianto. She had been fond of him from the start, had felt achingly sorry for him after Lisa died, and after he had saved her life in the Beacons, probably was ready to lock him up in her flat out of harm's way. And if she heard about this, Ianto knew that she would do it.
"Good. Now, you get one choice."
"Which is?" Ianto would have sounded sour if he'd been in any state to be, but his voice was failing and raspy, and every line in his face spoke of exhaustion.
"Do you want Harkness to know?"
"No," came the instant response.
"In which case, this leave is everything to do with the Beacons, and nothing to do with helium gas canisters - which, by the way, must have broken its gas flow function to leave you alive there - and that cut is from shaving."
"That one," Owen said, and prodded the barely-healed scab on Ianto's neck.
Ianto felt it and frowned.
"My scalpel. I had to get the fucking bag off your head. Where did you get an exit bag and helium gas anyway?"
"Party store in Swansea. They sell balloons in those bags. I had the canister left from helping arrange my sister's wedding party."
Owen rolled his eyes. Trust Ianto to turn party tools into a method for quietly and unobtrusively snuffing it.
"You're a fucking idiot."
Ianto shrugged quietly.
"Look," Owen said. "I'm going back to Hub, covering up any evidence in the system of what you tried to do, and you're going to sleep and mull over why exactly you're such a twat. I'll be back in the morning."
At the door, Owen turned to scowl at Ianto and called, "Don't think I'm leaving you alone for a year after this!"
He was right.