The first thing that Owen registered as he slowly woke up once more was the constant beeping of the ITU equipment. He stirred, only to wince soon afterwards when he realised that sleeping on a chair was not one of his better ideas. Rubbing his neck in the hopes of getting rid of his stiffness, he directed his gaze to Ianto. The young man wasn't conscious, but Owen had expected that. The medic was just glad to see that there was no longer a tube going down Ianto's throat, since Dr. Simmons had decided that the injured man could breathe on his own. Even better, she had also ordered the reduction of the barbiturates that kept Ianto in a comatose state, which meant that he was well on his way to recovery.
"About time," Owen said. "You owe me some bloody good coffee."
Ianto couldn't hear him yet, of course. Though he was slowly coming out of the coma, it would be a while before the drugs would finally leave Ianto's system and he would wake up. Still, Owen felt he should say it. It was too bad that Ianto couldn't retort with one of his usual jabs, but it didn't matter; Owen could wait till Ianto was a little bit stronger for that. Now, the medic really ought to have a shower, as well as get rid of that stubble on his face. He didn't want to leave Ianto alone, though…
He didn't have to. Just as a very bright sun bathed the room with its rays, signifying the start of a beautiful day, Gwen came and offered to stay with Ianto for a while. Owen accepted, and so he found the chance to go home.
The shower was relaxing, admittedly, so he decided to rest his eyes on the couch for ten minutes or so, even if he was still dripping water. But he was quite shocked when those ten minutes turned out to be a lot longer because, when Owen opened his eyes again, he saw the sun was setting, bathing everything in rich red colour. He had apparently been more tired that he had thought at first, although that was neither here nor there anymore. Owen was sure that Gwen went home after so many hours, which meant Ianto was most probably alone in the hospital. It was high time Owen went back.
Ianto, however, wasn't alone. Tosh was sitting next to him, reading something in a soothingly soft voice. Owen wasn't sure which book she was holding, but it was nice listening to it. That was why he stopped on the threshold, refusing to go further in just in case he disturbed her. That is, until she stopped and turned around with a small smile, as if she had somehow felt his presence.
"Saki," she said, holding up the book. "It was on his desk, so I figured he would like to catch up with his reading."
Owen nodded his understanding. He hadn't really heard of the author, but he wasn't going to question matters either. "Have you been here long?"
"A couple of hours, give or take," Tosh replied. "I came here as soon as I woke up."
"Rhys came by and picked her up," Tosh said. "A good thing, too. She could barely keep her eyes open."
Owen wasn't surprised; he doubted Gwen had slept. After all, she always took it pretty hard whenever someone was hurt… although Owen was never sure if it was out of empathy or guilt.
Just then, the medic also noticed something else.
"Jack didn't come at all?"
Tosh shook her head, and Owen was certain that he detected a look of sadness in her expressive brown eyes.
"Right," he said with a sigh. "Well, I'm here now. You can go home if you like."
"I'm okay," the Japanese woman said, taking off her reading glasses and placing them in her purse. "I simply wanted to keep him some company. I didn't think you'd come back today."
"Yeah, well… Doctor's instinct," Owen replied with a shrug. "Always caring about patients, no matter who they are."
Tosh smiled knowingly. "And you simply have to answer that call."
"That's me. Dr. Owen Harper, medic extraordinaire."
Tosh's expression softened at that and she opened her mouth to speak, but it was then that the door opened and Jack Harkness entered. Curiously, it wasn't the kind of dramatic entrance that the former Time-agent seemed so fond off, adding to the proud air of the dashing hero. He stepped inside in an almost hesitant manner instead, carrying a small rucksack on his shoulder. When Tosh and Owen blinked at him, however, Jack straightened his back at once.
"Came here to give your 'Get well soon' cards?" he asked, tugging his lips into a broad grin.
"Something like that. I don't see you holding one, though," Owen said, raising an eyebrow.
"Because I got him something better," Jack declared, digging in the rucksack and getting out a CD. Owen took it and looked at the name of the band.
"McFly…" he said aloud, and then he shrugged. "I guess that's one reason to live."
Tosh nudged him discreetly, but Jack took the jibe in stride.
"Four guys singing and looking good while at it? Of course it is," he said and he put the CD back on the rucksack, still grinning.
Silence followed for a few minutes as everybody turned in the direction of Ianto. They half expected him to join in the banter but, of course, that wasn't the case. Owen even felt his heart sink when he noticed that Jack wasn't smiling anymore. A part of the medic wanted to say something, yet he couldn't think of anything that didn't make him sound too emotional or too corny. Thankfully, Tosh got him out of the awkward situation.
"Well, I don't know about you, Owen, but I'm famished. What do you say we go grab a bite?" she said in a happy tone.
"Yeah, sure," Owen said at once, and he grabbed his jacket. But, as he followed Tosh outside, he noticed Dr. Simmons walking down the corridor. Acting at once, he tapped Tosh on the shoulder.
"Hang on a minute, Tosh… There's something I have to do."
Before Tosh could say anything, Owen had walked up to the other woman, putting on his charming smile and asking her if she would like to go out for a drink the following night.
Jack watched his two subordinates getting out of the room and closing the door behind them, only to shake his head the next moment. Those two didn't even try to make a discreet exit.
However, it wasn't important. The really important thing was that Jack could finally spend a few hours with Ianto in private. Though it wasn't exactly the kind of night he had wanted to have, it was still better than nothing. It gave him the chance to actually talk to Ianto. And he was surprised to realise that there were a lot of things he wanted to say. He simply wasn't sure from where to begin.
On the other hand, he couldn't just keep staring at Ianto…
"I… went to your apartment and got you some fresh clothes," he finally said, holding up the rucksack. "You'll probably moan that I've put them in all wrong, but hey! It's the thought that counts, right?"
Ianto didn't reply. Sighing, Jack left the rucksack on the floor and sat on the chair. He caught himself wringing his hands in an embarrassed manner, and he actually berated himself. It was a good thing Ianto was unconscious or Jack would probably never hear the end of it.
"You don't have to worry about Myfanwy and Janet. They were making so much noise that I had to feed them. I'm not sure I got the quantities right, but they looked happy anyway. Who knows, I probably fed them so much they won't be able to move for a week."
There was again silence; silence so heavy that it was almost unbearable.
"I even took the liberty of archiving those files you've been working on. You did say you wanted them out of the way." He shrugged almost absentmindedly. "No need for more work piling up. Or for more empty boxes from Ling Yao's, for that matter," he added softly.
Ianto simply breathed on, and Jack watched the steady rising and falling of Ianto's chest – the only visible sign of life.
"By the way, I came across an old friend, too. Someone who doesn't make me feel ashamed of my past. Of course, he was quite different from the last time I met him. Grey eyes suit him." His lips tugged into an unabashed grin before his expression softened. He never realised when he started stroking Ianto's hair, fingers running smoothly through it. "He actually reminded me of you. Brave, kind… Resourceful." He bowed his head, allowing himself to be vulnerable just this once. "Maybe I'll tell you the story when you wake up."
He couldn't say anything else. The lump in his throat had come back with full force, all but choking the former Time-agent. So, he just stayed on the chair, still stroking Ianto's hair in thought, and waited. It was the only thing left for him to do.
Ever since he became immortal, Jack hadn't had much need of sleep. Even so, there were times that his body simply demanded the rest, whenever he exerted himself either physically or emotionally. That was why he was only mildly surprised when he realised he actually opened his eyes at the sound of a weak groan. Jack sat up at once and looked on with bated breath at the sight of Ianto stirring.
"Ianto?" he said softly, taking the young man's hand in his. "Can you hear me?"
Ianto didn't speak at once. He opened his eyes, still glazed and slightly unfocused because of the drugs, and he regarded Jack in a perplexed manner. Finally, a flash of recognition crossed his features and he let out a soft sigh.
"Jack…" The voice was feeble, no more than a hoarse whisper.
"That's me," Jack said, smiling a bit. "How are you feeling?"
"Dizzy," Ianto replied candidly, and his gaze wandered in all directions as he took in his surroundings. "Hospital?" he asked.
"Yeah," Jack answered. "You had us worried for a while."
Ianto's eyebrows creased to a weak frown. "I don't remember what happened." He closed his eyes, obviously trying to recall those illusive memories. "I… was in a building… wasn't I?"
"You were," Jack said. "Then you took a dive from the third floor and landed on a parked car."
Ianto winced. "That… must have hurt."
"Trust me, it always does," Jack answered wryly.
Ianto chuckled, or rather made a noise that resembled a chuckle. But that kind of mirth died down at once as Ianto's gaze became thoughtful, almost pondering.
"Jack… It wasn't your fault."
Jack smiled again, more broadly this time. "I know." It's not guilt, Ianto.
Ianto's frown deepened. "Am I dying?"
"I should hope not," Jack replied with a chuckle. It's not pity, either.
"Then… why are you here?" Ianto seemed positively confused.
Jack looked at the younger man with warmth in his heart, and he stroked the pale face with the back of his fingers in a tender manner.
"I think you know why, Ianto Jones."
Ianto blinked once, taken aback at the answer. In the end, a beautiful smile brightened his features and he closed his eyes, leaning to Jack's touch. It wasn't long after that that the injured man slipped into a healing sleep, light snoring flowing out of his lips; while Jack remained where he was and watched Ianto sleeping with a smile. He knew now, beyond any doubt, that everything would work out alright.
A/n: Well, that's it. I hope you enjoyed reading the story as much as I enjoyed writing it. Special thanks go to Gemini Willow and Junodog, as well as the people who took the time to review - your encouragement kept me going. :)