A/N: For any of my readers wondering if I'll ever finish my Sabbathverse fics and Hellbent? Rest assured, they haven't been forgotten...but you can't argue with the muse when it goes cold and needs to dabble in another area sometimes to keep things fresh. Torchwood has given my muse that outlet...so I hope you enjoy the results. ;)
Tara, Deb, this one's for you...
"How on earth did it get past the defences?" Toshiko Sato yelled, her fingers flowing back and forth over the keyboard as she tried everything she could to keep the entity out of the Hub. All around her, alarms were screaming and the lighting flickered erratically.
"I don't know but I hate uninvited guests!" Captain Jack Harkness called back as he ran along one of the metal gangways towards Toshiko's work station. Below him, he could see the rest of his team working hard to try and deal with the threat. Owen Harper was busily coordinating with Toshiko from his own work station, while Gwen Cooper and Ianto Jones looked on worriedly.
For several days now, Jack and the rest of his Torchwood team had been dealing with a series of unexplained deaths across Cardiff. Nothing linked any of the victims, except for the fact they had all been electrocuted in various ways. As they had narrowed down their search and begun to close in on the alien lifeform responsible, the creature had apparently decided to bring the fight to them. A bright, jittery form that seemed to be pure energy appeared on the monitors, resembling a laughing, almost evil face before sparks flew from the screens and Toshiko screamed in fear.
Owen dragged her away to safety as one by one, the monitors suddenly seemed to fill with information, scrolling through masses of entries in seconds, sparks still exploding as the computer system went into overload and struggled to function under the massive assault.
"Oh my god, it's accessed the mainframe! Jack, it's got our files!" Gwen exclaimed, stepping forward to see how much damage was being done, before Owen's hand on her arm stopped her.
"Toshiko, we need to shut everything down!" Jack yelled, catching movement out of the corner of his eye. He saw Ianto running for the master power switch, already thinking on his feet and preparing to shut down the entire Hub to protect them from this creature. Without access to power, it would die.
But the creature was all too aware of this threat. With a strange, somewhat metallic growl, the creature leapt from a monitor and began to rush across the room through the power cables, straight towards the master switch.
"Ianto!" Jack shouted in warning, realising he was going to be too late as he changed direction, running towards the young man. "Ianto, stop!"
Sparks exploded and a mighty flash of light lit up the Hub like a torch for just a moment as the creature made it's move, arcing out from the switch and bathing Ianto in electricity as his hand grasped the switch and pulled it down. Ianto's scream was horrific as he threw his head back, body juddering and twitching before everything went dark and he crumpled to the floor. The attack had grounded the creature, dispersing it in it's final moments.
"Jack, careful! He could still be live!" Owen shouted, his feet pounding on the metal floor as he ran to the aid of his colleague. He knew Jack couldn't die – but that didn't mean he wanted to see him suffer either. It was still painful to watch. What the hell was it like for Jack to feel every time?
Jack's only thought as he skidded to his knees, was for Ianto. The young man was sprawled on the floor, his clothes showing signs of the battering Ianto had just taken. Buttons had been blown off his shirt and waist coat, one foot had lost a shoe, the other shoe was smoking from the tip where it had burst at the toes. The attack had been so quick. So violent.
"Ianto!" Jack pulled him into his lap and felt for a pulse, finding nothing. No breath, no sign of life at all as he cupped a hand to Ianto's face and slapped him gently. "No. No, no, no...come on, Ianto. Open those beautiful blue eyes of yours. Ianto!" He couldn't lose another member of his team. Suzie had hurt, regardless of what she had done and Jack was still dealing with the fact that Owen was a walking dead man now. Literally.
There wasn't exactly a retirement plan for Torchwood. No one really expected to have a long life doing what they did, day after day, unless you were Captain Jack Harkness. It was his curse, his burden to bear...and the thought of losing the bright light in his life that was Ianto, was something Jack wasn't ready to face yet.
"I'll start compressions, you handle the breathing." Owen slid in beside Jack as Ianto's lifeless form was gently laid back on the ground. Without hesitation, Jack leaned over and pressed his lips to Ianto's, trying not to think of how blue they looked or all the times he had kissed Ianto when they were alone and in his office. He found himself willing Ianto to breathe, to come back to him with every breath he blew into his lungs.
Minutes ticked by as both men worked in sync with each other, pausing only to check for a pulse.
Gwen stood nearby, her eyes filling with tears as she watched the scene unfolding before her. There was such desperation in Jack as he worked and Gwen found herself praying under her breath for a miracle.
"Come on, Ianto, I'm not bloody well losing you today. Jack'll be unbearable without his teaboy." Owen muttered as he continued with his compressions, timing them against Jack breathing into Ianto's lungs. The sarcasm was nothing but a cover for the genuine fear building inside Owen. He could see the tremble in Jack now, the tears filling Jack's eyes.
"Please...please, Ianto. Don't do this." Jack whispered after he filled Ianto's lungs with another breath. His hands were clutching at the young man's shirt, finding his vision blurring as he fought to hold in his emotions. It had only been that morning, that Jack had joked about Ianto selling his apartment and moving into the Hub with him full time since he was there so often at night.
With a cough, followed by a hitching breath, Ianto jerked back to life, clutching at Jack as he looked around him wildly.
"Whoa, whoa, settle down, mate." Owen tried to soothe, reaching out to check Ianto's pulse. "It's okay, we've got you now."
"Is...is it gone? Did it work?" Ianto asked, his voice raspy and weak. His hands were grasping at Jack, needing that reassuring contact, reaching out for a lifeline.
"It's gone." Jack assured him, drawing Ianto into his lap again and pressing his lips to the top of his head. "Nice work there, but next time? Try not to get yourself lit up like a Christmas ornament." He met Owen's gaze, silently asking if everything was alright.
Owen gave the slightest shake of his head at Jack, as he spoke. "Just take a moment to catch your breath, Ianto. You're gonna be just fine. Tosh, any chance of us getting out of here anytime soon? We really oughta get Ianto to a hospital."
"Hospital?" Ianto's voice was smaller now, scared as he looked anxiously at Owen. "I thought you said I'd be fine?"
"Yeah, of course you will, mate. I just want be sure. You can't muck about with this sort of thing, you know." Owen lied, before he stood up. "Tosh?"
"Sorry, but we're in complete shut down. We're not going anywhere for the next six hours..."
"Well," Owen clapped his hands together, smirking. "Guess we'd better make you comfortable in the Autopsy Bay then, teaboy. There should be enough power still in the emergency generators in there. I'll hook you up to the monitors so we can keep an eye on you. Jack, help me shift him, yeah?"
"I've got him, just get everything set up." Jack slid one of Ianto's arms around his shoulders and gently eased them both upright, taking as much of Ianto's weight as he could. The walk was slow and shuffling, with Jack trying not to think about how exhausted Ianto seemed or how obvious it was that Owen was lying through his teeth about his condition. He didn't need Ianto worrying any more than he knew he would be already, especially with where they were taking him.
Once he had Ianto settled onto the Autopsy table and had made sure that he was warm and comfortable as possible, Jack signalled to Gwen and Toshiko. "Stay with him, will you? I need to talk to Owen."
He paused long enough to give Ianto's hand a gentle squeeze, flashing him a warm smile before he turned and headed for his office where he could already see Owen pacing.
Before Jack could get a word in, Owen spun midstep, his muscles in his jaw jumping in agitation. "This is fucked, Jack! Utterly fucked!"
Jack took a half step back warily, glancing back over his shoulder to where Ianto lay downstairs as he closed the door to keep the conversation private. "Alright, I'm willing to agree with that. But the question is, what do we do now for Ianto?"
"Excuse me?" Jack raised an eyebrow, sure he couldn't heard that right.
Owen started pacing again, jaw muscle ticking, his whole body thrumming with frustration. "I can't do anything for him! His heart's too damaged, Jack. It's already failing again. I'm struggling to keep an eye on his condition with the back up power we have until lockdown is over. Without a way to get him to a hospital? The best we can do is make him comfortable until-..." He let the rest hang in the air unsaid.
"No. There's got to be something." Jack wasn't letting Ianto go like that. He wasn't willing to let him go at all.
"Jack, we're locked in here for the next six hours. He's not going to last that long." Owen stilled again, looking at his boss, his eyes shining with regret. "I'm sorry, mate...there's really nothing I can do."
"There's got to be something, Owen. Take Tosh with you and start checking the archives...find something, anything that could help us. Go on!" Jack nodded towards the doorway. "Move it!" He folded his arms and paced a little, echoing Owen's frustration for a moment. There had to be an answer here somewhere...
"Do you need anything?" Gwen asked softly as she sat beside Ianto. Owen had collected Toshiko a few minutes before and now there was an awkward silence filling the room. They worked well as a team, but Gwen had seen jealously flare within Ianto's soft blue eyes in the past when Jack flirted with her and knew that despite the fact Jack flirted with anything that moved? Ianto saw her as a real threat, because Gwen enjoyed the attention a little much at times. "Maybe I could make you some coffee, yeah? Nice cup of coffee to cheer you up?"
"No!" Ianto all but squeaked in panic. He sank a little deeper into the pillow a moment later, looking embarrassed. "I'm...I'm fine, really."
"You don't have to act like I was trying to poison you." Gwen scowled, her tone defensive. It was typical of Ianto not to want coffee made by anyone else, but did he have to be so damn obvious about it?
"Everything okay in here?" Jack was leaning on the rail above them, silhouetted in the red backup lighting.
"Oh, just fine." Gwen muttered darkly, pushing her chair back and standing up. "I'm going to see if I can help the others. At least I can't bollocks that up."
Ianto rolled his eyes. "I didn't mean anything by it."
"No, no, it's fine. I understand." Gwen snapped acidly, knowing that it wasn't fair for her to be so testy with Ianto, but there were times when he just got under her skin. She stormed up the stairs and pushed gently past Jack, heading for the archives.
"Can't you two play nice?" Jack smiled as he took Gwen's place beside Ianto. He was well aware that Ianto was often jealous of the attention and flirting Gwen received. It wasn't as if Jack was ever going to act on the attraction that had drawn him to Gwen. She was married now, off the menu...and Ianto was everything that Jack needed. A shoulder to cry on, a voice of reason – the one person that seemed to understand Jack sometimes and the choices he was forced to make.
But Jack would have been lying to himself and to how he had always lived, if he denied that seeing Ianto flush with jealously wasn't a turn on sometimes.
"She offered to make me coffee." Ianto wrinkled his nose in distaste at the thought of it.
"Gwen was trying to help."
"She murders instant coffee, Jack. I'm not letting her anywhere near my machine."
Jack chuckled quietly, pleased to see the Ianto he loved, still inside this tired, pale looking shell. "Okay, okay. I get it."
"I guess there's not much point in me thinking of selling my flat now..."
Jack tried to look affronted. "What? A little electric shock and suddenly you get cold feet on me?"
"Jack..." Ianto wasn't fooled. He couldn't help but find his current setting as rather ironic. It would probably even prove to be practical for him to be in here soon enough...save them all the trouble of moving his body.
"You're going to be fine." Jack stated firmly, perhaps a little too fast, even.
"Jack..." Ianto repeated, fixing him with a somber look. "How bad is it?"
Jack considered lying again in that moment. Anything to deny what Owen had said before. Captain Jack Harkness wasn't the sort of guy to concede defeat easily. But Ianto was looking at him so earnestly that Jack knew he would see through any lie and that would only hurt him more.
"The shock damaged your heart." Jack finally admitted quietly, dropping his gaze momentarily to his hands resting on his knees.
"Oh - I see." Ianto seemed to mull that over for a moment before he found his voice again. "So...that's it then."
"I'm not giving up, Ianto. I'm not losing you." Jack reached out then, taking Ianto's hand in his. It felt colder than it should have been, another warning sign of how much Ianto's heart was struggling. He could see the fear in Ianto's eyes and deep within Jack, his resolve strengthened even more. "Get some rest. I'm not going anywhere."
Ianto searched Jack's face for a moment before he nodded and seemed to settle again, the tension easing out of his body. His eyes slid closed after a few minutes, his breathing changing and becoming deeper, more relaxed. Jack stayed where he was, still holding Ianto's hand, his thumb rubbing soft circles on the back of it. How many times had he held someone's hand and watched them breathe their last breath? How many more times would he be in this position?
His vision blurred momentarily as Jack let his defences slip, tears sliding down his cheeks, a sob locking up his throat. So many deaths. Jack was so tired of it all. Tired of losing the ones he loved, tired of opening himself up to that pain time and time again.
Well not this time. Jack had always known that one day he would lose Ianto. That was simply a fact of life. But not today...and not like this.
Death wasn't winning this time.
One Hour later...
"Alright, people. Answers. Right now." Jack strode into the room, looking expectantly at his team. A small array of alien artefacts lay scattered across the boardroom table where Toshiko, Owen and Gwen were sitting.
"Jack." Owen was the one to stand up first, glancing at the others before he took on their leader. "We...we didn't find anything."
"Jack, you need to listen to us." Gwen stood up herself then, walking around the table towards Jack. "We checked everything. There's nothing that can help Ianto. There's nothing we can do, I'm sorry, I'm so sorry."
Jack looked down as Gwen's hand came to rest on his arm. He knew she was trying to help, trying to be the one to make him see reason and accept the inevitable. But Jack had lived too long and seen too much to do that. He was tired and angry of always losing, always being forced to play a price that was too high. Jack stepped back, breaking the contact between them as he folded his arms in front of his chest in the unique way that only Jack seemed to use. It was a defensive move, a wall going up brick by brick to spare him from the pain. "Don't be sorry. Find me the answers I need."
"Jack, for god's sake!" Gwen snapped, starting to believe that the grief was driving Jack beyond all reasonable thought.
"I'm not exactly seeing what options we have here." Owen cut in. "We don't have a Resurrection Glove, Jack and even if we did? I wouldn't condemn Ianto to this supposed unlife that I'm stuck with since you brought me back. We've got nothing. Absolutely nothing. Is any of this sinking in? Cause we're stuck down here for over another five hours yet and even if we did get out of here by some miracle. His bloody heart's too knackered to survive long anyway, Jack. Getting him to a hospital would give you a couple more days at best. On life support. Nothing short of a heart transplant is going to stop Ianto dying and it's about time you bloody well accepted that!"
"Fine then. That's what we'll do." Jack shrugged, sounding a lot calmer than he felt inside.
"Well it's about bloody time you listened to us.." Owen muttered, relieved.
"I'm not talking about accepting Ianto's death, Owen. I'm talking about a transplant."
"What? We just go out and pick up some poor random bastard off a street corner and hope no one misses him?" Owen demanded incredulously. "You really have lost the bloody plot, mate."
"Ianto needs a donor." Jack spread his arms, a grim smile on his face. "I'm volunteering."
"What?" Gwen asked, stunned.
"Jack, you can't be serious?" Toshiko demanded, horrified.
Owen was staring at Jack now as if he had decided that Jack had gone stark raving mad. "Just like that hey, Jack? You might not even be compatible."
"So do whatever tests you need to." Jack shrugged again.
"You really have gone barking mad." Owen shook his head. "I'm not killing you, Jack."
"I'll come back. I always do." It was so simple in Jack's mind. He couldn't die. At least, nothing had been able to do the job after all these years. What if this was the way to save Ianto?
"Jack, you have no idea what could happen. You're talking about killing yourself, cutting out your heart. It's fucking lunacy!" Owen argued. "You might not come back from that!"
"Okay, so I finally die. It's my choice. " Jack's words were cutting, his mind made up.
"And what about us, Jack?" Gwen fixed him with a pleading look. "What are we supposed to do if you don't come back from this? You can't be so selfish!"
"Selfish? You really want to call me that?" Jack growled.
Gwen stepped back, realising she had crossed a line in that moment.
"Jack, all Gwen's trying to say..." Toshiko tried interjecting to keep the peace. Tearing into each other wasn't going to solve anything. They needed to hold together in the face of the death of one of their own, not tear apart at the seams.
"No, no, no. Let's talk about being selfish." Jack's eyes were dark, his jaw clenched as he spoke to Gwen, cutting Toshiko off. "You want to talk about it? How about the fact you were happy to fuck Owen and any time I'd wanted? I could have snapped my fingers and you'd have come running to me...and yet at the end of the day? You went home to Rhys every time without a word about any of it."
"You bastard!" Gwen spat at him.
"Steady on now, Jack..."
"No!" Jack rounded on Owen as he came to Gwen's defence. "You don't get to take any moral high ground here, pal. You can't stand there telling me that you wouldn't kill me. You've pulled the trigger on me in the past. More than once, wasn't it, Owen? You went against me, you opened the rift to try and bring Diane back. You risked the whole world for who you loved...you all did! I'm only risking myself here! How does that make me selfish?"
"But Jack, we can't afford to lose you!" Toshiko cried, still desperate to make him listen.
"And I won't lose Ianto!" Jack yelled, allowing the others to see that fatal flaw in his armour. His blue eyes burned with tears in that moment, Jack bearing his soul to the team that he trusted above all other people. "Please. I can't lose him. I can't bury anyone else. Just run the tests and see if I'm compatible at least. Can you do that much for me?"
"Alright...I'll do it." Owen agreed quietly, ignoring the looks he received from Toshiko and Gwen. "I'll use the blood samples we have in storage, give me some time will you?"
"Ianto doesn't have time. Get it done, Owen, as quick as possible." Jack was already on the move, heading for his office. He needed time alone to clear his head.
3 Hours later...
"Owen, you can't!" Toshiko reasoned as she watched him work, running scans through one of her laptops while it still had power.
"I'm just doing the bloody test, Tosh! Soon as it says that Jack's not compatible, we can stop all this shit in it's tracks and get Jack to see reason." Owen didn't look up from the laptop reading, gnawing at his bottom lip as he waited for results.
"So you're not going through with it?"
"I might be a mutinous wanker at times. But do I look like a murderer to you?" Owen shot a glare over his shoulder at Gwen as he heard her question behind him. Okay, so turning on Jack and opening the rift was a pretty monumental fuck up as far as things went. Owen was more than happy to admit that. He'd been so desperate, so angry as he had pulled that trigger and shot Jack dead, then firing twice more in pure spite. Not exactly his best day. Owen knew that Jack had forgiven him...but having it thrown back in his face now stung more than ever. Because he knew Jack was right. How could he try taking a moral high ground over Jack offering to die for Ianto – when Owen had been more than willing to gun Jack down once before? This whole situation was a complete load of shit. It wasn't bloody fair that Ianto was dying. Owen hated feeling so helpless, forced to sit back and watch a friend die because the only option on offer wasn't an option at all.
It was the one part of being a doctor that Owen had always found hard to accept...that you couldn't save everyone.
The laptop suddenly beeped as it finished it's scan and Owen sat forward, closing his eyes with a tired groan after he read the results. "You've got to be kidding me."
"What? What is it?" Toshiko and Gwen both moved in to look over Owen's shoulder.
"That can't be right? How can that be right?" Toshiko breathed softly.
"What? What's it say?" Gwen demanded, peering at the screen as if the medical jargon would somehow explain itself suddenly if she kept staring long enough.
"Jack's compatible. I don't why the hell he can't die but whatever's behind it? It's like he's a universal fucking donor." Owen said darkly, his heart sinking. "He's a perfect fucking match for Ianto."
"Then we've got our answer."
Gwen, Toshiko and Owen all turned to find Jack leaning on the railing above them, overlooking the work stations below.
"Jack...Jack, no." Gwen begged, heading for the steps so she could confront him. "You can't take the chance that you won't come back from this. We won't let you."
"It's my body. My choice." Jack informed them all.
"It's not just your choice..."
Everyone turned as Ianto's voice carried softly through the room. He was leaning heavily against the wall at the top of the Autopsy room's stairway. His face was pale and drenched in sweat from the exertion it had taken to climb the stairs. Every breath sounded laboured, his chest heaving. It was shocking to see the usually so neat and contained Ianto Jones look so weak, almost as if he was fading away in front of them with every passing hour.
"Ianto!" Jack was on the move instantly, charging down the stairs two at a time and running across the floor to Ianto, catching him just as Ianto's trembling knees finally gave way. He cradled Ianto in against him as they both slid to the floor, brushing his lips over Ianto's brow. "You're supposed to be resting."
"No..." Ianto shook his head tiredly. "Jack...you...you can't do it."
Jack could see the tears brushing against Ianto's eyelashes and felt his heart clench in his chest. He'd never meant for Ianto to hear his idea but even now, Jack wasn't going to be swayed from it.
"Please..." Ianto pleaded again, his gaze searching Jack's face as he reached up to cup his hand to Jack's cheek. In the past, Ianto had always shied away from being so open with his affection towards Jack, even though he knew that the whole team was aware of their relationship. So many years, hiding his true self, devoting himself to Lisa...it was hard to be so open now about his love for Jack. "I'm scared, Jack. I'm so scared."
"Shhhh." Jack reached up and placed his hand over Ianto's where it was rested against his cheek, pulling it away and kissing the back of Ianto's hand softly. "It's going to be okay. You'll be okay."
"No...no I won't. Not if you do this." Ianto shook his head, tears sliding from the corner of his eyes. "We nearly lost you to Abbadon...You might not survive this." The loneliness and grief that Ianto had suffered in those three days had been crushing. He'd kept to himself, locked away in his own misery as Gwen had sat vigil over Jack's body, unable to sit with the man he loved because it would have been too open...to obvious.
Jack leaned down, gently pulling Ianto in towards him as he kissed him, his own vision blurring with hot tears. "I won't survive losing you. I've got a chance with this at least." He offered a watery grin, sliding that protective shield of humor in place to hide behind. The tried and true coping mechanism that had served him so well, for so long. After all, what was another death? The odds were stacked in Jack's favour.
"Jack..." Ianto's face creased up in pain, his teeth clamping together in a growl. His hand was clutching at Jack's shirt, entwining itself in the fabric frantically as Ianto began shaking, his breath hissing in and out rapidly.
"Ianto?" The blood seemed to chill in Jack's veins as his lover took another sudden sharp, gasping breath and jerked in his arms, going rigid then sagging, his head lolling against Jack's arm.
"No...no, no, NO! Owen!" Jack scrambled to his feet, pulling Ianto up with him into his arms as he staggered back down the stairs to the Autopsy Bay. "OWEN!"
Owen was at Jack's side by the time he'd managed the get Ianto back onto the examination table. He scrambled to get the monitors hooked up again, grabbing his stethoscope and pausing for the briefest moment to listen to Ianto's heart. "I bloody knew it! He's put too much strain on his heart, Jack...we're losing him."
"No we're not. You do what you have to, Owen. Save him. That's an order..." Jack was already reaching for his Webley as he spoke, unclipping the leather holster and sliding the gun into his hand. His gaze was locked on Ianto, watching his struggle for life, the paleness of his skin, how blue those soft, sweet lips were.
"What are you going to do?" Owen asked, turning as he spoke, his eyes widening as he took in the sight of Jack standing behind him with his gun pressed against his temple.
"Whatever it takes..." Jack closed his eyes and pulled the trigger.
"NO!" Owen rushed forward, too late to stop anything. He watched in shock and horror as the bullet punched through Jack's head, spraying blood and brain matter out the other side. It was mere seconds later that Jack's body was buckling to the floor, blood cascading out beneath him in a scarlet tide.
"Jesus!" Gwen exclaimed from the top of the stairs, clamping a hand over her mouth as she tried to take in the scene before her.
"Gwen! Get down here! Tosh, I need you to bring me the Stasis generator from the boardroom, now!" Owen yelled, already moving to set up a separate table to lay Jack out on. His hands were shaking violently as he hauled Jack's body up off the floor, grunting with the effort. "Gwen! Help me here!"
Gwen was frozen to the spot, her eyes as wide as saucers. There was so much blood. Too much. Jack had just...Oh god – Jack had just...
Owen's shout broke through her paralysis. Gwen stumbled down the steps on rubbery legs, gathering Jack into her arms with Owen and helping to carry him over to the spare table. "What are we doing? He just...Jesus, Owen, you're not seriously going to -..."
"Give me some credit, will you?" Owen snapped. "Look after Jack while I try and get Ianto stabilised."
Gwen placed her hand over Jack's, trying not to think about how it was losing heat rapidly, unable to look at the bloody mess he had made of his head. She had seen him recover from all sorts of wounds, but there was always that lingering doubt in her mind that he'd return each time. This was the first time she had ever seen Jack with a self inflicted wound. Behind her, she could hear Owen working on Ianto, cursing.
"Come on, come on! Don't do this to me, Ianto! Don't you fucking dare! Tosh? I really need you to move your ass, babe!"
Gwen looked down at Jack, drawing in a soft breath as she saw that his wound had already knitted. There was still blood on his clothes, in his hair...but otherwise Jack looked as perfect and handsome as always. She reached out, running her fingers through his hair, waiting.
It was only a matter of a few more seconds before Jack burst back to life with a sucking, gasping breath of air, jackknifing on the table before he sat up, clutching at Gwen.
"Shhh, it's alright. It's okay, I've got you." Gwen gave Jack a glassy eyed smile, tears spilling down her cheeks as the relief of seeing him breathing again hit home.
There was a brief look of incomprehension in his eyes before Jack's attention left Gwen and shifted to the table beside him. The machines hooked up to Ianto were screaming, telling Owen that Ianto was flat lining. His heart was giving out completely and there would be no coming back for Ianto Jones.
Jack pushed himself off the table and stooped to pick up his Webley, unable to shift his eyes from Ianto as he did. He shook his head, backing away from the table as both Gwen and Owen turned to look at him.
"Jack...just take it easy.." Owen began, as if he was talking a jumper down off a roof.
"I gave you an order. I expect you to follow it." Jack snarled, lifting the gun to his temple again. "Save him, damn it!"
Gwen screamed as the gun report echoed through the Hub and Jack buckled to the floor again.
Toshiko appeared at the top of the stairs with a small alien device in her hands that resembled a metallic Conch shell. "I've got it! Oh my God! Jack! What happened?" Toshiko almost dropped the device as she took in the sight of Jack lying sprawled in a pool of blood and Ianto flatlined on the table nearby.
"No time to explain, Tosh. Get down here with that generator." Owen snapped, already dragging Jack back up onto the table he'd been lying on before. He snatched the device from Toshiko as she reached him and turned it on, watching as it began to hum, bright lights rippling over it in a pulsating pattern. "Right, move, move!"
Owen pushed Toshiko and Gwen aside, then shifted the table Jack was lying on, pushing it closer to Ianto's until they were side by side. He placed the device between both men, then took Jack's hand and placed it over it. Ianto was next, making the pair look as though they were holding hands onto top of the alien Conch shell. Any other time, Owen would have found it highly amusing. Now all he hoped, was that it worked.
The pulsating light seemed to wash out from the device in waves, carrying over Jack and Ianto, bathing them both in a soft blue.
"What's it doing? What have you done to them?" Gwen asked, her voice hushed as she watched.
"The device creates a stasis field around whatever's touching it. It halts time within that field. Hopefully, it'll keep Ianto stable and Jack from reviving again until we shut it off." Owen explained.
"Wait...if you knew about that thing, why didn't you use it before on Ianto? We could have kept him in stasis the whole time!" Gwen demanded, still trying to get get her head around how incredibly shit their situation was right now. "Jack would be alive!"
"It's got a limited lifespan, that's why!" Owen retorted hotly. "It'll hopefully hold out long enough for us to get out of this lockdown and get them both to hospital. Tosh, I need you to work your magic for me, babe. We need to get hold of Martha. Get her to pull some strings and find someone to do the transplant for us."
"You're not serious? Owen, you can't do that! This is Jack we're talking about!"
"Oh really? I hadn't realised that, Gwen. Or have you forgotten the fact he just blew his brains out not three feet from where we were standing? Not once...but twice. You know what that tells me? It tells me that he'll keep doing it until he gets his way. So I'm going to give it to him. Why?" Owen had been moving in closer and closer as he spoke until he was right in her face. "Because I can't watch him do that again. Can you?"
"Owen!" Toshiko's voice carried through from the other room where she was sat at her workstation. "I've managed to get hold of Martha...she wants to know what you need?"
"On my way!" Owen called, heading for the stairs. There was a lot to organise before the lockdown was over, but Owen had confidence in Martha. If anyone was able to help them now, it was her.
Gwen looked back over at Ianto and Jack, looking peaceful for the moment. She shivered, thinking about the reality of the situation. If that device ran out...they were both dead. Jack would come back from it, but he would be dead inside without Ianto.
Whatever Martha and Owen were going to do? It had to work.
"Owen. Owen, sit down...you're making me dizzy!" Toshiko sighed, sounding tired and irritable.
"I'm sorry...but how long does it take?" Owen looked towards the operating theatre doors for what felt like the millionth time, before he continued his pacing of the waiting room. "They could at least give us an update...anything!"
"They'll tell us something when they know something, Owen. You're a doctor, you know how this works." Gwen was sitting nearby, resting her head on Rhys' shoulder as he held her close. The moment they had gotten out of the Hub, Gwen had called Rhys, needing to hear his voice. And as expected, the moment he heard how upset and worried Gwen was, he was getting in the car and meeting her at the hospital. That had been 9 hours ago now and Gwen was starting to believe that the only news they'd receive was bad news. Why was it taking so long? The waiting was unbearable for all of them.
" I should be bloody well in there. I hate all this standing around bollocks." Owen growled quietly, shoving his hands in his pockets.
A moment later, the doors opened to reveal Martha in scrubs. She slipped her mask down as she approached them, a tight smile on her lips. "We've got him. It worked."
The voice was so soft, such a dry, parched whisper – that for a moment, Toshiko had thought she had imagined it. She put down the magazine that had been resting on her lap, sitting up and stretching slightly as she rubbed her eyes. Maybe she really had imagined it?
"Toshiko? Where...where am I?"
"Ianto? My god, what are you doing awake already? It's barely been twenty four hours since the surgery!" Toshiko leaned forward, studying her friend, amazed to see how much colour was back in his cheeks. For someone who had been on death's doorstep the day before, Ianto was looking remarkable.
"Surgery?" Ianto opened his pyjama top to find the smallest of scars there...almost no scar at all. He looked up at Toshiko, confused and saw the same confusion in her eyes.
"The scar...it's almost gone. This is incredible. This shouldn't be happening." Toshiko said in awe, reaching her hand out towards Ianto's chest before she caught herself and withdrew it again.
Fear was rapidly filling Ianto's eyes now, his gaze flickering between what should have been a considerably larger scar and Toshiko. "Where's Jack? What did he do?"
"He...he gave you his heart, Ianto. He saved you." Toshiko explained, sitting down again and taking his hand in hers.
"Where is he? Why isn't he here?" Ianto demanded, finding it surreal now that he could hear his heart – no, Jack's heart – thundering in his ears. The silly bastard had gone ahead with it. He'd sacrificed himself for Ianto.
"Ianto..." Toshiko gave his hand a gentle squeeze.
"I need to see him."
"You can't. You need rest." Toshiko argued.
"I need to see him! Please, Tosh...please. Please." Tears were sliding down his cheeks now as Ianto listening to the heartbeat in his ears. He felt like he was stuck inside some twisted version of the Tell Tale Heart, listening to his own heartbeat condemn him for living in Jack's place.
"I'll...I'll see if I can organise a wheel chair for you." Toshiko patted his hand nervously as she stood up and all but fled the room. On her way down the corridor, Toshiko was already tapping her earcomm. "Owen? You're not going to believe what's happened."
The room seemed so quiet, so barren of life as Ianto was wheeled into the room where Jack was lying. There was nothing in here but a bed, the curtains hadn't even been drawn back to let the morning sun in.
"Martha had to pull some strings to keep him here. The hospital wanted him shipped to the morgue when it became clear that nothing had changed." Owen explained quietly. He'd been privy to that conversation and had found himself admiring Martha Jones even more by the end of it. She'd stood up to the Hospital Administration with a fire and determination that would have made Jack proud. And all in the name of giving Ianto the chance to say goodbye.
"I'll uh...I'll leave you to it then." Owen laid his hand lightly on Ianto's shoulder and gave a quick squeeze that he hoped conveyed his sympathy. He didn't need to be a witness to Ianto's pain any more than he already had been. "Just push the button when you're done, mate and I'll come get you."
Ianto sat quietly next to the bed, waiting for Owen to leave him alone. As soon as he heard the soft snick of the pneumatic door closing, he released the breath he'd been holding. A clean white sheet was laid over Jack and Ianto tried not to notice the tremor in his hand as he reached up to pull the covering away from his lover. Jack looked so pale. Ghostly, cruelly pale compared to the vibrant, larger than life man that Ianto was so accustomed to following without question. The man he loved with ever fibre of his being.
"Jack?" The name was spoken achingly soft. Ianto reached out and slid his hand over Jack's, feeling how cold it was. Icy cold. He brought his other hand up to cup Jack's hand, rubbing gently as if he could somehow instill some warmth back into the lifeless flesh. Willing it to become warm again, to move and close around his own hands.
Ianto's eyes flitted up to Jack's face, hopeful of seeing some sort of movement, a flicker of eyelashes, anything. "Jack, can you hear me? Tell me you can hear me?"
Still nothing. Nothing but cold flesh lying before him.
A sob curled it's way up Ianto's throat as he drew Jack's hand to his cheek, holding it close while tears spilt down his cheeks. "It's alright. I'm not going anywhere. I'm going to stay right here. Until you come back to me. Because you have to, Jack. You have to come back to me. You always have before and I-..." The words dried up in his throat, smothered by the grief that was digging it's way into his soul. Ianto didn't want to be the death of this wonderful man. He needed Jack. Needed him in ways that no one else would ever understand. Jack was the only one who understood Ianto. He knew more about Ianto than anyone would ever know and that was the way he wanted it. Because in turn, Ianto understood Jack better than anyone too. He kept his secrets, understood the choices Jack made and supported Jack no matter what. A mutual coming together of hearts and minds that kept each other strong in a world that would see them broken.
Ianto brought Jack's hand to his lips, kissing it gently, his eyes locked on his lover as he willed Jack to take a breath. Silently pleading for him to blink, to move, to come back to him.
His mind drifted to that day in the Hub. The day that Lisa had died. Ianto had felt his throat close as she grabbed him, choking him. There had been the pop of bone, the sensation of his airway crushing before he was thrown through the air...and then there had been nothing until he awoke in Jack's arms. There had been a look in Jack's eyes at that moment. Something that had caught and held Ianto like a deer in the headlights. In that moment, he saw that he wasn't just some shag, some quiet little teaboy to Jack who gave him a moment's respite from the day's work. In that moment Ianto realised that Jack truly cared for him and it opened a door in Ianto that he had kept closed and bolted for so long.
Jack had freed him to be honest about who he was, who he could love and the thought of losing that was an unbearable weight on Ianto's chest.
Placing Jack's hand gently on the bed, Ianto gripped the armrests of his wheelchair. He kicked aside the footrests and put his feet firmly on the ground, then pushed himself up out of the chair. His body shook with the effort, his knees trembling and rubbery, threatening buckle and dump him to the floor. But nothing was stopping Ianto from doing this. He pressed himself forward, ignoring the tight pull of his stitches, gasping slightly at the pain he was causing himself. His mind was driven now, locked on one simple goal.
Leaning over Jack, Ianto cupped a hand to his cheek and pulled himself in close enough to press his lips to Jack's. So cold, so very alien in feeling to what Ianto was used to. Closing his eyes, he imagined them to warm again, full of life as they curled up and parted into that dazzling smile Jack had. Ianto deepened the kiss, letting his mind go, putting everything into a silent prayer, a silent fervent plea for Jack to take what he needed and come back to him.
And then finally, as he was ready to give up, tears hanging from his long lashes...Ianto felt the slightest flutter of movement. He straightened up sharply, clutching at the bed as his chest locked up with sharp stabbing pain in protest to the move. His eyes widened, hope locking up his throat and making Ianto hold his breath as he watched, waited, for some sort of miracle.
With a cough and a gasping, sucking breath, Jack's eyes flew open, his whole body almost jackknifing upright as the body and mind recalled the violence of his death. Trembling hands seemed to be holding him down, Jack's gaze shifting to the figure looming over him, his voice barely a whisper. "Ianto?"
For a moment, there was confusion clouding Jack's eyes. He wasn't sure he could trust what his eyes were showing him. But as his mind caught up with what he was seeing, Jack realised that it had been Ianto kissing him. He would know that kiss, those lips anywhere. "Hey there..."
"Hey yourself." Ianto whispered, fighting to keep his tears from falling, his chin quivering ever so slightly. His hands had moved to take Jack's hand in his, squeezing gently but never letting go. After a moment, Ianto helped Jack sit upright, his gaze still travelling over Jack as he took in the welcome sight of his chest rising and falling. There was still a horrid paleness to Jack's skin, but ever so slowly, colour was returning.
"Welcome back." Ianto murmured, before he drew Jack into a tight hug, burying his face into Jack's shoulder. He clung to him, eyes closed, afraid that if he let go, it would all be a dream somehow. He'd wake up in his hospital room again with Tosh still sitting by his bedside with that look on her face that said Jack was gone.
Jack could feel Ianto trembling in his arms. A tell tale sign of exhaustion and having been pushed too far. "Hey...hey, come here." Shifting himself carefully, Jack made room on the bed for Ianto and gripped his arm to help him climb up on the bed. He lifted his arm, smiling as Ianto snuggled in against his chest, lying along his body, one leg possessively hooked over Jack's. Jack watched carefully, looking for any indication of pain in his young lover. But there was nothing in Ianto's face right now but a look of peace.
Ianto's eyes were closed and the years seemed to have fallen away as the lines of worry had disappeared. Jack pressed a gentle kiss to the top of Ianto's head, holding him close, his hand gently drawing circles against the small of his back. He'd come too close to losing this, to losing Ianto and right now, all he wanted was to just lay here and hold him. There would be time to let the others know he was back. Time to deal with their questions and their excitement and everything that would come.
But right here, right now...it was their time. It was his time. Time to just bask in the knowledge that this time there would be no goodbyes.