The first thing Ianto noticed when he woke up was that something was missing. He wasn't sure what – the pain was still there, roaring furiously now that he guessed the medicine had worn off; he was still in his flat, still swathed in his comfortable blankets; he was still warm – but something there was just something…off.
Then he realized what it was. It was the smell. The smell was different; it smelled like his apartment, like coffee grounds and laundry detergent. There was supposed to be something else.
Fifty-first century pheromones. You people have no idea.
That was it, then. Jack was gone. After what had happened earlier – last night, judging by the clock blaring on the table beside his bed – he actually thought Jack would be there. Jack had said he loved him, but then…he wasn't there. He'd just left.
Ianto cursed himself. Of course Jack was gone. He was Captain Jack Harkness; he didn't do relationships. Ianto reasoned he'd probably just backed him into a corner; he'd say what he thought Ianto wanted him to say, and disappear when he got the chance.
But no, he was being spiteful. Jack was a good guy, and he knew that, it was just…he really thought he'd be there.
Suddenly, he heard the front door shut, and quickly pushed himself up. As it turned out, that hadn't been the best idea, and pain shot through his abdomen, sending all the breath out of his lungs in a choked gasp. Now that he'd tried, though, he couldn't just lie there in his pajamas. He was better than that, stronger than that. And besides, if it wasn't Jack, then he sure as hell didn't want to be lying there in bed while some stranger traipsed about his flat.
Steeling himself, he pushed himself up just a little bit slower, swinging his right leg over the side of the bed. His left was another story. Owen had replaced his more flexible brace with this metal and neoprene monstrosity that stretched from his mid-thigh to halfway down his calf, and yet still, even so much as thinking about moving it made it ache, and when he tried wriggling his toes, he felt his stomach flip.
In through the nose, out through the mouth.
He breathed through it, turning on the bed slowly, finally managing to get the limb off the side of the bed. He had to pause there for a moment, though; his head was swimming and he felt like he was going to be sick. Once his stomach was steady, though, he pushed himself up, balancing precariously on his right leg and holding onto his dresser for support as the world pitched and pivoted around him.
Once again, he had to wait, only this time, he couldn't bring himself to wait as long. He was a patient man, normally, save for when it came to his own weaknesses, and now he couldn't bear to just stand there like an invalid. He was capable, and not to mention, there was someone walking around his flat, and from the sounds of things, they were getting closer.
Taking in a deep breath, he started to move his left leg forward, getting ready to take the first step. The footsteps were getting closer, too heavy to be female but definitely too light to be Jack. Jack always walked so purposefully, so strongly. And there he was, pathetic little Ianto, unable to so much as take a step.
Clenching his fist, he let the anger burn in his gut. He wouldn't be pathetic; he wouldn't be weak. He shifted his weight forward, his foot nearing the ground. Closer, closer, and finally—
Agony shot through his every molecule, and before he could help himself, he cried out. He was falling, that much he knew, and it was going to hurt like hell when he hit the ground.
Only, he didn't hit the ground. Hands grabbed his shoulders, and he fell into a solid chest – not as solid as Jack's, but more substantial than his own present mess of bruises and broken bones.
And suddenly he knew who this person was.
"Owen," he choked out as the doctor wrapped his arms around Ianto's middle, carefully avoiding the breaks and cracks there. He was torn between being humiliated and relieved, because there was no way he was getting anywhere on his own, and it was hard to tell which would be worse: being found like this, or being found lying in the ground, probably half-unconscious from the fall.
Then again, at least that way he wouldn't have to deal with the embarrassment.
"C'mon, back to bed with you," Owen said through gritted teeth. "Thank God you're not heavy, then, aye?" Owen had been on him about his weight ever since he'd come back from his suspension after Lisa. All the same, Ianto knew he wasn't being much help, so he tried to get a little bit more of his weight back on his own feet. The right was fine, but he was off-balance, so he tried his left again. Maybe this time, it would be better.
It wasn't. Even as his bare foot just touched the carpet of his bedroom, pain lanced through his leg and white flashed in his eyes. He managed to bite back the cry that time, but only just, and a noise still slipped from his throat.
"I've got you, mate," Owen said, and somehow, the wiry man managed to get Ianto back to his bed. As soon as he felt the mattress at the back of his knees, Ianto wanted nothing more than to just fall back onto it – his head was spinning, his heart thudding, and his whole being was in pain, and it seemed that had something to do with his standing up – but Owen held him firm, upright. "Slowly now, Iants; don't want to undo all my hard work now, do we?"
Ianto hoped the question was rhetorical, because he didn't want to be rude. Somehow, though, he got the impression that throwing up the toast Jack had made him eat before his last dose of pain medicine might be just a little ruder.
Owen helped him lower himself to sit on the bed, his left leg stretched awkwardly in front of him. He went to lie down, but once again, Owen stopped him. "Not so fast, mate. Jack said you were asleep when he left, and I was apt to let you stay that way for a while, but since you're already up, we might as well get your check-up out of the way." He straightened back up. "Think you'll be all right for a bit while I go fetch my bag? I kind of left it in a hurry in your settee when I heard you thumping about in here."
It took a second for Ianto to process what he'd said, and after a moment, he nodded. That, as it turned out, had not been a good idea – his concussion, at least, didn't think so. Owen was, as always, ready for it, and a rubbish bin appeared in his lap just in time for him to be sick into it. Suddenly the pain in his leg didn't seem so bad, now that the retching strained his aching ribs and tore at the gash on his side. He felt the moisture well in his eyes from the force of it, from the pain and the helplessness, but there was nothing he could do about it.
Owen was beside him in an instant, rubbing his back and holding a cool hand to his forehead – Owen the doctor always had cold hands, and for once, Ianto was glad for it. "Think it's safe to say you've gone and overdone it," he said, a hint of a laugh in his voice. Not the mocking, derisive sort of laugh his friend was so apt to, but a sort of comforting laugh.
Thankfully, he wasn't sick for long, and though the nausea lingered, he was pretty sure his stomach wouldn't be purging itself anymore. Apparently unaffected, Owen took the rubbish bin and set it aside. "I'll take care of it later," he assured as he rose once again. "Do me a favor and don't move, yeah? I'll be right back."
He needn't have worried. Ianto had learned his lesson for now, and didn't so much as budge while Owen was gone. He was trying too hard to keep his vision steady, to keep upright as his body begged him to lie down. Owen was right; he had overdone it, and he was paying for it now.
Still, he'd had a reason. He wanted to see Jack. From what Owen had said, Jack hadn't been gone long – he'd still been sleeping when he'd left, and he hadn't been sleeping all that long.
When Owen came back in, toting the massive bag in which he carried his medical supplies, Ianto turned to him. "Owen?" he asked.
The doctor, who had previously been rifling through his bag, turned to Ianto. "What is it, mate?"
"Where is he?" Even to himself, his voice sounded hollow and pitiful, and he hated himself for it. He had no right to sound so desperate – to yearn so much for the man that had taken so much from him. He'd hated Jack for what he did. He'd hated him for killing Lisa, for ignoring him, for letting those monsters in the Beacons take him.
But now, he felt so small without him. Because he couldn't really hate Jack; he knew that now. He couldn't hate him for killing Lisa, because it wasn't Jack who'd really done it. Torchwood One was responsible for her death; the only thing Jack had killed was the memory and the foolish hope that maybe he could bring her back. He couldn't hate him for never noticing, because he'd made it that way; he'd meant to be a shadow, so that no one would care when he betrayed them. Distance made the lies easier, and Jack couldn't be blamed for that. And he couldn't hate him for the Beacons, because he'd seen the look in his eyes. He'd seen the fear in Jack's eyes, the horror when he burst through that wall. He'd seen the worry there, even if he'd chosen to ignore it at the time.
Besides, it wasn't Jack's fault he was sitting there now.
"You mean Jack?" Owen asked, effectively pulling Ianto back into the present. "Administrative work; something to do with the bleeding government. They'd only talk to Jack, and apparently it was important."
Ianto went to nod, but thought better of it. "Makes sense," he muttered. It was nice to know he had a reason to be gone; it let Ianto think for a moment that maybe he hadn't left because of their…discussion.
Owen put a hand on his shoulder. "Don't worry so much, Iants; it doesn't become you. He'll be back quick as he can, there's no doubting that. Until then, you've got me to keep you company." He smiled that cheeky Owen smile, and then let his hand fall from Ianto's shoulder. "All right, then, let's get this thing over with," he said, and because he knew Ianto couldn't move around all that well just yet, he started helping him undress.
Ianto didn't protest, because he knew he couldn't do it by himself, but that didn't stop him from being uncomfortable. With each layer gone, he lost some of his protection from the world; the fact that he was at the mercy of another in this exposure only made it worse.
Being the perceptive man he was – even if many would doubt that claim – Owen tried to be as unthreatening as possible. As he helped him out of his shirt, he tried to strike up a conversation to keep Ianto's mind off it.
"Myfanwy's been missing you," he said. Ianto always did fancy that bloody bird, and it seemed he'd picked the right subject. Ianto didn't beam or anything, but there was a certain light to his eyes, so he continued. As he started to help Ianto out of his trousers, he kept on. "She's been all out of sorts, since none of us can seem to remember to bring chocolate. You've spoiled her, that's what I think."
That did get a smile out of Ianto, though it fell as Owen started pulling the trousers off his legs, leaving Ianto in just his boxer-briefs. The bloke was really just too shy; Owen didn't know why, but he was sure it wasn't a pleasant story, and it certainly wasn't any of his business. As a doctor, it was his job to make his patient as comfortable as possible; as Ianto's friend, it was his job to do more than that. He just wished he knew how.
"You should've seen what she did when Gwen offered her a toffee. Thought she was apt to peck her bloody eyes out." He carefully started cutting away at the bandages around Ianto's torso; it was practically a second shirt, between the bindings on his rib, shoulder, and belly. He looked like half a mummy and half a walking bruise.
He could feel Ianto shaking now, and he hoped it was because he was cold. He still had a little bit of a fever clinging to him, but not much of one. No, he knew what it was; Ianto was a bundle of nerves – had been ever since the Beacons, or hell, even Lisa. Maybe even before then, but they hadn't noticed. None of them had noticed, and Owen hated himself for that. He was supposed to be a doctor, supposed to be able to tell when people were hurting, and he hadn't known.
Well, now he did, and he was going to do whatever he could to make it right.
Once he got the bandages off Ianto's middle, he set about examining him, all the while keeping up light conversation. He wanted Ianto to relax, but he knew he wouldn't. He couldn't blame him for it, either. He just felt bad, making an already nervous man more nervous. Still, it was a necessary evil.
Ianto was actually doing alright. Surprisingly well, considering the stories, the horrors, that each of those wounds held. The shaking was getting worse, though, and Ianto's fingers were twisting in the bed sheets on either side of him. It was like water building up behind a dam, and Owen was just waiting until that dam eventually broke.
It didn't take long. He'd finished checking out all of the bruises, feeling around his ribs to make sure everything was still where it was supposed to be. That was no barrel of chuckles in and of itself, but then he started on the cut on Ianto's neck. His fingers had no sooner brushed along the angry red line when a strangled noise escaped the younger man's throat. Owen turned his gaze from the cut to Ianto's face, where he was saddened (but not altogether surprised) to see tears finally beginning to well over from his dark, bloodshot eyes.
At that point, he reckoned the exam could wait. Ianto 's emotional wounds needed more tending than the physical ones, and Owen intended to see to both. "C'mere, mate," he sighed sadly but soothingly, taking a seat on the bed next to Ianto and pulling him into his chest. He was careful to avoid putting tension on any of his wounds. "You always get the worst of it, don't you?" First with Lisa, and now with the Beacons; the poor guy just couldn't catch a break. It was wearing him down hard, and it absolutely killed Owen that he hadn't noticed sooner.
Ianto didn't reply – Owen was pretty sure he couldn't have even if he'd wanted to, through the choking sadness that seemed to weep from his very soul. It hurt Owen to see it, hurt him to feel it, and he couldn't help feeling it. He wasn't the most empathetic person, but this was just painful to see, this broken down man, who still somehow managed to be strong enough to hold the whole team together. He'd seen it in the time Ianto was out – Torchwood wasn't the same without him.
Suddenly, he heard a sharp intake of breath, and looked to see Ianto wincing. "Sorry, did I hurt you?" he asked.
Ianto shook his head, but then let out a weak chuckle, and nodded resignedly. "Not you; just hurts in general," he admitted, his voice still reedy from the tears, but he sounded better. Really, he did.
Owen smiled at him and let him go in favor of standing up. "Now that's something I can fix right quick," he said, fishing around in his back until his fingers found what he was looking for. "Here we are." He popped open the lid to the meds and shook out a pair into his hand. "Drug up, Tea Boy."
Ianto couldn't help smiling at the nickname, and took the pills with two shaking hands. Owen had a glass of water waiting for him after he swallowed them.
Ten minutes later, Ianto was unconscious.
"And that's why they pay me the big bucks," Owen chuckled to himself, and continued the exam to the low murmur of the telly in the front room.