Jack checks the pubs first. Ianto isn't in either and the bar staff don't remember serving him. The fact that both the pubs are quiet, and that a soaking wet Welshman in a three piece suit would stand out amongst the few patrons, means he's fairly confident that Ianto hasn't been there, so he continues his search elsewhere.
Leaving the car in the small car park at the entrance to the old deer park that borders the Thames, Jack puts what he hopes is enough change into the parking meter – getting wheel clamped really isn't something that he wants to have to deal with on top of everything else – and then sets off towards the river.
The rain, which varies between barely there drizzle and brief period of torrential downpour, is keeping most people indoors, and he passes just a few determined joggers and dog walkers.
A couple of them stop when he asks them if they've seen Ianto, and one tells him they saw a man in suit walking up river towards Kew, but couldn't be sure about anything more than that.
He's almost ready to admit defeat and call Tosh to put a trace on Ianto's phone, happy to deal with his annoyance at him intruding on his privacy, when he sees a familiar figure sitting on a bench looking out at the Thames.
It's raining hard, a cold grey torrent that in the murky early evening light almost obscure the opposite bank.
Sitting down next to him, Jack says, "You're a hard man to find."
Ianto blinks, seeming startled that he's not alone. "I am? You could have just called me."
"No, I couldn't. It's off," Jack says, torn between relief that Ianto appears to be alright and annoyance at him switching his phone off after he'd asked him not to.
"Off? It's not off." Ianto gets out his phone. The screen is blank. He presses a few buttons, a confused frown on his face. Eventually he says, "The battery must be flat. I must have forgotten to charge it. I never forget to charge it. Sorry."
"You've had a lot on your mind." Jack puts an arm around him, relieved that he hadn't been deliberately trying to isolate himself.
When he doesn't say anything else, Jack asks, "How you doing?"
"I don't know. It just keeps going round and round in my head." Ianto looks out at the grey, slow moving water, its surface rippling where the rain hits it. "It's real now. It's not just something stupid idea that keeps pops into my head at three in the morning when I can't sleep. I thought I could deal with it," he says hunching forwards. "But I don't know if I can. I'm not like you."
"You're stronger than you give yourself credit for."
"It's not the living part that's the problem, not really," he says miserably.
Jack gives him a sceptical look.
"Okay it is that too a bit, but it's the getting hurt that scares me the most. I mean it, I'm not like you. I'm not going to grow back fingers if a weevil bites them off, am I? What happens if I get badly hurt? What if it's something that's never going to stop hurting, that's never going to get better?" He looks at Jack, fear in his eyes. "What am I going to do?"
"We'll deal with." Jack has no idea how, and he's not going to think about right now. Because he knows that if he does he's not going to be in the right frame of mind to be of any use to Ianto. "And who knows, maybe you can grow back fingers, but you won't know it until you need to."
"Is that really supposed to make me feel better?"
"No, it's just the truth." Jack takes hold of his hand. "Believe me, I know all about not knowing what you've become, worrying about what it means for the future, and whether there are any answers, and if in the end you really want to know what they are."
Ianto sighs. "It doesn't get any easier, does it?"
"I wouldn't say that. It changes, the things you worry about change." Honesty even if it's painful, is Jack decides the best policy for this. "Losing people still hurts, but you find ways of dealing with it, ways to go on."
Feeling rainwater running down his back inside his coat, Jack shivers and says, "I don't suppose you rather do this somewhere dry?"
"It is a bit damp, I suppose," Ianto says, finally seeming to notice the weather.
"A bit damp?" Jack says with a laugh. It feels good after all the tension, even if it is only momentary.
"I'm Welsh. I'm used to the rain."
"Well I'm not, and if it gets much wetter I don't think my coat is ever going to recover." It's ridiculous, and Jack knows it, but the small smile that tugs at Ianto's lips is worth it.
"Alright," Ianto says, humouring him. "We can't have anything happening to the coat, can we?"
They walk quickly along the footpath that will take them back to the road and eventually to the car park.
"Do you want to grab something to eat before we head home?" Jack asks when they've been walking for a while in silence.
"If you don't want anything yet, we can wait. Maybe stop at a service station. Only I know what you think of the coffee they have in those places."
"We'll find somewhere here," Ianto says quickly. "A hot drink would be good."
"I passed a couple of pubs on the way here. We could try one of them," Jack says trying to remember which one had a coffee machine.
"Do you think they'll mind?" he gestures vaguely at their wet clothes.
"If they do we can always take them off," Jack says with a grin.
With a rather horrified look Ianto increases his pace.
"What's the hurry?" Jack calls after him, not sure if he's somehow managed to upset or annoy him.
"I just want to get there before the weird naked bloke who's going to get us both barred arrives," he says trying hard not to laugh. Glancing back at Jack he adds, "I still remember what happened with the breadstick at…."
Whatever Ianto was going to say is cut off as he walks off the end of the path and into the road.
Everything following that seems to happen in slow motion. The car coming round the corner and the screech of its wheels as the driver tries to brake. The thud of the impact as Ianto is thrown aside, rolling over several times before coming to rest at the side of the road. And finally the crash as the driver loses control of the locked brakes and skids into the hedge.
Time snaps back to normal speed, and with a wordless cry of loss, Jack runs to Ianto's side.
Dropping to his knees beside him, Jack is met by Ianto's blue eyes staring up at him, wide and sightless, his neck turned at an angle that's incompatible with life.
They were going to have forever, and now there's no more time, not even for goodbyes. Cradling Ianto against him, his tears mixing with the torrential rain, Jack kisses Ianto's forehead.
Having sat for so long in the wind and rain, Ianto's skin is already cold. It reinforces the fact that he's dead, and a series of racking sobs shake Jack as he presses his lips to his lover's. "Ianto, please."
Ianto suddenly gasps, his body tensing and jerking in Jack's arms.
Jerking back so that he doesn't get head butted in the nose, Jack finds Ianto staring at him, fear and confusion in his eyes.
"What happened? What's wrong?"
It's amazing and just that bit frightening, and even after lifetimes of it happening to himself, Jack finds it doesn't make it less so to see it happen to somebody else. He wonders if everybody who has seen him revive feels like this.
"Bruised, but don't think anything is broken," Ianto says sounding calmer and more in control now than he had just moments ago. He touches his finger tips to the cut on his forehead. "Head wounds always look worse than they are, that's what people say, don't they?"
Still staring in surprise, Jack's voice wavers as he says, "You're alive."
"Just lucky, I guess?" Freeing himself from Jack's embrace, Ianto gets unsteadily to his feet and limps over to the driver who's trying unsuccessfully to use a mobile. "Come on we need to stop him calling the police. I really can't deal with them right now."
The driver, a man of about 70, is sat on the verge next to his car, his head in his hands, as he just keeps repeating, "I didn't see him, I didn't see him. Why didn't I see him?"
Stunned by everything that has happening, Jack can only watch as Ianto starts talking to the man.
"I hit you," he says, looking surprised but relieved that Ianto is on his feet. "I'm sorry, I didn't see you. I'm really sorry."
"You didn't hit me, I jumped out of the way," Ianto says, leaning against the side on the man's car, so that he's not needing to rest too much weight on his injured leg. "It was my fault really. I wasn't looking where I was going."
Jack knows that it's a lie, and he's aware that Ianto knows it is too. For the moment though he decides to go along with it, realising that Ianto is only doing this so that there won't be too many questions asked.
"Honestly it's my pride is damaged more than anything else." Ianto puts his hand on the man's arm. "You ended up in the hedge. Are you alright?"
The man nods. "I've been driving nigh on fifty years, and I've never hit anything before."
"Accidents happen," Ianto says, reassuringly. "Now I suppose we'd better get this sorted out."
Leaving Ianto telling the driver that everything is going to be okay, Jack makes a couple of quick phone calls, one to a garage that he knows has a reputation for discrete pick ups – they'd done a huge amount of business with them after the whole ATMOS debacle earlier that year. The other is to the Empress of India hotel, to inform them that they will need the room for the night after all. Jack has no intention of driving back to Cardiff tonight unless there is no other option.
The driver, whose name it turns out is George, is shaken, but otherwise unhurt, and his car, although dented from the collision, isn't so badly damaged as to arouse suspicion.
It doesn't take long for the tow truck to arrive, and for George and his car to be taken away, and then they're left alone in the deserted road.
Turning away from Jack and the road, Ianto stumbles onto the verge, starting to shake.
"Ianto?" Jack is at his side in a moment, putting an arm about him.
Turning, so that he's pressed close against Jack, Ianto says hoarsely, "I was dead, wasn't I?"
Jack nods, not trusting his voice. The image of Ianto lying in the road, head twisted to one side, his eyes staring blankly at him, is going to be something that'll haunt him for a long time to come.
There's an edge of grim humour in Ianto's voice as he says, "I guess I don't have to worry about getting hurt anymore."
"We can't stay here," Jack says, avoiding the subject. "We'll go back to the hotel, get you cleaned up, get some dry clothes."
Leaning against him, Ianto nods, looking too worn out to argue.
It isn't a long walk back to the car, but with Ianto limping and shivering it takes far longer than Jack would like.
The drive back to the Empress of India isn't too bad, the rush hour not really having started in earnest yet, and the having the heater on full blast in the car helps dry their clothes.
Check in is swift, the man on the reception desk looking at their wet and dishevelled appearance with curiosity, although he makes no comment, instead handing over their key with a smile, saying, "I hope you enjoy your stay, sirs."
"Come on," Jack says once they are inside their room. "Let's get a proper look at you."
"I'm alright," Ianto says limping over to the kettle and complimentary tea and coffee. "I'll make us a drink and then we can talk. I think we need to talk."
"I'll do it. You need to get out of those wet clothes," Jack says seeing how much Ianto's hands are shaking as he picks up the sugar and adds it to the cups. Letting him pour boiling water seems like an accident waiting to happen.
Not that his own mind is really focused on doing anything other than worry at the moment. He thinks back to when Lisa had thrown him across the Hub to land in the pool at the base of the water tower. In the heat of the moment, and desperate for Ianto to be alive, despite anger at his betrayal, Jack has been torn between whether Ianto hadn't been as badly hurt as such a fall should have made him, or that his half kiss half CPR has actually helped.
Now Jack wonders if the same thing hadn't happened then. Perhaps the fall had broken Ianto's neck as just for a few brief moments he'd feared it had. Perhaps he'd come back to life and had just assumed he'd been unconscious.
Turning away from the drinks, he sees Ianto fumbling over the buttons on his waistcoat.
Closing his hands over Ianto's, Jack says, "Let me do that."
Just two nights ago he'd done this with a very different motive in mind. There's no teasing tonight, although he is still careful, uncertain the damage he'll find beneath.
All the injuries that remain, even though they're uncomfortable, are superficial, Jack is pleased to find.
There are a few scratches on his hands, knees and elbows, in addition to the shallow cut on his forehead. The worst though is the large bruise spread across Ianto's hip and thigh, where the initial impact had occurred, already look as if it has had a few days to develop to a deep, mottled purple, going yellow towards the edges.
He feels cool to Jack's touch though, and is still shivering periodically despite the warmth of the room. "Let's get you warmed up. I was thinking a nice hot shower."
"That sounds like the best idea I've heard all day."
"Didn't you know, all my best idea involve no clothes," Jack says starting to strip of his own wet clothes.
Surprised Ianto says, "What are you doing?"
"As good as I look in a wet t-shirt, I'm not showering with my clothes on." Jack looks down at his t-shirt. "And I can't have you hogging all the hot water."
It's lie, but it's easier than saying he doesn't want to let him out sight yet, that as ridiculous as it might seem a small part of him is scared that if he can't see him that somehow he'll stop being there.
There's understanding in Ianto's eyes as he takes hold of Jack's hand. "Of course. I expect old hotels like this run out of hot water all the time."
The shower isn't exactly large, but it's big enough for them to stand close under the warm spray.
The heat and closeness help, and Jack feels himself start to relax.
"You were shaking too," Ianto says softly.
"I was?" Jack looks surprised.
"You still are, a little." Ianto takes Jack's hand in his own. "I'm sorry I scared you."
"Don't be. It wasn't your fault." Jack tries to push the images of Ianto lying in the road out of his mind. It had been his fault, he'd distracted him, and he'd died. And if it hadn't been for some stupid misjudgement in what they were using in a decades old research project Ianto would be dead, and he'd never be able to forgive himself.
"For a moment back there, I thought I'd lost you," Jack says, holding Ianto close. "And all I could think was that I'd never told you that I..."
"That you love me?" Ianto says quietly, taking hold of Jack's hand. "I know you do. You don't have to say it."
"But I should." Jack looks down at their linked hands. He's not been this nervous since he'd asked Ianto out on a date just after his return. "I've not fallen this hard for anybody in years."
"You don't have to do this," Ianto says, voice wavering.
"Yes, I do." Jack looks into his eyes. "I love you, Ianto Jones, and it scares the hell out of me, because we really could have forever, and right now that still doesn't feel like enough time."
"Oh God." Letting go of Jack's hand he covers his eyes.
It's pretty much the opposite of the reaction that he'd been hoping for. "What wrong?"
"Forever, living forever. I can't...deal with...it." Turning his face against Jack's neck, Ianto clings to him, tears falling unchecked.
Holding him, Jack lets him cry, relieved that he's is allowing himself to let go.
Finally when Ianto's breathing has evened out, and his grip on him has grown less desperate, Jack says, "How are you doing?"
"Tired, sore, a bit lost," he says, voice still rough from recently shed tears. "But better, I think. Not great, but better." Closing his eyes, he leans against Jack. "I'm so tired."
"Come on then," Jack says, switching off the shower. "let's go to bed."
"I'm not sure my leg is up anything much yet," Ianto says doubtfully. He tests his bruised leg, putting more weight on it. Biting back a curse, he transfers the weight back to the other leg. "Okay, definitely not doing anything tonight."
"I meant to sleep." Keeping an arm around him, Jack grabs a couple of towels. "Well, for now at least. Later on? That's up to you."
Smiling slightly, Ianto takes one of the towels and starts to dry his hair.
"We spend an extra night away together and I go back walking funny," Ianto says with a laugh that is mostly genuine, as he limps to the bed. "They're all going to think only one thing."
"What are you going to tell them?" Jack asks, pulling back the covers so Ianto can get in.
"The truth," Ianto says with a sigh as he settles back against the pillows. "They need to know. I won't let them put their lives at risk to save mine because I've decided to keep them in the dark."
The idea of seeing Ianto dying again leaves Jack cold, but he find he can't argue against it, as it's something he does himself. Instead he says, "Just don't make it the first choice, okay?"
"It won't be." Ianto groans as he tries to roll over, before giving up and staying where he is. "I'd rather not feel like this very often, but…" He stops and looks steadily at him. "If it's a choice between their lives and mine, I want you to know that I'm going to put them first. I'm just as tired of losing people as you are."
"I know," Jack says, leaning over and kissing him. "Now try to get some sleep."
Nodding and yawning, Ianto closes his eyes, content that he has been understood.
With Ianto half asleep beside him, his head resting against his shoulder, Jack smiles.
The situation might be far from perfect, and they may never know exactly what happened to Ianto all those years ago, but they've reached a point they can move forward.
There's no such thing as an ending, in Jack's opinion, not really, not while life goes on. And for them life is going to be a very long time indeed.
Looking at Ianto though, that endless future stretching out in front of him doesn't look quite so lonely anymore.
Hope whoever reads this enjoys it. It's the first immortal!Ianto story I've written (although not the first Torchwood fic, as I'm starting to lose count of how many of those there are) and it was a lot of fun to write.