It was dawn, and Jack was dying. It wasn't the first time and lord knows it wouldn't be the last, but that never made it any easier for Ianto to witness. The Weevil responsible was sprawled on the unforgiving concrete a few metres away, dead; Ianto's bullet at close range had blown away half its head.
He hadn’t hesitated when the creature had ripped a gaping hole in Jack’s stomach; once a Weevil had killed, returning it to the sewers wasn’t an option. True rogues were rare, but there had been no doubt that this one deserved the label; it had attacked them on sight. Ianto didn’t doubt that but for Jack, he might well have been the one lying in a pool of his own blood as his life drained away.
Ianto knew that he should begin cleanup procedures but he couldn't, not while Jack was still breathing. As much as Jack would protest that it didn't matter because he'd be back in no time, Ianto was painfully aware of the toll that dying took on his lover. Even knowing that revival was just around the corner didn't lessen the pain he had to endure, or his instinctive fear of death. Familiarity hadn’t lessened the ordeal for him one iota, perhaps because he already knew just how much it would hurt.
There was little Ianto could do to ease Jack’s suffering other than to hold him close as he bled out and try to reassure him that everything would be alright. Still, what little he could do he did willingly, knowing his presence was a comfort to Jack. He wasn't about to deny him that just to get a few minutes' head start on clearing up the evidence of the attack.
Head lolling weakly, Jack clutched at Ianto’s arm, his breathing shallow and ragged as he stared beseechingly into Ianto’s face through pain-filled eyes. Ianto wished with all his heart that he could do something to ease his lover’s agony, but he didn’t carry pain-relief with him. That would have to change. He made a mental note to talk to Owen about it once they were all back at the Hub and Jack was getting cleaned up. A dose of morphine at times like this would save Jack a world of suffering.
“It’s okay, Cariad. Not much longer, I promise. Owen and the others will be here soon.”
Jack tried to smile at him, but it came out as more of a grimace. He coughed weakly. “Cold.” His voice was barely more than a whisper, but in the stillness it sounded far too loud.
Ianto glanced around, hoping no one was out and about at this hour, once again grateful that it was mid-summer. Dawn came ridiculously early at this time of year, while sensible people were still in bed asleep. He wished that was where he and Jack were right now, that this was just a nightmare from eating pizza too late at night, but the hot, wet slickness of blood on his hands was much too real for even the most vivid of dreams. Why wasn’t Owen here yet?
Deep down inside, Ianto knew there was one thing he could do to free Jack from pain; he had his gun, one bullet was all it would take, just like with the Weevil. He couldn’t bring himself to do it though; he was terrified that he’d get the angle wrong, that instead of giving Jack a quick and easy death he’d add to his suffering. At such close range, you’d think accuracy would increase, but that wasn’t necessarily the case, especially when trying to shoot from such a cramped, awkward position.
The sky grew steadily lighter and the dawn chorus was just beginning when Jack drew a final, shuddering breath and slipped away with a sigh. Ianto’s heart clenched painfully in his chest as the light went out of his lover’s eyes. For Jack the worst part was over, but for Ianto himself it was just beginning. Time always seemed to slow to snail’s pace when he was waiting for Jack to revive and always, at the back of his mind, that traitorous little voice would be whispering, ‘What if he doesn’t? What if this time it’s permanent? What will you do if he never opens his eyes again?’ They were questions Ianto had no answers to, partly because he never permitted himself to seriously consider the possibility. Jack claimed he was a fixed point, that he could never die, and most of the time Ianto believed him. It was only in the moments between death and revival that the niggling spectre of doubt tried to make itself heard, but as always, Ianto refused to listen to it.
“Come on Jack, come back to me, please.” He kept his gaze resolutely fixed on Jack’s face, not wanting to see whether or not the savage wounds the Weevil had inflicted were closing. It was a matter of faith, of belief; Jack would heal and then he’d wake up, Ianto didn’t need to witness the flesh and bones knitting together again. He’d tried once, but on top of being indescribably gross, it had made him giddy, like trying to watch stop-motion photography sequences replayed at too fast a speed for the brain to keep up with.
The seconds ticked by agonisingly slowly. With his attention focussed solely on Jack, Ianto almost completely tuned out his surroundings; he was dimly aware of the sound of an engine approaching, the slamming of the SUV’s doors and the clatter of footsteps in the filthy alley. The team didn’t say a word, just got on with cleaning up, leaving him to his vigil.
Just as the first rays of sunlight filtered into the alley, Jack gasped, stiffening in Ianto’s arms, hands clutching at whatever he could find and eyes snapping open.
“I’m right here, Cariad. Welcome back.”
They smiled at each other, and just like that, all was right again with their world.