It’s been said many times that you never hear the bullet that gets you. In Jack’s experience, that’s a load of rubbish, and he should know; he’s been shot often enough. Sometimes he’s killed instantly, sometimes he dies slowly and painfully, and other times he’s simply wounded, but as far as he can recall, every single time he’s heard the fatal, or not so fatal, bullet.
They whine like angry mosquitoes, even the ones fired through a silencer, alerting you to the fact that they’re on the way before you know for sure whether or not the shooter is going to miss. Again, in Jack’s experience, most of the time they don’t, but then again, he’d rather they hit him than an innocent bystander, or one of his team, even though on the whole he prefers those few occasions when they miss everybody, himself included.
This wasn’t one of those times.
He’d heard the sharp crack as the firing pin struck the end of the bullet and ignited its charge, then he’d heard the telltale whine, and then the muffled thud of his body hitting the ground. As usual, the pain didn’t register until he was already down, and when it did, it was a blazing agony spreading out from the entrance and exit wounds in his right shoulder, and expanding to fill his whole body.
Jack wasn’t sure whether to be grateful or disappointed that he was only injured. On the one hand, if he’d been killed outright the wound would have probably healed before he revived, but he would have suffered the inevitable and equally unwelcome agony of sensation returning to every nerve in his body at once. On the other hand, he was now in serious pain and completely incapacitated until he healed, which usually took longer when he didn’t die and he couldn’t really spare the time. Not that he currently had any choice in the matter.
The rest of the team were on their own for this one and Jack could only hope and pray they’d be okay. The alien they were after was heavily armed and not inclined to come quietly, being a member of an aggressive and warlike species that hired themselves out as mercenaries and assassins. This one was probably on an assignment when it got caught up by the Rift and dumped in the docklands area of Cardiff. That was the only stroke of luck they’d had; how much worse would the situation have been if the Rift had opened in one of the city’s main shopping areas?
Keeping his breathing shallow so as to jar the wound as little as possible, Jack lay as still as he could, hoping that would speed up the healing process. He’d fallen awkwardly and was in an uncomfortable position, but a bit of discomfort was still preferable to the additional excruciating pain trying to move would no doubt cause. Already he could feel the bleeding slowing as the damage caused by the bullet began to heal from the inside out. He estimated it would take between ten and fifteen minutes to heal completely, and he’d probably be able to make it onto his feet before then, but using his right arm wouldn’t be possible until all the damage was repaired. At least the pain was gradually lessening.
Silence fell round him, and it was only then that he realised he’d been hearing distant gunfire for several minutes. Funny how you could overlook a sound until it ceased and you became aware of its absence. The deathly hush was broken abruptly by running footsteps, getting rapidly closer, and Jack cursed himself for dropping his Webley when he’d been shot. Although it was clearly visible just a few feet away, he knew he wouldn’t be able to pick it up and use it even if he could crawl over to it.
Tension drained out of him at the familiar voice calling his name, and seconds later, Ianto dropped to his knees beside him. Jack smiled up into his lover’s worried face.
“We have to stop meeting like this.”
“No objection from me. How bad is it?”
“I’ve had worse. It was a through and through, about half-healed now I think. Is everyone okay?”
“Yep! We set up an ambush and Owen played decoy.”
“That was risky.” Jack tried to look disapproving, but he had a feeling it wasn’t a particularly successful attempt.
Ianto shrugged. “Owen’s in charge when you’re out of action; the rest of us just followed his orders, and it worked. Had to kill our visitor though. I’d emptied a whole clip into it, so had Gwen, and it was still on its feet. Tosh got behind it and shot it in the gap between the back of its armour and its helmet, where its neck would be if it had one. She’s quite the sharpshooter from close quarters.”
“That’s my Toshiko!” Jack said proudly. “She’s come a long way since her first time on the firing range when she shot me in the foot.”
“She didn’t! She never told me that!”
“She was so upset I had to give her a tiny dose of Retcon, just so I could convince her it was a near miss and she didn’t actually hit me. She was a lot more careful after that.”
“I can imagine.”
All the while they were talking, Ianto was doing what he could to make Jack more comfortable, straightening the other man’s twisted legs and tucking his own jacket behind Jack’s head, somehow doing it all without jostling Jack’s injured shoulder.
“Better?” he asked, settling back on his heels.
“Yes, thank you. You know, you’re really good at that.”
“I’ve had a scary amount of practice,” Ianto said wryly.
“I guess you have. You’re too good to me, Ianto Jones.”
“No I’m not; you deserve to be taken care of when you’re hurt just as much as anyone else. Just because you heal faster doesn’t mean your comfort should be ignored. You put your life on the line to protect us as well as the entire population of Cardiff, not to mention the rest of the world. I could stand for you to get killed or injured less often, I don’t enjoy seeing you hurting, or waiting for you to revive, but I can’t stop you doing what you feel you must. That doesn’t mean I’m not going to do the best I can to take care of you whenever you need it.”
“Where would I be without you?”
“I shudder to think. Probably buried under a mountain of old pizza boxes and takeaway cartons.” As Jack started trying to sit up, Ianto helped him, supporting him while his head stopped spinning from the move from horizontal to sort of vertical. A few minutes later, once Jack felt strong enough, Ianto helped him to his feet, fetched his Webley, and handed it to him.
“You didn’t need to do that, I could’ve fetched it myself.”
“Maybe, I just didn’t want to take the chance of you getting dizzy and falling over again when I’ve only just got you on your feet. You lost a lot of blood, and it always takes you a while to reach full capacity again.”
“How do you know this stuff?”
Ianto raised one eyebrow in a graceful arch. “I know everything, Jack, I would have thought you’d have figured that out by now. Come on, the SUV’s this way; let’s get you back to the Hub. I’ll make you a coffee and break out the emergency Hobnobs; that’ll do the trick. I swear your blood is eighty percent coffee and twenty percent chocolate.”
“It’s why I’m so hot and sweet,” Jack agreed.
That drew a snort of amusement from Ianto. “I can’t believe you said that.”
“You started it!”
Rolling his eyes, Ianto steered Jack towards the SUV, making a mental note to return as soon as he’d got his Captain settled. He needed to clean up the blood and other signs of the recent altercation; a Torchwood agent’s work was never done.
For his part, Jack just thanked his lucky stars and every god, goddess, or other celestial being that may or may not exist, that he had the singular good fortune to have Ianto Jones in his life.