When he’d discovered his car keys were missing, Ianto had immediately telephoned Jack to tell him, because even then, with no real reason for it that he could point to, he’d had a bad feeling. John wasn’t adjusting to the twenty-first century as well as the two women were, and Jack, for whatever reason, seemed to be the only one who understood how he was feeling, as if he could put himself in John’s place, empathise with a man uprooted from all that was familiar.
“He’s gone home,” Jack had said, then… “I’ll go talk to him. Stay here and mind the shop?”
As if Ianto was likely to say no. Whatever else they might be to each other after hours, and Ianto still wasn’t sure what that might be, Jack was still his boss.
“Fine. Just bring my car back in one piece, okay?”
“You worry too much.”
“Too much? You must be joking! I’ve seen the way you drive.” Ianto had also experienced Jack’s driving as a passenger; it wasn’t for the fainthearted. “Let John drive my car back. Either that or call and tell me where it is, and I’ll get it myself.”
“Sometimes I get the feeling you don’t trust me.”
Which was fair enough; sometimes Ianto didn’t.
So Jack had left, presumably in the SUV, and Ianto had settled in to wait for him to return, hopefully with John in tow, but it had been hours and Jack really should have been back by now. At the very least he should have called.
Ianto’s bad feeling returned with a vengeance; something was wrong, he could feel it in his bones. Every passing moment made him more worried. He called Jack’s phone, but it just kept ringing, and Jack didn’t answer his comm. either.
“Come on, Jack. Where are you?”
Finally, Ianto made up his mind; he couldn’t sit around waiting any longer. Anything could be happening out there. Jack could be in trouble, injured, or unconscious. Ianto had to do something, had to at least find out, if only to set his mind at rest. Surely it would be better to know than to be left hanging…
It wasn’t difficult to figure out where John had gone; Jack had left his computer running, the location still up on the screen. A search for the SUV’s current location indicated it was parked outside the same address. Ianto left the Hub, flagged down a taxi, and had it drop him around the corner from his destination.
He could smell the exhaust fumes even before he reached the tightly closed garage doors, could hear the engine running inside, and he swallowed hard. They’d all known John was having a difficult time, but Ianto had never imagined he’d do something like this. He tore the garage door open, went around the side and opened the other door too, letting a through draft carry some of the fumes out and away before, covering his nose and mouth with his sleeve, and with his eyes stinging, he battled his way inside, tugging the driver’s side door open and turning the engine off.
That was when he realised John wasn’t alone in the car; Jack was there too, face flushed pink with carbon monoxide poisoning, just as still, and just as dead, as John.
For several long seconds Ianto just stared in horror as his heart sank. John he could understand, more or less; the poor man had been plucked from his own time and transported fifty years into a future where he simply didn’t fit. Try as he might, he couldn’t understand the modern world, he was too set in his ways to adapt to so much change, and as if that wasn’t already more than anyone should be expected to cope with, he’d learned that his wife was dead and his son senile.
But Jack? Larger than life with his wide, white smile, flirting with everyone, living each day like there was no tomorrow… For him to take his own life made no sense, or maybe Ianto didn’t want it to make sense. He knew Jack was older than he looked, a great deal older if everything he’d read in the archives was to be believed, but even so, why would he choose this?
Maybe he hadn’t, maybe John had overpowered him somehow… Ianto shook his head; he couldn’t believe that. Jack was too strong, too good a fighter. Anyone who could take on a fully-grown Weevil alone wasn’t likely to go down without a fight, and there wasn’t a mark on him. Ianto could see that as he wrestled Jack out of the car, then out of the garage, slumping to the ground beside him, coughing to clear his lungs. He checked Jack’s wrist, and then his neck, searching for a pulse, but wasn’t surprised when he couldn’t find one.
As the initial shock passed, Ianto’s thoughts began to whirl in earnest. What was he supposed to do now? What would he tell the team? Sorry, but our boss went and offed himself? They’d want to know why, and Ianto didn’t have an answer.
First things first though, he had to clean up the scene; that was part of his job after all. He needed to get John out the car, then put both bodies into the SUV and take them back to the Hub. Okay; break it down step-by-step. Get his car out of the garage and put the SUV in its place. Shut the garage doors so no nosy passers-by could see what was going on. Load the bodies into the SUV. Drive his car a few streets away and park it, then come back for the SUV. He could do that.
Just as Ianto went to get up, Jack suddenly drew in a huge gasp of air, his arms flailing, hands clutching at nothing. Ianto fell backwards, scrabbled away, eyes wide with disbelief. This wasn’t possible! People didn’t come back from the dead! He must have been mistaken, maybe Jack hadn’t been quite dead after all, maybe dragging him from the car had jump-started his heart or something, except… Already Jack’s skin was resuming its normal, healthy colour, and he sat up, scrubbing his hands through his hair, wrinkling his nose in disgust at the stink of exhaust fumes clinging to him.
He looked at Ianto. “Thought I told you to wait at the Hub.”
“You were dead!”
“And now I’m not. Don’t you ever do as you’re told?”
“You were dead!” Ianto’s brain was stuck on that one fact. “There was no pulse, I checked, but now you’re… alive! You are, aren’t you?” He reached to check for a pulse again, but drew his hand back at the last second, eyes full of uncertainty.
“Yes, I’m alive.”
“How? I mean people don’t just… It’s like some kind of miracle!”
Jack shook his head. “Not a miracle; more like a curse. I die, but I don’t stay dead. I can’t. I’ve died so many times, but…” his shoulders sagged. “I’m still here. Nothing ever works.”
“Why would you even want it to?” That was beyond Ianto’s comprehension. “Life is precious!”
“Is it? As I recall, it wasn’t so long ago you didn’t know whether or not you wanted to live.”
“I’d just lost Lisa,” Ianto tried to explain.
“And I’ve lost people I’ve loved, over and over, for more than a hundred and fifty years. Can you even begin to imagine what that’s like, knowing that no matter what happens, I will always be the one left alive? I have no choice.”
Ianto stared at Jack for a long moment, taking in what he’d said. “I’m sorry. Maybe if I’d left you…”
“I still would’ve come back, and died, and come back again, over and over until your car ran out of petrol and the air cleared.” Jack smiled faintly. “It wouldn’t have been fun. Maybe this is better.”
“If you knew all of that would happen, why would you put yourself through it?”
Jack shrugged. “I just didn’t want John to die alone.”
There was nothing Ianto could say to that.
Standing up, Jack offered his hand and Ianto took it, letting himself be pulled to his feet.
“Here.” Jack handed over a set of keys. “You drive the SUV and I’ll follow in your car once I’ve moved John into the backseat.”
Despite what he’d said earlier about Jack’s driving, Ianto didn’t argue; he had too much on his mind to worry about what might happen to his car with Jack behind the wheel. Besides, after everything that had happened, he wasn’t sure he’d ever want to drive it again.