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The Part of Me That's You Will Never Die

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Balancing a tray with empty coffee mugs in his arms, Ianto turned into the corridor leading away from the boardroom. In his head, he ticked off the chores already done on his mental list, and tried to prioritize the ones he still had left to do for the day.

Rounding a corner, a sudden violent pain surged through his whole body. He froze, a cry getting stuck in his throat, and he managed to catch himself as his suddenly weak legs wanted to give out under him.

But when a new stab of searing pain exploded inside of him, this time in his stomach, he instinctively curled around his middle protectively. The tray clattered to the ground with a loud crash, but he didn't really hear the noise; his ears seemed to be filled with cotton wool. His sight blurred, and black spots danced in front of his eyes while he still clutched his middle protectively. The pain was so intense by now that naked fear made him whimper pitifully. He sank to the ground, sagging against the wall, and tried to breathe away the pain.

Ianto?!”

Jack's voice sounded far away, but he must be directly beside him – alarmed by the crash of shattering mugs that made him investigate – because Ianto saw the Captain kneeling down at his side from the corner of his eye as a blurry blob, and he felt Jack's arms around him suddenly.

Restless, frantic hands flew over his body in search for an injury while Jack babbled his name over and over until, finally, he shouted for Owen.

A pitiful whimper once more made it past Ianto's lips, and he curled up in Jack's strong arms.

Keep your pants on, Harkness,” Owen commented in a bored tone although he came running as he heard the frantic urgency in Jack's voice.

He knelt down at the two men's side. “You work Teaboy too hard or what?” the doctor snapped acidly out of principle, but was already checking Ianto over, worry clearly etched onto his pinched features.

What happened?”

I don't know, I found him like that,” Jack explained with wide eyes, and tightened his grip around Ianto.

I was talking to him,” Owen rectified.

Ianto only shook his head, biting his lip not to cry out in pain in front of Owen. Instead, he pressed his face against Jack's shoulder, and tried to suppress a sudden violent cough, his throat feeling like sandpaper.

Shaking his head in exasperation, Owen opened his mouth for a scathing retort when he froze. A smear of blood showed on the pale blue fabric of Jack's shirt where Ianto's mouth had been only a second ago. The doctor looked at Jack imploringly.

Med Bay. Now, Jack.”

Jack nodded, even more alarmed at Owen's serious, brisk tone, but glad that he could do something to help Ianto. Gently wrapping Ianto's arm around his shoulder, he picked the younger man up bridal style. Ianto made a protesting noise, but Jack shushed him. “Shh, you can grouch later.”

Carefully, but as fast as he could, he brought Ianto down into the Med Bay while the young man clung weakly to him. Owen had already hurried ahead of them, and was preparing a medical scanner.

Urgently, Jack placed Ianto onto the cool metal of the autopsy table, but instead of stepping back, he remained at Ianto's side, trying to calm down the frightened young man with soft, meaningless words even as his whole being was gripped by ice-cold fear as he wiped away a remaining smudge of blood from the corner of Ianto's mouth.

By now, Tosh and Gwen had noticed what was happening, and came rushing down into the Med Bay.

What can we do?” Gwen asked, wide-eyed with worry and fear.

Not get in my way for now,” Owen snapped, and advanced on Ianto with the scanner.

Oh God!” Gwen cried, alerting Owen who looked up from the scanner's settings.

Shit,” he hissed when he saw more blood leaking from Ianto's mouth.

Before he could use the scanner on Ianto though, the young man cried out, and pressed his hands onto his stomach, trying to curl up in a foetal position. “Something's moving inside of me,” he gasped, and whimpered in renewed fear.

Jack, hold him,” Owen ordered. Alarmed, he put the scanner aside. Not caring about his bandaged hand, Owen grasped Ianto's shirt and waistcoat, and ripped the fabric apart, buttons flying everywhere.

They all realised how serious the situation must be if Jack didn't even make a lewd comment about Owen stripping Ianto so vigorously.

Whoa!” The doctor jumped back instinctively, the girls cried out, and Jack gasped in outright shock.

In horror, they all stared onto the skin of Ianto's stomach. Something was moving under his flesh.

What is that?!” Tosh breathed in horrified disgust and alarm.

I'll find out,” Owen declared through gritted teeth.

Here, the scanner!” Gwen had hurried over to hand Owen the scanner again.

No time to wait for results. That thing could kill him. Hold him!”

With Jack holding down Ianto's shoulders, Gwen and Tosh dashed over to hold Ianto's arms and legs while Owen firmly grasped the laser-scalpel, one of his latest toys that had fallen through the Rift.

Before Jack could protest, the doctor had made a clean, deep cut across Ianto's stomach, adamantly ignoring the painful screams his colleague emitted.

Shit!” Gwen cried, and they all stared in fascinated horror onto the gash in Ianto's abdomen where a small head suddenly peeked from the bloody cut.

Ianto's shocked, hyperventilating breathing when he saw what was happening snapped Jack from his trance.

Owen, you hold him, I'll take care of that thing, it can't hurt me.”

Swapping places with the doctor, Jack quickly and without thinking reached into the wound, no time for even pulling on a glove or disinfect his hand. His fingers touched something cool and writhing, and he wanted to recoil in disgust while he adamantly tried to ignore Ianto's agonised cries. Pushing his hand in further, his fingers closed around the thing, and he pulled. Thankfully, the being didn't seem to have its teeth or whatever locked into one of Ianto's organs if the pained whimpers of the young man were any indication – ripping the thing free from his flesh would have elicited a much more violent reaction otherwise.

Relieved, Jack tugged some more until he had pulled his hand from Ianto's body again, a wriggling, ugly worm-like creature held tightly in his fist.

In quick-thinking, Tosh dashed over to one of the tables where an empty containment box was placed. She brought it over so that Jack could drop the creature in.

A collective sigh of relief was the team's reaction when the lid was firmly placed onto the box, safely locking away the thing.

Now get out.” Owen snapped from his trance as well, and rounded the table again to reach Ianto's wound. “Tosh, you can assist me.”

But...”

Get out, Jack.”

It's okay,” Ianto managed faintly before the Captain could protest again. Grasping Ianto's weak hand tightly in his, Jack bend down over Ianto to be directly in his line of sight.

You sure?”

Yeah. Let Owen do his job.”

Jack returned the small smile Ianto threw him before he bend down further to kiss him quickly. “I'll wait for you upstairs.”

Okay. Coffee will have to wait for a while, I'm afraid, Sir.”

We'll survive.”

Smiling his charming Captain's grin, Jack once more kissed Ianto firmly on the lips, not caring about the blood clinging to them. Then, he straightened, and ushered Gwen back up into the main part of the Hub.

 

Although he tried, he couldn't concentrate on any paper work. He had tried, really, but in the end, he had given up, and started pacing his office like a caged tiger.

Jack spun around when the door to his office simply flew open, and Owen marched inside. Jack had never been so happy to see the doctor who looked grim, but nodded an all-clear at him.

Jack's shoulders sagged in relief.

He's out of the woods,” the doctor explained. “There was some internal bleeding since that thing had already started to eat him alive, but it's nothing that won't heal again. And thanks to the laser-scalpel, there won't even be a scar on his stomach.”

He couldn't help himself; Jack collapsed onto the old sofa in his office. Shakily, he raked his fingers through his hair.

Do you know what that thing is? Or how he contracted it?”

No. To both. It's obvious that it's some kind of alien parasite. And since it's impossible to tell where he caught it, I want to examine all of you thoroughly. And yes, even you, Jack.”

Obviously, Jack was so distraught by what could almost have happened to his lover that he only nodded without even an ounce of protest. Probably, Owen thought, not because he feared for his own health but because he was afraid that maybe he could infect Ianto somehow with another one of these things if he was the one carrying it inside himself.

Owen snorted. He didn't care for Jack's motivations, only that the Captain did as he was told.

You can see him now,” he forestalled Jack's next very obvious question.

Smiling a relieved smile at Owen, Jack dashed from the room.

 

Within a few moments, he was back in the Med Bay. He met Ianto's tired, drawn gaze, but the younger man at least seemed free of any lingering pain.

How are you?” he asked, rushing over to Ianto's side, and grasping his cool hand firmly between his, caressing Ianto's cheek with the other.

Felt better,” Ianto replied hoarsely. “But I'll live.”

Jack beamed at him, even if his smile turned out a little watery. “That's my Ianto.” He raised Ianto's hand to his lips, and pressed a firm kiss onto his knuckles. “We'll find out what that thing was.”

Ianto shrugged weakly. “Does it matter now? I only hope none of the others infected themselves with that thing.”

Owen's already on it. Your only concern right now should be recovering.”

Quickly, Jack bend down to kiss away Ianto's obvious impending protest. “That's an order,” he clarified, knowing his lover only too well.

Sighing, Ianto relaxed back, and nodded, for once not putting up any resistance.

His smile more bright and carefree this time, Jack brushed his hand through Ianto's hair, laughing as the irritated Welshman reached up a weak arm to swat Jack's hand away.

Bending down to press a kiss onto Ianto's forehead, Jack carefully helped him to sit up. “Come on. You can crash in my bed for a few hours, and then I'll take you home.”

Nodding mutely, Ianto let Jack help him up the stairs.

 

Jack couldn't stop thinking about the alien parasite. They had made numerous tests and done research in the Archives to identify the beast, but to no avail. By now, the thing had perished, probably because it couldn't survive outside of a host's body for long. Good riddance, but nonetheless, Jack wanted to know what the thing could have possibly done to Ianto apart from starting to eat him from the inside.

He shuddered at the thought.

So far, Owen's tests hadn't resulted in anything, neither any damage to Ianto nor that any of the others had contracted the parasite. That at least was reassuring, but nonetheless, Jack worried.

And of course, there was no way to reconstruct where Ianto could have infected himself with the parasite. If they knew what it was, knew how long it took to grow inside a body, then they could have retraced Ianto's movements to the location he caught it, but as it was... The only thing they could do was keep their eyes open for any unusual hospital admissions as maybe more people had infected themselves with such a thing. But on the other hand, maybe it was just a parasite that beings like Weevils carried, and Ianto had come too close to a Weevil during one of their latest hunts. Who knew.

But somehow, Jack knew that he had seen the thing once before, but he couldn't remember...

At least, and that was the most important thing, Ianto got better. The lingering pain and soreness because of the damage to his organs was held in check by Owen's special alien painkillers, and Jack even managed to convince – sometimes force – Ianto to take it easy for a while. Ianto must be in more discomfort than he let on when he followed Jack's orders so docilely.

After a few days, Ianto was mostly all right again, although Jack wanted to leave him in the Hub for a few more days, not wanting to risk his lover's health during field work – needless to say, Ianto had a completely different opinion to that, but no matter how much he seethed or glared at Jack or even threatened to put him on instant coffee, Jack remained adamant, backed up by an equally as adamant, snarky Owen.

Hoping to reconcile with the still moping Welshman, Jack made his way to the Archives straight away after he and Gwen returned from an incredibly boring retrieval this morning.

Arriving in Ianto's office down here, Jack watched the young man for a little while as he was so engrossed in his work that he hadn't even noticed Jack turning up. His heart started beating faster, and suddenly felt like a caged bird in his chest as he drank in the sight before him; Ianto whole and healthy. He didn't want to admit to himself how happy that made him.

Shaking his head to get rid of the maudlin thoughts, Jack softly stepped into the room, frowning when Ianto unconsciously rubbed his chest as if in pain. But at that moment, the young man heard Jack entering the office, and looked up. He glared at him, but could only maintain his ire for a short moment before his face morphed into a crooked, happy smile at seeing Jack.

Something I can do for you, Sir?” he asked cheekily, and didn't let Jack out of his sight as the Captain leaned against Ianto's desk with his arms crossed before his chest while returning Ianto's intense gaze.

Nah,” he said, shrugging dismissively. “Just wanted to see your face.”

Ianto cocked a dry eyebrow, feigning innocent confusion. “You could have made use of the CCTV I know you have pointed at my desk for that.”

The corners of Jack's lips twitched. “Okay, maybe I'd like more than see your face.”

Oh,” Ianto breathed with innocently wide eyes. “Pray tell, Sir, what could that be?”

Jack pushed himself away from the desk, and slowly advanced on the young man sat behind it. Bringing strong hands to Ianto's shoulders, he started kneading the rather stiff muscles. He shivered as the groan Ianto let out went straight to his groin. He looked down onto him, watching as Ianto closed his eyes in bliss, and leant his head back against Jack's stomach.

Harder, Jack,” he breathed contentedly which earned him a chuckle from Jack.

Your wish is my command, Mr. Jones,” he grinned, although he wished the words had been uttered in a rather different context. But they were slowly getting there, he supposed.

He looked down again when Ianto made a small noise, and he saw him rubbing his chest again. “You okay?” Jack frowned.

Hm?” Ianto opened his eyes to look up at Jack from upside down. “'M fine.”

You're rubbing your chest for the second time now. Any pains you want to tell me about?”

No,” Ianto replied smoothly. “I suppose only phantom pains. I still think I can feel that thing inside of me.”

Jack frowned a little harder, and decided to keep a close eye on Ianto, and if he caught him rubbing his chest one more time, he would drag him to Owen, kicking and screaming if need be. After all, he knew how adept the younger man was at playing down any pains he had...

But for now...

He leaned down, his hands coming to a stop on Ianto's shoulders, and he huskily breathed in his ear, “Maybe you'd rather have something else moving inside of you, hm?”

A shudder went through Ianto as Jack's warm breath tickled his ear and cheek, and his eyes fell shut again in blissful anticipation. “That was awful, Jack,” he murmured.

Can't be if it's what you want.”

Ianto chuckled at hearing the smugness in Jack's voice. “Yeah. I'm afraid you're right.”

I can be right for a change as well.” And with that, Jack suddenly spun Ianto around in his office chair, and moved in to straddle his lap while, at the same time, Ianto wrapped his arms around Jack's neck to pull him into a deep kiss.

Oh yes,” Jack breathed against Ianto's lips, “you want it bad.” And he ground his ass down into the hard bulge straining Ianto's trousers.

Blissful sensations spread through Ianto which prevented him from answering. Dragging his hands down Jack's hard pectorals, they came to rest on the belt and fly of Jack's trousers.

Moaning in anticipation, Jack pressed down harder; he couldn't wait to feel naked skin on naked skin, or even better, feeling Ianto moving inside of him.

Ianto's own breathless moans were music to his ears, and he brought his hands to good use to elicit more of them.

But suddenly, Ianto cried out, and the noise didn't sound anything like pleasure. Alarmed, Jack looked down, and found his lover's face scrunched up in pain. And he was clutching at his chest, right where his heart was.

Ianto?!” Jack asked urgently. “Ianto, talk to me.”

But Ianto just shook his head. “Hurts,” he choked out, and tried to curl in on himself.

Jack would have loved nothing more than wrap Ianto in his arms, but that wouldn't make it any better.

Therefore scrambling from Ianto's lap, Jack carefully dragged him to the ground where he wanted to lay him flat, but Ianto shook his head frantically.

Can't breath,” he rasped.

Nearing a panic attack, Jack sat down on the floor with Ianto, and pulled him tightly against him, back to chest, and started rubbing Ianto's chest gently.

Owen,” he screamed into his comms. “Get down here. I think Ianto has a heart attack.”

Colourful cursing reached his ear before Owen severed the connection.

The waiting, even if it would be just a few moments, was torture for Jack. The soft whimpers Ianto emmitted tore at his heart, and when Ianto's breathing became even more laboured, Jack's panic started to mount again.

Not waiting for Owen, he shuffled Ianto around until he cradled him in his arms. The younger man was clutching at Jack's arms, his eyes wide with fear because he couldn't get enough air into his lungs. Hastily, Jack breathed in deeply, and then pressed his mouth over Ianto's, forcing his breath into the younger man's lungs and hopefully some of his life energy as well. It had worked with Carys, hadn't it, so why not with Ianto.

It really did seem to work; Ianto gulped in a deep breath when Jack pulled back, and Jack could make out a faint golden shimmer shining through the flesh and muscles of Ianto's throat.

His shoulders sagged in relief. At least his infinite life energy was good for something. He was only glad that the fickle energy coursing through his body had played along with Jack's intentions since it wasn't always the most reliable when he wanted to do something like this.

Cuddling Ianto tightly against him, the younger man still clinging to him like a lifeline while he took in deep breaths, they waited for Owen.

Just a few seconds later, the medic raced into the room.

He exchanged one look with Jack who gently pried Ianto from him so that Owen could do his work.

 

How are you feeling?” Jack asked softly, caressing Ianto's cheek while he tried not to think about the fact that his lover was lying severely ill in the Med Bay, his face sickly pale, and his hair slightly damp with cold sweat. Owen had hooked him up to various infusions and technical devices that would hopefully help the young man. At least he could breathe again properly.

I'm still feeling strange. Feels like a caged bird fluttering in my chest,” Ianto ground out, trying to breathe deeply and controlled while he still rubbed his hand over his chest absent-mindedly. “But the pain has gone,” he assured Jack.

The Captain frowned since he didn't believe Ianto completely, and he suddenly felt guilty. He shouldn't have accepted Ianto's reassurance that he was fine. He knew the other man, after all! He should have dragged him up to Owen without further discussion. Not contribute to his condition by jumping his bones.

But he didn't call Ianto out on his behaviour, and also violently ignored the guilt gnawing at him. Instead, he leaned in to press a gentle kiss to the clammy brow, and smiled at him. “Try to sleep a little. I'm going to talk to Owen. We'll sort this out. I promise.”

Ianto nodded, and actually did what he was told, closing his eyes obediently.

Jack took the time to look at his young lover for a few long minutes. A sudden shivver of foreboding shook his whole body while looking at Ianto.

He had to talk to Owen. He needed the brutal truth about Ianto's condition.

 

One look into Owen's eyes when Jack came into the boardroom told the Captain enough. This was serious.

What's wrong with him?” he asked more calmly than he felt, and slowly sat down at the head of the table.

Not meeting Jack's eyes for a moment but staring at the polished table top in front of him, Owen sighed softly.

Pulling himself together, the medic finally looked Jack straight in the eye, not without a very well hidden amount of sympathy. “His heart is badly damaged, Jack.”

Owen's words echoed through the otherwise silent room like a death sentence.

W-what?” Gwen eventually managed to get out. “But... How? He's so young.”

Owen looked at her pointedly. “It's not a natural cause, Gwen. A few days ago, he was completely healthy.”

The parasit,” Tosh realised darkly.

Yes, in all likelihood.” Owen nodded, and then shrugged.” My guess is that it's some kind of bacteria the thing excretes with its saliva or waste that then attacks the human heart for God knows what purpose.”

If we could only identify the parasit,” Jack sighed grimly. “Maybe then we'd know how to treat Ianto.” He looked at Owen, then Tosh questioningly. “Or can you develop a cure working with that thing's remains?”

The medic and the genius looked at each other.

Maybe,” Tosh started carefully, but Owen interrupted her immediately.

He has no time left.”

What do you mean, he has no time left?” Gwen demanded.

Suddenly agitated, Jack jumped up. “Can't you...”

Whatever you want to say, Jack, no. His heart's already too damaged. He needs a new one. Now.”

The damning news seemed to pull the ground from underneath Jack's feet as he realised how badly off Ianto really was. He suddenly felt numb and weak-kneed, but resisted the urge to sink back down into his chair. He needed to stay strong right now.

Where are we supposed to get a heart from?!” Gwen gasped in shock.

Take mine,” Jack said immediately, feeling better as he suddenly saw a chance for Ianto, and even more importantly, a chance that Jack himself could give him instead of being condemned to sit by idly while Ianto suffered.

Shocked silence answered him, but looking at his determined face, the team realised he was dead serious.

Jack! No!” Gwen protested nonetheless, but stopped short when the Captain's head swivvelled around to glare at her.

And why not? I have blood type 0, that makes me an universal donor, doesn't it? And I will grow a new heart anyway.”

Owen nodded. “That's probably Ianto's only chance.”

“But...” Gwen was gnawing on her lower lip defiantly. “What will happen when Ianto has your heart? Can he... contract your immortality?”

“No.” Jack shook his head decidedly. “My immortality can't be passed on in any way like an illness or my DNA.”

This is dangerous nonetheless,” Tosh threw in instead. “What if Ianto's body rejects the new heart?”

He will die anyway, Tosh.” Owen shrugged, stating it as it was.

Good. Then that's settled.” Jack nodded grimly. “Get to it immediately.” And with that, he turned around to march from the boardroom, probably to go tell Ianto the good news that there was a chance to save him.

Jack!” Owen snapped imploringly. “I can't do this.” He held up his bandaged hand for emphasis. “And even with, say, Martha's help, I still can't do this,” the doctor cut off Jack's very obvious next strain of thought. “I'm not qualified for something like this. What we need is a heart surgeon.”

Jack's face fell for a second, and he looked at him for a moment so intensely that even the obstinate doctor started to squirm uncomfortably after a while. Then, Jack nodded curtly. “I'll get him one.”

And with that, the Captain spun around, and stormed from the boardroom.

Jack!” Owen hurried after him. “How do you plan to convince some hapless heart surgeon to operate a man that came out of the blue in a cloak and dagger operation? Convince them to give him a heart that came out of the blue as well. You wanna hold your weapon to their head to persuade them?!”

If I have to!” Jack grimly called back over his shoulder without stopping. “We can retcon them after.”

Owen cursed colourfully, but, to be truthful, Ianto didn't have another chance of surviving.

 

The results of a hasty but thorough research turned up Dr. Frank Burns as Ianto's best possible chance here in Cardiff. Jack had wanted to keep looking, if need be fly in the best from the end of the world, but Owen made it clear that Ianto hadn't that much time.

So, reluctantly, Jack agreed to place Ianto's life in the hands of this man he didn't even know. After being told their plan, Ianto assured Jack that it would be fine which, at least, managed to make Jack feel a bit better. After all, this was about Ianto, not him, even if he got the feeling that Ianto was only saying so to soothe Jack, not himself.

Hacking into the surgeon's calendar, Tosh could assert Jack that the doctor hadn't any pressing surgeries today, but locating his mobile showed that he was still at the hospital even if it was half past ten in the evening.

Carefully bundling Ianto into the SUV, the whole team made their way to the hospital.

You really want to just go in there, and force him to do it? Just like that?” Gwen mumbled when they parked the SUV in the hospital parking area, staring up at the hospital's tall building thoughtfully where only a few windows were still lit.

Jack's only answer was cocking his Webley.

Maybe you should let me talk,” Gwen hastily scrambled from the car after Jack who was on his way around the SUV to help Ianto out.

Since the young man sensed the worry for him that Jack practically oozed, he didn't call him out on his mothering. He simply gifted Jack with a grateful smile, and let the Captain assist him.

I'll do the talking. And Owen will back me up with the medical babble.” Jack didn't even look at Gwen when he answered her, and instead, after pressing a kiss against Ianto's temple before leaving him in Tosh's hands, made his way over to the hospital entrance swiftly, expecting his team to follow him eventually.

Owen, hot on his heels, followed the Captain inside while the others took their time in regards for Ianto's condition.

Not stopping to talk to night shift, only smiling a polite smile and otherwise looking busy and important, they made their way to the third floor.

Even Owen winced when Jack simply barged into Frank Burns' office without even knocking.

The surgeon, a middle-aged bloke with rusty-red hair and freckles on his nose that made him look painfully young startled when Jack stormed into his office.

 

Owlishly, Frank Burns stared at the strange man in the old-fashioned clothes and military-style greatcoat. The protest about this rude barging-in died in his throat when his keen eyes spotted the pistol strapped to the man's hip. He swallowed heavily, and turned wide eyes up again to meet the man's frighteningly determined eyes.

Doctor Frank Burns?”

He nodded although he wished he could shake his head no instead.

The tension seemed to bleed form the stranger's tightly drawn body a little.

I'm Captain Jack Harkness. We're Torchwood. And we need your help.”

Burns blinked at the man – American obviously, according to his accent – owlishly again while he tried to digest the unexpected words thrown his way.

Torchwood. That name rang a bell. Some classified special unit of the government's that was more or less an open secret in Cardiff, right? But what the Hell could they need his help for?!

Another man suddenly stepped forward whom he hadn't noticed at all in the wake of the other man's imposing presence.

I'm doctor Owen Harper,” the skinny man introduced himself, shoving past the other one to come to stand in front of Burns' office desk. He sat down in one of the chairs placed in front of the desk uninvited, and, like the other man, didn't waste his time with any niceties like maybe shaking hands. Instead of sitting down beside his colleague, the man with the coat went back to the door. A few seconds later, three more people entered the room; two women who had a young man in their midst who, upon closer inspection, didn't look all that well.

The leader of this group – and military-coat was clearly their leader – stepped up to the young man, and gently led him over to the comfortable sofa in one corner of Burns' office. Only when he had the man settled on the couch did he turn back to Burns again. Almost meekly now, even if he seemed reluctant to do so, he sat down in the other chair in front of the desk. The women remained standing in the background, trying not to seem too threatening even if Burns could spot their weapons also.

Well,” doctor Harper continued with the conversation. “As Captain Harkness already told you, we need your help. My colleague over there,” and there, Harper indicated the young man on the couch, “needs your expertise, and even if I were qualified to do a job like yours, I couldn't.” For emphasis, he held up a bandaged hand.

Burns felt himself grow a little calmer again while he thought furiously. Okay, they needed his help. And although they were armed – and awfully rude – surely a governmental organisation wouldn't do him a ny harm... But why the secrecy? He cleared his throat, and nodded in understanding, prompting them to go on.

He needs a new heart,” Captain Harkness threw in, his left knee wobbling nervously up and down.

Burns' eyes bulged. Then, he swallowed again in trepidation. “Even... even if I could help you, where do you think I will get a compatible heart out of nowhere?”

He flinched when the Captain's eyes narrowed. “You can help us, doctor,” he emphasised, not making it sound like a threat exactly, but it wasn't a friendly request either. “And don't worry about a compatible heart. We already have one.”

Burns frowned. “Listen, Captain,” he said, his voice sounding way more confident than he felt. “I believe you that your colleague needs help, but I don't want any trouble.” And it could only mean trouble when a secret government organisation came barging into his office in the middle of the night, requesting, no, demanding, an impromptu heart operation with a mysterious donor heart they happened to have with them. He didn't even want to know where they had procured it from.

The Captain's eyes narrowed again – this time, Burns steeled himself to withstand that menacing look –, and opened his mouth to no doubt try to convince Burns again when a pained gasp from the direction of his sofa made them all freeze in their tracks.

The Captain and his doctor were out of their chairs in the blink of an eye, closely followed by Burns who, at that moment, acted purely on instinct. There was a man needing his help, sod the consequences helping these people would maybe bring.

Doctor Harper made way for Burns, but the Captain remained kneeling in front of the young man, rubbing his shaking fingers between his hands, and mumbling soothing words of comfort.

With swift, proficient movements, Burns examined the man.

What's your name?” he asked softly while taking the man's pulse; it was fluttering like a caged bird, and he was pressing his free hand against his chest, over his heart.

Ianto,” the Captain answered in the young man's stead.

All right, Ianto. I need you to take deep breaths. Try to calm down, you understand me?”

Ianto nodded, and did as he was told. After a few moments, his heart rate slowed down again, he visibly recovered, and all present breathed a sigh of relief.

Still looking Ianto over, Burns addressed doctor Harper. “What can you tell me about his condition? Is it congenital?”

No,” Harper shook his head. Burns had thought as much, but needed to ask anyway.

Okay, then what happened to him?”

The Captain and Harper looked at each other, suddenly unsure, when Ianto spoke up at the same moment Captain Harkness snapped a well-practised “It's classified”.

I caught a top-secret experimental virus,” his patient explained, his Welsh-accented, dark voice rough from pain. “The heart problems are the aftereffects.”

Burns narrowed his eyes. Surely, this wasn't the whole truth, but this young man with his, even while in pain, incredibly good poker-face, was so convincing that Burns decided to believe the story for the moment since he couldn't proof otherwise.

Please, doctor Burns.”

The pleading, almost desperate voice caused him to look at Harkness, startled. All haughtiness or demanding behaviour was gone, and Burns suddenly looked into the eyes of a man who was scared and at his wits' end.

Please,” Harkness repeated, looking Burns in the eyes beseechingly. “He needs you.”

Astonished, Burns stared at the Captain, and then his gaze strayed down to where Harkness clasped Ianto's hand, the other arm wrapped protectively around the young man. And suddenly, he knew what this young Welshman meant to the Captain, and for the first time since the man had barged into his office, Burns saw him as a human. A man who would do anything to save the man he obviously loved, or at least cared for very deeply.

Slowly, probably against his better judgement, Burns nodded.

All right. I'll help you.” And he watched all tension bleed from Harkness' body, letting him appear smaller and incredibly vulnerable. Slightly shaking, Harkness craned his neck to press a kiss against Ianto's temple.

Burns averted his eyes to give them a moment of privacy. He caught doctor Harper's eye. “You need to answer a few more questions, doctor, but if Ianto's condition is as urgent as you make it out to be, we need to operate immediately.”

God, that went so far against procedure or what he had ever experienced that Burns believed himself to be trapped in a bad movie.

Harper nodded. “W hat do you need?”

Doctor Harper proceeded to hastily fill in a few blanks, even if Burns still doubted the validity of some of the information he was given. But no matter if they told the truth or not, it was obvious that Ianto now paid the prize for whatever had happened if Burns didn't help him. For now, Burns had all the information he needed, he had a clear picture about his patient's medical state, and he had doctor Harper's test results. How exactly Ianto's condition had been caused wasn't Burns' problem at the moment as long as they could assure him that it wasn't contagious, posing a threat to the public. He even, right this moment, didn't care where this mysterious donor heart had come from. Ianto was his sole priority right now.

I need someone to assist me,” he stated, and prepared for a battle of wills with Harkness.

The Captain looked mulish, biting his lower lip, but then came to a quick decision. “Do you have people you can trust?”

Of course!” Burns exclaimed, barely refraining from throwing up his hands in exasperation. How paranoid where these people?!

Good. Then call them.” Harkness nodded, and then ignored Burns in favour of Ianto again.

Nodding as well, Burns called Daria, his most promising protégé, and Luke, one of the surgery nurses he had worked with for years. If they were startled to have been called into surgery in the middle of the night so unexpectedly, they didn't let it show, they were too professional for that.

They will be here in about ten minutes,” Burns explained, looking at Harper who nodded briskly in understanding. “Any special requirements?”

Harper nodded. “We need a surgery room with two surgery tables.”

Burns cocked an eyebrow, for one horrifying second thinking that they would drag the mysterious donor in here, and force Burns and his team to remove the heart from them while still alive, right here, right now. The thought vanished as soon as it had come, but it nonetheless left Burns' own heart beating a little faster afterwards.

A few minutes later, Daria and Luke arrived, and, after a hesitant look at Harper and the Captain, the Torchwood people proceeded to tell them an even more watered-down version of the story than had been given to Burns himself. His two colleagues were clearly sceptical, but they trusted him, and so the three of them set about preparing the surgery room, themselves, and then readied Ianto for the surgery. Doctor Harper accompanied them as did Harkness after the Captain had instructed one of the women to stand guard before the door while the Japanese woman stood guard inside the surgery room, probably to make sure Burns and his team really cooperated.

Burns just wanted to open his mouth to tell Harkness that it wouldn't be such a good idea to be present at the surgery since it could be quite a shock for the man to witness his lover being cut open, when, much to Burns' own shock, Harkness jumped up on the second surgery table after he had kissed Ianto for one last time, so intense and with heartfelt emotion as if he feared it would be the last time he had the chance for that.

W-what... what do you think you're doing?” Burns stammered. By now, Daria and Luke, who had been in the process of preparing the narcosis for their patient, became aware of what was happening as well. Their eyes widened in shock. Where was the cool box with the donor heart?

Harkness met Burns' eyes. “He'll get my heart.”

The doctor and his two assistants stared at the man, not believing what they were hearing here.

Surely... You can't,” Daria stammered, but aborted her words for anything better to say.

I can't allow this,” Burns said with determination, but met an equally determined spirit in the Captain. He had been prepared to accept a mysterious donor heart, but this... this was murder!

You can, and you will,” Harkness said with authority. “This is my decision.”

Burns threw a helpless look at Ianto who was already on the surgery table, but still awake. The young man nodded at him, but before Burns could direct his protest in Ianto's direction, Harkness' commanding voice made him turn his attention back to the other man. “This is not your decision, doctor, but mine alone.”

It is if I don't even know if your heart is healthy enough for this endeavour; I don't want two corpses instead of one if we were to go through with this crazy plan of yours,” Burns protested. “I don't even know your medical file, and I've barely taken a look at Ianto's. This is too fast. I can't possibly take responsibility for this suicide mission!”

Doctor,” Owen intervened. “This is our decision. We all know the risks, Ianto most of all, but he really doesn't have any time left. Without a new heart, he won't survive the night.”

Harkness swivvelled around to his employee, his blue eyes widened in shock. This had probably been news to him.

Burns pressed his lips together in a last attempt at resistance. How could he possibly allow Harkness to sacrifice his own life... There had to be another way. A way that wouldn't cause Burns to shy away from looking himself in the eye for the rest of his life.

And for Jack's heart,” Harper continued, brushing over Burns' moral scruples as if they weren't even there, “you won't find a healthier heart than his, trust me on that.”

Suddenly despondend, Burns looked from one Torchwood member to the other. How could they all be okay with that?! He could understand Harkness to an extent, it was obvious how much Ianto meant to him. But the rest... This wasn't even legal. Even this Torchwood couldn't be outside the laws!

He once more opened his mouth to protest, but Harkness must have realised his intent for the Captain jumped from the surgery table again, and drew his weapon. All present ceased breathing as Harkness pointed his gun at Burns' head. Although the doctor was terrified on the inside, he met Harkness' hard stare dead on.

I will do anything to save Ianto,” the Captain said calmly, his hand nor his gaze ever wavering. “It's hard to explain, doctor, but it will be fine. Don't worry about me.”

Burns' head reeled. What was that man telling him? Fine? He would be dead if they went through with the procedure.

But... deep down, Burns knew that Harkness meant what he'd said; that he would do everything to save this young man.

For a few agonising moments longer, the two men stared at each other, the only noises in the room their heavy, agitated breathing when all of the others seemed to hold theirs in anticipation. But then, since he realised that Burns wouldn't change their minds in this, he finally nodded wearily, prepared to run to his own doom tonight. But at least, even if his consciousness wasn't clear because he would knowingly allow Harkness to die on his watch, he at least would have saved one life...

Okay,” he finally conceded. “Let's do this.”

 

Burns tried to clear every emotion from his mind that could possibly distract him. Normally, it was like second nature to him; it was almost like a trance that he fell in when he operated, and nobody and nothing could ever disturb what he was concentrating on. But this time, he had to admit that it was very hard to find this inner equilibrium.

His hands shook minimally as he opened Harkness' thorax, very well aware that the man under his hands was almost conscious, and even worse, was completely healthy. If he took his heart, he would...

No. He couldn't think like that. He had agreed to do this, now he would.

The night would be hard enough as it was. A heart transplantation alone was tough work, but tonight, he wouldn't only have to transplant the heart, but would have to extract it from the donor first which was completely out of the norm.

Gritting his teeth, Burns reached inside Harkness' open chest to start the procedure.

 

Breathing heavily for a moment, Burns turned to the other surgery table. Doctor Harper had anaesthetised Ianto when Burns had put the finishing touches on Harkness.

He tried not to think of the man on the table behind him whose beating heart he had held in his hand a minute ago. Tried not to think about the dreadful noise of the ECG flatlining, and he could only breathe freely again when somebody turned the machine off.

Wanting to get this surreal, horrible night over with, he advanced on Ianto.

For a moment, Burns fidgeted with the unfamiliar device that Harper had convinced him to use. According to him, it was some kind of scalpel. A laser-scalpel of all things. Burns hadn't been sure if he should believe the Torchwood medic, had been on the verge of outright refusing using an unfamiliar instrument on a patient, but now, with Harkness' lifeless body behind him, with the body of the man he himself had murdered, he hadn't the will left to fight or question Torchwood. Like a docile lamb, he accepted what they were telling him this thing was.

At least, when he, under Harper's careful instructions, started operating this scalpel, the last of his doubts vanished when a bundled laser beam suddenly shot from the strange device, and effortlessly sliced through Ianto's skin and flesh.

Luke and Daria gasped in shocked surprise, but Burns was so numb by now that he wasn't even surprised any more. And, after all, he had to quickly find back into that state of equilibrium if he wanted to be at his best to help his patient.

Even if he and his colleagues were professionals, all three of them couldn't help the shocked noise they made when they saw Ianto's heart. The organ wasn't like anything they had ever seen. Doctor Harper had been right, the young man wouldn't have survived the night. His heart seemed to corrode slowly right in front of their eyes, however that was even possible. Any chance of a heterotropic transplantation where the old heart remained and would only be supported by the new heart was out of the question. Even leaving the atriums of the heart intact and just connecting them to the new heart was impossible. They had to remove everything. If not – and he agreed there with doctor Harper who feared that the decay of the heart stemmed from a bacterium that attacked the heart –, they risked this mysterious bacteria attacking the new heart as well.

Tightening his grip around the scalpel, Burns went to work once more.

 

Three hours later, it was over.

Relieved, Burns threw his rubber globes in the bin, and watched for a moment as Daria and Luke attempted to close Ianto's chest.

Slowly, he started to come out of his trance, and he looked around. Harper was still there, having supervised the whole time, and Burns wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt that he'd only done that out of concern for his colleague, not to monitor Burns and his team. The Japanese woman was gone though, as was Harkness' body.

A twinge of bitter guilt passed through Burns when he thought about the presumptous Captain, and for a moment, he wanted to rave and scream that he had ever given in to this madness. But... Looking down onto the young men on the operation table, a small spark of hope soothed his consciousness like a balm. It had been Harkness' decision to save a loved one. Burns just had to keep telling himself that to relieve his consciousness for the rest of his life. Then maybe, he would be some kind of fine eventually.

He shook his head violently to break through his gloomy thoughts.

“You can tell your colleagues that the surgery went well so far,” he informed Harper a little more briskly than intended, and the next words got stuck in his throat as he watched doctor approach the operation table, thus hindering Daria and Luke to sew closed the gapin cut in Ianto's chest.

“What are you doing?” Daria breathed, tired but with a determined fire propelling her forward.

“Just speeding up procedures a bit,” the scrawny doctor mumbled, and then, he set the laser-scalpel to Ianto's chest again, tracing the line of the cut, only in the reverse way.

That, finally, pulled Burns from his still slightly detached state as he and his stunned colleagues watched as the wound closed seamlessly, not even one trace of the cut being left behind.

“Wha...” Luke spluttered, and Daria gaped like a fish out of water, but Burns, for now, shoved everything, including this, that had happened tonight into the farthest corner of his mind. He could have his breakdown at a later time.

Harper threw them all a look, one eyebrow cocked knowingly at their shocked faces, and then straightened again, tucking the laser-scalpel away.

“You can take him out of here now,” he addressed Daria and Luke, and, still stunned, they proceeded to do just that. Without any further questions, they transferred Ianto's sedated body onto a hospital bed that had been standing ready.

Burns and Harper followed shortly behind them as they left the surgery. “If he accepts the new heart, he should make a complete recovery,” he mindlessly rattled of a final diagnosis. “Actually, his condition has improved already slightly. To be frank, when I saw the state of his heart, I wasn't sure if he would survive, he was too weak for the procedure in the first place, but now...” Burns shook his head when he thought back on Ianto's heart that had been literally falling apart right in front of their eyes. “We had to take out the whole heart,” he explained further as they left the surgery, and rolled the hospital bed into the corridor, thus more informing the two remaing Torchwood members waiting there of what had been done than Harper who had been present after all. “Otherwise, the risk of infection with whatever damaged Ianto's original heart to the new supporting heart would have been too great.”

“What a pity,” a male voice suddenly said, and Burns' head snapped around. His eyes widened in shock. “With two hearts, I would have gotten my own personal Time Lord,” Harkness joked. He earned himself a round of eye-rolling from his colleagues, and a muttered, “Don't let Ianto hear that you compare him to a Time Lord” from Harper.

The only thing the three medics could do was stare at the man that should have been dead. They remained paralysed for a few moments. The paralysing shock was even stronger than the sudden urge to jump back in hysteria when that impossible apparition advanced on them.

“Thank you, doctor Burns,” Harkness said, utter gratefulness oozing from every pore, and he held out his hand to Burns.

The doctor congratulated himself on keeping it together enough not to flinch back when Harkness offered his hand.

Trembling badly, Burns grasped it. “You're welcome,” he forced out, and met Harkness' amused, knowing gaze.

“We should talk,” the Captain said after letting go of Burns' hand who snatched it back as if having been given an electric shock.

He swallowed heavily, but already, he was feeling lighter, the heavy guilt that had been crushing him only moments before about Harkness death and Burns' role in it fading already. “Yes,” he answered slowly. “I think we do.”

Nodding with satisfaction, Harkness then turned to the unconscious man in the hospital bed, seemingly forgetting everything around him the moment he gently picked up Ianto's hand to cradle it in his own.

Still shell-shocked, Burns watched his jittery co-workers roll the hospital bed down the corridor to take Ianto to ICU for further monitoring.

 

Ianto felt warmth encompass him like a gentle embrace. Bright light burned beyond his closed eyelids so that all he could make out for a moment was a reddish hue that brightened up the darkness.

The unmistakable sensation of painfully gentle lips pressing to his forehead brought him out of his sluggish state.

Blinking, he opened his eyes.

The light shining into his face was bright, but it didn't hurt his eyes. Framed by it was a face leaning over him, staring down at him with a gentle, all-knowing smile.

Confused, Ianto sat up slowly, and stared in awe at the woman that kneeled next to his prone body. She wore a pink hooded jacket and jeans, nothing overly special, but it fit her age. She seemed so young, but at the same time, impossibly old. Her blond hair shone like gold in the light surrounding them, and her eyes...

Ianto sucked in a surprised breath.

Her eyes swirled with golden light, always moving, changing, like a maelstrom.

She couldn't possibly be human, could she?

“Who are you?” he asked, his voice echoeing loudly in the space around them, in the nothingness around them, he realised with slight panic. Nothing but this gentle, warm light surrounded them. What was this place? Was he dead?

That must be it. He hadn't survived the surgery. It all came back to him now; surely that was why he had died, and had been brought to this place... whatever it was. Hadn't Owen said there was nothing in the aftermath? So...

“You're not dead,” she chuckled so as if she'd read his mind.

“Then... where am I? And who are you?” he repeated, staring pointedly at her.

Instead of an immediate answer, she got to her feet, and pulled him up with her with a surprising amount of strength.

“I'm a friend,” she told him.

Wow. Now that really helped alleviate his confusion.

Nonetheless, he believed her. He didn't sense any ill will on her part. On the contrary. He felt love emanating from her in waves. But love for whom? For him? Surely not. He didn't even know her although he somehow felt that he maybe should.

And then, the other emotion he felt was regret, sadness even. But he couldn't say what she regretted or was sad about. Maybe she had been wrong, and he was dead after all, and that's why she was sad...

Not reassuring him this time that he really was alive, she raised her hands, and cupped his face. They were warm, but at the same time, her hands felt like air, so as if she wasn't really there.

“I saw into my Jack's future, and I only saw loss and pain,” she then said, much to Ianto's surprise.

He frowned. “Jack? Jack Harkness?”

She nodded. “I can't undo what I did to him, it is already done, but I can ease his pain.”

Not really understanding what she was on about, Ianto latched onto the only thing he did understand. “How?” he asked. “I want to help.”

A smile crooked her lips, and she nodded in approval. “You already do. By living.”

Cocking her head, she gently caressed Ianto's cheeks, contemplating him, but at the same time looking as if she wasn't seeing him but somebody else. Probably Jack.

“He has so much love to give,” she smiled wistfully. “His heart is so big that, in an action of love, he could move mountains.” Strangely, she put her hand onto Ianto's chest, directly over his heart. “And this is an action of love. What I did to him was an act of love, too, but I condemned him. What he now did for you out of love therefore shall deliver him.”

“I... don't understand...”

She didn't elaborate on her cryptic comment, just raised her hand again back to his face, and smiled.

Ianto startled, when she applied gentle pressure to pull him slightly down to her so she could press another kiss to his forehead.

“Take care of him for me.” Her voice sounded as if it was all around him now, inside of him, echoeing through this strange place, and at the same time, it started to fade.

Pulling back from her, Ianto frowned as she, too, started fading into the light. The last he saw of her was her bright, encouraging smile and her golden-glowing eyes.

Then, everything became white.

 

He struggled to open his eyes.

The light of his... what, dream?... was gone, and instead, the first thing he saw was a white plaster ceiling. A weak sun was shining through the blinds of the room he lay in, but Ianto couldn't tell what time it was.

Pressure around his left hand drew his attention to the left, and then, he met Jack's bright eyes that were shining with unshed tears.

“Ianto,” he croaked, and the pressure around Ianto's hand tightened; it was Jack's hand that had closed firmly around his, Ianto realised.

“Jack,” he whispered weakly, his voice rough and his throat felt parched.

“Wait a sec.” Hastily, Jack reached over to the night stand with his free hand to get a cup of water that had been placed there.

With Jack's help, Ianto managed to drink a few sips of the cool water that felt like balm running down his throat.

“W-wha...” he cleared his throat when Jack had put the cup away. “What happened.”

After having settled down again properly in the chair next to Ianto's bed, Jack beamed at him, the quality of his smile so bright that it could have lit up the whole city.

“Surgery went well,” he explained. “You'll be fine.”

“And you?” A small frown dug itself between Ianto's brows. “After all, you...”

“No, no, I'm fine,” Jack assured quickly. “Never been better.”

“Good.” Ianto nodded slowly, contemplating everything that had happened.

Did that mean that he would live? That he would make a complete recovery?

That would mean he would get more time with Jack, right?

Suddenly, he remembered his dream. He remembered the blond woman and her cryptic words about Jack and acts of love. What had she been meaning to tell him? And anyway, it was just a dream, so why should her words, whoever she was, be important?

“Ianto?”

He startled, and met Jack's confused, worried gaze.

“'M fine,” he smiled, suddenly feeling a little detached. “Just a bit of woolgathering.”

“Okay. I suppose that's to be expected.” Jack cocked his head. “A lot has happened after all.”

“It has, hasn't it.”

“And to not repeat it, you'll take it nice and slow, Teaboy.”

Both men startled, and looked over to the door. Owen marched into the room, a ginger-haired man following him – wasn't that the heart surgeon Jack and Owen had ambushed to help him? Some parts of last night were a little blurry.

When the two doctors stopped next to Ianto's bed, Ianto blanched as he realised the whole extent of his situation. He would be stuck in a hospital while recovering, completely at Owen's mercy.

Oh wow. Wasn't that something to look forward to.

 

Only three days had passed since the surgery, and Ianto was already feeling so much better. In fact, he didn't feel ill at all, and thanks to the laser-scalpel, there wasn't even a scar that bore witness to what had happened to him. His body was accepting Jack's heart extremely well – so well in fact, that doctor Burns was completely baffled. But maybe that could be contributed to the alien meds Owen smuggled into the hospital to treat Ianto with without Burns noticing; he knew too much already, and hadn't been retconned yet. No need to shock the poor man any more than he already was. The other two medics who had assisted him with Ianto's surgery had already been given Retcon, but they still needed Burns to supervise Ianto's condition. And, actually, Ianto suspected Jack of offering the man a job or at least letting him keep his memories to have him as a liaison to Cardiff's hospitals for the future. Could come in handy to have someone on the outside who knew what was going on and would take care of them not pissing off even more people while doing their job (well, it didn't work so well with Gwen who was supposed to liaise between Torchwood and the police, but maybe it would with Burns and the NHS). Already, Ianto was conducting a list inside his head what would be necessary for Burns to keep his memories. Draw up a copy of the National Secrets Act for him to sign, then...

“Hello, Earth to Mr. Jones.”

Ianto startled, and looked at Jack with wide eyes. Smiling fondly, the Captain, after having gotten Ianto's attention reclined back in the chair he had occupied as his own in the last couple of days, rarely leaving Ianto's side, no matter who tried to gently stir him back to work.

“Sorry.” Ianto ducked his head as he smiled sheepishly.

“What were you thinking about?”

Ianto shrugged. “Just the amount of paperwork that'll await me back at the Hub.”

Mock-sternly, Jack wagged his finger at him reproachefully. “Oh no, you'll take it easy. Doctor's orders and Captain's orders. You can chose whose orders you'd rather defy, but I can't imagine even you would want to take on both of us.”

Sighing, Ianto nodded. “Probably not, no.”

“See.” Jack grinned smugly at him. “Actually, when I think about it, as soon as Owen comes back with your discharge papers, I'm taking you home, settling you on your sofa while I cook you a nice dinner. This is horrible.” Jack threw the tray with the remains of Ianto's lunch a disgusted look.

“Oh, wow,” Ianto chuckled dryly. “You're cooking for me? I'm sure the world must be ending.”

Jack sniffed at that. “I can cook, I'll have you know.”

Ianto's smile gentled. “I know. Thanks. Just didn't expect it.”

Jack winked at him. “Better get used to it.”

He could, actually. It was a nice thought, letting himself be pampered by Jack, but he would never tell him that out loud.

 

Darkness surrounded him.

But this time, there was no gentle light shining that would greet him when he opened his eyes. Just utter darkness.

Darkness like in...

Death.

Oh yes. He had died, hadn't he. Died in Jack's arms.

Shit.

All the trouble they'd gone to to save him from his failing heart. For nought.

The time he'd been given with Jack had been borrowed time after all. And he couldn't even say that it had been worth it, not with two of his co-workers, his family, really, dead, and them survivors scraping by on the skin of their teeth, still burdened down by grief, especially Jack. And not with the newest crisis, the fricking government wanting them all dead although they should rather think about stopping these aliens claiming millions of children rather than try to sweep it under the carpet.

What he'd had with Jack since then had only be short, stolen moments. Sparks of happiness in the cold darkness that each and every time had been snuffed out by the harsh reality ripping them back brutally.

Maybe it was for the better now...

Involuntarily, Ianto shivvered, amazed that – being dead and all – he could even shivver.

The cold was closing in on him, paralysing whatever remained of him in the afterlife.

“Ianto.”

He startled.

A voice echoed inside his mind, and with it, gentle warmth seeped back into his soul.

He knew that voice. It was... yes, it was the voice of the woman from his dream.

“Who are you really,” he breathed, once again awed at her presence even if now, he could only hear her voice.

“I am Bad Wolf,” she finally revealed her identity, and Ianto thought that the name should mean something to him, “and I have brought life, though with it pain. But remember,” she whispered imploringly, and suddenly the warmth grew stronger, chasing away the cold around him, “it was an act of love, and an act of love will now save you both.”

“I still don't understand!” Ianto wanted to reply, to shout, but he couldn't.

All of a sudden, through the warmth that seemed to shield him from the darkness encompassing him, he thought he could sense Jack's presense deep in his soul. A gentle pounding started, getting louder and louder, and ever faster and faster, and suddenly, Ianto realised it was the beating of his own heart. Fluttering like mad, it almost made him light-headed.

Then, a sharp, painful stab pierced through his heart, and his whole body reared up, gasping in a huge lungful of breath as he was ripped from the darkness.

Confused, overwhelmed and panicked, Ianto sank back down onto the hard surface he lay on, still hearing the mad hammering of his heart in his ears.

A blurry face suddenly appeared above him, golden mist like he had seen in Bad Wolf's eyes hindering him for a moment in getting a clear view. Blinking rapidly, Ianto realised it was Jack, his face ghost-white and his eyes wide as saucers as the Captain crouched next to him, frozen.

“Ianto?!”

Jack's voice was breathy and weak, sounding broken.

Ianto felt his lips pull up in a small smile, and once more, he became aware of the strong beating of his heart in his chest, the sound completely filling out his soul.

“My Jack,” he heard himself say, and his eyes widened because he hadn't wanted to say the words, and also, it wasn't only his voice that had spoken. That woman's voice, Bad Wolf's, had spoken alongside his own voice, placing the words into his mouth. “My Jack, I bring you life.”

Jack's mouth fell open in sudden shock as he stared at him.

“Rose?!”

End