Ianto's hands shook. He tried to make them stop, but they kept shaking every time he unclenched his fists.
He wasn't sure what to do. There was a body of a Weevil, and then there was the body... Well. Jack's body. He knew he should clean up the Weevil, but he didn't know about Jack. He didn't know what to do with Jack. What should he do? Did it matter? Should he clean up the Weevil first? He could clean up a Weevil by himself; it was certainly a feasible one-man job, but it would be so much easier with two. Though he didn't know when Jack would... wake up...
His shaking fingers drummed on the side of his leg as he looked between the two corpses.
He didn't like thinking of Jack as a corpse. Jack was always so... so alive. He shouldn't be a corpse.
With a shuddering breath, Ianto made to step past Jack. Really. He meant to go to the Weevil and haul it to the SUV on his own. Nobody would see—it was nearing midnight. Actually, even if it wasn't midnight, no one would be here anyway. If Ianto remembered correctly, Jack had mentioned this is where Owen accidentally used that little ghost machine. That meant this was a place of desolation.
But, the moment Ianto walked as far as Jack's midriff, he couldn't keep going. There was no way he could do things right, no way he could finish the job properly, not when the only think circulating around his numbed brain was Jack.
He crouched down next to Jack, trying to figure out what to do.
Jack was on his side, limbs splayed out akimbo. Hesitantly, Ianto put a hand on Jack's upward shoulder and pulled him onto his back. Ianto shuffled backwards as Jack tipped over, dead weight pulling him down.
His face looked wrong.
The Weevil had only struck Jack's torso (tearing out bits that Ianto much preferred were left inside Jack, for multiple reasons) and the face had been untouched, so, physically speaking, nothing was amiss. But that didn't mean that nothing was wrong. Everything was wrong with Jack's face.
Ianto had only seen Jack like this once, back when Owen had shot him. At least that had been through Jack's head, so there was visible evidence splattered across his visage. Traces to prove that Jack was truly dead when Ianto had looked at his wide-open and empty eyes.
Now, Jack's eyes were open and his face was placid, and there was nothing there to say it should be like that. If Ianto looked down to Jack's stomach, sure, there would be the proof. When he looked into Jack's eyes, though, there was nothing. Not a single thing.
And that was what Ianto hated. Because without the carnage, the smiles or the frustration or the rage or the pain that usually adorned Jack's face were just gone, which was absolutely appalling. Jack wasn't supposed to be without emotion. Jack was never without emotion. There was always something to prove how much Jack felt, even when he pretended he didn't feel. Always an emotion to show how alive Jack was. But not now. Absolutely nothing now.
Ianto supposed, deep down, that no matter how much he hated the lifeless mask Jack portrayed, he was otherwise glad there had been nothing repugnant embellishing Jack's face. He could avoid looking at Jack's abdomen, should he choose, but he'd never be able to look away from Jack's face. Perhaps that was the crux of the matter, because now he'd spend the entire time searching for signs of life when there clearly weren't any.
Speaking of time, how long was this for, anyway? It had only been maybe a few minutes after Owen had shot Jack, but after Abaddon... three days. Ianto couldn't wait three days down here. It'd only be a matter of hours before the next Weevil found them and tried to make a meal of them. Jesus, what was it with Weevils and Splott, anyway?
Somewhere, in the depths of his unfocused brain, Ianto decided that if they were going to be there a while, he should at least try to make Jack comfortable. For all he knew, it could be like sleep. Lay the wrong way for too long, and Jack could wake up with a terribly sore back and a crick in his neck.
Ianto attempted to arrange Jack's limbs into a less awkward position. It didn't look right, with some contemplation, so Ianto tried moving them to another pose. Ianto did this three times before it stuck with him that none of it was working the way he'd planned.
"What am I supposed to do?" he asked Jack. "I don't... you're... I just..."
With a sigh—or perhaps a small sob—he put his face in his hands.
This wasn't how his day was supposed to turn out. He was supposed to be down in the Archives, finally sneaking a peek at the artefact Tosh had been toying with for the past week. Then he was supposed to put it in a vaguely correct spot and move on with the rest of the to-be-archived artefacts. After, he'd have made the third and final coffee batch, went over all the administrative paperwork Jack had been neglecting for two weeks, and gone home. Probably would've showered and watched some shit telly before bed, or something.
Now, he just wondered if he was stuck here for the whole day, and if he was, what he would do. Because this was shit. Complete shit. Jack was dead, and he didn't know what to do to help. He didn't even know if he could help. That was almost as bad as Jack being dead, really. Ianto didn't know what to do but help. That was what he was for, wasn't it? To help Jack.
But this wasn't about Ianto. This was about Jack. So, no matter how hurt and terrified he was feeling, Ianto would just have to set it all aside.
When he'd had his moment to himself, Ianto pulled his face from his hands, composed himself, and looked back at Jack's empty and staring eyes.
He sighed again. This time he was almost sure it wasn't a sob. Almost.
"I don't know what to do with you, sir," he told Jack quietly. "But you can't tell me, so I'm going to have to guess."
Then he nodded to himself, and scooted over to kneel behind Jack's head.
Ianto had no easy way of lifting Jack up. Was he meant to scoop him up from behind and pull him up onto his lap? How long could Ianto hold him like that? Should he go from the side? Hell, could his knees even tolerate this? They should; he was still in his early twenties. God, he didn't have an old man's body already, did he?
Eventually, Ianto settled on his first idea, because it was the most formed plan in his head. Wasn't a good one, but it was developed, so he stuck with it.
Looping his arms under Jack's armpits, he half-dragged, half-lifted Jack up into his lap. Jack slipped down instantly, the incline of Ianto's knees too high and the pull of gravity too strong for him to balance.
"Sorry," Ianto said quickly. "Sorry."
He pulled Jack up again, but this time Jack's head got in the way, pressing into Ianto's stomach and not allowing Ianto to pull him up into a less awkward position.
Ianto frowned down at Jack's chin, trying to avoid the vacantly staring eyes. "I'm not sure how to move your head..."
After considering it a moment, Ianto recovered his arm from beneath Jack's left shoulder. Jack's left side slid down almost from Ianto's lap almost instantly, but managed to tilt Jack's head up enough that it made it possible for Ianto to slide Jack further up without Jack's head getting shoved into Ianto's stomach and hurting the both of them.
Ianto returned his arm under Jack's shoulder, then began pulling him back up. It went successfully, but it was awkward for Ianto to keep his hold like this. He had to sit on his heels to make the kneeling more comfortable.
"If I have mud on my arse," he muttered to Jack, "you're paying for the dry cleaning."
He had no doubt that if Jack was awake, Jack would make some stupid comment about how he always paid for dry cleaning, technically. And then Ianto would have to remind him that it was actually the Crown that paid for dry cleaning, as just because Jack was the boss did not mean the money came from him.
Ianto sighed. Jack stared up at nothing. Ianto bent over, pulling Jack even closer.
"Please come back," he whispered.
Ianto would later on learn that saying that had nothing to do with anything, resurrection-wise, but in that moment, when Jack's eyes suddenly focused on his face, Ianto swore it was because of his pleas.
And then he literally swore, because with a tremendous gasp, Jack shot upwards, crashing right into Ianto's face.
He slapped a hand to his face, holding the place where Jack's forehead had collided with his cheekbone. Jack rolled sideways from Ianto's lap to the ground, still gasping.
"Wait!" Ianto cried.
He reached his other hand out to Jack, stopping him from tipping over onto his stomach in his tumble. Ianto didn't want to think about what would happen if filth from the ground got into the gash in Jack's stomach.
When he managed to wrestle Jack onto his back, he immediately withdrew his hands and felt his eyes go wide in shock.
There wasn't a gash in Jack's stomach.
Sure, the shirt was a mess of torn fabric and blood and some specks of things Ianto would rather not see, but beneath that? Nothing but smooth skin. And a bit more blood, yes, but absolutely nothing else. No gash. No innards. Just skin.
"Jack!" Ianto exclaimed.
Jack groaned in response, long and loud, and Ianto remembered himself for long enough to stop gawping at Jack's stomach and start making sure Jack was alright. He knelt up, leaning over Jack.
"Sir?" he asked. "Are you alright?"
"What... what happened?" Jack asked. He sounded parched.
"Weevil, sir," Ianto said. "Got your stomach. I thought... I mean, you were..."
He licked his lips and then shut his mouth, unwilling to continue.
On the ground, Jack exhaled heavily, then made to sit up. Ianto instantly helped, pushing Jack up from behind. Jack made a strange, disgruntled groan in the back of his throat. Then he tilted his head one way, and the other, letting it his neck pop. Ianto winced at the sound both times. After what he'd witnessed not ten minutes earlier, any bodily noises from Jack's person were not appreciated.
Stiffly, very stiffly, Jack turned and looked over his shoulder.
"Let's... not with the 'sir,' alright?" Jack said.
Ianto blinked, startled by the softness in Jack's tone.
"You okay?" Jack asked.
"I should be asking you that," Ianto said. Well, he had asked Jack that, but Jack hadn't answered.
Jack shook his head, turning himself even more to face Ianto.
"I'm sorry," Jack said.
Ianto frowned, perplexed. "For what?"
"For..." Instead of finishing his statement, Jack gestured to himself. "That can't have been pleasant to see."
"That's not your fault," Ianto said, still frowning. "You couldn't help it."
Jack stared at him.
"Are you alright?" Ianto repeated when Jack had stared at him for what felt like ages.
"You didn't leave."
"Was I supposed to?"
Jack shook his head quickly. "No, no! I just meant... you stayed."
"Of course," Ianto said, still baffled.
Jack's eyes searched Ianto's face, and Ianto felt... something. More than one thing, maybe. Shock, because nobody had stayed for Jack before. Anger, because everybody had left Jack. Concern, because Jack was looking at him like that. Giddy, because Jack was looking at him like that.
"Thank you," Jack said after a while.
"Don't," Ianto said, far too hastily.
Jack raised an eyebrow.
"I mean... I didn't do much," Ianto said.
"You didn't have to," Jack said.
"Yes, I did." Ianto looked over at the Weevil, avoiding Jack's eyes. "I'm sorry."
"Why are you sorry?" Jack asked.
"I couldn't leave you, but I didn't... I didn't know how to help you."
Jack studied him for a moment. Ianto didn't know what to make of that gaze, and opened his mouth to keep giving excuses, to explain why he had failed, to promise to do better... But then he found himself stunned as Jack leant over and kissed him full on.
The kiss was passionate, which was shockingly different from any kisses they had shared since Jack's return. There had been kisses when they'd had sex, yes, and they had been passionate, but that passion was one of lust, and a far cry from the passion in this one. If anything, this kiss shared more features with That Kiss, the one Jack had left him puzzling over for months after Jack had up and left. Passion and gratitude, with perhaps a hint of absolution and joy.
Jack's hands, as they were always wont to do, roamed to Ianto's neck and face. A thumb swiped Ianto's cheekbone, possibly in a tender way, but it accidentally sent a dull ache through Ianto's face. He winced, hard enough to pull back from the kiss.
"Ianto?" Jack asked. "What's wrong?"
Ianto shook his head, lightly cupping a hand over the bad cheek as the pain slowly quieted. Jack gently lifted the hand away. His face contorted minutely, straining to withhold some face.
"How bad does it look?" Ianto asked.
"It'll definitely bruise," Jack said. "I'm so sorry."
Ianto shrugged. "No worse than any other bruise I've had from this job, I don't think."
"Not this," Jack said. "I did this."
His fingers reached up again, and Ianto nearly flinched away to protect his face again, but Jack merely brushed his fingertips across the skin, his feather-light touch barely registering. Ianto couldn't think of anything to do but frown confusedly. Jack didn't note the look, simply pulling his hand away with a sigh. Then he got up.
Ianto scrambled up after him, not liking the stiff, jerky movements Jack made as he stood. Jack didn't seem to mind, as he went and stared down at the Weevil.
"I... put it down," Ianto said. "I'm sorry."
Jack brushed it off. "You did what you had to do."
Then he crouched over the upper end of the body and gestured for Ianto to do the same.
Together, they wrangled the Weevil into the back of the SUV. Not a soul saw them, as Ianto had suspected, and so it was a much easier clean-up than most Weevil-hunting escapades. Ianto kept an eye on Jack the entire time, making sure his guts didn't spill out again or anything of the sort. Luckily, all of Jack's innards stayed exactly where they were supposed to, and Jack seemed to recover the more they worked at cleaning the scene. Ianto couldn't exactly be sure if Jack was actually feeling better or if he was just faking it better the more time went on.
"Okay," Jack said eventually. "I think that's all the more we can do."
Ianto kicked another lump of grass over a last stain of Weevil blood, then trailed after Jack back to the vehicle.
They got in without a single word, and Jack started the SUV and drove off.
The long silence sat hard on Ianto's chest. Ianto had so many questions, half-formed and scattering around the entirety of his brain.
"What's it like?" he asked once he found the words to say what he needed.
Jack looked over at him for a moment.
Ianto nodded, and Jack turned his eyes back to the road.
"Dark," Jack said. "Cold. "
"And... coming back?"
Jack was silent for a while. Ianto watched him, but no emotion played out on his face. No way for Ianto to know what he was thinking. Usually, Ianto could figure it out, but this one... Ianto hadn't a clue.
"Hard," Jack said, well after Ianto had given up hope of an answer.
Ianto glanced over to him again.
"Like being dragged over broken glass," Jack went on, "or hot coals."
"I'm sorry," Ianto said.
Jack took his eyes off the road again for a moment.
"Don't be," he said quietly.
Then he cleared his throat and abruptly changed topic.
"You're going to be the one to tell Owen we missed our chance to bring in yet another Weevil," he said, his tone jokingly accusatory.
Ianto rolled his eyes and turned back to look out the windscreen again.
His thoughts swirled around his brain again, cycling and recycling until Ianto landed on a deep, disturbing frustration.
Had people really left Jack before? Left him like that: dead, alone, and without a single comfort to return to. It angered Ianto completely. Jack had given himself up for so many people, and in so many ways, and this was how he was treated? Jack didn't deserve that. Nobody did, but especially not Jack. Never Jack.
If Ianto could help it, he decided right then and there, it wouldn't happen again. Not on his watch. If he was around, and if he could do something, Ianto would make sure Jack never faced any of that again. He couldn't fix the "dead" part, but he could change the "alone" and "without a single a single comfort to return to" parts. He wasn't sure how the latter would happen, not without both of them injuring themselves again, but at the very least, he could sit there and be with Jack until he returned.
He was resolute on his decision when they arrived at the Hub. They both hopped out of the SUV, but Ianto stopped him before they could go any farther.
"Give me your coat," Ianto said.
Jack scowled at him. "What?"
"Your coat," Ianto said. "I need it, if I'm going to mend it. It's got blood on it, and I'm fairly certain I saw a tear or two."
Jack didn't move for a moment, only observing Ianto's face. Then he slowly pulled his arms out of his greatcoat, taking it off with great care, and passed it over to Ianto. Ianto took it, making sure to fold it safely into his arms.
"I should have it back by tomorrow morning, good as new," Ianto promised.
Jack said nothing.
Instead, he stepped closer to Ianto and kissed him again. This was far more gentle than the first time, and Ianto melted into it a little. He could live in this kiss, he thought dazedly to himself. It wouldn't be until later when he figured out how ridiculous and foolish that thought was, but for now... it was true. This kiss meant a lot, and he knew it.
Jack pulled away after a while. Of course, it was far too soon, in Ianto's opinion, but they had to come up for air sometime.
He thumbed Ianto's cheek again, the gentlest stroke over the soon-to-be bruise.
"Thank you," he whispered.
He pressed another kiss to Ianto's lips, this time quick and chaste, and then left for the Hub.
Ianto watched Jack go, holding that coat in his arms, and realising once more that there was no way he could let Jack go through anything that painful or hard alone ever again.
Not if Ianto Jones had anything to say about it.