Summary:"Torchwood's disability pay is about this big--" Ianto held up his thumb and index finger, about two centimeters apart. "--and comes out of a gun at a thousand meters per second." [Or, the fic in which Ianto bleeds everywhere all the time.]
Disclaimer: TW & Co. does not belong to me.
Notes: This fic would not leave me alone until I posted it. Second part posted tomorrow. Title taken from Owl City's Meteor Shower, which I listened to at least a hundred times while writing this story. Also, props to anyone who figures out what's going on before I post the second part.
I Am Not My Own
His hand had been bleeding too heavily to see how long or deep the gash actually was, but the fact that Ianto had described the pain as ‘stabbing’ upon the slightest twitch of his fingers had been enough to make Owen pull out the towel from his emergency kit and order Tosh to wrap it up tightly and hold it there until they got back to the Hub.
Peeling back the bloody towel down in the medical bay had revealed a gash that ran from the center of Ianto’s palm all the way up to the delicate webbing between his pinky and ring fingers. It wasn’t long, but a quick cleaning by Owen determined that it was actually quite deep, and therefore in need of stitches—much to Ianto’s annoyance.
“I’m not redoing these, Jones, and if I catch you so much as bending your pinkie I’m putting you in a splint for three weeks,” Owen threatened as he pushed the needle into Ianto’s skin again.
Ianto rolled his eyes.
“And,” Owen added as he pulled the needle out, “I’ll tell Gwen that if you don’t wear it, you’ll lose the use of your fingers.”
“Death by Gwen Cooper’s nagging,” Ianto said dryly. “I honestly can’t think of a worse way to go.”
“I don’t know about that,” Jack cut in, with his usual impeccable balance of humor and sharp reminder that he was different. “I can think of one or two ways that might be worse.”
Ianto glanced over to where Jack was leaning against the railing above the medical bay.
“I was just telling Teaboy here that he got bloody lucky with this cut,” Owen said, not looking up from his work. “Just missed some very crucial nerves that would have led to complete loss of his fingers, and he’s going to have to be very fucking careful until this heals up, if he wants to continue avoiding that particular barrel of laughs.”
Ianto had never in his life heard of anyone losing the use of their fingers because of a three-inch cut on their palm.
“Best course of action would be a splint,” Owen finished with a decisive nod.
“A splint, huh?” Jack asked, raising an eyebrow.
Ianto, however, already saw the flaw in Owen’s plan.
“I’m not wearing a splint,” Ianto said calmly. “It is a minor cut, and furthermore, I am quite capable of keeping my hand immobile for a few days.”
“Keeping your hand what?” Jack asked.
“Immob—” Ianto stopped, and paused to sigh and roll his eyes to the ceiling. “Jack.”
“What about suppositious?” Jack tried. “Mercurial? Vacillating? C’mon, you know how I love those vowels—”
“So, splint?” Owen broke in, looking expectantly at Jack.
Jack shrugged. “It’s Ianto’s hand.”
“And Ianto’s hand is not going to have a splint,” Ianto finished neatly. He extended his now completely-stitched hand a bit further across the table. “Bandages, if you will.”
Jack left, and Owen scowled before going to rummage for bandages.
“He would have forced Gwen to wear the splint,” Owen pointed out somewhat viciously, when he returned with a thick roll of gauze.
“Gwen can’t do her job with one hand,” Ianto replied, carefully unperturbed. “I, on the other hand, am perfectly capable of making a cup of coffee with one hand.”
Owen smirked, and was blessedly silent.
Jack’s bed was very narrow, and whenever he and Jack ended up tangled and draped and sweaty, Ianto was always very conscious of things. Where Jack’s hands were. Where his should be. If Jack was getting uncomfortable, because it was Jack and he wouldn’t say anything if he was. If Ianto should mention that he was uncomfortable, because then Jack might get up to go shower or check on the Rift but on the other hand his arm was completely numb…
It was all so close and casual and wrong when there was so much still undecided.
Of course, they fit if they spooned, but Jack only did that when he slept (it had happened twice, ever, and Ianto remembered both times in great detail because he hadn’t slept a wink). He’d probably indulge Ianto, if he asked, but Ianto… didn’t ask.
“So there’s this planet—doesn’t exist now, sort of imploded about two million years ago,” Jack was saying, as Ianto agreeably listened and nodded in the right places, “but thing about it was that the ground was very unstable and always falling in, so they had to live in the clouds. Not clouds like here on Earth, but these big blue-purple swirls that stretched on for miles and miles…”
It wasn’t until Jack had rambled on about the planet that lived in the clouds for a good ten minutes that Ianto shifted his injured hand and noticed that the bandages had gone crimson.
“Jack,” he said slowly, laying his good hand on Jack’s chest without taking his eyes off the very, very red bandage on his hand.
“—they’d urinate through these little holes in the—oh shit.”
Slowly, Ianto nodded.
None of the stitches had popped, so thankfully they didn’t have to call Owen in. Ianto carefully wiped away the blood, let Jack wrap it with new bandages, and deciding the throbbing pain wasn’t quite bad enough to warrant a tablet.
“Oh, thank God,” Tosh said, when Ianto walked into the Hub. “I’m really sorry, I know it was your day off, but—”
Ianto managed a tight smile. “It’s all right. I’ve come to expect that my ‘days’ off actually mean four to twelve hours off, if I’m lucky.”
Tosh still looked slightly guilty from her computer. “I really am sorry.”
“It’s all right,” Ianto repeated, smile tightening a little more. He took the steps up to Tosh’s station, briefly glancing up to see that the lights in Jack’s office were off. He was either off brooding or out on a Rift alert by himself.
“AG Meek—shoe shopping, Ianto?” Tosh asked, no doubt spying the bag in his hand.
“Shoes have been feeling a bit off, lately,” Ianto replied, setting the bag on the floor just under Tosh’s desk. “Thought it was time for a new pair, anyway.”
“Yes, I—oh my, Ianto! Your hand!”
The bandages were again drenched in blood.
“I was hoping you’d help me to rewrap it,” Ianto said, with the same tight smile.
“I say we grab the biggest gun’s we’ve—bloody hell, Ianto!” Gwen exclaimed, breaking off in midsentence and staring at—
“Again?” Jack said, just as Tosh pitched in with a sympathetic, “That’s just not healing, is it?”
Jack and Tosh turned to stare at each other for a moment, and then without a word, they turned their heads to Ianto.
“It’s fine,” Ianto said hurriedly, shoving the stupid bleeding thing under the table. “Really.”
“Exactly how many times has your hand been ‘fine’?” Owen demanded.
“It’s certainly a lot more fine than those people trapped in the warehouse,” Ianto replied pointedly, giving a sharp nod at the picture on the screen.
“Sod the people in the warehouse, I still get my morning coffee if their hands fall off,” Owen snapped. “How many times has it bled like this?”
“Three or four,” Ianto muttered. “Look, I really—”
“Splint,” Owen interrupted, giving Jack a look. Like Ianto’s health was Jack’s responsibility, just because Jack and Ianto were shagging a bit (a lot).
“I haven’t been moving it!” Ianto insisted. “It just starts bleeding.”
“It’s been three days, you nit—bleeding like this after three days is a bad, bad sign. Do you want to keep using those fingers or not?”
For the briefest moment, Jack’s eyes met Ianto’s, but Ianto quickly looked away.
“Fine,” he said shortly, pushing back his chair. “Let’s get this over with, shall we?”
“See, this bit here’s healing,” Owen said, indicating the part of the gash that began just outside the center of Ianto’s palm and ran to the webbing between his ring and pinky fingers. “But this bit here—” The bit closer to the center of his palm, about an inch long. “—is not. In fact, I’d venture to say it hasn’t so much as made a new cell since it was first cut open.”
Ianto stared at his palm, wiped free of blood and not bleeding for once.
“See, normally,” Owen went on as he turned and opened a drawer, “that happens because it’s infected, but that is one uninfected wound. No pus, swelling, discoloration, or fever, not to mention the fact that I disinfected the bejezus out of it before I stitched you up.”
Ianto raised his eyebrows. “So what does that mean?”
“Means I’m taking blood,” Owen replied, raising a handful of empty vials. He shut the drawer he’d pulled them out of, opened the one above it, and pulled out a package of tubing with a needle on one end.
“You could probably just squeeze it out of the gauze,” Ianto said dryly, nodding at the glistening bandages that lay further down the autopsy table.
“If you’re afraid of the needle, I’m sure we could get Jack to come down and hold your hand,” Owen shot back.
Ianto almost replied that Jack had only ever held his hand during sex.
Jack liked to hold hands during sex. Ianto had been incredibly surprised to discover that someone as restless as Jack went for such a grounding gesture, but Jack… had a thing about hands. On one of the two nights that Ianto had spent with Jack in which Jack had actually slept, Ianto had heard him muttering in his sleep: “Hold his hand, keep holding his hand…”
“At Torchwood London,” Ianto said instead, as Owen unpacked the tubing, “they had alien technology that allowed them to take a blood sample without taking any blood—it locked on to your blood composition and changed a vial of water into an exact copy of your blood.”
“Bully for Torchwood London,” Owen muttered. He snapped the rubber band once, rolled up Ianto’s sleeve, and wiped off the inside of his elbow with an alcohol pad.
“Tosh will have the van ready in five,” Jack’s voice announced. Ianto wasn’t facing him, but he guessed from the increasing volume that Jack was approaching the medical bay. “Ianto, you got your splint? Oh, wait. Blood work. Owen, why are we doing blood work?”
Owen repeated what he’d just said to Ianto, in fewer words, as he slid the needle into Ianto’s skin. Ianto kicked his heels against the legs of the autopsy table, hating the feel of awkward, unbroken shoes around his feet.
“What are you thinking?” Jack asked, when Owen had finished relaying.
Ianto wished that he could see Jack’s face.
“We’re looking at two things,” Owen replied, as blood filled the third vial. “Either there’s some very serious trauma hiding in there that isn’t displaying with the proper symptoms, or we’re looking at some kind of outside influence.”
“How long will the blood work take?”
“About three hours, give or take,” Owen answered with a shrug.
Jack said nothing.
“Last vial,” Owen told Ianto, as he changed out the vial again. “Have some biscuits in the car so you don’t fall flat on your face when you step out of the SUV.”
“Ianto’s going to stay back and coordinate,” Jack cut in, before Ianto could reply. “If it is an effect of something alien, I don’t want him sprouting new symptoms in the middle of a fight.”
Ianto could have argued for staying in the car, or that he’d gone three days without developing new symptoms, or that they were stretched thin enough with five people on this case, let alone four—but instead he gave a nod to the Jack he couldn’t see.
“Yes, sir,” he said quietly.
The sound of Jack’s boots walking away echoed in his ears.
The center of his palm was bleeding again.
A loud snarl and Jack’s agonized scream came through the Bluetooth, quickly followed by a gunshot and an inhuman shriek.
“Got ‘im!” Owen’s voice said triumphantly.
There was a faint rasping, gurgling noise.
“Three to go.”
“Is Jack all right?” Tosh asked, just as breathless. Small and quick, her flashing dot had pulled ahead of Owen and Jack a few minutes ago, and she was probably too far ahead, too hot in pursuit to turn around to see.
Owen’s little flashing dot hadn’t stopped longer than it had taken to shoot the thing.
Jack’s wasn’t moving. The rasping, gurgling sound was gone.
“Owen?” Gwen’s worried voice came in. “Owen, how’s Jack?”
“Dead, or close to it,” Owen replied. “Not stopping to check. He’ll be up in a few, anyway.”
“I’ll grab the SUV and join you guys as soon as the police show up for these people,” Gwen promised.
Ianto unstuck his throat. “Jack has the keys to SUV, though, doesn’t he?”
There was a pause, and then Gwen swore. “Right. Right—shit.”
“I can start the SUV remotely,” Ianto said. “New feature, as of last Friday night.”
“Oh, that’s fantastic,” Gwen breathed. “You’re brilliant, Ianto!”
“Mostly Tosh,” Ianto replied.
“Ianto and I were also a bit drunk when we installed it. The car may or may not play the Imperial March when it starts, I don’t know if we remembered to take it out. Just as a warning,” Tosh put in, words still quick and breathy as she ran.
Ianto glanced down and saw the bandages that poked out from underneath the splint he’d been made to wear were red again. Swallowing a sigh, he lifted his good hand to bring up the remote control program for the SUV—
In his ear, Jack’s enormous back-to-life gasp registered dimly.
A shot rang out, followed by Tosh’s gasp of, “I’ve got one! I’ve got one, it’s down.”
“Two left, then.”
“Owen, Tosh, where are you guys?”
“Just passed St. Peter’s and Bungalow. You’re never going to catch up.”
“Dammit. Ianto, can you give me a shortcut?”
“Police are here. Ianto, you want to start up the SUV?”
“Ianto, shortcut, now please.”
“Sorry,” Ianto finally managed. “I—sorry. My other hand is bleeding. I… don’t think I can type anymore.”
“What d’you mean, your other hand? What the bloody hell did you find to cut it on at a bloody desk?”
“Nothing,” Ianto answered, aware that his voice shook. “It was just—it’s just bleeding. They’re both bleeding. It doesn’t even hurt.”
“Fuck,” Owen swore. His little flashing dot was slowing down. “Okay, there’s nothing you can do other than get a towel on it—them—and keep as much pressure on as possible. Jack, if you want Loverboy to live—”
“Double back to the warehouse,” Jack ordered. “I’ll meet you on St. Peters, give you the keys to the SUV. Gwen, get a car, pick me up on the way so we can catch up with Tosh. Ianto, hang in there, all right?”
Ianto stared at the fat drops of blood that dripped from his fingers, falling to the floor with quiet splats. He’d have to clean that up later—provided that he could somehow hold a mop. No one else would clean it.
“Ianto?” Jack pressed.
“Hanging,” Ianto replied.
“What do you mean, there was no wound?” Gwen asked, frowning.
Ianto shifted uncomfortably. His left hand had been re-bandaged and splinted, but his right hand was bandage and splint free, a flawless white against the pale blue scrubs Owen had insisted he change into. His shoes had also been abandoned, which actually felt quite wonderful—he wiggled his toes a little, both for the feeling of freedom and to distract himself from the fact the entire team was hearing this conversation.
If Ianto’d had things his way, this would have never gone past himself and Owen—and Jack, if absolutely necessary.
“I mean, there’s no cut, no bruise, not even a scar,” Owen said impatiently. “But before I got the blood cleaned off of it, I saw something dark in the center of his palm bleeding. Not to mention, look at those damn towels.”
He was referring to the incredibly bloody towels Ianto had wrapped his hands in until Owen had arrived. Gwen went a little pale at the sight.
“Also, he should be passed out from losing all that blood, not just mildly dizzy,” Owen went on, “and all his blood work came back clear, and his DNA matches exactly to the sample we got when we hired him.”
“So this is definitely something alien, then?” Gwen asked.
“In my not-so-humble opinion. Harkness, you seen anything like this before?”
“Spontaneous bleeding from a wound that doesn’t exist?” Jack shook his head. “Nope. Ianto, you seen anything in the archives?”
Ianto shook his head. “No. I can start looking through the records, though.”
“And if you start bleeding all over the archives?” Owen asked.
“I won’t,” Ianto said succinctly.
Owen rolled his eyes.
“All right,” Jack said, cutting off whatever snarky response Owen had planned. “Gwen, I want you to take care of the paperwork from the warehouse… debacle thing. Owen—”
“I’ve already got more tests I want to run,” Owen interrupted. “And I’ve got old medical logs I can flip through.”
Jack nodded. “All right. Ianto, give Owen what he needs and then go down to the archives. Tosh, I want you to look through all of our electronic archives for anything related to spontaneous bleeding, but use your laptop and keep Ianto company in the archives, just in case.”
Gwen and Tosh nodded and dispersed.
“Oi! Tosh!” Owen called, dropping the package of tubing he’d been about to open. He hurried up the ramp, effectively abandoning Ianto. “Where’d you put the Bekaran deep tissue scanner? ‘Cause it’s not back in the drawer like you promised it would be when you took it out for modifications last week…”
Ianto suppressed a sigh, and wiggled his toes to revel in his shoe-freedom once more.
And then Jack was there, right in front of him, and as their eyes locked emotions slammed into his chest where only seconds ago it had been numb. Ianto was absolutely horrified to realize that speaking might result in his bursting into tears.
He averted his eyes, and said nothing.
“How are you, Ianto?” Jack asked with uncharacteristic softness that only served to remind Ianto that he wasn’t okay. Bastard.
The lump in his throat suddenly doubled in size.
Forcibly, he swallowed. “As well as I can be, considering.”
The words were rough and quiet, and he absolutely refused to meet Jack’s eyes. Jack didn’t want a crying shag, except maybe to boost his ego. Ianto was not an ego boost. And he wasn’t going to cry.
“This is far from the worst thing I’ve seen happen in Torchwood,” Jack said, with a forced cheeriness. “One time, back in the seventies, Paul accidentally picked up what he thought was a Nuuvian egg, but was—”
“Jack,” Ianto interrupted, forcing himself to meet Jack’s eyes. “I—”
“Don’t,” Ianto choked out. “Just don’t. Please.”
With a sigh, Jack plopped down on the autopsy table next to Ianto and slung an arm around him, pulling him close.
Ianto prayed, prayed, prayed that no one was seeing this.
He just wanted curl up right here with Jack and never move again.
“It’s going to be okay,” Jack whispered, pressing a kiss to the top of his head.
Ianto balled his good hand into a fist, inhaled the scent of Jack, and screwed up his face against the sob that threatened to burst free. His hand hurt, his back was absolutely killing him, and he was bleeding all over the place, couldn’t even take refuge in the archives anymore—
Hot, stabbing pain shot down his back, and somewhere beyond his sharp inhale he heard Tosh shriek and Gwen and Owen’s startled chorus of, “Bloody fucking hell!”
Jack stiffened, pushing Ianto away and grabbing him by the shoulders. Ianto gripped at Jack’s forearms as residual pangs of agony shot up and down his spine.
“Ianto?” Jack demanded.
“Jack!” Gwen yelled, sounding terrified. “Jack—”
“Teaboy!” Owen barked.
“That’s fucking blood, don’t tell me it’s not, I know blood when I see it. Bloody—fucking—”
“Oh God,” Tosh breathed.
And then, right next to Ianto, a carefully controlled exhale of shock.
Ianto slowly opened his eyes.
At first, he didn’t see what the problem was. Then he focused on the direction that Jack was staring in, and saw what had caught everyone’s attention.
It was the water tower that sat in the middle of the Hub, normally covered in a sheet of water and giving off a faint mist. But instead of water running down the sides of the tower, it was blood. Thick and red and runny, splashing into a pool of blood at the bottom with a deeper, louder noise than the water ever had.
And the hands gripping Jack’s forearms were bleeding all over the light blue sleeves of Jack’s shirt.
“These are from your bed,” Ianto noted, picking up the pillow that lay on the stained floor.
The glass door shut behind him. Jack hadn’t followed him in.
“I’ve got extras,” Jack said with a shrug. “And it’s not like you’re actually a prisoner—you know that, right? This isn’t…”
“I know,” Ianto said quickly.
Jack studied him, inhaling slowly and deeply as his eyes took in Ianto’s form.
Hold my hand, Ianto thought out of nowhere. Hold my hand like you do when we’re shagging, like you’d rather break all the bones in my hand and rip it right off my wrist than ever let go. Hold my hand like you need me.
Jack’s mouth opened.
Ianto’s heart skipped.
“Ianto,” Jack said, so gently and softly, “your hands are bleeding again.”
“Okay,” Owen said, taking the pointer from Tosh and aiming it at the screen. “Are we all ready for this?”
Gwen rolled her eyes.
Ianto glanced out the glass window of the conference room at the water tower than ran with water again. He wondered what they’d done with all that blood.
“The blood from the water tower was completely human,” Owen announced. “Full composition—red blood cells, white blood cells, proteins, hormones, the whole lot. It’s like someone robbed a blood bank, except for one thing: it all came from one person.”
Ianto waited for the ax to fall.
“And it’s not Ianto.”
He blinked. Around the table, Jack and Tosh also looked surprised.
“Why would it be Ianto’s blood?” Gwen asked.
Owen shrugged one shoulder. “Well, it was his fault, wasn’t it?”
“Owen,” Jack said sharply, just as Ianto protested with an annoyed, “I didn’t do anything.”
Owen rolled his eyes. “Right. Well, either way, the blood wasn’t Ianto’s, but it does belong to a human male, about 28 years old. Very boring and average. What’s interesting is two things—one, the mitochondrial DNA puts this guy as existing at least a thousand years ago, and two, those towels Ianto keeps bloodying up? About half of that blood belongs to this mystery bloke.”
“You mean Ianto’s been bleeding someone else’s blood?” Gwen asked incredulously.
Even Jack’s eyebrows were nearing his hairline.
“It’s about a 1:1 ratio in both hands, as far as I can tell,” Owen said. “Which explains why he’s bleeding all over the place and managing not to pass out.”
“But—but where’s it coming from?” Gwen asked. “The blood, I mean. It can’t just be appearing out of nowhere, can it?”
“But it is, isn’t it?” Tosh pointed out. “I mean, you saw the water tower yesterday. It’s not like the water just turned into blood.”
Ianto shook his head, his heart speeding up ever so slightly. “It’s not the same, Owen.”
“Expert in alien artifacts, now, are you?” Owen asked, raising his eyebrows. “A trained monkey could do your job, and you’re telling me that you know exactly how Torchwood One’s little device worked?”
Instantly, Jack’s eyes narrowed.
Ianto held in a sigh at the predictable, oh so bloody predictable response.
“I don’t know how it worked,” he told Owen shortly. “I don’t even know what it was called. I just know that I didn’t have to get stabbed with a needle seven times to give a blood sample, and that it wasn’t capable of changing an entire water tower into blood.”
“First off, I’ve never had to stab you seven times to get your vein,” Owen snapped. “First time, every time. Stop looking at me like that, Gwen, it was one time and you twitched. Second—”
“Hold up,” Jack said, raising a hand. “Ianto, Owen, what is this device and why is it relevant?”
Ianto sighed. “It was a device used by Torchwood London. It changed a vial of water into an exact copy of your blood, so they never had to actually take blood from any of their employees. But I didn’t think that—”
“I know what that is,” Jack interrupted, frowning. “But that wouldn’t explain the water tower—it can’t produce more blood than is present in the original body. Also, it doesn’t cause spontaneous bleeding.”
Owen sat back in his chair, disgruntled.
Ianto very carefully did not give Owen a smug look.
Ianto’s hands started to bleed about an hour later, just as he and Tosh were about to head off to the archives. As Ianto resignedly trudged over to the medical bay, Gwen’s shriek alerted them all to the bloody streaks tracking behind him on the floor.
It seemed his feet were now bleeding, in addition to his hands.
“Ought to be collecting this and storing it,” Owen grumbled as he carefully unwrapped the bandage from the only limb Ianto had that was actually injured. “Can make a right fortune selling blood on the black market, you know.”
“I want a cut. Disability pay,” Ianto muttered.
“As wonderful as that scam sounds, you’d probably get more money out of Torchwood’s disability pay,” Jack said as he appeared out of nowhere, walking down the ramp to the medical bay.
Ianto snorted. “Torchwood’s disability pay is about this big—” He held up his thumb and index finger, about half an inch apart.
Annoyed, Owen batted the bleeding hand back down to its towel.
“—and comes out of a gun at approximately one hundred meters per second,” Ianto finished.
Jack gave him a Look.
“Lie down,” Owen ordered, giving Ianto’s shoulder a little push.
“Why?” Ianto asked, not yielding.
“Because you’re losing too much blood too fast with four holes instead of two, and I don’t want to have to mop up any more of your bodily fluids than I have to.”
Ianto frowned. “I’m not sure to whether to point out that I’ll be the one cleaning, that there’s a hose and a drain down here so you don’t have to mop, or that technically, half of it isn’t my bodily fluid at all.”
“Whatever. Lie back the moment you do feel dizzy, then,” Owen said, scowling. He turned and grabbed a white rag off the counter (next to the pile of thin white towels that had been dug out of the back recesses of the room next to the showers in the basement, probably hadn’t been laundered in years, probably full of bacteria—not that you could get infections when there were no wounds, right? Or what if something got inside while it was bleeding, and then got stuck in there—
Ianto blinked. “Sorry.”
“Right. Jack, I’ve got tests to run, you can clean up the Bloody Baron here—there’s a basin and cloths. Monitor should beep if anything drastically changes. Make him lie down before he vomits, not after, thanks.”
Jack nodded, glancing over at the table where the basin and cloths were.
“It’s fine, Ianto,” Jack said calmly, going for the basin.
Owen left, muttering something about drama queens.
Ianto frowned. “I’m perfectly capable of—”
“Ianto,” Jack interrupted again. He set the basin down next to Ianto, staring him right in the eyes. “Let me do this.”
Ianto, getting a little dizzy and tired of his back aching all the time, couldn’t bring himself to argue.
Jack washed his hands first. He didn’t say anything, which Ianto appreciated for a reason he didn’t quite understand, just took the wet cloth to Ianto’s palm and wiped away the blood as it streamed out of the dark cut in the center. He washed the crusted blood from Ianto’s fingers, and wiped the streaks of blood from his forearms, movements gentle and cleansing.
Ianto’s ears had an odd ringing in them. He drifted, probably more than was safe, but Owen was right about him losing this much blood. It was coming out entirely too quickly.
“Ianto?” Jack’s voice asked.
With a little effort, Ianto made the room slide back into focus most of the way. Jack was standing in front of him, a white cloth in hand and probably some kind of telling expression on his face that Ianto couldn’t quite make out. Or understand. One of the two.
Ianto made a humming noise.
Jack made a noise in return, and then got down on his knees.
“What, now?” Ianto asked, frowning down at the fuzzy image—and then it all came into focus and he realized that Jack was not down there to suck his cock. “Shit. Sorry. Things are blurry, like… being underwater.”
“I bet,” Jack said from somewhere down below. Ianto attempted to focus, but the world swam out of focus and even more out of focus, making his head and his back hurt.
“Jack, there is no water, right?” Ianto asked.
He felt Jack squeeze his calf. “No. No water.”
Ianto blinked, twice, and the world resolved a little. “Right. Sorry. Of course there isn’t water.”
Down on the floor, Jack had the basin and was rubbing Ianto’s feet with the same gentle, cleansing motions he’d used with his hands, but this felt different. Special. Ianto’s feet had been feeling strange for the last few days, but with Jack’s hands, the cloth, the water running over them—they felt right.
“Talk, Ianto,” Jack prodded gently. “I need to know you’re still conscious up there.”
“What should I say?”
“Whatever comes to mind—I’m sure we only hear about five percent of the things you’d like to say to us. Go on.”
“You think I walk around mentally insulting you all?”
Jack laughed. “Ianto, you’re one of the most succinctly sarcastic people I’ve ever met who wasn’t a fictional character. It’s hard to believe you don’t.”
“You can’t meet a fictional character,” Ianto replied, after the beat that it took for Jack’s words to make sense.
“Ah… Not yet,” Jack said, and Ianto thought he could see the typically knowing grin. “But give it a few hundred years.”
Ianto squinted, and the world wobbled as Jack abruptly went back out of focus. The lines blurred past faces and body parts. He could still feel Jack’s hands on his feet, though, rubbing and washing and making him clean again, and with enough concentration, he could see the tones of Jack’s skin, the dark blue of his shirt.
“Ianto?” Jack’s voice came.
Jack would look good in dark red. Not something too light, because Jack didn’t look quite right in anything with yellow tones in it.
There was an insistent squeeze on his leg again. “Ianto, talk to me.”
“Sorry,” Ianto said, closing his eyes. It was difficult to think and focus on seeing at the same time. “What should I say?”
“Whatever comes to mind,” Jack answered patiently.
“Well, whatever you may think, my mind is actually a very dull place,” Ianto said. “Mostly lists.”
Jack laughed. “Of course. Read me a list, Ianto.”
“Whichever one you updated last.”
Ianto thought for a moment. “I’ll have to clean up the blood on the floor next to Tosh’s station before it stains. There’s also bloodstains in the cell I slept in last night that I have to clean, and the bathtub in my flat is still stained pink. Your sheets have blood on them. Owen spilled the coffee grounds this morning and tried to hide it by pushing them under the coffee machine. You’ve got a stain on the bottom right corner of your coat, and the fourth button’s come loose again, but that’s on another list. Tosh spilled something on her chair the other night. Gwen asked me to see if I could get a stain out of a skirt, but she won’t tell me what it is so I suspect it’s either going to be menstrual blood or Rhys’ cum.”
He stopped and placed his towel-bound hands on the table, the world tilting, and he was glad that he already had his eyes closed.
Down by his feet, Jack was laughing again. “All right. So that’s your Things to Clean List?”
“Things That Still Hold Hope of Being Cleaned,” Ianto said absently. “There’s another list for less fortunate surfaces.”
There was another laugh, this one farther away, and then a strange sensation on the ball of his foot—
“Jack,” Ianto said, forcing his eyes open to the blurry, wobbling world. “Did you just kiss my foot?”
“It was very kissable,” Jack said reasonably.
“It’s a foot.”
“A foot that I just washed.”
A shiver ran down Ianto’s body unbidden, making his entire body jerk. “Jack, the water’s cold.”
“You want me to change it out for hot water?”
Ianto frowned at the swimming colors before him. “That’s a lot of water. Why are we underwater, again?”
A small rush of water—no, breath, it was air—came from somewhere in the blur. “We’re not underwater. Ianto? Ianto—dammit. Owen!”
Ianto struggled to surface. “No—no, I’m fine. There’s no water, I promise, no water. Sorry.”
He felt pressure on his shoulders, but the world was spinning and blurring too much to keep his eyes open and so he had to close them and ride out the wave of dizziness in the dark. His heart pounded in his ears with a thick pulse that made him want to throw up.
“Lie down,” Jack’s voice urged softly. “Come on, down you go…”
“M’fine,” Ianto insisted, even as he was pushed back. “Jack, stop, m’fine.”
“Fuck,” Ianto breathed as his back made contact with the floor—table, he was on a table—and the shift of each muscle against the unyielding surface was like flaming needles tearing through his skin, right down to the bone. “Fuckfuckfuckfuckfuck…”
“Sodding hell, Harkness, I leave you alone for ten minutes—don’t let him sit up! Christ.”
“No, no, no, no,” Jack said quickly, aborting Ianto’s weak effort to sit up.
“Back,” Ianto choked out.
“Heart rate’s too slow,” Owen’s voice said from far away, but getting closer. “He’s never bled this long before. If we let him sit for any longer he’s gonna lose too much blood—congratulations, Teaboy, you’ve won yourself a blood transfusion.”
“Back,” Ianto repeated, with effort. He was vaguely aware, through the throbbing ache of his back, that the dizziness and nausea had receded significantly, but it barely registered against the overwhelming need to get off his back. “Back hurts. Let me up.”
“How long has your back hurt?” Owen demanded.
Ianto felt his head loll to one side of the table, and the cool steel felt incredibly good. “Few days. Hurts.”
“Oh for—no time like the present to tell me!” Owen snapped. “Jack, get him on his side. You know how to work the Bekaran scanner?”
Ianto gritted his teeth as Jack pushed him up onto his side, pain shooting through his back with each touch. Despite his best efforts, a grunt escaped.
“Sorry,” Jack murmured, rubbing his thumb in an apologetic circle just below Ianto’s shoulder blade, driving a bolt of agony straight into Ianto’s lungs.
Ianto threw up.
“Oh, lovely,” Owen muttered, from very close.
“Did I get your shoes?” Ianto croaked hopefully.
“No,” Owen said grouchily. “Your aim still sucks.”
“Better than Suzie’s is,” Ianto mumbled as the world tilted a little more. His back was no longer hurting, but there was a strange hollow feeling to it, like it had gone to sleep and he couldn’t quite feel it. In fact, his whole body felt heavy, like he was weighting down the world as it slipped and slid on ice. “Jack, the water’s cold.”
A hand touched his cheek, burning.
“There’s no water, Ianto,” Jack’s voice said, rippled and echoing.
“I promise you, there’s no water. We’re in the Hub—c’mon, think about it, how would we put the Hub underwater? We’d have to fill up all the basement levels, and I don’t even know how many of those there are. It’s impossible.”
Impossible. Water was impossible.
A finger of warmth on his arm, and Ianto felt as if his entire being funneled into it like an electric charge that had finally found a wire to travel through. The cold receded, and in its place was a wonderful darkness. His body began to disappear.
“Harkness, you’re making it worse, get your hands—”
“His side—Owen, his side! It’s—”
“I can’t—shit. Shit, it’s like a foot long! You’ve got to wrap it, Jack, I’ve got to get this transfusion—”
“Ianto? Ianto can you hear me?”
Only his lips were left. Everything else had gone.
And his lips were so, so cold.
“L—l—lied,” his lips said hoarsely. He could feel them disintegrating as well. “The w—water. It’s here. It’s swallowing me alive. H—help me.”
“Ianto, there is no water!”
And then his lips were gone too.