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 “Taking the Bullet” Pt 3/4

By marzipan77

Jack/Ianto, some Jack/Gwen UST, Team, Rhys

Angst/Drama

Rating: Let’s say R, shall we?

Missing scenes and epilogue to “Meat”, Series 2

Summary: Some wounds are shallow, some deep; Ianto’s grown used to taking the bullets.  But when a psychic connection with a tortured creature leaves him empty, Ianto realizes he has nothing to lose.

 

“Couldn’t you feel it?”

 

The words slipped out, somehow, words he’d no intention of ever uttering.  He hated the sound of his voice: weak, hesitant, as if he was begging for them to understand, to believe him.  He hated that look in their eyes: the sad pity and condescension for poor hurt Ianto, sad little tea-boy who couldn’t be expected to cope with butchers or beatings or the truth about the bedrock of inhuman misery on which the universe was founded.  Ianto closed his eyes.  But what he hated the most was that cold dismissal written across the captain’s face; that slight narrowing of his eyes, the false calm and folded arms over his thrown-out chest that shouted his resentment so loud it should be echoing ‘round the hub.  Jack stood there above them, larger than life, looking down, outside the fears and worries of one solitary lifetime.  Judge and jury.  Would Jack even believe him?  Did it matter?  Gwen wasn’t going anywhere and Jack’s obsession with the woman wasn’t likely to, either.

 

Keeping his eyes closed like a child who thought himself invisible, Ianto steadied himself against the cold metal table, pressing hard with his sore hand so that the pain would ground him in the present.  He let the memories come – let the raw, frightened, tortured screams of the alien fill him and tried to dredge up the words, the right words, to do justice to its suffering.

 

“I don’t know when it started, exactly.  But, by the time we went into the warehouse I could feel its pain as if it were my own.  I could feel the fear, the crushing despair, the loneliness.”  He shrugged, still blind to the reactions around him.  “Its pain was all that it had.”  It was empty – after the months of torture and solitude, surrounded by beings that didn’t see it as a living soul, that just saw what it could bring them – it had given up hope for anything more, for any rescue, any real connection.

 

Words tumbled out – too many, too much truth scraping along the silent hub, re-opening wounds and bringing too much of his own dark soul to light.  “Don’t know why or how,” he smiled, forcing his eyes open to complete the distraction, but unable to focus on one face for more than an instant, “don’t know how I got so lucky.  I just know I couldn’t control it – couldn’t block it out.  And, by the end, I suppose I thought it was right, you know, that someone knew – that someone would remember – remember its pain.”

 

“You ‘felt’ it?”  Jack’s words still held that jagged edge of icy control.  Disbelief.  Jaded skepticism.  Doubt.

 

“Yep.”  Ianto countered the mistrust with defensive nonchalance.  Detachment.  As if he couldn’t care less if they believed him or not.  Maybe it was true, he frowned to himself, the colors around him leaching away to grey, resentment replaced with apathy.

 

The silent tension that rose up screamed for some release.

 

“Sorry about the fishwife screechin’ earlier,” he added after too long a moment.  “It’s just the let-down, I suppose,” Ianto admitted, shrugging.  “After feeling all that pain and confusion, the poor thing’s agony as the sedative was wearing off.”  He took a deep breath, his head felt too heavy to lift.  “Guess I overreacted.”

 

“Bullshit.”

 

Jack fired that one word out like a bullet.  Ianto’s head snapped up, anger coursing through him and then, almost instantly, draining away to leave him bereft.

 

“Jack!”  Tosh’s eyes were wide with shock.

 

Owen stepped closer to Ianto, breaking the glares the two men had locked onto one another, one hand on his shoulder as if he thought Ianto might jump up and break some of the captain’s perfect teeth.  “Harkness, you’re a right git sometimes, you know that?”  The doctor never turned but chucked the words over his shoulder, his small, dark eyes boring into Ianto’s.  “You’re sure – you’re not just, well,” he scratched nervously beside his ear, “feeling sympathetic?”

 

Ianto bit back a rude response and reached deep for even a bit of his usual dark humor.  They were right, it sounded daft.  Sounded like an excuse to spout out his own selfish rage, exclaim the despair that ate away at him.  He could still drop it – still flash a quick grin and go along with Owen’s theory, slip away to the archives insisting he was not a victim, that Jack’s rough tumbles and cold shoulders didn’t score his heart.  That his feelings hadn’t been echoed back at him by the dying alien, filling his empty soul to overflowing with desperate grief.

 

He quirked a half smile and opened a mouth filled with the dry dust of denial and subterfuge, but, oddly, it was Tosh who cut him off.

 

“You can’t just dismiss this, Ianto.  Tell them.  Tell them the rest.”

 

Her voice was soft yet strong, her gentleness a thin skin stretched over persistent, insistent, and implacable determination.  He licked his lips, uncertain, struggling to decide, his thoughts jumbled.

 

Owen’s chin jerked up, eyebrows rising.  “Go on, then.”  His hand tightened quickly on Ianto’s shoulder.  It felt like reassurance.

 

Ianto nodded, suddenly boneless, all the fight within him gone.  Fine.  “I know you touched it.  Looked into its eye.”  The memory of Jack’s strained face, hands reaching out, as seen through the creature’s strange, black and white vision returned to him.  Small figures, Jack and Tosh and Gwen.  It couldn’t tell them from the others that had chopped and sliced at it for months, kept it strapped down, poked and gouged and … and hurt it.  “I knew where you were standing, how you and Gwen stepped inside its skin, where they’d hacked it open.  How you fought to hold her back when Owen told you Rhys had been caught.”  Remembered pain throbbed behind his forehead; his skin hummed with exhaustion, his limbs trembling.  “It was so tired of being hurt.  So tired.”  The words stole out as a whisper.  He bowed his head.

 

 Owen’s grip tensed and then shifted, hands moving to his arms to ease Ianto backwards onto the table.  “Bollucks – here, give us a hand.”

 

Ianto let go, let them maneuver him as they would, felt the chill of the metal table through the silk of his waistcoat, the cotton of his shirt.  He blinked up at the cracked tile ceiling, losing himself in trying to trace the patterns there, his mind filled with the white noise of concerned voices and hurried footsteps and the clatter of Owen’s precious instruments as someone jostled the table.

 

“Ianto – Ianto!  Dammit, what the hell’s wrong with him?”

 

The voice warmed him, breath splashing against his cheek like a caress.  Strong fingers curled around his wrist, others pressed against his neck.  He blinked lazily, unconcerned.

 

“Oh, now you believe him?”

 

“Shift your arse, Jack – let me do my job!”

 

“Dammit, Owen, his eyes are open!  Ianto!”

 

“Maybe if you stopped screaming at him.”

 

Blurred features swam into view, interrupting his mesmerizing tracing of the tiny black lines against the white tiles until they disappeared again and he had to start over.

 

A sharp prick against his skin registered, making him frown.  He tried to move away from the hurt, but strong hands gripped him tightly.  A small sound escaped between his lips.  A hand soothed across his cheek, urging his head to turn, dragging his eyes away from the blank, emotionless ceramic.  Blue eyes smiled softly at him.

 

“Hey, you with me?  Hold still, Owen’s trying to draw some blood.”

 

Ianto knew him.  Knew he should feel something; that the touch, the soft words and the gentle concern should either enrage or enthrall him.  The emotions seemed to slide from his skin as if they could find no purchase, as if there was no room for them within him.  He let his eyes fall shut.

 

The hand against his cheek tapped smartly.  “Ianto.  Come on, open those beautiful blue eyes.”

 

Why? Ianto thought.  Hadn’t he seen enough?

 

“Owen, I think he’s lost consciousness.”

 

Even the growl of fear beneath that tenor voice wasn’t enough to inspire any effort.  The pressure on the skin inside his elbow fell away and the air around him swirled, fabric teasing his flesh, chasing up gooseflesh along his arm.  That would be Owen’s white coat; his quick, efficient movements within the small confines of the medical bay making it flutter and flap, almost like Jack’s.

 

Jack.  Something buried deep within his soul stirred sluggishly, awakening flickers of dark passion and heartbreaking devotion that broke the surface of Ianto’s stagnant thoughts like bubbles before they sank back down out of sight.  And he let them, never reaching out to grasp them or struggle to pull them out and look at them.  No.  That way laid madness.

 

Cool, sticky pads pressed against his brow, behind his ear, on the back of his head.  He felt tethered, tugged at, shifted.  Blips and beeps sounded loud in the tense silences between their breaths.

 

“Ianto.”

 

Owen’s voice now.

 

“Come on, mate.  I know you’re awake.  Open your eyes.”

 

“Okay, I’m taking him to the hospital.”

 

“Shut up, Jack.  I can tell by the brain wave patterns that he’s awake.  He’s just not answering.”

 

“Ianto?”

 

Tosh.  She sounded … unhappy.  Ianto tried to turn his head away from the pull of the steady, insistent hand on his face, towards her voice, his eyes blinking open when he found himself caught, powerless.

 

“There he is.”

 

Was that guilt or relief rushing out with Jack’s words to brush against his skin?  Curving the edges of Jack’s lips?

 

The hand pulled away and Owen’s fierce expression replaced the captain’s face.  “Stay with me.  Tell me how you feel,” he demanded.

 

Ianto’s tongue was thick and unresponsive, but he pushed it out of his mouth to try to wet his lips, to begin what seemed to be an awfully long process before he could speak.  Should it be this hard?

 

“Not … unconscious …”

 

“No – you’ve heard everything we’ve said, haven’t you?”

 

He widened his eyes as if that would awaken his mind – his muscles.  “Yep.”

 

Owen’s dark gaze glanced across him, towards Ianto’s right.  “I think his brain chemistry’s all fucked up – however that creature got into him, it’s buggered up the works.”

 

A snort from over the doctor’s shoulder told Ianto where the captain was standing.  “Is that your medical diagnosis?”

 

“Get stuffed,” Owen muttered, his brows rising, fingers clamped on the inside of Ianto’s wrist.  “I’m guessing if you were on the receiving end of some kind of mental or emotional stimuli, it’s overloaded your brain with noradrenaline, triggering your cortisol levels into overdrive.  If it’s been goin’ on for a longish period of time, your stress system is completely screwed.”

 

“What does that mean, Owen?”

 

Ianto managed to turn his head to bring Tosh’s concerned face into sight.  He bent his lips into a careful curve, intending to reassure, but he wasn’t quite certain he pulled it off.

 

“To put it simply, he’s gonna feel like shit for a while.  Bad, anxious thoughts, no energy, listlessness, depression.  The works.”

 

A trickle of wry amusement rose within him.  “So – no change, then?” Ianto murmured.

 

“Jack – have you ever seen this type of thing before?”  Tosh smiled down at him and Ianto felt her small hand steal into his.  “Some sort of psychic connection that didn’t originate from a particular device?”

 

Ianto’s mind churned slowly, images blurring into one another.  The Life Knife, the alien pendant Tosh’s Mary had given her, the memory device that had dredged up a little boy’s fear and a young girl’s murder.  Had he touched something down in the Archives?  Something that had opened him to the creature’s suffering?

 

The silence grew, and Ianto watched with that same strange detached serenity that had taken over his will as, first Tosh, and then Owen, turned away to face the man behind them.

 

“Jack,” Owen urged, “what do you know?”

 

The captain moved closer, expertly easing Owen out of the way.  He leaned down, slowly filling Ianto’s vision, his pale face strained, lips taut and bloodless.  Long, elegant fingers reached up to tenderly tug the leads from Ianto’s forehead, each movement slow and deliberate.  Ianto watched him as if he was on film, a thin, two-dimensional figure without weight or history.  Or emotional connection.

 

“You two should leave me alone with him.”

 

“Right,” Owen began, sarcasm stinging the air, “I’ll just go down the pub for a couple of pints while you do what exactly with my patient?”

 

Jack’s smile was cheerless and knowing, his gaze never wavering from Ianto’s.  “He’s in no danger, right?  His pulse is strong, his brain waves normal?”

 

“Well, yeah, but-”

 

“So there’s nothing for you to do, no treatment.”

 

Ianto could almost hear the doctor’s grimace.  “I’d take a sample of his saliva to make sure, give him a vitamin shot – C, B5, B12.”

 

Jack nodded.  “But it won’t cure him.”

 

“Dammit, Jack, could you just tell me what the bloody hell you intend to do for a change?”

 

“It’s okay,” Ianto said.  And, oddly, it was.  He didn’t think the lack of fear had anything to do with the weakness of his body or the confusion in his mind.  Down deep, at the bottom of his soul, without doubt and without reason, he trusted his life in Jack’s hands.

 

“How long-” Tosh bit off her question uncertainly.

 

Jack’s hands framed Ianto’s face, thumbs stroking lightly across his cheekbones.  “Give us a few minutes.  I promise we’ll be up shortly.”

 

Footsteps receded, Owen’s grumbling following them back up into the center of the hub.

 

Ianto couldn’t look away from Jack’s eyes – his world was filled with them.

 

“Do you trust me?” the immortal man breathed against his mouth.

 

“With my life.”  He hoped he uttered the words aloud.

 

He felt Jack’s smile against his lips.  “But not with your heart.”

 

A sharp blade of sorrow pierced the muffled shroud of his emotions.

 

Jack swept forward, his mouth taking Ianto’s, hot and vital and perilous, hands holding him motionless.

 

End Pt 3/4

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