Jack's got a heartbeat just like anyone else. Ianto can hear it when he gets this close, just below the surface, steady as anything. It's kind of like the click click click of a stopwatch. Ianto finds it comforting.
"Wake up," Ianto says.
Jack doesn't wake up, which is odd, because Jack doesn't sleep. Ianto's never seen him sleep, not in all the time he's worked for him. Jack says he doesn't need it and Ianto believes him. He always believes him.
Owen seems to think that's a character flaw, but Ianto knows it isn't. He can believe in someone and not agree with them all of the time, he can believe in someone and they can let him down; but he won't stop believing, because it's different--belief and reason. They don't get along.
"Wake up," Ianto says. "Please."
Jack came back soaked to the skin. They don't know how he got in, he was just there, where he hadn't been a moment before, as they leaned on the conference table and tried to put together some plan to save him.
He was back and there and real and wet, dripping, shaking and freezing cold and laughing. The bastard was laughing, and Ianto barely caught him in time when he finally stopped and started in a swan dive towards the floor. Owen had to help him carry him to his room.
Ianto took off the wet jacket and the boots and his socks and pushed his hair out of his eyes and then sat there watching him. Sleeping, Owen said. He's only sleeping.
But Jack doesn't sleep.
They don't know where he went, or how he got back. The only person they can ask won't open his eyes and Tosh swears there's been no recent activity with the rift--if it took him, she says, it's not what brought him back.
Ianto doesn't leave him. Gwen kept the last vigil, when the rest of them had no hope left, but Ianto's learned his lesson. He won't make the same mistake twice. Jack's going to open his eyes.
He's going to open them and he's going to be fine and then Ianto might just have to throttle him a little for making him worry this way.
The hand went missing two days ago. Tosh said it was a sign, said something was coming. There were papers strewn all around that empty glass case in a similar arrangement to the way they had fallen when Jack disappeared.
"Doctor," Jack says.
Ianto sits up straighter, stares down at Jack carefully. His eyes are still closed and he's moving restlessly, lips falling open every once and awhile, before pressing closed again. "Doctor," he says again. "Doctor--"
Ianto doesn't know who he's calling for, and he only allows himself one petty moment of wondering why it's not him before leaning forward, close as he can get. "It's okay, Jack," he says. "You're home and you're fine and you really need to wake up."
"I didn't ask," Jack says. "I swear I didn't. I went--I did."
"Jack," Ianto says. He doesn't like the way Jack sounds this way, so vulnerable, not at all the way he usually appears, in all his hero-like glory. Then again, Ianto supposes he should find it reassuring that Jack's as human as the rest of them, after all.
"Fix it," Jack says. "Just do it. I want you to."
"Jack," Ianto says. "What do you want? What's wrong?"
"I want to die," Jack says, pleading, and his hand clenches around Ianto's sleeve.
Ianto moves away like he's been slapped, but Jack's got a death grip even in his sleep and he can't make it far. "You can't," he says. He feels sick all of the sudden, remembering that gunshot, quick, so fucking quick, and Ianto didn't understand at first, what had happened, that Owen had actually pulled the trigger.
Jack was laying there, right there on the floor, and Ianto couldn't hear his heartbeat.
He survived Lisa because Jack didn't go through on his promise and Ianto didn't have it in him to do the job himself, and he survived Jack getting shot right in front of him because Jack got up again, and he survived Jack disappearing because Ianto always knew he'd find him, or Jack would find his way back.
But he could only take so much. It wore at him, every little bit, like he was slowly turning to sand.
"You don't get to die," Ianto tells him fiercely, and then he leans forward, kissing him deeply.
Jack thinks he doesn't remember, when Jack did this to him, brought him to life with a kiss--but Ianto remembers. He remembers the warm glow and the feel of air rushing back in his lungs and he remembers not being grateful at all.
He doesn't care if Jack's grateful or not, but Ianto's not going to let him slip away either.
Jack's hand uncurls from his sleeve and comes up to rest on the back of his neck and suddenly he's kissing him back, and then grabbing him, and just holding on instead. "Ianto," he whispers, breathless and tired and more alive than Ianto's ever heard him sound.
"Where the hell have you been?" Ianto asks shakily.
Jack laughs again, kind of desperate, and maybe a little relieved. "I had to see a Doctor about a thing."
Ianto's so sick of these riddles. He's so sick of knowing only the parts Jack lets him see, but that's what he gets for believing in him. He doesn't really have any choice but to trust that someday, Jack will tell him the rest.
Jack pulls away from him, giving an easy smile Ianto's never seen on him before. "I'm alive," he says.
"I know," Ianto says slowly, wondering about what could have happened to Jack while he was gone. Three days. Only three of them, but that was only for them. In a time rift, Jack could have been somewhere else for years.
"No, I'm alive," Jack tells him, but Ianto doesn't know what the secret is.
"Of course you are," he says. "You can't die."
Jack's eyes stop sparkling just a little bit, going shuttered for an instant before he shakes it off. "That's just it," he says. "I can. This is the last life I get."
Ianto is suddenly, inexplicably terrified, and he pauses in place. "What do you mean? What's happened?"
Jack leans forward, kissing him again, instead of answering, but Ianto's too focused to let it distract him and he pushes him back. "Jack--tell me what you mean."
Jack sighs. "Whatever happened to me, to make me the way I was, it's gone now. I'm fixed. I'm mortal again, just like everyone else."
Ianto shakes his head. "No, no you can't die, you can't, Jack. I've seen you--"
"I know, I couldn't for awhile," Jack agrees, nodding. "But I can now, Ianto--I'm not saying I will, anytime soon, but I can."
"You're glad?" Ianto snaps. "Jack, you've died how many times since I've met you? Four? Five? You're not going to last five minutes!" Ianto jumps up from the bed. His head is spinning.
Jack stands up, shakily, and reaches out for Ianto. Ianto can't bring himself to back away, so Jack snags his wrist and tugs him closer. "That's just it," he says. "It didn't matter, then, don't you get it? I had no reason to worry, no rush, no fear, nothing, Ianto. It was like I was in a fog, pretending to be who I was before and not quite getting it right."
Ianto leans forward, resting his forehead against Jack's. "I can't lose you," he says. "I can't."
"There's no point in living if you don't have something to lose," Jack tells him. He places his hands on Ianto's neck and gives a shaky laugh. "And now I've got everything to lose."
Ianto only had one thing to lose, and he didn't have any intention of letting him go.