They don't have time for this. There is no time to stop right now, not for anything. But that's the funny thing about time. When it's all run up and gone, that's when it's needed most. It's never needed when everyone's sitting around, lazing about with nothing to do with themselves, but as soon as everyone's got too many things to do, that's when everything else happens.
So, they really, really don't have time for this, and that's why it's happening now. That's why the world is going to hell around Gwen, and she's standing in a hallway, staring at a despondent Jack Harkness and waiting. Exactly what she's waiting for, Gwen isn't sure of just yet. Probably something sad, or dramatic, or important, or some mixture of the three. That's not important right now, though.
What's important is Jack. He's sitting across the hall on the bench, with his back rigidly straight and pressed against the wall, his feet flat on the ground, and his hands on his knees, elbows locked and arms taught. Everything about his posture screams tension. His eyes, on the other hand, carry none of the strain the rest of his body does.There's absolutely nothing in them; they're completely blank, just locked on the wall across from him, staring at some spot just to Gwen's right that she's certain he's not actually seeing. It utterly breaks Gwen's heart to see him this way. Two things come to mind as she witnesses this. One: while Owen might've been dead, or undead, he never looked deader than Jack does now. Two: while Jack might've been dead in that body bag, oh, about half an hour ago, he looks deader now. Jack is the epitome of lifelessness right now. Rigor mortis and empty eyes.
Then again, it wouldn't be the first time her heart has broken today.
"Jack," she tries to say, but her voice is all gross and scratchy and nonexistent, a result of all of the crying. She clears her throat and tries again. "Jack-"
Whatever she wants to say next is cut off by the sight of him slowly shaking his head. His eyes never leave the spot on the wall. It's clear he's not actually listening to her, and he probably wouldn't have if she continued. He probably just needed the quiet. That's never a good thing for Jack, especially in moments like these. Too broody is actually a thing. Gwen leans back against the wall and moves her hand to the spot he's gazing at. He blinks, eyes focusing on the hand, and Gwen sighs quietly in relief. Not too far gone, then.
"What?" he asks. His voice cracks.
"Take some deep breaths," she says. "You need to relax."
He doesn't. If anything, he gets tenser. He looks like he might cry again, which isn't good, because then she'll start crying again. She's always been one of those kinds of people, the ones who'll laugh or cry or seethe quietly to themselves just because everyone else is doing it, too. God, she really hopes he doesn't cry right now, because she can feel a headache coming on from all the crying she's already done, and considering the past few days were spent on the run, she's very dehydrated and can't afford to lose any more fluids like that.
She's about to tell Jack as much when the door to Jack's right opens. Gwen immediately stands, pulling herself off the wall and attempting to look alert, while Jack bolts up, bringing all of his tension and stress with him.
"Well," Ianto rasps, sounding like a seventy-year-old smoker.
Somewhere in Gwen's mind is a thought about how shitty everyone sounds, but that's out the window with every other thought she's got right now. All she can think is 'thank god' and... well, no, 'thank god' is pretty much it.
"Coughing should go down in a week," Ianto continues hoarsely, a small, amused smile on his face. "If not, I've got a lung infection, and I'll have to go back in."
He frowns, as if suddenly noticing them, really noticing them. His scowl lingers on Jack for a beat, searching his face, before he turns to Gwen.
"What's wrong with Jack?"
"Jack is very distraught and needs a hug," Gwen says.
Ianto only frowns deeper.
Gwen rolls her eyes. Daft idiot. "I'll leave the two of you alone for a moment."
She turns to leave, and then suddenly realizes there's really no place to go in this hospital. There's just a long hall. She flounders awkwardly in place for a moment, deliberating to herself exactly how she's supposed to 'leave them alone' in a place like this. Ultimately, she decides she'll go down a few doors to the right and just stand over there instead. Hopefully that should be enough for privacy. In their minds, of course. She's a natural eavesdropper, and she refuses to let go of that. It's gotten her pretty far in life.
When she's far enough away for their comfort and close enough for hers, she stops and pretends to look busy. It occurs to her that they could just stop being such withdrawn idiots and could just confess their feelings like a normal pair, with her not needing to leave at all, but then she shakes her head. Nah. This is Jack and Ianto. Everything has got to happen as dramatic as possible, or else it's not going to happen at all.
"You alright?" Ianto asks.
He immediately starts coughing, and Gwen hopes to god that that really does subside in less than a week. It sounds bloody awful, and it would be particularly nasty to have an infection.
"Are you?" Jack asks, somewhat nervously, when Ianto's finished hacking up his lungs.
"I asked you first," Ianto says.
He has to clear his throat three times to get that sentence out, poor dear. Gwen will make him some tea, whenever she has time to do so. That will probably be five years from now, at this rate. Hell, by the way this week is going, her baby might be at uni by the time everything is over and dealt with.
"I'm not the one who died."
"Yes, you were."
"I'm not the mortal one here!"
"Well, neither am I!"
"Yeah, well, you were an hour ago!"
"And now I'm not, thanks to you! So, I'm fine!"
Contrary to his statement, Ianto doubles over coughing. He waves Jack away as Jack's hands move around him, trying to help him in some unknown way. Gwen can't blame Jack; she'd probably be trying to do the same thing. Ianto straightens, then sighs.
"Really hope that doesn't keep happening," Ianto says.
"I could've lost you."
That is so hard for Gwen to hear, partly because Jack said it in such a low voice, partly because Jack's tone is so utterly broken.
"You didn't lose me," Ianto says.
"But I could've!"
"But you didn't!" Ianto yells.
Then he coughs for a good minute. Then he remarks on how unpleasant coughing is. Then he countinues.
"You didn't lose me, Jack. Apparently, you're not going to. So I don't see what the big deal is!"
"Because I thought I did! I thought you were gone, Ianto, and it doesn't make any difference that you're not, because in that moment, you were! And I had to live with that!"
Jack pauses to let out a sob, and Gwen has to forcefully hold hers in. That hurts to hear, because Gwen had to live with this herself, about a half hour ago. She was sitting at his side, red body bag pulled away to show blue lips and an ashen face, Jack clinging to her back like a lifeline. If Ianto had never taken that gasping breath in... no. That doesn't bear thinking about. Gwen can't think about that, because then she'd have to think about the funeral arrangements she'd would've planned, and the empty hole in her heart that would've expanded, and the fact that Jack would've left for good.
"Christ, Ianto, do you have any idea how that felt? Living, however briefly, in a world that didn't have you?"
"No! You don't! You want to know what it was like?"
"It was hell!" Jack shouts. "It was the worst feeling I have ever felt, and I don't know-"
This time, Jack listens, and he stops shouting and lets himself fall into Ianto's awaiting embrace. His arms hang limply at his sides and his face buries into Ianto's shoulder as Ianto just holds him. Gwen has to blink down at her feet to get rid of the tears that are swimming annoyingly in her eyes as Jack weeps into Ianto. God, is every member of Torchwood a messy crier? Good to know that Gwen isn't the only one.
They don't have time for this, Gwen thinks again. But the thing is, with Jack and Ianto, there's only time for this in these moments. They refuse themselves basic emotions until said emotions boil over and get all convoluted and messy, and then they start to work it over. And this particular conversation has been a long time coming.
"You're not going to have to go through that again," Ianto says eventually, drawing back so that he can take Jack's shoulders and look him in the eye.
"No," Jack says, sniffing and giving a weak laugh. "I suppose not. Healthy dose of the Time Vortex aught to keep you up and running."
"See? I'll be fine."
Yet again, a fit of coughs nulls that statement.
"First I've just got to get through this week," Ianto croaks.
"Alright, alright," Gwen says, walking back up to the two. "That's enough of that. We've got some child-thieving aliens to deal with. Say you love each other and be done with it."
"I already did," Ianto says. He shoots a mock-glare at Jack.
Jack glares back. "You were on your deathbed! That hardly counts as a real confession!"
"Yeah, well at least I didn't say 'don't.'"
"Oh, come on, that's hardly fair. I was also dying at that point!"
"Jack, just say it," Gwen sighs.
Jack turns her glare to her, and she glowers right back.
"Fine." Jack looks Ianto directly in the eye and tells him.
"Like you mean it," Gwen says.
"I love you," Jack repeats, this time with more emphasis.
"There. That's better. Now, kiss and make up later, we're a bit busy at the moment."
"456, here we come," Ianto says dryly.
There is no time, but they can always make some.