Gwen was getting used to driving with one hand. It was the other one she was having trouble with, as she fumbled for the radio.
"Gwen? Is everything-"
"We're fine. Sort of. Beth and I are fine."
There was a long silence, then Ianto said, "What do you need?"
"Tell Owen-" This time it was Gwen who was cut short by Jack's harsh laugh.
"Tell Ianto to have some fabric cleaner standing by. I think I'm getting blood on the upholstery."
Pressing her lips together and concentrating on driving in a straight line, Gwen pressed the radio button again. "Jack's hurt. Badly. Too badly for Owen."
And thank heaven she didn't have to spell things out for Ianto. She could almost see him nodding.
"We'll be standing by."
Dropping the radio again, Gwen tried to watch the road and Jack at the same time.
"Won't be long now," she said, getting another of those too abrupt laughs in response. It had an odd, bubbling quality to it that frightened her, and when she looked across, Jack was wiping blood from his mouth.
"I'll be gone before we get there," he said, coughing a little and grimacing at the streak of red on on his palm. "You got a handkerchief?"
For a moment, Gwen had to resist the urge to laugh. She was driving a souped-up, armour-plated SUV with a killer alien who thought she was human and a man who didn't seem to care that he was about to die, but was worried about getting blood on his hands. Instead, she forced back the hysteria – something she was getting a lot of practice at – and said, "What?", wincing as the word came out at a much higher pitch than she'd intended.
"A handkerchief," Jack said again, his voice weaker than before. "The blood..."
"Jack, you've got blood everywhere. I don't think a handkerchief is going to make much difference at this point."
"Probably not." When she glanced over again, Jack was slumped in the passenger seat, his head back and eyes closed.
From behind her, Beth asked softly, "Shouldn't we take him to hospital?"
In Gwen's rear view mirror, the other woman looked tired and scared, huddled in her seat and clutching her hands together in front of her.
"No. There's nothing they could do for him." Biting her lip, Gwen thought quickly. With everything that Beth had seen today, everything that she knew, one more thing wasn't going to make much difference. Still, there were ways of putting these things. Slowly, Gwen said, "Jack's a bit different to the rest of us. He, well, he'll be alright. I promise."
And that was the question, wasn't it? Jack's secrets weren't so secret any more, except for the parts that were. She still had no idea how he managed the whole 'not dying' thing, or if it would ever stop. For all that he said it wouldn't, she found it hard to believe that his luck was never going to run out.
She risked another look, trying not to panic at the paleness of his skin, or the complete lack of animation in his face. Aware that she still hadn't answered Beth's question, Gwen shrugged.
"None of us really know. But I promise you," she added, putting every ounce of conviction that she could muster into the words, "he's going to be alright."
She hung onto that as she drove up to the garage, grateful that the others were already waiting inside. Ianto had the door open almost before she'd turned the engine off, while Tosh climbed into the back to help Beth out.
"What happened?" Owen asked, waiting as Gwen fumbled with her seatbelt.
"One of those aliens. Stabbed him right through."
"He's dead." Ianto had a hand on Jack's neck, feeling for a pulse that Gwen knew was long gone. "Let's get him out of here."
They waited until Tosh had taken Beth into the Hub before manoeuvring Jack's body out of the car and onto a trolley. It probably didn't need all three of them, but they managed not to get in each other's ways too much, and it was easier, with more hands to help. Ianto shook his head when Owen wanted to take the body – Jack – into the autopsy room for the time being.
"It's cold in there. He's got a fold-out in his office. I'll find some sheets for it."
Gwen's hands were covered in blood, sticky and drying rust brown. Absently, she noticed that Owen and Ianto were wearing plastic gloves, and that although Owen had a spreading red stain across the plastic apron he'd also put on, Ianto's shirt was as pristine as ever. She waited in the doorway of Jack's office as they carefully laid him on the chair bed, and Ianto pulled a blanket over him.
"Come on," Owen said, stripping off his gloves as he came over to her, "let's get you cleaned up."
There was still Beth to talk to, and reports to file and about a million other things to check, but Gwen let Owen lead her away, leaving Ianto crouched by the low bed, gently brushing the hair from Jack's forehead.
She still felt hollow inside when she came back into the main Hub, brushing her damp hands against her trousers and trying to get her head back in the right place. Until Jack woke up, there would be things to do, things to check on, and things to cover up. She was getting good at this.
Tosh was at her workstation, glancing up when Gwen wandered over, then nodding up towards the new botanics lab. Gwen could just about make out a person moving between the plants; it had to be Beth. Before Gwen could say anything, though, she heard voices from behind her, one sharp and breathless, the other low and steady. Meeting Tosh's eye, she grinned, then turned on her heel, trying not to run towards Jack's office.
The lights were low inside, just a dim glow coming from Jacks' desk lamp and the computer in the corner. Ianto had shifted so that he was sitting on the floor, steadying himself with one hand. The other hand was clasped in Jack's.
From the confused expression on Jack's face, he'd just woken up, come back, resurrected, whatever the right word was. He was breathing hard, blinking and clenching his free hand in the sheets.
"Jack?" Ianto's voice was soft, gentle and soothing, making Gwen pause in the doorway, reluctant to break the spell. "Jack, can you hear me?"
"Ianto?" Turning his head, Jack blinked again. "Hey there."
"Hey yourself. Back with us, are you?"
"Apparently." Groaning a little, Jack sat upright, stretching his back. Gwen could hear it clicking from the other side of the room, and she noticed that Jack still hadn't let go of Ianto's hand. "Damn that hurt."
"Messy too," Ianto said, with a lightness that Gwen wasn't sure she could have managed. "Getting blood out of the upholstery's not easy, you know."
"Sorry. How long?"
"Twenty minutes or so, I think. I brought a new shirt and t-shirt up for you."
"What would I do without you?"
"I shudder to think."
Laughing, Jack lifted Ianto's hand, pressing it gently to his lips before saying, "Next time, I'm going to request that they go right for the heart. Much quicker, less painful and a hell of a lot less messy."
"Oh yes, because that makes much more sense than, say, not getting killed at all."
Jack's voice was indignant, but he was still smiling. "Hey, it's not like I go looking for these things."
"Of course not."
As Gwen ducked her head, turning back to the Hub, she saw Jack reach out with his free hand, brushing Ianto's face. For all that she wanted to go in there and check Jack was still okay and hit him for scaring her like that, she decided to give them a few minutes. She should talk to Tosh about the cover story, go and check that Owen was setting up the stasis chamber and, however much she didn't want to, someone should go talk to Beth about what happened next.
At least, thanks to Jack, there was a 'next'. He'd probably earned some time to relax. And if he chose to spend that time with Ianto, well, Gwen wasn't sure she wanted to know any more than that.