Ianto's skin was shimmering as it shook with hundreds of tiny convulsions. Delayed shock had started to set in as his body temperature slowly rose to an acceptable level.
His pants grew to grunts as his pain levels also rose, Jack coddling him in the cavern beneath the cliff as Ianto was still too weak to move back up the track. Jack didn't know if he wanted to admit that he had found him in case this was some dream he would wake from into the grim reality he had left at the top of the cliff.
The old provisions in the cave had been a welcome find, the blankets and basket containing bottles of water from someone's recent picnic brought fevered thanks from Jack's lips as he striped Ianto of his wet clothes. Using the coat and blankets to wrap them both skin to skin, Jack hoped to stave off the hyperthermia Ianto was displaying.
Three days. Three days in the elements, how long had he been in the water? Drifting and rolling with the waves? Jack held him a little closer.
Ianto finally responded with gentle strokes of his fingers along Jack's sides and he slid his arms around Jack, returning the hug. His head moved against Jack's shoulder as he sought the nape of Jack's neck. Jack turned his head slightly to help Ianto nuzzle into his favourite spot. Ianto called it his "Scratch n sniff spot" and often sept with his button nose against Jack's throat.
The rain had stopped and the sound of the waves beating against the shore echoes through the cavern, Ianto's breathing in sync with his own was Jack's new favourite sound.
"Ack?" Ianto barked, his throat dry.
Jack reached for the bottle of water and gave Ianto small sips, each sip punctuated with a gentle kiss or stroke of fingers against Ianto's salty whiskered cheek.
After almost half the bottle Ianto settled back and melted into Jack's warmth.
The light seemed to be dimming outside and Jack realised with a start that dusk was approaching.
Soon he heard a voice calling his name in the distance. Mickey. Jack wanted to call out but the overwhelming desire to keep Ianto to himself for a bit longer was undeniable. He knew it was selfish but once they all knew Ianto was alive he would become public property, and fuck it all he was his after all, right? Finders keepers!
"Jack? You in the hidey-hole?" Mickey was at the entrance and now the gig was up.
"In the back Mickey, dim your light could you bud?" Jack called softly as footsteps shuffled closer.
"Jack? The girls are getting worried and I … FUCK!" Mickey was there, his hand shakily reaching for Ianto's face.
Jack begrudgingly let him stroke the whiskery cheek and when Ianto's eyes fixed him with a bleary glare at waking him Mickey burst into tears. He leaned over the two men, kissing Ianto softly and weeping as he gently embraced them both.
"I found him in a rock pool. I … he's so weak and fragile. I just … I want to … he's mine" Jack struggled to voice his feelings knowing he sounded as selfish as he felt.
"Ianto mate, I'm sorry I panicked, I'm sorry" Mickey wept placing his forehead against Ianto's and Jack reached around to fold him onto the hug.
Mickey finally straightened and shakily retrieved the walkie-talkie from his pocket.
"Found him. He's in the hidey-hole just like Helen guessed" he reported back.
"Is everything OK" Martha's voice crackled back.
"Yeah" a smile broke across mickey's face, "Everything's gonna be OK babe!"
Martha frowned at the radio as she listened to her husband. He sounded … happy.
The sighs of relief round the room were lost on Martha as she continued to think on Mickey's message. She quietly left the room and wandered down the corridor to the outer doors.
"Going somewhere?" Gwen asked as she and Rhys wandered past with the kids following. Little ducklings all in a row.
"Yeah. Mickey found Jack down in the hidey hole. He's OK" Martha smiled as Gwen's relief was evident. "Want to come collect the errant child?"
Gwen snorted with humour at their inside joke that Ianto had two kids. Good little Angel and Jack … the devil himself.
"Come with?" Martha asked again, flicking her head towards the dimming light outside.
Rhys hesitated and Gwen turned back to him. He nodded and sighed as he lost his wife yet again to torchwood.
When Martha hesitated, then picked up a med-kit Gwen frowned at her.
"Mickey sounded different. Like he didn't want to say something. I think Jack may have reached the bottom of the cliff without travelling the side track" she explained and Gwen nodded with a grimace.
The quarter of the hour it took to reach the cavern had cost the rest of the daylight and their torches fanned artificial light in front of them as they walked along the shore. Mickey was waiting at the entrance of the cavern and Martha noted something like glee in his stance.
He hugged Martha and motioned Gwen inside. She shrugged off her coat as the warmth of the day still lingered in the limestone.
"Jack?" she called softly.
"We're in the back Gwen" came the soft reply. We!
She ran. Dropping her torch and coat as she stumbled and surged through the space until she fell beside the bundle of blankets and clothes, Mickey's on top.
Jack smiled and gently moved the fold of material back from Ianto's sleeping face and Gwen broke.
Crawling under the impromptu bedding, Gwen joined her two friends with gentle giggles and kisses.
Martha had questioned Mickey outside and he had held her back as she struggled to get inside for about half an hour, their struggle turning into a bit of slap and tickle as Mickey felt good for the first time since his buddy had sunk into the bay.
She quietly walked to the back of the cavern and her heart melted as she watched the three remaining torchwood team members laying together as they all seemed to softly comfort each other.
After finally being allowed to examine her patient, she declared Ianto well enough to move. As his clothes were either torn from the rocks and larggette teeth or in Jack's haste, they decided that Jack would wrap him in the greatcoat Ianto was currently clutching like a security blanket.
They travelled slowly, like weary travellers home from a quest. Rhys was waiting. He saw the torches flickering through the kitchen windows and left the kids playing in the main room, Francine cuddling a sleepy Angel who was still babyish in his lethargies.
As Rhys approached them he was aware of the extra person walking slowly and carefully between Jack and Mickey. He felt a sob and swallowed it down. Ianto wouldn't want that. Such a shy, proud man. Instead Rhys turned the torch down to help light Ianto's way home.
Ianto looked up at the bear of a man waiting silently and was thankful of the extra light as his legs didn't want to work anymore on the unstable ground. Home, they were home. Ianto's strength faded along with his fear and Jack effortlessly swept him up to carry him the final few yards to the light of the security grid.
Rhys placed a trembling hand on Ianto's arm in silent welcome and Ianto smiled softly.
As they entered the building Angel was the first to run. He had lain with Granny waiting for Daddy and seeing what was unmistakably Tada in his arms was all he needed to shake of his tiredness He cried out with joy as his Tadda's hand moved to cup Jack's face.
Jack fell to his knees so Angel could see his Tadda's face and he peppered Tadda's face with kisses. So many kisses, Tadda deserves all the kisses.
One by one, each person approached and touched Ianto to welcome him and reassure themselves that he was not a mirage.
Jack carried him to their room. Their room. One Ianto had never seen, never been in. Jack placed him on the bed and sent a glance of thanks to Gwen who had run ahead and covered the bed with towels. Francine arrived with a bucket of hot water, soap and more towels. Jack gently shaved Ianto's face as the women sponge bathed Ianto. Ianto was too tired and weak to complain at the indignity of it all.
Tish had insisted on helping and Jack was reminded of the last sponge bath they had given Ianto. As if hearing his thoughts she looked up and grinned.
"Still my brother" she whispered.
"Still my sister" he whispered back.
"Twpsyns the lot of ya" a tired voice came from the bed and they all giggled like naughty children.
Francine had shooed everyone else out before Ianto had been fully exposed and watched Martha examine the bumps and bruises that littered his body.
"He's fine. No breaks no serious injuries … I don't get it" Martha shook her head.
"No, I got it" Ianto muttered half asleep and Jack snorted.
"What did you do?" she whispered to Jack.
Angel took this moment to burst into the room, the punch to Rhys's groin had lessened his hold on the little terror and he climbed up the bed not caring that his Tadda was naked. Ianto wrapped him in his arms and kissed his little face.
Angel was pleased Tadda's whiskers were gone and he could rub his face against Tadda's again, nuzzling like a kitten into his momma cat.
Jack wept and Francine held him, Ianto accepting a blanket over his nakedness as Angel cried himself to sleep in his Tadda's arms.
Safe and sound.