Spoilers: All of Children of Earth and scattered references to series one and two
Summary: Set three years after Children of Earth. Strange events force Jack to reconsider his opinion on the existence of ghosts along with his definition of impossible. Yep, you guessed it, more Children of Earth fix it fic.
“I know they’re dead and I’m sorry but you can’t just run away.” Tears coursed down Gwen’s face, smudging mascara down her cheeks like trails of black blood. “You can’t run away.” It was overly repetitive and overly begging but she didn’t care. Maybe if she kept saying it the man in front of her would agree with her.
Jack Harkness, the man standing in front of her, had never given up in his life. Not once in his very long life. Not really. He’d lived so long and seen so much but he’d always powered on. He’d always made it seem like he never had a choice in the matter, and admittably he really didn’t, but she’d never seen him or heard him mention of a time where he had decided to throw in the towel and turn his back on everything he ever knew and love because of something that had happened.
Somewhere she hoped Ianto Jones took some sort of pride in that. Jack had loved and lost before but this one had snapped him in half and then stomped the pieces into oblivion, or at least damn near it.
Not to say Jack hadn’t tried. That’s what the six months abroad were for. Whatever he had done or seen during those months had clearly not worked. She’s hoped when she’d been summoned to this hill in the middle of bleeding nowhere on a frigid March night that Jack would say he was ready to get back in the game. To get back on his feet and do what Ianto and Owen and Tosh and everyone would have wanted them to do.
Not so. Jack Harkness was giving up. He still blamed himself for Ianto and Stephen and he was going to run as far as he could and as fast as he could to escape it. Gwen did not consider herself above begging and so beg she did. She begged him not to run, not to leave her, but mostly begged for himself. One day he’d regret running and that would be a pain that she would never be able to help him with because she probably would no longer be here when that pain hit.
“Sure I can.” Jack’s voice was quivering, breathy and almost of no substance. He was already gone from this place. That idea was confirmed when white light surrounded him and Gwen knew she only had moments to tie this man back to Earth, to make him face his demons.
She reached out and grabbed his vortex manipulator, ripping the fifty quid band off his wrist and casting it away. It vanished before it hit the ground. When she returned to look at Jack she noted that he was firmly back in the real world. The pain and hopeless lost expression in his face was replaced by the hard edge of anger. Good, she decided, let him be angry.
“Gwen,” he began in a warning tone.
“Let me tell you something,” Gwen snapped. She must look ridiculous, crying and trying to lecture all at once. Rhys had always said it was sometimes difficult to take her seriously when she got this angry but she was determined to be heard. She was partly surprised to find that he wasn’t trudging up to her side to either supervise or help with this confrontation. Obviously he knew this was between her and Jack. Yes, she agreed, it was better that he watched from a distance. She returned her attention to Jack. “Let me tell you something that Ianto would tell you if he were here.”
“I will,” she pressed on, voice quivering. “I will because someone has to speak for him and I always reckoned that would be your job. But you’re not hearing him, Jack. You’re not even trying to.” She sniffed, batted roughly at her nose and eyes and continued. “Remember when Tosh died? When Owen died? I told you I could not continue but you told us, told me and Ianto, that we could. And we did. Not a day goes by that I don’t miss them but I go on. So did you.”
The words that next left Jack’s moth Gwen had never thought he’d ever say aloud. “I am TIRED of having to go on!” He cried. “It’s always me, every single fucking time. I go on and all of you die and it’s always my fault.” He looked like he wanted nothing more than to run away, but he would have done so or had a back up if he’d really wanted to. He was still standing there, still listening, in spite of the mist in his eyes and the haggard anger in his face. He was still listening to her. Gwen had to admit that it was more than a valid point for a man like Jack but it all sounded like to her was a child whining about having to go have a bath when he really wanted to stay in muddy clothes.
“That is just too bloody bad, isn’t it?” Her voice echoed in the darkness and she could swear she heard some familiar voice shouting ‘hear, hear!’ in the distance. “You’ve been dealt a bad hand, Jack,” she told him firmly, “and I’m sorry, so sorry that it always seems to be you. But with all due respect for how bad you feel you have to go on. You have to deal with it, not run from it.” She stopped again, raking her brain for a better point than the one she was about to use but decided there was nothing for it. “This is something I hoped I’d never actually say,” she admitted. “You know everyone at funerals always mentions what the dead person would think, feel or what have you. I never put much stock in it since I never thought there was anything left of the person to think anything. We know that’s wrong though-“
Jack shook his head, silencing Gwen for a moment with the desperation. “I can’t think of him like that. I can’t do it…”
“I know,” she agreed. “I know, I’m sorry, but my point is part of Ianto exists somewhere,” she smiled, hoping that it didn’t look as gutted as she felt. “He’s no doubt fussing about you something awful.” Jack let out some form of choked laughter at that. “Do you really think he would appreciate how you’ve been acting?”
Stop torturing yourself. It wasn’t your fault…
Maybe her point about listening to Ianto was more than just words. That thought even had Ianto’s voice. She listened again for something else, it felt like there was something else but there was nothing there. Imagination, she decided. She rubbed her hand across her eyes again. “Come home with us,” she indicated herself and her husband. “We’ll take care of you. We’ll rebuild Torchwood. That’s what we need to do now. We need to carry on for all of them who can’t.”
Jack slumped his shoulders and stared at the ground. “It was my fault.” This time the child was hanging his head, waiting to be punished for breaking his mother’s lamp.
“Now what would he say about that?” She’d seen the recording of Ianto’s death. She knew precisely his thoughts on the matter. “We both know the answer to that one. He told you, remember?”
“People say all kinds of things when they’re dying,” Jack muttered.
“I think that if Ianto thought it was your fault he wouldn’t have had any issue telling you. Not then.”
Jack was the one having rivers pour from his eyes. She closed the distance and hugged him. “It wasn’t your fault. Ianto knew what he was doing and I think you and I both know he wouldn’t have rather been anywhere else.”
Jack clung tightly to her and nodded into her shoulder. “I know. It’s just...”
“It hurts. I know it does, dear.” She pulled back and took his hands in hers. “Come on,” she urged. “Ianto left you and me his coffee recipe in his will. I think we could use some of that.”
Rhys made his presence known for the first time since complaining about the price of the strap. “I’ll go warm up the car then. Bloody freezing!”
Jack snorted at that before returning his attention to Gwen. “Thank you.”
She winked. “Don’t mention it,” she grinned. “Besides,” she added as she took a hand back to place over her swollen belly. “I’m going to need a babysitter for this one once she comes out.”
Rhys’s yell of objection broke the air again, followed closely by quiet laughter. Another voice followed them though none of them could hear it.
Wait for me. It urged. I’ll fix this. Just wait for me.