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.
Jack had been hearing his name being called for quite a bit now. It would normally be incredibly annoying but the fact that the person calling him was dead simply told him that he was imagining all of this so he tried his best to fall deeper into sleep and ignore it. The voice continued until it let out a sigh. It was a familiar one, one of frustration and not of resignation. She never really had resigned herself to anything after all, never truly anyway.
He’s not waking up.
The comment had obviously not been directed at Jack but he was still surprised when another familiar voice replied to it. Oh you have got to be kidding me, it grumbled as it so often had in life. I’m going mad with all the effort I’m putting in to this and he doesn’t have the decency to open his eyes?
Jack? The first voice again. Jack? Can you hear us? It’s Toshiko an-
And Owen bloody Harper now answer me Jack, so help me, before I start making doors and windows slam like a right and proper ghost!
“You’re not here,” Jack said to the blackness. “You’re not real. This is a dream.”
A low growl rumbled in the black. I’ll show you not real, Harkness…
Shut up, Owen! It’s not a dream, Jack. And I can prove it. There’s-
Tosh, we’re going to have to come back later. We’re running out of time and I think Ianto’s getting impatient.
“Ianto?” Jack called, suddenly not caring if this was a dream. “Ianto?”
He’s not here, Jack “Tosh” snapped. Listen to me. Look for a shoebox in the bottom drawer of my dresser. There something in there you might want to see. Something of Ianto’s.
Something of Ianto’s? What on earth do you have of-
SHUT UP, OWEN! We’re losi-
Jack came back to wakefulness with gasp worthy of his dramatic resurrection days. He shook his head to the echoes of the dream and then opened his eyes. It was blindingly sunny in here, he quickly determined. It was so sunny he had to shield his eyes. He could have sworn he’d shut the curtains before he’d—
His thought derailed spectacularly when he noticed that not only were the curtains in the bedroom open but the windows were also opened. He was up out of the bedroom, moving on some strange intuition, and rushed into the living room. Windows and curtains open there as well. An inspection of the bathroom and the one small window in the kitchen showed they were all flown wide open as well. Last time Jack had checked he didn’t think the flat had needed to be aired out and he didn’t enjoy sleeping with all his windows open. Not in January at any rate.
I’ll show you real, Harkness…
“Oh no,” he warned himself. That thought was dangerous territory. Very dangerous territory. “That was dream,” he lectured. “That wasn’t real.”
At the conclusion of that sentence all of the windows slammed shut one after the other. The performance was perfectly coordinated, the fan of windows shutting reminding him of crowds doing the wave at sporting events.
His first thought was that his team was responsible even though practical jokes weren’t really something they did anymore. The occasional prank wars that Torchwood Three had indulged had died after Tosh and Owen had and this type of prank was not something Gwen would have done. He couldn’t even imagine Harry or Mel trying something like this either. Harry lacked the spine and Mel lacked motive.
His second thought was that he was still asleep but one positively frigid gust of wind through the open windows, proved he was quite awake. The third possibility was that after so many centuries he had finally lost his mind. Hearing voices was definitely a sign of that.
More tests for Harry to run today, he decided with a sigh as he made his way to the kitchen. He opened up the cabinet door to grab a mug and caught glance of the recipe of for Ianto’s coffee, written in the dead man’s precise hand, and decided today was already shaping up to be one of those days. He’d probably only manage sludge but at least it would be highly caffeinated sludge.
Hopefully that wouldn’t throw off any results.
- - -
After the 456 mess, when rebuilding the hub been tabled, Jack and Gwen had fought very hard to have the location remain the same. The archives and some of the morgue had survived and it seemed silly to clean up all traces of their presence along with the mess instead of merely rebuilding out of the rubble. “The end is where we start from,” he’d urged them. It was something he still believed in despite everything and he gathered that had helped to convince UNIT that Roald Dahl Plass would still be the headquarters for Torchwood Three.
Everyone knew they were there anyway. They weren’t a secret, hadn’t been for some time, so there didn’t seem a point to pretending they were.
Everything had been made to fit to precisely the way it was. Gwen’s area was a bit larger and more comprehensive than any one else’s but the same principles had applied. There was space for an extra work station for any reserve staff and then they had space for more permanent staff. Jack was sure he’d wear Rhys or Martha down one of these days he wanted a space ready for them when that day came. There was also room to expand if somehow he managed to convince both of them.
Gwen had asked him whether it was really healthy to have everything the way it had been but Jack had found it silly. This wasn’t the same place, he’d argued. It just happened to look the same. Everything was too shiny and new for the ghosts of dead friends to haunt them. The tech station was clearly Mel’s, not a hint of Tosh was there. The same could be said for the medbay, the medical station, the re vamped tourist shop and the expanded kitchen as well. The archives remained the same. Jack had made it his personal mission to be able to spend more than a minute in the archives without feeling Ianto’s hand on his shoulder or see him haunting the storages shelves. He could certainly abide it now but it was someplace he still tried his best to avoid.
The one thing that really stood out aside from all of that was the spray painted logo of HUB2 that adorned the wall over the new couches where the old Torchwood sign would have been. Jack had asked Rhys to do that and he’d gladly repeated his performance from the warehouse.
“Jack?” Harry appeared at of nowhere as Jack walked through the “Made in Wales” stamped door. “Gwen said we needed to take care of something.”
Gwen’s back was turned to him so he couldn’t glare or thank her properly. Gwen may sometimes overstep her bounds but she usually had more than enough reason to do it. In this case she was assuring that Jack actually did what he said he was going to do. She knew him way too well. “Yeah,” he confirmed. “I’ve got a bit of a story for you.”
- - -
Harry Olden was only twenty eight but had the manner of a doctor at least twice his age. Where Owen Harper had been fantastically brilliant but fantastically snappish around his patients Harry dealt with each patient, whether a team member or an extraterrestrial refugee, with the same level of courtesy. That was a skill that the other doctor had often lacked. Owen had not missed leaving behind patients for good upon joining Torchwood staff while Harry still somewhat missed patient interaction. He was gentle and encouraging no matter what type of tests or injuries he was dealing with, which Jack admitted he liked for the tests he was asking him to do, but a caustic comment from Owen would have been quite welcome. It also would have given him a bit more distraction than the silence Harry left him in as he manned the machines.
“Any chance you feel like dying today, Jack?”
Jack did his best to turn his head without upsetting the wires and nodes Harry had set up on him. “I usually don’t like to die on an empty stomach,” he quipped.
Harry hummed to himself. Punching up a few screens on his monitor and then shrugging his shoulders. “Physically you’re better than fine. Mentally as well. Nothing whatsoever wrong with you at all.”
That was surprisingly disappointing. He’d explained the grey figure in the darkness to Harry and had mentioned the events of the morning. Harry had seemed pretty confident that it was a sign for rest and perhaps further investigation. Jack couldn’t help but be encouraged as well because that was what Harry did. All smiles from one ear to the other, brown eyes a veritable pillow of security. Jack had been soothed into accepting whatever was found. To find that he was healthy after all was something of a let down.
“So…” Jack stalled. “What’s with the dying comment?”
“Maybe something’s changed in your readings when you’re dead?” Harry shrugged his shoulders. “I can’t think of anything else we can test. I’m betting nothing changes though. It might explain the grey figure but I can’t explain hearing dead friends talking to you as anything other than exhaustion.” He ran a hand through his close cut brown hair, a gesture eerily similar to another dear departed friend, and commenced releasing Jack from the wires. “I, of course, have no explanation at all for the window thing. Maybe there’s something in the archives that can measure for whatever energy presumably caused that?”
That wouldn’t be surprising. Some of the artefacts no doubt would have been better off as ashes, Jack saw it as a blessing and a curse that the archives has survived the blast, but there were some useful things down there. “Want to look into it?” he asked Harry. “I’d rather try that first before I let you shoot me.”
Harry blinked and then gave him a nod. “I’ll get down there.”
Jack nodded his thanks and slid off the examination table. Harry cleared his throat and held out Jack’s shirt. “Might want this, perhaps?”
Jack smirked and shook his head, wandering right on out of the medbay and out into the main hub. Gwen burst out laughing, trying to not choke on sandwich she was eating. Mel displayed no reaction, simply waved him over her station.
“Melanie Telson,” he sang. “My great and terrible Irish beauty, what have you got for me?”
“A big problem,” she said without missing beat. “Apparently the organ trafficking is the least of our worries. The doctors who performed those operations were exposed to something called Hexdrac-381.”
Jack leaned in over Mel’s shoulder, scanning the UNIT datasheet on the subject. “Since when can Altercans create viruses?”
“They can’t.” Mel said. “It’s a slow death, this one. Attacks each system one by one and shuts it down. Like a computer virus, almost. It’s an engineered one by…I’m not even going to try and pronounce that… Suffice to say we have to arrange for some antidotes.”
Jack was already on the phone with UNIT. “Three injections, ten minutes apart,” he ordered, still reading off the datasheet. “Agent Cooper and I will pick up the serums and then deliver them. We have a long time frame it appears but we don’t want to make anyone suffer this longer than they have to.” He hung up the phone and Gwen’s name was barely out of his mouth when he was assaulted by both his shirt and his great coat.
“I’m driving,” Gwen reported.
He’d be a fool to argue with her. He saluted. “Yes m’am!” He buttoned up his shirt and turned his attention back to the red haired woman, “Mel, Harry’s in the archives if you need him. You’re in charge.”
Mel snorted. “Too bloody right I am,” she muttered. “Someone intelligent has to be here in case Harry gets lost down there again.”
“How did he manage that anyway?” Jack asked, pulling on his great coat and heading down to the car park. “The archives are the most organized part of this whole place.”
“Best not to look for sense when it comes to Harry, boss,” Mel sighed. “Now get on out of it.”