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.
Two hours later everything was picked up, administered and well on the way to full recoveries. Hexdrac-381 was not contagious but it was still a nasty, slow moving and painful disease. It was a display. If the species that created it was angered this was what they sent out to teach them a lesson. The antidote was rare but not so rare that UNIT didn’t have access to it. Jack didn’t know when anyone had dealt with the disease before, he certainly hadn’t been involved in any of it, but he didn’t concern himself with it. All that mattered was that the doctors who had performed the transplants were going to be fine. There were other issues to consider. The doctors would have to be interviewed but Jack was all for giving them the time to recoup from what had happened before asking the questions and then retconning them. They were all weak as new born kittens, barely able to lift their heads up let alone withstand any sort of proper debriefing.
Business was done and dealt with but Gwen was either lost or taking the scenic route back to the Hub. When Jack asked after their destination Gwen’s response was warning, cold laugh of “oh, you know where we’re going.” When he’d asked again, assuring her that he actually had no idea what was going on, Gwen had merely rolled her eyes and driven faster.
Fifteen minutes later he clued in and was severely regretting telling Gwen about the dream and the window thing on the way out.
“What are you afraid of?” Gwen asked as she parked the car in front of the storage shed that held the possessions of Toshiko Sato. Gwen had already dragged him over to secure the spare key that the man who ran the place kept for all these storage lockers. Gwen had some access to those keys but Jack had the final say so on the release of those keys. Jack knew that he could have easily shut the whole process down but found himself giving consent anyway. A part of him definitely wanted to know but another part desperately wanted to get back in the car and run away.
“You’re afraid of if there is something there, aren’t you?” Gwen asked softly. She took his hand and held it tight. “Why?” she whispered, trying to sound understanding when she really didn’t understand at all. “If it’s something of Ianto’s then that’s a good thing, isn’t it?”
“If there’s something there,” Jack replied, slowly enunciating each syllable. “And no one but Tosh knew it was there and told no one about it …” He let the sentence die and waved his hand in a ‘and there you have it’ gesture. If there was something in there that meant there was more truth in the events of last night than he’d was prepared to believe. He was not sure if he could believe in ghosts, not after dying so many times and seeing nothing and no one in the dark. Not when he’d had to watch Tosh’s eyes glaze over despite her best efforts to stay with him. Not when he’d watched Ianto gasp his last breath in a similar fight. Not when he’d watched Owen fall, not even getting the chance to fight.
These were people he’d thought could survive anything. People who were nothing short of extraordinary, people who had faced the worst life could throw at them and had still managed to come out on top. No matter how resilient they were, no matter how much Jack loved and admired them, they had been unable to win that final battle. No matter how hard they’d tried.
Death was the end of it. He’d seen it too often to believe otherwise.
A rusty rattle and a mighty grunt and Gwen had the door opened. There, for the two of them to behold, was all that remained of the fact that there had once been a woman named Toshiko Sato. She didn’t own nearly as much stuff as Suzie had, or even Owen, so she only really took up half of the storage space. Tosh had had no family to deal with and nowhere else she frequented aside from Torchwood so the clean up job had been incredibly swift. It had been good that way, Jack had remembered. The three of them had all been hurting and drawing out the process with an extended moving procedure was the last thing anyone had wanted to do. He remembered Ianto almost breaking Tosh’s glass jewellery box and then apologising profusely to empty air as he’d set it on the dresser.
He glanced at the box and smiled at it, taking a moment to remember the woman who had owned it along with the man who had last touched it. Gwen pressed ahead of him and pulled the cover off of the dresser. “Tosh said shoebox, right?”
Jack nodded distractedly as his friend started rummaging through drawers. “Don’t start throwing anything out of there,” he warned. This was Tosh’s life they were going through, respect had to be paid.
Gwen’s head bobbed in acknowledgement and, two drawers later, let out a cry and held a beat up brown shoebox over her head. “Got it!” She stood up, turned, and held it out to him. “Go on,” she shook the box before him, something thumping against the sides. “She told you to open it, not me.”
Jack took the box, deciding not to lecture Gwen about referring to his dream as if it were established fact and opened it. Inside was a DVD labelled “me and Ianto – 2006” and an open, unaddressed envelope. A good five minutes of indecision passed before Jack took the paper out of the envelope and began to read.
Please accept this letter as my official notice of my resignation. I will retcon myself precisely twenty four hours from this date with or without your approval. I trust you can find someone else to perform any of your administrative needs. I also take this opportunity to express my deepest apologies about my recent conduct. I not only betrayed your trust, and the entire team’s, but I also endangered all of your lives in the process. It was beyond good of you to offer me the probationary period but it has become clear to me that it is far from appropriate to expect any of you to trust me again.
I did greatly enjoy my time here and I sincerely, deeply regret that things could not be resolved any other way.
Jack had to read the letter again before it fully sunk in that he had almost lost Ianto well before the 456. The Lisa incident had been horrific for everyone but it had ended up being a great bonding experience for the whole team in its own twisted way. He had given Ianto one month’s probation and the date on the letter, 13 November 2006, must have been just after his probation period had begun. It had been rough in the beginning, Jack remembered. No one on the team really was prepared to trust him or talk to him and, Jack had to admit, he had been one of the greater offenders. He had felt the same betrayal as everyone else had but it doubled through the fact that Ianto and him had a sort of arrangement and that he had clearly used him to get Lisa in the building. It had all made sense at the time. He and the others had been betrayed and they had to let Ianto know the damage he had done.
I clear up your shit. No questions asked and that's the way you like it.
The team had also betrayed Ianto, though. They’d treated him like a servant more than a team mate. Jack treated him as a sex toy more than a human being. He’d never been invited anywhere with them and he was always the last one at the Hub and the first one there in the morning. They needed someone to do their dirty work and not ask questions and Ianto, in his desperation to save his girlfriend, was willing to put up with that abuse. Then he’d fought back. He’d called them on their selfishness and what he had done had really not been hideous or evil, and it was not very different from what they’d done to him. No one enjoyed having their faults thrown out and exposed so brazenly and they had all acted accordingly.
Ianto hadn’t resigned though, no matter how horrible or dismissive they were of him. Jack had grown to admire him because of that. Ianto had looked beaten down but determined during the probationary period and then things had slowly gotten better. This letter though, despite its neutral and formal tone, showed him exactly how crushed down he had been. Obviously he hadn’t resigned or retconned himself, and part of Jack wished that he had, he probably would be alive today if he had, so what had changed his mind?
Gwen took the letter out of his limp fingers and Jack had the pleasure of watching her face pale until her complexion nearly matched Tosh’s glass jewellery box. “Oh my…” she rubbed at her eyes. “I had no idea…”
Jack draped an arm around her shoulders and pulled her close. “That would have been the idea.” It was classic Ianto, always looking out for the team’s needs before his own. Even when the team had done nothing to deserve this concern. It was heart wrenching and he wished he’d apologised to Ianto about it. He couldn’t even remember even hinting at such a sentiment. Not even when Ianto had started leaning on him to deal with the team’s lingering doubts about him. One more regret to add to the list.
I forgive you
The voice was comforting in a way; despite it not being real.
“So you didn’t know about this?” Gwen asked. Jack found the question ridiculous at first but then the actual reason for the question hit him. Tosh had known about this, obviously, but neither she nor Ianto had spoken of it to anyone. Of everyone on the team Tosh was the closest to Ianto before Jack and him had gotten together properly. Properly as in somewhere just after the Captain John Hart mess. Tosh and Ianto each had a quiet dignity and grace about them. That and their fanatical attention to detail and that had brought them together long before Ianto had really bonded with anyone else. Tosh, if Jack recalled correctly, had been the first one to start treating him like a proper human being and the first to urge the others to do the same after the probation. If anyone would know something about Ianto that Jack didn’t it would be Tosh.
He somehow doubted, though, that Ianto would have told Tosh he was resigning just like that. She must have caught him writing it or something.
Then he remembered the DVD.
“Gwen,” he asked. “How do you feel for watching a movie tonight?”
A confused look crossed her face for a moment then she glanced at the shoe box. She picked up the DVD carefully, as though it would fall apart in her hands. “Your place or mine?” was her nervous reply.
- - -
They’d elected for Gwen’s place. Little Tegan had been unimpressed that they’d had to shut off “Cinderella” but she’d been quite easily appeased by a piggy back ride around the living room from Uncle Jack. After the queen of the Cooper-Williams castle had been appeased she was quickly whisked upstairs to bed. “Do you want me back down here?” Rhys asked. Gwen was about to shake her head but Jack told him yes. His respect for Rhys had grown over the past few years. He wouldn’t be continually offering Rhys full time status otherwise. Rhys was still holding out on him. His main argument, though, was that one of Tegan’s parents should have a non life threatening job and Jack was hard pressed to argue with that.
“I’ll brew us some Ianto coffee,” Gwen said as she ushered Jack to take a seat. Rhys arrived first and took a glance at the DVD title. “Ianto and who, Jack? Who’s ‘me’?”
“Toshiko Sato,” Jack replied as he rummaged in his pockets for Ianto’s resignation letter. “We think it might have something to do with this.” Rhys scanned the letter and then Jack filled him in on the details, even hazarding to tell him about his dream. Gwen added in bits from the kitchen and Rhys remained silent after the story ended but Jack did not worry about it. Rhys had seen a lot over the past few years and this was certainly no stranger to him than anything else he’d ever had to deal with. Rhys also did not pass a judgment on his or Gwen’s treatment of Ianto, which Jack appreciated. He wouldn’t have been able to take it if Rhys had told him off but he wouldn’t have liked it if Rhys had been sympathetic either.
Gwen appeared with the coffee, which tasted like the cheapest coffee in all creation, and then they turned the DVD on.
The scene that crackled to life before them was of Ianto Jones standing next to a bonfire holding a piece of paper in his hand. They were in Tosh’s backyard and he struggled to focus on the location and not at the man on the screen. When Ianto started to speak he couldn’t help but stare at him. That voice had always commanded attention, even when it wasn’t wanted. “Why are we taping this, Tosh?” was all he said but it was a symphony to him.
“So I can remember it,” came the matter of fact reply from off camera.
Ianto laughed but it was a hollow sound, a far cry from the cheerful laugh that had warmed everyone who heard it. Jack very nearly cringed. “You want to watch me burn a resignation letter? I rather thought the paper shredder would be efficient enough.”
Tosh laughed from behind the camera. “This might make you feel better.”
Ianto’s face fell. “Leaving this nonsense would make me feel better,” he muttered. He stared away from the camera and into the flames. “I don’t know why Jack bothered with probation,” he sighed. “It seems that neither him nor anyone else really want me around now that I’m just like them.”
“He wouldn’t have bothered with the probation if he didn’t want you around, Ianto,” Tosh attempted to soothe him. “Earning everyone’s trust is going to be a battle but if you earn it again-“
“They don’t want it!” Ianto snapped. “I’m not even sure you want it, Tosh.” He glared angrily at the camera, the shadow of the flames making him look like the devil himself. “None of you gave a shit about me until I started acting like a human being instead of a fucking coffee machine!” He crushed the piece of paper in his hands and lobbed it into the fire. A look of devastation crossed his face and he thrust his hands in to retrieve it. Tosh’s and Ianto’s yelled mixed, making everyone in the room wince. Somehow Tosh was still filming though; somehow she hadn’t dropped the camera and rushed to Ianto’s aid. Tosh had said she wanted to remember this moment. The image on the camera was certainly one that could not help but be remembered.
Ianto was holding the paper in his hands. The resignation letter was burning brightly but the writer was cradling it in the palms of his hands, seemingly unaffected by the pain he had to have been in. The look on his face deadly serious as he watched the letter burn to cinders.
“Ianto put it down before you hurt yourself!”
And he did. He thrust it into the fire again and watched it burn, his fists tightly clutched together in rage. “You lot are stuck with me,” he said after a moment. “If I have to spend my entire life…” he trailed off and continued to stare at the fire.
“What?” came Tosh’s whisper.
Ianto didn’t answer; he merely looked at the camera again. The look of ferocity was gone. The face was determined but the eyes were pained and tired. Resigned to a long battle ahead was more like it. Jack looked into those eyes for the first time in too long. They were tired eyes, yes, but there was a touch of fight in them. He would fight to win their trust back but he would also show them that they could not use him or anyone else this way ever again, that they could not just take him for granted anymore. He was done with being just part of the office.
He finally spoke. “Don’t underestimate me.” His words were spoken to Tosh but seemed as if he was speaking to the three people clustered in a comfy sitting room years into his future. As if he knew that one day his co-workers would see this. Jack shifted under the intense gaze; he had never seen Ianto look at him that way before. Gwen leaned into Rhys, visibly unsettled by Ianto’s stare, while Rhys remained fixated on the screen in shock.
Ianto turned away again. “Don’t ever underestimate me,” he repeated slightly quieter. He threw himself into a nearby chair and reached for the bottle of beer beside it.
After Ianto put the bottle down Tosh lowered the camera to what must have been a table beside her since both of them were now on the screen. “I never will,” Tosh vowed. “And I’ll remember it,” she said indicating the camera. Then she leaned down and hugged him, pulling him to his feet without loosing grip. Ianto froze in the embrace and Jack wondered who had been the last person who had hugged him before Tosh. The name Lisa floated through his brain and that broke his heart all the more. Soon enough, though, Ianto melted into it with obvious gratitude. A few seconds passed and then Tosh turned the camera off. The screen was black. Ianto and Tosh were dead and gone again.
A respectful, stunned silence settled amongst the three friends. No one moved to shut the television off. The blackness remained on the screen and they all stared at is as though it held the answer to what they had just seen.
Jack did not know what to make of this. That Ianto had hid this from everyone was not surprising. What he had told Gwen at the storage facility was all true. The aggression and determination were nothing new to Jack but to see it so open and vocal in a man who worked to be the picture of professional restraint was unsettling.
Ianto had succeeded in his intent though; no one had ever underestimated him again. He had proven himself to them all, had earned their respect and their trust again. Even Owen had warmed up to him despite the fact that Ianto had shot him. Jack had even let him back into his bed and had allowed him into her personal life; something he hadn’t allowed anyone entrance to in countless decades. Not only had Ianto been allowed entrance to Jack’s personal life but Jack had willingly given him his heart as well, something he’d never really given anyone before.
He loved Ianto Jones and the biggest regret that Jack Harkness had on the list of regrets involving him and Ianto was that he hadn’t had the courage to tell him in the end. One thing for certain had not made that lengthy list of regrets, however: Ianto Jones had died a loved and respected human being, not a butler and a coffee machine.
“I didn’t know he had it in him,” Rhys breathed after nearly half an hour. “He always seemed like such a nice, quiet bloke.”
Jack smirked. Rhys had no idea…
“He was to his friends,” Gwen explained in a similar tone to her husband’s. “And none of us were his friends at that moment.” She paused and looked at Jack like she was about to tell him the biggest secret ever held. “When John Hart took you,” she said, “when Grey locked us all up, Ianto informed him that if he hurt you that he’d kill him very slowly in a tone of voice very close to that.” She continued despite Jack’s raised eyebrow. Ianto Jones had been full of surprises in life. He was even more full of them in death it seemed.
“I couldn’t believe I was hearing that sort of a threat from him,” Gwen continued, baffled. “I’ve never heard him sound like that before and he meant every single word of it.” She pointed at the screen. “That,” she said as the pointed toward the screen, stunned beyond any further form of speech or thought. “That is…”
“Something of Ianto’s that I didn’t know about,” Jack stated numbly.
Gwen looked at him and Jack nodded. That meant that either he had suddenly developed stronger psychic abilities or that Toshiko Sato had not been a dream. She’d somehow managed speak to him and tell him where to find all of this.
Which meant that Tosh was a ghost, which meant that Jack by default now believed in ghosts.
Well done., came Ianto’s voice. Shall I alert the media?
He pulled out his mobile and punched in Harry’s number. Having proof this was one thing but having perfect empirical proof would solidify everything to Jack. He still clung to the idea that he was wrong. Part of him welcomed the idea of ghosts, especially of friends, speaking to him, but a firm part of him was quite apprehensive. After all, you didn’t hear too many stories like these and there had to be a reason for it.
Whatever reason Tosh was talking to him, Jack decided, it could not be a good one.