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.
For the first time in quite some time Jack had no idea what he was supposed to do or how he was supposed to feel. Part of him wanted to crawl back into the bowels of the Hub and never come out again after his chat with Mel last night.
She had remained the staunch realist even in the face of what Jack saw as his greatest sin. He could see the flicker of horror in her eyes and an itching revulsion in her fingers as her hand rubbed across her abdomen. Aside from those instinctual reactions Mel had remained cool headed and had agreed with him. “It would have been death to another child or something worse than death to us all. You were in a corner and out of time. What else could you have done?”
Hearing that statement from Mel hadn’t really helped things. It had been something he had heard before and, though hearing her computer like brain come up with it did shove the words deeper into him, it certainly didn’t change his sentiments. What helped more was that someone who had been completely uninvolved in the situation had come to the same conclusion he had.
“It was an awful call to make but it was the right one,” Mel had concluded. “That seems to be the most distasteful part of this job, but it is something that has to be done.”
And that was the biggest nightmare of it all. Jack may be good at making these decisions but he didn’t want to make them. He didn’t want to live forever with the fact that he’d killed Stephen on his shoulders, greater good or not. He didn’t want to one day have to sent Mel or Harry or Gwen or any of them to die for the good of the universe.
The image of Ianto dying in his arms flickered across his minds eyes and he shoved it aside. The message behind it remained and spoke with Ianto’s voice: Some decisions were not all his. Cold comfort, he thought, thanks for that, Ianto.
Mel had not left him alone that night. She’d pulled out the cots that Gwen had left there for long nights and had set one up beside the examination table. Then she’d lowered the examination table down so Jack would be level with Ianto’s body. Mel had then left them alone, taking her cot up into the conference room.
Sleeping next to Ianto again had been a strange experience. Whenever he reached over he was warm and inviting but then he’d hear no breathing in the room but his own and notice that he couldn’t feel Ianto’s heartbeat or his chest rise. He’d ended up moving the examination table back up to its proper position, pressing a kiss to Ianto’s deceptively warm forehead and somehow falling asleep despite the ache in his heart and in his stomach. This was something he’d missed but it was all wrong. It was a sick mockery of what sleeping with Ianto Jones was and what it meant to him. He didn’t think he’d ever missed Ianto more than he had that night.
The morning had come soon enough with Harry and Gwen coming in earlier than normal in eager anticipation ts. Harry had looked more relieved and shocked to see Mel than anything else while Gwen had seemed much more surprised to see Ianto lying there. “Hello dear,” she’d greeted the corpse in a voice that she had always set aside for Ianto. It was a big sister speaking to a little brother voice and, once again, he found himself reminded that he was not the only person who was a lesser person without Ianto Jones in their life. “You’ve been keeping well,” she continued, the same shock and horror creeping into her voice that had been in Jack’s own. “What’s going on here?” she demanded with quiet fury.
“Mel found him like this,” Jack reported while moving to the other side of Ianto’s body to hold his hand. “He was never put in cold storage at all.”
“Really?” Harry squeaked from behind Mel’s left shoulder. The young woman started a bit and threw him quite the annoyed glare. Harry paid no mind to it. “I take it he didn’t look like this on the actual day?”
Jack shook his head. Gwen followed suit. “Not at all,” she reiterated.
Mel cleared her throat and reached into her pocket. “You might want to take a look at this. Perhaps even send it to Martha as well.” She tossed the memory stick at him, Harry barely managing to catch it.
Harry all but ran over to the computer and plugged the stick into the drive. “We shouldn’t draw too much attention to Martha. I’m sure they’ve noticed that something of theirs has gone missing. I’m surprised we haven’t received a phone call yet.”
“Don’t count on it,” Jack said. “Mel took care of that already,” he flashed her a grateful smile. Jack knew they also would not dare think of calling him. They wouldn’t mention it unless he did and he was just fine with that. He didn’t plan on mentioning until the body on the bed was alive and able to stand with him again.
“Alright,” Harry announced, “everybody out! Playing mad scientist over here and I don’t want you lot in the way.”
Gwen and Mel left pretty easily but Jack stayed behind. When Harry gestured at him again to exit his domain Jack still couldn’t move. “I’m not going to lobotomize your boyfriend, Jack,” Harry assured him. “Now would you please give Jones and I some space?”
“Come on!” Gwen yelled back. “Mel says you have some paper – “
The rift alarm sounded and instinct took over. Gwen was in her seat and spouting out an address.
Mel had already disappeared into the underground car park and Jack raised a warning finger to Harry. “You deal with this; we’ll let you know if we need you.” He rushed up for his coat, gun, and Bluetooth.
“Watch yourself, Jack!” Gwen warned.
“Don’t I always?”
There was nothing left in Jack’s mind but the call. He switched his Bluetooth on and soon found himself in the car with Mel driving off to deal with a gaseous blue cloud appearing by a florist shop.
“You both there?” Gwen again.
Mel and Jack both answered in the affirmative. They were already on the road.
“Right,” Gwen continued. “Here’s what we’ve got…”
- - -
Jack came back to life staring at an overturned rubbish bin. “Oh come on,” he groaned as he rolled away from the stench. He shut his eyes for a moment, trying to remember the black and trying to remember the grey figure he’d seen. It was definitely bigger and definitely closer than it had been all the other times. That radio static sound had gotten so loud that Jack could still hear it ringing in his ears.
“Jack?” Mel’s Irish lilt managed to dispel the static and he wasn’t sure if he was thankful or not for that. A huff followed. “Jack, I know you’re awake. You’re squinting.”
The grey figure vanished and there was the pint sized red head that seemed to have taken care of everything. “Got it?” he asked.
“Oh yeah,” she assured him. “Lemon juice to the centre of the cloud, just like you said.”
“Told you so.”
Mel shrugged. “I’m wrong, it happens.” She gave him a hand and he took it. “See anything?” she asked as she pulled him up.
Jack took the SUV keys out of Mel’s jacket pocket. “Yep, same old grey thing. Still nothing special.”
“Did you poke it with a stick?”
Jack looked at her and laughed heartily. “I wouldn’t call it a stick personally…”
Mel looked at him in complete bafflement and then burst out laughing herself. An atypical response from her. “Proper Jack is back,” she assessed. “Took you long enough.”
He had to admit that he hadn’t felt like proper Jack in quite a bit. Maybe bit of death time had been good for him. A pain in the ass though it was, and this was turning out to be one of his easier ones, it certainly was a break from the insanity his life had become over the past few days.
They were in the car driving back to the Hub, both reassuring Gwen that everything had turned out okay with the Brydian Sleep Cloud. No one had been killed, a few people were napping peacefully but nothing worrisome, three people retconned. It was then that they were greeted with the sight of Harry Olden peddling past them not three minutes from the Hub on one of the rarely used bicycles in the basement. Mel had found them cheap shortly after she’d started work here and had kept them downstairs. Jack had thought it was the dumbest thing ever until the SUV had fallen apart and he, Mel, Harry and Rhys had gone out weevil hunting on bicycles. Harry, who had paid for medical school by working as a bike courier, had been thoroughly disappointed at their abilities and had advised them to all work out more. Then had started the bike wars…those had been fun.
“Where do you think he’s off to?” Jack asked.
“The next universe if he goes any faster,” Mel whistled. “Eyes on the road, please, not Harry’s arse.”
Gwen’s voice crackled on the Bluetooth. “Our dear doctor is cycling over to see Martha. He needs a second opinion about his findings.”
“Bad?” Jack asked, already on the alert and preparing himself for the worst.
“Didn’t seem like it. Oh and Harry reminds you that it’s your night to pay for pizza, want to pick it up before you get here? No peppers this time or Ianto’s getting a proper autopsy, he says.”
Jack didn’t even register the joke. “No autopsy? Really? Why the hell wouldn’t they have done an autopsy? That would seem the most logical thing in the world to do.”
“That’s probably one of the questions that he’s going to ask Martha. I’ll take anything but anchovies on my pizza, thanks.” Gwen signed off.
Jack made the highly illegal u turn to get in the right direction for the pizza shop. “I’m getting him peppers anyway for that joke,” he informed Mel, even though they both knew that he wouldn’t put peppers on at least half the pizza.
Mel shrugged. “You have to admit, any other threat would have been ignored. The boy is catching on.”
It was probably the first time that Jack had heard her give Harry a compliment without even a drop of sarcasm. He pretended to not notice and continued driving toward the pizza place. “Hey Ianto,” he thought. “Things might be going in my favour. You interested? I’ll even split the winnings.”
Nothing. Typical, really. The more frustrating thing about the silence was that he wasn’t sure if he should be worried or not.
- - -
They had demolished almost the entire pizza by the time Harry got back. The young doctor made an impressive dive for the last pepper free slices leaving a chorus of laughter in his wake. “Thanks for saving me some!” he griped as he shovelled the pieces in his mouth and threw himself down on the couch next to Jack. “You’re eating with us? I thought you’d be over there with Jones?”
“Ianto never approved of eating in bed,” Jack said mildly. “So I’m staying over here.” Harry seemed to accept that response but Gwen, of course, and Mel even had a questioning look. He was more than a match for Gwen’s questions but both her and Mel would be a force to be reckoned with.
No one spoke though instead Harry cleaned off his hands and summoned everyone down to the medbay. Once they were all gathered around Ianto’s body like a first year medical class Harry asked Jack to kiss Ianto.
“Excuse me?” Normally Jack would be more than happy to oblige kissing anyone, especially if that person was Ianto, but this as a bit outside of his usual parameters.
“Kiss him,” Harry repeated. “Put some effort into it but no tongue, please.” He shuddered slightly. “Kiss him like the kiss alone would bring him back,” he added quietly.
“Harry,” Gwen chided, “really now?”
Jack raised a suspicious eyebrow. Was Harry insinuating something? It was odd when Harry went into medical mode; he was much harder to read and much more assertive. Jack knew they would stand here all day until he did as he was told. Jack shut his eyes and pretended Ianto was just sleeping. He kissed those lips as hard as he could, almost succeeding to forget the fact that he was not going to get a response, or even a grumble of protest. When he stood back up he heard Harry whoop and looked to see Harry staring up in delight at two images next each other on the main screen. The image on the left was just Ianto’s body and there were irregular blips of energy floating around inside of him. The second image was a slow replay of Jack kissing Ianto and seeing blips of energy entering the body and then either fading away or joining with the other ones.
“What the fuck are those?” Mel asked, stabbing her finger at the floating blots of energy.
Harry’s reply took the form of taping a new command on the keyboard and, in place of the images, a video file of Jack holding an unconscious Ianto in the old Hub trying to revive him. The Lisa incident, he remembered, and watched as his past self kissed Ianto hard and long until he came to.
Mel made some odd noise of approval. “Neat trick you got there, Boss.”
“I didn’t know that happened,” Gwen stammered.
“That was the point,” Jack said, dryly. “That was back in the days when only you knew about the immortality thing, remember?”
“Fair,” Gwen allowed. She looked back at Harry. “But you don’t mean to tell me that that kiss that long ago did this.” She gestured pointedly at the immaculate three year old corpse in the centre of the room.
“Not that kiss,” Jack murmured, slowly clueing in to what Harry had just proved.
Three taps later another video clip, this one of Jack holding a very dead Ianto and giving him a much gentler kiss before dying himself. “I was hoping that would do it,” Jack explained as the video clip vanished. “Waking up and finding that it hadn’t…” he trailed off, unwilling to touch that pain again. Once he felt that again there would be no going back.
“The kiss did work. Sort of.” Harry assured him. “The kiss from November ’06 worked because you were not dying yourself and there was actually something there to save.” Harry’s expression fell. “The kiss from September ’09 was late, you knew that already. Ianto had packed up and left well before you’d bent over.” Jack nodded, he’d figured that much out himself. He waited for Harry to continue.
“However,” Harry went on, his expression perking up a bit. “It seems that whatever this stuff is…” he pulled up the Ianto only scan again and gestured at the little balls of energy bouncing around madly. “It does not enjoy finding nothing to latch on to. So it just stayed there, like a ball locked up in a box while still bouncing.”
“So it all has just been bouncing around inside of him this whole time?” Mel asked. “There’s nothing there to stop so it just kept going.”
“Exactly,” Harry beamed. “All that energy kept building up but there was no life force there for it to latch on to. So all it could do was Jones’s body from decomposing, and I assuming healing whatever ills there were.” He went over to his computer and read through it. “I see that there should be a scratch on his cheek and that’s gone and there absolutely no traces Hexdrax 381 in his system, and that usually sticks around after death for a bit.”
“Wait what?” Jack sputtered. “Hexdrac? The virus in Thames House that day was Hexdrac?”
Gwen shook her head. “No way! We’ve seen that virus before; it doesn’t kill anywhere near that quickly!”
“I assure you that’s what’s there,” Harry said in the same assuring tones. “The UNIT notes say it and Martha and I both agree with it. The 456 must have done something to enhance it, probably in whatever they did to turn the virus into a mist.”
“Why does the mist matter?” asked Gwen.
“Hexdrac is not contagious,” Harry explained. “Remember those doctors? They’d all been injected with it in whatever inoculations they’d taken from the aliens before they’d done the surgeries. No one got sick from being near them. Same with at Thames House, once the mist had cleared and everyone was dead the virus just dissipated. Whatever the 456 did to change it into a mist was done to make it contagious and fast spreading and really bloody quick.”
Just when everything made some sort of sense there always had to be something to throw a monkey wrench into the whole affair. “Okay,” Jack began with a deep breath. “So Ianto and the others all died of Hexdrac 381. Everyone else was released to their families after the virus dissipated, whether in the air or deep into the victims themselves. All accept Ianto for obvious reasons. So they kept him behind to try and figure out what the hell was going on.”
Harry nodded but Mel wasn’t satisfied. “They never figured out Jack did this?” she asked. “They just gave up and left him?”
“I don’t typically go around kissing people back to life,” Jack bristled. “Shocking though it may be the situation doesn’t crop up all that much so I highly doubt UNIT would think I would have done this. What they probably did think was that something here might have done that to him but they ruled that out when we had UNIT working with Gwen, Rhys, Martha and I in the rebuilding days.”
Gwen nodded. “Once that was done, there was nothing left to do but wait and see if anything were to change. And it wasn’t like they could ever release Ianto back to us when they supposedly already had.” She snorted. “That would have gone over brilliantly.”
Mel snorted as well while Harry merely rolled his eyes. “Good thing they never gave him an autopsy,” Harry added. “All that energy might have just vanished; they certainly figured that much out but couldn’t find a way to extract it.”
A silence fell across the room until Gwen asked the important question. “Now what?”
“Now,” Jack replied. “We find out what to do next.”