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.
When Jack elaborated that statement by saying he was going to see if he could contact Tosh and Owen he did not refuse Gwen’s request to come along. Harry had blinked in obvious surprise while Mel had raised a curious eyebrow but said nothing. Jack had to admit that they had every right to be taken aback. Jack really didn’t make a secret of the fact that he preferred to keep the flat to himself. Mel and Harry had never seen the place and even Gwen had been in a handful of times. Thing had been different when Ianto had been alive. There had been no problem when they’d lived there together about having Gwen and everyone over for drinks occasionally. In the year before the 456 Gwen and Rhys had been regular fixtures.
Jack had stopped all that once he’d moved back in. He really couldn’t understand why except through the lens that it was something of Ianto’s that survived, something of them that still survived and that he could still touch. Jack was not willing to share that, not with anyone. In this instance, however, as he was hoping to get a hold of Tosh and Owen, Gwen had the most right to be there out of everyone. If they were going to have a proper team reunion it had to be done properly.
Mel seemed to understand this concept without it being told to her. She’d assured Gwen and Jack both that everything would be on them and Andy Davidson tonight. No phone calls would be made unless the world was ending. Harry had taken a bit more effort to subdue but a few choice words from Mel had shut him up in good order.
“Sometimes I wonder,” Gwen thought aloud as she drove, “if Harry is just missing a part of his brain when it comes to this sort of thing.”
Gwen was one to talk, Jack mused. She sometimes could be the same way but instead he said that everyone had their strengths. Said was perhaps a loose term. More accurately he leaned over and breathed it into her ear while resting his hand on her thigh.
She slapped his hand away, giggling. “Do you want me to crash this car?”
“As long as it’s you and me, I’m up for anything,” he leered.
A longer, harder laugh this time. “I ought to smack you, Jack Harkness. Maybe I will after we’ve done driving.”
“Jack! As pleased as I am to hear you making jokes like this again we do have job to do!”
“Spoil sport,” he informed her as he slouched back into the passenger seat. He smirked at Gwen’s supposed annoyed huff. “And don’t worry about Harry, he’s made of tougher stuff than we think. I wouldn’t have recruited him if I didn’t think he was up for it.”
“I was the one who mentioned him to you!”
“Like I said, I wouldn’t have let him have the job if I didn’t think he was up to it. That includes the general team antics.”
“That should have an extra form.”
Jack laughed. “You’re probably right about that one,” he admitted.
Gwen turned on the radio, a dance song from a few years ago pounded through the speakers. Usually Jack didn’t pay real attention to contemporary music but he had reason to remember this one.
It had been the summer after Tosh and Owen had died and Jack had decided the three of them needed to have some down time. They’d been really busy lately with the reduced manpower and were still dealing with the deaths of two dear friends. Jack decided that it was time for a night at the club. Gwen and Rhys had been all for it and even Ianto had agreed to it. Ianto normally would avoid clubs like the plague so that response had sealed the deal more than anything else, but that wasn’t what he remembered.
Trying to get Ianto to dance at a club was damn near impossible. The select few times he’d taken the team out before Ianto had happily sat back with Tosh while Jack and the others had had their fun. This time, however, he’d drank a whole lot more than he should have and when Jack had asked Ianto had been the one to drag him to the floor. It had been the first and last time he’d seen Ianto dance at a club and it was this song that had been playing.
The scarce few times this song had popped up on the radio in Jack’s presence since the 456 he’d quickly shut it off or changed the station. Gwen’s hand was moving to turn it off now but he gently pushed the hand away. The image of an incredibly intoxicated, and uninhibited, Ianto flashed through his mind without a stab of pain. A part of him whispered that maybe he’d get to see that again.
His cheeks hurt, he must be grinning like a moron. He reached for the volume dial and cranked it up. The review mirror shook and the bass pounded through the car. To top things off, Jack began to sing. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Gwen staring at him in concern. After a moment she rolled the windows down and joined in with just as much enthusiasm.
It certainly had to be a strange sight but, as usual, Jack didn’t care.
The stranger part was that, for a moment, he could have sworn he’d heard an annoyed snort and a whispered Welsh baritone singing with them.
- - -
“That was a wonderful display of terrible singing,” Owen informed Jack and Gwen as soon as they turned the amplifier on. “Really now, I think you owe all of Cardiff for hearing treatments.”
Tosh piped in from the couch. “Really though, Jack,” she sighed. “That was incredibly awful. I forgot how badly you could sing if you put your mind to it.”
“Hey it wasn’t just me!” Jack yelped, gesturing to Gwen. “She helped!”
Gwen was standing off to the side, frozen in shock at what was before her. Tosh moved to go toward her but Owen instead grabbed Gwen’s arm and pulled her into a kiss. Gwen let loose a muffled yell and shoved Owen off of her. “OFF!” she ordered. The anger on her face changed to confusion as everything seemed to click into place.
“It’s really me,” Owen confirmed. “And that’s really Tosh. No tricks.”
Gwen reached out a hand and tried to touch Owen’s arm only to have it fall through. “One time only trick,” Owen winked. It was an attempt at light heartedness but the sorrow in his eyes was beyond hiding. “Be sure you remember it.”
Tosh patted the seat next to her. “Good to see you, Gwen,” she said cheerfully. “Now come have a seat before you fall over.”
Gwen did as she was instructed and Jack took the seat by the television, Owen throwing him a dirty look as he summoned the footrest over to the other side of the room, completing the circle. The girls on the couch, the boys on the chairs; some things never changed.
“How are you, love?” Gwen asked Tosh somewhat awkwardly.
Tosh didn’t bat an eyelash. “I’m fine. Really, I’m just fine. So’s Owen and so’s Ianto. Don’t let the dead thing freak you out too much.”
Gwen’s face seemed to take quite the issue with that statement and Jack had to smile at that. He knew exactly how she was feeling, he still felt somewhat the same way. It was odd to have them sitting there so normally when his last real memories of them were of blood and pain. It didn’t seem to bother them too much though.
“Speaking of Ianto,” Gwen said. “Is he held up in spiritual traffic or something?”
Tosh didn’t laugh. “No, no he’s not. He’s not coming for awhile.”
“Tea boy over did it!” Owen griped. “He should’ve known better. You can’t go about punching out guards and opening doors if you aren’t strong enough to do it.”
“Lay off on him, Owen,” Tosh warned. “He was where his body was kept. It should have been easier for him.”
“Should have,” Owen reminded her. “Would have been if he wasn’t so bloody awful at this anyway.” He folded his arms and muttered some more colourful adjectives while Tosh continued to glare at him. “He should have just watched and not gotten involved, now we have to wait for him to come back.”
“Come back from where?” Jack asked with a note of annoyance as well as concern. Ever since this whole of idea of Ianto coming back from death was pitched it seemed as though he was always just missing him. He was always just out of reach.
Tosh and Owen exchanged pained glances and eventually Tosh spoke. “You notice how you haven’t heard from us until now,” she began. “Owen and I taxed our own reserves the last time we were here. When…beings like us overdo it we…stop existing for a bit.”
“Stop existing?” Gwen asked. “How do you mean? You lot are dead already aren’t you?”
“And we’re clearly do still exist anyway, thanks Gwen,” Owen lectured snidely. “Think of our friend Jack over here. When he gets shot he dies and then comes back when he’s healed properly. Same concept with us except there’s nothing left of us while we’re healing so to speak. We just sort of…vanish into whatever until we’re ready to come back to ourselves.”
“What’s that like?” Gwen asked.
Owen shrugged. “No idea. I don’t remember anything between losing consciousness and coming back to it.” He raised an inquisitive eyebrow at Tosh, who shook her head apologetically.
“Sorry,” she said. “From what I gather no one remembers where they go or what happens after that. All that matters is that we do come back, I guess.”
Death was almost something he was glad he was exempt from, Jack thought. It sounded more confusing than living did. “He’s okay though?” Jack demanded.
“Once he comes back he’ll be fine,” Tosh assured him. “He’ll probably more than a little annoyed with himself but he’ll be okay. It just means we have to wait until he’s strong enough to go through the whole process of coming back to his body, and that he’ll be strong enough to survive it.”
Jack did not like that sentence. “What’s wrong?” he asked. “His body is fine.”
“True,” Owen agreed. “However Ianto is going to come back to your world as he left it. It’s an easier memory, sensation wise and thought wise, to grasp hold of. So he’s going to come back as he was in Thames House that day.”
Jack remembered Ianto’s last moments quite vividly. They were far from peaceful or easy.
“So he’ll be ill still?” Gwen asked, concern only now contorting her face. “He’ll be dying all over again?”
Owen wavered his hand back and forth. “Not dying precisely, not physically anyway. He’s going to feel everything he did for the last moments he was alive. So…” he looked over at Jack. “Ianto said that was respiratory distress, pain, dizziness, an overwhelming urge to make clichéd death bed declarations?”
Jack didn’t answer that with anything but a murderous glare. Owen dropped his head. “That was low,” he admitted. “I’m sorry.”
“Forgiven,” Jack replied curtly. “Go on.”
Owen rubbed his hands together. “At any rate he’s going to feel the effects as though he really has them. His body is going to react to that despite the fact there’s nothing left in his system to cause that. Easy to deal with though, you know what he was ill with right?” He continued after two eager nods. “Just have the antidote on him and give it to him, should take care of that easily enough.” A pause and then he sighed. “Look, I know that’s not the best diagnosis in the world but I can’t do much better than that. If Ianto hadn’t gone worn himself like that in the first place, if had been conserving his strength the way he was supposed to be, I could be a bit more sure. Now I’m not sure. He was always going to need help – help meaning mine and Tosh’s help – but now he’s going to need a lot more of it.”
Jack groaned and put his face in his hands. He didn’t know whether to punch Owen now or to throttle Ianto when he came back. He was just fine with the whole idea when it was a more or less a sure fire thing. Very little in life was ever certain so he didn’t know why he hadn’t expected a hiccough like this. “I take it we only get one shot at this, right?”
“Yes,” Tosh said sadly. “The only reason we can even send Ianto back is because of the energy that has been building up inside of him over all this time. Also Owen and I will be using what some of us have started calling our ‘potential energy.’ It’s sort of the physical manifestation of what we could have been and accomplished had we lived full lives. What makes the whole resurrection concept work is our energy combining with what’s in Ianto’s body. Once that’s all gone…”
That was it, Jack finished mentally. There were so many questions about their sources that he wanted to try but he kept silent. He had trusted Owen and Tosh when they were alive, he still trusted them now. He also trusted Ianto, who was the most efficient researcher he had ever known. If this was what hat been uncovered that was all there was.
“What happens to you two,” Gwen whispered. “That’s a lot of energy for you two to give up, isn’t it?”
That thought hadn’t even occurred to Jack and he mentally kicked himself for being so single minded and selfish. Tosh and Owen didn’t seem as concerned, though. Tosh gave no reply at first while Owen merely shrugged. “We’ll go off like Ianto’s done for sure,” he explained. “There’s a chance we’ll never come back to ourselves again but it’s a chance we’re willing to take.” Owen rolled his eyes. “That stupid git tried to talk us out of it once he heard that bit. We’re not stopping though.”
Tosh nodded her agreement. “Ianto would do the same for either of us if there was a chance,” she stated firmly. “He even admitted that. It just so happens that it’s him with the chance. Who are we to deny him that? Who are we to deny you both that chance?”
Silence filled the flat then. Wonder, respect, gratitude, so many emotions were whirling around the group. Finally Jack managed to breathe out his thanks, even though the words were far from adequate for what they were doing for him and Ianto. Owen brushed off his thanks as merely his attempts to get Ianto off of his back while Tosh nodded serenely and said that he that was more than welcome.
“In the meantime,” Tosh continued, rising from up off the couch and dusting imaginary dust off her trousers. “Owen and I had best be off. We need to conserve our strength, as you’d imagine. We’ll let you know when we’re ready to try.” She smiled at Gwen and at Jack. “See you soon!” she chirped in excitement and then promptly vanished. Owen gave a salute and was gone at well.
Neither Gwen nor Jack moved for several moments. Five minutes later Gwen turned the machine off and asked Jack out for a beer. He was more than happy to accept.
- - -
It was nearly two weeks later when Jack woke up one morning to the smell of coffee being brewed. He couldn’t remember inviting anyone over to stay the night and he certainly wasn’t one to start a pot and then go back to bed. He heard a bit more banging around and that got him out of bed quickly enough. “Owen?” he asked the empty air.
No reply. When he reached the coffee machine he found that it had already been shut off and there was a single cup waiting for him. He took a cautious sip. It was a long missed, orgasmic flavour that washed over his tongue and journeyed down his throat. His eyes stung and his heart ached and it was then that he noticed the post it note tacked on the machine.
Five simple words in a very familiar hand had him reaching for the phone and calling Gwen with a speed he hadn’t known he possessed.
I’m ready when you are.
Author's Note: In my messed up mind the song that Jack and Ianto danced to, and the song that Jack and Gwen sang along to, is Fire Burning ;)