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.
If they had looked like a medical class a few weeks ago they definitely had to look more like a group of mad scientists now. Ianto’s body, still as unblemished as it had been when Mel had stolen it, was in the centre of the medbay. Jack was at Ianto’s right side, Gwen on his left, Mel at his feet, and Harry up at his head. Each of them held one syringe of the antidote for Hexdrac 381 in anxious fingers. Two weeks had passed since the body had been reclaimed but they had been far from idle.
Aside from dealing with the usual alien business the team had done their research on what exactly had happened to the ninety six people who had lost their lives in Thames House that day. That meant lots of watching security footage, which Lachlan Telson and Lois Habiba had graciously provided. Harry and Mel had jumped on the footage, combing it for symptoms and methodology. Jack had wanted to help them but knew that he couldn’t face watching Ianto and those others die over and over again looking for clues. Gwen had stayed far away from that as well.
Instead of subjecting themselves to painful memories, Gwen and Jack elected to focus on the positive side of this. Ianto was coming back and that meant getting him out of storage. Jack had packed many lives away in his time and the fact that he was unpacking one was both a reason to celebrate and reason to wonder what sort of life he led. He moved the boxes back but couldn’t unpack them. He didn’t want to jinx the thing and he knew well what happened when he was overly optimistic.
Now here they stood, each holding that antidote that was the product of Harry and Mel’s research, which was a highly concentrated version of the original antidote for Hexdrax 381. It was so intense that it had to be delivered in shorter bursts. Instead of three injections ten minutes a part it would be four injections three minutes apart.
That would take care of the virus, what remained to be dealt with would be the man. Shock was inevitable. Jack had unpacked a pair of Ianto’s pyjamas and had changed him into them and Harry had pulled out the survival kits and had wrapped him in a warm blanket. Aside from that they didn’t know what else to expect and, therefore, had to be ready for anything.
That was the attitude that Jack was making sure was filling the room. They would be ready for anything and they would deal with it. This would work. Ianto Jones would breathe again no matter what they had to do to make that happened. Jack was even willing to put up with Harry turning the medbay into a kind of hospital, something that it was never designed to be. Jack didn’t know where Harry had found a hospital bed but he knew it certainly involved Mel and a screwdriver and didn’t care to know more than that. Ianto was in that now and Harry had enough IV bags waiting to replenish an entire battalion. Harry had every intention of allowing Ianto to go home with Jack to recover but he was not allowing that to happen until Ianto’s health met his incredibly high standards.
He was walking them through the layout of the place now. Drawing attention to defibrillators and different syringes and anything that Harry might yell for that one them might have to grab and, god forbid, administer. It was both important and almost a stall for time. “Once he has readings again,” Harry was saying, this time directing the administration of the antidote and tapping the monitor that told them that Ianto Jones was dead, “I give the first dose then we proceed clockwise. That way I’m free to do what needs to be done when his vitals turn from that to this,” he tapped something on the side of the monitor and the flat lines turned into rapid hills and valleys; the readings of a human being in shock. “Rough estimate of course,” he admitted. He didn’t need to say what they all well knew: no one knew enough and we had to be ready for anything.
“Any questions?” Jack asked.
No questions. Just looks of determination and readiness in all of their faces. Jack nodded. “Let’s do it.” He stepped back from the group for a moment and turned on the amplifier. “We’re ready.”
Good, so are we. That was Owen’s voice. You lot can all hear me right? Gwen nodded while Harry and Mel both vocalised their affirmatives. Be ready for anything. I mean anything. If Ianto spontaneously combusts you should still be prepared for it. Understand? A chorus of affirmatives. Fantastic. Just one last thing: Jack, don’t move.
Jack raised an inquisitive eyebrow but said nothing. His team looked at him but he offered nothing but a shrug by way of explanation. Did that count as moving?
The question didn’t matter one second later when he felt an insistent pressure on his lips. He felt like someone had duct taped the coldest ice pack ever created to his mouth but he definitely recognized it as a kiss, a desperate and loving one. Both a parting kiss and a preview of future attractions; also a kiss he remembered on his loneliest nights.
“Ianto?” he breathed when the pressure faded away.
There was no reply. Jack looked down at Ianto’s body, studying the still face, more specifically those inviting lips. Jack kissed his own fingertips and then pressed them to Ianto’s lips and he fought to keep a straight face. He somehow managed to do it, or else his team was averting their eyes. He grasped Ianto’s hand; now began the wait. Jack and Gwen watched Ianto while Mel and Harry kept their eyes to the monitor.
“Please let this work,” Jack thought. It was a prayer and he knew it but he didn’t want to think of it as prayer. That made the situation seem that much more desperate. “I believe in you, Ianto Jones. I believe in you and I love you and please for the love of everything let this work.”
It was over an hour before they saw any physical reaction. Of course it had to happen when Jack had turned his head away from Ianto for a second for whatever reason. All three of them shouted his name and that snapped him back to reality pretty quickly. That and the sight of his lover glowing like he was surrounded by nanogenes certainly grounded one back in reality. He attempted to back away only to find that he couldn’t. His hand was still caught in Ianto’s, caught in an uncomfortably tight grip. He couldn’t get his hand free.
“Jack you should probably step back,” Gwen warned.
“Not happening,” Jack shot back through grit teeth as he tried to wriggle out of the grip. Ianto’s fingers might as well have fused into his hand for all the progress he was making. No prying, even at a strength that would have broken Ianto’s fingers under normal circumstances, would even cause a finger tip to lift off of Jack’s skin.
“He’s not consciously doing it,” Harry read off the monitors. “No brain activity so I can’t even call it a reflex.”
“Stand back,” Jack snapped. “Everyone just stand back. At least a metre away, people!” Everyone instinctively took the required steps back before shouting their objections. Jack had to laugh at that. Indoctrination had its benefits. Many things had benefits. Holding Ianto’s hands had benefits, he felt a pseudo familiar feeling settle in his stomach.
No. That wasn’t it…
“I don’t feel so good,” he informed his team. His stomach churned and the glowing light blocked out everything else. He couldn’t see past his and Ianto’s joined hands, that or his powerful need to throw up. He felt someone’s hand touch his shoulder and he knew he was barking at them to stay away, telling them to look after Ianto, that whatever happened he’d be okay in the end, but he was sure that it came out less than authoritative. Not that he could hear any of it…
- - -
It didn’t even clue that he’d died until the radio static filled his ears. There was that grey figure again, bold and brighter than ever before. Then he saw there was something inside the figure, a head shaped something. The radio static suddenly stopped and the figure suddenly became a rather drab looking doorway. The head shaped figure turned out to be the head of Owen Harper. A very, very, angry Owen Harper.
“What the fuck did you do?” he shouted.
“Nothing!” Jack shouted back. “You didn’t mention anything about flashing lights and fusing skin!” He inspected his hand and shook it out. Muscle cramps while dead, that was new.
“God,” Owen huffed, storming out of the opening and towards Jack with frightening speed. “I asked for reinforcements and look what I get! Thanks a lot!” This last comment was addressed to Owen’s lower left and he rolled his eyes. “Uncle Jack can do anything, sure, now shut up.”
“Wait what?” Jack asked. “Who are you talking to?”
“How many people call you, Uncle Jack?” Owen snapped. “No time for that right now. While you’re here you might as well make yourself useful.” He grabbed Jack and dragged him through the doorway.
He couldn’t see anything after that. A rush of shapes and noises greeted him as he was pulled into…wherever. One of them solidified into Tosh but anything she said came out as radio static. At least he knew what that was now. “Jack, listen!” Owen’s crackling voice cut through everything. “I need you to think of pushing Ianto off a cliff.”
“Just do it!” Owen ordered.
Indoctrination appeared to work both ways. Jack was sure he’d only just blinked when he found himself standing on a cliff watching Ianto Jones in all his pre-456 finery investigate the gaping chasm before them. “A little florid, isn’t this?” Ianto commented, toeing the edge and critically eyeing the abyss with all the emotion of someone reading a grocery list. “This looks like the cover one of those awful romance novels. The ones you can buy for less than nothing in tube stations.” Ianto turned to face him.
Whenever Jack had pictured Ianto in his fantasies or in his nightmares they had been the man’s extremes. The fantasies had been devastatingly handsome and the embodiment of sexual attraction. The nightmares were simply what the name implied. The Ianto of his memories acted firmly in the context of those memories. Ianto had died and a dead person could not change.
The Ianto that stood before him was a man who had gone on after death. He looked the same as that horrible September day but his eyes were older. So were his stance and his face and both spoke of someone who had been severely overworked for quite awhile. How long had he been trying to get back? He was exhausted and pale and clearly physically weakened despite the fact that he wasn’t alive. Jack continued to look at Ianto’s older eyes, those beautiful blue eyes were so full of joy and terror and love that Jack felt his heart was going to explode in his chest.
“Push,” Ianto ordered, as though he knew what Jack was thinking. “I won’t hold it against you.” Everything in the way he said that statement did nothing to inspire confidence. That in itself was worrying since Ianto was an excellent liar. “I’ll be alright,” he promised anyway. “I won’t let you down.” He spread his arms out, like a man about to be crucified, and waited.
Jack had watched Ianto die once and he had no desire to do it again, especially if it was at his own hands. He didn’t care that Ianto was already dead. He didn’t care if this was supposed to help. He was not pushing Ianto off and watching him fall.
“Hurry up!” Ianto barked. Jack recognized the tone. It was a subtle mockery of the choice few times where Jack had needed to be killed by a member of the team to facilitate their goal. Jack moved, charging Ianto with all the force he could muster, but instead of shoving he grabbed. He wrapped the other man tightly in his arms, his being singing at that fact, and threw them both over the edge.
“I don’t care if we’re stuck in an airport again with nothing else to do,” Ianto informed him as they fell. “I am never letting you read even the synopsis of one of those things again!”
It was a better last thing to hear from the man he loved than “you won’t remember me.” Jack decided as consciousness left him. Cold comfort at its best.
- - -
Jack woke up to the sound of singing. He soon figured out that it was Gwen that was singing and that she was singing in Welsh. He’d lived and worked in Cardiff for a long time but very few people he knew could speak the language beyond a few phrases or curses, he barely could say ‘hello’ himself. This was familiar though. It was a slow and gentle tune that was either a lullaby or a hymn. He guessed it to be a lullaby when he heard the words for “mother” and “sleep.” It was odd though because Gwen’s voice was choked with emotion and that meant something was the matter with Tegan. But Tegan wasn’t here, he remembered that much.
Suddenly Gwen stopped. “Hush, dear,” she soothed whomever she was singing to. “It’s alright. You’re home, you made it.”
Jack opened his eyes as everything made sense again. He quickly figured out that he was lying on the examination table. He carefully looked to his right. There was nothing there except the amplifier, turned off, and four empty syringes. He looked to his left to see Gwen’s back. It was hauntingly familiar of when he’d woken up in Thames House.
Gwen continued to sing, oblivious to Jack’s rising up off the table and staring at her. He swung his legs carefully over and, once he was sure that he could stand, moved to stand by Gwen and looked down.
Gwen was holding one of Ianto’s hands tightly in hers and her free one was resting on his forehead. His eyes were squeezed shut in some sort of mix of pain and determination and Jack knew he would have been breathing heavily if not for the oxygen mask on his face. His chest was rising and falling and it was the most miraculous thing he’d ever seen. Jack didn’t really believe in miracles but reckoned that this had to be one lying in front of them now. The same sensation that had hit him when Alice had been born, when Stephen had been born, washed over him now like a tidal wave. Ianto Jones was a miracle. Ianto Jones had beaten death. He was obviously had a ways to go; he could tell that by the tubes in the hand that Gwen was holding, and by a quick look at the monitors. It didn’t worry him though. Ianto Jones was alive and he had made it this far. He would pull through the rest.
He didn’t notice he was sobbing until Gwen was hugging him. Then he felt the sobs, great heaving sobs of relief and joy, shake through him. He was crying so hard that it hurt but he welcomed the pain, they were the final stabs in a wound that had plagued him for too long. A wound he had thought he would have had to deal with forever. He didn’t open his mouth for fear of what would, or wouldn’t, come out but took the embrace and clung to Gwen the way Tegan clung to her after she’d woken from a nightmare. As Gwen rocked him he looked down at Ianto. Ianto had calmed, his eyes were relaxed and he continued to breathe easily, as though it had never been interrupted.
Next thing he knew he was being laid back on the examination table, which was being pushed next to Ianto. He felt the exhaustion then. The desire to sleep for an age or two was almost overwhelming the sheer exaltation of this moment. “Let’s try this again, shall we?” That was Mel’s voice. “Pleasant dreams.” He heard retreating footsteps and knew they were alone.
They. It was them again. The tears kept coming.
“Thank you,” he breathed. It was a thanks to Gwen, it was a thanks to Mel and Harry, it was a thanks to Tosh and Owen, and it was a thanks to Ianto. A thanks to the universe as well for finally giving him something back after taking so much from him. He reached for Ianto and pulled himself close to him. He snaked his arm protectively over Ianto’s chest and grasped the hand he found over there and then, soothed by the feel of Ianto’s breath and Ianto’s pulse, he slept.
Author's Note: The song that Gwen sings to Ianto is Suo Gan