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 Ianto Jones came back to himself the first thought that crossed his mind was that he was fairly sure that opening his eyes didn’t take this much effort. Didn’t they used to just blink open on command? At this rate he’d need someone to pry them open for him and even then he wasn’t sure if they’d stay that way on their own. That being said he hadn’t been in possession of eyelids in quite some time so his memory was not exactly the best thing to be going on. He knew that his memory was usually impeccable but one had to allow for weakness in certain situations. Coming back from the dead certainly had to be one of them.
He decided it was best to leave his eyelids alone and concentrated on the other sensations filtering through his awareness. Being dead you really didn’t feel anything at all, nothing good, nothing bad, just a comfortable state of nothing. He didn’t hurt or anything right now but this whole mess of sensations just from his body doing its job was interesting and off putting after so long. Breathing, he decided, was odd. The last memories he had of breathing were of how bloody hard it had been and how it had been in the way of his need to speak. This reflexive, easy, breathing was welcome but disorienting. Disorienting but magnificent, he decided. In and out, in and out, backed up by a pounding resting heart rate. Had it always pounded so loud? Maybe but he decided it didn’t matter. His heart was doing its job and he’d get back into the rhythm of things soon enough.
The best part of this whole state of being alive was that he was warm. It was glorious. It almost made up for the fact that he was realising that he was incredibly weak. He couldn’t remember ever being this weak. At least that explained the eyelid thing.
Wait a minute. He had just come back from the dead and was going to let heavy eyelids get in his way? What sort of idiocy was that?
It was a fight that was for sure but he managed to get his eyes open and keep them that way. He allowed himself a mental dance of victory and then turned his attention to the next order of business: turning his head. He heard breathing next to him and, though he was fairly sure he knew what that was, he still wanted to check.
Turning his head made opening his eyes seem as easy as breathing but he managed it and smiled at the sight before him. He’d, of course, been right. Jack Harkness was asleep with a book over his face. Judging from the cover it looked like one of those awful pulp novels that always seemed to gravitate to Jack when he was bored. Jack had never been good at waiting, especially for something he really wanted and knew damn well was coming.
He wanted to reach up and bat that book off his face. It was hard to describe what ‘seeing’ Jack had been like while he was dead but it wasn’t the same as seeing him with living eyes. The last memory he had of seeing Jack properly was while he was dying, the desperation and the guilt plain as day. He wanted to get that image out of his head and see what Jack really looked like.
Unfortunately it seemed that moving his arm was much more difficult than his previous labours. He managed to move his fingers with minor difficulty and brushed them against Jack’s hand, a hand that must have been holding his at some point. Ianto considered himself fortunate that the hand was nearby.
Jack mumbled from under the book and grabbed Ianto’s hand. Ianto gasped at the sensation of warm flesh touching his own warm flesh. God this was amazing! He allowed the warmth to settle around his hand and the overwhelming and comfortable sensation slowly began to guide him back to sleep.
“Jack?” he whispered, he voice so quiet weak that he almost wished he hadn’t opened his mouth at all. He didn’t want to make Jack worry and he was not impressed that his first living word had to sound like he was dying all over again.
Jack grunted in his sleep and rolled over. The book fell off his face and was crushed underneath his shoulder. The hand that was holding Ianto’s let go and flung itself over him, making Ianto wince at the impact. Jack’s face was inches from his now. “Jack?” he said again, even quieter this time. No response from Jack.
Ianto leaned his head forward, so their foreheads were touching. The he concentrated on moving his arm. He’d managed to get it over Jack as well before he fell back asleep with a satisfied smile.
He was home.
- - -
When Jack woke up he didn’t clue in to what had happened right away. At first he was confused as to why Ianto was there at all but that all came back to him quickly enough. Why he was so close to Ianto was a simple enough deduction: he’d rolled over. He could feel his no doubt flattened book under his shoulder. He fumbled around with his free arm and pulled the book out and threw it on the floor. He was about to get up and stretch a bit when he felt a comfortable weight across him. He turned his head slightly and looked out of the corner of his eye to see Ianto’s arm.
That had not been there when he’d fallen asleep.
He looked back over at Ianto and noted that the man was now on his side instead of on his back. Aside from the idea that Jack had pushed Ianto into this position, which was impossible, there was only one explanation for this.
Jack remembered the footage of Ianto waking up before. He didn’t want to see that so it was with great care and great anxiety that softly called Ianto’s name. The eyes moved slightly underneath their lids and the corners of them twitched. Jack moved back a little bit, startled by the movement. He moved his arm from Ianto’s side to Ianto’s shoulder and called his name again and squeezed gently.
This time the response was a loan grunt, one of annoyance for being roused, and the fingers on his side grasped his shirt. Or rather tried to.
“Jack?” Ianto slurred, obviously working to open his eyes.
“Yeah.” Jack never knew how he managed to get that word out past the lump in his throat, nor any of the ones that followed. “I’m here.”
It seemed to take a great deal of effort to accomplish that task but soon enough he was looking levelly into the eyes of Ianto Jones. He blinked a few times, as though he couldn’t see properly, and then they shone with recognition and he smiled weakly. “Hello, Jack.”
It was normal. It was too bloody normal. It was like every other morning that Jack had woken up before Ianto and wanted some company. He hadn’t wanted the screaming. He hadn’t wanted memory loss or whatever the hell he was expecting would do to someone who had risen from the dead after so long but he hadn’t hoped for Ianto to come back perfectly fine because it was too much to hope for and he’d already been granted enough favours by this being allowed to happen. There had to be a catch.
Ianto continued to smile at him. There’s no catch, that smile promised. No catches, no strings, no conditions. Just me. That’s all.
He ducked his head so he wasn’t looking at Ianto anymore. He could feel the tears coming and somewhere decided that this was happening way too much for his liking. Another part told him that this was good, that it showed how much he cared.
The hand moved from Jack’s side to his face. Jack could almost hear him concentrating and knew how hard this was for him by how long it took. “Come on,” Ianto said as he cupped Jack’s face. “Look at me. I haven’t seen you in a long time, haven’t I?”
Jack looked at him. Ianto smiled weakly, thumb moving to brush a tear away. “There you are,” he breathed in wonder, as though Jack had been the one who’d done the impossible. “I missed you.”
That did it. Jack didn’t bother being gentle, he just grabbed this miraculous man and kissed him hard and deep. Ianto was still for several, frightening, moments but he soon returned the kiss. It was barely present, probably because it was all he could manage, but it was heart wrenchingly beautiful. He released Ianto’s lips and captured him in an embrace, holding him tightly to his chest and resting his cheek on the top of Ianto’s head. “I missed you,” Jack said forcefully. “So. Much.”
“I gathered,” was the muffled reply and Jack grinned like a lunatic. He held tight to him until his arms felt like they were going to seize and the other man began to shift uncomfortably. He reluctantly loosened his hold and helped Ianto sit up. He looked like he’d just worked four days straight on no sleep while fighting the flu. His eyes were a little hazy with either emotion or exhaustion but he was smiling that small self satisfied smile that Jack remembered so well. It was reserved for occasions just like these, when he’d done the unexpected and had managed to surprise everyone who hadn’t thought it possible.
“I did it,” Ianto announced. Jack could almost hear the mental stamp of “case closed” in Ianto’s head. “Or we did it rather.” His face fell for a moment and then looked up at Jack. “Thank you.”
Jack shook his head. “No. Thank you.” Despite the fact that Ianto was alive and well sitting in front of him he was suddenly could not stop seeing Ianto’s death to playing though hits mind’s eye. “Ianto, I..”
“I’m going to say this once,” Ianto began warningly. His voice was still a little raspy but there was iron mastery behind it. “Then we’re never talking about it again, yeah?”
Jack didn’t see that he had much choice in the matter so he nodded.
Ianto nodded as well. “What happened at Thames House was not your fault. Not one single moment of it, okay? Even if it was your fault I thinking helping to bring me back has to count for something.” Jack opened his mouth to say something but Ianto threw a hand across his mouth the second he inhaled. They both looked at each other in surprise. He was getting stronger by the moment it seemed.
His voice also was setting stronger. “I’m serious,” he said, something like danger lurking behind his eyes. “Being as I was the one that died I think I’m the one who gets the final say on the matter.” He waited for a moment and pulled his hand back.
“One thing though,” Jack fired out as fast as he could, pining Ianto’s hands between his own. Ianto glared at him but didn’t resist. Jack opened his mouth but now, even now, the feelings were proving hard to translate into actual speech. “I really hope I get to say this more than once,” Jack stalled. Ianto’s glare disappeared into an even, expectant stare. He still had no idea, Jack thought incredulously. Not a clue.
He had to know. Jack would not lose him another day only to have him die doubting it again. “I love you.” It was a statement of fact. Nothing flowery, nothing desperate. It just was. He might of well had said “this is a bed” or “that’s the window.”
Ianto turned his hands in Jack’s grasp until he was holding them. He brought them up to his lips and kissed them gently. “I know,” he said. “I always knew, even then when you couldn’t say it.” He smiled that smile again. “Always lovely to hear it said, though.”
Jack didn’t know whether to hug Ianto or hit him. “Ianto,” he chucked. “You..”
“Conniving little bastard?” He supplied, helpfully. “Yes I know, thank you.”
Like most perfect moments in life, this one was ruined by a phone ringing. Ianto nearly jumped out of his skin and the sound and Jack turned around to stare at the thing in pure hatred. The ID flashed “Harry Olden.”
“Let it ring,” Ianto told him. “Don’t want anyone here just yet.”
At Jack’s questioning stare he continued somewhat uneasily. “It’s…weird being alive,” he admitted. “Not that I don’t like it, not that I’m not glad to be back, but I just want to get settled in my own skin for a day or so first.” He looked meaningfully at Jack. “You know what I mean right?”
Jack knew very well what he meant. It always felt weird coming back but he’d never been out of the game for three years straight so he could only imagine how off balance Ianto must feel. “I can’t stop them making house calls,” he warned, “but I won’t answer that phone until you want me to.”
“Thank you.” He stopped, mouthing the word to himself and then saying it aloud again. “It’s odd even talking to you right now,” he explained. “I haven’t had a proper conversation with a living person in a long time. I’m not used to speaking and being heard, not really anyway.”
Jack wanted to remind him that he’d heard him but then remembered that had never been a real conversation. Sometimes Ianto would say something and he’d hear it, sometimes he wouldn’t. From what Tosh and Owen said it often worked the other way as well. Instead he continued to hold his head and said “I hear you now.”
“You really always did,” he corrected. “Another thing I can’t thank you enough for.”
A faint blush coloured his cheeks and he looked away as he continued talking. The phone rang again. “I know this is incredibly selfish of me,” Ianto explained as he eyed the phone, “but I came back for you and me. Not for them. What they want from me can wait.”
Jack always knew that something was important to Ianto when he spoke in paragraphs and he had spoke in no less than four in the past ten minutes. It was also considerably less often that Ianto had ever made himself a priority. Death changed people; Jack knew that better than most. He had seen what it had done to him, each death effecting him differently whether it was one of his own or someone else’s, and what it had done to others. Very rarely was it a change for the better but he liked this one so far. Not because Ianto had pretty much declared he’d come back for him, Jack was more humbled by that than anything else, but he liked Ianto assertive and was glad that Ianto was looking out for himself for once.
Jack must have been starting too long. He shook his head swiftly to clear his head. “Nothing,” he replied. “Just you, just…wow.”
Ianto ducked his head. “You’ve come back loads of times for me,” he mumbled offhandedly. “I reckoned I owed you at least one return.” He bit his lip. “Doubt I can pull off a second but it’s the thought that counts right?”
Jack thought that if Ianto kept talking he was going to throw him on the bed and have glorious, life affirming, welcome back sex no matter what he promised the doctors. A side splitting yawn coming from said object of desire put that thought to bed. “How can you still be tired?” he asked Ianto as the other slid down the head board to lie down on the bed. Jack slid himself back down as well.
Ianto glared at him. “I am not even dignifying that with a response.” He wrapped himself tightly in the covers and then buried into Jack’s side. “I promise I’ll wake up in a few hours. See you then.” The last three words were barely intelligible through yet another yawn and Ianto was asleep by the last. Just like flipping a light switch.
Jack looked at the human cocoon curled into his side and found himself once again grinning so wide that his face hurt. This was the top, as they would have said decades ago, life could not get better than this. Right here, right now.
His phone started to ring again, this time it was Gwen. Jack reached over and switched it to silent with a great measure of satisfaction.
The world could wait.