Rating: PG 13
Characters/Parings: Jack/Ianto, Gwen/Rhys, Rhiannon, OCs
Spoilers: Children of Earth
Summary: “Miles ahead of you, love!” Gwen says. Seems everyone is these days. He wonders if he’ll ever catch up properly.
Author’s Notes: Sequel to my fic Crossing Back, it works fine as a standalone but reading that before hand will certainly help matters
Torchwood is organized differently now. Not so much differently but it is shocking when Ianto discovers that if he wanted time off he could very easily take it without inconveniencing everyone else. He’s so used to it being only five of them, and then only three, that the concept of a reserve staff is something that seems akin to winning the lottery.
Rhys is there the most often. He’ll do anything from clean up, to weevil hunting, to anything else that they need. He usually enjoys it too. He even found something therapeutic about mucking out the cells. Sometimes, as a result, Tegan ends up hanging out at the hub with Gwen if a babysitter can’t be found but Jack is surprisingly tolerant of this. Not so long ago, at least to Ianto, children in the Hub would have been an idea up there with letting Janet out for walks. Another change to Jack Harkness and another one that he likes.
Lois Haibla is there on call, more so for their eyes and ears in the government, but she’s willing to do minor missions. Martha Jones, of course, is around when needed and when UNIT will allow her. Andy Davidson couldn’t help but be added to the reserve list and then there was Sergeant Lachlan Telson of UNIT.
Lachlan was one of the original UNIT boys that had helped rebuild Torchwood after the 456. He was the only one who had asked to be kept on after the contract was up. He was also Mel’s elder brother. Mel and Lachlan did not get on, a falling out revolving around Mel’s previous criminal past that they had never been able to reconcile. Because of this they were not allowed to work together. Mel’s request more than Jack’s decree and Lachlan was fine with that.
The team photo hanging above the couch didn’t let on to the tension. Lachlan and Mel were at opposite ends, bookending the group but still looking as though they were having a good time. As long as there was a small army of people around them they were as right as rain.
Ianto takes the picture off the wall and opens the back to look at all the old ones. The oldest one is of him, Jack, Gwen, Tosh and Owen. They look insanely happy. The next one is of the three of them, who look as haunted as much as determined. The next shot is of Jack, Rhys, Gwen, and Martha. There is a gap of space to Jack’s right that seems to have been left there on purpose and an emptiness behind Jack’s bright eyes and easy smile. Ianto bows his head and once again thinks of how much his death had hurt his friends. He’d never expected his dying would undo so many, but it had. All the more reason to be careful. Not that he was openly reckless with his life but it was time to tread a little more carefully if he was offered that choice. There were people who cared about what happened to him. The next one is of the same crowd with the addition of Harry. The next adds Mel.
Ianto has the new photo in his hands now, fresh from the printer. He carefully places the photo in the frame, the old ones lining up silently behind it. After he hangs it on the wall Ianto steps back and surveys the capture of a moment during the party celebrating his return.
They all look almost as happy as the photo with Tosh and Owen in it. Jack and Ianto are in the middle, that empty space finally filled and the light in Jack’s eyes is back. Jack’s arm is around his shoulders while they are flanked by Gwen and Rhys on Jack’s side and Mel and Harry on Ianto’s side. In the foreground, kneeling in front of Jack and him is a very drunk Andy Davidson and Lois, Martha, and Lachlan haunt the background with smiles all around. Except for Lachlan that is, who just looks confused.
Not as confused as he himself does, Ianto muses as he looks at his smiling image. He looks happy enough – and he certainly had been– but there’s something in his eyes that lurks there the same way that Jack’s eyes had lacked something before. It’s almost like he had been while Lisa had been in the basement. The image was prim and proper and exactly what everyone wanted to see but the inside was far from matching.
Ianto snorts. His imagination is clearly running away with him. Time to get back downstairs and sort out special archives and hope that Jack hadn’t destroyed it too much after yesterday’s shenanigans. Who’d have thought teddy bears could cause so much damage?
- - -
Ianto realises that he is truly an awful brother when it occurs to him that Rhiannon might like to know about his change of status. He’s been on the job for two weeks and alive for nearly a month. He groans and smashes his forehead with his fist when it comes to him while doing a computer search through the estates for a suicidal alien. Hell of a Friday, this.
He thinks of calling but rules that out as heartless and hardly concrete evidence. He asks Gwen to come with him simply because he doesn’t want to have any questions about Jack quite yet, or double a ‘meet the family’ moment with a ‘hey guess what I’m not dead’ moment.
Three days and one reformed alien later Rhiannon slams the door in Gwen’s face when she knocks. Gwen appears as unsurprised as Ianto. They try again and this time make sure that both of them are within sight of Rhiannon’s furious face. She opens the door and gapes at him. Ianto begins reciting any childhood memories that he can think of. That one time that he and Rhiannon had stolen the sugar from Mam’s pantry, the time that Rhiannon had tried to cover for Ianto’s brief career as a shoplifter, that the last thing that Mam had said to them before she’d died was ‘don’t end up like me. Make something of yourselves, yeah?’ This, of course, all leaves his mouth at speeds previously unknown to humanity but Rhiannon either manages to understand or just knows in that way that family members always seem to know you for who and what you are no matter what.
She slaps him first. Ianto had expected that it seems that Gwen hadn’t. He manages to hush Gwen’s indignation before Rhiannon launches at him again to pull him into a stifling embrace. “Three bloody years!” she screeches. “I was at your bloody funeral!”
Gwen and him manage to steer her into the kitchen and between the two of them manage to concoct a fairly convincing story of government conspiracy. He hadn’t really died but everyone thought he had. They say something about being locked up while in a coma and experimented on, saved by his dashing boss during his own rescue attempt. Ianto makes a note to thank Gwen for that addition; it will help having that fact in his sister’s head when it comes time for her to meet Jack.
She hugs him again and insists that he wait for the kids and Johnny to get home. He tells Gwen that it’s fine if she leaves but she decides to stick around. He’s grateful for that. It isn’t that he does love them. Rhiannon was the only family member he cared to keep any form of contact with. Mam had been a depressed housewife, Dad had been a depressed store clerk, the rest of the family had been depressed for one reason or another. All except him and Rhiannon, at least until they’d hit their teens.
Ma had drunk herself to death, Dad had hung himself at work, Ianto had fled to London, and Rhiannon had stayed to pick up the pieces. She’d be pregnant and married within a year and half and had furiously worked not to fall into the same fate as their mother. She’d succeeded and Ianto is happy for her. Maybe one day he’ll manage to tell her. Death has changed many things about him but making him comfortable around his family is still slow in coming.
Johnny about falls over when he sees him and the kids are terrified. Once they’re assured that the man at the table is real and this is not some cruel joke the kids tackle him with all the enthusiasm they’d lacked three years previously. Mica and David are huge he decides.
As he deals with the kids and Johnny, answering any questions that he can, Gwen adding things where she can, he manages to accidently glance at Rhiannon. She fixes him with a stare that is worthy of a goddess determining the true nature of a mortal. She knows something’s not quite right and Ianto allows her to see that she’s right. Rhiannon may have stayed behind but she is far from stupid.
“When?” she mouths and Ianto cannot stop from the truth from leaving his lips the same way. The date of his resurrection, the date he woke up in his and Jack’s bed anyway, tumble from his lips like a sigh and his sister’s eyes widen as much as they glisten. She steps over and hugs him again. Tightly but gently and he, for the first time in so long, hugs her back. “You would pull a stunt like that,” she whispers affectionately in his ear. She pulls back and plants a sisterly kiss on his lips. “You keep yourself well, okay?”
“I’ll do my best,” he promises. The rest of the room and the people in it might as well not exist.
“And come around more often! And let us meet your boyfriend!”
He agrees to all these things and mostly means them. He asks Gwen to remind him to fill Jack in on the cover story and what Rhiannon knows before he forgets about it. Gwen tosses him the small sound recorder she was carrying in her pocket. “Miles ahead of you, love.”
Seems everyone is these days, Ianto muses. He wonders if he’ll ever catch up properly.
- - -
His body is both a freedom and a prison. He’d missed the feeling of breathing. He’d missed the beat of his heart. He’d missed the feel of tired limbs or active limbs. He’d missed smell, he’d missed taste, he’d missed everything.
His body is also a responsibility he can’t seem to bear. He’s stifled. His movements are restricted, he does tire, his mortality and his being alive is a pit in his stomach and in his heart that both warms and cools at a moment’s notice. Perhaps that’s the three years of life he’s missed. Gwen had just found out she was pregnant and now, in the blink of an eye, here was a three year old girl with Gwen’s hair and eyes and Rhys’s face.
Jack had changed. Nothing too alarming but Jack could work the coffee machine in the flat now. He could make himself a meal that didn’t taste like rubbish and he could program the DVR. He could even work the bloody blender and that was still a mystery to Ianto.
“You just have to use these buttons here,” Jack instructs him, pointing toward a red button and the mysterious black one. “Apparently one can’t work without the other.”
Ianto absently comments on the subtly of the thing and wanders into their bedroom while Jack’s back is turned. As he looks out into the night he wishes, for just a moment, to drop dead right there.
Ianto doesn’t remember that much about the afterlife but he remembers more than he tells. Once he’d figured out how to cross between worlds, invisible of course, one of his favourite things to do had been to perch on top of a train or a bus and whiz around the city, taking in all the sights and sounds that he could no longer experience.
Back then he did it to feel connected, now he wanted to do it because he wanted to be able to do it again. No way to do that now.
Jack’s hands are around him, pulling Ianto to him without any preamble and any yearning for anything more than this. Also a new development, Ianto notes. One he likes but he is still trying to come to terms with.
“I’ll always need you,” he tells him. “I’ve lived without you, I know that I can, but I don’t want to.”
Ianto remembers the fun that he’d have on the train and is reminded that no matter how much fun he had had that he’d trade it all in an instant for the chance to touch Jack again. He cranks his head back to capture Jack’s lips. Jack accepts the kiss and reciprocates gently. I need you, the kiss says. I need you, I love you, please don’t leave me.
As if he could. He’s on the bed now and crawling up Jack’s torso, undoing buttons as he goes. He’d come back for this and he’d fought for this and he’d be damned if he’d leave it like he did before. His death haunts him though. Not so much the dying itself but the space of time that has gone missing from him. Something needs to be put to rest, even if he’s not sure what it is.
When he’s in Jack’s arms, sated and drifting toward sleep, he has an idea
- - -
Getting let into Thames House while not on any sort of official business hadn’t required too much work. Aside from the fact that government is extremely accommodating to Torchwood nowadays, there is also the fact of his existence. The government knows about him, of course, and would have folded at anything he asked but he doesn’t feel like using that strange power. Instead he had made two phone calls, one to Lois and one to Lachlan, and now he walks towards the tall, spry figure of Sergeant Lachlan Telson outside the MI5 building. He is in full uniform and holds himself as though he is being inspected by the Queen herself. “Could you relax?” Ianto asks him with more than a little annoyance. “I’m an archivist, not royalty.” Lachlan ignores him in much the same way that Mel ignores Gwen’s attempts to get her to chat clothes and shoes while she’s busy with computer parts.
Lachlan and Mel look nothing alike aside from their flaming red hair and serious demeanours. Mel is short and compact where Lachlan is tall and lanky. Mel’s face is rounder and fuller while Lachlan’s is narrow and angular. They both have the same hard and focused stares when they’re on a job but Lachlan knows even less of how to have a good time than Mel does. Lachlan carries himself as though he has the burden of the universe on his shoulders and he believes himself more than a match for it. Mel is not serious enough in his eyes while Ianto considers Mel one of the most serious people he has ever known.
Mel knows when to smirk or make an attempt at light heartedness, though. Lachlan knows the time for neither so it is with some measure of awkwardness that Lachlan leads him through the front doors and to the lift. Ianto absently thinks that death might be good for him, nothing like death to mellow you out after all. Despite all the deep thinking he has been doing he appreciated the little things more. When those were gone you had nothing.
The lift rings at floor thirteen and the doors open. “I’ll wait for you downstairs,” Lachlan says as Ianto walks out of the cramped space. Part of him is annoyed at being left behind so abruptly but the rest is perfectly content to go into this room himself. It’s fitting that way.
The room is empty aside from those few tables and the great empty space where the tank had once been. For a moment Ianto can feel Jack beside him, bold as brass and ready to tear the 456 apart with his words. Of all the times for Jack to have listened to him it had to have been then. What in the name of hell had they been thinking?
He doesn’t blame Jack for what happened. He really doesn’t. He blames himself for taking the opportunity to push Jack into something while he was emotionally vulnerable. That was exactly why he had done it, no matter how good his intentions, but he had meant for them to have an actual plan before going in there.
That was his fault as well. Boldly stating that the 456 were not getting any children from then – not a single one – was an admirable thing but didn’t really do much aside from make the 456 angry. Their actions had killed ninety six people, including himself. It made sense that he had died. At least one of them had to pay the price for that move.
It was no one’s fault and it was everyone’s fault. Of course it would be that way.
He walks toward the empty space until he gathers he is standing more or less on the exact spot that he’d been standing on before. The air conditioner hisses in confirmation. “It’s too late,” Ianto mutters, recalling Jack’s panicked cries and eyes.
Ianto sags to the ground, controlled this time, and lies down on the floor. He’s alone. He’s not dying and Jack’s not here to tell him to save his breath, not here to tell him don’t…
Don’t hadn’t meant that Jack hadn’t loved him. Ianto had known that even then. Don’t meant ‘don’t you dare say goodbye to me.’ Ianto had never said ‘I love you’ until then. The sentiment had always been there and it hadn’t needed to be said. Ianto had just wanted to make it permanent, make it solid, before he was gone.
Don’t had not been a rejection. Don’t had been more of a confirmation than anything else Jack could have said. Besides, Jack’s replying “I love you, too” would have been awful. Even “I know” would have been a slight against what they were.
“How’s the view from down there?” Jack’s voice doesn’t surprise him as much as it should.
“This ceiling is awful,” Ianto decrees. “And this floor really is quite uncomfortable.” He shifts about, the floorboards seeming to dig in between his vertebrae. “I’m surprised I didn’t notice it before.”
“You had other things on your mind.” Footsteps echo toward him. Ianto turns his head to meet Jack’s booted toes. He cranks his head up to look up at Jack’s haunted eyes.
“If I recall,” he corrects, resting his hand on Jack’s foot. “I had someone holding me up off this sorry excuse of a floor.”
Jack smiles a little at that. “That you did,” he agrees and offers a hand. Ianto takes it and is pulled to his feet. Neither of them move. Ianto continues to grip Jack’s hand and Jack’s arm remains locked around his back. When he decides to let go he looks at the empty space again.
“Why did you come here?” Jack whispers. He sounds like a mix of the air conditioner and Ianto’s conscience.
There are many answers to that question. He came to put the past to bed. He came to show the room that the room had not beaten him. Thousands of others run through his brain but the one that leaves his lips is “I came to see how far I’ve come.” It’s cryptic and he hates cryptic. Jack isn’t the biggest fan of it either but hugs him to his side anyway. Ianto rests his head on his shoulder for a moment.
“Next time I’m dying somewhere nicer,” he informs his immortal companion. “And not on government property either.”
“I’ll see what I can do,” Jack tries to reply lightly but fails. Ianto knows that Jack must be in agony to stand here in this room but he is completely willing to wait for Ianto to make that decision. That was something that had never changed about Jack.
“I think,” he tells Jack when he’s led them out of the room and they’re in the lift, “I’m really back now.”
Jack looks at him like he’s done him the greatest service in the world. He squeezes his hand once and then says nothing.
They’re still holding hands when Lachlan meets them at the ground level and walks them to the SUV.
- - -
Ianto opens his eyes and is shocked to find he’s not in pain. He runs his tongue over his teeth, everything there. He moves a hand gingerly to feel inside his mouth. His fingers come out free of blood and, taking careful survey of what should hurt and finding nothing, he stands up.
Apparently weevils had gotten creative in the past three years. Ianto has never taken to chasing one by rooftop before. Probably best he didn’t try it again; falling off of a rooftop was terrifying. Or at least it was terrifying to him because it was beyond silly to die so soon after beating it. Three months of life only to lose it while weevil hunting. He wasn’t sure if that death was better than the 456 death or not.
He looks up at the rooftops to see there are two, one considerably higher than the other. The smaller one has to have been the one he’d fallen off of otherwise there is no way he can be standing here right now. The taller one looks familiar though; he seems to remember thinking that it needed new shingling as he ran over the uneven surface.
“Ianto?” Gwen’s voice coming from the earpiece lying on the ground. She must be shrieking quite loud for him to hear her from a standing position. He stoops, noting curiously that there is no blood on the pavement, picks it up and answers.
“Oh thank god,” sighs Gwen. “Where have you been?”
“Hit my head,” he reports. “Knocked myself out.”
“Aside from the loss of dignity you mean?”
Gwen sniggers over the line. “Okay, you’re all right then. Good, good. I’ll patch you back to Harry and Jack.”
Jack’s voice crackles through almost right away. “You okay?”
“I’m fine,” he assures irritably. “Just hit my head on a beam. No harm done.”
“I’ll check you out later,” Harry says by way of an order. “Where are you? We got the weevil and we’re on our way back. We’ll give you a lift.”
Before Ianto can figure out where he is Harry remembers the GPS tracker everyone has in their earpieces and simply tells him not to move and they’ll be there in five. Ianto takes a moment to examine himself again. Rips and tears in the trousers, thankfully he was wearing an older suit, a few tears at the elbows but no other evidence that he’d fallen. A look in some shattered glass shows there’s not even a bruise where his head must have hit ground.
Lucky. Too lucky. He looks up at the roof tops again. Roof number one or number two…
Doesn’t matter, he decides. He’s okay and that’s all he needs to know. That’s all the others need to know. That’s all that matters.
He hears the sound of some horrible dance music and then two short honks of the horn. He smiles despite the annoyance at the choice of music and walks back to the man, the friends, and the job, he loves.
Don’t worry about it, he reminds himself. You’re alive and well. That’s all that matters to anyone at the end of it all. You’re alive and well.