Rating: PG-13 (language, violence)
Spoilers: Children of Earth, scattered ones for the rest of the series
Disclaimer: Everything you recognize belongs to the BBC. Everything you don't is mine.
Summary: It's seven months after the events of "Crossing Back" and the fun begins with a building collapse.
Author's Notes: Sequel to Crossing Back and Crossing Eyes and Dotting Tees. I'd highly recommend reading those first before you attempt this or nothing with make sense. Be warned that Crossing Back is a fix-it fic.
When Ianto had let go he’d expected to find himself in that blackness again. Oh well, he’d thought. He’d gotten out of it once before after all. Sure he’d had help but he knew it was at least possible. Not like he’d have anything better to do either.
Instead he’d been surrounded by light and that damned radio static noise that Jack had told him about. Radio static being what the dead on the light side sounded like to anyone who wasn’t dead. That’s odd, he remembered thinking. If I’m dead I should be able to hear and see what’s going on. What is going on then?
It had been a surprise, not an unwelcome one to be sure but a surprise nonetheless, to suddenly find himself right back in the ruins of that building surrounded by the aghast team and a bloody near shattered Jack resting his head on his in some effort to not fly apart. Ianto was surprised he hadn’t just passed out again after asking if he’d done the impossible again. The answer was obvious and this was a bit much even given his history. He also wished he had once he’d heard Harry belay the order for an ambulance. He was in a world of trouble now.
Harry Olden was an easy man to underestimate. He was so socially awkward even amongst the team and such an oddball at times that it was always a surprise to see Harry change when he tackled the world as Doctor Harry Olden. When that switch was flipped, when Harry became assertive, authoritative, and other words beginning with a, you really didn’t want to get in his way.
Ianto, whether by his fault or not, was now on the receiving end of that. Harry had missed something about him and he’d be damned if he couldn’t figure it out. Ianto appreciated this part of Harry and loved Harry in his own way but, really, Ianto felt much safer the doctor was away from medical equipment. He had no desire to die again today.
“Can’t we just write this off as me being extremely lucky?” He asked once Harry and Mel were forcing him onto the examination table. He knew that this reasoning had about as much of a chance of working as an icicle had surviving in hell but humans did stupid things to save themselves from pain. He was no exception.
That tactic only gave him pain as Mel pressed him down harder into the table. That was another thing that Ianto was getting used to: that so small a body could have such strength in it. By rights his shoulder should have been dislocated by that display. “You bled to death right in front of us and we watched you heal right in front of us,” she reminded him. “You came back funny if you expect us to leave that alone.”
“I’m fine!” Ianto griped. “I’m right as rain, really!” Not entirely true, he had to admit. He still felt something akin to a mild stomach ache but didn’t consider that worth anyone’s trouble. It would be gone by the evening he gathered.
“Oh yes, you’re fine,” Harry taunted from the other side of the room. “Bloody hell, how do you manage to say these things with a straight face?”
“Ianto, do what they say.” That was Jack, authoritative and almost god like from up above. Before Ianto could crank his head up and offer even something as lowly as a ‘yes, sir’ Jack had vanished. The retreating footsteps informed him that he’d left for his office. Probably to brood, Ianto knew. So long as he didn’t go up on the roof Ianto would keep his mouth shut on the subject. He knew how Jack felt after all.
He shut his mouth and let Harry do what he needed to do. “You didn’t miss anything,” he told him, trying to make his friend feel better as well as get him to put the needles away.
Harry sighed. “Look,” he explained tiredly. “Obviously I’ve missed something if you can pull a Jack-like stunt like that without any indication that you’re like him at all.” He went on with his work in complete silence, quite a change of character. Harry babbled when he worked and always spoke to his patients to make them feel reassured. Ianto could have done with a bit of that. Everyone seemed to be forgetting that he was just as confused as they were and was bloody terrified at what it meant for him. Worst case scenario, he’d die really soon. Best case scenario, he’d not die at all. Both concepts were terrifying. Perhaps assigning the ‘best case’ and ‘worst case’ modifiers were irrelevant.
“Alright, you can go.”
That was quick. He hadn’t taken note of the time when they’d arrived down here but it had to have been no more than an hour long exam. He lifted his head up and raised an eyebrow at the uncharacteristically silent medic.
“Seriously,” Harry reassured him as he settled behind his computer. “Go home and rest. Take Jack with you if you can. I’ll close up, I’ll be here late.”
Normally Ianto would offer some words of concern at a remark like that, but he instead took his shirt and jacket back and fled the medbay for the kitchenette. He wasn’t quite ready to go up and see Jack yet, especially not without coffee or food in hand, and he also wanted to leave Harry with a full pot and make sure there was something lying around for him to eat.
“I’ll take it to Harry,” Mel offered as she appeared by Ianto’s elbow, nearly causing him to leap out of his skin, “You need to get up there.”
Mel was offering her opinion on her boss`s mood. That was a warning sign as obvious as a stop sign. “Is it bad?”
She considered that for a moment. “Gwen was up there for a bit,” she reported. “She gave me the thumbs down on her way out.”
That was saying something. With him, Tosh and Owen gone Gwen and Jack had really stuck together like glue, at least that’s what he’d heard. They’d carried each other through the mess that had been the aftermath of the 456 and countless other things over the past three and a half years. This, in Ianto’s universe, was far below the absolute clusterfuck that had been the 456 and the fact that Gwen hadn’t managed to talk some sense into Jack did not bode well.
“Best of luck,” she said as she picked up the mug and grabbed the entire package of biscuits instead of the plate that Ianto had put together for Harry. Probably a better idea, he allowed. He brought the plate up with him but didn’t bring any coffee. The key was to get Jack out of the office, not get settled in there.
Door closed of course, Ianto sighed and ate one of the biscuits in one bite. Usually he’d knock but he decided this wasn’t the time for gentlemanly gestures. He opened the door to find the office empty. He put the plate on Jack’s paper ridden desk and grunted. In the old Hub the next place to check would be the manhole where he’d lived. That had not been built in to this Hub, thank God, but that meant there was only one place Jack could be right now.
There was no way he was going up there. He’d already died once today and he had no desire to tempt fate. He picked up the receiver of Jack’s desk phone and stabbed in Jack’s mobile number. A stack of papers vibrated. Wherever he’d gone, he obviously didn’t want to be reached.
“Mel,” he ordered as he exited Jack’s office, “check the CCTV. Is Jack on the roof?”
Technically speaking the Hub, naturally, did not have a roof, but there were a few nearby locations that were favourites. Mel tapped at her keyboard and scanned the screens. “Nope,” she reported. “He’s not on the roof of your building either.”
Great. He really was not up to going Jack-hunting all over Cardiff. “Right,” he announced. “I’m going home. If he comes back, ring me.” He didn’t stay to see Mel’s nod. Sticking around to see it was a waste of energy, Mel was the most reliable person in the place, and Ianto very badly wanted out of the Hub.
- - -
The radio was playing something particularly offensive but Ianto didn’t shut it off. Instead he cranked the volume louder so Lady Gaga’s cries of wanting her object of desire’s bad romance thumped through the car. There was an urge to scream along with the lyrics but, honestly, he didn’t know them. This had come out after he’d died so he’d missed the chunk of time in a song’s life where it would get in your head so deep that you’d know all the words of the song despite hating every beat of it. He didn’t want to deal with finding a better song on another station nor did he want to sit in silence in the car. It was a short trip but he didn’t want to spend it in an environment that so resembled where he had been earlier today.
He’d been a building collapse and had walked away from it. That was twice now he’d done the impossible. The only difference was that this go around he hadn’t spent three years planning it. What did he think about this, really? Was he glad he was alive? Of course, but he was concerned about the future. He knew without a doubt that no matter what Harry did or did not uncover that the entire team would be with him. That included Jack despite his current absence. That didn’t mean he was abandoning him. At least he really hoped so.
Ianto cranked the volume louder, draining out the parade of what ifs and what abouts. No need to even touch those until he had some clue what was exactly going on. All he would do was worry himself sick and that was no good to him or Harry or Jack or anyone else.
He parked the car, locked it, and slowly made his way into the building. When he finally made his way up to their flat he allowed himself to sag to the floor and sit against the locked door. His head lolled back to rest against it, thudding gently. He shut his eyes and sighed.
Jack’s voice should have taken him by surprise but it really didn’t. Where better to hide from the universe than at home after all? “Yeah,” he nodded. His hand moved across his stomach. No more pain.
“Stomach bothering you?” Jack asked.
“A little bit earlier,” he admitted. “It’s fine now though.”
Jack looked at his watch. “Not bad,” he said, impressed for some reason. “The first time I came back my back hurt for days.” He let out a small snort of laughter. “Felt like I was still lying there. I was surprised I was walking.”
Ianto had no idea what Jack was talking about. Well, rather he knew exactly what he was saying and what he was referring to but had no idea exactly why he was mentioning this. “Would you rather I was still lying down complaining of compressed lungs and torn abdomen then?”
No response to that. “It took me ‘til the fourth or fifth death to be up on my feet so fast,” Jack declared.
Ianto snorted. “I’ve seen what you eat, sir. I’m surprised that it doesn’t circumvent your immortality entirely.”
“Stop joking about this, Ianto!” Jack snapped. “It’s really not funny.”
“Am I laughing?” He shouted back, rising to his feet in challenge. “I must admit a building collapse and then fucking dying again is the funniest thing ever conceived since that teddy bear thing asked Mel to marry her last month. A real bloody riot this whole day has been, Jack. Fun and games.”
“You said that it wouldn’t happen again,” Jack fumed, stepping closer to Ianto. It was supposed to be intimidating but Ianto didn’t budge. “You said you’d be careful.”
“I was careful!” Ianto roared. “How was I supposed to know about their unique exit strategies? You certainly didn’t mention anything so I’m guessing that you didn’t know either. No one’s fault, it’s part of the fucking job. I’ve accepted that. I’ve accepted it THREE TIMES now. Why on earth can’t you?”
He stormed past Jack, heading for the kitchen. He didn’t know whether he was going to grab the booze, the coffee, or the tranquilizers. He needed something to deal with this shit.
“You need to stop your brooding,” Ianto half lectured him as he grabbed a glass and started rummaging through the cupboards. Booze it was then. “Honestly. You’re not god, Jack. If I had died out there today it wouldn’t have been your fault, just like it wasn’t your fault the last time. You didn’t make me walk into Thames House – “
“I told you to stay the fuck out of there,” Jack reminded him with a ferocious hiss.
“And like hell I was letting you go in there alone. You would have done the same thing if positions were reversed, immortality or not, and you know it.” He poured himself some whiskey and took a drink. He didn’t even notice the burn. “And you know something? If your Doctor turned up and gave me the chance to do the whole thing over again I’d still go in there.”
“No you wouldn’t,” Jack shook his head, his anger slowly ebbing. Voice was loud enough for sure but the anger was slowly leaving. “If you knew then what you now -”
“Changes nothing,” Ianto argued. “I know my place Jack. Just like Tosh knew her place and Owen knew his. Like Mel and Harry and Gwen know theirs. Our place is here, with Torchwood, doing what we can no matter what the costs to ourselves. You just happen to be along for the ride.” He poured himself another three fingers full and then tossed it back. He took a deep breath and softened his voice. “I’m really sorry that you have to watch us all fall. Every single one of us is going to leave you for good one day but that’s no reason to sit up in your office and brood about things that never happened.”
“Has it ever happened to you before?”
Ianto blinked. “What?” he asked flatly.
“Have you died and come back before today?” he clarified with another snap. “Not counting the first return.”
The roof was what Ianto’s brain said. What left Ianto’s mouth was “of course not!”
That seemed to diffuse Jack like puncturing a hole in a hot air balloon. He sighed and slumped and for a moment Ianto thought he was going to fall onto the floor. Instead he staggered over to the couch and fell on that. Ianto didn’t know whether to roll his eyes or fetch a blanket. Instead he got another glass and poured Jack a drink. Then he topped off his.
“Thanks,” Jack mumbled as he attempted to sip it while lying sideways. He eventually succumbed to necessity of sitting up but not quietly. “Your health,” he saluted, and then took his drink like a shot.
“Thanks,” Ianto mumbled and knocked back his drink as well. This was bad, he thought. He hadn’t pounded back whiskey this easily since after Lisa had died.
“I’m sorry for yelling at you,” Jack sighed as he put his glass on the coffee table and pushed it away. “I’m just…I...I,” he threw his face into his hands and his fingers dug into his skull. “You scared the crap out of me today.”
It was an honest statement, Ianto knew that but the look on Jack’s face once he took his hands away from it was almost like a baffled madman and the state of his hair certainly lent itself to that description. He let out a quick snort of laughter before he caught himself. “Sorry,” he said, “on both accounts. I’ll insist on Torchwood providing transportation from now on.” He got a shadow of a smile at that and counted that a small victory.
Jack shrugged out of his great coat and shooed Ianto away when he offered to hang it up. Instead he let it lie across the back of the couch and patted the empty spot on the couch. “Movie?” he asked.
Ianto really had no opinion on what to watch and all Jack said was comedy. After scanning their slowly growing DVD collection he pulled out “Clue.” Nonsensical despite dealing with murder, just what the doctor ordered. The events of the day were not mentioned again and Ianto was just fine with that. They’d certainly discussed it enough for comfort. He was just glad that he was still here and that Jack seemed okay.
Eventually Ianto decided he needed to go to bed and left Jack, who was dozing himself, to get out of his suit. About half an hour later he felt the bed dip and Jack slip in to spoon up behind him. “I love you,” he whispered to him. “Try not to do that again.”
Ianto wasn’t sure whether he should make a quip about whether he meant the dying or the coming back part. Instead he said. “No promises.”
Jack accepted that with a light kiss on the back of his neck. Ianto smirked. He’d won this round and he’d come by it honestly. That was a first.
What about the roof?
Ianto imagined beating that thought into submission with a cricket bat until he fell asleep himself.