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.
“It’s down here!” Gwen’s voice echoed from down below. Her quick steps soon followed as she rejoined the main level of the hub. Jack growled and snatched Ianto’s mobile from her hand without as much as a thank you. He quickly scanned through it. There were twelve missed calls, all from him, and all the text messages that were in the inbox were mostly from him too. These weren’t booty calls either. Some of them certainly were but a lot were stupid things like “where are you?” or “you coming home now?” and the like. Stuff he never would have texted Ianto about before he...well before he’d died. Was he hovering as bad as Ianto seemed to think he was?
“Do I hover?” he asked Gwen. Better to get a response now and better to just spit out the question before he got a chance to change his mind.
“Yes,” she said promptly. “If you’re talking about Ianto, that is. I’m surprised he hasn’t gone mad yet.”
Mel joined the conversation from her station. “Maybe he has,” she suggested. “He’s been gone for four hours.”
“What?” Jack yelped. “We only just noticed he was gone!”
Mel’s report, as always, was painfully direct. “Three minutes after you shouted at him he made a gesture at the camera and then exited the Hub through special archives. He then boarded a bus. Local transit so don’t worry too much.”
“What was the gesture?” Harry asked as Jack moved to watch the footage. Mel demonstrated and Harry shrugged. It was something he’d seen directed at him from Mel at least once a week. “Could do worse, I guess.”
“Get that bus number and track it,” Jack ordered. He didn’t care what gestures Ianto made at the camera. What he was more concerned about was the fact that Ianto was who knows where. Where the hell would he go on local transit? Somewhere behind all that questioning he noted that that request he’d made of Mel had come very close to a snap. He’d apologize later. He needed to locate Ianto. He needed to make sure…
“Belay that order.”
Mel stopped typing immediately and pushed herself away from the desk. Harry gaped at the person who’d issued the order while Jack walked back to stand in front of the woman who’d overruled him. “Last I checked,” Jack informed her. “I still gave the orders around here.”
“Why do you want to find him?” Gwen demanded, folding her arms and fixing him with a judging stare that he knew far too well.
“He’s left without his phone and without asking leave – “
Harry made a good imitation of the sound you heard on quiz shows when the answer was wrong. “One down, nine to go,” he quoted. ‘What’s My Line’ re-runs and Harry Olden should never have met.
“Stay out of it, Harry!” Jack snapped. Harry started but kept silent.
“Stay in it, Harry.” Gwen countered coldly. “Wrong answer, Jack. Try again.”
“What do you want me to say?” Jack was in no mood to play this game. Gwen was stepping over the line as usual “Mel, track that bus!”
Mel didn’t budge.
“You want to find him so you can tell him off some more,” Gwen answered for him. “Actually,” she amended, “you want to find him because you’re convinced that he’s going to get killed or hurt or whatever if he’s not in your sight. Then once you’ve found him you’re going to tell him off all over again. You both need space and he knows that. So give him his time. He knows how to work a payphone if he needs you.”
Jack had nothing to say to that, surprisingly. Gwen had always been adept at reading into people’s feelings and she’d gotten nothing but better at since she’d become a mother. Pouty children and brooding adults had a lot in common, she’d said. He had to admit that he was embarrassed to think that Gwen might see him in the same light as her three year old daughter right now.
“Ianto’s not free of blame on this either,” she added. “He’s throwing his own form of tantrum right now just the same way you’re throwing one. His just happens to not involve yelling at everyone in the vicinity.”
“He did yell at me!” Jack retorted indignantly.
Mel cleared her throat. “You yelled more than he did,” she corrected. More tapping. “Sounds to me like either he was telling the truth or else he was holding on to because he didn’t want to worry you.” Her flaming read head stuck out to glare at him. “And why oh why would he think that instead of just telling you or asking you about it like you wanted him to?”
Because I’d worry and hover and probably never let him outside again.He started to say it out loud and caught himself halfway through the word ‘worry.’ The damage had been done already, even Harry was glaring at him now, and he had just admitted it to himself. He could almost see what would have happened. He’d overact, Ianto would try to rein him in and end up fighting back, and then lord knew what would have happened next. Probably this, he allowed. All Ianto had done was put it off a bit but he had been putting it off for a reason, whether it was to gather information or to keep the peace.
He’d never even considered Ianto’s feelings on the matter, either today or in that theoretical happening. Come to think of it, he hadn’t given too much thought to Ianto’s feelings until several hours after the building collapse had killed him.
They’d vowed a new start but it seemed they’d both fallen into the old run of things pretty quickly.
“You going to give him his space now?” Gwen’s voice had lost it’s hard edge but that didn’t take away the sting.
“Doesn’t seem I have much of a choice, do I?” Jack stormed back up to his office, leaving his team in his wake. He may agree with them, he may understand that this wasn’t Ianto’s fault, but that didn’t mean that he had to like it.
- - - - -
What the hell was he up here? The cab driver has certainly had his suspicions when he’d handed over his currency and gave his sister’s address. Ianto was far too well dressed, at least in that driver’s opinion, to be headed up that way. Maybe he thought that he was out on government business.
He and Rhiannon really didn’t have the sort of sibling relationship where they shared troubles. If Rhiannon had something on her mind she was far more likely to phone up one of her girlfriends the same way Ianto would chat to Torchwood. The only time their worries and concerns crossed were when family was involved, and that was few and far between as they were the only Joneses left in the country. When their parents had been alive, before Rhiannon had met Johnny and Ianto had left for London, they had had that sort of close relationship. Rhiannon had always tried to get that relationship back, her efforts had strengthened recently for obvious reasons, but Ianto found himself to be rather unreceptive to it. It was unrealistic. He couldn’t rant about his job to his sister. He couldn’t bitch about Jack’s antic today to her either, she hadn’t even met him yet and he didn’t want her to judge him too harshly. They’d cool their heels and sort this out later. That was for sure.
If that was the case then why was he here? He could talk to Rhiannon about the whole failing to die thing if he wanted to. She did know that he had died once before after all...
Ianto stopped his thought process and rapped on the door, hoping that it was just her home. He really didn’t want to deal with Johnny or the kids at the moment. To his relief he heard Rhiannon shouting for him to let himself in and he opened the door to an empty hallway. “Who is it?” she sang.
“Your brother,” he replied. He snorted as he heard the sound of a pan dropping and then quick, small feet running toward him.
“I didn’t think you’d actually stop by ever again without my ringing you!” Rhiannon squealed as she appeared in the hallway and pulled him into a warm hug. “You on your lunch or something?”
“Something like that,” Ianto muttered as he was released. “I was in the neighbourhood.”
She took Ianto’s wrist and glanced at his watch. “It’s three in the afternoon,” she said sternly and then smirked. “You cut out early didn’t you?”
“Yeah,” he admitted.
“Thought you loved that job. It being a bit of a beast today?” Ianto nodded his head as he allowed his sister to steer him into the sitting room where there was already some tea out. “Just poured myself some,” she explained. “Diane was over earlier. It’s still warm I swear.”
What Ianto really wanted was a strong cup of coffee. The teabags were still in the pot, he observed, so hopefully the Earl Grey that his sister preferred was strong enough for him to deal with. He poured himself a cup and settled himself onto the couch. It wasn’t as bold and offensive as a cup of black coffee but the triple steeped tea was close enough.
“So how are things?” Rhiannon asked as she settled into a seat across from him.
Small talk. Ianto knew there had been a reason he had avoided all the family reunions. How are things? How best to go about answering that question…
“Alright,” Rhiannon butted in. “I assume that things are crap. Now are you going to tell me what’s wrong? That’s why you’re here isn’t it?”
Mothers were scary people, he decided. It was like the second they gave birth they suddenly possessed extreme telepathic abilities. It was really quite bothersome. He had to tell her something now.
He wasn’t ready to tell her that he might be immortal, he decided. There wasn’t any evidence for that yet, though dying twice and coming back twice was certainly fairly solid evidence in favour of it, and he wasn’t ready to even consider that road fully until it was proven. “Nothing’s the matter,” he told her with his best smile and best shocked and/or offended laugh. “I cut out of work early and I happened to be around.”
Rhiannon raised an eyebrow at that but she knew when not to push. There was a bit of disappointment behind the resignation in her eyes, though. Ianto felt a little guilty but still kept his mouth shut. “Okay,” she sighed. “Johnny and the kids should be home soon. Would you like to stay for supper?”
Ianto was surprised to find that he did.
- - - - - - - - -
Jack ate his pizza in silence in his office. Really there was no reason for anyone to still be at the Hub right now. Things were extremely quiet, something to be taken advantage of on nights like this. Normally everyone would be out of here so fast that they had to have beaten speed records several times over when this happened. Jack was only staying put because he had no desire to go home without Ianto and he gathered the others were there to make sure he didn’t off and brood on a roof top or something.
He tapped up the CCTV and watched him and Ianto yelling again. Did he really sound that angry? No wonder Ianto had stormed off after all that. He would have done the same thing if situations had been reversed. Actually he had stormed off. He’d been the one to leave the conversation first after all.
Why was he so worried? There was no way he could be this worried about a person and still draw breath. No way. He had some experience in relationships after all. He’d never smothered any of them quite this way before. He’d been married once and he’d never fretted so much about them before. Never wanted to wrap them in cotton wool and protect them from everything. For God’s sake Ianto had burnt himself making coffee not long ago and Jack had been there the second he’d heard the yelp. Ianto had naturally been less than impressed and all he’d done was raise an eyebrow. ‘What’? was the question embedded in that gesture. The ensuing sigh and shooing gestures had meant ‘I’m fine, calm down, go back to work.’ Of course he had been fine. No one died from spilt coffee.
He’d watched Ianto die once before. That had to be the difference. When he’d lost the others that had been the end; he’d grieved, he’d moved on but none of them had just popped up like a weed afterwards. Jack wanted to get things right this time, wanted to appreciate Ianto and wanted him safe so he wouldn’t have to experience his death that way again. He knew he would have to eventually, but he wanted to delay for as long as he could. It was a renewed contest against time and the Grim Reaper it seemed. They’d stolen Ianto from him, Ianto had escaped them, and now Jack’s job was to keep them as far away from him for as long as possible.
Seven months later, here they were again. Ianto had died again and Jack still couldn’t decide whether this death was worse than the one before it. It really didn’t matter in the end because Ianto had bounced back again, and this time within five minutes instead of three years. There was also something in between, he now knew, and when he went back to check out those phone records they’d lost contact with Ianto for about seven minutes. He’d probably been dead for about five minutes that time as well, probably had to give him at least two minutes to process what the hell had gone on.
To be an immortal was to be alone and to hope that Ianto was one as well was a) extremely optimistic and b) extremely selfish. Jack would not wish this curse on anyone. It was nothing short of Hell to watch friends and family die, to have to create elaborate ways to explain it away, and to have just stay. Everyone got tired of life eventually; people were designed to die and to know when it was time. The sad part of this was that Jack didn’t know if he was tired of life or just stuck in neutral. Working for Torchwood energized him, the team energized him, Ianto energized him, engaging with the world was how he managed to love life and enjoy these people for the limited time he had them. That lesson had come at a price and he didn’t want Ianto to have to learn it.
Ianto was much more one to live in the moment now, death had certainly freed him in many ways, but he was immortal that was a whole new ball game. He’d watched friends and lovers die before, so that was nothing new, but to watch everyone go.
They would have each other though. That would be a first for Jack and a relief that he couldn’t find words to express.
This was disgusting. Ianto’s immortality would be a curse to Ianto and a blessing to Jack. If this wasn’t fucked up he didn’t know what was. A soft knock disturbed his thoughts. He waved Gwen in, who settled into the chair across from him.
Jack nodded. “I’m sorry for earlier,” he said earnestly. He’d apologize to Mel and Harry later but he’d been the most offensive to Gwen.
Gwen shrugged. “Don’t worry about it, we all get it.” She looked quizzically at the slice of pizza that Jack was working on. “How old is that?” He complexion began to go slightly green. The last time we got pizza with peppers was when Harry was off sick and that was…”
“Don’t even think about it,” Jack interrupted. “You’ll make yourself sick if you actually figure it out.”
Gwen closed her mouth and took his advice. “Okay, want to come to mine for dinner? Rhys is cooking and Tegan is starting to ask after you.”
Rhys was a fantastic cook. Jack had told him on more than one occasion that he really should be out doing Gordon Ramsay’s job instead of managing deliveries and catching aliens. Rhys said he enjoyed cooking too much to turn it into work and then usually threw something at him. Last time it had been a handful of shrimp tails.
He automatically reached for his mobile and had hit the speed dial for Ianto’s mobile when he remembered that it was sitting on his desk. Gwen sighed. “If it helps you any, he’s at Rhiannon’s. Mel checked it out in case we needed to call him for reinforcements.” She didn’t say whether it was for work reinforcements or Jack reinforcements but it really didn’t matter.
That eased things and, surprisingly, he didn’t feel like rushing down there. He was too tired to deal with whatever outrage Ianto would certainly have over his butting in where he wasn’t wanted.
“Come on,” Gwen said, coming around the desk and hauling him to his feet. “And give me that pizza and any that’s left lying around. It’s going right to biohazard.”