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.
Jack came back to chaos. Every single solitary of member of Torchwood was on the line and that included the reserve staff. Once he broke into the conversation and deflected all the questions and outrage he managed to get what had happened out of them.
Both men had been wearing perception filters and Ianto had thought quick enough to pull them off both him and Hart before getting killed. Of course the public reaction had been intense, frantic calls for police and ambulances and simply panicked bystanders had overloaded Gwen’s display screens. Thankfully she’d stepped in, sending a girlfriend to take Tegan to that appointment, and had managed them all while activating all the reserve staff. She had also summoned Andy to deal with it from the police end of things. Lachlan had appeared, arm in a sling and walking with the aid of a crutch, at the scene with retcon and to help Andy with crowd control. It was amazing how intimating Lachlan could be even while he was on the mend. He was definitely Mel’s brother.
Mel and Harry had arrived at the scene in record time in order to subdue Hart, but Rhys had done that himself. Rhys had never gotten to throw so much as a punch at the former Time Agent for almost killing his daughter and he had taken full advantage of that opportunity today. Mel eventually left Harry to help her invalid brother and Harry had made Lois help him out with getting Ianto out. Lois had been asking about body bags and Harry was lecturing her about reading reports every once in awhile.
At the moment Lois and Harry were driving Ianto back to the hub in Ianto’s car; Harry had nicked Ianto’s keys out of the archives since Jack had taken the SUV to Brooke House. Rhys was taking the truck back to Harwood’s and would be bringing John back in his own car. Lachlan, Mel and Andy would be along as soon as damage control was done with. Gwen was, of course, helping as much as she could remotely.
“He’s not up yet,” Harry was telling Jack as he weaved in and out of traffic, fiddling with the controls that would turn sirens on. “It’s got to have been half an hour now.”
“Give him time,” Jack growled as he finally managed to turn the sirens on and honked irritably at cars that refused to clear the way. “He’s got major injuries to come back from and he’s got some work to do.”
Jack stuck his head out the window and shouted some something offensive about the mother of the driver in front of him. They finally got out of the way. “I’ll explain it all when I get in.”
“Assuming you’re not arrested for traffic violations and the SUV’s impounded,” Gwen cut in. “I can only do so much to keep the patrol cars away from you.”
“Ten more minutes!” he vowed. “Ten more minutes and I’ll do whatever you want.”
“I’ll hold you to that, Harkness.”
- - - -
Despite his speeding Jack was still the second vehicle to arrive, if only by a hair. Lois was leaning up against Ianto’s car looking absolutely distracted and avoiding looking in the back seat window behind her. “Harry’s gone to get a stretcher,” she explained. “I didn’t want to leave him alone in case he...” she whimpered and Jack took that moment to hug her.
Lois had come a long way from the flustered temp who had been drawn into the affairs their affairs three and a half years ago. She’d come a long way from the scared woman who had done surveillance for them when they could barely keep running, who had spied on the government for them, and who had helped rebuild the organization when there seemed to be nothing left to build on.
Lois, however, was basically the equivalent of Ianto when he had first started working for Jack. She was administration and general support relief staff – that was certainly a job title to trip over – and there were some things that she hadn’t been tested against. That she wasn’t willing to be tested against. That was why, despite the laments of the others, Jack had not allowed her to be placed on field duty rotation. It was too much too soon. The fact that she was still able to speak with a dead body in the back seat, one that was going to come back to life any second, was progress in of itself.
“Thank you,” he said after he released her. “He’d have appreciated it.” He gently directed Lois away from the door and opened it. He cringed and could feel Lois do the same beside him. Not surprising considering what was in the back.
Ianto’s arms were by his sides and his legs were neatly next to each other but it was obvious there were broken bones. Ianto’s face was nearly gone – probably from the front of Rhys’s truck, Jack somehow noted – and his chest seemed to be caving in as well. Broken ribs at the very least. Seeing Ianto like this again did as much damage to him as that truck had done but he forced himself to remember that Ianto would be back. Ianto had been doing this with him for years, hell a few times there had been only pieces left for Ianto to find, and either Ianto had gotten used to it or had hid it well. Ianto had admitted to him that it was the second possibility and Jack now knew it for himself. No matter how many times this was going to happen, Jack knew he would never get used to it.
Ianto had always gotten the job done, though. Whenever Jack had come back whatever mess had dispatched him had been taken care of. The world was secure and he was waiting for him. Time to take a leaf out of that book. “Let’s get him up.” It was just short of an order.
“Should we?” Lois asked. Footsteps echoed in the car park along with the rattling of what had to be a stretcher. More hospital equipment that Mel and Harry had nicked a few weeks ago; Gwen and him were still debating over whether that was a date or not.
“It’s fine,” Jack assured her. “He’ll heal.”
Lois was not comforted much by that but any protestation was silenced when Harry got the stretcher out and he, Lois and Jack carefully got him on it and up the stairs. Gwen was waiting for them up top, head set still in but paying no attention to the screens. “All under control,” she reported as they set Ianto on the examination table. Harry began to buzz about and Jack remained by Ianto’s side. Lois asked permission to leave and Gwen distractedly gave it. “The Telsons and Andy are just setting some stories straight for some bystanders and other policemen.” She finished as she looked down at Ianto, worried but unflinching. “Rhys is on his way too,” she added with unrestrained anger. “With John.”
Rhys must have caught John by surprise, Jack had gathered that, but this must have really been an assault. No one had bested John Hart in a fight beside Jack. He’d have to shake Rhys’s hand and buy him some beer when this was all sorted. He’d probably have to fight Ianto for the first round, though.
Right on cue came squabbling and yelling and disgruntled “oomphs” up the stair case as John Hart was dragged up into the Hub by an infuriated Rhys. “Stuff it you,” the truck driver warned as he threw him into Mel’s chair violently, which spun around with the force to face the entrance to the medbay.
Jack couldn’t help but laugh at the sight before him. Rhys had certainly made true on the promise to rearrange John’s face if he ever saw him again. A good portion of this beating was on behalf of his young daughter, but being manipulated into a position where he had killed a friend had to have been a good part of it too.
Hart was sporting a split lip and an impressive black eye. There was also a blooming red spot on his cheek that heralded the coming of another bruise. There were certainly more wear and tear underneath those period clothes, and there had been a time centuries ago (or to come, he couldn’t keep his tenses straight anymore) that he would have loved to tear those clothes off to see them and mock him for them before adding his own to the collection. Violent sex might or might not ensue from that point forward.
The only thing saving John Hart from a painful death was the fact that Tegan Williams and Ianto Jones were still alive. Or at least one of them would be alive soon enough. He looked down at the man on the bed and carefully held a broken hand. He knew he had done this trick many times before, a few ones he had had the misfortune to be conscious during, but it was hard to imagine anything that could bring Ianto back from this. Who would want to come back to this pain? It would happen though. It would happen for a very, very long time before Ianto got any say otherwise. He hoped that Ianto would come back after the healing was done; Jack knew firsthand the experience of feeling one’s bones knit.
Everyone else had been silent during this. Gwen was standing with Rhys a safe distance from the bound John. John was leaning forward and looking back and forth between Jack and Ianto with an almost knowing confusion on his face.
“What happened to you?” John finally asked. It was probably the first honest question of the man’s life. The real question underlying that one was ‘who are you?’ and that was something that had terrified Jack at first. Nowadays, he was delighted. “This is fucking serious,” John continued. “You meant it with that one didn’t you? What the hell did he do?”
Jack didn’t really know and he honestly didn’t care that he didn’t know. There was nothing really to describe the change. It had been natural and Ianto had done it without meaning to. He couldn’t answer that question for John, not that he believed the man would be able to understand it if he could. He did, however, want to make one thing abundantly clear. “I still mean it with him,” he corrected without removing his hand or his eyes from the ‘him’ they were speaking of.
John raised an eyebrow and opened his mouth to protest, probably really to make a comment about necrophilia being no fun at all, but he quickly caught on. “Are you serious?” he balked. “Christ, is immortality sexually transmitted then?”
Gwen and Rhys shook their heads. “Like you’d know,” John shot back.
Jack decided now was not the time to mention what he, Ianto and the Williams’s had gotten up to after a night at the club some time after Owen and Tosh’s deaths. Blessedly Gwen and Rhys weren’t in boasting moods either.
“How then?” John demanded. “Same way as you or different?”
“Different.” That was all Jack was going to tell him and John didn’t press any harder.
“He doing any better, Jack?” Rhys asked. “I can’t quite see from up here.”
Jack shook his head. “He’s not going to start to heal until he’s done what he has to do with Tosh.”
“What’s that about Tosh?” That was Mel. No Andy or Lachlan in her wake, surprisingly. Jack would have thought that Andy would have loved to see Ianto rise again just for the sake of things, he’d been annoyed about missing his recovery after the building collapse. He probably had some nonsense to deal with back at the station. Lachlan’s absence shouldn’t be surprising, Jack allowed. Volatile relationship with his sister aside, the man was still on the mend. “Didn’t we safely assume that she and Owen hadn’t survived Ianto’s re-entry?”
Before Jack could tell her that they had been wrong. John cried out and fell out of the chair, writhing in pain. “What the fuck?!” he gasped. He tied to tug his arms out of their bonds but Rhys’s knots held firm. “Get these off!” he cried. “I won’t run. I can’t run!”
Gwen stepped forward and pulled them free. John didn’t run. Instead he grabbed his sides tightly, bit his lip, and curled into a ball. “What is that bastard doing?!” he howled.
“He’s getting Moira out, isn’t he?” Harry asked. John shifted wild eyes to Jack.
Jack nodded. “Moira didn’t want to die so she held onto you until the last moment. Then she trapped herself.” He took a breath. “Ianto’s showing her the way home.”
“Feels like he’s sucking poison out,” John gasped, the pain slowly leaving his eyes and his fingers slowly loosening from his side. Jack remembered Ianto’s warnings and he gathered that John wasn’t far from the truth there. John tensed and shut his eyes for a moment. A smile crossed his face, an honest one, and his head inclined lightly. “See ya, love” he whispered. When he opened his eyes they were clear. He sat up and looked around him.
“She gone?” Mel asked.
“Yeah,” John nodded. “She’s off with her family now.” He waved off Rhys and Gwen’s attempts to restrain him and settled back into the chair. He looked so forlorn and so broken hearted that Jack wondered for a moment if John really had loved Moira Stewart. It had seemed fun and games to him when he had gleefully told them of how he’d shattered her Victorian morality, but there had been something there. John Hart, much like Jack had been and still was, loved everyone. Maybe, just maybe, Moira Stewart had touched him in a way that he hadn’t thought possible.
Maybe Moira could have been what Ianto had been for him. They’d never know now.
The hand in his shifted. Bones popped back into place and blood was reabsorbed back into skin. He heard Harry shout “it’s starting!” and run up the stairs, but he didn’t move his eyes from Ianto. He could imagine them all there: Gwen, Rhys, Harry and Mel all leaning over and watching over the two of them, John maybe watching in the back. But John didn’t matter right now. What mattered were the other four and the two of them. He knew they were all holding their breath, waiting for one of their own to come home.
The legs and arms shifted back into their proper positions, the chest and face filled out again, and the cuts began to close. He was whole again. Then that hand squeezed Jack’s and Ianto was thrust to a sitting position by the force of his first breath. He coughed, sputtered, and looked wildly around him for a moment as though he was taking mark of everyone above him and the one more beside him.
When his breathing returned to normal he looked over at Jack. “Told you I’d be fine,” he near taunted. Jack didn’t care about the jibe instead hugged Ianto tight, an embrace between old friends more than lovers, but that part didn’t matter so much right now. Ianto had said he could do it and Jack hadn’t doubted him for a moment: and he told Ianto so as well.
“Hovering anymore?” he asked.
“You’re getting better.”
They walked back up together; Ianto was immediately assaulted by hugs from Gwen and Harry and took some good natured handshakes from Rhys and Mel before John stepped forward from his chair. Jack respectfully took a step back and stood with the others, who had done the same. The two men who both could claim they’d held the heart of Jack Harkness regarded each other for the first time as equals. After several moments of what seemed to the observer to be blank states, matching smirks of understanding crossed their faces. John held out his hand. “Thanks,” he said. “Thank you very much, Ianto Jones.”
Ianto only took the handshake and gave a nod. As much as Ianto hated being underestimated he also hated having too much attention drawn to him. The fact that this was John Hart added a whole other dimension to it. He released other man’s hand and took a step back, back behind Jack. He’d done his part, was what he was saying. It was Jack’s turn now. John seemed to recognize that as well as he turned his attention to Jack. “Well,” John said. “Best be on my way then. Things to do, people as well.” He was leering well enough but something wasn’t there. His heart wasn’t in it.
“You know,” Jack offered. “You can – “
“Thanks, mate,” John cut in. “But I think I need to shove off. Kick the dust off my heels.” He looked significantly at Jack and Ianto both. “I think you know how it is.”
Jack certainly did. There were plenty of things that he wanted to ask but he knew that it wasn’t the right time. Plus he figured they’d see John Hart again one day soon. That was one of very few certainties in this universe.
John punched something into his wrist strap, nodded at the group, and vanished without so much as a parting taunt.
“What is up with him?” asked Harry. “Not that I’m complaining after the last time, mind you, but what is that?”
“Someone he loves has died,” Gwen said sadly.
“There is no way he loved her!” Rhys argued. “This is John Hart for god’s sake! First time you met him didn’t you mention that he wanted to shag a poodle?”
Jack chuckled. “Nothing wrong with poodles. And even if he didn’t love her, she certainly made an impact.”
“More than an impact, I’d wager,” said Ianto. “I never thought I’d live to see the day I’d shake John Hart’s hand and not feel the urge to punch him in the face afterwards.”
“Well,” Mel argued. “Technically speaking, you didn’t. This is life number four now isn’t it?”
Jack snorted at that, taking himself by surprise. Harry chuckled and everyone, even Mel and Ianto, eventually joined in. It had been a hell of a past few days; they had needed to have a good laugh. Trust Mel to be the one to deliver it.
They got back into the swing of things quickly enough. Everyone settled back into stations, Rhys and Gwen taking a few moments to exchange reports on Tegan and then finally to invite them all over for dinner. Everyone accepted. It seemed everyone wanted to be close tonight, which Jack more than shared and understood.
After Ianto disappeared back into the archives, he had some final things to sort out that he had left unattended from yesterday, Jack looked at where John had been standing for a moment and wondered about what would have happened if they’d fought a little harder to keep John here. Or about what would have been if he himself had simply vanished after the 456.
He doubted John was running from what had happened, that had never been his style, but he wanted to be alone. He didn’t want them of all people to see him mourn. Another thing that he could understand.
He thanked whatever – if anything – was out there for his friends and for his second chances and then went up to his office. Back to the usual run of things now, or at least what would now be the usual run of things.
A reminder flashed up on his screen once he turned it on. 18th August – Ianto’s birthday. Normally he didn’t need a reminder for this date, and in the past few years remembering it had just hurt too damn much, but this one was important. This would be the first one since his return and also his thirtieth. Or was it technically his twenty-seventh? He’d been twenty-six when he’d died. Did you count those three years?
It didn’t matter. The number wasn’t the important part. The important part was that he was actually here now. This called for something special. And he thought he had just the thing