Characters: Jack, Ianto, OCs.
Summary: Temporary death is no less shocking and upsetting than any other death, not when it’s someone you love.
Word Count: 1454
Written For: Challenge 75: Temporary at beattheblackdog.
Disclaimer: I don’t own Torchwood, or the characters.
A/N: Set in my ‘Through Time And Space’ ‘verse.
Knowing it’s only temporary doesn’t make it any easier to witness, not for either of them. Death is still death, the cessation of life. Heart no longer beating, lungs no longer drawing breath, light gone out of blue eyes, turning them grey and dull… A human body with nothing to animate it is just a shell, and waiting for the spirit to return, bringing life and movement to that empty husk, can feel like an eternity, which is saying something for an immortal.
Their one consolation is that they seldom both die at the same time, so one is always there to watch over the other’s body, keeping it safe from further harm, until life returns. It’s indescribably comforting to wake from death in the arms of their other half, with a soothing voice murmuring reassurance and a solid form providing an anchor to cling on to, a safe harbour in the storm of too intense sensation that accompanies every revival, synapses firing at random. It definitely beats resurrecting in a morgue drawer or on a pathologist’s slab, both of which Jack has experienced more times than he cares to remember.
Since Ianto gained the same immortality that Jack is afflicted with, Jack has learned how it feels to be the one waiting, counting the seconds, and the minutes, and on occasion, the hours, terrified that this might be the time his lover doesn’t come back to him. Of course it’s never come to that, and the Doctor assures them it won’t; Ianto is as much a fixed point in time and space as Jack is, but knowing that doesn’t lessen the fear he feels every time it happens. Now, at long last, Jack understands why Ianto always became so angry and upset whenever he let himself get killed for no good reason.
Ianto isn’t careless, not the way Jack used to be. Even as an immortal, he values his life as much as he values Jack’s, and sacrificing it is always the last resort rather than his go-to option. Jack is doing better in that respect too, partly because Ianto is there to physically prevent him from being an idiot, but mostly because he accepts now, at least to a greater degree than he used to, that he is not in any respect expendable.
But this time Ianto is the one who’s dead. He threw himself over an alien child, protecting it from an explosion that ripped through a crashed vehicle, scattering burning debris. Jack had got the vehicle’s occupants out before it exploded, while Ianto had been trying to clear the area. But a curious child had got away from its parentals, slipping past him, and though he’d chased after it and apprehended it, there hadn’t been time to get it to a safe distance before fire had reached the vehicle’s power generator, igniting it and sending shards of metal and ceramic in every direction.
Reaching Ianto in the aftermath, Jack had rescued the terrified but unhurt child from beneath his lover, reuniting it with its family before returning to Ianto’s side.
With painstaking care, he’d plucked razor sharp pieces of metal and other substances from his lover’s broken body, tossing them aside and clearing the ground around him before rolling Ianto onto his back and gathering the man he loved into his arms.
Now all he can do is wait, cradling Ianto tenderly, useless tears dampening the beloved face. He can’t help but grieve over his lover’s death; it’s only natural even though he knows Ianto will revive soon. He understands the pain of death and resurrection only too well, and hates that Ianto has to endure it, even while being endlessly grateful that just as when he himself dies, Ianto’s death will be a fleeting thing. The terrible wounds marring his body will soon be gone as if they’d never existed, leaving unblemished skin behind, and perhaps a few more shadows in his eyes that nobody but Jack is ever likely to notice.
“I’m sorry for your loss,” a voice at Jack’s shoulder says quietly, and the sympathy sounds genuine. “He was incredibly brave; both of you were.”
“We only did what had to be done.” Jack looks up into the alien’s round, orange eyes, set in a pale, narrow face framed by long, light blue hair. “He’ll be fine soon. Save your sympathy for the other injured.” A number of people had been hit by flying metal fragments and members of the planet’s emergency services were running about, tending to them and putting out dozens of small fires.
“They will live; your friend, however…”
“He’ll be fine,” Jack repeats, dropping his gaze back to Ianto’s face, still counting seconds in the back of his mind. It’s been almost five minutes, so Ianto should be back any moment.
Less than a minute later, Ianto arches in Jack’s arms, mouth opening, drawing in a huge gulp of air as his hands flail, grasping for something to anchor him. One hand finds Jack’s arm and closes around it in a painfully tight grip, fingers digging in so hard Jack can almost feel the bones of his forearm grinding together, He doesn’t mind; he’s done the same to Ianto many times, and at least the resulting bruises won’t last the way they used to on Ianto’s pale, Welsh, all too mortal skin.
“Shhh, shhh, it’s okay, I’ve got you.”
The flailing stops, and Ianto’s breathing settles as he relaxes into Jack’s embrace, loosening the death grip he has on his lover’s arm. The alien jumps back in astonishment, but Jack pays no attention.
“I hate that,” Ianto sighs.
“You’re not the only one,” Jack replies, his voice a little shaky. Ianto reaches up to brush Jack’s tears away with his fingertips, compassion and understanding in his eyes, before moving to sit up. Jack helps him, knowing Ianto will probably still be feeling a bit weak. Unless imminent danger causes a surge of adrenaline, it usually takes a little while after resurrecting to regain equilibrium.
“Is the kid alright?” Ianto asks, looking around, trying to spot it.
“Safe and sound,” Jack assures him. “Handed it back to its parentals myself.”
“Good.” Ianto tries to peer over his own shoulder to check out the damage inflicted on his clothes. “Another outfit ruined,” he says, a note of regret in his voice. “I really liked this one; the clothing here is so comfortable.”
“We’ll get you a new outfit, I promise. Several of them.” Standing, Jack helps Ianto to his feet.
“That would be nice. We should both get cleaned up and changed first though; no shop would let us inside to try on clothing looking like this.” Both of them were smeared with Ianto’s blood.
“You’re probably right,” Jack agrees, removing his light jacket and draping it around Ianto’s shoulders to conceal the bloody tatters of fabric that adorn his back. “Good thing we don’t have far to go.”
Their house stands at the end of a row of similar buildings halfway along the broad street. It’s actually their TARDIS, blending into its surroundings so seamlessly that everybody believes it’s always been there, when the truth is it’s just parked there temporarily while Jack and Ianto are visiting the planet for the festival season. So much for taking some time off from saving the universe.
It’s just a few minutes’ walk and they’re soon inside, stripping off their damaged and bloody clothes, dropping them into a recycling hatch that appears in the wall beside the door, then making their way to the nearest bathroom for a real water shower. Usually they use the sonic showers, but the aches that come with the aftermath of death and resurrection are best soothed by hot water, and fragrant body wash helps to eradicate the lingering scent of death.
In the shower, Jack wraps himself around Ianto, holding him tight; it’s a reassurance they both need that they’re alive and well, and that the brief horror of death is past.
“I’m sorry,” Jack whispers into Ianto’s hair. Sorry Ianto had to die. Sorry Ianto now shares his own affliction even though at the same time he’s glad his lover is like him now. Sorry that he never used to understand how much his indifference to his own safety used to hurt Ianto. Sorry for all the times he broke his Welshman’s heart by senselessly throwing his life away when there was no need to.
“I know,” Ianto murmurs in reply. “But I’ll always come back, just like you always do.”
As scary as watching each other die always is, and probably always will be, there’s some comfort to be found in the knowledge that it won’t ever be permanent.