Characters: Ianto, Jack, Owen, Tosh, Gwen.
Summary: An unanticipated complication during a Rift retrieval has caused Ianto a very unexpected problem.
Word Count: 2778
Written For: My own prompt, ‘Torchwood, Ianto, “Ghosts are people too”,’ at fic_promptly.
Disclaimer: I don’t own Torchwood, or the characters. They belong to the BBC.
Ghost Ianto glared at Jack indignantly, folding his ghost arms across his ghost chest with a disgruntled huff. “Don’t talk about me like I can’t hear you! You see me, I’m standing right here, and I do still have feelings you know! For your information, ghosts are people too.”
Jack turned to look pensively at the shimmery, see-through form of Ianto. “Correction; ghosts used to be people, of one kind or another. Technically, once people become ghosts they’re classed as incorporeal entities. That loses them most of the rights of people-hood.”
“Oh, thanks very much for that! Nice to know where I stand.” Ianto wasn’t usually given to pouting, but on occasions like this, it was a perfectly natural response. Jack was being so insensitive, and right now, giving him a clip around the ear to set him straight wasn’t an option.
“I don’t mean you in particular, Ianto, just ghosts in general,” Jack explained, floundering, trying not to offend his ghostly boyfriend any more than he already had. “Anyway, technically speaking, you’re not a proper ghost because you’re still alive. He is still alive, right, Owen?”
“Pulse, heartbeat, respiration, blood pressure, all still reading perfectly normal,” Owen confirmed from the autopsy bay, where he was examining Ianto’s body. “As far as I can tell, Teaboy’s in perfect health, it’s just that his body isn’t connected to his… whatever you want to call that.” He waved a hand at the ghostly figure of Ianto, who had floated over to stand beside Jack at the railings, looking down at where his body lay on the autopsy table.
“His disembodied spirit,” Jack supplied.
“Yeah, that. Point is, even though it should be inside his body and not floating around by itself, the fact that it’s gone AWOL doesn’t appear to be causing Teaboy any problems.”
“Right, because my body being unconscious and inert, and missing a vital part, namely ME, isn’t a problem at all,” Ianto snapped sarcastically, turning his withering glare on Owen. It proved quite effective even in his insubstantial state.
Owen tried a conciliatory smile. “Sorry, mate, I just meant your body isn’t showing any signs of harm from you not bein’ in it.”
Ianto stared down at his body, frowning. “I feel like there should be a sign on me reading ‘I aten’t dead’,” he grumbled.
Both Jack and Owen stared at him oddly and he rolled his ghost eyes. “Am I the only person around here who’s ever read the Discworld books?”
“You mean like Granny Weatherwax!” Tosh piped up from her workstation.
“Exactly! Thank you, Tosh!” Ianto smiled at his friend; at least one person knew what he was talking about.
“I could make a sign for you if you’d like one,” Jack offered helpfully, still looking confused.
“No, that’s okay, Jack. Everyone here already knows my body’s still alive.” The steady beeping of Owen’s monitors was reassuring proof of that. Still, it didn’t make Ianto feel much better about being on the outside. Of all the stupid things to happen…
A few hours earlier, on a routine Rift retrieval, Ianto had been the victim of a bizarre and completely unforeseen accident with a piece of alien technology. After all, who in their right mind would have imagined that a seagull might snatch up the Rift’s latest gift before they could get to it? Jack and Owen had immediately opened fire at the bird in an attempt to scare it into letting go of its prize, which admittedly had worked. After a fashion. Unfortunately, the seagull had dropped the shiny object directly on Ianto’s head from a considerable height, knocking him out cold and somehow separating his soul, for want of a better term, from his body.
Even more unfortunately, from Ianto’s point of view, the team had immediately rushed to the aid of his body, not noticing his rather dazed and shaken spirit, which was sprawled on the ground nearby, having been ejected from his body quite forcefully by the impact.
By the time Ianto’s spirit had pulled itself together, so to speak, his body had already been carried to the SUV and was on its way back with the rest of the team to the Hub, leaving a rather significant part of him behind. It had been a long walk back to base, dodging around people to avoid having them walk through him, until he’d belatedly realised that in the absence of his body, he could actually float quite a lot faster and with a great deal less effort than it took to walk like a regular person. Even so, he’d followed the roads rather than taking the direct route through the walls of buildings. Old habits are hard to shake, and besides, he’d found even the thought of floating through something solid to be seriously disturbing.
Arriving at the entrance to the Tourist Office however, with no way of opening the door in his insubstantial state, he’d been forced to find an alternative way of gaining entrance. Passing through solid objects had proven to be, as he’d expected, a deeply unpleasant experience, a disgustingly slithery sensation going through him as whatever he was now made of slipped between the molecules of stone, and metal, and concrete. Needless to say, Ianto hadn’t been in the best of moods when he’d finally reached his destination. There he’d found his friends and his lover clustered around the autopsy bay as Owen concluded the examination of his body with the confident words, “Teaboy has a lump on his head, and a possible mild concussion, but once he comes round he should be fine. The scalp wound is relatively minor; there’s no permanent damage.”
Ianto had always prided himself on his ability to handle whatever his job threw at him without making a fuss, but Owen’s unconcerned attitude had been the last straw.
“You left me behind,” he’d snapped, stalking over to confront his colleagues and planting himself in front of them, hand on hips. They’d stared back at him, mouths open, looking as if they’d seen a ghost. Which, come to think of it, was a fair assessment of the situation. “Do you lot have any idea how long it took me to get back here under my own steam? Even floating, it’s a hell of a long trek from Penarth Pier!”
Jack blinked and took an uncertain step forward. “Ianto? Is that you? You look a bit, uh, faint.” He reached out towards Ianto, and Ianto shuffled back a step.
“Oh no, you’re not sticking your hand through me. Coming through the walls to get in here was quite bad enough, thank you very much! I have no desire to experience passing though someone’s body, not even yours! All I want is to get back in my own body, as soon as possible, if that’s alright with you.”
Owen opened and shut his mouth a few times before managing to get words out. Not that success in speaking was much of an improvement.
“How? What? How?” It was actually quite amusing to see the medic so completely flummoxed.
“How should I know? I was rather hoping you lot could figure that out,” Ianto admitted. “All I’m really sure of is that I was hit on the head by whatever came through the Rift, and I got squirted out of my body like a seed from a squashed grape.”
“You’re comparing yourself to a grape?” Jack’s lips quirked in amusement.
Ianto scowled at his lover. “Shut up; I happen to like grapes. Anyway, that’s beside the point. You grabbed my body and ran off without me, which wasn’t very considerate of you. I followed as soon as I could get my bearings.”
At least Jack had the decency to look guilty.
“Uh, sorry about that. Really, you can’t blame us though. You were knocked out and bleeding all over the place from a scalp wound; we just wanted to get you back to the Hub as fast as possible for treatment. You needed five stitches in the cut on your head! Anyway, how were we supposed to know you weren’t in your body? That’s not exactly something we could check for.” He gazed earnestly at Ianto, his eyes pleading for forgiveness.
Ianto sighed. “I suppose that’s true, but I was right there, only a few metres away from you.”
“You’re a bit hard to see, Ianto,” Tosh told him apologetically. “I think you’d probably be almost invisible in bright sunlight so it’s not surprising we didn’t spot you out on the pier.”
“Well, okay then,” Ianto replied, mollified. “Just please, tell me you’re working on the artefact. I need to know what it’s done to me and how to undo its effects.”
”Sorry, I haven’t looked at it yet; we’ve all been too worried about what happened to you, but I’ll get to work on it right away, I promise.”
“Thanks, Tosh, I appreciate that.” Ianto smiled wanly at his friend as she hurried back to her workstation where the strange, shiny hexagonal device was sitting beside her computers.
“Right,” Jack announced, “we can’t just stand around here all day. We’ve got work to do. It’s getting on towards lunchtime, and I don’t imagine we can count on Ianto for sustenance and beverages right now, so Gwen, why don’t you go to that Ianto-approved coffee shop on the Plas, get coffees for all of us, and sandwiches from that little deli a few doors further down.”
“On it.” Gwen quickly grabbed up her coat and bag then headed for the cog door. She seemed almost relieved to be escaping Ianto’s ghostly presence.
“Owen, keep monitoring Ianto’s body; do whatever you need to do to keep him alive and let me know immediately if there’s any change.”
“You don’t need to tell me my job, Harkness.” Owen turned his attention back to his ‘patient’, checking Ianto’s vitals once more and as before, getting readings indicating that he was perfectly healthy despite his unusual condition.
So here they were now, Ianto a bit peeved at being talked about rather than talked to, and the rest of the team variously puzzled, mystified, and a little creeped out by their disembodied teammate.
“Y’know, while Tosh is figuring out that alien doohickey, we might as well try the practical approach first,” Owen stated, addressing nobody in particular. “Teaboy, get down here and see if you can… I don’t know, put yourself back in your body or something.”
“Excuse me?” Ianto’s ghostly eyebrows shot up. “I’m sure I just said a few minutes ago that I didn’t want to try walking through anybody.”
“I didn’t ask you to walk through yourself, I asked you to go back where you’re supposed to be. Don’t be so bloody squeamish; it’s your own body, you belong inside it, so just see whether or not you can return to it!” Scowling at his teammate’s ghostly form, Owen pointed commandingly at Ianto’s unmoving body. “In!”
“Fine. Just move out of the way.” Ianto flapped a ghostly hand in a shooing motion. “I don’t need you getting in the way.”
“Whatever.” Owen moved back from the autopsy table, where Ianto’s body was resting, as Ianto approached and stared at himself.
“It’s really weird seeing myself like this.”
“Yeah, yeah.” Owen sounded bored. “Just get on with it, will you? I ‘aven’t got all day; there are other things I could be doing.”
“Um, what exactly should I do? Any suggestions?”
“How am I supposed to know? Look, you said you can float, didn’t you?”
Ghost Ianto nodded. “Yes.”
“So try floating above your body and just… drift down into it.”
Ianto threw his hands up in the air. “I can’t believe I’m even considering this! Right, okay, here goes nothing.” Ianto floated up and following Owen’s careful directions, poised himself horizontally above his body, lying on his back in mid-air. Once Owen was sure he was positioned right, he gave the okay and Ianto floated gently downwards, merging with his body… and sinking straight through, ending up half buried in the floor. “Argh!” He scrambled back out and away, grimacing and shuddering, feeling his insubstantial skin crawling. “Do not ask me to do that again, Owen Harper!”
“Okay, so that didn’t work. Should’ve known it wouldn’t be that easy.” Owen shrugged carelessly. “I guess it’s back to the drawing board.”
“When I get back in my body, I’m putting you on decaf for a month!”
“Hey! It had to be tried, just on the off chance. It’s not my fault that it didn’t work!”
“It was your idea!” Ianto fumed.
“D’you want back in your body or not?”
“Of course I do! Isn’t that what I’ve been saying since I got back here?”
“Then you know the drill; you have to try everything, explore every option, even if some things might not be all that pleasant.”
“Hmph.” Ianto turned on his heel and stalked away to see how Tosh was getting on with figuring out the mysterious device that had caused his predicament.
When Gwen arrived back with their lunch, she’d bought food and coffee for everyone. Literally. She handed out their lunches in the boardroom, placing a coffee and a deli sandwich in front of Ianto. “Here you go, pet. I got you the tuna salad you like, and a lemon brioche for after.”
Ianto stared helplessly at the food, realising for the first time that in his present condition he didn’t even have a sense of smell. “Thanks, Gwen. I’ll save it for when I’m back in my body. I don’t think ghosts can eat.”
Gwen’s eyes went wide, and she clapped her hand to her mouth. “Oh God, I’m sorry, I wasn’t thinking!”
“That’s okay, it’s still nice that you included me.”
“I’d best put your sandwich in the fridge.” Gwen scooped up the packet and hurried out of the boardroom. There was an awkward silence for a moment, then Jack came around the table and pulled Ianto’s chair out for him.
“Can you sit?” he asked uncertainly.
“Sort of. I can look like I’m sitting anyway.” Ianto arranged himself into a sitting position, hovering slightly above the seat of his chair.
“Owen, shouldn’t you be keeping an eye on Ianto’s body?” Jack sounded a bit worried.
“He’s stable, and I’m monitoring everything he’s hooked up to with this.” Owen held up his PDA. “If there’s the slightest change I’ll be notified immediately.”
Gwen reappeared, still looking embarrassed after her faux pas. She slipped into her seat, studiously avoiding looking in Ianto’s direction.
Jack called the lunch meeting to order, bit off a huge mouthful of his sandwich and tried to speak around it. “It’s been just over three hours since Ianto was… displaced. What d’we know so far?”
“His physical condition is still stable, no deterioration. Assuming that trend continues, then with intravenous feeding and regular physiotherapy sessions, I should be able to maintain him as he is indefinitely. He will lose some muscle tone over time, but it’ll be several weeks before anything like that becomes noticeable.”
“I don’t want to stay like this!” Ianto looked stricken.
“I’m not sayin’ you will, just that your body will be fine while we’re workin’ on solving your little problem.” Owen turned back to the rest of the team. “Ianto did try just floating back into his body, but it was unsuccessful.”
“Obviously. Otherwise my body would be sitting here with me inside it, having lunch, not lying down in the med bay.” Ianto was enviously watching the others eat. “I’m hungry.”
“You can’t be, you’re disembodied,” Jack objected.
“That’s discrimination. Just because I’m not currently in my body and therefore can’t eat, it doesn’t mean that my body can’t be hungry.” Ianto pouted again, feeling hard done by.
“I’ll hook up an IV line after lunch and get some nutrients into you,” Owen said, between bites of his sandwich. “Won’t be the same as eatin’, but it should help.”
“No need. It’s my job.”
“Tosh, any progress on the device?” Jack drained half his coffee in one gulp and then crammed the rest of his sandwich in his mouth.
“I’ve run a full series of scans on it, my computers are just collating the results, so I should know something about its structure and internal workings soon. Then I’ll have to figure out whether what it’s done to Ianto is what it’s meant to do, or just an unintended side effect of it being dropped onto something hard.” She glanced sheepishly across the table. “Sorry, Ianto.”
“That’s okay, Jack’s always saying I have a thick skull.” Ianto smiled wryly. “Seems he’s right.”
TBC in Part Two