Characters: Ianto Jones, Jack Harkness, Martha Jones.
Word Count: 3779
Summary: Having followed where his ghost led him, what is in store for Ianto Jones?
Written For: Challenge # 17.06: Weird & Hilarious: Book Titles at fffc, and my genprompt_bingo square Artefacts (Alien and Otherwise).
Disclaimer: I don’t own Torchwood, or the characters.
A feeling of trepidation coursed through Ianto; this was obviously a morgue of some description, although unlike any he’d ever seen on TV. The tray before him held a body covered by a white sheet. Was this the body of his ghost? Was that what he was being shown? He reached hesitantly for the sheet, but the young woman beat him to it, drawing it back for him. Ianto’s breath caught in his throat at the sight before him, the all too familiar face, pale and still, lifeless.
No. He shook his head and took a step back, desperately trying to deny what he was seeing. Beside him, the ghost was watching him, looking sad, sympathetic, but oddly hopeful. Ianto forced his gaze back to the body in the drawer and took a faltering step forward. The truth hit him like a freight train, making his legs go weak and his heart thunder in his chest. Except it didn’t, it couldn’t, because…
Half turning to the man beside him, Ianto struggled to find his voice. “I thought you were a ghost, but I was wrong, wasn’t I? You’re real, alive; it’s me that’s the ghost. I’m the one who’s dead.” The proof was right there in front of him, his own body lying perfectly preserved in the morgue drawer.
Reaching across the body, the man in the coat took the clipboard and pen from the young woman, flipping to a clean sheet of paper and writing something, then turning the clipboard so that Ianto could read it.
‘Do you remember?’
Ianto shook his head helplessly. “How can I be dead and not remember? I have a life, I work at…” He trailed off as he suddenly realised he had no idea where he worked. He couldn’t remember ever going to work, couldn’t recall the faces of the people he worked with, or anyone he knew, had no memory of speaking to anyone other than the ghost who wasn’t a ghost. All those times drinking coffee he didn’t remember buying, reading a book… what had it been about? He didn’t know that either. Ianto shook himself.
The man was holding up the clipboard again.
‘I couldn’t let you go. I had your body brought here and cryogenically frozen. Martha helped me.’ He pointed towards the woman.
“Why?” Ianto knew they couldn’t hear him, but figured they could guess what he was saying easily enough. It was the obvious question to ask.
‘You shouldn’t have died. It was all my fault. I wanted to find a way to bring you back, but a body is nothing without the soul that belongs in it. I was beginning to think I’d never find you. I went to all the places you used to go around Cardiff. The Plas, the Tourist Office, your favourite pubs, the chip shop, the parks, your flat… the coffee shop, the only one in Cardiff you said made drinkable coffee. That’s where I found you. One minute I was alone, and then there you were. A bit transparent, but still looking as good as ever.’ The smile on the man’s face looked bit strained.
“So what now?” Ianto asked, looking questioningly at him.
He was writing again, turning the clipboard so Ianto read it.
‘I have a device for restoring the spirit to the body.’ He reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a strange, shiny black oval object with several equally shiny black buttons set into its surface, holding it up so Ianto could see it before setting it down beside the body in the morgue drawer. ‘This thing; it’s what helped me find you and bring you here. It’s a one-shot deal though, one chance only. Luckily it’s powered by Vortex energy, which is something I just happen to have an inexhaustible supply of. I’m not entirely sure how it does what it does, but the how of it isn’t important. It’s up to you though; do you want to live again?’
Ianto thought about that. Up until a few minutes ago, he’d thought he was living. Now he knew that had been some sort of fragmented illusion. He was dead, and without that device, would probably sink back into nothingness, unaware of anything… dead and gone forever. It wasn’t a particularly pleasant thought.
Coming to a decision, he nodded firmly. “Yes. What do I do?” He shrugged helplessly, looking at the man.
More writing; a hurried, untidy scrawl. ‘Merge with your body. Lie on it, or in it, something like that. Then I’ll use the device to fix you there, and Martha will use the defibrillator to get your heart started again. Don’t worry; putting you in cryo-stasis already dealt with what killed you, so there’s no chance of it killing you again.’
Overwhelmed, Ianto wanted to thank the man, but he didn’t know how; words that couldn’t be heard weren’t anywhere near enough. This complete stranger had searched for him to save him from death; how could Ianto ever begin to repay that generosity? Why he’d done it, Ianto couldn’t fathom; maybe it was simply out of feelings of guilt, but still, this man had gone out of his way to save his life. Something like that surely merited some expression of gratitude.
Of course, the device might not work, but Ianto was willing to give it a try anyway. How could he not? If there was the slightest chance… Forgetting for a moment that any kind of physical interaction between them would be impossible, he walked over to the man, meaning to hug him, but instead passed right through him. Oops, that felt very odd. It wasn’t his body; it was already occupied by its rightful owner. Strangely, it also appeared to be filled to overflowing with a golden, glowing light, some of which seemed to attach itself to Ianto on his way through, tangling around him and melting into his incorporeal self. He hoped that wouldn’t do him or his new friend any harm.
“Sorry,” he said sheepishly, turning to face the man he’d just walked through. Even though the man couldn’t hear him, the apologetic expression on Ianto’s face must have been unmistakeable, because he smiled back, somewhat ruefully, and quickly scribbled something on his clipboard before holding it up.
‘Don’t worry about it. No harm done. You ready to do this?’
Ianto nodded. If it didn’t work, he couldn’t see that he’d be any worse off than he was before, but if it did… He’d be properly alive again, not just floating in the odd kind of half-life he’d been experiencing. Everything about it had seemed perfectly normal at the time, he’d never thought to question why he couldn’t keep track of the passage of time, or why he couldn’t remember anyone talking to him, but looking back, he probably should have. None of that mattered now though.
Moving towards the open drawer, Ianto stared down at his body, wondering what kind of person he was and what sort of life he’d lived before his death. Did he have a job? How about a family, parents, brothers and sisters? Was he dating someone, or perhaps even married? Every time he tried to recall any detail, no matter how small, about his former life he ran into a blank wall of nothingness. He knew his name, if he was even right about that, but nothing else. All he could do was hope that at the very least he was a decent enough man to deserve another shot at being alive. Perhaps his memory would return once he was reunited with his body.
Taking a deep breath, which he probably didn’t need to do on account of being dead, he took a single step forward, so he was halfway through the metal drawer, standing upright in the middle of his own body. He glanced back towards the man. “Here goes nothing!” he said, turning so that he’d be the right way round, then he tried to lie down in his body, not at all sure whether or not such a manoeuvre would even prove physically possible in his current insubstantial state. The last thing Ianto saw was the man he’d once believed to be a ghost picking up the strange device again, turning it on so that it glowed in iridescent colours, and reaching out to place it against his forehead…
There was a vast explosion of dazzling, multicoloured light that nobody else seemed aware of, and then everything went black.
Ianto opened his eyes to dim light and the quiet hum of nearby machines. Where was he? What had happened to him? His brain felt fuzzy and he couldn’t remember, but his mouth was as dry as if he’d swallowed the Sahara desert, and his whole body felt impossibly weak. Had he been injured or ill? Turning his head took far more effort than it should have, but somehow he managed it. There was a man sitting in a chair beside the bed, eyes closed, looking like he must have fallen asleep while keeping vigil. He looked familiar… Of course, it was the ghost who wasn’t a ghost. Ianto blinked. Ghost? No, wherever did that idea come from? It was Jack. Gradually, his memory started to return; they’d been in Thames House, confronting the 456, and it had released some kind of poison gas, or fast-acting virus, and they’d… He’d died. The memory of his death resurfaced with a sudden, terrible clarity; the pain, the weakness, fighting for every breath, telling Jack he loved him, feeling his body shutting down and knowing it was the end for him, that this time Jack would come back from death alone…
But it he’d died, then how could he be alive now, lying in what was obviously a hospital bed, hooked up to tubes and monitors?
Jack’s final kiss… It was a dim and hazing memory, no doubt because he’d been so close to death at the time, but had Jack somehow succeeded in transferring enough of his vortex energy to Ianto to save him? Was that why he was in hospital now, feeling so weak? Was he recovering from whatever the 456 had used against them? It seemed the only logical explanation. Ianto tried to speak, but only managed a faint, barely audible croak. Nevertheless, it was enough to snap Jack back to wakefulness. Familiar blue eyes blinked at him a couple of times before focusing on him, and then Jack’s thousand-watt smile lit up his whole face.
“Ianto! You’re awake! How d’you feel?” Without waiting for an answer, which Ianto couldn’t have given him anyway, Jack leapt to his feet and pressed the call button. Within seconds, another familiar figure bustled into the room, none other than Doctor Martha Jones. Ianto smiled weakly at her as she reached the bed.
“Welcome back to the land of the living,” Martha said with a wide grin. “You’re going to feel weak at first, but don’t worry about that, it’s perfectly natural. Your body was in cryo-stasis for nearly a year so it’ll probably take you a while to get your strength back.”
Jack reappeared at Martha’s elbow, a paper cup in one hand. The small slivers of ice he poked between Ianto’s parched lips tasted wonderful, and as they melted they brought welcome moisture to his dry tongue. “More,” he whispered croakily, sighing with relief as Jack complied. “Thanks.” He would have said more, but he felt so tired. Eyes closing, he fell into a deep sleep.
Next time he woke up, Ianto felt much better. He was still weak but nowhere near as tired as he had been. He wasn’t at all surprised to find that Jack was sitting in the chair by the bed, just as he had been before.
“Hi.” His voice, though still a bit hoarse, was stronger than it had been earlier.
Jack looked up from the newspaper he was reading. “Good morning, gorgeous! How’re you today?”
“Okay, I think. How long…?”
“Oooh, that’s a loaded question!” Jack smirked.
Ianto rolled his eyes. Yes, that was the Jack Harkness he knew and loved, finding the innuendo in the most innocent questions. “How long was I asleep?” There was daylight filtering in through the curtained window off to his left.
“About ten hours this time.”
“That long? I must’ve been tired.”
“Martha says it’s only to be expected after everything you’ve been through. It took a few days for you to regain consciousness after we put you back in your body and Martha zapped you back to life, and then you woke up for a few minutes yesterday evening before conking out again. You’re fine though; you passed all the tests Martha’s run with flying colours. Apparently you’re in excellent health, especially for someone who’s been dead for almost a year.”
“Oh.” There didn’t seem much else he could say to that. Ianto frowned in thought, trying to get his head around his death and subsequent resurrection. He’d genuinely been dead, and now he wasn’t. “You saved me.”
“I did, but I asked first whether or not you wanted me to,” Jack told him. “If you’d said no I would’ve… Well, it probably would’ve killed me, but I’d have respected your wishes.”
“You asked me? How did you manage that if I was dead?” Ianto’s eyes went wide as a thought occurred to him. “Please don’t tell me you held a séance or something…” That would have been too disturbing for words.
“Didn’t need to, I just went looking for your… spirit, I guess, or soul; the part of you that makes you who you are. Would’ve been no good reviving your body without it.”
Ianto shook his head; he was getting more confused by the minute. “I don’t understand any of this.”
Folding his newspaper and shoving it in the pocket of his coat, which was hanging over the back of his chair, Jack leant forward, elbows on his knees. “You don’t remember being dead?”
“No, of course not! How could I remember anything if I was dead? That makes no sense, Jack.”
Jack’s face screwed up as he tried to figure out how to explain in a way that would make sense to Ianto. “Um, well, how do I put this? Your body was dead, but the rest of you hadn’t quite caught on and was sort of hanging around all the places you used to go…” Jack trailed off.
“What, you mean like a ghost?” When Jack nodded, Ianto put his hands over his face and groaned. “I was a ghost…”
“You really don’t remember that?”
Ianto peered between his fingers then slowly lowered his hands. “You’re serious? You’re not just having me on?”
“Completely serious, I swear.”
“So I died, you had my body frozen, then found ghost me, shoved me back in my body and zapped me with electricity?”
“Technically, it was Martha who did the zapping. She knows more about the defibrillator than I do.”
“Whatever. That’s an awful lot of effort to bring me back to life.”
Jack shrugged, staring down at his hands in his lap. “More than you can imagine, but I don’t regret it; you’re worth it.”
There was something in Jack’s tone of voice that made Ianto suspicious. “What do you mean?” He frowned. “Jack, what aren’t you telling me?”
“Okay, fine. I enlisted Martha’s help to freeze you, then wandered the earth for a few months, but I couldn’t find what I needed here, so then I went out into space and travelled around for a few decades until I came across a race who had a way of returning souls to their bodies. I convinced them to sell me one of their devices, arrived back here a couple of weeks after I left, and started searching for you. I had to put a sample of your DNA into the device to act as a locator, so it could track you and pull you back from limbo to this plane of existence, and it took months to get a strong enough lock on spirit you for it to have a chance of working, but it did and now you’re here, alive again. End of story.”
Ianto tried to push himself up off his pillows but found he still didn’t have the strength for anything requiring much in the way of physical effort, and he flopped back again, feeling drained. “Decades?” That was hard to get his head around. “You went through all of that for me? Why?”
“Why?” Jack sounded incredulous. “Do you really need to ask that?” he leapt to his feet and started pacing. “I did it because I couldn’t bear to lose you, not so soon, and not so completely senselessly!” He paused, turning to face Ianto but seemingly unable to bring himself to look directly at him, focussing instead on the bedcovers. “I let you follow me into Thames House without a thought to the danger I was putting you in, and it cost you your life!” Throwing his hands in the air, he resumed his restless pacing. “Gods, Ianto, I would have given anything at that moment to turn back the clock and do things differently. I should’ve gone alone, or left you outside and evacuated the building, or found a hazmat suit for you to wear… I knew the 456 were skilled with viruses, I just never gave it a second thought, and my stupidity got you killed! I lost the most important person in my life and it was all my fault!” Running out of steam, Jack slumped back into his chair. There were tears streaming down the immortal’s face and he buried his head in his hands.
Ianto stared at Jack in stunned amazement; his own vision was getting more than a little blurry. “No,” he managed at last in a slightly choked voice. “Don’t you dare blame yourself, Jack Harkness, because it wasn’t your fault, it was mine. I would’ve followed you even if you’d told me not to, because I needed to be there. Besides, I figured no matter what we did, even if we saved the children, there was still a kill order out on all of us and they’d get us eventually. I didn’t expect to survive, so I figured if I was going to die anyway, the least I could do was make sure it was on my own terms, doing the right thing, fighting alongside you until my last breath.” Ianto smiled ruefully. “I wanted my death to count for something. I hope it did. Please tell me we stopped the 456 from taking the children.”
“Yeah, we did. It wasn’t easy, and it cost Clem his life, but we did it.”
Straightening up, Jack dashed away his tears and glared angrily at Ianto. “But if you ever do anything so stupid again, I’ll kill you myself!” He deflated just as quickly. “Not literally though. Just please, no more putting yourself in danger, promise me, because I can’t lose you again!”
“I don’t know if I can promise that,” Ianto said softly. “I mean there’s a reason Torchwood doesn’t have a pension plan.”
Jack shook his head. “Torchwood is gone, disbanded; I found a way to close the Rift, the Cardiff end of it anyway. UNIT can deal with the Weevils and anything else alien-related that crops up. I gave over a century of my life to keeping this planet safe, and one after another, everyone I’ve ever cared about has been taken away from me. Well, not any more. Besides, technically you don’t exist. Everyone thinks you’re dead, except for Martha, her husband Tom, Lizzie, and a couple of other people I trust.”
Ianto lay still and silent for several minutes, letting that sink in. “So my sister and her family think I’m dead?”
“Yes. I’m sorry, Ianto, but it’s probably best if they don’t find out you’re alive again. I couldn’t tell them what I was going to do because it wouldn’t have been fair to get their hopes up in case I failed, so they’ve spent the last year mourning your death. Telling them you’re alive… I’m not sure that would be a good idea,”
“I guess you’re right. I made sure they’d be provided for in my will, and I wouldn’t want them having to give everything back just because I turned out not to be as dead as everybody thought. I’m going to miss them though,” he added with a sad smile, before asking, “What do I do now? I’ll have to get a new identity, start over somewhere else…”
“You could just come with me,” Jack suggested tentatively, getting up from his chair again and sitting on the edge of Ianto’s bed. “I mean, I’ll stay here on earth with you if that’s what you want, but… I’ve got a spaceship now; she’s nothing fancy, jut a mid-sized cargo transport, but she’s built to last and plenty big enough for two. She’ll take us anywhere we want to go, and we can haul cargo to bring in some extra credits. I always said one day I’d take you out among the stars, and now we could do that. Once you’re back to full strength, that is.”
“Travelling among the stars,” Ianto mused, thinking about it. “I like the sound of that.”
“Is that a yes?”
“I do believe it is.” Ianto’s smile was tinged with sadness, but when he spoke, he sounded hopeful, even optimistic. “With my family convinced I’m dead, I suppose I don’t really have anything to keep me here on earth, and I always did want to travel. But are you sure it’s what you want?”
“All I want is to have you with me for as long as I can. I brought you back to life because I love you, Ianto Jones, and I don’t want to waste another minute of whatever time we might have together.”
“It certainly took you long enough to say it!” Ianto teased. Grabbing one of Jack’s braces, he pulled his Captain down for a kiss. “In case you’ve forgotten over the past few decades since my untimely death, I love you too.”
His old life was over, and though he had a few regrets about all he’d be leaving behind, Ianto realised he was looking forward to starting a new life with Jack. After everything they’d both been through, he couldn’t imagine anything better than heading out into the vastness of space and exploring the many wonders the universe had to offer; just him and Jack, together, for as long as it took.