Jack Harkness woke with the feeling of horror and dread that he always got when he had died. The memory of what it was like ‘on the other side’ faded tantalisingly. He could never hold onto it, even if he tried. Mostly he didn’t try. There was cold and darkness there. If he had to keep doing this, then he was happy to embrace the warmth that he found in the living world.
He quickly remembered what had killed him this time.
The bomb - in a primary school for heaven sake. What kind of sick minded son of a bitch did a thing like that? The sort that wanted Captain Jack Harkness to make the ultimate sacrifice, of course. That was the game the alien they nicknamed The Joker was playing. He wanted Jack to die in all kinds of interesting ways. Eight times so far this week.
At least he took the bastard with him this time. He remembered pushing The Joker down over his own device as their two bodies shielded the children trapped in the building with them. That was certainly an interesting enough death. It hurt like hell. But he knew he had contained the explosion. They were the only fatalities. Some of the kids would need therapy for years after seeing their guts turned to soup and splattered all over their classroom wall. But at least they were alive.
He was warm. He was comfortable. There was that to be thankful for. He was naked and there was another naked body pressed against him.
That was different. He didn’t usually wake up like this after being dead.
He turned and saw Ianto lying next to him. His hair was awry and his face slightly flushed as it always was after sex.
Jack blinked and looked at him again. He realised he was in his bed in the lair, below his office in the Hub. That was normal enough. But why was Ianto with him? Why would he have had sex with Ianto? It was nearly two years since they had been together.
He reached out and stroked his face. Ianto didn’t stir. He kissed his forehead and slid out of the bed. He pulled on a t-shirt and shorts and climbed up out of his lair.
His office looked normal. He couldn’t see anything wrong there. But when he stepped out into the Hub itself he knew there was something not right. At first he couldn’t see it. He stood at the top of the steps down to the medical room/mortuary and tried to work out what was different.
Then he saw it. He stepped towards Toshiko’s workstation. The monitors were all turned off and the desk was cleared of all the bits and pieces she always kept there. Her spare glasses, the mood pebbles, all the pictures of Etsuko. Everything was gone. He reached and opened a drawer and it was empty.
The space beside the desk where Etsuko’s day crib went was empty.
Toshiko had gone?
When? Where had she gone? Jack tried to think. How long had he been dead this time? It seemed as if huge chunks of his memory were missing. He didn’t remember Toshiko leaving.
He always expected she would. Toshiko and Owen were almost ready to move on. They were outgrowing the Hub. He had planned to offer them the chance to go up to Glasgow and establish a new Torchwood office there to replace the mess the McLeish brothers had left. It would be ideal for them. They could set up a home there, as a couple, with Etsuko. That was his idea of a happy ever after for them.
Was that what had happened, then? If so, why couldn’t he remember?
“Jack?” He turned to see Ianto behind him, wearing another t-shirt and shorts combination. “Are you all right?”
“No,” he answered. “I can’t… remember things… my mind is… “
“You’re having blackouts again?” Ianto looked worried. “You’ve been that way ever since the bomb. Martha said there was nothing on the ECT, but you’re still losing huge chunks of memory all the time.”
“Yes… but… When did Toshiko leave? Where did she go? Did Owen go with her?”
“Jack!” Ianto looked shocked. “You can’t have forgotten so much. Tosh and Owen… They’re dead, both of them.”
“What?” Jack reeled dizzily as he took in that shocking news. “No, they can’t be. They… they can’t be. What about Etsuko? Where is she?”
“Etsuko… Toshiko’s daughter…”
“Tosh didn’t have any children. Jack… please don’t… don’t lose it this way. Blackouts… now you’re imagining people that don’t exist… you’re scaring me, Jack.”
“I’m… I’m scared, too,” he admitted. He looked at Toshiko’s empty workstation and burst into tears. He felt Ianto’s arms around him, his kiss on his cheek. “How could I have forgotten a thing like that?”
“Because you’re ill, Jack. You’re on the verge of a mental breakdown. And no wonder. Everything that’s happened lately. Losing Tosh and Owen… your brother… then everything that happened after that. You were starting to come out of your depression when… that damn bomb in the school… We thought you were dead… You were in the cold store… what was left… what we put into the body bag. I think that must have affected you. The cold store… it’s affected your brain this time… Martha is this close to relieving you from duty on medical grounds. If she was here… if she saw you like this… she’d sign you off right now.”
He only took in part of what Ianto was telling him. He was still coping with the idea that two of his team, two people he cared for deeply, were dead. The rest was just background detail.
“I… can’t remember any of that,” he said. “It shouldn’t be like that. It isn’t…”
“I won’t tell Martha how bad this episode is,” Ianto continued. “But I think you should let her give you another CAT scan. Maybe there’s some damage that she didn’t spot the first time.”
“I’m going crazy? Is that what you all think? You, Gwen… Alun…”
“We don’t have anyone here called Alun,” Ianto told him.
“What…” Jack grabbed Ianto’s hands and stared at them. There were no rings. He gave a low groan of frustration and grief. Ianto reached out again and held him.
“Jack, come back to bed,” he said. “I can make you feel better.”
Through his tears he saw Ianto’s face. He recognised the look in his eyes. The “come hither’ look of one who was half seducing, half wanting to be seduced. Jack remembered what it was like seducing Ianto. Every time, no matter how often they made love, he was like a hesitant virgin until he was aroused, and then he was absolutely wonderful. If everything else was wrong, then at least that much was right.
He let him take him back to the lair. There he embraced Ianto and kissed him tenderly as they stripped each other of the few clothes they were wearing. Ianto’s lips were as soft as a woman when he was aroused. He opened them easily to let Jack probe his mouth. Soon he would open his whole body to Jack’s love-making, surrendering to him absolutely.
Afterwards, Jack slept. Ianto hugged him close and cried.
He knew, now. Something was very wrong. Even more wrong than he thought.
Ianto woke in the morning before Jack and left him sleeping. It gave him a chance to talk to Martha. She agreed with him that Jack needed another medical. She got onto it before he had even finished his first cup of coffee of the day.
“Just lie down and relax,” she told him as she set up the portable CAT scanner based on alien technology that took up a fraction of the space a standard machine would. Even so, Jack looked at it hesitantly. “I can’t believe you’re scared of this sort of thing,” Martha added, seeing his expression. “You’ve stood up to… everything. The Master, Daleks, Cell 114. Why does this bother you?”
“I always hated them when I was a kid. Where I come from… obsessed with mental health. You needed to have a scan every school term. Couldn’t start a new grade without the results. Time Agency were nearly as bad. They’d yank you in for a full body scan at the slightest pretext. And I could never get over the feeling my brain was going to get sucked out into the machine.”
“You remember being at school?” Ianto said to him. “But the last six months are a blank?”
“The last six months are a blank,” he said. “Nearly two years before then happened… differently.”
“Never mind that, now,” Martha told him. “Hush, and keep still.” Jack closed his eyes as she began the scan. He tensed up, clinging to Ianto’s hand. He knew he looked like a complete wimp, and with Gwen watching from above as well. But he just couldn’t get over the feelings that scans of this sort invoked in him.
When it was over, he sighed with relief. But Martha wasn’t done with him. Despite the advanced medical technology around her she used a hand stethoscope and a thermometer to check his heart and his temperature. She had that much in common with Owen. He, too, preferred to use his own judgement before he got the diagnosis from a machine.
Owen… Jack swallowed a lump in his throat as he looked around the room that still seemed to resonate with Owen’s personality even though all his belongings had been checked and packed into storage.
“You’re physically fit,” Martha confirmed. “Here, you can have this back now the scan is done.” She picked up his Claddagh ring from the tray by his side, removed during the scan, and placed it back on his finger. “For better or worse,” she joked as she did so. Jack stared at the ring, then at Martha and at Ianto.
“Do either of you know where I got this from?” he asked, holding up his hand.
Martha shook her head. Ianto shrugged.
“I’ve never noticed it before,” he admitted.
“Well, that isn’t right, is it?” Jack said. “You notice everything, Ianto. First day we met, you noticed I had dried egg on my collar. Nothing gets past you.”
“I don’t see what that has to do with your blackouts,” Martha told him. “Or the fact that you’ve lost your memory of crucial events in your personal life.”
“I haven’t lost my memory,” he said. “My memories are different. I’ve lived a completely different life, in a different Torchwood… where my friends are alive and happy, and where… where….” He reached out and touched Ianto on the side of his face gently. “Faithful, loving Ianto, beside me through the night, taking care of me. But that isn’t right, either. We haven’t been an item for nearly two years. I’ve… got a lover of my own. He gave me this ring. And you… Ianto…. You were the happiest man in the world… married to Alun.”
“Married?” Ianto was startled. “I…”
“Jack,” Martha began. “What are you talking about?”
“The explosion… the bomb…. The Joker… I’ve been thrown into an alternative universe. This isn’t my Torchwood. It’s not my world. I shouldn’t be here.”
He was aware of Martha’s pointed glance at Ianto and then to the processed results of the CAT scan on the monitor beside her.
“Jack,” she said. “This is just another symptom. You’re hallucinating… giving yourself false memories of a… a more comforting reality, where there was less grief than you’ve had to cope with here. Look… on the scan. It’s a physical problem. This area here. Can you see it? The dark patch in the temporal lobe – that’s the part of the brain associated with memory and perception. You’ve got damage there. That’s why you’re confused.”
“I’m not confused,” Jack answered. “I’m not hallucinating. Garrett… he’s real. I love him. Ianto loves Alun. Owen loves Tosh… and her little girl. Etsuko… she’s real. She’s the most beautiful little girl… She was born here, in the Hub. You were there, Martha. She can’t… she can’t not exist. You can’t take her away. Or… Garrett… you can’t take him away from me.”
“Jack,” Martha said. Then she held herself straight and spoke very formally. “Captain Jack Harkness, Director, Torchwood Three, I am relieving you of duty on grounds of mental instability. Please surrender your personal weapon and your security pass.”
Jack stared at her in disbelief.
“Ianto, disarm him,” Martha commanded.
“He isn’t armed,” Ianto replied. “His gun is in his desk drawer still. Besides… I’d rather not… I don’t want to do this.”
“Martha,” Jack pleaded. “Listen to me. I’m not your Jack Harkness. I don’t know where he is. Maybe he’s with MY Torchwood. Or maybe he’s dead. I don’t know. But you have to believe me.”
“Jack,” Martha said calmly. “I’m going to sedate you for a little while. For your own good. You’ve got a brain injury. You could hurt yourself if you don’t calm down.”
“No,” he protested. “No, I’m no ill. I’m just lost… in a world I don’t belong in.” He tried to sit up and climb off the examination couch. Martha reached out to stop him. She looked up at Gwen on the balcony and nodded to her. She hurried down and restrained Jack as Martha prepared a sedative. Jack screamed and fought against her, but he had taught Gwen everything the South Wales Police hadn’t about defending herself against men who were bigger and heavier and stronger than her. Even though she took some blows that he wished he hadn’t had to use against her, she held him down as Martha approached with a syringe.
“Please don’t,” he begged as he felt the sedative enter his bloodstream. He heard Gwen’s voice calling out to him, promising him he would be all right, Martha saying the same, and Ianto protesting that they didn’t have to do that. It was Ianto, pleading with them not to hurt him that he heard as he slipped into unconsciousness.
When he woke, he was lying on the floor of the padded cell, in a straitjacket. He tried to sit up, but it was nearly impossible with his arms restrained and the soft floor giving him no purchase to push himself upright.
Then the door opened and Ianto ran to him. He unfastened the straitjacket and lifted him to his feet.
“You’ll get in trouble. Martha will have you relieved of duty as well.”
“Martha is at St Helen’s Hospital arranging for a theatre and a medical team to do brain surgery on you. Gwen is in Brigend, at the police forensic centre, following up a lead from yesterday… the alien corpse on the rubbish tip….” Ianto stopped. “Never mind that. The point is… I believe you, Jack. I know you’re not my Jack… the one I love… I believe you about coming from another universe, another reality.”
“Because of the ring?” He held up his hand. It wasn’t there. Ianto took it from his pocket and put it on his finger again, reminding him that it was standard procedure to remove metal objects from anyone going into the padded cell.
“I might have believed it was all a beautiful illusion if it wasn’t for this. Garrett… my Irish lover… gave me a celtic ring as a token of his love. I couldn’t have imagined that.”
“I knew because…. when you fucked me…. You were so very gentle and loving. You… cared how I felt… you wanted me to enjoy it, too.”
“Well, of course. That’s what it’s all about. Mutual pleasure.”
“It used to be. You used to make me feel loved like that. Even though you never told me you loved me. I felt I was. And I loved you. But ever since… since that day…. Tosh and Owen… And your brother… It’s how you’ve coped with the grief. You… fuck me all the time. I sleep with you every night and we have sex every time. But it’s rough and hard, and… there’s no love in it. I’m just… I’m a way for you to forget your sorrows for a while. I don’t think you even enjoy it. It’s just… a way to forget.”
“Ianto!” Jack was shocked. “You’re telling me that… for weeks now… I’ve been… forcing you to have sex with me… just…”
“Forced, no,” Ianto assured him. “I’ve never refused you. I love you, Jack, even if you can’t… even if your heart died with them.”
“Ianto, I’m so sorry. I am sorry that you’ve been so unhappy.”
“I’m not unhappy. I’m yours as long as you want me. I mean… I’m his… My Jack. Do you know… where is he?”
“I don’t know,” Jack admitted. “I don’t even know how I got here. All I know is… I have to get back. This isn’t my world. I can’t stay here.”
“I’ll help you,” Ianto promised. “Come on… let’s get you out of this… we can find out what happened.”
“Ianto…” Jack said as he walked with him up through the vaults, past the usual assortment of Weevils and alien nastiness. “You said... twice… I didn’t think about it. You mentioned my brother…. How did… You didn’t even know… I never told anyone I have a brother. Not even you…”
“Jack… your brother, Grey, killed Toshiko…. And caused the accident that killed Owen, too. He killed you, over and over again. It was all because of him. He hurt all of us. You… or… the other you… anyway.”
“What happened to him? Grey… where is he? Is he dead?”
“He’s…. Jack… he’s bad news. You don’t need to open all that up again.”
“What happened to my brother?” Jack demanded. “Ianto… please tell me.”
“Come on,” Ianto decided, grasping his hand.
“He’s dead?” Jack asked as he looked around at the cryogenic chambers where they kept those bodies they couldn’t let go of for one reason or another.
“He’s in one of the live cryo-pods,” Ianto explained. “This one. You couldn’t kill him. No matter what he did to us. He’s frozen alive.”
“Show me… please.”
“I’ve… lived a lifetime… longer than a lifetime… haunted by a few fragmented memories… not knowing if he was alive or dead. And… this… no matter what he did… he’s my brother. You have no idea how that feels. Let me at least look at him.”
Ianto pressed the buttons that released the cryogenic pod. The lid slid back automatically. Jack caught his breath.
The few memories he had of Grey, he was ten years old. This was a young man. He recognised him, all the same. And his heart cried out as he saw the scars on his body that told of misery and torture at the hands of that enemy who had destroyed their family home and left one brother missing and the other a traumatised orphan.
“He hated me?” Jack looked at Ianto. “Why?”
“I don’t know, Jack. Something happened to him… and he blamed you. I don’t really understand it. All I know is… you forgave him. Everything he did to us… you forgave him. And… you put him in here… in hope that… I don’t know… maybe… one day you could wake him up and… and he will forgive you.”
“Today is that day,” Jack said. “I don’t think I came to this world of tears and misery for any kind of divine purpose. But if I got to hold him in my arms for… a few minutes at least… that would almost be worth everything I’ve lost.”
“Jack... that really isn’t a good idea. Gwen will go spare if she finds out. She hates him for what he did to Tosh and Owen.”
“I hate him for that, too. But I love him because he’s my brother. None of you… Tosh or Owen, you or Gwen, have any siblings. You have no idea how it feels…”
“I know that I love you, Jack,” Ianto told him. “And I know how I would feel if I lost you. I know how I feel right now, knowing that… you’re not really the Jack Harkness I love… and that… he might actually be dead. And you don’t want to be here with me. You want to get back to your reality to be with… some other man. But I still love you.”
“For the sake of that love, Ianto, please help me do this.”
That wasn’t fair. Using Ianto’s feelings for him, or for his other existence, at least, wasn’t fair at all. But he felt desperate enough to use any means. Ianto looked at him and then nodded.
Jack sat in the padded cell again and watched his brother wake up. He wasn’t in the strait jacket. But he had no weapons and he was dressed in nothing but a surgical gown. He couldn’t harm him, and he couldn’t escape from the room.
“Grey,” he said as he watched him open his eyes. “Grey, it’s good to see you.”
“The… feeling isn’t mutual,” the young man snarled as he struggled to his feet and lunged at Jack. He was half expecting that. He defended himself from the blows and the attempts to strangle him until Grey was exhausted. He had just woken from cryo-sleep and hadn’t eaten or drunk anything. His strength was limited. Finally, Jack was able to get the upper hand. He rolled him over onto his back and knelt with one knee against his chest as he held his arms firmly down.
“Whatever you think I’ve done to you, Grey, I am sorry. But you had your revenge already. You murdered my friends. You hurt us all so very deeply. You’ve done your worst. Now… please… please forgive me as I forgive you. And let me… let us be brothers again.”
“To hell with you,” he replied, though weakly. “To hell with you. I don’t have a brother.”
“No,” Jack answered him. “I won’t leave it at that. Grey, I love you. You’re my own flesh and blood… we’re the same. We’re the only two people in the whole damn universe who are. And I won’t let you hate me.”
He took his knee away and pulled him up into his arms as he sat on the spongy, padded floor of the cell. He hugged his brother close and kissed his cheek.
“I love you,” he said again. “And I know… somewhere, deep down, you love me. I just, just want to hear you say that.”
“Fuck off and leave me alone,” Grey replied. “I don’t want you… leave me alone.”
“No,” Jack responded. “No, not until you tell me what I need to hear. Come on. It didn’t used to be like this. When we were kids… We were great together.”
“My childhood ended the day you let go of my hand and abandoned me to those evil creatures.”
“And I’ve paid the price of that mistake a million times over. Please… let it go now. I’m begging you, Grey. Let it go.”
He was crying. So was Grey. But he wasn’t giving in.
“Jack,” Ianto’s voice seemed small but insistent. He looked around at the door. Gwen was there. So was Martha. They both looked angry.
“What is he doing here?” Gwen demanded, looking at Grey.
“What’s HE doing out of the restraints?” Martha asked about Jack.
Ianto stood between them.
“I took the initiative,” he replied. “Jack doesn’t need to be restrained. But he does need to talk to his brother.”
“His brother… is a murderer…” Gwen protested. “He….”
“We know what he did,” Ianto told her. “But just… please….”
“Jack is emotionally unstable, too,” Martha pointed out. “They’re a pair of loaded guns waiting to go off and you decided a family reunion was in order?”
Gwen took the initiative. She pulled her gun and pointed it at them both.
“Jack, move away from him or I’ll shoot you both,” she said. “Don’t think I won’t.”
“Gwen… please,” Jack answered. “Just let us….”
But Grey responded far more pro-actively. He shoved Jack aside and ran towards the door.
“Don’t shoot,” Jack screamed. But Gwen didn’t have to. Grey had barely made three strides before he gave a soft cry and collapsed. Jack railed against Gwen angrily as he ran to grasp him.
“I didn’t fire,” she protested. “He just fell.”
Martha was angry with Jack and her feelings for Grey were as negative as Gwen’s, but she was a doctor. She did her duty.
“His heart’s failing,” she told Jack as she began CPR. “I’ll do my best. Ianto….”
Ianto had already gone to fetch the mobile defibrillator from the medical room. Martha continued to massage his heart by hand while Jack held his brother’s hand and willed him to survive.
“Jack,” Grey said in a low, weak voice. “Come closer…”
Jack leaned closer. His brother said something to him that Martha couldn’t hear But Jack seemed satisfied by it. He kissed his brother’s cheek and stroked his face tenderly.
“I’m sorry, Jack,” Martha told him gently. “I think we’re losing him.”
“No,” Jack cried. “No, save him, Martha. Please.”
Ianto returned with the defibrillator. Martha did everything humanly possible. But Grey was dying.
“I’ll do an autopsy later,” Martha said when it was clear that everything humanly possible wasn’t enough and she declared him dead. “But I don’t think there will be any surprises. He died of a heart attack.”
“Why?” Jack asked, struggling to stem the well of tears in his eyes. “He revived from the cryo-chamber without any trouble… he was fine.”
“He was tortured for years,” Ianto said. “Then he spent so long with all that anger against you… so much stress and pain.”
“It could have happened at any time,” Martha said. “I’m sorry, Jack.”
“When he spoke to you,” Gwen said to him. “Did he….”
Jack nodded. It was the one crumb of comfort he had. But he didn’t want to talk about it to anyone. He stood and lifted his brother’s body in his arms. He wouldn’t let anyone else take him. He knew he would have to be put into a body bag in a cadaver drawer in the mortuary until Martha could perform that autopsy. But he would carry him.
“Jack,” Martha said when he had completed that task. “I still have to deal with you. I managed to get a theatre booked. We can do the operation at three o’clock this afternoon.”
“No,” he said. “Martha, I’m not hallucinating. I really am from another universe. That’s why my memory is different. I don’t have brain damage.”
“Martha, it’s true,” Ianto added. “I believe him. He’s not our Jack.”
“Even if that’s true, there was a shadow on the CAT scan. There is something wrong with him. We should still…”
“No,” Jack insisted. “Martha… please… run the CAT scan again. I’d rather endure that than go through brain surgery. It’s not that I don’t trust you. But…”
“If we run the CAT again, will you accept its findings and let me get you to the hospital where you should be?” Martha asked.
Jack accepted those terms. He didn’t know what else to do. Ianto stayed by his side as he again submitted to a CAT scan that filled him with indefinable dread. He held his hand tightly and talked to him to distract him, and, possibly, to finally convince Martha that he wasn’t hallucinating.
“In your world… I’m married?” he asked. “To another man?” Ianto giggled at the idea. “The minister at the chapel my mam attends would have a coronary at the thought.”
“Your mom never asked his opinion,” Jack answered him. “She supported you all the way. She knew you were following your heart and gave you her blessing.”
“That sounds like her,” Ianto agreed. “But… this man I’m so in love with… Alun…”
“I’m sorry you never met him in this version of events,” Jack said. “You and him… are so beautiful. I was jealous at first. Of him taking you away from me… and that he only had eyes for you. A gay man who didn’t give me a second look… that was a big shock to my ego.” Jack laughed. Martha told him to keep still.
“It’s ok,” Ianto assured him. “I don’t mind that I never met this other man. I love you.”
“You love the other one,” he answered. “We’ve still got to sort that out. I don’t want to stay here, Ianto. I need to get home. To Garrett… the man I love.”
Ianto was disappointed, of course. He felt a total heel for saying that. But it was true. He cared for Ianto very deeply. But he didn’t love him as much as he loved Garrett and he desperately wanted to get back to him.
“Ok, that’s weird,” Martha said as she looked at the processed scans of Jack’s brain. “The shadow… it’s moved. It’s not in the temporal lobe, now. It’s in the parietal lobe. But that’s not possible….”
“Unless it’s not brain damage,” Jack surmised. “Maybe it’s something IN my brain… a parasite… or…”
There was no ‘or’. Anything that was in his brain that wasn’t brain tissue was a parasite.
“Well, whatever it is,” Martha said. “We have to get it out of you. Brain surgery is not an option, though. If that thing moves… we can’t just go poking around all afternoon.”
“No, you bloody well can’t,” Jack replied indignantly. “Thank you very much.”
“The singularity scalpel,” Ianto said. “That would do it… if….”
“If it doesn’t fry his brain,” Gwen pointed out.
“It worked on me and you,” Martha pointed out. “Owen had it figured out. He wrote a whole collection of notes about it. I think I know how it works.”
“What….” Jack said very slowly, looking from face to face. “What… exactly… is the singularity scalpel?”
“This,” Martha said, opening a cupboard and picking up an unlikely looking medical tool.
“That?” Jack looked at it scathingly. “In my world Ianto and Alun tested it in the sub-basement. After they shored up the wall it demolished they filed it in a locked archive as a very unstable disintegrator ray.”
“In our world it is a very precise medical tool for removing things from a human body that shouldn’t be there. It could work. If you keep absolutely still.”
“Jack.” Ianto reached out a hand to him. He clutched it gratefully. “I think you have to trust Martha. I know you feel she was harsh with you earlier. But it was only because we were all worried for you.”
“I know that,” he said. “Trust Martha? None of you have any idea how much I know I can trust Martha. The things we went through. That much is the same in both our worlds. I trust Martha to the end of the universe and back again. If anyone is going to fry my brain with an unreliable bit of alien space junk, it’s her.”
“All right,” she said. “Lie down on the table again. Ianto… step away from him.”
“No,” Ianto answered. “I’m staying with him. If he trusts you, I trust you.” As Jack laid himself down flat on the examination table again Ianto leaned over and kissed his lips, then he stood and held his head steady in his own hands. His firm touch was comforting to Jack as he watched Martha power up the fearsome looking instrument. He closed his eyes against the brightness of the beam and the very real possibility that THIS machine, unlike the CAT scanner, really could suck his brain out. He wondered if he could come back to life after that happened. And did he want to?
“You’ve got it,” he heard Gwen say. Then there was a brief pain behind his eyes and all three of his friends gasped out loud at once. He opened his eyes, even though he was still seeing stars and was surprised to see The Joker standing there, four foot tall, its insane face, like a clown from hell, white skin, one single eye in the middle of a deformed forehead and a mouth full of dirty, yellow and broken teeth.
“It…. was what was inside your head,” Gwen said. “It was small at first. Then it grew…”
“It’s not growing any more,” Jack growled. He pushed himself off the table, grabbing Martha’s arm and aiming the singularity scalpel at the laughing demon. He pressed her hand down on the trigger. The Joker’s eyes bulged and then Gwen and Ianto both let out disgusted exclamations as the creature’s brain materialised in front of it, pulsating for a few seconds before it exploded, covering everyone in the room with brain matter.
The Joker’s body fell like a toppled tree into the gruesome mess but nobody was looking at that point. They were all staring at Jack. Or staring through Jack. He was becoming translucent. Ianto gave a grief stricken yell and tried to reach out to him, but he was insubstantial.
Jack swayed dizzily and stared around the medical room. Owen, dressed in full scrubs and with a scalpel in his hand, stared back at him. Gwen and Toshiko, both dressed the same to assist him in his work both swore softly.
“You’re alive…” Jack cried out.
“I... was about to say the same thing. Jack… is it really you?”
“It’s really me,” he said. “I’m sorry if I scared you. I… I’m…”
“If it’s you,” Gwen managed. “Then who is… this…” She pointed to the body on the table in front of them. Jack stared into his own face.
A pale, deathly version of his own face, at least. Was that what he looked like to others before he came back to life?
“I think he’s me in the parallel world I was in before I got here,” Jack said. “Right now… they’ve got to be missing me big time. Am I… I mean… Is he… What happened?”
“The school,” Toshiko said. “The Joker… the bomb… he… you… jumped on the alien and the bomb…”
“There was a lot of damage,” Owen continued. “He’s been ‘dead’ for a week, nearly. I did a CAT scan and found something in his head… I think it might be stopping him from coming back to us. I was about to operate.”
“Wait,” Jack said. “Let me see.” He stepped towards the table. He reached out tentatively towards the other version of himself. He felt the cold flesh of a body that had been somewhere between life and death for a week. There was a long stomach wound sutured up. Owen must have tried to put him back together, to try to aid the revival process.
He put his hands around his doppelganger’s face and closed his eyes. He really did feel a connection with him. They were the same person, after all, just following different fates in a different version of their universe. His body was infused with that alien energy that gave him the power of limitless regeneration.
He just needed a sort of jump start.
And he could give him it. But the only way he knew of doing it was going to surprise and shock everyone around him.
He looked at the two women and smiled and winked, and then he bent and kissed his other self on the lips. He felt the buzz inside his own body as a little of the energy transferred between them. Then he felt the systolic shock as the lifeless heart beat and drew back as he breathed his first ragged breath.
“Oh, thank God!” Gwen murmured. Toshiko said something similar in Japanese. Owen spoiled their piety by swearing loudly.
“Where… am I?” Jack’s other self asked as he opened his eyes. He swore, too, when he saw himself looking down at him. Then he noticed Owen and Toshiko and his eyes welled up with tears. Jack helped him to sit up on the operating table.
“It’s a long story,” he told his other self. “The short version is that little bastard we called The Joker screwed us good and proper, sending us into alternative universes. I got back to mine and I’m going to send you back to yours in a minute or two. Meantime, just stay put and try not to worry.”
“Easier said than done,” the other version of himself replied. “Did you kiss me?”
“Yes, I did. Make of that what you like.”
“Sorry I missed it.”
“Yeah.” Jack looked at Gwen. “Is… Ianto around?”
“He’s with Alun and Garett in the boardroom,” she answered him.
“Garrett… he’s here?”
“Couldn’t keep him away when I said I was going to operate. But I made him and Ianto stay clear of here. I don’t think either of them were ready to see me cut your head open.”
“Ok… Gwen… go and ask Alun to get the artefact archived as 67982. Then tell him to sit tight for a bit longer. Don’t… let him know about… the two of us.”
Gwen nodded and ran up the steps. Jack turned back to his other self.
“I’m going to get you home. I know… there are a lot of troubles in your Hub. I saw… and… I’m afraid there’s one more for you to face when you get there. Grey… he’s dead.”
“What…” Tears welled in the other Jack’s eyes. “How?”
“Martha can tell you the medical reasons,” he assured him. “But it was peaceful, and more painless than… than maybe he deserved…. And… before he went… he told me… something that was meant for you, really.” Jack leaned close and whispered the private message between brothers. Nobody else needed to know what Grey’s words were. But the version of Jack Harkness who had suffered for his brother’s need for vengeance sobbed and laughed at the same time when he heard.
“He found a sort of peace in the end, then,” he said.
“Yes.” Jack saw Gwen coming down the stairs with the singularity scalpel. Then he turned and accessed a computer terminal. He downloaded several classified files onto a data chip and put it into the other Jack’s hand. “Hold onto that. When you get where you belong, call Cardiff MI5 and ask for their deputy director, Garrett Dunne. Ask him to meet you somewhere social for a drink and a talk about mutual interests. Give him that chip. Make another date. Take things slow and easy. Garrett thinks he’s straight, but give him time, and he’ll make your life a little brighter and sweeter. And… you’re short-staffed. Find a young man called Alun Llewellyn, ex-U.N.I.T. Give him a job. Keep an eye on him at first. He’s got a bit of emotional baggage that needs unloading. Make sure him and Ianto get to spend time together. Their lives could be brighter and sweeter for it, too.”
“Garrett Dunne at MI5 and… Alun….”
“I’ll… do that. But…”
Jack took the singularity scalpel from Gwen and looked at it carefully. The other Jack looked at it doubtfully.
“It’s dangerous, yes,” Jack told him. “But trust me.”
“If I can’t trust you… Just… one moment… while I… Toshiko…” He reached out to her. Toshiko was surprised when he hugged her so very affectionately and kissed her on the lips once. He reached out to Owen, too.
“You’re not going to kiss me, are you?”
“Not unless I thought you’d like it,” he answered. “Just… come here…” He hugged Owen, too. Then he kissed Gwen on the cheek for good measure. “Ok,” he said. “I’m ready.”
Jack aimed carefully, the way he had watched Martha use the thing. He knew the possibility of this going horribly wrong was huge. But he had to take the chance.
He heard Gwen and Toshiko yelp as they saw The Joker begin to grow to full size. Jack turned the scalpel on it, forcing its brain to materialise in mid air in front of it. He shouted a warning to everyone to duck as brain matter sprayed the room. Then he turned to look at this other self. He was starting to fade away. Jack saluted him neatly and was gratified to see his other self do the same in return before he was gone.
“I can’t wait to see your written report on this,” Gwen said as she pulled off the surgical scrubs that had taken the worst of the flying brain matter. “It’s going to make fascinating reading even by Torchwood standards.”
“I’ll write it tomorrow,” Jack said as he turned on his heels and headed up the stairs. He was breathless by the time he got up the second flight to the boardroom, but he didn’t care. He let Garrett wrap him in his arms. He reached out and called Ianto to his side, too, kissing him on the cheek before Garrett claimed his lips for the sweetest kiss he had felt in a long time.
“I thought I’d lost you,” Garrett told him. “I thought this was it.”
“I thought I’d lost me,” Jack answered. “But I’m back.”
Later that night, after he had made love to Garrett twice and he lay in his arms, warm and comfortable in his wide, soft bed, Jack told him everything. Garrett held him all the tighter as he tried to imagine a universe where they had never become lovers, and where Jack’s life was so much darker and colder than it was.
“Do you think it will still work out for them?” he asked. “That other Jack, and another version of me? And Ianto and Alun?”
“I hope so,” Jack answered. “I do hope so. They’d all be so much happier.”
“Good.” Garrett kissed him for a long, sweet time. Jack treasured every moment. Then Garrett said something that had been at the back of his mind all afternoon.
“Jack, does that mean that, in this universe, your brother might still be out there, still alive?”
“Yes,” Jack answered.
“Is that a good thing or a bad thing?”
“I don’t know,” Jack admitted. “I hope… I really hope… it’s good. I hope he doesn’t feel that same burning hate in this universe and… and maybe he’ll find me… or I’ll find him… and we’ll be all right. Or… maybe I’ll never know. Maybe it’s best that way. At least… in the end…”
He didn’t even want to share his brother’s last words with Garrett. He, for his part, didn’t ask. He just kissed him again and touched his warm flesh in a way that told him neither were going to sleep just yet. They had missing days to make up for.