"Third Chances" by Meg K

Author's Notes: Spoilers ahoy! :) OK, when I heard that "Torchwood" was making its return, I had mixed feelings: happy that Jack Harkness would return to Earth, and sad because Ianto Jones wouldn't be there. Like many of you, I saw Day 4 of "Children of Earth" (or read spoilers thereof), and thought "no, this is too cruel, Ianto can't DIE!" And, also like many of you, I decided to write my own "fix-it" fic. I got much of my inspiration thanks to YouTube user girlwhowasntthere, who created the video "10 Ways Ianto Jones Came Back to Life", and I decided to give it my own little twist. Obviously, there are references here to not only "CoE", but also the Doctor Who ep "The Doctor Dances", the Torchwood radio plays (also found on YouTube; I recommend starting with "Lost Souls", the 1st of 4), and various references to Shakespeare and "Charmed"'s Book of Shadows. My apologies to the Haymarket Hotel for any details I may have gotten wrong; I'm a poor Yank, and have never been.

I've decided to tell this story in not only the context of "CoE", but also of Part 2 of "The End of Time". I wish I owned Torchwood; then Ianto wouldn't be gone and Jack would be happy.

-TW-

Day 5 of the 456 Incident, 2009, 6 AM. London

The pair were somewhat strange-looking for the middle of London, sharing the front of a hired car heading for the impromptu morgue. He still wore the elaborate red jacket over a gray T-shirt and his various weapons. She had spread her silver cloak over the back of her seat to keep it out of their way. Her corset was silver scroll work over black velveteen, a white peasant blouse protecting her skin from the stiff boning.

They finally arrived, the man pulling up to the curb and putting the car into park. He turned to the woman, rare concern in his blue eyes. "You're sure about this?"

She nodded, finally turning to meet his gaze, her eyes blazing silver-gray fire. "You didn't see him. I never want to see that depth of despair in his eyes ever again." They both spoke with what sounded like American accents.

When she had first approached him to solicit his help, explaining her plan, he had expressed his doubts about interfering in the timelines. She had countered with the retort, "Since when have you ever cared about that? From the stories I've heard, you'd crack and splinter every timeline in existence to get your way."

He had flinched, remembering the times he'd caused trouble before exploring Earth in this century, and reluctantly agreed to help. He had simply been unable to come up with an argument. Now he asked, "What's the plan again?"

"Stay here, get any medical equipment ready, and also ready to get us back to the Haymarket Hotel. If this works, we won't know if there's any damage …"

He let out a sound of frustration. "I can't believe you've never done this before."

"I never had a reason to try before," she shot back. "Just be ready." She opened her door and stepped out, carefully arranging her silver ankle-length skirt that matched the cloak. "Wish me luck."

-TW-

She approached the first red-capped soldier she saw. "Excuse me, is this where they have the dead from Thames House?"

The young UNIT officer took in her outfit with amusement. "It is, but I doubt you'll get any spirits to talk to you."

Her eyes narrowed, frowning at him. "My cousin died there yesterday, sir," she bit out, cold enough to freeze even the 456. "His sister is in no condition to identify and claim his body. Furthermore, I came straight from a fantasy convention without bothering to stop and change. Now please tell me where I can find him." Intimidating this one human so low on the totem pole he was guarding a morgue was too easy.

The soldier cleared his throat, looking embarrassed now. He took up a clipboard near to hand. "Name of the deceased?"

She drew back her ire at him and calmly replied, "Jones, Ianto." She made sure that she spelled out the given name, then took out her borrowed psychic paper to ID herself as "Rebecca Jones".

"You should know, his coworker has already been here."

Ah, that would be Gwen Cooper, she thought. "I'm not a coworker," she said, her voice dangerously frosty again. "I'm family."

He swallowed nervously and nodded, bidding the woman to follow him into the room.

What she saw broke her heart. She had heard the story, but seeing the reality strained her imagination. There was row upon row of bodies, all covered in red tarps, each with numbered placard at its feet. "He's number fourteen, Miss Jones. Shall I—?"

She nodded. This was her first ID of a dead body, and she wasn't sure how to react. She walked past the others until she came to #14, noting with an inward smile that the tarp for #13 was empty. She gracefully knelt and pulled back the tarp of #14. She hadn't known what to expect, but he looked very much like the one picture she'd seen of him. The only real difference was the inverted-Y mark on his cheek from the injury three days before. Even in death, his tie was perfectly knotted. Her eyes filled with tears at the thought of this man, kept alive only by memory and stories, laying dead before her. She finally nodded. "That's him."

The soldier must have heard the tears in her voice, because he surprised her with his next words. "Would you care to be alone, miss?" At her nod, he added, "When you're ready, come find me. You'll need to know a few things."

She nodded again, waiting until she heard the soldier's footsteps fade. Glancing back to make sure she was truly alone, she allowed her tears to fall, remembering the words from her family story, and hoping they were still true. "What's life? Life's easy, a quirk of matter, nature's way of keeping meat fresh; nothing to a nanogene." She gathered the tears on her fingers, watching as they became dappled with golden sparks. She gently anointed Ianto's face with the sparkling tears, careful to also put them on his cut cheek. She began to to chant.

"Hear these words, hear my cry, spirit from the other side. Come to me, I summon thee, cross now the Great Divide." She repeated the rhyme, each repetition becoming more desperate, her tears coming faster, and she spread them liberally over his face. But after the third chant, she saw that the sparks had vanished.

"No, please wake up," she whispered hoarsely. "Please, he needs you."

But there was nothing. No sign of life.

She had failed.

"Oh I'm sorry. I tried. I'm so sorry." The woman who called herself Rebecca Jones laid her head on the waistcoat of Ianto Jones, and quietly wept.

She was so lost in her grief she didn't realize the body beneath her was starting to draw breath.

Instead, she drew herself up. "Goodbye," she whispered, saying it for herself and her friend. "I wish I'd known you." She gently laid her lips on his.

A quiet, healthy gasp stole air from her, causing a gasp of her own as she tore herself away. Her gaze met a pair of brilliant blue eyes blinking in confusion. "Holy crap, it worked!" She had to stifle her squeal of excitement to keep from drawing the attention of the guard.

Ianto struggled to sit up. "What happened?" he demanded, his Welsh accent thick with worry and bewilderment. "Where am I? Where's Jack?" He saw the bodies around him, noticing the same color tarp still covered his legs, and suddenly stilled. "Are all these from Thames House?" he whispered in horror. It seemed to hit him, ever so slightly, that he was formerly one of their number.

"Yes." She was now determined that her mission would not fail. "I know it's probably confusing right now, but we have to get you out of here. Can you walk?"

He carefully tested his legs, wincing slightly. "I think so, but I'll need some help."

"No problem." She inserted herself under his arm to help him to his feet.

They hadn't gone even a few steps when Ianto asked her to stop, looking at the two empty tarps side by side. "They know Jack doesn't stay dead, but I'm not able to come back. How—?"

She grinned mischievously. "I've got it covered." She held out her hand to Ianto's empty tarp. "Create a bag of flesh and bones, Make all think it's Ianto Jones." With a concluding snap of her fingers, a solid form appeared looking remarkably like him, only dead. Another wave of her hand drew the tarp over the ersatz body.

Ianto gave her a look of amazement, but she could practically see the gears turning in his head. "What are you?" he asked.

"No time for those kind of questions. Make a mental list; once we're safe, I'll answer everything I can." She tapped the Bluetooth in her ear to contact her partner in his particular crime of body-snatching. "We're coming out," she told him as they moved to the nearest exit. At Ianto's quizzical look, she added, "I wasn't sure I could do this by myself, so I enlisted help."

"But Jack, and Gwen—"

"Have their own problems to deal with," she interrupted, "and don't need the distraction of you coming back from the dead." She glared at him to stem any further protests. "Don't make me use my magic on you, Ianto Jones."

He nodded, and they kept moving out of the building to the street. Now he understood the meaning of "half in jest, full in earnest," for that is how she had threatened him

She spoke into the Bluetooth again. "We're out. Start the engine and get ready to help us." She saw him blink the lights. "Okay, we're on the way."

She gently steered him to the idling car. Even as they moved, she could feel Ianto stiffen as her partner got out and opened the back door for them. "John bloody Hart?" he growled.

"Eye Candy!" Captain John Hart greeted gleefully. "Welcome back to the land of the living."

She aimed her silver glare on him. "John, what have we discussed about teasing the recently resurrected?"

John opened his mouth to reply, but was silent in the sight of both their glares, at least looking chastened. She helped Ianto into the back, right behind the driver's seat, before going around to get in beside him. "Drive!" she ordered. "And don't do anything to get us noticed or pulled over."

"Killjoy," he murmured under his breath, but obeyed.

-TW-

The Haymarket Hotel was small and exclusive at only fifty rooms and suites, but with all the amenities.

The desk clerk's eyes widened at the sight of John Hart supporting a limping man across the lobby's hardwood floor to the bank of lifts. "Is everything all right? Shall I call the house doctor?"

"That won't be necessary." He turned to see a young woman he recognized as a guest that had checked in recently, but she showed him her identity card, anyway. "I'm registered here, and my friend is a doctor. My cousin just had a little too much to drink. His niece and nephew have been acting as strangely as the other children, and when he worries, he overdoes it." She ruefully shook her head. "We were at a costume—I'm sorry, fancy dress—party when he called me to get him. If we have him lie down, get some fluids in him, he'll be all right."

"Very well, Miss Jones," the clerk replied, "but please keep our doctor in mind, if you need him? In case it's more than simple worry and overindulgence?"

She gave him a sweet smile that dazzled him. "Of course, and thank you for your concern." She joined the two men just as a lift's doors opened.

-TW-

They got to her room without further incident. Hart slung Ianto to sit on one of the two double beds while the woman filled two glasses with water. "Before you ask anything, please drink." She pressed a glass into his hand, watching as he sipped carefully, then took longer swallows.

She caught Hart watching him, too, only less with concern and more with speculative lust. "John!" she snapped.

He blinked at her. "What?" he asked defensively. "No harm in looking!"

"He is off limits, and you know that, you dog!"

Ianto cleared his throat after drinking down half of the second glass. "Now may I ask questions, or shall I let you argue a bit more?"

"If we argue anymore, I'll do him permanent damage, and we still need him." She punctuated her statement with another pointed glare at the former Time Agent.

"Who are you?"

She finally turned her silver-gray eyes on him and smiled gently. "My name is Eledryth Carlyle; my friends call me Ellie. And I could not allow your death to stand." She held out her wrist to show him the leather strap and the 51st-century computer that rested there.

Ianto's blue eyes widened in recognition. "What—"

"You could never be just a blip in time, Ianto Jones," she told him, "especially not to Captain Jack Harkness."

Ianto swallowed again, this time at the tears that threatened at the words; the same words he had once said to his boss and lover when the latter was in an alien-virus-induced coma. "He told you that?" he asked his accent hoarse and thick. "You know him?"

"Yes, to both questions," she replied. "Although, he was pretty drunk when he repeated the words. I'm surprised he was even willing to tell me the full story once he was sober."

"Jack drunk?" The Welshman shook his head in disbelief. "Somehow I can't quite see that."

"Believe it," Hart put in. "The man can put away hyper-vodka like nobody's business."

"John—" Ellie growled in warning.

He put up his hands in surrender. "Okay, fine, your story, I get it."

"So Jack sent you?" Ianto asked.

Her attention came back to him. "No. He doesn't even know I'm here." She nodded to the strap. "I stole this from him. Considering the state he was in, I don't think he'll miss it."