a/n: Season 3 Episode Tag: Children Of the Earth: Day Four, spoilers for Fragments.

A Second Chance

Jack stared down at Ianto's now cold body, his skin was grey and his breath was still. He knew that this would happen one day, but now was too soon, now couldn't be happening. He wrapped a comforting arm around Gwen as she herself sobbed for Ianto's loss.

Jack remembered the first time that they had met; Ianto "rescuing" him for the Weevil and then all but stocking him, begging to join Torchwood. Naturally he refused, but could help but be interested, which was peeked when Ianto tracked down that Pterodactyl. That was when the very first of many moments came, and that was when Jack realized that he could no longer refuse Ianto Jones.

But now, now all of that was over. There would be no more moments, no more talks, no more hook-ups in his office. No more being a . . . a couple. A few days before he had told Ianto that he didn't like that term, that word and Jack could see that flash of sadness that seemed to always pass over Ianto's face when Jack said things like that. But it wasn't that he didn't like the word, didn't like being put into a category; it was the bad luck that followed the statement that he wanted to avoid. For the two years that Ianto had been at Torchwood and had been with Jack for those two years, he had never attached that word to them. And the second that he linked that word "Couple" to them, a few days after Ianto is dead.

Dead, dead, dead, dead. It just sat there, becoming a permanent part of his heart; one that would never die or go away. Ianto Jones was dead, the man that he loved, the man that he had never told that he had loved. He squeezed his eyes closed for a second, trying to blink away the tear that didn't seem to stop flowing as he grieved for his lost love.

Jack looked back down at Ianto, but something was wrong, something had changed. He stared and stared and stared, and it wasn't until many minutes later that he found out what it was. He glanced down at Gwen who was crying in to her hands and glance back a Ianto.

"Gwen," he breathed out.

She didn't answer, didn't look up and instead just gave a very long sniff.

"Gwen," he repeated, giving her a firmer shake.

She gave another sniff, taking her hands away from her face and wiped away the tears with the cuffs of her jacket. She looked up at Jack, her eyes red and puffy. "What?"

"Look," Jack told her, his voice filled with amazement as he stared down at Ianto.

"What is wrong with you?" a looked of horror crossed her face.

"Look," he insisted, ignoring her expression.

With great reluctance and confusion, she looked down at Ianto's body. And instead of wanting to turn away like she had before, she gasped and looked down at him in amazement. Slowly but surely Ianto was changing, de-aging to be more specific. If you weren't looking at him, if you hadn't known what he looked like before then you more than likely wouldn't have even noticed it.

"What—what's happening?" Gwen asked, still not able to take her eyes away from Ianto.

"I have no idea," Jack breathed back, like Gwen he couldn't seem to tear his eyes away.

Slowly Ianto was no longer twenty-five, but instead was going down for the count; twenty-two, then twenty, eighteen, fifteen, thirteen, until finally it stopped when he was about age eleven. Slowly, almost hesitantly, Jack reached his hand out and let it hover a few inches from Ianto's mouth, testing for any breath. But he felt none and desperate took his arm from around Gwen and leaned over Ianto, placing his ear against his chest. There was no rise and fall, and there was no heart beat. He was gone, Ianto was still dead.

Jack sat back, new tears trailing down his cheeks. "I don't understand," he let out a sob of confusion and dismay.

Gwen tried to give him a pat of reassurance, but he shifted from the contact. He pulled Ianto—now a little boy—into his lap. Jack cradled him, petting his head; his fingers combing through Ianto's silky, light brown locks. Gwen stared, still not quite comprehending how or why Ianto's dead body turn into an eleven-year-olds. Gwen opened her mouth to—to say what?—she didn't know when Ianto let out at huge, panicked and pain gasp. His body arched in Jack's lap, Jack tried to calm him but Ianto was panicking, his breath coming in fast, short gasps as he flailed in his grasp.

Ianto started to cough then, and Jack helped him sit up, rubbing his back in a soothing manner. The coughing got so bad that he had started to retch something foul. Gwen's face scrunched up as she saw something fly from his mouth and land on the floor; it look like some sort of green slim; the same stuff that she saw the 456 spray back in that cage-thing. Ianto all but melted into Jack's arm, exhausted. Jack hugged him close, laying his cheek against the top of Ianto's head.

"Ianto," Jack whispered over and over again as he slowly rocked.

"Jack—" Gwen started, but stopped not wanting to interrupt and wanting to know what the hell was going on at the same time.

"Jack," it was a whisper, barely there but Jack heard it.

Jack looked down at Ianto, a smile teasing his lips. "Ianto?"

Ianto looked up at Jack, his brows knitted together in concentration. "Who are you?" he asked.

The smile left Jack as he looked down at Ianto. "You don't remember who I am?" he asked.

Ianto shook his head.

"I'm Captain Jack Harkness," he waited a second before he continued. "And this Gwen Cooper," he looked at Gwen and Ianto followed his gaze.

Ianto looked back at Jack, his brow knitted even tighter. "You're familiar; I know you but I can't remember, you feel safe." he stared at Jack for a long moment before turning his gaze to Gwen. "You're familiar too."

"Ianto," Jack said again, as if repeating his name would help. "Do you remember anything before this, before you woke up?"

Ianto shook his head. "I just feel things,"


Jack was actually surprised that they didn't send Ianto away with the other children and that they took when they locked him up. He was even more surprised when he was "kidnapped" out of his holding cell and taken to the base of operations of the woman who had put a bomb in his gut. Finding that Alice and Steven were still with them and that they were safe was good, and that Steven wouldn't get dumped in with the other kids and stolen away by the 456.

But what was worse was how he was supposed to solve the problem with the 456. That the only way that they would be able to transmit the signal that would destroy the 456 was a child. Any minute now the 456 would take the 325,000 children that were gathered for them. There were only two children that were in quick reach and one would die; Ianto and Steven.

"You have to choose, there's no other way." Dekker — the ass-hole who had gotten to a suit when the 456 had poisoned the air — mocked him, looking smug.

Jack shook his head in denial. "There had to be another way." he tried to think, tried to think of another solution to this but none came. He couldn't choose.

Ianto's eyes were glued to Jack, watching every move, every twitch that he made for where he sat on a crate in the corner with Jack's Captains coat folded with precision in his lap. He may not remember anything before this, may not remember what was quite going on, but he did know that jack needed help. Ianto could feel that that person was him, that he had the solution. Jack needed a child, for whatever reason to go on that small platform in the middle of the room. And Ianto felt that he was the solution.

Ianto slid down from the crate, carefully and gently setting Jack's coat on the top. He laid his hand on top of it for a second, still feeling the warmth of when Jack had worn it before he made his way to the platform. He went unnoticed until he was more than half way to it.

"Ianto?" Jack was confused for a moment, until he saw where his gaze focused. "Ianto, no!"

But Ianto didn't stop, not until he was in the middle of the platform and facing Jack. "You know that it's the right thing to do; I've already lived like you told me."

"Ianto," he said desperately, fresh tears filled his eyes as he shook his head in denial. "Please . . ."

Ianto looked straight at Jack, and smiled. A feeling welled up inside of him, one that felt familiar and needed to be expressed. "I, I love you, Jack."

"Don't." Jack shook his head, some of the tears finally spilled over.

"You have to, Jack. You know that it's the right thing to do."

"It was good as it was, yeah?" Jack said, remembering what Ianto had said before the 456 poison had killed him.

"Yeah," Ianto agreed, getting a flash of something.

Jack clenched his jaw as he typed in the code to activate the program. He wasn't sure that he'd be able to stand loosing Ianto again, but he pressed enter any way. Nothing happened at first, just the recording of the sound that the 456 made. But then suddenly Ianto froze, his eyes fixing on a point over Jack's right shoulder and his mouth opened wide to let out a high pitched scream that matched what the 456.

He started to shake, to vibrate. Slowly at first, but then it seemed to speed up until he seemed nothing but a blur. The scream continued as his nose and ears bleed, before suddenly the scream cut off and he collapsed to the ground. No one moved and for a second all Jack could do was stand there and stare before he snapped out of it. He ran to Ianto, pulling the lips boy into his lap. No breath would come and chest didn't rise or fall, his heart didn't beat. Jack tucked Ianto's head under his chin, his tears soaking into the brown silky locks.

Jack rocked him back and forth, sobbing his heart out. For as long as jack had been alive, he had never met some who had quite stuck to his heart as Ianto did. And now he had lost the man that he loved again, and hadn't sad that he loved him. Jack had had the chance to say it again, but for some reason he couldn't say it. Like maybe it was like his thing with the word "Couple", like if he told Ianto "I love you" that would be it. That Ianto had finally heard him say it, so there was no need to stick around any more. But he knew that thinking that was irrational because Ianto was not like that. Jack knew that all Ianto had ever wanted in the world was, and now he would never hear it.

"I love you, Ianto, and now you'll never know."

Ianto gasped, his body jerking in Jack's arms. He flailed, his hands scrambling for purchase. Finally he clung to Jack, his whole body shivering from shock.

"Jack, what the hell happened? Where are we?" Ianto's teeth chattered, as he tried to fit more of himself in Jack's lap and crazily enough he fit.

Jack held him, the same way that Ianto held him when he was killed — he liked it, coming back to life in the arms of the man that he loved.

"I love you, Ianto." he repeated, making sure that Ianto heard it.

Ianto looked up at him, his eyes wide and his eleven-year-old face alit with such love and adoration. He craned his neck, aiming for Jack's lips. Jack turned his head away at the last second and Ianto's kiss landed on his cheek. Ianto pulled back, a look of hurt and confusion knitting his brows.

"What? What's wrong?" Ianto asked, his whole body tense in Jack's arms.

Jack glanced away from him. "We can kiss in about nine years."

"What? Why?" Ianto was even more confused.

"Ianto, what do you remember?" Jack asked in concern.

"What does that have to do with anything?" Ianto demanded, worried that he had done something terribly wrong for Jack to say "I love you" and then act this way.

"Just tell me," Jack asked softly, staring down into Ianto's green-grey hues. "Please."

Whoa. Jack hardly ever said "Please", and when he did it mean it, then the situation was quite serious. Bloody Hell. "Okay," Ianto nodded, swallowing audibly.

"Take your time," Jack said in a slightly apologetic manner — which he hardly did either — and rubbed Ianto's back soothingly.

Ianto's brows knitted together as he tried to sort out his thoughts. "We were in the Thame Hall, on the thirteenth floor. In the negotiation room with the 456. We said that we wouldn't submit to their request, that we wouldn't give them the children, and we would rather fight and die than give them 325,000 of our children. They said if we didn't give them what they wanted, they would destroy us all. And to demonstrate that they had the power, they released a toxic gas into the air ..." Ianto trailed off in confusion, if there was a toxic gas in the air and he had already breathed it in ... "Am I—Am I dead, Jack?"

"You're not dead." Jack said, giving him a reassuring peck on the cheek. Ianto turned his head, intending to catch Jack's lips, but he had once again just barely avoided it. "I told you we can't do that for a few years yet."

"Why the bloody hell not?" Ianto demanded in an uncharacteristic flash of anger. "Why can't I kiss the man that I love?"

"Because you're not of age, Ianto." Jack hated to see the look of hurt that crossed Ianto's face every time he avoided one of his kisses.

"I'm twenty-five, Jack!" Jack could see the faint tremble of his lower lip. "If this is one of your sick jokes, it's wasn't funny in the first place." tears escaped his eyes and he tried to push Jack away, but the Captain wouldn't have it.

"Ianto, Ianto! Listen to me." Jack stilled his hands, grabbing his wrists and stilling his movements. "When that toxic gas was released into the air, it killed you. You died in my arms." Ianto unclenched his fists as he listened to Jack explain with tears in his eyes. "Hours you were dead, and I didn't have it in me to leave you. I don't know how and God knows why, but you started to de-age right before my eyes. But you were still dead, until suddenly you were filled with breath again." he let out a shuddering breath of amazement every time he relived that one moment. "You said that you didn't quite remember anything, but instead felt the emotions of those memories. After that Gwen and Rhys were flown home, I was taken prisoner and then "rescued", brought here where I worked on the feed-back frequency to get rid of the 456. The only problem was getting it transmitted to their location, which was where you stepped in." a flash of pure emptiness ran through him as he remembered what had happened only a bare twenty minutes ago. "The 456 left, leaving all of the children alive and well."

Ianto looked up at Jack with wide eye and his mouth slightly agape. "I died. De-aged. Came back to life. Transmitted the frequency that caused the 456 to flee and then what?" Jack was silent. "I died again, didn't I?" Ianto guessed, the slight tightening of Jack's lips was all the answer he needed. He reached out and swiped a stray tear from Jack's cheek, freezing as he went to pull his hand back. It wasn't like the one that he was used to; big with the faintness of calluses. The one that he was looking at; the small, fragile hand that was familiar to his childhood. "How old am I, Jack?"

Jack cleared his throat. "Eleven-years-old."


SIX MONTHS LATER

Jack gazed up into the star filled sky and sighed, his hands stowed in his Captain's coat pockets.

"Oi, you gonna stare up there all day, are yuh?" Gwen pulled his gaze from the sky. "You okay?" she asked as his gaze finally focused on her.

"Yeah," he answered.

"Did it work?"

"Been all sorts of places," he told her. "This Planet's so small; it's like a grave yard."

She saw the quick flash of sadness that crossed his expression. "Come back,"

"We've traveled," he told her with sigh of breath. "And I still have dirt on my boots to knock of."

"You can come back with us," she said, slightly desperate this time.

"There's a ship in the solar systems atmosphere," Jack told her. "Waiting to open its transporting dock, I just need to send a signal, Gwen."

Her eyes flickered away for a second as she stuck her hand in her jacket pocket. She gripped the watch at the bottom of the pocket, feeling the cool leather against her finger tips. She pulled it out and handed it to him in one quick motion. "Found it in the wreckage," she told him as he took it.

Jack wrapped it around his wrist, now knowing why he felt like he was missing something.

"Invincible just like its wearer," she joked. "I, uh, patched up the strap."

"Thanks," he gave her a flicker of a smile, flipping open the cover and pressing a few things.

"You're leaving then," she sighed and he nodded. "What about Ianto?"

"What about Ianto," he said, still picking at the Timer Travelers watch.

"You're just gonna to leave him?" she demanded.

Jack let out a bark of laughter. "Ianto's lucky I even let him out of my sight so he could go and get his 'supplies'."

"So you're taking him with you, yeah?" she sent him a look.

Jack grinned at her.

"Bloody hell!" Ianto panted, seemingly to appear out of the darkness. "Couldn't picked a higher hill, yeah?"

Gwen almost had a heart attack, and now knew why Jack had given her that wicked grin of his. She looked at Ianto. He was still eleven-years-old, she noticed, which was disconcerting. But he seemed to be himself despite that. He looked the same as he always had since the first day that she had met him, just less developed. He had on the usual suit, and even at eleven he pulled it off well.

"Gwen!" he smiled at her. "How are you and the baby?"

"We're doing just fine, love."

"Good," he said. "Because, I have something for you."

"You do?" Jack said in surprise.

Ianto just sent him a look before he took the backpack from his back, and pulled out a small parcel sized box. He held it out to her and she carefully took it from him. She was curious as to see what was inside, but before she could open the lid, he stopped her.

"Wait until we're gone and open it up with Rhys," Ianto instructed her.

She raised her brow, even more curious than before — and by the looks of it, so was Jack — but she gave Ianto a nod, tucking the package under her arm.

"Are you ever going to come back?" she asked Jack.

"Maybe to see what you look like in all your old glory," he gave her a smirk and Ianto slapped him on the chest. "We'll visit," he assured her. "Gotta see what that babe of your's is going to turn out like, don't I now?"

Gwen smiled at him as Ianto slipped his hand into Jack's.

"Whoa there cow boy!" Jack said in mock surprise. "Gotta wait nine years; think you can handle it?" he challenged.

Ianto looked up at him, a smirk playing across his lips. "I have yet to hit puberty," was all he said.

Gwen couldn't help but laugh at the looked on Jack's face as both of them were enveloped by white light and were sucked into space.f