- 41 -
From: Ianto Jones
To: Gwen Cooper
The TARDIS, somewhere & sometime in the time vortex, but September 2009 in my personal time line
Greetings from the TARDIS! I trust you and Rhys are both well?
Actually, that's about all I'd write on a real postcard to you, apart from the obligatory description of sights. We never really had much to talk about, after all. I suppose it's because we don't have much in common apart from a misplaced fascination with Captain Jack Harkness. Who knows, maybe he's already returned in your time line? I hope you're happy that he's back.
Well, I know you'll be happy. Do you love him?
I envied you when we thought he was gone. I envied you because Jack trusted you, because he confided in you and took you with him when he went to face Abaddon. And because you of all of us had a half-decent excuse for betraying him. You didn't lose faith and you stayed with him. In retrospect I'd say I was jealous, even thought it seems terribly childish now. It doesn't matter anymore now, it's been nearly two years after all.
And at the end of the day... Well. As I said – It doesn't matter anymore, not so much. I can't say that I miss you, but I look forward to seeing you again, soon.
Until then, take care!
- 42 -
"When are we?" Ianto asked, stepping out of the TARDIS and into a cool and damp London late afternoon. It was dark outside, and light drizzle clung to his hair and face. Ianto burrowed his hands in the pockets of the coat Jack had left him with and turned to look at the Doctor.
The Time Lord locked the TARDIS and then switched on his sonic screwdriver.
"We're in 1981. The Treembalayn we're looking for is heading... west of us. Come on!"
The two of them started walking down the streets busy with people who'd just finished work and were now off to do some hasty shopping or heading for the nearest pub. The Doctor was concentrating on his sonic screwdriver and the signals it was picking up, whereas Ianto looked around him, soaking in all the unique details of an ordinary London day. It had been a long time since he'd been to London, and months since his last visit to a human time period close to his own. The Doctor liked to tease him about wanting to avoid the 20th and 21st centuries altogether because of Ianto's freakish ability to create almost-temporal paradoxes out of nothing. As for Ianto, he was simply glad to be up and about again, back to travelling after weeks of near-inactivity because of his hand and the time it taken it to heal properly.
"She's not going very fast," the Doctor said, puzzled. "Strange, that. You'd have thought with the way she crashed her capsule into the imperial space procession she'd be light-years away by now."
"As you said, she crashed the capsule. Landing on Earth was probably an emergency," Ianto pointed out. "She could be looking for spare parts here."
"The Treembalayn barely consider humans as an intelligent species. It'll take your lot hundreds of years to catch up to their standard of technology. Maybe she's injured. In any case, it would be better if we found her before someone else does. 1981 is a bit early for the human race to discover alien life, you aren't supposed to catch on until that space ship crashes into Big Ben!"
"Well, there's always Torchwood. They'll take care of her if we can't find her."
The Doctor threw him a dark look. "I've seen the way Torchwood deals with aliens. The Treembalayn has committed no crime, not a big one anyway, but Torchwood would dissect her. After all, if it's alien, it's theirs. Right?"
"I work for Torchwood," Ianto said quietly. "It's not like that."
"You worked for Torchwood," the Time Lord corrected him. "And it won't be like that in your time, after your arrogance nearly destroyed two worlds."
"I knew nothing about that, you know that!"
"You didn't make it your business to know!"
Sighing, the Doctor stopped and put a hand on Ianto's shoulder. He peered up at his face and said, "I'm sorry. That was uncalled for. I know you, and I know the way Torchwood will become. But right now they're power-obsessed lunatics who don't know what they're up against."
"It's fine," Ianto answered reluctantly. "It's fine. We should go find her, repair her capsule and send her on her way before any damage is done."
They set off again, Ianto following the Doctor across Leicester Square without saying another word. It was raining harder now, and he squinted against the blurred, bright lights everywhere around him. The sounds of rain falling intermingled with snippets of conversation around him, made all the louder in the silence of Ianto's mind. He noticed people staring at them, a tall man wearing an outdated military coat and an Indian teenager dressed in outrageously chartreuse robes.
Leaving the busy Square behind, they turned into a smaller side street which was more quiet, containing shops which were about to close and pubs slowly filling up.
The Doctor pointed ahead. "There you go! There's a small alleyway, a dead end. The Treembalayn should be there."
As Ianto and the Doctor drew closer to their destination, they could make out the excited trilling sounds of the alien they'd been looking for, as well as someone sobbing hysterically. They started running, skidding around the corner and then coming to an abrupt halt. They'd found their missing Treembalayn, no question about it: standing nearly eight feet tall, with spindly legs and brightly coloured feathers covering the rest of its body, the alien was quite hard to miss in any case. She was crouching over a pregnant woman who was holding herself pressed against the wall, tears streaming down her dark face.
"Oh God, oh God, please!" the woman garbled. "Please – Please, don't kill my baby, have some mercy! I couldn't – Whatever I've done, please don't harm my baby!"
The Treembalayn leaned closer to the woman despite her obvious panic, the alien's long beak nearly touching her face. The woman screamed out loud as the alien trilled in a puzzled sort of way and Ianto was preparing to charge at the alien as a distraction, when the Treembalayn noticed him and the Doctor. She stepped away from the woman and observed them out of black, fathomless eyes, trilling again.
"You two were at the imperial procession!" she said finally, the relief obvious in her high voice. "I remember thinking that your robes resemble my lover's feathering during the mating season."
"Why, thank you!" the Doctor said delightedly and then became serious again. "Now, if you don't mind me asking, why were you...?" He nodded towards the woman, who was now crying silently, hands clutching her protruding belly.
"I wasn't about to eat her if that's what you think!" the alien answered. "I'm a vegetarian. No, I just wanted to ask for directions, but it seems that her translation circuits are malfunctioning."
"Actually," Ianto said, "translation circuits won't be invented on this planet for decades yet. I think you may have terrified her."
"Just a bit," the Doctor added hurriedly at seeing the Treembalayn's stricken look. "Humans, you see. They haven't met many off-world species yet and I'm afraid your looks are a bit... exotic."
"But that's ridiculous!" the alien exclaimed. "I mean, they always said that Sol 3 is lagging behind, but... Oh dear. Oh dear," she repeated, turning back to the woman. "I'm so sorry, sweetheart!"
The Treembalayn trilled in what was probably supposed to be a calming sort of way, but the woman clearly didn't take it as such: she flinched and tried to retreat even further against the wall of the building behind her.
"For all that's good and holy, help me!" she cried out towards Ianto and the Doctor. "It's trying to kill me!"
"Madam," Ianto said, stepping closer and taking her gently by the arm. "I assure you, you're perfectly safe. You've just had a slight failure to communicate."
"I'm really sorry!" the alien stammered. "I didn't know! And you two seem to understand me without any problems!"
"We're not exactly human," the Doctor said. "Well, Mr Ianto Jones here is. I'm not. Bit more advanced. What do you say – I've tracked your capsule. It's broken, right? I thought something like this might happen after your, er, mishap during the imperial space procession. I can help you and get you off this planet. You're scaring the locals."
"You would help me?" the Treembalayn asked. "Who are you?"
"I'm the Doctor! Now, come with me please. We'll go back to my ship and have a look at your transport. Do you have the capsule with you?"
"Of course I do. I've just put it into shrink stealth mode. Thank you so much, Doctor."
"It's my pleasure, Treembalayn. Ianto, can you stay with her for a bit?" The Doctor gestured towards the woman in Ianto's arms. "I won't be a minute."
"Yes, of course," Ianto answered. "I'll meet you in the TARDIS."
"So!" the Doctor said to the Treembalayn. "We'll have to take the scenic route, I'm afraid. Can't have you wandering round in the middle of London again, can we?"
The two of them left, the alien trilling her thanks at Ianto as she went. He nodded back at her and then concentrated on the woman again. She had calmed down, but was still clutching at Ianto with a surprisingly strong grip.
"Are you all right?" Ianto asked her. "She's gone now. Look."
The woman raised her head and turned around, inspecting every corner of the alleyway, as if making sure that the alien really wasn't hiding in some nook or cranny. Eventually she focused on Ianto again, her tear-streaked face tight with anxiety.
"What was that thing?" she asked. "How... How could you talk to it? Who are you?"
"My name is Ianto Jones. My companion was the Doctor. You were... accosted by an alien, a Treembalayn, a female of the species Burbalayn. She's crashed her transport and was asking you for directions. Unfortunately neither of you possessed the technology for her to make herself understood."
"You're barmy," the woman whispered. "You actually expect me to believe that?"
"No," Ianto replied and slipped a hand into his coat pocked where he'd started to keep some Retcon pills he'd made with the Doctor's help during his long convalescence.
"I can make you forget about his. I've got this sort of amnesia pill," he said carefully. "I understand that this must have been a great shock for you."
"It's not me I'm worried about," the woman replied. "It's my baby. I'm... It's not been an easy pregnancy and I was so scared... I'm so scared something's going to happen to my baby."
She wiped her eyes and stood up straight, looking Ianto square in the eyes. Biting her bottom lip, she looked young to Ianto, barely grown out of her teenage years. Her thick coat didn't hide her pregnancy and water droplets clung to the dark wool and her black hair, making them both sparkle in the orange light of the alleyway. Ianto frowned, a sense of vertigo and déjà vu distracting him. He clenched his left hand into a tight fist, and the twinge of pain shooting through his palm and fingers brought him back to the present.
"How far along are you?" he asked gently.
"Seven months," the woman answered.
"There's something I can do," Ianto said slowly, "to check whether your child is fine. Do you trust me?"
The woman nodded after a moment's hesitation. "For all I know you've saved my life today."
"She really wasn't going to harm you," Ianto muttered and took his sonic screwdriver out of the pocket of his jeans. He smiled reassuringly.
"This won't hurt," he said, standing close to the woman and passing the tip of the screwdriver over her belly. She was watching him intently, her brown eyes fixed on his hand.
"Right," Ianto said after a minute of scanning. "As far as I can tell, your baby girl is in perfectly good health. All the vital signs are in order. She's doing fine."
"How do you know I'm expecting a girl?" the woman asked roughly. "I didn't know – How is that possible?"
"Well, it's – It's just my scanner, is all," Ianto said, belatedly realising that his knowledge regarding the state of pre-natal ultrasound technology in the early 1980's was sadly lacking. "You're not supposed to know that."
"And you're sure?"
"Absolutely," Ianto confirmed. "Listen, about that pill - "
"You can't make me forget this!" the woman pleaded. "Please. You said it yourself, everything's fine. I won't tell anyone, I promise! And, well, she won't either," she said with a smile, patting her belly. "I wanted a girl, you know. My first child. Her name's going to be Lisa. Lisa Hallett, it's got a nice ring to it, don't you think?"
Ianto actually took a step back in horror, the sonic screwdriver falling from his suddenly numb fingers and clattering to the floor, rolling into a small puddle of water. The sound of rain rang loudly in his ears now, or maybe it was just blood rushing through his ears. The woman – Lisa's mother, this was Lisa's mother, Emily Hallett, and Lisa had never known her, didn't and couldn't remember her because she'd died giving birth to her – stretched out her hands, steadying him. Ianto flinched back violently, his eyes fixed on her dark, concerned face.
She was talking, talking to him, and Ianto knew that she was asking whether he was all right. He knew he had to answer her, but this was Lisa's mother and she was pregnant with the woman he'd wanted to spend his life with.
"Are you all right?" Emily Hallett shook him and then thumped him on the shoulder for good measure. "You look a bit pale."
"I'm fine," Ianto said hoarsely. "It's the name – It brings back memories."
"Lisa?" she asked. "Somebody close to you? Good memories or bad memories?"
"Both," Ianto replied. "She was my girlfriend. And I... I loved her. I would have died for her."
"I didn't get the chance," he replied. "She... See, it's been – years, and I've moved on, but... I'm sorry. I shouldn't burden you with this. Name your daughter Lisa. It's a beautiful name for a beautiful girl."
"Thank you!" Emily smiled. "Listen, I've got to go. My husband is probably waiting for me already. But thank you. I won't tell anyone, I swear."
"It's fine," Ianto answered. "It was my pleasure."
Emily nodded, and then stood on tiptoes to breathe a soft kiss on his cheek. Leaving Ianto behind in the alleyway, she looked up at the sky and grimaced at the clouds high above. She was gone with a swish of her coat and Ianto stayed where he was, clinging to her lingering presence and that of her unborn daughter, whom he'd loved.
- 43 -
Ianto entered the library late at night, finding the Doctor busy with steadily eating his way through a huge pile of biscuits and completely engrossed in an interactive edition of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. The Time Lord looked up as Ianto approached and raised a questioning eyebrow.
"Why are you awake? Hand giving you trouble again?"
"No, thank you," Ianto replied. "My hand's been mostly fine for some months now."
Sitting on the couch next to the Doctor, Ianto proceeded to study his dressing gown-clad knees with the utmost concentration.
The Doctor helped himself to another biscuit and chewed noisily.
"So," he mumbled around a mouthful of crumbs. "What's on your mind? You've been funny for some weeks now, and not in the ha-ha sense. What got you out of bed in the middle of the night?"
"Maybe I just wanted the pleasure of your company," Ianto offered, suddenly terrified of what he'd have to say.
The Doctor snorted. "Right. Come on, spit it out! I've just got to the bit with the bowl of petunias and I can actually adjust the speed at which it falls down to the planet, isn't that amazing?"
"I'm sure it is. Absolutely fascinating."
"So?" the Doctor prompted.
"Doctor, I -" Ianto started to say and then interrupted himself, focusing on the scars on his left hand and avoiding the Time Lord's questioning gaze. "It's time," he said finally.
"Time for – oh. Oh. It's like that?"
"It is," Ianto agreed. "I'm sorry."
"But why now?"
"Because ever since – Well," Ianto said. "It's been nearly two years and you've shown me so much. I've seen more things, done more things than I ever thought possible. But I've always known that I'd have to go back one day. You knew that. You must have known that."
"I did," the Doctor said, closing his book and putting it on the table next to him. Ianto looked at him and realised that the Time Lord had aged since he'd first met him. He'd grown from a teenager into a man, and even though such concepts were without meaning to the Time Lord, his face was now matching the timelessness lurking in his dark eyes, revealing a truly powerful and ancient alien. Ianto couldn't help but feel young compared to the Doctor, inexperienced and blundering his way through a life beyond his wildest dreams.
"I'm sorry," Ianto said softly.
The Doctor inhaled deeply. "Nothing to be sorry for. As I said, I knew."
"Do you understand?"
"I do. Ianto, you all leave sooner or later. You're not the first and you won't be the last, but it's -" The Doctor broke off.
"When do you want to leave?" he asked a while later.
"Now is as good a time as any."
"Right," the Doctor said. "Right."
- 44 -
From: Ianto Jones
To: Captain Jack Harkness
The TARDIS, two years to the day after you went with the Doctor
I've made my decision. I don't know whether it's the right one, leaving the man you waited over a century for. Then again, you left him as well in the end, didn't you? Everybody does.
I've seen so much, Jack. I don't remember how I used to be, how I used to act. Do you think it'll come back to me once I'm wearing the suits again, once one day starts blending into the next one without me being able to skip a few hours in between? Once I'll be stuck again in linear time and things are as they should be fore someone born at the end of the 20th century.
I've missed you, Jack, even though the time we've been apart outweighs the time we've been together. I don't even know why, but it all seems to be coming back to you. What do you think: it could either be the universe's idea of a joke, or its idea of symmetry. Perhaps a bit of both? I wonder when you'll come back to us, as you inevitably will do. I wonder about that accident that'll happen to Tosh, Owen and me just as inevitably. Will Gwen be glad she was spared or really, really pissed off because she wasn't? I wonder whether I'll be able to visit Lisa's empty grave and whether I'll be able to walk the streets of London again, see Canary Wharf.
Maybe it's just for curiosity's sake that I'm leaving the Doctor? Though that wouldn't be a bad reason, I reckon.
I'll miss him as I miss Akiko Jay and Thomas Tahabita. But this is finished now, whereas we never said goodbye. I couldn't keep my promise to you and for that I'm sorry.
Love (and this may not be an empty phrase after all),
- 45 -
"All packed?" the Doctor asked Ianto as he swept into the console room wearing an unbelievably gaudy Victorian-style dressing gown.
Ianto nodded, looking down at himself and suppressing the urge to fidget. He was wearing exactly the same outfit he'd worn when he'd first boarded the TARDIS. There was his wallet, there were his keys. He'd fastened the Bluetooth earpiece in his ears, although he hadn't switched it on yet. There was a neat bundle at his feet, consisting of his coat, 51st century wristband and his Time Agency uniform.
"Off we go then!" the Doctor said, setting the coordinates for Cardiff and sending them spinning through the time vortex. Ianto clutched at the console to stay steady on his feet, but their journey wasn't very long. All too soon the TARDIS shuddered to a groaning halt. Ianto released the console and picked up the things he'd be taking with him, two years' worth of memories in cloth and technology.
"When are we?" he asked, his throat suddenly dry.
The Doctor squinted at the screen and then grinned. "Oh, this is brilliant! This is about three hours after we left. I'm doing well – Nobody could ever slap me for that!"
"I wouldn't dream of it," Ianto said. "Doctor?" he asked.
"How am I going to explain this? The fact that I've aged two years overnight? My hand?"
The Doctor frowned at him and then bit his lip. "See," he said thoughtfully. "That's the part where it gets tricky. Truth is, I don't know. Never done this before, me, and I don't intend to start. I think... I think you'll be fine. You really haven't aged that much and your hand – You could develop an extreme and obsessive fondness for gloves. Or you could blame it on a really bad accident in the kitchen."
"Helpful as always."
Ianto turned towards the closed doors, then hesitated and looked at the Doctor again. The Time Lord nodded encouragingly at him.
"Go on through," he said.
"What about my TARDIS key? Do you want it back?"
"No. Keep it. You all do, more or less. It's just in case, you know?"
Ianto opened both doors. It was a crisp March morning outside. The Doctor had been right, this was his front garden. This was his house, unchanged. It was only its occupant who was unrecognisable after two years or three hours of absence.
"Ianto?" came the Doctor's voice behind him.
"I'm fine," Ianto said, blinking rapidly. "I simply thought..."
The Doctor put both hands on Ianto's shoulders and they stood face to face. A moment and then the Doctor's lips quirked up in a half-smile.
"Take care of yourself."
"And you," Ianto whispered hoarsely.
The Time Lord drew Ianto down to him and kissed him on the mouth, a chaste touching of lips, an almost imperceptible exchange of warm breath between them.
Ianto eventually broke the contact, feeling the Doctor's hands slip away.
The Time Lord smiled in response and closed the doors softly behind him. Ianto heard the low thump and listened to the TARDIS' groans. He watched the ship grow fainter and disappear. Finally he walked back to his house, refusing to look back at all.
- 46 -
It was nearly noon when Ianto arrived at the entrance to the tourist information centre. Predictably enough the door was locked, seeing as nobody but him ever staffed the office. He slowly got out his bunch of keys, where the TARDIS key was now hung on a separate small ring, looking completely unremarkable. Ianto unlocked the door and then stared at the keypad installed next to it in consternation. They'd had a separate lock for the office door installed, some weeks before Jack had disappeared. It opened through a number code and as Ianto frowned at the keypad in irritation, he had to own up to the fact that he'd forgotten the right code.
It was understandable, really, that he wouldn't remember a ten-digit sequence after two years, but the prospective loss of dignity that came with having to wave at the CCTV cameras in the hope of someone spotting him was enough to make Ianto scowl.
He would have to resort to cheating, just this once. Ianto stepped in front of the keypad and took out the sonic screwdriver he'd kept in the pocket of his suit jacket. Pointing its tip at the keypad, he activated it and watched the door spring open a second later. Entering the office, he switched on the lights and had just hung up his coat in the small back room and started the coffee machine when he heard the door to the Hub spring open and Gwen call out, "Ianto?"
"In here!" he called out and stuck his head through the beaded curtain. He smiled at her, marvelling at how little she'd changed. Her face, her expression, her hair, they were all the same compared to the picture he'd kept of her in his mind's eye. He could even dimly recognise the clothes she was wearing, the generic pair of jeans and a black top.
"You're a bit late," Gwen said breathlessly, as if she'd run up all the way from the Hub.
"Yes, sorry," Ianto replied, taking a mug from the shelf and hunting in the drawers for a spoon that looked vaguely clean.
Gwen sounded inexplicably agitated and he went back into the tourist office, carefully hiding his left hand from her view.
"Yes? Would you like a cup of coffee as well? I'll come down to take your lunch orders in a bit."
Gwen fidgeted and ran a hand through her hair. Ianto looked at her with raised eyebrows, slightly puzzled at her odd behaviour.
"Gwen?" he prompted. "Is something the matter?"
"Well, the thing is," she said, "Jack's just come back."
Ianto paused. "Ah," he said.
"He came back an hour ago. I've, er, just wanted to let you know, because you two... you know."
"I know," Ianto said, warmth blooming in his chest and spreading through his whole body from there. It was a bit like having the glowing TARDIS key hanging round his neck, that pulsating feeling that announced a sense of belonging if he could only get to it in time.
"Thank you for telling me, Gwen. I'll be down in a couple of minutes."
Gwen looked at him as if she wanted to say something. Eventually she simply nodded and disappeared through the door again. As for Ianto, he entered the small storage room and kitchen again to switch off the coffee machine with barely trembling fingers. He put the empty mug back on the shelf and straightened his tie.
Finally he went to lock the tourist office from the inside, looking around his work space with wondering eyes, as if seeing it for the very first time. It was all there, the counter and the leaflets and posters, the old monitor hiding a ridiculously advanced computer system and his bunch of keys lying next to the keyboard.
It was time.
Ianto passed through the long corridor and into the waiting lift. He clenched his left hand and waited for the reassuring twinge of pain, a nervous habit he'd picked up despite the Doctor's nagging. The scars wouldn't be too visible at a first glance. There were many of them, crossing his fingers and the back of his hand. However, they were thin for the most part, and silvery-white in colour. He'd be fine; he would have to be.
The lift stopped and the last security door to the Hub was already rolling open, the orange light flashing above Ianto's head. He glanced up at the ceiling and wondered where the Doctor was, whether he was still careening through the time vortex or whether he'd gone dashing off on another adventure. Perhaps he'd already found someone else to keep him company, or he'd gone to visit Martha Jones, dropping by for a chat and a cup of tea.
Ianto liked that thought.
The Hub was unchanged form the day before, of course. The messy pile of equipment was still lying right beside the entrance because Ianto hadn't cleared it up the night before. He remembered wanting to do it early in the morning, and then getting sidetracked for two years.
And there they were, Tosh, Owen and Gwen, all clustering around the sofa and looking supremely awkward. The cause for this was sitting in the middle of the sofa, eating a bar of chocolate with gusto and seeming to ignore the slightly betrayed and confused looks the team were sending his way.
"Jack," Ianto whispered.
Jack shouldn't have been able to hear him, but he looked up to meet Ianto's eyes nevertheless. He half-rose from the couch as if to meet him, but by then Ianto had already crossed the short space between them and reached out his right hand, grasping Jack by one brace and drawing him to his feet.
"And look who's finally joined the party!" Owen said, but Ianto didn't pay any attention to the other man. No, he was concentrating on Jack instead, the dark blue shirt he was wearing and the texture of the braces beneath his finger tips. They stood eye to eye and Jack blinked rapidly, his breathing calm and steady.
"Sir," Ianto said quietly. "Welcome back."
"Ianto, I -" Jack started to say, but Ianto was already leaning forward and brushing his lips cool lips against Jack's warm ones. Jack tasted like the chocolate he'd just eaten, sweetness with a hint of bitterness underneath. Ianto cradled his head in his hands and drew him closer, stroking Jack's hair and not caring that they had a rather shell shocked audience.
Jack broke the kiss and leaned his forehead against Ianto's. He laughed.
"And where have you been?" Jack asked.
"I could ask you the same thing, sir."
"Away. I've just been away for a bit."
"So have I," Ianto replied. "I'm glad you've come back though," he added.
"Seems like you're the only one. Everybody else is mad as hell."
"You just left, Jack!" Gwen said heatedly, crossing her arms in a defiant gesture. Tosh nodded in agreement.
"And I had to go. I was looking for the right kind of Doctor, remember that? I would have opened the Rift to find him."
"Did you find what you were looking for?" Owen asked. "Was it worth it?"
"Yes," Jack replied. "In a way. I've been to the end of the universe to find my answers."
"Well, then," Tosh said a bit helplessly. "I guess we won't be needing those anymore."
She pointed towards the files Ianto had printed off for her, the ones which reported sightings of the Doctor in all his various incarnations throughout the past century. Jack picked up the one lying on top and scanned it quickly, reading the short note that Ianto had added.
"Nope," he said cheerfully. "That's not me. Sorry."
Ianto took the file out of his hands and read it himself again, the short sighting of the Doctor and an unknown companion. Smiling, he closed the file gently and put it back on the coffee table.
"I think this has been sorted," he said to Tosh. "I'll stop the search algorithms, they're only taking up space."
"And that's it?" Gwen asked. "Everything's back to normal now? As if nothing of this ever happened."
"Not right now, now," Jack said. "I don't expect you to ignore this, Gwen. I'm not asking that of any of you. But... Well, you're what I came back for. You're my team, and this planet – this is where I'm supposed to be."
"That's good enough for me." Owen shrugged. "I owe you anyway, and talking to the Prime Minister on the phone is a right pain in the arse."
"Tosh?" Jack asked.
The woman looked at him and nodded slowly, her whole body seeming to relax in relief.
"Ianto," Jack said finally.
Ianto looked at Jack. Whatever anger he might have felt in the past over the other man's sudden disappearance, however great his sense of betrayal and loss had been, he couldn't find those feelings within him anymore. He'd seen Jack as the vibrant Commander of the Time Agency and he remembered Jack calling after him as he'd teleported away. Jack had kissed him back to life and given him his coat. Although Jack couldn't remember some of these things anymore and some of them not yet, Ianto did and he knew what they meant.
"It's good to have you back," Ianto said, and smiled.
- 47 -
Ianto was dreaming of swirling reds and blues, of running through deserted streets and the Doctor's dark eyes when something woke him from a deep sleep. He sat up, noticing that the light in his bedroom was on. Suddenly quite a bit more awake, he groped for the gun he was sure that was hidden somewhere in his nightstand.
"Ianto," Jack said and came to stand next to his bed.
"Jack?" he asked hoarsely, abandoning the search for weaponry and sitting up. "What are you doing here?"
"I tried your phone, but you didn't pick up."
"I must have slept through it. How did you get into the house, if you don't mind me asking?"
"I broke in," Jack said, and then smirked at seeing Ianto's alarmed look. "Don't worry, I used a nifty little bit of alien tech. Your front door is unharmed."
"I should certainly hope so."
Jack was staring at him, hands in the pockets of his trousers, the buttons on his coat undone. Ianto stared right back, refusing to grow nervous.
"So?" he prompted. "I'm assuming there's a reason for your nocturnal visit."
"You were gone before we got a chance to talk."
"It was a long day."
"Were you avoiding me?"
"You were busy on the phone when I left. I didn't want to disturb you."
"Maybe I would have appreciated the distraction."
"Is that why you've come here? Distraction?"
"Maybe. But I'd like some answers first."
Jack sat down on the low bed beside him and Ianto grew acutely aware of the fact that he was naked apart from his boxer shorts whereas Jack hadn't even taken off his coat.
"You're different," Jack said. "You've aged, I can tell. And what the hell happened to your hand?"
He took Ianto's left hand before he could hide it under the duvet and traced the scars gently, nearly absent-mindedly.
"It was an accident."
"Well, yeah, I'm pretty sure you didn't do it for cosmetic reasons."
Jack touched his knuckles, one by one. Ianto gasped quietly. He wanted to draw his hand away, but the other man held it tightly, squeezing it almost painfully.
"You see, Ianto, I couldn't resist," Jack said in a light tone that hid something far darker underneath. "I just couldn't resist snooping around a bit. I'm a curious kind of guy. And look what I found in your living room."
He threw something into Ianto's lap. With a jolt, Ianto recognised his 51st century wristband his heart sank.
"Together with a standard Time Agency uniform."
Ianto licked his lips and Jack leaned forward, his whole posture threatening.
"What have you been hiding from me, Ianto Jones? If that's even your real name."
"Of course that's my real name, don't be ridiculous," Ianto snapped. "You've seen my file."
"Are you a Time Agent?"
"With my accent?"
"Ianto -" Jack growled. "So help me, if you don't tell me what's going on -"
"I've found the right kind of Doctor," Ianto interrupted the other man. "I went with him, only I got lost for a little while in the 51st century."
Jack sat back, shock written on his face. He released Ianto's hand and shook his head.
"That's not possible," he murmured. "He would have told me."
"He doesn't know yet."
"But – how?"
"Wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey," Ianto told him with a smile. "You know how it is with him."
"Do I ever. Why did you go with him? And for how long?"
"Why did you go with him?" Ianto retorted. "I've been gone for two years in my time line."
"And you've come back," Jack said. "You came back."
"This is my home. This is where I belong."
Ianto inclined his head. "If you want me to. Are you going away again?"
"No. Not in your life time. Not while any of you are still here."
He refrained from telling Jack that this could be a very long time, that this would, in fact, be a very long time. Three hundred years at the least, and counting.
Instead he drew Jack against his chest and kissed him reverently, flicking out his tongue and tracing the other man's lips. He started to take Jack's coat off and felt him smile against his mouth. They both fell back on the bed, Jack half sitting, half lying on top of Ianto as he frantically pulled back the duvet to reveal as much of Ianto's naked skin as he could while trying to get undressed himself as quickly as possible.
Ianto laughed, then, the joyful sound reverberating through the room, and clasped Jack more tightly to him, entangling their arms and legs. Jack was back and he was here. Ianto was home and he belonged. The future stretched out before him, an infinite sea of possibilities interspersed with small islands of certainty. He couldn't wait to find out how they fit, sooner or later.
Sooner or later.
- 48/Whole -
Martha Jones straightened her jacket nervously as she stood before the entrance to the rather shabby and inconspicuous-looking tourist information centre. Jack's e-mail had simply told her to be here at some point during the day, but hadn't contained any more useful information. Martha didn't know whether he was intending to pick her up, or whether this was an example of Jack's sometimes warped sense of humour.
She looked out at the sea stretching out in front of her. A couple were having an early lunch on one of the benches on the quay. Martha became aware that she was probably looking out of place, a young woman wearing a pencil skirt and suit jacket, a brand new brief case slung over her shoulder.
She pushed the door to the tourist centre open and entered.
The small office was seemingly empty and Martha was just contemplating giving Jack a ring to ask what the hell was going on, when a muffled burst of laughter drew her attention to another room, separated from the rest of the office by a beaded curtain.
"Excuse me?" she called out, proud of the fact that her voice expressed poise and self-confidence instead of the anxiety she was really feeling.
The laughter stopped abruptly. Martha could hear some hasty shuffling going on before a man emerged behind the beaded curtain, smoothing down his mussed hair as he went. He was wearing a suit every bit as smart as her own outfit, with a tie that was slightly askew.
"I don't know whether you can help me," she began. "But I'm looking for Captain Jack Harkness."
The man had started smiling widely upon seeing her and now he flashed her a full-out grin.
"I know," he said.
He shook her hand over the counter and was still smiling at her when Jack himself entered the office from the back room.
"Martha!" he said, happiness obvious in his voice. "Hello! I see you've met Ianto."
He swept her into a long hug, nearly taking her off her feet.
Martha nodded, raising an eyebrow. "Torchwood is a tourist information centre?"
"Oh, no," Ianto said. "That's just our cunning disguise."
"Why don't you show Martha round the Hub?" Jack said. "I'm sorry, but I've got to go."
He lightly touched Ianto's arm before he left the tourist, and winked at Martha.
"See you later, sir!" Ianto called after him.
That left Martha alone with Ianto. He was studying her attentively, his eyes bright and shining, until she started to grow nervous.
"What?" she asked. "I haven't got anything on my face, have I? Please tell me I haven't got anything on my face."
Ianto shook his head, amusement clear in his voice. "Oh, no. It's just good to see you, that's all."
"Why? Do you know me?"
"In a manner of speaking. I will, in any case."
Without explaining himself any further, Ianto pressed something behind the counter and a part of the wall suddenly sprung back, revealing a passageway behind it.
"Martha Jones," Ianto said warmly. "Welcome to Torchwood."