A/N: * pokes head out of hole again *
Well…it's finally arrived. The last chapter.
Took me bloody long enough, eh?
About all I can say is…sorry it took so long. Life sucks, and all that. But it's done now! I hope you enjoy.
Anyway, this chapter is long (over 12000 words of long) so you might want to take a minute now to prepare…you know, get a snack, have a bathroom break, take the phone off the hook…that sort of thing :)
As usual, if you notice anything wrong in the spelling/grammar/details about Cardiff, let me know and I'll fix them.
Seriously, though...it's been an honor writing for you, even if RL got in the way. I'm glad you liked it, and I can't thank you enough for reading and reviewing and getting annoyed at me when I took too long to update. Thanks for sticking by me.
Disclaimer: As an act of minor rebellion, I'm not putting a disclaimer. This far in, why would I need to? I mean, really. Come on. You know they're not mine.
Warning: This chapter contains some Gwen/Ianto bonding. Not to be confused with Gwen/Ianto bondage, which is an entirely different thing all together, and might turn up in another story if I feel daring. Either way…I really only put this here so I could use the bondage pun. Please don't hate me. :) My only other warnings include the standard "Some OOC-ness", with a hefty side of "it might suck".
Chapter Fifteen: The Grand Finale
The End of the Beginning of the End of the Beginning…of the End. And Stuff.
"Bloody hell," Owen muttered as he stood in the open door to the tourist shop, staring out at the rain. He hitched the collar up on his jacket (not that this would accomplish much by way of keeping him dry) and steeled himself to step out into the rain. The Quay was deserted, and with good reason.
Lightning flashed and flickered out over the bay. Thunder rolled across the city and echoed off the tall buildings and distant hills. Wind whipped and lashed and tugged and pushed, and even standing just inside the door, Owen was getting wet from the driven droplets and the sea water that sloshed up over the edge of the quay.
"This sucks," he said aloud. But he still had to go out and see if anything could be seen concerning the bloody huge pirate ship that had suddenly reappeared after a day's absence.
With comms down, this was going to be tricky, not to mention dangerous. He wasn't going to be able to run out on the docks; waves could snatch him away in an instant. He was going to have to run up and down the quay and see if he could see something out on the water…
Taking a deep breath, he ran out into the rain.
Ianto parked the SUV in the garage and turned off the ignition. They all climbed out – but not until Jack and Gwen and Ianto had spent an entertaining minute and a half watching Captain Sparrow paw, shove and otherwise try to coerce the door into opening. Jack finally had to reach over and pull the handle, at which point Captain Sparrow got out with all the 'I meant to do that' attitude of a cat that's just fallen off the back of the couch.
As the others got out, Ianto paused and tried to get himself under a little better control.
He hadn't said a word to Gwen or Jack about his disastrous encounter with Rhys, and wouldn't so long as Captain Sparrow was there. But that didn't stop his thoughts from going into over drive, and it definitely didn't stop his mind from pulling up memories for his inspection. He shook his head to dislodge them.
He was aware that he'd probably single-handedly ruined any chances of reconciliation between Gwen and Rhys…and while he did feel a little guilty about that, what he felt more guilty about was the fact that he didn't want Gwen to go back to that…man.
Somewhere in the span of time between when he left Rhys and when he found Jack and Gwen, Ianto had come to the conclusion that his happiness was contingent on Jack's happiness, and that Jack would never be happy, pining away after Gwen, and Gwen would never be truely happy or whole if she stayed with Rhys, and so - therefore - the whole 'Jack' thing didn't work if Gwen wasn't in on it too.
That wasn't his only reason, though it was the easiest to articulate. He wasn't entirely sure what his other reasons were, but he did know that if he didn't get a grip on himself, the protectiveness he was feeling for both Gwen and Jack would turn to possessiveness far too quickly.
Jack seemed much too busy with their prisoner/guest to talk to Ianto, but Gwen hung back as the two Jacks went down to the Hub, ostensibly to help Ianto with the unconscious Weevil.
The door boomed shut behind the two Captains. Gwen looked at Ianto. Ianto was staring at the door, wondering how he could broach the subject of his encounter with Rhys to Gwen, or if he even should right now.
"Ianto," she began.
At first he didn't hear, which led Gwen to believe that he was ignoring her. He was still staring at the door, so she didn't see the guilt and indecision emblazoned across his features.
"I've upset you," she said finally. Her throat felt thick. "I'm sorry. I wasn't thinking earlier. I shouldn't have…I shouldn't have done a lot of things, but…"
"You've nothing to be sorry for," Ianto said, finally looking at her. "Really."
"I don't?" Gwen asked incredulously. She'd been expecting a biting reply, or a grunt, or…he really wasn't mad at her?
"No," he said. He smiled gently. "I know you were wishing it had been Jack."
Gwen could say nothing at first. Her face started to go red and she looked down at her feet. "He's been giving you lessons, hasn't he?" she finally managed.
Ianto grinned his secretive butler's grin. "I've picked up a few things here and there," he said.
Gwen went even redder.
"I could show you some time," Ianto continued, his wit finding a way through his muddled feelings.
She laughed out loud, any and all tension between them dissolving in that instant.
"Someday," she began, but was laughing too hard to continue. Eventually, she began to calm. Then she shivered, and it wasn't entirely from the fact that she was wearing soaking wet clothing.
Ianto's grin vanished as he noted her shiver.
"Don't worry about Ingrid here," he said kindly, jerking his thumb at the back of the SUV. "Go have a hot shower and I'll find you some dry clothes. You're drenched."
She shook her head. "So are you. And we've got to find a way to get Captain Sparrow home."
"We can do that while you're not catching cold," Ianto countered. "Go."
"Yes sir," she said teasingly, and headed for the door. She paused when she reached it. "'Ingrid'?"
"We've already got a 'Janet'. And Owen got to name the last one; I believe he came up with 'Gladys', which was a marked improvement over 'Bitchface', his other choice."
Gwen smiled and shook her head, and went on through the door.
"And this, Captain, is Toshiko Sato," Jack was saying. "Our resident computer genius."
Captain Sparrow grinned lecherously (he apparently didn't know how to smile any other way), and went to corner Tosh against her desk.
Jack stopped him with a hand on his chest. "You can harass my staff later," he said sharply. "Tosh, report."
"The ship's back," Tosh said, fighting back a blush. No man with dirt embedded in his skin should be that hot. It wasn't right. She tried to focus on her job. It was easier. "And comms are apparently down."
"I noticed when I tried to call ahead about Captain Morgan here."
"It's 'Sparrow', thank you," Captain Sparrow corrected. "Captain Jack Sparrow. Though I knew a Captain Morgan, once. Dishonorable type. Runs rum outta Tortuga. Not too keen on the ladies, if you know what I mean," he added with a wink and a nudge in Jack's direction.
Jack grinned. "Oh, I know what you mean," he said, and (because he was Jack), said it suggestively.
Captain Sparrow looked a little panicked and sidled up to Tosh.
"Jack?" Tosh said, more surprised that Captain Sparrow hadn't noticed Jack's proclivities by now than by the idea of what Jack's proclivities were. Jack must be slipping; normally, he started flirting with their prisoners/guests right out of the gate, even the alien ones that Owen would label as 'fugly'. "Nah," she said. "That's just him. Anything with a post-code, that's his motto."
"You do have a post code, do you?" Jack asked slyly.
"No," Captain Sparrow replied. "The only post we've got on the Pearl is the one we lash prisoners to before we make 'em walk."
"Sounds like fun. I may just try it out," Jack added with a wink. "After you bathe. Now, Tosh," Jack continued, leaving Captain Sparrow to splutter in indignation. "You were saying the ship's back?"
"Yes - intermittently. Owen's gone to see if he can see anything out on the bay. The CCTV footage is pretty much useless," she added. "Half the lights on the quay are out."
"Probably flying debris," Jack mused. "It's pretty windy up there. Away from the buildings, especially."
"You've got that right," Owen said from behind them. The sirens and flashing lights were whirling as the cog door shut and the metal grates locked themselves again. A puddle of water was forming at Owen's feet.
Tosh's eyes lit up at the sight of Owen's clothes completely plastered to his body. Her eyes flickered over him in a very un-Tosh-like display of attraction.
"Raining, is it?" Jack asked blandly, though his own sopping clothes gave away the fact that he already knew the answer.
"Yeah, like you don't already know," Owen sniped back. "Bloody freezing, too." He realized that Tosh was staring at him, and opened his mouth to say something scathing…but he didn't. Instead, he actually looked down at his feet and blushed slightly.
Jack grinned to himself. Those two were finally starting to get it.
"Where are Gwen and Ianto?" Owen asked in an effort to move the focus away from him.
"I'm right here," Ianto said, coming in through one of the side doors. He was dragging the unconscious Weevil by the shoulders, which Owen frowned at.
"Did a little hunting while I was away?" He asked.
Ianto ignored Owen's second question and got on answering his first. "Gwen is…" he paused and tossed a look Jack's way.
Owen frowned again. There had been a lot more in that look than Ianto had said aloud. Bloody closed-mouthed Teaboy. Though, Owen had to admit: If anyone could keep a secret, it was Ianto.
"Gwen is downstairs, getting a shower." Ianto resumed his progress through the Hub.
Jack's eyebrows went up. "I thought she was going to help you with the Weevil?"
"I told her to get a shower instead," Ianto called back, and the door that ultimately led to the vaults banged shut behind him.
"Well, there's a new thing," Owen muttered. "Since when does Gwen take orders from Ianto?"
Jack gave him a Look. Owen held up his hands defensively.
"What?" Owen said. "I'm just saying. Ianto's not exactly the ordering type. More like the one who bends over and – "
"We have company."
Owen rolled his eyes. "Fine. But something's up between those two."
Jack said nothing. He knew precisely what was up between Ianto and Gwen. He had been there. He hadn't had a chance to replay the entire incident over in his mind – and, he promised himself, he would definitely take the time later, repeatedly, if necessary – but he definitely remembered.
Ianto reappeared some minutes later, during which time Jack finished showing Captain Sparrow about the Hub. Ianto, minus one Weevil and rubbing the small of his back, met Jack's eyes and turned slightly pink.
"Weevil's in cell six," he said. "I put her in with Hubert and Dolly."
"Well, I'm sure they'll get along," Jack said.
"I hope so," Ianto said dryly. "I would hate for Ingrid to feel unwanted."
Captain Sparrow looked back and forth between them. "How many of those creatures do you have down there?" the pirate asked.
Ianto opened his mouth to state the exact number – and the rift alarms went off.
The four members of Torchwood looked a little guilty. They should have been trying to think of a way to get the pirate captain out to his ship, not lollygagging and chatting about Weevils or – in the case of Tosh – drooling over sopping wet coworkers.
"What is it now?" Jack asked as they all turned to Tosh's computer.
"A signal; same area as the first. Another ship, perhaps? No..." She tapped a few more commands. "It's the same ship as before."
"Great, just what we need. More pirates. We better figure out a way of communicating with them soon, or else Cardiff is going to be knee deep in swashbucklers. Owen, start getting the gear together. Tosh, keep an eye on Cap'n Crunch here."
"Sparrow," Captain Sparrow muttered, rolling his eyes heavenward. "Captain Jack Sparrow."
Everyone ignored him.
"Ianto," Jack continued, thoroughly involved in his order giving, "…actually, never mind. I'll take Gwen's clothes down to her." He grinned evilly, spun on his heel and marched off down to the showers, leaving four very confused people in his wake.
The tap squeaked as Gwen twisted it off. Her hand groped around outside the shower curtain, looking for the towel she'd hung up for herself. She didn't find it. She stuck her head out instead.
"Looking for this?" Jack asked. He held the towel up in one hand, and grinned.
Gwen went red.
"Yes," she said, carefully holding the curtain across herself. "Can I have it?"
Jack stuffed the towel behind his back. "Only if you come and get it," he said with a grin that could melt butter at fifty paces.
"Jack, we don't have time for this," Gwen said, alarmed. "We've got a pirate in the Hub again, remember?"
Jack didn't budge.
"Jack," she tried again, opening and closing her hand in the universal sign for 'give it here'.
He grinned at her.
"Jack, you're wasting time."
His grin widened.
She seethed for a moment, considering her options.
"Fine," she said finally. In an act far bolder than the Ianto snog-fest of that evening, Gwen threw aside the shower curtain, marched across the shower room floor and stopped within inches of Jack.
He didn't even try to keep his eyes from roving all over her before he dragged them back to her face. Nor did he keep the mixture of shock, excitement, appreciation and a hint of worry off his features. He couldn't have even if he'd wanted to. Her display was hardly wanton, considering when he came from, but for Gwen…she might as well as signed up for stripping lessons.
Staring him directly in the eyes – and doing her damnedest not to blush – she reached around and pulled the towel out of his hands…and froze.
He'd leaned closer. His face was inches from hers, his breath hot across her lips. She swallowed hard, and tried to think of what to do next. Part of her wanted to flee. She still needed to talk to Rhys, to fix what she'd broken earlier that day. She shouldn't be doing this. Especially not after snogging Ianto, and especially not with the remnants of her night out still in her system.
What would they think? She had agreed to marry one man, fallen in love with another, made out with a third, and was now standing bare-ass naked in front of the second who was very happy to see her, if she was any judge. However much Ianto understood their unique predicament, he would probably find this sort of man-hopping to be just a little bit...much. And she wanted his understanding. More than anything else, his acceptance of the situation kept her calm and accepting herself.
The rest of her didn't listen to that part of her mind, however, and stayed put. Whatever her misgivings, she found that she was quite comfortable with the situation. A little guilty, perhaps, but comfortable.
Without warning, Jack's hands reached out and traced the line from her shoulders to her collarbones and the hollow of her throat. He wrapped his long fingers around her neck, and his thumbs drifted upwards to tilt her chin back. A tremble ran up and down her spine. Every hair on her body stood on end. Her eyes drifted close and her breath caught.
She felt his breath across her lips, knew what he was about to do and rejoiced in it…
"I hope I'm not interrupting," a voice said from the doorway. Gwen jumped backwards with a squeal and pulled the towel in front of her, and was saved from slipping by a very timely grab from Jack. As soon as she was steady, Jack turned around and looked annoyed.
Ianto was standing there, blandly amused. He was holding a pile of clothes. Gwen's clothes, fresh from the dryer.
"Ianto!" Gwen squeaked, blushing from her toes to the roots of her hair.
"You see, sir," Ianto said without even looking at Gwen, "I noticed that when you said you were going to bring Gwen her clothes you had, in fact, forgotten to bring them."
"Ah. Yes. Thank you for pointing out my oversight."
"I aim to serve," Ianto said, completely deadpan.
Gwen had taken the moment of their mutual distraction to wrap the towel securely around herself. She stepped forward and took the pile of clothes from Ianto, unwilling to look at him. Without saying a word, but with a longing glance in Jack's direction, she fled the shower room for a free – and private – place to change.
When she was gone, Jack looked at Ianto. "You have the worst timing of anyone I've ever met," he said, but fondly.
"Just doing my job, sir," Ianto replied with a twinkle in his eye.
"What have I said about calling me 'sir' when we're alone?"
Ianto merely laughed.
But then Jack turned serious.
"You think she'll stay with us?" he asked, in a rare moment of fear. He wasn't discounting this most recent of encounters, but…women could be strange sometimes. Hell, so could men. And most aliens. And robots, but they weren't too hard to manage so long as you remembered the lubricant.
Ianto considered Jack's question and tried to keep the flush from colouring his cheeks too much. The events of the evening were still very much in the forefront of his mind, a fact that he had expertly concealed when confronted with a nude Gwen, however much she'd been hiding behind Jack.
"It would be easier for her if Rhys was out of the picture," he said finally.
Jack grinned, Ianto's clichéd phrase reminding him of the tempographic picture. He had recognized the redhead this evening, and couldn't deny the fact that his heart had done a happy dance at the idea of her stepping in. But still…that wasn't the only potential future he'd seen in that picture. There was still a chance…
"And if he was?"
"I think he pretty much is," Ianto said ruefully, thinking of his disastrous encounter with Gwen's enraged fiancé. He sighed, and didn't elaborate – on that, anyway. "Jack, she loves you. She has largely from the moment she first saw you. But you had to go and tell her to hold onto her normal life. It's caused her a lot of confusion. She's this close to choosing you over Rhys. But he could still persuade her to stay with him. Because you told her to hang on to him."
Jack made a face.
"She's kept us connected with the outside world," Jack said. "We needed that. We needed to remember who we were."
Ianto was silent for a moment. "You're right," he said. "We do need to remember who we are, remember our connections with everyone one else. Remember that we're still human. But we can't always rely on Gwen for that. We have to make the effort to connect ourselves. If Gwen is the only one asked to keep that link open…it'll burn her up, Jack. Especially now that she's lost one of the biggest anchors holding her there."
"You just said Rhys could persuade her to come back to him," Jack said, slightly confused and more than a little intrigued.
"He could. If he hasn't left. Though I'm pretty sure he has," Ianto added evasively.
"What makes you think that?" Suspicious now.
Ianto could feel the colour creeping up his cheeks, a dead giveaway that he knew the reason why. "Couldn't say," he muttered and looked away.
Jack stared at him for a moment, clearly weighing his chances of finding out simply by asking. Ianto dreaded the question. If Jack put on his 'I-love-you-but-I'm-wounded-by-your-lack-of-trust-in-me' face, Ianto would cave and tell him about what had happened before he could get a chance to talk to Gwen about it.
Eventually, Jack sighed. He crossed the distance between them and pulled Ianto in for a hug. Ianto went willingly, relieved. He didn't say anything. He could have said a lot of things, but, for now, he said nothing.
"You're right, you know," Jack said after a while. "About Gwen. You usually are. I was just so afraid of loosing her that…"
"You don't have to explain," Ianto said. "Psychology was never my strong suit anyway."
Jack pulled back. "Good. Let's go get this pirate home, and then we can celebrate properly."
"Just…let's not go back to Cachu Iar tonight. Even if they did let us in…"
"Fine with me," Jack laughed. "I believe you and Gwen promised me Johnny Depp in tight pants anyway."
"The ship's back then?" Gwen was asking when Jack and Ianto finally made it back up to the main part of the Hub. Gwen took one look at the pair of them and blushed furiously. She looked away hurriedly, but not before Tosh, Owen and Captain Sparrow noticed.
"The plan is to go out and meet them, give them back their Captain, and hopefully not get shot in the process," Jack announced loudly as he grinned at Gwen's discomfort.
"And my compass," Captain Sparrow added.
Jack winced. He'd hoped he wouldn't have to give the instrument back. It had been more than helpful in the past few days.
"And your compass." He still shot Captain Sparrow a significant look. As though to say I know what it does and I'm giving it back anyway…
Captain Sparrow apparently understood, though it was hard to tell what the pirate was thinking. Jack did note that the pirate was paying a little more attention to Gwen than before. He felt the stirrings of something unfamiliar within. But he hadn't been jealous in so long that he thought he was just hungry.
Gwen, on the other hand was – apart from the lingering blush – all business. She was listening raptly to Tosh, who was expounding on the dangers of the unstable hole in the fabric of space/time that the ship had come through, and how it was probably a good idea to stay away from it. She was also avoiding looking directly at Jack or Ianto
"How are we going to get Captain Sparrow out to his boat in this weather?" Owen asked.
"Oh, I've sailed through worse," Captain Sparrow said. "Reminds me of the time when we sailed for the Ile de Muerta, an island that cannot be found except by those who already know where it is…"
"How can that work?" Owen piped up. "It's an island. It's not like it's going anywhere."
"It's protected," Captain Sparrow shot back, annoyed that the story of his exploits was being interrupted.
"By the same sort of perception circuit that keeps invisible lift invisible," Jack interjected before Owen could get any snippier. "Or so I imagine, anyway. Now, I hate to do this to all of you – especially since Gwen just got all nice and dry – but we need to get back out there and get Captain Hook back to his boat and back to Never-Neverland."
"It's Sparrow," Captain Sparrow muttered again.
"Whatever. Let's go."
It was still raining. A lot. But this time, everyone had full rain gear on. It didn't look as cool and as badass as their normal clothes – yellow rubber coats and pants and Wellington boots never looked cool on anyone – but it was a damn sight better than getting soaked to the bone again.
Except for Captain Sparrow and Captain Harkness, that is. No violent yellow jackets for them. The two Jacks were in their usual period costumes, though Captain Sparrow had retrieved his long leather coat and had put it on before ramming his hat down on over his dreadlocks with a look of grim satisfaction.
Before they set out, Gwen found herself sharing appreciative looks with Tosh at the fine figure that Captain Sparrow cut in his period clothes and swaggering air. Even if the pirate was in dire need of a bath and smelled vaguely reminiscent of wet dog, they were nudging one another and giggling when Gwen happened to look up and glance at Ianto and Jack, the latter of whom was standing next to the cog door and looking mildly peeved.
"Can we go?" Jack asked. "Or can the fate of the world wait until your little girl-chat is over?"
"Coming," Gwen said, and gave Tosh the internationally understood, females-only glance that so succinctly meant 'men'. Tosh gave the answering shrug and slight roll of the eyes and returned to her work station.
Once outside, Gwen tightened the hood of her rain jacket and wished she'd put on an extra sweater beneath it. Jack's mauve one would have done nicely, but it was still at her apartment. She shared a look with Ianto. He smiled slightly down at her, and she felt a renewed sense of happiness that she hadn't completely destroyed their friendship earlier that evening.
That thought brought worry and guilt about Rhys, but worry and guilt about Rhys would have to wait. They had a pirate to return to his own time period.
She wondered how long it would be before Jack or Tosh pointed out that the hole in the space/time continuum where the ship came through was dangerous to the continued existence of the planet.
"Gwen, Ianto and Captain Sparrow –"
"Finally, he gets it right," Captain Sparrow muttered. Jack shot him a dirty look and continued.
"You three will go east up the quay; see if you can find a boat to take us out – or the good Captain at least. Owen and I will do the same up the western side. Keep an eye out for landing parties; if they're looking for their Captain, they may already be ashore. If that's the case, we'll hand him over and he can head back to where he belongs. Got it?"
They all nodded.
"Good. Let's go. We can't leave that hole open much longer! If it gets any bigger, the whole city might be pulled into the past."
Gwen nodded in full agreement to this expected comment, and turned to Ianto and Captain Sparrow…or, rather, to Ianto and the hole in the air where Captain Sparrow had been standing up until this point and now no longer was.
"Where'd he go?" she asked in general. They all looked around, peering into the darkness, trying to see where the pirate had gone.
He was standing on the railing. The railing. The only thing between the pirate and the angry water was wind and rain. He seemed completely unfazed by this, and instead was walking up and down the thing as if it was a wide, level sidewalk, rather than a thin railing. He appeared to be trying to peer out to sea.
"What are you doing?" Gwen asked, wondering when Captain Sparrow was going to notice that the railing was actually a chain and not solid wood. "Get down before you drown!"
"Drown?" Captain Sparrow shouted back, surprised. "How can I drown up here?"
"Get down!" she bellowed into the wind, pointing at the solid quay beneath her feet. She figured, ruefully, that most of her words would be stolen by the wind, but she had to try anyway. "Because however great a pirate you are, if you fall off, you still can't breathe water. So get down; we've got a job to do!"
Instead of answering, Captain Sparrow rolled his eyes and headed off down the quay – on the railing.
"At least he's moving in the right direction," Jack said. "Come on, Owen. We'd better move ourselves."
Gwen and Ianto jogged off in the same direction as Captain Sparrow had taken
"Can you see anything?" she asked Ianto some long, wet, struggling minutes later. He glanced down at her and smiled slightly.
"Not yet," he said – yelled, rather – into the wind. "It looks like there could be lights out there, but that might be the Barrage."
The continued along the Quay for another few minutes, looking out to sea as best they could with the rain being blown into their faces. With the wind, the fastest speed they could manage was a slow walk, which was not good when one had memories they'd rather not be remembering just then. Captain Sparrow had vanished into the gloom a few feet ahead. Gwen couldn't even see his silhouette in the dim, orange light of the street lamps and in the flickering lightning. She tried to walk faster, but the wind pushed her back.
Ianto grimaced and shifted so that he blocked Gwen from the worst of the wind.
"Thanks," Gwen said, pulling the strings of her hood tighter.
Ianto smiled down at her. The protectiveness that he'd felt earlier in the evening had not abated. Rather, with the wind and the rain and potential danger, he felt even more driven to keep her from harm, if not for her own sake than for Jack's.
"It would be better if we could stay in the warm, like Tosh," Ianto remarked.
"Too bad we're not computer geniuses then," Gwen grinned back.
"I've got comms back, everyone," Tosh's voice came through their ear pieces a few moments later.
Gwen sighed in relief. She had been afraid that having no comms would mean that they would have no backup in case of emergency. Now that the comms were back, she felt a lot better.
"Wonderful," they heard Jack answer. "Anything yet, Gwen, Ianto?"
Ianto held a hand to his ear. "Nothing yet, sir. All of the boats seemed to have been secured on dry land before –"
But Ianto didn't get to finish his sentence. A shadow detached itself from a door frame, reached up and hit him firmly on the back of the neck. He crumpled.
Gwen's gun was in her hand before Ianto hit the ground.
"Stay where you are!" she bellowed over the rain, training her gun on the shadowy figure hunched over the crumpled Ianto. One hand left her gun to press the button for the comm. "Jack, you need to get down here. Ianto's been attacked."
"On my way," Jack replied, and Gwen could tell he was worried by the terseness of his reply.
Gwen renewed her aim at the hunched figure. "Hands above your head! Back away slowly," she said firmly, "and you won't get hurt."
In her ear, she could hear Jack and Tosh and Owen coordinating, tracking them down. They were still a minute or two away. Jack and Owen must have split up at some point.
Adrenaline coursed through her system, keeping her hand steady despite the wind and rain. Even with the adrenaline, or perhaps because of it, she felt sick to her stomach. Ianto still hadn't moved.
She advanced forward slowly as the figure backed up. She could see more of him now, in the flickering of the lightning. He was definitely a man. Longish, dark hair glued to his head from the rain. Clothes from the same period as Captain Sparrow's, also glued to him from the rain. Facial hair of indeterminate shape, but probably a goatee. And fierce eyes, almost too fierce for a face that young.
He had a sword. Lightning glinted along its length. The hilt was what he'd hit Ianto with. Gwen sent Whomever was listening a silent prayer of thanks that it hadn't been the blade, and tried to get her heart rate back under control. It wasn't having any.
"Drop the sword, and back away!"
"Drop your own weapon." A strong feminine voice in her ear commanded Gwen's attention. So did the cutlass at her throat.
"I'm not going to hurt you," Gwen said, cursing herself for not noticing the second pirate. Pirate wench, she corrected to herself. Bloody bint had a sword at her throat. She released her gun and let it swing from her trigger finger. The man stepped forward and took it from her, holding the unfamiliar weapon gingerly.
"Take us to Jack Sparrow," the woman said, and shifted to deliver a killing blow. "Now."
As soon as Gwen's call for help reached him, Jack wheeled about and ran in the direction he'd come from. His heart thudded in his chest. A small fragment of his mind cursed himself for loving two people so ephemeral, but – as he reminded himself – such matters were never left up to chance or choice. And, he knew, he would rather spend this time with them while he had the chance. It was well worth the pain he knew was to come.
Tosh was shouting directions into the intercom. Jack largely ignored them, since they were mostly for Owen's sake. Owen had gone off to check a dock for boats and/or pirates when Gwen had called for help. Jack hadn't waited for him.
Instead, Jack skidded to a halt on a corner, and pulled out Captain Sparrow's compass. The needle skipped its usual wild spin – it was pulling with all force towards a single point. Gwen and Ianto were both there. He closed it with a snap and kept running.
It seemed to take forever, running full tilt through the rainy night. And it wasn't the exhilarating, freeing run that he'd had with Gwen at his side earlier. This time, finding the energy for each and every step against the wind, to see through the darkness, to avoid the flying debris and parked cars, was almost more than he could take.
Finally, a small eternity later (a span of time he knew far more about than he liked), Jack half heard Tosh telling him he was close. He could see everyone now, illuminated in the stormy night by the orange glow of a streetlight and by the intermittent lightning.
He slowed up as he approached, not wanting to give away the fact that Gwen had an ally so close to the pirates that were holding her and Ianto hostage. Ianto was sprawled on the ground, apparently unconscious. Gwen was being held at sword point by what looked to be a woman – it was hard to tell in the uncertain light of the lightning and the streetlamps. Jack did his best to clamp down on his anger before he did something stupid and blow his chance of a surprise attack.
A piece of wood – a tree branch? – came sailing out of the night and the streetlight shattered. Jack ran forward. There was a brief scream, and the sound of a scuffle. Gwen's gun went off and Jack's stomach dropped because who ever yelled might have been Gwen or Ianto, and he couldn't loose them…he just couldn't…
Lightning illuminated the scene.
When Owen arrived, he found a great deal of work for himself.
Jack was gloating over the form of a young man with a goatee and out-of-date clothing, who was also clutching at his leg and cursing 'pirates' despite the fact that it was clear that he was one himself.
Gwen was standing triumphant over a subdued but spirited young woman who was glaring as though it would cause Gwen to drop dead that instant. Gwen's gun was also drawn, and never wavered despite the wind.
Ianto was sitting up and rubbing at the back of his head, looking dizzy and uncertain.
Owen saw to the wounded man first out of a long habit of following the rules of triage. The man had been shot in the leg, apparently by Gwen (Owen reminded himself to not piss her off for at least three days after this). The bullet had missed the femoral artery, however, so the young man was in no immediate danger of death by exsanguination.
"Let him approach," Jack ordered when the wounded man seemed unwilling to be treated. "He's a doctor."
Owen knelt and examined the wound carefully. "It's clean," he called back to Jack. "Went all the way through. A few stitches and he'll live to pillage another day."
"Good," Jack replied, voice hard as the pirate glared. "See to Ianto."
Owen nodded and darted to Ianto's side. He crouched down and shone a penlight into Ianto's eyes. The pupils retracted accordingly, and Ianto winced at the intrusion.
"Steady on, Teaboy," he murmured dragging the light across Ianto's vision to make sure he could track the movement.
"I'm fine," Ianto said, but he submitted to the quick check up because it was easier than batting Owen's hands away.
"That's for me to decide," Owen replied. Mild concussion, Owen concluded to himself, because Ianto's dizziness seemed persistent despite his claims of feeling fine. He would at most have to be watched, and woken up every few hours or so. He added to himself, sarcastically, that Jack would probably volunteer for the job. He got Ianto standing, and was somewhat surprised when Gwen came over to support the younger man, though he was much taller than herself.
"Shall we to our headquarters then, my lady?" Jack asked the pirate woman. She shifted her glower from Gwen to Jack.
"Where is Captain Sparrow?" she asked.
"That's a good question," Jack said. He glanced at Gwen, who shrugged. "When we find him again, we'll return him to you. In the mean time, your friend here needs medical attention. Get him up," he added to Owen. "We're going back to the Hub."
Tosh watched with widened eyes as Owen stumbled through the cog-shaped door with a pirate on his arm. It wasn't Captain Jack Sparrow. The new pirate was also limping, grimacing in pain, and trailing blood down one leg. A woman in men's clothing from the same era as Captain Sparrow's came in after, at gun point, with Gwen behind her, Ianto next to her. Jack took up the rear.
No matter how hard she tried, Tosh couldn't make that sound any better
"Where's Captain Sparrow?" Tosh asked. No one had thought to fill her in on what had happened since Gwen had called for help, and Tosh had been getting more and more high strung with worry because of it.
"Good question," Jack said again. He looked at Gwen.
"Last I saw him he was in front of us, and then these two attacked Ianto," Gwen said, indicating that their prisoner take the seat next to Ianto on the couch. She shifted so she could guard the woman and fuss over Ianto at the same time.
"So you shot him?" Tosh asked Jack, pointing to the man that Owen was currently hauling down to the autopsy bay for a quick surgery.
"No. Gwen shot him. But that came after. How's the hole in the rift doing?"
"It's getting smaller, oddly enough," Tosh said, tearing her attention away from the clothes clinging to Owen's torso. "We've probably got an hour and a half before it's too small for their ship, and it'll be gone within two."
"Then we'd better find Captain Sparrow and fast," Jack said. "Patch him up quickly, Owen," he yelled. "We need to send them home! So," he added, turning to their other guest. "What are your names?"
The woman, currently being guarded by Gwen, glanced around sullenly. She appeared to weigh the option of telling their names against the unnamable horrors that an unknown underground facility could produce, and then settled for the first option.
"I am Elizabeth Swann," she said. "My father is the Governor of Port Royal and will pay any ransom you wish." She spoke imperiously, as though from a throne, instead of the couch on the ceramic wall.
"Good for him," Jack said, completely unimpressed. "But you're a long, long way from Port Royal, Miss Swann."
"Might I ask where we are?"
"Cardiff?" Elizabeth practically shrieked. Her nose wrinkled slightly, as though smelling something off.
"Yes, Cardiff," Jack said with a dangerous grin. Very few made fun of his city and escaped unscathed. "I understand you thought you were in the Caribbean." She nodded mutely. "Well, you're not. You came through a rift in time and space. We're going to send you back."
"As soon as we can find him again, we'll be sending him home – with you, if possible."
"How do we know you're telling the truth?"
"You have my word as a Captain," Jack replied, "and as a most enchanted Captain at that."
"Save your charms for the dockyard, Captain," Elizabeth shot back, "I have no need for them."
Jack's eyebrows went up in an expression of mock hurt. "Upon my word!" he exclaimed, dropping easily into the same high-class accent that Elizabeth used. "Your manners leave much to be desired. Impertinent girl! And you, the daughter of a governor! For shame!"
Elizabeth went an interesting shade of red, and straightened, spluttering indignantly. Jack, for his part, was enjoying himself thoroughly. Especially since he knew everyone was staring at him.
Elizabeth seemed to collect herself. "You may speak as a gentleman," she said, "but I can tell you're worse than Jack Sparrow."
"I am an officer and a gentleman, ma'am," Jack replied smartly. "Always."
Gwen and Ianto shared a look and rolled their eyes. Jack might be an officer, but 'gentleman' was a person he could – and did – put on and take off at will.
In truth, Jack was a little surprised that Elizabeth had picked up on the more rogue-ish of his behaviours. If Gwen had been asked, it would have been found that she wasn't surprised; Elizabeth hung around with pirates. Jack, like Captain Sparrow, embodied all of the romantic ideas of pirates. The correlation between them was a natural product of their comparison. The Captains Jack were very much alike, a fact that had escaped both of them and would likely piss them off if they knew.
Gwen studied their prisoner closely. High born, she was – apparently, if her accent and claim that her father was a Governor were true. How old was she? Eighteen? And what was she doing wearing men's clothing? Wasn't that sort of thing frowned on considerably during that time? Ianto would know…
And that thought brought her to their other prisoner and what he had done to Ianto. Owen had said it was only a mild concussion, but that didn't stop white hot anger from coursing through her veins whenever she thought of how she'd been unable to protect him, and at the callousness of the man. She'd gotten him back, though.
Maybe some of Jack's territoriality was rubbing off on her, she thought. Any other night, and she would be in mental and emotional agony from having caused another person pain. Tonight, though, she'd shot a man in the leg – and felt good about it.
"What's his name?" she asked, indicating with her head where Owen was busy patching up with wounded man. Jack shot her a questioning look but she didn't respond.
"You mean the man you shot?" Elizabeth snapped.
"Yes, him," Gwen snapped back. "The man who hit my friend over the head with the arse end of a sword merely because he was there. What's his name?"
Elizabeth drew herself up. Jack subtly positioned himself between the two women to prevent a potential cat fight. Even Tosh looked up from her computer readings to see what was going on.
"His name is William Turner," Elizabeth said coldly. "He is my fiancé, and a good man."
Gwen nodded, though she was far from appeased. She realized that she had one hand on Ianto's shoulder, and then decided to leave it there.
"Gwen," Jack suggested gently, "why don't you take Ianto down to the medical bay and see if Owen has some painkillers hidden away?"
Gwen glared, first at Jack and then at Elizabeth. Still, she didn't argue, but holstered her gun and helped Ianto up.
When they had gone, Jack gave Elizabeth a considering look, and then pulled the compass out of his pocket and opened the lid. Elizabeth stared in wide-eyed surprise.
"That's Jack's compass!" she exclaimed indignantly.
"So he said," Jack replied, letting the needle spin. He'd been practicing. Shifting his concentration slightly, he let the needle bounce from Gwen to Ianto to the planet on which he was (to be) born, to the Doctor – who, it appeared, was everywhere at once, because the needle always spun without aim whenever he thought of the Doctor. And with good cause, too; Jack would challenge anyone to point to last week; time had no direction when one was confined to a mere four dimensions. "I need you do to something for me," he added.
Elizabeth watched the compass spin with confused interest. "What?"
"You do know what this does, right?" Jack asked her.
"It doesn't point North," she replied evasively. Jack grinned.
"It will, if North is what you're looking for."
"I don't understand," Elizabeth shot back.
"Yes, you do," Jack replied.
Elizabeth watched him for a long moment, and then appeared to decide that Jack already knew enough and that deception was pointless. "Fine. I was aware of what the compass can do. What do I have to do with it?"
Jack sighed. "It won't find Captain Sparrow for me," he said. "I believe it's because I don't want him to be found. If he is, I have to give this back, and this...this thing is much too addictive for its own good. You know, I had a boyfriend once, this delightful Rasptallion. They're green, but the skin under their chin flap...anyway, he was telepathic – and he could tell you anything you'd want to know, and..." He trailed off and seemed to remember who he was speaking to. He looked down at the instrument in his hand, and at it's bouncing needle.
The compass closed with a click and he tossed it to a very startled Elizabeth. "I need you to find him."
She stared at him. "How?"
In the autopsy bay, which was sometimes referred to as the medical bay for the sake of visitors they didn't want to alarm, Gwen had sat Ianto down on an exam table and was fussing over him, even though both Jack and Owen had pronounced him hale and fit for duty. He batted her hands away gently, and caught her eye.
"I'm fine, Gwen," he said. "Really."
Gwen dropped her hands with a sigh. "You sure?"
Behind them, Owen was putting the finishing touches on Will Turner's wound by way of several yards of elasticized, gauze bandages. From where they were sitting, they couldn't see Owen's look of mild confusion at Gwen's sudden and intense interest in Ianto's well being. But, of course, he hadn't been at Cachu Iar earlier.
"Quite sure," Ianto said. He levered himself up off the table he'd been sitting on and moved to stand where he could watch Jack continue to speak to their pirate wench prisoner. Gwen followed.
They watched Jack toss Elizabeth the compass with some trepidation. The compass was one of their only bargaining tools when it came to Captain Sparrow; it was clear he wanted the thing back. Gwen had thought they might have had to dangle it in front of him until he was back on his own ship.
Plus, how did they know they could trust these pirates? They could very well be sent to make sure Captain Sparrow didn't ever get back.
"There we are," Owen said behind them, indicating that Will Turner could get up. The pirate did so, gingerly putting weight on his wounded leg.
"Thank you," Will Turner said softly.
"No problem, mate," Owen said. "Just next time, don't hit people over the head when she's got a gun. It always ends badly."
"I can safely promise that," Will said, and Owen helped him up the stairs and out to the couch by the ceramic wall while Gwen and Ianto watched from the autopsy bay. When Owen returned, he began gathering up his surgical tools and putting them away.
Ianto glanced down at Gwen; she hadn't taken her eyes off of Jack. He smiled at the expression on her face, which was of rapt admiration in spite of her lingering anger at the Elizabeth woman – who was now fussing over Will as much as Gwen had been fussing over Ianto.
"If you're still worried about earlier," Ianto said softly, "don't be."
Gwen looked up at him sharply, and then relaxed because she didn't want to snap at him. "Which part from earlier?" she asked cheekily instead. "The part where I snogged you, or the part where you walked in on me naked with Jack in the shower?"
There was a clang from the other side of the room as Owen dropped the stainless steel tray he'd been carrying.
Neither Gwen nor Ianto looked up, though Gwen blushed. They both had a pretty good idea what Owen's face looked like right now.
Ianto said nothing, and said it eloquently, aware they had an audience.
"Wait a tick," Owen said striding up to them. "You snogged Ianto?"
Gwen turned around, already bristling with indignation. This was just not her night. She opened her mouth...and then shut it with a click when Ianto put his hand on her shoulder.
"You're right," she said a moment later to Owen's gob-smacked expression and Ianto's understanding one. "More important things to worry about right now." She turned back to watching Jack.
"You snogged Ianto?" Owen tried again.
"Leave it, Owen," Ianto said in that soft voice of his. It had taken on an edge that Gwen never heard from the Teaboy, a protective edge that was oddly comforting.
Still. She could see Tosh turning to stare at the scene that Owen was stirring up (and that was mostly her fault for even mentioning what had happened at Cachu Iar in Owen's hearing). Jack's, Elizabeth's and Will Turner's attention had already been caught, and Gwen felt her cheeks going red at an alarming rate.
"They're having you on, Owen," Jack yelled jovially from across the Hub. "They both know better than to do something like that without me around to watch!"
Gwen laughed, but there was a bit of a frantic note that she hoped Owen wouldn't pick up on, or he'd never let her live it down.
"I knew it couldn't be true," Owen said, turning back to his dropped surgical equipment. "Like Gwen would snog Ianto."
Jack clapped twice then, getting everyone's attention. "Well," he said, "now that we're all back to reality – not that I don't appreciate a good bit of theatre," he added with a wink at Gwen, "Miss Swann has agreed to use the compass to locate our missing pirate Captain. We don't have long before the hole in the rift closes, or so Tosh informs me, so we'd better leave now. Owen, is Mr. Turner able to walk?"
"Good as new," Owen replied as he finished picking up the scattered surgical equipment. "Stitches are the dissolving sort," he added to Mr. Turner, "so leave them alone; they'll go away on their own."
"Good," Jack said. "Ianto, Gwen – you ready to come with me?"
Gwen and Ianto shared a quick look and then nodded.
"Good," Jack said again. "Tosh, Owen, guard the fort. Mr. Turner and Miss Swann…come with us. We're off to find your Captain Jack Sparrow."
Tosh nodded, moved back to her computer, and tapped a few commands out on the keyboard. Owen came up from the autopsy bay for a brief moment to enter the results of his examination – and scan – of Will Turner into the computer…
Too late, Tosh remembered what they'd been looking at on Owen's computer before the rift had taken their attention way from them. She hoped that Owen had closed it. She opened her mouth to warn him, to say something that would distract him to do something…
From the dead silence in the other part of the Hub, she knew she'd missed her chance. Owen hadn't closed the image of Gwen and Jack playing naked Twister, or whatever it was they were doing. She could practically feel Gwen blushing from where she stood. She turned slowly, and tried to feign surprise and shock. She managed guilt easily enough.
Jack paused on his way to the cog-door and glanced at the computer. "Not my best angle," he said brightly. "Let's go." He continued on.
Gwen glared at Owen. Owen looked mildly embarrassed, and then defensive. He seemed about to say something, and then thought better of it and stalked back to the autopsy bay, white lab coat fluttering behind him.
"Now!" Jack called back through the cog-shaped door.
Gwen and Ianto had no choice but to follow.
Captain Sparrow had, at some point, realized that the world had gone and misplaced itself again.
He always knew where he was, and therefore was never lost, but the world itself often forgot where it had left itself, and so he was waiting for someone to look under the proverbial couch cushions until it could be located.
So, alone in a strange and wonderful city in the midst of a terrible thunderstorm – and aware that this wasn't his cup of anything – he'd headed for the first shelter he thought of: an abandoned pub.
Of course, the pub wasn't abandoned it was merely closed for the night.
After he'd picked the lock and gotten himself inside, he'd found himself faced with an impressive array of rum and fine whiskey and other sorts of booze he'd never even heard of. He therefore tossed any and all worries about getting back to the Pearl and his own time to Davy Jones and decided he felt like a kid on Christmas must feel if thirty years old, somewhat alcoholic, and alone in a bar.
Various bottles ended up in various pockets about his person. He started in on the first bottle of rum he came to after that, and then the next, for he had a terrible thirst to quench. Very soon he had a bottle in each hand and had begun to sing "Drink Up Me Hearties" to the empty bar when the door burst in off its hinges and Elizabeth Swann bore down on him like an avenging sea goddess – or a very pissed, drowned rat. Either or.
"'Liz'beth!" Captain Sparrow slurred, even more than usual. He swayed where he stood and gestured expressively. "Ye've come. I's got ye' a bot'le a rum. We can share. Lot's a bot'les. Not so good as what yon chair-tosser's got 'is dear sweet Gran makin' fer 'im, but it'll do. Will! I might've known you'd be behind this. Oh! It's the other Captain Jack. Not right, there bein' two." He completed this attempt at speech with a deep swig from the bottle of rum in his right hand.
Jack, Gwen and Ianto stood behind Elizabeth and Will and surveyed the destruction of the bar with grim faces. The only upside was that it wasn't a bar that any of them frequented, and so they wouldn't have to worry about the damage beyond civic duty.
"Tosh," Jack said, pressing a hand to his ear to activate the intercom. "We've found him. How's our hole in the rift doing?"
"Getting smaller by the minute," Tosh replied.
"I hate to cut this reunion short," Jack said to the room at large, "but we've got a date with a rift in time and space, and we can't be late."
"Oh!" Captain Sparrow said, completely ignoring everything Jack had just said and catching sight of Gwen for the first time since the others had appeared. "Miss Cooper – Gwen!" He sauntered over and dropped a heavy, smelly arm over Gwen's shoulder. "What say you to a night on th' town? Court'sey o' me, 'course."
"I'd say you're drunk, Captain Sparrow," Gwen said dryly. "And I already have one Captain Jack to worry about."
"Really!" Captain Sparrow exclaimed, affronted. He removed his arm, turned and put down the bottles. "And can he do this, better than I?" His hands free, he began to twirl the ends of his moustache theatrically.
The only thing that stopped Captain Sparrow from kissing Gwen for longer than he did was the fact that Jack took him down, American Football style.
It was, Captain Sparrow reflected later as he was dragged, hogtied, through the streets of Cardiff, not his best move.
Thankfully for his sense of dignity, they very quickly arrived where Will and Elizabeth had left the lifeboat that would take them back to the Pearl, and – hopefully, back to their own time. At any rate, they would be away from this weird city with its weird traveling boxes that didn't need horses and loud noises and smells of tar and pitch that blanketed everything, except when the sea wind washed it away.
He would miss the rum, though. It wasn't as strong as the stuff he usually drank, but it was definitely smoother.
There were three pirates waiting for them at the boat. Captain Sparrow recognized Gibbs and those two idiots from Barbossa's old crew. Never could remember what their names were. Not that he wanted to - one of them was so jaundiced that his eyeballs were perminately yellow, and the other was constantly picking at his wooden eye, which squeaked annoyingly whenever he did.
Muskets were drawn and torches waved about until it was explained that the reason that Captain Sparrow was bound was because of something stupid he'd done, not because they were all being taken hostage.
Ianto, who'd been carrying Captain Sparrow slung across his shoulders – again (though it seemed a life time since he'd carted the smelly pirate down to the interrogation room) – set him down and cut the ropes. The pirate looked around him peevishly as he stood, rubbing at his wrists and pulling the gag out of his mouth.
"A simple 'no' would have sufficed," he said, reflecting that it was lucky no one had smacked him in the face. Not that he probably didn't deserve it for one thing or another. He definitely didn't deserve having the other Captain Jack take all his rum away, though. No one deserved that.
The storm had finally begun to let up. Jack glanced at his wrist strap to check the time and barometric pressure and saw that it wasn't even three am yet. The early darkness of the storm had confused his sense of time. And that took effort.
He must have been distracted.
"There's only a few minutes before the rift will close," Tosh said through their earpieces. "Jack, you've got to get them back on their ship and through before it does, or they'll be stuck here forever."
"Ah," Jack replied. "The standard 'five-minutes-'till-the-end-of-the-universe-and-you-have-too-much-shit-to-do moment in an otherwise unpredictable evening. Thanks, Tosh." He glanced at Gwen, who was glaring at Captain Sparrow for 'taking liberties', as Elizabeth put it. "I knew it couldn't last. No worries, though, Torchwood's on it! All right, ye scallywags! Back to your ship!"
"Wait," Captain Sparrow said. "My compass."
Jack made a face.
"I've got it," Elizabeth said. She pulled the compass out of her pocket and tossed it to Captain Sparrow, who nabbed it expertly out of the air, opened it, and watched the needle spin. He grinned as it stopped, and pulled a hitherto unnoticed bottle of rum out of his pocket. He was not so sozzled that he missed the wistful looks on the three officers of Torchwood, however.
"I trust this compass led you in the right direction," he said, suddenly understanding the odd dynamic between his three captors. He grinned, and took a deep swig from his bottle of rum.
"I hope it will lead you as well as it did me," Jack replied formally. "Now get back to your ship, or you'll be stuck here forever."
"Of course." He bowed, snapped the compass shut with a click, put the rum back into his pocket, and climbed into the waiting boat. Elizabeth had already helped the wounded Will in, and the remainder of the pirate invasion force was climbing in after them. The last two in, one of whom had a wooden eye and the other a severe case of jaundice, pushed them off into the waves and wind and dwindling rain.
"Gwen Cooper, my darling," Captain Sparrow called back. "'Tis a pity we did not have the time we deserved!"
Gwen snorted, and waved back.
As the boat was rowed out to the waiting ship, Elizabeth tossed them a parting glance. It was clear that she was still annoyed about Gwen having shot Will in the leg, but there was understanding in that look too. It flickered from Gwen to Jack to Ianto and back again, and then down to Captain Sparrow and Will.
Gwen was suddenly sorry to see Elizabeth go. Finding someone else who understood would be difficult. There might never be another person who realized that the only way Jack could have one was to have the other.
Gwen wasn't the only one who caught Elizabeth's look. Jack put an arm each around Gwen and Ianto and pulled them in close and grinned at the retreating pirates. Gwen slipped her arm around his waist, and Ianto put a hand on his shoulder.
The boat dwindled into the darkness, though a flash of lightning soon showed them that it had reached the ship in the bay.
"Do you think…?" Gwen began, and then seemed unable to finish her sentence. Thankfully, Jack seemed to know what she was thinking.
"It's possible," he said, "though unlikely, given the time they're from. If you think a relationship like that is taboo now…" he trailed off and half shrugged.
"Then again," Ianto softly. "They are pirates."
Jack laughed, and kissed them both. "Very true."
The life boat was hauled aboard the larger ship in due time.
"One minute," Tosh said over the intercom as The Black Pearl sailed across the bay and into the mists that awaited it.
"They're cutting it close," Gwen said. The others said nothing.
When, a minute and a half later, the mists vanished, there was no sign of the ship.
The three of them stood like that for some time, as the rain stopped and the wind lessened to the force of a normal wind off the bay.
"So!" Jack said loudly, breaking the silence. "I think it's time for Johnny Depp in tight pants. What about you?"
They laughed, and turned away from the bay.
The Johnny-Depp-In-Tight-Pants-Movie-Night had to wait, it turned out, for paperwork.
By the time that was out of the way, and they'd made up credible excuses for why so much booze had gone missing (looters), and for why there'd been a pirate ship in the bay to start with, it was almost dawn. Jack offered to let Gwen and Ianto stay "at his place" again, but they both seemed to agree that it was best if they simply went home on their own.
So that was why, when Jack dropped her off, he'd given her a quick, chaste kiss on the forehead and a look that promised much, much more, and was why he waited until she was through the door before driving off to take Ianto home.
The sun was barely up over the horizon by the time Gwen opened her front door and dropped her purse in the hall. Her heart thudded in her chest. Rhys would likely be asleep. She wouldn't be surprised if she found blankets and a pillow piled in the hall, waiting for her, a silent rebuke against her behaviour earlier this evening.
The events of the evening still made her wince and blush, though she hadn't even had time to think of them in the past few hours. The fact that, in her attempts to elude her fiancé, she had made out with the wrong man made it even worse. But she was thankful that Ianto had seemed to forgive her for it, even if it meant that he was extra protective of her now.
There was a raw steak on the counter, resting on a plate in a puddle of its own blood and melted ice water. Gwen frowned at it before she realized that Rhys had pulled it out for her to cook when she got home. She put it in the 'fridge on her way past, and then continued down the hall to her room.
There weren't any blankets or pillows waiting for her in the hall; a good sign. She opened the door.
The bed hadn't been slept in.
Not a good sign.
"Rhys?" she called out, though she already knew that her call would not be answered. If he hadn't been asleep on the couch waiting for her, or in bed waiting for her, he had obviously not come home. So he was still angry with her. Damn it. She was so damned tired…
Still, she headed for her purse and her cell phone. Maybe he hadn't made it home through the storm last night. She should call him, make sure he was alright…
Halfway through the flat, she realized that something was missing. That lived-in feel was gone.
So were most of Rhys' things.
"Rhys?" she called out again, though she knew what had happened now. He had come home: to get his things. And then he'd gone again.
She sat down heavily in the middle of the floor, shock causing her to go numb.
Rhys had actually left her. She hadn't even had a chance to explain, to convince him to stay, to…
Who was she kidding? He'd left because she'd gone chasing after a pirate with Jack and Ianto. He'd probably thought that she'd left him…and she had…she was going to anyway, eventually, but, she'd wanted to make a go of it, to try harder for him…
No she hadn't. Her thoughts weren't making any sense. Half of her had wanted to hold onto the familiarity that was Rhys, as much for Jack as for herself. The other half had willed the abandonment of normalcy in favour for the thrill and excitement of Jack's life…
How long had she sat there, now? She couldn't tell. The sunlight through the window was much stronger than it had been…
There was a note addressed to her on the coffee table. She didn't have the energy to pick it up, even if she could have made it there. She was fairly certain she knew what it said, though.
Her hands groped for her cell phone. She needed someone to talk to about this. Needed someone to explain what was going on in her mind. She pulled up her list of contacts. She knew who she needed to call.
He'd been asleep when she'd called, but he came anyway. She buzzed him up, and moments later he was knocking on the door.
"Ianto," she said when she pulled the door open. He was, for once, not wearing a suit. Jeans, and a Tool hoodie. They still managed to suit him, even with his bleary, red-rimmed eyes.
"You look awful," he said.
She managed a laugh, but it was harsh. Self consciously, she raised a hand to her face. She'd scrubbed hard to wash away the evidence that she'd been crying. Apparently, she'd failed. She moved back from the door, and Ianto came in.
"Sorry 'bout the mess," she said, but it was a reflexive comment, void of actual meaning. Apart from several objects missing from the flat, everything was neat and tidy. Ianto merely shrugged.
"And I'm sorry for calling you like this," Gwen said for the fourth or fifth time since she'd dialed his number. "I just…"
"I know," Ianto said. "It's okay. You have nothing to be sorry for."
Without warning, he gave her a hug. It was what she needed. She sighed, and relaxed, and Ianto didn't even complain when her tears starting to seep through his shirt.
When Jack received Ianto's text message (that Rhys had left, Gwen was in the midst of an emotional crisis, that he – Ianto – was handling it and that Jack was not to come), his first thought was to get in the SUV and drive hell bent across town to her flat, take Gwen in his arms, and celebrate.
His second thought was that this probably wouldn't have the desired outcome; she might not be in a celebratory mood.
Well, obviously she wasn't, if she was having an emotional crisis. He shook his head.
His third thought was that he should hop in the SUV and drive hell bent across town to her flat, take her in his arms and console her. This might have the desired outcome because she was probably in need of the sort of consoling that he was best suited to give.
Then again…she might hate him for being the symbol of her lost normalcy, so that might not work at all.
All of this agonizing was, of course, Ianto's goal in sending the message in the first place, and if Jack knew how easily he could be manipulated over something like this, he would probably have had a small fit.
For now, he remained blissfully ignorant of that fact, and – after an hour or three of emotional agony of his own – he hopped in the SUV and drove hell bent across town to Gwen's flat.
The front door was unlocked, by the time he reached it. Not the door that needed to be opened from the flat itself with the buzzer - that a nice young man with a very nice behind opened for him. Jack smiled at him as he went past, and the man blushed. Any other time, Jack though wistfully, he might have gone for it. Not this time. Gwen was hurting.
Jack let himself into the flat, stepping softly. He wasn't sure if he wanted to be noticed yet. He rounded the corner into the living room, and stopped.
Gwen and Ianto were curled up together on the couch, each wrapped in throw blankets, both fully clothed, and both dead to the world. Two cups of tea – spiked with moonshine, if the smell was anything to go by, even from here – were on the coffee table. Next to a note that was addressed to Gwen.
The note was unopened, and delightfully tempting. Jack already had a pretty good idea what it said, but that didn't stop him from wanting to read it. He ignored it for the time being, though.
The sight of Gwen and Ianto asleep on the couch was so adorable that it made him wish for his camera. He also wasn't sure what to do; Gwen he could lift easily and move her to her bed, but Ianto would likely stir if Jack tried to sling him across his shoulders, and both of them needed their rest.
In the end, he hefted Gwen up into his arms, as he had a couple of nights ago, and carried her easily into her room. After he'd gotten her comfortable and under the covers, he brushed her hair from her eyes and kissed the top of her head gently. She sighed in her sleep, and slipped further into dreams.
Ianto he stretched out on the couch with some pillows and a blanket or two. He noted with appreciation the delightful sight of Ianto's legs encased in jeans – not something he saw often – and decided that he would have to have more dress-down weekdays during the month.
When he'd gotten them comfortable, he was at a loss. Just what was he supposed to do with himself now? The objects of his affection were asleep, he didn't have the compass to tell him where to go next, and the adventure was over.
Rhys' note beckoned him.
He ignored it, and wandered back into Gwen's room to watch her sleep instead. She offered the same amount of temptation, but was much more fun to watch.
When Gwen woke several hours later, it was to the smell of cooking steak and a darkened room. The sun had gone down at some point while she slept, which was fine with her since they seemed to do most of their work at night anyway. Rhys should be home from work by now, she thought, he was probably making her dinner…
With the realization that Rhys had left came a sharp stab of pain in her heart. Tears flooded her eyes. However much she told herself that she'd been going to leave anyway, and that Ianto had been right, earlier, when he'd said it was better to let Rhys go rather than tie him to a life – and marriage – that she couldn't fully commit to, it still hurt that he'd left. It would probably always hurt, and the sooner she admitted that she was human and that it should hurt when you were rejected, the sooner she could get on with her life.
Not that this mental pep-talk worked, of course.
She could hear voices from her kitchen. Ianto, laughing softly. And Jack.
There was a yelp and a clatter of plates and then Jack scolding Ianto gently for not watching the element, and before Gwen even realized it she was standing in the kitchen watching Ianto trying to fit the whole of his burned hand into his mouth.
Jack was wearing the joke apron that Rhys had bought her when they'd first started living together. It was pink, and had frills on it. His hand was still on Ianto's backside, and was no doubt the ultimate reason for Ianto's burned hand.
Jack and Ianto turned and took in her rumpled appearance and blotchy eyes. They smiled tentatively at her. And then her eyes began to tear up again, and Jack was across the room and holding her in his arms – properly this time – before the first tear went down her cheek.
This reminded her sharply of yesternight's Shower Incident, only the frilly pink apron was a little off-putting.
Ianto went back to trying to get the steak out of the oven, though this was largely calculated to give Jack and Gwen a little bit of privacy.
"Jack," Gwen began, but Jack shushed her.
They were silent for a few minutes.
"No, really," she tried again.
He leaned back and tilted her chin up towards him.
"I'm ready when you are," he said simply. "Always."
And then, with slow deliberateness, he leaned in and gave her plenty of time to back away. She didn't. And because she didn't, Jack finally got to kiss her properly.
Gwen quickly realized – as her toes curled and her fingers wrapped themselves in Jack's hair, and she lost herself to the wonderment of Jack's skill – that even if it were for a day, a month, a year, an instant…even if it was just this once, that she willed herself to Jack with all the force of her heart…
It was worth it.
A/N: Wow...that was a journey and a half, eh? Sweet Jebebus...more than a year...
Ianto's clothes in his scene with Gwen are for the sake of everyone who watched his segment in Fragments and wanted to send Mr. Davies a petition to make him put Ianto in tight jeans more often (or in no jeans at all…we aren't picky). Hope you enjoyed.
I'm also really, really glad that all of you liked my story. I want to thank all of you, for reading, reviewing and sticking with me even as my update intervals got longer and longer and longer…
So…in no real order, and from the bottom of my heart...
Kateg123, Crazy Psycho Book Freak, PassionPoet, Starlite1, Outlaw of Sherwood, MusicIsLife-x, Ithilian, emelye14283, Mini Librarian, alizaleven, MythStar Black Dragon, Lady Clark-Weasley of Books, JoSchmo666, Kazz the 13th, GossipGirl17, LilMissSugarPlumFairy, Koochielala, Pandora of Ithilien, I've Lost My Profile Page, Aanaa, Remote Control Princess, Terriah, Lutherian, Skly, kira66, starry-eyed-torchwood-lover, Itchigo, Insert Witty Name Here, LadyAJ, BobbiRae, Jessa7, Nerwen Nenharma, CarzyforTorchwood, hotflower901, uno rouge, OneWhoSitsWithTheTurtles, shadowxwolf, crazedchick, Perfect Pirate Captain, 382, phoebemoon, snarkyrabidsquirrel, pinkalarmclock, TheEternalPixie, Scousedancer, Adeline ambition, Diamondsshine4ever, Lyridium, DEFiiANCE, tvnut89, Section8grl, ImpNo1, Mini Librarian, The Wordless Epoch, kdorian, OrionTheHunter, xxXxGracieyCullenHarknessxXxx, Waylee, Jaby, general zargon…
And to everyone who ever read this, even if you didn't review, or didn't like it…
Thank you, thank you thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you!
(and yes, that's one 'thank you' for every review I've gotten thus far. See you round! ;)