The wind blowing in from the Bay sent swirls of stray leaves scurrying around the two men's legs as they stood, awed, on the Plass. John stared at the collected energy vibrating around them, burning like a deadly flame. "I wondered if this day would come," he admitted. "But I never thought it would be so soon."
"What is it?" asked Nick. "John, what's going on?"
"I came to this time via the Rift in time and space," answered John. "This Rift has survived through legends, even up to my time. At first, I wasn't sure whether or not to believe it, but when I heard about Jack and finally came here myself, I realised that the stories were true."
"Never mind stories!" retorted Nick. "What are you saying?"
"But the stories are important – well, at least one of them is." John rubbed his eyes. "Nick, I have to tell you something…and I think that this may be my last chance."
"What do you mean, this could be your last chance? What more is there that we need to say? You know how I feel about you…and I know how you feel about me…"
"It's nothing like that," sighed John. "It's about my time at the Time Agency. You see…among the stories about the Rift, there was one that a lot of people believed. It was treated rather like a prophecy, I suppose. Everyone feared it, but at the same time, they waited for it."
"Why? What did it say?"
"It said," John paused, his eyes momentarily shimmering with strange gold flecks. "I never knew the exact wording, none of us did. It wasn't thought proper to ask. But…it talked about how, one day, one of us would…fall through time and space to a long distant past. And…there would be another, who would follow him soon after and do all he could to find him, but it would be too late. He would wander through centuries, perhaps millennia, before finding his partner again…only for them to be separated when the calling came and the follower was lost…for the greater good."
He shook his head. "Jack and I dismissed it as a fanciful story. I don't think, even now, that Jack believes it. We both thought it was a legend, a false prophecy someone had made about the Rift to scare arrogant Time Agents long ago."
"But what have you and Jack got to do with it?"
"We were stupid and arrogant, Nick." John's voice seemed to be growing fainter. "We never once considered that it might be true…the implications of what it could mean never occurred to us."
"Implications? What are you –" but the words died in Nick's throat as the answer dawned on him. "No!" he gasped out. "It can't be you…it can't be!"
John sighed. "There were only two who went rogue from the Time Agency and survived. Jack was one. I was the other. I did what the story said…searched for him for almost an eternity…" He paused for a second. "Nick, do you remember that silver artefact we found yesterday?"
John smiled gently. "You noticed the remnants of Rift energy at the scene. No one else could see them, but I knew that they were there…I heard it." He paused for breath. "I heard the Rift…calling out to me…and I'm hearing it again now. It's telling me that it's time."
"Time for what?"
"Time for me to show that I have changed. It's time for me to…start to close the Rift. That's what the prophecy meant by one being lost for the greater good."
He reached out and stroked Nick's hair off his face, smiling slightly as he saw that his fingers were slowly becoming covered in golden dust. "Don't forget that…"
"No," interrupted Nick, his eyes suddenly flashing. Without pausing to think, he grabbed John's hand. "Jack would never let you do this! And neither would I."
"There's nothing Jack can do." John's voice was fading again. "It was prophesied long ago…I'm becoming part of the Rift…there's nothing to be done."
"Then there's only one thing for it," insisted Nick, wrapping one arm around his lover's waist. "If you're getting sucked into the Rift…then I'm going with you."
John looked stricken. "Nick, no!" he exclaimed. "You can't –"
"Yes I can. I've already lost my wife and my children. I am not going to lose you, not now. I –" but he never finished as, moments later, Jack, Ianto and the girls came rushing up. Jack took one look at the scene and turned white.
"Oh, my God," he whispered. "It was true…it was true all along."
"What?" Gwen had gotten out of the car and was racing after Jack. "What was true? Jack, what's going on?"
But Jack wasn't listening to her; or if he was, then he was ignoring her. "John," he whispered, his voice quiet, "please tell me this isn't what I think it is."
John shook his head. "Don't say that, Jack," he said quietly. "We both know it's true and fighting it won't make it any less true."
Jack shook his head. "No."
"There's nothing we can do, Jack. It's prophesied, you know that. You always talk about fighting and doing what we do for the greater good. You've done that for so long. Now...now, it's my turn."
He took a deep breath. "And if I have to do it alone...then so be it."
At those words, Nick started. "You won't be alone!" he half-shouted. "I've told you, I'm going with you. I am not letting you go through this by yourself."
"Going where?" shouted Gwen. "What's going on?"
John ignored her. "Nick, please don't make this any harder than it already is. I can't stand the thought of leaving you behind. But this is something that I have to do. I can't ask you to –"
"Let me ask you something," interrupted Nick, that familiar stubbornness flashing in his eyes. "If it was me facing this...if I was the one who had to do this – would you have let me leave you behind?"
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Jack flinch. John gasped. "Don't ask...you know...I could never do that."
"Then don't ask me to do it."
"But…I can't ask you…I don't…"
But Nick wasn't listening. He could dimly hear Jack and John trying to talk to him, even as they argued with each other, and he vaguely registered Gwen still shouting questions at Jack, even as he ignored her. But his face was drawn, instead, towards Ianto, who was standing beside Jack, silent tears running down his face.
And yet, at the same time, he was smiling in understanding. He stood calmly, his blue eyes taking in the scene facing them, but never leaving Nick's face. The connection that had been lost for so long suddenly felt renewed with such power that the young doctor could almost hear his cousin's voice speaking to him, though Ianto's lips never moved.
You really love him, don't you?
It wasn't a question and so Nick didn't treat it as such.
You'd go with Jack.
He didn't need to see Ianto's gaze waver towards his own Captain, friend and lover to know that the words were true. Even though he hadn't spoken them, he knew that Ianto had understood. And, if he hadn't known it, the small nod would have confirmed it.
The picture, however, was broken by Jack, who also had tears pouring down his face, coming to stand next to his lover. He looked exhausted and resigned…but also calm, as if he knew that he was doing what he had to do. When Gwen came rushing over to him, ready to berate him, Ianto just gave her such a look that she hurried off to stand with Andie, who had just arrived and was watching the scene with a mixture of shock and sorrow.
"There's no talking you out of this, is there?" whispered Jack.
Nick shook his head. "No. It's not just about me saying that I don't want to lose anyone else I love. It's more than that – so much more than that."
He took a deep breath. "I've said this before; I would die to protect my children and everyone in this world…and if that means doing this…then so be it. It's all for the greater good – and you know it."
Jack swallowed hard, almost choking on the unshed tears he could feel deep in his throat, but Nick wasn't finished. He took a deep breath and turned to look at his leader, stealing himself for what he was about to say.
"Thank you," he gasped out. "Jack…I was almost broken when you came to me and offered me that job. But you've saved me…just like you've saved so many others." He could feel a single tear running down his cheek, but he ignored it. "You taught me how to live…and helped me to find someone who taught me how to love again."
Jack smiled at him. "I'm going to miss you, Nick Jones," he said. "You were a good friend and a brave man. You never gave me any reason to regret recruiting you…and, most importantly, you stayed true to yourself and you never let this job change who you are."
Nick nodded his head in deference to his Captain, his throat tight with emotion. He looked at Jack as the other man continued, noticing the brightness in his eyes, even as his own vision was slowly being clouded over by the golden Rift sparks swirling around them.
"You take care of yourself, Dr Jones and..."Jack gave a stuttering, rueful chuckle and nodded towards John, "Look after that idiot, will you? Keep him out of trouble?"
Nick huffed in acknowledgement and amusement, the noise harbouring an edge of hysteria as he fought to keep his emotions in check.
"You don't have to do this, Nick," whispered John, whose voice was fading as the golden energy began to consume them. "You don't have to follow me."
But Nick ignored him. "Gwen, Andie…you've shown me friendship. I know our time together wasn't always easy, but I wouldn't have changed it for anything. Thank you…both. And…and all I ask is that…" but the words wouldn't come.
"We will," Andie assured him. "Don't worry; we'll take care of them."
Nick paused again for a second and when he spoke again, his voice was much thicker. "Ianto," he whispered, "come here…" He waited until his cousin was in front of him. "I…I just –"
"Nick, wait," interrupted Ianto. "I need to say something too…I just want to say that…" he paused for a second, forcing himself not to choke on his tears.
"Ianto," interrupted Nick, reaching out to caress his cousin's cheek. "You don't need to say it. I understand. And," he paused, smiling gently as the golden dust began to cover him. When he spoke, his voice was almost a whisper, but everyone heard his final words.
"I forgive you."
Ianto collapsed onto the ground, tears soaking his shirt as he watched the golden cloud expand, encircling the two men. It still looked so fragile, as if it was merely made of the small flecks of ash you find on a bonfire, but he knew that it was so strong.
He started suddenly as he felt Jack's arms wrap around his waist and pull him close, only to gasp in pain as he felt his lover's tears mingling with his own, soaking his cheeks. He didn't even have to think as he wrapped his arms around Jack and held him tight, both of them sharing their grief.
Neither of them looked up to see the cloud burn brighter and brighter, before it suddenly started to fragment and fade away, taking both men with them. But as the sun set over the bay, they both thought that they felt a feeling of calmness and of comfort wash over their minds, soothing their thoughts and calming their souls.
Jack smiled softly through a mist of tears. The sun had set on two more of his beloved team-mates, but it would rise again one day. Just as had happened with Owen and Tosh; they were gone, but never forgotten.
And, right there, Jack made a promise that, while they may not be with them, Captain John Hart and Dr. Nick Jones would never be forgotten.