Notes: set a long time in the future. A very weird oneshot that probably doesn't make sense.
Disclaimer: I do not own Torchwood and I am not making any profit from this work.
Living the Life of Riley
I don't know whether you will ever get this, but I hope you will, and you won't be left with too many questions that I'm no longer around to give you the answers to. I would say sorry, but I don't really think that I am. It's been a long, hard year, and it's finally over now, and for that I'm glad. No more pain, no more struggle, no more anything. I'll finally get the rest that I've been waiting for.
Anna's father had always told her that you always thought you knew people until they were dead and gone, and then you realise that you really didn't know anything at all. And that was very true - when her father died, she realised that she didn't really know the story behind the man.
I got cancer, Jack. No aliens, no funny Torchwood business, no revenge tactics from ex-colleagues of yours. Cancer. A simple, complex, human disease. Lung cancer. You always did tell me I should stop smoking. I didn't, not for a while, and it's caught up with me now. It got me, Jack. I'm sixty-two years old, and it got me. And I don't mind so much, really - I don't think so, anyhow. It's been a difficult ten months, but here I am. I'm at home, in my bed, under the window, and the sun is setting. I can see the orange and red and gold one last time before I go.
He had died at home on a hot summer night in June, where he had wanted to be. He had fought tooth and nail to get out of the hospital - had insisted that he wasn't going to die in a sterile bed and be wheeled away to an icy morgue 'like all the others'. He had written letters to everyone he loved, sealed them up in envelopes, had laughed with Anna at a film on the telly, and had managed to fall asleep without the aid of his pain medication. And when Anna had come in to wake him the next morning, only the body remained.
I did as you told me, and got myself a different life. A new life, without you. I got a new job, in a boring office, and got an office romance. And before I knew where I was, I had a wife and two children and three cats that slept on the end of the bed every night. Anna and James are my pride and joy, sappy though it sounds, and I wouldn't change having them for the world. Not even you, Jack. I love you - I always loved you, and I still do, and I miss you every day - but I made myself a life, as you told me. And sometimes I woke up in the night and wondered where you were and if you were okay and if you would ever come back to see me, or watch me, or say hello. I have no idea if you ever did.
The funeral had been yesterday. Not many people had come - a couple of men in long coats that Anna didn't know, who said they'd worked in Special Ops with him, and his in-laws, and Anna and her brother and their three cousins. Anna knew that her father had lost most of his friends to his job - Special Ops was a career that claimed a lot of lives. Anna was lucky to have ever been born.
If I could go back, though, I would not have given in to your decision. I would have stayed in Torchwood Cardiff, even though you weren't going to be there any more. You can walk away, because you have the time. I walked away, and it nearly destroyed me. So many times I wanted to up and leave and return to Cardiff, return to everyone I walked away from. The children kept me here, and eventually I made myself happy again. But it was always bittersweet. It wasn't Torchwood, and it wasn't you.
She was glad he had gone peacefully, in the end. The cancer had been a long, hard struggle, and the medicine had often made him hallucinate. Often, he would engage in sarcastic arguments with an invisible 'Cockney twit' that made Anna laugh and took her back to memories of when she was little and he had argued with her Uncle Danny in much the same way.
That is one blessing that the disease has given me. Sometimes, the medicine has made me funny, and sometimes I have seen you and them again. I have argued with Owen, and talked with Tosh, and listened to Gwen's voice when she used to whisper to me in Welsh when we were plotting against poor Owen - or even you, not that I think you ever picked up on it. And while I hurt at realising it wasn't real, it was a blessing to have those little moments returned, if only for a brief moment.
Sometimes, he would lapse into his native Welsh, and that upset Anna. His past of being Welsh had been his and his alone - neither Anna, nor her brother, nor their mother, had ever spoken Welsh. Anna and her brother hadn't even been to Wales before. Whenever their father spoke in Welsh, it just highlighted how little they really knew about him.
I don't know what's waiting for me, but I know that I will go to meet it tonight. I don't know how I know, but I do. I woke up this morning and I realised that this was it. I'm staring at a final sunset, and knowing that I will never see the sun rise again in the morning. I am moving on to the place that Owen and Tosh and Gwen and Suzie and Lisa have already gone; moving to the place that I have been longing to find. It's long past time that I were no longer here, Jack. I don't know what I've been waiting for, but it's time to let go.
He had always been distant, in his own way, and when he died, Anna lost her chance of finding out more. Her mother had died years before, and now her father was gone, and Anna didn't know who else she could ask. She wanted to know who the dark-haired, sombre young man in the wedding photographs had been, wanted to know his life before he moved to Bristol and married her mother.
Death is like a dream, Jack. When you wake, you don't recall. It's an ultimate sleep, with an ultimate dream, and I will go with a smile. I don't have many regrets, and I'm ready now, I think. Whatever is waiting for me on the other side will be something new that I will have to face, and I am ready now to face it. And one day, you will come too, because nothing can outlive time itself, and all beginnings have an end.
Now, sitting in the chair by the empty bed, fingering the thick envelope in her hands, Anna knew that she'd never know. Another envelope sat on the dresser, labelled with a name she didn't know, and she'd been given instructions as to what to do with it, but she no longer minded whether she did that or not.
I'll be watching out for your arrival, Jack, however long that takes, and in the meantime, I will live the life of riley. An existence where I don't need to hurt anymore, or long for things that aren't ever going to happen, or think back and wonder how things would be different if only I had done things another way. A life where I don't have to hate myself for wanting two mutually exclusive things; a life where I can bare my feelings and not feel like a sinner doing so.
Her father, and everything that he had been, was gone. Forever. And nothing was going to bring him back.
So my orders to you, Jack, are these: no matter how long you may live, and how much you may forget, don't forget this. Don't forget that life - even yours - will pass into something else, and will not change back no matter how many things you have left undone. Don't give yourself regrets; don't let yourself hurt. Live the life of riley, but be ready for the pitfalls.
Anna sat back in the chair, watching the sunlight filter through the curtains and danced across the bed, and smiled a tearful smile.
And always remember that I love you, Captain Jack Harkness, whoever you are or were.
With everything - mind, heart, love and soul.
Jones, Ianto Jones.