On a rational level, Jack knew what he was doing was an act of futility. Yet, every time he stood up to flip the record on the turntable or put on a new one, as soon as he sat down again, he refreshed the browser on his computer. And every time he did so, the same article appeared: "Sweetheart Proud of Slain Hero." Next to it was a picture of the real Captain Jack Harkness. The words never changed; Jack knew this because he had read and reread the article so many times, he could recite it by heart.
Jack knew he shouldn't expect anything to change. Surely Captain Harkness wouldn't have altered anything he did the next day. He was faithful to the men who served under him -- one of the things that Jack loved about him.
And Jack wanted to believe that the kiss had no negative consequences. He kept telling himself that the soldiers respected Captain Harkness enough to overlook one small moment. Tosh had suggested that the their abrupt disappearance most likely overshadowed any romantic spectacle. She also told him that it didn't matter what the other men thought; the only thing that mattered was what Captain Harkness felt.
Jack kept telling himself that things happened the way they were supposed to, but he found little solace in the sentiment. Captain Harkness had been killed, and Nancy Floyd was cast as the grieving sweetheart. Never mind the man's true desires. If it's in print, it must be true. Jack supposed that Captain Harkness's mother took comfort in the idea that her son had a girl who loved him so, but every time, he read Nancy's quote about the two of them planning a future, Jack seethed in anger.
However, that there was nothing that could be done. World War Two was history, and Jack was now in the "right" time period (although that was an absurd thought).
The sound of the alarm disrupted Jack's reverie. When the giant cog rolled open, Ianto stepped into the hub, still wearing the same suit, but he carried a garment bag and backpack.
Jack stepped out of his office. They stared at each other awkwardly for a few seconds before Jack said, "I thought I told you to go home."
"You did," Ianto replied.
"Why aren't you there?"
"I was feeling a bit restless."
"So you came here?"
Ianto paused to choose his words carefully. "I was worried."
"Whatever Tosh told you, I don't need you to baby sit. I --"
"I was worried about the rift."
"If anything happens, I'll give you a call."
"I'd rather stay here. I promise you that I won't get in the way of whatever it is you're doing, but don't send me home," Ianto said.
"And you're planning to spend the night?"
"In the archives, yes. Now, do I have your permission, sir?"
"I don't know why you're asking if you're going to stay anyway. Go on," Jack said as he went back into the office.
"If you need anything," Ianto called out after him.
Jack stopped, but didn't turn around. He replied, "No, I'm fine."
That was that. Both men retreated to their corners of the hub.
In an effort to get to know the RAF hero posthumously, Jack had decided to piece together the life of Captain Harkness and searched for any small bit of information he could get his hands on. Unfortunately, Jack uncovered several forged documents he had used when he stole the hero's identity.
He decided to focus on the soldier's early years instead. As he navigated through an archive that was, weirdly enough, run by Mormons, he considered calling Ianto for help. However, when Jack accessed the CCTV, Ianto seemed busy with his own research. Sitting on the couch in the reading corner, the young man sifted through a large pile of reports with a worried expression on his face. He paused after reading one and made a few quick notes before moving onto the next one.
Jack sighed. He refreshed his browser once more. Captain Harkness was still dead.
True to his word, Ianto remained invisible for the next hour. However, in his silence, Ianto never seemed more present. Every fleeting shadow in the corner of Jack's eye became Ianto's slouching figure. Every odd clank in the hub became one of his footsteps. Jack kept waiting for the scent of coffee to waft into his office. But there was nothing.
Then, Myfanwy began to caw or screech. The damn dinosaur knew her Ianto was somewhere in the hub and therefore wanted the extra treat she always got from the him when he stayed late. Christ, he spoiled that pteranadon when he was in a good mood. Jack poked his head out the door, fully expecting to see the young man standing out in the main floor and wearily trying to placate the leather bird. However, Ianto was nowhere to be seen.
After a particularly ear-splitting screech, Jack stomped into the kitchen and fetched a piece of chicken, which he tossed at Myfanwy.
"There. Are you happy now?" Jack asked.
The dinosaur made a small chirping noise before accepting it.
As soon as he was back in his chair, Jack accessed the CCTV to check up on the young man, only to discover that Ianto was speaking to someone on the phone and making notes of their conversation. Jack turned on the volume and heard Ianto say, "Could you repeat that please?… Yes, thank you…"
Ianto grabbed a thick book with a soft leather cover and flipped through it until he found the right page. He kept his finger on the page and mouthed a few words that Jack couldn't make out.
"Yes, that's it… I must say, I'm impressed by your memory… No, that won't be necessary. I think I have all I need," the young man said. He laughed and rubbed the back of his head. "No, I didn't think you were trying to convert me… Yes, I do realize that you would be the last person to do so… Thank you for your help. It is greatly appreciated.…"
Continuing to eavesdrop on the conversation, Jack looked up the number that Ianto had dialed. He was hoping to see the number for Torchwood Two, or even UNIT. However, Ianto had called the café where he usually bought his coffee beans.
Inside the achives, Ianto sank back into the couch. He had a small smile on his face and played with his tie absentmindedly. "It's for the sake of broadening my own knowledge… Well, yes, the dream you told me about did intrigue me… I suppose it is morbid…" He laughed again. "What would Carl Jung say, indeed?… No, I didn't get a chance to talk to Jack… Because that's his name… I'll see you next Tuesday… Yes, that would be lovely… Good night."
Once he hung up, Ianto turned his attention to whatever he was researching. Placing his palms on the coffee table, he exhaled deeply, and his placid expression turned into anxiety.
Jack couldn't imagine who Ianto would speak to at a late hour, but he didn't like it. He stormed towards the archives, mulling over an assortment of tactics that he could use to question his employee.
When Jack opened the door, Ianto stopped what he was doing. He stood up and, with a practiced bow, asked, "Did you need something?"
"No," Jack said with an innocent smile. "Thought I'd see how you were doing."
The men sat side by side on the couch.
Jack asked, "What exactly are you working on?"
The young man blushed. "A hunch… you'd find it silly."
"This hunch… is that why you're here?"
Jack looked through the stacks of paper on the coffee table. The young man had pulled every file for every major rift incident since the year Torchwood had been established. Ianto held the file for the Cardiff earthquake in both hands. Jack didn't have to read that one; that report was nothing more than a string of lies he wrote himself to cover up his and the Doctor's involvement. The older man chuckled and kept sifting through the pile.
Then, Jack saw the book Ianto was flipping through during his phone call. Next to it was a list of chapters and verses written in Ianto's handwriting. He must have been taking notes of the conversation.
"Who were you speaking to?" Jack asked
"Just a few minutes ago. You were on the phone with someone."
There was a slight flicker of apprehension of Ianto's face, but he brushed it away before he said, "An acquaintance. An expert of sorts whose knowledge on a particular subject is broader than mine."
"Did you share any sensitive information with him?"
Ianto scoffed, "Of course, not. I know how to get what I need without giving myself away."
Jack knew that much was true, but he let the comment go without a sarcastic retort that wouldn't help matters. Instead, he asked, "So this expert? What's his or her field?"
"Theology… he studied at a seminary."
"You called a priest. At a café?"
"He's not a priest."
"He never took his final vows. He decided he'd rather roast coffee. Look, I inquired about a few biblical passages for my own interest. That is all."
Unfortunately, Jack couldn't decide if Ianto was lying or was merely irritated by the all of the questions. Yet, Jack still had one more for the young man, "You don't actually believe in all of that stuff, do you?"
"After dealing with pendants that allow individuals to read minds or machines that allow people to see into the future, is it really that difficult to believe that a man walked on water? Or could raise the dead for that matter?"
This time it was Jack's turn to scoff, "Yeah, when you know that these stories are made up. The good book also says that God created the Earth, man and all the animals in seven days--"
"Six. On the seventh day, he rested."
"Six, then," Jack said, throwing up his hands. "But, you try telling that story to Myfanwy. I reckon she'd disagree."
"I'm sure she would if she could speak," Ianto muttered. It was clear that he'd gone into auto pilot. He wasn't going to make a witty comeback. He wasn't even going to defend his point of view. He didn't even look at Jack. Instead, he flipped through a stack of photographs taken at an archeological dig of an alleged holy site.
"Ianto, what are you working on? What are you looking for?"
The young man sighed and shook his head in exasperation. Yet, he appeared to be frustrated by his own research and not by Jack's presence, "I don't really know."
"You must have some idea."
"No, I don't. It's nothing more than a hunch," he said as he leaned back into the couch. He glanced at Jack and said, "But I'm afraid that if I tried to explain it to you, you'd only mock me."
"And what should that tell you?"
Ianto shrugged and replied, "I'm working on faith, Jack. After months of following your orders, I've gotten used to working that way."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"There are days when we don't really know what we're up against. Most of the time, all we have to go on is your word, and, to be frank, your sizeable knowledge and experience seems to stretch far beyond that of man your age -- not that we know what your actual age is."
"I never liked birthdays," Jack said.
Ianto ignored the retort and continued, "You are aware that you're the biggest mystery in this place. You get knocked about all the time in a manner that might kill most men, but there you are sitting next to me. I've also read the files, and there are certain things that don't add up. Come today, we confirm our suspicions that Jack Harkness isn't your real name. We don't even know how you came to Torchwood. That particular file is missing. I could go on and on listing the things about you that don't make sense, and I still follow your orders, no matter how ethical, with the idea -- no make that the hope -- that I'm doing the right thing."
"Okay. What did I miss? Where is all this coming from?"
The young man's eyes widened in surprise, and he let out a sarcastic laugh, "I shot a colleague today, Jack. I did it after making excuses for your secrecy. But the thing is… I'm really no better than Owen. He opened the rift because he had the faith to believe that he could bring Diane back. I shot him out of my faith in you."
"You did it to protect the rift."
"Yes, because you told us all not to mess with the rift. You were never specific on what the consequences might be, if any, but, I took you at your word."
"You did the right thing, and you stood up to him. Quite frankly, after all the abuse Owen has dished out, it was about time."
"Yes, I stood up to him, but after trying to reason with him, after coming to blows with him, after losing control of the situation -- and really that has to be one of the worst feelings in the world -- I shot the man in an act of desperation. And I still failed to stop him."
Jack wasn't sure if the rant was really about him or if Ianto was just beating himself up after a bad day. He knew that he had to say something to ease the young man's mind; however, all he could come up with was, "I don't understand what I'm supposed to say or do."
"I expected you to give orders and prepare us for what might happen next, but instead you shut yourself in your office. You taught me to fear the rift. Well, I do. What am I supposed to do at home when I'm worried that the whole thing might split open, spewing out God knows what?"
"For starters, you can get some rest while things are still quiet," Jack said. He reached out and touched the back of Ianto's neck, but the muscles only tensed up at the touch. Jack sighed and pulled his hand away.
"What about you, Jack?"
"I'm looking after the rift."
"But what about you? When do you rest? Do you even need rest? Some days, it seems as if you don't."
Jack said nothing.
"Another mystery," Ianto said. "The thing about faith… sometimes it can be stubborn and all-consuming."
"But a little bit of doubt can reveal the cracks under the surface," Jack said. "Yeah, I know."
"And nights like these I wonder how is it that we actually trust one another with our lives."
"We just have to. Who else do we have?"
"Will that always be a good enough reason? I understand why we keep secrets from outsiders, but some of those things that you're hiding, Jack -- don't you think that we'd be able to deal with the truth after all that we've seen?"
"Ianto, I want you to know that I don't tell people certain things because it changes the way they look at me. There are things in my past that I don't want to think about, things that I don't even know how to explain."
"It must be exhausting having to keep so much to yourself."
"You should know. You're pretty mysterious yourself," Jack said. He meant to sound like he was only teasing, but there was a hint of accusation in his words as well.
Of course, Ianto picked up on it. "Well, the extraordinary stuff you already know. Everything else about me is quite mundane."
"A secret is a secret."
"What I keep to myself is personal. It doesn't concern work."
"Right, because our relationship is only about work."
"This whole thing between us," Ianto said. "It was supposed to be simple."
"Work, train, fuck, and everything neatly compartmentalized. Yeah, I remember."
"It was supposed to be fun with no strings attached, but now everything is muddled. My whole life is this place,… and you…" Suddenly, Ianto was small, vulnerable and frightened. He was almost quivering. Unable to finish his sentence, he merely looked away.
Jack couldn't say anything either. He'd always assumed that Ianto didn't want anything beyond what they had. In fact, Jack had to push, prod, and pry his way into the young man's life, and every simple act of affection was met with resistance.
"I should," Ianto stammered as he put on his armor once again. "I should get back to work."
"Wait a minute. Do we talk about this? What do we do?"
For a moment, Ianto stared at the files before him as if he was seeing right through them and into a bottomless pit. "That's too large a question for me to answer right this minute," he answered. He collected himself and picked up an old rift report. "Besides, I'd like to do something that might be useful before I fall asleep."
"Right. The rift. But we'll talk later, yeah?"
"Perhaps we should," Ianto mumbled.
"Maybe once this whole rift business dies down."
"Yes. There's work to do."
Jack awkwardly placed and hand on Ianto's knee. He gave it a squeeze and said, "Just so you know, when I took The History of Humanity as a teen in school, I don't remember anything about the world ending in the 21st century."
Ianto raised an eyebrow and replied, "But this is the century when everything changes."
"I do say that a lot, don't I?"
"It's catchy," Ianto said with a small smile. "You wouldn't happen to know any more specifics, would you?"
"I wasn't exactly teacher's pet."
"I'd just feel better if I knew what was coming."
"We don't. We just have to be ready for anything," Jack said. It was strange. After all the annoyance and the grief, Jack wanted to pull Ianto close to him. He didn't. Things between them felt so up in the air.
"But perhaps there's a few clues in here somewhere," Ianto mumbled.
"I doubt it, but if it makes you feel any better to look, be my guest. Just promise me you won't stay up too late, okay?"
"I suppose that I'll want to be rested before the shit hits the fan."
"Maybe it won't be so bad."
"Maybe… You think?" Ianto asked. When Jack didn't reply, he said, "You really should have paid more attention in school."
"Good night, Ianto."
"Good night, Captain."
Jack went back into his office. The same article -- "Sweetheart Proud of Slain Hero" -- was on his screen.
Jack realized that he wanted to believe that history had been changed by the sheer grace of his presence. He wanted to believe that by some fluke -- something that a person like Ianto would call a miracle -- Captain Harkness had survived the following day, and that he went on to many other great things. Perhaps, he had found someone to love in the way Jack couldn't. But it was blind faith, and there was no time to brood.
Jack closed his browser, cancelled his search and shifted his full attention to the rift.