Note: This is my first foray into Torchwood fanfiction. I have not actually seen CoE, but I stumbled upon spoilers...and then had to read some more...and then had to read some more, so I know the basic premise of what happens. If I'm missing details, well, that's why. Hopefully they'll be small enough to be forgivable.
We have a website dedicated to saving our Jones Ianto Jones. Starts with a www. Middle is "saveiantojones", and it has a .com at the end. Please visit! :)
One more thing. I listened to John Barrowman's beautiful cover of "Time After Time" on an endless loop when I wrote this. Sort of an inspiration/accompaniment song to the story.
His heavy RAF coat hung in its usual place, undisturbed as of yet. Paperwork he should have finished long ago sat messily on his desk, ignored. Somewhere buried in his desk drawer were pictures of people he'd loved before, people who had since died and left him behind; a few of the photos had begun to crack and grow yellow with age. How much longer would it be before they crumbled to dust completely, before they became buried in time and new memories?
But Jack wouldn't forget. He'd made a promise, and he'd like to believe he's—if nothing else—a man of his word.
Seamlessly, relentlessly, time ticked forward without a hitch. The digital LED screen on the bottom of the monitors slipped silently into different numbers. Somewhere (perhaps only in the back of Jack's consciousness…what remained of it, anyway) a second hand made a mocking little 'snick' with every breath: one more notch in the hilt, one more carving in the headstone. Down below in the hub, Gwen—her timid footsteps (he is breakable, he is dangerous, he is wild, they spoke) resounded in the hollow space. With each step, her body rotted just a little bit more.
Jack was alone.
He had long since given up the hope that it had all just been some terrible, unending nightmare. On the off-chance this was only illusion, maybe some mind-torture device used to extract information from him…then it was doing its job pretty damn well. This certainly felt real.
"What do you want?" He croaked. His voice was harsh from disuse, rusty from tears. "I don't care. I'll tell you anything. Just make this stop." He laid his head in his hands; with a tired, shaky sigh, he dug the heels of his hands into his closed eyes. "Please…just give him back to me."
He raised his head and brushed his fingers through his hair distractedly. "Not even to me; just give him back. I don't care if he forgets me completely. I wouldn't even care if he hated me. Please, I…I just want to see that little Ianto smile of his again."
Snick. Snick. Snick. Four. Five. Six.
A wan, half-smile split Jack's face. "What stage of grief is bargaining, again?" he mused to no one in particular.
Jack's hands fell to his sides. On their way down, his left hand brushed against something. Out of habit more than genuine curiosity, Jack grabbed the silky object and tugged. After shifting a bit—he'd been sitting on it, of course, completely oblivious—he lay his prize before him.
Violet, gray…and perfectly, beautifully Ianto.
Jack, the beginnings of a true smile creeping onto his face, ran his fingers over the tie gently; he was afraid of accidentally destroying this small piece of Ianto, too.
"I'm so sorry," he whispered to the tie, feeling the silk with the backs of his fingers.
It was his own fault, of course. He'd killed Ianto, surely as if he'd injected poison into the young Welshman's veins himself. Jack sometimes forgot what it was like to fear death. Maybe he'd taken that for granted one too many times. Maybe he'd rushed his team into situations they really couldn't handle because he'd craved death, because he'd wanted to challenge anything that could dare presume to make a dent in him.
He curled the tie between his fingers.
"Congratulations, Ianto Jones. You made a dent."
Snick. Snick. Snick.
And, suddenly, Jack knew he couldn't keep the tie.
Bright violet and the scent of Ianto's aftershave would eventually fade, and it would only be another victim of time, another reminder of things left behind.
But he couldn't throw it away.
Four. Five. Six.
He wouldn't have to.
"Time to go back where you came from."
His shoes rang loudly throughout the hub as he descended the staircase. Gwen, who had been sitting at her desk with her head in her arms, looked up at the noise. She opened her mouth and then promptly shut it again. Her mascara was smeared at the edges; her eyes were red.
Jack passed by her without a word. He knew right now she was one of the few human links he had left. She was alive and breathing, she could offer solace and conversation…but that only pushed Jack further away.
Why get further attached to someone he knew would die within the next five or ten years? She was a marked woman. It would only be a matter of time. That's what everything came down to, wasn't it? How did the old riddle go:
This thing all things devours:
Birds, beasts, trees, flowers;
Gnaws iron, bites steel;
Grinds hard stones to meal;
Slays king, ruins town,
And beats high mountain down.
Yes, that was it. He'd read it somewhere, once, back in a time when such a thing would have made him amused rather than haunted.
He looked back at Gwen, briefly, and felt a twinge of guilt in his chest.
If time was a slowly circling shark, then Torchwood threw you into the water and poured a bucket of blood with you.
Eventually, he found himself standing above what was left of Ianto.
Jack had always heard that dead people simply looked like they were sleeping, but he couldn't see the similarity at all. A sleeping Ianto was a lively thing; he squirmed, furrowed his eyebrows, occasionally muttered nonsense, and made adorable little noises right before he woke up. Oh, and he sometimes kicked. Hard. He had impressive aim, too, for someone who was unconscious. Sometimes Jack doubted he was actually sleeping at all, the sneaky little bastard.
This Ianto…was none of those things. His still, quiet skin was white and cold as marble. His lips were closed, no longer disturbed by breath leaking out of them.
Jack ran a finger over the cut on his cheek.
Some wounds never heal.
"Look at the way you're dressed, Ianto. Absolutely unacceptable."
With a last run of his fingers over the material, Jack leaned over and gently (if he'd only realized he was fragile, he would have, should have, could have) lifted Ianto's head up; he slipped the tie over his neck.
He tried to clumsily tie the accessory, but his fingers fumbled with the silk uselessly.
He chuckled as he imagined Ianto rolling his eyes.
"Hey, don't give me that look! You know I haven't tied one of these for…well, ever, actually."
Finally, though, the deed was done…albeit somewhat messily.
Jack gently patted Ianto's chest. "There. All set."
His eyebrows drew together in mild confusion as he heard a distinct 'clink' underneath his hand. Carefully, he drew back the sheet.
There, coiled on Ianto's chest, was his old stopwatch.
Jack looked at it fondly as bittersweet memories rushed back to him.
"Gwen must've found it and given it back to you, huh? Nice of her. Mind if I borrow it for a sec?"
Like he'd done with the tie previously, Jack ran his fingers over the little timepiece, trying desperately to soak up any bit of Ianto he could. His fingerprints grazed over the glass face, casting shadows over the stopped time.
This one was different from the one he remembered. Maybe it wasn't Ianto's; Gwen may have just found a stopwatch and left it here as something that reminded her of him. Or maybe he'd collected them? There were so many things he'd never gotten the chance to (never taken the time to) find out.
He let out a heavy sigh. It was time to say goodbye.
With a sideways glance at Ianto, Jack pressed the button on top with his thumb, just for old times' sake.
This was definitely a different stopwatch than the one Ianto had used all the time, because the hands starting spinning madly. Jack felt a numbing current run from his thumb all through his body. He dropped the stopwatch in shock, and it clattered next to Ianto's head on the table.
After he'd taken a second to gather himself, Jack put the stopwatch in its rightful place. He put all strange thoughts aside and actually found humor within himself enough to laugh a little. "Sorry. I won't touch your stopwatch again, I promise." He bent down and pressed his lips to Ianto's cold forehead; he hovered there for a moment. "I hope you knew, Ianto. I really hope you do, because I've never regretted silence more."
His fingers hovered over the edge of the slab indecisively.
No, he couldn't do it. Not yet.
He left Ianto where he was and walked away.
Jack was halfway between dreaming and waking in his office when he heard Gwen shriek. Groggily, he stumbled out of his seat and grabbed his gun. After briefly checking for ammo, Jack barreled out of his office and down the stairs.
Forget that depressing time talk from before; he didn't want to lose Gwen, too. Not if he could help it.
Gun armed and steady, Jack burst into the main hub to find Gwen with her hands over her mouth in shock.
"Gwen, what's wrong? What's the matter, dammit?"
"Sorry, I know it's been more than ten minutes."
When his body finally realized it had muscles again, he slowly spun around.
He'd know those Welsh vowels anywhere.
Ianto. Ianto in-the-flesh Jones was standing before him, bold as brass, a medical sheet wrapped around him like a blanket.
"You look like you could use a coffee, Jack."
Jack barely noticed as the gun slipped from his grip and clattered to the floor.
It couldn't be real. Maybe it had been a nightmare, after all.
Jack didn't really care anymore.
He walked over to Ianto and touched the place where cut had been. The skin beneath his fingers was whole, smooth, alive, and warm with a pulse. Ianto's eyes were watching—watching, not blankly staring—as he lifted his other hand to Ianto's face.
While Jack was still struggling to process that Ianto, his Ianto, was alive and well, Ianto closed the distance between them and kissed him thoroughly.
Oh, this was definitely Ianto. Jack moved his hand to the back of Ianto's neck and drew him in deeper; he felt the silk of the tie he'd knotted only a little while ago brush against his fingers.
Jack lost himself in Ianto and then feel of the younger man's skin against his. He ran his hands over Ianto's neck, chest, and arms, slipping his fingers past the medical sheet that had so recently served such a cold and unfeeling purpose. He kissed Ianto over and over again, reveling in his taste and scent, in things he'd thought were long lost to him. Ianto, Ianto, Ianto, he chanted softly against the younger man's skin, over and over, delighting in his mere existence, his life. Oh, he would never take any of this for granted again; if all he could do was relive these moments, these sensations, he would life forever completely satisfied.
He had so many questions battling for airtime once he and Ianto drew back slowly, but one thing came out first.
"I love you," Jack said firmly, kissing him again. Questions could wait. If this really was a dream, he didn't have any time to waste.
"I know. It's nice to hear, though," Ianto replied, all warm smiles and beautiful eyes.
"Ianto," Gwen breathed out, her face absolutely radiating joy. "How?" She managed to ask the simple question Jack couldn't manage to force past his dumbfounded tongue.
Ianto grinned over at her somewhat sheepishly. "A bit of alien technology from the archives I, uh, borrowed. I didn't know exactly what it did until very recently. Temporal displacer. By clicking a button, I essentially stopped myself in that moment of time. Releasing the button made my body revert back to that moment in time. My body's been restored, as it were, to how it was before the 456, which is when I'd pressed it. Kind of like a system restore function on a computer, really." With a little smirk, Ianto reached into his sheet and pulled out the stopwatch Jack had seen earlier. It was hanging around his neck.
Jack pressed his forehead against Ianto's and chuckled, "Lots of things you can do with a stopwatch."
Ianto, laughter curving his mouth beautifully, kissed him and murmured, "Oh, I can think of a few."
Jack wrapped his arms more tightly around Ianto and rested his head against the other man's. He could barely believe this was happening. A few moments later, Gwen joined in on the hug, sniffling back happy tears.
"Ianto…doesn't that mean…couldn't you theoretically live forever?" Gwen asked thoughtfully, glancing between him and Jack meaningfully.
"Theoretically, yes. Although, the accompanying text mentioned something about a price. I never quite figured out what it meant. That's why I never told you about it, Jack. I didn't want you ripping open the universe just for a slim chance to bring me back," As he said it, Ianto looked around nervously, almost as if he expected Abbadon to come charging through the wall at any moment.
"It wouldn't have mattered. I would have paid any price and dealt with any consequences gladly, Ianto," Jack said immediately, finding Ianto's hand and entwining it with his own. After a moment, he continued, "Actually, I may already have. When I pressed the button, this strange sensation went through my body."
"Maybe the holder can only be revived if…if someone else gives up their life? Or just that equal amount of time?" Gwen interjected. "Like the Risen Mitten. And since Jack can't die…"
"He just took all of my injuries and the amount I'd aged since then without even noticing it," Ianto finished. In a moment of shared panic, Jack and Ianto's hands met over Ianto's heart. It was still beating as loudly and strongly as it had been before, though. "Not like Owen, then," Ianto expelled in a relieved breath. He looked at Jack excitedly. "Jack…that means…I—I can't believe…"
Jack was grinning more than he had in, well, ever. Gwen was right. She was absolutely right; he remembered, vaguely, hearing about an artifact like that. He hadn't even remembered they had one! It had probably been filed in the disastrous days before Ianto's filing system had tamed the archives into something actually useful.
He wouldn't have to let go of Ianto—his Ianto—again. If they both played things right, they could live forever. Even if, somehow, Ianto died again, Jack could bring him back. Just a click of a button and a little bit of death and Ianto would be there, smiling again. He could live forever with his Ianto. Ianto would never leave him.
He'd never be alone.
Ianto looked at him with a cheeky glint in his eye. "Crotch Watch."
"What?" Gwen spluttered.
Ianto looked at her, deadpan. "Crotch Watch. I've named it. Not too many things rhyme with watch, unfortunately. Limits my artistic creativity."
"Why 'Crotch Watch,' though?" Gwen laughed.
Jack quirked an eyebrow at her. "Want me and Ianto to give you a demonstration?"
Gwen blushed and rolled her eyes. "Okay, I can take a hint, boys. Go and have a proper reunion; I'll be at home." She wrapped Ianto in one last, strong hug. "I am so incredibly glad you're back, Ianto! I've missed you more than you know." With a little giggle, she whispered in his ear, "Make sure he doesn't cheat at naked hide-and-seek this time, hmm?" With a wink at them both, she grabbed her coat and left.
"What was that about naked hide-and-seek?" Jack practically purred against Ianto's neck.
"Well, sir, we do have something to sort out first," Ianto said seriously.
"If you'll recall, I was a bit late. I should be punished for such abominable truancy," Ianto admitted, his eyes twinkling mischievously.
Jack played along as best he could without bursting into smiles again. "You are absolutely right. Maybe I can…spank some punctuality into you?" he muttered, raising his eyebrows suggestively.
"Well, if you can find me first," Ianto said very matter-of-factly.
And then Ianto was off and running, his violet-gray tie and white medical sheet flapping behind him like a cape; the stopwatch chain rattled against his chest as he moved.
Jack grinned and gave chase.
This was going to be one hell of an eternity.