Title: Intersecting Geodesics (5/5)
Rating: R (language, situations, violence)
Spoilers: up through CoE, brief mentions of events from "Pack Animals," "Almost Perfect" and "Lost Souls"
Characters: Ianto, Jack, John, (Eleven and announced companion)
Warnings: Various shades of dub-con, non-descriptive mentions of sex trafficking, character death. I am operating under the assumption that John Hart is Captain Bad Touch, and so should you for the duration of this story.
Wordcount: 36,000 overall, 7300 this section
Betas: Deepest thanks go out to 51stcenturyfox and amilyn for the Britpicking, beta work, and all those other little details that made this story stronger; anything that's still misplaced, misspelled, misplotted or just plain missing is my fault
Disclaimer: Not my characters, not my show. If they'd catch a clue and shut up in my head, we'd all be happier.
Summary: Stuck in the wrong time with a Jack who hasn't met him yet, all Ianto really wants is a way home.
The process was slow. Jack continued bringing the odd temporal refugee back with him when he couldn't save the rest of the group, but instead of asking for payment, he chose the first person he saw before he left.
Once Ianto questioned him about it. "Don't you want to focus on adolescents, or perhaps find someone who's, well, worth it?" This was after the fifth such rescue, and the man Jack had saved had taken the news of his home's destruction, and of the four hundred souls who lived there, with glee and an announcement that he'd owed too many of them money.
"I don't," Jack said. He was fingering a glass of water, clearly drooling over the hypervodka Dum was carrying to the next table. But he didn't order one. Ianto had told him that his Jack almost never drank, even when the rest of them were having a pint together. This Jack had stared at him in disbelief, but he'd been trying ever since.
"If I start trying to sift through people, I'll go crazy. Who deserves it most, a teenaged boy with his life in front of him, or a pregnant woman, who might die in childbirth dropped on a colony world? Which one would you leave to die? And what about their families? No," he said. "This is better."
Ianto wanted to argue, but couldn't, and then the table with the hypervodka wanted food after Dum had gone, so Ianto stumbled through their order instead and left Jack to his own thoughts.
Ianto helped Jack with the refugees, the little he could. Jack had pulled the records of the Agency's colonies, and Ianto pored over them in his spare time, identifying good fits for people based on what Jack knew about his assignments. Now that Ianto could read the details, he saw what Jack had meant about the political nature of the assignments. There was something more, however, a pattern he was seeing out of the corner of his eye, not yet visible but sensed nonetheless.
As he researched missions past and current, Ianto began harbouring a suspicion. Just as Torchwood manipulated the records of the people they encountered, and just as the Time Agency hid their own fingerprints by modifying orders and paperwork, someone outside was quietly constructing a design in the Time Agency's assignments. John's missions were heavily involved with the pattern, Jack's barely at all. The Thames House acquisition had the right earmarks, though the traces were so subtle he could easily be imagining the whole thing. And he strongly suspected that was exactly what whoever was doing this intended. Without any idea of whom, or why, or even if this was someone hostile to the Agency in the present or an entity from the Agency's future with its own agenda, he couldn't begin to explain his observations to Jack. No use worrying him with shadows. But still he wondered.
Jack continued only to identify about one group in five as a good candidate for the program. Every time he came back from a failed mission, Ianto read the news in his eyes long before Jack could tell him the details: a war gone wrong, a disaster where the bodies couldn't be recovered. Jack saved one, perhaps two people on those missions, and while Ianto kept track of those for him, showed him the slow growth of names on the list of lives not lost, he knew Jack read the hundreds of other names that were written invisibly on the second list beside it.
Without the booze and months off the drugs, Jack had only one way left to numb himself to his own failures. Ianto found it painful and ironic that Jack's quest to become a better man was leading him into a deeper despair, and so he did his best to make Jack forget, if just for an hour or two.
Ianto told himself this wasn't love, merely kindness. This Jack needed him, too.
One of the regulars, a Xolisian, had dumped zir drink on the head of zir companion, and while Dum broke up the ensuing fight, Ianto cleaned up the mess with a sigh. He almost didn't head Dee above the commotion shouting for him.
"James!" He turned his head, and red panic on her face.
She grabbed his hand, dragging him outside. He dropped the mop and followed her, worry eating at his gut. As soon as Dum had evicted the Xolisians, his comforting bulk was behind them as Dee led Ianto two doors down.
Jack lay in the street, head at an awkward angle, chest bloody, clearly dead.
Ianto fell to his knees beside the body. "No. Nononononono." Dee's hand was on his shoulder, radiating sorrow and sympathy, while Dum accosted the nearest person and barked out questions.
Had he not watched Jack die dozens of times, he was sure he'd be slipping into shock now, as he felt Jack's cooling skin. As it was, Ianto's mind was racing. Jack was mortal. Jack was human. Jack couldn't die now or he'd die forever and this was nothing like the death that had granted him eternal life.
His breath caught, panic taking over, and Ianto scrambled to his feet, pushing it away.
He turned to Dee, and said haltingly, "Watch him here. Don't touch him. Please." She brushed Ianto's cheek, but he broke away and ran.
On their walks, Jack had shown him places around the city. Once he showed Ianto the building where John lived, and now Ianto had to find it, had to find the man he hated before the one he loved was gone forever.
Twelve hours. Jack's body was growing cold, so they had lost an unknown amount of time. Ianto longed for a watch, a timer, something to cling to that he would know his deadline. The Agency's magic could bring him back, oh please oh please.
John lived in a back room of a squat house near the nightclub that was called Carbuncle. Ianto wasted precious minutes checking the club first, not seeing John in the press of bodies, and he almost didn't find John's house.
Ianto pounded on the door, shouting, pleading, finally his fingers skittering over the thick brown door as his voice cracked and gave out. The door flew open, and Ianto nearly fell inside, fell against John. The room was even less decorated than Jack's, and Ianto saw a canine humanoid sprawled naked inside, almost lost in the haze of whatever the two of them were smoking.
"What do you want?"
"Jack. Jarron. He was killed. He's dead." A dozen expressions crossed John's face, starting with shock and grief, settling on amused disinterest.
"You have to save him."
"Dead's dead. Get used to it."
"No!" Ianto grabbed John's shoulders, wishing the man had on a scrap of clothing. "The Time Agency brings people back from the dead. They have tech. You can get it. Georgn, please!"
"That stuff is strictly controlled. Against regulations to use it on an Agent."
"You never follow the rules."
John watched him. "How do you know we can bring people back? That's classified."
"They brought me back. I was dead, and they saved me."
His eyebrows rose. "Wait. You're a fuge?" He let out a cruel laugh. "He gives me attitude about not touching the merchandise and then he goes and nobs a fuge. Idiot." He grabbed Ianto's face and petted him. "And he kept you, too. The Agency is going to fire him twice."
"He's already dead." A wild thought came to him. "You can't watch him get fired if he's already dead."
"Ah, too true." John glanced over the shoulder to his playmate. "You still here, love? Get out."
Time was ticking away but John was dawdling. Ianto wanted to scream. "Will you help him?"
"You haven't given me a reason why I should."
"Because you love him too." John flinched. He didn't react when the dog-man brushed past them with a snarl.
"Not good enough."
Ianto closed his eyes. "I'll pay anything."
"Anything? Now that's a good price." His hand slipped down, and it didn't matter, nothing mattered except getting Jack back.
Ianto grabbed John's hand. "I'll pay you once he's alive again."
"You'll pay me whatever and whenever I want, or you don't get anything." He stepped back, reached down to the floor and picked up a filthy pair of pants, began putting them on. "But you're right. Time isn't on our side. So a little up front now, and I'll take the rest out of you later."
"Whatever," Ianto said through clenched teeth.
"Tell me your name. Your real name."
"You know my name."
"No one is named James Bond. What kind of arsehole do you take me for?"
"Ianto Jones." His own name, not spoken in well over a year, felt wrong in his own mouth.
John sized him up, apparently decided he wasn't lying this time. "Jarron Harper. Nice to meet you, Ianto Jones."
"But he goes by Jarron." His head spun, while John laughed.
"We trade names all the time, he and I." He bent in to Ianto's ear. "That's how I know you're temporary, little fuge."
More than once Jack had used the last name Harper back in their old life, and part of him had wondered if it was to tweak Owen, and another part wondered, after they discovered Jack's secret, if Jack's fondness for their obnoxious medic had come from a fling he might have had once in the late '70s. But Owen shared none of Jack's handsome features, instead leaning towards the sharp lines and angles that John wore on his own face, and now Ianto had something new to wonder.
"Where is he?"
"Near the pub where I work. My coworkers are watching the body for me."
"Bad move. Nards'll probably cook him up and eat him."
"They're not like that."
"Whatever you say." John shut his door, throwing on his unbuttoned shirt. "I'll meet you there."
"Don't thank me. You're going to hate paying me later."
Those words echoing in his ears, Ianto made his cautious way back to the pub. To his relief, Jack's body lay unmolested where he'd left it, Dum keeping watch. Ianto thanked him as well as he could, and Dum pulled him into an unexpected hug.
Ianto slid to the ground, and he took Jack's head into his lap.
Every death differed. He hadn't known that Suzie and Lisa had each killed Jack until much later, so his first real experience with losing Jack had been when Owen shot him. The shock had raced through him, and he'd operated without thinking the rest of that awful day. Jack had come back to them then, and Ianto had tried to show his regret and sorrow by carrying and caring for Jack even as he reeled at the impossible second chance they'd been given. And then Jack was gone again, dead to Abaddon's destruction, and Ianto had given in to despair and given up on Jack, had let Gwen be the one who kept vigil against all hope. When Jack came back at last, he'd cursed himself for his lack of faith, and he swore that he would be the one who waited for Jack from then on. When Jack had left them, alive this time and chasing the Doctor, Ianto had squashed his own doubts (we betrayed him, murdered him, why would he ever return? ) and ignored his own fears (he's happier where he is, he's never coming back) and quietly kept Jack's room and his possessions safe and where they belonged. Ianto would not be found faithless a third time.
When Jack was shot, when Jack was slashed in the throat by a Weevil and bled out, when Jack was broken or burned or bent, Ianto waited patiently. That was his task. When Jack had pushed him out of the Hub before the bomb in his belly had taken out their base, half of him had been horrified at the thought that Jack might not come back, but the rest of him had worried what would happen should Jack wake up from that agonising death alone.
Now he waited, oblivious to the aliens walking past him or stopping in curiosity. He'd tried counting in his head as time slipped past, but there really was no chance of keeping track, so instead he brushed all the dirt off Jack's face and clothes, and he talked nonsense into Jack's poor dead ears. The planet's two small moons rose slowly above the buildings. Jack had told him once that life tended to evolve on planets with moons, something about tidal forces, the work of chemicals on alien seashores drifting and forming into complex chains. Ianto stroked Jack's arms, telling him about the moons, wishing the flow of blood to return like the tides.
At last, he heard quick footsteps and knew it was John before the blond hair came into view. "I could only steal a little," John mumbled, and took a flask from his pocket. Golden light spilled out in a cloud of bright pinpricks, which settled over Jack's wounds as Ianto held him and prayed.
Jack jerked in his arms, and his eyes came open. Under his torn and bloody shirt, Ianto watched the skin mend, become whole. Jack clutched at Ianto's arms around him as he had, as he would, eyes skittering everywhere and resting on John's face crouched beside them, as John collected the tiny dots of light with care and coaxed them back into the flask.
"Wha - "
John's face cracked open with a grin. "Almost lost you there, Gorgeous."
"There was," he coughed. "A Lognian. Looking for his brother."
Ianto's stomach went cold. "Oh."
"Got behind me. Stupid. Won't happen again."
Ianto brushed lips over Jack's face, his nose. "I'd ask that you never die on me again, but that'd be a terrible promise to make you keep."
"You'd passed on, mate," said John, sitting back on his haunches. "Your little pet here had me get something to patch you up." Then he smacked Jack on the head.
"What was that for?"
"You. You've been nobbing a fuge. Mr. High and Mighty."
Jack's eyes met Ianto's as he slowly sat up. "Are you going to turn me in?"
"I'd love to," said John, and there was nothing but truth in his mirthful voice. "But Ianto here," he said, with emphasis on the name so that Jack knew, "has promised me payment for rescuing you, and turning you in would only get you fired and him shipped off to some godawful place with sheep."
"You like sheep," Jack said. John laughed.
"I need to get him home," Ianto said, helping Jack to unsteady feet. "He's always a little off after dying."
"What's that supposed to mean?" Jack asked.
"Don't worry about it."
"I'll be by later," John said, in promise and in threat. Ianto pushed away his worry and focused on relief. Jack was alive. Jack was safe.
Halfway home, Jack had Ianto take a different road, and then another. They came out among a huddling of small houses, which Jack guided him through until he reached a doorway with an unusually thin Nardek. Jack was walking on his own by then, and left Ianto outside over his protests, taking the little money Ianto had on him. He emerged a while later with a large parcel under his arm, and they made their way home in silence.
After Ianto had helped Jack out of his clothes and under the blankets, cleaning up the last of the blood with a flannel and warm water, Jack said, "You brought me back."
"I had to. The timeline needs you."
"Do you?" Ianto ducked his head, and then he smiled. "Good."
John's knock came hours later, after Jack had drifted off. Ianto answered the door, his own heart beating too quickly and mouth too sour to sleep. John smelled of stale sex and fresh arousal, and his eyes glittered in the dim light of the hallway. Ianto moved aside to let him in. Best that it was here, best that Jack would be with him. He closed his eyes as John yanked off his shirt, left hot kisses down his collarbone.
"Hey, Georgn," said Jack sleepily. "When did you get here?"
"Just arrived," said John, mouth offering tiny bites over Ianto's chest. "Glad you woke up. Want some of this?"
"I've had that."
"Finally getting bored?" John's hands were squeezing his arse, pinching and poking.
"Hardly. He could teach you some things."
Ianto felt John's laugh in his belly, following by a warm swipe of his tongue. "I doubt that." John slid up Ianto's body again, grubby clothes rasping against bare skin on his torso, hands sliding around front to work at the fastening of his pants.
"Found you a present," said Jack.
"I've got my present." John had finally moved far enough inside for Ianto to close the door. He was reconsidering doing this with Jack in the room. Having an audience for his humiliation, even Jack, filled him with more dread.
"Found something better."
"He's got a twin?"
Jack had risen to his feet, cock at half mast already. Ianto watched John lick his lips. Months had passed since he'd last found the two of them together, and John clearly wanted a return to the way things had been. As Jack bent over the table to grab the parcel he'd bought, John groaned, his excitement pressed hard into Ianto's hip.
"You are beautiful," he told Jack in a hushed voice as Jack sauntered over, placing a kiss at the corner of John's mouth and pushing the package into his arms.
Forgetting Ianto for the time being, John grabbed for Jack with one hand and clasped his present with the other, a greedy child at Christmastime. "Which present do I open first?"
John ripped off the paper, and found a neat plastic bag full of a viscous blue liquid. "You shouldn't have."
Jack said, "Just a little thanks for saving my life."
John's lips moved, echoing what Jack had just said without registering the meaning. "Indulgence. Where did you find it?"
"I know a guy."
"You are so introducing me."
"In the morning. Have a taste."
John punctured the baggie and poured a measure into his mouth, moaning as it hit his tongue. "Oh. Oh that's nice." He licked it off his mouth, the tiny splatter that blued his knuckles. "I shouldn't have this tonight. You know what it does to me."
Jack shrugged. "You'll be fine by morning. Enjoy yourself. You can sleep here."
Blissed out, John sank bonelessly to the floor and drank down more of the Indulgence, throat contracting as he swallowed hard. Ianto watched Jack's face, then found John pillows to brace himself, noticing as he did that the swelling at John's crotch had gone away.
"Want some?" John said to Ianto, in a rare display of generosity, and Ianto declined. "Your loss."
"I used to love Indulgence," Jack said, stroking John's head once and then sitting back to watch. "Imagine spending half a day feeling the way you do right after a really magnificent orgasm." Ianto's eyes widened. "Exactly."
"They can bottle that?"
"They can sell it for twenty credits a hit. You're in that sleepy place but not quite asleep, and you think you're in love, and there's no way you're getting it up the rest of the night." Ianto turned to him in shock and growing admiration. Jack pulled him in for a kiss, and whispered so that John could not hear, "I'm not going to let him hurt you. I'm never going to let him hurt you."
Ianto kissed him passionately in response, relief fueling his desire. As John lay in his languid stupor beside them, they made love among the pillows, laughing low and then each biting the other's cries back so as not to disturb John much.
As Ianto lay back, Jack above him gloriously alive and young and panting Ianto's name, he heard John whisper, "Just beautiful," before falling silent again. The knowledge that they were being watched thrilled him and pushed him over the edge. Jack joined him moments later, and they held each other, kissing softly. The world was right, and he was where he belonged. Every Jack was his Jack, and Jack meant "home."
Ianto met John's open eyes, and for a moment, he forgave him.
John was gone when they woke. He hadn't left a note, just the empty container of Indulgence. No word on if he'd be back, if he still intended to collect his payment, but Jack said they were even and Ianto had to believe him.
Seasons weren't something that happened on this world. Nevertheless, it was a perfect summer's day, and Jack had just returned from a successful mission, so they took the morning to meander down street after street. They stopped at Dee's house to deliver something crispy and warm that Jack had picked out from a bakery. Dee and her family greeted them pleasantly, thanking them for the gift, expressing disappointment that they couldn't stay.
Honestly, they could have stayed much longer, but Ianto felt the same thing Jack did: that wanderlust which filled the air on certain mornings, with the promise of travels and adventures. He wanted to walk, to move, and so they wandered hand in hand, looking into shops and homes, talking about nothing important, tasting the warm air like a tonic.
When the familiar humming noise came in over the sounds of the city and the crowd, everything fell into place.
Ianto let out a little cry, not sure if it was hope or disappointment, and he dragged Jack back towards home, back to the spired building where they lived, where against all logic and architecture, a blue police box sat by the street as if it had always been there.
The door creaked open, and a young man popped out, with a crooked smile and a bowtie. "I thought it might be you," he said to Jack.
Ianto stopped, frowning. "Where's the Doctor?"
"Right here," said the man. He peered at Ianto's face. "Oh. It's not him. It's you."
"What's going on?" Jack demanded, hand reaching for his weapon. Ianto calmed him down.
"Jack, this is the Doctor. I told you about him."
"Wait," the Doctor said, and pulled out a pair of glasses. "No." He inspected Jack up and down, broke into a delighted grin. "But you're so young!"
"You haven't met him yet," Ianto said.
"Oh I can see that."
"English is terrible for time travel," Jack said.
"I'm not speaking English," said the Doctor. "What name are you going by these days?"
"None of your business. James, why is he here?"
The Doctor looked confused. "James?"
"It's all right. The Doctor knows who I am."
"We never technically met. You helped us tow the planet back."
"You towed a planet?"
"You drove," the Doctor said. "Or you will. Oh, this is priceless. Jack before I knew him." Then he frowned. "Wait, I remember Jack when we first met." Suspicion darkened his face, to be replaced by joy when the TARDIS opened again, and a pretty young woman, all red hair and smiles, joined them.
"Amy! This is my very good friend, um, well I don't know his name right now, but you can call him Jack. And this young man is the reason we're here."
"Ianto Jones," he said, taking her hand. "A pleasure to meet you."
"Amy Pond. You broke time?"
"I don't know." He looked at the Doctor.
"You did. A bit. You're not supposed to be here." The Doctor scratched the back of his neck uncomfortably. "You're really not supposed to be here."
"The Time Agency took me. Everyone from Thames House." Then it was Ianto's turn to frown. "Where were you? We needed you."
And he knew before the Doctor spoke what he would say. "I'm sorry. I'm so very sorry."
"Harriet Jones. She was right about you. She said someday we'd need you and you wouldn't come. That's why she made Torchwood London so powerful. But we weren't enough. We were never enough."
"No. But you Cardiff bunch were brilliant! Saved the world! Knew you had it in you."
Ianto didn't say what the cost had been. He could spare Jack at least that much future knowledge. "Have you come to take me back?"
"You can't stay here. I've been chasing temporal ripples for a week. Well, our kind of week. Well, it's been some time. And it all comes back here to you."
"Also, I got this message." The Doctor pulled out a piece of blank paper. The words "find me, save me, please" scrawled across in Ianto's handwriting. He no longer carried the mobile with him everywhere, but he touched the place where it would have been in his pocket.
"I thought that. Months ago." Since he'd nearly flunked the basic psychic training back in his first days at T1, he'd had no reason to think it would work.
"Well, time travel. You know."
"You're leaving?" It was the first thing Jack had said in several minutes.
The Doctor sucked in a breath, then he turned to Amy. "All right, don't go far. This should be enough to find something fun." He handed her a credit slip. "Go on."
After she was out of sight, the Doctor said, "I'll go rushing heroically to her rescue in a while."
"Oh, I'm sure there will be a need. Or she'll come rushing to mine. Bit of a pattern with us, nothing to worry about. Anyway, Jack. You and I haven't met yet, and that leaves me with a sticky problem."
"I have Retcon," Ianto said. "I can make today not have happened for him. Easy."
"Can you make yourself not have happened? How long have you been here?"
His mouth went dry as Jack jerked violently against him. "You can what?"
"It's a drug I have," Ianto said. "Based on the Agency's formula, I think. It wipes memories, can rewrite them somewhat when necessary. I had it with me when I came forward, enough to make a small crowd forget an alien warship crash. I could give you one, and you'll forget you met the Doctor today."
"And if you give me more than one?"
The Doctor cut in, saving Ianto from having to answer, "Is there anyone else who shouldn't know you've been here?"
He found John at the pub, and his glass was half-full. Perfect. Swallowing the bile, Ianto sauntered over to his seat, and without an invitation, slid his leg over John's lap, straddling him. He ignored the stares from Dee and Dum. He wouldn't be able to explain it to them anyway.
"Well this is unexpected," John said, grinning. "Decided to trade up after all?"
"Jarron and I were talking," he said, rubbing John's jaw with one hand and reaching behind himself with the other. Ianto grabbed John's drink and brought it in a lazy arc to his lips, taking a deep draught and licking his lips.
John's breath caught, and then Ianto moved in for a kiss, tasting only the gin on John's tongue. He twisted his hips, rubbing their groins and capturing John's moan deep in his mouth.
John didn't notice the pills dropped into his drink, even after Ianto stirred it with his finger and then drew the finger between John's lips so he could suckle off the alcohol. Despite himself, Ianto felt his pants tighten, and he almost went in for another kiss but stopped before he could accidentally Retcon himself with the residue on John's mouth.
"Wait here. Five clickits. I'll be back." He didn't have to fake the hoarseness in his voice as he climbed off the tent in John's pants. "Be ready to come back to ours."
"I'm ready now," John breathed, and Ianto bit a soft place on John's jaw before he pulled away.
He went into the back, telling Sir that he would be gone for a few days, and he watched from hiding as John downed his drink in two gulps. With the dose he'd been given, it took less than a minute for John's head to fall to the bar, a snore escaping his mouth. Ianto came back from the shadows, placed his lips against John's ear, and said, "You don't remember me. James Bond and Ianto Jones never existed."
John kept snoring.
Jack waited outside, impatient and impressed. "That was hot."
"That was revolting."
Jack's eyes went to Ianto's crotch, and he grinned. "Admit it, a threesome would have been amazing."
"Yes. And then he'd have shot us both."
Jack's hand slid into his, and it was nice, so nice. Ianto slowed his pace, let Jack fall into step with him. He wanted to go home, but he also wanted to linger, just a bit more. Here Jack wasn't some well-seasoned immortal, wasn't this demigod who knew the secrets of time and space and every sexual trick ever invented by humankind. He was just Jack, who loved Ianto much more than he did the Doctor, and Ianto was loathe to lose that feeling just yet.
They reached the TARDIS. Amy had a shimmering golden dress in her hands, as the Doctor explained that this was a retro look, originally seen in the forty-third century but all the rage again.
"Taken care of," Ianto said. "He's going to be a problem later."
"He's going to find Gray later," Jack said, and for Jack, that was all that would matter.
The Doctor watched the two of them. "And now it's your turn."
"I was thinking about that," Jack said, stepping back into what Ianto knew to be one of his better defensive postures. "I don't have to tell anyone what I know. I can keep secrets."
"You haven't met me, not yet, and you need to meet me again for the first time or our timeline will be broken." The Doctor's face was sad.
"I can pretend. You don't know I didn't pretend not to know you."
"You didn't. When we met, you had a piece of your memory gone. Two years. It's why you leave the Time Agency. It's how we meet."
"Two years?" Jack was pale. "I can't lose two whole years."
"I've been here almost that long," Ianto said. "You have to forget me." His throat constricted.
"No." Jack backed away further.
"Jack, you'll see me again. I swear."
"It's not that." His eyes were so young. "I love you. And I can't wait to meet you and fall in love with you all over again. But if I forget you now, I go back to being the person I was before I knew you. I don't want to be him." He went to Ianto, took his arms and rubbed them gently. "Please. The man I am now … "
Ianto slipped from his grasp, and he grabbed Jack's hands, placing a kiss on each one. "You'll be him again. It just takes time." Jack closed his eyes, let Ianto press his lips against his head, his nose, and finally his mouth. "It'll be okay."
He pressed the bottle into the hand he clasped with Jack's. "You'll need the rest of these." Ianto turned to the Doctor. "It's best if I get him inside. He'll sleep for a while." The Doctor nodded, and Ianto remembered the terse instructions they'd been given about Donna Noble, while the rain fell from the atmospheric shift, and knew the Doctor understood.
"Don't dawdle," he cautioned, and that was all.
They walked together back to the flat, not speaking, not having anything left to say that wouldn't be undone by the Retcon. Words were hard, and Ianto abandoned them entirely, instead caching away every sense he could, the feel of Jack's fingers brushing his, the sound of Jack's breath hitching in his chest, the fear in his eyes.
As the door opened, he pushed Jack into the room roughly for one more kiss, nipping and tasting and wanting this, just this. Jack fell into him, his hands everywhere, and the bottle pressing between them like a chaperone.
"It's going to be like dying," Jack said into his neck. "Isn't it?"
"First one's always the hardest."
"Did that already. I should be fine." They laughed together, a little, sharing air, sharing life, and then Jack brought up the bottle, opened it, and shook the pills into his hand.
"That's a lot," Ianto said, staring at the pile, and knowing he'd need them all.
"You're going to be hard to forget," Jack replied, and he threw back four. Ianto drew him some water. As the last few went down, he could already see the muddiness creep into Jack's face.
He was losing him.
Ianto helped him to sit on the floor, helped him finish the water, found him a blanket.
"I don't … " Jack said, and paused, the words jumbling out of him. "I can't … " His eyes narrowed. "Who … ?"
"No one," Ianto said, and rubbed Jack's face.
He caught Jack as he toppled sideways and helped lay him down. "I'm no one. You never met me, never saw me. You don't know my name. The last two years never happened. We never … "
He broke off, seeing Jack's eyes slip shut. So much life yet to come for him, so many things to lose, and Ianto could not protect him from a single pain. Or perhaps just the one. "Don't trust Georgn."
Jack made a noise and Ianto was sure he'd heard.
Ianto didn't dare an "I love you," not now, but he pressed his lips to Jack's forehead and he closed his eyes until the prickles behind his eyelids abated. He glanced around the flat, took the handful of items that were his, made a slight mess of the rest just to be sure. He whispered the instructions to forget one last time into Jack's ear. Jack slept.
Down in the street, the TARDIS waited. Ianto didn't even bother taking a last look around before stepping inside.
"All set, then?" the Doctor asked with a gaiety that failed to appear real.
"Part of me wants to stay and watch, to make sure he's all right when he wakes up."
"Better if you don't."
Jack would awaken, would feel like a bad hangover, would no doubt go down to the pub and carouse with John and the rest, drinking to chase away his headache and laughing at John's own memory gaps. He'd pull something good-looking and willing, or he'd pull John if he woke feeling particularly self-destructive. They'd be high within fifteen minutes, and fucking within half an hour.
That was who Jack had to be for now. Ianto didn't have to watch.
"I want to go home."
"You can't." The Doctor's face was kind, and unrelenting. "You died. History is very clear on the matter. Your family moved on. Torchwood moved on."
"Well, you know Jack."
"Yeah." His eyes hurt again, and he closed them. "I knew it wasn't possible. I hoped, but I knew." The brief records of Rhi and the kids, they were all that was left of his family now. No amount of scouring could find a single record of Captain Jack Harkness beyond a few years after Steven's death. He'd fled Earth, come back, and then left for good. Yeah, Ianto knew him.
"So. We have a problem. I can't leave you here without upsetting the timeline. I can't take you home without making things worse."
"I'm not that important."
"If you went back, you would be. And that unravels everything."
"I don't want to travel with you."
"You weren't invited." It wasn't a rough insult, though it felt like one just the same. "But I have a place in mind." His fingers moved across the console, punching up a star chart. "Planet XKX-917. Fifteen star systems away from here, along a major supply route, Earth-like climate and atmosphere. No native sentient life, but never colonised, either. For some reason, it just gets passed by, even by the Time Agency. Perfect hiding spot for the man who needs to be out of the way of history for a while."
Amy came to the doorway. She had put on her new dress, and the Doctor's face broke out in a smile. "I told you it was your colour."
"Do you like it?" she asked him shyly, and Ianto took a quiet breath in the name of every damned person who'd travelled with the Doctor and fallen in love, even if just a little.
"It's as lovely as you are," Ianto said, channeling his inner Harkness, which earned a beaming smile from Amy and a frown from the Doctor. Not that Ianto had done it on purpose. Not that he was ever jealous of the Doctor. Nor had he once spent an informative evening in a pub with a bloke named Mickey Smith, nursing pints and swapping stories and making more and more outrageous boasts about what they'd like to say to the man should the world not be in peril at the time. Oh no.
"Planet XKX-917, then," said the Doctor, a little loudly, and he cranked something on the console.
"I love this part," Amy said, coming up next to Ianto but watching the Doctor, enraptured. "Have you done time travel before?"
"Some," he said. "More than I ever thought I would." He looked around. "This is a bit old-fashioned, then, isn't it?"
"State of the art technology," the Doctor said, offended on behalf of his ship. "That Vortex Manipulator Jack's got, that's barely a toy. This is the real thing." He stroked a panel lovingly. "Anyway, most of you lot travel through time the really old-fashioned way." The TARDIS jerked and hummed, and then stopped. "We're here."
Ianto's heart fell. Already?
"I'll need some supplies," he heard himself say. "And a means of contacting the ships to restock." He'd need shelter first. An empty world, but there would be wildlife. Predators? If he'd stayed put back when this mad ride had started, he'd have been imprinted with basic survival techniques, something. Instead, he'd gotten Jack.
"Taken care of." The Doctor swept Amy's hand into his, and told Ianto, "Wait here."
As the door to the TARDIS opened, Ianto spotted a blue sky peppered with clouds, lush green mountains in the distance, and what appeared to be soft, sweet grasses in the meadow where they'd landed.
The door shut, and a viewscreen turned on, perhaps automatically, perhaps not. The camera allowed him to see what he had glimpsed through the doorway: a house, large and angled, made of dark red wood. Huge, sweeping windows reflected the muted sunlight from the planet's star, and gave nothing away.
A figure made its way across the meadow from the house.
"Hello, old friend," the Doctor said.
Ianto stared. He could just make out the grey hairs edging the dark. Three thousand years, travelled the really old-fashioned way. Oh, the Doctor did fancy himself so very clever, didn't he?
"Doctor," Jack said, and gave a winning smile to Amy, who looked startled to see him again so soon. "Amy Pond, haven't seen you here in a while."
"You haven't seen me at all yet. I think. Nice to meet you." Ianto could just make out the blush as Jack took and kissed her hand.
"We were in the neighbourhood," said the Doctor. "Thought we'd pay a visit."
"You never just come by to pay a visit."
"You're a worse liar than I am. What's going on?"
A flash crossed Jack's face, was gone. "She died. About five years ago."
"I don't think you are, but thank you."
"You still planning on being here a while?"
"Yeah. It's just me and Maggie and Steve now, but we get by."
"I don't think I know Maggie and Steve."
Jack let out a loud whistle. Moments later, two red-haired dogs loped towards them. Amy squealed in delight and bent down to play with them as tongues lolled and tails wagged.
"You know," said the Doctor, "I could bring you a K-9 unit. Robot dogs last much longer than real ones. Might keep you from getting lonely."
Jack reached down to pet one of his dogs. "Amy," he said, "you'll find that the Doctor is the smartest man you'll ever meet, but he really doesn't get humans sometimes."
"Anyway," said the Doctor. "The fifty-first century is almost over."
"People I know will be alive well into the next one. I'll be here another four or five decades until they're gone." Self-imposed exile wore on him, Ianto could see, but he also read a certain peace in the lines of Jack's face, and that was new. "I've been keeping busy. Writing my memoirs," he said with a twinkle.
The Doctor rolled his eyes. "It'll be banned on five hundred worlds even before publication. Probably start religions on a dozen more."
Jack laughed, and it was an easy laugh, of someone who had seen so very much, and who had finally learned how to live with it.
"I need a favour," the Doctor said.
"I was wondering when you'd come out with it. What?"
"I've picked up a temporal refugee. Wrong time, wrong place, needs a place to stay out of the way of history for a bit."
"I'm not running a hotel. Can't a guy be a hermit for a century or two?"
"It's a big enough planet. You could always make him move to the other side of it, you'd hardly ever see each other." The Doctor paused. "Honestly, I want him off the TARDIS. He flirts with Amy and I don't think he likes me much," he said in a loud whisper.
"You could be nicer," Amy said, arms happily embracing a floppy dog. "You're always like this. That poor Tom Milligan … "
"Hush," the Doctor said, but kindly. "I should show you the grounds. Jack's really fixed it all up quite nicely." He extended his arm, and Amy reluctantly let go of the dog. As they walked towards the garden Ianto could just make out beside the house, the Doctor looked over his shoulder directly at the camera. "Are you coming out here or not?"
Ianto flew to the door, and stopped, spending a precious second to check his clothes were neat, his hair arranged. Three thousand years, and he had been certain Jack would forget him well before the first thousand were gone. He was less of a memory than the acrobatic twins, now, surely, and even in his own time, Jack had to scrape his memory for their names.
Twice Jack had fallen in love with him as a stranger. Ianto's luck on third times wasn't good. But he'd never know if he stayed here.
He opened the door, saw Jack watching the Doctor and Amy walking out of sight, confusion drawing his handsome features into a scowl. Jack turned back at the sound of the TARDIS door.
The confusion on Jack's face grew, and as it did, Ianto's hopes crumbled. Jack had forgotten, simple as that. They were strangers all over again. He'd just left the man he loved behind for a second time, and this Jack was another unknown, and he ought to be grateful instead of ready to weep for the unfairness.
No. Enough. So be it. He would start back at the beginning, and earn Jack's trust. He'd introduce himself, and Jack would be annoyed with him for a while, and after that amused by him, and finally in love with him. The sun was in the sky and the water was in the sea, he told himself, mouth twisting quietly around the words. He could wait for the rest.
Then Jack tilted his head, and he stared. "Ianto?"
The TARDIS left about twenty minutes later. Neither noticed.
Other stories in this universe can be found at the "Intersections" file at my profile.
My three favourite words are: "I liked this."