Author's Note: Drumroll please. Here it is, the story I've been waiting for, my first post-Children of Earth story. Not to worry, it will feature Ianto, but if it were a smooth ride, I would struggle to reach 50000 words, wouldn't I?
Prepare for the madcap ride that is, as always, NaNoWriMo.
Disclaimer: Nothing from Torchwood or Doctor Who belongs to me, nor does NaNoWriMo.
Ianto paused, looking down the street behind them, tugging on Jack's hand. "I thought I heard something," he insisted, smiling.
Jack shook his head fondly and followed the tug of Ianto's hand, drawing close behind him. "It's a beautiful view," he commented, resting his chin on Ianto's shoulder. "And so are you."
With a laugh, his young lover swatted at him, but left his hand there, resting on his arm. They looked at each other for a moment, then Ianto turned away and tugged Jack further up the hill, away from the harbour to watch the sunset over their city.
If Jack closed his eyes, he could almost have believed that Ianto was standing next to him, sharing the view of an alien planet, were it not for the fact that every time he did so he saw and heard Ianto's final breath. He looked over his shoulder, wishing for a miracle, for anything, but the deserted street of the ghost town gave him no comfort.
He kicked a stone down the street and watched it bounce and skitter away from him, losing sight of it before it came to a halt. Everything in his life now seemed like some twisted, hurtful metaphor; from the sound of his feet crunching on gravel to the empty, towering buildings of the city, from the weeds growing rank on every patch of open land and snarling the road to the call of a wild bird high above him. With happier eyes, he would have seen the promise of what this city would eventually become, but now he only saw the pain and emptiness of what it had so recently lost. He carried on his way, following the path of his stone, seeking it out even though he knew he wouldn't be able to recognise it, one stone among so many, but he had to look. He had to, because it was either that or slip away again.
For months, he had stumbled from drinking den to drinking den, lost, frightened and alone, seeking out the oblivion of drink for those precious few moments when Ianto was beside him again and all was right with the world, apart from the fact that he was steaming drunk. Even drinking to oblivion, some other drinkers had seemed to find him an attractive prospect, some had even dared to take a chance, but he had pushed them away just as he pushed away everyone else; he had made a promise, and he would keep it any way he could. Bitter and hurting, he turned his back on the world, and the world turned its back on him. Eventually, the moments of oblivion he sought became too hard to reach, he gave up too much each time, and he started the long, painful journey back to himself. He was lost, drowning in the world he had created for himself. The time had come to flee to the stars.
Gwen had tried to hold him back, had believed, maybe, that she could, that anything could be enough. Nothing could be, not now. He had believed, hoped for a while, that the world would let him be, let him have some happiness, even if it was fucked up and weird, even if it was entwined with and pushed out by what he had to give to Torchwood. But all too soon, the gates of the dream closed and reality crushed him again, telling him that he didn't get happiness, except to remind him of what he was missing. Life, love, sanity.
Ianto and Stephen's ghosts hung just out of sight in the back of his mind, followed by all the others whose deaths lay on him. Tosh, Owen, Susie, the hundreds in Thames house who he so easily forgot when he thought about that awful day, drowned in the mental mantra of IantoIantoIanto.
Ianto. Beautiful, brave, brilliant, broken Ianto, who had given Jack so much and taken all that Jack had left when he died. He didn't mind, though, he had always regretted that he didn't have more to give to him, but now at least he knew that he couldn't give of himself what he had given to Ianto. There wasn't anything left to give them.
He turned a corner and raised his hand to shield his eyes from the fierce glow of the alien sun setting in glory directly in front of him. The road ran all the way down to the sea, and the golden-orange blaze turned the lilac sea into a rich pink, shimmering with plum and rose sparkles, and with the rise of three deep blue islands clustered almost in the middle of the bay. It was a beautiful sight and he sat down in the middle of the road to watch it. "Oh Ianto," he whispered, pressing his fingers to his lips. "There's so much I wanted to show you, so much you should have seen. You see, it's not all monsters out here."
The sun sank lower and lower, the vista before him darkening into shades of plum and petrol, and the line between sea and sky smudged away, the difference only visible in the sparkling stars wheeling overhead, such a different picture to the one he'd seen for so many years in Cardiff. New constellations, new stars, new possibilities; Ianto would have come up with such wonderful names for them. He always loved to lie on the Millennium Centre roof and watch the clouds, painting stories with the things he could see, and Jack loved to listen to him, loved to try to believe him. Now all he saw was a billion balls of gas, so far out of reach that they might as well be merely pinpoints of light scattered by some benevolent creator. Why believe in the worlds when to him they couldn't exist?
The night was still and warm, and the stones beneath him still gave off the heat they'd soaked up during the day. His coat wasn't necessary, so he had it folded carefully beside him for the moment. It would turn much cooler soon, and he would need it again as more than the emotional suppport it represented.
In such a quiet night, sound carried extremely well. Carried on the breeze, his keen hearing picked out a familiar grinding, whirring and sucking noise. He closed his eyes and leaned back against the wall, not watching as the TARDIS materialised close by him, nor as the door opened and his old friend stepped out, studied him with surprise and concern dancing in his ancient eyes for a moment and finally came to sit next to him. He only opened his eyes to stare up at the stars when the Doctor spoke to point out, "This isn't Casillion Six."
"No," Jack agreed, pointing vaguely towards in front of them. "It's over that way."
"Why am I here?"
Jack turned to look at him at last, his face a blank mask. "Would saying, 'I don't know, you flew here' be the right answer?"
"Not exactly," the Doctor explained. "You see, I didn't fly here. I flew over there," he waved his hand in the direction that Jack had pointed. "And I ended up here. Somehow, for some reason, I landed right on this street, right at this moment. Do you know why, Jack?"
He shrugged and turned back to the stars, still trying to work out whether he was happy or hurt. "I'm guessing it has something to do with my 'condition'?" the quotation marks and question mark dropped into place in his voice.
The Doctor folded his legs and rested one elbow on his knee with his chin cupped in his palm and stared down to the sea front. "It might do, I suppose."
"You mean you genuinely don't know?" Jack laughed bitterly and without humour. "Well, that's a first, I suppose."
"I don't know everything, Jack," the Doctor chided.
"Not like someone," Jack's mind added. The time had come, he had to keep running, running with someone who wouldn't ask questions as long as they weren't asked of him in return. He shook his head and closed his eyes again. "Got room for a passenger in that spaceship of yours, Doctor? I could use a lift."
"You want to talk about it?"
"Not yet," he shook his head fiercely. "Not for a long time."
He watched Jack for a while longer, then fished in his pocket and held out a key on a piece of string. "I've always got room for you, Jack. You'll need your key back, though."
Jack opened his eyes to stare at the swinging key, then took it from the Doctor's grasp carefully. "Thank you," his voice betrayed him, choked with emotion, and he felt a warm hand fall onto his arm.
"You're welcome," he stood up and offered Jack a hand, then watched as Jack picked the coat up carefully and turned back to the view. "When you're ready, just come on in, okay?"
"Thanks, Doctor," he managed a watery smile and took one last look down the street. He swiped his hand across his eyes and closed them tightly. "I promise Ianto, I will never forget you. I will take you with me, wherever we go. I just wish you were really with me now, I have so much to show you."
The doors to the TARDIS stood open, with her warm glow bathing the gravel in honey-gold light. He rested a hand on her doors and felt her thrum in greeting, then took one last look around the city that would become the artistic heart of the galaxy, and stepped inside.
The TARDIS pulsed around him and he rested his hand on the upright strut, leaning against her for support. The Doctor was leaning on the central console, hands in his pockets, watching Jack closely. Jack avoided his eyes and eventually he got the message and pushed off, strolling around the room and flicking switches. "Just you and me then, Jack. This is a first, isn't it? I should have done it before now, really..." he came to a stop in front of Jack and studied his face, nodding slightly when Jack finally met his gaze. "Are you alright?"
He shook his head. "No, but I'm as alright as I get."
The Doctor considered saying something more, but something dissuaded him and he turned away again, flicking more switches and turning dials. "Anywhere you want to go in particular?"
"I want to see New York," Ianto told him with a smile, turning his head on the pillow to look at him. Jack rolled onto his side and rested his hand on Ianto's hip. "Just for a while, I couldn't live there, but I so want to visit. Have you ever been?"
"Yeah, a long time ago," Jack grinned and pulled Ianto closer, snuggling against him. "When it was such a new city..."
"No," he swallowed and shook his head, turning away from the Doctor's gaze. "Nowhere in particular."