Chapter 8

Ianto found himself in the future for another three days. By the second day, he ended up giving Jack a hand around the apartment with the kids and cleaning up, leaving Sean to continue to rest. Sometimes Sean would relax on the couch, and they would watch videos together. Other times during the day, Ianto would take the kids to the park to give Sean some quiet, and Jack a chance to spend time alone with his partner. Ianto started to feel more like he would as a father, and knew without a doubt he loved the three children. The times he helped Jack, it was easy for him to imagine what being domestic with Jack felt like and he would almost forget that he wasn't Jack's partner. Not yet, at least. He had another 1200 years to become the man who was on partial bed rest until it was time to deliver the baby.

It was a bittersweet time, because as much as he wanted to finally go home , he found he wanted the life that was in his future now. It boggled his brain whenever he would look at Sean and realize that it was his life now – for the older version of himself.

It finally came time for him to hug the kids goodbye, telling them that he enjoyed being with them, but he was now going far away again. He told them he was glad he had a chance to see his brother and family and he loved them very much. He fought back tears as the kids waved goodbye as they left the apartment with Sheila. The vision of little Charlene with tears in her eyes stayed with him. Darlene looked only slightly better. Xana soon joined them and it was time for more goodbyes.

He said goodbye to Xana, thanking her for everything. Next, he found himself standing before Sean. Despite his blood now being in Sean, along with an additional supply stored should it be needed in the future, they didn't dare hug. The look on both of their faces said that they wished they could. While they were both the same men, they were also two very different men, Sean being changed just enough with the passing of time, as well as being much older and wiser than Ianto could ever imagine himself becoming. Most times he thought of Sean as a dear friend rather than an older version of him.

"This may be odd to say," Sean started after clearing his throat, "but I'm going to miss you."

Ianto chuckled. "I understand completely."

"If I didn't so desperately need you to go back where you belong, I'd be inclined to keep you around."

They both turned when they heard a groan from Jack. "Please, give a man a break," he said. "For the last three days I had two of you in this place with me. It's a fantasy come true, except I couldn't very well take the two of you to bed with me."

Sean and Ianto chuckled and moved as one until they had Jack between them, and they both hugged Jack. They were careful not to touch. Jack moaned and smiled brightly. "An Ianto Jones sandwich."

Sean swatted Jack playfully and pulled away. "Oh go ahead and say your goodbyes, so your past self won't be so lonely anymore."

"Yeah, huh?" He pulled Ianto into a tight hug. "I'm sorry you won't remember all this, but I can tell you that it's very soon after you get back that our relationship will shift, taking the first steps toward what Sean and I have had for 1200 years."

Ianto hugged him back. "Pretty soon, I'll have my own Jack with me, but I am going to miss you."

"I'll be back sooner than you think," Jack joked. He kissed Ianto's forehead. "I love you, Ianto. I have for a very long time, and always will." He moved his lips and pressed them against Ianto's. "I also know you will start knowing that soon. I don't have to tell you good luck, because I know how you'll do." He glanced over to Sean, who was sitting on the couch and rubbing a small circle on his swollen belly as the baby moved.

Ianto couldn't help smiling widely as tears finally fell from his eyes. Instead of sad tears, they were tears of joy. "I'm looking forward to it. Goodbye, Jack Jones."

"Goodbye, Ianto Jones."

After one final hug, they pulled away and Ianto went over to Xana. Jack helped Sean to his feet and the pregnant man called out a final goodbye and left the room to head upstairs.

Once Sean was up the stairs, Jack turned to Xana, who held out the device to Ianto. "Now, you know what you need to do."

Ianto grinned at Jack. "Sure. Click my heels three times and repeat there's nowhere like home."

Jack and Xana broke out into laughter.

Ianto griped the device, feeling through it the proper way to place his fingers. He took a deep breath. "Right. Here we go. Once again, thanks for everything."

Jack waved and as Xana stood next to him, Ianto closed his eyes and channeled into the device.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Gwen carefully made her way into the Hub from the cog door, as the proximity alarm went off, carrying a tray. She looked over to see Toshiko already at her computer. She went over to the Japanese woman and held out a container of coffee. "You look like you've been here all night," she said.

"Not exactly, but it feels like it. Thank you," Toshiko said as she took the cup from Gwen. "Missing Ianto's coffee is the least of it, but I would be glad to have it again." She sighed sadly. "I'm running out of resources, Gwen. And eventually I'm going to have to tell Jack there's nothing more we can do. If the device stayed, we might have had a chance to find him."

"And then what?"

"I don't know. But I can't tell Jack that."

"You think we can get Owen to tell him?"

"Toshiko!" Jack called as he stepped out of his office. His hair was sticking up in odd angles, and he had bags under his eyes. There was also an emptiness in them. "Please tell me you're getting somewhere."

Toshiko sighed. Owen looked up from his workstation and stood up to join the women at Toshiko's station.

"Well, what are we standing around here for? Doesn't anyone have anything new?"

Owen cleared his throat. "Do you, Jack?"

Jack looked deflated as he shook his head. "No." He ran his hand through his hair. "I'm afraid I'm running out of options."

"I'm sorry, Jack," Toshiko said quietly. "I'm afraid to admit it, but so am I. I just don't know what else to do to find Ianto."

Jack smacked the rail in frustration. "We can't give up on Ianto like this! What if he can't come back? What if we've lost him?" Jack seemed to deflate even more before their eyes. "I can't lose him," he added. "We need to find something, somehow."

Any responses from the others were stopped when the intruder alarm went off. Toshiko and Gwen turned to their computers, as Jack rushed across the Hub to stand by Owen. "What's going on?"

"Intruder in the Hub!" Toshiko announced.

Jack gritted his teeth. "Dammit! No alien invasions until we find Ianto!" he snapped.

Owen shook his head. "A little too late, Jack. We'll have to deal with it."

"Jack!" Gwen called out.

"What?" the Captain snapped.

"It's…." Gwen's mouth dropped.

Toshiko checked her own readings and looked at Jack. "Oh my God!"

Both she and Gwen's eyes went past Jack.

"What is it, dammit? Anyone care to tell me what the hell is going on?" Jack demanded.

From behind him, he heard a snort. A very familiar snort. "Really Jack," he heard Ianto's voice. "I hardly consider myself an alien invasion."

Jack spun around. "Ianto?" He saw Ianto standing several feet behind him.

He heard squeals from both Toshiko and Gwen. From Owen, he heard, "That's bloody brilliant, tea boy."

Jack rushed to close the distance and pulled the Welshman in a crushing hug. "Ianto! My God! We thought we lost you for good."

Gwen was running over to them. "Ianto! What happened to you?"

Toshiko was also on her way to welcome Ianto back. Owen grabbed a scanner from his desk and made his way over as well.

Jack pulled back from Ianto. "Are you harmed in anyway?"

Ianto opened his mouth to reply, only to end up yawniing widely. His eyes started to close. "Just sleepy… need to sleep."

Jack held his arms out to catch the Welshmen as he started to topple over.

Owen helped Jack get a better hold. "To the couch, Jack. Get him over to the couch," Owen demanded.

Once they had Ianto's unconscious form settled on the couch, Jack undid Ianto's tie and opened a couple of buttons, while Owen scanned him.

"He seems fine, Jack. Just unconscious." Owen studied the scanner. "If you ask me, it seems as if he was given something to make him sleep. I'll run a few more tests on him, but I don't think he's in any danger. Let's hope he has some answers for us when he wakes up."

Gwen walked away from the couch, giving the men more room as she held the jacket Owen and Jack took off Ianto before they had settled him. She smiled at Toshiko. "I think we'll finally go back to business as usual now," she said.

Toshiko smiled as she looked over to the couch. Jack was sitting on the couch with Ianto's head in his lap, while Owen crouched before them, running tests. "Yes. Not your average alien invasion, but just a missing Ianto."

"Thank goodness," Gwen sighed in relief. Toshiko nodded in agreement.

"I'm going to run some scans to see if we can figure out where Ianto came from," Toshiko said. She reached out to run her fingers across the jacket Gwen still held and smiled again.

Gwen followed her and carefully set Ianto's jacket on a chair and started to do her own scans. Once in a while both women would look back, as if to reassure themselves that their team was once again whole.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

When Ianto opened his eyes, the first thing he saw was Jack's concerned face staring down at him. He felt his hand in Jack's, and he had to smile. "Hi," he said.

"Hi," Jack replied. "Welcome back."

Ianto nodded, and then looked around to discover they were in Jack's bed down in the cubbyhole under his office. "What happened?"

"What do you remember?" Jack asked.

Ianto thought back, frowning slightly. "We were tracking down alien tech that was giving off high readings. Oh, we found it and were preparing to bring it back to the Hub for safekeeping. And then…." Ianto started to frown more. "It's a blank. I think I vaguely remember suddenly finding myself in the Hub and then nothing until now."

"The device enabled time travel, and it was accidentally set off by a dog that got past our perimeters. It took you away from us."

Ianto studied at Jack's face and saw the anguish and despair. It tugged at his memories, as if it reminded him of something else, but he couldn't remember what. It didn't matter, he decided as he pushed it aside. He needed to reassure Jack that he was okay. Reaching up to cup Jack's cheek, he smiled softly. "I'm back, Jack. I'm here. And I'm not going anywhere."

"How can you be so sure? One day…."

Ianto sat up and silenced Jack with a soft, loving kiss. "I don't know. But that's what I want. And everything else doesn't matter right now. No need to cry over a future we're not sure of."

"Yeah, huh? Why are you so smart, Ianto Jones?" he asked.

"Because you love me for it," Ianto said in a teasing tone.

Jack pressed his forehead against Ianto's. "I do, and not just for your brains."

Ianto felt his breath catch. He knew their relationship had evolved from just shagging awhile back, but he felt as if they had taken another step. "Me too. I mean, I do and not just for your looks."

Jack chuckled. "I'm glad." His look turned serious. "You skipped out on our date," he said, attempting to make his voice light, but didn't quite succeed.

"It wasn't my choice, Jack. I'm willing to make it up tonight. Same plans?"

Jack nodded. "Only if you're feeling up to it. I'm going to take you home soon, after Owen has another chance to check you over and make sure you're okay. Once we're at your flat, I'm going to tuck you in, and take care of you. If you feel okay by tonight, we'll go on our date. If not, then you have me to pamper you some more and we'll go tomorrow."

"You don't have to fuss over me, Jack."

"Probably not, but I want to." Jack stared into Ianto's eyes. "I need to." He wrapped his arms around Ianto. "When I thought we lost you, I couldn't accept it; because I didn't want to deal with you not being in my life. Not yet, Ianto. It's too soon." He passionately kissed Ianto, conveying into the kiss everything he couldn't yet put into words. Ianto found he had to hold on tighter as he started to drown in the passion and emotion coming from Jack in waves. They didn't have to be telepathic to feel the connection.

Ianto returned the kiss, letting Jack know he felt the same. Wherever he had gone, he couldn't remember, but he sensed how much he missed being with Jack. To be in Jack's arms, feeling his mouth do all those talented things that evoked sensations in him that no one else had been able to, and it gave him a sense of homecoming. Ianto knew one thing, and somehow sensed it had much more to do with what he couldn't remember.

He was home.