Notes: The full oneshot for #89 of 'Snapshots of Smiles.' Set somewhere in Season Two, pre-Owen/Tosh related disasters.
The callout hadn't been anything exciting, really, but opening the box back at the hub had been - particularly when the intruder alarms went off and three glowing silver balls floated up out of the box. Ianto and Tosh were closest, having been handling the box, and they flew in lazy circles around their heads for a moment before floating higher.
"What are they?" Tosh asked.
"Very, very dangerous," Jack breathed. "Move slowly away from them. We need to get out and lockdown. They die in the cold, so we need to lockdown and cut the temperature controls..."
Gwen was already inching towards the lift, and Jack shook his head at her.
"They'll follow us out," he said. "We need to take the back door."
"Jack," Owen breathed.
Jack turned back to them, and froze. While two of the balls were circiling around the top of the water tower, one had come down again. It was hovering in front of Ianto's face, and emitting loud beeping noises at random intervals.
"Don't let it touch your skin!" Jack hissed.
"I have gloves on," Ianto waved a hand, and true enough, he wore the thick leather gloves that he'd learned (through a series of nasty burns) to use whenever handling alien artifacts. "Could I grab it with these on?"
Jack thought about it as Ianto slowly backed away from the ball. The problem was that the ball - for whatever reason - was very interested in Ianto, and followed him across the walkway happily.
"I think so," Jack said slowly, and the words had no sooner left his mouth than Ianto was closing long fingers around the ball.
And in a flash of lightning, Jack's world was torn away from him.
A flash blinded them all, and in a moment, all three balls - and Ianto - were gone.
"What...Ianto!" Tosh cried.
She followed her own instincts - instead of approaching where he had been, as Jack and Gwen both did, she flung herself towards her computer and began every scan of premises possible.
"No," Jack breathed, face chalk-white and ghostly. "Don't. He's not here. He's not...oh God."
"What's happened? What did it do?" Gwen demanded.
"It...it took him. They take people...uproot them from their time so they...they never existed at all. Tosh, check the Jones family records, we need to know if he's gone completely or just been delayed a few years," he added in a flash of hope before his face crumpled again. "They take people earlier or later - usually by hundreds of years - because it's the only way they can explore time as well as space."
"They need the people to travel?" Tosh clarified.
"Yes," Jack said, and closed his eyes. "Oh God, I told him to touch it!"
There was the crux of it. For the next four months, with no sign of Ianto anywhere, Jack blamed his own decision. Tosh scanned the Jones records - and even their family tree - again and again, looking for any evidence of Ianto. But as far as the world was concerned, Dafydd and Bronwen Jones had never had a son at all.
There had never been a Ianto Jones at University College London. Torchwood London had never had anyone from Newport or Cardiff on their books. Lisa Hallett (gone from her drawer in the morgue, but still dead all the same) had never put the news of her engagement to Ianto on her now-defunct webpages.
Ianto Jones was not only gone, but as far as the present was concerned, did not exist at all.
And slowly, Torchwood had to keep on moving without him, despite the clear toll it took on Jack.
It was July before Tosh found a sign, in the database records.
"Jack, look at this," she said, and pointed to a black and white photograph on the screen. It was Ianto - clearly Ianto - in an old-fashioned suit and standing stiff and sombre with a dark-haired young woman. "It's from 1874."
"He looks exactly the same," Jack breathed, and he did. The man in photograph was quite obviously a twenty-five year old Ianto Jones. "What's going on, then? Where...did he end up?"
Tosh bit her lip and motioned for him to sit before reading the information off her screen.
"The photo is from the wedding of Iueun Jones and Alicia Evans in May 1874. They went to have four daughters and a son, all of whom reached adulthood. By the time Alicia died, in 1900, they had five grandchildren from various offspring. Iueun was a successful businessman, and ran three tailoring businesses in Cardiff and Newport. He was commonly known as Ianto, and his first grandson took on the name after his death in 1912."
Jack sagged, staring avidly at the photograph. Victorian photographs gave no clue as to how the people had felt, whether they had been happy or not, and it killed him to know that Ianto's entire life had been and gone and he had no idea whether it had been a good one.
"Does he have direct descendants?" he asked finally.
Tosh clacked away for a while, before emitting a tiny laugh. "You wouldn't believe it, but yes. His youngest daughter married a Thomas Cooper in 1901 and went on to have a string of descendants herself. Including Gwen."
Jack's answering laugh was wet and choked.
"Do you think...he was happy?" he asked, finally reaching out and touching the image on the screen.
Tosh's hand folded over his and she smiled.
"I'm sure he was, in the end," she murmured, and hoped that it was true.