It is with mixed emotions that I post this; the final chapter of 'What is Essential is Invisible to the Eye.' It has been an incredible journey, and I can't tell you all how much your reviews, PMs, favorite, story, and author alerts, encouragement, and support along the way have meant to me. My humblest and sincerest thanks to each and every one of you.
To those of you who have been loyally reading, but have never reviewed, I thank you all as well. I know you're there, as I see it reflected in my stats.
I truly hope I was able to fill in some of the gaping holes in canon, and give you all an alternative and much more satisfactory ending to the Jack and Ianto story. This is how I imagine it really happened. Thank you for letting me share it with you.
I truly lack the eloquence and vocabulary to convey my gratitude to you. You have been a magnificent beta, guest author, co-author, and beloved friend. Your brilliant ideas, insightful suggestions, attention to detail, and eloquent additions have never ceased to amaze me. Plus, you endured my histrionics with patience, kindness, and grace. As I've said before, this is not my story, it is ours. You are truly the sine qua non of WIE. Without you, it would not be what it is. Thank you.
I hope you all enjoy the conclusion of this epic and feel immensely satisfied with the ending I have presented.
This chapter was co-authored by the exceptional riftintime.
Ianto and Jack spent the night lost in each other's bodies. Ianto dozed sporadically, his mind still struggling to process the enormity of everything Jack had told him, along with the startling contents of the letter from the Doctor. Every time he opened his eyes, Jack was staring at him, his lashes moist with unshed tears. "I can't believe you're here," Jack whispered, his forehead leaning against Ianto's. "I can't believe I've got you back," he kept saying over and over again.
They lingered in bed until late morning, unwilling to return to reality. Finally Ianto said tentatively, "Jack… my sister… and Gwen and Rhys…"
"I've been thinking about that too," Jack admitted. "What to tell them… Rhiannon will be easier. But Gwen…" He shook his head.
"I'd like to see them," Ianto said earnestly.
Jack rubbed his thumb softly across Ianto's cheek. Then he nodded. Reluctantly, they both climbed out of bed and stepped into the shower.
After they'd bathed and dressed, they checked out of the hotel and organized a rental car. Before setting off, they stopped at a nearby café to have a late breakfast. Ianto walked in and turned around to ask Jack what he wanted, when he noticed that the older man was still standing outside. Frowning in confusion, he exited the café again. "Jack? What is it?"
"I haven't been able to drink coffee since…" He trailed off with an anguished look. "I haven't even been able to walk into a café, the aroma is so overpowering."
"I don't understand," Ianto said, his frown deepening. "You love coffee."
Jack looked at him. "Every time I smelled coffee, I was reminded of you… and… I thought…" He seemed unable to finish the sentence.
Finally understanding, Ianto took Jack's face in his hands and kissed him, probably for the first time truly not giving a damn that he was in the middle of a busy London street kissing another man. "I'm here, Jack. I'm not going anywhere."
He took Jack's hand, and they walked into the café holding hands. He didn't let go until he needed his hand to carry their food and drinks to one of the empty tables.
Jack moaned with pleasure when he took his first sip of coffee. "Wow, I've missed that. It's not as good as yours," he added hurriedly in response to Ianto's raised eyebrow. "But it's not bad."
Ianto smiled. He was simultaneously regretful and touched that Jack had given up something he took such pleasure in. He still felt overwhelmed by the lengths Jack had gone to in order to get him back. I can't believe he gave up coffee… Because it reminded him of me, and he believed I was dead… I never wanted him to suffer like that… I should say something… tell him somehow that when I die, he should remember the time we had together fondly, and move on…
He looked at Jack, who was sipping his coffee and making a face very similar to the expression he made when he climaxed. Ianto bit his lip as he tried not to burst into laughter. It felt good to want to laugh again after what was still very recent events from his perspective. He decided to let it go. He was here now. They were together. The past didn't matter anymore.
After finishing their breakfast, they collected their rental car and headed west on the M4. As Jack drove, he pulled out his mobile phone and dialed a number. He put it on speaker so Ianto could hear the conversation. The call connected, and they could hear a shrill voice yelling, "Mica, will you leave the bloody thing alone. Hello? Hello?"
Ianto smiled at the sound of his sister's voice. "Rhiannon?" Jack asked.
"Yes? Who's this? Are you selling something? I'm not interested."
"This is Captain Jack Harkness," Jack said, using his most official sounding tone.
There was silence on the other end of the line. "I was Ianto's…" Jack added, sounding less confident.
"I know who you are," Rhiannon snapped, cutting him off. "You got my brother killed," she continued angrily.
"Actually, that's why I'm calling," Jack said quickly. "As you know, some terrible events took place nine months ago, and Ianto was right in the middle of it. He held a top secret and very sensitive position in the government." He winked at Ianto. "For the safety of you and your family, Ianto had to go into hiding, and we put out word that he was dead."
"What are you saying?" Rhiannon asked, the shock evident in her voice. "Is this some kind of sick joke?"
"The danger has passed now," Jack continued in his official tone. "It's safe for him to come out of hiding and resume his life as he sees fit. We're very sorry for any pain and grief this has caused you…"
"Pain and grief?" Rhiannon's voice resumed her shrill tone. "First you get him blown up, and then you tell me he's bloody dead. Now you tell me he was in hiding? All this time? Do you know what we went through? What kind of government are you running? I'm going to lodge a formal complaint. Who's your superior? Telling me that my brother is dead! What am I supposed to tell the kids? What kind of…"
Ianto rolled his eyes. He knew Rhiannon was off on one of her tangents. "Rhi," he interjected. "It's me, Ianto. I'm fine. I'm sorry we had to put you through this, but it was for your own safety, and the kids," he said, reaffirming Jack's story.
There was a long silence on the other end of the phone. Jack and Ianto looked at each other. "Ianto? Is that really you?"
"It's me." Ianto smiled. "We're on our way to Cardiff. Should be there in a few hours. Then you can see for yourself that I'm alright."
"Oh… We've moved. Have a nice house now. You left us all your money in your will. Well, we thought you were dead… I suppose you'll want it back now?"
Ianto only just managed not to laugh. "No. The money is yours. I'm glad you could buy yourselves somewhere nice to live. Just give me your new address."
She recited the address, and Ianto ended the call as quickly as possible.
"That wasn't too bad," Jack said.
"You haven't met her yet," Ianto mumbled under his breath, feeling a stab of nervousness at the thought of his sister and Jack finally meeting.
"Well, now for the hard part," Jack said, his brow creasing with a look of concentration. He was silent for several minutes, apparently lost in thought, before he dialed another number. Once again, he put the phone on speaker.
"Hello? Jack?" Rhys' voice answered the phone. "Have you heard? I'm a father! We have a baby girl!"
"Congratulations, Rhys!" Jack said with a grin. "How's mum doing?"
"She's fine. She's gorgeous. They're both bloody gorgeous!"
"I'm glad to hear it."
"Are you calling from another planet?" Rhys asked suspiciously.
Jack laughed. "If you consider London another planet."
"Actually…" Rhys hedged.
Jack laughed again, and Ianto smiled appreciatively. He loved to hear Jack laugh. "I've got news, Rhys. And I was going to tell Gwen myself, but maybe it's better coming from you. I don't want to put the new mother into shock or anything."
"Bloody hell, Jack. What is it now?"
Jack paused, taking a deep breath. "Ianto's not dead."
"It's a long story, Rhys, but tell Gwen it's to do with the Doctor. I think that will be enough of an explanation for her. We're heading to Cardiff now. We need to stop at Ianto's sister's first, but we'll be by after that. We're both looking forward to meeting the newest Torchwood operative."
"Over my dead body!" Rhys roared.
Once again, Jack burst out laughing and disconnected the call.
Ten minutes later, Jack's phone rang. Jack looked at the caller ID and grinned, passing it to Ianto. It read, 'Gwen Cooper.'
Ianto put the call on speaker. "Jack? What the hell did you do? Did you find another one of those bloody resurrection gloves and use it on Ianto?"
Both Ianto and Jack started laughing. "Ianto? Ianto? Is that really you? I can hear you! Oh, Ianto! What did Jack do? Oh, God, are you a walking zombie?"
"No, Gwen. I'm alive." He smiled at Jack. "No glove. No tricks. Just a little intervention from a fifty-first century time traveler with a working Vortex Manipulator."
"But how? When?"
"Congratulations, Mum!" Jack shouted.
"Sod that! I want to know about Ianto!"
"We'll be there this evening," Ianto said calmly, rolling his eyes with affection at Gwen's exuberance. "We'll tell you all about it then. We're looking forward to meeting your daughter," he added.
"She's gorgeous," Gwen said proudly.
"If she looks anything like her mother, I'm sure she's a knockout," Jack said happily. "We'll see you soon, Gwen."
Ianto disconnected the call. "Jack?" he said thoughtfully a few moments later, his mind beginning to turn to more practical matters. "I don't have any money."
It was disconcerting to realize the sum total of his worldly possessions consisted of the clothes he was currently wearing. All his savings had gone to Rhiannon, he no longer had a job, and everything else he'd owned had been destroyed with the Hub.
"Ianto, I have plenty of money," Jack replied, waving a dismissive hand. "You don't ever need to worry about that."
Ianto thought about Jack's casual statement. He felt like he should be worried, being beholden to Jack financially, but somehow it didn't seem to matter. So many things he'd have once worried about seemed inconsequential now. He just couldn't bring himself to care. He knew for certain that Jack would take care of him, no matter what. "Does that mean I'm going to be a kept man?" he asked coyly.
Jack grinned at him. "Oh yeah! I like the sound of that! You'll have to work it off in trade." He leered suggestively at Ianto.
"Oh, will I now?" Ianto asked, raising an eyebrow.
Suddenly Jack swerved, cut across three lanes of traffic, and took an upcoming exit off the motorway. Ianto grasped the handle on the door nervously. "Jack? What the hell are you doing?"
Jack drove for several minutes, turning down a tree-lined dirt road. The car bumped and skidded as he drove into an area of deserted woods. Finally he stopped the car, and grabbed hold of Ianto, kissing him frantically. He pulled away, tugging at Ianto's belt. "We'll start that repayment plan right now," he said, grinning mischievously.
They scrambled out of the car, laughing, kissing, and pulling at each other's clothing. Jack pushed Ianto up against a tree, lifting him up so he was holding Ianto in the air, Ianto's legs wrapped around his waist. Jack took him right there, thrusting into him and kissing his neck.
Jack had his hands wrapped around Ianto's bare thighs, holding him up, so Ianto stroked himself as Jack drove deep inside him, hitting the sensitive bundle of nerves every time.
They climaxed almost simultaneously, amid a combination of heavy breathing, moaning, and laughing. Then they shared a few lingering kisses before cleaning themselves up and getting into the car again.
A little over three hours later, they approached the Severn Bridge. Seems to have withstood that little incident with the aliens a while back, Ianto thought, smiling wistfully at the memory. He glanced at Jack, wondering if the other man was thinking the same thing. But Jack had a serious expression on his face, his forehead wrinkled with consternation. "What is it, Jack?" he asked.
"I just never thought I'd set foot in Cardiff again," Jack said quietly. "Too many painful memories."
Ianto reached for Jack's hand, intertwining their fingers. "I'm here, Jack," he said, squeezing his hand reassuringly.
Jack smiled at him. "I know."
"Jack? What happened to the SUV? And all of the wreckage from the Hub?"
"UNIT," Jack said succinctly.
Ianto nodded. "I wonder if Myfanwy escaped. Any news on her?"
"Haven't heard anything. I'm sorry, Ianto… But there was no report of the remains of a pterodactyl in the Hub wreckage, so that's something."
Ianto nodded, hoping their prehistoric pet had escaped the explosion and settled somewhere nice. Maybe in the Beacons, he mused. She could feed on any lingering cannibals, he thought with a hint of malicious glee.
About half an hour later, Jack pulled the rental car up at a white, two-story house with a lovely front garden. Ianto looked around, feeling gratified that something good came out of his 'death,' and his money had been able to buy his only surviving family somewhere nice to live.
As they got out of the car, the front door flew open, and Rhiannon came running out of the house. "Ianto? Is it really you?"
She flung herself into Ianto's arms. He held his sister, who was crying on his shoulder. They had never been close, but he could feel her relief and her joy at seeing him again, and he was genuinely touched. She finally pulled back and looked at him carefully, wiping her eyes. "I can't believe it," she said. "You look good. You look happy."
"I am," Ianto said, smiling at Jack.
Jack winked at him. "Captain Jack Harkness," he said, extending a hand.
Rhiannon looked at Jack, then looked at Ianto with a questioning expression. "This is the one?" she asked. "Your… boss? Your…"
"Partner," Ianto finished her sentence confidently. "This is my partner, Jack."
Jack beamed at him. Rhiannon shook Jack's hand. "Nice to meet you," she said politely. Then she turned to Ianto. "He does look like a film star!"
Jack put his arm around Ianto. "Did you tell your sister that I look like a film star?" he asked smugly.
"No." Ianto snorted. "Please! One of Rhiannon's friends saw us together. As if I would stroke your ego like that. If it gets any bigger, we won't all fit in one bed!"
"Come on, Ianto, admit it. You told your sister I looked like a film star!" Jack teased.
"Hardly," Ianto said with feigned dignity, trying desperately not to laugh.
"Well, come on in," Rhiannon said, smiling at them both. "I told the kids that you were a spy, Ianto, so they're a bit over-excited," she added, gesturing them to follow her inside.
Ianto rolled his eyes, and Jack laughed as they entered the house. They spent, what Ianto had to admit were the most pleasurable couple of hours he'd ever spent with his sister and her family. They had arrived in time for afternoon tea, and they all sat down together in the lounge room, Rhiannon fussing over them with food and coffee.
Jack quickly charmed everyone, even Johnny. Ianto was highly entertained by Jack and Rhiannon's conversation, both of them talking so much that they kept interrupting each other. Ianto was a hero in Mica and David's eyes, and he couldn't help feeling just a little bit gratified by their awestruck esteem.
Finally, Jack pushed back his chair. "I'm afraid we have to go. We have another stop to make. But I'm so glad I finally got to meet you all. Ianto talks about you all the time."
"Does he now?" Rhiannon looked skeptically at Ianto, and he tried to maintain an impassive expression. "That other colleague of yours… Gwen. She was under the impression that our dad was a master tailor."
Ianto could feel himself starting to flush with embarrassment, and he tried in vain to look innocent. But Jack simply laughed, taking Ianto's hand and squeezing it tightly. "Just one of Ianto's little jokes. Gwen never really got it. She can be rather dense." He smiled at Ianto.
Ianto looked at him with gratitude. Leave it to Jack to use his charm to smooth over an awkward situation.
They said goodbye to Johnny and the kids, and Rhiannon walked them out to the car. She hugged Jack, whispering something in his ear. "You have my word," Jack said, smiling at her.
Jack bid her farewell and climbed into the car. Rhiannon turned to Ianto. "Well, it's obvious that you two adore each other," she said. "I'm glad you found someone who makes you so happy. You deserve it after… everything."
Ianto hugged his sister. It would never be the apology that he'd always wanted from her, but he knew it was her way of acknowledging the events of their childhood. "He really loves you," Rhiannon said.
"I know." Ianto smiled.
"Stay in touch?"
"I will," Ianto promised.
He kissed his sister on the cheek, then climbed into the car next to Jack. They waved to her as they pulled out of the driveway. "I like her," Jack said, taking Ianto's hand. "She's got spunk."
"Yup, that she does," Ianto agreed.
"So… I'm your partner?" Jack asked with a sly glance at him.
"Would you prefer boyfriend?" Ianto asked with a raised eyebrow.
"Hmm…" Jack looked thoughtful. "Either one." He shrugged. "I'm easy."
Ianto opened his mouth to make a snide comment, but Jack interjected, "Don't even say it, Mr. Jones!"
Ianto stuck his tongue out at Jack, who chuckled with amusement. A short while later, they pulled up at Gwen and Rhys' flat. Gwen burst into tears at the sight of Ianto, throwing her arms around him. "I can't believe it," she said, over and over again. "I saw your dead body!"
Even Rhys gave him a stiff, manly hug and patted him on the back several times, and Ianto caught him surreptitiously wiping his eyes.
Gwen held Ianto's hand and clung to his arm as they sat down on the sofa. Rhys put their baby girl, Anwen, into Jack's arms, and he held her with obvious practiced skill, as he told them an abridged version of how he'd saved Ianto.
They stayed with Rhys and Gwen, talking late into the night. Gwen offered them the use of their sofa bed, which they gratefully accepted.
Ianto woke in the middle of the night, finding the other side of the bed empty. He pulled on his trousers and padded into the baby's room, seeing a light coming from the crack in the door. Jack was holding Anwen, singing softly to her.
"Jack?" he whispered.
"She was crying," Jack murmured. "And I know how little sleep new parents get, so I thought I'd give them a rest."
"You look like you've done this before," Ianto said, keeping his voice low and peering over Jack's shoulder at the baby sleeping in his arms.
"A few times," Jack admitted after a long silence.
Ianto looked at Jack. "Tell me about them sometime?"
"I will, Ianto. I want to tell you… about everything." He leaned over and placed a brief but tender kiss on Ianto's lips.
Ianto put his arm around Jack, looking down at the baby girl. There was a flash of light, and they both looked up in surprise. Gwen and Rhys were standing in the doorway. Rhys had a camera in his hand. "We wondered why she hadn't woken us up," Rhys whispered.
"You both looked so bloody adorable," Gwen added in a soft voice. "Couldn't resist!" She pointed at the camera with a wide grin.
Jack placed the baby gently down in her cot. "Is there anything you can't do, Jack?" Gwen whispered, leaning over to look down at her daughter.
"I'm rubbish at taxes," Jack joked.
The four of them stood looking at Anwen, sleeping peacefully. "You did good, Gwen," Jack whispered, kissing the top of her head.
Eventually they all made their way back to bed. In the morning, Jack and Ianto departed, heading out to shop for clothing and other essentials. Then they booked a room at the St. David's Hotel, where they stayed for several days, spending time with Gwen, Rhys, and Anwen, wandering around Cardiff, and making good use of the hotel bed.
On the fifth morning of their stay, Jack dragged a protesting Ianto out of bed in what seemed like the middle of the night, taking him to the rooftop of the Millennium Center. With Jack's arm wrapped firmly around Ianto's waist, holding him close, they watched as the sun crept above the horizon, filling the sky with a vibrant glow of orange and red.
A flicker of movement caught the corner of Ianto's eye, and he looked up, gasping in surprise. "Jack!" he said excitedly, pointing upwards. "Look!"
The familiar shape of a pterodactyl flew high above them. Myfanwy glided gracefully through the air, letting out a loud screech and eventually disappearing from sight.
"I'm happy she's okay," Ianto whispered, blinking away the dampness in his eyes as his mind drifted back to an abandoned warehouse where it had all begun for the two of them. It seemed like a lifetime ago.
"Me too," Jack murmured, pulling Ianto closer and embracing him tightly.
Later that morning they were having breakfast at the hotel when Jack announced, "We have a date tonight."
"Do we?" Ianto asked, looking at him in confusion.
Jack nodded. "There's someone I want you to meet."
Ianto couldn't get Jack to say any more about it until a few minutes before ten o'clock that evening, when he flipped open his Vortex Manipulator and pressed several buttons. "Ready for a bit of travelling?" he asked with a smile.
"Where are we going?" Ianto asked, looking skeptically at Jack's wrist strap.
Jack just grinned and held out his hand. Ianto took it tentatively, and Jack pulled him close, pressing their bodies together. "It feels a little funny the first time," he said, putting his arms around Ianto and pressing a button.
Ianto felt a tugging behind his navel, then a falling sensation as they moved through space. They alighted in a starkly furnished room that was sleek and bore the distinct traces of alien design. "Where are we?" he asked, feeling a bit unsteady on his feet.
"The Shadow IV," Jack replied. Ianto was trying to assimilate the information when there was a tapping on the door. "Enter!" Jack called.
A young man in an officer's uniform walked in. "Jack!" he said excitedly, grabbing the other man and pulling him into a warm embrace.
"Alonso," Jack smiled, pulling back and looking at him fondly. "Good to see you."
"Is this him?" Alonso asked, turning to Ianto.
"Yup." Jack smiled proudly. "This is my Ianto. Ianto, meet Alonso."
Ianto politely stuck out his hand, but to his surprise, Alonso pulled him into an enthusiastic embrace. "I can't tell you how happy I am to meet you," he said with a wide smile.
"Er… thanks," Ianto replied, taken aback.
"He's gorgeous, Jack!" Alonso said looking at Ianto appreciatively. "But I knew he would be."
Jack laughed, and Ianto felt his cheeks growing warm. "Now tell me everything that happened," Alonso said eagerly.
Jack gestured towards the chairs, and they all sat down. Jack told the story of reviving Ianto with heartfelt honesty, and Ianto couldn't help liking Alonso, who's reactions were genuine and sympathetic. They chatted amiably for several hours, and Ianto found that he and Alonso had a lot in common, even though they were from different parts of the galaxy.
Finally they took their leave of Alonso, with promises to stay in touch.
Once again Ianto wrapped his arms around Jack as he pressed a button on his Vortex Manipulator, and they were transported back to their hotel room in Cardiff.
"Wow," Ianto said, feeling wobbly again. "That was… intense. You used to do that all the time?"
Jack nodded. "And we didn't even travel through time. We only teleported."
"Huh…" Ianto thought for a few moments.
Everything was so different. With Torchwood gone, all they had were each other. Ianto thought about the words in the Doctor's letter. He knew he was going to spend the rest of his life with Jack, however long that turned out to be. From what the Doctor had insinuated, it seemed like it would be longer than the average human. But he wasn't sure what that life was going to be like. Suddenly, anything seemed possible. Jack's words from what seemed like so long ago echoed in his mind. The end is where we start from.
It was a new beginning for both of them. He looked at Jack, who was gazing at him with open and uninhibited adoration. Things have changed so much between us… All of the angst, uncertainty, and insecurity gone forever… We both know we truly love each other, that we're meant to be together, and we accept it unequivocally. We've come so far. Been through so much together… Where do we go from here? "Jack?" he asked aloud. "What are we going to do now?"
"Well…" Jack paused. "We could settle down somewhere… buy a house…"
Ianto frowned. Jack had always struggled with domesticity, and while it would be nice for a while, he couldn't imagine that working for them long-term. He didn't want Jack to sacrifice his own happiness for his sake. And after everything they'd been through, he wasn't sure if he wanted that sort of conventional life either. "Doesn't really sound like us," he said hesitantly.
Jack smiled at him affectionately. "The Rift is closed, but… there are always going to be other threats to the planet. We could rebuild Torchwood, hire a new team, and pick up where we left off," he suggested, watching Ianto closely.
"Hmm…" Ianto replied thoughtfully.
"Or…" Jack hedged.
"Or…?" Ianto asked.
"Or… we could see the universe," Jack said with a shrug.
Ianto stared at Jack as his mind slowly began to comprehend what Jack was offering him. All the wonder and majesty of the universe…
His face broke into an enormous smile.