Author's Note: New story! This is the next of my parts of the Transcendence 'verse - also known as 'BRB, Timewarp'. It follows on immediately from my Gravitational Potential, which follows on from Starlight Promises (but not directly), which follows on from And Then Some, both of the latter two written by the stupendous LiquidLash.
I would advise reading all of these, but it's not strictly /neccesary/. Just a good idea. There is a page on Facebook for the collection of stories as we build it.
This story will take the form of thirteen 'episodes' and this prologue. And so, if you're sitting comfortably...
Let us begin.
Jack stapled Ianto's passport photo to the top of his Torchwood employment record and slipped it in after his own in the 'active' section of his employee file. Lizzy and Ally would join them at the start of the next week, and John wasn't officially a Torchwood employee, he was a freelancer. A fresh start, and jack was the last man standing again. He smiled as he knelt by the bookcase to slide the file onto the bottom shelf and thought about Ianto, this Ianto who had been dragged through from another universe so that they could heal each other forever. Ianto who thought that a suit was highly impractical for most Torchwood work, who swore and smoked and drank lagers that the other Ianto... the Ianto who had died in his arms because of Torchwood, who had left his heart battered and bleeding and near death. But this Ianto wasn't a replacement, he smiled at the thought as he heard Ianto coming up the stairs, his steel toe-capped boots heavier on the stairs than his predecessors had been. Ianto hadn't been replaced or reclaimed, Jack would always love him, but his heart had been healed and there was space for two Ianto's in there with all the others he would treasure forever.
Ianto pushed the door of Jack's office open with his hip and put the mugs down on the surface of the desk as quickly as he could without spilling, then blew on his fingers and picked the closest mug up gingerly. He looked around the room as he took a sip of the coffee and put it back down again, frowning as Jack shoved a pile of papers in underneath before it hit the surface of the desk. "You've got a lot done in here," he commented, sitting on the corner of the desk whilst Jack sank into the office chair. It was out of place in here, surrounded as it was by two antique oak desks and matching cupboard and bookcase, but Jack had bowed to Lizzy's insistence that they get something that wouldn't ruin their backs every time they had to use them to write a long report. The computers fitted surprisingly well with the antique theme, dark wood juxtaposed with the silvery casings that Jack had chosen and the blue light from the monitor in the wall. The desks were back to back across the small room, set against the walls with enough room to walk between them and the monitors attached to the wall above them to increase desk space. Outside in the team work area, four corner desks had been set out in a rectangle, with a fifth workbench-cum-desk forming one long side and the opposite side taken up with the space where the Doctor, Jack and John were slowly rebuilding the Rift Manipulator. Jack was silent still, apparently trying to drown himself in coffee vapours, so Ianto reached out and poked him with the toe of his boot. "How are you getting on in here, Jack?"
"Oh, nearly done, I think," he looked up at Ianto at last and smiled, though it failed to get anywhere near his eyes. "There's so much that was in here and..." he closes his eyes and when he opens them again they are pleading. "Get me out of here, please?"
Ianto nodded and reached over to take Jack's hand and pull him out of his chair. They were alone in the Hub - John and the Doctor were off on a trip across the universe to get the bits they needed for the Rift Manipulator and Ally and Lizzy hadn't officially started work at Torchwood yet – and Ianto powered the computers down whilst Jack pulled his coat on. They went out through the Tourist Information office and ducked their heads as they emerged into the teeth of a biting wind and icy-cold rain thickened by hints of the Winter's first snow. Ianto took Jack's hand again and they ran up the slippery wooden ramp that led to Mermaid Quay, shaking water out of their eyes as they dived straight into the restaurant at the top. Whilst they waited to be seated, Ianto wrapped his hand around the back of Jack's neck and pulled him in so that his head was tucked between Ianto's cheek and his shoulder and his thumb drifted through the damp hair at the nape of Jack's neck. When they were seen to, at last, Jack pulled away reluctantly and shivered slightly, his hand still planted firmly on Ianto's waist. They were shown to a table on the upper level against the balustrade and Jack draped their coats over it, vaguely hoping that they wouldn't drip too badly onto people below.
He sat down opposite Ianto, who was already perusing the menu with a mildly perplexed expression, and picked one up himself. Ianto indicated that he'd made a decision by putting his menu down firmly and resting his chin in both his hands to watch Jack, who immediately hid behind his own menu. The end of a finger hooked over the top of it and Ianto was eying him seriously. "I like the look of the Mega Beef Burger."
Jack smiled, a bright flash that was gone almost instantly, and looked back at the menu with a slight frown creasing his forehead. "I like the look of the steak and mushroom pie."
"Well we might have to agree to disagree, then," Ianto suggested. "And eat different meals."
The smile came again, flashed brighter and lingered longer, and the menu disappeared from between them. Jack's hand crept across the table and his fingers brushed the back of Ianto's hand gently. "Is this a date, Ianto?"
It was soft and genuine, and Ianto turned his hand over to invite Jack further in. "I suppose it might be," he agreed. "Our first, I guess," he smiled and tightened his grip as Jack took his hand properly. "Are you going to let me walk you home afterwards?"
Jack chuckled at last, and then his face fell. "Only if we have somewhere to go."
Ianto's mood also fell as he too remembered that 'home' was a blue box that wasn't in the city at that moment. The upswing was almost instant, though, as he looked out into the darkness and saw reflected lights through the pouring rain. He retrieved his hand and grabbed his phone from his pocket, getting the feeling that John would accuse him of having 'the light of mischief' in his eye if he were there to see it. But he wasn't, it was just Jack and Ianto having an 'okay' meal and, he hoped, a much better night. The waitress came and took their orders whilst he navigated it, and he managed to get his phone put away before the food arrived, giving him time to reclaim Jack's hand and pull it to his mouth so that he could kiss the base of his thumb. "All sorted," he smiled and saw Jack's smile light in his eyes first, rather than the other way around. "And now you're going to have to let me walk you home, because I know where home is."
Jack's index finger reached out and brushed at Ianto's bottom lip, and his eyes took a moment to flick up to his eyes. "I'm sure I won't protest too much," he pulled their hands down to the table and looked over to the waitress coming up the stairs with their food, some uncanny sense that Ianto had yet to figure out telling him that she was coming. "And I might even invite you in for a nightcap, if you're good."
They leaned back and broke apart so that the waitress could put the food in front of them, and Ianto stared at his burger in bemusement. "That's... how am I supposed to eat that?" he questions with amusement. "No one's got a mouth that big."
"I could manage it," Jack smirked, cutting into his steak pie.
Ianto glanced up at him and down to his plate again, then started to take the burger apart until it was a more manageable size. "I bet you could," he murmured with as much confidence as he could find.
Jack's thumb brushed the back of his hand as they both reached for the ketchup and his ankle pressed against Ianto's. Whilst Ianto rebuilt his burger and dug into one of the sauce soaked onion rings, Jack piled a fork full of pastry, steak and mushroom and ate it slowly. Ianto looked up again to find a fork waving in his face, tempting him. "Try the pie?" Jack offered. "The steak is excellent."
With a flash of a smile, Ianto leaned forwards and opened his mouth, closing his eyes and his mouth at the same time as he savoured it. Jack's thumb brushed under his lip, wiping away what he was sure was an imaginary drip of gravy – not that he minded. When he opened his eyes again, Jack's smile was apologetic and he was concentrating on his food. "You're right, the steak is to die for."
Jack grinned and nodded. "How's the burger?"
Ianto shrugged, picked it up, glared at it, and took a tentative bite. Jack smirked at him and he rolled his eyes, then swallowed and held it out. "It's delicious, try it?"
He covered Ianto's hands to bring the burger close enough and held them in place whilst he took a bite. Ianto grinned and retrieved his dinner and hands from Jack's grasp and took another mouthful. Jack rested his chin in one hand to watch him. "You really don't mind, do you?" he asked happily.
Ianto swallowed. "Mind what?"
"What people think. Of you, of us..."
"Oh..." he took another bite to give himself time to think and Jack did the same, apparently satisfied with this conclusion. "No, I don't," Ianto agreed when he could. "I mean... it shouldn't. I know it shouldn't. It takes some convincing, like when those girls in the corner gave a very disapproving look when you took my hand, but I realised that it's just because they wanted one or both of us."
Jack grinned, choked, swallowed and shook his head. "Flawless logic, I approve."
Ianto smiled and got on with his burger, eyes fixed distantly out of the window. The rain had lessened slightly, judging by the reflections on the Bay, and he could make out individual establishments rather than a smudge of light. Jack's finger brushed his cuff where it rested against the surface of the table and he looked up with a smile. "Just admiring the view," he reassured him. "It's all gone a bit abstract."
"Yeah," Jack's voice was nothing more than a breath and his eyes were soft and distant when Ianto looked around at him. "It has really."
Jack helped Ianto with his coat when they got up to leave, long after their plates had been taken and they'd drunk coffees and Ianto had paid for the meal. They headed back out into the rain, heads ducked and shoulders hunched until Jack threw his head back and closed his eyes to let the rain wash across his face. Ianto threw caution to the howling winds and tucked himself close to Jack, resting his chin on his shoulder and hiding his face in his exposed neck when Jack's arms wrapped around him almost automatically. They stayed their, wrapped together with Jack's hand resting on the back of Ianto's neck and Ianto's arms wrapped around Jack's body underneath his coat. Jack's cheek eventually drifted down along Ianto's until his breath tickled across Ianto's ear with the words, "If it weren't for the rain, I could get pregnant."
Ianto nuzzled against Jack's cheek to show that he'd heard whilst he digested this information. It was big, it was huge, it had enormous potential, but at the moment it was just one of those things – Jack couldn't get pregnant, but if they tried he might be able to. "I guess... I should be glad of the rain then," he decided out loud, smiling when Jack's arms tightened around him and the steady breath over his ear became somehow steadier. "For the moment, at least. Now come on, it's wet, and pneumonia is miserable even when you know you're going to survive it."
"I know," Jack kept hold of Ianto's hand as he slipped away and followed him. "Where are we going, then?"
"Tesco first," he smiled. "For 'dessert'. And then there," he pointed with the hand that was holding Jack's and the action drew Jack closer behind him. "The wonders of mobile internet, they have rooms free tonight."
"Come on then," Jack looked down from the towering St David's Hotel to Ianto's smile and pushed even closer. "Walk me home?"