Bed in the morning was good.
Bed in the morning was warm.
Bed in the morning was cosy.
Bed in the morning was simply luxurious ...
And for once, bed in the morning had Ianto in it.
It was a summer six AM, so the sunrise was already filtering through the gaps in the curtains, and Jack could see Ianto's sleeping face, creaseless, weightless, young and worry-free on the pillow beside him, a gentle smile playing on his lips as he dreamt. Jack curled up to him, kissing his shoulder, draping an arm over his chest and propping his head on his hand to watch him sleeping.
They didn't get this kind of morning in the hub.
Mornings in the hub were all about Rift alerts, flares, aliens coming through, residual energy, caffeine just to stay awake or Weevils whinging and whining in the vaults.
But Jack had promised Ianto this.
One night and morning a month where Cardiff could be Gwen's responsibility until lunch time (barring bigger emergencies) and Jack and Ianto could go and do whatever they pleased. Tonight was their first night, and Jack could definitely foresee this arrangement sticking.
Shopping in town for useless things, an Italian restaurant, back to Ianto's flat to watch a DVD and eat a mountain of popcorn ... and the sex? The sex after a stress-free, adrenaline-hit free day was mind-blowing.
And for the first time since before Owen and Toshiko died, they could take their time.
Ianto had been beautiful, glistening with sweat and come and writhing and gasping below him, his body tight and hot; his voice low and deep, sending shivers down Jack's spine. He'd caught Jack unawares, flipping them over, strong thighs squeezing his torso and iron fingers gripping his biceps as Ianto rode him, dark eyes boring into him as they came again.
Ianto shuffled in his sleep, and Jack realised he'd been gripping his shoulder a little hard in his reverie. Loosening his grip, he gently massaged the spot and planted another kiss on Ianto's cheek.
This is what life was about. The stolen moments of contentment between the rush and busy of everyday life. Whether you share it with your friends or your family or your lover or child, that little thrum of happiness is what makes living all the while, and Jack was so happy to be alive right there and then.
He rested his head on Ianto's hair, pulling himself closer.
Change this for the world? He wouldn't change this for the Universe.
Ianto wouldn't hold his hand. He said it was girly.
"But you are the girl!" Jack reminded him with a grin, grasping his fingers tight and dragging him the long way towards the Plass.
"You're the one who needs chocolate and chick flicks to help you through the month." Ianto grumbled, but returned the hold anyway. Secretly, he wanted to hold hands. He was just too much of a man to admit it.
It was lunchtime, and all the secondary school kids were hanging around the Plass cafés, shouting and yelling or milling around with fast food. A large group of girls were currently fighting seagulls to keep their chip butties, and Jack and Ianto sniggered into their hands. A seagull landed near them, and Ianto gave him a quick nod.
"Same old, same old." replied the gull, before flying off for a second attempt at deep-fried potato stealing.
Jack sat on the large steps by the Plass while Ianto went to fetch sandwiches, and shucked his coat, laying it beside him. Ianto had persuaded him to try a white, long-sleeved shirt and Jack was revelling in the attention he was getting. He was also enjoying the fact this was Ianto's shirt, and Ianto sharing his clothes with him was both very intimate and very special. Jack always leant his clothes to people, but Ianto guarded his closely. The only item of clothing Jack had that Ianto had never worn was his coat, and the only item Ianto had that Jack had ever been allowed to wear was this shirt. He briefly wondered if he would ever be able to borrow the plum one Ianto was wearing now, but doubted it.
He had been allowed to wear a couple of ties, but they were worn neither around his neck or in an appropriate place to be seen in public.
Ianto returned, and grinned at just how few buttons Jack had actually bothered to fasten. If it wasn't for the white undershirt, his full chest would probably have been on show. "You look like you've just stepped off a Hollywood boat."
"I'm not sure if that's a complement, or you're trying to tell me I look gayer than usual." replied Jack, taking his sandwich. "Thanks."
"A bit of both, I suppose." sighed Ianto, watching as three small children ran into a cluster of seagulls, causing them to scatter with squeals and squawks of indignation. He removed his jacket, passing it to Jack to put next to his coat, and tilted his head back in the midday summer sun, taking a deep breath and enjoying the moment before coming back to himself and opening his sandwich. He paused, realising Jack was watching. "What?"
"Nothing." replied Jack quickly, glancing away and taking a bite of his own food.
Ianto smirked to himself. He loved catching Jack watching him – and it was happening more and more often these days. He pulled his legs up to sit cross-legged, watching with amusement as one of the seagulls decided it had had enough of the children and began to shriek and follow them as they ran to their mothers, yelling. He laughed, then felt the prickle on his neck of being watched himself. He could sense it wasn't Jack, so scanned the surrounding area with his eyes, searching out all those looking in their direction. "Do you feel like we're being watched?" frowned Ianto, squinting in the sunlight.
Jack paused devouring his sandwich and thought about it. His eyes followed the route Ianto's had just taken, trying to find who was looking at them. He twisted to glance behind them, and just off to their right spotted a gaggle of schoolgirls with camera phones trained in their direction. Smirking, he waved at them, and realising they'd been spotted the girls turned bright red and all but ran away.
"Feeling gone?" he asked Ianto.
"Yep." he frowned in reply. "Did you spot them?"
"Yeah. Schoolgirls with camera phones."
Ianto blinked. Jack laughed.
He kept glancing furtively around while he finished his sandwich, and Jack watched him out of the corner of his eye, internally giggling.
They finished their lunch, and reluctantly binned their rubbish and thought about heading into work.
"Can we really only do this once a month?" Jack asked, forcing him to hold hands again.
Ianto gave him a surprised look. "You think the Rift can survive without us for more than one day a month?"
"Well, once we get a new team we'll have more time together anyway. May as well bunch it up into something worthwhile skiving off for."
"No more quickies in the Archives then?"
"Even on World Is Ending days, there's time for quickies in the Archives, Ianto." Jack replied seriously.
Ianto grinned, and hopped up onto the paving slab. As they descended, they could hear Gwen having the politer end of an argument on the phone in Jack's office, and Ianto raised an eyebrow in Jack's direction. "What do you suppose that's about then?"
"I dunno. Torchwood's current red cap wastage?"
Ianto gave him a playful shove, mindful of the dangers of the lift, and they laughed together.
"Jack!" called Gwen, harassed and covering the mouthpiece of the phone, stood in the doorway to Jack's office. "Jack! Could you take this call?"
Ianto followed him into the office, giving Gwen a 'good afternoon' smile. He took Jack's coat and hung it up, then cleared his Out Tray ready for filing. He paused by Gwen's desk, and narrowed his eyes at her. "... did you ... have instant coffee?" he asked, the lingering smell of bad coffee granules hanging faintly in the air.
She knew better than to play wide eyed innocent. She stared at the floor guiltily. "Sorry ... but ... you weren't here. And I was hardly going to phone you up ..."
"You could have at least gone to a coffee shop ... but ... instant, Gwen!"
"I know, I know! I was desperate!"
"You're only cheating yourself." he reminded her, turning away to the coffee machine and smirking to himself as Gwen started to sulk and feel sorry for herself. He set to work and made her a large mug of thick, creamy coffee with an extra brown sugar, and she accepted it gratefully.
"Mmmmm." she groaned, taking a sip, sounding orgasmic.
"Don't make noises like that, you'll give the wrong impression." winked Ianto, and she flushed delicately. Ianto never really made jokes like that.
"Someone got it good last night." she commented offhandedly, taking delight in Ianto's returning blush. She giggled to herself as he scarpered away, muttering about fetching Jack's mug and wondering aloud if he'd done any more paperwork. He returned with the blue and white stripy mug, and she couldn't resist another jibe. "Can't think what made you forget to go mug collecting last night, Ianto."
He tried to glare at her, but she just sniggered, and the corners of his mouth pulled too. "Shut it, you." he grinned, flicking her nose. He made Jack's coffee, took it through to him and sat on the chair behind Tosh's old desk and used his feet to push backwards and position himself next to her. "What are you working on?"
"Correlating ... stuff ...." she said authoritatively.
Ianto narrowed his eyes at the screen. "I see."
He leant over and took the mouse from her, and minimized the screenshot of the Rift monitor program she'd tried to hide her real activities behind. "Is 'Correlating Stuff' Gwen-Speak for 'Making Cakes on Purble Place'?" he asked, sipping his coffee.
Gwen couldn't help but giggle. "It's been too quiet! And I was here on my own."
Ianto used his feet to push himself around on the chair, spinning slowly. "You could have fed the Weevils, done some filing, cleaned out Myfanwy, gone out to fetch some milk – maybe bread, possibly a bit of chocolate – and then you could have cleared away the debris on the desks, shredded the letters for Jack from UNIT, collected the mugs ..."
"Alright, alright! I'm lazy!" she grinned, putting a hand out to stop him spinning. "You're gonna make yourself sick, love."
He made a vomiting sound in her direction, and she instinctively raised her hands to protect her face and clothes as best she could. He laughed at her, shaking away the minute dizziness he was feeling and rested his chin on her shoulder as he watched her trying to build a three-tiered cake of varying colours.
"You've definitely had it good." sighed Gwen. "Look at you ... all touchy-feely ..." she smiled as she pinched his cheek. He gave her a cheeky grin, a delicate pink flushing his skin.
"Just in a really good mood." he shrugged, and started spinning in his chair again. He went faster and faster, until a firm hand landed on his shoulder and stopped him abruptly. Looking up dazedly into Jack's amused gaze, he tried to stagger to his feet, only to fall and be caught by the Captain holding him upright, strong arms around his middle. He felt suddenly uncomfortable being so close to Jack with Gwen in the room, but Jack didn't really seem to notice, making sure he was upright then sneakily stealing his chair.
"Make one with jellybeans!" he cooed at the screen over Gwen's shoulder.
"I have to make the one on the screen or I lose." she told him.
"... I had no idea that was the aim of the game ..." Jack said blankly, turning his chair slightly and grabbing Ianto's arm, forcing him to sit on his lap. Now Ianto was uncomfortable. Jack was, most probably, about to try and surreptitiously do something naughty with him while Gwen was sat next to them.
"I'm too heavy for your lap, Jack." Ianto told him, getting up. "Here ... Gwen ... shift."
They readjusted a little, and eventually Jack and Ianto were sat on the chairs with Gwen perched happily on Ianto's lap while she carried on with her cakes. Then they tried to unite the brain power of three to beat the computer at chess (which they did, mainly thanks to Ianto being able to think about twelve moves ahead) before finally trying to figure out what the little numbers actually meant in Minesweeper.
The first time Gwen started up the game, Jack and Ianto scoffed at it. She'd changed the settings to 'Garden', so instead of mines exploding it was flowers.
"That. Is. So. Gay." Ianto said in disbelief.
"It's cute, and non-violent." retorted Gwen, shifting so that her pelvic bone dug into his thigh. He practically lifted her to move her somewhere more comfortable, and Jack sniggered.
"Gay. Gay. Gay. Gay. Gay. Gay." Ianto chanted, poking her in time with the rhythm and laughing at her squirm while little daisies burst into petal on her screen.
"You should know." she replied haughtily.
He and Jack mock-gasped in unison and they all laughed. Ianto started turning the chair side to side while Gwen tried to concentrate, waiting for her to snap at him, knowing she was getting annoyed.
She opened her mouth and drew breath to chastise just as the Rift monitor started beeping. In less than two seconds she had the program up, and they all leant in to read the results.
"Spike right in the middle of the Plass. Nothing big – tiny, practically – so I doubt anything large or living came through ..." Gwen assessed.
"C'mon then you two. May as well take the lift ..." sighed Jack, not even bothering to take his coat as he dragged her and Ianto over to the paving slab.
Ianto surreptitiously reached into his pocket, setting the mp3. player on his phone to 'play'. The lift began its ascent as Ianto's iPhone began blaring the dramatic James Bond theme, and Gwen nearly fell off the slab she was giggling that much. Jack kept a firm grip on her middle, and Ianto was definitely not jealous.
They arrived on the Plass, and Ianto scanned the area, took two steps back and spotted a tiny little black chain with a dark, multicoloured stone on the end. The scans showed it was safe to touch, so he carefully lifted it and held it up in the afternoon summer sun.
Jack stared at it, clearly in awe, stepping closer with his mouth half open.
"You know what it is?" asked Ianto, handing it to him.
"Yeah ... yeah I do ..."
Gwen was squinting at the little dark stone, the swirling colours inside it hypnotizing them all. "Well?" she asked.
"You ever seen Men In Black?" asked Jack.
"Yeah." they both replied.
"This ..." Jack indicated the stone on the chain. "... is a galaxy."
"That is so awesome, I can't even express it." Ianto deadpanned, though definitely in awe of the little marble.
"There's whole ... planets and people and civilisations in there ...." Gwen pondered.
"Yup." Jack smiled. "That's why we need to be careful with it. One for the safe I think, Ianto." he said, handing it back to him gently. "It doesn't need any help or care from us. Just put it in a cotton-wool and bubble-wrap filled container and make sure nobody messes with it."
"Do we have to hide it away?" he asked. "It's ... beautiful. Maybe we could put it on your desk or something. Somewhere it can be seen. I mean ... where did it come from? What did the people who had it before us do with it?"
They stepped back onto the lift and began to descend again.
"The culture that made them would wear them as jewellery or set them as part of decorative pieces. The original tradition was to pass them from mother to daughter once it was deemed the child had shown enough responsibility to take care of it. Then ... for some reason ... daughters stopped being born, and the galaxies began to pass to men. And the men of that race were ... destructive. I mean, at least human males have a nurturing or protective streak. These men were ... they would play with the galaxies. Gamble and fritter them away. Some of them were broken, or lost, or stolen –"
"Broken?" interrupted Ianto. "Broken ... wouldn't that ..."
Jack nodded grimly. "Everything inside them died. But, if you broke a galaxy, you were liable for multiple genocide and hanged, drawn and quartered."
"You spent time on this planet?" asked Gwen, stepping off the lift as it touched the ground.
"Their history was something we learnt at school. Their history is what every child in teh United Planets learnt at school – in case we, too, were simply a galaxy in a marble, being toyed with and played with by a much 'greater' being."
Gwen sighed, glancing at the long black chain in Ianto's hand and the galaxy hidden firmly in his palm. "I don't think we should hide it away, Jack. It's too beautiful."
"Fine, fine." he conceded. "Ianto: the galaxy is your responsibility."
With a grin, Ianto carefully slipped the chain into his waistcoat pocket until he could find somewhere to put it where it would be seen and not broken. He busied himself taking Jack and Gwen's paperwork down to the Archives for filing, and whistled to himself happily as he put each form and report in its proper place.
Ianto touched his ear. "Yes, Jack?"
"Er ... could you come up here a minute? I have a ... problem. Y'know. Hint hint."
"About to go and fetch some milk, biscuits and some of that string with the blue going through the middle."
"I'll be two minutes." Ianto smirked, and broke the connection. He put the final file in its place and hurried up to the main area, just in time to see the cog door slide shut behind Gwen.
"There you are!" grinned Jack, and pulled him close, pressing their mouths together before dragging him towards the office. "C'mon!" he dragged Ianto by the hand. "On your back!"
Ianto sniggered, following him with only pretend reluctance down into his quarters. Ianto left his shirt, tie and waistcoat on, and Jack his braces, t-shirt and dress shirt.
Ianto clicked on the stopwatch.
Naked from the waist down, they lay down on the little bed and tangled together, urgently kissing and touching and stroking. Jack had already set out the lube, reaching for it blindly and preparing Ianto quickly, checking the stopwatch as it ticked on the bedside table. Knowing he wasn't as loose as he was used to, Jack eased into Ianto's body slower than usual, careful to make sure that the hisses were of pleasure and there was almost non-existent pain.
Jack began his thrusts, Ianto's fingers digging into his biceps.
"Slower!" gasped Ianto. "A little slower ..."
"Sorry ... does it hurt?"
"No ... I just ... just ... gained an appre ... appreciation for taking the time to ... fuck that's good ..."
Jack slowed his pace a fraction, feeling Ianto's body tight and pulsing around him, strong thighs squeezing his sides and hot lips on his neck.
"Na-AH-ahhh Jack! Stop ... stop ..." gasped Ianto.
"My clothes ... I don't wanna come on my clothes ..."
Jack made hurried work of the buttons, pulling open Ianto's waistcoat and shirt, being careful not to crush the galaxy in his pocket and setting it on the bedside table. He began the movement again, burying his head in Ianto's neck and feeling teeth, tongue and lips caressing the sensitive skin of his own.
Heatedly the pace picked up a little, Ianto gasping with each inward thrust and Jack groaning every time he felt Ianto clench around him. With a final cry, Jack came and Ianto followed with the sight of him, smiling sleepily as Jack slumped down on top of him, panting. Ianto held him – not cuddled: held – and grinned to himself for no particular reason.
Eventually Jack broke them apart, and laughed to himself when he saw the white stains drying into his borrowed shirt.
"Oops." Ianto smiled, still a little flushed. They disentangled themselves and Jack changed his shirt while Ianto got dressed again, looking his usual perfect self in moments. He sat on the bed, toeing his shoes back on, and Jack dropped down in front of him to help.
"What're you doing?" asked Ianto, laughing. Jack ignored him and unlaced the shoe, making it easier to slip it on before tying it up again. Wordlessly, he reached for the galaxy hanging from its chain on the bedside table.
"I didn't tell you the other tradition surrounding these things." Jack said distantly, staring into the depths of the swirling marble, tiny stars and planets almost too small to see were it not for their glow going about their business, oblivious. Ianto found himself lost in it, too, hypnotized by the wonder of what the little stone contained.
"What tradition?" he asked, then frowned. "You said ... you said 'daughters stopped being born'. What happened to the race that made these?"
"They died out. No girls were born, and the remnants were too arrogant to breed with other races, so they signed their own extinction warrant. Anyway ... the other tradition ... before the daughters stopped being born, sometimes couples had more than one girl. Sometimes they had twins – so they needed to make more of them."
"Making galaxies ... must be ... must be difficult." breathed Ianto, absorbed in the swirling glow of the marble.
"It was ... relatively easy. You just needed three things, and it was relatively simple from there."
Ianto was still staring into the depths of the stone, but Jack's eyes had moved to the crystal blue of Ianto's eyes, seeing the glow of the galaxy reflected in them, the mystery and passion hidden behind them suddenly allowing itself to be seen outside of lovemaking.
Reaching over, Jack curled his fingers beneath Ianto's chin, moving his head so that their eyes met. He kissed him gently, their tongues barely intruding as they danced together, languidly tasting and caressing each other. Jack entwined their fingers, pressing the galaxy between their palms so that they were both holding it tightly as they kissed. Ianto jerked back suddenly, and Jack carefully pulled their palms apart to show him what was happening.
Ianto gasped as the marble began to bulge on one side, the lump growing bigger and bigger until eventually it was a clear marble all of its own, dropping from the original stone as a separate entity. It grew its own clasp and chain as Ianto stared in fascination, before it was an exact copy of the first galaxy – just clear, and containing ... nothing.
"Watch ..." whispered Jack, handing him the new stone. Ianto narrowed his eyes, watching.
"What am I looking for?" he asked.
"You'll see ..."
There was a tiny flash of light in the centre of the orb, Ianto's mouth dropped open as it expanded out to the edges of the ... was it glass? ... and everything inside faded to black, the occasional cluster of something glowing.
"... and a new galaxy is born." smiled Jack, still watching Ianto.
Ianto still couldn't take his eyes off it, and Jack was getting a little jealous of all the attention he was giving it rather than him.
"How did ... how did ... how was it made?" Ianto asked. "What ... you said three things ...?"
"To make a new galaxy you need an already established galaxy ... and ... two people in love."
"Oh ... right ..." Ianto breathed, and stared at the newly formed galaxy in his hand before smirking to himself. "You soppy git." he laughed, and gave him a playful punch. Jack laughed with him, then pulled him in for another kiss.
Realising the stopwatch was still going, ticking in the background unnoticed, Ianto broke them apart and clicked it off, not caring much for the time anymore. With a sigh they began to think about going back up to work. "Um ..." Ianto thought. "What do we do with the second galaxy?"
"I'll keep my eye on it. You'll probably never see it fully grown, but ... it'll be a nice something for me to look after when ... y'know ...."
Jack didn't look at him as he reached out for the young galaxy in Ianto's hand, and slipped the chain around his neck and tucked it into his shirt. Ianto decided to copy, wearing the first one as a necklace, too, carefully hiding it under his clothes. "Maybe we should make one for Gwen." he pondered.
Jack shrugged. "Just thought we could have something for us, is all ..."
Ianto rolled his eyes, and began climbing the ladder. When they got back to the main area, he had already slipped his professional demeanour back on, checking the Rift monitor and clearing away Gwen's now empty coffee mug. Jack watched him, leaning in the doorway to his office, and smiled to himself.
The sirens sounded as the cog door rolled back and Gwen wandered through chatting to Rhys on her mobile and carrying a couple of shopping bags. She hung up the phone and grinned at them, handing out little chocolate treats then going to put the milk she'd bought into the fridge. Ianto collected some more filing from her – Jack hadn't really done work that afternoon – and wandered back down to the Archives to put them away.
He was making a round of coffee when the readings from the computer on his – that used to be Tosh's – desk caught his attention. "Jack!" he called. "Jack, come and look at this ..."
Jack and Gwen gathered around his Rift monitoring program. Gwen frowned. "I ... I don't see anything."
"Exactly." Ianto replied. "The Rift has only spit out one thing in the last two days: the galaxy," He shared a glance with Jack. "and that was tiny. What's wrong with it?"
"Maybe it's having an off day?" suggested Gwen. "Is it unusual for the Rift to be so quiet for two days?"
Jack nodded. "Yeah – but it could just be an anomaly."
"Mmm," Ianto agreed. "but I'll check the records anyway ... see if it's ... I dunno ... normal. "
"Why are you so worried about it?" asked Jack.
"When something acts out of the ordinary, ask questions." Ianto told him.
Jack nodded. "Good point. Okay, you go check ... whatever it is you were going to check ... and Gwen and I shall do a second scan for Rift activity and residual energy to see if there's anything we've managed to miss."
"Okay." agreed Gwen.
"Okay." smiled Ianto, sitting down in his chair and setting to work.
"Jack! I found something!" Ianto called.
Jack and Gwen gathered around him again, as he showed them a scan of a report from the nineteen thirties. The copperplate handwriting was difficult for Gwen to read, but Jack and Ianto didn't seem to have a problem.
"I can't make it out." she sighed. "Can you read it to me or something? Please?"
"Do you have a reader of preference?" asked Jack.
"Yeah: Ianto. You don't talk enough and I love the baritone."
Ianto blushed, and began reading.
"April twelfth, nineteen-thirty-two. It would usually be welcome for the blasted Rift to be so quiet for so long – a whole seventy-two hours, and not a peep from the monstrosity. It was far too good to be true, however, when the battling energies and the conflicting peace of that below came together by the will of God and began to rain Hell upon us.Not just extra-terrestrial artefacts, but those of our Earth's past, and also living, breathing creatures of the like we have never witnessed. They were violent in nature and had to be neutralised, along with several plant specimens that exhibited a more carnivorous streak.It is regretful and deeply sorrowing that the Rift not only brought such catastrophe, but stole our good and noble people from us. We make the rough estimation of around twenty souls lost, amongst them our own Margaret James and Martin de Winter. The Rift appeared to open like a great Hellmouth in the sky, burning orange and red in fury, and cast down bolts of lightning that struck and stole the innocent people as they ran for cover, or simply stopped and stared.The whole dreadful event occurred in less than fifteen minutes, but caused enough destruction and paperwork to last until the end of the year."
"I remember that." said Jack quietly. "I heard about it all the way from ... it doesn't matter where ... but ... Margaret and Martin. Twins. Taken in the Rift Storm."
"That's why the Rift's quiet." explained Ianto. "It's the deep breath before the chaos. What're we going to do?"
"Is there anything you can cross-reference this with?" asked Jack.
"It's only happened once, but ... we really can't be too careful."
Jack regarded him a second, deep in thought, then nodded.
"Gwen: call the police. We need to get a tornado or hurricane warning out there. Make sure they know this is an official warning, and that everyone needs to get boarded up and hidden in cellars. Ianto: we need radio stations, TV news stations and all the local papers on red alert for said hurricane slash tornado slash Huge Mother of a Storm. Draw up some official looking posters and dot them about the city if you have to. Also: aren't we due a coffee?"
Gwen and Jack gazed at him hopefully.
"Coffee first, then saving Cardiff?" Ianto asked.
They nodded. He rolled his eyes and set to work on the coffee while Jack went to go and slip retcon into the water supply on a remote timer delay and make sure all the CCTV went down during the storm. Gwen was already on her phone to PC Andy, getting a warning out there that there was a hurricane coming.
"What should we call our pretend hurricane?" asked Gwen, hanging up. "Personally, I quite like Hurricane Gwen."
"Hurricane Jack has a better ring to it."
"They name them alphabetically," Ianto told them. "and the last one was Hurricane Harold."
He watched them working through the alphabet in their heads, then smirked when they realised what letter was next.
"Fine, fine." smiled Jack. "Hurricane Ianto. Agreed. Now back to work!"
No one was really taking the warnings seriously. A few, more cautious people had boarded up windows or taped them over, but not very many. Ianto rang his sister, nibbling his bottom lip and waiting for her to answer.
"Hi, Rhi. It's Ianto."
"Bloody hell. Is the world ending?" she joked.
"Not quite." he smiled. "Listen ... it's about the hurricane ..."
"I heard about that. Not too worried though, if I'm honest. We don't get hurricanes out here, let alone big ones."
"Yeah but ... listen, Rhi. It's ... it's not a hurricane exactly. It's a storm, a massive, man-made electrical storm and they can't stop it. Just promise me you'll stay indoors, okay?"
"How would you know about this?"
"Civil servant, remember. They had a big meeting about it and the secretary was ill so I had to take the minutes. No one else knows shorthand."
"Very. Oh! Tell everyone you know! Stay indoors, even if they're not going to take the warnings seriously."
"Hmm. Okay. I will."
"Good. I'll see you soon, then."
"See you soon, love."
He hung up and nibbled his lip again, then picked up the little posters and flyers that had just finished printing and laminating. He got his box of cable ties and said a quick goodbye to Jack and Gwen before heading out to put the posters up and around, hoping they might do some good.
They had no idea when exactly the storm would occur – if it did at all – and Ianto was wary of being outside. It was getting towards nine 'o' clock now, and dusk was falling over Cardiff as Ianto wandered around putting up his posters. Sometimes the old fashioned way was the best, he pondered as he began to head back to the Plass two hours later, spotting little gaggles of people reading his signs and muttering amongst themselves. Suddenly, one of them pointed at the sky, and the eyes of the rest followed.
Ianto glanced up at where they were pointing, and nearly stopped dead.
There was an orange line pierced through the sky, glowing at the edges like there was something behind trying to tear through. A rumble of thunder echoed through the twilight streets, and the people around seemed to get the hint it was time to run inside. Ianto was still a little surprised – he hadn't expected it to happen so soon ...
Breaking into a run, he knew the hub was closer than his flat so headed there – less than ten minutes walk and a five minute run. He could hear screams around him as people realised the warnings had been right to tell them to stay inside – no matter how short notice they had wound up being – and they all fought against him in a tide to get in the opposite direction.
Finally the Plass was looming ahead, just as the sky cracked open with a roar, showering rock and metal and alien body parts down into the Bay. Ianto dodged behind column and tried to catch his breath, trying to figure out if it was safer to use the lift or the Tourist Centre. He glanced around the column, and saw the figure of Jack by the water tower, frantically spinning around, staring into the distance, trying to find Ianto.
With a last, calming breath, Ianto shot out from his shelter and hurtled as fast as he could towards the tower, and Jack saw him, relief written on his face, and held his arms open to beckon him onwards.
"Ianto!" he yelled. "C'mon, Ianto!"
Ignoring the sulphur that filled his lungs and made his eyes water, and the thick clouds of gasses belching forth from the rip in the sky while dodging the shadows of debris about to land on top of him, Ianto fought to get back to Jack. He tripped as he hurtled forward, and Jack caught him and hugged him tight, pulling back to kiss him hard.
There was a crack of lighting far off, and they both turned and saw as the Rift threw down its white tendrils and snatched people from where they stood and threw them away into space and time.
There was a sickening crunch of bones as a small alien life form, dark green but humanoid, landed in the Plass.
"It's alive!" Ianto shouted, and before Jack could protest Ianto ran to help it. He lifted it – possibly a 'her', and possibly a child – and helped the semi-conscious being towards the lift, dodging the now smaller rain of debris. Jack pulled her from him, and he bent with his hands on his knees to catch his breath.
Ianto grinned up at Jack, and Jack couldn't help but smile back. Ianto opened his mouth to speak, then blinked in shock as a white light – hot, but cold, burning into him and freezing him in place – surrounded him. He stared up at Jack. The Captain's face was contorted in terror as they held eye contact for what must have only been a split second, but could have been minutes for everything that was communicated between the two men.
And Ianto was gone.
Just as suddenly as the storm had started, it blew itself out.
Jack stared at the spot Ianto had just been standing on, his mouth unable to close, his eyes hurting as salty tears fought their way down his cheeks. The alien in his arms had lost consciousness, and she sagged in his arms, reminding him he still had a job to do.
He dragged her onto the lift, not taking his eyes from the spot Ianto had occupied moments earlier. The hydraulics clunked and hissed, and lift began its descent. Jack still stared at that patch of air where his Ianto had been as the lift carried the girl down to Gwen, but he remained above, hardly daring to blink. His weight suddenly went from under him, and he collapsed to the ground, gasping as his lungs refused to draw in enough breath and salt tears poured down his face.
Jack crawled to the place Ianto had last stood, sat down cross-legged and hunched over, hugging himself almost. He sat there for hours, lost in his grief, until he choked on his bile and tears would no longer come. The sun was rising over the sea, and he sniffed and blinked as the harsh light reached the water tower.
A new day was beginning.
Finally, Jack stood, and shook off the dust from his coat.
Then he carried on.
He knew Gwen must have figured out what happened, when the CCTV came back online and Jack was still on the Plass. Jack was grateful she had left him to his grief, and had sorted out the alien visitor as her own distraction from it.
"Jack?" she croaked when he finally re-entered the hub, taking the lift rather than the Tourist Centre. "Jack ... what happened?"
His eyes bored into her, red raw and still burning. "The Rift took him." was all he could say.
"Will it ... will it bring him back?" she asked, more tears surfacing.
"How many has the Rift taken in the past year, and how many has it returned?" he asked bitterly.
"Seventeen taken, two returned." she sniffed, and sat down heavily on the couch, head in her hands as her shoulders shook. Jack sat beside her, put his arms around her and hugged her close.
"You must be exhausted. You need to go home."
"You ... you'll be on your own." Her final word was uttered just above a whisper.
"I know, Gwen." Jack sighed, crossing to his office, his legs like lead. "It's okay. I'm used to it."
He shut the door behind him, and blinds of his office flickered shut.
He waited until Gwen had gone home to Rhys before emerging again, taking the keys for the SUV with him. Calmly, he drove to Ianto's flat and let himself in, taking off his boots to the eerie silence of the empty sitting room.
"Ianto?" he called, not sure why he was pretending anyone could hear him. "Ianto? I'm home ..."
Just still, absolute, deathly silence.
Jack took off his coat and hung it up next to Ianto's favourite – the grey one that he wore every now and then that was nicer than the others, and more expensive. Toshiko and Gwen had chipped together to buy that for him for the birthday Jack missed, being away with the Doctor.
He headed straight for the bedroom, and smiled at the neatly made bed, really just a false image. The bed may look neat, but those were the sheets they had slept in the night before, and they still smelt of Jack and Ianto and sex and sweat. That wasn't what Jack wanted, though. He wantedIanto - the scent of coffee, a hint of chocolate, a touch of peppermint and that unmistakable masculinity.
Jack opened the wardrobe, sank to the floor and crawled into the gap between the base and the bottom of Ianto's hanging suits. He settled himself by the 'Worn Once' end – because really, as long as they were pressed, who'd know? – and inhaled deeply. There you are, Ianto ... he smiled to himself, drifting off with the comforting scent of his partner filling his lungs.
"It's been five years, Jack." sighed Gwen, bouncing baby Bobby on her hip with her good arm. "I know you've got forever but ... he'd want you to carry on. You know that. I mean ... if Rhys lost me, I'd want him to carry on and be happy."
"I just want to know what happened to him." Jack muttered, going through the readings again. He sipped his tea, then restarted the relay of results for the millionth time. He knew every single second of it, and could probably recreate the graphs and measurements in his sleep if needed.
Gwen couldn't reply. She knew what happened to people who went through the Rift and came back.
"One day, you'll know." she eventually said, her voice soft. "Like you said: you've got forever. You need to stop this getting in the way of enjoying forever as best you can. Look at Bobby! You're supposed to be his Godfather, and right now you're missing him growing up so that you can stare at charts and graphs that have no consequence anymore."
He gave her a sharp look, but she didn't flinch.
"I'm not saying you should give up." she assured him. "I'd never say give up."
Jack sighed. She was right. Ish.
Carrying on was easy. Moving on was ... hard. So hard.
Harder than boxing away all of Ianto's things and storing them in the lockup. Jack had kept his diaries, and some of his shirts and waistcoats for himself. Some books he'd taken, too, and cufflinks and ties. He often wondered what Gwen thought of him wearing Ianto's clothes, but she said that it was normal. After all, he was just wearing Ianto's clothes. He wasn't dressing likeIanto.
Getting rid of the bed had been the hardest thing of all. He kept the duvet and pillows, and cocooned himself in them at night until the last trace of Ianto was gone. They were just sentimental value after that, but he told himself it was because he got cold in winter. And summer. Cardiff summer.
Gwen turned to sit on the couch, cooing at little Bobby. Reaching into his shirt, Jack pulled out the galaxy he and Ianto had made five years ago. It hadn't changed much, and it wouldn't change much for thousands of years as planets formed and gravitation took effect and orbits and suns were established. He had scratched Ianto's name into the clasp with a compass, and it stood out stark on the black metal. With a gentle movement, he kissed the little marble and tucked it back into his shirt before Gwen could see and ask questions.
Jack had often wondered if Ianto was still wearing the parent galaxy when he was taken, and had searched for it high and low.
He assumed he had been, and knowing that they still had that connection made Jack feel, somehow, better.
"Are you looking for someone?" asked Claire.
Jack smiled distantly. "Yeah ... but ... it's just vain hope really." he sighed.
"Who is it?" she asked, setting down her needle and thread, trying to stitch him up while he repeated his search for the billionth time.
"Just ... he ... his name is Ianto. He used to work for Torchwood. He ... he was taken by the Rift."
"Oh ..." she breathed. "I ... I'm sorry." She had gathered enough information from his tone not to ask what he had meant to him. "Um ... when ... when did it happen?"
"A hundred and fifty years ago."
"Told you." smiled Jack. "Vain hope."
"Big spike – something's come through!" Michael yelled. "Prelims point to it being human. A return from the Rift, or a visitor from the future?" he asked.
Jack was already pulling the jet out of the garage, racing to the spot, feeling the weight of the galaxy hanging from his neck. He could see the swirl of Rift energy ahead, and pulled a handbrake turn, tumbling from the jet-car and heading to the humanoid figure in the swirls of vortex and Rift energy.
This was a woman.
His heart sank in a way that made him feel ill, and he rushed to help her after his momentary disappointed hesitation. At least she was a beautiful woman, he thought to himself as he hoisted her into the car, being careful not tread on her circa 1558 Tudor/Elizabethan transitional gown.
She wept and sobbed all the way back to the hub, and Jack promised himself he would distract himself from his own troubles to take care of her properly – not as a form of conquest, but as redemption for his neglect for the last three hundred years.
He'd long forgotten what 'Ianto' looked like anyway, he thought as he stared at the name scratched into the galaxy he still wore. He recalled dark hair, and piercing blue eyes, and pouting pink lips ... but not all at once, and they refused to form a face he could recognise. With a sigh, he sat back, staring at the readings on the screen that had been repeating themselves in his dreams for the past five hundred years.
Of course he'd had other lovers, and of course he'd had his husbands and wives and children and grandchildren and great-great-great-grandchildren. But none of them had really got his full attention. He needed to let go, for now. Move on. Concentrate on the here and now because while he had forever, his current family did not.
He took a deep breath, and deleted the recordings.
A new start, to make new memories.
Ianto couldn't move for the pain. It shot through him, white hot and relentless, and he couldn't maintain coherent thought, just trapped in his body and filled with pain. He knew he was screaming, but he didn't care. He'd never known pain like this before.
The pain started receding, like a blanket of numbness was spreading over his nerves. His screaming stopped, his breathing calmed. He vaguely registered he'd probably been given some sort of drug, and now could feel the drip in his arm. As quickly as he dared, he opened his eyes, squinting in sudden, bright sunlight.
A quick assessment of his surroundings, and he realised he was lying on grass in ... in the middle of nowhere. There were people nearby, and next to him was crouched a girl, human in appearance, with a large honeycomb tattoo spread over her temple and down to her neck. From her green uniform, Ianto guessed she was a medic of some sort, and it was she who had made the pain stop.
He didn't need to panic to himself about what might have happened. He remembered it clearly, his last moments in his time and place. At least Jack was there ... he tried to console himself. At least Jack was there ...
The woman was talking to him, her voice echoing in his head.
"Can you understand me? Hello? Can you understand me, sir?"
He squinted at her, and "Yes," he croaked. "Where ... where am I? When am I?"
"You're on New Earth. When you are depends when you came from."
"New Earth? New Earth? What happened to old Earth? Original Earth?"
"Died, about ... a billion years ago?"
"A ... a billion? What. The. Fuck?"
He tried to sit up, tried to get a bearing on where he was, a little panic setting in.
"When am I?" he asked again.
"When are you from?" the medic repeated, putting firm hands on his shoulders and making him lie down again. "Easy ... you're still in a bit of shock. Time travel without a capsule is a killer."
"I'm from ..." Ianto gulped. "I'm from twenty-first century Cardiff. Early twenty-first century. Um ... original Earth."
The woman blinked at him. "Woah. You're a long, long, long, long way from home. By your reckoning ... about six billion years."
"You're a Time Refugee, honey - stay lying down - you've been pulled through a rip in Time and Space and spat out here. Don't worry, we have procedures for this, and you're going to be fine. We'll get you set up with ID, a place to live, a job ..."
"But ... six billion years in the future ... you have Time Travel, right? I know that you had it by the fifty-first century!"
"There's ... laws. You being taken was a natural phenomenon. We can't take you back, because ... because this was meant to happen."
"But ... my family. My partner!"
"They died on the home planet six billion years ago. I'm sorry, but we can't send you back."
"Laila! What's he doing awake?" asked a deep, male voice as a burly man came into Ianto's line of sight. "I told you to sedate him."
"I gave him the dose, but ... he's still awake. He's stopped screaming, and he's lucid, so ..." She shrugged.
"Why won't you take me home?" Ianto asked him. "I won't mess up the timelines, I swear."
The man raised an eyebrow. "Laila, we wait until we get them back to the hospital before giving them the bad news." he sighed. "Give him a half dose to knock him out and we'll get him examined. Where did he come from?"
Ianto lay still as Laila prepared another injection, willing the blackness and calm of forced sedation to wash over him and damp his grief and panic for a short while.
"He's ... twenty-first century, original Earth."
"Woah. That makes him like ... pure human ..."
"We're not allowed to sell the Refugees to the DNA banks, Rick."
Ianto's vision swam, and he fell into a deep, drug-induced sleep.
"I'm sorry, love, but you're from so far back we can't find a record of you." the nurse told him. The cat nurse. The cat nurse who might be a nun.
"I'm ... twenty-first century, I ... what year is it? No one's given me an exact date. And how come everybody still speaks English?"
"The paramedics put a translator chip in the language faculties of your brain. You'll be able to understand and speak all known languages."
"Cool ... but ... you could have told me before shoving alien technology in my head."
"You wouldn't have understood." smiled the cat, her black fur shining in the hospital light. "The exact year is six-billion-two-hundred-and-thirteen-thousand-and-sixty-two. What you would call 'August', and the day is the 18th, in Earth years."
"Oh ... it's my birthday tomorrow." he told her distantly. "I'll beee ... six-billion-two-hundred-and-thirteen-thousand-and-eighty-eight years old."
His thoughts seemed a little scattered, and he calmly assessed that he was 'drug-addled'.
"Yes, dear." the cat smiled at him. "Now ... could you just tell me your name?"
"Ianto Jones, born August nineteenth, nineteen-eighty-three. What ... what's going to happen to me?"
"Don't worry. There's procedures. How old are you, Ianto?"
"Okay, okay ... good. Erm ... I hope you realise that ... what with you being from so far away ... the chances of us being able to discover anything about the fate of your family and friends is ... miniscule."
Ianto glanced away from her and swallowed. He nodded silently. She gave him her best attempt at a reassuring smile, and jumped when Ianto suddenly sat bolt upright.
"Just ... just this one ... try and find this one ... Harkness. Captain Jack Harkness. That wasn't his real name though ... he ... he was a Time Agent. He went by the names ... erm ... Captain Jack Harkness, Captain James Harper, sometimes ... sometimes John would call him 'Boe'."
"I'll see what I can do." she smiled. "I'm Novice Blaine if you need anything in the mean time, Ianto."
She swept away, her pastel skirts floating over the sterile lino. He lay in the bed, wondering what was to become of him and when exactly the grief and panic would kick in.
"Your emotional responses are being blocked by the drugs." a male voice, Irish in accent, told him from the left hand bed on the opposite side of the ward. Ianto blinked, then remembered his manners.
"Oh ... oh right ... I was wondering ... um ... hi? My name's Ianto. What's yours?"
"Peter." replied the man, lying too still on the bed. "Ianto ... you're another Time Refugee, they say. When are you from?"
"Twenty-first century, Cardiff, original Earth." Ianto recited.
"You're pure human?" Peter stared at him.
"Er ... yeah ... s'pose ... um ... what are you here for?"
"One of the old mines collapsed by Earlestown and I got caught in the landslide. Going home this week, but can't move anything below my shoulders anymore."
"Ouch. I'm sorry."
"It's okay. At least I'm not dead!"
Ianto gave him a weak smile, then realised he was under scrutiny from his right. He turned, and saw a little girl nestled in the bed beside him, her temples peppered with turquoise scales but otherwise human in appearance staring at him.
"Hello." he offered. "I'm Ianto. What's your name?"
"Chihiro." she smiled shyly. By Ianto's reckoning she was about seven years old, but he couldn't be sure. She was at least half another race, if not a completely different species.
"What are you here for Chihiro?" he asked.
"I thought a sachet of powder was sherbet. It turned out to be drain cleaner. They had to make me drink milk so that it didn't clean holes through my windpipe."
Ianto hissed through his teeth sympathetically. "Poor thing," he settled on saying. "you must have been frightened?"
"I was very brave!" she scowled.
"I can see you were." Ianto assured her. "So ... um ..." he addressed the room. "does anyone know what the 'procedures' are for Time refugees are?"
A grumpy, wizened old man with one arm cleared his throat. "I used to work at the School," he said. "and that's where they'll send you. You get an ID made up, a bed in the barracks and a locker to yourself. You stay there until you pass the exams and get the qualifications you need to function in our society. Then you wait around there - maybe teaching, maybe cleaning - until you get a job. Then it's off into the big, wide Universe."
Ianto groaned. "School? I have to go back to school?"
"Don't worry," sighed Chihiro. "I have to, too."
"I hate school." growled Ianto.
"Work hard and pass the exams then!" laughed the old man.
Ianto folded his arms and tried not to pout.
Okay. Drugs wearing off now. OH. MY. GOD.
The drip had come out, and whatever the drugs had been suppressing was trickling its way forth.
Grief, mainly. He'd had enough time to think himself out of the panic.
He cried into his pillow, like a criminal on his first night in prison - except he had committed no crime. If I hadn't saved that girl ... he thought , then quickly quashed it with a mountain of guilt. She would be safe - or would have been safe, all those years ago on a totally different planet - and he was safe now, six billion years in the future. His body shook with tears as he tried to silence his crying, burying his face into his pillow.
What had happened to Rhiannon? And Johnny? What had David grown up to be? Did Mica ever fulfill her early promise at academia? Then there was Gwen. How long had she lived after Ianto had gone? Did she and Rhys get their family? Did Gwen live long enough to see her offspring grow?
Finally, of course, was Jack.
How long had he searched? How long before he gave up? How long before he forgot? Was he still alive? Was there even any point searching him out now? There was no way he would remember the twenty-first century, never mind the blink of an eyelid that was Ianto Jones.
Eventually the tears dried out, and morning began to break over New Earth.
Ianto did as Jack would do.
He turned the wet side of his pillow over, and he carried on.
"I did that search for you." smiled Novice Blaine as she returned his now clean suit. She admired the colour of his plum shirt before handing it over gracefully. "'James Harper' had no results significant to you, and nor did 'Jack Harkness'. What is curious, though, is the final name you gave me: 'Boe'. It only returned results of the Face of Boe, but he died ... oh, a billion years ago?"
"What did you get for 'Jack Harkness'?" Ianto pressed. "He was a time traveller. Something might come up."
"All the time lines are chronological for this time." she told him sadly. "However, it is an odd name, 'Jack Harkness'. Odd, as in unusually rare. 'Harkness' is quite a popular surname in some places, and 'Jack' is the most common male forename, but in our entire records there are only one hundred instances of 'Jack Harkness' exactly - and all of them were sons of Boe."
Ianto absorbed the information, wondering if Blaine had thought there may be some form of connection, since he'd asked for both names and the fact they were linked.
"One of the sons," she continued. "set up the Time Refugee Centre just over two thousand years ago, when the Rift opening here began to frequently throw out people from past and future. His family and descendants still run it."
Ianto's heart suddenly started thudding in his chest. "When will I be taken there, again?"
"As soon as you're dressed." smiled the cat-nurse, pulling the curtain across.