Author's Notes: This is the fic I wrote last fall for the scifibigbang group over on LiveJournal. Somehow I forgot to post it on here! *facepalm*
This fic involves the following pairings/character:JackxIanto, GwenxRhys, DoctorxRose and slight mention of MickeyxJake. Appearances from several Torchwood and Doctor Who characters.
Spoilers for all seasons of Doctor Who and Torchwood, as well as the TW radio plays.
Major thanks to my betas, mjmcca and Sprite89! They made this fic so much better.
Additional notes at the end of the fic.
Disclaimer: Anything you recognize, I don't own.
"You cannot run away."
"Oh yes I can. Just watch me."
Jack landed on something hard with a very loud thud. He laid there for a while, letting the dizziness fill him up before it washed away. It was the closest he'd been to feeling anything in two months.
He had thought traveling the world would distract him from the emptiness inside. The immortal went to some of the most beautiful places on this planet in the first few months after that fateful day at Thames House and actually tried to enjoy them. But then he remembered Ianto had talked about going to Rome once and Jack said they'd go there one day. Another promise broken. And Steven would have loved some of the trinkets on display at that Tokyo market. He just couldn't seem to get away from the memories of them.
Soon after Jack decided the only way to really escape from what he'd done was to go to the most barren places on Earth. He let the endless sand of the Sahara burn his eyes with reflected sunshine until he stopped seeing their faces. He climbed some rather treacherous mountains to make his hands numb and forget the feel of Ianto's skin, but after a while they reminded him of the stories Owen told him of the team's excursion through the Himalayas.
The only place Jack wasn't constantly assaulted by his own mind was when he somehow became a volunteer with the U.S. army in Iraq. They needed help from anyone with a military background to train the Iraqi army so they could go home after years of what most of the world deemed a pointless war.
Though he briefly thought of the train car full of dead men choking on roses, Estelle, Jasmine and the sound of Ianto's voice as he comforted Jack from the team's glares, soon the mission took over and he thought of nothing else. It felt good to be useful again, to be so close to combat that had nothing to do with Torchwood. He felt the best he had in six months. It was over quickly, but it made him realize what he had to do in order to try and put the past few years behind him.
Before he could move on, Jack had to return to Cardiff one final time. He could barely breathe in the damp air, felt smothered by the city's lights that once comforted him when no one else could. Yet he came back because Gwen was his last unrelenting tie to be hacked away and he hoped he could forget the tears in her eyes as she begged him to not abandon her.
Slowly Jack opened his eyes and glanced around the dark room, ears perked for anyone who heard his less than graceful entrance. Silence greeted him and Jack knew the amount of money he gave the landlord, equivalent to five years' worth of rent, would stop anyone from coming into this apartment again.
He stood on shaky legs; thankful his hard landing had been merely the floor and not any furniture. He had wanted desperately not to look at anything, but couldn't seem to keep his eyes from surveying the darkened flat. It was a stupid idea to come back here, there were too many memories and he didn't have enough time to give them all the respect they deserved. He slowly walked toward the kitchen and stared at the space around him, the appliances even darker shadows in the black.
Suddenly it felt like he had the quantum transducer clutched in his hands and all the memories began to torture him once more.
"Why are you here? You killed Lisa, your job's done."
"I'm here because you are more than just an employee to me, and always have been."
The stunned look on Ianto's face was almost too much to bear. Jack turned away from the kitchen doorway to the couch, drawn by the memory of tangled limbs.
"You should wear jeans more often. They do all the right things." To emphasize his point, Jack slowly ran a hand up Ianto's jean-clad thigh, causing the younger man to squirm and both of them to hiss quietly at the friction.
"This is the last time I wear jeans to work," Ianto protested even while reacting to Jack's touch. "From now on I muck out Myfawny's nest in a hazmat suit."
Jack wondered how he missed the soft look on Ianto's face when he said that. He forced himself away from the living room as he felt the waste of each second. Though he had a short trip ahead of him, he knew if he stayed here too long he would never be able to leave again.
Jack barely made it into the master bedroom where his duffel sat at the foot of the bed. He had packed his clothes days ago, he just needed a few more things to take with him; he didn't know when he'd be back.
The memories were shoved together in this room like too many people in not enough space, they all jumbled together yet Jack could see each of them with heartbreaking clarity. Studiously ignoring the phantoms on the bed, Jack grabbed his bag and looked around for the precious items he came to retrieve.
On Ianto's nightstand sat a photo of Owen, Tosh, Ianto and Jack in a silver frame. They had all gone to the park for a picnic one afternoon, at Gwen's insistence of course, on a rare day when the Rift and Weevils were quiet and all the paperwork had been completed.
Gwen had been snapping photos all afternoon and insisted on having one of the whole team. No one was really enthused about it, Owen moaned the most, but Gwen pushed and poked as she always did and the four sat rather close together on a bench, waiting for Gwen to take the picture, when two very interesting things happened.
First, Owen had grabbed Tosh's hand, intertwining their fingers together, causing the wide grin on her face and the contented smile, lost since Diane flew into the clouds, on Owen's. Tosh later told him the two had talked it over afterwards, Owen confessing that though he had been struggling since his lover left, he knew if he let Tosh go he'd be completely lost. He had known it since Tommy Brockless broke Tosh's heart. Even though they weren't sure what "they" were, they wanted to give it a chance.
Jack now traced the contours of Ianto's face in the picture, smiling at the cheeky smirk and remembering how the young man had ever so casually placed his hand on Jack's knee and gave it a suggestive squeeze. He continued to tease Jack after the picture was taken without the rest of the team realizing what was going on, causing the picnic to end not long after. He and Ianto spent the rest of the afternoon in bed, one of the most memorable days in their relationship. Jack expected to see his usual lust-filled leer on his face in the photo but was still surprised to see something akin to love on his face.
Jack gently removed the photo from the frame and placed it on the dresser before rifling through the drawers for the next item.
He knew Ianto usually kept his diary at the Hub, but the night before the explosion Jack convinced him to bring it to his flat and leave it. He remembered the whispers in the back of his mind, warning him that the following day was going to change everything, that this was the moment that Alex had really been warning him about, not Harold Saxon and the Toclafane.
How he had convinced Ianto to bring the diary home wasn't important now. The important thing now was finding it since Ianto had insisted on hiding its whereabouts from Jack, a habit he picked up after the whole team missed 48 hours and Jack had found it in his office, read it and teased Ianto on more than one occasion. Jack slammed the third drawer shut and wrenched open the next, unwillingly recalling the last night of happiness with Ianto before their world had been torn apart. If only, he regretted as he moved to the next drawer, if only he had made that night more special.
"I never knew a shower could be so lonely," Jack pouted even while sauntering out of the steam-filled bathroom. He didn't bother with a towel around his waist. What was the point when he knew they'd both be naked soon anyway?
"That's because you let yourself get spoiled by fantastic sex in normal places," Ianto quipped, almost bored as he leisurely perused a fashion magazine Gwen had left the last time she visited. He lounged on the bed on his side, still clothed in an unbuttoned steel-blue vest, matching tie with silver stripes, white shirt; the sleeves rolled to the elbows, slacks and bare feet. He took no notice of Jack's physical reaction to the sight of him.
The older man slid up the bed covers to press himself against his lover's back and placed a soft yet promising kiss on his neck. Ianto hummed in appreciation but continued to lazily flip the glossy pages in front of him.
Frowning at this lack of response, Jack laid an arm over the slim waist he adored, slipped a few fingers between two shirt buttons and drew lazy circles on the skin there. "Well, if you're going to read I suppose I will too. Now," he grinned, "where's that diary of yours?" He could feel the other man's eyeroll.
"Tucked away where you won't find it and you won't be getting it out of me," Ianto answered in a teasing voice.
"We'll just see about that," Jack answered huskily before rolling Ianto onto his back and lying on top of him.
Jack threw the neatly folded socks across the room in frustration. Where the hell was it? He turned, took in the mess of clothes strewn over the room and heard Ianto gently ordering him to clean it up, which he did while blinking away tears. He sat on the bed, covered his face with his hands and let out a harsh sob. He had to find that diary, it was the closest he would ever get to hearing Ianto's voice, to having that solid presence that was and always would be Ianto. He couldn't leave without it.
He lifted his head and stared bleakly at the writing desk in the corner. It was made from a beautiful light wood, pine maybe, the fold-down door had a center oval inlay spliced into sections of alternating dark and light woods. He remembered Ianto saying it once belonged to his grandfather, a family heirloom, yet he couldn't remember ever seeing him use it, and he never looked inside it himself.
Realization dawned and Jack leapt across the room toward the desk. He pulled at the copper handle, only to have the desk rattle from the force and do nothing else. He tried again, only to be refused. Looking closer he found a keyhole just below the handle. Of course it was locked.
Turning quickly, Jack surveyed the room. He assumed the key was also hidden and it had to be in this room since Ianto would never risk needing to open the desk with someone else in the flat and have the key and the guest be in the same room. So, there were few places to look: the bed, the dresser, the closet and the nightstand on Ianto's side of the bed. Jack had stored a few of his things in the other, and had been in the top drawer of Ianto's plenty of times, that's where the things important for bedroom activities were kept, but he never went in the second drawer.
He had asked about it once, but Ianto answered shortly that he kept a few mementos of Lisa there and though he barely looked at them anymore, he needed them there all the same. Jack was never tempted to go in the drawer, as he had his own box of old memories, there only for reassurance that he could be human.
This drawer was thankfully not locked and contained a picture of a young Ianto and Lisa, smiling and in love. The universe had no right to steal that happiness, even if it did give him Ianto for a short while. There was also a leather-bound book of poetry with a small bouquet of dried jasmine tied in a lavender ribbon pressed between the pages.
Tucked into the back cover was a small key that looked about as old as the desk. In a few long strides Jack stood in front of the desk, hesitating with the key between his fingers. If he opened it, he would be taking the last of Ianto's privacy, something he knew through his work people didn't have after death, yet he felt compelled to give it to the man who he knew deserved it. Ianto had done all this to make sure no one, especially Jack, knew what was hidden inside.
Shaking his head and trying not to think that it didn't matter anymore since Ianto was dead, he slid the key into the lock. It turned easily and the door pulled open silently. There it sat, the small black diary full of thoughts and moments that Ianto never shared with him. He tried not to feel hurt, since he was so very guilty of keeping secrets himself, but the ache in his heart throbbed a little anyway.
He stared at the little book through his tears, as it sat awaiting its owner's return to fill its pages with various marvelous artifacts or angrily-scribbled frustrations or astounded admissions of love that were never meant to be seen.
The rest of the desk was empty, save for an odd bundle Jack nearly missed through his tears. He gently pulled it out and gave a small strangled sob as he saw the ancient stopwatch they had used so many times sitting on top a stack of letters. He thought it had been destroyed in the blast. His sobs hiccupped as he saw his name in Ianto's handwriting on the top letter of the large stack of letters. They were wrapped in a bow made of strange material that he thought he knew, but he couldn't seem to bring up anything other than Ianto's face in his mind. He had been here too long; he could feel his resolve barely holding.
Quickly he took the watch, letters and the diary, shut and locked the desk and went back to his bag. He gently placed the picture inside the pages of the book and set them along with the letters on top of the clothing inside the bag.
Gently slinging it over his shoulder, Jack walked through the memories in the flat as though his feet were made of lead. He stopped at the front door, looked around the darken space one last time and turned away. He wiped away the last of the tears, locked the door and walked away, never turning back.
"Mickey, where is it?" Gwen Cooper cried and nearly flipped the Lexus as she sharply rounded a corner.
"Hang on, the signal's coming back." Mickey's fingers flew over the keyboard on his lap, his eyes darting form their dance and the flurry of images on the clear computer screen on the dashboard.
"Lois, are you sure this thing is hostile?" Gwen asked of the young woman in the back seat, her fingers also scurrying along keys on a wireless keyboard.
"Gwen, I know you're our leader, but Martha has put you on desk duty and I don't think-"
"Martha's on her trip to UNIT and you two needed the extra help."
"Actually," Mickey said, "We could have-"
"Is. It. Hostile?" Gwen ground out.
"According to the archives the Enfros are a trading race that will fight to the death if they feel their goods are in danger of being stolen," Lois said cautiously. She knew there was going to be yet another row between the resident doctor and their leader about this. Gwen was just too stubborn to be taken out of the field, no matter her rapidly approaching due date. "Combine that with the fact it's run into the police station, fired its laser gun at several civilians and called Mickey a name I'd rather not repeat, then yes. Very hostile."
"There!" Mickey cried. A red dot blinked on the map on the screen. "He's stopped just inside Tongwynlais. It looks like a field." Gwen winced as Mickey butchered the pronunciation, ignored the ache at the thought that Ianto would have shared her pain then tease Mickey for it later and stepped on the gas.
They reached the field soon after, the full moon bright and casting strange shadows from the trees surrounding it. The alien stood in the middle of the tall grass, one arm outstretched, his hand clasping the devices it had waved in front of the CCTV cameras while standing on the invisible lift not hours before, starting this chase, the other pointing a weapon at their car. Its skin looked translucent and reminded Gwen of when they had gone to Martha in Switzerland and those people who looked as though they were made of light.
"Right, Mickey you go to the west, Lois the east, I'll go north. Have you got eyes on us so we can have the footage for later?" Gwen checked her weapon as she spoke.
"The CCTV cameras don't go this far," Lois answered, tapping away. "But I'm working on a satellite image now. And Andy called before we left, he's trying to keep everyone out of the way but his superiors want to know what destroyed part of their station."
"Can't bloody well tell them the alien crashed its speeder, can we?" Mickey mumbled, his eyes never straying from the alien that stood stock-still just meters away. His leg jiggled with anticipation. As much as he loved working the technical side, his time with Jake made him love the chase as well. Swallowing the pain at the thought of his former partner, Mickey looked over at their leader. She nodded and as one they opened their doors and trained their guns on the alien.
"Put the weapons down," Gwen ordered as the three spread out. "We don't want to hurt you but you've caused a lot of damage and we're going to have to take you in." The alien still said nothing and before anyone could react it shot a red laser at Gwen, grazing her leg. She cried out in pain and the others made to move toward her, their fingers a little tighter on the triggers.
"I'm okay!" She cried. "Stay where you are." She returned her gun's aim toward the alien, who had in the distraction thrown down his own weapon and now held one device in each hand, its arms outstretched. "That was a stupid move," she ground out. "Shoot to kill," she ordered the others.
"You won't kill me. I have something precious to you," the alien finally spoke. Its taunt came out in a garbled hiss, like a snake underwater. Its blue-grey hide shone in the moonlight, its translucency even more apparent. The three inched closer at its words, Gwen limping a little from the shot, but it didn't move. Green blood thrummed beneath the wet paper skin in tiny veins that crossed like spider webs its face, contorted by the smirk of its navy lips. Purple eyes danced with laughter. "Would you like to put it back in its proper place?"
"What is this nut on about?" Mickey muttered, his gun never wavering.
"Guys? I can't really tell what's in its hand, but it almost looks like two parts of a bomb." Lois' voice sounded breathless, she still wasn't used to the adrenaline rush.
"Why does it think we want it?" Mickey asked scoffed.
"I don't know, but I'm tired of playing games. Just shoot it!" Gwen ordered.
"What if it has a dead man's switch?" Lois countered, never taking her eyes from the smirking being. "What if the bomb detonates anyway once it's dead?"
"Yes," it hissed, "listen to the smart little girl." Lois' eyes narrowed. "Both devices are needed for it to work," the alien continued to hiss. "No one knows if they will work separately. Shall we find out, or do you want your essence back?"
Before anyone could question what that meant, light flashed behind the alien and the air filled with the sound of cracking glass.
"Oh shit," Gwen swore as the light grew. "It can't be!"
"Can't be what?" Lois yelled as Mickey shouted, "What the hell is that!"
"Just shoot it!" Gwen cried, limping closer to the target. She had to keep it from going through; they'd lose it forever and other could be hurt.
Simultaneous shots rang out as Lois, Mickey and Gwen opened fire. The alien screamed, sounding like a ship scraping the reef and dropped to the ground, twitching as they continued to shoot. Mickey, closest to the alien, dove for the devices in the hopes that catching them would prevent it from exploding.
But he was too far away and one device fell harmlessly to the ground while the other fell into the light and disappeared. The light quickly receded leaving the field was suddenly silent. The sent of burnt seaweed permeated the air as the team lay panting in the cold wet grass, waiting for the explosion that never came.
The three quickly stood, and approached the fallen alien slowly, guns drawn. "Everybody okay?" Gwen barked.
"We're fine," Lois breathed as she crouched over the dead alien. "The device didn't blow up, though." She looked over at her leader, who was staring at the air where the light had been moments ago. "What me to look at that?" She asked, gesturing toward the blood spot on Gwen's jeans. She knew Martha would all but chain Gwen to her desk if she found out she had been injured. The older woman didn't answer right away, then suddenly jerked and looked down at Lois, who was staring at her curiously but still pointing to the wound. Gwen glanced down at it.
"It can wait until we get back," she murmured. Looking around, she spotted Mickey scanning the alien's device to make sure it was safe for them to touch. "What is it?" She called.
"Well, I'm pretty sure it's not a bomb," he answered distractedly, still deciphering the readouts. Before his death Ianto had managed to make a digital catalog of everything in the archives, allowing for the team to gather more information while still out in the field. "If it were, the closest match in the archives is two parts of a Rossonian bomb. They're enemies with the Ef-whoever. But I think it's some sort of communication...thing." He scooped up what looked almost like a PDA, only it was rounded and shaped a bit like a peanut. One end had a small screen while the other was covered with buttons, all labeled in an unknown language. It had two sockets on one side, as though something connected to it. "But whatever it is, it's not dangerous. Only thing coming off it is some residual rift energy."
"Damn it," the pregnant woman muttered, arching her back slightly. "Then what about the other device? Maybe that was the bomb and this is the detonator?"
"Yeah, but greenie over here said the halves had to be together to work. It kind of defeats the purpose if you have to be next to a bomb to blow it up." He crouched next to the body, examining the still oozing green blood shining on the grass in the moonlight.
"Let's get it back to the Hub," Gwen ordered wearily. "You can have a closer look there and we can see everything Lois found on its race. Make sure the blood isn't toxic first."
For a small team of three they worked quickly, ascertaining the area was clean of radiation or any other sort of poison, stuffing the body into the trunk (the Lexus may be more streamlined but it had less trunk space than the old SUV), burned the grass where the alien had fallen and left quickly before anyone came looking.
"What was that light, Gwen?" Lois asked from the passenger's seat as they returned to the city. "You said 'it can't be.' What was it?"
Gwen sighed but stayed silent until they stopped at a traffic light. "A man calling himself Captain John Hart came here using the Rift. Long story short, he was an old partner of Jack's from something called the Time Agency. Hart was manipulated into bombing the city."
"Wait, you're telling me the terrorist attack that shut down the city, that was just one man?" Lois asked as the light turned green. Gwen clutched the wheel but didn't move.
"He's also part of the reason Tosh and Owen died. If it weren't for him, the man who shot Tosh wouldn't have found a way here. The bombs wouldn't have taken out the reactor that killed Owen."
The car sat in silence. Neither of them had heard Gwen mention Tosh or Owen since she had recruited them to the new Torchwood. Though Mickey had been with Torchwood longer than Lois (which wasn't saying much) neither of them knew the details of Owen and Tosh's deaths. They only knew that someone close to Jack had returned and killed them. And Mickey only knew this because Ianto had needed someone to confide in and the two men got on pretty well. They both knew what it was like to have the Doctor and Torchwood change your life forever, so they quickly formed a bond. The car behind them honked and, blinking away tears, Gwen continued driving.
"So the alien...it was manipulating the Rift as well?" Mickey asked as they pulled into the parking garage.
"Yeah and now we have no idea when or where the other half ended up, or what will happen if someone finds it. Come on, get out the gurney for our guest."
Gwen walked slowly back to the Hub, not waiting for the others to get the body onto the cart, her body protesting with every step. She was stubborn enough to not back down from doing her job, but not so stubborn as not to admit there was a possibility she had a mistake in going out tonight. Martha had forbidden her from going out on missions after her fifth month of pregnancy, which resulted in nearly daily rows between the two headstrong women. But Martha was adamant and for the most part Gwen was stuck in the Hub, doing surveillance and connecting with the team over the coms. It nearly drove her mad. How had Tosh and Ianto done this all the time?
Swallowing back the threat of tears, Gwen entered the main area still deep in her own thoughts. She didn't see an angry Rhys Williams pacing beside one of the workstations and an equally angry-looking Martha beside him.
"Gwen!" Rhys shouted. She looked up and halted at the sight of them. She tried to look guilty but it was hard when she was feeling wearier by the minute.
"Rhys?" She asked. "What are you doing here?"
"I thought I'd surprise you with dinner since you've been working so much, and imagine my surprise when I find Martha here, alone and just as shocked."
"Rhys-" Gwen's voice was sharp and her eyes darted to the office where she'd rather have this conversation. But Martha marched toward her before Rhys could continue, radiating anger and disappointment.
"How could you?" She said in a low, serious voice. "I gave you specific instructions, all but ordered you to stay here during missions! You put your baby and yourself at serious risk," she hissed. Lois and Mickey moved slowly and silently into the Hub, used to this fight but still not wanting the residual anger to be directed toward them. "Who knows what could have happened out there? Your car could have crashed or you could have been exposed to a deadly alien toxin or the bomb you thought he had could have detonated!" Her voice grew louder as she spoke and by the end she was yelling, her authoritative voice echoing off the Hub's walls.
"It had a bomb?" Rhys said incredulously. "The thing had a bloody bomb and you went after it? You promised me you'd do desk duty until the baby was born!" He shouted as Gwen limped a few steps toward him. "You're hurt? Is it bad?" At her headshake his eyes narrowed. "How could you put our baby in danger like that? How could you be so reckless?" He couldn't seem to decide if he was angry for putting their lives in danger or worried about her injuries.
"Now you listen here, Rhys Williams. I've got a job to do, a very important job! I help save lives every day."
"Yes, but Gwen-"
"Not now, Martha," Gwen said roughly. Martha crossed her arms and set her jaw. If Gwen was paying attention, she would have seen the anger building but her focus was on her husband. "Our baby's safety is always the first thing on my mind when I go out into the field. You can't expect me to stop living!"
"No one's asking you to stop living, sweetheart. Just to stay in the Hub until the baby is born, because Martha's right, who knows what could happen? We don't even know what she's been exposed to already!"
"How can you even think I haven't thought of all that? I'm always careful!"
Rhys was about to point out her injured leg when Martha cut him off.
"Gwen," she said sternly. "You can be reckless with your own life all you want but I refuse to stand by and let you endanger your baby and possibly the rest of the team."
"How would I put you in danger?" Gwen demanded, her eyes flicking over to where Lois and Mickey were now watching the fight from the safety of the autopsy steps, the alien on the slab below them.
"You can't move as fast now, Gwen. If one of our lives depended on you getting to us quickly, you probably wouldn't get to us in time and that could cost lives." Gwen stopped back as though physically pushed. Martha took a breath and drew herself up, looking every inch the UNIT solider and savior of the earth. "If you don't agree to desk duty and not go out on missions until after the baby is born, I have no choice but to temporarily remove you as leader of Torchwood Three." A shocked silence filled the Hub. Even the equipment seemed to go quiet.
"You can't do that," Gwen whispered. "You wouldn't."
"Technically with my status at UNIT I am higher up than you." Martha said coldly before loosening her stance and softening her voice. "Please don't make me do this Gwen. I don't want to pull rank but if you keep insisting on acting without thinking, there's nothing left for me to do but this."
Gwen looked from Martha to Rhys, her eyes wide. Her eyes welled with angry and hurt tears before she stormed into her office and slammed the door.
"Thanks," Rhys muttered, sincerely grateful, as he stared at the shut door.
"I didn't want to do that, you know. I respect her and what she's been through the past six months. Being here, being out in the field has helped, hasn't it?" They both thought of the long hours Gwen had been pulling since the reconstruction of the Hub, a nearly perfect replica of its predecessor. It wasn't healthy, but she was a stubborn woman. Martha wasn't even sure if her threat had worked.
"Yeah, but we both know the only reason she's been running so hard is so she doesn't have to think about losing basically her entire family here. She still thinks Jack is going to come back and she knows if she sits still long enough it will be obvious he isn't." Bitterness never crept into Rhys' voice as he spoke of his wife's devotion to the other man. He realized a long time ago that she was more interested in the life Jack promised than the man himself. And if there had been any sexual attraction between Gwen and her captain, Rhys chalked it up to the desire of forbidden fruit. It was naive and maybe a little stupid, but after everything that happened with the 456 Rhys hoped he had nothing more to worry about.
"You staying around?" Martha asked after a moment. She couldn't do any more about Gwen tonight, so she already had half a mind on the body Mickey and Lois brought in. "You're welcome to, you know."
Rhys sighed, still staring at the door. "Nah, I've got some things to do at home. I'll be back later, though, once she's calmed down." He turned and after waving goodbye to the others, walked out the cog door and into the crisp night air.
It didn't take long for Martha to get engrossed in her autopsy and Lois busy with residual clean up. She had been on the phone with the police for nearly an hour, working her hardest along with Andy to keep them at bay. After Gwen took over she appointed Andy as the official police liaison. From what Mickey had heard, no one took Andy seriously until he helped them save a girl from the future who had fallen through the Rift. When he joined a fight between some civilians and soldiers during the 456 invasion, taking the civilian's side, his fate seemed decided: Torchwood. Mickey hadn't known him for long but he seemed like an all right bloke. Strange sometimes, but made up for that with his eagerness to help and his quick thinking.
Mickey turned the device over in his hands. It didn't weigh more than his PDA and his original comparison to the Earth device seemed spot on. If only he could translate the markings, maybe they could figure out the thing's riddle about an "essence." Tosh's computer program had been scanning for as long as Lois had been on the phone and he had a feeling it would continue long after she was done. They just didn't have enough manpower to sort through the program.
Or, he thought ruefully, he wasn't as good as Tosh. He liked to think himself a computer expert, but after seeing the work Tosh had done, saved on an external Torchwood server and therefore from the blast, he realized he had barely begun to learn everything there was to know about computer work like this. He did his best to fill her metaphorically large shoes, but some days he felt like he was climbing up ice.
If Jake were here...but Mickey threw that thought away quickly and stared at the running program once more. Soon his eyes began to glaze over, so setting down the device and making sure the others weren't watching (especially Gwen, who had picked up Jack's habit of watching you from a higher level) he opened the locked bottom drawer and pulled out what looked like a thin sheet of plastic. He tapped the corner and waited expectantly. When nothing happened, he repeated the action. And again, with more ferocity.
"Come on Rose," he murmured in frustration. "If something's happening here, something's got to be happening there." The plastic didn't change and he shoved it back into the drawer with a little more force than necessary. Something was wrong and it had to do with this alien, he could just feel it. His Gran used to say he had a gift of knowing when something would happen before it actually did. He used to just wave it off as something crazy she would say, but then he had a feeling when the Autons struck that something was off, and the same feeling when Rose came back without the Doctor, before he had changed his face, again when they landed in Pete's World for the first time and again when he and Jake went on that mission...If only he had listened to that feeling, maybe things would be different now. Maybe Jake would be alive.
Mickey could feel the tears forming and he quickly changed track. Whatever was going on, whatever this feeling in his bones was, it was coming soon and he wasn't sure they were ready for it.
A reality away, Ianto Jones woke with a gasp.
The early morning sunlight sliced through the blinds of the hotel room with a mocking cheeriness. Jack turned his sleep-deprived eyes away from the watch in his hands to the splashes of light across the cheap bedspread and sighed. He hadn't slept at all last night; his mind was too full of Ianto, just as it had the past two weeks.
When Jack decided to return to the British Air Force, he contacted the son of an old friend. Colonel Alexander Cartwright was born not long after Jack had left with the Doctor the first time. They had been in touch over the years, Jack posing as he did with Estelle as his own son and formed a bond through their fathers' heroic tales and a few times through Torchwood. The Colonel had offered him aid if ever the seemingly younger man needed it. So, when he came back to Cardiff two weeks ago, Alex was the first person he called. Preparations for his addition to the convoy to Afghanistan from were going to take time, Alex had said, so Jack camped out in this dingy London hotel room, praying he would wake up and find all this a dream.
Movement caught Jack's eye and he swore he saw Ianto standing in the corner, staring at him with scared wide eyes. But when he tried to focus on the spot, all Jack could see was shadow. It was happening again, just like the first days after Thames House. Jack had seen Ianto everywhere and it nearly drove him mad. He couldn't go through that again.
Scrubbing the grit from his eyes, Jack shuffled out of bed and quickly got ready for his meeting. He skipped breakfast; even if he were hungry he couldn't eat. How could he when Ianto was gone? When Steven and Alice were gone? He had nothing more to live for and he would never die, so what was the point of eating? Starving to death was slow and painful, but he deserved every agonizing minute of it.
No, he thought to himself sternly after hailing a cab and climbing in. He couldn't think like that anymore. Soon he would be leading a troop of men, back to Afghanistan to help the Americans and it would do no one good if he made reckless decisions with no regard for his own life, much less his men's lives. That's how other people got killed and his hands were blood-stained enough as it was.
Jack focused on the bustling city speeding past him as they drove toward the base. He tried to ignore the thrill that went through him when he thought he saw Ianto standing on the corner in his favorite suit, only to blink and see an anonymous young man in his place. This was a very bad sign and he knew it had everything to do with going back to Cardiff, and being so close to the memories. His self-exile had worked for a while, but he had known he wasn't going to be able to avoid the city forever, Jack was only afraid that he had come back too soon.
Soon Jack found himself staring at the plain building sitting glumly in the bright sunshine. Bases weren't meant to look pretty; they were sterile, practical and devoid of any emotions other than honor and loyalty. Jack needed that, his brief stint in Iraq showed him that and he was eager to get away from the life filled with pain that he had suffered for nearly two centuries.
Jack found himself impatiently waiting in the reception area as the secretary called down to the Colonel. Alex knew their meeting was today, he seemed to be looking forward to it even when they spoke on the phone, so it was a little strange the man wasn't readily available. But, as Jack knew all too well from Torchwood, things happen, so he tried not to worry. It was the paranoia Torchwood instilled that was getting the best of Jack. He had never trusted easily, being a Time Agent, Companion to a Time Lord and Torchwood Operative for nearly two centuries would do that to a person. But he hoped coming back to the roots that brought him to Earth would help him regain some of that free nature he had in 1941, before the Doctor came and changed his life. Or ruined it. He still wasn't sure which.
Jack looked up and saw not the Colonel, but a younger man with lieutenant bars and a grim smile. Jack stood and stuck out his hand, as he was technically a civilian, even in Torchwood the military never seemed to honor Jack's title of Captain.
"Lieutenant Brandon Hartage," the dark-eyed man said in a clipped London accent. A lifetime ago Jack would have flirted a bit with the young man, but now the frosty exterior did little to put him at ease. "Colonel Cartwright was called away unexpectedly and asked me as his second in command to show you the base until he returns." Hartage smiled and the hairs on the back of Jack's neck stood on end. He had seen this man before and though he couldn't place it, Jack knew it wasn't under pleasant circumstances.
"If you'll follow me," the young man said. He led Jack down a series of corridors, proudly listing off the achievements and history. They paused in a hallway of pictures. "These are the men who served in the RAF Police as part of the Royal Air Force. They've seen a lot over the years."
If Jack had been paying attention more on what the man was saying, rather than searching for himself in the 1940s group photos (he had tried to be careful, but he was known to do stupid things after one drink too many) he would have questioned the lieutenant's focus on that regiment. He also would have noticed the simply evil grin that grew on the young man's face, like a cat who had caught its prey. Instead he merely said, "I've seen a few things in my time too."
"Like the year on the Valiant under Harold Saxon's reign?" Jack's blood froze, his body stiffened. "That glorious year where life finally seemed to right?"
Jack turned toward Hartage, his brain finally placing the pieces together. "You were one for the soldiers on the Valiant," he whispered, barely audible over the rushing of blood in his ears. Jack couldn't remember much of the second six months during that year, but he was pretty sure Hartage was one of the men Saxon let join in on the torture. The lieutenant sneered. "But we retconned them all." He took a few halting steps toward the man, but what could he do? He was second in command on this base and Jack wasn't even sure he had a position here yet.
"Oh, I took your magic little pill. Then a week later I saw an old Vote Saxon poster in the rubbish bin and it all came flooding back." Hartage closed the gap between them, his smirk twisting into a snarl. "A year, one entire year waiting for a world full of perfection. The Toclafane were our way to a new world."
"The Toclafane were the Master's perversion of human life."
"And this is any better?" He took a step back and swung his arms out wide. "This world it was, is, full of shit and crooked politicians. I mean, six months ago aliens start talking through the kids. And what does our government, our queen, do? They start shipping off the lot of them to a to a secret base."
Jack held back a scoff. What would this idiot do if he knew they were actually going to act like the best drug dealers in the universe?
"Saxon was doing things right, he was cleansing the world of its problems until you and your doctor in pinstripes and fuckin' Martha Jones waltz in and take it all away. Then that stupid bitch of a wife shot him. I can't get to her or your doctor and precious Martha Jones is too far up UNIT for me to touch. But you?" He smirked as he stepped in close again and poked Jack in the chest. "I've got you, Mister Harkness at my disposal."
Instantly Jack's defenses went up and he readied himself to fight. If he remembered right, though most of the torture was a blur, this one liked to use his fists. A lot. But the lieutenant simply opened the door at the end of the hall and motioned Jack to follow. He weighed his options. Either he could leave and look over his shoulder the rest of this man's life, or he could play his game. Instead, he tried to make sense of it. "How can you do this? Once the colonel-"
The lieutenant spun around, the smug smirk still wide across his face. "For the past year I've worked my way up the chain. I've kept tabs on you, I knew you were doing something that required contact with the higher-ups and I knew it would be my only chance to put you back in your place, freak." Jack was proud of himself when he didn't flinch. "So, when the old man is away, I'm at play." The smile turned sour. "You think you can cry to the man who's entrusted me with more than you can ever imagine and think he'll take your side?"
It was Jack's turn to smirk. "Now there you have me." He could play all his cards, tell this kid that the "old man" is a closer friend than he ever would be and that friendship was stronger than any military rank. But he'd rather let the pathetic sneak think he'd won. The fall was so much better to enjoy that way.
He followed Hartage down the hall, through an adjoining hallway into a collection of rec rooms marking the outer edge of the base. The Lieutenant led him to the last cabin and stopped at the door, still smirking. Jack wondered how hard he'd have to hit him to wipe it off.
"Here you are, Harkness." He sneered. "Your troop: the children."
"The children?" Jack asked, suddenly seeing a group of school kids, their mouths wide open, an unholy screeching erupting from their mouths.
"It's the youngest group of recruits in our compound. I know Alex had made a deal to put you with the group set to help the American soldiers who can't seem to do their job, but I thought babysitting might be better suited for you." He chuckled darkly. "No way these boys are getting anywhere near the front lines. Not in this war."
He walked away laughing and Jack watched him with disgust. There was no way he would let that kid ruin his chance at escape, but he knew all he could do now was wait for the colonel return from the wild goose chase Hartage probably sent him on. Just like Harold Saxon did to his team. Before he realized it, Jack slammed his fist into the concrete wall. Absorbing the pain, he sighed. He didn't know how much longer he could live like this.
The sound of laughter caught Jack's attention and he peered into the small window of the door Hartage had indicated. Inside a group of about ten men all sitting at a round table in the middle of the room. Jack pushed down the envy at their frivolity, as short-lived as it probably would be, and watched as they played poker and joked like he and his team once did.
One of the young men (they were all too young just like Ianto) threw a chip at a solitary figure sitting on the couch not far from the table, in front of a blank T.V., his back to the door. He was far enough from the crowd as not to interrupt the book he was reading (Jack could just barely make it out in the television's screen) but close enough for Jack to assume the others didn't alienate him, he simply didn't want to play.
The young man turned around to lean over the back of the couch at his comrades and Jack reeled back. He looked just like Ianto, they all made Jack think of him, but this one looked exactly like him. It was all too much. Jack turned away from the window and leaned his head against the cool concrete wall. Would his heart ever stop aching? He couldn't lead these men – no, boys – he saw Ianto in all of them and he knew one day he would snap and only see the young archivist in them and get them killed, just like he did Ianto.
Jack tugged at his hair and groaned. He had tried everything to forget the pain but it seemed impossible to erase. Maybe…his mind began to race…maybe that was his problem Maybe instead of running from everything that reminded him of Ianto, of his lost family, he should immerse himself in it. People did it all the time with phobias: jump into water or put their hand in a jar of spiders. Maybe, just maybe, if he spent every day with these boys he wouldn't snap, but do just the opposite: heal.
Pushing away from the wall, Jack formulated the new plan in his mind. He would ask Cartwright to stay and train this troop, both for their sakes' and for his. The immortal took one more glance inside the room. Not-Ianto had been persuaded, or perhaps decided, to abandon his book and now watched the game with a furrowed brow as though trying to understand what was taking place. Ianto did that with sports sometimes, especially American football.
Jack did his best to ignore the pain of the memory and quickly walked down the way he came. An hour later he found himself sitting in the office of a very irate colonel.
"The nerve of that man!" He growled. "How dare he play games with me and expect to get away with it. Captain, I am sorry for what my former second has done. I know you wanted to go overseas, and I held the position open to assist the American Army." The colonel frowned, letting Jack now exactly how he felt about the situation. "A demotion for that man is in order, and I think Captain Hartage can train the squadron he tried to pass off on you."
"Actually," Jack interjected Alex reached for the phone. "I think I would like to train those men.'
"I don't understand, you said you wanted to be shipped out. I delayed the entire mission for weeks because of you, called in a lot of favors that apparently could have been saved for better use!"
"I know sir, and I appreciate that as well as apologize for this change .But I saw something in those men, rather, someone. A man under my command who I let down in the worst way and I'd like to try and make it up to him by helping those men."
Cartwright eyed him carefully. "Are you sure? I'm not one to judge, but I've seen men in similar situations and I can't say this is the best way to get over the loss of someone close to you." Jack kept his face as neutral as possible. He hadn't kept up on the policy of homosexuals in the Royal Armed Forces, but Jack would rather not make trouble, for once in his life. "And I won't be able to get another chance to send you to the Middle East."
"Thank you for your concern Colonel, but I'm sure."
"Very well," the older-looking man said uncertainly as he stood. "I have the authorization to promote you to Major, which I will do once the paperwork is processed. Expect to find the appropriate uniform in your on-base housing assignment. And since your troop is at the top of the list to become the newest regiment in base security, I've decided to make you the new head of the division. Our previous department head left just a week ago and though your men will probably not be ready for at least a year, I believe you have the right training to get them ready for this most auspicious post. Now," he continued before Jack could protest, "let's introduce you to your men."
Ianto Jones remembered every detail of his death: how the air thinned and seemed to pull away as he struggled to breathe, like a child playing keep away. He remembered peace and love and being surrounded by the faces of those he lost. He remembered Lisa, full of forgiveness and love. He remembers his mam and the feeling of home. It wasn't like Suzie or Jack or Owen had said. There was no darkness.
He remembered the tears in the Jack's voice and the agony in his eyes. He remembered the fear of being forgotten and the terrible finality, I am going to die, as his vision grew dark. He remembers more peace and how time had no bearing. He remembered resting for an eternity and an instant.
Then he remembered sharp, excruciating pain. Jack had said it was like being pulled across glass, Ianto thought it felt more like being pulled through fire. He remembered a flash of pure nothing, then the tear of air into his lungs. He remembered feeling not quite himself, yet reveling in the ultimate truth:
He was alive.