And so we come to the end of the tale ...


Hide and Seek

Afterword

It was Toshiko's idea.

The team had returned to Cardiff 2008 in their own reality and everything had fallen into place. They remembered the alien who had infiltrated the Hub and opened the Rift and taken them into it. They remembered their lives before and after joining Torchwood. And they also remembered the lives of their counterparts in the other reality, although Jack said these would fade and disappear altogether within forty eight hours. Each of them reacted to their experiences differently: Gwen went home to be with Rhys and revel in her love for him, determined not to lose it; Toshiko made copious notes of all she could recall about positronics and tried but failed to find a Rupak Moitra in this reality; Owen found a bar and stayed there until they threw him out when he went home and continued drinking; Ianto told UNIT to deal with emergencies and took Jack home with him.

It was the next day that Toshiko came to Jack's office in the early morning and sat in the visitor's chair and laid out her plan. He objected – strenuously – but she persisted and little by little her reasoned arguments overcame each of his objections. When they presented the plan to the others at the morning team meeting the reaction was mixed: Ianto was wary, Gwen supportive and Owen adamantly against. Again, Toshiko's calm and gentle reasoning overcame all obstacles and that afternoon the deed was done.

And so here was Jack, sitting in a coffee shop next to the Millennium Centre on Roald Dahl Plass. The Cybermen had not invaded and Nico's had not changed much in the year since he had last been in this alternate reality but there was a new face behind the counter.

Ianto Jones looked totally at home in his new role of barista and more relaxed than Jack had ever seen him. The Welshman had a hand on the arse of Brad, his partner in the business and in bed, and they were joking as Brad cleaned the coffee machine. Ianto had changed his life completely, leaving behind accountancy and the wilder gay scene – and Max - for a share in a good business and a settled relationship with one man.

There had been other changes for the better too.

In one corner of the shop, Gwen Williams sat with her daughter, Isabel. They were laughing together and enjoying a coffee and brownie each. Gwen was rested and relaxed, thinner and her hair was cut in a short bob that flattered her leaner face. She was wearing fashionable dark trousers with a red top and looked much like the Gwen Jack had left in the other reality. Her work life had hardly altered, the changes were in her private life. Martin, her son, had started a small painting and decorating business with financial help from his father, left behind his drug-taking friends and found a girlfriend. Isabel was thriving at school. Gwen was also in a steady relationship with her colleague, Andy Davidson, who at that moment returned from the gents.

Sitting at a neighbouring table, Professor Toshiko Sato was tapping furiously on her laptop as she and her husband, Dr Rupak Moitra, discussed the finer points of positronic development. It had been his idea to accept the invitation to lecture at the city's university and to extend their stay to include a weekend. They had visited the tourist sites but wherever they went, Toshiko's trusty laptop had gone with them and their conversation had turned to their work. Rupak did not mind, he loved his wife very much. For her part, Toshiko was content to be taken round places of interest, she loved her husband very much.

But some things had not changed, which was as it should be.

The door opened with a jangle of a bell and Dr Owen Harper walked in holding the hand of his youngest son. They debated at the counter for several minutes before Josh decided on a Coca-Cola and large cookie and Owen received his espresso. They sat at a table in the window so they could see out, both wanting to be the first to see the woman who meant so much to them. As they waited they talked about the ride in the boat taxi and the nature of clouds and where coffee came from and how boats floated. All the normal things that interest little boys. Josh spotted her first and jumped up to go to the door and meet her; a little boy who loved his mother. Owen also rose and reached to take his wife's shopping bags before going to the counter to get her drink; a man who loved his wife.

Jack smiled and stared at the screen of his laptop, angled to get footage of all four of his sometime friends to replay for his team when he got back. The four actually in the coffee shop with him had no recollection of the years they had been host to refugees from another reality and Rupak Moitra, who might have remembered, had taken the Retcon just as he had promised. Consequently, they could use the coffee shop at the same time and not know one another or Jack.

"What are you working on?"

Jack looked up to find a smiling Ianto picking up his empty cup and plate. "A novel. I'm stuck for an ending and need inspiration."

"What's it about?"

"You really want to know?"

"Yeah."

"Four people who did something pretty remarkable and saved the world and then forgot all about it. But one man knows and he has to decide whether to tell them or not. What do you think?"

"Are they happy not knowing?" Ianto idly wiped the table top.

"Very."

"Then leave it like that. I like happy endings."

And so do I.


Anyone recognise the inspiration for this coffee shop scene? Many thanks for reading and reviewing - Jay.