Pairing: Jack Harkness/Ianto Jones
Word count: 25,628
Categories: Romance, Fix-it
Summary: The end is where we start from. This fix-it picks up from where TW: Children of Earth left off. It is just one example of how Ianto Jones could easily be reinstated into the story. This fic may or may not become the start of my version of "series 4."

oOoOoOoOo

"Excuse me, Dr. Jones," the researcher sees the raised eyebrow directed at her and amends quickly, "um…Martha. Do you have a moment?"

Martha hugs her clipboard against her chest while she considers the request. She's just on her way to meet up with Gwen for lunch and she is interested to hear how the plans for Torchwood Cardiff's revitalization are coming. Something about the thin woman in the immaculate lab coat piques Martha's interest, however, so she inclines her head slightly. Gwen won't mind if she's a bit late. "Yeah, sure. What is it, Claire?"

"Well, I've found something that I wanted to speak with you about." Claire leads the way back into the laboratory from which she'd emerged a few seconds before. "One of the teams isolated this a week or so back and I've sort of been tinkering with it."

She picks up a large flask with a rubber stopper in the end and holds it up so that Martha can see a faintly gelatinous blue substance swishing around in the bottom. Another raised eyebrow sets Claire to clearing her throat.

"It's extraterrestrial in origin, as you probably guessed, and it seems to have some very interesting disease fighting properties. In fact," her voice drops to a murmur as though she's afraid someone might overhear, "we believe that it may completely obliterate viral infections. Think of the possibilities this could have in dealing with HIV! Or even the deadly strains of influenza that seem to crop up every few years. What's more, it seems to work not only on viruses in living tissue but also those that linger for a while after the death of the host. We just need to run more trials to determine whether the preliminary findings are accurate and can be replicated."

Claire's face is flushed with a sort of academic bliss, as though she's already making a spot in her trophy cabinet for the Nobel Prize. Martha feels almost sad that she'll have to bring the young woman back down to Earth.

"All right, Claire. So let me get this straight. You're saying that you want to try this stuff out on dead people?"

"Well, the right sort of dead people but yes! Precisely! Can you imagine what this could do for the living if it manages to resurrect someone that has actually died?"

Martha isn't so sure that is a good thing but it does bring up an interesting scientific possibility. It would also be far less difficult than carrying out experiments on living people. As she knows quite well from experience, there are all sorts of things that could go awry, especially when testing anything having to do with aliens.

"And basically what you're asking me for are the test subjects, yeah?"

"That's exactly right." Claire waits, watching hopefully. Martha thinks it over for a few seconds and then shrugs.

"All right. I think we still have a few suitable candidates in cryo; you could try it out on them. If your new alien antiviral can cure those folks," and she can't manage to keep the doubt from her voice as she says it, "then we'll talk about seeing what other miracles it can perform."

oOoOoOoOo

Jack is having the dreams again. He bolts upright out of a deep slumber, gasping for air and covered in clammy sweat. He's no stranger to nightmares but the ones he's been having recently are worse than anything he's ever known. It isn't just that they are about Ianto. At least he tells himself that. In every dream he is subjected to sheer anguish, no matter what actually happens in the dreamscape – and what happens there always changes.

After the life (or should he say lives?) that he's been forced to lead, he is used to pain and suffering, but this…

He passes a trembling hand over his forehead. All of this is much, much worse than he's gone through before. He thinks he'd rather take physical torture over this type of hell any day.

Jack's bare feet hit the floor and he pauses for a long moment, this time scrubbing a hand through his hair. He feels like shit. What is more, he feels like he deserves to feel like shit. Well, he does, for so many reasons.

Pushing up off the bed, he reaches automatically for his trousers. After a little work he manages to pull the form-fitting leather up around his thighs and shifts everything into place before lacing them up. He misses the retro Earth fashion sometimes, the loose drape of the trousers and the comforting feel of braces snug over his shoulders. And always, of course, there was the coat.

He put all that away months ago; locked securely in his trunk along with the few mementos he's managed to salvage from the wreckage of his life. If only the memories were so easy to pack away.

In true "Captain Jack Harkness" style, he's reinvented himself once again, becoming once more the charming drifter, con man extraordinaire. Even so, he's certainly not the same man that the Universe knew before The Doctor and Rose, before Torchwood, before Ianto Jones…

Oh how unfair it is that a name can hurt so much after two years. None of the other loves of his life have hurt this much for this long. He tries to forget, really he does, but he simply can't. Maybe it was the way in which Ianto died – the sheer, utter pointlessness of it all. All Jack knows is that to dwell on it leads to darkness, darkness that he doesn't want to face right now.

The fine Antillian-made fibre of the shirt ghosts over his skin as he pulls it on. He barely notices. On some subconscious level it reminds him of silk but he's never really thought about it. Much like he never thinks about how he came up with the money for his trendy clothes, nor his high class suite of rooms on one of the most exclusive stations in the Triangulum Galaxy, nor the perfectly fitted boots that he slips on over his feet.

The money's there. That's all he cares about. Now if only money could buy peace of mind.

"Oh, for Christ's sake," he scoffs into the darkness, "what a trite load of crap that is." That doesn't keep it from being true.

Finally he shoves the gun into the holster at his hip. It's not the old Webley; that's in the trunk too. Nor does he need to be armed, of course. Death hurts, but for him at least it doesn't last long. Jack wears the gun because that's who he is – who he's been for a very long time now. It does what he wants it to do. It keeps people from getting too close.

Tossing his black leather jacket around his shoulders and shoving his arms through the sleeves, he pushes his way through the bedroom door and then out of the apartment.

The station's always jumping no matter what the numbers on the chronometer say and he's tempted to go on the pull, tempted to drown his sorrows in a pretty young thing with grey eyes. They all have grey eyes these days. He knows it won't make anything better but he peruses the goods on display anyway.

There is one boy…a dark-haired, blue-eyed bit-of-all-right that turns Jack's head for a second look, flashes a come-on smile. Jack's tempted but only for a moment. "See something you like, Sir?" Jack hears the query in Ianto's lilting Welsh tones and his heart hurts. He turns away with a shake of his head.

"Suit yourself."

He hasn't walked much farther before he hears someone call his name. Jack knows that voice well. It's one of the last people he wants to see right now. He stops anyway, waiting until a hand falls on his shoulder and pulls him to face the shorter man.

"Never thought I'd find you here."

"John," he nods at his former lover and just watches him, waiting to hear what the man has to say.

"You look…" Hart trails off as his eyes rake all the way down Jack's body and then all the way back up again. There is an uncomfortable moment of déjà vu. John barks a laugh that Jack thinks is more than a little self-conscious. "You look gorgeous, actually. All right…a bit skinny, but I'm glad that you finally lost the old Earth, car-boot-sale look."

Jack doesn't rise to the bait. If things were different, he might. Instead he tries to read the other man. It doesn't look like there's much more than the usual needy insecurity there. Jack doesn't want to deal with that bullshit either. "What are you doing out here?"

"This and that." Purposely vague as always. Doesn't matter. John's expression and tone become accusatory. "I stayed on Earth for you you know, hoping that you'd come around. Imagine my surprise when I came back to Cardiff – after what I thought was a suitable mourning period for your team, mind – and found you gone. Scarpered off from the Earth without so much as a message to let me know what the fuck was going on."

Jack remains unmoved. His voice is sarcastic. "So sorry to be such an inconvenience to you." Oh fuck, even talking about this makes him hurt and he has to close his eyes for a long minute.

"I heard about eye candy." John's voice is soft. That doesn't keep Jack from clenching his jaw tight, or his hands into fists at his sides.

"His name was Ianto!"

There is silence and he opens his eyes. He sees pity in John's gaze and somehow that's worse than if the man didn't give a damn at all.

"I'm sorry."

"Yeah." So am I. God, Ianto, you don't even know how much. The silence lingers between the two men for a long minute. Finally Jack mutters, "He should have had more."

"Yes, well, we should have had more too," always the one with the quicksilver temper, John has apparently just lost his patience, "but you ran away. You are always running away!" John's hands settle on his hips, arms akimbo. "For someone who has styled himself as the hero, you're such a bloody coward!"

Jack stares at him for several seconds and then punches him square in the nose. God, that feels good! He hasn't punched anyone in ages. Of course John punches him right back. Jack's cheek stings and he throws a right hook, catching John on the edge of his jaw, rocking him off balance. The shorter man barrels forward and catches Jack in the solar plexus.

Now how many times have they done this over the years? It usually ends in the two of them snogging each other's faces off and then shagging against any convenient wall, table, instrument panel, chair…

Jack won't let that happen this time but damn, fighting feels so good right now.

Before long their energy starts to wane and Jack falls against the nearest wall, panting. John moves toward him instantly but Jack holds out his arm, preventing the man from getting too close. "No, John. I know you can't accept this but I don't want to spend my eternity with you."

"Why not?" The hurt petulance is back in full force. Jack sighs.

"You don't get that I've grown past you, do you? Look, you're a brilliant fuck and I'll admit we've had some good times but you're like a bloody teenager. You said it yourself the first time you looked me up on Earth, rehab didn't work. You don't know how to be an adult and what's more, you don't want to be!" Jack pauses, taking a deep breath and letting it out slowly, "I have lived so long…too long to put up with that shit anymore."

Jack's speech seems to give John some food for thought because for once he doesn't argue. The silence between them doesn't last as long as Jack would like but he believes that maybe John will think more about it later.

"I'm still not giving up on you." He smiles when Jack groans. "As a peace offering I'll leave you alone," Jack thinks he must have been looking too hopeful because John gives him a wicked grin, "for tonight. Oh, but I almost forgot…I was given a message to convey if I happened to come across you."

"And what message is that?"

"Little Gwen wants you to come home." John still smiles. "She says she has something important to tell you."

"I'm sure she does." Jack sighs, letting some of the pain show again. "I can't go back there. I tried."

"Then maybe you should try again."

The comment and the look that accompany it are enigmatic. Jack opens his mouth to ask what the hell John means but true to form, the shorter man simply turns and walks away.

oOoOoOoOo

Jack tosses his head, knocking a few strands of sweaty hair back from his forehead and shoves his hips forward more aggressively. The boy beneath him gives a desperate groan and wriggles. He's getting close, Jack can tell. This one is a bit younger than he likes, barely twenty, but he's so enthusiastic. Even Jack's rough treatment of the boy doesn't appear to dampen the spirit he'd first exhibited when Jack made a move on him at the club. Jack's a sucker for a rebel. Always has been.

Leaning down, he bites the boy's shoulder, drawing a gasp and the boy – whose name is Alain but Jack doesn't really care about that – arches his back, begging for more. Jack obliges, biting him again as he thrusts in deep as he can.

He thinks maybe next time he'll take an older lover, someone with experience who will take possession of him, use Jack hard like Jack is using this boy. After that, who knows? Maybe a woman. It's been a while since he's been with a woman. Hell, maybe he'll be with a pair of women. Maybe twins. He's always fancied twins.

The body beneath him tenses and the boy cries out. He gives the prettiest shudder as he pours his cum onto the sheets beneath him. Jack lets his chin rest on the nape of the boy's neck as he keeps to his rhythm, not letting up for an instant. The boy might be spent but he keeps things interesting and Jack is again glad for his choice.

Finally he can take no more and his whole body clenches tight in violent climax. He's caught motionless for the span of several heartbeats, then it's like every muscle has turned to water and he collapses heavily against the fit young body. Alain doesn't seem to mind that Jack has moaned somebody else's name and Jack is grateful for that too.

In the afterglow, Jack finds some peace. It's always fleeting, leaving him wanting more, just like some kind of heavy drug. Sadly he realizes that he could never screw enough to make the peace last. It suffices to numb the pain a few times a week. Sometimes he even manages to sleep through the night afterward. At least he has been able to finish this time. After what happened with the last boy, that in itself is a blessing.

Jack slowly withdraws from his lover of the evening and rolls over onto his back, one arm tossed carelessly over his eyes. He feels the boy shift and snuggle in against his side. Warm breath tickles his ear and Jack shivers a little.

"D'ya want me to stay?"

"That would be nice." Jack's nearly asleep already and the strong arm that wraps around his chest coaxes him down into the abyss.

When he wakes in the morning Alain is gone. So is Jack's leather coat. That makes him laugh. He's got three more in the closet and even if he didn't, he'd just go buy a new one. It's his fault for choosing a rogue after all.

Jack rolls out of the rumpled bed and heads to the bathroom. As he steps into the shower he thinks about John's message. It's been three days since he saw his ex-lover and he's managed to put off doing anything about it. Maybe he is a coward like John said. Jack doesn't want to think of himself like that but yeah, maybe it's true.

By the time Jack's through in the shower he thinks he's made a decision. He owes it to Gwen to at least hear what she thinks is so damned important. Going back will also give him a chance to meet her baby. Jack imagines the look of pride that will cross Gwen's face when she shows him the rugrat and that makes him smile. Part of him hopes the child is a girl. He's not sure how he will be able to react around a little boy. Not after what he's done.

Toweling off, Jack walks out into his bedroom and over to the trunk in the corner. He settles his palm atop the lid and waits. There is a clicking sound and a soft whoosh as the bio scanner recognizes his identity and allows him access.

The greatcoat is folded on top and he pulls it out, letting the woolen fabric fall free. Even though this is not the original that he wore for years, it still feels like an old friend and he sets it gently aside for the time being.

Each piece of clothing that he pulls from the chest is given a shake and then is set out on the foot of the bed, waiting to be put on but he's not quite ready to wear them yet. Catching a glimpse of himself in the mirror, he realizes that he's in desperate need of a shave. At least it will postpone the inevitable for a few more minutes.

Before long he's back at the bed, staring at the familiar garments once more. He has to force himself to reach out for the white cotton t-shirt – no fine Antillian fibre here – and tug it on over his head. After that it gets easier. Just like riding a bike. He can't remember the last time he's ridden a bike. That's beside the point.

Once he slides the braces into place, he sits on the bed to put on the boots. Those are the first things that actually fit well. Everything else is rather baggy. Jack hasn't noticed his body changing that much but he really only eats enough to keep from starving so perhaps it was inevitable.

The belt with its worn leather holster comes next. He looks at the clock on the wall. If he's going to do this, he hasn't got a lot of time. The next transport bound in the direction of Earth is at 1300 and it's nearly 1130 now.

He slings the jacket on, loving the way it swishes around his calves. Funny that a man never realizes how much he misses something until it's gone.

Jack makes sure the trunk is securely locked again before he leaves. He's still got a few precious possessions in there and he doesn't want them disappearing while he's gone. It could be some time before he's back.

Finally he's leaving, striding off to the landing bay to arrange the transport. A quick visit to a currency trader he's friendly with provides him enough Earth cash to keep him fed for a while. He also has a writ in his pocket, just in case he needs to draw on more of his savings once he gets there.

Everything's good enough to be going on with, he thinks as he settles on board the vessel. It's a fast ship so he should be back on Earth in a few days. Jack catches a female Crespallion looking at him, her violet-grey eyes gleaming as she flashes him a shy grin. He gives her a look and a return smile spreads across his lips. He just might get a bit of sleep on the journey as well.

oOoOoOoOo

This was a mistake, he tells himself as he walks along the bank of the Thames. He's come to London first since he was not sure he could face the streets of Cardiff yet, but there are so many bad memories here. It's especially tough because there are men in sharp suits everywhere.

There have already been at least a dozen times that he's seen a man out of the corner of his eye and thought it was Ianto. He even followed one bloke for three blocks before the fellow turned his head, letting Jack see that his face looked nothing like Torchwood's deceased archivist.

Jack turns up a random street, heading back toward his lodgings and his heart skips again as he sees another young man fitting Ianto's general description walking up ahead. Jack's furious with himself for following but he does it anyway. Evening's coming on and the fellow's probably on his way home or heading out for drinks with his mates.

The man makes several turns and Jack follows resolutely, not paying much attention to his surroundings. He's catching up with the fellow even though the crowds on the street are getting thicker. As he inches closer, he realizes just how much this man reminds him of Ianto. If only he could see the face, then he would know.

He knows already, of course, that this can't be Ianto because Ianto is dead. Jack died at his side, too stupid to even tell the man that he loved him. Perhaps that is why there isn't a single inch of Jack that doesn't hurt to be back here.

Suddenly Jack stops. The man he has been trailing has vanished, apparently swallowed up by the crowd. Jack looks frantically up and down the street. Can the figure he's been following have been just a figment of Jack's overwrought imagination? He presses his fingers to his temples, squeezing his eyes tight shut and then looks around again.

An elderly woman nearby is giving him a look full of concern but there is nobody within the area that looks like Ianto.

Jack hurries back to his hotel.

Once inside his room, he shuts the door and falls back against it. He feels angry and frustrated at himself for spending an entire day chasing ghosts. His emotions are raw, wounds that won't heal no matter what he does to bind them.

Jack's hand drops to his crotch without his giving it any conscious thought at first. The flush of excitement he felt when chasing the Ianto look-alike, combined with the darker emotions that followed, have left him in quite a state. He squeezes his erection and runs a palm over the fabric of his trousers. With his eyes closed, he can almost imagine it's another man's touch. If Jack's going to chase the shade of a dead man all over London, he thinks that the least it can do is give him a hand.

After a moment he undoes his belt and flings it onto the floor, gun and all. Then he practically rips the fly of his trousers open so that he can get at bare flesh. He groans as his hand makes contact and starts stroking. The collar of his coat cushions his neck a little as his chin raises and his head presses against the door.

He can remember the way Ianto used to touch him, tentatively at first and then warming to the task. Jack would press his pelvis into the man's touch and Ianto would squeeze him, oh, just like that…

A twist of the wrist and Jack would moan, like he does now, every time. Short, quick strokes alternate with long, slow ones, keeping Jack on edge, never letting him get completely comfortable.

Jack is breathing hard now, his hips keeping time with the tempo of his hand. His free hand lays flat on his lower belly, fingers half-circling the base of his cock, providing just the right tension for the upstroke. His buttocks keep losing contact with the door and then slapping back lightly as he thrusts into thin air. The memory of Ianto's soft voice torments him even though he can't make sense of any words. It is simply a light buzzing in his head.

It's not long before Jack can't take it anymore and gives a choked cry as he shoots his load. He stands there for a moment afterward, trembling, and then he sinks unceremoniously to the floor. The horror of everything crashes in on him once again and all he can do is sob for a long time. It was a mistake to come back to Earth but he's here now and he's being forced to face his demons.

A while later, once he has himself under control again, Jack resolves to go see Gwen the next day. With his task completed, he will be free to get the hell off of this rock and back to his new life far away.

oOoOoOoOo

It takes Jack a bit longer to find Gwen than he thought it would. She and Rhys finally settled on a house and it turns out to be a cozy sort of place with a small garden. He steps through the gate and up the path, pausing for an instant with his finger hovering near the buzzer. From inside the house he can just hear the cheerful din of a child running amok. He swallows hard and then presses the button on the doorframe.

"Just a minute!"

He waits. The door is wrenched open and he's face to face with Gwen. Her eyes widen in surprise.

"Jack!" He can't even react before she's hugging him, hard. Jack rests his chin on the top of her head and hugs her in return. The lump in his throat refuses to go away and he hears her murmur, "Jesus, you're just skin and bones!"

She pulls back, holding him at arm's length to inspect him. It is such a motherly look that it almost makes him laugh. "Jack Harkness, have you eaten at all since you left?"

"Wouldn't be here if I hadn't." He tries to bluster through with a smile but it doesn't feel like it quite settles onto his face. A light tugging comes at the hem of his coat and he looks down to see a pair of very curious brown eyes peering up at him from a chubby face.

Gwen follows his gaze, smiling, and bends to pick up her son. The beam of pride is there as she settles the boy on her hip, just like Jack had predicted it would be.

"Jack Harkness…I'd like you to meet Jack Williams."

The elder Jack blinks. "You named him 'Jack?'" He can't keep the incredulity out of his voice. "How did you ever get Rhys to agree to that?"

Gwen levels him a look. Oh right. He's forgotten that she is super woman.

"Where is Rhys?" Jack peers down the hall behind Gwen, thinking to see the man himself lurking nearby.

"Ah, he's at work. We take it in turns now that we have the little one." She turns around. "But let's not stay here chatting in the doorway. Come in!"

Jack closes the door behind him and follows her to the kitchen. He thinks to himself how nice the house is and that he likes what she's done with the decorating, though in his opinion it could use a bit more color. Then he realizes just how gay that thought sounded, even to him, and snorts in amusement.

Once in the kitchen, Gwen gestures him to a chair and sets little Jack on the floor. The boy immediately starts to run in circles, drawing a genuine smile from the man watching.

"Would you like some coffee, Jack? Or maybe I could order in a pizza. You look like you could eat a whole one by yourself."

"No, I'm fine. I'll take a glass of water if you can spare it."

"I might be able to manage."

Mere moments later, she sets the glass in front of him and then has a seat across the table. "I take it that John found you then?" Jack nods and gives an affirmative hum into the water glass.

"He did," Jack meets her gaze as he settles the glass back on the table, "I almost didn't come back. I wish I hadn't."

"Oh?" Gwen tilts her head as she gives him one of her looks. Jack thinks he sees some hurt lurking in her eyes. "Nice to know we're so missed."

"It's not that."

"Then what is it, Jack? Please tell me because I'd honestly like to know."

"I just…" He doesn't want to explain this to her. Gwen Cooper, of all people, should already bloody well know. "There are too many memories here, too many ghosts."

"Ah, well." It seems like there is something more she wants to say on the subject but she doesn't. "Seeing as how you are here I do have something to show you. If you think you could spare an hour or two?"

"I think I can do that." Little Jack runs into his leg and falls down giggling. After sharing a glance with Gwen, and seeing her nod, the elder Jack reaches down and picks the boy up, situating him on his lap. "Hi there little man. I'm Jack too."

Little Jack just giggles again and looks at his mum. She fills in the silence. "Where have you been keeping yourself since you left?"

"Here and there. I'm doing all right for myself."

"Hmm." The look Gwen gives him lets Jack know she doesn't believe that for an instant.

"What? I am!"

"Did I say anything?"

"You don't have to say anything, Gwen."

"Oh no? Well, maybe I should. Maybe I should say how clear it is to me that you're not doing all right at all. You're still blaming yourself for Ianto, am I right?"

Jack sets his jaw and just stares at her. Of course he blames himself – for everything.

"Well, am I?" She gives him a look that is full of challenge and then tosses up her hands. "Oh, I don't know why I bother trying to talk to you Jack. You're always so bloody stubborn!"

"Now if that isn't the pot calling the kettle black, I don't know what is."

"And there's you changing the subject."

"Fine. Yes! I still blame myself. I fucking miss him every day, all right? Ever since I've been back on this planet I've been thinking I see him everywhere. London, here…" His voice cracks. "Now will you please let me change the subject?"

Gwen reaches out and lays her hand atop his. Before she can reply, they hear a voice from the kitchen doorway. "What's all this then?"

Jack turns toward the voice, noticing that Gwen withdraws her hand as he does so. It's Rhys. When he recognizes Jack, he smiles.

"So the prodigal returns, does he?" Rhys walks over to shake Jack's hand and plucks his son off Jack's lap, beaming. "I see you met your namesake."

"Yes I have. The two of you do good work." He nods to Rhys and an unspoken sentiment passes between the two men.

"We try."

"No more on the way?"

Gwen speaks up before Rhys can answer. "I wanted a little time in between. Maybe in a couple of years. It's a bit hard juggling work and a toddler."

"I'll bet. So, you're back with the force?"

The response he gets from Gwen is a soft laugh. "As if. No, I work for this semi-secret organization. You might have heard of it in passing. It's called Torchwood. Ring a bell?"

Jack simply stares at her so she goes on. "I can't claim to have done it on my own. In fact, we still fall under the mantle of U.N.I.T. but Martha has done wonders."

Feeling like this conversation is moving too fast for him, Jack holds up a hand. "Martha Jones is running Torchwood?"

"Well technically I'm running Torchwood but it's Martha that really got us going again. That's the major thing I wanted to show you. We don't exactly have a new 'hub' but we do have a pretty fair substitute."

"You've rebuilt Torchwood." Jack still can't quite believe it.

"The new government couldn't very well leave an unattended rift in time and space on their doorstep, now could they? It only made sense to rebuild the team. Since I was the only one of us left, the task sort of fell to me. As I said though, I've had help."

The team. Jack feels an excitement that he knows all too well bubble up inside of him. Then he feels a pain in his heart as he thinks of all the members of his teams that he's failed over the years. That quickly puts a damper on the joy.

"So it's you and Martha. Anyone else I know?"

"Oh Martha just pops in to help from time to time. She's still pretty busy with R & D at U.N.I.T. to be with Torchwood full time. You will recognize one or two faces though."

Gwen gives an enigmatic smile, as if she is keeping some secret to herself. "And now that my wonderful, gorgeous husband is home to look after Jack, I can take you to see them."

"When do you think you'll be home?" Rhys asks, turning toward the fridge, clearly intending to get supper started.

"Dunno, but I'll give you a ring if it's going to be more than a couple of hours."

"Right. Leftovers will be in the fridge if you're late." His eyes flicker toward Jack for an instant. "I'll make extra, just in case."

"Thank you, darling," Gwen leans in for a kiss and Jack is a little jealous. Okay, more than a little, but he ignores the feeling.

When Gwen goes to grab her coat and purse, Jack nods to Rhys. "It's good to see you again."

"You too." Jack wonders if Rhys means it but he seems sincere enough.

"I'm glad things are going well for the two of you."

"Yeah, can't complain." Rhys puts a pan on the stove. "Gwen's still hell bent on saving the world, you know, but we manage. Do you think you'll be staying on?"

Jack shakes his head. "Not likely. I've got another home now in a galaxy far, far away." He offers a little smile at the attempted joke. "It's not much but it's easier than being here."

There's another nod from Rhys as he turns to rummage in a cupboard. "I wouldn't make a hasty decision if I were you. You never know what you might find to keep you here."

Jack is just about to ask what Rhys means when Gwen reappears, looking apologetic. "Sorry, just had a call from Lois. It's a good thing we're going over because they've found something. I couldn't quite get it straight but we'll see when we get there."

"Lois." Jack tries to place the name. Then he remembers. "Lois Habiba?"

"That's right. She's taken on part of the tech void left by Tosh. At least, she tries. She's come a long way, bless her, but there's been a lot for her to learn. Tosh was a bloody genius after all." Gwen turns back to the hallway. "Let's go. You can see more when you get there."

oOoOoOoOo

The building used to be a warehouse. Now it is Torchwood headquarters but it still looks like a warehouse – at least from the outside. It definitely doesn't have the flair of the old hub but rather is functional and no-nonsense, much like its new leader.

Gwen ushers him through the door and he has to admit that the interior is impressively outfitted with technology both of the alien and human varieties. She takes him on a tour of the building, obviously proud of the work that they've done rebuilding and he admits to himself that she has every reason to be proud.

The new headquarters, like the old hub, has a basement level that contains holding cells, a surgery and several other useful features. It strikes Jack just how new everything is. Sure, the shell of the building is old but everything else has a fresh from the showroom feel to it. He's not sure whether he likes that or not. Jack has always been one to cling to the past.

During the tour, Gwen reintroduces him to Lois who gives him a warm smile and calls him "Captain" as she shakes his hand. Next in line is Owen's replacement, a tall, slender Moroccan named Rachid. Jack's first impression of the man is that he's rather arrogant but then again, doctors often seem that way to Jack. Owen always did.

Gwen and Jack are just about to head downstairs when a very familiar voice raises the hackles on the back of Jack's neck. "Ah, Gwen, you're here. I wondered if you…" the voice trails off as Jack turns around. The former time agent thinks that he must have gone completely out of his mind because there at the top of the steps stands Ianto Jones, seemingly in the flesh and very much alive.

Jack's head swivels back to Gwen who is looking insufferably pleased with herself. Not knowing what to do next, Jack just stands dumbfounded as Ianto proceeds the rest of the way up the stairs and stops in front of them.

"Hello, Jack."

Jack is caught between wanting to cry from sheer delirium, to grab onto Ianto and never let go or to start screaming at Gwen for not telling him that Ianto was alive the moment he rang her buzzer.

Even though he is caught in the crossfire of his conflicting emotions, Jack can't miss a hint of distance in the other man that he can't understand. The urge to hug his former lover is at last too strong to ignore and Jack throws his arms around Ianto. There comes a momentary reluctance in Ianto's return embrace but at least it serves to reassure the ex-time agent that this Ianto is, in fact, real.

"Ianto," Jack murmurs the name that has so often been on his mind, "oh God, I've missed you!"

"Jack…" Ianto pats his back and after a few seconds pries himself out of Jack's embrace. The expression on his face is definitely cool but not exactly hostile. It seems more like he is wary – as though he doesn't know what to expect from the captain.

Not really understanding why the other man is acting this way, Jack lets him go, his arms falling to his sides. He thinks that the two of them need to have a talk as soon as possible.

Ianto turns to Gwen and picks up where he left off. "I wondered if you and Martha had time to finish the report for the Prime Minister. It was due last week and they keep calling."

Gwen nods. "I'll get you the file so that you can send it over straight away. The last thing we need is Erickson sniffing around here again."

"Yes, indeed," the assertion is accompanied by a nod. "Would you two like some coffee? I could have Lois make some up if you like."

"You let someone else touch your coffee machine?" Jack feels as though he's slipped into a parallel dimension. Everything here is so…odd.

"Technically it's not his coffee machine any more. He's only been back with us for a few months. Besides, the old one got destroyed with the hub."

"Lois makes some damn good coffee anyway," Ianto adds.

"I think we're fine for now. Thank you, Ianto. I'll get that file for you as soon as I've finished showing Jack around."

Ianto nods, spares a last glance to Jack and heads off toward another part of the hub. Jack realizes that he keeps thinking of the place as 'the hub' even though it's not.

"If he doesn't make the coffee, what does he do now? And how the hell is he back?

Gwen looks in the direction the younger man disappeared to. "He does everything. Ianto gets us to where we're going, makes sure everything keeps ticking along smoothly and he does keep us stocked with very good coffee.

"I'm sorry that I didn't tell you about him when you got here. I wanted it to be a surprise," she turns her gaze back to him, "and I thought Ianto would be a little happier to see you."

Jack nods, not knowing what to say. He doesn't quite know what to feel either. In the span of half an hour his entire universe has been turned upside down.

"Gwen, would you mind if I went to talk with him? You can finish with the tour later. I won't disappear on you."

Smiling, Gwen pats his arm. "No problem. He's probably gone to the archives. I'm sure you noticed which way he went but it's down that hall," she points, "door's on the left. You can't miss it."

"Thanks," leaning in he gives her a quick peck on the cheek and sets off down the corridor with a determined stride.

As she'd said, the archive isn't difficult to find. The door stands open and he sees Ianto inside. After Jack enters, he closes the door so that they can have a modicum of privacy. Then he walks over and stands behind Ianto.

When the man fails to respond, Jack reaches out to place a hand on one well-clad shoulder. Ianto shrugs it away.

"Ianto…"

The younger man rounds on Jack, his face angry. "You bloody left me, Jack! I died and you didn't even try to get me back, just waltzed off to some other planet without a second look."

"I didn't…I couldn't…" Taking a deep breath, Jack tries to decide how to express his scattered thoughts. "I stayed for six months. All right, yes, I didn't stay here exactly but there wasn't anything I could do. I'm sorry, Ianto. For God's sake, I'm really sorry. You shouldn't have died there and I didn't know what to do!"

Jack realizes that he's shaking but he doesn't care. He just wants things to be all right between the two of them again. He doesn't care if he has to start over. He's willing. At this point he will do anything that Ianto asks of him. He'll go back to London and jump off Tower Bridge if that's what it takes.

Something in Ianto softens slightly, Jack spots it, but it's obvious that the man is still angry too. "Tell me what you want from me, Ianto. Do you want me to beg for your forgiveness? I'll go down on my knees right here."

He starts to do just that but Ianto reaches out to stop him. Silence lingers and suddenly Jack has a devastating thought. "Have you…there's not someone else is there?"

Ianto shakes his head. "Of course there isn't. Did you think I'd get resurrected and just hop on the nearest piece of ass?" His tone is disparaging and his eyes seem to pierce right through the man before him. "That's the Jack Harkness way, isn't it?"

Jack winces as if he's been slapped. It only hurts so much because it's true and they both know it. "Look, I can't claim to have lived like a monk. You know it would be a lie. To be fair, I thought you were dead. You were dead."

It's Ianto's turn to wince but he chooses to ignore that last ill-advised statement. "You wouldn't even tell me you loved me at the end. Did you ever love me, Jack? Do you even love anyone but yourself?"

Jack moves forward, fast, and catches Ianto's face between his hands. He doesn't let the man pull away when he tries. Finally Ianto stops resisting though his hands remain clamped around Jack's wrists.

"Ianto Jones, I love you so much that I want to explode. I ached for you every minute from the moment we died together until the moment you walked up those stairs out there.

"Every time I played a scam to stay alive, every time I took a life, every time I fucked some boy that looked like you I hurt so damn bad. And the worst part of it was that I wanted it to hurt. I thought that the more I hurt, the quicker I would get over it. But you know what? I just went on hurting."

He stops, his eyes flickering over Ianto's, trying to read what the other man is feeling. Slowly Ianto's hands slip from Jack's wrists and drop to his sides. The expression on his face floods Jack with disappointment and he too lets go. They stand close, gazes still locked and then Ianto reaches up and pulls Jack into a kiss.

Jack is shocked. His first instinct is to pull away but Ianto's strong hand on the back of his skull holds him firmly in place. Recovering his scattered wits, Jack wraps his arms around Ianto's waist and holds him close.

Every sense is filled with Ianto: his scent, the soft brush of the expensive suit, the way his tongue probes very lightly over Jack's lips, begging entry. The kiss seems to last for an eternity and when Ianto breaks it, Jack feels bereft. He never wants to stop kissing Ianto again.

"You know," the voice is a low, amused purr, "I really missed that coat."

Jack feels himself laughing through tears. Maybe things aren't quite right between the two of them but they've made a start. After all, Jack thinks, the end of the beginning is far better than the beginning of the end.