On the outside, as he waited down in the quiet car park, Ianto appeared very much the image of calm and collected. Inside, however, he was trying incredibly hard not to stare at the scratches marring the paint on and around the SUV's door handles.
It had been a few hours since he and Jack had parted ways and, although he'd been thoroughly satisfied and worn out by his lover, the memory of being taken roughly up against the cold unyielding metal of the large vehicle was starting to make things stir low in his stomach.
Dragging his gaze aside, Ianto scanned the other cars nearby, comparing them to those he'd seen the night before. All but two had left at some point in the night and another half-dozen had arrived, meaning it had reached that point in the morning when workers with early starts were beginning to drift in. Ianto glanced to the door, then his watch; they'd better get a move on, or else they'd end up drawing a lot of unnecessary attention when they dropped the Doctor and all the Kalkerifeenians off at his ship.
Much to Ianto's disapproval, the entirely normal looking door didn't conveniently open at his impatient thoughts and he turned back to examine the pair of cars that hadn't moved. Both silver, both dirty, one had a plate he recognised from about a month ago, the other he'd never seen before. He dismissed them easily as a threat; there was only so much paranoia in which he could indulge, and unless that first car came back for a third time, he didn't see any point in conducting a search on the registration number just yet.
In spite of that decision, Ianto continued to closely watch the windows, unable to stop himself imagining a person sat inside looking back at him. There hadn't been time to think about the issue of Alex in the last few hours and so he remained unsure of what to do. At the very least he knew he would have to find out where the other Welshman was and if his returning memory was actually making him behave any differently. He should probably also add Alex's face to the ever-growing list of people they'd set the city's CCTV network to scan for, although he would have to put down a different name to conceal the older man's true identity.
Ianto knew he could do all that without telling Jack, delaying the conversation he certainly didn't want to have any time soon, and then only if Alex returned to Cardiff would he need to bring up the subject with the Captain. As cowardly as it felt to admit it, it was simply easier to ignore the problem as much as possible.
The door finally swung open behind him and Jack strode into sight, perfectly timed to allow Ianto to change the current direction of his thoughts. He lifted an eyebrow at the new box the Captain was carrying, much more interested in that than memories of past indiscretions, and Jack gave a dramatic pout in response. "The Doctor commandeered some more things," he grumbled.
"Nothing interesting I hope."
"If you mean dangerous and fun, then yes, unfortunately," Jack said. "He's been rooting around in the archives without supervision and now we're suffering the consequences."
"I meant more 'could aid the advance of the human race' kind of interesting," Ianto sighed, moving to open the rear of the vehicle so Jack could slide the box in beside the stack of aliens. The creatures all began to wriggle energetically at Ianto's proximity, causing Jack to chuckle and Ianto to quickly shut the door and move away again. "Apparently your kind of interesting is vastly different to mine."
"Liar!" Jack gasped. "You enjoy plenty of the things I consider interesting." He dropped enough innuendo into those few innocent words that Ianto almost groaned aloud.
"I thought you were worried about my safety," he teased instead. "But you're actually happy with me taking part in your 'dangerous and fun' practises?"
"They wouldn't be very fun without you taking part," Jack pointed out.
Ianto tutted in feigned disappointment. "No, sorry, that won't do at all." He made a thoughtful noise. "Actually I've been thinking about that, down here, waiting all on my own for ages," he paused to give his lover an accusatory glare, "and I've decided you're going to have to make some sacrifices."
Jack peered suspiciously at him. "Why?"
"If you are concerned about me looking after myself, things would have to change."
"Uh...huh," Jack said warily. "What things?"
"Well, for starters, there could be no more fondling on the invisible lift," Ianto said, lifting his hands to check off the points. "Imagine if I fell off, there'd be a terrible mess."
"But that's my favourite way to enter the Hub!" Jack protested loudly.
"And of course it also means you'll have to indulge your whole vertigo addiction without me as well. No more rooftops, no balconies..." Ianto gave a heartfelt sigh. "And I so enjoyed the balconies. The cold air on my skin, the knowledge that anyone could look up at any moment and see us..."
Jack growled and pushed the young man back against the side of the SUV. "No way, no deal," he said, crowding into Ianto's personal space. "I am not giving that up."
A chuckle escaped Ianto and he flattened his hands against Jack's belly, sliding them around his sides and onto his back, holding him close. "Thought that might change your mi-" he only just managed before Jack captured his lips in a scorching kiss.
The Captain forced his tongue past Ianto's teeth, plunging into his mouth and tasting him deeply. Ianto's own tongue slid against his, drawing it further in and then sucking on the strong muscle like a starving man. Jack moaned approvingly and grasped Ianto's head with one hand, the other dropping straight to his backside and squeezing one buttock hard enough to make Ianto buck forward into his groin, the contact sending a delicious burst of lust through them...
"Whoa! Hang on, innocent eyes. Innocent eyes!"
Ianto hastily disentangled himself from Jack and turned to their unwilling witness. "Sorry, Doctor," he said meekly, embarrassment staining his cheeks.
The Doctor removed one hand from his face, revealing an eye squeezed tightly shut, and flapped it in his general direction.
"Don't apologise to him," Jack commanded, before the Time Lord could say anything. "I'm sure he times these bloody entrances to create the most dramatic effect."
Ianto considered that for a second then narrowed his eyes at his lover. "I don't think he's the only one who does that."
Jack smirked briefly, before swaying back as the Doctor barged between them to reach the SUV's rear door. "Oi," grumbled the Captain. "People are being affectionate here."
"Oh believe me, I saw," the Doctor told him, now fumbling for the handle with his free hand whilst still keeping the other safely across his eyes.
Ianto obligingly reached over and opened it for the Doctor. "I think the last week has been the most manic in my life," he said with a sigh. "Does this always happen when he's around?"
"Always," Jack confirmed, gripping the edge of the door and swinging it firmly shut behind the man in question.
"Exciting, isn't it?!" came a muffled call from inside the SUV.
Jack pushed Ianto gently towards the other side of the vehicle. "Come on, let's get rid of him so we can get back to more important things."
"What, work?" Ianto asked innocently.
The morning sun was creeping steadily up into an icy blue sky, bright, enlivening, cheerful...but also making it damn difficult for Ianto to see past the Doctor's shoulder and into the darkened interior of the TARDIS.
He didn't bother to hide his intrigue as the Doctor swung the door open wider, rising a little on his toes and dipping his head this way and that to try and catch sight of anything inside, but the sunlight really was against him. Scowling, he dropped back onto his heels, only to realise the Doctor had turned in time to see his indiscreet calisthenics. "Um," he said, clearing his throat awkwardly and holding out the first two boxes of large excitable slugs for the Doctor to take.
"Would you like the tour?" the other asked dryly.
Ianto's eyes lit up and he glanced again to the shadows beyond the alien. "Could I?" The Doctor snorted softly and stepped aside, ignoring the proffered boxes so Ianto could carry them in.
Stepping through the narrow doorway, Ianto blinked a few times to adjust his eyes to the darker surroundings, then lifted an eyebrow, surprised by what he saw.
At his side, the Doctor gave a proud grin. "Go on," he encouraged. "Say it!"
It seemed terribly rude, but the Doctor had given him permission, so Ianto set down the boxes on the floor and took a few more steps forward. "It's a bit...messy." He glanced at the other man, noting with amusement the expression on the Doctor's face as he mouthed 'messy?' to himself.
Biting his lip to stop from chuckling, Ianto moved nearer to the circular console in the middle of the room, eyeing the old battered panels, the strange equipment and the blue light glowing softly behind everything. There were a multitude of levers, buttons, wires, everything imaginable, but no indication as to what any of them would do if activated. "I like it though," he declared. "Much more realistic than those sci-fi movies where everything is neat and pristine. It's kind of like the Hub really."
"Well I don't know that you could compare the two," the Doctor protested indignantly. "You haven't even seen the rest of it."
Ianto nodded towards the opening to a hallway. "Is the rest of it down there?"
"So can I see for comparative purposes?" Ianto asked hopefully, earning an eye-roll and a playful sigh.
There wasn't time, the Doctor told him, to see everything. Not only because of the sheer number of rooms, but also because of the hours it would take if Ianto kept stopping to marvel at each and every one of them. Ianto, a little ashamed of his unprofessional gawking, admitted defeat after the first couple and allowed the Doctor to lead him back to the main chamber. It took longer than it should considering the short distance they'd initially walked, which seemed to bemuse the Time Lord, but Ianto was fascinated to see at least a hint of the power hidden within the ship through that manipulation of their location.
He couldn't deny he was impressed; of course he had no experience with other space-worthy crafts, but if he were to go travelling around the stars, he could certainly see the advantages in having everything one could possibly need under one roof (as it were) and at the same time be able to access whatever was required almost immediately, without having to travel all the way across the ship for it.
"Still think they're the same?" the Doctor asked smugly as they reached the large room, folding his arms and leaning back against the round console.
"They have the same kind of atmosphere." Ianto couldn't keep his eyes still, there was so much to examine and so little he understood of what he saw. "Maybe everything else is different, but the feel of it..." He trailed off and simply gave a shrug, overwhelmed and unsatisfied that he didn't have all the answers regarding this strange new entity.
Seeking a way to divert that discontent, he decided to change the subject instead. "What's the general ruling regarding hitchhikers and stowaways?" he asked. After all, if anyone was likely to give him a frank answer on the matter, it was the person standing before him.
The Doctor's expression became faintly alarmed and he jerked his head to look over his shoulder, as though expecting to find someone standing right behind him. "On the TARDIS?" he asked, when he found nothing there.
"On anything. Any ship. Jack said it was pretty risky."
"He's right," the Doctor told him. "It is a bit dicey. Even if you go the official route, there are forms and scans and sometimes a medical." He pulled a face. "It's best to stick with people you know if possible." The Doctor considered him for a moment, head tilted pensively to the side. "You're not thinking of trying it, are you? I know I said about embracing opportunities and all but that's a bit of an extreme way to start!"
Ianto shook his head quickly in denial. "No, no, just wanted to know if he was telling the truth."
"In case of future chances to hitchhike?" the Doctor suggested slyly. "In case you're out there exploring, get into trouble and need a quick getaway?"
"Well I rather hope I'd not to get into such situations," Ianto said. "But knowing my options doesn't hurt."
The Doctor hummed in agreement and that seemed to be the end of it. Ianto glanced towards the exit, seeing that more of the boxed aliens had appeared inside, meaning Jack had continued working whilst he'd been exploring. "I'd better help Jack before he starts playing the martyr."
"What about me?" The Doctor's voice stopped Ianto in the doorway, one foot in both worlds, and he turned back around slowly.
"Sorry?" he asked, confused by the question. Did the Time Lord want Ianto to formally ask for his help moving the boxes?
"You know me." The Doctor stuck his hands into his pockets and shrugged. "Sort of."
"I don't quite follow," Ianto admitted slowly.
"You should know who you travel with," the Doctor said, repeating his earlier advice. "And you know me."
Bloody Hell. Ianto withdrew his foot from outside and faced the alien properly. "You...want me to come with you?" A multitude of thoughts filled his head, moving far too fast for him to fully comprehend. He vaguely noted the Doctor giving another shrug but if anything was said he didn't hear it.
The possibility hadn't even crossed his mind, but the scope of what it entailed was simply enormous! To be given the chance to traverse time and space, to see countless worlds and encounter all the things Jack mentioned only when his guard was down...it was astonishing to think that was truly being laid out before him.
Ianto licked his lips, his heart thumping with the thrill of being offered the impossible. He wanted it, he realised, wanted it badly judging by the way his pulse raced and his mouth was already opening to accept, but it would mean leaving Cardiff and everything therein behind: family, friends, the Hub...
Ianto laughed suddenly, his excitement so blinding that he'd forgotten for a moment just what he was considering. Yes it would mean leaving, but leaving in a ship that travelled through time. He could surely be gone and back again before anyone even noticed his absence!
He could do it, Ianto admitted with ease. He could leave Cardiff so long as he knew he could come back; if only he noticed the passage of time, then there was no reason for him to think of anybody else.
Jack chose that moment to nudge him in the back with one of the clear containers. "You do make an attractive ornament," he drawled happily, "but I wouldn't say no to you helping me shift these things." He skirted around the immobile Welshman to drop the Kalkerifeenians onto the growing pile, then turned to head back outside, evidently untroubled by Ianto and the Doctor conversing without him. He slid by the younger man, far closer than was absolutely necessary, a warm smile on his face as he lightly touched Ianto's hip in passing.
Before he could get too far away, Ianto reached up and grabbed his elbow, stopping him in his tracks and drawing him back to his side.
"Hmm?" Jack asked, lifting his eyebrows in query. His hand returned to Ianto's hip, a gesture made without thought that squeezed at Ianto's fragile heart.
Unflinchingly meeting the other's eyes, Ianto examined the bright orbs, looking through to the truth beneath. There was still darkness there, doubt and secrets too grim to share, but there also remained the hint of light Ianto had noticed growing recently, the one that suggested Jack's willingness to start breaching those shadows with Ianto at his side.
He couldn't leave now he knew that existed.
Jack might not experience the separation but Ianto would, and he didn't much want to be apart from the love only just confirmed between them, leaving just one possible answer to the Doctor's offer.
Ianto reluctantly tore his gaze away from his lover and glanced over to the Time Lord. "Could Jack come as well?"
~~~ The End ~~~
A/N: Woo, it's done! Thank you so much to everyone who's stuck with this - I know I've been terrible at updating regularly over the past two(!) years. It's my own fault, I'm usually much further ahead before I start publishing but I got impatient this time -_-
Now, I've obviously left things rather open at the end, partly because I'm a tease and partly because there is another part to this saga (possibly two!). Ideally I'd like to go visit Jack's missing years, to see just what happened and if he deserved Lurrelia's wrath or not. Plus of course there's the problem of Alex to ultimately solve, which would follow any potential jaunt in the TARDIS.
To be honest, I don't know when, or if, those might be written. I have so many other fics I've started, both for Torchwood and Sherlock, and I think I need a break from the doom and gloom of this particular universe, so I might well skip to one of those instead!
Whatever I do next, I hope you've enjoyed the journey so far, and will look out for my other works in the near future. Thank you for reading, especially to those who have reviewed as well! I've tried to reply to everyone individually: if I haven't, I'm sorry, but thanks for your support!