Warnings: off-screen torture and death circa The Year That Never Was, AU (no COE), character name spoiler for S4
"And then suddenly I'm naked again."
Tish's laugh is the brightest thing Jack has heard in this dark place. He flashes her a flirty smile and she manages one back as the guards escort her out. It's the best he can do chained up, the best he can find inside himself when every morning brings the anticipation of new torture. The Master's inventiveness in brutalising his favourite toy would have impressed Jack's interrogation instructors back at the Academy.
Today, the anticipation is part of the torture. The Valiant flew to Nepal in the night. Soon enough, the Master will parade Jack's friends into this room one by one, and he will murder them very, very slowly. Jack has nothing but a place in his memories to give them, nothing but his faith in the Doctor to give him hope that this is not the end. He fills his long hours with memories of better times and he clings to them.
The door at far end of the cell opens. Jack closes his eyes.
"And then suddenly I'm naked again!"
The table erupts into laughter. Owen rolls his eyes, the girls sport matching grins, and Ianto is doing his damnedest not to say something witty about the prospect of Jack's nudity. Jack catches his eye but only for a moment. The others know about the two of them, but that's no reason to be obvious. The hidden looks, the words with two meanings, these layer an extra excitement over what might otherwise be a typical office romance.
Jack's chuckle trips over itself. He's not used the word "romance" to describe this particular affair before, but he likes the sound of it.
"And then …." Jack pauses mid-story. He shoves Ianto's shoulder hard. "Wake up." He's met with chattering teeth, but Ianto is still conscious. "Come on, up on your feet."
Jack's got a million clichés running through his head about the wind cutting through them like wicked little knives and howling like wolves around them in this dark and frigid off-shoot universe the two of them are stuck in now. Clichés won't keep Ianto alive until help arrives.
They stumble upright, leaning on each other. Jack marches him up and down the tiny strip of land.
He's on his fifteenth lewd story when the air shimmers at the far end of the islet, showing Owen and Gwen beckoning from the land of the warm and safe.
"And then suddenly …."
"You're naked again." Ianto's smile is more fond than exasperated.
"Heard that one before?"
"Once or twice." He takes another drink and then sits back in his chair. The restaurant is almost empty at this time of night, leaving them the illusion of intimacy. "You only tell that one when you're worried. Is something wrong?"
"Wrong? No." He's said it too quickly, he can see by the disbelief. "Not wrong. I got a call from Martha."
He catches the various expressions that pass across Ianto's face in the half-second he needs steady his voice. "Did you?"
"It's not that," Jack says in reply to the unasked questions: was it from the Doctor, will Jack and Martha trot off after him once again? Jack sits back, mirroring Ianto's falsely casual pose. "You've met her sister. She and Martha have been talking, and it turns out, Tish wants to have a child."
"Why is Martha telling you?"
"She's going to ask me to be the dad. Martha thought I'd appreciate advance warning before Tish calls."
Ianto's eyebrows shoot up almost to his hairline. "That makes sense," he says slowly, sorting out his words as he might tiptoe across a minefield. "She likes you, she trusts you, and she knows you'll always be around."
"Basically, yeah. And who wouldn't want these handsome genes passed on?" He's rewarded with an eyeroll.
"Is the ego genetic?"
"You've met Alice. You tell me." A smile is a much better reward. "We wouldn't have custody," he says, recalling Martha's quick words. "Tish is very clear that she want this to be her baby. But we'd visit, and maybe we could have weekends now and then." He takes Ianto's hand. "You said once that you like the idea of kids, but our lives are too dangerous."
Ianto gives nothing away on his face. "You think this could be a work-around."
"I think this could be our chance. Anwen's almost three. She'd love a playmate."
"You've already made up your mind, haven't you?"
"No," Jack says with perfect honesty. "I'm willing to help her out, sure, but I only want this if you do. So I'm asking, do you want this?"
Ianto doesn't answer for a long moment. Then he nods.
"We met a space whale once," Gwen says before taking a long drink of punch. "I swear I was bigger."
A warm ripple of laughter goes around the room. Tish's friends threw her a baby shower a week ago, but this party is just for them. Jack envisioned getting together at the Hub. Ianto insisted they have everyone over at their flat. Looking around him, with his closest friends gathered to celebrate, Jack thinks that was the right choice.
The food is good, the company is better, and the music isn't bad. Jack winds up lounged on the sofa across multiple laps, his head in close proximity to Tish's engorged abdomen while Ianto plays fondly with his hair.
Now is as good a time as any to start raising this kid right. In a low voice, Jack begins to tell a story, one of his favourites.
"And then suddenly," he says, mouth drawn into a grin, "I'm naked again."
He can hear both Tish and Ianto sigh loudly, and he's prepared for the matching light slaps to the back of his head. He can't help the laughter that bursts out, bright like a new day.