A/N I have just posted chapters 47-50 all at once, as I am off to the Hub today - so if you've just clicked on the link to the latest chapter posted you might want to make your way back to Chapter 47 before reading any further!
Chapter 50 - Epilogue
It wasn't until several days later that Jack eventually managed to talk to Ianto about the issue that had been hovering in the background unspoken. There just hadn't been the opportunity to indulge in long, heartfelt discussions; the whole team had been run off their feet in the days following Patrick's expulsion from the Hub.
The Rift had been predictably unsettled, but luckily the disturbances were limited to a slightly increased level of weevil activity, which kept Jack occupied, especially as Ianto wasn't fit to be chasing weevils, literally or metaphorically, as Owen had told him in no uncertain terms. Ianto had spent long hours with Tosh working on the mainframe, changing access codes, flushing the systems for bugs and spyware. Their additional searches on CCTV footage failed to give them many further clues as to Patrick's activities. He'd been quite meticulous in his disabling of security systems as he'd pursued his prey. However, they did manage to find out that he'd been staying in Jolyons Hotel on Bute Crescent, from which he'd been able to spy on all their comings and goings. A phone call had established that the bill had been paid up front and in cash, and there were no personal belongings left in the room which he'd stayed in. Yet another dead end, which infuriated Jack.
Gwen had been out and about liaising with the local police in both Cardiff and in Barry. Any hopes of finding evidence in the warehouse where Tosh had been taken had been dashed when it proved to be completely gutted by fire. Meanwhile, Owen had set about determining the exact formulation of the drug that Patrick had injected into Ianto; he wanted to ensure that he could counter any long term side effects that might crop up. That was after he'd disposed of an ancient, rotting crustacean and totally reorganised his medical area.
All the while, Jack watched his team doing what they did best and brooded in his office, turning over the events in his mind and wondering where it had all gone so disastrously wrong. He hadn't even managed to stay over at Ianto's house again since that first night, those damn weevils just loved to cause mayhem between midnight and dawn.
Despite protestations that he could deal with the supply run to Flat Holm single-handed, Jack had insisted on accompanying Ianto. Apart from it providing an opportunity to talk to him on his own, with far less risk of interruption, he still felt uneasy if the Welshman was out of the Hub or out of his sight for longer than an hour or two. Although the others all accepted that Patrick had been sucked into the Rift, never to be seen again, Jack suspected that hell would spit him out sooner or later and he wanted to be ready.
As they stood together in companionable silence watching the shoreline get further away, it was hard not to think back over the events of the recent past. Jack felt a shudder from Ianto as a black-hulled yacht tacked across their path, its mast leaning over perilously close to the waves, its unfurled sails snapping loudly in the wind. Jack put his arm about Ianto's shoulders and was pleased that he put up no resistance and accepted the gesture for what it was. There was no need to mention the memories or the unspoken fears, the silent comfort making words redundant.
As they moved out along the coast, looking back and out to the west, Jack nodded in the direction of Barry.
"Tosh isn't going to let it drop that the police found no trace of occupation of that warehouse."
"I know – she's convinced that if she could have an afternoon there with every conceivable scanning device at Torchwood's disposal that she will uncover something."
"I take it she's been working on you, too?"
"Oh yes, and Owen and Gwen. If she thought she could strap a camera on Myfanwy we'd have pteronocam out there as well."
Jack laughed as he remembered his first sight of the pteranodon flying around in a warehouse. Despite the recent discovery that Patrick had opened the Rift to bring her through as bait, to be used by Ianto to trap him, he couldn't hold it against the prehistoric creature – especially as she had effectively brought them together.
"Ianto, what Patrick said about me travelling again – that's only one possible future. By coming back he changed that time line anyway." He'd been troubled by that revelation and had no reason to suspect the fellow Time Agent of lying.
"I know, it's alright, Jack." Ianto sighed, he had seen Jack brooding and wondered what it had been about. "I know that you … you're not obliged to stay here. If you wanted to travel again-"
"Here, take this." Jack fished a small roll of leather from his pocket and handed it over to Ianto.
"What is it?" Ianto turned it in his hands and found that it had fastenings on the side like those on Jack's wrist strap. "Is this the tool kit that Emily and Alice took from him?"
"Yes and before you ask, no, I haven't used it."
"I wasn't going to ask." Ianto raised an eyebrow. "Do you want to use it?"
"I want that to be your choice. I'm letting you decide what's done with it. If you want, you can throw it over the side into the sea."
Ianto looked from the worn, leather bound tool kit to Jack and back again. He was speechless. Jack was giving him the power to determine whether he remained stranded on Earth in the 21st Century or had the means to travel wherever and whenever he wanted. The honesty and nervousness he saw reflected in Jack's eyes touched him and his heart went out to this man.
"No, don't want to do that. Who knows who could dredge it up … I'll … I'll look after it for you. Put it in the vaults … keep it safe. That way, if you ever… you know… it'll be there." Ianto smiled the tight lipped smile he gave when he didn't want to give away his feelings, nodded at Jack and slipped the seemingly innocuous object into his own pocket.
The implicit trust that Jack had placed in Ianto was repaid by that gesture, allowing both men to move on. Ianto knew that Jack wouldn't secretly repair his wrist strap and disappear without warning and Jack knew that Ianto would understand if he did have to go. They moved closer together and grabbed hold of one another in a breathtaking hug that healed over any remaining rifts that had been torn in their relationship.
Stealing a glance at his lover's face, Jack was pleased to see that colour had returned to his cheeks and he'd lost that haunted look. He would be forever grateful that he'd been forgiven for almost sacrificing Ianto rather than tell Patrick anything about the Doctor.
Ianto reached a hand out to Jack's forehead, noticing the worry lines creasing his face. He had a good idea what was causing them and sighed. He thought they'd exorcised that demon, but apparently not.
"I told you before, I understand. Really, please don't beat yourself up over it."
"I let that bastard twist a knife in your leg and if it hadn't been for the others coming to your rescue, you'd probably be dead now. How am I not meant to remember that?"
"Jack – if you'd like to cast your mind back a bit, there was a time when I would have sacrificed the lot of you for someone I loved who wasn't there any more."
"That was different, it's not as if you were …. well, emotionally involved with me when that happened–"
"I was though… couldn't help it."
"What? Even then?"
"Don't get me wrong, I didn't want to have those feelings for you. Not when … not then. I blame those bloody pheromones, from the moment I met you."
"Yep, I didn't even want to like you … I know that much …"
"Was it the weevil fighting that did it or the coat?"
"Come here, you."
"Would you believe me if I told you I loved you?"
"There are stranger things you've told me in the past." Ianto chuckled as he was grabbed tightly about the waist and trapped between the railing and Jack's body.
"So, then – we still on for that game of naked hide and seek? You promised me you would if you survived being locked up in that vault. Remember? I'll even let you start with a full suit on."
Jack helped Ianto carry in the boxes of special requisitions he'd purchased for a few of the residents. Those from out of their time appreciated the familiar items Ianto could source to make them feel less stranded. It could be something simple like providing custard cream biscuits for Jules, who'd told Helen he remembered them from his childhood, to a DVD box set of the entire series of Dallas for Alice, who'd been taken before the shock revelation of who had shot JR – in her more lucid moments she would repeatedly ask who did it. It was only after he brought in a prayer mat for Saeed, along with a compass, that the poor man had finally stopped lamenting and found some peace of mind. This time his box of goodies included a complete set of the Harry Potter novels for Caroline, who'd only got as far as The Prisoner of Azkaban before she'd been taken by the Rift. Ianto attended to the little details that made the lives of those trapped in their own minds just that bit more bearable.
It was doubtful that anyone else would ever be able to do the job as well. Jack had discussed ways of getting Gwen involved. After all, she had the right type of compassionate personality and it probably did make sense if someone else knew about the set up, just in case. However, as Ianto astutely pointed out, he'd have to devise a way of her 'discovering' Flat Holm for herself. They had to set her up so that she'd end up begging Jack to be involved, because if he told her about it up front, she'd condemn him as a monster and refuse to have anything to do with it. Not for the first time did Jack wonder how on earth Ianto had become so wise.
As Helen approached him, Jack was leaning on the wall at the far end of the central area, watching from a discrete distance as Ianto opened the cage to access the TV in order to adjust the picture quality.
"He's still going to be looking after us I hope?" Helen anxiously whispered to Jack.
"As long as I can look after him."
"You can't keep your eyes off him today, Captain. What is it? Did you nearly lose him?"
"You could say that."
"Well, then, make yourself useful and help me collect the empties."
"My pleasure." Jack pushed away from the wall and took the tray Helen offered him as she walked on ahead to pick up the mugs and plates left on tables and under chairs.
They made their way slowly around the open area of the facility, Jack greeting those who recognised him from before. By the time they reached the back of the room, he saw the old man who always sat there. He couldn't remember who he was. Perhaps he was one of those whose identities they'd never discovered, although they usually assigned them a name of some sort.
"Who's that again?" Jack whispered to Helen.
"The old man? Ianto brought him in when you were away that time. Refused to look at anyone for the first few months, curled up whenever anyone came near him, like a hedgehog, almost as prickly to be honest. Never says a word. But we call him Gandalf sometimes, all that long, white hair and the beard. Can hardly see his face, even now."
Jack took a few steps closer to the hunched figure sitting alone, a small coffee table in front of his chair. That's when he noticed that there was a magnetic travel chess set on the table, several small pieces in various positions on the board as if a game was being played. Yet the old man was alone.
"Who does he play with?" Jack frowned, having developed an aversion to the game of chess, although he could see how board games would bide away the time for those stranded here.
"Nobody. He turns the board around between each move. Takes him forever to finish a game. Once somebody offered to play with him and he turned quite nasty, beat the poor boy back with his walking stick. Since then the others keep clear of him."
Jack approached closer still, both intrigued and unnerved. He watched as the old man reached out a hand to pluck one of the pawns from its square and move it forward. The skin was wrinkled, blemished with brown liver spots, arthritic fingers gnarled like the roots of an old tree. The tarnished silver rings worn by the old man must have been there awhile, unable to be dislodged past swollen knuckles. A step closer revealed Celtic knot work. Jack drew in a sharp breath as the familiarity of those rings clicked into place.
That's when the old man raised his head and turned to look at Jack, his face framed with white hair that made the simple black eye patch look all the more sinister. The scar running across his face from temple to cheek was dark red against his papery thin skin. He moistened his cracked lips with the tip of his tongue and let them stretch into a lazy, mirthless smile before parting to speak the first words that anyone at Flat Holm had ever heard him say:
"At last, now you recognise me, Jack. Give my regards to Ianto, won't you?"
(Really - this is the end of the Trilogy)
However - there's this version of Fragments/Exit Wounds I've written, if anyone wants to read it ...