(This 'Janto' story is set after Children of Earth and the Radio 4 play 'House of the Dead'…but Miracle Day never happened!)

Second Chance?

'The Bar at the End of the Universe'….not exactly but it was well named. A place for those passing through to somewhere else, a place for those souls for who time hung heavy who had nowhere else to go.

Jack Harkness idly toyed with his glass and looked across to where a raucous group of non-humanoids appeared to be getting some sort of party started. Young – he could tell by the pale blue tinge of their dorsal fin. Good luck to them. There had been many times when Jack himself had been a party animal…but that was before he was known as Jack…a very long time ago…

So he sat there and waited for something or someone to inspire him to go on new adventures. Of course it wouldn't be adventures with The Doctor as in this very bar his Doctor had come to say goodbye before he regenerated. The Doctor had very kindly almost given him Able Seaman Alonso Frame…which was very thoughtful of him…but had come to nothing. There had been a bit of innuendo and flirty banter but Jack had left alone – there was something in Alonso's eye that reminded him too much of Ianto.

Ianto, the 456, the death of his grandson Steven, the destruction of Torchwood Three – were the reasons he had left Earth and now sat idly in a bar waiting for something to happen…

Time hung heavy though, especially for an immortal. Gwen had claimed it wasn't his fault but he knew it was. In goading the aliens known as the 456 they had killed his beloved Ianto and in desperation to save the rest of the children of the planet, he had sacrificed the life of his own grandson. His daughter Alice would never forgive him; Jack knew that much and who could blame her?

From a distance he had people he knew who kept an eye on Alice though, just to make sure she was getting by ok. The same people had reported to him that Gwen had had a lovely little baby girl called Anwen and that she and Rhys were happily ensconced in their hideaway cottage. If Jack couldn't be with them he could at least make sure that Alice and Gwen were all right. He wished a happy future for them both – a future without him, but that was for the best.

Jack looked back down at his glass and his gaze drifted to the arm of the guy stood next to him who was wearing a wrist strap like his own. A fellow Time Agent? – But wasn't the Time Agency disbanded and only seven agents remaining?

"You must be in a bad way if that's alcohol, Jackie-Boy," a familiar voice spoke up.

Captain John Hart – or that was the name he went under, like Jack called himself Captain Jack Harkness – neither their real names. Their real names were back in the days as Time Agent partners, rollicking through the universe in search of a fast buck and good time. When John had last visited Earth – popping through the Rift like the proverbial bad penny – he had been like the person Jack remembered…unpredictable, a liability and dangerously psychotic, slippery seductive charm and all. However he had fought Jack's deranged brother Gray ultimately and seemed contrite and genuinely sorry that two members of Torchwood, Tosh and Owen, had been killed because of Gray. You could never tell with John though…

"It isn't, its water," Jack finally looked at him. Same short hair, very piercing eyes, cheek bones you could cut yourself on and his same 'uniform' of military jacket, dark trousers and boots, completed by his gun holster and an antique sword.

"Really? You used to be much more fun when you were rat-arsed," John gave a sigh and topped up his own glass with neat vodka.

"Oh I seem to remember it was being rat-arsed that caused us both to get caught in a time vortex," Jack gave John a tired look. Stuck together for two weeks or five years…whichever way you wanted to look at it.

"Oh yeah, forgot," John smirked and slugged back his vodka.

"So to what do I owe the pleasure?" Jack asked.

"How 'bout I just happened in here?" John suggested. His face became decidedly elfin when he grinned.

"You never happen anywhere"

"You know me well"

"Better than the back of my hand"

"Ditto"

"So?"

John took another slug of his vodka and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, "I'm here with the most devilishly gorgeous woman, see?" John slung an arm around Jack's shoulders so he could turn him slightly for a better view of a stunning looking woman with long black hair and violet eyes.

"Lucky you," Jack shrugged.

"Oh it is lucky me, "John couldn't help grinning from ear to ear, "We're on a great adventure right now….like we used to have. For some reason she thinks I'm the dog's bollocks…and I'm not complaining! And her? – Not only beautiful but she's got nearly as many kinky fetishes as you have, love. I'm in seventh heaven…"

"That's nice," Jack nodded. Maybe he thought he wanted to sound sarcastic but he was past that and it came out quietly and with no ill-feeling.

Jack felt a couple of fingers stroke the back of his nearest hand. John looked earnestly into Jack's eyes, thought the better of it and then lowered them, "Sorry about Ianto…"

John had always called Ianto 'Eye Candy' – part sarcasm, part jealousy. Perhaps by calling him by his name he meant it kindly? Jack let out a low breath. It was funny how just his Welshman's name could wind him like a blow, still over a year on.

"Hurts I'll bet," John patted his hand.

"Like hell," Jack mumbled.

There was silence for a moment before John leaned forward, "Walk with me. Got something I think you should know…"

"What about your lady friend?" Jack asked as John moved away from the bar.

"She's fine," John glanced across at her and smiled and winked, "I am here for a reason. Follow moi, cherie…"

"When aren't you," Jack almost mumbled under his breath.

Jack followed John out of the bar and down a low lit blue corridor that led to what were known as the 'chill rooms' for extra relaxation. Halfway a long John slowed, waited for Jack to catch up and linked arms as they continued to walk slowly.

"I'm here Jack because I've got information that means you need to go back to Cardiff," John said quietly.

"Cardiff? No, I can't…," Jack shook his head.

"You can, because the Rift is playing up"

"Playing up?"

"Sort of all wibbly wobbly"

Jack could barely contain a slight smile despite himself. John had always come out with silly phrases on occasion; it was familiar and in a way rather endearing…

"Wibbly wobbly?"

"Best I can describe it. Not exactly opening, more bending and stretching. Something's up."

"I can't. Somebody else, not me this time."

"There is no one else," John shrugged, "I know that Ianto closed the Rift, but something is going on and people have come back through it."

"Really?" Jack sought John's face for some clue that this wasn't a sadistic joke of his; John Hart was a past master at sadistic jokes after all.

"Things, people, from all over, "John's voice lowered before he flicked his eyes at Jack, "Don't you want to see him again?"

"What?" Jack glared at John. His heart was thudding in his chest all of a sudden.

"Go back. Do what you have to," John patted his arm, "That Earth planet you like isn't bad is it."

They had come to a halt at the entrance of the chill rooms.

"Why?" Jack asked, looking at John for some explanation.

"Why what?"

"Why get involved in this?"

"Cos maybe in some strange way I owe you. 'Cos in some stupid way I care, I s'pose."

Jack smiled slightly. Really you couldn't trust John Hart further than you could throw him, but this time he'd take the chance that it wasn't an evil prank on his part.

"Exit's straight through the chill rooms, "John inclined his head, "Give Cardiff my best…"

"I will, thanks," Jack said quietly, a hand already on the door, "Now I suppose I owe you a favour, eh?"

John gave his elfin grin but wouldn't meet Jack's eyes – a sure sign for Jack that his motives were honourable because it would betray the fact that in his twisted psychopathic way that John would never stop caring about him in some way or other and he didn't always want Jack to know that. John bobbed forward to kiss Jack's cheek, "Looks that way."

Jack went to push through the doors but looked back at John as he walked back to the bar. Halfway along John turned to give a rather sloppy salute and mouthed the words 'Love you' with a wink, before he disappeared.

-x-

It felt the strangest feeling to be back in Cardiff. It was a sad homecoming though – remembering the people, the oh-so-familiar places. It felt dangerous and exciting to be back in a place where the authorities, the government, would never suspect, right under their noses – a bit like the Torchwood feeling of old. Of course as far as the government was concerned there was no way Jack would be so stupid to return there, which was why it was the best cover of all.

Jack headed towards Ianto's flat. He tried to curb any excitement but couldn't resist remembering the layout of the place, memories of spaghetti bolognaise on trays on their laps on the sofa, Ianto's almost obsessive compulsive colour coding of his suits and shirts in the wardrobe, fraught and stressed times when after a tough mission they'd come home in the early hours and cling to each other under the shower or in bed to chase away the nightmares. No one had always been there who understood like Ianto had…

Before Jack had the chance to knock on the door however, he saw that Ianto was no longer there. As he approached he saw a young couple unloading their weekly food shopping from Tesco from the back of their hot hatch, bickering as they did so as they carried their bags inside. So if Ianto was back, where would he be? Jack racked his brains and tried to think. There had always been a flip side to Ianto – while emotionally and physically he could be demonstrative to those he was close to – some elements of his life were decidedly secret. Wonder who he got that from, Jack wondered….another reason we used to get on…we were as bad as each other in that respect.

Family, family…parents were dead. Who else? A sister! He had mentioned a sister Rhiannon…Rhiannon Davies, married to a guy called Johnny wasn't it? The name of the council estate was even coming back to him now. Jack turned up the collar of his thick winter jacket and set off.

-x-

Rhiannon was just shooing Mica and David and a couple of their playmates indoors after school when she heard footsteps on the path behind her. She turned round and had to look up slightly…at the most stunning looking man she had ever seen in the flesh. She had never met Jack Harkness but she knew instinctively – how her friend had described him when she saw him and Ianto out to dinner together – dark hair, blue eyes, movie star good looks…

"Rhiannon?" Jack smiled his sweetest smile at her, "I'm…"

In two words she had clocked the American accent; confirmed then, "You're Jack. How did you find me?" Rhiannon glanced around behind him like she expected to see a SWAT team jump out from behind the dustbins and parked cars.

"I politely asked around," Jack shrugged before looking straight at her, "Have you seen him?"

Again, Rhiannon glanced around her. She felt torn. Her brother was alive and she wanted to keep him safe, but she couldn't escape the rather haunted look in the American's eyes and she remembered the rather shy but obviously loving way Ianto had spoken to her about Jack.

"Please, if you have….give me at least a clue to where Yan is," Jack took her hand and his thumb gently stroked it, "I don't want to put you or your family in any danger…but please…"

Oh god, you are gorgeous, Rhiannon randomly thought as she got lost in those blue eyes for a moment. I can completely understand why my apparently heterosexual brother would have fallen for you. Jack Harkness, Rhiannon decided, was enough to make even the straightest man wonder….

She gripped his hand back and hissed, "He said if you ever came back…that he'd be where you last saw him. Look for a Welsh dragon."

"That's it?"

"He wouldn't say anymore. Bit cryptic is our Yan…"

"Yeah I know. Ok. Thanks Rhiannon, really…"

"Jack?"

"Yeah?"

"If you see him, give Ianto our love won't you. Keep him safe…"

-x-

The fairly non-descript hire car drove steadily up to a rather bleak bit of moorland outside the city. Jack had thought long and hard about where he had last seen Ianto and for a while all he could think of was Thames House, the MI5 building in London where he'd died. But he had seen him since then…at a pub called The House of the Dead, his spirit invoked one last time. Jack felt despondent and didn't hold out much hope. There was no pub there anymore and it was a bleak spot anyway, so where the hell would Ianto hole up out here? Oh…but look. The pub was definitely gone but a few hundred yards away there was a small housing estate…some new houses had been built.

Jack steered the car up the brand new bit of tarmac road but he could tell by the advertising sign and the dejected looking new houses that the recession had hit hard here; the houses hadn't sold, not one of them. The cheery sign promoting happy families in their gorgeous new home had been vandalised already, along with a few windows here and there. There were only a few houses, not much to check out. A rising sense of excitement took hold as Jack drove the car slowly up the road, examining each house for some sign that someone might be about. Nothing. He got to the end of the road where the tarmac ran out and turned the car. Then he saw it – a small Welsh flag in the bathroom window of the last house, which was not visible from the road normally. Typical Yan somehow…

Jack parked and went to the house. Locked back and front of course…but he'd broken into so many places in his time…this would be child's play. The house appeared empty; there was no sound, no sign of life. Jack tiptoed up the stairs to look, at the top glancing into an empty master bedroom, a second bedroom…

The third bedroom – empty except for a rucksack, camper stove, a mattress on the floor as a makeshift bed and a sleeping Ianto dozed off with a laptop across his legs. Jack's footfall on the landing woke Ianto with a start. In an instant the laptop was pushed away and he made a grab for the P38 lying by his side. He fumbled and dropped it with a clatter when he spotted Jack stood there.

"Me, you idiot!" Jack hissed. He mentally chided himself that it probably wasn't the best greeting to give your sort-of-dead lover.

"J..Jack?" Ianto stammered his face a wondrous mass of confusion.

For a moment Jack was rooted to the spot, his heart in his mouth. Yan, his Yan, looking as real and alive as he had ever been! But god, he looked different! In place of an immaculate suit were a T-shirt and hoodie, baggy jeans and Converse trainers. The previously well-groomed Archivist now sported stubble and long hair nearly on to his shoulders. It made him look indecently young in a way…

At the same moment Jack lurched into the room towards him so Ianto lurched up to claim him in a hug so that they toppled over and ended up in an untidy bear hug on the floor, tumbling over each other.

"Hell, you're real…," Jack almost fought with emotion that cracked his voice, his hands already inside Ianto's T-shirt to confirm real flesh and bone.

"Course I am," Ianto gave a sharp intake of breath, "Christ, Jack, do you mind? Cold hands!"

"Sorry…just...I can't believe it's really you, "Jack's voice still had a slight tremor to it. His hands were warm now so he made no move to remove them.

"Me neither. I mean…this is weird isn't it, "Ianto grinned. His eyes shone, "but I knew if I was here that you'd come back too, sooner or later…"

Jack sensed the tension and excitement between them but also that the whole situation was completely strange. For a moment they smiled at each other, touched each other's faces fondly and then ever so gently kissed. Of course Jack Harkness and Ianto Jones being the people they were meant the kisses were not sweet and gentle for long.

"Jack?"

"Uhuh?"

"Me being me. This floor is very dusty"

"On the mattress?"

"Thought you'd never ask…"

-x-

It was cold Autumnal day in an empty unheated house in South Wales but Jack and Ianto had a duvet and each other's body heat to keep them relatively warm as they dozed together. Every so often one of them would give a sigh or a slight chuckle at how ridiculous it seemed. Ianto had died, he was supposed to be dead and yet here he was alive – real flesh, heartbeat, pulse and all.

A biting cold wind whistled around the empty house betraying the desolate location and somehow reminded Jack of the last time he had been here. He tried to shut that out…

"Well love, if I'm not real," Ianto pondered whilst idly playing with Jack's hair, "You've just shagged a ghost…and that's got to be a first, even for you…"

"Not funny," Jack shot him a look.

"Sorry, "Ianto mumbled, "but it's easier than all the lovey-dovey crap isn't it."

Jack smiled. This was true. Jack and Ianto had always been masters of smut, innuendo, a lot of silliness and a fair amount of kinky sex thrown in. Do not do heartfelt endearments or serious stuff when don't need to. Wrong in a way of course….they hadn't managed to say they loved each other until it had been too late…

"You came through the Rift… "Jack said at last. The comment brought forth a slight snigger from Ianto, "Rewind, I'll rephrase that…the Rift, what, it bounced you back? I mean what was it like? How long have you been here?"

Ianto snuggled into Jack closer and pulled the duvet tight around them, "I can't say what it felt like, I don't remember. One minute there was just nothing, just darkness and then it felt like I was hurled around a bit and then it was like I'd woken from a long dream…and I was by the bay"

"Roald Dahl Plas?"

"Yeah"

"Is anything left there?"

"No….at least not that I could see."

There was silence for a minute as they both thought back to where their lives had been centred for so long in the Hub below the Plas. So many memories…and people…like Jack's brother Gray and Ianto's girlfriend Lisa….their bodies blown to smithereens no doubt…like Jack's had been.

"I like the new body by the way," Ianto commented, obviously having the same lateral thinking as his boss, "I didn't get to test run it before…"

"When blown to bits I get the same body back every time. Everything re-grows as was. No chance of tweaking bits I don't like," Jack explained.

"Pity…," Ianto deadpanned, looking downwards.

"Watch it Jones," a hand came up to slap him slightly, "I've never had any complaints."

"Joking, sir."

"Anyway, you didn't tell me how long you've been back here?"

"Oh about two or three weeks, "Ianto sighed, "Took me several hours to get my bearings and figure out what I ought to do. Then I discreetly got in touch with my brother-in-law."

"Johnny

"Yeah, Johnny"

Ianto gave a stretch, felt the ripple of goose bumps rise with the cold and huddled back against Jack.

"He gave you this stuff?" Jack asked.

"Yeah," Ianto nodded, "He found what he could from his garage and attic, gave me some money to get by. Unfortunately the mattress came out of a skip…but it's clean."

Jack made a face.

"Oh like you're particular all of a sudden, "Ianto looked sideways at him, "I'm sure you've slept on worse you prissy little tart."

"That's prissy little tart sir," Jack said pointedly.

"Do you get off on me calling you sir in bed?" Ianto almost chuckled to himself, "Don't answer that Jack, you do! Anyway, second hand mattress or not it's been perfectly comfortable and it was very good of Rhia and Johnny to help me out. No one knows I'm here, of course, not even them. I keep in touch with them via a pay as you go mobile, walk everywhere and sometimes…god forbid…catch public transport."

"Do you know about other stuff coming through the Rift?"

"No. Is there?"

"Apparently so," Jack shifted up on an elbow, making Ianto shiver because he let the cold air into their duvet cocoon. He nodded to the laptop, "That thing work?"

"Yup. Free internet connection"

"In an empty house in the middle of nowhere?"

"Yup"

"Do I want to know how? Completely illegal of course…"

Ianto gave Jack a rather old fashioned look, "Cariad, much of what we did at Torchwood was a bit dodgy strictly speaking, certainly under the radar. I learned from the best."

"Proud of you," Jack couldn't hide a slight grin, his heart warmed by the fact that Yan had called him 'sweetheart' in Welsh, which always got to him. He sighed, "We need to get back into Cardiff to check what the Rift is throwing out."

"Light's fading for today, "Ianto nodded towards the window, "Leave it until tomorrow, eh? Meanwhile I can check out local news…see if I can find anything unusual reported."

Ianto flipped open the laptop and began tapping away. After a short while he scrambled out from under the duvet into underwear and his hoodie and then on hands and knees began rooting about in the rucksack.

"How d'you fancy hoops?"

"What, jumping through them?"

"No, spaghetti hoops."

"Whatever. I'm just admiring the view from here, Jones," Jack lurched forward, deftly smacked Ianto's arse and then retreated back into the duvet.

"The other side's feeling left out," Ianto adopted his puppy-dog look over his shoulder at Jack.

Jack laughed, leaned forward and smacked the other buttock, "Yan, you're such a tart…"

"Like I said before, I learned from the best," Ianto grinned. He gave an added grin when he retrieved a tin of spaghetti hoops from the bottom of his rucksack.

"Tell me you've got a pan to cook it with?" Jack suggested.

"Pan," Ianto waved a small saucepan at him, "Please! I used to be a boy scout! And just shut up about naughty thoughts about boy scouts while you're ahead, sir…"

"Dib dib dib?"

"Jack. Stop it…"

It had to be one of the oddest evening meals. A half dressed Ianto and Jack sat on the mattress, backs to the wall and covered by the duvet while they spooned Heinz spaghetti hoops into their mouths. Tomorrow was another day…when at least two members of Torchwood would be back in Cardiff ready to take on what the Rift could throw at them. Tonight though it was just about enjoying being back together again…for better or worse.

-x-

It was very cold again in the early morning. Jack woke with one side of his face cold and on his own.

"Yan?" Jack rubbed the sleep from his eyes and squinted at an already fully dressed Ianto pouring liquid from a pan into a plastic mug.

Ianto's face suddenly looked rather serious – the sort of serious look he used to have when there was something wrong with his coffee machine – as he held out the mug, "Darlin' I wish to apologise…"

"For what? And since when did you call me darling?"

"Since when I'm about to hand you instant coffee in a plastic mug."

Jack wrinkled his nose and nearly recoiled from it, "Apology accepted. Try not to do it again or I shall have to severely chastise you…"

Ianto gave a slight smirk and poured his own. He cupped cold hands around the mug and blew at the liquid before taking a sip, "Urgh…that is vile…"

Jack put his mug up on the window sill and hurriedly dressed, "So remind me what you found out with local news?"

"Nutters dressed as a Roman centurion and an Elizabethan gentleman respectively found wandering in the city," Ianto made a face swallowing the last of his coffee.

"Presumably not nutters but the real thing?" Jack suggested, lacing his boots.

Ianto nodded. He glanced around at his meagre belongings, "Are we coming back here?"

"Too out of the way," Jack shook his head, "I have a contact that could lend us a place more central."

"Old boyfriend?" Ianto asked as he packed.

"Old girlfriend actually," Jack bristled slightly.

"Right, ready," Ianto straightened up with everything packed into the large rucksack. Almost everything. He looked at the mattress, then at Jack, "We'll leave that there then…"

Jack glanced at the mattress and a smile flickered, "Yeah, we better. So Ianto Jones, are you set to pile back into the fray?"

-x-

Going back to Cardiff felt dangerous but it was hardly going back into the fray…Jack might have an alien tech weapon (he still missed his old Webley) and Ianto had a P38 (Johnny hadn't told his missus he'd sneaked that to her brother) but they were hardly armed to the teeth and were without all the technology they had been used to.

The swanky bay edge apartment owned by 'Adele' was hardly somewhere unobtrusive either. Ianto thought the word 'penthouse suite' summed it up fairly well. Joy of joys though she even had proper ground coffee in the kitchen…which Ianto was sure she wouldn't miss.

While Jack played around on the laptop extracting what he could about possible Rift disturbance (oh for a Rift monitor!), Ianto made the most of the very nice state of the art shower to wash off several days worth of grime; he might have hooked up the internet in the empty house but he had been without plumbing. The thought of a grimy Ianto was just too much for Jack Harkness's sensibilities in the end so he joined him in the shower until their skin was decidedly wrinkly from having been under the water so long.

Rift activity needed to be checked but perhaps the thought of sending things and people back from whence they came (if it was possible) was just a little too sensitive. Ianto had seemingly come back from the dead through the Rift. Was it some sort of space and time glitch? Make the most of it…you don't know how long you've got, Ianto thought.

At one point Ianto seized Jack's face and stared him straight in the eye, "Jack. Dig your fingers into my skin."

Jack wanted to think this was a little game Ianto had invented (he liked games…) but the look was deadly serious. He arched fingers so his nails dug into Ianto's skin.

"Good, I can feel it," Ianto's voice wavered slightly with emotion all of a sudden, "I want to feel. I don't much care if it's pleasure or pain…or a mixture of both, Jack. I don't know how long I'm…I'm going to be alive. I need to feel alive. D'you understand?"

Jack did understand and he felt it small recompense for probably having got Ianto killed in the first place. Their coupling was intense, furious, bordering on the vicious but as they both ultimately roared with body convulsing orgasms they knew it was what they needed…

-x-

Ianto padded barefoot to the huge windows of the apartment and admired the view across the bay. It was a really cold day but bright and you could see for miles from such a vantage point. It reminded him of the fact that Jack had always loved to think and contemplate on high rooftops…

You are most definitely alive kiddo…for now at least. Funny how sex in the shower and a bit a tenderness can make you feel on top form and ready to conquer the world – well, Cardiff at least…

"I'm going to check out the historical rift bouncers, "Jack walked across to him and patted his nearest shoulder, "I'm going to go play doctors…"

"You do have an excellent bedside manner, "Ianto conceded. He glanced at Jack but had to drag his look away from that stunning face because it was frequently just too distracting, "I thought I'd check out the building works on the Plas."

Jack gave him his quizzical 'So?' look.

"Major works, some of it underground," Ianto explained, "Repairing something or other. I thought I'd discreetly ask a few questions. We don't know if any of the stuff from the Hub has been found do we."

"Excellent idea Batman," Jack agreed.

"No, you're Batman, I'm Robin," Ianto corrected.

"I have yet to see you in the mask and tights."

"Nor will you"

"Aw, really Yanny?"

"Go away Jack. Warm your stethoscope and go play doctors at the funny farm."

Ianto thought Jack had gone. While still looking out over the bay he moved his head around in a circle to loosen neck muscles that were still a bit tense. All of a sudden he felt an index finger trace down his backbone.

"Feel?" Jack breathed at his neck.

"Yeah, thanks" Ianto whispered back. Then Jack was gone – creeping about like an invisible ghost like he always did.

Fifteen minutes later Ianto Jones was down in the Plas passing the time of day with the guys who were working on the water main repairs. It was hard work – they didn't have a lot to say but Ianto had a good idea that none of their digging had unearthed any artefacts. After a while Ianto gave up and wandered to a café to think of something else. A good idea was to halt the mains works with an archaeological dig…but that would be a major undertaking and would draw attention from anyone and everyone. In the old days with five of them it was possibly achievable but with just him and Jack? Ianto still felt good….but he felt rather incompetent that without resources and technology he and Jack were just stumbling about in the dark. How on earth could they deal with the Rift on their own? - Everything had been in the Hub.

Or had it?

Ianto chewed on the Panini he had bought, winding the rather stringy mozzarella cheese that draped out round his finger before sucking it off. Think! Jack. Get mind out of the sewer Jones, stop sucking your finger and concentrate….and not on the bloody dribbly cheese! Still – perhaps he ought to take a Panini back in case Jack was hungry? – Ha, when wasn't he! Stop it now! - Time for Ianto Jones the meticulous and ordered Archivist, not Ianto Jones the rampant sex bunny. Ianto almost sniggered to himself at his own thoughts and then nearly choked on the cheese. That'll teach you….

Part of his remit had been to arrange, store and archive those things, people, bodies, whatever, that couldn't be stored in the Hub and under assumed IDs he had done so in various warehouses and industrial units all over the Cardiff area. Surely it wasn't all overflow crap? Well, yeah…probably it was. What about the unit in Pennyworth Road though? – Ianto seemed to remember it held more personal stuff…maybe it was worth a look?

-x-

Ianto had managed to break into the Pennyworth Road unit (his deft ability at breaking and entering was another thing to thank his boss for) and was very pleased with what he found. Amongst the flotsam and jetsam and general dross he found an old Rift monitor various pieces of alien weapon tech…and a satchel with Jack's initials on it….

Ianto's mobile rang, which almost made him jump in the silent warehouse. He glanced at the screen – unknown number. He clicked the button.

"Hi sexy, how ya doin'?"

"Jack, that had better be you or I'm going to be very worried…"

"Who else? I've got a mobile like yours…"

"Aw bless, you must love me or something, how cute…"

Jack slightly sniggered in a rather embarrassed way, "Guess I do. So what you doin?"

"At the lock-up in Pennyworth Road"

"Doing what?"

"Rooting around in piles of crap like I always used to. Thought I might find something of use," Ianto paused for dramatic effect, "Which I did. Not exactly Hub standard but I've found some very useful stuff…rather than being in the technical stone age with mobiles and a laptop. Now sir, you may tell me it was a brilliant idea and that I'm a very clever boy."

"You've always been a clever boy. Have I ever said different?" Jack countered.

"However," Ianto gave a dramatic sigh, "Slightly stumped on logistics. No way on earth I can get this back on the number 49 bus…"

"So?"

"So pretty please, could you bring the car round? I'd be very grateful sir."

"I'm sure you will be…"

.

-x-

As well as what Ianto found, Jack found other things he thought would be useful so they loaded the boot and the car's back seat with stuff from the warehouse. By the umpteenth trip up in the lift to Adele's top floor apartment they were both wondering if they really needed it all and were quietly cussing under their breath.

Since Jack was more au fait with setting up the equipment, Ianto mostly left him to it. He definitely left him to it when Jack got bad tempered and started banging screwdrivers about and swearing so Ianto went down to the shops to get something for dinner. On his return the atmosphere could still be cut with a knife and Ianto knew better than to ask his boss how he was getting on – he knew to give him a wide berth when he was stressed and it wasn't directly to do with him. Ianto wished that the kitchen had a door and wasn't open plan so he didn't have to listen to Jack whining and swearing at inanimate objects. It went against his nature but at times he did have a slight urge to just turn round and holler 'Oh will you shut the fuck up!' as he tried to rustle up chilli con carne – mostly Ianto favoured a haven of peace and tranquillity to cook in…

Finally peace reigned; everything was set up and Jack's mood lightened and he now seemed happy. He kept an eye on any spikes on the Rift monitor while he ate his dinner, forgetting to pass any judgement on the quality of the meal. Ianto decided to let it pass. By mid evening Ianto took over minding the monitor and half watching TV while Jack went through the contents of the satchel that had been found at the lock-up.

Ianto resisted the urge to ask what was in it for a while but Jack seemed pleased. At last curiosity got the better of him and Ianto took across a cup of coffee for Jack. He nodded at the satchel, "Pleased I found it then?"

"Yeah, I nearly forgot about it. A really nice surprise to find it again," Jack smiled at it fondly, "I had a box of memories at the Hub but and I knew this was lying around somewhere but I couldn't remember exactly where."

"I thought sometimes…well…you don't like to dwell in the past," Ianto pointed out.

"Most times I don't, "Jack shrugged, "But sometimes there's happy things that make you smile."

"Like?"

"Like photos of my kids – at the beach and on outings."

"Kids? In the plural I mean."

"Yeah, I've got four. Had four…"

Something stabbed at Ianto silently. Jack had had four kids. Meanwhile he had been dead at twenty six – childless, never having been married - all the normal stuff. Once upon a time in London with Lisa he had thought that 'normal life' might have been on the cards one day but how wrong he had been.

Jack still rummaged in the satchel, "Trinkets, silly stuff that takes me back….memories I do want to remember. Hey, d'you know what this is?"

Ianto looked at the gold band in Jack's palm and shrugged.

"My wedding ring."

"You mere married?"

"Yeah once, a long time ago"

Ianto didn't want to feel it but a raging bitterness started to eat at him and he couldn't help but snap the words rather childishly, "Well, that's nice for you…"

Jack shot him a look, not missing the sarcastic tone, "What's that supposed to mean?"

Ianto folded his arms, "Oh just that I'm glad you had a life, several in fact. Me? What did I fucking well do in my life? Oh yeah, I forgot…I had a girlfriend once…who you had killed…"

Jack shook his head slightly, aware that Lisa would always be a bone of contention between them, "Not that again Yan. She was cyber and she had to be stopped or she'd have killed us all…you included."

"She! She! Her name was Lisa!" Ianto snarled, "Don't you ever forget her name Jack Harkness! Don't you fucking dare!"

Ianto suddenly realised he had lost his cool in a fit of temper which he never liked to do. In a rather embarrassed manner and with colour still flooding up his face, he snatched up the Rift monitor and stormed into the bedroom slamming the door behind him.

-x-

Jack lay in the darkness, awake and watching the lights of the Rift monitor on the bedside table. Nothing had happened, not even a poor excuse for a spike. After a while he gave a stretch which resulted in a grunt from a sleeping Ianto who was lying against his back. Be thankful for small mercies, he thought – Ianto was still in a foul mood with him but at least he'd allowed him into bed and in his sleep curled up against him.

Jack reached out from his mobile and Ianto grunted again and instinctively moved with him. Jack extracted himself from Ianto's arm and quietly went into the bathroom, phone in hand. Jack leaned against the sink and punched in numbers he knew by heart. It was just gone midnight but…

"Hello? Who is this?" her dulcet Welsh tones answered, although sounding rather annoyed since it was so late.

"Gwen, it's me, Jack"

"Jack! Jack bloody Harkness!"

"Gwen, listen..."

"No, you listen! What the hell are you phoning for? D'you know what time it is?"

"Gwen, I know, I'm really sorry"

"You bloody will be! Where are you?"

"Cardiff"

"You're back here? Are you mad? Have you got a screw loose or something?"

"The Rift is playing up…"

"Jack, you know yourself that Ianto closed it"

"I know Gwen…but it threw him back through, he's alive"

"Have you been bloody drinking, Harkness?"

"No, I haven't. Gwen honestly he is"

Gwen paused, her voice softened, "So you thought you'd say hello"

"More than that, Gwen. Come on, Torchwood is back in business"

"No it isn't"

"What?"

"Count me out. Wouldn't have missed it for the world…but…now I have a baby to think of…and Rhys has put up with enough"

"But Gwen…"

"No buts Jack. Torchwood is past tense, for me at least. Please, I need a life…a life with my husband and baby, ok?"

"Ok, I understand. Honest, I do Gwen"

"But good luck…and give 'em hell for me"

"Will do"

"And give Yan a cuddle from me"

"Yeah, that as well"

"Oh and please? Don't call again you idiot or they'll be on to me, eh?"

"I'm sorry, I won't"

"Take care, sweetheart"

"You too Gwen…"

The line went dead. Gwen was right. What had Jack been thinking of by phoning her? In his usual gung-ho way he thought he only had to phone Gwen Cooper and she'd drop everything – not least of all her child – and run back to Torchwood to risk her life all over again. He had to remember that sometimes people had lives. Jack sighed….and that was what Yan had snapped at him and lost his temper about…lack of life…before it ended…

Jack padded back into the bedroom and feeling quite chill quickly slid back under the duvet. Once again instinctively in his sleep Ianto moved against him and threw an arm round him. Jack gave another audible sigh – everyone around him died, he always risked everyone. Gwen deserved a life though…and Yan deserved whatever life he had been given a second chance at. Selfish bastard, Harkness….

Jack turned his head to kiss the top of Ianto's head, "Love you, baby…"

"Love you too…" Ianto mumbled back.

-x-

It was still early in the morning but Jack couldn't sleep – he only ever slept fitfully at the best of times. He left Ianto fast asleep and snuggling the pillow whilst he sat at the big windows in the main room and watched the sun come up. He conjured up poetic verse in his head; always in his head, never written down as though he were embarrassed to do so.

Seemed the Rift was very erratic but if something else did come through what would they do about it? If they were alien they would unfortunately have to be killed unless they could magically get themselves back as Jack had no facility to store them. Ha! Did he think with a few bits of equipment from storage that the old Torchwood was up and running? - Torchwood back in business? – That was a lie….

As a clock somewhere in the apartment chimed eight, so Ianto could be heard moving around, as punctual as ever. Like Jack slept badly, so unless he'd been drinking the night before, you could set your watch by Ianto in the morning. A few minutes later he slouched his way to the kitchen area in jeans and a T-shirt, "Coffee?"

"Please," Jack half smiled back. The smile was met with a blank face.

Ianto got the coffee on and then went around checking all the equipment.

"Quiet as the grave," Jack commented. Fuck – 'grave' was probably the wrong sort of word to use to Ianto…

Ianto shrugged and with a face like a wet weekend went back to the coffee.

It looked like Yan was still in an 'off' mood then. He wasn't someone who bounced around like Tigger first thing but equally he was never a grouch either, even when he was hung-over. Jack watched him do that particularly male morning thing of scratching himself like a bear and then…two, three, four…big stretch with his arms over his head. I'm not sure whether it's sad or endearing but I know him that well, Jack thought…

"Yan…"

"Yeah?"

"What do you want to do?"

Ianto cocked an eyebrow, "Leading question. Why? Are you about to suggest something?"

"Being serious. If you're here…a while"

Jack was aware that they both gave a rather halting look at each other. Ianto had died in London over a year ago but neither of them had dared say out loud that this was the case – until now.

"Here a while? Borrowed time?" Ianto said coldly. His ice cold voice could chill your blood – in the old days it even shut up the snarky cynical Owen on occasion, "I didn't ask to come back and I didn't ask to be invoked at that séance. If I died, why couldn't I bloody well stay dead?"

"Hey, I've asked myself the same damn question!" Jack snapped back, "Time and time again." No, don't snap at him, Jack corrected himself. You're much more used to this, Yan isn't… he's only young. He crossed to Ianto and picked up his hands, "I'm sorry…"

"Jack, you know you'll always come back, "the piercing blue eyes looked at him, "but me…I don't know. I don't know how long I'm here for…for good, next week, next month or next year. I shouldn't be here, should I?"

"Yan..." Jack began.

"I…shouldn't…be…here!" The words were clearly enunciated for effect. Jack watched Ianto's eyes well up before he managed to push the emotion back down.

"Hey, shout, rage, rant about it, hit me if it makes you feel better, "Jack said steadily, "Believe me, I've had a good scream about my condition on more than one occasion."

"No…no…I'm all right, really," Ianto tried a half smile, reigning in his famous composure, probably trying to reassure himself more than anything.

Jack spotted the cool efficient Ianto mask slip back into place but he knew that deep down something was crying out, a sense of insecurity about them that Jack had stupidly never reassured him about previously. "Yan, I want to make things right in some way"

"Do you?"

"Yeah"

Jack extracted his wedding ring from his back pocket and pushed it on to Ianto's ring finger, at the same time leaning forward to kiss his forehead.

"Wha..what's that supposed to mean?" Ianto asked nervously.

"You know what it means, your mine Mr Jones," Jack looked him straight in the eye.

Ianto gave a nervous laugh and moved the ring round on his finger, "Just a bit big…but I don't think it'll fall off. Jack?"

"Yeah?"

"Thanks" Ianto crushed him in a hug but then just as quickly pulled back as if he was embarrassed.

"So, like I said, what does my boy want to do today?" Jack asked.

"Oh…umm…, "Ianto couldn't hide a sly grin, "Let me see, in order…ravish you, slap up breakfast, buy some new clothes, bit of a walk round the bay…how's about that for starters?"

"And the coffee?"

"Oh fuck the coffee…"

Jack tried to control the fact that he was almost panting with desire now. Oh Jones, why are you just so gorgeous? Of all the lovers I've had, why can I never get enough of you?

Ianto pulled Jack against him, fingers already inside his shirt and playfully tracing around his stomach, which he knew tickled slightly. He placed his hands together, slowly sliding lower down the front of Jack's his trousers. As their mouths came together a loud peeping sound interrupted.

"That you?" Ianto asked flippantly, teeth nipping lightly at Jack's bottom lip.

"Yeah, I go off all the time," Jack breathed into Ianto's mouth, as their erections rubbed against each other through their clothing.

The peeping was insistent and loud. The moment had somehow been lost and they both knew it. Ianto gave one of his eye rolls and looked tiredly at Jack, "Later then?"

"Most definitely," Jack tucked his shirt back in. He crossed to the monitor which was flashing that something unusual was happening down near the Plas.

"I'm going to smash that bloody thing up later on," Ianto mumbled, nodding at the offending monitor as he pulled his hoodie over his head, checked his gun and deftly tucked it into the back of his jeans.

"Lock and load, Jones," Jack pulled his jacket on and pocketed his gun, "We're going hunting…"

-x-

What was unusual down in the bay was a stray blowfish. It was confused and aggressive and scaring the local populous who ran away screaming.

Despite the fact that Jack wasn't dressed like he used to and the trademark RAF greatcoat was missing and Ianto looked like the scruffy twenty-something that he was, they might has well have had neon signs over their heads saying 'Torchwood' - Playing chase with a blowfish, guns drawn around the streets of Cardiff was a bit of a giveaway. Finally after fifteen minutes of serious haring down busy streets and finally cornered down an alley, the blowfish leapt at Jack who dispatched it with a headshot.

It was a pity to have to kill it, Jack conceded, but something that had to be done. He grimaced at the state of his clothes with blowfish brain splattered all over them. Oh that was going to take some cleaning! – Talking of which, Ianto? Jack turned to see Ianto jogging to catch up rather breathless. In a chase Jack always knew the young Welshman was more or less at his shoulder…not lagging behind.

"You…look…a mess," Ianto commented, having to bend slightly to recover his breath. He straightened up and glanced at the blowfish, "Good shot though."

"You ok?

"Yeah, yeah. I'm fine…"

"Sure?"

"Yeah, just out of puff. I've been dead a while, remember?"

"Not funny Jones, seriously not funny."

Ianto ignored the comment, "What do we do with it?"

"Nothing we can do," Jack was eying up the growing crowd of onlookers. This was not like the old days and given that he had been waving a firearm about and had shot the blowfish it would probably be minutes before the police arrived, "Nothing at all. 'Cept to run for it kiddo..."

"Aw shit…you're kidding, "Ianto groaned as Jack raced off, barrelling his way through the onlookers. With supreme effort he turned and ran too.

Jack took diversionary tactics running down side streets he didn't need to rather than taking a more direct route back to the apartment block. At each corner Jack glanced back hoping Ianto was keeping up – he had never had to do that before. At last he hurtled into the building and leaned against the lift wall holding the doors. It took another good minute for Ianto to catch up, gasping for breath as he sank against the lift wall as well.

"Drawn enough attention to ourselves for one day I think," Jack had already stopped panting from the exertion. He looked at Ianto pale and sweating and having trouble hauling air into his lungs. He was most certainly not all right, "Yan?"

"I'm ok," Ianto managed to mumble before his eyes rolled in his head and he collapsed in a heap on the floor.

Fortunately no was about on the top corridor to wonder at the gore-splattered good looking man carrying a younger man over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes to Flat Number Five. By the time Jack had off-loaded Ianto on the sofa, he was coming round.

"What…what happened?" Ianto slurred slightly.

"I was going to ask the same thing." Jack muttered, "Stay put for a moment."

Despite Jack's words, Ianto tried to push up on his elbows before his head rolled and he collapsed back.

"I said stay put, "Jack said firmly, busying himself with yanking off Ianto's trainers and putting his lower legs on the arm of the sofa above the level of his head for good blood flow. "Rest and get yourself together…"

"I dunno what happened. I'm not that unfit," Ianto gave a dejected sigh.

"I know Yan, you can out run me in a sprint and you're like the Duracell bunny, you can go all night," Jack gave him a slight smile to try and make him feel better.

"Oh stop trying to make me laugh...seriously, "Ianto tried to smile but then the colour of his face changed, "Seriously…oh fuck…Jack…"

"What?"

"I'm gonna heave…"

Jack lurched into the kitchen to grab the bowl in the sink and rushed back in time to shove it below Ianto's head when he lurched floorwards to be sick. Ianto groaned and finally slumped back on the sofa. Jack went into the bedroom, rummaged in a cupboard and came back with a couple of throws which he proceeded to tuck around a still decidedly green looking Ianto.

"What's the matter with me?" Ianto almost moaned miserably.

"I don't know," Jack patted the hand that was on top of the throws, "Just lie still for now. For a change I can fuss about after you rather than the other way round. Rest and I'll get you some tea shortly, ok?"

Ianto managed a slight smile, "Tea. The great British cure-all…"

"Exactly," Jack smiled back. In war and peace, for comfort and feeling better he had often found in his long life that sometimes there was nothing better than a nice cup of tea.

"Jack," Ianto retained a hold on his hand for a moment, "You're not a bad husband, y'know that?"

"Guess I'm not," Jack gave his cheek a pat, "Now sleep, bosses' orders. Do as you're told."

-x-

Ianto lay restless and sick for some time. A cup of tea seemed to perk him up for a short while and then he curled up and went to sleep. Jack kept an eye on the equipment – which showed nothing untoward – and kept an eye on the sleeping Ianto who looked rather boyish and frail. In the proper Torchwood days Jack had sometimes worried about sending Ianto out into harms way but he'd never had to worry about his general health. Yan was annoyingly as fit as a fiddle, never called in sick or threw a sickie (except for one time when they'd both pulled that stunt and never heard the end of it from Owen and Gwen about 'a sick day not meaning a shagging day') and he never even outwardly seemed to have so much as a cold. Ianto Jones was a very fit twenty six year old (Jack smirked at the modern parlance of what 'very fit' meant – this was true too) so what the hell was wrong with him all of a sudden?

Also this was most certainly not any sort of Torchwood Jack had known and it was almost impossible. If things came through the Rift and he and Ianto went after them they would be hauled in by the authorities and Jack drummed out of the Brownies, so to speak…probably in a secure away- from-it-all unit where no one would ever come looking for him. There was no way it could work. Time to face facts – for once he would have to ignore any of the Rift's glitches – not Jack Harkness' problem any more. It was over, finally over. Torchwood could not exist anymore…

So what to do? Well, look after Ianto…he owed him that much…to try and make his life happy….however long that was. Another day or so in Cardiff and then…? Then time to go travelling – see sights and have some fun. Jack had seen so much and Ianto so little. It would be fun to show him what this world in particular had to offer.

Jack gave the sleeping Ianto another glance – if he got well. Something deep and instinctive told him that Ianto's present condition was not good. Jack could be the most upbeat and optimistic person imaginable and he had to be for so many people, but he also knew that Yan could see behind the mask. Ianto had an ability to look behind the smile on your face and look right into your soul and say 'You don't fool me.' Hopefully, Ianto would be ok later…because if he wasn't there was no way Jack would get away with lying to him…

Fortunately in the afternoon after a good sleep Ianto picked up. He woke with colour in his face and feeling much better – so much better that he was felt hungry and rustled up scrambled eggs on toast for them both. Later on in the evening as Ianto sat in front of the TV trying to out do a contestant on the general knowledge bit of Mastermind (he was a sucker for quizzes and liked to show off in that respect) Jack watched him. Yan was his usual fairly happy self, hugging his knees as he rather condescendingly told the TV that the contestant was a 'complete dumb-ass' for getting such a simple question wrong. Everything seemed ok again…

"Hey, I always thought I should put myself forward for Mastermind," Ianto smacked at Jack's nearest arm cheerily, "Still the toughest and best quiz."

"And what would your specialist subject be then?"

"You probably, cariad…"

"I don't know if I qualify as a specialist subject, Yan…"

"Worth a try though!"

For some unexplainable reason, although Yan was sat there happily grinning, Jack had a sudden bad feeling in the pit of his stomach. He couldn't explain it…and in a way, he didn't want to….

-x-

"Nothing's happened all day," Ianto commented, checking the monitor for the umpteenth time. He walked around the room; hands shoved into his jeans pockets. One run out to dispatch a blowfish and a run back before the authorities caught them…it was laughable. How could they continue like that? – They couldn't.

"Jack," Ianto said at last, "Today didn't work did it. This isn't going to work."

Jack suddenly seemed to become engrossed in a debate on 'Newsnight' that he hadn't previously seemed interested in.

"Will you bloody listen to me, Harkness?" Ianto went and pointedly stood in front of the TV with his arms folded.

"Love it when you're so butch and Welsh…"

"Avoidance tactics don't work with me, Harkness! We need to talk…"

"You're in the way of the TV"

Ianto leaned round and hit the off button, "Problem solved…"

The Captain's jaw was set and the blue eyes blazed fiercely all of a sudden, "Ok, so it was a joke! A complete fucking joke! Torchwood is dead in the water and there's no way we can revive it! That enough for you?" Jack stalked off across the room to the big windows.

"So what do we do?" Ianto asked quietly, taking on board the emotion that had just lashed at him and eager to calm the situation.

"Get away from here," the gaze was fixed outside, "This is beyond us and there's nothing we can do about it."

"So where do we go then?" Ianto asked. He thought a second, "I mean…assuming we're together?"

Still without looking round Jack took hold of Ianto's nearest hand, "Of course we're together, Jones….through thick and thin. Gave you my ring, didn't I? We're going to travel…see the world a bit."

"Are we? That sounds nice"

"You sound a bit hesitant..."

"Just a bit sudden. And I haven't much money"

"I have, not a problem"

At last Ianto couldn't help a grin that spread across his face, "Oh my god, I'll be a kept man…"

"You'll pay your way of sorts"

"Thought you might say that"

Jack gave a sigh and turned with a slight smile, "We need to get some fake ID sorted…"

"My area of expertise of course," Ianto nodded, almost puffing out his chest with pride, "When shall I get started?"

"No time like the present…."

-x-

Two days later Rhiannon Davies sat in a non-descript café waiting for her brother. She had received a brief phone call from his saying that he wanted to see her – midday at the café where their mam used to treat them to milkshakes if they had been good on shopping trips with her as kids.

Ianto was punctual as always. At dead on twelve he came through the café door – in fact almost blown in by the fierce winds outside.

"Nearly got blown away?" Rhiannon enquired. She nodded at the two milkshakes in front of them, "For old times sake, you don't have to drink it…"

Ianto grinned, "No, strawberry milkshake…lovely."

Rhiannon smiled to herself. He might be a grown man but Rhiannon could never resist thinking of Ianto as her baby brother; he would always be so in her mind. Once when he visited during the 456 debacle he had looked so imposing in his suit but now in his hoodie and jeans he seemed like a kid again.

"You said you're off somewhere?" Rhiannon asked.

Ianto nodded while sucking up his milkshake through a straw.

"With your bloke?" Rhiannon asked with a slight amusement in her voice. She still found it a weird concept that her brother was gay or bisexual or whatever he wanted to call it.

"With my bloke," Ianto said, betraying a slight embarrassment in his voice, "I believe you met briefly…"

"Yeah, " Rhiannon couldn't help the rush of colour to her cheeks, "He's totally gorgeous isn't he! Don't blame you! Oh I would!'

"Rhia! Please!" Ianto hissed in a way that someone does when their big sister is being embarrassing. All the same Rhiannon noticed a slight glint in Ianto's eyes that told he was glad that she found Jack gorgeous too.

They drank their milkshakes in silence for a moment – just like they used to when they were six and eight. No arguing until the shopping was finished and the milkshakes as well. Ianto got to the bottom of his glass first and made loud slurping noises through the straw as he tried to get the last bit of liquid sucked up.

"You pig, Ianto. Bet the boyfriend doesn't know you have such bad manners…"

"Oh he does. His are worse than mine, much worse"

"I don't want to know, thank you! So, am I allowed to know where you're going?"

Ianto shook his head, "No. We're just going travelling for a bit. The life, the work we used to do here…well, it's just impossible now."

"Off to see the world, eh?"

"Something like that"

"How are you going to travel about? You know…passports and such?"

"Fake"

"Really? You can get that sorted?"

"Already done. Rather proud of my abilities to knock up a completely new ID"

Rhiannon looked closely at Ianto. He was still her brother and yet somehow she felt like she hardly knew him. Some years ago he'd left for a 'civil service' job in London, gained a fair amount of sophistication, had lived with his girlfriend and that's what he duly reported home now and then about his life…and then there was Yan who had actually worked for a secret organisation and who packed a gun, whose lover was his boss and who could fake passports at the drop of a hat….

"Will you be in touch?" Rhiannon asked.

"I'll try. I can't give you my assumed name but I'll try and email when I can. I'm called Jamie, that's all you need to know," Ianto explained. He reached into his back pocket, "I've got some of the money you lent me"

"Keep it"

"But you could do with it, Rhia"

"No, no. Just call it a present, a going away present"

"Thanks, that's kind of you"

"You excited about your travels? I would be…," Rhiannon finished her milkshake, suitably not slurping like Ianto had done.

"Yeah I suppose," Ianto seemed to analyse his statement, "Haven't taken the idea in yet really. Just got back with Jack a few days ago and now I'm rushing around trying to get things done ready to leave…got to get a hair cut yet and buy a couple of new T-shirts…you know how it is when you're going on a trip. Bit weird to think I'm leaving here for god knows where…leaving home…"

Rhiannon patted his hand, "You left home a long time ago. But wherever you go, be proud to be Welsh, right?"

"Right, always" Ianto nodded back. His sister was probably right…he had left home a long time ago, another life.

Again there was a comfortable silence between the siblings as they watched a woman at a neighbouring table strap her very cute toddler into his buggy. Rhiannon watched Ianto smile at the kid before she caught a rather wistful look on his face.

"Oh a while back, "Ianto felt like he had to explain when he caught Rhiannon looking at him, "I'd probably think I'd be pushing a buggy round. I'd have married Lisa, we'd have cute kids like that and maybe we'd have moved back here to Cardiff but…"

"But what?" Rhiannon asked.

"Things happen, "Ianto shrugged, "When you aren't looking life comes up and slaps you in the face. Think you've got things all mapped out and then you get thrown a curve."

"Are you happy, Ianto?" Rhiannon asked after a brief pause, searching his face for the truth.

Ianto looked down at the table not wanting to meet her eyes and he fiddled with the ring on his finger.

"That his?"

"Yeah"

"Well?"

At last Ianto looked up and his eyes glowed. Rhiannon could tell he wanted to smile for Wales but felt embarrassed about expressing emotion, "Honestly Rhia, I'm happy, really. I know I'm loved...and I'm very lucky."

Rhiannon almost felt tears sting her eyes. They were both lucky – her and Johnny and Ianto and Jack. What more could you ask for in life?

"And he…he just makes my heart loop the loop sometimes, daft isn't it," Ianto corrected the grin and wagged a finger at her, "but don't you ever tell him that! Jack's a big headed bastard as it is!"

Rhiannon grinned too.

"I suppose I'd better be off then," Ianto said quietly, getting to his feet.

"You take care then" Rhiannon stood too and crushed Ianto in a fierce hug, "And if that Jack doesn't look after you he'll have your big sis to deal with, right?"

"Right. That should scare him witless," Ianto held on to the hug.

"Oi! Watch it!" Rhiannon cuffed him slightly, "Keep safe Yan….and be happy…"

-x-

When Ianto Jones had moved to London and even when he came back to Cardiff he had been somewhat remiss in keeping in touch with his sister – his only remaining family. Now he made up for it by sending an email every few weeks:

Dear Rhia

Greetings to you, Johnny, Mica and David from sunny Thailand!

'The husband' has gone for a walk so I'm taking the chance to catch up from an internet café. Hope you're all ok and looking forward to Christmas. Wish I could send this weather to you – it's great. Loving being here – wonderful country, nice people.

Staying here for a bit and I'm doing some relief bar work as I want to pay my way. When I mentioned to him indoors what I was planning to write he said to tell you that's not as a lady-boy. S'ok I've already smacked him hard for that one!

So laid back here its bliss

Love Jamie (and Daniel)

Dear Rhia

Daniel and I send our heartfelt good wishes to you at Christmas! – Hope you're having a good one!

I'm sure the kids have got tons of presents as usual – hope Johnny got you something nice! Its lovely being here but I'll miss the roast turkey. Oh no wait, just overheard there's a place down the street that is actually doing Christmas dinner! Who'd have thought! - May indulge after all.

Anyway, will remember to raise a glass to you all (hic!) for New Year.

Much love – Jamie

Dear Rhiannon

Me, 'Daniel.' Don't panic, nothing much wrong…

We've been touring Cambodia and Jamie probably overdid it when we went round Ankor Wat –suffering from slight exhaustion and feeling a bit sick right now – but he asked me to send his regular email. I'm sure he'll be fine in a day or so and I'm making sure he rests. I try to be a ministering angel soothing the furrowed brow but fall short at peeling grapes for him ;-)

Hope to be off to Tahiti when Jamie's feeling better.

He sends his best wishes, as do I

Daniel

Dear Rhia

Have had to walk for ages to get to this internet café!

I'm about to make you very jealous – staying on a tropical island, living in a very basic bungalow by the beach. Nothing better than sprinting naked out of bed first thing in the morning and straight into the warm ocean! – Sorry sis, it beats Cardiff!

We're living a very simple life but it's great. Really glad that Da taught me to fish all those years ago – in fact if we eat much more fish I think we'll probably grow gills!

Blissful as it is playing Robinson Crusoe and Man Friday (he's not my boss anymore, but guess which one I am?) I'm also looking through guide books planning the culture-vulture leg in the States and Europe.

Chillin' vibes to you sis from the boys on the beach – Jamie

Dear Rhia

Arrived in the U.S. with all over tans – doncha love a private beach…

Now in Wyoming on a ranch break. Bloody brilliant! I'm sure Johnny would be dead jealous because we've been playing real life cowboys all week. We're serious dudes.

You'd laugh at my riding a horse, seriously you would. Not at all like riding a donkey at the seaside (!) Daniel, however, is a natural in the saddle – bastard! However I've found something he's not actually good at though – we've been roping steers and all 'the husband' does is tie himself in knots with the lasso while I'm pretty good. Big thumbs up to me…

With all this horse riding I'm walking a bit like John Wayne – and shut up Johnny, I can hear your smutty innuendo from here! To look the part I've bought myself a proper Stetson and boots and Daniel has bought me chaps cos he says I look dead sexy in them – kinky sod.

Talking of kinky sods – had a nasty moment coming through immigration in L.A. Thought the U.S. authorities had rumbled our IDs as we were pulled aside and they went through our bags. Oh deep, deep embarrassment Rhia when they pulled out the handcuffs, cock rings and dog collar from my bag. I'm sorry, you're my sister and I know you're going 'Too much information!' but I bet there's a part of you that's killing yourself laughing. Anyway, I wanted the ground to open up beneath me while Daniel brazened it out. Daniel teases me for getting embarrassed but he should know what I'm like – I'm shy, but obviously you now know I'm not THAT shy…! Please carry on laughing, I earned it….!

Must finish for now. A hot tub awaits my sore aching muscles (shut up, I'm ahead of you!) – bloody horses!

Love (and a yeeha!) from Jamie and Daniel

Dear Rhia

In hospital in Washington D.C. Don't panic - feeling much better already.

We were doing a bit of a cultural and historical stint on the East Coast (who needs a history book when you have Daniel?) when for no apparent reason I keeled over. Felt sick and very weak for a couple of days but like I said, on the mend now. The doctors haven't a clue what caused it. Of course Daniel filled them in that I keep doing this every so often and to run every test going. However, I feel guilty because I'm feeling better and I don't want a fuss and Daniel is paying my medical bills and I know he worries.

Don't worry though, if there was anything wrong I would tell you – honest.

Meanwhile catching up on reading since I'm 'resting' in hospital.

Will write again soon

Love always – Jamie

-x-

"Hi. Is that Rhiannon?"

She would know that American accent anywhere.

"Jack…I mean Daniel. Is he all right?"

"Here's here at the hotel, not in hospital or anything. We're in Paris at the moment"

"You didn't really answer my question"

"I don't know what it is Rhiannon. He just seems to get weak and sick and the doctors haven't a clue what it is. Also he's eating like a horse and losing weight if anything."

"That doesn't sound good. You're scared for him, aren't you…"

"Yeah, I am"

"I don't know what to suggest. I mean, you've been having a great time haven't you. Yan's been emailing me all about your adventures…"

"Has he? Did he tell you the one about getting chased by a bear in the Yosemite National Park?"

"What?"

"S'ok, didn't get us. We've had the odd scrape Yan hasn't told you about. Boys own stuff"

"I'm sure. Anyway, thanks for letting me know how he is. Look after him won't you"

"Promise you on that"

"I know you're worried but I'm sure he'll rally round. Keep me posted won't you"

"Of course I will. Goodnight Rhiannon"

"'Night, Jack."

-x-

Ianto Jones (or James Harwood as it said in his passport) wandered down to the Seine and sat on the steps to look at the river and the boats after dark…it had a sad beauty to it….

It was a warm evening but he pulled his jacket around him closer – unusually feeling the cold these days. Jack would have a hissy fit about him wandering off when he wasn't feeling well but Ianto had left Jack asleep in front of the TV; he randomly wondered if that was a reflection on French television….

He felt the cold more, he ached, with too much sustained exertion he tended to collapse and the tips of his fingers frequently went numb for no reason. That very morning Jack had also pointed out a weird looking rash on his back. Doctors in three countries, including the U.S., were stumped as to what was wrong with him…but Ianto knew. He was dying…again…but this time slowly and insidiously.

Ianto felt in some strange way that he had a new maturity since his death at Thames House. Once he would have sobbed and got hysterical and clung to Jack like a limpet. Now? – Well he supposed he would call it resigned. As he'd said to Jack before, he wasn't supposed to be there. Ianto gave a slightly twisted smile – not many people his age could say that had died once already, been invoked at a séance and were dying a second time. Then again those people couldn't say they had also worked for a secret organisation like Torchwood twice over, seen aliens and glimpses of other worlds and led the exciting life he had.

And the best bit had been the previous few months, travelling the world with Jack…or Daniel Patterson as it said in his passport. It had been a wonderful long holiday, a great adventure and Ianto wouldn't have missed it for anything. That wasn't to say that they hadn't got into trouble or had the odd scrape now and then, that there hadn't been bickering (often over Jack's rampant flirting) and on one memorable occasion a full blown shouty, sweary almost knock down fight. Disagreements never lasted though…they had an ability to make each other laugh and making up was the best. However, Ianto knew at the same time that theirs was an unreal existence moving from hotel to hotel. Although Torchwood had been 'unreal' in a way there had been times of normality. Ianto had had a home, his flat, with every day decisions like what to buy in Sainsbury's to cook for dinner, having all his own books and CDs around him, nagging Jack about incessantly leaving his underwear on the bathroom floor, eating 'chips and dips' and popcorn late at night slobbing on the sofa, the bills, the laundry…all the normal, boring stuff. For all the excitement deep down there was a part of Ianto that craved a 'normal' life with Jack…but he equally knew that that would never happen…

Ianto had got used to 'Jamie' his alter ego. It fitted in with what had been his secretive life with Torchwood and seemed like an extension of that. It was an on-going reference point for them both to talk about Jamie like the Invisible Man in the room – 'what would Jamie like to do today?' or 'Jamie doesn't think that's a good idea.' In public Ianto and Jack were always Jamie and Daniel so that they never said the wrong name. Filling in hotel registration cards Ianto was very at home with his new signature which he signed with a flourish – 'James Harwood-Patterson.' As Jamie he had also learned to adopt a more devil-may-care attitude. Initially Ianto felt awkward pretending to be someone else especially where hotels were concerned (which smacked of 'dirty weekends') and he almost blushed every time the damn receptionist asked if it was a twin or double room required but now he had a confident almost world-weary manner, "James Harwood-Patterson, we've got a booking - one double room, two weeks, top floor, quiet room, thank you." It had become a way of life almost and he wanted to look forward to more hotels – in Rome, Munich and Cyprus – but he knew it ended in Paris.

Ianto stared at the water and sighed. He was dying and he couldn't put Jack through watching him die a second time. It sounded selfish maybe but Ianto thought he'd rather shoot himself than just getting weaker and sicker, but either option of suicide or slow death he was going to rip his lover's heart apart again. He couldn't do that…

Be strong, you know what you have to do - he almost said the words out loud. Disappear. Disappear so that Jack never finds you. Oh he'll look, he'll look like mad and he'll be frantic…but it's for the best and he'll get over it. Disappear and quietly crawl away to die in a place of your choosing…

It sounded so easy but Ianto knew it would break his heart to do it…but then that was what love was all about wasn't it? – Better break his own heart than Jack's. He had loved Lisa of course but Jack Harkness was the great love of his life and the man he had got used to thinking of as his husband. They had had the very best time over recent months on their travels…and that was what must be remembered. No matter how much they loved each other – which was an awful lot – Jack was immortal and Ianto wasn't and would die young. Ianto gave a bitter chuckle to himself…better to be a sprite young corpse than be a geriatric wrinkly trying desperately to hang on to the attention of a man who looked permanently forty-something.

He looked up and across to the lights on the Right Bank. Paris...beautiful…romantic…sometimes where hearts are broken…

-x-

Ianto had always been meticulous and a planner; he was well known for it. He was a Researcher and Archivist and he planned his disappearance with almost military precision. The bottom line was he hoped to get Jack out of the hotel for a couple of hours whilst he could make his escape so he thought up ideas of what Jack could sensibly do on his own in the city. When Jack happened to start talking about 'old times' in Paris and started telling stories about the fin-de-siècle days, Ianto tactfully suggested he might like to wander round and reacquaint himself with a few places he'd known, which fortunately Jack seemed to like the idea of.

There were moments though when he wanted to call off the plan. The night before he would leave, Ianto lay wide awake and it hit him that this would be the last time like this…lying here and the feel, the taste, the smell of Jack….those fifty-first century pheromones of his were like a drug. He watched him asleep, lying on his back with a serene smile on his face, and a wall of emotion hit so hard he had to bite his lip to stop a sob. Oh god no, no, I can't do this! I can't leave! This goes against everything! Ianto wriggled his way to lie on top of Jack, so waking him in the process.

"Wha..wassa..Yan?" Jack mumbled sleepily, blinking at him.

Ianto pushed his weight on to his elbows so he could look him straight in the eye, "Love you, Jack…"

"You getting all soppy on me, Yanny?" Jack gave him an old fashioned look, not quite sure why he'd been woken for such a pronouncement.

"Yes…I am," the voice was low and husky.

"Something the matter?" Jack was a little concerned at the look on Ianto's face, the tone of his voice.

"No. Nothing's the matter," Ianto said more calmly, "I…I just wanted to tell you. I had to tell you now."

"At three in the morning?" Jack still had an 'I'm not sure about this' look on his face.

"Yes. At three o'clock in the morning in a Paris hotel I had to wake you up and let you know that I fucking love you Jack Harkness," Ianto insisted, his voice sounding very Welsh all of a sudden.

Jack's face softened, slightly overwhelmed at Ianto's rather daft but sweet grand gesture. He smiled and pulled Ianto down to nestle against him, at the same time bringing his legs up and round so they hooked behind Ianto's back, "And I fucking love you too, Ianto Jones.."

"I am sorry to wake you…," Ianto whispered in Jack's ear almost in a snigger, his tide of emotion now turning to borderline manic hilarity. It wasn't a feeling he'd had often…feeling quite insanely, manically mad and very aroused at the same time.

"Uhuh. Course you are, Jones."

"No, really…I…"

Jack shut him up with a mauling kiss and Ianto moaned and concentrated on making every sense, every nerve ending remember it all because the last time with Jack had to be the best.

-x-

"You sure you don't want to have a walk with me? Might do you good…," Jack was being his usual cheery and rather gung-ho self as he prepared to go out after breakfast

"No. I might go for a short walk and get some fresh air later, "Ianto mumbled, "Feeling a bit sick today…don't want to overdo it."

"I'll only be a couple of hours or so, then I'll phone you and maybe we can get some lunch?" Jack suggested, "In fact I'll check and see if there's still the great place that Henri and I used to eat at…wonder if it's still there?"

"Henri?"

"Tolouse-Lautrec. Painter, little short guy"

Ianto smiled to himself. Only Jack would know someone like Tolouse-Lautrec and call one of the greatest post-Impressionist painters 'a painter, little short guy' – however accurate that was in its way…

"He was always looking up women's skirts…," Jack continued with his reminiscence, "Not that he had far to look with all those can-can dancers. Did you know they didn't wear underwear and that's why it was so racy?"

"Thanks for that, Jack"

"My pleasure."

"I'm sure it was"

Jack grinned at him as if to say 'you would have loved it.' He tucked his phone in his pocket, "Get some fresh air while I'm out, it'll make you feel better..."

"Yes sir," Ianto gave him a snappy salute.

As Jack went to go out of the door, impelled by the realisation that this would be the last time he would ever see him, Ianto rushed across to him.

"You ok?"

"Yeah, just…"

"Just what?"

"Just see you later, ok?" Ianto breathed, pressing his lips to Jack's.

"That was nice. Sure you want me to go?" Jack teased.

No, no I don't – Ianto's head screamed at him. I don't want you to go out of the door because it can't end like this. Doing without you is like doing without breathing….

"Yeah, get lost. I'll see you later, "Ianto forced the words out cheerily despite himself.

"See ya later alligator," Jack waved a hand as he went out. A certain wave of hysteria that was half a laugh, half a sob hit Ianto. Only wonderful bloody Captain Jack Harkness could come out with a dated saying like that and get away with it. He was going to miss his frequently dated and out of touch phrases…

After Jack left Ianto stood there a few moments to take a few deep breaths to calm himself for what he had to do next. He quickly but efficiently packed a few things into his bag and then sat on the bed with Jack's laptop and wrote an email to his sister:

Dear Rhia

I won't get any better and I know it. I've broken Jack's heart once and I'm not going to do it again. We've had the best of times recently and I want to hang on to that and I hope he can.

I've got to just disappear so for obvious reasons I can't make contact with you again.

Please don't be too upset – I've had an exciting life and I've known what real love is. I've seen and done things that other people can only imagine and seen the best and worst of humanity. Please remember the fun times when we were kids. Maybe have a milkshake now and then to remember me sis.

Give my best to Johnny, Mica and David and best love to you for your love and support.

You've been the best sister ever

Love always ('Jamie') – Your brother Ianto xx

He was aware that his hand was almost shaking as he hit 'send.' Next he commandeered the writing paper on the desk and began to write:

Dear Jack

I'm ditching the mobile and going walkabout.

We both know how this ends and I don't want you crying over me as I die a sick wreck of a man. Let me have some dignity, babe.

Don't even think of trying to find me – I intend to cover my tracks well. True to self, you know I'll be very efficient in that and like I've said before, I learned from the best.

For the Torchwood days, for our great time travelling, I thank you more than you could ever know. Jack - you've been the best – boss, lover, inspiration, person who gave me meaning again, (frequently annoying bastard?) and you'll be in my heart always.

Please be happy and know that I will die so with your ring on my finger

All my love cariad, Ianto xx

Ianto swallowed hard, forcing emotion down. He left the note open on the desk so that it would be one of the first things Jack would see when he came into the room. He stood and slung the backpack on his back ready to go and looked around the room one last time. His eyes settled on Jack's shirt, slung over the back of the chair…Mr Untidy as usual, where it would stay until Ianto decided to get it laundered…he wouldn't miss it…a last memento of him…his smell. Ianto picked up the shirt and stuffed it in his bag.

As Ianto left the room he had an overwhelming urge once he had shut the door to get away fast in an irrational thought that Jack might come back early. He dodged through the lobby unseen where nobody was at the reception desk and walked briskly down the street. His pace slowed as he reached the river, aware that his health (or lack of) would mean he would have to take things slowly and steadily. Halfway across the Alma Bridge Ianto pulled his mobile out from his pocket and dropped it in the river.

He turned towards where he had come from. He forced a slight smile…and then turned away and carried on walking.

-x-

By 1pm Jack had been trying to call Ianto's mobile several times during the past hour and each time it went to answerphone. He tried to think up excuses like he hadn't heard it ring, had gone out without it, was asleep, but it was most unlike the meticulous Ianto to not pick up at all during such a time period.

Quelling a rising feeling that something was seriously wrong, Jack phoned the hotel and asked reception if they had seen Mr Harwood-Patterson going in or out at all that morning; they hadn't. He asked to be put through to their room. The phone rang and rang endlessly.

Almost before he had cut the call, Jack started to walk briskly, sensing something awful was wrong. He had to get back to the hotel and fast…

-x-

At just before midnight a single gunshot rang out in the small Hotel Concorde.

Alarmed, the guest in the next room alerted the manager, who after knocking and calling out several times, opened the door to Room Eight with his pass key. The room was illuminated by the desk lamp where a letter lay and on the bed was a good looking dark haired man, gun in hand and with a hole blasted in his chest.

The manager quickly rushed over and put fingers to a pulse point but the shot to the heart and the open staring eyes told that the man was already dead.

"Don't touch anything! I'll call the police…," the manager told the guest next door who had followed him into the room, as he pulled out his phone.

The guest, a non-descript businessman in his fifties, took in the scene. He glanced at the open letter on the desk and it told him all he needed to know, all the authorities would seemingly need to know – broken hearted, the man lying on the bed had taken his own life…

-x-

Ianto lay in his bed listening to the sound of a Cretan wedding celebration downstairs. He would have loved to have gone downstairs to see it all but he was too sick. When Nikos, who had employed him in his bar for the past month or so and also rented him his room, had called in to see if he was ok, Ianto had told him he was just feeling unwell and would try to pop down to see a bit of the celebrations later.

Nikos was one of the genuinely kind sort of people you meet in life, Ianto decided. He was a friend as well as employer and landlord, who had let Ianto's hours slip in the bar more and more of late due to ill-health and who was always slapping a plate of good home cooked food down in front of him. He had started to ask recently why Ianto was on his own – surely such a good-natured and good-looking a young man must have family…or someone who loved him? Ianto fobbed Nikos off with some half-baked answer or other that he couldn't even remember. In a way he wanted to tell him, tell him about Jack….but it was all too complicated…

Jack's face seemed to loom in front of him now with that big Harkness grin. His consciousness washed with so many visions – Jack laughing, the cool have-everything-under-control face, the slight roll of his eyes as he moaned with pure lustful pleasure, the defensive look when he wanted to hide something. Ianto lost himself in the music from downstairs as he felt like he lost the sense of his own body. There was just the music and his own laboured breathing and even his sight seemed to dim. He wasn't afraid, a feeling of peace swept over him like a wave and Ianto wasn't sure but he thought he might be smiling.

An hour later when Nikos came to check on Ianto, he found the young man lying with open dead eyes to the window and the faintest flicker of a smile on his lips…

-x-

The feeling of rushing, of almost being pulled bodily into light was like G-force….

Ianto couldn't see as such, blinded by glare, but he could make out faint shapes of people, knew that the hand that had pulled his was Jack's.

"Where am I?" he didn't need to say it, just think it.

"Wherever you want it to be, Yan," he felt Jack's thoughts back.

"Why wasn't I here before?"

"In limbo, I guess."

"But…but what are you doing here?"

"I found out the secret"

"What's that?"

"I had to want to die, really want to die and lose the will to live"

"Did you kill yourself? I mean, over me?"

"Of course I did. And I got lucky didn't I…"

What felt like limbs enveloped him and Ianto felt the most sublime feelings of love and warmth and peace flow over him.

"We both did…"

END