Uhm. Holy hell. The response on this fic has been pretty amazing- especially considering the slowness of the updates and the fact that I literally write 70% of it at 5am. And probably about 10% has been written in a car, when the only reason I'm writing it is to distract me from the fact that I hate long car rides.
In other news, Sophie has started watching Torchwood (I convinced her to watch DW first, so it was a short 'canon-gay' jump to get her to Torchwood. (if you don't know who Sophie is you're obviously missing out. You're also obviously not following me on tumblr.)
The television growls at a reasonable volume.
The wolves grow wilder,
and my flat-footed whimper is a failure,
a reminder that I have nerve-endings, feelings,
am therefore an animal.
-I Try to Tell Her Wolves Can't be Domesticated, by Kara Candito
Alice Carter, formerly Alice Sangster, born Melissa Moretti, had grown up with Torchwood protocol drilled into her head. Always know the exits in a room, always be aware, never let your guard down.
Her mother taught her everything she knew about Torchwood, aliens, and the Rift. While other children were tested on math or spelling by their parents, Alice repeated codes and rules and information no civilian was ever meant to know.
Alice resented her mother for that as a child. And a teenager. And an adult. She resented the fact that she was as well trained as any Torchwood agent, that she knew what would happen in the Hub if a certain event transpired, knew how long each shut-down lasted, knew so many little details that she had no use for.
Until the day her father murdered her son.
They rebuilt the Hub, but they kept the same general layout, and the technology was a bit more advanced than it had been in her mothers time, but with some basic knowledge, she was able to adjust the information that had been seared into her mind as a child.
Alice Carter, Alice Sangster, Melissa Moretti- it didn't matter what her name was.
The only thing that mattered was her son was dead. And she was ready.
He still wasn't used to this bed.
It was the same type of mattress Ianto had had back in Pete's World (a name which he didn't say out loud, but it was catchy), only, this one lumped differently.
In Pete's World, Ianto rarely had time for dates, never mind relationships, so his bed very rarely had anyone that wasn't him in it, and they never stayed long enough to cause the mattress to dent in their shape.
In this world, his mattress had very obviously had two people sleeping in it for many nights.
Even saying 'two people' in his own mind sounded like a bad lie. It was obvious who those two people were, as it was obvious whose clothing was still folded in the drawer he had yet to empty.
As he readied himself for the day, Ianto decided he was finally going to get the answer to the question that was the other him- and the fact that that sentence did not seem odd to him meant he had probably been spending too much time around dimension jumpers.
For something that was meant to be impossible, it sure happened a lot.
Seeing Mickey again had reminded Ianto just how different someone could be in another dimension. Little experiences, shaping them into a new person. Or just- being different. Rickey was gay. Mickey was not. That had nothing to do with little experiences changing one of them. It just was.
So, who exactly was this world's Ianto Jones? The man seemed to have his taste in flat decor, bed choice, and personal style- which was very convenient and all, but told him nothing. Jack, Gwen, even Rhys had all told him things; Jack, basic facts about his life (family, schooling, job history); Gwen, little things (he made the best coffee in the universe, he was a good friend, had much the same sense of humour as he did); Rhys, random facts he had noticed in the handful of time he had spent with the other man (he enjoyed watching football, he was handy with a stun gun, he liked dark chocolate, he knew how to operate heavy machinery).
Those little facts were better than nothing, but he needed to know more. Because if he had ever had any hope that he would be able to return to his home dimension, it was gone, now, and as much as he sometimes missed his old life, missed Torchwood London and the blimps in the sky and the Tyler's, he liked this life, too.
Maybe it was time to start living it.
Ianto got to work in time to leave immediately, Gwen hurrying them all to SUV, quickly explaining to him the situation at hand.
It turned out that a retired scientist had died recently, and his granddaughter had inherited his home. The day she moved in, however, the strangest smell started coming from inside the walls.
"Oh, no. That can't be good."
Jack snorted. "That's what she thought, too. Except she assumed it was mold or a dead rat. Which is why she decided to take a look."
"What did she find?" Mickey asked, somewhere in between amused and grim. Ianto knew that, depending on the answer, he would fall to one side or the other.
"A secret basement," Gwen answered. "Which, she then thought, 'oh, my granddad the scientist keeps a hidden cellar which now is smelling very odd. I think I'll take a look around'."
Jack snorted again. "Cue hysterical screaming loud enough for the neighbour to call the police. The guys that responded called Andy, Andy called us."
"What was down there?" Tosh asked.
"Don't know yet. No one's been real helpful with explaining."
"Right, so, all we know is something was found in a mad scientists basement that was weird enough some coppers- from Cardiff, I might add, which is prone to some fucking weird shit in the first place- are now completely useless and are passing it on to us." Owen summarized.
"That is correct."
"So, should be a normal morning, then."
It turned out the dead mad scientist had a fondness for taxidermy in his youth, and had taken it taken it back up when he retired. Only, instead of stuffing normal animals, he went for aliens. Combined with normal animals. And other aliens.
If it wasn't the single creepiest thing Tosh had ever seen, she would probably be impressed.
The smell had come from a corpse that the dead mad scientist/taxidermist had probably planned on... doing whatever you did to animals you were going to stuff, except he passed away first.
It was a Hoix, and from Owen's initial examination, it had died of natural causes.
"Going by the age, I'd guess old age. Lot's of the things he was stuffing were old."
"Is that how he was getting the bodies? Just- finding dead aliens and bring them home?" Tosh asked.
"He was 86 years old, he probably wasn't going out and fighting a Weevil just so he could attach its head to a- what the hell is this?" Mickey asked, poking one.
"Please don't do that." Gwen protested.
"Looks like a bear." Owen told him helpfully.
"That is disturbing." Gwen held back a shudder. "Why would anyone do this?"
"Boredom, I imagine." Ianto informed her as he stopped halfway down the stairs.
Owen made a noise of protest. "Taxidermy requires skill! And its vital to preserve species."
"I'd point out that there is no such thing as a wolf/Sensorite. So that is not preserving anything except, perhaps, the deceased's imagination." He pointed out. "Jack said to bring everything alien upstairs. I'm to go get the moving truck to bring it all back to the Hub."
The four others groaned as Ianto popped back up the stairs and out of sight, obviously trying to get away from what was sure to be awkward, slow, hard work.
Mickey called after him. "Is Captain Cheesecake going to help, at least?"
Jack did not help.
Instead, he decided he would drive Ianto back to the Hub, so Ianto could drive back in the truck while Jack drove the SUV. That way, he reasoned, the entire team wouldn't have to pick between either squeezing into the back or getting a cab.
It actually made a lot of sense. But it made it slightly awkward, since Ianto both wanted to ask Jack the questions he had decided needed asking, as well as to be professional, and wait until they weren't working.
Not exactly working right now, a voice in the back of his head decided to remind him.
He also didn't want to have this conversation rushed, and the drive back to the Hub wasn't that long.
Ianto's indecision was making the silence awkward, which he was made aware of when Jack cleared his throat.
"You look... pensive." The Captain informed him.
"I've been thinking about certain things."
Jack turned to him, completely disregarding the road he was driving on. "Like?"
"Watch the road, please," Ianto requested desperately. Jack did as he was told. "Just... things. About being in this universe. Differences, mainly."
"It making your head hurt?" Jack smirked. "Pondering the mysteries of time and space can do that. I think its why so many Time Agents ended up- well, you've never met John, but the term most would use would be 'nut job'. When your job is to not only think deeply about the laws of time and how large the universe really is, but to travel to all ends of it- well, you've travelled farther than even I ever have. You know."
"You don't talk about the Time Agency much." Ianto observed.
Jack shrugged. "I could tell stories 'til the end of time, but they're not the kind of thing I like to think about. I was a different man back then. I doubt any of you would of been able to stand me, never mind-" he cut himself off.
Before Ianto could question the abrupt end to the sentence, Jack parked the SUV in front of the Hub's garage entrance.
Pursing his lips, Ianto grabbed the latch on the door. "I think you might judge yourself too harshly, Jack," he told him, pushing the door open and quickly jumping out, leaving Jack to drive back alone.
The process of moving the taxidermy animals- most of which had been given names by the team- from the basement to the main room, then covering the stranger ones up so any curious neighbours wouldn't be alarmed by the sight of various alien parts attached to various earth-animal parts, then moving them into the truck, took much longer than anyone expected.
Then the granddaughter, Shannon, had refused the water Ianto had offered her. Then the tea Gwen offered her. They were nearly ready to give up on retconning her and just feeding her a story when Owen had stepped in, handing the woman a cup of scotch.
She drank that, then promptly passed out. At the table. They made Owen move her to the couch.
Once Shannon was dealt with, they had to track down the police that had called them in in the first place. One was read in on alien happenings in Cardiff- that is to say, she had been doing her job long enough that she had responded to enough reports of 'dog attacks' and seen enough 'suicides' (not to mention Roman soldiers popping into the city, a hospital infected with the Black Death, a giant shadow monster, an army of weevils, and every other insane thing too large to cover up with anything other that clever lies) that she knew there was something Not Normal in her city.
Her partner, however, was rather new, and he hadn't yet caught on- which prompted a discussion on whether or not to retcon him. His partner told them he could handle it, and it wasn't like he wouldn't be seeing more aliens. They had to call Jack to authorize it.
To be honest, Ianto thought retcon was getting a bit redundant. Maybe it was the fact that alien life was an accepted fact for nearly everyone back in Pete's World, or maybe it was the that it was an accepted fact here that if you suddenly woke up with a missing chunk of memory, you had seen something Torchwood-related.
Seriously, doctors mostly ignored anyone with memory loss as a complaint. Which might not be a good thing for people with memory loss caused by actual illnesses.
"It's divided. Some say aliens, others say monsters, heard a few saying faeries- but the only people who believe the cover-ups are like those people back home, the really stupid ones." Tosh told him, walking back into the Hub.
Ianto sighed. "I got asked if I was one of 'those alien hunters with the black van' by a cashier the other day."
She laughed. "Have you ever noticed that Torchwood is the least secret secret agency ever?"
"Its hard to keep something a secret when its been around for over a century. At some point you sort of stop trying." Jack said, suddenly behind them. "I think the last agent to really care about secrecy was- well, me, and I gave up some point around the giant monster from hell killing people with its shadow."
"Have I ever told you, Jack, your stories are vaguely terrifying?" Ianto asked. Jack snorted.
"Jack, there's a call for you, it's Alice," Gwen's voice called from her desk. Jack's smile dropped off his face as he went to answer the phone.
Ianto and Tosh sat at their own desks, both watching their boss intently. After a few moments, he hung up and went to grab his coat from where he had hung it on the main room's coat rack, evidently not having been up to his office yet. On some strange instinct, Ianto grabbed it first and held it out for Jack to slip on, not noticing the way it calmed Jack or the way Gwen watched with fondness.
"What's going on, Jack?" Gwen asked when he didn't say anything.
"Nothing important. Alice wants to talk."
A daughter wanted to talk to her father. That was all. But for some reason something was chewing at Ianto's stomach, prompting him to ask, "Do you want one of us to come with you?"
Jack shook his head distractedly. "No, that's fine. Rex is watching the house today."
"He can't be happy about that," Tosh guessed.
"He'll be happy when he hears he got out of dead animal moving duty." Gwen huffed.
Jack spared them a small smile before leaving rapidly.
Ianto tried to remind himself not to worry.
With Jack gone, and the day coming to an end, Ianto decided to question Gwen.
Since she had gone home early last night, Gwen had volunteered to stay a while to watch the Rift and alert systems. She couldn't stay all night- she rarely could, not unless Anwen was at the Hub, and Rhys too, in case they all had to rush out suddenly- but Mickey had promised he would take over for the night if Jack wasn't back by the time she had to leave.
Tosh had left, Owen not far behind, and Martha and Mickey had gone out to eat. It was only Gwen, Ianto, and Myfanwy in the Hub.
"You can go to, if you want, Ianto." Gwen offered as he placed a coffee in front of her, which she eagerly sipped, sighing in happiness.
"Actually, I was wondering if you wouldn't mind answering a few questions I have. I was going to ask Jack, but... well, I decided this morning I would have at least some answers before I went home."
Gwen blinked, surprised, then smiled softly and nodded. Her smile reminded him of his mam's, and he was struck by how contradictory Gwen Cooper was. Because she was a loving, warm, mothering person who wanted the whole world to love each other and seemed to take everyone's pain as her own, a lot like his own mother- but his mother had never shot a hostile alien craft out of the sky and cut down the survivors with a semi-automatic rifle while ducking from their laser blasters like Gwen had two weeks ago.
"Of course, Ianto. What were you wondering?"
He sighed. "About- me, actually. Or, more specifically, the me that wasn't me, that you knew before... me..." he trailed off as he wondered if that had made any kind of sense.
"Oh. Uh, what would you like to know?" She asked him, so he guessed it had made sense.
"I know the, ah, main things, from the paperwork, and I know little things that you guys have mentioned, and a few basic things I've been able to work out myself. But-"
"The reason for you wanting to have this conversation with Jack is involved with your first question, isn't it?" Gwen asked wryly.
He chuckled softly. "That first day- in the first few minutes of being in this world- you showed us all a photograph."
"From my wedding," Gwen nodded. "I remember."
"It was of all of us- except Rex, but he came in later, didn't he?- and it looked like three... couples."
She nodded slowly. "In a way, it was. Tosh and Owen were never a proper couple. I think they kissed, once. They just kept... missing each other. And obviously it was Rhys and I's wedding."
"And what about Jack and I?"
She exhaled. "Yeah. You were a couple. Bloody idiots in love, actually."
He had figured as much, but it was still a jolt to hear it confirmed. Ianto pursed his lips, considering.
"You- other-you- dying broke something in Jack. I don't know if it was the straw the broke the camels back, or if..." She trailed off. "Jack knows you're not him. He understands you're not the person he loved. And I think he might even be able to separate you from the old Ianto. But it doesn't stop you from looking exactly like him. All of you. I see one of you three out of the corner of my eye, sometimes, and for a moment, I forget. I imagine Jack does the same.
"And, god, when we lost Tosh and Owen- I didn't know if I could keep on. I almost quit Torchwood. And after you- other-you- died... what I'm saying is if it was that hard for me, I don't know how Jack managed. He left Earth for a while. I guess that was his way. But when he came back, he was different." She sighed. "I don't know what point I'm trying to make. Just that... know when I say Jack and the old Ianto were a couple, it wasn't just a... fling, even though I think it started out that way."
Ianto nodded slowly. "Alright. Thank you for telling me."
Gwen smiled tightly. "Any other questions? I don't mind if you do."
"A couple, actually." He grinned. "Just a few things I was wondering. Nothing serious."
And that's how they spent the next few hours- Gwen recounting Ianto with stories from her years at Torchwood, various missions they had gone on together, trips the team took out to pubs or diners, silly things and sad times.
The time passed quickly, and Gwen only left for home when Martha and Mickey came back from dinner and she realized Rhys was expecting her home at a responsible (for Torchwood) hour.
Ianto told Mickey he didn't mind watching the alerts until Jack got back.
Mickey shrugged at followed his wife to bed, leaving Ianto at his desk.
Which is where Martha found him the next morning, still waiting.
Because Jack had never showed back up.