Epilogue

Ianto woke up to the sound of a door opening. He lifted his head and peered blearily at Jack, surprised to find him up, dressed, and with a brown paper bag in his hand.

"Breakfast in bed?" Ianto murmured, lowering his head back down onto the fluffy pillow he was using.

"Not really. I did buy bagels, but you can thank me by getting out of bed."

"Ah, so this is a bribe." Ianto watched as Jack sat down on the bed beside him, twisting his body so he could lift a bent knee onto the mattress.

"Insurance," Jack corrected as he opened the paper bag. "I just wanted to let you know what you can have once you get up." He took out a bagel filled with cream cheese and took a bite. Ianto's eyes narrowed when his lover proceeded to make exaggerated noises of delight. "So good," Jack moaned.

"Shall I leave you and the bagel alone?"

Jack chuckled and swallowed before leaning down to kiss Ianto's temple. "Come on, big boy. Get up."

"It's a vacation." Ianto closed his eyes, snuggling into his pillow. "We're meant to sleep in."

"Until noon?"

"We slept in until noon yesterday."

"That's because we were fucking all night."

Ianto hummed with pleasure at the memory. It had certainly been a night filled with hedonistic activities and experimentation after Jack had surprised him with a Karma Sutra edition that had been written sometime in the thirty-first century. Humans were certainly a lot more flexible during that time. Flexible and creative.

Last night, however, was a more cherished memory. Rather than indulge in sex, they had simply lain together in bed and talked about anything that popped into their heads. Of course, some things weren't discussed—most notably things in Jack's past that he wasn't and might not ever be ready to share with anyone—but it didn't matter. It had still been nice.

Jack finished his bagel with a smack, and then he promptly slapped Ianto's ass. Ianto yelped. "Up!" He stood up when Ianto swung an arm in an attempt to hit him in retaliation. Jack lifted the paper bag. "This will be waiting for you in the living room once you're out of bed."

"Bastard!" he called out as Jack headed towards the door.

"Yeah, yeah."

As soon as Jack left, Ianto rolled onto his back and stared at the ceiling, taking a couple of minutes to go over the changes in his relationship with Jack.

It had been almost two months since their near break-up, and Jack had kept his promise. There had been dates, Jack no longer brushed off Ianto's concerns or feelings, and there had been compromises. Ianto had been wary at first, waiting for the other shoe to drop, but his wariness had faded as he had begun to believe that Jack was not going to let his final chance go to waste.

There had been more talks afterwards, but one of the important ones hadn't been about the compromises Jack had needed to do. Rather, it had been about Ianto and his difficulty in letting the illusionary Jack go. Jack had said that he needed to stop making comparisons between the two men, citing it as unfair to expect Jack to surpass a perfect illusion only to disappoint him whenever he failed. Ianto hadn't even known he was doing such a thing and had denied it, until he had caught himself comparing the guarded way Jack looked at him to the open expressions his husband had tended to bestow upon him.

It had been more difficult than he thought possible to stop making comparisons, but if his relationship with the real Jack had any chance of working out, he had needed to let the fake Jack go. The Jack in his illusions may have been perfect, but the real Jack was putting in the effort to make a relationship between them work, as evidenced by their current week vacation in a rented cottage by the seaside.

When Jack had asked him about investigating an odd alien sighting near a beach, Ianto had no idea the supposed sighting had been a ruse masterminded by Jack and the team so he and Ianto could spend a week together alone, a sort of lovers' getaway. Three days into their mini-vacation, and Ianto was more relaxed than he had been in years, especially with how attentive Jack was being towards him. Hell, Ianto would even dare suggest that Jack was practically doting on him. Ianto knew the attentiveness would die down somewhat once Jack was assured that Ianto wasn't going to break up with him, but that was okay. The attentiveness might become stifling if Jack didn't tone it down eventually, although Ianto hoped that Jack didn't stop completely.

Jack had also forced him to acknowledge that the near collapse of their relationship wasn't all on Jack's head. Ianto had never spoken up about what he was feeling, opting to keep everything he had felt concerning Jack's treatment of him bottled up inside. Most of the blame certainly fell at Jack's feet, but Ianto deserved a slice of that as well. Maybe if he had spoken up earlier, things wouldn't have taken an ugly turn in Jack's bunker that night.

Then again, things have certainly turned out all right despite of—or maybe because of—that particular ugly turn.

"Get out of bed," Jack shouted from the living room. Ianto rolled his eyes, but he dragged himself out of bed and headed towards to the adjacent bathroom to brush his teeth and take a quick shower.

Once he was finished, he walked out of the room with a white fluffy robe draped on his body, using a thick and warm towel to dry his wet hair. As he headed towards the living room, he was still in awe of the quaint and homey cottage that Jack had rented. It was furnished and stocked, and it came with its own private beach, something Jack hadn't mentioned until the yesterday when Ianto expressed concern over Jack's suggestion that they skinny-dip during broad daylight.

He found Jack sitting on the couch watching television. Ianto huffed at the sight. "You got me out of bed so we can watch television?" Ianto padded closer. "We could've watched television in the bedroom."

"I was waiting for you." He nodded at the coffee table where a cardboard box sat. "Got something for you."

Ianto cocked his head, studying the box. He frowned and then narrowed his eyes at Jack. "Did you bring me paperwork?" If Jack brought him work to do on their vacation, he was going to kill him.

"No, of course not." Jack shut off the television and leaned forward to open the flaps of the box. He reached in and grabbed a thick folder, waiting until Ianto sat down beside him before handing the folder to him.

Ianto accepted the folder and inhaled sharply when he saw what was stamped on the cover. Property of Providence Park. He opened it, and written on the first page was his mother's name. Nesta Jones.

"How did you get this?" he asked, glad his voice was steady.

"Torchwood credentials. It was the only way to get it after they refused to believe I was a relative."

Ianto had mentioned that he wanted to face the traumatic events he had endured in the past, but he hadn't expected Jack to grab his mother's file from the hospital. "Is this everything?" he asked, nodding at the box and folder.

"Yep. Doctor's reports, tapes, video diaries, and there are a few journals in the box as well." Jack slid closer and grabbed a knee, squeezing. "I know your mother's attempt on your life scarred you. Maybe this will help you finally deal with what happened."

"You have to admit," Ianto muttered, "being in the mental hospital had definitely forced me to confront my past and fears." He flipped over the front page and found a glossy photo of his mother staring back at him, and her appearance was similar to how Ianto had last seen her, with her hair unruly, her eyes wild, and a manic grin on her face. "She scared me to death, has been scaring me up to this point. It was easier to just close the door to that particular memory rather than deal with it. I just never realized how much of a hold she had on me until I was forced to live in a mental institution in my illusion."

"A few good things certainly did come out of the Uktoba's plan."

Ianto shared a quick smile with Jack. He had a point, and that point didn't just include their relationship.

The fears he harbored about his mental stability was because of his youthful experience with his mother's illness, yet being in the Whittier institution had shed a different kind of light on how he viewed his mother.

After her attempt on his life, she had ceased being his mother and Ianto had turned his back on her. His fears had turned her into a monster, and he had thought that by not opening that door to the past, he would be okay. He had been too scared to understand, and that fear had hanged over his head as he grew older.

However, he finally realized that his mother hadn't been trying to kill him under her own will. Her schizophrenia and lack of help had been the driving force behind the attack, and it hadn't been her fault. She had had no control over what her delusions had decided to show her and her reactions had been based on what her brain had been telling her to see. It was no different to how the residents of Whittier hospital had had no control over what their diseased brains were transmitting to their eyes and ears. They had been helpless and in need of assistance to keep their rationale intact.

His mother had loved him. She may have thought him the devil on that awful day, but prior to that? She had been a doting, loving mother who protected him and adored him. She had tucked him into bed, had sung him lullabies, and comforted him when he had had nightmares. Sick she may have been, but she hadn't been a monster.

Now the only fears that still kept Ianto up at nights was what would happen if he began to show symptoms of schizophrenia. He didn't want to hurt or traumatize anyone the way he had been, nor did he want to be looked upon with fear or disgust, an outcast to be shunned and locked away.

"Jack?" He lifted his head and stared at his lover. "I don't want to be looked at with fear. I don't want everyone to see me as someone who doesn't belong in society just because my mind is sick, and I don't want to be locked away and ignored for the rest of my life." He paused. "I don't want that kind of darkness inside of me, twisting everything that's good in my life to something so horrible that I drive everyone I love and care about away."

Looking very much lost, Jack asked, "What are you talking about?"

"I'm still within the age range of when people who have schizophrenia begin to show symptoms."

Jack's confusion cleared, and he sighed. "Perhaps I shouldn't have brought the box." Before Ianto could respond to that, Jack said, "There's no guarantee that you'll be diagnosed with schizophrenia, Ianto."

"I know, but I'm just saying that if I do start to show symptoms, I don't want people to look at me like I'm a monster. I don't want to be—" He struggled for a way to express what he felt. "I don't want to be misunderstood." Not like how he had misunderstood his mother.

Jack placed his hand over Ianto's, giving it a faint squeeze. "You know I'll take care of you, don't you?"

"How? By putting me in Flat Holm?" Ianto knew he would be a special case. He might spill Torchwood secrets, and while it was likely that the doctors would think that anything he revealed about aliens was due to the schizophrenia, there was the slim possibility that a Torchwood enemy would discover Ianto's connection to Torchwood and use him. The Uktoba wasn't the first alien to pursue all avenues in order to find Torchwood's weakest link. If Ianto was placed in a normal psychiatric hospital, he might be a liability. Flat Holm might be the better, safer, option.

"Ianto, just trust me when I say that I'd take care of you. Maybe I might end up putting you in Flat Holm for safety reasons, or maybe I'll put you in a mental hospital so you wouldn't have to endure being neighbors with rift victims who are lost causes, but it's just as likely that I'd find alien tech to help you, or maybe make contact with a few aliens who owe me favors and ask them for help or a cure. Hell, I might even call in the Doctor and get him to fix you, or to take us to the future where schizophrenia is curable."

"But—"

"Listen to me," Jack said firmly. "I will make sure that you are never misunderstood. No matter where I might put you, I will not cut all ties with you. I'll make sure that you don't hurt or traumatize anyone. You will be taken care of." He kissed Ianto gently. "And if you do get diagnosed one day, it doesn't mean you'll end up dying in a mental hospital like your mother did. Meds and therapy will help you, remember? Chances are you can live a normal life—or as normal a life a Torchwood operative can have—even with schizophrenia. I won't wait until you nearly hurt someone to get you the help you need."

"Promise?" If Ianto did start showing symptoms, he would need to rely on Jack and the others to help him.

"Promise," Jack assured him.

Ianto felt like a burden was lifted off his shoulders. Maybe the darkness would try to break free, but he felt better knowing that Jack would look out for him in a way his father hadn't looked out for his mother. "Thank you."

"No thanks needed." Jack reached up and caressed Ianto's cheek. "Want to look through the box?"

A part of Ianto was eager to go through it so he could get a better idea of the kind of life his mother had lived behind the walls of Providence Park, but he didn't want to do it just yet. His mother would forgive him for waiting a little longer in favor of having a relaxing morning with his lover.

He placed the folder on the coffee table and grabbed the paper bag housing his bagel that sat beside the box. "I'll go through it later." He settled on the couch and leaned against Jack, who wrapped an arm around him.

"You good?"

Ianto could hear the gentle waves of the ocean in the distance, and he wondered if Jack would be up for another skinny-dipping adventure later in the day. "Yeah." He tilted his head just enough so he could kiss Jack on the lips. "I'm good."

The End


Author's Note: I want to thank everyone for reading and putting up with my delays. I hope this was a fun ride for you and that you enjoyed it from beginning to end.
Once again, thanks for reading!