Disclaimer: Not my characters.
Author's Note: This one was spawned from another Torchwood fanfic I'm in the process of writing. It included a line about Jack making hard decisions and this just sort of popped into my head.
Jack was man who made hard decisions. It was part of being the leader of Torchwood. Whatever the Doctor thought, there wasn't always an easy way out. And Jack had sometimes been forced to make the choices that would have broken a lesser man. Not that they hadn't broken Jack. But immortality changed your perspective on things. You had to learn to cope. No matter what the world threw at you, no matter who you lost, you had to make do. It was that, or go insane. And insanity wasn't a real option.
Jack had lost so many people. Good people. People he had loved. A few of them, he'd stayed with for their entire lives. For many of them, that hadn't been very long. You learned to move on. You learned to get over it.
Jack savagely yanked the thumb drive out of the computer. He couldn't bear to watch it again. He had been excited when it had come through the rift. It was labeled 'The Children' in Gwen Cooper's spidery handwriting. It was easy to discover that it contained CCTV footage from a few weeks in the future. Jack had loved it. The Doctor might not approve of meddling in your own future, but Jack preferred to think that any extra hints couldn't hurt. How wrong he'd been.
The 456. The children. The airborne virus.
Jack already felt the dreadful ache of the loss eating away at him. Funny. He'd thought he had resigned himself to the fact that Ianto Jones would die sooner or later, and probably sooner. He'd thought he was prepared. But seeing it happen, he knew he wasn't prepared at all. Ianto Jones was not like anyone else. Jack had gotten used to losing lovers, friends, family. It still hurt, but he could bear the pain. But Ianto, Ianto was different.
Jack fell in love easily, and he knew it, but he always kept a bit of himself out of it. Made sure there was a base to rebuild his broken heart from after that person was gone. It wasn't like that with Ianto. Somehow, he'd let himself forget that, sooner or later, Ianto would be gone. He'd fallen more deeply in love than ever before, and he wondered if it would even be possible to rebuild his heart from the few shattered pieces that would remain after he lost Ianto.
And that was when he made the hardest decision he ever made in his exceptionally long life.
He stepped out of his office and looked down at his team, hard at work. God, he adored them.
"Tosh! Owen! Gwen!" he called. "You have the rest of the day off! Ianto! My office!"
The three he'd told to leave shared secretive smiles. He knew exactly what they were thinking. He wished they were right.
Ianto came up to his office a few minutes later.
"You wanted to see me, sir?" he said, professional as always.
"Sit down, Ianto," Jack said. "I made you a cup of tea."
"Thank you, sir," Ianto said.
He sat down and lifted the cup to his lips, taking a sip before setting it down again.
"What is this about?" he asked.
In response, Jack pulled him into a kiss, trying desperately to put all of his emotions into it.
Ianto savored the kiss for several seconds, before gently pushing him away.
"What's this about?" he asked. "You're acting really weird."
"I love you, Ianto Jones," Jack said. "I want you to know that."
Ianto looked taken aback.
"Jack, you're scaring me," he said.
"I'm sorry," Jack told him. "But this is for your own good. And I wanted to tell you that, before…"
"Before?" Ianto ventured.
"I retconned you," Jack admitted. "Tomorrow morning, you'll have no recollection of Torchwood, or me. I'm sorry, Ianto, but I had to do it. I couldn't bear to lose you."
"I'm not stupid, Jack," he said. "I didn't drink the tea."
"Jack, think this through," Ianto insisted. "We've both known for a very long time that I'm going to die eventually. So you know exactly when now. So what? If we only have a short time left, why don't we make the most of it?"
"I'd rather die tomorrow than live forever and never know you. My life had no meaning before I met you. I don't want to go back to that. You'll be killing me just as surely as if you shot me in the head."
"Ianto, I'm so sorry," Jack murmured.
"What for?" Ianto asked.
"The retcon wasn't in the tea," Jack explained.
Just in case Ianto didn't get it, Jack pulled him into another kiss. This time, Ianto was quick to push him away.
"I'm retconning myself, too," Jack explained. "I told you I couldn't bear to lose you. This is the only way."
"Maybe for you," Ianto said.
He glared at Jack for several seconds, before losing consciousness and slumping against Jack's desk. Jack pressed a chaste kiss to his forehead.
"I'm sorry, Ianto," he said aloud. "I lied to you again. You're not going to forget me. You'll only forget tonight. Same with me. I won't remember seeing you die, or telling you all this. I don't want to face your death until I have to. I wish I could save you, but I'm not stupid enough to try. The future can't be changed. At least this way, I was able to tell you how I feel, before it's too late, even if you will never remember. I won't be able to say it then."
With that said, he succumbed to the drug's effect and drifted into unconsciousness.