A.N. For who's wondering...9 july 2009 is the date of airing of CoE day four in England. I thought it was fitting... And about what I wrote about human names, we know Jack stole one, I'm guessing John did too, after all they had undercover work all the time as Time agents...and is it not true that names' fad are really weird sometimes? I'm guessing by 50th century (or way before) some aliens at least are considered 'cool' and influencing baby naming.

Lovely Jellopubes was the best possible Beta for this work. She had a hard time with my convoluted style, so praise her! Any standing errors are, of course, my own.

Disclaimer: Nothing mine, I blame the Torchwood screenwriters for getting Hart and Harkness both unhinged. I'm just showing the consequences.

The simplest CoE fix-it

9 July 5043

John Hart looked down at the naked body. Fuck! Dead. He'd overdone it.
Not that it was really a problem, this was Jack the Immortal Harkness, but he didn't like killing without meaningto. It told bad things about his skills.

He had once joked with Jack about him not liking BDSM anymore, but he had been more than proved wrong since.

John had found him a few months ago in a particularly seedy bar, trying to kill at least his liver, he kinda brought him home like a stray. It wasn't surprising how compliant Jack had been that night—he clearly wasn't all there.

It was startling, instead, how docile he'd stayed. They had always been two primadonnas, competing about everything and fighting all the time to top the other—in all the senses of the word. That's why, however high their chemistry, they had broken up in the end.

Oh, well, he was docile as long as his needs were met. Jack was back into BDSM. The heavy kind. The hurtingkind. Frankly, John, knowing him, suspected Jack had spent a long time already picking stupid fights to get hurt or ….

The new shadows in his eyes told him so. When Jack had been too tired to actively go and try to piss someone off enough, he had waltzed in that place, like a fucking godsend. Jack wanted to be hurt, and he'd always liked to harm others a bit too much. To kill them, too, of course, but not duringsex. Sex and death didn't mix. For one, death interrupted the fun. That's why John was angry now because Jack fucking died on him during a session.

When Jack came back, John was very vocal about it.

"You know I'm not a necrophiliac. I don't want you dying on me. That's why even you have a safe word!" he shouted at his partner.

Of course, safe words weren't supposed to just mean 'stop, you're literally killing me here' but the both of them had pushed their limits that far a long time ago.

"I'm sorry. I ... forgot it," Harkness replied, still subdued.

"Bullshit. Agency, Jack! We worked there for years. How can you forget 'agency'?" John yelled. Jack could lie better than that. Hart knew, and it was offensive that he wasn't even trying.

"Can't you overlook it just for today?" Jack requested, tiredly.

"I don't want to. What the hell happened, Jack?" John prodded.

He should have asked that months ago but needy Jack was too good to pass up—and if it entailed dishing out a bit of abuse, who was he to refuse? It wasn't like Jack wouldn't heal from it, after all. But somethinghad happened, something Jack clearly hadn't managed to metabolize on his own. Something that needed resolving now, before it degenerated even more.

I was no surprise when Captain fucking Harkness clammed up, instead of answering. He wasn't one for a heart-to-heart even way before this, whatever it was, broke him.

"Know what ? I need to understand what came to pass. And I'm making a bet here, but I'm guessing you want to die— and stay dead the longest you can. So, I'm going to interrogate you. Aaaand, for every answer I get, I'll kill you once. That way, we both get what we want. Deal, Jack?" Hart offered with a crooked smile. This would definitely fuck up his murder rehab, but he had never been serious about staying clean of that, anyway.

"Okay," Jack sighed.

"Why do you want to die todayof all days when you had been coping okay with just getting hurt?" John started. A bit of insight would get him to make the right questions after, hopefully.

"Today's the day I got himkilled," Jack whispered.

Fuckingcheater! Alreadywithdrawinginformationtodrawthisout, thought John, putting all that rage into strangling his partner.

When Jack came to, clearly too quickly for his taste, the next round began.

"Who? Jack, who died today?" Hart asked.

"Ianto". It was barely recognizable as a name, half-wail, half-prayer, and all heartbreak.

"Sorry, didn't catch that. You'll have to make me understand to get your prize" John said. He knew he was pushing his luck, but it was his game, his rules.

"Ianto Jones," Jack repeated after a few failed attempts that had resulted in something too much like sobs.

This time, when John killed him, he put the effort to use a blade and add some serious extra maiming to keep Jack dead longer. After all, he had denied him one already. And he needed a bit of time to make sense of what he'd heard.

He had been so sure Captain Jack Harkness just didn't do relationships, not serious ones at least, nor love, but it was all too apparent he'd been wrong. Now, who the hell could Ianto Jones be?

By the sound of it, it was a human— a man, probably. A name chosen before alien contact became common. Not enough weird sounds in it for the alternative— why humans were so taken by what they didn't even know how to pronounce, he never knew.

From Earth, then. Jack really was not the type to take the time to work on a relationship, make it grow and so on. Perhaps someone he worked with, and had to see every day; it had to be a really special person to make him fall without realizing. A special colleague of Jack, from Earth before alien contact was widespread … oh fuck! It was eye-candy! He was special alright, not many people had the gall to mess with a madman who had him trapped to try and make sure an immortal would be okay and came back.

John Hart had liked eye-candy too—at least he had been fun to tease, all the times he'd been around Torchwood. Not to mention very good to look at. That was always a plus. That's why, when Jack came to, instead of taking into consideration how clearly broken Jack was now, he just blurted, "How the hell did you manage to get eye-candy killed, Jack?".

"His name was Ianto Jones," Harkness replied automatically, bristling, before adding softly, "I brought him along on the field against the 456. They released a poisonous gas and ... and …"

Jack never got around to ending that phrase, but John didn't insist. After all, the information was there, and from these haunted eyes, it was evident he had the scene replaying on a loop in his head—probably had it before he'd conveniently 'forgotten' his safe word.

John made good use of some of their playtime appliances and got Captain Broken shocked to death. He considered asking next about who the goddamned 456 were supposed to be, but there was something more urgent.

"So nostalgic," Jack commented drily when he came to.

Notgoingtotakethebait, sorry, John thought. I'mnotgoingtoaskwhy. Wehavethingstoclearupbeforegoingdownmemorylaneforthesakeofit. Somethingdoesn'taddup.

"You got your own Vortex Manipulator repaired. I know when I see one working. So, why the hell didn't you go back to change this whole mess?" Hart demanded to know the next time his partner came to.

"Time Agency rule number one," was the laconic answer.

Goddamn cheater Harkness! Now he owed him another death. And it didn't explain anything, really. Jack and rules didn't mix. Oh well, about that, John and rules mixed even less. That's why, no matter how long he worked, both present and past (earth verbs weren't made to express time travel. If he met the Doctor, he really should ask him about Gallifreyan), Time Agency rules never stuck to him. He settled for a quick shooting, nothing creative and nothing that would take too much to come back from.

When he heard the telltale loud gasps, he barely gave Jack time to regain his wits.

"Okay, why would Time agency rule number one stop you?" Hart asked matter-of-factly.

"No Time agent can change his own past," Harkness explained quietly, "because coming in contact with himself would cause a time paradox, making him implode. Whatever was around him would risk to get caught and follow suit. Torchwood worked, Hart. The Vortex Manipulator would set off the Rift Alarm the moment I went back. I know I'd take the chance to see him again, if I really went back. Just once. I'm not strong enough not to. Even if I choose a time I know that I wasn't with him to warn Ianto, the me from back then would run to check on any alarm near him. Too high a chance of setting up a paradox. Imploding would be less than I deserve, I know, but the risk of destroying what was around me, of destroying him, I can't take. Please, not so quickly, this time".

He kept the deal but didn't abide by Jack's wish. There was something that needed discussing.

"Just one last question: why the hell didn't you tell me all this the first time we met, instead of sulking till now? You can't change your past, and it's set. But who said I can't change your past?" John told with a smirk.

"You would," the immortal whispered, a kind of scared hope in his voice from the first time Hart had found him.

"We interacted already and nothing too weird happened, did it? Well, it wasn't just because I was there, that's my point. And frankly, Jack, I can't see you this way" the Time agent admitted.

"Will you seriously find a way to stop me from being so stupid?" Jack pleaded. His eyes held a need so fierce that could clearly become dangerous if unanswered. Now that John had spontaneously offered, more than ever.

"What are friends for, Jack? Especially Time agent friends? If they can't even change the timelines!" Hart joked, trying to lighten the mood.

"I think I love you, John," Harkness said with the first tentative smile since he'd found him again.

He wasn't serious, of course he wasn't, and John found it all extremely funny. He knew what this was; he had just become Jack's dashing hero, a knight in shining armor or whatnot. Gratitude had this habit of pulling weird words from others feelings, when just "thank you" sounded incredibly small. To be the hero for everyone's hero was weird in a way, but he liked it. A lot.

"Nah. You love your Ianto. I'll work on getting him back for you, but now I need details. Without stupid interruptions. You know I can't conceivably change a timeline with success if I don't know exactly what I'm going to operate with, where to and so on," the Time agent prompted.

Of course, it didn't precisely work like that. There were plenty interruptions. When Jack was too plagued with guilt and haunting memoires that he couldn't seem to find his voice, John let him cry his share and tell things like he felt to, keeping the prodding to a minimum. But there weren't stupid interruptions, meaning Jack didn't ask for death anymore. Because the sooner he could relate the whole most spectacular failure of his long life, the sooner John could work on righting it.

"Why, John?" Harkness asked when all had been confessed.

There was no need to explain further. It shone in Jack's clear eyes, together with all that self-hatred and guilt. Why would John Hart go and change time for someone who didn't deserve it?

"Because you're the only friend I can kill with no qualms whenever I get angry at him, and I want the old Jack back. This version of you is really pathetic, no offence, mate," he answered. Even he wasn't sure how much of it was a joke.

"Truth is no offence, I guess," the immortal recognized. "I know you have to prepare and all that, just ... please, John. Quick".

"Yeah, yeah. Don't worry. I'm on it," Hart reassured.