Prologue

The sound of the air conditioning almost obscured the sound of the card key in the door, but not enough to keep Ianto from hearing it.

"Jack?" he mumbled sleepily, reaching out to put the bedside lamp on.

"No – leave the lights out, I can see well enough."

Ianto was happy to oblige as he was still half asleep and hated bright lights in the middle of the night. He could hear Jack getting undressed and then felt the mattress dip as he crawled under the covers and into the bed.

"Crisis averted then?" Ianto asked, snuggling up to Jack, pleased he'd been able to make it.

Jack just shrugged, and took a deep breath before wrapping his arms around Ianto and hugging him for all he was worth.

"Hey – what's up?" Ianto immediately worried by Jack's behaviour. He only ever hugged him that tightly if someone had died, usually himself.

Jack just burrowed his head into the junction between Ianto's shoulder and neck and snuffled slightly.

Ianto felt his shoulder becoming damp and that was enough for him to wake up fully. Jack only cried liked that when something truly awful had occurred.

"What the hell's happened? Oh shit, please not Tosh – not Gwen…"

"No, no – they're fine." Jack, sensing the anguish in Ianto's voice, had to speak out to reassure him that their friends were still alive and well.

Jack placed his hands either side of Ianto's face and leant in to kiss him, tentatively at first and then with greater desperation, as if it was to be the last kiss they'd ever share. Ianto reached up to take hold of Jack's arms, his hand coming into contact with the wrist band that Jack seemed to wear at all times. But there was something wrong with it – it wasn't the same. A sudden chill of realisation hit Ianto full force, making his head spin and his stomach plummet.

"Jack? When are you from?"

He got no answer, although Jack's wandering hands that were working their way down his shoulders and onto his chest seemed intent on memorising every square inch of him.

Ianto grabbed hold of those hands, halting their progress and giving him time to put the light on, regardless of Jack's protests.

As soon as the light caught Jack's eyes, Ianto could see it was a much older man that lay in bed with him. He'd always been able to detect, by looking into his lover's eyes, the heavy burden of time and losses that weighed down on Jack's soul. This night the burden was much heavier than it had ever been in the past.

"I'm dead aren't I?" Ianto said with dread. "Where you've travelled from – I'm not alive anymore am I?"

Jack sorrowfully shook his head.

"Why… why are you here?"

"To keep a promise – actually keeping two promises." Jack's voice caught on a sob that was threatening to choke him.

Ianto cast his mind back to the airport, when Jack had reluctantly taken the call from Gwen and told Ianto to go on ahead of him and that he'd follow as soon as he'd dealt with the problem with the nest of weevils. He'd kissed him quickly as he pressed the boarding pass into his hand and promised him that he'd join him in Rome as soon as he possibly could.