Apart from regular ticking of the monitors, the Hub was quiet. The rift itself had been preternaturally quiescent over the last three days and the Torchwood team were having some down time. Jack was stretched full length on the sofa reading "A Brief History of Time" and chuckling quietly to himself. When he found bits that amused him because they were so ludicrously wrong, he read them aloud to Ianto who was seated comfortably on some cushions on the floor near Jack's feet, sorting through the contents of an antiquated box file from the archives and sipping coffee. Gwen was working at her desk, supposedly updating her case notes but in reality searching the web for mini-break deals for herself and Rhys. New York looked nice she thought. A notion struck her and she raised her head,
'You know what this is don't' you?' she asked
Jack and Ianto looked up at her enquiringly
'This is Newport, Sunday afternoon about half past two in 1982' Gwen said.
Ianto laughed 'It is and all'
Jack closed his book and stretched like a cat, 'this is pointless' he said 'nothing is happening so why are we all still here? Gwen – go home. Go see that lovely man of yours and do…whatever it is you do when you see him. We'll keep an eye on things here.'
Gwen couldn't help noticing that Jack was rubbing the back of Ianto's neck with his bare toes and Ianto was looking down at the floor in the embarrassed the way he always did when, with his usual subtly, Jack made it clear to the whole room that he wanted him.
'Well' said Gwen, 'it would be nice to see Rhys in daylight for a change. If you're sure…'
'Trust me, in 10 minutes everyone who is still in this room will be naked, 'said Jack, happily. Ianto felt his face burn. It wasn't that he was ashamed of what he and Jack did together but it still felt odd to him when Jack talked about it to others in such a matter of fact way. 'So unless you're up for some naked hide and seek, you'd better get outta here before I change my mind'
Gwen grabbed her bag and her car keys. 'Ok boys' she said 'I'll see you tomorrow if you don't need me before. Mobile's always on' and giving a nonchalant wave she strode toward the cog-wheel door. She had almost made it out of the Hub when the alarms began to sound. Jack sprang from the sofa; Ianto was already at computer terminal.
'Rift activity, here in the Hub' he reported, then frowned, 'Sub-basement 28. I didn't know we had sub-basements, let alone 28 of them. Looks like tech rather than life-form'
'I'm on it!' said Jack racing from the room.
Jack assumed that the way to the sub-basements was down a spiral stairway that he had often noticed but never really explored. The damn thing seemed to go downwards forever. There were no signs on the old tiled walls and Jack was mentally kicking himself for not counting the landings or the corridors that led off at various points. How the hell was he supposed to know when he had got to sub-basement 28? Although, thinking about it, he was willing to bet that sub-basement 28 would be the one with the sickly greenish glow emanating from it. Slowly and carefully, Jack entered the corridor.
'Jack, Jack!' Ianto's voice came over Jack's ear piece 'what's happening? We're blind up here!'
'It's OK Ianto, I'm closing in on the whatever-it-is now' Jack rounded a corner and came to a dead stop. A grey oblate shape sat on the floor of the basement and glowed greenly at him. 'Sheeeeesh, it's a time implosion grenade, that's not so good'
'Not so good as in spoiling the plans for naked hide and seek or not so good as in we are all going die?' asked Ianto, not unreasonably.
Jack edged a little closer 'They can be tricky little blighters' he said 'I do know how to disarm them; so, as long as the person who put this one together was not so anti-social as to insert a proximity detection detonator we could be OK'. He took a cautious step forward, the light stayed green, another step, still green. Jack let out a breath he hadn't realised he was holding 'So far so good' he reported moving a bit more confidently 'uh-oh' The canister was now flashing an angry purple, score one for the anti-social grenade maker
'Ianto, Gwen, the thing is armed, you need to get out of here NOW' Over the comms Jack could hear faint yelling and thumping, then more yelling, most of which seemed to be abuse screamed in Welsh
'Jack?' It was Ianto 'Gwen's on the lift on her way out of the Hub'
'Er…not so much…no'
Well that explained the abuse then 'Ianto you need to go. If this thing blows I don't know how bad it will be.'
'Forget it Jack' said Ianto firmly 'Unless you come back up here and physically remove me, I'm staying with you'
Jack smiled to himself, Ianto Jones – you had to love him. 'OK Ianto – This thing is on a timer so if detonation commences we have 2 minutes to get to a safe distance, if I say run, you run, understood?'
Jack sidled up to the grenade and placed a hand gingerly on its grey metallic skin; he traced the outline of a small hatch and pressed gently. The only thing that happened was that the pulsating light changed from angry purple to furious red and a loud beeping began to issue from the object. Jack didn't hesitate; he turned and fled down the corridor,
'Ianto we have two minutes, go, go NOW' he panted as he took the spiral steps two at a time.
'1 minute 45'
'Always with the stop watch Ianto! Do you sleep with the damn thing?'
Ianto tutted, 'Jack, you know I do. 1 minute 15'
'Ianto get out – that's an order!'
The breath was tearing from Jack and his chest felt as if it was on fire 'Ianto run, it's coming' He felt rather than saw the time pulse field as it rose up the stairwell in an iridescent wave, it caught Jack and threw him up the stone stairway. His head hit the wall with a wet thud and he just had time to whisper Ianto's name before the darkness took him.
Jack awoke in his own bed and relief washed through him. Gwen had been out of the Hub when the grenade blew which meant that Ianto must have brought him back from the sub-basement. That meant his team were still alive – good. Jack rolled onto his side and stretched out an arm out towards Ianto's side of the bed. Wait a minute….this wasn't right…it wasn't right at all…things were …softer, curvier, smoother. Gwen Cooper turned towards him, smiled into his eyes kissed the end of his nose and said 'morning, lover.'
There were times, thought Ianto as he made his way into work, that Cardiff really was extraordinarily beautiful. The sky was a clear blue and large white clouds scudded across it driven by the strong breeze. The water of the bay sparkled in the sunshine and the planks of the jetty glowed a rich wet brown under Ianto's shoes as he made his way to the Tourist Information Office that hid the entrance to Torchwood. He had treated himself to a cheese pastry from a new specialist bakery that had opened on the quay and all in all he felt it was going to be a good day.
The door into the Hub had barely begun to roll back when he heard the raised voices. Not such a good day then.
'Eighteen months' Gwen was yelling 'Eighteen…fucking...months, Jack!'
Ianto stood in the door way and nibbled his pastry, vastly entertained. Gwen, wearing nothing as far as Ianto could see but one of Jack's blue shirts was standing on the walkway to the hothouse, magnificently angry. Jack who appeared to be naked under his greatcoat was desperately trying to get a word in edgewise.
'Eighteen months' she reiterated, then, catching sight of Ianto said 'Ianto, help me out here, this moron is pretending he has "forgotten" about us'
Jack spun round, saw Ianto and immediately and oddly looked incredibly guilty 'Ianto! Hi! Er… this isn't what it looks like!'
'Looks to me, Sir' said Ianto smoothly 'as if you two are having a great big flaming row and Gwen is about to kill you'
'Ha, yeah, well then, it's exactly what it looks like' said Jack weakly.
'I'm going to get dressed' said Gwen, adding ominously as she swept passed the cowering Jack 'This isn't over Harkness'
It wasn't either, for when Ianto re-entered the Hub after feeding the weevil and the pteranodon he could see Gwen and Jack still going at it hammer and tongs through the glass of the boardroom. In the end Gwen stormed out yelling over her shoulder 'Oh just sod off Jack!' She glared at Ianto 'Do you have an opinion to offer?'
'God, no!' said Ianto, stepping back, ''When you are like this I'm scared of you!'
'Good' snapped Gwen 'I'm going out. There have been reports of a weevil terrorising some primary school kids. Maybe shooting something will make me feel better' She grabbed her gun and some weevil spray and left.
Ianto looked into the boardroom; Jack was sitting with his head in his hands, just staring miserably at the table top. Ianto had never seen him look so beaten; he had just the remedy, he knew what Jack needed.
Jack was lost in misery and confusion, he didn't know what the hell was going on and this was not a feeling he was familiar with, he didn't like it though, not one iota. There was a tap on the door and Ianto came in bearing a tray with two aromatic mugs of coffee on it. Pacing the tray on the table he moved round next to Jack and leant across to get a coaster for Jack's mug. Jack leant back in his chair to enjoy the view 'Oh Ianto Jones' he sighed 'Such a tight, pert ass – always so exciting to watch' and he gave Ianto a fond little pat on the bottom.
To Jack's astonishment, Ianto batted his hand away and moved quickly to stand rigidly in front of him across the board room table.
'I'm sorry, Sir' he said tightly and formally, 'but this harassment is going to have to stop. You are making my work environment impossible with your unwelcome and unreciprocated….attentions
Jack laughed, 'Is this a wind up?' he asked 'First Gwen, now you? Unreciprocated attentions? This from the man with the measuring tape and a stop watch?'
Ianto's face was a mask of misery 'It was one time, I was very drunk and we both agreed that it was a mistake, Sir' he said, not meeting Jack's eyes 'I'll thank you not to mention it again'
Jack's shoulders slumped in defeat, what the hell? 'OK. Mr Jones, I apologise unreservedly for my behaviour and for any distress my unwelcome and unreciprocated attentions may have caused you' he said sarcastically
'Thank you, Sir' said Ianto accepting the apology if not the spirit in which it was offered. He reached across the table to pick up his own coffee. The dull glint of platinum caught Jack's attention; he grabbed Ianto's hand, and ignoring his tut of indignant outrage said,
'Ianto, since when have you been married?'
Jack woke up, slumped against a wall at the top of the staircase. How long had he been out? Struggling to his feet he staggered towards the Hub, somewhat heartened by the fact that he could hear voices – Gwen and Ianto must be OK – good.
As Jack appeared in the doorway he wondered if he was suffering from a hitherto unsuspected concussion. A terrified looking Ianto was pinned against the wall by Gwen, who was brandishing her gun in his face.
'You ever do that to me again', she was hissing 'and I swear to god Ianto I will kill you'
Over Gwen's shoulder, Ianto spotted Jack and a look of overjoyed relief flooded his face. Jack laughed, walked up behind Gwen and plucked the gun from her hand then spun her round into an embrace. He vaguely noted that the relief on Ianto's face had been replaced by a shocked and wounded look as he pulled Gwen into a long and passionate kiss…something didn't feel right. Gwen was struggling to pull away.
'Jack,' she gasped 'the the hell do you think you are doing?'
Jack looked at her furious countenance and laughed uneasily 'well…you know...escape from death…celebrating life and...stuff' He moved in to kiss her again. Gwen punched him in the face.
Ianto was at his side in an instant, arm round his shoulders protectively, trying to staunch the blood flowing from Jack's nose with a pristine linen handkerchief. Jack shrugged him off irritably; deliberately ignoring the younger mans hurt expression. Hell, he thought, I thought we had got past that. He turned to Gwen, 'What's wrong with you?' he demanded
'What's wrong with me?' snarled Gwen 'What's wrong with you?' She held up her left hand, gold gleamed in the Hub lighting
'Gwen,' asked Jack, 'since when have you been married?'
After Ianto had stalked out of the boardroom in a cold and angry silence, Jack decided that he needed to find out what the hell was going on. He crossed to a workstation and logged into the Torchwood computer system. He was beginning to form a most disturbing hypothesis. He checked the Rift records for the previous 24 hours; yes, there it was the spike in rift energy when the time implosion grenade had drifted through time and space and into the Hub sub-basement. He called up the CCTV recordings for that time, he watched the team relaxing, watched himself stroking Ianto's neck with his toes, he had never noticed before how bashful Ianto was, aah, that was so sweet; Jack saw the alarms start and watched himself run out of the Hub towards the sub-levels, watched Gwen and Ianto monitoring his progress via the comms, witnessed the time implosion and then saw both Gwen and Ianto bring his body up from the basement. Jack frowned, that wasn't right. Ianto had forcibly removed Gwen from the Hub, so why wasn't that on the recording? The image hadn't been tampered with as far as he could tell which meant only one thing,
'Shit' said Jack 'Alternate time stream'
Sifting through the Torchwood archive, Jack managed to get a feel for the time stream in which he was trapped. In this reality Torchwood One had never fallen; the battle of Canary Wharf had never taken place; Torchwood Cardiff was still affiliated to Torchwood One in London. With a sharp burst of hope Jack checked on his team's status but discovered that Toshiko and Owen were still dead, although in different circumstances; Ianto had requested a transfer from London to Cardiff when his mother became ill. Lisa Hallett had left Torchwood, voluntarily taken Retcon and had retrained as a radiographer – she was listed on Ianto's personnel file as next of kin. She had a Face Book page; her status read 'Lisa Hallett-Jones can't wait for next month' there was also photo album up there entitled 'Our Wedding'. Jack scrolled through the pictures. God, there he was, he'd been best man, smiling awkwardly, standing next to a Ianto who, Jack could tell by the way he was holding himself, was sick with anxiety and nerves. There he was again, sitting at a table with Gwen; they were holding hands and grinning broadly. There was one picture of Ianto and Lisa dancing together that Jack stared at for a long time. Held close in Ianto's arms, Lisa looked radiant and Ianto…he was smiling down at her with a look on his face that was a mixture of tenderness, disbelief that someone so special was happening to him and complete and blissful joy. It was a look Jack recognised, it was one that had greeted him on, oh so many, mornings. He printed the image out, slipped it into an envelope and stowed it in his pocket.
'That was a great day' Jack hadn't heard Ianto come up behind him.
'Yeah' he agreed weakly
'Lisa and I were so happy when you and Gwen finally hooked up at the reception. I'd seen it coming for ages, especially after she dumped that Rhys. And here we all are, eighteen months later'
So that's when it had happened. The next question was out of Jack's mouth before he could stop it,
'Are you happy?'
Ianto smiled broadly 'Of course I'm happy' he said 'I'll be even happier next month!'
'Why? What happens next month?'
Ianto looked at him with a frown 'The baby's due' he said simply, 'you know that'
Once Jack's nose had stopped bleeding he summoned Gwen and Ianto to the Boardroom.
'Something's not right' he told them' I need to know if it's me or you. The easiest thing would be to tell you what I know and you tell me if you know it too'
Gwen and Ianto nodded. They weren't speaking, either to him or to each other
'The rift had been quiet all day'
'A time implosion grenade came through'
'We got off without too much damage'
'Gwen and I have been….well…kinda together for eighteen months, since Ianto's wedding' A shocked and alarmed look from Ianto and an emphatic shake of the head from Gwen 'I've been married to Rhys for nine months' she corrected
'Rhys? Really?' A look from Gwen said, "Don't push it Jack."
'Oh, Ok. Erm - Ianto and Lisa are expecting their first child next month – it's gonna be a boy' He looked at Ianto and smiled, 'you've asked me to be godfather'
Ianto stood up and blundered blindly out of the boardroom. Gwen looked furious, 'Jack' she said coldly, 'if this is your idea of an elaborate joke then it is a spectacularly cruel one'. She hurried out after Ianto, leaving Jack speechless and alone at the conference table.
Jack was finding the thought of being trapped in an alternate time stream easier to cognitively assimilate than the thought of Ianto being married. He couldn't leave that thought alone, he picked at it like a scab. He had never talked to Ianto about his feelings, he didn't want to acknowledge them to himself but he had always thought that what they had together was incredible. He couldn't, didn't, want to believe they weren't together in every probable reality, although he knew that was statistically impossible. He had to know more. He hacked into Lisa's e-mails. They seemed to be mostly about shopping and shoes, although there were some tender and passionate e-mails from and to Ianto, it was obvious they were very much in love. However, two e-mails in particular caught his attention;
Hi. God, this time next week Ianto and I will be in Goa – can't wait. Really looking forward to seeing you on Saturday. Please don't mention to Ianto what I told you about seeing that guy he works with, Jack, snogging him in the cab after the stag do – he was really drunk but even so he'd be mortified if he remembered it! Good job I know how much he loves me or I'd be dead worried - or dead jealous (Jack is gorgeous!) LoL
IT'S A BOY! Just got back from the scan (pic attached). Ianto cried! We'd agreed if it was a boy Ianto could name it, if it was girl I would. You'll never guess what he wants to call him – yep, Jack! He has such a man crush on the guy LoL
Do you think Jack Hallett-Jones sounds OK?
Jack looked closely at the scan picture; he touched the screen with his finger and thought, Hello, Jack. He printed it out and put it in the envelope with the picture from Ianto's wedding. I have to get home, he thought sadly, I don't belong here.
Jack had gone through the rift activity log and come to the conclusion that the simultaneous explosion of time implosion grenades had caused a temporal shift between two alternate realities. He hoped the Jack Harkness who was in his time stream had come to the same conclusions because he knew now what they had to do. He turned back to the computer and started a complex analysis programme running.
'What are you doing?' said a soft Welsh voice behind him. Ianto had been watching him for some time.
'Trying to get home' said Jack, 'I don't belong here.'
'If you go, will I get my Jack back?'
'We got caught in a temporal shift, if your Jack is running the same programme I am, and I bet he is, then we'll cross back simultaneously, just like before'
Ianto cleared his throat, 'So, in your time stream I'm going to be a dad?'
Jack couldn't look at him 'Ianto' he said gently 'I can't tell you anything about that, the morality of time stream physics drives most Time Philosophers mad after a while, you wouldn't be able to cope, the information would destroy you. Just be happy in the time you have with the people you have'
'But you and I, we're not… we never…'
Jack closed his eyes. 'Once' he admitted, softly 'but he - he had Lisa and then there was Gwen. He said it was a mistake. He thinks I don't know how often he still thinks about it' He felt the soft touch of a warm hand stroking the back of his neck,
'God,' whispered Ianto 'you are so like him'
Jack turned, and looked into Ianto's eyes 'I am him'
Jack had finished running the calculations. If he replicated the time implosion at the same time as he hoped the Jack Harkness in his reality was then theoretically they should both end up where they started from. He made his way down to the weapons vault, in his time stream he knew there was a box of time implosion grenades stored there, he could only hope that was the case here also. As he headed down to the storage levels, Ianto stepped out of the shadows. He was carrying the box Jack was looking for. He put it on the ground at Jack's feet
'I thought you might be looking for these.' he said 'I assume you are going to try for simultaneous detonation in the hope it will get you back to your own time line, Sir?'
'Jack nodded, 'It will have to be in exactly 50 minutes' he said 'There's a big rift surge building, we can just sort of surf it back to where we belong'
There was a brief silence, then, 'I'm sorry you won't be here when my son is born' said Ianto 'I would have liked him to meet you'
'You'll have your own Jack back by then. Things will be how they should be.'
'I know' said Ianto quietly 'but I would still have liked him to meet…you' He was staring at a point over Jack's head, 'In your time line,' he asked, 'your Ianto has he got anyone?'
'Yes,' said Jack softly, 'he has me'
Ianto nodded sadly. 'Once' he said 'we...and I thought…but I was stupid, scared at what I was feeling, I said it was a mistake; and he got Gwen, I had Lisa and now there's going to be a baby. I was wrong, though. He doesn't know how much I think about it, about him'
Jack looked at Ianto's face, and gently ran the tips of his fingers down his cheek and over his mouth. Slowly he moved closer and drop a line of kisses across the other mans jaw line. Jack had meant to take it slow but the low growl of desire and arousal that dripped from Ianto's throat seemed to lodge in his groin and the next thing he knew his hand were removing trousers and cupped around Ianto's cock.
'Need you' whispered Ianto, 'want you'
Jack pushed the younger man up against the wall and dropped to his knees. He blew softly on the head of Ianto's penis and swept his tongue over the sensitive tip. Ianto groaned and muttered something that sounded like please. With no warning Jack took the whole of Ianto into his mouth, sliding his tongue softly down the shaft of his cock the dragging it firmly up again along the vein on the underside. Ianto tangled his finger in Jack's hair and began to thrust into his mouth, letting out a stifled moan as Jack took him deep into his throat.
The Time implosion grenade was set in exactly the same spot, in sub basement 28. Jack triggered the mechanism
'Ok' He said 'two minutes' and began to run
'Two minutes and counting' came Ianto's voice over the comms and Jack was off, running up the stairs two at a time, just like before
'Ianto, I didn't know about Lisa. I'm so sorry. Tell your Jack, he should realise how lucky he is'
1 minute 15
'Jack, when he gets back I'm going to tell him – it was no mistake. We could be great together'
'Tell Gwen…Rhys is a good man, she made the right choice
'Say hi to your boy for me. You are gonna be a fantastic dad'
'Good luck Jack…good bye'
Then the world became multi-coloured and darkness fell.
Jack was aware that someone was stroking his face and calling his name. He reached up and grasped Ianto's wrist.
'Jack' smiled Ianto 'welcome home'
Jack struggled up to a sitting position and looked into the delighted faces of his team, 'Ianto Jones, sight for sore eyes in any reality, Gwen Cooper, always a pleasure'
Together Gwen and Ianto helped Jack back up the stairs to the Hub.
'Ianto, if you can take it from here,' said Gwen 'I think I'll get off before he changes his mind about letting me go home early' Ianto waved distractedly, all his attention was on Jack.
It was 3 o'clock in the morning and Ianto was woken by Jack sliding out of bed. Through partially closed lids he watched Jack pull on some clothes and creep quietly out of the Hub. Ianto dressed quickly and followed him. He found him leaning over the railing of the quay, staring down into the dark water. He didn't look round, as Ianto approached him, but held out an arm to encircle him and pulled him close. They stood in silence for a while.
'Ianto,' Jack said eventually, 'are you happy? Do I make you happy?'
Ianto considered for a brief second, 'Happier than I have a right to be' he said quietly, 'Happier than I deserve'
'Do you ever think about Lisa? Do you ever wonder….'
Ianto knew what had bought this on; he has been expecting it ever since Jack had returned to him. 'Lisa's dead, Jack. She was wonderful and brilliant and gorgeous and I loved her so much that I frightened myself but she's dead and gone and I had to let her go. It's you and me now. Without you I would never have been able to carry on, you saved me. You save me every day'
Jack pulled an envelope out of his pocket, he gave it to Ianto with a small sad smile 'This could show you your future' he whispered.
Ianto took the envelope, turned it over in his hands, then without opening it he tore it in hundreds of tiny pieces and scattered them across the water of the bay. 'The only future I have, the only one I want, is the one you give me' he told Jack softly.
Hugging each other, they walked slowly back to the Hub.