In the course of his long, his very, very long life, Captain Jack Harkness had died many times. Some deaths had been easy, almost like falling asleep, some had been protracted and painful, but none, Jack decided, had been as bad as a meeting of the Cardiff City Council Security Liaison Committee on a hot August day. He tried to stifle a yawn and, catching sight of his reflection in the window realised he was managing to pull off the difficult feat of looking furious and bored at the same time.
'With all due respect, minister' he said icily 'categorising the Weevil population as an ethnic minority and attempting to integrate their culture into Welsh society, via a multicultural eisteddfod although laudable in terms of human/weevil equality will simply result in a blood bath. Killing people and eating their guts is their culture.'
The minister frowned, 'That's extremely judgemental Captain Harkness and may I say ...'
Jack's mobile rang. 'Sorry,' interrupted Jack, not looking sorry at all 'must take this, could be important' He looked at the caller ID, it was Ianto.
'Jack hope you've finished your meeting. We had talked about eating out tonight; do you want me to book a table at our...erm... the French restaurant by the monument, nice table for two at say 8 o'clock? I know it's a bit swanky but, well in view of the date, I thought…'
Jack looked around the room and made his expression serious 'OK 'he said, 'but on no account try that alone, I'll pick up some special equipment and get straight back. This could be very dangerous so just keep the situation contained until I arrive OK?' He heard Ianto chuckle,
'Going to use this call as a way of getting out of it early?'
'Hmm, probably. I think your primary plan is good though, go with that and we can maybe take things up a level afterwards'
Ianto laughed again, 'No more roofs, Jack. See you later'
Jack looked at the seventeen people sitting around the mahogany meeting table and smiled insincerely 'Sorry folks, duty calls' and he swept out of the room.
When Gwen wandered into the Hub, the next morning, the first thing she noticed was the atmosphere. Jack was working in his office, pointedly ignoring Ianto. Ianto was wandering around the Hub tidying and cleaning and throwing occasional anticipatory glances Jacks way when he thought Jack wasn't looking. It was odd thought Gwen; it wasn't as if they'd had a row, it more as if Ianto was expecting something from Jack and Jack wasn't sure what that something was. Hmm, it was all most interesting.
Jack raised his head, 'Ianto' he yelled 'C'mere I have something for you' Ianto brightened and looking like a little boy on Christmas morning, almost ran to the office, only to emerge pouting sulkily after a minute or two carrying a large holdall. 'Going out' he told Gwen, 'apparently we have a dry cleaning crisis that only I can resolve' and dejectedly he left the hub. Gwen stared after him, what the hell is the matter with him, she wondered. Just then, Ianto's phone which he had left on his work station began to hum and vibrate. A text message flashed up on the screen;
Happy Birthday, Ianto. Hope you have a lovely day. See you Sunday for presents and cake. Love Rhiannon, Johnny & the kids XXX
Christ, thought Gwen, its Ianto's birthday and neither of us have remembered. She looked over to the office but Jack was nowhere to be seen. I have to get him something, she thought, but what?
Since Owen had - gone, Ianto had made himself responsible for caring for the plants in the hot house. He seemed to spend as much time in there, pruning and re-potting as he did down in the archives. I could get him a plant, thought Gwen, but what sort of plant do you buy a man who already has a Venus Flytrap that eats 10lb of raw meat a day and likes Kendal Mint Cake. Then she remembered. The last time she had been down in one of the archive tunnels she had noticed a strange and exotic plant growing up through the cracked tiles in the chill corridor. Its blossoms were red too, a deep rich crimson – red is Ianto's colour she thought. I could pot that up for him. 'Jack' she yelled, 'I'm going out for a bit'
Twenty minutes later Gwen was struggling back into the Hub with bags of balloons, cake and champagne. Jack swept past her as she entered. 'I'm off out' he said shortly,' there's a confused Silurian in Tesco's in Penarth. I'm going over there to sort it'
'Wait, Jack' cried Gwen, 'I have to talk to you...' but Jack was gone.
Ianto was heading back to the Hub. After dropping off Jack's dry cleaning, with a stern rebuke for the quality of the stain removal on the last lot of Jack's shirts, he had gone for a sad and lonely coffee at his favourite coffee shop. He thought about the night before. He had booked a table for two at his and Jack's favourite restaurant as a small birthday celebration. However, as the evening had progressed, Ianto realised that Jack absolutely had no idea what they were doing there. He'd tried dropping a hint when he'd rung Jack in the council meeting but Jack clearly hadn't picked up on what 'in view of the date' meant. The evening had not been a success and Ianto resisting Jack's urging to sleep at the Hub had taken himself back to his flat at the end of the night to spend a miserable and sleepless night alone. Happy Birthday to Me he thought despondently.
Gwen had to admit that she had excelled herself. Ianto's work station was covered in glittery birthday confetti, shiny balloons and Happy Birthday banners. She had potted up the strange plant and bought a beautiful black planter for it. It sat on the desk and its large crimson blossoms and strange purple pod-like stamen glowed in the Hub lighting. Gwen carefully propped Ianto's birthday card against it. She had wondered about signing the card from both her and Jack but she knew that Ianto wouldn't be fooled by that. There was a massive chocolate cake in the fridge and loads of champagne. She had also managed to get the small pottery on the quay to make a 'World's Best Coffee Maker' mug. All that was missing was Ianto.
Jack was trying to explain to an irate supermarket manager that the alien who was attempting to hibernate in his freezer cabinet did not constitute a health hazard, being genetically closer to the fish he was surrounding himself with than the shoppers who were staring at him, with horrified fascination. Losing patience with the manger, Jack went up to the freezer section and knocked on the glass. The Silurian looked at him 'Come with me' Jack said, 'I know some people who will be happy to look after you' slowly the Silurian disengaged himself from the frozen haddock and stepped out of the freezer. 'Right said Jack as he headed towards the car park, 'let's get you back with your people'. As they were leaving they walked past a harassed mother with a small boy who was screaming in fury, 'Listen Ianto,' she was saying exasperatedly, 'if you don't behave they'll be no birthday party!' Jack stopped walking so suddenly that the Silurian cannoned into him with a hiss of alarm. For Jack it was all suddenly making sense, the expensive restaurant, Ianto's weird behaviour last night and this morning, shit, thought Jack – its Ianto's birthday.
Ianto and Gwen were really very drunk. Ianto had been extremely touched by the effort that Gwen had made. In fact he had been quite choked when he had trudged sadly into the Hub and seen the balloons and glitter on his work station. Seeing him surreptitiously blink away a tear, Gwen had impulsively given him a big hug and a kiss and a coffee mug full of champagne and the afternoon had kind of gone on from there. Now, half way through the third bottle of champagne, Ianto turned his attention to the pot plant.
'That's gorgeous' he slurred 'what is it?'
'Dunno, it's a Torchwood special'
'C'mere Gwen and look at this' Ianto pointed unsteadily to the purple pod-shaped stamen of the plant, 'is it me or in this getting bigger'
Gwen made an effort to focus; without doubt the pods at the heart of the flowers had swollen to an alarming size. 'Ianto' she said 'I'm not sure about this, maybe we should put this in the hothouse and check it with Jack when he gets back' Then with a tiny popping sound several of the pods burst in their faces. Covered in pollen and spores Ianto and Gwen stared at each other and began to giggle.
Jack strode in with his most brilliant smile in place and a number of beautifully wrapped packages under his arm. 'Heyyyy, where's the birthday boy?' he cried, then stopped, and looked around the silent and apparently deserted Hub, puzzled. 'Where is everybody?' he asked confused. The faint sound of hysterical giggling reached him from the autopsy room. Looking in that direction, Jack saw various items of discarded clothing. Gwen's thrown haphazardly all over the floor, Ianto's neatly folded on the sofa and over the backs of chairs. His eyebrows climbed. What the hell was going on? What on earth were Ianto and Gwen up to? Ignoring a small stab of jealous suspicion, a disturbingly explicit and arousing mental image and frowning slightly Jack headed over to the medical area.
Standing on the viewing landing Jack stood aghast. Ianto and Gwen, clearly extremely intoxicated were having a very messy chocolate cake food fight in nothing other than their underwear. Jack cleared his throat ominously and Ianto looked up and saw him, 'Hi Jack' he gave a big innocent smile and a happy wave, 'Today's my birthday, Gwen gave me a plant, it's a lovely plant, say hello to my plant, Jack' He pointed to the corner where Gwen's birthday present to him was waving gently in a non-existent breeze. Gwen was laughing softly to herself from under the autopsy table, and alternating between trying to smear chocolate cake onto Ianto's knees and playing with her hair.
'Would either one of you like to try to explain to me why you are nearly naked?' Jack asked sternly
'Food fight' explained Gwen cheerfully, crawling out from under the autopsy table and standing next to Ianto in a drunken show of solidarity
'Chocolate is a very hard stain to get out of cashmere' added Ianto, with a transient flash of his usual self.
Jack nodded, 'so… you took your clothes off to keep them clean whilst you threw chocolate cake at each other?' Trying hard to look solemn and swaying slightly Ianto and Gwen nodded. 'You thought that was a good idea?' Jack persisted. Ianto and Gwen looked extremely pleased with themselves and nodded more emphatically.
'Gwen gave me a plant' added Ianto, helpfully.
'Yeah, thanks Ianto, I've seen the plant' said Jack glancing at it again. Then he did a double take, 'that's an Elysium Lilly' he said, softly 'Gwen, where did you find it'
'Found it, pretty, nice present for Ianto'
'Nice present' agreed Ianto
'Did the spores touch you?'
Ianto gave a snorty chuckle, 'spores'.
'Ianto, Gwen did you breathe in any of the spores?'
'Poof!' said Ianto waving his hands in the air, 'poofpoofpoof'
'poof' confirmed Gwen
'Right' sighed Jack, rolling his eyes in exasperation 'We need to get you two cleaned up and sitting down with some very strong coffee – you're drunk and you're high and there's more to come'
Jack cleaned Gwen up as best he could, and coaxed her into getting, at least partially, dressed. Then, as she and Ianto began a boisterous game of "tag" around the Hub, he rang Rhys, 'You need to come and collect Gwen, right now' he said
'Why?' asked Rhys, alarmed, 'Is she alright?'
'Not really Rhys, no; she and Ianto have killed the best part of three bottles of champagne between them and been exposed to the spores of an Elysium Lilly. Although it looks like a plant it's really a lower level telepathic symbiote. It's not dangerous, it's disinhibiting and intoxicating. Right now the pair of them are running around the Hub behaving like a couple of drunken, high, five year olds,' Jack flinched as he heard something that sounded very expensive smash onto the floor followed by howls of uproarious laughter from Ianto and Gwen, "but the Elysium Lilly does more than that. After the intoxication lowers your inhibitions the Elysium Lilly reads your thoughts, it allows you to experience your heart's desire. The experience feels totally real, as if it's actually happening, that way you always remember it; it feels like you lived it. Gwen will need someone she trusts to be with her to pull her out of it if it looks like she is having a bad trip. She'll be disorientated and confused when she comes out of it any way so she'll need you there to look out for her.'
'I'm on my way' said Rhys.
Gwen looked at herself in the mirror. It was her fifth wedding anniversary and she and Rhys were holding a party. Gwen had spent far too much on the dress she was wearing but she knew she looked sensational. There was a tap on the door and Jack walked in. Their eyes met in the mirror,
'Christ,' he said, softly 'you look amazing'
Gwen smiled at him, 'Who'd have thought we'd make five years?' she said, 'That was a wedding day and a half wasn't it.'
Jack smiled. 'Do you remember when the Nostrovite pretended to be me?' he asked, 'Was it trying to talk you out of marrying Rhys?'
'Why do you ask?' Gwen said
'Because that's what I would have done if I had been alone with you at any moment before the wedding.'
'What would you have said?'
Jack moved closer to her and took her in his arms. Gwen felt a small shiver as his hands touched her skin, is this how Ianto felt when Jack touched him? 'I'd have looked into your eyes,' whispered Jack, 'and I would have said "I love you, you should be with me, I can show you the universe. Please Gwen, I'm so lonely, come away with me, make this emptiness end" then I would have kissed you, like this'
Gwen melted into the kiss. 'What about Ianto? She asked.
'Ianto is Ianto.' said Jack 'I never promised him anything and he never asked for anything. 'It's you Gwen, it's always been you.'
'Kiss me again'
Whilst in the kiss, Gwen felt a surge of emotion, of love, of tenderness... but not for Jack. She broke the kiss and slipped out of Jack's arms. 'I'm sorry Jack', she said,' It's Rhys – I love him, not as a hopeless fantasy the way I love you, but always and forever. I see that now, how funny – I thought you were my heart's desire and really I've been married to that all along' She gently pushed Jack to one side and walked out of the room to be with Rhys
With a gasp, Gwen sat upright and looked around her in a dazed fashion. She had woken up smiling but her throat was tight as if she had been about to cry. She was back in the flat, on her own sofa and Rhys was cradling her in his arms. 'Alright babes?' he asked apprehensively
Gwen rested her head on Rhys strong shoulder, 'never better' she said.
At the Hub Jack had managed to entice Ianto into a shower and scrubbed most of the chocolate off of him. Now Ianto was sleeping his unusual afternoon off in Jack's bed whilst Jack sat beside him, lovingly stroking his hair and watching his face while he dreamed.
Ianto Jones had decided it was time to die. He was old, very old and oh so tired. The doctor's diagnosis of terminal cancer had come as no surprise to him and he wanted to go out on his own terms, in his own way. He looked at the man sitting beside him on the bed. 'It's time, Jack' he said, 'I want it to be today.'
Jack Harkness, looking as if he was still in his late 40s, took Ianto's hand, 'Must you leave me' he said softly
Ianto smiled, 'why…would you miss me?'
'What happened to watching me grow old and die and then just...moving on?' asked Ianto.
Jack looked at him with tears in his eyes, 'Ianto, every day for the past 73 years you have told me how much you love me, every day for the past 73 years I have told you how much I love you. That's going to be a hard habit to break'
Ianto laughed, 'Remember the first time you asked me out on date?'
'In that office,' Jack smiled at the memory, 'God, I was so nervous'
'Jack, you will come with me won't you' asked Ianto anxiously, 'I'm ready to go but… I don't want to go on my own. You will come with me as far as you can won't you?'
Jack held up two syringes, 'One for you, one for me' he said, 'quick and painless' He injected the contents of one into his own arm and the other into Ianto's. Then he lay down beside him holding him close until they died in each other's arms. The last sensation Ianto had was of Jack's arms holding him, Jack's lips on his neck. The last words he spoke were 'I love you Jack.' The last words he heard were 'I love you Ianto, I swear I always will'
Ianto opened his eyes, he was in Jacks bed, his lashes were wet with tears, Jack was looking anxiously into his face,
They kissed, softly, gently and just held each other for a long time.
When Ianto was feeling more like his old self, he and Jack carefully moved the Elysium Lilly to a special storage area in the hothouse, Jack explained to him about its unique properties. He diffidently asked Ianto what the Lilly had shown him. Ianto laughed,
'When you're a kid you play that "what if you had three wishes" game and you always go for fancy cars or fame or loads of money. I think life is happier and simpler than that Jack. It turns out my heart's desire is only to live a very long and happy life with you, to know that you love me and to hear you say it'
Jack hugged him tightly; he didn't want Ianto to see the look on his face.
'What about you, Jack? Those spores were everywhere in the Hub before the scavenger system got rid of them. What did the Elysium Lilly show you?'
'Nothing' said lied Jack 'you live as long as I do, sooner or later you achieve your heart's desire. The Lilly had nothing to show me'
Jack lay awake in the dark, listening to the slow, even, breathing that meant Ianto was asleep. He was thinking about the hallucination the Elysium Lilly had given to him.
Ianto Jones had decided it was time to die. 'It's time, Jack' he said, 'I want it to be today.'
Jack, took Ianto's hand, 'Must you leave me' he said softly, a tear rolling down his cheek
'Jack, you will come with me won't you' Ianto asked him anxiously, 'I'm ready to go but… I don't want to go on my own. You will come with me as far as you can won't you?'
Jack held up two syringes, 'One for you, one for me' he said, 'quick and painless' He injected the contents of one into his own arm and the other into Ianto's. Then he lay down beside him holding him close until they died in each other's arms. The last sensation Jack had was holding Ianto tenderly, gently kissing him on his neck. The last words he heard were 'I love you so much, Jack'. The last words he spoke were 'Ianto, I've always loved you and I always will.' Then, for the first time in all of his lives, Captain Jack Harkness knew the eternal oblivion of death.
The final image he had seen was an entry in the Torchwood cryogenics database
Drawer Number : 298
Contents : 2 bodies. Human, male
Name (s) : Captain Jack Harkness, Ianto Jones.
Special Instructions : Death did not part them. Torchwood will not separate them
Authorisation: Agnes Havisham. (Torchwood assessor)
Jack smiled broadly into the darkness.