Word count: ~ 2,800
Warnings: Mentions of petty thievery and drug use. Angst, bad language, fluff, and Torchwood-style weirdness.
Summary: Jack meets a fifteen-year-old Ianto Jones. But not the way one would expect.
Disclaimer: All recognizable characters are the property of their respective owners. I am in no way associated with the creators, and no copyright infringement is intended.
A/N: Beware, this is an exercise in my personal Ianto head-canon, and probably has little factual basis. Ah, well. SnarkyHunter, this probably had nothing to do with your prompt, but your (amazing, awesome, incredible) vid coupled with Heather Dale's song Mordred's Lullaby inspired…uh, this. Apologies. ^.^"
(The title comes from Mordred's Lullaby by Heather Dale.)
Child, the darkness will rise from the deep
When Jack wakes up, there's a teenage boy hunkered down in the corner of his room, and Ianto is nowhere to be found.
Normally, even working for Torchwood, Jack wouldn't jump to conclusions, but the boy is watching him with all the wary anger of a pissed-off cat, and eyes that blue can only belong to one person. Jack blinks at him for a long moment, trying to connect the idea of Ianto and teenager and failing.
With a low groan, he buries his face in his hands. "Fuck."
Ianto as a child is nothing like Ianto as an adult.
Jack manages to snag his trousers and pull them on under the blankets so that he doesn't scar the kid for life—it's doubtful, judging by how he has yet to say a single word, that Ianto has any of his adult memories, and as sexually open as Jack is, underage is just not cool—but his effort doesn't seem to impress Ianto at all. He stays pressed into the corner, eyes fixed cautiously on Jack, and doesn't speak as Jack retreats to call in the team and then comes back, nearly tumbling down the ladder in his haste.
"Ianto?" Jack asks, just as wary as the kid. "I know you're confused, but—"
Mini-Ianto looks at him, looks at the hand he's offering, and then looks away. "Shouldn't take anything from Billy, ever. Especially not stuff cut on the street," he mutters, and while it's a relief to know that his vocal cords still work, Jack's breath dies in his throat at the implication.
"Drugs?" he asks, voice soft, trying not to let the recrimination creep into his tone.
The kid shoots him a look that clearly says he's failed, and doesn't answer. Which, really, is answer enough.
And the expression on his face. Jack's always known that Ianto didn't have the greatest childhood—he's seen the record, read the police reports about domestic disturbances at Ianto's house and his mother's early death records and the shoplifting report—but he's never really thought about it, because Ianto is quite possibly the most grounded person in Torchwood, and Jack's been confusing that with stable.
This boy, no more than fifteen, is staring at Jack with eyes that burn, full of anger and hatred and self-disgust, fury at everything in the world and nothing at all. He's walking the edge, dancing on a knife's blade without a care in the world, and no one to catch him if he starts to fall.
Slowly, carefully, Jack slides to the ground and leans back against the ladder, letting out a slow breath.
Ianto Jones, fifteen years old and at war with a world that doesn't care nearly enough, stares back at him with the tired, furious eyes of someone already halfway to their grave, and doesn't move.
Eventually, Jack manages to coax him out of the corner, and then out of the room, with the promise of Chinese and tea.
("Coffee?" he tries in desperation, when nothing else has given him so much as a blink in reaction. "I can order takeout."
Mini-Ianto looks at him as though he's just uttered some great heresy, and wrinkles his nose. "Coffee's grose. How can anyone drink it?"
Jack blinks, and for a moment he'd swear the world was sliding out from under his feet. This…this is even more disturbing than Ianto losing nine years and Jack waking up with jailbait in his room.
"Tea?" he manages weakly.
Ianto nods, and Jack wonders how long he'll have until the world ends, because this must surely be a sign of the Apocalypse.)
Ianto at fifteen is even skinnier than Ianto at twenty-four, and it's not as though Ianto at twenty-four has a single ounce of fat to spare. This Ianto is far, far too thin for a boy of his height and age, and Jack's a bit worried that he'll fall over in a strong wind. But he navigates the ladder up from Jack's bunk with all the ease of an exceptionally limber cat, apparently used to climbing.
(Jack once again recalls that shoplifting charge, thinks of Ianto's fairly terrifying competence in all things, and wonders just how much he did that he wasn't caught at.)
The Hub clearly fascinates him. Jack follows him up to find him staring out the window of the office with wide eyes, gaze darting between Myfanwy stretching her wings, the alien corpse Owen had left on the autopsy table (even though Jack specifically remembers telling him to clean up), and the dozens of blinking machines scattered around the room.
"What is this place?" he asks in quiet awe.
It's the first time Jack's heard something from him besides wary scoffing or derision, and it's a relief to know that the Ianto Jones who laughs at pterodactyls, feeds them chocolate, and can still find wonder in what comes through the Rift, after all he's suffered, is still in there somewhere even if he's buried. He steps up beside Ianto, carefully not touching him, and says, "This is the Torchwood Hub. Torchwood Three, Cardiff. There's a rift in time and space that runs through the city, and we police the aliens and tech that falls through."
Ianto shoots him a sharply disbelieving look. "Aliens in Cardiff?"
Myfanwy takes the opportunity to swoop right past the window, shrieking happily.
"Right," Ianto mutters, looking a bit pale.
Jack smothers a chuckle, and dares to drop a hand on the kid's shoulder. "Yeah," he agrees. "But you're not supposed to be here, Ianto. Something's happened, and I want to know what. Can my team take a look at you and find out?"
For a long moment, Ianto simply stares at the hand resting on his shoulder, and then up at Jack, who tries to keep his expression as open and honest and friendly as possible.
Whatever the kid sees, it must be enough, because he looks away with a faint flush under his pale skin, and mutters, "Yeah, sure."
That promise, it seems, is more easily made than kept. As soon as Owen blows through the door, followed shortly by Tosh and Gwen, mini-Ianto is back to being silent and broody. He glares at Owen, glowers at Gwen (who leaves quickly, with the excuse of a date with Rhys), and treats Tosh with a suspicious sort of tolerance once she offers him her hot chocolate.
(Jack carefully doesn't say anything about the fact that Owen is carrying a cup from the same café, or that he's wearing that particular grimace he gets when Torchwood interrupts one of his dates.)
Owen pokes and prods for a while before throwing up his hands—literally, because Owen's a dramatic git like that—and declaring that Ianto is underweight, malnourished, and suffering from the aftereffects of whatever drug cocktail he pumped himself full of, but is otherwise a normal fifteen-year-old. Tosh is a bit more helpful, and traces an energy signature back to a device older-Ianto had catalogued in the Archives the day before.
"It looks like it will wear off on its own," she offers apologetically, to Ianto rather than Jack, which they both appreciate. "You'll be fine, Ianto. Just give it another hour or so." Her smile is warm and soft as she pats him on the arm.
Ianto looks at her as if he has no idea what to do with things like smiles and kind touches and caring words. But he nods and gently shakes her off, retreating to the stairs that lead to Jack's office. He seems to feel safest higher up, and Jack's never really looked at Ianto and thought cat before, but now that the comparison has been made, he can't stop.
Tosh watches mini-Ianto go with sad, sad eyes, and then turns her earnest dark gaze on Jack. "They swapped places in time, our Ianto and his younger self," is her explanation for Jack's ears alone. "You'll take care of him, won't you?" she asks seriously. "I know this is Torchwood Three, and insane things like this happen all the time, but…"
Jack reaches out and touches her hand, forcing a smile. Yes, this Torchwood branch seems especially prone to bouts of psychically damaging insanity like this, but Tosh is right. this is a bit different, because Ianto's never spoken about his childhood before, and Jack can't quite imagine his reaction to finding out that all of them know. They're all capable of recognizing damaged people, because they're all damaged a bit themselves, and it's hard to see Ianto as anything else right now.
In a few hours he'll go back to being their impervious, ever-prepared, Welsh version of Alfred, but now that they've seen him at fifteen, they can't un-see it.
"Yeah," he says wearily. "Of course I'll take care of him, Tosh. Thanks for coming in so quickly on your day off."
"No problem." She smiles at him, then goes to collect Owen and her coat, the former helping her put on the latter even as he grumbles. They leave together, walking just a bit more closely than they normally would, and Jack watches them until the cog door rolls shut.
When he turns around, mini-Ianto is gazing down at him from the top of the stairs, looking thoughtful.
Jack manages a weak smile, then turns and flees.
(He can call it a tactical retreat all he likes, but the truth is he's utterly terrified of this tall, gawky boy with the hard eyes, who will someday grow up to be the kind, warm, funny man he's so hopelessly in love with. He can't seem to connect them in his head, and that's the scariest thing of all.)
(What if Tosh is wrong, and his Ianto never comes back?)
Just before Tosh's "few hours"—which Jack knows means three and probably a bit of change—are up, there's a soft knock on the edge of older-Ianto's desk, where Jack is filing about three month's backlog of paperwork. He looks up, startled, and is startled again to see mini-Ianto standing there.
Mini-Ianto, who is holding the only picture of Jack and his older self that Jack had forgotten to hide when he woke up.
"I figured it was something like that," Ianto says, dropping the picture onto the desk and tucking his hands into his pockets. "Everyone already knew who I was, and all." He pauses awkwardly, staring down at the photograph, which Tosh had taken on a case up in Rhyl. Jack has his arms around older-Ianto, and they're laughing, fingers tangled. "You're…together, yeah? With the other me?"
Jack can only nod, even as he curses himself, because mini-Ianto will have to go back to his own time when the device's effects wear off, and Jack will have to Retcon him to preserve the timeline. He hadn't wanted to, but he'd forgotten—as he and the others so often do—just how blindingly quick Ianto is, whether physically or mentally.
Mini-Ianto doesn't acknowledge the sudden blankness in Jack's expression, or takes it for surprise. Rather, he smiles for the first time Jack's seen, just a tiny quirk of lips. "Thought so," he says, and those two words are loaded with cat-like satisfaction. "I've…got good taste, then."
"You're not upset?" Jack asks, because he'd been under the impression that he was Ianto's first in that regard, that he was an abnormality in regards to the rest of Ianto's sexual history. "That we're both men, I mean."
The look that mini-Ianto shoots him is one that Jack's intimately familiar with, given that older-Ianto wears it whenever he's done or said something particularly dense. He sidesteps the question with a shrug and a repeated murmur of, "I've got good taste." Which, while flattering, doesn't really provide an answer to the underlying question.
But Jack's not about to ask a child something that he isn't prepared to ask the older version, so he bites his tongue against the words, and instead says, "You really should lay off the drugs."
A quirk of lips that is most definitely not a smile, and mini-Ianto half turns away, shifting his gaze up towards Myfanwy's nest. "Yeah," he says noncommittally. He fishes around in his pocket for a moment, then comes up with Jack's phone, which Jack is fairly certain he put in his own pocket after he called the team in.
Shoplifting, Jack reminds himself, pinning mini-Ianto with a glare.
Mini-Ianto actually laughs at the look, flashing a quick grin that makes Jack's heart stutter because it's so utterly Ianto. He leans forward, breath hot against Jack's ear, and whispers, "You wouldn't believe how talented I am with my hands, sir." Then he pulls back, blue eyes full of the kind of wickedness that invokes feelings Jack should not have for a fifteen-year-old, and adds with faux thoughtfulness, "Or maybe you would."
Jack swallows hard.
Ianto—and it really is Ianto, which he can finally see—laughs at him again and walks away.
Jack's almost disappointed when older-Ianto is the one to emerge from the Archives an hour later, back in a suit instead of a pair of ragged jeans and a moth-eaten sweatshirt, though his relief outweighs any thoughts of getting to know that younger Ianto better.
His Ianto looks at him with blue, blue eyes that see too much, and smiles the sweet, slightly goofy way he only does for Jack.
"Have a good visit?" he asks, folding to lean against the edge of his desk.
"I'm glad you're back," Jack says with utmost truthfulness, taking his hand and tugging him down into a kiss. "You were a bit intimidating as a teenager."
"An unholy terror," Ianto corrects dryly. "Please, Jack, I remember what I was like at fifteen. And even if I didn't, I just woke up in a shitty apartment, surrounded by drug addicts, with stolen goods under my pillow."
Jack snorts at that. "You know, when I read that you had a shoplifting charge on your record, I thought you were just a kid who'd decided to see how bad he could be. Not a junior cat burglar."
There's something dark in Ianto's eyes as he shrugs, staring down at their entwined fingers. "Things got bad at home, and I fell in with the wrong crowd. Lisa was the one who got me out, turned me around. She's the reason I worked at One, why I'm alive right now."
It goes rather without saying, but Jack will always be grateful to her for that. He sighs softly and leans forward, resting his head against Ianto's sternum. Only nine years away from that angry, hurting person—not even a decade distant—and Ianto can still smile and laugh and joke, can love and protect and be a functioning part of Torchwood. If he wasn't in awe of Ianto's ability to cope after the Cyberwoman incident and the Battle of Canary Wharf, he most certainly is now.
"You amaze me, Ianto," he says softly. There are other words in there, hidden behind those, but neither of them is quite ready for that yet, and Jack chokes his voice back.
Fingers comb carefully through his hair, gentle and kind, and a kiss is pressed to the top of his head.
"The feeling," Ianto says softly, "is most definitely mutual."