"I've always been fascinated by pocket watches," Ianto explained, holding his in his hand.
"Really?" Jack asked, his thumb absently tracing circles on the back of Ianto's hand.
They were at a restaurant, because Ianto had insisted on getting real food, on getting out of the Hub.
"Yes, I have about five. I know, it's weird, but-"
"I think it's charming," Jack grinned. "And they do come in useful."
Jack couldn't help but laugh at the pink that stained Ianto's cheeks, hardly visible in the candlelight.
"I can still make you blush," Jack said, pleased.
"Knowing you, you'll always be able to make me blush," Ianto laughed.
Their food arrived, and Jack had to admit that it was better than take away or pizza. And he liked sitting at a table, flirting, and laughing and kissing Ianto.
When they finished, they went to Ianto's rarely used flat, because while they usually stayed at the Hub, it was due to convenience. Ianto's bed was much larger, and much more comfortable. As was his shower.
Jack liked-maybe-even-loved Ianto, even if it terrified him. He didn't let himself fall in love, it was too painful, watching them grow old and wither away as he stayed young. Years and years ago he had made the decision to avoid it, to protect his already battered heart. But somehow, the Welshman had managed to worm his way into Jack Harkness' heart, and Jack knew that he would always have a place there.
So after sex, when they lay in bed, talking about everything and nothing, Jack asked to see Ianto's pocket watches.
And he wouldn't deny that it was partly to see Ianto's naked form cross the room to get a wooden box from the closet. It was the early hours of morning, the sun just peeking above the horizon, with a few more hours until they had to get ready and report for duty.
The box was dark, stained and polished, a simple latch holding it closed. Ianto flipped the lid and looked into the contents.
"This one, I bought last year," he started, taking a watch out of the box and showing it to Jack. "I saw it in a charity shop, and I couldn't help but buy it. It was ten quid, if you can believe it."
Jack nodded, and Ianto continued, taking out the next one. Jack hardly paid attention, instead looking at the enthusiasm on Ianto's face, the way it lit up, the way his lips formed the words, the hint of colour on his cheeks. He really was an exquisite creature, beautiful.
He laid each one on the bed carefully, until he got to the last one, hesitating before he carefully took it into his hands.
"This is the first one I ever had," he said quietly, looking up at Jack with wide eyes. Jack understood that this was more than just showing Jack his watches, this was Ianto revealing a part of himself that not many new of. "I've had it ever since I can remember really. It's the reason I started a collection of sorts."
Ianto opened his hands, showing it to Jack.
Jack felt his heart stop. It's couldn't be. It was impossible. Jack raised his wide eyes to Ianto, the familiar, beautiful face, the man we was he in like-maybe-even-love with.
"Ianto," Jack said slowly, fighting to keep his voice calm. "Where did you get that?"
"I told you, I've had it forever. I can't remember not having it," Ianto said, confused.
"Have, have you ever opened it?" Jack asked carefully.
"No, I've never really seen the point."
"I think, I think we need to go back to the Hub," Jack said.
"Jack, what's going on?"
"I, we need to go back to the Hub," Jack repeated, pulling on his clothes.
"Please Ianto, just, trust me alright?"
Jack could see the indecision on Ianto's face, but in the end he acquiesced.
"And make sure you bring you watch."
"Okay, explain," Ianto demanded once they were in Jack's office.
"You're telling me you don't know where you got the watch?" Jack asked again.
"For the millionth time Jack, I've always had it! Why is that so important? It's just as old watch!"
"It's not, it's a fob watch!" Jack exclaimed.
"I know Jack," Ianto said, rolling his eyes.
"Ianto, do you know what a Time Lord is?" Jack asked carefully.
"A Lord of Time I presume?"
"Exactly. Their aliens, well, they travel through time, an ancient race," Jack explained.
"And what does that have to do with me?"
"Just listen. You know how I've told you I have a friend, the Doctor? He's a time lord, he travels through time, and I've travelled with him a little."
"That's where you disappeared to, after the Rift open right? Because the Doctor needed you?" Ianto asked.
"Exactly. See, the thing about time lords is that there is only one left. The entire race was wiped out except for the Doctor. All of them, dead. Well, one other Time Lord survived, but he was killed. So now, it's just the Doctor."
"Jack, you're still not making any sense," Ianto sighed.
"Time Lords, they can hide. If they need to, they can hide as humans, appear to be completely human, memories erased and replaced with ones that correspond to that of a human. They change their entire make up, completely undetectable by any alien technology. You see, the Time Lords, they weren't only the oldest race, they were one of the most advanced. Amazing technology. They could be hidden, for as long as needed," Jack said desperately, his eyes falling onto the watch that Ianto unknowingly clutched in his hands. "All their memories, they powers as a Time Lord, contained within a single fob watch."
Ianto looked at the watch in his hands, brow furrowing as he took in the familiar sight.
"No, that's impossible," Ianto said faintly. "How, how can you know? Maybe it's just a watch Jack. There's no way-"
"The writing is Gallifreyan."
"Gallifreyan. The language of the Time Lords," Jack said softly.
"What does it say?"
"I can't read it. It can't be translated."
"Why do I have this Jack?" Ianto asked, fear creeping into his voice.
"I don't know Ianto. I, I can think of two possibilities," Jack said. "One, you're the Doctor, regenerated into a form that I haven't seen yet. You're hiding from something, and you have been for at least five years."
"And the other option?"
"You're the Master, somehow you survived and you're hiding from the Doctor," Jack explained.
Of course, Ianto had no idea who the Master was, and as Jack explained, told him of The Year That Never Was, he could see the fear increasing on Ianto's face.
"So, how do we know?" Ianto asked finally.
"I, I guess we need to open the watch and we find out."
"But what if I'm the Master?"
Jack looked at Ianto, and he wanted to lie, to tell him everything would be alright, but he couldn't. He couldn't bear to lie. So he avoided the question.
"We'll deal with that if it's an issue."
Ianto glanced up at Jack, and Jack gave him a tense smile.
The rest of the team looked on, stun guns at the ready. Ianto had insisted, saying that if he was the Master, he would rather he not hurt anyone. Jack had felt a surge of like-most-probably-love for the young Welshman. He was so good, that he could almost convince himself that he wasn't the Master. Almost.
"Kiss me Jack," Ianto said suddenly, looking up at the Captain. "This might be my last chance, and-"
Ianto was cut off by Jack's lips pressing urgently against his, his hands clutching his shoulders. He needed this, the only way he could show his like- almost-definitely-love. When he pulled away, Ianto gave him a weak smile before opening the watch.
Jack watched with the rest of the team as a golden light emerged, soft and glowing from the fob watch and was absorbed by Ianto as he let out a gasp.
Ianto's eyes widened and Jack could see the tears forming in them. As the light faded, Ianto was panting, holding onto the table to stat standing.
"Ianto?" Owen asked, slowly approaching him.
"I, I remember her," Ianto whispered raggedly. He looked up at Jack suddenly, his eyes full of tears. "Jack, I remember her."
"Who? Who do you remember?" Gwen asked.
"I'm not them," Ianto continued, ignoring Gwen. "I'm not either of them Jack, I'm me."
"Okay Ianto, you're going to have to explain this to us," Owen said, steering Ianto into a chair. Ianto finally tore his eye from Jack's and sat down, looking around him in awe, as if he was seeing everything for the first time.
"I remember her, my mother," Ianto said, his voice still soft. "She was beautiful. She had blonde hair, it was so curly. And she had the most beautiful smile, I remember her smiling, but she was crying. She said, she told me to stay safe, that she loved me."
As Ianto spoke, the tears fell and Jack felt his heart break for him. Ianto had told him, about being adopted, and how he had always wondered about his biological mother.
Jack approached him, and placed a hand on his shoulder. Ianto looked up, and Jack was taken away by the sight. His blue eyes were incredibly bright, his cheeks pink and the most beautiful expression of wonder on his face.
"Ianto," Jack said carefully. "What did you mean, you're still you?"
"I'm not them Jack! I'm not the Doctor, and I'm not, I'm not the Master," Ianto said, and Jack could feel his shoulders sagging in relief.
"Then who are you?" Owen asked.
"Okay, let's go over it again," Jack said.
"Again?" Ianto sighed.
They were alone. Jack had sent the rest of the team home, after making sure that Ianto was okay. Owen had spent the day running tests on him, running his blood, multiple full body scans, and several scans of his brain. Gwen and Tosh had gone to investigate a false claim of alien activity, and Jack had repeatedly gone over everything Ianto could remember.
"Last time, I promise," Jack said with a charming grin.
"Fine. But after this, you have to buy me dinner."
"Anything you want. So, what do you remember, every detail."
Ianto closed his eyes, a slight smile gracing his face.
"She has golden hair. It's curly, very curly, and I always grab it. It's soft. She laughs a lot, calling me her darling boy. And she smiles, but sometimes her smiles are sad. But they're always beautiful. She's crying, but smiling, and she, she tells me that she loves me," Ianto said, his voice breaking at the end.
"Is that everything?" Jack demanded, leaning forward.
"She told me, 'The watch is very important darling. The watch will help you remember, when it's safe and when you're ready, and the watch will hold my final message to you.'" Ianto said, his eyes flying open.
"That's new," Jack said, already standing up.
They both hurried out of the office, heading straight for the watch that lay on the table.
He opened it, but nothing happened. Carefully, he pressed the button and a light filtered out. It was a hologram, projecting the image of a woman.
"Hello my darling boy," she said, smiling wide. "If you're watching this, it means you remember. I love you so much, and I know you won't ever forgive me for leaving you, but I did it for your safety, you need to believe me. You are a Time Lord, part of an ancient race, and many would try to take you from me if they knew of your existence. And I will not let them hurt you. It breaks my hearts to leave you, but I will do anything to keep you safe my darling boy. Your father, he does not know of you. I love the man dearly, but he is not ready to be a father, not now. I, I know that my time is ending, and that soon I will be gone, and it will take him a long time to heal from that, but when he does, I will make sure he learns of you. He will love you so much, with both his hearts, just as I do. I love you so much my darling boy. Goodbye."
The image faded away and Ianto could hardly catch his breath. His mother. She, she loved him, and she had done this to protect him.
Ianto clutched at Jack, who rubbed the younger man's back, whispering assurances as his lover's world was shattered.