Title : Flame beneath ashes - Chapter 1 : Amongst eight million people
Summary : AU. After the events of Countrycide, Ianto was retconned and allowed to start a new life in London. Intervening accidentally in a burning building, it's a very different man Jack meets four years later. But can Ianto really escape his own destiny?

Rating : T
Characters: Ianto Jones, Jack Harkness, Gwen Cooper, Owen Harper, Toshiko Sato, Myfanwy, Original characters.

Pairing : Jack/Ianto, Owen/Tosh, Gwen/Rhys (mentioned), Ianto/Lisa (past)
Genres: Alternate universe/action/romance.
Warnings: Violence, swearing, sexual situation (nothing graphic), character's death (temporary)

Spoilers: Spoilers for seasons 1 and 2. Exit wounds and Children of Earth are only mentioned as incidents and Miracle Day, of course, never happened.
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.

Author's Notes : Special thanks to my wonderful beta reader welsh_scotsman. This story is dedicated to my beloved and missed Uncle Georges who was a devoted volunteer fireman.

Chapter 1 : Amongst eight million people

London, June 8th 2010

Focusing on his surroundings, the first thought that crossed Jack's mind, when he regained consciousness, was that he was in a hospital. The second one was that he had to clear off as soon as possible, before he began to attract attention with his uncanny ability to recover.

He tried to take a deep breath, but it was as if his lungs were full of lead and a faint groan escaped from his throat. He blinked several times to clear his vision and made out a white ceiling stained by dampness over him. He tried to move his hands and feet and was relieved to feel them intact and free.

The sound of an ambulance coming from the outside confirmed his first assumption, but he still hadn't a clue of how he had ended up in it.

With caution, he ran his fingers over his face and felt a cannula carrying oxygen in his nose.

All of a sudden, he remembered.

He had come to London for a UNIT meeting. At the end of the day, he had been going back to his hotel when he had come across a burning building and at least three fire brigades struggling to tame the flames. It had taken him only one minute to understand that the situation was hopeless. The fire was raging and half of the building was about to collapse. The man in charge was obviously too young and overwhelmed by the events. When he had heard that one of the firemen was still on the building, he hadn't hesitated. Without a thought, he had rushed into the building and found the guy limping on the first floor's stairs. He had picked him up over his shoulder and reached the exit with him. The last thing he had seen before losing consciousness had been a bunch of fire fighters screaming and running to meet them.

He took another breath, only to be stuck by a coughing fit and tried to remove the cannula from his nose.

"Wouldn't do that if I was you, " said a voice near him.

Jack froze in disbelief, his heartbeat raising in high speed at the sound of this unmistakable deep voice tinged with a welsh accent. He turned his head slowly, running his eyes over the room.

He was in a two bed room, but the second bed was empty, its occupant leaning against the frame of the open window, his face half turned towards the outside as he blew the smoke of his cigarette. The man was still wearing his outfit of fire fighter and his face was smeared with soot, so Jack guessed he was the one he had come out of the building with earlier.

Despite the back light of the setting sun, he knew only too well who this man was. Even if he'd wanted to, he couldn't have forgotten him. He was the man he had wiped two years of memories, four years ago, in order to save his life. A man he had thought he would never see anymore, though he hadn't been able to forget him. This man was the former Torchwood One and Three's operative Ianto Jones.

He took a few seconds to look at him carefully. Except for a shorter haircut and a three-days stubble, he didn't seem so different from the man he used to know. He looked older of course, more mature, but his blue eyes were still as clear as crystal. The smile on his face was still devastating and Jack felt a rush of desire which he quickly tried to suppress whilst his eyes kept roaming along his muscular chest showed off by his tight black long sleeve tshirt.

Jack swore inwardly.

Amongst eight million people why did it have to be you ?

"The nurses are going to have your head, if you remove it," went on Ianto, letting out one last smoky breath.

"I think they're going to have yours first for smoking in a hospital," replied Jack, finally snapping out of it. He sat up and took off the canule.

Ianto shook his head, stubbed out his cigarette on the window ledge and put the butt back into the packet.

"No risk," he said, closing the window and fully turning his face towards Jack. "I've been around here for a long time. I know all the nurses by their names and all of them have a crush on me."

He moved towards Jack cautiously, hopping and leaning on the wall.

"They're gonna come to check us soon," Ianto informed him.

Sitting on the edge of his bed, he held out his hand to the older man.

"Jones. Ianto Jones."

He stared at Jack, obviously waiting for him to introduce himself. Jack hesitated a moment. He could still give him a false name, but he needed to be sure Ianto didn't remember him.

"Captain Jack Harkness."

Ianto's features didn't show any sign of recollection.

"Nice to meet you Captain Harkness," he replied with a genuine smile.

A shiver run along Jack's spine as they shook hands. You stole my line Ianto Jones.

"Captain? Which army corps?" asked Ianto as he settled against the pillow and lifted his leg with a wince.

"US Air Force actually."

"Oh. Well, it explains the accent. Anyway, thank you Captain Harkness. I owe you one," said Ianto, pointing at his swollen ankle.

"Is it nasty?" asked Jack with concern.

Ianto shook his head and smiled again.

"No. It's just sprained. I got a lot worse. In fact, the most injured of the two of us is you. I have to say that what you did was very stupid, you know. Fire fighters are the ones who save people from fires, not the ones who are saved by civilians."

"I'm not exactly a civilian," replied Jack

"Nevertheless what you did was stupid. Stupid and dangerous. I was wearing my gear whereas you didn't have any equipment. You could have suffocated. You almost did, by the way," went on Ianto sternly.

"Strange way to say 'thank you'," chuckled Jack, shaking his head. Ianto's expression softened.

"Don't misunderstand me, Captain. I'm grateful, really. But just promise me you won't do it again. The next time, you might not be so lucky."

"Cross my heart," swore Jack half joking. You don't know half of the truth about me, Ianto.

"Didn't you have enough smoke earlier ?" teased Jack in order to change the subject, pointing at the packet of cigarettes still on Ianto's hand

Ianto looked slightly embarrassed and cleared his throat, tossing the packet on the beside table.

"Yeah, I know it's a bad habit, but I never succeeded in stopping."

He added with a chuckle, "I suppose I lack motivation."

You did it once, when I asked you to. You just don't remember it. As you don't remember me.

Jack felt his heart sank. He had cared for Ianto, more than he wanted to admit. Letting him go had been very painful. Having done it for Ianto's sake didn't mean it had been easy. But what else could he have done?

Jack sighed inwardly. His mind drifted back to that fateful night after the Brecon Beacons which would stay engraved in his mind forever. When Ianto had almost died. For the second time.

Jack closed his eyes and let the past surface.

To be continued