Title: Flame beneath ashes - Chapter 15: All is for the best
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 precious beta reader badly_knitted.

Here is a small epilogue to close this episode. A smutty bonus is planned, but since I've never written anything like that before, it will require some time. (Due to rules, it will be posted only on my LJ page, but you'll be informed as soon as it is available.)

I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it. Also a huge thank you to everyone who has been so kind to review this fic and to those who have added me to their favorite author list and story alerts. It means a lot to me. I would never have imagined such a fantastic reception.

I'm currently working on three other projects for Torchwood (two non-alien crossovers with Doctor Who and the next episode of the Flame beneath Ashes series). I don't know which one will be finished first, but it will be posted as soon as it's complete.

To sandysan2013: Oh yes, and he's back for good. :D

Chapter 15: All is for the best

Leaning against the railing of the gallery, Ianto watched the main area and smiled with contentment.

After he had come back from his check up with Owen and the good doctor had confirmed to Jack that he wasn't suffering any aftereffects from his ordeal, they had all talked lengthily about his new position in the team.

Since Ianto had appeared to have regained most of his knowledge and memories, in addition to his acquired skills as a fireman, it had been reckoned that confining him to his previous role of 'butler' would only prove to be complete nonsense.

As a result, they decided that, after a short period of retraining, he would spend half of his time in the field and the other half working with Owen, until he fulfilled all the conditions to become a full time field agent as well as the team's second medic.

Gwen and Tosh had also decreed that he needed to have a workspace worthy of the name and not what they had described as a broom closet. They had therefore undertaken to set up a new workstation without further delay. He had offered his help, which they had gently but firmly turned down, insisting that it would be their welcome present.

Owen had also offered to help, but had soon been called to the vaults for a little chat with Alice, their latest resident who was showing herself to be less than thrilled by her new accommodations.

Unable to remain idle, Ianto had finally taken it upon himself to clear the main area of all beer bottles, pizza boxes and take away packaging cluttering it, in addition to some stuff he'd preferred not to identify. After that, he had organized the transfer of his houseboat from London and started to set up a cover story to explain his sudden 'change of career'. The concept looked rather appealing and he made a mental note to talk to Jack about it when the opportunity arose.

He would also have to pay a visit to the nearest store and buy one month's supply of cheap decaf. What he had found when he had ventured into the archives hadn't pleased him. Not in the least. The only words that came to his mind were'criminal negligence' and if nothing else, the current state of them had only served to confirm his co-workers' complete lack of competence as regards filing and cleaning.

Though he had graciously agreed to keep making coffee and doing most of the cleaning, things would have to change. They would have to make the effort to tidy and clean up their own mess. He wasn't their odd-job man anymore and had no intention of being so again.

He felt a presence sneaking up on him, but didn't turn around. He had already recognized the unmistakable and intoxicating scent of the 51st century pheromones which Jack told him about when they first met.

"How do you feel?" asked Jack. He brushed past Ianto and came to lean on the railing beside him.

Ianto noncommittally shrugged, trying his best to ignore the warm sensation that spread through him whenever he was physically close to the other man.

"Besides a slight headache, I'm rather fine."

"Good. Good," nodded Jack.

Silence fell between them. Jack's eyes ran over the now tidy main area, where Gwen and Tosh were working whilst chatting in low voices.

"I missed this," he said quietly.

Ianto smirked.

"It only needed a good sweep."

Jack half turned to face him and look him straight in the eye.

"I wasn't talking about housekeeping."

Ianto's features softened and he returned Jack's gaze with the same intensity.

"Me neither."

Jack sighed and leant back against the railing. He felt at a loss. Things should have been easy now between them. Except that they were not. They had kissed. Then Ianto had told him that he wanted to go out on a date with him. Yet, Jack didn't know where he stood. Did that mean that he had to take things slow and go back to the start? Did Ianto expect him to… court him? He had barely managed to get used to the 'new' Ianto he had met two weeks ago and now he was facing yet another man and a new mystery. The last thing he wanted was to make a wrong move and ruin his chances.

As if sensing his inner turmoil, Ianto decided to take the first step.

"If you're interested ... I found your stopwatch in one of the drawers of the Tourist Office," he informed Jack whilst removing it from his pocket. "It seems to be in perfect working order."

"So?" asked Jack, wondering if it meant what he thought it did. The stopwatch had been one of their fetishes at the time, but…

Ianto shrugged and cocked an eyebrow.

"Well, think about it. Lots of things you can do with a stopwatch."

Jack grinned widely, a sudden wave of heat going through his body at the sight of the sparkling in Ianto's eyes. Oh yeah, it definitely meant what he thought. He decided to play along.

"Oh, yeah. I can think of a few."

Ianto nodded, his face remaining serious and detached whilst the light in his eyes told a very different story.

"There's quite a list."

Jack pushed himself from the railing and locked eyes with Ianto, his face only an inch from Ianto's, his breath ghosting over the young man's lips.

"I'll send the others home early. See you in my office in ten."

Ianto tilted his head on one side.

"That's ten minutes ..."

He started the stopwatch and waggled his eyebrows, a mischievous smile blossoming on his lips.

"... and counting."

Jack smiled in turn and walked away, but as he reached the stairs, Ianto's voice stopped him dead in his tracks.


He spun around. The sparkle had left Ianto's eyes and Jack's smile faltered. Could Ianto have changed his mind so quickly?

"Yes?" He swallowed hard and waited.

The young man pressed his lips together and took a deep breath.

"Jack. Before we go any further, you have to understand that… I'm no longer the cute boy you fancied." He lowered his eyes and stared at the floor. His hand spontaneously came up to rub his right shoulder. "I... I have those scars and... you know, I…"

Jack let out a breath he didn't even know he was holding and ran a hand through his hair. Returning to Ianto in a few long strides, he took the young man's face in his hands and forced him to meet his gaze.

"Ianto, listen to me, because I won't repeat myself." His voice was firm and calm as if he was talking to a child. "I don't care about your scars. You should know by now that looks don't matter to me. You've heard Owen's stories about my sex life. Damn, I once dated a girl who had scales!"

Ianto couldn't help a quickly stifled laugh.

"I know, I know," he whispered. "It's just that you are so… perfect."

It was Jack's turn to let out a burst of laughter.

"I'm far from perfect, trust me. I'm almost certainly the most imperfect person in this world… and some others too."

Ianto rolled his eyes.

"I meant physically perfect. I don't harbour any illusions about your personality, don't worry."

Jack's thumb stroked his cheek whilst the older man spoke again.

"You may not be able see them, but I also carry my own scars, inside. And believe me, they are far more terrible than yours. Maybe in time, we'll learn to show them to each other." He paused and took a deep breath. "I want to be with you, Ianto Jones and a few scars won't be enough to change that, okay?"

Ianto nodded slowly, not fully trusting his voice.

Jack's gaze danced back and forth between Ianto's eyes and lips, before he released his face and gave him an encouraging smile.

"See you in ten?"

Ianto returned the smile tentatively.

"Actually, I think it's closer to nine, by now."

Jack groaned and ran off. Ianto let out a chuckle and turned round.

Watching Jack hurrying to talk to Gwen and Tosh, he wondered what could have been his life if he hadn't asked for Retcon that fateful night. Would Jack and he have found the strength to resolve their issues and get back together, or would they have eventually split up? How much different would his life have been? Would he have been happy after all or would he have sunk even deeper into depression until he finally reached the point of no return?

Everything that happens to you has a reason to.

The words of his grandmother echoed through his mind and shook him out of his musings.

His hand tightened around the stopwatch. No matter what could have happened, the most important thing was that he was now back where he belonged and had Jack by his side. As far as he was concerned and to paraphrase the French philosopher Voltaire: all was for the best in the better of the worlds.

End of the episode 1.