Dean felt like hammered crap. These days he always felt like hammered crap, so the fact that he noticed it was kinda impressive.
He ran a hand down his face. "This is ridiculous," he groaned. "How the hell are we supposed to get to Scotland by tomorrow afternoon? Aren't we legally dead? They don't give dead guys passports and we don't have time to forge one."
"Getting them legally would take a lot longer," Sam pointed out.
Great. Just great. They stared awkwardly at each other for a few minutes.
"So," Sam asked, "got any bright ideas?"
Dean sighed. "Not unless one of your new hunter buddies can whip a passport out of thin air."
Sam's face lit up. "Wait, what?" Dean asked. "You actually know a hunter with those kind of connections?"
"Not a hunter," Sam explained, already whipping out his phone and dialing. "Old roommate. There was this guy I roomed with in Stanford for a semester who's from Wales. He might be able to help."
Before Dean could protest about how insane it was that some guy Sam knew from college would be on board with the whole dig-up-the-king-of-hell's-bones plan, the mysterious roommate answered.
"Hey," Sam said, "It's...uh, yeah. How did you know? It's been ages...uh huh. Wait...A what?...Yeah, I heard you the first time. I just always thought it was a species, not a job description...I see. So, anyway, think you can get me and my brother passports by, like, now...well, there's this whole thing going on with Hell...one L...and we need to find a grave in Scotland, and I figured you could help...Red Oaks Motel. Kenosha, Washington. Room 456...yeah, see you soon. Bye."
Sam turned to Dean. "He's on his way."
"Yeah, I got that. Who is 'he'?"
There was a knock at the door. Dean pulled his gun out, but Sam opened it without any sort of precautions whatsoever.
Standing in the doorway was a youngish man, maybe mid-twenties with black hair and a very professional smile on his face. He was wearing an impeccable pin-striped suit and perfectly straight red tie, which really worried Dean because the only people Dean knew who wore suits ever where like that were angels and demons.
"And Reapers," the man said politely, crossing the threshold. He held out his hand to Dean. "but I've always preferred suits. Ianto Jones," he introduced. "Part-time Reaper and yes, I can read your mind."
"Dean Winchester." He shook Ianto's hand.
"Pleasure." Ianto flicked his hand like a magician and two small blue booklets appeared in his upturned palm. "Passports for Sam and Dean Winchester, as requested."
"Great, thanks," Sam said excitedly. "We can take it from here."
Ianto smiled. "Or you could take the private plane. I was just on my way to the airport when I got your call. You might as well come along."
"You have a private plane?" Dean asked incredulously.
Ianto looked a bit nervous. "Well, it's not technically mine, but the Queen's not using it right now. I'm sure she won't miss it."
"Who are you anyway?" Dean asked, more impressed than suspicious now.
"Part-time alien hunter, part-time Reaper," Ianto didn't really explain. "I'm mostly just helping out an old friend-" he nodded at Sam, "-and screwing over the Hell. Anyway, shall we go? I left the car running."
After a brief wordless conversation with Sam, Dean decided to roll with out, at least for the moment. As they were walking out to the borrowed car (more of a small limo than a car, but Dean wasn't complaining), Ianto's phone rang. He glanced at the caller ID.
"Sorry," he said. "Just a moment." He answered the phone with a grin. "Hello, dear...Yep. Just got off work...America, Washington State...Of course, dear. I just had to pick up some old friends of mine...Heard of them, maybe. I don't think you've met...Sam and Dean Winchester...Yes...The Sam and Dean Winchester...Yes, dear, if they've got time... I'll call you when I get there. Don't want you getting overexcited... yes...Love you too. Bye."
"Who was that?" Sam asked.
"Jack," Ianto replied, popping open the spacious trunk.
"Your boyfriend?" Dean asked.
"Husband," Ianto corrected with a smile. "We've been married almost a year now."
"Congratulations," Dean said, throwing his weapons bag in the trunk.
"Isn't that illegal?" Sam asked, which Dean was kinda wondering himself, but he at least had enough tact not to just ask.
"Yes," Ianto replied bluntly closing the trunk.
"How'd you manage it then?" Dean asked.
Ianto shrugged. "Well, you see, I've been legally dead since July of last year, Jack's never legally existed on Earth in the first place, we're part of a secret government organization that laws don't really apply to anyway, and if worst comes to worst, Jack's oldest is the British Government. Long story. Don't ask."
Dean was starting to like this guy.
Ianto drove very, very responsibly which was kind of irritating, but he did apparently hijack a plane, so Dean found it in his heart to forgive.
"So," Dean asked once they were on their way to the airport, "you're an alien hunter and a Reaper? How does that work, exactly?"
"To make a long story incredibly short," Ianto said, aggressively not taking his eyes off the road, "there's a rift in space and time that runs right through the heart of Cardiff, and sometimes things slip through. I'm part of the team that monitors it. It's called Torchwood, if you want to know."
"How'd you get the job?" Dean asked.
"I seduced the boss in order to hide my girlfriend, who had been partially converted into a hostile cyborg. After she got free and nearly killed us all, Jack was too impressed that I'd managed to con him for a whole year to be really angry. Then I nearly got eaten by cannibals and we've been dating ever since."
"And I thought out lives were weird," Dean said.
"They are," Ianto said evenly. "Mine just happens to be weirder."
"So what about the Reaper part?" Sam asked.
Ianto pursed his lips. "I really shouldn't tell you. There are certain things about my life and Jack's life that are better left unsaid. We all have secrets we need to keep."
Dean couldn't really argue that point, so he quickly change the topic. "Back at the motel, it sounded like Jack knew who we were."
Ianto chuckled to himself. "Ah, yes. I should probably tell you this ahead of time."
"Tell us what?" Sam asked.
"Tell you what I was going to tell you before you interrupted me," Ianto said sharply.
"As I was saying," Ianto continued. "Jack is, or rather was, a time traveller. He was born in 5054, but he's been in our time for quite a while. Around 3100, humanity finally stopped denying the existence of supernatural creatures, which is ridiculous because they'll admit to aliens before this century is out, but there's people for you. Not long after, people naturally became interested in the men and women and other humans who had been keeping them safe all that time. You two will be quite famous, let me tell you. You're tied for second greatest hunters in human history, and quite frankly the way they figure it out is ridiculously biased against you two."
It took Dean a while to process that information. "Who's in first?" he asked eventually.
"Samuel Colt," Ianto replied, "and that's mostly because you use the gun he made so much. Like I said, biased. Anyway, you and Sam are Jack's childhood heroes. The Winchesters, and Captain Kirk."
"Woah, woah, hold up a second. Captain Kirk's real?" Dean asked, because that was so much easier to accept than him and Sam being heroes.
"Not yet," Ianto said, and Dean was starting to get really annoyed by his incessantly calm and even voice. "But he will be."
"Does that mean Gene Rodenberry's a prophet?" Sam asked.
"Intertemporal psychic," Ianto corrected. "Jules Verne was too. Prophets deal strictly with God's words, and are actually much more common. Also, intertemporal psychics are much more prone to taking advantage of artistic license."
They were almost to the airport now, and it was only then that it started to sink in that pretty damn soon Dean was going to be on an eight hour flight over a fucking ocean. The last time he'd been on a plane, he'd nearly fucking died.
"Don't worry," Ianto said as he parked the car. "Even if we do crash, Death's busy right now so it's not even possible for you to die. The pilot'll be screwed, but the rest of us should be just fine. Well, horrifically injured, but alive."
Sam snorted. "That was mean."
"Was it?" Ianto asked.
"Yeah," Dean said hoarsely.
Ianto blushed. "Sorry. It's hard to keep human stuff straight sometimes."
Dean accepted the apology and also his slowly rising panic, because there wasn't a whole lot he could do about that.
If he survived this harrowing plane journey, he was gonna rip Crowley to shreds.
Getting through Customs was...interesting. The private plane was still at a public airport, so they had to get through security the normal way. The TSA didn't have any problems with the passports. The hidden weapons were a different story. Finally, Ianto showed a blank piece of paper to whichever high powered something or other had shown up to make them miserable, and the security guys backed off. Dean really needed to get his hands on his own psychic paper. It'd save him a hell of a lot of trouble.
The plane was tiny and didn't look anything even close to flight worthy. The pilot was drinking and obviously had a bad arm. It was almost midnight and almost pitch black out. The radar was malfunctioning.
"You probably won't die," Sam said reassuringly. Strangely enough, it didn't help.
"Don't be rude," Ianto admonished calmly. "This is a state-of-the-art plane. It's one of the best in the entire world. It just looks like this so people don't try to steal it." He turned to the pilot. "We're cleared for takeoff."
The pilot ignored him.
"James!" Ianto shouted, snapping his fingers in the pilots' face. The pilot jolted forward. "Get her in the air."
The flight was awful, even by Dean's standards. Despite Ianto's reassurances, the flight was about as safe as the plane looked.
To make matters worse, Ianto pulled out his phone and called Jack about halfway through the flight and Dean was pretty sure you weren't supposed to do that because that made planes crash or something. And then Sam took that as his cue to pull out his own phone and start doing god-knows-what-and-doesn't-actually-care-because-h e's-a-dick-like-that.
And then the phone conversation turned into phone sex.
Needless to say, Dean wasn't planning on flying Part-Time-Reaper Air again anytime soon. He honestly couldn't decide if he preferred Hell or the plane.
"Shouldn't you guys have a private airstrip or something?" Dean asked when they landed at a public airport.
"That's what I've been saying," Ianto replied. "Sadly, we only have so much power."
When they got to baggage claim, where Ianto had said they were meeting up with their ride, they were greeted by a tall, excessively pretty man in a blue greatcoat. So this was Ianto's husband.
"Captain Jack Harkness," the man introduced himself, shooting Dean a smile that was both childishly excited and incredibly sex-laden. "And who are you?"
"Dean Winchester," Dean replied, hoping Cas wasn't watching. Angel tended to get jealous. It wasn't pretty.
After introducing himself to Sam, who took it in stride, Jack attached himself to Ianto's face for almost a full minute. When the shrieks of various surrounding homophobes reached ear-splitting volumes, the two finally broke apart. A few security officers tired to makes some sort of protest about disturbing the peace, but Jack flashed a badge at them, and they shut up.
There was a brief discussion when they reached the parking lot, and everyone decided the best course of action would be to head back to Torchwood headquarters for the night and decided what to do from there in the morning.
As they were driving, Dean's phone rang. The caller ID said Malcolm Wallace.
"Hey Bobby," he said. "How're things on your end?"
"I've got everything I need," Bobby said. "What about you and Sam? You boys over the Atlantic yet?"
"Just landed," Dean said. "Thank God it's over. We'll get to the grave sometime tomorrow. Just give us a holler when you're ready."
"Sure thing," Bobby said and hung up.
"So, what brings you two to this side of the pond?" Jack asked, taking a corner at a potentially lethal speed. "Ianto mentioned something about a grave in Scotland?"
"Yeah," Sam said. "Ever heard of a demon named Crowley?"
"Crowley. Hmm. Isn't he King of Hell now?" Jack asked.
"That's the one. A friend of ours sort of pawned his soul for a spell to find Death, but now the Apocalypse is over and Crowley's refusing to give it back, so we're going to find his grave and hold his bones hostage for Bobby's soul."
Jack blinked. "And I thought our lives were weird."
"So how do you know Crowley?" Dean asked.
"We have a...mutual acquaintance. I've never met him personally, but out acquaintance isn't very fond of him. Hell's pretty deeply in debt to her and he's refusing to pay because he says it's Azazel's fault, which it is, but hardly an excuse not to pay."
"Do you know where the grave is?" Ianto asked.
"Canisbay, Scotland," Sam said. "His name was Fergus MacLeod when he was human. We don't have anything more specific than that."
"That's alright," Ianto said. "I'm the King of Research."
Sam grinned. "There might be some competition for that title," he said.
"There's only room in Cardiff for one researcher. We'll have to settle this the old way," Ianto deadpanned.
"Naked wrestling?" Jack suggested hopefully.
Ianto glared at him.
Torchwood Headquarters proved to be pretty homey for a super-secret underground base hidden in a pretentious sculpture. In fact, it was a lot better than plenty of the hotels Dean had stayed in over the years. There was only one bed, which would have been the opening scene to a shitty porno, but apparently Jack didn't sleep any more than Sam did these days and Ianto had an apartment nearby.
Dean's nightmares were as bad as normal, but not any worse and he took that as a blessing. He woke up, fully rested, at four in the morning and resolved to talk to Jack. He seemed trustworthy, and that worried Dean more than anything else because he knew he was paranoid and he was trusting Jack and Ianto way too much.
Sam was sitting on the couch below him, cleaning the guns. Jack was nowhere to be found. Sam looked up when Dean approached.
"Jack's on the roof," he said. "Apparently he's up there a lot."
Sure enough, Jack was on the roof of the sculpture, coat billowing around impressively.
"Nice night," Dean greeted.
Jack shrugged, not turning around. "It's alright. I like it better when I can see the stars. Can't really see the stars in any city these days."
Dean hummed in agreement. Jack looked at him out of the corner of his eye.
"You've been to Hell." It wasn't a question.
"Is it that obvious?" Dean asked.
"Takes one to know one."
"You've been to Hell?" Dean asked incredulously.
"Not the Abrahamic death realm, Hell, but it might as well have been."
Dean didn't ask. Asking would lead to a conversation he really didn't want to have.
"So, uh, how'd you become an alien hunter?" he asked.
Jack smile sadly at some old memory. Dean knew the expression too damn well. He saw it in the mirror often enough.
"I was waiting for someone. A Doctor. He stops by here every now and then. I've got a condition, you see. I thought he could help me. I needed something to pass the time while I waited."
"Did he help you?" Dean asked.
Jack laughed bitterly. "No. Looked me dead in the eye and told me I was a freak, that I was never meant to exist. He's a great guy, really he is, but he has no idea how to say things gently."
"Man," Dean whispered. "That-that sucks."
Jack shrugged. "He wasn't wrong. So what about you? What's your story?"
"Don't you know it all already?" Dean asked.
Jack blushed. "Just trying to make conversation.
They watched the city beneath them for a few long minutes.
"Do you mind if I give you some personal advice?" Jack asked.
"Sure," Dean said cautiously.
"I've been around the block a few times," Jack said, and despite his young face Dean knew he was telling the truth. "I've done some awful things in my day. Hell, most demons downstairs can't even come close to matching what I've done. I've got more regrets than most people have hairs on their head. The first thing you learn when you join the Time Agency, the cardinal rule of time travel, is never, ever change the past. The same thing goes if you've never left your own timeline. Your past is over and done with. The only thing you can do is move forward and learn from your mistakes and most importantly-" he turned to look Dean dead in the eye, "-remember you saved the world."
They didn't talk again after that. At least, they didn't have a proper conversation. Ianto dropped Sam and Dean off in the cemetery and they parted ways. The shock in Crowley's voice when he realized he'd been had was a thing of beauty. They got a commercial flight back because apparently the Queen does get annoyed when people borrow her top secret tech without asking. Dean was unarmed on the flight back, but at least there was no phone sex.
After Dean had reunited with his Baby and they'd checked in to yet another crappy motel, the phone rang. He didn't recognize the caller ID.
"Hello?" he asked warily.
"Look in your bag," Jack said gleefully. "You can't miss it." He hung up.
Inside Dean's bag were three books in the Supernatural series. Annoyed, he flipped the top one open. There was a note inside. It read: Since you have proven yourself utterly oblivious to love, I have taken the liberty of highlighting a few relevant passages. ~Jack
Dean opened up to a random page. A section had been underlined in blue ink. It seemed to be from Cas's point of view. Curious despite himself, he started reading.