Characters: Ianto, Jack, Eleventh Doctor, Amy Pond.
Spoilers: CoE, House of the Dead.
Summary: On a distant space station, Jack and Ianto have a very unexpected encounter.
Word Count: 3380
Written For: Challenge 127: Space at beattheblackdog.
Disclaimer: I don’t own Torchwood, or the characters.
A/N: Set in my ‘Through Time And Space’ ‘Verse.
Space was vast, and time was near enough endless, especially for two immortals who didn’t have to worry too much about dying. When they promised to love each other forever they meant it literally; for the rest of time, and maybe even beyond, because there was no way of knowing what, if anything, existed beyond the end of everything they knew.
The end of the universe they lived in was still uncounted millennia away though, and they’d only been together in their immortality for a thousand years, give or take a few decades. Time travel had a way of messing with even Ianto’s finely tuned sense of the passage of time; he’d long since lost track. A week now, a few days then, a month in the future on another planet, six weeks in the mid twentieth century… It all mounted up. Their TARDIS could no doubt tell them exactly how long it had been since they’d found each other again, right down to the last nanosecond, but it wasn’t important and so they never bothered to ask.
Space was another matter entirely. Ianto and Jack didn’t have infinite memories, just better than most people, and even most alien races, could boast. This was partly because the vortex energy that swarmed through their bodies constantly renewed them, replacing damaged cells with healthy ones, and partly because their long lives combined with the continuous production of new brain cells allowed them to use a larger percentage of their brains than any other human was ever likely to. In a way, they were experiencing their own evolution.
It didn’t mean they could remember everywhere they’d been or everything they’d done, no brain was big enough for that; a lot could happen in a thousand years, but the major events remained clear in their minds, and Ianto wrote down their most interesting adventures in his journals. He’d filled quite a few volumes already. Strictly speaking, it wasn’t necessary; the TARDIS, being organic technology, never forgot anything and could share her memories with Jack and Ianto whenever they wanted, but Ianto enjoyed the act of writing; it had always relaxed him and helped him to organise his thoughts, even before he became immortal. Besides, some events were important enough that he sort of felt it was his duty to record them for posterity. Someday, somebody else might want to read up on them.
Take today’s events, for instance…
In space, day and night were somewhat arbitrary, particularly for people who didn’t need all that much sleep. Most of the time Ianto and Jack only slept when they felt tired, but when they were planetside, or aboard a spaceship or space station, they tended to fall into whatever kind of schedule was the norm, mostly for the sake of convenience. There was little point in trying to explore their environment when businesses were closed, and most of the people were asleep.
Their TARDIS had parked aboard Sessulus Station during its night mode, finding herself an out of the way corner where she’d disguised herself as an ordinary looking door bearing a sign that read, in Galactic Standard, ‘Authorised Personnel Only’. The station kept to a strict thirty-two-hour day, the same as the planet it was in orbit around, although it was divided into a ten-hour night and two eleven-hour day shifts. That allowed those who lived on the planet but worked on the station plenty of time to commute back and forth. Living quarters on board were mostly reserved for visitors and for customs and security personnel, who did six-month long tours of duty on the station followed by four months planetside.
Jack and Ianto had stopped by to do some shopping at the markets there. While Sessulus was one of the smaller space stations in that sector of space, it attracted a lot of independent traders thanks to its lower than average docking fees and the fact that they could easily rent a stall in the adjacent Dockside Market for a percentage of their profits rather than having to shell out a flat fee in advance. It meant that if they didn’t sell much, they didn’t wind up making a loss, which could be a big deal for an independent.
Because it drew traders from every sector of space, the market was a great place to browse for unusual items, and also to pick up gossip from far and wide. Being in the business of righting wrongs wherever they found them, as well as lending assistance during natural disasters, it made sense for the two immortals to keep their ears open and their eyes peeled for whoever might need their help next.
What they hadn’t anticipated, because it practically never happened this far out in space, not to mention almost a million years into the future from Ianto’s own time, was that they’d run into someone they knew.
Unlike their own TARDIS, the blue police box looked very out of place squatting at the edge of the market, although thanks to its perception filter technology, nobody was giving it so much as a passing glance. The door was closed but swung open invitingly as they approached, and they didn’t ignore the invitation.
Despite Jack still being angry with the Doctor for not being there to help when the 456 came to earth, he didn’t hold the TARDIS herself to blame. The Doctor’s tenth incarnation had been, and perhaps still was, wilful and stubborn, arrogant enough to believe he knew it all and had no need to listen to his sentient spacecraft. Jack and Ianto sensed her apology as soon as they stepped inside, and Jack did his best to reassure her. He also sensed her curiosity about the other TARDIS whose presence in his and Ianto’s minds was unmistakeable.
“It’s about time we got to introduce you to your daughter,” he told her. “I think you’ll be proud of her.” The delight of the two TARDISes filled both their minds, and for several minutes all they could do was stand there while a bizarre reunion took place inside their heads, the two sentient spaceships communicating through them at a speed too fast for the human mind to follow. It left both men feeling more than a little disoriented and they fervently hoped the TARDISes wouldn’t communicate like that too often.
Once they were mostly alone in their own heads again, they were informed that the Doctor and his current companion were out exploring the station, which made sense, otherwise the Time Lord would have immediately registered their presence aboard his ship.
“What d’you want to do?” Ianto asked. “Do you even want to see him?”
“I’m not sure,” Jack admitted. “It’s been a long time, and I probably should have moved past it by now, but it still hurts. He wasn’t there to help when he was needed, and even when I saw him briefly afterwards, all he did was casually throw Alonso my way like some kind of consolation prize. Did he really think that would make up for everything I lost?”
“I couldn’t say, you’d have to ask him that. It turned out well though, didn’t it?” Ianto reminded him. Jack had needed a friend back then, someone he could confide in, and Alonso had fit the bill perfectly.
“You’re right, I liked Alonso, and it was good to have company.” Jack sighed heavily. “I don’t know, maybe it is time to clear the air; I can’t keep putting it off forever and at least now I’m not likely to punch his lights out the moment I see him. Probably.”
Ianto smiled faintly. “I’m not sure I’d try to stop you if you did. So do we go out and look for him or wait here for him to find us?”
Jack thought that over. “If we go looking at least we’d be doing something instead of just sitting here twiddling our thumbs, but then we’d risk missing him in the crowds. He could return here and leave while we’re out there and then it might be hundreds of years before we run into him again.”
Ianto nodded. “That’s true.”
“On the other hand, he’s bound to come back here eventually, there’s just no way of knowing when. It could be days.” He shrugged. “I suppose we should wait, for a while at least. We can always try looking for him later on if he doesn’t show up.” Walking over to the wall, Jack sat down, leaning against it, feeling a gentle warmth soaking into his back. Ianto settled beside him, taking Jack’s hand and squeezing it while the TARDIS sang soothingly in their minds.
The wait might have been boring if not for the fact that the TARDIS was being unusually chatty. She didn’t speak to them the way their TARDIS did, in words, but she showed them things on her screens, mostly images of the places she’d been and the wonderful things she’d seen.
Thankfully, they only had to wait a few hours before the Doctor returned. The door swung open to admit a tall, gangly man with floppy hair, and a young red-haired woman. That took both Jack and Ianto a bit by surprise; clearly the Doctor had regenerated since the last time Jack had seen him.
If anything, the Doctor was even more surprised than Jack was, stopping in his tracks so suddenly that his companion walked into his back and almost knocked him over.
“Hi, Doc.” Jack waved from where he was sitting against the wall with Ianto beside him.
“The one and only! You remember Ianto Jones, don’t you?”
“Yes. Yes, of course, nice to see you again, Mr. Jones. What brings you here? You’re rather a long way from home, aren’t you?”
“From earth, yes, but not so far from home.” Ianto gave a polite smile, rising to his feet and offering his hand. “That’s a new look for you.”
“Very new; I’m still getting used to the legs. And the hair. It’s a bit…” The Doctor waved his hand at it. “Mind of its own.” A bit belatedly he accepted Ianto’s hand, and his eyes went wide. “Oh! That’s… I wasn’t expecting…” He looked past Ianto with a frown. “Jack? What did you do?”
“He didn’t do anything, or not on purpose,” Ianto cut in before Jack could reply. “I died. Did you know that? When the 456 showed up demanding ten percent of the earth’s children, I died trying to stop them. Then a being named Syriath remade me and tried to use me to stop Jack from closing the Cardiff Rift. But I closed it for him, because I couldn’t stand the thought of him being trapped in limbo for eternity. I died again and then I woke up… like this.”
The Doctor blinked at him. “Immortal?”
“Yep! It was quite a shock at first, but I got over it. Of course, then I had to spend years trying to track Jack down because he left earth after I died. He blamed himself for my death and all the other terrible things that happened because you weren’t there to help.”
“There was nothing left for me to stay for,” Jack said, coming to stand beside his husband. “Why didn’t you come, Doctor? I thought you cared about earth, about humans. We needed you but you never came. Was it because of me? Did you decide I wasn’t worth helping because I’m immortal? Because I’m wrong?”
The Doctor sighed and shook his head. “I’m sorry, Jack; I should never have called you that. My last regeneration was… rather lacking in tolerance.”
“I would have said judgemental,” Ianto stated.
“That too,” the Doctor agreed.
“So is that why?” Jack asked again. “I think I deserve to know. Do you have any idea how many people died? Do you even care? I didn’t just lose Ianto; I had to sacrifice my own grandson to save the children of earth because the government just wanted to hand over thousands of them to a race of aliens who wanted to use them as drugs to get high on! You could have stopped them, sent them away and made sure they never returned!”
“But you didn’t need my help! Torchwood should have been able to handle that threat easily!” the Doctor exclaimed.
“How? What could three people possibly have done? We weren’t even given the chance to try! The government sent a kill squad to take us out so we wouldn’t interfere. They destroyed our base, blew me up with it, then encased me in concrete as I started to revive. Ianto had to stage a rescue! We spent days on the run, trying to stay alive!”
The Doctor was shaking his head in denial. “No! Torchwood were the heroes! You stopped the 456 and afterwards the whole world knew! The Torchwood Institute was expanded, took charge of first contact situations, paved the way for humans to take their place in the wider universe!”
“That’s not what happened!” Jack snapped. “Parents died trying to protect their children, my daughter lost her only son and she’ll never forgive me. Ianto died, and Torchwood is destroyed. It will never be rebuilt, never be there now to protect earth and guide humanity in the right direction.”
The Doctor was stunned. “I don’t know what to say; I had no idea…”
“Maybe if you’d been there to keep an eye on things, you might have kept events on their proper track.” Ianto sounded more resigned than angry. What was the point in anger now?
“The two of you can go back, rebuild Torchwood…” the Doctor started.
“I can’t,” Ianto said quietly. “Even if I hadn’t died, the two explosions on top of the Rift created a time-space bubble. I can’t return to earth before 2121.”
“Well then, Jack, you could…”
“No. I have a life with Ianto and we’re happy; no way am I going to leave him for years, possibly even decades, to fix what you allowed to go wrong.”
“But I have a time machine; I can take you back to earth, you can take as long as you need to straighten things out, and I can have you back in less than a day. Ianto will hardly notice you’re gone!”
“I’ll notice,” Jack said stonily. “Or do my feelings still mean nothing to you? Find another way, Doc. I’m tired of having you show up only to use me as canon fodder, like I don’t matter because I’m immortal. Besides, if I went back I’d probably be shot on sight. I doubt that Torchwood is exactly in favour back on earth.”
The Doctor deflated, shoulders drooping. “I don’t know that there is any way other than recreating Torchwood,” he admitted.
Ianto hesitated briefly, then, “Couldn’t you go back in time and prevent things from going wrong in the first place?”
“Ianto! No!” Jack was horrified at the very idea. “It would undo everything! You wouldn’t be immortal, the Rift would still be open, we wouldn’t have our TARDIS…”
“Wait! You have a TARDIS?” The Doctor’s eyes practically popped out of his head at that revelation.
“The explosion that destroyed the Hub sent a piece of TARDIS coral Jack had sitting on his desk into the void. She grew up there and rescued me after I got thrown into the void when the Rift was closed,” Ianto said.
The Doctor’s companion had been keeping back, out of the way, not understanding most of what was being said, but she spoke up now. “There’s another TARDIS?”
Ianto nodded. “The daughter of this one. I’m sorry, where are my manners? Ianto Jones.” He offered the young woman his hand. “This is my husband, Jack Harkness.”
“Amy Pond.” Amy shook hands with Ianto, then Jack. “And you’re both immortal?”
“I got exterminated by a Dalek and one of the Doctor’s previous companions brought me back to life,” Jack explained. “Only she made a mistake and brought me back forever, so now I can still be killed, I just don’t stay dead.”
“It was, for a long time, but not now I have Ianto to spend eternity with.”
“I came by my immortality a bit differently,” Ianto told Amy, “but it amounts to the same thing. I come back to life every time I die the same way Jack does. It took a bit of getting used to.”
“We’re getting a little off topic, aren’t we?” The Doctor looked from Ianto to Jack and back again. “You have a TARDIS?”
Ianto fixed his gaze on the Doctor, who took a half step backwards. “You’d better not even think of trying to take her away from us.”
“No, no, of course not! I couldn’t even if I wanted to. Which I don’t,” he added hurriedly. “I was just… surprised.” He shook his head. “It wouldn’t work anyway, not with the time-space bubble Mr. Jones mentioned. My previous self really did mess things up, didn’t he? I can’t tell you how sorry I am, Jack. For everything. Without Torchwood, the future of the entire human race could go off course.”
“Then Torchwood must be rebuilt,” Ianto said quietly. “Just not by us. Look, before beginning my search for Jack I talked to Her Majesty from orbit and suggested setting up a team to police the Rift until it was closed.” He glanced at Jack with a small smile. “Couldn’t leave it spitting out tech and who knows what for six months.” Turning back to the Doctor, he continued, “I suggested putting Martha in charge, perhaps with Mickey Smith lending a hand. Seems to me that would be a good starting point for a new version of Torchwood. If you were to take Jack back to London around the time of the Rift closing…”
“Now wait a minute!” Jack cut his husband off.
“Only for a day or two, Jack, to talk to Lizzie. I know she’d be pleased to see you. Torchwood’s resurrection will need her authorisation and you’ll have to make funds available, all the savings and investments you squirreled away over your years on earth. It’s not as if we need all that money now. You should talk to Martha as well, see if she’d be willing to run the new Torchwood, recruit some more people.”
“But…” Jack still wasn’t happy.
“I can’t land on earth, but I can join in discussions from orbit in our TARDIS. It should only take a few days to get the ball rolling.”
“Yes! Brilliant!” Ianto half expected the Doctor to start jumping up and down, but he just grabbed Ianto’s hand in both of his. “You are amazing, Ianto Jones!”
“I already knew that,” Jack said smugly.
Ianto rolled his eyes. “That’s settled then. Doctor, you’ll take Jack in your TARDIS to Buckingham Palace… say a couple of weeks before his earlier self leaves earth. That way you won’t run into him. Meanwhile our TARDIS will get as close to the planet as the time-space bubble allows. You two should probably pick Martha up on the way. Then we’ll set up a communications link and all of us, Her Majesty included, can iron out the details. Afterwards Jack can make periodic visits to New Torchwood to make sure things are running smoothly, and in a little over a century we’ll both be able to visit, as advisors.”
Jack nodded his slightly grudging acceptance of the plan. “Alright, I guess that could work.”
“Good, now we’re agreed, why don’t we all go out to dinner? We can hash out the details later before we make our trip back to 2008 in a few days, make sure we all know exactly what needs doing.” Time machines did simplify matters.
Much later, with Jack already asleep in their bed, Ianto sat in his favourite armchair and wrote up everything that had happened that day, knowing it marked the beginning of one of the most eventful periods in his and Jack’s lives. They’d helped so many people on so many different worlds, but now they needed to help set things right on the planet of his birth and ensure the future of humanity. Torchwood would rise again, and this time nothing and no one would tear it down.