Characters/Pairings: Jack/Ianto, Gwen/Rhys, Team
Word Count: 2200
Summary: Four times Jack deserted Ianto, and one time he didn’t.
Spoilers: End Of Days/Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Exit Wounds, The Stolen Earth/Journey’s End, CoE but with an AU twist or several.
Warnings: Canon character death briefly touched on (Exit Wounds, CoE). Canon and non-canon temporary character death mentioned (CoE Days 1 and 4).
Written For: My cottoncandy_bingo square Desert.
Beta: Thanks to the lovely timelordshines, who went over three drafts of this, helping me to fluff it up enough for the bingo.
Disclaimer: I don’t own Torchwood or any of the characters. Which is sad.
A/N: The second bingo fic I wrote. It took a while to whip it into shape.
The first time Jack deserted Ianto was when he ran off with the Doctor, throwing the whole team into chaos.
Left leaderless, they’d been like a boat without a rudder for the first few weeks, hopelessly adrift and trying desperately to keep the good ship Torchwood afloat.
If Ianto was quieter than usual, more withdrawn, no one noticed, not even Tosh who considered him her best friend. They were all too busy dealing with their own sense of abandonment to pay much attention to anyone else.
Ianto just kept going, doing his own job while taking on the lion’s share of Jack’s. He dealt with the day-to-day running of the Hub, kept the residents – including the team – fed and watered, mediated arguments over who should be leader and ensured everyone got paid on time. None of the team seemed aware that while they were trying to decide who should run things in Jack’s absence, Ianto had quietly and efficiently taken charge. He delegated tasks where necessary, but did it so unobtrusively that everyone thought they’d made the decisions themselves.
So Torchwood stayed afloat and everyone had their own version of events to regale Jack with when he returned, which he finally did three months later, to a less than enthusiastic welcome.
The second time Jack deserted Ianto was far worse, even though Ianto knew he’d really had no choice. The Doctor needed the help of his friends to save the world, so Jack had gone, taking Torchwood’s only effective weapon with him. Ianto and Gwen were left alone to face the Daleks, essentially unarmed since nothing remaining in the weapons locker would have had any effect on the armoured aliens.
Although Jack said goodbye this time and promised he’d be back, Ianto seriously doubted he’d still be alive to greet his lover on his return. The odds were stacked against them and he spared a moment to wonder what would become of Jack if, as seemed inevitable, he lost the last two members of the team he’d created. Would he rebuild Torchwood or simply leave earth for good? And if he did leave, would the Doctor stand by him or abandon him the way he had before? Ianto hated to think of Jack facing eternity alone.
As luck would have it, Tosh’s time bubble defence kicked in just in time to save Ianto and Gwen from certain death, and he said a silent thank you to the friend he still missed so much. Ianto wondered if she was his guardian angel now, watching out for him even from beyond the grave.
When Jack finally made it back to the Hub, he received a much warmer welcome home than he had the first time.
Racing down the stairs and through the cog door, nearly frantic with worry for his team, he was relieved to see that his fears were unfounded; Ianto and Gwen looked dusty and tired, but they were unhurt and their faces lit up at the sight of him. After giving Jack a quick hug and a peck on the cheek, Gwen headed home to her husband, leaving her boss and his lover alone.
“Yes you are, and a very welcome sight you are too.” Ianto walked towards Jack, smiling wearily. “Sorry about the mess,” he added wryly, “we had an unexpected visitor.” He gestured towards the wreckage of the Dalek as he stopped in front of Jack, reaching up to cup his cheek gently before kissing him softly on the lips. “Welcome home, Jack, it’s good to have you back.” Closing his eyes, he rested his forehead against Jack’s with a sigh. “Don’t know about you, but I’m about done in. I need a shower, something to eat and a good night’s sleep. What do you say we skip the cleanup for now, head over to my place and take the rest of the night off? I’ll even let you cook if you’re good,” he teased.
Smiling, Jack pulled Ianto into a tight embrace and Ianto felt him relax.
The third time Jack deserted Ianto, he slipped out without anyone noticing, leaving his ragtag team behind in the warehouse and heading out to face the 456 alone.
Ianto was royally pissed off at his captain – right up until he watched the CCTV feed from Thames House and saw Jack die from the biological weapon the aliens had let loose. He shivered as he thought of what would have happened if he had been there by Jack’s side as he’d intended. Jack would revive; the same couldn’t be said for Ianto. He would have been just one more body in the makeshift morgue, covered in a red sheet; a victim of his own stubborn pride.
When Jack came back to the warehouse after the 456 were defeated, he looked broken in ways Ianto couldn’t even begin to put into words. The two couples spent the night in a hotel, their rooms paid for by the government, not that it even began to compensate them for the hell they’d been put through.
Neither Jack nor Ianto got much sleep that night, but not for their usual reasons. Jack clung to Ianto, telling him everything that had happened since he left the warehouse and Ianto tried his best to comfort his lover, but what was there to say that would even begin to take away the pain and horror of the act Jack had been forced to commit? All he could do was offer his unconditional love to the shattered man in his arms and try to shelter him from further pain.
For his part, Jack was thankful to have Ianto alive in his arms, all too well aware of how close he’d come to losing the young Welshman forever. Steven’s loss was a heavy enough burden to carry; to lose Ianto as well would have been more than he could bear.
That they loved each other was not open to doubt, but sometimes, even love that deep and strong is not enough.
The fourth time Jack deserted Ianto he set out to travel the world, struggling to come to terms with everything he’d done and all it had cost him.
Knowing what Jack had been forced to do in order to save the world’s children from the most horrific fate imaginable, Ianto understood his need to run away. He could only hope that when Jack had run far enough he would come home and so he made a vow to wait for the man he loved, even if he had to wait forever.
He and Gwen returned to Cardiff. Torchwood was gone, leaving only a hole in the ground, but the city was still their home. Where else could they go?
The waiting was difficult, the days passed so slowly, but Ianto had faith in Jack; he was sure his captain would return some day. He helped UNIT clear away the rubble and salvaged what he could from the remains of the Hub.
Miraculously, much of Jack’s office remained intact and the tin box of photos in the desk drawer, although badly dented, had survived. So had the small piece of coral that had always stood on the desk. The biggest surprise was finding Jack’s Vortex Manipulator still in one piece, though minus its strap, despite the fact that Jack had been wearing it when… Well, Ianto preferred not to think about that too much.
Six months after Jack left, Ianto finally got a text message asking him and Gwen to meet Jack on a hill outside Cardiff the following night. His heart skipped several beats as he read the words and he couldn’t help but hope that Jack was coming home to him. At the same time, a little voice in the back of his mind whispered that maybe Jack was only stopping by to say goodbye. He ruthlessly quashed the thought, refusing to dwell on that possibility. He would keep hoping until he had no more reasons left to hope.
Still, Ianto took with him the tin, the little piece of coral, now nestled safely in a small box, and the Vortex Manipulator, complete with its new custom-made strap. Just in case Jack didn’t plan on staying.
It was a chilly but clear night, the stars like jewels in the black sky. Ianto strode up the hill, eager to see the man he loved, while Rhys and Gwen, now nearly eight months pregnant and reduced to waddling, trailed in his wake.
Jack was waiting for them on the hilltop. He looked much the same as the last time Ianto had seen him, tired and weighed down by the events of those five nightmarish days, but he found a smile for what remained of his team.
Ianto handed him his Vortex Manipulator.
“Found it in the rubble. The strap was fried, but I got a new one made. Hope it fits.” He smiled uncertainly at Jack, desperately wanting to throw his arms around his captain and never let go but knowing he needed to hold his emotions in check and let Jack make the first move. It would hurt too much to be rejected, especially in front of Gwen and Rhys.
Jack thanked him quietly and fastened the strap around his wrist. It fit perfectly. Of course it did. Ianto had always had a good eye for such things.
Gwen wanted to know if Jack was staying. Ianto already knew the answer; he could see it in Jack’s eyes. That little voice had been right; Jack was preparing to leave earth, he just wanted to say goodbye to them first.
“There's a cold-fusion cruiser surfing the ion reefs just at the edge of the solar system, waiting to open its transport dock. I just need to send a signal.” He held up his wrist. “Now I can.”
“Are you ever coming back?” Ianto asked softly.
“Honestly? I don’t know. Maybe one day, when the memories hurt less. I lost too much here, this whole world is like a graveyard.”
Gwen was distraught, almost begging Jack to stay, only Rhys’ arms around her kept her upright, but Ianto just nodded, accepting the inevitable.
“I hope you find what you’re looking for, Jack.” He offered his hand.
Jack gripped it and held on tight, looking deep into the Ianto’s eyes as he gently pulled the younger man closer.
“If not for you, I would have already left,” he admitted. “I need to go, Ianto, staying would destroy me, but I don’t want to lose you.” He dropped his gaze to their joined hands, lightly running his thumb across the backs of Ianto’s fingers. “The last six months without you have felt like an eternity. So many times I wanted to turn around and come back to you, but I wouldn’t have been good company and I didn’t want to drag you down with me.” Glancing up with a tentative smile, he continued, “I thought of you all the time though. I even wrote letters, I just never sent them. Ianto, what I’m trying to say is; I love you. I should have told you that a long time ago, it just never seemed like the right time. Come with me; let me show you the stars like I promised you I would.”
Ianto thought of his family. They’d miss him, but they didn’t need him. Neither did Gwen; she had Rhys and their baby. He had no job, no friends, not even a houseplant to look after. It was the easiest decision he’d ever made. Looking Jack straight in the eye, he gave his answer with a smile.
“I love you too, Jack, and I can’t think of anything I’d rather do. Yes, I’ll go with you, if you’re sure you want me.”
“I do, more than anything. Thank you.”
Jack pulled him close, kissing him with an intensity that made Ianto’s head spin. When the kiss ended, Ianto turned to Gwen.
“Tell Rhi…” He frowned. What message could he send to his sister that she would understand? Then he knew. “Tell her I’m following my heart.” He hugged Gwen briefly and shook Rhys’ hand. “Don’t know if I’ll be seeing you again, so take care of each other and the baby. If it’s a boy, don’t you dare name it after either of us, poor kid doesn’t deserve that! Be happy.”
Jack said his goodbyes then took Ianto in his arms. Four times was four too many, he would never desert his lover again. A salute and a cheeky wink later, he punched a button on his Vortex Manipulator; the pair of them shimmered and then they were gone, shooting out into space, leaving the Earth and everything Ianto had ever known behind.
Later, as they stood on the cruiser’s viewing deck, arms around each other’s waists, gazing into the depths of space through the observation window, they could see their future spread out before them in a myriad pinpoints of light, strange worlds orbiting distant stars. As they turned to smile at each other, sharing a tender kiss, a wave of nervous excitement swept through Ianto. He couldn’t wait to see what wonders lay ahead.