Title: Through Time And Space: Chapter 7 – Solitary Man
Characters: Ianto, OFC, mentions Jack, Rhi & Family
Word Count: 2195
Spoilers: CoE, House of the Dead
Summary: Ianto is starting to realise just how alone and isolated he’s become.
Content Notes: None needed.
Written For: Challenge #99: Amnesty, using Challenge #30: Solitary at fan_flashworks.
Disclaimer: I don’t own Torchwood, or the characters.
A/N: Apologies for the length of time between chapters, due to a family bereavement.
Despite his sleep being plagued by constant dreams, Ianto awoke a full eight hours later feeling surprisingly refreshed and ready to face whatever the new day held. He showered and dressed, visited the wardrobe to select more clothes for his personal closet, and discovered on his return to the residential level that a fully equipped laundry room had been added.
“Very nice,” he commented approvingly.
“The dry-cleaning unit is fully automated. Simply hang the clothing to be cleaned within and close the door. When the cleaning process is complete, the door will open.”
“Excellent! From Jack’s stories of his travels with the Doctor, getting grubby is an occupational hazard. Never know what you’ll run across on other planets.”
“I am curious to see what we will encounter on other worlds, I have yet to visit any,” the TARDIS told him as he settled down to breakfast in the kitchen. Since he was immortal and didn’t have to worry too much about cholesterol levels, he’d cooked himself a full fried breakfast and tried a new blend of coffee beans. The food was good, but eating alone would have been a bit depressing if not for the company of his TARDIS.
“We’ll both find out before too long, but I have a couple of tasks to complete first. I need to return to earth again, Cardiff this time. I had a dream last night about an account I set up for my sister and her family; after I joined Torchwood, I wanted to make sure they would be provided for after I died.” He paused with his fork halfway to his mouth, frowning.
“What is wrong?”
“Nothing really, it’s just weird to talk about my death.” He shook himself and went on eating. “Anyway, it got me thinking. I should write letters to my sister, niece and nephew. Maybe one to Gwen and Rhys too, just in case they see Jack again before I find him. I can leave them with the bank to be posted on a particular day. No, better yet, I’ll get a safety deposit box, put the letters in there and arrange for my sister to be informed six months after my death.”
“Why wait six months?”
“I think I need to protect the timeline. Jack leaves earth six months after my death, just after the House of the Dead is destroyed. He sees Gwen and Rhys just before he leaves and if Gwen gets her letter too soon, she’ll tell Jack and then he might not leave. Even if I don’t leave a letter for Gwen, there’s a good chance she’ll keep in touch with Rhi and might find out I’m still alive, or alive again…” Ianto put his head in his hands. “Timelines,” he groaned. “It’s all so complicated I feel like I’m tying my brain in knots!”
“How strange. However, I do not believe that is physically possible, so you need not concern yourself. I am sure the feeling will soon pass. Meanwhile, there are stationery supplies in your desk. You could write your letters while I finish disintegrating this asteroid. Then I will set a course for Cardiff. Did you have any specific date in mind?”
“Sometime in spring would be nice. I’ve always liked Cardiff in springtime. Perhaps sometime in April on a weekday so I can be sure the banks are open. I’ll need some more money, if that’s okay? Ten pounds should be fine; I still have some money left from yesterday. A five pound note and five ones, used condition please. I’ll have to pay for the safety deposit box.”
“It will be waiting for you in the console room when you are ready.”
“Thank you.” Ianto rinsed his dishes, put them in the dishwasher, switched it on and made his way back to his room.
As his TARDIS has said, he found everything he needed to write his letters in his desk drawers, including a handsome fountain pen, ink and a blotter. He took his time, writing rough drafts in pencil in a notepad first, copying them onto the high quality paper once he was sure of what he wanted to say to each person. He wrote separate letters to Rhi, Mica and David, and a joint one to Gwen and Rhys.
Writing to his family and friends brought home to him just how alone he was, and how far from everyone he’d ever known. Here he was, in a TARDIS, high above earth and he’d never see any of these people ever again. More than ever, he appreciated the constant, reassuring presence of his TARDIS in his mind, but it wasn’t the same as actual, physical human company. With a heavy heart, he signed his name to the letters, sealed them each in a separate envelope and wrote the names of the recipients on the fronts. He toyed with the idea of writing one to Jack, just in case he came back to earth at some point, but decided against it. What he needed to say to Jack was simply too hard to put into words on a page.
One final letter had to be written, with instructions to post the enclosed note, written to Rhi, on a specific date: one week after the destruction of the House of the Dead. He would put the key to the safety deposit box in the envelope for Rhi before sealing it. The note simply told her to go to the bank and retrieve the contents of the box; that should be all that was necessary.
By the time everything was finished, his TARDIS was announcing their arrival in Cardiff, Wednesday, April 27th, 1960, at 9 o’clock in the morning. Gathering everything together and putting it all in a briefcase, Ianto made his way up to the console room where he collected the money she’d prepared for him. There was more than he’d asked for, and he found himself smiling as she explained that she thought he might perhaps wish to add a few small gifts to the safety deposit box. Perhaps he could get some jewellery that would increase in value over time. Ianto agreed; it sounded like an excellent idea.
Leaving his TARDIS, who had disguised herself as a large tree, Ianto stepped out into Bute Park. It was a typical Welsh spring morning, daffodils bright in the flowerbeds and a persistent drizzly rain falling. Ianto put up his umbrella and strode towards the main business district of the city. Cardiff had changed a lot by his own time, but not so much that he couldn’t find his way around well enough. He made small purchases in a few jewellers’ shops, then continued on his way to his chosen bank; one he knew would still be in the same place in 2009.
The bank’s staff proved extremely helpful, assisting him with the long-term rental of a safety deposit box, which he paid for in advance. He filled in the paperwork using a fake birth certificate provided by his TARDIS, along with other fake official paperwork, explaining that he was going abroad to work for some time but wanted to make sure his valuables and important documents remained safe while he was away. After locking his letters and purchases in the box, he placed one of the keys in the envelope with the note to be sent to Rhi in approximately 50 years’ time, put that note and a covering note in a second envelope, and entrusted it to the bank’s manager, to be opened on the date that he’d written on the front.
“I’ll see that it gets done, Mr. Jones, don’t you worry.”
“Thank you, Mr. Hargreaves. Good day.”
It was only when Ianto was leaving the bank that a thought struck him; he was in Cardiff, and somewhere under what would one day be the Roald Dahl Plass, was an earlier version of Jack Harkness, hard at work for the Torchwood of the time. The knowledge struck him like a physical blow. Jack; so near and yet so far. He ached to see the man, but it wouldn’t be his Jack, just a man that looked identical. Head bowed, he strode purposefully back the way he’d come. He shouldn’t have come here, it was too risky and a chance encounter with the man his Jack had once been would be too painful to bear; he needed to leave as soon as possible, before temptation could overrule common sense.
It was with a sigh of relief that Ianto stepped through the door of his TARDIS, closing it behind him and leaning against it. Every step of the way back, he’d been both hoping and dreading that he might catch a glimpse of that familiar coat, but it hadn’t happened. He wasn’t sure whether he felt relieved or disappointed. Pushing away from the door, he made his way over to the console room’s small coffee station and brewed himself a fortifying mug of his favourite beverage. Sipping slowly, he settled into one of the comfortable chairs.
“Did you disintegrate both of those asteroids?”
“I did. We are now well stocked with enough raw materials to last for some time, although I shall continue to collect any available particles I encounter.”
“You’re not disintegrating earth, are you?”
“Certainly not!” The TARDIS sounded quite indignant.
“Just checking. Out of interest, what does constitute ‘available particles’?”
“Dust and debris, any airborne particles such as pollen, the rain that has fallen on my leaves; my current form is quite efficient at absorbing such things.”
“I like it, you make a lovely tree.”
“It’s time we were on our way though. There’s just one more stop I want to make before we leave earth.”
“Where is it that you wish to go?”
“The future. There’s a cemetery not far from here, it’s where I was buried. Or will be buried, to be more precise. I want to visit my grave.”
“Very well. How far into the future do you wish to travel?”
“I don’t know.” Ianto thought for a minute. “How about five hundred years?”
“Five hundred years from this time or from the moment that you fell through the Rift?”
“It doesn’t really matter. Why don’t you choose?”
“As you wish.” After a moment’s pause, the TARDIS spoke again. “Coordinates set.”
Mug in hand, Ianto made his way to the console and released the parking brake. “Away we go then!”
The cemetery seemed mostly abandoned, overgrown with weeds, but it remained as a green oasis among the tall buildings of the city. Cardiff had grown into a city of skyscrapers, yet this plot of land had somehow escaped development.
It took Ianto some time to find the correct grave, but he didn’t mind. The sun was warm, there were birds singing in the bushes and trees, and the atmosphere of the place was soothing. He stared at his headstone, knowing that beneath his feet, buried in a casket, was his original body, the one that had died from a virus released by the 456. The body he wore now was an exact replica, recreated by Syriath. It was a bizarre thought; he was dead and buried, yet standing here alive, a living paradox.
But everyone he’d ever known, every life he’d ever touched, was long gone. Once again, he was the sole survivor. Well, aside from Jack anyway. For the first time, he could really appreciate how Jack must feel, living forever and watching everyone he ever knew die while he himself was fated to continue living for eternity.
He ran his fingertips lightly over the inscription on his headstone.
Beloved brother and uncle
Once upon a time, he’d had a family who loved him, but he hadn’t spent enough time with them. It was one of his biggest regrets. The worst part was that now he had eternity spread out before him, all the time in the universe, but his family were far beyond his reach. He could never make up to them for all the times he hadn’t been there, for all the family celebrations he’d missed.
“Can’t turn back the clock; all I can do is move forward and try not to make the same mistakes.”
For the rest of the day, he sat by his grave, a solitary figure grieving for his long lost family, his long-dead friends, and committing to memory everything he could about the time he’d spent with them. He wanted to make sure he’d never forget a single moment. His memories were all he had left of them now; they’d have to be enough.
Finally, as dusk settled around him, he rose to his feet and made his lonely way back to where his TARDIS waited for him, disguised now as a crumbling stone mausoleum.
A long road stretched out ahead of him, and where it would lead he couldn’t begin to guess; the vastness of the universe awaited him. But somewhere out there, on some as yet unknown, distant world, was Jack and someday, if fate was on his side, Ianto would find him. Then neither of them would ever have to be alone again.