Title: Through Time And Space: Chapter 20 – United In Sorrow And Joy
Characters: Ianto, OCs.
Word Count: 3759
Spoilers: CoE, House of the Dead
Summary: The Megillys are reunited with the rest of their family, and Ianto gets information that might lead to a long awaited reunion of his own.
Written For: Challenge #124: United at fan_flashworks
Disclaimer: I don’t own Torchwood, or the characters.
Not wanting to worry Garten and his family, or Auber’s people, Ianto and the TARDIS decided to leave the damaged freighter when it was still three days out from the space station and travel through the void to arrive a few hours after they’d left. That way they could prepare their friends for the ship’s arrival
Before departing, they said their farewells to Berrin and all the people they’d come to know and like while working alongside them over the last few months, promising to see them again when they arrived at the space station. Everyone who was able had pitched in to clean up the mess and fix the damage sustained during the attack, but although the interior was more or less back to normal, the ship would still need to dock at the space station in order to repair the damage to its outer hull and hyperdrive engines.
During the long trip, Ianto had told Berrin much of what had happened to his younger brother, but assured him the family were fine. He’d been surprised when Berrin had seemed just as concerned about Surilla’s pet as he was about his kin.
“That Quoat is a pedigree animal, very valuable,” the captain had explained. “I suspect she was a large part of the reason Garten chose to abandon ship with his family. The litter of kits she carries will bring in more money than all the rest of our cargo put together. It is miraculous that no one stole her!”
“Obviously no one on the space station was aware of her value. Perhaps Quoats are common in this sector.”
“Perhaps,” Berrin had agreed. “Whatever the reason, I am glad she too is safe. Surilla would be devastated to lose her.”
Now he shook Ianto’s and Auber’s hands; the Tallan was becoming accustomed to the human gesture, though it still felt awkward to him.
“Farewell, my friends. It has been an honour and a privilege to work alongside you.”
“We’ll see you in a few days,” Ianto told him with a smile. “Hopefully by then repairs to the lifepod will be underway and assistance will be available for the hull work on your ship. I’ll do what I can to make arrangements in advance of your arrival; we can stay in touch using the radios.” The TARDIS had manufactured a communication device to allow Ianto and Berrin to communicate easily despite the intervening distance.
“Then at least allow me to wish you safe journey, and thank you once again for all you have done for us. It is no small thing to save the lives of so many.”
“I just wish we could have saved everyone,” Ianto replied sadly.
All but two of the injured had survived and were now fully recovered, including Madrin, who stood with her oldest brother to see the TARDIS crew off. Sadly, two of the most severely injured crewmembers had been beyond saving, even with the TARDIS’s state-of-the-art medical equipment. The entire crew, along with their guests, had been united by their shared grief as they consigned the bodies of their six lost friends to the vacuum of space in a joint funeral. It had been a simple but deeply moving ceremony and had reminded Ianto of the burden he now shared with Jack; to live forever, watching everyone he ever met age and die. He had to remind himself that although six lives had been lost, many more were still alive because of what he’d done. The rescue mission had been a success, so why did he feel like he’d failed? Jack’s words came back to him. ‘No matter how hard we try, or how much we want to, we can’t save everyone.’
“In such a battle, lives were bound to be lost. We were fortunate to lose so few. The best memorial there can be to those who fell is to live our lives as well and as happily as we can, so that their loss was not for nothing.”
“You’re right, and we will. Safe journey to you too, Berrin; drive carefully!” Ianto gave the gathered crew a jaunty wave and followed Auber into the TARDIS, who had taken on the rather incongruous appearance of a large antique wardrobe during her time aboard the freighter. There was a joke in their somewhere, Ianto was sure. As the door closed behind him, he heard the familiar sound of dematerialisation and knew even without looking that the people gathered in the cargo hold would be watching in amazement as the extraordinary craft vanished before their very eyes.
They landed in a different corridor to the one they’d left from, just to be safe; time-wise, pinpoint accuracy was difficult to achieve and they didn’t want to accidentally land on top of themselves. Besides almost certainly causing a paradox, it would be decidedly awkward and inconvenient.
“We have been gone for three hours and forty-seven minutes, earth time,” the TARDIS informed him.
“Excellent! Close to when we left, but not too close. I’d better see how things are going out there. I hope we weren’t missed.”
Back in the atrium, Ianto and Auber soon spotted their friends seated at one of the desks that had been set out in order for Commander Bain’s troops to take statements. They were talking to a uniformed officer who was going through the forms they’d filled in.
Turning, Ianto saw Surilla and the younger Talllans waving to them, so they strolled over to join them.
“Hello, what are you doing?”
“Playing catch.” Surilla held up a pink ball to show him. “Why are your clothes different?”
Ianto leant against the railing that encircled the atrium. “We had to run an errand and my other suit got dirty.” That was an understatement. After the battle, he’d found there was a ragged hole burned right through the front of his jacket, waistcoat and shirt where the blast from the energy weapon had hit him. The charred fabric had been stained with his own blood as well as other people’s, transferred to his clothing when he’d been helping to move the injured to the TARDIS.
“Where did you go?”
“It’s a surprise. I’ll tell everyone once we’re back in the TARDIS, but first I need to talk to someone in charge. I’ll be back in a few minutes, okay?”
“Okay.” She skipped back to her playmates.
Ianto chuckled. Surilla, as adaptable as all young children, had picked up quite a few modern expressions, much to her parents’ bewilderment. Leaving Auber with the others, Ianto set off across the atrium towards the old security HQ. Inside, a young female soldier stopped him.
“Can I be of assistance, Sir?”
“I hope so. There’s a freighter approaching the station, about three days out; it was attacked by brigands and took some pretty severe damage. I told the captain I’d see if I could make arrangements for repairs when it arrives. They lost their hyperdrive engines during the fight so they’re having to take the slow path.”
“Of course. Let me just consult with the commander.”
She strode over to a tall, black haired woman and saluted smartly. Ianto couldn’t hear what they said, but the young woman returned after a few minutes holding a slip of paper.
“Are you in contact with the freighter?”
“Good. Commander Bain requests that you instruct the captain to make contact on this frequency when they have the station in sight; he will then be given docking instructions. A specialist crew with engineering bots will be waiting, ready to assess the damage and commence repairs.” She handed Ianto the paper.
“I must ask… The brigands, are they still out there?”
“No. Their ship was destroyed in the battle, but many of the brigands were taken prisoner when they attempted to board the freighter. I hope you’ll be able to find somewhere to put them.”
The woman smiled in satisfaction. “That is good to hear. I feel sure we can find somewhere suitable for them. Now, if you will excuse me, there is a lot to be done. Good day, Sir.”
Dismissed, Ianto returned to the others, joining in the game of catch until Garten and Jessa finished with their interview and joined them. Together, they trooped back to the TARDIS.
“I am sure this is not where we left your ship before.” Garten sounded puzzled.
“No, you’re right.” Ianto ushered the last stragglers through the door, following them in and closing it behind them. “We had to pop out for a bit, there was something important that needed to be done.” Turning away, he set about making coffee for the adults, and hot chocolate for Surilla. Once the drinks were served, he settled himself into one of the chairs around the table shared by Garten and his family.
They sipped their drinks in silence for a few minutes until curiosity got the better of Garten.
“If I might ask… What was so important that you would leave us without saying anything?”
Ianto set his mug down and looked at the three adults across from him. Surilla was sitting with the Tallans, looking at the shells they’d collected on the beach a few weeks earlier, completely absorbed.
“I didn’t want to get your hopes up, in case there was nothing I could do, but I went looking for your family’s ship.”
Garten’s eyes went wide and Jessa beside him gasped, gripping her husband’s arm. Izelle squeezed her daughter’s other hand.
“Did you find her?” Garten sounded as if he wasn’t sure he wanted an answer to that.
“I did. There’s something I haven’t told you about the TARDIS; she’s not just a spaceship, she can also travel in time.” He let that sink in for a few moments before continuing. “She and I, we’re both new to travelling through time. It’s complicated and there are laws that have to be respected, because failure to do so can be catastrophic. We had to go over everything very carefully to ensure it would be safe to attempt to change the past, but we were lucky; the attack on your ship occurred far out in space. Isolated incidents are by far the safest to change, where they have no noticeable effect on anyone except those directly involved. Your ship sustained a lot of damage, but she’ll be docking here in approximately three days.”
“They are alive? Our family and friends?” Jessa could scarcely believe what Ianto was telling them.
“Most of them, yes, but I’m sorry to report that six of the crew lost their lives during the attack. I wish I could have saved everyone, but it just wasn’t possible; the fighting was too spread out and I could only be in one place at a time. There were quite a lot of injuries too, but they’re mostly healed by now.”
“Ianto, I do not have the words to thank you.” Garten reached across the table to clasp Ianto’s hands in his own. “This is a gift beyond anything we could ever have hoped for or even dreamt of; our family safe and returning to us. The lost lives are cause for sorrow, and we will mourn them when we are once again united with the rest of our people; their sacrifice will not be forgotten. And yet, the loss of six of our number is small compared to the loss of all. Generation upon generation of our family will remember what you have done for us and honour your name. You too will forever be remembered by us as a true friend.”
Izelle and Jessa nodded agreement, smiling through tears of joy for the saved and sorrow for those who had fallen.
Touched by their gratitude, his eyes misting over traitorously, Ianto smiled back. He had to clear his throat before he could reply.
“You’re welcome. Your family are good people, they didn’t deserve what happened to them.” He frowned, correcting himself. “I mean they didn’t deserve what would have happened to them but didn’t. Or something like that. Time travel plays hell with tenses.” He could feel the TARDIS’s amusement tickling the back of his mind. “Whatever. Trying to save them was the right thing to do; I would never have forgiven myself if I hadn’t at least attempted it. I’m glad it worked. Now, why don’t you all go down to your rooms and the TARDIS will set up a radio link so that you can speak to your people in private.”
When the Megilly family had left the console room, Ianto joined Auber who, now seated on the floor, was regaling his people with the story of his and Ianto’s adventure through time. The young Tallans listened avidly, exclaiming in wonder, amazement, horror, and excitement. Well used to listening to tales of the great deeds of their ancestors, they were an appreciative audience, and Auber was such an accomplished orator that even though Ianto had been in the thick of it all himself, he was soon swept up by the tale, cheering and applauding with the others as Auber told of the crew’s victory over the brigands.
The three days passed astonishingly quickly as Garten and Jessa consulted with the engineers repairing their lifepod in between talking to the people on the freighter via radio. Ianto passed on commander Bain’s instructions to Berrin as soon as he got the opportunity, and with a day still to go, everything was set for the ship’s arrival. The members of the Megilly family were too excited to sit still and kept themselves busy helping others when they weren’t occupied with their own tasks. They were making a lot of friends and contacts among the various races that inhabited the space station, which would bode well for future trading opportunities.
Ianto used the last day to go shopping for gifts for the Megilly family. Once the extended family was reunited, he would be leaving and he wanted to give them something to remember him by, though Garten assured him that he and his ship would be impossible to forget. In the course of his shopping trips, he stopped by the black market’s current location to see Burl Three-toes, as he’d been asked.
“There y’are, Des! Been wonderin’ what happened to ya in all the bustle!” Burl slapped him on the shoulder, almost knocking him to his knees and Ianto elbowed him in his soft belly in retaliation, earning a surprised ‘oof’ and a booming laugh.
“I’ve been keeping busy; there’s a lot going on with so many people about, never know what titbits of information you might pick up. For instance, a freighter from out of system will be docking tomorrow afternoon. They were set upon by some of Pax’s hired enforcers, but won the battle, taking their attackers prisoner and destroying their ship. Anyone who can do that is someone it would be better not to cross.”
Burl looked thoughtful. “Aye, they wouldn’t be good enemies to have. I’ll spread the word to be respectful around that ship and its crew. Keep on their good side!”
Becoming all business, Ianto cocked his head and met Burl’s eyes. “So, you said you had something might interest me?”
Burl nodded. “That I did. Come on, I’ll buy ya a drink and show ya.” He led the way to a stall set up as a kind of bar selling various alien liquors. There were rickety tables and chairs set up in shadowy corners and after getting their drinks, they seated themselves at a table well away from the few other drinkers, making themselves comfortable.
Ianto took a long draught of the dark red alien beer that was his usual poison. It was surprisingly refreshing and he’d developed a taste for it, partly for the pleasantly mellow taste and partly because it had almost no effect on the human metabolism; he’d need to consume several gallons to get even close to drunk. Burl, on the other hand, would be falling over after six pints and comatose after eight. Ianto figured that gave him an advantage in negotiations, and Burl always admired his ability to hold his liquor.
When they were on their second pints, Burl dug into one of the capacious pockets of his coat and pulled out something wrapped in rags, pushing it across the table to Ianto. “Take a look, see what ya think.”
Ianto, or more precisely Des, had let it be known that he was interested in anything of earth origin; he was considered somewhat eccentric in that he favoured antiques and books most of all, but since he was willing to pay good money for something he considered desirable, the other black marketeers kept their eyes open. Carefully unwrapping the cloth covering, Ianto studied the object within. The book was beautiful and clearly old, it’s ornate leather binding scuffed and worn by many years of handling. Approximately ten inches by six, its pages were an array of hand-painted colour plates depicting flowers. Looking at the spine, he could just make out the title: Flora of the British Empire.
“Pretty. Where’d you find it?”
“Stolen goods. This nasty piece of work, government enforcer, been linin’ his own nest at the expense of the people. Bunch of us decided he were gettin’ too powerful, so we paid ‘im a visit, took everything he had, split the lot between us. I spotted that there an’ nabbed it as part o’ my cut. What ‘d’ya think?”
Ianto studied the book again. “Hmm. It would fit well in my collection, if the price is right.” He tilted his chair back against the wall behind him, preparing to negotiate.
“Nah, you can have it, figure we all owe ya’ a little somethin’ fer gettin’ Pax out of the picture.” Burl leant forward then and lowered his voice. “Got some information might interest ya too though, an’ that’s gonna cost ya’.”
Carefully re-wrapping the book, Ianto put it into his old rucksack. “Okay, I’ll bite.”
“It’s ‘bout that man I ‘eard you’re lookin’ fer.”
That got Ianto’s full attention and he narrowed his eyes, leaning forward across the table, forearms resting on the scarred and pitted surface. “What’ve you heard?”
Burl wagged a meaty finger. “Now then, payment first, ya know the score.”
“And how do I know what the information’s worth before I hear it?”
Burl chuckled. “Yer a sharp one, Des, always liked that ‘bout ya! Okay, ‘ere’s the deal; I can tell ya’ where the one ya’s lookin’ fer is goin’ ta be in seventy days.”
“And how would you know that?”
“I know ‘cause I seen ‘im myself. Used ta crew fer a freighter out of Orlosk, got kicked off fer smugglin’ illegal substances but I still got friends aboard. Stopped by ta visit with ‘em twenty days back, they still travellin’ the same route, I knows their schedule, where they gonna be and when. Saw they got a new crewman; he weren’t wearin’ no long coat, but it were the one you’re lookin’ fer, sure as we’re sittin’ ‘ere. Bet me soul on it.”
Ianto would willingly have paid anything Burl had asked for that piece of information, but he haggled anyway to keep up appearances, finally handing over the agreed amount in universal credits.
Burl grinned toothily as he pocketed Ianto’s money.
“Space station on th’ edge o’ the Fralix Nebula, orbits a planet called Reptanotis Major. People call the place The Wheel ‘cause o’ the way it’s shaped. Freighter docks there in seventy days, lays over for a ten-day, crew furlough."
After all this time, Ianto couldn’t believe he was so close to finding Jack again, especially since he’d thought that once before only to have his hopes dashed.
“This pans out, I’ll owe you one,” he told Burl.
“Ya already paid me just fine, Des. You take care o’ yerself.” Burl staggered to his feet as Ianto rose smoothly from his own chair. “Ya matched me pint fer pint an’ look at ya, steady as a rock! Yer somethin’ else! See ya around!”
“Count on it.” Ianto slapped Burl lightly on the arm, making the alien grab the back of a nearby chair to stay upright, laughing uproariously, before the two went their separate ways.
Ianto and the Megillys threw a party in the gardens of the TARDIS for the freighter’s crew on their arrival. As soon as the ship was docked and the formalities taken care of, the TARDIS, with everyone on board, materialised back in the ship’s hold once more and opened her doors. The Megilly family were in the console room to greet their family and friends as they trooped inside. Taking off their shoes, they padded barefoot along the broad corridor leading to the garden room, where Ianto and the Tallans waited.
The TARDIS had grown long tables at one side of a wide, sunlit meadow bordered by trees, and by now they were laden with food and drink for the celebration. Some of the freighter’s crew brought musical instruments with them and soon the air was filled with music and laughter as everyone rejoiced at being united once more with their loved ones.
The children ran about, playing tag, and catch, and other energetic games with the Tallans, until worn out, they sat on the grass and listened with rapt attention to Auber telling them stories about his home and people. Everywhere around them, hundreds of the tiny, brightly coloured birds Ianto had bought so many months before flitted about, pecking up crumbs and meeping merrily, adding their voices to the cheerful cacophony.
Ianto sat beneath a tree a little apart from the gathering, resting his back against the broad trunk, smiling as he watched everyone having fun.
‘It is good to see such happiness,’ the TARDIS murmured in his head.
‘Yes it is. After all they’ve been through, they deserve this,’ Ianto replied silently.
‘You wish your captain were here to share this happy occasion.’
‘Is it that obvious?’
‘Perhaps only to me.’
‘If Burl’s information is correct, then I know where he’s going to be in less than seventy days.’
‘Do you doubt him?’
‘No, but I got my hopes up before. I’m not going to make that mistake again. Anyway, there’ll be time enough to think about that tomorrow. For now, I should probably be celebrating with my friends while they’re here.’
Putting thoughts of the future firmly out of his mind, Ianto stood up, dusted off his trousers and went to join the party.