Title: Through Time And Space: Chapter 21 – To End Is To Begin Anew
Characters: Ianto, Jack, OCs.
Word Count: 3438
Spoilers: CoE, House of the Dead, Miracle Day
Summary: Now that he has a solid lead to Jack’s whereabouts, Ianto has decisions to make. But elsewhere, Jack has obligations that he can’t ignore.
Written For: Challenge #126: The End Of The World at fan_flashworks
Disclaimer: I don’t own Torchwood, or the characters.
With the farewell party over and the Megilly family safely ensconced with their family and friends aboard the space station while their ship underwent repairs, Ianto returned to the TARDIS and made his way straight to his suite. He had one hell of a big decision to make.
On the face of it, it appeared simple; now he knew exactly where Jack would be on a given date, they could just jump ahead a couple of months and find him again, but…
He sank down in his favourite chair, kicked off his shoes and massaged his temples; his mind was in a whirl. He desperately wanted to see Jack again, but there were other things to consider. It had been well over a year since Ianto had died at Thames House; what if Jack was with someone else by now? Yes, he knew Jack had loved him, but that didn’t mean he was going to mourn his loss forever, and if he’d fixed his Vortex Manipulator, who knew how much time might have passed for him? It might have been years, decades, maybe even longer. Not that Ianto would blame him if he had met someone; no one should have to be alone, least of all Jack, who had all eternity stretching out in front of him.
‘So do I now,’ he reminded himself. It was a sobering thought.
But what would it mean for him if Jack had indeed moved on? Was Ianto himself destined to be alone for all eternity? Well, no, he had his TARDIS, but that wasn’t the same as having someone to snuggle up to at night, a hand to hold, a familiar smile to lift his spirits when he was feeling down. Without consciously realizing it, he knew now that he’d been counting on having Jack to share everything with once he found him again. Now he had to consider the possibility that he might not get what he wanted.
Then there was Auber and the other Tallans. He’d promised to do his best to get them back to their homeworld, but so far they hadn’t made much progress beyond ruling out a lot of planets that weren’t the one they were looking for. Of course, they could pick up the search for Talla once Jack was aboard, assuming he was interested in travelling with them and hadn’t already made other plans, but…
Ianto sighed and flopped back against the cushions, grudgingly admitting to himself that there were some aspects of his new lifestyle that were harder to adjust to than others, especially for someone who had always lived linearly until now. Despite being able to travel in time, he couldn’t shake the feeling that by jumping ahead to find Jack, he’d be wasting two months that could have been used to continue their search. He just couldn’t make up his mind what to do and it was driving him nuts. Maybe he should sleep on it, make up his mind in the morning.
With that much decided, he abandoned his chair in order to get ready for bed, finally crawling beneath the covers and falling into a restless sleep filled with troubled dreams.
Light years away and almost a month earlier, on a freighter in the depths of space, Jack looked at his Vortex Manipulator and frowned; it was beeping, signifying an incoming message and there was only one person it could be from. Well, two if you counted John Hart, but the less Jack thought of his ex-Time Agency partner the better. If he never saw Hart again, it would be too soon. He debated whether or not to open the message; he was due on shift in an hour and still needed to get breakfast.
The Vortex Manipulator wasn’t his original; that was locked safely in the stasis vault he was renting on Paramian. This was one that he’d cobbled together from the parts of three broken ones he’d brought from earth, found in the Torchwood archives many years ago and kept in his box of photographs, and some circuits he’d picked up on his travels before finally leaving the Fiori Winnik. With the help of Chief Engineer Jazzek, he’d been able to piece them together into a basic working VM even though a few of the more esoteric applications hadn’t been fixable. It would be good enough for whatever he might need on his travels and it meant he could avoid risking the precious recordings stored on the original. Besides, on this one the teleport almost worked, and the time travel function was potentially fixable, given time and the right tools, even though neither would have the range of his original, which was a much newer model. Tinkering with it gave him something to do during his off hours; the recalibrations were fiddly and couldn’t be rushed.
He’d tuned it to the same frequency as his own, so that Gwen would be able to contact him if she ever really needed him. He’d posted a package to her before going to meet her on the hilltop outside Cardiff; it would have reached her a few days after he’d left. In it had been money for her, Rhys and their baby, a few small gifts, and a letter giving her his VM frequency and telling her to memorise it. It was for dire emergencies only, he’d told her; nothing less than the End of the World would bring him back to earth, the planet held too much pain for him. But he owed her, and earth itself, that much at least. If this message was from Gwen, and it almost certainly was, then something seriously bad was happening. He wasn’t at all sure he was ready to face her, or deal with saving the world again; it was still much too soon. Nevertheless, a promise was a promise, and anyway, Ianto’s family was still back there, and he had to protect them at all costs.
Reluctantly, he keyed in the combination to accept the incoming message and grimly listened to what she had to say. When it was over, he wearily rubbed his eyes.
Jack’s personal world had ended when Ianto had died and he’d been forced to sacrifice Steven, destroying any hope of reconciliation with Alice that he might have had. Now, apparently the actual world, the earth at least, might be about to end for real, and Gwen wanted him to help prevent it. Going back there was the last thing he wanted to do, he was only just starting to pick up the pieces of his life, but from what Gwen had told him in her message, things were about as bad as they could get. He didn’t have any choice; no matter how much it pained him, it looked like he would have to return to earth and play the hero again, for the sake of those he’d lost as well as for those he’d left behind.
The captain wasn’t going to be pleased when he didn’t show up to unload the cargo, but that couldn’t be helped. Shoving his few possessions into his bag, Jack changed into his own clothes leaving his crew overalls on his bunk, and slipped quietly off the ship onto a dock just coming alive as the space station switched over from night shift to day. First thing to do was to find passage on a ship heading to one of the space ports nearest to earth. From there he could buy, borrow, or steal a small craft to take him the rest of the way.
He shivered despite the over-warm climate aboard the station; being back on earth was going to rip open barely healing wounds again. He wasn’t looking forward to this trip one bit.
Talking things over with the Tallans the following morning failed to help Ianto make up his mind on a course of action; they were willing to do whatever he wanted. Despite missing their homes and families, they were enjoying seeing so many new and strange things, and helping other beings. As Auber said, “If it is our destiny to find Talla, then find her we will, when the time is right. Meanwhile, we are learning a great many things to share with our people if we are fortunate enough to rejoin them one day. You have been more than kind to us, and we are content.”
Still, a decision had to be made, so after considering every option, he finally settled on one, still not sure if it was the right one.
“Okay, here’s what we’ll do. We know where we’re going and when we have to be there, so we’ll head in that direction checking out all the planets and ports en route. Who knows, we might catch up with Jack before we even reach where he’s supposedly headed. When we get to Reptanotis Major, then we’ll make a little jump in time to arrive at The Wheel the day before the freighter is due to dock. That’ll give me time to look around the place and find the best vantage point for watching the crew disembark. Burl says anyone not involved with offloading the cargo goes on leave as soon as they arrive in port; the cargo handlers follow once their job is done. If Jack really is on board, then he’ll probably be among the last off.”
“Do you doubt your friend’s word?”
“No, Burl wouldn’t deliberately send me on a wild goose chase, but he’s not human and the man he saw might just look very similar to Jack. He was certain, and he’s usually pretty good at recognising individuals of any species, but until I see this crewman with my own eyes I’m not going to get my hopes up. We’ve missed Jack before.”
Nevertheless, despite his words, Ianto couldn’t help hoping, just a bit.
The journey to The Wheel proved uneventful. Ianto did as he always did, visiting the black markets at each port of call, hoping to pick up more hints regarding Jack’s whereabouts. He’d been half joking earlier when he was talking to the Tallans, but he honestly wouldn’t object if they did manage to catch up with Jack a bit sooner. It would save him a great deal of stress and worrying.
Not that his enquiries did him any good, except that he picked up a few more interesting objects to add to his collection, including a small pewter model aircraft on a solid wooden stand which he intended to give to Jack as a Welcome To Your New Home gift. Ianto hoped he’d like it, a small reminder of the planet that had been his home for so many years.
Along the way, he and the TARDIS studied the planets they encountered from space; none of them matched Talla, having too few moons, only one sun, or atmospheres that would be toxic to the Tallans, and yet Auber and his people remained philosophical.
“If we found our home before we reach your destination, then we might never meet the man you seek, and I should dearly like to,” Auber explained. “I have listened to your tales of his exploits with wonder; it would be an honour to meet so great a man.”
“I know he’d be very glad to meet you too,” Ianto said with a smile as they sat talking in the console room one evening. They’d just left the last planet along their route and were due to arrive at the space station orbiting Reptanotis Major the following afternoon. “I’m nervous,” he admitted. “It’s been a long time since I saw him. What if he doesn’t want to travel with me?”
Auber wrinkled his snout, amused. “Who in all of the universe would refuse the chance to travel in this wondrous ship? I cannot believe that your captain would say no.”
“That’s true,” Ianto agreed with a grin, sipping his coffee, but still in the back of his mind, he couldn’t help but worry. Would this be the end of his search or another disappointment?
Ianto had found the perfect vantage point from which to watch the Oglosk’s crew disembark, and he hadn’t glanced away for a moment. Fifty-three assorted humanoids had left the ship, singly and in small groups, but none of them had been Jack. That didn’t mean he wasn’t still onboard of course, the cargo still had to be offloaded and the crewmen responsible for that task wouldn’t go on furlough until the job was done, but he was starting to have a sinking feeling. So when he spotted a tall, thin being in clean, smart clothes leaving the ship, he stepped forward to talk to him. Surely this had to be the freighter’s captain.
“Excuse me, good sir,” he said deferentially, bowing, “may I speak with you?”
“Certainly, my good man,” the other responded, bowing in return. “How may I assist you?”
“You are the captain of this fine vessel?” The freighter was actually on the shabby side, but Ianto was hardly going to mention that; it wouldn’t be good manners.
“Indeed I am. Captain Riek at your service. Do you perhaps have cargo you wish to transport?”
“Jones,” Ianto introduced himself. “Sadly, I have no cargo at present.” He sounded as regretful as he could manage. “However, I have been given to believe that a person I am seeking might currently be in your employ. I have not seem him disembark, so may I ask, do you recognise this person?” He showed captain Riek a picture of Jack.
“Him!” the captain spat. “Indeed I know him. Skipped out on his job around ninety days back, left me short one cargo handler.” He stared suspiciously at Ianto. “He a friend of yours?” Now he knew that Ianto wasn’t a potential client, the captain had dropped his air of civility.
Ianto’s heart fell like a stone, disappointment cutting so deep that he felt as if his whole world was disintegrating. Jack had been gone before he’d even been given the information that led him here. Once again fate seemed determined to keep him and Jack apart. He couldn’t let the captain see how devastated he felt; that wouldn’t get him the information he needed. Besides, any sign of weakness might be ruthlessly exploited.
“Owes me money; been chasing him for months.” Ianto dropped easily into his familiar role, sounding disgruntled.
The captain nodded sympathetically. “Doesn’t surprise me. He had a good gig going here, but he ever shows his face again he won’t be getting a second chance, I can tell you. I can’t be having unreliable crew; everyone has to pull their weight on a ship like this. Only good thing was, he left without drawing his pay. Probably on the run from you.”
“Probably. Thank you captain, I apologise for taking up your time, I know you must be busy.”
“No trouble; always busy in this business. Good luck to you, hope you get your money.” The captain strolled away and Ianto turned back to where he’d left the TARDIS, a cloud of gloom hanging over his head. What was he to do now?
The world hadn’t ended, though it had been a close call. The trip had been every bit as harrowing as Jack had been expecting, from an emotional standpoint. He’d gone through the mill physically as well, rendered mortal and suffering the various pains and discomfort that came from taking days, even weeks, to heal from injuries that would normally have healed in less than an hour. He was almost glad to be immortal once more; there were some aspects of being mortal that he really didn’t miss.
He was also glad to be leaving earth again. Next time the earth needed saving, it could save itself. He’d sacrificed more than enough for its continued existence, any debt he might have owed to its people must surely have been paid in full after the whole Miracle fiasco. He should have known by now; you just can’t go back home. Things had changed, and not in a good way. Earth and all it stood for was in his past now; no matter what happened, he wouldn’t be returning again. He hadn’t laid his ghosts to rest, but he’d made a sort of tentative peace with past events. Perhaps now he could remember the good but move forward with his life. At the very least, he was going to try.
Some people hadn’t come out of the situation quite as well as Jack had, and as he fired up his small scout ship’s engines and prepared to leave the planet that for a while he’d thought of as home far behind, he spared a brief thought for those who had lost their lives, Gwen’s father and Esther among them.
And then there was Rex Matheson. Celebrating his newfound invulnerability, he’d been showing off when he’d got himself killed again. Turned out his immortality hadn’t been the same as Jack’s after all; it had been a one-shot deal, and the second time he died had proved permanent. Jack found he had mixed feelings about that. On the one hand, it would have been good to have another immortal to talk to, someone to share his endless existence with. On the other hand, Rex was the last person he would have chosen; the man was bad-tempered, had no sense of humour, and all the charm of a lump of concrete. Jack had tried to get him to test his healing powers before doing anything potentially fatal, but as usual, Rex hadn’t been interested in anything he had to say, and now he was dead. Jack refused to feel guilty about that, he wasn’t responsible for the man’s choices; Rex had been plenty old enough to make his own decisions. Unlike Ianto.
‘I shouldn’t have let him go with me to Thames House.’
Wiping away sudden tears that blurred his vision, Jack punched a couple of buttons, pulled back on a lever, and the small craft leapt upwards, as eager as he was to leave this planet far behind as he headed out into space once more.
Where he would go, Jack had no idea, but he had the whole universe and all of time spread out before him so he supposed it didn’t really matter where he started. As soon as he was far enough outside the earth’s atmosphere, he set destination coordinates, engaged the hyperdrive engines and slipped into the vortex. Travel through the vortex itself was handled by the autopilot system; it would signal him when they were approaching his chosen exit point. With nearly a full day to kill, Jack rose from the pilot’s chair, stretched, and slipped out of his coat. The replica, picked up soon after his arrival on earth, was a pale shadow of the real thing, a thinner fabric that hung limply from his shoulders with none of the flair and drama of the real thing, but its lighter weight had made it more comfortable in the heat of California, so he supposed it had served its purpose. Briefly, he considered jettisoning it as soon as he regained normal space, but even though it was only a substandard copy, or more likely because it was, it gave him something he could wear without worrying about damaging it. The fit was good, it was just the fabric that let it down, and truth be told, he felt undressed without his trademark coat. Maybe he could find a good tailor and get a few copies made in more durable and appropriate fabric. It wouldn’t hurt to have a few spares.
With that thought, he folded the coat, crammed it into one of the small lockers and with a bit of effort, managed to get the door shut. Stripping down to his underwear and stowing his clothes in another locker, he opened what appeared to be a long, narrow cupboard below the row of lockers, pulling the door down to form a narrow bunk, already made up. He stretched out on it on his back and folded his hands behind his head. First thing he’d need to do would be to stop and pick up supplies. After that, who knew? Going over his shopping list in his head, Jack drifted off to sleep, to dream, as he so often did, of the days when he’d been Captain Jack Harkness, with his beautiful Ianto by his side.
Far, far away aboard his TARDIS, Ianto settled down in his own big, lonely bed to sleep, dreaming of Jack, wondering if he would ever find his captain again.
A/N2: Apologies, but the prompt demanded another miss. Fear not though, they'll be together again soon.