Characters: Ianto, Jack, OCs, Alonso Frame.
Word Count: 3439
Spoilers: CoE, House of the Dead, Miracle Day
Summary: Light years apart, Ianto and Jack are both reluctant to sleep and trying to find ways of occupying themselves through the long hours that lie ahead of them.
Written For: Challenge #127: Sleepless at fan_flashworks
Disclaimer: I don’t own Torchwood, or the characters.
Sleeping hadn’t lasted long. After less than an hour, Ianto had snapped awake in a cold sweat, sitting bolt upright having dragged himself out of a nightmare in which he’d spent eternity searching for Jack and always just missing him. He hoped and prayed that wasn’t a premonition; it sure as hell wasn’t the way he wanted to spend the rest of time.
One thing was for sure; he wasn’t going to be sleeping anytime soon, not after that. After a quick shower to freshen up, he dressed comfortably and made his way to what had once been intended as the Library, once it grew big enough, but was now his cosy study cum office. The new, much bigger library was now at the end of the hall.
Plucking a book from the shelves, he settled into an easy chair, putting his feet up on the footstool in front of it. Perhaps reading would help to calm his mind; it usually did.
Unfortunately, this time proved to be the exception to the rule; he couldn’t concentrate on the words, his mind spinning in circles and his emotions swinging from one extreme to the other. He was depressed about missing Jack one minute, then angry with his lover for being so elusive the next. With a heavy sigh, he set the book aside.
“What do I do now? It’s like he’s determined not to let himself be found!”
“That seems unlikely,” the TARDIS replied quietly. “He does not yet know that you are alive and searching for him.”
“I know, but that doesn’t mean he’s not hiding from someone else. Or something else. Jack always blames himself when bad things happen. Maybe it’s the past and his own memories that he’s trying to escape.”
“That is not logical.”
“People aren’t exactly logical.” Ianto smiled slightly. “Just because something is impossible doesn’t stop us from trying to do it anyway.”
“But failure is inevitable.”
“Yes, but at least we know we tried. That’s all that really matters to us; that we tried, even if there was never any chance of success. Humans are remarkably stubborn and persistent.” He chuckled slightly. “Just as well really, because it’s that aspect of human nature that’ll keep me from giving up. Jack got away again, but he’s still out there somewhere and I’ll keep looking until I find him. So, back to the search pattern we’ve been using. It got us information once; it will again, no matter how long it takes. Something made Jack leave that ship; I need to find Captain Riek again and ask him where it was that Jack disembarked. Then we need to go there and see if we can pick up his trail. Any idea where Riek is at this moment?”
The TARDIS was silent for a few minutes as she accessed The Wheel’s security systems and made a search using the station’s version of CCTV. “Captain Riek is drinking at a bar called the Blue Fountain. It appears to be one of the higher class establishments in the business district.”
That made sense. From what Ianto had seen of the Oglosk’s captain, Riek was a bit of a snob; he wouldn’t want to socialise with his crew in the port’s seedy dives and brothels, he’d mingle with businessmen and other ships’ captains, beings he considered his peers.
“Well, I’ll just change into something more respectable and see if he’ll let me buy him a drink!”
It had been three days now since Jack had left earth. He’d slept for several hours during the first transit through the vortex, waking in tears from dreams of Ianto that had felt so real he hadn’t dared close his eyes since for fear that he’d never want to wake up and face reality again. Since then, he’d drifted to one world then another, unsure what to do now that he had his own spacecraft. There were too many choices and the freedom to go wherever he wanted felt unnatural. Maybe it would be best to sell the little scout ship and sign on with another freighter.
The events of Miracle Day were still clinging to him though; not just what had happened to him but all the memories evoked by being on earth around familiar things. Suits, coffee, the smell of the ocean, the familiar sun and moon and stars of the planet that had for a while been his home… All those things brought back poignant memories of Ianto and threatened to shatter his slowly healing heart all over again. He needed time to get his head straight again and that was easier to do alone than surrounded by strangers.
Before leaving earth, he’d made a brief pilgrimage to Cardiff where he’d visited Ianto’s grave. It had been hard to do, but he was glad he’d done it, especially when he’d learned the cemetery was about to be sold off to the highest bidder and the burials moved. After a bit of wrangling, he’d succeeded in buying it, simply by making an offer so high that the competition dropped out. He’d then gifted the site to a nature conservation society. That one patch of land now had protected status; no one would ever be allowed to build on it because of the wild creatures that made their homes there in the undergrowth and several shady pools that were dotted among the graves. That was the excuse, anyway. Jack thought Ianto would approve; he’d always been fond of wildlife.
Knowing that his Welshman could rest in peace, undisturbed for eternity, made it easier for Jack to say goodbye and leave him behind again. For as long as the earth existed, he’d be able to return from time to time to visit Ianto’s final resting place; there was some peace to be had from that knowledge, but at present what he needed most was to find a way to put the past and everything in it behind him, where it belonged; only then would he be able to move forward with his life. Perhaps in time he would discover a new sense of purpose, but for now he’d have to be content to just exist day to day until he could regain the mental and psychological balance he’d gained so briefly after his time aboard the Fiori Winnik and then lost through being compelled to return to earth too soon.
The space station he was on now was just like so many others he’d visited since leaving earth after Ianto’s death; Jack wasn’t even sure what it was called. He’d left his ship parked in the hangar reserved for shuttles and other small craft, then set out to find a bar where he could get a drink without being expected to socialise with the other drinkers. Just because he didn’t feel like talking to people, it didn’t mean he should hide away on his own; that wouldn’t be healthy. Besides, if he wasn’t going to sleep then he might as well do something useful with his time, and bars were good places to pick up information from overheard conversations. Anything to keep from brooding. And who knew? Maybe he’d hear something that would help him decide where to go next.
He didn’t rush his drinks, nursing each one as he sat, silent and thoughtful at the bar. Drinking slowly like this, he’d never get drunk, his strange healing abilities neutralising the alcohol before it could have any effect on him. Despite his good intentions, he soon found himself thinking about Ianto. He wasn’t really surprised; the man he’d loved and lost too soon was never far from his thoughts. Slowly he sank into a distant reverie, tuning out the arguments and sounds of merriment that surrounded him, thinking of happier times when he’d had everything he could ever have wanted without ever realising it. The old adage was true: You never know what you’ve got until it’s gone.
Captain Riek wasn’t hard to find, and it was simple for Ianto to pretend that he’d run into him by chance. His offer of a drink was graciously accepted, the good captain obviously thinking that anyone who chose to frequent such a high-class establishment must be the sort of person he’d want to spend time with.
They chatted about this and that over several drinks, Ianto politely enquiring about Riek’s fortunes on his recent trip, learning far more about the shipping business than he really needed to know in the process. In the end he didn’t even need to ask the question that had brought him to the bar in the first place.
“Lumetti is a bit out of the way, but that’s good for me; the people there are still setting up their colony planetside, they need everything and they’re willing to pay, I always make good profits there, four runs a year. After that I had a shipment to deliver to Wayside, heavy goods. That’s where the man you’re looking for jumped ship, left the rest of my crew struggling with the unloading, damn his eyes. Seems to me, if you’re looking to catch up with him that might be a good place to start. I’m well known there, got a lot of friends among the port officials. Tell, you what, you should talk to Mattheus Rober, he’s the port-master there, knows everything that goes on and he owes me a few favours. Just drop my name, say you’re a friend of mine, and he’ll help you out. If he doesn’t know where your thief went from there, he’ll ask around and find out for you.”
“That’s very generous of you, Riek, I’ll be sure to do that.”
“Think nothing of it, Jones, men of the universe such as we are, we should help each other out where possible. You’re a splendid fellow for a human; I don’t like to think that miscreant left you out of pocket. It’s criminal! Now, perhaps you’d care to join me at the casino? I feel lucky tonight!”
Ianto could have made his excuses and left, but swept up on a wave of camaraderie, he agreed. Riek actually wasn’t bad company despite being a bit of a snob, and a visit to a casino in the company of a man who clearly knew his way around would at the very least be educational.
Jack’s reverie was interrupted by the bartender passing him a note. That was confusing to say the least.
“From the man over there.”
Looking up, Jack saw the last person he really wanted to see: the Doctor. Oddly, the Time Lord made no move to approach him, merely nodding in the direction of the note. Jack opened the folded bar napkin and read the words: His name is Alonso. Well, that wasn’t what he’d expected to see. He’d thought it would be an apology at least. Sorry I wasn’t there to save the earth. Sorry you lost so much. Sorry for letting you down. But no, it was just an introduction. Whose name was Alonso and why should Jack even care? He looked back at the Doctor who, with the slightest movement of his head, indicated the seat next to Jack. Was the Doctor actually trying to set him up with someone? Didn’t he know what had happened on earth? Jack wanted to jump up, race around the bar, grab the Doctor by his coat lapels and shake him until the Time Lord’s teeth rattled, but what good would that do? Instead, he threw a sardonic salute the Doctor’s way and turned to the man sitting beside him.
“So, Alonso, going my way?” He wasn’t much more than a kid. So young that he reminded Jack painfully of the first time he’d met Ianto.
“How do you know my name?”
At any other time, Jack might even have found him attractive. Still, the Doctor must have had a reason for introducing them. Maybe this Alonso was in need of help. If nothing else, having someone to talk to, maybe even flirt with a bit, might not be a bad thing. He needed to get used to being around strangers again, interacting with them. He was an ex-conman after all; maybe it was time he started brushing up on his half-forgotten skills. Flirt, make the guy feel at ease then find out what kind of trouble he was in that the Doctor expected him to help with. On board the freighter he’d kept to himself, not joining in with the other crewmembers’ conversations and roughhousing. Even though he still didn’t really feel up to socialising, perhaps it was time he started doing so anyway. Maybe that was what the Doctor was trying to tell him by introducing him to this Alonso.
“I'm kind of psychic.” He could be convincing at this, even though his heart wasn’t in it.
“Really?” Sceptical, but wanting to believe. That would make this easier.
“Do you know what I'm thinking right now?” Cautious, but definitely interested. This was almost too easy, and it felt like a betrayal of Ianto’s memory, just like that bartender back on earth had. Jack’s heart felt like a rock inside his chest even as he replied.
“Oh, yeah.” Just like riding a bicycle; you never forget how. “What d’you say we get out of here? Find somewhere less noisy, where we can talk without shouting?”
“Sounds good to me.”
Jack paid his bar tab and, rising to their feet, he and Alonso left the rundown bar.
The casino was loud but not too crowded; this was a place where only a certain class of people would find a welcome, no doubt there were other casinos that catered for the dockworkers and crewmen, and all the other ordinary working people. It amused Ianto that his alter ego, Des Llewellyn, would have been refused entry. Many of the games of chance were unfamiliar, though there were a few that Ianto had learned to play among the black marketeers. The TARDIS was watching everything keenly through his eyes though, learning fast and offering advice on which games to try; no one watching would know that he wasn’t the experienced gambler he appeared to be.
He cheated, naturally. When there’s a voice in your head telling you where to place your money, you don’t ignore it. The TARDIS made sure he lost often enough to make his wins believable, and Riek was winning fairly often too; their night at the gaming tables was proving a big success. The unlikely pair moved from table to table, winning at some, losing at others, laughing and encouraging each other. Despite his losses, Ianto’s initial stake had multiplied tenfold by the time the floor manager decided they’d won enough and suggested that perhaps they should cash in their chips. They didn’t argue; Riek was weary and more than ready to return to his hotel room, and Ianto hadn’t really needed the money anyway.
“Ah, what a night! One I shall not forget in a hurry, my friend!” Riek slapped Ianto companionably on the back. “Didn’t I say I felt lucky? Sometimes the luck shines bright, tonight it was our turn to feel the warmth of its light.”
“A grand night indeed,” Ianto agreed. He offered Riek his hand. “I think this is where we part ways; we both have our responsibilities and it’s about time I got back to mine.”
Riek clasped Ianto’s hand warmly. “The best of times must end. Perhaps our paths will cross again at some point in the future. May the luck continue to shine on you in your search.”
“And on you in your business ventures.”
Farewells spoken, they went their separate ways.
Walking through the corridors, hands in pockets, Ianto felt uplifted. He’d needed a break, a distraction from his own problems, to give him some perspective, but now, reenergized, he was ready to get back to his search for Jack.
Midshipman Alonso Frame, one time crewman aboard the Titanic. His career in space had run into trouble and now he wasn’t too sure what to do. He told Jack the whole sorry story, about the sabotage that had almost crashed the Titanic into Planet Earth and how a mysterious stranger, the Doctor, had saved the day, and the ship. Not that it had been a total triumph, the Titanic was so badly damaged it would have been too expensive to repair and had instead been scrapped, which had left Alonso out of a job. He’d been stuck on the space station for a couple of years now, taking whatever work he could get to pay his way while trying to find a job on one of the many ships that docked there, but no one wanted to hire him, believing that his presence might jinx their own ships. He’d hoped, briefly, that the Doctor might invite him to travel with him for a bit, but that hadn’t happened.
“Perhaps it was just as well, I have a feeling excitement and danger follow wherever he goes, and I’ve had more than enough of both to last me a long time.”
Jack nodded. “He tends to show up wherever there’s trouble, he has an instinct for it. He doesn’t cause it, most of the time anyway, but when he comes across trouble he sets things right.”
“You know him?”
“I travelled with him for a while, but something happened to me and now he can barely stand to be around me. I keep wondering if that’s why he didn’t show up when the world I called home was threatened and I needed his help. In the space of five days I lost everything that mattered to me, and I kept waiting for the Doctor to come and fix things, but he never did. He was my hero, but he let me down.”
“What happened? I mean, if you don’t mind talking about it.”
Surprisingly, Jack found he didn’t mind. Oh, talking about it still hurt like hell, but Alonso was a good listener and Jack found himself telling the young man everything. It felt good. The leaden weight inside his chest seemed to get a little lighter as he spoke of Ianto, his courage and selflessness, the way he’d stood up to the 456 determined that they wouldn’t take a single child.
“He was the bravest most caring man I’ve ever known. He meant everything to me; I loved him, but I never told him, not even when he was dying in my arms. I was afraid to, I didn’t want to believe I was losing him, like if I told him I loved him it would seal his fate, but now it’s too late and he never knew.” Jack wiped away the tears that were running down his cheeks. “I lost the man I still love, sacrificed my grandson, destroyed my daughter’s life, and all because I had to play the big damn hero.” He sounded bitter even to his own ears.
“But you prevented all those thousands of children from being taken and harmed.”
“I did, but the cost… It was way too high.”
“It sounds to me like you didn’t really have much of a choice.”
Jack shook his head in denial. “There must have been a better way, and I should have found it. I was too sure of myself, too confident, and I’ll be paying for that arrogance for eternity.”
“What will you do now?”
“I don’t know. Find a way to make amends, balance the scales, make up for all my failures. Help people in need; something like that. I have plenty of time. What about you?”
Alonso shrugged. “Keep doing what I’ve been doing, work whatever jobs come along, try to save enough to buy passage back to Sto if I can’t get there working as crew. It’s probably going to take a while.”
It was impulsive, true, but if he was planning to help people in need then he had to start somewhere. Besides, this was his chance to help someone else the Doctor had abandoned; maybe it was a sign.
“There’s a spare bunk on my ship if you’re interested. It’s only a two-man scout ship, kind of cramped, but… well, the offer’s there, it’s up to you.”
“Are you sure you wouldn’t mind?”
“I wouldn’t have offered if I minded.”
“Then I guess I really am going your way after all. Thank you, Captain.”
“You’re welcome.” Jack meant it too; he’d been alone too long, it would be good to have company, maybe even a friend. Perhaps the Doctor had done something to help him after all.