Characters: Ianto, Jack, OCs, Alonso Frame.
Word Count: 4178
Spoilers: CoE, House of the Dead, Miracle Day
Summary: Sometimes, to find something you’ve lost you have to stop looking for it…
Written For: Challenge #129: Amnesty using Challenge #72: Lost and Found at fan_flashworks
Disclaimer: I don’t own Torchwood, or the characters.
A/N: As I got so many eager reviews, I’m being kind and giving you the big reunion early. Hope it proves worth the long wait to get to this point!
Jack followed Alonso into the TARDIS, only to be faced by a console room with completely unfamiliar décor. It was airy and open, but the walls were wood panelled, and the floor, also of wood, sanded smooth and waxed to an almost mirror-like sheen. Comfortable chairs and sofas were dotted about around low tables, while several bookcases filled with books stood against the walls below framed pictures. There were even ferns in pots here and there. The place reminded him of one of those high class coffee houses where people would meet up with friends for a chat, an impression made all the stronger by the aroma of excellent coffee that filled the air. That scent alone brought a lump to Jack’s throat and tears to his eyes, forcing him to swallow hard and lock his knees so that he wouldn’t just sink to the floor in a sobbing heap. Had the Doctor chosen this design deliberately to mock him? He’d never really considered the Time Lord to be callous or cruel, although he could be both tactless and oblivious to other people’s feelings, but this…
In an effort to distract himself, he turned his attention to the console itself. Even that had changed, fitting in with the overall design; a circular wooden platform dominated the centre of the room, with several sets of steps leading up to it and gleaming brass safety railings around the edge. The control console rising from the centre of the platform was all wood and brass and sparkling crystal, with lights, switches, levers, dials and buttons all over it and several massive viewscreens suspended at strategic points around it, displaying views of the nearby nebula.
Everything was so different it seemed obvious to Jack that the Doctor must have regenerated again. A quick glance around didn’t reveal anyone who could possibly be the Time Lord, although there was a group of oddly familiar furry aliens standing off to Jack’s right. More memories flooded his mind. He’d seen people like these before; they were Tallans, he remembered, the aliens Ianto had spent some time with when he’d accidentally fallen through the Rift. He’d dubbed them Space Wombles because of their resemblance to the characters in an old TV series he’d loved as a child.
Jack was so caught up in the bittersweet memories his surroundings evoked that he didn’t notice the man who appeared from behind the console until he spoke, and then all he could do for what felt like eternity was stare. This couldn’t possibly be real, perhaps the entire rescue was just a dream and in reality the little scout ship was almost out of air. It wouldn’t be the first time he’d hallucinated as he lay dying.
Sometimes, Ianto reflected, you find what you’re looking for when you least expect to. Jack had been lost for so long by now that there had been times Ianto had almost begun to doubt he’d ever find him again, but there he was, large as life, standing in the TARDIS’s console room with a strange mix of expressions on his face; confusion, despair, wonder, grief, curiosity and wistfulness warred with each other, making the normally confidant man look oddly defenceless. He hadn’t see Ianto yet, he was staring at the Tallans who were looking back at him with curiosity and interest. He also wasn’t alone. A young and reasonably attractive man had been the first to enter. That was typical of Jack, always putting everyone else’s life before his own.
“Doctor?” Surprisingly, it wasn’t Jack who spoke but the other man.
“Sorry to disappoint,” Ianto replied, “but this isn’t the Doctor’s TARDIS. I apologize for any confusion; the police box was just the most convenient size and shape to fit into the available space. There’s not an awful lot of room in your ship, as I’m sure you’re aware.”
Moving around from the other side of the console, he descended the steps and approached the two men, one looking curious and interested, the other, Jack, now staring at him as if he’d seen a ghost. Ianto couldn’t blame him for that, considering that until this moment Jack had surely believed Ianto to be dead and gone forever.
“Hello, Jack. Do you have any idea how long I’ve been trying to find you? Sorry, stupid question, of course you don’t. If you’d known, I’d like to think that you wouldn’t have been so elusive.”
Jack stared in disbelief at the vision approaching him. It took him a moment to find his voice, and when he did manage to speak, he sounded faint and shaky. “Ianto? Am I dreaming? You can’t be real.” If it was a dream then it was the most realistic one he’d ever had; Jack didn’t think he could have conjured so precisely from memory the mouth-watering aroma of Ianto’s coffee, something he hadn’t smelled in far too long.
“You know, that’s exactly what I asked myself when I first opened my eyes to find myself aboard a TARDIS. No, Jack, it’s not a dream. In fact, in a round about way, I think I probably owe you my life. Apparently, interesting things happen when a piece of TARDIS coral that’s been sitting around soaking up Rift energy for decades gets caught in an explosion and thrown into the Rift.”
Jack stared at him blankly, looking thoroughly confused. He knew Ianto was speaking to him, but he was too caught up in the familiar sound of his voice to register what he was saying. “Huh?”
“Never mind; long story, I’ll tell you everything later. There’s no rush.” By now, Ianto was standing just a few feet away from Jack and the other man, hands shoved in his trouser pockets, still unsure of how Jack was going to react, and wondering whether the other man was Jack’s new lover.
For his part, Jack was obviously having trouble getting his head around what he was seeing. “But you died! I know; I watched it happen, twice!” Tears were welling up in Jack’s eyes, disbelief warring with fragile hope in his expression.
“I know; I was there too. I died at the hands of the 456… do they even have hands? Never mind; doesn’t matter. Syriath brought me back somehow and then… Well, let’s just say blowing up the House of the Dead and sealing the Cardiff Rift had unexpected benefits. Not that I’m complaining; on the whole I much prefer being alive.” Ianto was aware that he was rambling a bit, but he couldn’t seem to stop himself. He hadn’t expected to feel so nervous at finally seeing the man he loved again.
Jack just stared at Ianto, trying to make sense of what the man in front of him was saying. Once again, he seemed unable to either move or speak, struck dumb and all but paralysed by the impossibility of what he was seeing.
Beside Jack, Alonso stepped forward, extending his hand. “Alonso Frame, former Midshipman aboard the Titanic, at your service. Uh, the space cruiser Titanic that is, not the old Earthian liner.”
Ianto, ever mindful of the importance of good manners, shook hands with the stranger. “Good to meet you, Midshipman Frame.”
“I just go by Alonzo these days. You’re really Ianto? Jack’s Ianto? It’s an honour to meet you sir, I’ve heard quite a lot about you over the last few months. Oh, and just so you know, Jack and I are just friends and travelling companions. He was kind enough to offer me a bunk on his ship when I found myself stranded. I think he only did it because we happen to have a friend in common.”
“Let me guess; the Doctor.”
“The very same. We sent him a message when we found ourselves in trouble, so naturally, when a TARDIS materialised in front of us, we assumed it was his.
“A very natural mistake,” Ianto assured him, “especially considering that until recently, he had the only known TARDIS in existence. Mine is comparatively young and not quite fully-grown yet; we’ve both still learners.”
“We have learned much already, but the universe is vast and full of so many things. I wonder if it is possible to learn everything.” The mellow voice seemed to come from the very air itself, startling Alonso and Jack.
Ianto simply smiled up at the ceiling as he replied. “The only way to find out is to try.”
“And try we shall.” The tone was warm with affection. “I apologise for interrupting your conversation, but this is all very exciting.”
“Don’t worry about it, it’s time I introduced you anyway.”
“Your TARDIS talks?” Alonso asked, wide-eyed.
It was Ianto’s turn to be surprised. “Of course. Doesn’t the Doctor’s?”
“Well, I don’t know, I never actually went inside,” Alonso admitted, “but I know Jack has and in all his stories of his travels, he’s never mentioned it talking.”
Ianto turned back to Jack, who hadn’t moved or said anything for a while. “Jack?”
The bag and coat Jack had been holding slid to the floor with a gentle thud. He was still staring at Ianto, as if afraid to hope or even blink in case he vanished.
Ianto glanced back at his other new guest. “Um, Alonso, if you’d just follow that corridor there,” he pointed to the one leading to the residential level, “the TARDIS will guide you to your room.”
Alonso nodded. “Of course. I’ll leave you two alone. I’m sure you have a lot to talk about.” He strode through the archway and vanished from sight. The Tallans, Ianto noticed, had already slipped silently away. There would be plenty of time to introduce Jack to them later anyway, when he was less shell-shocked and hopefully, more coherent.
He approached his lover cautiously, not wanting to alarm him further. “Jack? Are you okay?”
Jack shook his head. “I don’t know. I want so badly for this to be real, but how can it be when I saw you die? I was at your funeral, and then at the House of the Dead… I wanted to see you so much, just one last time, so I could tell you all the things I never said when I should have, when you were alive, and so I could say goodbye properly. I thought you’d just be a ghost, but you were real and solid and it was wonderful and unbearable at the same time. I wanted to say to hell with everything and pull you out of there, take the chance that we could be together again, but you just had to be noble and brave and selfless and so much just you… Ianto Jones, saving the world one last time. I died inside all over again. Losing you once was bad enough, but twice… My heart broke into a million pieces.”
He was crying now, tears streaming down his face, and Ianto took one last step towards his captain, wrapping his arms around him and holding him close. “I’m sorry, but I had to do it. I wanted to go with you more than anything, for a moment I couldn’t help thinking how good it would be, but the cost would have been too high. If Syriath had got out… Closing the Rift, defeating Syriath, that was more important than what I wanted, and if I hadn’t done it then everything bad that might have happened afterwards would have been my fault and I would never have been able to forgive myself. That was always the way of things with Torchwood though, wasn’t it? We always did what had to be done rather than what we wanted to do. Everything we did, every sacrifice we made, was for the greater good. I don’t regret staying behind; if I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have the life I’ve got now, but I’ll forever regret what my choice put you through.”
“You feel real, you even smell real.” Jack’s voice was muffled because his nose was pressed against Ianto’s neck, breathing him in.
“I am real, Jack. All of this is real. I’ve got so much to tell you that I don’t even know where to begin, but there’ll be plenty of time for that later. Right now, this is all you need to know. When the House of the Dead blew up, I was thrown through the Rift and into the void beyond. The Rift slammed shut behind me and I should have died, I think I did die, but the TARDIS coral was already there and growing. She was thrown into the void when the Hub was blown up. She grew around me, protecting me, and for some reason I’ll probably never really understand, because I was soaked in Rift energy or maybe because I’d been recreated by Syriath, I healed and came back to life. I’m not sure that I’m completely like you now, but near enough that it makes no difference. My TARDIS says I’m immortal, that even if I die I’ll come back again, just like you, and I believe her. You’ll never have to worry about losing me again, because I’m back to stay. And if you don’t believe me, we’ll just track down the Doctor, wherever he is, and freak him out completely. That should prove it,” Ianto joked, rubbing one hand over Jack’s back and pressing a kiss into his hair. “I’m right here, Cariad. I’m alive and I’ll never leave you again unless you want me to. I promise.”
It was a lot for Jack to take in, and most of it went right over his head, but Ianto’s last words sunk in, startling him. “I’ll never want you to leave me Ianto, I love you!” he sniffled against Ianto’s shoulder. “Sorry, I’m getting your suit all wet.”
“I love you too Jack, and you’ve got nothing to apologise for. Besides, I’ve got all the suits I could want now, and it won’t take much to clean this one anyway. If I’d known I was going to finally find you today, I’d have really dressed up, maybe even worn pinstripes and a red shirt, I know how much you like that combination,” he teased, getting a muffled and watery laugh in response. “C’mon, why don’t we go to my room? We can make ourselves comfortable on the bed, looks like you could use some rest.” He moved slightly, preparing to lead Jack from the console room.
“Don’t let go of me!” Jack clung on like a limpet.
“I won’t, it’s okay.” Shifting so he had one arm tight around Jack’s waist, Ianto scooped up Jack’s fallen baggage with his free hand, slinging the bag’s strap over his shoulder and tucking the coat under his arm. “I don’t know, just dropping your coat on the floor like that… Hey! This isn’t the coat I got for you in London! The fabric’s all wrong.” He sounded disapproving even to his own ears, and to his relief, heard Jack chuckle, sounding a bit more like himself.
“That’s my Ianto, always concerned about my coat. Don’t worry; the coat you got me is in secure storage on Paramian, with all my other valuables. This one’s a cheap copy I picked up on earth a bit back. Got an SOS from Gwen so I had to leave the ship I was working on and go save earth again.” He wiped tears away with the back of the hand not currently in use hanging onto Ianto. “Gods Ianto, going back there… It was so hard. I was mostly in America though, I didn’t spend much time in Cardiff, just stopped off there to visit your… grave before heading back into space.” Jack’s voice hitched as he remembered.
“So that’s why you weren’t on the Oglosk when I caught up to her at The Wheel.”
“You found the ship I was on?” They were walking slowly along the corridor, arms around each other’s waists, on their way to the stairs.
“Yep. I got a tip-off from a sort of friend of mine. Found the ship, talked to Captain Riek and found you’d already left; he was none too pleased. Decent enough guy though, told me where you’d probably jumped ship. I kind of lied to him a little, said you owed me money, and he was happy to help. Wasn’t the first time I’d just missed you either; I’ve been searching for you for the best part of a year. There were times I wondered if I’d ever catch up to you.”
“You have a time machine, couldn’t you have just gone back in time and picked me up after the House of the Dead was destroyed?” Now that he was moving instead of frozen to the spot, Jack’s head had cleared a bit, making it easier for him to think.
“Oh, I wish. That would’ve been so much easier. I can’t go back to earth though, the two explosions, the Hub and the pub, created a time/space bubble that keeps my TARDIS out. Between sometime in 1962 and 2122, I can’t get any closer to earth than outside the moon’s orbit.”
Jack stopped dead. “You can’t go home?”
“No.” Ianto smiled sadly. “I left letters for my family in a bank in 1960, to be delivered to them six months after my death, so at least they’ll know I’m okay. There was one for Gwen too, I’m surprised she didn’t mention it when she saw you.”
“Ah, she probably never got it. She and Rhys sort of went into hiding after the whole 456 thing.”
“That explains it. What about Rhi?”
“She and her family were fine the last time I saw them. Well, as fine as they could be after losing you. You don’t have to worry about them, they were well provided for in your will.”
“That’s good to know.” Ianto started them moving again, arriving at the stairs and guiding Jack downwards. “I wish I could have seen them one last time. I don’t even have a photo of them.”
“Yes you do. Or, you will. I brought a few things from your flat: your journals, your photo albums, a few other bits and pieces, some yours and some mine… I felt a bit bad about taking them, but I figure Rhiannon has photos of her own, and I just didn’t want to forget…” Jack trailed off, too choked up again to continue speaking for a minute. “They’re in storage with my coat.”
Ianto shed a few tears of his own. “Thank you, Jack. You have no idea how much that means to me.”
“Oh, I think I do.” Jack smiled softly, brushing away Ianto’s tears with his thumb. “You gave my family back to me when you found the memory globe I’d had as a kid on Boeshane. Looks like now I get to return the favour. When can we stop by Paramian and pick everything up?”
‘How long will it take to reach Paramian from here if we leave now?’ Ianto thought, hearing the TARDIS’s reply in his head almost immediately.
‘Eight point four days, Ianto.’
“We should be there in just over a week. We can send someone out to fix your ship and fly it to the nearest port. I know of several people who could make use of it if Alonso doesn’t want it. Unless you wanted to keep it yourself, that is.”
“Will I be needing a ship?” Jack sounded a little nervous.
“I hope not,” Ianto admitted. “I was rather hoping you might like to travel with me and my TARDIS. Well, I should say our TARDIS since she grew from the coral you had on your desk.”
“My TARDIS coral?” Jack’s eyes went wide.
“Yes, I told you, when the Hub blew up she got sucked into the Rift, along with a few other things.”
“Sorry, most of what you’ve told me hasn’t sunk in yet.” Jack sounded sheepish. “She’s grown a bit since the last time I saw her.” He looked around at the carpeted corridor they were walking along. “Ianto, if this is a dream, I hope I never wake up from it.”
Ianto tightened his arm around Jack. “I promise you’re not dreaming.” He pushed the door to his bedroom open, deciding that the replica of his apartment on earth would probably be a bit too much for Jack to deal with at the moment. “Here we are, home sweet home. What d’you think?” He ushered Jack inside, dumping the kit bag on the floor just inside the door and draping the impostor coat over the back of a nearby chair. It was such a poor replica; privately he thought it should be put out of his misery. The sooner they got Son of Coat out of storage, the better.
Stopping in the middle of the room, Jack looked around, taking everything in. “I like it, it’s very you.”
“I suppose it is. The TARDIS decorated it to suit my tastes after all.” He hesitated a moment, then decided he should probably be honest. “Jack, if you don’t mind my saying so, you’re a bit on the whiffy side. I think you could do with a shower. I’ve got some pyjamas you can wear. Okay?”
Jack chewed nervously on his bottom lip. “Come with me? I’m scared if I let you out of my sight you’ll disappear.”
“Not going to happen, but yes, I’ll come with you.” He led Jack by the hand over to the dresser and got out two pairs of pyjamas, burgundy for himself and slate blue for Jack. “We can be colour coordinated to match the room, he said with a wink, leading Jack into the bathroom and turning the shower on to warm while they both shed their clothes. “When you’re rested, we’ll go down to the wardrobe room, I’m sure we can find something more your style for you to wear.”
“Sounds good.” Jack let Ianto lead him under the hot water, luxuriating in the feel of familiar fingers massaging shampoo into his hair. By the time they stepped out and Ianto set about drying them both off with big, warm, fluffy towels, he was feeling relaxed and almost boneless. Dressed in the pyjamas, and with comfy slippers on their feet, they went across the corridor to the kitchen, where they found Alonso fixing himself a sandwich.
“Oh, hi! I was hungry, I hope you don’t mind me helping myself.”
“Not at all, that’s what it’s here for. How’s your room?”
“Sheer luxury! My whole apartment back on Sto would fit in it!”
“One of the many great things about living onboard a TARDIS is that there’s no shortage of space. You should ask her to show you to the gardens when you’re rested.”
“I’ll do that, thank you.” Alonso picked up his plate and mug. “I think I’ll eat in my room. Goodnight.”
“Goodnight. If there’s anything you need, just ask the TARDIS.”
As soon as Alonso had left, Ianto turned to Jack. “What do you fancy for dinner?”
He was a little surprised that Jack ignored the opportunity for innuendo. The months of believing Ianto was dead had obviously left some scars, but he was confident that Jack just needed time to recover and adjust.
“Pizza?” Jack sounded so hopeful that Ianto couldn’t help laughing.
“I think that can be arranged. Cheese and tomato? Pepperoni? Hawaiian? Something more elaborate?”
“Pepperoni, with mushrooms.”
Ianto opened one of the freezer units and pulled out the chosen pizza, disposing of the wrapping and popping their dinner into a kind of futuristic microwave to cook. “Should be ready in a few minutes.” He got plates out of a cupboard and set them on a tray, then turned to a coffee machine. “You want coffee with your pizza?”
“Please!” Jack’s mouth watered at the thought.
By the time the pizza was ready, the coffee was starting to burble, filling the kitchen with its rich, dark aroma. Ianto poured two cups, then poured the rest of the brew into an insulated jug for later. He added napkins and some fresh fruit to the tray, set the pizza in the middle, neatly sliced, and with Jack in tow, made his way back across the corridor to the room they now shared.
For once, Ianto was happy to break his rule against eating in bed. The two of them snuggled together, the tray of food resting across their laps, munching pizza and drinking coffee. If he closed his eyes, Ianto thought, they could almost be back at the Hub, sitting on the sofa beneath the old Torchwood sign, sharing a late dinner after the others had left for the night. The thought brought back memories of Tosh and Owen, dead and gone, and he had to swallow hard because of a sudden lump in his throat. Some things that were lost would forever remain lost. But Jack was found, and if Ianto had his way, he would never lose the man he loved ever again.