Characters: Ianto, Jack, OCs, Alonso Frame.
Word Count: 3434
Spoilers: CoE, House of the Dead, Miracle Day
Summary: Reunited at long last, Jack and Ianto have a long talk about what was, and what lies ahead for both of them.
Written For: Challenge #130: Identity at fan_flashworks
Disclaimer: I don’t own Torchwood, or the characters.
A/N: This chapter was getting way overlong, so there will be one more as a kind of epilogue to the main story.
Jack woke with a start, unsure of where he was. He’d had a dream, such a vivid dream he could almost have believed it real, but that would have been impossible. Ianto was long gone…
Someone shifted at Jack’s side in the darkness and after some sleepily innocent groping, a warm hand came to rest on his chest, over his heart.
“Jack? You okay, cariad?”
“Who else would it be? Could we have a little light, please?”
That last comment was apparently not directed at Jack as a low female voice replied. “Of course, Ianto.”
A gentle, diffuse glow lit the darkness, not so bright that it hurt Jack’s eyes, but bright enough for him to see his surroundings, and the man in bed beside him.
“Ianto. I thought I’d dreamed all this…”
“It’s as real as you are, Jack, and so am I.” Ianto shifted closer, wrapping his arms around the man he’d searched so long for. “I know this must be hard for you to believe, it is for me as well in some ways, but we’re both alive and we’re together, and right now that’s all that matters.”
“I was so lost without you,” Jack murmured against Ianto’s chest. “I didn’t know who I was anymore. You were gone, Torchwood was gone, everything that gave me purpose and a reason to keep going was gone. With the Rift closed I wasn’t needed on Earth anymore, I was just drifting, trying to find myself again, but I couldn’t because nothing made sense without you in my life.”
“I’m sorry, Jack. You know I never wanted to leave you like that. But if I hadn’t died then, the way I did, you would have lost me some other time, some other way, and then I probably never would’ve been able to come back to you. I think, bad as it was, maybe it had to be that way so that I could become like you and you’d never have to lose me again. Maybe everything that happened, everything we did, was just leading to this, a new beginning for both of us.”
Jack lifted his head to look at Ianto. “You mean like fate or destiny?”
“I don’t know, maybe. Or maybe it’s the universe’s way of making up for making you immortal in the first place, or a way of balancing things out. One immortal throws the balance of the universe off, but two sets things right again. Who knows? I’m not even sure the why of it is really important. Being with you again is enough for me.”
“For me too.” Jack smiled a little tremulously. “How long have you been…” he waved a hand vaguely, “out here?”
“Getting on for a year, I think. I haven’t been keeping very good track of time, plus I took a brief jaunt into the past at one point to save the crew of a freighter, then lived my way back to the present day… Time travel makes keeping track of time difficult.” Ianto frowned.
Jack chuckled. “Don’t I know it! And you’ve been searching for me all that time?”
Ianto nodded. “We’ve done other things too of course, learning how to fit in out here.”
“Like rescuing a freighter crew?”
“That was one of our more ambitious adventures, and not something I want to attempt too often. At least, not until I have a better idea of what I’m doing. I don’t want to screw up any timelines.” He looked at Jack. “Tracking you down was proving difficult, so I had to find ways to fill in time while we searched. I’d tried showing your picture around spaceports but I wasn’t getting anywhere, so then I tried asking questions in the various black markets that seem to be everywhere.”
“That could’ve been risky.” Jack took Ianto’s hand, gripping it tight. “Some of those people are dangerous.”
“I know, but I took precautions. I didn’t just barge in asking questions, I created a new identity for myself and went in disguise, asked questions discreetly, let it be known that the man I was looking for had stolen something very valuable from me. You did, you know,” he added, reaching out to cup Jack’s cheek in one hand. “You stole my heart.” He leaned in to kiss Jack softly.
“My clever Ianto,” Jack murmured, admiringly. “So, who are you when you’re not being you?”
Ianto blushed, a tide of pink staining his cheeks. “Well, I had to pick a name that, if you heard it, might make you curious enough to investigate. After all, I was trying to find you.”
“And?” Jack was grinning now, swept up in Ianto’s tale. “What name did you choose?”
Biting his lip, Ianto peeped at Jack from beneath his lashes. “You’ll laugh.”
“Probably,” Jack agreed, “but tell me anyway.”
“Okay, around the black markets I go by the name Desmond Llewellyn, but everyone knows me as Des, bodyguard for hire.”
Jack stared at him for a long moment, a slow smile spreading across his lips. “The actor who played your second favourite Bond character; clever! So, has anyone tried to hire you?”
“I’ve taken several bodyguarding jobs, I’ve earned my reputation, but I’m choosy about my clients.” There was a twinkle in his eyes as he said that. “I ensure both sides play fair during business negotiations. And when I’m not doing that, I’m just myself, helping people in need.”
“You constantly amaze me, Ianto Jones. Thrown into a literally alien environment, you just adapt and fit in. You would have made a great Time Agent.”
“I’ll take that as a compliment.”
“Good, because it was meant as one. A lot of Time Agency candidates washed out during training because they weren’t able to adapt, and they’d been around aliens and space travel their entire lives, but I think you could make a place for yourself no matter where you wound up. That’s a rare skill, something you should be proud of.”
“I didn’t do it all alone though, I had help. My TARDIS has been guiding me from the start. She’s here,” Ianto tapped the side of his head, “in my mind all the time, telling me what to say, what to do, teaching me. I couldn’t have done any of it without her.”
“Don’t sell yourself short,” Jack smiled, “you’ve always had more going on in your head than anyone I’ve ever met. You’re observant, you have an amazing memory, you know what people want before they even know it themselves. Even without this magnificent ship, I have no doubt that you’d make out just fine. That’s just who you are.”
It was surreal, this conversation in the half-light of Ianto’s bedroom, dreamlike even, but it was real. The more they talked, the more sure of that Jack became. He didn’t understand how he could be so lucky, was sure he didn’t deserve this gift of a second chance, but nevertheless he wasn’t going to waste it. He had his Ianto back and he was never going to let go of him again.
“I love you, Ianto, I should have told you that long ago, but I was a fool. I knew I’d lose you someday and I thought it would hurt less if I didn’t admit how I felt.” He let out a bitter half laugh. “So good at conning people I even managed to con myself. But I was wrong, losing you tore me apart and I didn’t even have time to grieve. I had to pick myself up and find a way to save the world again. All those children who would’ve become just the next fix for a race of junkie aliens; I was all that stood between them and their fate, and I wasn’t good enough.”
“You saved them though, defeated the 456.”
“I did, but the price was too high, Ianto. I did a terrible thing, something I’ll never forgive myself for. You have no idea…”
“I do, Jack. I know what you had to do. Once again you had to make an impossible decision, one life against millions, and you made it. I can’t even begin to imagine how hard that was for you.”
“How do you know that?” Jack was stunned, as much by the fact that Ianto was looking at him with such compassion instead of the disgust he would have expected.
“I managed to speak to Lizzie from orbit, filled her in on everything that had happened. My TARDIS gathered video footage, telephone conversations, emails, everything she could so that Her Majesty would have a clear picture of just what had been done behind her back and who was involved. It was the best I could do under the circumstances. At least it gave her the information she needed to clean house, both among the Cabinet and throughout UNIT’s ranks. I saw, Jack. I watched the footage myself, I needed to know what had left you so broken, so I could help you to heal.”
“I don’t think there’s any way I can heal from that. I was a father and a grandfather, Ianto, now I’m neither. I sacrificed my grandson for the sake of the world and my daughter disowned me. I can’t blame her, Steven was everything to her and I took him from her. What kind of monster does that make me?”
Ianto shook his head. “Not a monster, Jack, just a man, backed into a corner where you literally had no other choice but to do what you did.”
“I could’ve refused.”
“And what would that have gained? Your grandson was the only child any of those people had access to. If you hadn’t done the deed then they would’ve killed you and one of them would have done it, Dekker, or Johnson, and they wouldn’t have given a damn about whether Stephen was scared, or injured in the process. One way or another, what happened to Stephen was inevitable, he was never going to walk out of there alive no matter what you did, but you made sure he didn’t suffer more than was absolutely necessary, you made sure he knew how much he was loved and that what he was doing was the bravest thing anyone could do. Because of you, Stephen was able to die as a hero and not as a pawn. Under the circumstances, that was the greatest gift you could give him. I’m more sorry than I can put into words that you had to make that soul-destroying decision, but you have to stop blaming yourself.”
Jack let Ianto’s words slowly sink in. He didn’t agree with everything his lover had said, he was still too full of guilt and shame for that, but even so he knew Ianto was right about one thing. From the moment they’d realised that a child would be needed as a conduit for the signal to destroy the 456, Stephen’s life had been forfeit. The only way he could have lived would have been if they’d condemned millions of children to a fate even worse than death.
Ianto was speaking again and Jack dragged himself out of the morass of his thoughts to listen. “From the moment the 456 arrived and the children started chanting, all our options were snatched away from us. The government made sure that everyone who knew of the 456 from before was killed or otherwise prevented from telling what they knew. They tried to kill us, destroyed our base along with all the equipment and information we might have used to find a solution, and left us on the run with next to no resources. If they hadn’t, we would’ve had five days to find a way to combat the threat, and chances are no one would’ve had to die. If you need someone to blame, then blame those who prevented us from doing our job and left you with no other way to save the world’s children. You did the best you could under the circumstances, and it cost you, Alice, and Stephen a price none of you should ever have had to pay, but that doesn’t make you a monster. If there’d been another way and you’d had the time to find it, things would’ve been different, but time ran out and you did the only thing you could, just like you always have.”
Jack was openly crying by now, and Ianto wrapped his arms around his lover, holding him close and rubbing his back until he grew quiet again.
“Thank you.” Jack’s voice was muffled by Ianto’s shoulder.
“For loving me, for still wanting me, after everything I did. You should hate me; anyone else would.”
“I know you Jack; whatever you might think of yourself, you’re a good man. You care about others and you do your best to help, even when all the odds are stacked against you. I could never hate you for what you were forced to do - you hate yourself enough already - and I don't pity you, but I will not stand by and let you wallow either. It's not my place to forgive you; only you and Alice can do that. You did something horrible, and there’s no getting around that, but there's nothing either of us can do to change what happened. God knows I would if I could, but at least I made sure that those who ultimately held responsibility for what you had to do will be paying the price for the rest of their lives. Lizzie can be counted on to get justice for Stephen and Alice, and for all the other families that suffered and lost loved ones. It’s not much consolation, but it’s something. Now, don’t you think it’s time you stopped beating yourself up over something that can’t be undone? There’s a whole big universe out there, full of all kinds of people who could use a helping hand. That’s what we do; help those in need. It’s who we are. Let the Doctor take care of the big, world-shaking catastrophes, I’m sure we can find more than enough smaller-scale problems that need fixing. What d’you say?”
Jack nodded, giving a slightly shaky smile. “Okay, I think I could do that.”
“Good. Now, why don’t we get showered and dressed and head up to the garden room? There are some people, friends of mine, that I’d like you to meet.”
By the time Jack and Ianto reached the Garden Room, Alonso was already having breakfast with the Tallans, fresh fruit and a sort of unleavened bread toasted over one of their small fire pits. The sky overhead was a clear, pale blue and the sunlight felt pleasantly warm against their bare arms. Jack wasn’t ready to assume his Captain persona again just yet, so they’d made a brief trip down to the wardrobe level and kitted themselves out in jeans and t-shirts.
Ianto had brought along cups and a couple of big flasks of coffee as his contribution to the breakfast menu, so after introductions had been made, he served everyone and he and Jack joined the others to eat. Ianto explained the Tallans’ situation and Jack nodded.
“When I fetched you back from their home planet after you were rift-napped, my VM would have stored the coordinates, just like it does every time I use the teleport function.”
“Then you can tell the TARDIS where it is?”
“I will be able to, once we’ve been to Paramian and collected everything I left in storage there.”
Ianto frowned. “But…” He pointed to Jack’s wrist. “You’re wearing your VM.”
Jack turned his arm. “Look closer. This isn’t mine, it’s one I cobbled together from parts of a couple of broken ones Torchwood picked up back in the Thirties and Forties, plus some components I picked up in the black markets.” He winked at Ianto. “You were asking in the right places, even if it didn’t get you a lead that panned out. Anyway, I didn’t want to risk my own, over the years I’ve loaded a lot of stuff onto it that I didn’t want to lose, so once I’d got this one working, I copied a few things to it and stored mine for safe-keeping. I didn’t bother copying the coordinate logs over though, didn’t expect to need those since this one doesn’t have a working teleport function. Yet. I’m still working on it, but I’m missing some essential parts. Not that I’ll need it now, at least not for space or time travel.”
“I gather it has other useful functions.”
“Oh yeah. When I get a few other bits fixed you can have this one and I’ll wear my own. You can store music, voice messages, photographs and video on it, use it like a phone… No promises, but you might even be able to call your sister on it.”
Ianto’s eyes lit up with hope and he smiled. “That would be wonderful!” He reined in his enthusiasm. “Well, if it works.”
“Even if it doesn’t, with the TARDIS’s help I should be able to fix the teleport. Then if we were to get as close to Earth as we could, even though you can’t teleport down, I should be able to. Maybe I could bring Rhi to you for a visit. Or maybe I could get my hands on a small shuttle and bring the whole family up. What d’you think?” He directed the question towards the sky and the TARDIS’s voice seemed to come out of thin air.
“I believe it is only Ianto and myself who are unable to land on earth within the specific period of time influenced by the time/space bubble. I can see no reason why you should not be able to visit the planet and enable Ianto’s family to visit us.”
“Then that’s what we’ll do!” Jack was smiling, happy that he could do something special for Ianto.
“We will, but not yet. First we have to visit Paramian, and then we’re taking Auber and the others home. Once the TARDIS knows where Talla is, we’ll be able to keep in touch, stop by for visits, and any of Auber’s people who want to can come with us on a trip to the stars.”
“There are many of my people who would delight in the opportunity,” Auber agreed. “We have learned many things in our time aboard the TARDIS, many new tales to tell our people. We are a simple folk, we have no desire to build spacecraft of our own, or to live in cities, but knowledge can enrich our lives nonetheless. I hope you will all stop a while with my people, there will be festivities to celebrate our safe return after so many moons, and it would please us greatly to have you share in our happiness.”
Olan spoke up then, looking directly at Ianto and Jack. “When we return home, Diller and I wish to pledge ourselves to each other, and we would be honoured if you would both attend the joining ceremony where we will be united as one. If not for you, Ianto, we would have remained slaves with no hope of seeing our home and our people again. We owe you a debt we can never adequately repay, but we would make such repayment as we can by welcoming you into our tribe as family.”
“He grows more like you every day,” Ianto told Auber, “a son any father would be proud of.” He turned to Olan and Diller. “You honour us. We would be delighted to attend your joining ceremony. Thank you. What about Alonso?” He turned to the third human member of the group.
“Oh, I already told everyone else, but I think I’ll take my leave of you all when we reach Paramian. It’s not that far from there to Sto, and to be honest, after the last few weeks adrift in that little scout ship, I think I’ve had my fill of adventure for the time being. I’m looking forward to leading a quiet, uneventful life and seeing my own family again.”
Ianto nodded. “Very well, it’s your choice, but I’ll give you our phone number before you leave, just in case you ever change your mind, or need our help for any reason. I owe you for being there for Jack when I couldn’t be.” He squeezed Jack’s hand, smiling at his lover, before turning back to Alonso. “It’s good to have friends; you’ll always be welcome here.”
Alonso smiled. “Thank you, I’ll remember that.”