Characters: Ianto, Jack, OCs, Alonso Frame.
Word Count: 4370
Spoilers: CoE, House of the Dead, Miracle Day
Summary: It’s been a long journey, but Auber and the other Tallans are finally home. That calls for a celebration or two, and what’s a celebration without cake?
Written For: Challenge #131: Cake at fan_flashworks
Disclaimer: I don’t own Torchwood, or the characters.
A/N: Well, here we are at last, after more than a year of writing – the final chapter of Through Time and Space. Hopefully it won’t be the last story set in this ‘Verse though, just the end of this particular story. I hope you’ve all enjoyed reading my epic fanfic as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it. Thanks to everyone who has read, commented, followed, favourited, and left kudos, you kept me motivated to finish the journey and I salute you all!
Saying goodbye to Alonso on Paramian was both simple and unbelievably difficult for Jack. Over the months that they’d been travelling together, they’d got to know each other well and respect had blossomed alongside their friendship. Alonso had helped Jack more than he’d realised at the time, allowing him to remember all the good times he’d had with Ianto and the rest of his team instead of just dwelling on those fateful five days when his whole world had been systematically torn apart. Letting go of the person who had become his anchor was going to leave a hole, but the truth was that he didn’t need Alonso any longer and it was time for the other man to get on with his life. He was comforted by the knowledge that they’d be able to keep in touch and by Ianto’s promise that they’d visit once Alonso had settled back into life on Sto.
Ianto stood back and watched Jack and his friend hug. Over the last few days, Jack had gradually become more like his old self, though he was clearly still grieving for his grandson and his shattered relationship with his daughter. It would probably still take some time before he stopped blaming himself, or at least managed to make some sort of peace with everything that had happened. Nevertheless, he seemed lighter, less burdened, and ready to start living again, for which Ianto was grateful. He’d hated seeing Jack looking so broken.
They’d spent the previous day, after getting Jack’s belongings from storage, seeing the sights and booking Alonso passage on the next star liner heading for Sto; this time he was to be a passenger on the luxury liner rather than crew, and the ship itself had an excellent safety record, so hopefully the trip would be relatively uneventful. Now, as Alonso took his place in line to board, Ianto moved over to stand beside Jack, twining their fingers together.
“I’ll miss him,” Jack murmured.
“I know. So will I, even though I only knew him for a short while. We’ll be seeing him again before too long though.” He squeezed Jack’s hand as Alonso disappeared from sight into the boarding tunnel. “D’you want to stay until the ship leaves?”
“No point really; it’s not like Alonso could wave to us once he’s aboard.”
That was true. Even if they made their way up to the observation deck, all they’d be able to see would be the bulk of the ship in its berth, the ports too small at their distance to see anyone who might be looking out.
Hand in hand, they made their way back to the TARDIS, where they’d left her masquerading as a very ordinary door in an archway that in reality led into a narrow alley. The door opened of its own accord as they approached, closing softy behind them once more as they stepped through into the welcoming, coffee-scented console room.
Jack leant against the wood-panelled wall, frowning, as Ianto brewed them both a coffee using the machine that stood on its own little station in an alcove.
“That looks an awful lot like the coffee machine we had in the Hub.”
Ianto laughed. “I think it might well be, just repaired, or reconstituted after the explosion. Apparently a lot of the décor was influenced by images from my mind. Not all of it was successful, but we worked the kinks out.” He told Jack about the Conversion Unit-inspired medical bay he’d been confronted with during his initial exploration of his new home.
“Ouch! That must’ve been an unpleasant surprise.”
“To put it mildly; I think I freaked out a bit. It’s much nicer now it’s been remodelled, all white and blocky. Not that I’ve needed to use it except to treat accidental sunburn.”
Settled into comfortable chairs, their sipped their coffee. Silence reigned for a few minutes as they savoured the brew and munched on slices of chocolate cake Ianto had fetched from the small auxiliary kitchen just off the console room. Finally, Ianto spoke again.
“Next stop, Talla?”
Jack nodded slowly. “I’ve seen my friend off, now to get yours home.” He smiled. “I imagine the rest of their tribe will be very happy to see them.”
Auber and his people had described in detail the area of their planet that they called home, and the TARDIS had also scanned the images they held in their memories, so they could be taken not only to their home planet, but to the lands occupied by their tribe.
The planet was as beautiful as Ianto remembered, though on his last visit he’d been in a different area, living with one of the many other tribes that called Talla home. Auber guided them to land at the edge of a copse of trees, a short distance from his tribe’s village. The TARDIS took her favourite form, that of a tall tree with spreading branches, which she said was the best shape for collecting airborne particles from which to create anything they needed. Stepping out onto the bluish grass, cropped short by the village’s wandering herds of grazing animals, Auber and the others simply stood, breathing in the familiar scents, gazing around themselves with a kind of quiet joy as Jack and Ianto looked on.
“I had accepted that we might never see our home again,” Auber said softly. “To be standing here once more is a dream made truth.” Sniffing the air, he wrinkled his snout in a smile. “The air smells of late summer, we have been gone for more than a year. Come, we have kept our families waiting for long enough.”
With a spring in their step, the small band of Tallans set off toward the cluster of huts that could be seen some distance away. It was mid-morning, so the communal cooking fires were merely smouldering until they were needed for making lunch, sending up thin, lazy trails of smoke into the clear, warm air. As the travellers approached, they saw that the village’s inquisitive inhabitants were gathering just outside the circle of their dwellings, no doubt drawn there by the curious sound of the TARDIS’s arrival. As soon as they were close enough to be recognised, the air filled with excited chatter and the villagers scurried out to greet them.
Jatso, Kellik, and Diller’s families clustered around their long-lost kin, everyone patting each other and rubbing snouts in enthusiastic greeting; Auber’s other children, three boys and twin girls, clustered around him and Olan, demanding to know where they had been for so long. Auber’s mate had passed some years before, when their youngest son had been no older than young Jatso, but he had brothers and sisters in this and neighbouring tribes scattered across the wide valley that was their home.
“There are many tales to be told,” Auber told his family and the members of his tribe. “Send out runners, gather the tribes and prepare a feast to welcome our new friends. The tales we must now tell should be heard by all of our kin.”
In Auber’s absence, his eldest son, Thilo, had become tribe leader, and now the gathered people of the tribe turned to him for confirmation of Auber’s orders. He nodded to his father. “It shall be as you say.” Despatching runners, he turned to walk with his father back into their settlement where the other Tallans were already scurrying about, preparing for the requested feast. “Will you take your place as tribe leader again?” he asked diffidently.
“No, my son, my time as leader is done. I shall take my place with the elders while I am here, but I think I am not yet done adventuring. I taught you well, it is clear to me that you have been a strong leader in my absence, I would not take that right from you now.”
“Thank you, father. I shall do my best to live up to your example.”
“Then I can be sure that the tribe of Nerrim is in safe hands.”
By mid afternoon, the tribes were gathered, babbling with excitement as a great feast of vegetable stew, flat bread, fresh fruit and delightful little cakes filled with sweet sap was prepared and eaten. Then, as the first moon rose, Auber took his place in front of the vast gathering and in a clear voice, began to tell the tale of his small band’s adventures on other worlds.
The story captivated everyone and all four moons were up by the time it ended. Many questions were asked and answered, and then Ianto was called to take his turn in front of the crowds to tell a little about earth and the places he’d visited before finding Auber and the others. Finally, he extended an invitation to any Tallans who wished to experience other worlds first hand, to travel aboard his ship for half a year. Auber had already decided to stay on, and would act as a sort of den mother and leader so that families would not need to worry about their sons and daughters. As a tribal elder, he was well able to teach the youngsters anything they needed to know.
At last, with the talking done, the gathering divided into family units, settling down to camp beneath the stars. The Tallans seldom slept indoors when the weather was good, preferring to spread their pallets where they could freely breathe the sweet night air and be woken by the rising sun. Jack and Ianto stretched out on their own bedrolls by the embers of one of the large cooking fires and worn out by the excitement and fresh air, slept until morning.
The next day dawned bright and sunny, perfect weather for Olan and Diller’s joining ceremony, which was to be held at noon, when both the suns were high in the sky, and followed by another feast. The Tallans must have been up since before dawn as the camp was bustling, preparations for the festivities already underway when Ianto and Jack woke. They quickly rolled up their beds, stowing them in Auber’s family hut, then hurried to the TARDIS to get themselves ready.
Everyone was to be dressed in their very best festival clothes, so Jack and Ianto scoured the wardrobe level for suitably colourful attire, eventually emerging in light coloured trousers and brightly patterned Hawaiian shirts, which were greatly admired by everyone. Ianto felt somewhat silly but didn’t want to let everyone else down by wearing his usual attire, and anyway, the weather was really too hot for a suit.
Several other couples were also going to be wed at the same time as Olan and Diller; apparently it wasn’t unusual for couples to wait until a large gathering of tribes to have their joining ceremonies so there could be one big celebration instead of a bunch of smaller ones. It gave Jack an irresistible idea.
“Ianto, how would you feel about you and I getting married?”
“Are you proposing?” Ianto raised one eyebrow, looking surprised.
“Yes, I guess I am.” Impulsively Jack dropped to one knee and took Ianto’s hand between his own. “Ianto Jones, will you do me the honour of marrying me?”
As far as Jack was concerned, Ianto’s smile outshone the suns. “Yes, you idiot, of course I will! Nothing would make me happier.”
Jack’s answering smile was every bit as radiant as Ianto’s. In the back of his mind, Ianto could sense the joy his TARDIS was feeling. She was quite giddy with happiness for them.
Together, Jack and Ianto sought out Auber to tell him the news; unsurprisingly, he was delighted.
“This is joyous news indeed; may you find great happiness together,” he told them warmly. “Will you be pledging yourselves to each other in the joining ceremony with the other couples?”
“Would that be allowed?” Ianto asked.
“Of course. You are both family now, you belong to the Tribe of Nerrim.”
“I meant,” Ianto blushed slightly, “will no one think it strange as we’re both male?”
“Why should they? Each of us joins with the one who makes our spirits sing; male or female, it is no matter, we have always followed our hearts.”
Jack and Ianto shared a look. “As long as no one minds, I can’t think of anything more perfect,” Ianto decided.
“Our first wedding,” Jack beamed back at him.
“Well, what’s legal here won’t be considered binding everywhere we go, so there’ll probably be other ceremonies on other worlds. We could become the most married couple in the universe! We’ll be legendary!”
Ianto laughed. “Why not? Sounds like fun!” He looked around at the crowds. “You know, I always wanted a big wedding, but this takes the cake.”
The ceremony was to be held in a nearby meadow where two trees beside a sparkling stream had been trained to form an archway. The TARDIS, wanting to be as involved as she could be, had moved position and was now standing a short distance away, her spreading branches providing a shady, cooler spot for the Tallans to set out rough wooden trestle tables piled with fruits and vegetables, several kinds of bread, little flat, sweet biscuits decorated with flowers, and cakes made of ground nuts and dried fruit. There were other cakes too, small, spicy and fragrant, which would be used in the ceremony itself.
Auber, Jatso and Kellik had disappeared inside the TARDIS soon after she arrived in the meadow, their presence having been requested. Jack and Ianto had been curious, but the TARDIS had told them to keep out or they would spoil her surprise. Unwilling to offend her, they’d done as they were told, instead helping out with the preparations wherever they could, which mostly meant fetching and carrying. Not that they minded; the entire settlement was in a party mood with much laughter and merriment, so that even mundane chores seemed like fun.
Eventually, shortly before the ceremony was due to begin, the three Tallans emerged from the TARDIS. Jatso set up a sturdy table from the console room just outside and to one side of her doorway. Auber and Kellik followed, bearing between them the biggest and most elaborate wedding cake Ianto had ever seen. It was seven tiers, delicately iced in white, and decorated with tiny icing flowers in red and blue. Arrayed on its surface were finely modelled miniature figures representing of all the Tallan couples who were to be joined that day, and in the centre of the top tier stood a mini Jack and Ianto, in their usual attire; Ianto in a pin-striped suit and red shirt, and Jack in his World War Two era clothing and coat. It was a marvel; Ianto only hoped it would taste as good as it looked.
‘Of course it will,” the TARDIS murmured indignantly in his head. ‘I used your favourite fruitcake recipe, the one you liked to make for Christmas. I wanted to contribute to the feast. There will be hot Welshcakes too, for after the ceremony.’
Ianto couldn’t help smiling. ‘I wasn’t really doubting your skills,’ he assured his ship, ‘I was mostly remembering Rhi’s wedding cake. It looked beautiful, but it was dreadfully dry and as heavy as lead. Johnny’s mother had made it so we all had to pretend to enjoy it.’
‘I can assure you that this wedding cake will not disappoint.’
‘I’m sure you’re right.’
By then, there were crowds of Tallans gathering around to admire the snow white, towering confection, and Jack was busy explaining to them that where Ianto came from, such cakes were a wedding tradition.
“The newly joined couple cuts the cake and makes a wish, and everyone gets a slice,” he told his audience. “They’re usually not quite so big, but then there are a lot more people here than there are at most earth weddings.”
That, Ianto thought, was rather an understatement!
By the time the twin suns had reached their highest point in the sky, the preparations were completed and everybody had gathered in the meadow beside the archway. Of the seven couples to be joined that day, Olan and Diller would be first while Jack and Ianto had opted to be last, partly because Ianto didn’t think it would be polite to jump ahead of the other couples, and partly so that they could watch everyone else and make sure they fully understood what to do. Auber had explained the ceremony to them, and it sounded straightforward enough, rather like a handfasting on earth, but still, it wouldn’t hurt to observe first so that they didn’t make any awkward mistakes.
The combined tribes gathered, forming a circle dozens deep around the tree arch and the seven couples who were to be joined. The eldest joined couples from each of the tribes stepped forward, raising their joined hands to form a tunnel leading towards the archway on the other side of the stream and one Tallan, older and more grizzled than any Ianto had seen, hobbled over leaning on a tall staff to officiate. Despite her obvious age, her voice was clear and strong.
“We gather on this beautiful day to bear witness as these of our people pledge their lives and hearts, one to another, in accordance with our traditions.” She turned to the couples. “May each of you find joy and contentment with your chosen partner and may you live long, rich lives together.”
A small Tallan child trotted forward then, carrying a plate of the ceremonial cakes, each no bigger than a walnut. All those who were to be joined took a cake in their left hand, then bowed their heads so that the child’s mother could place a woven circlet of flowers on each head. Ianto straightened up carefully, hoping his didn’t slip down over his eyes. Human heads were smaller than Tallan heads. Thankfully, the makers seemed to have taken that into account and though it slid down his forehead a bit, it stayed put.
At a gesture from the officiator, Olan and Diller came to stand before her. They announced their names and tribe, vowing to stand together as one and to share each other’s joys and sorrows through this life and into the next, then with their right hands clasped together, they fed each other the ceremonial cakes they held in their other hand before clasping their now empty left hands.
Bowing first to each other and then to the officiator, they ducked their heads to walk through the tunnel formed by the elder couples, jumped the stream and stepped through the arch formed by the two trees where they stopped and raised their joined hands to form the beginning of another tunnel on the far side of the stream.
One by one, the other couples followed suit until by the time it was Jack and Ianto’s turn, there was a tunnel formed of six couples on the far side of the tree arch.
“Bet their arms are getting tired,” Jack whispered to Ianto just as they were beckoned forward.
Walking side-by-side, they went to stand in front of the officiator. Ianto spoke first.
“I, Ianto Jones of the Tribe of Nerrim, pledge my life and heart to the one who stands beside me, to be as one and to share both joys and sorrows, in this life and the next; may our love never fade.”
Jack, of course, couldn’t resist going a little off script.
“I, Jack Harkness of the Tribe of Nerrim, pledge my life and heart to my gorgeous Ianto who stands beside me, to be as one and to share both joys and sorrows, in this life and the next; may our love never fade.” Jack smiled at Ianto, clasping his partner’s right hand with his own as they turned to face each other, each popping the small cake they held into the other’s mouth. They were crisp on the outside, but moist and spicy on the inside. Jack licked a stray crumb from his lips with a smirk and Ianto rolled his eyes. Their left hands met and clasped, and they bowed first to each other, then to the officiator, who stepped to one side, allowing them to approach and pass through the tunnel. Being taller than most Tallans, they had to bend a little more, but they got through without bumping into anyone and easily jumped the narrow stream, taking their place at the end of the line, arms raised as the officiator followed them, turning towards the newly joined couples and striking the end of her staff against a previously unnoticed stone set it the ground. It rang like a bell.
“May you live your lives together well, bringing joy and harmony to your families and your tribes, and peace and plenty to all our lands,” she intoned as the older couples who had formed the first tunnel ducked under the raised arms of the newlyweds to complete the ceremony. The staff struck the stone again with a second clear, bell-like note, and as it faded, the officiator raised her voice so that all could hear her. “Let the celebrations begin!”
Still holding hands in their pairs, the other newlywed couples broke into a dance, spinning each other around dizzyingly as music began to play, drums and pipes and rattling gourds. Jack and Ianto did their best to follow the steps, but quickly found it impossible to keep track, never mind keep up. It didn’t seem to matter and soon everybody seemed to have joined in, skipping and twirling, making the most of the happy occasion.
Gradually, people began to drop out of the dance as they tired, drifting over to the tables of food and drink in the shade of the TARDIS’s leafy branches. Breathless and giddy, but still holding hands, Jack and Ianto meandered in that direction too, badly in need of a cool drink. They quenched their thirst with tart and refreshing fruit juice, sipping slowly as they cooled down from their exertions. The Tallans, despite their fur, seemed not to even notice the heat, though Ianto noticed that quite a few of them had very wet feet as if they’d gone paddling in the stream before seeking refreshments.
A while later, Auber approached them where they were relaxing with their backs against the TARDIS’s trunk.
“Ah, there you are! Is it not time yet to cut the cake?” His eyes were bright with eagerness and Jack couldn’t help but laugh.
“You know, I do believe it is!” He scrambled to his feet, offering Ianto a hand up. “Come along, Mr Jones, can’t keep our guests waiting for cake!”
“Shouldn’t that be Harkness-Jones now?” Ianto asked archly.
Jack considered that. “Why not Jones-Harkness?”
“Doesn’t sound right somehow. The other way around just flows better.”
“How can I argue with that logic?” Jack teased. “Okay, Harkness-Jones it is. Let’s go cut that cake!” And he strode off towards the tables, practically dragging a laughing Ianto behind him.
Breaking tradition slightly, they dismantled the cake before cutting it, setting the seven tiers side by side on the table so that each of the couples could cut that all-important first slice and make a wish. Ianto didn’t know what Jack had wished for, but his own wish was that Jack would find inner peace and be able to set aside the guilt he still felt over the deaths of Stephen, Tosh, Owen, Gray, and so many others he hadn’t been able to protect or save. He didn’t deserve to be so weighed down by past losses, especially since he could neither have predicted nor prevented the events that caused them.
The cake really did taste as good as it looked, maybe even better; the sweet icing carried a hint of lemon and the cake itself was richly fruited yet still somehow light as a feather. There was just enough for everyone to have a small slice, something Ianto should have expected since the TARDIS had created it and no doubt planned accordingly, so no one got left out, but Ianto couldn’t help wishing there’d been some left over for later.
Once the last crumb of wedding cake had been consumed, Auber, Jatso and Kellik went back inside the TARDIS and returned with large platters laden with stacks of warm Welshcakes. “Help yourselves,” Auber boomed cheerfully, “there’s plenty more where these came from!”
Ianto grew misty-eyed as he bit into one.
“Are you okay?” Jack asked, concerned.
“Yeah, it’s just… This is the taste of home. We always used to have freshly baked Welshcakes on special days. Birthdays, celebrations, Christmas breakfast, it was a family tradition when Rhi and I were little. I wish she and the kids could’ve been here today, they would’ve loved all this.”
“We’ll bring them here someday, I promise.” Jack slipped his arms around his husband, sharing a crumb-filled, Welshcake-flavoured kiss. “We have all the time in the universe ahead of us, and a time machine to help us make the most of it.”
Ianto smiled at that. “True, we have a lot to look forward to; there’s still so much I want to see.”
“That’s good, because there’s a lot I want to show you; places I visited with the Doctor and with the Time Agency, places I’ve only ever heard about and never seen. This is what I always wanted, the chance to show you all that’s beautiful in the universe.”
Ianto nodded. “I know, and I’ve seen so much already but I’ve barely scratched the surface! Back on earth, most of what came through the Rift was either broken and useless, or dangerous, but I know it’s not all like that. If the people of earth only knew what wonders there are out here, perhaps they’d stop fighting each other and put their efforts into space travel so they could come and see for themselves.”
“They will someday, Ianto,” Jack assured him. “I’m living proof of that. In the future, humans will colonise dozens of planets, and we’ll be here to see it all.” He smiled as he squeezed Ianto’s hand. “This is just the beginning of our adventures through time and space!”