Disclaimer: Jack Harkness and Ianto Jones don't belong to me, but to the wonderful people who had fun bringing them to life, including Russell T Davies and the BBC. I make no money from this, please don't sue me. I can't pay and if I do end up in prison I'll only write on the walls. Don't make me resort to graffiti.
It was difficult to think of the past. He kept it within him – so much, so many faces. In an unnamed bar somewhere Jack Harkness took a drink of whatever passed for hard liquor in this area. He sighed and rested his head on one hand. He really couldn't afford this; the last time he had begun to relive his past it had been months before he remembered where he was.
But he had seen someone.
Strange, really. Amongst all of the races, including humans, there seemed to be a limited set of features in the genetic make-up. It got so that he couldn't turn a corner without recognition haunting him. Everyone was a ghost or a carbon copy of someone else from long ago. Today he had seen several of them, but it was the first time he had seen Ianto in perhaps decades.
Of course, it wasn't him. Just looked like him. So much so that Jack had followed until he knew where the man was staying. This was a holiday planet full of bars and coastline. He knew where to find him again, but he hesitated. If he hesitated for long enough (a week or two) then the man would disappear and he would be free, and Jack did that more often than he wanted to admit.
Every aspect of Ianto's life was gone from him now. There had been time travel once, but he had nowhere in Ianto's timeline left to visit. He'd never even suspected that during those days leading Torchwood. Never once wondered if he himself had a hand in Ianto being there for him... Somewhere there was a paradox in that, but Jack had learned to think away from it.
Ianto. A smile lifted the corners of his mouth as he considered those times. So long ago now, and he had really been a different person. Or had he? He thought for a moment about what he was considering. A man walked up to the bar beside him and ordered some kind of sweet and pretentious drink. Jack looked up, and his heart leapt. It was him!
The man glanced at Jack, and though there wasn't recognition – not the kind he wanted anyway – the man smiled at him. What was he considering? He wasn't really considering it, not at all. He held out his hand and stood up straighter to match the stranger's height, with a warm grin of welcome.
"Hi there! Captain Jack Harkness," he said by way of introduction. "And who might you be?"
If he had been considering it he would never have asked for the man's name. That thought was slightly comforting. Jack allowed himself to be comforted.
The man shook his hand firmly. Nice hands. "Ianto Jones." Jack didn't miss a beat, although his heart might have forgotten a couple. Coincidence was a bitch, and she just loved to punch you in the gut, especially when you lived as long as he did. It wasn't the first time she had played this trick on him either, but this time he wouldn't believe it. Last time it had been Rose Tyler – and what a mess that turned out to be. Jack clearly remembered trying to explain about the mistaken identity to the girl's father, a man so feared on his own planet that he was known simply as "The Doctor".
"Well! Nice to meet you Ianto Jones," he said as the man smiled back at him. "Here alone?"
"With some friends, actually," the man said, gesturing vaguely to a corner of the bar as if it didn't matter, as though he couldn't take his eyes from Jack. Jack nodded. The man was a traveller, so his voice was accent less. But with a bit of imagination, it could almost be welsh, and Jack began to look forward to being asked in for that coffee.
Once, a long time ago, a man called Ianto Jones had asked him if he got lonely. Of course he did get lonely, but Jack did what he always did when that happened. He got himself some company.
When was the last time I said that I was lonely for you, Ianto? He pondered that silently. "Where have you been all my life?" he asked out loud, a little more rhetorically than he intended, and the man called Ianto Jones smiled and shook his head, looking away. Yes, it was corny. And, yes, it was cute. Jack could almost watch what was going off in that head of his. After all of his time, people had become somewhat easy. Almost as easy as him.
This new Ianto Jones continued to smile and then took a deep breath. "Can I," he seemed to realise he wasn't looking Jack's way and turned to face him, "get you another drink?" he asked, a little nervousness behind that polished exterior.
"Sure!" Jack said. "Thanks. I'll have whatever you're having," he continued, peering at Ianto's glass and plucking the little paper umbrella from it. So very retro. "These are great!" he commented happily, twirling it in his fingers and making it dance from one end of his hand to the other. He really had spent a lot of time in bars. No one could beat him at beermat flipping either.
"Really?" Ianto asked, sounding a little uncertain. He was probably wondering if he had offered to buy a madman a drink. Jack sobered up and dropped him a salacious wink.
"Oh, yeah. Later, if you want me to, I'll show you some of the things you can do with them." Jack nodded, very serious.
Ianto laughed quietly at that offer, and if Jack remembered correctly, he had laughed at it the last time too. It was much too late to tell himself he wasn't considering it, because he knew that in the morning, if he could convince this Ianto to stay, he would pretend – just for a short while. I miss you, he thought helplessly, but for now, he cheered up. Life wasn't all bad. Really, sometimes, he didn't mind the repetition at all.
It was a real shame about those grandchildren he hadn't gotten around to yet though. He looked forward to repeating his escapades to them in story form, and he might have forgotten all about this by then. He might be nothing more than a head in a jar, by then. Damn... well, that would make the beermat flipping and the umbrella twirling somewhat obsolete.
~ finis ~