It took some time to get used to Jack’s absence. They’d been more than a month without their Captain and things were almost beginning to settle into a routine. For a brief while Gwen had entertained ideas of taking over command of Torchwood Three, but it soon became obvious that she wasn’t cut out for the job. She was simply too emotional. After she had nearly gotten Tosh killed on a missing, an irate Owen had informed her that he was taking over command. As he was the longest serving member of Torchwood Three—with the exception of Tosh who didn’t want he responsibility—Gwen hadn’t been able to argue. Of course, it hadn’t stopped her from sulking for the better part of a week.
As a group, they’d decided no to inform Torchwood Two or Whitehall about Jack’s absence. It wasn’t unusual for Jack to avoid conference calls and Ianto could forge his signature well enough that no one suspected that they were without their leader. The first thing they’d needed to do was repair the Hub after the destruction opening the Rift had caused. After negotiating the funding with Whitehall, they set about putting everything back together with only a few alterations.
“Any word from Jack?” Tosh asked as Ianto brought her a cup of coffee. She smiled brightly when she saw that the coffee was in the “Gorgeous Genius at Work” mug Owen had bought for her.
Ianto took a sip from his own mug then shook his head. “Nothing since the first one. He’s with the Doctor, though, so I guess it’s expected.”
“As soon as he’s able, I’m sure Jack’ll be in contact,” Tosh murmured, trying to reassure herself as well as Ianto.
Ianto smiled, but couldn’t quite make himself believe what Tosh had said. No matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t quite shake the feeling that something was wrong with Jack. It had been too long since he’d heard from his lover. More than a month had passed since Jack had left and normally Jack couldn’t even go a weekend without sending at least a dozen messages and a Saturday night call trying to coax him into phone sex.
Ianto knew that the main reason the others weren’t worried was because of the text Jack had sent him. They knew where Jack was and that he’d gone voluntarily. The most said about their Captain’s absence was Owen’s bitching that Jack had left so that he wouldn’t have to help but the Hub back together. But Ianto knew if Jack didn’t come back, or at least make contact soon, that there would be worry and concern. Ianto himself couldn’t help feeling nervous the longer Jack stayed away, even if he was with the Doctor.
It wasn’t unusual for Jack’s phone to ring. There were days that Ianto spent quite a bit of time fielding calls under the pretext that Jack was out of the office. However, things had been quiet in the office and the sudden noise had startled him. Glancing to make sure that none of the others had seen him, Ianto picked up the phone.
“Torchwood Three, Captain Jack Harkness’ office.”
“Now really,” the voice on the other end chuckled. “We both know that’s not true. Captain Harkness has been missing for nearly six weeks.”
Pushing a few buttons so that the call was audible throughout the Hub, Ianto responded. “I’m afraid that I don’t know what you mean. Surely we’d be the first to be aware if Captain Harkness was missing.”
“You really don’t expect me to believe that, do you, Mr. Jones?” the man on the other end continued. “Your dear Captain disappeared after that nasty business with the Rift last month and you’ve seen nothing of him since. No one has. Not Torchwood Two, Whitehall, or even my office. Granted, I’m still new to the job, but no one here at Downing Street can remember talking to him in a very long time.”
“As you said yourself, Prime Minister, we had a significant problem here in Cardiff with the Rift,” Ianto said calmly even as his eyes darted frantically to the others. “As such, there have been intensive clean-up operations, headed by Captain Harkness.”
“I don’t believe you.”
The sinister tone of the voice made Ianto blanch. “Sir?”
“You heard me perfectly well, Mr. Jones. I don’t believe you.”
“I’m sorry that you don’t believe me, sir, but I’m telling the truth.”
By then, Owen, Tosh, and Gwen were all gathered in Jack’s office. None of them quite knew how to respond to the new Prime Minister. They had always been left alone by the government unless there was a threat to the nation that required them to act. Harold Saxon should have no reason to contact them.
“If you are telling the truth,” Saxon continued after a few moments, “then why am I looking at intel that shows him in the Himalayas with Torchwood number one enemy?”
Ianto quickly typed a few keys on Jack’s computer and there was no sign of the GPS on Jack’s phone anywhere in the area. Anywhere on Earth for that matter.
“Your intel must be incorrect, sir, because Captain Harkness is not in that region of the world,” Ianto said calmly.
Even though he couldn’t see it, Ianto could clearly envision the scowl on Saxon’s face based on the sound of his voice. “Are you calling me a liar?”
“Certainly not, Prime Minister. I am merely informing you that our intel on the subject is contradictory to yours. And, begging your pardon, sir, as Captain Harkness is in charge of Torchwood Three we do tend to keep very close tabs on his whereabouts,” Ianto explained as calmly as he could despite Owen’s snorting. Thankfully, Tosh elbowed him in the ribs before the Prime Minister became aware of it. “Captain Harkness is outside of Cardiff, yes, but we are fully aware of his location and it is not the Himalayas.”
“I’m sorry, Mr. Jones, but I don’t share you conviction,” Saxon ground out. “And as Harkness is possibly in the company of such a notorious individual, I feel that it is necessary for the safety of the nation that you and your little group travel to Tibet and investigate the sighting.”
“You can send whomever you like, but it won’t be anyone from Torchwood Three,” Ianto responded firmly. “With all due respect, sir, we are not answerable to you. Your office is certainly welcome to voice its concerns to us, but it is Torchwood alone that will decide whether the matter deserves our attention. In this case, as we know that Captain Harkness is not in the Himalayas, we will not follow up on your intel. Good afternoon, Prime Minister.”
Before Harold Saxon had the chance to say anything else, Ianto disconnected the call. He knew that it would cause difficulties between Downing Street and them later, but the whole situation made him uneasy. There was only one time that Ianto could recall the Prime Minister giving an order to Torchwood and that was the Christmas incident with the Sycorax.
“You’ve got a bigger pair than I gave you credit for, Jonesy,” Owen whistled as he and the rest stared at Ianto in shock.
Ianto merely shrugged. “We know that Jack is with the Doctor. There’s no point in going on a wild goose chase.”
“But what if Jack is in trouble?” Gwen protested, glancing at the others for support. “None of us have ever met the Doctor, and what the reports say....”
“I met him once,” Tosh said, interrupting her. “Back in 2006 when that space pig crashed into Big Ben. They needed someone to examine the body. The Doctor was there. He’s brilliant and not a danger from what I could tell. He tried to help.”
“He’s the one who stopped the massacre at Canary Wharf,” Ianto reminded them. “He’s also a friend of Jack’s.”
No one asked how Ianto knew that last piece of information. The answer was obvious enough so there was no point in trying to disagree with him. And even though Owen was team leader until Jack returned, he didn’t seem in a hurry to counterman Ianto’s decision.
“Considering what happened when we went to the countryside, I don’t much fancy wandering around a mountain when we know Jack’s not there,” was all the medic said on the subject.
Once the others had gone back to their workstations, Ianto sat down in Jack’s chair. He took out his cell phone and sent a quick message to his lover.
Something strange with the new PM. Wants us in Tibet looking for the Doctor.
He didn’t expect an answer from Jack. He didn’t even know if Jack would get the message, let alone be able to do anything about it. Still, at least Jack would know what was happening in Cardiff, Ianto reasoned.
There was no response from Jack and things quietly returned to normal. Just to be sure, they kept an eye on the Prime Minister, watching all press conferences and interviews and keeping track of his activities. There was no further communication between Downing Street and Torchwood. Their contacts in Torchwood Two and UNIT, however, kept them informed of the Prime Minister’s reactions to their refusal. Even the mild version of it wasn’t pretty and Ianto was fairly certain that if Downing Street knew the exact location of the Hub there would have been a giant crater in the middle of Roald Dahl Plass.
“.... What the country really needs is a doctor.”
Ianto was just walking up to Gwen’s desk to give her a fresh cup of coffee when he heard the tail end of the press conference. The emphasis on the last word sent a shiver down his spine and confirmed the fact that the Prime Minister was searching for the Doctor. He had no idea what the reason was, but it was incredibly unsettles, especially with Jack being with the Doctor then.
Things got even worse that afternoon when Jack, the Doctor, and a medical student from London were declared the three most wanted people in the UK.
Almost immediately after, his cell phone started to ring.
“Are you all right?” Ianto demanded. There was no need for him to check who the caller was because everyone else who had the number was in the room.
The quiet chuckle on the other end relieved Ianto more than anything else could. It was a sound that he knew very well. And was a clear indicator of Jack’s well being.
“Ianto Jones, I’m so glad to hear your voice.”
“Jack, you’re all over the news. What’s going on? Where are you?”
“I can’t tell you where I am right now. It’s too dangerous—”
“I mean it, Ianto. But there is something you and the others can do for me. Do you remember last year—”
“Well well well. If it isn’t Captain Jack Harkness. Just the man I was looking for. And you’re on the phone with Torchwood. Even better.”
“Ianto, hang up.”
“Hang up and put the Hub on lockdown.”
“Jack, no way!”
The call was disconnected whether Ianto wanted it to or not. Either Jack or Harold Saxon forced him out of the conversation and he was left standing in the Hub, staring at his cell phone.
“Ianto, what happened? What did Jack say?” Gwen demanded, grabbing hold of his arm to try and get his attention.
“He said to put the Hub on lockdown,” he managed to gasp out, his mind still trying to process everything that had just occurred. “Harold Saxon got on the line suddenly and Jack started to panic.”
“What’s with that guy?” Owen grumbled under his breath. “Did Jack sleep with his wife or something?”
An elbow to the ribs from Gwen stopped Owen before he could really get going.
“We need to decide what we’re going to do,” Tosh spoke up. “Do we go on lockdown?”
“If we do that, we’ll lose most of our power. We’ll just be sitting here in the dark waiting until it’s all over. We won’t be able to help Jack,” Ianto insisted. He tried once again to call Jack, but it went straight to voicemail.
“What other choice do we have?” was Owen’s contribution.
They all stared in awe as the walls of the Hub began to shimmer. It looked almost gelatinous, like a force field in a science fiction movie.
“What is it?” Gwen asked, moving forward as though to touch it.
“Don’t put too much pressure on it or you’ll get stuck,” Tosh warned. “It’s like a time bubble. A lock. Anything that tries to move through there will get stick in time. Nothing can get in, and we can still keep the computers and everything running.”
“You’re a bloody genius!” Owen enthused. “How far does it extend?”
“All the way around the Hub. Right down to the lowest levels. Even the ones not on the blueprints.” Tosh’s cheeks were flushed with excitement. “I’ve been working on this for about three years now. This is the first time I’ve been able to use it full scale.”
“So now what do we do?” Owen asked once Tosh had fallen silent.
There really wasn’t much that they could do since they had no idea what was going on beyond Jack, the Doctor and the girl being declared terror suspects. Ianto had tried calling Jack a few more times, but there was no answer. Every time it went immediately to voicemail.
It wasn’t until the following morning that they were able to figure out just what, exactly, Jack and the Doctor were doing. Like everyone else around the world, they were watching the TV broadcast of alien contact between the Toclafane and President Winters aboard the Valiant.
“There’s something not right about this,” Tosh said to no one in particular as Ianto handed out the first coffee of the day.
“Saxon gets elected and all of sudden aliens are making contact,” Owen chimed in. “Maybe he’s an alien.”
“You think everyone odd’s an alien.”
“Oi! No need to get personal, Teaboy.”
The bickering died down because at that moment the first of the Toclafane appeared on the screen. They weren’t as impressive as Ianto had expected, smaller than he’d thought they would be. The Toclafane, however, were a lot more deadly than their simple shape hinted at.
“Oh my god!”
“I don’t believe it!”
The American president was dead, killed by a floating metal ball. Before they could even digest what had happened, there he was.
“.... doesn’t stay dead for long. I get to kill him again!”
They watched the proceedings in a kind of numb silence. Jack lying dead on the floor, the Doctor being rapidly aged, and UNIT doing nothing to stop it. When the video feed cut out they all remained exactly where they were for a few moments, none of them quite able to react. Just as they were shaking themselves out of their stupor, there was suddenly a fifth person in the Hub.
Martha Jones told them everything. From landing in Cardiff to take on fuel, the events at the end of the universe, up until what had happened that morning on the Valiant.
“He told me that this would take me somewhere safe,” she finished, holding out the wrist strap that Jack was never without. “I’m guessing this is Torchwood.”
“That’s us,” Owen confirmed, trying for cheerful, but failing miserably.
Ianto announced that he was going to make some coffee and that he’d meet the rest of them in the conference room when he finished. They needed to figure out just what they were going to do now that a psychopath with an army of flying metal assassins had taken over everything. UNIT appeared to be working with Saxon which meant that it was up to small, independent groups like Torchwood.
Alone in the Hub’s small kitchen, Ianto finally allowed his shoulders to slump> Jack was the prisoner of a man who knew his secret. Whether Saxon was truly insane or not, it was inevitable that he’d exploit Jack’s unique ability.
“Jack mentioned you.”
Ianto spun around, shoulders once again back and any look of grief gone from his face. He was surprised to see the genuine smile on Martha’s face.
“He said you’d do that. Act like nothing is wrong even though inside you’re in an absolute panic,” she told him, walking over to stand next to him. “Jack told me that whatever happens I should trust you the most.”
Even though he tried not to show it, Ianto knew that Martha could see that he was caught off guard by her words. While he and Jack were seeing each other, it had always seemed to him that Gwen was number one when it came to Torchwood business. “She makes us human,” was what Jack had told him.
He, along with the rest of Torchwood, was even more shocked when Martha told them just who Harold Saxon was and how they were meant to defeat him.
“The Prime Minister of Great Britain is an alien,” Owen mumbled, shaking his head in disbelief even though he’d guessed the same thing not long ago. “Suddenly glad I didn’t vote.”
“I voted for him,” Gwen admitted quietly.
Owen shorted which earned him exasperated looks from the others.
“So how exactly are you meant to travel all over the world to tell this story the Doctor told you to?” Tosh asked, bringing the conversation back on target.
Martha placed Jack’s wrist strap on the table. “He called it a vortex manipulator. We used it to travel from the year one hundred trillion back to the present. It can also be used as a teleport.”
Tosh’s eyes lit up, her fingers no doubt itching to get a hold of what they had always just thought of as a glorified remote control.
“I’m going with her,” Ianto found himself announcing suddenly. All eyes were on him, but he didn’t back down. “I’m not going to stay cooped up in here while all of this is happening. I have to do something.”
“I want to go, too,” Gwen immediately volunteered.
Martha shook her head. “It’s better if there’s only two of us. The more people there are, the harder it’ll be to stay invisible since I only have two of these.” On the table were suddenly a pair of keys, each attached to their own piece of string. “The Doctor called them perception filters—”
“Like on the lift,” Tosh interrupted.
Martha looked relieved not to have to explain it. Gwen, though, would not be deterred from her desire to be at the center of everything.
“I would be a better choice to go than Ianto. I was a police officer. I’m better at dealing with people. Besides, he has no field training.”
There was a bit of an uncomfortable pause before Martha spoke again. “I’d actually prefer to go with Ianto. Jack told me to trust him and given everything that’s going on out there, I’m going to listen to Jack.”
Gwen started to protest once again, insisting that Ianto was trained to deal with the things they could see happening on the CCTV monitors. Owen shut her up by reminding her that none of them really knew how to deal with flying metal balls of death.
“And I am field trained,” Ianto spoke up. “After what happened at the Beacons, Jack made sure of it. Who do you think is always going Weevil hunting with him?”
Despite Gwen’s best efforts, it was decided that Ianto would be the one to go with Martha. As one of only a handful of survivors of Canary Wharf, Ianto would be better ready to handle any situation that might be encountered while journeying around the world. The others would remain in Cardiff and try and figure out if the Toclafane had any weaknesses. Owen was less than impressed when Ianto told them that, since they couldn’t leave the Hub, they’d be subsiding on dehydrated rations similar to the kind found in 1950’s bomb shelters. The fact that there were some frozen pizzas in the kitchen did little to placate him.
“Just kill me now,” Owen sighed dramatically which made Tosh giggle.
The rest of the day, Ianto was down in the archives sorting out alien tech that would be helpful, but was also small enough to fit in their packs. Each of them would carry a single backpack and while they were the large size that was generally used by backpackers, there was only so much room. The fact that the mission would take a year meant they’d have to pack smart. It also meant digging the Torchwood Special Ops uniforms out of storage. Having never worked for other branches of Torchwood, no one besides Ianto knew that they existed. Except for Jack who had tried to get Ianto into one more than once in the past.
While Martha was down in Jack’s bunker resting, Ianto went over inventory with Tosh. She was the only one he trusted to keep the archives and storage areas in some semblance of order. Owen had been banished from them long ago and Gwen had only ever been down there a handful of times.
“Are you sure that you want to do this?” Tosh prodded gently as Ianto set up the archive inventory lists so that they’d be easier for Tosh to access.
Ianto merely shrugged, not looking up from what he was doing. “There really isn’t much choice. We can’t let Martha go on her own. You’re more at home with technology. There’s no point in sending Owen because that would leave whoever stays in the Hub without a medic. And if Gwen went, Martha would probably ditch her somewhere outside Germany. This is the best way.”
When he looked up, Tosh was regarding him silently. She looked as though she wanted to argue further, but kept silent. Ianto was glad for that because the more he prepared, the more uneasy he felt about the whole thing.
“It’s just going to be so strange seeing you in something other than a suit,” Tosh said eventually.
“I do actually wear other clothes,” Ianto reminded her. “I do have a life outside Torchwood.”
Tosh’s cheeks coloured slightly. “I know, but you’re our man in the suit.”
“When this is over, I’m taking you out for lunch and you’ll see me in something other than a suit.”
“I’m going to hold you to that,” Tosh said, giving him a quick sideways hug.
If he were being honest, Ianto would admit that he had no idea what he was doing. At the same time, though, he knew that it needed to be done. Jack had sacrificed his freedom to give Martha this chance, and Ianto wasn’t going to let it be in vain.
So, around 3:00am the following morning, Ianto and Martha teleported out of the Hub using Jack’s vortex manipulator. Ianto cast one last look at the Plass then turned resolutely away and began leading Martha out of Cardiff.
It would be 365 days until he saw the city again.
Waking up wedged between car seats wasn’t something Ianto particularly enjoyed. Unfortunately, it had happened every morning since he and Martha had started commandeering abandoned vehicles. They’d decided that it would be best to avoid using the vortex manipulator and were searching out other means of transportation. Given the destruction of the UK, it was easy enough to find cars, trucks, and other forms of transport. Ianto’s delinquent teen years were another advantage as it’d taught him how to hotwire vehicles.
“We can switch places tonight,” Martha volunteered as Ianto tumbled out of the backseat.
Stretching the kinks out of his back, Ianto shook his head. “Trust me, I’ve slept in far worse conditions over the years. Jack’s bed alone is enough to send you to the chiropractor.”
“Still, it’s not fair that you get the uncomfortable place to sleep all the time,” Martha protested, reaching out to knead Ianto’s tense shoulder muscles. “Maybe when this one runs out of gas we should get something with more room to lie down.”
Ianto made a non-committal noise. As much as he wished it was otherwise, Ianto knew that they wouldn’t always be able to find transport. As the year progressed it would become more and more difficult, if not impossible. By the end, Ianto was certain they’d be doing a lot of walking.
After barely a week, every city or town they passed through was only a shell of its former self. From what they could tell, most major population centers had been destroyed. London had been derelict, and the scans they’d taken near Paris showed a population of only a few dozen. Whenever they did find people, though, they’d stopped. Share information, let people tell their stories, and tell their own. Even if it was only a handful of people, Ianto and Martha would stop. They were, literally, all each other had. The only way the people of Earth could communicate was for the few who were brave enough to travel to pass along information.
“How did you find out aliens existed?” Martha asked him as they drove along a deserted stretch of road at the end of the first week.
“I was living in London, working at a posh restaurant—one of those places where you have to wait weeks to get a reservation. There was this group of people who came in every week without fail and always set in my section. I didn’t think anything of it until one evening I was given a business card when I gave them their cheque. Said they wanted me to come in the next morning for an interview. Apparently being able to memorize an order from a group of picky eaters without needing to write it down catches Torchwood’s attention. Next day I was a junior researcher at Torchwood One.”
“How old were you?” Martha asked, staring at him in awe.
“Twenty-two. I was at Torchwood One for nearly two years and I’ve been in Cardiff for just over a year,” Ianto explained. “The first time I saw aliens was during the battle of Canary Wharf. You don’t get out much when you work in the archives.”
“It’s probably why you survived.”
Ianto preferred not to think about Canary Wharf and everything that had happened afterwards. That was the darkest point in his life. He’d desperately wanted to confide in Jack, to confess everything, but he’d been unable to. Every time he’d tried, he’d felt choked by the words.
“Since we’re sharing histories, how did you meet the Doctor?”
They were about ten miles away from where the scanner said there’d be a group of people when the radio in the car suddenly flared to life. All they’d had since Saxon and the Toclafane had taken over was static, so it startled them both.
“Citizens of the Earth, this is your Lord and Master,” Saxon’s voice boomed over the speakers. “No doubt things have been quite dull for those of you left. No radio. No television. No internet. Very dull. So, being the benevolent leader that I am, I’ve composed a new song just for you. It’s dedicated to the lovely people at Torchwood Three; in particular, Mr. Ianto Jones.”
There was no song.
There was nothing even vaguely resembling music.
Instead, there was only Jack, screaming in absolute agony.
After fifteen seconds of it, Ianto stumbled out of the car and vomited on the roadside. He could still hear Jack’s cries over the sound of his own retching. The scream sounded exactly like the one that had been torn from Jack when he’d confronted Abaddon. There hadn’t been a mark on Jack after his defeat of the monster, but it didn’t make the death any less painful than the one Ianto had no doubt Jack had just suffered.
Ianto sat back on his heels, covering his face wit his hands. Some part of him had known that Saxon would torture Jack. It was what the monsters always did. He’d just managed to put it out of his mind. He’d been so focused on what he was doing that he hadn’t allowed himself time to think about what was happening to Jack. Saxon had given him no choice but to remember.
“Jack will be okay,” Martha said quietly, crouching down next to him. “He chose to do this. He’s distracting Saxon and giving the Doctor the time he needs.”
“Just because Jack comes back to life, it doesn’t make the pain of the death any less,” Ianto reminded her, dropping his hands down so they rested lifelessly on his lap.
They stayed on the side of the road for a few more minutes until Ianto forced himself off the ground. He had volunteered to go with Martha so that Jack’s sacrifice wouldn’t be for nothing. He wanted to make his lover proud of him. Cowering on the side of the road wasn’t a way to do that.
“Here, this’ll take the taste away,” Martha said, handing him a stick of gum from the pack they’d found in the car.
Ianto grunted his thanks and climbed back into the driver’s seat. The radio was blessedly silent once again.
Neither of them spoke a word for the remainder of the journey that day. In fact, it was left to Martha to do the storytelling that night because Ianto simply couldn’t find the words. For the next few days, even while he slept, he couldn’t escape the sound of Jack’s screams.
The broadcast, however, likely had the opposite effect than Saxon had intended. Rather than demoralizing him, it made Ianto more determined to see their mission through to the end. He would make sure they succeeded if only to ensure Jack’s safety. He would do whatever was necessary to get Jack back with him.
And then he wasn’t letting Jack out of his sight ever again.
With every second, the screams got louder. Ianto and Martha raced between buildings, ducking behind garbage skips and other bits of refuse. They had the perception filters, but perception filters wouldn’t save them from stray shots. Whether through randomness or a planned attack, the Toclafane knew where they were.
“Over here!” Ianto cried, shoving open a door that was already half off its hinges. He stood aside to let Martha in and was about to go in himself when he caught a movement out of the corner of his eye. When he took a better look, he saw a shifting of debris in the same area.
“I’ll be right back! Stay here!”
Martha shouted something after him, but Ianto couldn’t make out the words over all the noise. Making sure to keep low and relatively hidden, Ianto made his way back towards the mouth of the alley where he’d seen the movement. A decidedly human movement.
Ianto was nearly on top of them before he noticed them. A young couple. The man’s right arm was soaked with blood, but aside from a few scratches they seemed otherwise unhurt. Motioning for them to follow him, Ianto helped them both off the ground and back to the doorway where Martha was waiting nervously. The man began to stumble after a few steps so Ianto slung his unbloodied arm over his shoulders. With his free hand, Ianto belatedly pulled out his gun. I would be useless against the Toclafane, but he felt safer just for having it out.
When they were finally in what turned out to be the kitchen of a café, Ianto released the man into Martha’s expert care then went to secure the door. Peering through the doorway that separated the two areas of the café, Ianto immediately saw that the front window had been shattered. He backed into the kitchen once again and set some crates up against the door. It wasn’t much, but Ianto hoped it would give them enough of a warning in case someone tried to get in.
“How is he?” Ianto asked, double checking to make sure the safety was on before slipping his gun back into its holster.
“It’s not as bad as it looks,” Martha assured him quickly. “I don’t think all of this is his. Can you grab the med-kit from my bag?”
The fact that Martha was asking for the Torchwood-issue med-kit and not the café one that was sitting on the counter told Ianto that the wound was at least a bit serious. Of course, the blood alone was enough of a clue.
“My best friend,” the man grunted, explaining the extra blood. “Those things killed him.”
“I’m sorry,” Ianto murmured, ducking his head briefly.
The girl—Maria, she’d introduced herself as—was looking utterly lost, so Ianto had her help him look for edible food. The man was her fiancée, Peter. Their hometown had been completely destroyed so they’d left, hoping to find others. There had originally been six of them, the others all killed by the Toclafane/
“Now we will never marry,” Maria whispered as she sifted through the cupboards.
Coming up beside her, Ianto placed a hand on her arm. “This isn’t the end.”
“Look at everything. How can you believe otherwise?” she demanded, scrubbing the heel of her hand against her cheeks to remove fresh tears.
Ianto smiled in a way he hoped made him look reassuring rather than certifiably insane. “Because as long as there’s even one person alive out there, we’re not defeated. The human race won’t go down without a fight.”
Maria continued to snuffle quietly. “How can you be so sure?”
“I refuse to believe this is the end,” Ianto said simply. Opening the last cupboard on his side, Ianto grinned. “Here we go. Dinner.”
A few tins of soup and some breadsticks were hardly the makings of a substantial dinner, but once Ianto was able to get a small fire going, it was warm. Having a warm meal wasn’t something he and Martha were able to enjoy often so Ianto savoured it; each mouthful of condensed soup better than the last.
Peter was the first to fall asleep, Maria and Martha following only a short while later. Ianto stayed awake, watching as their little fire continued to flicker stubbornly on, his thumb idly stroking Jack’s vortex manipulator which he wore on his left wrist. The same as Jack always did. Alone in the dark, Ianto let himself think about Jack. It was the only time he allowed himself such a luxury.
“Nine minutes and twenty-seven seconds.”
Jack sputtered in disbelief. “No way. That thing has to be wrong.”
“A stopwatch never lies.”
“Well that one does.”
Jack tried his best to look indignant, but it was difficult when he was sprawled naked and panting on the floor next to his desk. Heaving himself upright, Ianto leaned against the desk, stopwatch in hand. He held it out so that Jack could see the face. Jack snatched it from him, shaking it about briefly.
“Somehow you cheated.”
Ianto couldn’t help but snort at that. “Pot. Kettle.”
“So you did cheat!”
“I most certainly did not,” Ianto insisted, crawling forward so that he could settle comfortably between Jack’s legs once again. He pressed a kiss to Jack’s abdomen then folded his hands overtop, resting his chin on top. “Maybe your stamina’s not quite what you think it is.”
Ianto couldn’t stop the rather undignified squeak that passed his lips as Jack flipped him over onto his back. Jack’s wide, toothy grin was utterly unrepentant. The stopwatch was started again, only this time it was Jack’s lips and tongue that were trying to break the record.
Working at Torchwood had unfortunately made carefree moments like that few and far between. Ianto had nonetheless treasured each one. Their relationship may have begun as a way for Ianto to get Lisa into Torchwood, but even before her death Ianto had started to feel something more than lust for Jack. Now he was trekking across the world, a wanted man, so that he could rescue Jack from a fate Ianto didn’t even want to think about.
“You should get some sleep.”
Ianto glanced towards Martha, barely able to make her out in the darkness.
“So should you,” Ianto pointed out. “We have a lot of ground to cover tomorrow.”
There was some quiet shuffling and then Martha was sitting next to him. “Then why aren’t you asleep?”
“I’ve never really slept much,” Ianto shrugged. “Plus, when you work at Torchwood, a regular schedule doesn’t exist.”
“Even so,” Martha yawned, leaning against Ianto, her head resting on his shoulder.
Ianto kept quiet, knowing that if he didn’t say anything Martha would fall asleep again soon enough. A few minutes later, her breathing even out. A few more minutes after that, Ianto eased her down so that her head was resting on a lap, a position that was a lot more comfortable.
Ianto didn’t remember falling asleep, but when he woke up Martha was searching out new supplies in the cupboards to replace the things they’d used. Ianto had noticed a hospital the day before and suggested going there after they’d eaten breakfast.
“What about Maria and Peter? Do you think they’ll be okay?” Martha asked as she slipped into her backpack.
The pair in question were still sleeping, curled up together under their coats. Next to them were a few supplies that he and Martha had left for them.
“They’ve made it this far,” Ianto said, not wanting to tempt the fates one way or another where the young pair was concerned.
“Yeah. They have.” She nudged Ianto with her shoulder. “So will we.”
It was the dead of night. Next to him, Martha slept peacefully exhausted from a long day of travelling. Try as he might, Ianto couldn’t relax enough to fall asleep. Rather than tossing and turning, and creating noise that would wake Martha, Ianto crept into the next room. Not turning on the light, Ianto used the dim moonlight to navigate his way through the room.
The cabin itself was in ruins, people having long since scavenged anything useful from the place. The roof was still intact and, remarkably, the water still worked, so he and Martha had chosen it to spend the night. Cold though it was, they’d both still rejoiced when it came time to have a shower. It’d been a long time since they’d had that luxury.
Carefully easing himself down onto the ground beneath the large bay window, Ianto let out a deep sigh. A month. It had been a month since the world had come to an end. It felt like so much longer, but he’d kept track of every single day, and it was only thirty days since the Toclafane had appeared. Ianto didn’t want to think about how much longer that month would have been for Jack.
Placing his left arm across his drawn up knees, Ianto flipped open the cover of Jack’s vortex manipulator. It was strange to be wearing something he had always associated with Jack. The only time he’d ever sent eh other man without it was the shower. Once, a long time ago, he’d asked Jack about its origin, but, as usual, Jack had been completely evasive, telling him only that it was broken so the rest didn’t matter. While that may have been true a few weeks ago, Ianto now knew differently. When everything was back to normal, Ianto planned on asking Jack about the Time Agency. He couldn’t guarantee that Jack would give him answers, but no harm would come from asking.
Over the past year, Ianto had seen Jack use his wrist strap countless times, but he’d never paid much attention to it. Martha only knew which buttons to press to make it work. Together they’d been trying to figure out how to make it work properly. Most importantly, they needed to find out how to set the coordinates. Ianto had visions of them materializing in the middle of a mountain or at the bottom of the sea. It was a fear Martha shared as well and was the main reason they hadn’t used it yet, even when things became very dangerous.
“Ianto, what is that?” Martha whispered, nudging him lightly.
Keeping his movements slow and smooth, Ianto reached for his gun. He hoped a quick shot into the air would scare the thing off. Of course, the opposite could always be true: one quick shot could serve as a dinner bell, calling it in to eat.
“Move towards the tree,” Ianto said quietly. “Climb up as high as you can.”
The thing took a step closer and Ianto wished fervently that he had one of Owen’s all-purpose tranquilizers. It looked almost like a wolf, except Ianto had never seen a wolf with such a large, tooth-filled muzzle. He kept his eyes trained on the beast while listening behind him to be sure that Martha was safe.
“I think I’m high enough.”
Taking a deep breath, Ianto stepped closer to the werewolf film reject, his gun levelled at its head. Jack had made sure that he was an excellent shot. After what had happened with the cannibals at the Brecon Beacons, Jack had doubled up on all their field training sessions. Ianto’s had been the most thorough, though for entirely different reasons.
When he was only about five paces away from the thing, well within striking distance, Ianto aimed between its eyes and squeezed the trigger. The beast had lunged at the exact same moment, so rather than hitting it where he’d intended, the bullet lodged itself in the alien’s throat.
Jumping to the side, Ianto was barely able to avoid being tackled by it. He rolled, the motion carrying him back to his feet and he turned quickly to fire a second shot. That shot grazed the beast’s shoulder. When it turned completely, Ianto fired again. The final shot was successful, hitting it between the eyes.
As it collapsed in a heap, Ianto staggered briefly, his arm dropping to his side. There was a slight twitch from the carcass so Ianto shot it quickly a final time.
Though he hadn’t realized it at first, the alien had managed to get him with its claws during its initial charge. There were three gashes on his left arm just above Jack’s wrist strap that had required stitches. It was only after the adrenaline had worn off that he’d noticed the pain, and even now, three days later, it still ached a bit.
Still, a few cuts hardly mattered compared to what was happening to millions of others out there.
“Why couldn’t you have told me how this works, Jack?” Ianto whispered, stroking the buttons. He must have pressed a bit too hard because suddenly the world lurched around him.
It did more than lurch. Ianto felt like he was being stretched and compressed all at once. He couldn’t see anything except a strange blue haze before his eyes and his stomach felt as though he’d spun around one too many times on a swivel chair.
Then, just as suddenly, it stopped.
Ianto felt the strange sensation of the world suddenly stopping after one too many rides on the Tilt-a-Whirl. It took a few long moments for his head to stop spinning, and when it did, Ianto found himself in a room that he’d only seen through a television screen.
The control deck of The Valiant.
“What are you doing with that?”
Ianto spun about on hands and knees only to see an old man sitting on the ground in front of a tent. “What?”
“I believe I asked you that first,” the old man said. The man, who if his guess was right, was none other than Torchwood’s #1 enemy, the Doctor. “What are you doing with something that belongs to Jack Harkness?”
“Captain,” Ianto corrected automatically. He then jumped to his feet, looking about the room. “Where is he? Where has that monster taken Jack?”
“You’re Torchwood,” the wizened old Doctor murmured.
“No, I’m Ianto Jones. Now where’s Jack? I’ll find him anyway, but please tell me where he is. I’d rather not get caught wandering about.”
The Doctor stared heavily at Ianto, who could feel a slight niggling at the edges of his mind. Like an itch that he couldn’t quite scratch.
“Jack’s down in the boiler room,” the Doctor said at last. “I don’t.... I can’t guarantee that he’ll be fit for company.”
Ianto merely shrugged. “Doesn’t matter. I just want to see him. I need to see him.”
The Doctor gave Ianto instructions on how to get down to the boiler room.
“How’s Martha?” the Doctor asked as Ianto turned towards the door.
Pausing, Ianto turned back and gave him a tight smile. “She’s okay. She’s alive.”
“Good.... Good,” the Doctor murmured to himself. Then he smiled at Ianto. “Take care of her, Ianto Jones.”
He didn’t bother to ask the Doctor to do what he could to take care of Jack. He could barely take care of himself.
It took Ianto about fifteen minutes to find the boiler room. He had to move quietly and carefully in order to avoid being caught. There were surprisingly few guards, but, given the control the Master had, they weren’t entirely necessary. Even with all his training, Ianto wouldn’t dare to confront Harold Saxon.
When he stood in front of the door that would take him into the boiler room, Ianto found himself faltering. Jack was on the other side of the door. He was doing it all for Jack. His captain had been missing for nearly three months and now that he was finally there, Ianto was scared to see him. Shaking his head to dispel any doubts, Ianto put his hand on the door and pushed it open.
At first, all Ianto could see were the odd shapes of machinery visible through dense clouds of steam. He crept in further, his eyes scanning about constantly, searching out either guards or Jack. He hoped his luck would hold out and that there’d be none of the former. Ianto didn’t have any weapons as he hadn’t planned on ending up on the Valiant. There was a small army knife in the pocket of his combat trousers, but he’d left his gun in the bedroom under his pillow.
“I know my internal clock’s a little off, but even I know this is too early for a visit.”
Ianto’s steps faltered momentarily. “Jack?”
Without thinking about it, Ianto rushed forward towards the sound of Jack’s voice. It didn’t matter any long what could happen to him if he was caught, or what had happened to Jack during the time they’d been apart, all that mattered was that Jack was there. Jack was so very, very close.
“Jack!” Ianto called louder when he couldn’t immediately see the older man.
Then there he was. Chained up and filthy, but very much alive.
“Jack,” Ianto moaned, hurrying across the space that separated them. Uncaring of the dirt, grime, or dried blood, Ianto clasped Jack’s face in his hands, mashing their lips together. Jack tasted exactly as Ianto remembered and for a few minutes Ianto forgot everything else but that taste and the feel of Jack’s body against his.
“What are you doing here?” Jack demanded breathlessly, his lips moving softly over Ianto’s.
Ianto shook his head. “Doesn’t matter. I’m here. Where are the keys for these things?”
Tilting his head to the side a little, Jack nodded somewhere just over Ianto’s shoulder. Turning his head, Ianto saw the key in question hanging from a hook on the wall opposite. Ianto could understand the cruelty in it, keeping freedom within sight, but always out of reach.
Kissing Jack a second time, Ianto took a step back and hurried over to retrieve the key. He knew better than to ask Jack to come with him—if Jack had wanted to escape, he could have at the very beginning of it all—but he wanted to feel Jack’s arms around him once. He needed to do something.
“I knew that I should have made those uniforms mandatory for all field missions,” Jack mused as Ianto returned with the key.
Cheerful as he tried to be, Ianto could easily spot the pain in his eyes, along with the exhaustion. Jack had died so many times in so many ways over the past month, it was only natural that it would start to takes its toll on him. Even so, Ianto was still startled by the swallowed cry that spilled from Jack’s lips when Ianto freed his arms.
“I’ve got you,” Ianto murmured as he lowered himself and Jack to the ground. The floor was a mess, covered with grease, dirt, and what Ianto knew was Jack’s blood. So very much of it. They were tangled together, arms and legs twisted about so that they could be pressed as closely as possible.
Jack burrowed his face into Ianto’s neck and stayed there for several long minutes. Ianto carded his fingers through Jack’s hair while his right hand stroked idly up and down Jack’s back. In that moment, Ianto wanted nothing more than to push whatever button on the vortex manipulator that would take him and Jack somewhere safe. Only that was something they couldn’t do. Torchwood was meant to keep the world safe. Even at the cost of their own lives.
“You shouldn’t be here,” Jack said after a while, his voice barely above a whisper. “You should be back at the Hub, safe from all this.”
Ianto snorted, pressing a kiss to Jack’s temple. “Like you are? You could have escaped, Jack. You all could have escaped.”
“No, we couldn’t.”
The words were barely audible, but there was a definitiveness to the worlds all the same. And even though he wished it were otherwise, Ianto had expected as much. Jack was the distraction. He was keeping Martha’s family safe and doing what he could to distract Saxon so that the Doctor had time to do what he needed.
“I know better than to ask you to come back with me,” Ianto whispered, squeezing Jack tight as he dared. “I wish that you would, though.”
Lifting his head, Jack smiled sadly at Ianto. “Trust me, there’s nothing more I want now than to be back at the Hub drinking some of your coffee. I’ll even put up with Owen’s griping if it means we’re back home.”
Ianto ran his fingers through Jack’s greasy, filthy hair, massaging the back of his skull with his fingertips. He pressed his forehead to Jack’s, sliding their noses alongside one another. He didn’t care about the dirt, or the smell of death that lingered around Jack. He just wanted to be able to hold onto Jack for as long as possible.
“You can’t stay here,” Jack murmured, pulling back just enough so that he could meet Ianto’s gaze. “You need to get back to Martha and keep doing what you’re doing. In the end, the two of you are gonna save us all.”
Ianto shook his head. “No. Jack, I can’t. Don’t ask me to leave you here.”
Jack pursed his lips in a thin smile. “You have to, Ianto.”
Clasping Jack’s face between his hands, Ianto drew him close once again, kissing him desperately. He’d known that Jack would force him to leave alone, but now that the time had arrived, Ianto didn’t think he would be able to.
The decision was taken from him.
In the distance there was the echo of footsteps. Quick, pounding footsteps that heralded the approach of soldiers. Ianto knew that he should have checked for CCTV cameras, but it was too late for that. They were coming and Jack would pay the consequences.
Jack flung himself away from Ianto, causing both of them to fall onto the backs. Before Ianto had time to right himself, Jack had hold of his left wrist and flipped open the flap of his wrist strap.
“I’m sorry,” Jack said as he punched a quick series of buttons. He leaned in, kissed Ianto one final time and then pulled back at the same moment he pressed the final button.
Ianto vaguely heard the door to the boiler room slam open as the world once again compressed around him.
For days afterwards, Ianto had tried to use the wrist strap to get himself back on the Valiant, but it failed every time. Whatever Jack had done in those last few moments had disabled his ability to get back onto the air cruiser. Ianto had made himself ill trying to figure out how to use the vortex manipulator, his attempts doing nothing more than teleporting him a few hundred meters from where he’d originally been standing.
Screaming, Ianto tore the wrist strap off and threw it away from him. “Take me back to him!”
Collapsing onto the roadway, Ianto leaned back, his knees bent upwards and his hands over his eyes. The heat from the road soaked through his t-shirt and into his back, but Ianto still felt cold all the way through. He hadn’t felt warm since he’d been forced to abandon Jack. It all seemed so entirely pointless. No matter what he did, Jack would still have to suffer. The world would still suffer. Nothing that he and Martha did would change anything so there really wasn’t any point to it.
“How’s the view down there?” Martha asked, appearing over him suddenly with Jack’s wrist strap in his hand.
“Quite peaceful, actually,” Ianto grumbled, lifting a hand to shade his eyes from the sun.
Sitting down cross-legged beside him on the empty roadway, Martha dropped the wrist strap on his chest. “Are you ever going to tell me what happened?”
“There’s nothing to tell.”
“Somehow, I don’t believe that. You’ve been in a funk for three days now.”
Ianto lowered his arm to cover his face, his right hand sliding down his body to close over the wrist strap. “I saw Jack.”
“I pressed something and then I was on the Valiant. I saw the Doctor and made him tell me where Jack was....”
In the end, Ianto told her everything. She would have found out eventually because Martha had a way of making him talk when he’d rather keep silent. It was endearing and frustrating all at once. Ianto knew that he needed to tell her, though. He had to tell someone before it drove him mad. To be so close to Jack only to lose him again was gutting him.
Reaching out, Martha closed her fingers over his. “We’ll get through this. All of us. And when this is all over, you and Jack can return to Cardiff and do some more of that dabbling that you refuse to tell me about.”
Despite his best efforts otherwise, Martha managed to coax a smile out of him.
That there had been no broadcast from Saxon the day following his unplanned time aboard the Valiant worried Ianto. Insane as the Time Lord was, Saxon was surprisingly consistent in his actions. There should have been some sort of broadcast the following day. Instead there was only silence for nearly a week.
Until he and Martha were gathered in library with the survivors of a small town just south of Berlin.
The people who were hiding out had scavenged an old TV which they kept plugged in at all times, alongside a radio, so that they could hear it when Saxon made one of his announcements. They were in the midst of cobbling together a meal when the television burst to life.
“Citizens of the world, this is your Lord and Master,” Saxon smirked into the camera, looking as clean and perfectly pressed as always. Never a hair out of place, no matter how he spent his hours. “It would seem that there is some discontent among the masses. Some who don’t realize that I only have the best interests of this world at heart. Torchwood Three, I am talking to you. Or rather, to your rogue member, a Mr. Ianto Jones.”
Saxon shifted just slightly, the tilt of his neck barely altering, but it was enough so that Ianto could see a smudge on his neck. A small, rust coloured smudge.
“Mr. Jones, availing himself to Torchwood’s otherworldly technology, snunk onboard UNIT’s command ship in an attempt to cause unknown havoc. He was, of course, stopped before he could set loose a disruptive force.” Saxon then stared directly at the camera. Directly at Ianto. “We have dealt with the problems Mr. Jones caused. Completely.”
The second time, Ianto knew that the stretching of his neck was entirely deliberate. Saxon wanted him to see the blood. Jack’s blood.
“You will not succeed, Mr. Jones. Never.”
The camera panned to the left and there was Jack, crumpled and bloodied, lying dead on the ground. His clothes had been removed, showing every mark on him. Slashes, cuts, burns, and bruises covering every inch of Jack’s body from his hairline to the soles of his feet. His sightless eyes were turned towards the camera.
The camera then moved back up to Saxon’s madly grinning face. “Just remember, Mr. Jones, that this will be the consequence of any further action on your part.”
The broadcast cut off just as suddenly as it had begun.
“Oh God,” Martha gasped, her hands covering her mouth.
“I’m so sorry, Jack,” Ianto murmured, closing his eyes tight.
Ianto had known that there would be consequences for what he’d done, but he’d managed to convince himself that it wouldn’t be Jack paying the price. It was utterly naïve on his part, yet necessary. Sleeping was hard enough without thinking about the danger he’d put Jack in.
Wandering away from the shell-shocked crowd, Ianto made his way towards the modern history section. He allowed himself a few minutes to regain control over his emotions. He had to stay in control. Only when he was sure that his hands were no longer twitching did he return to the main area of the library where the others all stood huddled together.
“That man you saw lying on the ground is our best chance of defeating Saxon,” Ianto declared as he strode forward.
“The man dead,” a former school teacher pointed out.
Ianto scrubbed a hand over his face and nodded. “He is. For now. His name is Captain Jack Harkness and he is the friend of a man called the Doctor. They have both saved the world countless times and they will do it again. They will save us. But we have to help them. For once, we’re not going to let them stand alone.”
“Then we will end up same as him.”
“No because you do not have to fight,” Ianto assured them. “All you need to do is say one word. Just a single word. Say it at the right time and we can defeat Harold Saxon.”
The refugees were still dubious, even after he and Martha spent the night telling them of all the things they’d done and seen before the world had fallen into limbo. Ianto couldn’t blame them, though. Had he not been at Canary Wharf, or not spent the last year and a bit working at Torchwood Three, he might not have believed them either.
Middle of the night found Ianto sitting on the steps of the library staring up at the sky. He knew that the Valiant was somewhere up there, hovering silently above the earth. And Jack was somewhere on that ship of death, in as much a state of limbo as the earth.
Not for the first time in the past few years, Ianto wished he hadn’t given up smoking at Lisa’s bidding. His fingers were practically twitching to hold a cigarette, but he refused to start up again. When it was all over, Ianto wanted to spend as much time with Jack as possible, and with a job as dangerous as theirs he needed all the advantages he could get.
“This captain, you follow him willingly?”
Ianto turned his head, startled by the sudden appearance of the former school teacher, Sara. He smiled at her briefly, motioning for her to sit beside him on the step. Sara had a blanket, an afghan that was possibly older than she was, wrapped tight about her shoulders. As she settled down next to him, Sara’s gaze travelled the same route as Ianto’s. Towards Berlin. In the darkness it was easy to make out the glow of the still-smouldering ruins of the city.
“You follow the captain willingly?” Sara repeated.
“I do,” Ianto said without hesitation.
It was a simple enough question, but more loaded than any question he’d been asked since leaving Cardiff.
“Because he’s Jack,” was the only response Ianto could come up with. “He makes you want to be better than you are.”
“You love him.”
It wasn’t a question and she didn’t expect an answer, but Ianto still felt the need to answer.
Sara poked one hand out of her green, orange, and red afghan to brush her dark hair behind her ear. “Then what you do for love, we shall do for hope.”
Crossing from the European side of Istanbul to the Asiatic had to be done in the dead of a moonless night. In the past few weeks, Saxon had been making his domination of Earth appear more controlled and orderly and had set up what he called refugee settlements on the outskirts of former population centers. People were welcome to travel between them on registered buses or trains so long as they had the necessary clearance and paperwork. Something that they wouldn’t be able to get legally without risking capture, but that was fast becoming a necessity if they wanted to continue what they were doing.
That was why he and Martha had gone to Istanbul rather than following the northern shore of the Black Sea. The closer they got to the ancient city the more they heard rumour of a small resistance group based in the Taksim district on the Asian side of the city. More importantly, though, there was the chance of getting fake papers made up. The roadways were becoming more closely monitored so travel was fast becoming difficult. Doctors and mechanical specialists were in demand all over, so with the proper paperwork travelling would be made easy.
Slipping into the camp that was located on the ground of what had once been Istanbul’s international airport, a few discreet questions put them in touch with the resistance members who resided there. Ianto wasn’t surprised that both he and Martha were already known given the amount of time they’d been mentioned by Saxon during his broadcasts. It was a relief, though, that it was only their names that were known. More than once, since he and Martha had begun their journey, Ianto had been told that he was shorter than expected. Not normally considered short, Ianto wondered just how tall he was expected to be.
“I trust you can both swim,” Sinan, one of the resistance members, said as they approached the European shore of the Bosphorus.
“We don’t really have much of a choice, do we?” Ianto murmured, adjusting the mask over his eyes and nose.
“Then let’s go.”
The three of them were dressed in black wetsuits, their clothes, along with Ianto and Martha’s belongings, in waterproof bags that they were carrying with them. They entered the water slowly, doing their best not to make any noise. Once in the water, there was a guide wire just below the surface for them to pull themselves along to the opposite shore. At the moment, the rope was taut, but once it was no longer necessary, it would be loosened so that it rested along the bottom of the Bosphorus, safe from detection.
Even with the benefit of the wetsuits, the water was still colder than Ianto had expected. Almost as cold as the bay back in Cardiff. Ianto forced those thoughts from his mind immediately. It was better not to think about home. There was only the mission.
It was a slow, tedious crossing with them constantly having to duck below the surface as one of the Toclafane flew overhead. Luckily for them, there were only a few flying over the Bosphorus that night which made their crossing simpler. If such a task could be called simple. Still, between the water currents and the chill of the small sea, by the time they reached the other side all three were exhausted. And there was still further to travel before they could stop for the night. They’d reached the Asian side of Istanbul, but the Taksim district was still further inland.
The three of them took turns changing out of the neoprene suits and back into their own clothes inside a small booth where people had once bought tickets for the water taxis. The small ferry, along with all its sister ships, were half sunk in the water as a way to ensure that only the bridge could be used.
“I’ll do everything I can to get us where we’re going as quickly and safely as I can,” Sinan said as Ianto and Martha once again shouldered their packs. “Just stay alert.”
Ianto barely refrained from rolling his eyes. He and Martha had just crossed the entire breadth of Europe, they certainly knew how to stay alert. Instead, Ianto took out his gun, checked the chamber then removed the safety. Martha wasn’t a fan of him carrying a gun, but given the things he’d seen at Torchwood, a gun, while sometimes ineffective, was essential when dealing with unknown hostiles. It wasn’t his first choice, but it did the job when the enemy was too far away for Weevil spray and Owen’s all-purpose sedative to be effective. So, gun in hand, Ianto took the rear of their small column.
They moved quickly and silently, each of them knowing the consequences of being caught outside past curfew. No questions would be asked. The Toclafane would simply kill them on sight. It was a risk, but a necessary one if they were going to have any chance of defeating Saxon. He and Martha at least had the small of advantage of the perception filters they wore at all times. But those only worked so long as neither of them made any sudden moves. Ghosts were only invisible until they said, “Boo!”
There were still so many more who needed to be told the stories.
“I’m telling you, man, you’re hearing things!”
The sudden voice caught them all by surprise. Slipping into the darkest of shadows, the three of them waited breathlessly for what would happen next.
“I heard footsteps. I know I did.”
“Did you ever think that maybe you’re just stressed out?”
“I’m not imagining things.”
“All I’m saying....”
Motioning for Martha and Sinan to stay where they were, Ianto slowly crept towards the arguing voices. He shoved his gun into the waist of his trousers and pulled out his stun gun instead. There was no way to be sure that the men speaking were a part of Saxon’s private army, so he didn’t want to kill them. Besides that, Ianto had always been rather fond of his stun gun. He could fire a gun just as well as the rest of the team, but the non-lethal weapon had always been his choice when given one.
As he neared the corner of the building, a beam of light darted into the alley. Ianto flattened himself against the wall, his black clothing and the perception filter making him practically invisible. The instant the first body entered his line of sight, Ianto latched onto the nearest arm and tugged. The man fell against him and Ianto zapped him with his stun gun. Surprise had worked with the first person, so as he turned towards the second man, Ianto had to duck a punch aimed at his head. When he was crouched down, he jabbed up with the stun gun and felled the second person.
Straightening, Ianto didn’t even have time to look around before his left shoulder exploded in pain. Ianto stumbled into the wall, gasping as the movement jolted his shoulder. He swallowed the cries of pain that wanted out and purposefully dropped the stun gun. In the ensuing silence he could hear footsteps approaching. The stride was too long to be either Martha or Sinan. Fumbling briefly, Ianto pulled his gun out of his waistband and turned the safety off. Once he was sure the person was close enough, Ianto whirled around.
Pausing only long enough to focus on his target—who was taller than either of his companions—Ianto raised his gun and fired. He hadn’t been lying when he told Owen that he’d purposely hit his shoulder. Jack had made sure that his aim was as exact as possible. Still, he had just been shot himself so his aim had been a bit off. He’d been aiming dead center between his eyes, but the half inch up wasn’t too bad. It still had the same effect of his intended trajectory.
Slumping back against the wall, Ianto barely managed to maintain his grip on his gun as he heard footsteps sprinting towards him. He raised the gun with a shaky hand, but let it fall once he realized that it was only Martha and Sinan.
“Oh my God!” Martha gasped as she took in the three bodies lying near him. “Ianto, are you all right? We heard gunshots.”
“I’ve definitely been better,” Ianto groaned, using his right shoulder to lever himself away from the wall. Still, muscles and skin pulled, causing Ianto’s vision to grow fuzzy around the edges. “Where’s my stun gun?”
Switching the safety on his handgun back on, Ianto shoved it back into his waistband and began scanning the ground for his dropped weapon. Martha was quicker than him, though. She snatched the dropped flashlight off the ground then pinned Ianto to the wall by his right shoulder.
“It went straight through which is good,” Martha said, more to herself than to him. “There’s not much I can do right now, so I’ll put a quick bandage on it until we get where we’re going.”
Ianto nodded, not having the energy for much more than that. He moved however Martha directed, grunting every so often, until she had his shoulder patched up to her standards. Then Sinan was on his other side and he was being tugged along down the endlessly winding streets of Istanbul.
Jack’s eyes lit up as he walked into the room. Granted, that heated gaze was focused on the tray Ianto held in his hands, but the smile when he looked up was for Ianto alone. It had been an extremely long day, the five of them trekking all over Cardiff retrieving several innocuous items belched out by the Rift. Jack had been able to identify several of them (he’d been particularly giddy about something that looked to Ianto like pyramid-shaped rubix cube), but the rest had been shelved until the following day when they were all more alert.
“I thought I’d give you an excuse to ignore your paperwork,” Ianto said as he set the tray down on Jack’s desk. He handed Jack his blue and white striped mug then sat down in the chair opposite his lover. “Just remember that the forms in the green folder need to be finished by tomorrow.”
“And what happens if I don’t?” Jack grinned from behind the rim of his mug.
Ianto took a sip from his own coffee and leaned back into the chair. “I’m the only one who knows which dry cleaner I took your coat to an hour ago.”
“You are an evil man, Ianto Jones,” Jack scowled, his expression lacking the heat that the words entailed.
“I prefer to think of myself as efficient.”
“.... for your help. We hope to be gone by nightfall.”
Ianto woke slowly, his head feeling as though it was stuffed with cottonwool. It was better, though, than the numbing pain that’d consumed him the last time he’d been conscious. He was lying half-propped up on something vaguely comfortable, possibly a bed, and there were several voices speaking all around him. He recognized Martha and Sinan’s voices, but he didn’t know the rest.
He wanted nothing more than to slide back into unconsciousness, but he didn’t have the luxury. Ianto had no idea how long he’d been asleep, or what time it even was. He and Martha needed to keep moving. Saxon had it out for both of them and neither of them wanted to risk innocent lives should he ever catch up.
“Mar’a,” Ianto grunted, forcing his heavy eyelids to open.
The light was blessedly dim, but Ianto still had to blink a few times in order to get his vision to clear. The first thing that he saw was Martha, hovering over him.
“Ianto, how are you feeling?” Martha demanded, pulling first one, then the other, eyelid back to get a better look at his pupils. He wanted to swat her away, but didn’t have the energy. She rattled off a number of questions, most of which he was able to answer without needing her to repeat them. “Try sitting up now.”
With a grunt, and more than a little bit of Martha’s help, Ianto managed to heave himself into a seated position. His vision wavered for a moment, but he was able to stay sitting up under his own power. Once he was sitting, Ianto scanned the room they were in. It was a well appointed apartment, the furniture all tasteful and modern.
And blacked-out windows.
It certainly wasn’t what he’d been expected in a secret headquarters. In fact, the only thing that fit with his idea of what one should look like were the windows. If it hadn’t been for them, Ianto would have thought they were in the wrong place. It was clear, however, that they were not once he got a look at the other people in the room with them.
Like he and Martha, all of the people in the room were dressed in black, their features serious and hardened. Seeing as nearly half of the Turkish population had been decimated by the Toclafane, it was understandable. It had also helped to create a strong resistance among those left behind, all of them having lost someone in the destruction.
Ianto accepted the cup of tea with thanks, holding it carefully in his right hand. It looked more like a miniature flower vase than a teacup, but the drink inside warmed him all the way through.
“Thank you for your hospitality,” Ianto murmured, leaning back into the arm of the sofa he was resting on. “I trust I have not been too much of an inconvenience.”
“We were glad to temporarily give up our sofa for one who has done so much in the fight against Harold Saxon,” a dark-haired woman named Mesude assured him.
Ianto wasn’t sure what to say to that. He was used to staying in the background, doing what was necessary to make sure the team was able to do their job effectively. He was the technical support.
“Martha and I are glad to do what we can to help,” Ianto said quietly before taking another sip of his tea.
“As are we.”
He was then presented with a completely official looking identity papers. According to the papers, he was Idris Hopper, a mechanical engineer from Swansea. Ianto was impressed with how perfect the forgery was and told Mesude as much. She had apparently been a printmaker of some kind before the invasion and had been able to scavenge enough supplies from her workplace to create passable identity papers.
“Is there a place where I can change?” Ianto asked, tugging briefly on the hem of his ruined shirt. The left shoulder had been cut along the seam, but he had otherwise been left fully dressed.
Instead of simply being shown to a room where he could change into fresh clothes, Ianto was led to a bathroom and told that the hot water would work for approximately seven minutes. Ianto couldn’t stop the contented smile that curved his lips. It seemed a lifetime since he’d been able to have a hot shower.
After an all too brief, but wonderfully warm, shower, Ianto got dressed awkwardly. The numbness he’d felt when he woke up had faded long before which made each move painful. It was worth it, though. He was clean, freshly shaven, and dressed in clothes that he hadn’t been wearing for a week straight. All that he needed was a really good cup of coffee and Jack wrapped around him, and things would have been perfect.
Or as close as things were likely to get to perfect for quite some time.
“How are you feeling?” Martha asked once Ianto emerged from the bathroom.
Pushing his damp hair away from his face, Ianto managed a tired smile. “Better than I was fifteen minutes ago. Never underestimate the powers of a good, hot shower.”
Now that he was feeling far more alert than he had a little while ago, Ianto joined the others who were gathering around a large dining table where a small dinner had been prepared. The meal was nothing fancy, but neither was it something that had recently been dehydrated and in a tinfoil packet. It was warm, wonderfully spiced, and made of actual meat. As far as Ianto was concerned, it was perfect.
Dinner that evening was much like lunch at Torchwood. It was a time when plans and ideas were discussed, and information was shared. For a half hour, Ianto could almost pretend that he was back home.
“Has there been any news about Torchwood Three?” Ianto asked towards the end of the meal.
Rather significant looks were exchanged between the six members of the resistance group. Looks that put Ianto on edge because he’d seen them before. Only he’d always been on the other side.
“What happened to them?” Ianto murmured, his eyes trained on his empty plate.
“I’m sorry, but they were taken a week ago,” Mesude told him, her voice quiet and heartfelt. “I do not know their fate, though.”
Ianto squeezed his eyes shut tight. He knew just as well as she did that they were dead. Tosh, Owen, and Gwen were dead. Either the time lock had failed or they’d chosen to leave the safety of the Hub. If it was the latter, Ianto knew that there’d been a good reason for it. It would have grated on all of them to remain out of events when their home was so obviously in need of help. They were the defenders of the Earth, and sometimes that meant dying.
Ianto was determined to make sure his family hadn’t died in vain.
It was easy to hide in a refugee camp. There were so many people crammed into such a small area that it took almost no effort at all to disappear. It was made even easier because it took a bit of effort to notice that Idris Hopper the mechanic from Swansea and Ianto Jones the fugitive member of Torchwood Three were the same person. The end of the world was hardly a time to visit the barber so Ianto’s hair had grown out past his ears, his fringe often annoyingly in his eyes. Add to that his irregular shaving habits, a wardrobe without a single suit, and a body hardened by constant activity, and Ianto almost didn’t recognize himself.
Though there were days Ianto was more than willing to take a pair of scissors to his hair and chop it back into some semblance of order, Ianto knew it was a necessary evil. The longer they could continue to slip under the wire, the more chance they had of defeating Saxon.
Still, hiding was proving to be a bit more difficult in their current location. Delhi had been a large city, and there were certainly a good number of survivors in the refugee camp, but he was most obviously not of Indian descent and stood out despite his best efforts. While still most assuredly not Indian, Martha’s darker complexion allowed her to remain undetected for longer periods. They had the proper paperwork and there was nothing unusual about their presence—medics and mechanics were the most frequent travellers between camps—but they wanted to draw as little attention to themselves during the daylight hours.
So while Martha was out rally supporters for the Doctor and Jack, Ianto was in one of the main buildings with some of the leaders of the camp negotiating for supplies. Information, and the few small trinkets they were able to carry with them were the only currency he had to work with; however, over the past few months, he had become a lot better at negotiating than he had in the past.
“What is to stop us from going to the guards and telling them who you really are, Mr. Jones?” Matloub, a middle-aged man dressed in a slightly tattered suit, asked him. He had the infuriating way of sounding perfectly rational all the while staring down his nose at those he spoke to. “We would earn a far greater reward turning you in than by helping you.”
Ianto inclined his head briefly, keeping his features neutral. “In the short term, yes, it would be better to turn me in. But what about six months from now? A year? Do you truly want your children and grandchildren growing up in a world without freedom? A world without hope?”
Matloub scowled briefly at him, but the others were all nodding their heads along with him as he spoke.
“We’ve all lost someone to this madness. I don’t even know what’s happened to my family,” Ianto continued once it looked like the tide was swinging his way. “All that I’m doing is trying to give those of us that are left a chance. There is a way to defeat Saxon, but it means we all have to work together.”
Matloub snorted derisively. “And just how are we supposed to do that? He has an invincible army of those metal monsters. Anyone who tries to fight him is dead in an instant.”
“You’re not going to fight him.”
Certain that he had their attention, Ianto spun the alternative tale he and Martha had devised. One that they’d been quite able to pull off thanks to the UNIT bases situated all over the world. One they’d found abandoned in Germany had been the beginning of it. A vial of bluish liquid and an injector gun, and he and Martha had a visible reason for travelling around the world. It was the weapon that those who didn’t believe that Saxon could be destroyed by a single word needed.
“This is what will defeat Saxon,” Ianto said as he removed the injector from his pack. “The top scientists in the world have worked for nearly fifty years developing the only thing capable of permanently killing a Time Lord. Four different chemicals scattered all over the world.”
As he’d hoped, the dramatic tale earned him the instant cooperation of the camp leaders. Once he was certain that he and Martha would have their cooperation, Ianto made his excuses and left the building. Since they’d left Istanbul, Ianto had felt his desire to keep wandering waning. It was feeling more and more pointless with each day that passed. His friends and family were all dead, and Jack was....
Ianto shuddered, pushing away thoughts of what his lover was no doubt enduring. Jack was the reason that he’d continued as long as he had. Jack could have escaped with him, but Jack had forced him to leave him behind. Ianto would have happily strangled Jack for what he’d done, but now he simply had to endure. He had to do what Jack needed him to even though it took longer to talk himself into getting up each morning and continuing on to the next refugee camp.
He and Martha simply couldn’t keep doing what they were indefinitely. Ianto found it hard to believe that what he and Martha were doing would have any effect on things. Yes, he knew the Doctor was powerful. As a junior researching in Torchwood London, he’d read everything he could find on the Doctor, but none of it made him believe that the Doctor’s plan could possibly work.
Ianto glanced up from where he was sitting and offered Martha a crooked grin.
“The Doctor will fix everything,” Martha insisted, sitting down next to him. She nudged him briefly with her shoulder and he allowed his body to rock with the motion. “It’s what he does. I know it doesn’t seem like it now, but everything will be all right.”
That time, Ianto laughed outright, the sound continuing until he was nearly hyperventilating. It was through extreme force of will that Ianto stopped himself, swallowing the next round of laughter that wanted out.
“I’m not one of the people we’re telling stories to,” Ianto reminded her.
“They’re not just stories.”
Resting his elbows on his drawn-up knees, Ianto propped his head in his hands. “Then why does it feel that way? We’re wandering the world, telling stories, while Jack is dying over and over again. Tosh, Owen, and Gwen are dead. Tell me what the point of all this is?”
“We’re saving the world. It might not seem like much now, in the end it’ll be worth it.”
Ianto desperately wanted to believe her, but he simply couldn’t. Nothing could be worth all that pain, all those deaths Jack was suffering through. It wasn’t worth Owen, Tosh, and Gwen’s lives.
Straightening, Ianto lifted his left arm so Martha could see the wrist strap he always wore. “I’m going to figure out how to get this thing working again.”
“Ianto, no,” Martha protested immediately. “They’ll kill you if you go back there.”
“I have to at least try,” Ianto shrugged as he unbuckled the vortex manipulator. “The longer we take, the more people who die and the more damage that’s done to the Earth.”
“Have you even stopped to think about this?”
For the first time, Ianto met her gaze, holding it. “Every night since I saw Jack. And after what we learned in Istanbul, I’ve been thinking about it even more.” He offered her a brief smile when he saw the panic flash across her face. “Don’t worry, I’m not going to go running off right now. I have no idea what I’m doing anyway. But when I do finally get it working....”
“There’s no way I can talk you out of this, is there?” Martha asked, resigned.
Martha shrugged slightly. “I can’t be angry at you for wanting to help Jack. But remember, no matter what, Jack will survive this. You won’t.”
Ianto smile softly, hoping that Martha didn’t notice that he wasn’t telling the entire truth.
Ianto huddled deep into the only corner of the room, out of the wind that tore through the broken windows and gaps in the walls. He had a small torch held between his lips and was trying to get his numbed fingers to punch in the correct sequence on the vortex manipulator. After the struggle of figuring out how to change the language on the display into something recognizable, Ianto hadn’t managed to do more than teleport himself over short distances. The furthest he’d managed was half a kilometre.
Beside Ianto, stuck to the ground with the aid of a broken bit of masonry, was a map of the surrounding area. He’d been assured by locals that it was completely accurate. So while Martha helped to treat the village’s sick, Ianto spent his time trying to figure out how to set the co-ordinates on Jack’s wrist strap.
“Why is it, whenever I try to contact you, you never respond?”
Ianto was startled when the blue-tinged hologram appeared before him. He’d always just assumed that the blue square on Jack’s wrist strap was a sensor of sorts.
The woman in the hologram had close-cropped hair and sharply slanted eyes. Her minimal attire—a tank, combat trousers, and heavy boots—combined with the array of weapons she was carrying put Ianto in the mind of some post-apocalyptic video game character.
“Come on, Kenan, you know you’re interested in this mission,” she prodded, arms crossed below her breasts. She arched an eyebrow, obviously waiting for a response. “Kenan, this is a lot of money we’re talking about. We’ll both be set for years after this one.” Her scowl made her far from pretty. “Look, Kenan, you have six standard hours to get your ass to these co-ordinates.”
A series of numbers and symbols slashed across the hologram.
“Six hours, Kenan.”
Ianto wondered whether Jack had ever responded to the message. Realizing that he’d stumbled across the equivalent of the inbox of Jack’s wrist strap. Once he figured out how to access the messages, Ianto played a handful of them. There was so much that Jack never told them about himself and it was a chance for him to learn more about his lover. Ianto knew that it was an invasion of privacy, but he planned on telling Jack everything he’d seen when things returned to normal.
He wasn’t sure what it meant that he wasn’t entirely surprised to learn that the messages hinted at Jack being a con man before he joined Torchwood. Jack certainly had the charm to pull it off, though Ianto would forever blame the alcohol for Jack being able to talk him into having sex on the invisible lift.
Hearing a shuffling sound across the room, Ianto instantly grabbed his gun, aiming it in the direction of the sound. He peered towards the cluttered doorway, searching out the intruder. Ianto grinned when he saw that the newcomer was wasn’t even four feet tall and set his gun back on the ground.
“Hello there,” he greeted as cheerfully as he could manage. “What are you doing here?”
A pair of wide blue eyes and a mop of dark hair peeked at him from around the doorway. Slowly, the rest of the body slid into the room, revealing a little boy dressed in scuffed boots, tattered jeans, a black winter coat and red mittens. He hung back near the door, watching Ianto warily.
“What’s your name?” Ianto asked, trying again to get the boy to talk. “I’m Ianto.”
“Billy,” the little boy squeaked, edging a little closer. “What’cha doin’?”
Ianto grinned at him and held up the wrist strap. “I’m trying to fix this. My friend is very careless and broke it.”
“What’s it gonna do?”
“It’s gonna help save the world,” Ianto said. He didn’t think it was possible, but Billy’s eyes got even bigger than before and quickly hurried over to where he sat.
“Howzit work?” Billy demanded as he dropped down across from Ianto.
“That’s what I’m trying to figure out,” Ianto admitted with a sheepish grin. “It belongs to my friend, but he didn’t tell me how it works.”
“Who’s your friend?”
That was all Billy needed to hear. He became quite enthusiastic, bouncing around on his knees and demanding Ianto tell him everything he knew about the Captain. Ianto hadn’t realized just how well his and Martha’s storytelling was working until then. But then kids often picked up on such things quicker than adults.
“Can you tell me a story?” Billy asked as he tucked himself up against Ianto for warmth. “Tell me about the Captain?”
Ianto floundered for a few moments, unsure of just what he should tell a four-year-old. Instead he tried what always worked with Lisa’s nephews; a fairy tale.
“Once upon a time, there was an island called Sol 3,” Ianto began, recalling the name Jack had told him was Earth’s universal designation. “The people who lived there were very young and innocent. They had no idea that there were people who lived beyond their little island. People that knew about them and watched them. No one, except the Captain, the oldest person living on Sol 3. Now the Captain was a very smart man, and he knew that the others weren’t ready to learn about the people who lived outside Sol 3. So he kept quiet. But then people from outside Sol 3 started to visit. The Captain asked them very nicely if they would leave. Most said yes. Some times, though, they said no. Then the Captain made them go away so that the people living on Sol 3 would be safe.
“Now the Captain didn’t do this all alone. He had some very special friends who helped him. They called themselves Torchwood. There was the copper, the doctor, and the computer lady; they all helped the Captain keep Sol 3 safe. Most special of all was a man who travelled about in a great blue box; the Time Lord. He was the Captain’s very best friend and he loved Sol 3 almost as much as the Captain. Because even though the Time Lord would come and help whenever there was very bad trouble, he always left as soon as it was all over. The Captain loved Sol 3 enough to always stay.
“One day, an evil magician came to Sol 3 and he put all of the people who lived there under a spell. All except the Captain, the Time Lord, and Torchwood. Being the greatest of Sol 3’s warriors, the Captain and the Time Lord went to fight the Magician. The Magician, though, played a trick on them. He made the Time Lord so old that he could no longer fight and he trapped the Captain in the Room of Despair. All of Sol 3 cried when they learned this. Torchwood tried to fight the Magician, but they lost. Everyone thought it was all over; that the Magician had won. But they forgot one thing: the Tea-boy.
“The Tea-boy was no one special, but he loved the Captain and Sol 3 very much. He decided that he would do whatever he could to save everyone. He would rescue his Captain and the Time Lord, so that they could save Sol 3.”
Billy was utterly entranced when he came to the end of the story. The little boy was seated next to him with his legs crossed, his chin resting atop his grubby hands. His smile, though, was bright as could be.
“What ‘appened next?” Billy demanded, practically bouncing in anticipation.
Ianto shrugged. “I don’t know. The story isn’t finished yet.”
“Oh,” Billy said quietly. Then he grinned again. “The good guys’ll win. They always do.”
Ianto wished that he had Billy’s belief that everything would turn out all right.
With the story finished, and all of his questions answered, Billy soon became distracted and wandered off. After saying goodbye to the little boy, Ianto leaned back and let out a deep breath. He felt calm, relaxed, and far more focused that he had before Billy’s sudden appearance.
Determined, Ianto returned his attention on the vortex manipulator. Ianto still didn’t believe that thoughts could be used to defeat the Master. It was simply too insubstantial to be at all effective. He’d much rather face the Master head on. It may be a futile effort, but at least he’d know that he’d done his best to defeat the mad Time Lord. Only Ianto still had no idea how they were going to do that. The Master had stopped both the Doctor and Jack, and they were the Earth’s greatest defenders. Ianto knew that it was unlikely that he would succeed where they’d failed, but he had to try. It’s what Jack had trained them to do.
So focused on what he could see illuminated in the torch’s small beam of light, Ianto didn’t realize the sun had set till he leaned back to try and work the kinks out of his neck. His back ached, his legs were numb, and his fingers were cramped, but Ianto still didn’t want to stop. Whatever Jack had done during those few frantic seconds, he’d made it incredibly difficult for Ianto to get around the wrist strap’s programming.
“Damn it, Jack,” Ianto grunted, scrubbing a hand over his face. In the back of his mind, Ianto could perfectly envision Jack’s smug grin as he continued to struggle to find a way past Jack’s programming. “You’re going on decaf for this.”
Once he’d managed to loosen the tight muscles a bit, Ianto returned to his work. He punched in another attempted code, his eyes focused on the screen to see if he’d made any progress. The holographic projection that shot to life was a surprise.
Jack stood, dressed in light coloured cargo pants, t-shirt, and a pair of heavy duty boots, his arms crossed over his chest. His head was tilted slightly to the side and he was smirking, the corner of his lip tilted up just enough to show amusement rather than arrogance. What shocked Ianto the most was how young Jack appeared. If Jack had been older than twenty-five when the hologram had been created, Ianto would have been surprised.
“I’m impressed,” Jack said, smirk still in place. “If you’ve managed to make it this far past my programming, I’m very impressed. Wish I could say that you’re going to get further, but now you’ve hit the security protocol. So unless you know the password, you’re not getting any further. And no, it’s not ‘sex.’”
Jack gave a cheery little wave and the hologram altered. Now, instead of Jack, there were four squares flashing about a foot away from him. Below the boxes were a series of letters to choose from. Slumping back against the wall, Ianto stared at the projection, trying to work out what password a Jack he hadn’t even known would come up with.
“Definitely putting you on decaf,” Ianto grumbled, fighting the urge to hurl the wrist strap across the room. “Okay, Jones, think.”
“I know what it’s like to be willing to do anything for someone you love,” Jack admitted as he sat down on the battered old sofa in Ianto’s apartment. It was a few days into his suspension month long suspension so Ianto was making no attempt to be the welcoming host. He was still trying to figure out why he’d let Jack into his apartment in the first place.
Ianto snorted, giggling more than a little drunkenly. “You? Love someone? You forget, Captain, that I know every inch of the Archives, including your files.”
Jack seemed to hesitate for a moment before flipping open his wrist strap. He punched in a quick sequence of buttons then a small projection appeared in the space between them. It was an image of two boys dressed in loose clothing with goggles pushed up on their heads. The older of the two had thick hair which stuck up in every direction, a huge grin, and a cleft in his chin that Ianto would know anywhere.
“That’s you!” Ianto cried, his high-pitched voice surprising even himself. Clearing his throat, Ianto smiled sheepishly. “Sorry. But that is you, isn’t it?”
“It is,” Jack confirmed, nodding his head. “And that’s my brother. Gray.”
Much of the night had faded from Ianto’s memory in a haze of alcohol, but he remembered Jack telling him about his little brother who’d gone missing (during an alien invasion he’d learned after finding out about Jack’s immortality) when they were boys. Jack was supposed to have been watching Gray, but he’d accidentally let go of his brother’s hand and Gray had never been seen again.
Taking a chance, Ianto put Gray’s name into the password selector.
“Okay, no decaf,” Ianto murmured, a smile tugging at his lips as the wrist strap’s small screen showed what was obviously a coordinate-setting program. Testing it out, Ianto set the coordinates he’d recorded for the building where Martha had set up her make-shift hospital.
Just like it had so many times before, the world seemed to compress around him, shifting every atom in his body.
“What the hell are you doing here?” Martha cried in shock.
His nose itched. Screwing up his features, Ianto wiggled his nose, hoping the sensation would go away. He didn’t want to wake up yet. Even after a full night’s sleep—a rarity as of late—Ianto still felt utterly exhausted. Ianto began to swat his hand in the general direction of his alarm clock when his brain finally caught up to the fact that it wasn’t an irritating buzzing noise that woke him.
It was the hair in his face and a quiet snoring.
Blinking his eyes open, Ianto was surprised to see a mop of dark hair resting on his shoulder. He could only stare at the head in confusion, trying to remember just what had happened the night before. And who was lying pressed up against him.
The arm lying across his stomach and the wide leather strap fastened around the wrist told him exactly who it was.
“Shit,” Ianto cursed under his breath.
He hadn’t planned to have so many drinks the night before and he certainly hadn’t planned to wind up in bed with Jack. Of course, he also hadn’t meant to join a top secret government organization when he’d gone for that long ago interview, so Ianto knew that intentions hardly mattered in the scheme of things. He still would have preferred not to sleep with his boss, though.
Pulling his lower lip in between his teeth, Ianto did his best to slide out of Jack’s grip without waking the older man. He knew that he couldn’t avoid the conversation that was sure to follow, but he could certainly put it off until he was more awake.
“If you lift the covers,” Jack mumbled, startling Ianto into stillness, “you’ll see that you’re still wearing your shorts.”
Not wanting to see the smirk such an action would surely bring, Ianto merely wiggled his hips fractionally. Enough to feel the fabric slide over his arse.
“You sleep little enough as it is. I didn’t want to wake you,” Ianto said quietly.
“And how do you know that I don’t sleep much?”
Turning his head towards Jack, Ianto reached over and traced the faint bruises under Jack’s eyes with the pad of his thumb. “These are a bit of a giveaway.”
Jack mumbled something unintelligible and Ianto couldn’t help grinning.
Ianto jerked back into consciousness. Cursing softly under his breath, he very slowly pushed himself up into a seated position. He was cold, tired, and his joints ached in ways that they shouldn’t be for someone his age. He was grateful that at least it wasn’t a nightmare that had woken him in the middle of the night. Those nights, the scream that brought him back to consciousness would wake Martha and, more importantly, loud noises at night always meant the risk of bringing the Toclaphane down on them.
Groaning quietly, Ianto scrubbed his hands over his face. There was no point in him attempting to go back to sleep, he already knew that he wouldn’t be able to sleep again. Without looking into a mirror, Ianto knew that there were deep bruises under his eyes. He hadn’t been sleeping well for weeks, a fact that had nothing to do with the freezing terrain he and Martha had spent weeks trekking through. Ianto couldn’t remember the last time he’d felt warm all the way through. Thermals, beanie, thick socks, down coat, and Ianto still felt as though he were a mobile block of ice. Slightly mobile at least. Over the past few weeks, a deep cold had engulfed their path, making travel difficult.
Still, there were always people about, small groups of refugees, trying to eek out an existence in the midst of devastation. It never ceased to amaze Ianto how resilient people were. Even in the face of destruction, the world falling apart around them, he and Martha often came across children laughing and playing. And they were always so full of questions, much more curious than their parents.
“You really should try to sleep, Ianto. We have a long way to go,” Martha said quietly, her voice sleep muffled.
Ianto turned slightly, glancing at her over his shoulder. “I didn’t mean to wake you.”
“It’s okay,” she murmured as she slowly pushed herself up off the thing bedroll. “I was asleep before you, anyway.”
Since it seemed that Martha was up for good, Ianto stirred the small fire they had built back to life. The provisions they’d brought with them from the Hub were long gone, forcing them to subside on what they could find, trade for, or steal from the UNIT supply compounds that were set up in conjunction with the so-called refugee camps. At the camps, survivors were obligated to work in the factories Saxon had set up to build his missiles. Security had advanced to the point that it was becoming more and more difficult for them to move in and out of the compounds.
Because of that, he and Martha had chosen to spend the night in the blasted out remains of a village. The village’s only other inhabitant was a stray dog, someone’s beloved pet now living on its own.
Their early breakfast was a meagre cup of weak tea and a few hard oat biscuits. They ate in relative silence, already knowing what the day held in store for them. The village they’d camped in was roughly five miles south of a refugee camp. There, Martha would do what she could to help the people imprisoned there while Ianto would gather what information he could. It was the search for information that kept him from using the vortex manipulator to get back onboard the Valiant. Ianto had figured out how to transport himself over short distances, but without any clue as to where the airship was he didn’t know which coordinates to set. Ianto would have traded anything he was capable of giving—and more than a few that he likely was not—to get the coordinates. All of his attempts over the past few weeks had left him frustrated and unable to sleep.
“I’m going to take a quick bath,” Ianto announced as he gulped down his last mouthful of tea. Leaving his coat by the fire, Ianto tramped across the street, around another half-destroyed building to the small creek beyond. The water was freezing, the bank edged in ice, but it was clean.
Ianto stripped hurriedly, unlacing his boots with sharp, efficient movements before toeing them off. He shed his shirt and trousers just as quickly then stepped cautiously into the frigid water. Ianto cursed a streak as the icy water splashed at his calves. Breath held and muscles contracted, Ianto waded out until the water was at his hips. Every muscle in his body was held stiff with cold, but after a few moments relaxed enough for him to scoop up water and scrub at his upper body.
Ianto cracked an eye open when he heard the bathroom door creak. His eyes were open only enough to catch sight of some movement near the doorway. With a sigh, Ianto closed his eyes again, relaxing back into the heated water. He had spent the day chasing Weevils through the sewers and was glad for the chance to relax.
“Room in there for two?”
His lips curling upwards slightly, Ianto shifted his legs about slightly to make a quiet, splashing sound. “That depends.”
“On what you plan on doing if I let you in,” Ianto said, relaxing further into the hot water. “And where you plan on putting those bony knees.”
Jack snorted, coming close enough to bump the edge of the tubs. “My knees are not bony. I just don’t have the padding that you do.”
Ianto’s arched eyebrow—even with his eyes closed—said all that he needed to.
“Okay, not the best thing to say right now, I admit.”
“No, it wasn’t,” Ianto agreed, opening his eyes to look up at Jack.
Ianto was shivering and slightly blue around the edges by the time he clambered back onto the shore. He dried off with a thin towel they’d found in the building they’d taken shelter in, and redressed quickly. He knew the risks of bathing outdoors in such a harsh climate, but the desire to be clean won out over rationality.
Ianto sat down on the bank, tying the laces of his heavy boots, and gazed out over the ruined landscape. He had no idea what country they were in any longer, but Ianto was sure that it had once been beautiful. Anything was better than the drab grey world they currently lived in. Resting his forearms on his knees, Ianto tried to recall Wales. Cardiff, the Hub.... Even the Brecon Beacons, which had lived so long in his nightmares, had faded. He couldn’t help but wonder—and fear—what else would fade away before it was over. Would he forget his family? Tosh, Owen and Gwen? Lisa? The person Ianto refused to forget was Jack. He would call his face forward whenever possible. The emotions didn’t matter. Good memories, bad. He replayed his whole complicated relationship while he and Martha stalked the wilderness, searching out survivors.
“We should get going, Ianto.”
Pushing his wet hair away from his face, Ianto nodded briefly. “I’m coming.”
Ianto’s breath came in ragged gasps, his face half-buried in the bedding. He shifted sluggishly, flopping over onto his back. Jack’s arms sprawled across his stomach, warm and heavy, tugging him closer.
“Think the others can handle the Hub for the morning?” Jack grunted, his breath almost feverish against Ianto’s already overheated skin.
“You have a conference call with the Prime Minister this morning,” Ianto reminded him.
Jack chuckled quietly, nuzzling against Ianto’s cheek. “Owen could take the call.”
“If I remember correctly, the last time Owen talked to the Prime Minister, Torchwood was nearly dismantled.”
Ianto bit the side of Jack’s neck lightly. “He called Harriet Jones a mousey old trout from the backwaters of England.”
Jack laughed outright, rolling into Ianto and gathering him up in his arms. “I never did like her.”
“You don’t like any politicians.”
Then Jack was looming over him, his eyes sparkling with mischief. Ianto arched an eyebrow then glanced down the length of their bodies. It shouldn’t have surprised him that Jack was already hard again.
“Any chance you’d believe I’ve suddenly developed a headache?”
Lifting himself up onto his elbows, Ianto ghosted his lips over Jack’s. “What do you think, Captain?”
They were just over halfway to the village when Ianto came to a sudden stop. Martha continued forward a few more paces before stopping as well.
Ianto stared at her for a moment, coming to a decision that was long overdue. “I’m going back. The UNIT headquarters in London is Saxon’s land base. I can get the coordinates for the Valiant there.”
“Ianto, you know that we can’t,” Martha argued immediately. “We’ll get killed. It’s better to keep going forward. The Doctor has a plan.”
“And you’re gonna see it till the end,” Ianto insisted as he flipped open Jack’s vortex manipulator. “There never really needed to be two of us. I’ve managed to annoy Saxon enough that he’ll be more focused on coming after me. You won’t be completely safe, but it should buy you some time.”
Ianto listened to her protests with only half an ear as he programmed the coordinates of the place they’d slept two nights before. If he only travelled in small increments, he should remain relatively under the radar until he got back to London.
Martha grabbed hold of his arm, pulling his hand away from the wrist strap. “This is completely insane, Ianto. If you go back there, Saxon’ll have you killed.”
“At least I’ll have tried.”
Taking a step back, Ianto slipped his arm from her lax grip. “Good luck, Martha.”
“Good luck, Ianto.”
Ianto smiled tightly. “Don’t worry, I’m good at being overlooked. I’ll be fine.”
“Coffee, sir,” Ianto murmured as he entered Jack’s office. He hovered near the doorway, waiting for Jack to look up.
“Mr. Jones,” Jack said, leaning back in his chair. He rested his elbows on the armrests, his fingers steepled. “Welcome back.”
Ianto shifted nervously from foot to foot. He had no idea what to expect from Jack. He’d served his suspension, but that didn’t erase the fact that he’d nearly got all of them killed.
“If you don’t have anything for me to do, I thought I’d spend the day up in the Tourist Office,” Ianto said quietly, crossing over to Jack and setting the cup down on his desk.
“Your suspension’s over, Ianto. You don’t have to put yourself in exile,” Jack said as he picked up the cup. He moved quickly enough that his fingers brushed Ianto’s for a brief second.
“I still think it’s better.”
“Is there anything else you need?” Ianto interrupted, backing away from the desk.
Frowning slightly, Jack shook his head. “Thank you, Ianto, no.”
“I’ll be back later to take your lunch order,” Ianto said before disappearing from Jack’s office. He thought he heard Jack call his name, but he didn’t dare turn back. It was better to just slip once again into the background.
London was a ghost town. Even on a gloriously sunny day, the once bustling city was dead. Scraps of paper and other debris blew about in the breeze, a few soda cans clanking as the wind pushed them down the street. Windows were boarded up or shattered, the shops having been looted long ago. Cars were abandoned in the middle of streets, some parked, others crashed into the ones in front of them. To a car, they were all filthy and starting to rust after months of inattention.
The city was far from empty, though.
People still lived within London’s borders. They were smart enough to remain silent and within doors during the day when they were most likely to be seen. Ianto, however, didn’t have that option. He’d been spotted re-entering England and knew that it was only a matter of time before Saxon sent out the wolves to find him. The resistance had gotten things a bit wrong and the coordinates he’d chosen for his final transport had landed him on the very edge of one of the rocket yards. While the perception filter on the key was meant to keep him hidden, it didn’t work so well when one tumbled down a hill.
“It’s him!” a voice shouted from the top of the hill.
His legs tangled about themselves as he struggled against the gravel to right himself. It was made even more difficult since he was also trying to unholster his gun at the same time. He stumbled more than once, falling down hard on his left shoulder and bumping his cheek. A few small bits of sharp gravel cut deeply into his skin.
“Shoot him! Shoot him!”
Rolling over onto his back, Ianto drew out his gun and lined up the muzzle with the first of the approaching UNIT soldiers. Three shots and Ianto had the time to get to his feet properly. He staggered briefly then took off at a dead run towards the nearby treeline.
He’d run as fast as he could for as long as he could, trying to put as much distance between them as he could before he stopped to reset the wrist strap’s coordinates. Out of breath when he’d pushed the button that transported him to London, Ianto had struggled to draw a single breath when he’d rematerialized at the remains of Canary Wharf. The reconstruction had only just begun when Saxon had taken over and since then all the on-site steel had been commandeered for some top secret rocket project.
London was not only the headquarters of what had once been Torchwood One, but also UNIT. And there were things that had been hidden away in the UNIT archives that Ianto hoped he would be able to use to stop the insane Time Lord. Ianto had no intention of mounting a one-man war against Saxon—he wouldn’t even know where to start. All that he wanted was Jack, safe.
It meant getting from Torchwood to UNIT—Canary Wharf to Whitehall—as quickly as possible. Since he couldn’t very well travel above ground that meant travelling underground. The Underground might no longer be operational, but the tunnels still existed. So Ianto darted quickly to the Canary Wharf tube station, ducking between doorways and darting from shadow to shadow. There had been so much glass when Canary Wharf was whole that Ianto could hardly take a step without his boots crunching down on small shards of it.
Ianto could remember a time, lifetimes ago, that walking those streets in the morning on his way to Torchwood Tower had been the most peaceful part of his day. In the early morning, light had glinted off the buildings, making the morning that much brighter. Even on cold winter days that short walk had always made him feel warm.
That afternoon there was no sun, only heavy, overhanging clouds that made the air feel colder than it was. Ianto pulled his beanie down further over his ears. He repositioned his rucksack and then stepped around the doorway he was using for shelter. Ianto walked slowly, but with purpose. He didn’t want to draw attention to himself, but needed to get to the tube station quickly. The glass arch that had once covered the entrance, like all of the nearby structures, was gone.
Five metres away from the entrance, Ianto heard it.
Ianto didn’t stop to check the skies for any approaching Toclafane, he just ran. As soon as he was close enough, he jumped up on the handrail of the escalator, sliding down. All the years his mother had yelled at him to not slide down the banister paid off. He went down sideways, his back angled upwards and his left hand to steady himself. When Ianto reached the bottom, he jumped off and darted for the nearest wall.
Ianto stood pressed face-first against the wall, panting, trying to hold himself as still as possible. Trying to swallow those gasps only made keeping silent that much more difficult. Ianto squeezed his eyes shut tight. He wanted to blend into the background. He needed to. Ianto didn’t want to think about what would happen if the Toclafane found him.
It seemed to take forever for his heart to stop hammering in his chest. Without the blood pounding in his ears, Ianto was able to listen for sounds of any approaching Toclafane. He kept his body absolutely rigid until he was certain that he couldn’t hear any of that ominous humming.
Keeping to the shadows, Ianto slipped off his pack and began shuffling through its contents for his torch. He knew that he’d placed it near the top of rucksack, but like all things it had shifted to the bottom when it was needed. Ianto kept the torch off as he carefully made his way towards the main platform. For the moment there was enough light that he could see where he was going.
The turnstiles were all locked in place so, as he sprinted towards them, Ianto jumped over them and continued on into the ever increasing darkness without pausing. Even though he couldn’t hear the Toclafane didn’t mean Saxon didn’t have some other form of surveillance around the city.
As he neared the edge of the platform, the light began to fade and Ianto turned on his torch. Right then, Ianto found himself desperately wishing that he had one of Tosh’s scanners so that he could get an overview of the tube lines. He had a general idea of how to get from the Canary Wharf station to the Westminster one, but it would be a matter of going from station to station and redirecting himself that way. Ianto would have used the wrist strap, but he didn’t want to risk using an alien power source that could be easily tracked any more than necessary while he was in London.
Ianto jumped down onto the track, stumbling a bit on the uneven gravel. Checking the sign on the far side of the tunnel, Ianto turned to his left and began his underground trek to UNIT’s Whitehall headquarters. He kept his torch moving constantly, flickering it between the path he was walking and the walls to check for any surveillance devices.
“Stop right where you are!”
Ianto had his gun out in an instant and aimed it and his torch towards the voice. “Who are you?”
“How ‘bout you tell me who you are first.”
His torch caught a brief reflection so Ianto focused the light there. Like him, the figure was dressed all in black and held a gun. Only unlike Ianto’s Torchwood-issue handgun, the person he was facing had a semi-automatic. Masked and menacing as the figure appeared, compared to the Toclafane and even the more dangerous aliens he’d seen before Saxon’s takeover, it was barely even a threat. Ianto reckoned that he could take out the other man with a quick shot before he was hit.
“Idris Hopper,” Ianto finally answered, loosening his stance so that he appeared non-threatening even while he kept his aim true. “I’m a mechanic from Swansea.”
Right away the gun in the other person’s hand was lowered. Rather than reassuring him, Ianto was instantly on edge, his finger tightening on the trigger.
“We didn’t think you’d get here so soon,” the man said as he lifted knit balaclava to reveal a somewhat gaunt, but grinning, face.
“You were expecting me?” Ianto questioned, becoming even more suspicious.
The man nodded and took a few steps towards Ianto, his gun hanging on a strap over his shoulder. “Your former travelling companion sent a message along the wire letting us know that you were on your way to London. But that was only a few days ago. How did you manage to get here so quickly?”
Ianto relaxed his tight posture a bit, but kept his finger on the trigger of his gun. “If you know who I am, you know I have access to certain things.”
“Mesude said that you were good at being evasive.”
From the brief time they’d spent at the home in Istanbul, Ianto knew that Mesude and a few other resistance groups were able to communicate using Morse code. It wasn’t often used as they didn’t want to risk anyone loyal to Saxon overhearing the messages so Ianto couldn’t help but be surprised that his retreat back to London was important enough to relayed across continents.
“I still don’t know your name,” Ianto reminded the other man.
Close enough now, he held out his hand. “Will Jamison.”
“Good to meet you, Will Jamison.”
“Same to you, Ianto Jones.”
Ianto’s fingers itched to punch coordinates into the wrist strap, regardless of the risk it presented, but for the moment he did his best to appear as though nothing was wrong. Will was leading him in the general direction that he needed to go and the added firepower could be helpful if things took a turn for the worse. Not that a gun would have any effect on a Toclafane.
It was the fact that Will had known his real name that made him especially leery. Since Istanbul, he’d gone exclusively under the name Idris Hopper. It was only Martha and Saxon who called him by his real name, and he rather hoped to never hear the Time Lord’s voice again. The insane prattling and taunting did nothing but fuel his desire to see the madman dead. For what he had done to Jack alone, Saxon deserved no mercy.
“There’s not many of us down here,” Will said after awhile. “Only half a dozen anymore.”
“It’s certainly an ideal place to hide. You must have access to most of the city this way,” Ianto commented, his torch flickering about the tunnel in case there were active surveillance devices. “How often do the Toclafane come down here?”
“Often enough. We keep moving our hiding places to limit the chance that they’ll find us,” Will explained, his own torch darting over the walls. He paused momentarily then motioned for Ianto to duck down as they advanced the next few steps. “Motion detectors. The Toclafane tend to fly at the same height through here so we can generally get some type of warning when they’re nearby.”
Ianto was genuinely impressed by the ingenuity of the people hiding in the Underground. From his experiences around the world, Ianto knew that the different resistance groups were largely made up of regular people. Businesspeople, teachers, housewives, and chefs with only the odd military, medical or scientific personnel involved. People were truly resilient when the need arose.
“Is the Valiant still heading this way?” Ianto asked once he was able to stand up straight again.
“As of early this morning it was,” Will confirmed. “I generally deal with security. Someone else keeps track of it so you’ll have to ask her.”
“What about transmissions? Has Saxon been broadcasting lately?”
Will shook his head. “Nothing that we’ve been able to pick up for a few days now.... We heard that you and Miss Jones barely made it out of Japan before he destroyed it.”
Ianto closed his eyes briefly, the memory of those flames flickering in his mind. “By only a few hours.”
The distance had been too great for him to use the wrist strap, so instead he and Martha had escaped from the doomed country on an old barge under cover of darkness. The flames had been so intense and so bright that they’d lit up the whole sky as far away as China.
It was in China that he’d decided to return to London. He would’ve chosen Cardiff as his final destination, but he doubted Saxon would have let anything remain in the Hub after capturing Owen, Tosh, and Gwen. Ianto only hoped Saxon hadn’t found out about the old Torchwood storage areas buried beneath London. He knew that Yvonne had purposely kept the government in the dark about the storage areas and only hoped that they hadn’t been discovered since Torchwood Tower’s destruction.
Will must have realized that he had no desire to talk about what had happened in Japan because he quickly changed the subject, telling him about things that had been going on in London and the rest of the UK over the past eight months. Ianto had stopped dead in his tracks when Will had told him exactly how long it’d been since Saxon had taken over. He’d stopped keeping track of the date after the first six weeks, but Ianto still found it difficult to believe that so much time had passed.
“You okay?” Will asked, turning back when he realized that Ianto was no longer following after him.
“Sorry, I just.... A lot of time’s passed. Too much time,” Ianto stammered, shaking his head in disbelief. He squeezed his eyes shut tight, desperately trying to keep himself from thinking about Jack suffering at Saxon’s hands for eight long months. “Are we nearly there?”
Appearing quite relieved at the change of topic, Will nodded his head. “Yeah. It’s just around the bend up there. There may be a bit of a surprise for you when we get there.”
Instantly, Ianto was on edge. He had no idea what was going on, but it didn’t sound good. It was bad enough that Will had known his real name and that he’d been expected. Ianto felt even more ill at ease after Will’s latest revelations and was once again wishing that he’d teleported away as soon as Will had said his name.
“I don’t have time to stop,” Ianto said, glancing around to try and read any nearby signage on the walls. Anything that would tell him whether Will was leading him further from where he needed to go. He needed to get to the underground bunkers. “There’s things that need doing before the Valiant arrives.”
Will glanced at him over his shoulder. “Trust me, you’ll want to see this.”
As there wasn’t much further to go, Ianto decided not to protest. If the surprise that Will mentioned turned out to be a dangerous won, he still had the coordinates for the ruined Torchwood Tower programmed into the wrist strap and could quickly press the recall button. Ianto would much rather risk alerting Saxon and UNIT to his presence in London than be handed over like a present when the Valiant arrived.
Before they even got to the bend Will had indicated, Ianto could hear the muted sounds of conversation. The six or so who made up Will’s underground group were obviously unafraid of being overheard during the daylight hours. It meant they were either far from a station exit or they’d wandered into one of the many service tunnels.
Things were suddenly very, very bad.
Flipping open the cover of the wrist strap, Ianto began to activate the recall. “Look, I really need to—”
“I almost miss those suits of yours, tea-boy.”
Eyes wide, Ianto stared at the figure before him in shock. “Owen? I was told.... I thought.... You’re alive?”
Owen snorted and rolled his eyes. Or eye, rather. His left eye was covered in a bandage and there were burns on the same side of his face that extended down his throat and under the neckline of his long sleeve shirt. Still, it was Owen and he was alive. And if Owen was alive....
Ianto darted around Will to meet the figure sprinting towards him. As soon as she was close enough, Ianto wrapped his arms around Tosh, lifting her up off the ground and into a tight hug. Owen wandered over as well, clasping a hand on Ianto’s shoulders as he continued to hold on tight to Tosh. He smiled broadly at Owen and glanced around looking for Gwen. When he couldn’t see her, he looked to Owen who silently shook his head. He should have known that Gwen would do something brave and stupid and get herself killed.
“We’ve been so worried about you,” Tosh said against his shoulder. “We’d hear rumours, but you know what happens when a message gets passed on too many times. I’m so glad this rumour was true.”
“I was about ready to teleport out of here,” Ianto admitted, chuckling quietly as he took a step back to properly see her. Except for appearing a bit thinner, she looked exactly like he remembered, if a little exhausted. “Your security guy’s been dangerously vague about things. I was getting suspicious.”
Owen snorted. “Will’s good at that. A rather annoying habit that he shares with both you and Jack.”
Ianto scowled, the corners of his lips tilting upwards despite his best efforts to look stern. “I was told months ago that the Hub had been destroyed and that you’d been taken. How did you end up here in London?”
“The Hub’s gone,” Tosh confirmed, leaning against Ianto. He wrapped an around her waist, holding her against him. “UNIT invaded with guns and bombs. The Hub’s a great big hole in the ground now. Everything’s gone.”
“You’ll be happy to know your pet got away safe. We let her out when we realized UNIT were heading for Cardiff,” Owen interrupted, offering up a brief smile. “We don’t know what’s happened to Myfanwy since, but she at least has a chance. Hopefully she ate a few of those UNIT bastards on her way out of Cardiff.”
“But Gwen? How did you get out?”
Owen glanced away, sighing quietly. “We don’t know where Gwen is.”
“She got out of the Hub with us,” Tosh continued, reaching over to squeeze Owen’s hand. “Those maps you made of the unmarked tunnels were a godsend, by the way. But you know Gwen....”
“She ran off to try and find Rhys,” Ianto finished for her, shaking his head briefly. He couldn’t fault her devotion to her boyfriend since he was technically doing the same. Gwen’s problem was that she never paused long enough to think things through. She blundered her way through things, assuming since she was the one doing it that she was right. “Did she even have any idea where he was?”
“Would it really have mattered?” Owen said with a sad, tight-lipped smile. “You’d still be looking for Jack even if you didn’t know where he was.”
Ianto couldn’t argue with him so he didn’t even bother trying. Only he was making sure that he was as prepared as could be before he went back to the Valiant. With Tosh and Owen there, Ianto felt more comfortable than before that he could successfully get to Jack.
He’d come to London for the sole purpose of getting to Jack.
“I’m glad you’re all right,” Tosh murmured, squeezing him tight and effectively taking some of the tension away.
Ianto squeezed her just as tight, relieved that Tosh and Owen were safe and alive, if not entirely in one piece. He really hoped that Gwen was all right, or at least still alive, and that she hadn’t stupidly got herself killed. He wanted to believe that Gwen would have taken the time to actually think before going off after Rhys. Ianto understood completely how she felt—he was willing to do anything in order to get Jack off the Valiant—but even he knew that it would be impossible to do without first figuring out the “how.” The truth of it was that he didn’t really know what he was going to do. He had a bunch of very vague ideas that he hoped would solidify into something real that actually worked.
Jack had suffered long enough and he desperately wanted to put an end to it.
“You look about ready to drop, Tea-boy,” Owen said, looking him over with a doctor’s trained eye. “Come on, you may have been travelling with a doctor, but as your treating physician I want to give you a look over before you go do your next stupid thing.”
Ianto couldn’t help but grin. The world was coming to an end and Owen still managed to be sarcastic and caring all in one breath. “I haven’t been that stupid,” he tried to defend himself, earning him a raised eyebrow from both Owen and Tosh. “Antagonizing Saxon isn’t stupid, just a bit impractical.”
That time Owen laughed outright. “Impractical? Only you, Jones.”
As much as he hated being scrutinized by Owen, Ianto willingly submitted to the doctor’s prodding and questions that time. He’d missed Owen and Tosh desperately while he’d been wandering the world with Martha. Ianto was likewise relieved to find out that Martha continued to do well on her own. She’d made it to the small enclave of resistance fighters near the Magadan rocket factory in Russia. Owen’s own injuries, he was informed, came as a result of an attack at University Hospital back in Cardiff not long after the destruction of the Hub. Tosh and Owen had been doing what they could to help the people hiding out there, but had inadvertently brought UNIT down on the unarmed and unsuspecting people using it as a refuge. From long experience, Ianto knew not to probe too deeply when Owen became rather monosyllabic. Instead, he looked to Tosh.
“Where’s the Valiant?” Ianto asked after he dutifully took a deep breath so that Owen could listen to his lung function. “The last I heard it was heading back in this direction.”
“It’s still on the other side of the Atlantic,” Tosh immediately answered, sounding as perplexed about the air ship’s continued stay on the North American continent as he was. “But from the transmissions we’ve managed to listen in on, it’s due back in a few weeks.”
“Weeks,” Ianto sighed, shrugging into the shirt Owen tossed at him.
Tosh frowned slightly. “I’m afraid so. But what worries me more are the rumours that he’s planning another telecast. One that he’s planning on dedicating to you.”
Ianto felt his heart stop for a several long seconds. “Jack.” He slid off the table he was sitting on and wandered away from Tosh and Owen. Antagonizing Saxon was suddenly no longer impractical, it was dangerous. He only wished that the danger was directed towards him and not Jack. Jack had already suffered enough.
“I’m so sorry, Jack.”
“This is where I’m trying to get,” Ianto said, pointing to the location of Torchwood One’s secret storage areas. He’d scavenged through them once before when he’d fled the city with Lisa and recalled several artefacts that could be useful not only for what he had planned, but for the resistance group as well. “There are three different underground warehouses, each at a different level and completely separate. The larger pieces are at the highest level and the other two are divided between weaponry and every day devices.”
Tosh frowned at him, lips pursed. “I’ve never seen these locations on any inventory list. We were supposed to have gotten everything after the Tower fell. Why wasn’t this included?”
“There’s a lot Yvonne Hartman kept out of official records,” Ianto revealed before taking a sip of the lacklustre instant coffee he’d been given. Still, it was caffeine and warm which was better than he’d had in a long while.
“No wonder Jack cut ties with London,” Owen snorted, crossing his arms over his chest. “What else was Miss Queen and Country hiding? Those guns she fired off at Christmas were certainly a surprise. Jack went postal when that happened.”
Ianto merely smirked, setting aside the chipped cup he was holding. “There’s a lot she hid. Artefacts, information, incidents with other species. She was a hoarder of information and power.”
“So it’s entirely possible that there’s something hidden in these vaults we can use to defeat Saxon,” Tosh said, her eyes lighting up. “Torchwood One was around the longest. They had the most information and the most access. If we’re going to find anything useful it’ll be in their vaults.”
“Then let’s go,” Owen insisted. “I’m sick of living in a fucking subway tunnel.”
The entrance to the vaults was in the sub-basement of a basement, the access panel hidden fifty paces from the entrance, on the left. Ianto had been there only once officially, assisting one of the senior researchers who’d needed access to some of the stored artefacts. The senior researcher, Glenda Harwick, had been positively gleeful as she wandered through the vast underground warehouses, picking up or poking many things. Tosh was a lot like Glenda that way. They were both so completely brilliant and would light up at a new challenge or a new piece of tech.
Stepping up to where he remembered the panel to be, Ianto pressed a seemingly solid piece of concrete and a small door popped open revealing a security console. He only hoped that the code hadn’t been changed. It was unlikely give the minute amount of people who even knew of the vaults, but one could never be completely sure where Yvonne Hartman was concerned. If it had been changed, he was sure that between him and Tosh, they could override the code with Jack’s wrist strap.
“Is there anything you don’t know about Torchwood, Jones?” Owen asked once the green light went off, indicating that the code had worked and the door was unlocked.
Ianto merely grinned before pushing open the heavy door. Like the security console, it was invisible until pressure was placed on it, revealing the edges of the steel and concrete structure. The hydraulic hinges made it easy enough for one person to open on their own, otherwise it would have taken more than the three of them to get it open.
The inside of the vault was exactly as Ianto remembered it. A vast, cavernous space filled with various crates and shelving units stacked full with cardboard boxes. It was somewhat low-tech, but extremely well organized. Leaving Tosh and Owen to gape at the size of Torchwood One’s secret vaults, Ianto hurried over to the terminal that contained the inventory list of all three levels.
“How can there be something so big underground that no one knows about?” Tosh wondered aloud, crouching down to read the contents list attached to the side of a nearby crate. “Does Jack know about this place?”
Ianto nodded his head, his fingers dancing over the keys as he flicked through the directory. “He does. He’s just chosen not to do anything for the moment so that UNIT doesn’t find out about it. Torchwood has a lot of secrets that Jack’s decided to keep from UNIT to minimize the chance of things like this happening.”
Owen grunted an agreement from where he was poking about in the vast amount of artefacts. “So Torchwood has an entire arsenal hidden away under London, and you and Jack didn’t think we needed to know?”
“It was Jack’s decision to make, not mine,” Ianto said, double checking the location of the piece he was looking for before logging out of the system. “I’ll be in sub-basement two, section b.”
Leaving Tosh and Owen to their exploring of the first sub-basement, Ianto jogged towards the lift. Only when he’d been able to go through the directory had Ianto come to a more concrete decision on what he was looking for. There wasn’t much that he knew about Time Lords, and much of what he did was only guesswork. So when he was going through the alien inventory, he’d sorted through things that may or may not be effective in combating a Time Lord. He could only hope that his theory proved correct.
“That little coffee maker of yours is proving quite elusive. He pops in and out of existence faster than he can be tracked, but there must be somewhere he’s going. Something he’s tracking.” There was a brief pause and Saxon’s voice became a dark chuckle. “I wonder what would happen if he couldn’t find it?”
His head slumped forward, Jack could only glare at Saxon from under his lashes. “Is this the part where I’m supposed to act all horrified and beg you not to hurt him? ‘Cause, I gotta tell you, I’m more than a little interested in seeing what happens when the two of you meet.”
Saxon’s eyes lit up and he practically danced across the grimy floor to peer up at him. “Oh what a grand reunion that will be. The dashing hero chained to a wall and his globe trotting personal assistant meeting after such a harrowing separation. I’m sure it’ll all be wonderfully melodramatic and soppy. I may even let the Doctor watch if he behaves himself.”
“I’m surprised you won’t televise the damn thing you’ve been so intent on finding Ianto,” Jack snorted, the sound half-choked as he struggled to pull air into his lungs. He felt like a giant, gaping wound, every nerve ending raw as his body struggled to repair the damage done to him.
“What a clever little freak,” Saxon enthused, his eyes alight with manic glee. “Already he’s being reeled in. I just need to finish setting up the bait.”
“Whoa, Jonesy! What have you got there?” Owen asked as Ianto returned to the main level of the storage facility.
It had taken a bit longer than he’d expected, but, in the end, he’d found what he was looking for. The crate that it was stored in was a little unwieldy, but he wanted to get quickly just in case someone picked up any signal from the active electronics in the place. There were a few smaller pieces in the rucksack on his back. He only hoped that what he was planning worked. There wouldn’t be a way to test it, not completely, so much of it would be left to chance.
“We need to get going,” Ianto instructed, ignoring Owen’s question for the moment. “We’ve been here long enough as it is.”
“But, Ianto, there’s so many things here that could help us so much,” Tosh pressed, hurrying towards him. “There could be things in here we could use to stop the Toclafane. If I could just have a few hours to go through the inventory lists—”
“I don’t know how safe this place is,” Ianto told her as he juggled the large box in his arms. “Now that I’ve activated the computers, UNIT might be able to track the signal so I’d rather spend as little time here as possible.”
“Is there a hard copy of the inventory?”
Ianto nodded his head towards the two boxes stamped with the Torchwood emblem that were under the computer console he’d used earlier. “I’ll give you the codes to get in here when I leave, but try not to come here too often. I don’t know how secure it is now that there’s no other regular electricity uses to mask it.”
So with Tosh helping to carry the crate and Owen carrying the boxes, they left the underground storage facility. It was a bit of a trek back to where the London resistance had set up their base of operation. The trip was made even longer since they were doing it lit only by torches strapped on their head and pausing every so often to duck under motion detectors.
It was a relief when they made it back undetected to the ramshackle group of lean-tos and tents where Tosh, Owen, and the others were staying. Ianto didn’t want to put them all in danger simply because of his sudden presence.
As soon as he built his weapon, Ianto planned to leave. He didn’t want to put any one in danger just because he was there. There were enough people who’d died just because he’d been nearby when Saxon was hunting him. So while Tosh began scanning the inventory list and Owen sorted through the medical supplies that had been scavenged from a nearby hospital, Ianto took the Raxolian laser pulse cannon out of its crate and began moving its outer casing. He had no intention of going in, guns blazing, because that’d surely get him shot on sight. There were components inside the pulse cannon that would give him the necessary power he needed.
Ianto did his best not to think about why it was so easy for him to meander his way through the complicated alien technology. He borrowed a tool kit from Tosh and had the pulse cannon down to its bare components in no time at all. There’d been a few parts he hadn’t expected, a few pieces that seemed out of place, but Ianto had seen them before while sorting through Rift debris, and a couple of them gave him new ideas.
“What’s that?” Will asked, wandering over to where he was working.
“Not much more than spare parts at the moment,” Ianto grinned up at the other man. He scrubbed at the corner of his jaw with the heel of his palm, a few wires held between his fingers.
Will smirked a bit, settling himself down on an overturned box. “So what’s it gonna be?”
“I’m not exactly sure it has a name,” Ianto shrugged, reaching through the mess of wires and cables for one of the couplings. “This is mostly just guesswork.”
Ianto knew exactly what he was building, but he’d rather not share the truth of it with someone he didn’t really know. He was sure Will was a good enough guy, but aside from Tosh and Owen, Ianto didn’t completely trust any of the others hiding away from Saxon in the Underground bunker.
“If you don’t know what you’re doing, how do you know it’ll work?”
“I don’t,” Ianto sighed while twisting wires together. “Can you pass me the soldering gun over there?”
It didn’t take long for him to begin to tune Will out. The Londoner nattered on about all sorts of inconsequential things, creating a background white noise that helped to fill in the eerie silence. After a while, he didn’t even hear that. The wiring was very complicated and Ianto wasn’t even completely sure that he could combine the different technologies into a single piece. He’d been able to master the Cyber-technologies, but that had mostly been with the help of the thing that’d stolen Lisa’s body and mind. Still, he knew enough from watching and helping Jack and Tosh that he had a good idea of what he was doing. Enough to be confident that what the device he was creating would save Jack.
After all, why bother doing anything if he couldn’t save the man he loved?
After so many months of constant travel and action, the waiting was slowly driving Ianto insane. He’d finished his device days ago, but there was nothing he could do until the Valiant was closer. Ianto wanted, and needed, the UNIT flagship to be somewhere over British soil before he could put his plan into action. Even with the extra time to dissect his plan down to the most minute of details, Ianto still felt uncertain. There were too many variables that he couldn’t control and could make things go terribly wrong.
“You need to relax, Ianto,” Tosh prodded as Ianto hovered near her workstation. “Pacing isn’t going to make the information come up any quicker.”
Ianto pushed his too-long fringe out of his eyes, lips pulled tight. “Sorry. I should be better at being patient.”
Tosh smiled fondly at him, turning away from the ancient computer she was using. “You’re allowed to be a bit impatient. It’s more than eight months since you saw Jack.”
“Not quite eight months,” Ianto admitted with a rueful grin. “I saw him on the Valiant for a bit, not long after this all started.”
Slowly, hesitantly, Ianto told her about the night he accidentally transported himself onto Saxon’s flagship. He told her about the things he’d seen, the conditions Jack was being kept in. Even after all the time that had passed, it still gutted Ianto to think of Jack, chained alone in that cavernous, humid boiler room. There were some days that Ianto hated Jack for not escaping when he had the chance. He knew Jack’s reasoning, and, when he was being rational, he even understood it. But that didn’t mean it didn’t kill him to know that his lover was in so much danger.
“Do you think the Doctor’s plan will work?” Tosh asked, chewing absently on her bottom lip.
Ianto debated internally for a moment, but ultimately shook his head. “I really do want it to work, but it just doesn’t seem concrete at all. Everyone thinks the same word and Saxon is magically defeated? It’s more like something out of a fairy story.”
Tosh made a rather indistinguishable noise, but that Ianto took to mean that she agreed with him. It was difficult to believe that the Toclafane could be destroyed with wishful thinking. If that was the case, Saxon would never have been able to gain dominion over the Earth since Ianto doubted there was a single person minus the idiots at UNIT who supported the insane Time Lord.
“I hardly recognize you anymore,” Tosh sighed, her expression somewhat melancholy. “I never would have imagined you as a soldier. You’ve always been more of a James Bond.”
Ianto couldn’t help but laugh at the idea. He would certainly prefer being a suave international spy to whatever he was doing. Ianto wasn’t entirely sure what to classify his current actions as. Sometimes he felt like a mercenary, sometimes an exiled soldier, and still other times a homeless wastrel. For the first few weeks, Ianto had tried his best to keep some sense of order in his and Martha’s wanderings. It hadn’t lasted very long. It was impossible to do anything but exist from one moment to the next.
“Tosh! Ianto!” Owen shouted from further down the tunnel. He was running quickly from the sounds of it. “Tea-boy!”
Ianto was on his feet instantly and had already taken several steps before Owen appeared around a nearby bend. “What’s going on?” he demanded, his hand already on his grin. “What’s happened?”
“Tyburn’s going back up in the middle of Hyde park,” Owen gasped once he came to a stop. “A bloody giant gallows in the middle of the park.”
Ianto’s heart stuttered briefly, his breath lodged in his throat for one endless second. In his mind, the old woodcarvings of the Tyburn gallows suddenly became all too real; Jack’s body jerking and shuddering as he struggled for breath. Ianto squeezed his eyes shut tight, vainly hoping it would help to block out the images.
“How close is it to being complete?” Ianto forced himself to ask once he’d regained control of himself.
Owen gave him a sympathetic look that greatly resembled a grimace. “A day. Two at most.”
“You don’t think that’s....” Tosh’s eyes were huge and she couldn’t finish the thought.
“What else could it be?” Owen shrugged, his expression impassive.
Ianto had known that something was coming; something that involved Jack. He’d been expecting something grand and otherworldly, though. Not something as simple and mundane as a hanging. Of course, it was the simplicity that made it that much more devastating. Jack would be left hanging out in the open, in the perfect place for the Toclafane to attack him when he revived. Again and again.
“You do realize why he’s doing this out in the open, right?” Tosh spoke up, her voice filled with the same sense of dread pooling in Ianto’s gut. “He must know that you were on your way back to London.”
Ianto nodded grimly. “Just because he knows I’m coming doesn’t mean I’m going to stay in hiding. I came back to get on the Valiant.”
“That’s just stupid, Jonesy,” Owen said, rolling his eyes. “DO you want to end up dead?”
“I want this to be over,” Ianto sighed, his shoulders slumping. “I want to go home and try to lead some kind of normal life.”
Owen and Tosh both made guttural sounds of agreement. None of them had any idea what, if anything, would happen when Saxon was finally stopped. Getting rid of the Toclafane was the most worrying prospect. It was too easy to expect them to disappear when Saxon was killed.
Using an old and tattered map of London, Owen marked the spot where the gallows were being erected. With a bit of work, Ianto was able to figure out the co-ordinates for it. He had no intention of going right away, but didn’t doubt that Saxon would make sure everyone knew when he was going to use it. The co-ordinates were programmed into the wrist strap so as soon as Saxon’s spectacle began, he could be there within moments.
Leaving Tosh and Owen to their own devices, Ianto went back to the unused section of the track where he’d been testing his weapon. He would only get one chance, if any, to use his creation against Saxon so it needed to be perfect. If it jammed, or there was some other kind of malfunction, he’d be dead. There was a good chance he’d be dead anyway, but he at least wanted this death to have a purpose. Dying to save the world was certainly better than death by crossing the road. Or death by Torchwood. He’d seen too many files of former Torchwood employees who’d died far too young.
One of the main things that concerned Ianto was getting close enough to Saxon for his weapon to be effective. He’d only been able to wire it to hold enough of a charge for a single shot. After that it would take five minutes for the charge to build up again. Getting off the first shot would be difficult enough without trying to avoid capture and death for five minutes before even being able to attempt the second shot.
Living in the Underground tunnels provided him with plenty of test subjects. Once the charge had built up enough, Ianto scanned the debris shoved up against the walls, searching for a rat. One in particular, a rat he’d named Mortimer, was nibbling away on some of bait Ianto’d laid out for it.
“Sorry about this, little guy,” Ianto apologized as he aimed the lens of the silver disc at Mortimer. He squeezed the pressure release and a wavering beam of blue light shot towards the rat.
Mortimer the rat had been in the process of lifting a piece of slightly stale bread to his mouth when the beam hit him. It never reached his mouth. With the beam on him, Mortimer was frozen to the spot.
A miniature time lock.
It was nothing compared to what Tosh had built. Tosh had built a true time lock whereas his was little more than a small bubble of time contained within a force field. Whether or not it would work against a Time Lord remained to be seen. Ianto desperately hoped that it would because that was the only thing he could think of that might possibly defeat Saxon. There’d been information about the Doctor and possible ways of combating a Time Lord at Torchwood One, but he’d never had a high enough security clearance to see those files. At the Hub, Jack had made sure that all information on the Doctor was destroyed when he’d taken over. Most of what Ianto really knew about Time Lords came from Martha’s stories during their travels around the world.
Pressing the button a second time disabled the time lock. Mortimer remained still for a few seconds longer, nose twitching in confusion. Once the rodent became aware of the fact that it was able to move again, it shot off quickly into the dark recesses of the tunnel.
Ianto turned the disc over in his hands, wishing he had something a little more substantial to fight Saxon with. He would have preferred to use the pulse cannon itself for the simple fact that it was big and dangerous looking. A disc that fit in the palm of his hand was hardly comforting, even if it was a more useful weapon against Saxon.
“Oh I really hope this works,” Ianto murmured as he slipped the disc into his pocket. He sighed and leaned back against the table for a moment as he gathered himself together. Ianto allowed himself only a minute to wallow before heading back to join the others.
There was a lot that needed doing before the Valiant arrived back over London.
Something was happening. That wasn’t unusual with Saxon; neither was having absolutely no idea what the insane Time Lord was planning. Trying to predict Saxon’s actions was one of the few ways he had of entertaining himself since he’d been banished to the bowels of the Valiant. At first, Saxon had kept him bound tight to one of the wheeled chairs that surrounded the conference table on the bridge of the ship. Saxon had thrilled at taunting him, making sure he had a front row seat to the destruction of Roald Dahl Plass and the base that was hidden beneath it. The ship had been too high up for any of them to determine the identity of the figures darting about below, but afterwards three badly crushed and burned bodies were brought onboard the bridge.
Saxon had certainly done his homework. The bodies had certainly resembled Tosh, Owen and Gwen. The right body shape, height, colouring. Even the clothes they were wearing were ones that Jack knew were kept down in their lockers. Still, Saxon didn’t know them as well as Jack did so there were things he missed. He’d wanted to look away, to at least close his eyes, but Saxon had refused to let him. His eyes had been taped open and he’d been forced to look what he’d thought was his fallen team mates. It was while he’d been ranting at Saxon, shouting every obscenity he knew in every language, that Jack’d noticed the body meant to be Owen was missing the small tattoo on the inside of his left wrist; a series of numbers marking the day his life had changed completely. Jack had always looked the other way when Owen came in drunk on the anniversary of Katie’s death. As the one who’d had to collect a drunken Owen from the tattoo parlour, Jack was the only Torchwood member who knew about the tattoo so when he didn’t see it on the body laid out before him, he knew that it wasn’t Owen sprawled in a heap on the bridge of the Valiant.
So while he shouted and ranted for Saxon’s benefit, he was silently relieved that his beloved team was out there somewhere. The only uncertainty was Ianto. Right from the beginning, Saxon had taking great joy in taunting him with his ever expanding plans for Ianto’s eventual fate. With each month that passed, Saxon’s plans became more and more elaborate as he tried to get a rise out of Jack.
“Your little office boy is back in London,” Saxon crowed as he sauntered into the boiler room. There was a decided bounce in his step that instantly had Jack on edge. Saxon only ever bounced when he was planning something. The rest of the time he seemed to glide. “There was an unusual energy pattern over what was Torchwood Tower. Who else besides the illustrious Ianto Jones would choose that particular location?”
“Canary Wharf is a well known location and after Hartman’s pet project there’s often strange energy signatures there,” Jack responded with an air of disinterest, grunting softly as he shifted positions. “If you want a reaction out of me, you’ll have to do better than that.”
“Come on, Freak, you can do better than that,” Saxon pouted, leaning in close to Jack.
“Why bother when you’re having so much fun on your own?”
The smile didn’t falter, but his eyes became even harder. Had he been mortal, Jack would have been wary of antagonizing him more. Even the agonizing pain and the continual deaths weren’t enough to deter him. Saxon would do it all again regardless so it was simply easier to get it over and done with quickly.
“I’m still trying to decide just how I’m going to greet your little secretary,” Saxon mused aloud as he began circling around him. “He’s been the most annoying little gnat and deserves more than a mere swatting.”
Jack bit deeply into the inside of his cheek to try and keep himself silent. Anything he said would be used against Ianto, twisted into a horrible fate for his lover.
Focused as he was on Saxon, Jack didn’t realize anyone was behind him until he felt the needle jab into the side of his throat.
The reality of Tyburn was far more frightening than Ianto had expected. Hyde Park, once so lush and green had been completely levelled. The downed trees had been scavenged long ago by the people living in the London refugee camp and everything else had been destroyed by the Toclafane. There was nothing left of the park that he and Lisa had spent so much time in on summer afternoons when they’d been together.
And rising up in the center of it was a massive three-sided gallows.
Rather than wood, Saxon’s gallows was made of steel girders that, disturbingly enough, seemed to shine in the late afternoon sun. Ianto wasn’t sure of the measurements of the original gallows tree, but the new one was at least 30 metres tall with three 7 metre cross beams.
Standing in the middle of such a barren landscape, it was a truly menacing sight.
“Makes an electric chair look like grandma’s sofa,” Owen said quietly.
Ianto grunted, already playing out possible scenarios in his mind. There was some kind of contraption at the base of the structure that connected to each of its three legs. Ianto’s guess was that it was what Saxon intended to use in order to get to the top of it. He could already envision Saxon making some loud speech that would be broadcast all over the world. It had already been far too long since Saxon had heard the sound of his own voice echoing on every still-functioning television around the world.
And it wouldn’t be long until that happened.
According to Tosh’s program, the Valiant would be within range the following day. That was about all they knew. None of them knew Saxon’s exact intentions for his London broadcast beyond that it likely involved the newly made Tyburn tree and Jack. The possibility even existed that Saxon wouldn’t leave the Valiant. In a way, Ianto hoped that was the case because then he could focus all of his efforts on rescuing Jack.
The guards surrounding the worksite were moving ever closer to their area so the two of them quietly slipped away. Over the past months, Ianto found himself becoming even better at sneaking than he had in the past. It was a necessity when trying to avoid both UNIT soldiers and the Toclafane. Since he’d been reunited with Tosh and Owen, the medic had threatened several times to have him fitted with either a bell or a proximity sensor. Lucky for them, so far Owen hadn’t followed up on his threat.
Everything was so close to happening that it was probably stupid of them to take such a chance, but Ianto had needed o see what Saxon was building for himself. He hadn’t believed Owen when he’d first told him, but now he couldn’t deny what the insane Time Lord was up to.
“You do realize you’re completely fucked if this doesn’t work, Owen said unnecessarily once they’d made it back to the relative safety of the Underground.
“I had figured that out, yes,” Ianto said, rolling his eyes. “It wasn’t difficult to sort out.”
Owen held up his hands, his smirk detracting from his adopted air of innocence. “Don’t shoot the messenger, Jones. I just wanna make sure you don’t go into this acting like some invincible superhero. That’s Jack’s job. You’re human. You can die.”
“Why Doctor Harper, I didn’t know you cared,” Ianto taunted, batting his eyes dramatically.
Owen stopped, placing a hand on Ianto’s arm. They were deep enough into the tunnels that the only light came from their torches which bounced and glinted over the remnants of metal sheeting and the rails. He couldn’t see Owen’s face clearly, which he was probably why the medic chose that location to start that conversation.
“I’ll admit, there was a time I would’ve happily seen you dead,” Owen said quietly, ducking away from the light of Ianto’s torch. “But I get it why you did it. There’s even a time I would’ve don the exact same thing. I’d have done anything to save my Katie.”
“This is ancient history,” Ianto interrupted him, not sure what Owen’s intention was.
“I don’t want you dying tomorrow,” Owen admitted in a huff. “You’re an annoying man, Jonesy, and a pain in the ass, but I really don’t want you dying. Especially not when I’ve got you trained just the way I want you.”
“You may think you have me trained,” Ianto countered, raising his flashlight briefly to shine it in Owen’s direction. “How often were you bringing your cups over to the kitchenette?”
Ianto dropped the light and continued walking down the vacant tunnel. Having an emotional conversation with Owen was more than a little disconcerting. Before everything had gone to hell, they’d rarely talked unless it was to exchange sarcastic insults. That was the way he preferred his interactions with the acerbic medic.
“I mean it, Ianto!” Owen shouted after him. “Make sure you’re going into this with both eyes open! We need you alive, not a martyr!”
Since he couldn’t really avoid Owen on their trek back to the base without putting his life stupidly in danger, Ianto didn’t try to hurry. He would just end up looking rather foolish in the process. So it wasn’t much of a surprise that after a few minutes Owen’s footsteps crunching in the gravel got closer. The other man didn’t draw up even with him, giving Ianto at least the illusion of privacy. He also kept quiet when Ianto veered off down a maintenance tunnel.
Ianto only walked about ten metres into the tunnel before he stopped. There were a million and a half things he wanted to do in that moment: screaming, shouting, crying, kicking, or hitting something ranking very high up on that list. He wanted to kiss Jack and lose himself in the other man. He wanted to forget about what was happening around him and just pretend that none of it had ever happened.
Since their little band of merry men included a medic, Ianto settled for punching the nearest wall. In a very short amount of time he’d either kill Saxon or Saxon would kill him. Ianto really hoped it was the former because he didn’t want to die right at the end of it. Only he didn’t expect to get much say in the matter.
“Fucking hell,” Ianto cursed under his breath, trying to shake the numbness out of his hand. His knuckles felt slick with blood, but he was fairly sure he hadn’t done any serious damage. “Won’t stop Owen from bitching about it, though.”
In the wasteland that was Hyde Park, the two hundred or so people gathered around th steel girder gallows were a pitiful lot. Scavenging a living in the London refugee camp certainly had done them any favours. Their clothes were in tatter sand many of them were half–starved. And after so long under Saxon’s thumb even the bravest of them looked thoroughly cowed.
Seeing them acted as a reminder to Ianto that he wasn’t doing it only to save Jack. That was a big part of it, but it wasn’t his only consideration. He was Torchwood and Torchwood was all about saving the Earth and the people who lived on it.
Wanting to skip what could have been an awkward parting with Tosh and Owen, Ianto had snuck out before sunrise. He hadn’t been able to sneak out completely unnoticed, though. Apparently Will had been unable to sleep as well and had been sitting in the main space of their underground camp, drinking instant coffee.
“Good luck, Jones,” Will murmured, raising his chipped mug to Ianto in salute. “I hope you kill him.”
Dressed in a well-worn pair of jeans, faded black tee, and an oversized hoodie, Ianto looked more like the refugees that would be filling the park. It also helped to disguise the weapon that would hopefully end Saxon’s reign. “So do I.”
“See you when this is all over.”
Raising two fingers, Ianto gave him a quick salute then continued down the tunnel.
As he slowly made his way through the pressed together crowd, Ianto made sure to keep his movements far from deliberate. He shuffled about slowly, moving with the crowd and never in a straight line. Ianto didn’t want to be in the front line of spectators, but he still needed to be close enough if his plan was to have any chance of succeeding.
Working with Tosh, Ianto had done what he could to strengthen the time bubble. It had to hold at least long enough for any nearby Toclafane to be taken out by the resistance fighters who would be scattered throughout the crowd with weaponry stolen from Torchwood One’s underground storage. It was all that Ianto could do not to search out the two remaining members of his family that he knew were safe. At least safe for the moment. Ianto tried his best not to think about what fate awaited Owen and Tosh if his plan failed.
“Why doesn’t he just finish it?”
The voice was so quiet that Ianto almost couldn’t hear it. Still, he couldn’t stop the quiet grunt he gave in response. It was something that each of them had thought about at one point or another. Ianto himself had screamed it late into the night and under water so that no one could hear his shouts. He’d raved and ranted and plotted every single thing he could think of to do to Saxon if he was ever given the opportunity. Most of it had been pure fantasy that he had neither the ability nor inclination to carry out. All that he really wanted was for it all to be over. He wanted to be back in Cardiff, sitting in the Hub with Jack drinking coffee while Myfanwy screeched overhead.
There was a surprising lack of fanfare when Saxon finally arrived at the site. Three black SUVs with “UNIT” printed on the sides in a dark grey rode up to the base of the gallows tree. For several long moments, nothing happened. The engines remained running and it was impossible to tell if anyone was moving behind the tinted windows.
Ianto stood tense, his hand reaching inside the pocket of his hoodie to closer around the disc. There was nothing he could do until Saxon showed himself. They’d all assumed that Saxon would appear at his grand event, but there was no way to guarantee it. And if Saxon chose not to be present there would be nothing they could do. Except to rescue Jack. And while that had always been secondary to stopping the Time Lord, Ianto was relieved that it might finally happen. Ianto had always done his best not to think about what was happening to Jack; how much the other man was suffering in order to keep Saxon distracted from the Doctor.
“Come on,” Ianto growled, willing the doors to open and either Saxon or Jack to emerge.
Pulling his hood as far forward was he could, Ianto crept even closer to the front of the crowd. Something was going on; something they hadn’t been able to decipher in the radio chatter. At any other time, Saxon would have been out before the SUVs had even come to a complete stop, flitting about with all the manic energy of a Time Lord. There had to be some reason why the madman was keeping everyone waiting.
The back hatch of the middle SUV was thrown open and a huddled figure tumbled out. The movement was so unexpected and the man so wasted that it took Ianto a few seconds to realize that it was Jack struggling up onto his elbows. His body jerked and it took every ounce of willpower Ianto possessed not to rush forward. Jack was barefoot, his tattered trousers covered in grime and blood. While Jack was too broad to ever be considered skinny, he was considerably thinner than Ianto was used to. His upper body was just as filthy and battered as his lower body making it impossible for Ianto to pick out any injuries amidst the dried blood and dirt. Jack’s eyes, half-hidden as they were by his long, tangled hair, were dazed and unfocused.
Ianto’s eyes tracked Jack’s every painful, sluggish movement. And even though it felt like minutes to him, it was only seconds later that three black-clad UNIT soldiers jumped out of the back of the SUV. One had a semi-automatic and acted as security for the two who hauled Jack off the ground and towards the steel gallows.
With all of the attention focused on Jack’s arrival, Saxon managed to sneak in unnoticed. By the time Jack was dragged over to the platform set up at the centre of the gallow’s long legs, Saxon was already standing on it, long coat flapping in the wind. The frightening, giddy energy that Ianto had been expecting was surprisingly absent. It made Ianto nervous. He’d planned his attack around Saxon being at least slightly unbalanced. The cold, discerning way that he surveyed the crowd sent a chill down Ianto’s spine.
“Greeting, citizens of Earth, I am your lord and master,” Saxon cried, raising both his hands up high.
Whatever reaction he was expecting, the people who had been forced to gather in the ruined park were still and frightened, huddling together in small groups.
“We have come here, on this most auspicious day, to see if we can’t bring a certain member of Torchwood Three out of hiding,” Saxon continued as though there had been cheering and applause rather than fear and terror. “Ianto Jones, I know you’re out there. Hiding down beneath the city like a rat.”
Ianto bristled, but remained silent and still. Saxon was baiting him and it would ruin everything if he gave into it before the time was right. So he did what had so far kept him from slipping something poisonous in Owen’s coffee: took a deep breath and remember the look on Owen’s face when Myfanwy had hacked up half-digested fish all over him.
“Now since rats will always abandon a sinking ship, I thought it’d be worthwhile to sink Mr. Jones’ personal ship,” the self-proclaimed ruler of the world practically giggled. “See if we can’t get him to come out. So what do you say Mr. Jones? Will you come out of hiding and save your captain from what will be his final death?”
The words gave Ianto pause. There was so little Ianto actually knew about Jack’s ability to regenerate. He’d only seen Jack die a handful of times—still too many by Ianto’s reckoning—so he didn’t know if there were limitations to what he could recover from. One thing Ianto was sure of was that if anyone could figure out how to kill Jack, it would be Saxon.
The man would also take great joy in doing it.
Ianto’s attention was so focused on Jack that the sudden energy blast that came from somewhere behind him and to the left. It wasn’t aimed at Saxon, but into the sky just beyond him. It lasted for a brief second but the result brought surprised murmuring and agitated movements among the gathered crowd. Three more energy blasts followed, all with the same results.
The Toclafane that had been targeted plummeted to the ground with hollow thunks. By the time the last one hit the ground, everyone was in chaos. Ianto was nearly shoved off his feet as the people around him swirled about in a mass of panic. It was only at the last second that he released his grip on the disc in his pocket when instinct would have him squeeze harder and possibly press the activation button.
Tosh, Owen and Will had done their jobs. They had taken out the Toclafane which would give him a better chance of doing what he needed to. He fought against the heaving crowd, forcing himself ever closer to Saxon and the guards that were quick to surround him. Ianto slid his gun out from the waistband of his jeans, aiming at those same guards.
Even with all of the people jostling around him, Ianto’s aim was true. The first guard fell without a sound and Ianto got another shot off before the guards to locate him. Ianto tried to dodge the shot fired at him, but only managed to keep it from being a fatal blow. His left arm exploded in pain as the bullet tore through the muscle and flesh of his left bicep. Ianto gasped and very nearly dropped his gun. While he was fumbling to tighten his grip, the UNIT soldier guarding Saxon took aim on him. It seemed to take forever, endless ticks of a second hand, and just as Ianto managed to bring his arm around to fire a third shot the guard toppled to the ground. Ianto only barely manages to alter his own aim before his finger squeezes on the trigger.
Jack is on his knees, gasping, as Ianto struggles forward. He shoves his gun back into his waistband and pulls the disc out of his pocket. There was so much chaos and confusion that he knew he wouldn’t have a better chance at getting to Saxon. People all around him, regular people who’d been terrorized and frightened for the past year were fighting back. The Torchwood weapons were taking out the Toclafane and the refugees far outnumbered the UNIT soldiers.
Ianto shoved the disc into his left hand, squeezing as tight as he was able, then used his right hand to vault over the barricade that separated the refugees from Saxon’s monstrosity. Ianto spared half a thought for the fact that while the structure resembled the old Tyburn gallows, it didn’t look as though Jack was to have been hanged. There was a platform with a dais in the middle of it. There were shackles on it which meant it was where Jack was to have stood.
Ianto stumbled when he landed on the other side of the barricade and nearly dropped the disc. He slipped on the loose gravel, falling down onto his right knee. Ianto managed to keep himself from falling completely, his eyes glued to Saxon.
“Saxon!” Ianto shouted as the Time Lord tried to flee. A few of his remaining guards had formed a protective circle around him. Guards that Ianto was quick to shoot down (kneecaps were quite effective when helmets and Kevlar vests proved an annoyance) leaving him with enough of a gap to fire off the disc.
Every time he imagined it, events happened in slow motion. It was all wonderfully dramatic and heroic and highly illogical. It made for great fiction, but reality didn’t care about camera angles and special effects.
Ianto squeezed the release mechanism and a second later Saxon was caught up in the blue haze of t time bubble. His left arm shook with the strain of being held aloft, but his grip remained tight. And while the three remaining guards were distracted by what had happened, Ianto shot them.
“Ianto! Get him onto the platform!” Jack shouted off to his right.
Spinning his head and upper body, Ianto spotted Jack right away. He was stood at a console just to the side of the platform, typing furiously. Jack was swaying slightly, but his attention was focused solely on what he was doing.
Ianto kept the beam training on Saxon, but slowly moved around so that the Time Lord was between him and the platform. The time bubble kept him still, but it didn’t have any anti-gravity functions that’d let him float Saxon to the platform. They were about ten metres from where they needed to be, so Ianto could only hope that he’d be able to shove Saxon onto the platform before he could react.
“Tell me when, Jack!” Ianto shouted over the increasing noise around them.
“Give me ten seconds!”
Counting backwards in his head, Ianto flicked his eyes between Saxon and Jack. Whatever else was going on didn’t matter. Ianto couldn’t worry about any of it. They had to finish Saxon while they had the chance.
Ianto tensed his body, preparing to run.
A last look at Jack to see if he needed more time.
Ianto’s fingers tightened around the disc.
He let go and took off running, slamming his shoulder into Saxon’s side. The force of it sent Saxon reeling wit no chance to right himself. Ianto forced him those last ten metres to the platform, not stopping until he was grabbed about the middle and hauled backwards. Ianto stumbled, falling in a tangle to the ground with who he assumed was Jack.
All around them, time seemed to stand still. There were arms tight around his middle and warm breath puffing against his neck. The air around them, though, had a silvery-blue tinge to it. Ianto could feel all the hairs on his body standing on end, his skin tingling.
As Ianto watched, unable to turn his face away, Saxon began to scream. The Time Lord’s body was utterly rigid, but moving at the same time. Saxon appeared to be coming apart at the seams, becoming more and more transparent. He gave an outraged scream and then, with an almighty pop, burst apart into a shower of nothingness.
“Blasted into atoms,” Jack said quietly behind him. Ianto could only stare in shock as Jack quickly hauled him to his feet. “Come on, we need to get onto the Valiant.”
Shaking himself out of his stupor (pointedly shoving away the knowledge that Saxon had meant to split Jack into atoms) Ianto pushed up the sleeve of his hoodie to reach the vortex manipulator. They were apparently standing inside some kind of massive energy conductor and Ianto wanted out of it.
“Don’t even think about it, Harkness,” Owen shouted as Jack grabbed hold of Ianto’s right wrist. “You’re not disappearing on us again.”
Then Tosh and Owen were both there. Jack grabbed hold of their hands with one of his and slammed them down on top of the wrist strap. Then Ianto felt the world lurch out from under him. No matter how many times he used it, Ianto didn’t think he’d ever get used to the whiplash/carsick feeling he got teleporting.
The ravaged park and Saxon’s killing machine were gone and the four of them stood in what Ianto assumed was a corridor onboard the Valliant. It wasn’t as loud as he remembered the boiler room being, but Ianto was fairly sure they were only a few decks below the bridge.
“Bleedin’ hell, Harkness! What the hell was that?” Owen griped from a bent over position once things stopping moving. “A little warning would be nice.”
There was a loud clattering and Tosh was in Jack’s arms, squeezing him tight. “I didn’t think I’d see you again.”
Jack laughed quietly, the sound half-choked. “I’m not that easy to get rid of.”
Ianto staggered a bit, the disc dropping from his left hand. His whole arm and shoulder were a steady throb of agony. He wavered, sucking in several deep breaths to steady himself. He couldn’t stop, not until it was finished.
“You okay, Jones?” Owen asked, casting a critical eye over him.
Ianto was glad for the dim lighting in the corridor and the dark colour of his clothes. “Fine. What do we need to do now?”
The look Jack shot him told him that he didn’t believe a word of it, but that they also didn’t have time to argue. Half dressed and filthy, Jack nonetheless took command.
“Tosh, Owen, hand over your guns and get to the bridge. Find the Doctor. Ianto, you’re with me.”
As he lifted his arm to take the gun from Owen in exchange for his smaller one, Ianto could feel the blood oozing along his arm. He kept his expression carefully neutral, not giving anything away. His fingers were numb, tingling, and he was barely able to grab hold of the massive gun Owen had been using before he switched it over to his right hand.
“Be careful,” Jack cautioned as he hoisted the second gun over his shoulder.
Ianto had no idea what he and Jack were meant to do. Saxon was dead, but the world had still been gutted, still torn apart. Millions of people were dead and killing Saxon hadn’t erased any of that. All that Ianto could do was run after Jack who was sprinting through the corridors to some unknown location. Down and inwards as far as he could tell. Wherever they were going was in the centre of the ship.
“Jack?” Ianto asked when Jack came to a sudden stop, glancing around.
Turning to his left, Jack jogged into a large, cavernous room. In the centre of that room was something that everyone who’d ever worked at Torchwood One knew about. Something that he, Tosh, Owen, and Gwen had seen on the CCTV recording the day Jack had gone missing.
Torchwood One had made sure all of their employees could recognize the TARDIS on sight. The Doctor’s face was ever-changing but the blue police box was a constant. Ianto had never given the ship much thought. He paid attention to the facts. The most advanced ship known to exist was disguised as a now-obsolete police public call box, the blue paint faded and chipped. Not much was known about the interior beyond the fact that it was said to be bigger on the inside than on the outside.
Of all the imagined interiors, Ianto doubted that any had considered the hellish and tortured red haze that seeped over everything.
“Hey there, girl,” Jack murmured as he strode quickly up the ramp that led to the main console. A caged monstrosity that pulsed and whined. He stroked a hand slowly over the rail that circled it. “It’s almost over now.”
When he stood perfectly still, Ianto could almost feel a quiet whimper radiating through the air.
“Time to get to work,” Jack announced, looking back at him.
There had been little time for conversation as they hurried through the lower levels of the Valiant, but Ianto still understood what needed to be done. To stop the Toclafane that central column needed to be destroyed.
With a pained gasp that he disguised as a grunt, Ianto heaved the large, powerful gun upright again. At slight Jack’s nod they opened fire. The guns were from Torchwood One’s storage facility, prototypes for a new kind of weapon based off the one that had destroyed the Sycorax ship over London a few years back. The project had been discarded before it was complete, replaced with work on the Ghost Shifts, but the guns had still been built and still released strong enough blasts to take out individual Toclafane and, so it seemed, destroy Saxon’s Paradox Machine.
Sparks, small explosions, and the crashing sound of falling machinery echoed in the cavernous expanse of the TARDIS’ console room. Ianto didn’t know how they were supposed to know when they were successful, but it became obvious when it was.
It was like being trapped in a wind tunnel, only the air wasn’t moving. The gun tumbled from his hands, clattering to the grating below, and Ianto followed it down. His entire body was alternately flashing with pulses of white hot pain or numbed beyond the point of any sensation. Green and red lights flickered, the darkness in between jarring to the senses.
Ianto was only vaguely aware of Jack latching onto him, limbs wrapped around him, holding him tight against his chest. Ianto let his head drop forward, falling down onto Jack’s shoulder. They were buffeted against each other, Ianto clinging to Jack with every ounce of strength left in him. Even with his eyes closed, the lights still battered against his senses.
“It’s almost over,” Jack gasped into his ear, his voice harsh and trembling.
Ianto could only nod, Jack’s skin warm against his forehead. With his right hand he clutched at Jack’s upper arm, squeezing tight. Jack kissed the corner of his jaw, lips lingering there as me mumbled something against his skin.
When the storm stopped, Ianto sagged against Jack, breathing deeply to try and gather himself. Just because the Paradox Machine was destroyed didn’t mean that they were finished. There was so much that needed to be done and he couldn’t fall asleep, no matter how tempting the darkness was.
Groaning, Ianto forced himself into a more upright position, biting back a groan as pain flared through the entire left side of his body. He ached all over, but pulled away from Jack and staggered to his feet. Ianto stumbled, crashing into the rail.
“Whoa!” Jack called, scrambling to his feet. “Easy there, Ianto.”
“What the hell was all that?”
Jack laughed quietly, the sound little more than a croak. “We destroyed the Paradox Machine. Normal circumstances, that means time reverts back to when the paradox began. But I’ve never heard of one involving Time Lords before, so who knows what just happened.”
Ianto nodded his head, an action he was quick to realize wasn’t a good idea. As much as he tried to stop it, Ianto’s vision began to cloud around the edges.
“Jack,” he gasped, reaching a hand up to clasp Jack’s cheek. “You’re real? You’re here?”
“I should be the one saying that,” Jack murmured, leaning forward, his forehead resting against Ianto’s. “You’re the conquering hero in all of this.”
Ianto chuckled quietly, his eyes sliding shut. “I don’t quite feel like one at the moment. In fact, I think there’s the distinct possibility that I’m going to pass out soon.”
“Oh shit! Ianto!” Jack shouted, gripping his upper arms tighter. His eyes went wide when Ianto screamed, a choked off sound that Ianto did his best to swallow. “Ianto, talk to me. What—?”
Jack staggered back, staring at his bloodied palm. There were a few moments of shocked silence and then Jack sprung into action. He quickly, but with what Ianto noted was an extreme amount of care, got him out of his hoodie, revealing the jagged tear in his upper arm. With teeth and his fingertips, Jack tore one of the arms free of the jacket.
“This is gonna hurt,” Jack said, pursing his lips as he wound the material around Ianto’s injured arm.
“Do your worst.” Ianto clenched his jaw, the fingers of his right hand wrapped tight around the rail.
Ianto couldn’t contain a scream as Jack tied the knot tight directly over the wound. His whole body blazed with pain and he slumped forward against Jack.
“Stay with me, Ianto,” Jack whispered in his ear, clutching him tight about the middle.
“Doing my best, sir,” Ianto grunted, his eyes squeezed shut tight.
Even though it would have been so easy to fade into the darkness, Ianto purposely flexed the muscles in his left arm, using to pain to keep himself conscious. There was no telling what was happening on the bridge or whether destroying the paradox had brought Saxon back to life.
“Let’s go,” Ianto grunted, straightening himself as best as he was able.
Stumbling alongside Jack, the pair of them sprinted out of the TARDIS and back into the endless corridors of the Valiant. They met several UNIT soldiers along the way, none doing anything to stop them as they made their way towards the bridge. Instead, the soldiers fell in line behind him and Jack, an unofficial escort.
The closer they got to the bridge, the more UNIT officers that lined the hallways. All of who stood at attention as he and Jack, now walking, passed before them. A few even saluted them, bedraggled as they were.
“What did you do to him?!”
Ianto didn’t recognize the voice, but Jack must have because he ran the rest of the way to the double doors that led onto the bridge.
Not knowing what was waiting for them on the bridge, Ianto bolted after him. Saxon may have been broken down into his base components and scattered into the atmosphere, but the same could not be said for his followers. No matter how insane the dictator, there were always those who followed willingly.
“Give me your sidearm,” Ianto ordered one of the UNIT soldiers that was crowded around the doorway. His command was obeyed without question and he entered the bridge only a few moments after Jack.
“You should have let me deal with him, Jack!” someone he vaguely recognized as the Doctor was shouting. “I could have taken him far away from here. But, no, Torchwood had to kill him. ‘If it’s alien, it’s ours,’ right, Jack?”
Jack was standing utterly rigid, taking the Doctor’s verbal abuse without protest. Not the least bit deterred, Ianto stalked forward, glaring at the Doctor. He stopped at Jack’s side, dimly noticing Tosh and Owen joining him on their captain’s other side.
“That was Torchwood London. We only kill if there’s no other option available,” Ianto informed the fuming Time Lord. “In this case, it was Jack or Saxon. I think the world—and the universe—are better off having Jack around.”
“And just who are you to decide that?”
Ianto took a half-step forward so that he was between Jack and the Doctor. “Ianto Jones, resident of Earth, known throughout the universe as Sol 3. Member of Torchwood Cardiff. The person who helped figure out a way to stop Saxon. I’m Jack’s lover and I make a fucking brilliant cup of coffee. Sir.”
While the Doctor stood there sputtering, Jack moved forward to stand alongside him. “It had to be done, Doctor. There was no other way of stopping him. He would’ve destroyed everything.”
As much as he wanted to stay angry at the Doctor for what he’d allowed Jack to suffer, he felt that anger dissipate when the alien seemed to deflate with Jack’s words. He looked scrawny and pathetic, hardly the great force of nature that legends proclaimed him to be. Ianto couldn’t find it in him to be scared of someone who looked so entirely human.
All around them, journalists—those who’d been there nearly a year ago when it had all begun—were clinging to the walls, trying to make themselves appear invisible to the confrontation going on in the centre of the room. They’d either been dead or somewhere down on Earth when the paradox reversed itself and had no idea why they were suffering from displacement sickness and an extreme sense of déjà vu. With luck, they’d never remember what had happened during that too-long year.
Ianto nodded to Tosh, signalling for her to get the journalists out of the room. It would be better in the long run if they didn’t know what had happened.
“Everything’s been reset to when the paradox started. Why isn’t Saxon here?” Ianto asked the Doctor, genuinely curious now that he’d noticed the reappearance of the journalists.
The Doctor turned eyes that were entirely too old on him. “He’s a Time Lord. We exist outside of timelines. Whatever happens to us in a paradox doesn’t undo itself. It becomes a fact. The only reason I don’t look like a Gallifrayan version of Dobby is because the Master still had all of the Lazarus technology in the Valiant’s mainframe. Ms. Sato and myself simply uploaded it into my screwdriver. Without it, I would’ve been stuck two feet tall.”
“So if Jack had really been dead....” Owen trailed off, voicing what Ianto didn’t even want to think about.
“A fixed point in time and space?” The Doctor shrugged. “I honestly have no idea what would have happened to Jack. It’s impossible to tell.”
Ianto didn’t feel any better for knowing there’d been a chance Jack would survive. Because it was just as possible that Jack would’ve died and stayed dead. Ianto knew that he’d eventually lose Jack, either when he died or Jack moved on. He hoped that he’d at least have a few more years to enjoy his lover.
“I’m gonna go find a phone and call Gwen,” Owen said into the tense silence that followed. “If time’s gone back to when this mess begun, she’ll have started freaking out when Tosh, Ianto and me suddenly disappeared.”
Ianto knew that he probably should’ve left Jack and the Doctor to talk on their own, only the adrenaline that’d kept him upright and moving so far, chose that particular moment to stop flowing. His knees buckled and he would have fallen if Jack hadn’t caught him round the middle. That time, when his vision started to blur around the edges, it engulfed him entirely.
All things considered, Martha’s scowling face was a much better sight to awaken to than Owen’s. Though not by much. Martha had a way of looking at him that made him just want to disappear into whatever bedding he was lying on.
“I don’t know whether to be more annoyed at you or Jack,” Martha told him, her expression softening somewhat. “Running around with a bullet hole in your arm wasn’t the best idea you’ve ever had, I’m sure. You lost a hell of a lot of blood, most of which soaked into all that black you were wearing.”
Looking away from Martha’s stern face, Ianto glanced down at his own body. His shirt was missing, but, thankfully, he still had his pants on. Pants which he had no intention of ever wearing again once he took them off. His left arm was oddly numb and had a white bandage wrapped around it. Just peeking over the edge of the bandage was the scar left behind from when he’d been shot in Istanbul. Something that he didn’t think Martha would remember. All of the good she’d done and she wouldn’t remember it because she hadn’t been on the Valiant when time reset itself. Like the journalists, she’d simply materialized on the bridge in roughly the same place she’d originally been.
“So I hear the two of us had quite the adventure,” Martha said, somewhat regretfully. “You’ll have to tell me about it some time.”
Ianto managed a small smile, fighting against the exhaustion that was once again pulling at his eyelids. “Next time you’re in Cardiff, look us up.”
“I may just do that.”
“Even though you don’t remember it, thank you,” Ianto yawned, finally giving into unconsciousness.
Waking up to Jack sitting half on whatever cot he was spread out on was more what he expected. Jack was holding onto his right hand, thumb lightly stroking over the back of his hand. The other man looked utterly exhausted, but he’d seemed to have found a shower and a change of clothes in the time since Ianto had first passed out.
“Hey,” Ianto whispered, his voice more of a croak than it had been before.
Jack’s smile was just as tied as he looked, but Ianto was relieved to see that it reached his eyes. “Hey yourself.”
“How long’ve I been asleep?”
“A couple hours. You look like you needed it. Tosh said you hadn’t been sleeping much lately.”
Ianto snorted, rolling his eyes slightly. “Tosh has a big mouth. What about you? When’s the last time you had a proper sleep?”
“I don’t need much sleep, you know that,” Jack tried to hedge.
Ianto tried his best to muster a stern expression, aware that he was probably failing miserably. Still, Jack sighed, his shoulders slumping even more.
“It’s been awhile,” he finally went with.
Hoping that whatever drugs Martha had given him were still working, Ianto shifted over as far as he could. “Get in then. And don’t even try to argue. You look like death.”
Jack hesitated for a moment, but his exhaustion must have won out because he carefully slipped in next to him. Ianto turned himself onto his right side, drawing Jack into his arms; right arm drawn up between them and his left hand resting lightly on Jack’s hip. Jack had his right arm draped completely over Ianto’s waist, left arm under his head. With a little bit of careful shuffling they were pressed nearly flush, legs tangled together.
“I think this may be bigger than that thing you dare to call a bed,” Ianto teased, fighting off the urge to once again fall asleep.
“My bed’s not that small,” Jack scoffed, squeezing Ianto briefly.
“It’s a cot. Cots, by definition, are small.” Ianto slid his left arm up, lightly stroking the underside of Jack’s jaw. “For the next little while at least, you’re gonna be staying at mine. I’m not sleeping on that damned cot.”
That time, Jack’s smile showed a brief flash of teeth. “Yes, sir.”
Satisfied, Ianto allowed his eyes to drift shut. “Good. I’m gonna hold you to that.”
“I saw the footage of the Plass. Saxon broadcast it, not long after he’d had the Hub destroyed. It was this great big crater, debris everywhere. I didn’t think I’d ever see it whole again,” Ianto said quietly as he and Jack leaned against the railings that separated the Millennium Center from the rest of Roald Dahl Plass.
Jack nudged him lightly with his elbow. “That’s because you Welsh are entirely too pessimistic. And besides, why were you doing everything you did if you thought we couldn’t defeat Saxon?”
“To get back to you.”
Jack had opened his mouth to say something, but closed it again abruptly. He seemed to think better of whatever he was going to say and merely leaned more fully into Ianto. They stood there in silence for several long minutes watching people go about their daily lives, none of them knowing what had happened to them during the year that wasn’t. Even Gwen didn’t know what had happened, having been told that the three of them had been caught in a transmit beam and dropped on board the Valiant.
Within hours of restoring the timeline, Owen and Tosh had returned to the Hub, in part to calm Gwen down, but also to make sure the Rift didn’t act up. Ianto had thought they’d follow soon after—once his head no longer felt as though it was full of cotton wool—but instead they’d found themselves back on the TARDIS, helping to make repairs to the damaged ship. Ianto hadn’t done much more than make coffee and hand them parts, but he’d had no intentions of going back to Cardiff without Jack.
Being inside a ship that was no longer on Earth was something Ianto had never expected would happen to him. At first Ianto had thought that they’d remain on board the Valiant while the Doctor and Jack made repairs. Instead, almost as soon as the three of them were all on board, the Doctor was pulling levers and pushing buttons. Ianto was also vaguely certain that he saw a rubber mallet and bicycle pump used as well. The great ship gave a shuddering groan and slowly the central column began to move. The Doctor claimed that the best place for the TARDIS while they made repairs was within the time vortex itself. Not being able to say anything different, Ianto had merely clung to the rails and hoped that he didn’t fall down.
“Thank you, Ianto Jones.”
The words were spoken so quietly that at first Ianto wasn’t sure that he heard them. Glancing across the main console, Ianto’s eyes had met the Doctor’s. The Time Lord was far more subdued than he’d yet seen him.
“I didn’t do it for thanks,” Ianto told him, meeting the Time Lord’s gaze.
To his surprise, the Doctor grinned, a little strained around the edges, but genuine. “No, you didn’t. That’s what makes you all the more remarkable.”
Ianto had always figured himself fairly common as far as humans went. Outside of Torchwood he’d never really done anything remarkable. Average grades, a bit of teenage rebellion against a father who was always pushing so hard, job in the big city, love, life. Aside from really good recall, he was exactly the same as everyone else.
Except for Torchwood.
Working for Torchwood required being, or at least putting on the pretence of being, a bit exceptional. Anyone less ended up dead even earlier than the already short life expectancy. Most of the time, Ianto was convinced that it was luck keeping him alive. He still had no idea how he’d survived Canary Wharf, and Jack had saved him from both Lisa and the cannibals.
“Wonder if they’ve noticed us on CCTV yet,” Jack mused, glancing across the Plass at one of the security cameras and waving.
“I should warn you that Gwen’s liable to go for blood running off like you did,” Ianto informed him, unable to contain a grin at Jack’s look of mock outrage.
“I sent you a text.”
Ianto’s grin got a bit wider and he turned his body to face Jack. He leaned with one elbow on the rail, head cocked to the side. “Exactly. You sent me a text. Not her. She was quite put out and kept checking her phone for messages the rest of the day.”
“She has to have figured out by now that we’re....”
“Dabbling?” Ianto suggested, brushing a few longer strands of hair behind his ear. He’d wanted to cut his hair short again, but Jack had talked him into keeping it longer. Ianto had also found himself somehow agreeing to keep his attire casual.
Jack flashed him a broad smile, one of the few that had actually reached his eyes over the past week. Whatever their relationship was, they both knew that it was far more important than a bit of dabbling. A person didn’t become a fugitive and trek across the world for a casual fling, no matter how good the sex was. However, Ianto had no desire to define exactly what they were and he didn’t think Jack did either.
“So, since we’ve established that we’re dabbling, how about joining me for dinner and a movie tonight?” Jack asked looking far more hesitant than Ianto had ever expected to see him.
“Are you asking me out on a date?” Ianto grinned, secretly enjoying the way that Jack began to squirm ever so lightly. Dating had never really been a part of their relationship. The one time Jack had asked him out for dinner had been more along the lines of concerned boss wanting to make sure he actually ate. Not that it had gone well. Jack had been killed by a Weevil and Ianto had found out that Jack’s deaths weren’t the permanent kind.
“What if I was?” Jack shot back, his smirk taking a lot away from his attempt at innocence.
“Well if you were—”
Despite his best efforts, Ianto couldn’t keep from rolling his eyes. He’d been expecting Gwen to interrupt for quite some time and wasn’t at all surprised that she chose to do so by running across the Plass screaming at the top of her lungs.
“Here comes trouble,” Jack murmured to Ianto as they watched Gwen’s fast approach. Not too far behind her, Owen and Tosh were moving at a more sedate pace. “Wonder what Tosh and Owen told her about what happened.”
“Whatever it was, it doesn’t look good.”
Gwen looked downright furious and ready to do some serious damage. Ianto wouldn’t be entirely surprised if one or both of them got slapped. Maybe even punched. Gwen did have an awfully good right hook.
“Where the hell have you two been?” Gwen demanded once she was closer.
With a slight smirk in Ianto’s direction, Jack slipped through the rail to face Gwen’s wrath. “Sunning ourselves on a beach on Galaxia Major’s pleasure moon.”
Gwen’s scowl only deepened and she shoved Jack with both hands once she was close enough. “Don’t you make any jokes about this, Jack Harkness. You left us!”
The smile left Jack’s face and he immediately became the leader of Torchwood once again. “No, Gwen, I didn’t. Something came up that I had to take care of. Ianto knew where I was.”
“What were you doing that was so damn important?”
“It’s not important now,” Jack told her which only made her hackles rise higher. “I left and now I’m back. What happened in between doesn’t matter. It’s over, Gwen, so let it go.”
Ianto had known better than to hope for anything resembling calm from Gwen when he and Jack returned, but he hadn’t thought she’d go immediately for the jugular. He didn’t know how she couldn’t see the rigid tension that Jack held himself in. Jack had been damaged by Saxon. He didn’t think that it was permanent, but after only a week, Jack was definitely still hurting.
“So I’m gonna guess that you didn’t mean to be gone for a couple of months,” Owen said casually, smirking when he caught sight of Ianto’s shocked expression. Beside him, Jack was muttering something under his breath about shoddy driving skills. “I’ll take that as a ‘no’ then.”
“How long?” Ianto managed to gasp out, still trying to wrap his thoughts around what they’d just been told.
“In total? When you factor in how much time passed before and since the paradox.... Three hundred sixty-five day. One year exactly,” Tosh told him, offering up a sympathetic grin. “Kind of frighteningly exact when you think about it. I’m not sure how long it was for you, Jack, since....”
“Just add another couple of days.” Jack leaned back against the rail, his arm just brushing Ianto’s fingers.
“Why won’t anyone tell me what’s going on?” Gwen demanded, her outrage turning slowly into frustration. “First you disappear. Then Ianto, Owen and Tosh all vanish right when Saxon and the US president are assassinated. You were all there. I saw you on the telly, but you’re not saying why you were there. Or how you even got there. I thought we were meant to be a team.”
Though they may not want to admit it, Gwen did have a point. Things were happening all around her, but she wasn’t allowed to know what those things were. If it’d been him, Ianto knew that he’d be equally annoyed with Jack and the rest. It was all well and good for them to say that they weren’t telling her to save her, but Ianto didn’t think he’d be able to take being the only one who didn’t know.
“Believe me, Gwen, we’re not keeping quiet about this to be cruel,” Jack said, squeezing her shoulder so that Gwen looked directly at him. “What happened is something that none of us want to dwell on. It was horrible and terrifying and, thankfully, over. That’s how we want it to be. You have no idea how lucky you are that you don’t remember the things that we do.”
They could all see Gwen struggling to come up with some sort of excuse or reason for Jack to tell her. No doubt she’d been waiting for Jack to come back, assuming that he’d just cave in and tell her what Tosh and Owen wouldn’t. The fact that Jack wasn’t caving immediately noticeably annoyed her. She was scowling had and had just opened her mouth to say something when Tosh interrupted her.
Stepping forward, Tosh pulled Jack into a warm hug, squeezing him affectionately. “Welcome home, Jack.”
Owen joined her, slapping Jack manfully on the arm. As soon as he did that, Owen’s eyes flashed to Ianto’s left arm (fully healed thanks to some very advanced medical technology on the TARDIS that would have had Owen drooling) and he quickly made his way over. “Oi, Tea-boy!”
It was unnerving how easily they began to slip back into their old routines. So much time had passed, so many things had happened, but their routines were older than that.
Ianto couldn’t stop the sigh of delight as he approached his coffee machine. He ran his fingers lightly over the levers, knowing full well the comments he’d get from Owen for doing so. Ianto simply didn’t care. It had been far too many months since he’d had a decent cup of coffee.
“Figured you’d be up here, Jonesy.”
Ianto glowered briefly in Owen’s direction before turning to the fresh bag of coffee beans he’d bought before returning to the Hub. He inhaled deeply, his whole body reacting to the smell of the coffee beans. Tension leaked out of his shoulders and he felt far more grounded than he had in months. Normalcy was definitely not something he’d take for granted again.
“I’ll have the coffee out as soon as it’s finished,” he told Owen as he scooped the proper amount of beans into the grinder.
“You damn well better,” Owen grunted. “But that’s not why I’m here.”
Ianto couldn’t help arching an eyebrow, his eyes flickering briefly over to the doctor.
“You did good out there, Jones. I didn’t think you had it in you to stay alive as long as you did, but you pulled it off.” Owen shook his head, chuckling quietly. “The world was saved by the fucking tea-boy.”
“Hardly,” Ianto scoffed, turning on the coffee grinder to keep Owen from continuing that line of thought. The doctor seemed to understand because Ianto could see him making his retreat out of the corner of his eye.
Losing himself completely in the process of preparing coffee, Ianto tuned out everything else. If it wasn’t for the fact that he was in dark jeans and a black t-shirt, Ianto could convince himself that it was simply another day at the Hub. That the world hadn’t nearly ended and that most of Torchwood hadn’t been in the thick of it. Tosh and Owen had gotten a few months to get themselves used to a normal life once again.
For him and Jack barley a week had passed. Jack was only just starting to look more like himself again. Once the main part of the damage to the TARDIS had been repaired, Jack had literally crashed. The two of them had gone to what Jack told him had been his room when he’d been the Doctor’s companion and they’d both slept for nearly sixteen hours. Jack hadn’t experienced any nightmares that time because he was too deeply asleep for them to penetrate. The few times Ianto had been able to coax him to sleep after that, Jack had rarely slept more than a few hours before he was woken by nightmares.
So even though Ianto knew that the last thing Jack needed if he had hopes of getting his lover to sleep that was coffee, Ianto was just as sure that Jack would benefit from the familiarity of it. He wouldn’t pretend to understand what Jack had endured while trapped on board the Valiant. The brief glimpses he’d had of life on the UNIT flagship was one of utter horror and desolation. Jack’s mind and body had been ripped apart and Ianto could only marvel at the fact that Jack was functioning at all.
“Are you going to just stand there hovering or were you planning on coming in?” Ianto asked, not looking over to where he knew Jack was standing near the entrance to the Hub’s small kitchenette.
“I didn’t want to interrupt genius at work,” Jack protested, the sound of his footsteps padding across the floor. “And I wasn’t hovering.”
“Of course not, sir,” Ianto smirked, checking the pressure levels on the machine.
A hand came to rest on his hip, squeezing briefly, before Jack’s arm wound about his middle. Jack was pressed against him from shoulders to knees, his lips puffing warm air against his right ear. Jack didn’t say anything, just held onto Ianto while the Welshman continued making the team’s coffee. It was strange to be so openly affectionate with Jack during work hours (or at least while not down in the archives during work hours), but at that point Ianto could honestly say that he didn’t care. It was no secret to Tosh and Owen that he’d done everything that he had because of Jack. Stopping Saxon and saving Earth were big factors as well, but, in the end, saving Jack was the thing that kept him going. What Gwen thought of it all was of no consequence whatsoever.
“You’ll have to get in touch with Whitehall either today or tomorrow,” Ianto said as he handed Jack his coffee a few minutes later. “They need to know that you’re back in charge and we need to find out what sort of person the new PM is.”
Jack laughed quietly, pressing a sloppy kiss to the side of Ianto’s head before wandering back towards his office. “I’m sure they’d much rather talk with you,” Jack called over his should before disappearing around the corner.
“Business as usual then.”