If someone only looked at Jack Harkness’ life from the outside, one would think he had achieved everything he could have wanted.
But then, he hadn’t become the darling of New London stage and screen simply for his dashing good looks.
He knew what the passers’ by saw as he lounged against the rail in the spaceport terminal: a well-off man, dressed in the latest of New Welsh fashion, handsome with classic features, as he stared across the blast-hardened permacrete toward the private ship his husband, Sir Ianto Jones, owned. The Star Dream was a lovely ship, one that Jack had piloted himself on occasion.
Now, it was being prepped to send his brother back to their home world, New Britain.
Jack sighed. Gray’s visit had been the best thing to have happened to him in a very long time, and he was going to miss him terribly. A frisson of fear passed through him as the considered just where Gray was going, and he’d tried very hard to talk him out of this trip, to no avail.
He turned at his brother’s voice. Gray Harkness was younger than his brother, resembling more closely their mother than Jack did. He grinned as Gray approached. “Gray,” he greeted, bumping his shoulder as his brother came to stand next to him. “I can’t believe you’re leaving already. Time’s flown, kid.”
Gray rolled his eyes good-naturedly at the affectionate nickname. “It has,” he agreed, “but I do need to get back.”
“I know.” Gray had his own life to lead, but still… “It’s not the distance,” Jack sighed; yes, New Britain was a solar system away, but it wasn’t that far by spacecraft. “Things aren’t going very well at home, and I’m afraid you’ll get swept up in all that chaos. They’re not being very picky about who they throw in the disintegrators anymore. “
“It’s still our home, Jack. Yes, things are bad right now, but I can’t turn my back on her, not now when level heads are needed to curb the…Revolutionary zeal of others.”
That was what Jack was worried about, that Gray would try to moderate tempers and be snatched up as a traitor by the current Revolutionary government.
New Britain had suffered a full-scale revolt by the middle and lower classes a little over a year before, and things seemed to be getting worse instead of better. “We were both for the Revolution,” Jack said, “but if someone gets it into their heads that you’re working against them – “
“I have a very good reputation among the interim government,” Gray answered.
“But will you be careful and not rush headlong into something?” Jack persisted. “After all, you’re the only family I have now.”
“You have Ianto,” Gray scoffed. “He loves you.”
Jack sighed. That was the problem. “He may have…once. Not anymore.”
Gray looked surprised. “Are you kidding? The man’s nuts about you!” His eyes met Jack’s own. “What happened?”
Jack shrugged, turning away. He really didn’t want to have this conversation. “It doesn’t matter.”
“It does!” Gray grabbed Jack’s arm, turning him back to face him. Jack could see the blooming realization in his brother’s face. “Does he know about…what happened with the Tylers?”
Jack laughed bitterly. “You mean that I turned the entire Tyler family over to the Revolutionary government? That it was apparently my word sent them all to the disintegrators? Yeah, he knows…I tried to explain, but he’s already heard all about it.”
“Didn’t you tell him everything that happened?”
He remembered the conversation vividly. It had been the first time he’d ever seen that horrible, blank mask that Ianto now wore in his presence. “It was too late. Like I said, he’d already heard about it, and after the words we had…I have my pride, Gray. And I wasn’t about to demean myself trying to counter the rumour and innuendo that got to him first.”
“You didn’t even try?” Gray exclaimed.
“How could I?” Jack couldn’t believe how much it still hurt. “He was more than willing to listen to what others said before his own husband. And now, I have the satisfaction of knowing that the coldest man on New Wales has nothing but contempt for me.”
It was Gray’s turn to bump Jack’s shoulder. “But he loved you,” he said plaintively.
“I thought he did. It made the gossip that I’d only married him for his money that much easier to handle. He came in, swept me off my feet, claimed to adore me…and you know me, Gray. I was so sure I couldn’t love anyone. Sure, I’d had lovers in the past, but nothing that lasted because I just didn’t feel that way about them. But then Ianto came along…Goddess, Gray, he’d just look at me and my heart would go crazy. His touch…every time he touched me, it was like he worshipped me. And I fell so hard, so fast…it surprised me, how I felt about him. But not only did he say he adored me…but he respected me, too. That was what I really treasured almost as much as I did his love…” he sighed, and there was such pain in it.
Gray must have heard it; he put his arm around his brother, hugging him fiercely. Jack hugged him back, already missing the closeness they’d shared.
When Ianto had stopped loving him, it had been as if Jack had lost his whole world. That everything he’d dreamed about had turned to dust, sifting through his fingers. He’d never even considered that, one day, his entire life would have been predicated on the fact that someone loved him, he’d thought unconditionally. But Ianto hadn’t, and had judged him, and had rejected him.
He wanted nothing more than to run away. Jack had thought about it many times. It wouldn’t be all that hard to give up the money and prestige that being married to a peer of New Wales brought; after all, he’d lived almost penniless before.
But something kept him there. Perhaps it was hope that, someday, the man he loved would once again love him in return.
And now, Gray was leaving. Jack knew he’d miss his brother, whom he didn’t get to see as often as he’d like. Back into the jaws of the Revolution, back to the horror and death the once-great rebellion against an oppressive government had become.
Jack shivered. He didn’t know why.
He stood there, long after the Star Dream had lifted off, staring at the place where the ship had once sat. Jack was alone, and for that he was very grateful. Gray’s leaving had hurt him, but it wasn’t the same pain he felt every day, when his husband completely ignored him.
Ianto had been so attentive; he’d pledged his undying love to Jack during their somewhat old-fashioned courtship, and Jack had believed him. It made him feel naïve; like the wide-eyed young man who’d first found himself among the glittering lights and costumes and personalities of New London’s acting community. He cursed himself for ever falling in love with Sir Ianto Jones, and that anger often made him say cruel or sarcastic things to the husband who’d abandoned him, hoping to get some sort of rise out of the cold, emotionless man he’d become. He always hated himself afterward, but couldn’t help himself.
Jack knew what the motivation was: he wanted Ianto to feel the same contempt that Jack felt coming from Ianto. He wanted the man to think that Jack held him in the same lack of regard that his husband obviously did. His words were meant to hurt and wound, and there were times when he thought he was successful in doing just that. But then those blue eyes that had once radiated love grew hard, and Jack would be left feeling like the lowest person on the planet.
His happiness had only lasted a mere day after the simple ceremony that had taken place at the Jones family home on the outskirts of Caerdydd. They’d had their wedding night…and then Jack had confessed about his betrayal of the Tyler family, only to discover that Ianto had already known about it. And, what was worse, was that Ianto hadn’t actually believed it until Jack had admitted it. Then, his husband had seemingly assumed that the stories he’d been told were true, leaving Jack in the position of needing to explain his behaviour…and being unable to do so.
Damn his pride.
That had been the last night Ianto had touched him. Jack ached with the loss of that intimacy.
Jack hadn’t realised just how badly Ianto would take that one sin, even if the denouncement had been unintentional. His thoughts went back to the man he’d trusted with the story of the Tylers and what they’d done to Gray, and cursed him as well.
With a heavy sigh, Jack turned his back on the place where the Star Dream had been, heading back through the spaceport toward the car that was always at his disposal. He couldn’t fault Ianto for his generosity; if only the man was as generous with his affection as he was with his money.
He’d just past the arrivals area when an entirely different voice from his brother’s called his name.
Jack turned, and suddenly wondered if it the ancient saying was true: speak of the devil, and he was bound to show up.
“John,” he greeted the man who’d called to him, recognizing him instantly.
John Hart hadn’t changed. He still had the sharpest cheekbones Jack had ever seen, but instead of wearing the simple coat of a foot soldier that Jack was more familiar with, he was now dressed as a full officer, with red jacket and white trousers, with a ceremonial sword at his waist. He was smirking as he walked toward Jack, his arms outstretched.
Jack allowed him to wrap him up in a hug. He closed his eyes, revelling in this simple human contact, something he hadn’t felt from his own husband in such a long time. He returned the hug, and then drew back, looking at John closely. “What are you doing here?”
“I could ask you the same thing,” John returned, somewhat saucily. “Still married to Eye Candy, I take it?”
Something must have shown in Jack’s face, because John suddenly went very serious. “Trouble in paradise?” he asked, looking as if he actually cared.
Jack wasn’t about to get into it with him. There had been a time when he’d trusted John Hart with everything…and that had gotten the entire Tyler family sent to the disintegrators. He and John had been lovers for years, before Ianto had come and made pretty promises that he hadn’t kept. “Actually,” he answered, “I was just seeing Gray off. He’d come for a visit.”
John’s cocky grin returned. “The gorgeous Gray. I’ve seen him around the new government building, trying to play peacekeeper. Honestly, I don’t know why he bothers. The Revolution isn’t going to stop just because he thinks we’re being just a tad bit bloodthirsty. Please…what’s a little murder between friends?”
This was the side of John that Jack didn’t like. The man could be absolutely callous; not caring who he hurt, as long as it got him ahead. It made him think once more about the Tylers, and Jack pulled away, suddenly not so glad to see the man again. “What are you doing here, John?”
“Why, I’m here to introduce myself to Her Majesty as the representative for the Revolutionary Government of New Britain,” his ex-lover announced, flinging his arms wide flamboyantly.
Jack wasn’t surprised. John loved power, and he would have done everything he could have to rise within the new government. “Congratulations,” Jack said, trying to sound sincere.
“But,” John edged closer, speaking in a confidential whisper, “that’s not the only reason I’m here. Tell me…have you heard of the man who goes by the ridiculous codename of the Pimpernel?”
Who hadn’t heard of the Pimpernel? The man was the talk of New Wales. Half the population was in love with him, and the other half wanted to be him. Jack, himself, wasn’t sure which one he was. “Of course I have,” he answered. “I doubt you’ll find anyone who hasn’t.”
John leaned closer, his breath tickling Jack’s ear. “Then you know our government has a contract out on him. Enough credits to retire on…and I plan on collecting.”
Jack reared back, suddenly not wanting John that close. “Good luck with that. I doubt you’ll find him, though.”
The man didn’t look insulted by Jack’s sudden moving. “That’s where I think you can help me.”
“How do you think that?” Jack scoffed. “I don’t have idea who he is.”
“Let’s talk somewhere more private.” John grabbed his arm, tugging him toward a small café that took up a corner of the spaceport lobby.
Jack shrugged away from his grasp. “I don’t think we have anything to talk about.”
John rolled his eyes. “Will you just come on? I only want to talk business with you.”
“I don’t trust you, John.”
“Okay…maybe I deserved that – “
“You deserved more than that!’ Jack wanted to rail at him; this was the man he’d shared with, and who took what he’d learned from their bed straight back to the Revolution.
“Come on,” John scoffed. “The Tylers deserved what they got, after what they did. Denouncing them to the Revolution was the best thing for the situation. You hated them as much as anyone else did!”
The problem was, John was half right. Jack had hated what had happened to Gray, but he hadn’t held the entire family responsible. Rose and Tony had been innocent, but that hadn’t mattered to the Revolution. Disintegrators didn’t differentiate between innocent or guilty, adult or child.
Jack hesitated for a moment, and that allowed John to steer him toward the café. Before Jack knew it, he was being pushed into a seat, and John was plopping himself down opposite. The man stretched his long legs out, leaning back in the chair. “Goddess, I haven’t been back here in ages. Is the ruling class still as stuffy? At least they never tried to keep the lower classes from getting ahead. Because, let me tell you, there’d be a Revolution here just like back home if that ever happened. You can’t keep a good peasant down!”
“What do you want, John?” Jack asked, tired of the theatrics already. He couldn’t help but notice the looks he and John were getting; the Welsh obviously recognized John’s uniform as being Revolutionary New Britain, and blood was running high after the King and Queen of New Britain had been led to the disintegrators.
It had begun as a good thing, the Revolution: the aristocratic classes of New Britain had managed to grind the lower classes under their heels for so long, it had seemed logical that there would be an uprising. Jack had been one of those to support the Revolution, being one of those who’d suffered under the late regime. But, then the disintegrators had started up, and he’d become some sort of hero for his supposed denouncement of the Tyler family…he would have left anyway, even if he hadn’t met Ianto Jones.
Now, John’s presence was a reminder to everyone that New Britain had become drenched in the blood of their aristocracy, innocent or guilty. The Revolution had taken on a life of its own, and it was only moderates like Gray who were keeping things from collapsing in on everyone. New Wales didn’t agree with what had happened, having their own ruling class…only they’d never gone as far into the darkness as New Britain had.
“Look,” John began, motioning for a waiter to come to their table, “like I said, I’ve been made the official Representative to New Britain. But there’s this Pimpernel, and his men, and you know they’re rescuing condemned prisoners from under the Revolution’s nose. C’mon, Jack…he’s a traitor, and he needs to be stopped. And I think you can help.”
“I still don’t see how.” The waiter came over, the man’s eyes not even looking in John’s direction. Jack ordered two coffees, and the waiter left them alone.
If Jack was honest, he wished that the Pimpernel had been around when the Tylers had been arrested. He would have given anything for them to have at least rescued young Rose and Tony, the children of the family. Their father was a completely different matter…
“We’ve come up with a few ideas about who these men are. We suspect they’re Welsh upper class, with access to the money needed to fund an organization like this so-called League of the Pimpernel. Honestly, we don’t care much for the underlings, but the man in charge…cut off the head, and the body dies, so they say. And this Pimpernel has to have real brains to do what he’s doing. Just last week, he rescued Clive Jones’ family right from under the disintegrator they’d been taken to. Man’s got balls!”
Jack’s heart lurched painfully, but in a good way; he’d been friends with Martha, Lord Clive’s elder daughter, back in his traveling days. He was pitifully grateful that they’d escaped, since he’d been worried about them when he’d lost contact with Martha months ago. And the Jones family had been one of the best of the New Britain upper class, and their generosity and benevolence had made the others seem so much worse.
But they were blue-bloods, and it didn’t matter that they’d always been friends of the lower classes. They were fodder for the disintegrators, plain and simple.
Or they would have been, except for the Pimpernel and his League.
Their coffees arrived, and Jack took a sip. It wasn’t anything like Ianto’s, and that thought saddened him. He still had the coffee…but missed the man himself. “So?” he prompted, wanting John to get on with it.
“Well, you run in those circles, Jack. If anyone can get a foot in, it’d be you!” John grinned, as if it made perfect sense.
Jack was appalled. While he really didn’t have much real sympathy for a majority of the New Britain ruling class, there were those who hadn’t deserved what had happened to them. He could only hope that the Pimpernel would be able to get to them in time to save them. And, while he’d once agreed with the Revolution, it had become something he could no longer support. It scared him that Gray was still so much involved.
He thought about the man who called himself the Pimpernel. No one knew who he was; his identity was the gossip of the court. Jack was proud of him, and of the men who followed him, knowing that he willingly accepted the danger of New Britain’s Revolution in order to save total strangers.
“Are you crazy?” Jack scoffed. “I might be married to a peer, but I’m also British. There’s no way anyone would trust me like that! Besides, where would I even look?”
John snorted. “Please…you can go anywhere! Hells, even we know who Sir Ianto Jones is on New Britain; he’s like the Queen’s confidante or something! You’re invited into every home on New Wales! No one’s going to question your presence. You see and hear everything that goes on in the highest circles of the planet. “
“I think you’re overestimating my social reach,” Jack retorted. “Besides, even if I could help you, you can’t do a thing to him…he’s New Welsh!”
“We’ll figure something out,” John shrugged.
Which Jack read as, ‘Assassination’.
“No,” he answered. “I’m not going to be a part of anything like that. I know you John; nothing is below you, and the moment I help you you’ll find a way to take me down with you.”
John looked shocked. “You wound me!”
Jack rolled his eyes. “Please. You made it perfectly clear when I left you that you were pissed off about it.”
“I’ve gotten over it! You’re not the only star in the sky, after all!”
He didn’t believe his ex-lover one bit. When Jack had taken up with Ianto, John had made a lot of threats, and Jack took every one of them seriously. John Hart was just psychotic enough to want to fulfil every one of them.
He let it lie, however. It would do no good to antagonize him.
“I’m still not doing it,” Jack said. “The Pimpernel is a good man, and I won’t be a party in his death.”
“You’d seriously go against your own people to protect a criminal?” John demanded.
“I refuse to do your dirty work for you. You’ll have to do it yourself.” Jack stood, not wanting to be in John’s presence any longer. He couldn’t believe that there had been a time when he’d craved the man’s touch; now he knew just who he was dealing with, and didn’t want to be near him.
John’s eyes went hard. “This isn’t the last word on this, Jack.”
“Yes, John…it is. I know that chances are I’ll see you in Caerdydd, but I’d appreciate you not approaching me again.”
With those parting words, Jack strode away, toward the exit of the spaceport. He was angry; it was always about John, and how he could get ahead. Collateral damage didn’t matter; all that did was that John Hart got what John Hart wanted.
And, at that moment, the man wanted the Pimpernel.
Well, Jack would be damned before he’d help his ex-lover send a good man to his execution.
The first gala of the season was held at Lord and Lady Williams’ estate just outside the capitol city of Caerdydd. The house wasn’t small, but the crowd made it feel that way; everyone who was everyone was out, and it made Jack feel almost claustrophobic in a way.
He wished he hadn’t had to come, but as Sir Ianto Jones’ husband he was expected to. He’d arrived on his husband’s arm, but had been abandoned almost immediately, Ianto moving through the crowd toward the group of nobles he called friends, leaving Jack to make his own way through the press of people toward the refreshment table, where he promptly ordered himself a large glass of whiskey.
The dull roar of conversation almost drowned out the music being played by the small orchestra in the corner of the large ballroom, and Jack looked around, hoping to see someone he could talk to. Boredom at these things was almost mandatory, it seemed, unless one was into the latest gossip…which all seemed to revolve around the Pimpernel and his latest triumph.
He could just make out Ianto standing the corner, holding court with a group that Jack recognized: Lord Rhys Williams, their host; Sir Andrew Davidson, Ianto’s lifelong friend; Andy’s wife, Lady Kathy Swanson; Master Rory Williams, Rhys’s cousin and his wife, Dame Amelia Pond; Dr Owen Harper, Ianto’s own physician – and consequently, Jack’s; and Daimyo Toshiko Sato, from the planet Musashi Three, and another good friend of Ianto’s from University.
Jack sighed, glancing at his husband as Ianto held his audience in thrall, his blue eyes shining as he told some sort of story to the enjoyment of his friends. It hadn’t been that long ago that Ianto had been the same around him, and it made Jack ache that it couldn’t be that way again. But no, Ianto hated him now, all because of what had happened to the Tylers and his culpability in their deaths.
Although, Jack couldn’t blame him, since he was carrying around a pretty big load of self-hatred himself.
He felt a hand on his arm, and an excited voice broke into his heavy thoughts. “You’re not meant to propping up the drinks table, Jack,” Gwen Williams said.
Jack turned to look down at her, putting on the smile he’d cultivated over the year he’d been in New Welsh society. “Lady Gwen,” he greeted, reaching over and tucking her hand around his arm, and holding it in place. “I do believe this is the soirée of the season.”
She beamed up at him. “Why, thank you...although I have to disagree. I think that honour will go to the Royal Ball next week.”
Lady Gwen had a point. The Royal Ball always drew the crème of New Wales society, and invitations were only given out by Her Majesty the Queen. He knew one such invitation was sitting on Ianto’s desk at home.
“Did you hear?” she went on, “that the Pimpernel saved Lord Clive Jones’ family just as they were being sent to the disintegrators? The story says they were smuggled out of New London in the back of a broken-down lorry with the Pimpernel himself driving only he was disguised as an old woman.”
Jack nodded, grinning. “I heard about it. I knew Martha Jones from my traveling days with the Doctor.”
“Is that the Doctor Smith who has a reputation for mediating trouble wherever he can find it?” When Jack nodded, Gwen sighed. “It’s too bad he wasn’t on New Britain to help stop the Revolution from becoming a bloodbath. You know, I can sympathise in a way with the classes that revolted; I saw with my own eyes some of the travesties the blue bloods of New Britain perpetrated, but you cannot repay blood with blood. Too many innocents die when that happens. Although, I do suppose you know more about that than I do.”
She said it compassionately, and Jack knew she didn’t mean anything by it, but he still flinched a little at the reminder. It had gotten around quite quickly after he and Ianto had married, and had only lent itself to the other rumours of Jack being some sort of gold digger.
“I’m sorry,” she said, her green eyes wide. “I didn’t mean – “
“It’s fine,” he answered quietly. “I know what happened, and no one cares why or if I already feel bad about it.”
Gwen’s arm tightened on his in comfort. “You’re my friend, Jack. And it’s the past. I’m sorry I brought it up, I wasn’t thinking.”
He returned the squeeze, not speaking. Instead, he turned once more to watch Ianto, as his husband smirked at something Owen was saying. He sighed again, and feeling Gwen’s gaze upon him he gathered himself together and gave her the grin that he showed the world when he was hurting the worst. “Hey, don’t worry about it.”
Gwen returned the smile, and then her eyes flickered past Jack. “Speaking of the Joneses….”
Jack followed her gaze, and a true smile bloomed as he saw a very familiar face. He immediately left Gwen’s side, making his way through the gathering toward the entry hall.
Martha Jones must have seen him as well; she gave him a huge grin, leaving her mother’s side and heading toward him. Jack couldn’t help but notice how lovely she was in a peach-coloured dress that had just come into fashion for the summer season, her hair pulled back in a chignon that showcased her elegant neck.
But, Francine Jones had seen him as well.
Before Jack could get much closer, Lady Francine had interjected herself between her eldest daughter and Jack, keeping them apart. “I don’t want you near Martha,” she hissed, her voice carrying over the crowd, the fury on her handsome face palpable.
Jack came to a halt. He wanted to fall back onto old habits: smile, joke, or flirt as a way to hide how much Francine’s disgust hurt him. There’d been a time when he’d been welcome within the Jones family, and to be rejected…It felt as if he was being stabbed in the chest.
Martha stopped as well, spinning to face Lady Francine. “Mum, what are you doing? Jack’s a friend!”
“He was,” the older woman snapped, “but that was before what he did to the Tylers.”
“You didn’t even like them!” Martha exclaimed, rolling her eyes. “As I recall, Peter Tyler was a “trumped-up con-artist who’d gotten lucky enough to marry a rich wife”; Jackie was a “dim-witted blonde bimbo whose idea of a good time was to spend as much money as she could”; and I’m not even going to get into the gene pool jokes you used to crack about Rose and Tony – “
There was a tittering in the watching crowd, and even Jack had to fight his grin. This was his Martha: fiery, intelligent, and opinionated…and he’d missed her.
“That’s beside the point,” Lady Francine said. “We stick by our own, and not some traitor who only married for his husband’s money – “
That got her a round of gasps. Jack could feel the blood running from his face, shame making him want to shrink into the woodwork. None of it was true, but everyone thought it was. He’d never been able to fight the rumours that followed him.
“My Lady,” the jovial voice of Rhys Williams interrupted. He came to stand beside the livid woman, putting a placating hand on her arm. “While I’m certainly glad you and yours are able to attend our party, there’s a time and a place for everything. Lord Jack is a most welcome guest in our home, and perhaps you should consider that before you hurl any more insults in his direction.”
Jack was grateful for Rhys’ intervention, and yet at the same time it hurt that it wasn’t Ianto defending him.
He should never have counted out Martha Jones, though.
“It’s all right, Lord Rhys,” his friend spoke up, pitching her voice so it could be heard throughout the room. “My mother does know how to observe the proprieties, she just chooses not to.” She stepped around a fuming Francine, to wrap her arms around Jack in a fierce hug. “I’m so glad to see you, Jack,” she murmured in his ear.
Jack felt a knot in his chest that he hadn’t been aware of loosen at her greeting. He embraced her, actually lifting her up off the ground in his joy. “Martha Jones,” he greeted, grinning. “Somewhere in a crowded room in an estate on New Wales, suddenly comes the voice of a Nightingale.”
Martha laughed. “Put me down, you oaf, before you wrinkle me.”
He followed her order. “I wouldn’t want to do that, now would I?” He winked at her.
She slapped him playfully. “Oh you! Why don’t you and I dump this boring crowd and go outside to catch up? It’s been ages, and I’ve really missed you.”
“No,” Francine cut in. “I forbid you to speak to this man.”
Martha snorted. “I’m an adult, Mum. I make my own decisions. Jack is my friend, and beyond that, I believe in him, and not those horrible lies the Revolution spread about.” She linked her arm with his. “Take me outside and tell me dirty stories, Jack Harkness! I’m sure you’ve heard quite a few more since the last time we talked.”
“It would be my pleasure, Nightingale.” Jack smirked, happiness bubbling up inside him at her words. He should have known it wouldn’t matter to Martha; that she’d go with her personal knowledge of him and his ways, and not what anyone else thought or spread about.
Together, the two friends left the all-too quiet gathering, arm-in-arm, and Jack hadn’t felt this good in a very long time.
Behind them, the music started back up, and he took a glance backward…
And had the perverse pleasure of seeing his husband staring after them in shocked surprise.
The gardens of the Williams estate were quite lovely, and Rhys was fond of using the newest technology to keep his plants growing year-round. As Jack and Martha walked down the path, he could just make out the disguised misters, the faint glittering of atmospheric shields, and even a holographic gazebo that peeked out from several flowering fruit trees. He much preferred Ianto’s gardens, where everything was natural, and there weren’t any artificial perfumes in the air as they passed the well-cultivated flower beds.
“I’m sorry about Mum,” Martha said as they walked. “I just don’t know what’s gotten into her.”
Jack shrugged. “I can’t blame her, I suppose. A lot of people think I did what she accused me of.”
“And you let them? Jack…why?”
“Because at least part of it is true.” He didn’t want to admit it. He didn’t want to taint Martha’s belief in him. But he couldn’t lie to her, not after standing up for him in the house.
She stopped, turning to face him. “You know I don’t believe that.”
“You can’t always believe the best of people.”
“Gods, Jack…you sound like some kind of martyr! Is that what you want?”
His jaw dropped. “No! Why would I want that?”
“Because you’re acting like one! Now, I want you to tell me everything that happened. Don’t hold anything back.”
Jack looked down into her earnest face, and knew he’d explain it all.
He led her over to a secluded bench, and when they were seated he told her the entire, sordid story. He explained about Gray, and Rose; and what Peter Tyler had done. He told her about John, and how Jack had vented to his ex-lover one night, a few months before the Revolution began; how John had taken what Jack had told him in confidence to the Revolutionary Council and denounced the Tylers in Jack’s own name.
Once he got started, he found he couldn’t stop. He went on about his decision to tell Ianto, only to find out his husband had already known, and in fact believed the worst of the rumours about Jack’s condemnation of the Tyler family. Of their argument, and how Ianto had demanded an explanation and how Jack hadn’t given him one, knowing that his own husband wouldn’t believe him. And, of their current estrangement, and how Jack had hope that, one day, he’d be able to regain Ianto’s trust and love, and how he just had to have the patience to wait.
Jack hadn’t even been aware he’d been crying until Martha wiped the tears away. Then, she pulled him into her arms, holding him as he finally let go of all the stress and pain he’d been feeling for the past year. It was so good to finally just talk to someone who would believe what he was saying, and Jack let her comfort him, even though he was ashamed to admit that he needed it.
Finally, he pulled himself back, swiping at his eyes almost angrily. “Sorry,” he said, “I don’t like to lose it like that.”
“No need to apologise,” Martha answered. “Sounds like you’ve been through a lot in the last year. But why didn’t you tell me all this? We talked, before they arrested me and my family. You never once let on any of this.”
He shrugged. “I thought I could handle it myself, and I’d done pretty well, or so I thought. I didn’t think I’d fall apart like this.”
“Well, I’m here now, and you can talk to me whenever you want. But it really isn’t me you should be confiding in, you know.”
“I know. But Nightingale, I have my pride – “
“Screw your pride! Jack, we’re talking about the man you love! He shouldn’t be thinking you betrayed someone on purpose!”
He knew she was right. But Ianto had been so intractable, so bloody condescending…”So,” he said, changing the subject, “tell me how the Pimpernel rescued you and your family.”
Martha looked as if she wasn’t going to be detoured, but she shook her head in defeat. It was another thing that Jack knew she was familiar with: his abandonment issues. And, Ianto’s snubbing of him and of automatically believing others over him was at the height of it.
But Jack knew she wouldn’t let it lie for long.
“Well,” she said, “we’d escaped the Revolution and had gone into hiding out in the country, but we were betrayed and the Revolution found us. We thought we’d be spared, because of how we’d helped a lot of people, but we were wrong. They kept us in the Tower until it was time for our execution, but the day before this man showed up, claiming to be a priest of the Goddess. None of us are overly religious, but the man was insistent we read this one particular passage in his prayer book…but it was the bookmark that he held out for us. It had the word ‘courage’ written on it, but there was also a symbol…it was a white flower, and Dad recognized it right away as the Pimpernel’s sign. So we watched and waited, but no one came before we were to be loaded onto one of the lorries that would take us to the disintegrators.”
Jack shivered. He couldn’t imagine having to wait for death like that. He looked at his friend with a newfound respect.
“As we were being loaded on, a guard came and took Dad away.” A tear slipped down her cheek, and Jack gently wiped it away. “He tried to get back in, but he was knocked out. I have no idea why they’d want him, unless he had some knowledge that they didn’t.”
“I think I know why,” Jack said. “Your father was the former Representative to New Wales. They’d need his help to get their foot in.” He thought back on John Hart, glad that he hadn’t seen the man again since the spaceport.
“That would make sense, I suppose,” she conceded. “Anyway, we were sent on, but something happened on the way to the disintegrators: another lorry had an accident in the road ahead of us, and it jammed up traffic. It was a distraction though, and before I knew it we were being bundled out and into yet another lorry…although this one had a false floor, and Mum, Leo, Tish, and I barely fit. We were smuggled out that way! It was really one of the most frightening things in my entire life! But it was also exciting because I knew we were on our way to freedom.”
Jack listened to her story in awe. He’d heard tales of the Pimpernel’s exploits, but this was the first time he’d ever gotten a first-hand account. He wondered if it gave the man some sort of thrill to be doing this, or was it just something he felt he had to do. Either way, the Pimpernel seemed almost superhuman in his actions.
If Jack had to be honest with himself, he might have been just a bit in love with the Pimpernel. However, so were large swaths of New Wales’ population, and so he felt perfectly justified.
He and Martha stayed there, in the Williams’ garden, catching up and sharing things until one of the mansion’s footmen came to inform him that Sir Ianto was preparing to leave. Jack pressed an overenthusiastic kiss to his friend’s cheek, making Martha snort and slap his chest playfully, promising to call him tomorrow.
Despite the cold silence that permeated the backseat of the flyer he and Ianto were being driven home in, Jack couldn’t help the smile that stayed on his face, truly happy for the first time in a long time.
He remained in a good mood until the day before the Royal Ball.
Not only did Martha contact him the day after the Williams’ soiree, she came to visit him the three times in the days following. Jack hadn’t known how much he’d truly missed her until she crossed the threshold of Jones Manor for the first time, and she’d stayed until almost dinnertime. Jack nearly choked on his own laughter when she gave Ianto the cold treatment, knowing her well enough to recognise her sincere protective streak that came out whenever she was determined to take care of her friends and family.
After that, his husband wasn’t around much. Jack didn’t want to care, but he did.
Jack found himself feeling more like his old self than he had in the year he’d been married. The depression he’d been living under ever since that morning he’d tried to confess to Ianto lifted when Martha was around, her presence partially filling the void within his heart and soul. A small part of him wanted to try to convince her to go travelling with him, just like in that halcyon six months he’d been with the Doctor and Martha and how they’d taken the world by storm.
But he knew that wasn’t possible. Even though he was completely and utterly unhappy with his life, Jack still had responsibilities, one of those being the best husband he could to his cold and distant spouse. Leaving Ianto would mean Jack would be giving up on that day in the future when he would regain his husband’s love and respect.
He was determined on doing just that, and he had Martha’s support. She was convinced that Ianto would believe him if Jack told the whole truth, but Jack still wasn’t certain. Still, she did have a point…telling Ianto would at least clear the air between them, releasing some of the built-up poison that was sickening their relationship.
Of course, that meant Ianto had to be home for Jack to talk to him.
The morning that it all went to hell, Jack had cornered Parker, his husband’s valet, to discover where Ianto had gone. Parker had duly reported that Ianto was off with his group of friends at a race where he’d planned on pitting the Star Dream against other ships of its type. Jack barely kept his eyes from rolling; the Dream was possibly the fastest privately-owned spaceship on New Wales, and he was surprised that people would actually race against his husband knowing that fact.
Still, it meant that Jack was alone once more. And Martha had informed him yesterday that she and her family had been invited to the Williams’ for lunch, so she would be busy and not be able to come to visit. She did promise to call when they returned to the house that Lady Francine had taken near the City Centre, so Jack was looking forward to that at least.
It also meant he had time to fill, and Jack was just thinking about heading into Caerdydd to do a bit of shopping when Mistress Suzie, the housekeeper, announced, “Someone is here to see you, Lord Jack.”
Jack frowned, confused. No one usually came visiting without at least some warning. “Who is it?”
The woman didn’t even bother hiding her look of distaste. “He says his name is Captain John Hart, my lord.”
Jack couldn’t help his own distaste from showing judging from the tiny smirk Mistress Suzie gave him. He sighed. “Show him into the sunroom, please.” As much as Jack wanted to kick John down the granite stairway leading up the Manor’s front door, he still had to observe certain proprieties. “He won’t be staying long, so don’t bother with coffee or tea or anything stronger.”
Suzie curtseyed, leaving him alone. Jack sighed once again, shrugging on his morning coat and leaving his dressing room. Might as well get it over with quickly.
Rubbing his forehead, Jack made his way from his office and down through the Manor, taking his time because he was perfectly willing to make John wait. He’d thought he’d made himself clear about not wanting to see his former lover again, and yet he’d decided he should just how up and bother Jack despite everything.
Yes, Jack was going to have fun tossing him out on his arse.
John was lounging on one of the chairs in the brightly-lit sunroom, one leg draped dramatically over the arm as he scrutinised his fingernails. That activity stopped as soon as Jack entered; John leaned back even further, giving Jack a grin that would have been sexy if Jack wasn’t so irritated by the man’s appearance at his home.
“I thought I told you I didn’t want to see you again,” he said, not bothering to sit. He crossed his arms over his chest, glaring down at John.
John just shrugged. “I know better than to take things said at the spur of the moment,” he answered, the grin slowly morphing into a smile. “Besides, I know you didn’t really mean it.”
“Of course I meant it,” Jack growled. “What are you doing here?”
“Right to the point,” Hart said, straightening in his chair. “I’m here about the proposal I made to you at the spaceport.”
“And I told you I wasn’t going to help you. I don’t know why you’re having trouble understanding that.”
“Well,” John drawled, “I think you’re about to change your mind.”
“Not bloody likely!”
John’s pale eyes were glittering in the sunlight streaming in from the floor-to-ceiling windows, and Jack barely held back a shiver at what he saw in them. He’d known John Hart for a long time, and had become intimately familiar with his moods, but there was this…glee, he supposed, that made those eyes appear slightly reptilian.
“What if I were to tell you that I have a certain…letter…that would send your precious Gray to the disintegrators?”
Jack’s heart stammered in his chest and his legs collapsed under him, luckily sinking him into another chair. It was his worst fear: Gray being betrayed by the Revolution because of his moderate ideals. The last time his brother had visited he’d wanted nothing more than for Gray to stay, but of course he’d gone back to New Britain despite the danger.
And now, John Hart was threatening Gray with this supposed letter. It was all Jack could do not to launch himself across the room and throttle the smugness right out of the man.
He was glad his hands were hidden, because Jack was certain that they were shaking. He would do anything for his brother, and Hart knew it. “What are you talking about?” he demanded, glad that his voice was steady.
“I mean,” John spoke succinctly, “that I have proof that your brother is a member of the League of the Pimpernel.”
Now that was the last thing Jack had expected. Certainly his own brother couldn’t be involved with the Pimpernel! That was impossible, and he said so, scoffing at John’s insinuations.
“I hate to tell you, Jack, but your little brother has been a very bad boy,” John replied. “And the only thing keeping him from his just desserts in a disintegrator is what you plan to do.”
There really wasn’t anything Jack could do but to do whatever it took to save his brother. He fleetingly considered going to his husband and begging him to help, but Jack wasn’t sure that Ianto would believe him, let alone do anything, although Gray was being used as a pawn in John’s despicable game. Once Ianto knew what John wanted Jack to do, it would be just one more nail in the coffin of their marriage, making it that more impossible to reconcile.
“The Royal Ball is tomorrow,” John went on. “Everyone who’s everyone will be there, and I’m willing to bet that the Pimpernel will be as well. All you have to do is figure out who that is and make sure you tell me all about it.”
“But how am I supposed to do that?” Jack asked breathlessly, feeling as if he’d been punched in the chest. There was no way out of this, not if he wanted to ever see Gray alive again. He would do anything for his brother, and Hart knew that. He was going to twist that knife in as far as he could get away with, and Jack had no choice but to obey.
“You’re a clever one,” John smirked. “And I’m sure you’ll find a way. Especially when it comes to your lovely brother and his life.”
Jack couldn’t think. How was he supposed to discover anything about the Pimpernel, with his own past hovering over his head like a naked sword? He was lucky he was trusted as far as he was. “I can’t,” he said helplessly.
John rose from his seat. “Well, if that’s the way it is, then I don’t have any reason to stay.” He mock-bowed in Jack’s direction, and then turned on his heel and headed for the door.
He’d only taken a few swaggering steps before Jack was calling him back.
The knowing look on John’s face meant Jack didn’t need to say he’d do it. “And you swear that the moment you have what you want, you’ll give me the evidence and Gray goes free?” He knew damned well he couldn’t trust the man, but Jack had to do something. He just couldn’t let Gray die.
Besides, maybe if he tried hard enough, even if he didn’t discover anything…
“The moment I get the Pimpernel.”
“That name again?”
Jack’s heart stopped. He turned, panicked, to see his husband standing by the door, arms crossed over his chest.
“All I’ve heard lately are tall tales about this Pimpernel,” Ianto went on, his voice cold as he walked further into the sunroom, his handsome face screwed up in distaste. ‘At the races…at the show I attended with Her Majesty just yesterday…and now in my own home. Can I not escape him?”
John made a bow, but the disdain in it was obvious to anyone. “It’s a pleasure to meet the famous Sir Ianto Jones,” he purred, his eyes dragging up and down Ianto’s perfectly suited frame.
Jack felt the flash of jealousy warm him like a blast from a starship’s exhaust, yet he managed to push it down so it wouldn’t be noticed. He stood quickly. “Ianto, this is an old…acquaintance of mine,” he introduced, “Captain John Hart, the new representative from the revolutionary government on New Britain.”
Ianto’s eyes narrowed, but as ever he observed the proprieties and made his own, slight, bow. “Captain,” he returned, his voice pitched somewhere below polar temperatures. “Why don’t I leave the two of you alone to get…reacquainted?”
“John was just leaving,” Jack said in a rush, not wanting the man to stay any longer than necessary. If he ever saw John Hart again…
“Yeah, I was,” Hart answered. “Besides, I’m sure we’ll see each other again at the Royal Ball.”
“Of course,” Ianto replied. “Have a good day then, Captain.”
“You as well, Sir Ianto.” With that, John was gone in a flash of brilliant red coat.
Jack had never been so relieved in his life to see anyone leave.
Ianto shrugged. “I honestly don’t see what makes him a good representative. You know him…perhaps you can enlighten me?”
Jack shrugged. “John Hart is an opportunistic bastard who’d knife someone in the back if it meant more power or money for himself.”
In that moment, Jack realised that this was his opportunity to be completely honest with his husband; to confess his once affair with Hart and to mention his speaking about what the Tylers had done to Gray. He could easily clear the air right then, and perhaps salvage what he could of his marriage.
But then he thought of Gray, and knew he couldn’t even talk to Ianto about it. John still had this supposed letter, and he couldn’t risk it getting into the wrong hands.
So, instead he mused, “Do you think Sir Andy could be the Pimpernel?”
He could tell just how startled Ianto was by that question. “You’re joking, right? Andy can’t even ride a horse without sliding all over the saddle. What makes you ask that?”
Jack shrugged, bringing every bit of acting talent to the fore. “I don’t know…I was just curious.”
“And why should you be curious about the Pimpernel?” Ianto didn’t sound convinced.
“I’m as curious as anyone else is,” Jack laughed, even as he sought to hide the trembling in his hands. “Whoever it is, is a fascinating subject.”
“I would bet your Captain Hart is just as interested,” Ianto added knowingly.
Jack couldn’t help but jerk slightly at the barb. “What do you mean?”
Ianto shrugged. “He’s from New Britain. I’m certain everyone in the government is looking for the Pimpernel. Besides, didn’t he tell you that was why he was here?”
“Why would he say anything to me?” Jack now wondered just how long Ianto had been at the open door, and he cursed himself for not making sure it was closed.
“Why not?” Ianto came closer. “That man is clever, I’m sure. But I highly doubt he’s clever enough to catch the Pimpernel. Besides, anyone wearing a coat like that certainly can’t be that effective.”
Jack sighed. “Are you even being serious right now?” Ianto had always been known as a clothes snob, and there he was, judging John by his uniform. He really had no clue just how ruthless the man could be, and Jack wondered silently if, at some point, he’d have to put himself between Ianto and Hart.
“Why wouldn’t I be serious?”
“I don’t even know how to take you anymore.”
“I’m the same as I always was.”
“No, you aren’t. You used to be a man I could respect, I could turn to in trouble…” Jack made his way toward one of the windows, not wanting his husband to see how upset he was.
In the reflection, Jack thought he could see something in Ianto’s eyes, something that he couldn’t identify. But it was soon gone, and his husband was walking toward him. “Perhaps you can start by telling me what’s bothering you.”
Oh, did Jack want to! He wanted to confide in Ianto, to tell him about Gray and about Hart’s holding his brother’s life over him in order to get what he wanted. He wanted to turn and cry on Ianto’s shoulder, letting everything out at once and relying on the man he loved to take care of him.
Instead, Jack walked away.
The night of the Royal Ball was clear and cool, and the Palace glittered with light as if the white stone had been liberally dusted with diamonds under the stars.
Jack walked in on Ianto’s arm as they left their conveyance, Jack smiling at the milling crowd. He saw many people he knew, but many more he didn’t, and he hid his despair behind his friendly expression as he and his husband made their way up the marble front steps and into the Royal Palace proper. He would never be used to being in this grand building; at heart, he would always be that actor from New Britain, who even though he was famous in most circles would never be invited into such wealth and splendour.
They were announced as they entered the domed foyer, “Sir Ianto Jones and Lord Jack Harkness-Jones!” echoing over the crowd that had already gathered in the immense space. Many of the Peerage turned in their direction, smiles greeting them as they walked past, and Jack once again returned the expression. While he knew of the rumours that had been circulating about him, Jack knew these people would at least be civil, if not accepting, of his presence there.
It didn’t hurt that Ianto was close friends to Her Majesty, and that Jack himself was also friendly with Her Majesty, Queen Lisa. He even knew that there had been one time when the Queen had been set on marrying Ianto; however, that had not worked out for reasons Jack wasn’t privy to. Not that it mattered to him, of course. Ianto had married him instead, even if that hadn’t turned out the way Jack had wished he still had hope that, some day, they would be able to work things out.
The Palace was packed, but that wasn’t at all a surprise. Ianto led Jack up to the upper level of the foyer, where there were less people. Music from the ballroom filtered up to them, and Jack found himself looking for Martha, who had promised him a couple of dances. He’d been certain he’d heard her and her family announced just after he and Ianto had arrived, so she would be in the press somewhere.
To tell the truth, he’d been almost itching himself out of his skin ever since John Hart had visited him, and seeing his best friend would help settle his nerves.
He didn’t want to see his former lover. He didn’t want to do what John was asking, especially since Jack couldn’t see his way toward figuring out just who amongst the crowd was the elusive Pimpernel. John had been correct about one thing: Jack was clever, and could be counted on to put two and two together and come up with the proper answer. In fact, he’d gone through the list of his acquaintances in his head several times, and none that he knew could have been counted on being the hero of so many stories. Every single one of the fell far short of what Jack would consider adventurer material.
But then, he supposed, that very thing was what was keeping the Pimpernel anonymous…he wouldn’t be someone that was obvious.
They’d nearly made the entire circuit of the upper level when there was the unmistakable sound of a staff hitting the marble floors three times. It was to the sudden hush that the footman announced, “Her Majesty, Queen Lisa of Neuwydd Cymru!” in a deep, sonorous voice that would have carried throughout the foyer and the rooms beyond.
Everyone immediately knelt.
“Oh please,” came the voice of the Queen, managing to echo throughout the room, “everyone stand.”
The rustle of skirts and coats met the request as all of the guests did as Her Majesty bid. Jack looked in the direction the words came from, and saw the Queen standing just at the foot of the stairs, wearing a stunning peach-coloured gown that complimented her dusky skin. Unlike the majority of the women present, Queen Lisa’s dark hair was cut short against her scalp, giving her a regal look that also managed to set her apart from any other lady at the Ball. She had forwent the usual crown, instead wearing a jewel encrusted band around her forehead, and even visible at Jack’s vantage point was a glittering diamond that hung down between Her Majesty’s dark eyes.
The music started once more, and the lords and ladies began mingling again. Ianto had just set off once more when Sir Andrew Davidson and Dr Owen Harper approached. “We’ve been looking for you, Ianto!” Sir Andy exclaimed. He was wearing a dark blue suit and a silver waistcoat, his friendly face beaming. “You have got to hear this absolutely pithy new poem going around about the Pimpernel!”
Owen rolled his eyes. “It’s not that big a deal, really.”
“Another one?” Ianto asked, despairing.
“You should go with them,” Jack urged. He really didn’t want Ianto around if John showed up. There was nothing he wanted less for them to meet again. “I’m going to look for Martha.”
“And Captain Hart?” Ianto asked pointedly, one eyebrow going up knowingly.
‘Not if I can help it,’ was Jack’s mental reply. Out loud, he said emotionlessly, “I’m sure I’ll run into him eventually.”
Ianto bowed slightly in Jack’s direction, and then left with his friends. Jack was glad of it, even though there was a part of him that wanted to cling to his husband and not be alone for John to find.
He had no idea how long he stood at the marble railing, looking down into the crowd hoping to catch a glimpse of his friend, when a calm voice from behind him said, “It’s not like Lord Jack to appear so melancholy.”
Jack turned, bowing. “How can one dare be melancholy at one of your balls, Your Majesty?”
Queen Lisa took his arm, tugging him until he was standing up straight. She was smiling. “No one would dare,” she answered brightly. “Especially when a certain Lord Jack Harkness-Jones was in attendance.”
Jack returned her smile. “I am only sparkling at your request.”
The Queen laughed. “Then you shall be sparkling all the time.” She linked her arm through his. “You have saved me from having to perform all my royal duties by myself. I shall also expect at least one dance with you, My Lord.”
Her Majesty was one of the best dancers in the realm, and yet it was only to a select few that she gave that favour to so Jack was very well aware of the honour he was being granted. “You know I’ll always be happy to dance with you, Your Majesty.”
“Of course you will. Now, come with me. I need a strong arm to lean on when I meet with the more tiresome people here.”
“You don’t need me,” Jack said. “You’re quite possibly one of the strongest women I’ve known.”
“Still,” she began to lead him away, “boredom halved is boredom more easily to deal with.”
Jack couldn’t help but smile and shake his head, letting her lead him away.
He didn’t know how long he accompanied Queen Lisa, but it managed to mostly take his mind off the ulterior motive he had at the ball. His eyes glanced about as they mingled, his mind finding and then dismissing potential Pimpernels for various reasons that he much doubted would lend much weight with John. In fact, he spotted John at one point in their meandering, and his former lover simply winked and carried on speaking with a ratty-looking man with ginger hair who didn’t look as if he belonged among the Peerage.
It was only a matter of time before the pair ran into Lady Francine and Martha.
Lady Francine’s expression was surprised at seeing him on the arm of the Queen of New Wales, but she managed to cover it up with a deep curtsy; Martha followed suit, grinning unrepentantly.
“Please rise, Lady Francine…Miss Martha,” Queen Lisa said magnanimously. “I believe you both know Lord Jack Harkness-Jones?”
“Yes, we do, Your Majesty,” Lady Francine answered, not sounding at all happy at having to admit it.
“Lord Jack is one of my best friends,” the Queen went on. “And anyone who is a friend of his…is a friend of mine.”
Lady Francine looked ready to chew dwarf-star alloy, but that didn’t really register with Jack as much as Her Majesty’s words did. In those words was a vindication, a silent trust that had Jack’s heart beating faster. Queen Lisa had just, with that sentence, claimed him as one of her own, and made it obvious that she wasn’t going to believe any rumours about him that had floated around since he’d married Ianto.
It meant that whatever Lady Francine claimed about him, Queen Lisa would not accept it.
Jack had no idea how he’d earned her support, and the last thing he wanted to do was to betray her. But she didn’t know what John Hart was proposing he do tonight, and that would indeed betray her…or at least betray one of her most brave citizens.
If this was discovered, Jack would not only lose the Queen’s regard, but quite possibly any feeling that Ianto might still have had for him.
And that was when Jack knew that he couldn’t count on John Hart to keep his silence once he had what he wanted. He’d be more than happy to kick Jack to the curb, making what had occurred public in order to damage Jack and to cause him to lose whatever reputation he had among what friends he had and to make him the butt of rumour and innuendo. Queen Lisa would no longer be counted as a friend.
He would have to savour it while it lasted, because he couldn’t risk his only brother dying at the hands of the Revolution.
Martha caught his eye, and her smile vanished as she must have seen something there she didn’t like. Still, she said, “Jack and I are already friends.”
“I understand you both travelled for a short while with the troubleshooter, the Doctor,” Her Majesty replied. She sighed. “If only the Doctor had been on New Britain at the time of the Revolution. Perhaps not so much innocent blood would have been spilled.”
Martha nodded. “I’m not saying that the revolutionaries didn’t have some very good reasons for being upset by a large chunk of the aristocracy, but things got out of control too fast for anyone to do anything to stop it. I like to think the Doctor might have been able to mitigate things a bit, but I guess we’ll never know now.”
“Your Majesty,” Lady Francine butted in, “my husband is still on New Britain. Is there anything you might be able to do for him?”
“I wish there were,” Queen Lisa answered sadly. “But the revolutionary government won’t pay any attention to anyone of a higher rank than themselves. We can only trust that the Pimpernel will be able to do something to save him.”
Guilt once again slammed into Jack, and it took every bit of his control not to show it. If he somehow denounced the Pimpernel – and there really was no way he could pick up amongst this crowd just who that might be – he could be condemning Martha’s own father to the disintegrators.
How could he do that to her?
And yet, how could he abandon Gray to whatever fate Hart had in store?
This was sheer torture.
The rest of the evening went quickly.
Jack took his turn around the dance floor with Her Majesty, and then there were a couple of dances with Martha, who looked as if she wanted to ask him what was going on but didn’t dare in the public scene of the ballroom. He even danced once with Ianto, which had been a surprise; Jack couldn’t recall the last time he and his husband had danced together. It felt wonderful, and it allowed him to pretend, at least for the duration of the dance, that everything was actually alright.
He’d taken a break from the press of people on the dance floor, which was when reality crashed back.
John Hart was waiting for him in one of the secluded cul-de-sacs that were dotted about the room.
Jack’s former lover practically yanked his arm off pulling him into the space, and Jack twisted out of his grasp, glowering at the grinning man. “What the hell do you want?” he demanded hotly.
“You know what I want, Jack,” John answered insouciantly. “I want the Pimpernel.”
“And I told you that I had no idea who it was,” John ground out. “I’ve been trying to come up with a candidate but I can’t figure it out.”
“Well, I have a lead for you. Williams just passed a note to Admiral Holmes. It’s tucked inside her cuff. Get it for me.”
Jack frowned. “Which Williams?”
“Does it matter?”
He supposed it really didn’t, although all the Williamses he knew were married, and he was certainly hoping it wasn’t some sort of arranged machination with the Admiral. Diane Holmes was an excellent spacer, her ship, the Space Gypsy, was a ship of the line and only one step down from Her Majesty’s own flagship. She was known for her brashness and courage, but there were whispers of certain assignations with both married and unmarried people. Jack didn’t want to know if one of his acquaintances was cheating on their spouse.
The last thing he’d heard was that she and Dr Harper had had a short-term affair before Admiral Holmes had been called back to space duty. Owen had been pissy for weeks, but had eventually gone back to his usual, acerbic self. Jack had seen how the doctor now glanced at Daimyo Toshiko, and knowing Owen’s history with his deceased fiancée, Mistress Katie Russell, this could only be an improvement.
Jack sighed. “Alright.” He had no idea what the note was, but chances were it was something innocent, but he’d do what John asked as long he held Gray’s life in his hands.
In the end, getting a look at that note was child’s play.
All it took was a glass of wine, an opportune moment, a clumsy offer to help with clean-up, and Jack managed to get the tiny slip of paper out of Admiral Holmes’ uniform cuff just long enough to read:
And it was signed by a small drawing of a flower that Jack had no trouble recognising.
So Admiral Diane Holmes was, indeed, a member of the League of the Pimpernel.
Jack could see it. In fact, it was obvious now that he had this piece of the puzzle. It was well known that the League was as reckless as their boss, and willing to put everything on the line in order to save lives from the certain death. The Pimpernel would need a pilot for their trips to New Britain, and while the Admiral had long grown past the need to fly any official ships her very personality would make her perfect to help out. Diane Holmes was brilliant and could fly just about anything, plus with an adventurous streak a kilometre wide. She could also take a secret to her grave.
Guilt eating him like never before, Jack managed to track down John in one of the smaller rooms off the foyer; a music room with a piano and harp already set up, chairs in a semi-circle facing the well-made instruments. The man was obviously snooping, but Jack didn’t call him on it since there wasn’t any sort of trouble he’d get up to in that particular room.
“I’ve done what you asked,” Jack said, didn’t giving John a chance to reply. “I wasn’t able to take the note away with me, but I did read it.”
He really didn’t want to tell John. Jack wanted to lie, to tell him that it was simply an assignation arranged between Diane and yet another lover. But he couldn’t risk it. He couldn’t put anyone else’s life before Gray’s. His own brother had to come first.
“It was from the Pimpernel,” Jack continued, “wanting to meet in the library at midnight.”
The smile on John’s face was frightening. “How do you know it was from the Pimpernel?”
“It had the Pimpernel flower on it as a signature.”
If it was possible, that expression became even scarier. “Well done, Jack,” John applauded. “This is my chance to find out who the Pimpernel really is! This will make my career.”
“And Gray?” Jack pressed. “You’ll give me the letter that incriminates my brother?”
John waved a hand. “As soon as I know who the Pimpernel is, Gray will be safe.”
“I’ll believe you the moment I have that letter in my hand,” Jack scoffed. He knew John Hart; knew the man’s ambition and that he could be as twisted as a serpent when he was after something…or someone.
“You’ll have it,” John promised. “Quid pro quo: you’ve done something for me, and of course you’ll be repaid for giving me the Pimpernel. I have no reason to denounce Gray; he’s just a small fish in a big pond. It’s the man in charge I want. Cut off the head and the snake dies. Get rid of the Pimpernel and his men will be leaderless. They won’t be any more trouble for us.”
Jack somehow doubted that. While he really didn’t know a thing about the Pimpernel and his followers, he just couldn’t see them giving up if their leader was captured or dead. They would try to rescue him if needed; avenge him if he was gone. Just knowing that a Royal Admiral, one that had citations for bravery and awards for her piloting skills, was among their number was enough to give Jack enough information to judge them as being determined.
John was wrong. Taking out the Pimpernel would only make his League all the more willing to do what it took to help innocents. Killing the Pimpernel would only give them a martyr in which to make their fight even more worthwhile.
Ianto had been right: John was clever, but not that clever.
Only his husband hadn’t counted on Jack giving away the meeting that had been arranged in the palace’s library.
He barely managed to keep from wringing his hands as John moved past him. “I only have about twenty minutes to get to this meeting,” he said, bouncing as he walked. “If things go well, you’ll have the letter before you leave.”
He brushed by, and Jack shuddered at his ex-lover’s touch as his fingers stroked Jack’s arse.
Jack was doomed. It didn’t matter what happened in that library. He’d just sold his soul to the one person he’d hoped never to see again.
John didn’t bring Jack the letter.
Jack felt every bit of hope he’d had – not all that much, considering how well he knew Hart and his ways – die as he and Ianto travelled back to their own estate, the sun just peeking over the horizon. The last time he’d seen John, it had been nearly two in the morning, with a pensive expression on his face as if he were trying to figure things out. Jack had tried to approach him but his ex-lover had turned and walked away, and Jack hadn’t had any luck finding him once more. He’d then gone to the library, to find the massive room empty, a wine glass set on the floor next to the ornate settee, letting Jack know that someone had been there at some point.
Whether it had been the Pimpernel, Jack didn’t know.
Still, by the time they’d arrived back at Jones Manor, Jack was a bundle of nerves that wouldn’t calm down. Ianto gave him a funny look as they both climbed from their personal flyer, but the same familiar cold tone was in his voice as he said, “I’m going to get a couple of hours’ sleep. I’ve arranged to meet my cousin, Eugene, later today to discuss business. I’m not certain when I’ll be back.”
Jack knew he had to do something. John hadn’t returned this supposed letter, and that meant that Gray was in more danger than ever before. He’d somehow failed to net the Pimpernel, and Jack knew damned well John wouldn’t just forget the whole thing. No, he’d do what he’d threatened if Jack hadn’t succeeded, and he wasn’t about to lose his only family because he was too afraid to beg his husband for help.
“Ianto,” he said, catching up with his husband as Ianto was making his way toward his bedroom, “I need to speak to you.”
“I’m sure it can wait,” Ianto said without stopping.
“No, it can’t.” He grabbed Ianto’s arm, pulling him to a halt. “Please, Ianto…it’s important.”
He searched Ianto’s face for any vestige of the love he’d once professed so ardently, but there was nothing but cold disdain. “What’s so urgent that you’d keep me from sleep?”
Jack glanced down the hallway; a couple of the servants were up and about, getting ready for the day. “Not out here –“
“I seriously doubt the servants would pass any confidences…”
“I just don’t want anyone but us to know my business,” Jack hissed, frustrated. “I will beg you if I have to, Ianto…”
He would, too. He may have had his pride before, but this was different. This was his brother, and there was no way Jack was going to let him go to the disintegrators without a fight. If it meant wrecking himself in front of the man who’d have rather believed rumour and innuendo where Jack was involved, so be it.
Jack could tell Ianto was barely keeping his eye roll in check. “Let’s go into my study,” he capitulated. He pulled his arm from Jack’s grasp and turned toward the nearest door in the hallway, his hand reaching into his waistcoat pocket for the key. It was the only room in the house that was kept locked all the time, and Jack had only been inside once, and that had been with Ianto’s permission.
Ianto’s study faced east, and so the rising sun was streaming in through the curtains behind the large desk. Over the enormous fireplace was a painting of Ianto’s father, dressed in pale colours on an equally pale horse, a sword in one hand and the other resting on the saddle’s pommel, reins held loosely. Sir Jones Senior had been a handsome man, and Jack had wished he’d been able to meet him. However, he’d died years before Jack had met Ianto, as had his husband’s mother.
The rest of the room was wall-to-wall books, arranged meticulously on their dark wood shelves. A rolling set of steps was in the corner of the room, waiting to be used in order to reach the highest shelves.
“Now,” Ianto said, “why don’t you tell me what’s so important it can’t wait for me to get some rest?”
Of course, now that Jack had Ianto alone, he wasn’t sure how to proceed. He twisted his fingers together helplessly, staring at the man he loved but who didn’t love him in return. Jack had hoped to gain back Ianto’s trust and affection over the months since their fall-out, but nothing of the sort had occurred. He’d been determined to stay and fight for his marriage, but nothing had worked so far.
And now, he was about to ask this man a favour. One that could conceivably put them both in danger.
He really didn’t have a choice. He had to save Gray, and doing John Hart’s bidding wasn’t going to achieve that.
Ianto stood there, his hand resting on the mantelpiece, looking at Jack with boredom in his eyes as well as exasperation at being kept waiting, all the while keeping his bland mask in place.
There was nothing for it. Jack had to tell him everything.
“It’s Gray,” he began.
Ianto blinked once. “What about Gray?”
But Jack had seen…Ianto had, for a split second, lost his chilly calmness. What Jack had said had surprised him, but he was just so good at hiding behind this façade of his that anyone else would have missed it.
In Jack’s opinion, this was actually a good thing. He’d done with two words what he’d sought to do with months of cutting remarks and innuendo.
“I got word that there’s evidence against him, that he’s a traitor,” Jack ploughed ahead, gaining momentum now that he knew he could make Ianto react to what he was saying. “That there’s a letter out there that condemns him as a member of the Pimpernel’s League.”
“Gray?” Ianto scoffed. “A member of the League?”
“That’s what I would have thought! He’s always been a moderate voice with the Revolutionary government, so I didn’t believe it at first either.”
“And I suppose Captain Hart told you this?”
“He did, yes.” Jack took a deep breath. “I wouldn’t usually trust John, but…I couldn’t risk it! I couldn’t risk my only brother – my only family – being in danger. I had to do what he wanted me to, if I wanted to make sure Gray wasn’t sent to the disintegrators.”
There was a minute flinch in Ianto’s shoulders, and Jack couldn’t understand what he’d said to have caused that sort of reaction. “And what makes you think I can do anything about it?”
“You have contacts on New Britain,” Jack pointed out. “I know, with the Revolution, they might not be as effective, but surely there’s something you can do to find out what’s happened to him?”
He knew he sounded desperate, and he was. Ianto was his last, best hope in discovering what was going on with Gray, and he would get down on his knees if it meant convincing his husband to help him.
Ianto wasn’t looking at him; instead, his eyes were cast downward, into the cold fireplace, as if he were trying to see into the very ashes to read his fortune. “You’re right…my contacts aren’t what they used to be,” he answered in a whisper, as if he really didn’t want Jack to truly hear what he was saying.
“Gray’s been through too much in his life,” Jack implored. “I don’t know if what Hart said was true, that Gray was a member of the League of the Pimpernel, but I do know he’s been trying his damnedest to get the Revolution to become more moderate, to get them to stop a lot of the deaths, and that could mean he’d become unpopular enough to have charges trumped up against him. I couldn’t risk his life, so I did the only thing I could…” He wasn’t aware he’d been crying until he tasted salt on his lips.
Now Ianto was staring at him, his eyes gone as cold as ice. “What did you do, Jack? What did Hart want you to do to save Gray?” There was a growl in his voice, and it made Jack shiver.
“Does that matter?” he asked hectically, back to wringing his hands.
“It bloody well does matter!” Ianto snapped. “If you’re a traitor –“
“No!” Jack exclaimed. “Hart didn’t want state secrets or anything like that! I couldn’t have given them to him anyway.”
“Then what did he want?”
“He…” Jack swallowed. “He wanted me to find out the identity of the Pimpernel.”
And just like that, Ianto’s anger faded, replaced by a sadness so sharp it was even worse than being yelled at. “And what did you do?”
“I…Hart found out that someone had passed a note to Admiral Holmes,” he answered, and it was as if an enormous weight had just been lifted from his heart. Confessing to Ianto was releasing him from the horrible guilt he’d been experiencing ever since John had first come to him with his proposal. “I…managed to read the note and pass the message along. It was from the Pimpernel, asking for a meeting in the palace library.”
He began to pace. “I know he went to that meeting, but I don’t know what happened. All I know is he promised me I would get the letter condemning Gray if this lead panned out. He never gave it to me, so now I don’t even know if it ever existed, or if the Pimpernel hadn’t shown up. Most likely Gray is still in danger, and the last thing I want to do is betray someone.”
“You’ve betrayed someone before,” Ianto pointed out, and Jack was barely able to catch his husband’s unsettled expression before it was back behind his usual mask. “I don’t see why doing it again would be any skin off your nose.”
“Are we really going to do this now?” Jack threw up his hands. “Really, Ianto? My brother is in trouble and you want to rake up old arguments?”
“It just seems in character, that’s all.”
Every syllable was like a needle to the heart. Jack felt his breathing speed up. “It shouldn’t matter what I might have or have not done in the past,” he murmured past the lump in his throat. “This is Gray’s life we’re talking about. Haven’t you every loved anyone so much you would have done anything for them?”
Ianto glanced away, but Jack could still see the stricken look in his eyes. “Once, perhaps.”
Jack grasped his chest as pain shot through it, and he wondered if this was what a coronary attack felt like. He knew instinctively that Ianto was talking about him, even though his husband hadn’t had to come out and put a name on that comment. “Then you know I would do anything for Gray! Even if it meant putting my trust in someone I couldn’t really trust at all. And, believe me, John Hart has already destroyed whatever trust I had in him with his previous actions.”
This was it; this was Jack’s chance to set things right, to tell Ianto the story of the Tylers and what had really happened to them.
He didn’t even have to think on it.
Jack closed his eyes, not wanting to see Ianto’s face when he said, “Hart was the one who betrayed the Tylers.”
There was utter silence in the room. Jack hung his head, opening his eyes so he could see where the closest chair was so he could sit.
“Why didn’t you say anything sooner?” Ianto’s whisper cut through the quiet.
Jack couldn’t look at him. Instead, he rested his elbows on his knees and hid his face in his hands. “You…already believed the rumours. I could see it in your eyes. You really thought I’d denounced the Tylers to the Revolution. I knew there was nothing I could say that would change your mind. Goddess, I wish I’d stayed quiet about it in the first place, but I wanted us to start out on a level of trust. I just didn’t think you’d choose rumour over me.”
He finally looked up. Ianto was standing with his head resting on the stone mantle. “Gray was in love with Rose Tyler,” he said. “They’d met one night at the theatre where I was in a play. Of course, she was a lady and he was the younger brother of one of the actors, so her parents didn’t care for the match at all, although we didn’t realise it until one night when Lord Peter and Lady Jackie had invited Gray over to their mansion…that was when Lord Peter had had his servants beat Gray to within an inch of his life and to leave him for dead in a ditch. He was just lucky that someone found him and managed to get word to me.
“I made the mistake of telling Hart about it. He and I were…” Jack sighed, “lovers at the time. I was so angry about what had been done to my own brother that I just didn’t keep my mouth shut. When the Revolution began…Hart made the denouncement, only he used my name to do it, attempting to get me back by making me seem sympathetic to the cause because I’d broken up with him by then. I was seeing someone else at the time…someone who’d swept me off my feet and had made me feel like I was special.”
Jack felt drained. He didn’t want to say anymore, but he couldn’t stop. “That morning, when I went to you about what had gone on, I was going to tell you everything. But you said you already knew about the Tylers…and I knew you wouldn’t believe me, just from the look on your face. So yes, I said I’d done it…but then, I might as well have because I told the wrong person. My pride wouldn’t let me grovel at your feet with the truth.
“But now…I don’t have a choice. I know I’ve lost you, but I’ll always try to be the best husband I can, and hopefully someday you might even love me again. That man who I’d met on New Britain and who had been the love of my life might come back to me. I’m guessing it’s too late, and a really large part of it is my fault, but I’ll never stop loving you. And, if you can help with Gray, if you want a divorce…” his voice caught on that word, the one thing he would have never asked for himself. “I’ll go along with it, if that’s what you want.” He was weeping again; he couldn’t help it. He didn’t want to give up on his relationship with Ianto, but he would if it meant getting Gray to safety.
His heart was being torn into two directions at once. He wanted to rant at the universe at how unfair this was, that he had to choose between the two people he loved most. All Jack had wanted was to be happy, but it seemed like that was beyond his fate. He’d wanted to spend the rest of his life with Ianto, to perhaps one day to have children and to grow old together in their home here.
Instead, he’d gotten coldness and rejection.
Well, there was nothing for it.
Jack watched as Ianto sighed, and then straightened up, his spine going rigid under his expensive suit. He then turned to face Jack, and Jack’s heart sank even further at the indifferent mask his husband’s face had become. “I’ll see what I can do,” Ianto assured him. “I can’t promise anything…”
“I know,” Jack closed his eyes against Ianto’s implacability.
“I should get on it then.” The sound of footsteps passed him, pausing only briefly then continuing on.
Jack had no idea how long he sat there in that chair, wallowing in his agony. He’d lost his husband, but at least Gray had a chance now. He trusted Ianto to do everything he could to help his brother. That had to be enough.
It was enough, in the end. To trust Ianto to do what he could for Gray, because despite their estrangement Jack knew that Ianto was an honourable man. He would keep his word. Jack had faith in that.
Taking a deep breath, Jack finally rose from his chair, his tears dried on his cheeks and his eyes red and sore. He rubbed them briskly, groaning as his back cracked at the movement. He’d spent too much time in that chair, and his body was telling him so.
A part of him wanted to leave Ianto’s sanctum immediately; his husband had asked Jack not to enter without permission. However, Ianto knew he was there, and Jack just wanted time to gather himself together before facing anyone else. His head was hurting and so was his heart; one a physical pain, the other emotional. Being there, in that room, was almost like being close to his husband; Jack could smell coffee and books and ink, scents that he equated to Ianto. He wanted to bask in it, to let it permeate his clothes and skin, and keep that close to his memory for as long as he could.
Jack glanced up at the large portrait of Ianto’s father. He’d heard stories of the man, about his philanthropy and need to help others, but it was different hearing things and then looking up at his likeness and to see that kindness there.
Ianto had had that once. But Jack had ruined it.
The older Jones looked very much like his son, only his eyes seemed darker than Ianto’s in the portrait. Jack hadn’t actually seen many pictures or videos of Sir Gareth, but he thought that his Ianto might have inherited his blue eyes from his mother. Jack stepped closer, not sure why, but there was something about that painting…
And then, he saw it.
He couldn’t breathe.
He had a 33% chance of picking the correct Williams.
John had mentioned that it had been a Williams who had passed that note to Admiral Holmes. He couldn’t reach the Admiral; he really had no idea where she was, if she wasn’t on board her ship. That left Rhys, Gwen, or Rory being the purveyor of the note.
Jack only hoped he wasn’t too late.
The Williams estate was closer to him than Master Rory’s home, so Jack decided to go there first.
His heart was hammering fit to burst. Jack couldn’t believe this was happening; he’d made the choice based on certain assumptions, and he’d had those turned on their collective ears when he’d gotten a good look at that portrait of Ianto’s father.
He couldn’t believe he’d been so blind.
His flyer touched down on the Williamses’ lawn, not caring that he could be causing damage to the grass, thinking only that he was going to be too late and he had to know the truth. He had to warn Ianto…
Jack took the front steps three at a time, pounding on the door in his haste and his terror. He prayed to a Goddess he really didn’t believe in that Rhys or Gwen were at home, that either one of them had been the deliverer of the note to Admiral Holmes, that he wasn’t wasting his time…
The ornate wooden door opened, revealing the butler, Davis, looking a bit scandalised at Jack’s appearance. “I’m sorry, Lord Jack, but My Lord and My Lady are sleeping –“
“It’s fine, Davis,” Gwen’s voice said from within the house. “Let Jack in.”
“Yes, My Lady.” Davis didn’t look so certain, but he let Jack into the gleaming foyer.
“What’s wrong, Jack?” Gwen asked. She was standing on the last riser of the staircase to the left of the foyer, wearing a long robe over what had to have been her nightgown.
Jack would have felt bad about awakening her if it weren’t for his panic. “Please tell me it was either you or Rhys?”
Gwen looked confused. “Either of us for what?”
Jack was breathing hard, and his thoughts were running in circles. He tried once more to get his question out. “Please tell me it was either you or Rhys who passed the note from the Pimpernel to Admiral Holmes.”
Several expressions flickered across Gwen’s face, and in that moment Jack knew he’d come to the right place. Relief slammed through him as he strode across the foyer, meeting Gwen’s eyes at a level from where she was standing.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about –“ Gwen started to say.
“I’m begging you, please don’t lie. I don’t know which of you it was, and I don’t much care since it looks like you know what I’m talking about.” Jack reached out and took Gwen’s hands in his. “I’ve done something terrible and I’m certain Ianto and my brother are both in danger because of it.”
Gwen’s face turned resolute. “Come upstairs with me. Rhys was the one who passed on the message, and he’ll need to hear this too.”
Jack followed her up the curving staircase. They were just at the landing when one of the doors opened and Rhys stepped out, looking rumpled and still sleepy in his dressing gown. “What’s going on, luv?” Then he noticed Jack, and confusion took over. “What are you doing here at such an ungodly hour?”
“He says he thinks Ianto and Gray are in trouble,” Gwen answered.
A change came over Rhys’ features; he drew himself up, and his expression went from confused to determined. “Come on up then, Jack, and explain yourself.”
Another wave of relief swamped him, and Jack did as Rhys bid, squeezing past the other man to enter the room that Rhys had opened. It was a study, but this one was small and austere, with what looked like account books lining the only bookshelf in the room. The desk was nothing fancy, just a simple writing desk, with a chair behind it and another chair beyond.
“Have a seat,” Rhys offered. Jack sank into the visitor’s chair, while Rhys held out the other chair for his wife, who settled into it comfortably. “Now, care to tell us what the hells’ going on?”
“I’ve done something…” Jack took a deep breath, scrubbing his face with his hands. He went on to explain about John Hart, and how he knew the man, and how Hart had blackmailed him with the letter he had that implicated Gray with the Pimpernel. He didn’t miss the look between husband and wife, and he couldn’t help but realise that they knew Gray, that his own brother was, indeed, a member of the Pimpernel’s League. Jack didn’t know how to take that information; Gray had been loyal to the Revolution, even if he hadn’t agreed with its methods. How had his brother ended up with the Pimpernel?
And why hadn’t Gray told him?
He swallowed his disappointment in the lack of trust from his only family, and continued his story. He admitted to what John had wanted him to do, and how he hadn’t had a choice with Gray’s life on the line. Of how John had told him about the note – and about how he had to guess which Williams had been responsible for passing it on – and how Jack had managed to get a look at it.
He was heartily ashamed of his actions. Yes, it had been Gray who was going to be punished, but that didn’t stop him from feeling bad about what he’d done.
He’d felt even worse when he realised who he was betraying.
“I passed the note on to Diane,” Rhys answered gruffly. “But both me and Gwen are a part of the League.”
“I figured as much,” Jack admitted, “especially when I found out just who the Pimpernel really was.”
Once again, Rhys and Gwen shot looks at each other, confirming what Jack had seen in the painting of Ianto’s father.
“How do you know?” Gwen asked guardedly.
Jack forced out a painful laugh. “Because of the signet ring Sir Gareth wore in his portrait in Ianto’s study. It was a pimpernel flower, carved on a red stone.” He rested his arms on his thighs, so he could lean his head on them. “I should’ve known. I should’ve guessed. But Ianto was so cold toward me, after that morning when I tried to confess to him about the Tylers…thank Goddess I finally managed to let Ianto know the truth about what happened, but that doesn’t make up the fact that I could very well have betrayed him to Hart.” He raised his head. “Please, you have to help me. I have to get to Ianto, to let him know that John might know he’s the Pimpernel…and if so, to go to the disintegrators with him.”
It was the one thing he could do. Jack didn’t fear death, not like he feared living alone without Ianto, knowing that he had inadvertently given up his own husband to the butchers of the Revolution.
“Now there won’t be any talk of dying,” Gwen said, determination fairly glowing from her eyes. “Ianto’s gone to New Britain, hoping to get to Lord Clive before he’s executed. You’ve just given him another mission, that’s all. He’s our leader for a reason, you know…he’s absolutely brilliant at getting out of sticky situations.”
“But he doesn’t know about Hart!” Jack exclaimed. “I don’t have absolute proof that he knows who the Pimpernel is, but we can’t take that risk!”
“It’s pretty certain he does,” Rhys said. “Yes, I did pass that note, but it was because Ianto wanted to see if Hart would notice and try to steal it himself. The only person in the library was Ianto, pretending to be asleep on the settee. He wanted to see if Hart would show up.”
Jack felt himself begin to hyperventilate. It would explain John’s strange demeanour when he’d come out of that room; as if he’d been given a large piece of a puzzle and was just able to put everything together. He knew. He had to know, and nothing would stop him from going after Ianto because he was relentless when it meant getting what he wanted. And, right now, he wanted the power, prestige, and money that would come his way if he was responsible for bringing the Pimpernel to justice.
“Jack,” Gwen murmured, kneeling in front of him and taking his hands. “Ianto isn’t by himself. He has others with him. They’ll protect him, you can count on that. So calm down, alright? It’s going to be fine.”
“My husband is still on his way into a madhouse,” Jack argued, trying to get himself back under control.
“Ianto’s done this lots of times before,” Rhys said. “Trust us, Jack…he knows what he’s doing.”
Jack really wanted to. These were two of Ianto’s closest friends; Jack guessed that they’d probably been a part of the League since the beginning. They would know what Ianto could and could not do in regards to their mission.
But, at the same time, Jack knew this was his fault. He needed to be the one to make this right.
“Tell me where I can find him,” he said, anguished, yet trying to hide it under anger. “If you don’t I’ll just go to New Britain myself and try to find him. This is my fault! I need to fix it!”
Gwen and Rhys looked at each other once more. Jack wanted to bang their heads together to get them to understand that this was something on him; something that he simply couldn’t leave to others no matter how much they might be trusted. They didn’t know John Hart the way Jack did. Hells, they didn’t know Hart knew about Ianto. They couldn’t protect him against an unknown enemy.
“Alright,” Gwen capitulated.
“Gwen!” Rhys exclaimed.
She turned to her husband. “Rhys, I trust Jack. I always have, no matter what everyone else believed. I’ve been the one watching him the most while the rest of the League ignored him. I was the one who wanted to bring him into the League instead of Gray, but I was overruled…”
“And you know why!”
“I know that certain people among our group have always thought the worst of him, without giving him the benefit of the doubt! I don’t pretend to know what happened with the Tylers, but if Jack really did denounce them then it was for a good reason –“
The very notion that Gwen had trusted him all this time made a bit of the pain go away. Martha had as well, and Jack had leaned on her knowing she would always be there for him. If he’d known about Gwen…
“I didn’t,” he denied, looking Gwen right in the eyes. “It’s a long story, one that I’ll be more than happy to share, but right now Ianto is the important one. Please, help me.”
“Okay,” Gwen said, “go home and change. Pack a bag. I’ll be there in about an hour and we’ll leave.”
Rhys looked like he wanted to argue about it, but Gwen simply glared in his direction and he subsided. Jack was so grateful that he was on his feet, leaning over Gwen and giving her a rough hug. “Thank you,” he whispered.
She returned the hug. “Anytime, Jack.” She released him, her green eyes meeting his. “We’ll find Ianto and warn him. Don’t worry.”
Jack believed her.
“When we’re on New Britain,” Gwen explained as she and Jack were on the way to the spaceport, “we always meet up in a pub called the Blue Box in New London. The publican there is an ally, and she’ll make sure you’re taken care of –“
“You’re not coming with me?” Jack asked, confused.
Gwen blushed slightly. “I want to…Goddess knows I do, but…Jack, I’m pregnant. I can’t risk it.”
Jack was excited and happy for her, and then felt immediately guilty for it, knowing that his own husband and brother were both in imminent danger. Still, he leaned across the flyer’s seat and pulled her into a hug, not caring that the driver could see them. Damn propriety; this was some of the best news Jack had heard in ages.
It wasn’t until he pulled away after offering his congratulations that Jack realised that he’d completely mistaken his jealousy for guilt.
Having children was something that he’d hoped with Ianto. Jack been upfront with Ianto even before their marriage that he was one of those few men who were genetically predisposed to pregnancy, and the smile his husband had given him at the time had been so full of joy and promise…it had been just one more blessing in a relationship that had seemed so full of them already.
Maybe it might be that way again, but Jack couldn’t think that way.
He could very well be going to his death. And it didn’t matter to him one bit as long as Ianto was saved.
“I was going to go with you anyway,” she went on, wiping a tear from her eye, “but Rhys reminded me what I promised him and Ianto and I don’t dare go back on it.”
“That’s understandable,” Jack agreed. It didn’t bother him that Ianto had known about it first; it just didn’t matter in the face of things.
Gwen cleared her throat. “Anyway, there’s a code phrase you’ll need for the pub so Donna will know you’re with us since she’s never seen you before. She’ll have the information you need in order to find Ianto.”
“She’ll also be able to supply you with papers and disguises and whatnot,” Gwen added. “You can trust her, Jack. I’d not send you to her if you couldn’t.”
“Gwen,” he said, reaching over and taking her hand, “I don’t know how to tell you how much it means to me that you trust me…”
“I’m not the only one,” Gwen assured him. “I know it doesn’t mean much because it’s not the one you really want to have their trust…”
She wasn’t wrong, but Jack was still grateful. “You’re right, but that doesn’t make it any less wonderful.”
Gwen smiled. “I bet that changes once you get to Ianto. You told him the truth, and that makes a difference.” She squeezed his hand. “Jack, Ianto still loves you. He was just hurt, that’s all.”
“But he didn’t believe me,” Jack retorted. “I tried to tell him the truth and he flat-out told me he believed the stories…and the look on his face when I tried to explain…he might have loved me before that, but after…no, I’m sorry, Gwen.”
She sighed. “Oh, Jack…you really don’t know Ianto at all, do you?”
He frowned. “What do you mean?”
“He’s afraid,” Gwen explained. “I’ve known him since we were children, and when he retreats the way has done with you, it’s because he’s afraid. I won’t sugar coat it: you hurt him, when you practically admitted to betraying the Tylers. He wouldn’t listen because he didn’t want to hear about anything you might have done that he wasn’t aware of. Jack, you must know his marrying you meant something even though he’d heard the rumours ages before, right? He wouldn’t have taken that step if he hadn’t loved you. I know this distance hurts you, but it hurts him as well, and a big part of him rationalises that it’s best this way, that his being the Pimpernel won’t blow back on you if you’re estranged. But he’s also scared to actually trust you again, because he’s already laid his heart on the line once.”
Jack frowned. “Are you saying if I hadn’t said anything about the Tylers, none of this would have happened?” It was inconceivable. He’d only wanted to make sure their marriage didn’t start off with secrets, and yet Gwen was saying that secrets would have, in fact, kept Ianto from estranging himself from him?
“Well, I can’t honestly say that it wouldn’t have come back to haunt you. But Ianto had been perfectly willing to ignore the elephant in the room, so to speak. He didn’t want to know if you really had done the deed, but you brought it up and he had to face it. And he got hurt and took it out on you as well.”
Jack wasn’t sure how to take this new information. He thought back to that morning, when he’d brought up the subject. Ianto had interrupted him, saying that he’s already heard the stories about him denouncing the Tylers and in that moment their marriage had been ruined. Jack hadn’t denied it, because his stupid pride had gotten in the way due to the way Ianto was reacting.
His heart sank as he realised just how much time he’d wasted.
“I need to get him back,” Jack murmured. “I have to apologise to him.”
“It wasn’t just you, Jack,” Gwen consoled. “Ianto’s been taking this way out of proportion. Ianto also holds grudges, if you hadn’t figured that out yet.”
Jack snorted. He’d seen Ianto’s temper, and how he held onto things until it was too late to fix things. He still didn’t talk to his sister, Rhiannon, after she’d failed to invite him to her wedding and to his nephew’s birth. Ianto had been so disappointed, according to Sir Andy, who’d shared the tale with Jack when he’d asked why Ianto’s relatives hadn’t been invited to his own wedding. Jack had thought Ianto had been ashamed of him in some way before Sir Andy had set things right.
“Promise me something,” Gwen said.
“Anything,” Jack would owe her anything after her helping him.
“When you see Ianto, that you forget every injury he’s done you in the past and just hug him. That’s all he wants…to know that everything is going to be alright between you two.”
Jack knew that was a very easy promise to make. He’d do anything to regain his marriage, to make Ianto show his love again.
He nodded. “I swear it, Gwen. All I want is to save him and show him that I still love him.”
Gwen smiled. “That’s all I can ask.”
The Blue Box wasn’t in the best area of New London, but to Jack it seemed almost like visiting an old friend.
Personally he’d never been to this particular pub, but in his acting days there had been several just like it near the playhouses he’d often been performing in. The crowd was just this side of rowdy, and the other side of bragging.
Jack found he really didn’t miss it at all.
He was glad that he’d changed into clothes that would help him fit in; the last thing he needed to do would have been to stand out like a sore thumb in this crowd. He really didn’t want his attempt to warn his husband to end before it really began.
The publican, Donna, was a striking red-head with a voice grown loud from yelling over the punters while getting drinks for them. Her laugh was boisterous as she slapped a man’s hand away from her ample bosom, and she made her way down to where Jack had taken up residence at the end of the bar. “What can I get for you?” she asked, giving him a pleasant leer.
“I’m actually waiting for friends,” he answered with the password. “Friends of mine…and yours.”
An expression flickered in Donna’s grey eyes, and then she laughed. “Don’t think I know any friends of yours, handsome. You might have me confused with someone else.”
Jack gave her a leer in return, falling back once more on his acting background to hide just how excited he was to have met the woman Gwen had told him to contact. “I don’t know,” he rejoined, “I think I’d be just fine knowing friends of yours.”
That earned him an eye roll. She put a hypervodka shot down in front of him, and Jack took it and tossed it back, savouring the burn in his throat. This was the good stuff; the password had obviously got him some of the better booze in the place. “I’ll be back in a shake, sweetheart,” Donna said, winking.
She barely was two steps away when the door to the pub was slammed open.
Jack didn’t turn around. He didn’t have to, not from how the crowds were reacting to the sudden intrusion. His heartbeat ramped up, suddenly afraid that he was going to get caught by the influx of Revolution troops that were making a racket behind him.
Donna looked at him, and then jerked her head toward an older gentleman who’s popped out from the kitchen. Her finger pointed toward Jack, and the man nodded, his kind eyes taking in Jack’s presence as he moved forward. He grabbed the sleeve of Jack’s coat and tugged him along. “C’mon, son,” he said, voice gruff. “Let’s get you somewhere safe.”
Jack had no choice but to follow. He certainly didn’t want to be found out; while he wasn’t sure who had sent the troops, it couldn’t be a coincidence that they burst in now while Jack was waiting for Ianto to arrive. The last thing he wanted to do was to give the enemy any sort of ammunition.
The man tugged him into the kitchen and then up a rickety staircase to the attic. Jack could hear everything going on down in the public room from there; the guards were ordering people out, and Donna was protesting vociferously against the treatment and the loss of business. There was the sound of skin against skin, a strong slap that somehow Jack knew had come from the feisty publican. “How dare you come stampeding in here like a herd of banthas! If I lose my customers because of this, I’m going straight to the Revolutionary council!”
“That’s my Donna,” the old man said quietly, but with pride. “She don’t put up with nothing.”
He was smiling, and Jack had to shake his head. There was a resemblance between them, and he guessed that this person was the indomitable Donna’s grandfather.
“Oh, don’t give me that, darling,” came a familiar voice, one that made Jack’s blood run cold. “We have information that this place is a haven for the Pimpernel and his people.”
There was an audible snort. “I’m loyal to the Revolution,” Donna scoffed. “That bastard sets foot in here and I’ll cut his balls off with a butter knife.”
Jack had to admit, she could have made her living on the stage with that level of performance. But John’s comment about having information about this pub…he wondered how he’d gotten it, and how he’d known that Ianto and his League frequented this place.
“You’re under arrest,” John drawled. “For aiding and abetting enemies of the state, harbouring fugitives, and treason.”
That brought a laugh from Donna. “I hope you have proof, ‘cause once Saxon hears about this you won’t have a dick to piss with.”
John sighed. “Donna…Donna…don’t you think I’ve already reported to the Committee about this? Who do you think I have permission from to run this little raid? You assumed friendship with Harold Saxon isn’t going to get you out of trouble this time. Now…why don’t you just confess and tell me when the Pimpernel is supposed to be arriving?”
Jack held his breath. Would Donna betray Ianto? Would she give him up in order to avoid death?
Her grandfather’s grip on Jack’s arm tightened, and he shook his head when Jack looked at him. That gave him the confidence to believe in Donna, even though this was the first time he’d ever met her. It had to take a special sort of person to be an ally of the Pimpernel, and Gwen had trusted Donna with Jack’s very safety. That had to count for a lot.
And so, Jack listened as Donna called John every name in the book, insulted his parentage, and threatened his genitals, and he had to smile. She was certainly a firecracker.
“Take her out,” John ordered, once it seemed like Donna had run out of breath and epithets, “and I want this place searched and secured. Put men outside and make sure they blend in so the Pimpernel doesn’t catch sight of them. Also, put the portable disintegrator in the front of this building. I want everyone to see how the Revolution handles traitors.”
Jack glanced at Donna’s grandfather; the man looked worried, his hands twisting together as he obviously was thinking about something. Most likely how they were going to escape if John’s men were determined to search the attic.
If John found them, Jack’s chance at warning Ianto was gone.
The older man grabbed Jack’s coat sleeve once more, pulling him toward a window that was in the gable end of the attic. It looked like it hadn’t been opened in decades, but under the man’s touch it swung open quietly. He jerked his head toward the opening, and Jack hesitated, not wanting to leave either Donna or her grandfather in danger.
He got an eye roll which cemented in Jack’s mind his companion’s relationship with Donna. The man practically pushed Jack toward the window…
The sound of boots on the stairs had Jack moving without the help, but it was too late.
Donna’s grandfather shouted, and to his credit he tried to keep the soldiers away from Jack, but one managed to snatch at Jack’s ankle and pull him back in. Jack tried to catch himself but he couldn’t get his foot released from the grip and he ended up falling on the wooden floor with an impact that forced the air from his lungs. His hip flared in agony at the unnatural way his leg was being bent, and he tried to spin around but was pretty much pinned.
“Captain!” the soldier who held him shouted. “Got two in the attic!”
Jack tried to fight back, but he was face down on the dusty floor with no way to flip around onto his back. The last thing he wanted was for John to find him, but he didn’t have a choice.
“Bring ‘em down,” he heard John call out. He sounded slightly bored by the whole thing, but Jack knew his former lover was hardly that. Catching the Pimpernel would be the highlight of John’s career, and if there was anything besides money that John coveted, it was power. He’d be in a position to ask for anything.
He felt hands grab his arms, and Jack tensed, ready to fight the moment he was on his feet.
Jack took his chance. As he stood he jerked forward, head-butting one of the soldiers holding him. Pain flashed across his forehead, but Jack ignored it, yanking his arm from the stunned man’s grasp and twisting around, sending a roundhouse punch toward his second captor, not hitting as hard as he’d wanted to but enough to force the soldier back and loosening his grip.
Out of the corner of his eye Jack could see that Donna’s grandfather had followed his example and was grappling with a third soldier, and despite his age the man was actually gaining the upper hand.
The soldier he’d tried to punch shook off the blow, even though he lost his grip on Jack. Jack wanted to go to help Donna’s grandfather but he knew he’d never be able to get them both out of there. He had to warn Ianto, and hope that the League could get to them both before they were dragged away.
He had to risk the window.
The ruckus had drawn the attention from the people down in the taproom, because before Jack could make his way out of the window once more he was tackled from behind, and this time he was overpowered. He didn’t give up, struggling against the hands that were holding him, but Jack knew he wouldn’t be getting away.
Despair clawed at him. He’d come to this place to meet Ianto and to warn him, but he’d failed. He’d inadvertently betrayed the man he loved, and now it would lead him to his death. Well, the only expectation Jack had now was that he would go with Ianto into the disintegrator, but then that’s what he was determined to do.
He and Donna’s grandfather were bustled down the stairs, back through the kitchen and into the now empty main room. John was sitting at a table, his feet up on its stained and damp surface, and his face broke out into a large smile the moment he caught sight of Jack.
His feet his the floor with a solid thump, and John jumped to his feet, sauntering toward Jack, his eyes raking up and down Jack’s body. He couldn’t help but shudder, but lifted his chin up as John approached. “Well, now this is a pleasant surprise,” the captain purred. “I know damned well this can’t be a coincidence. What brings you back to New London, Jack?” His smile vanished, lips pressing into a thin line as his eyes narrowed. “You here to warn the Pimpernel, then? You can’t know who he is –“
“I didn’t,” Jack admitted, “but I figured it out.”
“And I bet it was a shock, wasn’t it? That your own husband was working behind your back in order to commit treason against our people?”
“They aren’t my people anymore,” Jack snapped. “They’re a bloodthirsty rabble who’ve taken the very concept of the Revolution and twisted it beyond its original meaning.”
He knew he wasn’t being completely honest; no matter how long he would call New Wales home, New Britain was where he’d been born and had spent the most important years of his life. He’d believed in the Revolution until it had started taking innocent lives, but he, along with a large portion of the lower classes, had understood just what the aristocracy had been capable of…after all, he’d nursed Gray through the worst of the injuries he’d gotten because of his love affair with Rose Tyler. There were truly damaged people amongst the population, but things had moved far beyond an ‘eye for an eye’.
The ones who’d been hurt beyond repair…those were Jack’s people. Not the ones controlling the disintegrators.
John sighed, looking put upon. “You know you don’t mean that, Jack.”
Jack snorted. “Are you so sure of that?”
John stepped right up into Jack’s personal space. He couldn’t move back; the two brawny men holding him wouldn’t allow it. “I was going to send you that letter the moment your lovely husband was well and truly dead, but now…” He made a ‘tsking’ sound. “Maybe I can use it for another purpose…”
“Fuck off, John,” Jack snarled. There was no way Gray would be safe no matter what Jack did. He had to hope that Ianto had been able to save him. “I’m not doing another damned thing for you!”
Jack’s head snapped around with the force of the punch John gave him. He tasted blood in his mouth, and Jack just grinned. “If you think that’s going to get me to cooperate, you’re dead wrong.”
“No, Jack…it’s you that’s dead. Don’t you see that? I can save you, all you have to do is forget all that shit with Jones and be with me –“
“That will never happen. You might as well walk me out to the disintegrator yourself.”
“Now,” a voice said from the doorway, “that would be a complete and total waste of a gorgeous human being.”
Jack’s head turned so fast he was momentarily dizzy. When his vision cleared, he saw a familiar figure leaning against the front door jamb, arms crossed over his chest, dressed in an expensive suit that would have been more at home on New Wales than a dirty tavern in New London. One side of his lips were curved upward in a sarcastic smile as he managed to look completely comfortable, as if he weren’t standing down a room with at least half a dozen armed soldiers and a psychopath in it.
Ianto Jones – the Pimpernel – looked as if he didn’t have a care in the world.
Jack couldn’t help but smile, even though his heart sank. Ianto must have known something was going on, and yet he’d walked right into the place as if it wasn’t a trap at all. He was that confident? Damn, Jack hadn’t known he’d had a kink like that until just now, which was a highly inappropriate time for his libido to notice such a thing.
With John facing away from him, Jack couldn’t see the man’s expression, but from the tone of his voice he was very pleased. “Well, if it isn’t the Pimpernel himself, walking right into my lair.”
Ianto snorted. “If this is your lair, then I really don’t want to see what you consider anything more private.”
“You’re pretty sure of yourself,” John snorted. “I have the advantage here.” He waved his hand negligently over his shoulder and Jack knew John was indicating him.
Ianto glanced in Jack’s direction, and his expression changed; he looked sad, but it happened so fast that if Jack hadn’t been watching him he might have missed it. “By now, Lord Clive Jones and Gray Harkness are breaking orbit,” Ianto answered. “I think I’ve done what I’ve set out to do.”
“Aren’t you forgetting someone?” John asked, and by his tone he was smirking.
Ianto shrugged. “He apparently betrayed me. What makes you think I’m going to care?”
Jack didn’t want that to hurt, but it did. Yet, there was something in his husband’s demeanour that made him want to believe this was just Ianto feeling John out for weaknesses. Still, he couldn’t help slumping in his two captors’ arms, the pain showing on his face.
Ianto wasn’t looking at him. Jack took that as a good thing.
John stood still, his heading turning back toward Jack. He must have enjoyed what he was seeing, because the smirk broke into an obviously fake expression of sympathy. “And this is who you wanted to save, Jack? He’s just like any other aristocrat…snotty and all full of himself. He doesn’t care one whit about you, does he? Ready to kick you to the curb. Doesn’t seem like such a catch, now does he?”
If John had thought his words would discourage Jack, he was going to be very disappointed. Jack straightened, meeting John’s gaze. “It doesn’t matter. I will love him until the day I die.”
Now Ianto was staring at him, and Jack could finally see all the love that his husband had for him, and he couldn’t help but smile. Things could be fixed, he was certain of it.
It was just getting away from here that was the main barrier to their reconciliation. At least that’s what it seemed to Jack.
“That’s not gonna be much longer,” John snarled, anger blooming like a red tide over his features. “You will both walk out that door and into the disintegrator –“
“No,” Ianto interrupted.
John was very surprised by it.
“I’ll go,” Ianto went on, “but only if you promise that Jack will be taken to the spaceport and sent home. Only then will you have me.”
“No way,” Jack denied, shaking his head. “I came to warn you, and if I couldn’t do that I was going to die with you.”
The implacable look on Ianto’s face was replaced by such an expression of tenderness it hurt Jack’s heart to see it. “I will gladly go to my death if I know you’re safe.”
“Not after everything I’ve done –“
“You’ve only been a victim of circumstance. I just wish I’d seen it sooner. We wasted so much time…” Ianto stepped away from the doorframe and toward Jack.
He was stopped by John, who put himself between Jack and his husband. “Goddess, cut the sappy shit and let’s get this over with.” He turned to Ianto. “You swear you won’t give us any trouble if Jack goes free?”
“I do,” Ianto answered. “Jack goes free, and I go to your handy disintegrator outside. You have my word.”
John shook his head. “You and your idiotic honour. Looks like it’s gonna be the death of you.”
“I’d like a moment alone with my husband, if you don’t mind,” Ianto requested.
John sighed melodramatically. “Everyone out. Keep your eyes on every exit in this building. Neither one of them gets out.” He took a seat again, pulling a knife from his boot and beginning to clean out from under his fingernails.
The rest of the soldiers did as Hart ordered, taking Donna’s grandfather with them. Jack watched as they retreated through the various doors, leaving like red-garbed wisps of fog dispersing under sunlight. Then it was just him and Ianto…and Hart, who Jack knew wouldn’t leave for anything less than a pocket nuke going off.
Ianto didn’t hesitate. He moved forward, pulling Jack into a fierce hug that just about stole his breath away.
“I am so, so sorry,” Jack murmured into the fine wool of Ianto’s coat.
“I think we’ve both made mistakes, Jack,” Ianto said, breath tickling Jack’s ear. “I didn’t give you a chance to really explain.”
“I had no idea you were the Pimpernel, or else I would have come to you sooner about Gray…”
“Jack,” Ianto whispered, “I overheard you talking to Hart about the letter. I’d already planned on coming to help Gray when you did ask me. I’m…glad you did come to me, Jack.”
“Wait.” Jack pulled away slightly, glaring at his husband. “You knew what John wanted?”
Ianto looked chagrined. “I did, which is why I arranged to have Rhys pass that note to Diane in front of him, to see what he’d do. I had no idea he’d send you to get it, but honestly you did a fantastic job of it.” Ianto smiled. “I forget what a wonderful actor you are.” The smile vanished as if behind a cloud, and the sadness resurfaced. “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you, but you realise why I couldn’t…”
“I do.” He really could. Jack had done nothing to assuage Ianto’s suspicions of him, and had in fact made it practically impossible for his husband to include him, despite what Gwen had wanted. “It was my own damned pride…”
“I kept hoping you’d say something to make me change my mind…”
“But I never did. In fact, I just made it worse…”
“It wasn’t until Martha Jones’ words at the Williamses soiree that I started to doubt myself. She stood up for you…and I didn’t even do that. I can’t apologise enough, Jack.”
“I think we could both spend the rest of our lives making it up to each other.” Jack exhaled, blinking suddenly when he felt tears begin to gather. “Looks like we might not even have that.”
“Jack,” Ianto’s eyes narrowed, yet they sparkled as if he knew the punchline to a particularly good joke, “you doubt me?”
“Never,” he breathed.
Jack leaned in and kissed Ianto for the first time since their one night together, all those months ago. The touch had him groaning and pulling his husband closer, needing to hold onto him until he couldn’t anymore.
“Oh Goddess,” John’s irritated voice interrupted before things could get too heated, “stop with the mushy stuff and let’s get things done.”
They broke apart reluctantly, but Ianto kept his arm around Jack’s waist. “Honestly, Hart…I’m about to die. Certainly I’m allowed a final wish…”
“You’re a bloody traitor and aristocrat,” John growled. “You’re allowed nothing I don’t give you. And what I’m gonna give you is death by disintegrator.”
“Then we have a deal?” Ianto persisted. “Jack’s life for mine.”
“That’s not going to happen,” Jack denied. “I’m with you whether it’s to live or die.”
“Jack.” Ianto turned slightly, to look at Jack over his shoulder. “I can go to my death knowing you’re safe. Don’t make me watch you die as well.”
“You don’t have to watch; we can die together.”
Ianto rolled his eyes. “Will you do what I say just once? Please? Trust me?”
Jack didn’t want to leave. He’d vowed to save Ianto, or to die with him. And yet, there was his husband, asking him to trust him when Ianto was going to his death.
How could he? Didn’t Ianto want to live? Didn’t he want to go home, maybe continue his good work as the Pimpernel? Did his life mean so little…?”
And then it hit him. Of course Ianto’s life meant something…it was just, to Ianto, Jack’s meant more. The rush of sheer happiness tore through Jack until he was weak-kneed. His husband did still love him. Yes, he’d have to work to make things better between them, but this was the sign that Jack had been hoping for: that Ianto cared, that he loved him more than anything. That Jack’s pride hadn’t wrecked things between them. That Ianto had believed Jack when he’d told him what had really happened with the Tylers.
“Of course I trust you,” Jack answered. “I trust you with everything.”
The smile he received in return was so bright, it was almost blinding. “Then trust me in this, alright?”
Jack decided to take the leap of faith that Ianto was offering. “I will,” he said. Then he bumped his hip against Ianto’s. “And then you’re taking me for that honeymoon we should’ve had.”
“That is a promise I’m perfectly willing to make.” Ianto kissed Jack again, this time pushing away after, until he was a few meters away.
Jack missed him immediately.
But, he had decided to trust Ianto. After all, he was the Pimpernel, he had to have been in sticky situations like this before. Certainly Ianto had a plan up his sleeve and Jack just had to go along with whatever it was his husband had planned.
John wasn’t putting up with it. “Guard!” he shouted, his face scrunched up in disgust. “You two are disgusting.”
The door banged open, and a soldier in the eponymous red uniform of the British Revolution marched in, saluting. “Yes Sir!”
“Take him,” John ordered, motioning toward Jack, “to the nearest spaceport and make sure he’s on the next ship off the planet.”
The soldier saluted once more, and then stepped smartly forward, grabbing Jack by the arm. Jack twisted away to break the hold…and noticed just who was being rough with him.
Doctor Owen Harper was glaring at him rather intimidatingly.
Jack allowed himself to be dragged out of the pub. There were eight other soldiers milling about around the portable disintegrator, each one of them familiar to Jack.
Sir Andrew Davidson.
Lady Kathy Swanson.
Dame Amelia Pond.
Master Rory Williams.
Daimyo Toshiko Sato.
Lord John Davies.
Admiral Diane Holmes.
They were all at least acquaintances of Ianto’s; Lord John was Ianto’s brother-in-law, married to his sister, Rhiannon. So much for them being estranged from each other.
It had to have been nearly every member of the Pimpernel’s League.
Jack barely stifled his laughter.
John had no idea. He couldn’t have, since he’d just ordered Owen to take Jack to the spaceport in exchange for Ianto walking into that disintegrator. Jack wondered where the actual guards were that John had brought with him…
“They’re tied up in various places around the pub,” Sir Andy answered as if reading Jack’s mind. “We knew Hart was after Ianto, because of what happened at the Royal Ball. So we…angled him in this direction. Set up one of our contacts to get grabbed in a raid and he passed along certain information to gain his freedom…where the Pimpernel would be tonight.”
“You’ve been playing John all this time?” Jack laughed. He felt incredibly giddy at just how twisted his husband could be.
“Well,” Toshiko said, stepping forward, “ever since Ianto heard Hart’s attempts to blackmail you. To say he was mad is understating things just a bit.”
“Frankly,” Owen said sarcastically, “we’re glad Ianto’s finally got his head out of his arse about you, Harkness. He’s been a miserable git for ages and we were all getting tired of it.”
“Yeah,” Dame Amelia added, putting a hand on Jack’s arm, “Gwen wasn’t the only one who believed in you, Jack.”
Several others looked faintly guilty, but Jack was feeling magnanimous. After all, he was getting his husband back. He could afford to be forgiving. Besides, he was also to blame in all this; if he hadn’t let his pride get the better of him this might have been cleared up months ago.
Just at that moment, Ianto walked from the pub, looking unbelievably smug. “Let’s give our Captain Hart a show, shall we?”
He stepped up next to Jack, wrapping his arm around his waist once more. Jack leaned into the embrace, luxuriating in the closeness. He and Ianto would have a lot to talk about, but for now he’d take this and deal with the rest later.
Lady Kathy gave a shit-eating grin and flipped the switch on the disintegrator. It hummed with the familiar sound of activation, a loud noise that actually made the grimy windows of the pub vibrate.
Ianto made a slice across his throat and Lady Kathy shut the machine down. “Shall we?” He pulled away from Jack just enough to offer his arm, which Jack took happily. “What say we go and give the dear Captain the shock of his life?”
Jack was all for that.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been so glad to see a planet disappear behind us,” Jack sighed, leaning his arms against the viewport set in the wall of his and Ianto’s stateroom on board the Star Dream.
Ianto’s personal spaceship had been docked at an out of the way port outside of New London, on an estate that had been gutted by the Revolution. Turned out the place had been the former residence of friends of Sir Andy’s family, one that had been among the first saved by the Pimpernel. They were met there by Donna and her grandfather; Jack had finally gotten his name, Wilfred. He also discovered that he and Donna had something in common: they’d both travelled with the Doctor for a while. He’d been very pleased to meet another former companion and offered to introduce her to Martha.
Lord Clive and Gray were also there; it turned out that Ianto had told a little white lie in order to get to Hart. Jack had hugged his brother to within an inch of his life, and then berated him for being an idiot for getting caught. To Jack, if Gray had to be a member of the League then he’d needed to be far more careful than he’d been.
Gray had apologised, but also for not setting Ianto straight on the denouncing of the Tyler family. But then, Gray hadn’t known about his and Ianto’s estrangement so Jack couldn’t blame him. It was between Ianto and Jack, and they were going to solve it together.
New Britain shrunk to a small dot, and Jack turned away from the viewport. Ianto was standing just beyond the bed where Jack was laying, shirtless and looking just as beautiful as the first day Jack had seen him.
“You have to know how sorry I am –“ he began, but Ianto shushed him.
“We were both in the wrong,” Ianto answered, giving Jack a sweet smile then climbing into the bed with Jack, his hand trailing over Jack’s own naked chest. “Goddess, but I missed you, Jack. I hated every minute I treated you badly, but I couldn’t get past the hurt…”
“And I wasn’t much nicer,” Jack admitted. “We both hurt the other, but we have a chance to make things right. “I love you, Ianto…yes, I’m a bit put out by you being the Pimpernel and not trusting me with that, but I do understand, putting yourself in danger so many times and I didn’t even know it.” Then he laughed. “And it was totally worth seeing Hart’s face when we both walked into that pub again...
It had been priceless. Ianto had cavalierly introduced the members of the League that had accompanied him, even informing John that he’d been set up. Then they’d barricaded him in the pub’s cellar and left him to be found later.
It would, of course, ruin his career. Not that Jack minded one bit. He didn’t care if he ever saw the man again.
“We have all the time in the world now,” Ianto said. “I won’t be going back to New Britain. Even if Hart’s been disgraced now they’ll still listen to him so it won’t be safe for any of us now.” He leaned over, pressing his lips against Jack’s.
Ianto kissing him felt like coming home. This was where he was meant to be, and where Jack would be for the rest of his life. They could, indeed, spend all that time making things up to one another.
That was something Jack was eagerly looking forward to.