No breeze blew through the spindly trees; nothing disturbed the deep blue of the watering hole. The twin suns beat down mercilessly, drying the air and the sparse sweat on the man's skin as he sat outside the tent he'd lived in for…well, he couldn't remember for how long.
Time had ceased to have any meaning. The man had, once, known exactly when it was, and how long it had taken for him to get to this desert world. But that had been lost under the reason for his being there.
He was waiting.
The oasis around him was the only life within seeing distance. It was just him, and the wildlife he'd taken to hunting, and the carrier beasts that were tethered not far from the makeshift camp. If not for the oasis he would be dead now…not that that mattered, except that dying wasn't in his plan.
He remembered the plan.
That was all that was important.
He knew why he'd come there, even if he wasn't certain how long it had taken him to get to where he was. The suns had long driven anything else from his mind, and if he'd been thinking straight he might have diagnosed himself as having sunstroke.
But he was past that. All he was doing, was waiting.
A sandstorm blew in some time later. He took refuge in the tent, keeping his eye on the leather strap around his wrist, knowing that it would tell him when his waiting was over.
Throughout the storm, it remained silent.
Once the storm had passed, he was once more outside, only now it was freezing night, the stars like Arcadian diamonds high overhead. He knew what Arcadian diamonds were but he couldn't recall the context.
It wasn't important.
The waiting was.
Memories danced within his fractured mind: brilliant blue eyes; a warm body; companionship; a lilting accent. An understanding presence that was suddenly stolen from him.
He waited, in order to get it back.
He knew, once he did, his mind would be his own once more, instead of the wounded thing that had been cooked under the relentless suns. He just had to be patient.
He didn't sleep. He didn't need to. The fugue state that passed for rest did help him cope with the isolation, but the one he waited for would be the one to heal him.
You died saving the world.
No, not died, because he was waiting.
The oasis was his home, although he often had visions of other places that could be called that. A vast ocean; a room made of coral and light; a dark place with laughing voices and the cry of some great beast.
A bedroom, with drawn curtains and whispered words.
Yes, that was home.
He thought of that place the most, knowing it was special to him. He enjoyed losing himself in that particular memory, because he was never alone in it. He was there; the one he was waiting for. And, when the time came, he would have him back.
Days passed into nights, sunsrise and moonshade, fierce heat and equally fierce cold. He waited, for the one who remembered the name he'd once called himself, and who would give it back to him. Who would return to him the stability that his suns-riddled brain had somehow lost among the waiting.
The oasis never changed.
And then, one day as the primary sun was peering over the horizon, the strap around his wrist beeped.
He automatically stood, dizziness overwhelming him for a moment until he steadied himself against the main tent pole. The water in the tiny pond began to ripple, and the trees waved, their dusty leaves rustling like the dead were walking toward him.
And maybe they were.
No, he knew differently. If there was one thing he did know, was that this wasn't the dead. He'd come here to find the living.
The one he'd come so far to find.
He might have forgotten so much, but he did remember his purpose.
That purpose was here.
The air suddenly began to swirl, just beyond the tent. Golden tendrils of light glittered in the glow from the rising primary, twisting like glowing, otherworldly worms of power, winding their way into this dimension.
He remembered it, of course. The Rift that had taken what was his.
Don't do this!
Someone's got to destroy the Rift. Quite a way to go!
He stepped forward, so close to the light that he could feel it brushing against his sun-dried skin. It made him feel invigorated, as if he was feeding from it.
He knew he'd tracked the Rift, although over what distances he couldn't say. One end was lost to him, but there were others…and they changed at random. He'd found this one, however, and had waited until it opened.
And then he spoke, calling out the one word he held so close to his heart, it was a part of him, his very soul.
His voice was hoarse and dusty from heat and disuse, but that name came strongly from his lips. He called again, moving even closer to the Rift, risking being drawn into it.
A shadow appeared within the glowing Rift energy.
No! Don't leave me like this!
I've got to go!
No, not this time. He'd come so far, spent so long alone. He wasn't going to give up.
He thrust his hand into the opening Rift, reaching out for the shadow within. He shouted the name, claiming back his soul from within the pulsating light.
A warm, solid hand grasped his.
His heart lurched painfully. But he pulled, knowing that to let go would mean more waiting, and the oasis and the suns and the diamond stars and he would do it again, if he had to.
But he didn't want to. He needed this to work.
He stepped back, bringing the person beyond that much closer. Growling, he yanked with the remainder of his strength, and the shadow became the familiar form he'd known so well.
One more pull, and they were clear of the Rift.
He looked into the blue eyes he so often saw in his memories. "Jack," the man – Ianto – said, smiling.
Yes, his name was Jack.
He could now be Jack once again.
His soul's own oasis had returned to him once more, and he would never leave again.