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Pocket Watch Boy

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Summary: Ianto Jones is a very different sort of boy. (wee!Time Lord!Ianto)

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Dr. Who/Torchwood > Non-BtVS/Ats Stories(Past Donor)MhalachaiFR15430,041294114,9922 Apr 082 Apr 08Yes

Chapter Two

Gwen's wedding was almost a debacle. Honestly, who did the woman think she worked for, the gas company? But she and Rhys had slipped off to their alien-free honeymoon, leaving Torchwood with three people in the field (Jack wasn't letting Owen out near the docks incase one of the kelpies tried to eat his face), and so it was four in the morning on a Thursday when Jack, Tosh and Ianto chased a Weevil down an alley and the world shifted two feet to the left around Ianto and the Weevil was too close and it clawed a harsh line into Ianto's chest and that was that.

He insisted that he was fine all the way back to the Hub, but Jack was tight-lipped and not listening as Tosh helpfully pressed bandages against Ianto's chest and totally ignored the red-orange colour of the blood seeping from the gashes in Ianto's flesh.

Having been patched up by an oblivious Owen before, Ianto concentrated harder than he should have on reassuring Jack that he was fine, and wasn't really paying attention as Owen unbuttoned the shirt and dabbed at the wounds on Ianto's chest with absolutely no expression on his face.

The stethoscope came out, a deviation from the norm, and Ianto's concentration on Jack stuttered as Owen listened to the left side of his chest.

The stethoscope moved to the right side.

Then Owen picked up Ianto's sidearm from where it had been deposited on the nearby steel tray and pointed it directly at Ianto's head.

"Where the fuck is Ianto Jones?" Owen demanded.

Silence.

Jack and Tosh started talking at the same time, demands thrown into the air like so much confetti, while Owen and Ianto just stared at each other.

"Owen, damn it!" Jack exclaimed from the stairs behind Ianto.

"This isn't Ianto," Owen interrupted Jack's tirade. The gun never wavered from Ianto's face. "Whoever this is, he's not even human!"

"Owen," Jack said slowly. "This is Ianto. He's been with us since we left the Hub."

"Then the alien started impersonating Ianto before today," Owen insisted.

"Owen, Ianto is not an alien!" Jack shouted.

"Yes he is!" Owen's hand shifted on the gun, and he looked over Ianto's shoulder at Jack. "Look! His blood's the wrong colour! And he's got two bloody hearts, one on either side of his chest! How human is that?"

Jack's total silence cracked through the air. Ianto felt his world tip slightly to the side, but he couldn't look away from Owen and the gun pointing at his head.

Owen's jaw tightened. "See, he's not even denying it," he said softly.

"You've got a gun pointed at my left frontal lobe, Owen," Ianto said in a surprisingly calm voice. "I had rather hoped that the Weevil wound would be the last injury I had today."

The gun never wavered. "What have you done with Ianto?"

"I am Ianto." His hands clenched the sides of the examination table, knuckles white under the strain. "The same person I've always been."

"The bloody hell you are." Owen stepped forward, so close that Ianto's eyes nearly crossed trying to keep the barrel of the gun in focus. "Don't you think I'd have noticed two heartbeats? Or that your blood is fucking orange?"

Tosh stepped carefully across the floor, hands out in front of her. She stayed well away from the line of fire. "Owen, his blood isn't orange," she said, not even looking at Ianto. "It's normal."

Owen took his eyes off Ianto for long enough to give Tosh an incredulous look. "The blood on his lily-white skin isn't anywhere near to being normal!"

Tosh glanced at Ianto, then back at Owen, blinking hard. "Why don't you put the gun down?"

"What?" Owen exclaimed. He looked at Jack, still behind Ianto. "Jack, please!"

Jack didn't respond for what felt like an eternity. Then his footsteps sounded down the stairs, across the tiles of the medical bay, and slowly around the exam table to stand beside Owen.

Ianto left out a sharp exhalation when he saw the deathly grey expression on Jack's face. There was nothing of the man Ianto had joked with that morning, for whom he had made an extra cup of coffee just so he could hand it to Jack across the table to brush his fingers over the soft pulse in Jack's wrist. This was a man who looked half a minute away from putting a bullet into Ianto himself.

Slowly, Jack took the gun from Owen, slipped the safety back on, and tucked the gun into his waistband. Having secured Ianto's weapon, Jack pulled his revolver out of its holster.

It wasn't pointed at Ianto.

Not yet.

But Jack's hand shook ever so slightly on the gun, and the man himself blinked rapidly as he approached Ianto. His free hand went out and pressed against the right side of Ianto's chest, directly on top of the Weevil claw marks. The sudden pressure on the gashes hurt and Ianto bit his lip on the pain. He would not react, not with Jack looking like that.

Jack left his hand on Ianto's chest for long enough for Ianto's blood to well up around the man's palm and trickle down between his fingers. Ianto tried to search for words that could fix this, but none came to him.

Finally, Jack spoke. "Owen?"

"What?"

"I'm supposed to feel two heartbeats."

"Left side and right side, slightly off-time."

"Two heart beats." Jack pressed even harder on Ianto's chest, making Ianto flinch backwards and overbalance on the table. Jack's hand fisted in Ianto's bloody shirt and hauled him upright, too close, too much like the first punch in a fight, and Ianto shoved Jack across the medical bay.

It was Tosh who saved the situation from degenerating further. "Jack, what's going on?" she asked.

Jack righted himself, shrugging his coat straight onto his shoulders. He looked down at his palm covered in blood too abnormal to be human. "It's a perception filter, it's got to be," Jack said. His voice held horrors untold and Ianto didn't understand. "Not like the one on the lift, but very close." Jack took a deep breath. "My mind wants to keep thinking that having a second heartbeat and orange blood is perfectly human."

Owen had been looking at Jack with growing incredulity. "You're telling me that whoever is impersonating Ianto has a perception filter on him? That means he could have been here for weeks!" The doctor stormed over to the specimen fridge. He yanked out the Torchwood blood samples and spun the rack until he could pull free tiny vials of blood. "Fuck!" he swore under his breath. "Every sample I have in here is the same colour, which means that it's been months!"

Ianto ran his tongue over dry lips. As much as it had hurt when Jack's fist had twisted his shirt into the claw wounds, that was pain and Ianto could compartmentalize physical pain in his mind. What he didn't know how to handle was the horrible expression on Jack's face. It was as if Jack wasn't even seeing Ianto anymore, but something else.

Something he desperately wanted to kill.

Ianto had never seen that expression on Jack's face, not in all the years he'd known him.

"Who are you?" Jack asked, voice absolutely frozen.

"It's me, Jack--

"Don't!" Jack barked, startling Ianto almost out of his skin. Tosh jumped back into a tray of steel instruments, sending them crashing to the ground. For a horrible second, Ianto thought that Jack was going to shoot him.

Then the moment passed.

Jack took another deep breath and let the air out slowly through his nose. "Don't call me Jack."

Perhaps it was the noise from the dropped instruments. Perhaps it was the pain from his chest seeping into his consciousness. Or perhaps it was the childish name game Jack had brought into the room, but Ianto was suddenly, blindingly angry.

"Captain Harkness," Ianto bit out. The corner of Jack's eye twitched. "I'm the same person I was, that I have been, since the day you met me."

Jack crossed the floor, getting in Ianto's face. Cold fury bled through to a hot desperation that Ianto just didn't understand. "Where the hell was that? Here? London?"

Behind Jack, Owen was pulling Tosh out of the way.

"Or how about at the end of the universe on the way to Utopia?"

For a brief instant, Ianto wondered if Jack had finally, truly, lost his mind. "I met you in 1990," Ianto said sharply. "The old Hope building down by the docks, when an alien spaceship rammed the building." He was close enough to Jack to kiss him, or maybe bite him, Ianto wasn't sure which he'd have preferred at that point. "You dragged me downstairs and I didn't take that Retcon pill you tried to push on me!"

The intensity of Jack's glare eased slightly. "What else do you remember about that day?" he demanded.

Ianto wondered what might happen if he started screaming out loud. "That man from Torchwood London made that ridiculous comment about you recruiting the next generation, and Ashna Baines was about to rip his head off, and there was a man named Marcus." Ianto threw his mind back to that day, living the memory of the smell of broken bricks, the loud thud of boots on the rickety floorboards overhead. "You kept your Retcon in a sweet tin in your coat pocket."

"And I asked you if you believed in aliens." The cold fury was back in Jack's eyes. "You told me you watched a lot of sci fi."

"Not a lie."

"You have two hearts!"

"And I always have!" Ianto clenched his hands into fists. Jack was so angry he was upsetting Ianto's perception of gravity and everything all at once. "You try being in an orphanage and wondering why your hearts didn't beat like in those medical shows on the telly, and who none of the adults ever paid attention to it in nurse's office!"

Ianto stopped himself before he could let loose with something he didn't want Jack, or any of them, to know.

He took a deep gulp of air. "I figured it must have been a birth defect."

"A birth defect?" Owen echoed angrily.

"I was four years old!" Ianto shot back.

"And the rest of it?" Owen demanded. "Walking around covered in a perception filter isn't exactly normal, not even for people growing up on the Rift."

"I don't know how it happened." Ianto relaxed his hands, stretching out his fingers and tendons. He ached with the desire to run away. "And to answer your next question, I don't know why the perception filter isn't working on you now."

"So you read minds now?"

Ianto's eyes flicked over to Owen. "I highly doubt that even if I could, you'd make it worth my while."

"He's probably mildly telepathic," Jack said before Owen could respond. "The others of his species can be telepathic." He cleared his throat. "And we need to consider that the perception filter won't work on the dead."

Owen glared. "That's right. Kick the dead man while he's down."

Ianto was still trying to parse Jack's previous sentence, but comprehension wouldn't come.

Tosh leaned around Owen, her apprehension about Ianto's safety countered with the excitement of meeting the unknown. "Jack, you know what species Ianto is?"

The words slotted into Ianto's comprehension, and everything stopped moving as the earth ceased to move, the stars refused to spin, and Ianto stopped his celestial rotation around Jack Harkness.

Then things kicked off again, sluggish and jerky and swirling Ianto into a nauseating spiral.

"You know what I am?" Ianto demanded. "Jack?"

Jack took three steps back, his grip firm on his revolver once more. "Your pocket watch."

Ianto slid off the metal examination table, his bloodied shirt catching against his wounds. "Jack, answer me!"

"Take out your pocket watch," Jack repeated.

"Jack!"

For his entire life, Ianto had hidden what he was, had pushed down any thought of what he might be, his mother's soft voice echoing in his dreams, to hide and grow and let no one know what you are. Now Jack Harkness stood before Ianto, holding onto secrets that had always been out of Ianto's reach in the dark, and Jack wanted to know the time?

The fire in Jack's eyes was a fury to behold. His own anger mounting, Ianto thrust his hand into his pocket and pulled out his watch.

"Would you like the time in Greenwich mean?"

Jack ignored him. "You told me that your mother gave you that," Jack said. "Your adoptive mother or your real mother?"

Ianto had told Jack about the heirloom's origins late one night, when the watch had rolled under the bed after a particularly experimental round of sex. Ianto had been rather giddy and more than half in love with Jack at that moment, and for Jack to pull that information into the cold medical bay in front of the rest of Torchwood when it was supposed to have been just for them twisted up inside Ianto. He forced himself to breathe and told himself that his sudden lightheadedness and nausea was only from blood loss.

"It wasn't Sarah Jones," Ianto said, the metal of the watch cover smooth under his thumb, the only solid thing in his rapidly crumbling world.

Jack nodded once, as if reminding himself of something long known. His bloodied hand went around to cup the butt of his revolver.

"Open it."

Ianto blinked. "Then what?" he asked as he popped open the cover on the watch, just like that.

Jack jumped, knocking another tray of metal instruments to the ground. Ianto winced at the sound, resolving that if he got out of this alive, he was going to have words with Owen about leaving sharp things lying about.

In the meantime, Ianto looked at his watch. It was the same as it had always been, ticking along in time with the off-kilter rhythm of his hearts. "Are you satisfied?" he asked.

Jack skittered off to the side, sending little shockwaves through Ianto's universe. He opened his mouth to speak, closed it, swallowed hard, then finally managed to get the words out. "Open the back."

Ianto stared. "The back."

"Jack, this is getting a little ridiculous," Owen put in. "Either he's an alien impersonating Ianto, or Ianto's an alien--"

"And now he's going to open the back of his watch," Jack snapped.

Ianto slapped the watch into his other hand and used a blood-crusted nail to pry the back cover free. The tiny, intricate gears shone brassily through the glass. He held both watch and backing out for Torchwood's collective inspection. "Now are you satisfied?"

Tosh edged around Owen. When no one stopped her, she carefully looked at the watch in Ianto's trembling fingers. "It's beautiful," she murmured, tracing the carvings on the metal. "It was your mother's?"

Ianto closed his hand around his watch. "Yes," he said after a minute. The lightheadedness was starting to dance spots behind his eyes. "It's all I had when they found me in the street. I wasn't even walking yet."

"All you had?" Owen echoed. "What, were you naked?"

"I'll leave waking up naked in the streets to you," Ianto retorted quickly. Too quickly, it seemed, for the room started to spin and Ianto put his hand out to steady himself and Tosh was the only thing close enough to reach and there was shouting and Ianto found himself on the floor with the barrel of Jack's gun pressed against his jaw.

Ianto wasn't sure who was more surprised, him or Jack, but he didn't have time to parse the situation when Owen was hauling Jack up and away. "Stop it!" Owen shouted. "Jack, get the fuck out of here, now!"

"He grabbed Tosh--"

"He was going to pass out!" Owen hauled Ianto to his feet, none too roughly. "He might be an alien, but I've seen Ianto about to pass out before, something that must have made it thought the perception filter, and he's at that stage now!" Owen pushed Ianto onto the examination table and pulled his shirt aside. Orange-red blood poured out from cuts in Ianto's chest, down his chest, soaking his black shirt.

"I'm not leaving you alone with him--"

"Then stay, but do it from over there!" Owen pushed on Ianto's shoulders until Ianto was on his back, the room spinning freely in space as Ianto's head hit the table too hard. "Tosh, I need an extra set of hands."

Those hands took Ianto's watch from his fingers, pulled him free of his shirt and pressed things against his chest. Ianto couldn't see Jack, but he knew the man was there, with the sun's gravity pulled askew by Jack's presence.

A thermometer in Ianto's mouth, questions in Owen's voice about body temperature and heart rates, then the sting of an antiseptic against his flesh and he came very close to passing out, with only Jack's rage holding him in place on the earth, then a needle pierced his skin and he did pass out.

~~~

Ianto drifted back to consciousness, the examination table strangely warm under his back. The Hub lay almost silent, with Mainframe whispering quietly underground and somewhere, someone was in pain.

Ianto opened his eyes.

Tosh sat on the steps, hands cradling something. When she saw Ianto moving, she stood. "Welcome back."

Ianto didn't understand why she looked so worried. "What happened?"

"You were attacked by a Weevil--"

"I know that." Ianto tried to sit up and realized he was covered by several layers of blankets. "What's this?"

Tosh moved down one step. "Your body temperature dropped to fourteen degrees," she said. "Owen couldn't figure out if that was normal or bad, and Jack... Well, Jack wasn't very helpful."

Ianto pushed back the stabbing pains in his chest and made himself sit up. The universe wobbled dangerously for several moments, then he felt down to the spinning earth, the sun holding them all in her graceful dance across the stars, and things went back to normal. He breathed in, feeling air slide through what passed for his lungs, and then out.

"Are you better now?" Tosh asked, so hopeful.

Ianto breathed again. Other than the pain in his chest, things felt a little better. The lightheadedness was gone. "I think so."

"Good." She hesitated, then sat back on the steps. "Owen said you can't have any painkillers until we know what might hurt you."

"No aspirin," Ianto said quickly. He rubbed at his forehead. His skin felt cold even to his touch. "They gave me aspirin when I was in primary school. I almost died."

Tosh's eyes went wide. "Do you know of any other drug interactions?"

Ianto shook his head. "I'm not exactly working with an instruction manual."

Tosh looked back at her hands. "But... you're Ianto."

"I'm Ianto."

"Oh." Tosh held up the object in her hands. Ianto's watch. "Do you know why Jack's so freaked out?"

At the mention of Jack's name, Ianto's stomach clenched. "No. I don't."

Tosh turned the watch over in her fingers. "It's like he thinks he knows you, what you are."

"If he does, he knows more than I do." Ianto flicked experimentally at the bandage on his chest. Just stitches, it felt like.

Tosh cleared her throat. "It seems like the perception filter on you is less effective when the truth is forced on a person," she said, sounding a little too happy about it. "I can remember now that it's strange you're an alien. Even though I'm worried that I should be more worried about this than I am."

"Tosh, everything is fine." Ianto's shirt lay in a tattered pile on the floor, beside his ruined jacket. No escape wearing that. "I'm not a danger to anyone."

"Why did you come to work for Torchwood if you're an alien?"

Ianto let his shoulders slump a little. Of course, Tosh would want to know the truth. That was her whole life, figuring out answers. Knowing how futile it would be to talk his way out of this one, he opted for the truth. "It started as a way to know what I had to hide from."

"But not anymore?"

Ianto shrugged experimentally, his stitches pulling. Unpleasant, but tolerable. "There's a Rift in time and space that keeps trying to kill us all. Call me old-fashioned, but I've become rather fond of this planet."

"You want to help."

A bubble of annoyance surged up in Ianto's chest. "Isn't that why you're here?"

Tosh paled, just a fraction. "It's a very important job--"

"And we don't fit in anywhere else," Ianto finished. "Come on, Tosh. Owen's dead, Jack is... whatever the hell is up with Jack, Gwen can't stop meddling to save her life, and you're too smart for anywhere else." He slid his feet to the floor and, when the world didn't invert on him, let go of the exam table. "It's rather poetic, don't you think, that the misfits save the world."

"But why didn't you tell us?"

Ianto had an answer to that one at least. "Can you imagine how that would have gone over at Torchwood One? They'd have had me on the dissection table within the hour."

"But we're not Torchwood One!"

"And how would you explain to your boss that he's been shagging an alien?" The words were out of Ianto's mouth before he could think better of it. He stopped, made himself breathe deeply, tried to calm down. "Sorry."

"It's okay," Tosh said, even though her smile seemed more of a grimace.

"Good." Ianto moved towards the stairs, but Tosh shot to her feet and moved around to block him. "What?"

"You need to stay here," she said, trying to sound reassuring but failing miserably.

"Why?"

"Jack's orders."

"Jack," Ianto repeated. "Why should I stay here?" Now that Ianto's brain was slowly starting to function again, he was registering several odd things about the situation. "Where are Jack and Owen?"

"Up in Jack's office," Tosh said.

"And you are here..."

"To make sure you stay here."

Oh. Ianto took a deep breath, willing his mental processing powers into the present. He didn't know how he hadn't seen it before. Tosh's back was so straight, she probably had a handgun tucked in her waistband. She had stayed far enough away from Ianto to ensure a clean shot, if need be.

Idly, Ianto thought Jack had made a bad choice. Tosh was too kind-hearted to kill Ianto even if he was an evil alien bent on world domination.

Ianto shook his head. He needed to push the maudlin B-movie vocabulary out of his head, especially if Jack and Owen were upstairs discussing his fate.

"Can I have my watch back, at least?" Ianto held out his hand.

Tosh laid the object on the tiles and backed away, waiting until Ianto had retrieved the timepiece before relaxing. "We ran scans on it," she said helpfully. "It's not giving off any energy readings, but the metal isn't of Terrestrial origin."

Ianto pried the backing free from the watch, and wiped a dried smudge of blood from the glass. "It's just a watch, Tosh. That's all."

"Jack seemed to think it was more," said Tosh, resting her hands on the railing.

Ianto closed the watch and put it in his pocket. "I've had this with me since I was a child. It's just a family heirloom from a mother who abandoned me on the Rift as a baby."

"Why here?" Tosh asked. "I mean, if she was an alien, she could have been from anywhere. Why did she bring you to Cardiff?"

Ianto pushed his hair back, wishing he had a shirt, wishing he didn't feel so naked and uncertain. "I have no idea."

Footsteps on the tiles startled Ianto out of his introspection. Jack appeared around the corner, a fuming Owen on his heels. "Maybe she knew what was coming," Jack said as he threw one of his own shirts at Ianto. Lingering anger and an incomprehensible fear clung to his words.

Tosh frowned, looking between Ianto and Jack. "What was coming?"

As Ianto stared at Jack, some of the fight seemed to go out of the man. "Extinction," Jack said quietly. The word ran like a knife down Ianto's spine. "There was a war. Only two Ti-- two of that species had seemed to survive it. And now one's dead, and one's out there in the universe."

"And then there's Ianto," Owen muttered.

Ianto knees were wobbly as he sagged against the exam table. "They're all dead?"

Jack looked away. "Yes," he said, relentless in his quiet words. "Sorry."

The air was too thick to breathe. Ianto had never spent much time thinking about his real family; life was too busy on earth with its people and new things to discover at every turn and all the bright colours and shapes and emotions in every new person he met. In the back of his mind, he had known his real mother was dead, but he'd never moved beyond that, to think about a father, or grandparents, or cousins or friends of the family.

And now Jack said they were all dead, all but one, and Ianto knew he was daft to listen to Jack without a shred of evidence, but he knew Jack was right.

Ianto had always felt he was alone.

~~~

Jack took Ianto home even though it was barely noon. Tosh had questioned and Owen had glared, and Jack had been silent on the drive and Ianto stared out the window at the passing road and wondered if he was supposed to say something profound about being one of the last survivors of his race, all the while his head hurt as Jack's conflicting emotions fairly bled off the man into the car.

The SUV slotted neatly into a parking spot just outside Ianto's building. Jack killed the engine but didn't move; Ianto waited for a minute to see if Jack would say anything. When the silent treatment continued, Ianto undid his seatbelt and climbed out of the car. At this point, as far as Ianto was concerned, Jack Harkness could take his mysterious alien knowledge and go fuck himself.

The flat was quiet in the faded mid-day light. Ianto laid his keys on the hall table, not bothering to lock the door. He knew better than to think Jack wouldn't be barging in any minute.

His chest hurt, with the morning's shock of injury fading to the dull pain of healing. Dried blood clung to his skin, stiffened his belt, and suddenly all Ianto wanted was to wash the day away.

Jack came in while Ianto was in the bathroom unbuttoning his borrowed shirt. A soft thump as Jack's coat hit the sofa, a heavier thud on the kitchen table welcomed a metal weight wrapped in leather, Jack's holstered gun, then Jack appeared in the open bathroom doorway. The man watched Ianto finish undoing the shirt before saying, "That's not your colour."

Ianto glared at Jack's reflection in the mirror. "It's your shirt."

"And you'd look better out of it." The words might have been flirtatious except for the deadly precision of Jack's words, the utter lack of warmth in his voice.

Contrarily, Ianto was tempted to leave the shirt on and step into the shower fully clothed, but that was bordering on the ridiculous. Ianto tried to shrug the shirt off his shoulders, but his injured chest muscles wouldn't obey his mind's command.

Moving rather like a snake stalking a bird, Jack stepped into the bathroom behind Ianto and deliberately pulled the shirt off Ianto's shoulders. They had done this before, undressing each other for a shower, but this time the only thing Ianto could think about was the quickest way out of the room and away from a man who looked as if he would attack at any moment.

His touch cold and all sharp angles, Jack reached down to Ianto's belt, pulling it free of the loops in his waistband. The belt hit the floor with a sticky thump. Jack's hands rested on Ianto's hips, his grip bruising on Ianto's skin. He never looked away from Ianto's gaze in the mirror.

Suddenly feeling as if he might be sick, Ianto turned in Jack's angry grasp and shoved the man back.

"What?" Jack demanded.

"Get the fuck away from me," Ianto said, wanting to shout, to scream, but it was like he was choking.

"What's wrong?" Even Jack's words were sharp and cutting, caustic and burning, and they made Ianto feel dirty in ways the blood on his skin did not. "Too good for me now that you've been outted?"

"You don't get to go groping me in the bath when you've been treating me like some sort of..." Ianto searched around for a word that would match Jack's bizarre behaviour for the past few hours, and came up blank. "Like I'm some sort of criminal."

"I haven't been--"

"You were going to shoot me for grabbing at Tosh," Ianto said flatly.

"You lied to us about being an alien!" Jack spat. It wasn't even anger that fueled his vitriol; the deathly grey pallor in Jack's face wasn't imaginary, and that incomprehensible fear still lurked in his words.

"Is this about working with an alien or shagging one?" Ianto said. Before he had a chance to wonder if his words had been ill-timed, Jack had shoved him up against the cold tile wall.

There should have been some thought running through Ianto's mind, like trying to avoid the fight, or perhaps to start one, but Ianto just stared at Jack's stony expression, felt Jack's fingers digging hard into the muscles of his arms, the press of Jack's knee sharp against his leg to hold him in place, and not a single thought ran through Ianto's head. Everything was silence.

Then Jack shoved off, pushing Ianto rather hard against the wall, and turned on his heel to storm out of the bathroom.

Ianto stared at the open door, wondering what the hell had just happened, what on earth was wrong with Jack, with him, with everything.

The television in the living room clicked on and the dulcet tones of the BBC newsreader drifted down the hall. Unless the man had turned on the telly to cover the sounds of Ianto's impending murder, Jack was probably settling in for the long haul. Ianto couldn't even bring himself to care if Jack was cluttering up his flat, probably a delayed sign of shock. He'd have to mention that to Owen.

In the end, Ianto simply closed the bathroom door, removed the remainder of his clothing, and stepped into the shower.

The hot water restored the better part of his equilibrium and a healthy does of rationality. Yes, Ianto had hidden his alien nature from Torchwood, but it wasn't as if he was a threat to them or anyone else. He was a good worker, quick on his feet, and he had done more than his fair share of saving the world. On the job front, Jack didn't have any grounds for complaint.

Ianto wondered if Jack might be freaked out about sleeping with someone who was rather non-human, but he dismissed that thought almost as quickly as it came to him. Jack seemed to flirt with anything that might flirt back, including a few aliens who had passed through Cardiff. No, Jack's sexual openness probably extended to Ianto's species.

So what was wrong with Jack? A perpetual question at Torchwood, dependant on the time of day, amount of Rift activity and even the weather, but this was so many kinds of different. Ianto pulled together pieces of the puzzle that was Jack Harkness. Before Jack's disappearance, the man had put so much stock in finding his mysterious Doctor, then he had come back damaged and despairing and trying so hard to seem normal when it was clear to Ianto, if no one else, that he wasn't fine at all.

But he had been functioning, level-headed as Jack could be, until Ianto's alieness had been revealed. For that had been the beginning of this -- Jack had reacted badly to the revelation of the two hearts, to the pocket watch. In Ianto's mind, it all added up to deeper issues than Ianto simply not being human.

Jack was more troubled than he wanted to let on, and Ianto couldn't figure out why. It was like trying to assemble a puzzle while blindfolded. With one last swipe to get the soap out of his hair, Ianto sent a half-longing thought to the days when he didn't have to deal with Jack Harkness's overpowering emotional baggage as part of his daily routine.

As Ianto expected, Jack was still in the living room when Ianto emerged from the bathroom. He didn't look away from the picture as Ianto made his way to the sink, and since the screen displayed a nature program about baby elephants, Ianto suspected that was more for show than any actual interest on Jack's part.

After Ianto finished a glass of water, he squared his shoulders and faced Jack. "You can leave now."

"I'm not leaving."

"Juvenile pachyderms all the rage these days amongst Torchwood directors?"

"I'm not leaving until I determine if you're a threat."

Ianto placed his hands on the countertop, needing something to focus on as the world spun lazily around Jack. "I'm not a threat. I have never been a threat. Not to Torchwood, not to earth."

"Except for that minor instance of almost restarting a Cyberman foothold on earth."

Ianto traced a line in the tiling, not letting himself react to the accusation. He and Jack had been over this so many times, there was no profit in revisiting the dead. "You could have sent Owen or Tosh to baby-sit me."

"I'm not letting you anywhere near them."

Ianto gave up trying to look at Jack. The light bent around the man, casting him into unnatural shadow. "I'm going to bed."

"What, no emotional protestations that you'd never hurt a hair on their tender heads?"

Ianto straightened up. "I shot Owen in the shoulder once. I rather believe the comment would fall on deaf ears." He breathed in through his nose, just to give his next words some space. "And when you feel like filling me in on the back-story to this little drama, I'm willing to hear it."

With that, Ianto went into his bedroom and slipped beneath the covers. The heavy curtains blocked out most of the light and sound, and in spite of the fact that Ianto's whole world had been ripped to pieces, he had been awake for two straight days and he was injured and he just couldn't think straight. It was not long before he slept, and his only dreams were filled with his mother's whispers to hide.

Some time later, Ianto came instantly awake when the bed moved. He blinked around the room to see Jack laying down beside Ianto, fully clothed on top of the covers. The man crossed his hands over his stomach and stared up at the ceiling.

A quick glance at the clock told Ianto that he had been asleep for almost three hours. Had Jack been sitting out in his living room the whole time?

Still staring up at the ceiling, Jack let out a breath that trembled around the edges. "Have you heard of the Doctor?"

Ianto rubbed at his eyes, trying to think. "Are you talking about the encounter that motivated Queen Victoria to found Torchwood?" he asked.

"Sort of." Jack ran his tongue over his lower lip, his brow furrowed in thought. "He's the same one who was at Canary Wharf, who stopped the Cybermen and Daleks. Saved the world and all that. That's the Doctor."

Ianto turned carefully onto his side, so he could look at Jack without getting a crick in his neck. He could only assume this had something to do with the day's events, but even though he could usually glean Jack's meaning from cryptic words, nothing came to him this time.

"When I vanished last year..." Jack swallowed hard. "I was with him."

"Your doctor was the Doctor?" Ianto asked. "Wait, if you knew he was the sworn enemy of Torchwood, why did you come to work there?"

"Because I needed to find him," Jack said. "And I knew he'd come to Cardiff, at some time. I had to find him. And so I waited. And so much time passed. Nothing to him, but so long for me."

Ianto let those words run around in his mind. "Is he long-lived, or--"

"He's a time traveler," Jack interrupted. "The last of the Time Lords, traveling across space and time. And I was with him at the end of the universe."

Ianto let the words of Jack's confession, for that was what this was, fall to the bed between them. Ianto was very good at deciphering truth, and Jack was a bad liar, and these words of Jack's held no falsehoods.

"And there was another Time Lord hiding there as a human, but he had a pocket watch very much like yours, and it held his memories and personality, and when the watch was opened, he was restored to his old psychopathic self." Jack worried his fingers through the gap in the fabric of his shirt, knuckles white. He would not look at Ianto. "He called himself the Master. He came back here, to Earth, to a time about two years ago, made up a history and set about taking over the world, the usual evil alien deal. You probably saw him on television. Harold Saxon."

Ianto raised himself on his elbow, unable to let this pass. "The British Prime Minister was an evil alien?"

Jack cracked a faint smile that didn't hide his pain. "You know, I've been trying to come up with a Thatcher joke on this one for months. I can never make it work."

Ianto sat all the way up. "Jack."

Jack still wouldn't look at Ianto. "Do you remember that broadcast about the Toc--" Jack actually choked on the word, and he closed his eyes. Ianto realized with horror that Jack was digging his nails into his stomach so hard that he had torn open his own skin.

Ianto slid back down to the bed and reached out to Jack, waiting until Jack's death grip loosened enough for Ianto to slide his hand around Jack's palm. The slight stickiness of Jack's blood burned Ianto's fingers.

Jack breathed for a long time, eyes closed on the world. His fingers wrapped tight around Ianto's hand before he spoke again. "The day planned for the Toclafane encounter, when the American president was killed and the Prime Minister disappeared?"

"We were in Asia then, but we pulled up a broadcast from Japan and Toshiko translated," Ianto said quietly.

"Yeah." Jack opened his eyes to the ceiling again. "Thing is, Saxon was working with the Toclafane, all the way from the end of the universe. He created a time paradox machine and the Toclafane came back and started killing people. They killed ten percent of the human population on that first day, and that was just the beginning.

"The Toclafane are, or will be, human. Trillions of years in the future. Twisted and broken and most of it is my fault," Jack said despairingly. "We thought we were helping, but--" His voice broke. "The paradox machine meant that the Toclafane could exist even though they kept killing off their ancestors."

Ianto's mind spun, incorporating the possibility of time travel with the paradox Jack spoke about, and he couldn't speak over his whirling thoughts.

"It went that way for a year. Then we managed to destroy the machine and everything went back to the way it was. Time spun back to the way it was before the Toclafane came. Right as rain." Jack grasped Ianto's hand compulsively. "Except for a few of us that remembered what happened. Eye of the storm."

"What were you doing?" Ianto asked. "During that year?"

Jack glanced down at their joined hands. He lifted Ianto's hand up and ran curious fingers over Ianto's palm. His touch was warm and rounded now, soft and bloodied and hurt. "Saxon was a psychopath."

"I got that from the wholesale massacre."

Jack coughed up a faint chuckle. "He knew I couldn't die. He found that utterly fascinating."

The last word scrapped over Ianto's mind like nails on a chalkboard. He would have given anything to not know what had happened to Jack, but he knew, deep down, that he didn't have a choice.

"Most times," Jack went on, "when someone kills me and I come back, it shocks them enough into not trying again. Case in point, has Owen tried to kill me since you guys opened the Rift?"

"I don't think that's a valid sample--"

"But Saxon liked trying different things," Jack said. He may have been looking at the ceiling, but he was seeing something so much further away. "Knife to the ribs, see how long it'd take me to bleed out. How different bullets blew different size holes in my skull."

"Jack, you don't have to--"

"Other days, he did other stuff."

Jack's voice had gone flat by the end of the sentence. Ianto's hearts pounded, and he did not want to hear the rest of this but if Jack could have lived it, he could do the very least and listen.

"And none of it mattered, because I'd heal and we'd be just back where we were before."

"It mattered, Jack," Ianto murmured.

Jack turned his head away. "In the end it all went back to the way it was before, and I came back to Torchwood."

I came back for you, Ianto remembered Jack's words, Jack's hungry stare fixed on Ianto. At the time, Ianto hadn't understood the barely masked panic in Jack as he had stood in front of Torchwood, waiting for his team to let him back in. A wave of empathy crashed over Ianto, what it must have been like to spend a year under a creative torturer, only to have to hide it when he came back to friends who might have turned him out on his ear.

Ianto pressed his forehead against Jack's shoulder, wondering how Jack remained sane.

"Saxon's dead," Jack said after a minute. "His wife shot him, which was probably for the best because I don't know if the Doctor would have forgiven me for eviscerating the man with my bare hands. But..."

Ianto waited, his face resting against the soft cotton of Jack's shirt. He wasn't sure how much more of this story he could take.

"Time Lords, they have this ability to cheat death. When their body is dying, they can regenerate every cell in their body to become a totally new person, with the same personality. The Doctor's done it once since I knew him. After Lucy shot Saxon, the Doctor was begging him to regenerate, but Saxon refused and he was just dead." The flutter of Jack's pulse accelerated, pounding against the stretched skin of his throat. "When I heard Owen say that you had two hearts, all I could think was that Saxon had somehow tricked the Doctor, had regenerated, and that you were--"

"I'm not him," Ianto interrupted. He pulled his hand out of Jack's grip and gently touched Jack's chin. With infinite reluctance, Jack turned his head back to Ianto. "Have I ever done anything to make you think I would be capable of anything like that?"

Jack didn't respond.

"You've known me since I was a child. I can remember being a baby, here in Cardiff. I'm not this Time Lord."

"I know it doesn't make any logical sense. I can't help..." Jack swallowed. "It's been a long day."

A long day? At this point, Ianto would have given him a long lifetime. Even though he was only twenty-seven, Ianto felt very old as he laid his head back on Jack's shoulder. "Why wouldn't you think I was your Doctor, regenerated?"

Jack put his hand on Ianto's arm, running his fingers over Ianto's skin. "Because he'd never let me do this," Jack said against Ianto's hair.

"He's not much into men?"

"He's not much into me." In that one sentence lay a thousand tiny hurts. Jack's hand slid up Ianto's arm, seeking comfort in the only way Jack knew how, in touch and sex.

Ianto let Jack pull him close, wincing only slightly when his wounded chest pressed against Jack's ribs. He wondered if the Doctor could also see how strange Jack was, how the universe held Jack at the centre of its spin.

"How's the chest?" Jack asked.

"Getting better," Ianto said. "Can I ask you a question about this regeneration thing?"

"If you want," Jack replied cautiously.

"When the regeneration happens, physical appearance changes? Height and hair colour and all that?"

Jack's hand stilled on Ianto's shoulder. "Yes. Why?"

Ianto let out a long breath. So many things from his childhood were starting to make sense. "When I was very young, I fell out of a tree and the fall should have killed me. I'd always thought that it had."

"What are you talking about?"

Ianto raised his head to look Jack in the eye. "I was at a new orphanage, and I'd snuck out to look around and climbed a tree that was high enough to look over the four-story building. I fell out of the tree and landed on my head." He shrugged one shoulder. "I woke up in a big pool of blood, and I was taller and had black hair instead of red, and this old mug."

He tried to smile, but the memory of landing, of feeling his skull shatter under the impact, ripped the false amusement away.

"The thing was, no one at the home seemed to notice that anything was different. I'd only been there for a few hours, but even so, you'd have thought the adults wouldn't mistake a short child with ginger hair for a tall one with black."

"Don't forget about the perception filter," Jack murmured. "It's pretty powerful, it would have to be." He ran his fingers through Ianto's hair. "I just can't picture you as a red-head."

Ianto smiled faintly. "My mother had auburn hair. My real mother."

"What can you remember of her?"

"Only that she was sad a lot." Ianto shifted around until he was lying on his back beside Jack. "She had a lovely smile. Although I suppose all little boys think that about their mothers."

"Probably."

Tiredness dragged at Ianto, an exhaustion of body and soul that had everything to do with what he had heard from Jack in the last hour. "Come on," Ianto said, pulling at Jack's sleeve. "Get under the blankets and try to get some sleep."

"Ianto--"

"Just take off your boots," Ianto continued. "Even you get cold."

Slowly, Jack kicked off his boots and slid under the covers. Ianto wasn't sure if Jack would just pretend to sleep, and he didn't want to push the man in ways ill-advised considering the content of Jack's story, but he wasn't at all surprised when Jack turned abruptly to kiss him, touch desperate and hands everywhere all at once.

There might even have been a measure of forgiveness in Jack's touch, and Ianto wasn't about to push that away.

~~~
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