It was gone. The light, the vibration. The room was quiet.
He looked around. Had he been here before?
Possibility moved around him in sluggish waves. The walls welcomed him with their anonymous blind eyes. The floor did not move under his feet, and he wondered about a world where that was not strange.
Colours were bright, sharp, with smells coming to him in waves. Tea. Grease. Blood. Death.
Not death, his bruised mind whispered at him. That was only a possibility on the horizon, one possibility in a universe of possibilities.
There was a body by the bars. He stared down at the body, wondering if he knew this person, if he was known in return, what their possibilities were.
Kneeling. That was a possibility. To touch a shoulder, to push hair back off a cold face, to come away with a handful of blood and the realization that he knew her. And she was dying.
The world rushed back to him in a gibbering panic. He did not know her name but he knew he loved her in so many ways. She had worn a wedding dress and wielded a gun, had screamed at him in anger, had laughed with him, had sat with-- His mind skittered away from an overwhelming sense of vertigo.
Now she was dying.
That was one possibility.
He did not want that.
Carefully he lifted her in his arms, her head lolling back and dripping blood on his arm, the floor. The air moved in and out of her lungs too slowly, her heart beat blood out of her body, and she was dying in his arms.
The possibilities were endless. He chose the one that best fit, went up small stairs and past a sofa and many desks, into a room where another desk took up space. He did not know who should fit into this big space, but the vertigo pushed at him and tipped the woman out of his arms to the floor.
She did not move.
Her breathing was wet and rough.
She was dying.
Vertigo pushed at him, too many possibilities and too many options and not enough time
There was a safe in the wall. He knew that, although not how. He knew the combination, knew which compartment to reach for, knew to pull out the small box, remembered words not his own speak of nanogenes and air raids and healing. For this was the only possibility he could see.
He stumbled to the floor, gathering her boneless body into his arms, resting her broken head against his shoulder. She no longer breathed, no more air pulled into bloodied lungs.
A kiss against her unmarked forehead, and he unlatched the box. Tiny glowing dots in the air, swirling up and over him and her, glittering over her skin and hair and broken skull, sinking into her.
Air caught in her lungs, and she breathed again. Her pulse moved under his seeking touch. Not waking. Not yet. He cupped her cheek with his hand, touched her soft skin, rocked her back and forth. He had given her more possibilities, more choices to make and more chances, and because of those possibilities he loved her.
High voices intruded on his mind, voices set in the now
, ignoring the future and the past, and they tore at his mind.
"This blood is cold," a voice said.
"Where are they?" another voice, higher in pitch.
"Ianto! Gwen!" This voice ripped at him, sending him spinning in the dark. He pulled her closer to him, to protect and be protected.
"There!" the first voice said. "There's blood going up to your office, Jack!"
Sounds, vibrations, and the whole universe burst in on him.
Five people, his mind catalogued. Two women, two men (one dead) and--
The universe spun on its axis and ripped itself into pieces and stitched itself back together again, spinning a little different than before.Wrong
The man in the long coat, who wasn't really a man but a fact
, a point in the universe unmoving, ran at him and her, and he tried to shrink back but there was a wall and that possibility was cut off.
"Ianto, what happened?" the man in the long coat asked. "Gwen?"
The dead man joined them. (Dead) fingers moved over her head, touched her skin. "Looks like she's had a massive trauma, but she's breathing. Ianto, what happened?"
The man in the long coat picked up the small box. "He used the nanogenes." The man in the long coat looked over a shoulder at the man by the doorway. "I went back to the crash site in 1941, I had to get a sample--"
The man in the doorway wasn't listening. "What have you done?" was the question, slipping and sliding over the air.
Someone tried to pull her from his arms, and he resisted. He had to keep her possibilities safe.
"Easy, mate," the dead man said. "I need to examine Gwen, see how she is."
"No," he said, remembering how to push sounds from his mouth to make words. "I have to keep her."
"Ianto, this isn't any time for games." The dead man gently tugged on her until she was in the dead man's arms, skin pink and soft and breathing and full of possibilities. "We'll look after her."
"What have you done
?" the man in the doorway asked, louder. "Jack!"
The man in the long coat sat back on boot heels, never taking eyes off him. "I didn't do anything!" came the shouted rejoinder.
The man in the doorway pointed, face full of shock and pain and the ghosts of so many dead possibilities. "He's Gallifreyan! That's not possible
Possibilities. The amusement bubbled up in him, ripped into space by the stark standing fact in the centre of the universe. He laughed once, then sound caught in his throat and changed to a sob.
The man in the doorway pulled something from a pocket, poked it around looking for possibilities. The woman with red hair ducked out of the way of the searching blue light.
"The Rift didn't just crack, it opened." A voice full of horror.
"So?" Hands touched his face, sending him scurrying backwards on the floor.
"Do you know what's at the centre of the Rift?" An answer was not expected. "It's the Time Vortex
, that's what! Even to glance at the edge of the Time Vortex, twice in one lifetime--"
"He's never looked into it before!" Worry and panic painted the air with shades of dread. "He's not like the Master, his mother left him here when he was a baby. He grew up on the Rift."
"That's not possible." The blue light went away. "I'd have sensed him--"
"His mother hid him here! Maybe she knew what was coming, I don't know, but it doesn't matter!" Hands on his face again and he stopped fighting and fell towards the centre of the universe. "Ianto, come on, talk to me."
"The last time the Rift was opened, Abbadon came out," the dark-haired woman said, helping the dead man helping her
. She was waking now, slowly, a sleeping beauty from tales long forgotten. "Did something else come out this time?"
"Tosh, go check sensors," said the man in the long coat. "Owen?"
"Gwen's going to be fine," the dead man said. "What about Ianto? Is he hurt?"
Hands moved over his face, his head, shoulders and pulled open his jacket and unbuttoned his shirt halfway. "I think he split his stitches, there's a little blood." Fingers removed the bandage on his chest. Maroon drops of blood slid over skin, the possibility of death pushing at his mind.
Falling. Then he tried to step higher, but he was rather short for his age and his red hair was in his eyes and his hand didn't quite reach the branch and he slipped and he fell, like Alice down the rabbit hole, but the ground rushed up to meet him too fast and he landed on his head and he felt his neck snap and his skull smashed open and then everything went dark.
"Ianto! Stop it!" Flailing hands and kicking feet and falling on solid ground, and it was him and he was dying he was dead and the possibilities wouldn't stop.
Holding him down, flat on the earth, and when he woke up, it was nighttime and the forest was dark and haunted around him. He sat up and touched his head carefully, in case his brains fell out, but his head was in one piece and his neck didn't flop around like a noodle and his hearts beat fast in his chest but he felt fine.
"Ianto, it's okay, you're fine, Gwen's fine, you're going to be all right." Soft words whispered in his ear, words swirling around the universe in his mind. "Come on, please be all right."
"Is he always such a nutter?" The unfamiliar woman spoke, curious and not really caring, not understanding, walking into the room eyes wide open.
"It's the Time Vortex," the man with the blue light said. "It can inspire a Time Lord or drive him mad. I don't know if anyone his age has ever been forced to look at it before." A glance at the man with the long coat, wrapped around him. "How old is he?"
"He's twenty-seven," came the grinding answer. "And before you say anything about what he told us, I met Ianto when he was nine years old, just a child. So it's him."
"Time Lord children don't age this fast, Jack." The blue light was back in Ianto's eyes. "They barely reach adolescence by a hundred earth years, for him to have aged this fast... Who are you, boy? What did they do to you?"
"Ianto, can I see your watch?" Words in his ear, spinning around the universe. He did not have any words in response. A gentle hand went into his pocket and removed a silver object. Mama's hair so soft against his face, warm hands on his face, kisses on his cheeks and nose and he laughed, making mama laugh and that was the best thing in the whole universe, when mama smiled and played with him and sang him songs and told him stories of Gallifrey. Mama put something in his hands, a new toy, and it was a circle, he knew that, one of the new words she had given him that very morning.
She guided his little hands with her big ones, and with the push of a button the top of the circle opened and he crowed in delight. A new game!
"I love you, my son," mama said in her sing-song voice, wrapping a warm blanket around him. She lifted him into her arms and he barely noticed, fascinated with his new toy. "And I don't suppose you'll ever forgive me for this, but I have no choice."
He lifted his new toy to his mouth to taste it. Mama gently pulled it away.
"I wish you were old enough to understand," she said, kissing him again. Her cheeks were wet and her voice was strange and he stopped laughing.
Mama was sad.
Why was mama sad?
It was loud around them, with beeps and honks and voices, and he just stared up at mama.
Mama set him down on a bench beside a big road. "Hide and grow and be safe, my son." She kissed him over and over, then pulled back and smiled at him, but it wasn't a smile at all. She touched his cheek. "I love you. I will always love you. If I can, I'll come back to bring you home. If there is a home to go to."
He held the circle in both hands, eyes only for his mama. He watched her as she stood up, as she walked away they way they had come, how she doubled over in the alley making the strangest sounds, crying like she was hurt very badly, but she didn't come back.
"Mama," he called. He wanted mama back, and she always came when he called. "Mama!"
She did not come.
"Mama!" he screamed as loud as he could. He began to be afraid, and he was cold, and he wanted mama. "Mama mama mama!"
Other people came over to him, talking words he didn't understand, worried faces and confused hands. Still, he called for his mama, but she didn't come back.
She never came back.
The man with the blue light opened the watch.
There were words he was missing. Important words, words that meant things, held meaning for people. What were they?
"There's writing on the back," the man in the long coat said. "Doctor, is Ianto going to be okay?"
"I don't know, Jack." The Doctor carefully opened the watch's back cover to look down at the delicate engravings.
The Doctor stared for a very long time.
Slowly, the Doctor looked up, directly at him. "Where did you get this?"
Hands, Jack's hands, helped him sit up, back pressed against the wall. He thought about the possibilities in the Doctor's question, the branches of chance and coincidence and lost hope. "It was my mother's," he said.
"Do you recognize the writing?" Jack asked. Jack's hand never left his shoulder.
The Doctor slowly closed the watch back. "I do." A compulsive swallow, and a gradual drift to the floor. Long limbs sprawled everywhere. "It's a name. She... I knew her, your mother. A very long time ago."
Jack took the watch from the Doctor's hand.
"Is she still alive?" he asked.
Pain. Lost possibilities. The end of everything, all in the Doctor's eyes. "Not anymore." Eyes came back up. "How did you survive?"
"Hidden away on the Rift as a baby, covered in a perception filter and knowing too much for his own damned good," Jack said, torn between worry and affection. Tosh leaned in closer. "Come on, Ianto, you have to know that Jack totally adores you." She smiled, a little sadly. "It's sort of cute."
Was that who he was? Ianto? Was that the name he clothed himself in, hiding carefully amongst the mysteries of this place?
"It's not just that," the Doctor said. "You don't understand, this boy's mother never had a baby, not like that."
Jack raised an eyebrow.
"Really long story," the Doctor said quickly, dropping his voice. "My species was pretty much biological sterile. Reproduction was... complicated."
"Mostly sterile means not all the way," Jack pointed out. "Look at Owen. He's only mostly dead."
"Pining for the fjords," Ianto murmured. William Jones looked up from his newspaper as Ianto cackled at the comedians on the screen. "Your brain's going to rot if you keep watching that drivel," he said affectionately.
"Leave the lad be," Sarah Jones admonished. "He's worked hard all week."
"You call sitting in a classroom hard work? When I was his age--"
"You sat in a classroom all week, same as he," Sarah interrupted. She fiddled with her piles of marking. In the distance, a bell rang. "Ianto, go fetch the biscuits from the oven."
"He needs more activity than coming home and sitting on the couch watching telly," William's voice followed Ianto into the tiny kitchen. "Boy, you're coming to the shop next week to help with inventory!"
"William, you know he can't do that," Sarah said. "He's only eleven. The last time you tried that, he was almost buried under a bolt of tweed!"
"He's grown half a head since then!"
"No heavy lifting, then!"
Ianto put the kettle on the hob and pulled out the tea pot, hopping a little on one foot as his right heart beat faster than his left for a few moments.
"Ianto, do you need any help?" Sarah called.
"No, I'm fine!" Ianto replied, then jumped back hissing when he accidentally touched the still-hot metal of the cookie sheet. That hurt!
Ianto shook his hand, ridding himself of the phantom pain. He didn't understand why there was such red blood on his skin. Had he hurt himself so much?
No. It was not he. Light bent around the room as he looked at her, at what was her name
Gwen, slowly sitting up in Owen's arms.
The redheaded woman, still by the door, crossed her arms over her chest. "All right," she said into the room. "I think we've all had enough of this. Where do you keep the tea?"
"Donna!" the Doctor said sharply.
"What? We're all British here." She paused. " 'Cept you. And that one. And maybe this bloke in the coat. I want a cup of tea."
"Around the corner and down the stairs," Ianto said automatically.
"Tosh, go with her," Jack added before Donna could make her escape into the body of the cavern. "She's interesting," he said to the Doctor.
"You have no idea," the Doctor replied.
Gwen let out a groan. "Why do I keep getting hit in the head?" she wondered aloud. Owen helped her sit on her own. " 'S'not fair."
"You doing okay?" Jack asked.
She nodded, one hand pressed to her forehead. "How's Ianto?"
Jack handed the watch to Ianto, who took it with a little confusion. Why did Jack have his mother's watch? "Good question," Jack said.
Gwen grimaced as she touched the back of her head. "Things keep ending with me getting my brains blown out," she complained. Then, "I have to call Rhys."
Jack sent a glance across the room, this time to Owen. The dead man helped Gwen to her feet and out the door to her desk.
That left Ianto alone in the office with Jack and the Doctor, neither of whom would look at each other. Ianto let his eyes drift back down to his watch, to the hands swinging around in circles as they always had.
"So..." Jack said after a few moments of awkward silence. "What brings you to Cardiff?"
"The usual," the Doctor said, jumping on the topic. "Fuel stop." He nodded. "How long had the Rift been acting up?"
"A few days."
"And how long have you known that young Mr. Jones was a Time Lord?"
Simmering anger pushed out the Doctor's words, slamming into Ianto with the force of a gale and knocking him sideways against the wall. Jack didn't even seem to notice. "A few days," he shot back. "Ianto's perception started to go and he was injured and the perception filter no longer works on Owen--"
"Because he's dead?" the Doctor interjected. "How did that
"Gentlemen," Ianto said, cutting into the conversation because Jack's heart was breaking with every word the Doctor spat at him and Ianto didn't understand and he didn't want to. "Has the Rift stopped acting up?"
Jack climbed to his feet with all the grace of an old man. He went to his desk and hit a few buttons on his monitor. "It's back to normal background levels," he said. "Once the Tardis stopped draining energy from it, that is."
"This was not my fault," the Doctor said. "You said yourself the problems started long before we got here."
"Unless the Tardis kicked everything up a notch and was the last straw on the camel's back."
"You do love mixing your metaphors, don't you?"
Ianto had heard enough. The Rift was back to normal, the world vibrated under his feet, and it was morning and he had a job to do. He rose, using the wall to help him up, pocketing his watch as he did so. His shirt was in disarray and his jacket unbuttoned, but he supposed the Weevils would not object to his appearance. "Excuse me, I have things to attend to."
He took one step and collapsed into Jack's arms, a swoon worthy of any olden-time movie heroine and completely embarrassing. Jack held onto him, helping him stand straight again. "It's not every day I have handsome young men falling into my arms," Jack muttered, smiling hesitantly at Ianto.
"Much to your chagrin, I'm sure." Ianto gripped Jack's arms so tight he put wrinkles in the fabric of the shirt. Jack had no possibilities, only facts, stretched in a long line as far as Ianto could see.
"Yeah." Jack still smiled, then kissed Ianto on the forehead and wrapped his arms around Ianto and held him close, clinging, carefully measured desperation in every movement, and Ianto let himself relax into Jack for long enough to remind himself of more facts
, that Jack was Jack and he had told Ianto the truth about certain things and he wanted Ianto, and that was enough.
Behind him, the Doctor made an impatient noise. When Ianto glanced around, the Doctor was staring at the coral on Jack's desk. "What?" Ianto asked, a little hostile. "Is your species not up much on public displays of affection?"
The Doctor touched the coral. He slowly looked up at Ianto. "Your species, too, young man." His eyes slid over to Jack, just for an instant. "Don't you see it?"
"In Jack. No," he corrected himself. "Not in
Jack, but Jack himself. He's not... normal."
"Anyone who can't die isn't normal, but he fits in around here." Ianto stood straight, Jack's hands falling away from him. Thankfully, Ianto did not topple over. "It bothers you that he's..." Ianto waved his hands. "That he's different."
"Does it matter if it bothers me?"
"Not in the least." Ianto moved away from Jack experimentally. His legs worked this time, which was gratifying. "I have to feed the Weevils, and someone needs to check on Mainframe."
"Someone else can deal with that today," Jack said, but Ianto shook his head. He had a routine that needed to be met, otherwise too many possibilities offered themselves and Ianto would be lost.
"I can handle this."
"I'll go with you," the Doctor said before Jack could object again. "I've never seen the inside of this Torchwood."
"You'll find it far more cozy than Torchwood London," Ianto said without thought.
The Doctor's face froze. "How would you know that?"
Ianto did not let himself feel cowed by the man. His life was his own, and not subject to the whims of a time-traveling alien who popped into Cardiff occasionally to mess with the Rift. "I worked for them until the battle of Canary Wharf." If anything, the Doctor's gaze grew even colder. "You are welcome to remain here with Jack if that makes you uncomfortable."
As he suspected, the challenge set up the man's hackles. Wordlessly, Ianto gave Jack a measured nod and led the Doctor out of Jack's office.
He made it no more than ten steps before being accosted by Owen. "How many fingers am I holding up?"
"Good. What does it say on the bottom of Tosh's monitor?"
Ianto looked across the room, a good twenty feet away. "That Jubilee Pizza is moving shop next week and we are invited to patronize them at their new establishment."
Guiltily, Tosh closed her email.
"Have you experienced any more time loops?"
"Is this really necessary?" the Doctor interrupted.
Owen continued his impromptu exam of Ianto. "You might be this big scary Doctor boogieman that Torchwood is supposed to fight, et cetera, but I'm his
doctor and he's not dying on my watch." He stuck the thermometer in Ianto's ear. "Although you can tell me, what's your species' normal core temperature?"
"Works out to sixteen degrees Celsius," the Doctor said. He stuck his hands in his pockets, watching carefully.
"Good." Owen stepped back. "Congratulation, Ianto. You're an alien. I need more brain scans and should redo those stitches."
"Not now," Ianto said. "I've morning rounds."
"You almost got sucked into the Rift and Jack's making you go about your routine?"
Ianto sidestepped Owen. "If you will excuse me." He walked past the sofa, where Donna was chattering away at a gobsmacked Gwen, past Tosh checking on the Rift, down the steps, and into the lower levels, all with the Doctor on his heels.
"You have an odd idea of cozy," the Doctor mused.
"One makes due with what one has." Ianto donned a pair of surgical gloves and opened the refrigerator that held what Gwen had dubbed 'Weevil-chow'. "I'm sure you know how it goes."
Ianto loaded up the food cart, ignoring the pull on his stitches, and trundled off, an oddly quiet Doctor in tow.
Well, quiet until Ianto opened the door to the first set of Weevil cages. "What is going on here?" the Doctor demanded.
"We call them Weevils," Ianto said, opening up the food tray in the first cage. Its inhabitant snarled sulkily at him. "Jack says they are alien, and they just slip through the Rift.
"And you lock them up."
"Mostly they live in the sewers and avoid humans, but these ones have gone rogue." Ianto continued on down the line with the morning meal. "Came up to the surface, started attacking humans. It happens more and more these days."
"And you lock them up."
Swallowing a heady rush of deja vu, Ianto deliberately continued to the next cage. "It's the only thing we can do. If we let them free, they would keep attacking humans."
"It's happened before."
"So you lock them up until they die?"
Ianto finished with the last cage and stripped off the gloves. "Not all of us have a fancy Tardis to take them home."
"What else do you do with them? Experiments?"
"This isn't Torchwood London," Ianto said. "Jack would never stand for something like that." The Doctor still stared at Ianto with utter disapproval. "What else can we do? We can't let them out, they'll kill people. We can't put them in cages together, they kill each other
. We can't send them home. We have no other option at this point."
The Doctor was silent.
A line of possibility trickled into Ianto's head, that one day Torchwood would find out where the Weevils came from, but it was distant and far-off and it dissolved into dust when he tried to reach out for it.
Brushing off the spinning vertigo, Ianto tried to turn the meal cart around, but the Doctor stood in his way. "How could you work for Torchwood, knowing what you are?" the Doctor demanded.
Ianto rested his weight on the cart, wishing the man would just move
. "If I knew what they were doing on the inside, I could keep out of sight and undercover."
"That's my life!" Ianto's voice rose too loud, setting off the Weevils into fits of howling. He shoved the cart at the Doctor, sending the man jumping out of the way, and left the block. The clang of the metal door cut the din slightly.
After putting the cart back in its place and washing his hands, Ianto picked up his clipboard and went for the stairs. The Doctor followed until Ianto reached Mainframe.
"It wasn't as if I had any sort of idea what I was, not really," Ianto said when the silence grew too much. He focused carefully on Mainframe's blinking lights, avoiding the Doctor as much as he could. "I hadn't even heard of Time Lords until Jack told me about you a few days ago."
"What did he tell you?" The voice was deceptively calm.
"That you're the only one left, and that you're a time traveler." Some of Mainframe's circuitry was running slow, and Ianto hoped that she was just getting a cold and hadn't been hurt by the tear in the Rift. He made a note to put Tosh on it. "That there was a war and everybody died. And about Harold Saxon being the Master and him dying too." Ianto's fingers curled around his pen, the words stuck in his throat. "It's not... I mean, Jack told me about regeneration, is there any chance that I could be..." He couldn't finish.
The Doctor pulled his hands from his pockets. "No, you're not him," he said. "He's dead." A pause. "And you are very, very lucky to have that perception filter on you. If he'd found you..."
"No, he didn't." The Doctor relaxed slightly, shoulders slumping. "I have no idea what your mother was thinking when she left you here on the Rift. She must have done some major modifications to your genetic makeup so you'd age at a human rate. And the perception filter is an amazing piece of work. It's even working a little on me."
"What was she like?" Ianto asked. "My mother?"
The Doctor's response took a long time, and even when it came, told Ianto next to nothing. "She was a good person. Even if I didn't always agree with her. And she always did what needed to be done."
Ianto gave Mainframe a loving pat and turned away. "What does that mean?"
The Doctor pulled a pair of glasses from his pocket and donned them to examine the computer. "On Gallifrey, after so long of being sterile, even if one was able to have children the biological way, it simply wasn't done
. When-- I can't imagine what went through your mother's head when she found out about you. She went through a lot of trouble to keep you, and to keep you safe, Mr. Jones." He frowned at Mainframe. "Do you mind if I..."
"Go ahead," Ianto said.
The Doctor pulled out his blue light again, hit some buttons, and aimed it at one of Mainframe's interfaces. "Would have been quite a scandal, you would have been."
"Do you know anything about my father?" Ianto asked. He made himself relax his grip on the clipboard. How often had he told himself that his past didn't matter?
"It's hard to say." There was something the man wasn't saying, but Ianto didn't know what it could be. As it were, his mind pushed him to move on, go forward and to leave the past in its place. The Doctor tapped at the interface and played with his blue light and suddenly, Mainframe whooshed back to life. "There we go!" the Doctor exclaimed. "All little bits and bobs knocked out of place in the blast." He beamed at the computer. "She's gorgeous. Where did you get her?"
"She landed here and Torchwood built around her," Ianto said. "Toshiko has done some amazing things with the computer."
"Yes, Dr. Sato," the Doctor mused. "Met her once over the corpse of a space pig. Strange year, that." He swiveled. "So, want to come with me?"
"I beg your pardon?"
"See the universe, learn about yourself? You're still a child." The hope of reborn possibility glowed in the man's eyes. "I can tell you all about Gallifrey and the Time Lords and--"
Hope stuttered. "Why not?"
"I can't leave Torchwood." The words were coming without thought and Ianto couldn't bring himself to wonder why. He only knew that he couldn't leave Cardiff, not now. It wasn't even a possibility. The only possibilities he had were at Torchwood, in Cardiff, on Earth. Not with the Doctor.
"You mean you can't leave Jack."
"He's part of it," Ianto admitted.
"And the rest?"
Ianto shrugged. He clutched the clipboard to him like a lifeline. "You saw what happened today with the Rift. Torchwood needs me."
"You really think that staying on this little world is more important than becoming what you were truly meant to be?" the Doctor demanded.
"My mother left me here, she can't have imagined this planet as not worth saving," Ianto retorted, wondering why he was arguing about this when it was already set in stone. The Doctor closed his mouth with a snap. Ianto hung up his clipboard and set about tidying up the station. "I can't leave now," Ianto said after a few minutes. "It's not the way it happens. But someday. Maybe. I don't know."
He did know, but he wasn't about to tell the Doctor that. A line of possibility existed where Ianto traveled at the side of the Doctor, and even as Ianto thought about it, the line gained in strength, in form, until it crossed the line from possibility
and Ianto was content with that.
"What did you see?" the Doctor asked after a minute.
"What do you mean?"
"When the Rift opened. What did you see?"
Ianto closed a drawer, straightened the flower painting that the computer liked. There were a million possibilities in the movement of his hands, in the air he took into his body, and he could see them all, mute moments in time plastered along the wall. "The edge of everything," Ianto said. He put down his hands. "And I still do."
"Is that why you're staying? Because you think you have to, because of something you think you've seen?"
"It's as good a reason as any."
The Doctor pulled off his glasses. "How can you not come?" he demanded. The echo of desperation set off ripples in Ianto's mind. "Knowing you're different from them upstairs, and you don't want to know?"
Where Jack had no possibilities, this man had too many. Ianto shifted his eyes away. "Not now." He didn't know how to explain to the Doctor that there was no arguing, this was just the way it was going to be
. "This is how it is. It's what I see."
A slow realization dawned on the Doctor, halting his desperation and spinning him back along possibility. "The Time Vortex is making you see things," he said. "That's why you're staying here, because you see yourself here. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy." He shook his head. "That's not what being a Time Lord means, you can--"
"What, change history?" Ianto interrupted.
"Jack told me about the Paradox machine, you can't tell me you go about changing history."
"It's not about changing history, it's about living
"That's what I'm doing here!"
The Doctor raked his fingers through his hair, making it stand up alarmingly. "Is there anything I can say to convince you to come with me?"
Ianto did not say a word. If the Doctor didn't see the same things Ianto did, the possibilities from this single conversation alone spinning out into infinity, Ianto would not tell him.
"What if it gets worse?" the Doctor asked. "What if what you see drives you mad?"
"In this place, I doubt anyone will notice," Ianto said. His feeble attempt at humour was knocked to the wayside by the expression on the Doctor's face. "Would it be any better out there?"
"Maybe. Maybe not."
"Then I'll stay here. Jack had experience in dealing with crazy Time Lords, he'll probably recognize the symptoms."
The Doctor winced. "You're disturbingly matter-of-fact."
"I was raised in a Welsh orphanage. There's a certain amount of pragmatism that engenders."
"Oh yes," the Doctor said with a sigh, following Ianto up the stairs. "You are indeed your mother's son."
And then, of course, the Doctor spotted Myfanwy as soon as they came out of the halls and he was like a child in a candy store at the real live dinosaur
. Jack hovered in the background, looking between Ianto and the Doctor with that inscrutable air about him. When the Doctor pushed back from scratching Myfanwy's head and announced that it was time to go, Jack closed down.
"Have a safe trip," Ianto said deliberately. "Look us up the next time you're in town."
The Doctor grabbed a pen from Gwen's desk and scribbled something on the back of a nearby pizza box. "If you change your mind. When you change your mind. Call me."
Ianto looked at the number, wondering if maybe the Doctor saw the same line of certainty as he did, after all. "You have a mobile with a London area code?"
"Long story. Oh, and if you do ever have physiological problems, with the hearts and such, there's this doctor working with UNIT in London, name of Martha Jones, she's got a bit of experience in your physiology."
Ianto's eyebrows went up. "Martha knows about Time Lords?"
The Doctor stopped mid-gesture. "You know Martha?"
Ianto glanced up at Jack, smiling. "She worked with us on a few cases," was all he said.
"Really." The Doctor appeared distinctly disgruntled. "Is that a fact?"
"As factual we get."
"Right." The Doctor hesitated, then clapped his hands and said, "Come on, Donna, time awaits."
"But I'm not done catching up on the celebrity weddings," Donna protested, holding aloft a glossy magazine.
"Bring it with you," the Doctor ordered, heading for the door. "So long, Torchwood."
Jack waited until the Doctor and his companion were out the door, then slowly strolled down the steps. He had just removed his wallet from his pocket when the Doctor popped back in again.
"Sorry to bother you, but can I borrow some cash for a cab--" He spotted the bills in Jack's outstretched hand. "Right. Thanks."
"Goodbye," Jack said pointedly. There was a spot of glaring between him and the Doctor, then the Doctor withdrew.
And was back a moment later. "You all do realize that the perception filter's still working on all of you, making you think it's okay that you're working with an alien."
"Not on me," Owen called.
"Except on him," the Doctor corrected.
"And again, I say goodbye," Jack repeated. The Doctor gave Ianto a resigned wink, vanished, and the door rolled shut.
Ianto exhaled. "So that was the Doctor."
"I always thought he'd be taller," Owen said.
Gwen looked rather shell-shocked. "Donna never stopped talking," she said. "Sure, it was interesting stuff about aliens and explosions and the like, but still. Wow."
Jack turned around, so very weary. "Who wants a day off?"
Tosh raised her hand. Gwen nodded emphatically, then winced and held her head. Owen rolled his eyes. "Fine, I'll watch the place and make sure the universe doesn't explode while you lot are lying about," he said.
"Good, I'll drive everybody home," Jack said. He glared Gwen down. "You have a head injury. You are not driving."
"Doctor's orders," Owen said. "I still want to run some tests on Ianto."
"Those can wait until tomorrow," Jack said. He was gathering up his coat and keys. "I'll make sure he's all right today."
Ianto caught Jack's hand as the man passed him, gave it a tiny squeeze, then let Jack pull away.~~~
"I think Tosh was asleep before her head hit the pillow," Jack said as he climbed back into the driver's seat of Ianto's car. "We should really get those cots for the office."
"Uh huh," Ianto said absently. He traced his finger over a map of southern Wales. Looking at the road made his head spin. "Have your ears stopped ringing yet?"
"Rhys didn't shout that loudly."
"I heard you in the street," Ianto said. "So did half of Cardiff."
Jack waved away half of Cardiff. "I wasn't the one to make Gwen come in to work early."
"That is really not the point." Ianto tapped the map. "Now what?"
Jack turned into traffic, letting the SUV ease along with the morning commuters. "You get a day off, too."
Ianto folded the map and returned it to the glove compartment before turning to face Jack. "Aren't you going to ask what happened with the Doctor?"
Jack's jaw clenched. "Doesn't matter, does it?"
Ianto continued to stare. That was the thing with Jack, there were no stray possibilities with him, no uncertainties, only fact, and the whirling noise of future
slowed when Ianto looked at Jack.
Jack exaggerated the movements he needed to change lanes. "What?"
Ianto sank back against the seat. "I think the Doctor wasn't telling me everything."
"Colour me surprised."
"He knew a lot more about my mother than he was letting on. And I think he knew something about my father, but I didn't ask him. Maybe next time."
The car pulled up to Ianto's building. "Next time?" Jack said, still moving with exaggerated calm.
"Next time." Ianto waited until Jack turned off the engine. "One day, I'll go with him. To see what it's all about."
"Of course," Jack said. He didn't undo his seatbelt. "Makes sense, you're like him, you'll want to learn about Time Lords and all that important alien stuff--"
Jack's voice stuttered to a halt when Ianto put his hand on Jack's knee. "I'm not leaving now."
"Next month? Next year? You'll leave at some point." You'll leave me
, was all Ianto heard.
"I'm not leaving now," Ianto said again. "Jack, please."
Jack pushed Ianto's hand off his leg. "I should go help Owen clean Gwen's blood off the floor."
"Come upstairs," Ianto asked quietly. "Please."
After a long moment, Jack undid his seatbelt and followed Ianto up to his flat. The morning sun shone through open curtains as Ianto laid his keys on the hall table. Jack locked the door behind him.
Ianto wanted a shower, to wash himself free of Gwen's blood and the confusion of the day, but he pushed that away for the time being. He put the kettle on, fished out his good teapot, and pulled the tin of expensive tea from the top shelf.
"I get the golden treatment?" Jack said, shedding coat and gun all over the table. He leaned on the counter next to Ianto, warm and stable and quiet, and Ianto never wanted to look away.
"Yes." Ianto shifted closer to Jack, hips touching. "If I left, would you miss me?"
Jack ran his fingers down Ianto's cheek, touching his throat and pulling a gasp from Ianto's lips. "Yup."
The kiss was soft and careful and fragile as glass, and Ianto wondered how Jack could ever have imagined he'd leave. Maybe he was the romantic one, imagining that this thing between them could work, but Ianto had so many possibilities of his own to work through with Jack that he didn't imagine it would ever grow stale.
The sound from the boiling kettle pulled him out of the kiss. Jack watched him with dark eyes as Ianto made the tea and carried the antique pot and two jumble-sale mugs over to the couch. "You dragged me up to your place to watch television?"
"We didn't hear anything on the police scanners, but you know how the strange stuff gets washed up on the morning news," Ianto said. "Sit."
"You never let go of work, do you?" Jack asked, dropping to the couch beside Ianto.
"I thought that's what you liked about me."
"That's one thing." Jack ran his hand down Ianto's thigh. He brushed a bit of lint from the knee of Ianto's trousers. "Ianto?"
"When you do leave, just... say goodbye first, okay?"
Ianto slipped his hand over Jack's. "As long as you do the same when you leave. Or, you know, you could come with me."
Jack smiled faintly at the screen, then lifted Ianto's hand to his lips. "Sounds good to me."
It wasn't everything. But it was enough.