Title: The Torchwood Patient
Pairing: Ianto/RealJack, Ianto/Jack
Genre: Slash, AU.
Warning: Spoilers for Doctor Who episodes “Army of Ghosts” and “Doomsday”, Torchwood episodes “Captain Jack Harkness” and “Everything Changes.”
Word Count: 8100.
Summary: What if Ianto brings back a very different secret with him from Torchwood One?
Thanks to for beta.
The patient was brought into Torchwood One in the mid-afternoon, in so much pain he couldn’t remain conscious for more than a few seconds at a time. Rumors began flying as soon as he arrived: he’d fallen through the rift in Cardiff, he’d been pulled out of time, he was from another dimension, another Earth.
The assignment to discover his identity was given to Ianto Jones. Once the uniform was cut off the patient’s body Ianto was given samples of the fabric and what remained of the insignia, as well as access to the wreckage from the plane. “Look on it as a side project,” said Keira. “He may wake up.”
It took less than a day to confirm the uniform fibers were organic (cotton and wool, with indigo dye), but the insignia was so burned he hardly knew where to begin looking for clues. As for the wreckage itself, the metal was the same as every airplane made for the last sixty years and there wasn’t even a speck of paint to go on.
Ianto took to sitting by the patient, watching him and wondering. They had alien technology to regenerate his skin, but his injuries were so extensive Toby didn’t think he’d ever fully recover. “It’s a wonder he’s even alive,” Toby said with a sigh, after an examination of the newly-grown skin over the patient’s hands and feet. “The human body just isn’t meant to endure this kind of suffering.”
“Are we doing him a cruelty,” Ianto said quietly, “keeping him alive?”
“I wonder sometimes.” He checked the IV and left the medical bay.
One of the nurses pulled on a pair of cotton gloves and began to manipulate the patient’s toes. Ianto watched her for a few minutes, and then said, “What are you doing?”
“Starting small with the poor love,” she said. “We’ll try to keep him moving so the muscles don’t atrophy. When his skin’s all healed we’ll do his arms and legs.”
Ianto watched a moment longer. “Can I help?”
She smiled at him. “Sure,” she said gently and gave him a pair of gloves. “You do his fingers. Just tiny movements, back and forth and around. That’s right,” she said, nodding with approval as Ianto began to very gently move the man’s fingers. “That’s just right. You’ll be fine, won’t you, love?” she said to the sleeping man. “No matter what Toby thinks. Life is always a gift.”
Ianto smiled to himself and watched the patient, wondering if he would agree.
“One hundred thirty-eight thousand casualties from Britain from World War II alone,” Ianto told Lisa, “killed or missing in action, and that’s just the Air Force. He could be any one of those missing men.”
“Don’t you have a way to narrow it down, if they had an actual body to bury or not?”
It was gruesome subject matter for lunchtime, but Ianto couldn’t stop thinking about his side project. He was keeping a file of facts and suppositions, and spent hours when he was home searching the internet for any trivia that might help.
“Bodies were misidentified all the time,” Ianto said, shaking his head. “And someone as badly burned as he was, there wouldn’t even be fingerprints to go by. Narrowing it down by his physical description still gives me thousands of possibilities.”
“You know he was an airman,” Lisa said.
Ianto said gloomily, “If I could figure out whether he flew a fighter or a bomber that might help, but the plane is too destroyed to give us that much detail until the analyses are complete.”
She patted his hand. Seamus said Lisa had a crush on him, which Ianto found alternatively sweet and nerve-wracking. She was smart and so pretty and he was just Ianto, younger than everyone in his department by at least two years and more comfortable with facts and research than people. “Maybe he’ll wake up,” she said gently, “and solve this mystery for us.”
“Maybe,” he said.
“Why didn’t they keep him in Cardiff? That’s what I’d like to know. They found him, after all.”
“They don’t have the facilities,” Ianto said. “They’re really a barebones operation. And you know what Yvonne thinks of Captain Harkness.”
Lisa laughed. “Every time she goes off on another one of her rants I just want to meet him that much more.”
Ianto just smiled at her. He did, too–he wanted to see if the stories were true, if Yvonne was exaggerating about the mysterious Captain Harkness and his team of misfits. He considered Captain Harkness just another mystery to be solved–an abstract, larger-then-life mystery.
After lunch, his other research projects completed and filed, Ianto went to the medical bay to visit the patient. The alien device hummed, the monitors steadily beeped, the man breathed. Ianto pulled on the cotton gloves and began to carefully move the patient’s foot in slow circles, carefully cradled in his protective hands.
“Who are you?” Ianto whispered, watching his face. “Who are you?”
The patient moaned, and Ianto nearly dropped his foot. “Toby!” The doctor left his other patient and joined Ianto to look down at the man. “Toby, I think he’s waking up.” He couldn’t keep the excitement out of his voice.
Toby shined his penlight into the patient’s eyes. “No,” he said at last. “Coma patients will move or open their eyes sometimes, but it doesn’t mean brain activity has resumed. Sorry, Ianto.” Ianto nodded and sighed, and before he could resume exercising the patient Toby said, “You like him, don’t you.”
“I . . . I feel for him,” Ianto said.
He came in on Saturday morning, The Prestige and a few newspapers under his arm, and paused with a smile when he saw Lisa at the patient’s side, reading poetry to him in her warm, throaty voice. She smiled back and pulled over another chair. “I thought he might be lonely.”
“So did I,” Ianto said and took the chair.
It wasn’t just Ianto that was interested in the patient, of course, and not just the medical team. At least two other research teams were studying the patient: one to see the effects of the alien technology on his healing, another studying the effects of the rift on his body. The trouble with that was, no one was truly certain what injuries were caused by the rift and what were caused by the crash.
“We can’t do much more than observe the rift,” Seamus explained. “We’ve been observing it for nearly fifty years and we still don’t know even how far it extends. But if we could control it–open it and close it, control where it opens to–think of the possibilities. Time travel, Ianto–maybe even space travel. Travel between dimensions, maybe.”
“There won’t be much travel if the journey kills you,” Ianto pointed out.
“That’s what we have to figure out,” Seamus said.
Ianto was given permission to read the reports: there were faint traces of temporal displacement phenomena on the patient (the “John Smith”, as they called him) but they could find nothing else unusual. There was no alien technology in his body, nothing to offer a clue about why he’d been taken out of time aside from the randomness of the rift.
Ianto wrote an email to Captain Harkness at Torchwood Three, asking if he could get any information about weather patterns that day, and was sent back a report from a Toshiko Sato answering his question and then some. It had been raining, there were a few reports of thunder and lightning but it was not continuous, the wind had been out of the northeast and the barometric pressure had topped at twenty-nine. “At first we thought the fallen object was a meteor or even a crashed UFO,” she wrote. “We think he pulled himself out of the wreckage, but he was in too much pain to tell us anything when we found him. Dr. Harper gave the survivor a shot of morphine and we took him to London as quickly as we could. Is he all right?”
“He’s still alive,” Ianto wrote back.
It took him a week, but Ianto finally was able to write his report about the wreckage: it was a portion of the starboard wing of a Hawker Hurricane, Mark II, making the patient a fighter pilot. This narrowed down the possibilities of his identification a bit more: Ianto took to poring over records from World War II, searching for any photographs of airmen he could find.
He exercised the patient every day and read to him, novels and the newspaper with a few comments now and again on current events. “The world is very different from what you’re used to,” he said softly.”In a way it’s safer. In a way . . . it’s not.”
When the patient’s head moved Ianto thought it was just reflexes, like Toby had said, and thought the same when his eyes slowly blinked. But when the man turned his head and blinked at him again, with eyes that were steely blue and surprisingly alert, Ianto felt his breath catch. “Hello,” he said and tried to smile. “Hi. Hi. I’m Ianto–I’m–you’re–”
The man’s eyes closed again and his heart monitor beat a little faster. “I’ll get the doctor,” Ianto said and ran to find Toby.
He had to wait outside of the medical bay while Toby and the nurses examined the patient, and when Toby came back out again Ianto took out his notebook and pen. “What did he say?”
“Not much,” Toby said, drawing Ianto away from the medical bay doors. “He asked where he is and if he could have some water, and then faded out again. It’ll take a while for him to come out of the coma completely.”
“Will he remember anything?” Ianto pressed.
“It’s hard to say. Do you want me to copy you on the report?”
“Yes, please. Can I talk to him?”
“Later, Ianto,” Toby said. “Let him rest a while.”
Ianto let the patient rest until the end of his workday, and then went back to the medical bay. Trudy smiled at him and waved him on, and Ianto sat down at the patient’s bedside. His eyes were open again, and they flitted around for a few minutes before they landed on Ianto. Ianto smiled and the patient smiled faintly back. “Hi,” he said.
“Hello,” the patient whispered. “Water?”
There was a mug with a bendable straw at his bedside: Ianto angled the straw into his mouth carefully, holding the mug low so he could suck up a drink. After a few swallows the patient pushed out the straw with his tongue and closed his eyes.
“What’s your name?” Ianto said. “We’ve been trying all week to find you somewhere, some record of you, but there isn’t anything that I can find.”
The man looked at him. “My name?”
“Yes. Do you remember?”
“No,” he whispered. “I don’t. I don’t at all. I remember . . .”
“What?” Ianto whispered. “What do you remember?”
His eyes shimmered. “Pain.”
“I’ll get the nurse.”
“No. It’s all right. I’m . . . I’m tired.”
Ianto nodded, abashed. “I’ll let you rest, then.”
“No!” the man said and Ianto paused. “Please stay,” the patient whispered. “Please talk to me.”
“Yes,” Ianto said, pulling the chair closer. “Yes, of course I will.”
The patient’s recovery was slow. He did the simple exercises with help from the nurses and his visitors, he answered questions, and he even had a few guided hypnosis sessions with the Torchwood therapist to attempt recovering his memory. Still, movement was difficult without help and he couldn’t remember anything about his past beyond brief flashes.
He liked listening to Ianto read. He liked instrumental music and chocolate milk. He liked when Lisa read him poetry and when the entire research department smuggled in a television and DVD player to show him “Sergeant York” and “The Best Years of Our Lives.” He didn’t like physical therapy, Jell-O cups, Yvonne’s visits and not knowing his name.
“We could name you anything you want,” Ianto said as he helped the patient bend and raise his legs. “You’re American–or maybe Canadian, but I’m fairly certain you’re American. So maybe we should give you a cowboy name like Clint–” The patient laughed outright, wheezing a little. “Or Zeke. I don’t know–I don’t actually know any cowboys.”
“I don’t think I’m a cowboy.”
“Well, it’s the spirit of it.” The patient smiled, his eyes closed, and Ianto gently squeezed his ankle. “We’ll have to give you some identification at some point, anyway.”
“This isn’t a hospital,” the patient said and opened his eyes to look at Ianto.
“No.” It was time–past time–to tell him the truth. “We’re called the Torchwood Institute. We study . . . anomalies.”
He was still looking at Ianto, curious. “I’m an anomaly?”
Ianto took a breath. “Yes. You see, you came out of nowhere. There’s a rift–a rip in time and space, out by Cardiff–”
“Cardiff,” the patient whispered.
“Yes. Cardiff, in Wales. And when you–what we theorize is that when your plane was shot down you were taken by the rift and brought here.”
“A rift,” he whispered. “In time and space.”
“I know it sounds strange.”
“It’s all strange,” he said. “Except for Cardiff. That sounds . . . I know that name.”
“Perhaps you came from there. There was an RAF base near Cardiff during World War II–that’s when we think you’re from.”
“World War . . .”
“Yes.” Ianto bit his lip. “Sixty years ago.”
The patient opened his eyes and looked at Ianto. “Isn’t that impossible?”
Ianto shook his head, straightening the patient’s legs. “No.”
The patient frowned, then quietly asked for more water and Ianto dropped the subject.
With more clues to go on, Ianto researched airmen from the Cardiff base. He could find nothing official: there were several men who had died or gone missing during their training or the Cardiff blitz, and a few matched the patient’s description, but the one that suited him most . . . it made no sense.
He said to Seamus, “You’ve met Captain Harkness, haven’t you? From Torchwood Three?”
“Yes,” Seamus said and threw a crumpled ball of paper into Ianto’s wastepaper basket. “And Flaherty scores one for the home team!”
“Would you say he looks like a veteran?”
Seamus shrugged. “No, he’s pretty young. Not as young as you, me laddo, but there’s no way he’s the same bloke.”
Ianto sent his findings to Keira, and was called into Yvonne’s office not an hour later. “Stop looking for the John Smith’s identity. That’s an order.”
“But his resemblance to the man in the newspaper clipping–”
“I said that’s an order, Jones. He is a John Smith and will remain so. The only Jack Harkness you need concern yourself with is the head of Torchwood Three, and let’s pray you never have to deal with him. You’d never survive.” She looked at him severely. “Do you understand?”
“Yes, ma’am,” Ianto said stiffly. He started back to his desk–and then swerved and went to the medical bay, and pulled over a chair by the patient’s bedside.
After a few minutes, the patient opened his eyes and smiled at him. “Hello, Ianto.”
“Your name is Jack Harkness,” Ianto said. “You’re 29 years old and you’re an RAF volunteer from America. You trained fighter pilots until your plane was shot down in January of 1941.”
He said nothing for a few minutes. “I see.”
“I could get fired for telling you this, but I don’t care. You deserve to know.”
“The secret is safe with me,” said Jack.
Ianto was not fired. If anyone else heard him telling Jack his name, they said nothing to Yvonne, and Jack didn’t say anything about it even to Ianto. He was still the John Smith, officially; he was still “the patient” to Toby and Trudy and the rest of the medical staff. They all called him John when they came to read to the patient–to John–or to keep him company.
Ianto thought Yvonne wouldn’t have noticed, even so: she was utterly preoccupied with a new project, to the point of ignoring everything else.
Ianto returned to his research, talking to Lisa and Seamus and Toby, and visiting Jack. He still emailed Toshiko Sato sometimes, just to stay in touch, and he tried to include a few subtle questions about her Captain Harkness. Toshiko answered them cheerfully: Captain Harkness was the oddest boss she’d ever had–but she liked him very much, and as mad as the job got he always made things worthwhile.
Ianto thought about it for a week or more, and then wrote to her, “I’m thinking about asking for a transfer to Torchwood Three. I’m homesick for Cardiff. Do you think he’d have me?”
“There’s no harm in trying,” she wrote back, but before he could pursue it further Torchwood One got a visitor called the Doctor and everything in Canary Wharf went to hell.
It wasn’t until the machines stopped and the cybermen and Daleks were swept back into the void from whence they’d come that Ianto was able to get to the medical bay. Please don’t let him be hurt, he thought as he raced up the stairs, please don’t let him be taken by one of those things—
No. Jack was safe–he had pulled himself upright and was trying to reach the crutches at his bedside when Ianto burst in. He smiled at Ianto faintly. “Ianto. I heard some shouting.”
“Yes–we’ve had a bit of a mess.” He took a breath. “I have to get you out of here.”
Jack frowned. “Where’s Toby?”
“He’s–oh, hell, Jack. He’s dead. Trudy’s dead. Lisa’s dead. So many people are dead, Jack.” He sank down into the chair at Jack’s side and to his embarrassment began to weep. Jack hesitated, then wrapped his hand around Ianto’s and held it tight. “Sorry,” Ianto whispered and kissed his palm. And then he blushed and let it go, and Jack curled his hand on his thigh. “Sorry,” he said again, wiping his face and getting to his feet. “I’ll get your wheelchair.”
“Ianto,” Jack said and Ianto paused, looking back at him. Jack said softly, “I was so happy to see you. I was afraid–I–”
Ianto felt his throat sting again. He said, “I’m never going to leave you,” and went to hunt down a wheelchair.
He took Jack to his flat–there was nothing else he could do. He laid Jack in his bed, put a big mug of ice water and his crutches and chair within his reach, and said, “I’ll be back as soon as I can,” before going back to Torchwood. There were strangers there: a thin man inspecting the bodies, an Asian woman speaking gently to a survivor, a dark-eyed woman frowning over the Cyberman converters, and someone who could only be the man calling himself Captain Jack Harkness listening to several people speaking at once.
“All right, all right,” he said, putting his hands on the shoulders of the two people closest to him. “We need your help now, okay? We’ll get it taken care of. But now we need your help to clean up and identify the dead, okay? Okay?” he said firmly, and they nodded and began to move away, towards the other members of Torchwood Three.
Harkness sighed and his reassuring smile left his face, and Ianto said, “Captain Harkness.”
“Yes,” Harkness said, pulling the smile back up.
“I’m Ianto Jones–I’ve been corresponding with Toshiko Sato the last few months.”
“She’s mentioned you. Now is really not a good time for a job interview,” Harkness said.
“No, of course not. But once this is all over I’d appreciate a few minutes with you.”
“Sure,” he said and put his hand on Ianto’s shoulder a moment. His hand was warm and comforting and Ianto almost felt like things were going to be okay. “Why don’t you help Tosh out?”
“Yes, sir,” Ianto said, and turned to go.
“Ianto, wait a minute. The plane crash survivor that we brought in a few months ago, the John Smith: I went to check on him and the medical bay is empty. Do you know where he is?”
Ianto took a deep breath, and then shook his head. “He didn’t make it, sir.”
Harkness studied him a moment, then nodded and sighed. One of his team called to him–the thin man, with an “Oi, Jack!”–and he turned away from Ianto. “Like I said, please help Tosh,” he said over his shoulder.
Ianto nodded and approached the woman who was probably Tosh, saying, “Ms. Sato? I’m Ianto–” and before he could finish she threw her arms around him.
“I’m so glad you’re safe!”
He stood there a moment, uncertain, then put his arms around her and hugged her. “Yes,” he whispered. “Me, too.”
Ianto’s job interview happened when he gave Harkness a list of names and Harkness gave him a cup of coffee. Ianto warmed his hands and sipped the coffee, grimacing–it tasted burned–and Harkness said, “This can’t be right.”
“Rose Tyler. This can’t be right.” He looked up at Ianto, despair in his eyes. It was a strangely naked expression for someone Ianto suspected was nothing that he claimed to be. “Did you see her? Did you see Rose?”
“I didn’t–someone gave me her name.”
“Who? Who was it?”
“I didn’t know him–a tall fellow, brown hair–I could look in the HR database for you.”
Harkness frowned and looked at the list again. “Not him,” he murmured. “Maybe a different Rose . . . So.” He switched gears so abruptly Ianto blinked at him, surprised. “You want to work in Cardiff for me.”
“Yes. I want to be home.” Mostly he’d wanted to get Jack away from Yvonne, which really wasn’t an issue anymore–but he could still make use of Torchwood’s resources to look after him, far better than he could on his own.
“Particularly after today, I imagine.”
“The only opening I really have is someone to man the tourist office we use as a cover. There’d be other duties as well, but nothing glamorous. It’s a step down from assistant archivist at Torchwood One.”
“Is there a paycheck?”
“Then I’m in.”
“That’s all you need to know? You don’t want to know hours or pay scale or–” He shook his head, mock-stunned.
“You want me, don’t you?” Ianto said, and then looked away, realizing how it sounded.
“Oh, yes,” Harkness said softly, “I do. But,” he added more cheerfully, “if you’re willing I’m not going to argue with that. You’ll brighten up the place, at least.”
“All right, then. Welcome to Torchwood Three, and we’ll expect you in Cardiff in a week.”
“Thank you,” Ianto repeated, and drank some more of that awful coffee as Harkness ambled away and called, “Suzie! How are we doing with the dismantling?”
Keep your friends close, Ianto thought. And your enemies closer.
He took a deep breath, straightened his tie, and went home to start preparing the move.
Before he left Torchwood One, Ianto spent a night created an identity for Jack. It wasn’t safe for him to be Jack Harkness, of course, so Ianto gave him the name John Harris and a background: birthplace, birth date, schooling, employment, as close as he could to what he knew of the real thing. He used one of the photographs from the newspaper clipping just before Jack’s disappearance in his documents, and when he held the passport, even with a few stamps in it to look authentic, he wondered what Jack would have been like, how his life might have gone, if he’d come through the rift healthy instead of wounded.
Once they were in Cardiff, Ianto took a ground-floor flat with a tiny sketch of a garden so Jack could sit in the sunshine when he wanted to, and hired a live-in caregiver named Polly. When he first wheeled Jack into the garden Jack looked around and smiled, and then reached for Ianto’s hand. “I’ve missed the sky,” he said softly.
“It’s all yours now,” Ianto said.
“It’s all so beautiful.” He was silent a moment. “I don’t deserve it.”
“Now you’re just talking nonsense.”
“I can’t give you anything back,” Jack said, looking at Ianto. His face was lined with exhaustion from enduring chronic pain; his dark hair had gone grey, and he was terribly thin, his long slender bones stark under his tender skin. But his eyes were alert and keen, and utterly honest as he said, “I can’t give you a thing, Ianto.”
“I don’t want anything,” Ianto said.
Jack smoothed the blanket over his legs. “You give me this beautiful house . . . and all this sky . . . you told me my name. What can I do in return?”
“You’re doing it,” Ianto said. “You’re living. You’re having a life when you could have died. I think sometimes you’re even happy.”
Jack continued fidgeting with the blanket, then said, “I remember being afraid of knowing who I was. What I was. I remember knowing people would hate me if they knew the truth.”
“I’ve always remembered little things, bits and pieces. Flashes, emotions, faces. Nothing I can put a name to, not really. But you understand, don’t you, Ianto? I’m not . . . like other men.”
“Oh, is that all?” Ianto said and almost laughed. “That was a long time ago. Things are different now. You can love whoever you want and it’s all right.” Jack looked up at him and Ianto said, “I love you. And I’m always going to look after you. I want to. I want you to be happy, Jack.”
Jack smiled then, and it was beautiful.
Ianto expected to dislike Captain Harkness. He’d taken Jack’s identity, after all, and Ianto suspected he’d fooled someone at Torchwood to get this position–for what reasons, Ianto couldn’t imagine. What could Harkness want with a man thought dead for more than sixty years? Still, he worried what Harkness would do if he learned Jack was still alive, and so was careful never to say a word about having a boyfriend, not even in passing, in order to avoid any uncomfortable questions.
But he didn’t dislike Harkness. He could find no evidence of treachery or dishonesty: Harkness never lied, never misrepresented himself, never even gave a shifty look. Personal questions simply went unanswered, and while his stories were outrageous there was no reason to think they weren’t true or even just exaggerations. And he liked Ianto, which was clear from the first day when Harkness said, “Well, the scenery just got a whole lot prettier,” and Ianto said, “I’ll just stand on a pedestal for the day, shall I, sir?” and set the pattern for the days to come.
The hours were long and the work alternated between tedious–Harkness had not been joking about it being a step down from his former position–and overwhelming. It was often midnight or later that Ianto got home and crawled into bed beside Jack. Jack would kiss him sleepily and murmur, “I missed you,” and Ianto would hold him tight in apology.
“You have to talk to that boss of yours,” Polly told Ianto. “Jack watches the clock all day for you.”
“I’ll talk to him,” Ianto said tiredly. “But what can I do? It’s a new job. I’m still trying to get established.”
“Tell him you’ve got a partner at home who needs you,” she said with a firm nod. “Surely he’ll understand that.”
“Jack’s doing fine,” Ianto said, even though it had seemed the last time he’d touched Jack’s chest his ribs seemed to stand out even more harshly against his skin, and the circles under his eyes were darker than ever. “Isn’t he?”
“He gets gloomy sometimes and I can’t always convince him to do his exercises or go for a stroll. It’s hard for somebody who used to be active to be so limited now. What did he do for a living before the accident? He doesn’t like to talk about it.”
“He was a pilot,” Ianto said. “He flew airplanes.”
Ianto brooded on it all day at work, and when he got home–before nine, and only because Suzie told Harkness, “You’re working the boy to death, let him go home!”–he wrapped his arms around Jack and said, “All right. Tell me what’s going on with you.”
“I’m just glad to see you.” He pressed his nose against Ianto’s neck a moment.
“Polly says you get gloomy.”
“It goes away when you come home.”
Jack sighed and pulled Ianto’s arms tighter around himself. “You work so hard,” he said quietly. “And what do I do? I do my little exercises and read a lot, and count the minutes until I see you again. I’m . . . useless, Ianto.”
“Never,” Ianto said.
“Maybe I could get a job,” Jack said without much hope in his voice, and Ianto sighed. Jack hardly had the strength to get himself into bed some days: Ianto couldn’t see him getting to an office or a shop every day. “But they’ll never let me fly again,” Jack added, even more hopelessly.
“There are other things,” Ianto said. “You could work from home, over the computer.”
Jack glanced at the computer, frowning. “Polly showed me the internet the other day,” he said doubtfully.
“She showed you the whole thing, did she?” Ianto asked, smiling.
“Well, I suppose not, because I don’t get it. How would I get a job that way?”
“People write blogs–”
“Web logs,” Ianto clarified. “Diaries, essays, reviews. Their thoughts and opinions about things, about their lives.”
“And they get paid for this?”
“Some of them do. We’d just have to set it up to earn a little money through ads, and you could review books, maybe. Since you’re reading so much.”
“Reading and typing,” Jack murmured. He rubbed his cheek against Ianto’s arm. “My father was a professor. I think. Or a teacher? I remember books. But . . .” He frowned. “But he died. Ianto?”
Ianto held him tighter. “Yes.”
“I want to find out what happened to my mother.”
“All right,” Ianto said. “We can look her up–maybe we can find her obituary or something. Do you remember her name?”
Jack frowned, his eyes closed, and murmured, “Emily. No. Emma. Her name was Emma. And my father was John.”
“You were named for him.”
“I think so. John and Jack.” He chuckled faintly. “Maybe I could learn Welsh, too.”
“I’d like that. And,” since they were making plans, “I’ll talk to the Captain and tell him I need to get home earlier.”
“I’d like that,” Jack said and kissed him, and Ianto thought, We can do this. We can make this work.
Ianto told Harkness he needed more regular hours, but still had trouble tearing himself away at the end of the day. Harkness depended on him more and more, not just for the grunt work of tidying the Hub and interacting with the few tourists who came into the visitors centre; he gave Ianto the combination to his wall safe, put him in charge of indexing the archives, discovered a heretofore-unsuspected talent in retconning witnesses and covering up the results of alien contact with civilians.
“You’ve got an interesting streak of deviousness, Ianto,” Harkness said, and Ianto smiled uncomfortably behind his coffee mug.
They all were soon preoccupied with the glove and the murders and Suzie. Gwen Cooper joined Torchwood Three and Ianto supposed he liked her well enough, though sometimes he missed Suzie terribly. Before the glove consumed her she’d been so easy to talk to, more compassionate than one could believe from a murderer. He’d thought they might be friends.
Too late now. Ianto looked around the Hub and wondered what Toby would say about Owen, how Seamus would mock the Captain, that Lisa and Toshiko would have liked each other. He wondered why all his friends ended up dead.
Jack was not doing well. He was exhausted and short-tempered from constant pain, gaunt from lack of appetite, frustrated with his body. Ianto came home more than once to hear that Jack had refused to get out of bed all day, because what was the point? On these occasions Ianto held him and talked to him, trying to persuade him that he had to take care of himself, and sometimes it worked. Sometimes it didn’t, and going to the Hub was a relief.
They argued often. They were equally stubborn. “You promised you’d be home more,” Jack said.
“This isn’t an ordinary nine-to-five job. I’m doing my best but we can’t regulate when we’re going to be needed.”
“I need you. Doesn’t that account for anything?”
“Of course it does–I just–if I quit Torchwood they’d take you away from me, lock you up, study you. I can’t allow that.”
“I’d never let them, Ianto. God, you have no faith in me.”
“I have plenty of faith,” Ianto muttered.
Harkness noticed all was not serene with Ianto, which surprised him because it seemed as long as the coffee was flowing and the takeout boxes were cleaned up the others didn’t even see him there. “Trouble at home?” Harkness said, and Ianto shook his head even though he longed to explain, to tell someone about Jack and how hard it was sometimes to be patient and loving.
Maybe it was inevitable: Harkness was a man of great charisma and sex appeal, and Ianto was tired of always being the strong one. Somehow, they went from Harkness saying, “You’re looking so tired, Ianto,” to the two of them naked on Harkness’s bed in the tiny room under his office. Very little talking had taken place, but Ianto felt relaxed for the first time in months.
That didn’t stop him from thinking, God, I’m a creep, as Harkness absently stroked his hair.
“So this is what they mean by sexual harassment,” Harkness said, his voice amused and sleepy.
“Only if I fucked you for a promotion,” Ianto said and rolled onto his side, pillowing his face on his hand.
“I could promote you to senior receptionist?” Harkness suggested and draped himself over Ianto’s back.”Don’t tell me you regret it. That’ll hurt my feelings something awful.”
Ianto took a breath. “I don’t regret it,” he said, but still pulled on his clothes and went home, where Jack smiled with relief and held out his hands to him.
“I was afraid you weren’t about coming home at all.”
“I swore I’d never leave you, didn’t I?” Ianto said, grasping his hands, and kissed him. He deserves better, he thought, and resolved to be better, no matter how hard it got. Jack had been through enough–his lover was not going to make things worse.
“I found her,” Jack said as he wheeled himself into the loo, and he gave Ianto a printed-out webpage. Ianto spat out toothpaste and rinsed his mouth, and looked through the pages. It was from a newspaper out of Springfield, Missouri–the obituary of Emma Wingfield Harkness, 1892-1965.
Ianto looked at Jack, whose expression was contemplative. “She had a good life,” he said quietly.
“But all those years alone,” Jack said. “My father died thirty years before she did and she never remarried, and then me . . . I hoped maybe I had a brother or sister, but she was completely alone for all that time.”
“But look at all the good she did–all these committees that she was on, all these veterans’ organizations that she was a member of. She was still on her local Red Cross board when she passed. She didn’t give up, Jack.”
Jack nodded slowly, but his eyes were a little damp as he said, “There’s no way I would have survived if I hadn’t come through the rift, is there?”
“I don’t think so,” Ianto said and stroked Jack’s hair to comfort him. “If it helps any, I don’t regret a moment of it.”
Jack chuckled softly. “You’ve always been too good to me.”
No, I haven’t, Ianto thought. He was still shagging Harkness at work–stolen moments in storerooms and Harkness’s office–and the guilt was horrible. Every time it happened he resolved to tell Jack, and to tell Harkness about Jack, but never did.
He loved Jack. Liked him, cared about him, loved the weight of Jack’s body in his arms. But actual sex was so difficult for Jack that they rarely attempted it, and there was only so much satisfaction Ianto could get from holding and kissing.
He hated that about himself.
He kissed Jack tenderly and gave him back the printed pages. “Maybe we could look into going to Missouri.”
Jack took his hand but said, “No. I don’t need to see her grave. I just wanted to know what happened to her.”
Ianto squeezed his fingers and let go of his hand. “So what’s your next project?”
Jack smiled faintly and wheeled himself out of the loo. “I’ll think of something.”
Ianto looked after him worriedly, wondering what that meant, but when he came to bed Jack smiled as Ianto climbed in bedside him. They settled against each other, shoulder-to-shoulder, and kissed good night.
The next day he gave Harkness a blowjob along with his morning coffee, and thought that sometime soon he was going to break into pieces and no one would know why.
The phone in the tourist office rarely rang, and when it did it was usually Owen requesting pizza or Harkness requesting his presence–“And do you have lip balm, Ianto? Your lips get so chapped down here.” So when it rang one October afternoon Ianto picked up the pizza menu and ran his tongue over his lips to check for dryness. “Cardiff Tourism.”
“Ianto. It’s Polly.” Her voice was trembling and Ianto put down the pizza menu. “We’re at the NHS hospital in Heath. Jack–Jack–”
“I’ll be right there,” Ianto said and hung up the phone, and for a moment just stood, too stunned to think. Jack–something was wrong with Jack–he had to tell Harkness he was leaving, and of course the entire team was out–he ran his hand through his hair. Where were his car keys?
He sent an email, simple and terse: “I have a family emergency. Please ring my mobile if you wish to contact me,” and drove as fast as he could to the hospital. He found Polly in the waiting room, her face streaked with tears and a wad of tissues in her hand. “What happened?”
“He was cold,” she said in a voice struggling to be steady. “We tried a bath but that didn’t help, and his blood pressure spiked and he felt faint, so I called an ambulance. I’m so sorry, Ianto. He’d been doing so well.”
“It’ll be all right,” Ianto said, holding her hand. He thought, He got two more years of life than he would have in any sane world, and felt a chill. No, don’t start thinking that way.
A doctor joined them, introducing herself as Dr. Reynolds, and said, “You’re Mr. Harris’s brother?”
“Boyfriend,” Ianto said. “Ianto Jones.”
She nodded. “Mr. Jones, Mr. Harris is in septic shock,” she explained in a gentle tone. “He has a kidney infection. Has he mentioned any pain while urinating recently?”
“No, not to me,” Ianto said, and Polly shook her head sadly.
“He doesn’t like to complain.”
“I see,” Dr. Reynolds said with a sigh. “We’re treating him but I want you to prepare yourself.”
“For what?” Ianto said and then realized what she meant, and swallowed hard. The doctor patted his shoulder.
“You can see him now, for a few minutes,” she said, and Ianto got up to follow her.
Jack looked small in the hospital bed, his face covered by an oxygen mask. Ianto pulled over a chair to sit by his side and took his hand. “This is where I came in,” he said softly and Jack’s eyelashes fluttered. “Don’t try to speak,” Ianto said. “Just rest. I’ll be here as much as they let me.”
Jack’s fingers flexed in his hand and he opened his eyes long enough to meet Ianto’s gaze.
“There’s something I need to say,” Ianto said. “I’ve made a mess of it. Of us. I was going to do everything right by you, and I didn’t. And I’m sorry.”
Jack’s fingers flexed again, his gaze steady.
“I love you,” Ianto said. “But I’m not very good at it. But if you pull through this–when you pull through–I’ll do better. I’ll be better. I can make you happy, Jack, I know I can.”
Jack closed his eyes.
Ianto sighed and lifted Jack’s hand to his mouth to kiss the back. “I’ll let you rest. You’re going to be all right, Jack.” He stood and kissed Jack’s forehead, and left his room.
Polly had got them both cups of coffee while he was with Jack, and gave one to Ianto when he joined her again. “I found the chapel,” she said.
“I can’t remember the last time I prayed,” Ianto said quietly and took a sip. It was horrible–stale vending machine coffee–but he was grateful for it anyway.
His mobile buzzed and Ianto checked the number. Torchwood–Harkness’s number. He clicked it on. “Ianto Jones.”
“Where are you?”
“The NHS hospital in Heath,” Ianto said.
“Is your family member okay?”
Ianto inhaled. “The outlook isn’t good.”
Harkness was quiet a moment, then said, “I’m on my way,” and hung up.
“There’s no need,” Ianto said, but Harkness wouldn’t have heard him anyway. “My boss is coming,” he told Polly.
“That’s a hands-on boss,” she remarked.
“Yeah.” He looked down at his coffee cup. Harkness was so transparent, really: he was coming to comfort and support his lover, not to check on his employee.
When Harkness arrived Ianto stood to greet him, and Harkness wrapped his arms around him and kissed his mouth. Ianto relaxed against him a moment, then stepped away and said quietly, “Thank you for coming, but really, it wasn’t necessary.”
“I’ve been worried,” Harkness said. “Who is it? Your father? Your mother?”
“My boyfriend,” Ianto said and met his eyes. Harkness’s face showed his disappointment, and Ianto had to look away again. “I’m sorry. I should have told you.”
“Yes, you should have,” Harkness said.
Ianto felt Polly at his elbow and said, “This is Polly Turner–she’s been helping me look after Jack.” Harkness’s eyebrows raised a moment at the name, but Polly was already holding out her hand and Harkness smiled and shook her hand.
“Captain Jack Harkness.”
“You’re a very friendly boss,” she remarked.
“Ianto’s a valuable asset,” Harkness replied.
Ianto slid into one of the pews in the chapel and folded his hands together over the top of the seat. He hadn’t prayed much since he was a child, and he didn’t think there was much point to praying now. Still, the serenity of the chapel was comforting.
He didn’t look up when Harkness joined him, and they sat in silence for a while. Finally Harkness said, “So. You have a boyfriend you neglected to mention.”
“I thought it was the wise choice,” Ianto said quietly.
“Why?” Harkness said. “Why would you lie about this?”
“I was trying to protect him.”
“From what? From whom?”
“From you!” Harkness stared at him, and Ianto sighed and said, “Because he’s you. Or you’re him. I haven’t quite figured it out yet.”
“What do you mean, he’s me?”
“I mean,” Ianto swallowed hard, “I mean he’s the John Smith who came through the rift two years ago. He’s Jack Harkness. Born in 1912 in Springfield, Missouri, only child of Emma and John, shot down over the Atlantic in 1941. I had to dig deep to find out just that. And when I found his name Yvonne told me to drop it–ordered me to drop it, in fact. Because of you.”
Harkness murmured, “I see,” and let out a deep breath. “You’ve known this all along.”
“Yes.” He looked at Harkness. “So why him? Why his name?”
“It’s a long story that I really can’t get into. Just trust me that it was necessary.” He put his hand lightly on Ianto’s back. “He’s in no danger from me.”
Ianto closed his eyes. “It doesn’t matter now. He’s dying.”
Harkness rubbed his back, saying nothing, until a nurse came to find Ianto and tell him it was time to say goodbye.
Because of Jack’s condition, they’d talked about what he wanted for funeral arrangements more than once, just to be prepared. Ianto had thought Jack would want to be buried with his parents in America, but Jack wanted something much simpler.
Three days after Jack died, Ianto went out to his car to see Harkness was waiting for him, his arms crossed over his chest. “I thought you might want company,” Harkness said.
“Thank you,” Ianto said after a moment, and unlocked the car door for him.
They were quiet on the drive to the funeral home, and Harkness waited in the car while Ianto collected Jack’s ashes. He didn’t get a fancy urn, just a standard container, which he handed to Harkness to hold while they drove to the coast, outside of the city.
At first Harkness was quiet, watching the scenery, then finally said, “What are you planning to do next?”
“I’m giving up the flat. I don’t need two bedrooms anymore.” He looked at Harkness. “If you’re planning to retcon and retire me I’d understand.”
Harkness shook his head and looked out the window again. “No, I’m not planning to do that. You’d have to do something a lot worse than this.” He added after a pause, “And I couldn’t take him away from you.”
“Thank you, sir.”
Off the main road and onto a track that followed the coastline, until Ianto found a promising cliff face, facing west. Wildflowers grew in the thick grass between the road and the cliff’s edge, and Ianto strode right up to the edge, the container of ashes cradled in the crook of his elbow.
He took a deep breath. Harkness was behind him, his coat rustling in the wind. “Should I say something?” Ianto said to him. “I should say something, shouldn’t I? A poem, a prayer, something.”
“Say what you feel,” Harkness suggested gently.
“I miss him,” he said and his eyes felt damp. “I’m so used to thinking about him every moment. Who is he, what does he need, how do I take care of him. I don’t know what to do with myself now.”
“There are other people who need you,” Harkness said.
“Do they?” He turned to look at Harkness. “Do you?” Harkness shifted his weight from one foot to the other, and Ianto said, “You know, we’ve had sex nearly every day for months now, but how much do we really know about each other?”
“Not as much as we thought.”
Ianto nodded, accepting the chastisement. “With Jack there was a reason, at least. He couldn’t remember.”
“We’ve all got secrets, Ianto. You’ve got some, I’ve got some. I’m sure your Jack had some secrets, too, that he kept even from you.”
“What’s your point?” Ianto said, hugging the container to his chest.
“I don’t have a point. I’m just saying. Secrets are a part of life. Does that make you love him any less?”
Ianto closed his eyes and hugged the container tighter. “No.”
“All right, then. Memorialize him, Ianto. Memorialize him and let him go.”
Ianto turned back to face the ocean and lifted his face towards the sun. “Jack loved the sky,” he said finally. “He liked old movies and books and talking to people . . . and me. He liked me a lot.” Harkness moved closer to him and placed a hand on his back, and Ianto leaned back against it a moment, accepting his warmth. “He should have kept flying. I . . . I wish the rift had let him keep flying.”
Harkness squeezed his shoulder. Ianto unscrewed the lid of the container and scattered Jack’s ashes so that the wind caught them and took them out to sea.