Title: Kiss the Boys Goodbye
Pairings: Implied Jack/Ianto, blink and you'll miss it reference to Owen/Diane.
Notes: For writerinadrawer's 'Role Reversal' challenge, to put a character in someone else's shoes. I chose to take episode 1.12, 'Captain Jack Harkness,' and send Ianto back in time with Tosh instead of Jack. These are the consequences.
Continuation Note: This story was the inspiration for my longer, on-going chapter fic, Acts of Mercy, the prologue which may be found here. Reading this story will not spoil you for that one, as generally only the concept is the same.
When it becomes clear they're not going home, a novel glimpse of history turns into the grim reality of World War II. They try to blend in as much as they can, changing their names and identities. Tosh takes a job as a translator, and Ianto goes to war.
They never do address the matter of the man called Jack Harkness who wore a stranger's face.
"We can bring them back," Owen argues, "open the Rift using Tosh's calculations, and--"
Jack is shaking his head, even before Owen finishes speaking; his eyes never leave the board that's tacked with photos of Ianto and Tosh, captured in 1941, height of the Cardiff Blitz.
"It's too dangerous. The calculations aren't complete."
"Goddamnit, Jack, the Rift took my lover and yours."
Witnessing history and participating in it, while trying not to interfere, Ianto keeps himself steeled with the knowledge that they'll win, it's just going to take a few years. He's been lucky so far, avoiding injury or death, rising up the enlisted ranks with the sort of intelligence that makes his peers wonder why he's not an officer. Ianto uses the same skill that carried him through his early life: smart, but not too smart, nothing too remarkable to make himself stand out.
He and Tosh write faithfully, though sometimes there are gaps before the correspondence catches up. He always reads the most recent one first, to make sure she's all right; she is all Ianto has of home. They haven't tried to leave a message for the people waiting for them sixty-five years in the future; it would be too much like admitting they're not getting back.
But Ianto does carry a last letter to Jack in the breast pocket of his uniform jacket.
The argument goes on for weeks, waning in strength each time until they don't have it anymore. Jack refuses to budge, no matter how much he wants them back, too; his desire has little to do with Ianto being his lover, and much about the fact they're his team. Even Bilis Manger's manipulations, the visions of lost lovers and the return of a mysteriously missing part aren't enough.
Jack makes Owen and Gwen move on; he doesn't have the heart to tell them that Ianto and Tosh disappeared from history many years ago.
Before Ianto left, he and Tosh had put their heads together to make a timeline, digging up every memory they had of history class. Tosh keeps it well-hidden out of necessity, but brings it out now and again to make sure she isn't going mad. Ianto's letters are cheerful as they can be, and so far he's kept safe.
They never address the matter of what they'll do if they live through this.
Jack can't leave with the Doctor. His team needs him; he needs his team. He takes the lift to the Plass and stands, struggling with indecision, but temptation dematerializes with the vworp-vworp of the Time Lord's unique ship.
If he didn't know any better, he'd swear the Doctor was purposely leaving without him.
It seems like too much of a coincidence when Ianto tries to help with the latest wounded and finds a familiar face. Triage has set him aside; the nurse has administered morphine, and shakes her head when Ianto meets her eyes.
He stays anyway, holds the man's hand and quietly weeps; for himself, for Toshiko, for the countless deaths that will follow this one, for the man this isn't, who he's left behind and somehow left ahead. Ianto sits with the man until the shrapnel in his side takes his life, and coaxes him into silence when he noisily revives.
Ianto helps him to his own empty bed, and hopes Jack was too delirious to remember it someday.
It's another seventy-five years before Jack sees sign of the Doctor again. The twenty-first century is when everything changes; it only makes sense that the Doctor would be there. Owen and Gwen are long dead. Jack has done his duty, and there's nothing to keep him here.
The Doctor can't fix him, so Jack asks for a favor instead.
Ianto comes back injured, and he and Tosh count the days to V-E Day. The war isn't over yet, but as Tosh leads him limping from the hospital, they're both laughing. The celebration in the streets is raucous enough that no one notices the sound of a police box shimmering into existence.
The man in the greatcoat who suddenly sweeps the two of them into a hug could have been (and was once) part of the war effort, himself.
Tosh starts crying, once it finally sinks in; but Ianto starts laughing so he won't sob instead. "What took you so long?"
Jack cradles them both like something precious, cheek pressed against Ianto's hair. "I finally understood," he answers, and half the words don't make sense. "You didn't disappear from history--I came and found you."