Title: Acts of Mercy
Part: 0 - Prologue, Kiss the Boys Goodbye
Rating: PG in this part; will inevitably span a bevy of ratings.
Summary: AU of 'Captain Jack Harkness' - what if Ianto had been taken to 1941 with Tosh?
Author's Note: Bound to be confusing at first, vaguely non-linear, and though based off my short story on the same premise, will not be a simple retelling! Many thanks to exfatalist for the beta read, and demotu for convincing me I actually should write this.
Kiss the Boys Goodbye
Traffic is slow today, and Ianto navigates the SUV toward Sage Street with little trouble. Tosh is in the passenger seat, chatting in Japanese on her mobile, while he politely tries not to listen. He'd been a little grateful, honestly, when the phone rang; Tosh had spent the last several minutes before that giving him directions two seconds ahead of the vehicle's sophisticated satnav system.
They work well together in the office, but this is the first time either of them have worked solely with the other out in the field. Truth be told, Tosh is not what Ianto typically thinks of as a field agent. She's a genius, undoubtedly the most knowledgeable of any of them except Jack, but in the way of terribly intelligent people, she seems to lack a certain sort of common sense. And Ianto is a bit uncertain about his own assignment to this task, considering his experience in the field is limited, at best.
Ianto finds himself with more questions than answers this morning, regardless. Jack had helped him into his coat, given him a lover's kiss goodbye, and then a reassuring word on the assignment that had undoubtedly been from Jack his captain. Ianto still isn't quite sure when he began to separate the two in his mind, or what it means that he has. There's something comfortable about it, though it's just as dangerous as it is comfortable. He thinks sometimes that he might be getting too close to Jack, thinking of the captain in a possessive sense, when surely Jack isn't the type who can be tied down.
"Hai, hai -- Ianto, up here."
Ianto breaks out of his reverie and parks the Range Rover on the curb across from the old Ritz dance hall.
Tosh finishes her phone call and puts her mobile away as they get out. She reaches for her laptop in the floorboard, but Ianto takes the strap and slings the case over his own shoulder.
"Here, let me."
"Thanks." Tosh offers her usual shy smile, then gets back to business as they head across the street. "So, what do we know about this place?"
Ianto pushes open the doors, laden with fliers for small, local band gigs and a campaign poster beseeching 'Vote Graham,' and waves his hand to clear the stirring-up of dust. "The Ritz dance hall ... according to my research, opened in 1932, enjoyed the height of its popularity during World War II. Suffered a gradual decline until being closed for good in 1989, and currently due to be demolished in a week. There have been reports of people seeing ghosts, lately. Jack thought it merited looking at."
"I don't believe in ghosts, but ... let's see what the readings for Rift activity have to say." Tosh pulls a boxy, hand-held scanner from her bag.
Ianto raises his eyebrows. "New kit?"
"Just a little something I whipped up." She hesitates. "Um ... Jack doesn't know about it, yet, so if you could just --"
They sweep the foyer, then head up the massive staircase that dominates the place. The banister is solid wood, scratched and worn shiny with thousands of hands passing over it through the years. At the top, there's a grand ballroom with a large chandelier hanging overhead. A few tables line the perimeter, chairs turned up with legs sticking into the air, and all of it covered in sheets.
Ianto pauses and looks over the overhang to the floor below, which was probably once a bar. "Jack will be disappointed. He probably would have looked right at home here."
"He should have come, then," Tosh murmurs distractedly, making a quick turn of the ballroom with her scanner.
Ianto turns around, expectantly watching her work. "Anything?"
"No." She holds up the scanner to show the negative results on-screen. "I don't think there's anything here. We might as well go."
They make it half the way back downstairs before the music reaches them; not contemporary, but the full and brassy sound of an old fashioned big band.
"Did you hear that?" Tosh asks.
Ianto nods, glancing back up the stairs. "Our ghosts have excellent timing. Shall we?"
The ballroom is completely transformed by the time they reach it. The chandelier has flared to life, couples are twirling on the dance floor, and a chanteuse behind the microphone serenades to the sounds of her backing band. There are soldiers everywhere, enlisted men and officers alike, pretty girls with their floral dresses and victory rolls in their hair.
"They look so ... real," Ianto breathes out. He edges instinctively along the banister, trying not to get in the way.
Tosh is silent for a moment. "They're not ghosts," she finally says, holding up the scanner.
Ianto isn't entirely certain how to read the new piece of equipment, but notices a spike in the normal pattern displayed on the screen. He looks more closely at their surroundings and realizes that everything looks different. The tables and chairs are uncovered, people sitting at them and chatting. He can smell brandy and cigar smoke in the air, perfume mingled with the sweat of too many people in one room.
"We should get out of here," he suggests.
Tosh nods agreement, and heads back down the staircase. Ianto instinctively tugs her elbow to move her out of the way of one of the couples moving up the stairs. He finds it encouraging that no one has bothered looking at them funny or acknowledging their presence, yet; maybe something is just ... out of sync.
"Do come again." There's an old man in a cravat beside the open door, and he's talking to them.
Ianto can feel the man's eyes on his back as they walk out of the building; he can't imagine how out of place they must look with Tosh's lit-up scanner box and his own earpiece in. The street outside is dark and deserted, and his heart sinks. The SUV is missing from the curb, and a glance up at the sky confirms that it's several hours later than his watch indicates.
"Ianto ... look."
He turns to where Tosh is pointing, and sees the poster: Kiss the Boys Goodbye Dance: January 21, 1941.
Next Part: Chapter One, I'll Be Seeing You