Finding Beauty (stray_heart) wrote,
Finding Beauty
stray_heart

Torchwood: 'Acts of Mercy,' 2/?

Title: Acts of Mercy
Part: 2 - Goodnight, Wherever You Are
Pairing: Jack/Ianto
Rating: Various; PG this chapter
Spoilers: Direct for S1, but everything including some book canon.
Summary: AU telling of 'Captain Jack Harkness' - what if Ianto had been taken to 1941 with Tosh, leaving Jack behind to wait and wonder?

Author's Note: I can't believe I got this out so quickly. Mostly plotty, getting stuff done. Thanks to exfatalist for the beta!

Last Part: Chapter One, I'll Be Seeing You

--

Two
Goodnight, Wherever You Are


"We should try to blend in," Ianto tells Tosh when they go back inside. This is easier said than done: he's the only man aside from the band or the old manager who isn't wearing a uniform, and he thinks that stands out more than the fact Tosh is Asian. Pearl Harbor hasn't happened yet, but pressure is on every young man to do his duty. The draft is nearly unnecessary, in that regard; everyone knows that if they don't defend the country, then all is lost. None are inclined to go down without a fight.

Ianto tries to keep the same attitude in place, even as he anxiously wonders if the others have guessed -- or will guess -- anything close to what has happened. He doesn't want to let Tosh know just how worried he is, but knows she must sense his concern: it mirrors her own.

"Do you think they've noticed we're missing?" Tosh asks after a few moments spent on the fringes of the dancing crowd.

Ianto checks his watch. "It's still early. Jack probably won't start to wonder until after time for your train to run."

Tosh is silent for a few seconds more. "But surely after that, they'll figure it out."

He smiles tightly, tries to be reassuring. "What about the Rift manipulator?"

"It's no good ..." She steps back to avoid a pair of soldiers squeezing past; one of them is busy staring at Tosh as he goes, but she either doesn't notice or ignores it. "I have the latest readings on my laptop."

Ianto thinks about it a moment longer, then glances around. "Come on, let's find somewhere quiet. I have an idea."

Neither of them pay much attention to the old man with the camera, taking a photo of a soldier and his girlfriend only feet away. They move down the hallway and duck into the first quiet, unlocked door, which proves to be an office. It's tidy and cluttered all at once, organized and crowded chaos, like the accumulation of many mismatched things over the course of a long life. The room reminds Ianto, with a pang of sudden and unexpected longing, of Jack's office.

"All right," he states, drawing in a breath. "We know they're going to search here for us. If we could copy the coordinates down, leave them somewhere the others are likely to find them ..."

"Got it." Tosh rushes to the desk and sets her laptop down, and fumbles around for a pen and paper. "Your battery is running low," the computer chimes unhelpfully.

Ianto posts himself by the door to keep an eye out for anyone else coming in. "Do you need help?"

"I don't think so." She pauses, shaking the fountain pen in frustration. "I'm not used to writing with these."

"Here." He crosses to her and produces a ballpoint pen from his jacket pocket. "Use this."

"Your battery is running low," the laptop states again, flashing a red warning signal. "Your battery is --"

Ianto watches in dismay as the screen powers off. "Did you get everything?"

Tosh hastily closes the laptop and puts it back in her bag. "Yes. I just need to get our coordinates, now, to help them pinpoint the location." She hesitates, glancing up. "I hope this works."

"It will," he answers with more confidence than he feels.

The office door opens just as they turn to leave; Ianto starts, searching his mind for a good excuse as the manager walks in. "Sorry," he says, finally settling on none at all. "We were just going."

The old man raises his eyebrows at them but doesn't comment, keen blue eyes watching as they pass. Ianto gives a polite little nod, and can't help but spare a glance at the unusual camera the manager is carrying, on his way out.

--

Jack retraces their footprints in the dust. The broad, long-legged stride of Ianto's wingtips; the shorter-spaced, delicate steps of Toshiko's high heels. They begin in the front room, then up the stairs. Indentions of footsteps on the carpet, all the way up and circling through the ballroom, and then back down ... where they stop at only half the way. Jack closes his eyes and leans with his hand against the banister, conjuring the two of them in his mind's eye: Ianto with his head tilted, beckoning with an arm crooked; Tosh curling her small hand around Ianto's elbow.

And from there, what? They have disappeared, but Jack knows that people don't simply vanish. There's always a reason: human intervention or supernatural, spatial or temporal. People are taken by the Rift and returned again, ghosts of themselves; people slip through rips and tears in time and are lost.

"Tosh!" Jack calls, though he knows it's useless. "Ianto!"

He should have been with them, he thinks guiltily, instead of begging off and sending Ianto instead. He'd thought despite the younger man's obvious misgivings that it would be good for Ianto to get more experience in the field. Just a routine assignment, then drop Tosh off at the train station, and back at the Hub for elevenses.

Jack rings both their mobiles again, just in case, and gets the same response: Tosh bright and cheerful and Ianto evenly professional on voice mail greetings. He taps his earpiece, impatient. "Owen, anything?"

"Negative," Owen comes back across the comms. "Going down to check out the basement."

"Keep me posted."

Jack makes one more circuit around the ballroom, and stops to stare at the bandstand, as if the empty chairs have secrets they will tell him. He can imagine exactly what this place would be like in its heyday, full of music and so alive, but now it's simply another memory layered in dust.

"Ianto, Tosh," he breathes out on the current of a sigh. "Come on ... give me some kind of sign."

--

"May I have this dance?"

Ianto and Tosh look up simultaneously. The pilot standing there is not the same fresh-faced boy who had helped Tosh with the coordinates. This one is dark-haired and smartly dressed, and has his hand extended to Tosh, who has a dumbfounded expression on her face. Ianto gives her an encouraging nod. "Go ahead," he urges with a smile. "I'll be fine."

Tosh is obviously reluctant, but a refusal would be more trouble than it's worth. Ianto waits until she and the pilot -- Ianto hears him introduce himself as George -- have disappeared into the crowd, then gets up and heads back in the direction of the office they had been in earlier. Ianto glances up and down the hallway before entering, and experiences a flood of relief as he finds the camera sitting on the desk. It's a model that he doesn't think should exist yet, with the ability to take photographs with instant film, but Ianto isn't going to question the good fortune. He and Tosh had talked it over and decided that a photograph would stand a much better chance than ink and paper.

Ianto lines up the paper and carefully takes the picture, anxious and rushed with the fear of being caught. They need nothing to make themselves stand out. He knows from all his lessons in temporal paradox that if they become too entwined in events, it may well serve as the nail in the coffin for their chances of ever returning.

He checks his watch again while waiting for the photo to develop: they have been here an hour. It may be enough time for Jack to start wondering, but Jack isn't prone to keeping tabs; the only thing he is likely to have noticed by now is that his coffee cup is empty. Ianto sighs, rubbing a hand over his face, and barely straightens in time to catch the door opening before the manager walks in.

Startling like a guilty child, Ianto hides the photo behind his back and clears his throat, but the old man just looks amused. "We really must stop meeting like this," he states, walking around to the desk.

Ianto turns uneasily. "I was just -- the camera -- it's a very fascinating device. I confess I wanted to get a closer look."

"Ahh," the man states, sounding enlightened. He takes something -- a slip of paper, another picture? -- that he'd been carrying, and slips it in the pages of a book, jutting out past the edges. "I could take a photograph of you and your lady friend, if you'd like?"

"No, that's all right." Ianto shakes his head, and gestures at the door. "I'll be going now. Sorry to bother you." He turns and tries not to look hurried as he slips out the door. He can still feel the old man's eyes on his back when he closes it again, and can't help but wonder what the apparent manager of this place must think of him, barging around. It's certainly against the rules of propriety for his own day and age, much less this one.

Ianto blows out a sigh of relief and heads back out to try to find a hiding place for the photo. It needs to be somewhere that Jack, Gwen, and Owen will think to look, and somewhere that might withstand the future demolition of the dance hall, just in case. He's moving hurriedly down the hall when another of the pilots abruptly crosses his path.

"Pardon me," the man says, putting out his hands to prevent a collision. The accent is American. "I don't suppose I make much of a pilot if I can't watch where I'm going."

"No harm done," Ianto reassures briskly. He tucks the photo into his jacket pocket to hide it, and tries to step around.

"I don't think we've met," the man is busy saying, inconveniently.

"Um ... Daffydd Jones," Ianto lies, extending a hand. He figures the last name is safe -- how many Joneses are there in Wales? -- and the substituted first is common enough.

The American accepts Ianto's hand and shakes it; solid, firm, but polite. "Captain Jack Harkness."

Ianto stares hard, feeling as if the floor has tilted beneath his feet. He isn't so much surprised by the man himself -- he'd suspected that at some point in history, a man named Captain Jack Harkness must have existed before Jack assumed the title -- as the strange series of consequences that have brought them to meet. Morbidly, Ianto wonders when this man will have to die in order for Jack to become him.

"Are you all right?" the captain asks. His tone implies that he's repeated the question for Ianto's benefit.

"What? Oh, yes. Sorry." Ianto gathers himself back together and resolves to do what any sane person would do in his situation: refuse to think about it. He heads back toward the ballroom, hoping to get away, to keep with his vow of no interference.

"I understand," Captain Harkness says, falling into step companionably alongside Ianto. "This war, it has all of us a little rattled. Come on, let me buy you a drink."

Ianto has a gin and tonic, and is obligated to settle at a table with the man. In his mind, against his will, he's already begun compiling a compare-and-contrast list between Captain Jack Harkness in 1941, and the Captain Jack Harkness he left behind (or is it ahead?). He scans the crowd for Toshiko to distract himself, and finds her dancing again, this time with a different one of the uniformed men. She looks like she might actually be enjoying herself.

Captain Harkness has noticed where Ianto's eyes wandered. "Excuse my men, they've had a little too much. Tonight's their last night of OTU. A lot of them are shipping out for the first time tomorrow."

Ianto turns back, shaking his head. "As long as she's fine dancing with them, I don't mind."

Captain Harkness -- Ianto can't think of him as Jack -- nods, and takes a long sip of his drink. "She's your girl?"

"No," Ianto blurts. He chooses his next words more carefully. "We're friends, colleagues. Traveling together."

The other man might be assessing Ianto's lack of uniform, or he might just be wondering at a Welsh civilian, traveling with a Japanese woman.

"Code-breakers," Ianto explains, lowering his voice to suggest the hush-hush nature of the information he's imparting. A good lie can sound like the truth if imparted the right way. "I'm on a small holiday through here, then we're on our way to Bletchley."

The captain leans forward in his chair, attention rapt. "Important work," he agrees, lifting his glass. "A toast."

Ianto clinks his glass and drains the gin and tonic quickly, sadly amused at the fact that, for him, it still feels as if it's mid-morning and he's drinking alcohol instead of coffee. He's almost sobered by the thought when he sets his glass back down.

Then, all around, the sirens go off. The reaction is instantaneous: the music stops like a needle lifted from a record, the crowd pauses mid-step, and the old manager is calling for everyone to head to shelter. Ianto jumps up and rushes to find Tosh as the realization finally hits home: they're in 1941, and Britain is at war.

--

Jack makes his last stop in an office, the only room in the entire dance hall that looks as if it's still being used, though everything is terribly dated. There are things everywhere, the decor of someone settled in deeply. It is not the office of someone who anticipates evacuating in less than a week, and Jack can't help but find it a little suspicious. He scans the interior of the room, then crosses to the desk and sorts through its contents with little regard for privacy.

The paperwork is of the usual flavor, bills and receipts and letters in relation to the demolition of the dance hall. Maybe this is a last protest, and in that, at least, Jack can sympathize. He flips through all the folders and moves to the back of the desk to look in the drawers. In the bottom of one, a book catches his eye, and he pulls it out to flip through the pages. A photograph flutters out onto the desk, edges yellowed with age.

Jack picks it up and turns it over, and his heart leaps into his throat. The picture is of a young soldier and a woman, but in the background stand, unmistakably, Tosh and Ianto.

"Jack," Owen's voice crackles over the comm.

Jack almost startles, tapping his earpiece. "What have you got for me?"

"Found a tin down here in the basement with a picture in it of some calculations. Looks like Tosh's handwriting."

"Great, meet me upstairs." Jack feels some of the tension unwinding at finally having a clue, real confirmation that Tosh and Ianto were really taken back in time; and the fact that they -- his precious, clever team -- might have provided the key to getting themselves home. He draws a breath and lets it out, and turns to leave.

The caretaker stands right in the center of the doorway, a placid smile on his face. "Hello, my name is Bilis Manger. May I help you?"

--

Next Part: Chapter Three - Good Morning, Heartache

Tags: acts of mercy, jack/ianto, torchwood
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