Title: Acts of Mercy
Part: 4 - I've Heard That Song Before
Rating: Various; PG-13 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: Again, non-linear, and forgive me for taking so long with this one! Thanks to exfatalist for beta.
Last Part: Chapter 3 - Good Morning, Heartache
I've Heard That Song Before
Ongoing Archive Notes
Volume 72, Week 46
Jack has been staring at the cursor longer than he would like to admit. Not only is it difficult to know where to begin composing his notes on the life and deaths of Suzie Costello, but he continues to find himself drawn back to his conversation with Ianto, still open in a smaller window (Lisa is dead, sir). Jack glances at his watch, and is considering how much time he has left, when Ianto slips into the office. Ianto moves silently enough that only the disturbance in the air alerts Jack to his entry, but as he draws closer, the tick-tick-tick of the stopwatch is more readily apparent. After a pause to let his presence be known, Ianto depresses the button on the top.
"Eighteen seconds to spare." Ianto deliberately closes the door behind him and walks over to sit on the edge of the desk. His posture relaxes, and in a matter of moments he has made the subtle transition from subordinate to lover that has become more and more common these days.
Jack closes both windows with a few half-hearted keystrokes, and leans back in his chair to look up at the other man. Ianto Jones, lover and unexpected confidante, is the only member of the team to view the job from a perspective of really knowing what he was getting into. From day one, Ianto has been different from the others: none of Tosh's gratitude, Owen's resentment, or Gwen's awe at being let into a secret world. Jack knows well enough, now, that Ianto had used him -- all of them -- in desperation, a means of trying to save his dying girlfriend, but the captain has long since forgiven that misplaced loyalty.
"I don't think I could have forgiven her this time," Jack says after a moment, sitting up.
Ianto places the stopwatch down on the desk blotter, and folds his hands in his lap, looking thoughtful. "Suzie didn't want your forgiveness," he replies gently. "She made her own second chance."
Jack nods, reaching to rest a hand on Ianto's knee; the scratch of wool itches against his palm. "This is the only time I've ever lost someone twice."
"You must have lost a lot of people after a hundred years of this." There's something cautionary about Ianto's tone, but he doesn't seem to doubt that his words are true.
Jack tries not to look as startled as he is. "What do you mean?" he asks carefully.
Ianto covers Jack's hand with his own, twining their fingers together when Jack turns his over for their palms to meet. "I've seen the archives. You did a good job, but you didn't get rid of everything."
Jack falls silent for a moment, making a study of Ianto's face. There's nothing smug in his expression, no tell in clear grey-blue eyes that might signal a bluff. But there is determination, confidence in the truth, and maybe a hint of challenge, as if Ianto demands to know whether Jack will try to maintain his lie. "How long have you known?" he finally asks.
"The night you hired Gwen." Ianto turns thoughtful, as if remembering. "I had a few ideas before then, but I hadn't quite worked it out until I saw the footage from the Plass."
Clever Ianto, Jack can't help but think. The only one who would get to something like that before Jack could cover his own tracks, and then proceed to say nothing about it until the time was right. He spends another moment in simply considering Ianto, and thinks about asking the questions that might be important to a lover in this century in regards to immortality. Jack can't spend his life with someone, it simply isn't an option; and yet, he finds himself reluctant to be so fatalistic -- if honest -- with Ianto at the moment.
Ianto doesn't press the matter beyond that, doesn't offer Jack comfort by saying it doesn't bother him; he simply doesn't address it at all.
"She was the first one I hired," Jack says, changing the subject back to Suzie. "My second in command. I never thought she was capable of doing something like that." He shakes his head. "I never saw it coming."
"I hardly think it was your fault." Ianto squeezes Jack's hand, something careful in the gesture. "You couldn't have known."
Jack nods, though he still has his reservations about it, and looks down at their joined hands. He still hasn't quite worked out just what he did to earn comfort from someone who has all the right in the world to hate him. Jack won't claim to have been wrong about Lisa, but he will admit to having handled the situation badly. And yet, Ianto has the capacity for forgiveness, or so Jack likes to think; he's too afraid to ask and have that tentative absolution denied.
Ianto reaches for the stopwatch, turning it idly in his free hand. "Stop thinking so hard."
It's usually easy to flip the switch from morose to cheerful, to drown his sorrows in other, more pleasurable pursuits, but tonight Jack finds it difficult to summon a smile in response to Ianto's gentle urging. He has to work for a convincing response, to raise his eyebrows and make a suggestive remark. "I might need a little help with that."
"I'm sure I can get your mind off it for a while." Ianto leans closer, almost close enough to kiss. Jack hears the click of the button on the top, and Ianto's voice, a low, rumbling promise over the rhythmic ticking. "Let's see for how long."
Jack closes his eyes, and kisses Ianto, and lets it all go, if only for a little while.
Ongoing Archive Notes
Volume 72, Week 50
Jack opens his eyes to the same blinking cursor he had exhaustedly stared at until drifting off. He still has no idea where to begin with this, his mind a million miles and over sixty years away. Here only a few weeks later, he isn't ready to write a report on the loss of not one, but two more members of his team. It feels like a section of his heart cut away. He has had more than his fair share of this, attended enough funerals. Jack Harkness is intimate with loss, but it doesn't mean he has to accept it. If anything, this teaches him he has learned to accept nothing.
Three days have passed since Tosh and Ianto went to the Ritz. Here on the morning of the fourth, Jack walks out of his office to find the Hub nearly deserted. Gwen sits at her workstation, surrounded by her casework: papers pinned up, folders stacked in a hastily organized mess. Gwen can probably find everything easily in the confusing jumble, but Ianto would have a fit if he were here, Jack thinks, with a pang of loss. The remaining members of the team have been subsisting on take-out, and the desks and tables are littered with Chinese cartons and pizza boxes.
"Where's Owen?" Jack finally asks, after a moment spent unnoticed by Gwen.
She turns with a start, and Jack can't figure out if the look on her face is guilty, or just surprised. "He rang in while you were asleep --"
"I wasn't asleep."
"-- to say he was going to drop by the Ritz on his way in to have another look around."
Jack hasn't decided, yet, whether Owen's startling dedication to finding a solution to their problem is just touching concern for his missing teammates, or if he is still dwelling on Diane and her flight into a Rift storm. They've already had one argument over whether opening the Rift is a viable option -- and whatever the case, it is not. The calculations on the photograph were incomplete, and not because Tosh hadn't written them down. Whether purposely or accidentally, the photograph's lower right hand corner is torn, removing the last digits they would need in order to activate the Rift manipulator safely. Even then, they don't know it would be safe; they haven't tested it, and use is strictly forbidden for any number of reasons.
"Do you have anything new?" he asks, choosing not to voice his concerns to Gwen. Jack has had enough of doleful eyes and sympathetic arm-pats to hold him a lifetime already. He deeply values Gwen and her humanity, but with tensions running high in the Hub, Jack continues to find himself restraining the urge to lash out in frustration.
"I've found some archive records that look promising," Gwen replies. "Stands to reason Ianto and Tosh might've gone to Torchwood in the forties, doesn't it? And if Ianto were going to leave us a clue, it would probably be there. Maybe the original copy of the calculations."
Jack nods, and while doubtful, he's also reluctant to point out that he had been in Torchwood in 1941, and he would remember seeing them, wouldn't he? But he trusts them to have been clever enough to avoid crossing his timeline, especially with Ianto -- and probably Tosh, as well -- knowing better.
"I have two numbers," Gwen continues, after the silence goes on just long enough to become awkward, and for her to realize Jack doesn't plan to respond. "They seem to coordinate with files down in the archive. I'll just --"
"I'll go," he interrupts.
She hesitates, turning a look that might be worried on him. "Do you want me to come with?"
"No." Jack jots down the numbers and their locations on his palm and, feeling a momentary pang of guilt, he explains gently, "I know my way around there better, it won't take me as long. Keep looking. I'll be back soon."
Gwen goes back to her work, and Jack descends to the archives, his heart and mind heavy. He winds his way past the cells where Janet is quietly yowling -- it occurs to Jack that Ianto hasn't been here to feed the Weevil -- and down into the deeper bowels of the Hub. The archives are in better shape than they have been in years, broken light bulbs replaced and the climate settings repaired and carefully regulated for the preservation of the archival material.
If Ianto hadn't joined Torchwood, Jack thinks, he might have enjoyed a successful career as a museum curator. The corridors of the archives are quiet enough to be a museum, at any rate, Jack's footsteps echoing off the concrete floor as he moves past more recent material to the 1940-1942 section. It's been years since he's been in this particular area, since Tilda Brennan was director and a position very similar to Ianto's was held by another. Jack draws in a breath and exhales it in a sigh, his mind lingering on Greg Bishop as he runs his fingers through the dust on the boxes. It's likely none of them have been touched since Greg was alive.
Jack finds his hope quietly warring: to find something that will help, or nothing at all if it won't. He locates the two numbers that Gwen had given him: not files, but boxes, strapped and buckled and neatly labeled. The paper has yellowed and the ink faded to brown, but Greg's meticulous penmanship is unmistakable. Jack considers going through the boxes on his own down here, but ultimately removes them from the shelves and carries them back up.
In the Hub proper, Owen is pacing up and down behind Gwen's station, saying something that Jack only catches the end of. "-- hope there's something in those files, because aside from those two pictures we've got no bloody clue."
Jack glowers at Owen, quickly silencing the doctor, and sets the boxes down on the desk. "No files," he states. "Just these."
Gwen takes the one off the top. "Heavy," she comments, pulling it onto her lap. She carefully unfastens the buckles and opens it, reminiscent of someone trying not to tear wrapping paper. The lid comes off with a reluctant sucking sound, after almost seven decades left to settle into place. Brittle, yellowed tissue paper covers the contents, breaking off in Gwen's fingers when she pulls it aside.
"Oh," she breathes out, running her hand over the plum-colored material of Tosh's dress, the beads and sequins on the trim still catching the light.
Jack opens the other box, his heart sinking as he finds Ianto's dark suit inside. He can put the pieces together well enough: Torchwood would have taken anything anachronistic, assigned new identities, and integrated them into the society of the time. Jack carefully removes the suit from the box and sets it aside, finding Ianto's neatly-folded shirt and rolled up tie, and an assortment of loose items in a smaller containment box: wallet, mobile phone, headset.
Gwen, taking Jack's lead, puts Tosh's dress to the side to check the bottom of the box. The weight is quickly explained by the presence of a computer case that takes up most of the space, along with a similar smaller box that holds her jewelry and phone.
"That's Tosh's laptop," Owen points out. "Didn't she have the coordinates on there?"
Jack shakes his head, drawing his attention away from the wool between his fingers. "That laptop's been sitting in storage for sixty years. Even if the components haven't totally degraded, we'd be lucky to salvage anything from the hard drive."
Owen doesn't back down, taking the case out of the box. "We have to at least try. What happens when demolition day rolls around, huh? The Ritz will be rubble and Tosh and Ianto might be stuck."
"There's a lot more at stake here than just Tosh and Ianto," Jack snaps out. "And I'm not talking about Diane."
Owen's eyes narrow. "Don't."
"Why not, Owen?" Jack pushes. "Admit it. You don't care about Tosh, you sure as hell don't care what happens to Ianto. I hate to break it to you, but even if we open the Rift, Diane's not going to come flying back to you."
"What right do you --"
"I have every right, when it threatens the safety of the entire planet." Jack steps back, folding his arms across his chest, his jaw set. "We're not opening the Rift. Even if you had all the coordinates," he grits out, "it still wouldn't work."
"Why the bloody hell not?"
"Because." Jack draws a deep breath and exhales it slowly, looking at the Rift manipulator. "There's a piece missing."
"What do you mean, there's a piece missing?" Owen frowns, turning defensive. "How do you know?"
Jack doesn't want to admit that he had looked long and hard at the Rift manipulator, thinking of the possibilities of opening the Rift with the incomplete coordinates, the very thing Owen is arguing for right now. He'd won the argument with himself by only a slim margin, the idea mercifully supported by the missing piece.
"I checked it against the blueprints. It won't work without it."
"Shit!" Owen kicks the chair at Tosh's station, sending it wheeling off to bounce down the stairs. "Where is it? Why would it be missing?"
"I don't know."
They both go silent, and Jack realizes Gwen is looking at them balefully. "If you two are quite done arguing," she states in a measured tone, "you might want to look at this."
Jack leans over her shoulder to look at the screen, where half a dozen more photos are displayed of that night at the Ritz: including one of Tosh and Ianto, with Bilis Manger in the background.
"But I just saw him there," Jack protests.
"Well, somehow he's in 1941 and he's here," Gwen notes. "I'd say that's worth looking into."
Jack nods, grabbing his coat. "I'm going to go have a chat with our caretaker friend."
Before Owen and Gwen can protest, Jack is halfway to the SUV, his mind reeling. How could he have been so stupid? he wonders. He'd written Bilis Manger off as an innocent bystander, someone who just happened to be there when the Rift made its temporal shift and took Tosh and Ianto. The man had certainly said nothing to indicate any knowledge or involvement, even -- especially -- when Jack had shown him the photo from the drawer and inquired further about the two people in it.
Those who live in glass houses can't throw stones, and Jack can hardly question a man's ability to be in two places, almost seven decades apart, still looking the same. But he knows something is suspicious about Bilis Manger, and he intends to find out what it is.
Next Part: Chapter 5 - I'll Walk Alone