Title: Acts of Mercy
Rating: Various; PG-13 for this chapter.
Spoilers: Direct for S1 and S2, 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: Thanks to exfatalist for the beta, for listening to me whine, for giving me gifts of encouragement, and for pointing out issues with vernacular. I'm giving forewarning now that this one is all over the place.
Last Part: Chapter 5 - I'll Walk Alone
Gerald Carter knows few things in life with any certainty anymore, but there is one fact that holds true: he is getting too old for this. Over the threshold that puts him closer to seventy than to sixty, he knows there are few important things left for him to do before life lets go her surprisingly tenacious hold. Had he remained with Torchwood, he knows he would likely be long dead by now; even lingering as he does as an occasional consultant, he's often surprised -- and perhaps a little disappointed -- that he hasn't managed to die yet.
The face of the institute is much different now than it had been in his days as leader, growing and changing with the ever-shifting needs of the kingdom it serves. Their purpose has never been simple, but he often can't help but think that they've overstepped too many bounds in this war. Back during the Great War, Gerald had clung to some small sense of hope. He'd believed, while younger and more foolish, that perhaps someday -- when the war was over and the moment was right -- he might actually choose to step away and settle into a quiet retirement. Never hear of extraterrestrial creatures or the Rift ever again. Perhaps even confess to Miss Derbyshire -- Harriet -- how he'd ...
Well. It doesn't matter now. Those things are in the past, and the present allows him no room for regrets.
The way Gerald perceives the situation (in a very real way), he has exactly one chance to make this right and correct the timeline, for all their sakes. He desperately hopes that he makes it in time.
The mere act of stepping into Jack's office unattended seems mutinous to Gwen. This is the territory of Captain Jack Harkness, after all, the only personal area he seems to keep, having no apparent residence to speak of outside the Hub. It is therefore little wonder that her fingers shake just a little as she turns the dial on the safe, nerves still on end since pilfering the combination from his journal. The things in and on Jack's desk are surprisingly unguarded, leaving her even guiltier for having gone through them. Clearly, Jack trusts them well enough to believe he doesn't need a locked drawer. It is a sign of the absolute authority Jack holds over Torchwood, his attitude that just dares any of them to cross their enigmatic leader.
"Gwen?" Jack's voice over the comm seems sudden and unexpected, and nearly makes her jump out of her skin.
Gwen clutches a hand to her chest and reminds herself to breathe before tentatively touching her earpiece. "Yes, Jack?"
"Look at everything filed by Torchwood employee Greg Bishop in January of '41, and see what you can turn up."
She moves over to the desk and grabs a pen and paper to jot the note down on. Greg Bishop, she recalls, was the archivist to catalogue Tosh and Ianto's things. "All right."
"Greg kept meticulous records. If Ianto and Tosh went to Torchwood, and we know they did, they would have been assigned new identities --"
"And if we can figure out who they were," Gwen interrupts, catching on to his line of thought, "then maybe we can find some more clues as to what happened to them."
"Exactly," Jack answers, and she can almost hear the smile in his voice. "I knew I hired you for a reason, Gwen Cooper. Now put those police skills to work and we'll go over your findings when I get back."
"Will do," Gwen answers, wincing. She'd bet a keg of lager that Jack did not hire her to rummage through his things. But, she tells herself, this is for a good cause. What sort of teammate would she be if she just sat about waiting for a miracle? "And Jack?"
"We'll get them back ... I just have a feeling," she replies hesitantly, biting her lip.
Jack doesn't say anything for a moment; she wonders if he'll respond. "I hope your feeling is right," he finally replies.
Gwen lets out a little breath as the safe clicks open, and widens her eyes at all the lock boxes inside. "Me, too."
"Anyway. I'll keep you updated. Let me know if anything happens."
The comm clicks as Jack disconnects, and Gwen spends a moment hesitating, looking at the note in her hands. If this succeeds, then she won't need to look anything up in the archives. Gwen folds the note and tucks it away, and moves back to the contents of the safe with a fresh sense of resolution and urgency after having spoken to Jack. She's more than a bit nauseous upon extracting some of the items, such as the blade Ianto dubbed the 'Life Knife' and the device that had allowed her to see echoes of the past and visions of the future. Finally, she finds what she was looking for: a sheaf of papers in a folder sealed 'Not For Use.'
Gwen hurriedly replaces the other items and closes the safe before she returns to the open area of the Hub. She changes the frequency on her earpiece and gives it a tap. "Owen? I found them."
There are bombs raining down on Cardiff. It's World War II and they might die here, unknown and lost to the annals of time. For Toshiko Sato, this is simply the latest in a series of things in her life that have not gone as planned.
She looks sidelong at Ianto, sitting on an upturned crate beside her, and can't help but think from his brooding expression that his thoughts are running along a similar vein. This is not what they expected when they took the mission from Jack this morning, certainly. Though Tosh knows the dangers of Torchwood quite well, and has been happy to stay even beyond the five-year tenure requested by Jack, this is beyond her scope of imagining.
It's quite horrible, really.
Ianto notices her watching him and he turns around with a little smile. Fortunately, the strain in his expression is not out of place here in the basement of the Ritz; everyone is concerned about the fate of the city, the potential of the entire hotel collapsing in from a German plane's well-placed bomb.
"Sorry," he apologizes. "I was just thinking about what we should do."
"I've been thinking about it, too," Tosh says quickly, embarrassed to have been caught staring. "Torchwood?"
"Yep." Ianto sighs. "I don't know what they can do for us, but it's a better chance than we've got without."
"They won't have the technology to get us home," she laments. "But if we are stuck here -- then --"
"We'll need some way to make a living, and as far as anyone in this year is concerned, we haven't been born yet." Ianto rubs at the back of his neck. "There's something I need to tell you."
"What is it?"
"His name is Captain Jack Harkness," he says, nodding across the room at a serviceman who's quietly reassuring a small group of people who look far too young and terrified to be dealing with a thing like war.
"What?" Tosh asks, startled, as she looks at the man. He's handsome; American, judging from the Eagle Squadron patch on his jacket. "Why does he have Jack's name?"
"I don't think he has Jack's name," Ianto corrects, raising his eyebrows. He doesn't finish the thought, but the implication is clear to Tosh.
"That would explain a lot of the things Jack says," she muses. "I once found something in the archives that had a note from Jack dated from the 1950's. I thought it was just a mistake."
"He can't die. He admitted it to me. I saw him come back, once."
Tosh hesitates, looking down at her hands. "I didn't want to say anything, but there have been times that I didn't think anyone could survive some of the things I've seen --"
"And Jack did," Ianto finishes.
"Yes." She looks back up, trying to manage a smile, and steers them back around to the obvious point Ianto was trying to make when he brought the topic up. "We'll have to make sure we avoid Jack, if we're going to go to Torchwood."
He seems relieved that she said it for him. "Exactly."
Tosh falls silent for a moment, turning over in her head another topic that should be broached. "Ianto."
"Do you think they'll put us in stasis?"
Ianto looks contemplative for a moment, then he shakes his head. "No. There were only three alien cryogenics chambers recorded. One is in use by Tommy, one was empty, and according to official record, the third was lost. Besides, we know we're not waking ourselves up every year like Tommy."
"Unless Jack is keeping it secret from us," Tosh suggests, only half serious. "Can you imagine waking up every day to Jack poking you with needles?"
"No." Ianto sighs softly. "Besides, Jack didn't even want to hire me. Pretty contrary behavior if he knew I was frozen in his basement."
Tosh reaches over and awkwardly pats Ianto's knee. "You and Jack, you're ..."
"Yeah," he confirms brusquely, without allowing her to finish the question. "It's all right, Tosh. It's ... well, I'll be fine. And how about you? I'm sorry you're missing your party."
The rattling of a bomb hitting nearby -- too close -- interrupts Tosh's train of thought and she manages to latch on to only the latter part of Ianto's statement.
"Yeah," she responds. "So am I."
Gwen is pacing nervously between the terminals when Owen returns, clattering noisily through the rolling door. "Did you find it?"
"Yeah," he replies briskly, rushing over to join her.
"Where was it?"
"Bilis's office. Jack was right about one thing, at least: the old man knows more than he's letting on." Owen sets his messenger bag down on Tosh's desk and pulls out an object that looks like a cog or a gear of some sort, made of a brassy metal, just the right shape and size to fit in the slot Jack indicated a piece was missing from.
Gwen watches while Owen studies the blueprints spread out across the desk. "Did Jack see you?"
"No." Owen pulls Tosh's keyboard over and begins to type, squinting at the screen. "Cross your fingers and hope this works."
Here at the cusp of actually going through with their crazy plan, Gwen feels her heart rise into her throat. It was one thing to talk about it, with the uncertainty of whether they might actually succeed. But not she's torn between her complicity with an ex-lover, and her loyalty to the man she ... well, follows and admires. "Owen, are you sure we should be doing this?"
"What choice do we have?" he demands.
"I don't know. We can figure something else out, we can try to determine the other coordinates first," Gwen suggests lamely.
Owen rolls his eyes and slams his hand down on the desk in exasperation. "Let me guess: next you're going to say 'Jack wouldn't like it.'"
"Well," she tries defensively. "He wouldn't, Owen!"
"If we leave it up to Jack," Owen states, enunciating every word for Gwen as if she were slow, "Tosh and Ianto will be left in 1941. Forever. Do you want that on your conscience? Because I sure as hell don't."
Gwen bites her lip, faltering. She knows she should question his motives, but she's reluctant to bring up the matter, especially with the wound so raw ... for both of them.
Owen sees the uncertainty and drives his point home. "Trust me, Gwen. This is going to work, and when it's all over and they're back, Jack will thank us."
Gwen isn't so sure, but she knows it's futile to argue any further. Her weeks spent conducting an affair with Owen Harper taught her that he's a stubborn arse of a man. The matter of Diane Holmes and her own confession to Rhys (even if he doesn't remember it) behind them, she can't quite fathom why she ever thought it was a good -- or at least vaguely acceptable -- idea to sleep with Owen Harper. Except the sex; the sex had been very, very good.
Owen takes a deep breath and looks at the mass of circuitry and wiring, the potential instrument of destruction. They could blow the Rift open, Gwen thinks frantically as she watches him. They could destroy the entire world, unravel the fabric of time as they know it ... at least, that's what Jack would say if he were here. But Jack isn't here, and regardless, Gwen knows that nothing short of an act of God -- or Jack's untimely return -- will stop Owen now.
"All right," she relents, looking anxiously at her watch. "You'd better hurry."
He nods, slides the gear into place, and depresses it into the slot as carefully as she's seen him deal with alien autopsies. The piece clicks perfectly in and the Rift machine flares to life, begins to rumble.
Gwen braces herself as the entirety of the Hub begins to shake, energy coursing up the tower, and Mainframe sounds an alarm. She screws her eyes shut and prays hard that the consequences will not be ones they're not prepared to deal with.
"What would you have me do, Gerald?" Tilda demands. Her lips form a thin line, brows lowering into an expression that brooks no argument. "I brought you in here as an adviser on temporally displaced individuals, not for advice on how to do my job."
"I've explained to you the importance of Miss Sato to the timeline," Gerald replies calmly, leaning forward in his chair. "She must be returned, one way or another."
Tilda remains silent for a moment, perusing the file on Tommy Brockless. "I have enough to worry about keeping my own people alive. I won't hold the responsibility of another pair of lives."
"We're Torchwood," he states meaningfully. "We take care of our own."
"They're not my problem to worry about. The sooner they're out of the way, the better. Now, maybe once this war is over with --"
Gerald flattens his palm hard against the desk, satisfied by the audible slam and the way it causes the normally unflappable Tilda to jump. "If you send the boy away, you're condemning him anyway."
"And if we place Miss Sato in stasis, you think that's any better?" Tilda snorts her derision, and tosses the folder, as well as the temporally sealed tin back across the desk at him. "We only have the technology for one more, Gerald. Tommy Brockless is in one of the units, and you and I both know what's in the other. How do you know Toshiko Sato won't make it back some other way?"
Gerald takes a deep breath, counts to ten, and gets slowly to his feet. He picks up the tin and sets it upright on the desk, then tightens his scarf around his neck. "I'll give you one month. These are uncertain times, Tilda. We can't be sure that we'll be around to fix our mistakes."
Tilda looks up at him, her eyes flashing a challenge. Her hold on the leadership of Torchwood three is tenuous, even now, and he knows she views him as a threat. "Very well," she concedes. "One month. We'll keep Miss Sato in Cardiff. Mr. Jones will go to France. We'll place them both in non-combat situations. Harkness needs support in the field."
"Do you think that's a good idea, Tilda, crossing the timelines of Jones and Harkness?"
"I haven't the resources to train anyone new," she states blithely. "He is a resource that has fallen into my lap, why shouldn't I use him?"
She is playing with fire, Gerald knows. He has seen it more than once. Half a dozen leaders have passed through this office since Gerald left the post, and he's sure there will be half a dozen more between now and the next war.
He sighs and shakes his head. "I'll have their assignments arranged."
Bilis Manger is all but forgotten by the time Jack gets back down the hallway from the man's office. Jack rushes back toward the steps, his heart racing, hardly daring to hope. The light is nearly blinding when Jack stumbles back into the ballroom. There are voices barely audible on the other side of the opening that gapes, inexplicably, in the middle of a wall. Jack throws his hand up to shield his watering eyes and presses forward, straining to hear. He can't make out the words, but it sounds like an argument.
Two backlit shadows appear in the center of the glare, and Jack can no longer suppress his excitement and relief. Tosh and Ianto, it must be. His clever, brilliant team. They've found an anomaly, another opening in the Rift, and they're going to make their way back.
Only one of them walks forward before the light goes out.
"I can't do it!" Toshiko Sato protests. There are tears streaming down her face and in the light, she glows. This picture reminds Gerald of the first time he saw her, urging Tommy Brockless to tell them, tell them what to do.
Gerald takes the young woman by the shoulders and turns her to face him, brushing a thumb across her cheek to dash away the tears. "This may be your only chance."
"I can't leave Ianto. He wouldn't go without me."
"You have to go," he commands gently. "I know that you make it back. I've seen it. You must be there." Gerald had hoped not to give so much away, but he knows they are running out of time. The lights on the box -- the scanner -- in Toshiko's hand are flashing urgently.
She glances back at the opening before looking at him again, her resolve clearly beginning to waver. "Promise me," she whispers. "Promise me you'll take care of Ianto. Let him know what happened to me, that I had to go, so he doesn't think ..."
"I will," he responds solemnly. "Please, go."
Toshiko begins to move toward the opening, but she turns back before reaching it. "Put him in stasis," she demands, voice choked. "I'll bring him back."
"I'll do right by him," Gerald promises. "Now, you must go!"
Gerald stands and watches as she turns and rushes through, hurrying before she can lose her resolve. The light dissipates as the tear in the Rift seals itself shut again. The ballroom shifts back into motion, the dancing crowd remembering nothing. Gerald puts his hat on and turns for the stairs, one last task to accomplish before he's done.
Next Part: Chapter 7 - There Will Never Be Another You