Title: Acts of Mercy
Rating: Various; standard for this chapter.
Spoilers: Direct for S1 and S2, but everything including some book canon (specifically Twilight Streets, and especially in this chapter)
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: This chapter came forth kicking and screaming, with lots of whinging, claims from myself that I would never finish it, never write again, and of course the horrible blow to fandom that was Children of Earth. But it's finally here, with lots of patience from exfatalist in helping to keep me sane and avoid embarrassing typographical errors.
Last Part: Chapter 7 - There Will Never Be Another You
Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree (with Anyone Else but Me)
It's cold in the dark of Jack's bunk, and never quiet here in the depths of the Hub. Ianto can hear the hum of machinery, the drip, drip of water from a leak he'll never find in the labyrinthine complex that runs beneath Roald Dahl Plass. Above them, somewhere, people are going about their lives, completely unaware of all this. Ianto shifts, bumping his shoulder against the freezing wall, and the sensation is jarring. But the warmth of Jack's hand on Ianto's hip, and Jack's leg across Ianto's legs, more than makes up for it. Then Jack begins to move, and Ianto rumbles a sleepy protest, one that he would be too dignified for if he were fully conscious.
"I thought I heard something," Jack explains. "I'm going to check Tosh's new software."
Ianto sighs softly into the pillow, knowing that it's probably nothing, knowing that Jack is too paranoid for his own good, sometimes. "It's cold here without you," he complains.
Jack seems tempted to linger, but he slides away anyway, a hint of apology in the kiss he presses to Ianto's forehead. "I won't be gone long."
The words are meant as a promise, but Ianto knows the other man will lose track of time. In a few hours, when Ianto's alarm goes off and he gets up to join the captain in the Hub proper, Jack will be surprised and apologize. Ianto considers going ahead and getting up anyway, but when he drags his arm from beneath the covers to consult his watch, the time of morning is a bit ridiculous even for him.
"Go back to sleep," Jack protests, reading Ianto's actions. He steps into his trousers and tugs on an undershirt, then picks up his greatcoat and drapes it over Ianto, who is already dozing off again. "When you wake up, I'll be back."
When Ianto does wake again, he's alone and confused. His first thought is that Jack lied to him, and his second is that it's unbearably hot in the room. Ianto drags the heavy coat off himself and pushes back the covers to find he's wearing an undershirt and pants, and that he's not in the Hub at all. The year 1941 hits him in concert with the massive hangover, and he spends a few moments caring less what happened the night before and more why the throbbing behind his eyes makes it difficult to remember his own name.
Ianto presses the heels of both hands to his eyes, and groans as he recalls various memories in bits and pieces: encountering a strange and disoriented Jack, drinking far more than he had any business doing, and being carried back to the room by ...
"All right there, Jones?" Henry asks, as if on cue with Ianto's jumbled train of thought.
"Yeah," Ianto croaks out, then sinks back into the pillow, embarrassed. It's easier to scrub his hands over his face than to look at the other man, who is sitting at the room's tiny desk, writing a letter. Ianto isn't quite certain how to address the evening prior, whether to confront the issue directly or not to mention it at all. His head aches badly enough that he just wants to go back to sleep, but that seems like a rather inadequate response to the situation.
"There's tea," Henry offers after a pause. "What passes for it, at least."
Ianto struggles to sit up, and reaches for the cuppa on the bedside table, raising it to his mouth for a sip. The tea has cooled to lukewarm, but the liquid is still soothing to his parched throat. Henry must have brought it up to him a little while ago, now; Ianto isn't quite certain how to feel about that. He sneaks a glance over the rim of the cup to look at the other man, but Henry isn't looking his way. He's concentrating on his letter-writing, so Ianto keeps silent until he's finished his tea.
"Writing home?" Ianto finally asks.
Henry doesn't respond as he concentrates on finishing a sentence, then he looks up at Ianto with a smile. "Yeah. My family and ..." He trails off, laughing a little. "Well, there's this girl."
Ianto leans over to put the tea cup back, then he leans back against the pillows, feeling miserably lazy.
"A girl?" he asks, his interest piqued in spite of the massive headache. Asking about this at least helps to take the focus off himself, and Ianto is genuinely curious to know more about the man who has become the rather accurately-described only friend Ianto has left.
"Her name is Betty," Henry explains. "I met her ... I don't know, only a few days before I was due to ship out, but I knew she was going to be the one." He pauses, looking down at the paper with a bashful smile. "At least, I hope she will be. Someday, when this war is over."
Give it about four more years, Ianto thinks to himself. Then you can go home and be with Betty. Ask her to marry you. Ianto finds himself sincerely hoping that Henry will make it that far. So many of the people that he's met already have not. And more still will not. Ianto may not, himself. Again, he finds himself wondering about Toshiko: did she make it home safely, or did something happen to her? As hard as it is to think of her returning to their time without him, Ianto likes the alternative much less.
"And you, Jones?" Henry's voice cuts into Ianto's thoughts.
Ianto blinks, realizing his mind has wandered. "Hmm?"
"I asked if you have anyone waiting for you back home," Henry elaborates.
Picking at one of the buttons of Henry's greatcoat, still lying sprawled across the bed, Ianto thinks about the night before, the way he'd drowned his sorrows with alcohol. He thinks of Jack, and wonders whether the bit of comfort he received from Henry constitutes cheating. Ianto wonders, for that matter, whether he and Jack really have -- had -- a relationship for him to be unfaithful to.
An answer would be too complicated, either way. Ianto might have let himself slip last night, to mention Jack, but Henry seems polite enough not to mention that, or what transpired between them to begin with. If Ianto tried to explain, it would have the potential to make things awkward, and it is still only 1941.
"No," Ianto lies, with a pang of guilt. "There's no one."
Henry's expression turns odd for a moment, but he doesn't ask the question that must be on his mind. Instead, he offers a smile and lapses back into silence, turning back to his writing.
Ianto sinks down to rest his aching head on a pillow and resolves that he has a letter of his own to write.
This letter addressed and sent to Emily Yamada never made it to its intended recipient. Instead, it sat on a table in a boarding house for some time as the place was evacuated - the proprietress fleeing to the north to stay with relatives, away from the vulnerable bay area - and was not recovered until after the war.
The last whereabouts of Emily Yamada were never determined by any who knew her, but she is presumed to have either died unknown and remained unidentified during the course of the war, or to have relocated and never been found again.
One of the more cryptic in our collection, the letter is signed simply 'IJ.' While probably from a soldier, it is also one of the few we have not to be a love note, though it does include a scrawled postscript of 'If you make it back before me, give my love to J.'
The identities of neither the writer nor 'J' are known ... could Miss Yamada, perhaps, have made it back to the mysterious place referenced?
Toshiko Sato, known only a day ago as Emily Yamada, prints a copy of the scanned letter and the page of information from the collector's web archive and goes to hang it up on the board with all the other evidence. Gwen, Jack, and Owen did a good job, but Tosh has been disappointed to find since her return that there isn't much more information than what they already gathered. At least, nothing that she can concentrate on finding right now.
Their search -- first for her and Ianto, now only for him -- is warring with their attempts to track all the occurrences of Rift activity. Jack currently has Gwen and Owen out in the field with him, rounding up time displaced individuals, an exercise Tosh privately thinks is about as useful as herding cats. But it's their job, and the radius has grown even further out from the Bay: Butetown, Grangetown, Splott, Roath ... and beyond Cardiff, to Newport and Swansea. UNIT have documented a few cases within the UK outside of Wales, and Tosh knows it's only a matter of time before corresponding organizations of other countries begin to report similar incidents.
She sets up a search protocol on international news feeds to grab anything that would alert them to strange and unusual events, then another for the archives to help her find any more information that might be relevant to helping find Ianto. Tosh has already run three different searches, all with different hits, all with dead ends, but she's determined not to give up, even though exhaustion is beginning to creep in.
Tosh sits back in her chair and presses her hands to her eyes, while thinking Jack was right: she should have gone home for some rest when she still could. When she lowers her hands again, there's a cup of tea floating in front of her; she looks up to see Owen standing there with an odd expression on his face.
"I'm rubbish at making coffee," he explains, almost awkward. "But you looked like you could use this."
Feeling warmed by the uncharacteristically thoughtful gesture, Tosh accepts the cuppa. "Thank you, Owen."
The doctor sits down at his own desk and swivels the seat from side to side, shrugging off the gratitude as if he's embarrassed by it. "Figured it was the least I could do."
Tosh smiles gently at that, then glances at the door. "I didn't hear you all come in."
Owen gestures at the paving stone lift. "Took the scenic route."
She nods thoughtfully, taking a sip of the tea. It's her favorite, if a little milky, but she's too touched to complain. "How did it go?"
"It's blowing apart out there, Tosh. Roman soldiers outside Newport, Black Plague in the hospitals ..." Owen drops his head into his hands. "Gwen's still at the police department handling a coal miner from the 1800's that the coppers picked up. Jack's called a meeting as soon as she gets back."
Tosh doesn't respond immediately, and for a few moments they fall into comfortable silence; well, as comfortable as it can be, given the way the world is trying to come apart at the seams. She turns back to her tea, and Owen spares her the need to say anything.
"I've really done it this time," he states, blowing out a sigh.
"What do you mean?"
Owen looks away, frowning deeply. "I was the one to open the Rift. I knew I was doing it wrong but I went through with it anyway. Now look how it's gone and bollixed things up."
Tosh frowns, reaching out to touch her hand to Owen's knee. "It's not your fault. True, it wasn't right, but you couldn't have known this would happen."
"I took an oath as a doctor to help people," Owen goes on, looking Tosh in the eye again. "Now fucking plague victims have been dropped into the middle of Cardiff, Tosh! I'll be lucky if Jack doesn't fire me when this is all over ... and you and I both know what that means."
"Jack wouldn't," Tosh insists gently, but in the back of her mind there is a sincere worry forming that perhaps Owen is right. Jack may have to accept the truth that Tosh wouldn't be back right now if not for Owen's rash decision, but that doesn't mean he has to like it. It's still insubordination, and it can't mean much that Tosh is back if the Rift goes and rips Cardiff in two in exchange.
"Wouldn't what?" Jack's voice booms from the catwalk above, surprising them both.
Owen wheels away from Tosh and rubs the back of his neck, collecting himself rather quickly to call back, "You wouldn't start the meeting without us."
Jack glances at them both with a wary eye, or maybe it's only Tosh's imagination. She has no idea how much of the conversation Jack might have heard, if any, beyond her two-word statement.
"Gwen is on her way in right now," Jack replies. "Need you up here in five."
Owen stands, giving a curt nod. "Be right up. C'mon, Tosh."
It's 1941, and the Doctor is not coming back for Jack Harkness. In fact, in moments such as this one -- when he's feeling particularly uncharitable toward the Time Lord and everyone (and everything) else -- Jack would go so far as to bet that the Doctor isn't even looking to run into him again. At this point, only the ingrained discipline of a (former) Time Agent has kept Jack from popping off to London in January and sitting in wait for the Doctor, just so that he can punch the big-eared alien in the nose. Only the consequences of crossing his own timeline prevented Jack from going and doing something stupid.
Well, something stupid of that nature, anyway. There are plenty more troublesome things Jack can get up to in Cardiff, and just now he's gotten into one of them. Tretarri vexes him -- no, that's not the word for it; what is he doing, turning British? Jack has not been humbled enough by his decades on Earth that he can't still get properly pissed off -- as it has on repeated occasion, and this evening is no different.
Jack feels like he's gone on a particularly spectacular bender, minus the alcohol and the good time that comes along with it. He knows that soon, he'll lose consciousness entirely from the strange sickness that has already left his head spinning and stomach churning. He needs to find someplace to stay, somewhere safe to sleep for a few days, though Jack isn't quite sure where that will be. He doesn't want any of his fellow Torchwood personnel knowing about this, not even Greg, and especially not Tilda.
Fighting to maintain his focus, Jack turns the corner from the alleyway into the street, bracing himself with a hand on the bricks of the building beside, and lumbers straight-on into someone. The person is a man, who grunts in surprise from the collision and puts out his arms to catch Jack's swaying form. Jack staggers back just in time to catch a glimpse of blue eyes before the man awkwardly releases Jack.
Not entirely a stranger, Jack realizes, as he watches the man lower his chin and pull up his collar.
"Jones," he mumbles.
This is just what he needs right now, Jack thinks, annoyed as comprehension dawns that this is finally his chance to see what his mysterious, faceless contact looks like. Except that Jack is so dizzy that he can't make out the man's features, not when there are four of him floating there.
"What's happened to you?" Jones asks.
He has a hand on Jack's elbow, perhaps doubtful of Jack's ability to remain standing of his own power. Jack isn't offended; he doubts his ability to remain standing, himself.
"Long story." Jack doesn't want to explain. "I'll be fine."
Jack blinks a few times, succeeding in clearing his vision long enough not to make out Jones more clearly, but to instead see another figure approaching.
"Jones?" the new stranger asks. "Is everything all right?"
Eyes narrowing, Jack whips his head back around to look at Jones, and immediately wishes he hadn't. The world blurs at the edges in an way Jack would find interesting if he didn't also feel like vomiting, and he crumples down to the sidewalk. After a moment, Jack becomes vaguely aware of an arm around his shoulders helping him to sit upright, and he turns his head to see the new guy kneeling there.
Jack takes in the uniform, the greatcoat, and turns an accusing stare up at Jones, who is still standing and looming.
"Thought you didn't like pilots."
Jones looks away, failing to respond immediately. His pilot friend offers Jack an amiable, if confused, smile instead.
"Sorry," he says, in an accent that sounds a bit northern, "I'm Henry."
"Wish I could say it was a pleasure," Jack replies, not trying to be rude so much as attempting to focus. He spends a brief moment of clarity sizing Henry up. Average height, average build, average guy. What makes Henry more appealing to Jones than Jack? It's almost enough to get offended over.
"Is there somewhere we can help you to?" Jones inquires, sounding impatient.
Jack struggles to his feet, resenting Henry's help up as much as he must, reluctantly, appreciate it. He leans his shoulder against the building and tries to collect his thoughts. It's more difficult than anticipated. "Need to sleep."
Jones opens his mouth, maybe to protest, but Henry nods an agreement. "Last time I got that pissed, I definitely had to sleep it off."
Jack glares, but doesn't argue; it's not as if he can actually explain to them that he's not drunk. Even if Jones has ties to Torchwood, he's not very likely to take 'a neighborhood kicked my ass' as a valid excuse.
"We can show you to the place we're staying," Henry offers, cheerfully oblivious to any secret tension between the other two men.
Ianto turns his head, not wanting Henry to see the imploring look that he can't possibly understand. He would rather answer as few questions as possible, and the longer this encounter goes on, the more Ianto gives away, the more questions Henry is likely to have. The man is trusting, not stupid.
Behind Ianto, Henry is helping Jack to walk more steadily. Ianto leads the way, not consciously keeping them a few paces away so much as becoming lost in his own troubled thoughts. It's clear there is something wrong with Jack, but Ianto can't fathom what. He has never seen the man like this before, and there had been no scent of alcohol on Jack's breath. Drugs? Jack doesn't seem the type. Ultimately, Ianto must add this strange occurrence as another entry on the list of things he doesn't know about Jack, which is infinitely larger than the list of things he does.
The walk back is mercifully short, at least, and soon Ianto and Henry are maneuvering an increasingly incoherent Jack into a room. Ianto wrestles Jack out of his coat before Henry lets Jack collapse onto the bed, and carefully hangs it on a hook by the door where Jack can easily find it. Ianto tugs off Jack's boots as well, but feels uncomfortable doing anything more with Henry still in the room, not while Ianto is doing his best to pretend Jack is just a stranger or, at best, an acquaintance.
Henry regards Jack for a contemplative moment, then moves for the door. Ianto follows, certain he doesn't manage to breathe again until they are both standing safely in the hallway with the door shut between them and Jack.
"Any idea what that was all about?" Henry asks.
Ianto shakes his head and lies. "Poor bastard's drunk, I'd reckon."
"That doesn't sound half bad right now." Henry nods his head down the hall. "Come on, I'll buy you a drink."
Miserably, Ianto casts one last glance in the direction of Jack's door, then falls into step behind Henry. A drink doesn't sound half bad right now, indeed.
The Hub is mercifully quiet right now, but Tosh is certain it won't stay that way for long. Gwen has gone home to check on and make her excuses to Rhys, to grab a quick shower and maybe a couple of hours of sleep while she's at it. Owen and Jack are both out in the field, and Tosh remains behind as support on the comms.
Jack has now shied away several times from letting Tosh join them, claiming that they need someone at the Hub. She isn't certain whether he's afraid of something happening to her again, or if he wants someone to watch the Rift in case some sign of Ianto appears. Perhaps it's a little of both; whatever it is, it seems an uncharacteristically emotional response from Jack.
Tosh can't find it in her heart to blame him, though. How many people has Jack lost over the years? She's done some digging and, though the records are well-concealed, she can find traces of Jack dating back to the beginning of the twentieth century. She has no idea how Jack has lived so long -- and aged so little -- but certainly it must be a terrible thing to just keep going while everyone around you grows old and dies.
Tosh has spent the last few hours, on and off when Jack and Owen didn't need her, cross referencing death certificates and official records with the levels of the morgue, and wonders how many of the bodies Jack put there himself. Tosh still experiences a little shiver of discomfort when she sees Suzie's name, and then gives a small smile at the name of Tommy Brockless.
Ianto's record-keeping is meticulous, and Tosh has been able to easily account for most of the bodies. Former employees, mostly, and the occasional victim of a death by Torchwood whose body could not be released back into the public system. The spreadsheet grid Tosh has open is a rudimentary way of cataloging, compared to how they normally do things, but it's gotten the job done.
On the highest level of the morgue, there is one drawer that has an occupant that Tosh can't account for. She's checked and checked again, and there is certainly someone there. The sleeper in the missing cryogenics chamber, Toshiko's mind tells her; Ianto, her heart hopes.
Tosh quickly checks in on her colleagues in the field. Owen tells her they're headed back, which doesn't give her much time. Tosh hops up from her chair and hurries down to the morgue, feeling a mixture of hope and trepidation. If it is Ianto, then it means Gerald kept his promise, that Ianto survived the war and will be back with them. If it isn't ... well, as much as Tosh must accept that as a reasonable possibility, she doesn't have to like the idea of it. She'll face it when -- if -- it becomes fact.
The morgue is chilly and has never been one of Toshiko's favorite places in the Hub; in fact, she's hard-pressed to remember the last time she was even here. Even when it's time to wake Tommy on a yearly basis, Owen brings the chamber up to the medical bay; they don't congregate down here.
The drawer has a tag with a number and no name, and Tosh wonders if the thought ever occurred to Ianto to wonder who might be inside. Certainly it must have; Ianto prides himself on knowing the Hub inside and out.
"Here goes nothing," she breathes to herself, and reaches for the latch.
Tosh pulls, but the door sealing the drawer shut refuses to budge. Locked, she supposes. She hadn't wanted to share her hypothesis with Jack beforehand, strangely averse to getting his hopes up for what could turn out to be nothing, but now she'll need to ask him for the lock-picking device from his safe.
A hand lands on Toshiko's shoulder before she can turn, and she gives a shrill, startled yelp before she can help herself.
"It won't open," Jack says quietly behind her. "It's temporally sealed."
Tosh tries to calm the pounding of her heart before she speaks. "Jack, I --"
"It's not him." Jack sounds like he regrets the fact.
Tosh turns and looks up at Jack. His expression is unreadable, his shoulders slumped with either exhaustion or sadness.
"It ... was a good theory, Tosh," he goes on. "But that drawer's been sealed as long as I can remember. Since before 1941."
"I'm sorry," she finds herself saying, though she isn't sure why. Sorry for coming back without Ianto, sorry that Ianto isn't inside that drawer, sorry that Ianto might never come back. Sorry that Ianto probably never will.
Jack winds his arms around Tosh's waist and pulls her into a tight embrace. "So am I."
Tosh closes her eyes and rests her head against Jack's chest. She can't even be bothered to fight the tears stinging her eyes. "I was supposed to tell you that he ..."
"I know," Jack responds, his voice choked with tears of his own.
"You saw the letter."
"No." Jack shakes his head sadly. "I didn't have to."
Next Part: Chapter Nine - I Don't Want to Set the World on Fire