Title: Acts of Mercy
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: Yes, really. I'm updating, after a year and a half ... or more. While you're here, check out the DELETED SCENE that I posted a while back but no one noticed because I failed to promote it anywhere! Thanks to exfatalist for being a constant source of encouragement. This chapter was named by and is dedicated to her!
Last Part: Chapter Eight - Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree (with Anyone Else but Me)
I Don't Want to Set the World on Fire
Toshiko sets her bag and her keys down on the table beside the door, and tries not to feel like a stranger in her own flat as she walks through to the kitchen. Though this is not the first time she's been home since returning from the past, everything still seems a bit ... unreal. She knows it's just exhaustion speaking to her, that once she grabs something to eat, she'll feel better. She may even take Jack up on his suggestion of a nap, as even her eyes are beginning to ache, throbbing beneath her eyelids when she closes them.
The state of her refrigerator is disappointing, so Tosh just puts the electric kettle on for tea and leans against the counter with her head in her hand while she thinks about ordering takeout. She's just begun to doze off when the entire building begins to shake, snapping her awake again. Tosh's mind immediately jumps to the idea of falling bombs, then adjusts to the more likely idea of Rift activity. She runs back to get the PDA from her bag and check the Rift readings, and grabs her mobile while she's at it.
The first person Toshiko tries to call is Jack, but his phone routes directly to voicemail. Before she can even hang up and dial out again, an incoming call pops up from Owen.
"Tosh!" he shouts as soon as she picks up the line, before Toshiko can even say anything. "What the bloody hell is going on?"
"I don't know yet," she answers, trying to cradle the phone against her shoulder and study the PDA, while moving to get the front door open.
The gigantic form that steps - no, stomps - from the blue ribbon of Rift energy by Cardiff Bay casts a shadow that must be a hundred feet long across the streets below. The sight of it nearly makes Toshiko drop the phone, while her PDA beeps wildly at the overload of information that comes from the Rift readings; that is, the Rift apparently being flung wide open.
"Oh, my God," she whispers, stunned.
"What? What is it?" Owen demands finally, over the chaos of what sounds like falling rubble.
His voice snaps Toshiko out of her haze.
"The Rift is open," Tosh replies, trying to keep the panic out of her voice. If Owen hasn't noticed the giant thing that just walked out of it, then she isn't going to volunteer the information just yet. "Owen, where are you?"
"Trapped in the Hub," he answers. "I was on my way back in and this started - part of the stairwell's collapsed behind me so I can't go back, and the door won't open."
Tosh braces herself in her open doorway while the world continues to shake around her, and thinks hard about what to do next. "The door probably locked itself. I couldn't get Jack on the line ... keep trying him while I call Gwen, and I'll come get you out as soon as I can."
"Wait, Tosh -" Owen blurts before she can hang up. "How the hell did this happen?"
"Jack," Tosh answers grimly. "Jack must have done it."
Toshiko disconnects the call in the middle of Owen's outraged response, and immediately rings Gwen. It takes a couple of tries before the phone finally connects - the cellular system is probably overloaded with panicked and emergency calls at the moment, Tosh imagines - and Gwen answers.
"Tosh!" Gwen nearly shouts, much the way Owen had. "Where are you? What's going on? Have you heard from Jack?"
"The Rift is open," Tosh explains as calmly as she can, while loading things back into her bag and getting her keys. She swaps out her heels for more practical shoes, and casts a regretful glance back into the kitchen where her kettle is boiling, before shutting the door behind her. So much for that cup of tea.
Not wanting to hear the same questions twice, Tosh forges on quickly before Gwen can respond. "Owen is trapped in the Hub. I just came home, but I'm headed back there to get him out. The last time I saw Jack, he was in his office, and that was right before I left, so he might still be in the Hub."
Somehow, it doesn't seem as wise an idea to tell Gwen that Jack was the one to open the Rift just yet.
"I'm still at the station," Gwen tells her. "I'll get all the coppers sorted and see if I can -"
"Wait," Tosh interrupts, glancing quickly at the PDA while she rushes down the sidewalk. The earthquake-like vibration of the ground has subsided into the occasional tremor, but the ripples still threaten to knock her off balance when she's not paying attention. "The SUV is headed out of the city. That must be Jack."
Over the line, Toshiko can hear the muffled sounds of Gwen yelling instructions to the police officers, a very no-nonsense tone in her voice demanding their attention and obedience. She would have made a great senior police officer someday, Tosh supposes, if Torchwood hadn't gotten to her first.
"Sorry, Tosh," Gwen apologizes when she gets back on the line. "I'm headed out now. What did you say about Jack?"
"He must have the SUV," Tosh repeats. "It's headed out -- no, it's just been parked."
"I have my car," Gwen tells her. "Put the coordinates through to my mobile and I'll -"
For the second time, Gwen gets interrupted, but this time it's by a sudden rolling noise that sounds like a peal of thunder, but is too unnatural to be that. A little way from the heavily populated Bay area, in the direction Jack had gone, a blue bolt of lightning crackles through the darkening sky. It goes on several seconds, causing Toshiko to stop in her tracks and consult her PDA again.
"Tosh," Gwen says quietly. "Do you see that?"
Tosh doesn't answer, busy glancing between her readings and the sky. By the time the freak lightning storm subsides and the sky over Cardiff begins to clear again, Mainframe's systems are going mad with all the calculations.
"The Rift has closed," Tosh finally breathes. "Whatever Jack did out there, it worked."
By the time Toshiko finally reaches Roald Dahl Plass - only a few blocks' walk from her flat, but having taken much longer in the chaos - she sees the reason for the mass panic. There are bodies strewn all about, slumped over the wheels of crashed cars near the Millennium Centre and lying flat on the pavement as if they just crumpled where they stood.
A shudder runs down Tosh's spine as she picks her way through, a distinct chill telling her that they are responsible for this. If Owen hadn't opened the Rift to bring her back, if Jack hadn't tried to open it further in order to stop all this and put everything back in its place, then all these people would still be alive.
Toshiko reaches the invisible lift without anyone noticing her before she vanishes into the perception filter, and activates it with the PDA. By the time the paving stone creaks out of place and begins to lower her into the Hub, her pragmatic mind is already filling with thoughts of how they will handle the cleanup above.
Then her attention is turned to the full extent of the destruction inside the Hub, and it leaves her speechless. A cloud of smoke hangs around the Rift manipulator, the circuits hissing and popping and burnt up wires throwing off sparks. The conference room has been destroyed, the glass blown out across the floor below. At least one of the terminals is overturned, and all the chairs have spun out from their desks and run into the nearest hard surfaces that would stop them. Gwen's evidence board about Ianto has turned onto the floor, all the once neatly pinned papers blown off and scattered about.
Tosh steps off the lift and takes a deep breath afterward to remind herself that her first concern at the moment is to free Owen. She overrides the lock on the door; it rolls back on its track and soon enough lets through a disgruntled but unharmed Owen.
"Tosh," he states, sounding relieved; to see her or to be freed, she isn't sure, but maybe it's a combination of both.
"Owen," she answers. "Are you all right?"
"I'm fine. Looks like I missed all the action but I get to be around for the cleanup," he observes, looking around the nearly destroyed Hub. "Where are Jack and Gwen?"
"Jack took the SUV out. There was this - I don't know, this creature, Owen. It was enormous, it came through the Rift when it was opened and ... it killed so many people."
Tosh pauses, then abruptly turns away to walk briskly back to her desk. Fortunately, it survived the chaos relatively unscathed, other than the glass that seems to be littering everything. Tosh grabs a folder and carefully brushes the shards from her seat, tips more glass off her keyboard, and sets back to work.
"I'll go back up and see if there's anything I can do to help," Owen offers after a brief, awkward silence. He walks over to the lift and hops onto the stone. "Give me a boost?"
Toshiko activates the lift on Owen's request and spends a moment watching it rise toward the surface before she turns back to her terminal. Her earpiece managed somehow to not be lost during the chaos, so she fits it back into her ear just in case the others need her.
Jack Harkness does not know what to do. This is hardly the first time in his long life that such a thing has occurred, but never before has the feeling been accompanied by such a sense of helplessness. Jack might not have earned his current position at Torchwood so much as received it as Alex Hopkins' bloody inheritance, but he knows a great deal about a great many things: the past, the future, the human race, and alien races the likes of which humanity can scarcely dream of.
Usually for Jack, knowing what to do is merely a matter of being able to make the right choice. Maybe not the good choice or the easy choice, but the right one out of all those provided. In this situation, however, Jack has no options, only his own ability to come up with something ... and he's at a loss for solutions.
Across the street from the rooftop where he stands, the Ritz dance hall is being prepared for demolition. An entire block of Sage Street is closed as a safety precaution, and the area immediately surrounding the building and the ones adjoining is cordoned off. Jack watches the construction dust begin to rise, and he takes a deep breath of the cold air to steady himself. The morning weather is typical of Cardiff this time of year, but Jack is certain the temperature is not responsible for the chill that runs down his spine as the walls of the old building start to come down.
Though Gwen posed the question days ago, Jack still has no idea what the demolition of the Ritz will mean for their ongoing search for Ianto. Jack knows by now that their chances of finding their missing teammate - his chances of finding his missing lover - are dwindling, anyway. The Rift is volatile enough without being tampered with, and Owen is more likely to thank dumb luck than good judgment that his impulsive decision to open it was actually successful in bringing Toshiko home.
Time is already bleeding through. Displaced people and things continue to appear in their time and, Jack imagines, people from the twenty-first century may well be disappearing into the past and future. He has no idea how to stop it and, no matter what Jack's personal feelings are on the matter, Ianto's fate seems peripheral compared to the wellbeing of time itself.
"It's a shame," a soft voice says from behind Jack; a voice that is nearly enough to stop the captain's heart from beating.
Jack turns his head and stares hard at the man - or apparition - that walks up to stand alongside. He - or it - looks very much like Ianto Jones, though the hair is a little different and, instead of a suit, he appears in the green uniform of the British Army. Jack knows quite well, however, not to trust his eyes; it is very unlikely that anyone could be up here with him, and even less likely that it could be the missing member of his team.
"It's a beautiful old building, the Ritz," Ianto goes on, admiration shining in his eyes as he looks down at the old dance hall. "It survived the Blitz, only to go out like this. I'll bet every night Cardiff was bombed, when the all clear sounded, and those dancing girls and their soldiers came out unscathed, they thought nothing could harm them down there."
Jack breathes a sigh that carries Ianto's name, even as he shakes his head in denial of what he thinks he sees. He takes a tentative step closer, but is too afraid, too hopeful, to reach out and prove his suspicions as truth.
"I thought nothing could harm me there." Ianto finally turns to look up at Jack with sad and weary eyes. "And now I'm going to die in a war I never should have fought in, during a time I never should have been in."
Jack shakes his head again, seized with a sudden pang of guilt and longing. "I'm sorry," he whispers roughly. "We've tried everything -"
"Not everything," Ianto interrupts, quietly emphatic. "You have to open the Rift, Jack. If you don't, I won't be the only person who dies."
"I can't," Jack answers, his voice cracking on the words. "It could tear everything apart."
Ianto steps closer, but he doesn't reach out to touch Jack, either. "You don't understand. Everything will be torn apart if you don't. You have to take the risk."
"Hey!" One of the construction workers on the other side of the street waves his arms, yelling up to Jack. "You need to clear out! You're not allowed to be up there right now!"
Though Jack's distraction is brief, by the time he glances back, Ianto has vanished.
"Ianto?" Jack calls, though he knows it's in vain. Ianto was never really here at all, so what does that mean? Is Jack going mad?
Jack crosses to the access stairs and hurries back down through the building, calling Tosh over the comms as he goes.
"Check for any Rift activity at or around my current location," Jack instructs in a rush. "I'm across from the Ritz - I'll be back to the Hub in a few."
Jack signs off and walks the block down to where he left the SUV parked on the curb. As he rounds the front of the vehicle and goes to get in, he's not entirely surprised to find Ianto - or at least the thing that looks like Ianto - blocking his path. This time, instead of the uniform, Ianto appears to be wearing one of his usual suits.
"You're not real," Jack insists with narrowed eyes. "But I appreciate the attention to detail: the tie Tosh gave Ianto for Christmas last year?"
Ianto just seems amused, and then only for a brief second. "I'm here with a message. You must listen to me, Jack. If you don't, hundreds - thousands - of lives could be lost."
"It's all a trick," Jack argues. "The answer is no. I don't even know why I'm talking to you right now -"
Jack reaches for the door handle, but Ianto shifts to block him and looms close, without touching. The intensity, the realism, of his stare leaves Jack momentarily paralyzed.
"When you open the Rift," Ianto coaxes softly, "I'll come back to you. We left so many things unfinished ... like that dance ..."
Managing to look more immovable than he feels, Jack sets his jaw and stubbornly turns away. Ianto sinks back, disappointment flickering across his face as he brushes past Jack without touching him at all. Jack closes his eyes and sags heavily against the door of the SUV; when he looks again, Ianto is nowhere to be seen.
Jack scrubs his hands over his face and takes a moment to put himself back together. In the world of Torchwood, there's no such thing as impossible, but Jack knows it's utterly improbable that Ianto could have actually been there. Either someone is playing tricks, or Jack himself is going mad; Jack finds he isn't fond of either option being the truth.
Ianto wakes up. That he wakes up at all seems a miracle. He opens his eyes toward the ceiling, and tries to take stock of himself. He can see the white tiles, and they tell him he is not blind. He can smell the sterility of hospital over the stench of death, and it tells him he must have gotten lucky, if such a thing as luck exists in this place. Ianto moves his head from side to side and strains his ears to hear; everything sounds muffled, as if it's coming from very far away. His mind fills in, from some place in hazy memory, that this is only understandable; he had been very close to the bomb blast, after all.
Simply the thought of the word bomb - the image it conjures of fire, destruction, and terror - causes Ianto to start sharply. He pushes himself up on his elbows and looks down at his body, expecting to find the mangled remains of a man. Instead, he sees a drab blanket and what appears to be the outline of legs; and attached to them, feet. Ianto pushes back the covers and gazes at his legs, sits up a bit further and finds his feet, both of them, with all ten toes intact and, when he summons the will, wiggling upon command.
What he cannot fathom then is why he is in this bed. He feels his head, neck, chest, stomach and sides. Then he finds it, there on his thigh, the square-bandaged area thick with gauze and tape, with blood and pus speaking of infection leaking through to the surface. Ianto's stomach turns, and he covers himself again, quickly, before he must lean over the edge of the bed and give in to his urge to retch. There is something about the sickly-sweet smell of wounded human flesh that Ianto cannot bear, even if he has been elbows deep in an alien corpse before without batting an eyelash.
The wound, now seemingly brought into existence simply because he knows it is there, throbs painfully. Ianto closes his eyes and tries to remember what happened, but he can summon only the vaguest details, all of them of pain, the fearful certainty that he was going to die. He can't help but wonder, with a flash of miserable curiosity, why it's always him. Why did he survive Canary Wharf, why did he survive alien invasion or Lisa or Jack or cannibals or even fucking World War II?
Well, Ianto supposes, he hasn't survived it yet.
Minutes tick by, wherein Ianto thinks he must drift off. When he opens his eyes again, there's a nurse by his bedside and his legs are cold; he grits his teeth, realizing she is about to change the dressing on his wound. She's pleasant, though, in that careworn sort of way women seem to be now, and she strikes up a conversation to distract Ianto while she cleanses the area. He's fortunate, she tells him, they'd thought he would lose the leg, the shrapnel was buried so deep. Even now, they must be careful to keep the infection from settling in. This sort of thing could kill a man on the battlefield.
Ianto can't quite decide if he would have preferred to die. Certainly, he has no wish for death, would never think of taking his own life. But upon close and personal examination of his own feelings, he isn't sure he wants especially to live, either.
"Name like Dafydd Jones," the nurse is saying, "you must be from Wales."
Ianto pulls his attention from the ceiling and his own misery. "Yes."
"Well, Lieutenant, I think you and I are going to be seeing a lot of each other now you're awake, so I may as well introduce myself: I'm Susan."
"Pleasure to meet you, Susan," Ianto answers. With his voice straining to push the words out, he realizes just how raspy and awful it sounds. "How long have I been here?"
"Going into the third day now," Susan replies. "You spent the first fighting off a fever - it's no wonder that you don't remember it."
Ianto makes the barest of noises to acknowledge her response, and turns his attention back to the ceiling. It's nothing against her, not really; she's well and nice enough, with the sort of chatty personality exhibited as she cares for him that reminds Ianto of his sister, Rhiannon. It had been a couple of weeks since he'd called her, when he disappeared. Ianto wonders if Jack went personally to give her the news, or if he sent Gwen to do the dirty work. Gwen would have been better, Ianto decides; she would have given Rhi a cuppa and a pat on the hand, and assured her that everything would be all right.
"Are you from South Wales, Lieutenant? I thought I recognized the accent. My granddad was Welsh, rest his soul. He died in the last war. I barely remember that one, mind you, though I was born in the midst. You look like you would have been little more than a babe in arms, yourself. How old are you, love?"
"Twenty ..." Ianto closes his eyes, frowning as he does the math in his head; has it been so long? "Twenty-eight."
Susan chuckles softly. "You sound like you're not sure."
Ianto opens his eyes again and manages a smile up at her. "I'm not."
"Probably still a little rattled, you are." She smiles sympathetically.
Grunting an agreement, Ianto raises his head a little to watch while she works. Susan's efficiency is something Ianto can appreciate, the way she sets about redressing the wound. It almost distracts him from something else pressing on his mind.
"Did they recover my things, too?" he asks. "My uniform. There was a letter ... I need to know if anyone found it - posted it."
Susan turns a serious eye on him.
"It wasn't meant to be posted. I'm not done with it yet," Ianto finishes explaining. He lets his head drop back to the pillow with a sigh.
The nurse completes her work in silence, then pulls the covers back up to Ianto's chin, where she tucks them snugly. Susan turns quietly to a stool by the bed and picks up a wrinkled jacket, which Ianto recognizes as his own. "Now, where would it be?"
"Inside breast pocket."
Ianto endures a somewhat unnerving silence as Susan searches his jacket pockets, but finally the nurse extracts a crumpled and dirty envelope.
Susan turns the envelope over in her hands and tries to straighten the wrinkles out. "'Captain Jack Harkness'?" she asks, raising her eyebrows.
"Yes," Ianto answers, trying not to sound defensive.
But Susan doesn't seem to be concerned with the name on the envelope for any suspicious reasons. Instead, she steps a bit closer to the bed and notes, "He may not be the same, but we've a Captain Jack Harkness a few wards over. I hate to be the one to break it to you, love, but I'll be surprised if he makes it through the night."
Ianto reaches a hand out to take the letter from her. "It's all right," he answers gruffly, while stuffing the envelope beneath his pillow. "They were only orders."
Susan does not look convinced, but Ianto supposes he wasn't very convincing anyway. "All right, love. I'm off to finish my rounds. Yell if you need anything."
Ianto dozes for a little while after Susan leaves, but after enough time has passed for him to be sure the ward is silent and relatively empty of anyone who might actually try to stop him, he drags himself back into alertness again. Ianto is fairly certain that he's not meant to leave bed, but there is a dressing gown draped over a chair (probably belonging to the person in the bed next to him) that he grabs and shoves into anyway with some difficulty. Standing is another story, which turns into a rather painful ordeal as his leg and the stitches in it scream protest.
Finally, Ianto manages to hobble on a pair of stolen crutches, out of the ward he's located in, and into the hallway. From there, the pitiful moans and whimpers of the very badly injured lead Ianto in the direction he believes he needs to go. The feeling of impending death hangs palpably over the next ward he enters, and Ianto fights the chill it sends down his spine. It doesn't matter how much he has seen with Torchwood; the surrealism of it cannot compare to this.
Fortunately for Ianto, his search down the rows of beds ends near the back. The curtain is drawn with enough of a gap left open for him to see that the occupant of the bed is, indeed, Jack. Ianto moves closer and awkwardly eases himself down to sit in a chair beside the bed. Jack looks like the dying man that he is, battered and bruised, and Ianto can't imagine what must have happened to him.
Ianto has no idea if Jack is comatose or merely sleeping, but at a time like this, either would not change the outcome of Ianto's decision to reach for Jack's hand. How many deaths will this make? Ianto wonders. How long will Jack have to wait for the darkness this time? That's all there is, Jack has said, darkness; Jack didn't spare Ianto's feelings on the matter when asked what it's like to die. Jack's firsthand account runs contrary to what Ianto was brought up to believe, but Ianto isn't certain what he believes anymore. He only hopes that when the darkness comes for him, it is a peaceful one.
Jack stirs and his eyes crack open, but he doesn't seem to register Ianto's presence; or, if he does, he's simply too far gone to speak. Ianto gives Jack's hand a squeeze and listens to the labored breathing, watches the rise and fall of a chest that seems broken inside. Jack weakly flexes his fingers around Ianto's, then he closes his eyes again.
"I shouldn't be here," Ianto says very quietly, uncertain whether Jack can even hear him (and Ianto knows that it's for the best if Jack can't).
When Jack doesn't answer, doesn't acknowledge he heard the words, Ianto presses on, "I don't know if you'll remember. I think it's best if you don't. But I've tried so hard to follow the rules, to do what you would have wanted me to do ... and right now, I have to be a little selfish. I don't know if I'll ever get to see you again, and if I'm supposed to live the rest of my life here without you ..."
Ianto pauses, scrubbing his free hand over his eyes to wipe away the rising tears. Then he pulls the battered letter from the pocket of his stolen robe and looks down at it with a sigh. "I wrote you a letter, did you know that? Maybe someday you'll get to read it, but I don't think so. Maybe I should burn it, just in case, just to keep the timeline in tact. You'd want me to do that, I think."
Jack shifts a little, and makes a noise that sounds deeply pained. Ianto regards the letter in his hand and watches his own handwriting on the outside of the envelope blur from the moisture in his eyes.
"I can read it to you," Ianto decides. "Even though I could just tell you what it says. I've rewritten it so many times, I know it by heart. It begins with 'Dear Jack' ..."
Susan finds her two patients a little while later, one dead and the other bleeding from a reopened leg wound. She frowns gently at the scene, not for its macabre nature - she has seen far worse than a peaceful death and a man in a bloody dressing gown - but for the way Lieutenant Jones' shoulders are shaking. Susan has dealt often enough with death in the last few years, but that doesn't make it any easier, especially when there's someone who actually knew the lost patient involved.
"Come now, love," she urges gently, moving to rest her hand on the young man's shoulder. "There's nothing more to be done here ... let's get you back to bed and tend to that leg."
The Hub is nearly deserted when Jack arrives back, save Toshiko's presence perched like always in front of her computer terminal. She looks up when the door rolls back and Jack breezes through to his office, but she doesn't speak. Taking that to mean she has nothing, Jack leaves her alone for the time being and instead moves to sit behind his desk, considering all that transpired earlier. The apparition that looked so like Ianto, urging him to open the Rift; Jack knows it's possible, but since when has he allowed his own selfish desires to dictate his actions? Once upon a time, maybe, but Jack is a different man now. Ever since traveling with the Doctor, he's been different. But the Doctor has left him here for over a hundred years now, in spite of so much potential for their paths to cross again; sightings of the Time Lord are rife in the twenty-first century. Everyone Jack loves eventually leaves him, so many moving in and out of his life. As badly as he wants to hold on to them all, it never works. This time, though, it could be different; Jack has the opportunity to save Ianto Jones. The question is, will he be rash enough to take the chance?
The soft sound of Toshiko's chair rolling back precedes her appearance at the office door. Jack looks up from staring into nothing and offers a questioning quirk of a brow.
"What do you have for me?" he asks, trying to sound stable, in control.
"Trace amounts of Rift activity at the location of the Ritz," Tosh answers. "But nothing compared to what's springing up around the rest of the city. The points are spreading further and further out, Jack ... soon, we'll have to figure out a way to neutralize it, before it gets out of our control."
Jack hates the fact that Tosh feels as if she needs to warn him in such a way, but he knows that he's not himself at the moment.
"Thanks, Tosh," he replies, settling back in his chair with a sigh.
Tosh offers him an apologetic look. "I'm going to run out and grab a bite. Would you like me to bring you something back?"
Jack shakes his head. "No, I'm fine. Thanks, though. Take a few hours if you need to ... you look like you could use a nap. I won't let the world end without you."
Looking less than amused at Jack's humorous jab, Tosh backs out of the doorway.
"I'll see you in a little while," she tells him, before leaving the room.
Jack watches Tosh cross the Hub and take the door up to the tourist information centre. Then he shifts up in his chair and reaches into the drawer to retrieve his diary. There she is, Rhea Silvia, the grandmother of Rome. Jack holds the potential in his hands to keep this city standing, or to bring it crashing around their ears even faster than it already is.
He spends a long moment staring at the pages, considering the emergency protocol that no one knows about save himself ... and probably Ianto. And if Ianto is thinking about himself at all in 1941 (and Jack finds it rather unlikely), then he must have considered that Jack has the option. He must know that Toshiko has come home already, judging from the letter Tosh dug up on the Internet.
Jack rises from his desk and, carrying the diary tucked under his arm, moves out into the Hub where Gwen has constructed a sort of evidence board. There are photographs tacked up there, scraps of newspaper articles and a print-out of that letter. Give my love to J, Jack reads, a furrow in his brow.
"It looks like that may be the only way I ever get to tell you," Ianto's voice states behind him.
Jack closes his eyes and wills the ghost or vision or whatever the hell it is to go away. It doesn't, of course, and when he opens his eyes again, he can see Ianto Jones (or what looks like him) out of the corner of one. "I'm not going to do it."
Ianto smiles. "I can see you're considering it. Do you think I wouldn't approve? I've already told you I do. Even if you don't bring me back, there are still lives to be saved. So many lives, Jack. Isn't that what we're here for?"
"And if I do make it back to you, then doesn't that make it all the better?" Ianto presses. "Your actions will be justified, not just as a hero, but as a man."
Jack looks down at the diary in his hands and takes a deep breath, exhaling it in a long, slow sigh. "What if it tears the world apart?" he questions desperately. "I can't - I won't - be responsible for that."
"Oh, Jack," Ianto replies, his voice chiding. "If you don't do it, the world will be torn apart anyway."
Before Jack can manage a retort, Ianto is gone. The captain's shoulders sag, and he crosses to the computer terminal, casting an ominous look up at the Rift manipulator as he does so.
The emergency protocol feature normally requires the optical scan and approval of every member of the team, but Jack doesn't have time for that. In more than a century, he's learned Mainframe inside and out; if he couldn't hack his own system, how could he stop anyone else from doing so?
Jack steals one more glance over at the board where the image of Ianto in the forties is frozen in time. From somewhere in his office, a Glenn Miller song begins to play on a turntable he knows he didn't leave on.
Jack steels himself and reaches out to key in the final sequence. The Rift manipulator makes a great hum and with a burst of blue energy that shoots into the sky above Cardiff, it begins its work. Jack knows the resounding pulse might feel like an earthquake to anyone else. When Owen opened the Rift before, it was much more controlled. Now, Jack is tempting all hell to break loose ... and unfortunately for him, hell has decided to answer the call.