|sam_storyteller (sam_storyteller) wrote,|
@ 2005-07-18 11:51 am UTC
|Entry tags:||ao3, imglink, torchwood|
Summary: The letters exchanged between Jack and Ianto during the three month time period of "Won't You Come Home To Me".
1. Read the prequel first. No, really. It's short and painless.
2. Fuck postage stamps. I am not so dedicated to my art that I'm going to look up what kind of stamp would go on a postcard from Nairobi to Cardiff.
3. Jack's handwriting font, I think you all should know, is called "Attract More Women".
3a. That petting-zoo joke is all me. Sorry, Wales.
Originally posted 6.24.08
Also available at AO3.
I've been to New York before, but it was a long time ago. Since then it's been all business trips, and those pretty far between. It's taken me two days to figure out why there are echoes of this city across the known universe, once Humanity takes to the stars. It's an amazing city -- sort of like London. Except not.
I forget sometimes how afraid ordinary people are of their own mortality. Everyone keeps telling me to stay out of certain areas or off the streets at night, so of course those are the first places I go. Don't worry, I haven't been mugged. I think fear is more powerful as a presence than crime, most of the time.
Nobody loves my accent here. I sound like everyone else. Another point for Cardiff.
PS: Should I be signing my name John? I don't remember hacking your files but it's conceivable I might see something over your shoulder.
Blending in for once might be good for you. Builds character.
I shouldn't worry about how you sign your name, because that just leads to concerns over what you can and can't say and that's going to make writing at all rather difficult. Besides, do you suppose it would be really any better if you read "John" over my shoulder? Trust me to protect you from yourself. Literally.
This is a little strange for me, I hope you realise.
I've never been to New York. I suppose it's not at all like the television shows.
How are you keeping yourself busy?
I imagine I don't need to tell you that things are ticking over all right here.
I'm not keeping myself busy. That's half the problem. I used to think being able to just sit around all day might be fun...no, actually, I never thought that would be fun. I'm not that kind of man, never was -- always had to be doing and going, always had to be pulling a fast one, I guess. I do that even in Cardiff, it's not like the rest of the city knows what we do. There just isn't anything for me now, except your letters. It's a lot like the flight barracks during the second war. Long stretches of insane boredom topped off by moments of suicidal excitement, except without the suicidal excitement. I might be forced to find gainful employment just to keep myself from flying back to Cardiff.
You can still tell me what's going on, if you want, I'd like to hear. I've had a suspicion for a long time that you are dry and might even employ sarcasm in your self-narration of our lives. Don't disappoint me.
New York isn't like television, but they've seen themselves on television so much that sometimes it sort of is.
I have faith in your ability to amuse yourself, because you are not five. Have you considered becoming a superhero? You have the suitably dramatic coat.
You've struck me as a man who knows when to be active and when to be still, but that is of course taking into account the balance between the two. Take one part of the equation out and I suppose I'd feel as off-centre as you do.
There isn't much going at the moment here, either. We keep ourselves busy with monitoring the police and a few minor call-outs you probably wouldn't even recall. It's a bit interesting, I suppose; Cardiff's rebuilding and given that most of what fell down was old (I don't have much opinion of Captain Hart's bomb-building skills, but I'll be charitable and pretend he built them wonky on purpose) there've been some elderly Rift artefacts thrown up into the light of day during construction. Nothing especially perilous, which is just as well.
Linear-timeline you has been making noises about hiring new people. Gwen is resistant; have you noticed that she's not one to handle change especially well? I suppose I shouldn't talk but once my face has been slammed into the wall of reality once or twice I generally get the message. Gwen, not so much.
I think she rather likes it just the three of us. It's familiar, and I won't deny it's comfortable.
And you're calling me from the balcony so I can't say anything more.
I think being a superhero might draw a little more media attention than strictly necessary, sooner or later. I could go all out and come back to Cardiff and become a supervillain for me to battle.
Gwen is unique (don't make that face, you know you are too, in a different way). In Torchwood people tend to fall into grooves. It's easy to become a parody of yourself if you spend too long there...to fall into the trap of thinking grimness is efficiency, cruelty is amusing. She calls it "becoming hard"; she thinks it's already happened to her, which is why she struggles so much with it in others. I've lost pairs and trios of agents before -- I'm not proud of it -- and the survivors always cleaned up and went on and absorbed the newcomers and started indoctrinating them into the hardness, too. Gwen's going to keep that from happening to us. It's not an easy fight for her, sometimes. I know I can be difficult.
I don't think it's going to mess with the timestream too much to predict that there are a couple of shouting matches in your immediate future. Try to keep your head down. I know you always do.
I miss you. You know monogamy isn't exactly what I'm best at, but I don't have even any instinct to look at other people that way (outside of the usual instinct I have to look at EVERYONE that way). It's Ianto Jones or nothing. Which means it's a lot of nothing. I blame you.
You say such charming things, how can any young man resist your wiles?
It's strange to hear you say you miss me when ten minutes ago we were having lunch together. I don't like keeping this secret, though I know we haven't a choice. Smacks too much of last time. I keep waiting for the axe to fall. But as the world hasn't ended I suppose it didn't. Still, it's far too long until you're back.
As per your prediction, shouting match part the first took place this morning, ended in tears, much patting of shoulders and proffering of handkerchiefs. Who knew you were a weeper?
That sounds cold, there on the page. And it's true Gwen did nearly all of the crying.
I think you should know, because I've not outright said, that I did -- I do -- grieve Owen and Tosh. It's only that it's easier, for me, not to make a show of it. It's become habit and I'm unconvinced it's a bad one, to tuck it up in my head and let it run its course out in silence. It's what I did for London.
It must be difficult for you, the many times you've done this. I'm amazed you don't get rather tired of all the hysterics that go into grief from time to time. I think within a few decades I'd simply think to myself, "Oh god, not this again."
It's exhausting, being miserable.
This isn't a very cheery letter, I suppose. Cardiff's rather stormy and unpleasant this morning. I check the New York weather every day. It's the only subtle way I know of keeping an eye on you, or anything close-to. Enjoy the sunshine.
I don't need cheer, constantly. I just like your letters.
Also, check Boston's weather instead. I'll explain later.
What's in Boston?
If you take off and do a bloody tour of the United States I shall be cross. That's for disaffected university students who've read too much Kerouac and people in mid-life crises. You're far too old to be having a mid-life crisis at this stage.
Okay, I got bored with New York. Boston seemed more...familiar. I spend a lot of time downtown. It reminds me of Cardiff. I haven't thought of myself as someone with a home in a long time, but Boston reminds me of home.
I'm homesick. I'm pathetic.
I'm also angry that for once command of the Hub is in hands I trust implicitly and I could take you away for a weekend and I can't, because I'd wonder where you went.
If I remember correctly, at the moment you and Gwen and myself are investigating microfractures in the rift, so you won't get this for two days.
I know you're not an enormous fan of mobiles but even you should be aware I can read email on mine. It's humid and wet here, and I hate you just a little bit for dragging us to Newport and making us stake out a museum in a car with no air conditioning.
The other you. Not you, obviously. And not really, either.
More when I'm not having to tap this out on a numeric keypad.
PS: Going to strangle Gwen.
Don't strangle Gwen.
Someone else tried to do it for me. We're at hospital.
If she dies and you didn't tell me, I don't think I'll forgive you. I don't care about timeline crossing. If I'm to lose Gwen so soon after Owen and Tosh, I'm leaving this job.
I'm sorry, I don't mean that. I'm tired.
She won't die. I would have told you. Or taken you away.
Have you seen American television lately? There's almost no sex and no nudity at all. Except on PBS, for god's sake.
You should be home by now, and I think I came home with you. Get off the computer and go comfort me.
Do you know what I just did? I just had an hour-long conversation with you about television in order to send your future self in America some DVDs that you'd actually like. I draw the line at sending you pornography; buy it yourself.
Gwen's home and resting. As for you and I, we neither of us are in Rhys's good books at the moment, but he happened to see us having a moment and I suspect he's a lot less anxious about you and Gwen. You could have told him so ages ago, but I think you like messing with Rhys.
The microfracture investigation, Gwen's near-death aside, went well. We've neatly stitched them up, I think, which is a new one on me; I didn't know it was possible to close a rift, even a microfracture. I'm thinking of doing some courses in theoretical physics; it can't hurt, even if as you've just told me most general knowledge of physics is wrong.
I never was much on academics until Torchwood. I rather liked my job in London, actually. For the first time it seemed like what I was studying actually meant something.
You're sleeping next to me. Gwen told me you told her you never slept. It's wrong to tell lies, Captain.
Unless you're faking.
Ianto stared at the computer screen, caught in the moment, trying to make a decision. Next to him, Jack shifted and curled closer to his hip, snorting slightly as he moved.
Somewhere across the Atlantic, another Jack was probably asleep as well, or wandering around Boston at four in the morning.
It was strange to be writing to Jack and know that nothing he said would have immediate consequences; it was freeing, but also dangerous. It gave the illusion that he could say what he liked.
On the other hand, if he couldn't say it when he felt it had no consequences, when would he?
I never tell lies. I interpret reality creatively.
I don't need to sleep much anymore -- especially after I've just died (I haven't yet in America, which is pretty surprising). There's too much energy in me. I don't know how else to explain it.
I try not to, anyway. Bad dreams. I know you can relate.
Listen, if you want to know about physics, just ask me, okay? I can give you a more accurate spread. (Also, kinky student-teacher vibe. Lots of fun. Try it).
Do you put the period before the parenthesis or after? I can never remember. I'm still adjusting to standardized spelling. English was a lot more fun when people didn't feel compelled to spell things correctly.
I find myself following the news a lot. There's not much else to do. I will say this, American politics are pretty interesting. And I think I have one or two leads on alien activity around these parts. I'll let you know if anything comes of it.
You're getting sentimental, Ianto. I like it.
Your talk of accurate spreads doesn't fool me for a minute. I can only imagine what homework you'd assign.
Stops go inside the brackets only if a full sentence is enclosed, outside if it encloses a fragment attached to an existing sentence. Thus you have done it wrong and brought shame on the house of Torchwood.
Try not to get splashed across the front page of any important newspapers. I think you should remember that you've always followed the news. Wouldn't do for you to see yourself apprehending aliens in Boston when you know you were tucked up in my flat that particular evening.
We've started the search for a new medic and a new tech. I have to say it's a lot more interesting than doing interviews. Gwen's spent all day talking to everyone at the local hospitals who's dealt with any of our "spooky-dos", and it hasn't been too bad studying up on the history of Britain's Great Hackers. Though they're mostly anarchists and I don't have much respect for anarchists personally. Still, we're bound to find someone.
I haven't heard from you in a day and a half. Please let me know you're all right.
You're not answering your phone. If you don't get in touch soon I'm going to have to tell your other self something.
I've been in Salem. There wasn't time. I'm fine; I left a message but now who's not answering the phone? I'll send you a full report in a little while. If I don't get confirmation you received this, I'll call again.
You utter bastard, don't do that to me. It's one thing when there's only one of you and I can do what I need to find you, but you're on another continent and I have to deal with another whole you. Everything else aside, you're my boss. We can't lose you, Jack.
Yes well, you had better be.
What happened in Salem? There's nothing in the papers.
You're familiar with the witch trials in the 17th century. Salem's full of witch shops and tourist traps now, but in the past week there've been three women lynched -- hanged, which is what they did to most of the witches. They tried to press someone to death, and nobody thought this was weird.
There's a kind of creature that feeds on energy like that. I think it came to Salem once before. They remember good feeding grounds -- small towns, closed tribes, rural areas. Salem's not as isolated as it used to be, but it's still a community unto itself. I had to stop it. That's what Torchwood does, and America doesn't have anything like it. It's far enough from the rift that it probably doesn't need it, but once in a while something has enough power to get to mainland Europe -- or across the Atlantic. I spent two days chasing it. There's an electrical component. Rolling blackouts, no mobile reception. I should have called but...
The chase is great. Even when I hate it, even when people die, and I know you know what I feel because you feel it too when we're out after the weevils. We're hunters, Ianto, you and me and Gwen. We can't be happy with anything less. I'm not going to be sorry for what I am, it was a good thing I did. I'm sorry I didn't call but I'm not sorry I stopped it.
This is all I have left right now. That and your letters.
Good to hear your voice on the voicemail.
I don't want you to be sorry for what you are, and you know that's not what I meant, but -- this isn't easy. I'm used to being there with you, or at least running backup from nearby. There are worse things that can happen to you than dying.
Please, just try to stop running for a second sometimes.
Gwen's found a doctor, she thinks. Nina Carlysle. Keeps her head well in an emergency and she didn't seem particularly fazed by that hospital disappearance in London a few years ago (she did her rotations there; we can't seem to escape London medics). We're still looking for a tech, but I have a lead or two.
Considering your last letter, have a google at "Kenya" and "witches". Sounds like Earth might have an infestation
rift alarms -- my turn to hunt
I should go to Kenya.
I won't if you tell me not to.
Nothing major. You've been making fun of my black eye all afternoon.
You know this isn't how it works. Go to Kenya or don't, but don't ask permission, that's no good.
I don't think there are many internet cafes where you're going. Just -- write when you're back.
I know I can't write you on paper, I'd be suspicious of anything you got from Kenya. But you can write me -- I'm sending you the address where I'm booked. Please.
Can I call you?
This is more like wartime every day, you and I.
I'll call you when I can. Just put a letter in the post to you.
Ianto left Jack sleeping in his small bed under his office -- he might not sleep often, but Ianto suspected he slept more when he shared someone's bed -- and climbed up through the porthole, then further up to Myfanwy's roost. Sound was deadened here, and there was pretty decent reception. And he'd hear Jack coming, footsteps or boots along the metal grating.
Jack answered on the third ring.
"Hiya, gorgeous," he said, the line crackling just slightly.
"Jack," Ianto smiled. "How's Kenya?"
"Hot. Beautiful. You should visit."
"The rift doesn't wait on holidays."
"Someday I'll take you here."
"I'd like that," Ianto said. "Find anything yet?"
"Traces. Whenever it was here, it's moved on now. Hard to know where. There are a lot of isolated settlements, and it's hard to get fast news."
"I've been keeping an eye on things. Nothing on the news yet."
"Can you call me if something comes up?"
"Might be a delay. Hard to get away sometimes."
"Trying hard?" Jack asked, sounding both affectionate and wary.
"No, but since -- well. You stick a bit closer these days. I'm not complaining."
Jack chuckled. "Few do."
"Typical," Ianto said, voice full of affection. Before Jack could reply, a voice floated up from below.
"I hear me," Jack said on the line. "Which is very weird. Do I always sound that demanding?"
"You're the Captain. I'd better see what you want," Ianto said. "How much longer are you in Africa?"
"A week, maybe, unless I find something. Go on," Jack said. "Give me my love."
"Paradox," Ianto said, and hung up the phone, walking to the edge of the roost. "Up here, Jack."
"Myfanwy complaining?" Jack asked, looking up from the railing.
"I get suspicious when she's too quiet. I think she's off dismantling some other part of the Hub."
"Come down," Jack said, waggling his eyebrows.
I hope this reaches you before you leave, but if not it should redirect back to Boston, and then to New York if you're there. Sorry I haven't phoned again; I think you think I'm up to something, and Gwen's watching me like a hawk. She doesn't have as much to keep her busy now that Nina's joined. Though there's a lot to teach her, of course. It's a new experience, being senior to someone. Even when Gwen joined...well, you know what I was more concerned with when Gwen joined. Now I'm supposed to teach Nina the systems and protocols, though you've graciously (oh yes) agreed to teach her how to shoot.
She gets on well with everyone. She's not Owen, but nobody will be Owen or Tosh for us. On another level, she's Not Owen, and I'm beginning to think we need just a little bit of grit in the team to keep it rolling along. Perhaps an anarchist isn't such a bad idea after all. But you know all this, and presumably whether we picked an anarchist or not, so now I'm just nattering.
Putting things on paper makes them more real, I've always thought -- maybe even more so now, in the digital age. The only things that make it to printed page anymore are important documents, birth records and such. It's a new kind of strange to send you real letters.
It strikes me that for all I know by the time you're supposed to come back I might be dead -- I might have already died, or whatever sent you back to me could have scattered all of us through time. I know you'd do what you could to stop it but what could you do, really? That would be worst of all, being helpless. So I think you should be told that if I do die you mustn't alter history. I'd say I forgive you but in this kind of situation there's no transgression in the first place.
I haven't thought about dying in a long time.
It's not a happy letter but I think it's important. And it says a lot about trust, I think, or something. I don't know. Sometimes you make me feel really...young, I guess.
Miss you. Sort of. Considering I can see you twenty feet away eating a sandwich.
Ianto tapped the radio in his ear, leaning back and studying the postcard curiously. "I'm in the information centre. Something you needed?"
"Five more hours in a day?"
"I'll get to work on that. Would you prefer a time machine, or just a slower orbit on the Earth?"
He heard Jack laugh. "I knew you'd have solutions. No, I need to know if your passport is current. I'm sending Eric and Nina to London to be bored by a UNIT summit, Martha's meeting them there. Gwen already asked for the weekend off."
"Need someone to ride herd on the Rift, sir?"
"Not as such, I thought I'd stay in, but we've had an international request for someone who knows what he's doing to deal with some artifact recovery. It's a cake walk, but someone has to stay here, and I think you'd enjoy it more than I would anyway."
Ianto got a dawning suspicion. A suspicion that there would be Words with Jack, shortly. "Where's the recovery?"
"Ever been to Paris, Ianto?"
Jack met him at the train station in Paris. Ianto didn't ask how he'd determined his route; Jack had his ways, and the train made the most logical sense anyway. He practically ran through the crowd, skidded to a stop in front of him, and gave him a smiling, expectant look. He was deeply tanned.
"You," Ianto said, "are devious, and dangerous, and you're going to end causality if you're not careful."
Jack kissed him, a little like he was trying to suffocate him and a little like he himself was drowning.
"It's okay," he said. "I remembered sending you here. Which means it was already done."
"There's no dig, is there."
"No. I pulled some strings with a friend at the embassy."
"Worth it," Jack said, and kissed him again. "Paris, Ianto. Paris. No letters, no furtive telephone calls, no alien infestations. I should have thought of this weeks ago."
Ianto's mobile rang, and Jack looked at it, grinning. "That's me!"
"Yes, so be quiet," Ianto said, and flicked the phone open. "Jack."
"Yes, was just about to call you," Ianto said, as Jack plastered himself against his back and began nibbling his neck. He nudged him gently with his elbow, but Jack either ignored it or was too involved in the skin just above his collar to care. "All quiet?"
"Yeah. Boring. Nothing to keep me occupied."
"Patience is good for you," Ianto said, feeling a strange surge of backwards deja-vu. "Builds character."
He heard Jack laugh against his neck.
"Are you in the station?" Jack asked. "What was that?"
"Pigeon making a kamikazi run at my head."
"You're tired. Go get settled. Call me tomorrow morning."
"Text if the Rift acts up. I can be back at Cardiff in three hours."
"Just enjoy yourself. It's Paris. Find a cute French boy to flirt with."
"Good as done," Ianto said, and heard Jack laugh down the telephone line as he rang off. "Jack says I should find a French boy to flirt with."
"Jack's advice is sound."
"You're not French."
"Non, mais je peux faire semblant," Jack said into his skin, arms wrapping around his waist.
"Ton accent est épouvantable."
"Pas quand je t'embrasse," Jack answered. "Viens à l'hôtel."
It was strange not to have to keep one ear cocked for a mobile rift alert, not to have to worry about being needed at the Hub. He left his mobile on the side-table of the enormous hotel bed and let Jack strip him, fingers still fumbling with Jack's shirt when Jack already had him nearly naked. It wasn't particularly elegant but it was -- as always with Jack -- satisfying.
"Sorry," Jack mumbled into his chest, eventually, when they were both too exhausted to move. "Missed you."
"I gathered. It's like you haven't had sex in weeks."
Jack lifted his head. "I haven't." He frowned. "Don't give me that eyebrow. I told you. Ianto Jones or nothing."
Ianto rubbed small circles in his scalp, and Jack grunted and dropped his head again.
"You have no high opinion of my fidelity," he slurred.
"I have the highest opinion of your intentions of fidelity. I try not to have unrealistic expectations of your success rate."
"Well, then this should be a nice surprise for you."
"It is," Ianto said, and pulled Jack up into a kiss. "Very, very nice."
It was mid-morning when Ianto woke, but Jack was still in bed as well, propped on his elbows and working on a newspaper Sudoku, tongue caught between his teeth in concentration.
"You slept well," Jack said. "Looked like you could use the rest."
"You said it yourself -- rough three months, and there's still another ahead." Ianto stretched.
"Worst is over. And by the way, I don't have to justify myself to you as regards my hiring practices."
"Translation, he's hot and we need someone ginger," Ianto retorted.
"He has all kinds of skills. Besides, you're jealous, and it's a good look on you."
"Jealous -- ! I am not -- !" Ianto pushed himself up on his elbows. "Jealous of that weedy prat?"
Jack burst out laughing. "He has hidden depths. You'll like him. Promise."
"None of that, promising the future."
"Oh, there's a lot of future to promise," Jack said, settling in next to him and curling an arm around his hip. Ianto turned his head, touched his forehead to Jack's.
"I take it Kenya wasn't so bad, then?" he asked softly.
"No. Not so bad. Tracked 'em, caught 'em, killed 'em. Pretty clean," Jack replied. "I saw...some things I'd rather not see, but since when is that anything new."
"Mm," Ianto said, closing his eyes again. "Are we getting out of bed at all today?"
"Not for any significant length of time," Jack replied, nipping his earlobe. "Any problems with that?"
"None at all."
The Paris dig is officially a bust. I don't know whose thumbs are up whose arses around here but they definitely didn't need Torchwood's help to unearth a bunch of perfectly normal earthenware pots.
I'll be back around noon tomorrow. DO NOT let Eric make the coffee.
You need to stop mentally calling him a weedy prat. I can hear you doing it.
I did manage to make coffee before you came along, upstart.
That was caffeine-tinted lighter fuel. It was not coffee.
Bringing you a present from Paris.
"This is why only very smart people are allowed to travel in time," Jack said, leading him through the Parisian antique shop, towards a dusty booth at the back. Ianto followed, wanting to stop and examine some of the other racks but worried he'd lose Jack entirely if he didn't keep up.
Jack stopped in front of a huge case of war memorabilia. Ianto tried very hard not to roll his eyes. He plucked down a visored cap the same general colour as his coat and offered it to Ianto.
"For example," he said.
"Physics lesson?" Ianto asked, holding it carefully.
"In a sense. This hat. I like this hat. And I'm going to make you buy it and take it home. Where you are going to give it to me."
"And I will keep it until I disappear, and then when I return to the Hub in a month, it will be there on the rack, waiting for the next rainy day."
"Listen, if you want a rain hat, there are better -- "
"The point is," Jack continued, "Do I like this hat because it reminds me of itself, three months ago when you will give it to me, or do I like this as a hat qua hat, and the temporal displacement is simply incidental?"
Ianto squinted. "Did you just say hat qua hat?"
"Which brings up the question of whether our lives are predestined and if they can be changed."
"It's a hat, Jack."
"I think the Rift exists in Cardiff because only the Welsh are so practical in the face of existential headwear," Jack said.
"Thank you," Ianto said, and went in search of a hatbox.
Text Message from IJones: ETA 2.45pm. Ride from the station would be appreciated.
Text Message from CJH: Roger, will meet you.
Text Message from IJones: Any excuse to say 'roger', with you.
Text Message from IJones: ETA 2.45pm. Email tonight? How long will you stay in Paris?
Text Message from MateDave: Staying in Paris until summoned elsewhere?
Text Message from IJones: Steady diet of brie and croissant bad for digestion.
Text Message from MateDave: Will also eat foie gras and madeleines.
Text Message from IJones: I despair. Arriving at station. Stay out of trouble.
Jack met him at the train station. Again.
"Some graduate student on the dig got hysterical, imagined he was seeing lights," Ianto lied, as they climbed into the car. "I hung about just in case, but I couldn't justify staying on past the weekend."
"You had to linger through Monday?" Jack asked.
"No -- no reason to linger, really."
Jack gave him a measuring look.
"There was a boy," he said finally. "You look well-shagged."
"British idiom, American accent, failure," Ianto informed him. "It's like when you try to say quid."
"What's wrong with the way I say quid? Don't distract me."
"There was no boy," Ianto said, which was mostly true.
"No girl neither."
Jack grunted as he pulled away from the car park. "You're right, I'd smell it."
"Creepy," Ianto reminded him. "Missed you," he added.
"You too. Eric's gone for the afternoon, Nina's presenting at some conference, and Gwen's going to the movies with Rhys."
Ianto rolled his eyes. "Naked hide-and-seek?"
Jack just grinned.
"I noticed you very carefully have not asked after your gift," Ianto said casually. Jack looked just as casual, focusing carefully on the road. "Before you make plans involving nudity, you may want to open it."
"Oh?" Jack arched an eyebrow.
"I have it on the best possible authority that you'll like it."
All right, now I feel oddly as though I'm having an affair. Have had an affair? From your perspective, will have? Are you certain I'm bright enough to be this embroiled in time travel? Is there some sort of examination one undergoes?
I have to remind myself that it's you, and also that when you disappear three weeks from now and reappear...hopefully soon after, all that one of you doesn't know, the other will know. But it will have been just as slow for you as it is for me, so...you won't be angry, or confused. You're not angry now, after all.
It'll be a relief. Not so much the double-life or the "creative interpretation of reality" but the fact that I won't feel as if any single wrong move could plunge it all into disaster. Once there's only one of you, there'll be a very simple cause-and-effect; what I do, you react to. Whereas now, what I do with the one of you that's watching Nina do an autopsy affects the one of you that's currently exploring Italy (bastard) and what I say to you, the you on the other side of this screen, will still be there when there's only one of you again.
After Lisa, I used to wonder what precise combination of words would push you right over the edge into pretty justifiable homicide. Or Retcon. You must have watched me pushing your boundaries and laughed. Which does provide me with a little security, at any rate; there can't be much you haven't seen, or much you can't forgive. QED.
Glad you like the hat.
I never laughed at you. It wasn't funny at all.
It's not any easier on this end, knowing what I can and can't react to, but in one sense it's almost better this way. You'd never say these things to me. They'd stick in your throat, you'd think they'd sound stupid spoken aloud. And since you can't see my face you're not concerned with my reactions. You've said more to me in your last three letters than in the last thirteen months. Not that I mind; independence is good, tact is better. But you should see that one mis-step isn't going to bring your world crashing around your ears, not this time.
In the first few steps of any dance there's a test going on, based on thoughts and desires and needs. Sometimes the dance ends quickly. If it lasts past a certain point there are very few transgressions that can end it before its time is up. Sometimes what we think is failure is exactly what our partner was looking for.
Yes, I watched you push my boundaries, push into my personal space, push against the restrictions I put on you, the things I made you do. I watched you shove against Owen too, and Gwen, and Tosh, which wasn't very fair -- Tosh had nothing but sympathy for you.
It was good, though. It meant that there was more to you than holding on to what pieces of Lisa were left, and what Torchwood put between your ears. You were passing a test.
You're not an amusement or a diversion. You're not a stray, Ianto.
When I walk into Torchwood I'm going to be the man you know now, plus the man who's been in New York and Nairobi and Paris and Rome. You're going to have to put the two of them together in your head because you're going to have to explain me to Gwen and Eric and Nina.
How do Welshmen find their sheep in the tall grass?
If you want to cheer me up with jokes about my heritage you're going to have to dig around and find some that aren't FOSSILISED.
I didn't mean that to sound bitter, if it did. I'm not unhappy, Jack, quite the reverse. It's just all tied up in my head with being with you in Paris but having to leave you behind in Cardiff and...I don't know.
I hope whatever did this to you got thoroughly destroyed/murdered/deactivated. I'm not certain my nerves could take another three months like this.
What do you call a Welshman in a petting zoo?
I'm going to regret this.
Tell me, Mr. Jones, what do you call a Welshman in a petting zoo?
You don't. You call the police.
How does an Englishman pronounce Aberystwyth?
Oh my god.
I could go on. I'm sure Gwen has thousands I've never even heard.
My affection for you is unrivalled, Ianto, but please stop there.
There's some monkey business here in Rome. If you don't hear from me for a few days, try not to fret.
I needed Paris. I don't know if I said thank-you for that.
Be safe, love,
Jack was reading news reports sent down from Glasgow, feet up on his desk and chair tipped precariously, when Ianto forgot himself and laughed at the computer. This might not have been a near-disaster if Eric hadn't happened to be passing; he got up in Ianto's personal space and forced him to click the email-window shut quickly.
"What's got you giggly?" Eric asked, and Ianto bit down on the urge to break his nose.
"I don't giggle," Ianto said solemnly.
"It's true," Jack called. "I've never heard him giggle. That was a distinct snicker. Are you reading xkcd again?"
"No, he was reading email. Funny forward from auntie?" Eric asked.
"I'm sorry, was my personal correspondence declared your business this morning? I missed the memo," Ianto retorted. Eric smiled, easily and just a little nastily.
"It's electronic, therefore my business," he said, and ambled off a little too casually. Ianto closed the message, dumped the contents of his mailbox from the server to his private drive, and set about encoding triple-lock protection on his account. It wouldn't keep Eric out, but it would bore him long enough for him to lose interest.
"Kids, play nice," Jack called warningly.
"Ianto's picking on me," Eric whined.
"Ianto, don't pick on Eric," Jack said absently.
"But it's so easy," Ianto protested. Jack glanced up over the edge of his paperwork, winked, and went back to reading.
Ianto sat back, kicked the network cable out of his CPU to disconnect it from the server, and exhaled in relief.
You didn't leave me an address in Rome, so it's your own fault you've not had any letters from me.
I have yet to start liking Levine, and there's very little time left in which your "prediction" that I will like him can come true. Therefore, I think you told an egregious untruth. Also, this morning he nearly upset the whole thing. I will concede that he does provide the necessary "grit" that I've mentioned, but that doesn't mean I have to like him.
Paris was good. Confusing. I don't know. I want you back here, leading the team, which is a stupid thing to want because you are here already, leading the team. But I wouldn't do things differently if I could go back.
Once in a while I do wonder if we're all scattered through time and if secretly you're carrying on with another me somewhere. Then I have to go and put my head down somewhere for a while.
It's been a week. I know you said not to fret but you're not on the moon, you're in Rome, and surely if you're anywhere safe you could get to a telephone or a computer terminal. I'm giving you another two days and then I'm calling the Polizia di Stato.
Text Message from Unlisted Number: Undercover. Priests still kinky bastards. Will tell all, 2 more days.
Got your text message. I'm not sure my delicate ears are prepared for why you needed to go undercover anywhere near a priest.
I would like to know if the pope is an alien, though. Pure prurience on my part.
The file that Jack sent with his next communication was huge, and contained too many scanned documents and hastily-snapped crime-scene photographs for Ianto to plausibly read it at work. He was pleased by the email itself, however; it merely said that he was fine and that the pope was not an alien, both very reassuring facts.
Jack stopped him as he was leaving, leaning casually against the cage so that he would have had to obviously dart around him or push him aside to get through.
"You know," Jack said, "If I didn't know you better I'd say you were hiding something from me."
Ianto gave him Innocent Look version 2.0; Jack knew version 1.0 a little too well from the past few years.
"You leave early, you sidetrack me, and you're getting a lot more email than usual," Jack continued, but he didn't look angry or suspicious; he looked almost amused. "Now, there are a couple of reasons this could be."
Ianto shoved his hands in his coat pockets, smiling slightly. "Oh?"
"Mmhm. First, you could be playing some kind of mind game, which I don't think is likely but could be hot, I won't deny. Or you could have joined a cult, which is absurd, since if you want obsessiveness you have all the Torchwood your heart desires. You could be losing your work ethic. Or you could be having an affair." Jack tilted his head. "But I think you know me well enough by now that I'd get an invitation to join in. So."
"So," Ianto echoed.
"Want to tell me what's going on?"
He hesitated. By Jack's own reckoning, there were only ten days at the outside before this would be over. On the other hand, if he lied now, Jack would just go try and find the truth himself, and that could be disastrous.
"Given recent events," he said slowly, "it would be hypocritical to tell you that I can't tell you."
"It would," Jack said, looking more serious now.
"On the other hand, if I did tell you, there would be consequences for Cardiff, not just for myself."
Jack uncrossed his arms, stepped forward into Ianto's space.
"You've fooled me twice already," he said, voice low and a little harsh in Ianto's ear. "Very, very few people get away with that once. Three times -- isn't something I want to think about."
"I know," Ianto forced his voice to stay steady. "And yet, I'm not going to tell you. Not yet, anyway."
Jack paused; he could feel the sudden tension, alertness, like a dog on point. "Yet?"
"Ten days. Maybe twelve," Ianto whispered.
"If it's a danger to Torchwood or the city -- "
"It's not. It won't be."
Jack exhaled against his temple. Ianto wasn't sure when this had gone from an interrogation to a seduction, or who had decided on that abrupt about-face, but he couldn't deny it was...slightly thrilling.
"Of course," he said, licking his lips, "if it balms your pride at all -- "
" -- come back to mine and I'll do my level best to seduce you away from your inquiries."
Ianto held his breath until Jack bit him gently, just below the ear.
"Twelve days," he said. "You get twelve days, Ianto."
You arsehole, you might have warned me you were going to accost, threaten, and shag the daylights out of me.
I'm not complaining, I'm only saying.
Where's the fun in telling you? Besides, it's memories like that which kept me warm on those cold Nairobi nights. Come to think of it, when I showed up in the Hub three months ago I still had bruises from last night. You weren't kidding about level bests. I was beginning to wonder what had gotten into you.
It's best if we lower our communication in the next few days. I'm coming back to Cardiff; don't worry, I'll be out from underfoot. The closer we get to D-day, the more dangerous any information I give to you becomes.
Chin up. Almost out of it. I love you.
Should I even ask what 3:42 means?
I'm back in Cardiff. Radio silence from here out. Try to pretend you aren't one tense jangling nerve.
You'll know when you need to.
At 3:41 every day -- twice a day -- Ianto checked his watch and held his breath. Jack generally wasn't awake or present when the alarm went off at 3:41 am, but on the one occasion he was, he just looked at Ianto and said "Four days", which was an accurate count at the time. Ianto rolled over sleepily, mumbled into the duvet about the dubious joys of serving Captain Jack Harkness, and dropped gratefully back into unconsciousness.
He sometimes imagined he saw a dark, long-coated figure watching them as they went out on calls or for coffee, but if Jack was stalking them he was doing a pretty subtle job of it.
It was typical that he would end up in the archive room at the moment the disaster struck, but when he finally made it topside to the Hub's atrium the first thing he remembered to do was check his watch.
Three forty-one and fifty-six seconds. At three forty-two exactly, Jack walked through the rolldoor and Ianto felt his world slide back into place after three months of it being just...slightly...off the level.
Gwen was, of course, hacked off at him for not telling her. Eric crowed that he knew Ianto was hiding something, and Nina just gave him a soulful look. She did that a lot.
Considering everything, it was strange that Jack's first act after the debriefing wasn't to grab him and find the nearest available horizontal surface (for an extremely loose interpretation of "horizontal"). Instead he came to stand next to him at the balcony railing, bumped his shoulder against Ianto's, and smiled.
"Wanna get out of here?" he said. "I'll buy the tickets if you buy the popcorn."
[Note stuck to the bedside lamp]
Gone for a run. Sleep as late as you like. I reckon you've earned it and I'm making Eric mind the Hub this morning.
I'll bring breakfast back with me, but there's cereal in the pantry and the coffee's fresh.
[Note stuck to the refrigerator]
Put the bag in the fridge and come back to bed. We'll eat later. We have time.
Of all the dreams I've lost and found
And all that I ain't got
I still need to cling to
Somebody I can sing to
-- Please Come To Boston