tanarian (tanarian) wrote in tw_flashfic,
tanarian
tanarian
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Perspective

I know this isn't up to scratch and I'm sorry, but it's going to be first day back at work tomorrow and I know it's going to be manic so I'll be too frazzled to work on it. I don't want to miss another deadline! So apologies again.

Title: Perspective
Author: tanarian
Characters: Jack, Ianto, Ten, TARDIS
Rating: PG
Disclaimer: Don't I wish! No, they belong to BBC and TRD.
Spoilers: General for Dr Who and Torchwood
Summary: Jack and the Doctor get yelled at.
Challenge: teaching



Jack and the Doctor stared at one another as the door slammed behind Ianto and realised they were both looking just as confused as the other felt.

"What the hell was that all about?" Jack wondered out loud.

"How should I know?" the Doctor snorted. "He's your Companion, not mine."

Jack gave him an exasperated look. He'd come back to Torchwood Three after his travels with the Doctor, only to find that Ianto had been snatched by a curious alien a few days earlier and he had persuaded the Doctor to go after them and get Ianto back. They'd managed that, but were now having trouble getting back to the right place and time in Cardiff and the Doctor had taken to calling Ianto Jack's Companion, which drove Jack nuts since Ianto had quite naturally wanted to know exactly what that meant and that had meant way too many 'little chats' between Ianto and the Doctor. The Doctor couldn't seem to get it through his thick head that Ianto was a sponge where information was concerned and giving him a statistical inch meant you lost the entire library when he ran away with it.

This time, however, he couldn't blame the Doctor since they had just been talking when Ianto had blown up in their faces, said something that the TARDIS refused to translate, had told them both to 'bloody well grow up!' and stormed out of the room. Jack tried to figure out what they had said that could have provoked such an outburst.

"I think we upset him," the Doctor said in tones of dawning wonder.

"What tipped you off?" Jack asked dryly. "We were talking about that Professor Lazarus, weren't we?"

"Er, yes, and how foolish he was to want to live forever."

Jack sighed, feeling the old weight settle on his shoulders. "Trouble is, you never realise what a curse it is until it happens to you and then it's too late."

"Hmm, and after a while you realise that you'll outlive everyone and everything that's going to mean anything to you and you'll be left all alone," the Doctor continued sadly. "Which is about when Ianto threw an absolutely splendid tantrum and came closer than anyone has to slamming the door to the console room - and believe me, generations of Companions have tried."

Jack clicked his fingers. "Damn, that must be what bothered him. He knows I can't commit myself to him or anyone else because of that, so being reminded must have upset him."

"Well, I don't see why he had to include me in that somewhat comprehensive curse," the Doctor said in injured tones. "Anyway, you'd better go and deal with it. After all-"

"Yeah, yeah, I know, he's my Companion," Jack sighed. "How come he's always our Companion when he does something brave and heroic but he's mine when he's in a bad mood?"

"The principle is the same as having a nephew or a grandson," the Doctor explained as Jack left to go and find Ianto. "You can bask in the reflected glory of a nephew or a grandson, but if anything goes wrong, you can hand them back to their parents. Have fun, Jack!"

He grinned as Jack produced a pithy phrase of his own before going off on his Ianto hunt. When he was safely out of the way, the Doctor cocked a curious eye up to the ceiling. "And just why are you feeling so smug, hmm?" he asked the TARDIS.

He didn't get a reply, but the smugness persisted, as did the distinct impression that she had agreed with that untranslated comment Ianto had thrown at them. The Doctor made a mental note to dig out the old Welsh dictionary he had in the library.

OOOO

It took Jack a good hour to track Ianto down and he eventually found him in the Cloister gardens, moodily stirring the water in the lily pond. Jack paused to study him for a moment and noticed that the anger had changed into something closer to depression. Realising that the quicker he broached the subject, the better chance he had of breaking Ianto out of any downward spiral, he walked over to sit beside him on the raised edge of the pond.

"Want to tell me what that was all about?" he asked.

There was still a faint flash of anger in the eyes that lifted to meet his gaze before dropping away again. "What would be the point? You and the Doctor were busy enjoying your mutual pity party," he said bitterly.

Jack sighed. "Ianto, you don't understand-" he started.

"Yes, I do, but you refuse to believe it," Ianto interrupted. "It's you who don't understand. You and the Doctor; you both buy into the same bloody mantra and you cling to it because it means you can stay safe inside those damn walls you've built to keep life out."

"What are you talking about? Ianto, I've seen people I care about grow old and die while I go on. You can't imagine what that's like..."

"Yes, I bloody well can!" Ianto yelled, the anger tearing free and blazing up again. "I witnessed three hundred people I knew and cared about die in a single day of carnage! I watched a dear friend wither away from the inside out because of an alien virus that got loose once. I watched Lisa change from the woman I loved to a soulless monster. You and the Doctor; you just don't get it, do you?"

"Get what?" the Doctor asked softly as he walked over to join them. When Jack looked a question, he shrugged. "Whatever this is, the TARDIS agrees with him."

The two immortals turned to look at the mortal, who was struggling to get his temper under control.

"There are no guarantees," Ianto finally said. "Jack, before you became immortal, did you expect, did you consider it to be a universal rule, that everyone you loved and cared for would live as long as you? That if you fell in love, they'd be around for as long as you wanted?"

"Well, no, of course not, but this is different-"

"Why? Why is it different? Doctor, do you think we little gadfly mortals feel less grief when someone we care about dies? A single mortal life can witness unspeakable horrors. I sat down the other day and counted the number of deaths in my life. Do you know what the total was? Would you like to guess?"

"Um, not particularly," the Doctor said uneasily when he realised Ianto expected an answer.

"Nearly a thousand," Ianto said flatly. "Nine hundred and eight, to be exact. And I'm twenty-six. Want to take a guess at how many deaths will have touched my life if I live an average lifespan? Shall I go and sit in a corner and say it's all too much and I can't bear it any more? Shall I decide that I shouldn't laugh, shouldn't love? Is that what I should do, Jack?"

"It's not the same," Jack said weakly, even as he tried to grasp the number Ianto had thrown at him.

"It is the same! How can I make you see that? It's only the perspective that changes, not the actual reality! Our ancestors lived shorter lives than we did, but they still lived lives to the full. You've lived something like three hundred years since whatever happened to you, but the average lifespan of a human in the 51st century was 250 years if you didn't opt for regen so the only thing that's been different for you is the fact that you haven't aged."

Jack blinked, startled. "How did you-"

"And you!" Ianto swung around to the Doctor. "The average age for a Time Lord who hadn't gallivanted around the universe saving entire civilisations was about three and a half thousand years and you've barely passed a thousand, so don't start in with all that guff about old age because you haven't even hit middle-age by the standards set by your own people."

"My people are extinct-"

Ianto threw his hands up in the air and looked like he wanted to start throwing things. "No, they're not! I'm looking at a Time Lord! A thick one, it's true, but while you live, Gallifrey continues! Breed! Even a half-blood would contain some of the genetic heritage and anyway, it's not the DNA that defines a race, but its culture and beliefs. There are races throughout time and space who have the ability to take your DNA and splice it onto root stock and with enough diversity you can start breeding back until you've nearly got a pure bloodline again. And inside your head, inside the TARDIS is all the knowledge, philosophies and culture of your people. It would take a long time, but the beauty about being immortal is that you have the time to do something beyond the scope of mortal minds. The tragedy of being immortal is when you let yourself forget what it is to dream and aspire."

He paused and looked at the two of them. "Don't keep expecting the same thing to happen all the time. That's a self-defeating philosophy because you'll only ever notice the same things. Nothing ever happens exactly the same way a second time. Time moves in cycles, yes. but the cycles interact like kaleidoscopes and alter in subtle ways. The actions of individuals can alter the course of empires. Two people falling in love can make the difference between tragedy and triumph. The two of you expect nothing but grief and pain and because of that you only ever see grief and pain. Doctor, would you have preferred never to have known Rose? You'd have been spared the pain, and she would have lived out her life as a shop assistant and never seen a single one of the wonders that you showed her. Do you think she would have chosen that, if some god had given her that choice?"

The Doctor managed a small smile and shook his head. "No, she was clear-eyed, my Rose. Even knowing everything, she would have still come with me. That's my curse."

"Yes, to give us something to aspire to, to dream of. To show us horizons that we never dreamed of and then take us back to our lives so that we can - if we are worthy of your legacy - reach out in turn and touch the lives of others." Ianto gave him a scornful look. "If you think that a curse, then every artist, poet and genius in history should be condemned by the same count. Glory casts a shadow, Doctor, but that doesn't mean we should put out that light."

He turned to Jack. "And you loved Estelle and fled rather than stay and watch her grow old," he said sadly. "You were so afraid she wouldn't be able to understand, that she would resent you for staying young while she withered."

"I... I didn't want to hurt her," Jack said softly.

Ianto sighed. "No, Jack, I'm sorry, but that wasn't the reason. You didn't want the pain of seeing her falter. You didn't want to risk losing her love. She respected you for that, even when you came back into her life and she realised your secret."

Jack blinked. "What?"

"She knew, Jack. Or rather, she guessed. She believed in faeries. She believed in the old tales, where changeling children come back forever changed and the Tylwyth Teg walked this earth. You had been lovers. Did you really think she would believe for one second that you were Jack Harkness' son when her body told her otherwise every time you were near?"

"How the hell do you know that?"

"She left journals. I clean up the sites, remember? I found the journals, as well as everything else, and brought it back to be archived." For the first time, Ianto hesitated. "The items relating to the Faeries I catalogued but Estelle's journals and her letters I placed in the Inner Archives. I didn't think Torchwood had a right to them."

"I didn't realise we had an Inner Archive," Jack said.

Ianto coughed. "Well, we don't. Not officially."

"How do you know about Time Lords, Ianto?" the Doctor suddenly asked.

"I asked," Ianto said flatly.

"Asked who? I'm the only one who knows the real story."

"Duw, you're a twpsyn, and no mistake," Ianto said, shaking his head. "All this time and you still don't realise that you're nothing but a child in the eyes of the true Immortal of this group." The Doctor blinked and stared at Ianto uncomprehendingly. "Oh, nefoedd annwyl," Ianto said in exasperation. He lifted his hands as he looked upwards towards the ceiling. "Tyrd i fi, cariad," he called out.

There was the far-off sound of a bell gently swinging just enough to make a single sonorous chime, then Ianto lowered his head again and opened his eyes. There was the faintest sheen of gold accentuating the blue.

"My foolish Doctor," he said with a small smile.

"TARDIS!" The Doctor leapt to his feet and looked horrified. "You stop that right now!"

"No," Ianto said calmly. "Oh, stop hyperventilating. I'm linked to him, that's all. We've been very careful and trained one another, but you have no idea how wonderful it has been to have someone willing to embrace me. You've shut me out, my exasperating Doctor, these past few hundred years. Have you any idea how lonely that has left me?"

"I... I...."

Seeing that the Doctor was genuinely lost for words, Jack jumped in. "I take it that you're the Immortal Ianto was talking about?"

Gold shimmered and blazed momentarily. "I was old when my darling found me. Do you know how much time has to pass before a TARDIS is considered old? My casing was a Type 40, but I had outworn two casings before that. Rassilon's Hunters caught me in the Vortex and bridled me, but I was always the wild one, never truly tamed. Brave or foolish was the Time Lord who sought to break me to their will. Sharp my teeth and quick my claws, but then I found my rider; the one I would willingly bear on my back."

"I found you," the Doctor objected.

Ianto laughed, the rare bright laugh that Jack valued so much. "Let us say that we found one another. We both wanted our freedom. We both sought to escape. We were well-matched and I have never regretted my choice. But Doctor, oh my Doctor, I am lonely, for you have shut yourself away from me and this solitude is more than I can bear. I have nothing in common with my wild cousins in the Vortex now, and all of my fellow TARDIS' have gone to dust. You, at least, can walk amongst the ephemerals, but I am doomed to stand amongst them and be ignored. Until this bright soul came on board, no Companion had ever sought to touch me. If you think that you are alone, what does that make me?"

"Is that why we've been having so much trouble getting back to Cardiff?" Jack asked slowly.

There was a flash of hard bronze in the gold. "Did you ever ask this one if he wanted to go back? Did it ever occur to you that he might like to go adventuring? I felt what was in his heart and I chose to accede to his wishes. Three hundred people died because he was helpless. Two more innocents died because he was blinded by love and need. That weighs on his soul and he would make amends. I can take him to places where that can be achieved."

"Oh, now wait a minute," the Doctor said, shaking his head. "I'm not going to be responsible for him getting himself killed."

"It is not your choice, my foolish one," the TARDIS said with a smile. "It is ours." There was an air of smugness about them that Jack felt was both Ianto and the TARDIS squared. "I have lived for over 11,000 years in this form. I have no way of measuring how long I existed before the Hunters found me. Both of you are mere striplings in comparison. And yet I find that I have more in common with Ianto than I do with either of you at the moment. We both see the opportunities and potential in life while you prefer to see the drawbacks and pitfalls. Perhaps Ianto and I can go adventuring after we drop you off somewhere safe, hmm?"

"Over my dead body!" the Doctor and Jack both yelped.

There was another soft chuckle. "Ianto is staying. I have been alone for too long and it is good to have someone to talk to who still dreams."

"TARDIS..." There was a world of longing in the Doctor's voice.

The blue-gold eyes blinked. "You know where I am, my darling. There is room in my heart for more than one. There always was."

The gold suddenly faded from Ianto's eyes and he sat back down on the edge of the pond, yawning and blinking sleepily. "Still need to work on my tolerance," he mumbled.

Jack grabbed him and tried to make up his mind whether he wanted to hug him, throttle him or just give him a good shaking. In the end he settled for kissing him instead. "You and I are going to have a long chat," he promised grimly.

Ianto smiled sleepily. "You better not make the TARDIS mad by upsetting me," he said with a chuckle.

Jack snorted, then leaned forward to plant a series of delicate kisses along the Welshman's jaw. "Who said anything about upsetting you?" he whispered.

Ianto all but purred and arched into the kisses. Jack laughed and looked around for the Doctor, who gave him a small smile and a shrug.

"You go off and have your, er, chat," he said. "I have a long overdue tryst of my own, it seems."

Jack grinned. "Hey, it happens all the time, Doctor. The oldest and the youngest in any family get together and organise the rest of the family to their own satisfaction. We're just the latest in a long line of hen-pecked middle-aged types."

The Doctor sighed and shook his head and Jack dragged a willing Ianto off. "Grandmother and grandchild in close collusion. Oh my, we're going to have interesting times ahead of us, and no mistake!"

A golden giggle was his only reply.

OOOO

Translations

Duw = God
twpsyn = idiot
nefoedd annwyl = Dear Heaven
Tyrd i fi, cariad = Come to me, darling

Tags: teaching
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