Title: Through a Glass, Darkly
Characters: Jack/Ianto, Ianto/Suzie (AU), Tosh (AU)
Word Count: 2,800
Challenge: Amnesty, Alternative Lives
"Ianto!" Jack stood at the doorway to his office, arms crossed, leaning against the doorframe. He was enjoying the view, but for the moment, he had another idea. "Come back a moment."
Ianto did as he was told, straightening his suit-- again-- as he approached. "Coffee, sir?" he asked, amusement threatening.
"Yes. But first--" He tugged Ianto forward, hoping to make him stumble and lose his composure. He didn't, and instead moved effortlessly into an embrace and a kiss. Jack really didn't mind; the kiss was lazy and nothing like the passionate ones they'd shared only moments before. They were alone in the Hub, the others not due in 'til morning.
When they broke apart, Ianto licked his lips, smiled once, turned on his heels and headed for the kitchenette. As he walked out of sight, he called, "If you wanted special blend, you know you only had to ask."
Chuckling, Jack headed back into the office. He would make some pretense of doing work, but he was well-aware he'd just lay in wait for Ianto's return, planning to coerce the archivist downstairs. Halfway to his desk, he felt an ache in the back of his head. Two steps later, his wrist computer beeped and he glanced down at it, suddenly dizzy and struggling to stay upright.
"Energy field?" he mumbled to himself as he fell to his knees. As he attempted to form another word, at this rate a cry for help, he felt the air being forced out of his lungs.
When the world stopped spinning, though first it had to start spinning and that seemed to take a while, and he could open his eyes, he did-- and saw--
It was Ianto, but it wasn't. Jack had seen Ianto in casual wear plenty of times-- all right, a few times-- but never like this. Black and grey camo, battered black leather jacket. Jack lifted his head and noted dark sunglasses (indoors! who was he trying to kid?) and spiked hair. For a moment, he was too dizzy to draw any conclusions other than that he liked what he saw.
"Hot," Jack groaned, unable to help himself, as he tried to pry himself off the floor.
"I know," replied Ianto-- and it was definitely Ianto, judging by those Welsh vowels-- with a smirk. "Now," he started again, his voice hardening as Jack heard the sound of a gun being cocked, "you're in my office."
"Your...?" He gave up and let himself fall gracelessly down. For the moment. "Sorry, you're a little confused, Ianto."
"Not me." Ianto grinned without humour and moved forward to prod at Jack with the tip of a boot. Finally, he seemed to make a decision and called over his shoulder. "Hey, pet? Got something here you might like."
She appeared, heavily armed and with curiosity that glinted like a knife. It was all familiar, too familiar. Mentally, Jack cursed. "Suzie," he spat in her general direction. "Thought I killed you."
"For me?" She leaned against the doorframe. "Oh, Ianto, you shouldn't have."
"It's my lucky day," Suzie continued, crouching down to look at Jack a little more closely.
"It certainly isn't mine." Jack managed to sit up, flashing her a false smile. "Captain Jack Harkness. I assure you I'm not generally this forgettable. A hole in the head does that."
"Hm," Ianto started, pulling off his sunglasses smoothly. "Captain of what?"
"Everything." He thought a cheeky grin would be a nice touch, but apparently Ianto didn't. The other man's face offered no opinions, the mask nothing like the one Jack had come to know well. "So, Ianto Jones, aren't you going to even ask how I know your name?"
"Why should I bother, when Suzie is going to have so much fun finding out for me?"
Jack dropped to the floor again as a shock of pain travelled through him. When his vision cleared, he saw Suzie holding a nasty-looking alien device. A stun gun, or something like it. Just his luck, he thought: he meets his psycho dead employee and she's armed.
As though she could read his mind, she laughed and struck him again. Everything went white.
Jack's first observation was that someone was tapping. His second was that he didn't know how much time had passed; for some reason, he had the sinking suspicion that he'd lost and regained consciousness several times before this.
He struggled to open his eyes and was greeted with a full view of Suzie's smile. She had paused mid-tap, with her fingernails against the wall. "Boss is on his way down. You might want to make yourself pretty."
"Go to hell, Costello."
"No, thanks," she answered without batting an eye, "I've already been to Cardiff."
"Don't let the Welsh hear you say that." Jack turned at the voice, but Suzie only smirked. "So, Captain," Ianto went on, his voice smoothing to a low rumble as he approached the cell, "hello." As he turned from the ladder, he shifted slightly too close to her and ran a hand across her hip. Jack tried not to react, but it was difficult.
"Hi," he ground out with some effort. "You know, Ianto, normally I'd say you were a sight for sore eyes, but well."
"I'm flattered." He stopped just sort of the cell and struck a pose which was, Jack could not deny, very sexy. The movement was entirely casual, as if this was the language this Ianto's body spoke. The effect was slightly-- slightly-- ruined by the fact that up close, he looked older. Hardened.
Jack managed to stand this time, leaning against one wall for support. It stunk of Weevil, but this wasn't the time to worry about the smell-- it was also probably not the time to admire Ianto's double. "Good look for you too."
"Oh, now I am flattered. What, you fancy yourself a charmer?"
"What did you expect, three piece suits?" Suzie interjected with a laugh. "This is Torchwood."
Jack guffawed despite himself, even as his heart felt heavy. "No, you're right. Leather all the way."
Ianto laughed. Then with a nod, he seemed to order Suzie away. When she was gone, he put one hand against the barrier of the cell and looked straight at Jack. His gaze was suddenly a lot more serious. "Suzie says you're not feeling very talkative today."
"She's a hell of a conversationalist, let me tell you," Jack said as he rolled his shoulders.
"We got enough." He tilted his head, the familiar movement doing everything but setting Jack at ease. "You're Torchwood; that was obvious from the moment you arrived. You might be interested to know that you've entered a parallel dimension."
"Yeah, I noticed that." Jack leaned in closer, as if asking for or telling a secret. "By the way, how did you manage the transport?"
"A few things fell through the Rift. I had a go at repairing them. Turns out they possess an amazing amount of power. We're just experimenting with how much."
Jack turned this over in his head for a moment, letting it sink in. When it finally did, his jaw dropped. He'd read the reports from Canary Wharf. That alternate Torchwood had developed the technology to cross the Void between universes. "You've developed a trans-dimensional scoop? That's impossible!"
"We were beginning to think so," Ianto replied. "But not anymore. Because you, Captain Jack Harkness, are the first person who's lived." Jack realised grimly what he meant. They'd taken other people-- from around Cardiff, from other Cardiffs-- and they'd all died. This wasn't just the average Torchwood-brand stupidity; this was mass-murder. "We've tapped into the Rift, and it seems to have made all the difference."
"You're using the Rift? That's insane!" It also explained how they got around the fact that no breach existed in Cardiff, and that the one in London had been sealed. The muscles in Jack's jaw clenched as he all but threw himself at Ianto. "This is exactly what happened in London. You're picking at a scab, Jones. And when you open scabs, in all their little, brown, dried out glory, they bleed. They bleed a lot."
Ianto didn't answer. To Jack's chagrin, he seemed amused. "Why are you doing this? What's in it for you?"
"This is only the trial run, Captain," Ianto said calmly, sounding too much like Yvonne for comfort. Jack wondered if this Ianto had worked for her as well. "We're perfecting the travel."
So that was it. Jack screamed mentally; how many times had he heard reasoning like that before? They were too scared to send someone from their side to certain death, so they condemned the innocent to a reverse journey. It made a sick sort of sense, if you were a madman.
"But otherwise?" Ianto offered, his grin turning a little wicked. "Because I can."
The next person he saw was Toshiko. It struck him as significant that even on an alternate Earth, his team was together. For the most part; he hadn't seen Gwen and something told him he wouldn't.
Unlike Ianto, Tosh looked almost the same. She had no wild fashion choices here, and the only difference was the RSF badge that hung around her neck. "This is just a routine examination," she said, her voice crisp and formal. "If you behave, I won't have to get Suzie in here."
"I'll behave." He watched her as she entered the cell, seeming uncertain despite her posture, and allowed her to poke and prod; it was only when she began drawing blood that he decided to see if he could get answers. "I know you're a doctor, Tosh, but I have to ask. Where's Owen?"
He thought he saw her shoulders tense. "Dead."
Jack nodded; he'd expected that, somewhere. "How?" he asked, his voice carefully gentle.
"He was executed," she said. And then with one last look, lips pursed, she hurried away. He didn't have to time to ask who had ordered the execution, but in the solitude that followed, he came to certain conclusions about that on his own.
"What happened to you," Jack started in a light voice, watching Ianto intently the next time he came to visit, "to make you so different? Suzie I understand. I wish I didn't, but I do. But you..."
He hadn't expected an answer, and in fact figured that no answer would do, but Ianto surprised him. "I lived." He shot Jack a sideways look and barked a bitter laugh. "I learned."
"I wonder," Jack went on, thoughtful, ignoring the non-explanation. "What about Lisa?"
"Don't you dare," Ianto snarled back, suddenly animated-- and cruel, like the glimpses of the man they'd seen the day their world's Lisa died. "She's dead."
"Are you sure?" Jack asked, feeling guilty despite himself. This was all too familiar, but it could be used to his advantage. "Are you sure she isn't hidden away, dragged half-alive from the wreckage because you're too twisted to admit she's lost?"
"She's dead," he repeated. "I put the bullet between her eyes myself."
"Ah." Jack quieted this time; he wondered if that was the difference. It hit him suddenly, the damage that Ianto executing Lisa could have caused. "Interesting. Brought her here just to kill her." It wasn't a question. It was almost a judgement.
"No." His head held high, Ianto met his eyes. He was proud, Jack realised suddenly, with a start-- even through the pain of remembering, he was proud. "You don't know. At Canary Wharf. We cleaned up the mess Torchwood One made of the place. It's in ruins, like the rest of London; we have Lumic to thank for that. She asked me to help her." He smiled, something hard and emotionless, and Jack could see the battle scars cut invisibly across his face. "I did."
"Tosh," he called out to her gently when she came with a sedative. "Toshiko Sato, listen to me."
She was listening, he could tell, but she made no attempt to let on. He continued anyway; she was probably his best chance at turning Ianto's team against him.
"You're the only one sane here, you know. Not that that says much. But someone has to realise... the scoop? Is a terrible idea. And that's 'rip apart the fabric of reality' terrible, not 'can't remember your bed partner's name in the morning' terrible."
"You're not cruel, Tosh. I can tell. You're not like them. You've seen those people die because of this project. You've probably done the autopsies, haven't you? Well, if you think that's bad, imagine the entire population of this world, or two, or three, on your conscious. Can you handle that?"
So quietly he wasn't sure if he'd heard it at all. "What do you want from me?"
"Help me. Let me out."
"He'll kill me."
Jack closed his eyes; he could never ask anyone to do that for him, least of all one of his team. Tosh, but not Tosh-- to him it didn't matter.
When he opened them, there was Toshiko, holding out a syringe of something yellow. Offering it.
"He might let me live," she said, clearly nervous, the syringe shaking, "if he doesn't know I helped." Then softly, "I can tell you how the machine works."
"Thank you," he told her, reaching out for the offering.
When she was done, he injected her as gently as he could; Tosh didn't flinch and briefly he wondered if that was a result of her medical training or something else.
The sedative worked quickly and effectively. As she started to sway, he steadied her. As she started to fall, he caught her. He lowered her unconcious body to the floor, stopping only to examine her face and push back some of her hair. "Thank you," he whispered again. "I hope to God you live to regret this."
Jack sprinted for the scoop, stopping only to gather his vortex manipulator and his gun. Once there, he hit a few buttons on the device, then a few more on his wrist. With a single beep, a silent countdown began. As soon as he left, the entire thing would explode-- and hopefully, that would be enough.
"Five minutes and counting," he announced to the empty Hub. And then, as an afterthought, "Today was so weird."
"You know I can't let you do that." A low voice, Ianto's. When Jack turned, he saw the man, half-undressed, at the doorway to his office. He was holding a sonic blaster. Jack cursed. Weird, maybe, but it really wasn't his day. "After all, he continued, with a sly, oddly very un-Ianto-like smile, "You wouldn't want me to be lonely on a Friday night."
"Oh, come," he mocked. "Have mercy, Captain."
"Sorry. You're looking in the wrong place for that."
"So are you." He saw Ianto's finger twitching toward the trigger, so he fired. Ianto fell; Jack didn't.
"It's the special features," he called, relieved, as he stooped down to work the controls. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Ianto clutching the blaster, attempting to fire it again. And again. Nothing happened. "They really drain the batteries."
Just as he caught sight of Suzie ascending the ladder from his-- Ianto's? he really didn't want to think about that-- quarters, he finished punching in the last of the combination Tosh had given him and moved into range of the field. "Don't wait up," he muttered, though he figured she couldn't hear, and hit 'activate'.
He met gravity, and the floor of the cells, with a hard thump. He must have died, because the next thing he knew he was waking up with a gasp of air. Luckily, this particular space was devoid of Weevil.
Jack let his head fall to rest against the ground, and then remained that way; he had never gotten spacesick or timesick, but unprotected interdimensional travel, that was something he wasn't prepared for.
After a pause, he felt careful hands searching him for injury.
"Jack," came a familiar voice. "Jack, are you all right?" Ianto. It was Ianto-- Jack tensed, but then he realised that the tone was gentle, and that the man smelled of coffee. He tried several tries to get his limbs to work, but finally, with help, managed to turn himself over. He was rewarded with the very inviting sight of Ianto Jones, immaculate and concerned. "Jack?"
"Ianto," he groaned. He smiled, or hoped he did because it didn't feel quite right, and caught hold of Ianto's wrist. "You really do look good in a suit."
"Leather," Jack said later, tumbler in hand. He was on the Hub's sofa, comfortably sprawled next to and on top of Ianto. "I wouldn't mind seeing you in leather again."
Ianto's fingers paused in their almost-unconscious caress of Jack's shoulder.