Rating: Mature (for language)
Characters: Ianto, Jack
Author’s note: 3500+ words (Yeech! I know!). I started writing this for the alternate lives challenge and it just got away from me, thank goodness for the amnesty! I'm still not a hundred percent satisfied with it, but I don't want to miss the posting date.
Thanks to marcasite for being the best beta ever.
Summary: Set in “Rose’s” AU. Jack is trying to recruit Ianto to the Time Agency…
There’s someone there. Ianto keeps his eyes closed tightly and concentrates on keeping his breathing even while he tries to discern, by sound alone, who is in the bedroom, watching him sleep.
His mother could never just stand and watch. She would always bend over him and push his hair away from his face, kiss his cheek and whisper things that she wouldn’t say during the day. The person in his room was standing, unmoving and watching him.
His brother had a habit of bursting into Ianto’s bedroom regardless of whether or not Ianto was sleeping. Talfryn could never manage to be as silent and still as this person was.
Ianto decides, whoever is standing there isn’t a part of his immediate family and therefore isn’t someone who has right or reason to be standing in his room in the middle of the night. Slowly Ianto opens one eye, giving himself a moment to adjust to the darkness before opening the other.
The man was leaning against Ianto’s desk, arms folded. He was dressed curiously, like someone from the military, but sort of casual and he was grinning at Ianto, as though he had a perfect right to be standing there.
“Who are you? What are you doing here?”
The man nods, not the least bit fussed by the obvious note of panic in Ianto’s voice. Ianto wonders, for a fleeting moment, if he should be screaming rather than asking questions, but before he can decide, the grinning man takes a step towards the bed. “Very good, Ianto.”
Ianto sits up, his mouth opening, sucking in a great breath in preparation to yelp. But the man raises a hand and shakes his head and Ianto lets the breath out, the sound dying on his lips.
“It’s okay, Ianto. I’m going now. But I’ll be back. I promise.”
“But why ar—“ the words die on Ianto’s lips as the stranger touches his watch and disappears from the room, the air seemingly shifting back into place and covering up all trace of the strangers presence.
Ianto pushes back the covers and walks over to the spot where the man had stood just a moment ago. He turns circles on the carpet and runs his fingers across the surface of his desk, searching for a sign that what he just witnessed was not a figment of his imagination or the tail end of a vivid dream.
Finding nothing, he quietly slips from his bedroom and searches the rest of the house, stopping to make sure his mother and brother are still sleeping peacefully in their beds. Finding nothing, Ianto goes back to his room.
He lays awake for a long time, looking at his desk and trying to figure out exactly what had just happened.
Ianto’s fourth pint goes straight through him. He taps one of the lads on the shoulder and relinquishes his stool at the bar, making his way towards the toilets at the back of the pub.
The man with the military uniform is standing inside.
For some reason, Ianto is not surprised to see him there. “Lurking in bedrooms and now the men’s toilets. You want to be careful, I’ll get the wrong idea of why you keep showing up,” he says brushing past him. Ianto’s fingers catch the faintest hint of a prickle as he passes and he wonders how the man can stand to wear constantly wear the coarse woollen coat.
The man stands with his back turned while Ianto uses the urinal, only turning to face him when Ianto turns on the tap to wash his hands.
Ianto watches him in the mirror as he lathers the soap between his fingers and rinses. “You look exactly the same.”
“Do I?” the man answers, his eyes twinkling. “Don’t you want to know why; who I am, why I keep showing up?”
Ianto dries his hands on a sheet of paper towel and turns around, tossing the towel in the bin. He regards him closely, his eyes moving over the other man’s face.
“I do,” Ianto finally says. “But I’m not going to give you the satisfaction of asking.”
Ianto moves to the door, pausing with his hand on the doorknob, waiting for the answer that he was certain would come.
Ianto pulls the door open and turns back, his lips curling into smirk of satisfaction. “You’ll be back, sir?”
The stranger nods and Ianto smiles properly before disappearing back into the noisy pub.
“Ianto, his next appointment just arrived. He’s waiting outside your office.”
Without glancing up at the secretary who had spoken, Ianto runs his finger down the list of the President’s appointments for the day until he reaches: 2pm, Captain Jack Harkness.
He frowns at the page in front of him. Ianto is the only one who books the President’s appointments, and he doesn’t remember making this one. Who is Captain Jack Harkness?
He sighs heavily, pushing his chair back and crossing the room to the outer office, knowing that he’d now have to screen this Harkness before he can let him into the room with the President.
“Hello, Ianto,” a voice familiar voice greets him the moment he steps out of the office. Ianto looks at the man and shakes his head in amazement. “You’re Captain Jack Harkness?”
The man beams at him. “In the flesh.”
“And you want to see the President?”
“Well, not so much as I wanted to see you.”
“But you’ve an appointment with him.”
“Then tell him that there was a cancellation and let him have an hour to himself. He’ll be pleased, I can guarantee it.”
Ianto eyes him suspiciously, but still taps his right earpod, connecting himself to the President. He explains the cancellation and disconnects the call.
“Good, now, come with me,” the Captain says, turning away from Ianto and striding out of the office.
Ianto turns and follows him without giving any thought to exactly what he’s getting himself into. There’s a reason why the Captain continually appears in his life and he is determined to find out exactly what that reason is.
“I’m out for a little bit,” Ianto announces, walking through the secretarial pool. He follows the Captain out of the building and down the street until, without warning the Captain turns and leads him into a deserted alley.
“Sir?” Ianto says, stepping into the alley.
“Call me Jack.” The reply comes attached to one of the Captain’s brilliant grins and Ianto finds his nerves are calmed by the gesture, as though giving him his name has revoked Jack’s status as a stranger in Ianto’s mind.
“You’ve never done this, Sir—I mean, Jack,” Ianto remarks. “Never led me away from wherever you showed up, never told me your name. You’ve been in and out of my life for years and I have no idea why.”
“There wasn’t time,” Jack replies.
“What exactly is different about today in comparison to the other days?”
“It’s time now.”
Ianto let out a groan of frustration. Jack’s answers were short and bypassed the point of his questions completely. If he doesn’t answer this one, he decides, I’m leaving. I’ll turn around and go back to work and forget about this rubbish forever.
“Time for what, exactly?” He asks.
“Time, for you to decide if you’re happy being the President’s appointment boy or if you want to find out what I have for you.”
It’s not exactly the answer Ianto had in mind, but it’s enough to make him stay. “And if I decide to find out what you have for me?”
“Then we’ll leave. Right now.”
“I have to decide, just like that? Leave without knowing exactly what you’re offering?” Ianto asks and Jack simply nods in reply.
“What about my life? You expect me to just give everything up and chase after you on a whim? I’m not like that, I have a life here, I have plans. I can’t just walk away without knowing exactly why…”
“Your family—your mother and your brother, are in Wales and you barely even see them. You’re always on-call for the President so there isn’t any time for hanging about with the lads and your girlfriend, Lisa Hallet, is leaving to work at Torchwood Cardiff in less than a week.”
Jack leans closer to Ianto, pressing his hands flat against his chest. “I’ve seen your future, Ianto. If you stay here, things will happen that you can’t even imagine. People will die, Ianto. People you love.”
Ianto shakes his head and pushes Jack away, deciding he’s heard enough. “You’ve seen my future? People are going to die? And if I leave with you, are people that I love still going to die?”
Jack says nothing, the smile finally slipping from his handsome face. “That’s what I thought. If people that I love are going to die, then I want to be right here when it happens,” Ianto says.
For the second time since Jack started appearing, Ianto turns and walks away, leaving Jack watching after him.
There’s someone in his bedroom, watching him sleep. They’re not making a sound; not moving about, barely even breathing, but Ianto can feel the shift in the air, knows that someone is there.
“Fuck off, I’ve had enough of you creeping about while I’m sleeping.”
“It’s time, Ianto.”
Ianto opens his eyes and sits up. “That’s what you said last time. And I believe I made my choice already.”
“That was your first chance,” Jack says. He’s the same as always, still dressed in his military garb, still wearing the bright grin.
“You’re just going to keep coming back until I say yes, aren’t you?”
Jack bites his lip. “Maybe,” he grins. “The truth is, I have to keep coming back until you ask. I don’t have a choice. The agency won’t let give me another assignment until you want to know enough to ask me.”
This catches Ianto’s attention. He kicks the covers off the bed and stands up, his eyes fixed on Jack’s. “You mean to tell me that if I don’t ask you to tell me what you’re offering and why you’ve been showing up in my life since I was seventeen, then you have to keep on showing up?”
Jack nods, and takes a step towards Ianto. “Fourteen, actually. Though that wasn’t the first time I saw you,” he says trivially. “And yes, I have to keep following you around until you ask. Or until…”
“Until your world changes forever and it’s too late.”
“Right, I forgot. You’ve seen my future,” Ianto says. He doesn’t want to believe Jack, but there’s something about him that makes Ianto just know that he’s telling the truth. The same something that stopped him from screaming the first time he found Jack watching him; that had made him trust and follow Jack before he’d even known his name.
He drops his head to avoid looking into Jack’s eyes and his gaze falls Jack’s wrist. Just like the unchanging uniform Jack wears, the wristwatch is exactly the same as when Ianto had first seen it. He reaches out and lifts Jack’s wrist, examining the device closely.
“Is that what this thing does, shows you my future?”
“Better than that,” Jack beams. “Not just your future, but the future. And the past, and other planets and galaxies, and almost anything you can imagine.” Jack takes another step forward, leaning in so his lips are almost against Ianto’s ear.
“Ask me, Ianto. Just ask me and I’ll show you the whole universe.” Jack’s breath tickles Ianto’s ear, sending an involuntary shudder of excitement and anticipation coursing through his body.
He wants to ask. He wants to know why Jack has been watching him since he was a teenager, and why Jack never changed. He wants to know what Jack meant when he’d said “the agency,” why he wore military clothes, why he didn’t wear earpods…
…Ianto wanted to know what exactly would happen to turn his world upside down.
But he couldn’t. While every visit from Jack broke down some barriers and made Ianto more and more curious, each visit raised just as many. He wants to know what Jack has to offer him, but he also wants to live his life, see all his carefully laid plans fall into place.
Even if staying means watching his plans fall apart.
“No,” he says finally, sidestepping away from Jack. “You’re trying to trick me. You’re playing up to me, to things that I…”
Jack shook his head and pursed his lips ever so slightly. It was the first time Ianto ever saw Jack look disappointed in him and Ianto didn’t like it.
“I’m not trying to trick you. I’ve never tried to trick you.”
And that was all he said. Jack touches the band at his wrist and once again fades into nothing, leaving Ianto to wonder if he’d made the right choice.
Ianto is Twenty.
The day is miserably cold; the wind is blowing a gale and the ground is soft and spongy beneath Jack’s feet. And yet there are a couple of hundred people braving the weather to cheer for the lads on the pitch.
Football. For as long as Jack has been travelling through time and space, he has never been able to understand the appeal of football.
“Excuse me,” he says, tapping one of the spectators on the shoulder and flashing a dazzling smile when she turns to him. “Can you tell me which one of the players is Ianto Jones?”
She raises an eyebrow at him and then points to a tall, dark haired on the pitch “Thanks,” he says, ignoring the quizzical look she is giving him and turns his attention to the game.
As he watches, he mentally checks off the list of facts that the Agency had given him about the young man they had chosen as their newest recruit. Ianto Jones, born in 1981, currently twenty and in his last year of university. Has a particular interest in politics, will definitely not stay in Wales for very long after graduation…
They had the basics but it was Jack who had been given the task of filling in the blanks, making sure Ianto was suitable and finally, signing him up to the Agency. He had the distinct impression that the chore had been assigned to him because his squad commander had been less than impressed with his method of completing his last assignment. Initially, he had been frustrated with the job, but after a few minutes of watching Ianto play football, Jack decides he has had a change of heart.
This might not be so bad after all, he thinks as he adds ‘athletic’ to Ianto’s particulars.
He’s tempted to stay until the end of the match and striking up a conversation with Ianto, but he decides that he hasn’t done nearly enough recon yet. And so, instead of waiting, Jack sets his vortex manipulator to another point in Ianto’s timeline. His eyes don’t leave Ianto as the manipulator pulls him out of one time and into another.
Ianto is twenty
The pub is crowded and at first, Jack has trouble spotting Ianto in the mob. When he finally sees the young man, he finds himself a seat and watches from a distance while Ianto drinks and laughs with his friends.
It’s the very same day as when Jack first saw Ianto, hours after the football match had finished. Though Jack understands that timelines, especially his own, don’t move in a straight line, it still seems strange to him that weeks have passed since the first time he was here, and yet, only hours had passed for Ianto.
When Ianto motions to his friend to take his seat, Jack stands up and hurries into the men’s toilets. He makes sure there’s no one else there and stands by the sinks, waiting for Ianto.
The young man wobbles slightly as he walks through the door and sees Jack standing there.
“Lurking in bedrooms and now the men’s toilets. You want to be careful, I’ll get the wrong idea of why you keep showing up,” Ianto says brushing past Jack. Jack is taken back more by the deep voice coming from such a young man rather than the revelation that Ianto has met him before.
He turns his back on Ianto and considers explaining to him about timelines. But then thinks better of it. There’s no way he can do it without breaking the rules and if he breaks the rules than the Agency will refuse to recruit Ianto.
Jack has seen the path that Ianto will go down if he doesn’t become a part of the Agency and there’s no way that Jack is going to be the one held responsible.
He turns around when he hears the tap running and Ianto regards him in the mirror, a curious look on his face. “You look exactly the same.”
“Do I?” Jack asks, grinning at him. He decides if Ianto has met him before, that he might try his luck and prompt him to ask the questions. He might be inherently curious and finally ask. “Don’t you want to know why; who I am, why I keep showing up?”
Jack can barely resist the urge to cross his fingers as he watches Ianto drying his hands and waits for the young man’s answer.
Ianto turns around and examines Jack, his bright blue eyes seemingly taking in every detail of Jack’s face. “I do,” he says finally. “But I’m not going to give you the satisfaction of asking.”
He’s disappointed, it’s impossible not to be. But he reminds himself that there will be other times; that there are still plenty of days left in the six-year window of time that Jack has to draft him. He’ll just have to think of a better approach for next time.
“Ianto,” Jack says and Ianto turns back to face him.
“You’ll be back, sir?” He replies, a ghost of a smirk playing at his lips.
Jack nods in reply and watches as Ianto leaves.
Left alone in the bathroom, Jack flips open his Vortex Manipulator, punches in a random year in Ianto’s past and sends himself to his second visit with the young Welshman.
His second visit and Ianto’s first.
Ianto is twenty-six.
People are panicking. Jack’s ears are full of the sound of people screaming and the metallic bangs and thuds of the Cybermen. He pushes people aside, searching for Ianto. He’s been here twice before and he should be making sure that he isn’t seen by one of his previous selves, but he’s in too much of a hurry to be careful.
The first time he came here, he’d done nothing. He stood on the grounds of the Tyler house and watched as the Cybermen killed half the guests and marched the rest off to factories for upgrades. He’d seen Ianto, controlled by his earpods, made a part of that group. The young Welshman who was intended to become a Time Agent became a Cyberman instead.
The second time he’d come back was to find Ianto. It was directly after he’d met Ianto at the President’s office and Jack was worried Ianto wouldn’t be able to make his decision before time ran out. And so, forming an emergency plan in his head, Jack had come back to the Tyler house, discovered where Ianto was hiding when Lumic overrode the earbuds and worked out a window of time.
Jack has exactly five minutes to convince Ianto to ask him for help.
He thunders up the stairs and flings open the door to the bedroom where he knows Ianto is hiding.
“Ianto! You need to come out now.”
Seconds pass without an answer from Ianto. The screams downstairs grow louder and Jack knows that there are only a few minutes until Lumic activates the earpods and Ianto is lost forever.
“Captain? What are you doing here?”
Jack beams at him, despite the urgency of the situation. “It’s great to see you Ianto, but there’s really no time for explanations. Take out your earpods and come over here with me.” Jack holds out his hand.
Ianto touches his left ear, arching an eyebrow at Jack. “My earpods?”
“Ianto, did you see the President get killed? Did you see the Cybermen downstairs?”
“I saw— I was on my way back in when they broke inside. I couldn’t help him—“
“I know, Ianto. It’s not your fault. Now take the earpods out, now.”
Ianto’s fingers hesitated on the tip of the pods, his wide, frightened eyes meeting Jack’s. After a long moment, Ianto finally pulls the pods from his ears and holds them out to Jack.
“Can I… can I ask you now?” Ianto says, stepping towards Jack. “Because I feel as though I’ve nothing left to lose.”
Jack holds his hand out to Ianto. “It’s time to go.”