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Ianto shifted Rosie on his hip and his smile broadened when she laughed delightedly at the fairies gathered around them. She clapped enthusiastically as one of them blew bubbles from the tip of her beribboned wand and squealed when one of them engulfed her completely and lifted her from her Tad’s arms to float above the christening crowd. At the other end of the room the King and Queen looked across from above their own daughter and smiled at the happy, laughing little girl and her adoring father. He met their gaze and smiled back, trusting Rose to the care of the fairy god-mothers for a while whilst he went to talk to the King and Queen, “Your majesties.”

“Surely you know us better than that Ianto?” The Queen laughed brightly, hugging her Princess close, “How is she?”

“As well as ever, gabbling as much as her dad does, and charming everyone as well as he does.” He grinned ruefully and glanced back over his shoulder for the sixth time since he’d come over to where Rose was now being cuddled by a serving girl

“And Jack?”

“Getting bigger every day.” This smile was full of warmth, and love and adoration, and excitement, “I thought it was hard starting out, but I’d forgotten what he’s like when he’s nesting. The house is very clean, but full of pillows.”

They laughed and the Queen let him hold the Princess for a while, “Do you know what you’re getting yet?”

“No, Martha knows, but we’ve asked her not to tell. With Rose, we knew who was coming, but was want junior to be a surprise.” He laughed as the Princess grabbed at the collar of his T-shirt and tickled her gently, “Hello sweetheart, you don’t like being ignored or talked over, do you?”

She laughed merrily and clapped her hands, waving towards the fairy who now approached with Rose. Both little girls were set down in the crib to play together whilst their parents talked happily about how much they’d grown, what was happening at work for Ianto, general grown-up chat; Ianto almost wished he were young enough to sit with the girls in the crib, it looked like much more fun.

Eventually the time came for the Princess to be blessed (and cursed) by the gathered fairies, so Ianto lifted Rose from the crib and carried her to the balcony to leave. The little girl was nodding against his shoulder and snuggled tiredly into the warmth of his arms, whimpering softly when he nuzzled a kiss against the top of her head. He smiled happily and leaned against the balcony to read his description of her bedroom to get them home.

“The floor was a soft cream, and in the middle of it there was a patchwork, pastel shaded rug in equally soft wool. The walls were a dusky pink, with stencils in silver here and there and clouds painted on in white around the top and onto the ceiling, which was the same pink. In one corner of the room was a white wardrobe with pink door handles and three drawers below the cupboards. One of the doors stood slightly ajar to reveal a selection of dresses, skirts and jeans and a mirror on the back of the door. Against one of the walls stood a wooden crib, also in pink and white, with a sofa in deep red beside it. A book case on the opposite wall housed children’s books, as well as some more adult ones (including a copy of The Lord of the Rings) and three china dolls on the top shelf; one with dark hair dressed in dark blue and white and with its arms wrapped in a muff, one with blonde ringlets dressed in a beautiful yellow and blue summer dress and holding a parasol, and one male one dressed in a suit identical to her Tad’s wedding suit. One with a suit matching Jack’s was on top of the wardrobe in her parents’ bedroom, waiting for Christmas.

Ianto kissed Rose once more and slipped her into her pyjamas gently before tucking her in with the teddy that Gwen and Rhys had bought for her the day that they’d told the team that Jack was expecting. Behind him he heard Jack move into the doorway and smiled, stroking Rose’s cheek once more before standing up and turning to his partner, kissing him gently as they settled together on the sofa to watch their daughter sleep.

His heart swelled with happiness and he turned to kiss Jack gently again, resting a hand against the older man’s swollen stomach, “I love you.”

Jack was momentarily startled but pulled Ianto closer with a smile, kissing him back passionately, “I love you too.” He pulled him up, “Bed time?”

“Yep.” He looked back once before he turned out the light and left the room to cuddle up with Jack for the night, glancing at their beautiful, impossible miracle of a daughter and looking forwards to the birth of her equally impossible, equally miraculous sibling. All because he loved to read. And because he loved Jack; he hurried after his lover to tell him just how much.

Author's Note: Finished! You see, reading is your friend. Thank you so much to everyone who's reviewed and kicked me, especially Rainbow Stripes who has kept me highly amused and distracted over on lol. This one's for you babe!

Final statistics according to Word:
Pages: 120
Words: 53037
Paragraphs: 1391
Lines: 5923

Hope you enjoyed it!

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Jack looked up and his smile lit up his face when he saw who it was in the doorway, “Hey Yan, Jazz finally let you go?”

His young lover returned his smile as he settled into his chair at the other desk in the office, “Finally, confirmation that’s it’s not just my coffee you smile at. Yeah, she’ll be after you in a minute; I caught sight of her expressions as she got her first look at your report.”

Jack pretended to quake in his boots, then grinned like a child at Christmas, “What did she look like?”

“Well…” He looked back up from the report on his desk which had been the focus of his attention for all of three seconds and looked up at the ceiling, a grin dancing across his face as he refused pointedly to look at Jack, “It started out interested, then slightly confused, then amused, then back to formal, then she got more and more annoyed.” Now he looked at Jack, in whose eyes mischief danced, “What did you put in that report?”

”Chapters.” A file dropped over Jack’s head onto the desk and Ianto chuckled at the surprised look on his lover’s face, “He wrote the damned thing in chapters.”

“How much trouble am I in?” He still didn’t look at her, and she still tried to hide her grin

“She reached for the pencil of Dooooom.” Ianto deadpanned. Said pencil was flicked at him across the room and bounced off the window, “Not as much trouble as me I think.”

“That’s a relief.” He laughed and reached behind him to tickle Jazz. She dodged his hand and slipped up behind him, resting her arms on his shoulders and watching Ianto over the top of his head, “Did you miss us?”

She hummed and smiled, “Course I did, we all did. Did you miss us? And before you lie, remember that I’ve read your report.”

“We did miss you!” He turned around and rested his hands on her waist, looking up at her for a change, “Just not Torchwood, not really. We enjoyed the chance to get away and arse around, just enjoy each other.”

“I know.” She bent and kissed his forehead, “But I’m here to talk shop. You’ve been gone a month, we’ve got a lot to catch up on really. Most important really is the thing that got us into the mess in the first place.” She backed away to lean on the desk and Ianto came around to lean next to where Jack was sitting, arms folded, “Have you any recommendations?”

Jack shook his head, “It’s like the rift: We can see when someone’s been taken, but can’t prevent it. All we can do is monitor for similar readings and get them back if it happens again. Ianto and I are going to train as Jurisfiction agents so we can do that.”

“OK.” She nodded and stood up, “I’m going to do a full debrief and rebrief, is that the word? Anyway, one of those in about an hour.” The girl hesitated a moment in the door and her eyes scanned the desk, “Who’s not drinking coffee?”

“Me.” Jack explained, “It’s a sort of… Detox, taking a couple of months to get rid of several hundred years worth of chemicals.”

She eyed him sceptically, “That’s bollocks.” When he only shrugged she rolled her eyes and vanished.

The two men’s eyes met and they smiled shyly at each other, “Do you want to tell them before or after the fact?”

“I think we should know the fact first. Find out if… If you can drink coffee again, shower.” Ianto smiled softly and laced their fingers together, “We could…”

Jack smiled, “I stole a pregnancy test from Martha’s drawer earlier. We’ve got an hour, it only takes three minutes.”

Commander Jasmine Donovan, Head of Torchwood and CSI level 2, banged her hand on the table and swore, “How the hell do I do that every time?” She rubbed her hand, “Anyway, anyone listening to me?”

“No darlin’.” Her boyfriend chuckled and threw a peanut at her, “Why would we listen to you?”

“Erm… Because I’m your boss?” She glared at him and rolled her eyes

“And what will you do, fire me? I don’t work for you, you know.” John rested his feet on the table and looked up as Jack and Ianto entered, sharing a secret glance before they sat down in their traditional seats, side by side at the head of the table. He declined to even consider what was going through their minds and being shared in that glance, “And now the lovebirds have joined us, maybe we can start.”

Jazz cuffed him playfully, “Grow up you. Now, where were we? OK, first things first, John and I return to Vegas in three hours. I’ve been called back to deal with a case, and John’s coming with me. We’re going to have a shotgun wedding in Vegas whilst we’re over there. That’s more our style, as you know, but we will be having a party to celebrate when we get back.”

There were congratulations and hugs from all round the table and she grinned, “I know I’m not the only one who never thought we’d see the day, but there we go. Next up is the Fforde affair, you’ve all seen Jack and Ianto’s preliminary reports on that, their completed report is, I hope, going to be edited slightly and filed tonight?” They nodded, “Good, which, I believe wraps the matter up completely. We’ve got Ianto back; thanks, of course, to Jack’s blind idiocy, sorry bravery. And your recommendations on the case?”

“Monitor for activity, then retrieve if anything happens. We have alerted the book world to the possibility and they know what to do to return them. If retrieval from inside the books is required then we can go in.” Jack explained, one hand behind his head as he leaned back and one hidden beneath the table.

“Good.” Jazz flashed him a smile and turned to Mickey, “How’s the rift looking Mickey?”

“Stable for the last week, apart from the storms and three isolated spikes we attended there were a further four spikes which didn’t require our attention, no unusual spikes or activity.”

“Very good. Sightings this week Martha, anything still to be dealt with?”

“Nothing outstanding, internet scan this morning came up clear.” The medic sighed in relief and looked across at Ianto, “I’ll be glad to hand that job back to you Yan.”

“Back to normal life: aliens and general weirdness.” The young man chuckled

Jasmine ticked things off on her fingers, her lips moving silently as she went through a mental list, then dropped her hands to the table again, “I think that’s everything covered, anyone else got any news?”

Jack took Ianto’s hand on the table and smiled at him, eyes radiant with love, “We have an announcement to make, actually.”

Everyone looked at them expectantly, “You’re getting married?” The Doctor asked with a teasing grin

“Done that one.” Ianto pointed out, squeezing Jack’s hand and asking silently for permission, “We’re actually moving on to the next stage, we’re starting a family.”

“I’m pregnant.” Jack finished for him, not looking anywhere but his partner’s eyes, which were locked with his own.

Stunned silence greeted the announcement for a moment before Gwen leaned over to hug him with a squeal and the other team members and family followed, “Oh my God, congratulations!”

“I hope you don’t mind me asking Captain, but how the f**k are you pregnant?” Mickey asked in confusion, “I mean, you’re a bloke. Definitely a bloke.” Everyone at Torchwood knew that, some mornings there was no escaping the fact

“Fifty-first century male.” Jack pointed out, “Our biology is, shall we say different? Physically I’m male, when it comes to reproducing, I guess I’m Mum. But until now, I’ve been kept infertile by the Oestragen in the rain.”

“So a month in the book world, where there are no chemicals like that in the rain…” The Doctor realised

“Hence no coffee.” Jazz realised, glancing at the mug in front of him, “Until now.”

“It has no impact once I’m pregnant, it would just impact my ability to get pregnant. And with no obstacles…” His face lit up and he shrugged, “We’re going to be dads.”

He looked at Ianto again and they grinned at each other, their happiness clear to see, “Go on!” John half teased, “Kiss for the camera.” They didn’t bother to ask ‘what camera’, they just did it.

“So, do you know how far along?” Jazz asked with a broad smile, now settled in John’s lap after a round of congratulatory hugs for the fathers to be.

“Nope, just that it’s positive.” Jack looked down at the table, focussing on his hands entwined with Ianto’s, “We… We already know, really, who we’re getting, don’t we?”

“You know,” Gwen commented, sucking her teaspoon clean as she paused, “I always thought I’d be the first off on maternity leave.”

“So did I.” Jack laughed, “And believe it or not, Torchwood does have a maternity plan.”


“Oh yeah, we’ve had several generations of the same family working here, it was quite a family thing at one point. Looks like being so again.” A shadow crossed over his face as he thought of babies he’d seen born, watched grow, fought their recruitment and then buried. So many, too many. And the baby inside him, just a collection of cells at the moment, but already a person he knew, someone else he’d bury; hopefully after he buried his partner, he’d hate for Ianto to feel that pain. “But Torchwood’s always been a family. We look after our own.”

“Certainly do. I guess this means that I need to get someone trained up to go to Vegas for me, we need an immortal on the rift, and whilst you’re up the duff, you can’t die.”

Jack saluted her, “I had no intentions of dying.”

“You never do.”

“True, but less intention even than normal. I’m going to pull out from fieldwork completely in three months, stay in the hub for four months after that, then stay at home and play Mum.” He grinned, “I have a really bad nesting habit when I’m pregnant.”

“OK.” She laughed, “Well as long as you’ve got that sorted, just give me a yell when you want me. Doc, can you see to John’s Vortex Manipulator, I’m not using it again until it stops time shifting all over the place. Honestly, I sent him for a bar of chocolate last week, he bought it three years ago.”

The Timelord looked at her sceptically over his glasses, “I’d rather disable it completely.”

“I need it for the commute, it’s either that or I borrow the TARDIS for a year or two.”

He held out his hand for the wrist strap, “And, if you want, I’ll give you a lift back to Vegas, save you the flight?”

“You’re a life saver, mean we can stay long enough to deal with that rift flare.” Jazz groaned as everyone moved into action, letting Jack slot back into the centre of the action, with Ianto right beside him, right where they belonged.

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Gwen fired off two shots, which sent her prey haring off in the opposite direction. “Jazz, he’s heading in your direction.” She gasped out, coming to a stop as she guarded his retreat.

“Gotcha.” The other woman gasped out, “John, you in position?”


“Good. Mickey you got the car?”

“Yep boss, not far off you now.”

“Good.” She took up position opposite Martha, “Ready?”


They waited, listening intently to the sounds of the street. When the sounds were right, indicating someone approaching very fast, she yelled out “Now!” And they pulled the rope tight, tripping him. In seconds she was on him, he was cuffed and disarmed, “Good, now, let’s get him back to the Hub. Right on time Mickey.”

The newest team member nodded a greeting as he swung out of the driver’s seat and flipped the boot open, “Well caught boss.”

“It’s my job, innit?” She wrinkled up her nose and looked around, activating her comms, “Gwen, you going to join us?”

“On my way, just enjoying the scenery.”

Jazz laughed, “You’re in Butetown, what’s to enjoy?”

There was silence for a while until Gwen appeared around the corner, “Being able to breath normally for a change, rather than panting heavily?”

“Sounds good to me. I’m going to run back to the Hub, and I’ll still beat you back. See you back there, I’ll put the kettle on.” She tied her hair back tighter in its pony-tail and shoved her jacket in the back seat of the SUV, “Don’t be too late back.”

As they wheeled around, heading off into the Cardiff traffic, she raised a hand in farewell and also turned, taking the back alleys, ginnels and snickets that any Torchwood agent in Cardiff came to know and love after about three days. It was so relaxing, just running because she could, the pavement stretching out in front of her and leading anywhere she wanted to go. The last few weeks had been hard, really hard. The work was relatively easy with their engorged team, but actually coping with the situation, that was much harder. Two of her best friends were missing, one searching for the other, they didn’t know if either would ever get back or when they would, they didn’t know what was going on… The waiting and the not knowing were killing her. Not literally, of course, just metaphorically.

It took her quarter of an hour to get back to the nearest Hub entrance and she slipped inside, deactivating the alarm as she did so. Down the stairs, running her hand along the old brick walls, damp in some places, dry in others, rough and smooth and full of juxtapositions and contradictions. That was her life; that was Torchwood.

Down in the Hub she took her hair-tie out and dropped it on her desk, running her fingers through her now loose hair as she tried to figure out what was different. Her senses were on the alert, listening to every sound, checking out every shadow and flash of light. No, that was all right, no unexpected alerts sounds, no lights out that should be on, and no lights on that should be out. But there was something. Coffee; she needed coffee. Up in the kitchenette she poured herself a cup from the pot in the machine and took it downstairs to write up her report before the others got in. She was halfway through it when she put it down, stared at it, took another sip, stared at it again, dropped it in shock and whirled around to look up at the office. The lit office. “Ianto?” Jack?”

The cog door rolled open at that moment and the team found her staring up at Jack’s office in shock. “Zee?” Her boyfriend asked, “Princess, what’s up?”

She blinked, coming back down and shook her head, “Nothing, sorry, been a long couple of days.” There was no denying that, it had been hell for all of them, “I just…” There, on the floor, the coffee mug. No one had touched the machine since Ianto had vanished, but she’d had coffee, proper coffee, Ianto’s coffee. “Captain Jack Harkness!” She yelled at the top of her lungs, and a moment later he appeared in the doorway of his office, looking tired and confused but with a finger pressed to his lips.

“Shh, he’s asleep.”

She gave a sob of relief and happiness and hurtled up the stairs into his arms, laughing when he pressed a kiss to the top of her head and held her close, “You’re back! Oh my God, it’s been so long, what the Hell kept you?”

He chuckled and looked down at his team, “Glad to be back, sorry we couldn’t welcome you but…” He indicated over his shoulder and Jazz caught sight of Ianto, curled up on the couch but with one eye open, watching her. Winking isn’t quite as effective when only one eye’s open to start with, but she got the general message, “Ianto’s…”

“Awake.” The young man’s voice was thick with sleep, but achingly familiar after his long absence, “And glad to be home.” He levered himself upright and came out to look down at the team as well, wrapping an arm around Jasmine’s waist from the other side.

There was a stunned silence for all of four seconds before Martha and Gwen screamed and ran up the stairs to hug them both tightly. The party moved down to the main Hub as Mickey ordered in pizza and Chinese and they settled in for the story, “My God, it’s been insane. Oh, I need to make a phone call.” Ianto grabbed his phone and dialled Mark’s number. “Mark, hey, you know that story you’re writing…”

Ianto, what, you’re back? Does this mean I get my boss back?”

“Erm… Probably, I suppose, but your story?”

Oh you won’t believe this, I had the coolest idea. I’ve given up on the TV series idea, I’m just going to do it about you lot.”

“Do we get a say in the matter?”

No. Now is my boss with you?”

He rolled his eyes, “Yes, do you want to talk to her?”

No, just tell her we are working, definitely working, not hiding in stationary cupboards.”

“Why are you hiding in the stationary cupboard when she’s not there?” He laughed when Mark swore at him and hung up, “Sorted.”

“What’s sorted?” Gwen demanded whilst Jazz burst into hysterical laughter

“Ah, that’s a very, very long story.” Ianto grinned, “It all started at the beginning, when I got sucked into Lord of the Rings. I got lost in the back story, Jack nearly found me but then decided he wanted to go running off after Aragorn instead.” The older man looked guilty, but Ianto took his hand and held it tightly, conveying forgiveness in the simple gesture, “And then he died for me, and we were together again.”

“And that was the easy bit.” Jack laughed, leaning back and putting his arm around Ianto’s waist, “After that it went a bit…”

“Bananas.” Ianto laughed, “We decided to, sort of, take a holiday. In Hitchhiker’s Guide. He got very drunk and very sentimental, again.”

“And we had a fantastic time.” Jack continued, cutting off Ianto’s flow, “But then we went back to the Library to tell Thursday we’d made it, and sort of bumped into… Ourselves, but not. It was very strange. And they were lovely. And great kissers, eventually.”

“I think we really rubbed off on them.” Ianto’s eyes flashed evilly, and his hand strayed south from where it had rested on Jack’s waist

“What have I created?” Jack asked in horror, “You’re… you’re filthy. Filthy and gorgeous and mine.”

“Stopitstopitstopit!” John covered his ears and laughed, “I have no idea what you’re talking about, and I don’t think I’m alone.”

“No, clueless.”

“Books aren’t written, they’re more created, then the author puts them down on paper. We helped them to reconstruct their story so that they could be together. It sounds like a really soppy romance, but it… No, it was a soppy romance.” He sighed, “I’m so… So tired. And so, so glad to be back.”

“Well we’re glad to have you back.” The Doctor assured him, “Sounds like you’ve had quite an adventure.”

“Yeah, we should write it down.” He laughed, stifling a yawn unsuccessfully, “Oh dear, sorry guys.”

“Not to worry pet.” Gwen smiled and squeezed his hand, “We can hold the fort for a couple more hours, you get some rest, cos we’re all dying for your coffee.”

“And your filing.” Jazz added, waving a hand in the air from her position on the floor, where her head rested on John’s feet. “OK people, Jack and Ianto, you can go home or stay here or do whatever it is you want to do. You’re not officially back on duty until tomorrow’s shift starts. Anyone who was out today I want your reports on my desk in half an hour, Martha, I also want a physical on our guest and a recommendation, I don’t want to keep him overnight if it’s not necessary.”

“Understood boss.”

They stood and dispersed, leaving the Doctor watching Jack and Ianto with a smile on his face. “You not doing paperwork Doc?” Jack asked as he pulled Ianto to rest against his side more comfortably

The Timelord chuckled, “Jazz put up with my paperwork for all of two runs, then gave up on me.”

“Crafty devil.” Ianto chuckled, “I wish I’d learned to do that. Jack.” He curved into Jack’s side, “Jack, I’m too tired to go home. Can we stay here tonight?”

“Course we can, anything you want baby.” He kissed his temple gently and grinned, “Absolutely anything.”

They curled together that night, nothing more, just enjoying the contact, the familiar smells and sounds of their home, the warmth of loving each other and being together. Jack chuckled spontaneously and Ianto felt it running through them both as they lay pressed together, “What?”

“I don’t know, it just felt good to laugh.”

“OK.” He smiled and kissed Jack’s shoulder, “You’re so sweet for such a randy sod, you know that?”

”Yeah, well I don’t get to coddle anyone all that often, and not for long enough. I’ll take as long as we’ve got and treasure every moment. He hugged Ianto tightly, almost fiercely possessively, “I love you too much to waste a second. No matter what happens, I will always love you. Forever.”

“Jack.” He rolled over and kissed his lover gently, “I will always be here.” He placed his hand on Jack’s chest, “Right here.”

“Ianto…” Jack sat up and took his hands, “Look, I sort of thought of it whilst we were away and, I know it’s weird, but… In the future, men aren’t always physically male, or not completely. Like, like John was born a woman, but became male, long story, and I was born sort of part of both. I’m infertile, I could never get a woman pregnant, but… But a man could get me pregnant. It’s… It’s difficult, because of the oestrogen in the rain, it’s like being on the pill but…” He looked up, “What I’m trying to say is, there’s no oestrogen in the rain in the Book World. If, if you wanted to have a baby, our baby…”

Ianto’s eyes lit up, his face filled with you and wonder, “You mean?”

A huge weight seemed to lift from his shoulders at Ianto’s reaction and he pulled him close, kissing him tenderly, “Yes, I mean that right now, right here, I could get pregnant. I could carry our child. I could be carrying our child, someone who is part of both of us.”

“Rose.” Ianto gasped out, “I don’t think there’s anything else I would want more in the world.”

“I hoped you’d say that.” Jack laughed, kissing him again, more fiercely this time, “I want you, I want us, I want Rose and the future she showed us.”

“I want that too.” Ianto whispered. “So, erm…” He slid his hand down and grinned when Jack gasped, “Should we start trying?”

Author's Note: And for why is the word Love underlined? it's not for any significance apart from... It's my 50000th word!!! How cool is that, it just landed that word 50000 was Love :D

Yes, I made it. Huge thanks to Rainbow Stripes for being my personal cheerleader and hero, and to everyone who's reviewed and kicked me on my way. This is my fifth attempt and my first completion. So happy, you can probably tell

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“Mrs Dashwood!” John swept towards a well dressed lady who appeared to be directing the servants in laying out pastries, cakes and tea and coffee urns in preparation for the meeting. The central hub of Jurisfiction operations was the ballroom at Norwood Park, a beautiful and elegant room cluttered with heavy dark wood desks, comfortable sofas, book cases and generally books everywhere. It actually looked much like a Restoration styled version of most of the offices at Torchwood London, where Jasmine’s open-plan designs left everyone free to work pretty much where they liked, to the extent that two of her girls were invariably found sitting on their desks and the youngest member of the team worked from the top of a filing cabinet. It seemed to work here as well as it did there; there was a sense of bustle and productivity and at the same time relaxation.

Mrs Dashwood looked up in surprise as John, ever more confident and outgoing and with a rapidly thickening American accent, bore down on her an bent low to kiss one of her hands, treating her to his first truly Jack grin, “Mrs Dashwood it is a pleasure to see you, I do hope we are not late?”

Gareth rolled his eyes sympathetically at the amused and slightly stunned woman and she smiled back at him warmly, “No dear, you are not late. Although I notice that there are rather more of you than I expected.”

“One of you is more than I expected.” A voice grated from behind them and they looked around into the eyes of PC Andy Davidson, but a clearly fictional version of him, “I heard you’d got into trouble with Big Tony John, I was just about to report your demise to Jurisfiction and hope I could get one who can stick to the plot this time. Unless these are your replacements?”

Ianto stopped Jack from stepping into the altercation so that they could let Gareth and John deal with it, John was fuming and placed himself between his lover and the man he was supposed to be with, the man he was written to be with, the man he had never wanted anything to do with. “It’s got nothing to do with you. As long as I can pretend to love you for the first three chapters then anything we do in the back-story, anything we do here doesn’t matter. And unless we get a plot, none of it will matter anyway.”

Andy’s jaw clenched, “I’m going to talk to Thursday about this, you don’t care about the plot, you don’t care about anything but yourselves.”

“We care about each other.” Gareth corrected him, “Something we wouldn’t expect you to understand.” He’d stepped forwards to take John’s hand and they faced the other man shoulder to shoulder. Jack and Ianto couldn’t see their expressions, but from the familiar tensions they could tell that they were scared of something.

The man glared at them a moment longer before turning on his heel and stalking off. Mrs Dashwood had disappeared rapidly, probably to get someone to smooth things over, and the two couples were alone in the antechamber. John sighed as he turned around, “It’s…”

“This is getting ridiculous.” Gareth burst out, “They can’t keep replacing us because of the way we’re written, not when we’re unpublished. The book’s only been in progress for a year and we’re the fourth set of John and Gareth’s there’s been.”

”What do you mean?”

He growled, but at the situation, not at Jack who had asked the question, “We’re written to be in love with each other eventually, we know that and we know that we want to be together. Hell, we’re in love form the start, but we have to pretend we’re not for the first few chapters. After that we can be together as Jack and Ianto, but not as Gareth and John and then by the end of the book we can be together in every way. But outside the plot, it doesn’t matter what we do, but three times our characters have tried to change it so that they can be together from the start, and they’ve been replaced and separated. And we couldn’t stand if that happened to us, so we put up with it and shut up, but Andy’s starting to insist that John be with him in the back story as well as when the plot’s on them.”

“He hasn’t got a leg to stand on guys, don’t worry.” Thursday’s voice drifted across the room to them as her footsteps echoed of the intricately decorated walls, “As you say, you’re unpublished and soon it won’t matter.” There was a hint of warning and sadness in her tone, but she moved on from the topic and approached Jack with a smile, “Glad to see you made it Jack, and this must be Ianto?” She greeted them both with a handshake, “You’ve had an interesting trip I understand?”

“Very.” He laughed, wrapping an arm around Ianto’s shoulders, “Ianto, meet Thursday Next. Thursday, my partner, Ianto Jones.”

”I would never have guessed.” She smirked, “You coming to the Jurisfiction meeting? We’ll be considering your apprenticeships by the way guys.” The last comment was directed at John and Gareth, “I have it on good authority that it will be approved though.”

They grinned at her in relief, “Thanks Thurs. We… Oh you know.”

“Yeah, I know. We’ll sort something. No matter what happens I’m not going to let you be split up again.” She took a deep breath, “God, I’m getting sentimental in my old age. Come on, let’s get this meeting started.”

It droned on, and on, and on, about matters that went straight over Jack’s head most of the time. He and Ianto had resorted to spotting their favourite characters around the room and were currently trying to decide if that really was Mrs Tiggy-Winkle. They knew it was, but it didn’t stop them arguing the point. Finally a prod from John brought them back to the point in hand, “Item twenty seven, I’ve been asked by Thursday to bring this up especially. It’s a current work in progress that is posing serious problems at the moment, but apparently shows great potential. Now she, and some of its occupants, believes that it can only be saved by a major reworking.” John and Gareth’s faces paled, they hadn’t really let themselves believe that the case was so desperate. “Now, Thursday, what are your proposals?”

She stood up and her voice rang out clearly, “I propose an internal reworking. No outside influence, apart from that they request.” She spared Jack and Ianto a smile, “I believe they have the best possible help to make this a successful novel and provide us with at least two, if not a whole team of extremely able Jurisfiction agents.”

“All in favour of that proposal?” It was simple and required little intervention, so it was passed almost unanimously. “OK, Thursday, you’re nominally in charge. Good luck. Next item, related, proposed apprenticeships of John Barrowman and Gareth David-Lloyd, from the book in discussion. Proposer for John?” Thursday raised her hand, “Good, and seconder?”

“Here old chap.” It was Commander Bradshaw

“Excellent references there John, welcome to the team, you’ll be apprenticed to Miss Next. And for Gareth, same again?” The Commander and Thursday nodded their assent and the Bellman rang his bell with a note of finality, “That’s sorted then, and you’re OK to take them both on as apprentices Thursday?”

“It would be a pleasure.” She grinned across at them

“Any objections?” Andy made a move to raise his hand, but seemed to think better of it when no one else did. He scowled at them as the Bellmaker smiled a greeting at them, “In that case, would everyone please welcome the two newest members of our team, John Barrowman and Gareth David-Lloyd, and best of luck to the pair of you in getting your novel sorted out.”

“Next, item twenty-nine. The National Novel Writing Problem, affectionately termed NaNoWriPro. Once a year, several hundred thousand people all descend on their computers and start novels, most of which end up not fully developed and very, very few end up moving up to the Library proper. Now, the number of novels being constructed at this time of year is getting to the stage, in fact has reached the stage, where we cannot sustain it all at one time. Any proposals?”

“Construct through the year and keep them in storage?” Someone suggested, “Deliver as plot bunnies in advance.”

“That’s one good idea, but we still need more builders. St Tabitha’s constructors course has just produced its first graduates, but there aren’t enough generics taking the course. Can we ask minor characters to do apprenticeships in plot building?”

The matter was approved, the next was set aside for future discussion, and so the meeting went on. Jack had zoned out completely by the time John grabbed his arse to get his attention. “You were miles away.” He laughed

“Yeah, just a bit. Do that again and you will get jumped by the way.”

“You think I’ll complain?”

They both glared at Ianto and Gareth, who had burst out laughing, “OK, so we think the same, we look the same…”

“I just want to find out if he shags as well as you.” Ianto commented

The conversation was stalled by Thursday’s arrival, “Come on guys, we’ve got a plot to reconstruct, remember?”

Two days later:

Noise and light blared from one of Cardiff’s many nightclubs as the figures ran through the door. One of them stopped by the door, calling out in an American accent, “Get back all of you.” Shots rang out down the street and most of the revellers were eager to follow his orders.

One of the bouncers stopped him with a hand and a glare, “What do you think you’re playing at?”

Captain Jack Harkness was in no mood to argue, “Chasing a weevil. Tall thing, leather skin, sharp teeth, really bad dress sense.” He said the last thing as if it was the most important, but as if it had only just occurred to him, or was confusing him.

“The heck are you?”

“Captain Jack Harkness, Torchwood.”

“Gwen Cooper,” a woman approached putting something in her back pocket, “We catch aliens.”

“Ianto Jones,” said a second man, dressed inexplicably in a suit, “And we need to catch this one before…” he broke off and stared in the direction of the screaming that had just started.

The woman set off running with the others close behind, “Over there, by the fire exit, come on!”

The American called out over the screaming of the crowd, simultaneously trying to elbow his way through the crowd to the weevil and get them away from it. He was in the lead as they burst through the fire exit, looking both ways down the street, trying to find the escaped alien when his phone rang, “You two carry on.” He called to Gwen and Ianto, acknowledging their replies with a nod as he answered the phone, “Hello?”

By the bar, two men sipped their drinks and smiled to themselves as their protégés launched into their first story; a true story, but not one that anyone would believe. Well hopefully anyway.

They finished their drinks in the peace and quiet, enjoying each other’s company in a familiar place, unable to deny their longing for home. It was time to leave. Before very long the team slipped back into the club and got themselves drinks, toasting a successful start to the novel whilst Gareth, now Ianto, ordered the flights on his PDA. “You’re off then?” John/Jack asked with a smile

Jack nodded sadly, “Yeah, we have to get back to our Cardiff. Our team are waiting for us.”

“We are your team.” Gareth pointed out

“One of them.” Jack put his glass down and stood up, Ianto following him. The others followed too and no one seemed very surprised when he pulled Gareth close and kissed him gently, “But not the same.” He did the same with John, who groaned into the kiss and laughed, “A man after my own heart. Look after him John.”

“And you.”

Jack nodded and took Ianto’s hand, pulling out the sheet he’d written so long ago that it seemed like a dream. “It’s time to go home.”

The Hub was never silent; computers whirred and beeped constantly, watching over the world from this underground base in Cardiff, and water dripped in the base. On the upper level, glass walls separated Jack’s office, the hot house and the boardroom from the main Hub. Vegetation pressed against the walls of the hot house, shielding it from prying eyes, a fact that he and Ianto had used to their advantage on more than one occasion. His office was more open, but still offered some security and sanctuary when they wanted to be alone together. The boardroom was completely exposed, sheet glass all the way from floor to ceiling with the Torchwood logo printed in the centre.

Metal railings ran around he edge of the walkway connecting the three upper rooms and the small kitchenette, set back into the very structure of the Hub, and ran on, almost meeting but not quite. On the lower level, the huge, metal pillar and its water filled basin formed the focus, with the Rift manipulator attached. Around it stood workstations with computers humming to themselves, papers in various states of disorder and photos of family and friends dotted around. The cog door was sealed half a level below the workstations, its lights and sirens inactive and half a level above the stations the lift was at its lower position.

At the far side of the Hub, two sets of stairs descended. One led to the autopsy bay where the table was clear and sterile and the instruments were set tidily aside. The drawers were all closed and neatly labelled, those little paper ones that slipped out and back in whenever they needed to be changed, which was frequently.

The other set of stairs led to the lower levels, the archives, laboratories and cells of the centuries old organisation. The vaulted brickwork passages stretched for miles under Cardiff bay, full in places of records and in other places completely empty, just echoing, echoing tunnels.”

The looked around and hugged each other tightly, they were home.

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Gareth gripped Ianto’s hands tightly and smiled worriedly at him and at Jack and John, “This gets more surreal by the second, it really does. Cemetery of Small Gods?”

John nodded and flipped his book open to the right place. The cat was approaching them now, walking along the top of the book cases, and they could all sense, even if they couldn’t see them, the other cats approaching from round about. “Go, we’ll find you there. If we get separated meet at the Watch House.” He held Jack’s hand and started to read:

This cemetery of Small Gods was for the people who didn't know what happened next. They didn't know what they believed in or if there was life after death and, often, they didn't know what hit them. They'd gone through life being amiably uncertain, until the ultimate certainty had claimed them at the last. Among the city's bone orchards, the cemetery was the equivalent of the drawer marked MISC, where people were interred in the glorious expectation of nothing very much.

The first cat met with another where they had stood moments before and looked both ways up and down the corridor, “Big Tony?”

“Just wants them spooked for the moment. Miss Next, it seems, has a certain fondness for them…”

“They are most definitely spooked.”

“Oh yes. And it may only be a matter of time. The book is nigh on unsalvageable I believe.” ‘The cat that got the cream’ was about the only analogy you could draw with their expressions in this instance.

Three men stood silently, paying tribute to a fallen leader on a day of remembrance that few people remembered. Behind them, two men, almost identical in appearance, slipped quietly from the graveyard and looked around. “Night Watch, huh?” Jack commented, scanning the streets for any sign of their partners, “Always been a favourite of mine.”

“You what?” John didn’t actually appear to have heard him

“Night Watch is one of my favourite books. I got a copy the first day it was released and read it three times through non-stop. It… It carries a lot of resonance for me.” He shoved his hands in his pockets, “Do you come here often.” ‘My God,’ he thought, ‘was that really me chatting myself up? Nah… Was it?’

John seemed to think the same, apparently that was the general impression of Jack; so much so that it carried through to his fictional persona; the other man grinned, “Not that often really, we’ve been to Night Watch once before, but we come to the Discworld more often. It’s safe, reasonably safe.”

“Not a word I’d associate with the Discworld isn’t ‘safe’.” He commented

“It’s got Carrot in it, which is enough to deter anyone.” John bit his lip as it became apparent that Gareth and Ianto weren’t there, “Come on, we’d better find him, and then find the others.”

“They’re not here?” John was surprised by the way the older man’s face paled at that, “Do you think they got out?”

He nodded, “Yes, they got out before us, so I guess they may have come in before the plot and had t get out of the way… They’re here somewhere Jack.”

Jack straightened up tensely, “I couldn’t lose him again, not when I only just got him back.”

Sergeant Angua tossed her mane of blonde hair over her shoulder and studied her sword, checking it for marks or notches. There were none, she knew this, but it looked good to check now and again, especially when you were the visible presence outside the door of the Watch House. Two men caught her eye and she made to block their path, “Who goes there?”

One of them sighed heavily, whilst the other looked mildly alarmed and quite annoyed, “Sergeant, you know who I am.” John pointed out, “Do you need to ask every time you see me?”

“I know who you are, but who’s he. He looks like you…”

“He’s an outlander, the person my character’s based on… Sort of.” He groaned, it gave him a headache just thinking about it, “Are they here?”

Her face was carefully blank, too carefully, “Are who here?”

“Where are they?”

She folded, “In there with Carrot, waiting for you and getting very worried. They’ve been here an hour.”

Jack pushed past her first, having not spoken a word because he didn’t think he could, and John followed him, shrugging apologetically at Angua as he did so. She simply smiled at him and nodded, the couple were familiar to the Watch, although their doppel-ganger friends had come as a surprise.

Jack looked around the almost cavernous room and spotted Ianto and Gareth almost immediately, easily identifiable by their unusual clothes, the fact that they were almost identical and the way that Ianto was hurrying towards him, face extremely pale. The immortal closed the last few steps and caught his lover in his arms, holding him close as he saw Gareth and John do the same to their left and a little behind Ianto. “God, Yan. I was so worried.” He whispered, “I thought I’d lost you again.”

The younger man chuckled and pulled back just enough to kiss him, “You’re not getting rid of me that easily Captain. I was worried too.” He brushed his fingers across Jack’s cheek tenderly, “I didn’t know if you’d made it. From here on in, we jump together, OK?”

“Definitely.” He smirked, “Although we may need to learn how to do it first.”

Ianto laughed and rested his head on Jack’s shoulder, “Where’s the fun in that? Come on, what’s the plan now?”

“Oh, you think I have a plan do you?” He tucked Ianto’s hand into his own and led him over to where their friends were also getting reunited, “I think we need to sort their plot out before we go home. And to do that we have to find Thursday…”

“Sounds like a pub moment to me.” Ianto suggested as they reached the other couple and leant against a desk, “How about it, fancy a trip to the pub?”

“We’ve just been to the pub.” Gareth pointed out

“So?” Jack and Ianto didn’t see his point, “Let’s go again. We have planning to do, and I seem to remember that we were rudely interrupted.”

Ianto choked, “Not the usual circumstances for that comment, although it’s true.”

The other two looked at them, looked at each other, back at Jack and Ianto and burst out laughing. They refused to be drawn on the reason for their sudden mirth and willingness to find a pub, but the overhead mutterings about ‘just like us’ and ‘dirtier mind than you’ gave them an idea of what had caused it. Ankh Morpork was a bustling, thriving metropolis where everyone was fictional and most of them wouldn’t have batted an eye if two weevils in tutus had cart wheeled down the middle of the street singing ‘Land of Hope and Glory’, so the two couples were almost completely ignored (actually, they were almost run over by an oblivious cart driver, but that was fairly normal apparently.) They were all laughing and flushed from running when they arrived at the pub and this time John and Jack went to get the drinks. When they returned the two fictional men looked excited, eyes glowing. It was clear than even in the few hours they’d known each other, the fictional representations of themselves had become a lot more like the real thing: Gareth was more visibly affectionate if you knew what you were looking for, John was less of the follower and becoming the leader more, their jokes were getting cruder. “So,” John interrupted Jack’s reverie in a way that even the immortal couldn’t deny was exactly the way he started meetings at Torchwood, “You’ve got a plan?”

“He’s always got a plan.” Ianto assured him

“So?” They demanded, “What is it?”

“Well…” He laughed, “Somehow, we’ve got to give you a readable plot, right? One that isn’t straying too far from the current framework.”

“Yeah, we just don’t have the funding to do anything with the location or any of that.” John agreed, leaning forwards sadly but thoughtfully, “It’s never going to be mega, is it? Two guys who find themselves falling in opposite directions but towards each other whilst filming a sci-fi show.”

“Maybe. Maybe you’re right. But how about, rather than it being a TV show, it’s actually two alien investigators who find themselves falling for each other?”

“With a half-cyber-converted ex-girlfriend and an amnesiac ex-girlfriend thrown into the mix to complicate things.” He shrugged at Jack’s withering glance, “What? It worked for us.”

Jack chuckled, “That it did. That it did indeed. Although I’m sure that we could argue that they were more hindrances and obstacles on our path than actually helpful to us, really.”

“Without Lisa I would never have come back to Cardiff, and without Jazz I would never, ever have admitted to myself how I felt about you. Probably… Maybe.”

“That’s…” He waved a hand, “That’s by the by. What I mean is… What do I mean?”

“I think he means that with the characters you’ve got, you could easily build our story, and we’d approve publication.”

“But, aren’t you supposed to be a secret organisation?” Gareth pointed out, “Not very secret if there’s books about it, is it?”

“You’d be surprised.” Ianto answered with a smirk, “One of our friends, one of his exes actually, is a witch, like from Harry Potter? No one believes that that’s real. Besides, we could drop it a hundred years or so into the future where we’re open.”

“Do you think it would work?” Jack asked over his drink, pulling a face at the foul taste.

“It might do. I mean, we’d have to get approval from the Council of Genres and Jurisfiction and… Thursday. We need to ask Thursday to start with.” John sucked in a breath and pulled his travel book out, “You know, I’d quite like to join Jurisfiction. I think we’d make a good team, good agents.”

“Yeah.” They had eyes only for each other and Jack and Ianto found themselves exchanging glances, both wondering the same thing, ‘Are we like this?’ They thought they probably were, especially since Tosh and Owen and then the Daleks and then Switzerland and the wedding and Rosie and everything…

“How the hell did we get here?” Ianto’s surprised and rhetorical question startled John and Gareth from their reverie.

The younger of the two men chuckled, “Erm… Along Treacle Mine Road and left along Easy Street?”

He shook his head with a smile, “Never mind. Just being… Weird I guess. Come on, we’ve got a story to tell.”

“We should start at Norwood Park.” John suggested, flicking through his book for the right page, “There’s going to be a meeting there very soon.”

“Yeah, we were on our way there when we bumped into you. Lucky chance I guess. What were you two doing up there?”

“Went to visit the Judgement of Solomon.” He didn’t look up, “Making out in the stacks.”

Ianto rolled his eyes, “You know Jack, I think you made a bit of an impression on Mark when he came to visit that time.”

“Why do you assume it’s me?”

“Because he thinks I’m sexually repressed and closed minded because I once told him that I would never have sex in the cupboard with Lisa.”

“And he believed you?”

”I know, anyone would think he didn’t actually know me. Especially considering that no one had been able to find us for the last half an hour.”

“You were having sex in the stationary cupboard?”

“No, of course not, I wouldn’t do that… Too many distractions, you know what I’m like with stationary, we used the server room, it was warmer anyway.” His partner simply stared at him with that look, half astonishment, half respect and entirely lecherous and illegal, “Anyway… Found your place?”

“Erm…” John shook his head and reminded himself that the man sitting opposite him was not his partner and tried to stop thinking just how much fun it would be with both… No! Maybe, maybe later once they’d got this sorted out. He groaned, “Is it always like this in your head?” He asked Jack

The immortal nodded with his mega-watt grin firmly in place, his eyes dancing with amusement, “Oh yes. You get used to it eventually. And I have to say that I agree completely.”

Gareth and Ianto exchanged glances, “Not a chance. Well…”

“Probably not. Somewhere between thin and fat.”

“Chance that is… Although…”

“Stop it.” They stared at each other a little longer and then burst out laughing, “Are you sure the book world’s ready for this?”

”They’d better be.” John ran his finger down the page and took Ianto’s hand across the table, whilst his partner took Jack’s hand and the immortal and his partner closed the horseshoe, “Let’s go.”

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“Hey, who the hell are you?!” Jack’s voice echoed from behind them and they swung round in astonishment to be greeted by the sight of Jack approaching them. “Who are you, why do you look like me and what are you doing with my boyfriend?”

Ianto’s eyes boggled, this man looked just like Jack, he sounded just like him, he was identical, apart from the almost unbelievable levels of campness, “Excuse me?” He stuttered it out in shock

“Gareth, this is me, the real me. I have no idea who that is…” He pointed in disgust and there was more than a trace of panic in his tone, “But he’s an impostor.”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about.” He stated, gripping tightly to Jack’s hand, but my name’s not Gareth, it’s Ianto.”

“And he’s my husband.” Jack practically spat the word, “Now I’m Captain Jack Harkness, who are you?”

The stranger gave them an incredulous look. “Don’t be stupid.” He folded his arms in a way that was totally Jack and yet not remotely Jack, “Captain Jack Harkness is fictional, he’s the character I play.” His eyes widened in shock, “Oh. My. God! Are they creating a spin off? They are, aren’t they? I can’t believe they didn’t tell me, we should be the first to know!” Then another realisation seemed to sweep over him and his face fell, “Oh God, they’re probably going to give up on us, we’ll be consigned to the well and destroyed.”

Their heart went out to the Jack-a-like, strange though he was. Jack himself stepped forwards, although he hesitated before touching the fictional version of himself or not himself, he squeezed his shoulder comfortingly, “I have no idea what you’re talking about, but we’re not from a spin-off. We’re from the outland.”

He shook his head sadly, “You’re mad. And…”

“John!” A thick Welsh accent hailed from down the corridor and the fictional man turned towards it, tears starting in his eyes, “John, what are you doing here? I’ve been looking for you everywhere. What’s up?” The newcomer was like Ianto, but not like Ianto. He was bigger, ‘built like a brick shit house’ as Ianto’s mum would have said, probably a rugby player judging by the Wales shirt and the solidity of his build, and his accent was actually so thick that you could have cut it with a spoon

“I…” John looked between the couple and, presumable Gareth, and shook his head, “I don’t know.”

The younger man glared at the hand resting on his boyfriend’s shoulder and Jack removed it as though burned, “Who the Hell are you?”

“We’re outlanders.” Ianto jumped in, subtly placing himself between Jack and the look-a-likes, “We’re lost in the book world, and we look like you, which is making more sense to me by the moment.” He turned back to his lover with a half smile, “You remember that book Mark was writing, Mark in London?”

Dawning realisation lifted Jack’s countenance, “Oh. The one about Torchwood but not… Jazz was keeping an eye on it.”

“Making sure it’s not too accurate, but he’s bright enough.” He grinned, “I didn’t realise he’d got any further than a general idea.”

“He hasn’t.” Gareth interrupted with a voice that was pure acid, “We’re still in the development stages, but John’s already tipped to knock Zhark off his pedestal.” There was pride evident in his voice, although he had yet to touch his partner, “That’s if we ever get published. At the moment it’s stalled and there’s talk of it being stopped completely.”

“What’ll happen if it doesn’t get published?”

Gareth’s tone was bitter, “The book will be destroyed and we’ll be sold off, probably separately.”

”We might get the alternative they’re talking about.” John suggested timidly, a brilliant smile lighting his face when Gareth finally took his hand, “Then we could still be together.”

His partner shrugged but pulled him closer, “I doubt it will happen, John, I really do. It’s all hot air.”

Ianto’s heart bled for them; unlike Jack he had read every single one of Jasper Fforde’s books, “When we get home, I’ll write the damned book myself if I have to. I’ll have a word with Mark…” He shook his head, “We’ll help you, I promise.”

“There’s nothing you can do.” John said miserably, “Thursday’s tried even, but she can’t do anything with the plot. Or with us, we’re just too two-dimensional.”

“Well I think we can definitely help there.” Jack flashed his doppel-ganger a grin, “I’m full of ideas me.”

“You’ve only just met us though.” Gareth asked suspiciously, “Why would you want to help us?”

“Because we’re Torchwood, and you’re cute.”


“What?” He shrugged, “He looks like you, do you expect me to think any differently, really?”

Ianto grinned, “Maybe not, gentlemen, I think we should find a pub. We’re good in pubs.”

Gareth led the way into the small, dark, smoky establishment and did his best to ignore the looks being sent their way. He and Ianto went to get the drinks and John explained quietly, “The book world’s a bit… Closed.” He shrugged sadly, “A lot of people think that because we’re gay and the main characters, our book should be consigned to the LGBT section. Or just not published at all.”

“Yeah, a lot of people are like that outside too.” Jack agreed, “All we can do is believe in ourselves and try to prove them wrong.”

Gareth and Ianto returned to their table with the drinks and settled down next to their respective partners. The fictional man seemed reluctant to show affection in public, but when Jack slipped his arm around Ianto’s waist and the young man leaned into the embrace he seemed to relax slightly and took his own lover’s hand, entwining their fingers on the tabletop. John seemed endearingly and almost painfully surprised by the action. Jack watched the interaction with subtle interest, “So, what’s your story, how do you get together?”

“Well, we’re actors.” Gareth explained, “The story starts out with me getting a part on this new sci-fi drama series as the leader of a government organisation. I meet John at the first get together for the cast and he’s one of my employees in the series, a tech wizard really. His character’s straight, but mine’s bi and I fall for him and seduce him, quite forcefully at times. In real life though, he’s gay and I’m straight and I find myself falling for him whilst we’re filming, but he wants nothing to do with me because he’s spoken for. Eventually though he can’t deny the attraction and with us spending so much time together, and kissing and stuff, on set…”

“We get together.” John finished for him, “And, well… I quite look forwards to the getting together bit each time.”

“What’s your other half called?” Ianto asked with dawning amusement and astonishment

“Andy, he’s a police officer.”

“And you say you’re having problems with…”

“With everything.” Gareth finished for him bitterly, “The only thing that works is the sexual tension between us because we so badly want to get into each other’s pants. But we can’t fake disinterest.”

“So what you really need is a plot that allows you to have sexual tension and be together…”

“And still have a plot that can’t be consigned to the GLBT shelves?”

“We need the impossible, basically.” They looked thoroughly miserable

Ianto grinned, “I need to kick Mark’s arse, I’ll tell you that. But I think we can help.” He proceeded to tell them his and Jack’s story, leaving nothing out and he could practically see the cogs turning in their minds, “So, what do you think, can we help you?”

“You know…” Gareth started, but he was interrupted by a barmaid putting a hand on his shoulder and whispering something in his ear. His face paled and he clutched John’s hand tighter, “Oh shit.”

“What’s up?” Jack looked around, suddenly alert

“You won’t see him.” Gareth swallowed, “It’s Big Tony.”

John looked terrified, Gareth was only slightly better; Jack and Ianto just looked confused and alert, “Who’s big Tony?”

“No, Big Tony, with a capital B. He’s… He rules the Well of Lost Plots with an iron paw.”

“Paw?” Jack looked endearingly perplexed

“Paw. He’s a cat. But a big cat.”

Ianto reached for his gun before remembering that it was in the outland, he shook his head, in the real world, “When you say big, are we thinking tiger?”

“Bit bigger than a tiger…”


“Big elephant.” Gareth drained his drink and stood up, “We need to get back to our book, and you need to get out of here.”

“We’ll come with you, for the moment anyway.” Jack insisted, “We’ve got a plot to sort out.”

“It’s too dangerous.”

“We’re good with dangerous.” Ianto reassured him, “Now let’s get going.”

John hesitated a moment, just long enough for Gareth to push past him and lead them towards the lifts, “Come on then floor…”

“Negative B?” Ianto guessed, “The author’s a friend of mine, and I am going to kick his arse seriously when we get back.” He swatted Jack playfully when the older man chuckled, “What?”

“You.” Jack laughed, “I love you.”

“I know.”

John and Gareth had stopped in their tracks ahead of them though, terror radiating from them as they clutched onto each other tightly. The outlanders also stopped, their senses heightened as they scanned for threats. There, ahead of them, a large cat watched them. “That’s Big Tony?”

“No. No it’s not. Big Tony is… bigger.” Gareth whispered, “And more dangerous. And more threatening. And generally more…”

“We need to get out of here, properly out of here.” John turned to them, “Carrot, we need to find Carrot.”

“As in Carrot form the Discworld?” Ianto asked

“Yeah, that Carrot. He’s pretty much the only person who Big Tony fears who we could easily find.” Gareth backtracked and took Jack’s hand, pulling out his travel book. “Do you trust us?”

”Yes, completely.” Jack looked up at the cat, who was now twitching his tail angrily. “He doesn’t look happy.”

“He’s not…” John agreed.

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Ianto sat on the bed and looked around the small room they’d shared for their two nights on the Heart of Gold. He hadn’t done this hopping from place to place for a long time, not since he’d fled to London when he was seventeen and had bounced from one friend’s flat to another, staying in a different place every night to avoid the university authorities. His friendship group had always been older than he was and when they’d all buggered off to uni, quite a lot of them in London, he’d been left behind. He dropped out of sixth form after only a term when one of his friends had offered him a lift to London with her when she went back. He spent a week in her bed until someone found out and pointed out, quite forcefully, that she wasn’t allowed visitors for more than two nights a week. From there he went to one of her friends across campus but at the same uni, then to another of his friends across town. When his friends went back to Cardiff he struggled, but managed to get accommodation in student bedsits that were empty for the summer on his wages from the two jobs he was struggling to hold down. The next year he’d shared a flat with his friends and hopped from job to job, doing pretty much anything he could for money. Then, when he was working at Tesco at Canary Wharf (not his proudest moment) he’d started meeting the Torchwood personnel, among them Lisa… Two months after he met her his friends went back to Cardiff, they gave up the lease on the flat and he’d moved in with Lisa, wonderful Lisa. When he lost his job at Tesco for shop lifting (a prank by a co-worker that went further than it should have because his mind was full of thoughts of going home) she’d got him in at Torchwood…

And he’d been there ever since. After so long hopping from flat to flat and job to job, his first true happiness had been found in stability; he’d come to associate having roots with having happiness, but was coming to realise that it wasn’t the stability, it was who you shared it with.

Right on cue, Jack breezed through the door and jumped on him, pushing him back onto the bed. Ianto laughed and tried to escape but Jack had him pinned down and started to tickle him mercilessly whilst kissing his way down his neck. “You randy git.” Ianto gave up on trying to push him away and pulled him closer instead, tilting his head to suck gently on Jack’s earlobe

The older man chuckled and pulled back to kiss him full on the lips and watch him, “It’s something about you Jones, Ianto Jones, you make me horny.”

“You know, I think I prefer you sentimental.” He tried to reach up to capture Jack’s mouth again but the immortal dodged him with a laugh, “What has got into you?”

“You soon I hope.” Jack replied with a lascivious smirk and ran his eyes up and down his young lover’s body

“Jack, we have to go.” There was no mistaking the disappointed tone in his voice or his reaction to Jack’s actions, not with the evidence pressing into Jack’s thigh like that

Still, the immortal sighed and sat up, pulling Ianto up with him and pressing a kiss against his temple before he got up to pack the last of their stuff away; they’d collected quite a lot of trinkets on their travels and he was quite grateful of the technology, borrowed from Science Fiction of course, that meant he could put as much stuff in his bag as he wanted and still have it come easily to hand. “Yeah, Jazz will kick our arses if we don’t get home reasonably on time.”

Ianto considered this statement for a while before putting his head on one side and grinning, “That’s a lie and you know it. This is the same Jazz, remember, who threatened to suspend us if we didn’t plan a proper honeymoon.”

“Hah, yeah, good old Zee.” He chuckled, “You know it’s just because she likes being in charge in Cardiff. And she gets to boss the Doctor around as well this time.”

“The Doctor? You didn’t mention that earlier.” Ianto was only mildly surprised really; the Doctor had popped round a couple of times since their trip to Switzerland but never stopped long.

“Yeah, our righteous and noble leader called him in.” He packed the last few bits away in the bag and turned back to Ianto on the bed, “I suspect she might be regretting it.”

“You didn’t think he’d come, did you?”

“Can you blame me?” Jack never tried to hide the pain from his partner, Ianto would always see through him if he tried. “We don’t exactly have a fantastic track record in that department.”

“And he came straight away?”

“Erm…” The older man ran a hand through his hair in embarrassment, “Yeah, he did.”

“There you go then.” Ianto stood up and put his hands on Jack’s waist, leaning in to kiss him gently, “And did he bring the case breaker?”

“Nope, that was Rhys.” Jack chuckled, “Rhys and his Da.”

“Good old Rhys.” He took Jack’s hand and picked up the bag, “Come on, adventures to be had before we get home.”

Their footsteps were muffled by the deep, plush carpet and Ianto looked everywhere around him in amazement as Jack led the way through the library. The whole scale was mind-boggling, even to someone who worked for Torchwood. Space is a huge place, so huge that you can only think about it by cutting it up into smaller chunks, by reducing the distances and populations to mere numbers and statistics; Torchwood’s work was so huge that you had to think of it in terms of case numbers, locations on the archive shelves. The library was in some ways bigger. You couldn’t really break it down, couldn’t cut it into more manageable chunks easily, it just was and it just was enormous; and it was all inside their heads, sort of.

“Jack.” He tugged on his lover’s hand and the older man stopped, turning to him with a smile, “It’s…”

“Mind-boggling, isn’t it?” He stroked Ianto’s cheek and kissed him briefly and chastely before gesturing around them, “And amazing and brilliant. All these books, even I could never live long enough to read every book in existence.”

Ianto smiled up at him, eyes alight, “It’s brilliant.”

“Yup. Fifty three floors.” He repeated what Mrs Bradshaw had told him whilst they’d been waiting for Thursday and the Commander to return, “Twenty six floors of published works, organised in alphabetical order by author’s surname on the shelves but by genre within the books. It’s all a bit… metaphysical. The top floor’s got a lot of administration as well as authors beginning with Z, because there’s plenty of room. In the basement there’s twenty-six floors of unpublished works, works in progress… It’s dangerous down there, probably much like the part of Cardiff we inhabit, the same but darker.”

“Want to explore?” Ianto grinned, knowing the answer

“Yeah. But not just yet. I need to find Thursday, or the Cat, or anyone really…” He looked around as they reached the stairs and looked down the shaft, watching tiny figures moving up and down the stairs, “Cat?” He called out, “Anyone around?”

“Well lovely to see you again Jack.” The voice came from behind him, from a grin which was definitely detached from the tail swishing idly behind it, a pair of amused eyes also blinked at them, extremely disconcerting in their intelligence and the fact that they weren’t in a face. “And this must be the cause of your adventures, Mr Ianto Jones.”

“It’s good to be back Cat.”

“And a pleasure to meet you.” Ianto added

“Good to see you back safe and sound.” Cat told him, “Are you heading home then?”

“As soon as we’ve said good-bye.” Jack affirmed, “I wanted to see Thursday and Commander and Mrs Bradshaw before we left.”

“Well then I would recommend Jane Austin, Sense and Sensibility. There will be a Jurisfiction meeting soon at Norwood Park, Thursday and the Commander will both be there.”

“Sounds like a plan Stan.” Jack nodded, “Will we see you there too?”

“Oh, I suspect so.” The grin disappeared leaving only the tail, which soon followed.

“Down we go then.” Jack tugged at Ianto’s hand and was tempted to try sliding down the banisters, but those ornamental lions would probably be a pain in the arse, and not the good kind, “Long walk, only 23 floors to go. Why are we on the W floor?”

“Pass, maybe Arthur was thinking W?” Ianto shrugged, “Can’t you jump down there?”


“Book jump I mean.”

“God no, it’s all a bit of guess work.” He smiled slightly, “Walking it is, unless you have a tea-tray.”

“Are you suggesting that we sledge down the stairs on tea-trays?”

Jack gave him a look of wide-eyed innocence, “No, of course not, would I?”

“Yes, yes you would.”


“No Jack, no. That would be silly. Where would we find a tea-tray here?” He grinned and took the lead down the stairs, blushing when he nearly tripped over a tea-tray and Jack had to catch him in an embarrassingly clichéd moment, “OK, there. But it’s dangerous, see?”

“So I see.” Jack’s grin really should be illegal, Ianto decided, but as long as it was directed at him he found he couldn’t care less. If Jack wanted to undress him with his eyes whenever he looked at him then he wasn’t going to complain. “It would give me the opportunity to save you now and again though.”

“You always save me.” He rolled his eyes and leaned back in Jack’s arms, putting the back of his hand to his forehead dramatically, “You’re my night in shining armour Captain.” He put on a girly voice and batted his eyelashes, “I’m starting to see Arthur’s point.”


“Point.” He straightened up again and kissed Jack gently, “Now I think I can get down the stairs without falling down them again.”


“Hope so. Come on.”

They’d got to G floor before anything untoward happened; it was never going to last, was it?

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Ianto slid into the room as quietly as only he could and surveyed the scene with quiet amusement. Jack, Ford and Zaphod were sprawled across the table, glasses and bottles surrounding them. The young man crossed to his partner and brushed a lock of hair from his forehead, bending to kiss it tenderly. When he pulled back the immortal was blinking at him blearily, so he pulled him so that his head was resting against his chest. Jack wound his arms around Ianto’s waist and sighed with contentment as the feel of Ianto’s fingers in his hair and a steadying hand on his shoulder drifted through the fuzziness in his brain, “How much did we drink?”

The young man chuckled softly but didn’t move, “Everything I think, are you OK?”

“Mmph. No, but it’s my own stupid fault.” He groaned softly as Ianto’s fingers rubbed gently at the back of his neck, loosening the cramp he’d got from falling asleep with his head on the table, “I don’t deserve you.”

“You deserve a hangover.”

“Got one of those.”

“Good, I get to look after you for a while.”

He tugged Jack puright and held him steady for a moment, frowning with concern when Jack swayed against him and had to rest his head against the younger man's shoulder as a wave of dizziness swept him, "Jack, you're starting to worry me now, are you alright?"

He shook his head against Ianto's strong shoulder and held him close, "I'm older than I was when I sed to drink that much regularly, I haven't been sleeping properly without you and the last couple of days haven't given me the chance to catch up really, I'm just... I'm an idiot for drinking that much is the simple truth of the matter."

"You're still drunk."

"And hungover, not a fantastic combination by any stretch of the imagination." He groaned and just wanted to sink back down again, but finding a bed and curling up in it with Ianot seemed like an infinitely preferable option, "I think I need to lie down."

"Do you think you're going to be sick?" Ianto was seriously concerned, he'd never seen Jack throw up, but then again he'd never seen him this drunk either

"No, had an implant thing years back so I don't throw up. Don't ask me how it works, I can't remember." He raised his head, "God Yan, I love you so much."

"Is that the drink talking?"

"Possibly, but it's true anyway, you know it is. I love you so much that I can't live without you, I just completely fell apart when you were gone. What it's going to be like when..." He stopped and sobbed and Ianto suddenly, belatedly, realised what he was thinking, icy hands gripping at his heart as he did so.

"Don't think about it Jack, don't ever think about it. I promise you this, if there is any way I can stay with you, any way at all, I will stay with you forever and ever. I never want to leave you. But I will always be here," he rested his hand on Jack's heart, aware that they were both crying freely, "I will always be here with you, in here."

"Ianto, you can't give up your mortality for me, you can't. I never, ever want to lose you, but I wouldn't wish this curse on my worst enemy, even less so on the man I love more than anything else." Jack had raised his head and they gazed into each other's eyes, "I want to spend a lifetime with you and not have to go on without you, but I can't face eternity without you and I couldn't face myself if you had to see immortality because of me."

"Jack, immortality's only a curse if you're alone. As long as I had you, I'd be able to face anything."

Jack dropped his head again and sobbed into Ianto's shoulder, "But it's all academic, isn't it? It's not possible."

The young man shook his head sadly, tears rolling down onto Jack's hair and sank into the chair, pulling Jack into his lap as he reached for a half full bottle of Scotch on the table, the only alcohol still available, and took a swig, feeling it burning down past his alrady pained heart, "Jack, I can't leave you, I don't ever want to leave you."

The captain clung to him tightly but managed a chuckle, "And this is the last time I ever get drunk."

"That's a lie and you know it." He took abother swig from the bottle, frowning first in concern when Jack took it from him and then in annoyance when the captain merely set it on the table, well out of his reach, "Hey!"

"No, we're too miserable, alcohol is for havign fun, not for being miserable. And that stuff rots things you don't even know you have, it's not good."

"Were you drinking it earlier?"

"Me, no. Them, yes. Besides, my rotted insides grow back."

Ianto was sceptical as he eyed the bottle, "How do you kow, have you experimented on destroying your liver?"

His partner nodded heavily, "Died of liver poisoning three times in the ealrly twentieth century. Never did me any harm; not long term anyway."

"Why did you get so hammered last night?" Ianto asked with a heavy sigh, "What brought it on?"

"Good alcohol, good company. They're a riot, almost as much fun as the real things were. Not got the stamina or the ability to hold their drinks though, I admit."

"Come on." Ianto nudged Jack up off his lap and also stood up, taking the older man's hand to tug him out of the room and down the corridor to a room he'd got organised earlier. "You, me, a warm bed and sleep, for as long as we need. Trillian says we've got a couple of days before we reach Magarathea and then... Well we can go from there. What happens to the ship?”

Jack shrugged, the warm bed was much more important, “I dunno, well until the Krikitmen steal the Heart that is, so we’ve got a while.”

“You need it, you daft git.” Jack tried to go left but Ianto pulled him right and into a silver and black room with a huge king-sized bed. The young man pushed his lover down to sit on the bed and bent to unlace and remove his boots; the captain laughed and squirmed when Ianto’s fingers brushed against the soles of his feet and he looked up in amused delight, “You’re really tired, you’re never ticklish.”

“Yeah, I’m exhausted, but it’s worth it.” He started to unbutton his shirt and smiled more when Ianto stood up again and pushed his hands out of the way to do it himself, removing Jack’s shirt almost absentmindedly.

He turned away to fold the shirt neatly onto a shelf, trying not to make it obvious that he was enjoying the touch and the scent of his lover on the shirt. Now he had the real thing back it felt silly, but before Jack found him he would have given anything for one part of Jack to cling on to. He returned to his partner, whose eyes were closed but opened when he ran his fingers through soft, silky hair. “Hey you.”

“Hey gorgeous.” Jack smiled dozily up at him with eyes so full of love it was overflowing from him and filling the whole room, “Whatcha doing up there?”

Ianto smiled down at him and kissed the top of his head, trailing his fingers down the older man’s toned chest and smiling when his breath hitched, “I missed you so much.”

The captain reached up to tug at the T-shirt Ianto had borrowed somewhere smiling happily when the young man got the hint and removed it, “I missed you too.”

Ianto straddled his waist and tilted his head up to kiss him softly before pushing Jack back onto the bed and crawling in after him, spooning up against his back and wrapping his arms around his waist, feeling his heart kick again when Jack laid strong arms on top of his own. “Sleep Jack, I’ll be here in the morning.”


“I promise.”

Arthur Dent woke slowly, then more rapidly as a smell reached him. He swung himself out of the capsule-like bed that he’d created for himself and grabbed his trusty dressing gown, sloping sleepily down the corridor to the control room. He grunted a reply, more out of habit than any actual point, to the door’s cheery ‘good morning’ and flopped down into the seat next to Trillian, across from where Jack and Ianto were cuddled together drinking coffee. The dark haired woman shrugged at him resignedly, “They won’t tell me where they got the coffee, just that I should ask if I want some. You try.”

“Will it work?” He asked Jack with a yawn

The captain shook his head and laughed, “It’s Ianto’s secret, not mine.”

“And my lips are sealed.” The Welshman grinned, “But there’s plenty more in the pot if you’d like some.”

“It’s real coffee, not Neutrinomatic rot?” Ianto’s disgusted face was enough of an answer for him and his eyes lit up, “I would never say no to proper coffee.”

Whilst the young man disappeared off to wherever he’d hidden the coffee pot, Arthur looked across at Jack. The man looked content, awake, not remotely hung over, unlike his drinking companions of the night before, “I checked in on Ford and Zaphod on my way down here.”

“Oh? Get all the blackmail evidence you require?” Jack grinned at him over the top of the coffee mug and looked round as Ianto reappeared in the room with two mugs. As soon as he’d given them to Arthur and Trillian he sank back into the sofa and Jack’s arm went straight around his waist.

The Englishman filed that away for future reference and nodded, “Oh yes. How much did you drink last night?”


“And you’re not hung over?”

The captain grinned, surely that grin should be illegal, or at least not in this section of the library, “Ianto’s magical hangover cure, a good night’s sleep in the arms of the man I love and his special brew, can’t beat it.”

“That’s… You two are sickeningly sweet, you know that?” He almost glared at them, but not quite, “People would kill for a relationship like yours.”


“Hell no, too much hassle, you have to remember things. I still end up with a daughter, don’t I? And she’s more trouble than she’s worth.”


“She keeps trying to kill me. Admit it, Random wasn’t written likeable. I love her to bits, because she’s my daughter, but it doesn’t mean I have to like her.” He shifted uncomfortably as he was complaining about a daughter he didn’t want in the company of two people who probably did want a child of their own and couldn’t have one, “Sorry, family issues get a bit weird once you’ve had the same argument over the same watch several hundred times.”

“Groundhog Day?” Ianto suggested

“Yeah, something like that. Anyway.” He took a sip of his coffee and groaned deeply, “Good coffee.”

“I do my best.” Ianto smirked, ‘good’ was always an understatement with his coffee.

“So, not trying to get rid of you but thinking plot wise, how long are you thinking of stopping?”

Jack shrugged and leaned back against the arm of the sofa, his hand trailing across Ianto’s back to rest on the small of his back, “We thought maybe later today we’d head for the Library. I want to tell Thursday that we’re out safely, say good-bye. Introduce Ianto to Melanie.”

“Sounds like a plan. Have you got Library books?” They shook their heads, “OK, Trillian and I will jump you back then, that’s the easiest way. We’ve got bit of time before we land on Magarathea.” He looked down at his mug and smiled, “You’d better put some more of this on, we need Zaphod and Arthur sober for this afternoon. Well vaguely sober anyway.”

Ianto laughed, “I’ll see what I can do.”

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The Improbability-proof control cabin of the Heart of Gold looked like a perfectly conventional spaceship except that it was perfectly clean because it was so new. Some of the control seats hadn’t had the plastic wrapping taken off yet. The cabin was mostly white, oblong, and about the size of a smallish restaurant. In fact it wasn't perfectly oblong: the two long walls were raked round in a slight parallel curve, and all the angles and corners were contoured in excitingly chunky shapes. The truth of the matter is that it would have been a great deal simpler and more practical to build the cabin as an ordinary three-dimensional oblong room, but then the designers would have got miserable. As it was the cabin looked excitingly purposeful, with large video screens ranged over the control and guidance system panels on the concave wall, and long banks of computers set into the convex wall. In one corner a robot sat humped, its gleaming brushed steel head hanging loosely between its gleaming brushed steel knees. It too was fairly new, but though it was beautifully constructed and polished it somehow looked as if the various parts of its more or less humanoid body didn't quite fit properly. In fact they fitted perfectly well, but something in it’s bearing suggested that they might have fitted better.

Two tall, dark haired men looked around the gleaming console room with evident childish delight, spotted the two occupants staring at them in surprise and ran giggling from the room, leaving Zaphod and Trillian to continue with the plot. Jack tugged Ianto through a door, which sighed happily as it opened and closed for them, and the young man found himself in a blank white room with sleeping berths set into the wall, “You know,” he looked around with a giddy grin, “This is exactly like I expected a spaceship to look like.”

“Well that’s because it’s your imagination that’s created it.” Jack pointed out, looking around with slight surprise, “What do you see?”

“White, everything’s white, and there are beds set into the walls. They’re bunk beds with dark blue blankets, two sets on that wall and two on that wall, and there’s a window at that end of the room. The beds have white curtains that can provide more privacy, but not much really.” He smirked, “Mind you, who’d find us? What about you, what do you see?”

Jack smiled sadly, “It’s one of the rooms in the TARDIS, where Jazz and I used to hide when we were playing hide-and-seek with Rose, or when we’d done something dumb and the Doctor was after us, or when…” He chuckled and shrugged, “Well, you can probably guess, we were pretty horny.”

“Were?” Ianto chuckled, “You’re both still horny, thank God, I don’t know how you’d cope with John and me if you weren’t. So what does this magic room of yours hold?”

Jack looked around him, “Close your eyes.” Ianto did as he was told, “Now, where you saw the window there’s a counter with a couple of pieces of science equipment tucked away neatly in the corners: test tubes in racks and a Bunsen burner at one end, a fume cupboard set into the wall beside the other end of the bench. You’re facing that now.” He’d turned him gently so that Ianto faced down the length of the room and now covered his hands with his eyes, although it wasn’t really neccesary, “On your left now there’s a sofa, we moved that in here ourselves. It’s big enough for two to squish together comfortably, and it’s orange, really really orange. And it’s pulled far enough away from the wall at the end furthest from the door that we could hide behind it when we were in trouble. Opposite that there’s a blank wall with these weird splodges and signs of explosions across it, I think the room actually used to be a science lab at one point, more than it was when we were there. There’s a picture on the wall as well, covering the biggest scorch mark. It’s one of the four of us posing heroically on a statue plinth in a photography museum on Valaxaron; they have a room full of photo opportunities, and you can get your photo taken in all sorts of weird situations by these camera robots. We got them all done: the plinth, the beach painting thing, the actual beach, Abbey Road, Jazz did a porno one even. But this one has the four of us together; the Doctor’s waving a banana, you know like the Enjolras pose from Les Miz? Rose has one hand on her hip and the other shading her eyes as she gazes in the opposite direction. I’m looking down at Jazz, who’s clinging to me and staring off in the same direction as the Doctor, and I’m being really ‘knight in shining armour’ over her.” He chuckled, “Just the horse missing really.”

Ianto laughed, putting his own hands on top of Jack’s covering his eyes, “I prefer your room to mine. I can’t really remember my room now.”

“OK, open your eyes then.” Jack brought their hands down and wrapped their arms around Ianto’s waist, resting their entwined hands against Ianto’s taught stomach.

Ianto turned to him with a smile and took a step towards where he could now see the sofa, pulling Jack with him until they fell together onto it, “I see it. Why did you see this room?”

Jack looked around fondly, “I suppose that I expected it, I was trying to get hidden and tugged you through a convenient doorway, so this was the first room I expected to see in that instance.”

“Why didn’t you show me when we were on the TARDIS?” The young man asked with a slight frown

His lover also frowned in confusion and sadness, “It had gone, I tried to find it but the TARDIS had been tidying up and filed it away somewhere. It would take days to explore the whole ship, and when you got back to the start you’d have to start again, because things would have changed. It’s like painting the Forth Bridge.”

Ianto laughed and sat up, looking around in excitement, “Well I’m glad I got to see it, so where are we?”

“We’re on the Heart of Gold, the fictional one.” Jack put his hands behind his head and leaned back, “In the original I’d guess. What?” He registered the look Ianto was giving him. “What did I say?”

“You’re been on the real Heart of Gold, haven’t you?”

“May have. I might be the actually inventor of the Pangalactic Gargle Blaster.” He pulled a face, “But come on, it’s the Pangalactic Gargle Blaster, you don’t expect us to remember who invented it, do you?”

Ianto shook his head, “I sometimes wonder what I’m going to do with you.”

“Kiss me, I hope.” He reached out and pulled Ianto close to him, “Because I reckon we’ve got maybe an hour before the plot wings its way onwards and we can introduce ourselves.”

“Captain, I like the way you think.”

Jack panted against Ianto’s chest and grinned broadly, full of the joy of life (and sex), “Fuck Yan.” He laughed and squeezed the young man softly, “You know, if this were a novel every chapter would have a section of us either breathing heavily or ripping each other’s clothes off, depending on how daring the author was feeling.”

Ianto laughed along and pulled him up to kiss him, nuzzling their noses together, “Are you complaining Captain?”

“Not in the slightest.” Jack kissed him again, slowly and leisurely, almost languorously; that was a good word, languorously, “What is happening to my head?” He asked suddenly, breaking away from the kiss with a confused but amused grin, “I’m thinking in English!”

“You’re thinking in English?” Ianto looked confused too now, “I thought you’d done that for years?” Jack had told him that when he’d first arrived on Earth at the start of his long stay he’d thought in his native language still, but over the years here he’d started speaking English rather than relying on it being translated for him by the TARDIS energies, then dreaming in English and finally speaking in English. He was just getting to the stage where his dreams were bilingual English and Welsh; the two were his first and second languages now.

Jack nodded, “Yeah, but I don’t normally spell it out. Or consider lexical choices.”


“Did you really just say that?”

“Yes, yes I did. U gots problem wit dat?” Ianto looked up at him with a boyish grin, his blue eyes glowing brilliantly against his flushed skin, “OK, maybe even I’ve got a problem with that. I just said lol!”

“Yes, yes you did. I bet you feel silly now.” He sat up and flexed his shoulders, looking around the room lazily, “Erm two questions. One, where’s my shirt and two, where can I find a drink. Actually, there’s a third, what’s that monkey doing there?”

“What monkey?” Ianto followed his gaze, “Oh, that monkey. Well we’ve found your shirt. Now we’ve just got to get it back off him.”

One of Zaphod’s heads looked up as the door sighed open happily and one of his arms pointed excitedly, the other head coming up from his paper to look at the new arrivals too, “Look, we told you we saw them, we told you there was someone in the novel!”

Trillian’s eyes widened as she gave them a once over. She twiddled her glasses by one arm and cocked an eyebrow, “Wowee, tell me one of you is single at least?”

They exchanged amused and slightly possessive glances and raised their left hands simultaneously to show off their matching bands, “Spoken for.”

She sighed and put her glasses back on gloomily, but Arthur looked wary, “Who are you and what are you doing here? Trillian and Zaphod said you almost blundered into the plot earlier.”

“Only almost?” Jack flashed his megawatt grin and Trillian melted into her seat a little bit more, “We’re getting better at this Yan. I’m Jack Harkness, this is my partner Ianto Jones. I suppose you could say we’re tourists.”

“Tourists, well that’s a first. Which book are you from, and does Thursday know you’re out?”

“We’re not, but yes.” Jack tried to explain, “We’re outlanders, is that the word?”

“Don’t be stupid, outlanders can’t really cross over into fiction.” Ford insisted, “You must have come from a book. Actually, you look like the guy who’s been nominated for best Sci-Fi lead, you know, the new guy. Looking like knocking Emperor Zhark off his pedestal.”

Trillian sat up, “You say he looks like him?”

“Yeah, called Joe… Joe Borrogan?”

“Barrogan, wasn’t it? Or Borrowman?” Zaphod shook one of his heads, “I forget, but are you him, and his floozy, the Welsh one. You haven’t spoken yet, do you speak or are you just a bit part?”

Ianto raised an eyebrow icily, “I have no idea what you’re talking about but let me assure you, we’re real, from the outland.”

“Oooh, he’s offended, I’d tend to believe him.” Trillian commented

“You’d believe anything he told you to get him to smile at you.” Arthur grumbled, “He’s gay, give it up sister.”

“Bi, actually.” Ianto smiled at the only woman in the room and she nearly fell out of her seat, “And she’s so not your sister.”

“Damn straight she’s not.” He glared across at her, “So what are you doing here?”

“Like I said,” Jack tried to diffuse the situation, “We’re tourists. Got stuck in lord of the Rings for a while, fancied visiting here before we went home. I used to know Douglas Adams, Arthur Dent, call him what you will. The author anyway. And the real Zaphod Beeblebrox. The real all of you really.”

“How many of them did you sleep with?” Ianto asked slightly warily

Jack pulled a face and looked nervous and embarrassed, “Yan, we were busy inventing the Pangalactic Gargle Blaster, how many of them do you think I slept with?”

The young man took his partner’s hand with a smile, “Fair point. So erm… Anyone fancy a drink?”

Zaphod’s four eyes lit up, “I’ll say!”

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Jack sighed, blissfully happy, and stroked Ianto’s side gently, relief and love filling every part of his being. The young man was sprawled across his torso with his head pillowed on his chest, where the reassuring thudding of the immortal’s heart had lulled his younger lover to sleep. Ianto’s breath tickled warm across his chest and their entwined hands, which were clasped close to Ianto’s face. Jack stretched a long, lazy finger out to stroke at kiss-swollen lips, feeling his body respond as the moist air ghosted across his hand when Ianto’s lips parted slightly. Ianto’s tongue darted out to moisten his lips and investigate the intruder and Jack withdrew the digit hurriedly, not wanting to wake his sleeping lover.

He looked young and innocent, his hair was soft, springy and sex-mussed, his face was still flushed and sweat beaded across his forehead whilst his lips curved into a soft, pouting smile. Jack’s heart swelled with a comforting wave of love and protectiveness; he would do anything for this wonderful, amazing man who was at the same time young and old beyond his years, strong and vulnerable, innocent and mature. He was bewitching, entrancing, captivating, and Jack was caught; he couldn’t get away if he’d wanted to. Sometimes Jack was scared by his total devotion to the young man, by just how much his life revolved around their being together, but that quickly passed in the security of Ianto’s arms. The thing that really, truly terrified him, the thing that kept him awake at nights, that sent him running to a lonely rooftop where he could cry his heart out to the darkness, was the thought that one day this would all be gone, everything he lived for would be gone and he would be alone with no escape…

No! He wouldn’t go there, not now, not today, not ever again. Burying his face in Ianto’s hair he promised that he wouldn’t face the future with fear ever again. They had today, they would always have today, and that would have to be enough.

Their room, in an old house in the fourth level of the city, was dark; a single torch in the street below the window and two candles in sconces on the walls shed the only light, and a slight breeze coming through the open window made the candle flames dance and set the shadows flickering and quivering. The bed and the few other pieces of furniture around the room, a chest and a desk against one wall, a bookcase and a cabinet against another, were of the same wood and style; sturdily built out of a dark, heavy wood with fine, light carvings. The bed was covered in thick, comfortable covers in a light silvery-blue colour, but they only covered the couple up to their waists as they snuggled together.

Ianto snuggled further into Jack's side and looped his arms further up across his waist, moaning slightly as he did so in protest at something, although Jack couldn't work out what. Still, the older man smiled and reached down awkwardly to pull the covers up over them more, resting his free hand on top of them on the back of Ianto's neck, rubbing gently with his thumb and playing with his hair. He let his eyes slide shut and tuned his ears in to the sounds of the city at night, few and far between, just the occasional passer by and the sound of water running in the fountain in the courtyard, and the low sound of Ianto's breathing and his heartbeat, although the immortal was sure he was just imagining that. Before very long he felt the soft tug of sleep and let it claim him, secure in the knowledge that he had Ianto again.

Ianto blinked and tried to regain his bearings, wondering for a moment how and why he was in bed with Jack when he was lost in a strange world; also why they were in bed in Middle Earth, or had it all been a very strange dream? When he raised his head slightly he could see the white stone walls of a house across the street from them and hear the sounds of the city coming to life. It must be a couple of hours after dawn at least, and although this was a quiet part of the city, his hearing had always been good and was finely tuned by his Torchwood experience to hear the slightest noise. As the memories of the last day returned to him he smiled and laid his head gently back against Jack's chest, which rose and fell with strong, steady breaths. It had all worked out, or maybe was working out. They were together again at last, facing their problem together, but they were still trapped inside a book.

There hadn’t been much talking the day before, not really. Once they’d realised they had an audience (OK, once they started caring that they had an audience. Fortunately Aragorn and Rhodwine had been amused. Mostly.) Once they started caring, anyway, they had greeted their friends and done the introductions and Aragorn had got the house prepared for them. As soon as it was ready they had fallen into the bed together and not done much sleeping. Closing his eyes he snuggled into Jack again, kissing his chest gently and placing all his trust once again in his partner. Truly he didn’t care if they got home, not right now, not here. As long as he was with Jack, as long as they were together, everything else could go to hell; he could be on the moon, as long as he had Jack he would be over the moon.

Jack woke slowly and fuzzily, aware first of a hand resting on his chest over his heart then, when he opened his eyes, of Ianto’s affectionate, piercingly blue gaze watching him. He smiled, not his matinee idol full grin, although it lit up his whole face and the whole of Ianto’s being in the same way, but a softer, warmer one, full of love and total adoration, and reached up to pull Ianto closer to him, kissing him softly on the lips, “Good morning.”

Ianto seemed to consider this comment before a stunning smile lit his face and he leaned over Jack to kiss him fiercely and passionately, trailing down his chin and down to his neck, “It is now, with you it’s a very good morning.” He reached under the covers and stroked down his lover’s body, squeezing him gently and grinning when he gasped, “We don’t have to be anywhere, do we?”

“If we do…” He pulled him closer and kissed the hollow of his neck, “We’re not going to be there. The only place I need to be…” He kissed him again, “Right now…” And again, “Is right here, with you.”

“I love you Jack.” Ianto blurted out as the older man’s teeth scraped across his collar bone, “I love you so much.”

“Feeling’s mutual.” Jack smiled at him brilliantly again and Ianto’s world melted into Jack’s arms and eyes.

Aragorn looked up from the map spread across the table and smiled at the slightly confused and very relieved lo

oking couple approaching them across the marble floor, “Jack, Ianto, I did wonder when you’d come to find us.”

The younger man rolled his eyes but smiled affectionately at his partner to take the sting out of his words, “We’d have been here a while back if asking for directions wasn’t a completely alien concept to one person in this room.”

“Hey!” Jack let go of Ianto’s hand only briefly so that he could hold both hands up in an expression if supplication, “I thought I knew where we were going. And besides, I’m good at alien concepts.”

“Just not navigating.” Ianto pointed out without rancour, rolling his eyes and avoiding Jack’s hand teasingly with a laugh at his pout, “We did have a nice walk around the city I will admit, it was extremely pleasant. Definitely improved by the company as well.”

Jack shrugged and finally caught his hand, squeezing it gently, “OK, so we got very lost, but we made it, didn’t we?”

Aragorn cleared his throat before the ensuing mushiness could get started, smiled internally at the ‘you know already’ look that Ianto gave Jack and the glow that the captain gave him in reply, “So, gentlemen, what exactly is it that brings you up here? Not that we don’t want to, I’m just…”

“Surprised.” Eomer finished for him with a leer in their direction, “We thought you had better things to…”

“Do.” Legolas suggested with a smirk that was dirtier than Eomer’s leer, “Like…”

“Yes, thank you Legolas.” Jack sighed, “They call me Captain Innuendo at home, and you could really do with some lessons in subtlety and, maybe not tact, because what’s the fun of tact, but at least… Ianto help me out here?”

The young man snickered, “I think Jack means that we get the idea, and ellipsis can often be funnier than the actual word. Less is more sort of thing.”

“Yes, that’s what I meant. He’s better with his tongue, words I mean, than I am.”

Aragorn rolled his eyes, “Delightful and informative though this conversation is, what are you doing here?” He was both surprised and pleased to see them

“Oh, did we not say?” Jack smiled and released Ianto’s hand to wrap his arm around his waist, “We don’t belong here, we’re in the way and… we’re leaving.”

Aragorn nodded, “I suspected as much. Where will you go, where will you go?”

“We haven’t decided that yet, haven’t really talked about it.”

“There were more interesting things to do.” Ianto smiled at him and Legolas snickered

“Like each other?”

Ianto rolled his eyes and Jack’s face went carefully blank, only his eyes betraying his amusement, “You know, you’re almost getting the idea.”

Legolas pouted, and then looked around the room shiftily, “I’m the oldest person in this room, aren’t I? And I’m acting like a child.”



“Well I’m over two thousand years old.” Jack explained, “It’s complicated and I try to pretend it didn’t happen, but it did. So nuh, I’m older than you.”

“Yeah, but I’m crown prince of Mirkwood, so I outrank you.”

“I’m the third highest ranked official in our world.”

“Children!” Ianto laughed and grabbed Jack’s arse to shut him up, it worked very well as the captain’s eyebrows shot up into his hair, “We were thinking, maybe, of not going straight back there. Of getting around a bit.”

“Seeing the book world.” Jack was clearly deep in thought, “Maybe sci-fi, something almost us but not quite.”

“Do you have a library of sci-fi books?” Ianto asked, and was clearly surprised when they answered in the affirmative.

Jack added one more book to the pile and crouched next to it, looking up and down the pile, wary of it collapsing, “So, where do you fancy? I hear Dune’s nice at this time of year.”

Ianto snickered, “I’m Welsh Jack, I wouldn’t cope with the heat. How about I Robot? Or maybe not anything with cyborgs, come to think of it…” Jack reached up to squeeze his hand reassuringly and he smiled at him, “Sorry.”

“Ianto…” Jack stood up and sat next to him on the sofa, smiling in surprise when Ianto pulled him so that they were both lying down with Jack’s head on Ianto’s shoulder, “You know you don’t need to apologise for anything to me.”

Ianto kissed him softly and nuzzled their noses against each other, “Then thank you. For everything.”

“And thank you.” They stayed there in silence for some time, enjoying the shared warmth and the company that they had missed during their time apart. Finally Jack sighed, “Of course, there’s always the blindingly obvious.”

“You’re thinking what I’m thinking, aren’t you?”

“I suspect so.” He pulled himself upright and pulled the book from the top of the pile, the last one he’d added, but the first one he’d thought of, “You ready for this?”

“With you, I’m ready for anything.”

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Aragorn turned a body and found a generic Rohiric soldier, his bland features and blond hair indistinguishable from the last three he had searched. Up ahead he spotted a figure, kneeling on the ground with head and shoulders bent. Rhodwine, who had joined him to search for their friends when there was no sign of them in the muster after the battle, tried to draw his attention to him. “I see him.” He murmured softly with a nod, leading the way through the carnage.

As they got closer they could hear Ianto’s wracking sobs and Aragorn’s heart plummeted. They drew closer and the ranger saw, as he knew he would, Jack’s pale face and his bloodied body cradled in Ianto’s arms. The young man had clearly been crying heavily for some time, and his face was stained with tears. Aragorn approached him and crouched next to him, his heart breaking at the desolation and fear in the young man’s eyes as he looked up.

Icy fear trickled through Ianto’s veins, freezing him as it flowed. Every part of him felt cold, apart from his heart, which burned with pain. Jack was cold and dead in his arms and it had been so long, so very long. Too long.

Footsteps approached him from behind and he tensed, looking up into Aragorn’s worried grey eyes, aware that his own fear would be clearly visible to the older man. He looked back down at Jack and brushed two fingers across his cheek gently, “He’s still gone. It’s been half an hour and he’s still gone.”

Aragorn was startled by the choice of words, and more than slightly scared by them “Ianto?” A slight nod confirmed his suspicions, as if they had needed confirming, “It is as I feared then, he fell.”

Ianto sobbed and nodded again, “He saved my life, again. And now I’m scared that this is the final time.” He looked small and lost and out of place, even in the right clothes and covered his blood, his lover’s blood.

“Ianto.” He said again, swallowing hard, “Ianto, I know this is hard, but you have to leave him. He will be treated with honour, but the night is coming and we must not remain outside the city walls once darkness falls.”

He shook his head forcefully, his eyes never leaving Jack’s still, pale, beautiful face, “I can’t leave, I won’t leave, I promised I would wait with him.”

“Wait for what?” Aragorn asked softly, now deeply concerned

Ianto finally looked up again, certainty and surety shining clear through the pain in his eyes, “For him to come back.” He looked down again and stroked a shaking hand across Jack’s cheek, “He promised me. He promised he’s always come back.”


“He’s immortal.” The young man interrupted with a sigh, “He dies, but he comes back. Scared me, always scares me. It’s… complicated.” Jack hadn’t told Aragorn. Was it because he was ashamed, or wanted it to be a secret, or because he doubted…

Aragorn was stunned, if it was true, if Ianto was right, if Jack was truly immortal, what a burden would that be. To live forever, seeing everything wither and die. To love someone as powerfully as Jack clearly loved Ianto and know every day that this could be your last together and that you would have to go on living without them, forever. Was there any hell worse? “You’re not the same, are you?” He asked softly, more statement than question

Ianto shook his head, “I would give anything not to leave him, to spare him that pain.”

“The Eldar call it the gift of the Edain, the Edain see it as a curse, but even the Eldar have a way out, a final option should life prove unbearable.” Ianto remained silent, so Aragorn squeezed his shoulder briefly, grief heavy within him as he felt the way his frame still shook with the force of his pain, then stood and backed away to join Rhodwine again. They watched in silence for a while, doubt growing within them, until Aragorn eventually turned away with a sigh, “Stay with him, for as long as he needs, then bring him to the city. I will have a room prepared for him.” Rhodwine bowed slightly in understanding and the future king turned away with tread as heavy as his heart.

Crushing blackness. Gripping fear. Enveloping eternity. Dragging him down, holding him back. Guiding light. Warming voice. A light in the dark. Strong arms. Tears wet on his face.

Then came pain. The wound in his chest closing, healing. His heart contracted once, twice, struggling to find its regular rhythm even as it tried to burst out of his chest towards that voice. His lungs inflated next, pushing hard against his ribs with the first great gasp.

After that he became aware, properly, fully aware. He registered the hot, wet tears still falling across his face and the shaking of the arms that cradled him, heard the continued crying, now tears of relief. Jack opened his eyes as fast as he could and gazed up into Ianto’s tear-stained face, checking quickly for signs of physical harm before they found each other’s eyes and held the gaze.

Ianto swallowed, finding it difficult to breath as his heart seemed to swell in his chest and push everything else out of its way. His tears grew hotter as he helped Jack to sit up and pulled him close, pressing a hand against his chest to feel the now strong but elevated heart beat. That was too much for him, and he sobbed out Jack’s name as he collapsed forwards into his arms, feeling one wrap tight around his waist and the other come around his shoulders, even as his own arms wound around the strongly muscled waist in front of him.

Two fingers under his chin tilted his head gently but firmly upward and his lips, finally, met Jack’s. It was messy and passionate and fierce; tongues, teeth and lips clashing together as both men poured their aching, their longing for each other and the pain of their separation into that kiss, the contact and the fiery passion burning away all their hurt.

Aragorn heard Ianto's cry and turned back, dreading what he would see. The last thing he expected was the sight of the two men locked in the tight, passionate embrace, holding each other so tightly that it seemed like the could and would never let go; probably their intention. He caught Rhodwine’s eye and beckoned him over, gazing West into the sunset to give the reunited couple some privacy.

Ianto brought his hands up to cradle Jack’s face and pulled back to kiss him more tenderly and gently, savouring his unique taste and essence after their long, painful separation. Their tears mingled on their faces and flowed together to the blood soaked ground, expunging everything but love, joy and relief.

Jack pressed a kiss to Ianto’s forehead and pulled him to rest his head against his chest, where the young man’s tears soaked his bloodied tunic, “I thought I’d never see you again.” He whispered, cradling Ianto to him.

His lover tilted his head up and gazed at him with eyes full of devotion and trust, “I knew you’d find me Cariad, you always keep your promises.”

Jack closed his eyes and felt Ianto shift in his arms again so that he was kneeling up in front of him and their foreheads were resting against each other, “Ianto, I’m sorry…”

A hand on his mouth stopped him mid apology and Ianto stroked his soft, full lips gently, “Don’t apologise Jack, you did what you had to do, and now we’re here and we’re together.” This time it was his turn to pull Jack against his neck and the immortal let go completely, “It’s OK Jack, I’ve got you.” He smiled, “And it wasn’t a dream after all.”

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Jack stood in the prow of the boat with his arms wrapped around his torso. Few who knew the charismatic and garrulous captain would have believed it was him from his pose; never before had the Torchwood leader and saviour of the world looked so lost and helpless, so alone. He’d been alone most of his long, long life, but never like this. Ianto had been so close, just a day away from their being reunited, and he’d followed his duty to Aragorn, rather than his duty to his husband. Guilt wracked through him and he knew that he deserved every second of pain; he’d brought this on both of them. A secret, dark, suppressed part of him hoped that Ianto was as hurt by the prolonged separation as he was, but a considerably larger part of him knew that the young man was hurting and wanted to take all of the pain for him, hating himself for his stupid decision.

The darkness was impenetrable, only occasional fires along the riverbank and the burning city of Minas Tirith shedding any light and showing their way, but behind them a stiff wind was already blowing raggedly at the blanketing obscurity. He gripped his sword as a presence approached him and turned, relaxing and offering Aragorn a grim smile. The ranger returned it and joined him leaning on the rail as they looked towards the burning city, “Today is a good day to die.”

Jack shook his head and his face cleared as he looked towards his captain with almost his usual grin, “It’s a better day to live.” He looked forwards again and spoke to the darkness, “It’s always a better day to live.”

They stood together in a tense silence, both reflecting on past mistakes, present pains and future choices, destiny and narrativity. Before long they were joined by Legolas, Gimli and Halbarad who watched with them, all eager for the coming battle.

Jack shifted uncomfortably, his mind full of the same worries that plagued Ianto; the what ifs. What if he wasn’t immortal? What if he died and left Ianto stranded here? What if he survived and Ianto didn’t?

The wind blew them ever closer to the battle, so close now that even with the wind in the wrong direction they could hear the cries and clashing swords, smell the fires in the city and the blood on the field. They exchanged impatient and, from the original characters, bored glances and drew their swords; as soon as their ship touched solid ground, Aragorn leapt from it to lead the victory.

Ianto looked across at the burning city and felt a thrill of excitement and fear run through him, as powerful as any adrenaline rush he’d felt whilst working with Torchwood. In front of and behind him, the army of Rohan slipped through the fire pits and defences in a long line, as silently as they could; out there was a fierce battle, and before long he would be in the middle of it, fighting for his life as well as the future of this world. He had to concentrate on staying safe, on getting back to Jack. Jack…

“Bloody idiot.” He made a sound that was half laugh, half sob and brushed a couple of stray tears away angrily, trying to concentrate on what he had to do, putting thoughts of his absent lover as far from his mind as he could; not very far apparently. “And if I die in the battle to come let this be my good bye. Now that I know that you love me as well it is harder to die. I pray that God will bring me home to be with you, pray for your Marius, he prays for you.” The young man sang softly to himself, a smile lighting his lips as he remembered a trip to a local amateur youth theatre production with Jack, before everything with Gray, before two more chairs were added to his empty table. Without having to think about it he manoeuvred through the fires with the line, turning to face into the slight breeze that, he hoped, carried his lover ever closer to him.

He couldn’t be angry with Jack for choosing that road, he never had been. Jack was so used to being responsible, for carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders, that he drew a distinct line between personal and important, to the extent that he often chose the option that hurt him the most, because experience had told him that doing the right thing hurt. Ianto knew, no matter how much he wanted Jack to be able to put them first, he couldn’t; he wouldn’t let him try even, even when there had been a gun pressed to his head.

He felt a stab of pain and guilt as he remembered that occasion; the aftermath of the Space Whale incident had been their first almost-argument, and it had been Ianto’s fault. After the intense emotion of the day, the highs and the lows and the gut-wrenching fear, Jack had let Rhys leave with his memories intact and Ianto had accused him of favouritism. Jack had been hurt and, even though he’d done nothing wrong, he’d been the one to apologise, to beg for a second chance, willing to do anything not to upset Ianto, the one to cry on the sofa in the Hub from the moment Ianto stormed out until he fell asleep wrapped in Ianto’s arms again many hours later. Looking back, Ianto could see that no matter what Jack had done he would have argued, because even though the lack of contact and concern he showed whilst they were at work was at his own instigation, it still hurt him when Jack stood by and did nothing when he was threatened, then just sent him into another potentially dangerous situation.

Later, he’d been able to see how much having to do that had hurt Jack.

It couldn’t be called a fight, because Jack didn’t fight back, just apologised and begged Ianto to listen to him. He’d refused, saying that he couldn’t hear him out when he was that upset and left to clear his head. When he returned he’d realised how thick and hurtful he was being and was all set to apologise, but the words were blown from his mind when he found Jack. The always strong, ever fearless captain had clung to him all night in the darkness of his bunker, crying all night with guilt and relief, and Ianto cried with him, clinging on just as tightly.

He realised he was crying again and shook the recollections from his mind, focussing instead on the muster and the battle and finding his way back into Jack’s arms.

Jack parried, sliced and cut through the Easterling army, getting as far away from Aragorn and the plot as possible. Out here the battle was a mass of seething, repeated mini-skirmishes, and somewhere out there was a young man who didn’t belong there. He skirted around a mild war going on between some Easterlings and orcs over (apparently) who stole whose stapler, then found what appeared to be a fierce game of rugby between some of the more developed rohiric warriors. After a couple of dubious tackles (he’d lived in Wales for over 100 years, there was no way he could have escaped the game for that long, especially not after he’d moved in with Ianto) they spotted him. One grinned in recognition and pointed towards the city, “Ianto went that way. He fights under the banner of the Westfold.”

He grinned back, “Care to tell me what that looks like?”

Ianto dodged a sword blow and returned with one of his own, killing his opponent with one blow. It was getting dangerous around here, the orcs had by now fled in the light, but Uruks and Easterling remained fighting, scared and dangerous. Like Jack, although he didn’t know it, he had distanced himself from the plot and was fighting his way towards the rugby game across the field. A sword came towards his head and he parried it, kicking out at the Easterling to get free again. Fighting for survival became his only priority as a squad of Haradrim warriors found him.

Jack’s eyes widened in horror as he spotted a familiar head of short, dark hair ahead of him, even as his heart skipped a familiar beat. Ianto was hard pressed but dealing well. He had the advantages of being on horseback and the spark of originality that written characters lacked. Jack surged forwards faster than before when Ianto’s horse fell beneath him and let out a breath he didn’t know he was holding when the young man rose again to dispatch his final opponent.

Their eyes locked, finally, and they took a long moment to get over the shock, waiting for their hearts to right themselves again, then they moved forwards again towards each other. Ianto had eyes only for Jack, but the captain, trained by years of combat, sensed more than saw the Uruk approaching his lover from behind. With a yell he threw himself the lest short distance and knocked Ianto out of the way, feeling the sword bite through his chest where Ianto had stood moments before.

Ianto was stunned as he hit the floor, but emotionally rather than physically. Clinging to his composure he rolled, reached up and killed the Uruk, then dropped his sword and turned back to Jack, cradling the older man in his arms and holding him close. Jack’s eyes were fading and his breath came in fast, painful busts, and Ianto knew he was beyond help. Hot tears poured down his cheeks and landed on Jack’s forehead, mingling with sweat as Ianto cradled his head in his lap and ran his fingers through his hair.

“You found me.” He sobbed, fear overtaking him.

Jack raised his hand weakly to Ianto’s cheek and smiled as the young man covered it with his own, moving it to his lips to kiss it tenderly, “Always.” He coughed painfully and Ianto’s fingers tightened around his own, “You’ll be waiting for me… when I get back?” His eyes closed and he clung on for Ianto’s answer

“Always, I’ll be here.”

Jack smiled, “Love you Yan.”

“I love you too.” Ianto gasped as Jack’s hand relaxed in his own and his chest stilled, blood pouring from it.

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Jasmine set down a plate of warm tortillas and a bowl of chicken filling in the middle of the table in the boardroom and sank exhaustedly into John’s lap, letting him pull her against his chest and resting her head on his shoulder as she reached ineffectually for a plate. When he chuckled, sending a rumble across her back and chest, she growled and turned her face into his neck, “Piss off John, and next time you can cook.”

He just laughed more loudly and wrapped an arm tighter around her, pressing a kiss to the back of her neck, just below where it met her ear, and reaching with the other hand to grab one of the tortillas. There were five of them there; Jazz and John, Mickey, Atraxet and the Doctor, and tiredness was becoming evident in all of them, even in the immortal Jasmine and the Doctor.

After Jack had managed the jump, for a while at least, it had been as quiet and relaxed as it could be with two of their friends inside different books. As Ianto had, Jack had left behind his book, so they had been able to read as he vanished further into the book world.

Three hours after he jumped, however, all Hell broke loose. A group of adult blowfish, well known to Atraxet as a well organised and dangerous group of criminals he was currently investigating, had used the cover of a rift storm to execute a sting across the city. All hands, including Rhys and PC Andy, were needed on deck to clear up the detritus washed up during the rift storm, leaving them unable to even begin to deal with the Blowfish. They’d struck three banks and City Hall (the three there were in the vaults, having run straight into John and Mickey collecting a 31st century computer. In the other three locations, the three banks, six people had been killed and nearly two million pounds had been stolen; Martha had called UNIT in to contain the situation and their rumour mills had gone into action, producing cover stories involving masks to hide the identities of a criminal group and setting up a taskforce, with Atraxet’s help, to act out a counter-sting and catch the gang. Life at Torchwood, life in Cardiff in fact, was never simple or boring.

Jazz closed her eyes and groaned against her boyfriend’s neck, relaxing slightly as he rubbed gentle circles on her back. The final reports had been filed less than an hour ago and they could, at last, stop. She sat up slightly and let John feed her for a bit before settling back against his chest again. Atraxet and Mickey were smirking, whilst the Doctor just looked amused and slightly thoughtful. With a baleful glare she lifted herself up and settled into the seat next to John, crossing her arms on the desk and nesting her head in them, “Leave me alone, I haven’t slept in a fortnight.” John looked up suddenly, surprised and worried, as she didn’t even try to hide a yawn, “Just give me a coffee and I’ll be fine.”

“One problem,” Mickey pointed out, “No Ianto.”

“Ianto’s disappearance is indeed the root of all evils.” Atraxet agreed sadly, “So what’s the plan now?”

“Eat, home, bed.” Jazz yawned again, “Then, providing nothing comes up during the night…” She studied her watch and smiled slightly, “Meet at ours at ten, I’ll do breakfast. You coming back to ours Mickey?”

He nodded and smiled at them both, “If you’ll have me, I’m enjoying the company. Even if you are a bit mad.”


It was nearly another hour before Mickey, Jazz and John could leave. Jazz had brightened up considerably, mainly due to the fact that she had crashed out on the sofa for half an hour whilst the others tidied up, but John was still in a better condition to drive. He cast a worried glance at her from the driving seat, “I wish you wouldn’t do that.”

She opened her eyes and turned her face towards him from where her head leant against the window, “Do what?”

“Keep going until you crash, I know that you’ve got a lot of plates spinning, but you don’t have to keep them all going alone. And I know you could sleep more than you do.”

She was silent for a moment, holding his concerned gaze with an unreadable one of her own. Finally she smiled slightly, “Sorry.” Mickey knew that there was a whole load of subtext below that one word, but he wouldn’t pry. John knew that tomorrow, at least, he wouldn’t wake alone.

Jazz unlocked the door and let them in, leading the way as she toed off her shoes and padded through to the kitchen. Mickey took the opportunity to look around properly, taking in the strangely homely kookiness of the house.

Once upon a time, this house had been the home of Torchwood agents Alice Guppy and Emily Holroyd. When Alice died, following close behind Emily as in everything, the house became the property of Torchwood. All through the twentieth century, Captain Jack Harkness used it, often secretly and against orders, to house refugees, victims and occasionally himself, and had redecorated it in keeping with the times.

Today it was the Cardiff home of the head of Torchwood (and had been ever since Jazz had complained about the noise that Jack and Ianto made at night) and so it was decorated in a physical version of her unique outlook on life. Creamy off-white walls were enlivened with bright wainscoting and curtains or even gaudier stencilling.

Lurid beanbags and throws were scattered around the living room among a white three-seater sofa and two matching armchairs, whilst the cutlery, plates and mug in the kitchen come dining room were all decorated with rainbows, spots and stripes.

He smiled as he looked around and flexed his shoulders, grimacing as they clicked painfully. Jazz startled him with a hand on his shoulder and gestured towards the stairs, “Come on, let’s get you settled in, you can actually have a bed tonight, rather than the sofa.”

“Bliss.” He smiled at her and nodded to John, “See you in the morning?”

“I expect so.” His smirk was positively evil, “Don’t let us keep you up.”

John stripped off quickly and dumped his clothes in the laundry basket as he waited for Jazz, who was still getting Mickey settled in the spare room. He hummed quietly to himself as he fell into the bed and pulled the covers over his head, growling when he heard her laugh in the doorway. Before very long a weight settled on the other side of the bed and he felt it crawl up to him. He rolled over as the covers were tugged down and found himself the focus of an intense gaze. As he shuffled up to lean against the headboard, Jazz followed him and straddled his hips, bringing her hands up to cradle his face and press her lips gently against his. When her hand slid from his cheek to his neck, then down to rest flat against his chest, one finger lazily teasing a nipple, he gasped and crushed her against him, one hand tracing up and down from her shoulders to her waist and back up again whilst the other tangled in her hair. Jazz felt a tongue brush across her lips and granted entry, flicking her own against it briefly before invading John’s mouth fully, trailing across his teeth and the roof of his mouth before returning to his tongue again.

The nipple beneath her fingers was a small, hard nub; when she pinched it John’s hand, which had trailed a fiery trail down to her bum, gripped so tightly that she knew there would be a mark there in the morning. His nails grazed their way up her back, digging in harder then stroking gently. Once he’d reached the shoulder again he traced back down, slipping his hand over her hip and down between her legs. She was already warm and wet as he traced one finger between the lips, teasing against her opening and flicking on to stroke against her clit. When she moaned his name incoherently against his cheek he gave in and slid one finger in as far as it would go. Jazz growled and bucked her hips, lowering her head to suck and bite at his neck until he slid a second finger in and scissored his fingers. A third finger and she lost all control, gripping tightly to his shoulders and throwing her head back.

John chuckled breathlessly and withdrew his fingers, earning him a disapproving mewl, then lifted her hips to remove the quilt from between them. Their eyes met again briefly before she dropped her head to kiss all over his face and wound her fingers into his hair, “John… please, need you…” He complied willingly, kissing her once more before lifting her slightly more and pulling her down on him. She gasped and her eyes darkened and opened wide. After giving his lover a moment to get used to it, John pulled her up against him more and rolled them so that she was on top. He moved in and out of her slowly and gently, building to a powerful, all consuming climax.

He gasped against her skin and rolled them again so that she lay sprawled across his chest. When she pressed a soft, breathless kiss to one of the marks she’d made earlier he wrapped his arms around her tightly and sighed, “Fuck Zee, what brought that on?”

She smiled and nuzzled against his chest, blinking tiredly, “I love you, do I need anything more?”

He smiled, blissfully happy, pressed a kiss into her hair and smiled, “I love you too Princess.”

“I know you do.”

They gathered again, the whole family, in their living room, the girls laughing at the boys as they constructed ever more elaborate full English butties. Mickey, Atraxet and Martha lounged in beanbags; Gwen, Rhys and Tom took the sofa, the Doctor took one armchair and John and Jasmine snuggled in the other armchair. Martha and Mickey were teasing them relentlessly and being ignored. Tom took pity on them with a smile, “Have you set a date yet?”

John squeezed his fiancé and grinned, “Registry office do in January, we’re finalising the details at the moment. It’s just gonna be a low key do.”

“Boring!” Martha tossed her hair over her shoulder, “You want a big one like Jack and Ianto’s.”

Mickey looked up in interest, “You know, I really can’t believe that Jack’s been domesticated.” Everyone snorted with laughed and he looked up in confusion, “What did I say?”

Gwen reached across and patted his arm, “It’s not so much that jack’s been domesticated…”

“More like Ianto’s been undomesticated.” Rhys finished for her with a smile

“Is he OCD? Ianto I mean.” Mickey asked

Gwen shook her head vehemently, “No way, he’s just organised… And very efficient. He does his job extremely well, and that involves having everything tidy at work. At home it’s another matter.”

“He’s always very smart.”

“Always, he takes great pride in his appearance. His father was a tailor.” Jazz looked thoughtful

Mickey frowned, “How did they happen? Cos, you know, I would never have pegged cheesecake as the sort who, you know…”

“You mean your Gaydar’s broken?”

“Yeah, neither of them’s very… gay.” He was blushing fiercely by now

Jay just shrugged, “Stereotyping was never prepared for Jack Harkness. And they’re not exactly gay, just open minded I suppose. Jack’s so open minded that stuff falls out. Ianto’s… less open minded, but fell for Jack.”

“And Jack fell for him, just like that?” Mickey asked

Gwen twined her fingers with Rhys’s and leaned against him comfortably, “Jack tried really hard to get through to Ianto after… After Lisa. Jack went to stay with him whilst he was suspended and recovering, helped him through it and never left. I think… we didn’t know it was serious until…” She coloured, “Well, we didn’t know for certain that there was anything between them other than that they were living together until I sort of walked in on them… In the hot house… Enjoying…”

“Each other?” Jazz laughed, “Oh I remember that, Jack was mortified. Ianto just laughed.”

The Doctor looked up in surprise and amusement, “Are you sure you’ve got that the right way around?”

“Yeah, Ianto’s a dark horse.”

“They’ve got the ‘ah’ factor, haven’t they?” Martha smiled dreamily, “I remember asking Ianto what Jack’s ‘dabbling’ was like, he looked so starry-eyed.”


“His words, not mine.”

Jazz looked surprised, “They never really dabbled, or at least not as far as I could tell. They were always fairly serious, Jack was head over heels from before the start really.”

“How do you know so much?” Atraxet demanded of her

“Ianto tells me everything.” She explained with a sad smile, “I’m expecting a blow by blow account of his adventures when Jack gets him back.”

“What’ll happen if he doesn’t?” Tom asked quietly, “How will Jack take it?”

“It’ll kill him. When Ianto dies, Jack will die with him.” She sighed, “He’ll just have to go on living.”

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Aragorn watched the strange man in concern; it was clear to everyone around him that the other outlander was more than just a friend. The ranger was keen eyed and hadn’t needed Legolas to point out that the two men wore matching rings on the same fingers, although it had been the perfect opening to discuss the matter with him, “You believe they’re married?” he asked quietly, just far enough away that Jack wouldn’t hear them but close enough that they could keep an eye on him; to say that he’d taken the news badly would be an understatement.

“I do, or if he isn’t they should be.” The elf frowned, his beautiful brow creasing as he too watched his new friend

“Unless Ianto doesn’t feel the same that is, which would be a tragedy in itself.”

Erkenbrand had approached them without their noticing and looked over their shoulders, “Oh he does, it was so clear when he heard that his captain was looking for him. Any man should love his captain so much that he would die for him, Ianto loves him so much that he wouldn’t, he would rather live with the guilt and grief than have the one he loves feel it.”

They studied the captain for a while, trying to process this new information. Aragorn was the one to break the silence, “Where is the young man now?”

“With the remainder of my men I would suspect, although I cannot know. He will likely meet us when we return to Edoras.”

“Via Isengard.” Aragorn pointed out, moving forwards to shake his friend’s shoulder softly, “Captain, we need to move on. Theoden king rides to Isengard in one hour, will you ride with us.”

Jack looked up at him in surprise and mentally shook himself harder than Aragorn had been able to, “Do you mean on a horse? And please call me Jack.”

The ranger laughed, “Yes, Jack, I mean on a horse. Do you not ride?” He asked, suddenly serious

“I can ride… I just choose not to. I don’t need to and the last time I rode… let’s just say it wasn’t the best day of my life.” He had hesitated, tempted to reveal his secret, but there was that question burning in his mind, what if he wasn’t immortal here, what if he could die? What would have happened if he’d died in the battle?

“Will you ride?”

He seemed to consider it for a moment before sighing heavily, “Yes, I will ride. For him, I’ll do anything.”

“You’re besotted laddie.” A gruff voice came from closer to the ground and he raised an eyebrow, “We can all see it.”

“Yeah, well…” He rubbed the back of his neck as he stood up, “He is my husband.” Jack didn’t know what he’d expected after that declaration, but he’d never expected the ‘I told you so’ grins or the way Eowyn grumpily handed her brother something subtly so that he wouldn’t notice; not in Middle Earth at least. “Am I really that obvious?”

“As plain to read as the song of the wind.” Legolas assured him, then recognised the looks he was getting from the others, “OK, maybe that was a bad analogy. Yes, you’re fairly obvious. You were terrified when you thought he was here, then even worse when you found out he wasn’t and you’ve just been miserable since you found out he was safe but not here.”


“Come on, let’s get out of here. The sooner we leave, the sooner we’ll reach Edoras and the sooner you’ll be back with him.” Eomer pointed out, leading the way from the fortress to the stables.


As soon as it was safe in the narrative frame, Jack hurried to the group in the main room of the fortress, fear easy to read in his troubled countenance. Erkenbrand forestalled his questions by asking one of his own, “You’re Jack?”

He could only nod wordlessly, trying to keep himself under control

The Marshal nodded a greeting to him, “Ianto speaks highly of you, do not worry, he is safe.”

Just not here.” Eomer clarified, feeling guilty for worrying his new friend, “There was a medical emergency in the town before they left. Ianto was the best qualified to deal with it, but when the time came for them to leave he still could not leave his patient.”

He and the remainder of my men will join with us later.” Erkenbrand informed him, “Are you really outlanders?”

Jack sighed in relief, fighting off the loneliness and the desperation to just sink into Ianto’s arms and never let go as he would after a day like this at home, not possible here, “Yes, Ianto disappeared nearly a week ago. For four days I had no idea where he was, now I know… It’s just a matter of catching him.” He managed a strained and lopsided smile, but a smile none the less. “I will be relieved to have him back.”

==End flashback==

“So, Captain.” mer had ridden up beside him and startled him from his reverie, “You ride well, especially for someone who doesn’t ride often.”

He shrugged, “I used to ride a lot, it’s something you never forget I think.”

The young man smiled at him, controlling his own horse effortlessly, as though he’d been born in the saddle, “I’ve never had the chance to forget.” They rode in a companionable silence for a while until Legolas and Gimli joined beside Jack. Legolas smiled at him brightly, too brightly, ”So, Jack, how did you and Ianto meet?”

He was silent for so long that they thought that he hadn’t heard him, but eventually he looked up at the horizon, “He stalked me until I gave him a job, lured me in with a Pterodactyl and a bar of chocolate.”

“A what say?”

“Never mind.” He sighed, “I’m his boss, he’s been working for me for… Not as long as it feels like actually. We’ve only been married two months though.”

“Tell us about him,” Legolas asked, “We only met him very briefly.”

Jack shrugged and smiled softly, thinking about his lover, friend and partner, “Words couldn’t do him justice. He knows everything, he’s beautiful and he’s mine and I’m his. I’m not great with words.” He confessed, “Especially when it’s about him.”

“You so sweet.” Eomer teased him, “Now come on, before we fall behind.”

Jack stood silently, waiting for the other shoe to drop. Something seriously metaphysical was going on, because when Ianto had left the book behind, he had brought it with him, so he was following the plot closely, scanning for any reference to either him or Ianto. His friends objected when he read what was happening to them at that time, but just ahead of where they were was fine. So far there had been no serious rewritings, a fact for which he was grateful. It was two days since the battle began, over a week since he had last seen Ianto, and all hell was about to break loose. Pippin was in a state of paralysis, having just stared into the Palantir, and Gandalf was making preparations to ride to Gondor with him. Sighing, the captain readied his horse, knowing how long it would take him compared to the others, and was ready to leave when the Nazgul soared overhead, chilling the hearts and minds of all those who weren’t as numb as Jack was. An air of inevitability had descended over him; he was inside a novel, which meant that narrative causality was driving his life. He was on a quest, and he wouldn’t be able to complete it easily. Damn fiction and damn the author.

Aragorn sought out his friend with a heavy heart. Jack stood at the top of the road, looking down at the silent encampment and the steady, still slow stream of arrivals. They watched in silence for a while until Jack spoke, his tone as heavy and broken as his heart, “He won’t come in time.”

“You don’t have to come, you can stay here and await his arrival.”

The captain shook his head and offered a smile to the future king, “You and I know, Aragorn, destiny is calling. Either that, or the narrative. I’m with you until one of our stories ends.

Aragorn placed a comforting hand on his shoulder, “I blame the author.”

He huffed out a laugh, “I was thinking the same myself.” With a heavy sigh he turned away from the view and blinked away a tear, “I just have to hope that our story has a happy ending. When do we ride out?”

“Two hours; get some rest.”

Ianto looked up at the twisting, twining road leading up to the mountain refuge of Dunharrow. He had a bad feeling that he hoped was just down to the dark place and the dark day, but something told him it was more than that.

With Faewine and Rhodwine he turned his horse and they climbed the twisting track, growing gradually dizzier as they did so. As they reached the top a guard emerged from the shadows to stop them, but allowed him, and only him, to pass. Word of his arrival appeared to spread quickly and before he’d finished rubbing his horse down he became aware of a presence behind him. Hope sprang unbidden within him, but was crushed almost instantly without him turning around; if it were jack he would have known about it before he even arrived.

He composed himself under the guise of finishing the rub down and finally turned, biting back a cry of surprise as he saluted Eowyn, Lady of the Mark. She waved him down with an expression of sympathy and apology, “We’re not in the story now, it’s good to see you again.”

He nodded in agreement but dropped his eyes, unable to hold her scrutinising gaze, “He’s not here, is he?”

She sighed and held out a letter, “He asked me to let him explain, he took the dark road with the Lord Aragorn.”

“I knew he would.” He whispered, more to himself than to her, then met her eyes again and accepted the letter, “Thank you Eowyn. I hink I will be riding with you when the time comes.”

They shared a look of understanding and she withdrew, leaving him to his thoughts and fears. Ianto studied the folded letter, his name written across it in Jack’s neat handwriting that was almost calligraphy; he made his way to the tent that had been prepared for him and sank onto the pile of blankets and furs where he could read and, undoubtedly, cry, without anyone seeing him.

Dearest Ianto,

Please forgive me for going on without you. Destiny (or possibly the narrative) draws me on; I cannot leave Aragorn at this stage (I’m actually starting to think like he talks, for which I apologise profusely).

If you feel half as bad without me as I do without you then I am so sorry; you know that I would do anything in my power to keep you form any pain. I can’t begin to tell you how shit I felt when you went missing. The moment I realised that you weren’t there with me, that you could be in danger and I had no way of knowing or protecting you, I felt like my heart was being ripped out (literally, and trust me I know what that feels like), and the pain hasn’t diminished. I know it won’t until I have you back here with me, once I do I will never, ever let you go. Wherever you are now reading this letter, wherever you have been and wherever you will go, you carry my heart with you, and have done for a long time; and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I love you so much Yan, you are my everything and I can’t wait for the moment when we’re back in each other’s arms. Please, please forgive me for prolonging the wait for that moment.

Forever yours, Jack”

Jack had been crying when he wrote the letter, and Ianto’s tears now joined his on the page. He set it aside carefully to protect and preserve it and cradled his head in his hands, sobs wracking his whole frame. He felt sick to his stomach with dear and longing for his partner. This was fiction, he didn’t need to eat or sleep like in real life, maybe other things were different too, maybe Jack’s immortality wasn’t the same. Every time Jack fell he felt the fear that this would be their final parting, and this time his lover was taking a dangerous road without their usual guarantee. The other end of that road was in Minas Tirith, and there was only one way for Ianto to join him there.

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Jack stared at them and ran his hand through his hair, “The Battle of Helm’s Deep? You think he’s there?”

Bradshaw looked to Thursday to explain it, so she leant forwards and leaned her elbows on her knees, twisting her fingers together. She’d not known the captain long, but she’d come to like and respect him; it wasn’t hard to see how much he was hurting, how much his missed and feared for his partner, but he hadn’t been anything but professional and focussed, giving them as much information as he could and not letting his personal feelings get in the way.

“Here’s the deal: Ianto got drawn into the back story, somehow, and ended up at the Fords of Isen, in the aftermath of the battle. We understand that he was naked.” The captain blushed and she could guess why the young man was lacking in clothes. “He met Eomer and his men and rode with them, met Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli and returned to Edoras where Eomer was arrested. Hama believed that Ianto would be in danger if he stayed at Edoras and so had him ride to the Westfold to safety. Now the best bet we can make in this time frame is that the next place to meet him is at Helm’s Deep, when the whole of Rohan is gathered together.”

“Not a particularly safe place.” He sighed and rubbed at his face, “Is he in danger?”

“I don’t know him, but I would say not at the moment. When he gets to Helm’s Deep, that’s a different matter. You need to get him out before the battle starts.”

“And how do I do that?” He asked

Thursday gave him a piece of paper and a pen, “You need to write a description of your home, you read it and hold on to him and you’ll go back there.”

“But just in case it all goes wrong,” the Commander interjected, “are you able to fight?”

He managed a laugh at that, “Yeah, I can fight.”

“With a sword?”

“With a spoon. Trust me, I’m generally lethal.”

Thursday fanned herself jocularly, “That smile’s definitely lethal. So you think you can cope?”

“I know I can. Permission to go in alone?” He asked, and he was surprised to find that it was a request

“Granted.” Bradshaw smiled at him, “You’re on your own sonny, we can’t risk anyone else. What?” Jack had looked completely taken aback when addressed as ‘sonny’

The immortal shook his head with a smile, “Been a long time since I was young enough to be called that. Maybe two thousand years?”

“You’ll always be sonny to me sonny. Now write that damn description.”

Two hours later, Jack studied his description of the Hub and wondered how it could be so hard to write about a place he’d known for over two hundred years, but he’d lost a lot recently. Two thousand years could have that effect.

The Hub was never silent; computers whirred and beeped constantly, watching over the world from this underground base in Cardiff, and water dripped in the base. On the upper level, glass walls separated Jack’s office, the hot house and the boardroom from the main Hub. Vegetation pressed against the walls of the hot house, shielding it from prying eyes, a fact that he and Ianto had used to their advantage on more than one occasion. His office was more open, but still offered some security and sanctuary when they wanted to be alone together. The boardroom was completely exposed, sheet glass all the way from floor to ceiling with the Torchwood logo printed in the centre.

Metal railings ran around he edge of the walkway connecting the three upper rooms and the small kitchenette, set back into the very structure of the Hub, and ran on, almost meeting but not quite. On the lower level, the huge, metal pillar and its water filled basin formed the focus, with the Rift manipulator attached. Around it stood workstations with computers humming to themselves, papers in various states of disorder and photos of family and friends dotted around. The cog door was sealed half a level below the workstations, its lights and sirens inactive and half a level above the stations the lift was at its lower position.

At the far side of the Hub, two sets of stairs descended. One led to the autopsy bay where the table was clear and sterile and the instruments were set tidily aside. The drawers were all closed and neatly labelled, those little paper ones that slipped out and back in whenever they needed to be changed, which was frequently.

The other set of stairs led to the lower levels, the archives, laboratories and cells of the centuries old organisation. The vaulted brickwork passages stretched for miles under Cardiff bay, full in places of records and in other places completely empty, just echoing, echoing tunnels.

Jack scanned quickly over the passage twice before setting it aside, squirming at the almost romantic and whimsical picture he’d painted of his home, but Thursday seemed to approve of his work, “Nicely done, that should get you back home. So you’re ready?”

“Ready as I’ll ever be.” He smiled nervously, “Now can I go find my husband?”

She grinned, “Let’s get you kitted out Captain.”

He stood in the stores and looked down at himself, dressed in the garb of a man of Rohan. By his side hung a sword and shield, and in his pack was a long, dark, woollen coat. He sighed and gestured hopelessly, trying to encompass his whole situation in an over the top movement of his arms, “This is it, isn’t it? The last moment before the plunge.”

“Yeah, and you’re ready for it. Got your book?”

He picked it up off the table and flipped it open, skimming first through the section where Ianto had appeared so briefly, one line in particular making his heart constrict, I just want to go home”, that made two of them. All he wanted was to have Ianto back safe and sound in his arms and, he smirked, in his bed. Sighing heavily he slid into one of the chairs again and flipped through to the right chapter, skimming down to the best description he could find. He looked around self consciously and, finding that he was alone, read the passage out loud, “The Deeping Wall was twenty feet high, and so thick that four men could walk abreast along the top, sheltered by a parapet over which only a tall man could look. Here and there were clefts in the stone through which men could shoot. This battlement could be reached by a stair running down from a door in the outer court of the Hornburg; three flights of steps led also up on to the wall from the Deep behind; but in front it was smooth, and the great stones of it were set with such skill that no foothold could be found at their joints, and at the top they hung over like a sea-delved cliff.

Jack looked around nervously and found himself wondering how he would ever find his partner amidst the bustle. It was so… huge. It was everything he’d imagined it would be, which kinda went without saying he supposed. Horses brayed and their hooves clattered against the stone, the sounds ringing in his head and echoing along the deep incision in the rocks. He stood in a courtyard at the foot of the Hornburg and gazed up at the solid rock structure, able to believe the legend that it wouldn’t be taken whilst men still defended it. Shaking himself firmly he told himself that it was all his imagination making it like this, and if he weren’t such a dark and gloomy reader the fortress wouldn’t have been quite so imposing and the sounds wouldn’t have been quite so loud.

Soon a battle would be fought here, and he wanted to be out of the way long before it did. He’d read this section over and over and over, so he headed first to the caves where the horses were kept, hoping to find Ianto there, away from the main story. When Legolas and Gimli walked past he hid behind a pillar he reflected that the story had moved on faster than he had anticipated; he really needed to find Ianto. “Excuse me,” he approached a group of riders who’d just finished stabling their horses and they stared at him, understandable really he suppose, even in local garb he didn’t fit in, “I’m looking for… a friend. His name’s Ianto.”

They looked at each other with a look of understanding, “You mean the outlander? You should speak to Eomer, or Hama.”

He sighed, “I was hoping you wouldn’t say that. Thanks though.” No pockets, he had no pockets to shove his hands into, and that sword was really in the way. People always thought it would be so cool to be actually in a book, to meet the characters, but it was a pain in the ass. He didn’t want to mess the book up, he didn’t want to end up in the middle of a battle and he didn’t want to cross the main plot at any point.

A tall figure with blonde hair, who looked exactly like he’d imagined Eomer to look, crossed his line of sight heading for the Hornburg. With yet another heavy sigh, this time one of inevitability, he followed, moving with the confidence and grace that came with being a natural leader so nobody stopped him. Sure, he got some glances because he so obviously didn’t belong there, but he walked as if he owned the place and people believed that he did.

Inside the stone fortress he followed his instinct and found Eomer, Aragorn, Theoden and Hama in a wide, tall room, clustered around a table looking at a map of the area. He recognised this as a section of the story and waited out of sight until it had passed on, feeling the story passing over them. It was a strange sensation, the energy and colours brightened, sounds became defined to an almost painful clarity and then it was gone, it was like a drug high, but probably not quite as bad for you.

He realised that they were string at him with varying degrees of confusion evident on their faces, one they had his attention Aragorn pointed at him, “Outlander, right?”

“Right.” He smiled and came over to them, “What gives me away?”

“The hair. It doesn’t fit.” Eomer explained, “Do you know someone called Ianto?”

Jack’s heart skipped a beat, “I’m here looking for him, do you know where he is?”

“He’s in the Westfold still, Thursday told us you would come looking for him.” Hama told him, eyeing him up and down, “We expect him to arrive with Erkenbrand at dawn tomorrow.”

Jack sighed, “The waiting game again.”

“You should stay in the caves, it’s safe in there.” Aragorn instructed him

The captain shook his head, “Bugger that, I need the distraction. I’m armed and I’m in.”

He wiped sweat from his eyes and felt vaguely guilty about the thrill buzzing through him. He hadn’t slept properly since Ianto had gone, but right now he felt like he’d had about twenty-four hours; adrenaline thudded through him and he was filled with excitement as he stood on the Deeping Wall to watch Theoden ride out into the dawn. Down below him the three forces were easily distinguishable, Theoden’s riders, Erkenbrand’s men from the Westfold with Gandalf at their head and, between them, the mass of black orcs and Dunlanders. Somewhere in there, in that mass of warfare and death, was Ianto… Terror clutched at him and he wanted nothing more than to be down there with them, riding out at the end, but his horsemanship lacked a little (a lot) in skill or, for that matter, any ability at all. Once upon a time he’d ridden a lot, but not before he was buried alive for two thousand years. Come to think of it, he hadn’t ridden since he was kicked to death by a spooked mare just after she threw him. Bloody animals.

The wind drifted through his hair and he puffed upwards to get it out of his eyes again. The orcs had now fled into the forest, Gandalf and Erkenbrand were meeting with Aragorn and Theoden, Hama lay dead before the gates, it was over. He watched with impatience and waited for the forces to return to the Hornburg, waited for Ianto.

He sat on the steps by the gate to wait for them, excitement and anticipation building in him as the front riders drew nearer and nearer. He could hear their voices, could feel the buzz of the story coming closer and building, sweeping across him as they rode through the gates. The excitement was toxic, he felt like he was flying, soaring above the world, then Eomer met his eyes and shook his head slightly and everything came crashing down under yet another tidal wave of terror.

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Jack took a moment to look around him again, eyes traversing the tall book cases and long corridors easily as he took in every detail, then turned fully to Thursday, “Pleasure to meet you Ma’am, I’ve read so much about you.”

She put her hands on her hips and glared at him, “Who are you and what are you doing in the middle of a scene?”

“Erm… My name’s Jack, I’m looking for your help, should I…”

She was looking at him oddly, “We don’t get many visitors… You’re not from the book world are you?”

“No, I’m an outlander.” He was getting confused, “Are we actually in the book?”

“You’re in a version of the book, not the original thank God, or you’d be messing things up completely. What do you want?”

“Well,” he began, “My husband’s trapped in a copy of Lord of the Rings, and I need to get him out.” He shifted uncomfortably and looked around again, feeling out of place and almost scared. Everything hinged on this moment, if Thursday said it couldn’t be done… If he were trapped in here as Ianto was trapped in there, would he ever see his lover again? He swallowed back the fear and looked to Thursday and was surprised to find that the Cat was now behind her, watching him with the same grin he always wore. It was quite scary, disturbing almost.

Thursday seemed to have come to a decision because she nodded and turned to the Cat, “Cat, you need to go to the original, I’ll take Jack to the original library, you bring original Thursday to the statue, we’ll meet you there. She can deal with this.”

“Gotcha Thurs.” The Cat’s tail twitched and vanished one ring at a time before the Cat himself faded from view, the grin the last thing to go as always.

Jack shuddered, “That’s a bit creepy… And trust me, I’m good with creepy.”

“Are you ready?” Thursday asked, brushing over his thought trail, “We should go. Take my arm and I’ll jump us to the original, then Original Thursday can take you from there. Have you got the copy that he’s trapped in?”

“Yeah, big pockets.” He pulled out the worn copy of Lord of the Rings and traced a finger down the spine gently, “Is it possible, can I get him back.”

“Buggered if I know.” She replied bluntly, “Now come on.” He linked arms with her and felt a sensation like water rushing over him and they were suddenly standing…

Exactly where they were before. Jack blinked; they were in a long, dark, wood-panelled corridor lined with bookshelves that reached from the richly carpeted floor to the vaulted ceiling. The carpet was elegantly patterned and the ceiling was decorated with rich mouldings that depicted scenes from the classics, each cornice supporting the marble bust of an author. High above them, spaced at regular intervals, were finely decorated circular apertures through which light gained entry and reflected off the polished wood, reinforcing the serious mood of the library. Running down the centre of the corridor was a long row of reading tables, each with a green shaded brass lamp…

“Hang on.” Jack looked around and ran the description through his mind again, “I just read that. That was the last bit I remember reading before I was here, or there… Have we moved at all?”

“Of course we’ve moved, we’re in the original now, so you have to be more careful. And yes, this is where you came in; it’s the standard description of the library, really easy to jump into even with no experience.”

“Oh, OK… So what are we doing here?”

She strode ahead of him and led the way to one of the spiral staircases, running her left hand down the balustrade as they descended to one of the lower floors, “We’re going to find the real Thursday, the original Thursday if you like. We’ve never had real outlanders before, just fictional ones. Are you sure you’re not fictional?” She swung round and glared at him

“I’m real, or at least I’m fairly certain I’m real…” He shook himself, “You’re making me doubt now, stop it. I’m real, I’m definitely real.”

“Suit yourself.” She turned and continued

“You know, you’re really reassuring.” He snapped, worried about Ianto and annoyed by her cold attitude, “So what should I do?”

“Wait here. Cat will be here soon, I’m going back to my book.” And with that she was gone, fading back to her home.

Jack sighed and looked around. She’d left him at the foot of a statue of an open book where a stonemason was carving a name into the page. It was a surreal place and a surreal experience, even for a man who had seen as much as Jack had.

A familiar female voice hailed him and he thought that Thursday had returned, but he realised that this was a different Thursday. She was more detailed, more solid; more real almost. It was like the difference between the first library and this one, the difference between a photo or memory and the actual thing; a perfect copy, but a copy none the less. He remembered the Doctor’s words, ‘a fluctuation in reality’, hadn’t he said that?

Original Thursday reached him and he set aside his thoughts for the moment, extending a hand to her, determined to make a strong impression, “Captain Jack Harkness, Miss Next. Or do you prefer Parke-Laine?”

She smiled warmly but grudgingly and shook his hand, “Thursday’s fine Captain.”

“In that case it’s Jack. Has the Cat told you why I’m here?”

“Yes, your husband’s in a book. And you need to get him out.”

”Yes I do.” He nodded again and pulled the book from his pocket, reflecting that if he’d come in the clothes he was wearing, then Ianto had probably come in the clothes he had been wearing, which was…He swallowed back the memories and focussed on Thursday again, “He’s in here.”

“This is surreal, may I?” She took the book and sniffed it, then opened it to the page where Ianto had appeared, skimming quickly through it. “This is serious, really serious. Lord of the Rings is a dangerous novel, as dangerous in the back-story as it is with any of the main plots. We’ll have to make sure the original’s not been compromised but… Come on, floor 19.”

They practically ran up the spiral staircase to the T section where Thursday hurried to an entire row of shelves devoted to the works of J.R.R. Tolkein. Countless reprintings, reissues, and rewritings of the legends of a fictional world in ink and paper, reaching several feet above his head and for yards in either direction. He gaped in open astonishment t the array of books and she smiled, “One of the biggest sections in the library because of the huge number of redrafts he did, not to mention the different pressings and things. This is the first text,” she pointed to a bright manila wallet standing at one end of what appeared to be the definitive shelf, “That’s a scrap of a story he wrote when he was twelve years old. And this,” she pulled out a huge, leather-bound book that looked like an old bible, complete with embossed gold writing, “This is the final version as it would have been if he’d finished it.”

“And this version?” He held Ianto’s copy out and realised that there was an entire shelf of identical copies the row above his head, “Oh, bugger.”

“Yeah.” She grabbed a ladder and climbed up, running a finger along the pristine spines, “What’s the ISBN number?” He read it out, recalling the incident with Susie (the second incident with Susie) as he did so, drawn from his retrospection by a cry from above, “Gotcha!”

She slid down the ladder to the ground and they both pulled chairs up to one of the reading desks. Together they flicked through the library copy, relief evident on their faces as the story continued as intended, “The original’s safe.” Thursday leant back and watched him, “I didn’t think it would be compromised, but there’s always a chance if he’s got a strong enough personality.”

She was worrying her lower lip and he sighed, “There’s more, isn’t there?”

Thursday nodded, “If he’s just in one copy, it’ll revert after one reading and he’ll be boojummed.”


“He’ll get lost in the back story and have to live the rest of his life in there. The back story in middle Earth is so large that that’s possible, if we don’t get him out before the story ends then he’s got over one hundred years until the mythology finishes, at least, some novels end at the end. Middle Earth goes on and on and on, and we’ve been developing the back-story to make it a more realistic experience… If he got lost in there, I don’t know how we’d ever get him back.” She tugged her ponytail out and put it back up slightly higher up on her head, “Add on to that the fact that he’s in the middle of a war…”

Jack’s face paled and he felt sick, a common occurrence at the moment, “I have to get him out.”

“Yeah. We need to think about the best way to do this.” She scrambled back up the ladder to return the library copy and rejoined him on the floor, “Come on, we need to find Commander Bradshaw. I just wish Lady Havisham were around still, she’d know what to do.”

“You fill me with confidence.” The captain sighed

Mrs Bradshaw set a tray of tea things down on the table and smiled warmly at Jack. She liked him instantly because he hadn’t even batted an eyelid when introduced to her, merely pointing out, when asked, that he was, by many definitions, an alien searching for his husband and had no room to comment, even if he’d wanted to, on the fact that Mrs Bradshaw was, in actual fact, a gorilla. “It’s all relative really.”

Jack took a sip of the tea and returned her smile. The room was full of Jurisfiction agents attracted by the mystery and Melanie’s cakes. “Thursday old girl,” Commander Bradshaw began, “I propose a three-three formation, three to search the back story and three to follow the plots. Current information indicates that he has been separated from the plot at Eomer’s arrest, so the back-story team should start there. If we do that we can hopefully eliminate the possibility that he’s been executed before sending agents into a dangerous situation.”

“Is that a possibility?” Jack asked in horror

“There is a war on old chap, but I doubt it.” The Commander reassured him, “I would recommend a preliminary scouting party of myself, Thursday and Mrs Tiggy-Winkles to sounds out the back story and hopefully locate him. Once that’s been ascertained we can develop a further plan.”

Thursday forestalled Jack’s objections with a raised hand, “Sorry Jack, but you can’t be in the first incursion, it’s too risky and difficult for a beginner. I mean, Lord of the Rings is a well explored novel, but an individual book can be very different from the original.”

He sighed and hung his head, “I understand, I don’t like it but I understand.”

“We know, and we’re sorry it has to be like this.” Mrs Tiggy-Winkles covered his hand with her paw, “When we go in for real, you’ll be there, but you have to wait it out for the moment.”

He rubbed the heels of his hands into his eyes and sighed heavily, “I know, it’s picking the right tool for the job. I’m just not used to someone else making those decisions.”

Mrs Bradshaw had offered him a place to stay whilst they waited for and he gladly took her up on the offer. The group had been gone hours now and it was just about to clock round to five days since he woke alone; five days of fear and pain and loneliness. He read some more of the book, half nervous of slipping into it, half desperately wishing that he could. A timid knock drew his attention and he looked up to find Melanie watching him in concern, “Mem sahib.” He saluted her casually and she advanced into the room

“It must be so hard, how long has it been?” She looked at the book in his hand and sat next to him on the bed

He sighed and pulled out Ianto’s pocket watch, running his thumb gently over the engraving on the back, a simple “With love, Jack” before he turned it over to check the time, “Ask me again in… thirteen minutes and it’ll be five days since I woke alone, a little longer than that since he jumped.” The double entendre of the phrase hit him forcefully and he struggled to push it from his mind.

She squeezed his hand, her soft leathery pad and coarse hair a strange but reassuring sensation in his hand, “They’ll get him back, Thursday won’t stop until he’s safe and sound and back with you.”

He smiled at her gratefully, “I’d do anything to keep him safe, which makes it worse when it’s out of my hands.”

Sudden voices from downstairs distracted them and they hurried down to the parlour to greet Thursday, Mrs Tiggy-Winkles and the Commander. Mrs Bradshaw made tea for them as they settled down and toed off their ‘period’ boots for something more comfortable.

Thursday leant back against the cushions and met his eyes with a soft smile, “We’ve located him and we’re got a plan. Captain, you’re going in.”

“To the Battle of Helm’s Deep.” Commander Bradshaw finished.

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“What?” They stared at him in shock. Gwen leant forwards, “What do you mean you’ve found him? Where is he?”

Jack’s grin dropped and he closed his eyes tightly, as though he had a very bad headache, “I’ve found him, I know where he is but please don’t ask me to explain how. Look…” he pushed the copy of Lord of the Rings across the table to the Doctor and Jasmine and rested his hands palm up on the table, a typical Jack way of telling them that he needed something, reassurance in this case. Read that page.

Jazz glanced at the Doctor and pulled the book towards her, settling back into the chair to read. When she found the section Jack had been talking g about, howver, she leant forwards again and ran her finger under the words, frowning gently. They followed her gaze as she read the same section twice, then looked up to meet Jack’s gaze, “I... I don’t believe it, how can this be possible?”

He laughed and gestured around them, “Hello, since when have our lives been plausible, John and I were born in the fifty-first century, which must seem pretty impossible. Hell, three of us are immortal!”

“You’re right, this is practically normal. But, I mean…”

Rhys growled, “Either of you fancy telling us what’s going on?”

Jazz glanced once more at Jack, who gestured for her to carry on, and picked he book up again, “I’ll read it out to you, here we go:

Without word or cry, suddenly, the Riders halted. A thicket of spears were pointed towards the strangers; and some of the horsemen had bows in hand, and their arrows were already fitted to the string. Then one rode forward, a tall man, taller than the rest; from his helm as a crest a white horsetail flowed. He advanced until the point of his spear was within a foot of Aragorn’s breast. Aragorn did not stir.

Who is this Ioan?’ said the Rider, using the Common Speech of the West, in manner and tone like to the speech of Boromir, Man of Gondor.

The Riders all looked to a man behind the strangers who sighed heavily, ‘You’re supposed to ask them that, not me Eomer.’ He was dressed as a rider but didn’t carry himself as one, his hair was raven dark and short, and his accent was similar but different to that of the riders. He didn’t have an air of authority, which was unusual considering how much they looked to him.

Aragorn stared at the man in shock, ‘Who are you?’

‘I’m Ianto, and I’m not supposed to be here…’ Too bloody true!” She put the book down and looked around at their shocked faces, “There’s more, but then the story goes off with Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli and Ianto’s gone with Eomer.”

“You mean,” Andy asked the question on everyone’s lips, “Ianto is inside that book. Actual Ianto is in a parallel universe… in that book.”

“Yes.” Jazz massaged her temples and looked to the Doctor for help, “You ever heard of anything like it?”

“No.” He shook his head, “Never, although come to think of it, it does ring a bell.”

“It’s like that drama that was on a while back, where the girl got stuck in Pride and Prejudice.” Gwen pointed a spoon at Martha, “You remember, we sat and watched it off video one day…”

”Oh yeah, with that girl. What’s her name now? She was in a Poirot as well, wasn’t she?”

“Jemima Rooper.” Jack supplied, blushing and smiling sadly when they gaped at him in clear astonishment, “Ianto was still here when it was on, he loved it.”

“Oh God, you mean that one, what was it called, Lost in Austin?” Mickey groaned, “You got it here too, and I thought I’d escaped it. Rose loved it too…”

“Jemima Rooper!” Rhys pointed at Gwen now, getting excited, “She was George in the Famous Five, you remember?”

“Oh of course she was.”

“Erm… subject in hand people?” Jasmine suppressed a grin and settled for rolling her eyes. “So we’ve ascertained that in fiction, people cross over into fiction. But this isn’t fiction, this is real life…”

“This feels like something out of a NaNo dare…” Tom groaned, putting his head in his hands

“Yeah.” Jack agreed, able to get into the swing of the conversation now that he knew where Ianto was and as he knew that conversations like these often produced results at Torchwood, “It’s the writer’s fault.”

“It can’t be the writer’s fault.” Tom pointed out, “Because there isn’t one, this is real.”

“Is it, or is it all a bit like the Matrix?” Rhys asked, “All happening in one of our minds.”


“Ianto’s maybe?” He suggested, “But I’ve just realised what this reminds me of more than anything else…”

“Oh?” They all looked at him expectantly and he grinned

“I’ll be back in ten minutes and all will be revealed.” He said mysteriously, getting up and leaving without another word of explanation, ignoring their calls.

Gwen ran her fingers through her hair distractedly and scowled, “I blame you for this Jack, you’ve turned my husband into a Cardiff man of mystery.”

“I have that effect.” He accepted, reaching for a can of cola from the middle of the table, “I hope he’s right…” Silence fell as they waited for Rhys to return, broken by the sounds of a can being cracked open occasionally and the electronic beeps of John and Tom playing Pinball projected onto the wall. Jack watched the game in amusement, feeling a strange sort of calm descending on him. Although he still felt like he was being ripped apart with fear and the pain of being separated from the man he loved, they had reached that stage where things were falling into place and all he could do now was wait. He knew that most of his teammates over the years had hated the waiting game, but once you got used to it, it was therapeutic… Just a time when there was nothing more you could do apart from prepare yourself and look after number one. Normally this would have meant time with Ianto, curled together in his bunker or playing cards on the sofa downstairs, something like that, but this time it was a chance for introspection and reflection.

John smiled to see the look on his ex-lover’s face and tugged Jasmine closer to him, catching her by surprise. They exchanged a meaningful glance and settled down again with Jazz curled in his lap and their arms around each other and carried on their separate conversations as if nothing had happened.

Finally the proximity alarm blared again and Rhys bustled in, carrying two bags of what appeared to be books. “I bring gifts.” He cried, dropping them on the table, “Home grown Welsh gifts from the pen, or possibly computer, of one Jasper Fforde.”

“Doesn’t Banana read these?” Gwen asked with a frown

Rhys laughed, “God, Banana can’t read, well not for more than five minutes. No, it’s Tad who reads them. And I’ve read the first one.”

“What are they?” Jack picked one of them up and read the blurb, his eyebrows raising in surprise

“They’re about this character called Thursday Next, who discovers that she can step into books and sort of live inside them. She just gets sucked in almost, at least the first time.”

“And you think that fiction has become reality and sucked reality into fiction?” the Doctor asked, speaking up for the first time since Rhys’s return as he put on his glasses

“Pretty much, yeah.” Rhys nodded

Jack opened the first page of the book and looked up at the Welshman, “Well, the floor’s all yours. You know it better than we do, summarise for us.”

He shifted nervously and checked things off on his fingers, “Main character’s called Thursday Next, she’s a literary detective who investigates crimes to do with literature. She discovers, because she needs to find a way into books to get her Aunt out or something that she can step into books using just her mind.”

“How does she get in?”

“She reads, just reads herself in.”

“So…” Jack picked up one of the books, “If I concentrate, or maybe don’t concentrate or something… I’ll end up inside the book?”

He shrugged, “It worked for Ianto.”

The captain nodded, “Right, I’m going to work my way through these books, if I disappear, you know where I am.”

“Good plan, the rest of you, remember we have a job to do. There’s nothing more we can do to find Ianto so get on with the usual Torchwood business.” Jazz stood up and leaned against the table, “John and Mickey, I want you two on the internet checks, Martha you’ve got a couple of autopsies to do, Rax I want you to follow up those leads. Civilians, sorry but we’ll call you, normal service is resuming and we can’t have you in the Hub, it’s too dangerous.” Rhys, Andy and Tom stood and made their goodbyes before leaving and the team went to their respective tasks.

The Doctor watched his friend settle down with his feet on the table and the first book on his lap and smiled, “Good book?”

“I don’t know.” He smiled a reply, “I’ve only read the first sentence.”

“I’ll leave you to it then, and I’ll stick around, cover for you whilst you’re gone. Bring him home Jack.”

“Thanks Doc.” Jack sighed and settled further into the chair, disappearing into a world of fictional crime and criminal fiction.

Nearly twenty four hours later Jack looked up at the domed ceiling and panelled walls of an enormous library and smiled. There was activity all around him and the sound and smell of books was overpowering. Towering shelves of dark wood housed thousands upon thousands of books, all by authors whose names began with Ff or Fe. He’d done it, halfway through the second book and he was there, actually inside a Jasper Fforde novel. He grinned, flexed his shoulders and set off down the corridor, searching for a familiar figure. The Cat was sitting on a table at one of the many corridor intersections and greeted him with a grin, as if he could greet him any other way, Jack thought excitedly. “Excuse me?” He approached the Cat and returned the smile, “I’m looking for Thursday Next.”

A voice made him spin round, “Well, she’s behind you.”

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Now the cries of clear strong voices came ringing over the fields. Suddenly they swept up with a noise like thunder and the foremost horseman swerved, passing by the foot of the hill and leading the host back southward along the westward slopes of the Downs. After him they rode: a long line of mail-clad men, swift, shining, fell and fair to look upon.

Their horses were of great stature, strong and clean-limbed; their grey coats glistened, their long tails flowed in the wind, their mains were braided on their proud necks. The Men that rode them matched them well, tall and long limbed; their hair, flaxen pale, flowed under their light helms, and streamed in long braids behind them; their faces were stern and keen. In their hands were tall spears of ash, painted shields were slung at their backs, long swords were at their belts, their burnished shirts of mail hung down upon their knees

In pairs they galloped by, and though every now and then one rose in his stirrups and gazed ahead and to either side, they appeared not to perceive the three strangers sitting silently and watching them. The host had almost passed when suddenly Aragorn stood up, and called in a loud voice:

“What news from the North, riders of Rohan?”

With astonishing speed and skill they checked their speeds, wheeled and came charging round. Soon the three companions found themselves in a ring of horsemen moving in a running circle, up the gill slope behind them and down, round and round them, and drawing ever inwards. Aragorn stood silent, and the other two sat without moving, wondering what way things would turn.

Without word or cry, suddenly, the Riders halted. A thicket of spears were pointed towards the strangers; and some of the horsemen had bows in hand, and their arrows were already fitted to the string. Then one rode forward, a tall man, taller than the rest; from his helm as a crest a white horsetail flowed. He advanced until the point of his spear was within a foot of Aragorn’s breast. Aragorn did not stir.

“Who is this Ioan?” said the Rider, using the Common Speech of the West, in manner and tone like to the speech of Boromir, Man of Gondor.

The Riders all looked to a man behind the strangers who sighed heavily, “You’re supposed to ask them that, not me Eomer.” He was dressed as a rider but didn’t carry himself as one, his hair was raven dark and short, and his accent was similar but different to that of the riders. He didn’t have an air of authority, which was unusual considering how much they looked to him.

Aragorn stared at the man in shock, “Who are you?”

“I’m Ianto, and I’m not supposed to be here…”

“No, what are you doing here? Why are you here?”

The dark haired man rolled his eyes, “I don’t know and I still don’t know. You’re not supposed to notice me.”

“You look wrong, are you an Outlander?”

“A what?” He looked perplexed and quite scared, “Look, I don’t know what I’m doing here. I was reading my book and suddenly I’m in the back story!”

“You are! You’re an Outlander, I’ve never met an outlander before.” Everyone was watching him with excitement and he shied away, “Please, just concentrate on doing what you always do, pretend I’m not here. I don’t know why I’m here and I don’t know how to get out of here and I just want to go home and I know I’m screwing things up so please just ignore me.”

There was silence for a moment before Legolas frowned, “Where are you from? You sound like a man of Rohan.”

“Cardiff. Now, ignoring me?”

They did their best, it was true, but Eomer clearly looked to him for guidance and it clearly annoyed him. The three hunters took their leave, talking enthusiastically about their encounter, whilst the riders swept off towards Edoras, Ianto in their midst.

They made camp just before sundown with an hour of riding still to go before they reached Edoras, but Eomer was unwilling to travel in darkness with the climate of danger and fear; orcs already roamed the land and Ianto was glad of the spears, bows and swords surrounding him, no matter how nervous they made him. He ran his hands through his hair as he sat by the fire and felt the effects of four days without being able to wash his hair or shave, doing his best to ignore the effects of four days in a world he didn’t understand, feeling completely defenceless and completely alone, lost without the presence of his lover and partner.

His mind drifted inexorably to Jack, back home, or so he assumed. Was Jack worrying about him, or did he think that he’d just left him? Was he coping any better than Ianto was (which wasn’t well)? Who was looking after him if he wasn’t? “Oh Jack…” He whispered, feeling a tear dropping onto his cheek and brushing it away fiercely

“What’s Jack?” Eomer’s voice was close behind him and he jumped, reaching instinctively for the gun that hadn’t come with him (along with, embarrassingly enough, any of his clothes… probably something to do with his being in bed when he was last aware of being in Cardiff). The Rider held his hands up to show that he was unarmed, a reasonably meaningless gesture on the whole but a heartfelt one, and sat down beside the fire, realising that Ianto had forgotten or not heard his question, not realising that he’d ignored it, “Ianto, you called that word, Jack, what is it?”

He laughed bitterly and hid his face in his hands, “Jack’s not a what, he’s a who. He’s…”

“He’s…” Eomer prompted

Ianto paused a moment, considering the fact that there were no gay relationships (were there?) in Tolkein, but he found he didn’t care, he didn’t have the strength to lie, “He’s my husband, he’s my everything. I love him so much and I miss him, I just want to go home.”

The future king of Rohan stared at the fire in shock for a moment and then looked at his friend, “You’re married? To a man?”

He groaned and refused to meet his new friend’s eyes, “Yes, got a problem with that?”

“No, why would I? What’s it like being married? I mean, I get married, but only in the epilogue really, so I’ve never known what it’s like… Unless, it’s always just a fact for me, is it really like that?”

“No.” He shook his head fiercely, “It’s wonderful, knowing that he’s mine and I’m his and that people can’t argue with that. Some still do, people think that we’re wrong because we’re both men, but we know that we love each other and nothing else matters.”

“It sounds wonderful…” Eomer looked so sad that Ianto’s heart, what wasn’t in Cardiff with Jack, went out to him, “My sister, I think, knows that happiness with Faramir, they use their time as best they can. Aragorn knows it with Arwen, Galadriel and Celeborn… But Lothiriel and I, we know it only as fact.”

“It is wonderful. It’s completion, I’m sorry you don’t get to know that.”

“Yeah. You want to get home?”

Ianto laughed bitterly again, “Of course I do, more than anything… I just want Jack.”

As the sun rose they had already broken camp and were preparing to ride again. Ianto had spent four days in the saddle, more than he had in the rest of his life and it was getting painful. He groaned as he pulled himself into the saddle again and gazed towards the dawn, noting that the dusky pinks lighting the hills softly and the hazy blues drifting across the sky were exactly as he imagined them, a reproduction or a recollection of a perfect night spent with Jack under the stars. Everything was exactly as he’d imagine it, and it was scaring him.

Eomer gave a signal and they moved off, Ianto concentrating on moving with the horse to cause himself minimum pain but it was fairly ineffectual. The ride to Edoras only took an hour, but it felt like forever before they were dismounting in the courtyard and stabling their horses. One of the riders took Ianto’s horse for him and he sank gratefully against the wall, reacquainting his feet with solid ground before he felt able to walk again. A young woman was watching him and came over to offer assistance when he pushed himself away from the wall, “Ioan…”

“My name’s Ianto.” He growled

She looked startled, “Sorry sir. Ianto, would you come with me, we have somewhere you can stay whilst you’re here…” The young man felt guilty for snapping at her, but he was in pain inside and out, his heart and body both aching for different reasons. He nodded silently and followed her to a house away from the main street of the town. Inside it was dark but homely, with a few wooden beds placed in rows, but not regimented in any way. Furs and linen throws covered the beds and they looked like heaven… not that he could sleep alone, maybe at least he’d stop aching physically. “You can take the end bed. It’s part of the programme set up by the Bellman to make it better for minor characters in stories. A few novels have had their back stories fleshed out, nothing physical for the story, but it makes a big difference.”

“Thank you, I haven’t a clue what you’re talking about but thank you… What’s your name?” He blushed as he realised that he hadn’t asked before

She smiled, “I’m young Rohiric townswoman three. I don’t really have a name as such.”

“I can’t call you that, it’s too much of a mouthful… Can I call you Alwyn?” He plucked the name at random, the name of one of his friends from primary school, God that was a long time ago.

Alwyn gave him one of the brightest smiles he’d ever seen on someone who wasn’t Jack and nodded shyly, “I like that, Alwyn, thank you Ianto.”

“My pleasure.” She left him again and he fell back onto the bed she’d indicated, wanting to cry at the unfamiliarity and the homesickness that swept across him. He felt a bone deep weariness that didn’t just come from the hard riding and the lack of sleep, and despite his doubts about his ability to sleep alone he felt it tugging at his eyes, drawing him down into a blackness that was cold and empty without Jack by his side and in his arms. Terrifying figures stalked his mind, cannibals, metal monsters and men, shadows of people gone before. He sank further and further with nothing there to pull him back, he was drowning in memories and imaginations…

Ianto woke with a start to a hand on his shoulder shaking him gently, Alwyn’s voice ringing quietly in his ears, “Ianto, please Ianto, you have to wake up…” His eyes flashed open and she started back, “Ianto, you have to listen to me.”

“Alwyn, what’s happened?” He sat up and pushed the terror to the back of his mind, knowing that it would soon return to him

She looked as scared as he felt, “Are you well Ianto, you were having a nightmare.”

“Yes, I’m fine, I’m awake now, it’ll be fine, what’s the matter.” If she’d just woken him because of the nightmare he was still grateful, but her expression suggested that there was more

He was right, Alwyn took a deep breath and glanced at the man standing in the doorway watching them, “Grima Wormtongue has poisoned the King’s mind against Eomer, he has ordered him arrested. He will come for you soon, you must leave now.”

The man strode forwards and placed a hand on the girl’s shoulder, “We have readied your horse, you must ride to the Westfold now, it will be safe for you there until Wormtongue is overthrown, it’s well in the backstory, but you must stay there until we know what to do with you.”

Ianto shook his head, “I have to stay with the story, I have to know what’s going on… I have to be seen, Jack had to see me.”

“It will be no good if he sees you dead.” The man insisted, and Ianto realised that this was Hama, a fully-fledged character. Suddenly it didn’t seem like such a bad thing when they all looked to him for advice, although he still didn’t know why it was that they did that.

His blood chilled and he nodded, “Understood sir, I’m on my way.”

Outside the gates he took one look back at Edoras, at the concrete fiction, and turned away from it, heading fearfully into the back-story of a fully developed world where monsters and dangers could lurk around any corner. In fact, he reflected sourly, it was just like being at home but without the benefits of weapons he understood and a warm lover to curl up with at night.

Author's Note: For Judy (is this a soon enough update? lol)

This chapter may not make as much sense to you as it does to me if you haven't read any Jasper Fforde. I promise that I will not go to bed tonight until I have explained it all, or as much as I can without getting completely confused...

galadriel1010: (Default)

Jack stepped out into his living room and stared around. He hadn’t been back since Ianto had disappeared, and it still felt like he could walk back in at any minute. This was why he hadn’t been home, it was too familiar, too Ianto; his fierce grip on his composure was slipping away just because he was here and Ianto wasn’t.

The difference from when he moved in was huge. The house had been stark, but not clinical, largely unused and just waiting to be lived in; neutral colours were predominant, with some pictures of Ianto’s family (he’d got rid of any pictures of Lisa by the time Jack moved in) scattered around artistically. Many people thought that Ianto had OCD, but Jack knew that he just enjoyed tidying, he found it therapeutic. Jack, on the other hand, liked clutter, trinkets and memories. Between them they’d turned this space, their space, into a home rather than just a house. More photos of Ianto’s family, the Torchwood family and especially the two of them were arranged neatly around the walls, book cases and on the sideboard; a hanging montage showed a selection of photos from their honeymoon travelling across the USA. The armchair was full of their two cats, wrapped around each other and eyeing him lazily. A brightly striped notebook cast on the sofa indicated that their teenaged neighbour Alexa, or Lexy to anyone who didn’t want to annoy her, had been round to look after them like she usually did. He picked up the book and weighed it in his hand, watching the cats with mild distrust, and slipped round to Lexy’s house to return it to her.

Through the frosted glass he saw her flaming red curls bouncing towards him and he managed a small smile, but it seemed to have had little effect as she gaped at him in horror, “God Jack, what’s happened? I mean, I knew you’d not been around. It’s not Ianto, is it?”

He swallowed hard, “Yes, Ianto’s… It’s something to do with work, we’ve lost him, I’ve lost him…”

She paled and covered her mouth with a shaking hand, “Oh God, you don’t mean…”

“Not lost.” He corrected hurriedly, “Just… Temporarily misplaced; I hope.”

She nodded, “I hope so too. What are you… Are you staying at that Hub of yours for the moment?”

Jack cringed, “Yeah, I can’t stay here, not without him.”

“I understand, if you need anything just give me a bell, I’ll drop it by the TI office.”

“Thanks Lex, I’ll keep you posted. Oh, and your notebook.”

She blushed, “Thanks, I wondered where I’d put that.”

“I’ve got to get some stuff, I’ll see you…”

He went back to the house and went straight to the bedroom, forging himself to ignore the cold, empty bed and his shirt and braces dropped on his chair where he’d left them, going straight to the wardrobe to pull out a few shirts, cold and plain blues beside Ianto’s brighter pinks and reds, and some pairs of trousers. He put them in a bag and fought back tears as he prepared to leave, feeling an air of inevitability about the action. His eyes fell on the bookshelf and he was drawn to it, running his finger down the spine of Ianto’s copy of Lord of the Rings.

It was his last connection to his young lover, the last thing they knew he’d been doing before he disappeared. Impulsively he pulled it out and gripped it tightly for a moment before he pressed a kiss against the cover, willing it to reach Ianto wherever he was and however stupid that idea was; he felt tears dampening his cheeks and spilling onto the edges of the worn pages of the book as he inhaled the unmistakeable scent of old books, paper and ink, and underneath it all the smell of Ianto. He couldn’t leave it.

The immortal captain sank onto the bed with the book in his hands and cried, tears of desperation rolling unstoppable down his face. He set the books aside for the moment and fell back to lie flat on the bed, rolling over to press his face into the sheets on Ianto’s side of the bed, breathing in his scent and letting it overpower him. The pain was so intense, worse than anything he’s ever felt; he bunched his hands into fists and clutched at the sheets, sobbing brokenly. He needed to let it go, he needed this, he needed Ianto.

Eventually, after a long, long while, he registered a presence in the room with him. Rolling over slightly he cracked open an eye and was surprised to see John watching him with eyes full of concern and an air of resignation. Slightly embarrassed at having his former lover see him like that he sat up and brushed the tears off his face, biting down on anything further. The younger time agent merely sighed and came to sit on the end of the bed, fixing his eyes on a photo of the four of them, Jack and Ianto, John and Jasmine, taken at Jack and Ianto’s wedding, “You know, you don’t need to fake it in front of any of us, especially not me. We know you, and we know Ianto and we know how much he means to you; and, I guess… I’ve been there, I’ve sat where you are.”

Jack frowned in confusion, “What do you mean?”

He sighed again and smiled slightly at the photo, “I’ve had someone I was completely besotted with disappear in the middle of the night. I didn’t know where she’d gone, how she’d gone… I had an idea as to why she’d gone, but it wasn’t reassuring. I didn’t know if I’d ever see her again.”

“And did you?” He reached for the other man’s hand and John took it, squeezing it gently and reassuringly

“Yeah, I did, but it wasn’t… It wasn’t right, she still couldn’t stay with me.”

Jack followed his gaze and realisation dawned, “What happened, she never said?”

John looked up at him and smiled softly, “I really hope that that’s because she doesn’t know. We were being followed, she was being followed I guess. By her sister, who blamed her for her parents’ deaths. Princess…” He blushed at his old term of endearment for her, “I always used to call her that, Princess Jasmine, and I was Aladdin with his magic carpet. Well anyway, she knew that if she stayed with me then I’d get hurt, so in the middle of the night she left. I followed her, but I was too late in a way. She’d been tortured and abused and God only knows, so I killed her sister and took her away, but she’d lost everything. I had to take her to UNIT where they might be able to take care of her and go on without her.”

“And then…”

“And then Gray. And I found her again.” He met Jack’s eyes again and smiled, “You’ll find him, I know you will.”

The immortal closed his eyes against the burning tears and pulled John closer, drawing comfort from the younger man’s presence, “Thank you.” He managed to whisper.

“Let’s get back.” He suggested, “And see if the others know anything more.”

When they slipped into the TARDIS together there was only the Doctor waiting for them with John’s girlfriend. She extended a hand and John went to her silently, slipping his arm around her waist and encouraging her to lean into him, “Anyone got anything?”

Jack looked between them and read the resigned glances, “That much, huh?”

“Oh, too much.” The Doctor explained, “The walls of the dimensions are still stable, nothing come through from any recognised dimension…”

“But the library’s full of information and my God does it need organising.” Jazz shot the Doctor a dirty look, “I don’t think he’s ever been in there. But Martha, Mickey, Gwen, Rhys, Andy and Tom are going through it in search of anything. They’ve found something that might be relevant, but we’re going to have to compare notes.”

The immortal captain put his hands in his pockets and straightened up, trying to set the worried (screw that, he was terrified) boyfriend aside and become the head of Torchwood, the professional alien hunter who had seen stranger and more dangerous things so many times in his long life. “Back to the Hub then, we can use the boardroom and grab something to eat, and maybe do our jobs at the same time.”

Jazz nodded, responding to his professional attitude with one of her own, “John, go warn the others that we’re going to be on the move shortly; Jack, Doc, let’s get this show on the road.”

The ship ‘vworped’ back into this reality in the centre of the Hub and they piled out, Rhys and Tom going straight to the kitchen to put some food together. The team concentrated on putting together their findings into concise reports whilst Jack went to put his stuff in the bunker under his office. That was where the Doctor found him, flicking sadly through the book he’d brought from the house, “Hey,” the Timelord announced his presence with his head poking down through the hatch, “How you coping?”

Jack laughed mirthlessly and fingered the bookmark, a soft leather one with embossed knot work designs that Ianto had had as long as he’d known the young man, “You’re the Doctor, you’ve seen what I’m like. I’m up and down like the yo-yo I’ve always been, but in a different way. Some times I can detach myself completely from it and see it from the outside, but then there are times when I can’t even see, all I can feel is pain and fear…”

“You’re coping fairly normally there.” The Doctor reassured him, swinging down into the bunker to watch him more closely in the half-light, “No one expects you to be invincible Jack, we’re here for you. I’m here for you, you know that, right?”

“I…” He looked so lost, completely vulnerable, “I can’t break down, I just can’t.”

“Jack,” He sat down next to him, “Jack. I know I’ve not been the best person as far as you’re concerned, I just… I don’t really know what to do with you. And just put up with my waffling for the moment, because I’m still working through things in my mind. You don’t need me, not normally, you’re a better person than I am and I think you always have been, you just wouldn’t believe it; still won’t judging by the look on your face, but you are, you’re such a great person. I’ve never met anyone as essentially good as you, and I want you to know that, because in the words of a certain young lady of our mutual acquaintance, I’m a moron.”

Jack laughed at that, “Jazz certainly has a way with words.”

“Yeah,” the Doctor smiled wryly, “But she’s right, I’m an idiot and I shouldn’t have been scared of you.”

“About that… When you said I was wrong, am I ever going to be right?”

“You are, or you were. When you’re rooted, you’re not wrong… Am I making any sense?”

“You mean that as long as I’m with Ianto I’m OK?” He sighed sadly, “I thought it felt that way. How far off are we from that meeting?”

The Doctor realised the dismissal and wondered how badly the discussion had gone, and how it could possibly have gone worse, “Jazz said another quarter of an hour, that was about five minutes ago.”

“I’ll be up then, just give me a until then Doc.”

“Course.” He nodded and climbed the ladder again, sighing heavily once he was out of sight in Jack’s office. The desk in front of him was strewn with an ordered chaos of papers and files, photos stood in mismatched frames around, various shots of the Torchwood family in various states of concentration, hilarity and relaxation; most of the photos however were of Jack and a dark haired young man, love and security blazing from the frozen moments. The Doctor picked one of the photos up, their ‘official’ wedding photo and smiled at the recollection. There had been so many photos that day, but this one stood out because no one had notice it. The real official photos had been done and the happy couple had taken a couple of moments, falling behind everyone else just to be together quietly in a thoroughly and delightfully mad day; the photographer had caught the emotions they were sharing, both smiling, lips just touching, eyes locked together. It had all been so perfect.

Movement downstairs caught his attention and he almost fled to the main Hub to talk to Jasmine. She looked at him expectedly, “How is he?”

“You’re right, I’m a moron.”

The commander sighed, “No you’re not, you’re just not that good at people. Specifically Jack.” She rested a hand on his shoulder, “It’ll be alright.”

“I hope you’re right. Are we ready?”

”Yeah, just waiting for Jack now. I’ll go get him.”

Gwen took Rhys’s hand and held it on her lap under the table, not wanting to make a show of their relationship but needing the support. Everyone was there, apart from Jack, and they all had files of hastily scribbled notes and print outs in front of them.

The captain appeared in the doorway, his face carefully blank and Gwen shrank inside, squeezing Rhys’s hand tighter. Her boss sank into his traditional chair, the seat next to him depressingly empty, and looked to Jasmine, “Am I pulling rank Jack?” She asked softly

“No, not this time.” His face lit up suddenly, “You don’t need to, I’ve found him. I’ve found Ianto.”

Author's Note: Because I love cliffies

galadriel1010: (Default)

Jack enfolded the Doctor in a bear hug and pulled back to let the others do the same. They gathered around the couch, some sitting on it, some on desks and bean bags and some on each other to explain the situation. The Doctor was sitting cross legged on the desk to watch the enormous family interacting; John was flirting gently with, well everyone actually, but especially with Jack, trying to get a rise out of the immortal. But Jack just smiled weakly and ignored him, turning to the Doctor, “So, who made the call?”

“I did.” Martha admitted, glancing briefly at the Doctor


Martha, make that call.”

She pressed her mobile to her lips for a moment and then pressed the speed dial for the Doctor. The number flashed up on her screen, “Doctor – 07700 900461” and she listened to it ringing; once, twice, three times, then it was picked up.

Martha?” He sounded calm but surprised, always a good sign.

Doctor!” She smiled at the reassuring sound of his voice, “How soon can you get here?”

Where is here?”

Cardiff.” She bit her lip

Oh.” Now he sounded very surprised, slightly perplexed and a little put off.

Jack needs you, really needs you.”

There was silence for a moment, then she heard him moving around and flicking buttons and levers around the console and the unmistakeable sound of the TARDIS’s engines starting up.

=End Flashback=

The Doctor watched his immortal friend in concern, noting the way he held tightly onto Jasmine’s hand at all times and his left thumb was pressed against his wedding band, the way none of them had coffee and the Hub was looking untidy. “How long has he been gone?”

“Four days.” Jack’s voice was barely a whisper

He ran a hand through his hair and donned his brainy specs, “Why didn’t you call me sooner?”

Jack shrugged and answered in a broken voice, “You’ve got worlds to save, civilisations to rescue… And there’s…” He stopped and swallowed, letting John wrap an arm around his shaking shoulders

Jasmine finished his sentence, “There’s no trace Doctor, no residual energy that we can detect, nothing. No indication that he’s not here, apart from the fact that he… Isn’t.”

“There’s always a trace.” He insisted, pushing himself upright, “The question is, where is it and what is it? Wait, that’s two questions.” Jack and the others followed him into the TARDIS and the others who hadn’t been in there before looked around in shock, “Yes, yes, it’s bigger on the inside. Now, where did he disappear from?”

“Home. Our house.” Jack answered, gripping onto the console as the ship gave a welcoming lurch with excitement and hope evident in his eyes.

“Galactic co-ordinates?” The Doctor asked, feeling guilty for potentially getting Jack’s hopes up when he might not be able to do anything.

“Here.” Jazz swung under a pillar and up to the console, pushing the Timelord aside to input the co-ordinates. “And four days ago…”

He put his glasses back on and pulled the screen around to study the readouts, “Four days ago, those, no wait these co-ordinates. Jazz, we’ve not travelled in time as well, have we?”

“What, as well?” She checked her readouts and frowned, “Oh, yeah, why’s she done that… No, we’re still in place in time.”

“Good, can’t afford to go crossing over event lines. OK… Yes, there it is! It’s tiny, an eensy-weensy teeny-weeny iota of a trace, just a tiny blip.”

“Of what?” Jack asked, hurrying round behind him

“Negative energy reading.” The commander answered for him, “Sorry Jack but…”

“Something’s taken him.” He interrupted, his face pale and his knuckles white as they gripped on to the central console

The Doctor nodded sadly, “Something, it’s not a reading I’ve ever seen before, it’s like a dip in life energy or maybe even reality…”

“Life energy?” Jack found it hard to believe that he’d managed to get the words out, “You mean?”

“I don’t think he’s dead… If he’d died we would expect an increase in ambient life energy, and this isn’t life energy as such… It’s more…” He pulled a face

“Dimensional energy?” Jazz asked, studying it closely

He looked again, “That’s more like it, but not dimensions as we know them more like…” The Doctor looked at Jazz for a moment, “Like a stack of plates, one on top of the other, all existing alongside each other. Or one inside another.”

“Like the ghosts and… The Dungeon Dimensions!”

“Yes! Good old Pratchett, the Dungeon Dimensions. But no, not the Dungeon Dimensions. More like a balloon inside a balloon. He was inside the outer balloon with the inner balloon, but now he’s inside the inner balloon inside the outer balloon. Or maybe inside the inner balloon outside the outer balloon…”

“Doc, you’re not making a lot of sense, or maybe you are and it’s just the world that doesn’t make sense…”

“Yeah, something like that I think. You do realise I’m theorising out loud right?”

“You usually are.” Jack answered, “Can you do anything?”

“Well…” He ran his hand through his unruly hair again and pulled off his glasses “Not without knowing where he is. I think he’s inside the house still.”

Jazz straightened up from where she’d been bent over one of the console screens, “Stay here, all of you, I’m going to process the scene, and I don’t want you under my feet. Actually… Doc, you’re with me.” She grabbed her ever ready bag from the chair where she’d dropped it and led the way to the door, looking back with one hand on the handle to where no one had moved, including her intended field partner, “Doctor, you coming? The rest of you, have a look in the TARDIS library, Jack and Martha you can run some more scans on the computers. Use the best technology we have at our disposals to bring him home. Now, Doctor!”

He gave them a nervous smile, rested his hand on Jack’s shoulder for a moment and then followed her out the door, closing it behind them both. Jack gazed after them mournfully for a moment, then turned back to the console without enthusiasm, “She’s right, let’s see what we can do.”

“Jack, they’ll find something, you know they will.” Mickey reassured him, “I’m going down to the library with the others, you two staying here?”

Martha looked at Jack, who shrugged and left her to the decision, “No, we’ll use the second control room, the computer set-up’s better there.”

“Second control room?” The hacker asked in surprise

“Yeah, down that corridor and turn left before the wardrobe, then take the second right…” She tugged on Jack’s arm and he started before setting off to the second control room

“Keep your coms open.” He called, “Easier to share information than trying to find each other in here. And don’t get lost.”

They sighed and looked at each other sadly before the library team moved off, “Will he be alright?” Andy asked worriedly

“When we get Ianto back, yeah.” John answered

The Doctor resting his elbows on his knees and his chin in his hands and watched Jazz working around the house. She’d allowed him to watch her more closely to start with, but then his questions got annoying and she kept walking into him when she turned around suddenly and, to cut a long story short, he was now handcuffed by his ankle to the chair in the corner of the bedroom. The handcuff was deep red and fluffy, and he would have been more comfortable about that fact if it had come out of Jack’s drawer, rather than out of Jasmine’s pocket.

“You never know when you’ll need one.” She’d said.

He sighed heavily and reflected that in all his long life, he’d never been chained to things as often as he had when in the company of the two immortals, either pre or post their miraculous transformation. For some reason, Jasmine wasn’t as… wrong as Jack, and Jack wasn’t as wrong at the end of the year than at the start… He was rambling again.

“Why are you different?” He asked suddenly. She stared at him for a moment and he took that as an invitation, however misinterpreted the gesture may have been, to go on, “Why do I feel like Jack is wrong and not meant to be, out of time, factual. But you’re not really, you’re more…” She wasn’t helping, just sitting back and glaring at him, “And Jack… Jack was less wrong after that year that he was at the start of it, and now he’s more wrong than he was at the wedding…”

She sighed and turned back to look under the bed, flashing her torch around in a variety of colours, “That’s because no matter where I am, it’s where I belong, Jack hadn’t found where he belonged, and now he’s lost it again.”


“Yes, oh.” She knelt up again and glared at him fiercely, her hands balling into fists, “Have you any idea how much you hurt him?” He cowered back from her intense gaze, “Ever since he met you, all he’s ever wanted to do is impress you, he wants you to be proud of him. Hell, he wants you to like him. He thought you’d abandoned him because you didn’t want him around, and I don’t know the truth of the matter but that’s how he sees it, and he waited Doc, he waited for a hundred years, protecting you and saving the world for you, when he could have done anything, so that he could find you again. And you ran away again.”

He dropped his eyes to the floor, “He’s a better man than I am.”


“No, it’s true. I couldn’t face it; I couldn’t live up to him. I couldn’t face the fact that I nearly didn’t give him the chance.”

Old eyes looked out from a teenage face, which wasn’t any more sympathetic than he’d expected it to be, “You’re such a moron. He needs you, he always needs you.”

“He’s got you.”

She growled, “Doctor!”

“OK, I know… I promise, I’ll try to be better. I just… I don’t know if I know how.”

Giving up, Jazz rolled her eyes and stood up, “I can’t find anything, nothing at all. No indication of a struggle, nothing else was in here… I don’t want to go into the bed… And yes, I might consider rephrasing that one.” She sighed, “There’s nothing… And, I know you didn’t mean to hurt him. But you have to know that you did.”

“Did I hurt you too?” He asked quietly

“I’m tougher than that Doc, you know me. So is Jack really, but he looks up to you more than I do.”

“I’ll try not to be hurt by that revelation.” He hugged her when she released him, “And now how are you holding up?”

She shrugged, “I’m still in love with Ianto, but I will never, ever admit it to anyone but you and John. Still in love with Jack, likewise… I don’t know, I guess I’ll process it once it’s over. Until then I’ll just keep going.”

“Someone has to.” He smiled and they made their way back to the blue police phone box in the middle of the living room

“Yeah, come on.” She dropped her bag on the chair and the Doctor fiddled with the parameters, combining the two control rooms for a moment to retrieve Jack and Martha, “You two found anything?”

They shook their heads sadly, “Nothing, well lots of somethings, have you ever seen an alien tech scan of Cardiff?”

“It looks like one of those night time satellite photos with all the streetlights everywhere.” Martha groaned

“But not any something we want.” Jack dropped into a chair and didn’t even register the rooms separating again and leaving him in the main control room, “I don’t know what to do.”

Martha looked up at the other two and recognised their dejected looks, “Same for you two?”

Jazz nodded, “Yeah. Look, Jack, you should grab some stuff whilst we’re here. I know you’re running out of stuff at the Hub, and for the moment…”

He interrupted her and headed for the door, “Probably best if I stay there rather than here, I know. Just… Just give me some time, OK?”

“Sure, take as long as you need.” The Doctor assured him, leaning back on the console to watch his old friend go with concern and guilt in his eyes.

September 2017

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