The man appeared out of nowhere. One moment, there was only bodies lying in the make-shift morgue, the next, there was a single man stepping out of thin air. He adjusted his black tie, made sure his suit had no creases, and then he advanced towards one of the bodies.
He uncovered the face and stared down for a long moment as if looking for something. “Come on, boy, there’s no need to wait so long,” he urged in a low tone. “I taught you better than that.”
A golden whisp of energy escaped from the body’s mouth. The man smiled. “That’s much better.”
A few moments later, Ianto Jones awoke. He blinked several times and then focused on the face above his. “Tad?”
“You had me worried for a minute there,” the Master Tailor stated as he held out a hand to his son. “I didn’t think you were going to regenerate.”
“Neither did I,” Ianto confessed, taking the assistance to stand up. He hadn’t exactly had much time to get himself ready and judging by the darkness surrounding him, it had taken his body a long time to heal itself of the virus. “I don’t feel different,” he commented, looking down at his body.
“You’re not,” his father observed. “You regenerated without changing. It happens sometimes, especially when you’re young. But that’s fine - you remind me of your mother.”
Ianto looked at his father’s ginger hair and boyish face, and smiled; this regeneration was so different from the last one that no-one would ever suspect they were related. “So where is everyone? I take it Jack’s awake?” he said, glancing at the empty space beside him.
“Walked out of here thirty-one minutes and twenty-six seconds ago,” the Master Tailor replied without consulting his pocket watch.
“Not too much of a head-start then,” Ianto stated and turned to walk away. He was stopped by a hand on his shoulder. “What?”
“The TARDIS will be quicker,” the Master Tailor said. “Come with me.”
Ianto followed his father into the cloaked TARDIS, disappearing from view could anyone see it. “So where are we going?”
A few twists of some dials later, the Master Tailor nodded, indicating that they had arrived. Ianto ran to the door and opened it. And stared. “When are we?”
“Twenty hours later,” his father replied, a hint of apology in his voice. He came to stand behind Ianto and peered out at the rooftop of a London high-rise. Captain Jack Harkness stood at the other end of the rooftop, staring out at the city, greatcoat billowing gently behind him. “I’m sorry, Ianto, I couldn’t bring you back any earlier. Certain events had to happen and if you had been there, it would have changed things.”
“What kind of things?” Ianto demanded to know, whirling around to face his father.
“I think Jack had better tell you that for himself,” the Master Tailor deflected. “Right, Jack?”
Ianto spun back around to see that Jack was now standing near the TARDIS door. He had forgotten that although the ship was cloaked, one could still hear if the door was open.
“Why weren’t you there?” Jack demanded, directing his question towards both the men.
Before Ianto could ask what he was talking about, the Master Tailor answered, “I’m not the Doctor, Jack, I don’t have to be there for you.”
“But you should have been there for Ianto!” Jack continued, hurting too much to guard his words. “You let him die!”
“So did you,” the Master Tailor riposted without rancour.
Jack stepped back as if he had been slapped. Ianto used the silence to speak. “I’m sorry it took so long. Tad brought me to this time. What happened? Have the 456 been stopped?”
The pain in Jack’s eyes make Ianto wish he hadn’t asked the question. He didn’t expect the immortal man to answer but finally Jack said, “They’re gone. They won’t return.”
Ianto knew that couldn’t be the reason for Jack’s pain. “How?”
Jack turned his gaze on the full-Time Lord. “You knew. You knew what would happen.”
“Yes.” The Master Tailor didn’t deny it. “It had to happen this way. If you had waited to find another solution, ten percent of the children would have been taken, Earth would never recover in time to resume space exploration, and they would not colonise space when they do, and history would be changed. Not even the Doctor would mess with that.” Although he knew that was a lie; the other Time Lord had done exactly that, and the Master Tailor had felt the repercussions of that echo through time. He had briefly visited the time when the incident had happened but determined that history had righted itself.
“Steven died!” Jack shouted, angry at Ianto’s father for not interfering and coming up with a better solution. “And you let him!”
“Your grandson?” Ianto was shocked into saying. How had that happened?
Jack gritted his teeth as he looked at Ianto again. He could see that Ianto was genuinely shocked so he knew that the younger man hadn’t known about the events that had passed in the last day. “UNIT gave me no choice - I had to sacrifice my grandson or let the 456 take the other children.”
Ianto knew how much that decision would have cost Jack; despite the immortal’s jovial appearance to most people, Ianto had seen the pain inside at the cost of protecting the people of Earth. He turned to his father. “This was what you didn’t want me to change?”
The Master Tailor’s eyes showed the weight of his decision but he remained silent. Like Jack, he knew that he couldn’t save everyone and that sometimes sacrifices had to be made. It was a decision that could have cost him his own family - Ianto, Rhiannon, his own grandchildren. They were the only family he had now as the rest had died on Gallifrey in the Time War.
“So what happens now?” Ianto asked when the two other men didn’t speak.
“There’s two options,” his father replied, looking into the time stream. “In the first, you return to Earth with Jack and battle the Rift, using up several regenerations before you decide that it’s not worth it and leave as Jack’s guilt over his actions will have destroyed your relationship. In the second, you leave with me now, give Jack time to grieve and to destroy the Rift, and then meet up again in six months time to explore the universe.”
As his father spoke, Ianto could see the options unfold in his mind. And much as he wanted to stay with Jack, he knew that the second choice was better for them in the long run.
“How do I destroy the Rift?” Jack questioned, his thoughts heading along the same lines as Ianto’s. There was nothing he wanted more than to hold Ianto - more than hold, if truth be told - right now but what good was having him in the short term if he eventually lost the younger man?
“I can’t tell you that.” He had already revealed too much. “But if Ianto is here, then the opportunity won’t arise.”
Jack accepted the Master Tailor’s word. “I’d like a word alone with Ianto before you go then.”
The Time Lord nodded and then left the two men alone.
“I love you,” Jack was quick to say before drawing Ianto into a passionate kiss. He had been too afraid to say the words when Ianto was dying, and now he didn’t want the young Time Lord to leave without knowing that simple fact. After a minute, he withdrew slightly but his face still remained close to his lover’s. “Will you marry me?”
“What?” Ianto was completely taken aback by the question.
“I know I haven’t given you any reason to think that I’m capable of commitment,” Jack continued, “but I promise you that since we started sleeping together, there hasn’t been anyone else. You have been more than capable of fulfilling my desires both in and out of bed, and there is no-one I would rather have at my side than you.” He knew that such a statement was somewhat out of character for him but he had realised how close he had come to losing Ianto and did not want to experience that pain again - at least, not for a very long time.
“I, uh, I don’t know what to say,” Ianto managed, his mind reeling. He had known things were reasonably serious between them but hadn’t thought that Jack would invest as much of himself into the relationship as he had.
“‘Yes’ was the answer I was hoping for,” Jack said, trying to hide his nervousness behind humour but not quite succeeding. When Ianto still didn’t say anything, Jack took a step backwards, certain that his young lover was rejecting him.
“Wait!” Ianto reached out a hand to snag Jack’s arm. “You really want to marry me?” He couldn’t quite believe it.
Jack shook Ianto’s hand away. “I thought that would have been obvious by my proposal,” he bit out, still hurt that Ianto hadn’t said ‘yes’ immediately.
Ianto rolled his eyes and stepped closer to the immortal man. “Jack, as you said, you’re never given my a reason to believe that you would want this with me. Only the other day, you said you hated the word ‘couple’.”
There was no denying that so Jack didn’t.
“But if you really do want to marry me, then I accept,” Ianto continued, a large grin spread across his face.
It took a few seconds for those words to sink in. When Jack finally realised what Ianto had said, a grin also appeared on his face. “Yes?”
“It’s about time,” came the Master Tailor’s loud comment from inside the TARDIS. As the two men turned to look at him, the Time Lord popped into view. “What?” He looked genuinely puzzled at their reaction.
“You know, you’re just like the Doctor sometimes,” Jack stated. Some personality traits - such as arrogance - seemed to be a commonality of the Time Lord race.
The Master Tailor sniffed. “Well, there’s no need to be insulting,” he said before he headed further into the TARDIS.
Jack grinned, though the emotion didn’t quite reach his eyes. “That worked well.”
Ianto lightly slapped Jack’s chest in admonishment. “Behave.”
“I am,” Jack protested before turning serious again. “I know it’s traditional to give rings on this occasion but I have something a little different.” He reached into his pocket and drew out the piece of coral that had always sat on his desk.
Ianto’s eyes widened. “How did you get that?” Last he had seen it, it had been in the Hub - which was now a pile of rubble.
“It was waiting for me when I arrived up here,” Jack stated, glancing over Ianto’s shoulder to see if the Time Lord was listening. He figured that Mr. Jones would have been the one to rescue the coral and bring it to his location, which meant that the man would either put it there in the future after realising that Jack had it; or he had already come here, gone back to fetch it, put it on the roof, then gone to get Ianto.
“Tad probably put it there,” Ianto stated, unknowingly echoing Jack’s thoughts. He took the coral from Jack’s hand. “I’ll take good care of it,” he promised.
“I know you will.” Jack wouldn’t entrust the baby TARDIS to anyone else.
Ianto reached into his own trouser pocket and pulled out the antique pocket watch with the perception filter that he always carried. “I would like you to have this.”
Jack knew what it symbolised - that there was no more barriers between them. Plus, there were a lot of memories associated with that watch. “Thank you.”
Hearing a muffled cough from behind him, Ianto briefly pressed his lips to Jack’s; his Tad was getting impatient. “I have to go,” he murmured against Jack’s lips.
“I know.” Jack stole one last kiss to sustain him through the next six months and then stepped back. “Be careful.”
“You too.” Ianto reluctantly moved into the TARDIS and shut the door. He desperately wanted to stay and help Jack but knew this was for the best if their relationship was to survive.
“Ready?” Mr. Jones asked, coming into view.
Ianto nodded. It hurt to leave, especially as he didn’t know how long it would be before he saw Jack again, but he had to.
Outside, Jack watched with a heavy heart as the TARDIS disappeared. His fingers clenched tightly around the stopwatch as he fought the wave of emotion. He would miss Ianto but six months wasn’t a long time in his extremely long life. He would get through this and in no time, he would be with Ianto again.
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