And You Will Know Her By the Smile in Her Eyes

by James [Reviews - 4]

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  • Teen
  • None
  • Alternate Universe, Angst, Drama, Romance, Slash

Author's Notes:
Hope betad this at several stages and made me re-write more than you could possibly imagine. Anything involving coffee is her fault.

In retrospect, Ianto didn't know if wearing protection would have made a difference, but afterwards he made sure to always handle artefacts -- alien, human, identified or not -- with gloves on. He suspected it would have made no difference, and, quite honestly, he was rather glad he hadn't been wearing them that day.

But afterwards he always made sure. Or he made Jack pick up the artefact first.

But that day, down in the archives, Ianto was sitting in front of five crates full of items that had been salvaged from Torchwood One. UNIT had been systematically combing through all of Torchwood One's properties throughout Great Britain, collecting whatever they could find -- presumably because they had the manpower and Torchwood Three did not, but Ianto knew it was more because UNIT didn't trust Torchwood any further than Torchwood trusted UNIT.

Which was why, ever since Canary Wharf, Jack had been sending his team out to scavenge whenever they got the chance. They didn't often find anything that was dangerous, but Jack said it was the principle of the thing. What belonged to Torchwood should stay with Torchwood -- unless it was a hytobolic transneutroniser, and Jack said it served UNIT right if every single one of their soldiers grew green horns and tails.

Harmless and temporary, Jack had assured them, and Ianto supposed it didn't really matter. What mattered was that once or twice a month, a team from Torchwood Three would return to Cardiff with a haul of something. Which Ianto then got to identify, catalogue, and store.

Sometimes it was easy; he'd seen some of it before and could simply sign off whatever notes were still attached, and copy down what he remembered of the artefact. Sometimes it wasn't easy at all and he could lose himself for hours in the archives, forgetting that anything else existed.

Once or twice Ianto readily identified an item, but removed all Torchwood One's notations and took the item up to Toshiko or Owen to play with, depending on how annoying or interesting the results would be. Toshiko had taken to visiting the archives more often, occasionally bringing scones or tea. Owen had taken to stealing Ianto's coffee mug and leaving it for Ianto to find with mysterious, and often moldy, liquid in it.

The crates he had today were mostly boring, full of items that looked dangerous but were too broken for even a 21st century genius to figure out. Ianto went through the first crate quickly, reading through the engineer's notes carefully before setting each item aside for storage. In a hundred years Torchwood operatives might be more able to handle them; Ianto added his own notations and set the items aside for later study.

The second crate had only one item in it, a large, slightly rounded device that looked as though it ought to fit over something. The notes indicated someone had thought the same thing, that part of the device was missing. No one at Torchwood One had ever been able to turn the thing on, even with a Mvrukian Universal Power Coupling. Ianto decided to keep the device in its crate, slipping the notes back in beside it. He hammered the lid back on and shoved it aside, moving on to the third crate.

The first item he took out of the crate clicked once, then fell silent. Ianto stared at it for several minutes before deciding it wasn't going to suddenly explode, or click again, or turn into a metal spider and eat his face off. There were no notes for it, just for the other devices packed inside; a quick look determined that most of the items were high-tech toys, designed either to entertain toddlers of an extremely advanced race or each children how to build their own nuclear power stations.

Cautiously, Ianto picked up the first item again. It was small, fit into one hand, and was vaguely square. There was a flat surface which might have been a screen, but Ianto couldn't get it to display anything. It simply sat there, silence and motionless. He was trying to decide whether to give it to Tosh or Owen when footsteps sounded outside the door. Moments later hands were on his shoulders and there was a tongue licking his ear.

"Normal people say 'hello'," Ianto observed.

"Normal people don't have someone that tastes as delicious as you," Jack replied, licking Ianto's ear again. Ianto made as if to ignore him, tapping his finger on the item in his hands. No noise, no lights, no flashing LED sign that said 'tap me again and I'm destroying your planet'.

"Normal people don't have to fend off the lecherous advances of their boss -- oh, actually, that is fairly normal. I think I saw a public service advertisement last night, in fact. There's a number I can ring to report you." Ianto looked over his shoulder and smiled.

"We can do phone sex," Jack replied, leering. "Conference call? We can get Colonel Saliers on the phone."

"And let him think it's a budget meeting?"

"You think he'd notice the difference?"

"I'm fairly sure the fact that you would be making happy noises would clue him in, yes." Ianto tried to look severe, but in the face of Jack's eager expression, found himself just laughing again.

"Let's go make happy noises," Jack said, reaching down and tugging on Ianto's hand.

"One would think you hadn't had sex just this morning. Can't it wait until this evening?"

Jack shook his head. "Can't. It's on the calendar: ten thirty a.m., shag Ianto." Jack shrugged, as though he were powerless to object.

"You're joking-- you're not joking. You put it on your calender?" Ianto found himself being pulled to his feet and towards the door. Not entirely unwillingly -- not really unwilling at all, but Ianto thought that he ought to at least pretend to have some sense of decorum.

"I'm trying to be more organised, like you said."

"I was talking about the financial reports!"

"I put those on there, too. I think." Jack frowned. "Maybe not. But I'm positive it says 'shag Ianto' and--" Jack glanced at his wrist band. Ianto was still amused that the device actually did give local time. Jack sighed. "It's ten thirty-two already. We're late."

"Then perhaps you'd better stop wasting time by trying to drag me off to your quarters and just shag me here." Ianto said it in his best business-professional tone, but the joke was lost -- or cheerfully ignored -- by Jack, who let go of Ianto's hand and began undressing him.

Ianto glanced down to watch as Jack undid the buttons of his shirt. "If I put 'do the washing' on your calendar, does that mean you'll actually do it?"

"Depends on my reward," Jack said.

Ianto looked up at him, standing still as Jack divested him of his waistcoat and shirt, all in one move. "And what is your reward for shagging me?"

Jack grinned. "I get to call Colonel Saliers for a budget meeting, and tell him I don't have the figures he wants because I lost them in the afterglow."

Ianto rolled his eyes and made a mental note to call the Colonel's secretary, and ask her to reschedule the meeting before Jack had the chance to piss anyone off. Again.

Then he picked up his feet, one at a time, and let Jack remove his shoes and trousers.

~~~

A month and a half later, Jack vanished. Their only clue were the sounds recorded on the CCTV, whirring engines and the echoes of heavy boots running on pavement. They dropped everything else to look for him, searching every inch of Cardiff, scanning every frame of CCTV footage, even visiting all the local hospitals and jails to check the faces of every unidentified person.

Ianto had been ready to go back and check the faces of everyone that had been identified, in case Jack was in under another name, when the Rift alarm had gone off and the team was forced to leave the search for Jack and go rescue a bus full of tourists. Ianto had had to go through every single camera, camera phone, and PDA to erase the photos and emails sent, describing the horrible and frightening aliens that had tried to eat their bus driver. He'd also erased their messages home about how Cardiff was cold, wet, and miserable. If they hadn't wanted cold and wet, why had they chosen to visit Wales in April?

Afterwards Ianto had gone back to searching for Jack, expanding his searches throughout all of Britain, and even tapping into the computer networks in Europe. The rest of the team divided their time between saving Cardiff from aliens, searching for Jack, and lying to the Prime Minister's office about being temporarily without leadership.

Finally Tosh managed to drag Ianto out of the Hub for an evening, by simply taking his hand and physically dragging him away from the computer and up the stairs. Owen followed, blocking his escape back down to the Hub. Ianto bit back his protests, knowing it was probably futile -- knowing it for certain when he saw Gwen in the SUV, sitting in the driver's seat and giving him a determined look.

It had been too much to ask that they'd be dragging him out to hunt weevils or something useful; as he'd feared, they'd gone to a pub, sat him down at a table, and proceeded to take turns buying rounds and finally giving in to the need to speak disparagingly about their disappeared Captain.

They'd speculated where, how, when he'd gone. But Owen had been the only one, until now, who had actually called the man a bastard for leaving. Three pints in, Ianto had nodded his agreement when Owen said it once more; five pints in Ianto rested his chin on the palm of his hand and stared dully at the tabletop.

"He is a bastard," Ianto said, quietly. "How hard would it have been to leave a note, or just wave at the CCTV in the Hub, let us know he was going willingly?"

"Because he's a prick," Owen said, giving Ianto a salute with his beer.

Ianto looked down at his glass, wondering if he wanted to finish it off and send Tosh for another round. It wasn't her turn to pay, but Ianto was fairly sure that walking in a straight line was beyond him at the moment.

"He's not a prick," Tosh protested, sounding as sober as she ought -- drinking one pint then switching to water, designating herself the driver for the evening.

"Oh, he's a bastard all right," Gwen put in, setting her own empty glass down in front of her. She'd switched to water half a round ago -- or was it two? Ianto couldn't remember, and it was possible he'd lost his ability to count along with his ability to walk. He saw the shot glasses beside his pint, and remembered why he felt so drunk.

"A cheap bastard," Ianto put in. "Never once took me to dinner." He thought back and realised he'd never once gone to the pub with the others until now. Jack had gone to the pub with the team -- not often, but occasionally. Jack would even play basketball with them, but for Ianto his only socialising had involved Ianto taking off his clothes.

Well, their clothes didn't always come off. But it had always involved sex. He couldn't remember a single instance when Jack had just hung out with him.

He was distracted from his drunken, depressed musings by a snort from Owen. "That's because you were just a shag, mate. You don't wine and dine the person you just wanna fuck." Owen looked at him with what might have been sympathy -- or might have been Owen getting ready to puke.

"Ianto wasn't just--" Tosh began, then stopped as Ianto waved his hand at her.

"I was, it's all right. Jack never.... We were just having fun. It wasn't a real relationship." Ianto frowned at his pint, and decided what he wanted was another shot of whatever the first one had been. "Nothing serious."

Which wasn't precisely true. Jack could be very serious about sex. Ianto thought, drunkenly, that Jack used sex as a language the way normal people used English. Sometimes sex was about having fun, sometimes it was about comfort. It could be bribery, reward, or punishment. Sometimes, right after Lisa, it had been something Ianto couldn't name, but he knew that the nights with Jack had prevented Ianto from giving in to the desire to kill himself.

But it was still just sex, and Jack had demonstrated quite clearly where Ianto fell in his list of priorities when he'd disappeared without even a thank you or a good-bye. True, he'd done the same to the whole team -- which meant that the one he'd been shagging hadn't meant any more to Jack than the others.

Ianto picked up his shot glass and waved it at Tosh. "I've some money in my wallet, could you get us the next round?"

Tosh gave him a sad-looking smile. "I think maybe it's time we all went home." She looked over at Gwen, who must have been not nearly as drunk as Ianto felt, because she stood up easily, grabbing her jacket off the back of her chair.

"I'll get this one if you can manage that one," she said, taking hold of Owen's arm.

"Oi! I'm not that drunk," Owen protested, getting to his feet, wobbling a bit.

"I am," Ianto announced, and let Tosh take his arm and get him upright. He let her lead him outside and to the SUV, even sitting still as she buckled him in. "Can I be sick?" he asked, before she shut the door.

"Please do," Owen said. "Then I can too, and the stink will be as much your fault so you can clean it out tomorrow."

"Owen!" Gwen hit him in the arm.

Ianto closed his eyes, thinking that maybe he would throw up when he got home. Or both; he wasn't quite sure yet. He'd been finally getting over the stomach bug he'd caught last week and perhaps a night of heavy drinking hadn't been the best of ideas. But, for the first time since Jack had vanished, he felt... Well, nothing hurt.

Except his stomach, but nothing important hurt. He rested his head on the seat, and let the gentle sway of the vehicle lull him to sleep.

~~~

Two weeks after that, Ianto stood in the autopsy bay with a scanner in his hand, wondering if he shouldn't have just asked Owen for something to treat his stomach.

He'd thought at first it was a repeat of the stomach virus, then when it persisted -- and Jack was still missing -- he'd guessed it was only stress. On the chance it wasn't, he'd come down to the Hub early, before the others were due to arrive, and made use of Owen's medical equipment. The scanner was telling him it was neither stress nor a virus and Ianto could only think that he was very impressed with the lengths Owen would go to play a joke on him.

With shaking hands, Ianto set the portable scanner down and moved towards the other scanner. Placing one hand on the flat panel, he gripped the wand and ran it carefully over his midsection. The second heartbeat appeared clearly on the screen, beating at a rate of 135 beats per minute according to the numbers flashing on the lower corner of the screen. He had no idea if that was good or bad, and how it might relate to the fact he wasn't even female.

Ianto sat down -- realising only a moment later he was sitting on the floor. The screen in front of him went dark as his hand fell away from the panel and he stared at the wall beyond. The tile was cold and without thinking, he pressed one hand to his lower abdomen.

Pregnant.

He wanted to laugh. The words 'impossible' and 'not real' went through his mind quickly, banished with the terrifying ease he'd learned since joining Torchwood. Anything was possible, and truth was what logic and common sense both said was probably just a bad dream. Likely it was real, it apparently was possible, and all Ianto could think was, What am I going to do now?

He sat there for some time, feeling numb and trying to think. He had options, ranging from turning Owen into Torchwood's first obstetrician to digging out the singularity scalpel and aiming it at his own stomach. His hand still rested on his abdomen and he tried to make himself think of what he wanted. What on Earth he could do.

Ianto closed his eyes and let his head tilt back, running through the chances once more that this wasn't real. Owen and Tosh could definitely pull this off, but he didn't think it was likely they'd work together to play a joke on him. Tosh would happily play it on Owen, but she would have confided her joke to Ianto so he could enjoy it with her.

It was also possible that Ianto had inhaled some sort of hallucinogen and none of this was real.

Ianto finally opened his eyes and looked at the data still on the readout. It had said he was perfectly healthy. No blood-borne diseases, no injuries, no alien parasites, no drugs or artificial stimulants in his bloodstream -- other than caffeine.

Just one small, human fetus residing in his body.

Ianto pushed himself to his feet and stumbled up the stairs, not thinking about where he was going until he made it to Jack's office. It looked for all the world like Jack had just stepped out and would be back any moment now; Ianto went to the bookcase and grabbed a bottle he suspected was even older than Jack. He picked it up and grabbed a glass, then stopped before he could open it.

He stared at the liquid through the dark glass of the bottle. One drink wouldn't hurt anything. Would it? Would one glass be enough to help him cope? He wanted to down the whole bottle and wake up tomorrow with a hangover and a group of co-workers telling him it was all fun and games. But he didn't really think any of them were in the mood to play elaborate pranks.

Possibly they would do so on Jack, torturing him gleefully when he finally came home. But now...Ianto had to admit that none of them, not even Owen, would be likely to play a cruel joke on him right now.

Tosh and Gwen had taken it in turns to make sure he left the Hub at night, cajoling him along to dinner or at least to his car with promises he would go home. Owen had dragged him to the pub three more times since that first night out, buying them both pints and telling stories about university and his residency until finally pouring Ianto into a taxi at the end of the night.

Dear God, he'd been pregnant then when he'd had so much to drink-- Ianto felt his thoughts stutter to a stop. He'd been pregnant. Pregnant.

He'd gotten drunk on beer, subsisted on nothing but crackers and toast for the three days after Jack had gone, and Ianto had woken up vomiting each morning, thinking he'd caught the flu. Ianto set the bottle back down on the bookcase and set the glass beside it. His hands were still shaking and he walked over to the chair and sat down, facing Jack's desk. It was covered with paperwork; Ianto had been in here himself, just that afternoon, taking care of a few things that couldn't wait. Forging Jack's signature was easy enough, he'd done it when Jack was still around. Everything pressing and urgent was taken care of and everything else was just... waiting.

Ianto pressed his hand to his stomach again. His baby. His and Jack's.

Ianto dropped his head to his hands, folded down onto the top of the desk. It must be a joke. It had to be.

Jack, where the hell are you?


~~~

He didn't know how long it was before he raised his head. Wiping his face, Ianto took a deep breath and looked around. There was no way of contacting Jack -- they'd ransacked the office and entire Hub already, searching. They'd practically ransacked Cardiff, searching for him. But there was something he could do, something they'd considered doing as a way of contacting Jack if nothing else worked to find him. Ianto stood up and went to the filing cabinet next to the wall safe. In one drawer was a small box, which Ianto had brought up from the archives a few days before.

Ianto took it and set it down on the desk. A box with a time-lock, just big enough to place a letter inside -- they'd thought about leaving a letter for Jack, asking him to come back already, or send a message to let them know he was all right. They'd finally decided that such a message would do nothing -- Jack would come back or he wouldn't, and nothing they could say would tell Jack anything he didn't already know to persuade him to come back.

Ianto patted his stomach. Although, now there was. He picked up a pen and wondered -- send a letter into the future, for some future Torchwood to open, to find Jack and send him home? But it wouldn't be Jack. It would be the future Jack, not the one who rightly belonged here and now. The words 'better than none' whispered through his mind, but Ianto knew he had to focus on solving the problem at hand. Jack would return or he wouldn't, and for the moment Ianto had to take care of himself.

And whoever else was coming along.

Ianto shivered, once, then bent his head over the paper, writing slowly and clearly. He had no idea how long it would take for the box to open, and he wanted to be sure that whoever opened it would understand. He included a second letter as well, addressed to himself to be brought along as a proof of identity for whomever found them. Then he folded both pages carefully, slipped them into an envelope, then looked at the box.

The time-lock would open when appropriate, all he had to do was set the key. He knew how it worked in theory, but had never actually had the chance to do it. He was, in fact, only assuming that it would work at all and that the thing hadn't run out of whatever charge powered it. Tosh said she thought it was powered by time itself, able to lock and unlock as long as time existed. Of course, she couldn't be sure, but she'd felt certain she was probably right.

Well, if it didn't work Ianto would have time to think of something else. He wouldn't even start to show for a few more weeks....

Shutting down that line of thought, Ianto put the envelope into the box and closed the lid. He pressed his hand on the top of the time-lock, and thought, very clearly, about what he wanted. He'd rehearsed the key while he'd written his letter, considering and discarding conditions he didn't really need. All he needed was for the box to open when it is possible for my child to be carried to term safely and be born healthy. Anything else, he could handle on his own.

Ianto felt a soft click. He lifted his hand and stared at the box.

He supposed that was it, then. He picked the box up and carried it to the wall safe, dialing it open and setting the box inside. So many things could go wrong -- his mind started cataloguing them, from Torchwood itself being destroyed to the box opening at the wrong time or the recipient not believing him, or simply not caring.

Ianto closed and locked the wall safe, and walked out of Jack's office. If this didn't work, there was still the opportunity of seeing the look on Owen's face when Ianto told him he should brush up on his midwifery skills.

He came to an abrupt halt as a young woman appeared in the middle of the Hub. She looked human, dressed in a simple white coverall with her thick brown hair tied back in a ponytail as if she were, in fact, utterly normal. She caught sight of him and checked a small device in her hand, then smiled. "Sorry to cut it so close, but really the transfer is best done early in the second trimester and we think you're pretty close to that now. Of course it's perfectly safe even if we do it later, but the doc thought-- oh. Hi, I'm Daidre. Daidre Bates, Torchwood 81." Her gaze flicked briefly down to the gun Ianto was holding, aiming at her. Then she looked up at his face again. "I've got your letter of introduction in my pocket. Promise not to shoot me while I get it out?"

~~~

It turned out that the operation itself would be simple, painless, and quick.

Ianto stared at the artificial incubator and at the screen on the side which would show the readings for the fetus, once it was placed inside. There was no way to view the fetus itself while it was inside. Dr Tevaris had smiled at him and said, "They're supposed to develop in the dark, so we don't want to shine lights on them and bounce lightwaves off their heads, now do we?"

Dr Tevaris had explained the procedure in very simple terms, or so Ianto presumed as not every word she'd said was in English. Whenever he'd stopped them to clarify, they'd looked embarrassed and fumble for different terms, more often than not only confusing him further. It hadn't helped that they refused to give him a great many details about how it worked, in order to not reveal things he shouldn't know about the future.

Eventually he'd understood enough, though, and now his daughter was going to develop inside the machine and not inside him. Male pregnancy wasn't exactly common, or even heard of, really, in Torchwood 81's time. He'd not been exactly reassured by Dr Tevaris' excitement about scanning him thoroughly and making complete records for study.

"Women use artificial incubators all the time," Daidre had explained while Ianto had sat on a chair in the examining room, watching the doctor with concern. At least she hadn't started talking about publishing papers and calling him the miraculous Patient X. Daidre held his hand, pointing to readouts and saying they showed good things about the fetus' development and health.

"If a woman gets sick or injured they can just remove the fetus and let it finish in an incubator and afterwards, there's no way to tell which kids came out of a incubator and which came out of a womb." She'd paused, then, and rolled her eyes, shaking her head slightly. "The rich and famous use them to avoid the 'inconvenience' of being pregnant," she went on, sounding completely unimpressed. "But it will work for your daughter. We don't know exactly how it is you got pregnant -- we think the device you described is from upstream from us, still. But once we get the baby inside, the incubator doesn't know or care how she was started."

Ianto hadn't been quite convinced at first, listening to Daidre and Dr Tevaris go over and over the details again as they sat around a conference table with holographic displays of information floating in the air. Ianto asked whatever questions he could, continually frustrated as they kept stopping themselves halfway into an answer and saying "But we can't really tell you more than that because of the timestreams."

Finally Tevaris had just shaken her head and declared, "The time-lock was set to open when it was safe for your child, when she could be born healthy. It opened -- therefore now must be a good time."

Daidre had leaned forward, resting her elbows on her knees. "If you'd rather not risk it, we can always seal your letter back up again and let a future Torchwood come back for you." She'd seemed perfectly OK with that option, and Ianto suspected that if he opted for it, keying the time-lock to a time specifically suited for men being pregnant, no one would argue with him. Dr Tevaris hadn't looked thrilled at the idea, but she'd nodded her agreement that it was an acceptable option.

They'd left Ianto alone to think it over, staring at the diagram of an incubator, annotated in a language he still couldn't quite figure out. It was a combination of Roman letters and something that didn't seem human. They hadn't even told him what century he was in, being vague and saying only that the less he knew, the better for when he returned.

Ianto was finding it hard to think much beyond the present moment, even distracted by wondering where Jack was and whether, in this future time, he even remembered Ianto Jones and the daughter he'd had. Assuming Jack ever found out -- Ianto was tempted to ask Daidre to look Jack up, but knew she was likely to say no.

He had to admit he was a little afraid of finding out if Jack remembered him -- or worse, remembered him and couldn't be bothered.

Finally Ianto decided that using the incubator was really no better than waiting. The incubator seemed safe and was definitely a tried-and-true method for the time and place. Better to get on with it, he told himself, and he went to find Dr Tevaris in the outer rooms where they'd left him. He told her he agreed to the procedure and was immediately lost in a flurry of action as nurses descended, taking him away to prep him and the incubator for the surgery.

An hour later he lay in a bed, looking at the incubator resting beside him. A single indicator light shone a steady green, and Ianto placed his hand on the screen, imagining he might feel something from inside. His other hand rested on his chest -- and he imagined he might feel something from inside there, as well.

~~~

Days later, Ianto settled into a routine. The incubator was set up in the front room of his personal quarters. They'd set him up in an entire apartment, deep inside the Torchwood building. He wasn't allowed outside the immediate hallway -- Daidre had apologised over and over, promising that they'd keep him company and provide him with work when he wanted it, to keep him busy.

The apartment they'd given him was furnished in a bizarre array of historical styles -- there was a stereo from the 1970s and a music library filled with reproduction records from every century from the 14th to the year 2001. (Daidre had explained they couldn't risk getting too close to his own year, but wouldn't explain why and frankly Ianto found he really didn't care.) There were books, all carefully selected to have been published before 2000, and another bookcase filled with movies. The decor ranged from 20th century to what Ianto thought was the early 16th century -- and Italian instead of British. There were Victorian era fixtures in the bathroom and garishly-colored rugs from the 1960s in the bedroom and the clothes -- after rummaging through the closet Ianto had selected a simple tan coverall, much like the ones Daidre wore, and ignored the rest of the closet.

He sat in the chair beside the incubator and read through the books he'd been left -- 'What To Expect in the First Year', published in 2000. Ianto hadn't intended to read it but he'd discovered someone had gone through with a pen, making notes and clarifications and even crossing out entire sections with red ink. Modern day sensibilities over-ruling whatever worries they had about messing with time; Ianto suspected Dr Tevaris, reading the marginalia about whether or not to let a crying baby alone, or pick her up whenever she wanted. Once or twice a sentence was simply crossed out and the words "Idiots" was written in.

It kept him busy for a few days, reading and watching the incubator. Eventually, though, he left his rooms and went down the hallway, to the very end of where he was allowed to roam. There were no windows and Ianto had no idea how deep in the building he was -- if he was underground, in space, or on a city block in the middle of London.

An office had been set up at the end of the hallway and Daidre had explained they'd found work for him to do if he wanted. He wasn't required to work, she'd made it clear. He didn't have to earn his way, didn't have to do anything except watch his daughter gestate, if that was what he wanted. But they'd thought he would want something to do to keep busy, and Ianto quickly found he couldn't keep sitting beside the incubator -- thoughts of his friends back home kept intruding, thoughts of what the hell he would do when his daughter was born.

Thoughts of Jack. Would Jack return? Would Jack be happy that he'd become a father? Or would he tell Ianto to give her up for adoption or leave Jack and Torchwood behind? He wanted to think that Jack would at least be interested in the baby, but he had to admit he didn't really know.

At one time he would have thought Jack wouldn't be the sort to run away from Torchwood without so much as a good bye and I'll see you later. There was no way to predict how he would react to finding out Ianto had given him a child.

It wasn't a problem he could answer sitting here, so Ianto tried his best not to dwell on it. Reading beside the incubator wasn't keeping his mind off his daughter, so Ianto went to the room Daidre had showed him, and sat down at the desk. A holographic screen appeared, and a keyboard slid up from the top of the desk, and Ianto discovered that, after all this time, his job hadn't really changed. Identify, catalogue, and mark for proper storage or use -- only instead of alien artefacts, apparently Ianto was now doing work for the New Harbour Earth Historical Museum and Recovery Facility.

~~~

Soon Ianto was spending most of his days in his office, working his way through 4-dimensional representations of artefacts from archaeological digs. He'd just finished with a batch of clothing from the 19th century, making copious notes about proper wear and construction, even demonstrating for the recorder how one tied a Windsor knot. He usually worked late into the afternoon, stopping only when Daidre came to join him form dinner in Ianto's apartment. She often joined him, and Ianto had never said a word to dissuade her; her sense of humour baffled him and he didn't understand many of the words she used. But at least twice a week she dropped by for dinner, talking eagerly with him about things that were safe to discuss, no matter how boring they really were.

Ianto appreciated the company enough to put up with talking about economic policies and rural methods of raising sheep and cabbage.

He'd met several other people, including the two nurses who stopped by regularly to check on him and the incubator, and a professor from the Historical Museum who had an apoplexy every time he remembered that Ianto really was from the past and actually knew what he was talking about when he described fast food restaurants and traffic roundabouts. But visits were few, and Ianto kept himself busy with the archiving work and spent the rest of his time going through his cobbled-together library systematically, reading everything on the shelves whether or not it interested him.

At night, when he finally fell asleep in the chair beside his daughter's incubator, Ianto invariably dreamt of Jack and of home. When he woke up he spent every second he could keeping himself distracted.

Today he found himself sitting at his desk, staring at the wall. There was no window in his office, just a couple of paintings of ancient landscapes. Ancient even for him, and he wondered again just how far into the future he'd come. Not too far, or their language would have evolved to the point he couldn't understand a single word. But far enough that something had happened for them to lose so much knowledge of their own history. Or perhaps it wasn't distance, but some catastrophe -- Ianto wondered if that was the real reason they kept him locked away, so he wouldn't learn about some planet-wide tragedy that destroyed so much information.

It was possible, Ianto mused, that they knew perfectly well what all this crap was and they were simply trying to give him work to do so he wouldn't go mad. Ianto had no idea, though he suspected Professor Galloway was genuinely interested in learning everything Ianto had to say about his culture. At the moment, however, Ianto found he simply didn't care anymore. He was tired, and he hadn't been outside in two months. He knew better than to ask; Daidre had apologised for days the last time he'd mentioned it, bringing him desserts and new books and clothes for his daughter for after she was born.

"All cotton, I checked, nothing that isn't perfectly available in your own time," she'd said, showing him the tiny yellow outfits covered in flowers and butterflies. Girls didn't change much over the centuries, Ianto had surmised, watching as Daidre had gushed over each item and talked about her sister's babies and how her own boyfriend was getting cold feet about the whole commitment thing and weren't these tiny socks the most adorable thing he'd ever seen?

Ianto didn't want to upset her again, reminding himself yet again how much he owed these people. Instead, he made his way back to his rooms, hoping to sit beside the incubator and see if he could make any headway on picking out a name.

He froze in the doorway. Sitting in the chair beside the incubator, was Jack. Holding a children's book and reading it out loud.

There was a moment when Jack kept reading, Ianto frozen in the doorway, then Jack suddenly stopped and his head whipped around. Ianto could see, then, that it wasn't his Jack -- this Jack was older, grey hair at his temples and lines around his face and Ianto had no idea how long it had been but he was halfway across the room before he stopped himself. It didn't matter, because Jack had got to his feet and met him, and Ianto didn't realise until he was wrapped in Jack's arms, face buried in his shoulder, that Jack was wearing the same coat he'd seen Jack in nearly every single day back home.

He lost himself in Jack's arms, breathing in the scent of him and feeling something inside himself loosen. Finally he was able to draw back, just a bit, and he looked at Jack.

"You've still got the coat?" he asked, voice shaking just a little.

Jack grinned, and it was the same grin that Ianto had seen, that very first night in the park. So many times since. "I bring it out for special occasions," Jack said. His voice was soft, slightly rough, and the tone of his accent made Ianto realise he was probably trying to remember how to speak 21st century English.

"And visiting--" Ianto's throat closed over.

"I've been by nearly every day," Jack whispered. "That's why they set you up so far down the hall, so I could-- I'm sorry I wasn't here," he said, and Ianto could see the genuine sorrow in his eyes. "I'm so sorry I left like that. That I wasn't--" He stopped himself, and Ianto wondered what he'd started to say. Then Jack just shook his head. "I hope it's OK, that I'm visiting her now?" He sounded hesitant, almost afraid.

Ianto blinked. "Of course! Jack...of course. She's--" His throat threatened to close up again, but he forced himself to speak. "She's your daughter. You should visit her." He glanced down at the book Jack had left lying in the chair. The title on the cover said 'Millard the Happy Duck' and the picture was of a bright yellow duck carrying handful of flowers.

Following his gaze, Jack smiled. "It's going to be her favourite," he said, and Ianto forgot what else he'd been about to say.

"Going to be? How--"

Jack's smiled dimmed, the sadness back in his eyes but in a determined voice he said, "I come back. I promise -- I come back and you and I, we raise her, and she's brilliant and gorgeous and this is one of her favorite books. She makes me read it every night for four years." Jack laughed at the memory -- a memory Ianto didn't yet have but, it seemed, he would have.

The joy and relief hit him, and Ianto happily let it wash away all his doubts and fears. Jack returned, and he stayed. Helped raise their daughter and everything... Cold reality hit him, and he asked, "Why sneak in? Why not just tell me you were here?"

Jack looked uncomfortable and, clearly reluctantly, said, "I couldn't risk changing anything. Time lines; she's too young to have an effect."

"But telling me I can stop worrying would have an effect?" Ianto asked, hurt and confused. What could he have possibly done if he just knew Jack returned?

Jack looked down at the incubator, not answering right away. Finally, Jack just said, "I couldn't risk saying something I shouldn't."

Ianto opened his mouth, ready to demand an explanation -- a better explanation, and point out that if anyone deserved it, he did. But Jack never looked up at him, avoiding his eyes and Ianto wondered just how much Jack had come here for him, and how much he'd come here for her.

As he watched Jack, he realised what was happening. Jack had come back -- to visit his daughter, because he could. Because he clearly loved her, and missed her, and had this chance to see her again.

It hadn't mattered if he saw Ianto.

So, Jack could very well be telling the truth. Jack would return, to the 21st century, and he would be there to help raise her. He would love her, and he would do the right thing and be there for her.

Maybe it wouldn't matter that Jack didn't love him.

Ianto had never dreamed of trying to trap Jack into a relationship, and he wanted to laugh hysterically at the absurdity that he could have guessed he'd have this sort of chance. Ianto tried to keep his emotions from showing and he forced himself to sound composed as he said, "All right. I suppose it makes sense."

It didn't make sense, not really, unless Ianto was right. Jack could have easily come by to visit, read books to the incubator then tumble Ianto into bed for a round or three of sex, before taking off again. There would have been no reason to talk, no risk of revealing something he shouldn't. But he hadn't offered. Hadn't told Ianto he was here, and...for whatever his reasons, Ianto couldn't convince himself that he had reason to have expected more.

He looked at Jack, watched the way he was still staring at the incubator. He wondered if Jack was imagining the girl inside, who she would become. He wanted to ask -- but of course that was one of the things Jack had meant to avoid. He clutched at the only thing he had, reaching out physically as well, touching the sleeve of Jack's coat. His fingers gripped it as if of their own accord and Jack took a half-step closer to him.

"You do come back?" Ianto asked, quietly. There was no reason for this Jack to lie to him, was there?

Jack looked at him finally, moving closer and putting his hands on Ianto's arms in what was almost an embrace. "I promise, Ianto," he said calmly. "I come back."

Ianto could only nod. It wasn't precisely what he wanted to hear -- but when had Jack ever said what Ianto wanted to hear? He thought he should let go of Jack's arm, but he couldn't make his fingers work. Jack didn't seem to mind, pulling him in a bit closer and turning his head to look at the incubator. "She's going to be perfect," Jack said. He paused, then said, "Except for the part where she wrecks the car. And I'm still not too thrilled about that Evans boy. I don't like him, never did." Jack scowled at the incubator. "But you're not going to listen to me, are you?" He sighed, shaking his head.

"Evans boy?"

Jack looked at him. "Oh, nothing sinister, just... well. The phrase 'overprotective father' might have been uttered once or twice around the house when she was growing up." Jack grinned, clearly trying to look sheepish and failing miserably.

Ianto found himself beginning to smile, but he also felt more than a bit disconcerted. He wanted -- he wanted to take Jack into the bedroom, strip them both down and remember things he was afraid he'd forgotten. But this Jack wasn't really his, he'd already shown that. However far in the future they were, Jack would have moved on after Ianto had died. He knew this Jack was past him -- whatever Ianto had come to mean to him in whatever time they'd had. He'd come back now for a chance to be with his daughter.

"Should you be telling me this?" Ianto asked, forcing a light-hearted cheer he didn't quite feel.

Jack was laughing again and Ianto found himself caught in the sound of Jack's honest delight. "I don't think it's any great secret that I'm an overprotective father. Or that teenage girls date boys their dads don't approve of."

Ianto frowned. He'd barely gotten used to the idea of feeding an infant and changing nappies, and now suddenly he was imagining a sixteen year old sneaking out of the house to meet a boy.

Ianto felt a sudden rage towards the boy. Whoever he was. Evans. He'd make a note to remember it.

He felt Jack shift, then suddenly he was stepping away. The look on his face was apologetic. "I should be going," Jack said. He glanced towards the incubator.

"Are you... going to be back tomorrow?" Ianto asked, carefully keeping his voice even.

Jack looked even more apologetic, and Ianto didn't have a chance to ask before Jack said simply, "It's too risky. I'm not.... I'll end up saying something I shouldn't, I mean really shouldn't. I can't--" Jack looked at the incubator again and there was something on his face that Ianto thought he could understand.

"I'm in my office nearly every day," Ianto said quietly. "I... won't come back early again." Jack gave him a sharp look, but didn't say anything. Ianto took a deep breath, and nodded, resolutely. "You said you're going to come back. When I go home. I can wait. I'll stay in my office while you visit her."

"Are you sure? Ianto, I don't want to...." But the look on Jack's face said he very clearly did. He glanced again at the incubator, and Ianto knew he was remembering the daughter who hadn't been born yet. For Jack, she'd been born and grown up -- died of old age herself, already. Whatever else Jack had gone on to do, people he'd gone on to meet and fall in love with--

"You have to read her her favorite book, else I imagine she gets very upset with you," Ianto said, smiling despite everything. "After all, it wouldn't do to make her think she doesn't have you wrapped around her little finger."

Jack's answering smile made Ianto want to reach back out and grab him. Kiss him senseless. He held himself back -- not mine -- and watched as Jack went over to the incubator and laid his hand on the top of it. "I'll see you tomorrow, munchkin. I promise to read your book, and I'll tell you stories about your tad that he won't let me tell you when you're older." He looked over at Ianto and winked.

Ianto scowled, and said nothing as Jack whispered something he couldn't overhear. Then Jack was standing there, grinning at him like there was nothing wrong in the world at all. Ianto smiled. It was good to see Jack happy, he had to admit. He held out his hand after a second's hesitation, and Jack raised an eyebrow in question. Then Jack grabbed his hand and pulled him in, bumping their bodies together. Jack's grin widened, and, with a dramatic flourish, kissed Ianto like... like he knew perfectly well it wasn't good-bye.

When he let Ianto go, Jack patted the incubator and gave Ianto a look. "I won't say I'll be seeing you, but-- You'll be seeing me."

Ianto nodded, and said nothing as Jack lifted his wrist, and pressed a button on his wrist-strap. He vanished in a flurry of blue and gold, and once he'd disappeared completely, Ianto raised his fingertips to his lips. Jack had kissed him -- there had been no sense of grief, or loss. Just the same happiness Ianto had seen in Jack's eyes.

He told himself it was good; however long it had been, Jack obviously hadn't forgotten him. He went into the bedroom and lay down on the bed, and tried not to ask himself if it simply meant Jack hadn't grieved for him at all.

~~~

Two months later Ianto decided he was going to go mad. The work he did for the Historical Museum was interesting, but not very challenging. He knew what the items were, after all, and it was just a matter of recording the information. He had got some puzzles from Daidre a few weeks before, when he'd told her he was getting bored. She'd brought a stack of three-dimensional puzzles to build, and books of maths and logic puzzles -- nothing that said much about the culture outside, but which kept his mind working enough that he didn't want to climb the walls.

He was sitting beside the incubator one morning, trying to get up the energy to go to his office -- and why couldn't he decide on a name, anyhow? At this rate she would be born and be 'baby girl Jones' for the rest of her life. He should have asked Jack what her name had been so he wouldn't have to make a decision.

It wasn't that he couldn't think of a name, it was that there were too many to pick from. There were dozens of female relatives to name her after; his mother or grandmothers or aunts and favorite cousins. And there were friends -- he'd thought about naming her Lisa, and still didn't know if it was a good idea or a horrible one. He could even name her 'Jacqueline', although it didn't seem like a good idea to feed Jack's ego, no matter what the circumstances.

He stared at the incubator and tried to imagine the baby inside. What would she look like? Maybe he needed to wait and meet her properly, before naming her. Ianto sighed. Maybe she would just be Baby Girl Jones. Although Gwen and Tosh would probably murder him...

He had no idea how he was going to tell them. Explaining how it had happened would be easy -- touched an alien artefact, had sex, and here I am with a baby. And he doubted they would be anything other than completely thrilled to meet her.

But he had no idea what was going to happen, once he got back. Jack had said he'd be there, to help raise her. But did they leave Torchwood? Did Ianto leave, and Jack keep working? Did they make a nursery in the Hub and raise her among the Rift and aliens and bizarreness -- the danger of their lives?

He had no idea, and he had to admit he wasn't completely convinced that Jack was telling him the truth. He'd said he came back and helped raise her, but what did that mean? He hadn't even said if they lived together. Maybe Jack just sent support cheques and saw her on weekends, or whenever Rift activity allowed.

Ianto rubbed a hand over his face. He needed to get moving, soon. Jack would be along and Ianto had promised he wouldn't be around. He put his hands on the arms of the chair to push himself upright...and he just couldn't do it. He couldn't bear the thought of sitting in that office, going through boring, stupid, useless pictures of artefacts that no one cared about and would never make a difference. Archiving for Torchwood had always meant that something he found and catalogued might, someday, be useful. Someone might save the world someday because of some alien artefact properly archived in the Hub.

Ianto sighed. He just wanted to go outside.

"Oh! Sorry... Am I early?"

Ianto looked over at Jack, standing a few feet away. He was wearing his greatcoat over a pair of grey coveralls. Ianto wondered if they really were modern fashion or if everyone was being careful with what they wore around him. As if seeing what passed for fashion in the future would change the timeline, Ianto thought miserably.

Jack's face softened. "Having a bad day?" He walked over and crouched beside the chair. "Honestly, we were kind of expecting it before now. But Daidre said you've been coping really well. She thought you might actually make it the whole way without snapping." He grinned, briefly.

"Well, she was wrong. I've snapped. But you're here to visit, so I'm going back to bed and hide under the blankets." Ianto started to push himself out of the chair, but Jack laid his hand on his arm.

"I could.... If you want, I could take you ahead. To the day she's born." Jack tapped his wristband.

Shocked, Ianto just stared at him as the words sank in. He could be done with this now. She'd be born and he could take her home and he could go outside. "It's still three months," he said, not exactly sure why that mattered. Jack could travel through time, it didn't matter if it was ten seconds or ten thousand years.

Jack nodded. "It doesn't have to be more than a few minutes for you."

Anger pulling him out of his depression, Ianto pushed himself forward in the chair. "Then why didn't you, or anyone else, make this offer when I first arrived? Why go to the trouble of making an apartment, and finding work for me to do, if I could have just skipped ahead to the ending?"

There was a half-smirk on Jack's face. "Because do you really think you're going to accept my offer?"

Ianto opened his mouth to demand what the hell Jack was talking about, when he stopped. He could go forward in time, three months, to the day his daughter was ready to be born. She would stay here, in her incubator, watched over by Dr Tevaris and her staff. Probably even Daidre would visit, and Jack would definitely visit every day as he was already doing. She'd be perfectly safe, and cared for, and he would be gone, forward in time.

"It's safe here, though, isn't it?" he asked, already doubting he would believe Jack's answer.

"The building is fire-proof, earthquake-proof, and invasion-proof." Jack paused, and Ianto could see the word 'mostly' already forming on his lips.

Ianto had the image of going ahead, three months into the future, and discovering a bizarre accident had destroyed the incubator and killed his unborn daughter. Or finding that aliens had shown up and kidnapped her -- the ones who'd made the device would track her down and take her, claiming her as their own property. His mind whirled with possibilities, both normal and wild, still entirely probable ones.

For a moment he cursed Torchwood for making him aware of just how many things could go catastrophically wrong.

Could he really walk away and leave her behind? Assume that nothing would happen to her? It wasn't likely anything would -- not if it hadn't already. While he knew he was over-reacting when he said it, he said it anyway, realising that, indeed, Jack was right. Ianto shook his head. "I'm not leaving her alone."

With a soft look, Jack smiled. "I know how you feel. Which is why I didn't mention it as an option before." He put his hand on the edge of the incubator, brushing his fingers gently across its surface. "I know she gets born instead of being eaten by monsters and I sometimes have a hard time waiting until I can come back and see for myself she's still all right."

"But if you know, doesn't that mean it has to happen that way?"

Jack shook his head. "Time isn't written in stone. Just because I remember it happening one way... well, once you start traveling in time, almost anything can happen." He looked at the incubator then up at Ianto. There was something in his eyes that made Ianto wonder just how much Jack believed his own words.

"Nothing's going to happen to her," Ianto said, firmly. "She's too stubborn to get killed before she's born."

Jack blinked. "How-- not that I'm agreeing or disagreeing with you, but how would you know that?" His tone was guarded and a little suspicious.

"Because I know her parents." Ianto folded his arms and looked at Jack, who grinned suddenly, then laughed.

After a moment Jack asked, "Does that mean you want me to take you ahead?"

Ianto shook his head. "No. I'm not leaving -- she may be stubborn but I'm a first-time parent which means I'm completely and utterly paranoid." He looked at the incubator and discovered that it was actually a relief to say so out loud.

He thought how much easier this might have been, if he'd stayed home and let Owen figure out how to keep him and his daughter healthy. Let his friends help him through the whole thing.

Maybe if he hadn't come ahead, but stayed in 21st century Cardiff, Jack would have returned in time to help with this part, as well. The fear and uncertainty of becoming a parent when he'd hadn't planned on it, hadn't even known if he'd wanted to be. God knew he was a poor enough uncle to his sister's kids. What if he was just as poor a father?

God. He was going to be a father.

"Come on, look at me. Ianto?"

Ianto looked over at Jack, who was staring at him with a worried expression. "What?"

"Well, you're a little pale. And hyperventilating." Jack was holding onto his hand, now, squeezing his fingers lightly.

"Sorry. Just--" Ianto gestured towards the incubator with his free hand.

Jack's worried expression changed into one of understanding. "'Oh my god I'm really going to be a father'?" he asked. Ianto nodded. Jack opened his mouth then stopped, shaking his head with frustration. "I can't-- I can't tell you anything. I'm sorry, this is why... You're going to be fine, Ianto. But I want to tell you about all the ways she's wonderful and you're a fantastic father and I shouldn't even--" Jack let go of his hand and stood up. "I shouldn't be here."

"But she's your daughter, too."

Jack shook his head. "I've already been her father. I've been indulging myself, but... It's time for me to go. I won't be back, so you don't need to go hide in your office if you don't want to."

"Jack!" Ianto was on his feet, reaching out to grab onto him, but Jack stepped backwards out of reach. "Don't go."

For a moment they stood there, silently. Ianto wanted to grab onto him and force him to stay -- realising perfectly well that he simply wanted Jack. His Jack, who had gone and left and Ianto still didn't know when he would return. Or if he really would -- just because this Jack remembered going back, didn't mean the timelines would run the same way when Ianto returned to the 21st century.

Jack looked as though he didn't want to leave. Ianto knew it was for their daughter, not himself, but he took some comfort in seeing the torn look on Jack's face as he shook his head again.

"I have to go," he said quietly, and before Ianto had a chance to say anything more, Jack touched his wristband and vanished.

Ianto fell to his knees, watching the shimmer of gold and blue fade away.

He sat there, staring at the wall, for a long, long time.

~~~

Depression got him through two more weeks. Staying in bed or sitting by the incubator, staring at it and thinking; the time dragged by without Ianto paying much attention to anything else. Sometimes he managed to not think about anything at all, sometimes he entertained himself with imagining just how much more screwed up his life could get. Or how much he could screw up his daughter's life.

Then Daidre walked in, carrying an array of items in her arms and another hanging from a strap over her shoulder. She set one down -- a folding table, upon which she set another of the devices. She pointed it at the incubator and Ianto sat up in the chair in alarm.

"What--"

"I've got seven hours of footage of you sitting there moping," she said, not looking at him as she made adjustments to the device on the table. "I barely even had to splice it together." She looked at him then, with a triumphant and determined smile. "Your husband is an idiot and we are going on a picnic. The footage will run so if anybody looks in, they'll think you're still here and won't go raising an alarm." She grinned. "And I won't get fired, so don't tell anybody we did this."

Ianto blinked as her words tumbled through his skull. "I'm-- he's not... I mean -- picnic? Husband?"

Daidre frowned. "Have I got the word wrong? I mean Jack -- he's an idiot and he says he isn't even coming to her birth, now, because he doesn't want to upset you." She rolled her eyes then pointed at the device on the table. "This is a portable monitor. We can keep an eye on the incubator with this." She unrolled a flat piece of... something, and pressed it onto the back of Ianto's hand. She did something else, and suddenly the back of Ianto's hand was a screen, displaying the incubator. He looked at the device on the table, not recognising it at all as a camera, but clearly that's what it was.

He looked at Daidre in confusion.

"Picnic, food in a park. We're sneaking out of here. I've got the footage of you sitting here set up already, that's why they can't see us now. We'll go someplace that's mostly trees and grass and you--" She looked briefly guilty, but then her expression went back to determined. "If you see anything you shouldn't, just don't ever tell anyone." She held out her hand and took a hold of Ianto's -- the one without the screen, which was probably because Ianto was staring at it. He could see the incubator's status display screen clearly.

He felt her tug on his hand again, and he slowly looked up. "We're going outside?" Daidre nodded.

"I'll tell you all about what I ate for dinner last night and how I broke my favorite vase and you can talk about anything you like because it won't change the future." She smiled at him, kindly. "Come on. Six hours and forty nine minutes left before we have to be back here."

Ianto stood up, and with one last look at the incubator, he gave Daidre a nod.

~~~

She was born at 12:23 in the afternoon, in the same front room her incubator had sat in since Ianto's arrival. Dr Tevaris and the attending nurses brought in all the equipment, including a large, soft blanket that they gave to Ianto, spreading it out between his outstretched arms. He barely had time to realise why, when Dr Tevaris was pressing the side of the incubator, checking a small device in her hand, and asking, "Are you ready?"

It was on the tip of Ianto's tongue to say no, he'd changed his mind, could he go home and just get a cat instead. But he realised the doctor wasn't asking him -- she was peering into the incubator, through the display screen which was growing ever so slightly transparent.

She glanced up at him and repeated her question, and Ianto just nodded, dumbly. Then Dr Tevaris slid her hand down the side of the incubator and there was a soft hissing sound. Then the incubator shifted open, and the front slid down. Inside, nestled in something distinctly gooey, was a baby.

Ianto felt his eyes boggle, then the nurses were removing her, wiping her clean and smacking her bottom -- Ianto noted that in some ways medical science might well never evolve past what worked best. Then, as the baby gave a loud cry, the nurse placed her in Ianto's arms and wrapped the blanket tightly around her.

Ianto stared. She was red and wrinkled and had a pair of lungs that proved she was healthy, and none too happy with her new situation. Someone's hand was on his elbow, pulling him back slightly, then he felt something at his knees and he was being pushed down to sit in a chair.

"We can conduct the exam while you hold her," Dr Tevaris was saying, but Ianto barely heard her.

His daughter. She took a breath, stopped screaming, and looked at him; Ianto saw Jack's clear blue eyes staring up at him.

He didn't know how long they looked at each other before he realised someone was talking to him. He looked up and Daidre grinned at him. "We can forge a birth certificate for her, but we need to know what to put on it."

As of that morning he still hadn't decided -- he'd teased Daidre about officially naming her 'Baby Girl Jones' and she'd told him, quite seriously, that she would put 'Daidre Jones' on the certificate if he tried it.

But now, with her in his arms, Ianto found it was easy. "Her name is Carys. Carys Lisa Jones."

He'd told Daidre about Lisa -- told her so much, over the last six months. She'd listened to everything, sometimes commiserating and sometimes laughing, and sometimes telling him off for being stupid. Daidre put her hand lightly on his daughter's head. "It's a good name," Daidre said quietly.

From behind him, a voice asked hesitantly, "If I agree I've been an idiot, would you consider adding another name?"

Ianto looked over, startled but carefully not flinching, holding his daughter gently even as he saw Jack standing there. The Jack from this time was standing there looking apologetic and anxious. His eyes kept straying from Ianto's face to the bundle he held in his arms.

Nodding, Ianto gestured for him to come closer. Jack looked like he'd been sprung free; he was over to the chair and on his knees beside them in a flash, staring at Carys. "I--" Jack stopped, and looked up at Ianto. "I wasn't here, never got to see this... until now."

Ianto had to fight back a grin at the absurdity of language when time travel was involved. But the ache in Jack's expression made him simply hold Carys out to him. Jack took her in his arms, holding her with practised ease. Ianto watched as Jack looked at their daughter, smiling down at her and getting lost in her.

Daidre held out a piece of paper and a pen, and Ianto saw where he had to sign. He glanced at the top -- the name of a medical clinic that might or might not have really existed. He'd have to have Tosh put Carys into the system once they got home. He looked down to see where he had to put his signature, and saw the first line. Baby's name: Carys Lisa Jones-Harkness.

He supposed that even if he hadn't had to suffer through nine months of pregnancy hormones, he was entitled to get a little weepy, now that she was born. He signed the certificate and gave it back to Daidre, trading it for a white handkerchief.

Then there was a pop, and quiet cheering, and Ianto found himself holding a glass of champagne in one hand and his daughter in his arm, and Jack had one arm slung over Ianto's shoulders like everything was really, truly going to be all right from now on.

~~~

"I hope you don't mind," Jack said, as Ianto made sure for the fifth time that Carys was well-wrapped in her blanket for the journey.

"Why should I mind?" Ianto glanced at him, confused by how nervous Jack seemed. "I know you can't stay long, but don't see why I'd refuse to have you be the one to take us back."

"Oh, not that... I sort of-- it isn't like you've been around to set up the nursery," Jack said, and Ianto groaned. He hadn't even thought of it. And here he'd been about to transport back to his flat without even a crib or a supply of nappies and bottles. Daidre and the others had him well-supplied with clothes and stuffed animals, all painstakingly made from cotton and linen and absolutely no alien or 'modern' fibers. But clearly he wasn't prepared at all to take her home. He truly was going to be a miserable father.

"I sort of took the liberty," Jack was saying. "There's a crib and a rocking chair and we stocked the kitchen -- I left a copy of her book," he added, then grew thoughtful. "You know, I wonder if she didn't decide she loved this book because I read it to her. Which I read to her because she loved it, which makes it--"

"Jack!" Jack pulled himself short and looked at him. Ianto smiled. "Your brain is going to short-circuit and then I won't have a ride home. Please. And no, I don't mind. I'm glad one of us was thinking."

Jack smirked. "And you always said I was the beauty, not the brains."

Ianto rolled his eyes, which drew a delighted laugh from Jack.

"Come on, then, let's get you two home and settled." Jack put his hand on Ianto's elbow, peering down at Carys, who was sleeping contentedly in Ianto's arms. Jack leaned down and gave her a kiss, then suddenly they were no longer in Ianto's Torchwood 81 apartment, but home, in his own flat, in 21st century Cardiff.

He looked down and saw that Carys hadn't even stirred, then he looked back up at his bedroom. There, in a corner, was a crib. A small quilt was folded over the edge; he could see a row of yellow ducks along the edge.

Clearly Carys would have no choice but to like ducks, he mused.

"You don't actually have the space for her to have her own room," Jack said. "When I get back, you-- Um. I mean, I hope you like it."

Ianto looked at him, mind whirling. When Jack returned, did he move? Did they live together? It made sense that he would have to find someplace larger eventually, if only so Carys would have her own room. He wanted desperately to ask, to finally know just what he meant to Jack, even get some sort of hint if this was just a convenience for the sake of having had a child together or if there was something more.

But he knew Jack wouldn't tell him. So he said only, "Thank you."

For a time neither of them said a word. Jack looked down at Carys, and Ianto held her out. "Did you want to--"

"No, I better not. It's hard enough as it is," he added quietly, gaze flicking up briefly. Ianto was hardly surprised to see the pain there, one which he could understand. Jack might remember Carys' life, but by his time she would be gone. Having the chance to see her and hold her again, as a baby, would have been marvelous for Jack -- and torture.

"Thank you," Ianto said again. "For everything."

Jack opened his mouth and he stopped, clearly caught between wanting to say something and knowing he shouldn't. Finally he just walked over and gave Carys another soft kiss, and told her, "I love you."

Then he straightened up, and, with one final look at Ianto, disappeared.

In his arms, Carys woke up with a wail. Ianto looked down and sighed. "I think it's time we tell your Aunt Gwen and Aunt Tosh and Uncle Owen that you exist. Otherwise I think I'm going to be a complete wreck by morning."

~~~

"Huh," Owen said, standing in the middle of Ianto's living room with nearly every piece of portable medical equipment Torchwood owned scattered at their feet. Owen tapped the side of the scanner, then said, "I'll have to do a DNA scan to be sure, but as far as I can tell with this, it's a human infant." He stared at the handheld scanner he was holding, the same one Ianto had first used to discover he was pregnant.

"She," Ianto corrected, watching as Carys reflexively closed her tiny hand around Tosh's finger. Tosh was sitting beside him on the sofa, leaning over Carys while Owen scanned her. Gwen had gone into the kitchen to pass judgement on the supplies Ianto had been left with. He hadn't mentioned Jack, only Torchwood 81 and letting them assume they'd been the ones to set him up with baby formula, bottles, and binkies. Much of it had pictures of ducks on it, and Ianto wondered again if it really was Jack's fault that Carys would turn out to like them.

Gwen came back into the living room and scowled at Owen. "Of course it's a human infant," she said. "We just spent the entire day going over the data Ianto left in the medical scanners and watching the CCTV of him disappearing with that girl. We've known all day that Ianto was pregnant, and that that meant an infant."

Owen gave her a dry look. "Yes, well, normally that takes nine months, not twelve hours."

"He was three months pregnant when he left," Tosh reminded him, eyes not leaving Carys' face. Ianto had given them as much of his story as he could and they'd already known some of it from, as Gwen had said, noticing his departure on the CCTV and finding the medical readouts during their investigation into what had happened. Still, it was very odd to actually hear Tosh say it out loud. For nearly three months he'd been carrying Carys around inside him.

He wondered if women ever had this feeling of oddity, that being pregnant was somehow the most bizarre thing that could ever happen to them.

"Even for Torchwood, that's weird," Owen observed, the look on his face echoing Ianto's own thoughts.

Ianto nodded, noticing that he'd been patting Carys gently with one hand, soothing her. Had the alien device imbued him with maternal instinct, then? With his sister's two, Ianto had barely known which end to hold upright. He sighed. "I'm just grateful I didn't have to carry her to term."

"And you couldn't have stolen one of those incubators?" Owen demanded. "I could have introduced it to the market here, pretend I'd invented the thing. I could have been rich."

"Instead, you're changing nappies," Ianto said, holding out Carys. Owen started, then took her -- obviously by reflex, since as soon as she was in his arms Owen looked up at them all with an alarmed expression.

"She doesn't really need to be changed, does she? Why doesn't one of you volunteer?" He tried looking at Gwen and Tosh, both of whom just smiled at him.

"Clearly it isn't a woman's job," Ianto said, dryly.

"I'm not the one who got pregnant though, am I?" Owen snarked, then he very cautiously tapped Carys' bum. "She isn't really--?"

"No, Owen," Ianto said, taking pity on him. "But I'm going to keep handing her over and telling you she needs to be changed, just to make you jump." He grinned as Gwen and Tosh laughed. Owen made a face at them all.

Ianto noticed that Owen didn't try to give her back right away, and he composed his expression to avoid laughing out loud. He wouldn't say that Owen looked particularly comfortable holding her, not cuddling her close like Gwen had done the second they'd come into his flat. He looked more like -- well, a doctor, holding a tiny patient.

"Did you ever do pediatrics?" Ianto asked.

"Did my stint as an intern, yeah," Owen replied. "Thought I'd have more time to brush up before she arrived -- mind you, I'm not sorry to miss giving you a Caesarean. But I'll do as her pediatrician; just in case that device--" Owen stopped and very briefly looked almost guilty before he continued. "Well, not like we know exactly how it made her, from two males. Normally you need at least one female involved somehow. Although males have an X chromosome, I suppose it could have just used one from each of you--" He stopped, suddenly, at the huge yawn Gwen gave. He glared at her and she giggled. Owen said, sharply, "So my point is that I'll be her doctor in case there's anything a normal, civilian doctor wouldn't know what to do with."

"Like fourteen fingers?" Ianto asked.

"That's a normal human genetic mutation," Owen said.

"Maybe her hair will turn pink when she's a toddler," Tosh offered.

"Or she'll do it herself when she's sixteen," Ianto said, remembering his own misspent youth. He hadn't ever dyed his pink, but there was a reason there were no photos of himself as a teenager around his flat.

"I'm so glad you lot are taking this seriously," Owen said. "Here I was just thinking she might have inherited some of her father's more unique abilities." He glared once at Gwen and Tosh, but gave Ianto a slightly apologetic look.

"They checked for that, actually," Ianto said. "At least... well, since they didn't know anymore than we do about the device that did this, they ran every test they could, both during the gestation and after she was born. As far as their technology could tell, she's completely, 100% normal human."

"Until I see it for my own eyes, I'll keep an open mind." Owen looked thoroughly unconvinced, but Ianto suspected it was just sour grapes at Ianto's not having stolen the medical equipment to bring back for him to play with. Owen handed Carys back and Ianto took her, settling her easily on his stomach. She closed her eyes, slipping her thumb into her mouth and almost instantly she was asleep.

Ianto watched her for a few moments, feeling like he could probably sit and watch her sleep for... possibly the rest of his life.

"Have you though about what you're going to do?" Gwen asked, hesitantly.

Ianto looked up at her. "I've tried. I have no idea, though. I can't...I can't stay with Torchwood," he said, the words catching in his throat. "I've got no one to mind her; even if I did I'd never be home normal hours. A baby-minder would have to be on call twenty-four hours every day."

"You could hire a nanny," Tosh said. "I'm sure there's one out there who could get proper security clearance." She looked thoughtful, as if already writing the program to search for a list of candidates.

"I don't know." Ianto stared at his daughter. He'd given it some thought, but admittedly, not a whole lot. Too many other things vying for his worried attention. And, deep down, he'd known he had only the one real choice. "Working for Torchwood... doesn't lend itself to a long life. I can't risk making her an orphan." He looked up at each of his co-workers. His friends. "I know it might mean I'll have to be Retconned--"

"Don't be stupid," Owen said. "We're not going to Retcon anybody. Especially not someone with a possibly-immortal infant to take care of."

"You don't have to decide now," Gwen said quickly, giving Owen a dirty look before smiling calmly at Ianto. "You can take maternity leave."

Ianto stared at her. "Torchwood doesn't have a maternity policy." The maternity policy at Torchwood One was birth control or Retcon. Torchwood Three, he knew perfectly well, had no policy at all.

Gwen smiled, smugly. "It does, now. Jack Harkness even signed the form -- well, it looks as much like his signature as I could manage." She wrinkled her nose. "I'm not as good at that as you are. But you've got twenty-eight weeks' leave coming to you. Take it, and you can decide what you want to do later."

She hesitated, but then didn't say anything more. But Ianto suddenly realised what she was thinking.

Maybe Jack will have returned by then.

Jack had said he would be back. He hadn't said when, but... surely seven months was enough time? If Jack were here, helping Ianto raise their daughter -- it wouldn't change the fact that Ianto didn't see how he could keep working for Torchwood. But it would make a world of difference if there were the two of them. Maybe they'd even both get normal jobs, and raise Carys like a normal -- mostly -- family.

Ianto tried to imagine the three of them living a normal life. Nine-to-five jobs, public schooling for Carys, and no mention of aliens anywhere, except on science fiction programmes on telly.

He couldn't picture it. But it sounded nice.

But he realised Gwen was right about one thing. He didn't have to decide now. Ianto nodded. "Twenty-eight weeks, then."

Gwen clapped him on the knee. "Good! I've already filled out the forms. You just have to sign them; I can forge Jack's signature but yours is beyond me. Too neat."

"Wouldn't that make it easier?" Tosh asked.

Ianto shook his head. "The messy ones are the easiest, because no one can tell exactly what the letters are. I was pretty good at it when I was a kid--" Ianto stopped.

"Ianto, did you forge notes from home excusing you from your schoolwork?" Owen asked, sounding impressed.

Ianto shook his head. "Stolen cheque cards. And that's all I'm going to say." He nodded towards his sleeping daughter. "I have to start setting a good example."

Owen scoffed. "Mate, she's yours and Jack Harkness' daughter. Genetically speaking, you've got the world's greatest con artist on your hands. Well, on your stomach."

Scowling at him, Ianto tried not to let Owen's words scare him.

He failed. After a moment he looked over, giving it his best beseechingly cute look. It sometimes worked on Jack.

"Gwen, would you and Rhys like to adopt a baby?"

Gwen laughed. "Fat chance." She patted him on the head. "I'll tell the local police stations to be on the lookout for her, though."

"I imagine you have time," Tosh began, then she frowned.

"I give it four years before her first arrest," Owen said decisively.

~~~

Ianto adjusted the sling as it hung over his shoulder and across his back, then hitched the changing bag over his other shoulder before taking Carys out of her car-seat. He nearly patted his side to check for his holster; he'd been on leave for almost a month now and he still wasn't used to walking around without it.

He hadn't really carried a weapon that much in all the time he'd worked for Torchwood. But something about having his infant daughter against his chest made him wish he was well-armed. Ianto laughed at himself and locked up the car, then turned to walk through the carpark and to the access door. Five minutes later the cogdoor was rolling back, its loud siren not disturbing Carys in the least. He stepped through and the first thing he heard was Tosh, calling to him.

"Ianto! I'm glad you're here."

He looked over to see her at her workstation, glancing at him before returning her attention to her computer screen. Ianto hurried over. "Morning, Tosh. What's up?"

"I've been working on this program all morning and getting nowhere." She looked up at him and smiled. "I need a break."

"Ah." Ianto returned her smile, and reached into the sling and pulled out Carys. He handed her over and Tosh pushed back from her desk, cradling his daughter in her arms. He slipped the sling off, dropping it carefully on the floor beside Tosh's desk, and heard someone walk up behind him. Glancing over his shoulder, he smiled at Gwen.

"Baby break?" Gwen asked knowingly.

"Seems I've arrived just in time. How are things going, otherwise?"

"Quiet this week, which means I've just jinxed us." Gwen grinned. "Glad to see you two. How is she doing?"

"Since the last time you saw her, two days ago? She's barely changed. Not talking or walking yet," he added with a wink.

Gwen grinned, then looked apologetic. "I know you've only just got here, and technically you're on leave--"

Ianto slowly smiled. "Should I go make coffee?"

"Oh God, yes, please!" Gwen clapped her hands together, beseechingly. "Make them extra strong, keep us going through tomorrow."

"You know perfectly well drugs don't enter the bloodstream on a drip, unless you actually use a drip. Or do you plan on drinking half a cup now, half tomorrow?" Owen asked as he walked up. "We'll just be so wired we'll be bouncing off the ceiling." He gestured at the Hub's lofty airspace. "And that's saying something, down here."

"You're admitting you don't have any self-control?" Ianto asked, even as he made his way up the stairs to the landing where the coffee machine sat. Owen and Gwen followed, as if unable to wait a second longer than necessary.

Owen shook his head, proudly. "None whatsoever. Never claimed otherwise."

Ianto just rolled his eyes and set about making coffee.  He was pleasantly surprised to find the counter tops and all the mugs were clean, and a glance showed the espresso machine itself was freshly wiped down.  Clearly they'd planned this, knowing he was dropping by today.  Well, he didn't mind rewarding such good behaviour -- the break area really was clean, almost as if they hadn't even been using it.

As he was making the first cup, he looked around the area again and frowned.  "Have you been eating here at all?"

"Of course!" Owen protested.  "Not like we have time to go out and grab a bag of crisps every time we want a snack."

"We cleaned yesterday," Gwen admitted.  "All three of us -- even got the scrub brushes out.  We didn't want you thinking we were being complete pigs while you're gone."

Ianto stared at her, realisation dawning.  "My God," he said.  "I really am the mam."

Gwen laughed and Owen looked like he was about to say something sarcastic -- because when was it anything else, Ianto told himself.  Then the cog door began to roll open and all of them froze in place.

The alarms were going off, but just the normal yellow lights and alarm that said someone was entering -- someone who belonged there.  Ianto felt his heart stop beating as Captain Jack Harkness walked through the door.

Jack saw them and grinned, a jaunty smirk that made Ianto want to go over and hit him. Hard.  Jack just stood inside the door, practically posing as he asked,  "Heya, kids.  Miss me?"

Before Ianto could think of anything to say, Gwen was hurrying down the stairs.  Setting the cup of coffee on the counter, Ianto followed more slowly, Owen moving half a step ahead.  Ianto kept both of them in front of him -- needing that feeling of a protective wall between him and Jack.  Owen came to a sudden halt, with Ianto nearly running him over, as Gwen reached Jack and slapped his face.

Jack blinked at her, and his grin almost faltered.  "Should I get out the handcuffs?" he asked; as always it was not completely clear how much he was joking.

"Where the hell have you been?" Gwen demanded.

A dark look crossed Jack's face.  "I'm sorry," he said, though he sounded more angry than penitent.  "I told you once before, I was waiting for someone."

"For the right sort of doctor, yes," Gwen interrupted.  "One who travels in time so why the hell did you come back now instead of three months ago?"

"Does it matter?" Jack glanced over at Owen and Ianto, but neither of them were inclined to derail Gwen's tongue-lashing.  "I left.  I found what I was looking for, and now I'm back." 

"Oh, well, that's fine then," Owen said, sarcastically.  "Let's just get on with our business then, shall we?"  Ianto glanced over and wasn't entirely surprised to see the furious glare on Owen's face.  Not until Owen glanced sideways at Ianto, and it dawned on him how much of that fury was for him.
 
Jack responded with a glare of his own, then he visibly brought himself under control.  In an even tone he said, "I'm sorry I left so abruptly, but to be honest -- I've been waiting for over a hundred years for the Doctor to show up.  I couldn't risk missing him."  He paused, and looked from Gwen, to Owen, then to Ianto.  There was something in his eyes that Ianto couldn't describe.
 
"So you found your answers, then," Ianto said, trying to keep his own voice steady.  "Does that mean he's fixed you?"
 
There was a hesitation, then Jack grinned.  "What's to fix? You don't mess with perfection."  He shrugged slightly.  "I found out what happened.  He can't change it."
 
"So you didn't get what you wanted, and you figured might as well come back here, like nothing's happened?" Ianto wasn't surprised by the bitterness in his voice, didn't try to hide it even as Gwen looked at him with sympathy in her eyes.  He shook his head slightly at her when she would have interrupted.
 
Jack was staring at him, though, his expression composed.  "Not like nothing happened.  But I had some time to think," he said casually, though the dark look didn't leave his eyes.  "I realised that this is where I need to be.  Where I want to be."  Jack glanced at Owen and Gwen, and Ianto wondered if there weren't more he might have said, had they been alone.  But then, when had Jack ever said anything other than 'take your shirt off' when they'd been alone? 
 
Ianto preferred to stay by Owen, knowing that at least Owen wouldn't be afraid to throw a coffee mug at Jack's head if he said something really annoying.  Behind him, there was the sudden rushing, rumbling noise of the milk steaming -- he'd forgotten all about the coffee cease of the background hum as the grinder finished the beans Ianto had put in it for the fresh coffee. As if in Pavlovian response to what the change in noise promised, Jack's smile widened.  "Oh, I am just in time, aren't I?" He walked up, hurrying past Ianto, brushing against Ianto in an obviously suggestive manner.
 
Tensing, Ianto started to move away, to step around to keep Owen between them -- but he caught Jack's glance and again saw something more than the devil-may-care attitude Jack seemed to be sporting.  Ianto took a hesitant step after him and felt Owen's hand touch his arm briefly.  He glanced back and read the question in Owen's eyes -- did Ianto want someone to accompany him, provide coffee-mug-throwing skills.  Ianto shook his head slightly and followed Jack up to the break room.

He stood back as Jack seemingly followed his nose to where Ianto had set the first cup of coffee aside, half-finished, and watched as Jack brought the mug to his face and inhaled, slowly, like a man who'd been starving for caffeine.  As he took a sip, Jack looked at him over the rim of the mug, and winked.  "Oh, you have no idea how good that is," he said after his first long swallow of coffee.  "I've missed this."

It was on the tip of his tongue to say something about how it was Jack's fault he'd left and stayed gone. But he noticed that Jack was holding the mug tightly, fingers almost pale with the pressure of gripping the ceramic.  "You're back just in time, then," he said instead.  "Before the others have had their chance to finish off the supply." He gestured to the grinder.

Jack gave him a grin, then glanced over Ianto's shoulder and some of the cheer left his face. He said quietly, "So... How have you been?"

Taken slightly aback, Ianto answered honestly at first before catching himself from saying too much. "Missed you. Things have been... as well as could be expected. Under the circumstances."

Jack looked at him for a moment, clearly waiting for details, but Ianto didn't elaborate. He didn't want to reveal Carys yet, wanted to know what Jack would say without that to distract him. "So, business as usual?" Jack finally asked in a tone that was light, but with an expression that said Jack didn't quite believe him.

But Ianto nodded. "For Torchwood, yes." Which meant he wasn't lying. Jack couldn't accuse him later of lying to him.

Jack grinned, then, apparently willing to take the lack of detail to mean whatever had happened was no longer important. "Anything interesting happening today? Rift alerts, aliens in the park? UFO sightings?"

"Nothing," Ianto said, as though he'd been here himself. But Gwen had said it had been quiet, and he trusted her.

"Any chance, then, of us sneaking out for the day?" Jack lifted one eyebrow, and there was no mistaking the intent of his question.

Ianto opened his mouth-- and stopped. Of course Tosh would be delighted to mind Carys and give them some time alone. But Ianto found he didn't want to. Not yet, and not like this. He shook his head. "Not today. Sorry."

Jack stared at him, waiting, then looked surprised. "That's it? No, sorry? Come on, if the Rift isn't acting up, and nothing important is on the agenda..." His voice dropped again, into the same, sincere-sounding tone. "I've missed you."

Ianto shrugged. "I can't just drop everything because you've returned. I do have a life, you know." He glared at Jack, though there was no real heat in it. Perhaps because he desperately wanted to say yes. To spend an afternoon with Jack, to go back to his flat and just lose himself in sex and not have to think about-- Except he couldn't take Jack back to his place, not with a crib in the corner of the bedroom.

"I... I actually... wanted to talk to you about that," Jack said, looking suddenly hesitant. "While I was gone I had a lot of time to think." He gave a sort of laugh. "Nothing but time to think. And... I meant it, you know. I missed you. And I wanted to come back here, for you. I was thinking..." His gaze flickered over Ianto's shoulder again before he asked, "If you would like to go out sometime?"

Ianto stared at him. "Excuse me?"

"Movie, dinner," Jack shrugged. "Or whatever you want."

"Are you asking me out on a date?" He couldn't believe it. Of all the things he'd imagined from Jack upon his return, this had definitely not been it.

He'd dreamt about it, surely. Of having a normal relationship. But actually getting one? Had not ever been among his expectations.

"Yes," Jack said, in a quiet, determined voice. "On a date. I... want to do this properly."

Ianto felt like sitting down. Or falling over. Or, possibly, slugging Jack in the face. "Doing... this?"

"Us." Jack looked at him, gaze not wavering.

Ianto opened his mouth, and nothing came out. He closed his mouth, tried to think of something to say, and opened his mouth again. Nothing came out. A date. Doing things properly, which meant not falling into bed (or a shower, or sofa, or hallway), but... dating.

"There's a complication," Ianto said, and hated the way Jack's eyes darkened and his hesitant, open expression started to cloud over in a mask. "I'm not saying no, I'm just... There's a slight complication. Um. Not slight, actually. A very enormous complication." He thought about what he'd said, and shook his head. "Physically quite small." He realised he was starting to babble, and forced himself to shut up.

"Complication?" Jack asked, sounding like he was trying to remain calm.

Ianto looked at him, and realised he needed to say something else, first. "I do very much want to go on a date with you, Jack. And I am delighted to hear you ask. The answer is yes, actually, but... It isn't like you think." Ianto glanced over to where he could see Tosh, half-hidden behind her computer screens. "You see, I've just got back from spending several months with Torchwood 81. Something happened, here, before you left and they came back to... help me deal with the consequences."

Jack blinked, clearly taken completely by surprise. "Torchwood 81? What happened?" His eyes narrowed as he realised Ianto had been withholding important details earlier, after all. Suddenly Jack the hesitant boyfriend was replaced, clearly, by Captain Harkness, the leader of Torchwood. His stance had chanced, his voice and the way he glared at Ianto like he'd better start talking, immediately.

The attitude irritated him, as it really wasn't a matter for the leader of Torchwood but, more properly, a matter for Jack the boyfriend. But Jack didn't know that, yet. Keeping his emotions under control, Ianto replied, "We're still not sure what the device was, that did it to me--"

Jack interrupted, his voice suddenly frantic as he took hold of Ianto's arms. "What did it do? Are you all right?"

Taken aback, Ianto nodded. Jack no longer looked angry -- he only looked alarmed at the suggestion that he'd been hurt. The look in his eyes... looked like something he hadn't ever seen before from Jack. Had it never been there? Or had he somehow managed not to see it? Regardless, he could see it now and perhaps... just perhaps, it meant something.

"I'm fine," he said, and he glanced over Jack's shoulder. Tosh had got up and was walking towards them. Ianto looked back at Jack, meeting his eyes. "But it's going to be very much more than one date."

"Huh?" Jack didn't let go, just stared at Ianto in confusion, then Tosh stepped up beside them and Ianto moved out of Jack's grasp to reach over and take Carys into his arms. Tosh glanced at Jack but said nothing as she walked away, giving them some privacy. Ianto held her out to Jack, who looked utterly dumbfounded as Ianto put her into Jack's arms.

Jack stared. "What the hell is this?"

He nearly snapped back that it was a baby, but instead he said calmly, "Her name is Carys. Carys Lisa Jones-Harkness."

Jack's eyes grew wide, and his mouth dropped open. He looked down at the baby in his arms, staring in disbelief.

For a long moment Jack said nothing, and Ianto narrowed his eyes slightly. Surely Jack couldn't be this thick. "She's your daughter. Our daughter."

That brought Jack's head up, staring at him. He looked... afraid.

Ianto had to admit, he could hardly blame him. But he had rather hoped for a little bit of delight. He reached over and slipped his hands underneath Carys, pulling her out of Jack's arms. He settled her in his own embrace, getting caught, as always, staring at her for a bit before pulling himself away to look up at Jack.

"I am delighted to go out on a date with you," he repeated. "But there is more than just me you need to consider." He watched as the fear didn't seem to be fading. He hesitated, then decided to let Jack off the hook -- despite what he'd been hoping for. "I'm not asking you for anything. She was an accident, I know that. But it's only right you should know. Whatever... whatever you decide. I don't actually need anything."

Which was as untrue as he could get. Ianto needed Jack. Needed Jack to hold him, to tell him he wasn't going to ruin his daughter's life by being the worst father in history. He needed to wake up in Jack's arms, feeling safe and secure -- if not loved.

He needed to know he wasn't doing this alone, but, as he caught sight of Tosh, standing across the way with Gwen and Owen, he realised he wasn't. Not at the moment, at least. Once he had to leave Torchwood for good, he didn't know how much they could be around.

But at the moment he wasn't alone. Even if Jack said no.

But Jack was stepping forward, reaching out to touch Carys' face. He looked down at her, fear finally being replaced, at least in part, by wonder. Ianto stood still, not wanting to startle him away.

"We have a daughter," Jack said. He glanced up suddenly, suspiciously.

"Torchwood 81 and Owen have all checked her thoroughly," Ianto said. "She's human. Completely human, yours and mine. She...doesn't seem to have any sign of your special abilities," he added.

Jack nodded, obviously relieved. "I wouldn't wish that on anybody," he said quietly. "Much less a kid."

Ianto held his tongue, wanting to ask Jack what he'd learned from the Doctor. But now was neither the time nor the place. He waited, letting Jack look at his daughter. This Jack was so different from the one who'd read her book to her, seen her at her birth. That Jack had loved her completely, been overjoyed to be a part of her life in any small way he could.

But that Jack had already known her. Already got over the shock of discovering he was a father. Ianto supposed it wasn't really fair to compare the two men.

Jack was still looking at her as Carys gave a wide yawn and opened her eyes. She looked up at Ianto, yawning again and rubbing her cheek with one fist. Ianto fought back a smug smile. "Come on," he told Jack, and walked over to the bag he'd left on the counter. He nodded at it, and Jack, bewildered, opened it. He seemed to recognise what was inside -- nappies and bottles, change of clothing -- and he looked a question at Ianto.

"A bottle," Ianto said. "She's going to start demanding food in another few minutes."

Jack nodded and pulled out an empty bottle -- then flailed, a bit, and looked over again.

"The formula-- for God's sake, Jack, haven't you ever seen baby formula before?" Ianto sighed and dumped Carys into Jack's arms, again hiding the smile at how quickly Jack took her and held her close. Ianto took out the formula -- still going through the sizable stash Jack had left for them when he'd brought them home. He suspected the formula wasn't from this century; the packaging was normal enough but the powder inside was somehow different from what he remembered Rhi having about her own flat. He wouldn't put it past Jack to provide his daughter with the best available from all of time and human history.

It only took him a few moments to get the bottle prepared, flicking the switch on the side to warm the formula precisely. A present not from the future, but from Tosh and the archives of Torchwood. When it was ready, Ianto held the bottle out to Jack.

Jack glanced at him, then took the bottle and smoothly presented it to Carys. She latched on almost instantly, settling in for her meal. Ianto watched as her eyes locked onto Jack -- and allowed himself, finally, a smug grin as Jack's eyes were firmly locked onto Carys'.

Whatever their own relationship turned out to be, at least Carys finally had her two fathers exactly where they ought to be: firmly and utterly besotted with her.

~~~

"So." Jack stood in Ianto's living room, staring towards the bedroom where Ianto had just put Carys to sleep. Jack hadn't come in, despite Ianto's invitation; Ianto knew it showed just how uncertain Jack was of his welcome.

Ianto still didn't know whether or not he wanted to make it easier for him. He knew he wanted to simply skip ahead to the part where everything was fine, where they lived together and raised their daughter like a normal couple -- as normal as one could hope for, with two men living together and Torchwood-- well, being Torchwood.

But he reminded himself that Jack had left. Hadn't even bothered to leave a message, hadn't cared if Ianto believed he would return or if Ianto had been heartbroken and destroyed.

He frowned, not willing to give any of his thoughts away, and forced himself not to react to Jack's sheepish expression.

"You said you didn't need anything," Jack finally said, shifting nervously from one foot to the other -- still wearing his coat, even, when normally he would have tossed it aside and made himself comfortable for the night.

"I don't want you to feel trapped," Ianto said. "Whatever you decide will be for you, and Carys. Not for me."

Jack flashed a look at him. "What if I want it to be for you?"

"We can't just pick up where we left off," Ianto began, and inwardly cringed. He didn't want to go back to that, at any rate. Sex and nothing more; he loved Jack too much for that.

Jack was nodding. "I know. I didn't want to do that even before I met Carys. Ianto-- I really did mean it. I want to do this properly. Even if... things have sped up a bit more than I expected. But the idea of you and me raising a daughter..." He shrugged. "Doesn't make me want to run for the hills."

It wasn't the declaration of commitment Ianto might have wanted, but he nodded. "I don't want to keep you from her, Jack. But... I don't know if... We can't just move in together and pretend everything's fine."

"I know. I wish it could be that simple, but I don't expect it. But maybe we can work towards it?" Jack gave him a look, so full of hope and hesitation and... that dark something that kept flashing in his eyes that made Ianto want to go to him and hold him tight. He still didn't know what had happened in the time Jack had been gone, but he suspected it wasn't very pretty.

"I'd like that," Ianto finally said, and was rewarded with a blinding smile from Jack. A real one, that made Jack's entire body relax.

"So we can have that date?" Jack glanced towards the bedroom. "The three of us?"

Ianto laughed. "We have our choice of baby-minders; it won't be too hard to have a date just to ourselves occasionally."

Jack shot him a surprised look. "You trust Owen to mind her?"

"I trust Tosh and Gwen to hurt him if he doesn't take very good care of her," Ianto clarified. Although to be honest, as long as dirty nappies weren't involved, Owen seemed perfectly willing to take his turn at tending to Carys. He didn't know how that would change when Carys became older -- and mobile -- but he had a feeling Carys had her Uncle Owen just as wrapped around her little finger as everyone else. Then Ianto frowned. "On the other hand, he did say something about a baby being a good way to pick up women."

"He's right, but it's a good way to pick up women who are looking for a husband, not a one-night stand." Jack gave Ianto a cheerful wink.

Ianto smiled, then stood there, feeling awkward as the conversation died again. He'd never realised how difficult it could be, spending time with Jack this way. Neither of them had made mention of having sex -- Ianto suspected it was off the menu, as it were, until everything else got sorted out. Which left them standing here, saying nothing, and Jack looking as uncertain as Ianto felt.

Before any of this, it would have been easy. Ianto would have invited Jack to stay the night, or, more likely, Jack wouldn't have waited to be asked before stripping them of their clothing. Part of Ianto wanted very much to do just that -- throw away all the questions and doubts, and just lose himself for the night.

He had a feeling Jack wouldn't hesitate, if Ianto asked. Instead, Ianto found himself glancing towards the front door, feeling the apology already forming on his lips.

But Jack just nodded. "I'll... Can I see you tomorrow?"

"Yes, of course," slipped out easily. Relieved, Ianto managed to give Jack a small smile. "I want-- You should feel free to take her whenever you like," he said. "I mean -- not just weekends or alternate Thursdays or something. I know Torchwood is unpredictable, so whenever you have time. Just ring me and let me know."

Slowly, Jack nodded. "I appreciate that."

Ianto rolled his eyes. "It's not like I want to keep you away from us. You've as much right as I have to be with her. As often as you like." He wanted to say always. He wanted to find the Jack from the future, and ask him -- had they lived together? Had they fixed things between them, or was Carys the only thing they ended up with in common?

He knew what he wanted, however, just as much as he knew he couldn't quite have it yet.

Jack suddenly looked at him with a guarded expression. "And that date? Can I have that whenever I want?"

Ianto found himself grinning. "As long as the restaurants are open, then yes."

Jack gave him a huge, delighted smile. "I know of a couple places that are open twenty-four hours."

"Restaurants which serve decent food, Jack," Ianto quickly corrected. But Jack was shaking his head.

"Nope, sorry, you said as long as the restaurants are open."

"And if I get food poisoning what makes you think I'll want to sleep with you after?"

Jack gave him a leer. "I'll have you know that on Caralaxys Five, sex is considered a cure-all."

"Even for vomiting?"

Jack nodded. "Even for vomiting."

Ianto narrowed his eyes. "I'm not sure I want to test that theory. However, it's good to know you don't mind being vomited on."

Jack frowned. "Why's that?"

Ianto smiled, and nodded towards the bedroom. "They're very good at that sort of thing." In fact, Ianto couldn't remember the last time he'd even thought about putting on a suit -- t-shirts and jeans, and a near-constant rag thrown over his shoulder. The look on Jack's face, however, said that the other man didn't seem to mind the threat of being puked on by a baby.

Ianto stepped forward, and gave Jack a light kiss on the lips. "You should go," he said, knowing that he wanted Jack to stay, and knowing that Jack would if he asked. "We'll see you tomorrow."

Jack didn't say anything, just hesitated, looking at him. His eyes were dark and unreadable. But he nodded, then turned and walked to the front door and let himself out.

~~~

"So?" Tosh glanced at him, typed a few more keystrokes, then pushed herself away from her workstation and looked at him. It was the sort of piercing, non-nonsense stare that always made Ianto wonder why she wasn't the one in charge of interrogations, rather than Gwen.

Then again, Tosh only ever seemed interested in gossip about Ianto's life. He sat down in a chair beside her and frowned. "So? I need a bit more to go on, before I can answer."

Tosh sighed, and said, enunciating her words as if Ianto had gone slow. "How are things going with you and Jack?"

He shrugged. In the weeks since Jack's return, things had not exactly returned to normal. But Ianto suspected that had less to do with Jack, and more to do with Carys and the alien-tech-induced pregnancy Ianto had been surprised with. Which, actually, was Jack's fault since Ianto hadn't exactly gotten pregnant by wanking alone in the shower. Ianto smiled, realised that he could, in fact, blame all of his life's current weirdness on Jack.

"It's going... well."

Tosh glared at him. "And?"

"And... what?" He knew there was no point in prolonging it, that Tosh would have all the answers out of him whether he wanted to say them or not. But he couldn't bring himself to just give in.

"Have you decided to forgive him, yet?"

Surprised, Ianto stared at her. He'd been expecting to be asked for details about their dates or how they were getting on raising Carys. "It... That hardly matters," he stammered, trying to mentally change gears from denying that he'd let Jack seduce him in the carpark again.

"Hardly matters?" Tosh's eyebrows went up. "Ianto! That's what all of this is about!"

"It isn't, Tosh, this is just about..." He tried to think, fumbling for the words to explain. "About how we're going to... raise Carys. Whether or not we--"

Tosh cut him off with a fierce glare. "Ianto. Everything Jack has done to earn your forgiveness, and you don't even think it matters? I'm not saying you should forgive him yet," she said quickly, when Ianto had opened his mouth to protest. "I know what he did -- leaving like that, with no warning or anything. I know how much it hurt you. I don't expect you to tell me everything is fine now. But I wasn't expecting you to act like it isn't even important." She looked at him, her anger fading into sympathy. "Jack is working so hard, Ianto. He really wants you to forgive him."

Shifting in his chair, Ianto thought about how far he'd get if he tried to simply walk away. Tosh might let him go, but she'd corner him again, eventually. "It doesn't matter if I forgive him, though, does it?" he said. "All I need is for him to be a good father to Carys."

He felt Tosh's hand touch his, and he looked at her. "That isn't all you need, and it isn't all Jack needs, either."

"I--" Ianto found himself glancing around the Hub, despite knowing the others were gone, halfway across Cardiff chasing Rift signals. He shook his head. "I don't know, Tosh. I really don't know. All I can ask for is that he be a good father. Whatever else I want of him... I still don't know if that's what he wants to give."

When Tosh didn't reply, Ianto risked a look at her. She was frowning at him, shaking her head slightly when she caught his gaze. Oddly, she didn't look sympathetic. She looked annoyed. She turned to her computer and began typing. When Ianto started to ask what she was doing -- or if he should go, and let her work, she glared at him again to stay right where he was and not say a word.

Ianto sat, obediently, and waited. Quickly, though, Tosh turned one of the screens towards him. He saw that she'll pulled up a bit of CCTV footage, recognising the carpark above them. Jack was standing there, and in the corner of the frame Ianto could just see himself. Tosh hit 'play' and the figure of himself walked away, out of the frame completely, while Jack watched him go.

The look on Jack's face was one of longing. Pain-filled, and his mouth came open as if he'd nearly said something -- perhaps something to draw him back.

"You see?" Tosh asked.

But Ianto shook his head. "He looks like that every time he has to let Carys go. I know that, which is why I keep--"

Tosh pointed at the screen, her fingertip just below the time stamp. Ianto frowned and looked at it. Last Friday evening. He'd dropped Jack off at the Hub after one of their dates. It had gone reasonably well, they'd talked a bit about Rift activity and a lot about Carys' future education at university. Jack insisted she'd study engineering, and Ianto countered that she was just as likely to study art. They'd ended the evening with a single kiss, and neither of them had said a word about spending the night together. Ianto had left Jack standing there while Jack had, apparently, watched him walk away,

Carys had been home that night, with Tosh. It had been Ianto Jack had been looking at.

Ianto realised he'd been staring for awhile, not saying a word, and he glanced at Tosh. "I didn't think... he's never said."

"Maybe he's waiting for you to give him a chance."

Ianto looked at the screen again, at the look on Jack's face. He looked, not so much like the Jack he'd known at Torchwood for the last two years, but instead more like the man who'd come to Torchwood 81, wanting so badly to hold his newborn daughter.

Ianto wondered how it was Jack had fallen in love with him, and he, who'd been wanting it so desperately, hadn't even noticed.

~~~

Ianto stood in the doorway to the kitchen, watching as Jack gave Carys her bath. He was singing to her and she was smiling and giggling, and doing a credible job of splashing as much water on Jack as she could. He stood there, not interrupting, as Jack finished her bath and got her wrapped in a hooded towel. When Jack turned and grinned at him, Ianto asked, "What's that you keep saying to her?" Jack frowned, obviously trying to think of what he'd said. "Baba," Ianto said. In-between the singing, and telling Carys she was the most gorgeous girl in the universe, he'd heard Jack say the word several times.

Now, Jack was smiling at him sheepishly. "Well, she can't call us both dad, can she? It's what I called my father." Jack was looking at Carys, now, swiping her nose with a corner of the towel and making her laugh.

"Baba?" Ianto asked, and Jack looked over, half-grinning, clearly self-conscious. He looked absolutely adorable. Ianto smiled. "I like it. And it'll be easier to say, so it'll be you she screams for in the middle of the night."

"I don't mind," Jack replied, contently. "I've been woken up in the middle of the night for a lot worse reasons." He turned back to Carys as she reached out for one of his braces, getting her hand around it and pulling. Ianto was amused as Jack made no move to stop her, even when the inevitable happened. Jack winced, and Ianto laughed at him.

Jack said to her, "Come on, you, let's get you into your pajamas and ready for bed while your tad mocks me in my pain."

"I'll kiss it better after she's asleep," Ianto offered, and got a happy leer from Jack in response. As Jack made to go past him, however, Ianto put his hand on Jack's arm to stop him. He'd been planning this conversation most of the day -- well, most of the week if he were honest. He'd meant to wait until Carys was asleep and he had Jack's attention to himself. But now, suddenly, he couldn't put it off.

Jack was looking at him now, with a slightly confused expression.

"I was thinking it's time to move into a proper house. Carys needs her own room, I need a bedroom without a crib in it," he added, smiling at Jack in what he knew would be taken as innuendo.

Innuendo was so easy with Jack, of course. Ianto could make toast for breakfast and discover he'd been flirting.

At the moment, Jack was just looking at him. His face was more or less blank, as if they were discussing the weather. But there was a flicker of something else.

Ianto tightened his fingers slightly on Jack's arm. "I was hoping you would move in us."

The look in Jack's eyes was all the answer he needed, but the kiss he got didn't hurt matters.

~~~

Epilogue

Jack walked into the house, through the front rooms and towards the back, heading for the small kitchen. He paused in the doorway, then sighed and walked up towards the centre counter and wrapped his arms around his husband's waist, tucking his chin onto his shoulder.

"She was born today," Jack said, still feeling the joy of holding her -- and missing her, dead and gone for nearly a thousand years.

"I know." His husband turned, and smirked unsympathetically at him. "I was there, you know."

Jack pouted at Ianto, letting him offer a kiss in pretend-apology. Jack settled back into holding Ianto close, now face to face, and said, "We should have another kid."

"We are not having another child just because you miss having a baby to play with," Ianto said sternly.

Jack scowled. "That's not--" Ianto just kept looking at him, and Jack tried for cute and charming. "What if I carry it this time?"

"No." Ianto tried to shift around and go back to the preparations he'd been in the midst of -- over the centuries Ianto had grown to adore cooking from scratch, learning new dishes from every new culture humans encountered. Well, the ones with compatible digestive systems, at least.

Jack hoped he'd been sticking with compatible digestive systems. Although it would explain Christmas dinner last year.

As much as Ianto had grown to adore cooking, Jack had grown to adore watching Ianto cook, and interfering with the cooking by interrupting him for sex, and stealing bits from the dishes before they were finished. He reached over to the bowl now, filled with what looked like fresh green beans. Ianto slapped his hand with the air of a man who has had a lot of practise.

"Why shouldn't we have another kid?" Jack asked, trying to sound reasonable.

Ianto gave him a look like he was insane. "Because every single child we've ever had has been a complete hellion from age fourteen to nineteen. Wonderful, amazing babies and delightful children and utter, horrible monstrosities as teenagers."

Jack grinned. "Ah, but when they grow up, they're pretty decent people. You have to admit, every single one of our kids has been a good person as an adult."

Ianto frowned. "Malika was a thief." He paused, then smiled. "She was an extremely competent thief."

"And for the time and place? Being a thief wasn't really a bad thing." Jack gave Ianto a brief hug that, very incidentally, rubbed interesting bits of Jack's against interesting bits of Ianto's. "And she was an very good thief," he added proudly.

Ianto rolled his eyes -- looking for all the universe exactly like his younger self had, shut away in the inner sanctum of Torchwood 81. Jack was relieved to be reminded just how much some things hadn't changed. "And how much of what she knew, did you teach her?" Ianto demanded.

"Only what you didn't," Jack told him, narrowing his eyes. Ianto knew perfectly well who'd been responsible for Malika's education and training -- both of them. "So if that's your only argument, why don't we ship them off to boarding school for a few years?"

"Because when we try, buildings invariably burn down, blow up, or vanish into a time loop."

Jack considered his rebuttal carefully, because Ianto was actually right. "We could ship them off with the Doctor."

"And then entire planets would burn down, blow up, or get locked into time loops," Ianto said, reasonably.

Jack frowned. "Are you sure we can't have another kid?"

For some reason, that got him a kiss on the nose. "Of course we can have another child," Ianto said, as if he hadn't just been refusing that very thing. "But not now. We're both too busy with the Harwool Institute and it wouldn't be fair to a child for us to be gone so much. I'm not hiring a nanny," he added, as if cutting off Jack's response.

Not that Jack would have seriously made it. He'd tried to suggest it before -- at least a dozen times over -- and Ianto always refused. Jack still wasn't sure exactly why, but he knew it mattered a great deal to Ianto so he never pressed the issue anymore.

"It's going to be a while before the Institute is ready to start taking test drives on their own," Jack said. "Maybe even another hundred years. Space-warp technology is so tricky, but--"

"Vital for human expansion, yes, Jack, I know." Ianto gave him a tolerant look. "I'll tell you what. One hundred years from now, we'll talk. Maybe find a place we can settle down and have another proper family. Three or four children, hire a mam's helper, and I'll sit back and pay the bills while you wrangle the little monsters." His smile told Jack how much Ianto really did like the idea, and Jack returned the smile with a leer.

"Should we start now? Make sure we know which tab goes into which slot?"

Ianto thumped him in the chest. "After lunch. You go call Colonel Davenport and let him talk your ear off and let me finish in here."

Jack nodded, and took a step towards the home office they'd set up. Jack liked being able to take care of small emergencies that cropped up without having to get dressed. He was looking forward to the 32nd century, when clothing-optional was the standard.

He stopped before he left the kitchen, and looked back at Ianto. A moment later, his husband looked up, meeting his gaze. "I am sorry," Jack said, quietly. "For leaving. For not being there."

Ianto didn't answer for a moment, then he simply nodded. "I know." His tone was full of forgiveness and love. They'd had this conversation before, most importantly when Carys had been young, when Ianto had still be uncertain of his place in Jack's life. He'd not even been certain of it when he'd accepted the Doctor's offer, allowing himself to become immortal, like Jack, so Jack wouldn't have to face eternity alone.

He'd explained, decades later, that he'd done it because even if Jack hadn't loved him, or loved him and stopped, that being alone was worse than being loved and left behind. He'd asked the Doctor if they'd regret it, coming to hate one another, or if Jack should wait and find someone else he preferred.

Ianto had explained what the Doctor had said, and the Doctor himself had repeated the same words to Jack, late in his twelfth incarnation. Jack still didn't know if that conversation had been before or after, in the Doctor's own timeline, that he'd gone to Ianto and made his offer.

"It won't matter," the Doctor had said. "Love, hate, neither. Simply knowing you're not the only one -- it's enough. When you'd happily trade an entire world to have just one other person who will see eternity with you." The Doctor had smiled at him, his face young and unlined; only his ancient eyes had showed his age.

"And if we end up resenting each other for a million years?" Jack had asked, barely two hundred years into Ianto's new immortality. Jack had fought the guilt and fear until finally the Doctor had appeared on their doorstep.

The Doctor had smiled at Jack's question. "Then for the next million years, you go back to loving each other. Eternity is a long time," he'd said. "Plenty of time for love, hate, resentment, apathy. In the end, it won't matter how you feel. It will only matter that you're both there."

Ianto had told him he'd accepted the Doctor's offer after considering it for nearly a year -- never once telling Jack about it. He'd explained that he hadn't done it because he loved Jack, or wanted to see the future, or, really, for anything grand. He'd said that he'd finally made the decision after thinking about Jack holding Carys the day she'd been born. He'd loved her so much, even centuries after she was gone -- but he hadn't ever looked at Ianto with grief in his eyes.

And he'd realised it was because Jack didn't grieve for him. Because Ianto hadn't died. He'd already chosen, so it had been easy to chose again, and when the gold light had faded and Ianto had found himself lying on the floor of the TARDIS, the Doctor had grinned down at him and said that, someday, Ianto should remember to tell Jack to duck more often, or he was going to lose everything but his head.

Thinking back on that day, when Ianto and the Doctor had told him Ianto couldn't die, Jack was struck all over again at how much he didn't deserve all the things the universe had given him. For all the good Ianto insisted he'd done, he'd done cruel, selfish things as well.

He swallowed, wishing he could go back to the other side of the city, to Torchwood 81, and find the other Ianto. Tell him that he loved him, and that the man he'd been, so long ago, had loved him as well. He knew he couldn't, and he hated thinking about just how close he'd come to losing this man out of his life. "I love you," he said, the words having grown so easy over the years.

Ianto just looked smug. "I know." He waved in the general direction of the office, and went back to chopping vegetables.

Jack got one more step out of the kitchen and turned back again. "Can we have twins?"

Ianto, for some inexplicable reason, ignored him. Jack laughed and headed to go call Davenport.

~~~


the end