1. Flight of the Pteranodons
The first thing he noticed was the smell.
It was a bit musky and dirty and somewhat wooden, which made sense when he forced his eyes to open and saw the sloping beams and shattered windows of a derelict house. What didn’t make sense was the fact that the last thing he remembered was being in the middle of Cardiff chasing after the bloody pteranodon.
He pushed himself up into a kneeling position, wincing at the pain the movement caused. He was sore all over, and as he stood up he could hear several joints click back into place with a disturbingly mechanical sound.
He walked towards a window that was set in the far wall, trying to get his bearings. The sight of a smooth, shimmery structure that reminded him of a lighthouse greeted him. He blinked. As he watched, two pteranodon-shaped shadows threw themselves out of the building and began to soar through the night air.
He raised a hand to his earpiece. “Jack?” he said calmly. There was no reply other than the sound of static. Of course there wasn’t. He was- he double-checked the stars just to be sure- still on Earth, but not in his time, perhaps? He’d never seen the material that the lighthouse-thing had been built out of, and the only pteranodon that he knew of was-
“Myfanwy. You never forget your first pterodactyl,” said a familiar voice.
For one moment, Ianto seriously considered the notion that he’d gone insane. Then his brain rebooted and he revised his working theory to having traveled into the future.
“I suppose you dated one once,” commented an unfamiliar voice. Oxford accent, he guessed. Female. Young. He was on the second story, the two of them were on the first.
“No. Although there was this guy I caught her with,” Jack replied. He paused, probably wearing that little half-smile he got when talking about past lovers. “He was looking for a job; I had no vacancies, but he wouldn’t take no for an answer. He stalked me for the better part of a week, trying to convince me that we did have a vacancy and he could fill it. He tried everything- beat a Weevil with a stick, gave me coffee, wore a really tight pair of jeans, and just when I'm about to try and run him out of the city, he looks at me and says ‘So, you aren’t going to help me catch this pterodactyl, then?’ And one pterodactyl and a tumble on the floor of a warehouse later, the rest was history.”
It might not be reading his own obituary, but hearing his own Captain Jack Harkness story was a bit too close to the concept for comfort. Ianto slumped against the windowsill, suddenly very tired.
“So you slept with him then?” the Oxford woman asked.
“Yes. Inventively,” Jack answered, his voice getting closer. Ianto could hear the sound of the stairs creaking beneath two sets of feet. “With stopwatches. And UNIT caps. And hockey sticks. And the kitchen sink.”
The woman made a small huffing noise and remarked. “Only you could find those hideous orange caps arousing. Honestly, if that wasn’t one of the main reasons Jenny’s working with us now-” The door to the room swung inward and Jack stepped inside, dressed in a pair of jeans, a T-shirt and a many-pocketed vest. As he registered Ianto’s profile he aimed his weapon at him- it was shiny and silver and only vaguely resembled the sidearm Ianto had strapped to his thigh. A short, dark woman took up position behind Jack, raising a slightly more tarnished weapon.
“They used to be red,” Ianto remarked, for a lack of anything else even remotely intelligent to say. “The UNIT caps. I look good in red.”
“Excuse me?” the woman asked. Both men ignored her.
Jack’s expression shuttered. “Take your gun out of the holster and slide it across the floor to me.”
Ianto did as he was asked, sparing one last look out of the window. The sky was dark with pteranodons, blotting out the moon. “What year is it?” he asked, finally. Behind him, the woman raised an eyebrow and cocked her weapon.
He didn’t say: How dead am I? Did I disappear into the Rift and never return, or did I come back? Is this completely new, or is it just another one of those secrets we have between us?
“2348,” Jack answered. He was frowning slightly and the lines around his eyes and at the corners of his mouth were more deeply defined than Ianto remembered.
“Oh,” Ianto said. “Oh.”
Jack shifted so that there was a clear path to the door from where Ianto stood, and nodded towards the opening. “Keep in front. We’re going to go down the stairs, out the front door, and then you’re going to stop outside the gressier.”
“The what?” Ianto asked.
“The floating car-like thing,” Jack explained, posturing relaxing ever so slightly at the demonstration of Ianto’s lack of native knowledge.
“Okay,” Ianto agreed, before taking his first steps in the 24th century, his eyes trained on Jack’s gun the entire time.
2. Get You There On Time
Lee was a veteran TARDIS traveler. She’d been doing this for- how many years was it now? Three? Four?- God knew how long, and she was used to the TARDIS’ bumpy ride.
She was not, however, used to this new Doctor. And Lee was getting the distinct impression that the TARDIS herself wasn’t used to him either. She was rattling and shaking with a ferocity she hadn’t displayed since the Rani had tried to take the helm.
She clutched at one of the pillars in the control room. “Where the hell are we going?” she shouted.
The Doctor pulled a lever, twisted a knob, and pulled out a hammer with which to hit a button clearly marked ‘Do Not Hit!’ “Caerdydd! No, Cardiff! No, sorry, St. Dinas to you. The TARDIS took some damage; she’s going to need time to recuperate! The Rift will help!”
Lee resisted the urge to dig her fingernails into the coral as the TARDIS bounced one-two-three times before standing still. The sudden lack of momentum was even more unbalancing than the constant shuddering, and she nearly pitched forward into the console. The Doctor caught her before either she or the TARDIS suffered any permanent damage, and dusted her off. She was suddenly very much aware that his new body came with a very nice set of hands.
She had thought that the fact that she was no longer a teenager had been the reason that her debilitating, unrequited crush on the Doctor had disappeared. She was beginning to realize that it was less that her hormones had settled down and more that she had managed to repress her attraction in the face of his hopeless obliviousness. If it had just been the bloody teenaged hormones then she wouldn’t be noticing his new body like this.
Well, at least no one would ever accuse her of having a thing for older men ever again. This time around, she was in her twenties, and he appeared as though he was still in his late teens. Most people in St. Dinas- hell, most people in her home town- would be fooled into thinking that she was the older person in their relationship.
Most people. However, the person knocking on the door of the TARDIS likely didn’t fall into that category.
Jack Harkness had originally made her a bit uncomfortable. Maybe it was the way he introduced himself, not with the blinding grin she’d see him turn on others but with a sad, forced smile; it might have been the way he insisted on using her full name instead of her nickname, no matter how many pointed remarks she made about how gendered it was.
But it hadn’t taken long to figure out that he and the Doctor had history that went far, far back beyond her puny lifetime and would continue to be written after she was dead. She supposed that he’d met all the people who’d come before her, and had every reason to be slightly skeptical of her.
There wasn’t a need, though; she was going to stay with the Doctor until the bitter end.
The Doctor opened the door. “Hello!” he called enthusiastically as Jack entered.
“Hel…” the word died on Jack's lips, his eyes taking in the Doctor’s new body. He seemed unsure for a moment before looking between the Doctor and Lisa. Apparently coming to some decision, he nodded and stuck out his hand, smiling the same sort of smile he’d worn when he’d been introduced to her.
“Hello,” he said. “Captain Jack Harkness. Is the Doctor in?”
Lee stifled a giggle as the Doctor rolled his eyes in a very exaggerated fashion.
“Jack,” he said, smirking slightly. “It’s me.”
Jack blinked. “You…”
“Me? The Doctor?” The smirk melted into a frown. “Are you alright? I mean, you didn’t fall off a building and get some concrete lodged in your brain did you?”
“No,” he replied, looking a little ill. “I- you regenerated.”
“Yes...” the Doctor replied, pitching his voice lower. “You know me- always changing.”
Jack looked past him to where Lee stood. “Lisa Hallet,” he said.
It wasn’t quite a question, but she decided to take it as such. “That’s me. And he really did change his body, sparkly gold light and all. Nearly gave me an aneurism.”
“Hello!” the Doctor repeated cheerfully, waggling his fingers.
Jack stared at him, before forcing an even more strained smile on his face. “Hello,” he replied. “Is it just me, or does this regeneration sound a little… Welsh.”
“Yep,” the Doctor replied, smirk firmly back in place and mischief in his eyes. “Although, given the amount of time I’ve spent refueling here, that’s hardly surprising.”
“You could pass as a native,” Lee added, eager to try and get rid of the tension.
“You know what,” Jack said. “I think he could.”
Right about then the Rift sort of imploded, and by the time they’d finished saving the Earth (again) the only sign of their momentary awkwardness was in the helpless looks Jack would sometimes give them. Still, she did her best to ignore it, with no small amount of success. She had other things to worry about: her father kept messaging her, wanting to know when she'd be home again, someone kept tagging the universe with graffitti that the TARDIS wouldn't translate and only the Doctor could read, and she was developing a very well-founded fear of cybernetic lizards. And so it went.
Until, some time later for them and nearly seven centuries earlier for the rest of the universe, the Doctor hid the TARDIS away a dusty museum, held a watch up for her to see and said “This watch is me...”
And thus, Ianto Jones was born. So much quieter and snarkier and younger than the Doctor, and yet…
She let the year they were supposed to wait for the danger to pass turn into two: he aged, lanky limbs filling out on chips and crisps and take-out (he wasn't eternal anymore); he pounded the table when he was frustrated (not unlike the way he'd once piloted the TARDIS) and went to the Internet for information he didn’t know (very much unlike the man who, many times, purported to know everything) and fell in love. Fell in love with her.
Then Torchwood- not Jack’s Torchwood, but a much earlier, much meaner version- caught up with them, with the temptation of the world's biggest archives for Ianto and blackmail for her, and suddenly changing him back wasn't an option, it wasn't safe, so two years became three became four and then-
“We’ll go to Cardiff,” Ianto said, hands on his hips. “There’s a branch of Torchwood there, completely understaffed from what I hear. I'll go to work there, then I can get us in. I can fix you, I promise.”
“You don’t know the first thing about Torchwood Three,” she rasped.
“Yes I do,” Ianto replied, offering her a drink of water. “I know plenty of things.”
“Name three,” she said.
“I know it’s in Cardiff,” he replied. She snorted. “I know its mandate is to monitor the Rift in that city. And I know who its leader is.”
She raised an eyebrow expectantly.
“Captain Jack Harkness,” he said, with relish. “I nicked his personnel file the last time I was in the ruins. I- well, he has something of a reputation
for being- I can get us in. They’ll have the resources and the contacts I’ll need. You’ll be- Lisa!”
She couldn’t breathe. The conversation she’d had so long ago came back to her now, as she struggled to inflate her lungs under the pressure of the metal in her chest.
It had all been leading up to this, she realised. The entire time she’d known him, Jack had known she would end up like this. That they would end up like this. He'd known.
3. The Logistical Nightmare of Magical Rewinds
Karen Mallory leaned back on her chair and rubbed her eyes. For a moment she wished that circumstances were different, before the irony of it made her smile ruefully. This was Torchwood Four. If she wanted to know what things would be like differently, all she needed to do was wander down the cells and talk to the inmates.
Patients, Karen reminded herself. Four wasn’t a prison, it was quarantine, a place to isolate people from alternate realities who had skills Torchwood might need later, but also might somehow damage this timeline. Normally, they had between five and ten patients. As of this moment, they were playing host to fifty-seven of them, with seven possible alternates running amok in the UK alone.
Part of her wanted to blame this on the collapse of London. They only members of Torchwood who knew of Four’s continued existence were killed there, leaving them with very little recourse to request new resources. It also meant that there was no one to figure out that Saxon was an alien, and he was the one responsible for the creation of the timeline that had swamped them with thirty-three new patients, different versions caught on both the Valiant when the unstable timeline collapsed, and on the Earth when it failed to begin. Naturally, the ones on Earth took precedent, and a little footwork with UNIT later and the surplus versions had been transferred to them.
It had been an absolute nightmare. Two of the patients had committed suicide before they’d been fully processed, five had needed extensive medical care, and fights frequently broke out between former resistance members and former guards. They had just enough space for them all if they doubled up, though, and after the first few months the two groups came into an uneasy truce.
And then somebody had started breaking down the barriers between realities and they were suddenly swamped with well-meaning, inter-dimensional travelers trying to stop the stars from going out, who were then stranded here when the walls went unexpectedly back up. With twenty new patients swamping their system they simply didn’t have the resources to handle them all. They didn’t have the staff. They didn’t have the monitoring equipment. They didn’t even have the room.
Some days, Karen really, really hated her job. It was supposed to be easy; a nice simple posting for the woman who’d managed to give Torchwood twenty years of service. Instead, it was a logistical nightmare. Thank God for Ianto Jones.
He’d come in from the Saxon timeline, suffering from malnutrition, the flu, and some bruising but otherwise in fairly good shape. He also had three years of Torchwood experience and a former PM to vouch for him, which meant he was immediately classified as friendly, and someone she could use to build a relationship with the inma- patient community she was in charge of overseeing. It was a good thing to, because she had been planning on using Harriet Jones for that end, and not only had she been one of the medically incapacitated patients during the first month or so, she’d ended up being something of a rabble-rouser.
Still. Ianto had proven himself to be exceptional. He’d plied her with coffee and relevant information and just when she thought she was going to go mad with it all, he’d managed to find a practical solution.
They already had patients working within the confines of Four; besides Ianto, there was Toshiko Sato, Ross Jenkins, Rupesh Patanjali and Kathy Swanson, as well as several more who were brought in on a less regular basis. They were already allowed the run of the base, had proven themselves trustworthy. Why not let them live off site?
They would have to be monitored, of course. The flats would be bugged, and their cars and mobiles tracked, but it was pretty standard stuff. Easily arranged and easily maintained. The perfect solution to their overcrowding problem.
Of course, it was only the five of them who could be trusted to live outside the base at the moment, but that would change. Kathryn Mann was a quiet, steady presence she’d grown to appreciate. Gareth Evans was a bright, helpful boy who could probably begin a probationary period tomorrow. Adeola Oshodi would likely want to move in with him, and she couldn’t find any real objection to that.
She took a sip of her coffee and double checked the language of her proposal for when she debriefed the team in the morning. It was Ianto’s special late-night blend, and she caught three typos and an awkward phrasing before finally closing the window and turning in for the night.
Yes. Everything was falling into place now. It could only get better from here.
4. Let’s Do The Time Warp Again
It had been painfully obvious, evident in everything from Eye-Candy’s expression to the way he had rolled up his sleeves, to the way he was all but stomping towards the Time Agent, that he meant to remove John from the Plass. Perhaps via the Bay. He deducted a few points for being so visible, but then added them back for doing it with enough menace that he would rather retreat than force a confrontation.
Well. He was having none of that. He could always check back in with Jack later, after the Captain got tired of the Welshman. Or the Welshman died. He wasn’t particularly picky; he could be both comforting and exciting if Jack needed him to be.
He was just trying to guess whether he should try skipping ahead one year or five, when Eye-Candy stopped in front of him, anger blotching his face red, and making him a lot less delicious.
“Leave,” he ordered flatly.
“What does it look like I’m doing?” he shot back.
Obviously, Eye-Candy didn’t know a teleporter from a communicator, because he reached out to grab his wristband, mashing the buttons together in what the computer regretfully recognized as coordinates.
It was entirely due to Lady Luck that they didn’t end up somewhere like post-atmospheric Mars, or the gas giant Xlizrgbth, but instead landed in a swearing heap on pre-industrial Korglina.
Literally a swearing heap. Korglina was famous for its barnyard orgies, back in the day.
The Korgies were so involved in their merrymaking that they didn’t notice the pair of them until they had managed to wade to the outskirts. Eye-Candy looked at the aliens with utter horror on his face. John looked out a nearby window into the surrounding countryside.
“Where are we?” Eye-Candy asked, voice held steady through sheer willpower. John mentally upped him half a point, a fact that lost all meaning when he decided that he’d had to deduct about seven thousand not three minutes ago.
“Korglina, a planet roughly seven trillion lightyears away from Earth,” he replied. And about twelve-to-fourteen hundred years into the past, but he didn’t say it out loud. Eye-Candy might start panicking then, and that would mean losing so many points it became better for him to shoot the man rather than team up with him, even with the “Jack’s current shag” handicap going for him.
“And how, exactly, did we end up here?” Jack's bit demanded.
John wheeled around indignantly. “You can’t blame this on me! I’m not the one who activated the teleport!”
Eye-Candy blinked, and dropped his gaze to his Vortex Manipulator. “That’s a teleporter?”
“What did you think it was?” he asked. “Of course, it won’t function as one now, because it doesn’t have the power for two jumps this size…”
Before Jack's bit could answer, John wheeled around and faced the Korgy who had inched up to him, and snapped “And what do you want?”
“We would be honored, RedCrest, if you and your fellow spirit would join us,” she said formally. Thankfully the translation function was still working, and as long as he ignored the way her mouth didn’t move in time with her speech he’d be fine.
He gave it serious consideration. On the one hand, they did need to get a start- Korglina had a Rift, but it was at the planet’s Southern Pole. It would be a long, miserable journey with a cold ending. On the other hand, there was a nice warm orgy he could be participating in right at this moment, and he could get some small measure of revenge on Eye-Candy for landing them here in the first place.
“We’d love to,” John replied, already removing his trousers.
5. The Slow Path
Jack wasn’t entirely sure what he was doing here. Of all the places he could be haunting during the 50th century a settlement office was, perhaps, the worst. It reminded him of his teenage years, the bitter politics and unnecessary strife that would come out of this “Colonial Explosion” that was just beginning to form.
“I think there’s no way humanity has the infrastructure to support this,” said a voice from behind him. Jack very nearly jumped out of his skin. “And I’m finding the number and reach of habitable-yet-uninhabited planets a bit suspicious as well.”
“Still trying to know everything?” Jack asked.
“As much as I can,” Ianto replied.
Jack turned around. It was always startling, seeing the small ways that Ianto had changed in between now and when he last saw him, especially since Jack's mental picture of Ianto tended to rewind itself whenever they went more than a decade without meeting. Every grey hair, every frown line, and the small scar just beneath his hairline suddenly seemed new again, before Jack's brain caught up with his eyes and he could see that seventy-five years had barely changed Ianto at all.
“Sort of,” Ianto responded, an automatic response to what had become an automatic question. “I hear the Library’s hiring an archivist. I was thinking at might do that.”
“Make sure to be out before the 51st,” Jack advised.
Ianto made a small humming noise in the back of his throat. Then, apropos of nothing, he said “I ran into the Doctor, not so long ago.”
Jack inhaled sharply. “How’s he?”
“Ginger,” Ianto replied shortly. “I think it might be the kind you get out of a bottle.”
“I… ran into the Master, too,” Ianto continued, hesitantly.
“Seriously?” Jack asked.
“They’re traveling together now.” Ianto snorted, half bitter, half bewildered.
“I’ll be avoiding the Ginger Doctor, then.”
“It can’t last. Nothing like that ever does.”
Sometimes, Jack wondered how they got to this point. There had been a time, once, when they’d loved each other. He could remember it, in the same fuzzy, half-dream way normal humans remembered their early childhoods. Yet somehow, over the years and centuries and planets and lives, they had come to this. Barely friends, meeting each other once a century because they were the only two people in the universe with this affliction, and they could understand each other in ways no one else could.
“There’s a special discount, for veterans,” Ianto remarked. “If you’re looking to get away, I don’t think you can get out much farther than the places you can get from here.”
“I sat out the last war,” Jack said. “And no one would believe I fought in the war before that. Besides, I shouldn’t even be here.”
Ianto shrugged, in a way that asked all the obvious questions.
“How are you getting to the Library?” Jack asked.
“I’ve got a spaceship,” Ianto told him, smug little half-smile taking centuries off his face. Spaceship. The anachronism made Jack smile.
“Room for one more?” Jack asked.
Ianto made a show of appearing to think it over. “There is every chance it’ll be a bit crowded.”
Jack smirked. “We could… double up?”
Ianto smiled, slow and wicked, and for a moment Jack could see the young man who seduced him with a pteranodon and a stopwatch.
“We could do that,” he agreed solemnly. “Shall we?”
They turned and walked towards the door. On the way out, Ianto held the door open for the woman who would found Jack's home colony on the Boeshane Peninsula.
But there was no need to tell anyone that.