The main difference between the Doctor’s TARDIS and Ianto’s, beside the fact that Ianto’s is a much newer model, is that the chameleon circuit of the Doctor’s TARDIS is broken, or jammed, while the one that is part of Ianto’s TARDIS is fully functional.
Jack has mixed feelings about that, because to him, the word ‘TARDIS’ conjures up images of the small, blue, wooden police box that he travelled in back before he ever met Ianto. For a long time, that box had been the closest thing to a home he’d known since he’d left the Boeshane Peninsula.
This is his new home though, with Ianto, travelling through space and time in a TARDIS grown from the coral that had sat on his desk in the Hub for so long, nurtured beneath its growing lamp. Now, suddenly, here it is, fully matured and magnificent, and bonded to a now immortal Ianto Jones. It’s a lot for Jack to get his head around, and even after several months, there are still moments when he wonders if he’s dreaming, perhaps drifting in that small spacecraft with Alonzo, both of them hallucinating from oxygen deprivation. But most of the time he’s certain it’s real, because it’s hard not to be convinced when the evidence is so tangible.
Ianto’s TARDIS speaks to Jack inside his head, far more clearly than the Doctor’s ever had, and he adjusted to that surprisingly quickly. Her presence is comforting, and not nearly as disconcerting as he might have expected. He doesn’t even mind that he has to share Ianto with her; she’s very good at keeping out of their heads when they want to be alone together, and she understands that their first and strongest love will always be for each other. TARDISes don’t get jealous or envious in the human sense, not that she has any reason to; she’s a part of them both, and neither of them would want to be without her. She’s not just their friend and constant companion; she’s also their gateway to all the wonders of the universe.
In many ways stepping through her doors onto the surfaces of strange and distant worlds is a familiar experience for Jack, and it seems little different at first from when he travelled with the Doctor. It’s only when he turns to look back at her that the biggest difference between Ianto’s TARDIS and the Doctor’s makes itself apparent.
A working chameleon circuit means Ianto’s TARDIS can take any form she chooses, disguising herself so that she fits seamlessly into whatever environment she finds herself in. Jack never knows in advance what she will be, so it’s always a surprise, which may well be deliberate on her part; hr gets the impression that she delights in showing off her capabilities. She might take the form of a building, matching herself to the architectural style of the buildings around her. She might be a rock, her surface giving the impression of being pitted and worn by countless aeons at the mercy of the elements. On one occasion she was an imposing pyramid of gleaming alabaster, and on another, she appeared to be a solid sheet of ice, part of an immense glacier. She’s even been a spaceship a few times, standing unobtrusively on a landing field among similar craft, and a big eighteen-wheeler parked at a truckstop in sixties America.
Most often though, she takes the form of a tree, choosing the most fitting of the indigenous species, usually tall and stately, with broad, spreading branches. She’s always at her most beautiful then. Jack thinks she must have got her love of the form from Ianto, who has always had an affinity for trees, and when planetside, the two of them often climb her to relax on her wide boughs, leaning against her trunk, listening to the wind rustling through her leaves. She makes an excellent vantage point from which to observe their surroundings.
Of course they don’t always land in the open air of the surface of a planet, so there are times when a smaller form is required; a door where there wasn’t one before, a rundown shack in a shantytown, a telephone kiosk, or a photo booth, or a garden shed. But not a police phone box, not since the day she plucked Jack and Alonzo from their stricken ship. She’d taken that familiar form simply to fit into the small space available, choosing it because it was a form she’d used before, back when Ianto had been trying to pose as the Doctor, thinking that would be more likely to entice Jack to him than anything else. That had been a miscalculation on Ianto’s part, and had resulted in one of their several near misses before finally being reunited, but Jack couldn’t fault his lover for it. Ianto hadn’t been aware at the time of the events following his death at the hands of the 456, or of how much Jack had resented the Doctor for failing to come to the aid of earth and her children.
None of that matters, not anymore. Perhaps it was better that it had taken them so long to find each other again; Jack had needed to work through his grief and guilt, not only over Ianto’s death but over what he’d been forced to do to Stephen, sacrificing one child to save all the rest. Ianto had also needed time by himself, to adjust to his new life and find his place in the wider universe. Even the TARDIS had needed time, going by what Jack had learned from Ianto. Time to finish growing, and time to explore her own many and varied capabilities… Knowledge was nothing without experience to back it up.
By the time Jack and Ianto had come back together, they’d been whole and mostly healed, able to put the most painful parts of the past behind them and start afresh. That was a good thing, because they have a very long future ahead of them and the last thing they need is to be dragged down and held back by events they couldn’t have changed anyway. All that baggage would only have interfered with their relationship.
The entirety of space and time are stretched out before them now, with only a few minor restrictions regarding earth within a certain time period. It’s sad they can’t revisit the time and place that used to be their home, but if that’s the price they have to pay for all the gift of having eternity together, it’s a relatively small one. They can live with it.
The universe is their oyster, and they have the perfect spacecraft in which to explore it; one that won’t look out of place no matter where or when they go. Not only that, but she can advise them on how best to fit in, furnishing them with whatever clothing or currency they need to pass themselves off if not as natives, then at least as contemporary tourists.
Their adventures through time and space are only just beginning.