Despite having been there and lived, mostly, through it all, it was difficult for Ianto to wrap his head around the fact that only yesterday earth had been in chaos, with aliens demanding ten percent of the world’s most precious possession, it’s children. Less than twenty-four hours ago every parent on the planet had been terrified that their children would be among those snatched from their very arms to propitiate monsters the like of which they’d never truly believed existed outside of science fiction movies.
This morning they’d woken to the knowledge that the threat was gone, defeated, and not a single child had been taken. The heady sense of relief must have been almost overwhelming.
There had been casualties, of course there had been. It was unfeasible to expect everyone in the world to come through a global crisis unharmed. A handful of people in Thames House who had, for whatever reason, not left when the evacuation order was given. Some parents hospitalised and even killed by the armed forces tasked with rounding up ‘suitable candidates’ to fulfil the 456’s demands. A few families had even taken the most drastic of measures, ending their lives and their children’s so that outside forces would not get the opportunity to tear them apart. That was surely the most devastatingly tragic result of the whole sorry affair, that they had taken such a final decision out of sheer desperation and terror when if they’d only waited a little while longer the danger to their families would have passed.
Few people would miss Frobisher thanks to the part he’d played in events, but his wife and daughters… they were another matter entirely and they’d be mourned by friends and surviving family members alike.
Still, the number of fatalities was far lower than it might have been, and many had survived who might not have been so lucky if events had played out differently.
If not for the AI interface for Mainframe that Tosh had been working on before her death, Jack would have been forced to sacrifice his own grandson, destroying his daughter’s life in the process, and that didn’t bear thinking about. Ianto’s mind shied away from imagining the effect committing such an horrific act would have had on Jack when he was still reeling from being blown to pieces and resurrecting in unimaginable agony only to be buried alive in liquid concrete. It would have shattered him, maybe beyond all hope of recovery.
But yesterday, between himself and Jack, they’d found another way to do what had to be done. That sadistic bastard Dekker had tried to push for Steven to be used to destroy the 456, but Ianto had punched the fucker in the mouth to shut him up, then set to work with Jack, dredging up everything from Mainframe’s databases that might possibly be of use, and their hastily cobbled together plan had worked, although it had destroyed a significant portion of Torchwood’s semi-organic computer. Still, because she stored all her memory files in multiple places within herself, nothing of importance was lost. Tosh’s AI programme hadn’t survived, but Mainframe herself would recover, growing new memory nodes to replace those had been burnt out by the constructive wave they’d used against the 456.
When the aliens had made contact through earth’s children less than a week ago, the world had been irrevocably changed; now, overnight, it had changed again. It was as if the whole planet was waking from a shared nightmare. It would take time for life to return to anything approaching normal, for children to stop clinging fearfully to their parents, and for the parents to stop panicking whenever their children were out of their sight, but the human race was resilient; in time they’d heal.
Whether or not life existed on other planets was no longer a matter of idle speculation for the general public; now everyone knew aliens were real. There was no way the events of the past few days could be covered up; not even Torchwood could Retcon the entire human race. Perhaps the knowledge that there were other intelligent beings out there on other worlds, and that some of them might have hostile intentions towards the people of earth, might help unite the planet as never before, or perhaps it might cause the various countries to become even more insular. Ianto wouldn’t be surprised if the rest of the world decided Britain couldn’t be trusted. The British government hadn’t acted in the best interests of its own citizens, never mind the rest of the word.
The PM, and everyone else involved in the plot to give in to the 456’s demands, were to go on trial for their crimes against humanity; the Queen had already decreed that a special television station would be set up and that the trials would be broadcast live, worldwide, for anyone who wanted to watch. There would be no more cover-ups. Everyone deserved to see justice being carried out.
As for Torchwood, they’d no longer be able to hide in the shadows, a super secret organisation the true purpose of which was known only to a select few. The three of them and Rhys were being lauded as heroes, their faces splashed all over this morning’s papers and the television news as the people who’d saved the world’s children.
The publicity didn’t sit well with Ianto, he’d never enjoyed being centre stage, and Jack wasn’t happy either, knowing how much more difficult it would be in future for them to do their job, policing the Rift and protecting Cardiff and its citizens from alien threats. On the other hand, more funds were being promised, enough to rebuild their base, take on more staff, and maybe set up a few offices in other countries. What was left of UNIT after the purge it was currently undergoing was to fall under Torchwood’s command too, since the majority of its senior officers had been complicit in the plot to give the 456 what they wanted. Ianto had no idea how that was gong to work. It was a daunting prospect.
A hand landed on his shoulder, making him almost jump out of his skin; he’d been so deep in thought that he hadn’t heard Jack approach. Under normal circumstances Jack would have teased him about it, but today he made no comment; they were all a bit on edge anyway, which wasn’t surprising.
“Seemed like you were miles away. A kiss for your thoughts?”
Ianto smiled slightly; only Jack would come out with something like that. “It’s supposed to be a penny.”
“I know, but you don’t get as much for a penny these days as you used to. Besides, I like kisses better; they go further.”
“Kisses are a sort of universal currency, I suppose, but I demand payment in advance.”
Chuckling, Jack pulled Ianto into a kiss that lasted for several very enjoyable minutes.
“So?” he asked eventually.
Ianto frowned. “What was the question again?”
“Oh, I’m good.” Jack smirked, insufferably smug. “I asked what you were thinking about just now.”
“Ah, that.” Ianto turned back to the bedroom window of their hotel suite, staring out across London. “I was thinking… so much has changed overnight.”
“Yes, it has,” Jack agreed, slipping his arms around his lover from behind and resting his chin on Ianto’s shoulder.
“Yesterday we were wanted fugitives on the run, trying to stay alive; today we’re being lauded as heroes, like we saved the whole world all by ourselves.”
Jack brushed his lips across Ianto’s cheek, a warmly affectionate gesture completely different from the previous kiss. “We sort of did. I don’t remember having much in the way of help; mostly they were trying to stop us.”
“I suppose so, but it’s a bit… jarring, hard to get my head around.”
“Mm. I prefer being a hero to being a fugitive though.”
Ianto nodded. “So do I; the accommodations are a lot better for a start.” The king-sized bed they’d spent the night in had been nothing short of luxurious, especially compared to the thin, lumpy mattress on a cold, hard concrete floor that had been all they’d had to sleep on at the warehouse.
“So is the food. I took the liberty of ordering room service while you were in the shower; should be here in a few minutes.”
“As long as it’s not beans again.”
“Not a single bean involved, I swear,” Jack said. “Beans are off the menu for the foreseeable future.”
“Glad to hear it.” Now that food had been mentioned Ianto realised he was ravenous. “Hope it gets here soon.”
It did; less than five minutes later there was a knock on the door. Jack answered it and a liveried waiter wheeled in a cart laden with covered dishes. Once he’d left, Jack started removing the lids.
“Ahhh, now that’s what I call a proper breakfast! Sausage, eggs, bacon, mushrooms, grilled tomatoes, hot toast, butter, a selection of preserves, fresh fruit…”
“Gimme!” Ianto dropped into a chair at the small table as Jack set a loaded plate in front of him. “Is there coffee?”
“There is, and tea, just in case… well, I wasn’t sure if the coffee they serve here would meet your high standards so if it isn’t drinkable at least the tea should be. I didn’t want you having to drink something substandard.”
“Very considerate of you.” Ianto wasted no time in digging into his breakfast. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d been this hungry; it felt like he hadn’t eaten in a week. Had it really only been yesterday, or had he slept for longer than he thought?
Jack poured two cups of coffee, setting them on the table before joining Ianto with his own plate.
Reaching for his cup Ianto took a cautious sip, rolling it around his mouth and swallowing before passing judgment. “Not bad.”
From Ianto Jones that amounted to praise. Jack took a sip himself. “Not a patch on yours, but that’s hardly surprising.” He started in on his full English and for a few minutes silence reigned, the food taking all their attention. At last Jack spoke again. “So, are we ever going to address the elephant in the room?”
Ianto paused, loaded fork halfway to his mouth. “Do we need to?” To Ianto there seemed little point in talking about something that was basically a done deal.
Yesterday he’d been an ordinary human with a finite number of years ahead of him. Today… if yesterday’s events were anything to go by, he could well be facing eternity, which might account for his increased appetite. No wonder Jack always seemed like a bottomless pit; being immortal must require a lot of fuel.
“I don’t know. I mean, are you okay? You sort of…”
“I died. I remember; I was there. I died and then I came back, so I guess that means I’m okay. I’m alive, which is a good indicator. I have no complaints.”
“You’re sure about that?” Jack still seemed a little wary.
“I’ll take being alive over the alternative any day of the week, Jack. Whether the immortality is permanent or only temporary, I’ll adjust. Now finish your breakfast before I eat it.”
“Yes dear.” Jack turned his attention back to his plate, shovelling food down before it could get cold.
Ianto shook his head, smiling. Everything had changed since yesterday, except for Jack who remained resolutely himself, worrying needlessly about all the wrong things, blithely oblivious to the things normal people tended to worry about, and guaranteed to display an atrocious lack of manners when eating. It was oddly comforting, although Ianto hoped the lack of table manners was a Jack thing rather than an immortal thing, and not a habit he’d acquire himself somewhere down the line.
There would be a lot more changes ahead he knew, not just for himself or Torchwood but for the world as a whole.
Thinking about it, he decided that was okay. Whatever happened next, they’d handle it. Didn’t they always?
Torchwood was ready.