Torchwood (& Doctor Who) ; Jack/Ianto, the Doctor ; PG ; 3000 words ; post-'Journey's End'
"So when you said we were going somewhere a little different tonight, you meant--" / "Anywhere in time and space."
An embarrassingly long time ago, cherryfeather prompted me with Jack, Ianto, the Doctor and a trip in the TARDIS - this is that story.
"All right," Jack calls triumphantly from up on high. "I am done! I am done, I am done, and thus I am leaving right now before UNIT can call me for the fifteenth time or the Rift has a chance to explode. Ianto, you ready?"
"Have been for the past half hour," Ianto answers, laughing.
"Yes, well, not all of us have the responsibilities befitting leaders of international extra-terrestrial organisation."
"No, true, some of us have actual work to do. Similarly, some of us have time management skills."
Jack shoots him a look as he races down the stairs. "Okay, Gwen, we will see you tomorrow."
Gwen nods. "I'll be off as well - yes, got the remote access codes, I'll keep an eye from home, don't worry." She waves as she grabs her coat. "Have fun, boys!"
Ianto moves to follow after her, but Jack takes his arm. "No no, scenic route," he says, gesturing towards the lift.
"Wow, pulling the stops out tonight, aren't we?" Ianto asks.
"Oh, this is just the beginning," Jack says, grinning hugely.
Ianto steps onto the platform, looking up curiously. All in all, Jack has been unusually taciturn, making vague noises for a couple of weeks about calling in an old favour and taking Ianto somewhere exciting. Considering that for Jack 'exciting' usually goes along the lines of great big guns or anatomically impossible sexual positions, Ianto can't help but feel a little apprehensive as the lift ascends. He frowns, turning to Jack.
"You're practically bouncing," he remarks. "What on earth have you done?"
"You're not really going to go for the whole 'close your eyes' thing, are you?" Jack says sadly.
"No, probably not."
"Hard work, you are."
"But worth the--" Ianto begins, then stops. They have reached ground level, and on the other side of the Plass is a blue box. "That's the TARDIS," he says, startled into blurting the obvious.
"Yes, yes it is." The self-satisfied look on Jack's face is something to behold.
"So when you said we were going somewhere a little different tonight, you meant--"
"Anywhere in time and space. The whole universe is yours. I have - what's the phrase - got you a sweet ride, right?"
"Yeah, you need to not say things like that," Ianto mutters. "So, is the Doctor in there?"
"That's right," Jack says. "About time you got to meet him in the flesh anyway, now he's not Torchwood's most wanted any more."
Ianto did see the Doctor once, he remembers, at Canary Wharf as he toured around with Yvonne, whispers filling the whole Institute. We've finally got him . . . he'll solve all our problems . . . But he didn't, of course; saved the world but couldn't save Torchwood. Maybe no one could.
Ianto shakes it off. "Does Gwen know about this?" he asks.
"Why? We'll be back soon enough."
"Jack." Ianto takes his phone out and starts dialling.
"Yes, she knows," Jack's saying, but the phone's ringing anyway and Ianto wants to be sure.
"Ianto? What's going on?" Gwen answers on the other end.
"No, nothing, not yet anyway. What did Jack tell you?
"What, about you jetting off into the galaxy somewhere? Yeah, got that bit, don't worry."
"Oh. Right, okay."
Gwen laughs. "And for the record, I am mad with envy and want a really cool alien souvenir, all right?"
"Of course. And I'll be back in the morning, I promise."
"I'm sure you will - you, unlike Jack, are not to sort to abscond with exotic aliens for months at a time."
"I'd better go - I too have a date tonight, admittedly with more beer and rugby and less interstellar travel."
"You never know, maybe Rhys' transport company is a front for spaceship manufacture."
"Oh, don't even," Gwen groans. "See you tomorrow."
"Oh ye of little faith," Jack says as Ianto hangs up.
Ianto smiles. "Sorry. So."
"So." Jack presses a hand against the door and smiles up at the TARDIS. "Hello, old girl. You miss me?" He turns to look at Ianto, whole face alight. "Come on in." He pushes the door open and disappears inside.
Ianto glances around the Plass. No one seems to be paying attention. He takes a breath, steadies himself, and walks into the TARDIS.
And there's the Doctor, leaning against a console in the centre of the room, a satisfied grin that matches Jack's.
"Hello," says Ianto, walking forward to shake the Doctor's hand. "Pleasure to finally meet you."
"I-- yes." The Doctor frowns. "What do you make of the TARDIS, then?"
"Yeah, it's nice, in an alien sort of way I suppose."
The Doctor looks affronted at that. "But - it's bigger on the inside . . ." he prompts.
"Yes, I can see that," Ianto agrees, looking around.
"Okay, they're normally far more impressed than this," the Doctor says to Jack.
"Well, I have read the reports, sir," Ianto explains.
The Doctor winces. "Right, rule number one - none of that. Does Jack make you go all chain of command?"
"I really don't," Jack says. "Well, not for any work-related reasons anyway."
"And the rest of the time, to be honest, it's more of a case of him--" Ianto starts.
Jack coughs with great intent, and Ianto suppresses the urge to continue regardless. The Doctor glances between them, looking delighted. He starts cranking levers.
"Where will it be, then?"
"Oh, I've got a few ideas," Jack says. "There's Jalfrane, postmodern Tokyo, the beaches of St. Tropez - the planet, that is, gorgeous little place, and so uninhibited - or there's always Zephyr Nine, best pleasure dome in three galaxies. Ianto?"
"I--" Ianto pauses, considering. "Actually. Jack, I'd like to see where you come from. Not your home, not your own planet even, I wouldn't ask that, but your own time. I've always been ancient history to you, and I just thought--" Ianto shrugs, and smiles disarmingly. "Well, either that or the pleasure domes of Zephyr Nine, your call."
Jack stares at him for such a long time that Ianto begins to worry he's massively overstepped the mark.
"Jack?" the Doctor asks quietly.
Jack seems to fall back into himself. "Yeah. Yeah, all right. Doctor, what do you say to the New Martian colonies, circa 5050?"
The Doctor nods and begins to twist dials and manoeuvre controls.
"New Mars?' Ianto asks.
"In a few centuries or so, humans start heading out into space, Earth can't hold them all any more. The early migrants are - pioneering, shall we say, get themselves into all sorts of trouble, fight wars, offend just about every moral code in the galaxy"
"Heh," Ianto remarks, "some things never change."
Jack nods. "Anyway, plenty of them mingle pretty freely with all the cute new aliens we meet, but a few predominately human outcrops remain on from the early days - New Mars is one."
"So named because--"
"It's pretty red, yeah. Some historians swear there were little green aliens at the start, too."
The Doctor scoffs beside them.
"Anyway," Jack continues. "By the time I come along, it was all fairly well established. Came here a couple of times when I was a kid, even. So. You want to see my time? This is a pretty good example."
"Woah," the Doctor yelped, "the 37th century is giving us a bit of trouble, hang on tight!"
Jack holds on to one of the TARDIS pillars and grabs Ianto's arm.
"What--" Ianto's cut off as the whole ship shudders, sending him careening straight into Jack.
Jack laughs and lays a steadying hand on Ianto's shoulder as the Doctor appears to attempting to clamber right over the console, spread-eagled and hitting levers with his feet. Ianto really can't help but feel alarmed, and it's all very well for Jack to be blasé about it all, but then he remembers that Martha travelled with the Doctor too, and seemed to come out of it without any significant injuries, and so he relaxes a little.
Sparks burst out from an unattended underbelly of the console. Ianto very carefully Does Not Panic. Then the Doctor grabs a hammer, starts to hit indiscriminate patches of open wiring, and with a bump, the TARDIS stops.
"We've landed?" Ianto asks.
"Oh yes," says the Doctor, looking distinctly dishevelled. He swings a monitor around. "Let's see - oh, would you look at that, April 17th, 5051. That's not bad even if I do say so myself. So, Ianto Jones." He gestures towards the entrance. "Welcome to the new world."
Ianto takes a deep breath to offset the sudden rush of anticipation. There's still a hand on his shoulder, and he turns to look at Jack. For an instant, Jack's expression is unreadable and surprisingly solemn, but then he's back to that smile again. They walk up to the doors, the Doctor hovering behind them.
Ianto reaches out, pulls open the door, and steps out onto another world.
They're in the middle of a park, immaculately sculpted, with gleaming white pebble pathways spiralling out in seven directions.
It doesn't feel so very alien at first, but as Ianto looks closer, everything seems different. A sign next to a bench details information on power-up points (recycled electricity-friendly), three databanks available for download ('Our Natural Heritage', 'The History of Sector 55', and 'Your Guide To Martian Horticulture: available in all 1,259 recognised empirical languages'), and warnings against drinking, eating, narcotics, and no dogs, cybernetic or biological. On the ground before them is a hexagonal outline marked 'Transmat Point, 14-92-8954-B' and as Ianto looks at it two women materialise in front of him. They look him over curiously for a moment, turn to each other, then walk down one of the paths, arm in arm.
"Smell that low-toxin air," the Doctor says, inhaling deep. "Not bad," he tells Jack. "Not bad by half."
"Yeah, well, this is what happens when you've got most of the trade from twenty sectors coming through here every morning."
"So, what do you do for fun around here?" Ianto asks. "Bearing in mind we've just arrived," he adds hastily as a familiar gleam appears in Jack's eyes.
Jack laughs. "One should never vacation on a brand-new planet with an empty stomach."
They set off, Jack leading the way, and the Doctor doing his best not to look bothered by it. They dip out of a side gate of the park, which leads onto a busy promenade, every building seemingly a shop, with stalls and merchants weaving amongst the pedestrians too. Everything's very holographic, signs and advertisements twirling gently in mid-air, and the city truly does operate in three dimensions, as one enterprising businessman has an office about fifteen feet above the ground, sending a platform up and down collecting clients.
Ianto can't stop looking around him, equal parts fascination and caution. Torchwood has probably imprinted itself onto his soul by this point, and it's hard not to catalogue everything alien and unknown as a potential threat. Despite his best intentions, Ianto has already calculated three separate routes that would take them back to the TARDIS, and he eyes up the streets for objects that could be used as weapons before he can stop himself. He shakes it off, struck anew that he is standing on an alien planet.
Beside him, Jack's smiling, and he takes Ianto's hand.
Ianto's never been much of a hand-holder, not with anyone. And now he's so used to compartmentalising everything to do with Jack, forever intent on being the consummate professional to all outsiders. This isn't the first time they've done something like this - dancing at Gwen's wedding, several undeniably date-like dinners around Cardiff Bay - but the unguarded, uncomplicated show of intimacy still forces Ianto to take a moment.
Jack glances over at him, and Ianto wonders if something of that managed to pass through their joined palms.
Jack's subtly different here - in the way he carries himself, his stance as he looks around the place. Ianto can only imagine what's going on beneath the surface, but on the outside he seems part of the surroundings in a way Ianto's never seen before. In Cardiff, Jack's residence of more than a hundred years, there's never been any doubt that Jack is an outsider, consciously so. Here, in his own time, he's almost inconspicuous, and Ianto's mesmerised.
Ianto also can't help the feeling that he's highly prominent himself. At first he chalks it up to the anxiety of unfamiliar surroundings, but finally he's certain he's not imagining it, people really are staring at him whilst finding Jack mostly unremarkable, which is definitely an experience that's going to stick.
"Am I doing that bad a job of this?" he asks after a while.
"What?" Jack looks round in time to catch a woman go so far as to stop walking for a moment in order to fully give Ianto a once-over. Jack grins. "Ianto, you're exuding raw human, the classic version. All that chancey genetic material, the centuries-old fabric, you can practically smell the Earth on you. And that," he finishes, tilting Ianto's jaw and quickly kissing him, "is incredibly hot."
Ianto laughs. "Oh, I see, I'm just your bit of historically authentic rough."
"And everyone around us is mad with envy," Jack murmurs in reply, with a sudden jolt of intensity.
Ianto swallows. Jack breezes onwards, starts pointing out various local features like a shop entirely devoted to selling horn grooming accessories and a dog walker whose charges have no noses.
They pause by a food stall. The wares seem to stretch up two stories, all manner of foodstuffs resting in compartments. Jack flashes a grin at the vendor. "Three Garglian blast burgers, flavour three, if you'd be so kind."
"Coming up right up!" she replies, and pulls out a lever, sending out a cloud of steam. When it dissipates, three small plates are laid out in front of them.
The Doctor starts patting down his pockets. "Hang on, I think I've got a few credits in here somewhere."
"No need," Jack answers, opening his wrist strap.
The vendor's eyes widen. "Oh, you can have them on the house, my compliments."
"Nonsense," Jack says. "I think you'll find my credit's good?"
"Yes, sir, I'm sure it is." She looks at them anxiously as she reaches down for a scanner to pass over Jack's wrist.
"Will that be all, Officer --" she checks the readout "-- Entwhistle?"
"Yes, thank you. Now you have yourself a good day, won't you?"
"And you, sir." She looks impossibly relieved.
They walk away.
"There we are, courtesy of the Time Agency." Jack laughs. "They'll be furious when that works its way through the system, but that won't be for a while yet."
Ianto takes a cautious bite of the food. His eyes widen. "Wow. That's-- 51st century flavouring," he guesses.
"You people have no idea," Jack agrees.
They eat in silence for a moment.
"Jack," the Doctor starts.
"Your name's not really Entwhistle, is it?"
Jack laughs. "No, no it's not."
"Oh thank God for that," says Ianto.
"So, how is Torchwood these days?" the Doctor asks, in a passable attempt at being conversational.
"Not so bad," Jack says. "Rift's still shaken up after our little jaunt out of the solar system, nothing we can't handle."
"Good, that's good."
"What about you?" Jack asks quietly.
"Fine, yeah, I'm fine. On my own, open road, all that."
Jack looks about to argue, but the Doctor cuts him off with a glance.
"We worry, you know," Jack says instead. "No one's heard from you in a while."
The Doctor shrugs. "You know how to get hold of me if something happens."
"Yeah, that mostly only works if you actually pick up the phone sometimes."
"That was only twice, I was busy, and Martha said in her messages that it wasn't life-threatening peril or anything," the Doctor grumbles.
"That's really not my point."
"I'm fine, Jack. Really. You've got better things to do than worry about me."
Ianto looks between them in the silence, and the names of the dead and the lost hang heavy in the air.
The Doctor breaks off first, stepping back and shrugging his shoulders. "Anyway, you hardly need me here, this is your world. I'll see you back at the TARDIS."
He disappears without giving them a second glance. Jack lets out a long breath. "That-- wasn't what I'd hoped."
"Will he be all right?" Ianto asks.
"Oh, he's always all right," Jack says bitterly. "We're always all right."
Ianto is fairly certain by this point that he will never quite understand what Jack and the Doctor are to each other. It doesn't seem quite so important any more.
Jack shakes it off. "Come on. He's right about one thing, we don't particularly need him."
They continue onwards.
"Do you miss this place?" Ianto asks.
"More than I thought I would," Jack admits. "It's strange being back."
"You look like you fit in."
"A finely-honed skill."
"One you've chosen not to employ back on Earth, I see."
"Well." Jack grins. "Got to keep my life exciting somehow."
"Indeed, the Rift's really lost its edge."
"That's not what I meant."
"This is a nice change of pace, though. We've hardly had time to draw breath in months."
"I know." Jack sighs. "You know, we could go back. Find someone to fix my vortex manipulator, go and get Gwen - Rhys too, I guess - and just run away. I'd get a new identity, we could sell some Earth antiques, live like kings. No more Rift, no one trying to kill us."
"You'd go mad without getting to put on some thrilling heroics every few days," Ianto answers. "Gwen would miss home, I'd probably have to trawl half the planet looking for coffee suitable to keep you in the manner to which you are accustomed."
"But it would be brilliant."
Ianto's eyes close as he imagines waking up under a different sky. "Yeah," he agrees.
"Let me have the dream," Jack says. "Just for a little while."
A shuttle soars overhead, people of a dozen different species continue to mill around them, and this time, it's Ianto who reaches out for Jack's hand.