18 July 2008 @ 04:57 pm
TITLE: Homecoming
FANDOM: Torchwood
DISCLAIMER: Oh, please. If I owned them, would I let some of those idiots write the scripts? And if I were making any money off them, would I be where they could find me? 
AUTHOR’S NOTE: This…thing…came about because I firmly believe that if GDL decided he wanted out or if “management” decided to write Ianto out, the only satisfactory way to do it would be to let him walk away with his dignity intact and minimal outward angst. Softie that I am, I immediately started thinking what would happen if the guys met somewhere down the road. Unbetaed, so there.
            “Uncle Jack! Uncle Jack!”
The little girl rocketed across the Plas, blue-black hair streaming in the cold early morning wind blowing off the bay, her father and older brother huffing and panting in her wake.
            “Toshiko Gwendolyn Cooper-Williams, stop it right now!”
            Rhys watched in resigned amusement as his daughter ignored her mother’s order and launched herself into the outstretched arms of her favorite man. Gwen should have known better by now; whenever the otherwise sweet and obedient Toshiko came within hugging distance of Captain Jack Harkness she turned blind and deaf to anyone else.
            “Are you coming with us, Uncle Jack?” she asked as she pressed her face into his neck, sniffing at him like a puppy. As he watched Jack return the gesture, Rhys wondered if the Big Hero realized that it was obvious to anyone watching that he was just as besotted with a six-year-old girl as she was with him. His best guess was that Jack knew and didn’t give a damn.
            “Yeah, come on, Uncle Jack. It’ll be fun.” Fifteen-year-old Pryce snickered. “The Riviera is full of hot babes in tiny bikinis.”
            “Oi!” Gwen smacked her oldest offspring in the back of the head. “Keep this up and I’ll leave you in Swansea with your grandparents. And you” she rounded on her boss, who was waggling his eyebrows at the boy. “Don’t encourage him!”
            “As if fifteen year old males need any encouragement,” Jack snorted. Rhys, safely behind Gwen’s back, gave him an agreeing eye-roll. “Hey, Yan, ready for the babes in bikinis?”
            The youngest -- by ten minutes -- of the Cooper-Williams twins strolled up to the little group. Like his brother, he had his father’s strength and his mother’s gorgeous coloring; but it was his mischievous streak, so reminiscent of his namesake, that often brought a lump to Jack’s throat.
            “Why bother with the babes in bikinis, Uncle Jack? Three minutes on Google and I’ve got a list of all the best nude beaches.” He grinned at his mother’s outraged bellow. “Just kidding, mum.”
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            “Taxi’s here.” He winked at Jack as he reached over to detach his baby girl from the Captain’s neck. “Come on, limpet. We won’t be gone long. Uncle Jack will be waiting for us when we get back.”
            “Will you Uncle Jack? Promise?”
            Jack ruffled her hair. “Promise, sweetheart.” He smiled at Gwen’s skeptical look. “Promise, Gwen.”
            He watched them pile into the taxi and drive off. He loved watching them. The bedraggled little copper he had snatched out of a wet Cardiff street twenty years before had become a power to be reckoned with in intelligence circles, all the while managing a very happy husband and raising three great kids. A true Torchwood success story, one UNIT bigwig had once told him. Jack, remembering all the grief they had given him for keeping Gwen employed through pregnancy and child-rearing, hadn’t known whether to laugh or coldcock the condescending sonofabitch.
            He waited until he taxi disappeared from view then turned towards the waterfront. Andy and John were not expecting him back until noon, and Martha was off to some wildly important multiagency medical conference in Geneva. Jack couldn’t remember the last time he had a whole morning to himself. Actually, yes, he could, but he preferred not to think about it, because dammit if the memory didn’t still hurt.
            He was considering grabbing some breakfast from his favorite little shop on the other side of the Plas when his nostrils were seduced by the most perfect smell of dear God, coffee
            “Hello, Jack.”
            I used to need to breathe, Jack thought clinically as his chest constricted and the air rushed out of his lungs. It had been fifteen years since he had heard that voice, but time and distance obviously had not diminished his addiction to soft welsh vowels. Light, keep it light. He schooled his face into a wide grin as he turned.
            “Hello, Ianto. It’s been a long time.” He reached for the mug, and was pleased to notice the small tremors in the Welshman’s hand. “Up to your old tricks?”
            Ianto shrugged. “I figured this time around it had a better chance of working.”
            Jack sipped, and then closed his eyes in ecstasy. “I have news for you, Ianto. It damn near worked the first time.”
            “Really, Captain?” The old grin -- the beautiful, heart-stopping grin Jack had never forgotten -- surfaced briefly. “I never would have guessed.”
            Jack drank more coffee as he studied the lover he honestly had believed he would never see again. The boy was gone. In his place stood a man sculpted into hard muscle and sinew, a strong warrior even belligerent drunks would think twice about tackling. Finally, Jack realized, Ianto’s looks matched his character. Only the eyes and the mouth were the same. Jack found it heartening to realize that he could still read the emotions reflected in those eyes, in that mouth, as clearly as he could fifteen years before. He knew Ianto was reading his thoughts just as easily. It had always been like that between them; a strange cross-wiring that allowed Jack to hide his heart behind facile reasoning while Ianto hid his deepest thoughts behind surface emotions. We had to work so hard at understanding each other.
            “So what brings you back to Cardiff?”
            Ianto hesitated. “Homesickness, I suppose. I woke up on a beautiful spring day, in an opulent villa overlooking the Aegean, with a beautiful contessa warming my bed, and all I could think of was… here. All I wanted was here.”
            “It’s been fifteen years.”
            “I let you go.”
            “Unretconned and in good health, for which I thank you.” Ianto seemed about to reach for him, but the gesture ended in an open-handed, wordless apology. “Jack… I know it cost you.”
            “What’s the point of having all that blackmail material if you don’t use it to help a friend?”
            The trademark roguish grin disappeared as if wiped away. “Yes. It cost me. But you needed it, Ianto. You needed to know what you could achieve away from Torchwood. From me. You can’t grow if you’re always in someone else’s shade.” He tossed back the last of the coffee. “It took me nearly two hundred years to figure that one out.”
            “There are plants that thrive in the shade.”
            “You weren’t one of them. You … adjusted to the environment, but after a while I could see it wilting you a little every day. Until you got the camera. Then it was like watching the effect of summer rains on the high desert, back in Boeshane.”
            “So when I asked…”
            “I had been expecting it.”
            “Procedure indicated retcon.”
            “I could tell you that I didn’t do it because I trust you to hell and back, or that I couldn’t stand to run into you one day and get a blank stare instead of a hello,” Jack shrugged, “but it was more basic than that. Bloody-minded selfish bastard that I am, I wanted you to remember me. Us.”
            Ianto laughed and laughed until he was gasping for air. Jack waited, letting the sounds of Ianto’s amusement wash over him like a benediction. I’ve missed this. How could I not have known how much I’ve missed this?
            “I remembered, Jack.” Ianto’s laughter had died down to the occasional chuckle. “Every bloody day for fifteen years I thought of you. I would be hanging out the door of a helicopter, close enough to a volcano to get my eyebrows singed, hoping to God the restraining straps wouldn’t shake loose, and I’d think Jack should be here to see this. Or I would be going over the proofs for a book and I’d think I hope this makes him proud of me. Even after I learned to value myself without reference to you or Torchwood, you remained my touchstone. I would look at some stupid situation I had no business being mixed up in and ask myself what would Jack do? and off  I’d go.”
            Some dark and twisted thing Jack hadn’t even realized he was carrying around shattered into a million shards. “What would Jack do, huh? I hope it landed you into trouble from time to time.”
            “Let’s just say I now understand why damn it, Jack, no! is one of the most common phrases in the Universal lexicon.”
            Jack realized that he was blinking back tears. “We keep scrapbooks. Well, I let Gwen think she’s keeping scrapbooks.”
            “You do?”
            Don’t sound so obscenely delighted,” Jack retorted grumpily. “Also copies of all your books…”
            “Three books, Jack. Only three books.”
            “Boasting, Mr. Jones?”

            Ianto started to reach for Jack again, and then suddenly stopped, his eyes filled with questions. “Jack…”
            “Yes, Ianto?”
            “My timing has always… lacked a certain precision. Is there…would I be…”
            “No.” Jack felt oddly euphoric, as if he had been drinking hundred-year-old Rastarian ale. “I haven’t been interested in permanence for a while.”
            “How long a while?”
            Laughing now, Jack reached for the Welshman’s hand and interlaced their fingers, palms touching. “Fifteen years.”