Three days later…
Jack rolled over in bed and gazed upon the sleeping form of his lover. Ianto looked so restful and childlike in his sleep and Jack loved that he was the only one who got to see that side of him. He loved that he could in the knowledge that Ianto felt comfortable enough to let his guard down in front of him; that he didn’t care what he looked like when he slept beside him. That Ianto would allow himself to curl up in the sheets and snuggle into the pillows as he murmured like a kitten was something that reminded Jack what he was fighting for. His young lover had grown up so fast, too fast even; without these moments, it was all too easy to forget that he was just a young man who should be going out and enjoying himself at night.
Often, Jack had to admit that he wondered if he was doing what was right for Ianto. He knew that he should be giving him the chance to get out and do what young people did these days. People often said that if you truly loved someone, you should let them go and give them the chance to be happy, even if that happiness didn’t necessarily involve them being with you.
“There’s just one small problem,” he murmured as he traced his finger down Ianto’s spine. “I love you too much to let you go.”
“If you think that’s the only problem, you’ve got another think coming,” replied a sleepy voice from somewhere in the pillows. “You’ve also got to deal with the idea that I might not actually want to leave you.”
Jack blinked. “Did I say all of that out loud?”
“No, just the part about loving me too much to let me go,” replied Ianto, propping himself up onto his elbows. “And let me tell you now, I love you too much to let you let me go.” He smiled and then blinked several times. “Did that make sense?”
“Yeah,” Jack nodded and gently stroked Ianto’s tousled hair. “Yeah, it did…probably a little too much sense,” he admitted. “Ianto –” but he was cut off when the younger man’s lips met his in a gentle but firm kiss, silencing any further comments he might have made.
Ianto chuckled and smiled as he got out of bed and pulled some clean clothes on. “You think too much, Jack Harkness,” he said softly as he climbed up the ladder. “I might have to start putting you on decaffeinated coffee if you keep it up.” He started tinkering with the coffee machine as Jack followed him out of the hole pulling his shirt on. “So, what time are we expecting Matt and Garrett to arrive?”
“They should be here in half an hour,” answered Jack with a cursory glance at his watch. “That should give us a few hours to test them before Declan arrives at half one.”
“Are you going to test him as well, if he accepts the job?”
“Of course I am. But first I want to interview him, make sure he’s not rushing into this rashly. He’s also been through a lot and I don’t want to break him any more than he may already be.”
“You won’t,” Ianto assured him. “Jack, you’ve healed so many people. You healed Owen and Tosh and me. You saved John from himself. And you brought Nick back from a point where even I wasn’t sure whether he’d come back.” He linked his fingers with Jack’s. “And I know it will take time, but I know that you can help Garrett as well.”
Jack looked at him and smiled. “Yeah, you’re right. And that’s why I want Garrett here. It’s not just because I was so impressed by the way he handled himself the other day, or really even because I know he’s a good doctor.”
Ianto blinked. “How do you know that?”
“What, do you think you’re the only one who can hack into a computer?” asked Jack, laughing. “After what happened the other day, I did some more research and…well, let’s just say I’ve now read some pretty glowing praise of young Dr. Evans.” He chuckled again as Ianto rolled his eyes slightly. “But you’re right. We can help him. And that’s why I want him here.”
“Okay, you two,” Jack clapped his hands as he surveyed the two new recruits. “I realise that this may seem like an unorthodox request on some level, given that you’ve both been with the army, but I want to be able to test your capabilities when you find yourselves in a pressurized situation. That’s why I called you both in early.” He clapped his hands. “So, I’m going to be testing each of you separately and then we’re all going to try something together. Garrett, you’re going to go first. Do nothing until you hear me give the order. Matt, Ianto, both of you come with me.”
Garrett nodded, trying not to watch the tall man lead his partner away. Just before he left, Matt turned around and gave him a smile that was probably meant to be reassuring. The smile said ‘It’s just a test, Garry. Every military organisation has them, you know that. And who knows, it might well save your life.’
The thought gave him no reassurance at all. Somehow, he doubted that whatever Captain Jack Harkness would come up with would be nothing like anything he had encountered in the army.
Somewhere, a door slammed shut, the sound filtering through into the small room, sounding too much like the sealing of a morgue door for his liking. He scowled as he felt a shudder rippling through him; now was not the time to panic. He took a deep breath and gathered together the skills that he had learned during his military training.
“Think logically,” he muttered to himself as he paced around the room. As Spock-like as it sounded, it was important. Not keeping a clear head could cost someone their life; he’d seen it happen before. Everyone who had ever been involved had, even if they weren’t on the front line.
Suddenly, the door clicked open and Jack arrived. He looked considerably worse for wear; his clothes were ripped and bloodstained and his face and hair were filthy. He had also apparently lost his coat, save for what appeared to be a ripped sleeve which he was currently pressing against a gash on his forehead.
He shook his head as Garrett went over to help. “There are others who have greater need of your assistance, Doctor,” he said. “You must come with me, immediately.”
Without questioning, Garrett nodded and followed the older man. However, as soon as he stepped outside the door, he was hit by a wave of sound that almost caused him to freeze – gunshots, screams and explosions. All around him, he could see piles of sandbags stacked up on top of one another, some of them stained with blood. He could feel earth underneath his feet and a harsh breeze on his face, slapping his hair against his cheeks.
As they walked on, Garrett realised that not all of the bloodstained sandbags were what they appeared to be. As something exploded in flames, he saw the corpses of three soldiers slumped over the wall of bags, their uniform soaked in blood and what he could see of their skin was covered in lumps of congealed dirt.
Jack’s voice, barking at him to hurry, brought him abruptly back to the moment and he raced after him, weaving through the perilous terrain until the other man stopped. He looked around – and froze at the sight in front of him.
He had seen people fighting to the death before. He knew that it would happen again and there would be little or nothing he could do about it. But even then, he wasn’t prepared to see Matt, his hands slippery with blood and his face almost lost under a mass of cuts, weakly firing at an unknown enemy. His right leg was stuck out at a strange angle and his clothes had been almost entirely ripped away, showing that his skin was ravaged by burn marks. Swallowing, Garrett began to go to him, but was distracted by a moan behind him and turned around.
Ianto was lying on a makeshift bed, almost unrecognisable from the sea of blood covering him. In fact, had it not been for the small quirk of his lip, Garrett would never have known that it was him. Jack was sat at his side, ripping up pieces of cloth and attempt to stem the flow of a gunshot wound to the younger man’s side. Also, the doctor could see at a glance that Ianto’s muscles were unresponsive and that, like Matt, he had suffered some serious burns. Instantly, he recognised some of the symptoms of an electric shock.
“Doctor!” shouted Jack. “This man needs your help! You were the only doctor who could be found quickly enough for there to be a chance to save him!”
Garrett nodded and started towards the bed. But he had barely gone a few steps when a cough distracted him and he turned to see Matt gasping in pain. Clearly, some of his ribs were broken and there might even be some internal damage. But Ianto could die if he wasn’t treated instantly…but Matt was his partner…his rock…but then…
Another choked gasp made the young doctor’s mind up; as bad as things looked on the front line, Matt was still conscious and fighting, albeit weakly, but Ianto was incapacitated. Wrenching his gaze away from his partner, Garrett rushed over and found a medical kit behind the tent and started dressing and treating the wounds as he tested his pulse and breathing at the same time. Once he had barked out orders to Jack to inform him if anything changed, he stole a weapon from one of the dead men and joined Matt in firing at the enemy.
At that moment, everything fell silent. The lights went down, sending the area into pitch darkness. Garrett yelped in shock and readied his weapon again, but before he could move another muscle, the lights came back up again. He looked around and blinked in surprise.
The war zone had completely vanished. Instead, Garrett was standing in a large room, rather like an old ballet studio. He looked around, but there were no sandbags and no bodies in sight. There wasn’t even a speck of blood on the floor.
Jack looked at him. “Illusions, Garrett,” he said. “That’s all it was; just a bunch of illusions.” He smiled at Matt and Ianto who were sat beside him and, Garrett realised, made up with very realistic wounds. Now, however, Ianto was wiping the congealed ‘blood’ off Matt’s skin. “Pretty convincing, huh?” finished Jack as he wiped away his own make-up.
“How the hell did you do it?!” spluttered Garrett.
“Little trick an old friend of mine taught me,” answered Jack with that maddening smugness. “I’d tell you, but I really don’t think you want to know.”
“There’s no ‘think’ about it,” piped up Ianto. “You really don’t want to know.” He stretched and stood up, his posture showing that he was ready to get back to business.
Matt looked at him. “So, it’s my turn now, is it?” He clapped his hands. “Can’t wait to see what kind of craziness you’ve got in store for me.” A grin spread over his face and he heard Garrett frantically cover a chuckle with a small cough beside him.
“Yep, it is.” Jack nodded. He checked his watch again. “There are just a few things I need to fine-tune first, make sure everything’s in perfect working order. If you’ll just give us ten minutes, Ianto and I can do our last minute checks and then we’ll call you through.” He tipped Matt a small wink and swept out of the room, Ianto by his side.
Matt let out a low whistle. “Well, I guess our new boss really has seen a lot,” he mused. “And there was me thinking the coat was just for show.”
Garrett shook his head. “It takes more than a just a fancy coat to make it as a Captain,” he said. “You and I both know that.”
Matt blinked in surprise. “Well, yeah,” he admitted. “But I saw the look in his eyes earlier. He knew none of what just happened was real, Garry.” Slowly, he rested a hand on Garrett’s back. “But he was just as shaken up by it all as you were – possibly even more so.”
“How do you know that?” Garrett turned round and stared at his partner.
“It’s the eyes, Garrett,” said Matt quietly. “It’s all in his eyes.”
Before Garrett could respond, Jack stuck his head around the door and called for him to follow him. Matt raised an eyebrow as he watched his lover leave and shut the door behind him. Shrugging, he sat himself down on the floor to wait for his call.
He didn’t have to wait long. Within a few minutes, the door opened and Jack’s black-haired team mate – Gwen, he reminded himself – led him outside again. She said nothing, but left him a few moments later inside a dark room alone.
As soon as she shut the door, however, a faint light began to filter in from somewhere. It eventually stopped and landed on what Matt quickly realised was a standard firearm. Cautiously, after ascertaining that it wasn’t a trap, he picked it up and readied it. The light flickered, flashing on and off, as if there was something sparking the fuse. Quickly, and trying not to panic, Matt made his way across the room to where another door was half-open. He stepped through it – and choked back a cry of horror.
The room looked worse than a morgue; it looked like a slaughterhouse. Bodies were strewn over the floor and the metal table by the wall. But the worst part was the sight of Garrett and Ianto, bound and chained to the wall, dressed in rags and covered in lashes. Ianto was curled up in a ball and shaking, while Garrett just looked blank and lost. And there, stood over them, his gun pointed at Garrett’s head, was Jack, his expression cold and calculating.
“So,” he drawled, “you found me.” His mouth twisted into an unpleasant sneer.
“Let them go!” demanded Matt, raising the gun. Any thoughts that this was just a test had long since vanished from his mind. “Let them go…or I’ll kill you!”
Jack laughed coldly. “You wouldn’t. You don’t have the guts.” The sneer became more pronounced. “And now…here I have you, powerless and shaking in fear. My God, the army must really be slipping if you’re anything to go by. No matter; it just makes things easier for me.” The light flickered overhead again. “Now,” Jack continued, “we can do this the easy way. Or,” and with a click, he released the safety catch on his gun, “we can do it the hard way.”
But Matt didn’t hear the end of the sentence. The moment that small ‘click’ had sounded, he knew what he had to do. Not even pausing to close his eyes, he slammed his finger down on the trigger and pulled. He didn’t even have to look up to know that the bullet had hit its mark; the sound of the tall man falling had seen to that. Breathing heavily, he put the gun on the floor and moved over to check Jack’s pulse, closing his eyes slightly when he didn’t feel one.
Suddenly, the door behind him crashed open and he instantly grabbed the gun, getting ready to fire. His jaw dropped in astonishment when he saw Ianto and Garrett in the doorway. Ianto rushed over to Jack and gently cradled him in his arms, while Garrett stood where he was, a look of shock on his face.
“You…you killed him,” he whispered, staring at his partner as if he’d never seen him before.
“I…” stammered Matt, “but…how…” He glanced around wildly at the corner where he had seen his lover…but there was no one there, except Jack who was sprawled out dead on the floor. “But…how?” he stammered. “I saw –”
“It wasn’t what it looked like,” Ianto explained. “Jack did something similar to what he did with Garrett; he created an illusion to make you see what you saw. Garrett and I were watching on the CCTV upstairs. We were never here.”
“Matt,” Garrett whispered, cautiously touching the other man’s arm. “Jack was the only person who was actually here.”
“No,” Matt whispered, feeling sick. But before he could say anything else, both he and Garrett were shocked out of their wits when Jack let out a loud gasp and sat bolt upright.
Ianto held him and cradled him, whispering soft words until his lover had relaxed. “Welcome back, Jack,” he said with a small chuckle. “And I think you’ve got a bit of explaining to do.”
“But you were dead!” squeaked Garrett. “Matt shot you…I’m sure he did!”
Jack shrugged. “Takes more than a gunshot to stop me,” he said. “In fact, I’m not sure there’s actually anything that can stop me, not permanently at least.”
“You mean…” Matt’s voice trailed off.
Jack nodded. “I can’t stay dead.” He rubbed his head. “I can get monster headaches, though.”
“Sorry,” said Matt contritely. “I just…what you did…it looked so real.”
“I know,” said Jack. “And you did well. No soldier should ever abandon his men – or women – when there’s a possible way out.”
Gwen poked her head into the room at that point. “Jack, Declan’s just arrived. He’s waiting in the Tourist Office.”
“Thanks, Gwen.” Jack stood up and stretched. “Ianto, would you care to work us some coffee magic?” he asked with a grin.
“It would be my pleasure,” replied Ianto, jogging after his partner.
Matt sighed. “I think this is going to be pretty eventful.”
“I’m inclined to agree,” replied Garrett.
Jack’s first impression of the man waiting in the tourist office was of a raw and young cricketer; a pace bowler, probably. He was tall and skinny with a wild mass of blonde hair and large blue eyes that seemed to be trying to take in everything at once. He took a deep breath and cleared his throat. “Dr. Hamilton, I presume?”
To his credit, the man didn’t flinch. Instead, his face broke into a wide grin and he leapt off the chair and ran to shake Jack’s hand. “That’s me, mate!” he affirmed with a chuckle. “Declan Hamilton – doctor and part-time fast bowler at your service!”
Jack blinked in surprise. “Captain Jack Harkness,” he eventually managed to say. The young man’s exuberant introduction had almost taken his breath away. “I hope your journey here was all right.”
“It was amazing!” Declan laughed again. “I’m telling you, I’ve never seen so many sheep in my life – and that’s coming from a country where it’s said there are more sheep than people!”
“Well, the Welsh do have a certain love of lamb,” replied Jack, finding himself chuckling; Declan’s cheerfulness was catching on. That could only be a good thing. “Come with me; I’ll introduce you to the rest of the team.”
They made their way back down to the Hub and Jack smiled as he saw Declan’s eyes widen even more as he took in his surroundings. He openly chuckled as he watched Gwen blush as the blonde man kissed her hand and winked at her. “Okay, Gwen will show you around and take you through the protocols of working here,” he said. “Ianto, will you take your coffee with me in my office? There’s something I’d like to discuss with you.”
“Of course,” replied Ianto. He smiled at Declan, who was reducing Gwen to a mass of giggles with a series of jokes that he seemed to pull straight out of his head, and followed his partner.
“So,” Jack said once he’d closed the door. “What do you think of our soon-to-be resident Kiwi?”
“I like him,” Ianto said honestly. “We’d need to see his capabilities as a doctor and as a fighter, but I think he could be good for this place. He’ll stop too much doom and gloom settling in. And I can see you like him too.” He sipped his coffee thoughtfully. “But that wasn’t really why you wanted to talk to me, was it?”
“No,” answered Jack. He looked down at the others going about their work. "The team is really beginning to come together,” he remarked and then paused. "Well, almost."
Ianto nodded. “I agree.” He waited to see where this was going.
“But,” continued Jack slowly, “we still need someone with the skills to fill in on the technical side. Someone who’s smart and knows this place and the procedures like the back of their hand – and someone who’s,” he paused and drew out the last word, looking intently at Ianto, “innovative.”
Ianto stared at him for a long moment, his brain quickly piecing it all together. “Me?” he gasped.
“I can’t think of anyone better suited to it,” answered Jack. “You underestimate yourself Ianto, but the fact is, you have the skills that are so beneficial to this job. I really believe you’d be an –”
Jack blinked. “I beg your pardon?”
Ianto smiled. “I said yes. I can’t say I was expecting it, but if you think I can do it –”
“I don’t think you can do it, Ianto,” interrupted Jack. “I know you can do it.” He reached out and touched Ianto’s hand. “I believe in you.”
Ianto blushed with pride. “Thank you,” he whispered. He checked his watch. “Damn, I was supposed to get to St. David’s so I could give Dan the results of Andie’s toxicology report. One of the survivors from the barracks started exhibiting strange symptoms and he wondered if there might have been poison involved.” He jumped up and gave Jack a quick kiss. “I won’t be long.”
As the door to his office closed, Jack leaned back and sighed. He hadn’t been lying when he said that he believed in Ianto and that he knew that he could do the job he’d asked him to do. However, he knew that he would have been lying if he said that was his only motive.
“Thanks, Ianto,” Dan said when his friend handed him the reports. “The patient in question is having blood taken and other tests run on him now.”
“Have there been any other cases like that?”
“None that I’ve been made aware of, which makes this case all the more worrying.” Dan chewed the end of his pen, looking troubled. “We’ve got the man quarantined for now.”
“We’ll get to the bottom of this,” promised Ianto.
Dan nodded, still chewing his pen for a while. “So, tell me, how’s Nick doing? I heard that he went to work with you lot at Torchwood. How’s he finding it?”
Ianto bit his lip. “Nick’s…not with us any more,” he murmured.
“What?” exclaimed Dan, his eyes widening. “You mean he’s –”
“No, he’s not dead.” As far as we know.
“Then where –” Dan stopped, realising that the middle of the hospital wasn’t the best place for this discussion. He led Ianto upstairs to his office and sat them both down on the sofa by the wall. “What happened to him?” he asked. His stomach lurched at the uncomfortable look on Ianto’s face. “Ianto, if you know the truth, please tell me.”