Jack crouched above Ianto, holding him against his chest, one hand running through his short hair; the other stroking across his cheekbone. He needed Ianto to know he was there, he needed Ianto to know that he loved him, even though he couldn't coke the words out. Time was against them, and Ianto’s breaths were already becoming more and more laboured, his face drenched in sweat from the effort. Jack felt the tears fall. They ran down his cheeks and dripped onto the man below him. They should have had years, years of dating, years of smiles and laughter. Jack watched as the life drained out of the man he loved, he watched as Ianto’s laboured breaths stopped, he felt the exact moment that Ianto’s heart gave out. It was with the last of his fading strength that he died next to Ianto, praying that maybe this time he wouldn't have to wake, and face a world without Ianto Jones in it.
He woke up. His first breath gushed into his lungs much like tax forms came into a house, with a feeling of impending dissatisfaction. Jack was almost alright as he looked up at Gwen. Then he looked to the left. Suddenly, life held less of its usual appeal. He had no one. Well, he had Gwen, but she had Rhys, so he didn't really have her. Life held nothing, but an endless sort of going on that seemed nothing but sad to him now. There was no one who was his. He had no one to hold. To kiss. The only person who had fulfilled that for him was in a body bag. Some thanks they’d got for saving the children of Earth. There was someone though, someone who he knew had turned their back on the Earth in those last five days. He didn't blame them. If he hadn't been on Earth, he would likely have turned away in disgust. But, now it wasn't Earth that needed The Doctor, it was Jack; surely that had to count for something.
“Jack,” Gwen whispered, the word sounded too loud in a hall full of dead people. “Jack, we should… there’s nothing… come on. Let’s go.” She tugged his arm, pulling him upright, she had tears running down her face, twin streams that seemed to have no end. “What do we do now, Jack?”
“We,” he took a breath, his voice sounded hoarse, the word caught in his throat. “We go on. Like we always have. Like we did after Tosh and Owen. There is no other option.” He knew he was right, there was no option but to go on like things were normal. The world wouldn't stop needing to be saved just because Ianto Jones was dead.
London was still as they walked out of the hall, the whole city was unmoving; quiet in a way it never really had been before. There was no one on the street around Thames House, save for a few MI5 agents who stood guard in front of what had been their HQ. They were sombre, their faces downturned; the British intelligence community had gone into mourning, something which Jack was sure had never happened before. Clouds hung over the city, grey and full, heavy in their oppressive blanket covering any sign of the sun. The river was brushing the top of the embankment, the muddy brown water rushing through the city; unstoppable in its mission to get to the sea. Jack and Gwen stopped walking, leaning up against the cold stone. She was pale, her hair was in a state of disarray, her eyes were rimmed with red, and her cheeks were splotched with pink where she’d tried to rub some life into herself. Jack sighed, bringing her into his chest, letting her rest her head against his shoulder. It felt good to hold someone who wasn't dying, to rest his hand against her back, feeling her heartbeat on his fingers. He pressed a kiss to the top of her head.
“There’s something I need to do, go back to Cardiff, take some time. I don’t know how long I’m going to be.” He said, his voice gentle, still muffled by her hair.
“That’s it, then? Ianto’s gone, so now I have to lose you as well? Jack, please, whatever it is that you have to do, why don’t we do it as a team?” She looked up at him, her mouth set into a grim line. “We’re still Torchwood, Jack, we’re still a team. You can’t just disappear, please, don’t leave me behind.” She gripped his shoulders, the wind that blew down the street moved his coat and whipper hair.
“I can’t. What I’m going to do, I have to do it alone. That’s just how it’s gotta be. I’ll call for you when I’m back in Cardiff. Don’t go to the hub. Hell, have a second honeymoon with Rhys. Go somewhere hot.” He gently pushed her away and started walking down the street, down towards Southwark Cathedral; he could hear her calling out to him but he knew he wouldn't turn back and she wouldn't follow him.
Across London Bridge the city seemed to almost be running as usual; he’d nodded to the few agents and police officers who had been managing the roadblock, they’d let him pass with little to no argument once he’d flashed his Torchwood ID. It was a twenty-minute walk to the Tower of London from Thames House; he decided to stop in the ruins of an old church. It was a cocoon in the hustle of the north side of the Thames, the city on this side was just as busy as it normally was and Jack was having a hard time stopping himself from crying. He felt lost in a way he’d never felt. He was so, so alone, and more lost than when The Doctor had left him in the 51st century.
The Tower, as always, looked imposing standing out against the overcast sky. The turrets reaching out to heaven the crows strutting around the green grass patches. He walked through it at pace, his boots crunching against the gravel, kicking up tiny bits of grit. Guards at the entrance to UNIT looked up at him as he approached, but he didn't slow, he just moved through the door and into UNIT HQ. He was looking for Colonel Oduya, but the base was in relative disarray, the incident at Thames House had touched even UNIT.
“Colonel Oduya, where is he?” He stopped one of the lesser officers, holding out his hand in front of the man. Jack knew his voice was perhaps harsher than it had need to be, but he couldn't find it within himself to care. “And do you know if Martha Jones is here?”
“Colonel Oduya is attending an emergency COBRA meeting, Captain, but Doctor Jones is on base. She’s in the autopsy laboratory at the moment, can I accompany you there?” The private stood straight, and looked Jack in the eye, with but a quick glance down to where Jack’s hand was stopping him from going any further.
“Yeah fine,” Jack let his arm flop to his side, moving so the man could walk towards the elevator at the end of the corridor. He followed, not caring about the way his slightly muddy boots are leaving prints on the immaculately clean carpet.
“Martha,” he breathed, all the air flowing out of him like he’d been stabbed, “Martha,” she turned around, her big brown eyes going wide; her mouth dropping shock, “we were there.” She moved towards him, as he crumpled inwards, tears that he’d held off on the walk, falling freely down his face. “We were in Thames House, and now he’s dead. Martha,” it was to her credit that she didn't need to ask who was dead, she just let him put all his weight on her, arms coming around to hold him. “He’s gone, and it’s all my fault.”
“Jack,” she said into his hair, “it isn’t your fault, he’d not want you to go about blaming yourself for what the 4-5-6 did.”
“It is. It is my fault. But I have a plan, and I need you to place a call for me,” he stood up straight, the tears stopping in their tracks, his face was set, and his jaw was squared; like he was going into battle. In a way, he was.
“Okay. Okay, I’ll make the call.” Martha nodded, Jack noticed her eyes were wet, as though there were tears there she wasn't letting fall. Martha had always been strong, now she was a soldier, she was even more so. She disappeared into an office, leaving Jack alone in a room full of dead people. It was too close to home, but Jack forced himself to stand still, thoughts of Ianto drifting through his mind.
“He’s coming,” Martha walked into the room a few minutes later, she placed her hand on his shoulder, squeezing lightly. “He’ll be in the alleyway behind the Tower, he’s not happy I called him here, Jack; I don't know what you're doing, but you’ll have to have a solid plan in your head before you talk to him. You don’t have to explain it to me, but he’s going to want to know.”
“I know, I need him to do something for me, he owes me. I spent a whole year dying over and over for him, and he left me in the 51st century; I think it’s high time he paid me back. There’s something I want that he can give me, something that I don’t think I can live without and I can’t die so,” Jack shrugged, feeling like there was a hole in his chest.
“You best go up and meet him then, I suppose he’ll be here soon,” Martha said giving him a small, sad smile.
The walk back through UNIT was a chance for Jack to prepare what he was going to say when he came face to face with The Doctor, his brain was racing a mile a minute coming up with reasons as to why he needed The Doctor to do what he said. The only real reason he came up with was that all Jack felt was numb, and he wasn't sure how long he could feel numb for before he went insane. It felt like he was underneath Cardiff again, feeling the dirt choke him again and again; over and over for two thousand years. But, he wasn't underneath Cardiff, he was walking through UNIT, about to talk to a pissed off Time Lord. Part of him wanted to break into hysterical laughter; the other half wanted to curl up and die. That wasn't an option though, so he persisted.
Behind the Tower of London, round where visitors got their tickets, there was a small alley, dark and a little dingy (it reeked with the smell of piss); the alley was just big enough for the TARDIS; actually, it was just the right size. This made Jack consider the origins of the alley before he realised that the TARDIS was already there. As he walked up to it, the door creaked open. The Doctor looked the same as he had done the last time Jack had seen him, waving him off at the Plass. This time though, there were no smiles for Jack, no waving just The Doctor, turning his cold gaze on to him.
“Hello, Jack,” he said, his hair flopping over into his eyes, his brown coat moving in the slight breeze. At that moment, Jack could see why The Doctor had been named ‘The Oncoming Storm’.
“Doctor,” Jack croaked, all his bravado gone with the hole in his chest, as though when he died, Ianto had sucked the joy out of him. Leaving all that was rotten and angry alone its place.
“Why am I here?” The Doctor sounded angry, his eyebrows knit together, his voice was harsh and vicious. “Why should I help you, now? After what you did? After the children, Jack? There are so many reasons why I should get back in the TARDIS and leave, tell me why I should stay.”
“Because he shouldn’t have died for me,” Jack said, “why should Ianto have died because of what I did back then? It’s not fair, and it’s not right, and I want to put it right, Doctor. I have to put it right, because right now he’s got a sister who is waiting for him to come home, and I’m going to make that happen.”
“I’m sorry, Jack, I’m so, so sorry,” The Doctor said, though Jack couldn't help but think that he did not sound sorry. “You know why he died.” He sounded so cold, so uncaring.
“I have died more than my fair share, I spent two thousand years under Cardiff, letting the dirt choke me to death; I could have gotten out, but I didn't because I know I deserved it, I know that all the shit I have done over the years meant that I had to serve my time. I did, I think I did. I don’t think Ianto was meant to die in Thames House, it wasn't his time. So you’re going to put it right, and I am going to come with you,” Jack stepped forward so that he was face to face with The Doctor, he watched his eyes change from hard and cold to softer, more pitying.
“I can’t do that, Jack,” he said, shaking his head slightly, “you know I can’t. That’s not how it works. I’m sorry.”
“Please,” Jack felt himself break a little more, felt the last walls of his mind crumbling; he collapsed onto the floor, sliding down the wall of the alleyway, sitting in the dirt on the broken pavement.
“If I did,” The Doctor began, kneeling in front of Jack; he had his thinking face on, there was a wrinkle on his forehead which showed that he was puzzling something out. “If I could, he would be like you; a fixed point in time. People don’t just come back, they don’t just cheat death, not even you. There was a reason you came back, Jack, and that made you something more than human, that’s what allows you to cheat again and again; it was what Rose did when she looked into the heart of the TARDIS. If I could figure out a way of doing that, that isn't looking into the heart of the TARDIS, because look what happened last time; don’t want that happening again. Then maybe, just maybe there is a slight chance that I could bring him back. But he wouldn't die, ever. Like you. You would be taking that away from him, taking his death; that is quite a thing to take, and he might not thank you for it. This is your last chance, before we go into the TARDIS and get your boy back, once the process starts, I don’t think I’ll be able to stop it; we’ll be tied to it.”
“I need him,” Jack said. “I love him.”
“And you never told him, all those years, those moments, all gone and you never got to tell him that you loved him.” The Doctor’s gaze hardened, he looked more and more like the man who pushed the Sycorax leader off his own ship, rather than the man who grinned while wearing clever specs. “I hate what I did to you, every time I look at you; every time I see you, I think about what I did to you. And it hurts. It goes beyond the fact that you shouldn't exist. It is more than by existing you’ve turned yourself into someone who thinks they don't deserve love. So much so when you have someone in your lap, in your arms, who loves you, you can’t even tell him. It’s horrifying. That’s why I am going to bring Ianto Jones back. Because maybe this time you won’t waste it.”
“Tell it to me straight, Doc,” Jack croaked, “I know I’m a piece of shit. I mean, I’m amazing but also a piece of shit.”
“You aren’t,” The Doctor smiled a little, he stroked the side of Jack’s face, “you aren’t, but you are the product of your circumstances. I am giving you a second chance, maybe let that man soften your heart a little.”
“I was going to tell him,” Jack sighed, “I was going to tell him every time he brought me coffee, or when he stayed late to tidy, every time he smiled at me. But the words stuck in my throat, and he always said ‘its okay, you don’t have to tell me.’ so I never did. Even when he was dying in my arms, I didn't say it.”
“Give me a few seconds, just going to go and re-write part of the time, won’t be a mo,” The Doctor stood, dusting off his trousers and smiling, his coat swirls around him dramatically. Jack can’t even bring himself to admire The Doctor’s ass, which he thinks is genuinely a sign of how bad he’s feeling. That, and he’s sitting in a dried puddle of piss.
He sat there, back against the cold brick, sitting in his dried piss puddle; his head rested back against the wall because he couldn’t be bothered to hold it up any longer. The sky was darkening rapidly above him, and he was worried if something bad had happened with The Doctor, because when something terrible happens with The Doctor things often go very very bad. He was exhausted, everything in his body screamed against the idea of having to move any more; part of him wished to die. It felt like he was in Thames House again, holding Ianto in his arms, feeling the life ebbing out of him. The longer he stayed in the alley, the more he could feel his life ebb out of him.
“Jack,” the word is whispered, from the mouth of the alley, “Jack,” Ianto Jones stood in the alley, he didn't move. His suit jacket flapped slightly in the soft wind that skittered along the length of the alleyway, it was the same suit he’d been wearing since the day before. “Jack, what’s happened to me? What have you done?” Ianto looked so confused, standing there, leaning against the alley wall; his knees were weak, they looked like they were shaking a little bit.
“Ianto,” Jack stood up, he stumbled forward, he’d spent so much time thinking about what he would say at that moment that now the time had come he had no idea what to do. “Ianto Jones,” he took a breath, the air rushing into his lungs, “Ianto Jones, I love you.”