Summary: AU in which, instead of Alice and Emily, Ianto is the one to find Jack in Victorian Cardiff.
Author's Notes: The summary pretty much says it all, I'd say.
“I told you.” The voice floated gradually into Jack’s senses as he woke up – deep, definitely male, and with an accent he couldn’t quite place. “I have been monitoring him for months, and this is all I get. Numerous deaths and not one of them was permanent.”
“Is he...” another voice, also male, which then lowered. “Is he alien?”
“I wouldn’t say so.” Jack heard someone going through their pockets and decided that pretending to be unconscious was his best option as of now. “Everything we have got in the Hub registers him as human. I cannot figure out how or why, but he just– comes back. Always.” Ah, yes. Now that his memories had started coming back, he knew he was in Wales and most importantly Cardiff, in the middle of the 19th century. Lovely.
Jack tried to keep his breathing as even as possible. It was clear that they weren’t sure how the trick worked – and God knows he didn’t either – so maybe they (whoever they were) would postpone whatever primitive testing methods they had in mind.
But then he felt warm breath on his face and he knew that it was too late. “You can wake up now,” the man said mildly, with an edge of humour. “I know you are listening.”
Jack sighed and obeyed, opening his eyes, only to be met with impossibly large blue eyes right in his face.
There were, he decided with a slowly spreading smile, worse ways to begin a day.
Three months later
The soft tone with which his name was spoken was the only thing that made Jack raise his head. Ianto padded into the room and closed the door behind himself as quietly as possible, his face twisting slightly in sympathy as he neared the small cot in the far end.
“I feel that I owe you an apology,” he said softly, reaching as if to touch him and then pulling his hand back. “Alice should have kept her mouth shut.”
“Doesn’t matter,” Jack said, turning around until he could face him fully. “I’m used to it.” Ianto’s expression didn’t change, but his eyes shone with something that was too close to pity for Jack’s liking. “I’m not a child,” he snapped and the younger man’s mouth turned into a thin line.
“I know that,” he offered through gritted teeth. “I just wish I could do something about this. About them. I have tried time and time again to tell them to stop it, but they wouldn’t listen.”
“I know,” Jack conceded after a few seconds of tense silence. I know, I’m sorry. It’s not you I’m angry at.”
And really, he should have got used to it by now. So what if Alice had called him a freak again. So what if they made him sleep in a cold, nearly furniture-free room on the lowest levels of the Hub as if he was a prisoner. So what if Ianto treated him with some kind of compassionate unease instead of a person, no matter how eager he seemed to get to know him.
Ianto’s behaviour around him was rather interesting, he had to admit, but it had been months. Torchwood didn’t have the same boundaries that the outer world did – after all, it was glaringly obvious that there was something between Alice and Emily and no one said a thing – and yet Ianto still didn’t seem ready to accept his feelings, whatever said feelings happened to be. He sought his friendship and his reassurance and yet the moment Jack tried to take it a step further and touch him or kiss him or basically anything else, he started avoiding him like the plague and hid in the bowels of the Hub, quietly archiving anything that happened to them.
“It’s really nice of you,” Jack continued, “to stand up to them because of me.”
Ianto laughed mirthlessly. “They dare not do anything to me, no matter how much I irritate them,” he said. “My father gives the majority of the money that go into this place.”
It was the truth. Mr Jones funded the Torchwood Institute with a seemingly unending flow of money and had invested everything – including his son – in it. Ianto was perhaps the only member of the team who had planned on ending up here.
“Well, thank you anyway,” Jack insisted gently. “You’ve been doing it for as long as I’ve been here.”
Ianto looked away, his fine features colouring faintly as he fixed his eyes to the floor. He was a true example of the beauty of this time; fragile and painfully perfect and still hidden just because of that. “You deserve it,” he mumbled bashfully. “Just like all of us. Whatever they think, you are just as human as we are.”
“You know,” Jack laughed quietly, running his fingers down the young man’s arm. “You might just be the first person who says that.”
Ianto finally faced him again and smiled faintly, reaching down to rest his palm on top of Jack’s. “I should hope I will not be the last,” he said and the look in his eyes and the grip on Jack’s fingers was so hesitant and so gentle that Jack wanted to cry, but he didn’t. Instead, he linked them together as strongly as possible, and decided that it was time to accept the progress.
No matter how small.