Pairings: Jack/Ianto, John/Nick,
Characters: Jack, Ianto, John Hart, Nick Jones, and a cast of (probably!) thousands.
Spoilers: Set after Exit Wounds. Sequel to 'We Could Be Heroes'
Rating: Adult - it's going to get very dark in some places.
Warnings: Slash, language, angst, dark themes.
Summary: Return to Flat Holm
Disclaimer: I'm not a student any more, but I don't own Torchwood.
Ianto’s mouth dropped open, but he quickly recovered himself. “How long?”
“She may only have a day or two,” answered Jack. “That’s what Abby wanted when she called just now.”
John growled and clenched his fists. “Why didn’t they contact you sooner?”
“I have no idea.” Jack sighed. “But there’s more. Apparently, Alison asked something of us.”
“Oh, no.” John glared at Jack. “Don’t you dare tell me –”
“She wants to see Nick one last time.” Jack sank back into his chair. “Kind of a last request, I suppose.”
If he had anticipated a reaction, he certainly got one. John let out a roar and punched the wall so hard he left a small dent in it.
“Shit!” he shouted and grabbed one of the chairs. But before he could do anything with it, Ianto’s arms came around him and pulled it out of his grasp.
“Stop it,” he said. “You’re not helping.”
“After everything…after all that’s happened,” John breathed out heavily, “after what she’s done to him – she wants to see him?!” He barked out a loud laugh. “This is just…unbelievable.”
“I know,” said Ianto, sounding equally angry, even though he was managing to keep his voice steady. “I know. But this isn’t helping anyone.” He ushered John into a chair and turned to Jack. “So, what happens now?”
“Well, that’s why I told you two first,” said Jack. “I wanted to know what you thought we should do.”
John breathed out and sank into his chair like a puppet whose strings had been cut. “I can’t believe this is happening,” he whispered. “Goddesses, when I think of that woman…I just see Nick’s face when he saw that DNA test. And I hate her for doing that to him.”
Jack leaned forward. “But?”
“Well,” said John, “even in spite of all that…I wonder if perhaps Nick should see her.”
“What?” Ianto stared at him. “But…but you just said –”
“I know, I know.” John sighed. “But do we really have the right to keep this from him? Because honestly? I don’t think so. We tried before, and we were wrong.”
“Yeah, but –”
“And,” interrupted John, “don’t you think he needs the closure so he can move on properly?”
“He has moved on,” insisted Ianto. “He’s married you, for God’s sake. Look,” he paused to gather his thoughts, “I get what you’re saying, but just take a moment and think. If he goes there and he sees Ali again, it could really be detrimental to him. Seeing her would probably only end up making him feel guilty for moving on while she’s still there. Is that what you want? Seriously?”
“Well…no,” stammered John. “But we can’t keep this from him. It wouldn’t be right and you both know that.”
Jack sighed. “Well, that cleared things up nicely,” he said. “So, what do we do?”
“How about actually speaking to me rather than about me?”
John whipped around and stared at his husband. “How long have you been there?”
“Long enough. You were just so busy arguing, you didn’t notice.”
Jack grimaced. “Okay, Nick,” he said, “what do you want to do?”
“Well,” Nick took his own chair and looked at them all. “Ianto is right. What Ali and I shared was special. Of course it was. She was my wife and the mother of my…children. But, I have moved on now. It took time, I’ll grant you, but I have and I’m happy.”
He paused. “That being said…I do want to see her. I need answers. I want to know why she cheated on me with one of my friends. I want to know what was going through her head.”
Ianto stared at him. “Nicky, are you sure?”
“Absolutely one-hundred per cent certain,” said Nick. “I know I might not like the answers, but I need them. I need to know the truth.”
“Okay,” said Jack, though John thought he looked as though he was agreeing against his better judgement. “When do you want to go?”
“As soon as possible,” said Nick. He hesitated. “Look, I know how hard going there is, so I won’t ask you to come with me. If you want to, you can, but it has to be your choice.”
Jack snorted and pulled his greatcoat back on. “Don’t be ridiculous,” he said. “We wouldn’t let you do this without moral support.”
“Definitely not,” agreed John.
“Are…are you sure?”
“Don’t try and talk us out of it,” said Ianto. “We’re coming.”
Two hours later…
“Well,” said Jack, “here we are. Now, Nick, for the last time –”
“I’m sure,” said Nick firmly.
“Do you want us to come with you?” asked John.
“Whether he wants it or not, it doesn’t matter,” said Ianto. “I’m going with you, Nick – and don’t argue.”
To John’s surprise, Nick laughed. “I had a feeling you might say that,” he admitted. “Come on then.” He gave John a quick kiss and then opened the door to the compound. “See you two in a bit.”
Once the door had been shut behind them, Jack ran one hand over his face. “I hope he’s doing the right thing.”
“He is,” said John. “Nick wouldn’t do something like this if he wasn’t certain it was the right thing to do. He’s too logical for that.”
He sat down on a grass-covered mound and stared out across the water. “Amazing, isn’t it? That a place as beautiful and natural as this could still be so,” he paused, hunting for the right word, but it wouldn’t come, so he gestured around, trying to encompass everything. “You know.”
“Yeah.” Jack nodded and sat down beside him. He frowned and cleared his throat. “How are you, John?”
John blinked. As far as non-sequiturs went, that was definitely a good one. “Er…yeah, I’m okay,” he said. “Look, if you’re worrying about what happened last week, don’t. I’m fine. Not even a scar.”
“Don’t blow me off, John.”
“Nah, been there, done that,” said John with a lazy shrug. “Many times, if I recall –”
“John!” snapped Jack. “That is not what I meant and you know it.” He linked his hands and spoke carefully. “Look, I know you’ve been getting help from Em and all that, but I want to know that you’re okay – both as your boss and as your friend.”
Oh. John bit his lip. “I’m,” he realised he had been about to say ‘fine’ and stopped short. Something in the intensity of Jack’s gaze compelled him to change his mind and answer honestly.
“I’m…getting there,” he said eventually. “I mean, I still get the occasional nightmare, but they’re not as bad as they used to be.”
“How long was it for you?” asked Jack. “Before…you know.”
“Before Nick found me?” John shrugged. “I’m not really sure. After a while, the days and nights all started to blur together. I would guess at least three months, though.” He shivered and unconsciously rubbed his wrists, remembering the long days they had been bruised by rusting metal chains.
“Hey.” Jack touched his hand gently. “If you need anyone else to talk to, you can always come to me. You’re not alone in this. I promise.”
“How did you manage it?” blurted John.
“With a little help from my friends,” answered Jack simply. “Just being around them and knowing that they were really safe and really there helped more than you know.”
“Is that why you came back?”
Jack stared at him. “What do you mean?”
“Before you left with the Doctor, your team betrayed you,” said John bluntly. “You can call it what you like, but that’s the fact of the matter.” He looked around and lowered his voice. “You were killed when the people who were supposed to trust you and care about you turned on you and then you had to sacrifice yourself to clean up the mess they left behind!”
Jack shrugged. “It’s not like the death part stuck.”
“Oh, don’t even go there,” snapped John. “Have you forgotten what Nick said to you after we came back, about how you’re more than just a human shield?” He shook his head. “Anyway, that’s not even the point. The point is that you had the chance to stay with the Doctor and travel with him, but you didn’t. You came back here, even after everything that happened. More than that – you stayed.”
Jack turned to him, surprised. “What does that matter?”
“It matters.” John looked straight into his friend’s eyes. “You could have come back for Ianto and then you could have both left. You could have been free with him. But you chose to stay. Why?”
He was almost expecting Jack to be angry at his line of questioning. However, when he looked closer, the older immortal was looking thoughtful, as if he was considering his answer.
“I had a lot of time to think during that year,” he said slowly. “And I realised something. I realised that I had spent over a hundred years here waiting for something that was never going to come. The Doctor I left with then wasn’t the one I belonged with. Yes, he invited me to go with him, but I didn’t fit there and we both knew it. My,” he stopped and swallowed, “my Doctor was long gone and he wasn’t coming back.”
“Okay,” said John, “so that’s why you came back. But why –”
“Besides, that travelling around wasn’t what I wanted any more. It wasn’t right. Instead, everything I wanted, everything that was right – it was right here. Whether I really belonged here, whether this was really my home – that didn’t matter anymore, because my family was here. I think I already knew that, but I just wasn’t ready to admit it. I wasn’t ready to give up on the Doctor. But during that year, they, more than anything, were what kept me fighting. And once I realised that, I knew I had to come back to them.”
“Wow,” breathed John, deeply moved by Jack’s words. In fact, he actually found himself blinking back tears and had to take several deep breaths before he could speak. “That…that I can understand. Now, at least. But before,” he shrugged, “I don’t know.”
“Maybe not way back then,” said Jack. “But that person isn’t who you are any more. You’ve proved that over and over again.”
“Jack?” Ianto’s voice suddenly cut through their conversation. “Jack, we’re done here.”
John sat up straight. “Is Nick okay?”
Ianto sighed. “I think so. But…Ali’s gone.”
“Okay,” said Jack, getting up and hauling John to his feet as well. “We’ll be right there.”
The two men were quiet as they walked down the dark corridor, but John was sure his heart was beating so loudly, anyone could have heard it. Still, he couldn’t quite hold back a gasp when he looked through the door and saw Nick kneeling on the floor with his head bowed as he held his wife’s body in his arms. He wanted to go to him, but his feet felt as though they had been rooted to the spot and wouldn’t allow him to move, not even to leave. Of course, even if he could have left, he knew that he wouldn’t have. He had to be there for Nick, just as he had promised he always would be.
“John?” Jack had come over and was looking at him. “Let me.” He crossed the small room and bent down beside Nick to whisper in his ear.
John let out a breath and beckoned Ianto over. “Did he ask her?”
“Yeah.” Ianto nodded. “But I don’t know what the answer was. She whispered it in his ear. And honestly? I’m not sure I want to know what it was anyway.” He ground his teeth. “Having said that, I think you were right. It was better for him to know the truth.”
John nodded. “There are some things you do just need to know, for your own peace of mind as much as anything else.”
“Exactly,” said Ianto. “And you and I both know that, if he hadn’t come here to find out, he would have tortured himself and probably driven himself mad with wondering.”
“Yeah,” said John. “What, er, what will he do now? I mean, now that she’s gone?”
Ianto looked around and his mouth twitched. “Why don’t you ask him yourself?”
“Huh?” John looked around, startled, and almost laughed when he realised Nick and Jack were standing behind him, and had been for a few minutes at least. “Oh.”
Jack chuckled. “You really need to pay a bit more attention to your surroundings, John.”
“Hey, I pay attention!” retorted John. “Most of the time.”
Nick shook his head, even though he was smiling a little. “Nope, this time, Jack’s got it about right,” he said. “But to answer your question, I was just saying to him that I’d like to bury Ali here on the island. It’s a beautiful spot and it’s peaceful, too.”
John looked up at Jack, who nodded. “Okay,” he said. “Then that is exactly what we’ll do.” He reached into his pocket. “Do you want us to call –”
“No,” said Nick. “The others didn’t really know her and her family thought she died nearly four years ago. There’s no point dragging them back through it all again.”
Jack nodded. “Okay then. Just us."
Jack bent down and smoothed the soil over the new grave before he placed a small blue flower on top of the mound. “Well. I guess that’s that.” He turned to Ianto. “I’m sorry. I doubt this was the way you wanted to spend your thirtieth birthday.”
“To be fair, I’ve had far worse,” replied Ianto with a shrug. “Besides, I bet the others are enjoying themselves back at the fair, so it’s not that great a loss. Also,” he paused and lowered his voice, “it’s not over yet, is it? We’ve still got plenty of the day left.”
John was half-listening to his two friends bantering with each other, but he was finding that their conversation sounded more like background noise on a radio than actual words. Even when he did try to focus more on what they were talking about, his attention would still be drawn straight back to the lonely young man gazing out across the water. He let out a gusty sigh and rubbed his hands over his face.
Jack finally noticed him and rubbed his arm. “Go on. Go to him.”
“You think I should?” asked John, though that was, of course, exactly what he wanted to do.
“Why not?” asked Jack. “He’s your husband after all.”
“Yeah, but don’t you think he needs a –”
“John,” interrupted Ianto, “go over there and just talk to him. I can feel your agitation from over here.”
“Besides,” added Jack, “the worst that can happen is that he just tells you he wants to be alone for a while.”
That, at least, was true. “Okay,” John agreed. Taking a deep breath, he walked over, trying to ignore the butterflies in his stomach. “Hey.”
Nick started and turned around. “Oh, hi,” he said. “Sorry, I was miles away.” He stretched out one hand, revealing a simple gold ring. “I’ve kept it since she disappeared, but now I don’t really know what to do with it. I mean, she was a big part of my life, but,” he shrugged. “I don’t know.”
John forced down the unexpected surge of jealousy that had risen inside him when he had realised what the ring was. Nick was right, after all; Alison had been, for better or for worse, a big part of his life and, as much as John might secretly wish it, Nick couldn’t just forget that.
He slipped his hand in his pocket and grinned when he found what he was looking for. “Here,” he said, slipping the ring onto a thin silver chain and fastening it around Nick’s neck. “There we go.”
Nick snorted. “I feel as if I should be getting ready to go to Mount Doom around about now,” he said ruefully.
More to diffuse the tension than because the comment had been particularly funny, John barked out a laugh. “I had a feeling, somehow, that you were going there.”
“Probably because you know me so well,” said Nick with a roll of his eyes.
“Clearly.” John shuffled over so he was sat down beside his husband. “You okay?”
For a moment, Nick said nothing, his brow deeply furrowed in thought. He breathed out and, as he did so, his face cleared and broke out into a smile.
“Yeah,” he said. “Yeah, I am okay.”
John let out a loud breath he hadn’t realised he had been holding. He smiled, his heart lighter than it had been in a very long time.
“So, what now?” asked Nick, finally looking up.
“Same thing we do every day,” said John shrugging. “Eat pizza, save the world and try to get an early night.”
Next Time: Nick’s birthday arrives…what will this one bring?