Fandom - Torchwood
Pairing - Jack / Ianto,
Summary - Five years after leaving, Jack and Ianto return to find a lot of changes and few old faces. Follows on from 'Eternity'- probably best to read that first.
Spoilers - Post Children of Earth, but only minor ones.
Beware of tall, dark strangers
The moment that Jack put the coffee mug to his lips, an alarm sounded in Torchwood. Sighing, he put it down again, wondering if he had time to drink it before he had to go and check out the cause of the alarm.
When he saw Gwen go hurrying past the doorway, he knew that he didn’t. This was why he hated night shifts; you sit there on watch for hours, reading books and watching dreadful late-night talk shows and the minute you get a decent mug of coffee, the damned alarms go off. It was as though they conspired to ruin his one bit of enjoyment. Kicking his chair back, he went to follow her to the Batcave.
“What’s going on?”
Jack turned to see Ianto right behind him, walking fast to catch up with him.
“Not sure. Rift spike, pretty big one at that.”
Five minutes later they were driving towards the outskirts of Cardiff, to a public park that seemed to be the source of the rift energy. It was dark, the streets practically deserted, the park even more so. They all pulled torches out from the bag in the back of the car and set off walking, looking for anything that might have come through the rift.
It didn’t take long before it found them.
“Ianto, behind you!”
Ianto turned to see a large black wolf lunge at him and then Jack’s hand on his arm, yanking him out of its path. They overbalanced, landing on the ground, and Ianto thought that the wolf would attack them but it didn’t. Bright light shone into its face, making it stop. It looked away, to Gwen, who was holding the torch, and growled. Then it yelped as Jack shot it with a stunning pistol. As it fell over, Ianto saw its eyes; he had never seen green eyes on a wolf before.
“So, this is what came through the rift?” Adrian asked when they brought it back to Torchwood.
He and the others had been waiting for them when they returned, helping them carry the unconscious wolf into one of the holding cells in the basement.
Jack nodded as he locked the door. “This thing has definitely been through the rift; the residual energy on it is off the scale.”
“So, what now?”
Jack checked his watch and smiled. “Now, I’m going to bed. Your shift started three minutes ago,” he told Adrian, “Which means that you get to wait for that to wake up.”
“And what am I meant to do if it does?”
Gwen patted him on the shoulder as she passed by, also on her way out. “There’s a stun pistol in the Batcave if it gets too lively. We’ll be back at eight am.”
Ianto followed Jack upstairs, eager to get some sleep. He tended to be restless when Jack was on night duty, and he had only gone to sleep a couple of hours before the alarms had sounded. Stifling a yawn, he quickly undressed and got back into bed; within moments, he was soundly asleep, curled up to Jack’s warm body.
He was awakened again at three am to the sound of someone hammering on the door. The bed shifted as Jack went to answer it and Ianto blinked a couple of times, then smiled.
Too late; Jack was already at the door, rubbing his eyes to wake himself up as he opened it.
“Do you have any idea what time it is?” he demanded.
Adrian immediately slapped a hand over his eyes. “There’s something you should see; something happened- Could you please put something on, then I can talk to you properly?”
“No, that’s what you get for waking me up at such a stupid time,” Jack told him. Ianto came out to join them, dressed, and tossed a pair of jeans at Jack.
“He’s decent now,” Ianto told Adrian. “Or, at least, as decent as he ever gets. So, what’s going on?”
Adrian lowered his hand. “I’m not sure. I was only gone for maybe five minutes, no more and when I got back the wolf was gone.”
By this time, they were all heading down to the cells, Jack still getting dressed as he walked.
“Have you called Gwen about this?” Ianto asked.
Adrian shook his head. “She went home; it would take her a while to get back so I tried to call you two. By the way, your phones are switched off.”
“I know, genius,” Jack pointed out sarcastically. “I switched them off so we could get some sleep without being interrupted.”
They followed Adrian down to the cells and up to the one where the wolf had been.
“Well, that’s not quite what I was expecting,” Ianto said.
In the centre of the cell, in the same place the wolf had been lying in, was a man. A very naked man. He was awake, huddled up with his arms around his knees. He looked to be in his mid thirties, with dark hair and pale skin. When he looked up at them, realising that he had company, Ianto frowned.
“Green eyes.” He saw the two men cast him a confused look. “Look at his eyes- they’re exactly the same. Adrian, you said that there was no evidence that the cell had been opened, right?”
“Nothing on the monitors, or the control panel for that cell,” Adrian confirmed.
“I can’t believe I’m about to say this, but I don’t think the wolf escaped.”
Adrian looked back into the cell. “You’re not suggesting that- No. No way.”
They both looked to Jack, waiting for him to back one of them, but he just kept watching the man in the cell.
“Why don’t we just ask him?”
As they opened the cell door, the man’s eyes widened and he scurried backwards until he was pressed into the corner of the room. Ianto crouched down in the doorway, holding out the blanket he carried.
“Here. I thought you’d feel more comfortable if you could cover up.” He threw the blanket to the man, purposefully not going any further into the room. The man just sat there, not moving to retrieve it. “Can you understand me? We’re not going to hurt you.”
Again, nothing but wide, scared eyes focussed on him.
“It’s no use,” Ianto told Jack, glancing over his shoulder. “I don’t think he can understand.”
Ianto turned back to the man. “Who are you? Look, I was telling you the truth; we aren’t going to hurt you.”
The man eyed him for a moment longer and then reached out hesitantly to grab the blanket. Once he had it wrapped around himself, covering himself up, he seemed to gain a little confidence.
“I would ask who you are?” he said. “What is this place?”
Ianto moved into the room then to sit on the bench along the side wall. “This is Torchwood,” he said. “And I’m Ianto. That’s Jack and Adrian,” he added, as the two outside looked around the corner.
“Nicholas Harrington,” the man told him. “Am I a prisoner?”
“We aren’t sure yet,” Ianto informed him. “We need to ask you a few questions first, OK?”
Nicholas nodded. “This is going to sound incredibly strange, but we put a wolf in this cell,” he continued, watching the man’s reactions as he spoke, “and then the next time we checked, you were in here. I can see in your eyes that you know what we’re talking about.”
Nicholas sighed. “Did I hurt anyone?” he asked. “I swear that I cannot control it, just as I cannot remember what I have done afterward.”
Ianto looked back at the others. This man wasn’t a danger to them, at least not in this state. Jack nodded and Ianto stood up.
“Come on, Nicholas. We’ll find you some clothes and then you need to answer some questions.”
He held out a hand to help the man up.
When they reached the conference room, with Nicholas now dressed in borrowed jeans and t-shirt, everyone else was already there. Gwen sat next to Lizzie, a laptop on the desk between them, Loz and John seated opposite.
Nicholas was uneasy around all these strangers, but when Ianto re-assured him, he seemed to calm down. So long as Ianto stayed next to him, he was fine.
“I wasn’t always like this,” Nicholas began. “I had a good life, before, and then it changed.”
“I was cursed. Maia was beautiful,” he said, smiling at the memory. “She came to our village with the travellers, gypsies, and I knew there and then that I would marry her. We courted, and eventually married, but she caught the sickness. When she died, her family blamed me. They said that none of their people had ever caught the sickness like the villagers did, and that it must be because of me. Her grandmother put a curse on me, that I would never be able to find love again, as she said they never would at the loss of her only grandchild.”
He looked up at them. “For the three years since I lost my beloved Maia, I have been unable to even befriend another person. I can never explain where I am at nights, or why I lock myself in a room so as to avoid hurting anyone when I change. How can I expect them to trust me when I must keep such a secret from them? If I had the courage, I would have ended my existence years ago but I did not wish to do that to Sarah. She was the only person I saw, but the villagers sensed that something was wrong with me and so even she had to see me in secret.”
Gwen stared at him. “This curse, it’s what made you change into the wolf we put in the cells?”
Nicholas nodded. “Every time that the moon is full in the sky, I change into that monster.” He frowned and eyed the assembled people around the table. “Why do none of you seem surprised by any of what I tell you?”
They all smiled.
“I’m from a planet called Liegen,” Loz said.
“I’m immortal,” Ianto added.
John waved a ‘me next’ hand in the air then pointed to himself. “Former Time Agent.”
“I was born in the 51st century,” Jack told him.
Gwen saw Nicholas look to her and shook her head. “Not me,” she told him. “I’m actually from here and now and one hundred percent human. So are Lizzie and Adrian, though we have dealt with our fair share of aliens.” A thought struck her, something she had been meaning to ask earlier. “Nicholas, what year is it when you’re from?”
“What do you mean, ‘when’? It is 1889.”
Ianto cast him a sympathetic look. “I’m afraid to say that it isn’t any more. You’re in 2009. The thing that brought you here moved you forward in time.”
“It was strange,” Nicholas said. “One moment I was in the fields just outside of the village, and then the air looked wrong. I cannot explain it; it seemed that I was seeing a haze in the air. The wolf did not think it to be a threat, though, and ran straight into it. The next time I woke, I was in the white room and you were all watching me.”
“What you saw was a rift in time and space,” Ianto told him, “kind of like a doorway between your time and ours.”
“So I will have just vanished? What will people think has happened to me?”
Lizzie looked up from her laptop. “Yes. I googled you- I’ll explain later- and there was an old newspaper article. It says that your sister reported you missing. She had the police searching and everything but no one ever found trace of you.”
“Sarah must have been worried. She was the only one who I saw over these past years; she would bring me food, making sure that I ate enough as I rarely ventured out,” Nicholas said. “I will never see her again, will I?”
Lizzie shook her head. “No. According to this, you were never found, which means that you never get home. If it helps, your sister lived a good life. I looked her up as well. She married a man named George Sewell and by the time she passed away, she had four children and seven grandchildren. She named her eldest boy Nicholas.”
Though it was not possible for them to control Nicholas’s shape-changing any more than he could, at Torchwood they at least had the facilities and resources to ensure that he would not hurt anyone. They could restrain him for the night of and the nights either side of the full moon, sedating him so that the wolf would not panic at being trapped in a cell. For the rest of the time, Nicholas was encouraged to live his life.
Sure, they had just let a werewolf loose in the streets of Cardiff, but he had assured them that he would not try to handle this on his own. He would come in to Torchwood on the nights he was due to change, to do it safely, and make sure that no one else found out his secret. Nicholas had seemed so relieved to simply be able to have part of his life back, to have people who understood and were willing to help him, that he had agreed to all of their conditions immediately. He actually seemed excited to have a job to go to.
They set him up with identity cards and such, making him legal to work, and found him a job and a flat. His employer was informed of his unique qualities and, since he knew all about Torchwood following an accident some ten years ago involving some pissed-off Weevils, he understood. Nicholas was going to spend a week at Torchwood before beginning his job, so that they could try and acclimatise him to 2009, to the technology and customs.
It would take some time for him to adapt to this time, but he would eventually, Ianto knew, as he finally made it to his suite after his shift. Jack was already in bed, though wide awake, when Ianto climbed in beside him a short time later.
“’You still worrying about Nicholas?” he asked.
Jack nodded. He couldn’t help it; he knew what it was like to be in a different time, for everything to be strange, and he had been prepared for it. Nicholas had just been dropped here, unknowingly and unwillingly. As Ianto curled up beside him and leaned over for a kiss, Jack smiled.
He had done OK for himself, and so would Nicholas.