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A Point in Time

A Point in Time
By: Memory Dragon
Summary: Jack is acting strangely. Turning up late at night at Ianto's flat, asking strange questions, forgetting important things... Strangest of all is that Jack was never actually at Ianto's flat at all. Can Ianto's tired brain figure out the truth?
Disclaimer: I do not own Torchwood, nor do I make any claim to.
Warnings: A good majority of this fic is centered around one night of sex, even if none of that sex is shown other than a few sparse details. Also, according to my beta read, it is depressing and angsty. Compared to some of my other fics, I don't think it was that bad though...
Timeline: Sometime after Exit Wounds, so expect spoilers from that. Otherwise... It could be any time between the end of season two and Children of Earth. Though, if you want to be extremely sadistic, think of it happening a week or two before Children of Earth. Also, there is a small reference to one of the radio plays in here, but you don't need to have heard it to read the fic. I just couldn't resist a mention to the lovely Gareth David-Lloyd monologue he has in The Dead Line.
Author's Thanks: Many, many, many thanks to Cyropi for putting up with my nagging as she beta'ed this fic. She's the one that told me I should just go ahead and write the fic, despite my protests. Also, a great many hugs to the girls and Tay in our Torchwood roleplay on Gaia. I wouldn't have gotten the idea for this if not for everyone there, even if it was extremely annoying and distracting me from my post. XD I love you guys lots!


"The whole life of man is but a point of time; let us enjoy it."

Walking briskly through the drizzle, Ianto Jones made sure his coffee was protected from the elements. He really shouldn't be drinking coffee this late at night, but it had been a long day at Torchwood and he'd already been lacking sleep from the previous night's emergency. Trying to explain to some trans-dimensional travelers that they should have taken a left instead of a right and were in the wrong galaxy ended up being more of a headache than he ever imagined it could be. The travelers were nice enough, just some tourists looking for a few photos who were drawn to the energy of the rift. Unfortunately, they were blue. And slimy. The natives would have been restless.

Had Tosh still been here with her vast knowledge of translation programs (most of which she had written), it would have been a breeze. As it was, Ianto had been stuck muddling through the complex translator while Jack tried talking to them in a language that sounded vaguely Dutch. Finally, the point was gotten across. The tourists were very understanding once they figured out the truth and even left some alien equivalent of vodka that Jack later deemed poisonous to most life forms on Earth. A nice gesture, at least.

If Ianto had to stare at the computer screen for much longer, however, something was going to explode. Gwen was taking bets on if it would be his brain or the screen when he'd left. Jack had gone out to deal with the 'vodka' and Gwen basically packed him off, telling him to get some rest. Rest wasn't what waited for Ianto at his flat; he still had cleaning to do, some laundry, getting coffee for the hub and the list went on... Hence the latte in his hand, slowly cooling with the weather as he hurried indoors. The coffee itself wasn't quite up to his standards, but Ianto hadn't made it himself and that fact alone made up for the quality after today.

Finally out of the drizzle, he brushed some of the small droplets off his coat and walked the rest of the way to his flat. His key slipped into the key hole easily, despite still being slightly bent. That had been an interesting night. Jack's idea of a practical joke. Ianto hadn't been able to pull the key out fast enough when it started complaining to him, bending the key in the process. He'd made double sure that particular piece of alien tech was locked securely away from Jack's reach after. Inanimate objects should not be able to talk, especially not for the amusement of a bored immortal trying to get out of paperwork...

Ianto didn't lock the door behind him; there was no point. He'd just be walking out again in a few minutes to get the shopping done. Just stopping in long enough to get warm and start a load of laundry... Drowning the rest of the latte, Ianto tossed the cup into the trash bin and got to work. Already, he could feel the effects of the latte wearing off. First, making the list of all the things needed at the Hub. A list that would have been much more effective if Gwen hadn't booted him out and he wasn't so tired. She'd definitely get the blame if he forgot-


Ianto jumped half a foot at the sound of his name. He peered into the dark flat, barely able to make out the silhouette of his lover with his tired eyes. "Jack?" he asked as he tried to get his heart rate back down to normal. "You scared me half to death. How did you get here before me anyway?" Ianto didn't bother to ask how Jack had gotten in. He doubted even Jack could slip in through his unlocked door that quietly. Must have been there before Ianto, somehow. The immortal had a habit of squeezing his way into locked places. Ianto's flat, certain areas of the archives Ianto locked specifically to keep out of the man's reach, and (as sappy as it was to admit this) Ianto's own heart. As tightly as he had locked himself away after Lisa's death, Jack managed to get in without even trying.

Jack stayed quiet, which was unusual. Ianto took off his coat, figuring the shopping list and laundry were going to be put off for a while. He just hoped he'd still be awake to get to them after dealing with Jack. "You alright, Jack?" he asked as he hung the coat up, trying to get a better glimpse of his lover and wondering if he should he turn on the light. Why was Jack taking a sudden liking to the shadows? Uncertain, he took a step towards the immortal and swallowed nervously. "Is something wrong? You're awfully quiet and-"

Ianto wasn't given the chance to finish that sentence. A mouth was claiming his, stopping his words right in their tracks. There was a fierceness to the passion that was new. It took him by surprise, along with the fact he was getting kissed. Some part of his tired and over worked brain continued to understand something was seriously wrong here, something he needed to figure out before things went too far. That part of him was completely overwhelmed by just the feeling of the kiss, however.

Jack had to steady him after the immortal finally broke away, Ianto's fatigue and surprise getting the better of him. Kissing Jack was like nothing Ianto had ever experienced before in past relationships and that was without factoring into the equation that Jack was one hell of a kisser. "I have things I need to get done, Jack," he said as reproachfully as possible while still being breathless.

"Not tonight," Jack said softly, tracing Ianto's cheek with a light touch. For the first time, Ianto was able to see the immortal man clearly. He was surprised by what he saw. Did Jack look... older? That was impossible, wasn't it? Even after hundreds of years trapped under the soil in Cardiff, Jack had come back looking the same as ever. But here he was, looking more worn, more weary. His hair was lighter, like there was more grey, and more wrinkles around his eyes. It had to be a trick of the light or his imagination. Jack simply didn't get older, right? No, he was just a lot more tired than Ianto had thought. There was no doubting that this was Jack, which meant Ianto really must be half dead on his feet from everything that happened today. "Not tonight," his lover repeated.

It was Ianto that started the kiss this time. He honestly couldn't say if it was the quiet desperation in Jack's voice or the visible need in those strangely older eyes. A need for Ianto. It was intensely flattering and Ianto was secretly pleased. Even if Jack was sometimes unfaithful or... or if the Welshman eventually grew too old, he needed Ianto now. Not Gwen, or anyone else. Now was what mattered.

Ianto's tongue darted and danced around Jack's mouth, at little of his weariness fading as chemistry took over. The immortal man's mood was catching and who was Ianto to argue with his boss? There was a sudden intense need to just be with his lover, just tonight. "Okay," Ianto said, finally breaking the kiss. "But you have to put up with Gwen tomorrow when her coffee is late."

Jack laughed, a smile lighting up his weary expression and making Ianto's heart race. It was an infuriating quality of the immortal man. Jack had that effect on everyone and knew it. Even Ianto, who had built up a bit of resistance to it, was still half taken in by the simple expression. "Gwen, yeah. God, I... No, not now. Don't worry. I'll brave her wrath for you."

Jack's reaction was strange. Enough that Ianto pulled back a little so that he could think with a clearer head. Thinking was always easier when Jack wasn't so close and that was without his brain being over clocked from all the work he'd done today and last night. Jack was reacting to Gwen's name like... what? What did that mean? It was too hard to finish that train of thought. Ianto felt like he was missing something completely obvious here, but his brain was too fried from lack of sleep and staring at the computer screen all day to figure out what it was. "Are you sure you're alright, Jack?"

Jack's expression softened as he stared at Ianto in a half memory. "I'm fine. 'All the better for having you back.' You said that to me once. Just before I asked you out for a real date." He must have noticed that Ianto was still half puzzled, half worried, because Jack quickly covered it up with a smile. That nagging part of Ianto's mind screaming something was wrong started to whittle it's way through his half asleep state, struggling to figure out what Jack was up to. The immortal reached out to Ianto's arm as if to reassure himself the Welshman was really there. "I'm okay, really. Just..."


"You always did look stunning in those suits," he said absently with a quiet smile. Just as Ianto was about to demand the immortal tell him what was going on, the smile turned mischievous. Jack looked more like his usual self, younger and vibrant and Ianto knew he was in for some serious distraction from the main issue. His sleep deprived mind gave up. "But it's high time I got you out of it."

* * *

The sex was brilliant. Sex with Jack usually was, but something was different this time, more intimate. He was pretty sure Jack had just kissed every part of Ianto's body. Most of the time, the Welshman felt like he could keep up with Jack, but this time... Well, Ianto hoped he gave as good as he got.

He was half asleep, curled up in the duvet with his lover. Ianto wasn't truthfully sure how he'd managed to not pass out completely after, but the small part of his brain protesting something was wrong kept him from relaxing into a deeper sleep. Was there really something wrong or was it just his imagination running wild from working too much?

It was Jack's hands that woke him up eventually. He'd been rubbing small circles into Ianto's back -a very pleasant sensation that had been lulling the Welshman into a half doze- and stopped the movement suddenly. Feeling like a cat whose time being pet was cut prematurely, Ianto blinked sleepily at his lover. It must have shown on his face, because Jack chuckled. He didn't resume the small circles again, however, much to Ianto's disgruntlement. Ianto pulled the immortal closer in hopes of soliciting the touch again.

Jack was more intent on talking, however. "What would you do, if you weren't in Torchwood?"

Blinking owlishly a few more times, Ianto finally managed to formulate a semi-coherent response without slurring his words together. "Dunno. Make coffee somewhere?" Life without Torchwood wasn't something he really wanted to contemplate right now. Not when he was snuggled up next to Jack, half asleep and exhausted from work and frankly brilliant sex.

"No, seriously. What would Ianto Jones be doing right now, if he weren't a Torchwood operative. Well, aside from actually getting a good night's sleep." Jack said it in a joking tone, but he wore an odd expression on his face. Ianto was too tired to really figure out what the emotion was lingering around the immortal's eyes.

Nothing was going to shake his lover off this question, Ianto noted with resignation. Might as well wake up enough to answer properly. "Don't know, really. Before I joined Torchwood, I just sort of... drifted. Didn't have much direction with my life." Even joining Torchwood London had been just another job he could try. Lisa had scolded him for his old apathy. "You already knew that. You researched me after the incident with the weevil. I didn't really have anything other than Torchwood to fall back on." There had been a lot of firsts during that time. The first time he'd seen a weevil up close, or any real alien for that matter. He'd been too low on the Torchwood One hierarchy to ever see real aliens. He had been just a researcher.

The first time he'd done anything even remotely close to field work too. It had certainly been more than enough for him at the time, though he'd have been willing to do more than that if Jack needed him on the team. He'd been terrified going after that dinosaur, but for Lisa's sake he tried his hardest not to show it.

It was the first time he'd ever really wanted a job as well. Putting himself forward like that wasn't in Ianto's nature. He didn't have anything else after the Battle of Canary Warf, however. Nothing that mattered, at any rate. Nothing but Torchwood and Lisa, two things he couldn't give up. That fragile hope that had kept him alive and from going insane in the aftermath of the Cyberman invasion.

It was also the first time he'd met Jack...

Speaking of his boyfriend, Ianto glanced over at the man who looked like he was trying to remember something. Had Ianto's mind been wandering too much that he had missed something. Really, this wasn't the sort of conversation to have when he was this tired... "I did?" Jack asked quietly, surprising Ianto. The odd sense of something being off came back at full force. "Of course I did," Jack said a little too quickly.

"Jack, are you-"

"Retirement then." The firmness in Jack's tone booked no arguments. At least he started up the small circles on Ianto's back again. The Welshman wasn't stupid. Even in his sleep-clouded mind, he knew Jack was trying to avoid the subject by appeasing him. Unfortunately, Jack Harkness also know exactly how to keep Ianto from pushing too hard. Besides, he was starting to get sleepy again and that was dulling the sense of wrongness. Ianto really had been staring at the computer for too long... Yes, that had to be it. "When you retire with a nice, fat Torchwood pension, what are you going to do?"

Ianto swallowed hard, wishing he had Jack's ability to shy away from a subject. Owen and Toshiko's faces jumped to his mind, pushing away all thought of anything else. Closing his eyes against the images he still couldn't handle thinking too closely about, Ianto moved away and broke the contact between them.


"It won't happen, Jack," he replied, trying to keep his voice even. "Not with this job. I'll be lucky if-"

"Stop. It will happen," Jack said adamantly. He pulled Ianto back to the center of the duvet and the Welshman didn't fight it. Placing his head against Ianto's chest, the immortal man held him tightly. "So tell me what you'd do."

Ianto was going to get nothing out of Jack at this rate. Especially not sleep, which was going to be the only cure to his current inability to think straight. Best just answer the question and be done with it. "I... haven't really thought about it," he said truthfully. Hopefully, that would end the conversation but Ianto didn't set his hopes too high.

And he was right. Jack was in one of those moods and was being stubborn about it. "Why not?"

Ianto sighed, bringing his hand up and running it through Jack's dark hair. "I just don't. I'm happy right now. Torchwood gave me meaning to my life. Purpose. Without it, I..." Without Jack was what he really meant. Originally, it had just been Torchwood, but now... Life without Jack was just as unbearable and Ianto had just about resigned himself to that fact.

He had a place here. At Torchwood and with Jack, he finally had a sense of belonging. Of purpose. For the first time in his life, Ianto had something he was proud of. The last thing he wanted to think about was giving that up. "Why are you asking about this, Jack? Just tell me what's wrong. Because there is something wrong, isn't there? You've been keeping me distracted all night for some reason or another."

Looking down, he saw that Jack's eyes were closed. It wasn't like Jack was feigning sleep. More like he was trying to shut something out. But what was he shutting out? Ianto? That thought made the Welshman uneasy. Why would Jack ask those sorts of questions then shut Ianto out like that? Jack wasn't thinking of ending the relationship, was he? Fear coursed through him, panic starting to take over his sleep-hazed mind. "Talk to me, Jack. Please..."

"A lot of things are wrong," the immortal man said finally. Whether Ianto had just worn him down or he'd responded to the slight pleading and desperation in the Welshman's voice, Ianto couldn't tell. He was too worried for the axe about to fall to think of anything else. It never came, however. Finally, Jack sighed softly. "You're right. I'm sorry for bringing up those questions. I just... We're both here now. That's good."

Letting out the breath Ianto hadn't known he'd been holding, the Welshman had a sudden desire to kiss Jack senseless. He shouldn't be this relieved about it, since there was still something so obviously wrong with his lover. But it wasn't Ianto's fault, whatever it was. Things weren't over between them and his world wasn't shattered yet. The sense of relief was almost dizzying.

Jack must have noticed, because he was looking up at Ianto with a guilty expression. Then he pulled himself up and kissed Ianto on the forehead gently. Ianto closed his eyes, just reveling in the small touch. It was a few moments before he could even find the words he needed to continue the conversation. "What's wrong then?" he asked again as Jack settled back against him.

"Something's happened. I can't say what. Really, Ianto, don't ask me. I've been... lost." It was really hard not to ask for more details, even though Ianto might not be able to understand all of them in his current hazy state of mind. Even with Jack telling him not to ask for more... Or perhaps because of that. Somehow, Ianto didn't think this had to do with that "vodka" from earlier. The look of weariness and hurt on Jack's face made him pause, however. It frightened him a little, to tell the truth. "Tomorrow, things should sort themselves out again. Everything will go back to normal. But I'll remember this. Remember you."

Ianto was about to ask Jack what he meant by remembering when his lover pulled a 180 turnabout mood wise and smirked. Jack's hands were moving again, but this time not on Ianto's back. They were moving towards- Oh! Ianto was awake now. Definitely awake now. "You wouldn't leave me with nothing to do in the mean time, would you?" Jack asked with a small pout.

Ianto's tongue was moving in response to Jack's question, though words were the absolute last thing on his mind. Jack wasn't arguing. His lover was perfectly content with Ianto's non-verbal answer.

Somewhere along the line, Ianto realized he wasn't going to be getting any sleep that night. Ah, well. There were worse things to loose sleep over and maybe he'd get some answers in the morning.

* * *

Roughly two hours before the alarm was set to go off, Ianto was propped up on his pillow staring down at his sleeping lover. He fought off the wave of sleepiness that threatened to overwhelm him, just to have this quiet moment watching Jack lay dormant. He knew he was going to have hell to pay for staying up even later, but Ianto liked watching the immortal man in slumber. Always smiling, Jack was. Even in his sleep. It was strange how much older Jack looked right now though. Usually the man looked younger... The Welshman really must be tired, if he was still thinking that.

Ianto watched for as long as he could keep his eyes open, toying with all sorts of notions as to what Jack might be dreaming about. All the places Jack must have seen, the people he loved... Ianto didn't kid himself. It probably wasn't about him. Ianto couldn't help but hope that maybe sometimes... at least occasionally, Jack was dreaming about him. That was his last thought before drifting off to dreams himself, as it was most nights he spent with Jack.

It wasn't until his alarm went off that Ianto woke up again. He'd been dreaming. Nothing concrete, just a few soft touches and a kiss, along with a feeling of heartbreaking sadness. The word 'good-bye' reverberated through his head, nearly waking him up after a soft click of the door. Then the beep of his alarm brought him around completely along with a few curses.

It didn't take Ianto long to notice the absence of his lover. It was still warm, where Jack had lain. Not gone long then. Probably a bit more of reality to that dream than he'd thought. Ianto sighed as he hit his alarm to turn it off. Jack couldn't have just stayed a few minutes longer, could he?

It wasn't the first time Ianto had to work on so little sleep and he knew from experience not to terry near his bed. The covers of the duvet were far too tempting.

Still, Ianto was having a hell of a time staying awake. Two nights of little sleep in a row were really starting to take it's toll and he'd nearly fallen asleep while eating his breakfast. Because of that, his usual twenty minute routine to get out of his flat ended up being thirty. And he was already going to be late, since he had to stop to pick up more coffee for the Hub. Gwen was going to be furious when he finally got in. That is, if she learned her lesson the last time he'd caught her with instant coffee in her hands.

Ianto was in luck, however. Gwen was, unsurprisingly, later than him. He was just a little surprised that the universe was working in his favor for once. Normally, it would always be the one day he was late that she would be on time.

Jack sauntered into the Hub about an hour after Ianto. The Welshman had a cup of Jack's favorite industrial strength coffee waiting in hand as the man came in looking just as exhausted as Ianto. No pity for lack of sleep was spared his lover, however. Not when it had been Jack's insistence that had kept both of them up all night long. Ianto himself was already on his second dosage of caffeine.

"What would I do without you?" he said with a grin as he accepted the mug.

"Your coat would definitely be worse for the wear," Ianto replied, critically eyeing the coat in question. Whatever it was Jack had been doing in the past two hours, he'd managed to get completely covered in dirt and sweat. "Dare I ask what you did this time?"

"Had a run in with a few Weevils trying to get rid of that vodka. Things got messy. You should have been there, Ianto. We could have had some naked wrestling in the mud after." Ianto didn't grace that with a reply, ignoring Jack's grin as he accept the coat to be cleaned. "I'm off to the showers then, after this cup. I could use some company..?"

As if Jack hadn't gotten enough of that last night. Honestly, the man was impossible sometimes. Once again, Ianto ignored Jack's pout. "And not be ready with coffee for Gwen when she finally gets in? I'm not that brave."

"Where is she anyway?"

Ianto shrugged. "Dunno. She hasn't called. Over slept, perhaps?" Much later than usual too. Even for Gwen, this was pretty late.

Jack went off, looking thoughtful. At least Ianto could tell that it really had just been his imagination last night. Even under all that grime, Jack still looked the same as ever. Forever youthful, with an extremely nice arse. Nope, Jack never changed.

Unfortunately, without a major state of emergency to keep the adrenaline running, even Ianto's industrial strength coffee failed to keep him awake at his computer station. He flushed as he felt Jack's fingers gently tapping his shoulder. Ianto couldn't help but feel annoyed with himself for falling asleep... even more annoyed with Jack for waking him up, to be truthful. At least Jack was waving off his apologies with an amused smile. "I thought Gwen sent you home last night to get some sleep."

"Then maybe next time you'll know better than to keep me up all night," Ianto snapped, not in the mood to play this game. Especially not sitting in front of the computer -again- after one tiring day staring at it and a night with less than two hours of sleep.

The smile faded from Jack's face. "What do you mean?"

"I mean you sneaking into my flat -and you never explained how you got there before me- acting like something was distressingly wrong -which you never explained either- and keeping me up all night for the sake of 'comfort'." Honestly, if Jack was going to deny it for much longer, Ianto was going to take the coffee away. Cranky didn't even begin to cover what Ianto felt right now and it would serve Jack right for tormenting him while he was still half asleep.

He looked over to his lover, about to dare the man to deny it further, when Jack's expression stopped him. Jack wasn't smiling anymore. In fact, he looked dead serious. "Jack?"

"Ianto," he started, carefully guiding Ianto back to his chair. "I was face down in a ditch in the rain, half of last night. The rest of it was spent chasing down the weevils that had stolen the bottles I was trying to get rid of. The Weevils acted like it was some sort of catnip. Normally, I'd have just let them have it, but the stuff is toxic to nearly everything else on the planet." Jack's small smile at the memory faded quickly as he saw Ianto wasn't responding to the small anecdote. "I was chasing them down all night. You just saw me walk in."

Ianto blinked. Jack wasn't laughing now. Not joking. He was being serious and looking worried. His earlier snappishness was giving way to fear and his sleep-deprived mind was too tired to fight the frantic feeling. "That's not possible though. You were there, at my flat. You were, weren't you? Stop joking, Jack. You left just before the alarm went off. The duvet was still warm where you'd been when I got up." Jack shook his head slowly and Ianto really started to panic. "It was you, Jack. It had to be. I wasn't just imagining it or dreaming it or-"

Jack shushed him, perching on the desk and reaching over to take Ianto's now trembling hand. He started off with a joking tone and one of his more mischievous smiles. It didn't dispel Ianto's fear that was only made worse by the fact he couldn't concentrate properly due to the lack of sleep. "It's okay. We'll figure this out, alright? Won't be the first time I've been in two places at once."

"This isn't funny, Jack! That was intimate. It felt like you'd kissed every part of my body. And if that wasn't you then-"

"Hey, hey." Jack's fingers rested on the Welshman's lips long enough to stop him from talking, then brushed his cheek affectionately. He smiled again, this time more reassuringly when he realized jokes weren't going to put Ianto at ease. "Like I said, we'll figure it out. There's any number of perfectly normal... Well, perfectly Torchwood explanations and no one is saying it wasn't me. Who's to say I wouldn't take advantage of a glitch in time like that? Gwen in yet?"

Ianto shook his head, not trusting his voice enough to talk. Glitch in time or no, there were also plenty of ways it might not have been his lover and that scared Ianto. Jack frowned, but didn't comment. Instead, he shepherded Ianto over to the couch and disappeared into his office for a few moments. The immortal man returned with a glass of the alcohol from Jack's hidden stash. "Drink," he said in a voice that booked no arguments.

Ianto didn't need to be told twice. He did know better than to just down it, however. Jack's secret stash was strong, much stronger than what Ianto usually preferred to drink. Taking a few careful sips, Ianto felt the burn of the alcohol down his throat. After a few moments, his hands stopped shaking.

"Okay. Let's start from the beginning," Jack said confidently. Ianto didn't know if it was that or the alcohol, but he was feeling much more relaxed. It was even better when Jack slipped an arm around him comfortingly. "Just tell me what happened, along with anything that seemed strange to you."

Ianto nodded, gathering his thoughts. It was much harder than normal so he worked on trying to calm himself. Ianto took a deep breath, just taking in the smell of Jack. His Jack. Not whoever... "Just talk through it," Jack reminded him gently, bringing him out of those panicked thoughts.

"Well... You went out to deal with the alien drinks. I was going to stick around to do a few things, but Gwen was very... insistent that I go home." More than very. She'd walked him to his car just to make sure he didn't sneak back in. Jack chuckled in response, probably picturing it without being told the details. "So I went home. I just dropped in to start a list for groceries and was going to pick up a few things for the Hub. Before I could leave again though, you were there."

"Whoever this other me is, at least they're keeping you from working too hard," the immortal joked with a small grin.

Ianto gave his lover a small glare before continuing. "It was strange, though. You weren't stepping out of the shadows or anything. I thought something might be wrong, but when I asked..." Jack had kissed him. Kept him from thinking too much. For some reason, Ianto couldn't use the pronoun "he" when talking about the person who'd been in the flat last night. It was too freaky, to think that it wasn't Jack.

"What made you think something was wrong?" Jack asked gently, bringing Ianto's thoughts back to the present. Was Ianto really that tired, that he couldn't even focus? Blaming the alcohol sounded better, even if he hadn't really had that much to drink. Or maybe a combination of both. Whichever it was, Ianto felt like he was missing something that he should know and that just served to make him more fearful.

Taking a deep breath, Ianto collected his thoughts again and continued. "You were... staying in the shadows, like I said. You had a funny reaction when I mentioned Gwen. Like you'd... forgotten her for a moment or something. No, not really forgot, but..." Ianto struggled for the right words, trying to remember the feeling exactly. "Like when you hear the name of someone you remember fondly from the archives but have been dead for years. And you were acting like you could hardly believe I was there, saying things like they were a distant memory."

If any of this was clicking in Jack's head, his lover didn't show it. Ianto couldn't tell if the immortal had an idea or if he was still just as clueless. Himself, Ianto felt like he was missing something incredibly obvious but was too tired to focus on it. He really needed to calm down and stop panicking. Jack had to prompt him again, bringing Ianto's attention back. "Anything else?"

Anything... "Yes. You were... not desperate, but close. Acting like something was bothering you, but anytime I'd ask, you'd... do something to keep me off guard and distracted so I couldn't think straight."

"Like kissing?"

Ianto glared again, as the other man grinned. Ignoring the question, the Welshman took a few more drinks from the glass in his hand. "Also, I know this sounds mad but... I could have sworn you looked older."

That gained a response from Jack, but it was gone before Ianto understood what the brief look in his eyes meant. "Do you know what it was, Jack?" he asked nervously. "How could you look older?"

"Nothing concrete." Jack's tone was effortless and calming, even as he ignored Ianto's second question completely. "Just keep going. So someone who looks like me magically appears at your flat looking distressed. What happened next?"

"You did look distressed so..." Ianto shook his head, trying to clear it. "I kept trying to tell you I was tired and had other things to do, but... you were insistent."

"Is that the part where my twin kissed every bit of your body? Not a bad idea, if you ask me. I should-"

"Jack, please! This isn't... It's not a joke." Ianto looked down at the glass, his voice wavering. He couldn't think about that, especially in terms of it not being his lover.

Jack's expression softened, the grin falling from his face. "I know. Sorry. No more jokes," he said as he touched Ianto's cheek gently, wiping away the moisture that had accumulated around Ianto's eyes. God, was he really that close to tears? What was wrong with him this morning? "We'll figure this out. I promise. Did anything else happen? Anything other than..." Jack trailed off. Ianto was never so glad that Jack actually skirted around the word for once.

Swallowing heavily, Ianto tried to keep his breath from hitching painfully. Jack didn't push, just holding him tightly as Ianto fought to maintain his usual composure. It took several more of Jack's small caresses before he could speak again. "W-we just talked a bit, after."

"What did we talk about?" Jack asked soothingly, for the first time lightly stressing the 'we' instead of talking like it was someone else.

It was just a single word, but the 'we' made Ianto feel much better. More at ease. It was suddenly much easier to breath as well. "Funny things. Like, you remembered the time you asked me on our first real date, but couldn't remember how you researched me after the first time we met. Then you kept asking what I'd do if I weren't in Torchwood, or... or what I'd do when I retired."

Jack smiled oddly, a soft, half-forced chuckle coming from his throat. Again, there was an odd look in Jack's eyes that was stifled too quickly for Ianto's tired brain to register it properly. "What did you answer?"

"Jack, I..."

"Come on. You could tell me last night. You can tell me now."

It was only because Jack resumed his small caresses of Ianto's cheek that the Welshman was able to answer. It reminded him of this thoughts last night. Not fair, how Jack could change the subject so easily yet find just the right button to keep Ianto from doing the same. "I said I don't know. I don't like thinking about it. I'm happy with my life right now." He looked up at Jack searchingly, feeling so very vulnerable. "I have a purpose now... and you."

Jack leaned over and kissed him. It was a tender and slow kiss that made Ianto think of the remnants of the dream he'd had upon waking. For a moment, Ianto was able to forget about his current fears and just feel the kiss. When Jack pulled back, Ianto managed a weak smile. His first since he woke up this morning to find Jack gone.

"Good answer," Jack said lightly, before kissing Ianto on the forehead and pulling the Welshman closer. Ianto didn't fight it, leaning into his lover and resting his head under Jack's chin. Feeling this open and vulnerable scared Ianto almost as much as the thought that Jack hadn't been there last night. The immortal man was the only thing that tethered him amidst this storm of anxiety. "Talk about anything else?"

"Just a little about what was wrong," Ianto said, closing his eyes. Why was he suddenly so tired? Not that he hadn't been before, but now... Surely the alcohol wasn't affecting him that much, was it? Ianto struggled to focus, because now he really was missing something. Some crucial evidence that would solve this whole puzzle. If he could just concentrate... "You asked me not to press for details, but you said something went wrong and you couldn't tell me what. That you were... lost, but that everything would go back to normal today."

"Then more sex?" Jack asked, probably guessing what he would have done to distract his young lover from asking more questions.

Sometimes, Ianto really hated the immortal for that. He sighed softly and nodded. "Then more sex. After a while, you finally let me get some sleep and you were gone by the time my alarm went off. Not long though. It still felt warm, where you'd been sleeping."

Jack was quiet after that, thinking. Ianto finished off the drink. His head was swimming, but Ianto didn't think it was because of the alcohol. Did that mean something else was wrong with him, on top of everything else? It was so hard to focus and Ianto felt like he was missing an answer that was right in front of him. Finally, Ianto couldn't handle it any longer. "What is it, Jack? You promised to figure it out! If it was you, then how were you in two places at once? How come you don't remember it? And how did you look older? You don't age, Jack. So why-"

"Who said I didn't age?" Jack said absently, rubbing a hand down Ianto's arm comfortingly. Ianto just stared at his lover in shock. "What? I do. Extremely slowly, granted, but I'll have to face old age some day. I'm a little scared of the next several thousand years, if you want to know the truth."

The joking tone in his lover's voice barely registered in Ianto's head. He was struggling to put his thoughts together cohesively, but he knew he had to keep trying. It was important that he understood. Ianto had to make sense of this. "If you age, then... Was that you? Sometime far in the future... You said you were lost. Lost in time?" Ianto's words felt a little slurred. He panicked again, knowing that it wasn't the alcohol making him feel this way. "Jack, please answer me."

Finally, Jack nodded slowly. "Most likely, yeah. Me, from some part of the distant future. Fits with all the facts, remembering some things but not others. After all, even if I was acting weird, you didn't ever actually doubt it was me, did you?"

Ianto released the breath he'd been holding. "No. It was you, Jack. From- You really remembered me. After all that time, you still remembered, just like you said last night. I-"

He'd been trying to stand up, to fight the drowsiness threatening to overwhelm him. As soon as he tried, Ianto was falling forward. It was only because of Jack he didn't faint flat out by hitting the floor. "Whoa. Easy there, Ianto. Just take it slow."

The glass fell from Ianto's hands as strong arms steadied him. He knew what had happened now, but it was too late. "Jack, what have you done!?" Ianto looked frantically up at his lover as he fought to remain conscious. He tried to pull away, to stand on his own. More than anything, he needed to deny the sick fear in his gut that knew exactly what Jack had put in his drink.

"Just relax. You don't need to remember that." No. Jack wouldn't. Not after he had finally figured it out! "You're going to die one day, Ianto. I'll have to move on, when that happens. The last thing you need is a reminder of that fact."

"But you remembered me!" Ianto cried desperately, fighting the effects of the retcon. "After all that time, you still knew me. Remembered. Don't... D-don't do this, Jack!"

Jack shushed him and pulled him close, even as Ianto fought. It was futile. His blue eyes were closing shut even as Ianto willed them to stay open. The last think he heard before the retcon claimed him was Jack's voice. "How could I ever forget someone like you, Ianto Jones? Just sleep now. Just sleep..."

* * *

Jack waited for Ianto to go completely limp against him before sitting back on the couch. He kept the now sleeping Ianto in his lap, holding the man tightly. "Forgive me?" he asked his unresponsive lover pleadingly. Of course, Ianto couldn't answer that.

He stayed like that for a while, just holding Ianto against him. For a few brief seconds, Jack considered retcon for himself. His reasoning for giving it to Ianto worked just as well for himself. If Jack were going to be brutally honest with himself, he was just as shaken by the ordeal as Ianto was. The last thing he needed was another reminder of how very mortal Ianto was. If his future self had been asking what Ianto wanted to do for retirement, it could only mean that Ianto had never gotten there.

Raising a trembling hand to Ianto's face, he kissed his sleeping lover deeply. His Ianto. His gorgeous Welshman, ever immaculately dressed in those pristine suits with a dry comment and cup of coffee to make Jack smile. Always knowing what everyone needed, sometimes even before they did. And so much more clever than anyone gave him credit for. One day, maybe someday soon, his Ianto would be gone...

Jack shook himself out of those thoughts. Self pity was the last thing he needed, on top of everything else. No, no retcon. Not for Jack, anyway. The last thing he needed was another hole in his memory. This would just be a wake up call, a reminder to cherish every second he had left with Ianto, however long that was. Maybe he could change that future, or prevent it... and if not, at least Jack knew he had one last night to look forward to.

Unfortunately, however much Jack wished he could just fall asleep with Ianto in his arms, there was still work to do. Jack debated leaving his lover on the couch, but decided to move the man someplace he was less likely to be disturbed. Wouldn't be the first time Ianto would wake up in Jack's bed. Far from the first. Definitely unusual circumstances, however.

He'd just picked Ianto up when the bulk head lights started flashing. "Ianto?" he heard Gwen's voice call out with a plaintive note in her voice. "Please tell me you have coffee!"

Look what the cat dragged in. He'd been about to tell her to keep it down when she turned the corner and saw him. "Jack? How the hell did... Christ! Is Ianto alright?"

Jack smiled as she rushed over, practically cooing as she hoovered and placed a hand against Ianto's forehead. "He's fine. He disobeyed your strict orders last night to go to sleep when he got home and came in with a small fever. Just fainted when he tried to get up too fast. Still, I'll have him get some blood work done, to make sure he's not turning anemic on us."

"Well, feels like the fever's broken now, poor dear. I'll give him a lecture about following orders when he wakes up." Gwen smiled softly in relief as she caressed Ianto's cheek in a tender manner. Jack noticed for the first time that she was completely filthy. Almost as bad as he had been coming in this morning. Though how he hadn't noticed the smell a few seconds earlier... Where had Gwen been? The sewers for a spontaneous Weevil hunt?

She looked up at him sharply, as if realizing the same thing. "Jack, how did you get back before me? Not to mention looking clean. It's not fair, you looking cleaner than me after all mess you dragged me through! Next time I don't care if Ianto's got a fever and can't go with you. You want to chase Weevils all morning, you can count me out."

He hadn't expected his guess to be so spot on. Chasing... Oh! Jack fought to keep the puzzlement then surprise off his face as Gwen went on. Well, his future self must have been busy. Couldn't blame him though, wanting to see Ianto and Gwen again, even if just one last time. He needed both of them badly. So much that it hurt, especially with reminders like this. "You listening Jack?"

"Sorry, caught in a thought," he replied truthfully. The Welsh complaining. Oh, he'd miss that. "Ianto here just gave me a bit of a scare. Can't blame me for drifting off after that?"

Gwen's expression softened for a moment. "Well, no. Suppose not. Still, you going to tell me how you managed this feat, Jack? Not to mention you why you were acting funny. Guess it was just my imagination that you looked older..." Gwen trailed off, looking at Jack curiously.

"Best kept secret in the galaxy," he replied with a wink, hoisting Ianto up for a better grip.

Gwen laughed. "Get on then, you. Put Sleeping Beauty to bed while I get a shower. I'll just have to raid my stash of instant coffee after if he's still not awake."

It was a few hours later that Ianto finally walked out, a confused expression on his face. Jack felt vaguely sorry for him, as Gwen jumped him with a strong lecture about taking care of himself. Ianto certainly looked properly abashed and sheepish as the retcon rearranged his memories and filled in the missing holes. For a moment, Jack felt regretful of that. The look on Ianto's face when he discovered that Jack's future self had still remembered him... Well, he'd just have to make it up to Ianto tonight.

He watched as Gwen started to cart his lover off, calling out she was driving him to the GP's office for blood work. Ianto was protesting, looking back at Jack pleadingly. Obviously time for Jack to swan in to the rescue. "It's okay, Gwen. You don't have to worry about that," he said, much to Ianto's obvious relief.


"I'll take him. The Rift's quiet today, so why don't we all just take the day off unless some emergency pops up?" Gwen raised an eyebrow, but didn't comment. He could already see the wheels turning in her head for a night out with Rhys.

"Please, Jack," Ianto pleaded, the slightly panicked and pained look returning. "I can drive myself. I'm fine now and don't-"

"He just doesn't want you to know he's afraid of needles," Jack said wickedly in a low voice to Gwen, ignoring Ianto's glare. Gwen laughed, patting Ianto's arm encouragingly. "You aren't getting out of this one, Ianto. Come on."

Ianto turned his pleading on Gwen, but the woman was just as cruel and merciless as Jack was. Ianto sighed in defeat, his head bowed as Jack linked arms with him and led his lover to the car port. Gwen's laughter followed them through the hub, causing Ianto to turn a delectable shade of red.

At the GP's office, Jack made a general nuisance of himself much to Ianto's horror and to the nurses' delight. He made a grand show of holding Ianto's hand and promising to protect him from the needles. The gleam in Ianto's eyes promised him weeks worth of decaf in the morning, but Jack needed something to distract himself. The thought of Ianto needing a doctor made him more uneasy than he thought it would, even if it was just a basic check up. After last night... No, don't think about that. Jack charmingly offered to treat Ianto to an ice cream after if his lover was good about the needle's prick. The look of exasperation on Ianto's face was well worth the potential decaf.

He ended up treating Ianto to dinner as well, just to make a proper date of it. It was the ice cream that did it, however. Ianto thawed, slightly mollified with the sweet. By the time Jack pulled up to his lover's flat, Ianto was only protesting half as much.

The Welshman was more than a little annoyed as Jack trotted up after him though. "I can walk to my own flat, Jack," he mumbled, refusing to let Jack's charm wear away at him.

"Strict orders from Gwen. I'm not to let you do anything even remotely resembling work tonight." She also told him no to keep Ianto up all night, but Jack was on pretty good authority that Ianto was healthier than Gwen thought.

Ianto glared, still persisting in keeping his lover at arms length to prove he was angry. Mock angry, truthfully. The ice cream had been more effective than Ianto was letting on.

He looked puzzled as he stood glancing around his flat. Jack couldn't see what was wrong, other than the fact there were dishes in Ianto's sink. "What was I doing last night, staying up? Nothing's gotten finished."

Jack laughed softly. "Don't look at me. I was chasing Weevils." Ianto automatically moved to start cleaning up, but the immortal grabbed his arm gently. "Not tonight," he said softly.

Instead of more protests or a sigh of defeat, Ianto looked as if he were trying to remember a dream. "Why does that sound familiar?" he asked as Jack rubbed his arm gently.

Oops. Was that what his future self had said? Ah, well. Not like he didn't know how to distract Ianto from remembering. "Not tonight," Jack couldn't help but repeat again, because some things never change. He did have to make sure Ianto didn't break through the retcon, however. He was definitely looking forward to that.

Pulling Ianto closer, he kissed the man fiercely. He couldn't stop some of the desperation and loss he'd been feeling earlier from escaping into the kiss. Jack had to steady his lover after finally pulling away.

Ianto looked absolutely gorgeous slightly flushed. Pleased too, that Jack needed him. Ianto must have sensed Jack's mood, because the hazy remembrance was now gone from his eyes. "Okay," he said with a small grin. "Are you alright though, Jack?"

"All the better for having you here." Jack's voice held a quiet intensity, instead of his usual flirting, more of his need slipping through. As Ianto snogged him soundly for that comment, Jack just let himself get lost in the moment. It was the only way he could continue to survive this cursed immortality. Still...

Jack made sure to kiss every part of Ianto's body that night.


Memory: Okay, so maybe Ianto should have realized sooner. I'm putting it down to how fried his brain was after being over worked. Besides, it makes for a more dramatic fic that way.

I do hope you liked it. It was, as I mentioned, a very random plot bunny that kept distracting me for one of my posts in a roleplay and I finally just gave in and wrote it down with Cy's insistence. So if you liked it, thank her for it. XD Also, thank the lovely roleplayers who indirectly gave me the idea. I certainly would never have thought to write a Torchwood fic if not for them.

 And I apologize for my inner Jack kind of running away with the end there. He got a little carried away when I was writing it, much to Ianto's disgruntlement.

Thanks for reading! I shall leave you with a quote of the fic. It's kind of a depressing one for Jack, but hey. He had his happy moments at the end of this fic. XD

"There is no pain so great as the memory of joy in present grief."
-- Aeschylus