Title : Flame beneath ashes - Chapter 4 : Déjà-vu
Summary : AU. After the events of Countrycide, Ianto was retconned and allowed to start a new life in London. Intervening accidentally in a burning building, it's a very different man Jack meets four years later. But can Ianto really escape his own destiny?
Rating : T
Characters: Ianto Jones, Jack Harkness, Gwen Cooper, Owen Harper, Toshiko Sato, Myfanwy, Original characters.
Pairing : Jack/Ianto, Owen/Tosh, Gwen/Rhys (mentioned), Ianto/Lisa (past)
Genres: Alternate universe/action/romance.
Warnings: Violence, swearing, sexual situation (nothing graphic), character's death (temporary)
Spoilers: Spoilers for seasons 1 and 2. Exit wounds and Children of Earth are only mentioned as incidents and Miracle Day, of course, never happened
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
Author's Notes : It is now high time for the team to meet the "new" Ianto. You didn't really think that Jack could get rid of him so easily, did you?Special thanks to my wonderful beta reader welsh_scotsman
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Cardiff, the next day, early afternoon
Ianto took a sip of his coffee and couldn’t help wincing at the bitterness of the beverage : this thing definitely didn’t deserve the name of ‘coffee’. ‘Sump oil’, maybe, but not ‘coffee’ .
He threw the beaker into a bin nearby and lit up another cigarette, his third since he had reached Cardiff two hours ago. At least, if he couldn’t rely on coffee to soothe his nerves, nicotine would do. His hand holding the lighter shook slightly and he had to make two attempts. He took a long puff and rubbed his eyes wearily. He hadn’t rested properly for two weeks and the lack of sleep was starting to take its toll.
There was no respite from the nightmares that filled his nights since he had left the hospital. Each time he closed his eyes and gave himself up to sleep, he was assaulted by disturbing images flashing in his head, then fading into the darkness, blurred and vivid at the same time, which left him screaming and panting in a tangle of sweat-drenched sheets.
Of course, he had already had nightmares. After some trying interventions, it wasn’t unusual that he dreamt about it for a few days. But nothing similar.
When the first dreams had occurred, featuring images of Lisa, his first thought had been that his conversation with the so mysterious Captain Harkness had triggered something in his mind and he was recovering shreds of memories. Unfortunately, it had resulted in nothing. Apart from these horrendous nightmares, no clear memories had come back to him about his two missing years.
Then things had become even more confusing when Lisa had started to be replaced in his dreams by said Captain. Though he had no reason to dream of a man he barely knew, rather than his late fiancée, those dreams had become increasingly recurrent over time and now, there wasn't a night without the enigmatic Captain coming to haunt him.
So, after a while, he had started to wonder if by any chance this man wouldn’t be linked, in one way or another, to his missing past. On second thoughts, his attitude at the hospital and the way he had literally vanished into thin air were more than enough to excite his curiosity. All the more so since the little he had discovered about the so-called Captain had proved to be really intriguing.
He knew it was farfetched, but as things stood, anything at all would do. And now he was here, back in Cardiff, looking for a man that didn’t seem to exist, on the strength of more than doubtful information.
Ianto shook his head and flicked his fag-end into the bin. There really were times when he doubted his own sanity.
Leaving the Plass, he walked slowly towards Mermaid Quay. It was a sunny day and a sweet breeze was caressing the shore. It was lunchtime and the Plass was crowded with people going for a walk, shopping or heading to the numerous restaurants of the Bay.
Leaning again the guard rail and looking at the sea, Ianto tried to find something familiar around him, but the only memories that crossed his mind were about his youth, when he was still a teenager and went into town with his friends on Saturday afternoon, before his father died and he left for London. When he tried to think about the year he had spent there after Lisa’s death, all he found was a black hole. No image, no sound, no smell. Nothing. As if he had died and been buried all that time, only to be resurrected in a bed at Saint Helen’s Hospital.
For a while, he followed passers-by with his eyes, wondering if he had already met one of them or if someone in this crowd could recognize him. But once again there was no recollection and he gave up, focusing his attention on the quay down below.
After having driven all night long from London, he knew he should grab a few hours’ sleep, but he was too nervous for that, so he might as well take his chances. From where he was standing, near the carousel, he had an unimpeded view of Mermaid Quay and the door of the disused annexe of Cardiff’s Tourist Office at its end. If Captain Jack Harkness exited from there, he couldn’t miss him.
- - - - - - - - - - - -
It was really a beautiful day and Jack was in a good mood. Since he had come back from London, the Rift had been quiet. No massive invasion, no spaceship in distress, no ancient entity trying to infest half of the sewers. Thinking of it, even the Weevils were as good as gold. With the exception of some flotsam and jetsam here and there, he was bored to death. Something he wouldn’t complain about.
Leaving the usual takeaway, he decided to invite his team to the restaurant for lunch. His proposition was enthusiastically welcomed and less than ten minutes later, the four of them headed to the Plass, debating what kind of food they would eat. Gwen wanted Italian, Owen wanted Indian and Tosh wasn’t hungry. Jack was about to suggest they compromise with Chinese, when his good mood suddenly evaporated at the sight of the tall figure moving towards them from the end of the quay.
Following Jack’s gaze, Owen froze instantly, imitated by the two girls. He grabbed Jack’s sleeve and pulled him towards him.
"Bloody hell! What’s he doing here?" he muttered into his ear.
Jack freed himself from his grip.
"Go back to the Hub with the girls, Owen, and let me deal with it. Ok?" he ordered, his eyes still fixed on the man before him.
"What the fuck Harkness? " hissed Owen, forcing the older man to turn towards him
"Owen, please." Jack’s tone was as sharp as a blade and the two men confronted each other for a few seconds, before the medic finally lowered his eyes and went back to the Tourist Office, mumbling between his teeth. Tosh followed close on his heels without a word, whereas Gwen stayed beside Jack and tried to have a word with him :
Jack didn’t let her go further and cut her off.
"Go on, Gwen. I’ll be back in a minute."
She hesitated a second then let out a resigned sigh and hurried to catch up with the others.
Meanwhile, Ianto had approached and Jack noticed he didn’t limp anymore. He was dressed all in black, with a leather jacket, jeans and a pair of heavy leather boots, the only touch of colour coming from his t-shirt which was adorned with red abstract motifs. And Jack had to admit he was breathtaking.
"Hello!" greeted the young Welshman with a wavering smile and Jack noticed that he looked more tired than the last time he had seen him and that there were dark rings under his blue eyes.
"Hi. Mister…" replied Jack with a frown, feigning not to remember his name.
"Jones. Ianto Jones."
Ianto glanced towards the rest of the team who was going away hastily.
"I hope I didn’t make your friends flee," he asked.
"They’re busy. As am I. What can I do for you, Mister Jones," answered Jack coolly, crossing his arms across his chest.
Ianto was slightly put out by Jack’s unfriendly attitude, but tried his best to ignore it.
"Please, call me Ianto. When I hear ‘Mister Jones’ I think of my father and it makes me feel like I’m eighty."
"As you wish. So, Mister… Ianto? As I said I’m busy, so if you could make it quick."
Without waiting for an answer, Jack started to stride towards the Plass, forcing Ianto to fall into step with him as they were speaking.
"Well, you left so quickly, last time. I wanted to be sure you were fine."
"I am. Anything else? "
"I also wanted to thank you. I…"
Jack stopped and turned back so abruptly that Ianto almost crashed into him.
"You already did. Now, why don’t you stop making me waste my time and go straight to the point. I don’t think you stalk all the people you rescue across half of the country to be sure they’re fine. Am I wrong?"
Ianto’s smile faltered and, in spite of himself, he adverted his eyes. All of the sudden, his intuition didn’t seem enough of a reason to bother a perfect stranger and he felt like an idiot.
Before he could provide a decent explanation, Jack pulled the rug from under his feet.
"And besides, how did you find me? Last time I checked I wasn’t in the phone book."
"I… I got your name, so I did some research…"
"Some research? Really? And you found me like that?" asked Jack slightly amused, snapping his fingers.
"No, not exactly. I found no man named Harkness in the US Air Force for the last thirty years and the only American Captain Jack Harkness on record was an American volunteer from the Royal Air Force, who is presumed dead since 1941."
"Please, don’t tell me I look so old," chuckled Jack, cracking a smile despite himself. "So? How did you get here?"
In spite of himself Ianto squirmed under Jack’s scrutiny. This man has a way of looking at him that had a knack of making him feel uneasy. He took a deep breath and forced himself to look straight in Jack’s eyes.
"I’ve a friend who works in a ministry and owed me."
Jack raised an eyebrow, but didn’t say anything and Ianto carried on.
"I talked to him about you and he said I should check this place, without giving me further information. He sounded so certain that I thought I should at least try and…here I am."
Jack made a mental note to do some research about this too talkative state employee and thrust his hands into his pockets.
"Ok. So you’ve found me. As you can see I’m perfectly fine. I’ve been delighted to see you again, but here is where ours paths split. I wish you a good journey back to London. So goodbye."
With these words, he set off again towards the Plass.
For moment, Ianto stayed rooted to the spot, watching him go away. Once again, he was assaulted by a strange feeling of déjà-vu, as if it wasn’t the first time he saw this great coat flapping in the wind. Pulling himself together, he ran after Jack and overtook him. Putting a hand onto his chest, he forced him to stop.
"Please. At least listen to me."
Jack looked down at Ianto’s hand. Suddenly, he felt like Bill Murray in "The groundhog day", living the same day ever and ever. The same stubborn young man, in the same quay, again. Except this time, there was no mind-blowing coffee and he had to gather all his strength to refrain from kissing Ianto senseless.
He brushed the hand away with an exasperated sigh.
"Go on. And be quick."
Ianto took a deep breath and took the plunge.
"I don’t know how to explain it, but there’s something familiar about you. I know it looks crazy, but I was under the impression that… maybe... we might have met before. Maybe, here in Cardiff… four years ago. Were you already here?"
There was so much distress in Ianto’s voice that it took all of Jack’s will to look him straight in the eye and lie to him:
"No. We’ve never met before."
"Are you sure?" Ianto hesitated. "I mean you may have forgotten."
"Yes, I’m sure," maintained Jack firmly, lifting his chin defiantly. "Believe me, you aren’t the kind of man I’d have forgotten."
They stared at each other for a moment, then Jack went on his way, the young man still tagging along after him.
"Why didn't you tell me you were from Cardiff?" insisted Ianto.
"You didn't ask me," replied Jack without turning around.
"I didn't have a chance to ask you anything. It was all about me. You asked me a lot of questions, but didn’t tell me anything about you."
"I just tried to be polite and keep the ball rolling."
"If you say so. Why did you leave do fast?"
"I don’t like hospitals."
"Me neither, but I don’t run away from it like a thief."
Once again, Ianto overtook him and planted himself in front of him.
"Ok. If we had never met before, tell me why am I dreaming of you?"
Jack clenched his jaw. It was even worse than he expected.
"What can I say? I’m charismatic. Seriously, I don’t know you. It’s certainly just one of this PTSD stuff and it’ll leave as it came. You’ve been a bit shaken and…"
"It had nothing to do with PTSD," shouted Ianto, flaring up. "You don’t understand. I’ve never had dreams like these before. Never. Even after…"
After what? wondered Jack. Canary Wharf? The accident?
However, Ianto didn’t finish his sentence and ran his hand through his hair in frustration. His eyes wandered towards the sea as if he hoped to find there an answer there.
Jack decided it was time to put an end to this conversation. It led to nowhere and he needed peace and quiet to figure out what to do.
"What I understand is that you should get some rest. You look awful and your imagination is overacting. Go back home, Ianto. There is nothing for you here. I know it’s hard for you, but you’re fooling yourself and… "
Ianto clenched his fists.
"Don’t pretend you know how I feel. You don’t know anything," he said between his teeth, looking daggers at Jack.
Jack closed his eyes briefly and let out a sigh. Oh, yes I know how it feels. I know it only too well.
"You're right," he said in a subdued tone. "I’m sorry. I can only imagine how it feels to lose two years of your life, but there is nothing I can do for you. I wish I could, but I can’t… I‘m really sorry."
Whereupon, he turned his back on Ianto and headed towards the water tower. Standing up in the middle of the Plass, arms dangling, the young man didn’t follow him this time, but before Jack reached the pavement, he shouted out to him:
"Why isn’t there any trace of you in the US Air force? What are you hiding Captain Harkness? You won’t get rid of me so easily."
Jack did an about-turn and retraced his steps. He covered the short distance between them with long strides and pressed his index finger into Ianto’s chest.
"This is none of your business, Mister Jones. Now, stop stalking me or I’ll have to take measures."
"No! Really! Which kind?" challenged the Welshman, crossing his arms.
"Restraining order to start with, then other ones which, trust me, you won’t enjoy. Let’s get it straight: leave me alone, or I’ll file a complaint for harassment and make sure you get kicked out of this town."
"I’d like to see that."
Jack shook his head with frustration He was aware that their fight was drawing attention to them and that some people were giving them wary looks.
"Why don’t you return to London and go back to your pretty girlfriend. I‘m sure she misses you," he said in a low voice.
Ianto gave him a puzzled look.
Jack felt a surge of irritation. He didn’t have time for such childishness.
"Oh, come on. The one who literally ate your face at the hospital. Don’t tell me you don‘t remember."
"You see, you remember her name." He sounded more sarcastic than he intended to be, but he couldn’t help feeling a bit jealous of the girl who shared Ianto’s life now.
"Jennie isn’t my girlfriend."
"One could be mistaken."
"That’s true. She’s just a friend. She was my flatmate when we were at the training centre."
"If all your friends snogged you…"
"Of course not. She’s just a bit too enthusiastic sometimes. She…" He paused and shook his head. "I don’t even know why I’m telling all this. I don’t have to justify myself. I don’t owe you anything."
"You’re right," said Jack, so softly that Ianto barely heard him.
The sound of a siren rang out from a street nearby and he turned his head by reflex. When he turned back, Jack had already jumped on the invisible lift.
Swivelling round, Ianto scanned the Plass, but there wasn’t any trace of the elusive Captain who had vanished into the air for the second time. He let out a stream of welsh curses and punch the air.
Once again, he had been had.
To be continued