Word count: ~ 2,700
Warnings: Canon (assumed) character death, canon character death at a time that is not canon.
Summary: “Stop,” Ianto’s mother cuts him off. “He’s my child, Doctor. You can check the Matrix if you're doubtful.”
Disclaimer: All recognizable characters are the property of their respective owners. I am in no way associated with the creators, and no copyright infringement is intended.
A/N: Third chapter! Yay! I feel like my writing style jumps around a ton in this one, but I haven’t the heart to go back and rewrite it. :( Apologies, in that case.
(Timeline-y stuff: Ianto went into hiding a short while before the Rani was captured in the Second War in Heaven, meaning that neither she nor Ianto fought in the Last Great Time War, and don't even know about it.)
I hold within my hand (grains of the golden sand)
Five years old, nine, twenty-four, sixty, seventy-three, and Ianto is still a child clinging to his mother, still unsure and uncertain in a universe where they are alternately loathed and worshiped, Time Lords and Ladies in bright array slipping through the time stream and shifting things to their will.
“Non-interference” they call it, but no one listens to the rules, and especially not those in charge.
The Rani lets her lab mice grow and grow, and there's no rule against them eating a cat, but she’s banished anyway.
Rules, Ianto thinks, and he is five years old, nine, twenty-four, ninety. Rules are not for me.
The Rani smiles at him, his mother, so beautiful and proud and strong even when half her face is dark with blood. She’s never followed the rules, and all Ianto has ever wanted is to be just a little like her.
They're not on Gallifrey when the Second War in Heaven starts, because the Council’s rule is that all Time Lords have to fight for them, and neither of them have ever been any good at following rules.
It is years before and after and around the time Ianto learns why people speak of good and evil so insistently, even his mother—he has always seen in shades instead of stark-sharp colors, but he thought that the world was just that way.
Three years old, eight, nineteen, forty-three, seventy, and his mother is a whirlwind, genius and brilliance all knotted up and clothed in red—red like the blood on her face, red like passion, red like the lipstick she wears whenever the dark man comes to see her. Ianto adores her, but never blindly, because she has never, ever allowed him to be blind to anything, always pushing knowledge and thoughts upon him, even when they aren’t her own.
“Go,” she tells him at the gates to the Academy, “Go and show them who you are.”
But Ianto has always been a part of her, an extension, for all that she has taught him to be his own person. He is a newcomer in a place where everyone knows everyone else, the son of an exile even if no one knows that exile’s name, only allowed on Gallifrey by the petitions of the Rani’s family and the Doctor’s, who hate to see brilliance go to waste.
He is smart enough to know where he is not welcome, but too brave or stupid to let such feelings stop him. He graduates first in his class, earns a Type 99 TT Capsule, and leaves Gallifrey behind without looking back.
Bad blood shows through, they say in whispers, but never to his face. An exile’s son can never be one of us.
No, Ianto agrees, silently, and I would not want to.
His TARDIS leaps through time in stops and starts and sideways lunges, barely coming to a full halt before Ianto has the next coordinates entered and Tosh is sending them off again. Ianto wants to laugh, because he’s missed this, because this is him in a way nothing has been in so very, very long. The TARDIS hums under his fingers, eager as she runs, and her song is loud in his head.
Go, he urges her silently, his mind in hers and hers in his. Go, go, go.
They fall and are caught and hurtle forward, drop off edges of time and whirl back up, bounce through locations and across ages, and Ianto thinks that he can hear Gwen laughing shrilly behind him, Owen swearing, like it's some kind of carnival ride with safety belts and sudden death if they malfunction.
“Go,” he whispers out loud, just once, and she makes one last leap and then shudders to a stop.
There are no more coordinates blinking beneath his fingers.
The trail ends here.
With a breath of relief, Ianto peels himself away from the console, giving it one last approving pat. Across from him, Tosh looks breathless, but she’s grinning like it's Christmas morning, bright and wild and giddy. Ianto grins back at her, because he can understand loving this adrenaline rush, can agree that this danger is the best feeling in the world, and offers, “That was splendid, Tosh. She likes you.”
The grin becomes a beam, elated and happy, and she strokes the console’s wood with a steady hand.
“It’s mutual,” she says, winded, and the TARDIS purrs beneath their feet.
“That,” Owen breaks in, sounding slightly shell-shocked, “was ‘a bit bumpy’?”
Ianto arches an eyebrow at him as he helps Gwen from her seat, the two of them clinging just a little as they get their balance back. “Oh, yes,” he answers. “Wait until you try ‘very rough.’”
“Pass,” Gwen mumbles, her hair falling over her face, even though she’s smiling. “So where—or when—are we now?”
Ianto checks their current coordinates. Blinks. Checks them again.
“Impossible,” he whispers. “Even if the Doctor’s TARDIS was trying to get away from Jack, why would she come here?”
The end of the universe is not a place Ianto has ever gone, or ever particularly wanted to go. Even the Rani had avoided it, when he was a child and they traveled together. She’d never explicitly warned him away from it, but it’s a Time Lord’s instinct to go where there is life, not death, to seek the beginning rather than the final end of all.
The old Type 40 must be incredibly unable to withstand Jack’s presence, if it fled all the way here.
“Welcome,” Ianto says softly, as they all suddenly strain to hear him, “to Malcassairo in the year 100 trillion CE. The end of the universe.”
But they're Torchwood, and they deal with the end of the world on a weekly basis; the end of the universe isn’t that much worse, in their heads. They tumble out into the darkness, armed to the teeth and wary of everything, and stand for a moment looking at the devastation.
“No stars,” Tosh murmurs, clutching her scanner a little more tightly.
“They must all be dead,” Gwen agrees, and she sounds like she’s mourning them already.
Owen stares around them, then shoulders his medical kit and unstraps his gun. “Let’s get moving,” he says sharply. “That bastard Harkness already has a head start on us, and we’re just wasting time. Tea boy, can you track the other Time Lord? Species radar or something?”
Ianto supposes that even at the end of everything, Owen will still be Owen, and has to refrain from rolling his eyes yet again. “No,” he says dryly, “but Tosh has a thermal imager, and Time Lords run a few degrees cooler than a human, even with two hearts. If we scan for that, the Doctor should be easy to find. Jack is most likely with him.”
Tosh already has her scanner calibrated by the time he finishes speaking, but instead of relief upon finding the Doctor’s heat signature, her forehead creases in worry. “Ianto, do you know anything about this place?” she asks, and there's a tint of worry to her voice.
It’s probably not a good sign, and Ianto reluctantly shakes his head. “No Time Lord has ever come this far before, so I've no clue at all,” he admits. “What’s wrong?”
“Lots of heat signatures,” Tosh says grimly, “and they're a bit too hot to be human. Coming this way at a fast clip.”
Gwen seizes her own pack, slinging it over one shoulder. “Can you find the Doctor?” she asks. “Point us in that direction and let’s go. I don't think we’re equipped to meet the natives.”
Agreement all around, and they set off at a near run, following Tosh's quiet directions. Ianto sighs softly to himself, because this is turning out to be a typical Tuesday, and he should really give up on wearing his good suit on Tuesdays. It’s just asking for trouble.
Silo 16, the largest cluster of human heat signature—and the Doctor’s—is easy enough to find, once they're headed in the right direction, and the guards let them in once they show their teeth. They had to run flat-out for the last mile or so, and they're all winded. Thankfully, the soldiers are sympathetic.
“You’re lucky to have made it in time,” one tells Ianto, who leans against the gate as he tries to regain his breath. “The ship to Utopia is almost ready—Professor Yana and a scientist who arrived earlier just finished working on a few last-minute things right now. Everyone’s boarding.”
“We have to find Jack,” Ianto murmurs to Tosh, too quiet for the guards to hear. “I've got a bad feeling. Something’s wrong here.”
“More than the end of the universe?” Owen snipes, rising to his feet, but he takes the scanner from Tosh and waves them all forward. “Come on, then, stop wasting time.”
Ianto casts a look around them as the soldiers secure the gates, closing them forever. There's an itch under his skin, a twinge of near-pain that he’s felt before, and it’s unnerving. His memory is good enough that he’s never had to scramble to recall something before, but this—this remains just out of reach, no matter how he grasps.
It’s something dark. Something heavy.
But there's no one in the Silo, all of them having apparently boarded the ship, and the sensor is almost useless this close to the heat of the engines.
The feeling is getting stronger, and Ianto has to fight the urge to close his eyes and give in to it as the four of them sweep the halls.
Jack, he thinks desperately, as alarms begin to blare. Jack, where are you? We need you.
“There!” Tosh calls, pointing ahead, where a room is bathed in a reddish glow. They burst through the doors, Owen in the lead, and—
Ianto sees it almost from the corner of his eye as the drumbeat grows deafening. An old man with a fob watch stands in the clamor of the launching ship, and Ianto knows in an instant who he is, what he is.
He’s seen this man before, had hidden from him when he visited the Rani and left her infuriated, disgusted, and afraid.
It had been so long ago, perhaps the last time he had ever visited, but Ianto had watched him through a crack in the door, and he never forgets a face.
He lunges forward, as fast as he can, faster than he’s moved since there was a cannibal about to eat Tosh in front of him, and swipes it from the man’s hand. It clatters away, slides into the darkness somewhere and is lost.
The man cries out as though mortally wounded and rounds on Ianto, mindless fury on his face. Ianto falls back, because this man is human now and nothing more, and Ianto isn’t going to kill him. But, clearly without the same scruples, the man’s hand falls on a high-voltage cable and he yanks it out with surprising strength, advancing on Ianto.
There is only a moment to feel fear.
From the doorway they just entered through, there is a cry, and then a gun barks, loud in the enclosed space.
Ianto would know the sound of Jack's Webley anywhere, in any time.
Blood blossoms on the old man’s vest, brilliant in the dull-sharp light, and a look of shock crosses his lined face. He staggers one step forward, the cable falling from his fingertips, and Ianto can only stare as the man who had terrified his mother for so long crumples to the ground in a lifeless heap.
The alien woman in the corner cries out, but doesn't move.
“Ianto!” Jack is suddenly there, sweeping Ianto into a tight hug. “Ianto, what are you doing here? How did you get here? This is—”
“The end of the universe,” Ianto cuts him off, shaking his head to banish the fog of adrenaline and horror that still clings to him. “I know, Jack. We came to bring you home.”
“Bloody Harkness,” Owen mutters, stomping over to yank Ianto’s hand from its place on Jack's shoulder and take his pulse. “And bloody tea boys, jumping into things they bloody well shouldn't! You idiot, what if he’d gotten you with that damned thing? And what the hell is a normal pulse for your kind?”
There’s a choking noise, slightly shrill, and Ianto glances away from the irate doctor to the other Doctor, who’s gone very pale, his eyes very wide. “Ianto?” he demands, nearly squeaking with surprise. “What—how—where’s your mother? Shouldn't you still be with her?”
Ianto rolls his eyes. “Doctor, I'm almost a hundred years old,” he reminds the man. “Mother and I have been traveling separately for years now, and I haven’t seen her since the Second War in Heaven.”
Jack loosens his hold enough to pull back and peer at Ianto in confusion. “A hundred?” he demands. “You know the Doctor? Ianto—”
“He’s a Time Lord, apparently,” Owen cuts in, his tone acerbic as he tugs Ianto away to check his pupils. “Bloody aliens hiding away in fob watches. Can't a Tuesday ever be normal?” Seemingly satisfied, he stows the penlight back in his bag and steps away to stand near Tosh and Gwen and the Doctor’s pretty Companion.
Jack is absolutely silent, absolutely still.
The Doctor glances between them, then tucks his hands into his pockets and rocks back on his heels. “Weeeeel,” he says, drawing out the word, “this is just a tad bit awkward, isn’t it? Ianto, want to tell me who that was in that other fob watch?”
For a long moment, Ianto stares at Jack, who stares back without speaking. Then, reluctantly, he turns his gaze to the Doctor, and answers, “The Master. He came to visit Mother like that, once. And I’d only just recovered myself, so I could hear him in the watch, trying to get out again. There were drums.”
With a deep sigh, the Doctor nods, looking down at the old man’s body. “Poor Professor Yana,” he murmurs sadly, “and poor Master, for all that he wasn't what a Time Lord should be. Didn't deserve this, did you, old boy?”
Ianto says nothing, because he remembers the fear on the Rani’s face when the dark man would visit, and he can't help but think that the Master got exactly what he deserved.
There are gentle hands on his face, then, turning him back, and he looks into Jack's questioning eyes. “Time Lord?” the Captain asks softly.
Ianto nods, resting his hands over Jack's just to feel the warmth of them. “My mother went to school with the Doctor and the Master,” he explains. “She was exiled from Gallifrey, though, and had me a short while later. I've never lived anywhere but her TARDIS, and then my own, before I hid myself on Earth because of a war.”
“The Last Time War?” Jack asks, frowning faintly. “But I thought they called all Time Lords back to fight for them.”
A dark chill trickles through Ianto’s chest, and he blinks slowly, trying to process the words. “Last?” he whispers, even as dread settles like cement in his gut. “Jack, what are you talking about? What war?”
Over Jack's shoulder, the Doctor looks at him with eyes that are so dark and sad, so very regretful, and Ianto finds he cannot breathe.