Author: Cat Moon
Word Count: 1668
Summary: It's a gloomy, depressing Christmas and Ianto is stuck alone in the middle of nowhere. Then a familiar stranger in an RAF coat walks in and changes his destiny.
Notes: For the purposes of this story I've taken liberties, and placed Exit Wounds in the fall.
Author’s note: If I only had one Christmas story in me, I’m glad it was this one.
Disclaimer: Not mine, don't own them.
The Last Christmas in Wales
Show me what it’s like to be the last one standing...
and I’ll show you what I can be...
Say it to me and I’ll leave this life behind me
Say it if it’s worth saving me...
--Savin’ Me, Nickelback
Cold, damp, and miserable.
If Ianto had to define his state at the moment, it would be that. Down in the dumps, too, as his grandmother used to call it. As far as Christmasses went, it was a step up from aliens invading London but a far cry from a happy holiday. They'd lost Tosh and Owen only a few months ago; the wound was still raw. He'd been looking forward to the holiday just a bit anyway, hoping maybe this year he and Jack might do something together... even if that only meant staying in bed naked.
Alas, the universe had other plans. Being short-handed meant no time off for anyone. Gwen was busy investigating a tip about an alien bootlegging business, and Jack had agreed to be on-hand in London in case of the inevitable invasion. Ianto, in turn, was stuck chasing down whatever the rift had spit out in the outskirts of the Welsh countryside.
After two hours of traipsing around through mud and sheep dung, he'd been willing to concede defeat, and retreated to the only local pub that was open. Whatever had come through had either vanished the same way or was picked up by some curious local. If the latter was the case, he'd have to keep his eye on social media and the auction sites and hope it turned up for sale.
So here he was on Christmas day, wasting his time in the middle of nowhere. Even dinner at Rhiannon's was starting to look appealing to him. Ianto cupped his hands around his mug of coffee, casting a jaundiced eye over his surroundings. There were few patrons in the establishment, although the hour was early yet, and they'd probably fill up by evening, with men escaping family functions and the unfortunates who had no one to spend the holiday with. His luck, he did have someone special to spend it with this year, and they were a country apart.
Ianto was debating on the dubious merits of giving the muddy field another once-over to be thorough when the door opened, letting a blast of cold air into the pub. Out of the corner of his eye, he caught sight of a very familiar swish of material. He'd know that coat anywhere, even with only a glimpse. He started to grin, assuming Jack had swanned off on London to spend the day with him after all. Things were beginning to look brighter, despite the gloom. He imagined what they might get up to (drive back to Cardiff with a quickie in the SUV to take the edge off first? Or maybe he could convince Jack to agree to a night in a nearby hotel) when the coat and its owner slid onto a stool next to him. He turned to greet Jack with a smile...
His smile died. This was Jack Harkness without a doubt... but it wasn't his Jack. This one had more than a smattering of gray at the temples, and lines around his eyes. His face was older, but still exceptionally handsome, it was as if he'd grown into his own skin, character shining through the achingly family eyes.
"You..." Words failed Ianto in his shock. Being older-looking wasn't something he had ever contemplated for the immortal man, and he certainly never expected to be seeing it himself.
"You're...older. When are you from?" He went with the obvious to start out this bizarre encounter.
"A long way away," Jack answered with a rueful smile. "I used to wonder if I would ever age or just remain exactly the same... forever," his tongue stumbled over the last word. "I finally got my answer. I do age. Just really slowly," he finished with an ironic smirk.
His mind was racing a million miles an hour, trying to process all the implications facing him. "You must be--" Thousands? More?
"Best not go there," Jack interrupted him.
A Jack from the future seeking him out made the goosebumps break out over Ianto's skin. Whatever the reason was, it couldn't be anything good. "Why are you here?"
"Our time together is coming to an end, Ianto."
Distracted over the wealth of sadness in Jack's voice, it took a moment for the words to sink in. There was a jolt of adrenalin, followed by soul-deep resignation. After all, he'd known for a long time that he wouldn't see his thirtieth birthday. Losing Tosh and Owen had just reinforced the inevitable.
"You've come to say goodbye then," he surmised. Jack's timing had always been shit. Merry Christmas to me.
"I'd like to say hello instead."
"I don't understand...."
"I've changed, Ianto, believe it or not. I'm older and wiser. I thought I knew it all back then, but I didn't have a clue. I made so many mistakes, lived with so many regrets..."
"Why are you here, Jack?" he repeated, enunciating clearly to get his lack of patience across.
Jack took a visible breath. "I want you to come with me."
Ianto blinked stupidly at him, trying to make sense of the words. "You... what?" Maybe he was having a weird dream and would wake up in the narrow cot under the office, with his lover's elbow jabbing into his side. He surreptitiously pinched himself, but nothing changed. He was still in the pub, with a Jack from the future.
"In a few months, you're going to die," Jack told him, voice rough. "He, that me, he doesn't deserve you. I want the chance to make it right."
It was a lot to take in. Shocking yet not. The most unlikely part was that Jack was here, apparently offering him a reprieve from his destiny. "I thought we couldn't just go around changing the past?"
"I've spend a long time planning this out, trust me. Your death... everything will still happen the same way even if you aren't there," he admitted as if lamenting the truth of the words.
"I don't even die saving the world then," he noted with wry resentment. The world had never been particularly kind to Ianto Jones, and it didn't look like that was going to ever change. "I'd hoped my death would have meaning, at least. That what I did mattered."
"It's not... it did!" Jack let out a frustrated breath. "You followed me into a trap to save the Earth. Because you believed in me and stood at my side. I didn't deserve it," he finished bitterly.
"Did you save it? In the end?" he asked as the possibility of the alternative chilled him.
"We saved it," Jack confirmed. "But the price... the price was too high."
"It usually is," Ianto whispered.
"So come with me," Jack implored. "There's this little planet I know, I think you'll like it. It reminds me a lot of Wales."
"And if I say no, what happens then?" Ianto asked, just to clarify because he already knew the answer.
"There's this future version of retcon," Jack admitted.
Ianto nodded resignedly.
"Why would you say no?"
"Why me?" Ianto finally got to the heart of it, voicing the questions in his head. "There are other deserving people..."
"I can't save the others," Jack said reluctantly. "Tosh and Owen... they died saving Cardiff, and if I changed that, the outcome..."
"Unlike my pointless death," Ianto interjected bitterly.
"Why are you even arguing about this? Is it such a difficult decision? Come with me and live, or stay here and die."
Why indeed. Perhaps it was the cynical part of Ianto that couldn't accept his good fortune. Or maybe it went deeper. "But why me?" he insisted. "How do you even still..."
"You asked me to remember you," Jack told him.
"Oh God," Ianto moaned. "I embarrassed myself horribly at the end, didn't I?" Great, now he hadn't even died with dignity.
Jack silenced Ianto's mouth and mind with a simple hand covering his where it rested on the table. "You underestimate how unforgettable you are."
They stared into each other's eyes, and Ianto felt the familiar energy, pulling him into Jack's orbit. "Out of everyone you've lost, it's me you've come to save? Is it because I'm the only one you can save without ripping a hole through the fabric of time?" He needed the clarification like he needed to breathe.
"I want another chance with you, to do it right this time. I was too much of a coward to admit how much I needed you. That I love you," Jack added, pinning Ianto's trapped gaze with his own.
Ianto's breath caught at the admission. Something he'd never expected to hear, yet longed to. He focused on peripheral points to keep himself from being overwhelmed. Both feet must remain firmly on terra firma. "You don't need me, you haven't had me for centuries."
"But I want you." Again those penetrating eyes captured his. "Give me a chance to prove it to you. What have you got to lose?"
"But you.. the other you, am I to just disappear on him?"
"I left myself a note."
"You left yourself a note," he repeated dryly.
"Old time-traveler trick," Jack explained. "I'd forgotten how exasperating you can be!" he added wryly. "Do you want to die? Or do you want a life with me? Without Torchwood coming between us. To see what we might have become..."
Ianto slowly smiled. That was his most secret fantasy, hidden deep inside of him only to come out under rare extraordinary circumstances. Like how he used to fantasize about being James Bond when he was a boy. Something he wanted more than anything else, but knew would never be real. Now Jack was offering it to him.
And he was objecting.
Choose to live and be with Jack. Take a chance on a better future. Or remain here for certain death.
As if sensing Ianto's capitulation to the inevitable, Jack rose from the stool, holding out his hand.
Without hesitating, Ianto took it.