Following Time – 1/2 – Bythia

Title: Following Time
Series: The Time Given to Us
Series Order: 3
Author: Bythia
Fandom: Torchwood
Genre: Science Fiction, Slash, Time Travel
Relationship(s): Jack Harkness/Ianto Jones
Content Rating: R
Warnings: Major Character Death, Canon Typical Violence; the aftermath of Miracle Day; Discussion of: murder (during the Miracle), miscarriage (during the Miracle)
Author Notes: Please remember that Miracle Day resembled a global illness and there are certain similarities to our current situation. I did change the focus of this story a little bit because of that, but it remains a topic in the background. Any discussions of events during the Miracle are brief. The Major Character Death is again of old age and peacefully. Many thanks to my beta reader of this part as well, who pitched in with very little time!
Beta: AngelNDarkness
Word Count: 60,000
Summary: They got through the Miracle as planned. Now they have to deal with getting rid of what is left of the Three Families and rebuilding their world, all the while Ianto needs to get used to his immortality, and Jack has – for the first time in nearly fifty years – no idea what the future will bring them.
Artist: Izzy Hound



Chapter 01

Ianto paused as he stepped out of the plane, looking down the stairs and over the tarmac. International travel had nearly ceased completely. The airfield of the Dulles International Airport was nearly deserted, which was still a sight that chilled him deeply. It underlined the change the last five months had brought, and Ianto wondered if the world would ever return to what it had been before the Miracle.

Jack was waiting for him at the bottom of the stairs, his face carefully blank. There had only been a brief phone call between them after they had ended the Miracle, and it had been nearly three weeks since they had seen each other. To say goodbye to Jack had been harder than Ianto had expected. They had both been hopeful, but there had still been the chance that something would go wrong, that they would not see each other again.

Ianto smiled at Jack as he walked down the stairs. To come out of being shot through the chest with no sign of injury remaining had been a strange experience, but it had also been a confirmation of what they had expected. Ianto had worried about it, about the Doctor being wrong or Jack’s memories being faulty. Since he had learned about this chance to become like Jack, he had hoped and wished for it to happen, despite Jack’s continued protest about it. He did not know what life would be like from now on, but he did not care about that as long as Jack would never again have to look at him with that fear in his eyes.

Before Ianto had even reached the last step, Jack grabbed him by the collar of this dress shirt and hauled him into a deep kiss. Ianto laughed, wrappings his arms around Jack’s shoulder and trusting him to catch him as he stumbled down the last steps. For once he had no care in the world for their audience, and thankfully the CIA agents that had accompanied Jack gave them a moment of their own.

“It worked?” Jack whispered against his lips.

Ianto nodded. “I think it did. I’m here after Mickey shot me in the heart after all.”

That had, without question, been one of the most disconcerting things he had ever experienced. He had known he was dying while had watched his blood fly into the Blessing. The injury itself had hurt like nothing else, but to feel it heal had also been nauseating. Somehow, he had managed to get out of the building on his own, even dragging the slowly dying Rex with him, but he barely remembered anything of that. When the explosion had thrown them off their feet, he had felt the hole in his chest close nearly at the same moment as he had seen Rex take his last breath.

Jack sighed. “I’ll never forgive him for that.”

Ianto laughed. “You ordered him to do just that, you can hardly hold it against him.”

Jack huffed, but he refrained from arguing about it. Instead, he looked past Ianto with a frown, and Ianto knew he was searching for the rest of his group, but only Mickey would be there. “Where are Esther and Rex?”

Ianto closed his eyes and leaned his forehead against Jack’s. “Esther is in a hospital. She wore the vest, but that didn’t help when they shot her hip. She is not well enough to travel, but I already called Olivia. She is organizing medical transport and a place in a private clinic near New York. Esther will get the best medical care that’s available right now.”

Which would still be far subpar to what it would have been before the Miracle, but Olivia’s money would at least buy her the kind of care others in her position would lack for months if not years to come. Healthcare systems all over the world had broken down under the pressure the Miracle had put on them not long after the insurances had gone bankrupt, not even a month after the Miracle had started. To rebuild any of it would take a lot of time, and Ianto was not sure how much of a priority it would be with governments crumbling everywhere in the wake of the last months.

“Rex stayed with her?” Jack asked.

“No.” Ianto shook his head slowly and sighed. “Rex is dead. He died when we ended the Miracle. His heart… it had not been healed enough. Olivia is organizing transportation for him as well.”

Jack shuddered. “Fuck.”

“He knew the risk,” Ianto reminded him. “And even if we had known for sure that he wasn’t at a point to survive yet, we couldn’t have waited.”

“I know,” Jack muttered. “Can’t save everyone. But that doesn’t stop me from hoping every single time!”

“And on your end? Did everything go as planned?”

“Yes.” Jack nodded and took a step back. “Nothing unexpected happened at all, thankfully. Neither did it for the rest.”

Ianto nodded, glancing at the agents, who started to get restless. Agent Allen Shapiro, who was the direct superior of Esther and Rex, was surrounded by three other agents, among them Charlotte Wills. Ianto wondered if that was a lucky coincidence or if she was here on the behalf of the Three Families, but whatever it was she would get no opportunity to harm any of them. They had known about the mole from the beginning because of Jack, and they had used her to feed their opponents false information, but the time for mind games was over.

Mickey stepped down from the stairs behind Ianto, where he had to have waited for them to separate, offering Jack a short hug. “Good to see you, Captain. Wasn’t so sure you would make it.”

Jack grinned and patted his shoulder. “You need to have more faith in me, Mickey Mouse. – I’m sorry I put you in this situation, but you were the only one I could trust with it.”

Mickey nodded. “We got through it. Any change in our plans?”

“No.”

They turned as one to the four agents, and Shapiro stepped forward, his face grim and the chin raised. “My agents aren’t with you?”

Ianto shook his head and repeated what he had already told Jack. “I called a good friend in New York who has enough money to organize their transport. They’ll both be home in a day or two.”

Shapiro frowned sceptically. “A friend?”

Jack nodded. “Olivia Colasanto.”

Ianto was surprised that Jack was giving up her name, but that had probably been planned between the two of them. Angelo and later Olivia had undertaken a lot of preparation to get a handle on the chaos that would follow the end of the Miracle. They had done all of it hidden away to stay off the radar of the Three Families, but if there was a perfect moment to step out of the shadows, it was now.

Ianto was watching Charlotte Wills out of the corner of his eyes, and so he did not miss her eyes widening and her making half a step in their direction. There had been an attempt to kill Olivia led by another CIA agent, but he had been stopped because Jack had warned the CIA. Ianto suspected Olivia would have been prepared to defend her own life even with lethal force if it would have become necessary, but he was glad that the man had been stopped long before he had left New York. He had killed himself and two other agents with a bomb, and ever since then, the CIA had searched for the other mole in their ranks they had suspected to exist.

“Her grandfather was a good friend of mine,” Jack continued, not reacting to Agent Wills. “We have kept in contact over the years.”

Shapiro wanted to say something, but then he raised the hand to his earpiece, activating it. “This better be important, Noah!” He listened to whatever his analyst was telling him, and Ianto could see the exact moment in which he got the information about the mole, although his face only showed a reaction to it for a moment. “We’ll take care of it as soon as we have taken Torchwood in for their debriefing. You know what to do. And remind everyone to be careful.”

Ianto watched him with raised eyebrows. “Just a debriefing?” They had had their problems with the CIA during the last months, mostly because the Three Families had used the agency to hunt for Jack. They had not been as successful as they had been in Jack’s first life, but it had still been an annoyance.

“Yes.” Shapiro nodded. “We have unearthed new information about those responsible. We’ll share those with you after you have told us how your missions went. Mrs. Baldwin and Mrs. Cooper are waiting for us in an office near the Capitol, but Mr. Harkness was insisting on coming with us to get you.”

Mickey snorted. “And why were you surprised by that?”

Shapiro send him an unimpressed look and turned to his agents. “We will–”

Ianto had not noticed when Wills had slipped her hand in the bag she was carrying, but he reacted instantly when she stepped into their direction, passing her superior without even looking at him. He grabbed her arms at the same moment as Jack ripped the bag out of her grip and turned them on her back. Jack threw the bag away, and it exploded before it hit the pavement. The only reason that Ianto was able to hold on to Will’s arms as all of them were thrown back by the force of the explosion was that he had been prepared for something like this to happen.

She struggled against him, and as she had landed half on top of him, she had a distinct advantage, but it took only seconds for Jack and Mickey to be with him, dragging her back to her feet and securing her hands with cuffs Ianto had no idea where they came from.

“I believe Agent Shapiro will agree with me that you are under arrest, Agent Wills,” Jack growled.

“For treason and attempted murder,” Shapiro growled in way of agreement. “I was just informed that we have found evidence of you being our mole, Charlotte.”

She sneered at him, squirming in Jack and Mickey’s grip on her arms. “You have no idea of what’s really happening here, Sir! You have already lost long ago!”

“Really?” Mickey scoffed. “We just managed to derail all the plans of your bosses. Doesn’t look as if you are on the winning side.”

Wills laughed. “You have no idea of our true plans!”

Just a moment later, her laugh died as she started to choke. Ianto closed his eyes and tried not to listen to her die and the frantic reaction from Shapiro and the two other agents. He had already known this would happen. She had been prepared to blow herself up, although he had no idea what the remains of the Three Families thought to achieve with killing a couple of CIA agents and an again immortal man. The chance that she would let herself be taken into custody had been slim, but at least this time she was the only one dying.

“Ianto?”

He was as startled by Jack’s voice as by the hands settling on his shoulder. “I’ll never understand how people can be able to throw their life away in such a way.”

“They had a long time to brainwash a lot of people to their cause,” Jack muttered. “We are on a good way to disable their whole network. She won’t be the last one to kill herself. The kind of secrecy the Three Families achieved can only be held up if everyone is prepared to take their knowledge to their grave.”

Ianto sighed. “Yes, I know. And I know we won’t be able to stop it … I would just prefer not to have to watch them do it.”

“Won’t be our job to apprehend any of them, so there won’t be any need for us to watch,” Jack said.

“You knew she was our mole!” Shapiro shouted angrily, stepping to them after he had confirmed Charlotte Wills’ death.

“Yes.” Jack turned his head to him. “And yes, our technician did hold the information back up until a couple of minutes ago. But as Agent Wills was part of all your investigations, and as she spent most of her time with the analysts searching for her, we thought it necessary to wait for a moment in which she couldn’t blow up your whole office. Agent Friedkin proved already that was their MO, didn’t he?”

Shapiro scowled, but he gave a sharp nod. “Your technician broke in our system?”

Jack grinned. “Not my fault that my people are better than yours!”

“That’s not helpful, Jack!” Ianto rolled his eyes.

“This is just another point we’ll have to talk about, Captain Harkness,” Shapiro said. He looked over at the airfield and shook his head. “But not here. We’ll need to wait until the other team gets here to take over the scene.” He turned his head back to Jack and Ianto, looking at them with furrowed brows. “Are there any more moles in my agency you know about?”

“Not on any of your own teams,” Ianto said. “And your analyst… Noah Vickers, I believe, should have gotten a list with those names, and a warning to look out for explosives. Did Agent Wills ask to be included today or did you choose her?”

Shapiro hesitated for just a moment. “She asked me to come with us because of her friendship with Agent Drummond.”

“So, this was planned,” Mickey said. “They are still trying to kill us off, even so, we already stopped them.”

“I believe we’ll find she wasn’t wrong when she said this wasn’t the end of their plans.” Jack shook his head with a sigh. “With or without the Miracle, we live in a changed world after the last five months, and there will be a lot of opportunities for shady organisations to gain influence. Especially if they are prepared for it.”

“Taking our team out would still mean one less problem for them. And I’m sure our team back home is turning out to be a really big problem for them right now,” Ianto said.

If everything was going as they had planned it, Toshiko was leading a worldwide purge of the Three Families, either tipping of the appropriate authorities to those of their members that could be convicted of any crime by local law or ruining them socially and financially in such a way that it would be a long time until they would be able to care for anything else than bringing their own life back on track.

Toshiko had asked for her own team of hackers two years ago after Jack had told the team about the looming threat of the Miracle, and she had gotten that along with everything else she had asked for as Jack had promised. She was leading a team of ten people that had overtaken a whole level of their Hub, and Ianto was sure if they wanted to, they would be able to take over the world and no one would even notice it. None of them had left the Hub much in the last five months, preparing their strike against the Three Families for the very moment the Miracle ended.

Shapiro left them under the watchful eye of his three agents after that, while he stepped away to make several phone calls. Ianto watched the agents sceptically, suspecting that their presumed debriefing would end up more like an interrogation than anything else. Plans for interacting with other agencies had always been a problem, mostly because outside of Great Britain no one knew about Torchwood, and even at home, they were a more urban legend than anything else, despite Cybermen and Daleks and other aliens threatening the planet.

“Any plan what we’ll do if they try to arrest us?” Mickey asked. He was standing with his arms crossed and staring at one of the agents.

“They won’t,” Jack assured.

“And we do have plans for everything,” Ianto reminded.

He was not keen on exercising those for any kind of problem with another agency, but they were in place, just in case. They had made those plans to guaranty their free passage during the Miracle for the travels they had always known they would need to do, but they would still be helpful even now. It would leave them on a bad footing with the CIA and probably any number of other American agencies, and that would not be helpful in the near future, but being apprehended by any of them would hinder them as well.

***

Shapiro drove them personally to the office building in which they had left behind Karen and Gwen. Jack had been uneasy about leaving them at all, but he had also not been able to wait here for Ianto and Mickey. He had needed to see them as soon as possible, to make sure they were alright. There had been barely any communication between them after the end of the Miracle, and it had made Jack nervous.

He knew, of course, that Karen and Gwen were able to take care of themselves. There had been a reason that he had chosen them to accompany him to Shanghai that had nothing to do with the fact that Gwen had been with him for the last time as well. Then, she had been his only choice, as he had trusted Rex and Esther to do their part, but not to have either of their backs. He had not trusted them with that this time either, but their inclusion in their operation would go a long way with the CIA, even with Rex dead and Esther injured enough to be delayed in her travel back.

This meeting in Washington, DC, had not been the plan. They should have all flown back to New York to meet there with Shapiro, but Jack suspected that officials from other agencies, maybe even someone from the government, would be included in their debriefing and therefore they had been rescheduled here.

Karen and Gwen had barely any time to greet Ianto and Mickey before they were asked to sit down. Several people gathered in the room with them, and Shapiro introduced them while explaining who was with which agency for all but one man. Jack nodded along, glad he had already started the recording option on his wrist strap when they had left the airport because there was no way he would remember all the names, especially as it became clear very quickly that none of the others actually intended to speak with them.

“First of all, I want to thank you for your quick intervention in the situation with Agent Wills earlier today,” Shapiro began. “Although, we would have all been very glad if you could have provided us the list of moles in our ranks much earlier!”

Jack inclined his head. “I can understand that, but we had to be careful not to show our hand too soon. Digging up all their connections wasn’t exactly an easy task. My team back home spent the last five months doing not much else, and you saw for yourself how difficult a job that was. We had the advantage that we could be sure to have no mole.”

“How?” Shapiro asked.

“We are a very, very small agency,” Jack explained. “That gave us the possibility to investigate every single one of our team members as in-depth as humanly possible. And of course, I knew about their existence. Even so, I had no idea of how big they were or what their plans were. As you already know, I was held captive by them for a short time in ‘28, and I was careful to stay out of their influence after that.”

It was galling how many people had learned about Jack’s immortality during the last weeks, but it had been inevitable when they had made their plans to destroy the Miracle. He would not be able to take these memories from anyone, but Toshiko would make very sure that there at least was no electronic information about him left in a couple of weeks. They would need to wait for a while to not arouse suspicion, and Jack had no idea how to take care of the actual paper trails, but if they could find out where the printouts of those files were kept, he would always be able to sneak in there using his Vortex Manipulator to destroy those files.

He had managed to keep this secret mostly out of the hands of the British government this time, and he intended to keep it that way the world over. In his last life, he had not cared much about anyone knowing, as he had always thought to leave Earth as soon as he reconnected with the Doctor. This time, he intended to stay for a long while, and he needed to make sure that his immortality and any information about it would not become a threat to any of his friends. It was even much more important now with Ianto being the same, but no one here should even suspect that ending the Miracle as they had would have changed Ianto.

“I remember that you told us something about that.” Shapiro nodded. “But not everyone here has been briefed on that, and I’m not sure if I could accurately pass on the information about the origins of the Miracle. Maybe you could try to explain this again.”

Jack huffed. “I assume you all know about aliens and time travel at this point?” He looked at every single person sitting across his team and waited for them to nod. “I’m from the future, and for some reason that I’m not too sure about myself, I ended up in this state where I can’t stay dead. And I tried out a lot of things to end my life. One of the more gruesome ones was to be in Hiroshima on the day your people dropped a bomb on that city.”

He had intended to shock his audience with it, and not a single one of them managed to keep their reaction fully back, but Jack had no doubt it still would not stop a couple of them to think about the possibilities of his immortality even after the last five months. He knew how situations like this worked, and for many, the real shock would only start to raise its head after things started to get back to normal.

“They bought me off of a bunch of New Yorkers who had made some kind of horror show out of killing me in their basement,” Jack continued. “They were three men, and I saw them make a pact, but I was too out of it to understand or remember what they were saying. I only knew they were powerful man, even back then. They gathered my blood, but they didn’t take me with them right away, and a friend of mine rescued me before they could return.”

Jack reached for the pitcher in the middle of the table and filled a glass with water. “I learned in the meantime that they managed to abduct me a couple of times over the last couple of years and started to gather my blood. I’ve made arrangements for the future that will alert me of any kind of lost time. They managed to gather a lot of my blood, and they used it to start the Miracle.”

There was no reason to tell any of these people about the reserves the Three Families had had with his blood. All of those had been destroyed just hours after they had ended the Miracle. Even if they did not manage to catch all of them, they would not be able to use his blood again for any purpose.

“And how exactly could they use your blood to do something like this?” Shapiro asked.

Jack shrugged and proceeded to explain again what the Blessing had done, how it had reacted to his blood and why his mortal blood had been able to reserve the effect. Thankfully neither of the two sides from which the Blessing had been accessible was on American soil because he did not trust these people not to try to dig it up again. International relations were bad all over the world right now, and outside of the people in this room, no one would ever learn what exactly had caused the Miracle and its end. So, the chances were slim that anyone would try to dig up the Blessing in the near future, and there were already actions in motions to hide it again for a long time to come.

It was clearly written over most of their faces that they had been unable to follow him for quite some time when he finished his explanation. Jack took a sip of his water and watched them for a moment. “I don’t think it will help any to analyse how any of this could happen,” he finally said. “I don’t think you would ever want to reveal it to the public anyway, so you don’t have to strain yourself to understand it either. There are more important things to do right now.”

“And you think you are the one to tell us what that is?” Shapiro asked.

“No.” Jack wiggled his head. “I’m returning to Cardiff in a little while, and I’ll take care of rebuilding my own city, my own country. That will be quite enough for a long time. How you want to go about rebuilding your own country is none of my business. I just mean that you shouldn’t despair about answers you are never likely to get or to understand.”

Shapiro scowled and turned his gaze to Ianto. “What happened in Buenos Aires? We thought the mission lost after the soldiers who should transport the blood were blown up.”

Ianto raised his eyebrows. “As Jack said at the airport, the Three Families have made their preferences for explosives known enough times during the last months, that we could expect something like this. The blood the soldiers had was a ruse. I was carrying the blond with me, concealed on my body. The man leading the operation in Buenos Aires for the Three Families wanted to gloat over their success, and I believe they wanted to kill us in front of the Blessing, so they brought us down there without a problem after we had been able to breach the building.”

Jack kept on staring at Shapiro and the other Americans without moving a muscle in his face. Esther was the only survivor of that side aside from Mickey and Ianto, and he trusted her to not reveal the truth to her superiors about how they had transported the blood. She had been wide-eyed and idealistic about her job when the Miracle had begun, but working with the Torchwood team had opened her eyes to a lot of things. He suspected Charlotte Wills’ betrayal would be the last blow to let her reconsider her life choices.

“They shot Agent Drummond after they learned that we had still managed to get the blood exactly where we wanted to have it,” Ianto continued. “Thankfully, she was wearing a vest, so that her injury was not as life threatening as they had intended. And even if it had been, we would have not let us be stopped. Ending the Miracle was more important than our lives, and all of us knew that when we went on that mission.”

Shapiro’s face was grim, but he nodded.

“They had planted explosives all through the building because they had wanted to destroy the entrance to the Blessing so that the Miracle could not be stooped. We barely managed to get out after we had fed the Blessing Jack’s blood. I dragged Agent Matheson with me, Agent Smith carried Agent Drummond.” Ianto sighed. “Rex died in front of the building. We had hoped his heart would have healed enough, but it was clear as soon as the Miracle ended that he wouldn’t make it.”

Shapiro nodded. “We knew about that before you left for Buenos Aires. I had asked Matheson to stay here as to not be a burden to you, but he insisted on accompanying you.”

“And I’m glad he did,” Ianto said. “He was a very good Agent, very determined. He brought us into that building. I’m not sure we would have managed it without him. We talked about the possibility that he would die with the end of the Miracle, and he said he didn’t care as long as he could help end this insanity. He would have died even with medical intervention, so I’m glad he could use his last days to do something meaningful for him.”

“Yes.” Shapiro looked down at the table for a moment. Jack had no idea how long Rex had worked for the man, but it was clear that losing the agent was not something Shapiro took lightly. After a moment, the CIA agent cleared his throat and looked at Jack. “And Shanghai?”

“They didn’t know we were coming there,” Jack said, glad to draw the attention back to him. Whenever possible, he would be the only one to talk during this meeting. They had agreed on that before they had split up. He had needed to let Ianto answer any questions about Buenos Aires, but everything else he could take care of. “Maybe that’s the reason they weren’t overly careful in Buenos Aires. They were preparing to blow up this side as well, but we had also our own bomb with us.”

Oswald Danes had been a detestable man, and Jack would never understand how he had gained the kind of popularity he had been regarded with in the last couple of months. It was public knowledge why he had received the death penalty, but for some reason, no one had cared to remember that after he had survived his execution. There was not an ounce of grief in Jack about Danes’ death, but he was still able to respect the choices the man had made in the very last days of his life.

“Danes was wearing the bomb, and he was holding the woman there working for the Three Families long enough at bay that we could leave the building before it blew up. She tried to bargain with us, to plead her case of a new world order, but frankly, all of it seemed like crazy babbling.” Jack shrugged, about the frowns on a couple of the faces surrounding Shapiro. “They apparently thought to rise up and rule the world if they could decide who would live and who would burn as a Category One. I have no idea how they thought they could keep such a kind of control.”

Shapiro sighed. “There are a lot of people convinced that the system that arose was the only way to prevent an even bigger catastrophe to happen.”

“I guess the public judgment of that will be made in the next couple of years.” Jack knew that Shapiro’s personal opinion was with those who would very soon demand that those responsible for the burning of any Category One patient should be punished, but that would not be the party line of his agency. “I personally think there could have been another solution, but the Three Families knew how to play their cards. There will be consequences for this, and it will only be another thing we’ll have to deal with.”

Shapiro nodded, but he directed the topic back to the events in Shanghai, asking much more detailed questions about that than he had about Buenos Aires. Jack pitied Esther because it became clear that she would have to answer all these detailed questions about Buenos Aires. They had not asked Ianto or Mickey about that because they did not trust them and there had been one of their own agents with them, so they would not need to waste time by demanding answers from people they did not trust to tell them the truth.

As it was, Jack was skirting the line of truth more than once. He would be unable to stop Esther from telling her superiors of the exact location of the Blessing in Buenos Aires, but they would not learn the same about Shanghai. And of everything else, Esther barely knew any details. It was something she had even asked for herself at a time when they had known about a mole in the CIA, but not who this mole was. She had not wanted to inadvertently give the wrong person too much information, and not knowing something was the best protection against that.

Shapiro sighed deeply and watched Jack with a dissatisfied frown when he finally gave up his inquiries about Shanghai. Jack fought down the urge to shrug and grin as to not agitate their opponents. He knew displaying his usual persona would only delay this meeting, and he wanted to get rid of these people as soon as possible.

“You hacked the CIA,” Shapiro accused next.

“As I already said at the airport, it’s not my fault if my people are better at their job than yours,” Jack said. “What do you think would have happened if your analysts had discovered Charlotte Wills do be the mole while she was working in the same room with them? How many people would she have taken to death with her, if she had detonated that bomb in one of your offices? – You can complain as much as you want, but what my team did saved a lot of your people. And if it’s any consolation for you, they spend the last months pretty much hacking the whole world to find the Three Families.”

“We could hold you for espionage,” Shapiro said.

“You could try.” Jack shrugged. “But you wouldn’t succeed. You can’t risk the kind of shit storm my people could cause in the current situation. We could easily eviscerate your whole agency and don’t think my people would hesitate to do just that if either of us doesn’t get out of here. – Something like this is nothing your country needs at the moment. The infrastructure your agency and others can provide could be a great help for the people if utilized in the correct way. We don’t want to take that chance from them.”

He had thought long about any kind of explanation or excuse he could give for the orders he had given Toshiko and her team, but in the end, he had decided that nothing of it would matter. The reason for their secrecy was quite clear, but that would not smooth over the anger of anyone about their systems being invaded. The fury was running high about the whole situation of the Miracle, and it would be easy to use his team to let out at least some of it. Openly threatening them would bring them more in the short term, and everything else could be hashed out in the long term when everyone was safely back in Cardiff.

“Is that really how you want to play this, Capitan Harkness?”

Jack shook his head. “Not necessarily. But I won’t let you endanger anyone from my team.” He let his gaze wander over everyone sitting across from them. “We did what we had to do to get ahead of those responsible for the Miracle. And because of that, we managed to end it. Every single one of your agencies has received a list of moles, and not only those working for the Three Families. We have provided you with all necessary information to clean your houses as compensation for infiltrating your systems.”

“And we should just trust your word that you won’t use any other information for your own gain?” Shapiro asked.

“You really don’t have another choice.” Jack shrugged. “We have no interest in America. The only reason we came here was that you sent Rex to arrest me. At the same time, the Three Families send their goons to kill me. I don’t know if any of us would have ever stepped foot on American soil during this whole thing if you hadn’t dragged us here.”

“It started here,” Shapiro said.

Jack huffed. “Sure, if you want to believe that. I’m not sure it should be something you can be proud of that the whole organisation was founded in your country. That’s a kind of stain in history you don’t ever get rid of again. – But even if it started here, none of the information we needed to gather required any of us to be here.” He crossed his arms in front of his chest. “This discussion has been pointless for a long time already. All we want to do is leave. We have as much rebuilding to do back home as you have to do here.”

It was not the end of the meeting, but it made his standpoint clear enough to everyone that Shapiro slowly started to wrap up his questioning. Jack knew this wouldn’t be the last time they would be confronted by the CIA or any other organisation about their actions during the Miracle, but at least for a little while as everyone would need to handle more important things. And for the time when they needed to start mending fences, Toshiko and her team were already preparing information packets that would educate these agencies about the weak points in their systems so that they would be able to take care of them.

***

“That was kind of pointless, right?” Mickey said as they were sitting around the table of the living room, a part of the suit Jack had checked Ianto and himself into.

The rest of the team had slightly smaller rooms on the same floor of the hotel for the one night they would stay in Washington, DC. None of them had any interest in venturing out of the hotel and be confronted with the chaos. A lot of people were on the streets protesting, and they all wanted to have a quiet evening instead of being drawn into any of the conflicts brewing everywhere.

They had ordered room service and were enjoying a comparably very rich dinner for the fact that food rationing had been in place all over the world for more than three months. The economy may be falling, but for the moment enough money could still buy a lot, and Jack was not opposed to giving his team a night of the best they could get. They had saved the world. It would hurt no one if they enjoyed themselves for a couple of hours before they were going back to their job and continued saving the world.

“Of course, it was,” Jack muttered. “The only point was always to intimidate us. Didn’t work out as they wanted it to. I’ll be glad when the three of you will be back in Cardiff. Send us a message as soon as you are out of the plane in London, and again when you are back in Cardiff!”

“Why are you not coming with us?” Gwen asked. She had asked that already when they had talked about the travel plans for the next day, but Jack had avoided giving her an answer.

“I want to visit a friend of mine.” Jack shrugged. “She is living in New York and I want to use the opportunity. She is also the one who is taking care of Esther’s medical bill right now, and her transport back. I want to check in with her if everything is going as planned, maybe even stay until Esther is settled in the hospital here to make sure she is alright.”

“This Olivia you mentioned at the airport?” Mickey asked.

Karen and Gwen were both watching him with a frown. “And who is this Olivia?”

Jack sighed deeply. “I didn’t tell you everything about my first encounter with the Three Families. It had become a habit to keep quiet about my contact with Olivia and her grandfather, so I just held onto that after I told you about the rest. – Angelo was the one to free me after the Three Families had bought me. We had been lovers for a while before that, but I left him after all of it. We met again by chance in ‘69 of this timeline when I was trying to get information about the Three Families. He helped me with a lot of preparations and research, but we knew he was watched so we only met in secret.”

“What kind of preparations?” Karen asked.

“Those for after the Miracle,” Jack muttered.

Gwen shook her head. “We didn’t prepare anything for after the Miracle!”

“That’s right. I let all of you concentrate on preparing for the Miracle itself. But I did prepare at least parts of the world for the aftermath.” Jack sighed. “Do you have any idea what is awaiting us now that the Miracle is over? And I don’t even mean right away, because most of those problems are pretty obvious, with the thousands of people that died yesterday and will still die in the next couple of days. But when that phase is over, when the people aren’t struggling any more with burying more dead than any existing system can handle, there will still be repercussions.”

“The economy is shot everywhere already,” Mickey said. “There is a lot of infrastructure for import and export that was destroyed. The consequences of that will become visible soon enough.”

Jack nodded. Mickey was probably the only one who had even a vague idea of what the world would look like in the coming months and years. The other dimension he had lived in for more than two years had been completely destroyed by the Cyberman. They had lost millions of people at once, which would have led to economics and all foreign relations falling apart all at once as well.

“But that can be rebuild,” Gwen said.

“You have seen the protest out there?” Jack nodded to the window, though the street in front of the hotel they had chosen was free of any protesters. Those had gathered on the National Mall, the masses stretching from the Capitol to the Lincoln Monument. “That’s just the beginning. Governments will crumble in the next months. Society as a whole won’t ever work as it did before the Miracle. Things can’t just go back to normal, too much has happened, too much has changed.”

“Stabilizing society will be more important than rebuilding the economy in the short term,” Ianto said. “Because there is no rebuilding an economy if the people don’t feel secure. And after we are back to a somewhat functioning society, people will demand answers about the so-called overflow camps. We know how little information is available about them right now, but it will become known soon enough that they burned people that were called lost cases by some system a couple of very select people decided on. That won’t go over well, especially as there is no doubt that some people abused that system as soon as it was in place.”

“We are looking at riots and governments overthrown,” Karen said quietly. “How can you prepare for something like that?”

“Angelo and I build a support system that was aimed at other groups in the last decades, all kind of minority groups, really. We founded or helped found and finance a lot of organisations that lend support to those groups in any way they needed. But we also prepared them to step up in case there would ever be a greater emergency. We have lawyers, social workers, doctors, therapists, all kind of people prepared to step up and provide the support and structure needed to get people through this time.”

“All over the world?” Mickey asked sceptically.

“No.” Jack sighed. “We tried to spread it out as much as possible, but to prepare the whole world for this was impossible. We can’t even know how helpful the things we prepared will be. Angelo concentrated his efforts on America, north and south, I in Europe, and Matteo took care of New Zealand, Australia, and even a little bit of Asia. But it was difficult to establish anything in most of Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and even most of Eastern Europe. We had no one in place there, and we didn’t dare to tell anyone what we were really doing. Not even Matteo knew everything for the longest time.”

“And who is this, Matteo?” Karen asked.

“Oh, sorry.” Jack shook his head. “Matteo is Angelo’s son, and he has lived in New Zealand for most of his life… He’s Olivia’s uncle. I want to visit him, too, before I come back to Cardiff, just to check on him, though I’m not sure yet how we’ll get to New Zealand. It will take a lot of time until any kind of regular international transportation is working again.”

“Shouldn’t the Vortex Manipulator work again?” Ianto asked.

“It does.” Jack nodded and made a mental note to show Ianto how to use that option. Ianto had worn John’s old Vortex Manipulator since the Miracle had begun because most of their communication had occurred through them as it had been the most secure of their possibilities. “But I don’t intend to let the CIA know about it. So, either we have to take a plane back to England first, or we have to take legit transportation to visit Matteo. I haven’t thought about that part much yet. I’m not sure how long I’ll want to stay with Olivia, so making concrete plans is impossible right now.”

Gwen sighed and shook her head. “I still don’t understand how you think you have prepared anyone for the near future. I assume you are talking about organisations that are supporting people of colour or the LGBT community, but how will those be able to help now?”

Jack smiled. “You are right, it’s organisations that are dedicated to fighting for the rights of women, orphans, people of colour or other sexualities, basically everyone who isn’t a white male, at least in this part of the world. And those that do research in any kind of things, fighting against cancer, AIDS and other things. But Angelo and I took great care to prepare them for harder times. Everyone working for the organisations we helped is aware that it’s a privilege to fight for just these one or two causes they chose for themselves because life as a whole was running very stable, especially in places like here in the US and most of Europe.”

He stared at the empty plate in front of him for a moment, gathering his thoughts. “They’ll still mostly focus on the groups they have supported all along. But in my other timeline, these organisations tended to be very insular. They barely worked together, and often even worked against each other, seeing a threat to themselves in the work others were doing. Angelo and I took great care in putting a stop to that kind of thinking whenever it arose. They are all fighting for a worthy cause, and those causes don’t exclude each other. So, now they are prepared and already used to work together.”

“We have already seen their work after the Daleks stole Earth,” Ianto stepped in. “They took a step forward, working together and helping the community as a whole. They still maintained their original work, but they knew which projects they could put aside for a while to make room for the help everyone needed after that. They’ll do the same now, at a much greater scale. I believe most of them are already doing it. They would have started early on during the Miracle, but their focus will have to change now once more.”

“And you knew about that all along?” Karen asked with raised brows.

“Back then, right after the Daleks? No.” Ianto shrugged. “Jack told me about any of this only shortly before he told all of you about the Miracle. But once he had mentioned it, it was very clear to see where their plans had succeeded. I helped him analyse where we would need to work on any weak points after I knew about it. As terrible as it was, for this part in Jack’s plans it was a pretty good test run.”

“Most of this will run on its own,” Jack said. “Which is another reason why I didn’t tell you anything about it. Most of the work was already done, and I had long outsourced everything that still needed to be prepared even before I told Ianto about it. There just wasn’t anything more to do, and we had to concentrate on other things. We’ll still have to concentrate on other things, so we’ll need to trust those structures.”

“What other things?” Mickey asked.

“In the other world after the Cybermen, what changed for the governments?” Jack asked.

Mickey shrugged. “There was not much left of a government in England. And I have no idea what it looked like in other countries. There was not much international communication left for the average citizen. I think every country was doing their own thing mostly, trade was difficult, many things were difficult to get. Pete took care of rebuilding a government, but he had a lot of power in that world, even before that. I’m not sure how much of the falling apart was the ongoing fight against the rest of the Cybermen and losing so many people at once, and how much of it was that there was no way to hold up the established infrastructures.”

“I’m expecting a lot of radical movements to rise up,” Jack said. “A situation like this one will be seen by many people as the perfect opportunity to rise to power and to gather support for goals that wouldn’t have found any support before. And that will be what I want us to focus on. We need to make sure that we won’t have the next Hitler rising, or another warmonger. War is the last thing we need right now. I mean, we won’t be able to stop the next great war forever, but right now we should do everything to prevent it.”

“You expect us to just influence the whole world to not elect some radicals? Or to stop them from just grabbing the power in countries where the government is or will be completely overthrown?” Gwen asked in disbelieve.

“You think that is any more of a challenge than surviving the Master?” Jack asked with a grin.

He knew, of course, that nothing of it would be as easy as he tried to portrait it at this moment. Hard years were laying ahead of them, and the most terrifying thing about it for him personally was that he had only a vague idea of what the future would hold for them. Jack rubbed his hands over his face and leaned back with a deep sigh.

“Look,” he said. “I’ve lived through times similar to this one already. I’ve seen how wrong it can go, how the wrong people can use the kind of chaos we are facing right now. We must work hard to prevent it, to give our world enough time to rebuild without the wrong people taking advantage. It won’t be easy, of course, but what we are fighting for is never easy.”

“It’s a big step from fighting aliens to trying to regulate the political climate all over the world,” Karen muttered.

Jack frowned and shook his head, but it was Ianto who answered, “That’s not what Jack suggested. Or at least not what he really meant. I don’t think that would even work. But we can make very sure that the people as a whole know about the true motives of those reaching for power so that no one can say one thing but is planning to do another thing. We need to keep the world informed and steer the anger in the right direction so that the people won’t turn against each other.”

“Still, that’s a huge task,” Mickey said.

“And I don’t know how we could do something like this!” Gwen agreed.

Jack sighed. “We have to try. That’s everything we can always do.”

“And while we do all of that, the Rift will still be active,” Mickey muttered. “Joy.”

“It’s mostly what Tosh and her team have already done for months,” Ianto reminded. “They will continue to do that with a new focus. The difference is that we will be there to help them at times when we are not busy taking care of the Rift.”

“Do you think we can expect the Rift to be more active again?” Karen asked. “It was acting up more after the Year, and again after the Daleks, but it had quietened down considerably in the months before the Miracle. I was surprised it went completely quiet during this whole mess.”

“Dealing with any presents from the Rift would have been really tedious, so I’m glad about it,” Gwen muttered.

“It would have been,” Mickey agreed. “But didn’t we already discuss that the Rift wouldn’t disturb a fixed point? That the nature of this event froze the Rift?”

“Gwen and Karen weren’t with us when we discussed that,” Ianto said.

“I do expect the Rift to act up more,” Jack agreed with Karen. “I actually think that it getting quieter had a lot to do with the approaching fixed point. That’s something that can influence events far into the past or the future to make sure it will happen. With a little bit of luck, the Rift will keep quiet for a couple more weeks or even months, but it will come back with full force.”

“And when have we ever had any luck?” Mickey muttered.

Karen laughed. “Don’t be like that, Mickey. We’ve had a lot of luck over the years. It’s just that the memories of the bad things stay much more present in our memory!”

Jack was glad to let the topic wander away from the future and to commiserate about their shared or not shared past. He was sure that at least Karen and Gwen were still not convinced that any of the things Jack had explained would really happen. They had grown up sheltered in a way, and even working for Torchwood had not been able to take away the security that the society they had lived in had given them.

For many people, it would be the same. Those countries that had enjoyed stability for decades now would be hit hard by the ramifications of the chaos, because most would not expect any of it. They were used to a simple and safe life. Jack wondered if people living in countries with a lot more instability would handle the coming events better or easier, but most of those countries would also be those in which Angelo and he had not managed to put any kind of support structure in place, and maybe that would still make it even harder for them.

They migrated to the seating area containing two sofas and two armchairs, sharing two bottles of wine while talking about everything and nothing. They had learned long ago to ignore any present problems for a while, even in the direst circumstances if a chance for a little break presented itself, and they were making use of that strategy right now. It was an important coping mechanism to regain their sanity, and most of his team had mastered this skill during the Year, teaching it to everyone, joining them afterwards, including Jack himself as he had not been with them during that time.

Jack allowed himself to relax in the presence of his friends, one arm wrapped around Ianto all the time. He even managed to not think about the doubts he still had about Ianto’s new situation. He had not given up to search for another way to end the Miracle until the very last moment because he still felt he had settled Ianto with a curse he had no chance of understanding before experiencing it.

Ianto had been dedicated to take over this part all along, and he had never been very interested in finding another way. Even two years after the first discussion about it all, Jack was still unable to understand Ianto’s reasoning to actually want this. Jack was still trying to not be happy about their changed circumstances because it felt selfish, but it was hard to not be relieved about the prospect that he would never lose Ianto, at least not to death. There was this lingering doubt in him that he would still lose Ianto when he would be unable to cope with his immortality, and as often as Ianto had promised him that it would not happen, Jack was unable to get rid of this feeling.

Chapter 02

Ianto watched the landscape outside of the car as Jack was driving over the highway. They had brought the others to the airport in the morning, waiting until their plane had left before renting a car to drive to New York. They could have taken a plane themselves, but Jack had insisted on the car and Ianto had no problem indulging him. Taking things a little slower, now that they could afford that again, felt a like salvation after the exhausting months laying behind them.

His hand was lying on Jack’s thigh, and whenever Jack would not need both hands to drive, his own hand was covering Ianto’s. They had barely spoken since they had left DC, but it was a very pleasant silence. The discussion about the future they’d had with Karen, Gwen and Mickey on the day before had been dark and foreboding, but for the moment it felt still far away for him. The relief of finally ending the Miracle and of at least nature going back to normal was still too present to think too much about what was still ahead of them.

Ianto had foolishly thought he would be prepared for the Miracle. They’d had a little more than eighteen months in which they had barely done anything other than to prepare for it in the time their usual job had left them, and yet to see it all happen, to live through it, had been a completely different experience than Ianto had expected. Knowing about the horrors to come had done nothing to lessen their impact. It made Ianto wonder about all the things Jack had to experience a second time, but a discussion about that could wait until they would have had a little time to relax.

Jack interrupted the silence with a deep sigh, lacing their fingers. “I think I don’t even really want to know, but did you test… I mean…”

Ianto squeezed Jack’s hand. “I didn’t try to kill myself if you are asking that. But I am healing as fast as you are. I… I didn’t trust the wound healing right as the Miracle ended to not just be a fluke. I cut myself in the arm. Nothing life-threatening, just a little cut. It healed completely inside a couple of minutes. I’m sure it worked as we thought it would. And I’m still glad about it, you know.”

“I still don’t know what to think about it,” Jack murmured.

“I know.” Ianto smiled, despite remembering the endless discussions they had engaged in, even long after the Miracle had started. Jack was afraid of anyone being trapped in the same fate as he was. He was still afraid of Ianto coming to resent him. But Ianto also knew that he was glad at the same time because he was even more afraid of losing Ianto.

The eighteen months before the Miracle had not only been spent with preparations for the Miracle. Their normal job had still been there, the Rift not quieting down at all. Surprisingly enough, the Rift had brought nothing to Cardiff in the five months the Miracle had lasted, and Jack had speculated that the cause for that was the Miracle being a fixed point and that even the unpredictable Rift could not disturb something like that.

But before the Miracle, they had still needed to protect Cardiff from everything the Rift had thrown at them, and two times it had been a very near call for Ianto. It had freaked Jack out to an untold degree both times, and that had only strengthened Ianto’s resolve to be the one carrying Jack’s blood in Buenos Aires, but it had not been an argument for it that Jack had been open to. Ianto suspected the hardest part about his new situation would be overcoming Jack’s guilt about it.

“I’m so happy that I’ll be able to stay with you,” Ianto whispered. “I was so worried about leaving you behind someday. Even if I would have managed to not get killed doing my job, I would have grown old. Though, we both know that the chances for that would have been slim. We’ve had a lot of luck with our team in the last four years, but that won’t hold forever.”

Jack sighed deeply. “I feel selfish to be happy about you being like me now.”

Ianto smiled sadly. “You feel selfish about everything that is an advantage for you, or that makes you happy.” He was trying to change that, to show Jack that it was okay to be happy and to do things for himself, but it was a hard fight, though he had made at least a little headway with it before the Miracle. Ianto blamed a big part of the problem on the Doctor, but he kept that thought to himself.

“Do you feel… different?” Jack bit his lip with a frown.

“What do you mean?”

Jack shrugged. “I don’t know. I didn’t notice any change right away, and I think I really should have. It’s been so long ago for me now, and sometimes I think I did feel a difference and I ignored it, but I’m not sure if that is just a delusion.”

Ianto took his time to think about an answer, to analyse the last two days since they had ended the Miracle. “I don’t think I feel any different,” he said eventually. “If I hadn’t known to look out for how fast injuries would heal now, I don’t think I would have noticed anything strange about myself. In the other timeline, Rex didn’t notice anything either until he was shot, did he?”

“No. It was a complete shock for all of us when he came back from that,” Jack agreed. “I just always thought … this is such a fundamental change, and it took me over twenty years to notice it. I always wondered if something was wrong with me that I didn’t notice earlier. I was injured a couple of times in those years, and I never even thought about all of that healing impossibly fast.”

“You were also stranded in a strange time and had a lot of other things to deal with,” Ianto said.

“I didn’t wonder about not ageing either.” Jack shrugged. “Maybe I was willfully blind. I knew I had been shot by that Dalek on the Game Station when I tried to buy the Doctor enough time. And I think I always knew that I had been killed a little while later when I accidentally electrocuted myself, I just … thought it was good luck. I think I didn’t want to think about it, but there was no dismissing it anymore after I had been shot in the head.”

“Did anyone see you come back to life that time?” Ianto asked.

“No.” Jack huffed. “And that was definitely a lucky occurrence. It was hard enough dealing with others finding out about it after I knew for sure I couldn’t die.”

Ianto nodded, relieved. He had always thought that part of Jack’s reaction to his own situation had always been a consequence of the torture he had endured over it multiple times – and much too often at the hands of Torchwood –, and he did not want to imagine how much worse it would have been for Jack to end up in such a situation in the same moment he learned about his immortality.

“I fear the moment you’ll end up in a situation in which others will experiment on you because of it,” Jack muttered. “We can’t … I don’t think our chances are good to evade such a thing forever.”

“I’ll get through it,” Ianto promised. “I trust you to get me out of something like that as soon as possible. As I would move heaven and earth to get you out.”

Jack raised their hands and pressed a kiss against Ianto’s knuckles. “I’ll always come for you.”

“How was the transition back for you? Did you feel different after the Miracle ended? Did you feel different when it started?”

For Ianto, one of the most exhausting aspects of the last five months had been the knowledge that Jack could be killed. As long as Ianto had known him, Jack had never been careful with his own health and life, and that never changed much despite Ianto’s campaign against it. Ianto had never been able to understand how every one of their team members had been so careless about Jack’s tendencies to sacrifice himself, and he had spent many hours talking with each of them about it. As a result of those discussions they weren’t as dismissive anymore of it as they had been in the beginning, except for Jack himself.

In the last couple of months, Jack had needed to change that because any major injury could have meant his death. It had been hard for Jack to take that step back, and he had often struggled with it. They had all supported him as much as possible, but Ianto hoped Jack would regain some of the cautiousness he had learned during the Miracle. Ianto also hoped he would never get as careless with his own life as Jack had become.

Jack shook his head. “No. I waited for it, but I have no idea when exactly it started because I didn’t feel anything. But no one felt that change when it started, and it was a different kind of change for you when it ended. The only reason the world as a whole knew right away that it had ended was the fact that people were dying again.”

“I think it’s a good thing that I don’t feel any different,” Ianto said. “It will make it easier to go on with our lives. I won’t need to get used to even more change.”

“And there is a lot of that still to come,” Jack muttered.

Ianto took a deep breath. “How much time did you stay in your other life before you went back?”

“A couple of weeks.” Jack shrugged. “But nothing of what I still know about that time will help. Things are much too different for that. We are ripping apart the remains of the Three Families and everything is so different already.” Jack shrugged, and his voice was shaking. “The time of me knowing anything about the future is over.”

“And how do you feel about that?” Ianto asked. It was something that Jack had always been very reluctant to talk about, never giving a clear answer.

Jack was silent for a long time before he answered. “Right now, it’s making me very afraid. Which is kind of funny because there was a time when I hated knowing what was to come and most often than not being unable to prevent it. I fought with tooth and nails for a change in Torchwood, and after a little while even to save those working with me. And it just never worked. Or if I was successful, it would only last for a couple of months. … Everyone would lose their hope after thirty years of that crap.”

“And yet, you didn’t give up,” Ianto reminded him. It was hard to listen to the self-hatred in Jack’s words.

“Only because of Angelo,” Jack whispered. “He kept me on my path, and he gave me moments of reprieve when I didn’t need to care for anything happening back home.”

Ianto smiled. “Sometimes I wish I could have met him.”

Jack laughed. “He would have loved to meet you!”

“You won’t have this pressure any more now, about trying to prevent things and them happening despite it.”

Jack sighed. “Yeah, but my feelings about that changed in the last ten years or so. Ever since I could save Ariana, James and Karen… It was as if the new century made a difference. The only two people from our team I wasn’t able to save were Suzie and Lisa.”

To think about Lisa still hurt, especially when talking about her death, but it also filled Ianto with an untold warmth every time Jack included her in their team. He remembered his disbelieve during his first conversation with Toshiko about Jack’s opinion about it, and it had taken him a long time to understand that in Jack’s mind they had really been part of the Cardiff team long before Ianto had come back to the city, and it had nothing much to do with Jack’s memories of his other life, but everything with the effort he had put into saving her.

“Of course, my knowledge has gotten less reliable the more I was able to finally change,” Jack continued. “And still … It gave me security, you know? Despite the constant fear to fail again, especially…” He sighed and his grip on Ianto’s hand tightened. “Especially when the moment approached at which I had lost you in the other timeline. Despite that fear I also always felt grounded in my knowledge. During the invasion of the Cybermen, during the year with the Master, during the Daleks … even when John came back with Grey, I always knew we would get through it, that we were prepared. I don’t think I even noticed the full scope of that until I sat in that plane bringing us back here from Shanghai and I understood why I felt so … empty and anxious.”

Ianto frowned, staring out of the window. He had no idea how he could reassure Jack that he would get used to this again. Saying those words would not help at all, and he doubted there were any words to help Jack overcome this mood. As hard as it was to accept, some things just needed time to get used to, and Ianto thought this was just such an occurrence.

“It’s scary not to know what is awaiting us tomorrow, or what the Rift will throw at us next week, or even next month,” Jack muttered.

“That’s scary for all of us,” Ianto said. “We still manage to handle it.”

Jack sighed. “Yeah. But I have four decades of experience how much better I’m able to handle it when I generally know what might come.”

Ianto smiled and squeezed Jack’s fingers. “And again, that wouldn’t be any different for anyone else. You have done the best you could in the last decades, as has every one of us. You just need to keep doing it. – I think not knowing when the bad things happen will turn out to be easier after a little while because you won’t dread those days anymore, and you won’t be influenced by that knowledge anymore.”

“It will make losing someone so much harder.”

Ianto raised his brows. “Really? Did it hurt any less when someone died, and you knew about it before? I would think it’s harder to wait for it, to try to change it only to fail with it. I don’t believe that it’s easier to lose someone if you had time to prepare for it and say goodbye.”

Jack swallowed hard and blinked several times. Ianto suspected to push back the tears shining in his eyes. “No, you are right. It’s never made it easier. But I still felt… When Alex died after I had thought I had succeeded in saving him, it was one of the most shocking things I remember experiencing.”

“But does have saving him on New Year’s Eve and losing him later in the summer have anything to do with each other?” Ianto pursed his lips. “Or was this shock maybe only accelerated because you had gotten used to knowing when to expect a loss?”

Jack huffed. “This whole topic is tedious!”

Ianto shrugged. “Sure. But talking about these things will help, even if it’s not noticeable right away. It’s more about getting it out of your head than solving the problem, right? Especially with things like this, where there is no real answer to the problem at hand.”

Ianto grinned as Jack rolled his eyes with a snort. He was not sorry at all to throw the words back at Jack which he had used multiple times when Ianto’s thoughts had not stopped circling around the ‘What if’-scenarios about the fall of Torchwood One; they were true, after all.

“You are not alone,” Ianto said, refraining from reminding Jack that he would never be alone again because that would only bring them back to the beginning of this conversation. “We’ll all help while you get used to not knowing the future anymore.”

***

Jack stopped for a moment after he had closed the door of the car to look at the building he had parked in front of. For many years he had come here daily, spent nearly every night in this house, but he had never seen it from the outside. Keeping his contact with Angelo secret had always meant that he had never been able to officially visit, and it felt weird to stand in front of this building after forty years of coming here at least once a week.

“Jack?” Ianto was standing on the other side of the car, watching him with a cocked head.

Jack shook his head to clear his mind. “I’m alright, it’s just … I have always ever been inside this house, you know.”

It was one of the bigger row houses build in New York City during the 1920s, two of them to be exact, as Angelo had bought the one to the left of his original house in the late fifties when the relationship to his daughters had still been good and he had thought one or even both of them would stay near her parents and would be glad about their own house. It had not come to that, but Angelo had still kept the second house, first renting it out, and later joining them to one in his own words outrageous large house.

Jack went around the car and took Ianto’s offered hand while crossing the sidewalk leading up to the entrance. The door opened, revealing Olivia before they had even taken two steps up the stairs. Ianto had called her when they had crossed the city border, but that had still been an hour ago, after Jack had managed to take a wrong turn twice. She looked as if she had waited the whole time right behind the door, and Jack found himself in a tight hug just a moment after Olivia had closed the door behind them.

“I’m glad you are finally here,” she muttered. “I was so worried something would happen to you!”

Jack kissed the top of her hair. “Likewise. I … wish I’d had time to call you before I came back from Shanghai. All I could think about was that you died last time before the Miracle ended.”

Olivia took a step back to look up at him, but she kept her hands on his upper arms. “You never told me about that!”

“Or course not.” Jack shrugged. “I made sure the CIA stopped their own man in his attempt on your life before he got even near you this time. And I hoped with me keeping away from you, they wouldn’t try it again. Your circumstances were so different from what I remember, but there was still a chance…”

Olivia frowned. “You should have told me. But I guess there is no sense in arguing about that now.” She kissed his cheek. “You are like you were before the Miracle again, yes?”

Jack nodded.

“Good.” Olivia patted the cheek she had kissed with a smile before turning to Ianto, hugging him as well. “Are you alright?”

Ianto returned to the hug with a laugh. “Yes. Everything went as we had planned it.”

This time, when Olivia took a step back, she cupped Ianto’s face with both of her hands. “So, you are like Jack now? That worked as well?”

Ianto nodded. “As far as we can tell, yes.”

“I’m glad,” Olivia whispered.

Jack sighed, deciding against arguing with them about it. He had long known that he had lost this particular argument with both of them a long time ago. As glad as he was that Ianto and Olivia had fast become friends after Jack had started to include Ianto in his weekly visits here, in some things he regretted that he had ever given them the chance to band together against him.

“Let’s sit down in the study,” Olivia decided. “I’ve de-frozen cake for you, but sadly I don’t have any coffee left, so tea will have to do.”

“I thought I would finally see more of the house, now that I could officially visit,” Jack complained with a grin.

“You will,” Olivia promised. “But not as long as we have to talk business. I have a full house and there are things my sister’s family doesn’t have to learn about.”

“Your sister?” Jack asked, surprised, while he and Ianto followed her through the hall. The last time he had spoken with Olivia about her family, she’d had only very loose contact with her youngest sister, and no contact at all with her other three siblings or her mother and step-father.

Olivia sighed. “They were evicted out of their apartments just a month after the whole mess started. They had all four lost their jobs, but we suspect the real reason for the fast eviction was that their landlord was never happy with their family constellation. Of course, I took them in, and really, it’s the first time I’m happy I never did anything with this house after Nonno left it to me. It seems suddenly very small with four more adults and five children living here.”

“I think I’m missing some information,” Ianto said with a frown.

“My sister Julia and her wife have built some kind of family unit with two gay men because all four of them wanted to have as little legal hassle as possible about children. Up until now, they have lived as basically two separate but very close families, with five children between them. Two of them are officially the kids of the two men, the other three are officially my nieces and nephew. It’s turned out to be a little more of one big family with two sets of parents and five siblings since they came to live here.”

Ianto huffed. “And their landlord wasn’t happy with two gay couples in his building, so they took the first opportunity to get rid of them?”

“Exactly that.” Olivia closed the door to the study behind them. “And she didn’t care at all that she was throwing five children all younger than ten out on the street as well. It’s just one of many examples of this. At least they had me to fall back on, even if Julia would have probably not asked me for help, not even told me about it if I hadn’t learned about it from someone else. As terrible as their situation is, I’m glad we finally have a chance to get to know each other. She has no other choice but to give me that chance now.”

“Not the best circumstances for it,” Jack said.

Olivia shrugged. “I’m still using this chance. We started to band together over our hatred for her father, and I think after what he did, she finally starts to overthink a couple of things she learned from her parents as a child that she never questioned even after they cut all ties with her.”

Jack frowned at Olivia in confusion, who had turned her head away and was taking a couple of very measured breaths. “What did he do?” He had always thought the man cruel and egoistic from the things Angelo had to say about him, but he had never talked much about him with Olivia.

“Did I tell you that my mother had two strokes a couple of years back and had been unable to care for herself since the second one?” Olivia asked with a shaking voice.

“Yes.” Jack nodded slowing, exchanging a horrified look with Ianto because he had a good idea where this was going.

“He declared her a Category One before anyone even really knew what that meant. She was one of the very first to be burned, but we didn’t learn about that until last week.” Olivia shook her head. “I really shouldn’t have expected anything else from him, and I don’t even know why it’s bothering me so much. She hasn’t been part of my life for most of it!”

“But she’s still your mother,” Jack said quietly. He grabbed her softly by the shoulders, leading her to the sofa and pushing her down on it. Ianto and he took a place on each side of her. “And she was basically murdered because she couldn’t defend herself. – I’m sorry for your loss.”

“I’m more angry than I’m sad, you know,” Olivia muttered. “But Julia is devastated, and I think I’m taking on some of her grief. I have grieved the woman I remember from my childhood a long time ago.”

Jack doubted that it was so easy, but there was no point in bringing that up.

“I have a couple of our lawyers working on this,” she continued. “The whole situation with the overflow camps is a humanitarian and legal mess that needs to be worked through. I agree with you: my mother was murdered, even in case she actually was a Category One as far as the guidelines were concerned. And I get that things were dire and chaotic, but I can’t believe that there couldn’t have been a better way.”

“You said he declared her a Category One,” Ianto said. “Is he a medical doctor? One of those who worked in the overflow camps?”

Olivia shook her head. “No. But he had connections to those organizing those camps. – I don’t know, there were a lot of weird things going on with that. We’ve been investigating that for nearly two months now, and I hope it will get easier now that it’s all over.”

“I doubt it,” Jack said.

He remembered how they had lost Dr. Vera Juarez the last time, all to stop her and their team as a whole to make public what was really happening in the overflow camps. She had not been near this camp this time, because they had not needed to invade them to learn what was happening there, but the ones responsible would try to make everyone forget that these things had ever existed because Jack had no doubt that similar things had happened this time, and that generally they would not want to discuss the repugnant decisions they had made during the Miracle.

“Easier or not, it’s what our team at home is working on as well,” Ianto said. “The biggest problem will be any kind of files that only existed on paper because I have no doubt those are being destroyed as we speak. Everything that existed on any kind of machine connected to the internet has been secured by Tosh and her team.”

“You’ve been very thorough then.”

Jack squeezed her hand he was holding in his. “Of course. The plans I made with you and Angelo aren’t the only ones I made for after the Miracle. There are a lot of areas we need to work at, and your grandfather taught me to spread out my resources to be able to put them to the best use.”

“They haven’t even released the names of those they burned. At least not here,” Olivia said. “There are hundreds if not thousands of families who have no idea what happened to their loved ones, and now they are just told that they died when everyone started to die again. And because every funeral home is so overwhelmed, many are glad to only get back an urn with ash thinking it’s the remains of their loved ones because it takes a huge burden from them. Only those who are against a burning at all are making any kind of fuss, and they are mostly shamed for it instead of finding support.”

“You are giving them support, aren’t you?” Jack asked.

Olivia huffed. “Not me personally. I didn’t feel like I could deal with it right now. – But the people we had in place for this are stepping up wonderfully, at least in New York and the surrounding areas. I haven’t got any messages from other places, but the last two days have been very hectic, so I’m not surprised.”

“I do think we can trust in the system we have built,” Jack said. “When it is working here, then it will also work elsewhere.”

Olivia nodded. “How long will the two of you stay here?”

“A couple of days at least,” Jack said. “I would like to be here when Esther is brought home.”

Ianto nodded. “We want to check on her. Not only because of her injuries, but also because of everything else that’s going on in her life. We are not sure what the CIA will do with her. They’ll suspect her of keeping our secrets and they aren’t very happy with us. We don’t want her to end up as a victim of their revenge on us.”

“Her flight is scheduled for three days from now. I had to rent out a special medical plane, and we are lucky that for the moment everyone in the possession of any planes is happy to make even a little bit of money with it. She’ll probably need surgery to put in an artificial hip, but that’s the opinion of the doctor here who has only seen her x-rays at the moment.”

“Is that something that can be scheduled at the moment?” Jack asked.

The hospitals were still dealing with a lot more people than ever before, and they would deal with that situation for months to come. Some people had not cared for their health for one reason or another in the last five months because some things had not seemed to matter anymore, and others had not shown the symptoms they usually did and therefore hadn’t been recognized. Jack remembered seeing the headline in a newspaper this morning while they had been at the airport, and they had talked about doctors postponing any surgeries that weren’t needed to save lives.

“I’ll make sure they give her an appointment,” Olivia said. “If they postpone it, it will only make the whole surgery more difficult later on. And I’m not above making it known to everyone involved that Esther is part of the team that managed to end the whole nightmare of a Miracle. You know, I think the meaning of that word will change drastically in the years to come.”

Jack laughed humourlessly. “Probably. No one dying didn’t turn out as the miracle they thought it to be in the beginning. – I wonder what other scenarios the Three Families were prepared for. They couldn’t have known for sure that it would become this kind of nightmare. People could have gained better healing, more similar to what I actually am. That would have led to much fewer problems, and there would have been no need for the overflow camps. Resources would have still been a problem, of course, but they would have needed a completely different approach to gain the influence they were trying to get.”

“With a little bit of luck, Tosh’s team will have an answer to that question when we return home,” Ianto said.

Olivia shook her head. “I’m not sure I would want to know anything about it. What happened was bad enough, even as prepared for it as I was. I don’t want to imagine other scenarios.”

“So, we won’t tell you.” Ianto patted her hand.

Olivia huffed. “I promised you cake, and here I am sitting and crying over things that should have never been a surprise at all!”

Ianto stood before she could do anything else, walking to the desk with the cake and plates on it. “I’m taking care of the cake, just stay where you are.”

Jack bumped his shoulder into hers to stop her protest about it. “How is life with your sister’s family in the same house?”

Olivia laughed. “Much more entertaining than I had expected. The kids are great, and they took to the change without any problems. I think their parents managed to keep it completely away from them what really happened to make them move. Julia was trying to keep her distance until we learned about our mother, but I think Susanne has clued into the fact that the silence between us has always been built on misunderstandings. I think I’ll find an ally in my sister-in-law in the future.”

“Is there a funeral planned for Sofia?” Jack asked. “Or was there already one?”

“Neither.” Olivia shook her head with a deep sigh. “She hasn’t been officially declared dead yet. We only know about it because our investigators got their hands on a couple of files from the camp she was at. Which leads right to a number of other legal problems, but that’s another story. And even if … getting an appointment for a funeral is nearly impossible right now. They are overbooked for months, and they are preferring those who chose burial over those who chose cremation, of course, because those need to come first for hygienic reasons.”

Ianto returned to them, balancing three plates, each with a huge piece of cake on each of them. “With so many kids in the house, maybe you should have saved that cake for the next birthday. I have heard food rationing has gotten really bad in the last couple of weeks, especially in big cities like here.”

Olivia sighed. “That’s true, but I have prepared for this. There is a cake for everyone’s birthday during the next year, even though I wasn’t expecting to suddenly house nine other people. I bought them so I could supply them to a couple of events, but I’m not about giving them all to my family instead. – I had planned to let you stay here, but I would understand if you wouldn’t want to stay in a house that’s so full of people.”

Jack exchanged a look with Ianto, who smiled at him and nodded. “We’ll gladly stay, as long as your family is okay with it. Did you ask them about it already? You shouldn’t bring two strangers into the house that’s currently the home of their children without talking about it with them, even though it’s your house.”

“Of course, I told them already.” Olivia frowned down at her cake. “Although, I didn’t exactly ask.”

Jack sighed. “You are new to this. I’m sure they’ll understand. Ask again and tell them truthfully that it didn’t occur to you that it could be a problem. It’s no problem at all for us to take a hotel room. Do they know how you know us?”

“No.” Olivia shook her head. “Nonno only kept very few pictures of you, and he asked me to burn them all shortly before he died, so that no one could find them. And I doubt my mother ever talked about the stories Nonno had to tell about you when she was still a child.”

“That’s a good thing,” Jack said. “My immortality isn’t something they need to be confronted with, the situation as a whole is mind-blowing enough.”

***

The cemetery was filled with masses of people, and for a moment Jack had to fight against the urge to turn around and leave again.

When Jack had come to live in this time period, he had had no concept of graveyards, had only known them from stories about Earth and the past. In Boshane, everyone had been cremated and the ashes would be given to the sea. There had been no monuments for the dead. Something like that would have been considered quite rude and viewed as trying to create a kind of immortality that no one wanted any more. Part of celebrating the death of a person had also always been to let go of their memory afterwards, to not hold on to them by creating any kind of shrine to their life, and a grave would have been viewed as exactly that.

With time, Jack had come to appreciate the silence and peace a graveyard and even a single grave would give him. Finding a way to hold on to the memories of those he had lost had become more important the older he got. He was forgetting things, but there were some events and people he would never want to forget, not even in a thousand years, as he had once promised Ianto in his other life.

In the years since Angelo had died, Jack had often regretted that he was unable to visit his grave, not to remember but to honour him. He had shared those thoughts with Ianto on more than one occasion, which had led to this moment. Jack had not known what Ianto had planned when he had told him after their breakfast with Olivia that they would take a little trip, but it had become clear very quickly when Ianto had entered the address of the graveyard into the navigation system.

“I don’t even know where Angelo’s grave is,” Jack confessed.

Ianto hummed. “Olivia told me how to get there. But I wasn’t expecting so many people here.”

“We have a lot of corpses right now, and they all need to get buried or cremated. I’m pretty sure there are burials scheduled non-stop from sun up to sun down for several weeks to come. The mortality rate in the next weeks will be higher than it was before the Miracle for various reasons. This won’t be done in a week or two when hopefully those who died with the end of the Miracle will have been taken care of.”

Some of the problems the Miracle had brought would linger for a while. A large number of corpses was as much a danger to everyone as the large number of people in near-death conditions during the Miracle had been. An epidemic was the last thing any country could use right now, with medical supplies dangerously low already. At the same time was the ceremony accompanying a funeral a comfort to everyone, and Jack knew right now it would give many the impression that they could take back control over their lives, which would do a lot to calm them down.

Finding the balance between the urgency to bury their dead and giving the comfort needed to the living by providing an opportunity for the long-established ceremonies and rituals could by any means be one of the more important things for the moment. But Jack wondered how much comfort those ceremonies would actually provide while their usually so quiet graveyards were overrun with people.

Ianto sighed. “It’s very depressing.”

“Yes.” Jack swallowed. “Let’s not linger here. Let’s search for Angelo’s grave.”

Ianto shook his head. “I assure you, there is no searching involved.”

Jack grinned and laced his fingers with Ianto’s as he was led over the gravel paths to a much quieter part of the cemetery. Ianto did not hesitate once until they stopped in front of a bigger grave with an impressive headstone. Angelo had been buried right beside Giulia in a shared burial space with a shared headstone. For a long moment, Jack stared at the two portraits that were embedded into the stone over their names.

He had no idea what he had expected from seeing Angelo’s grave, but it had not been the overwhelming grief he was overcome with at this moment. Angelo had been dead for six years now, and Jack thought he had said goodbye in his own way, that he had overcome this grief. He swallowed and blinked back the tears burning in his eyes, as he knelt down in front of the grave. He still missed Angelo, not only for his company but also for the strength and support he had given Jack for such a long time.

Jack felt Ianto’s hands on his shoulders, but other than this silent support Ianto left him to his own thoughts. Sometimes Jack wondered what he had done to earn so much support, first from Angelo and now from Ianto. He would not have accomplished half of the things he had done since defying all rules of time travel if it had not been for Angelo’s role in his life. Angelo had helped to save the world in more than one way, but no one aside from Jack would ever know the full scope of it.

During the drive to New York Ianto had said he would have liked to have met Angelo, which was a thought Jack had already contemplated himself a couple of times. It was even a wish Angelo had voiced once or twice shortly after Jack had taken over the team in Cardiff when they had talked about the team he had once had in his other life and his wishes about gathering the same people again despite his worries about only destroying their lives again.

Sitting here in front of Angelo’s grave, with Ianto in silent support in his back, he wondered what it would be like to grant them this wish. He wondered if they would get along or if they would hate each other. In many things concerning Jack’s life, they had expressed the same opinions, but that would not necessarily mean anything. Jack snorted and shook his head about himself. It was a silly thought and nothing he should contemplate for too long.

“Who are you? What are you doing here?”

Jack flinched under the harsh and shrill voice of the woman he hadn’t even noticed stepping to them. While he felt Ianto stand up behind him, he only turned his head. The pictures he had seen from Angelo’s younger daughter Emma had been old, but there was no mistaking her. She had aged well, and the only real sign of her age was the grey that had taken over most of her once black hair. She was alone, had her arms crossed over her chest, and was staring down at him with a glare.

“I’m an old friend of your father,” Jack said.

Emma scoffed. “Right. You are a little young for that kind of lie, don’t you think?” She eyed him with a frown. “But you do look familiar.”

Jack sighed. “Yes, I’m sure you have seen pictures as a child.”

Emma opened her mouth, only to close it again with an audible click of her teeth. “You are the son–” she huffed, “–more likely grandson of the man who tried to corrupt my father when he came to New York?” She made a step in their direction and Jack had to acknowledge that she looked impressively threatening doing it. “How dare you come here! You have no right–”

Jack could not help but laugh. “Both are good guesses, I think, but neither is correct. I am the man Angelo met on the day he arrived in New York.” He pushed himself up and reached out his hand in greeting after he had cleaned it on his trousers. “I’m Captain Jack Harkness, and as unexpected as this is, it is a pleasure to finally meet you, Emma.”

She ignored his hand. “This is in no way funny!”

Jack sighed. “After the last five months and what happened all over this planet, I would have thought you are aware that there exist more things than any of you ever imagined! – If I remember correctly, Angelo told you that I couldn’t die, that he had seen me die and come back to life.”

Emma scoffed. “My father has always been delusional and coming back from the war didn’t help at all in that!”

Jack looked her over, trying to determine why her dismissive words did not ring quite true. “I didn’t corrupt you father, I loved him very much. We were very good friends for the last decades of his life.”

“Liar,” Emma accused him and fisted her hands, which drew his eyes to a ring she was wearing on her left thumb.

Jack let his hand drop and took a step back. He looked up at her face again, meeting her gaze with the same coldness she was showing him. “I see.” There was no mistaking the seal on her ring. “You chose the people threatening your father his whole life over your own family. I’m really glad Angelo never learned about it.”

“You have no idea what you are talking about,” Emma spat. “My father was a weak man, and I had to fight hard to overcome the burden of being his daughter!”

“You can’t be very high in their hierarchy.” Jack eyed her with raised brows. “Otherwise, you would have known about me. You would have been the ideal person to watch Angelo, but they didn’t choose you for the job. I guess you never managed to step out of his shadow after all.” He turned away, Ianto following him without pause, but he turned back to her after only two steps. “Oh, and my condolences for your sister.”

Emma frowned. “What?”

Jack raised his brows. “Didn’t your brother-in-law tell you yet? He used the system the people you are supporting put in place to get rid of her as soon as the first burning units were working.”

There was a moment of hesitation, but then Emma drew back her shoulders and raised her chin. “My sister was always weak, being much more like our father than she would have ever wanted to admit. I’m not surprised she was declared a Category One, she never learned to deal with the consequences of her stroke.”

“I’m really glad Angelo never learned what kind of person you became,” Jack sneered. “You would have broken his heart. Be careful in the next couple of weeks. They are cutting off all the loose ends. And with how little you know, I can’t imagine that you are anything but exactly that to them.”

He did not give her an opportunity to reply before he turned away again and walked down the path with long, brisk steps. Ianto was right behind him, but they neither talked nor stopped until they had left the cemetery and turned around the first two corners on the way to their car. They had parked nearly half an hour away from the cemetery because of the many people visiting it already, and additionally, now they had left nearly on the opposite side on which they had entered it.

“I’m sorry we were so rudely interrupted,” Ianto said quietly, after Jack had finally slowed down.

Jack shook his head. “Not your fault. You couldn’t have known she would come, and even if … I would have never suspected that any conversation with her would turn out like this. We need to call Tosh. Her team needs to investigate everyone in Angelo’s family.”

He felt disappointed, not only about this moment at Angelo’s grave being interrupted so rudely, but also on his friend’s behalf about what his daughter had become. Angelo had always held onto his hope to be able to reconnect with his daughters someday, and it would have shattered his heart to know that at least one of them had turned to the people he had spent most of his life working hard to stop.

“Even Olivia and Matteo?”

“I trust both of them implicitly,” Jack muttered. “But I have no idea about the people in their lives. We need to make sure no one is a threat to them, and we need to make sure Sofia’s husband isn’t part of the Three Families as well. Angelo told me once that Matteo had been approached during college by alleged friends who in the end only tried to alienate him from his family. I want to know how much they influenced his life. I’ll need to make sure they won’t get a chance to disturb Olivia’s life or that of anyone in Matteo’s family!”

“You basically just revealed to them how long you have already been in contact at least with part of his family,” Ianto said.

Jack huffed and shook his head. “I wanted to provoke her. I don’t even know why.”

“You listened to Angelo bemoaning the bad relationship to his daughters for years. And you tend to want to fix everything. I’m not surprised you tried to get the answers Angelo always wondered about.” Ianto put a hand on his shoulder and they both came to a halt as he turned Jack around so that they would face each other. “It’s not your fault that they messed with Angelo’s family.”

Jack dragged his fingers through his hair. “No, I know that. It was bad luck that either of us drew their attention to us. But I am angry about myself that I never thought about investigating how far their influence reached into his family. Especially after what Matteo had told him. Neither of us ever suspected they had any kind of active role in Sofia’s or Emma’s lives, and that while we suspected all along that the Three Families were responsible for driving them away.”

“Do you think we need to warn Matteo?” Ianto asked. “We’ll still be with Olivia for a couple of days, so we can prepare her for her aunt or anyone else doing something stupid, but maybe we should also call Matteo.”

“Yes.” Jack sighed. “We need to warn him, and we probably need to tell Julia’s family more than we had planned to tell them, just in case. I already see everything concerning Sofia’s death to become a nightmare, and Julia will be much more affected by that than Olivia.”

They had stayed in Olivia’s house after all and had been welcomed with open arms by all of Julia’s family, but they had spent barely any time with them because other things were occupying their time. Jack had made the decision that they would tell Julia nothing about his connection to Angelo mostly as to not overwhelm her and because she had never really allowed her grandfather to be part of her life even after he had helped her get back on her feet without any questions as soon as he had learned about her situation after being thrown out by her parents. He may have been a little resentful about it on Angelo’s behalf.

Ianto nodded. “I’ll call Tosh and you’ll call Matteo. And then we are sitting down the extended family and telling them a little more of the truth about their grandfather.”

“Maybe we should give Tosh the opportunity to check them out first,” Jack said with a frown.

“Good idea,” Ianto agreed. “It will take us a some time to get back, anyway. Probably up to two hours with the traffic, and I have no idea how long it will take us to find our car. That’s plenty of time for Tosh’s team to analyse their lives.” He smiled and grabbed Jack’s hand. “But I’m positive they won’t find anything. The Three Families have proven repeatedly how homophobe they are.”

Jack hoped Ianto would be right for Olivia’s sake alone. She was so happy to finally have a relationship with at least one of her siblings. Discovering any kind of foul play in Julia’s family, even if she was not involved herself, bore the potential to destroy that relationship again, and for good this time. It was just another reason why he had wanted to keep Julia ignorant about the goals Angelo had worked for in secret, as he had no idea how she would react to any of it.

Ianto cocked his head, and then he hugged Jack. “If it does come to the worst, we are here to support Olivia, and I’m sure she’ll be able to cope with it. I think the life’s work of her grandfather and herself will be more important to her than a relationship to Julia that would have been built on lies.”

“That’s true,” Jack sighed. “For some reason, I was naïve enough to think we could leave it to our team to get rid of their influence in the world. I had really hoped I wouldn’t need to deal with them again.”

“It will take a lot less time to deal with them as it will to deal with the chaos they brought over us,” Ianto muttered. “And they won’t even be a footnote in history.”

“This whole event won’t be a footnote in history,” Jack said. “In my time, no one remembered this so-called Miracle, it wasn’t mentioned in books or databases. I’m still baffled about it, especially if the Doctor is right and it really will leave such a permanent mark in our racial memory.”

“It’s also a very small event, compared to others. Five months is nothing compared to three thousand years.”

Jack shook his head. “I don’t think that’s the reason. I rather suspect…” He took a deep breath. “It wouldn’t be the first or last time the human race would deliberately write something out of their history books. And I don’t know what to think about it, if I should try to change it or not.”

“And what would you achieve with changing it?” Ianto asked.

Jack scoffed. “No idea. Don’t you think the horror of this should be remembered? Everyone is always saying they are working so hard to overcome the atrocities of the last world war, and that something like that would never happen again. But the first opportunity they get, they are building the same kinds of camps again. How long do you think would it have taken for those in power to use them to get rid of those they would have deemed undesirable?”

“I guess it was already happening,” Ianto whispered.

Jack closed his eyes and leaned his head against Ianto’s shoulder. “Fuck. You are probably right.”

“And still, my question remains,” Ianto said. “How can you know what it would change for the future to keep the Miracle from being forgotten? How can you be sure that it won’t change human history to the worse?”

Jack shuddered, and he was sure Ianto had very deliberately pointed out the same thing the Doctor had warned him about without outright saying it. He needed to be careful what he changed when it could influence his own life, and something like this could change everything.

“Let’s concentrate on the things we can actually manage,” Ianto asked. “If it’s a deliberate act or pure coincidence that the Miracle will be forgotten with time, I think we should just let it happen either way. We have far more important things to take care of, now and in the future.”

Jack nodded, but he kept his arms wrapped around Ianto, grounding himself in his presence. He was overthinking things again; he knew that. He had developed this trait while reliving so much of his life, and it was something he should overcome again. But for the moment, he could trust Ianto to remind him of the important things.

For the first time ever, Jack was glad that Ianto had insisted to go the Buenos Aires and take Rex’s place in delivering Jack’s blood to the Blessing. This reminder of how much he needed Ianto, mixed with the echo of his grief for Angelo and even a little bit of the grief he had felt so long ago after losing Ianto in his other life, brought him for the first time to the point where he was not concerned any more about the burden it would eventually become for Ianto.

Ianto would never need to bear this burden on his own, and the same was true for Jack from this point on forward.

Chapter 03

They stayed for two weeks in New York with Olivia, taking care of settling Esther into the clinic, waiting for her first surgery and keeping an eye out for any actions Olivia’s aunt or stepfather would take in the wake of the short encounter with Emma. Jack was wary of leaving her alone with this situation, but she assured him that she had a lot of support from different places, and Julia had turned out to be a decent person as well.

Learning more about the history of her family had been something that was able to break through the last remnants of the lies she had been taught about her grandfather during her childhood. The change in her attitude had been visible at once, and Jack had witnessed a heartfelt apology to Olivia. He was hopeful that Olivia would finally be able to claim back a part of her family.

Olivia herself had taken the revelations about her mother and aunt a lot better than he had ever expected. She had shrugged and told him she had long ago emotionally disinherited this part of her family before Julia had even been born. Jack thought he should not have been so surprised about it, her mother had willingly given her up when she had barely been eleven after all.

Because Jack had revealed to Emma, and therefore probably to whatever was left of the Three Families at this point, that he had known Matteo for a long time, they finally decided on an official visit to New Zealand. International travel was still slow, but there was starting a plane or two each day on the major routes, even if the planes were barely half-filled. Jack was glad that he and Ianto were nearly alone in the first-class compartment because it allowed them to relax during their flight, and even find a couple of hours of sleep.

Matteo had taken care to rent them a car that was waiting for them at the airport so that they had to do nothing more than get the keys. They stopped at a diner near the airport for a late breakfast because the one on the plane had been as bad as was to be expected. Jack contemplated for a while to tell Ianto about Melissa because he had not spoken about her at all with his lover but ultimately decided against it. There was every chance Ianto would not even meet her or notice any kind of connection between them, and Jack was much too used to not talk about her at all. He hoped for himself that she would not be there.

Matteo was still living in the same house as he had been living in more than three decades ago when Jack had brought Lucia here, and that he had visited a couple of times since Angelo’s death, but it was the same experience here as it had been in New York two weeks ago when he had first stood in front of Angelo’s house. He had never seen this one from the outside either, although he knew at least a couple of pictures from the collections about the milestones in Melissa’s life.

As Jack left the car, Matteo stepped out of the house with a huge smile, followed by his wife Francesca. He enclosed Jack in a tight hug right beside the car. “You took your sweet time arriving!”

Jack laughed. “We aren’t exactly late.”

Matteo snorted. “That’s debatable.” He turned around before Jack could say anything to that. “And you have to be Ianto. I have heard a lot about you and I’m so happy to finally meet you!”

“I’ve heard a lot about you as well,” Ianto said with a smile and reached out his hand only to find himself in the same kind of bear hug Jack had gotten just moments ago.

Jack was distracted from watching them as Francesca greeted him with a kiss on each cheek. “The whole family is mostly still gathered here. I hope that won’t be too overwhelming for you. We haven’t told them much about you, except that you were a friend of Angelo.”

Jack nodded with a sigh. Every time he had visited Matteo, they had discussed telling her the truth about everything, and Jack had cautioned him against it, but it seemed he had finally told her. “I don’t intend to tell anyone here about my real connection to him. I would have to reveal too much about myself, and it’s better if these things are forgotten again. The fewer people know about me…”

“Yes, of course,” Francesca interrupted him with a smile. “Officially, you are the grandson of the man Angelo was in love with for his whole life. It’s possible that our children saw a picture of you in the time before Angelo started to put them all away, but it will be a vague memory for them, and we can just say there is a very strong family resemblance in you.”

“And is…” Jack turned his head away, swallowing.

“Melissa is here with her children. Joe has been stuck in Europe for the whole time of the Miracle because there were no flights going out here anymore. He is scheduled to finally return in a week. Melissa was the first one we took in, and the rest followed. It was easier to stay together.”

Jack nodded slowly, trying to prepare himself to be confronted not only with the daughter who knew nothing about him but also with his grandchildren. “Ianto and I can take a hotel–”

“Nonsense!” Matteo bellowed. “We may be packed, but we have a free guest room for you.”

Jack exchanged a look with Ianto, who watched him thoughtfully but just shrugged.

“If Matteo is anything like Olivia or Julia, I don’t see that protesting will bring us anything else but a headache,” Ianto said.

Matteo frowned. “Julia, as in my youngest nice? I wasn’t aware Olivia had any contact with her.”

It was a good point to start filling in Matteo in the things happening in New York as any other, and it was at least something positive to tell him. There were other things they would have to share with him, and Jack was not looking forward to that conversation, so he gratefully took this chance to concentrate on Julia’s family for a while. The other things would have to wait for a moment in which they had more privacy anyway.

The family gathering was bigger than Jack had expected, but at the same time, less crowded because Matteo had taken a leaf out of his father’s book and bought not only one but both of the adjourning estates to his own sometime in the last couple of years. With three building available, it was easy to spread out not only his own four children with their families but also Melissa’s two younger brothers with their families and several of the in-laws.

Jack and Ianto were introduced to all the adults and a couple of the children playing in the garden, but they were also informed that no one expected them to remember any names. To have so many people here made it easier for Jack not to stare at Melissa all the time, or the two children in the crowd he knew were hers, or the baby she was carrying either in her arms or strapped to her front at all times. He wondered if she remembered their brief encounter six years ago when he had come here to inform Matteo about Angelo’s death, but he hoped she would not question them about it.

It was late in the evening before they managed to get Matteo alone in his study, but in the hours in between they had also learned a lot about the situation in New Zealand as a whole. The island nation had weathered the months of the Miracle a lot better than other countries, but that was mostly because of their relatively small population. Jack knew other small nations, especially those isolated on islands, had also fared better than the more densely populated states on the continents. There had still been overflow camps even here, but they had only started to burn those labelled Category One very late, and as far as they knew at this point, there had been a lot less chaos in those camps here than they knew about those in America and Europe.

“I take it your visit is not just a social call,” Matteo said after he had activated the security measures in his office that would hopefully stop anyone from listening in. As Angelo had done for his own office, Matteo had kept the security for this room up to date through all the technological advancement of the years.

“We had already planned to come to visit you before we learned about certain things.” Jack shrugged, standing beside the chair Matteo had pointed him to, unsure if he wanted to sit down for this conversation or not. “We would have probably visited a little more secretive otherwise, but we would have come for a visit. But what is left of the Three Families already knows I’ve had contact with Angelo and at least part of his family for a long time, so there is no harm done in breaking the secrecy of the last years.”

“How much is left of them?” Matteo asked.

“Only isolated cells of no more than ten people, as far as we can tell,” Ianto said. “Our team at home took out their communication network, and we managed to get many of them arrested in their home countries or let them lose their social standing. We can only hope that we didn’t miss anything big.”

Jack nodded in agreement. Not all those people had been arrested, a lot of them had been executed, either because the responsible government had ordered it or because they had resisted their arrest, but he did not pity a single one of them. They had not talked much with Toshiko or anyone in Cardiff, but her fury was palpable every time they called. Whatever she and her team had uncovered about the plans of the Three Families, he was not looking forward to learning the details of it.

Jack finally decided to sit down, and Ianto’s hand settled on his knee, warm and reassuring. Ianto had been the only one during the last week who had been able to stay calm while Toshiko had sent them more and more information about how deeply entangled Emma, her husband and at least Sofia’s husband had been in the Three Families. There was still a lot of information to go through, and Jack dreaded learning about the rest.

“It’s still hard to believe for me how much influence they actually had all over the world,” Matteo muttered. He was leaning on his desk, arms crossed in front of his arms. “To be honest, I thought for the longest time you and Dad were making more out of it than it was. I was glad to support your cause, of course, but I never expected the utter chaos of the last months, or the very coordinated effort to take control of that chaos all over the world. It’s a feat to gain the same influence in Chine or Russia as in the USA or Europe. I hadn’t thought this possible at all.”

“I wouldn’t have believed it either if I hadn’t seen it once already,” Jack agreed. “I have no idea how they accomplished it, but maybe we’ll find out more now. – But I’m glad that there were at least some countries that weren’t hit as hard by their plans. The Miracle alone was bad enough, but everything that’s happened with the overflow camps will haunt humanity for decades to come.”

Matteo sighed. “There happened bad things here as well, but I can see… Did you hear the news from Australia yet? I can’t imagine that will be the only instance of someone abusing this hastily organised system.”

“What happened in Australia?” Ianto asked with a frown.

“Right, of course, you haven’t heard about it, you were travelling last night.” Matteo turned his head away. “There is a clinic in Melbourne, more a nursing home, really, for disabled children. Mostly mentally disabled, but also for those who are so physically disabled that they need care 24/7. The man in charge of that clinic, with the help of a couple of nurses and doctors, had thirty of those children killed in the overflow camps. And two nurses who had protested it and tried to stop them.”

Jack felt bile rise in his throat. Matteo was right. It would not be the only atrocity coming to light in the next months and years, but that would not make any of those revelations any easier to bear. A catastrophe like the Miracle brought forward both the best and the worst of humanity. Jack and Angelo had tried to strengthen the best as good as they could in the last decades, but he had always known that it would not cancel out the bad things happening during the Miracle.

“It was a system built to be abused,” Ianto said quietly. “The Three Families wanted to use it for their own gain, not for solving the problems of over-population and the lack of resources as it was stated. Their goal was all along to use those camps to control the population, it’s no surprise others got the same idea as soon as the camps opened.”

“Only two were opened here,” Matteo muttered. “And as far as we know, at the moment, no one was burned here. There happened other horrible things, and that led to more people than necessary dying when it ended, but I feel this is at least one huge burden our country has been spared.”

“It is,” Jack agreed. “I’m sure very soon the overflowing camps will have the same historical significance as the concentration camps of the Nazis. And this time every single country will have to deal with this kind of legacy. – And I fear we can’t spare you personally the burden of being affected by this kind of abuse.”

Matteo looked at him with a deep frown. “What are you talking about?”

Jack sighed. “The least shocking thing we discovered while we were in New York…” He trailed off, shaking his head. This was not how he should deliver this news, but he could hardly take back the words that had already left his mouth. “I’m sorry to tell you this, but Sofia died during the Miracle after Henry declared her a Category One.”

Matteo closed his eyes. “Fuck.” After a moment of silence, he huffed. “I can’t even be surprised he would do something like this. I was surprised he didn’t put her into a nursing home after her stroke.” There was another moment of silence before Matteo opened his eyes again and looked at Jack. “Did you say he declared her a Category One? I thought that decision was up to the doctors in those camps!”

“In most cases, yes.” Jack sighed. “But not so much if you had connections to the right people. And we learned that not only Henry but also Emma and her husband have been involved with the Three Families for years. We are not sure yet how much Sofia knew exactly.”

Matteo paled, and for a moment Jack wished he would have asked him to sit down before telling him any of this. “For how long?”

“Most of their adult lives,” Ianto said. “Toshiko is still digging up the information.”

Jack cocked his head. “Angelo told me long ago that you were approached by them as well.”

“I’m not sure if ‘approached’ is the right word.” Matteo shook his head. “There were people trying to alienate me from my parents, especially from my father, but no one ever spoke with me about the Three Families. And it stopped completely after I came here. We always suspected they just wanted to isolate Dad. I never even suspected … are you sure about this?”

“Emma as good as admitted it to us,” Jack said. “And you are right, we never expected this either. Angelo and I talked a lot about Emma and Sofia. He always wished to reconnect with them. I have to say I’m glad he never had to learn about this. It would have broken his heart.”

“Yes, it would have killed him,” Matteo whispered. “Is it only them or their children as well? Except for Olivia, of course. And Julia, I guess?”

“Emma’s children aren’t involved in this as far as we know,” Ianto said. “They have been distant to their parents for years and we suspect this is the very reason for it. Olivia is trying to reach out to them. Julia and Olivia’s siblings, on the other hand, seem to follow their father’s lead. They were already on Toshiko’s list of people to ruin, but she didn’t recognize the connection because Jack never told our team about Angelo or any of you.”

It had been the first time that Jack had regretted this decision. If he had at least told Toshiko about Angelo and his family, they would have learned earlier about this betrayal. It would have changed nothing in the end, maybe even only distracted him, but the shock about it wouldn’t have been as big as it had been now. He wondered if this was a change in the timeline because of the influence his friendship and later renewed relationship had on Angelo, or if Angelo’s daughters had been recruited in his other life as well.

“How are Olivia and Julia?” Matteo asked, worry clear in his voice and on his face. “Should I arrange to travel to New York?”

Jack shook his head. “I think they are handling the situation as good as possible. I don’t know if you could be of any help to them, and you have to take care of your family here. It should be enough if you visit them for Sofia’s funeral, and I’m not sure when and if that will happen. There has been no official announcement yet who was burned in the overflow camps, and I think it will take several weeks for that to happen. I’m pretty sure we’ll have to force the issue in most countries.”

“And you will force the issue?” Matteo asked. “Do you think that will help?”

Jack shrugged. “It won’t help either to let hundreds of families wonder what happened to their loved ones.”

“People can only start to heal from this whole mess if it’s known what happened,” Ianto said. “History has proven that it’s not helpful if things are only revealed in increments or after a lot of time. If the things that happened are known, we can work through them.”

Matteo sighed. “I can see the point in that, but still… I have heard the situation is pretty unstable in a lot of countries. Won’t this only pour oil in the fire?”

“It will,” Jack agreed. “But it will also stop people actively involved in these camps to regain any position of power.”

“Are we looking at a global war, Jack?” Matteo asked. “Because that’s what I fear the most right now. People starting to tear into each other, especially in those regions that have already been unstable all along. We know North Korea had a lot of movement in their troops, and I’m not sure if the peace between India and Pakistan will hold, not now that the Miracle has ended.”

“It’s a possibility, of course, but I don’t think we have to expect a war at a global scale. We have still a little while to go before the next World War, at least as far as I remember learning about it,” Jack said.

He hoped at least there his history lessons would turn out to be true. The Miracle had been wiped out of the history books in the time he was coming from, so any war following it would have probably been written out of them as well. “But you are right, it is something we need to be concerned about, and something we need to work against. But holding back information won’t help.”

Matteo nodded, staring at a point on the floor somewhere between them. “Did you check for any connections to the Three Families here?”

“Yes, but we didn’t find anything,” Ianto said. “They seem to have lost interest in you as soon as you came here. We suspect they thought out your sisters in the hope they would be able to control your father through them, and with you basically on the other side of the world, you would have been of no use for them.”

“And I probably turned them down during college often enough, without even noticing it.” Matteo rubbed his hand over his mouth. “I really… I always thought it was the age difference that made it so hard for me to connect with them. Emma accused me more than once that Dad was always doting on me, favouring me in everything. She brought that up even during his funeral, and I never once could understand these accusations. Did you talk with her about any of this?”

Jack shook his head. “No. We only met her briefly, and it was that encounter that tripped us off to her involvement with the Three Families in the first place.”

“What is your team doing about her? I mean, you’re dismantling their network, right? Most of them should have been arrested in the last weeks.”

“Those we could pin any kind of crime in their home country on, yes,” Ianto agreed. “For the rest, our team is working on ruining them socially and financially. And that’s what will happen to your sister, and to Olivia and Julia’s siblings. We need to take away every base they have so that they won’t be able to turn to other plans they have made.”

“I need to talk to her,” Matteo muttered. “I need to know… I need to hear from herself why she would betray our father in this way.”

Jack thought that would be a useless endeavour, but he also knew that Matteo would not listen to such a piece of advice. There would be nothing Emma would have to say that could give Matteo any kind of answer or closure because she was too caught up in the idealism that had been fed to her. He did not believe that she was a true believer in their cause, otherwise, she would have known more, especially about him, so whatever her reasons were they would be tainted by whatever lies she had been told about Angelo.

Matteo took a deep breath and closed his eyes again. “Did you find anything about my mother?”

“No.” Jack shook his head. “As far as we can tell, there was never any direct contact between her and the Three Families.”

Matteo shuddered. “At least something that’s not been a lie in my family.”

“I’m sorry you all were dragged into this so much,” Jack muttered. “Angelo would have never wanted… We tried very hard to keep them out of all of your lives. We thought we had succeeded. That was part of the reason for us keeping our connection secret so that they would think Angelo had given up on discovering their plans.”

The most galling thing about this whole situation was, that they had failed in that so much. Granted, Jack had never looked too closely into Angelo’s daughters, and even though Angelo had suspected that the rift between Sofia, Emma and him had been caused by the Three Families, neither of them had ever suspected that there could have been more to it than only isolating Angelo from his family.

Matteo looked at him with a weary smile. “This is not your fault, Jack. It’s not even Dad’s fault, despite the mistake he made that led us here. If anyone is at fault for tearing apart our family, it’s Emma and Sofia for falling for their bullshit. I have to assume they approached me the same way they approached them because it had been successful with my sisters.”

Jack tried to return the smile, but he knew he was failing utterly. It would take a long time to get over the regret he was feeling concerning Angelo’s family.

***

Ianto was sitting at one of the more isolated corners in the garden, from which he could watch over the playing children without being disturbed by them too much. They had arrived two days ago at Matteo’s house and Ianto had decided to leave it to Jack to console Matteo on this day. The revelations about his sisters had been difficult for him, and Jack tried to help him work through it, but Ianto felt there was nothing he could contribute to that.

After he had seen how broken the part of Angelo’s family was that had remained in New York, it was fascinating to see how strong of a unit Matteo’s part of the family was. Between Matteo’s children and his wife’s cousins, there were seven families living peacefully together right now. There were also a couple more people in Matteo’s age group here, but Ianto had not even tried to learn about the relations to them, it was hard enough to keep track of all the names.

As they had done with the families of their team members, Matteo had gathered everyone even remotely important to anyone in his family to bring them together as a group to get through the Miracle together. It had worked fabulously in Cardiff, even though they had not managed to bring everyone to their city they had wanted, and Ianto had the impression it had worked as well for Matteo’s family.

Watching the children play in the garden helped him to forget for a little while what they had all been through.

“Do you mind if I join you?”

Ianto flinched in surprise. He had been so mesmerized by the children that he had not noticed the woman approaching.

“I’m sorry…” she began.

“It’s alright.” Ianto waved a hand and pointed at the free chair. “I just didn’t notice you.” He watched her for a moment while she sat down and adjusted her hold on the baby in her arms. “Melissa, right?”

She laughed. “Yes. I’m impressed that you haven’t gotten a single name wrong since you arrived. There are a lot of us here!”

Ianto grinned. “There is a reason I haven’t used the name of a single kid when I have spoken to them. Hard enough to keep track of the adults.”

“Is that the reason you are hiding here?” Melissa asked. “Everyone knows I come here when I need a little of calm, so no one would disturb me when I’m sitting here. It’s been like this since my children and I were the only ones Uncle Matteo and Aunt Fran had taken in. Not so easy being pregnant during that whole mess. I think they have transferred that to you when they saw you sitting here.”

“I didn’t know that,” Ianto said with a laugh. “I just thought it was far enough out of the way to provide a little reprieve. Not one of these children is especially shy with strangers, are they?”

“Uncle Matteo took you and your partner in. That makes you basically family around here,” Melissa said. “But if you tell them to leave you alone, they’ll follow that.”

Ianto sighed. “I don’t really mind them. After everything I have seen in the last months, it’s nice to see them all so … carefree. You managed to shelter them a lot from what happened in the world, and I think that’s a good thing for them.”

“I think it was easier here than in other parts of the world.” Melissa shrugged. “My husband has been stuck in Europe for half a year now, and what he’s told me … I’m so relieved it’s all over. I wouldn’t have wanted my children to grow up in what the world was becoming.”

“Agreed,” Ianto muttered.

“Aunt Fran said you helped stop whatever was happening.”

Ianto sighed. “Remind me to tell her not to spread this around.”

Matteo’s wife knew more than Ianto had expected, but he could hardly fault Matteo for confiding in her. She had not known for long, despite Matteo preparing for the Miracle basically his whole life, and was still very excited about it. They had tried to impress on her how important it was to keep her knowledge to herself.

Melissa cocked her head. “But she didn’t lie, did she?”

“She didn’t,” Ianto agreed. “But that doesn’t mean we want everyone to know about it. – It was a manmade problem, but the science behind it is… so far away from everything we can understand right now. It was explained to me by a couple of very brilliant minds, and I’m not exactly dumb, but I could barely follow a word of what they were saying. Knowing how this happened will help no one, especially as the biggest problem about the whole situation was how humanity reacted to it.”

“I can see your point.” Melissa looked down at her baby, stroking her fingers over his head. “I won’t talk about it and I’ll remind the others of it as well.”

“Thank you. How old is he?”

“A week.” Melissa laughed, but there was nothing humorous in it. “We hadn’t planned for another child, we were happy with the two we had. And then all this chaos that happened. I’m just so glad it ended before he was born. I was so afraid of giving birth during that whole mess.”

Ianto frowned. “Why is that?”

Melissa sighed deeply. “I know a woman… She gave birth three months ago, but her daughter… In other circumstances, she would have been stillborn, and that’s difficult enough for the parents on its own, but now… they spent three months caring for a newborn that was completely unresponsive. I don’t know if I would say she was even ever really alive, but she was still there, breathing, growing even, but … She died the moment the Miracle ended.”

“And you feared something similar would happen to your son,” Ianto muttered.

“Yes.” Melissa rubbed her fingers over her eyes, wiping away her tears. “You are always afraid of your child being ill, of course, of something going wrong. But this time … I couldn’t imagine dealing with such a situation.”

“Your son looks quite healthy to me. And the Miracle has ended. All of your children will be able to lead a normal life.”

Melissa took a deep breath. “Yes, and that’s a huge relief. I can’t wait for Joe to finally come home. He has missed quite enough of the life of this little guy.”

“Is his travel already arranged?” Ianto asked, wondering if calling Toshiko could help to arrange something for Melissa’s husband.

But Melissa nodded. “Uncle Matteo paid for the travel, I think otherwise it would have still taken a long time. Joe’s first flight leaves Paris tomorrow, and it will take him three days, but he’ll come home, eventually. That’s three times the length it took him to reach Europe half a year ago, and I don’t even want to think about how much more we had to pay this time. I guess we all have to get used to it that it won’t be so easy any more to travel as it once was.”

“I think as long as there is no war breaking out, travel will be the first to get back to some kind of normal,” Ianto said. “We watched the development in that the last two weeks for our own travel plans, and I was surprised how fast some routes were flown again. I’m not looking forward to our journey back to Cardiff.”

Melissa laughed. “No, I can’t imagine you would. Joe has complained a lot already, and we have arranged a night in a hotel for him here before he comes home, so that he can sleep before the children descend on him. A night more or less doesn’t change anything now, anyway.”

Ianto nodded. “Sounds sensible. What’s his name?”

Melissa chuckled. “Jack. I named him after my father, or at least the name I was given for him. I’m pretty sure it’s not his real name. It still felt… right, I guess. We had talked about it for Lucas already before he was born, but then it didn’t feel right in the end.” She shrugged, watching her son with a smile.

Ianto stared at her for a long moment, trying to keep the frown from his face, while a couple of puzzle pieces he had pondered over in the last couple of days fell into their places. “You didn’t know your father?”

“I don’t even know the real name of my mum, or where she really came from.” Melissa sighed and shrugged again. “I may call Matteo and Fran my uncle and aunt, and officially, according to all existing documents, I am her niece. But there is no blood relation between us. My mum came here to hide, and she never told me what she was fleeing from. For a while I thought it had been my father, despite the letters he left for me because that’s what Uncle Matteo had dedicated his life to, you know, helping women get away from abusive situations.”

“And yet you named your son after him.” Ianto watched the sleeping boy, his thoughts whirling around the little pieces of information he knew about Jack’s past, and the odd behaviour he had shown around Melissa.

Ianto was sure no one else had noticed, except maybe Matteo, but Jack had barely been able to tear his eyes from Melissa whenever they had been in the same room. Ianto had thought Jack was puzzled about the fact that Melissa seemed familiar, because he had paused about that thought as well as they had been introduced, but now he started to suspect that there was another reason for Jack watching her.

When Jack had told them after Lisa’s funeral about the woman he had once been with and who had died for Torchwood, Ianto had barely taken notice of it, but Jack had told him later again about Lucia Moretti. She had clearly been important to him, but there had been no grief or guilt when Jack had spoken about her despite her gruesome death in a fire that he had witnessed and had died in himself, at least as far as the official records went. Ianto had seen pictures of Lucia, in her file in the archive, but also in Jack’s flat. But he had dismissed the similarities between her and Melissa. Now he wondered if he had been too hasty in that decision.

“Uncle Matteo sat me down when I was seventeen and in the heights of that phase to think my father had been one of the most terrible men to ever live.” Melissa sighed and shook her head with a small smile. “Every birthday I would get a letter from my father. They were written as if there was actually some kind of correspondence between us, asking about my life, speculating about it sometimes, and telling me little things about his own life. On that birthday, I had refused to open the letter, to even look at it, because I was convinced they were fake.”

For a while, Melissa stared silently at her son. “There was never a person I trusted more than my Uncle. Not even my mum because I always knew she was lying to me about her past. For a long time, I resented her for it. Uncle Matteo explained to me that it had been my father who had arranged for my mother to come here. That he had personally asked Uncle Matteo to take care of us. I still don’t know what we needed to be protected from, and I learned not to ask about it, but I’m convinced my father went to great length to protect us.”

“Maybe it’s better not to know,” Ianto suggested. If his suspicion was right, it could end in a catastrophe if she ever tried to dig up her past. Torchwood itself may not be a threat to her anymore, but for the moment there were much too many people who knew about Jack’s immortality, and Ianto had learned that no one could be trusted with that knowledge. “How many letters did he leave for you?”

“Fifty-two. Twenty-five years’ worth of birthday and Christmas letters, as well as one for my first day of school and one for my graduation from High School. They are all in a deposit box to keep them safe, but I have copies at home, and I even made digital copies not too long ago.”

“Sounds like he was very dedicated to being part of your life, even so, he wasn’t able to be here,” Ianto said.

Melissa shrugged. “Yeah. But I have no idea how much of what he told me in those letters is even true. Some things seem to be… there are a couple of things that don’t quite gel. But you are right, whatever reasons my parents had for hiding my mum and me here, they did it to protect me. And we have a good life, my mum even found a new love, and he never treated me any different from my brothers.”

“Where is your mother now?” Ianto was sure he would have recognized Lucia Moretti even if the pictures he knew of her were nearly forty years old. She would have surely been able to hide that she knew Jack as a former Torchwood operative, but he would have expected to see her in this gathering of Matteo’s family, and she evidently had been made part of this family after Jack had brought her here.

“She died, just a year ago. We caught the first round of cancer a couple of years ago very early on, but for some reason, the doctors didn’t notice that it had returned until it was too late.” Melissa frowned. “A small part of me is glad now that she did not have to live through this mess.”

Ianto nodded, not sure what he could say to that. Part of him could understand that sentiment, especially for someone who had left behind their life with Torchwood so long ago, even though Melissa would know nothing about that.

Melissa huffed. “I’m not even sure why I’m telling you all of this!”

Ianto grinned. “Because I asked, and maybe because you needed to get it off your chest. Naming your son after the father you never knew would bring everything you ever thought about that situation to the forefront, don’t you think? And I’m someone who didn’t know your story yet, so you didn’t have to fear to bore me with it, and for me to only listen because I didn’t want to offend you. I have seen how careful everyone here is with you.”

“Much more carefully than I need!” Melissa murmured with a frown. “I mean, I understand it, but the constant coddling is starting to get on my last nerve. Just another reason I’m happy Joe’ll be back soon.”

Ianto laughed. “And you think your husband will be any better? After he missed most of your pregnancy and had to leave you alone for the most tiring experience this world has had in decades?”

Melissa frowned at him. “Maybe I have to re-evaluate how much I like you!”

“Maybe you should,” Ianto grinned.

“May I ask how you were involved in all of this? How my Uncle is involved in this?”

Ianto hesitated for a long moment. They had been prepared for this kind of questions, and they had come up with a cover story in case they were unable to evade the curiosity of Matteo’s family, but he was not sure which of those two routes would be the better one with Melissa. “It all started with Matteo’s father Angelo and Jack’s grandfather…” He had to pause when he looked down at baby Jack to swallow back his laugh because that sentence held more truth than he would have ever expected. “My Jack’s grandfather, that is, witnessing a suspicious transaction in New York.”

***

Later that day, Jack and Ianto were strolling over a nearly deserted beach, a nearly two-hour drive away from Matteo’s house because they needed a break from the family gathering, and Jack had wanted to show him this place. The beach was hidden in the cliffs and could only be reached by walking for an hour and crossing an old tunnel. No one else was here, and even if there would be others, there were enough niches in the rock to be undisturbed and unseen even for a more private conversation.

Ianto had spent several hours sitting with Melissa in the garden, and he had not missed the worry in Jack’s eyes when he had spotted them. It was clear to Ianto that it had been a deliberate decision by Jack not to tell him about Melissa. Ianto had no idea how to overcome Jack’s insecurities.

“You’ve been very absent today,” Jack muttered, clearly uncomfortable.

“I had just a couple of revelations.” Ianto shrugged. “I have thought a lot about your indifference to your own death, and about you seeing others die. But for some reason, I never thought about what it has to be like to see the people around you age as well. Being confronted with the fact of how hard that has to be … how hard that will be for me as well now, is … odd, I guess. I think right now I’m more startled that I didn’t think about it earlier, than about the ramifications itself.”

The shock about that would come later, Ianto could already feel it rising. He had known he would have a freak out about his situation sooner rather than later; he had made a list of topics he had expected to stumble over, but this had not been on this list. Maybe it had been stupid to think he would be able to prepare for this, especially thinking he would struggle with the same things Jack had told him about having to come to terms with, or even never coming to terms with, in some cases.

Jack blew out a breath. “I didn’t know she would be here. I would have postponed this visit, if…”

“I don’t begrudge you your secrets,” Ianto interrupted him. He had never done that, but he suspected the Ianto in Jack’s other life had because Jack seemed to expect it every single time something came to light that he had not yet disclosed to Ianto. “And I understand very well why you would keep her a secret. Especially after you told me what happened to her in your other life.”

Jack shook his head. “I’m pretty sure someday I would have told you about her. Probably several decades down the line, when she…”

Ianto nodded, understanding very well what Jack was unable to say out loud. “Her oldest child is a girl this time.”

“Yes.” Jack sighed. “I’m still stumped about the fact that she married the same man who fathered Steven. They weren’t happy last time, but this time they are very much so … I’m glad Steven wasn’t born. I don’t know … how I would have reacted to that. By all rights, she shouldn’t even have met Joe again, let alone married him again. She should not have been so similar to the daughter I had in the other life, and she is still genetically nearly the same. But I’m glad she is happy this time.”

“Very happy, as far as I can tell,” Ianto agreed, smiling. “And safe.”

“I brought Lucia back in time for half a year when we faked her death,” Jack muttered. “I never saw Melissa until the day Angelo died, and I came here to tell Matteo about it. It was a shock, but it barely registered until much later because I was too…” He sighed. “I haven’t seen her since then, either. I made the decision that it was better to not be part of her life. I ruined her life last time, long before I had to … kill her child.”

Ianto hummed. He could not imagine how difficult it had to be for Jack to see her now, to be confronted with her every day after he had made the decision to keep out of her life so long ago. “We have done what we came here for. We checked in on Matteo, we warned him. We don’t have to stay any longer.”

Jack chuckled. “You keep surprising me, you know.”

Ianto hoped he would never stop surprising Jack, even so at the same time he wished Jack would trust him more. “You really thought I would be mad?”

Jack shrugged. “It wasn’t just a secret I kept from you. I very deliberately lied to you about this, more than once.”

“You lied to protect her,” Ianto said. “And we both know that she needed this protection. That she still needs this layer of protection and will need it for the rest of her life. And so do her children. – I’m surprised the Three Families didn’t try to get to her in your other life, to be honest.”

“I don’t trust anything anymore I thought I knew about them in my other life,” Jack confessed. “I don’t … I didn’t look for her when I came back or during the Miracle. I didn’t want to face her. As far as I know, they could have abducted her after I left Earth. Or maybe they even managed to convince her to work with them. – I never should have trusted my knowledge about any of this from the other timeline. I was much too concerned about my plan to destroy the 456 in the past to pay attention to the details about the Miracle.”

Ianto laughed. “You do know Toshiko double checked everything you told us, right? – You had forty-seven years’ worth of events you tried to change, none of us expected you to remember much of any details, or for the details, you still remembered to be all valid. We were impressed with how much you actually did remember.”

Jack stopped in the middle of his step and turned his head to Ianto. “What?”

“Despite your inability to die, no one thinks you are some kind of superhuman.” Ianto cocked his head and smiled at Jack. “We didn’t expect you to remember much of what happened fifty years ago for you, at least not accurately. Of course we double-checked and kept in mind that you could misremember something. Or that the things you had changed since you came back could have had an impact on our opponents even if you hadn’t intended it.”

Jack stared at him, clearly dumbfounded.

Ianto laughed and pressed a kiss against his lips. “We have your back, especially when you aren’t aware you even need it.”

Jack wrapped his arms around him, drawing him into another, much deeper kiss. After a long time, he whispered against Ianto’s lips, “It’s not so hard to see them age, at least for me. But I didn’t allow myself this experience for a long time. I don’t know what it will be like for you. Especially with our team, or your sister. Estelle, in the other timeline, was the first one I allowed myself to meet again after she had grown old. At that point, I had already run away for more than a hundred years from that experience.”

“You had contact with your daughter in the other life, didn’t you?”

Jack closed his eyes and leaned his forehead against Ianto’s. “Not for all of her life. It was harder for her to see me not age than it was for me to see her age. Every second I could be part of her life was precious, I savoured those moments even when I couldn’t show it to her.”

“I’ll need to fall out of contact with Rhiannon in a couple of years,” Ianto whispered. “She won’t be able to understand… And I don’t want to confront her with it.”

“Let’s see how she dealt with the Miracle first, okay? You don’t know what this experience changed for her. She knows about Torchwood now, which will change her interactions with you. Maybe give her a chance to prove herself before you deprive yourself of the opportunity to spend as much time with her as you can.”

Ianto sighed. “You have met her. Do you really believe she is able to handle any of this?”

“I have seen her in the other life react to Torchwood, to the threat aliens could be to her and her family. She’ll be able to handle the reality of your life. And I’m positive she’ll be able to handle your changed circumstances.” Jack cupped Ianto’s cheeks with both of his hands. “I know your relationship has been difficult at times, but I really think you should give her a chance.”

Ianto frowned and bit his lip. “Let’s see what she’ll do when we return.”

In his mind, ‘difficult’ was a very tame choice of word for the kind of relationship he had had with his sister. He had tried to reconnect since coming back to Cardiff, which had also only happened because Jack had suggested it, but every single meeting with her had been awkward and trying at times. The secrets he had kept from her in the past were only part of it, and she was still not comfortable with his relationship with Jack. He could not see their relationship changing.

Jack nodded. “Okay.” He kissed Ianto’s forehead and took his hand before he turned away to continue their walk. “I think we could need a little more of a break than we had in the last weeks. Just the two of us for a couple of hours with no one else around.”

“That sounds wonderful!” Ianto agreed.

“You ever wonder how the places you see were like before humans got there?” Jack asked. He led Ianto around a big rock, so that they could not be seen if someone would come to the beach right now.

“You going to show me?”

Jack grinned brightly. “Hold on tight.”

Ianto did not hesitate to wrap his arms around Jack’s waist as he opened his wrist strap to activate it. He had travelled often enough with Jack before the Miracle to know how the process worked, how it felt like to be transported not only through space but also through time. At first, it had felt awkward, leaving him dazed and even nauseous after the first couple of trips, but he had gotten used to it fairly quickly. They were up on the cliffs when they landed, right at the edge, and looking down showed Ianto that there was no beach in sight, the waves crashing right at the rocks.

“Welcome to New Zealand of 1150, a couple hundred years before the first humans discovered this island,” Jack said, grinning.

Ianto stared over at the ocean, inhaling deeply. The air was crispy and smelled so different to everything he was used to. “It’s…”

“Peaceful,” Jack suggested. “Undisturbed from any sentient influence for such a very long time, that only nature’s influence is recognisable.”

“I was never aware how … polluted the air really was, even in places where everyone is saying the air is so clean.”

Jack sat down on the edge of the cliff. “We have never been very far in the past up until now. The industrial revolution changed a lot more than many people are aware of. But then, they don’t have any chance to compare the before and after for themselves. It’s been a long time since I have been on Earth this far in the past as well.”

“You were more concerned with showing me every single place of the present I had ever talked about.” Ianto chuckled, sitting down beside Jack. He had to fight against the uneasy feeling settling in his stomach about the height. He was pretty sure he would never be able to understand Jack’s love for high places. “And I enjoyed that very much. We have all eternity now for you to show me whatever you want me to see.”

“I’m looking forward to it,” Jack whispered, but his fingers grabbed the edge hard.

“Really?” Ianto knew all about Jack’s doubts. They had spent hours and hours discussing them, and the last weeks had not given him the impression that Jack had changed his opinion. On the other hand, they had not talked much about it since the end of the Miracle. It was done and they could not take it back, so Ianto saw no reason to discuss it over and over again when he was sure that Jack would eventually lose these doubts, given enough time.

“Knowing I won’t lose you, at least not to death, is … a much bigger relief than I had expected.”

Ianto swallowed, falling short on any words. He had not expected this kind of revelation from Jack until the first time something would happen to him. Ianto did not plan to take on more risks than was necessary, but with their kind of work, it was inevitable that something would happen sooner rather than later.

“When I saw you with Melissa earlier … Seeing the people I love age is really not such a big problem. But waiting for their death…” Jack shook his head. “Someday Melissa will die, hopefully as a very old woman. My half of her genes should erase any kind of cancer risk she could have inherited from her mother, so with a little bit of luck, she’ll even get to meet a couple of her great-grandchildren. But the day when she’ll leave is inevitable. And I wouldn’t want to change that for her either.”

“There is nothing wrong with wishing those you love could stay with you,” Ianto muttered.

“It’s selfish,” Jack said. “Especially when knowing what it entails. And I have already been very, very selfish once concerning you. I don’t want to let you go again. I don’t think… I’m in a better place now, it wouldn’t destroy me as much as it did last time, even if I had to make a similar decision as I had to make about Steven the next day again, I think. But it was still the most terrifying thing I could imagine in the last years. – So yes, I’m glad you are here with me, that you were the one to end the Miracle with me. And some day, the guilt about it will fade, I’m sure.”

“You are allowed to be selfish,” Ianto muttered.

Jack had gotten better in doing things for himself, in not forgetting himself while sacrificing himself for everyone and everything, at least if it concerned their team. Showing Jack that he deserved and needed to think of himself had been something everyone in their team had been involved in, and it was a relief to see the progress, but it was a still ongoing battle. Since Ianto knew about how Jack had changed his own timeline, he often wondered if Jack was trying to punish himself by putting everything and everyone above himself.

Jack sighed, but then he laughed. “We are circling around the same argument in this over and over again.”

“Yes.” Ianto rolled his eyes, but he smiled. “And at some point in the future, you’ll begin to understand that there was never another choice for me to make. Losing Lisa tore me apart, and to imagine that I would do the same to you at some point when I died hurt a lot.”

“Now you’ll have to see others die in the future, and there will come people with whom it will hurt as much as with her,” Jack muttered.

“You are right.” Ianto put his hand over Jack’s. “But I’ll never be alone with it. And you won’t be alone in those moments anymore either.”

“You always make it sound so easy.”

Ianto laughed. “Oh, I’m sure I’ll have my moments to freak out in the future. I already feel it coming with the whole ageing thing. Meeting your daughter and seeing her looking as old as you are, was … startling. But even freaking out will not change my mind.” He stood up, feeling a lot lighter, getting away from the edge. He reached his hand out to Jack. “Didn’t you say you wanted to show me this place undisturbed by humans?”

Jack laughed. “Yes, you are right. Let’s take a look around.”

He jumped up, not caring how near he was to the edge, and drew Ianto into his arms. “And then we’ll make a list of all the places I need to show you, now that we have all of eternity for it. – I need to start teaching you how to use the Vortex Manipulator.”

Ianto hummed in agreement. He had worn the Vortex Manipulator that had once belonged to John Hart since shortly before the Miracle had begun, but he had only ever used it to communicate with the one Jack had, and even that only sparsely. There had been not many moments when he had been undisturbed, and the possibilities the wrist straps gave them should be kept as quiet as possible.

“There is no harm in using them every evening to get somewhere safe, peaceful, where we can relax,” Ianto suggested. “We won’t have that opportunity in our time any time soon. You used it every day for years when you were with Angelo, and no one ever noticed. We can use it in the same way, at least until things have calmed down back home.”


Related Posts

Bythia

I've been writing since I was able to put the letters on paper, and if the stories of my family are to be trusted, I told stories long before that. Starting to write in English has been an adventure, but I found that I crave the environment Rough Trade and Quantum Bang are creating.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.