A Kiss is Still a Kiss
Jack looked up when he heard the familiar, once loved noise, but the excitement he once felt was absent. He watched with detached neutrality as the Tardis materialized, right on top of a pot of petunias.
Moments later a figure jogged out, spotted him and started over.
Jack’s heart leaped in his chest. The dark hair, upturned nose... Yet as the man came closer, he could see the differences. Of course, it wasn’t him. He was dead, gone forever.
“You had to regenerate with a face that looks like...his,” Jack muttered at the dark irony.
The Doctor patted his arm. “Let’s go sit down. We need to have a talk,” he said in an uncharacteristically serious tone.
Jack found himself following, as usual. Looked like some things never changed, he reflected wryly, as they sat next to each other on a park bench.
“What do you need?” Jack asked, without his usual enthusiasm.
“To explain myself,” came the unexpected answer. “For the last few years... well, years for me, not sure how long it’s been for you, all things considered, considering--”
“Doctor,” Jack said, reminded of the phonograph records that used to need a nudge when stuck.
“Right.” He lapsed into a brief silence, studying the birds lazily circling above. “Last few years. Found out a lot of things about myself, things I didn’t know, memories that had been erased from my mind.”
“Know how that feels,” Jack commented, unable to avoid sympathizing.
“Oh, nothing I can’t handle,” he reassured. “Shocking things, though. Once they started to return, I discovered there were regenerations I had known nothing of.”
Jack was curious, despite himself. The Doctor had told him there was a limit of twelve. “How is that possible?”
“Long story. I’ll tell you everything, but right now I have to get the most important part out. Most important to you, anyway. To us,” he added in a quiet mumble.
Now Jack was genuinely intrigued. He turned sideways to face his old friend. “You’ve got my full attention.”
“I’ve lived lives I didn’t know about. Crossed backward and forwards through the time stream. I don't even know if I can die,” he admitted.
“I thought you said you’d gotten your memories back?” Jack tried not to feel jealous about that. From what the Doctor was saying, his own two missing years were nothing.
“Not all. Some are still blocked. The truth is still out there, as they say. I’ll figure it out eventually,” he said, some of his usual confidence returning.
“Doctor, no offense, but how does this concern me?” He was still raw and grieving from his most recent losses, his patience not what it once was.
“I’m sorry, Jack. I didn’t know.”
“Didn’t know what?” Jack asked, staring to feel alarmed.
“Some of the regenerations I’ve had, I spent them not knowing who I was. Well, even a few back, I took a bit of an amnesiac holiday as a school teacher, but that was when I transferred my essence into--”
“Please,” Jack interrupted. “I’ve recently lost my lover, my grandson, and my daughter. I’m afraid I’m not in the mood to indulge your ramblings.” He looked away, a pang of regret hitting him. He didn’t want to take it out on the Doctor. Not really.
“Yes, well, about that. I’m trying to tell you. I’ve spent years at a time living lives without knowing who I was. One of them... It's me, Jack...”
The familiarity of the way his name was said slammed into Jack, stealing his breath. It was a plea he’d heard before, but not from the Time Lord. “What are you--”
“There was a time at Torchwood when I woke up looking different, ended up in a different body, and I needed you to believe it was really me...”
“It can’t be...” Jack breathed, shaking his head at the impossible.
“So I did this.”
Jack’s shirt was bunched in desperate fingers as he was pulled closer. Lips closed over his, and his world exploded as Ianto—the Doctor gave him a kiss he would know anywhere.
When they broke apart, he could only stare as feelings crashing through him, many of them contradictory. Joy, anger, sadness, amazement, and more. “You...”
“One of my regenerations was spent as Ianto Jones. I’m sorry. I didn’t know.”
“I saw you die,” Jack insisted, his voice rough with memories. “In my arms.”
The Doctor's face reflected his own pain. “The gas the 456 released doesn't work the same way on my physiology. To you, it seemed I was dead, but I revived later on.”
“And you remember now?” Jack asked, trying to sort out his feelings. Get used to this new reality.
“He’s in here, Jack,” the Time Lord said, pointing at his own chest. “Your Ianto. I’m him and I remember.”
“What does that mean... for us?”
“I don't know,” he admitted. “But I'd like to find out. You don't have to be alone. Neither of us does.”
He wondered how The Doctor was dealing with it. The prospect of living forever, separate and apart from every other living thing in the universe. Having a limited amount of regenerations was one thing, continuing indefinitely had to be hard even for the Time Lord to handle. He was still shell shocked, but inside, the seed of hope had started to grow. They were more alike than they’d ever realized.
Now they could have each other.
“Am I still an impossible thing to you?” he put forth tentatively. “Can’t stand the sight of me?” It still stung, even now.
The Doctor winced. “I think my memories were in danger of coming to the surface, that’s why I responded so negatively to you. There was a chance I might remember things I wasn’t meant to.”
He didn’t kid himself it would be easy, but Jack Harkness had never backed down from challenges, and this was definitely one he had no intention of giving up. The two men he loved most in the world turned out to be the same person. There was no question of walking away from that. “Are you asking me to travel with you?”
“Well, we’re rather perfect for each other, don’t you think?”
“There’s no such thing as perfect,” Jack said.
The Doctor—Ianto’s face fell.
Jack took pity on him, grinning. “But I think we probably deserve each other.”
The Doctor smiled, and it was Ianto’s smile.