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Separate Ends

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Separate Ends

Their lives thenceforth have separate ends,
And never can be one again.
                                                                                                                       ~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, “The Fire of Driftwood”, 1850.

Chapter One

Ianto sang softly as he maneuvered the large tree through the door of his flat. He kicked the door shut behind him, leant the tree against a wall, and rummaged about in the storage closet for the tree stand. Soon he had the tree seated in the stand and centered before the flat’s lounge room window. He stood, hands on his hips, and considered the tree for a long moment. Shaking his head a bit, he dropped inelegantly in the armchair displaced by the tree and sighed softly. Christmas was one of the few times of the year where his childhood memories overwhelmed his present. Usually, he could easily push aside the memories, bury them beneath work, but Christmas and Easter brought his earliest memories out of hiding.

He leant over and reached for the silvery blue enameled frame on his desk. He held it in his hands for a moment, barely smiling, and again sighed. He’d been shocked when his great grand-cousin had presented him with the frame as a gift not long after they’d confirmed that he was who he said he was. Ianto’s fingers shook for a moment as he traced the nearly century old photograph of his family. He could still remember his sisters’ laughter while they entertained him during his frequent bouts of bed rest. He set the picture back on the table behind the large half-round diamond he used as a paperweight. Running his fingers across the top of the frame, Ianto rose to his feet to move the chair across the room to a different corner of the flat. He stepped back to the door, surveyed the room, and shifted a few more pieces of furniture around to make a more pleasing arrangement for the holidays.

Shaking off his melancholy, Ianto returned to the storage closest to pull out the ornaments he’d gotten out of storage earlier in the week. Stacking the boxes by the tree, he knelt down and plugged in the new white LED lights he’d bought to go with the tree. Nice, traditional looking, and far safer than candles, Ianto smiled as the lights began to shimmer against the polished hardwood floor. He knelt down to begin sorting ornaments and began to sing softly to distract himself from his memories. The old folksongs came easily to him, despite the long years since he’d actually sung them, and Ianto found himself gradually raising his voice as he began to decorate the tree. Lights strung around, delicate blown glass ornaments hung one at a time from the limbs of the tree.

“Ianto?” Jack’s voice interrupted his singing. “I didn’t know you knew Russian.”

Ianto turned slowly to face his potential lover. He smiled for a moment. “I know everything, Jack,” he murmured. He rose, crossed the room to take Jack’s greatcoat and hung it in the closest. “Though I would like to know how you got into my flat since I know I never gave you a key.”

“I…” Jack looked away with a faint blush. “I had one made when you were suspended.” He crossed his arms and leant back against the now closed front door. “I didn’t want to interrupt your singing so I let myself in.”

“You didn’t think to wait until I was done and then knock?”

“Well, no.”

Ianto laughed softly. He waved a hand toward the sofa grouping by the fireplace. “You’re here now,” he began. “So you might as well get comfortable. Want a coffee?”

“Please.” Jack smiled, crossed the room and settled on the sofa. “I thought your flat would be…”

“Be what?”

“Neater,” Jack sighed. He waved a hand at the room around them. “This is a bit… well… cluttered.”

“I take after my mother. Her rooms were like this,” Ianto replied absently. He puttered about the kitchen, making the coffee in his French press, and started singing again. He finished the coffee, poured it, and reached up to grab a packet of chocolate biscuits from a cabinet. Plating them, he set everything on a serving tray to carry it out to where Jack was seated. The tray went on the table while Ianto handed over Jack’s coffee.

“Her rooms?”

“Hmm?” Ianto hummed and nodded absently. “They were more a home to us children at times then the nursery floor.”

“Ianto?” Jack began cautiously. “What are you talking about?”

“My mother and her cluttered rooms,” Ianto replied. He grabbed a biscuit from the plate on the tray, leant back in his chair and closed his eyes for a moment. “She played piano. At least until her illness made it too difficult for her. Then my second oldest sister did while the rest of us sang. My mother kept us very isolated.” He shrugged. “That’s what I was singing, a song my next oldest sister Malenkaya’s first nanny taught her and I. It’s called Snegurochka.” He leant his head back and smiled up at the ceiling. “We sang it every year during the winter leading up to Theophany. I haven’t sung it in years.”

“You sing it well,” Jack said quietly. “I have to admit I thought you were Anglican but I’ve been around long enough to know that Theophany is an Orthodox holiday.”

“It is,” Ianto acknowledged. “I practice Anglican at the moment as it’s the official religion here, but I was baptized and raised Orthodox.”

“So,” Jack began. “What church did you go to as a child?” He snatched a couple of biscuits off the plate and settled back on his end of the sofa. “I don’t think there are many Orthodox churches in Cardiff.”

“There aren’t,” Ianto replied. Setting his cup down, he rose and returned to his decorating. It was nearly done, no reason not to finish even with Jack there. He hung the ornament in his hand then turned back to Jack. “It was a private chapel. Well, except for certain occasions.” He managed, somehow, not to laugh at Jack as he watched the other man’s jaw hang open for a moment before he swallowed hard.

“Well, if I knew I had a private entree into Cardiff Castle I wouldn't have joined the tourists last week.”

Ianto laughed. “Sorry, Jack,” he said with a quick headshake. “The chapel I attended wasn’t here. It was a long way from here…” he trailed off into silence for a moment. A long way from here both temporally and physically, but he couldn’t exactly tell the Captain that. He desperately hoped the man would understand, but he had a feeling he wouldn’t until he had definitive proof.

“Where, Ianto?” Jack asked. His voice was barely audible in the room. “Where did you grow up?”

“Just south of Saint Petersburg,” Ianto replied. That certainly covered a lot of territory but was also very true. He smiled and finished with the tree. He set the angel on the top, stroked his fingers over its dress to settle it, and stepped back to consider the tree for a moment. It was balanced and looked good. With a smile, he returned to the sitting area, grabbed his and Jack’s cups and headed off to refill them.

“Where?” Jack’s shock was audible in his voice.

“Saint Petersburg,” Ianto repeated patiently. “Do you want a specific location or is that good enough?”

“Your father was in the diplomatic service?”

"Not exactly." Ianto returned, handed over the coffee and resumed his seat on the sofa. He watched Jack all the while debating on what to do from here. There were so many ways this conversation could go. He knew how he wanted it to go; however, he fully expected Jack to react badly.

"You don't have to tell me if you don't want to,” Jack replied. He wanted to know, yes; but he had other ways of finding out what Ianto was hiding from him. “Tell me about these ornaments."

Ianto laughed. "Not so subtle subject change which means you'll likely be asking Tosh to crack my records tomorrow." He waved a hand at the tree. "These are all new but in the old style. I like them. Reminds me of the tree Mother would have in her boudoir." He sighed and considered for a moment. If he did begin a relationship with Jack, he wanted to be able to talk about the past. It was one of the things he regretted with Lisa, she wouldn’t have understood. He nodded to the desk. "Recognize that?"

Jack rose, wandered over to the desk and considered the paperweight. He glanced at Ianto and, after receiving a nod, picked it up. "Either you have exquisite taste in reproductions or you robbed the Russian state vaults,” he said as he returned the heavy piece to the desktop. “Please, please tell me I'm not going to have to call the Queen and ask her to return something to Moscow in the quietest way possible."

"You don't need to call her.” Ianto laughed gaily. “She knows I have it."

Jack pulled out his cell phone. "I'm calling Owen to give you a check up." There had to be something wrong with Ianto for him to be acting the way he was or he’d been possessed by an alien. Either way, Owen would know and could fix it.

Ianto rose and gently took the phone from Jack. "You don't need to call Owen," he said softly. "But if..." he paused and swallowed. "I don't want..." He shoved his hand through his hair and shook his head. "This is harder than I ever thought it would be."

"I thought we were past this."

"This has nothing to do with Lisa," Ianto hissed. "It has to do with my life. My real life which has been hidden from all but a handful of the Torchwood Directors, now all dead, and my great grand-cousins."

Jack sat abruptly. “Do you have anything stronger than coffee?” he asked. His voice squeaked in his panic. “I think I'll need it.”

"What would you like?"

"Anything that will help me weather whatever you're going to tell me."

"Well, I doubt you could handle my 'shocking news' drink, so I'll get you a scotch." Ianto headed for the kitchen, pulled down a glass and the scotch bottle. He fixed a neat scotch for Jack and handed it over to him. "You really have no idea, do you?"

"I'm beginning to think I don't know much of anything." Jack took a big swig of the drink. "All right. Tell me."

"I was born on the twelfth of August nineteen four as my parents’ youngest child and only son. My father named me for his favorite ancestor." He paused and took a deep breath. "My mother, father, and three of my four older sisters were murdered in the early morning hours of the seventeenth of July nineteen eighteen."

"I am definitely calling Owen"

"Why, Jack?" Ianto knelt in front of Jack's chair. "I was thirteen, terrified, and slowly bleeding to death when one of the soldiers of the execution squad realized I wasn't dead. Rather than inform his commander, he helped me out from beneath the bodies of Malenkaya and Olyshka. I'm sorry, Anastasia and Olga... and he told me to run. I did..." He looked away for a moment. "It was dark, forested... I expected to die, not end up in a totally unfamiliar city being held at gunpoint."

"Ianto... you're ill. You need treatment."

"I'm not ill, Jack." He threw Jack's phone at him. "Call the palace. Ask Philip or Elizabeth. They know." He shook his head. "I thought you, of all the people I could fall..." he broke off abruptly. ”Never mind, but I truly thought you'd understand."

"Ianto,” Jack began only to quickly break off. “Please. I want to believe you. I need you... to be sane. But you're standing here telling me that you're Alexander, the Tsarevich...no, dear God, the Tsar of all Russia. You're Alexander ...” Jack paused, counting off people in his head. “What is it, fourth or fifth?"

"Actually, it would be Alexei the Second,” Ianto retorted. “I was not named Alexander."

Jack struggled for a few minutes to get his breathing back under control. Sipping at the scotch, he finally settled down again. “Explain it to me, Ian... what do I call you?”

"Ianto's fine." He dragged in a breath and returned to the sofa. "Only a handful of people know now who I was. The team who was here at the time, and I have no idea where you were, when I arrived in Cardiff took care of my wounds. One of them had a bit of a hobby, liked to read up on Imperial Russia. She recognized the Orlov. Somehow, she convinced Alex Hopkins to take me up to London after I recovered from the shooting."

"They took you to those maniacs? What were they thinking?”

"That they needed to know if I was lying or not,” he answered. Ianto took another deep breath. "It was hectic, but finally they used tech Torchwood London held to confirm I was who I said I was by comparing my DNA with Prince Philip's. Much like they later did with the remains of my family." Ianto sat for a moment, silent, just watching Jack. He knew the other man well after everything they’d been through in the last months and could almost hear the train of the older man’s thoughts. Tilting his head, he thought for a moment himself. Then, he reached over, picked up the picture frame again, and carefully removed the ivory back. He handed the frame over to Jack with a smile. “When they knew for certain who I was, she gave me that.”

Silent, Jack considered the frame he held. He knew the picture, it was a favorite among all Romanov enthusiasts; however, this one was clearly an original. It held two inscriptions. The first, well faded now, was from the Empress to the then king, George the Fifth; however, it was the second which caught Jack’s attention – a quick note from Elizabeth to Ianto – and Jack was exceedingly familiar with the handwriting. He took a deep breath, let it out slowly, and handed the picture back to Ianto. “All right. You are who you say you are. Why are you here? Cardiff, Torchwood?" He pointed to the inscription. "She would have done anything within her power to give you the kind of life you were born entitled to."

"She did," Ianto shrugged. "At least the late twentieth century version of it." He considered Jack for a moment. "Torchwood had technology to all but cure the disease I inherited from my mother. It would take several treatments over several years. She talked to me about it, much to my surprise, and it was decided I'd be the ward of the remaining branch of the MacLeish family.” He rose, grabbed Jack's glass, and headed to the kitchen to refill it. "Officially, I'm dead. Well, Alexei Nikolaevich is dead. Ianto Jones is the adopted son of Ifan Jones and Victoria MacLeish."

"So you became a ward of Torchwood?"

"No," he shook his head. "My cousins definitely didn't want any more power in Torchwood's hands. My adoptive parents’ first loyalty was to the Crown. After that came Torchwood, but I was raised with a full knowledge of Torchwood and all it did.”

"So when it came time to choose a profession that was your first choice? And Her Majesty let you?"

Ianto laughed. "We had a few fights over it, but she eventually understood and accepted it." He gave Jack a twisted smile. "Think about it, Jack. Unless she asks, I'm never going to be able to take up the role I was initially trained for. Not that I want it. I spent half my life being trained to be an absolute monarch...” he trailed off for a moment with a bit of a rueful look. “Well, as much as Papa could manage around Mother's coddling of me and my sisters."

Jack laughed. “No wonder you have such perfect control. Your voice, your movements, always exactly what is required by the occasion. You were trained to it.

Ianto inclined his head with a small smile. "It took a long time for things to sink in on me," he said. "I was a bit of a brat as a child, but at least I wasn't..." he trailed off and shook his head.

“You weren't what?"

"I was a brat, I freely admit that." He settled on the sofa again. He stared off into the distance for a long moment. "I had four older sisters. Mother expected Olga, the eldest, to keep an eye on me at state dinners. Yet, she was never really a young adult. None of the girls were. She kept them so isolated that even in their late teens my two oldest sisters had a vocabulary not much greater than mine at eight."

"No offense, but I've always thought...” Jack trailed off and shook his head. “Never mind. I've gone this long without committing lèse majesté, I'm not going to start now.

"Go ahead, Jack." Ianto smirked. "I promise to not throw a royal tantrum."

"From what I've read your mother was obsessive about all of her children, but you especially. And...” Jack paused, his eyes widening in realization. “Good Lord, it just occurred to me. Rasputin! You knew Rasputin!"

"She was," Ianto conceded. "I was spoiled, coddled, and almost smothered, but my sisters were kept isolated even after they were of age to attend court functions and seek husbands." He chuckled softly, reached over and took Jack's untouched scotch. "Yes, I knew him."

"Someday you'll have to tell me about him. Today, I want to know about you. There are Romanovs still around, from Americans to Australians to the two, or is it three pretenders. Aren't you interested? Or curious?"

"Currently two in the collateral lines, plus a few impersonators," Ianto nodded. "I know. Truthfully, none of them could assume the throne even if it was offered them."

"Why not? It would take a hell of a lot of explaining if the British Crown put you forward at this point. Torchwood isn't really public domain, you know"

"I know, but the laws of the House of Romanov stand. None of them married legitimately," Ianto leant back and considered his words before speaking. "The Russian throne was inherited under Salic Law. Only male line heirs of the reigning monarch can inherit. If he had no male issue, then his brothers, then uncles, etc. Women can't inherit nor can the sons of daughters until all the male lines have been exhausted." He swirled the glass in his hand, sipped, and tilted his head. "Plus, the reigning monarch has to approve all marriages and they must be to a member of a comparably ranked family, ruling or exiled. None of my surviving Romanov cousins managed that."

"Still.” Jack stared intently at Ianto. “If you step forward, the can of worms you would open…” he trailed off for a moment. “Would you want to step forward?"

"Why would I want to return to that confined and cloistered world, Jack?" Ianto retorted. "I have an agreement with the British Crown. I won't seek the throne. Don't really want it, I'm quite happy to be the administrative assistant for Torchwood Cardiff, but if the throne is offered to Prince Nicholas or Grand Duchess Maria... well, then things change."

“Ianto, how in the world could you prove it?” Jack said. “You're not even a hemophiliac anymore. I don't think Torchwood would go public, even for you."

"Actually, I still have it," Ianto said. "This is where things get complicated. It's in my mitochondrial DNA, but not my active DNA. So I have it, but it's not active." He looked away for a moment and then looked back at Jack. "I still have a bleeding disorder, but only major trauma or surgery causes me issues now."

"God, Ianto. Lisa...” Jack paused, stunned. “We could have killed you!"

“At the time, I wouldn't have cared."

"No, I suppose not. I still think you're overlooking the difficulties because you don't think it will ever come to it. Still..." Jack stood and began to pace the confines of Ianto’s lounge. "Now what?"

"That depends on you, Jack," Ianto replied. "I have thought of it. So have my great grand-cousins. We know of a way that we can put me forward as a legitimate heir to the throne without bringing Torchwood into it."

"So Alexei would have somehow survived the massacre, lived and married in hiding?” Jack chuckled. "I'll bet it was Her Majesty who thought of it. That woman has a tricky mind. But that wasn't what I was asking about when I said now what. I meant...” he paused and ran a hand through his hair. “Hell, I don't know what I meant. I do give you my word that I'll back off. I know when I'm outranked."

"It was her idea," Ianto conceded. "For all intents and purposes, Jack, nothing's changed. I can just talk to you about the past without having to censure myself. Have I said anything about wanting you to back off? Assuming we're discussing the same thing."

"Ianto...” Jack drawled a bit sternly. “I'm nobody from nowhere. Well, all right, I'm a bit more than that, but you,” he paused a waved a hand at the younger man. “You're the Tsar. That puts me at a serious disadvantage here."

"A monarch without a throne isn't much of a monarch." Ianto set the empty scotch glass down. "Jack, if I hadn't told you,” he paused and took a deep breath. He really wanted to know the answer to this question. It would influence so much of his future. “Would you still be interested in me?"

"How can you ask that? When we were out in the mountains and Gwen was playing her stupid game, and you said Lisa was the last person you kissed, I could have hit you."

"Oh, don't remind me of that trip." Ianto looked away and shuddered. "I had all I could do to move after that." He turned back to Jack and smiled. "I was pissed off. Gwen was being childish. I wanted a bit of revenge."

"You shot at Gwen but you got me. I was so angry at you at that moment,” Jack said. He shook his head with a grimace. “Never mind. Let's forget the countryside." Jack moved closer. "Does that mean you're interested, too?"

"Please. I think I still have some bruises and it's been months." Ianto smiled for a moment, gave Jack a leisurely look, and nodded. "I've been interested for a while, Jack."

"It's up to you, then,” Jack said, suddenly intent and serious. “Whenever you're ready, I'll be waiting."

"Come sit, Jack," Ianto invited quietly. He didn’t press the point when Jack shook his head and remained standing instead. "I... I really don't want the team to know about this. Not us... I think they'd worry if we stopped flirting completely." He bit his lip for a moment. "Should I tell Owen about the..."

“I think Owen should know that you were a hemophiliac and were subjected to a Torchwood experimental process that put it in some sort of genetic remission but that you might have trouble in case of major injury. That's all anyone needs to know."

"I'll talk to him after the holiday then," Ianto agreed. He considered Jack, rose and rested a hand on Jack's cheek. "Thank you, Jack," he murmured.

Jack turned his head and kissed the palm of Ianto’s hand. "I care about you, Ianto."

Ianto shivered and looked away. He gathered himself together and pressed a brief, chaste kiss on Jack's lips. "I care, too," he whispered as he stepped back. "I just..."

"You need time. You loved Lisa and it takes time to come to terms with that, and everything that followed. I understand."

"It's not just that. It's something I need to think hard about, but..." he trailed off. "Come for dinner tomorrow for Christmas? There's no need for you to stay at the Hub alone."

"I'll do that." Jack stood and considered Ianto for a moment. He was torn between options but he’d told Ianto he’d leave things up to the younger man. "Hey! I just realized that I can't even be sarcastic with you anymore. If I ever call you a prince of a fellow, it'll just be the truth!"

Ianto laughed so hard he fell to the floor. He struggled to his feet and followed Jack as the other man headed for the front door of his flat. Still smiling, he retrieved Jack’s coat and held it out for Jack to slip on. He rolled his eyes and gave the older man a stern look when Jack started to protest the action. He stepped around Jack, smoothed his hands over the coat’s lapels while settling the coat into place, and then grabbed them tight to pull Jack closer to him. He tilted his head slightly and covered Jack’s lips with his own. It wasn’t a sweet kiss, more hard and desperate, but Ianto needed it to ground him again.

A muffled sound came from Jack before he wrapped his arms around Ianto’s waist and hauled him flush against him. He took a couple of steps, pushing Ianto back into the closed door, and deepened the kiss. Their tongues dueled for dominance as the kiss continued until the need for air broke them apart. Jack rested his forehead on Ianto’s, panted, and murmured, “I should go.”

“Yep,” Ianto whispered back. He slowly released Jack, smoothing the lapels out again, and smiled. “I’ll see you tomorrow, sir.” He slid from between Jack and the door. He really didn’t want the other man to leave, but they both needed space to think about his confession. Reaching for the doorknob, Ianto opened the door and stepped back to let Jack leave. As he passed, Ianto impulsively leant forward and kissed his cheek. “Until tomorrow,” he murmured in lieu of goodbye. He watched Jack leave, slowly closed the door, and leant back against it. Maybe, just maybe, he could snatch a bit of happiness for himself without worrying about duty, tradition and bloodlines; a new start, as his great grand-cousins always liked to tell him he had. Well, he was grabbing this chance with both hands.

 

Chapter Two

“Still haven’t learned to knock?” Ianto called from the kitchen in response to the distinctive sound of his front door closing. He stepped out into the lounge and smiled at a sheepish looking Jack standing just inside the flat’s entrance. Taking Jack’s coat from him, he turned to hang it up. “What’s that then?” he asked as he turned back to Jack and nodded to the polished wooden box the Captain was carrying further into the room.

“Something I thought you’d like to have,” Jack said. He chuckled softly as he set the box on the coffee table. He turned to watch Ianto as he crossed the room to join him. “Oh, and by the way, you were adorable with those curls.”

“You did not go looking at my baby pictures,” Ianto said flatly. When Jack merely grinned back at him, Ianto gave an inarticulate growl and headed for the kitchen. “I looked like a little girl. Especially in those frilly white dresses Mother dressed me in.” He glared over his shoulder at Jack, but smiled anyway. “Coffee?”

“Please.”

Ianto smiled and set to work finishing the coffee he’d already started. Pouring the mugs, he picked them up and carried them into the living room. “I should have known you’d go looking for information on my past. Just tell me you didn’t linger on that one site,” he shook his head with a tired sigh. He handed over the coffee with a soft smile. Taking a chance, he darted in for a quick kiss before settling down beside Jack on the sofa. “I think the women who run it are all crushing on teenage me. And they’re Gwen’s age. It’s disturbing.”

“I can see that.” Jack laughed. “I just looked at the scans of the pictures.” He reached over and gently threaded his fingers through Ianto’s hair. “As adorable as you were as a toddler, I totally understand why you keep your hair short now.”

Ianto blushed, but leaned into Jack’s touch. A soft sigh slipped from his lips at the lingering caress. “It curls madly when I let it grow out,” he murmured. He let his eyes half close for a moment before forcing himself to move away from Jack’s caressing hand. “Couldn’t resist looking though?”

“Nope,” Jack said with a grin. “Then I remembered this.” He reached over and brushed his hand over the box on the table. “I knew it was the perfect thing to give you,” he murmured.

“I…” Ianto broke off with a faint blush. “I don’t have anything for you, Jack.”

“Hey,” Jack said. He reached out and lifted Ianto’s chin with his fingers so the younger man was forced to look at him. “You gave me one of the greatest gifts anyone can.” He brushed his thumb over Ianto’s lower lip and smiled when the other man sighed softly at the caress. “You gave me your trust.”

Ianto stared at Jack for a long silent moment then slowly smiled. He shifted a bit, torn between moving closer and sitting back, and caught sight of the box from the corner of his eye again. “So,” he said softly. “Do I open it?”

“If you want,” Jack replied. Retrieving his coffee from the table, he made a bit of a show of settling more comfortably on the sofa. He gave Ianto an encouraging smile. He watched intently as Ianto shifted the box into his lap and opened it. A soft gasp slipped from Ianto before he looked up almost teary eyed. “You like it?” Jack asked.

“Grandmama’s egg,” Ianto said. He reached into the box and lifted each piece from their satin bedding. First the stand and then the egg itself were settled on the table while the box was closed and set aside. “Jack? How did you get it?”

Ianto couldn’t take his eyes from the egg, not even to look at the man who’d given it to him, and reached out a trembling hand to gently stroke the opalescent enamel. He knew about the egg from searches on the internet and books about the House of Fabergé, but he’d never been lucky enough to hold one of the Imperial Easter Eggs since his family had been banished from Tsarskoye Selo all those years ago. Gently, cautiously, he lifted the top and took out the miniature frame from inside to stare at the images of his great-grandparents before returning it and closing the egg again.

“Your grandmother gave it to me,” Jack said. “I knew it was officially lost, so I assume she never told anyone what happened to it.”

"You knew Grandmama?" Ianto asked. He shifted on the sofa to again consider Jack but constantly looked back at the egg on the table.

“I helped her with something once. She was very grateful.”

“Jaaack,” Ianto drawled. “Not my grandmother.”

“Oh Lord, no!” Jack exclaimed. “She would have smacked me into the next century if I had dared. Although she did like to flirt...” he trailed off with a laugh at Ianto’s expression. “No, it was a Torchwood something.”

“Oh?” Ianto tilted his head in silent demand for more of an explanation. “How could Torchwood…?”

“Princess Beatrix, Victoria’s youngest, was friends with your mother. In the way that all the royalty back then were friends with each other and she was concerned over some things written in letters to her and the British cousins,” Jack said. “So, the princess talked to her brother who talked to Torchwood who sent me to investigate when your grandmother went on her visit to Denmark in 1903.”

“Ah,” Ianto breathed. “I see.” He considered for a moment before nodding in response to his own thoughts. That visit, according to what he’d read in more recent books, coincided with the start of his mother’s downward spiral into obsession with having a son. “Grandmama must have liked you since this was a gift to her from Papa.”

"Well, yes, but...” Jack paused and smiled at his own memories. “We used it to trap the alien. She didn't want it back.” He sipped at his coffee for a moment. “I will say one thing, Ianto. Your grandmother was one hell of a brave woman, once her face was rubbed in the facts.”

“She was stubborn,” Ianto said by way of agreement. “We all knew that.”

“And gutsy,” Jack said. He paused and then shifted his voice a bit. “An Empress of Russia does not run, Captain Harkness. And she didn't. Fainted after it was all over, though.”

Ianto chuckled softly. “Now I know she approved of you, she wouldn't have done that in front of anyone not a trusted member of her circle,” he said.

“There are files in the secure archives if you want to read about it. Let's say the whole of Europe dodged a bullet on that one.”

“I might, but they didn't dodge it for long.” He raised an eyebrow but continued anyway. “Look at what happened after I was born.”

“Yes,” Jack agreed, “but that was just human stupidity.” He set his now empty coffee cup aside on the table by the egg. “This one would have been...” he paused and thought for a moment. “Probably the end of civilization. I don't know. I do know that your grandmother faced off with a Carrionite with nothing but a smile and a Faberge egg.”

Ianto stared at Jack for a long moment. He felt his eyes widen in surprise and shock. Now, now he knew why his grandmother was so adamant that some of the family had survived the massacre in Yekaterinburg. She’d already seen that there were more things out there. Knowing Grandmama, she’d likely gotten out of Jack an explanation about the Cardiff Rift. “Oh, now how did you convince her to keep that quiet?" He shook his head. “Certainly explains why she was always so determined there was something wrong with Father Grigory.”

“As to keeping quiet, who could she tell that wouldn't immediately think her insane? And Father Grigory?" Jack asked.

Disturbed by the mention, even if he himself had brought the man up in the first place, of Rasputin, Ianto reached around the egg for Jack’s coffee mug, grabbed his own and rose to his feet. He headed for the kitchen, refilled their mugs and grabbed a plate of blini from the warmer. Carrying it all back, he set the plate on the table and offered Jack his mug back. “Rasputin,” he said flatly. “Grigory Efimovich Rasputin.”

“Oh,” Jack said. “Yeah. I wondered about him too, but never managed to get close enough to figure it out one way or the other.”

“He was...” Ianto trailed off and shuddered. He took a deep drink of his refilled coffee. “I don't know if I can explain it... but after what happened later on... I came to hate him even as I accepted his presence because it calmed Mother down when I had problems.”

“I bet,” Jack said. At Ianto’s encouraging look, he reached for the blini and began eating. “Slimy, either human or alien.”

Ianto nodded and reached for one of the blini himself. “Among other things,” he said. He nibbled at the food. “But slimy is a good term.”

Jack stiffened and straightened up on the sofa. “Ianto, did he ever...”

Ianto blinked at him. He wasn’t expecting Jack’s reaction to his comment about Rasputin. “Ever what?” He considered Jack for a moment taking in his sudden tense posture and almost white-knuckled hold on the coffee mug. Realization dawned on him. “If you're thinking what I think you're thinking,” he began carefully. “Two of the nursery maids and likely my oldest sister.”

“I don't know whether to curse or say Thank God. To think of that piece of garbage putting his hands on you...” Jack trailed off into an inarticulate growl. “But your sister? Didn't anyone notice?”

Ianto shifted back and curled into his corner of the sofa. "The same nursery maids. I was only touched by him when I had an ‘attack’, but he was given free reign of my sisters' bedrooms by my mother. One of the two maids complained to Mother about his wandering in and seeing my sisters in their chemises or nightgowns. Within a week, she was conveniently found in bed with one of the Cossack guardsmen and summarily dismissed." He swallowed hard and wrapped both hands around his coffee mug. “Mother refused to accept any word against Rasputin. Even when given evidence to back the words up.”

“I'm sorry, Ianto,” Jack said. “It must have been god-awful at times. No wonder you became so withdrawn.”

"I couldn't do much so it was easier to just sit quiet and watch people.” Ianto almost shrugged. “Olga changed. She'd always been reserved, but she still played. Then all of a sudden, she wasn't playful anymore.” He shook his head and stared into his coffee for a moment before looking back up at Jack. “Looking back from now, I tend to believe the rumors.”

“Poor girl. Poor whole family, actually,” Jack said. “Rasputin knew how to play into your mother's worst fears, I guess.” He set down his once again empty coffee cup. “It's not worth it thinking about it now. I'm glad you got your family heirloom back. It's a nice insurance against a rainy day, if nothing else.”

“Mother was easily led by those she saw as religious. Rasputin figured it out, knew her weaknesses, and exploited them." He chuckled and pointed toward his desk where the Great Orlov Diamond rested on a pile of papers he was working on for the archive. “Actually, that might be a better bit of insurance.” He leant forward and pressed a careful kiss on Jack’s lips. “Thank you,” he murmured, “and for the story about Grandmama.”

“Yeah, but now you have two.” Jack wrapped his arms around Ianto and pulled him closer to his side. “Isn't that nice?”

Ianto leant against Jack and tilted his head back to smile at the other man. “Very,” he said. “But so's this.” He considered his options for a moment and decided to take a page from Grandmama’s book rather than his parents. Ianto shifted about until he could face Jack, reached up and slipped his hand along Jack’s jaw in order to tug him closer. He licked his lips then darted in for a quick kiss. “Very nice indeed.”

Before he could move away, Jack’s hand cradled the back of his head. Held in place, Ianto could do nothing more than softly moan as Jack took complete control of the kiss. He teased Ianto with darting flicks of his tongue until Ianto gasped only to moan again more deeply as Jack’s tongue darted into his mouth to tangle with his own. Ianto’s eyes slipped closed and his arms went around Jack.

The kiss broke when they both needed air. Ianto panted to catch his breath before moving again. Now, he straddled Jack’s lap, absently rocking to grind their developing erections together, and tangled his fingers in Jack’s hair. He tilted his head to initiate another kiss, broke it, and buried his face in Jack’s neck. “God, Jack,” he whispered. “I…”

“Shh,” Jack murmured. He tightened his hold on Ianto and nuzzled at the young man’s temple. He trailed kisses down onto Ianto’s neck before sucking on his pulse. A deep moan slipped from Ianto who arched his neck and back to give Jack greater access to his skin. “Trust me, Ianto,” he purred. “Don’t think, just trust me.”

“Always,” Ianto gasped out. He writhed in Jack’s arms unable to stop himself from squirming in response to Jack’s leisurely strokes up and down his back before those same hands drifted beneath his t-shirt to slid up over his chest. A startled sound escaped him when a nail was flicked over a nipple. “God, yes…”

A low rich chuckle escaped from Jack. He shifted his hold so Ianto was resting back against one hand while the other explored. He delighted in the responses that his, for him, innocent touches were drawing from the young man. Jack ignored his own want, his need to possess, and enjoyed this chance to show Ianto just what was possible between them. He let his hand drift back down over Ianto’s chest to just curl his fingers beneath the edge of Ianto’s belt.

“Jack?”

The soft murmur, almost a whimper, told Jack he’d reached the limit of what Ianto was capable of accepting at that moment. He stroked the backs of his fingers across Ianto’s stomach before slipping his hand around to rest at the small of Ianto’s back. “Too much?” he asked softly.

“Just a bit,” Ianto conceded. He ducked his head to hide a faint blush. “I’m…”

“Don’t you dare apologize,” Jack said. “You have no idea just how much of a turn on it is to know I’m the first man you’ve trusted like this. To see your passion so clearly.” He gave Ianto another soft kiss before lifting him off his lap. He slowly took his hands away and let Ianto decide his own position and sucked in a startled breath when Ianto stretched out on his side on the sofa to rest his head on Jack’s thigh. After a moment, he relaxed and began petting Ianto’s hair. "Hush,” he murmured when Ianto made a soft protesting noise. “Why don’t you sleep a little?” Jack bent down and kissed Ianto’s temple. “I can wait, now that I know just how fantastic it will be, when we finally make love.”

 

Chapter Three

“Owen?” For the first time in two days, the team managed to find some downtime. Jack had sent the girls home while Owen finished up the final reports on the autopsies he’d done over the last few days from the ship which crashed through the Rift on Boxing Day. Now, with both women gone for the night, Ianto had his best chance at speaking to the team medic about his past. “Got a minute?”

“What’s on your mind, Teaboy?” Owen spun his chair around, leant back and mock glared up at Ianto. “What, no coffee?”

Ianto shook his head with a laugh, crouched down and handed a mug down through the railings. “I…” he trailed off as he straightened up again. “I need to tell you something. I’m not quite certain how.”

“Come’n, Ianto, I look up your bum every year,” Owen retorted. He sipped his coffee and sighed softly. Setting the mug aside for a moment, he arched his back before grabbing up the mug again. “There’s nothing so embarrassing that can top that!”

“Um,” Ianto paused, thought, and decided to throw caution to the wind. “How about the fact that I’m actually over a hundred years old or that I’ve pretty much lied to you about my medical history since the day we met?”

Owen settled back further in his chair. He propped his feet up on the empty autopsy table. He smirked up at Ianto. “So, you’re finally going to explain about the hemophilia?”

Ianto stared down at Owen. He couldn’t believe that the doctor knew yet said nothing to him about it. “You knew?” he asked.

“I’m a damned good doctor, Ianto,” Owen said. “Not much of a human being, maybe, but definitely a damned good doctor.” He toasted Ianto with the mug in his hand. “Of course I knew.”

Ianto chuckled softly but nodded. “Torchwood London put it in remission. I…” he paused and sighed. “It’s been months yet I’m still in pain from that trip up to the Beacons.” He stared down at Owen, glaring just a bit, and said, “Don’t tell Jack that.”

“Yeah, well, I’ve been watching you,” Owen said. “You haven’t had any bleeding incidents, that beating aside, so the hemophilia seems to be under control for the moment.” He drank a bit more. “Let’s move on to the age thing. Over one hundred?”

“I was born in nineteen four,” Ianto said with a soft laugh. “I believe that technically makes me one hundred and two right now.”

“That makes sense,” Owen said. Ianto could see the wheels turning in the medic’s mind. “I’ve always wondered where you were born and raised. You have almost no twentieth century chemicals in your body.”

Ianto leant down onto the railing circling the upper level of the autopsy bay. “I grew up, until about the age of thirteen, just outside of Saint Petersburg.” He was torn between laughing and just smirking down at Owen. “You’re taking this awfully well, Owen.”

“Ianto, I work for Torchwood. For Jack Harkness. Immortal. Alien, maybe…” Owen trailed off into silence. “Saint Petersburg? Well, shit,” he muttered. “I’m not bowing or curtseying or whatever it is one does when meeting royalty.” He lifted the mug toward Ianto. “And you’re still making me coffee!”

“Jack panics,” Ianto said. “You insist I still make coffee.” He started chuckling softly and shook his head. “Mashka would never let me live this down considering how I would lord over our few playmates when I was actually allowed to play.”

“Mashka?” Owen asked. “That’s your sister Marie, right?” He chuckled back at Ianto. “Don’t look at me like that. Katie was fascinated by the Romanovs.” He considered for a long moment and then nodded. “You even look like your picture. Not too much, but the resemblance is there.”

Ianto sobered and nodded back to Owen. “Yes, Mashka was Marie,” he confirmed. “I look more like Papa than Mother though I do have her eyes.” He sighed and dropped his head to stare at the white tiled floor. “Of them all, I miss Mashka the most especially this time of year.”

“Christmas?” Owen asked. “I suppose you would.”

“And Pascha,” Ianto said. “Easter, I mean.” He half shrugged before explaining himself. “She was more my mother than my sister sometimes. Mother… she didn’t handle my condition well.”

“Ianto?” Owen started before stopping for a moment. “Well, it’s not done to speak ill of the dead, is it? Especially dead royalty.” He rose to his feet and tossed off the last of his coffee. “But your mother was a bit of a case, wasn’t she?”

“You could say that. Neither of my parents were truly suited to be autocratic rulers, but Mother…” he trailed off and shoved a hand through his hair. “Mother was obsessive, overly religious, and had a tendency toward depression. She also wasn’t that healthy to begin with and when she was told about me... well, it just made everything that much worse.” He dropped his head and shook it. “There are times when I hate her, Owen. What kind of son does that make me?”

“A sane one. Look,"Owen paused and then continued a bit impatiently, "my mother kicked me out of the house at eighteen, into the streets. Do you think I can think of her without resentment and anger? If you told me you loved her unreservedly I would have you sectioned."

“I think I would have preferred that,” Ianto snapped. “I was smothered, Owen. Sometimes I think the Revolution was the best thing to happen to me and then I just want to hurt myself because those bastards took my entire family from me.”

“You know, you need to talk to someone about this,” Owen replied. “Jack, or Tosh, if you don't want to go see a shrink. The kind of trauma you suffered would drive even the most stable of men into a breakdown. And if you're thinking of self-harm...”

“There's no one left I can talk to about it,” Ianto said with a slight headshake. “Those who knew before the last couple of days all died at Canary Wharf. No one else would understand it, Owen. How I grew up... the end of it... I saw it, Owen... and I can still...” He broke off abruptly and again shoved a hand through his hair. “I need a drink.”

“God, maybe those historians are right and your whole family was stupid.” Owen bounded up the stairs to join Ianto on the upper level. “You have Jack! Do you really think he wouldn't understand? How much violence has he seen? How much has he lost?”

"Owen!" he snapped.

“What, Your Imperial Highness? Going to send me to Siberia?” He reached over and took Ianto’s arm. He squeezed just a bit and very gently. “Jack will understand, Ianto. Go talk to him.”

“It’s Imperial Majesty,” Ianto said. He gave Owen his patented ‘I am not amused’ look. “My father is dead, if you’ll recall.” He hissed softly when Owen’s hand briefly tightened on his arm but then nodded to the other man. “Come’n then, you might as well hear it, too.” He smiled a tight little smile. “Especially since, if anything ever happens, you’ll likely be called upon to deal with me.”

“Sorry, Your Majesty,” Owen snarked. “Right behind you, Your Majesty. Any chance of more coffee, Your Majesty?”

A strangled laugh escaped Ianto. He reached out and smacked the back of Owen’s head as he moved past the man. “I’m never going to hear the end of this, am I?” he asked. “And no, for this, you’ll want a proper drink. We should go raid Jack’s whiskey stash.”

“The good stuff he gets from Scotland?” Owen grinned and started for the office, actually passing Ianto in his eagerness to get to the alcohol. “It might be worth the trauma for that.”

Ianto barely smiled. He led the way into the office where Jack was pretending to slave away over paperwork Ianto knew he’d be doing himself in the morning. He grabbed the decanter, three glasses, and filled each one. Lifting two glasses, he nudged the third over to Jack on the other side of the desk and handed one of those he held to Owen. He murmured softly in Russian before taking good long drink. “Not as good as the Stolichnaya I have at home, but it’ll do.” He chuckled at Jack’s affronted look. “Owen thinks I should talk. I needed fortifying if I’m going to do that.”

Ianto looked between the two men and took another drink before letting the glass dangle loosely from his hand. “It’s been decades and I can still hear Mashka screaming for me,” he said quietly. He paused for a moment and took a deep breath. “By the end, she was the only one who didn’t call me ‘Baby’. I was always Alyosha to her after Papa’s abdication.”

“Alexei,” Jack started. He then stopped for a moment. “Ianto, I wish I could tell you everything will be all right,” he continued after a good drink of his own glass of whiskey. “But I can’t.” He turned the glass he held, looked over at Owen, and then nodded to the two men. It seemed to be the night to spill secrets. “I’ve never told anyone, but I have, had, a brother. His name was Gray.” He paused and smiled a bit sadly in response to Owen’s surprised look. “Our settlement was attacked. I was supposed to look after him but his hand…,”he trailed off. “I dropped his hand or he pulled away in panic. We never saw him again.” He dropped his gaze to his glass. “My mother never forgave me, I think.” He took another long drink. “I’ve never forgiven myself.”

Ianto nodded. He knew all about not being able to forgive yourself for surviving. Yekaterinburg and Canary Wharf had taught him that. “Sometimes,” he murmured. “Sometimes I wish I knew what happened to her after that night.” He sighed, drank a bit, and dropped into one of the chairs before the desk. “You both know that, don’t you?” At their momentary blank looks, he swallowed hard before explaining the situation to the two men. “Mashka was the only one of my sisters not found when they excavated the grave outside Yekaterinburg.” He stared off into the distance, absently swirling the whiskey in the glass, and sighed softly. “I always thought I’d stumble across her in London or Copenhagen, white-haired but with her blue eyes shining as they always did when she smiled, living off the charity of our cousins like Aunts Xenia and Olga did.”

“I remember something about that in one of Katie’s books,” Owen said. “When they finally identified the bodies, there was one skull they weren’t sure about, right?”

“One they weren’t certain about, yes,” Ianto said. He nodded to Owen as well. “The Russians said it was Anastasia. The Americans said it was Marie.” He looked up again from his drink. “There were two bodies missing from the grave they found. We were a group of eleven that night. They only found nine bodies.” He gave his companions a half-smile. “One of the missing is me.”

“And popular history has the other one as Anastasia,” Jack said.

That woman was not my sister,” Ianto snapped. He took a deep breath and a long drink to calm himself down again. “Yes, the best known story is that Malenkaya escaped the massacre.”

“But you don’t think so,” Owen half-said, half-asked.

“I saw Papa and Mother shot,” Ianto replied. He closed his eyes as the still so vivid memory played out across his mind’s eye. “I heard the shots that hit the rest of us. I know Mashka was still screaming when I passed out the first time. When I came to again, I was in a truck pinned beneath the body of Malenkaya.” He shuddered and swallowed back the nausea which threatened when he remembered his last glimpse of his next oldest sister. “Trust me, Malenkaya was dead.”

“Then you’re certain,” Owen agreed. He tilted his head and considered Ianto for a moment. “Ianto, a few years ago when they tested Prince Philip’s DNA against the DNA extracted from the bodies they found, was it just Prince Phillip’s DNA?”

“Are you asking if they asked for my help?” Ianto asked rather than directly answer the question.

“I figure that the Buckingham Palace lot knows about you,” Owen replied. “So it was a logical assumption, yeah?”

“My grand-cousins know, yes,” Ianto said. He considered for a moment then nodded. “They used Phillip, two of our other grand-cousins though they’re direct cousins to Phillip, and after a lot of persuading by Elizabeth, mine. It’s how they identified Papa even though they can’t actually admit that was how.”

“How did they put that over on the Russians?” Jack asked. Before Ianto could say a word, he was shaking his head. “No, never mind. Sometimes I forget we’re little babes compared to her when it comes to chicanery.” He stared at Ianto for a long moment while refilling his whiskey glass from the decanter left on the desk. “And the other skull? A servant? A retainer? An illegitimate cousin?”

“They found Papa, Mother and three of my sisters, Olyshka, Tanechka, and Malenkaya, in the grave,” Ianto said. “Plus the servants who were still with us at the time.” He swallowed again. “The one that’s so badly damaged is Malenkaya, I mean Anastasia.” He gave Jack and Owen a somewhat sheepish smile. “I keep forgetting you two wouldn’t know our nicknames.”

“So,” Jack said slowly. “Marie is missing and they’re keeping it under wraps.”

“Yes.” Ianto nodded. He tossed off the whiskey in his hand and looked between the other two in the office. “Why?” He reached out and poured both himself and Owen more to drink. “The Americans, though, are determined that Anastasia is the missing daughter.”

Owen snorted while toasting Ianto with his glass. “Hey, those two movies have made billions.”

“There’s more than two,” Ianto snarled. “And the books. Plus…” he trailed off and took a long drink. “And here I am not even allowed to legally claim my inheritance still sitting in London.”

“Do you want to?” Jack asked.

Ianto half shrugged and shook his head at the same time. “The money would be nice,” he said. “But it would mean giving up my freedom for that cloistered world again. I like my life as it is too much to claim Papa’s millions.”

“Boy, what I couldn’t do with all that dosh,” Owen said. Then he snorted. “Never mind that.” He shifted a bit in the chair, set his glass aside, and reached out to take Ianto’s from him. “Ianto, what I was trying to say before,” he began. “You’re not at fault here. You were a boy, a sick boy at that, surrounded by armed thugs. That you survived is just one of those things that happen. Somehow you were given a second chance. Do you think Marie would begrudge you that?”

Ianto chuckled a bit before almost sniffling. “No,” he said after a bit. “She’d be overjoyed one of us made it.” He stared intently at Owen. “But I miss her. Of all of them, I miss her the most. Olyshka, Olga, was distant, especially after…” he trailed off but gave Jack a significant look before continuing bitterly, “Rasputin’s death.” He tilted his head a bit while he spoke. “Tanechka, Tatiana, was Mother’s daughter and, for all that we were close in age, Malenkaya was too rowdy for me to be comfortable around. I got more bruises from her antics then anything I did on my own.”

“So Marie was your little mother?” Jack asked. He gave a quick nod in acknowledgement of what Ianto wasn’t saying to Owen about his oldest sister.

Ianto stared unseeing into the distance. A soft little smile settled on his lips as he remembered the past before he shook away both the memory and the smile. “Yes, Mashka was. She was only five years older than me, but she was more my matushka than Mother ever was.” He looked over at Jack in question. “Why?”

“Just wanting to understand,” he said. “Owen’s right, Ianto. She would have loved to know you survived.”

Ianto nodded though this time he didn’t bother to hide the fact he wanted to cry just sniffed a bit before speaking, “I know.” He tried to smile but knew from the other men’s expressions he’d failed miserably. “For most of the year that thought reassures me. Then the holidays come and I can’t stop remembering. And I always, always end up remembering that night, that horrific night, and what little sleep I get is filled with dreams of it, and I keep wishing I knew what happened to her.” He gave Jack a beseeching look. He wanted someone, anyone, to understand his frustration with himself and his fruitless searches. “Is she dead? Or did she make it out of Ipatiev House but couldn’t get out of Russia afterward?”

“Have you tried to look?” Owen asked. “There’s all that stuff you could possibly use in the archives.”

“I did,” Ianto said. “In London, but there’s no trace of her. No records, nothing any of the tech can find. It's like she vanishes that night, but never returns. You can find me, both then and now, but not her. You can even pinpoint the remains of my family in the Fortress where they were finally buried. But not Mashka.” He sighed again. "There's a way to find her which isn't solely dependent on my DNA. She was the only one of my sisters to carry the hemophilia gene. She was a symptomatic carrier.”

“Poor girl,” Owen murmured. “She couldn't have married, could she? What royal family could risk it?”

“All of my sisters were quite marriageable even considering the potential they were carriers.” Ianto raised an eyebrow at Owen, silently daring the medic to contradict him. “Until the Revolution, we were the wealthiest of the royal families." He gave a bitter laugh. “Olga, especially after the rumors, likely wouldn't have married, but Tatiana and Anastasia would have. Marie wanted to, badly, but Aunt Olga was already telling people about the situation so she likely wouldn't have married unless it was to some minor noble, not a ruling house.”

“Your Aunt Olga sounds like one of my mother's cousins,” Owen interrupted. “Evil-minded witch. It sounds like Marie would have been happy just with a husband and children.”

“My extended family were very much the 'out for themselves' types. Just as happy to stab you in the back as smile at you. Looking back now, I understand Aunt Olga's thoughts and why she had them, but back then, she was just kind Aunt Olga who gave my sisters a day away from Mother once a week.” Ianto smiled sadly. “Marie could have married, twice, during the war, but it wouldn't have been an equal marriage. So Mother sent the young men away.”

“I am so sorry, Ianto.” Jack set his glass aside and rose. He circled the desk to wrap his arms around Ianto and gently encouraged the young man to lean against him. “She sounds like a lovely person. And she loved you. You need to hang on to that.”

"I try, Jack, but it's so damned hard,” Ianto muttered. He bit his lip hard to keep from crying. A Romanov never cries in front anyone and certainly not the public. “I just want to know what happened to her. If she's dead, then I can finally mourn her, but if she's not...,” he trailed off. “Where is she?"

“We’ll find out,” Jack said. “One way or the other, we’ll find out, I promise.” He stroked Ianto’s back for a moment. “Now, you need some rest. Would you let Owen give you something, just a little something since we all drank some, so you can sleep?” He repeated the idle caress while glaring Owen into silence over the top of Ianto’s head. “You can stay downstairs in my room so I can keep an eye on you.”

Ianto took a couple of deep breaths. He forced down the urge to cry and resumed his public mask before nodding. “Yeah, okay,” he said. He pulled away from Jack to look up at the other man for a long moment. Then he turned to Owen with a faint smile. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I didn’t mean to do this.”

“Happens to all of us at one point or another, Tea Boy.” Owen shrugged his patented ‘who knows’ shrug. “Now, let's go to the kitchen. I'll mix you something with some juice. It'll work easier and faster. And you can make me that coffee before you pass out, yeah?”

“Yeah, I will,” Ianto said. “Still, I didn't mean to revert to whiny brat on you.”

“I once traveled with a world-class whiny brat, Ianto,” Jack said. “You don’t even rate. Come on,” he said, gently tugging Ianto up from his chair. “Go make your coffee. I need to give Kathy Swanson a hard time about those reports she owes me, but I should be back in a couple of hours.”

Ianto gave Jack a long hard look but then shrugged. Kathy had sent the reports early that morning and Ianto himself had put them on Jack's desk. The older man had to be planning something which he wanted to keep from him. Still, he trusted Jack. “I’ll leave some for you then,” he said. He turned about to look over at Owen. “If he leaves, you should stay. I don’t always react well to sleeping pills. Don’t wake up properly from the nightmares and end up with bruises in interesting places.” He almost laughed. “They aren’t as bad now as when I was a kid, though.”

“Don't worry,” Owen said with a brisk nod. “I'll be here until Jack gets back if not longer. I still have those reports to finish.”

Ianto nodded in reply. He started out of the office for the kitchen but paused for a moment in the doorway. “Jack?” he said.

“Yes, Ianto?”

“Thank you,” he said.

“I’ll take care of you, Ianto,” Jack said. He smiled over at the young man. “Always.”

Ianto arched a brow at the unexpected promise from Jack. “I’ll hold you to that.” He considered the man for a long moment before smiling back. “And what you said, about not being good enough for me?” He waited until Jack gave him a nod. “Mashka would have liked you,” Ianto said finally. “And that tells me everything I need to know.” He gave one last smile, turned and headed for the kitchen to make a final batch of coffee.

 

Chapter Four

The shouted mix of Russian, English and smatterings of French first seemed just another part of his nightmare. More asleep than awake, Ianto struggled with the covers wrapped about him. It took a few minutes to detangle himself from the fabric, realize where he was and scramble up the ladder from Jack’s bunker to his office. He rubbed his eyes and blinked a few times. A quick stretch and he was awake enough to stagger across the office in search of both answers and coffee. Pouring himself a mug of lukewarm coffee, Ianto headed across the Hub to where the argument originated. Along the way, he palmed one of the pistols left lying out and carefully concealed it behind his leg as he stopped in the autopsy bay’s arched entrance. “What’s going on, Jack?” he asked.

The argument going on in front of him was so loud Ianto quickly realized no one could hear his question. He shook his head, took another step forward, and watched the argument more closely. From the room below, a dirt and blood covered young woman was shouting up at Jack in a mix of Russian and English with a smattering of French thrown in for good measure. Jack answered in surprisingly fluent Russian and French while Owen kept trying to get between the two while snarling in English about doing his job. With a slight roll of his eyes, Ianto tucked the pistol he carried into the back waist of his pants, sipped at his coffee, and then whistled shrilly which Myfanwy answered with a shriek of her own from amongst the rafters.

“Now that I have your attention,” Ianto began. He took another step into the room. “What’s going on…” he trailed off in shock as the woman on the table turned around and looked curiously up at him. “My God, Mashka?”

She stared up at him. Dried blood crusted her hair, ran down from a crease on her temple, and her hands trembled in her lap. Despite her obvious head wound and state of shock, she still managed to give him the ‘royal look’ – a haughty stare which made the recipient feel about an inch tall – and glared at him for a long moment before a startled gasp escaped her. Her hands came up to press against her mouth then dropped away. “Alyosha?” she half-cried, half-gasped.

“Yes,” Ianto replied quickly. “How did you... What’s going on…?” He looked helplessly between Jack and Marie. “Jack?”

Jack gave him a tired, but merry grin. “Long story, Ianto,” Jack said. Ianto knew all of Jack’s moods. He knew he was being brushed off for the moment; however, with his sister just below where he was standing, he was willing to accept the brush off for now. “Would you please come down here and tell your sister Owen needs to check her over?” He gave Ianto a hard look. “She was shot in the thigh!”

Ianto shoved his coffee mug at Jack. “She won’t allow him because she doesn’t know him.” He took the stairs to the lower level two at a time. He all but shoved Owen out of his way in order to get close to his sister. He smiled gently at her. “Mashka, my friend and coworker, Doctor Owen Harper.” He tilted his head just a bit towards Owen as he spoke. “Owen, my older sister, Her Imperial Highness the Grand Princess Marie Nikolaevna.”

“Nice to meet you, Your Highness,” Owen said with a tiny bow. “Now can I look at your wounds?”

“Owen,” Ianto hissed. He shifted his attention to Marie. “I trust him, Mashka. Let him take care of you...” he trailed off for a moment and gave her a beseeching look. “For me?”

Marie looked at the other two men in the room before staring intently at Ianto. She dropped her voice and switched to the Russian they’d spoken to each other as children in the nursery. “I have…” she trailed off and gave him a significant look. “You know… in my corset…”

“I know,” Ianto said. He answered her in the same language. “I know.” He reached out, clasped her hand in his and gently squeezed her fingers. “It’ll be fine. They’re trustworthy.” He smiled a bit at her. “I swear it.”

“Owen,” Jack called down. “You and I can wait outside while Ianto helps Marie with her clothes.” He nodded to Ianto, silently telling Ianto he knew what both siblings were concerned about, and then sternly looked at Owen.

Owen tugged a large terrycloth robe out of a cabinet. He held it out to Ianto. “What?” he snapped in response to Ianto’s questioning look. “It’s too cold down here for a hospital gown!”

Ianto could feel himself blushing in response to the implied rebuke. Then he smiled, tossed the robe over the end of the autopsy table and looked up at Jack. “Would you call Tosh?” he asked. “She’s closest in size to Marie.”

“That’s a good idea,” Jack agreed. “In the meantime, why don’t you explain a little to your sister? She must be in shock over seeing you again.”

“I have no idea how to explain this to her!” He turned back to his sister and brushed her blood matted hair back from her face. “God, I have missed you so,” he murmured in Russian.

“Just tell her your story and listen to hers,” Jack said. “We’ll talk later.”

“You can be certain of that, Jack,” Ianto replied. He gave Marie a tentative smile. He knew all his sisters helped each other with their clothes during their imprisonment, but wasn’t certain how she’d feel about him helping her now. “Do you want my help?” he asked softly.

“Yes,” Marie said. Her voice was equally soft. “I can’t reach my laces.” She dropped her gaze with a soft blush. “They’re too tight and it’s heavy.”

Ianto pulled out a penknife and momentarily released her hand to pull out the blade. He edged around the table in order to be behind her and started cutting her corset laces. Tanechka must have tied Mashka’s that night from how tightly the laces were knotted. “The ‘medicines’ will come in handy. I’ll need to look into a new flat now.” He leaned about to smile at her. “Do you have any idea of where and when you are?”

“When, no,” Marie replied. She tugged the corset off with a soft sigh and handed it back to Ianto. “But where… I think England.” She looked back at him for a moment. “It’s confusing. The small man, the doctor, sounds like an Englishman but the man who brought me here sounds American, and you…” she trailed off and scrambled about to fling her arms around his neck. She clung to Ianto, a tiny sob escaping her throat, and pressed her face into his chest. “Oh, Alyosha,” she murmured. “You’re alive! You’re alive!”

Ianto wrapped his own arms around her. He hugged her tight against him and pressed his cheek to her hair. He drew in a deep breath. Beneath the heavy scents of sweat, gunpowder, and blood, Marie still smelled of her lilac perfume. She smelled of home. It was a scent he’d missed for so very long. He rubbed his cheek on her hair and choked off a sob. The scent of blood strengthened. “You need to be looked at, Mashka,” he said. He slowly pulled away and tipped her chin up to look into her eyes. “I know what kind of condition I was in when I got here,” he said. “I’m certain you’re just as bad even with the accidental body armor.”

“I know,” she murmured. “But I didn’t know where I was… didn’t know anyone… and I knew I needed to protect…” she fell silent but pointed at her discarded corset. “If only to eventually bribe someone to escape.”

Ianto nodded and settled Marie back on the autopsy table. He worked quickly but gently in helping her remove her clothing. He laid it all aside and muttered a few harsh Russian curses when he saw the mass of bruises blooming over her ribs where her corset had protected her from the Revolutionaries bullets. “They will come in handy,” he said. He almost stuttered out his next words. “Elizabeth is going to kill me when I tell her you’re here!” He stroked Marie’s hair again, resolving to have Jack help him discuss Marie’s appearance with the Queen, and drew in a deep steadying breath. “I suppose I should tell you the hardest thing first,” Ianto said. He leant back and smiled at her. “It’s almost one hundred years after the assassination of our parents.”

“It’s… what?” She trailed off and stared at him in shock. Marie shook her head in denial. “Alyosha, that’s impossible!”

“It’s two thousand six,” Ianto said. He reached over and grabbed the robe. Gently, he helped her into it biting his lip with every soft whimper of pain which escaped from her. “I’m not certain how you got here. I’m certain Jack was involved somehow, but I stumbled through a space-time rift and have spent the last decade of my life here.” He gave her a bit of a smile. “That’s why I’m now twenty-three.”

“A what?” Marie demanded. She held up a hand when he started to answer. “Wait. The man who brought me here, he was Jack. Captain Jack, by any chance?”

“Captain Jack Harkness,” Ianto said with a nod. He blushed a bit, but continued, “My boss.”

Marie stared at him. Her eyes widened with shocked surprise. “Remember, the day I had the cold and Grandmama came to visit?” She waited for his nod and smiled. “Grandmama told me a story about a hero named Captain Jack who’d rescued an empress. She said he wore a great coat and had beautiful blue eyes.” She blinked at Ianto. “When he came out of the forest, I thought I was hallucinating.”

“Jack has good timing,” Ianto acknowledged. “And is very dashing.” He smiled at her and stroked her hair. “So, you got the story from Grandmama. I heard it from Jack just the other day when he gave me Grandmama’s egg for Christmas.”

Marie giggled. Her voice was shaking. She was starting to tremble in Ianto’s loose embrace. “Well, between you and me we have a nice… what is that English expression… a nest egg, yes?” She giggled again. “A very nice nest egg.”

“That we do,” Ianto said with a laugh. “And you, samyĭ dorogoĭ, are going into shock.” He tucked a strand of her blood matted hair behind her ear. “Let me call Owen back?”

“Oh, very well,” she grudgingly said. “I am a little tired. And I think my leg is bleeding again.”

Ianto took a step back from her and half-turned toward the entrance of the room. “Owen!” he yelled. He turned back to her, took her hand and kissed the back. “I won’t go anywhere,” he murmured. “I know how you feel, but everyone here… they’re… well, I suppose you could say they’ve become my family.” He leant close and whispered, “I’m still trying to figure out how I feel about Jack.”

Marie sucked in a sharp breath. She leant back to look at him, her eyes wide again with shock, and then leant back close to him. “Is it all right?” she whispered. “Will that cause any trouble for you?”

“It’s fine.” Ianto smiled at her. “We’re still feeling our way through the relationship, but…” he trailed off and blushed again. “I care for him. We just haven’t yet told the team.” He stroked her cheek and smiled more. “Things have changed a lot since we were kids, Mashka. It’s perfectly fine.” He paused again and shook his head. “We’re going to need to change your name too.”

She still looked uncertain, but nodded back to him. “As long as you’re sure,” she said. “What is your name now?”

“I’m certain,” he said. “And I’m Ianto Jones now.”

“Ianto…” she tried it out and smiled. “What a nice name.” She considered for a moment. “It’s Welsh? What is the Welsh for Marie?”

“Mairwen.”

“I like that,” Marie said. “Mairwen Jones.” She gave a decisive nod. “That’s my new name. Mairwen Jones.”

“I’ll get Tosh to work up the records for you,” Ianto said. He chuckled wickedly and smirked. “My baby sister Mairwen.”

Marie drew herself up and gave him as haughty a look as she could while sitting in a dingy terrycloth robe. “Little sister?” she hissed.

“Yep.” Ianto smirked at her. “I am twenty-three to your nineteen.”

“That’s going to take me some time to get used to.” She giggled wildly at him. “Big brother Ianto.”

Ianto joined her giggles with laughter of his own. “Worried big brother,” he said. “Hold your ears.” He waited a moment for her to cover her ears with her hands. Then he shouted, “Owen!”

“I’m here.” Owen’s voice came from behind Ianto. “No need to scream the house down.” His familiar snark laced every word he spoke to Ianto but his entire manner and tone changed as he shifted his attention to Marie. “May I check Her Highness over now?”

Ianto glanced at Marie, saw her slight nod, and stepped back out of Owen’s way with a nod of his own. “She’s bleeding again,” he said. “And has bruises all over her ribs from the shooting.”

“Let’s see,” Owen said. He slipped on a pair of gloves before gently urging Marie to lie back on the table. He shifted the robe just enough to expose the wound on Marie’s upper thigh. “Yes, just a little bleeding here,” he murmured. “Glancing shot, not a problem, looks worse than it is.” He reached over, dampened a bit of gauze and swabbed the injury before bandaging it. “I’ll check it out again tomorrow, but it should be fine without stitches.” He looked up with a gentle smile. “I’m sorry, Your Highness, but I’m going to have to open your robe further.”

Ianto could do nothing but stare at Owen. This wasn’t their acerbic medic-coroner, but a calm, competent and compassionate doctor. He was taking his time, always moving at Marie’s speed with a gentleness Ianto had never seen from him. He wondered if this was the doctor Owen had been before his fiancée’s untimely death. Ianto was startled from his thoughts by Owen speaking again.

“The bruising is just that, Ianto,” Owen said. “I’ll give you some cream you can use all over, Your Highness.” He smiled and resettled Marie’s robe to cover her. “I’m sure Tosh or Gwen will be glad to help.” He turned to Ianto. “I’m going to need your proper medical records, Ianto.”

Ianto nodded and shifted about to reach the computer terminal without letting go of his sister’s hand. He pulled up a directory, typed in the password and transferred his full medical records to Owen’s official medical files for Torchwood Three while leaving it open on the screen. “That’s all of them,” he said. He returned to Marie’s side. “When you start your file for Mashka, do her records up as Mairwen Jones.”

“Good,” Owen said. He nodded. “I’m going to see what they used on you. Maybe it can also help Mar… Mairwen.”

“I hope you can though I think the original tech was destroyed when the Tower fell.” He sighed softly. “I don’t even know if I’ll be able to get used to the name change.” He gave Marie a sheepish smile.

“You got used to yours, didn't you?” Owen demanded. There was the bracing tone Ianto was so familiar with. “You'll get used to hers. Besides, you can't go around calling yourself Romanov. People will think you're insane.”

Ianto turned an icy glare on Owen. “Marie was always Mashka to me,” he said. “And I got here as a thirteen year old. It’s going to take some time to get used to calling Mashka by another name.” He looked at her and blushed red at her slight glare at him. “I’m sorry, Mashka. I shouldn’t talk about you as if you aren’t here.”

“It’s all right, but, Ianto…” she stumbled a bit over his name herself. “Doctor Harper is right. We need to get used to being other people.” She laughed a bit but then sobbed. “Now it’s just the two of us, it’ll be nice to be other people. No more receptions, no more watching everything we do…” she broke off with a harsh sob.

“Oh, Mashka,” Ianto said. He reached out and pulled her into his arms. He stroked her hair, rocking them both in place, and sobbed himself. “It’s okay, samyĭ dorogoĭ, it’s okay.” He again buried his face in her hair. He didn’t care about the smells just the fact that his sister was in his arms. Harsh sobs escaped him blending with hers as they mourned the rest of their family.

 

Chapter Five

“So what’s the problem?” Gwen’s demanding voice echoed through the room. “It’s barely three in the morning, Jack.”

The distinct click of high heels followed in the wake of Gwen. They announced Tosh’s presence long before her soft ‘oh’ sounded through the room. Ianto slowly lifted his head from where it rested on Marie’s hair and smiled up at Tosh; however, Tosh wasn’t looking down at him but over at Jack. “I asked Gwen along, Jack,” she said. “We might as well hear whatever it is at the same time.”

“You knew something was going on,” Jack said rather than asked.

“We did call early,” Ianto interjected into the conversation though his words were drowned beneath Gwen’s complaint.

“Three am call,” she snapped. “Damned straight something is going on.”

“I was already awake,” Tosh added. “The Rift engine surged. The alarm on it woke me. So, what did you do, Jack?”

Ianto shifted his gaze from Toshiko to Jack. He stared intently at the older man before looking down at the top of Marie’s head where she was still clinging tightly to him. He rummaged up a cloth for her to wipe her face with before looking back up at Jack. Then he grinned over at Tosh. “He brought me my sister for Christmas,” he said. From her surprised look, he knew he’d been unable to hide his excitement beneath his usual mask.

“Ianto!” Gwen shouted. “That’s brilliant!” Then, she stared hard and intent down at him. “I didn’t know you had a sister.”

Ianto laughed softly. He pressed a kiss to Marie’s uninjured temple before he took a step back from her. He still held her hands in his and squeezed her fingers in reassurance. “I actually had four but three were assassinated alongside my biological parents.” He considered for a moment. He looked from the women to Marie before he gave a brief nod. “Long story,” he finally said. “Could I ask the two of you to take Mashka… dammit… I mean Mairwen down to the showers and help her get cleaned up?”

“Certainly, Your Imperial Majesty,” Tosh answered. She brought her hands together before her and started to bow only to break off when Ianto sharply shook his head at her. Quick to cover, she nodded instead.

“I should have known,” Ianto said. He stroked Marie’s cheek and nodded to the two women. “My other two coworkers,” he said softly. “Tosh reminds me of Malenkaya sometimes.” He pointed at each woman as he said her name. “Toshiko Sato and Gwen Cooper,” he introduced. “Ladies, my sister, Marie who we’ll be calling Mairwen.” He looked back down at Marie and then up at Jack. “I suppose I should make it official. Marie, you’ve already met our boss, Captain Jack Harkness.”

While he’d been speaking, Gwen bounded down from the mezzanine level to stand next to him by the gurney. Marie reached out a hand to her, murmuring “I’m so glad to meet you.”

“Your… what?” Gwen asked. Still, she took Marie’s hand and helped her down off the gurney. A steadying hand resting on Marie’s back until she was certain of the younger woman’s balance.

“Technically, Imperial Majesty,” Ianto said with an impish smile. “We’ll explain it once she’s had a chance to clean up.”

“Yes,” Marie added. There was no disguising her eagerness to bathe. “Please, call me Mairwen. I have to get used to the new name. And…” she trailed off and gave the two women a beseeching look Ianto recognized from the times she’d turned it on their Papa to get out of trouble. “Would it be difficult to get some clothes? I can’t wear what I came with and I don’t think this,” she paused to pluck at the robe she wore. “Is very fashionable, is it?”

“That’s why I had Jack call Tosh,” Ianto said. He laughed softly at Marie automatically ducking when she went to smack him. “She’s closest to you in size. Once I have a chance to sell a few things,” he nodded significantly toward her discarded corset. “We can shop.”

“Shop?” There was a disturbing eagerness in Gwen’s voice. “We nothing, Ianto Jones,” she said. “Tosh and I will take Marie shopping today. You can pay me back later.”

Ianto shook his head while sharing a smile with Marie. He waved a hand at Gwen. “Remind you of anyone,” he asked. The sad smile and slight welling of tears told him Marie recognized the resemblance in personality if not appearance between Gwen and Tanechka. He hugged Marie again while nodding in answer to Gwen’s comment. “Of course, Gwen,” he said. “But please…”

Gwen nodded back, tucked Marie’s hand into her arm and patted the back of her hand. “Come on, Mariwen,” she said. “Between Tosh and me, we can put together something so you can go out in public.” She started to lead Marie from the room. Tosh smiled at the men before following Gwen out of the autopsy bay.

Ianto watched the women go. Marie’s voice drifted back to him. She was excitedly talking about being able to go shopping with the two women, to walk down the streets without bodyguards, and even see boys. Ianto turned back to the gurney, rested his hands on it and bowed his head. He swallowed hard, forcing back another round of tears, and took several deep breaths to regain his composure.

“Better sell a few things, Ianto,” Owen said. “Those two have that look and your sister’s not far behind.”

Ianto chuckled softly. He raised his head to look over at Owen before looking up at Jack. He wondered if Jack had any idea of how grateful he was for this gift. Lowering his gaze, he reached over for Marie’s corset. He laid it out on the table, reopened his penknife and slit the fabric between two of the steel bones. Dozens of loose gems spilled from the fabric to lay in glittering splendor beneath the harsh glare of the lights.

“Actually, Owen,” he said. “The hardest part is not flooding the market.” He grinned at both of his companions. “If I remember correctly, most of the buttons on her blouse are pearls or loose diamonds covered with scraps of fabric.”

“Holy fuck.” Owen’s shock was easily heard. “Is that real?”

“Like a heart attack, Owen,” Ianto replied. “About twenty pounds of assorted gems from the Romanov vaults.”

“As long as they aren’t distinctive pieces,” Jack interjected. “There will be no problem selling them.”

“With one exception, we only took the pieces we knew we could easily sell,” Ianto said. “None of the state pieces.”

“Well, you have two pieces that would probably cause an unholy scandal, but these should be fine.” Jack grinned at Ianto who just rolled his eyes in response. “You’ll need to rent a safe deposit box and then start selling in small lots.” With one hand, Jack started shifting stones about on the gurney. “These five emeralds are a set. Start with them.”

“Well, those two are heirlooms and definitely won’t be sold,” Ianto retorted. He reached down and picked up one of the smaller round diamonds. He rolled the gem between his fingers. “I know nothing about selling these,” he said. He turned to Jack. “Could you help?”

Ianto looked between Owen and Jack before pointing to a clean specimen dish by Owen. Accepting the dish from the medic, he swept the gems on the gurney into it and set it in front of him. Then he started cutting out more of the gems. Ianto was certain only his training as Tsarevich kept him from reacting when Owen grabbed a scalpel and began removing the buttons, scraping the fabric off them and tossing the resulting gems into another dish. By the time they were done, they had several trays full of a mixture of gems. Everything from rare flawless rubies to sapphires to pearls to diamonds sat before the men.

“I can’t even begin to guess what this lot’s worth,” Owen said.

“And this is just some of the easily concealed and transported pieces,” Ianto said. He sighed softly. “Let me see if I can give you an idea. In nineteen twelve or thereabouts, Papa moved a large portion of our fortune to England, New York and Switzerland. At that time, it was a hundred million dollars.” Ianto dropped his gaze to the piles of gems and ran his fingers through one of the dishes before settling on one blue-white Siberian diamond which he held up to the light. It glittered between his fingers before he tossed it up and casually caught it in his hand again. “One of the historians, I think it was William Clarke, estimated Papa’s worth at thirty billion dollars uncorrected for exchange rates and inflation. Of course, that included the mines, land, palaces and the official state jewels.”

“I can’t even think in numbers that large,” Owen complained.

“Then let’s bring it down to this lot on the table,” Jack said. He looked it over. His lips moved as he silently counted. “About ten, depending on the market,” Jack said.

Ianto raised a brow in question at the estimate, but nodded when Jack gave him what he silently thought of as the ‘trust me’ look. “I’ll leave it to you, Jack, but let Mas… Mairwen decide if she wants to keep any for herself.”

“Yes,” Jack agreed. “We can have some things made up for her. I know someone who could do the work discretely.” He looked down at the gems again. “I would say the emeralds, these pearls here and these two diamonds.” As he spoke, Jack separated out the chosen jewels. “You’ll realize enough to buy a large flat, furnishings and keep Mairwen in hose and lipstick until she’s ready to decide what she wants to do with herself.”

“Ten million pounds?” Owen squeaked.

Ianto chuckled at the squeak but nodded. “That’s a help,” he said. “My flat’s way too small for both of us.”

“Good,” Jack said. “We’ll sort through the rest and separate it into lots. When and if you need to sell one, you can. Though if Mairwen is like you, I can’t see you raiding the stash too often.”

Ianto closed his eyes for a moment before he shook his head with a soft laugh. “Once she gets the hang of the twenty-first century, she’ll likely be a lot like me,” he said. “She was always a bit frugal with her allowance from Papa.”

Ianto considered the two men for a moment before looking down at the gems again. “Can we store these in the secure archives until I can arrange for a deposit box for them?” he asked Jack. When the older man nodded, Ianto started stacking the dishes together until there were three easily carried stacks one for each of them. They carted them up to Jack’s office and set them on Jack’s desk. While Jack opened the safe which contained the secure archives, Ianto considered before smiling at the two men. “Coffee in the conference room?” he asked. “Tosh and Gwen will have questions. I’m certain Owen has a few more.”

“Damned straight, Teaboy,” Owen said. He headed out of the office with a distracted wave. “I’m going to start reading your file while we wait. Call me when they come up?”

“Of course,” Ianto called after the medic. He started handing trays of gems to Jack now that the safe was open. “So,” he said. “Are you going to tell me what you did, Jack?”

 

Chapter Six

“I went back and got Marie,” Jack said.

Rolling his eyes, Ianto handed over another tray of gems. “Yes, that is rather obvious.” He ran his fingers through another tray, rattling the stones inside, and sighed softly. One of the stones, a brilliant blue mine cut sapphire, caught his eye. He rolled it between his fingers for a moment before tucking it into the same pocket holding the diamond he’d been tossing about the autopsy bay. Looking up, he saw Jack staring at him. He raised an eyebrow while handing the next tray over.

“If you mean how,” Jack said. He pointed at his wriststrap. “This thing can make short jumps in time. I had pretty good coordinates so it wasn’t difficult.”

“Are you deliberately being obtuse?” Ianto handed over the final trays with a glare. “Why, Jack? Why’d you do that for me?”

“Because I know you’re lonely,” Jack replied. He put the gems in the safe, closed the door and casually spun the dial to secure it. “You shouldn’t have to go through life alone. I wanted to be your hero.” He turned back to face Ianto. “Choose one.”

“I’m not as lonely as you are,” Ianto replied.

“We’re not talking about me.”

Ianto considered Jack across the width of the older man’s desk. “You don’t want me to feel like you do. Alone, lonely, without anyone to confide in,” he said softly. “And you’re always a hero.”

“Don’t look at me through rose-colored glasses, Ianto. I’ve done things that would disgust you,” Jack said.

“So you make the hard decisions,” Ianto replied. He shrugged one shoulder. “I can’t fault you for that.”

“I fault myself.” Jack dropped his head to stare down at the desktop. “Often.”

“You save the world; do the things I probably wouldn’t dare, and still blame yourself?” Ianto asked.

“Saving the world can be a messy business with no winners,” Jack said. “Only survivors. You know that.”

“My world’s gone,” he replied. He reached across the desk, intending on holding Jack’s hand for a moment, but dropped his hand when Jack backed away from him. “You just gave me a piece back and yet you’re acting like my asking why is some kind of torture.”

“I’m trying to keep my distance,” Jack snapped. He shoved a hand through his hair. “If we…” he trailed off for a moment. “If we get involved… well, sharing my life is dangerous.”

“And mine isn’t?” Ianto asked in disbelief. There wasn’t just the daily danger Torchwood brought into his life to consider but all the ramifications if his true identity was discovered by the general public. “Do you know what could happen if the truth about me was ever discovered?”

“Yes,” Jack said. “You’d have to go behind a security curtain so tight it would make the Tower of London look like an all-night restaurant.” He gave Ianto a tired look. “You’d hate it but you would live with it. You would live,” he said.

Ianto shook his head. “There’s people out there who would rather kill me than let me disappear behind that curtain,” he retorted. “I live with danger all the time.”

“You’re going to be an argumentative brat about this, aren’t you?”

“Yep,” Ianto said. “I’m Torchwood, Jack. Danger should be my middle name.” He stared intently at the man in front of him. “If you don’t want there to be an ‘us’ then say so, don’t find excuses,” he said quietly.

“Don’t be stupid!” Jack took a step forward to lean on the desk between them. “Of course I want there to be an us. I just don’t want ‘us’ to put you in danger. There are people out there who would see you as an asset to use against me.” He sighed softly. “You’d be in the line of fire all the time.”

“And this is a change?” Ianto asked. “Being Torchwood doesn’t put me in the crosshairs? Much less my heritage?”

“All right, all right,” Jack snapped. He threw his hands up in the air. Frustration just oozed from the captain. “You win!”

Ianto smirked across the desk at Jack. He’d been marshalling his arguments since Christmas Eve for just this conversation. Ever since Jack made the comment about not being good enough for him, Ianto knew he’d have to find a way to convince him otherwise. “So, want to tell me the real reason you used the machine you made me swear never to touch, to power that accessory you never take off, in order to get my sister out of Yekaterinburg?”

“Because I wanted you to be happy, all right?”

“All right,” Ianto conceded with a soft sigh.

“Be happy, Ianto,” Jack whispered.

“I will… well, as much as I can be.”

“One day at a time then?” Jack asked. “For that us?”

“Of course, but I’m…” Ianto trailed off with a small smile. “Well, I was never very patient.”

“You take the lead,” Jack said. “As fast or as slow as you want.”

Ianto considered the words and the situation for a minute or two before finally nodding in agreement. “Fine,” he said. “Now that we’ve sorted that out, come around the desk so I can kiss you in thanks.”

“Are you sure you want to get started?” Jack asked.

“You’re protesting getting kissed?” Ianto asked back. He couldn’t believe his flirtatious, over-the-top boss was hiding behind his desk in order to avoid being kissed by him.

“It’s just…” Jack started. He sounded more than a bit sheepish. “I want you to be certain. Absolutely certain.” He slowly started around the desk toward Ianto. “I’m very possessive, Ianto. Once I’ve got you, I won’t let go.”

“Good,” Ianto said. “Because I don’t plan on letting you go either.” He stared down Jack until Jack looked away for a moment. “I’m not only possessive, I’m jealous. Flirt all you want, Jack,” he said. “I won’t change you but it goes no further than flirting from now on.”

“Deal.”

“Then come here!” Ianto rested his hands on his hips and glared at Jack. “Stop hiding behind your desk.”

Ianto watched, only moving to take a single step back out of Jack’s way, as the older man came around the desk. He sat on the edge; reached back to rest his hands on the top, and waited. Ianto took a deep breath, retook that step and cupped Jack’s jaw in his. He leant forward to brush his lips over Jack’s in a barely there kiss before murmuring “I can’t give you the traditional gifts a Tsar gives his potential lover.” He pressed another chaste kiss to those slightly pouting lips. “You don’t wear jewelry.”

“I’d make an exception for you,” Jack murmured.

Ianto trailed a finger along Jack’s jaw and down his neck to rest in the hollow of his throat. “A pretty sapphire to match those beautiful eyes of yours,” he whispered. Absently, he trailed his finger around letting the nail momentarily sketch what would have been his royal cipher on Jack’s skin. He felt Jack shiver then swallow. Ianto looked up just as the other man leant closer to him.

“Ring or necklace?”

Repeating the absent sketching, Ianto tilted his head a bit in thought. “Not certain,” he murmured. “Got a preference?”

“Something which will always remind me I’m yours,” Jack whispered.

He was close enough now that his breath stirred the hair curling by Ianto’s ear. A shiver raced over his skin even as Ianto took a slight step away to consider Jack. He raised an eyebrow but smiled. “I should go with both then,” he murmured.

“Give me a ring,” Jack said. “But not for my finger.” The flirtatious smile and tone was back but the look in Jack’s eyes was far more serious. That look silently dared Ianto to do it, to take the steps necessary to publically claim Jack as his own.

Ianto fought down the urge to blush. He knew he wasn’t successful yet he tried. He pressed a bit harder with his nail just enough to leave momentary faint scratches in Jack’s skin as he again sketched his cipher on the man. “I wouldn’t know where to acquire one,” he murmured.

“I do.”

“I should have known you would,” Ianto said. He shook his head a bit with the faintest of laughs. “You’re mine now, Jack.”

“Talk, talk, talk.”

“Give me a break,” Ianto snapped. He glared and dropped his hand to rest on his hip again. “You’re the experienced one here!”

“Nope,” Jack said. “I told you. Your lead.”

Ianto pouted. He knew it was childish as hell, but he couldn’t help it. Here was Jack so experienced that he’d likely had sex with just about every species they’d ever encounter in the course of their work throwing the initiative back at him for the relationship. “Jack, when it comes to sex with men, I’m clueless,” he said. “Help me out here.”

Jack chuckled. Low, soft and totally wicked that laugh sent shivers down Ianto’s spine. “No sex,” he murmured. “Not yet. Just kissing.” Jack’s hand came up to stroke over Ianto’s cheek. “Just one kiss.”

He considered and then nodded. “For now,” he said. Ianto stroked his finger back up Jack’s neck until he could run the backs of his fingers over the other man’s cheek before slipping his fingers into the soft hairs at the nape of his neck. Using that hold, he leant in and leisurely kissed Jack. “We’re going shopping while my sister and the ladies are gone.”

“Nope,” Jack said. “First you have to sell some things because I’m expensive.”

Ianto raised a brow yet chuckled as well. “Are you now?”

“Oh yes.”

Ianto laughed softly before kissing Jack again. He rubbed his thumb against the hollow beneath Jack’s ear. He rested his other hand on Jack’s hip. “I’ll keep you in the manner to which you’d like to become accustomed,” he murmured.

“Will you now?” Jack wrapped his arms around Ianto’s waist. He spread his legs and tugged Ianto closer to him. “Naked and aroused?”

“Jack!”

“You did say…”

“That wasn’t what I meant,” Ianto interrupted. He could feel himself blushing deeply and shook his head at Jack’s antics. He should have expected it from the older man. Jack had never held back before; he certainly wouldn’t now.

“Why not?” Jack asked. “I’m a lot of fun in that state.”

“We’d never get any work done.” Ianto shook his head. As much as he was protesting, he was enjoying Jack’s easy acceptance of his inexperience. “I’d never get any work done.”

“We can hire more staff.”

“Oh, we can?” Ianto asked. He arched a brow and shook his head.

“You’re always going to get the last word, aren’t you?”

Ianto chuckled. “You could always just shut me up, you know,” he said. He tilted his head just a bit while stroking his thumb over Jack’s jaw again.

“My pleasure,” Jack said.

He watched Jack. Watched intently as the older man’s eyes half closed and insistent hands tugged him closer. One hand slid up his back, nails scratching gently though his shirt, and cradled the back of his head. Held still, Ianto licked his lips and fought the urge to close his eyes as Jack closed the distance between them. Soft lips closed over his and a gently demanding tongue teased at his lips. A muffled gasp escaped Ianto, his eyes slid closed and he swayed closer to Jack as he submitted to Jack’s vast experience.

Like that first hungry kiss in his lounge, this kiss took him over. It short-circuited every coherent thought beneath a desperate desire for more. Ianto moaned into the kiss and wound his arms tighter around the other man. He’d kissed and been kissed before yet every one of those kisses paled in comparison to this one. He was the sole focus of all of Jack’s attention. This kiss, as tame as it certainly was, claimed him as Jack’s as much as it confirmed his own claim in the other man.

He pressed closer, if that was even possible, and slid his hand up over Jack’s chest to finger the buttons on the front of Jack’s shirt. Ianto slipped one button, a second followed, and he slid his hand beneath to rest over Jack’s racing heart. He pulled out of the kiss to drag in a breath. “God, Jack,” he moaned. “More… please…”

“Shh,” Jack whispered. “I know.”

His hands tugged at Ianto’s shirt even has he again claimed Ianto’s mouth in yet another hungry kiss. Nails scraped across his lower back teasing another moan from Ianto who arched back into the touch. He wanted more than kisses. He wanted Jack’s hands on him. A soft begging noise slipped from him to be muffled in their current kiss.

A little embarrassed squeak from the direction of the office door broke them apart. Too embarrassed himself to find out which one of his colleagues had caught them in flagranté, Ianto buried his face in Jack’s neck and panted to catch his breath.

“Oops!” Marie’s voice came from behind him. “Carry on,” she said. “Call me when you’re decent again.”

Chapter Seven

Lifting his head from Jack’s shoulder, Ianto twisted about to glare over at the door. “Marie!” he shouted. He turned around to face her, but clasped his hands around Jack’s wrists in order to keep his arms about him. “You should have knocked. ”

“You didn’t shut the door,” she replied. “I didn’t know I needed to when it was open.” He frowned at her. She sighed softly. “All right, all right, no need to go all big brother on me.”

Freeing a hand, Ianto pointed at her. “You are a brat!” He shook his head truly unable to stay mad at her no matter how embarrassed he was at the moment. He surveyed his sister’s appearance taking in the loosely fitting jeans, the high heeled pumps and slightly too tight Cardiff City Football Club t-shirt.

“Well, yes,” she retorted. Marie gave him a very restrained smile. “But I love you.”

Ianto squeezed Jack’s wrists before easing from the other man’s hold. He cast a smile of his shoulder at Jack before stepping over to catch Marie’s hand. He lifted it, kissed the back, and murmured, “Love you, too.” Ianto turned a bit to look over at Jack. He held his other hand out to the captain. “Sir,” he began. “I believe it’s time for that long talk.”

“Coffee?” Jack asked. He levered himself up from the edge of the desk. “Please?”

“Have I ever denied you coffee, sir?” Ianto chuckled and shook his head. Absently tucking Marie’s hand into his arm, he started out the door toward the conference room. “Jack, you do understand about…”

“Of course,” Jack said. He smiled, stepped a bit forward and kissed Ianto’s cheek. “This is work. That was personal.” He laughed softly and bounded off toward the autopsy bay. “I’ll get Owen. Meet us in the conference room with the coffee.”

Ianto nodded and calmly escorted his sister across the Hub to the stairs closest to the conference room. As they passed the studiously typing Tosh, Ianto smiled. “Conference room,” he said in response to her questioning look. “Coffee or tea?”

“Coffee, Ianto,” Tosh replied. She gathered up her laptop and nodded to him. “I’ll call Gwen up.”

“Thank you,” Ianto said. He led Marie up to the conference room, started to open the door, and stopped when she squeezed his arm. “What is it?”

“These clothes…” she trailed off and plucked at the hem of the t-shirt she wore. “They seem so revealing.” She sighed softly and shook her head. “Are they proper? I mean…”

“I know what you mean, samyĭ dorogoĭ,” Ianto said. “They’re perfectly proper for some people in this time.” He considered for a moment before continuing gently, “Some women like to show off their bodies much more than we were raised to expect. Trousers are the norm now for most, but I can understand how that top is disconcerting for you. When you go shopping later, tell Tosh and Gwen that you want something a bit more classic and modest. They’ll help you find things you’re comfortable with.”

Marie nodded, her smile much more relaxed now that she’d been reassured, and reached for the door beside them. “So, where do I sit?”

Ianto reached out and wrapped his hand around the edge of the door. Holding it open, he waved her inside before following her. He led her to what was his usual chair on the rare occasions he joined the team in the conference room. He pulled the chair out for her and murmured, “If it pleases Her Imperial Highness…”

“Oh, you!” She laughed gaily even as she settled into the chair. “It pleases me…”

He pushed the chair in and kissed her temple before straightening up. “Would you like to try my coffee or should I make you some tea like back home?”

“Tea, if you don’t mind,” Marie said softly. “I’ll try your coffee soon, Ianto.”

He caught the implied rebuke in her words and nodded. “I’ll try to remember,” he murmured. “I’ll be just over there, Mairwen,” he said pointing to the nearby kitchenette. “I won’t be long.”

“Go,” Marie said. “I’ll be fine.”

Ianto nodded and smiled. Taking a deep breath, he slipped from the room to work on the team’s coffee and Marie’s tea. He watched through the glass walls as the rest of the team arrived and claimed their seats. He watched his sister more than the team. Her sudden hunching over and wrapping her arms around herself worried him so he looked again at the others while setting coffee mugs on a tray. He added her tea to the tray, lifted it and headed back into the room. Handing out the mugs, he balanced the tray on the edge of the table between Owen and Jack before reaching out and smacking the back of Owen's head. "Stop staring at my sister or you're on decaf for a month."

“I’m sorry if I embarrassed you, Marie, but you’re very lovely,” Owen said. He smiled and lifted his mug from the table. He gave Ianto a hard look across the width of the table. “I’m also worried she might have a bit of a concussion from that temple laceration.”

Ianto handed Marie her tea, set his coffee mug in front of the empty chair next to his sister, and set the tray aside on the sideboard before taking his seat. He reached over and squeezed Marie’s hand. He then leant over and kissed her cheek. Settling back into his chair, Ianto looked at each member of the team in turn. Finally, he turned to Jack but the other man waved a hand at him, silently ordering him to begin. “So, I know you all have questions,” he finally said.

“Of course we do.” Tosh spoke quickly jumping in before Gwen could do more than start to open her mouth. “But you should tell us only what you and Mairwen are comfortable telling us.”

“I have no idea where to start,” Ianto said. He gave Tosh a quickly concealed smile of thanks. “I know you all need to know, but I don’t know where to start or what to tell you.” He chuckled tiredly. “Much less what to tell her about where she is now,” he said with an apologetic glance at his sister. Even as he spoke to the team, realization of who else he needed to speak to dawned, and he sent a panicked look in Jack’s direction. “Shit, I have to call the palace and let them know Marie’s here.”

“We’ll do that later tonight,” Jack said.

“We is right,” he agreed. “You need to explain things to her, too.” He cast another look around the table. “I suppose it would be easier for me if you asked questions. It’s such a hard thing to talk about especially since Marie… I mean Mairwen just escaped from the end of it.”

“Let me say it instead of asking,” Tosh said. “You are His Imperial Majesty Alexei, Emperor and Autocrat of all the Russias and this is your sister, Her Imperial Highness the Grand Duchess Maria Nikolaievna.”

Ianto inclined his head to Tosh with a tiny smile. “Almost. I’m actually Alexei the Second,” he said. “My sister is the Grand Princess Marie Nikolaievna, if you want the proper title and not the loose English translation.”

“Oh my God,” Gwen said. Her shock was audible in the way her voice rose toward the end of her statement.

“I knew you’d say that,” Ianto said. He chuckled softly at her expression.

“Well, what did you think I would say?” Gwen demanded. “Ianto, you’re an… an Emperor or something and you bring me my coffee and biscuit every morning!”

“Like I told Jack, an Emperor without a throne isn’t much of an Emperor.” He shook his head with another soft laugh. “Besides, I like bringing the coffee. Do you have any idea how nice it is to be able to do what I want when I want?” he asked.

“I suppose…” Gwen stuttered a bit as she spoke; however, Ianto refused to back down from her shock. She needed to accept him as he was or… well… he didn’t know what he’d do. “Wait,” she said. “Rhys and I watched a documentary a few years ago. Didn’t they find all the bodies? Identified them with Prince Philip’s DNA?”

Ianto gave a quick shake of his head. “No, only nine,” he said. “They were missing two, but the Russians are desperately trying to hide that by claiming a set of miscellaneous bone fragments, conveniently too small to accurately test, are the missing bodies.”

“And you don’t plan to go back?” Tosh asked.

“No,” Ianto said. “I’m enjoying my freedom far too much.” He sighed tiredly and ran his fingers through his hair. “I made a deal with my great grand-cousins. If the Russian government ever offers the throne to either of the two pretenders, then we’ll put me forward as the proper heir. Otherwise, forget it, I’m not going back.”

“Good,” Tosh said. She smiled over at him from behind her coffee mug. “It wouldn’t suit you, I don’t think. Not now anyway.”

“I could probably learn to be a ruler,” Ianto said. “Mother insisted I be taught from the cradle as Heir, but…” he trailed off and shrugged. “I really enjoy my freedom. Especially the ability to carry my own gun,” he paused and shifted his attention to the intently listening Marie. “We should to teach you.”

“Yes, please,” Marie said quietly. “So many things I always wanted to learn but never could. A Grand Princess must never show herself as anything but dignified and refined, she murmured. He recognized the quote as something their mother would sometimes say to his sisters before a public reception. “It would be fun.” She turned to Ianto her eyes shimmering with unshed tears. “Oh, I wish they were here. Olyshka, Tanechka, Malenkaya… Oh, Aloysha!”

Ianto shoved his chair back, twisted and reached over for Marie. He lifted her out of her chair and into his lap. He cuddled her against him, hands stroking down her back, and whispered, “I know, Mashka, I know.” He absently rocked her in his arms but looked up at his curiously watching teammates. “Yes, we were there. Jack went off earlier and retrieved her from near the Ipatiev House just after the assassination happened.”

“Oh, Ianto,” Gwen breathed. “You poor babies.”

“I should give her something,” Owen interjected. He rose to his feet and nodded to Jack and Ianto. “Calm her nerves and let her get a bit of decent sleep before you take her shopping.” He started toward the door, but paused to stare at Jack. “It was just yesterday for her. She’ll have nightmares.” It was only after Jack nodded that Owen left the room to run toward the autopsy bay.

“Don’t pity us, Gwen,” Ianto snapped. He immediately soothed Marie when she jumped and whimpered. “We survived and in my case that’s a miracle.”

“I’m not pitying you,” Gwen retorted. She quickly continued her justification. “I’m pitying the babies you were. Mairwen’s still a young girl by my standards. Nineteen or so, right?”

“Five weeks past her nineteenth birthday,” Ianto agreed. “Much to my surprise, I’m now the older sibling.” He continued rocking Marie while watching the door. As soon as Owen reentered the room, he caught the man’s eye and nodded to the girl in his lap. “Could you…?”

Owen nodded in return. He circled the table and measured out a teaspoon or so of powder into her tea glass. A quick stir and then he was crouching down beside the chair. “Come’n sweetheart,” Owen cajoled. “Drink this. It’ll relax you a little before you go shopping.”

Marie lifted her head from Ianto’s shoulder. Looking into her eyes, he could see the dazed and glazed look of a shock victim. He took the glass from Owen and held it to her lips. “Go on, Mashka,” he murmured. “Drink this for me.” He waited until she’d drunk the tea before setting the glass aside on the table.

Ianto looked across the table to Gwen and sighed. “Um… dammit,” he started only to break off in frustration. He truly wasn’t certain how much or what to say to the two women. He really wished Tosh hadn’t called Gwen in. Tosh he knew would understand; he wasn’t certain Gwen would. “She was very sheltered. I was allowed to join Papa at the front, but until Tobolsk and Yekaterinburg all my sisters were very sheltered.”

“That only proves my point,” Gwen retorted. “At least she’ll have us. We’ll make sure she finds her footing.”

Ianto nodded. Marie’s head suddenly dropped hard onto his shoulder. He groaned in pain as the joint protested the thumping. “Somehow, I’m not surprised she did that,” he muttered. “I know I was exhausted when I arrived here.” He released a soft sigh while stroking Marie’s hair back. “I know. I’m just worrying.”

“Of course you are. That’s what brothers are supposed to do,” Tosh said. She smiled at him. Something in her smile hinted at personal knowledge of what she was saying. Ianto made a mental note to see if he could find Tosh’s file to figure out the source of her knowledge. “Why don’t we put her to bed on the sofa? I can watch over her while you go do whatever it is you need to do.” She gave him an encouraging smile. “I’ll start on her paperwork. By tonight, she’ll be Mairwen Jones with a birth certificate and NHS card to go with the name. Let’s throw in a passport for good measure.”

Ianto returned the smile with one of his own. “Thank you, Tosh,” he said. He then gave Jack a somewhat sheepish look. “Someone’s going to have to carry her for me. I can’t right now.”

Jack, who’d remained silent through the entire conversation, nodded and rose. He crossed the few short feet separating him from Ianto and bent to lift Marie into his arms. As he did so, he murmured, “You’re in pain. Why?” Yet he didn’t linger long enough for Ianto to answer, just straightened up again and headed out of the room. A grin of thanks was given to Gwen as she leapt to her feet to open doors and help him down the stairs. Tosh followed Jack leaving Ianto alone with Owen in the conference room watching the action through the massive glass windows.

“All right, Teaboy,” Owen said. “Talk to me. I saw that wince.”

 

Chapter Eight

Once again, a sigh slipped from Ianto. He levered himself to his feet and carefully took the few steps between him and the conference room window wall overlooking the main floor of the Hub. Silent, he stood there. He rested a hand on the frame of the window and shifted his weight onto his right leg. Absently, he bent his left knee a bit to ease the general ache in his left leg. He stared down, almost chuckling, as Jack settled Marie on the sofa and covered her with his great coat. Another soft sigh slipped from Ianto as he watched the scene.

“Jesus Christ, Ianto, sit down before you fall over,” Owen snarled from behind him. “And don’t argue with me.” In the faint reflection in the glass, Ianto watched Owen dissolve a pair of tablets in a fresh glass of water. It was held out toward him. “Drink this,” Owen ordered. “We need to talk and you’re in too much pain to be clear-headed.”

Automatically, Ianto shook his head in denial. “I’m fine,” he said.

“Let me ask you something, Ianto,” Owen said. He set the glass down on the table. “Are you planning to take care of Marie or having Marie take care of you?”

Ignoring the pain the motion caused him, Ianto twisted about to glare over his shoulder at Owen. “She’s always taken care of me,” he said. He snorted a laugh. “Well, when Mother didn’t hover. I know this time better than her. Of course, I’m planning to take care of her.”

“Not if you don’t take care of yourself first,” Owen retorted. He leant back in his chair and smirked in Ianto’s general direction. “I’m willing to bet you’re bleeding into that hip joint. If that is indeed happening, we need to get you into some sort of maintenance plan and we need to hack into every Torchwood One medical and biological file still in existence.”

Ianto grimaced. He clenched his jaw for a moment as a spasm of pain tightened the muscles in his left thigh. Still, he nodded in response to Owen’s explanation and plans. “So you want me to come over there, sit down, and drink that water you just spiked?”

“Got it in one,” Owen said. “Come on, Tea Boy, I’m all you got at the moment.”

Rolling his eyes, Ianto looked back down at the lower level for a moment. He thought for a bit, took a deep breath, and slowly shifted about to face Owen. Clenching his jaw to conceal his pain, he worked his way back to the table and slowly eased down into the chair. He grabbed the glass, held it loosely for a moment, and asked, “What do you want to know?”

“Are you on any medication at the moment?”

Ianto sipped at the water. He grimaced at the somewhat bitter and chalky taste, but forced himself to drink it all before returning the glass to the table. “Only what you just put in my drink,” he said. “I haven’t been on anything since One was destroyed.”

“You really do have a death wish,” Owen said. “We’ll start clotting factor replacement therapy tomorrow morning. I’ll check with Jack and if he agrees I’ll get you some of the painkillers we synthesized from those pasalix seeds. I want you to take them every night before bed.”

“Not really,” Ianto said with a quick headshake. “Well, more like I have an intermittent one. I have since I was roughly eight.” He released a tired sigh and traced his finger through a water circle on the table. “That’s a long story in and of itself.” He drew in a breath and shifted a bit to get his weight off his left hip again. “I was told when I joined Torchwood that within the year they’d have this cured. I’d been treated by London twice a year since I arrived here. Then when I started working for Torchwood, the treatments were scaled back to once a year.” He paused for a moment to think. “I had one just after the contracts were signed which is when they said I’d be cured by the time the next one was scheduled.”

“Torchwood London wouldn’t tell the truth if the Archangel Michael himself was holding a sword to their throats,” Owen retorted. “We need to find their research, Ianto.”

“Get Tosh on it,” Ianto said. “She’ll find it faster than either of us.” He chuckled softly. “I’m too exhausted to be worth much.” He held up a hand to forestall Owen’s comment. “Don’t say it,” he said. “I know I should have said something but that would have meant admitting I was still in pain from the trip to the countryside. Until you knew my past, I wouldn’t have known how to explain why I was still battered from the beating after almost two months.”

“All right,” Owen said, “I’ll accept that. But now that I know, you need to check with me regularly.” A hard look such as Ianto hadn’t seen since the death of the cyberwoman - he just couldn’t think of her as Lisa - appeared on Owen’s face. “No more of this toughing it out crap.”

Ianto almost smiled; instead, he swallowed hard and took a deep breath. It was so hard for him to admit weakness. His mother had trained that out of him before he’d even started his lessons with his tutors. “Is this the point at which I tell you that I think you’re right about the hip joint?” he asked softly. “And that whenever I hemorrhaged there as a child, I ended up bleeding into my abdomen?”

“Downstairs, you idiot,” Owen snapped. “Right now.”

Ianto blinked in surprise. He couldn’t quite believe Owen’s reaction. He blinked again certain he was imagining Owen’s anger. He wasn’t; Owen really was glaring at him. “I… um… why are you snapping at me like that?” he asked. He very slowly and carefully levered himself up from the chair. He hissed in a sharp breath when he started to put his weight on his left leg instantly drawing it up off the floor to stop the searing pain that raced up his spine. It took all his willpower not to scream in response to that pain.

“Let me spell this out,” Owen said. “You are a hemophiliac. You are bleeding from several places. We need to get some clotting factors into you right now or you could bleed to death.”

Muttering a soft curse, Ianto stared at Owen. Then, he nodded once. “Right,” he said. “I’m sorry, Owen. I honestly wasn’t expecting this to happen.” He slowly straightened his leg and began to move across the room toward the door. “And I tend to forget that this end of the twentieth century can actually do something for me,” he explained. He watched Owen while he moved as carefully as he could from the table to the door. He was terrified of falling when he was no longer able to support himself with the table. “Let’s just move slowly, hmm?” he asked. “Otherwise, things are going to get a hell of a lot worse really fast. I can feel it.”

As he watched him, Owen reached up and pressed his comm. “Tosh, listen, I need you to go down to the medical bay and start setting up for a complete scan,” he said. “Don’t let anyone else know and don’t wake Marie.”

“Mairwen,” Ianto hissed. A hand was waved in his direction, telling him he’d been heard but Owen’s attention was mostly on his conversation with Tosh over the comms.

“Not really,” Owen said into the comm. “I’m bringing Ianto down with me. He’s in bad shape.” There was another long pause before Owen continued again, “That’ll be a good idea.”

Another sharp spasm raced through Ianto’s body. He bit back the whimper and shifted his weight again. He was close, very close, to a major attack. “Owen!” he called desperately.

“Jack,” Owen was saying into the comms. “I need your help right now. Gwen, keep an eye on Marie. Make sure she’s all right. If she starts to wake up, let me know.” He paused again, clearly listening to the conversation over the internal communications system. “And Gwen, you’re in charge of the Hub. The rest of us are going to be a little busy for a while.”

Ianto shook his head at Owen. He tightened his grip on the doorframe. Right now, that doorframe was all that was keeping him upright as his left hip protested his weight. Ianto could feel the swelling trying to begin in his groin where it had both previous times. Swallowing against the pain, he snapped, “Not to interrupt or anything, but could you come give me a hand before I meet the floor?”

As Owen came over to lend a shoulder, Ianto caught sight of Jack’s mad dash from his office out of the corner of his eye. He shook his head a bit while clenching a hand on Owen’s shoulder. “You’ve done it now,” he said with a half-nod toward Jack.

“You haven’t seen anything yet,” Owen replied. “Watch this.” He waved Jack into the room and tilted his head toward Ianto. “He’s bleeding internally. I need to get him to the medical bay and start him on clotting factors,” he said. “And we can’t leave him alone for the rest of the night.”

“Owen!” Ianto snapped. “Dammit… do you have to just…” He broke off and bit his lip. It had been so long since he’d had a full attack like this that he’d forgotten just how painful it was and how if he was the least bit upset, the bleeding worsened. “Shit, I’d forgotten just how bad this was,” he muttered.

Before he could even greet Jack, the older man appeared at his side and swept him up into his arms. Ianto made a soft noise of protest, fully ready to complain about being treated like a weak Victorian miss, but Jack’s lips pressed momentarily to his, silencing him. “Be quiet,” Jack ordered. “You’ve been keeping secrets again. You know how I feel about that. So be quiet and let me carry you.”

Ianto rolled his eyes, but nodded his head. “More the original secret is coming back to kick my arse again.” He craned a bit in order to see Owen over Jack’s shoulder. “If you don’t want me waking Marie, then you better find some really good painkillers soon. The last time I was like this, I ended up screaming for days.” He sighed with remembered pain. “Yeah, I was eight, but it was bad.”

“Use the ones we found in the crashed Skheldi ship,” Jack ordered. “They can knock out a charging rhino.”

Ianto recognized the name of the aliens. They were a species with an exceedingly high tolerance for pain and correspondingly more powerful drugs to treat themselves. “You really want me out of it, don’t you?” he asked. He swallowed hard again, determined not to let on just how much being carried by Jack hurt. “I’ll be fine, Jack,” he said. “As Owen always tells us, he’s the best doctor out there.”

“And don’t you forget it,” Owen retorted. They met up with Gwen in the main Hub. She looked terrified, her eyes wide as she stared at them, and Ianto saw Owen silently tell her, “It’ll be all right,” as they passed her. With Owen now leading the way, they descended into the medical bay where Tosh was finishing her setup and waiting on them.

Ianto gave Gwen a tiny smile as Jack carried him by. He gave the same smile to Tosh before shifting his attention to Owen. “Will you let me settle myself once Jack puts me down?”

“You know your own comfort best,” Owen said by way of answer. The medic moved easily about the room checking Tosh’s work and getting his tools together. “But I am going to need access to your arm.”

“I’ve prepared several bags of cryoprecipitate, but we’ll need to order more,” Tosh said to Owen. “Or maybe clotting factor concentrates.”

“You expected something like this, Owen?” Jack demanded as he descended the last of the steps.

“I just like to be prepared for all eventualities,” Owen replied absently.

Ianto laughed and then whimpered in pain. “He knew a bit before I told him, Jack,” he said. “I’m certain he decided to be ready just in case this very thing happened.” Another pain raced up his back from where Jack’s arm pressed against his lower spine. “If you put me down and help me shift onto my right side,” he said quietly. “That helps the pain some.” He paused and blushed. “It would also be good if…” he trailed off unable to finish.

“Out with it, Ianto,” Owen ordered. “We don’t have time for embarrassment at the moment.”

“I know,” Ianto snarled. He glared over at Owen. “But I can still be embarrassed by the fact that it’s easier if I don’t have anything potentially constricting on.” He gave the other man a hard pointed look. “Like the bulk of my clothes.”

“I guess that’s my cue,” Tosh said with a grin. “Owen, I’ll put in the requisition for the cryoprecipitates. Anything else you’ll need?”

“I’m sure he’ll give you a list soon,” Ianto said. “We do have a project for you, however, and I have an apology.”

“Did I ever tell you that Jack and I copied all the hard drives in Torchwood London after Canary Wharf?” Tosh asked. She had her impish but evil smile. Ianto just shook his head at her. “I’ve already started on the medical files.”

He chuckled softly. “I should have known.” He nodded to her with a smile. “We need to know what they did and were doing to me.” He looked between his friends. “After I recovered from the injuries I received in Yekaterinburg, I never had another attack. This is the first one in more than a decade.” He clenched his jaw again. “I was being seen and treated with something twice a year in London, though. So when this first started, I ignored the symptoms. I think picking Marie up in the conference room was the final trigger for this.” He paused and looked at each of them in turn. “So I’m sorry for not telling any of you I was still in pain.”

“It’s all right,” Tosh said. She laid a hand on his arm, gently rubbed his skin, and smiled. “I’ll go keep Gwen company. I’m going to pull her into the research. She’s actually quite good at figuring out the human angle of it all.”

Ianto nodded, reached out and caught Jack’s hand in his. He clung to that hand as his muscles tensed to allow the blood to seep further into his hip joint. “Tell her I’m sorry?” he asked.

“I will,” Tosh said. “Now, start getting those trousers off.”

”I can’t,” Ianto said. He chuckled softly. “I’m comfortable at the moment. I move and I’m liable to start screaming in pain which will wake Marie.” He waved a hand toward his clothes. “I think I’ll let Jack handle it.”

Tosh leant down toward him, pressed her lips to Ianto’s cheek and whispered: “Now you’re letting him get you out of your trousers? Talk about bad timing.”

“Tosh!” Ianto hissed. He knew he was now scarlet. He reached around with his free hand and carefully, but playfully smacked her. “That was terrible. I really didn’t plan this,” he said. He pointed at Owen and Jack. “And those two are going to want to kill me as soon as they get me recovered.”

“Oh no,” Tosh said. “Owen may want to kill you, but Jack? No, I don’t think so.” Before he could retort, she walked away giggling like mad.

Ianto glared after Tosh for several minutes before he turned back to Jack and Owen. “All right,” he said. “What now?”

“Now?” Jack teased. A flirtatious little smile settled on Jack’s lips. “Well, now I undo your belt, open your waistband, and lower your zipper.” He suited actions to words and even managed to slip in a brief caress across Ianto’s lower stomach. “And now, if you lift just a little, I can get them off.” He gently tugged the pants down and away. “Better?”

Ianto chuckled softly at Jack’s antics. He squirmed about, helping as much as he could, and then shrugged one shoulder. “Some,” he said. He watched Jack closely. While his outward expression was all lascivious and seductive, Jack’s eyes betrayed his worry and fear now that the deep dark bruise on his inner thigh could be seen from beneath the edge of his boxers. “You know I really hate this. I really do.”

“Then you should have talked to me sooner,” Owen said. He joined Jack in helping Ianto out of his clothes, gently easing his shirt off as Jack removed Ianto’s socks and shoes in order to completely remove his trousers. “Jack, get one of the blankets from the linen cabinet. Ianto’s going to get very cold and I don’t want to risk the flu.”

“Pneumonia,” Ianto said. “For some reason, we never really caught colds. Just went right to the bad stuff.” He watched the men, swallowed, and shoved the waist of his pants down some to be more comfortable. “I know I should have said something, but thanks to Mother my pain tolerance is rather high. I wasn’t even certain I was bleeding until I couldn’t put my weight on my left leg.”

Jack returned and spread two blankets over him. Then, with his usual cheeky grin, he made a gimmie motion with his hands. “Pants off, too,” he ordered. “Nothing to bind.”

He debated for a moment, carefully shifted onto his back, and eased his pants off. He then tossed them at Jack. He smirked when his aim was true and his pants landed on Jack’s head. “Now you really are in my pants,” he teased. He shifted about on the table until he was laying on his right side. He pulled his left leg up as high as he could and sighed in relief as that eased the pain in his hip.

Jack grabbed Ianto’s boxers off his head with a lascivious smile. “You’ll have to ask for these back,” he said. He stuffed them into a pocket.

Ianto just shook his head. He laughed softly and then held out a hand. “Stay?” he asked softly. “I know I’m going to make Owen angry,” he explained. He curled his fingers tightly around Jack’s offered hand. “It’s all mental but I don’t deal well when people, especially doctors, get angry and tense around me when I’m sick.”

“Me, tense?” Owen asked. “I’m the one with the needle, mate.” He took Ianto’s free arm and began working on finding a vein. “Here we go,” he murmured as he set the needle into place and started the transfusion. “I’ll leave you two alone. That bag will take about fifteen minutes. Then we'll start another.” He straightened up and stared intently at Ianto. “Now, are you as comfortable as you can manage?”

Ianto considered the question carefully. “Owen,” he asked. “Do you mean comfortable as in ‘can live with this’ or ‘not in pain’? And you might want to scan or something to be certain it’s only in my hip.” He closed his eyes for a moment while he thought about the past. “When I was eight and thirteen and this happened, I started to hemorrhage into my abdomen and stomach.”

“Already done, Tea Boy,” Owen said. “I spent some of our down time last month rigging the bed with some Sontaran sensing equipment. I’ve got you wired every way possible.” He grinned at Ianto. “Your vitals are being transmitted to my terminal as we speak.”

Ianto shook his head again. “You were planning ahead, weren’t you?” He settled back on the bed and swallowed hard. “I’m okay,” he said. “Not great, not in screaming pain, but okay.”

“Good,” Owen said. “Those pills I gave you upstairs should kick in soon and you’ll be more comfortable.” He rubbed Ianto’s arm for a moment. “Jack, keep him calm, okay? I’m going to go see if Tosh has anything yet.”

“Thank you, Owen,” Ianto said. He looked up at Jack. He took a breath and let it out slowly. “I’m in trouble with you, too, aren’t I?”

“Oh, yes,” Jack agreed. “But we’ll talk about it later.”

“Rather talk about it now,” Ianto said. “It’s a nice distraction from the pain, the worry over Marie, and the fear of how bad this will get.” He considered his words for a moment, shook his head and rephrased his statement. “Not that it’s nice to have upset you, but…” he trailed off again. “Oh, you know what I mean.”

 

Chapter Nine

“All right,” Jack said. He reached out a hand and brushed Ianto’s hair off his forehead. “But you have to do the talking, Ianto. Help me understand.”

“Pull up a stool,” Ianto said. He started to release Jack’s hand, but the other man just stretched out a leg, snagged the leg of one of Owen’s doctor’s stools with his foot and tugged it over. Ianto couldn’t resist a soft chuckle at the action. “Tell me where you want me to start?”

“Tell me why you didn’t mention this to anyone,” Jack demanded softly. He rubbed the back of Ianto’s hand with his thumb. “If you didn’t want to trust me, Owen was available.”

“It was just a dull ache.” Ianto shifted a bit to get comfortable again. He made a mental note to order a pillow or two for the bed. “I’m used to that. It would periodically get worse, but until I picked up Marie when we were upstairs to comfort her, I was mostly all right. I could handle work and everything.” He paused, sighed softly and began again. “Like I told Owen, thanks to my parents, I have a very high tolerance for pain. By parents, I mean my biological parents.” A rueful smile crossed his lips. He blushed again. “If Mama and Tad knew I did this,” he trailed off and shook his head a bit. “Well, Mama would still be lecturing me.”

“You said that before,” Jack said. “You inherited a high tolerance for pain?”

“Hell, no,” Ianto snapped. “Mother and Papa self medicated with barbiturates and narcotics all the time. Mother didn’t want me to develop an addiction so she refused to allow me any form of pain relief until the doctors told her I was about to die.” He dropped his gaze from Jack’s for a moment. “After the priests gave me last rites, and yes, it got that far on two occasions, only then would she allow the court physicians to give me morphine.”

“God almighty,” Jack murmured. “It’s a wonder you’re sane.”

“Sometimes I think sanity’s relative,” he said. He smiled a bit. “I had Marie, Sophie and Nagorny between them, but especially Nagorny, I was kept mostly pain free the majority of the time.

“So,” Jack said softly. “Tell me about Sophie and Nagorny.”

Ianto considered for a moment. He stared off at the wall, not really seeing it, and let more of his childhood memories out of where he’d hidden them after his arrival in Cardiff. After a bit, he shook his head and refocused on Jack. “Sophie was one of the senior nursery maids,” he said softly. “Marie and Anastasia were her primary charges. Since both of them played with me and and Kolya, she often watched over me, too.” He swallowed back the urge to cry; Sophie had been one of the few people he’d become close to considering his childhood isolation. “Whenever I fell or, to use her phrase ‘looked ill’, she’d insist on Nagorny or Derevenko examining me. If I was bruised, she’d sneak me a bit of something, some kind of natural remedy she and the other nursery maids used with my sisters, and then all but order my bodyguards to put me in a hot tub or mud bath to ease the aches away.”

He paused and took a deep breath. Ianto could see the question in Jack’s eyes. “Nagorny and Derevenko were my bodyguards. They were former sailors from the Standart, the family yacht.” He smiled again. Sometimes, he really missed the Standart. “They’d been assigned to watch me every minute of every day since not long after I started to toddle. Kolya was my primary doctor’s son. He was also named Derevenko.”

“Sounds like they tried to take care of you,” Jack said.

“They did their best,” Ianto agreed with a nod. “I told you I was a brat as a child.” He dropped his gaze away again. “Things changed after Sophie was sent away.”

Jack gave him a look. It was part question, part sympathy. “Why was she sent away?” he asked.

Ianto gave him a look. He personally called it his ‘are you an idiot or what’ look. “You know what my mother was like,” he said. “Or at least have heard the stories.” He licked his lips and wondered if he could have something to drink. All the talking made him thirsty. “Sophie complained about Rasputin being allowed access to the nurseries whenever he wished. She also backed up one of the other nannies when the woman said she’d been ‘seduced’ by him. Both Vishnia, as we kids called her, and Sophie were sent away.” He sighed softly at the memory of his sisters’ tears as their favorite nursery maid was banished from the household. “Mother would allow no ill words spoken about him.”

“And your sisters?” Jack asked. “They were left unprotected?”

He shifted a bit. He waggled one hand. “Marie and Anastasia still had nannies with them, but they supported Mother. Olga and Tatiana were pretty much on their own as they were nearly of age at the time.” He took another deep breath and let it out slowly. “From the nursery staff’s gossip, I know he did something, exactly what I don’t know for certain, to Olga when he visited Mother one evening and insisted on seeing us kids before he left.”

“God, Ianto.”

Ianto shrugged one shoulder. “That’s how it was in the palace,” he said. “It’s how I grew up.” A quick smile crossed his lips. “You have no idea how shocked I was when I started living with Mama and Tad.”

“No wonder you don’t want to go back,” Jack said.

“It’s not just what happened then,” Ianto muttered. “But the whole thing.”

“Well, whatever the reason, I’m glad,” Jack said.

“I’m glad you’re glad,” he replied with another small smile. “But tell Owen his painkillers aren’t really helping. Either that or I’m not responding right to the whatever it is over there.” He pointed at the IV stand. “I took my comm off because the press of it on my skin was starting to hurt.”

Jack’s eyes widened a bit. He reached up and pressed his comm, yelling, “Owen, get in here! The painkillers aren’t working.”

“No need to yell at him.”

“Keeps him on his toes,” Jack said.

Ianto snickered. Jack did have a point there. “Only you, Jack,” he said. He considered and licked his lips. “With Marie here, the things I buried while growing up with Mama and Tad are trying to sneak out of the little corner of my mind I shoved them into. And a lot of it, I really don’t want to think about at all.”

“Sometimes the best thing to do is kick all of the secrets out in the open,” Jack said.

“Even if it means disparaging my ‘sainted mother’?” he asked.

“No offense, Ianto, but your ‘sainted mother’ was a religious hysteric, maybe even a manic-depressive,” Jack replied. “You need to acknowledge that she loved you but had no idea how to be a mother.”

“None taken,” Ianto said. “I think you’re the first person to ever say that about her where I could hear it. Between the time Sophie was sent away and the time I went to join Papa at the front during the war, I had more ‘attacks’ then I had prior to the incident at Spala…” he trailed off into silence. He really didn’t like when his mind drifted along that path with regard to his mother.

“Do you think she…” Jack paused for a moment. Ianto could see him trying to decide on a proper word. “Triggered them somehow? Or was it just the stress?”

“I don’t know if it was deliberate,” Ianto said. “Mother was often in her rooms ‘ill with heart troubles’ during those years. I do know that she’d be ill for a while, then one of our Aunts or Uncles would visit, and then we’d get lots of notes from her which upset my sisters.” He paused for a moment. “And then I’d get sick.” He looked away from Jack to stare blindly at the tiled walls. “As soon as I was sick, Mother was up and by my bedside, perfectly fine and normal, and calling Rasputin in for a visit or holding vigil over me.”

“She must have been mad,” Jack said. Ianto lifted his gaze to see Jack staring at him in horror. “Maybe not clinically insane, but certainly unbalanced.”

“I don’t know,” he said. He shrugged a bit. “In my more generous moments, I blame the drugs she was taking. We know now they aren’t good for people and are addictive, but back then it was common for them to be taken so casually.” He looked around for Owen. “That’s part of why I avoid telling people when I’m in pain. I saw what happened to my parents.”

“Ianto, that will never happen to you,” Jack reassured. He stroked Ianto’s arm for a moment. “For one, Owen wouldn’t let it happen. For another, you are a much stronger person than either of your parents.”

“If you say so,” Ianto said. He knew he was blushing again, but he wasn’t used to being complimented so freely. “I don’t feel very strong at the moment. I feel like I’m going to have a breakdown. There’s Marie… this… the memories which I’m doing my damnedest to suppress again… and…” he trailed off again.

“You concentrate on getting better,” Jack said. “I’ll take care of everything else.”

“Do my best,” Ianto said. He briefly squeezed Jack’s hand in silent reassurance of his determination to get better. “I don’t even know where Marie and I are going to stay until I can find us a flat, Jack. And I’m totally terrified to move right now because when I was sick like this the last time, I moved, allowed myself to be convinced to take a carriage ride with Mother and her maid, Anna, and ended up nearly dying.” He shifted a bit trying to ignore the redeveloping muscle aches. “I just can’t get comfortable. If I was comfortable, I’d go to sleep thanks to whatever Owen stuck in my water glass earlier.”

“Hold on a minute.” Jack glanced over at Owen, who was finally coming into the room from the main part of the Hub. “Don’t give him anything yet, Owen. I’ll be right back.” He lifted Ianto’s hand and kissed the back of it. He then left the room at a run.

Ianto shared a helpless look with Owen. “I’d ask you for something to help me get comfortable, but,” he said. A soft chuckle escaped him before he sobered and quietly asked, “It’s not getting any worse, is it?”

“Actually, the sensors say you’re doing a little better already, but your body doesn’t know it yet,” Owen explained. “Tosh has found some hints in one of the databanks from the biochemical labs.” He started fiddling with the equipment. He fussily checked every inch of the tubing before he changed out the IV bags. Ianto recognized it as a bit of a nervous gesture on Owen’s part but before he could ask a question, Owen continued his explanations. “You’re filed under ‘experiment, human-alien genetic material graft’.”

Ianto rolled his eyes. “I’m not surprised,” he said. “They didn’t tell Elizabeth what they were doing then. She never would have allowed it. They only told her and Mama that they were curing my hemophilia, not experimenting on me. That’s treason,” he said. “If they survived Canary Wharf, that is.”

“If any of them are still alive, Jack will take care of them,” Owen replied. “Besides, whatever they did, it did send the hemophilia into remission.”

“Until I stopped getting the annual treatments that is,” Ianto said.

Before Owen could reply, Jack ran back into the room. He carried with him a round metallic ball. Owen frowned at Jack. “Look mate,” Owen said. “The last thing Ianto needs is cheesy disco music.”

Ianto chuckled. His chuckles drifted into full blown laughter at Jack’s affronted looked at the two of them.

“Ha, ha, funny, Owen,” Jack retorted. “This is an Ak’xix sleep ball.” He started to fiddle with the object. “Here, let me set it up,” he muttered. He pushed buttons which ran around the middle of the ball before tossing it up to hover over the medical bed. The ball hung there in midair. After a moment, it started to emit a combination of soft music and gently pulsing lights. “The combination of music, lights, and brainwave soothers are supposed to be therapeutic,” Jack said.

Ianto shared a look with Owen and nodded firmly. “It’s a disco ball,” he said.

“Just indulge me, Ianto,” Jack said. “I’ve tuned it to you. Just relax, okay?”

“I’m trying to relax, but lying on my one hip is starting to hurt,” Ianto retorted. “My other hip aches and I just want to cry!”

“So cry,” Jack said. “Let it all out.”

“I can’t.”

Jack looked over Ianto at Owen. Ianto twisted his neck about in order to watch the silent conversation between the two older men. After a moment, Owen nodded in response to Jack’s unspoken request and slowly left the room. As Owen left, Jack reached down and began stroking Ianto’s shoulders and back. “Come on, velikolepnyĭ, relax for me.”

Ianto shifted a bit and looked over at his shoulder at Jack. He wanted to squirm in the face of the older man’s look. He shuddered, turned away and sniffled. “I could cry over Lisa,” he said. “That was more anger than upset. I can cry over my sisters, but I can’t cry for me.”

Jack’s hand pressed firmly against his spine. It wasn’t quite a massage, but harder than a caress. Ianto shook and sniffled again. He hissed in a breath. “Don’t get near the small of my back, Jack,” he said.

“I won’t,” Jack said. “Just listen to the music and relax.”

“It is soothing,” Ianto conceded. He shivered and swallowed. Then he nodded, more to himself than Jack. “I hurt, Jack. I hate this. I really hate it.”

“I know,” Jack said. “Strong people always hate being sick. Relax some more.” He bent down and pressed a kiss to the nape of Ianto’s neck. “For me, velikolepnyĭ.”

Ianto took a deep breath and let it out slowly. He settled a bit more slowly and consciously relaxing his muscles. “I’m sorry,” he murmured. “I’m sorry. I just…”

“Listen to the sounds, Ianto,” Jack said. “Look at the lights. Let it all pour away gently.” He continued to stroke Ianto’s back. “No weeping, no screaming, no hysterics, just let the tears flow.”

He whimpered softly. He sniffed again. Years of training fought with the urge to cry. He’d never cried. A Romanov, especially the Heir to the Throne, never cried unless they were alone. He struggled with the urge, the need to let it all out, and tradition. Finally, his emotions won over his mind and he started to cry silently. “I hate her, you know,” he said. “My mother… she did this to me… and…” He swallowed hard before continuing in a whisper, “A small part of me wanted to cheer when she died. Even with all the other horrors of that night, all the fear, all the pain, part of me was thinking ‘it’s over’.” He paused for a moment. “I knew I’d be dying soon. And all I could feel was relief that it was finally over.”

“You were a child in pain,” Jack said. His voice was soft and low; it was a soft soothing tone. “Your mother was too ill to be proper mother and your father was too busy being an Emperor. Of course you wanted it to be over. But that’s the past. You’re here and your sister is here. You’ll make a good life for yourself and her. And then there’s that us.”

“I can’t forget it,” Ianto sobbed. His shoulders shook as he struggled with his emotions. “I wish I could, but except where Marie is concerned all I can remember is that night, that awful muggy night.” Jack’s hand swept up his back before kneading his nape. Ianto purred softly in response to the touch. “But us… us is good. You know, I’m planning on giving you that sapphire in my trouser pocket as soon as I can have it properly mounted.”

“I’ll hold you to that,” Jack replied. “Now let everything go. That night is in the past. It was terrible, but it’s over now.”

“I can’t, Jack,” Ianto repeated. “I just… I can’t stop remembering it. Mashka’s screaming for me. Tatiana’s terrified whimpers. What Malenkaya looked like when I saw her last… the gunfire… that smug smile on the man who ordered the execution.” He shuddered hard as another memory of that horrific night crept through his mental shutters. “My dog, Joy, my little spaniel, I could hear him barking upstairs. Did you know he was rescued and brought to England? I still miss him, isn't that strange?” he whispered.

“Not strange at all,” Jack murmured. “It happened, but it happened so many years ago and you survived. You and Marie survived and are together. Joy lived a happy life, too.” He kneaded Ianto’s neck again. “Grieve for your family, even your mother and father, grieve for them all and let them go. Remember the good times. There must have been some of those, too.”

“A few,” Ianto murmured. He giggled. He sounded so impossibly young even to his own ears. “When I wasn’t sick.”

“Treasure the memories,” Jack said. “Grieve and let them go.”

“Jack?” he whispered.

“Yes, Ianto?”

“Would you hold me?” he asked carefully. He swallowed hard and looked back at Jack over his shoulder. He didn’t bother to hide the tracks of his tears. “No one’s really held me since I was very, very little. I was carried, but not held. If you understand the difference,” he said.

He didn’t receive a verbal answer; instead, Jack climbed up on the bed and curled himself around Ianto. An arm sneaked around his waist and pulled him back toward the older man. They lay like that for a minute or two before Ianto gave in to temptation and cautiously twisted about to face Jack. He ignored the way the blanket shifted, nearly falling before Jack caught it and tugged it over him again, and the pain the change in position shot through his body. Ianto buried his face in Jack’s chest and silently sobbed while Jack stroked his back again.

“Don’t let go,” he whispered. “Please.”

“I’ll hold you as long as you want me to,” Jack murmured.

“Hurts to lie on this side,” Ianto complained between harsh sobs.

“Turn around them,” Jack said. “We’ll spoon like an old married couple.”

“Not the same,” Ianto protested. “I like this better. I can hide.”

“All right,” Jack said. “Let me help you move, then.” He got up from the bed, helped Ianto shift about and then circled the bed to climb in the other side. Jack then pulled Ianto back into his arms. “Better?”

“Much.” Ianto nodded against Jack’s chest. He peered up at Jack from beneath his lashes for a moment before squirming closer and sobbing harder. He whimpered softly, murmuring, “Don’t want to be alone, Jack.” He wrapped his free arm - the one not connected to the IV - around Jack and clung to him. “I hate being alone when I’m sick.”

“I’m here, Ianto,” Jack murmured. He pressed a kiss to Ianto’s temple. “I’m here as long as you need me.”

The words, the warmth of Jack’s embrace and Owen’s pills combined with the chance to finally truly release all the well-buried pain of his childhood. Ianto shook and cried, unable to stop himself. Finally, drained, exhausted, he let the reassuring sound of Jack's soft humming lull him into sleep.

 

Chapter Ten

Ianto whimpered in his sleep. Barely audible words slipped from him, an echo of his mental torment. “No, please, no,” he murmured. “That life’s over. I don’t want to remember it.” Yet relentlessly, inexorably, his mind forced him to remember. His much younger self speaking to his older present self and telling once again the story of the destruction of his youthful world.

“In view of the fact that your relatives in Europe continue their assault on Soviet Russia, the presidium of the Ural Regional Soviet has sentenced you to be shot…"*

“What?” Papa demanded. Papa looked from the commandant to Mama and back again. “What?”

I silently shook my head. I stared at Papa’s back and refrained from saying anything. It wasn’t the first time Papa hadn’t understood something being said directly to him. I’d seen similar things during my time at headquarters during Uncle Nikolasha’s visits to the front.

The commandant, Yurovsky, seemed to sigh. I couldn’t see the man because Papa stood in front of me; I still heard the noise regardless.

“In view of the fact that the Czechoslovaks are threatening the red capital of the Urals – Yekaterinburg – and in view of the fact that the crowned executioner might escape the people’s court, the presidium of the Regional Soviet, fulfilling the will of the Revolution, has decreed that the former Tsar Nicholas Romanov, guilty of countless bloody crimes against the people, should be shot…”* Yurovsky said.

Again, Papa protested his lack of understanding as he swung back and forth between looking at Mama and the commandant. “I don’t understand,” Papa protested. “We aren’t…”

“This!” Yurovsky snarled over Papa’s protests. A gun cracked loudly. The sound echoed through the confined space. In its wake, more gunshots exploded across the room. The bullets struck Papa hard and made him jerk about in front of me. Blood, thick and hot, exploded from his body to douse me with its heated spray. Papa collapsed to the floor. All I could do was cling to my chair and stare at the man we’d thought was a friend, the commandant who’d recommended treatments for my injured knee just weeks ago, as he pointed a gun toward me. We stared at each other until yet another gunshot tore his attention from me to the rest of his men.

That gunshot, the one which broke our mutual stare, also splattered me with gore. I swallowed back my urge to scream. I was covered in blood – Papa’s, Mama’s – blood and other things. I watched, shocked and horrified as Mama’s body slid off the chair beside me to land on the floor with a thud. Her blood and brains spilled onto the wooden boards to mingle with Papa’s. Even in death they were together without us children.

My sisters’ screams echoed around me blending with gunshots into a cacophony of sound which nearly drowned out the frenzied barking of our dogs: my spaniel Joy and Tanechka’s bulldog Ortino locked away upstairs and Jemmy, Tanechka’s spaniel in the room with us. Jemmy suddenly yelped and fell silent. Yet the other two still barked away. Men yelled curses or prayers. Above it all, I could hear Mashka – her voice shrill and full of pain – screaming for me: “Aloysha! Alyosha!”

A sharp command – in harsh Russian – echoed over the screams and gunshots. The shooting stopped. The room was a haze of dark smoke. I could hear the men in the doorway staggering away, coughing and choking. I could barely breathe myself. Still, I twisted about in a desperate bid to see any of my sisters. I could hear them somewhere behind where I sat, terrified to move lest I draw the attention of the executioners back to me. Tanechka and Olyshka whimpered in fear when they weren’t screaming for Mama while Malenkaya repeatedly cried out for Papa between prayers to the Mother of God and Rasputin to protect and save us. The one voice I longed to hear, I didn’t. Mashka had fallen silent. Was my sister dead, too? Before I could attempt to move and find out, the doors in front of me crashed open again.

I looked back at them. Determined to meet death without flinching no matter how afraid I was; finally, after a lifetime of pain, I’d be free. I just wished my sisters hadn’t had to suffer so. A man stalked past me – looking possessed by the worst of demons – and I heard first Tanechka and then Olyshka begin screaming again. The one man I definitely knew amongst these bastards, Yurovsky, followed the first to that corner behind me. I closed my eyes and clenched my hands on the edges of the chair. No matter how tempted I was to take a final look at my oldest sisters, I refused to turn around and see them killed. Their screams grew shriller; more terrified if that was even possible, until a single shot abruptly cut off the soprano I knew was Tanechka. Olyshka screamed louder, begged and pleaded, until another shot silenced her cries as well.

I opened my eyes again only to stare at a pistol pointed directly at my chest. I could do nothing but stare as the man holding it began to fire. Pain flared through me as the bullets struck the large gem concealed beneath my tunic. Since Papa carried me everywhere, I’d been entrusted with concealing the signature gem of the family in my clothes. I groaned hoarsely and fell to the floor as the man’s gun clicked empty. I shuddered, disgusted by the feel of what I’d landed in, a thick viscous substance, I didn’t even want to think about where it came from, and began to crawl across the floor in an attempt to get out of it more than try to escape the room.

Harsh footsteps echoed across the room. Dark boots stopped just in front of me. I couldn’t miss them. Still resolved to face my death without flinching, I rolled a bit onto one side and stared up at the man standing over me. Beyond a Colt pistol, Yurovsky stared down at me. There was a smug pleased smile on his face as if he took great pride and pleasure in this awful work. As I stared upward, he tilted his head just a bit at me and winked. The Colt shifted in his hand. He fired. The report of the gun echoed in my ear as did the harsh thud of the bullet into the floor beside my head. A shard of wood, dislodged by the bullet, flew up, hit my temple, and I knew no more.

Ianto jerked awake. His eyes wouldn’t focus. All he saw was dark fabric before his eyes. Still more asleep than awake, he struggled, fighting against whatever was holding him in place. Soft, terrified whimpers escaped him as he fought to free himself.

“Careful.” A familiar voice murmured. Hands stroked his back and massaged at his nape. “We didn’t spend hours fixing you up just to have you fall on the floor and start the process over again.”

It took a moment for the voice to properly register on Ianto’s nightmare bruised psyche. He blinked – once, twice, a third time – and tilted his head back to barely smile at Jack where the older man lay propped on his elbow beside him.

“Okay now?”

“Not in the least,” Ianto replied. He rubbed at his eyes with one hand. They ached, whether that was from the bout of tears before he slept or a remembered reaction to his nightmare, Ianto wasn’t certain. He licked dry lips and shook his head at Jack. “In no way am I okay.”

“Still in pain?” Jack asked. His hand drifted around from Ianto’s back to rest, heavy and warm, on his hip. A momentary pain flared in response to the touch before Jack’s natural body heat seeped into his skin bringing a pleased sigh to his lips. Fingers kneaded, easing the tension in his hip and thigh that Ianto didn’t even realize he was feeling, while a gentle kiss was pressed to his forehead. “Talk to me, velikolepnyĭ. What’s wrong?”

“Memory, nightmare… either name works,” Ianto murmured. He tiredly shook his head and lifted a hand to run it through his hair. He grimaced at the sweaty tangle of the strands. He desperately needed a shower. He always did after that particular dream. “I need a shower,” he muttered.

“I wasn’t going to say anything,” Jack replied. He had his impish grin which turned into a full blown laugh when Ianto pouted at him. “Hold on a minute, Owen wanted to know the moment you were awake again,” he said. He reached up to his comm unit, activated it, and said, “Owen, he’s awake and wants a shower. You still want to look at him?” Another laugh escaped him in response to whatever Owen said in reply. “Owen says you can shower. So, let me take this off,” he said. He deftly removed the IV needle still in Ianto’s arm and rubbed the small blood spot away with his thumb. “And I’ll help you up.”

Ianto slid to the edge of the table. He gave Jack a tired smile and held his hands out to the other man. Jack’s impossibly large hands wrapped around his wrists and gently tugged. Ianto slipped off the table to stand in the small space between the table and Jack’s steady presence. He swayed a bit and, with a soft groan, let his head fall forward to rest against Jack’s shoulder.

“You are out of it, aren’t you?” Jack murmured. His hands stroked up over his arms to knead his shoulders. “I don’t think that nap did anything for you.”

“It was the dream. Always like this afterwards,” Ianto murmured. He moaned in appreciation of the gentle massage before slowly straightening up. “I have got to shower. I stink and feel horrid.” He reached behind himself for one of the blankets, wrapped it around himself toga fashion, and moved slowly toward the stairs to the main floor of the Hub. “You’ll be…”

“Right behind you,” Jack said. His hand rested on the small of Ianto’s back, a warm reassuring weight, and while he climbed the stairs, Ianto could see Jack’s other hand just out of the corner of his eye, ready to grab him if he fell. “I won’t leave you alone while you’re this unsteady.”

A walk which, under normal circumstances, took less than ten minutes took nearly twenty as he struggled with his balance and exhaustion. He knew it was mostly in his mind, but with every step he took he expected to feel searing pains up and down his leg. Instead, he had a deep ache, much like an over stretched muscle, and far easier to live with for the moment. Reaching the shower room, Ianto paused by his locker, tugged it open and pulled out his spare suit. He hung it from the door and brushed down the fabric before grabbing his combination shampoo/shower gel.

The vaguely familiar sound of Jack rapidly stripping off his clothes caused him to turn and raise an eyebrow at the other man. “Jack?” he asked softly. “What are you…?”

“I told you I’m not leaving you alone,” Jack replied. The last of his clothes were tossed aside over the bench which ran before the lockers. “Promise, no straying hands,” he said. “I just want to be certain you don't fall and if you need any help, I'll be right there.”

Blushing, Ianto couldn’t resist giving Jack a long leisurely look before nodding in agreement. He knew there was every chance he’d fall on his arse the moment his body relaxed beneath the hot shower spray. He knew he needed to relax around Jack and discard the Victorian morality his Mother had taught him and his sisters almost from birth. As he stared at Jack, his mind drifted to all the places he’d rather see Jack than in a shower. And if he didn't put a stop to that train of thought, Jack would know very well what he was thinking of, though the tiny bit of a smirk on the other man’s face showed that he already knew. Shaking his head, Ianto turned and walked the few feet to the showers, stepped inside, and turned on the water to as hot as he could stand.

“Like the water a bit hot?” Jack asked.

Ianto looked over his shoulder at Jack for a moment before resting his hands on the tiled wall and bowing his head beneath the spray. He sighed softly as the heated water beat down on his shoulders before straightening up again. “You grow up taking cold baths twice a day and then tell me you wouldn’t enjoy your showers as hot as you can stand when you take them,” he retorted.

“Oh, dear Lord,” Jack murmured. “Tell me you aren’t serious.”

Ianto blinked, turned around, and leant back against the wall. He glared at his shaking hands as he opened the shower gel. Nodding, he looked up at Jack and blinked water out of his eyes. “I’m serious,” he said. “I was lucky in that I got the occasional hot mud bath in an attempt to keep my hemophilia attacks down. All of us took cold baths, slept on metal framed cots with a single pillow and blanket while the windows were kept open on all but the coldest nights of winter. Mother and Papa thought it would ‘strengthen’ us. If it was good enough for Papa to grow up with, then we should grow up just fine.”

“Jesus Christ, Ianto,” Jack said. He reached out and took the shower gel from Ianto. He dumped a bit into his hands, set the bottle aside and rubbed his hands together to develop a rich lather. He took a step forward and rested his hands on Ianto’s shoulders, kneading them, before letting his hands drift down first one arm, then the other, soaping them. He chuckled softly at Ianto’s deep sigh in response. “No wonder you don’t ever want to go back.”

“Well, I am spoiled now,” Ianto said. He laughed quietly. “Let me tell you, the first time I slept in a proper bed with a real mattress, I never wanted to get out in the morning. I think if I did have to go back, I’d be changing all the rules.”

“Would you really want to go back, Ianto?” Jack asked. He took a step back and considered Ianto. Raising a brow in silent question, he nodded to Ianto’s legs. “Or is that your training speaking?”

Ianto reached over, took the shower gel, and handed it to Jack with a nod. “A bit of both,” he said. “It’s a case of inbred duty and trained responsibility.” He shrugged one shoulder. “I don’t want to. Believe me, I do not want to return, but I will if I must.”

“I think I’m going to work on shaking you lose from your inbred sense of responsibility, Mr. Jones,” Jack said with a smile. He knelt down on the floor and set to work bathing Ianto’s legs and feet. He gently massaged the bruised thigh causing Ianto to sigh deeply again. “That’s who you are now. The Russians can take care of themselves.”

“Well, you’ve already started,” Ianto replied. He laughed softly and, feeling greatly daring, reached a hand down to thread his fingers through Jack’s thick wet hair. “As Tsar, that ‘us’ we’re exploring wouldn’t be allowed.”

“One more reason why I’m going to work on it,” Jack said. He tilted his head back to look up at Ianto. “I want that us, Ianto. I’m beginning to think I need it.”

Ianto swallowed hard as he looked down at Jack. The sight of the older man looking up at him from the floor with Ianto’s fingers loosely tangled in his hair shot a visceral thrill through him. He forced himself to maintain his focus on the conversation and attempted to ignore the blush he knew was staining his skin. “I think of what I grew up with, the things I saw, and compare it to what I have here,” he paused and swallowed hard again. He released Jack’s hair and slipped his fingers down along the side of Jack’s face. “What I could have here,” he continued. “And I keep reminding myself of what my cousins tell me.”

“What do they tell you?” Jack asked. He smoothed his hands over Ianto’s flanks, washing him gently, as he rose to his feet before him. “Lean on me, velikolepnyĭ. Let me get your back,” Jack ordered in a whisper.

“This is a new beginning,” Ianto said. He shifted as ordered and wrapped his arms around Jack’s waist. He rested his head on the other man’s shoulder and rubbed his cheek against his collarbone. “Make the most of it.”

“I always knew Elizabeth had more common sense in her little finger than most people have in their whole bodies.” He slipped his hands into Ianto’s hair and tugged him up to look at him. He poured a bit of shampoo onto the wet curling locks and worked it in. “Well, Mr. Jones?” Jack asked. “What do you want to do with your new beginning?”

“There’s a lot of things I want to do,” he murmured. His eyes drifted over Jack for a long moment before he took a step forward to press against Jack’s body. He tilted his head and pressed a chaste kiss to those lips so tantalizingly close to his own. “But I’m likely to fall over soon.”

A groan slipped from Jack’s lips as he shifted Ianto beneath the spray of the shower. Hands drifted over his skin, rinsing away the soap which covered him, and massaging his scalp. “Owen will kill us both if you have a relapse,” Jack muttered.

Ianto shifted, restless, against Jack’s body. A deep groan came from him. He wanted to be touched so much. He shook his hair back out of his face and let a hand drift up to cup Jack’s cheek. He rubbed his thumb over Jack’s lower lip. “You won’t hurt me. You won’t let me fall,” he said. He smiled at the other man. “I trust you, Jack.” He darted in and kissed his almost lover. He broke the kiss, caught one of Jack’s hands and pushed it down to toward his cock. “Touch me, Jack,” he murmured. “Please.”

“All right,” Jack said. His voice was slightly strangled as he spoke. His hand pulled from Ianto’s, switching their position, and returned Ianto’s hand to his shoulder. “You hold on to me,” he said. “Let me do everything, okay?”

“Okay,” Ianto agreed. “Just…” Before he could finish the sentence, Jack’s fingers trailed down over his chest to wrap around the base of his cock. He groaned, low and hoarse, and clutched tightly at Jack’s shoulders in order to stay upright. He could barely think, much less speak, and slid his hands across warm skin until he could tangle his fingers in Jack’s hair. He pulled Jack to him and devoured him in a hungry kiss. Every inch of him was focused on the stroke and glide of Jack’s hand over his flesh. Ianto shifted his stance just a bit and curled one arm around Jack’s shoulders in order to keep his balance. Then, not pausing to think about his actions, Ianto let his other hand slide down Jack’s chest until he could wrap it around Jack’s cock. At a loss as to what to do, he initially copied Jack’s motions but quickly discovered that a slight twist of his wrist as he reached the head of Jack’s cock caused the other man to arch toward him with a startled cry which became a demanding moan.

“Fuck, Ianto,” Jack murmured. He turned in Ianto’s hold, his free hand catching Ianto’s hair and pulling him in for a hard, hungry kiss. “Whatever you do, don’t fucking stop,” he growled.

“Don’t intend to,” Ianto snapped back. He tilted his head and restarted the kiss in order to smother his urge to scream as the building tension within him suddenly snapped. He broke the kiss to groan Jack’s name, the sound barely muffled by the heavy pounding of the water around them. He stroked Jack harder determined to get Jack to come, too. Ianto was startled when Jack’s arm came around his neck, his new lover’s groan muffled as he sank his teeth into his own wriststrap. Ianto raised an eyebrow in silent question only to get a sheepish look in response.

“If I mark you right now the way I want to,” Jack explained. “Owen would be testing the limits of my immortality.”

Ianto shook his head with a soft laugh, but nodded. “Since I don’t want to lose you any time soon, not marking me until we sort this out is a good plan,” he said. He quirked a little smile at Jack. “But once we sort it out, I won’t mind if you do.”

“I’ll remember that,” Jack murmured. They shared another, gentler kiss, before Jack took a step back under the water, tugged Ianto with him and made certain he was completely clean before reaching for the taps to turn off the water. “Let’s get you dried off and dressed. I want to know what Owen and Tosh discovered about you.”

“So do I.” Ianto started out of the shower, but kept hold of one of Jack’s hands for as long as possible. Only when he was forced to in order to dry off and dress did he release the other man. “So do I.”

 

Chapter Eleven

Once dressed, he sat down and slipped on his socks and shoes. Ianto debated on about putting on his tie and jacket, but settled on just the waistcoat. He rolled up his shirt sleeves and left the waistcoat unbuttoned. A soft, almost strangled, sound came from behind him where Jack was combing out his hair. Ianto rose, turned to face the other man and raised an eyebrow in question.

“Do you know just how tempting you are when you do that?” Jack asked. “You’re always so buttoned up, completely dressed, so the moment you relax, roll up your sleeves, you become pure temptation.”

Ianto tilted his head to one side in silent acceptance of the compliment. Carefully, he stepped over the bench between them. He then leant in for a brief, chaste kiss. “We need to get a move on, Jack,” he murmured. “If we stay here much longer, there’s no way Owen will believe we behaved.”

A soft laugh answered him. Jack’s hand caught his. Their fingers entwined and Ianto squeezed Jack’s hand once. Leading the way, Ianto left the room. He was moving much better than he had before the shower though he still ached in places, especially his left hip. They’d only made it a few short feet along the corridor when Jack tugged him to a halt.

“You’re limping,” Jack said flatly. “Why?”

“I always do for a while after I bleed into that joint,” Ianto explained. He attempted to continue toward the Hub, but Jack refused to budge.

“Owen!” Jack called through the comms. “Ianto says he’s bleeding into a joint. Fix it!”

Rolling his eyes, Ianto reached out with his free hand and slapped the side of Jack’s head. “We just did, Jack,” he said sharply. “It takes a while for my body to heal up afterwards.” He shook his head a bit and started walking again. He just tugged Jack along after him. “I couldn’t walk on my left leg at all for nearly a year after the first attack there when I was eight.”

“Eight?” Jack gasped. He stared at Ianto in shock. “And the cold baths, bad beds and the whole thing continued even after that? Jesus, Ianto.”

“Yes,” Ianto said. He punctuated the word with a brisk nod. “That was the first time I nearly died from my disease.”

“I’m going to save my opinion of your parents and simply remember your grandmother,” Jack said. “All right?”

“That’s fine.” Ianto laughed softly. “I told Owen earlier - or was it last night now? - that I don’t have a very high opinion of Mother now that I have the benefit of emotional distance and hindsight.”

“I don’t think you should judge her too harshly, though,” Jack said after a moment of silence. “She sounded mentally ill. She should have been confined or at least kept at a distance from her children.”

“My grandmother, two aunts, and most of my uncles recommended that very thing,” Ianto said. “They wanted Mother to be sent to either the palace at Livadia or to the Ipatiev Monastery. I have never managed to learn the exact reasons for their recommendations aside from it being related a bit to me and to her dependence on Rasputin, but I definitely remember Uncle Nikolasha fighting with Papa over Mother and the possibility of having her sent away.”

“So your father was so in love with your mother that he couldn’t see the harm she was doing?” Jack asked.

Ianto paused in their walk toward the main Hub. He leant back against the hallway side of the archway dividing the corridor from the main floor, considered, and crossed his arms over his chest. “Papa was,” he paused in a thought, “easily dominated.” He tilted his head to the side and nodded. That was indeed the best way to put it. “A result of how he was raised most likely. Mother was a very dominant personality. He preferred to defer to her rather than make his own thoughts and opinions known. He was the same way with the Ministers of State, always going out of his way to avoid conflict.”

“Acceptable in a husband and family man, but disastrous in an Emperor,” Jack said. “On the other hand, you would have made one hell of an Emperor.”

Ianto shook his head. “The child I was wouldn’t have,” he said after a moment’s thought. “That’s assuming I would have survived the six years of the regency before I came of age and could have assumed the throne in my own right, of course.” He cracked a tiny smile. He honestly doubted Jack had any real idea just how much of a royal brat he’d been as a child. “The man I became after Commandant Yurovsky killed my family would have no trouble at all as either an autocratic or constitutional monarch; however, I really don’t want the job because not only would I lose my freedom, I would have to give you up and marry a ‘woman of suitably royal lineage to bear an heir to the imperial throne’. You know what that pressure did to my mother.”

“I’m not letting you give ‘us’ up, Ianto,” Jack retorted. “Not for any country in the known settled Universe. Remember that.”

A half smile quirked Ianto’s lips. “I’m not giving up you or us, Jack,” he said. “I’m just telling you my thoughts.” He took a step forward and brought up his free hand to tap a finger in the hollow of Jack’s throat. “I see I’m going to have to find someone to make me a very special piece of jewelry to rest right here so you know that you’re mine and I’m not giving you up.”

Jack’s laughter rang through the corridor. The sound of it deepened Ianto’s smile. “And if someone asks me why I’m wearing the insignia of the Imperial House of Romanov,” Jack began with a grin. “What do I tell them?”

He shook his head. “It won’t be the imperial eagle, dushka,” Ianto murmured. “Instead, it will be what would have been my personal cipher.” He looked up from the spot to smile into Jack’s eyes. “With a small sapphire the same rich clear blue as your eyes.”

“That’s better,” Jack replied. His hand tightened on the one of Ianto’s that he held. “What’s between us is personal… real.”

Ianto hummed his agreement and nodded. He ran his nail around the spot for a moment then dropped his hand away. “But first, we need to discover what Owen’s learned about my health. You need to arrange for the sale of some of the gems Mashka brought back with her.” He paused and ticked off items on his mental list of things he needed to do. “And I need to find a new flat and a discrete custom jeweler.”

“Your health and Mashka’s,” Jack said. “That comes first. Let’s go talk to Owen.”

“I was trying to,” Ianto said. He smirked over at Jack. “But you kept stopping me.” He nodded to the short flight of stairs beside them. Leading the way up into the Hub, he scanned the room and inclined his head toward Owen. “All right, Owen, we’re,” he began. Then the lack of female voices registered on him. “Where’s Marie?”

“Tosh and Gwen took her shopping,” Owen replied. “I didn’t want her hearing any of this until you were ready.”

Ianto nodded. That made perfect sense considering everything Marie had already been through in the last twenty-four hours or so. “She desperately needs clothes anyway,” he said. He frowned a bit as one problem she was going to face dawned on him. “Oh, she’s going to be so upset when she realizes she won’t be able to get her perfume anymore.”

“Her perfume?” Jack asked, confused.

“Each of my sisters had their own personal scent which they preferred to use,” Ianto explained. “They all used Coty of Paris perfumes. Mashka’s was Lilas, I believe. It was a lilac scent.” He shook his head sadly. “They don’t make it anymore.”

“If we can get a sample from somewhere,” Jack said. “We can have it made for her.”

“It’ll take some work,” Ianto said. He considered for a moment and nodded to Jack. “But that would make her happy.” He looked over at Owen and sighed. “So what’s wrong with me?”

“You got too much of a good thing,” Owen replied.

Ianto raised an eyebrow, silently giving Owen the ‘speak or else’ look he’d perfected as a child which his grandmother said he’d inherited from his late grandfather. He looked about, snagged a desk chair and rolled it closer to Owen. Then, he sat and glared at Owen in a demand for an explanation.

“Put the eyebrow down, Teaboy,” Owen retorted. For a moment, there was laughter in his voice and then he became serious again. “Jack, you might want to sit down for this one, too.” He waited for Jack to pull over a chair, turn it around and straddle it. “According to the files Tosh dug up, and don’t ask me to account for how many paragraphs of the Official Secrets Act she broke, Ianto was treated with nanogenes that Torchwood London had been experimenting with since the nineteen forties.”

Ianto chuckled a little bit but shook his head rather than explain his laughter. When Owen’s words registered completely on his mind, he stared at the older man in shock. “They’ve been using what on me?”

“How the hell did they get their hands on those?” Jack snapped. His words nearly ran over Ianto’s own question.

“It was London,” Ianto said. “How do you think they did, Jack?”

“I might just dig up Yvonne from whatever seedy secret location she’s hidden in and kill her with my bare hands,” Jack snarled. He softened his tone, though anger still threaded through it, when he turned his attention to Owen. “Do the files discuss the programming at all?”

“Yvonne’s dead,” Ianto said softly. “The people on the executive floor were the first ones converted by the Cybermen. If she wasn’t the first one, it was soon afterwards.” He too turned to Owen. “I’ll second that question.”

“Yes, but it’s clear they were feeling their way,” Owen said. “Testing different methods, as it were.” He paused and took a deep breath. “It’s not the programming, Jack. It’s what they were programmed with.”

“You’re stalling, Owen,” Ianto said. Ignoring the returning ache in his back, he leant forward in his chair. “Talk to us.”

“They first tried to use Jack’s DNA.” He quickly held up a hand before either of them could say a word. “No, don’t panic. It failed. According to the lead scientist, a Doctor Miller, there’s some sort of energy in Jack’s DNA which makes it impervious to manipulation. After that, they used DNA from the bodies of some thirty-fifth century humans which washed through the Rift.” He paused to look over at Jack. “You identified the century for them, Jack. That’s also when they had their first success. You were on two treatments a year for several years according to the files.”

“Twice a year during my semester breaks,” Ianto confirmed. He leant forward again and began to rub at his temples. He was developing a headache. “It was during my upper schooling in my teens, I remember.”

“Which would have been counted a success, if Hartman wasn’t so set on restoring the empire, getting the Queen in her pocket and a DBE next to her name,” Owen continued. “She wanted you cured, not merely healthy, and asked Miller what DNA of the thousands of samples he had in storage he considered the healthiest.”

Ianto looked from Jack to Owen and back again. “Why do I have a bad feeling about this?”

“Because you’re an intelligent human being?” Owen asked. “Miller told her. According to his files, he even threatened to resign over the whole situation but he was too scared of her to go through with it. Maybe he felt sorry for you as well.” Owen paused and shrugged.

“You’re stalling again, Owen,” Jack growled.

Ianto, for his part, glared up at Owen before letting his eyes close again. The light was bothering him. He was tempted to get up and make coffee, see if that helped his worsening headache, but wanted the answers to his problems more than caffeine at the moment.

“It was Gallifreyan DNA, Jack,” Owen said after a long silence. “They injected Ianto with the Doctor’s DNA. And damned if it didn’t work,” he said. Admiration laced his tone before he again became serious. “The last treatment you had at Oxford was when they started to use it.”

“That’s why it was down to once a year wasn’t it?” Ianto asked.

“And they were planning to move it to every two years,” Owen said. “They were fine-tuning the nanogene programming.”

“What did they program them for?” Jack demanded.

Owen took a deep breath, reached over and grabbed a bottle of water and sipped at it before answering. “To snip out any damaged DNA and replace it with the Gallifreyan equivalent.”

Ianto leant back in his chair. He tilted his head back to stare up at the ceiling. He muttered base Russian curses he’d first learned from the Bolshevik soldiers who’d once guarded his family. His volume gradually increased before he broke off with a pain-filled whimper. “It’s not working right, is it?”

“Actually, it’s working too well, if that’s the proper way to say it,” Owen said. “Miller didn’t know much about nanogenes above the basics. He was making it up as he went and controlling your physical responses by keeping everything simple. It was the equivalent of a low dose, but Hartman was getting impatient, so the last time he treated you, he ‘opened the throttle’ is how he put it.” Owen paused and shook his head. “Wanker,” he muttered. “He thought he could fine tune it again at your next treatment.”

“And then came Canary Wharf,” Ianto interjected. “My next treatment was scheduled for the day after the battle.”

“Yeah,” Owen agreed. “You ended up with the hyperactive little buggers going at full speed. They’re healing you, Ianto, but they’re going so fast your body is going into a state of shock. A human body was never meant to…, well, regenerate itself from the ground up.”

“They don’t like when I get stressed either,” Ianto muttered. He ducked his head again and went back to rubbing his temples trying to ease his headache.

“Can we rewrite the program?” Jack asked.

“Not really,” Owen said. “The process is too far along.” He shifted his attention to Ianto. “And actually, Ianto, they don’t care if you get stressed. I have a feeling Miller didn’t think of contingencies. Canary Wharf, cannibals, that sort of thing, instead, he just pointed the nanogenes at your DNA and shouted ‘giddyup’. They’re forcing your body to concentrate on what they want to the detriment of everything else. The longer it goes on, the worse it gets. You barely have enough energy left to maintain the rest of you right now.”

Ianto rolled his eyes. Then he whimpered in pain. Even that simple motion made his head ache more. “That’s not what I meant,” he said. “Though it explains how I’ve felt for the last few months.”

“Yes. You’re in the middle of a race,” Owen said. “You could end up the healthiest man on Earth; however, you have to survive the treatment first. And I’m sorry, but…”

“We have to finish it,” Ianto interrupted. “Let them change my DNA completely over.” He looked up for a moment and nodded. “What about Marie?” he asked. He’d worry about the full consequences to himself later. He needed to know they could help her regardless of what happened to him.

“Her situation isn’t a problem,” Owen said. An understanding smile passed between them. “Jack probably knows how to program nanogenes properly. We can have them snip her DNA in the appropriate places and replace it with healthy DNA from a human donor. I’ll start by testing Tosh, Gwen and myself for compatibility to her.”

“Focus here,” Jack said, breaking into the conversation. “Owen, what can we do about Ianto?”

Ianto twisted about in the chair to look at Jack. He reached out with one unsteady hand and caught one of Jack’s in it. He squeezed hard for a moment and licked his lips. “We do what they started, Jack. It’s that or this breakdown of my own body will kill me faster than that damned disease I inherited will.”

“He’s right, Jack,” Owen added. “Gallifreyan DNA seems to be highly plastic. It’s already deeply interwoven with Ianto’s. Hell, it is Ianto’s now. There’s no way of reversing or slowing down the change at this stage.” Owen looked over at Ianto silently apologizing for all the fuck ups of his predecessors who’d worked on Ianto. “The only way out is through to the other side.”

Ianto rose slowly. He swayed on his feet but waved Owen away when the other man reached for him. He took the few small steps between him and Jack very slowly and carefully. He crouched down in front of the other man. “Jack, dushka, look at me,” he murmured. He reached up and cupped Jack’s face in his hands. “I’d really rather not be in pain anymore. Nor do I want to die any sooner than I absolutely have to. So we finish this,” he said. He leant forward and briefly kissed Jack’s lips before pulling away to stare at him. “The only questions now are when we do it, where we do it and if you’re going to help Owen save me.”

Jack’s hand came to cover his. Their eyes held for a long moment before Jack turned his head a bit to press a kiss to Ianto’s palm. He rose and silently urged Ianto into his abandoned chair.

“We don’t have much time,” Owen interrupted. “According to the Hub sensors, your core temperature is going up.” He shook his head. “It doesn’t appear to be a fever. At least not one I’m familiar with.”

“A metacrisis,” Jack said. “Ianto is heading for a metacrisis.”

“What?” Ianto asked. Then he held up a hand. His head hurt too much for him to concentrate on long explanations. “Don’t explain. Tell me how we fix it. Because I have a headache and it’s not from the current discussion.”

“I do need to explain, just a bit,” Jack said. He pressed a kiss to Ianto’s temple. “Owen will need the information.” He considered the others intently for a moment. “You both know I traveled with the Doctor, right?”

“I suspected,” Owen said.

Ianto huffed a laugh. “I read your file,” he said.

“All right,” Jack said. “There was an extensive library in the TARDIS. I was curious about the Doctor - who he was and where he came from. I read everything I could get my hands on. The TARDIS seemed to like the idea. Even translated some Gallifreyan texts for me, which my Doctor said she had never done for anyone else.” He paused, reached across Owen and stole the medic’s bottle of water. He took a good long drink before continuing, “When a Time Lord is dying he can regenerate his body - a new face, new body, even a new personality sometimes. But there are times when regeneration goes wrong, and the body is trapped between states. They call that a metacrisis.” He waved the bottle he held in the air. “The Doctor's DNA is finding a failing body with extensive damage and it's trying to do what it is meant to do. But Ianto's body is not Gallifreyan. It can't regenerate.” Jack dropped the bottle onto a nearby desk. “The nanogenes are reading their instructions from the Doctor's DNA and trying to force the issue. We need to tweak their programming fast.”

“All right,” Ianto said. He nodded tiredly and tried to force his mind to focus on the situation at hand. “I should call Mama while you work on the programming.”

“How do we get them out of Ianto’s body to work on them?” Owne asked.

“That’s the beauty of this,” Jack said. “We don’t. I have some nanogenes tucked away in cold storage here. We program them to override the original sets programming and inject them into Ianto.” He smiled at Owen. “Doctors do that all the time at different stages of an illness in the future.”

“How soon?” Owen asked.

“Give me three hours,” Jack said.

Ianto whimpered. “Work faster?” he begged softly. He rubbed at his temples and bit his lip to contain his pain. “I have a headache. My back hurts.” He looked up at Jack and sighed tiredly. “If I call Mama now, which I should, she’ll descend on us by morning.”

Jack pressed a kiss to Ianto’s temple and then his lips. “I’ll work as fast as I can, but I want to get this right,” he said. He gently hugged Ianto and nuzzled against his neck. “I want you better, velikolepnyĭ,” he murmured before kissing Ianto’s pulse. “I’m not going to lose you. I can’t lose you,” he said softly. He straightened and nodded to Owen before taking off at an almost run into the depths of the Hub.

Chapter Twelve

Ianto watched Jack run off. He shook his head and winced in pain. He shifted his position in the chair to rest his arms on the back of the chair, leant forward and rested his forehead on his crossed arms. He turned his head just enough to look at Owen without having the brilliant white lights of the Hub shining in his eyes. Those made his head ache even more. “So, tell me how this would work for Marie?”

“Actually, that’s rather simple,” Owen said. He twisted about to look at file and pulled out a set of pills. He rose, got a new bottle of water which he opened, and handed both to Ianto with an encouraging nod. “For your headache, it should help a bit, but we have to be very careful until Tosh can hack into UNIT for the medical files related to the Doctor.”

Moving carefully to keep from adding to his pain, Ianto took the water and the pills. He swallowed the latter quickly before gulping down a bit of the water. He handed the bottle back to Owen and resumed his position. He didn’t hurt as much in that position especially when he kept his eyes almost completely closed to block out the lights.

“As I said, it’s rather simple,” Owen said. “We can set aside a portion of the nanogenes to use with her. Program them to simply snip off the damaged portions of her DNA and replace it with, oh, Tosh or Gwen’s.” He shrugged one shoulder at Ianto. “Or even mine if I’m the best donor around.”

“You or Tosh,” Ianto said firmly. “If I have to be related to anyone on the team, even loosely, I’d rather you or Tosh, Owen.”

Owen grinned widely and chuckled. He looked over to one side of the Hub. Ianto followed his gaze and smiled as Jack headed for his office carrying a heavy looking metal container which was almost steaming with cold. “So, the competition is still on then,” Owen said quietly bringing Ianto’s attention back to him.

“Excuse me?” Ianto asked softly.

“Not between me and Jack, you idiot,” Owen retorted. “You and Gwen,” he said. “And, by the way, you don’t get to decide that. The DNA comes from the best donor. I’ll make that decision.”

“I don’t like her,” Ianto said. He sighed softly. He shifted one hand and gently shaded his eyes more. “I knew you’d make the best decision, but I do not want Gwen involved if we can help it.” He lowered his hand and squinted at Owen. “I can’t explain it, but Gwen just…”

“Gwen wants your man,” Owen interrupted. “Oh, not seriously. She knows what she has, but she can’t keep her eyes off the shiny.”

“You make us sound like a couple of sixth formers competing for the cute boy everyone wants,” Ianto replied. He frowned a bit at the medic. “Still, her batting her eyes at Jack drives me insane sometimes.”

“It drives us all batty, to be honest, but the thing is,” Owen said. “If Jack actually took her up on it, she’d jump on it and then spend a hundred or so years regretting it.”

“Still, until she finally settles down with Rhys, she’d going to keep driving us nuts with her antics,” Ianto said. He considered silently for a moment. “And that doesn’t count her seeming inability to learn from her mistakes, but let’s not go there. He’s determined to give her a chance.”

“She’s worth it, mate, if Jack can straighten her out,” Owen said. His voice had taken on the strangely flat tones it did when he was being extremely serious. “He’s right. We do need someone like her around, but I suggest you lose no time in staking your claim.”

“As soon as I can figure out where to go to fulfill a request of his,” he said. Ianto looked up, blushed, but smiled at Owen. “One of the traditional things a Romanov royal does is give their lovers jewelry. It’s usually distinctive custom pieces, often with the family crest on it, or if it’s a gift from the Tsar or Tsarevich then it has their personal cipher,” he explained.

“I know the perfect place,” Owen said. “I…” he paused for a moment. Ianto lifted his head and opened his eyes to see Owen staring off into the distance for a bit. As he looked at him, Owen shook off the memory and gave him a small smile. “I bought Katie’s ring there. They have their own in-house jeweler.”

“Owen, somehow I don’t think either of us knows where to get what Jack wants, but I’ll take any advice you’ll give me.” He could feel his face reddening, but continued to talk anyway. For the first time, he truly felt a member of the team; perhaps even developing a real friendship with Owen now that he didn’t have to hide Lisa from them. “I told him I don’t mind if he flirts, but he’s not allowed to go beyond flirting if he wants to be with me,” he said. “Being a flirt is a part of him, I don’t want him to change, but I need to know he’s truly serious about us.”

“Teaboy, don’t be naïve,” Owen said. “You think you’re the only one who wants something a little…” he trailed off for a moment. “Wait, exactly what is it that Jack wants?”

To his surprise, Ianto realized it was possible to get even more scarlet than he already was, but looked over at Jack’s office to watch his potential lover working on his future cure. After a long silent moment, he looked back at Owen. “I told him I couldn’t decide between a ring or a necklace as a gift for him,” he said. “So, I should probably get both. He told me to get him ‘a ring but not for his finger’,” Ianto finished with a deep blush.

“Trust Jack to think of that,” Owen said. He grinned at Ianto. “Don’t worry, Ianto. This place is very high-class, very discreet and I’m certain they’ve dealt with unusual requests of that kind before.”

“I do,” he paused for a moment. “Trust him, that is, and you as well,” Ianto said. He let his eyes close again. His head felt like it was going to explode though it wasn’t quite as bad as it had been before Owen gave him those pills. “But he’s going to have me permanently blushing long before anything major happens between us.”

The sound of Owen’s chair creaking caused Ianto to open his eyes. He raised a brow in question, but received a reassuring smile in return. “Okay, Ianto,” Owen said. His hand came to rest, very lightly, on his shoulder. Owen urged Ianto up from the chair and led him down into the autopsy bay. “Let’s get you lying down and a little more comfortable while we wait. The less stress on you the better at this point,” he said.

“Can you shut down the lights?” Ianto asked. He tugged off his waistcoat and hung it from the back of one of the chairs nearby. Automatically, his hands went to work folding up his discarded clothes from earlier in the morning. As he folded his trousers, he felt his mobile in one pocket. Pulling it out and holding onto it, he set it aside, finished the folding and stacked his clothes on the chair his waistcoat hung from before he climbed up onto the table. He blinked in surprise when Owen tucked a pillow beneath his head. “What?”

“Jack got it earlier,” Owen explained. “He thought you’d want one the next time we had to treat you down here.” He moved about the room, gathering up a few things he set on a nearby rolling tray, and then headed up to the mezzanine level. “I’ll just leave the emergency light on. So I don’t break my neck if I have to run in here for any reason.”

“Thanks,” Ianto murmured. He shifted about until he was as comfortable as he could possibly get at the moment considering how it seemed as if every muscle in his body was starting to ache. He sighed in relief as one by one the overhead lights went off leaving the room cast in thick shadows. “They were making the headache worse.” He held up his mobile and waved it toward Owen. “I’m going to call Mama,” he said tiredly. “Let her know what’s going on.”

“Go ahead,” Owen said. He came down to stand beside Ianto and lifted a needle from his prepared tray. “I’m going to start an IV, ok?” he asked. “I want you ready as soon as Jack’s finished programming the little critters.”

Ianto chuckled a bit, but nodded. He stuck his arm out to the other man for him to work on again. “I’m feeling pathetic,” he said quietly. “But I really need to talk to her.”

“So talk to her if it makes you feel better,” Owen said. “Every little bit helps.”

“It does,” Ianto said. He sucked in a breath when Owen seated the needle in his arm and began taping it down. “She… well, she’s my mother. More than the Empress ever was,” he said.

“So call her, Mama’s Boy,” Owen said. Ianto looked over and then rolled his eyes in the face of the medic’s wide grin and laughing eyes.

“I’d hit you, but I’m mostly comfortable at the moment,” he said. He thumbed the phone open and stared at the display for a few minutes. He then looked up at Owen with a twisted little smile. “When I’m better, I’ll just inflict decaf coffee on you.”

“Nah, you’re too nice,” Owen disagreed. He reached over and flipped off the exam light he’d used while placing the IV. “Lights all off, Teaboy,” he said. “Now, call your Mama.”

“Thanks, Owen,” he said with a tiny nod. Ianto scrolled through his contacts list as he watched Owen leave the room. From the sound of his footsteps on the concrete and grating of the Hub floor the medic was headed for Jack’s office. More than likely, he was either going to get lessons on how to use the nanogenes or to assist Jack as much as he could. Ianto bowed his head, took in a deep breath, and let it out slowly. He then hit the button for his second, but much more favored, childhood home.

“Erdigg Park Lodge,” a wonderfully familiar voice said.

“Mama?” he asked softly. He rubbed at his forehead and mentally scolded himself for reverting to a scared thirteen-year-old whenever he was in pain. “It’s Ianto.”

“I’m on my way,” his mother, Victoria, said.

“Mama, don’t,” he protested. A tiny little whimper escaped from him as his headache ramped up a notch. “I…”

“Don’t argue with me, Ianto,” Victoria scolded. “I’ll be there by tomorrow afternoon. I’ll get Penny to make me a reservation at the Hilton Cardiff. Now, tell me where will I find you?”

“I’m not arguing,” he said. He rubbed at his forehead again. He’d be so glad when this was fixed and he wasn’t hurting anymore. “But I need to talk to you about something before you come down, Mama.” He paused for a moment. He honestly had no idea how she’d take his next words. “Um, I work for Jack.”

“Jack?” A long silence echoed down the line to him. “As in Jack Harkness?”

“Yes, ma’am,” Ianto said. He knew that tone. It was the ‘we’re going to be having a talk, young man’ one used whenever she wanted a clear explanation of something he’d been doing. “That Jack.”

“I will be at the Hilton tomorrow no later than two,” she said. “I will expect to see Jack Harkness waiting for me to take me wherever you are. Understood?”

“Yes, ma’am,” he said. Ianto flinched and whimpered softly at the pain which echoed from even that slight movement. He knew that tone, too. That was ‘I am your mama and you will do what I tell you’ which he knew, from more than one pinch on the ear or smack on the arse, not to disobey. “He’s going to be so unhappy with me.” He paused for a moment and then started again. “Now can I tell you the reason I called. Aside from…” he trailed off for a moment. “Well, that’s best in person.”

“Go ahead,” she said. Her voice was much softer, worry clearly laced her tones.

“Jack brought Mashka here from Yekaterinburg,” he said quietly. “They’re doing up the records to make her my sister now, too. She’ll be Mairwen Jones.” He stopped for a moment, closed his eyes and mentally crossed his fingers. “You’ll take care of her, won’t you?” he asked in a near whisper.

There was a long silence in the wake of his words. If it wasn’t for her breathing echoing down the line to him, he’d have thought she’d hung up. Just as he was about to ask her a question, she spoke, “Your sister.” Another silence came to him before she said the words which eased one of his largest worries since Marie had arrived in Cardiff. “Of course we’ll take care of her, you silly boy, but we’re not talking about that right now. And don’t you dare sound like… well… that. Nothing is going to happen to you,” she said. “I forbid it.”

He wanted to laugh and barely managed a soft chuckle in response. “Things are a total mess,” he said. “And I’m worried about her.” He thought for a moment and realized that even though he knew he was likely going to be just fine, he wanted Victoria with him just like she had been when he’d been younger. “London did something to me, Mama. To fix it, well, it could make things worse. I…” he trailed off unable to say what he was thinking.

“Somehow, I am not surprised that Yvonne Hartman managed to muck things up one more time,” Victoria conceded. “Her Majesty never trusted her in spite of all the bootlicking she did. But never mind that now,” she said. “Does Jack know how to fix it?”

“He’s working on it now,” he said. “Said it would be a few hours to set up.”

“All right,” she said. “I’ll call the Palace and handle that end of things. Her Majesty will probably want to hear from Jack soonest, but she knows what’s truly important.” There was a pause and then the stern tones returned to her voice. Ianto smiled as he realized she was once again ready to kick someone’s arse on his behalf. “Is there any head that needs to roll for this?”

“Maybe, but it was mostly Yvonne,” he said. Ianto lay back on the bed and closed his eyes. “I haven’t checked to see if anyone involved in it survived Canary Wharf.” He paused for a long moment in order to force those particular memories away. “Can you come today, Mama?” he asked. He hoped his desperation for her company wasn’t audible to her as it was to him. “I trust Jack and Owen, but I really…”

“I’ll be on my way right after I call the Palace,” she said. “Your father is in America at that textile conference, but he’ll start back the moment he hears. Make me a reservation yourself. A suite, two bedrooms,” she ordered. Before he could ask why two bedrooms, she was telling him herself. “I want Marie near me tonight.

“Yes, ma’am,” he said. Ianto smiled. He didn’t have to ask. She was already readying herself to come down. He felt like such a child when he was sick; however, he wasn’t about to deny himself the comfort of her presence. She took care of him, let him stretch his wings, but enforced medical limits on him better than anyone else ever could, even Jack. “I’ll do that. Marie’s out with the two women I work with. They’re doing some shopping for her.” He paused for a moment. “We haven’t told her about just how sick I am yet. I haven’t called my cousins about her either, Mama.”

“I told you I’ll take care of it,” she informed him. “Now stop worrying so, Ianto, everything will be fine.

“Yes, Mama,” he said quietly. He licked his lips and smiled. One less thing for him to do, but Jack was so going to kill him when he told him that his mother was on her way down from Wrexham. “Will you call when you get here? Or should I just send Jack out to meet you?”

“I will, but you can send Jack to meet me as well,” she said. “Now let me get off the phone and get everything organized. I’ll be there in a few hours.”

“Okay,” Ianto murmured. He draped one arm over his forehead. “And thanks, Mama, I… I.. I wasn’t sure you’d come.”

“Now I know you aren’t feeling well, Ianto,” she snapped. The firm ‘mom tones’ were back in her voice. That tone made him feel like a naughty little boy being scolded again. “I’m your mother. I would never let you go through this alone.”

“I have a headache,” he said in an attempt to explain. “A really bad one and that’s come back.” He knew the emphasis on the one word would inform her of what he meant without him having to say a word. “I had an attack earlier which is how Owen discovered what Yvonne authorized.” He paused for a moment to try to think of anything else he needed to say. “I hurt. I’m tired. And I’m scared.”

“I know, sweetheart,” she said. “I’m on my way.”

“Okay, Mama,” he said. “I’ll hang up, make those reservations, and then tell Jack you’re coming.” He paused again for a long silent moment. He let his currently held breath out on a soft sigh. “Love you, Mama.”

“Love you, too, sweetie,” she said quietly.

The phone was hung up just as quietly. He listened to the dial tone for a long moment before hanging up and dialing the Hilton Cardiff. It was but a few minutes work to arrange for his mother’s requested suite, especially when he pulled the Torchwood card; he also arranged for a bouquet of white and purple hydrangeas to be placed in the room. He knew she’d love that little touch. After confirming the details one last time, he hung up the phone.

Ianto shifted his arm away from his face just in time to watch Jack and Owen descend into the room. Owen carried a syringe with a disturbingly large needle attached to it. The contents of the syringe seemed to glow with a golden radiance in the darkness of the room. He stared at the syringe before stretching out his arm toward the tray to set his mobile down. “Time then?” he asked quietly.

“Didn’t take as long as I thought,” Jack said. He reached out and caught Ianto’s hand in his. He pressed it between both his palms for a moment. He lifted Ianto’s hand, turned it, and pressed a kiss first to the palm and then to his inner wrist. The kisses, complete with teasing caresses by Jack’s tongue, distracted Ianto from Owen injecting the nanogenes through the IV port before connecting the actual IV to it. “I’ll stay right here until this is done,” Jack said softly.

“You can’t,” Ianto said. He watched as Owen filled a more common syringe with a sedative which was injected into his IV. “You need to go to the station and pick up my mother. Her train will arrive in two hours or so.” He blinked dazedly. That was one powerful sedative. It was already starting to knock him out. “Said she’d call when she was here… has a suite at the Hilton…” Ianto muttered around a powerful yawn. He fought the sedative in order to talk to Jack, but it easily won the fight. The last thing he saw before his eyes grew too heavy to keep open was Jack’s stunned expression; Owen’s laughter carried him off to sleep as it accompanied Jack’s plaintive, “I have to meet his mother without him?”

 

Chapter Thirteen

The soft sounds of women’s voices were the first thing Ianto heard as the sedative wore off. The tones were familiar. It took him only a second or two to recognize the voices. First, Marie’s soft soprano, her English laced with that peculiar accent all his sisters had acquired from Mother, followed by the firmer Scottish-accented contralto of his Mama. He just barely cracked his eyes open so he could watch his two most favorite women talk to each other. Their voices were too soft for him to make out the actual words, but he could tell from the way Marie sat and gestured with her hands while she spoke that she was comfortable with Victoria. He couldn’t explain just how relieved he was to know they could at least become friends, even as he hoped desperately for Marie to enjoy the same relationship with Victoria that he did. As the last of the sedative cleared from his mind, Ianto could now fully understand what the two women were talking about – Mama was telling Marie about her career as a botanical illustrator while Marie talked about her love of watercolors.

“We need to get you ready to take your A-levels,” Victoria said. “Then you can go to university and study art.”

“I couldn’t,” Marie protested. “I’m no good at lessons, just art.”

“Of course you can,” Victoria said. “Don’t worry so. Ianto had to learn how to study properly, too.”

A scoffing sound came from his sister. “Alyosha actually did his lessons?” Marie said.

It took all of Ianto’s willpower to remain still and silent even though he wanted to protest her comment. He had indeed learnt to do his lessons. Being grounded and not allowed to have his riding lessons with his new mother was more than enough incentive to get him to start learning. He was never truly good at them, but he did them. He refocused on their conversation just in time to hear Victoria’s reply to Marie.

“It took a little effort, but he finally discovered it was worth it to learn something,” she said. “Right, Ianto?”

Ianto sighed and shook his head. He should have known his Mama would know he was awake. He opened his eyes fully and smiled at both women. “Yes, ma’am,” he murmured around a playful pout.

“Don’t pout, darling, it’s unbecoming in a young man of twenty-three,” Victoria said. The hint of laughter in her eyes softened the scolding. “Especially one with a possible suitor,” she added.

“Yes, Mama,” he said. He chuckled softly before turning a smile on his sister. He could see her confusion, but was too happy over the simple fact he was still alive to really be upset. “If I don’t stop, you’ll make certain I will, won’t you?”

“Of course,” Victoria said. She grinned happily at him and leant forward to kiss his cheek before settling back. “Owen tells me you have to stay under observation for two days. He and Jack will stay here with you, so I will take Mairwen to stay with me at the hotel.” She smiled gently in Marie’s direction. “Gwen and Toshiko made sure she had all the necessities.”

“But you’ll finish her wardrobe, won’t you?” he asked. Ianto reached out a hand to her and Marie. “Are you two…?” he trailed off rather than finish his question. He didn’t want to finish his question only to find out they weren’t actually getting along.

“We’re getting to know each other, Ianto,” Victoria said to him. She caught his hand and gently squeezed his fingers for a moment before releasing him into Marie’s more desperate clutching. “Marie’s had a great shock. She needs some food and a good night’s sleep.”

“We had tea,” Marie interjected.

“That’s not enough,” Victoria said. It was a soft scolding tone. The gentler one from when Ianto was much younger and much more confused about who and what he was now. “We’ll have a fruit and scones tray sent up from the hotel kitchen and have a grand supper in front of the suite’s fireplace.” She nodded to Ianto before turning her attention to Marie. “Ianto loved to do that.”

“Mama, don’t overwhelm her,” Ianto said. He shook his head a bit at Victoria. “You forget she’s just come from Mother’s rather strict idea of what we kids should eat.”

“The tea was plenty,” Marie added softly.

“We’ll see,” Victoria said. “I’ll order something for myself and a little extra for you, just in case.” She reached over and patted Marie and Ianto’s joined hands. “The suite has a small fridge. So the extra will keep. Then tomorrow, if Jack agrees, we’ll take the girls out to lunch as a thank you for all their help, yes?”

“I’d like that, but...” Marie trailed off. She looked helplessly at Ianto before turning back to Victoria. “I don’t…” she trailed off yet again and shrugged instead.

“Just trust her, samyĭ dorogoĭ,” Ianto murmured.

“Are you worried about funds, Mairwen? You need not to be,” Victoria explained. “The family has enough money to put you through university and keep you dressed nicely.” She grinned happily again. “And if your sketching is as good as Ianto as said, Ifan will have you designing for him in no time.”

Ianto chuckled and nodded. He squeezed Marie’s hand where she still clung tightly to his. “Tad would love to have a new designer,” he said. “Especially one in the family.” He shifted his focus to Victoria. “Mama, Mashka brought some of the family jewels with her. Jack’s going to help me deal with those. So we’ll have those funds as well.”

“But…” Marie said. “Why?”

“Why what, sweetheart?”

“Why me?” Marie asked. “Mama didn’t want me. Neither did Papa. I wasn’t Aloysha.” She shook her head tiredly. “No one wanted another girl.”

“Oh, sweetheart,” Victoria murmured. She shifted in her chair. Ianto knew she wanted to gather Marie to him for a hug but didn’t want to push herself on the girl. “We want you. This family wants you very much.”

Ianto watched, more than a little bit frustrated, as Marie shook her head again. He sighed softly and a bit tiredly. He knew he’d just woken up, but strangely he was still tired. Maybe it was like when you slept for too long and woke up exhausted. “Mama,” he started. He stopped and shook his head. “Mashka, Mama means it. She really wants you as part of the family.”

“Mairwen,” Victoria began. She shifted on the chair to get closer to Marie. She reached out and rested her hand on the younger woman’s shoulder. “Listen to me, Marie,” she said. “Ifan and I wanted children very much, but we were not able to have them. Ianto was a gift from heaven, but, you know, a woman wants a girl to go shopping with, dress as a bride and all those other things mothers and daughters do together. You can be that for me, if you want to.”

Marie blinked and stared silently between Victoria and Ianto for several long minutes. She turned her full attention on Ianto who, in turn, gave her an encouraging smile and nod. Finally, she turned back to Victoria to ask, “I won’t have to be a ‘good little girlie’ for you? Or a ‘quiet girlie’?” She stopped abruptly and stared at the floor. Ianto struggled to control his anger at their Mother for instilling those doubts in his beautiful sister. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t…”

“You don’t have to be anything you don’t want to be,” Victoria said with a laugh. “My mother calls me a hell raiser and wait until you meet her. Our family has a strong history of women hell raisers.” She tilted her head toward Ianto. “Ask Ianto if you don’t believe me. The fights are legendary for scaring the men out into the fields.”

Ianto nodded vigorously. “It’s true,” he said. “Believe her.” Ianto met Marie’s gaze as she stared at them both while she shook her head again. “Mashka, trust me, all right? I know it’s hard to accept right now, but the Jones family, they are the best thing that happened to me. I ride horses, sail boats, and even climb mountains because Mama decreed that my disease should never stop me from doing something I truly wanted to. It’ll be the same for you.” He could see that she wasn’t quite ready to believe either his or his beloved Mama’s words. He sighed softly, but nodded. “Mama, once I’m up and around again, I’ll bring Mairwen home for a visit. If she wants to, she can stay longer until I can find a place and get us moved in.”

“You and I will take her up, Ianto.”

Jack’s voice drifted down to them from the upper level of the room. Ianto twisted his neck in order to see the older man who moved about to make it easier for Ianto to see him. “Is that so, sir?”

“Yes, it’s so,” Jack said. “Owen wants to check you over, so I’ll take Victoria and Mairwen to the hotel and settle them in for the night.” He smiled down at Ianto. “I’ll be back shortly.”

Ianto glared a bit up at Jack, but it was more a playful protest. He’d love to take Jack to see the place he considered his true home. “And did you think to ask my Mama if you could come along on this trip?”

“If Victoria decides not to invite me,” Jack began. “I’ll drive you up and then pick you up at the end of the visit. Stop needling me, brat.”

“I have to do something,” Ianto said. He chuckled softly. “I’m stuck in bed. And not the world’s most comfortable one at that.”

“Owen and the ladies are setting up a small sick room in the storage room you so conveniently emptied out once you had cataloged everything in it,” Jack explained. “If Owen gives the go ahead, you’ll move there for the night.”

Ianto frowned a bit and then looked over at Marie and Victoria. “I think I’m jealous,” he complained. “You two get the nice hotel, I get a former storeroom.”

“Don’t whine, darling,” Victoria said. “I’m sure Jack will make it as comfortable as possible. Come on, Mairwen, let’s get your bags together.”

“Don’t I get a hug before you go?” Ianto grumbled playfully.

“Always, my darling,” Victoria said. She came closer, bent down and hugged him. A gentle kiss was pressed to his forehead. “We’ll be here right after breakfast.”

Ianto clung to her for a moment. He pressed his face into her neck and whispered, “Mother wasn’t close to Mashka and…” he trailed off for a moment. “Things weren’t the best right before Jack rescued her even without the assassination.” He pressed a kiss to Victoria’s cheek. “I’m worried about her, Mama.”

“I’ll take care of her, Ianto,” Victoria murmured. “Don’t worry so much.” She pulled away and took a step back to allow Marie in for her own hug.

“I’ll see you tomorrow, then,” he said. Ianto hugged Marie just as tightly as he had Victoria. “Go rest, Marie, I’m fine. I promise.”

“She sounds really nice, Alyosha,” Maire murmured. “I hope she likes me.”

“She does,” Ianto replied. “Trust me, she does. Just give her a chance, okay?”

“All right,” Marie said.

“Thank you,” he said. He smiled a bit but a yawn killed his smile. He frowned afterwards. “I can’t believe I’m tired again.” He waved a hand toward the door. “Go on, Mashka,” he urged. “The sooner you go, the faster morning comes.”

“Come on, ladies,” Jack said. “Owen will be here in a moment so let’s get you to your hotel.” He waved a hand toward the door. He smiled at Mairwen as she reached his side. “Owen has prescribed a small sedative for you, Mairwen.” He handed the pills to her. “So make certain you take that. It’s not a sleeping pill just a relaxant so you’ll sleep without nightmares.” He returned her silent smile with one of his own before guiding her and Victoria out of the room as Owen comes in.

“Why am I tired still?” Ianto asked. He shifted onto his side to watch Owen come down to join him. “I just want to go back to sleep.”

“What?” Owen snapped. “You thought a shot of Gallifreyan magic genes and you’d be healed in an instant?” He stood by the bed and started his exam. Ianto shifted about as needed without being told to first. He’d been through so many of these kinds of exams over the years. “Early indications are that it is working,” Owen said. “Your temperature is down and your blood count is climbing again, but your system took a beating. It’s going to take some time to repair itself.”

“I’ll attempt not to revert to whiny brat,” Ianto said quietly. “But I make no promises, Owen.”

“And I’ll attempt not to revert to a snarky bastard, but that’s up to you!” Owen retorted.

“I think you already are a bit,” Ianto said. He shook his head. He missed the snarky teasing, but right now he’d likely take one of Owen’s usual comments the wrong way. That would be a very bad. He took a deep breath, let it out slowly, and nodded. “I’m sorry, Owen. I just hate being stuck in bed.”

“With your medical history, I can’t blame you,” Owen said. He scrawled a few notes on a pad set by his computer. “Everything looks good, so you can go pee, brush your teeth and get into a real bed. You’d be amazed how fast Jack can get things delivered when he wants to,” he said. “Once you’re ready for bed, I’ll strap on a monitor. Alien tech, you won’t even know it’s there.”

“I can believe it,” Ianto said. “Jack is more than a bit upset over the fact that even though I was a sickly child I had to sleep on a hard camp bed in a drafty room.”

“Katie used to scream about that,” Owen replied. He nodded, silently giving his own agreement to the screaming, and took a step back to finish his notes to be added to Ianto’s medical file later on. “She was fascinated by your family. I think I actually made a subconscious connection somehow because I started looking for hemophilia before I even knew who you really were.”

Ianto considered for a moment and nodded to Owen. “I can believe that,” he said. “I, well, I’m so spoiled by real beds and hot showers. Sometimes I still can’t believe I can have both,” he paused and shook his head a bit at himself. “And I’ve had them for ten years now.”

“We never know, do we?” Owen asked. “I look at you and think ‘prince’ and a whole lot of clichés come to mind. Yet, none of it was true, for you.”

“I think the only cliché that would fit was spoiled,” Ianto said.

“No, you weren’t,” Owen said hastily. “Believe me, if even half the stories Katie told me are true, you were more a lost little boy than a spoiled prince.”

Ianto tilted his head. He slowly sat up and shook his head in denial. “Perhaps a bit of both, though it really depends on what stories she repeated to you.”

“Never mind. The past is just something we lived through,” Owen said. “What’s important is what you do from now on with your life. Your healthy life,” he said.

“Now you sound like Mama,” Ianto replied.

“I think your mother is a woman of great understanding.” Owen lowered his voice to a conspiratorial tone. “She whacked Gwen good and proper.”

Ianto barely held back his smirk. He slid from the bed and leant back against the table. “What’d she do?” he asked. He rested his hands on the table in order to be certain he had his balance.

“She caught Gwen making cow eyes at Jack,” he said. There was something almost gleeful in Owen’s repetition of the events while Ianto was out cold. “She bided her time and when Gwen least expected it, she got a lecture about not trying to grab everything that came her way disguised as a general commentary.” He paused and shifted his voice to a pretty fair approximation of his mother’s soft tones. “It is unwise, my dears, to run after someone else’s toys. If nothing else, it gives everyone a poor idea of your reasoning abilities.” He grinned over at Ianto and reverted to his normal voice. “I tell you one thing, Ianto. I will never, ever, underscore ever, cross your mother.”

Ianto threw his head back with a hearty laugh. “She’s good at that,” he said when he calmed down again.

“Well, if Gwen didn’t catch it,” Owen said. “Everyone else did. Even Jack, who looked surprised as hell.”

“We’ll find out,” Ianto said. “If she needs to, Mama will be even blunter with her.” He slowly straightened up and nodded. “So, off to bed now then?”

“First bathroom, then bed,” Owen clarified. “I don’t want you trying to get up in the middle of the night.”

“All right,” Ianto said. He started to move carefully up the stairs, paused, and then looked back at Owen. “Are you staying with me until Jack gets back or is one of the girls getting that duty?” He grabbed the chain forming the stair rail to maintain his balance. “I ask because I should eat something but I really don’t want to.”

“I am,” Owen said. “You’ll have a large protein shake in whatever flavor you want. Nothing solid until further notice.”

Ianto gave Owen disgusted look. If there was one thing about the twenty-first century he hated it was protein shakes. “Oh, those are horrible,” he complained. “They all taste like chalk.”

“It’s either that or an IV, Teaboy.”

“I’ll drink it,” Ianto said. “But I’m lodging a protest ahead of time.” He thought for a moment. “Strawberry or blueberry.”

“Blueberry, it is,” Owen said. “Strawberry is truly disgusting.”

“Oh, yeah,” Ianto agreed, “but it’s better than some of the others.”

“Enough stalling, Ianto,” Owen said. “You need a hand?”

Ianto turned to look at Owen and nodded tiredly. “Yeah, I’m exhausted, but…” he trailed off for a moment. “I hate admitting weakness. Mother trained that out of me and I’ve never lost the habit. It’s a flaw, I know.” He chuckled faintly at Owen’s look. “It frustrates Mama, too.”

“It’s a flaw that’s going to get you killed one day, you moron,” Owen retorted. “Come on, lean on me.”

Ianto waited patiently for Owen to climb the few stairs that separated their positions on the staircase. He leant half on Owen and half on the stair rail until they reached the main floor. “I’ll do my best to unlearn it,” he said. He firmly reminded himself that his teammates cared more about his health and safety then any public appearance. With Owen’s help, he navigated around the main floor and paused for a moment to look up at Myfanwy where she was circling the water tower. “She’ll need feeding soon,” he murmured.

“I’ll take care of it when Jack gets back,” Owen said. “Stop stalling.”

“Not stalling,” Ianto retorted. “Resting.” He smiled over at Owen and continued to slow walk down to the bathroom where he took a few minutes to get cleaned up for bed. He leant on the sink and waited there while Owen rushed off, got his shake and brought it back. He frowned at both the drink and the medic before gulping it down as quickly as possible and handing the glass back. Ianto quickly set to work brushing his teeth to get rid of the chalky aftertaste while Owen returned the glass to the kitchenette. He finished just as Owen returned again.

“Let’s get you to bed, Teaboy,” Owen said. “You’re swaying where you’re standing.”

Ianto merely smiled and yawned in response. He accepted Owen’s help to get from the bathroom to the bedroom. As he stepped into the room, Gwen’s voice drifted out to him from further in the near the newly installed double bed.

“Your harem is ready, Your Highness,” she called.

“Gwen! The chief concubine is missing...” he trailed off with a small grin. “Not that we kept harems after about seventeen hundred.”

“I take it it's a harem of one?” Gwen asked. Her voice was joking-serious in tone. Tosh, from the other side of the bed, looked up. She looked intent on the conversation though she wasn’t joining in.

“It is indeed,” Ianto said. He nodded firmly. He moved away from Owen to sit on the edge of the bed. He started to bend down to take his shoes off, but Owen knelt down and did it for him.

“I’m glad for you,” Gwen said. She plumped a pillow one last time and leant over to kiss his cheek. “Now I better get on home to my harem of one.”

Ianto thought for a moment. He reached out and caught her hand. With his other hand, he reached into his pants pocket for the small round diamond he’d been carting about off and on since Marie’s arrival early that morning. He plopped it into Gwen’s hand and closed her fingers around it. “Here, take this with you,” he said. “You and Rhys might want it one day.”

Gwen opened her hand and her eyes went wide in shock as she saw the contents. “Ianto!” she cried. “I can’t take this. You have Mairwen to feed now and put her through Uni. On your salary, it’s not going to be easy.”

Ianto laughed. Even as tired as he was, he thought her protest was adorable. “Gwen, take it,” he said. “Trust me when I say money isn’t a worry.”

Gwen looked from him to the diamond and back again several times before closing her hand around it again and shoving it in her pocket. “All right,” she said. “Rhys’s eyes are going to pop. I think he’s been putting money aside for a ring. Maybe we can have bands made, too.” She bent down and kissed Ianto’s cheek again. “Thanks, Ianto.” She all but skipped out the door.

Ianto watched her go with a tired chuckle. He looked over at Tosh, shrugged, and started struggling his way out of his clothes. Soon, Owen was helping him change into a pair of loose fitting drawstring pants to sleep in. Once he was positive Gwen was completely out of earshot, he smiled impishly at his companions. “Think that will keep her eyes off my Jack?”

“Maybe,” Tosh said. “She sat around for a while after your mom… well, talked with us. She had this look on her face. I don’t expect her to change overnight, but I think your mother put some thoughts in her head.”

“Mama’s good at that,” Ianto said. “She certainly made me think a lot.”

Owen tossed the covers back. “In you go,” he ordered. As Ianto shifted to lie on the bed, Owen reached out, lifted an arm and stuck a small disk to Ianto’s side near his armpit. “There you go, all wired for the night.”

Tosh, in turn, pulled the duvet up over Ianto and kissed his cheek while she was leaning over him. “Sleep well, Ianto,” she murmured. “Tomorrow I’m going to start digging through UNIT’s files. We’ll see what’s what.”

Ianto frowned a bit. His mind didn’t want to stay focused on anything. Still, he snuggled beneath the covers and yawned again. “You sure you two aren’t part of the Suite?” he asked sleepily.

“The Suite?” Tosh asked softly.

Ianto nodded and forced his mostly closed eyes back open. “The Suite – the members of the Court closest to the Imperial Family – as opposed to the Household which was the servants.”

A giggle came from Tosh at his explanation. “I suppose tonight we are,” she said.

“You’d be the Frelina, or lady-in-waiting, Tosh, but poor Owen’s just stuck being the Personal Physician to the Tsar,” Ianto muttered.

“I always wondered what in the world they were waiting for,” Tosh replied. “Good night, Ianto, Owen.” She started toward the door, her heels announcing her departure to the exhausted Ianto.

“Do me a favor, Tosh?” Owen called after her. “Run by and pick me up in the morning? I might oversleep.”

“Good idea,” Ianto muttered. He then proceeded to crack his jaw yawning. “Ow, hate that,” he grumbled.

“Go to sleep, you idiot,” Owen said. “Doctor’s orders. I’ll be right here until Jack gets back.”

“Don’t wanna sleep without Jack,” Ianto said. He pouted, childish though it was, but he did it anyway. “I don’t want the nightmares to come back.” He then frowned at the sound of his own voice. “Shit, I am reverting to that bratty child.”

“No, you're just tired and in pain,” Owen said. “And for the record, a child with bad dreams is not being bratty if he doesn't want to sleep.”

Ianto stared hard at him and blinked sleepily. He watched as Owen turned on a small lamp beside the bed, turned off the overhead light and settled in an armchair next to the bedside table. He thought hard for a long time, his thoughts wandering about before settling again, and finally nodded to Owen. “I dreamt of the assassination earlier,” Ianto murmured. “I really don’t want to again.”

“You won’t,” Owen reassured. “Dream of your real parents, your real home.”

Ianto nods again. His cheek rubbed against the soft cotton of the sheets. He fought for all he was worth against sleep but did allow his eyes to drift closed even if he wasn’t actually asleep yet.

“Teaboy, you have more guts than some generals I've met,” Owen murmured. Ianto felt Owen’s fingers brush a bit of his hair off his forehead. “And every civil servant I've met.”

Ianto cracked one eye open enough to look at Owen for a moment. “Do not,” he murmured. “Night, Owen,” he whispered before curling up a bit in the bed and letting sleep reclaim him for the night.

 

Chapter Fourteen

Warm and amazingly comfortable, well, save for his very cold nose, Ianto drifted toward wakefulness. With a lazy shift of one shoulder, he pushed the duvet up the necessary inch or so to cover his nose and warm it. He knew he’d done it again. Curled up beneath every bit of the covers he could get in an effort to stay warm. He always did when he felt ill. His nose twitched, a prelude to a sneeze, and he twisted about to press his face in the pillow to muffle the noise only to groan softly when the threatening sneeze drifted away without materializing. He shifted about again, turning over onto his other side, and his nose was assaulted by a skin-shivering scent. He knew that particular smell; it was as addictive as coffee and twice as enticing. Ianto slowly opened first one eye and then the other before blinking them both in surprise. He’d been alone in bed when he’d fallen asleep watched over by Owen now he was sharing his bed, though he had the majority of the covers, with Jack.

The older man lay mostly on his back with his face turned toward Ianto. One hand held onto the edge of the bed sheet, apparently the only bit of the covers which Ianto left him, while the other rested on the pillow above Ianto’s head. Ianto smiled a bit. He knew, just knew, if he’d made a single sound of distress during the night he’d have woken with that hand on his back after Jack had attempted to sooth him. His gaze drifted over Jack from the soft strands of hair disarrayed across his forehead over his face to smile at the almost smile on Jack’s lips as he slept and lower over his bare chest down to the low slung black sleep pants just visible above the bed sheets.

Ianto freed an arm from his tangle of covers and reached across the space between them to slowly, cautiously rest his hand on Jack’s chest. He could feel the other man’s steady heartbeat beneath his palm while his hand shifted with every slow breath the other man took. He waited, all but holding his own breath, for a long silent minute until he was absolutely certain Jack wasn’t going to wake from that casual touch. Certain of Jack’s continued slumber, Ianto let his hand drift over Jack’s nearly hairless chest in loose sweeping circles. He wanted to touch, to know, this man who was his now. Not Gwen’s, not the Doctor’s, but his. He shifted on the bed, edging closer to Jack, but staying just far enough away that his morning erection wouldn’t brush against the older man.

He wanted more than those lazy caresses. He wanted to touch, to taste, to find out what things made Jack squirm with pleasure and want. He just wanted more; however, a nagging voice which sounded suspiciously like his mother kept lecturing him to get up and move away from Jack. He forced that voice way, down into the depths of his mind where it belonged, and kept his attention on his one hand, on the way his fingers kept finding their way back to one of Jack’s nipples. He wasn’t doing anything wrong. He knew that, yet all that early indoctrination kept screaming at him every time he let his mind drift the least little bit from its sharp focus on his hand. Ianto breathed carefully, slowly, and watched his thumb rub back and forth across that small bit of flesh until it hardened beneath the idle caress. He cared for Jack. He knew Jack cared for him. He was damned if he would allow his mother’s neuroses keep him from being happy.

A brief hint of a memory flashed across his mind. It was from one of the last times the whole family had been together in Livadia before the war had torn them all apart from one another. He’d been nine, maybe ten, and spied on cousin Dmitry through the garden roses. Ianto licked his lips, remembering what he’d seen Dmitry do to another cousin Felix, and wondered how Jack would react if he did the same thing to him.

He wanted, needed, to taste Jack and discover if he tasted as good as he smelled. He looked up at his - well, he supposed he couldn’t say almost lover anymore, not after what happened in the shower - and confirmed he was still asleep. Ianto watched Jack sleep for a bit before using his free hand, the one not involved in teasing Jack’s one nipple, to detangle himself from the twisted mass of covers. He edged that final little bit closer, looked up one last time, and then bent over Jack to just barely trace the edge of the older man’s nearer nipple with his tongue. There was no reaction to his action which reassured him that Jack still slept though a quick glance up through his lashes showed that his lover’s smile was a bit deeper now.

Ianto took in a breath and let it out on a soft sigh. He was surprised when Jack seemed to shiver afterwards; however, he ignored that little movement in favor of repeating that quick lick of Jack’s skin. A tiny hum came from him. Jack tasted better than he smelled. If he smelled of rich rare coffee, his taste reminded Ianto of the rarest of Belgian chocolates. He rubbed his cheek against the nearer nipple before stretching out across Jack to repeat the lick on the other nipple. Closing his eyes, Ianto tilted his head a bit, considering his options, and gave in to that tempting urge he’d had from his first taste of Jack’s skin. He wrapped his lips around Jack’s nipple and sucked on it for a moment before nipping lightly with his teeth just as he’d seen Dmitry do all those years ago. A soft sound, more a quickly indrawn breath than anything else, had him hastily lifting his head to see Jack staring at him from half-closed eyes. “Oh!” he gasped. “I’m sorry. I…”

“Don’t be, please,” Jack murmured. A soft smile played across his lips teasing an answering smile unwillingly from Ianto. “It’s a lovely way to wake up.

Ianto shook his head. “I shouldn’t have done it,” he whispered. He shifted his weight back to his knees and started to shift off of Jack’s nicely warm body. “So, I’m sorry,” he murmured.

Jack’s arm came around his shoulders stilling his movements away from his lover. Warm fingers caressed his back for a moment. “You can do anything you want to me,” Jack said quietly. “I give you free use of my body.”

“Jack!” he protested. He dropped his head down to rest on Jack’s chest. Automatically, he pressed a kiss to Jack’s skin over his heart before shaking his head. “I’ve about reached the limit of what I learned by spying on my cousins the few times I actually saw them.”

Jack’s fingers teased through his hair. The gentle caress made him hum softly. Those same fingers slipped beneath his chin to lift his head up so their eyes met. “Would you like to improve your education?”

“You know I would,” Ianto said. He could feel himself blushing deeply but ignored it in order to talk to Jack. “But do we have the time?”

“Victoria told me that if I didn’t call her with bad news, she would let Mairwen sleep in and breakfast before contacting us,” Jack said. His fingers returned to stroking through Ianto’s hair and along the side of his face. “When I sent him home last night, I told Owen to take Tosh, Gwen and even Rhys to eat before they showed up. He has his comm with him so if anything happens they can be here in minutes.”

“You’ve just thought of everything, hmm?” Ianto murmured. He absently leant into Jack’s idle caress. He absolutely loved being touched, even this seemingly casual touch, by Jack. He dropped his eyes from Jack’s to rest on his lips before lifting them again. “I just… I mean… dammit,” he said. He sighed in frustration. “I feel like an awkward child!”

“Don’t take this the wrong way, but when it comes to this you are not a child but a novice,” Jack said. “Awkward is a stage every teenager passes through. You’re just going through it a little later. It’s not really that unusual, Ianto.”

Ianto raised an eyebrow. He put every inch of his doubts into his expression before he finally replied to Jack. “I’m twenty-three,” he said. “You’d think I’d have a better idea of things than this!”

“Why?” Jack asked. His hand swept down Ianto’s spine again. He arched into the touch chasing the warmth of Jack’s skin on his. “Being a certain age doesn’t confer any kind of automatic expertise,” he said. “Sex is like anything else, Ianto, you have to practice to do it well.”

“I like to think I know everything, but I’m clueless,” he said. Ianto absently began to run his hand in circles on Jack’s side. Just for the soothing feel of the older man’s skin beneath his palm. “I wouldn’t even know where to start much less what to do first,” he said. “And I don’t think I could even go as far as you’d want to.”

Jack stared at him for a bit. There was something indefinable in his eyes. Ianto found himself mentally shrinking away from that look even though he didn’t physically move from his position half lying on Jack. Finally, just as he was about to break and question the older man, Jack spoke.

“All right, let’s clear the air here,” he said. “This isn’t a competition or a race. It’s play, Ianto.” Jack’s fingers teased the hairs at the nape of his neck. Ianto shivered and almost moaned in response. “It’s fun, hot and sweet, and sometimes the most intense experience in the world. It’s something you learn by experimenting but there are no exams,” Jack said. “Ever.”

“And violent, messy, immoral,” Ianto muttered back. He broke off and frowned. “Fuck, now I sound like Mother.”

“I’ll bet your real mother doesn’t think that way.”

Ianto stared at Jack for a moment before the mental light bulb dawned on him. Then, he was certain he turned the most amazing and impossible shade of red imaginable as he dropped his head on Jack’s chest and shook it. “Oh, don’t mention Mama and sex,” he grumbled. “Never ever mention Mama and sex.”

“Don’t tell me she read you a lecture,” Jack said. There was something light and teasing in Jack’s voice enough that Ianto chuckled around his embarrassment.

“No, she had Tad lecture me,” Ianto said. He refused to move from his position staring intently at Jack’s chest freckles. “After I stumbled across them in the stables one afternoon,” he muttered. He lifted his head a bit to give Jack and affronted look. “I did not need to see that!”

“Of course you did,” Jack said. “Ianto, it was normal! People act like that because people are genetically built to act like that. The only immoral, dirty thing is to turn sex into a weapon or a tool.”

Ianto considered his words for a moment. He shifted as he thought until he was straddling Jack’s legs. He dragged the duvet with him to drape over them both. He looked up at Jack for a moment. “Oh, I know that one, remember?” he asked. His voice dripped with hints of bitter sarcasm.

“We will not play those games, Ianto,” Jack said. His arms came up to wrap tightly around him. “I learned the hard way they lead to terrible things.”

“I’m sorry,” Ianto said. He nodded in response to Jack’s words even as he apologized. “I’m doing it again. Here we are doing something nice and I’m getting morose again.”

“The problem is you’re trying too hard,” Jack explained. “There is no right or wrong between consenting adults. Just consent.” He brushed his fingers over Ianto’s face, cupped his chin and made him look up at him again. “Do you consent, say, to kiss me?”

A smile settled on Ianto’s lips. He nodded eagerly. “Yep.”

“Do it, then,” Jack murmured.

Ianto considered for a moment longer and then moved to rest his hands on the bed on either side of Jack’s body. He crawled up the little bit that separated him from Jack’s lips, bent down and teasingly brushed Jack’s lips with his own before parting his to tease Jack’s with the tip of his tongue. He worked his way up to a full, passionate kiss before breaking it to drag in a much needed breath. “Now that,” he murmured, “I’m good at.”

“That you are,” a panting Jack said with a soft chuckle. “Now, do you consent to kiss my jaw and throat?”

Ianto chuckled a bit himself. “Uh huh,” he murmured. He pressed another, softer, kiss to Jack’s lips before trailing his down along Jack’s jaw until he could fasten his lips of Jack’s pulse and suck hard on the skin. He wanted to mark Jack as his, claim him in some tangible way as his own. He reversed his path back up to Jack’s lips and kissed him again. He stared into Jack’s eyes for a moment in silent question before nodding and kissing him again. Ianto just loved the taste of Jack and the way he so totally threw himself into their kisses.

He shifted his weight to rise up on his knees for a moment. The movement brought their hips together. A moan came from Jack as their cocks momentarily brushed each other before Ianto moved back down the bed a bit in order to bed and start kissing and nibbling his way down Jack’s throat to his chest. He rubbed his cheek against Jack’s skin, taking in the rich scent of his lover’s pheromones, and rested his weight on one hand in order to use the other to tease at Jack’s nipples. A quick look up through his lashes confirmed that Jack was clenching his jaw tightly. Ianto wondered why, but shoved the thought away for examination later.

Ianto kissed his way back to the spot which started this whole slightly confusing journey and again licked at Jack’s nipple. A deep moan escaped Jack. It was then he knew Jack was holding back slightly in favor of his inexperience, but he smiled anyway. He was certain he’d go crazy if Jack didn’t hold back that little bit. Ianto licked, nipped and teased at one nipple and then the other before he realized he wanted something else, something more, but didn’t quite know what he wanted or how to ask for it. Pulling away from Jack’s nipple with a hint of a pop, Ianto looked up at Jack. “Jack?” he asked softly.

“Tell me what you want, Ianto?” Jack asked. His voice was deep and husky. It sent shivers down Ianto’s spine. “You can ask me for anything.”

“I’m not sure how to ask,” Ianto replied. He hated being so uncertain, so inexperienced. On the other hand, if Jack's arousal was any guide, he didn't seem too disappointed with Ianto's efforts.

“Show me, then,” Jack said.

Ianto thought for a moment, nodded, and sat up a bit to toss the covers back out of the way. He wrapped his arms around Jack and all but ground against his lover. He thought hard around the muzzy mess his mind was in from the taste and scent of Jack; he shifted his weight and rolled them both over so that Jack was lying on top of him. He smiled up at the other man as Jack looked down at him in momentary surprise.

“Let me,” Jack murmured. “I know what you want.”

Ianto smiled up at him. He brought one hand around to cup Jack’s cheek and stroked his thumb over his lower lip. A low deep moan came from him as Jack caught the digit in his mouth and sucked on it, teased it with his teeth and tongue before releasing him. “Good,” Ianto panted. “Because I don’t, I just know I want it.” He shifted a bit to spread his legs and cradle Jack between them. The contact was delicious even as it made him want more. “Please, Jack…”

“Shh,” Jack murmured. He punctuated the slight order with a soft kiss which slowly deepened and lengthened. He broke it to trail kisses down Ianto’s neck and nuzzle beneath his ear. “Trust me.”

“Always,” Ianto breathed. He arched his neck to bare more skin for those teasing nibbles and light kisses until he couldn’t take anymore teasing and tugged Jack back up for another long leisurely kiss. “Always trust you,” he whispered as the first kiss broke and another began in its wake.

Ianto moaned into the kiss as Jack’s hands stroked over his skin. He barely registered touches, too intent on his exploration of Jack’s mouth. He broke their latest kiss with a startled gasp when he realized they were naked. Jack ground against him, their cocks rubbing against each other. He stared, wide-eyed and a bit shaky, up at Jack who merely smiled down at him before initiating yet another deep kiss. Ianto shifted, restless, until he could wrap his legs around Jack’s. “Oh, fuck,” he gasped.

A chuckle echoed around him. He couldn’t even fathom protesting the laughter. He felt too damned fucking good right then to care. He attempted to make a mental note to protest later; however, Jack moved again and all Ianto could do was moan in response to the action. He stopped thinking and just let his body react to everything Jack was doing to him. His hips rose to counter Jack’s thrusts against him.

“That’s it, velikolepnyĭ,” Jack murmured. His face pressed into Ianto’s neck. “Stop thinking, just feel…”

Ianto clutched at Jack’s shoulders before letting his nails drag down Jack’s back to clutch at his hips. He flung his head back with small cry. He was so close. This was so much more than their moment in the shower. He needed… wanted… and whined softly in frustration before grabbing at Jack’s hair and pulling Jack up to him for another desperate kiss. The thrust of Jack’s tongue in his mouth mimicked the thrusts of their bodies against each other. It was the final push Ianto needed and he tore away from Jack’s mouth to scream his name as his body tensed in pleasure before going completely limp and boneless beneath Jack.

Panting for breath, Ianto felt Jack still thrusting hard against him. He forced his eyes open just in time to watch Jack’s orgasm over take him. He couldn’t take his eyes off him. Jack, his head thrown back, mouth open as he gasped for air, a low growl rumbling from within his chest… he was the most beautiful thing Ianto had seen in his life and he’d seen some very beautiful things in his lifetime. Ianto watched, intent, as Jack relaxed and bowed his head to look down at him. He reached up and brushed his fingers over his lover’s cheek. “Wow,” he whispered.

“See,” Jack said. He grinned cheekily down at him. “Beautiful… Natural…” he said. He punctuated each word with a quick gently kiss before shifting off Ianto to lie beside him. One hand rested warm and heavy on Ianto’s chest.

Ianto chuckled softly and shifted a bit to look over at Jack with a teasing smile of his own. “I might need more convincing,” he murmured.

“Any time, cariad,” Jack replied.

Ianto stared at him. He just stared into Jack’s eyes as they steadily met his own. There was nothing hidden in those brilliant blue eyes, just a lot of love and lust, and again the one word, a simple endearment, echoed in his mind. Unable to stop himself, Ianto began to silently cry.

“Shh,” Jack said. For a moment, Ianto resisted as Jack pulled him across the bed and into his arms but then he realized he wanted to be held close by his lover and let the embrace happen. “It’ll be fine,” Jack murmured. Ianto felt Jack stretch out and arm, grab the discarded duvet and tug it over them. “Everything will be just fine. You’ll see.”

Ianto managed a hint of a nod, but didn’t bother to stop the tears that one word pulled from deep within him. He just burrowed closer to Jack and cried silently into his chest.

 

Chapter Fifteen

His hands worked by rote. Muscle memory led him through the steps of preparing coffee while his mind sorted through the myriad of things he needed to catch up on after a day and a half of being ill. Not that he’d been in the best of shape to begin with, since their abortive trip out to the Beacons; however, two days not working at all put him horridly behind his preferred schedule. Pouring coffee for himself and Jack, Ianto reached up into a cabinet, felt around behind some of the other supplies he kept there, and pulled out a packet of Jaffa cakes which he tucked into a pocket of his jacket. Ianto shut down the machine, picked up the coffee and headed for Jack’s office. “Coffee, Jack?” he asked by way of announcing himself.

“You are a lifesaver, Ianto,” Jack replied. He took the cup offered him with a soft smile and a lingering brush of their fingers together. The smile turned into a wide grin when Ianto pulled out the packet of biscuits and set them on the desk between them. “Ah. Coffee, chocolate, and Ianto. It's a wonderful morning.”

Ianto toasted Jack with his coffee cup and smiled in response. He tilted his head to the side and thought of the best way to approach a potentially volatile topic. Finally, he decided to tackle it head on. He reached for one of the Jaffa cakes, held it for a moment, and used it to point at Jack. “Since you had Owen take Rhys to breakfast with Gwen and Tosh, I think we should tell him about Torchwood,” he said.

Jack nearly spit his coffee across the top of his desk. He swallowed hastily while glaring at Ianto over the rim of his mug. “What in the he…,” he snarled. “What makes you think that’s a good idea, Ianto?”

Ianto leant back in his chair. He thought long and hard about the situation before answering Jack. Finally, his arguments mostly marshaled, he finished off his coffee and set the cup down on Jack’s desk. “From a purely practical standpoint, it will keep Gwen’s relationship from collapsing. She said last night that she thought Rhys was saving up for a ring which implies ‘permanent.’ Nothing destroys a relationship faster than one partner having to consistently and chronically lie to the other,” he said. Only in his mind, did he finish his statement, ‘believe me, I know.’

“And you think that’s enough to make me want to reveal all our secrets to a civilian,” Jack said. “If Rhys doesn’t love Gwen, warts and all, what the hell use is he?”

“He’s the reason she’s the ‘heart’ you call her so often,” Ianto retorted. He fought back the urge to grind his teeth together in frustration with Jack’s deliberate stubbornness. “He keeps her grounded. Are you trying to split them up, Jack? Do you enjoy the way she pants after you sometimes?”

Jack stared at him. His expression was full of shock while his eyes snapped anger across the width of the desk at Ianto. “What are you talking about?” he demanded.

It was Ianto’s turn to stare in shock. “You’re telling me you’re really that blind to her faults? That you never noticed her batting her eyes at you every chance she gets or flaunting herself to get your attention?” Ianto asked. He shook his head with a soft sigh. “Her behavior, and your constant allowing it, drives the rest of us insane.” He stopped for a moment and stared hard at Jack. He never broke his gaze from the older man. “It drives me insane.”

“It’s just flirting,” Jack scoffed. “She doesn’t mean anything by it. Neither do I.”

“You may not, Jack, but she does.” Ianto frowned at Jack. Why was the man being so stubborn about this? “Even Mama noticed it.”

Jack sat back in his chair again. He shook his head, leant forward and grabbed another cake from the desk. “I wondered what that was all about,” he said. “I still think this is too much about nothing. Gwen is not stupid.” He stopped and looked over at Ianto sternly. “She knows what’s good for her.”

"Rhys is good for her,” Ianto agreed. “But she wants the flash and adventure you represent to her. She wants the fantasy.” He shook his head again. “I think having Rhys know, not only about the team but what she does, will keep her relationship and herself stable. I'm certain that Rhys sometimes feels about you the way I do about her sometimes."

“Jealous, Ianto?” Jack said. He preened for a moment reminding Ianto of particularly irritating peacock at Peterhof before he slumped and shook his head. “I didn’t mean that. I don’t want you to ever feel jealous.”

"Too late," he said flatly. "She and I are in a competition for you. Owen's seen it. Tosh sees it. Hell, Mama has seen it. Yet you seem to think it's nothing and think nothing of the consequences to her, or I, for the way you act." He held up a hand. "I know I said I don't mind you flirting, and honestly, I don't... but there's flirting and then there's the way you act with Gwen. Think about it, Jack, you treat Gwen like you do me... and nothing like you do Tosh."

“I don’t know where this is coming from,” Jack said. He raked a hand through his hair. “I flirt with Gwen, yes, but I don’t kiss her. I don’t take her out to dinner. I sure as hell don’t make love to her.” Jack leant his head back against the back of the chair and closed his eyes. “I do have feelings for her, yes, but it has nothing to do with how I feel about you.” He dropped his head down to consider Ianto. “I’ve made my choice, Ianto, and I am, believe it or not, capable of being faithful. You told me your expectations and I accepted them. It’s us, Ianto, for as long as you’ll have me.”

“Forever,” Ianto whispered. He smiled at Jack’s shock but nodded. “I know you don’t understand, Jack,” he said. “It’s rather obvious sometimes, but you also aren’t listening. Gwen needs Rhys,” he said. “She needs to know that she can talk to Rhys about everything she does. She doesn’t need to lie to him about her work. We can get him to sign the Official Secrets Act. I highly doubt he’ll talk.” Ianto stared at Jack for a long silent moment. “I do believe you, Jack, about how you feel, but I really don’t want Gwen to go through something I did. She doesn’t deserve that frustration, the doubts and distance that come from lying to the person you’re involved with,” he explained. He thought for a moment and chuckled. “Oh, and Jack, you’ve never taken me out to dinner.”

Jack seemed to freeze. A harshly indrawn breath echoed between them. Looking into his eyes Ianto saw an old pain, a shadowed sorrow that told him so much about Jack's losses. And then, Jack was on his feet and circling the desk to his side. Ianto had no time to think as Jack swept him into a passionate kiss. The kiss broke and, with a completely adorable shy smile, Jack said, “So, Ianto, once you’re well… dinner, a movie?”

Ianto chuckled softly. He brushed his fingers down Jack’s cheek before gently pushing him away again. “Yes, Jack, I’ll go on a date with you,” he said. “Now, about Rhys…” he trailed off for a moment before giving Jack his most earnest look. “Jack, please understand, I don’t want to push you into anything but this I will. Don’t make Gwen go through with him what I did with Lisa.”

From his position leaning against the front of the desk, Jack thought and reached out to grasp Ianto’s hand. “Call her,” he ordered. “They might still be at breakfast. Tell her to bring him to the Hub.”

Ianto squeezed Jack’s hand. He used the light hold to pull Jack to him for a brief kiss before smiling gently at him. “Thank you, Jack,” he said. “I don’t want to upset you, but this…” He trailed off and shrugged at a loss to explain himself.

“Ianto, I care about you a great deal. If this will help make you feel more secure in me, in our relationship, then I'll do it.”

Ianto looked away. “You make me sound like a jealous child,” he said softly. “I want her to continue to have the stability she does now. The longer she's with Torchwood the harder things will be for her. There are things which having someone to talk to about them will be a great help...” he paused for a moment. “Especially when the nightmares come,” he finished tiredly.

“And they will, won’t they?” Jack said rather than asked. They both knew the answer to that question. Jack sighed tiredly, but nodded to Ianto. “We can’t avoid them, any of us.” A bright smile settled on Jack’s lips as he considered Ianto. “And I don’t think you sound like a jealous child. You sound like a man staking his claim.” Those full lips twitched a bit and tempted Ianto in for another quick kiss. “Sexy,” Jack murmured after the kiss broke.

“No, we can’t,” Ianto agreed. “It was one of the things driving me and Lisa apart. I can admit that now. We loved each other, but the fact I couldn't talk to her about my past or my nightmares consistently pushed us apart.” He smiled sadly at the memory before tilting his head and chuckling quietly. “I am so going to have to get that necklace for you. I even know what it will be. It's getting it that's going to take some work. Then you won't forget I staked my claim to you.”

“After this morning, you think I’m likely to forget?” Jack whispered.

Ianto blushed and dropped his gaze to the floor. After a very long minute where he could hear Jack fidget a bit, he looked up from beneath his lashes at him. “I don’t know, Jack,” he murmured.

“Never,” he said. His hand stretched out, fingers brushed through Ianto’s hair. “No matter what,” he murmured. Jack leant back again. He rested his weight on his hands which turned him into a very tempting sight for Ianto sitting in front of him. “Call Gwen,” Jack ordered again. “Let’s not lose this opportunity.”

Ianto smiled shyly, but nodded. He reached into a pocket, pulled out his mobile, and then pouted up at Jack. "I think I like your comm better than mine. It doesn't press against your skin. Mine still hurts." He tossed the comm on the desk beside Jack, flipped his mobile open and dialed Gwen. He absently started humming while waiting for her to pick up.

“Gwen!” Ianto exclaimed when she finally picked up the phone. “About time,” he said. He rolled his eyes at Jack’s vain attempts not to laugh at his side of the conversation. He couldn’t help it if he was happy to win the unannounced competition for Jack. Nor was he going to hide that he was happy. “No, no, nothing bad has happened. If it had, Jack would be paging Tosh and Owen right now.” He paused for a moment and laughed softly. “Is Rhys still with you?” he asked. He titled his head while he waited for an answer and then grinned broadly at Jack. “Oh good, bring him in with you when you come in."

Ianto pulled his phone from his ear and stared at it in shock. He couldn’t believe the volume of the shrieking coming through the line. He waited patiently for her to wind down before he brought the phone back to his ear. “Are you quite finished?” he asked. A soft laugh came from him. “Yes, just a bit much,” he said. “I promise not to sic Myfanwy on him, just bring him...” he trailed off and listened again. “No Retcon as long as he agrees to a few things.”

A few more pleasantries and he flipped the phone closed with a practiced snap of his wrist. He rose to his feet, tucked the phone into his pocket and reached for the abandoned coffee mugs. He’d no sooner wrapped his fingers around the handles then his phone began to ring. West End Girls echoed tinny in the office. He set the mugs down, reached for the phone, and glared at Jack as his lover cringed in response to the ring tone. “Not a word,” Ianto snapped. He pulled the phone out and flipped it back open. “Hello, Mama,” he said.

“No, I’m fine,” he continued. He rolled his eyes at Jack and started for the office door. “Jack was just making his opinion about something known,” he explained. He paused and leant against the doorframe and laughed gaily. “Yes, but I have a feeling it will be changing the first time I leave the thing unattended if the cringes where anything to go by. So where are you?” A happy grin settled on his face. “Of course, I’ll be right up to get you.”

 

Chapter Sixteen

Ianto clicked the key to open the cog door and stepped back to allow Marie and Victoria to enter the Hub ahead of him. He followed and waved a hand toward Jack’s office where the man himself stood in the doorway watching them enter.

“You two go catch up,” Victoria said. She waved her hand toward the main portion of the Hub while she headed off intercept Jack’s approach. “I need to talk to Jack.”

Ianto watched her move away before turning to Marie. “Any idea what she wants to talk to Jack about?” he asked. His sister just shrugged at him. Automatically, he stepped behind her and took her coat, draping it over an arm, and then considered her critically for a moment. Dark washed jeans paired with a lovely deep purple turtleneck with a bit of gold embroidery at the wrists. Long earrings, gold chains ending in purple beads, dangled from her ears to just brush her shoulders. Black patent pumps finished off the outfit. She looked lovely, yet completely uncomfortable, and he frowned a bit at her. “Mashka?”

“Alyosha,” she said softly. “Is this…?” she trailed off into silence. He watched her as much as possible while he carefully hung her coat up on the rack by the door. “What I’m wearing…” she began again. “Is it proper?”

“It’s fine,” he said. He came back to join her and took her hands in his to lift them up. He kissed the back of one, leant back and considered her again. “In fact you look lovely,” he murmured. “Why?”

“Mother would not have approved.”

“Mashka,” Ianto said. He led her over to the break area by Tosh’s station and seated her on the sofa before settling beside her. “Mother wouldn’t have approved of anything I’ve done for years. What did Mama,” he broke off and shook his head a bit. “Victoria, I mean, think?”

Maire started to giggle softly. Ianto delighted in that soft sound. He hadn’t heard it in so very long. He smiled in response to her. “She says I should buy a peasant skirt with gold embroidery so I can wear the sweater with boots when we go to London.”

Ianto leant back against the side of the sofa and considered her again. After a moment’s thought, he nodded to her. “She’s right,” he said. “That combination would look good on you.” He grinned happily at her. “And she’s going to spoil you rotten shopping in London after the holidays.”

“Is it all right?” Mashka asked. Worry colored her tone and he was ashamed of himself for bringing her back down after she’d been happily giggling with him. “I mean spending that much on clothes.” Her eyes went distant for a moment; no doubt remembering the many times she was given Tatiana or Olga’s outgrown dresses rather than new ones. “Yesterday, I bought four shirts, two pairs of jeans and three pairs of shoes. Plus four sweaters and the most beautiful…” she rapidly quieted, a dark blush coloring her cheeks.

Ianto felt himself blushing in response. He’d known, intellectually, that the girls would take Marie out shopping for lingerie as well; however, talking about it with her was another thing altogether. Still, he chuckled softly at her blush. “It’s fine,” he said. “Believe me, it’s fine. It took me over a year to be comfortable shopping myself.” He reached over and brushed her cheek with the backs of his fingers. “I know it’s hard samyĭ dorogoĭ, but there are no hand-me-downs here. You can wear whatever catches your fancy.”

“It’s hard to accept, yes?” she asked. “At first.”

“Amazingly,” Ianto said. “I went nuts for a while. I saw things I wanted, but was afraid to ask for even when my parents encouraged me to. I thought the only things I needed were those for school.”

At the mention of school, Marie suddenly started to bounce on the sofa. “Victoria says there’s an art shop in Wrexham. We’re going to go there right after the holidays and I can get my own supplies,” she said. Eagerness laced her voice. This was the sister he remembered from before the abdication, all smiles and laughter as she plotted how to get more things to paint and draw with from Papa. “She showed me some of her portfolio. She’s wonderful!” Marie smiled widely before calming a bit. “And she says that I must have my own laptop for editing. I don’t know if I can learn all this!”

“There is,” Ianto said. He smiled back. Some knot within him easing some as she spoke about his Mama. He nodded to her. “I think Mama keeps the shop in business sometimes, but it’s a wonderful place. Not exactly my kind of thing,” he said. He chuckled again. That was one area where he differed from his parents. Both did artistic things, he didn’t. “Yes, you will. It might take you some time, but you will learn. You were so much better than me at our lessons.”

“Is it right to feel so good about all this?” Mashka asked. Her concern and worry were clearly audible to Ianto. She looked away from him across the echoing expanse of the Hub. “Not having to be one of the grand princesses or a mere prisoner or whoever they expected me to be?”

“It’s perfectly fine,” Ianto said. He shook his head torn between exasperation and anger. Not with her, never with his sister, but with their birth parents and the Bolsheviks who made her so doubt herself. “In many ways, Mashka, we were never ‘royalty’ thanks to the way Mother raised us.”

“It feels wrong to be so happy when they are dead and…” Mashka broke off abruptly. She flung herself at him and wrapped her arms tight around his neck, nearly choking him, as she sobbed. “Oh, Alexei!”

Ianto caught her tight to him. He rubbed her back and sighed softly. A faint clatter behind him caused him to look over his shoulder at Victoria and Jack. He quickly shook his head to keep them from rushing over. “I know, Marie, I know,” he said. “But we’re not dead. Can you honestly think any of our sisters would want us to bury ourselves with them? To wither away until we’re dead, too?”

“No,” she agreed after a moment. She lifted her head and started to rub at her eyes with her sleeve only to give a watery giggle when he handed her a handkerchief pulled from his suit pocket. “No, they wouldn’t. Malenkaya would…” she trailed off clearly trying to remember something. “Malenkaya would kick our arses if we did. That’s what Gwen said about someone yesterday.” Marie considered him for a moment and tilted her head in question. “Not a polite expression, yes?”

“Not really,” Ianto said. “But often an apt one.” He kissed her cheek and brushed her hair back from her face. “Marie, I…” he trailed off. “I need to know where you want to stay until I can get a bigger flat for us.”

“Victoria wants me to stay with her,” Marie said. “I wouldn’t mind, except, well, what if she doesn’t…” she stopped speaking and shook her head. “I have to start thinking differently.” She looked back at Ianto. Her voice was steadier and firmer when she spoke again. “I can stay with her until you find something suitable for us.”

“Talk to me, please,” Ianto begged. He hated when she trailed off like that. The one thing he truly wanted was for his Mama and his favorite sister to get along. He wanted Marie to always be his sister even in this time. “I…” he paused and swallowed before finishing, “Mama won’t push you, I know that, but…” he trailed off. He was frustrated with himself both for being frustrated with her and for his inability to explain himself. “Dammit, Marie…”

“I'm trying!” she snapped. “It's hard to stop thinking the way I was taught. I keep thinking what if I'm not good enough? What if she stops caring because I'm not a good girl? My head knows it's not like that, but my heart doesn't! Not yet!”

“I’m sorry.” Ianto nodded. He understood. He truly did. He’d gone through it years before himself. “I want you to like her. I want…” he trailed off, blushed and shook his head. “Well, I should have thought you were still thinking all the things Mother imprinted on you. I was just as bad when I got to this time.” He looked at her for a long moment, reached out and gently hugged her to him. “I’m the one pushing, aren’t I?”

“Yes, you are,” she agreed. He pouted at her; she giggled softly in response. “Just don’t stop. I don’t want to live my life looking back at who I was. Her Imperial Highness is gone and good riddance to her,” she said. She nodded once, firmly, and smiled. “I want to be Mairwen Jones. A simple artist from a good Welsh family. That’s right, isn’t it?”

“Yes, that’s right,” Ianto said. “I suppose I need to stop calling you Mashka or Marie and start using Mairwen.” He hugged her again and kissed her temple. “I have to remember who I was, but you… you have a complete new start.” He grinned at her. “You can finally have that husband and dozen children you always talked about without worrying over anything other than if you love the man you marry.”

“I’m not ready for that yet, but…” she paused for a moment. “What about… you know?”

“Um… what?” Ianto asked. He frowned playfully at her. “I can’t read your mind, sis.”

“The illness,” she said. “I could pass it on to my children.”

Ianto hit himself in the forehead. He felt really stupid for not thinking she’d be concerned over that especially after his attack within hours of her arrival. “Oh!” he said. “Owen has a way to fix that using some of the tech Torchwood’s acquired over the years. He’s already started working on it.”

“Babies?” she asked. Her eyes were wide; her expression a mix of shocked and hopeful. “I could have babies?”

“Yep.” Ianto laughed happily. Marie had always loved children. Some of his earliest memories were her taking care of him and some of their cousins whenever she was allowed near the babies. “Lots of kids for me to spoil and give right back to you,” he said. He would have added more, but a soft beep from Tosh’s computer interrupted the conversation. Giving Marie an apologetic glance, he rose, crossed the few feet separating him from the computers, and accessed the CCTV on the Plass. He looked over at Marie and, with a jerk of his head, called her over to join him. “Watch this,” he murmured.

He tapped a few commands into the machine to activate the invisible lift thereby allowing Gwen and Rhys entrance into the Hub. As soon as he heard the mechanism move back and start their descent, he typed in the necessary commands to release Myfanwy from her aerie. Her scream of pleasure as she swooped by the lift was echoed by Rhys’s startled shout and his sister’s little squeak beside him. “That’s Myfanwy,” he explained to Marie. “She’s essentially our mascot and pet.”

“No, she’s your pet, Teaboy,” Owen snapped. He came in the cog door with Tosh and grinned at Ianto and Marie. “I expected Jack to do the showing off not you.

“You said it yourself, Owen,” Tosh said. She passed Owen and smiled at Ianto when he pulled out her desk chair for her. “It’s his pet. Why shouldn’t he show it off?”

Ianto rolled his eyes even as he blushed deeply in response to the teasing. He realized even as it embarrassed him, particularly when his sister began giggling at him, that he was enjoying the teasing. Finally, after months, he was being treated as just another member of the team even if it took him spilling his deepest secrets and getting badly ill in order to get in with them. Still, out of desperation to escape the giggling women, he asked, “Coffee?”

“No,” Owen said before anyone else could speak. “Autopsy,” he added. He pointed a finger in the appropriate direction. “Check up time.”

“I feel fine,” Ianto protested. He pouted at Owen which set the two women closest to him into further laughter. He looked back across the Hub even as he turned toward the autopsy bay. “Gwen!” he shouted. “I need to talk to you!”

“I don’t care how you feel,” Owen snapped. “I need to check all your vitals, so move!” A stern finger was pointed toward the medical room.

“I’m going, I’m going,” Ianto said. “I feel fine, though. Hell, I've never felt this good in my life!"

“Good for you, Teaboy,” Owen replied. “Now, I want to make sure you're as good as you feel. Don't argue with me with early in the morning, OK? The sooner you're off the table the sooner I can get my coffee!”

“I offered you coffee first,” Ianto said. “You wanted to do this instead so don’t blame me for your lack of caffeine.”

Somehow his sister managed to control her laughter enough to actually talk again. “Stop arguing, Ianto,” she said. “I don’t think you’re going to win this one!” She broke back into giggles afterwards.

Ianto paused in his leisurely walk and looked back at her. He shook his head and growled playfully back at her. “I know I’m not, but I’m not giving in easily,” he said. “Send Gwen along when you see her?”

“I will,” Marie said. She pointed an imperious finger of her own toward the autopsy room where Owen had already gone ahead. “Go, go!” she ordered. “Maybe Tosh will give me my first computer lesson while we wait for you. Gwen says she’s the best.”

“She is,” Ianto replied. “She can do things with that computer which are positively obscene.” He thought for a moment and smirked. “Oh, Tosh, usually marriage.”

He watched as his friend thought for a moment, a confused expression on her face, even as he waved Marie to a chair beside her own. He actually saw the moment she put together what he was talking about. She frowned and shook her head. “How boring for them,” she said finally.

“I know,” he agreed with a grin. “And I know, stop stalling.” Both women nodded firmly. Rolling his eyes and grumbling under his breath, he headed into autopsy and down the stairs. “I’m here, Owen.”

Owen’s hand patted the table. Ianto hopped up on it and attempted to wait patiently while Owen scanned him, fiddled with the equipment and repeated the scan again. Then, repeated it again after some more fiddling. “I need Jack to see this,” he said finally.

“Jack’s showing off around the place, but call him,” Ianto said. “And Gwen, I need to ask her not to do something yet.”

Showing that she seemed to have either amazingly good or amazingly bad timing, depending on your point of view, Gwen bounded into the room to lean on the railing over the pit. “Mairwen said you wanted to see me?”

“Yup,” Ianto said. He shared a look with Owen and laughed a bit. “Don’t tell Rhys about Mairwen and me yet. We don’t want to overwhelm him,” he said. “Plus, I’d like to see how he manages the secrecy around Torchwood before we drop that information on him.”

“Don’t worry,” Gwen replied with a nod. “One shock at a time, I think.”

“Best idea,” Ianto agreed. “If he asks about the diamond, just tell him we’re from a wealthy Welsh family. It’s true as well.”

“Okay.”

“Thanks, Gwen.” Ianto smiled up at her. All of them looked toward the arched opening to the autopsy bay when Rhys’s bellow – “Aliens? In Cardiff?” – echoed down to them. Rolling his eyes, Ianto slid off the autopsy table and started for the stairs. “I think Jack just gave Rhys the explanation.”

“Oh, God,” Gwen moaned. “I better get up there.”

“We’ll come, too,” Ianto said. “I have a feeling I may need to mediate this one since I’m the one who got Jack to agree to this.”

“Game, set and match to the Teaboy,” Owen whispered.

“Hush!” Ianto hissed back. He pointed at the scanner Owen still held in one hand. “You bring that along,” he ordered. He headed upstairs and followed Gwen across the Hub to where Jack and Rhys now squared off by the invisible lift. “Jack…” he called.

“Do I show off?” Jack demanded. “I mean…”

“Just a bit,” Ianto said. He rested a hand on Jack’s arm. “Go talk to Owen. He saw something he couldn’t explain on the scanner. Let me deal with Rhys.”

Jack stared at him. He stared right back. On this topic, he wasn’t backing down. Gwen, who was currently talking eagerly with the other women in the room, needed Rhys to support her and her decisions. The only way Rhys could fully do so is if the Welshman knew and understood what Torchwood was and why it existed. They silently stared at each other for several minutes before Jack finally nodded, took Owen’s arm and started back toward the medical bay with a stern, “Talk to me.”

Ianto watched Jack for a minute. He looked over at Rhys, back at Jack and made a snap decision. He took a few steps away from Rhys, reached out and caught Jack’s arm. He tugged gently and, when Jack turned back to face him, took another step forward, rested his hand on Jack’s cheek and soundly kissed him. A soft gasp echoed in the room, Ianto was certain that was Marie, but it was the strangled little sound which became a low throaty moan from Jack which held his attention. When the need for air overwhelmed his urge to publicly stake his claim to Jack, Ianto broke the kiss to smile at Jack.

Jack shook himself a bit, smirked, nodded and then started off again after Owen toward autopsy. Ianto watched him go with a smirk of his own and then returned to where Rhys stood. “Would you like some coffee?” he asked. He fought down the somewhat childish urge to wave his hand in front of Rhys. “Coffee?”

“Yeah,” Rhys muttered absently. “That’d be great.”

Ianto managed, barely, to keep from rolling his eyes. He knew he’d been right to be concerned over Gwen and Rhys’s relationship; however, he hadn’t expected his kissing Jack to throw Rhys into such a state of confusion. “You’ll have to tell me how you take it,” he said.

“A little cream,” Rhys muttered. “No sugar.”

Ianto nodded and smiled. “Come on, then,” he said. He gently turned Rhys toward the kitchenette, headed off and was soon sorting mugs before starting to work on the coffee. “We’ll talk technical stuff while I make it.”

“I think I’m out of my depth here,” Rhys replied. “Unless you’re planning to talk about lorries.”

Ianto chuckled softly. He cast a glance at Rhys out of the corner of his eye. The man was taking this much better than Ianto had expected. “At least now I can call you up on the occasions when we need one and likely get it,” he said with another soft chuckle. He sobered and set to work on the coffee. “No, I mean the technical legal stuff to protect us and Gwen.”

“I figure this is die-before-reading stuff, right?” Rhys asked. “Aliens?”

“Pretty much,” Ianto confirmed. “And yes, aliens, though we occasionally get people or things falling through time as well. Myfanwy is a prime example of that.”

“A dinosaur,” Rhys murmured. He peered up at where Myfanwy was still circling the tower. “When I was a kid, I used to ask Santa to let me see a dinosaur. Every year until I was nine or so.”

“Pterodon, technically, but yes,” Ianto said. “She’s part watchdog, part pet and part mascot.” He tiredly rubbed at his face for a moment. “I know you were likely worried Gwen was lying to you about what her job was so I convinced Jack to bring you in and tell you. Before you leave today, I’ll need you to sign the Official Secrets Act.” He turned to face Rhys with his most serious expression on his face. “No one can know about what Torchwood actually does,” he said. “Most everyone is told and accepts that we’re a division of Special Operations.”

“Sounds less loony that way anyway, really,” Rhys agreed with a smile. “And it wasn’t just the job I was worried about.” An embarrassed look settled onto his face. “She was always gushing about Jack, but wouldn’t tell me anything. It worried me a bit.”

Ianto nodded and handed Rhys his coffee. “It does and it’s more easily accepted.” He fixed his own mug but left a pot of coffee for the team to come up and get their own when they were ready for it. “Score one for me as Owen would say,” he said. He smiled over the rim of the mug, sipped, and sighed as he lowered it. He did love well made coffee. “I suspected she might have done that. You can rest easy on that one. No matter how much she gushes, Jack is…” he trailed off for a moment. “Well, to be blunt, Jack is mine.”

“And you’re welcome to him, the git,” Rhys said. He toasted Ianto with his coffee mug. “Sorry, I’m sorry. I’m sure he has some redeeming qualities.”

Ianto threw his head back laughing. “It’s okay,” he said when he calmed again. “He does. He just wasn’t happy that I pushed him into telling you. I brought up something that pains both him and I in my argument for this.”

“As long as you’re keeping him, it’s all good.”

“Oh, I’m definitely keeping him,” Ianto said.

“All right then,” Rhys said. He handed the mug to Ianto and grinned happily when Ianto refilled it before handing it back. “What’s this thing you want me to sign?”

“Standard non disclosure and 'don't talk or we'll make your life hell' forms." Ianto nodded to the nearby conference room. “In there,” he said. “I have them all set out for you.” He considered for a moment before deciding to put a little seed in Rhys’ mind with an eye to the future. “In a way, I'm also being a bit devious. Not only can Gwen now talk to you about what she does and have someone to listen when she has a bad day, but when you or the drivers who work with you see something odd around Cardiff, you can tell her. We can look into it.”

“So this is a way to get unpaid staff, is it?” A merry grin showed Rhys’ was teasing. “I ought to report you to the Labor Minister or something.”

“No, it's my way of softening Jack up to the idea of maybe one day putting you on freelance status. Trust me, now that he knows he has a lorry driver in the know...” he trailed off with a grin of his own. “You'll come to hate us calling up going – ‘We need a lorry capable of carrying...’ - at oddball hours."

“I don't know about that,” Rhys said. “I wouldn't be any good at this.”

“It's just there as a thought. We need good support people as well now which is more what I saw you as... what with the lorries... and I hear the best home cooking in Cardiff.”

“Driving and cooking,” Rhys said, “That I can do.”

“That's great,” Ianto said. He offered Rhys a pen and nodded to the papers on the table. He settled into his seat cattycorner to Rhys and watched the other man. Rhys set aside his mug, opened the folder Ianto had left out and began to slowly and carefully read each page tucked inside. The mere fact that he was taking the time to read the paperwork rather than merely accept Ianto’s word as to what it was raised the other man another notch or two in Ianto’s mind. Rhys may have been just your average Welshman; however, Ianto suspected there were hidden depths to the man. “I may be the general support man, but I can't cook. I never learned.”

“I suppose you had a cook,” Rhys said. He looked up from the paperwork for a moment. “That thing you gave Gwen didn't come from someone who grew up in Splott.”

“More than one,” Ianto said absently. “I grew up in Wrexham.” He considered for a moment and shrugged a bit. “That’s a Siberian diamond, Rhys, not a thing.”

“Well, wherever it came from, it made Gwen giddy,” Rhys said. He went back to reading the pages and, as he reached the appropriate spaces, initialing them. “And it means I can have it set into a good gold band for her and still have some cash for a decent honeymoon. So, thanks.”

“She about bounced out of here after I gave it to her,” Ianto said. He smiled a bit at the memory of Gwen skipping out of the Hub the night before. “And you’re welcome. Owen’s supposed to give me the name of a good jeweler. Want me to pass it along to you?”

“Sure,” Rhys said. He considered the papers again before he started signing the last ones. “That’s one of those things I don’t know a thing about,” he said, “expensive jewelers.”

“Join the clueless club,” Ianto said. “I don’t know either.” He accepted the folder of paperwork from Rhys, flipped it open long enough to confirm the signatures were in the right places, and offered Rhys a hand which was quickly taken and shook. “Welcome to Torchwood, Rhys.”

“I don’t know about that,” Rhys retorted, “but thanks.”

Ianto nodded to the window and the lower floor beyond it. “Go,” he semi-ordered. “Tell her you’re official.” He smiled at the other man. “I’ll take these to Jack to countersign and all that boring stuff he hates.”

“That’s the only job I’m never doing around here, mate,” Rhys said. “No matter how much you plead.”

“I have ways of getting him to do paperwork,” Ianto said with just a hint of a smirk.

“I have a feeling that’ll fall under way too much information,” Rhys retorted. “Let’s just get down there and see what’s what.”

Ianto laughed again, opened the door for Rhys and waved him toward the stairs while he stopped off to get a mug of coffee for Jack and refilled his own. Idly, he wondered if they would be telling Rhys the truth his heritage and lineage or if Rhys would be telling them first. He also wondered how long it would take Rhys to figure it out on his own as he honestly thought Rhys would sooner than they would be willing to tell him themselves.

 

Chapter Seventeen

Ianto scanned the lower floor for a moment. Not seeing Owen or Jack, he quickly realized that both men were still together in the autopsy bay going over the results of that scan. He set the folder with Rhys’ paperwork in it down, grabbed a tray, and fixed up coffee for everyone since he had to pass the gathered group on his way to join Owen and Jack. He counted mugs, sighed, and went back to the conference room for Rhys’ mug. With the proper number of mugs now arranged, he lifted the tray, tucked the folder beneath, and headed downstairs. Ianto paused next to Tosh’s desk and smiled at everyone. Rhys and Gwen both took their mugs from the tray. Ianto set Tosh’s on her desk before handing one mug to his Mother with a soft smile. Then, he offered Marie one. “You promised to try my coffee,” he murmured to her.

“I did,” she said. She took the mug and sniffed at the contents before taking a small sip. A very pretty smile settled on her lips. “Nice,” she murmured.

Ianto all but preened in response before nodding to everyone and heading for the autopsy bay. He set the tray on the currently empty table handed the folder to Jack along with a pen. He chuckled softly at Jack’s pout but kept one hand firmly on Jack’s coffee mug until the papers were signed with a flourish and offered back to him. Only then did the coffee get handed over with a quick kiss as accompaniment. He looked over to hand Owen’s to him only to discover the medic had his already so Ianto set the paperwork on the tray and took his own mug off. “So, what was on the scanner?” Ianto asked.

“What we found is that your internal organs show almost no signs of damage,” Owen said. He sipped at his coffee. “The bone in your joints is being reconstituted. All your vital signs are…” he paused, thought and finally shrugged. “I don’t even know how to describe what they are doing.”

“So, regenerating?” Ianto asked. He raised a brow in question. “Sort of?”

“I don’t even know what that means in a human context,” Owen said. “But yes.”

Ianto nodded. He sipped at his own coffee in silence for a bit and then nodded yet again. “Better than dying, I suppose,” he said philosophically. “And what do you think, Jack?”

“I don’t know what to think,” Jack said. He leant back against the wall of the autopsy bay. He crossed his arms, uncrossed them and finally gave his coffee mug a death glare in frustration. “The one thing Owen didn’t mention was your genes are now about thirty percent Gallifreyan. There was massive replacement at first, but the rate has slowed down. My guess is it will stop as soon as all of your damaged DNA is gone.” He took a long drink of his coffee. “This is completely uncharted territory, Ianto.”

“So, in essence, I’m not dying anymore from Yvonne’s stunt nor am I a hemophiliac, but we have no clue what I am now?” Ianto said.

“That is an exact description, yes,” Owen said.

“Like I said, better than dying,” Ianto said. “I guess this means lots of tests with Owen until we figure it out.” He half smiled and gave a tiny chuckle. “Shame the Doctor wouldn't practice some of his amazingly unuseful timing right now and show up. He'd likely know the answers we need.”

“Don’t even think about it,” Jack said. “I want this, whatever is happening, completely and utterly irreversible before we face him.”

“Expecting a lecture from him, then?” Ianto asked. He inclined his head, stared intently at Jack, and finally nodded in response to that hard stare he received in return. “If my DNA is still shifting, what are the chances of it being completely converted over to Gallifreyan?”

“I would say the change will stop well before that,” Owen said. “But the ratio of human to Gallifreyan is still up in the air.”

“We can’t be certain?” he asked.

“We can’t be certain of anything,” Owen snapped.

“All right,” Ianto said. “Is there anything we do need to worry about?”

“Only the Doctor,” Jack said. He took a step away from the wall to set his coffee mug down. “I don’t trust his reaction.”

“What’s the worse he can do? Kill me?” Ianto snarked. “All of Torchwood’s records say he detests violence and weapons.” He considered Jack for a long moment. “So, aside from the Doctor, what do we need to worry about?”

“Well, if you start growing a second heart, we need to scream for help,” Jack said. “Other than that, not really.”

“How exactly would we scream for help from him?” Ianto retorted. “There’s no known way to get hold of him.”

“There are ways,” Jack said. He looked a bit desperate for a moment. “I hope,” he muttered.

“Very well,” Ianto said. He realized as soon as he spoke that he was starting to sound like his Uncle Nikolasha. He firmly squashed both that train of thought and that mannerism. He finished off his coffee and set the mug down on the tray. “Now, I…” he paused. He thought for a bit and shook his head. “Do we tell Mama or Marie yet? Or do we wait until this is finished first?”

“That is up to you, but a lot of details about the Doctor’s existence are even more confidential then Torchwood,” Jack said.

“That is a point,” Ianto conceded. “I don’t think we should tell them unless my condition changes drastically. They only really need to know that the hemophilia is now properly cured and the damage Yvonne made in her attempts has been corrected.”

“That is best, I think,” Jack said.

Ianto glanced from Jack to Owen and received a nod of agreement from the medic. He sighed softly, reached for the tray and held his hand out for Owen’s mug. He added it to the tray, lifted it and started for the stairs. Soon, he knew, it would be time for Marie and his Mama to make their goodbyes if they wanted to get up to Wrexham before the worst of the holiday travel delays hit; however, he really didn’t want to say goodbye yet. He’d missed them both dreadfully. Marie more – because he’d long thought her dead – but also Victoria. He’d not spent any time with his parents since before the Canary Wharf disaster.

Once upstairs, Ianto set the tray down on a handy table and headed for the armory. He swiped his card, stepped inside and grabbed up one of the spare Torchwood mobiles. He quickly checked the charge, grabbed up the charger as well, and tucked it into his pocket while he programmed his personal mobile number into the phone. Carrying both over to Marie, he tugged her a bit away from the gossiping group and set the phone and charger in her hand.

“I know you’re worried about staying with Mama. So, take this with you,” he murmured. “This is the charger, plug this end into the phone and the other into the wall,” he instructed while showing her how. He smiled at her nod and flipped the mobile open. He slowly brought up the contacts list and pointed out his number. “That’s my own mobile and this is the number here. You need me, you call me, okay?”

She stared at him for a long moment. Ianto worried a bit about her response but she finally nodded to him. “Fine,” she murmured. “But I’ll be okay. You said you’d come up as soon as you were free to,” she reminded him. She stepped around him and went for her coat where she put the phone away in a pocket.

He followed her. “Marie, I…” he paused. After a moment, when she looked at him in question, he reached out and pulled her to him in a tight hug. “I’m sorry. I’m being a bit of a brat, but I’ve missed you so much. I hate that I have to send you away even for this little while and even if it’s to the place I think of as home.”

Marie rested her head on his shoulder. She hugged back and then stretched up to kiss his cheek. “You’re being protective,” she said. “I understand that, Alexei.”

He slowly released her and took her coat. He shook it out a bit and held it for her to slip on. He kissed her cheek again before turning about to look for Victoria. He wasn’t the least bit surprised to find her standing right next to him. Ianto took her coat from her, helped her with it, and then hugged her as well. He didn’t care that all of the team, including Rhys, was standing there watching him. He just wanted to hold her for as long as he possibly could before he had to let her go. Finally, he forced himself to let go and step back from Victoria. He caught her hands in his, lifted them and kissed the backs before stepping close again and kissing her cheek. “Love you, Mama,” he murmured in her ear before he straightened again. “I’ll see you as soon as I can get away.”

Victoria merely smiled at him. Her eyes were a bit watery, but nothing else betrayed her emotions. She reached over and wrapped an arm about Marie. She hugged his sister to her side offering silent support as they waited for Jack to come bounding back down from his office with the SUV keys in hand. Ianto rolled his eyes a bit at Jack, took the greatcoat down from the rack and helped Jack don it. He watched, silent, as the threesome headed out the cog door. Only after they left did he sigh tiredly and turn to pick up the paperwork needing to be filed in Jack’s office. Work would provide a decent distraction from his emotions for a while.

"Teaboy, go home," Owen said. He snatched the folder from Ianto's hands. "And take Jack with you, for goodness sake."

"Owen," he snarled and snatched the folder back. "I can't...” he trailed off. He couldn’t leave and he certainly couldn’t take Jack with him if he did. The team couldn’t afford to be without both of them. “What about the Rift?” he demanded.

“Gwen, Tosh and I can handle it for a few days,” Owen said. He took the folder back again. This time he handed it to Tosh who stacked it at the bottom of her pile of current reports to go to Jack when she was finished with them. “Especially now that we have someone to cook and fetch coffee,” he added.

“I’m sure Rhys will love the extra income,” Gwen added from her workstation. She giggled a bit at his surprised look. She looked up at Rhys where he was avidly watching her work and smiled at him before continuing, “Owen’s right, Ianto. You and Jack need a break.”

Ianto sent an appealing glance at Tosh, but she merely nodded in agreement with the others. He shook his head and rested his hands on his hips. “You can’t really afford to be without both of us for any length of time and you all know it,” he snapped.

“Don’t be silly, Ianto,” Tosh said. She swung her chair about to smile at him. “We can manage for a week or two. If we really need you, we can call.”

Ianto ran a hand through his hair. “We'll be hours away in North Wales,” he protested yet again. “Besides, I have a hell of a lot to do to get things I need to do here. Or have you all forgotten I need a new flat among other things?”

“Okay, give over,” Gwen said. She gave him a stern look which disturbingly reminded him of Tatiana at her most overbearing. “Why are you making excuses?”

“How do you know they are excuses?” he retorted.

“Because you sound terrified of the idea,” Tosh said.

“That would be because I am terrified,” Ianto conceded. “By now, Tad’s back from his conference in the States. Mama will get home with Marie. She’ll settle her in and proceed to tell him everything.” He swallowed hard. “And then I show up with Jack. Do you have any idea of their reaction? This would be the first time I took anyone home to meet them. I never even took Lisa to visit.”

“But this will be the perfect opportunity, don’t you see?” Gwen half-asked, half-said. “Mairwen will be the center of attention. Victoria has already met Jack.”

“And read him the riot act, if his face when he came out of his office was anything to go by,” Tosh added.

“Tad hasn’t yet,” Ianto said. He grabbed a chair and dropped down into it. “But he was always more reasonable then Mama, so maybe it’ll work.”

“So it’s all set,” Owen said. He spun his chair about with a grin. Anyone would have thought he’d sorted it out all by himself. “You can leave tonight and be home before midnight.”

“No, Owen,” Ianto said. “There are things to do here first, so we couldn't leave until tomorrow evening.”

“Why not until tomorrow, Ianto?” Gwen asked.

Ianto leant back in his chair. He swung it about a bit with one foot so he could face her. “You’ll think me silly,” he said softly. He watched them all turn around to face him, varying shades of disbelief on their faces, and ducked his head a bit though he continued to watch them all from beneath his lashes. “Even ignoring the fact that this would be the first time I ever took anyone home to the Lodge, which is reason enough for me to be on edge, there’s this tradition…” he trailed off into silence.

“What tradition, you berk?” Owen demanded.

“Mama’s Scottish, Owen,” Ianto said. “She celebrates Hogmanay. There's a bit of a tradition that to have good luck for the house, the first visitor after midnight on the New Year should be a dark man bringing whisky and shortbread." He looked at them all and shook his head a bit tiredly. He ran his fingers through his hair with a soft sigh. “If I make enough excuses and delay us enough, then I can get Jack there as Mama's first visitor of the year.”

“That sounds wonderful, Ianto,” Gwen gushed. She leant back in her own chair so her head rested against Rhys’ stomach. “Is there anything we can do?”

Ianto considered for a moment and then nodded. “Come up with ways to ensure we don't leave until tomorrow evening? And I need to find the right gifts for us to take up for Mama,” he said.

“The first part is easy,” Tosh said. She offered him a printout which he took with a questioning look. “Here's a list of flats that fit your requirements that will be available for showing tomorrow. Tell Jack you want to look at a few of them.”

He looked down at her list. It was fairly comprehensive and took into consideration his somewhat traditional tastes. “You’ve been busy,” he murmured. “Thank you.”

“Ianto, I know you,” Tosh said. She gave him a sly smile. “You would spend tons of time dithering about the perfect place. Easier to limit your choices.”

“I’m likely going to dither anyway,” he replied.

“Yes,” Tosh agreed, “But fewer choices mean less dithering!”

“You’re right, you do win there,” he agreed. “So the rest? And convincing Jack to go along with this…” he paused for a moment. “The trip away, I mean.”

“You're being stupid again, Tea Boy,” Owen interjected. “Jack wouldn't let you out of his sight at this point. Especially since your primary care doctor, namely me, won't be around check your vitals every six hours.”

“Every six hours!” Ianto protested. He glared at Owen wondering if the man was making that up as a reason for Jack to come along or was he really intending to look at him that often. “Owen!”

“It's a scan, Ianto, not a shot!” Owen retorted. “And think about it. I tell Jack it would be a good idea if you get some rest in the bosom of your loving family but your vitals really need to be tracked, and...” he trailed off suggestively. “Off the two of you go.”

“And I thought I was devious,” he replied. He looked at each of them individually for a long moment. “You're certain you can manage without us for a while?”

“Yes!”

“All right, all right,” Ianto soothed after the shouted chorus’s echo finished assaulting his ears. “There was no need to shout.” He laughed, shook his head and rose to his feet. He folded the printout from Tosh and placed it into his pocket for safekeeping. “Since you all have this planned out for us, I’ll just go wait in Jack’s office for him to return so I can inform him of our upcoming vacation.” He gave them all a tiny pleased little smile. “Is that acceptable to everyone?” he teased.

“Yes!” His teammates, plus Rhys, chorused at him.

Rolling his eyes at their antics, Ianto headed off to settle in Jack’s office to await his lover’s return. Idly, he wondered how Jack would handle not only meeting his family, but staying for a bit of a visit. A tiny smile settled on his lips as he sprawled in Jack’s desk chair. He tugged out the printout to look it over while he waited, but ended up tapping it against his lips while he thought. He didn’t know how long he sat there lost in thought about the things he wanted to show Jack, to do with Jack, when they were at the Lodge. A soft sound from the doorway interrupted a particularly vivid fantasy involving the stable loft. He looked over and smiled. Jack stood – well, more like lounged – in the doorway watching him intently. Ianto shivered a bit in response to that look.

“I hear we’re going on a vacation,” Jack murmured.

“Of sorts, yes,” Ianto replied. “Come home with me, Jack? Meet my family, see where I grew up?”

“Yes,” Jack said. “Of course, I will.” He straightened away from the doorframe and crossed the room to sit on the edge of the desk by Ianto. He leant forward and nuzzled into Ianto’s neck. “Do we get to explore the hayloft?” he whispered.

Ianto shivered as Jack’s lips brushed against his skin. He wrapped an arm around Jack’s neck and arched his own. He knew he was blushing as Jack mentioned the very place he’d been thinking about; however, only a soft whisper escaped him. “Only if you’re good,” he murmured.

“Oh, I’m always good,” Jack murmured. He trailed kisses around Ianto’s jaw until he could give him a light teasing kiss. He pulled back a bit and smiled widely. “And in a hayloft, I’m fantastic!”