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...

"I'm so sorry."

"Don't. Why?" Gwen asked, pulling the afghan around them. The Hub always felt cooler and danker in the mornings, just as it had before the- Before.

"Because you and Rhys, and-"

"And you and Jack."

"Yeah." Ianto snaked a hand out from under the wool and rubbed his forehead. "Well."

"Well, we might never see them again. We might be the only ones left. There are a lot of things to be sorry about, but a shag isn't one of them."

"That sounds like a rationalisation. And like Jack's rubbed off on you." Ianto leaned over and retrieved his wadded boxer shorts from the floor in front of the sofa.

"No way, never!" Gwen said, and started to laugh, but it sounded hollow to her own ears. "I just don't want to-"

"What, ruin our friendship? You're right. We'll have to stop taking each other's calls and start hanging out with our other friends." Ianto stood. "Water? Paracetamol?"

"I'm parched. Ianto?" She waited until he met her gaze. "Thank you."


"Gwen?" he said later, as she watered the plants, her own hair damp from a hot shower. "You good?"

"Yeah. Yeah, I'm good. How's your head?"

"It's fine. It's..."

Gwen paused, waited for him to answer. "Hey-"

"It's fine."

"Okay."



Gwen noticed Ianto was poking through the drawers of Owen's old workstation again, for the third time this week. "Ianto-"

"Yup."

"What are you looking for?"

"Nothing in particular."

"Hey, do you want to... do you want to talk about this?" Gwen swallowed, arms folded.

Ianto took a deep breath and shut the biggest drawer. "No. Yeah. No. God, you know what? Honestly? I was so horny. You've been driving me insane lately, every time you bend over or reach across me for something. You smell fantastic. And have you stopped wearing a bra?"

"I have perfume. But I only have the one bra, and I didn't think you would notice. I'm saving it for special occasions."

"Like what?" Ianto straightened and leaned against the desk, next to her.

"I don't know....church on Christmas?"

"God would understand."

"Any God who'd leave us trapped for years on end doesn't understand much. Which is even, it's stupid, but I'm not even angry anymore. It's nobody's fault and-"

"Jack and I are, well, we're not. I don't know. He would understand."

"Oh, he would, yeah," Gwen agreed, pulling at a piece of pink string from the afghan static-stuck to her t-shirt. "Rhys, no, I don't think. Definitely no."

"He won't have to know," Ianto said. "You're not going to tell him, are you? In one of your letters?"

"Oh, no. You'll probably tell Jack one day, though."

Ianto looked at her indignantly. "No I won't!"

"Oh, he'll get it out of you."

"He won't. I don't kiss and tell."

"You.. love him, though? You love Jack, don't you?" Gwen asked.

Ianto took a deep breath, then looked away. "You know, we really don't talk about it like that."


after dinner

"What difference does that make whether you talk about these things or not? How do you feel? Do you love him or-" Gwen was on one end of the sofa and Ianto the other. "You know what? I'm sorry I ate. I feel like shit again."

"Me too. That's really terrible vodka."

"No, I mean, I'm a shit. This isn't right. It's not fair to Rhys, or to you either. Any of us. I'm a terrible person." Gwen licked her lips.

Ianto turned at her change of tone and paused. "Look, if you are, I'm worse."

"No you're not. You didn't take a vow, Ianto."

"You... we... waited for over a year. I'd say that's-"

"It's not 'til death do us part' though, is it? A year isn't that long."

"Shit. I'm sorry," Ianto said.

"Stop apologising, really. It's not your fault."

"When we leave, we could... we could. There's Retcon."

Gwen sat up. "No!"

"We could do it now-"

"No. No, that doesn't make something unhappen, does it?"

"It can." Ianto said, and sat back, tilting his head until it touched the back wall.

"It can't. Do you want to, though? Do you want to forget this happened? I mean, we were drunk, and..."

Ianto rolled his eyes and groaned. "Whatever you want, Gwen. I don't want to feel guilty about this. First off, I barely fucking remember... fucking. We were very drunk." And he didn't want to say it but he'd thought it: did you angst this much over fucking Owen? Because that was a long time ago and this was obviously different and were they even going to do it again? Probably not. Ianto didn't feel guilty about it at all, which had something to do with being Jack's... whatever they were to each other. Not married, anyway.

"No, it's all right. Could we not talk about it right now? Please? I'm just confused."

"Yeah."


gossip

Dear Trina, Gwen wrote in the notebook:

I'm sorry I haven't been in touch; The recent lapse is down to circumstances, but  I think we've only got together twice since the wedding and though you're not going to ever read this letter anyway, I promise to take you out for Thai when this is all over, if you haven't been killed by alien robot lasers by the time we get out of this time lock. Eight (plus) years is a long time, but we've been mates for ages so I hope you'll forgive me.

It's just that I feel like a total shit, and you never make me feel that way when I tell you things. It's not being able to really talk to you (or Carrie either) since I took this job which, you know, maybe led to some bad decisions. See, I slept with a coworker. Actually, I've done it before, but that was completely... mad. And I wouldn't have back then except everything in my life was off-centre and turned upside-down. He and I weren't even friends, really, but this other colleague is someone I've got to know very well recently.

This doesn't sound very good, does it? See, we were totally bladdered. But it was probably inevitable anyway. Neither of our partners are here and I know Rhys wouldn't understand, but I woke up this morning feeling like a human being (with a massive headache) instead of a prisoner...  Plus, I don't know what to do from here. I've never really done the "fuckbuddy" thing so what is the etiquette even like?

I... don't even know it this is what it is or what he wants or what I want, really. We really ought to talk about it but neither of us want to. Or we're dying to. I can't tell, though we talk about everything else under the sun.

(Poor choice of words there, really.)

It's situational, see? Not that I don't find him attractive, because I do. He's your type, even; he's the one you asked about at the wedding, and then you were disappointed when you saw him dancing with the bloke Carrie fancied and followed around all evening, you remember. Or no, you wouldn't, actually. Retcon. Fuck.


Gwen read the letter over and shook her head. She thought she should write a novel about her life, but people would think it was a load of old bollocks. She tore the paper out of the notebook and ripped it to pieces, laughing so hard she gave herself a wrenchingly painful case of the hiccups. It took half an hour for them to go away.


dreams

"Where are you going first, when we can leave?" Ianto asked her for probably the fiftieth go-round. The answer sometimes changed.

"Swansea," she said this time, though she didn't hold out hope that her family were okay, anymore. "The cliffs open to the sea. It's beautiful." Gwen wanted to feel the spray on her face, the sun beating warm on the top of her head. Or maybe Greece. Tuscany was stupid. Somewhere hot and bright, anyway.


diversions

"We've seen people die. Our friends," Gwen said.

"Yup," Ianto passed her a book to change the subject. She got into these... moods, sometimes. "It's sort of rubbish, looks like."

Gwen ran a fingertip along the spine. "Scavengers in Space. Where was this one, then?"

"Propping up a chair leg in Jack's office."

She peered at the cover, 1950s astronauts. "I miss the moon quite a lot, really."





kiss and tell

"You did it in an office building?" Gwen asked, incredulous.

"Picked a lock and erm... on an executive's desk." Ianto looked sheepish. "It's a strange kink, isn't it?"

"Yup." Gwen sipped from her mug. "Hey, so what's 'naked hide-and-seek?"

"I have no clue whatsoever."

"Jack made that up?"

"Yeah. I guess he did. Or he didn't, but we weren't when you-"

"He's so weird."

"He is. He's-"

"He's sexy." Gwen blurted out.

"I think so," Ianto agreed. "Do you think..." he trailed off.

"What?"

"Do you think if you'd been stuck here with Jack, it would have taken over a year to-"

Gwen studied an exposed pipe running along the ceiling. "Yes. Not... I don't know."

"Jack wouldn't have needed liquid courage to get it on, though."

"No, maybe not. I probably would have, though."

"Really? Jack's very persuasive. Kind of impatient, too, once he gets his mind set on something like... that."

"It's funny, that. Jack being impatient. He has all the time in the world, doesn't he?"


scissors

"Ianto, would you help me with something?"

"Sure, what do you..." his voice trailed off as Gwen placed the cool black metal handle of the office scissors in his hand.

"Cut my hair."

"But..." But I love your hair is what he didn't say.

"Look at it, Ianto." She pulled a wet hank of the dark curtain out to the side. "Bar soap, no conditioner, using that ruddy man-brush. It looks shit and I'm tired of it."

"It won't grow back as long as we're here."

"Doesn't matter, I've wanted to do this for ages. Will you cut it? If not, I will." Gwen sat in the wheeled chair and turned her back.

Ianto placed his hand on her shoulder. "If you're sure."

"Yeah, please. Do it," Gwen urged.

"You need a cape. I could get a towel."

"This isn't bloody Toni&Guy, just-"

"I cut Lisa's hair, once. She had short hair," Ianto said, realising that of course Gwen hadn't seen Lisa, before she'd... not even a photograph. "It was for her job interview at Torchwood, and she couldn't get a booking." His hand fell on Gwen's shoulder again. He felt her shiver through the blue cotton.

"Oh god, I'm sorry. Didn't mean to... here, I'll do it on my own." Gwen reached a hand up to take the scissors.

"No, it's fine. But I'm not an expert." He pulled a handful of strands forward to her chin. "Like this?"

"Shorter. Short like Winona Ryder in that film."

"The film with the-"

"The one where she's on the roof and Ben Stiller's an arsehole." They'd only watched that one a few times.

"Right. I'll do my best." Ianto took a piece of hair between two fingers and snipped off a few inches, watched it fall on Gwen's arm, waited for her to change her mind. She flicked it off.


wargames

"Suppose we are the only ones left?" Ianto asked for the umpteenth time.

"You're totally obsessed with this idea, aren't you?"

"Well. No. It's not that. It's just... we don't know if the Daleks attacked everyone everywhere. What if we come out of the time lock and we're it. Or the planet's in the wrong place and everything's died?"

"Okay, I'll entertain this exercise. They couldn't kill everyone on Earth. The PM has a bunker, right? I'd bet the royal family would have gone in there, so even if there's no proper sunshine- And there could be miners who were underground..."

Ianto barked a laugh. "Royals, dignitaries, miners and the lads who control the nukes in their bunkers. That's what'll be left. And the miners will starve, if they haven't by now."

"There was time to get food. If there was an attack, there are probably plenty of people who hid out, like Rhys and our parents. Your niece and nephew." She swallowed hard.

Ianto ran a fingertip over the back of her hand, traced a freckle. "They're fine. All of them. I'm sure of it. When we figure out how to get out of here, we'll take a helicopter and pick them up. I've been playing Flight Simulator."

"Simple, then," Gwen said, softly.


ritual

Ianto tossed his latest thumb drive into the metal locker for the night.

Gwen pulled the sheaf of handwritten notes out of it and reached into her pocket for a small burgundy box. She wrapped the papers around it and fastened them with a rubber band, then shut the creaky door.

"What's that, jewelry?"

"Yes," Gwen said quietly. "My rings."

Before she settled on the sofa, she stopped at the CCTV monitor to say goodnight to Charlie, getting ready to sell newspapers on the Plass. "Good night," she said. "See you in the morning."



celebrations

"It's now officially August 16th. In Moscow anyway," Ianto said, glancing at his watch.

"How old am I now?"

"Thirty-two."

"Wow. Haven't aged a day."

"You look great." Ianto sliced a greenhouse lemon and dropped it into her glass. "Out of tonic, I'm afraid."

Gwen popped a pre-emptive paracetamol. The vodka really was crap. "I wonder if we'll suddenly age, when the time lock opens."

"Maybe we will," Ianto acknowledged. "At least... at least we will have had all of these extra young and healthy years, right?"

"Trapped underground. It's a good job we haven't had scurvy."

"Which makes me doubly glad we have citrus. But what if... what if it's 8 million years later when the clock runs down?"

"Then you'd better hope we don't suddenly age," Gwen joked. "Or that we aren't held captive by a band of evolutionised apes."

"Is that even a word?"

"Don't know. It could happen," Gwen insisted, then reached for a fork, because a birthday was a birthday and there was pound cake, anyway. "I'd kill for some ice cream."

"Maybe the apes will bring us some, prior to the experiments. Or as a reward for tolerating the brain implants and anal probes with a bare minimum of screaming."

"Ooh, dare to dream."


plans

"You're asking me out?" Gwen squeaked.

Ianto felt a prickle of déjà-vu. He adjusted a slightly dusty stapler on the edge of Gwen's desk and glanced up at the ceiling. "I... yeah. Yes."

"Where will... what did you have in mind?"

"Just be ready at seven. Don't eat."

Gwen pulled her mobile out and glanced at the time, then shut it and stuffed it back into her pocket. She smiled and turned, then walked away.



"A picnic?" She asked. It did look like one, with the afghan her afghan. She'd wondered idly where it had got to, earlier, spread over the floor of the greenhouse. "What's for dinner?"

"Your favourite," Ianto said, sitting cross-legged in front of her dressed in the same lilac shirt and grey waistcoat and trousers he'd been wearing when they were first trapped, and Gwen didn't think she'd seen him looking this comfortable in ages. He handed her an olive drab packet.

"Beef ravioli!" Gwen exclaimed, opening it with her teeth. "You shouldn't have."

Ianto handed her a plastic cup filled with pink-tinted liquid. "Behold."

"Lovely! How did you know that was my flavour?"

"I'm observant. Oh, nearly forgot." Ianto stood and switched off the overhead lights, torch in hand. He set it on the floor facing up at the ceiling.

"Ianto, the last battery-"

"Special occasion," he said. He adjusted the plastic ring around the top of the torch and pointed upward at the circle of light on the ceiling. "Thought you might like to dine beneath the moon."



Gwen was aware of his warmth under the shirt seams at his shoulders -- he'd pulled off the waistcoat -- and his scent; skin and the shampoo they both used and a hint of sweat. His lips shifted against hers, unhurried. Aware, present. In it. Not because they were afraid or despairing or three sheets to the wind, but because they w anted to.

One drink was all they'd had, plastic cups full of that vile vodka and crushed not-quite-ripe strawberries and packets of sugar, and his mouth on hers was intoxicating and then his hand came around her and travelled downward and she arched into him.

Hands, mouths everywhere, and his shirt was off, suddenly -- hers too -- and oh god skin-to-skin and it felt fantastic, so good that she actually ached. She felt him shift backward slightly and heard the plastic cup crack under his elbow, saw his neck tilt against the base of a terrarium. Breathless, she stopped, palm on Ianto's chest, over his heart.

"Are you okay?" Gwen asked. "The floor isn't-"

"-that comfortable," he managed. He captured her hand and crouched, then got to his feet, pulling her up. "Come back to mine?"

"Yes," she said, swallowing the last of her too-sweet drink. She bent to pick up her shirt but Ianto tugged her upward and kissed her again, walking her towards the door and Jack's office and the hatch in the floor leading to the room he now called his own. He went down the ladder first, turned on a tiny lamp clamped to the bedstead, and gestured at her to join him. She took a deep breath. She'd only been down there to search for hair products.

"Stop, Gwen." She paused on the ladder, two rungs from the floor below, legs shaking as his palms slid up the outside of her thighs to her waist. "There's a very important rule you're breaking."

"What's that, then?" she asked, breathless. She pushed her forehead forward, rested it on her hands where they gripped a rung.

"The no-trousers rule." Ianto's fingers went to the front of her jeans and opened the button, worked the zip and yanked them down, over the boots.

Then she was on the end of the camp bed, Ianto's bed, now, the wool blanket scratchy beneath her bare skin. She unbuckled his belt and found his button and worked his zip and yanked downward, same way. Two can play this, she thought. She licked her lips, and leaned forward, fingers tracing the silky-stiff length of Ianto's erection as he closed his eyes. She licked the shaft and felt him tremble, ventured a glance up and saw him looking down at her, need writ large on his face, before she took him in.

"Oh. Oh god," he moaned, and gripped her hair, short now, as his hips stuttered forward, and she wondered if he was thinking of Jack, then. This was his room, or theirs, after all. She inched forward, spreading her legs, and hooked a leather boot behnd his ankle, pulling him in closer.

"I'm leaving these boots on," Gwen said, fingertips teasing at his balls.

"Kinky," Ianto murmured. "Scandalous."

"Good job we shut the blinds. What would the neighbours say?"

"Good show?" Ianto ventured, and with a quick motion grabbed her legs and pulled her forward. He slid one hand up her thigh, to the edge of her leather boot.

"I thought it'd be sexy, you know... I don't have any sexy lingerie. Or any, erm... lingerie."

"Oh, they are. Sexy. You should wear them more often." Ianto bent her leg and kissed along the tender inside of her thigh and she sucked in a breath before he brushed against her softly with his lips, then engaged his tongue.

"G-good show," she managed. "Ianto?"

"Gwen."

"C'mere."

"Now who's impatient?"


lift

Ding, went the service lift. Same way, every time they pressed the button. Ding open, choose a floor, door shuts, lift goes down one level to an empty storage area, doors remain shut. It didn't really make sense, except perhaps it'd been "resting" at that level when the time lock had engaged.

It wouldn't ascend to the back storage hallway in the Millennium Centre, though it was supposed to, which was just another thing on Ianto's list of the many things which pissed him off completely.

Maybe if he could get the door pried open... He'd brought a metal bar he'd found and one of the lidded storage boxes to use as a door block. If he could just get the lift door open, get it to stay ajar, maybe if the lift went down to the lower level, maybe they could... Ianto thought about maybe ascending the shaft somehow, wondered if the shield's "ceiling" didn't reach to the lift shaft. It was daft, but-

He leaned into the open door, hit the lower-level button and stepped out, then shoved the box unto the closing doors. He watched as the box bent at the sides. The lift stayed put with the door open. He grabbed the metal bar and hefted it from hand to hand, then slid the bar between the doors to keep them ajar and kicked the box into the lift.

He'd been standing, but dropped to the ground in agony when the bar slipped and doors slammed on his forearm. He gripped the edge and wrenched it out with his last bit of strength and edged forward on his knees, trying to make it to the door. The pain was almost unbearable. Ianto pushed back his sleeve and was sick on the ancient lino.

"Help!" he shouted, but his own voice sounded tinny and weak even as it echoed. "Gwen. Please. Help."



When he came to, his arm was packed snugly, splinted with an Ace bandage around that to secure it, with two neat metal clips attaching the end. He lifted his elbow tentatively.

"Oh thank god you're up. Don't move it. Just stay still."

"Broke my arm, I think," Ianto said, faintly.

"You did. The bone-" His arm had been bent. Bent wrong and oh god it had squeaked but I had to, and- Jesus.

"The bone. Bleeding?"

"Yeah, just a bit, but it wasn't much. You were out of it, practically delirious but you actually walked in with me before you passed out again. I couldn't get you up, but... one of the books-" Gwen waved a hand and Ianto turned his head slightly, but gave up and tilted it back again. "You've got a cut on your head, too. Just stay still."

"Owen set it, huh?" he murmured.

Gwen paused. "Yes, sweetheart. Owen fixed you right up. Does it hurt?"

"Uh huh."

Gwen kept the fingers of one hand on his shoulder, tightening them as she pushed in the plunger on the syringe she'd prepared and gave Ianto another half-dose of morphine. She watched Ianto breathe in sleep for another half an hour before silently getting up and filling a pail with soapy water to scrub the blood and remnants of sick from the walls and floor near the lift to nowhere.

She remembered where she'd stopped in Owen's reference books - the sections on what to do if a limb is actually crushed, or if the break isn't clean or the bone is sticking out of the flesh, arterial bleeding inside, nerve damage, things about plates and pins and things they didn't have because Owen mostly dissected things instead of putting them back together and it didn't matter if they got an infection because they were already dead weren't they and they had a bone saw if she'd had to... but she couldn't and- maybe, last resort, she'd have had to freeze him, like Tommy. And. There wasn't another glove, but if there had been, maybe. No. Maybe. Gwen rested her forehead against the wall and fought her own rising bile, then sat back on her feet.

She wept silently as she rubbed at the stains, and finally allowed her hands to shake.


luck

Ianto rolled the ten pence coin from knuckle to knuckle, dropped it, tried again, then flipped it up and caught it in the same hand. "I've been reading the personnel files. Average tenure at Torchwood Three: four years. Think of all the records we're breaking."

Gwen was silent as Ianto continued: "Couple of cases that look like Retcon, two high treason incidents. Mostly duty casualties, though. Death by alien. Then there was the one bloke who fell into a-"

"If something happens to me, I don't want to be frozen in a morgue drawer."

"Nothing's going to happen," Ianto reassured her. "Five years and we haven't even had head colds."

"You could have-"

"Look, patched-up. Healed just fine." He raised his arm and bent his wrist. "It doesn't even ache anymore."

"I'm serious, though, Ianto. I want you to promise me. Do you promise that if something happens, you'll put me in the incinerator?"

Ianto looked horrified, the colour draining from his face. "I-"

"I know it's horrible. I just can't... I don't like the thought of being cold and forgotten in an icebox. After Suzie- Please promise."

"I promise."

"Four years, huh?"

"At least we're not at any risk of being hit by buses." Ianto picked up the coin and rolled it again, this time successfully.



worries

"What if it doesn't work, Ianto? I mean, what if the time lock doesn't disengage at zero?"

"That would truly suck," he said without looking up. He was intent on a sketch of a ship, based on a sketch of a ship in one of Jack's books.

"We'd be out of food a few years after that. Even taking the omelettes into account."

"God. You know, let's just... not even think about this." Ianto put the pencil down.

"Have you ever read that Stephen King story where a surgeon is trapped on an island or something, and he cuts off his own feet and eats them?"

"I must have missed that one."

"It was totally macabre. He went insane by the end. I think he ate his own hands last, raving about 'ladyfingers' or something."

"But wait. How could he cut off his fingers without using his fingers?" Ianto wrinkled his brow.

"I think he probably just bit them off."

"Christ, Gwen."

"Or it could be like those footballers who crashed in the Andes, who resorted to cannibalism. Or fuck, those creepy... the Beacons." Gwen finished with a shudder.

"I'm not going to kill and eat you, all right?" Ianto rolled his eyes at her.

"I know, but if something happens, maybe you should freeze me after all, just in case. Forget the incinerator. I'd be okay with that."

"You'd be okay with me rolling out your morgue drawer, sawing off a shank and making stew once a week?"

"Why not? I'd be dead, right? Come to think of it, we should eat Gray first."

"Stop it. You're so fucking morbid. I can't believe you thought I was the dark one, here."

"I'm just saying, I'd be fine with that, should I die of natural causes." Gwen pulled a sheet of A4 over and picked up a pencil. She began to sketch the sturdy limbs of an oak tree.

"That is not going to happen, all right?"

"Well. I certainly hope it doesn't, but-"

"I'd eat a bullet before making stew out of you. Or even Jack's evil nutter brother."

"Me too." Gwen pushed her sketch over to Ianto, and he added a hill in the background. "You're really getting good at two-point perspective."

"Thanks." He reached for one of the American chocolate bars in the centre of the table. "Look. Butterfinger. It's made of real fingers!"

"Ladyfingers." Gwen grinned and swatted at his wrist. "Come on. Let's watch Spice World."

"Again?" he groaned. But secretly, he loved Spice World. And he suspected Gwen knew it.


day zero. 99 months (8.25 years)


"Let's get away from here."

"That's the plan, right? I never want to see the inside of the Hub again."

"I don't know... I'm..."

"It's.."

"Scary. I'm scared."

"Yeah."

Ianto took her face in both hands and kissed her soundly, then lifted his weapon and retreated to the side of the room. "If the shield just... disappears, we need to neutralise the threat; make sure we're out of the line of fire." They'd discussed and rehearsed this scores of times. There was a fairly good chance they'd be mowed down by lasers anyway, but it was better that than to be trapped somewhere else later. They couldn't hide from it forever. Hopefully they could disable it long enough to head for the lift.

"Ready. I've been ready." Gwen adjusted her grip on the weapon, hands slick with sweat. "Rather die on my feet, and all that."

Minutes ticked past, and the the time lock finally clicked over. 00:01

Then 00:00

Gwen braced to fire at the Dalek, but nothing happened. They waited, frozen as if mimicking Charlie. But nothing changed. The bullets stayed aloft, trapped in the transparent shield.

When Gwen finally lowered then raised her gun again, Ianto gently took it from her and placed it on the desk behind him before taking her hands in his own.

"I wasn't-"

"I know. But you thought about it."

She hesitated. He knew her better than anyone. "I wouldn't have. It's just good to know we can escape if we have to."

"Don't ever do that to me. Ever."

"I won't." Gwen's voice shook as tears filled her eyes and Ianto crushed her to his chest. "I won't leave you alone."

"Good. That's good." Ianto took a deep breath and picked up the metal box to bring downstairs with them, just like always.


open sesame

"Hey, what'd you do, celebrate? I miss everything."

"What day is it?" Ianto croaked, when he opened his eyes, let them adjust in the murky dim and saw Jack. Jack looking the same as always, but then he would, wouldn't he? He sat in shadow, on the stool a few feet from the camp bed. Ianto gave himself a huge measure of credit for not-

"Hey, don't freak out on me."

"What year is it?"

Jack hesitated. "It's... Tuesday. Are you hung over?"

"Don't, Jack. Don't fuck around. What's the date?"

"Tuesday, July 8th, 2008."

"Oh." Ianto blinked, shaking his head. "The counter ticked over last night and we... and nothing happened so we went to bed. Guess it wasn't exact. When did you...?"

Jack checked his watch. "About an hour ago when I came down to get my wallet. Lots to tell you about: war in the Medusa Cascade, destruction of the Crucible. Heavy. But you missed all of that. Parallel transdimensional anomaly. It's also lunchtime, by the way. Ordered an extra pizza."

And this was a stupid conversation to have with someone you haven't seen in eight years, Ianto thought. "There's a Dalek-"

"I found nothing when I came back to the Hub. Nothing. And there's nothing there now. The move knocked a lot of things over, but everything's fine. Back to normal. Such as it is."

"Maybe." Ianto swallowed,  and he didn't know -- it was likely paranoia -- but Jack's tone sounded false to his ears, as if he knew something was way, way off, and didn't Jack know almost as much about the time lock as Tosh did?  And he'd been with the Doctor when the lock had engaged? The Doctor, who knew a hell of a lot more than anyone else about... most things. He could travel into the future, as far as Ianto knew.  He pulled Gwen close, his palm sliding against the cool skin of her back, skimming the sheet wrapped around her like a shroud. "Rhys. He's okay?"

Jack leaned back in a stretch, his face still cloaked in shadow. "He's shaken up. Well, the planet's-"

"Understandable."

"Yeah, I told him everything was fine. He didn't buy the whole 'tectonic shifts brought on by an asteroid eclipse' cover tale on the news. Because it's well, bullshit. But I told him you were both out dealing with Rift debris cleanup in Tregaron and couldn't be reached. He's left about sixty messages in 48 hours. I didn't know how to disengage the time lock. Sorry."

"Can you keep your voice down?" Ianto whispered. "It's just that... "

"Do you have a hangover? I'm not going to ask about-"

"It's been a bit longer than 48 hours for us, Jack."

"What?" Jack leaned forward.

False note, Ianto thought.  But maybe he was imagining things. They'd probably never know.  And maybe it didn't matter, because you couldn't undo things. You really couldn't. All you could do was decide where to go from where you were.

Gwen stirred, her breath a warm puff against Ianto's collarbone. "Ianto?" she murmured fuzzily, half-asleep, and burrowed into the crook of his arm.

Ianto's eyes sought Jack's in the half-dark. "Could you... would you leave us alone for a bit?" Ianto whispered. Jack was still, then nodded and stood, the sweep of his coat familiar as he ascended the ladder and stepped away from the hatch door above.

"Gwen. C'mon Gwen, get up." Ianto stroked her back. She always took forever to wake up. One eye at a time. He smiled into her hair.

"Hmmm."

"Come on." He smoothed the soft expanse of skin beneath her jaw before pressing his lips to her temple and whispered, "Gwen, wake up. It's over... hear me?" Gwen raised her head slowly and stared at him - he couldn't see her eyes clearly, even this close, but Ianto could feel her gaze through the gloom, hear the hitch in her breath. "It's over. It's all right." He felt her fingers graze his cheek and yes, a hint of stubble so... yes.

"You mean-" Gwen sat up, then leaned back in a stretch, instinctively reaching behind the head of the mattress. Her fingernails hit the edge of the metal box full of letters and files and voice recordings tucked between the bedhead and the wall, tapped upon it. She sighed, relieved to find it there.

"Yeah, but, things are... it's Plan..." Ianto searched for the appropriate letter and shook his head. "Just, let's get out of here." Though summertime in Cardiff was as likely to be rainy as not, Ianto knew she wouldn't mind. "Let's go for a walk in the sun."



 
ETA: Of course there's a soundtrack ***click***
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