Unusually for him, Jack hadn’t found himself a tall building to stand on top of. He was in fact currently standing across the road from his grandson’s school, watching him from a distance. Jack did this from time to time, just checked in to see how Steven was growing up, how he was getting on. He could never do the same with Alice though; she was too sharp and would always spy him out.
Watching Steven playing both calmed and saddened Jack. Calmed him, because it reminded Jack that yes, he could have kids and do the “normal” thing if the circumstances were right; and it saddened him, because everything always seemed to go wrong eventually and Jack would always lose out.
After he left Estelle during the war, he promised himself never again. There was no point getting involved with or becoming close to someone, since he would eventually move on, or the other person would die, or they would leave him themselves.
Then Lucia Moretti came along and, just for a moment, he thought this time would be different. Working for Torchwood, she already knew about his immortality and some of his other secrets before they even got involved, so he thought just maybe she would be the one who would stand by him. But then, as her aging became more and more apparent, in comparison to him, he could see the disgust and hatred starting to burn.
It didn’t surprise him greatly then, the day he returned from an out of town mission with the then-current director and found that Lucia had disappeared taking their child Melissa with her. The director had known what was happening and had arranged that he and Jack would be out of Cardiff when they left. The director refused to give Jack any information about where she went and shut Jack out of the computer systems that would let him find out for himself. It wasn’t until another two directors on, that he was able to get access to the details of where Lucia went. By then though Lucia had died, but not before poisoning Jack’s daughter’s mind against him and when Jack tried to visit Melissa, now known as Alice, he wasn’t even allowed in the front door.
Over the years Alice had thawed out slightly, especially after her ex-husband Joe walked out on her and Steven. Being abandoned herself gave her a bit more understanding of what Jack had gone through from the actions of her mother. Even though she did eventually allow Jack into their lives a little, it still wasn’t much – hence why Jack was standing opposite the school; just getting those little glimpses into Steven’s life made their separation easier to bear.
The sound of the school bell ringing and the kids starting to make their way back to their classrooms broke Jack out of his thoughts and he reluctantly started to leave. The last thing he wanted to do was attract attention as a lone man hanging around outside a school.
Jack sighed wearily. He thought back to the devastation and sense of betrayal he had felt when Lucia abandoned him. They had been relatively happy for most of their relationship, he had thought, and it wasn’t until after she left him that Jack realised that once again “normal” wasn’t going to happen for him.
Recently though, Jack’s resolve had slipped somewhat. He had begun to think of Ianto in more than just casual terms, and he should have known better. As he walked away, his mind inevitably drifted back to Ianto and their conversation earlier.
Had he overreacted, by storming out of the Hub earlier? Had Ianto been right to call him out for threatening Suzie’s life? He hadn’t really intended to kill Suzie, not at first, he was only trying to scare her into stopping whatever it was she was doing. But once he got to Hedley Point and saw Gwen lying there on the ground, possibly dead, he saw red. Nothing would have stopped him then if Tosh hadn’t of come up with a different, less violent, way of getting through to Suzie.
Jack knew that Ianto had read all of his files, both the official Torchwood records and the files the committee had given him, so he knew that Ianto knew of the terrible things he had done in the name of Torchwood. He knew that Ianto would not have doubted that Jack would have followed through with his threat, despite Ianto telling him to stop. To be honest, it surprised him that Ianto could even stand to be near him at all; given how many people he had killed in the past.
Jack thought of the look that Ianto had given him while he was comforting Gwen after Ianto had told her off for letting Suzie out of the Hub. He wasn’t quite sure how to take that look. Memories of other times he had interacted closely with Gwen went through his head; the hugs and special looks they always had, only for each other. Had Ianto looked at him like that during those times as well?
As he continued walking, he cocked his head in confusion. Those memories that he had just had of Gwen – were they right? He remembered one of those times he was with Gwen, sharing a pizza with her at the Hub one Sunday afternoon; but thinking about it, he thought he had actually been with Ianto at the time. He was sure that it was one of the Sundays they had gone to Flat Holm Island together. And actually, as he thought about it, he really could picture being with Ianto at that time – and that memory seemed to be just as genuine as his memory of being with Gwen.
He shook his head. Something weird was going on.
As Tosh was still downstairs talking to Suzie and Jack’s whereabouts was still unknown, it was left to Ianto and Owen to accompany Gwen to Eugene’s house.
While Gwen spoke to Bronwen and Terry Jones, Eugene’s mother and brother, Ianto and Owen searched through Eugene’s room. Ianto pointed out Eugene’s alien collection to Owen and they had a look through what was there. They retrieved a large number of artefacts from Eugene’s room including his computer but, unfortunately for the deceased former owner of the items, most of the items were actually fakes.
When they returned from the Jones’ household, Gwen and Owen started arguing over performing an autopsy on Eugene’s body, with Owen eventually daring Gwen to do it herself as he had a stack of admin to do. She looked at Owen, trying to find the hidden catch, but just as Owen started guiding her through the process, Ianto interrupted them. He told them that a red Vauxhall had been stopped outside Caernarfon and the very drunk driver had admitted to knocking a man over near Cardiff who fitted Eugene’s description.
Having it confirmed that Eugene’s death really was just an RTA seemed to take the energy out of Gwen and she wandered through the Hub aimlessly. Ianto left them to it and went off to see if Jack had returned, only to find he hadn’t come back yet.
Ianto glanced at his watch – UNIT were due to arrive soon to pick up Suzie so he went down to the cells to make sure she and Tosh were ready. He let them say their final good byes and then escorted Suzie back up to the surface to wait for the UNIT officers to arrive.
“Ianto?” Suzie began uncertainly. “That night… just before I nearly shot myself, I shot Jack right through the head. I killed him; stone dead, and then he just stood up and lived. Am I right? Did that happen? Ianto?”
Ianto nodded pensively.
“So he can survive a bullet through the head?”
Ianto nodded again.
Ianto sighed. “I don’t know. He’s never explained it properly – he doesn’t want the committee to know how it happened, so he won’t tell me, because he knows I would be obligated to pass it on to them.”
“But would you?” Suzie asked. “Would you tell them?”
Ianto gazed into the distance thoughtfully. Right at this moment? “I don’t know.”
When he came back down after handing Suzie over, he gave Tosh a hug, gladdened to see that she didn’t pull away from him, and then he left her to her own devices. He felt out of sorts and couldn’t stop wondering where Jack had gone and how things had gone so bad, so quickly. He had no way of tracking him down and idly wondered how much trouble he would get Torchwood into if he hacked into a satellite to monitor the rooftops of Cardiff. Ianto knew Jack hadn’t gone too far though – there hadn’t been any signs of the tracker going off.
Sitting down at his desk, he leant forward and placing his elbow on the desk, rested his chin on his hand. He needed to clear his head. Ianto closed his eyes and just listened. He could hear the hum of the computers and the air ventilation system buzzing through the Hub. Outside of his office, he could hear the sounds of equipment being moved around, he could hear someone thumping on a keyboard very loudly, he could hear someone moving from desk to desk and he could hear someone rustling what sounded like plastic evidence bags. He sat there concentrating on the sounds of the Hub so long that he could even hear the ticking of the watch on his wrist. He could hear…
Ianto’s eyes flew open in shock. Four. He had heard four people out there. Had Jack returned? Rushing out of his office, he stood on the balcony and looked over the Hub. He stopped short – there were only Tosh, Owen and Gwen working there.
“Did Jack come back in?” he called out to them.
They all looked up at Ianto. Gwen shook her head.
“No, we haven’t heard from him.”
Ianto looked at them, his brow furrowed. “Are you sure? I thought I heard four people out here.”
“Really sure,” Tosh replied. “There’s no one here but us.”
“Oh, OK then.” Ianto replied, not sounding very certain. He turned around and went back into his office, leaving the others staring after him bewilderedly.
“He’s losing it,” Owen mouthed to the girls and winked.
Ianto sat back down at his desk and closed his eyes again, trying to hear what he had heard before, but no matter how hard he tried, he could only hear the three of them. Maybe it was Myfanwy flying around that he had heard. He didn’t think that was the case though; it definitely sounded like there were four presences in the Hub.
He opened his eyes once more and his gaze fell on the broken pieces of the stopwatch still sitting on his desk from yesterday. He remembered that Jack had said something about a shop in the mall that sold antique clocks and he decided he would take the stopwatch in for him and get it fixed, by way of a peace offering. Surely, the significance of the stopwatch to the both of them would show Jack that he didn’t want any trust issues between them.
Ianto told the others where he was going and made his way to the mall. He found a shop that was called ‘A Stitch in Time’ and when he looked in through the window, he knew he had come to the right place. The shop was literally covered in all sorts of clocks and timepieces of all styles and eras. He raised a hand to open the door, and just for a moment as he was distracted by someone walking through the mall, he could have sworn, that from out of the corner of his eye, he saw it written on the front door that this was actually a clothing store whose owner was Julia Martin.
Pushing the door open, Ianto literally had to stop himself from running straight back out again when he saw an elderly gentleman standing there watching him.
“Welcome,” the man said. “I am Bilis Manger, proprietor of this store.”
The man standing in front of him was wearing a cravat, exactly like the committee did. He had the same intense stare that they did. He just looked so out of place and time, exactly like the committee did.
“Ianto J-Jones,” Ianto finally managed to get out, automatically reaching out a hand. He was barely able to stop himself shuddering as they shook hands; the man’s skin even had that same cold fish feel to it that all the committee had.
“A pleasure to make your acquaintance, sir,” Bilis replied. “How can I be of assistance?”
Ianto reached into his jacket pocket, surreptitiously scrubbing at his hand as he did so, and showed the broken stopwatch to Bilis.
“Ah! A lovely piece you have there!” Bilis exclaimed as he examined the broken stopwatch. “I am sure this must be of great sentimental value to yourself, or a loved one, Mr Jones.”
“Y-yeah,” Ianto was barely able to string a sentence together, shocked at how committee-like the man in front of him was.
Bilis just smiled, very much aware of how much of a surprise his appearance would be to Ianto. “Well,” he continued. “I can certainly repair this for you. In fact, I happened to receive the exact type of glass that would fit this very watch only yesterday.”
Ianto raised an eyebrow. “That was good timing then.”
Bilis nodded and gave another of his creepy smiles. “Ah. Time. Indeed. I am blessed to have very good suppliers for the more uncommon items. They always come through for me. Anyway, Mr Jones, this will take me about an hour. Could I perhaps interest you in a cup of tea while you wait?” Bilis gestured to a tray on the counter that conveniently held an antique teapot and two sets of teacups and saucers.
Ianto looked over to where Bilis was pointing, and could barely resist another shudder. He didn’t want to drink or consume anything that came from this man.
“No, that’s fine. I have other things to do while I am here. Thank you anyway,” Ianto replied.
Bilis nodded in acknowledgment. “Not a problem then. I will see you back here in one hour then.”
Ianto nodded back and started heading for the door as fast as he could politely do so. He was just about to open the door when he turned back to Bilis. “Actually, could you engrave a message on the back for me as well?”
“Of course,” Bilis replied. He held out a notepad and fountain pen to Ianto for him to write down exactly what he wanted. “Ah, a lovely sentiment,” Bilis stated once he read what Ianto had written.
“Thanks. I’ll be back in an hour then,” Ianto said and finally escaped the shop.
By the time Ianto had picked up the stopwatch and returned to the Hub, it was late in the afternoon, and with it being a Friday, most of the team would most likely have left work earlier than normal. It was Torchwood’s one nod towards working standard business hours. So when he walked into the Hub and found Tosh and Owen had already left, he wasn’t really surprised. If he hadn’t seen Gwen’s bag still sitting on her desk, he would have assumed that she had left for the weekend too.
But more importantly than anything else, Jack’s coat was back on the coat rack. Ianto let out a sigh, he was glad Jack had returned… now, hopefully, they could get things sorted out. Walking through the Hub, Ianto’s heart skipped a beat when he heard Jack’s voice as he was speaking to Gwen. Jack didn’t sound angry any more, so hopefully things would turn out all right.
“To do what? He’s dead!” Ianto heard Jack say.
“Yes, Jack, I know he’s dead, but…” came Gwen’s reply.
“I’ve got work to do.”
Ianto heard footsteps as Jack started to walk away.
Gwen got to her feet quickly to stop Jack walking away. “OK. Listen to this. Eugene had an alien eye in his collection. He sold it online.”
Jack turned back around to face her again, his renewed interest clear.
“What, like a sixth eye? A Dogon sixth eye?”
“Maybe.” Gwen suddenly sounded less sure of herself.
“It’s possible. There was a trade in them. Who’s got it?”
“I don’t know, but I’ve nearly tracked it down. What exactly is a sixth eye? I mean, exactly?”
“It’s one in the back. Let’s you see behind you, where you’ve been. Kind of puts things in perspective. It’s useful, fun, slightly terrifying, that’s why they were in demand.”
“I can get it for you.”
“Have you cleared this with Ianto?”
“Not exactly, I was hoping you would talk to him for me,” Gwen replied.
“Oh no, you’re not dragging me into this. I’ve already been in trouble with him once today!”
“But you’re not the one he’s put on warning. He’ll listen to you. He doesn’t listen to me at all.”
“Jack, please. I’ve covered for you before, I’m just asking you to return the favour.”
Ianto stood there listening to the conversation between Jack and Gwen. The stopwatch suddenly felt very heavy in his pocket, and he began to wonder whether the inscription he’d had put on the back was all a waste of time.
“OK, you’ve got the weekend.” Jack came to a decision. “But keep your phone on and make sure you sort this with Ianto yourself, first thing, when you come in on Monday. I’m not taking any responsibility for this.”
Jack turned around and started walking away… and came face to face with Ianto.