If Ianto Jones had ever wondered what it would be like being sucked up by the Rift, he definitely wouldn’t have imagined anything like this. One minute he was walking across the Plass, after having collected everyone’s lunches, and the next a flash of lights and a loud whooshing sound saw him hurtling through places unknown.
One popular theory that the team had discussed one Rift alert-free day, was that it could resemble being drawn into an oceanic current. Except it would be a time and space current, instead of a water current. Owen had scoffed at the possibility of it being something so mundane and had stalked off saying they were all completely clueless. As Ianto tumbled along, passing any number of stars and planets without even a hint of slowing down, he wondered if they hadn’t been so far from the truth.
He barely had time to notice the vast varieties of colours and patterns decorating those stars and planets before he was spun around and swept up into what appeared to be a massive black hole. His whole body seemed to stretch and turn itself inside out. Ianto wanted to scream in fear and pain but, with his face stretched out of proportion, he was unable to do a thing. He couldn’t begin to imagine what he must look like. Would his insides be showing or was he simply being contorted into something unrecognisable?
Exiting the black hole in a rush, he found himself hovering serenely above an unrecognisable planet. It was blue, green and white; so not too dissimilar to Earth, albeit a decidedly differently arranged Earth. When he abruptly started to fall, Ianto became aware of air rushing past him. He wondered how he had been able to breathe throughout the first part of the journey. So much for the vacuum of space, he thought. Breathing became somewhat irrelevant though as Ianto realised his descent to the planet was getting faster and faster.
To his relief and mild discomfort, Ianto soon jolted to a halt. As he stopped there in mid-air, he looked pensively at the ground that was still far, far below him. When he started moving again, he barely had time to roll his eyes and mutter an “Oh, fuck” before slamming into the ground.
Ianto landed on the side of a hill and began a rapid downhill roll. Moving far too quickly to grab onto anything stable, he felt himself get covered in scratches and cuts as he bounced over the rocks and stones. As he rolled, he caught glimpses of a large boulder directly in his path. He tried bracing himself for what he knew would be a painful impact but as he spun into the boulder he hit his head and everything went black.
It was an excruciating headache that finally speared through Ianto’s lingering unconsciousness. With a groan, he tried sitting himself up, only to find he was too weak to move. He tried opening his eyes but was only able to see blurry shapes. One of these shapes eventually resolved itself into something humanoid. Ianto blinked his eyes a number of times, trying to clear his vision, as the humanoid reached out and touched his head gently. Ianto pulled back in pain with a sharp intake of breath, causing the humanoid to speak out.
Ianto froze. He knew that voice. Was it…?
“Jack?” Ianto found an extra burst of energy and stood up in a hurry. He saw it was indeed Jack standing in front of him. A feeling of relief flowed through Ianto, followed by a dizzy spell from standing up too quickly.
“Jack! It’s good to see you. How did you find me so soon?” Ianto stumbled towards Jack.
Ianto stopped in shock as Jack backed away from him and drew a weapon. He indicated to Ianto to stay back.
“Jack,” he tried again. Jack spoke back to him, but Ianto didn’t hear it in his eagerness to get his point across. “It’s me! It’s Ianto!”
Jack spoke again, stunning Ianto into silence. The man had spoken, but it wasn’t in any language that Ianto had ever heard.
“Jack?” he tried once more, his voice hesitant.
Jack – or whoever he was – stared back at Ianto, his expression hard. He didn’t lower the weapon until Ianto thudded back down to the ground, raising his hands to show he was unarmed. Jack continued to watch him from a distance until he was satisfied Ianto would not be a threat. He moved in to finish cleaning the wound on Ianto’s head before moving away again.
Ianto looked around him and noticed it had started to get dark. He looked back at Jack who had now started a fire. He had apparently set up a camp site while Ianto was unconscious.
Jack barked out a single word, pointing to what appeared to be a sleeping mat. Ianto looked at him in confusion. The man barked out the word again, pointing once more to the mat. Ianto sighed and slowly got up and walked over to the mat. Seems he was going to sleep whether he wanted to or not, eating seemed to be off the menu too. He hoped he didn’t have a concussion.
Ianto lay there as the other man had something to eat. Ianto’s stomach rumbled loudly enough that he thought Jack would have heard it, but there was no response. Jack finished eating and then rummaged around his belongings.
Ianto had just started to drift off to sleep when Jack stood up, put the fire out and then surprised Ianto by getting on the mat behind him. Ianto looked around at him suspiciously. Jack shrugged his shoulders and spoke again, this time with an impatient tone to his voice, as he gestured around the camp site. There was only one sleeping mat so where else was he going to sleep, Jack seemed to say. Ianto nodded and lay back down again, rolling onto his side to face away from the man.
If this actually was his Jack, then something was seriously wrong.
When Ianto woke in the morning, Jack was already up. To Ianto’s relief, he could smell more food cooking. His stomach rumbled loudly and he was sure the whole planet, whatever it was called, would be able to hear it this time.
Ianto watched the man as he prepared what Ianto hoped would be breakfast. The man certainly appeared to be Jack. He moved like him, sounded like him, he reacted with the same style of frustration when something didn’t go right and as Ianto found out last night, he even smelled like Jack. Those pheromones were unmistakable.
There were some differences though. The lack of English was the main thing, but there was no sign of either his coat or Vortex Manipulator and the clothes he was wearing were completely different to anything he had seen Jack in. There was something else different about him. Something that Ianto couldn’t quite put his finger on, something that made this man not quite Jack.
Ianto accepted the bowl of food offered by the man, who Ianto had decided now he would continue to refer to himself as Jack, and sat down to eat. Ianto didn’t know what the food was, but after a cautious taste test, it seemed to be edible. Ianto found it hard not to smile when Jack sat down with his own bowl and ate nearly all of it in one large gulp. Bad table manners were definitely something the man shared with his own Jack.
When they finished eating, Jack packed up the camp while Ianto rolled up the sleeping mat. Once they had packed up, Jack started walking, indicating to Ianto to follow. Ianto tried to speak to him again, to ask him where they were going, but Jack only gave him a harsh glare and kept walking. With a shrug, Ianto decided he might as well follow; it wasn’t like he had anywhere else to go. He would just have to hope the man meant him no harm.
After walking for most of the morning, they arrived at the bottom of a large hill. Ianto looked at it with some trepidation. He wasn’t used to walking for such a long periods of time, and that hill looked fairly steep. Jack smiled grimly at his hesitance before urging him forwards.
The hill felt even steeper as they climbed it, and just when Ianto was beginning to think it would never end, they finally reached the crest. Jack paused and pointed to a city visible in the distance. He spoke what Ianto assumed was the name of the city, with some amount of pride.
Ianto looked on in awe. While he couldn’t tell much about the style of the city buildings from their vantage point, he could tell that it was an impressive looking place. A giant wall surrounded the city, but Ianto didn’t know whether that meant the city was from a less advanced civilisation or not, relying on bricks and mortar for defence, rather than weaponry.
Slapping Ianto gently on the back, Jack got them moving again. It only took about an hour to get to the city. Not long before they got there, Jack moved them onto a major roadway that they followed for the rest of the way to the city gates.
As they approached the gate a couple of men came out to greet them. Ianto noticed they were all wearing the same style of clothing that Jack was wearing. Clearly it was some sort of uniform, although the strangers’ clothes were in a far better condition than Jack’s.
Jack left Ianto behind and ran up to the men. They greeted each other with lots of smiles and hugs and backslapping. Ianto followed behind, a little unsure of what would happen now they had arrived. As they went through the gates, more people wearing the same uniform as Jack came up to him. Ianto had to bite back another smile watching everyone flock to him. Male or female, none of them could seem to get enough of Jack; seems nothing had changed there.
Ianto had spent most of the hill climb trying to work out if this was a Jack from before Ianto had met him, or if he was so far in the future that he could no longer remember Ianto.
Some of the others finally noticed Ianto standing there and, after looking him over a bit, seemed to start ribbing Jack good-naturedly. Seeing the knowing smirks on some of their faces, he wondered exactly what they thought Jack had brought him along for.
Jack turned around and the smile fell off his face as another man approached the group. This new man’s uniform was similar to the others but had more elaborate adornments. Most of the people who had surrounded Jack faded into the background, with only the two that were manning the gates staying behind. Their expressions showed they clearly didn’t want to be there.
The man bee-lined towards Ianto, looking at him in a way that made him extremely uncomfortable. He snapped out something to Jack who replied back awkwardly. The man turned Ianto around on the spot, running his hands up and down Ianto’s body. Ianto tried to get out of his reach, but the man was a lot bigger and stronger than Ianto and simply kept a tight hold of him, preventing Ianto from moving away from him.
Ianto looked at Jack pleadingly. Jack shook his head and shrugged apologetically before turning away. The man looked triumphantly at Ianto before saying something else to Jack. Jack looked like he was about to argue but the man grabbed Ianto by the hair before speaking angrily to Jack again. Jack sighed and spoke one last time to the man, resignation in his voice. Jack picked up his bag and walked off without giving Ianto another glance. The man smiled maliciously at Ianto and hauled him away.