"Give me one good reason why I shouldn't stick these six-inch heels up your sweet arse, Jack Harkness?" That was the greeting Toshiko gave Jack when he and Ianto appeared on the doorstep of her home in New Egypt. The tech genius had resigned her post at New Cardiff’s university and moved to New Egypt when it had rightfully achieved the honour of technology headquarters of New Earth.
'Yep, I'm a dead man.' Jack refused to give into the pure terror coursing through his body as he stared at the tiny, fiery dragon known as Toshiko Sato, Ianto's best friend. "I can say nothing in my defence except that I was a blind fool who ended up hurting the man I love with all my heart thereby destroying the best thing that has ever happened in my life. Please believe me when I tell you that I have spent every day since regretting letting Ianto go."
Tosh could hear the honesty in Jack's voice, and the pain and regret reflected in his blue eyes were easy to see. She knew then that Ianto wasn't the only one who had been hurt and it made her remember that Jack had been her friend too before that conniving bitch, Gwen Cooper, had sunk her claws into him. "I'll refrain from ripping you a new asshole, for now. You're just lucky that Suzie is off-world and won't be back until next week." While she had softened just a little towards Jack over the past five years, Suzie had not and more than once her wife had gone into graphic gory detail of just what she would do to Jack should she ever see him again.
Jack gave an involuntary shiver. Suzie was well known for holding a grudge against those who hurt someone she cared about and while he and Suzie were long-time friends, she had adopted Ianto as a brother. Suzie had given him the scariest shovel talk known to man when he’d begun dating Ianto and the image of what would happen to him and his mini-captain should he hurt Ianto in any way still haunted him. Upon learning of his involvement with Gwen Suzie had made good on her promise to use him as target practice; for one full month Jack had been so terrified of her deadly skill with a handgun that he’d refused to leave his home.
Grateful for Tosh's support but knowing now was not the time to go into old history, Ianto placed his hands on Tosh's shoulders. The pure excitement shining in his eyes belied the calm tone of his words, "Tosh, we've found it." He didn't need to explain; Tosh knew what he was talking about.
Eyes widening in shock and amazement, Tosh took a step back. "You better come in." As both men passed her Tosh's gaze darted from side to side as she checked the street outside to make sure no one had followed the two men. Once inside Tosh activated the intricate and impenetrable security system she had designed herself, one that put all others to shame and could not be hacked or broken into no matter how talented the one trying to get into it was. They might be good but she was much, much better.
After hearing the whole story from Ianto, Jack was grateful to see that Tosh's glare had gone down a notch or two and her gaze was a little warmer when she looked at him, but it was what she told them next that had both men freezing. "You're not the only two looking for the Well of Time, Ianto, so is Owen, he’s already tried to hire me. Twice."
Ianto had known it was a possibility, even a probability, but he hadn't wanted to be true. "I'm not surprised,” he sighed. “This is the greatest find in history and you’re the only one I can think of who can help me with these markings.” Ianto reached out and squeezed Tosh hands. “Still, I know it can't have been easy to see Owen again."
Tosh smiled weakly at Ianto. No, it hadn't been easy seeing her old crush again but when she had looked at him this time, she hadn't seen the man she had fallen for so long ago; in his place had stood a man who’d lost his humanity and his ability to care about the welfare of others. After losing Katie, the only woman Owen would ever love, he had stopped caring about everything and everyone and had begun caring only about those who could help him find the Well of Time. Locating the mythical treasure had consumed him, nearly driving him to the brink of madness.
"I'm afraid he's close to finding the Well of Time." All three of them knew exactly what Owen's goal was, he wanted to go back in time and save Katie before she could be killed in a senseless and pointless attack.
Stroking the coral with tender fingertips, Ianto found himself reminding them, "Even Owen won't be able to find it without the coral, this baby TARDIS is drawn to the Well of Time no matter how old it is. Can you make anything of those markings? They're nothing I'm familiar with." And wasn't that painful for Ianto to admit as he prided himself on knowing everything there was to know about the Time Lords.
After studying the strange markings that lined the base of the coral Tosh was forced to also admit defeat and shook her head no. "But I know of someone who might, you can go to see them tomorrow." She bit her lower lip in indecision before finally giving voice to her fears, "Ianto, something bothers me."
Jack and Ianto exchange a look; it was never a good thing when Tosh was worried. "What is it, my friend?"
For a moment Tosh found it hard to speak and finally when she did, her words were accompanied by a strange, eerie and foreboding rush of wind that shouldn't be possible given they were inside. "It’s the treasure; if it is there at Tanis, it is not something that we were meant to disturb. Death has always surrounded it. It is not something we should be messing with."
Ianto and Jack shuddered as the wind died down as suddenly as it had begun and both men stared thoughtfully at Tosh. She did have a point and it forced them to think of something they hadn't before.
After a restless night spent in separate rooms, Ianto and Jack took leave of Tosh's place with the address of her friend firmly locked in Ianto's mind. Neither of them spoke as they headed into the city and quickly reached the tiny central square, made even more cramped by its use that day as a small bazaar. As they made their way through the crowd they were not blind to the rather obvious followers they had acquired, but they didn’t dare draw their weapons with so many innocents in the way. Still that didn't stop Ianto from reaching into his jacket and pulling out his faithful bull whip, the first one to reach them was going to get hit squarely in the mouth with the handle of the whip.
It was at that very moment that all hell broke loose as the bad guys converged on Ianto and Jack and the innocent shoppers began screaming in numerous languages and fleeing in all directions. Pure chaos erupted as Ianto used his whip to pull away a main support pole of a nearby booth causing its many cast iron and ceramic pots and pans to fall onto two of the two Weevils chasing him.
Jack wasn't afraid to fight dirty and found it much easier to take on those who came after him. He knew what he had to do in similar combat situations; it was snap decisions that had kept him and his men alive in the wars. He would willingly take a life if it meant protecting those he cared about the most and a certain Welshman was certainly at the very top of his list.
Ianto and Jack could only blink in surprise as the crowd of enemies unexpectedly parted and their next opponent came in to view. Standing in front of the group and carrying a sword of all things, was a hulking Weevil wearing a smirk that said he was very impressed with himself while he did a rather mesmerising twirl with his sword.
"Who brings a sword to a gun fight?" Ianto asked in pure disbelief.
Jack didn’t give their enemy a chance to answer as he immediately pulled out his beloved Webley and completely unimpressed with the man's display Jack ended it with a single shot. The six-shot WWII artefact was a treasured gift from Ianto to him on their first Christmas together and it remained his most prized possession. With his back to the other man, he didn't see the swirls of emotion and pleasure that appeared in Ianto's eyes at the sight of the gift he had searched a better part of a year to find. Knowing that Jack still had it after all their years apart softened his heart a little more towards Jack; maybe there was hope for them yet.
Just as the man fell to the ground and the sword clattered down beside him, a loud explosion rocked the market place nearly knocking them off their feet. Ianto was horrified to see that during their fight some of the others had planted powerful explosives around the marketplace, claiming the lives of several innocent bystanders. So lost was he in the devastation and the senseless violence that Ianto failed to notice the man who brushed against him, silently slipping him a note and then vanishing into the crowd, leaving behind others to deal with the deadly chaos that had escalated in seconds.
"You didn't have to come with me, but thank you anyway." Ianto made sure to keep his voice a soft whisper as he and Jack entered a dark, smoke-filled den. The mysterious note he had found in his pocket said to go to the bar and wait to be contacted; given the extremes someone had gone to deliver the message Ianto wasn't going to take any chances.
Jack wrinkled his nose with distaste as he took in the dark den and the patrons who could be the poster children for fearsome. "No thanks needed, Yan; I don't plan on letting you out of my sight until this is over," 'and not even then.' Too many times during this short but perilous journey Jack's heart had nearly stopped at the danger Ianto had been in and there was no way he was letting the man out of his sight.
Ianto firmly told himself he wasn't going to blush as he turned away from Jack and headed for the bar but the faint redness on his cheeks was seen by Jack. The man couldn't help but smile to himself as he followed Ianto and his eyes just naturally fell onto Ianto's behind as he walked and he couldn't help but lick his lips. He was thrilled beyond belief that there was a still a chance he could fix things with Ianto.
Ianto found it hard not to slip into old patterns and behaviours with Jack but the man did know how to spin a good tale and he soon found himself listening to story after story. For a moment Ianto forgot about all the pain and betrayal that had ripped them apart; for now it was just like old times and he was enjoying every second of it.
The spell was broken when the silver-skinned bartender placed a bottle of hyper-vodka in front of them, and both men eyed it suspiciously. "I'm sorry, but we didn't order this," Ianto informed her with a polite smile.
The woman shook her head slowly and then nodded behind them. "It's from the gentleman in the corner seat; he would like the two of you to join him," she explained.
Ianto took a deep breath as he shared a look with Jack; this was it, the reason they had come to such an unpleasant place, to meet the mystery man who was behind the attacks on them. Not about to turn down a bottle of very expensive hyper-vodka Jack picked it up and took it with him as he and Ianto moved to the shadow-shrouded corner table.
"Owen!" There was pure and absolute disbelief in Ianto's tone as he stared at the man he’d hoped had been finished off by the Tarqin warriors seemingly enjoying a glass of wine.
"Good evening, Dr Jones, Captain Harkness. I must admit that I was rather surprised to learn the two of you were working together. Last I heard that bitch, Gwen Cooper, had succeeded in sinking her claws into you, Jack, and had broken the two of you up." Owen knew his nasty comment had hit the mark when a flash of pain appeared in Ianto's eyes at the reminder of Jack's betrayal. "Where are my manners? Please, sit down and join me."
Knowing that they had little choice but to accept Ianto and Jack took the empty seats across from Owen, their sharp eyes taking in the group of disreputable men slipping into the suddenly free tables around them.
"Not a very private place for a murder," Jack pointed out as he made sure to position himself between Ianto and the nearest group of hired goons.
Owen merely raised an amused eyebrow as he took a sip of his wine. “For the right price they will turn a blind eye, but rest assured that I am not going to kill either of you, not just yet. You have something I want, something I need. I need the coral you have, Ianto."
Ianto shook his head decisively. "There is no way I will ever hand over the TARDIS coral to you, Owen, and you know it. It's staying with me and it’s going to be placed in a safe place, one where it can never be used." Ianto’s plan was to find the treasure of the Time Lords and then put it all in the museum where it belonged.
"If you had the chance to change a single moment in time, one that cost you the person you can't live without, you're telling me you wouldn't take that chance?" Owen demanded to know, his face twisted with rage.
Jack swallowed hard as he refused to stare at Ianto. The idea of going back in time and stopping himself from ever meeting Gwen Cooper and hurting Ianto was far too strong a pull; he knew exactly what Owen was talking about and he could easily sympathise with Owen's reasoning.
Ianto also understood perfectly well and he paled dramatically. "You mean to save Katie, don't you?"
Owen's jaw tightened as did his hand on the stem of his wine glass; in fact it tightened so much that the delicate crystal snapped, sending wine splashing across the table. "Yes! And nothing and no one is going to stand in my way and if I have to, Jones, I will take the coral from you by force."
Ianto and Jack both knew that Owen was not making an empty promise but at the same time there was simply no way that they could hand over the coral. It was the only known artefact in the universe that could lead someone to the Well of Time, and Owen was the very last person who should be allowed to find it, not after he admitted that he planned to change the course of history.
Owen saw the tightness around Jack and Ianto's jaws and knew that they weren't going to be persuaded to hand it over so easily. 'I really wish it hadn't come to this,' he thought sadly. He really didn’t want to hurt anyone; he just wanted his Katie back alive and happy and in his arms again, no matter what. “You know,” he began slowly, "It would be a terrible shame if something happened to Tosh or to Suzie;, after all there is so much that can go wrong on a shuttle craft." Owen let the thinly-veiled threat hang in the air as he idly blotted at his spilled wine.
"You wouldn't!" Jack hissed out while Ianto stared in disbelief. “Have you no decency left?”
“As a matter of fact, no, I don’t.”Owen's eyes were deadly serious as he leaned forward, "When it comes to saving Katie there isn't any line I'm not willing to cross."
Ianto knew that Owen was speaking the truth, when he’d lost Katie it was like he had lost whatever it was that made him a caring human being. He and Jack were facing a desperate man who would do whatever it took to save the love of his life. "If I agree to give you the coral so you can save Katie will you swear to leave Tosh, Suzie and everyone else we care about alone?"
"If you agree to my terms then yes, I swear that everyone you care for will be spared." Owen knew that he had won; Ianto was a bleeding heart who unwisely cared deeply for those in his life.
"Ianto, you can't be serious!" Jack didn't know how Ianto could give in so easily.
"I can't risk Tosh or Suzie, Jack, and I can't risk you either," Ianto admitted in a soft voice, and for a moment Jack couldn't breathe as the emotions shining in Ianto's blue eyes washed over him. Once he was sure that Jack had seen how much he still cared about him, Ianto refocused his gaze on Owen. "As you figured I don't have the coral on me, it's hidden safely away, but I'll bring it to you in the morning, you have my word." He held out his hand to Owen.
If there was one thing Owen Harper knew about Ianto Jones it was the fact that he was indeed a man of his word and a loyal soul, which was why he always wondered how Ianto had ended up with Jack. Given the man's reputation for shagging everything that moved and for never showing one inkling of wanting a monogamous relationship he’d have thought someone like Ianto Jones would have run the other way. Still that was not his problem and he smiled coldly as he slid a small data chip across the table. "Bring the coral to this address at first light and no later unless you want to make your precious Toshiko a widow."
Ianto's blue eyes flashed dangerously as he accepted the chip. "It will be there," he growled out before climbing to his feet.
Stunned beyond words by what had just taken place, Jack quickly climbed to his feet and chased after the other man. Owen watched them go with a knowing look in his eyes as he placed a well-worn journal on the table and stroked its cover lovingly. "Thank you again, Mr Saxon, for giving me everything I need to find the Well of Time." It hadn't been easy getting his hands on Saxon's journal; in fact it had taken some very skilled thieves and a very large sum to steal it but it had been worth every penny he had spent to bring his beloved Katie back to him.
Outside the pub Jack had managed to catch up to Ianto; reaching out he grabbed Ianto by the arm and whirled the other man around to face him. "What was that?” Jack struggled not to shout. “Why did you give into Owen's demands? We could have found a way to keep Tosh and Suzie safe without handing over the coral!" Jack couldn't understand why Ianto would do such a thing.
"I need you to trust me, Jack, and to believe in me that I have a plan." Ianto gripped his old lover’s hands tightly as pleaded with Jack. "I'll explain everything when we reach Tosh's." He just needed Jack to trust him.
Jack studied Ianto and the pleading look in those blue eyes he loved so much. "I do trust you, Ianto, I always have, it's me who's never been the trustworthy one," Jack admitted softly. “And I’m so very, very sorry about that.”
Ianto swallowed hard. "After this is all over we are going to have a long talk about the two of us."
Jack felt hope fill him and warm his heart for the first time in years. "I think we do as well and we will, I promise." Jack would do everything in his power to earn a second chance with Ianto and this time he would not screw up.