Jack couldn’t move. The emotions he’d felt inside the Tardis welled up inside him once again, and the fear of losing the man who was slowly getting out of bed was nearly overwhelming.
He looked from Ianto to the Doctor and received another surprise. Instead of anger or disgust, Jack could see unexpected compassion in the Doctor’s eyes once again.
“I’m sorry,” the Time Lord told him, “but this really is for the best.”
“Doctor?” Ianto was watching them both with wide eyes. “Are you here to help us?”
“No, Ianto, I can’t,” the Doctor said gently. “I’m sorry.”
Ianto shook his head. “But you have to! The children… Doctor, they want ten percent, and the governments are giving in!” He looked at Jack. “Tell him!”
“There’s nothing I can do about it, it’s a fixed point in space and time. Humanity is on its own.” The Doctor said the last with a tired air. “I know better now than to try and stop it.”
“But you’re the Doctor. This is what you do, you appear at the last minute and save the day. Doesn’t he, Jack?”
“You should come with us,” Jack said quietly. His face felt numb as he watched Ianto, his hands felt numb as they tried to reach out, his feet felt numb as they tried and failed to step toward him.
“Come where?” Ianto asked, though he was already gathering his shoes and stuffing them on his feet. “Do we have a plan?”
“Yes, yes we have got a plan.” The Doctor looked up at the far-away roof and licked his lips.
“Then let’s go, I’m ready.” Ianto had been sleeping in his suit. Jack stepped forward without thinking and took his hand. Ianto gave him a look of surprise, but squeezed it awkwardly.
They left the warehouse. Jack tugged Ianto away from waking Gwen and Rhys, and tugged him even closer as they closed the door behind them.
“Jack, what’s wrong?” Ianto demanded.
Jack looked at him, his skin and face and eyes, those gray-blue eyes that echoed the moonlight, and felt so scared. He didn’t respond.
The Doctor stopped them both outside the Tardis. “This is as far as you go, Jack. Don’t want a repeat of earlier, do we?”
Ianto looked between the two of them. “Then why are we here?”
“You’ve got to come with me, Ianto,” the Doctor told him, glancing at Jack before saying, more quietly, “I am truly sorry, but I don’t know if you can come back.”
“No!” Ianto’s grip on Jack’s hand was suddenly crushing. “What are you talking about?”
“I’m sorry, Ianto, I’m so sorry.” Jack whispered into his ear. At this time, in this exact spot, he could feel the universe holding on with the last strength she possessed. He knew if they lingered too long, she would snap.
Ianto turned to him and his miserable eyes, holding Jack’s with a grip every bit as tight as the space-time continuum around them, hit Jack like a hammer swung full-strength into his gut. He remembered…
Johnson’s fingers squeezing the back of Ianto’s neck, holding it upright. He whispered his last words to Jack through a video camera, and died before Jack could respond.
Jack cradled Ianto in his arms before the eerie light of the 456’s tank. Jack cried, he raged, he promised, but he still said Don’t.
Ianto’s voice rasped over the earpieces and Jack could hear him coughing up liquid. He promised to keep Ianto’s family safe, but he couldn’t promise anything else.
Martha visited him the day after he killed Steven, her husband unable to look Jack in the face as Martha delivered Ianto’s last words. Jack couldn’t say a word.
The fear, the betrayal, the confusion in Ianto’s gray-blue eyes as Jack walked him across the warehouse by gunpoint. Please, I love you, he said, and Jack’s hands shook as he pulled the trigger.
“I love you,” he said, and Ianto’s jaw fell slack. “If I never see you again, or if I can’t remember this-” Jack tugged him forward, pressed their foreheads together, tried to memorize his lips in an instant, “know that right now I love you so much the universe can’t even handle it.”
Ianto huffed, almost a laugh, and stuttered. He couldn’t get the words out, Jack realized, and despite the pain in his chest there was a poetic justice to it.
He stepped back, the universe groaned. The Doctor, frantic, pulled Ianto into the Tardis. Jack caught a last glimpse of those gray-blue eyes before the door slammed shut and the police box faded away.