Spoilers: All seasons, including Children of Earth.
Summary: There's a reason Jack's never doing that again.
Note: Beta by the incomparable hope. Inspired by the Harlequin challenge on flashfic_hub... Yeah. Don't ask me how I got from that to this. O_o
Podfic: Now available as a podfic, read by the awesome diane_mckay. Download here.
It's dark and cold, the first gleam of dawn not yet on the horizon, when Jack walks out onto the barrage and finds the younger version of himself leaning against the railing, looking down at the dirty water of the bay.
Younger Jack looks up when Jack stops next to him. Jack isn't wearing the coat anymore, so it takes a moment for Younger Him to realise who it is... he looks visibly startled when he does.
"Well," Younger Jack says. "This is an unexpected turn of events."
"Only for you." Jack remembers this moment; he couldn't afford to Retcon himself and forget what had happened. Back then, he'd been too grateful for the easy solution to the problem to care much about his future self's motivations, except in the most distant and abstract of ways. He has a whole different perspective on the situation now.
Younger Jack's white-knuckled grip on the railing eases up a bit. "I take it you're here because of the test I ran last night?"
A tiny, unacknowledged twist of stress unwinds in Jack's gut. Despite all logic and training, he'd feared he might have got the date wrong, missed this moment, arriving too late to get what he wanted. "Yes, I'm here because of the test."
"Tell me you have a way to solve the problem," Younger Jack says.
"Give it to me," Jack answers, some of what he's feeling bleeding through despite his efforts to keep it at bay. "I want it. You don't. Problem solved."
Letting go of the railing, Younger Jack turns to face him. His surprise has turned to scepticism and suspicion. "You do know who--"
"Yes." Jack says. "Yes, I know." It takes an effort of will not to say: God, you're an idiot. Why are you wasting all this time? He's mortal you stupid fuck. And then, unable to help himself (it's been so long since he's said the name): "Ianto."
"Ianto Jones," Younger Jack confirms with a sigh.
Jack takes in the wistful slant to his own mouth, and the way Younger Him is searching his face with just a trace of hope. Jack doesn't remember that. With a rising sense of horrified fatalism Jack realises he was already in love with Ianto, all the way back then, but somehow hadn't known. Back before everything. Before Suzie and Lisa's deaths. Before he finally found the Doctor. Before Grey. Back when he'd told himself it was just fucking. Just really fantastic fucking.
How had he not known? How had he hidden it from himself?
"Are we...?" Younger Jack says, with that tiny sliver of hope shining in his eyes. "In the future... Ianto and you?"
He swallows down a surge of grief, and shrugs, casually, as though Ianto is irrelevant. Jack's so tempted to tell; so tempted to try and change Ianto's fate. But he's thought about this for two hundred years; thought around and around all the crossings in his own timeline -- Younger Jack's now, the year that wasn't, the Jack in the cryogenic chamber -- he's thought it out so often, and he still can't see a way to unpick it without unpicking everything else, without unpicking Earth and millions of children and too many other things that deserve to be safe. There's a reason it took him so long to come back to this moment: he doesn't trust himself. He forces himself to stick to the script, knowing how the words sound. "I need a fetus. You need to get rid of one. It seemed expedient."
"Expedient," Younger Jack echoes, that skerrick of hope dying away as Jack watches. Younger Jack's eyes go glassy and he looks away, out over the water, and blinks twice, lashes wet. It could just be the wind, the cold. Except Jack remembers the other side of this moment, remembers how hard it was to turn back to him and say, "If you can get it out of me before dawn, it's all yours. It'll save me having to have an 'accident'."
"Drowning sucks," Jack says, still remembering his half-formed plan. He pulls the bio-containment unit out of his pocket and holds it up; it's the size and shape of an old-fashioned silver dollar.
"Clever," Younger Jack says, begrudgingly, and holds out his hand for the device, even though it's clear from his expression that he thinks Jack wants the fetus for... something terrible.
That's the moment Jack breaks. He flips the device like a coin and catches it on the back of his right hand, left hand covering it. "Wanna know the future? Heads for Ianto, tails for you?"
"Assuming it even has heads or tails, you already know how it came down," Younger Jack points out, sounding weary. He clicks his fingers impatiently, and then snatches the device from Jack's hand, not bothering to look at the patterns on the outside. "And either way, you can't tell me anything except that we're never doing this again. That's all the future I need to know."
Jack hates himself right then, but he holds his tongue and watches avidly as Younger Him sets up the device; holds his breath until the beam shoots out and everything works, the embryo successfully transferred, processed and stored. His hands shake when Younger Jack hands the device over: humming, lights green, stasis engaged, safety mode on.
As soon as he has it, Jack clenches his fist around the device, desperate to keep it safe, sweating now that it's worked and he actually has his unborn daughter in his hand.
Younger Jack presses three fingers to his belly, just for a moment, as though sensing what's been taken, and then lets his hand fall. He hesitates, as though about to say something -- Don't hurt her, or, You'd better know what you're doing -- but in the end, he says nothing; just turns and strides back towards the Hub. Problem solved.
Jack rests against the rail, watching himself walk down the path to the Hub, coat flapping like a live thing. Once he's out of sight, Jack turns his face to the wind, and breathes deeply -- smelling oestrogen, seagulls, dead fish, all the half-forgotten things he used to know -- and waits for the world to turn, and the sky to light up with the brief, violent colours of the new day.
This entry was originally posted at http://cupidsbow.dreamwidth.org/322731.html.