Title: Gwil's Guide to Growing Up Torchwood: Year 5, Chapter 3
Pairing: Jack/Ianto, Gwil
Word Count: 2,318
Summary: When a seven-year-old boy falls through the Rift, Ianto and Jack decide to adopt him. This is the story of his life at Torchwood.
Chapter Summary: One night while Jack and Gwil are having a quiet evening in, Gwil asks some questions.
A/N: Reminder: We're now down to 5 chapters per Year. This is where it'll be for the rest of the series. So things are going to be moving a bit more quickly. The plan is to have the series wrap up around end of August - when I start graduate classes at CMU. This might mean some 3-day a week updates... we'll see what I can whip up ~.^
Jack smoothed his fingers over the metal, feeling for the smallest grooves or niches or bumps. His eyes drifted closed as he focused his entire attention to the sensitive nerve endings in his fingertips, trying to find the problem with the device. There had to be some sort of break in the sensitive strips of nano-contact points on its surface. To go over it with a microscope would be painstaking, and Tosh didn't have the technology sensitive enough yet to run a diagnostic on it. But Jack had a feel for these sorts of things – he always had. That sense, plus a lot of charm and luck, had gotten him through the Time Academy in one piece. If he could just find the break...
Opening his eyes, Jack took a moment to return to himself. He frowned down at the device, and his fingertips lingering on it. He hadn't even covered a square centimeter of its surface area. Sighing, Jack set it aside and turned his focus on the other side of the kitchen table, where Gwil was seated. He had his maths book and notebook out, pencil trapped between his fingers as he tapped it, making light marks in the margins of his paper. Jack noted that most of the page was already filled – almost done, then.
“What's up?” he asked.
Gwil's eyes drifted to the device sitting innocuously on the table. Its shimmering, almost mercurial form seemed out of place, even amid such modern technologies as their flat screen tellies or stainless steel refrigerators. Even Jack's wriststrap, clad in leather in an attempt to disguise the technology within so many years ago, looked old and clunky compared to the too-perfect smoothness of the device. Steve Jobs would turn green with envy.
Setting down his pencil, Gwil pointed his middle finger at the device. “What's that?”
Jack hefted it, turning it over in his hands carefully. Then, after pretending to consider the matter quite seriously, he held it over to the table to Gwil. With just a moment's hesitation – born from plenty of accidents Gwil had been a part of or witnessed over the years, surely – Gwil took the object from Jack. His hands dropped an inch under the surprising weight, before hefting it experimentally, fingers smoothing over the surface.
“It's mail,” Jack said, smiling as he watched Gwil turn the object over and over in his hands. “It's a way of sending very very important packages in the future. I think this was a government document: a bill or law, or maybe just a letter. Either way, it didn't get to its destination.”
Gwil frowned. “Why's it so heavy?”
Clasping his hands in front of him, Jack leaned back in his chair as he relaxed into the conversation. It had been too long of a day to bring his work home with him – he should have realized that hours ago. “There's more in it than just a document. If it's from where I think it's from, the custom is to include a bribe with the bill: a family heirloom, gold, a crown, expensive clothing, that sort of thing.”
Gwil's eyes lit up. “Why haven't you opened it yet, then? Don't know how?”
Jack smirked. “Oh, I know how. But it's broken. Here,” he leaned across the table, Gwil imitating him and doing the same, holding the device out to his dad. Jack ran his finger over the surface slowly. “Run your fingers over it. What do you feel?”
Closing his eyes – likely in an imitation of Jack himself, earlier – Gwil ran his middle finger slowly over the surface of the device. His finger moved slower and slower, until his eyes shot open. “Lines!” he breathed. “There's tiny lines!”
Jack nodded. “Small than the width of a single hair. It's like...” Jack stopped. He was going to say: “Like the grooves in a record,” but he realized that simile wasn't as effective anymore. Instead he settled with “Like the circuits running through a computer chip.”
Gwil nodded in apparent understand, finger still trailing slowly over the lump of future-metal. Finally he turned it back over to Jack, who set it down on the table. “Why doesn't Tad work on stuff like that?” Gwil tapped his pencil on his maths homework some more, cocking his head at Jack.
“Tad's at work right now,” Jack replied. He had already told Gwil this once, when he had come home from the Hub without Ianto. “He wants to finish whatever section of the archives he's working on now.” Jack honestly had no idea what section Ianto was in, though he was pretty sure Ianto had told him at some point. As it was, Ianto was in the middle of the biggest archival revamp Jack had ever witnessed, and Jack had been around to witness a lot of archival overhauls. Ianto had been swamped for months now, coordinating with all the different Torchwood offices all over the world. Even though it meant more time at the Hub and less time at home, Jack was willing to endure the long hours, because it meant that Ianto was almost completely off field duty. For the time being.
“No.” Gwil rolled his eyes, frustration at not being understood obvious. “I meant why d'you always do the future stuff? When Tad or Auntie Tosh or Mickey can't figure it out, you always do it.” Jack stayed quiet as Gwil pondered this, eyes narrowing in thought. “Is it because Boeshane's more futuristic and stuff? They've got better technology than us?”
Jack hesitated, unsure of how to reply. Every time Gwil asked one of these questions – which were becoming more and more frequent, now that he knew Dad was an “alien” – Ianto would glance over at Jack, but say nothing. Jack knew Ianto was trying his best not to pressure him, but he also knew that Ianto felt the younger Gwil learned the weightiest of Jack's secrets, the better.
Gwil seemed to pick up on Jack's hesitation, because his gaze became sharper, his curiosity more keen. “And I was thinking: how's Boeshane got humans, too? I was thinking about something Auntie Tosh said, about humans forgetting about super tech stuff we once had, like that Greek computer or the Roman steam engine. And I thought maybe humans could go in space once, too, only we just forgot. Did humans get to Boeshane that way? Or was it the other way 'round? 'Cause I don't think humans just appeared in two different places. Uncle Owen was telling me about evolution, and it seems like it'd be a super super coincidence if humans evolved on Earth and Boeshane.”
Jack sighed, leaning back in his chair. He tapped his fingers against the table, considering his son who sat before him. Finally he pushed up from the table and stepped around, dragging a chair with him so he could sit next to Gwil. The boy shifted, turning sideways in his chair as he watched his father closely. It might not be time to tell everything to Gwil just yet – especially not the worst of Jack's history – but maybe it'd be alright to tell him just a little bit more.
“You want to know a secret?” Jack asked. Gwil's eyes lit up, head nodding vigorously. Jack reached out and patted Gwil's leg, squeezing it between his fingers before speaking. He took a breath, staring straight into Gwil's eyes as he spoke. “I'm from the future.”
Gwil gasped and looked appropriately amazed, hands going to his mouth as his eyes went wide. “Really?” he breathed.
“Oh yeah.” A crooked smile flashed across Jack's face. “Fifty-first century. That's the year five thousand, or three thousand years in the future. Just about.”
“Does Tad know?!”
Jack laughed. “Yeah. Tad knows. Everyone does. I just...” Jack hesitated, unsure how to explain to Gwil that he didn't want to tell him just yet, that he wanted Gwil to think he was a “normal” Torchwood dad for just a little while longer.
But Gwil seemed to take his exclusion in stride, expression still enraptured by this new information. “So Boeshane's in the future?”
Jack nodded. “Yeah. It's one of the places humans end up colonizing. In the future, humans'll spread out into space, into every nook and cranny and little tiny habitable place they can find. Hell, we even show up in the places that aren't so habitable, and we just make it work. Because that's what humans do.”
Gwil's eyes glittered with excitement. “What's it like? In the future? Did you fly around on a space ship? Was it like Star Wars? Or Star Trek? Were there robots and laser beams? Oh!” Gwil gasped so loud he startled Jack, hands flailing out to grab at Jack's forearms. “Did you get here like me? Did the Rift swallow you up like me?”
Oh. Jack smiled softly, running a hand through Gwil's curls. He had spent so much time refusing to tell Gwil about himself, that he had never thought about the similarities Gwil might find. Gwil always seemed so much a clone of Ianto, that Jack never stopped to look at the ways Gwil had started to relate to him, as well. “No. Though I did end up here on accident.”
“How?” Gwil breathed.
Extracting himself from Gwil's grip, Jack flipped open his wriststrap and held his wrist out to Gwil. “You know my fancy device?”
Gwil nodded. “That I'm never ever ever supposed to touch.”
Jack laughed. “You're still not allowed to touch it,” he warned. “But you can look.” Gwil obediently peered down at the buttons and displays. “It's not just for turning on tellies or scanning aliens. It used to be a time travel device: a vortex manipulator. I worked for the Time Agency. I was a professional time traveler, in the fifty-first century.”
Ianto wouldn't be pleased with how enraptured Gwil was, Jack mused.
Big blue eyes gazed admiringly up at Jack. “How'd you come here? Was it a mission?”
“Kind of.” Quickly Jack edited his own history, trying to determine how he wanted to explain it to Gwil. “I traveled back to the nineteen forties – World War Two times. Then I met the Doctor, and we traveled around for a bit. Then...” Jack hesitated. He couldn't say he got stuck in the nineteenth century and then lived to today. As young as Gwil was, he wasn't that young. And tonight proved he'd ben willing to ask questions when things didn't seem to sync properly. “Then I came back here and got stuck, because my vortex manipulator broke. So I stayed and worked for Torchwood.”
“And then you met Tad, right?”
Jack grinned at the simplicity of it. “Yeah,” he agreed. “I met Tad, so I decided being stuck here wasn't so bad.”
Gwil nodded, grinning: at the romance of it all, Jack supposed. Gwil had that same romantic streak Ianto had – that idealistic heart that was willing to save a cyberwoman girlfriend; the same heart that was willing to accept Jack, in all his brokenness.
Just then they were interrupted by the sound of a key scraping in the front lock, followed a moment later by the door opening. Ianto stepped through, looking exhausted and dusty. Leaving Gwil with one more ruffle of Jack's hand through his hair, Jack bounded over to Ianto, taking his messenger bag from his shoulder. Ianto sagged into Jack, exhaustion obvious. “Long day?” Jack asked into Ianto's cheek.
“Unf.” Lifting himself from Jack's chest, Ianto peered past him to the kitchen. “How was school?”
“Fine,” Gwil chimed, already turning his attention back to his homework. “Tyler had a dead chicken leg and was making it move in his sleeve like it was alive.”
Still pressed partially against Jack's chest, Ianto frowned over his shoulder. “Oh.” He turned to Jack. “Did he already tell you about this?”
Jack smirked. “Yeah. And he's washed his hands.”
“I didn't touch it,” Gwil huffed from his spot at the kitchen table. Jack turned and looked at him, keeping one arm wrapped around Ianto's waist. “Well,” Gwil acquiesced, “I washed my hands right after. And Dad made me wash them again before dinner.”
Pressing a kiss to Ianto's head, hand stroking at his hip. “Do you want to take a bath? I could bring you dinner in the tub.”
Ianto's eyes lit up. “That sounds more amazing than it really should.”
They kissed, then Jack was nudging Ianto off to their bathroom and keeping his messenger bag hostage. “Go on, then,” he urged. “Oh, and...” he nodded over at Gwil before lowering his voice. “We talked. About the fifty-first century.”
Ianto's eyes softened, and he took an unconscious step back toward Jack. “Oh. Do-”
“Later,” Jack insisted. He shooed Ianto again, turning him bodily around with hands to his shoulders toward their bathroom. “For now, you get in the tub, I'll get your dinner warmed up.”
With Ianto safely off to his relaxation time, Jack tossed his messenger bag on the sofa and headed off to the kitchen to heat up his dinner. As he passed Gwil, Jack ran a hand through his hair again, causing Gwil to squirm away from his touch. Jack laughed, the happiness burning deep in his chest. Ianto was right: it was a little bit of a relief to share a bit more of himself with Gwil. Jack just wasn't ready to tell him everything just yet.
Continue on to Chapter 4.