NO GREATER GIFT

Jack stood in the doorway of the TARDIS, looking out at the Hub with growing fear. Though not utterly ransacked, there was enough evidence of a disturbance for him to know his team hadn't just taken off for a mission, or to get a drink. His gaze came to rest on the Doctor, who was making his way back to the TARDIS with Alex's limp and bloodied form in his arms.

"Alex, no..." Jack whispered in horror.

"She'll be fine, Jack," the Doctor reassured him as he slipped past the former time agent. "But I need to get her to the med room so that the TARDIS can help her. Then, hopefully she'll be able to tell us what happened."

Jack watched the Doctor carry her into the TARDIS before looking back out at the Hub. Ianto was at Tosh's desk, his fingers flying over the keyboard.

"What've you got?" Jack asked as he joined the younger man. "CCTV footage?"

"Someone tried to disable the Hub," Ianto answered. "Looks like they didn't anticipate the safeguards that Tosh put in place, including the CCTV. Just a sec, almost got it..."

He trailed off as the monitor came to life, treating them to a bird's eye view.

"Taark," Jack hissed with ill-concealed loathing. Ianto sucked in a long breath as he recognised the name from Jack's recently recovered memories.

"She's one of the agents that helped to snatch you and Eleya from..."

"Right," Jack cut him off, clearly struggling to control his anger. "She was my superior officer, and she hated me. After the Agency recaptured me, she took charge of interrogating me herself."

Ianto looked at him quizzically.

"She tortured you, didn't she?"

"Let's just say that one of the reasons I ran was because not only did I wake up with two galactic standard years missing from my memory, I could barely move because I'd been so badly beaten."

"Bitch," Ianto growled. They watched in silence, and finally Jack growled in anger as the agents vanished with their colleagues.

"They've taken them back to Agency headquarters. They must have tracked Eleya here. We need to talk to Alex."

"What about him?" Ianto wondered, glancing at the dead Time Agent. "Won't they come back for him?"

"No. Agency code. We don't risk crossing our own timelines to go back for anyone who gets left behind. They won't be coming back. Not this soon."

Trusting that Jack was right, Ianto followed him back into the TARDIS.


"How bad is it?" Jack asked as he and Ianto strode into the med room. The Doctor offered them both a reassuring smile.

"She'll be fine. The knife wounds were nasty, but they somehow missed hitting anything vital. She's only unconscious now because she hit her head. She should be waking up any time now."

Long seconds ticked by before the Doctor's prediction came true and Alex's eyes opened.

"Hey, gorgeous," Jack said softly, favouring her with a warm smile that did little to mask his concern. Alex stared up at him, looking as though she didn't know where she was, or who Jack was. Realisation dawned at the same moment that the pain from her injuries hit, and a loud groan escaped her.

"Ow, goddamn it!"

"Easy," the Doctor murmured. "Stay still, Alex. I don't think you'll reopen those wounds, but why take the risk."

Alex shuddered, and then looked up at Jack and Ianto in distress.

"We were ambushed, right inside the Hub. Owen and I weren't caught right away... God, Jack, I'm sorry..."

"Hey," Jack said, "how about you tell us what happened? Then we'll decide whether you have anything to apologise for."

Alex blinked hard against the threat of tears.

"Owen and I avoided being caught, and we used a bio-disruptor to keep them from tracking us. We didn't know how to deal with the situation. Owen wanted to go in, guns blazing, but we both knew that would have been a mistake. Those people were too heavily armed. We decided in the end that any sort of attack would have just resulted in bloodshed. We tried to bluff them, but it didn't work. I... I made Owen surrender, Jack."

Jack leaned down and kissed her lightly on the forehead.

"You did the right thing. Ianto and I saw the CCTV footage. I knew most of those agents, including Jaydn Taark. They would have killed all of you."

"I nearly did get killed," Alex said bitterly. "Fat lot of good that would have been to you."

"But you didn't get killed. Remember that. Now, do you think you can tell us anything else you remember? It's important, Alex."

She nodded slightly, grimacing at the resulting pain in her skull.

"I seem to remember ending up with a concussion the last time too, Harkness," she grumbled. Jack chuckled softly, but waited patiently for her to continue.

"They were after Eleya," Alex explained. "They tracked the signal of a vortex manipulator, though. Not Eleya herself. Detective Swanson had it on her. She said the police found it at Pendefig Mall after we left with Eleya. The Time Agents tracked it, and attacked the police headquarters. They almost levelled the place, Jack. We brought it back with us..."

Jack uttered a low groan.

"That's how they got in. It must have been transmitting a low level frequency. They just followed the signal straight into the Hub." He looked down at her quickly. "None of you screwed up, Alex. You followed protocol, and brought future tech back to the Hub to secure it. It wasn't anyone's fault."

"I'm not done yet," Alex said grimly. "It gets better. Jack, they know you're here."

Jack shut his eyes. Truthfully, he wasn't all that shocked by that revelation. He'd always known in his heart that he couldn't run from the Agency forever. The difference now, though, was that he had something to fight for. He had his team, but most of all he had Ianto and Eleya. What he did not have was any intention of giving them up.

"Jack, I'm not so sure that I like that look in your eyes," the Doctor said in a low, warning tone. Momentarily ignoring the Time Lord, Jack directed his attention to Ianto and Alex but primarily to Ianto.

"I want you both safe."

"We didn't sign up to be safe," Alex retorted. Ianto nodded.

"You're not doing anything on your own, Jack. Don't even think about it. The only person we need to consider the safety of is Eleya."

"Jack, whatever you're thinking," the Doctor said tensely, "I can't let you do it."

"You don't even know what I'm planning," Jack retorted. "And anyway, I'm not asking for your permission. I hope you'll help, but I'll do this without you if I have to."

Frustration and anxiety practically radiated off the Doctor.

"Do what? What are you going to do, Jack?"

"I'm going to save my team, and I'm going to shut down the Time Agency for good."

The Doctor stared at him for long seconds before opening his mouth to respond, but Jack got in first.

"Do not stand there and tell me I can't, Doctor. I don't want to hear it. I'm going to do this and you can either help me, or stand aside."

"Oh, calm down, Captain," the Doctor retorted. "I have no intention of trying to stop you. As it happens, I actually agree with you. Ianto is right though. We need to think of Eleya. As confident as I am that she's safe here in the TARDIS, I'd feel better if we weren't taking her right into the middle of enemy territory."

Jack considered that for all of a moment before deciding the Doctor was right. He wanted his daughter completely safe, beyond the reach of the Agency. There was only one place he knew of that could protect her so completely.

"Doctor, take us to Mendyr."

The Doctor blinked in astonishment.

"Jack, I can't access Mendyr," he reminded him carefully.

"No," Jack conceded, "but I can. Just get us into the planet's orbit, and I'll take care of the rest. Aim for the year 5093. I don't think you need to be any more specific than that, at least for now."

The Time Lord snorted as he headed out of the room.

"You say that like you don't trust me to hit the right year. That's insulting, that is."

Jack smirked as the Doctor vanished into the corridor beyond.

"That's rich, coming from the guy who took Rose on a quick trip, and brought her back a year later."

"Jack," Alex cut in quietly, "where are we going?"

"To Mendyr," Jack answered. "My adopted planet, and the world where my baby girl was born."

Alex stared at him inscrutably before realisation dawned.

"It worked, didn't it? You've got your memories back!"

"Yes, I do," Jack confirmed. "And now we're going to put what I remember to use." He leaned in and kissed her lightly on the forehead. "Try and get a little more rest. It'll be at least a couple of hours before we reach Mendyr. It's in a fairly remote region."

"Just don't even think of leaving me out of this, Jack," Alex warned him as she reluctantly settled back down. "Concussion or not, you're not leaving me behind."

"I wish I could, beautiful," Jack admitted, "but I know that look. Besides... I'm going to need all the help I can get. Now, rest. I'll come and get you when it's time."


The Doctor found them back in their room, sitting quietly with Eleya while she slept.

"We'll reach the outer boundaries of Mendyr's atmosphere in about an hour and a half," he informed them. Jack nodded in wordless acknowledgement, but Ianto wasn't quite so blindly accepting.

"And what then? How can we be sure that they won't just try to blast us out of the sky before we can even establish communications?"

"Firstly, that's not their style," the Doctor assured him. "They're very private, but also very reasonable. Secondly, they don't blow ships up. They just sort of... displace them."

Jack smiled wryly.

"Displace? So, that time you tried to land on Mendyr...?"

Embarrassment coloured the Doctor's face.

"I ended up landing on a little planet called Bob on the other side of the galaxy. Still don't know how they pulled it off, either. Damned irritating."

Jack chuckled, but it was humourless in its quality.

"That won't happen this time. I guarantee it."

"You plan to leave Eleya on Mendyr, don't you?" Ianto asked suddenly in a tone that was bordering on a challenge. Jack reached out and lovingly smoothed back Eleya's long hair.

"Only for as long as it takes to put an end to this." He glanced at Ianto and smiled wryly. "The selfless and logical thing to do would be to leave her there permanently and let someone else raise her, but I'm not feeling too selfless right now. I can't give her up, Ianto. Not now. Just the thought of not having her with me is enough to make my stomach turn. I want her to be safe, but I want her with me." He reached out and grasped Ianto's hand. "I want her with us."

"And you're certain that the Mendyrians won't try to take her from you?" the Doctor asked, and Jack smiled knowingly.

"I'm sure."


An hour and a half later, Jack and Ianto watched from the side as the Doctor stabilised the TARDIS in orbit around Mendyr, and made contact with the Elder Council. Alex waited just behind them, with Eleya comfortably ensconced in her arms.

"Greetings, Time Lord," a familiar voice spoke, and Jack's heart ached as Anna became visible on the monitor. "I trust you are aware that you have entered protected space?"

"I am aware, My Lady," the Doctor answered formally. "I sincerely apologise for any concern I may be causing you, but I formally request planetary access, and an audience with the Elder Council."

"Much more polite than the last time you attempted to gain access to Mendyr," Anna said approvingly. "Even so, you understand better than most why Mendyr is a closed world. For what purpose do you wish to access our world?"

The Doctor looked at Jack and nodded. The Captain took Eleya from Alex, and stepped into the monitor's line of sight.

"Because he's bringing us home."

Anna's eyes widened.

"By the blessed stars... Doctor, you have immediate and open access. We will be waiting to greet you."

The monitor went dark, and the Doctor uttered a wry laugh.

"Easiest negotiations I've ever been party to. All right, people. Here we go. Next stop, Mendyr's capital, and the Elder Council."


The TARDIS materialised and her passengers wasted no time. Led by Jack, they exited to find the entire Elder Council waiting for them. Anna came forward, tears in her eyes as she gaze at Jack and Eleya.

"We'd given up on ever seeing either of you again. Jack, I am so sorry. We failed both you and Eleya."

"No, Anna," Jack told her. "It wasn't your fault. If anyone is to blame, it's me. I should have known the Time Agency wouldn't give up so easily."

Anna reached out to embrace them both together.

"Welcome home, Jack. Welcome home, Eleya."

"Thankyou," Jack whispered, wishing silently that it could last.

"Come," Anna said once she'd drawn back. "There is much to be discussed. The Council chamber is a far more appropriate and comfortable place for that."

"And my friends...?"

Anna nodded.

"They too are welcome. Please, come."


Minutes later, they were comfortably seated in a large chamber with refreshments.

"I can't believe I'm on another planet," Alex murmured in awe. Anna smiled indulgently at her.

"Mendyr is not so different from Earth."

"Alex comes from Earth of the past," Jack explained. "It's a lot more to take in than you might think."

"I understand," Anna assured them. Her gaze went to Ianto, who shifted uncomfortably under her calm scrutiny. "And this handsome young man is your partner?"

Ianto blushed an adorable shade of red, and Jack chuckled fondly.

"He is. I'm sorry, I haven't made proper introductions. It's a little overwhelming being back here. I never thought I'd see Mendyr again. This is Ianto Jones, my... well, my everything, really."

"Jack," Ianto scoffed lightly, but his eyes shone at his lover's words.

"Alex Eames," Jack went on, nodding to the former detective. "She's part of the team I lead back home on Earth. And this is the Doctor, the last of the Time Lords."

A knowing smile touched Anna's lips.

"That remains to be seen. Still, you are all welcome here. All friends and companions of our dearest lost children are welcome."

"If you don't mind me asking," Ianto said tentatively, "how long has it been for you since Jack and Eleya were taken from Mendyr by the Time Agency?"

"For us, it has been nearly four years," Leesa said. "We never gave up hope of their return, but our resources beyond Mendyr are severely restricted, and we do not trust the Shadow Proclamation."

"Can't think why," the Doctor commented dryly. Anna smiled grimly.

"You clearly understand our scepticism, Doctor. I fear that the Shadow Proclamation, in its desire to uphold universal law and justice, has become an easy target for corrupt groups such as the Time Agency. They used the Shadow Proclamation to gain access to Mendyr, yet they had no intention of following the protocols set by the Proclamation. They abducted Jack and Eleya from our very soil, and when we voiced our protests to the Proclamation, we were told our concerns would be dealt with in due course. As of this moment, we are still waiting."

"Bureaucracy," Alex retorted cuttingly. "It's the same no matter where or when you are, apparently."

"Anna," Jack said quietly, "I need your help. The Time Agency is still after Eleya. They've taken some of my friends captive, and I need to get them back, but I don't want to put Eleya at risk."

"She will be safe with us," Anna promised. "When you return, the choice will be yours again... Although, I suspect you have already chosen, haven't you?"

Jack smiled sadly.

"I think so."

Rising, Anna crossed the floor and kissed him chastely on the lips.

"We will protect your daughter until you return, dear one, but you and your companions will not go unaided. We will assemble a group of our best and most talented to go with you."

Jack stared at her in astonishment, stunned by the offer.

"Anna, I appreciate it. I really do, but this is going to be dangerous."

"Do you think we don't understand that? The Time Agency stole from us two of our own. We've waited patiently for the opportunity to repay that debt. You will accept our help."

A sigh escaped Jack's lips. He knew better than to continue arguing with any of the Elders, let alone Anna.

"All right," he conceded. "Thankyou."

Anna nodded in satisfaction, but anything else she might have been about to say was interrupted by Krandl.

"Anna, they're here."

Anna's face lit up with a radiant smile, and she glanced pointedly at the chamber doors.

"Enter."

The doors swung open of their own accord, and two people whom Jack had once believed were lost to him for good walked in.

"Grammy!" Eleya squealed in utter delight. "Grappa!"

She slipped off Jack's lap and bolted across the floor, charging into the waiting arms of the elderly couple.

"Oh gods, my baby girl," Kyrii sobbed, wrapping the child up in a ferocious hug. "It really is you!"

Jal looked up from Eleya, and uttered a startled cry.

"Jack!"

Abandoning all semblance of dignity, Jack broke into a run and threw himself into Jal's embrace.

"My boy," Jal whispered through his tears. "Oh, my precious boy..."


"Now that is a sight worth seeing," the Doctor said wistfully. Anna nodded.

"Jal and Kyrii were inconsolable when Jack and Eleya were taken. Hopefully this reunion will go some distance towards healing those hurts."

"You want Jack to stay here, don't you?" Ianto asked suddenly. He was not quite able to keep the tension out of his voice as he asked. Anna regarded him with a reassuring smile that went some way to soothing his nerves.

"Yes, but as always, that decision is his to make. Whether he stays or goes, he and those loves will always be welcome here."

The unspoken gesture was plain enough, and Ianto felt his throat constrict with emotion.

"Thankyou."


Oblivious to the exchange taking place behind them, Jack and moved from Jal's embrace to Kyrii's.

"Sweet boy," Kyrii murmured as Jack wept softly into her shoulder. "You found your way home to us, our sweet boy."

"So long," Jack choked out. "It's been so long, Kyrii. Things have happened... You couldn't imagine how much has happened."

Glancing at Jal in concern, Kyrii brushed her lips lightly against Jack's temple and at the same time opened her mind to his.

"By the gods..." Kyrii gasped in shock as her mind was bombarded by memories. "It's not possible! How could you have lived through so much?"

Jack gazed at her wearily.

"I'm nearly two hundred years old, Kyrii. It may only have been four standard years since you last saw me, but it's been a hundred and forty years since I last saw you."

Kyrii hesitated for just a moment before reaching up and pressing her palms lightly against his temples. He opened his mind up to her, and let her see everything. It lasted barely a minuted, although it had felt like much longer to both. When Kyrii withdrew, there was tangible grief in her eyes and she pulled Jack back into her arms. Relief swept through Jack. His fear had been that the people who had once accepted and loved him unconditionally would reject him once they realised how big a freak he'd become.

"Stop that!"

Jack blinked in astonishment at Kyrii's sharp reproach. She glared at him fiercely and spoke in a tone that brooked no argument.

"You are not a freak, so get that ridiculous idea out of that thick head of yours."

"I keep trying to convince him of that, but he never quite seems to believe me. Maybe a combined effort will prove more successful."

Jal and Kyrii looked on with wary interest as a handsome young man approached. Before Jack had a chance to make any formal introductions, Eleya beat him to it. Slipping away from Jal, she ran to Ianto and held her arms up to him. He obliged willingly, and picked her up.

"Grammy," Eleya said, pointing at each of them in turn. "Grappa. Dada. Tad!"

Jal began to grin as he rapidly put two and two together.

"And 'Tad' means...?"

"It's Welsh for 'Dad'," Jack confirmed. "Welsh is Ianto's native language back home, on Earth. Jal and Kyrii, this is my partner, Ianto Jones. Ianto, I want you to meet the people who saved me from Darien."

Jal scoffed softly.

"Son, you saved yourself. But I am pleased to meet you, Ianto. We both are."

"Dada and Tad mwah!" Eleya sung with delight, and Kyrii laughed.

"Well, I guess there's no misunderstanding there."

"No," Jack answered. "She's pretty much on the money with that."

"We're pleased for you," Jal told him sincerely. "For both of you."

Kyrii stepped forward to embrace Ianto, even while he was still holding Eleya.

"Welcome to our family, Ianto."

Ianto returned the hug, all the while regarding Jack with a stunned look that Jack returned with a broad grin.

"Thank you," Ianto murmured, finally relaxing into the hug. Kyrii gave him a brief, tight squeeze.

"Anyone who can make our boy as happy as you've obviously made him is welcome in our eyes."


With acquaintances renewed and loved ones reunited, Jal and Kyrii joined the group and listened darkly as the situation was explained to them.

"Well, then," Jal said firmly, "it seems that we just need to decide who will be going."

Jack raised an eyebrow in the direction of his adoptive parent. He remembered that tone all too well now.

"Jal, please don't take this the wrong way, but I don't want you to go. I need you and Kyrii to stay here and take care of Eleya for me. Aside from Ianto, I think you two are the only ones who can probably look after her."

"And Ianto, I suppose you have no intention of remaining here in safety?" Kyrii asked. Ianto shook his head.

"I'm with Jack. That, and they're my colleagues that are in danger. I can't stay here, all safe and sound, when they're in danger of dying."

"And what about you, Jack?"Krandl asked soberly. "Would you so willingly risk your life so soon again after being reunited with your child?"

Jack smiled tiredly, and just a little bit sadly.

"You don't understand. They can take Eleya away from me, which is why I want her here safe, but they can never take me away from her. Not again."

Anna's eyes narrowed as she gazed at Jack, finally seeing what Kyrii had so quickly noticed.

"You've changed. Your eyes... Jack, how old are you now?"

Jack shrugged a little in answer. He had no intention of lying to her, but the truth was he didn't know exactly. He hadn't for some time.

"I don't really know. My closest guess would be around a hundred and seventy... give or take."

A shocked murmur swept through the Council, and Anna rose up to approach him once more. There was no suspicion on her face, though only concern.

"You have no fear for your own life," she said as she gazed at him intently. "Only for those around you. You have no fear of death."

"That's not totally true," Jack protested. "I hate dying. It's just that it's not a permanent state for me anymore."

"What are you saying?" Leesa asked incredulously. "That you can't die? That's impossible!"

Jack shot the Doctor a look, to which the Time Lord responded with a shrug.

"Impossible thing," he said simply. Jack sighed.

"I can die," he insisted, all the while acutely aware of the pained look on Ianto's face, and the renewed shock on Jal and Kyrii's faces. "I just don't stay dead."

"It's not his fault," the Doctor said abruptly, with a defensiveness and ferocity in his tone that startled Jack greatly. "A companion of mine used the power of the vortex to bring him back to life after he was killed by a Dalek. She couldn't control it, and she brought him back forever. Every time he's killed, now, the power of the vortex brings him back to life."

Jack looked sourly at the Doctor.

"You never explained it to me like that. You just told me I was wrong."

"I know," the Doctor admitted, "and I'm sorry. I was wrong." He looked at Anna and fixed her with a hard stare. "Jack never asked for this, and I will not allow him to be ill-treated because of it."

Anna looked affronted, and made no attempt to hide it.

"Jack is one of our own, Time Lord. We do not easily reject our own. He will always have a home here, for as long as he lives."

"Even though I'm immortal?" Jack asked, barely concealing his hope at her words. Anna regarded him seriously before breaking into a smile that was at once both sad and reassuring.

"You are not immortal, Jack. You have a long time ahead of you, and it will be incredibly hard, but you are not immortal. There will be a day far into your future when death will claim you for good." She leaned down to kiss him lightly on the forehead. "There will be an end to your story, dear one. I promise you."

Jack hugged her fiercely, overwhelmed by the gift of hope that she'd just given him.

"Thank you, Anna."

"You're welcome. Now, returning to the matter at hand, I think that we have a consensus here that we will be sending assistance with you. The only question to be answered now is who will go and who must stay." She turned her attention to both Ianto and Alex. "The choice is yours, of course, but I would encourage you both to remain here where you will be safe from harm."

"Please, think about it," Jack begged them. "It's bad enough that Tosh, Owen, Gwen, Bobby and Donna are all in danger because of me. The Agency is ruthless. You could both be killed."

"Jack, I'm coming with you," Ianto insisted. "End of story."

"Same," Alex stated. "I am not staying behind, so don't even think it."

"Alex, you're still concussed," Jack argued. "Not to mention, you haven't recovered from those knife wounds yet."

"I've had worse," Alex answered, prompting Jack to groan in frustration.

"You will be seen to by our healers before you leave," Anna assured her. She caught Jack's disapproving look, and returned it with one of her own. "It is her choice, and we will not allow her injuries to go untreated."

"Oi!" the Doctor spoke up indignantly. "The TARDIS did an all-right job, thank you very much."

"I'm not disputing that, Time Lord, but more care is needed if she is going with you."

"Thanks," Alex murmured in as gracious a tone as she could manage. All of a sudden, she had a nearly overwhelming urge to smirk at Jack, and had to fight the urge back down. Anna indicated the door.

"It will be a couple of hours, at least, before we'll be ready. The gardens lie through there. Jack can show you the way, and we will take Alex to be seen to by Brenna. Relax and enjoy this moment of peace, please."

"Wouldn't it be better if we got moving now?" Alex asked, suddenly worried again by what she felt was an unnecessary delay.

"I have a time machine," the Doctor said with a reassuring, if slightly smug grin. "We could stay a month, and still not be late."

"Except, your driving sucks," Jack said bluntly.

"Cheeky bugger," the Doctor retorted. "We might not always land when and where we expect to, but we always land when and where we need to."

"True," Jack conceded. He tapped his manipulator lightly. "I took readings before we left the Hub, and I've got the coordinates for exactly when and where we need to go. We'll get them back, Alex. Trust me."

"I do," Alex said. "I believe in you, Jack." A moment later, she grimaced as though she'd just experienced a particularly sour taste. "I sound like an extra in a Peter Pan stage production."

Jack and Ianto both laughed, and she glowered at them.

"If I hear a word out of either of you..."

Ianto shook his head, while at the same time clamping a hand over Jack's mouth to silence him.

"Not a word."

One of the Elders approached and gently took Alex's arm.

"Come with me. I'll take you to our Healing House. Jack, if you would escort your companions to the gardens?"

Jack agreed, ignoring the annoyed huff from the Doctor, and his muttered retort about being no one's companion.

"I will. Thanks, Kree."


The gardens were as beautiful as Jack remembered, and it only made his heart ache even more to think that he couldn't stay there. He longed desperately for peace like this, and to be able to share it with his partner and their daughter.

A jolt went through him and he wondered at exactly which point he'd begun to think of Ianto as Eleya's father. If he was honest with himself, probably from the moment he'd first encouraged her to call Ianto 'Tad'; maybe even before that. What really amazed him, though, was how comfortable he was with that idea. He'd never been one to wear his heart on his sleeve, unless it was as a means to an end that end being getting laid sixty ways to Sunday. And yet he was, being increasingly 'domestic'.

"You know," the Doctor said almost conspiratorially as Jack watched the four people who meant more to him than anything talking and laughing together, "domestic isn't such a bad thing."

The irony of that statement, considering who had just said it, was not in any way lost on Jack, and he rounded on the Time Lord before he could think twice.

"That's rich, coming from the guy who couldn't even tell Rose how he really felt about her." The Doctor flinched and regret filled Jack's face. "I'm sorry. I had no right to say that."

The Doctor lay back slowly on the grass and folded his arms carefully behind his head.

"No, if anyone has the right to say that, it's you. I know you loved her too."

"I did, but more as a sister than anything else." The Doctor raised an eyebrow, and Jack smiled crookedly. "Okay, so maybe not at first. Anyway, that's beside the point. Just tell me one thing, and be honest. If you had another chance, would you waste it?"

"I'd like to say no," the Doctor answered, "but I honestly don't know. The bottom line is that she's human, and I'm not. I could live for another two thousand years, and she won't. It's irrelevant anyway. The walls have closed. She's not coming back."

"Yeah, so you keep saying. If there's one thing I've learnt from you, it's that nothing is impossible."

"I think we've managed to get slightly off-topic here," the Doctor said, giving his former companion a wry look. "Weren't we talking about your sudden inclinations towards domesticity?"

Inevitably, Jack's gaze was drawn towards Eleya, and he felt his heart swell.

"I loved her even before I knew who she was, before I remembered her. I talked about giving her up, but I don't think I ever really intended to do that. Even though it'd be better for her..."

"Would it really?" the Doctor asked pointedly. "She's already been separated from you once, and I don't think it was all that good for either of you."

"Doesn't matter," Jack murmured. "I can't give her up. I don't even want to consider it. She's my daughter, and I won't lose her again."

The Doctor smiled approvingly.

"Good man. You know, Jack... Maybe when this is over, you should seriously consider relocating."

Jack looked down at the Time Lord with a puzzled frown.

"What do you mean?"

"Well, I mean here, to Mendyr. Earth isn't exactly the best place for a little girl like Eleya, especially in the twenty-first century."

"That's a pretty damning thing to say, coming from you," Jack said flatly.

"Ah, Jack. You know how much I love Earth and you humans, but we're talking about your daughter. I remember what you said about rebuilding Torchwood in my honour, and I do appreciate it, even if I've never really shown it. But your responsibility doesn't extend to putting your child at risk."

"With all respect, Doctor, in the end it's my choice. If anyone else has the right to have a say in what happens, it's Ianto. I know I'm going to have to make some tough choices when this is over and no, I'm not looking forward to it, but I know I'll have to choose soon. Just do me a favour...?"

The Doctor laid a hand gently over Jack's.

"No matter what you choose, you have my support."

"Thank you."

"Yes, well, I know you're not the slightest bit interested in my approval anymore." Jack opened his mouth to protest, but the Doctor cut him off. "No, it's fine. It's how it should be, really. You are your own man, and you've proven yourself far more times than most of my other companions. But I will always support you, if I don't always agree with your methods."

Jack smiled wryly. He knew better than to take that the wrong way. He knew how it was meant, and he was touched to the heart.

"Dada!"

Jack sat up straight, only to be bowled over backwards by the whirlwind that was his precious daughter.

"Oi, you little monkey," Ianto called as he came after her. Eleya giggled and wrapped her arms around Jack in a fierce hug. Then, to the astonishment of all, she flung her arms around the Doctor in an equally ferocious hug. Startled though he was, the Time Lord tentatively returned the embrace.

"Unna broon miya Papa dorum," Eleya announced joyfully, and Jack burst out laughing at the baffled look on his old friend's face. The real surprise, though, came when Ianto offered translation before Jack could.

"She said 'Uncle brought me and Papa home'. It seems, Doctor, that you have been officially designated 'Uncle'."

While the Doctor chuckled fondly, Jack peered up at his lover quizzically.

"How did you know what she said?"

Ianto's amused smile faltered.

"I don't know. I just listened, and I knew. I don't know how I knew. I just did."

Jack reached up for Ianto and pulled the unresisting young man down into his arms.

"It's okay, it doesn't matter how."

Ianto, however, looked to Jal and Kyrii, both of whom wore knowing looks.

"You know, don't you?"

"Not precisely," Kyrii answered. "We can made an educated guess, though. Tell us, Ianto, have you ever been tested for what you humans refer to as psychic talent?"

Ianto tried not to look like the proverbial deer caught in the headlights, and when he spoke it was defensively.

"Once. It suggested I have a very minor ability. Sometimes I can sense things when I touch certain items, but it doesn't work very often."

"Well, my dear," Kyrii said, "one of the most common triggers of latent is close proximity to one with powerful talent. In your case, that would be Eleya."

Ianto looked dubious.

"She's only been with us for a few days. How could it happen so quickly? And... what sort of talents?"

Sensing his anxiety, Jack hugged Ianto to him.

"Calm down, sweetheart. You're not likely to suddenly develop telekinesis, or anything like that. What Kyrii is trying to say is that being in close contact with Eleya has just resulted in your own mind opening up a little more, which is why you're starting to understand her."

Realisation dawned on Ianto's face.

"It's not her words I can understand, exactly. It's what she's thinking...?"

"And feeling," Jal confirmed. "I would say that being in contact with Eleya has strengthened whatever gifts you already had, even if you weren't aware that you had them."

Ianto contemplated that, and as he did so he felt gentle fingers brushing against his temples. He looked around to find Kyrii smiling at him.

"You have talent for reading emotions. That can be a blessed gift."

Briefly, but all too vividly, Ianto's mind flashed back to Lisa, and the time that he'd kept her hidden within the bowels of the Hub. He'd always assumed the intense emotional connection he'd had with her throughout that time had been purely because he'd loved her. Maybe, just maybe, there was more to it than that. Still, that was a subject he was less than comfortable revisiting. Instead, he attempted to redirect the focus of the discussion.

"What about you, Jack? How did being here affect you?"

Jack recognised the diversionary tactic for what it was, but didn't argue. He suspected he knew what had been on Ianto's mind, and he had no intention of making him relive those memories.

"I got some psychic training from the Time Agency, but that meant nothing here. I think that for me, it was a combination of being amongst the Mendyrians, and carrying Eleya. Darien had an effect, too. I can't deny that, as much as I might like to."

"Your mind was already open, Jack," Kyrii said. "It only needed a little help from a positive influence. Darien was entirely negative and his treatment of you only reinforced your natural defences. Yes, he was able to force his way into your mind but he could never have triggered your latent talents."

"What latent talents?" Ianto wondered, his curiosity piqued.

"Nothing spectacular," Jack insisted. "Just telepathy, really, and only then if it's someone else reaching out to me. The only person I have that sort of continuous connection with is Eleya."

"So you regained that along with your memories?" the Doctor wondered, but Jack shook his head.

"No, that resurfaced almost straight away. I just didn't see it for what it was at the time."

"That's how you were able to understand her so quickly," Ianto realised.

"And how you're able to understand her now," Jack pointed out. "You've bonded with her, Ianto, and vice-versa."

Ianto smiled fondly at the little girl who was still sitting contentedly on the Doctor's lap.

"Yes," he agreed softly. "We have."


to be continued...

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